Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vegetarians 0, Meat Eaters 1

By Diana Hsieh

Here's a damn funny bit from the BBC sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look on the morality of vegetarianism:



For the record, I am not in favor of eating the cats of vegetarians. Also, I'm not sure whether cats are gamey or not.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Year Later

By Diana Hsieh

I'm amazed to report that I've been on my paleo diet of fatty meats, pastured eggs, raw dairy, plentiful vegetables, raw and roasted nuts, and moderate fruit for over a year. I began my diet somewhat gradually in June 2008, then settled on it in a serious way the second week after OCON -- meaning starting on July 14th, 2008.

I've stuck to it remarkably well. Sure, I've eaten some off-diet foods -- usually a bit of dessert when at a party. Yet even then, I've rarely indulged in more than a few bites. In fact, I often like to taste off-diet foods. If I enjoy them, then they're a pleasant indulgence. If not, as happens far more often, I've confirmed my commitment to paleo eating. Yet I've never gone off-diet for as much as a whole meal, e.g. by eating a pasta dish or a slice of pizza. If I did, the effects would be rather less than pleasant, I know.

Somewhat to my surprise, I managed to eat reasonably well for the two weeks Paul and I spent away from home in late June and early July -- first in Maine and then at OCON. OCON was a bit of a problem, as I had no control over the meals served to me by the hotel at the various lunch and dinner events. Happily, except in one instance, I found enough good food to eat. I refrained almost entirely from the constant parade of cloying desserts served. The worst I ate was a half a round of mocha cheesecake. (It was darn yummy but too sweet. I love cheesecake though, so I might work on finding and/or developing a paleo-friendly recipe.) For next year's OCON, I'm going to request special meals from the hotel as needed. It will be meat, veggies, and berries only for me!

I did not expect myself to stick so well to eating paleo, but I've found that I don't miss the foods I've given up. I enjoy eating far more than ever before. Every meal is a wonderful opportunity to eat something incredibly delicious and satisfying. Plus, I'm no longer entranced by the thought of waffles or bread or pasta; I'd much rather eat bacon and eggs and brussel sprouts. Ordinary desserts are cloying sweet to me, and I often feel seriously unpleasant cravings for MOREMOREMOREMORE after indulging in a bite or two. By forgoing sweets as a matter of standard policy, I'm no longer beholden to the cookies in the pantry, as I used to be. Also, I find that preparing paleo foods has simplified my cooking. I spend less time cooking and shopping than before, and I waste less food too.

So what are the results? Let me summarize.

I've lost about 18 pounds, while also gaining muscle from short, intense weight training sessions. That's a huge shift for me. Before, I was gaining three to five pounds per year eating the recommended low-fat, low-calorie, lots-o-grains diet while doing tons of long, boring cardio workouts. That's all changed. I do have a few more pounds of fat to lose. These last few pounds have been stubborn, perhaps due to some hormonal problems I've been working on fixing with my doctor.

I have more strength and energy than ever before. I was able to lift 335 pounds on the leg press at the gym at OCON -- ten reps, no failure. That's not bad for a girl, I think, particularly given that I do all my weight training at home, without any fancy equipment. Also, I never experience the shaky, desperate need for food that occurs with a crash in blood sugar. I can skip one or two or five meals at will, even while doing heavy lifting, mental and physical. I don't get sleepy in the afternoons. At OCON, I found that I could function much better while sleep deprived than usual. (Normally, I'm careful to give myself the seven hours or so that I need.)

All my standard measures of health are significantly improved, including my fasting glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. (My LDL was elevated when last checked, but given my high HDL and low triglycerides, that LDL is likely lower than the reported calculated value. Moreover, my LDL would be almost entirely the good large fluffy kind, not the bad small dense kind. Next time I see my doctor, I'll get a measured value, plus a particle size test.) I'm no longer eating myself into type 2 diabetes and hypertension, as I clearly was. I'm certain that my fatty liver has been reversed.

I've learned to love all kinds of foods that I hated before: brussels spouts, broccoli, cauliflower, uber-dark chocolate, and more. I really like vegetables, whereas I used to merely tolerate them. Fruits seem intensely sweet to me now.

Last but definitely not least, my relationship with food is much, much healthier. I love to eat, and I'm perfectly capable of consuming vast quantities of food. (When I do, I don't feel painfully bloated and sluggish but merely full.) However, I'm also capable of not eating for 24 or 36 hours. Most importantly, I never feel anything like the always-unsatisfying compulsion for sweets that used to dominate me whenever sweets were within reach.

Overall, I'm darn pleased. Hooray me!

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Some Notes on Maine

By Diana Hsieh

Paul and I spent four delightful days hiking in Acadia in Maine before traveling down to Boston for OCON yesterday. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Bar Harbor, and we hiked various sections of Mount Desert Island. It was our second trip to Acadia; we returned because we enjoyed the hiking so very much last time. The trip did not disappoint: we exhausted ourselves with hours of vigorous hiking each day, then restored ourselves with excellent seafood in the evenings. For example, here we are, as happy as clams, on the top of a hill:


(Click on the picture for a larger version.)

For three of our four days, we hiked on semi-difficult trails -- meaning lots of streams, mud and muck, rocks of all shapes and sizes, exposed tree roots, and some good climbs. Our hikes lasted from four to six hours each day. After the past few months of dissertation work, it was a genuine luxury to be able to physically exhaust myself in that way.

I wore my Vibram Five Fingers on all of these major hikes. Vibram Five Fingers are barefoot "shoes": they protect the feet from cuts and abrasions, while allowing the person the kind and range of motion of bare feet. Here is a picture of me in my Vibram Five Fingers in May:


(Again, click on the picture for a larger version.)

Shortly after my mother took this picture, I ran a very comfortable mile and a half in them on a rocky desert trail. (When running in them, you don't pound-pound-pound like with normal running shoes, and so they're actually easier on your joints. You must be more agile -- and more sensitive to your terrain -- in them.)

I bought my Vibrams last fall: I began hiking and running barefoot in them in a desperate attempt to alleviate serious pain in the balls of my feet due to Morton's neuroma and capsulitis. I'd already tried standard medical treatment -- meaning custom orthotics, steroid shots, heat and ice, and rest. Nothing worked: I couldn't run a half mile without suffering two weeks of crippling foot pain. So last fall, I tried going barefoot, thanks to some posts from Richard of Free the Animal. That solved the problem very quickly -- and finally made clear its cause. Like him, I found the process of learning to walk barefoot quite fascinating! (Maybe I'll post more on that someday.)

I've done quite a bit of running and hiking in my Vibrams, albeit always in dry rather than wet terrain. Acadia was very, very wet. So I was a bit worried about them. However, they passed every test. I had excellent control and perfect grip on slick rocks. My feet didn't get tired, sore, or swollen like they do with hiking boots. I enjoyed the greater control and care required to pick my way through the obstacles on the trail, but they didn't slow me down. Apart from a few spots on my feet rubbed a bit raw -- not surprising given that I hiked over 15 hours in these "shoes" over four days -- they were very comfortable. I expect that I'll use them even more frequently now.

Also, I fasted while hiking. In ages past, I would have been obliged to routinely refuel myself with carbs to prevent myself from collapsing during these kinds of hikes. Now, because my body runs on fat, I was able to eat a smallish breakfast of eggs and fruit, hike for five hours without any food, entirely skip dinner, eat another smallish breakfast of eggs and fruit, then hike for another few hours before eating a snack of nuts, then eat a hearty dinner.

One final tidbit from Maine: I bought some local raw cow's milk at the "alternative" grocery store just a block away from our bed and breakfast. It was excellent -- and what a delight to buy it at a store! The grocery also had some raw goat milk yogurt, but I didn't have time to try that, as I would have liked. However, I did try the pasteurized plain sheep milk yogurt, and that was stellar. It had an extra tang to it, and I definitely liked that. I might try to find a source of sheep's milk in Colorado.

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