Monday, December 14, 2009

Bus Stops and Poetry

I was on a bus coming from D.C. on my way back to Texas which is a god-awful trip to take on a bus. Its amazing how a hundred miles can feel like a thousand on one of those things. Several dozen travel weary people angry that they couldn't afford a plane ticket do not make good company. But around Knoxville, the company changed and I found the seat next to me occupied by a dark haired girl with long bangs, a blue jean jacket and a bright smile.

I'm not very outgoing in situations like that. I normally have a long book to read and I ignore everyone. But this one was not going to be ignored. The questions started with "Whatcha reading?" and "What's it about?" and "So you like Stephen King?" and continued until I closed the book and looked at her.

"Your not going to let me read, are you?"

Her dark eyes sparkled beneath those silken bangs. "Nope," she said.

I put the book in my bag and she launched into conversations that ranged from alien abduction to some pretty deep philosophy to favorite movies and music and back again.

Amazing how the right company can make a thousand miles seem like a hundred.

Early in the morning, the conversation waned and she snuggled against my arm, a little into my shoulder.

"Don't take this personally but I'm going to sleep on you," she said and dozed off.

Her hair smelled nice.

Hours later we pulled into the station where we would part ways. She was heading north, to Chicago I think. I was heading south. Her bus left in a hour, mine a little after that.

We pooled our money and bought a world class breakfast of cheap coffee, two bags of chips and a big candy bar. We spread it out on napkins and feasted, finishing one or two of the conversations from the night before. All done, we took turns watching each others stuff while we cleaned up in the bathrooms.

Suddenly, it was getting close to time and suddenly she seemed nervous.

"I want to ask for a phone number," she said finally. "but that's just leading to something that wouldn't work out,"

I shrugged and almost protested. But she just kinda smiled and shook her head. I realized then that there was more to her story than she was telling me.

"Let's just save this for a good memory and leave it at that," she said.

I nodded and looked to the ground, still fighting the urge to argue. But complication lurked like a demon in the shadows of too many miles.

She brightened and gave a little hop towards me. "But I want a hug," she said and spread her arms almost sheepishly.

I opened my arms and she stepped into me and squeezed tight.

And then the music started. Over the speaker system of the bus terminal. Eta James hit that note and she melted in my arms.

"Oh my God," she whispered against my cheek. "I love this song."

She didn't let me go. Not that I wanted her to. The music washed over us and we began to move. Just a little. It wasn't so much dancing as an excuse to hold each other tight. But her hand found mine and I pulled her in at the small of her back and it was nice. Natural. Comfortable.

Her temple was against my unshaven chin and she nuzzled against it.

"I didn't shave," I began but she shook her head.

"It's ok," she said. "I like it."

It's not a long song but it kept the rhythm of an eternal moment. Her hair still smelled like flowers and fresh rain. Her body fit so perfectly against mine, moved so perfectly against mine. Then she pulled back just a little and we were so close to a kiss it was painful.

"So if I let you kiss me" she said "will you love me forever?"

"I'll kiss you forever," I said. "But love..."

She nodded. "I know."

She held me tighter, tucking her head under my chin and we were lost to the song again for another eternal moment until it was slowly over, that last note like the first, haunting and perfect.

And as if on cue, they called her bus.

She held on a bit longer and then stepped away, hand lingering lightly on my chest as she turned without looking up. Then she grabbed her bag and was gone.

I stood there. Wondering what it was like in Chicago. Wondering what the rest of her story was.

And then, as if on cue, they called my bus.

I nodded and got my bag and turned.

A man was standing there. Thread bare suit, cheap fedora, six-string slung across his back.

"Poetry," he said with a smile and glistening eyes. He shook his head and walked away. "Just pure poetry."


I guess it was.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Final Pictures of the Finished Wheel

I have to say I'm extremely satisfied with how she finished out. It sits comfortably and spins extremely well. I had a chance to throw the first pot after she was delivered to her new home and I honestly could have thrown all night. I'm very, very happy with the design and can't wait to build the next one.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Almost Done . . .

I still have a couple of more hours of work on details and the wheel head but she's functional and spins forever off three kicks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Week Three

I must apologize for my lack of updates but work blew up on me and that, along with some extracurricular projects, kept me running for the past week. I've stuck to the program though with relative ease and I'm still happy with the results.

It's not hard to live this way either but I've noticed that choices have to made consciously and sometimes it takes more planning than I'm sure some would care for.

But I have to say that I am learning to not hate cooking. It's still not something I look forward to but I have enough meals on my menu that I can cook with confidence and improvise when I need to.

Shopping is an interesting experience as well. The hunt for good ingredients can be fun if you let it. It appears to be communal in nature, a time honored tradition of those in the know.

Interesting incident: I was digging through the jalapenos at the local big box and when I three little ladies suddenly surrounded me and began digging through the jalapenos almost as if I wasn't there. But one of them grabbed the peppers in my hand and before I could protest she replaced them with three more she had selected. She held my original peppers up to my face and squeezed it between her thumb and forefinger, explaining something in rapid-fire Spanish.

Unfortunately, I don't speak Spanish and that's unfortunate since she was obviously explaining how to select good peppers. And the peppers she selected were sweet, flavorful and hot. So I need to know what she said or I need someone to tell me how to select good peppers.

Food and food preparation has become somewhat of an adventure. I would point out that humans once spent the majority of their time concerned about where their next meal would come from. Today, if we spend more than an hour on prep and cooking we think we're wasting time. I have endeavored to slow down while I eat and have succeeded somewhat but I think I may slow down even more and enjoy the gathering, the prepping and the cooking as well as the consumption.

I haven't checked the blood pressure this week but I can tell that my mindset continues to improve. My priorities are shifting a bit and I think I'll let them shift and see how things go.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Day Fourteen

Messed up today.

Had a gathering and the marshmallow covered brownies were the temptation and I succumbed. It was the sugar rush from hell though and every time I slip and then have to sit and suffer I tend to slip less and less.

The quantity of food seems to be dropping more and more.

This is the end of week two and the weigh-in results are another five pounds. Blood pressure is 138/108 on average which is still better but not good enough.

The workout plan should kick in tomorrow but no promises. I'm still on the fence as far what to do. Leaning toward push-ups but there is still the matter of when.

I'm leaning toward push-ups since they are the best overall workout for the time invested. But there still is the issue of finding time.

Here is an interesting site that talks about push-ups and their benefits.

Day Thirteen

I've had a acrid taste in my mouth for a couple of days and wondered what it could be since the diet has been pretty consistent with the occasional deviation (The occasional diet soda is still a challenge to be overcome). It has been suggested that the acrid taste may be heavy metals purging from my system which triggered a memory of a week long fast from several years ago. Self-induced, of course. Along around day four, I remember that acrid taste. So the system is purging.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Day Twelve

I need to do the research on vitamins and their pro's and con's. The most common con seems to be that they go right through you. But then why do I feel better when I take them?

Could be psychosomatic. Or some of the minerals in the common multivitamin may have beneficial effects.

The consensus on the internet appears to be that you should get your vitamins from good food and not a pill. But no diet is perfect. So why not supplement?

This needs a more in depth research but I'm buried in projects right now.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

First Pics of the Kickwheel

Here is proof of progress on the new kickwheel:

Definitely a lot of work left to do by most of the cutting and pegging are done. Time to get the flywheel built which is a bit of a project all by itself.

Day Eleven

I had forgotten about omelets. The low carb crowd use them as the go-to meal in a pinch and with my schedule getting crazy as of late, I turned to them quite a bit myself. Fast, easy and a good solid protein.

I discovered a fruit cup at a restaurant downtown and it was a nice change. Cheap too.

Day Ten

I'm building another kickwheel and took today off to work on it. For lunch I got a salad from one of the sandwich shop chains. The dressing was too sweet though. I ate around it but it's amazing how cutting the sugar affects you sense of taste.

The wheel looks good. I'll post pictures when it gets a bit closer to done.

Had a diet soft drink today, mid afternoon. It was mostly a caffine craving, I think but I was still kicking myself over it.

But it was just one. Ok, maybe two.

It was a long, hard day and I was dragging a bit.

Day Nine

I told myself I'd have two weeks of stairs and then I would worry about working out but I can already see that time will be issue. As in my schedule is very full and finding 30 minutes to an hour to squeeze into a meaningful workout may be a challenge.

Monday night is one of my pottery nights at the studio so I'm stuck out. I brought trail mix from work though and will snack through it although I may have to consider packing a lunch and a dinner on nights such as this.

Day Eight

Well there goes my last guilty pleasure food-wise.

I've cut back on diet soft drinks as much as I've cut back on coffee but after several recent articles like the one linked above, I can't justify any soft drinks whatsoever. I even found an article that stated that the carbonation can lead to calcium depletion.

So soft drinks are out.

But anyway, Sunday is soup day. Four cans of low-sodium chicken broth, a bit of water, 2 cans of chicken and an assortment of onions, carrots and celery, spice according to your mood. Let it simmer for around thirty minutes and then cook up a 1/2 cup of rice and add it to the soup.

It makes enough to feed us on Sunday with enough left over that I can take it for lunch for a couple of days.

Still enthusiastic about this venture. But it's only a week in.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Day Seven: Weigh In

I didn't post any numbers at the start of all this since I decided to go with pounds lost as opposed to a target weight. I do have target numbers for my blood pressure which started out high. I check it using the automated machines in the pharmacy at the local big boxes. I usually just take the average since I'm in there more than a few times a week.

My blood pressure was averaging in the low end of the high range according to the little chart on the machine. On Day Seven, I'm in the upper end of normal. I'll check it again throughout the week but I think the stairs are to blame for that improvement.

I've lost 9 pounds this first week. I think I mentioned that I'm not losing as fast as I have before which could be due to age or the fact that I have not gone hardcore paleo. But I happy with this progress and I still say I'll stay the course.

The jeans are a bit loose and I've noticed a increase in energy throughout the day. My mental state seems a bit clearer as well almost as if a fog is lifting off my brain. All good signs as far as I'm concerned.

The challenges for the coming week are to incorporate a more intensive workout routine into the day. I may have to play that one by ear since I have a lot of extra projects going on right now.

So what about holidays?

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday for a lots of reasons but it is loaded with temptations.

And what should I do about the loads of candy and other goodness that the Kid will bring in not to mention the candy that I'll buy to hand out to trick-or-treaters? Or for that matter what about all the other random holidays throughout the year?

I think I'll just enjoy the holidays and then return to the schedule the next day. That should be the strength of this program, the routine and the simplicity.

Having lived through through the holiday, I can say that I did not partake as much as I thought I would. I had a few pieces of candy and found them too sweet. I made a pumpkin pie with a popular sugar substitute and found it lacking. The next day I had a bit of a sugar hangover and the carb cravings returned but I stuck my normal eating patterns, even upped the protein to compensate for the cravings and lived through it easily.

The next holiday is Thanksgiving and I should be fine. Most of the food is not far off the diet anyway and I'll work on a pumpkin pie recipe that doesn't use the sugar substitutes. Maybe honey or I just may use sugar and deal with the hangover. The recipe only called for 3/4 cup for the entire recipe.

I think the key is returning to your established eating patterns as soon as you can but otherwise enjoy the holiday but be aware of how the foods you're eating will make you feel.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day Six

Dinner today was broiled chicken with creamed spinach and potatoes.

This has to be the best way to fix chicken hands down. I covered the chicken breasts with olive oil, a little bit of kosher salt and a good bit of pepper and then put them on the middle rack of the oven.

You have to have a thermometer for this one to poke into the largest chicken breast. Start checking at around 20 minutes and pull when they get to 170 degrees. Carry-over will take them to 180 degrees which is the recommended target temperature for chicken.

Tender and juicy, not to sound like a commercial or anything.

I used dairy for the creamed spinach and I'll not apologize because it was good. I sweated green onions in olive oil and then added two cans of drained spinach. I heated up about three quarters cup of condensed milk in the microwave and added it to the spinach and let it simmer, stirring a lot to keep it from burning. There was a bit of mozarella cheese in the fridge and I add just a heavy pinch. Very nice. Fresh spinach would have been better but the canned stuff worked just fine.

Tomorrow is Halloween and so we get to discuss what to do about holidays. It's also Day Seven so I'll weigh in and see what I've lost. I know I've lost something due to the fact that my jeans are a bit loose at the hips. Practically had to hold them up while I was doing the stairs today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day Five

Today's observations include a further reduction in cravings and an increase in energy levels. I'm taking two steps at a time on the stairs and it's still kicking my butt but in a good way. When I do two steps, it's harder on the legs and I can feel it pull in the abs as well.

I've also naturally reduced my coffee intake. By naturally I mean that I didn't have to think about it. Suddenly I was down to two cups and that just seemed to be enough. That's down from at least five spread across the course of a morning.

I got stuck out and went with a grilled chicken wrap from a fast foot joint for dinner. Had a meeting to go to and there were refeshments and none of it was on the diet. To be honest, I nibbled on a pretzel stick and had a cheese puff but that was it. Neither tasted very good. Too salty.

I'm not losing weight as fast as I did when I went hardcore paleo but I'm past Day Five and I am losing weight so I'll stay the course.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day Four

One of the more serious challenges I've faced is getting stuck out and having to try and decide what to eat that doesn't completely kill the diet. Wraps of various sorts from various sources should be ok and more than a few of the fast food joints have low-carb options but I'm wary of those. The best thing to do is swing through the grocery store and grab a snack of fruit or a package of tuna that will hold you off until you get home. The very best thing to do is not get caught out without trail mix or fruit.

I'm still looking for something sweet in the morning to go with the coffee. It needs to be fruit but that can get boring. At one time I would chop up a banana, drizzle honey over it and sprinkle it with chopped nuts. I may have to go back to that as an occasional treat.

So what about honey?

It's nature's own sweetener and it has it's advantages. The Paleos like it in moderation and I would have t agree. As long as I don't coat everything in honey, it should be great for the occasional treat or ingredient for cooking. But it's a bit cost prohibitive as well due to the recent plight of the honey bees.

Here is an interesting site that offers a comparison between honey and sugar.

And speaking of honey, tonights dinner is Jalopeno Honey Soy Chicken.

This is another quick one. Dice around three green onions, two stalks of celery, one jalopeno (seeds or not). Bell peppers are a nice addition to this is well. Sweat the vegetables and mix a 1/2 cup of honey with 1/4 cup of soy sauce. If you happen to have some sesame oil, add just a touch. Pour the honey soy mix over the sweating vegetables and bring to a simmer. Add about two teaspoons of corn starch to the mix if you want it to thicken up a bit. Let it cook for about fifteen minutes.

Add two cans of chicken, drained and mix well. Turn off heat and let sit for five minutes. That will heat up the chicken.

Serve over brown rice.

Another great addition is fresh broccoli. Cut it up small and add it at end of the simmering and let it go about two minutes longer. The broccoli will turn a dark green and you should test for tenderness. Then add the chicken.

Very satisfying meal.

The soy sauce is heavily processed and full of salt but it's only a quarter cup. Should be fine.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day Three

Today was much easier as far as the cravings. They're still there but the edge of desperation is gone. Also I skipped lunch due to a busy day at work and survived fine by leaning heavy on the trail mix.

Dinner was baked fish again with corn and potatoes.

Which, speaking of, the corn has to go. It's hard to describe but I can tell it's hurting more than helping. I'm sure a nutritionist can tell you why and I'm sure it has something to due with the sugar content (they do make corn syrup out of corn) but all I know is that I'm craving it and its not the good kind of craving. I crave it like I crave bread pudding or a candy bar.

So it's out.

Another interesting point is that I got to top of seven flights of stairs and didn't have to lie on the floor of the garage to catch my breath and get my vision to clear. I just had to stand there and hold on to the nearest car and catch my breath and allow my vision to clear.

I did not realize I was this out of shape. I used to be a runner and enjoyed it. But this is pathetic.

I'll stick to the plan. Two weeks of stairs and then I may start running again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day Two

My legs are a bit sore.

Think I forgot to mention that to integrate exercise into this program, I decided to use the stairs at the office and in the parking garage for the first two weeks. That means five flights of stairs in the morning and seven at night. It's a bit of a beating at the moment but it will get easier and contribute to the goals. Later on I'm going to revisit the workout routine and add muscle training and more vigorous cardio but for now the stairs will do.

And here come the cravings.

About half way through the day, I wanted a cookie, a candy bar, a glass of sweet tea, something, ANYTHING that had some sugar in it. This would be the carb cravings and they cannot be be taken lightly. I quit smoking several times over the years before I fully converted into one of those obnoxious ex-smokers who has insulted so many smokers that I could never be seen with a cigarette again. So I know about giving up addictive substances and can tell you that carbs, especially sugar and corn syrup, are addictive substances.

The thing about addiction is that, if your trying to quit and you lose focus, sometimes you'll look up and what every it is your trying to quit will be in your hand. I remember just such a thing while quitting smoking. I got in the car, went to the store, bought the cigarettes and had the first cigarette almost to my mouth before I stopped and realized I hadn't had a cigarette in two days. Carbs work the same way. If you lose focus or your not prepared, the temptation may be too much.

I was prepared. I had my trail mix and jerky and a salad for lunch from a great little sandwich shop downtown but come 3pm, I was fighting the urge to head down to the candy machine. Solution? Eat more trail mix and go get some unsweet ice tea. I know from experience that fruit of any kind helps as well.

It gets rough but preparation and focus are the keys to these first few days.

For dinner I went with speedy jalapeno chicken salad. Its a good fall back dish when time or energy is short. I get the 12oz cans of cooked chicken, chop up three green onions, one stalk of celery, one jalapeno (easy on the seeds), add two tablespoons of lite ranch dressing and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now after the fact and for the first time I thought to look at the ingredients of ranch dressing. Low and behold, second ingredent on the list: Sugar.

But I found several recipes online for sugar free ranch dressing so that's easily resolved. But it does hightlight the ninja-like qualities of sugar and corn syrup.

Also I normally use tortillas to make a sort of burrito or taco with the salad as filler.
Today however, I chose not to feed the carb demon and just eat the salad straight. That may change further on under the auspices of strategic impurity.

A Great Find...

The Kid was looking for books on samurai so we went to the local library and I stumbled across Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve in the young adult section. The cover had a great illustration of airships and a steampunk looking city which answered to my burgeoning steampunk fetish. So I checked it out along with the Kid's samurai books and read it at bedtime over the course of a week and, I must say, it's a damn good read. Not as steampunky as the cover would suggest and a bit dark for young adult but I stayed up a bit too late many a night because I couldn't put it down and that's a huge compliment coming from me.

I'm a bit hard on books for many reasons. I'll give a book one chapter and if the writer can't get my attention then I'm done. I don't buy the whole "the second half is better than the first" arguement. The writer should have started with the second half if that was the case.

This book is not very long and if I had to say anything bad, it would be that I wanted some scenes to go a bit longer. That's also odd for me since my main complaint with most books is the writer's excessive use of words. But this was written with a quick, almost break-neck pace and finished almost too quickly. I can easily forgive that though since there are three more books in the series and I'm on the hunt to find them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day One

For all my hype and posturing, Day One really doesn't amount to much. It's too early in the game for one's body to realize that stuff is missing and instigate all manner of cravings. But it is the first day of the routine and that bears mentioning.

The morning starts with three boiled eggs and maybe a bannana or other fruit. And coffee, of course.

This may sound austere but in actuality it's a time saver and a great boost of protein to start the day. It's also substantial enough to last until lunch at least with a moderate bit of snacking.

As far as snacking, I keep a mix of almonds, sunflower seed, walnuts and raisins at work to nibble on during the day. If I can find beef jerky that's not loaded with chemicals and sugar, I'll keep it around as well.

This along with water or tea can sustain me through the day until dinner. Or I can opt for lunch, usually a salad or left-overs from last night's dinner.

Dinner will usually be something simple and quick. I commute an hour each way, Monday through Friday with a couple of nights a week and all day Saturday devoted to pottery lessons or just pottery. This along with house cleaning, laundry, lawn mowing and general chores does not leave a lot of time to cook. Not to mention, I hate it. Cooking that is. I grew up in my uncle's restaurants and learned how but I never learned to enjoy it. I'll work on that, mind you but I'm afraid I have to start here with loving good food but hating to cook it.

So, with my dislike of cooking and a general lack of time, I've been experimenting as of late with ways to cook good, balanced meals in thirty minutes or less with a minimum of effort.

For instance, Day One's dinner was baked fish, spinach and potatoes.

Baked fish is simple and under appreciated. I drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and lay out two or three pieces of tilapia (a cheap, easy to cook fish), drizzle a little more oil over the fish and then salt and pepper. Or if you want a bit spice, get some Zataran's Blackening Seasoning and sprinkle lightly. Good stuff with just the right amount of kick.

Bake the fish in a 375 degree oven for around 10 minuntes, checking at the 8 minute mark for flakiness. If you twist a fork in the fish and it comes apart easily, it's done.

While the fish is cooking, I sweated minced garlic, diced green onions in a frying pan and with some olive oil then added a can of drained spinach. I let it sizzle for a few minutes and then took it off the heat. Salted to taste but salt is usually added to canned goods so I taste before I salt.

I cook with jalapenoes a lot and one would have been good in the spinach. Keep the seeds out to manage the heat.

The potatoes will be baked or if I'm really in a hurry, instant mashed. Add some of the Zataran's if you used it on the fish.

I'm really on the fence as far as potatoes and corn. For now they are allowed but I may have to revisit the issue if I don't get the results I'm looking for.

So start to finish, including dicing onions and mincing garlic, is around 15 minutes. Not bad. Very tasty and very satisfying. Not to mention very cost effective. The fish was around three dollars, the spinach was a dollar and the potatoes came from a box of instant that was around two dollars. A bunch of green onions cost a dollar. I used three out of the bunch. Garlic cost around a buck for two heads and I used 4 cloves. The olive oil can be expensive initially but it lasts a while depending on how you cook. I maybe used four tablespoons in the whole meal.

So it averages out to maybe around four or five dollars to feed three people. That's good considering that this lifestyle has to be done on a budget.

And that's the end of Day One. There are challenges to come but I fell into the rythym of the lifestyle with relative ease.

But it's only Day One.

On to Day Two.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Plan

The dietary lifestyle I intend to persue is based on the paleolithic diet but greatly simplified and designed to function within a modest budget. I will cut out three things: sugar, wheat products and dairy. This gets pretty close to the paleolithic ideal but it is off by a degree or two. But the paleolithic diet is notoriously hard to follow and very expensive. I'll not get into details here since a quick google search will turn up a wealth of info on the diet, both pro and con. But I can tell you that I went paleo hardcore for about six months and I have to say, I felt wonderful. I was broke all the time and I lived in the grocery store but I think it's the healthiest I've ever been.

So I'm not sure it's fully a sustainable dietary lifestyle. It works but the restrictions are intense and there is no wiggle room. But its hard to argue with the positive benefits and so I'm determined to find a sustainable alternative.

After some research I determined that the wheat, sugar and dairy appear to be the main culprets that lead to weight gain and insulin issues. A quick parusal of a diebetics recommended foods list will confirm this. So what if we cut just these three things and see what happens.? I mean, seriously, if you just cut out bread, the average person will lose weight. And we've explored the evils of sugar. And, I'm sorry, but milk is for baby cows.

This seems like a no brainer.

But is it sustainable? Part of the problem with the paleo diet is that it cuts out all grains, legumes and salt. Basically, as you walk through your grocery store, if you can pick it up and eat it raw or you could have killed it in the wild, it's ok to eat. But try it sometime. It's amazing how quickly your options get ruduced to apples and beef jerky.

So we'll have to see if simplifying the equation works with a nod to the concept of strategic impurity. The challenges are numerous but a good part of this experiment is designed to air out the problems and work through them. One day at a time.

So let's move on into Day One and see what happens...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Coffee tastes

Part of this adventure is tracking down all the bad stuff in the foods I normally enjoy.

Take, for instance, coffee.

It's in the news this week, by the way, but that didn't prompt my examination of my favorite morning beverage. On a whim I picked up the non-dairy creamer I normally put in the coffee and, low and behold, non-dairy creamer is made out of corn syrup solids.

Corn syrup. Kissing cousin to surgar. I already use a sugar substitute thinking I was doing good, avoiding all that sugar and all this time it was sneaking in the back door through a heavily processed corn field.

So no more non-dairy creamer. And while I'm at it, I might as well give up the sugar substitute. I've become suspicious of any thing that's a substitute for anything else.

So no cream and no sugar, substitute or sneaky-type, leaves an interesting question: Do I like coffee enough to drink it black?

Yeah, I think I do.

Well made coffee is sweet and rich and down right tasty. Notice I said, "well made coffee". And, therein lies the challenge.

Here is where I learned how to make coffee. Watch learn from the one of the masters of true cooking.

My new found love for black coffee reminded me of the last time I truly gave up sugar. Food suddenly tastes, well, like food. How many flavors in our daily diets are disguised by our voluntary or involuntary addition of the white stuff or its sneaky cousin?

A lot if not all. I'm not touting some conspiracy theory when I say that your friend, Corporate American, shoves sugar into anything that's going to be consumed. It's just economics. Sugar is cheap and addictive and, therefore makes the perfect filler.

But then again, maybe we should just shut up and trust our good friend, Corporate America. Surely they wouldn't feed us anything that wasn't good for us.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Communists and Eating Fast

Day One is getting closer and as I work on what I eat, it occured to me that I may need to look at how I eat as well.

I eat fast, in part because I always have. The other part comes from a brief stint in the military where as a part of basic training, soldiers are taught how to inhale food. It's a practical lesson based on the idea that in battlefield conditions you may have only a few minutes to throw down some sort of sustenence before the battle resumes.

Now the way they teach this possibly valuable skill is by a lot of screaming and rigorous instruction. Meal time in basic training was perhaps the most stressful part of the day. Line up, scream your number, get your food, chew, chew and get out. Drill Sergeants prowl like tiger sharks shouting encouragement and instructions.

"Take the french toast, apply the eggs and saugsage, fold like a taco. Two bites, two chews. Drink your syrup from the little plastic cup and you are done. Did you hear me! I said you are done!"

Ah, good times.

I never really had a problem with the situation because I ate fast before I got there and with the Drill Sergeant's kind instruction I only got faster. But, no one gets a free ride. The Drill's will get you sooner or later and no matter how fast your eating, it's not fast enough.

"Why is there still food on your plate?"

I assumed that was a rhetorical question since my mouth was full to the point that I had a corner of french toast sticking out of one side of my mouth and a sausage link dangling from the other.

"Why are you chewing?" he screamed. "Do you not understand the purpose of this excercise? Do you not realize how important it is to get food in your gut before the battle begins? 'An army travels on it's stomach' Who said that?"


"Why are you talking and not chewing? Why are you not getting this? You are letting your buddies down! You are letting me down! Your are letting your country down! What if your mother was sitting next to you and commies were just over the hill ready to attack? And here you are eating! Eating! Do you know what commies will do to your mother?"

He was leaning over now with that wide brim of that brown hat pressed right against my forehead, his voice suddenly low and accusatory.

"Son," he said. "Why do you hate your mother?"

Well, heaven help me, I stopped chewing as I tried to mentally flowchart how I got in trouble for chewing and ended up hating my mother.

Which, of course, initialized another tirade that ended with me outside doing push-ups in the sand under the hot Georgia sun.

So, to this day, I eat fast.

Here is an older article that describes some of the issues that eating fast might raise and since most of those issues are counter productive to my goals, I will endeavor to eat slower.

But I won't pretend that it will be easy. I realize the commies are not the threat they once were but even after all these years I cans still hear the Drill Sergeant screaming that the commies will get my mother if I chew too much.

Interesting, the effect people can have on your life.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Immortality and the Art of Strategic Impurity

Legends say the the ancient Taoist masters discovered the secrets of physical immortality.

Now, interestingly enough, immortality is achieved through ultra-clean living. You sit on a mountaintop, eliminate meat, grains and alcohol from your diet, don't have sex, meditate for 18 hours a day and there you go. You're immortal.

I'm assuming the dichotomy is obvious. To become immortal, you give up living. The Taoist masters will say that you only truly live when you become one with the Tao and forsake the world but they were also a pack of realists, these masters, and they acknowledged the fact that we can't all sit on the mountain top and eat bean sprouts and contemplate the navel lint of the universe. Some of us have to work and live in cities and breed or else the cycle would not cycle and the universe would not be the universe.

Hence, the concept of strategic impurity.

It goes like this: Living in a modern society, we can not avoid all the bad stuff. But we can be strategic about what we let in. We can pay attention to what goes in and acknowledge what it may do to us.

I gave up sugar once and I'm here to tell you that quitting smoking was easier. Take a walk through the grocery store and read each label of the foods you normally buy. I guarantee that at least 95% will have sugar or corn syrup as an ingredient. So to say you will give up sugar means that you may possible need to replace 95% of what you normally eat with something else.

And as I said, I gave up sugar. Once.

Giving up nicotine means a few days of irritability, stress and nervousness. Giving up sugar can mean laying in the floor in a fetal position begging for a cookie.

Ok, I didn't lay on the floor but I wanted to. It was sheer hell. And the aftermath wasn't much better. If I got caught out and stopped at a convenience store for a quick snack, I was doomed. Your friend, Corporate America, knows the addictive powers of sugar and freely packs it into anything they produce. So if you want to avoid it completly, don't stray far from the produce section of your favorite mega-mart.

Don't get me wrong. You can live sugar free but it takes optimum planning and a good bit of cash and some, with way more time and money than me, could do it successfully. Hell, I lasted a good six months before the stress of every day living and time constraints led to the purchase of a candy bar and a soft drink.

The concept of strategic impurity is simple. You can't live a modern life and avoid all the bad stuff. But as long as you are consciouse of what you consume then chances are it's ok. Just be conscious of it. Avoid the impulse for the sake of impulse and pay attention to the effect certain foods have on your body.

Be responsible for your choices.

Dan Millman made several good points about many of these concepts in Way of the Peaceful Warror. I highly recommend it. It makes a beautiful point about halfway through the book on conscious choice and being responsible for your decisions.

Oh, and for the "corn syrup isn't bad" crowd: If it has the same effect and dietary results as sugar, then it's sugar. Sorry, logic wins.

Convert your corn to biofuel and be happy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Difference Between a Diet and a Dietary Lifestyles

I'm not really looking for a diet. I've experienced most of the fads and a few of the fashions but they all lack sustainability or they fall short on results. What I'm looking for is a dietary lifestyle, as in a way of living that fits with the modern environment and within a certain budget.

Diets don't work unless you adjust your life to meet the restrictions of the diet and that's more than most can stand for too long. But, for the sake of argument, let's run down the most popular diets and illustrate some weaknesses and be honest about their strengths and see if they might apply to the experiment

Any diet that sells pre-packaged food is out. The food is too expensive and usually is bland and tasteless. The epitome of the diet as opposed to the dietary lifestyle.

Any diet that involves a lot of numbers and points and counting is out. I don't want to have to count to live. I am an artist. That side of my brain does not work very well. I would starve to death. It works for some people, I must admit but I don't think its sustainable.

Any diet that uses pills is out. Way out. As in don't do it, don't think about, don't consider it even for a second in your weakest moment while standing in front of a full length mirror, blubber a-jiggling. Weight loss drugs are not well tested and do not work.

Any diet that requires an inordinate amount of time be spent in a health food store is out. Way to expensive and too experimental. I want food. Good food. And fried beetle shit from the backside of the planet that some hippie says is going to cure all my ills is not food. The trends come and go too quickly to be of any relavence. One week it's wheat germ, next acai berries, then herbal enemas and then come to find out that none of its working because your colon isn't clean enough. The snake oil salesmen of the old west live and breath in the modern health food store.

Now some diets do work but they to have some faults. Any of the varieties of low-carb could be an option but few follow the program into the maintenance phase after the initial weight loss. I doubt many even finished the books and realize that you return to a normal diet after you hit your target weight, slowly adding in carbs until you discover your level of tolerance. Most get so excited about the initial weight loss that they stay on meat and cheese way longer than any of the programs recommend. Then they burn out and quit.

I'll tell you now, this experiment involves a low carb element but we'll get into details later.

And there are of course, established dietary lifestyles that bear mentioning. I lived as a vegatarian for about three years and I must say that I miss it a bit sometimes. It was clean living and philosophically sound but I personally had hell finding enough protein in plant form for my nutritional needs especially with a mild allergy to anything soy. And I can't even imagine living as a vegan and truly respect anyone who can and does.
The list goes on and on of course and can never be exhaustive since a new fad is born every day. So let's get away from fads and trends and infomercials that promise the impossible for $19.95 and get back to eating what our bodies need and avoiding what our bodies don't.
It really just might be as simple as that...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A new beginning . . .

My quest for a reasonable dietary lifestyle that will deliver health and energy with minimal expense and that can stand the burdens and temptations of everyday life has lead me to this moment in time. Here I will commit and begin a chronicle of an experiment that puts everything I've observed and learned through many years and countless variations of diets and lifestyles into play. My hope is that if I record the means and methods as I go, I can pin down what works and what doesn't and solve the riddle of health and sustenance in a modern environment.
Modern life is not conducive to modern health. Fast food, processed food, toxins both deliberate and unintentional saturate the average lifestyle and the health of the average American is all the proof one needs that a change is necessary.
But change to what? The options are endless but what works and what doesn't? Who's right and who's milking the common fat phobia to get an extra buck?
Well, the short answer is every diet may be right for someone out there but most will be wrong and few will have a lasting effect. Personally, I believe that each person should get the facts and adjust their lifestyles to suit their goals and standards of health.
That being said, what are my standards of health? Simply put, I want to feel good. I want energy and I want to eliminate nagging health conditions that may be due to or encouraged by certain foods. So my experiment begins with discovering foods that deliver energy and well-being and eliminating everything else. But I will not starve and I will enjoy food.
The logic is simple. We are born to this planet and we should be able to thrive on the sustenance within the life-cycle. Our food shouldn't be killing us. And living well shouldn't be outside of the average income. There has to be a way to live and thrive within the environment that we evolutionarily grew up in.
I think I'm close to a solution. I think I've spotted the common elements that contribute to weight gain, bad health and chronic conditions and now its time to use myself as the guinea pig and put it all into practice.
Keep in mind that I am not trying to lose weight but, having dabbled with this lifestyle before, I can tell you that it is a definite side effect. And the lifestyle is simple. I cut out or drastically reduce three things that, in my experience, appear to lead to weight gain and chronic conditions. It requires a bit of planning sometimes and a bit of compromise but the effects are remarkable. I'll share the effects, the challenges and solutions in the form of a daily journal for next thirty days although I can guarantee other topics will slip in from time to time. I consider a good online rant a great way to reduce stress.
I am not a doctor or a scientist and this will be nothing more that a recording of my own experiences. If you plan any major dietary change or plan to start a new excercise regime, consult your doctor.