Probably my best ever 180 degree panoramic of the port at Cartagena, Colombia. Here it is uncropped. January 2012.

Suspect Information, Ideas, and Opinions - rarely updated and of dubious quality.

I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal.

I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

statue of fat David

On the suggestion of my family doctor, I am taking part in the Comprehensive Vascular Disease Prevention and Management Inititiative currently being conducted in my backwoods town of Podunk, Ontario.

As per the offical propaganda:

" set to change the way in which the disease is identified and treated in patients across the local area."
"By focusing on prevention, early detection and disease management, the program aims to reduce the number of events such as heart attacks and stroke."
"The program is currently being piloted in nine Family Health Team practices but will eventually be rolled out to other municipalities across Ontario in the next few years."

Locally, there are 1500 other men and women involved in this study - what makes it appealing to me is that not only are my "statistics" going to be used in the study, but I get all sorts of benefits by participating, like full bloodwork, stress test, ECG, and nutritional and lifestyle counselling, etc. Yesterday, I met with a nurse-practioner and was very flattered to discover that I am in great shape and am doing most things right. Today, I had a 2 hour class with a dietitian where I learned to eat right - and that's what this blog post is going to be about.

The first thing I was struck by was the general lack of knowledge in my group (of about 9 people) about diet and nutrition. I mean, it was not so long ago that I was in the exact same position but man, considering the subject is about how best to live and stay alive, I'm amazed at the lack of knowedge, is all I'm sayin' all...

Now, the class dietitian was sweet girl and by her own admission she was an intern, "almost a full dietitian", and she wasn't an experienced speaker, so I had to hand it to her - it takes guts to get up in front of a room full of (unqualified) strangers and speak with authority. Since she was in the process of graduating, I was hoping she'd have the cutting edge education and therefore the exact information I need to hear more about. But some of what she said was just plain wrong. So she is going to be part of the outdated nutrional orthodoxy that I was hoping was disappearing by now.

Now, before I go into the details of what was wrong, it does bring up an interesting idea. Based on the things she said that I know are wrong, how should I treat the things I'm not sure of? I can't discount everything she said, but by the same token, now that I've caught her making errors, how can I now tell what's right and what's wrong? Anyway, it's an interesting idea.

OK, so she made three big errors. Here they are:

1. Wants us to consume unsaturated fats over saturated fats.

Says to avoid fats that are solid at room temperature. You know what another word for "solid" is? Stable. I like my fats to be stable at room temperature, so that they don't go rancid. And the more unsaturated a fat is, the less solid and stable it is.

She got turned around telling us to avoid sat fats when she subsequently recommended foods high in sat fats. For example, she said to eat yogurt and milk even though they are mostly saturated fats, because they are "good saturated" fats.

Here's my take. Saturated fats in the "bad" meats (like my red-meat faves: cold cuts, sausage, and steaks) make up only 20% - 50% of the total fat content of the meat. That "Bad" meat is high in protein, iron, B vitamins, zinc, choline, and selenium - a mineral implicated in preventing cancer and improving cardiovascular health. Ounce for ounce beef has twice the thiamine and riboflavin, three times the iron, five times the zinc, and seven times the B12 of chicken. Beef also contains conjugated linoleic acid, (CLA), which has inhibited cancer growth in laboratory animals. Half of the fat in beef is monosaturated fat, (like olive oil), which has been hailed as having many health benefits. Less than half of the total fat in beef is saturated fat and one third of it is stearic acid, a particular saturated fat that has no effect on cholesterol.

2. Says we should worry about fat and sodium, instead of sugar.

Frankly, this blew me away. And I could see that people in the class were confused by the introduction of the sodium issue. He's my take on sodium. The body has an amazing abilitiy to regulate sodium in the body and shed excess sodium where necessary. If you are not showing signs of "sodium sensitivity" in the form of high blood pressure and hypertension, then what's the point of reducing sodium intake?! Is it to get under some arbitrary number that attempts to cover everybody? Using that logic, then you should cut your peanut intake even though you don't get anaphylaxis, and you should stop drinking milk even though you are not lactose intolerant. I'll say it again, if you don't have high-blood pressure and/or hypertension - then ignore your salt consumption. If you ever get high-blood pressure, then revisit my strategy.

And here's my take on sugar. If you didn't not get one milligram of sugar for the rest of your life, you would be just fine. In fact, you would be doing terrific. But if you didn't get another gram of fat, you would DIE. And it wouldn't be nice and quick either. You'd probably go insane first. Sugar is the devil. If you're even half ways normal and you did nothing but cut your sugar intake as far as you could take it, everything else for you would probably automatically click right into place.

She didn' t even mention watching sugar intake.

3. Any exercise is good exercise.

It's just not true. You have a resting heart rate and you have a maximum heart rate where if you go any harder your heart will explode right out of your chest. (Don't laugh, it really happened to a friend of a friend of mine.) And somewhere in between, you have a target heart rate. And believe me, there is a big difference between your resting heart rate and your target heart rate. Jesus Christ, why do you think that Olympic athletes train the way they do? Do you think they wouldn't rather go mall-walking if they could get a similar effect? Sure, if you're completely out of shape, then you start by taking the stairs to the bathroom in your office tower, but then you progress until you are doing real exercise. Not this stupid walk around the block after dinner.

Now, for me as much as for you, I will restate:

Exercise strenously for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week, preferably spread out. (Not the whole 2.5 hours at one time)

Eliminate all processed crap from your diet. And don't try the argument that everything is processed. "Milk is pasteurized and therefore processed..." If you can't tell the difference between a glass of milk and a Mountain Dew then you are just plain stupid.

For what's left, try to scale way back on added or concentrated sugars. Added sugars are anything you would put sugar, honey, or molasses on. Concentrated sugars are dried fruits, raisins, etc. Eat all the sugar you want outside of that - like fruit. Now I'll never be able to completley eliminate the added or concentrated sugars from my diet, I do have a sweet tooth after all. But I am at least aware.

From what's left of that, have as much as you want of everything else up to the caloric limit for your gender and weight. For me that's 3000 calories per day. Because I work out, I try to get at least 150g of protein per day, and I let the fat and carb levels work themselves out. Usually the process of getting that much protein brings with it all the fat I need, (any kind of fat - I don't care) and the rest becomes complex carbs in the form of vegetables.

Not so complicated, eh?

I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal.
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