I’m surprised how long it has taken me to get through Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. After 2 and half weeks, I’m still not done. I’m on the last chapter though. Maybe I’m just a slow reader.
The book is dense, bringing together a huge number of scientific studies that date back to the beginning of the the 20th century. His goal seems to be to overwhelm the reader with evidence that many of the assumptions about diet, obesity and disease are wrong. He isn’t content to give you one or two examples of studies that suggest that carbohydrates are the primary factor behind obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a range of other modern illnesses that were rare before the 20th century. He piles it on, determined to make sure that someone can’t read his book and dismiss it as “some fad diet book.” If you say he is wrong, you better bring your citations with you.
I’ve enjoyed the ride, but I wonder how many readers get bogged down and don’t finish it, or don’t care so much about the reams of evidence that Taubes has compiled and want to skip to his conclusions. One passage near the end that jumped out at me as something that people need to know:
By the mid-1960s, four facts had been established beyond reasonable doubt: (1) carbohydrates are singularly responsible for prompting insulin secretion; (2) insulin is singularly responsible for inducing fat accumulation; (3) dietary carbohydrates are required for excess fat accumulation; and (4) both Type 2 diabetics and the obese have abnormally elevated levels of circulating insulin and a “greatly exaggerated” insulin response to carbohydrates in the diet
I have been slowing moving toward a low carb diet over the last couple of months and yesterday I took a big plunge to a diet that is mostly meat, eggs, cheese and some dairy. I am having a small amount of fruit and vegetables, but I’m cutting all sugar, bread, pasta, potatoes or other big sources of carbs for a while.
It’s very odd eating this much meat, cheese and eggs, especially when it’s not mixed in with noodles or bread. It’s almost a chore to eat two scrambled eggs and a ham steak for breakfast. I get full fast and even after a couple of days I’m kinda bored with the menu. On the positive side, I’ve already seen the scale start to budge a little and I’m feeling pretty good overall.
On the negative side, I think I’m experiencing a little carb crash. Today after lunch, I got very tired and my body felt a little tingly. It’s supposed to go away after a few days as your body switches gears and gets used to all the missing carbs. My plan is to eat a few berries with plain yogurt when I feel that way.
Yesterday morning (3/26), before I started the low carb diet, I weighed 176.4, about 20 pounds from my goal weight.
In my search to find relevant scientific research on various diet and nutrition subjects, I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for papers published on the internet. Often this is frustrating because many (most?) scientific journals keep their articles behind some sort of subscription firewall. Since I’m neither a scientist or a student studying science, it doesn’t seem practical to subscribe to these journals just to read one or two articles.
However, since I’m taking some classes at the local community college, I do have access to their journal resources. I decided to check out what’s available at the library. When I got there, I started by searching for some of the articles I had found before, ones which only had the abstract available publicly. When I brought of the article on the screen, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could read the whole thing online. Apparently if I access the article directly from these computers, I don’t need a subscription.
Next I noticed that the article was a bit long and I only had a few minutes before I needed to leave. I considered printing the article and then I remembered that if you send HTML documents to your Kindle email address, the document will be sent to your Kindle for only $0.10, a lot less than printing it out on paper.
I was very excited as the first few papers showed up on my Kindle only a few minutes after I had emailed them to be processed. I’m guessing that I’ll be doing this quite frequently in the future. If I have a document that I need to bring with me, I’ll send it to my Kindle instead of printing it.
The theory that underpins the The Shangri-La Diet is in part based on numerous studies that have explored how animals (including humans) develop a desire for flavors that they encounter over and over in association with calories. If we taste a flavor and our body soon after absorbs a good supply of calories, our bodies will begin to crave that flavor. Lately, I’ve been perusing various search engines of scientific journals. I’ve been looking for studies that might support (or refute) SLD. Here is an interesting one I found:Flavor–nutrient learning in restrained and unrestrained eaters
Female participants consumed two differently flavored desserts. Each was presented three times on separate days. One was formulated with a high-energy content (1882 kJ) and the other with a low-energy content (226 kJ). After training, we found little evidence for learned satiation. However, we did observe flavor-preference learning. Specifically, participants acquired a greater liking and desire-to-eat the dessert flavor that was paired with a higher energy density during training.*
* Emphasis added by me. Also, I don’t mean to suggest that the authors of this study are proponents of SLD or even that they are aware of it, only that the author of SLD cites flavor calorie association studies as early inspirations for his own ideas.
In other words,
The more we eat high-energy content foods (HECF), the more we will crave such foods.
The more we eat foods with the same flavor, the more we will crave those foods, as long as those foods are also dense sources of calories.
Like every good geek who plays poker, I have read books on poker, lots of books. So when I got my Kindle, I started thinking about how wonderful it would be to carry around my poker library with me. Poker books tend to be heavy and thick. And if you like to travel light like me, a few less poker books in your carry on bag would make a big difference.
So what is available for the Kindle now? Well there are several books by Phil Helmuth. They all look like crap honestly. I don’t particularly like him anyway, but more importantly, I did once buy his book, “Play Poker Like the Pros” and returned it within a few hours. I just couldn’t read it and from what I did read, it was very light on useful advice.
I want to let everyone who works on the ImprovEverywhere missions that you are definitely penetrating the zeitgeist in the rest of the country.
When I was in Phoenix, I was attending a book club fairly regularly and struck up a friendship with the facilitator. We met for lunch one day and because she knew I was an improvisor, she brought along a friend who had also done some improv. The friend knew that I had worked at ImprovOlympic in Chicago and for the UCB in New York, but she didn’t want to know those theatres. Instead, the only things both of them wanted to hear about were the missions I had done with ImprovEverywhere.
Now tonight, across the country in Illinois, I’m sitting in a computer programming class at the local community college and the teacher spontaneously brought up ImprovEverywhere. He talked about the Frozen Grand Central mission. He was giggling with delight as he told us about it.
I’ve been reading a lot about diet and disease. The first book I bought for my Kindle was Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It is a thick book and I’m only about half way through but it has been enlightening.
I am probably too easily swayed by these kinds of books, ones which set out to prove that conventional wisdom is dead wrong. Years ago, before the Oliver Stone movie, I read way too many books about the Kennedy assassination and was convinced that elements of the CIA were involved (something I still find credible). Later I read a book about how the primary hypothesis about AIDS may well be wrong, and was, for a time, convinced. So I know that I need to temper my enthusiasm for this book.
Watching my mother slowly come apart has been a strange experience. First it was her speech. In the early stages, she was hesitant, sometimes using the wrong word to express something. She might answer a question with a yes or no, only to correct herself moments later with the right answer. Over time, her phrases became simpler and more direct and much less frequent. She still speaks, but the expectation is that she will eventually be mute.
Her emotional expressions have also been dulled by dementia. For instance, she doesn’t seem to express pain very often and you have to pay close attention to notice when she is upset or angry or happy. Eventually that too will go.
One thing that remains is her sense of humor. She loves to laugh, both at the things we do and at herself.
Back in August, I posted this video about my new ‘diet’ plan.
Calling it a diet is misleading though. It’s more of a way to trick your body into losing weight. I’ve lost more than 30 pounds since I made that video, about 40 pounds total on the Shangri-la Diet. It has not been hard. It hasn’t taken a lot of will power. I don’t starve myself. I never feel deprived.