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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Coming Diabetes Dilemma?

If a surgeon were to operate on you, would they see visceral fat wrapping your internal organs?

For North Americans, at least one surgeon who has operated on foreign and North American soldiers in the battlefield thinks so:

His experience and frightening conclusion mirrors what was reported in this news report:

I attribute this trend to:

- eating too much sugar
- eating too much wheat
- eating too much (over sized portions)
- exercising too little
- exercise which lacks intensity
- exercising the wrong way
- addiction to Nintendo, Xbox, Wii
- addiction to the computer
- addiction to convenience
- addiction to cellphones
- addiction to social media

In a society drunk on consumerism where things don't last and are thrown away and "upgraded" when new ones appear, how are people expected to bond to things?  And if people don't bond to things, how will they bond to people?  The net effect is a culture that treats people like things which are discarded or replaced by "upgraded" labor at lower costs when no longer needed.

To reverse this:

- learn to buy and cook whole foods
- move more and eat less
- exercise more.  See my other posts on exercise for ideas
- eliminate sugar and wheat for weight loss

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”


From Evolution to Evolutionary Diet

The Paleo approach to eating is based on the idea that human DNA has evolved over time and adapted itself to a time when food was scarce.  Only in the agricultural age about 10,000 years ago was grains introduced as a staple in human diets.  Only the relatively recent industrial revolution did sugar and wheat become abundant.

To appreciate a sense of time and processes necessary for our universe, the following video might be helpful.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Move More, Eat Less?

I am convinced that we eat too much and move too little.

Unless we're living in poverty, calories are easy and cheap these days.  Going to Costco, a discount supermarket or grocery store easily yields foods loaded in refined carbohydrates, sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners and artificial coloring.  Add to that the upsizing of food portions in North America and we've got a recipe for disaster.

To make it worse, mainstream media and large agri-business food marketing focus on selling "low fat" everything so that the public is being deceived with the message that eating fat makes one fat and eating low fat will make one slim.  Take a good look at food labels and ingredient lists.  Low fat generally mean high carbs in the form of sugar.  There are only three basic nutrient groups: fat, protein and carbohydrates.  To have less of one component, the percentage of the other remaining components must go up.

I see fat, overweight people desperately loading their shopping carts with skimmed milk (thereby depriving their milk of healthy fats), low fat yogurt, magarine (instead of butter), high fiber this and that, diet pop and low fat baked goods all in vain.  They avoid red meat because they think it will make them fat. Don't they realize that if they are eating low fat everything and still not losing weight that something is wrong with the formula?  Healthy animal saturated fat will not make you fat.  Refined carbohydrates, excessive wheat (spikes blood sugar and inflammatory to cells) and sugar is what is making us fat.

If you're eating low fat everything, avoiding eggs, red meat, butter, bacon and still have problem with cholesterol being overweight, perhaps you might consider that you're following some bad advice.  I bet you're eating whole grain muffins, bagels, breads, cereals and diet pop. If your blood profile is healthy and you're happy with the way your body is performing then read no more.  Otherwise, here is some information that might interest you.

The human body seems to support a variety of diets.  The Kitavans eat a high carbohydrate diet consisting of tubers (yams, sweet poatoes, cassava) yet do not suffer from obesity.  Read more about their lifestyle here:

Taken June 1854
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the traditional Inuit diet is extremely high in animal fat and protein with low incidences of cardiovascular disease. However as civilization marches on, more and more Inuit are turning to western diets with its attendant side effects.  Learn more about the Inuit diet here:

This guy called Morgan Spurlock made a documentary called Supersize Me by eating 5,000 calories from McDonalds per day.  I don't care where you get the 5,000 calories from, but if you consume 5,000 calories a day without exercising, you're going to gain weight.  Period.  This doesn't prove anything.  Ultra long distance cyclists subsist on M&M chocolate and Power Bars for the trip.  Does that mean such food is sustainable or optimal for healthy living?   While we're at it, how about Michael Phelps a US Olympic swimmer who eats 12,000 calories a day?  Anyone wager a guess what will happen if he eats like that during the off season when he's not training?

What does all this mean?  We have to eat sensible portions of healthy foods while avoiding or minimizing sugar and wheat.  Doing that while increasing our activity level is the recipe for weight loss and a sustainable plan for living.

You have to start learning more about foods and read food labels. Let me summarize it this way:

- There are no essential foods, only essential nutrients.

- Eat healthy animal saturated fats, protein and lastly carbohydrates.  In that order.  If meat is expensive where you live, eat lots of eggs.  Organic and free range where possible.  Consuming 3 eggs for a meal won't kill you.

- if you want to lose weight, eliminate all forms of wheat and sugar for 3 months. Once you reach your target weight, you can reintroduce them back into your diet if you want to.

- Eat these oils: fish oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, olive oil.  Avoid hydrogenated oils of any sort.

- Eat red meat, white meat, all kinds of meat.  Its good for you.  Organic, free from antibiotics and growth hormones where possible.

- Eat only when hungry.  Don't eat just because society says you need to eat from this hour to this hour of the day.  Listen to your body.

- Exercise.  Be active.  Stay active.  Active doesn't mean running on a treadmill like a gerbil spinning on a wheel.  The human body was never designed to move at a steady state speed like a machine with repetitive motions in the pursuit of good form. Performing exercise like that is a recipe for repetitive stress injury.

- The body responds best exercising in a stochastic manner with peaks of intense, anaerobic periods followed by longer periods of aerobic exertion at a lower threshold.  The movements can be repetitive, but not steady state mixing up the tempo, with directional changes and frequent periods of rest in between.  It should feel like play and not work.  If it feels like work, it won't be sustainable.  Good sex is like this.

There have been many research studies which indicate that High Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE) is more effective for fat loss than Steady State Exercise (SSE).  Here is just one of many:

Note the conclusion:
"HIIE three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of SSE exercise was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, and insulin resistance in young women."

- Find an exercise which allows you to have peaks of anaerobic effort with the majority of the time exerting the body at a high aerobic threshold.  The exercise should have a variety movements which may be repeating and entertaining so that it is sustainable.  Additional points if it strengthens muscles and provides a total body workout.  It is weight resistance training (moving the body or weight against the force of gravity) that strengthens bones, muscles and provides an aerobic workout.  Some suggestions for these types of workouts are:

- cycling (for transport or for sport with stretches or sprint intervals)

- if your area is not conducive to cycling on roads or you're not comfortable cycling on the streets, try a spinning class at a gym. Spinning classes vary posture, cadence, speed and resistance.

- Power walking. I define define power walking as walking very very (as fast as some people jog) or walking your normal speed with a weighted vest or backpack filled with water or tinned food.  Walking with weights and proper posture strengthens the legs, arms, back, lungs and heart without the impact damage of jogging.

- High intensity squash or badminton.  Unfortunately unless you are a good player, you won't be exerting yourself enough with squash or badminton. High intensity squash and badminton looks like this:

- Swimming

- Boxing\kickboxing. Here's why I do it:

- active dancing, including pole dancing.  Pole dancing is actually incredibly athletic if your interest lies in that direction.

- hiking.  Wear a backpack with food, water and supplies and hike for at least an hour 3 times a week.

Being active and losing excess weight will increase your fitness and increase your testosterone making you look and feel more attractive.  Boosting testosterone will assist muscle tone and your sex drive possibility eliminating the need for Viagra.  Need I say more?

I used to weigh 170 lbs...


Bicycle Traffic in Downtown Vancouver

Most of our loyal readers already know I commute from my home to downtown Vancouver by bicycle several times a week weather permitting.  The City of Vancouver has released mapped bicycle traffic data using counters installed selected bike routes.

Daniel Mclaren has done a good job analyzing the data in his blog post so I'm going to send you over to his post for the goods:


Monday, April 4, 2011

Cycle on a Single Speed

One of my singlespeed bicycles.  A Dahon Helios converted to 66 gear inch single speed.
How do I stay active throughout the week?  As a married man and father, I try to utilize my time efficiently and not take away family time where possible.  I incorporate cycling to work as part of an active lifestyle.

I commute 40 KMs roundtrip on a singlespeed freewheel bike which formerly had an 8 speed Shimano gear cassette mounted. I converted both my Dahon folding bike and a Softride (carbon suspension beam bike) into singlespeeds.

The Dahon has 20" wheels, runs slicks and is fendered and racked. The Softride does not have fenders and runs 650c x 23 slick tires. The Dahon is geared at 66 gear inches while the Softride is at 69 gear inches. I would normally cruise around 90 rpm and between 28-32 km/h on either of these bikes. A converted SS freewheel bike tends to be simpler, lighter and marginally more efficient to ride.

In my opinion, riding a singlespeed:

- provides safer, less distracted cycling for the rider. There are no gears to change. You feel the proportionality of effort. Faster cadence, faster speed. Never have to worry if you are in the right gear. The right gear is the gear inch you have chosen which allows you to climb the highest hill on your route while maintaining a reasonable speed on the flats. You are therefore, incapable of being in the "wrong" gear. 

- provides better mechanical reliability. A better chainline which is shorter and straighter yields better reliability. On my bike, the chain could derail when the chain bounced as I crossed railroad tracks. Having a chain derail is not a a big deal as it is soon fixed but it is a hassle as either your glove or finger is going to get dirty. A shorter and perfectly straight chainline yields a pleasant sensation that is absent on a derailleur bike. Its quieter and more efficient. With a singlespeed, the front or rear derailleur never needs trimming to avoid contact sounds. The better chainline, tall cog teeth means that derailments are a thing of the past.

- is cost efficient. A converted singlespeed running a generic cog is cheap - $6 Canadian is what I pay. Contrast this to replacing a set of SRAM or Shimano or Campy cassette gears. In all fairness though, a cassette of gears I bought last year cost $40. Most of us could afford that without breaking the bank.

- You know what they say, "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." You get off the saddle and learn to feel the bike and handle the bike through various cadences. The connection with the bike feels more alive rather than merely sitting in the saddle and changing gears to spin within a narrow cadence window like a recumbent. For this reason alone, I feel a singlespeed bike whether freewheel (SS) or fixed gear (FG) provides a richer and more textured riding experience than a geared bike. One could mostly duplicate this by never changing gears on a derailleured bike, but that would be the difference between dating a girl while Facebooking for potential hook ups and commitment. 

- all other things being equal, you will climb hills faster on a singlespeed\fixed gear than on a geared bike. On a geared bike, riders tend to gear down and spin. Whereas on a SS\FG, the rider strengthens their muscles and cardio by learning to pull on the handlebars for leverage while seated or stand on the pedals with the aid of gravity to aid their climb up hills and bridges. This movement provides a rest from being seated allows for variation during the ride. With a singlespeed you can coast down a hill while on a fixed gear you will have to spin down the hill. I recommend using brakes on an fixed gear.

- singlespeed\fixed gear bikes are easier to clean especially in winter.

- singlespeed\fixed gear bikes are cheaper to maintain over the long run.

If simplicity, predictability and reliability appeal to you, try riding a singlespeed.  It delivers a great workout and trains the rider to accept certain limitations in exchange for pure freedom of expression within defined mechanical constraints.

I won't even mention the weight savings of removing gears as I don't think it as important. By the way, the best upgrade to make your bicycle go faster is to change to lighter wheels and tires.  


For further reading: