The Long White Cloud

I’m back from my latest 10 day trip to Aotearoa.

And trippy it was. With some time to finally submerse myself in it, my vacation reading was Good Calories, Bad Calories.

The stories of the impact of a modern diet on indigenous people were particularly poignant given the massive problem of Maori obesity that was evident everywhere. I saw a lot of women, in particular, who were clearly not sedentary (employed in a variety of moderately active jobs) yet who were morbidly obese. Not that the average Caucasian Kiwi is svelte but the serious problem facing the Maoris was, by contrast, shocking.

There are a lot of paintings available online from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s which provide a snapshot of Maori men and women before changes in lifestyle and diet took their toll. The stats are interesting but the images are a much more wistful reminder of what has been lost.

Raiha Reretu
Maori Woman 1877
Gottfried Lindauer, 1877

Of course the recommendations trotted out by the government are the usual tripe Lack of exercise and unhealthy eating are two of the main causes, We eat too much fatty food, Not enough fruits and vegetables… blah blah blah.

On several occasions I saw people out at restaurants diligently cutting the fat off their steak and then polishing off a huge plate of fries. So the good news is that consumers are keen to follow the prescriptions for a healthy diet. The bad news is that, regardless of continent, the official advice is lousy.

Being on holiday, I ate out the whole time and found a lot of carbs creeping into my diet despite efforts to avoid them. Saying that, there were a few occasions I opted to partake freely because, frankly, I didn’t want to be a complete buzz kill for my travelling companion.

I was travelling with a carb eater who dove head first into all the goodies available. She’s got her own demons to face on that one but hey – we were on hols.

Neither of us have been working out much lately so I was pleased to note that when we went hill walking, I seemed relatively sprightly. She had to stop for breath on the climbs much more than I did and although my legs got a bit rubbery before hers (by that I mean the low blood sugar feeling) my heart didn’t seem too upset by the sudden demands. I thought I’d be in bad shape for the hills but I felt pretty strong… not much worse that when I was a carb eater and working out like a demon every day.

For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven, 1891
  	For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven

From the Auckland gallery. The image depicts a child’s funeral. Death’s next young victim is suggested in the grey pallor of the flower bearer. The poor children from the countryside, with decidedly healthier complexions, look on at the procession.


On Hols

Tonight I’m off again to the land of happy cows and non-stop scenic beauty…

Castle Hill

Akaroa Ladies Brigade

Lake Pearson, Arthur's Pass

Parting thoughts:
These pictures remind me that I have never heard of sheep being anything but pasture raised. In all the discussions about grass-fed animals, why don’t we hear more about lamb and mutton? Hmmm… food for thought.

Doctor Knows Best

Having a hard time convincing your doctor that modern medicine has had its mistakes? Show them this…

Neatorama has reprinted an excellent collection of medicines that have come and gone.

Is there anything radium can’t do? In the 1920s and early 1930s, companies touted it as a cure-all and put the radioactive element in toothpaste, ear plugs, soap, suppositories, and even contraceptives.

I suspect it was quite effective as a contraceptive.

And here’s a sweetener you probably haven’t thought of:

Ancient Romans used lead in everything from paint to dishware to plumbing, despite warnings from Caesar’s engineers. Actually, Romans loved the stuff so much that they added lead acetate to wine as a sweetener.

Sadly, I’ve had no success at determining the carb content of lead acetate.

Into the Light

I’m a sucker for a good “journey to health” story. Stats are nice but they don’t warm the cockles.

Chris Masterjohn
Chris improves his physical and psychological health by re-introducing meat to his diet…

In the second year of being vegetarian, I began having several full-blown panic attacks per week that were becoming disabling. I was overall lethargic and apathetic. And then, I went to the dentist and was struck with the final blow.

Fifteen cavities, and two dead teeth needing root canals! How could this be? I had been sure that, since eating animal protein was what caused the body to acidify and leach calcium from bones and teeth, I would be immune to tooth decay. And the phytoestrogens in soy that supposedly help assimilate calcium should have been an extra defense, sealing shut for good the possibility of a cavity.

The “Ron Paul for President” support page adds a certain wistful charm to the site.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson
How’s this for a blast from the past? A great look at radical diet change and overcoming food addiction…

In 1906 I went to the Arctic with the food tastes and beliefs of the average American. By 1918, after eleven years as an Eskimo among Eskimos, I had learned things which caused me to shed most of those beliefs. Ten years later I began to realize that what I had learned was going to influence materially the sciences of medicine and dietetics.

He makes some interesting observations on the status associated with eating strong tasting cheeses and meats versus, say, the “plebeian” taste for mild cheeses.

While these stories abound, I can keep reading them so feel free to recommend your favourites.

More:  Jay Wortman | Lee| Richard & Mary | Rob | Jerry (Video)

Can You See The Light?

Primal Stretch

Fred Hahn has a great post on the value of stretching to prevent sports injury.

This is old news to many of us but worth repeating: there isn’t any.

I have a strong recollection of a friend hobbling off a squash court with a ripped tendon looking like she had been betrayed by fate. “But I stretched!”

Sadly stretching is not the prophylactic we’d like.

But lest we throw the baby out with the bath water, it should be noted that there is some value in stretching. And by that I mean the primal form of stretching that we and many other mammals engage in before sleep and upon rising: the BIG stretch.

A good stretch at night has been shown to aid in better sleep patterns by triggering activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the “relaxation response”).

Parasympathetic stimulation encourages digestion and absorption of food. Heart rate slows, and the force of the heart’s contraction decreases. Blood pressure returns to resting level. Breathing becomes slower and deeper. Skeletal muscles relax. The production of stress hormones stops, and your body recovers its homeostasis – Ref

And in the morning? The stretch is a quick way to improve circulation to the entire body lest we fall all over ourselves as we trip out of bed. It’s not necessary for everyone but, sadly, seems increasingly needed as one ages…

So in that sense you could say that stretching prevents injury… but don’t count on it to stop your Achilles tendon from rupturing when you are a forty-something running around the squash court.

Super Stretch by cyberliesl

Free Calorie Burn from Cold Water?

WaterIt has been suggested that by drinking a gallon of cold water a day, you can burn an extra 150 calories.

Such statements provoke my inner skeptic so here’s the math… (sorry folks but this calls for metric).

Q: Will drinking a gallon of water burn burn 150 calories?

A: energy required = mass * change in temperature * specific heat capacity

  • 1 gallon of water = 3.785 kilograms
  • Cold water temp = 5C (estimate of course)
  • Body temp = 37C
  • Specific heat capacity for Water = 1 Kcal per kilogram

Therefore: 3.785 * (37-5) * 1 Kcal = 121 Kcal

OK close but no cigar.

To burn 150 Kcal, the starting temperature of the water needs to be… -2.6C!

Yikes! That’s a block of ice.

But perhaps they are also adding in all the legwork back and forth to the toilet.

Can Food Be Evil?

Or is it just the people who put together the ingredients?

I found myself asking this question today when I saw this:

Candied Bacon Ice Cream
Candied Bacon Ice Cream

This is probably not the worst food perversion we have witnessed after the frenzy of Fry Everything stories last year.

But because it starts with something as wholesome as bacon (as opposed to, say, a Snickers bar), the transgression is all the more gut wrenching.

The good news for eaters is that if this concoction makes you ill, you can alleviate your pains without leaving the “frozen dessert” food group… Yes I’m talking of that other great creation, Pepto Bismol Ice-Cream (which in fairness must be commended for using real vanilla).

Yes people, it’s not just the economy that signals the end-times. Deep-fried lattes and candied bacon ice-cream surely preceed the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Calculating Life Expectancy

DeathAccording to the Life Expectancy Calculator, I’m just 4 pound away from my ideal weight for longevity. This equates to a BMI of exactly 25.

I’m not sure what kind of pop science this calculator is based on but I suspect it is not much more sophisticated than the Death Clock.

As opposed to being an accurate estimate of life expectancy, it appears to be a tool for promoting certain lifestyle changes including:

  • regular exerise
  • low fat diet
  • wearing a seatbelt

We’ve previously seen research which indicates that a BMI over 25 is probably best for longevity. And as for the impact of low versus high fat diet on life expectancy, it will be a very long time before anyone can say anything conclusively.

The good news is that I will live to age 102 which is much better than my Death Clock prognosis that had me kicking the bucket at 79.

My volatile weight history and cranky personality seem to be my biggest health risks but this is balanced by good genes. Though it should be said my crankiness is genetic too.

Blogged Recipes

I’m the type that has a shelf full of cookbooks but the minute I need to make something I’m asking Google for a recipe.

But even better that Googled recipes are the ones that land in my RSS reader each week from my favorite blogs. It’s almost as good as getting the recipe from a friend.

Recipes from blogs are tried and tested and brought to you with that special ingredient: luuurve. Plus in an active blog, the comments section is often full of ideas for variations and refinements.

And now to make it even easier, there is a search engine just for blog recipes: Food Blog Search

Crustless Quiche Extraordinaire
As we’re talking blog recipes, my personal all time fave low-carb recipe is this one via Low Carb Dude‘s Blog: Low Carb Crustless Crab Quiche

This is a to die for butterball of a recipe. It melts in the mouth. Warning: it is probably best not to serve these to friends who still think fat is the enemy or they will accuse you of attempted homicide.

8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup crab meat (real not imitation)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ cup diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chopped fresh dill weed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Combine ingredients in a deep 9-inch round baking dish. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes until eggs are set. Remove cover and let the top brown slightly. Serves 6.

Instead of making one big quiche, I bake two dozen small muffin sized quiches. These keep in the fridge for at least a week and are quickly reheated in the microwave. They are luscious.

In fact, I made some today…

A Little Quiche