Monday, April 29, 2013

How Pandora and Spotify are Ruining Music

Today's topic has nothing to do with health, nor cows. Rather, it's concerning one of my other passions... music. I've always felt a special connection to music. It's not something that I can quite put into words, but the right music just has a way of speaking to my soul. It's been the one constant in my life that never fails to make me feel alive. To quote Stephen Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, "the four right chords can make me cry."

But despite my love for music, I've been unsure how I feel about the direction music is heading... with Pandora and Spotify leading the way, the modern internet culture is taking over the music industry. All of a sudden, for the first time ever, we have instant access to every song ever made. We have the ability to make a playlist based on our personal preferences, without even so much as a thought. These all seem like great things on the surface, but they just don't appeal to me.  Am I old fashioned?  Just resistant to change and new technology?  Maybe.  But there's something else going on here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why We're Obese: An Intro to Food Reward

Obesity is complex. I think we all know that at this point. There is no one reason why any of us become obese; it's a combination of several factors including genetics, physical activity, hormones, calories, fat, carbs, junk food, and much, much more. We can of course say that we get fat from eating more calories than we expend, that's a fact... but that doesn't tell us anything about why we're consuming more food than we need. Likewise, we don't truly know the best way to lose excess weight. We need to eat fewer calories than we expend, duh. But we have to worry about complicated things like hunger, willpower, and cravings... and why it feels like your body just wants to hold onto that extra fat.

Enter: Food RewardI've touched on this in the past but I haven't given it a proper explanation.  I first heard of the concept via Stephen Guyenet a couple years ago, as most people in the ancestral health community did.  It's taken me a while to fully warm up to it and truly understand it, but I'm now convinced that this is a major reason, perhaps the major reason, for the obesity epidemic.  Allow me to explain.

The Reward System
Our brains contain a "reward" system that is critical to our survival.  Actions that promote our survival are reinforced by the brain by making us feel good... this makes us want to do them again.  For example, running around in the sun playing frisbee makes us feel good; the sun is good for our health (in moderation), physical activity promotes fitness and survival in the most primal sense, and it gives us a sense of community and kinship with our friends.  Our brains tell us that playing frisbee in the sun is a good thing, and we're likely to do it again in the future.  But the reward system also works the other way, discouraging actions that harm us.  If we pick up a baking dish out of the oven with our bare hands, we'll burn our skin, and so our brains send a very strong signal for us to STOP (pain).  Addictive drugs essentially hijack this reward system.  Heroin, for example, will bypass the environmental sensory aspect of the reward system and latch on to the receptors in the brain.  Drugs like these provide a super strong stimulus, hence they are reinforced by happy feelings, and you'll want to do it again and again until you become addicted.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Real-Life Farmville 2013

It's that time again, folks... Spring time is here!  Warming weather, flowers blooming, happy people everywhere... But one of my favorite parts about the Spring is starting my vegetable garden.  This will be my fourth year having a garden.  I've learned a lot from my mistakes over the past three years, and I'm ready for this year to be the best yet!  Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, that's what I always say.  No one is good in the beginning, just do it.  Just do something.

So Real-Life Farmville 2013 is underway, and I'd like to share with you what I've got going.  I've been buying my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange every year.  They've got tons of unique, heirloom varieties of vegetables, and they'll send you an amazing catalog showing you everything they offer... highly recommended.  I like trying different stuff since my uncle, who shares the garden with me, always grows the common veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes, and summer squash.  I'm a little more adventurous.

First up is the herbs... this is a new addition this year.

Herbs: Parsley, Cilantro, Dill

Got this little guy as an Easter gift in one of those easy-grow pots.  It came with blocks of dry soil, all I had to do was add water and plant the seeds and watch it grow.  Can't wait to use this stuff in my kitchen!

For the rest, I got 4 soil-filled flats from my family farm, Botticello Farms.  I've been putting them outside every day and taking them in every night to avoid the cold weather, and they've been doing very well on that regimen.  It's only been a week and a half and they're looking good already!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why There's So Much Conflicting Info in Nutrition, A Snarky Rant on Conventional RDs

I really wanted to title this post "Moving Beyond Black and White: Real Life is Gray", or something to that effect.  I liked that title.  But in the interest of attracting more readers, I chose this one.  Yup I'm a sell out.

After a conversation with my friend Amanda the other day (Inspired.), I had a bit of a revelation... not everyone thinks the way I do.  It should be obvious, of course, but sometimes you just need a little kick in the pants.  We were talking about conventional registered dietitians and the trends we see as we work our way into the profession.  Unfortunately, we've noticed that many RDs are closed-minded and resistant to hearing anything that challenges their beliefs... the precious "facts" they learned in school, the gospel that comes out of the USDA dietary guidelines... when in fact they haven't put any real thought into it themselves.

I guess I just tend to have faith in people.  I assume that someone who went through the 4-5 years of school and 1200 hours of supervised practice to become a nutrition professional would have learned, somewhere along the way, to think for themselves, instead of taking every word of what someone else says to be the absolute truth.  Isn't that what we go to school for??  To learn how to think for our fucking selves?  To become adults with conviction who actually stand for something, instead of being sheep and following the pack???  Is that not what education is all about?

It just absolutely kills me when I meet someone who is a grown adult and still thinks in such a naive manner.  If you disagree with something I say that's fine.  There's room for disagreement in nutrition.  Just don't be a fucking moron about it and come back with "that's not what we learned in school".  Nutrition isn't as clear as black and white, it's mostly gray... everything exists on a spectrum. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Poor Man Diet: 10 Complementary Foods

Back to the Poor Man Diet.  If you missed last week's post, you should probably read that first.  Otherwise none of this will make any frickin' sense.  In the last post, I talked about 5 of the best choices you can make if you're compromising cost and health.  They're not the healthiest 5 foods in the world, and they're not the cheapest 5 foods in the world... but they're just about the most nutritious foods you can find for the least amount of money.  It's all about compromise.

Today, though, I'm giving you 10 complementary foods.  I've given you a solid base, but it's the complementary foods that can make or break your diet.  If you're eating pop-tarts and ho-ho's on the side, you could be in trouble.  These aren't foods you need to eat every day, and because of that I'm being a little more forgiving on the cost end of things and leaning more towards nutrient-density.  Still, you won't find lobster tail here, or raw oysters, or white truffles... okay nevermind I'll stop blabbering and get on with it... here you are, 10 nutritious complementary foods for your Poor Man Diet.

1. Chicken Thighs
$1.29/lb (bone-in), $1.99/lb (boneless)
You're in luck.  Since everyone has gone chicken boob crazy, that's left chicken butt on the sidelines.  Little does everyone know, chicken thighs are much juicier and more flavorful than breasts... and there's nothing wrong with a little more fat in your life, especially if you're looking to get the most food for your dollar.  In terms of nutrition, they're a great source of protein, B vitamins, and zinc.  Probably your most cost-effective source of meat!