Posts Tagged ‘calories’

“Eat Food”

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan writes a lot of really smart things.  Like the line above and this:  “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  Yes, I know you didn’t actually know your great-great grandmother, and you can’t consult with her while you’re standing in the aisle at the Publix.  You’re going to have to noodle some of this out on your own.

Both the Pollan quotations are from this (long) NYT piece published in 2007, which is a nice summation of his theories on food.  He’s written several books as well, including In Defense of Food, which I found particularly interesting.   His basic contention is that the epidemic of unhealthy bigness in America (which we’ve been kind enough to begin successfully exporting) is largely (pun intended) due to the strange relationship we developed with food over the course of the 20th century.  What we consume at mealtime (and the rest of the day) is, for the most part, so processed and twisted as to be unrecognizable as, you know, food.

Agribusiness, for a variety of really complicated reasons (political, industrial, financial, environmental, psychological, etc. in nature) doesn’t provide much our great-great grandparents would have understood how to prepare or consume.

I’m no scientist, but I feel comfortable writing that what our great-great grandparents did consume was the result of millennia of evolutionary adaptation.  What we consume is the result of strange and generally untested (on a long-term basis) experimentation.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel particularly comfortable.

I realize that weight loss, at it’s simplest level, is still all about the math:  Burn more calories than you take in.  But Pollan (and others) are onto something here.  Real food – the kind that grows out of the ground (or eats stuff that does) and gets processed (minimally) by you or somebody you know just before it gets to your kitchen – does good things for human bodies.  Stuff that has to find it’s way through multiple factories, over oceans and across continents and then waits in storage for weeks or months before it comes to your kitchen … might … be doing something to human bodies nobody really intended.  It might be that our bodies are just downright confused by all the strange things we’ve put into them.  Which is not an excuse, just something to think about.

It bears mentioning that local food (because it may be neighbor-to-neighbor) is often not subject to the same health requirements as what we get from agribusiness.  That could be a problem, and I don’t want to minimize the reality of food-borne illness.  Then again, agribusiness isn’t immune to that either.  Local food is also A LOT more expensive than the super-processed stuff, for a variety of reasons.  In our country food that’s bad for you tends to be cheap, and food that’s cheap tends to be bad for you.  Which is one of several reasons American poor people tend to be more obese than American rich people.

Please do go read Pollan and come to your own conclusions.

Taking The Stairs

“Any manual labor I’ve done was purely by mistake” – J. Buffett

You may have noticed the subtitle of this blog is “… and taking the stairs.”  And you may have said to yourself, “Huh?”  Pardon me for being oblique.

By way of explanation, I should tell you I’ve always been physically lazy.  I don’t like to sweat a lot … and as a native Floridian that presents challenges.  Sometimes I can get away with appearing “restful” and “at peace with a slower pace of life,” but it’s really just a big streak of lazy.

I’ve forced myself to do exercise in the past – back in 2002/03 I was running 12 or 15 miles a week, and I was pretty proud of that.  I did a little high school athletics, and I’ve spent enough time in gyms to be familiar with proper techniques and which machine does what.  But – and I don’t think I’m alone in this – I never liked much of it.  Don’t get me wrong, I always liked having done it, once I was iced and showered, but the actual doing?  That was never fun.

Also, exercise hurts.  I “ran through” shin splints until I learned exactly where and for how long to use ice after a run.  I put up with lower back pain from nearly every exercise I’ve ever attempted.  I limped through hip-pain and ankle pain and foot pain and knee pain.  And there was a certain camaraderie I enjoyed sharing with other exercisers (I won’t call us athletes) while we complained about exercise-specific discomforts.

Eventually my sedentary nature always combined with pain (and a genuine concern about every minute of my day being scheduled and sometimes double-scheduled) and helped phase exercise off my calendar.

Yet here I am facing the inconvenient reality that I won’t live as long as I want if I don’t find a way to build exercise into my day – every day.  Being ever-pragmatic, I ask myself, “How can I maximize exercise opportunities in my day-to-day without committing to contrived ‘exercise’ … yet?”

Lucky for me, I work on the second floor, and I make many trips a day to the first floor and back.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the elevator in the past, but no more.  I’m informed by this handy calculator that I can burn around fifty calories a day, five days a week by just taking the stairs every trip.

What about walking?  Can I build in more covert exercise by parking farther away from my destinations?  Why, yes, yes, I can.  Let’s say I add an extra 10 minutes of fairly brisk walking to my workday (and I can) by choosing parking spaces farther from my destination.  That’s 450 calories a week.

I’m told that a pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, which means taking only the stairs every work day and building in some extra walking should help me drop an additional pound every five weeks.

That’s too good a deal to pass up.

At some point in the near future I’m going to have to make time for “contrived” exercise.  For now – for today – I’ll count this new commitment to “taking the stairs” as a victory.

I want to add here that NOT taking the stairs – the American suburban obsession with convenience – is almost certainly one of the reasons we’re trending toward obesity as a nation.  In places where the existing infrastructure makes it too costly or just plain impossible to install an elevator, you have to take the stairs.  So you’re used to taking the stairs and it’s never an issue.  Parking our cars in our driveways and garages creates the same conundrum – most of us don’t even half to walk down the block to start the car, and we don’t have to take more than twenty or thirty (level, air-conditioned) steps to bring the groceries into the house.  Don’t get me wrong, I like convenience.  But it’s packing the pounds into our collective national midsection.

The Insidious Nature of Lemonade

Anybody remember Eddie Murphy’s impersonation of Elvis singing about lemonade? “Lemonade, that cool refreshing drink …”

Yeah. It IS cool. And refreshing. And insidiously subversive.

Allow me to ‘splain: As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t drink sugary or diet sodas. I DO drink a lot of seltzer/club soda, because I love the “burn and bite” of carbonation. But every now and then I need some, you know, FLAVOR. So some time back I started asking for club soda with a splash of lemonade. And over time that’s become half-club-soda, half-lemonade. And THAT, in turn, has become my default restaurant beverage. And it tastes so good. SO good.

On a hot day (this is Florida, you know) I can put away three or four big glasses of the stuff without thinking about it. To the tune of (and I’m estimating conservatively here) 2-300 calories. Entirely disposable, useless, yet cool and refreshing, calories.

So. Lemonade, my cool, refreshing, insidiously hateful old friend, it’s me or you. And I’m not going anywhere, so this is where you exit gracefully. And take that sugar packet with you.

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