Tag: diet (page 1 of 10)

Soylent: Food-like substance of the future?

Dear Wendy,

Have you ever wondered, “Gee, what would it be like to never have to eat again?”

Yeah, me neither.

But apparently the question occurred to a 25-year-old guy named Rob Rhinehart, who wanted to escape the hassle of shopping for, preparing, and eating food so he could concentrate on more important things, like working on software and stuff. He started researching the nutritional needs of humans, sent away for the various raw chemical components, and started building the perfect human food.

Ultimately, he came up with a powdered substance that he mixed with water (and in a later iteration, with oil) in a blender, and hey, presto! He had a glassful of something that has been described as a cross between thin pancake batter, cream of wheat, and Metamucil. And then he decided to live on it.

He had invented…(wait for it)…Soylent.

Yes, you read right: just like the 1973 Charlton Heston sci-fi flick, Soylent Green. Except that Rhinehart’s version isn’t actually made of human flesh. Imagine my relief.

Here’s part of his account of his first month living exclusively on Soylent:

I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone. My resting heart rate is lower, I haven’t felt the least bit sickly, rare for me this time of year. I’ve had a common skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris since birth. That was gone by day 9. I used to run less than a mile at the gym, now I can run 7. I have more energy than I know what to do with. On day 4 I caught myself balancing on the curb and jumping on and off the sidewalk when crossing the street like I used to do when I was a kid. People gave me strange looks but I just smiled back. Even my scars look better.

My mental performance is also higher. My inbox and to-do list quickly emptied. I ‘get’ new concepts in my reading faster than before and can read my textbooks twice as long without mental fatigue.

alt="IMAGE-soylent-homemade-after-the-kids-leave"

Soylent–part of your busy lifestyle! (Image: Wikipedia)

Rhinehart is now selling Soylent, in elegantly simple packaging, via a Shopify store (which is only of interest to me since Adrian is one of their ops guys)—apparently you can purchase it via subscription, and it’s selling pretty briskly.

I should be clear that I’ve never tasted Soylent, and I have absolutely nothing against it. While the concept—of creating a food out of chemicals rather than plant and/or animal matter—is interesting, I’m left to wonder what it would be like to simply forego “real” food for the rest of my life, in favour of Metamucil-tinged pancake batter.

To be fair, Rhinehart says he only drinks Soylent most of the time. Every now and then he indulges in “recreational food,” which he says he enjoys all the more because it’s a novelty. Well yeah, no kidding.

I think if I were living on a steady diet of grainy pancake batter, I might look forward to the occasional respite, too.

Fortunately, I don’t have to, because a brave young man from The Guardian has done it for me: here’s his video account of a week on Soylent. His verdict: he was hungry, irritable, and gassy, and couldn’t wait to finish his self-imposed Soylent-only diet. Well, sign me up!

Although I’m not really keen to give it a go, I’m fascinated by the Soylent phenomenon: what would compel some people to decide that acquiring, preparing, and eating food is just simply too much bother? Rhinehart predicts that we’re undergoing a separation between “food as recreation” and “food as utilitarian,” and I can see where he’s coming from.

What do you think? Would you be willing to stop eating food in favour of the convenience of a “meal in a glass”?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Love,

Karen

 

 

 

 

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Weight loss after 50: “Fed Up” tells the story Big Food doesn’t want us to hear

Dear Wendy,

For ages now, I’ve been wittering on about how the mega-corporations that comprise the food industry—”Big Food” for short—are fueling the obesity crisis.

I know I’m not alone in realizing this: bloggers like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff at Weighty Matters and Dr. Arya Sharma at Dr. Sharma’s Obesity Notes have talked about the obesogenic environment created by a food industry that (among other things) laces about 80% of its products with sugar, salt, and/or fat.

Movies and books like Super-Size Me have addressed the fast food industry, one aspect of Big Food, but the bigger problem is this: when we eat food that we don’t cook ourselves, we are turning over our nutritional decisions to mega-corporations whose primary objective is to manufacture food that is cheap, convenient, and full of things that keep us coming back for more.

alt="IMAGE-fed-up-documentary-diabetes-food-industry"They couldn’t care less whether it happens to be healthy, and in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t.

Now, a documentary film has been released that addresses the role of Big Food in the obesity epidemic that has been sweeping the developed world.

Fed Up, a film from Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar-winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth) and director Stephanie Soechtig says, “Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong….Fed Up will change the way you eat forever.”

The film was released yesterday, and you can bet I’ll be heading out to watch it as soon as it hits Ottawa. Meanwhile, here’s the trailer:

If this doesn’t horrify and anger us—all of us—into action, I’m not sure what will.

Love, Karen

 

Weight loss after 50: Kick-ass breakfasts keep you on track all day

Dear Wendy,

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: when our health teachers insisted that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they were not in any way kidding. A great high-protein breakfast not only gives you the energy you need, but it makes it much easier to sail through the dreaded late afternoon munchies.

A couple of years ago I was having real trouble getting through the afternoons, even though I was doing all the things I was supposed to: I was eating 3 meals of at least 350 calories apiece, and 2 or 3 snacks of at least 150 calories. I was making sure not to go too long without eating—3 hours at the very most.

But still, I found that about an hour after my afternoon snack, my stomach would start growling, and it was really tough to hang in until suppertime.

alt="IMAGE-drip-coffee-maker-melitta-black-coffee"

Nothing happens without this.

I went over my food diary with my nutritionist, and he spotted the problem immediately: my breakfasts were kind of wimpy in the protein department. He suggested I bump up the protein component to at least 20 grams. I was skeptical, as I couldn’t see how what I ate first thing in the morning could possibly affect how I felt by late afternoon.

But I did it anyway…and the results were almost instantaneous.

Building a healthy, high-protein breakfast turned out to be less of a challenge than I’d feared, so I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite recipes with you. Keep in mind that my brain doesn’t really kick into gear until after my first (or sometimes second) cup of coffee, so I prefer to keep my breakfasts simple to prepare.

Breakfast 1: High-protein oatmeal

This is my current favourite. I use either steel-cut oats (which takes longer to cook, but has a nice nutty flavour) or a blend of old-fashioned oats (not the instant kind), rye, barley, spelt, millet, flaxseed, and quinoa. But I think any whole-grain oat would do quite nicely.

  • 1/3 c. oatmeal
  • Water to cook, as per package directions
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder
  • 3/4 cup of frozen raspberries (or fresh, if they’re in season)

I cook the oatmeal according to directions—4 minutes in the microwave for the oat/grain blend, 15 minutes for the steel-cut oats. Then I stir in the scoop of whey protein (the brand I use has 30 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar). If the mixture is too sticky, I add a tablespoon or two of 1% milk. Then I stir in the raspberries.

I’m not adding a picture, because the mixture looks vile, and you’d immediately be convinced that a) I’ve lost my ever-lovin’ mind, and b) you would never eat that in a million gazillion years. But it actually tastes great…and best of all, it staves off the late-afternoon munchies.

Breakfast 2: High-protein cold cereal

alt="IMAGE-cereal-about-one-cup"

Rachel calls this hamster food. I call it a great start to my day.

 

This one is even easier to prepare.

  • 1 cup high-protein cereal, like Kashi GoLean or GoLean Crunch
  • 1/3 cup 1% milk (because I think skim milk is gross)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat, no-sugar Greek-style yogurt (beware the flavoured ones, which often contain sugar)
  • 3/4 cup berries, or a sliced peach, or whatever takes my fancy that day

I’m not going to spell out the preparation here. I think we can figure it out, right?

I know some people who like to get their morning protein in the form of smoothies, and that’s fine too. Whatever works for you.

But my point is: eat protein, as much as you can, within an hour or so of waking up. You’ll thank yourself later in the day.

Love,

Karen

 

 

Weight loss after 50: Generation X fatter than Boomers

Dear Wendy,

In my perambulations around the Internet this week, I came across this brief article about how Generation X, those born between 1967 and 1980, are tending to have more problems with overweight than their predecessors (that would be us, the baby boomers).

alt="IMAGE-overweight-teenage-boy"

(Image: Wikipedia)

While I’m sure someone will find some way to blame this on the baby boomers (“Their parents overfed them! It’s all because of the boomers’ inflated sense of entitlement!” and so on), I have another hypothesis: I suspect each succeeding generation will tend to be fatter, simply because the environment in which we live is obesogenic, and getting more so each day.

I know, I’ve used that word “obesogenic” in the past, and it’s not just because it trips off the tongue so nicely. It’s because those of us who live in the affluent parts of the world really are surrounded by an environment that seems to be shoving food in our faces at every turn.

Our food environment started changing a century ago, and by the last years of the twentieth century, it had become almost impossible to find lower-calorie, lower-sugar foods without consciously seeking them out.

Go stand in line at a store some time: you’ll find you’re surrounded by bags of fat-soaked potato or nacho chips on one side, and chocolate and candy bars on the other. High-calorie, low nutritional value foods are everywhere…restaurants, cafeterias, sporting events, school vending machines, public spaces, you name it.

And to make matters worse, oftentimes it’s labelled “fat free!” or “no added sugar!” in an attempt to dupe us into believing that it’s really healthy. It’s not. But it can be tempting to believe the lies, especially when you’re hungry.

alt="IMAGE-candy-checkout"If you’re hungry, it can take a huge amount of teeth-grinding willpower to stroll casually past one of those displays in search of an apple or a handful of unsalted almonds. It can feel like it’s not worth the bother.

So it’s really no wonder that the Gen Xers are having trouble controlling their weight; and I expect we’ll discover in a few years that Generation Y is having the same problem, ramped up a notch because more time will have elapsed, and the food industry will have found more ways to deliver cheap, high-calorie crap to more people. After all, it’s their job, it’s what they do, and they’re really good at it.

Is there any way to stem the tide? Some have tried, with initiatives like banning sugared drinks in school vending machines. But as often as not, they’ve chosen to replace Coke or Pepsi with fruit juices or Gatorade, which are often just as fattening as sugary sodas.

And when New York City tried to put a limit on the size of soft drinks sold there, people went apeshit with indignation: how dare they take away our right to choose to consume 20-ounce glasses of sugar dissolved in carbonated water?

The answer, I think, lies with each of us, as individuals.

  • We need to teach ourselves, and our children, that most of the junk food out there is just that—junk.
  • We need to remember how to cook for ourselves. Not necessarily gourmet meals, though that can be fun sometimes, but good, solid, ordinary food made from whole ingredients.
  • We need to teach our children that it’s neither too difficult nor too time-consuming to put together a simple homemade meal. And I’m not talking KD here, either.

We need to ensure that our kids and grandkids understand that good food makes healthy bodies, and that the stuff they’re trying to palm off on us will make us fat, sick, and old before our time.

I’m not sure how much of a dent we’ll be able to make, but if we don’t try, who will?

Love,

Karen

 

Weight loss after 50: How Canada’s Food Guide keeps us obese

Dear Wendy,

The other day a friend mentioned to me that she’d decided to embark on a weight-loss program based on Canada’s Food Guide. alt="IMAGE-Canada-Food-Guide"

She’s about our age—in her mid-50s—and said she feels like it’s time to stop messing around with her health. And since the Food Guide is a product of Health Canada, a federal government agency with a mandate to promote national health standards, it seems like a sane, rational choice.

At first I agreed: on the face of it, Canada’s Food Guide seems like a great choice. But then I went and actually looked at the thing. That’s when things got a bit murky.

For example: when I looked up the recommended number of servings for a woman between the ages of 51 and 70, I found that the Food Guide doesn’t distinguish by height, weight, build, or activity level. So apparently all women our age, whether they’re 5’2″ or 5’11 inches tall, whether they’re tiny-boned or sturdy, whether they’re constantly active or complete couch potatoes, should eat this much food:

alt="IMAGE-canada-food-guide-woman-age-51-70"

Canada’s Food Guide recommendations

Serving sizes are obscure

Okay….fair enough. Setting aside the issue of whether this is an appropriate across-the-board recommendation for all women our age, let’s look at what constitutes a serving.

In the Vegetables and Fruit choices, the Food Guide would have us equate a “medium apple” (no weight given) with “half an avocado” (again, no weight given). A “medium banana” is apparently comparable to “half a cup of chard.” A “stalk of celery” is the same as “half a cup of sweet potato.”

Even the least calorie-aware person should be able to tell that these foods aren’t in the same ballpark with one another, calorie-wise, yet the Food Guide seems to be saying they’re interchangeable.

But when it comes to portion control, size does count. These days, a “medium apple” might weigh 150 grams; that’s about twice as large as the fruit we consumed as kids. But the Food Guide makes no mention of this. To the Guide, an apple is an apple is an avocado.

Advice is vague

In the “Meats and Alternates” section, the Food Guide tells us to select “lean meat.”

But 2.5 ounces of chicken is listed as equivalent to 2.5 ounces of duck, which is the same as 2.5 ounces of pork. I don’t know how to break it to the good folks at Health Canada, but 100 grams of skinless chicken breast yields about 172 calories and 9 grams of fat, while 100 grams of duck contains 372 calories (less if you eat it without the skin, but the Food Guide doesn’t mention anything about skin, so what the hey? Let’s live a little!).

We’re told to have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils, or tofu “often.” But how often? Your guess is as good as mine.

Oh, and remember how I talked about the hidden calories in fruit juices a couple of weeks ago? Well, the Food Guide does advise us to “have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.” And that’s it. Nothing about why, nothing about exactly how much juice is equivalent to a piece of fruit.

Nothing about the fact that ounce for ounce, many fruit juices have the same caloric values as sugary sodas.

Dubious food choices

When we get to the dairy section, we’re advised to “drink skim, 1%, or 2% milk each day.”

But how much? And since when is chocolate milk listed as a legitimate milk serving? And pudding/custard? Hey, according to the Food Guide, as long as it’s made with milk, it’s a milk product, so consume away!

alt="IMAGE-chocolate-skim-milk-nutrition"

Skim: 86 calories per cup. Chocolate: 209 calories per cup. But Canada’s Food Guide calls it a draw.

Similarly, in the “Grain Products” section, a 30 gram serving of “cold cereal” is on a par with half a cup of brown rice, which is the same as half a bagel. But what if your cold cereal choice is “Sugar Frosted Woofies with Chocolate Coating and Extra Honey”? The Food Guide is silent on the subject.

Granted, it does recommend making “at least half” your daily grain servings whole grain—but why not go all the way and tell us “processed grain is crap and shouldn’t really be consumed except at gunpoint”?

As for trans fats, which have been shown incontrovertibly to be toxic at any dose, does the Food Guide tell us not to eat them? Nope. It says “limit” your intake. Seriously.

Why is the Food Guide a recipe for obesity?

Answering that question could take up a whole essay, never mind a blog post, but my understanding is that when the government put this thing together, they invited representatives of Canada’s food industry to consult and sit on advisory boards.

As I’ve mentioned before, the food industry does not have the health of its customers in mind when it produces its over-sweet, over-salted, over-fatty foods. It has the health of its shareholders in mind. This doesn’t make the food producers “bad”—they’re just doing their job.

But it does mean that when they get to have input into things like our country’s Food Guide, they’re not going to tell us “no, no, don’t eat white bread. That stuff is crap. Eat whole-grain products.” They’re not going to suggest we forgo the sugary cereal or chocolate milk in favour of steel-cut oats or skim milk, because down that road lies a lower bottom line.

So who can you trust, if you can’t trust the Canada Food Guide? Essentially, you have three great tools at your disposal: your food scale, your measuring cups, and your food diary. If you weigh and measure your portions, you’ll know what a “medium apple” should weigh; and if you use your food diary, you’ll know how many calories it contains.

To my friend, I’d say, “Do yourself a favour. Ditch the Food Guide.” You’ll be doing your body a favour.

Love,

Karen

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