Egypt’s pound has fallen by 40% since last December, from 6 to the dollar to 8.25 to the dollar on the black market. The prices of basic food items like beans and milk have risen by more than that, pricing all forms of protein out of the range of the half of Egyptians who live on less than $2 a day. And the worst is yet to come: according to the U.S. embassy, the Muslim Brotherhood government has vastly inflated its estimates of this year’s wheat harvest in order to keep export orders down — because it doesn’t have the money to pay for them. Egypt reportedly got $5 billion in emergency loans from Libya and Qatar (although it is not clear how much of that can be spent), but that barely covers the government’s arrears to oil companies operating in the country. I published an update on Egypt’s economic free fall in Asia Times Online this morning.
Mohammed Morsi’s Islamist government is living hand to mouth, stiffing suppliers and exporters, and cadging emergency loans, but it hasn’t ordered a shipload of oil or wheat since January. When things get this bad, everyone who can get dollars out will. The ship is sinking, and the cry is, “Women and children last!”
Here’s an example.
Just after I filed the story, Al Ahram reported that the country’s cotton exports had dropped 40.6% between September-November of 2012 and the same period of 2011 (hat tip: Daniel Pipes). According to the Egyptian daily, the drop is due to much larger domestic purchases of cotton by local textile companies:
Egyptian textile companies bought 415.8 thousand metric quintals of the local cotton in the period September-November 2012, a whopping increase of 326 percent compared with the corresponding quarter a year before.
That makes no sense, because Egyptian textile exports also fell by a big margin.
Week 10 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
On Tuesday the 9th of April, about 2PM, I was at work and feeling very strange. I was sleepy, felt sick and shaky, and couldn’t think clearly. I decided to take off early. But driving home, not more than a mile from my house, well, something happened. I zoned out, I fell asleep, I fainted — whatever it was, I was looking at a green light at the interesection and then I was looking at a red light with traffic starting to cross the intersection. I hit the brakes, I swerved to drive around the front of the CenturyLink truck in front of me, and I almost made it. But not quite. I caught the front bumper of the truck with my left rear fender. I bumped my head against the door frame, and came to a stop crossways in the intersection. After a minute, I pulled off the road.
At first I felt — considering the circumstances — okay. I made sure the other guy was okay (he was) and went to stand by the car and wait for the police.
Then I realized I was feeling really really cold, and even shakier than I had felt when I left the office. I went to sit down in the car and when the police arrived told them I thought I needed the EMTs. Or else it was someone who was calling 911, I don’t remember it very clearly.
Anyway, both an ambulance and a fire truck arrived, and a rather cute female firefighter interviewed me for about 30 seconds before trotting to the EMTs, who came and walked me to the ambulance. I’m somewhat proud of myself for resisting my initial urge, which was to tell the firefighter “Hey, I’m just sick, I’m not on fire.”
Week 8 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
A few days ago, PJ Lifestyle ran an excerpt from Leonard Mosely’s book Disney’s World, in which Walt Disney, in a letter to his partner Ub Iwerks, expressed his frustration with the his first sound cartoon, the now-iconic Steamboat Willie.
He’s pretty depressed. he doesn’t like Hollywood, he doesn’t like being away from home, and he’s losing confidence in the still-unfinished film. You can see why, when he was having trouble selling the idea, and animation is a frustrating process anyway. This was in the days of the most primitive hand-drawn animation, where every frame of the film had to be hand drawn on clear acetate, with tiny changes from frame to frame. Twenty-four times for each second of film. In this 7 minute 23 second film, that’s something like 10,600 frames. He was tired, and he was bored, and he had trouble seeing any progress.
Why did this strike me, he asked rhetorically? Well, it reminds me of my ongoing glucose/bodyfat/weight project. Here I am, eight weeks into my second season, 147 days since I first started tracking this, and it’s a little frustrating and hard. I’ve been less diligent about the exercise, and I do find myself missing things I used to eat. Like chocolate. And pasta. And bread. And while I have lost some weight, it’s slow and the day to day variations make it hard to see. It’s like Disney must have felt — another 24 frames, another day’s work, and what did he have? Another lousy second of film. That no one wanted to distribute. He was past the initial excitement and into the slog.
Right now, this project feels much the same. I’m actually losing weight, and I can see changes — more muscle coming back to my arms, and to put it bluntly, my boobs are smaller. I’ve lost six inches around my waist, and I can feel that every time I put on a pair of pants that were in the back of the closet because I hadn’t been able to wear them. But at the same time, the progress is a little slow and hard to see, and it’s a little hard to explain why it should matter to anyone — especially me.
But then I got thinking, and a little Excel-fu got me this. Here’s my actual weight, charted over the last sixty days, with a trend line. This is very much like the other charts I’ve been posting.
Trend line is down. This is good. It’s not down very fast, and the added muscle certainly explains that — but also notice that individuual weights vary pretty wildly around that trend line. So here’s another chart.
Week 6 of my second 13 week season; low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
So let’s just end the suspense right away: yes, I am feeling a lot better this week.
At one point or another, the draft of last week’s column started with the line “Okay, ‘despair’ may be a little strong…”. I cut it because as I thought about it, I realized despair was the right word. Look it up and we find “Noun: The complete loss or absence of hope. Verb: Lose or be without hope: ‘to despair of ever knowing’” (via Google.) That’s exactly what I was fighting against — the feeling that there was nothing to be done, that there was no real hope. That’s the real enemy of any attempt to change, or to do anything extended really — that moment of no hope, when you don’t see the end in sight. It’s not just diets, either — it happens to me in writing, when I hit the point at which I think “oh, this is awful, no one will want this.”
That’s why I started this on the basis of a 13 week “season” — it was long enough to see some real changes, short enough to be bearable. Even so, about the fifth and sixth weeks of the first season, I’d reached the point where I was wondering if it was going to really do any good.
So look at the results this week: my 7-day average weight is down 3 pounds, my 7-day average blood sugar is down 16 points. What happened? I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you one thing I did differently, based on a lot of suggestions from others who’ve done the low carb thing. I broke training. I got out of the no carbs jail for a couple days. I had my ice cream, and I had some congee (zhou, Asian rice porridge). I didn’t go real far off the overall diet except for violating the carb rules, and based on calories I was actualy doing fine.
So now I’m back on the low-carb diet. What did I learn?
First, yes, you can break the diet for a day or a few days and get back on. What’s more, for me at least, if you do it with rice and ice cream, you don’t get sick like I did after Thanksgiving.
Second, your body can get used to anything. In weight training, they tell you to change routines fairly often if you want to keep making gains. The trick is to watch what happens. I broke the rules a little bit, up to maybe 100g of carbs one day, and didn’t have my blood sugar go nuts, didn’t gain back lots of weight. (Right now, I’m on a little bit of a bounce, but I’m basically up to where I was complaining about not being able to break in the downward direction.)
And third — there’s a new-ish idea in the nutrition world: orthorexia. It means an unhealthy fixation on a healthy diet. Maybe, just maybe, an occasional 4 oz cup of ice cream (26g carbs) is good for you.
|Date||7 day Weight||7 day Glucose||7 day Bodyfat||Sum Fitocracy Points||Weekly Fitocracy Points|
|Δ since 2-1||-2.64||-14.57||-3.00%||N/A||N/A|
Austin, TX, home of SXSW, is known for its live music and its food. The fact is, you’d have to work pretty hard to find a bad meal in Austin. The people here take pride in being one of the food capitals of America. The weary SXSWer may have a hard time sorting the great places from the merely good, though, so as a local, I’m here to help out. Here are the places and meals you shouldn’t miss while you’re in town.
10. Pluckers Wing Bar. Locations: All over town. This chain of wing stops was started by some UT students. Pluckers isn’t fancy but it’s local and good, and has restaurants all over town.
Yesterday, a colleague passed along a request for some information about Robert H. Bork’s position on Martinis. Since Bob’s death in December, we have seen many reflections about his opinions regarding the law. Next week, Encounter Books, where I hang a hat, will be publishing Saving Justice: Watergate, the Saturday Night Massacre, and Other Adventures of a Solicitor General. This memoir about Bob’s tenure as Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General during the Watergate crisis provides a fascinating glimpse into the engine room of American politics in the tumultuous year of 1973. This period, too, has received its share of commentary.
Rather less ink, however, has been dispensed to explain Bob Bork’s philosophy of the martini. A full disquisition would doubtless be lengthy. Here I will confine myself to sharing with readers the comments I sent on to that journalist who is doing research into what H. L. Mencken called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” “The first thing to be understood,” I wrote, “is that Bob Bork was an originalist when it came to martinis, just as he was about the law and many other things in life.
There is a recipe, whose exact origins are lost in the mists of time, but whose lineaments have been passed down through the generations. We introduce innovation into this hallowed process at our peril.
I once suggested Bob write a book with the title: Martinis: The Original Understanding. He was partial to The Road to Hell is Paved with Olives. Bob observed that the original martini was a careful mixture of three or four (or five or six) parts gin (preferably Bombay or Tanqueray) to one part vermouth. The whole was shaken (not stirred) over ice in a cocktail shaker, served in a chilled martini glass, and garnished with a twist of lemon. A twist of lemon, mind you. That is what a martini was.
On the occasion of his eightieth birthday, I gave Bob a silver vermouth dispenser in the shape of an tiny old-fashioned oiling can (you can get them at Tiffany’s). He found it amusing, but he regarded the unbridled diminution of vermouth, favored by many asking for a dry martini, as dangerously latitudinarian.
He recognized, however, that the battle to preserve the martini had far more radical enemies than the vermouth minimalists. One large heresy concerned the very foundation of the martini: gin. People might ask for a “vodka martini” (let’s say) but that concoction, though possibly delicious (my concession, not his) was not a martini.
Release date: August 7, 2012
Our great-grandmothers didn’t need nutrition lessons—then again, they weren’t forced to wade through aisle after aisle of packaged foods touting outlandish health claims and confusing marketing jargon. Over the last few decades, we’ve forgotten what “real food” is—and we’re left desperately seeking foods that will truly nourish our bodies. We’re disillusioned with the “conventional wisdom” for good reason—it’s gotten us nowhere.Achieving optimal health without calorie-counting, diet foods, or feelings of deprivation has never been easier. Practical Paleoexplains why avoiding both processed foods and foods marketed as “healthy”—like grains, legumes, and pasteurized dairy—will improve how you look and feel and lead to lasting weight loss. Even better—you may reduce or completely eliminate symptoms associated with common health disorders!
Practical Paleo is jam-packed with over 120 easy recipes, all with special notes about common food allergens including nightshades and FODMAPs. Meal plans are also included, and are designed specifically to support:
immune health (autoimmune conditions)
blood sugar regulation (diabetes 1 & 2, hypoglycemia)
digestive health (leaky gut, IBS & IBD)
multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndromethyroid health (hypo and hyper – Hashimotos, Graves)
heart health (cholesterol & blood pressure)
neurological health (Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s)
a “squeaky-clean” Paleo approach
Practical Paleo is the resource you’ll reach for again and again, whether you’re looking for information on healthy living, delicious recipes, or easy-to-understand answers to your questions about how a Paleo lifestyle can benefit you, your family, and your friends.
Do you want to lose fat and stay young, all while avoiding cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and a host of other illnesses? The Paleo Solution incorporates the latest, cutting edge research from genetics, biochemistry and anthropology to help you look, feel and perform your best. Written by Robb Wolf, a research biochemist who traded in his lab coat and pocket protector for a whistle and a stopwatch to become one of the most sought after strength and conditioning coaches in the world. With Robb’s unique perspective as both scientist and coach you will learn how simple nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes can radically change your appearance and health for the better.
Homeostasis. This is our vocabulary word for today.
Homeostasis is “[t]he ability of the body or a cell to seek and maintain a condition of equilibrium or stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes” (via Biology Online.) On any diet or exercise program, homeostatis may not seem to be your friend.
|7-day weight||7-day glucose||7 day bodyfat||Weekly Fitocracy Points|
Certainly, for the last six weeks it hasn’t seemed to be mine. Above is a table of the current results of this second season (I’ll be running similar tables for comparison for the rest of this 13 week season.) I’ve been keeping to the diet pretty religiously, with a very few days in excess of my 30g carbs target. According to LoseIt!, I’ve run a total calorie deficit in the previous six weeks of roughly 42,000 kcals (Calories), or on average about 7000 kcals a week. It only requires the tiniest application of higher math to see that at 3500 kcal/pound, I should have lost 12 pounds, or should have been losing 2 pounds a week. While I’ve hit several new lows, including breaking 270 about ten days ago, I haven’t lost any weight, according to the 7-day running average, since the second season started. In fact, what has really happened in is that I’ve actually gained something like 1.3 pounds.
This could be depressing. Believe me. What this is, is a demonstration of my body trying to preserve homeostasis. Basically, bodies don’t want to change, and they have mechanisms to prevent it.
Luckily, this isn’t a weight-loss experiment, this is a better-health and better-glucose experiment. (Repeat after me….) And I’m doing much better there — my cholesterol is now great, my glucose is near normal (and it’s been ten days or so since I cut my metformin dose in half, with no apparent damage to the glucose level), and — here’s the kicker — my body fat has dropped from around 33 percent to just over 29 percent — which means I’ve changed my body composition fairly radically in these three weeks.
Now, part of this is another demonstration that the naive “calories out minus calories in” model of weight loss is once again breaking down. Of course, since that model is so entrenched in so many people’s minds, the usual doctor’s explanation would be “you must be cheating”, as I talked about in an earlier episode; presenting the food diary and such wouldn’t deter them.
Another possible explanation is that it’s water — just as when they tell you rapid weight loss early in a low-carb diet is “only water”. But just as when I was dropping weight quickly, we’re talking about a lot of water. “A pint’s a pound the world round”, and that means we’re talking about 12 pints, 6 quarts, a gallon and a half of water. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking an additional gallon and a half of water would be pretty obvious in edema and puffiness and heart failure and such.
But the body composition — and one other thing — are hints at what I think is actually happening. That other thing is that after weeks of little change, I’ve begun to have measurements changing. Specifically, I’ve lost 2 inches around my neck and 5 (!!) inches around my waist from when I started the first 13 weeks.
The third favorite explanation of this would be that I’m gaining muscle as well as losing fat, and that one I think is plausible. What’s more, you can do that even when you’re running a big calorie deficit, as I have been, because a pound of fat contains about twice as many calories as a pound of muscle. The explanation that makes sense is that I’ve lost fat at 3500 kcals a pound, and gained muscle at 1800-odd kcals a pound, leaving me slightly heavier, and a good bit skinnier.
I can live with that.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
It is tempting for people to suppose that if a little of something is good for them, then a lot of it must be better. Unfortunately this is not always or even usually the case; and I first realized that people are inclined to make this mistake when, as a student many years ago, I was shown a baby who was bright orange; it was suffering from a condition known as carotenemia. The parents, having heard that carrots were healthy, concluded that only carrots were healthy, and fed their baby accordingly.
A study from Sweden, recently published in the British Medical Journal, examines the important question of whether calcium supplements are good for middle-aged and old women. The question is important because millions of women around the world take such supplements – 60 percent of American middle-aged and old women, for example. There is no one quite like the Swedes for carrying out such epidemiological studies because the medical records of their population are by far the most comprehensive in the world: creepily so, one is sometimes inclined to think.
What the Swedish researchers found was that the graph of the relationship between calcium intake and death rates was a U-shaped curve. People with a low consumption of calcium had a higher mortality than those with a moderate consumption, but so did people with a high consumption.
The sample of women was not small, and in the period of study 11,944 of the 70,259 women studied had died. Those with a high dietary consumption of calcium alone had an increased death rate of 1.4 times for all causes of mortality, 1.49 times for cardiovascular mortality, and 2.14 times for ischaemic heart disease (heart attacks) compared with those whose who consumption of calcium was associated with the lowest mortality, that is to say a moderate consumption.
There is a lot of misinformation circling around in mainstream nutrition.
I have listed the worst examples in this article, but unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are the top 11 biggest lies, myths and misconceptions of mainstream nutrition.
1. Eggs Are Unhealthy
There’s one thing that nutrition professionals have had remarkable success with… and that is demonizing incredibly healthy foods.
The worst example of that is eggs, which happen to contain a large amount of cholesterol and were therefore considered to increase the risk of heart disease.
But recently it has been proven that the cholesterol in the diet doesn’t really raise the cholesterol in blood. In fact, eggs primarily raise the “good” cholesterol and are NOT associated with increased risk of heart disease (1, 2).
What we’re left with is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They’re high in all sorts of nutrients along with unique antioxidants that protect our eyes (3).
To top it all of, despite being a “high fat” food, eating eggs for breakfast is proven to cause significant weight loss compared to bagels for breakfast (4, 5).
Bottom Line: Eggs do not cause heart disease and are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Eggs for breakfast can help you lose weight.
2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You
A few decades ago it was decided that the epidemic of heart disease was caused by eating too much fat, in particular saturated fat.
This was based on highly flawed studies and political decisions that have now been proven to be completely wrong.
A massive review article published in 2010 looked at 21 prospective epidemiological studies with a total of 347.747 subjects. Their results: absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease (6).
The idea that saturated fat raised the risk of heart disease was an unproven theory that somehow became conventional wisdom (7).
Eating saturated fat raises the amount of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol in the blood and changes the LDL from small, dense LDL (very bad) to Large LDL, which is benign (8, 9).
Meat, coconut oil, cheese, butter… there is absolutely no reason to fear these foods.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
So here it is: week 13 of the 13 Weeks, which officially ends tomorrow. This is also Day One of the next 13 Weeks, which I started today to make everything match with the publishing schedule.
I pretty well explained what I’m doing for the next 13 weeks in my post last week, so I won’t linger on that: same eating plan or similar, but adding a Seinfeld calendar with six days a week of a Tabata protocol workout, plus weightlifting and yoga or Pilates. I have a new spreadsheet which tracks body fat as well as weight and glucose. As of today, this is a new experiment, so I’m starting from an empty spreadsheet. As of today, weight is 272.1, body fat by Withings impedance scale is 33.1 percent, and morning fasting glucose is 109. “After pictures” and a comparison in next week’s column.
So, below the fold, a little change of pace.
See you next week.
Are you excited about the big game on Sunday? Some team is playing some other team in the Super Bowl and once again, my Cleveland Browns won’t be competing in the final contest of the season. And we Browns fans are really, really sorry that the rabid, annoying Steelers fans here in northeast Ohio also suffered the agony of defeat again this year, as “Big Ben” Roethlisberger failed to lead his team to the championship game. Really, we’re sorry.
But no worries. At our house, after choosing a team to root against (using a complicated formula involving Art Modell, the Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Bernie Kosar and LeBron James), we focus on planning the party.
We don’t get especially fussy about our Super Bowl party; we enjoy a casual time with friends and family. Everyone brings a dish to share and kids are welcomed, as we look forward to the commercials and wonder if the halftime act will remain fully clothed. The hardcore football enthusiasts head down to the man cave to shoot pool and shout at the TV while the more social guests hang out upstairs, occasionally interrupting their conversations to watch the commercials.
The only rule for our Super Bowl party: There must be chili.
If you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser for your own Super Bowl party this Sunday, you might want to try my favorite recipe. It’s won a church chili cook-off or two and there’s rarely any left in the 18-quart pot after the party.
I must warn you that this chili packs some serious heat. If you don’t like spicy foods, you’ll want to make some adjustments.
On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.
So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.
In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.
1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.
On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?
Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:
1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?
You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.
April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.
In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.
But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)
And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.
Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Publication Date: January 5, 2011
Hailed a “medical breakthrough” by Dr. Mehmet Oz, EAT TO LIVE offers a highly effective, scientifically proven way to lose weight quickly. The key to Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s revolutionary six-week plan is simple: health = nutrients / calories. When the ratio of nutrients to calories in the food you eat is high, you lose weight. The more nutrient-dense food you eat, the less you crave fat, sweets, and high-caloric foods.EAT TO LIVE has been revised to include inspiring success stories from people who have used the program to lose shockingly large amounts of weight and recover from life-threatening illnesses; Dr. Fuhrman’s nutrient density index; up-to-date scientific research supporting the principles behind Dr. Fuhrman’s plan; new recipes and meal ideas; and much more. This easy-to-follow, nutritionally sound diet can help anyone shed pounds quickly-and keep them off.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
On Wednesdays the daily book recommendation focuses on humor.
Related on Adam Carolla, one of our favorite comedians:
Starting on November 4th 2012, I began a 13 week experiment in changing my eating and exercise habits, for the best of all reasons: I didn’t want to die. I was chronically ill with stomach troubles, I was sleeping badly, and my average blood glucose was in the neighborhood of 150 mg/dL — well into the range of type II diabetes mellitus. For the experiment, I’ve cut my daily consumption of carbohydrates to a net of 30 grams a day and cut wheat out entirely, and I’ve added exercise following a Tabata Protocol, along with yoga, kettlebells, and (too rarely) weight lifting. I report my results here at PJ Media Lifestyle, and also on my 13 Weeks Facebook page.
If you’re been reading 13 Weeks since I started, you’ll remember that I had realized on about October 15 that I was 100 lbs or so overweight at 301.5; I was in chronic ill health with both gastric reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome; and I had moved from pre-diabetic to flat-out diabetic in the span of about a year. At 57, I realized I was only 12 years younger than my father when he died, and only 20 years younger than my mother was when she died on January 11, 2012. Twenty years wasn’t enough, and twelve years was for damn sure not enough; something had to be done.
Now, after Week Nine, the effects of what I’ve done are starting to really show up. Here’s the chart I’ve been keeping to plot my progress. The plus signs are my weight in pounds, the x’s are my blood glucose as measured with a drugstore glucometer, and the lines are the linear best fit line to the data.
As you can see, the lines are headed down — which is the good direction. On Wednesday I went to the doctor, and got weight and my bloods done again. My weight’s down 30 lbs since October 19, 19 lbs since I started this November 4th. But I swore I wasn’t paying attention to the weight (gloat). Even if I lost a lot. (Gloat.) One of the blood tests I did was the glycosylated haemoglobin HbA1c test, which is a diabetes test. I’ll tell you my results below; before I do, however, I want to explain the test and why it’s important.
With diabetes, of course, we’re primarily concerned with the blood glucose level. When I was a kid, my “second mom” Julia Medina took care of us; Mrs. Medina was diabetic and dependent on insulin, but home glucometers weren’t available; the only real test diabetics had was to watch their urine for ketones using test strips, and the only real measure they had for control of diabetes was whether you tended to fall into a coma, either from low blood sugar, or from high. If your blood sugar stayed too high, you risked blindness, advancing neuropathy and pain, and kidney disease, hearth disease, or — worst of all from my point of view — creeping necrosis of the extremities. (Your fingers and toes die and become gangrenous; they’re amputated. The stumps become gangrenous; they’re amputated a little higher. Eventually you run out of pieces and you die. Don’t even google “diabetic necrosis”, you don’t want to look at those pictures.)
Luckily, Mrs. Medina was well-controlled; she lived a long life. A whole lot of diabetics didn’t. Three things, put together, improved the chances of a diabetic living a long life over the last 20-30 years. The first was inexpensive direct tests for blood glucose levels; the second was bio-engineered human insulin (before then, insulin extracted from the pancreases of hogs was used, but it doesn’t exactly match human insulin. It was better than nothing but still had problems.) The third was the wide availability of the glycosylated haemoglobin HbA1c test (which we’re going to just call the A1c from now on.) What the A1c let doctors do is infer what your average glucose had been over about the last three months.
Here’s how it works. Hemoglobin, the chemical component of the blood that carries oxygen and makes the blood red, can bind to glucose, forming glucose-bearing (or glycosylated) hemoglobin. The rate at which it binds is proportional to the concentration of glucose in the blood. It binds fairly slowly, so your hemoglobin doesn’t just suck up all the sugar right away. Instead, over the life of a red blood cell (an erythrocyte), which is about 100 days in the normal human, a fairly small percentage of the hemoglobin will glycosylate. At the end of the average 100-day lifespan of the red blood cell, it’s broken down by the body and it’s components recycled; part of that process separates iron from the hemoglobin, which also liberates the glucose.
Remember, though, that the rate at which the glucose binds is dependent on the concentration – the more glucose, the more it binds to the hemoglobin, and once bound it stays bound until the red blood cell dies. The result is that the percentage of cells with glycolated hemoglobin in the blood is proportional to the average blood glucose level for the last several weeks.
Still with me? We’re getting to the payoff. From my blood glucose readings, I’d known things were improving.
In October, A1c was 7.5 percent. You can compute the equivalent average blood glucose, which comes out to be about 170 mg/dL. An A1c of 6.5 percent or more is diabetes.
Yesterday, my A1c was 6.2 percent, or an average of around 130 mg/dL. An A1c of between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent is considered enough for a diagnosis of pre-diabetes.
Or, in my case, post-diabetes. By blood sugar is controlled now, down to healthy levels — and I’m only about two-thirds of the way through the life span of red blood cells that were new when I started this; I can expect the A1c to go down. If it keeps declining at the rate it has been, it might be as low as 5.5 percent by the end of this 13 weeks.
That would be normal.
One more thing I want to mention. A dear young friend of mine has decided she wants to enter the military, but to do so she needs to lose ten pounds, and wants to get in better shape. As a result, she’s started a blog of her own, 14 Weeks for Freedom, where she’s making her own open commitment to some life changes.
I am extremely proud of her; please drop over to the blog and give her your support.
Yeah, I’m doing a Taubes-inspired low-carb diet and high-intensity training, and this week I’m not particularly happy about it. So there. Follow me here at PJ Lifestyle or at the 13 Weeks Facebook page and see if “bah, humbug” is a weight-loss strategy.
So, it’s week seven, past the half-way mark in my 13 week experiment. Let’s hit the objective data first: my weight loss continues. I hit 275 this week for the first time in quite a while, and I’m settling down to very exactly 1.33 pounds a week. My glucose also continues to improve with a linear best-fit trend of about 1.5 mg/dL per week — which means, practically, that my glucose is often near normal even early in the morning when it seems to be highest. I could wish the weight loss was a little faster, but honestly the eating plan I’m on has really been very benign, very easy to do. In general, but I wasn’t going to whine until the next paragraph.
Okay, it’s the next paragraph. As you may recall, I was set to have a colonoscopy last Monday, and yes, thank you, everything came out all right. I don’t have to do another one for ten years. Starting back on Friday or Saturday, though, my big toe started to hurt. Right in the metatarsophalangeal joint, which is to say, where it meets the foot. It got inflamed and swollen, with a distinct red patch right over the joint. Monday, did the procedure; toe was still hurting, but I was, how you say, impaired. Finally thought about it, looked it up and decided I was having a gout attack, my first. Started taking the official jungle medicine cure for all things orthopedic: 800mg of ibuprofen 4× daily. And called the doc because, after all, I’m not a real doctor.
Went to the doctor, told him my history, said I thought it was gout, and how I was treating it.
He said, “you’re right. Fifty dollars, please.”
If it keeps recurring, there’s more stuff to do, but a lot of times it doesn’t. Gout basically is caused by uric acid precipitating out in a joint, and I’ve been on a high protein — and therefore high uric acid — diet, plus I was dehydrated from the prep. (When I said “everything came out all right”, I meant everything.) Still, it’s Friday night and my foot is basically healed.
In previous installments of this series, I’ve suggested famous (and not so famous) must-sees on your trip to Israel. You won’t want to miss your chance to float in the Dead Sea, snorkel with exotic fish in Eilat and fire a gun or two at Caliber 3 in Gush Etzion.
Now, onto some helpful hints and observations about everyday cultural cornerstones like food, language and manners.
PLUS: a crash course on words — like “settlement,” “refugee camp” and “checkpoint” — that don’t mean what you think they mean, at least in Israel.
The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years because they couldn’t decide where to eat.
Food is a very big deal in Jewish culture, so it’s not surprising that you can eat well in Israel, and as cheaply or as expensively as you wish or can afford.
Contrary to what you may think, not all restaurants there are kosher.
Many people believe that kosher food, wherever it is served, is healthier and cleaner. I for one do get this sensation when I’m in Israel, that somehow the food is fresher and more carefully handled. When it comes to kosher food, a bug on your lettuce isn’t just a faux pas — it’s a serious violation of the law.
Every hotel offers a breakfast buffet. It’s an Israeli institution, and differs little from a similar spread in North America except for the addition of chilled fish like herring, and the absence of bacon and ham.
In fact, the presence of dairy at these buffets means that no meat — pork or otherwise — will be on the menu. Milk and meat are not combined because — to put it simplistically — milk represents life and meat represents death. (So while there are McDonald’s in Israel, they don’t serve cheeseburgers. Coffeemate was invented so that Jews could enjoy “cream” in their coffee while eating, say, a steak.)
One dish that’s standard fare in Israel, and that we fell in love with, is shakshuka. “Dr. Shakshuka’s” restaurant was closed the day we visited Jaffa, which is too bad because it is world famous:
We went to the charming Nelly’s Kitchen instead, and really enjoyed it.
In the evening, across Israel, a “switch” takes place in restaurants and dining rooms: meat is offered but dairy is not. The types of cutlery at your table setting will be different, too.
Expect your lunch or dinner order to come with bountiful plates of appetizers like humus and salad. THEN your main meal arrives. Keep this in mind when ordering (and eating.)
Since I’m from Toronto, I’m familiar with the cuisine of most cultures, and have long been a falafel fanatic. The falafel is the “hamburger” of Israel, so be sure to try one. If you’re a bland “meat and potatoes” person, this and other Israeli dishes may be an acquired taste.
Starbucks isn’t there yet, but the Israeli equivalent — Aroma — is arguably superior anyhow. You get a little piece of dark chocolate with your cup of coffee, and their sandwiches are exceptional.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, treat yourself to a poppy seed bun or other fresh pastry sold by the Muslim merchants who push their wares along on old wooden carts.
When it comes to adding a shot of alcohol to your cold or flu remedy, it’s hard not to wish those boozy concoctions are doing some good for your health. As it turns out, they are.
Drinks like hot toddies, which traditionally contain whiskey, lemon and honey, can actually give cold and flu patients relief from their symptoms, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.
It just can’t prevent or cure a cold or flu virus.
“It would not have an effect on the virus itself, but its effect on the body can possibly give you some modest symptom relief,” Schaffner said. “The alcohol dilates blood vessels a little bit, and that makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection.”
Since Sept. 30, more than 5,100 influenza cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 40 cases of H1N1.
Schaffner said warm moisture from a steaming mug of any beverage can offer symptom relief.
“That’s part of why chicken soup is thought to work,” he said.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Okay, last week was on Thanksgiving survival; this week is the aftermath, and then I’ll talk about high intensity training. But first the aftermath.
Basically, I gained about 6 pounds directly after Thanksgiving. Now, as I said last week, there was no way that was “real” weight gain — that would have implied I’d eaten 21,000 kcals over what I need to keep my weight level in the span of a couple of days, when in fact by my food diary I’d eaten 7,700 kcals under. And as I’ve said all along, this is an experiment to see what happens, especially to my blood sugar, not about weight.
Well, I talk a big game, but the fact is that with 50 years of baggage, I can’t help but pay attention to the weight loss, and I was pretty unhappy about the whole thing. Not unhappy enough that I was tempted off my eating plan, mind you. I was really uncomfortable the weekend after Thanksgiving. If I ever ramp up the carbs, it’ll be very carefully.
The first 4 pounds came back off in a couple of days, and then I plateaued — I hit 281 or thereabouts and bounced along for five days. Five freaking days. Now, 280 has been a hard level for me for several years — I could lose down to there but hard to break through. (To end the suspense, yes I did finally — I’m back to 279.)
Here’s what the weights would have looked like if I only weighed on Sunday, just as I only do measurements on Sunday:
Matching the scale etc, the Thanksgiving weight gain is a very small alteration; the trend line is still down. In fact, since the long plateau isn’t included, the slope of the trend line is rather greater — 0.27 pounds a day versus 0.21. Once again, I think the lesson is that normally, maybe weighing yourself every week is enough, if you can stand it. (I couldn’t: I’d have to throw away my scale or hire someone to bring it over once a week.) Now, let’s get to what I’ve promised for a couple weeks, and talk about the training routines I’ve followed. That will start right below the fold, so follow this on to the next page.
I just started reading Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. If you have read other books by Ferriss, you will know that his style is manic, amusing and full of possibilities. That’s how I felt as I paged through his newest book.
He starts the book, not by teaching you how to cook but teaching you how to learn. Want to learn swimming? Don’t look to Michael Phelps. Try Shinji Takeuchi who learned to swim at 37. Takeuchi learned to swim not by sheer horsepower, like Phelps, but by effortless propulsion. Those people who are natural talents are not the way to learn, the ones who taught themselves despite having less talent can break the code down for the rest of us. I guess Ferriss is the reader’s guinea pig as he gleans what he can from the best in the culinary field to teach the reader how to cram 6 months of culinary lessons into 48 hours.
I must say that the recipes in the book sound exciting but I am not sure how tasty they are. On page 412, there is a recipe for Bacon-infused bourbon that is downright funny-looking with a bacon strip sticking out of glass of bourbon for guests at a cocktail party. Does this sound tasty to you? I don’t know. He not only teaches you how to make Vietnamese venison burgers but shows you in a section before what it is like to hunt and kill a deer with full photos. He also has a section on “how to Gut and Cook Tree Rat (or fish).” He has some simpler recipes for desserts or how to hard or soft-boil eggs for those of us with simpler culinary appetites (or who are just bad at cooking).
The book is a fill 667 pages of entertainment, weirdness and learning in addition to cooking. It is worth a read if you have the time.
Forget about the Thanksgiving feast. Potbellied and big-butted Americans stuff themselves silly all year round, a survey has found.
American men are weighing in at an average of 196 pounds — 16 pounds more than in 1990, a Gallup Poll has found. The average weight for women jumped 14 pounds to 156 pounds over the same period.
The truth is, fat is in and thin is, well, mostly fantasy.
When it comes to naming their ideal weight, men and women have lowered their standards considerably.
Men now put their ideal weight at an average of 185 pounds, the highest ever and up 14 pounds since 1990.
Women say their ideal weight is 140 pounds — up from 129 pounds in 1990.
I do think that Americans’ perception of weight has changed. What used to be considered normal weight is now thought of as thin. What used to be heavy is now normal.
Do you have an ideal weight and if so, what is it?
I’m doing a low carb Gary-Taubes-like diet and adding high intensity training for 13 weeks to see how it works. This 13 Weeks series is my diary of the experiment; you can also follow me day to day at my Facebook page.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not Sunday, But I noticed something so interesting I decided to do an extra post; I’m still planning to talk about high intensity training this Sunday. I’ve been doing a food diary at LoseIt!, and tracking my weight in a spreadsheet and at Physics Diet. So I’ve got a pretty solid diary of what I’m eating and its nutritional contents. Now, Physics Diet is pretty solidly devoted to the traditional thermodynamic “a calorie is a calorie” model of weight loss. When you enter your weights, it computes some interesting statistics and charts them; it also computes how many calories you have been under (or over) your needs based on the rate of change in your weight. So, without further adieu, here are some charts.
First, a chart from Excel showing my weight and fasting blood sugar, both taken immediately after awakening every day. (Click to enlarge the charts.)
Notice that both trend lines are going down quite nicely.
Now, here are my charts from Physics Diet. First, here’s a chart for the whole time since I started watching carbs on 19 October.
Now comes the arithmetic. Nominally, a pound of weight is 3500 kcal; you have to cut out 3500 kcal to lose a pound, and if you eat 3500 kcal too much, you gain a pound. As of today, I weighed 278.6; I’ve lost roughly 23 lbs since 19 October, when I weighed 301.5. That means by the “calories are calories” model, I had to have cut 80,500 kcal over that month and a day, or about 15,000 kcal a week — 2515 kcal a day — under my metabolic needs in order to get an average weight loss of 4.25 pounds per week. Honestly, that seemed unlikely.
But then if we look at the chart for just the time I’ve been really running the experiment, it gets even more interesting.