Wednesday, April 13, 2016

food-centric travelogue

Third full day at sea:

Two days ago we took the galley* tour and met the executive chef of the Seabourn Odyssey.  His dining-room creations as well as the obvious organizational skills have impressed us so far, so when we heard that he is conducting a demonstration ... well, i didn't want to miss it!

Jes made his version of Tom Kah Gai, "spicy Thai chicken, coconut, galangal soup;"  though he didn't have galangal he substituted fresh ginger.  We got to sample it when it was completed, and it was VERY good!

I was particularly glad to hear his mini-tutorial on how to use lemon grass -- for some reason, i've found the written descriptions confused and intimidating.  Actually, the way he described and demonstrated its use, it was remarkable simple.  "Top and tail" the stalk, peel off the outer leaves, then batter it thoroughly with the flat of a heavy knife.  Then, take it in your hands and twist and bend it, tie it in a knot, and throw it in the pot.  The flavor comes through, and it's now easy to pull out of the soup, so that the diners don't end up picking tough strands out of their teeth.  ;-)

Chef Jes promised to have at least one more demonstration on this crossing, which we'll be looking forward to attending.  I approached him to ask his favorite use of black cod, as he had been discussing fish during the talk, and he gave me two great ideas; if i would send a note to him through Guest Services, he said he'd provide recipes -- nice guy!

It's both easy and difficult to "be good" with one's diet here -- easy, because the food choices are so broad, and difficult because there are temptations around every corner.  J ordered danish on our breakfast room-service try, and i was proud of myself for not even wanting to indulge.  I had the smoked salmon again, and the most "evil" thing i consumed was tomato juice ... today.  ;-)  The first morning i had a [gasp] CROISSANT!  I've also indulged in two souffles so far.  At least i've not indulged in any of the sugar-bomb drinks, but i can't claim any particular virtue there -- they just don't wind my clock.

Well, the pool-side lunch counter is opening for business -- i'd better go see what the choices are.  Ciao!
* possibly, the most impressive thing we saw were the four HUGE stock-pots, and his description of how he makes his in-house reductions!  One pot was simmering away, full of lamb ribs.  I think i'm in love!  ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

additional thoughts

As an addendum to the last couple of posts, i have a few wrap-up thoughts....

To begin, i forgot to mention a point yesterday, which seemed quite significant to me when i first read it -- the question of homeostasis and plateaus.

The problem of plateauing when one has been losing weight is a PERENNIAL problem.  It happens with every diet, but is at its most monstrous under the eat-less-exercise-more paradigm, as i discovered in my CICO past.  You slow down or completely stop losing weight because your body has reduced metabolism to match intake -- countless studies as well as n=1 experiences have convinced even the CICOpaths.  So what do THEY say to do?  Eat even less and exercise even more -- hell on earth!  When this happens in low-carb weight-loss regimens, gurus usually say to cut carbs to bare minimum (sometimes zero), reduce protein to what i consider dangerously-low levels, and eat more fat.  Intermittent-fasting enthusiasts say, narrow your eating-window or extend your fasting periods, depending on what kind of pattern you prefer to use.

Now, for quite awhile i've noticed that "shaking things up" helps when weight-loss stalls.  I will go for a day (or just a single meal) of upping one of the macronutrients, then after the pig-out, fast 24 hours and resume "normality."  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it frequently gives an energy- or a mood-boost.  If the feast happened to have been carb-heavy, carb apologists would take that as evidence that i should be eating more of them but that's not a reasonable conclusion -- as a matter of fact, continuation of the pattern with ANY macronutrient would be a mistake, and i think this is where ALL the gurus are mistaken.

Eating huge amounts of fat ALL THE TIME doesn't give our bodies the opportunity to tap body-fat for fuel.  Eating lots of carbs all the time is even worse if one doesn't spend one's non-working hours exercising.  Eating very large portions of protein tends to be self-limiting.

Fung's conclusions parallel my own -- that establishing a low baseline of insulin and sugar, but varying the postprandial peak size is a good thing.  Our bodies never "get comfortable" at a particular intake or outgo, so the homeostatic plateau is less likely, and the occasional pig-out is shown clinically to not be counterproductive.  I need to give a try to a different pattern of IF, one which has never sounded very appealing to me -- the 5-normal-2-lowcal regimen.  Thanks, Doc, seems like sound advice!

Then we come to a subject on which i'm not in particular agreement....  Dr. Fung states that one cannot ease stress "by doing nothing," when it comes to hacking sleep and cortisol.  I spoke about stress not too long ago, and this is a subject on which i have more nebulous opinions.  Fung's recommendations on stress-relief are the usual -- exercise, social connectivity, meditation, religion, massage, sleep....

I suspect that some people's stress CAN be significantly relieved by "doing nothing" ... especially when they ordinarily do way too much.  Yeah, that's probably not what he meant, but i am averse to telling people not to do nothing -- double-negative used on purpose, here!

It seems to me that our stress-relievers are going to be as individual as our stress-creators.  Perhaps i'll give special attention to the subject during our vacation WHICH STARTS SUNDAY!!!  :-D  We're both elated by the prospect of some care-free weeks, and visiting a part of the world we've never seen before.  We think we have our asses covered when it comes to home-worries, and since MY stress comes from my husband's worries, that's a big load off my shoulders.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

saving the best for last

As i began reporting the other day, Dr Jason Fung started his book "The Obesity Code" with information which might be considered common knowledge for those who follow modern nutritional research.  He even failed to impress through some questionable statements and assumptions.  Fortunately for his readers, though, he followed a technique used by mystery-writers, and saved some worthwhile material for the last chapter.

This "When to Eat" chapter contains the best of what Fung learned as a nephrologist, treating the overweight diabetics in his clinic (with plenty of references to studies finding the same things).  He explains how fasting differs from starvation (ie, low-calorie diets), and busts the myths originating from conflation of the two.  He details why the infamous Minnesota Starvation Experiment did NOT set off the body's protective measures in the face of caloric dearth.

But the real gold-star moment is when he explains that there is not a big difference between the sexes when it comes to responses to fasting -- yep, that dog don't hunt!  Miss ED over at Wolf's gym is WRONG.  Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong.  SHE might do poorly with fasting, but it's because SHE is (and her agreeing friends are) fucked-up, not because women shouldn't fast.

In fact,
Several differences are noted in fasting between women and men. Plasma glucose tends to fall faster in women, and ketosis develops more quickly. With increasing body weight, however, the sex difference disappears.  Most importantly, the rate of weight loss does not differ substantially between men and women.  Personal experience with hundreds of both men and women fail to convince me of any substantial difference between the sexes when it comes to fasting.

Another ruby-in-the-dust is that, "unique among animals," human brains can use ketones extensively during food-shortage to spare protein -- in evolving our big, expensive brains, we also evolved ways of protecting and feeding them.  He also left absolutely no doubt about the centrality of eating-frequency to the creation of insulin-resistance and obesity in the first place.

So although there were rough patches in this book as far as i'm concerned, a good finale has atoned for previous shortcomings.  I'm still finishing up the appendices -- one of which offers what look like some useful tips while fasting -- but i feel pretty good about recommending "The Obesity Code" to other laypeople like myself.

Monday, April 4, 2016

just another rendition of same ol' same ol'

I've been reading Jason Fung's new book, "The Obesity Code" -- respected sources have reviewed it, and i hoped to find some new insights although one critique observed that most of the material covered is already available on his website.

For about the first third of the book, i tended to agree, but soon i started seeing some disturbing patterns.  I'm now 55% in -- and on the next-to-last chapter, not including appendices -- and my nebulous discontent has developed a distinct form.

For one thing, in speaking about weight regain after ANY diet, Fung resuscitates the old tired "weight setpoint" hypothesis.  Granted, one seems to regain up to and slightly beyond one's original weight, if one is not damned careful to avoid weight-gain at all.  Does this hypothesis otherwise have any legs to stand on -- does it "prove" there's a setpoint in any way whatsoever?  NO.  Nobody has ever revealed any mechanism legitimizing this concept, except a postulation that it might have something to do with leptin.  I call BS until there's actually DATA provided -- he's merely begging the question.

He lies about the second wave of Atkins being a low-fat version of low-carb -- flat-out LIES.  There is not only NO advocacy of lean meats in it, the "New Diet Revolution" is where we learn about fat-fasting!  If Fung is merely confusing Atkins with some other brand that DID recommend combining LF with LC, it just makes him careless and sloppy -- not likely to make me have a lot of faith in his judgement.

In an early part of the book, he comes to the 21st-century conclusion that "calorie restriction as primary" (with his trademark acronym CRaP) is not a valid construct.  Too many studies exist which make it clear that stand-alone "calories" are not as significant as the source of those calories.  But when he comes to talk about various plans for weight-loss, Fung criticizes the "eat more ___" advice by saying, "To put it simply, you cannot eat more to weigh less, even if the food you’re eating more of is as healthy as vegetables."  Sorry, Jason:  you can't have it both ways when it comes to "calories counting."

Nor can you decry observational studies when it comes to "their" hypothesis but consider them perfectly valid when they support YOURS.  This is a pet peeve of mine which has damaged my respect for nutrition-writers before now.  Have this tattooed on the foreheads of everyone who cites population studies -- observations provide HINTS, not proofs.  And for good measure, tattoo on their arms "healthy-user bias skews all observational studies."

I've still got a couple of chapters to go before i finish this book, and also the appendices to look over. If i actually LEARN something in the "What to Eat" and "When to Eat" sections, i'll let you know, but i'm braced for disappointment.  At least i don't feel obliged to read through the recipe section for food ideas that might appeal to us ... cuz there aren't any.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

psychic self-preservation

I just read ANOTHER "oh my god, i'm being treated for cancer and not only do i feel awful physically, but emotionally" post on facebook.  I'm very sorry people go through this shit, but after a certain point, i HAVE to just harden my heart.

It's impossible to make most people see that they're being played for suckers by "health authorities."  They just KNOW that moderation, lots of healthywholegrains and wholesomefruitsandvegetables, and chroniccardio are GOOD for them.  They just KNOW that Science has learned everything about the human body, and every doctor knows ALL of it.  They just KNOW that Americans live in the best possible country in the best possible world, and nothing could possibly be any better ... unless we could overthrow the government and put a wall around the place.  :-P

Over and over again we hear the stories that people try LC and feel great, but aren't willing to stick with it cuz it means they have to forgo their Krispy Kremes.  That their inoperable cancer goes into remission on a ketogenic diet, but it isn't worth it because they have to give up CARROTS of all things.  Are modern humans so disconnected from reality that they cannot perceive what's important and what isn't ... because i find it very hard to believe that they would CONSCIOUSLY choose sugar over death, unless they were flirting with suicide in the first place.

We talk about people not wanting to exert themselves for their own health's improvement, but expecting a pill to take the place of effort, but are people really that dumb?  Do they HONESTLY BELIEVE that such a thing is possible, or is it merely a facade they place knowingly before their own fecklessness?  Is it a bluff -- "see, i DID SOMETHING, i took that pill!" -- that provides proof they weren't merely neglectful?

It happens politically, too -- many of us are familiar with the story of the man who finally got medical  care via "Obamacare," then voted for a governor who PROMISED to take away that insurance ... and whined when he did!  People consistently cut off their noses to spite their faces.

We are considered horrible people when we point out that stoopid behavior has bad results.  We are accused of "blaming the victim" when "bad things happen to good people" and we saw it coming, AND WARNED THEM.  Their blythe disregard of their own danger and subsequent wailings when the predictions come true result in caring people having their store of sympathy exhausted.

I HATE being "mean" to people who are suffering but when people bring it on themselves, it sometimes boils down to "look:  this is a result of your own conscious action, and i refuse to suffer vicariously for you."  There are plenty of people to feel sorry for in our society who did NOT "ask for it" that i prefer to save my sympathy and outrage for THEM.

Because -- ya know what -- it is stressful for the SYMPATHIZER too.  Empathetic people truly get tied in knots, figuratively-speaking, imagining the sufferings of complete strangers let alone their loved-ones.  The impotence to do anything about cruelty- and stupidity-inspired misbehavior is hugely productive of unhappiness in the sympathetic -- the fact that this has always existed is no consolation, or anodyne to lower those stress-hormones.

For the sake of our own mental and physical health, we have to be able to emotionally walk away from those who demand our commiseration when, against reason, they have persisted in a path to self-destruction.  We have to take care of ourselves, as they obtusely refused to do for themselves.  After coolly expressing condolence, we have to disengage, take a deep breath, and resume taking care of things where we actually have a chance of making a difference.