Daily gratitude (social distancing edition): I’m grateful that Jackie is an excellent cook, and that I am an adequate one.
New policy, for the duration: Unless I know your establishment provides paid sick time to waiters, waitresses, cooks, busboys, dishwashers, and bartenders, I won’t eat there, and I won’t drink there.
Salmon on the house salad, potato soup with bacon, rye pale ale. 📷 #mbfeb
Some years back, after I’d finally made some real progress at losing weight and getting in shape, I was thinking of writing a post about it, when an on-line acquaintance posted a stern note to the effect that she didn’t want to see any “weight-loss success stories” from anyone who hadn’t kept the weight off for five years.
It’s a reasonable perspective. Almost any weight loss program will work for six months. Almost nobody who undertakes such a program manages to get down to a normal weight and maintain that weight for five years.
Despite the aforementioned reasonableness, I was somewhat put off by her attitude. Who was she to tell me when and how I could tell my own story? (To be fair, she wasn’t telling me I couldn’t tell my story, just that she didn’t want to see it.)
That feeling of being just a tiny bit stifled made the whole thing stick in my mind, such that I’ve kept track: February 14th, 2015 was when my BMI dropped from 25 (overweight) to 24.9 (normal weight). It has now been in the “normal weight” range for five years.
I didn’t stop there. I continued losing weight for almost two more years, until in December 2016 I decided that I didn’t want to get any smaller. At that point I started targeting a stable weight (145 lbs, which gives me a BMI right at the midpoint of the “normal weight” range). I’ve achieved my target pretty well, keeping my weight to within plus-or-minus about 3 pounds of my target.
I wish I had something useful to say about how to lose weight, but I really don’t.
I lost the first fifty pounds the long, slow, hard way—eating less (portion control) and moving more. Because it was hard—I was hungry all the time—I knew that even a slight misstep could easily see me gaining back back all that weight. At that point I did an experiment with low-carb eating, to see if it would address some health issues unrelated to my weight, and quickly peeled off another 15 pounds.
Since then I’ve been eating what I call a “carb-aware whole-foods diet,” meaning that my main focus is on eating food (and refraining from eating industrially produced food-like substances), but purposefully keeping my carbs down in the 100–125 grams per day range, and taking my carbs down lower if my weight gets up above where I want it.
Because eating low-carb worked well for me, I’m modestly inclined to be a booster of the diet, but only modestly. Who am I to say that just because it worked for me it would work for anyone else?
Besides eating actual food and watching my carbs, anybody who reads my blog knows that I spend a lot of time moving. Just click on the “exercise” tag or the Fitness category to see post after post talking about my efforts to get enough exercise (in the old days), and see how they gradually changed into my efforts to keep moving throughout the day. It’s common knowledge that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet, but I think it’s also true that moving throughout the day is critical to achieving and maintaining good health.
When you feel sick, you prefer to sit still. This behavior pattern is not only well known, it even has a name: “inflammatory-induced sickness behavior.”
In the modern world this easily leads to a particularly pernicious vicious cycle. Modern lifestyles lead to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome produces systemic inflammation, which makes you feel like sitting still. Wanting to sit still makes what would otherwise be the most potent tool for reducing systemic inflammation—exercise—tough to bring to bear.
This rather dense article from back in 2010 describes the problem: Inflammatory modulation of exercise salience: using hormesis to return to a healthy lifestyle. It also proposes a category of solutions: hormesis. That is to say, any of a set of mild metabolic stresses that prompt a response greater than “just enough” to stave off the damage produced by the stress itself.
The result is less systemic inflammation, and therefore less inflammatory-induced sickness behavior, hence an increased inclination to move.
Or, as they say:
We therefore propose that exercise salience, the motivation to undertake physical activity, is modulated by the inflammatory status of an animal, decreasing in an inflammatory phenotype, including the metabolic syndrome and increasing in an anti-inflammatory “healthy” phenotype. The type of phenotype may well be determined by the degree of hormesis, as metabolic stressors, such as exercise, plant polyphenols and calorie restriction tend to induce an anti-inflammatory phenotype.
Besides exercise, the article suggests two other broad categories of available hormetins.
One is related to food, and consists of the obvious stuff that everybody knows: Avoid industrially produced edible substances. Consider such modalities as time-restricted eating, calorie restriction, or fasting. Include foods rich in plant polyphenols. (In other words, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”)
The other is related to temperature: Expose yourself to mild cold and/or heat stress. (Spend time outdoors in the winter. Take a cold shower. Spend time outdoors in the summer. Take a sauna.)
Each of these things will produce some mild metabolic stress. As long as you don’t overdo it, that mild stress will produce a stress response greater than necessary to handle the stress itself, with the side-effect of bringing down systemic inflammation. With the systemic inflammation eased, you’ll start feeling like moving again. That puts the potent tool of exercise back on the table.
Nature has a more recent article on all this stuff, which is sadly behind a paywall.
Important to me during the dark days:
feeding your brain properly has the potential to prevent and reverse symptoms of mental health disorders, and in some cases, help people reduce or even eliminate the need for psychiatric medications.
Might reversing this be the solution to the raccoon menace?
Urbanites abandoned small game like raccoon, which was laced with unfavorable racial and class stigmas, in favor of cheap pork, chicken, and beef.
Latest in the long-running series, “Studies that reinforce my preconceptions just from reading the headline”:
Vegans have twice as many sick days as their meat-eating colleagues in the UK, according to a new report.
Almost two years ago I made some lard. It lasted pretty well (I don’t use much), but I noticed recently that it was almost gone. So I requested a couple of pounds of pork fat from the meat lab, got 2.4 lbs, rendered it yesterday, and now I have almost a quart of fresh, milky white, unbleached lard.
Me: I just found this recipe at Paleo Magazine which looks yummy: honey balsamic salmon and harvest vegetables.
Jackie: A “paleo” recipe with “harvest” vegetables? Shouldn’t they be foraged vegetables?
Me: Point taken. Now, if it were a recipe in Neolithic Magazine, then fine.