Health Methodologies
FitDay to Cronometer Transfer Reality

As I’ve written before I’ve been tracking everything I’ve eaten daily for many years, specifically since the 28th of December 2010. There is a one week period in November 2011 when we went on a cruise that I missed due to not having a backup plan for journaling these things. I made sure to never make that mistake again. From the beginning I had been using the software FitDayPC to do that. However several years ago they started faltering. While it still exists it essentially isn’t supported anymore. About the time that I was going to start writing my own system I stumbled across Cronometer. After playing around it was clear this tool was exactly what I wanted and I’ve been using it ever since which was mid-2016 my review here. That’s left my data orphaned in FitDay however. I’ve slowly been getting it out of FitDay but it is a very manual process. I’ve kept track and it’s about 4-5 minutes per day. What does that mean practically? Well, I’ve gotten data back into late-March 2016 into Cronometer. That means I have 1919 days left to enter in as I go back through the record. At 4-5 minutes per day that means I’m looking at 128-160 hours of time to get the transfer done. If you convert that to “work days” of 8 hours a day that means it’d take 16-20 days to get it done, or 3-4 “man weeks” as they say. It’ll be worth it but damn that’s a lot of data entry…


Make Your Facebook Experience Sane Again

There are lots of write ups and studies which are showing more and more the negative effects on our perpetual stimulation by social media.  This is everything from the negative effects of not giving your brain a rest, negative emotions from the perpetual stream of information, all the way to it being potentially an addiction.  One simple way to get around this is to just uninstall every app, log out of the sites, and be done with it.  That’s not always practical since these ecosystems are often how we tie into events, stay in touch with friends, and are helpful conduits to information we are looking for.  The real problem is not having control of what and when information is presented to us once we enter these ecosystems. This is a byproduct of two features: alerts and newsfeeds.  Eliminating and/or getting control of these is the key to getting control of and crafting your social media experience into being sane again.


2017 Phase 8 Goal Accountability: Finally Dialed In

At the end of June, part of the way through this year’s 7th goal accountability phase I decided to finally get my shit together.  I carried that momentum into the 8th phase.  I haven’t done too many summaries this year, since I’ve mostly been sucking wind, but I have been keeping up my daily grading.  Now that I’m dialed in from the goal perspective, so too will I be dialed in on reporting it. I am happy to report straight A’s across all my goals, finally!


Compulsive Connectivity

I’ve been a computer geek literally my whole life, at least as far back as I can remember.  I grew up getting “online” back before there was a thing called “internet” and quickly transitioned into all of the technologies associated with it. What started off as costing way too much to be online and with mostly text based interactions has become, as we all know, a pervasive and universal multimedia rich infinite stream of connectivity.  But is that connectivity too much, or at least too much for me?


Finally had a 4.0 week, don't make it a stumbling block

Since I started dialing my fitness regiment in three weeks ago I’ve been striving to get a perfect 4.0 grade across all five of my daily goals for an entire week.  I was getting really close, but each week had one or two hiccups/slip ups that kept me off the perfect mark.  No longer.  I finally got a 4.0 across all my categories for an entire week for the first time since I started trying to do  this whole daily grading thing (even back to my Nutritarian Experiment of 2016).  First, I’ll congratulate myself for a job well done.  Now, a word of warning.  When I nail something like this I often have an impulse to try to extend it longer and longer.  Inevitably I stumble, just like anyone else does with anything like this.  That stumble then usually leads to a crash.  That crash then leads to a period of rationalization of how I was doing well so deserve a little “reward” for it, whatever that means, and that I’ll get back to it tomorrow.  String a bunch of tomorrows together and I get years of getting back to it “tomorrow”.

This week may be a perfect week again, or it may not not.  Instead of focusing on these longer term trends like I usually do I’m going to take my “being in the present” mindset that has been working these past three weeks forward. I’ll concentrate on nailing my goals today, and only today.  I’m not going to worry about what I screwed up yesterday, or if I’ll screw up tomorrow.  I’ll still track and trend all of these things as an observational and historical thing, but I’m not going to expend mental energy on it beyond just working it out today.


Coming Out of Fitness Hibernation

After a year of false starts, many written about here ad nauseum, but with maintaining my tracking of nutrition and fitness goals every day, I can say that this time around I’ve started off on the right foot on dialing in my fitness/lifestyle goals and getting myself back on track.


N=1 Intoxication Quantification

As I’m sipping a glass of champagne while finishing up some coding for the night (yes, I’m one of those people that don’t think you need a special occasion to drink champagne) an interesting self experiment came to me.  I’ve heard of and seen video of people who are put in driving simulators to show the difference between difference levels of blood alcohol levels and the impact on driving performance.  I’ve sadly seen the direct effect on people as well.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to try to do a direct measurement of this in a safe way?


What Does Fasting For Weightloss Look Like?

I’ve written several times about the use of periodic fasting days to counteract our periodic feast days as well as health benefits of fasting from the perspective of supposed cancer fighting and potentially longevity.  I’ve also mentioned fasting as a means of accomplishing weight loss too.  Now that I’m a couple months into that practice, I figured I’d show what that actually looks like.


Goal Accountability Project, A Graphical View

While using the Goal Accountability Project as a means of keeping myself honest on where I am with my health it occurred to me that a graphical punch is as important as a daily check in.  It’s one thing to look at a table of numbers and see that I haven’t been hitting the marks I want.  However it is of far greater impact when you see a picture of it.  As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.


Reviving the Fitness Tests

“Getting fit” is often synonymous with “losing weight” in most discussions.  Back when I was setting up this blog for a long term eating style experiment I was in pretty good shape.  My strength training was a bit of a crap shoot but my cardio was as tuned in for me as it had ever been; I ran my first (and to date only) marathon at the end of that planning period.  I therefore didn’t see it as a weight loss experiment but as a fitness and longevity experiment.  I therefore sought to quantify my fitness in as concrete a way I could.  What I came up with was holding myself to a military fitness standard (link).


No resolutions, just keep trying to dial it (again)…

Yesterday I had a tongue in cheek conversation with a friend about our resolutions.  He asked me what my resolutions were for this year.  I stated: “To not exercise, eat continuously, and try to add thirty pounds of fat…I’m trying the reverse psychology thing.”  Knowing my penchant for trying new things it isn’t totally ridiculous that he took me literally, but I quickly corrected that notion before I got a call from one of my family members asking what the hell I was thinking about.  I used to do resolutions, but I don’t, that doesn’t mean that the roll over of the calendar isn’t a good occasion for me to double down on trying to dial it in.


Goal Tracking Report Card 2016 Phase 11/12, A Big Fail…

October 16, 2016, when I got back from my honeymoon, I said I was going to be emphasizing a fitness focus by looking at using a goal accountability report card.  Really this is getting the tempo for doing these things more into 2017 and beyond.  Work and life took my eye off the ball but it didn’t stop me from actually keeping the report card.  What’s the point of an accountability exercise if you only do it when you know you are going to score well?  That’s like only going to the doctor when you are healthy.  The sobering reality is that right now I’m failing on my five goals, but I didn’t need a report card to actually tell me that.


Merging Five Years Of Data

In the end of 2010 I started tracking all of my nutrition, daily calorie burning, and moods full time.  Years of doing it off and on during 12-week fitness challenges, weight loss periods, et cetera prepared me well for this process and made it second nature.  Now it’s coming up on the end of 2016 and I have pretty much everything I’ve eaten, my daily calorie burn estimates, and my moods tracked for several years.  The problem is that the platform I had tracked it in, FitDay, is all but defunct.  How will I resurrect that data?


Fasting is not Starving

When starting off on this alternate day fasting experiment, I was expecting fasting days to be brutally difficult.  I’m a person that often can’t go more than a couple hours without putting some kind of food in my mouth.  It’s like a reflex.  When I’m being healthy it may be carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, or other healthy food.  When I’m not, it’s mini-candy bars, pretzels, candy, and other sweets.  Breaking that cycle was one of the main things I’m trying to accomplish with the alternate day fasting experiment.  While there is a longing for indulging those impulses I’m not feeling true hunger, but when was I ever really?


Feast then fasting

I’ve been fixated on fasting a lot over the past year.  This isn’t some starvation diet fixation, although it can be used for losing weight too as I am about to lay out.  This is on the potential health benefits of doing moderate fasting, intermittent up to a few days, for things like cutting cancer or diabetes risk.  A month ago I ended my “exercise only” diet experiment with good results on changes in body composition and biomarkers.  Unfortunately the intervening month I didn’t continue the plan at all so I backtracked a little . Wanting to try to jump start things again I’m looking at doing an experiment that ties in fasting as a regular protocol.


Causation Doesn’t Equal Correlation (or Is My FitBit Screwing Me)

I’ve built up a lot of narrative in the past couple of years about why my body composition estimates went from being spot on to diverging rapidly.  I presented the graph of my estimated body weight change against my actual in my 2014 recap.

image001

I have had lots of theories but it seemed to correlate well with my marathon training starting up. I’ve been asking if I had “broken my metabolism” or if there may be something else going on.  My weight loss from the 80/10/10 experiment exceeded my projections by several pounds as well.  Maybe I had overcome inflammation that I had created.  Or something to that effect.

Lots of narrative around the correlation, but was it really causation?  This week I was looking at the projections of my weight gain over the past several months, planning for my weight loss tracking for this new experiment.  I was pleased to see that I was spot on in my projections.  Then it occurred to me, I hadn’t been updating my activity levels in my tracking software since November and I had really only been using my FitBit to track sleep most of the time in the September and October time frame where I had those inputs.  So that means that I had taken the FitBit out of the equation and now everything was tracking great again.  Could the obvious problem not have been inflammation or broken metabolisms but that the FitBit is chronically overestimating my calorie estimates?

In the summary article I lamented that the middle of 2013 was when the estimates started diverging.  Guess when I bought the FitBit?  middle of 2013.  In the middle of all of that training as well.  So was it the training or the FitBit?  I’m going to investigate more to find out…


Isolating Exercise For Fitness Improvement

When I get into a fitness groove it is often a combination of diet and exercise that really happen at the same time.  Even when doing a long stretch of “being healthy” it’s really the combination of the two.  And when I do that I go into full Rambo mode on both, versus kind of muddling through.  Because the two happen at the same time it is hard for me to break out whether it is one or the other or the combination that is really the driving factor.  I’ve always wanted to see if it was diet or exercise that was driving that.  I’m now set up to do just that.


Six Week Challenge 2016.2

Despite my bitching and moaning I actually really liked my first six week challenge. With that one now in the books it’s time to look into doing another one.  It’s not going to look drastically different than the first, but some of the parameters are going to be refined.


Six Week Challenge Goals

Like a good New Year’s Resolution, the purpose of the challenge is to set a pre-defined short term objective that I can concentrate on and focus for making longer term changes.


A Six Week Challenge

What to do?  What to do?  Either as a mechanism of procrastination, or as a legitimate mechanism of study, I’ve really not been doing well the second quarter of the year.  After tightening up my diet and getting some exercise going in the first quarter, with good results to show, the second quarter was more slacking off.  It culminated in a long vacation on a cruise which meant gobbling up tons of junky (but tasty) food, beer, and wine.  Even though we were walking 6-8 miles a day it wasn’t enough to ward off fat gain.  Tomorrow is my first day legitimately back home to actually try and get squared away in this third quarter.  How will I go about doing that?


80/10/10 Day Redux

Wow!  I thought I liked to eat.  I knew that trying to eat ten pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables in a day was going to be daunting.  I got most of the way there, but enough was enough!


An 80/10/10 day

I’m really craving fruits and vegetables.  Whether it’s the fact I haven’t been eating or exercising right as much as I’d like to (which begs the question of why I don’t just do it, but don’t bother me about that) or just the seasonal explosion of fruits and vegetables, it’s just something that I’m craving.  Think of how most people, including me, crave a piece of cake when they go to a nice a nice restaurant.  That’s how much I’ve been craving to just sit down with a watermelon and go to town (yes a whole watermelon), or a big bowl of berries.  Juxtapose that with a serendipitous exposure to some stories and podcasts on the 80/10/10 diet and I’ve decided to give it a shot for one day…tomorrow.


So what does "Paleo" mean (to me)?

I have now official started the Paleo phase of my diet experiment.  Earlier in the year I spent several posts reviewing the paleo dos and don’ts.  Rather than trying to comb through all of that, I figured I’d summarize it in one convenient place.


USAF Physical Fitness Test Results, May 2014

On Monday I finally knocked out my first try at the USAF physical fitness test.  I didn’t go through the trouble of trying to get a licensed administrator.  I simply followed the the instructions for administration and tried to stay true to form.  First I did push ups, then I did sit-ups/crunches.  I followed that by pull ups (my addition) and then a treadmill 1.5 mile run.  The results?  Not so great, but I technically passed.


Staging For Paleo Start

Yes, there is a lot going on but I’m really looking forward to getting back on track with the experiment.  The first thing to do is get my baselines.  I had originally planned for this to happen on the quarters of each year.  Obviously that’s now shifted a month.  It’s certainly not the end of the world, but maybe I’ll change the durations so I can get back on phase later.  As for right now, the big things I need to have are my baseline monthly body measurements, my baseline physical fitness metrics and maybe some starting pictures.


2014 Q2 Calorie Planning

With the Paleo Diet occupying all of my second quarter, I began the ritual of planning out my calorie budget for the next three months.  That process isn’t as hard as it sounds once you’ve done it a few times.  Think of it like a financial budget.  You know Christmas is going to happen in December so you know that month you are going to spend a lot more than usual.  Knowing that you can save up some cash to power through it.  Similarly, if you know you have a vacation in July then you know you are going to have to financially prepare for that.

The same is true with your food consumption.  While it sounds like a nice idea that you will always attempt to balance out your food consumption and your energy expenditure, there are going to be times when that doesn’t happen.  Vacations are a prime example of cases where you are going to probably eat a bit excessively.  The same is true for birthdays, special events and other such things.  If you can plan on that then you can balance that out over a long period of time rather than going on some crash diet after the damage is done.  Weekends for many people also fall into this category for me.  I know I eat a bit more on the weekends, so I intentionally plan my daily calorie budget over that three month period of time accounting for that.

While I had three extra pounds I wanted to get off from excessive holiday consumption for the first quarter of this year, I want to maintain my weight for this quarter.  While I normally eat a bit extra on the weekends, I honestly don’t know how that is going to pan out while on the Paleo Diet.  A lot of my extra eating on the weekends are indulgences in desserts or candies.  Alternatively it is perhaps a big dinner out where I’ll eat a huge steak and potatoes or a big plate of pasta finished off by mopping the plate clean with some bread.  While I could perhaps make some Paleo treats, for the the most part these sorts of indulgences are now gone.  Will I replace them with a few extra servings of maple coconut ice cream or handfuls of nuts?  I honestly can’t say, but I figure i should plan for at least a little extra on the weekends.

Besides the regular weekends I know I have a few extra times where excessive calorie consumption will be occurring.  There is a dinner party a friend is throwing in April that I’m already salivating at the thought of.  There is a charity gala as well as the Memorial Day weekend in May.  June is going to be a week of vacation where I’m sure I’ll be getting some extra eats in.  Throughout that will also be my ramp up in training to get ready for the marathon ramp up that will begin mid-summer.  That obviously pushes things in the other direction.  So the total of all that looks like the below graph:

2014Q2_CalorieBudget

You can obviously see the big drops from the various special events and holidays i mentioned.  As a point of reference, because I’m not planning on gaining or losing any weight the zero line is literally a calorie balance of zero over the three months.  The little upticks throughout the graph are the 310 calories a day, on average, I need to be in deficit for much of the week.  The smaller drops are the 500 calorie excesses I am planning on weekends.  The huge drop is the 2000 calories I’m figuring I will have on the day of the dinner party, with 1000 calorie per day deficits for the gala and each day of Memorial Day weekend.  The vacation I imagine will have a lot of activities and less opportunities for grazing like I’ll have on Memorial Day weekend so I’m only budgeting 500 calorie a day deficits for that period of time.

Considering that I have blown my budget a bit on the first quarter of this year and last quarter of 2013, not by much but definitely not as spot on as I like, I’m hoping I can stick with this a bit better.


Paleo Don'ts: Vegetable Oils

Have you been joining the legions of people since the 1980s following Florence Henderson and her pitch for the perfect, healthy, vegetable oil?  Don’t you just love “vegetable oil”?  Which vegetable would that be?  I mean, there are only literally hundreds of potential vegetables that you can choose to make oils from.  Why, there is corn oil (which we obviously know isn’t going to be on the list anyway due to it being corn based).  There are plenty of other options though, from rapeseed oil, I mean canola oil, to soybean oil ot god knows what else.  While people before the industrial revolution cooked with oils all the time, they often were using oils like olive oil or oils from larger seed-based plants.  It wasn’t until the dawn of the industrial revolution that many of these oils became widely available.

Oils like olive oil and coconut oil come from grinding and pressing them.  The creation of oils like rapeseed oil, now given the more palatable marketing name of canola oil, starts in a similar process but just on a grander scale.  While in the particular case of rapeseed it had been used as a fuel for lamps for millennia it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that humans figured out how to make it consumable.  First by steam cracking the seeds and then by washing it with hexane (doesn’t it sound delicious when you put it like that) we can get to the oil in massive quantities in ways that couldn’t be done before.  Actually much of the vegetable oil we eat is processed in a similar sort of heating then chemical washing way.  It’s supposedly pretty safe, considering we’ve done it for a century or two but it certainly doesn’t have the millenia long history that other oils do in our diet.

All of that aside the bigger problem with vegetable oils over stuff like cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is the fat profile of what we are eating.  While oils like olive oil have a much higher composition of fats from monounsaturated fats, oils like corn, soy and canola oil are weighted more heavily towards polyunsaturate fats. There is also the question of how much degradation of the fat structure is induced by the extreme heats used in the processing of these oils.  There is also the question of additional nutrients that one would find in more traditional oils than what would be found in vegetable oils.

With the ready availability of extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and other more tried and true fat products, it’s hard to find a convincing argument for regularly using vegetable oil for cooking.  In the case of its use over lard or coconut oil there is the whole question of if saturated fat found in those products is bad for us or not.  There is more debate on that topic than some would have us believe.  In the case of flavor, there are times when one is looking for a flavorless oil compound to cook with.  For those rare occasions perhaps one could try these products.  I’m more willing to buy some of the rhetoric on vegetable oils not because I think they have totally sealed the deal with empirical data but because as a component of human diets they are an extremely recent phenomena.


Paleo Don’ts: Corn

Technically corn is a grain, so I’m being a bit redundant.  Corn however holds a special place in the hearts of Paleo adherents as a grain to be avoided because of how heavily modified corn has gotten in the last century or so.  While all plants that we have domesticated have been radically transformed in order to better serve us, corn has dominated our food system more for the last 75 years than it has at any other time in history.  We have never consumed more corn per capita than we have today.  You don’t recall the last time you ate corn?  That doesn’t matter.  In fact most of the corn you eat isn’t as corn proper.  There will be corn in certain dishes, or cornmeal used in the preparation of some prepared foods.  However it is really in the form of corn starches and corn syrups that most of our corn consumptions come from.  Corn is the “C” in HFC (high fructose corn syrup).  You recognize that evil acronym but won’t be seeing it much longer as the corn lobby has successfully convinced people that “corn sugar” is both more “accurate” and more marketable.


Paleo Don'ts: Grains…of any kind

Along with bacon worship the other thing that stands out most in the superficial public persona of Paleo is the avoidance of all grains.  When people first read that they think, “Oh, that means avoid bread!”  Actually it goes way deeper than that.  Even on many diets that list themselves as healthy they will tell people to avoid refined grains and to go with whole grains.  So ditch the fluffy white loaf of sandwich bread, pick up a hearty whole grain bread and you are good to go!  At least that’s the case according to much of the conventional wisdom out there.  Paleo takes it far further than that.

This isn’t even a question of just avoiding wheat or other gluten containing breads, although Paleo people will be the first to tell you to about the dangers of gluten too.  “Grains” are basically any major cereal product that was developed during the agricultural revolution.  So wheat is obviously a big one there.  However add to the list things like rice, corn, barley, oats, rye, quinoa (yes even the beloved quinoa).  There are some grains that have had marginal domestication, like amaranth, that are still on the list.  Any and all forms of said products should be avoided.

What is the reason for the avoidance of these foods?  The same reason as avoiding legumes: poor nutrient density compared to vegetables and meats and a plethora of potential anti-nutrients and toxins.  Some Paleo people take a more moderated approach towards the topic.  They tend to shun the label “paleo” and instead go for the label “ancestral.”  That’s true of other products as well.  However if you are going to stay true to the Paleo diet then avoiding all of these foods is required.

I have a comparable reaction to the claims made by Paleo adherents to grains as I do to beans and legumes.  If you read their direct writings it will have you conclude that eating grains of any sort will have your gut leaking like a sieve, your body being ravaged by autoimmune disorders like MS and your body robbed of precious nutrients due to the poor absorption of said nutrients.  Yet again humans have been eating grains, wild and domesticated, for millennia.   In fact if you read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steele, it was the domestication of cereal crops that let civilization explode across the planet.  Paleo people will say, “Yeah, but our health deteriorated dramatically during that time.”  There may be some truth to that, but the consumption of grains weren’t the only things that had changed during that period.

As with the other “don’ts” that are listed for this diet (and every other diet that I’ll be trying), it is truly up to the individual to determine whether grains are working well for their body or not.  In the spirit of the experiment that will be me doing just that for the next three months.


Paleo Don’ts: Peanuts

Why are they called nuts?  Actually, nobody really knows.  Alternative names for peanuts back in history are “ground nut” or “ground pea.”  They sort of look like pea plants while they are growing but then they produce a nut like product, so did “ground pea” and “ground nut” become a “pea nut” hence “peanut”?  That’s really one lost to history.  It’s a domesticated food that is native to the Americas, which European settlers started taking a liking to in their gardens as they populated the new world.


Paleo Dont’s: Beans and Legumes

When the vision of a healthy diet is conjured in ones head one of the first things that come up (after whole grains and vegetables) are beans.  Many people, especially in the vegetarian movement, believe that beans are a great source of nutrients and an all around healthy food.  It will come as a bit of a shock to someone from that mindset that the Paleo community is one hundred percent against the consumption of beans and legumes without exception.  Their reasons for this are because of what they consider to be a poorer nutrient to calorie ratio and chemicals in them that cause problems in people.


Paleo Dos: Eggs

Eggs are a rather universal food amongst omnivores and carnivores.  They are nutrient dense little packages that are easy to consume, and in our cases store and transport.  It’s therefore no coincidence that eating eggs is a rather standard part of human diets in regions all over the planet where interactions with birds is common.  While there is no specification on the species of bird eggs to eat, you are probably going to most likely be encountering chicken eggs at the store.


Paleo Dos: Nuts and seeds

Nuts are really good source of vitamins and minerals, but they are also very calorie dense little packages.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t eat them, but that we should be conscious of how we are eating them.  Before we get started, we want to make sure we talk about the one nut that is in many things that isn’t on the list: peanuts.


Paleo Dos: Fish and Shellfish

Fish and shellfish are a big part of diets throughout the world, and it is also a potential big source of nutrition in a Paleo diet.  There is no real prescription on the types of fish to eat in the diet in general.  As with the eggs it’s preferable that in most cases you go to a wild caught source of your fish versus farm raised.  There are some types of shellfish you can eat farm raised that may not have any difference in nutrition, like oysters and mussels.  However fish like salmon and tilapia often have a very different nutritional profile when you buy farm raised over wild caught.


Paleo Dos: Meat

I saved the most obvious for last, but probably also the first one everyone thinks of when it comes to the Paleo diets: meat.  With almost Pavlovian like repetition the one thing that I see about the Paleo diet, but both supporters and detractors alike, is the bacon orgy marketing message.  After years of being scared away from eating full fat bacon the simplified Paleo message that resonates the loudest is often the “You Can’t Eat Too Much Bacon” message.  That’s both overly simplified and not exactly correct either.


Paleo Dos: Lots of Vegetables and Fruits

This is the first of a series of articles about the dos and don’ts of Paleo eating, as is commonly pitched in the Paleo Community at the time of my experiment.  I’ve been over the general principles in the past, but for those that want a really quick introduction to the foundation of the diet, I would recommend the Food Guide over at Paleo Plan. To start things off on a positive note, I figured we’d talk about what we can eat versus what we can’t.


What does your percent body fat really look like?

I’ve seen this article a few times now, but never felt the urge to comment on it until now.  Perhaps it was because I just segued from the “Biggest Loser” article, or perhaps it was because I’m getting claustrophobic from not being plowed out yet.  The big question we can ask ourselves is “what composition are we?”


And We Are Off! Day 1 of JJ Virgin Diet Begins

Today is the first day of the N=1 experiment, which is starting off with the JJ Virgin Elimination diet.  Elimination diets are basically removing foods that may potentially be causing problems for you from your eating lifestyle.  Over time you can “challenge” these foods to see how your body reacts to them.  JJ Virgin, a nutritionist with some media history that has been making her way around the podcast universe the past few months, has put together just such a diet that I think creates a relatively simple plan to follow.


Preserving Your Family’s Food History

My fascinating with food extends far beyond fitness and exercise.  The topics I love range from just the latest cooking techniques to historical recipes.  I think a lot of that comes from my family having a rich cooking tradition, especially since both my parents have great cooking instincts.  There is also the essence of preservation of the foods from my childhood.  As we eat them less and less and as the people that make them pass on they have a real danger of becoming things which will be lost to time.  My mom’s side of the family went through the process of documenting a lot of the family recipes into a nicely bound cook book.  I wish I could say I’ve made more progress cooking my way through it, but I have tried several and they generally turn out much like I remembered them (even if sometimes I have to try it a few times).  Unfortunately not everyone has the same access to graphic design and digital publishing resources that we do.   Thankfully I ran across a site that does that and more, The Family Cookbook Project.


Methodology: Body Measurements

We’ve talked about two types of measurements so far: mood/health and performance.  Tied to that but something that is far more visible to everyone are measurements of body composition.  It’s one thing to track something as subjective as how I feel each day of the experiment and trend that.  It’s another thing to track overall performance over the experiment at regular intervals to see how my body is operating.  However it is our body’s physical characteristics that are both the most visible and at the same time one of the important things that I want to track and trend over the experiment.


Methodology: Fitness Tracking

Along with trending of how good I’m feeling and other more subjective measurements, I think it will also be important to track and trend something more directly tangible: physical fitness levels.  The military and government use standardized fitness testing as a means of measuring health.  It’s actually a really convenient and not difficult to measure metric that is useful in measuring overall health.  Adapting this to my own experiment will be useful in determining if a diet I am eating is hurting or helping my health.


Methodology: Daily Journaling to Capture History

Journaling is one of the best way for you to determine what is actually going on in your life and to have a definitive record of progress or degeneration.  That is true for everything from emotions, to food to body measurements.  Especially when one is not on some radical transformation plan, we often don’t appreciate the smaller changes which are going on in our lives.  Besides that we often don’t take the time to listen to our body and how we are feeling.  Measuring these qualitative things are very important if you want to determine changes in how you are feeling over time.

We all get sick sometimes, and we know instantly that something is wrong.  However what about a gradual change in our mood or how we feel?  Our brains are good at normalizing behaviors. That leads us to treat certain chronic conditions, or feeling a certain way over a long period of time, as “just the way it is.”  Many times it is not a matter of it just being status quo for our bodies but instead symptoms of problems which we are dealing with due to diet or lifestyle.  By tracking and trending these things you can begin to see patterns emerge and start trying to address them proactively.


Methodology: Diet Experiment Phasing (Try #2)

I believe I’ve written before about how I want to phase my various diets over the life of this experiment.  I know I’ve written about it in my personal notes, but believe I have only covered it as part of another article.  Regardless, I’ve recently been giving some considerations to the original plan and have modified it to be a bit better at capturing what I’m trying to do.


Eating local can't be this convenient, can it?

I remember several years ago reading about the so-called localvore movement.  Perhaps that was made the most vivid reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It was a great exercise in adding prose to an otherwise dry topic, albeit a very delicious one.  While hardly at the bleeding edge of localvorism, I was into it before it was plastered all over menus across the country and in the lexicon of the common person.  However my experiences with that have to date been intermittent.  What I was hoping to do along with the rest of the diet experiment is to try to eat more local and cleaner.  I was afraid that maybe it would be too difficult, but after a little help from internet I believe it won’t be too bad, or too expensive either.


A Real Mediterranean Diet

After complaining several times about not being able to find a real Mediterranean diet, I have actually had the fortune of being exposed to several examples due to my reading of both Blue Zones and Jungle Effect.  In both of those books on indigenous diets that proved healthy to the people of places like Sardinia, Ikaria and other areas outside of the Mediterranean, I got a good cross section of the various kinds of diets.  Furthermore Jungle Effect was even good enough to provide recipes for some dishes.  Armed with that information, plus a couple of other sources I’ve found from the internet, I should be able to come up with a legitimate representative whole foods Mediterranean diet.  Hint, it won’t be stocked full of pasta, pizza and fried calamari.


What does a healthy vegan diet look like?

I wanted to spell out what I’m modeling my vegan diet to look like for the next week, and what it will probably look like for the three months of the real experiment.  Just as in the other diet worlds there is some variety in terms of what should make a healthy vegan diet.  One thing that is constant across them is the absence of animal products.  No meat, no dairy, no honey will be found in any vegan diet.  That still leaves a lot of room for error, which requires a plan to avoid.


Let Paleo Week Commence!

After a fun afternoon and evening with friends at a pool party, which was decidedly not Paleo but very delicious, I get to start my first day of Paleo with a bit of a food hangover.  I’m sure having 5 beers over 8 hours may be contributing a little bit too it, but that’s hardly the stuff of hangovers over embarrassing internet photos.  The food on the other hand, especially with the dessert selections that I made sure to try one of each of, definitely put things into high gear.  Try this, I ate over 3300 calories over the course of the party and that wasn’t with a bunch of grazing or drinking high calorie cocktails.  Ouch!  But today is the beginning of one of the “clean” diet phases so I can pretend to be detoxing or what not.  So what are the steps for getting this week kicked off?


Ikaria: The land of a real Mediterranean Diet

The diet that I thought would be the easiest to square away has turned out to be the hardest: the Mediterranean Diet.  As I have highlighted previously it’s mostly about trying to dress up a Standard American Diet into something that sounds healthy so that people can feel good about trying to eat healthy.  If it wasn’t just lipstick on a pig I wouldn’t find the concept so offensive.  I still wouldn’t bother eating it for 3 months just to pretend to be picking up a new eating style, but at least there could be a claim of some health benefit.  That still leaves me to try to figure out what I’m going to do for an actual Mediterranean diet.  As I worked through my backlog of podcasts this week I think I found some hints to what I’m looking at in the form of the diets of the Sardinians and Ikarians.


Elaboration is apparently very important

I was quickly chatting with some friends over dinner tonight and the topic of my blog came up. These are some pretty smart guys but their overall comment on my monthly summary was, “I have no idea what the hell you were talking about.” I guess after several years of digesting and distilling data I had thought I had provided a summary short enough not to be boring but long enough to have some information. It seems some background information is going to be in order however. I’ll be trying to correct that in upcoming posts.


Snapshots in Life Can Show How We Change

Tom Hussey is a photographer whose work has started popping up in viral Facebook and Twitter messages. Particularly his “Reflections” series is quite riveting. What would a photograph look like if you had the present-day elderly and the lost to time young adult version of the same person? You can get a glimpse of it at FStoppers.com.  Imagine yourself looking forward in time into the elderly you, or looking back into the younger you from a few decades ago.  Projecting yourself into the images leaves you with a most surreal emotional impression.  For the biohacker in me, it also got me reconsidering yet one additional technique I used to engage in but no longer do.

reflections


FitBit Works Pretty Well But Really Waiting for the Basis B1

My dad had asked for a Jawbone Up for Father’s Day.  I had been going back and forth on which tracker to buy between the Jawbone Up, the Fitbit Flex and the Basis B1.  Since the B1 is still out of stock and my dad got the Up, I figured I’d dive in and try the Flex.  I was curious how accurate it would be at tracking steps/distances and calories.  By far the thing I was most looking forward to was giving indication of how well I was sleeping.  While overall I’m finding the data, and the corresponding Fitbit website, useful and interesting it isn’t all that I’m looking for in a personal tracker.


Trial Week Planning

I have been thinking, and tweeting, that I should do a mini-experiment week that mirrors the full size experiment.  I want to get a mini-taste of even just a single day in the life of the various types of diets: Mediterranean, Paleo, Pescatarian, Vegetarian and Vegan.  So, next week I will take the plunge and for each day I’ll do a different diet.


Deficiencies & Supplementation

Lots of commentary on diets get down to measuring efficacy by how much supplementation you need to add to the diet.  A common criticism of veganism is the fact that you must supplement for B-12 and that you must be careful with how varied your food selection is to avoid other deficiencies.  The problem of deficiency is actually possible with any diet selection.


Methodology: Dietary Phasing

Regardless of whether I choose a 1, 2 or more month duration for each of my diet trials I do intend to phase into the diets in a methodical way.  Each diet poses it’s own challenges and cycling between diets that can be diametrically opposed will be even more challenging.  I likewise need to get back in the habit of being on a constrained diet.  While I have been judiciously tracking and budgeting food and exercise, I haven’t been on a specific diet, per se.  So nothing prevents me from having a night of hearty eating and drinking on crap foods and then make up for it the rest of the week.  In fact my entire methodology to date is based on the notion of saving up for these “binge” days throughout the week and over time.  Think of it like saving up for a vacation rather than going on the vacation and then paying down the credit card you charged up to go on it.


Methodology: Meal Planning

A successful diet is built around foods that you enjoy, that are nourishing and healthy and that fits within your budget.  This applies to everyone from vegans to your average joe just walking down the street enjoying his SAD diet.  One of the tricks behind this experiment is going to be finding that combination for each of the diets that I’m going to be trying out.  I’m going to be employing several tools to do that.


Methodology: 1, 2, 3 or more months

How long should I be trying each diet out?  I’m taking great care to consider the proper phasing and timing of the entire experiment.  I’m trying to make sure that I’m not setting myself up for failure by doing things overly aggressively.  I’m also trying to make sure that I don’t bias any results for a given diet.  It would be a pity if I switched off a diet just in time for the effects to be felt.  At the same time I don’t want to make the period so long that it takes years for this process to unfold.


Daily Updates

As I think about how an adaptation to a new diet evolves, I think that commentary of the results day to day needs to go along with a more general discussion of how things are going in the diet.  There is the concept of a journal entry to discuss this general component, but a look at the day-to-day specifics of what is going on really deserves its own section.  The journal will be more colorful language and describing the failures and successes at that given point in time.  An accounting of what I ate or did in a given day however will go into a daily updates section.  Ideally this would take my already digital log of consumed food, activities and perhaps moods and show it in a brief set of words and graphics.


Picture of Me (Hank)

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