Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Big Fat Diet

I'm the fat one in my family.  In high school I was six feet tall and weighed 150.  In a family with siblings at 6' 3 to 6' 5, weighing 120, I was fat.

I loved being called fat because as soon as I left my house, I was a skinny runt.  People say you shouldn't bully fat people, but they never talk about making fun of skinny people.  Believe me, the stigmas attached to skinny people are much worse than what fat people have to endure.  Fat people are jolly and usually have a good sense of humor.  Skinny people are scrawny, weaselly, whiny, pests who get no respect.  Case in pointfat hobbit vs. skinny hobbit:

Try as I might, I could never gain any thickness in high school.  I lifted weights, played football and basketball, and tried to eat more than my metabolism could handle. Eventually I gave up and was consoled by the fact that I could eat as much ice-cream and cheeseburgers as I wanted without it affecting my body.

I might also add that my mom and brother are hypoglycemic and I always figured I was mildly hypoglycemic (although never diagnosed) because if I went more than five hours without eating, I would get shaky and get a headache.

After two years in Brazil, eating beans and rice, pasta, and plenty of sweets from the corner bakeries, I was up in the 170s.  But I still had no visible fat to speak of.  Three weeks of sit-ups and I could get my abs looking greateven without any help from this flat stomach tip:

Then suddenly something started changing when I was about 24.  My flat stomach got bored with being flat.  I didn't really put on any weight, but I could no longer see my ribs or my ab muscles and three weeks of working out didn't cut it any more.

I needed to change something. in June of 2013, I started working out at my brother-in-law's CrossFit gym in Mesa.  
I fell in love with the style of high-intensity, constantly varied workouts that pushed me to improve at my own pace.  After six months, I'm stronger and faster than I ever was.  I can do more pullups and pushups than I ever thought was possible with my skinny little arms.  I feel better and have more energy.  But one thing is still missing, or not missing as the case may be—my belly isn't flat.  I know I have muscle under there, I just can't see it.

Despite my history of mocking calorie-counting and fad diets, I knew that the only way to get the results I really wanted was to change the way I eat.  Since getting into CrossFIt, I have been studying more about diet and how the body works to produce more energy and build muscle.  The most popular diet in the CrossFit community is the Paleo diet, which basically restricts you to eating what a cave man would eat.  This means no corn/grains, no rice, no sugar, no/limited dairy.  It's a high-protein diet of meats (grass-fed), vegetables, nuts, berries, and bulbs.  I wasn't really sold on the whole "cavemen were healthier than us" mantra, so I kept researching.

Then I ran into this article: What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes.  He asserts that all this low-fat, focus on calories mumbo jumbo is not based on science (yay! I love my meat and dairy!) but is propped up by the government because money/power/influence/politics.  Who gets the biggest subsidies? Corn, wheat, and rice.  Not vegetables, fruits, and meats.  We've been told for the last several decades that fatty foods are bad and that grains and carbohydrates are good.  What if the opposite is true? What is this pyramid is a fraud?

What does the science say?  It says that a diet heavy on grains, starches, and sugary carbohydrates does not allow insulin to efficiently regulate carbohydrates and fats in your body, which means you end up storing extra energy in your body as fat.  A low-carbohydrate diet eliminates the option of getting a quick fix of sugar from your bloodstream to give you energy.  It causes your body to burn fat to give you energy rather than burning carbs in a process known as ketosis.  It also eliminates the sugar cravings, highs, and carb crashes.

After learning the science I decided to try it out.  Danielle and I wanted to start with a one week cleanse.  We didn't do strict Paleo, because that's so hard only a cave man can do it.  I can't live without dairy.  We decided to stick with high-fat, low-carbs and just eliminate grains, corn, rice, starchy carbs, and sugar.  We ate lots of meat, vegetables, and fatty dairy.  As long as you avoid grain carbs and sugar, there is no limit to how many calories you can eat! Here are a few of the meals we ate:
  • Baked Mediterranean chicken with kalamata olives and zucchini cakes topped with Greek yogurt
  • Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce served over butter-sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
  •  Chicken Alfredo with enough cheesy sauce to cover half a plate of broccoli
  •  Angus beef roast with chipotle peppers and butternut squash topped with diced tomatoes, avocados, and cilantro 
  •  Chicken Parmesan with tomato sauce over butter-sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
  • Orange chicken salad with spinach, red romaine, other green leafs, and almonds
  • Pizza with chicken, bacon, mushroom, and green olive  (dough made from coconut flour and eggs)
  • Breakfasts: lots of eggs covered in cheese, sausage, bacon, yogurt, and fresh fruit.
  • Snacks: yogurt, berries, almonds 
The first 48 hours were not easy.  Sugar was everywhere.  It was easy to get full on rice, pasta, or bread.  I felt a bit dizzy and weak and even right after meals when I was full, I craved sugar.  We started last Thursday and by Sunday, I was feeling great.  The headaches that normally come with fast Sunday didn't come.  My body was starting to regulate itself and I no longer felt the afternoon food coma drowsiness I was used to.  I can now go longer between meals without snacking because my body is using stored fat instead of instant blood-sugar energy.

It's been one week and although my body is still not perfectly adjusted, I feel great and I'm optimistic that I will start seeing visible results as well.  While I will not keep carbs and sugar completely out of my diet, my goal is to limit them to occasional small portions.  With a necessary 5:1 ratio of protein/natural fats to carbs to keep the ketosis going, there is still room for a few guiltless pleasures.

If you think eating lots of meat and natural fatty foods is dangerous, read this, and read this and this.
If you still buy into the antiquated food pyramid daily recommendations for grains, read this.

Please share your thoughts, questions, doubts, comments below...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Let Your Opinions Make You Stupider

Read this ^^ full article.  Here is an excerpt if you are tool lazy:

"We're becoming a nation in which "dialogue" is a pseudonym for loudly barking opposite opinions while holding our fingers in our ears. We're no longer discerning and discussing the confusing, nonlinear, partial overlap between our interests. Instead, everybody is shouting and nobody is listening.

To be clear, I'm not saying we're losing the ability to reach out and interact productively with "the other side," though that would be problem enough. I'm saying that we're ceasing to frame problems and design solutions as anything other than a contest between opposite opinions. Simplistic adversarial bickering is becoming our one and only model for interacting with reality.

As this simplistic all-or-nothing thinking takes over, it strips us of our ability to solve problems intelligently in every context. We behave that way at work, when we should be working in smart groups to solve complex problems. We behave that way in our relationships, when we should be seeking common ground. We even behave that way with our children, working against them instead of with them.

It's a trend we must reverse. So the next time you find yourself taking sides, consider. What are the commonalities between your side and the other? What desires do you share? What constraints? What would be a higher level goal that, if achieved, would satisfy both sides?

I'm not saying this approach guarantees a solution. I am saying it's much more likely to lead to intelligent problem solving. So try it. Try it again and again until you get better at it, and then keep doing it. Please. This is important. It will take a lot of us to be successful, and we have to stick together."

Edward Muzio

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Don't Make Defining Marriage a Battle Between Hate and Tolerance

I believe that we should support and encourage the institution of marriage because “it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.”*  This is not just a Christian or religious argument, it is a societal one.

People should not feel like they are engaged in a battle between hate and tolerance.  There are other implications than just prejudice and tolerance.  Can’t we discuss these implications without being labeled a hater or an immoral heathen?   

There is a popular argument that you can’t legislate morality.  I think this is false because all legislation is based on morals and feelings, whether philosophical or religious.  Everything from zoning laws, to taxes, to drug control, to abortion, to violent crimes, are regulated by moral considerations on a varying scale of severity.  The question is, whose morals will legislation favor? 

I don’t think it’s bad to stand up for what you think is right, whether it is based on religious or secular moral philosophy.  There will always be a battle of ideas for what we feel is right for our society and those ideas will turn into legislation that dictates how we are governed.
Although Christians have the right to express their freedom of speech and make arguments based on the Bible and prophets, I think there is also a compelling reason to support marriage between a man and a woman because it is the basic unit that holds our society together.  

I’m all for “live and let live” when it comes to allowing people to do what they want within the walls of their own home—as long as it doesn’t violate the rights or safety of others.  People are already given equal rights to have the type of relationship they choose.  No one needs the government’s endorsement to take advantage of those rights.  So it comes down to two main things they hope to accomplish—receiving tax benefits and being culturally accepted as normal and okay.  

I don’t agree with the cultural acceptance of homosexuality or the recognition of gay marriage as an alternative to a nuclear family with a mother and father.  I would fight to give homosexuals their right to live their private lives how they choose and to make sure their life, liberty, and property are protected—but that doesn’t mean I would endorse behavior I disagree with or sit silently as society devalues the family unit and the importance of raising children with a mother and a father.  

Concerning tax benefits, the government has the right to impose taxes and allow tax breaks to incentivize behaviors that they feel promote the well-being of the nation.  Tax breaks for families and children have long been implemented to encourage growth of a stable society.  I’m open to the argument that the tax break doesn’t achieve this because marriages don’t stay intact just because they are getting a tax break.  But if that’s true, get rid of it.  Don’t extend it to another group who is equally or arguably less likely to raise up a strong family.  I would rather see the government get out of the business of marriage and leave individuals to make their own private commitments to relationships, than to have the government morph its definition of marriage and impose new regulations on everyone in order to accommodate alternative lifestyles.   

There are many other implications to consider, and as we discuss how to live in a society together where we all have different values and perspectives, we should engage in these policy implications with a spirit of understanding, rather than framing the issue as a fight between equality and religion.  Division will never create equality, no matter who the Court sides with.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Policy vs Politics

Why do we hate politics?  Because we are too lazy and prideful to try to understand positions that challenge what we consider to be deeply-held beliefs.  The problem is that we attach non-political deeply-held beliefs (often religious or philosophical) to extreme political talking points. 

As the article below explains, people are extremely polarized when defending their political positions—but when it comes down the actual policy in practice, they become much more moderate.  I have been guilty of this myself, and the more I have been involved in policy as opposed to politics, the more I have realized that there is no easy answer to any issue.  There is no extreme libertarian viewpoint or extreme socialist viewpoint that can solve the extremely complex problems we face in today’s modern world. 

I have also come to realize that you don’t have to surrender your deeply-held religious and philosophical convictions to admit that you may be wrong on policy in action.  The purpose of policy is to help us all live together in the same society despite our differences.  That means we are going to have to compromise in order to find the policy that best meets the needs of everyone.  To me, that also means that my vote is a means to an end, not a reflection of my deeply held religious and philosophical beliefs.

My wish is that we could set politics aside and talk openly about policy without being offended or afraid to have our own assumptions challenged.  Imagine the problems we could solve together.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pragmatic Idealism

The following is an essay I submitted for a contest.  Like this on Facebook at this link and I can win monies!

As Americans, we pledge allegiance to the flag as a symbol of our loyalty to “liberty and justice for all.”  As citizens of Utah, we share values that make us very sensitive to government over-reach that treads on our liberty.  We often neglect, however, to recognize government’s role to ensure that justice for all goes hand-in-hand with liberty.  We often let our ideals cloud our judgment and impede pragmatic solutions.  

The moment a person, business, or organization takes actions that restrict the freedom to pursue happiness or obstruct the use of our property, the government is charged to take action.  As goes the saying attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”  This analogy can be extended even further to say that if the man’s nose were broken, it would affect not only his liberty and happiness, but that of those in his sphere of influence.  At some point in this analogy, liberty must be limited to resolve the conflict.  Public policy and governance deals with exactly that concept—deciding how much of whose liberty must be sacrificed in order to ensure the greatest liberty and justice for the population as a whole.

One example that is still fresh on our minds is health care.  Many conservatives and libertarians in Utah were up in arms when the Supreme Court ruled that we could be compelled to purchase insurance or face a tax.  And rightfully so, for many reasons.  But the predominant voice was in opposition to socialized health care and a government takeover.  The debate was full of patriotic defense of the Constitution, but it lacked a sincere discussion to seek solutions to the problems of our health care system.  

Gone are the days that we can sit on our porch with a shotgun to protect our family and property.  Gone are the days when individualism and hard work alone gives us the best chance for prosperity and security.  We are now too interdependent to ignore the plight of our neighbor—for even a truly self-interested person must recognize that no man is an island.  If your neighbor is diagnosed with a treatable cancer and their insurance denies them coverage, you may feel it is as sad story, but that it would be unjust to have the government force you to pay for their treatments.  But if untreated, the cancer patient will eventually end up in the emergency room and cost you thousands of dollars anyway, either through taxes or higher medical payments.  And now your neighbor is dead and his wife and children become a greater financial burden on society.  

Wouldn’t it be better if instead of arguing over whose political views were more constitutional, we discussed how we could implement specific and practical policies?  Using quotes from our Founding Fathers to argue ideology may be fun, but why don’t we do what the Founding Fathers actually did and sit down and deal with the conflict through compromise.  Find a common-ground solution and then go out and take action and make it work.

Even John Locke, the father of classical liberalism, felt that the sole right to defend our liberty in the “state of nature” was not enough.  In Utah we have an abundance of land and ample opportunity to build individual prosperity with less interference from government than many more urban parts of the country.  But with advancing technology, increasing population, and changing demographics we are going to be forced to find new solutions to these new problems.

This is not an endorsement of bigger government, but of smarter government.  This is not to say that we simply need to elect better officials so that our government can take better care of us.  It is to say that we need a stronger government for the people—by the people.  

As Robert Putnam put it, we need more “social capital.”  We need to be engaged in the solutions, not just the debates.  Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.  If we think that government is going too far, it means that we as a people are not going far enough.  Pragmatic Idealism does not mean being untrue to your strongly held ideals.  It means recognizing that just as the United States would have never had been a successful experiment without compromise, so too will we be unsuccessful in achieving liberty and justice for all if we are more loyal to our philosophies than we are to finding practical solutions.

Friday, June 8, 2012

In a sense

(a few thoughts and questions after contemplating Kyle's blog post)

What instruments are we born with to obtain knowledge?  What physiological capacities do we have at our disposal to observe and interpret data?  Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Taste.  Is that it?  Or is it possible there are other senses that we are not so easily attuned to because they are not necessary for individual physical survival or the perpetuation of our species?

If a man is born blind, he will rely more on his sense of hearing to determine truth.  If a man is born deaf, he will likewise see things we never see.  Or more correctly, he will observe and interpret things that our eyes see yet our minds ignore and fail to process.  So is it possible that if we hear but don’t understand and we see but do not perceive that there may be other senses that we can feel but do not learn from? 

 Is the truth learned from any single one of these five senses any more true than another?  Does seeing the sun give you truth that is any truer than feeling its heat on your skin?  Or the stars—they are too far away to observe through touch.  They must be learned only through one sense, sight.  Perhaps there are other truths in the universe that can only be learned through one sense.  If that is a spiritual sense, would it not be important to attune that sense to attain increased knowledge? 

Furthermore, is it possible that even a finely attuned sense can lose its potency if not maintained?  If muscles atrophy without use, it is not because the potential power of the muscles doesn’t exist.  The spiritual sense it requires faith, but faith is not enough.  It takes a lot of work.  One could be defiant toward the power of the sense of sight by closing his eyes, but to be defiant toward the spiritual sense only requires apathy.