Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Very brief mini rant

I must have had this conversation a million times, and I'm going to summarize it briefly:
1) Peanuts are NOT nuts. I know they have 'nut' in the name. Chickpeas have 'chick' in the name--do you think they're little peas made of chick?
2) Real nuts, like almonds, do have protein, but the VAST majority of their calories come from fat. If one more person tells me they're eating nuts for PROTEIN I'm going to club them over the head with a leg of lamb. Seriously. I have one in my freezer. 

Skinny people everywhere!

So I just got back from San Francisco. Using the fabulous gmaps hack, the Google pedometer, my mom and I figured out we walked at least five miles every day, and that's up and down some very big hills. Yesterday at the airport my mom turned to me and said "did you realize we didn't see a single really overweight person while we were here?"

I thought back and it was true. Now granted, San Francisco is probably not unique--in all urban areas where one can walk a lot and have access to high quality food, obesity rates are likely lower. But I would posit that the added strain of the major hills in SF definitely contributes to a slimmer population :).

I was very proud of my mom, who is just over 60, and handled the hills like a champ, including Filbert Street, one of the steepest hills in the Northern Hemisphere. I think I've been blessed with a pretty darn good gene pool. Hardy farmer stock on one side, hardy Jewish peasant stock on the other. When my maternal grandparents passed away they were over 90, and my paternal grandparents are both alive, which is pretty amazing. 

I love the phrase "genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger." Walking is my favourite form of exercise and I usually live in very urban, easily walkable areas. I have also never been overweight (even though I ate a lot of crap in high school and the first part of college). Whatever genetic hand you've been dealt, environment has a huge amount to do with how your genetic code is expressed. 

I still believe what and how much you eat is by far the biggest factor. But the difference between having to walk a mile to and from the grocery store every day and having to drive because there are no sidewalks where you live can make a big difference. My running joke is that I am in good shape now because I live on a hill and I have to go down and up it no matter what if I want food. Obviously, I could get take out every night (back to the what and how much part) or have my groceries delivered. No matter what, today one needs to make a conscious effort to get exercise. But certain environments absolutely make it easier. As does the fact that I am usually too cheap to use Peapod or get crappy takeout ;)

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Almost forgot

Last week, I accidently created a fabulous side dish. I bought a bag of shredded red cabbage on a whim, not sure what to do with it but craving the cruciate goodness. Yes, I do crave certain veggies, and yes, that is an evolved facet of my palate. 

It was very cold outside, and by the time I got home, I knew I wanted my cabbage warm. So I threw about 5g of bacon grease in my beloved enamel dutch oven, sauteed some onion (yes, I firmly believe most dishes taste better with sauteed onion) until nice and soft and golden, and then threw the cabbage in the pot. I stirred it to make sure it was nice and coated with some of the fat and mixed in with the onions and then I slammed on the very heavy lid. About 10 minuted later I opened the pot, seasoned the cabbage with salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar (about a tbsp worth) and hot pepper flakes, gave it another stir, and covered it for 5 minutes. When I opened the pot I had lovely cooked cabbage that smelled delicious.

Of course, the ultimate test was the SO, who had been quite skeptical of my impulse cabbage grab. I have to give him credit, he's a good sport, and will eat pretty much any veggie I throw on his plate. I loaded his plate up, expecting that I would probably end up eating most of it anyway. But I turned around twice, and it was gone!* I will DEFINITELY be making this dish again :)

*To be fair, the SO eats VERY quickly. His grandmother refers to him as 'the snake' because he ingests so quickly he appears to skip the whole chewing part of the process. Seriously, it's impressive. My point being that the speed of his consumption is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the degree of the yumminess of the dish--although he swears he did love it. 

San Francisco Treat

That is my SO's new nickname for me. Why? Because we are moving to San Fran! I am very excited about this. I have been living in cold climates for far too long. One of the down sides of CRON/Paleo is that being lean means sorely lacking in insulation. My feet enter a deep freeze around November and thaw sometime in May. 

So I am in San Francisco scouting apartments. I still can't get over the fact that I will be living in a place that has PALM TREES year 'round. 

And oh my god, the food. I have had fabulous thai including some amazing chicken satay and tom yum soup, as well as an excellent warm chicken salad with romaine, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and green onions, and a grilled Hawaiian fish called Monchong with zucchini and carrots. There are so many delicious choices, and it is so easy here. 

Cage free eggs are everywhere, as is gorgeous produce. I am spoiled for choice. And as for exercise, I can be outside all year round walking the hills. I think I'm really going to love it here. As usual, traveling, I am simply doing the best I can eating wise. I feel pretty good, actually. Poached eggs and berries for breakfast, salad with chicken for lunch, fruit and a protein bar for dinner. 

I am definitely eating more fruit than usual, but it is SO good here I can't resist :) And all this walking up and down is making me HUNGRY. But I really love the fact that San Francisco is a very walkable city--I can't wait to go exploring when I move here for good. I especially can't wait for the farmers markets. 

A quick review of 2008

I am a pretty inquisitive guy and have always been conscious of my health, but as I have mentioned before, my dietary habits significantly changed when I met my love, as I began to proactively analyze the nutritional value of my overall diet. The difference I have made is subtle but important; it is one thing to try to eat the "right" things, is quite another to understand your overall nutritional composition on daily basis and how this measures up to standards to ensure that you are getting what your body needs.

My methods in doing this certainly need refinement and I can be more explicit and scientific about my ways of tracking what I eat, but the general theme I am leaving for other wayward fellows out there is to track your food, whether formally or generally and look at these foods against nutrition factors.

Some of my guy friends get annoyed at me when I point out foods which are really not great. I don't stop though because this perspective keeps me in line and I also want them to think about these things.

I feel better when I eat less bread (which is hard because I LOVE bread) and keep a high protein, lower carbohydrate diet. I have also over 10 pounds this year as a product of diet (not exercise) and am looking to eating increasingly better that I can move towards the shape which I desire.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Is being a self conscious eater a girl thing?

This is a topic I've mulled over for a while, well before I started the blog. I am a healthy eater. I am also a small girl. Skinny, even. I was not always this way. In high school, I was curvy (not fat, not even chubby, but round) and in college I definitely inched up to chubby in my freshman year. In my sophomore year, I moved out of the dorms, returned to cooking for myself as I had in highs school and my weight returned to my high school weight. All through this time I liked the way I looked and I didn't pay much attention to what I ate.  Senior year of college, I decided I wanted to get healthier. 

I am grateful that I never experienced the difficulties with self esteem and body image that many women have. That is not to say there weren't parts of me I didn't like, but I never really dwelled on it. I definitely had a couple of stupid health phases  that senior year, including the three months where I refused to eat any fat whatsoever.  I think I ate my weight in baby carrots :( 

When I moved to France, I began to pay much more attention to what I ate, simply because it was part of the culture there.  Then I began dating a European, who really showed me the importance of caring about what you eat. And I became that girl. The healthy eater. The person who orders dressing on the side and always gets chicken or fish. The girl who never orders dessert and avoids the bread basket and pasta dishes.

I lost weight, that layer of roundness I had been carrying since high school. And I loved it and I still do. I feel lean and satisfied. So why is it that I still feel uncomfortable sometimes eating in public? The holidays are one of those concentrated times when I am reminded of how differently I eat. I know in the office when I say no to egg nog and cider and the cookie exchange and the candy jar that there are co workers looking at me and wondering what kind of eating disorder I have. Lest I come off as totally paranoid, I have had co workers tell me how 'concerned' they are about my eating habits. 

My frustration comes from the fact that I allow these comments to bother me. I don't feel like I should have to explain why I don't want to eat something. And to get to the title of the post, I know several health conscious men at work who also refuse these foods and I'm pretty sure no one says boo to them. But is that the case because I'm female and people feel more open to make unwelcome comments or because I somehow give off a vibe that I am receptive to them? I don't think I project the same kind of 'this is the way I do things and if you don't like it, screw you' vibe a lot of men do when I communicate. As is supposedly stereotypically female, I don't want to offend, and so I try to soften my refusals with body language, tone, etc. Unfortunately, my behaviour seems to facilitate the vicious cycle of comment/irritation. 

I just don't know how to respond in the case where someone says 'oh, you're being so good' while they eat candies or cake. Or when they say 'go ahead, you're thin, you can eat this.' Or when someone says I am too rigid, or too thin. It's like someone telling you you're in denial--it's a lose-lose situation. 

Unless someone asks me directly, I actively avoid talking about what I eat and don't eat. Of course, my friends don't care (it's actually a running joke for them, whenever we go out to eat they'll say 'don't worry, they have great salads at this place') and my family and SO are very accepting. None of them try to push anything unhealthy on me 'in my best interest.' In fact, anyone who has known me for a long period knows I have maintained the weight I am at for 6 years now and I take very good care of myself.  

And yet, even now, when I've been eating like this for years, with all the support I have, these outside, insensitive observations by near strangers still get to me. I'm not sure why I care so much about what these people think. And worse, I find myself doing things to make myself look more 'normal', like ordering a dessert I don't want or eating the bread that comes with my cheese plate. Now, obviously it's not the end of the world if I do eat a cookie. But I should eat the cookie because I WANT the cookie, not to please someone else. 

I want to have a guy's attitude. I want to project that confidence in my choices. It's definitely going to be a New Year's resolution/goal for me in 2009: to worry about me first, and not what other people think of me. 

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Holidays

As a product of an interfaith relationship, I like to take advantage of all the different holiday celebrations. Lighting the menorah and decorating the tree are equally enjoyable for me. And for the holiday dinner, we had a ham, brisket braised in red wine and broth with pearl onions and steamed broccoli for the primal among us, with potatoes au gratin, latkes, and biscuits for the others:) For dessert I ate out the filling of some apple pie. 

Since I am the designated cook in the family, I take a certain sneaky delight in feeding people healthy delicious food. Of course, I don't advertise the healthy part. I just cook simple meat and veggie dishes. Often, people don't even notice the lack of the requisite starch. I didn't even thicken the sauce for the brisket beyond reducing the braising liquid. And it was delicious. I just called it a jus and no one complained. 

Ham is even easier. I glazed it with some no sugar added apricot preserves and tamari, roasted it for four hours, and there you go. No sauce needed. But the best part, by far, is knowing there are delicious leftovers for the next few days: I could easily eat the ham, onions, and broccoli for days. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Stuck in Las Vegas

Oh, the joy of traveling over the holidays. Las Vegas is not our final destination, but we're most of the way there. I am grateful for my go to healthy eats--raw almonds, beef jerky, and Starbucks espresso on the way. Last night I had a fruit cup at Au Bon Pain to round out my meal. Not too impressive, mainly anemic cantaloupe. I should have known better, but oh well. 

For being on 3 hours sleep, I think I'm doing ok. My appetite gets really odd when I travel like this, across time zones and being up at odd hours (for me). Early in the morning, it is nonexistent. I marvel at the people I see in the airport Burger King shoving down their morning fare. The thought of putting something in my mouth at 5 am does not appeal to me. 

I know in three hours, when I get off the plane again, I will be RAVENOUS. But my body definitely needs time to wake up. 

Friday, 19 December 2008

Old before my time?

My family likes to mock me because I seem to prefer to soft foods. I have to say, it's probably true, especially in the winter. While I like my veggies tender crisp, I'm more likely to eat them as a puree or soup. I love tender braised meat. Yogurt. Cheese. All soft. In the winter, I love microwaving frozen berries to have as a warm spoonable dessert.

Hard and crunchy is just not as appealing to me. Sure, in certain contexts it's nice: a crisp apple, or a nice piece of celery. But I will gravitate towards the more babyfoodish end of the textural spectrum. Just like any denture wearer ;)

One of my favourite soft slurpy foods is bitter greens like swiss chard or kale or collards. I heat up a pan with a slice of bacon. I cook the bacon, pour off some of the fat for later, saute finely diced onions and garlic with hot pepper flakes in the remainder of the grease until nice and fragrant, then I throw in the greens sliced into ribbons with some chiken broth and let it all stew together for 20 minutes. When everything looks nice and wilted, I pour the whole mess into a bowl, crumble the bacon on top, and slurp away. It's not the most attractive cuisine, but to me, a bowl of greens is a perfect comfort food, especially when you add bacon to the equation.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Eating on the road

I'm traveling for work, with the SO for company (I am a lucky girl-he has that kind of flexibility with his job) and tonight we went out for dinner.

Eating out doing CRON is a challenge, as an CR'ed person can tell you, because you never really know what's in your food. I just try to order healthy and make my peace with the fact that I will not be entirely in control of what I'm getting. I figure since I eat in most nights, those nights when I do go out aren't a big deal anyways.

And I LOVE Japanese food. So when the SO allowed me to choose, I headed straight for the Japanese place around the corner from our hotel. While normally I'm a sashimi girl, it was pretty cold up here, so I didn't go all raw. I had miso soup, oshitashi with lots of bonito on top, and tuna tataki surrounded with lots of shredded daikon. Simple, filling, yummy. Oh, and nicely primal AND cr'ed.

I find that Asian cuisine in general is my favourite genre of cuisine when eating out. Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai offer lots of delicious, veggie and protein filled options with a fabulous mix of salty, sweet, and sour tastes. I could have Tom Yum soup every night with some kind of thai curry, or a nice bowl of pho (scandalously avoiding the noodles but eating the meat and broth), or bimbimbop... I have never been too into Chinese food, but I'm sure it's because I've never had truly Chinese dishes. American Chinese food is a real turn off--greasy, bland, covered in heavy overly sweet or overly salty sauces.

Hmmm. I'm inspired now. As soon as I get back, I see a homemade Thai curry in my future...

Managing whilst away

Just got back from being away from home;  it is tough to be away because without my cavewoman preparing food, I am left to fend for myself.  I was just at a country where the cuisine is lacking and intense carbs are offered at every corner.  Before meeting my love, I would have enjoyed a lot of these bread offerings, but now that I have been a year with less bread and even limiting th amount of empty calories I previously consumed (through soda and juices), I look and feel better, so on this trip I was disciplined in avoiding those once so unavoidable breads.

The next challenge we are taking up is coming up with a daily menu for me.  This way, while I am away and without the guidance of my love, I will have clear options in my mind to eat that are both nutritional valuable but also within my daily caloric range.  More on this later . . .

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

It really is 80% diet

I have a very sedentary job. Not only is it sedentary, it requires very long hours. And yet, I haven't put on a pound since I started over a year ago. In my profession, this is an almost unheard of situation. Add in the fact that I don't go to the gym; I walk to and from work for my exercise, about two miles a day, and on the weekends I go on longer walks, usually 4-5 hours total on weekend days. I carry my groceries up the steep hill on which I live. My body fat percentage sits consistently around 15%, which is pretty good for a female, and a level at which I am comfortable. When primal/paleo people say your body composition is 80% diet, they are absolutely correct, at least in my case.

I was once a gym rat. I would easily do a hour on the elliptical machine. In fact, I used the elliptical so much I started to get hip pains. I was thin, but I was tired all the time. My body fat percentage was around 20%. I was also constantly fighting hunger.

When I learned about CRON, and really started to analyze both the macro and micro nutritional content of my diet, I was amazed to see my deficiencies. B vitamins. Magnesium. Potassium. And I certainly wasn't getting anywhere near the protein I thought I was. On the other hand, I was eating waaaaaaay too much fiber. 40g and above a day.

For some people, diarying their food is a huge chore. For others, it makes them preoccupied with what they eat to the point of an eating disorder. For me, tracking my nutrition is hugely freeing. I have the comfort of knowing that I am giving my body what it needs. It also helps to guide my choices. I know if I'm low in Vitamin K, I can reach for the romaine, or pork for my B1. I also can see where I consistently have deficiencies no matter what I eat, so I can supplement appropriately. I know which foods give me the most nutritional bang for my buck, er, calorie (e.g. kale) and which don't (e.g. radishes*).

As my nutrition became more balanced, I felt less hungry. And my food cravings, which had been powerful enough sometimes to drive me out at 2 am in the middle of the winter to the 24 hour grocery store a few blocks away, faded away. Any cravings I get now are significantly more mild and manageable.

Then I discovered Mark's Daily Apple. And through Mark, the whole universe of primal/paleo eating. I consider myself to be a pragmatic, rational person, and his approach to diet and exercise struck me as ultimately sensible. And he gave me permission to quit the chronic cardio :). I stopped going to the gym and waited to see if I'd gain weight. Instead, I lost a few pounds. And my body fat percentage went down.

While the primal exercise approach was easy for me to adopt, I was unsure if I could reconcile primal eating and CRON. I have mentioned the dairy conflict in CRON/Paleo. There is also the dietary cholesterol debate (to eat the yolk or not to eat the yolk), and the saturated fat debate.

But in many ways, the two approaches jive. They both advocate eating nutritionally dense, whole, natural foods. They are not trendy, like the Cabbage Soup Diet. They both fly in the face of 'conventional' nutritional wisdom. I have become used to the raised eyebrows I get when I say whole wheat bread is nutritionally useless, that potatoes are the functional equivalent of eating sugar, and that eating meat every day is good for you. Following either approach, you adapt to being viewed as an iconoclast.

In the end the two approaches may only be reconcilable in my own head. I don't care if I'm not 'truly' primal because I eat yogurt and cheese sometimes, or I'm not 'truly' CRON because I eat egg yolks and butter. I have gained valuable insight from both sides. Moreover, what I do works for me, and that's what counts. I know I will eat the way I eat for the rest of my life. Unlike some people who have lost weight, I have no fear I will gain it back because I love both what I eat and how I feel.

*I really like radishes, they're just not nutritional powerhouses!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Overheard at a party this weekend...

A nice little morsel to chew on, so to speak.

Speaker 1 [normal sized guy]: Dude, you're looking really buff lately.
Speaker 2 [classic American musclebound type, with big buff arms and a gut]: Yeah man, the key is getting protein every three hours. I get my alarm o'clock to wake me for my 3 am shake.


Back in the saddle

So yesterday, i.e. the day AFTER the Carbageddon, I made a delibrate effort to go low on carbs. One of the favourite dinners in my house is turkey tacos. The SO has taco shells, I use leaves of romaine. The recipe is super simple: I finely dice about 100 grams of onion, saute them until nice and soft and golden in coconut oil. I throw in around 400 grams of ground turkey, sprinkle with salt free chili powder, ground pasilla chili, and cumin. Toppings on the side are chopped tomatoes, mashed up avocado, sliced romaine, and Newmans Own salsa (we are both obsessed with this stuff-SO GOOD).

Great nutrition, good fat from the coconut oil and avocado, plenty of flavour from all the seasonings and the onion. Caramelized onions are, after all, one of the oldest chef tricks in the book, and while a lot of cookbooks advise adding a little sugar to assist the caramelization, it's not necessary, particularly when you use sweet onions. I honestly don't miss taco shells at all-like croutons and many hard cereals, they scraped the roof of my mouth, and I avoided them because of the discomfort.

Besides, without the taco shells taking up room in your belly, you can fill that space with the really yummy stuff. I remember when, in my freshman year history class in high school, my teacher explained that the reason we eat pasta or bread or rice is as a way making sure humans got adequate calories and of stretching the good stuff--the meat and veggies. It made sense to me then because I would always eat the sauce of my pasta before the pasta, or lick cream cheese off my bagel.

Now, given the abundance and access we have to meat and veggies, as well as the knowledge we have about the nutritional as well as the gustatory superiority of these foods over grains, why settle for the filler?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ugh. Carb Overload.

There are some days when I choose to be less picky about my food. While I can be highly self critical in other areas of my life, like my work, when it comes to how I eat I don't beat myself for less than ideal choices. I'm not sure why that is. I wish I could learn to be easier on myself for other things. Maybe it's because I know how careful I am in my choices, and rationally I know that one day will not undo the 7 good ones that preceded it.

In any case, last night I went to three Christmas parties. Thanks to work, they are the only ones I will be able to attend. In a way, being too busy is an excellent holiday food management. In any case, I had many cookies (all homemade) and nibbly apps. And wine and cider with rum. I know I overate calorie wise and carb wise in a big way. I enjoyed every bite.

But oy, this morning my body felt it. The major sugar crash, the belly bloat, the water retention. It's an excellent reminder of how the way I typically eat is so much better. So I'm loading up of protein and fat and keeping my carbs down today. I still don't feel great, but I know I'll feel better tomorrow, and the day after.

It's not a morality thing for me. I don't feel like I was *bad* for eating the way I did, nor is the food *bad*--it was a less than ideal nutritional choice, that's all. Attaching judgements like that to food are pointless. One day doesn't make a difference. Self-recrimination doesn't change what you consumed. And it doesn't make you physically feel better. Taking good care of yourself the next day does.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Breakfast this morning included ham smeared with mashed avocado and rolled up into cigar shapes. The perfect mix of salty and creamy. Another combination I love is smoked salmon with poached eggs on top. Ah, salt and fat. Does it get any better?

Now I know, I know, I should avoid salt, it has acidifying effects on the body, it's otherwise not good for me, etc. But I like it. And so I use sea salt in my cooking, and I buy cured meat. Everyone has to do what works for them. I can't do without salt.

Oh, I've tried. People say that if you go without for a while, things start to taste waaaaaaaaay too salty. Nope, never happened to this person. I tried many times, would make it as long as a month, but in the end, I would crack. I would buy no salt added cottage cheese and throw some salt in. A pinch of salt used to make my oatmeal rock. And you know what? I NEVER lost the taste for it.

Now, I have lost my taste for sweet stuff. Certain foods, especially processed foods, taste grossly sweet to me--especially purchased salad dressings and sauces. Seriously? Do they have to add sugar to EVERYTHING? But salt and I are together for life.

My blood pressure is fine, even lowish. And on a grand scale, I don't think I do eat enough salt for it to matter (I don't ridiculously salt my food) on a day to day basis. In the end, you have to do what works for you. For me, in the final analysis, a little bit of salt ups my enjoyment of some dishes so much that in cost/benefit balance, salt wins.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Need versus want

The trite saying is that we have many wants and few needs. Trite, but true. Sometimes, especially when I'm stressed, I want foods I consider comforting, which are usually carbs. In the bad old days I would go for ice cream or french toast. I had already 'healthified' these dishes--the ice cream was low fat and the french toast was made with low carb bread, egg whites and sugar free syrup (as a side note, wtf are those cartoned egg whites??? I tried to whip them once and they DID NOT act like real egg whites). In other words, a lower calorie, but still carby or low nutrient indulgence, and neither paleo nor CRON.

Those urges haven't gone away. But what I do now is actively question why I want what I think I want, and try to figure out what I need. Sometimes, I realize I'm just tired and I want emotional comfort. Sometimes, I feel like I just want what I want, and some part of my brains is acting like a spoiled six year old, complete with foot stomping. On those days when I can't reason with my inner six year old, I do what many parents do. I bribe me.

I buy the ingredients for french toast. I put them in my fridge. And then I look at all my food and ask myself if what I have bought is the thing I would prefer above ALL others in my fridge. In the end, rarely does the junky food win. I usually pick my Brie, or avocado, or a small square of dark chocolate. But buying the food shuts my inner six year old up. And once she shuts up, I can reason with her.

I know this approach doesn't work for everyone. For some, having that food in the house is too much temptation. But what I rebel against is the idea that I can't have what I want. In the end, when I have the option to choose what I want, I tend to reach for what I need.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Carbs may not make you fat...

Of course, if you keep your calorie levels low to begin with, the fact that you are eating carbohydrates alone will not make you fat. There are many skinny vegans and vegetarians out there who simply don't eat very much.

What carbs do have a tendency to do, at least in my body, is make me retain water. Because I had an Italian friend visiting a few days ago, I had pasta (a small portion) with clams, mussels, and cod. I also had a little bit of bread and a small amount of apple crisp for dessert. And sure enough, the scale was up 3 pounds the next day. Now, I know because I track my intake that I could not possibly have eaten enough for this number to be a genuine gain. So for the last couple of days I have concentrated on keeping my carb levels down.

Sure enough, this morning I'm three pounds down again. More importantly for me, I feel better. My stomach doesn't feel swollen. Days like that just drive home to me how much better my body responds when I'm feeding it the right kinds of foods: veggies, meat, nuts, oil.

Healthier eating through influence

I have always considered myself a relatively fit person, cognizant of the food I eat and my general health. However, my perspectives on this with regard to diet changed significantly when I met my cavewoman. How? By observing her break down daily nutrition levels using the CRON-o-meter, this made me start to reflect on similar things in my own diet . . . though I am not disciplined enough to use the tool on a regular basis, I do keep it on my Mac (we are both HUGE Apple fans w/ iPhone and Macbooks to boot). By using it as a source of information or mentally keeping conscience of the numbers helps me make better choices when eating.

The results: in keeping my routines, after 1 year of eating like this, I weigh about 15 pounds less. Thinking about what you eat matters and combined with the delicious food she makes, she has also helped me make better choices when she is not around and for that, the results speak for themselves.

Indeed, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

To dairy or not to dairy?

This question is one that tends to divide not only CR and Paleo eaters, but even Paleo eaters amongst themselves. This blog is not intended to have the intensely scientific bent that some CR?Paleo blogs have--for example, I do not plan on citing studies.

From a purely personal standpoint, I struggle with the dairy issue. On the one hand, I truly love most dairy products, especially cheese. For a long time I used low fat cottage cheese, greek yogurt (2%) and fat free ricotta as central protein sources in my diet. From the CR perspective, this is ok. From the Paleo perspective, dairy is suspect to begin with, and pasteurized low fat or fat free dairy is especially so. 

Our ancestors indisputably did not eat low fat or fat free dairy products. I also do not believe saturated fat found in dairy is a great dietary evil. But I do like that I can eat those products in a decent volume and get a good amount of protein for a small calorie expenditure. As I have tried more actively to balance CR and Paleo, I have moved away from many dairy products because they not give me enough bang for my nutritional buck. But I do miss them.

And I refuse to cut all dairy out. I think it is unnecessary. I love making myself a cheese plate after dinner (this week: tarantaise, st. nectaire, and rambol) with a little bit of prosciutto or salami. I have half and half in my coffee. I occasionally have a misto from Starbucks, with 2%, heavy on the coffee. 

Am I sabotaging my body? Maybe. It's debatable. I am not lactose intolerant, and small amounts of dairy do not bother me. But at the same time, I feel a bit strange eating low fat dairy and pasteurized milk, knowing all the processing that has gone into them. So the internal struggle continues :)

Monday, 8 December 2008

What to eat for breakfast?

The standard American breakfast is, in my opinion, generally a disappointing affair. As many others have noted, sugar shock seems to be the goal of most typical dishes (pancakes, french toast, muffins, donuts, cereal) and even the savory options tend to come with a huge dose of simple carbs (homefries, toast). For most of my life, I have been a typical American breakfast eater, with favourites ranging from instant sweetened oatmeal to Pop Tarts to bagels and cream cheese. 

Mark Sisson has covered the breakfast topic quite well from the paleo (actually, for Mark, Primal) end. Another great blog, Feel Good Eating, also covers the topic of what paleo oriented eaters have for meals. From the CR end, April Smith is famous for her egg whites/flax oil combo.

I know this sounds silly, but it was a revelation for me that you could eat non breakfast foods at breakfast. At first when I began eating more healthfully, I was eating rolled oats, usually with sliced banana or pumpkin and a ton of Splenda. But I realized that sort of breakfast supplied a huge dose of carbs, very little protein or good fat, and left me starving two hours later. When I switched to poached eggs for their better nutritional profile, I began to wean myself off the sweet stuff for breakfast. In a couple of months, I was experimenting with all kinds of non breakfast foods: leftover salmon with broccoli, chicken breast with a V8 juice chaser. This morning I had an organic chicken sausage with a drizzle of mustard and steamed cauliflower with lemon olive oil. 

Of course, there is the time issue. Opening a cereal box is easy, right? But steamed veggies? Well, I timed my breakfast this morning. I took out my chicken sausage, sliced it up in rounds, threw it in a bowl, and nuked it for thirty seconds. I had chopped the cauliflower the night before, so I threw that in another bowl with a bit of water, covered it, and nuked it for 3:30. I drained the cauliflower, drizzled the olive oil on top, and voila. 4 minutes of cooking time, maybe a minute of prep, and I had a nice, nutritionally well rounded breakfast. Often I can't be bothered to warm the meat up, so I'll just eat cold leftovers--even faster.

My darling SO also loves his eggs--for him, breakfast is always a couple of slices of uncured bacon and a nice scramble. Once I have cooked the bacon (6-8 min) I drain off most of the grease, and pour a couple of eggs beaten with a bit of cheese, and gently cook them over low heat (3 min). Of course, we both have the advantages of having high thresholds for boredom and liking leftovers :)

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Why another blog?

Oh, the pressure of the first post! Why is someone adding yet another eating blog to the already crowded field? I am doing it because, amazingly, I feel like there is still a niche out there for me. I am an avid food blogger/home cook/nutritional rebel. Several years ago, due to medication I was on at the time, I gained a decent amount of weight. While I had always been interested in food, I had not ever focused on the healthfulness of what I was eating. A temporary stint in 'healthy eating' in order to drop a few pounds became an avid interest in nutrition. 

My two main sources of inspiration were and remain the Calorie Restriction Optimal Nutrition (CRON) movement, and the paleo eating movement. I have a deep admiration for the fabulous bloggers from both camps, including Art de Vany, Mark Sisson, April Smith, and Mary Robinson (please note this is NOT an exhaustive list). While there are some female bloggers in both areas, I feel that especially in the paleo arena, a few more would be a welcome addition.

I personally follow a hybrid combination of the two theories. I avoid grains, including whole grains, as well as most dairy. I embrace and adore fat in the form of unrefined oils, butter, nuts, and even lard. I aim to eat lots of protein and green veggies. I carefully track my nutritional intake on a wonderful freeware program called the CRON-O-Meter. I have recently become interested in the intermittent fasting movement (IF).

I am often asked how I can love food as much as I do and not gain weight. When I explain my eating philosophy, it is usually met with the twin reactions of "how can you not eat grains/dairy/junk food" and "I could NEVER eat like you do." The point of this blog is to show how I do it, and demonstrate that my quotidian diet is not as bizarre as it apparently sounds.