Stressed is desserts spelled backwards

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Lustig means Joyful in German and funny (or weird) in Swedish, but Robert Lustig is neither of those things. At least it’s not that side of him that shines through in his book “Fat Chance”. He’s pissed. And coming from his angle, as a pediatrician working with obese kids, it’s understandable. That main thesis of the book is that we tend to place blame on the individual when it comes to overweight, and that this, in many respects, is wrong. What set him off was the current boom of obese children, and the idea that any way you put it, they are victims, not perpetrators. He then goes on to claim that this is at least in part true to the grown up population as well. We are victims of our hunger-adjusting hormones, and of the food that is made available to us.

Just like six million other people, I’ve watched the video on Youtube where he lashes out at sugar and the FDA. Some might feel that he comes across as a little cocksure and arrogant, and some of his statements are a bit bold. For these reasons I like the book more, even though it’s not as easily digested as the video. (It’s not light reading, and most of the book is really about clinical work and politics. Obesity on a population level.) For instance he takes care in the book to mention that sugar is not proven to be an addictive substance, but that his personal view is that it behaves as one. All in all he is a bit of a maverick, but I personally think he does a very important job in trying to change eating habits among the poor in the US. I hope he gets some influence.

Normal bread to a Dane

“Normal bread” to a Dane.

One funny thing is that a lot of the remedies he suggests are already implemented here in Denmark. The supermarkets are full of fresh produce, traditionally the Danes eat a lot of whole grain bread. And, as in Germany, they are nuts about organic food. The situation described in the book, where there are only fast food joints or supermarkets with ready -made meals is completely alien to me. Of course, Denmark is also famous for Danish pastry, beer, sausages and cigarettes: It might just be because I live in a privileged neighbourhood. Last fall I attended a PTA meeting for my daughter’s kindergarten, and one of the parents hijacked the meeting, and went on for an hour to discuss an apple pie (organic, without added sugar, but sweetened with apple jam) that had been served to the kids. She claimed that it was damaging to introduce the kids to the concept of cake and party food. That the idea itself was damaging to the future health of our children. Holy shit.

It makes you ask, as Matt Fitzgerald does, “Are you part of a diet cult?”. Maybe I am. I’m trying to lose weight to run faster, and I do obsess over nutrition. My main focus though, is to enjoy good food and never ever feel hungry. So a personal sugar ban is a good thing for me.

DSC_0906_edited-1-1024x960Speaking of diet cults, the whole family went to a raw food restaurant a couple of weeks back. And we all got a massive stomach ache. It turned out every salad on the menu was dressed in “nut milk”. How much nuts can a person really eat? And why do you have to call it milk? How come every health food movement focuses blindly on the exact things you aren’t allowed to eat if you follow that diet? Examples are paleo “cookies”, raw food “pizza”, gluten free “muffins”, vegan “burgers”. There is so much delicious vegetarian food around, why slap people in the face with a big disappointment like that instead of just selling a diet on it’s strong suits?

Rant completed.

 

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Indian summer

wpid-20140709_142609.jpgRunning in the heat may be tough, but my muscles and joints are very very happy. It’s a fantastic feeling to just head out for a run in my work clothes (shorts and t shirt). Some times I even run shirtless, which is not my usual style.

I also want to share that I love my inov8 233 running shoes. They have a little bit of drop, but I don’t really notice it. They are mostly for roads, and don’t have a lot of grip. But my feet love them.

wpid-download-1.jpg.jpegAnd I’m reading “Pure white and deadly” (1972) by John Yudkin. Apparently he was a bit of a renegade back then, fighting his battles with nutritionists and the sugar lobbies. In short he did some experiments on rats where he gave them sugar, and they got fatty livers and all those life style diseases we know and hate. He makes a strong case for limiting sugar in your diet. I’ve read that the author was not himself fanatic about avoiding sugar, which somehow makes him more sympathetic. But the title of the book speaks for itself: he wanted people to know that sugar is not food.

Cross training, whole grain pizza and hoarding running shoes

pool_lysindfaldI went cross training with my wife yesterday. We did some cross fit exercises and went for a swim. Her gym is simply amazing. I think of becoming a member, but I am leaning towards just going once a week and paying for each time separately (cheaper). I am running most days after all. In the pool I did some swimming under water. It’s a strange feeling because you build up lactic acid very fast while staying completely calm, heart rate low. Very different to running. When I get to the end of the lane my whole body feels heavy. Running doesn’t make me tired anymore, but weightlifting and swimming just makes me want to sit down and relax.

Hard to get it completely round with only full grain flour.

Hard to get it completely round with only full grain flour.

I have lost another kg from my full-grain diet and am now at 80kg, which is sort of a turning point between overweight and normal for me. (I’m eating more or less as before, only no sugar or white flour.) I am reading Scott Jurek’s autobiography “Eat and Run”, and while I might never become a vegan, I can wholeheartedly agree that different foods make you feel different. I shared a home-made full grain pizza with my daughter yesterday, and after eating half of it I was so full I could burst. I usually would eat a whole pizza. I think the thing with sugar and fine wheat flour is that you can eat enormous amounts of it without feeling full. At least I can. The pizza dough worked well, but I can still improve my technique. It takes some extra work to get a whole grain dough flexible enough. If I wanted to lose weight fast, the pizza would probably be out, but I am trying to permanently change my diet, as opposed to “being on a diet”, so I need to find a way of eating that I am 100% happy with. So pizza is on the menu. So far my weight is slowly and steadily going down, and I don’t have to focus on it. I just live my one simple rule:

Minimize your intake of sugar and refined starch. Otherwise stuff your face as you like.

IMAG2162I am becoming a hoarder. Probably inspired by reading how people stock up on their favorite shoes before they go out of production, I went about and bought two more pairs of VivoBarefoot Neo shoes. I now have four pairs of this particular model. Actually, it seems like the Neo with the good, breathable mesh is going out of production, at least it’s getting harder to come by it. They have their shortcomings, especially they’re slippery on wet surfaces because the rubber is quite hard. But other than that I love these shoes. Still haven’t worn out the first pair which I bought two years ago.

The problem with finding good minimal shoes is that most stores don’t have them, so I’m left to ordering them online an then returning them if they don’t fit, or as I have done, find one that fits and stick to it. All of the other models I’ve tried (NB Minimus, Merrell) have been too narrow for my feet, so I’ve stopped looking. This time I accidentally bought one size to big, EU 46, and they fit me better than a size 45. I think this might be the first time in my life I have tried a shoe that does not squeeze my pinkie toe! After a few runs though, I feel the fit is not as good in the bigger size. In the tradeoff between pinkie space and snug fit I prefer a good fit. So I returned the pair that I haven’t run in.

But all in all, I’m set with Vivobarefoot shoes for the next many years.

Paleo-diet

Ringo Starr as a caveman. Watch out for those carbs!

Ringo Starr as a caveman. Watch out for those carbs!

The media has been writing about the paleo diet for many years, and it seems to grow in popularity. There’s even a paleo restaurant in Copenhagen, where you can get a hot dog wrapped in an omelet instead of bread. My view on most of it is “yuck!”.  People are eating bacon with cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I’m not exaggerating.

First of all, we need remember that stone age humans probably didn’t have an abundance of food. They were hungry most of the time. When the chance to grow grain appeared they threw themselves at it. Stability is worth something after all. According to the scientists, they got new kinds of diseases and deficiencies with this new diet, but on the other hand, their children had a greater chance of survival. The farmers (or farmer-hunters?) soon outnumbered the hunter-gatherers.

The extreme low-carb diet

Peter-Attia

Praise the Lard!

It’s fully possible to live almost exclusively from fat and protein. I’ve been reading a blog called eatingacademy.com lately, and the guy who writes seems very knowledgeable about metabolism and performance. I started reading his blog because, in my case, there is no apparent connection between fitness and body weight. (I am also a notorious food junkie. Making my own ravioli and such.) His story starts with his disability to reach a normal BMI despite exercising four hours a day. To argue with him, he was eating both sugar and refined starch products like wheat flour, and I know many athletes now a days stick to the so-called “good carbs”.

Anyway he makes a compelling argument why you shouldn’t eat sugar and refined starch. As soon as he cut those two things out of his diet, he reached normal weight and increased his performance. Remember he was still eating large amounts of carbohydrates!

He then went further along that path, and is now constantly in a state of ketosis, which means he is living off his body fat instead of a constant supply of carbohydrates. He is also an endurance athlete, and he says his diet lets him avoid the wall or bonk, that most athletes hit after a couple of hours. Basically he hit the wall a few years ago, and as been there get since. And loves it.

He is also a doctor and has access to advanced medical equipment 24-7, monitoring his protein intake and other biological values. If he eats too little protein or too much he gets ill, and the same goes for some minerals like salt. He also has to eat supplements, vitamins etc. In fairness he does not advocate that we all eat as he, but simply wants to show there are more than one way to eat.

The Fruitarian

Yes, tomato is a fruit.

Yes, tomato is a fruit.

On the other end of the scale there is a slightly eccentric YouTube channel called The Fruitarian, which was actually a big hit among my Facebook friends for its comedy factor. The Fruitarian himself is an ultra runner who lives exclusively off fruits, vegetables and water, meaning he is getting mostly carbohydrates. Say what you will about his videos but he is a very healthy, well functioning guy, and he clearly has more mental and physical energy than most. And he finished a 100 mile run in 13 hours!

So basically we have two human guinea pigs, living off completely opposite nutrients, and both diets could easily have been obtained by a stone age man, depending on where he lived.

And when you think about it, one thing they have in common is that they don’t eat a diet based on refined sugar or starch. The modern European and North American diet is heavily based on white bread, pasta, pizza, sweets, soft drinks and muffins, and this is, as far as I know, a historical rarity! So maybe we are actually more far-out than these guys?

The Granny Diet

Ed Whitlock is so awesome!

Ed Whitlock is so awesome!

You don’t have to go that far back in history to find a diet that’s radically different. My father is born in the fifties, and he was not allowed to eat white bread on a daily basis, and had raw vegetables with his dinner every day. Pasta and pizza were viewed as special exotic treats for Saturday. And people on average were incredibly skinny compared to now. When I was a kid in the eighties and early nineties, there were no soda dispensers in schools and hospitals, but rather drinking fountains.

The new Paleo, Low Carb High Fat and Atkins-diets all represent controversially new ways of looking at what we eat. But at the same time, what they are in opposition to is not what nutritionists say we should eat, as much as what we allow ourselves to eat. White flour is not “normal” flour, it’s flour where the half of it that provides protein, fibers and vitamins is discarded. Sugar is not food, it’s a refined product that should not be enjoyed more often than other “treats” like e.g. alcohol. We don’t need sugar.

My advice, based on my own experience, is to use caution when approaching these diets, and maybe try simply cutting the white bread, cake, Coca-Cola and candy first, and then see what happens. Simply replace them with vegetables, nuts, fruit and 100% whole grain products. It’s not that crazy an experiment. If that does not work, cut out stuff like polished rice, and limit the grains overall. You could drop the potatoes too, but I doubt you’ll have to go that far. By cutting out one group at the time instead of going all-in at once, you see what works and not.

  • Pros:
    1. You can still eat what is considered “normal food” and lose weight.
    2. You get all the vitamins you need.
    3. It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly than eating only fat and protein.
  • Cons:
    1. “Caveman diet” and “paleo diet” does sound a lot cooler, and the evolutionary arguments are compelling.
    2. Your weight loss might not be as fast as a full-on protein and fat-based diet.
    3. You don’t belong to a community of smarter, fitter humans, but rather to the likes of your grandfather.

    (Actually that last one might be a pro.)

I’m hereby dubbing it “The Granny Diet”. Just eat normal food. T shirt coming up.

It worked for me in the past, and I want to get fit again, so here goes. Addio, pizza adorata! Too bad I’ve perfected my pizza dough twirl!

- Oh my God, NO! Now the Bergs are eating bread again, and yesterday they had pasta! - I can't believe thay want to hurt themselves and their children like that.        Zofies Verden

– Oh my God! Now the Bergs are eating bread again, and yesterday they had pasta!
– I can’t believe they want to hurt themselves and their children like that.
Zofies Verden