Friday, August 17, 2012
Sigh. I knew this day would eventually come.
I'm going to have to cut back my daily glass of wine with dinner. A habit that I enjoyed and developed when I lived in Washington state and was introduced to the wonderful world of living next to wineries. I found I could buy bottles of wine that cost as little as beer. So I tried all kinds of different wine varieties. It gave a distinctively refined touch, like my home meals were in Italy or France. Even if my bottles didn't cost much more than $4-5.
I tried more expensive wines on occasion, and I'm not nearly sophisticated enough to appreciate the nuances. Some of them were very good, and smoother than the table wines I normally bought. Some of them weren't very good at all, and left me feeling ripped off. My mission became to find the very best wines for the least amount of money.
Trader Joe's made this extremely fun, easy, and cheap to experiment with. I wouldn't have become a wine drinker at all without TJ.
I developed a taste for fruity Cabernet Sauvignons and crisp Chardonnays. I enjoyed rieslings for a dessert wine. My absolute favorite dessert wine was a muscat wine that is very difficult to find outside of the PacNW for some reason. It has a floral perfume flavor that is unique. In WA, I could also buy the muscat grapes itself, which was unlike any grape I've eaten before. It was one of the way I broke my sweet tooth from refined sugars. Grapes, glass of wine and a small piece of brie cheese for dessert. So simple, and so good. I imagined that was what the Mediterranean would be like before I ever visited there. No wonder the Italians and French are so healthy!
So I've enjoyed a glass of wine every night all the way through my current weight loss. But now I've reached the point I've dreaded. I'm going to have to cut back. My weight loss has held steady, which means I'm maintaining again, not losing. I've lost as much as I can without more changes.
I know this has to be it because it is the last calorie heavy optional food in my diet. I knew this day would eventually come. So instead of my nightly glass, I'll have to settle for once a week, along with my starches. It seems I can maintain well enough with a glass a night, so maybe I can reintroduce when I want to maintain again.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
One of the biggest mistakes I made for years was undereating protein. The food pyramid guidelines seem designed to give the bare minimum of protein and fat for life support. The new 'food plate' isn't much better. The result for me was lean mass loss and fat gain. The exact opposite of what I wanted.
When I started eating an appropriate protein amount, I gained lean mass and lost fat without changing my routines. I still got the same amount of exercise, but my body composition reorganized.
The amount of protein that I eat is 80-100g per day, or a 4oz serving 3-4x per day. That is about 16oz/1lb per day, 112oz/7lbs per week. My husband should be eating almost double that, but he only eats dinner with me. So we eat about 150oz/9lbs protein per week at home.
Oh my. How do we afford that?
- Eggs. Once maligned for its cholesterol, 30 years of clinical testing has never shown a correlative link between dietary cholesterol and blood serum cholesterol. Eggs are the most primal and basic protein source we can eat. And cheap. Even organic eggs at $4 per dozen is way more economical than the cheapest cut of beef. $4 per dozen might look expensive compared to the supercheap $0.99 cartons, but it's only $0.33 per egg. A large egg has 4.8g protein. Make a 2 egg omelet, and you're still under $1 for breakfast. Forget the transfat McDonalds dollar menu - pick up a carton of real eggs. And eat the whole egg. All the nutrition is in the yolk. Phosphorus, selenium, chromium, choline, folate, B12, Vitamin A/D/E/K - all the good stuff - are contained in the yolk. Egg whites are only good for angel food cakes, in my opinion. If you're skipping the yolk, you're skipping the nutrition. I eat 2-3 eggs per day.
- Chicken. The saying, "A chicken in every pot", was a desire from King Henry IV of France who wanted no one so poor they couldn't have a Sunday chicken. It seems odd to us, but a roast chicken was once a luxury and a sign of prosperity. The 17th century French would consider us all Marie Antoinettes with our giant KFC chicken leg buckets! For best value and health, buy fresh from the grocery. Chicken legs and thighs are usually the cheapest cuts. Chicken breasts are generally more pricey, but still a bargain compared to most cuts of beef. Due to the popularity of Buffalo Wings, chicken wings have become almost as expensive as chicken breasts! The cheapest chicken is to buy the whole chicken and cut it up yourself. I watched vids on YouTube to learn how to cut a whole chicken. I did a horrible job the first time. The meat was torn, it didn't look anything like the butcher cut, and I had way too much meat left on the bone. I got a lot better with practice. Now I can cut up a chicken in less than 5 minutes. Most of the time it still doesn't look nearly as neat and perfect as the butcher cut, but it's more than adequate for my purposes. There's a little meat left on the bone, and that gets thrown in a crockpot with an onion to make homemade chicken broth. I use the broth all week for soups and flavor additions to recipes. A whole $6 chicken lasts me all week. My depression era grandma would be proud.
- Skirt/flank/london broil/chuck roast steaks. These are generally the most economical cuts of beef in my area, averaging about $2-4/lb. Flank steaks have become slightly more expensive due to a certain popular Food Network chef making them in vogue, but they are still a regular in my shopping list. They are tough cuts of meat, so cooking method and cutting across the grain are crucial to make them edible. I prepare them with tex-mex and asian marinades or slow cook at low temp in the oven. My favorite recipes with these cheap cuts are carne asada, fajitas, Thai style steak with lime dressing, Korean kalbi, pot roast, braised beef, and chilis.
- Pork. These days, pork is less fatty and safer to eat than in our grandparents' generation. It's the cheapest cut of meat next to chicken. A pork tenderloin roast generally costs me about $4/lb. A whole loin is too much for 2 people, so I generally cut it into dinner sized portions and freeze the rest. A pork roast is about $2.50/lb. I'll slow cook it in a crockpot with a little water, then shred it for pulled pork with a homemade bbq sauce. I've learned a few tricks about bbq from my time in the South!
- Fish. I am very, very picky about my fish. I couldn't eat salmon until I moved to the PacNW where I bought the freshest of the fresh. Salmon that has a strong fishy taste is bad salmon. Fresh salmon tastes 'creamy' and 'buttery'. I am a bit of a salmon snob, having been spoiled by living in the PacNW for 6 years. My favorite is Copper River Sockeye salmon. Atlantic salmon is more common on the east coast. When buying salmon, only buy wild caught. Farmed salmon does NOT contain high omega-3s. The omega-3 comes from the salmon eating krill. Farmed salmon eat a corn feed. Fresh sockeye salmon is bright red. Farmed salmon is a pale pink (that is enhanced by additives in their feed). There's a big difference. During salmon run season, I buy fresh wild caught sockeye salmon from Costco for $9/lb. It's more pricey than the other cuts I've talked about so far, but it's worth it. Salmon run season is very short, and I take advantage of it while I can. The rest of the year, I buy the frozen wild caught Sockeye salmon from Costco. I buy wild caught tuna and cod frozen, as well. Not only is it more economical, but there also isn't a rush to use it.
- Canned fish. Not my favorite, but I do keep a supply of canned tuna on hand. The only type of canned salmon I can eat is also from Costco. Again, I'm really sensitive to the 'fishy' taste. The canned salmon that doesn't give me a bad 'spit it out' reaction is the wild caught brand in a black can. I don't buy a lot of this, but I do keep it handy. I generally make salmon burgers out of it for a quick lunch. Tuna salads are a staple, and the cat also enjoys an open can!
- Whatever is on sale. I generally buy more expensive cuts like ribeye or top sirloin only when it's on sale.
Protein we don't eat every day:
- Steak. Ribeye at my local grocery store costs about $12/lb. We go to Charleston, SC every other week to shop at Costco where we can buy it for $8/lb. We bring it home, vacuum seal it, and store in the freezer. We have a 'steakhouse' meal at home one night per week.
- Beans. Beans have some protein, but they are more carbohydrate. I generally only use a small quantity in my chili recipes or soups. My husband also has a rather unpleasant reaction to them, and we don't feel it's worth it.
Because we keep a constant supply of protein in our freezer, it's hard for me to estimate what our weekly protein budget is. The only meats that I tend to buy fresh weekly are whole chickens and eggs. The red meat and fish is rotated out of the freezer and bought fresh on an irregular basis.
All of our meals are accompanied with fresh vegetables. Last night we had Thai steak with lettuce leaves for wraps, snap peas, seaweed salad, and a little basmati rice. The flank steak was the most expensive ingredient at $4/lb. I cooked a 10oz portion, which costs roughly ~$2.50. This was divided into a 4oz portion for me, 5oz for DH (about 1oz is lost after cooking). I estimate the cost of our meal at $2.50 per person. We each had a glass of wine, increasing the cost of the meal to $4.50 per person. $9 total with wine for two people, $5 without wine. I don't know of any Thai restaurant that can beat that price.
Eating enough protein to be healthy hasn't been difficult or expensive for me at all. In many cases, I can buy organic and wild caught proteins very economically as well.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Yesterday I showed you exercise comparisons of a full-housechore day versus a full-couch potato day. I recorded the information with my BodyMedia Fit device.
For further comparison, here is my activity graph of 30 minutes elliptical cardio in the morning, followed by a mostly sedentary day. I picked up activity again around dinner time. This should be fairly representative of a typical office worker day. 30 minutes is the minimum exercise recommended for good health.
Here's how they match up with total calorie burn per day:
Full Couch Potato: 1500
Full Day Housechores: 1900
30 Min Exercise + Sedentary: 1715
Hah! I burned 185 more calories cleaning house than my normal routine. And my housechores are very light compared to homemakers with a large house and a couple of kids. Homemakers, rejoice! You are very likely more active and fit than many 9-5 office workers and chronic cardio goers at the gym!
We are more sedentary than our grandparents. There's no denying that.
However, as many of us discovered, lack of exercise isn't the whole story on why we are more fat than 60 years ago.
Take for instance this man, Gene Rychlak. He was the first man to bench press 1000lbs.
He has huge muscles...but he also has a huge belly. The man is undoubtedly an athlete...and has rippling muscles under all the bodyfat.
This man is also an athlete. His training schedule includes squats, bench presses, and powerlifting, just like any bodybuilder:
This man was a bodybuilder. At his prime, though, he could "only" bench press half of Gene Rychlak's world record: 500lbs.
All of these men are/were athletes, but with varying levels of bodyfat.
Genetics is part of it, and a big part. Men who don't have the 'bulking' genes won't get the bulging manly-man Arnold muscles.
However, each of these men manipulate their bodyfat with what they eat.
A quick search for "sumo wrestler" diet shows they eat 2 extremely calorie dense meals per day made up of chicken, fish, tofu, vegetables, and high calorie starches. They eat about 10,000 calories per day, skip breakfast to slow their metabolism and increase fat gain, and powerlift with a bodybuilder-like regime 6 days per week. They bench about 400-500lbs on average - it takes a lot of power to grapple other sumo wrestlers! Their life expectancy is shorter than the average Japanese, about 60 years due to complications from diabetes, heart and liver disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure.
A competition bodybuilder diet is ketogenic - high fat, moderate protein, and very, very low carbs. Weight lifting, and moderate cardio. Too much cardio is catabolic - it burns muscle.
Exercise is important for "fitness" and good health. There are thin people who are NOT fit. There are also overweight people who ARE fit.
Nutrition is important for "body shape" and good health. If you want a fit-fat physique, skip breakfast and overeat calories. All the exercise in the gym will just serve to make you more "fit" underneath your fat.
If you want a fit-slim body, eat high quality calories. More protein and vegetables, less grain and starches. Strength train and moderate cardio.
Going back to the question of why people in the 50s were slimmer than today, I think it has more to do with their nutrition than the activities.
Looking at the meal for a 1950's housewife in Britain:
Breakfast: One slice toast and butter and boiled egg 220
Lunch: Corned beef sandwich and butter 430
Snack: Slice Victoria sponge 175
Dinner: Two pork chops, boiled potatoes, swede, cabbage, tinned pears and custard 993
- The toast was either home baked, or bought from a bakery. No HFCS or other additives.
- Real butter. No artery clogging trans-fats from margarine.
- Home baked Victoria sponge (a sponge cake with jam). No HFCS or other additives.
- Dinner: Protein and whole vegetables. No HFCS in the tinned pears, probably cane sugar. Modest sized dessert.
My depression era German-American grandmother's 'diet' for her sons included limiting their bread, pasta and dessert portions if she thought they were putting on too much fat.
My take? We should be enjoying superior health compared to our grandparents, but we are declining. My generation and the ones after are the first to have lowered life expectancy. This cannot be the legacy our grandparents wanted. According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, our cells have the capability of lasting 115-130 years. More centurians should be possible. 60 years is not enough to blame 'genetics' - it has to be environmental.
I believe this comes from changes in our food supply. This is why I changed my nutrition to whole, unprocessed produce and proteins. It takes time, but my bodyfat comes off far better when I focus on nutrition, rather than calorie burn.
There are benefits to our modern world that our grandparents didn't have, if we chose to take advantage of it. Canned vegetables and fruit were common back in the 1950s because these items were seasonal. The modern world opens up our food supply so that avocados, pears, lettuce, carrots, etc, etc are available year round. We should be enjoying superior nutrition because of this.
If you want fitness AND lower body fat, look at what's in your shopping cart. I only shop on the outer edge - produce, meats, and dairy. I skip everything boxed and plastic wrapped in the center.
Monday, August 06, 2012
Over the weekend I engaged in a simple little experiment to try and answer a questions:
"Were women in the 50s thinner because they burned more calories with house chores?"
I'm not going to pretend my results are conclusive, but you might find it something to think about, none-the-less.
I used my BodyMedia Fit device to record my activities.
As many of you pointed out, my housechores are a cakewalk compared to some of you, nevermind a homemaker from the 50s! However, I do think my results are typical of normal housechores for my living space.
The chores I completed were as follows:
Replaced cat litter trays
"Gardening" (watering plants and pruning dead leaves)
Handwashed dishes (I ran them through rinse cycle to sanitize, though)
Dishes put away
3 loads of laundry/folding
Bathtub, tiles, and counters scrubbed
Disposed garbage (walk down 3 stair flights + 2 minute walk across complex)
Personal errands plus picking up a few items from the grocery store
There were a few variables in my experiment that altered the result slightly.
1) DH came home early, saw I was cleaning up, and grabbed the vacuum and mop. No, I didn't ask him to. ;) I'm a lucky lady - he helps with the housechores without question!
2) DH explained that he would be working the weekend, so we decided to take a 'date night' and go out for happy hour food and drinks.
Even though I never 'broke a sweat', after an hour I could see why 50's housewives might enjoy a tea and cake break! It wasn't heart pumping cardio, but it was 'long distance endurance' activity. I didn't have tea and cake, but I took an 11am break to finish my coffee.
Despite my lite housechores, the unexpected (and welcome!) helping hand, and the decision to eat out, I still burned almost 1900 calories according to my BodyMedia Fit. My target daily activity range is 1880. A full day of housechores put me right on target.
Here's what my activity graph looked like:
In order to find out how many calories I burn on a low activity day, yesteday I did almost nothing. I didn't do any cardio, or go for a walk. I fed the cats, made breakfast/lunch/dinner, washed dishes and that was it. I played games, surfed the net, and watched a few Olympic games. I burned 1500 calories.
This is my activity graph for a low activity day:
A full day of housechores burned 400 calories more than if I did nothing at all.
Did women in the 50s get more exercise because of their housechores? Washing clothes with a washboard, hanging clothes on lines in the backyard, washing/drying dishes by hand, sweeping/mopping floors, and beating carpets to get the dust out?
My take? You bet.
Was that the reason why they were thinner?
My take? Not necessarily.
My MIL is a full time housewife, always has been. DH says she has always been on the heavier side. While she undoubtedly is much busier keeping her house neat and tidy than I am, she is not thin. She is not a minimalist homemaker either - her house is spotless and completely devoid of clutter.
On the other hand, my mother worked as an hotel housekeeper for 20 years. She cleaned 12-15 rooms per day on average. She has always been thin. Was it because of her heavy manual labor activity level? Not necessarily. Many of her coworkers were overweight, and the heavy activity didn't make them thinner.
Tomorrow I'll show you what my activity graph looks like when I do 30 minutes elliptical cardio in the morning, then mostly sedentary the rest of the day. A fairly typical representation of an office worker day.
Friday, August 03, 2012
A couple of you took exception to an excerpt my blog yesterday regarding women exercising in the 1950s:
- Lack of exercise isn't why people in the 50s were thinner than today. Women exercising was considered unseemly. The only appropriate exercise for women was gardening.
This was mentioned in the book "Wheat Belly". I thought it an interesting point that 50s women didn't engage in chronic cardio, and yet had lower BMI overall.
A couple of you felt that housework done in the 1950s accounted for the extra calorie burn, and therefore, better fitness. This is a fairly common question I've seen on the message boards. If you do a lot of housework, does it take the place of exercise?
I don't really know the answer to this question. I am going to engage in a totally unscientific experiment today to see how many extra calories housework burns. My house could use a little tidying, so using my BodyMedia Fit device, I'm going to compare my overall daily calorie burn to a day with my usual 30 minute moderate elliptical cardio.
The housework activities to be done today:
- Make bed
- Make breakfast/lunch
- Roast a chicken for dinner
- Feed cats
- Wipe down bathtub and counters
- Wash dishes (I'll even forgo the dishwasher for a day and do it by hand!)
- Wash clothes (not by hand - I've got my limits)
- Gardening (water the plants and repot my lettuce)
- Take out garbage (requires going down 3 stair flights and a fairly long walk across the property to the garbage bin)
If I can find an almond flour recipe I like, I might even make a cake for dessert tonight! How much more 1950s can you get than that?
I'll get started after my morning shower, and report back tomorrow!
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