Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Whole30 evaluation

So... I did a Whole30 back in August and never actually got around to writing an evaluation. Oops.
[Later: What the hell? I thought I had published this?! Gawdammit.]

And there's a good explanation for that! I got quite a lot of evening gas about halfway through so I thought I'd wait with an update until I had that figured out. And after I fixed that I just didn't get around to writing everything up. See? Totally good, unpleasant, TMI explanation.

But beginning from the beginning. I wanted to do the Whole30 for a couple of reasons. First of all because I felt like my ability to taste sweet had become impaired as well as my ability to resist crap, factory-made treats at work. I also realised at some point that I hadn't actually started paleo with a Whole30 but just said "Oh okay, that makes sense. I'll eat paleo from now on" (though it was definitely inspired by Melissa and Dallas). I can't really recommend 30 days of superstrictness when that wasn't what worked for me, now can I? And finally I wanted to see if there was anything I had missed out on.

One obvious problem was that in late July I ate more treats / crap than I usually do because I had a looming sense of deprivement (apparently not a word btw). Starting out eating healthier by eating worse than normal is dumb. I have no idea how I tricked myself into that. That aside Whole30 isn't that different from how I usually eat and drink apart from no dairy and no alcohol. If you've read earlier entries you know that there were some milk cravings the first 10-14 days (I don't like cheese and rarely eat cream so it was just milk I wanted). Which surprised me a lot. I'm pretty sure that there have been plenty of times where I haven't had milk for ages simply because I hadn't bought any. But then again memory is a tricky thing. I did however get a sense of why dairy can be a huge problem for the obese (the Danish word is 'mælkedranker' and was previously only used for kids who got most of their calories from milk but is now also used for adults that hide rice pudding in the bookshelves and sneak out at night to buy milk - I don't know how prevalent it is though and I've only heard stories like this about the guy in the link). And the third problem was that I was kinda unhappy. The whole "no dried fruit, no nut butters, no paleofied treats, no alcohol" was not beneficial to my happiness. And that feeling didn't actually go away. I drink maybe once or twice per month normally (which is a bit sad really - I should go out more) and I think there might be treats about twice a week (if you don't count nut butter - I've been trying to put on some weight and coconut butter is spectacular for that). I should do a post on what constitutes treats for me and how I handle them at some point soon. Basically, I think my life was missing hedonism during the Whole30. If I had had a sex life (this is getting sadder and sadder) then it might not have been a problem. Just something to get the ol' dopaminergic neurons firing. Fourth problem (besides the lack of sex life) was gas. Halfway through I started getting a lot of gas just when I ended my work day. First I thought it was because I was putting in a concious effort to eat more fat and maybe I wasn't digesting it that well. Or perhaps I didn't produce enough digestive enzymes first thing in the morning to really digest real food and a real food breakfast was one of the things I was doing differently. So I bought some NOW Super Enzymes because they had lipase and bile salts and they seemed to help a bit but not terribly much (possibly a placebo effect). It kept being a problem after August so it wasn't because I had cut something out. Finally I realised that most days I was eating half a head of tenderheart cabbage and sometimes more (usually in some variation of this recipe but often without nuts and with either cumin or baharat). And cabbage is a typical fart-food. So I laid off the cabbage (and leeks too for safety's sake) and I went back to normal. Ta-da! Nothing to do with Whole30 besides that I was eating breakfast every day so I had to find more things to cook. Which ended with a cabbage rampage.
So to sum up problems with Whole30:
  1. Unhealthy eating before start date
  2. General uneasiness which I attribute to lack of hedonism
Cravings went away on their own and gas was not due to the Whole30.

Let's get to the good things!

I didn't lose any weight or strength (gained a bit of strength) despite no whey shakes. I found out that I don't need milk but it doesn't hurt me either (as far as I can tell - to be serious about this I should have had a high-sensitivity CRP-test before and after). Nice to know since, let's be honest, milk is a really cheap and yummy source of calories. Yes, if you aren't a fatty calories can actually be considered a good thing (despite government advice: "Everybody needs to chill out and eat/drink fewer calories. Everybody."). The fact that I get cravings when I give up milk... Well, as long as it isn't hurting me, right? I don't know...
Eating a proper breakfast was really nice. A bit much work sometimes but if I spent less time in the shower then it would probably work out the same. I just need to keep focus off the fact that it's something I like and not something that I have to do. Because you don't have to eat breakfast. There was a study recently where the test subjects ate 20% fewer calories at lunch when they had breakfast. And it was a 750 kcal breakfast. Based on that the researchers recommended that people eat breakfast so they won't eat as much lunch. Their lunch would have had to have been 3750 kcal or more for the breakfast to actually reduce their calorie intake. Scientists are idiots (yes, me too) and this scientist apologies for going off on a tangent. So to recap breakfast is nice and helps me hit my calorie target.
Ohhh right, my initial, primary goals were to improve my ability to taste sweet and not automatically eat crap that co-workers brought into work. That went splendidly! My dad was visited towards the end of the month and we had some berries after dinner and he gave up on the blackberries because he thought they were too sour. I thought they were lovely - they were tart and the sweetness didn't dominate but there was all kinds of flavour in there. And when I had a try off some sweet someone brought in after I was done with the Whole30 it was unpleasantly sweet. And it's weird because it hurt my teeth and it wasn't nice but in a way I both wanted and didn't want more. Does that make sense? Bits of me was saying 'more' and bits were saying 'yuck'. Anyway, it's November now and I think I have pretty good self-control. I decide what I want and what I don't want.
So to sum up the awesome with Whole30:
  1. Got over my fat phobia (seriously I started using like three times as much fat in my cooking which almost brings me up to level with one of my very good friends who is a great cook)
  2. Didn't drink milk but didn't wither away
  3. Sweet things are sweeter
  4. I decide what I eat
  5. Renewed passion for breakfast
tl;dr Well too bad for you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Toasted coconut+macadamia butter

Hello lovelies,

I've been meaning to put this recipe up for ages but I've just been really lazy (stroke of fucking genius to put 'lazy' in the title of this blog - the excuse that keeps on milking).
So it's basically this recipe from Cookie and Kate but I have so many comments that I might as well write up the entire recipe. Her pictures look way nicer than mine but they also illustrate a big problem - somehow she is suggesting that you can just put small amounts of this stuff on your food, like sprinkle-scrape-dainty. Stuffing your face directly from the jar with a spoon is more likely. 2400-2500 kcal in the following recipe as best I can calculate.

300 g desiccated coconut (equal to 3 cups - easy-peasy Americans)
50 g macadamia nuts (for the lazy/gluttonous)
50 g hazelnuts (for the cheap/gluttonous)
pinch of salt
possibly teaspoon honey (depending on your views on honey)

Toast 200 g of the coconut in the oven or on a frying pan (leave one third untoasted). You don't want to burn it, just make it coconutty fragrant.
Toast the nuts. If you use hazelnuts then you usually have to rub them in a tea towel to get the brown stuff off - if you don't have to then you probably didn't buy the cheapest ones.
Let cool for as long as you have patience.
Transfer to food processor with a bit of salt. No, you can't do this in a blender. Use the chopping blade.
I run this on the lowest speed setting on my cheapo £66 Phillips food processor. You're supposed to use the highest setting with the chopping thing but this takes so long that I worry that the motor will overheat. This way I just start it and go vacuum or shower or something.
UPDATE: I made a batch yesterday where I used the middle setting and it only took 10 minutes. I tried running it at max speed as well and I was right that it started smelling fairly quickly.

After about 15 minutes it looks wet/oily and you can stop it and scrape down the sides. No reason at all to do that before this point.
Go again. Another 15 minutes and it should look liquid when you stop the food processor.
Add the honey if you want it and finish it. I guess it depends on the person when it's had enough (UPDATE: I tried sticking it in the fridge when it looked done and then giving it a finishing spin after it had cooled and it seems to be much less gritty). Pour it into a glass jar, screw on the lid and stick it in the cupboard or fridge. It isn't really right in my opinion until it sets which takes a day or two (at room temperature at least). Apparently it stays liquid in the cupboard in warmer months. This means that there are no months in North East England that are "warmer". Fuck. Final volume ~1/3 liter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

BMI vs exercise for long life and health

This is interesting. According to a study cited in the LA Times your activity levels are more important than your body mass index when trying to predict how long you will live. So while having a socially acceptable body mass is mostly determined by diet your actual health is more dependent on how much exercise you get. Fancy that.
Funny since most people eat healthily because they want to be healthy and work out because they want to be sexy bitches.

PS For Christ's sake scientists, get it together! Use BMI all you want but include either bodyfat% or waist circumference. That is all.

PPS Medicalxpress has a better summary. I've nicked a figure:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Of mice and rats

So most experiments are done on mice (and rats) because they breed fast, die fast, are easy to care for, and because they've been used before in research so they are well understood and there are good tools for manipulating their biology.

But if you read studies done on mice and rats then you have to understand the differences between humans and rodents.
Here's an example of a standard lab rodent feed: http://labdiet.com/pdf/5001.pdf
Calories come from: 28.5% protein, 13.5% fat, 58% carbohydrate. This is a good diet for mice and rats, it keeps them healthy and slender. Now this is not what is usually recommended for humans (and just as well since we are rather different creatures). For 1-3 year-olds the official recommendations are for 5-20% protein, 30-40% fat, and 45-65% carbohydrate while for adults it is 10-35% protein, 25-35% fat, and 45-65% carbohydrate (US numbers, page 15, but official recommendations are pretty much the same in most of the Western world). So even official recommendations, which by paleo standards are considered a bit fat-phobic, have a minimum fat recommendation that is twice as high as what mice and rats thrive on. So what's the big difference between humans and mice? Well, for one thing the efficiency of de novo fatty acid synthesis is about 2.5-5 times as good in mice as in humans (sorry, I'm just going to use 'mice' from here on out). Mice are just much better at making fat from carbohydrates. And this feed has a very low level of sucrose (less than 2% of carbohydrates), a negligible amount of fructose, and no alcohol (fructose, whether as a monomer or from sucrose, and alcohol can only be metabolised in the liver and in a fed state the energy from that metabolisation can only be channelled into fatty acid synthesis - humans seem to also fail at moving that fat efficiently to peripheral fat stores. Getting mice to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is quite hard and even when transgenic mice are employed it is hard to get the same phenotype as in humans).
Standard rodent chow isn't enjoyable either. The mice feed because they are hungry, not because the feed gives them a particularly great reward feeling. If mice are fed cafeteria junk food instead of standard chow they actually gain more weight than they do on a very high calorie density feed (with lots of fat).

Laboratory mice are originally bred from house mice. These are the vermin that were so adapted to eating grains that they moved in to human settlements almost as soon as agriculture was invented. The egyptians elevated cats to sacred animals because the mice were such a problem. So they've had agricultural grains as main calorie for as long as humans have (and probably with grains as a much larger component of their diet for millions of years) and they have a shorter generational time and a larger effective population which means that they have had much greater opportunity to adapt to that diet.

tl;dr There are always problems associated extrapolating from a model animal to humans but with regard to whether grains are good for you or not mice are pretty much useless.

Extra-reading: Slate has a great three-part article on lab mice and model animals http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_mouse_trap/2011/11/lab_mice_are_they_limiting_our_understanding_of_human_disease_.html