Tracking my food intake and my steps

To go along with my Noom program, I’m tracking all my food intake. Now, I’m not getting crazy here. Not yet, anyway. I’m only tracking the food and the number of calories.

In the past I’d create an Excel spreadsheet with calories along with a breakdown of grams of fat, protein, and carb, plus fiber. Not this time!

I’m tracking everything at Google Sheets, which, in case you don’t know, is like Excel on the web.

Tracking my food is one of the great ways to keep myself from eating junk. If I have to enter it into a spreadsheet, I am far less likely to consume it.

The potato chips I ate last night seem to belie this. Maybe I’m kidding myself. But at least I’m tracking!

Continue reading “Tracking my food intake and my steps”

The Easy Way to Get Healthy

I was recently disturbed by something I saw on Facebook. (I know I shouldn’t take things so seriously, but, honestly, some things are just disturbing.)

One of the people in my timeline had posted a status update about some fitness program he is doing, how he loves it, is losing weight, his cholesterol is going down, you know, the kind of weird post that only fitness fanatics can love.

In the comments section, the conversation went something like this:

  • Commenter: Wow, that sounds great, Original Poster. I have been looking for something like that myself.
  • Original Poster: It is great, Commenter.  You should give it a try!
  • Commenter: Maybe I’ll do that. Is it easy? It has to be easy, or I won’t do it.
  • Original Poster: It’s not easy, but anything worth doing isn’t easy.

And the Commenter was not heard from again.

Getting fit is definitely not easy. It takes hard work to build muscle, because the only way to build it is to tear it down first by lifting heavy objects.

But wait a minute.

Getting fit is one thing. Fitness involves building muscle and aerobic stamina. There is almost no way to make that easy. It takes time and effort, like one of the fitness programs in the ads on this page.

However, getting healthy is a different matter.

I mean, sure, they tend to go hand in hand, but, honestly, you can get healthy — e.g. get your blood pressure and cholesterol down, avoid heart disease, severely lower your risk of cancer — relatively easily. All you have to do is change the way you eat.

You are going to eat anyway, right? 75% to 80% of your body composition is determined by what you eat, right? So … why not just eat the right things? Assuming you don’t have access to some kind of magic wand, what can be easier than that?

Well, maybe it’s not so easy. After all, there are some things that make it difficult for people to change the way they eat.

  • Ingrained beliefs – We learn what is good and bad for us as children, and what we learned way back then tends to stick. We have a hard time overcoming those beliefs that were hammered into us all those years ago.
  • Disbelief – How can being healthy be as simple as changing what I put into my digestive tract?
  • Not wanting to stand out  – As humans living in society, we tend to be continually influenced by peer, family, and other social pressures, and many of us simply want to fit in. Why stand out from the crowd because we “eat weird”?
  • Playing the odds – That [insert ailment or disease here] won’t happen to me, right?

The funny thing is that most of those barriers to healthy eating go away once we suffer some kind of medical trauma, like a heart attack or stroke. Once that happens, oh, yeah, then we are ready to make a change.

That is kind of like installing the alarm after the burglary. Sure, you may help prevent future problems, but you are lucky that first incident didn’t put you under.

I prefer to take preventive measures to avoid the issue altogether, and the current route I am taking toward staying healthy is a plant-based diet. When I use the term “diet”, by the way, I am referring to a way of eating, not a short-term plan.

Why plant-based? Check out this short written interview with T. Colin Campbell for a quick rundown.

Plant-based is my choice, but yours might be different.

Whatever you choose, please know that you can be much more healthy if you simply change the way you eat! Be conscious of what you put into your mouth. Stay away from all that refined and processed food. Try to eat whole foods. If you include meat, try to get the good stuff without all the drugs and other gunk in it. Keep dietary fats low.

Eat to satisfy your hunger, not your emotions, and, while you won’t see the changes overnight, you may be surprised how quickly your health improves.

Is soy dangerous?

I have still not looked that deeply into soy, but public opinion seems to be split on it, so I keep my intake rather low to hedge my bets until I can figure it out. Being the cynic that I am, it’s hard for me to believe anything, and, in fact, I really don’t put my faith 100% anywhere, so it takes me a while to get a handle on some concepts, especially one with such a diversity of opinions, all with, of course, scientific evidence to back them up.

I used to drink a lot of soymilk, but a few years ago my friend Hans told me how much better almond milk was for me — he was buying into anti-soy rhetoric, which, as I said, may indeed be valid, but I just don’t know. Anyway, I tried almond milk and immediately switched, primarily because almond milk just tastes a lot better than soy milk.

Outside soy milk, which I used in my breakfast cereal and protein shakes, I didn’t really eat soy, except for soy sauce sometimes, and a little tofu here and there from Pei Wei, which has the best tasting tofu, I think, although I cannot to speak to its nutritional value ;=)

Well, that was then, and this is now. Then I was consuming a lot of animal protein. Now I am eating mostly vegan, so I need my plant-based protein, and soy products like tempeh, tofu, and edamame are really good sources of it. I mean, soy is eaten by a large percentage of the world’s population, so my cynicism tells me that most of the anti-soy rap has been generated by the meat industry, which sees soy as stiff competition.

Soy or no soy, well, life doesn’t really boil down to that, now does it? I mean, how can we possibly know what one particular ingredient does to our bodies? There is simply too much going on inside for one ingredient to be “the one thing” that will either kill or cure us, right?

I fact, I am at the point where I cannot even continue to demonize sugar, because there is a lot of sugar in the good fruits we should eat. Okay, maybe refined sugars and flours are bad for us, but perhaps that is simply a problem of volume, and if we only ate a little of that stuff, we’d be fine, right?

Ultimately, it’s virtually impossible to know the answers. The body interacts with the nutrients we ingest in so many ways, there are too many factors to determine what a particular ingredient does inside us. We have a hard time knowing whether it ever makes it to where it needs to be, or whether it has the opportunity to do the damage or uplift the health the way researchers claim it can do.

So what I currently do is strive to eat a lot of plants, and even, on rare occasions, some fish or eggs, and that should be me as close to “okay” as I can get. That’s my take on it for today, anyway. As you may have noticed, I am always open to change, if the right evidence comes along.

But I’ll tell you, I’ve been through a lot up to now, and a whole foods plant-based diet, including soy, seems right.

Is muscle soreness reduced by a vegan diet?

When I switched from paleo to vegan a few months ago, I did so because in the 21 days of a vegan detoxification program I (1) lost weight that I thought I had no chance of losing, (2) my lower leg and foot cramps were gone, and (3) my eyes were not burning all the time like they used to. Given those results, I figured I’d try a vegan diet for a year or so, then re-assess at that time.

I have discovered an unexpected side effect of my plant-based diet, though: I am not nearly as sore the day after a workout as I used to be.

At first, I thought this lack of delayed onset muscle soreness — abbreviated as “DOMS”, that’s the soreness I would always feel the day after a workout and beyond — was because I was not fully recovered from The Reset, so I just wasn’t pushing it that hard. As the weeks passed, though, and the DOMS remained severely diminished, I decided to put it to the test.

One sure way for me to feel sore the next day is to do my Steve’s Chest & Back routine. I do all the exercises to exhaustion, so there is no way to dog it, and I have felt so sore from this in the past that I could barely move my arms the next day, because of all the DOMS in my chest and lats.

I did it, gave it all I had, and the next day … nothing. Well, not completely nothing, but not nearly close to any kind of soreness I’d felt in the past.

“Okay,” I thought. “Maybe there is some connection between a plant-based diet and a lack of muscle soreness.” But I was not convinced. So I waited 6 weeks and tried it again.

Again, I was barely sore the next day. Hmmmmm….

I started looking around a bit, once again, at DOMS, and there is still not a lot of consensus as to what makes us feel DOMS. Some say lactic acid. Some say lack of stretching. Some say muscle spasms. No one seems to know for sure.

I did discover, though, that Brendan Brazier, the guy who wrote the book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life, also noticed his DOMS was much less severe when he went vegan.

Again, hmmmmm….

I will continue to test this hypothesis on myself, but I would say that my soreness is at least 65% to 70% less as a vegan than it was when I was eating a high-animal-protein diet.

And that’s a good thing.

RECIPE: World’s Best Oatmeal – slow cooked

If you’ve been following along, you may know that I’ve recently gone to a mostly plant-based diet. I still allow myself eggs, whey protein, and fish, but not much of those.

Why have I done this?

Well, after I completed a 21-day detoxification process, which involved my learning more about plant-based nutrition (and during which I lost 2 inches off my waist along with 10+ pounds), I felt so good that I decided to see if it was sustainable by staying mostly vegan. I enjoy the food quite a lot, so I am looking forward to the next year or so of this near-vegan experiment.

In the course of my post-detox diet, then, I adapted this recipe for oatmeal from one that was posted in a Facebook group.

It involves slow-cooking, which may or may not be necessary, but I think it’s gotta help blend the flavors, right?

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Sweetener like raw honey, stevia, or agave nectar to taste (if necessary — I don’t use any)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add all ingredients except sweetener and pumpkin seeds to small slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 2 to 6 hours (those small slow cookers vary temperature-wise), until liquid is gone.
  2. Mix in sweetener (if desired) and spoon into serving bowls.
  3. Sprinkle top with pumpkin seeds.

Makes 2 large servings.

You can use whatever fruit and nuts you like. I think a green apple and some walnuts would be tasty. Or maybe some raisins and pecans. Up to you. Enjoy!