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Food Post #4: How We Got to Where We Are Now

Posted Aug 28 2009 8:18pm
I was going to close with this quote, but instead I am going to open with it. Amy and I want to improve our health and performance through diet, training, sleep, etc. We'd also like to see others make changes as well...this quote just fits. It is from Gordo, and you can find it here. This will add length to an already long-ish post. I will start to 'twitter.'

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"I had two conversations that reminded me that whether the issue is our health, or our economy, it is important to remember that the most effective way to improve our situation is to improve ourselves.

The first conversation was with an athlete who told me that the most difficult period for him to change his eating habits is weekends and when he is with family. Remember one thing…

Focus on changing yourself and loving your family.

Our families need our love a lot more than they need us to eat potato chips! We do not demonstrate love by enabling those around us to avoid self-improvement. Likewise, we will only be able to lead from a basis of consistent self-improvement. My great teachers don't lecture, they simply are.

When we make changes in:

…the way we eat and drink
…the way we live
…the way we dress
…the amount of exercise we do
…the job we do…

Any major change that we might make to improve our lives, or simply, try to create some space for something better to come along… when we make changes we are going to make the people around us uncomfortable.

There is a strong social bias against people that make changes – remember the impact on John Kerry, when he was painted as a flip-flopper.

Ultimately, for change to be successful, or effective, it needs to be driven from within. As an example, my journey to “being fit” required me to change a decade of habits. Going deeper, for me to improve in the area of listening to people is likely to require changing 35 years of programing! That's not going to happen overnight, or in a month, or in a year. It's going to be a lifelong journey.

When you start to see the world around you changing, you will know that you have started to be successful in changing yourself. "

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Again, nothing is set in stone. And, 'rules' for athletes who train a lot may be a little bit different than someone who doesn't. So, how'd we end up where we are now? Some of it (a lot of it) came from the following information sources...

Mark's Daily Apple
Paleo Diet for Athletes
Engine2
Omnivore's Dilemma
HeartScan Blog

What came from each? I'll try to briefly discuss it below.

Mark's Daily Apple. Mark Sisson writes this site...no relation to Steve Sisson that I know of if you are in Austin. Mark focuses on the 'primal' way of life. Eating "reckless amounts" of veggies, good protein (grass fed, wild), and lots of good fat. He also talks about minimizing inflammation. Inflammation that can come from "chonic cardio", stress, lack of sleep, eating processed foods (and carbs), etc. So, from a dietary point of view he has a lot of good stuff that centers around eating real food. Mark makes his living off of selling supplements, something that most would see as a red-flag. I, however, see his site as very informative and educational. It is a site that bears reading...daily...hence the moniker Mark's "Daily" Apple. An apple a day...

Paleo Diet for Athletes. Loren Cordain and Joe Friel co-wrote this book. Cordain brings the Paleo aspect, and Friel brings the athletic point of view. It talks a lot about the timing of carbohydrates. And, of course, focusing on eating real foods. They focus on lean protein probably b/c mass produced proteins have a different fat breakdown that is more inflammatory than naturally raised (grass fed) meats. Different fat breakdown as in the same or higher fat %age, but in the Omega-6 (mostly bad) fat as opposed to the Omega-3 (good) fats. Lean = minimal fat = fewer Omega-6s. But, mostly I took away from this book info about the timing of carbs...before, during, and after workouts. Not all the time. Eat some carbs before, during depending on the workout length, and immediately after. But outside of those times, you should stick to the Paleo way of eating.

Engine2. The main thing here is eat a lot of plants and green leafy vegetables. The focus on veggies and overall health was the main thing that I took away from Engine2. That and being more aware of what is in the foods that we eat...be a label reader. As fired up as I was about Engine2, it is difficult for me to believe that the diet is sustainable for all but a small %age of the population. It is also difficult for me to believe that veganism is the way we were meant to eat, but that is just my musings.

Omnivore's Dilemma. Read it. Eat real food. That is the message here. Eat food that your grandmother or great-grandmother would recognize. It starts out talking about the fact that we live in an industrialized nation when it comes to eating and most of it centers around corn...and soy...and wheat. From the drinks we drink to the beef we eat, it almost all starts and ends with corn. Pollan talks about the effect of grain on the fat profile of beef. He talks A LOT about agriculture in general in the US. Organic vs. non-organic. Industrial vs. pastoral. He walks through the process of eating 3 or 4 types of meals from processed industrial to hunted and gathered. It is very good.

Heart Scan Blog. Engine2 focused on the reduction of cholesterol. In it Caldwell Esselstyn makes a comment about treating symptoms and not the underlying problem. I found the Heart Scan Blog and several other sites recently through links from Marks Daily Apple. Dr. Davis also talks about treating the underlying problem though in a very different manner, one that to me is more sustainable and more attainable for the majority of people. Things that I've taken from this blog are the importance of a reduction (ideally elimination) of primarily wheat products in the role of heart disease prevention...but also refined carbs in general. Also, the role of Fish Oil (Omega 3s), possible Vitamin D supplementation, in prevention in general. This is a Dr. who gave up the practice of open heart surgery and tradition cardiology to help 1000s (not 10-20) of people get on their way to working towards preventing one of the top-diseases in America. A lot of what is posted here goes against conventional wisdom. Check it out.

So, those are the main sources. There are hosts of others as listed in the first post or two. Again, this stuff is out there and it's generally free. If you want to give your $75 - $125 an hour to a RD who is probably trained by conventional wisdom and the programs that the FDA or USDA puts out, go ahead. Better, take some time to educate yourself, and see what info is out there or spend that $100 on a few books of different subjects. Read with a critical and somewhat skeptical view. As I have found, some of the 'experts' may not necessarily be the ones with letters behind their names or with fancy degrees. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Health and extreme endurance athletics are probably not complimentary. Health and the Standard American Diet are not complimentary. Making a change does not come overnight. If it isn't a sustainable way of life, the change won't hold.

In summary. KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Eat real foods. More than a few ingredients, put it back. Does it advertise on TV or tell you it's healthy on the package...probably put it back. Use sports drinks and bars for...sports or times when you are working out. Eat less sugar. Eat less carbs...especially refined ones. Eat when you are hungry.
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