Saturday, March 28, 2015

Santa Fe Bike Swap Bike

Here is the bike we picked up for $16 at our local bike swap today. Yes, we have enough bikes, but the bike we have the studded snow tires on is a little small, and my wife wanted this one. The shifters are shot, but we'll get the $17 replacements from Rivendell's Clem collection. In the meantime it is stuck in a good gear.

Health Update

According to the blood pressure machine in the pharmacy department of my local grocery store, my blood pressure has come down quite a bit, at least the systolic has.  (My doctor told me that those machines are more or less accurate.)  For as long as I can remember, my blood pressure has been around 135/85.  Usually it measures a little bit higher in the doctor's office.  As usual, that concerned me more than it concerned my doctor, but he had me wear a machine that checked my blood pressure every 15 minutes for 24 hours.  During the night it falls very low - down to something like 99/50. My doctor said that variation over the course of the day tells him there's nothing particularly worrisome about it seeming high when I get a checkup - white coat syndrome.

Still, I don't like the fact that I hover in between prehypertension and hypertension on the little chart on the machine there in the grocery store.  Today when I checked it, it was 117/83.  That 117 puts me in the normal range for systolic.

Is it all due to eating a Primal/Paleo type diet?  Who knows.  Still, the blood pressure combined with the absence of seasonal allergies and asthma is encouraging me to keep with it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grain Brain

I have just about finished reading David Perlmutter's Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers.  It covers the ground you would expect it to - grains, carbs, and sugars causes inflammation; cholesterol is good; cutting out grains and carbs, (and of course sugar) will drastically, dramatically alter your life.

I'm at the point where I don't read books like Grain Brain for radically new information.  I read them to keep on track.  It also represents a type of self-reinforcement that has become common in the age of the internet.  I believe that is both good and bad.  I remember when the internet was heralded as the place people of differing views could get together and discuss, in true democratic fashion, differences of philosophy and opinion, and we would all be better citizens because of it.  I found that I immediately gravitated toward the car-free crowd, which also tends to be the car-critical crowd.  Daily I read posts on Twitter and on the internet about the great strides bicycle infrastructure is taking, the steady, dramatic decline in car ownership, both in the United States and around the world, and references to the few whackos out there who continue to champion internal combustion engines.  I get Bill McKibben's tweets about the groundswell of opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and I read tweets from the primal community.  The fact that all these messages pour into my devices does not make it feel like I'm part of an insular community, but paints a picture for me of a global culture of bicycle riding, carbon scorning, grain refusing people.  The world looks that way to me, and it gives me optimism, which is a good thing, but if I spend time doing something like visiting my family in the Southeast, I realize that there are a lot of grain-eating, car-driving, global climate change denying people out there.

Parenting becomes an even more difficult thing when you are trying to change your own culture.  We stopped eating spaghetti a couple of years ago because my wife felt it was making her feel terrible.  Our kids now long for pasta night.  Is there anything wrong with pasta?  In the larger cultural climate, of course not.  But we, as the parents in the family, are now circling about like sharks in the waters of sugar is poison, pasta is poison, bread is poison.  How much allowance to you give the larger culture in raising children?

I'm particularly worried about my son's eating habits and my responses to him, particularly in light of reading Grain Brain.  He loves to bake.  For years I've fought him on that.  That feels like a really shitty thing to do.  "Hey Dad," he'll say, "will you get the stuff to make cookies?  I've really been wanting to make cookies."  "I really don't want you eating sugar," I'll say.  "Plus, it's hard to have cookies around when I'm trying not to eat them.  I like cookies too your know."  I almost always capitulate in the end, though sometimes he gives up.  To a large extent, I would much rather have him in the kitchen baking than sitting in his room submerged in the realm of Minecraft.  He also likes for me to buy him some jelly beans on the weekend when I do the weekly grocery shopping.  I used to buy him a box of Jelly Bellies from Trader Joe's, but he would down them in a second.  Now, I do a short burst of Jelly Beans from a bulk bin, but he's irritated when I return home with a smattering of Jelly Beans for him.  But here's the thing - his eating habits tend toward the terrible.  To my eye, it looks like he's addicted to sugar.  Whatever I get him for a week - a big bag of trail mix with M&Ms, jelly beans, lemonade, (when he requests it), etc. - disappears within two days.  He does eat what I make for dinner, but neither he nor his sister are that big on breakfast.  They also will not take anything for lunch.  I will send them off with carrots, which I find later rotting in their backpacks.  Zeb, particularly, won't eat sandwiches.  He's not fond of fruit.  The trail mix is the only thing he requests, and, as I said, he polishes that off in a day or two.  I think I would have to buy forty dollars worth of trail mix a week for him to max out on it.  He won't eat just nuts - the candy is what does it for him.

He also seems to be in the dark tunnel of adolescence.  He rarely smiles. He seldom laughs.  He stays in his room all the time playing Minecraft.  On reading Grain Brain, I started thinking, "you know, if I could just get him to eat a low-carb diet and eliminate sugar, his mood might improve significantly."  It might also be equally true that if I just got off his fucking case and bought him supplies to make cookies and snacks he wants to eat, his mood would equally improve.  It's a hard call, and I never know which way to go with it.

In my own adolescence, I stayed in my room and locked my door, (which drove my mother crazy, though I wasn't doing anything naughtier than what teenage boys normally do in their rooms).  I could eat an entire sleeve of Oreos at a sitting.  I lived mainly on Lucky Charms, frozen chicken pot pies, applesauce, sprees, skittles, grilled cheeses, Campbell's tomato soup, and whatever my mom made for dinner.  I probably consumed much more sugar than my son is consuming.  Should I just let him be a teenager?  No matter what your view of healthy is, how do you try to inculcate that in your children without creating conflict?

The main thing I notice in myself at this point in time is I do not have a big problem with allergies.  People are being felled by the juniper pollen all around me.  I'm not willing to attribute that solely to my sticking strictly to a no grains, low carb diet, but it's certainly possible that's helping.  This time of year, that's reason enough to stick to the diet.  My allergies can really be debilitating.  (I remember one year when my eyes almost swelled shut).  I'm also still free from any difficulties with my asthma.  I wonder if my mother had known cutting out sugar and going low carb could help with asthma, I would have embraced it as a teenager, or if I would have been pissed off all the time that I couldn't eat oreos and ice cream?  The world is never simple.  Perhaps there is a time for ramen and ice cream.  We take care of ourselves and each other as best we can.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beekeeping time

I'm cleaning out some empty hives to get ready to split my full ones. Honey is Paleo -- in moderation

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Santa Fe County Spur Trail and Rail Trail

Maybe it was all the espresso in the Paleo espresso from Tathagata Coffee, but I decided to take the Spur Trail and the Rail Trail back home.  The trail from the coffee place dumps out onto Richard's Avenue right across from the entrance to the Spur Trail.

I have not been on either the Spur Trail nor the dirt section of the Rail Trail in years.  They have been working to make improvements to the Rail Trail, and I wanted to see how those were coming along.

What I remembered about the Spur Trail is that it feels longer than it seems it should be.  According to this link,  the trail is three miles long.  Maybe it feels longer to me because it is largely uphill when you are heading from the Community College, which is the direction I usually take on the rare occasions I ride on the trail.  It is also fine gravel, and the gravel pools here and there making a it a little bit slippy for a road bike.  Nevertheless, I would say it is eminently road bikable.  At least it works fine with my 23 mm tires.  I'm not sure I would want to do it on super skinny, super high pressure tires.  When the trail was opened, I thought "Great, we can ride out the Arroyo Chamisa Trail from our house, hop on the Rail Trail, and then coast on down to the Community College!"  And the trail was spoken of as a connection to the Community College from the Rail Trail.  However, it seems like such a long way to get to the Community College, and it's dirt and base course, so it's not the most pleasant commuting surface.  The rail trail, back in the day, was also full of erosion damage and sandy washes.  There is also no clear signage pointing to the Spur Trail from the Rail Trail.  I rode right by it the one time I tried to go to the Community College that way.  I'm really not clear why the Spur Trail was built.  It's nice that it's there, and a lot of people seem to walk and bicycle on it, but it does not seem like a useful connection for commuters.  If I'm going to bicycle out that way, I usually find it easier just to head out Richard's Avenue.

The Rail Trail runs along the Santa Fe Southern tracks to Eldorado.  Occasionally, I try to advocate for paving it, so the folks who commute in from Eldorado don't have to a) head a long way east to get out of Eldorado and then b) turn back west and head into Santa Fe on the interstate.  Unfortunately, the trail itself is not conducive to being made into a commuter bicycle superhighway from that particular bedroom community.  It dips up and down, twists and turns, and crosses over washes.  I still think it would be nicer paved, but there are plenty of mountain bikers and trail runners who like it just the way it is.  I don't commute in from Eldorado ever or bicycle out to Eldorado often, so it's not really my call.

There was a trail closed sign in the Eldorado direction.  I've heard from some people that they are really making a mess out there, tearing up trees, and making duplicate routes for the trail that seem unnecessary.  I decided not to violate the warning sign to investigate, but I am very curious as to what is going on.  I may forward this post to Tim Rogers, who is the trail program coordinator for the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.  He most likely would know.

The trail does seem to be in much better shape than it used to be.  They've built some retaining walls and have smoothed out some of the erosion.  There are some steep sections, and I walked up one.  My single speed's frame is from 1978, so it's 37 years old.  I have this wacky long steel stem, (the diameter of the stem for the Schwinn Super Le Tour is not 1"), and I'm not sure that yanking up on the handlebars to hump it up a steep climb is a good idea.  I'd like the frame to make it another 37 years.

I would say it is much easier to ride a road bike on this particular section of the Rail Trail.  I'm not sure what's going on where the trail is under construction. I personally would like to see some bridges over the sandy washes, but it doesn't kill me to get off my bike and push if I bog down.

The trail still is not the best commuter route into the city, and, while I had fun getting out there and exploring again, I'm not sure I would regularly choose that route to get out to the coffee shop.

I believe Tim mentioned on one Community Cruise ride that there are some long-term plans to extend the trail system in Rancho Viejo out to the near-Santa Fe side of Eldorado.  If they do that, it will really improve the commuting in to town.

Tathagata Coffee

Here is the trusty steed in front of Tathagata Coffee in Rancho Viejo. It's a short jaunt into the county, but a bike trail dumps out close to it, and it is well worth the ride. They serve a great Paleo Espresso.

Designing for Bicycle Riders: Is There a Best Practice?

I'm going to diverge into bicycling for a post.  There seems to be a division occurring in the bicycling community that I've been giving a lot of thought to.  Mr. Mayor recently appointed me to the city's Bicycling and Trails Advisory Committee.  I heard through the grapevine that a city councilor was looking for me to fill a spot on the committee, and I believe that was in response to a letter I wrote to the newspaper criticizing the mayor's sudden announcement of a green bike lane initiative.  We had just wrapped up a Santa Fe County Bicycle Master Plan a couple of years ago.  The master plan is well thought out and fairly comprehensive.  According to the news article I read, the mayor had spoken with a bike shop owner downtown who had recommended green bike lanes.  At first glance, the idea sounded horrible and not thought out at all.  If things unfolded as they typically do, I could see some disjointed, strips of green flaking paint on the side of the road in remote areas that did not really go anywhere or connect to anything.  Santa Fe recently received a silver designation from the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle friendly city, and we're hoping to reach a gold designation soon.  We don't need more plans.  We need to stick with the plan we've come up with.

We seem to be slipping into two distinct design philosophies in this country based on my loose observation of my Twitter feed.  I'm a League Cycling Instructor, albeit a fairly inactive one, and my background is in Vehicular Cycling.  When the Bicycling and Trails Advisory Committee was formed, I quickly became part of the on-street subcommittee because I reacted to another news story that the money in the bond cycle was "money for trails."  It was not money for trails, it was money for bike facilities.  Among other things, our subcommittee was responsible for getting sharrows on narrow roads in the city, and we also pushed through traffic signal triggering symbols showing bicyclists where to park to trigger the traffic signals.

Lately, on Twitter, I've been seeing these very sharrows, that I believe are effective reminders that bicycles belong on the roads, even if the exact import of the symbols is misunderstood by almost everyone, mocked and attacked.  These attacks come from some people I do admire, and I followed on purpose, like Mikail Colville-Andersen, but there's a few people/magazines I've started following haphazardly - Momentum Mag and Chris Bruntlett are a couple - that retweet a lot of vehicular cycling critical tweets.  The entire Green Lane Project seems to be coming from a group called People for Bikes.

Now here's the thing - I am sympathetic to the concept, but I just do not see protected bike lanes as safe in most instances.  In a city, where there are few curb cuts, and bicyclists are largely trying to get from one side of the city to another, or from the terminus of one urban trail to the beginning of another, maybe.  Otherwise, how is a protected bike lane unlike a sidepath, or even riding on a sidewalk, and it's clear that riding on the sidewalk is one of the leading causes of getting hit by turning traffic.  Santa Fe is an old city with narrow streets and low speed limits.  We have lots of curb cuts, so there aren't many places where a protected bike lane would make sense to me personally.  In some discussions, I have mentioned that, well, maybe we could put a protected bike lane down the length of St. Francis, which is actually a state highway running through the city - 6-8 lanes, 45 mph speed limit, few curb cuts.  When I bring that up, everyone says "who would ride down St. Francis?"  It's a valid question.  The rail trail parallels it.  There's not a really good reason for using it.

I often ride in the bike lane on Cerrillos Rd., another high speed arterial cutting from the outskirts of the city to downtown.  The part of it near where I live was redone a few years ago.  Now we have the traffic lanes, a bicycle lane, a bus lane, and the sidewalk.  The bike lane puts you out there next to the traffic so that both the traffic sees you, and the people pulling out of the driveways and side roads see you.  It's a very safe place to be on a bicycle.

I do understand that many people are not ready to jump right in to being a full vehicular cyclist.  In an ideal world, I would love it if the number of roads/lanes cars could use were drastically reduced and some version of a workable protected bike area could be implemented that would still allow for bicycle riders to move into a left turn lane safely, etc.  Six lane major road?  Give the cars one lane in each direction, slow the speed to 20 mph, and use the other two lanes for linear parks with ample bike paths.  That would be ideal.  But in the meantime, I do not understand this attack on vehicular cycling, nor - as someone who doesn't think of himself as a "bicyclist" per se - this portrayal of people who ride in traffic as lycra-clad daredevils who don't really care about the common man.  I believe bike lanes, in almost all cases, belong next to travel lanes, not on the passenger side of the parked cars.  Side paths need to remain labeled a bad practice.  Educating people on how to bicycle should remain a priority.  Sharrows send an important message.

What's up People for Bikes?

The mayor's green bike lanes are going through as a test, but they're being used exclusively to guide bicyclists through busy intersections.  In that context, I think it sounds great.  Anything that both guides bicyclists out of the right turn lanes and alerts motorists that bicycles are supposed to be out there sounds good to me.  I'm looking forward to the test intersections.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from people in locations that have implemented Green Lane Project ideas, and who have protected bike lanes, how they are working out.  Are they mostly in areas that don't have a lot of curb cuts?  I don't see how they would work otherwise.  Is there guidance for bicycles moving into left turn lanes to turn left?  How is that working out?  I would love to better understand how pursuing an ideal of protected bike lanes while denigrating vehicular cycling helps everyone who wants to cycle get from their home to their destination.

I love to be out on the bike paths, because I don't like the noise and congestion of cars, but there comes a time on every trip when you have to become part of traffic.  We need to stop this silly attack on vehicular cycling.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Varying the Routine

It doesn't have much to do with diet, but I thought I would vary my routine and not head straight to work this morning. I rode the single speed down the Rail Trail to Downtown Subscription. That's it parked in front of Garcia Street Books. I haven't had much time to write, but I had a little. Now for the long haul up Garcia Street to work.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What's Going Right

I've started this blog largely to start writing regularly again, with an audience in mind.  Somehow, even though a blog is journal-like, writing one is not quite like writing a journal.  Heretofore, I had not been aware that anyone had found or had been reading this blog, but now I know Kent is out there.  "Hello Kent!"  It's nice to have a long term, online bicycling community.

Here's some things that are going great:

That's me on Picacho Peak.  We had a friend in from out of town last week, and we were able to convince both kids to go hike up the mountain with us.  It's a small mountain at the edge of town but a beautiful hike nonetheless.

Here's my kids up there too.  Note the dead tree.  We've had a terrible time with the bark beetles and the pinon pines.  There are some climate scientists who think the Southwest will one day be treeless.  Where is the Lorax when you need him?

As far as changing my diet goes.  I may have gone through a few days of intense cravings, but there have been a few good things to come out of it.

1.  I have a lot more energy during the day.  Normally, I get so sleepy in the afternoons, that I almost feel narcoleptic.  I'll be working on something at my desk, and suddenly, my mind will start to wander, my head will drop, and my eyes will start to close.  I have to get up and walk around for a minute.  That hasn't been happening.

2.  My weight has dropped about ten pounds and stalled, but it hasn't gone back up.  My clothes are fitting the way they were supposed to again.

3.  My blood pressure, as measured by one of those little do-it-yourself booths at the grocery store, has been coming down.  It's always been higher than you would think it would be for someone who bicycles quite a bit and generally eats healthy food, (overlooking the Nutella and the occasional pop tart).

One of the reasons I'm experimenting with a paleo diet is my father had a heart attack in his mid-fifties.  I'll be fifty in a little less than a year and a half.  I'd like to avoid any problems with my heart if possible, and I certainly don't want to be having open heart surgery in five or six years.

My sister reassures me that given I move a lot, and my father hardly moved at all, I should be safe.  I ran across some medical papers when I was going through things after my mother's death that had noted my father's blood pressure was 200 something over 100 something.  I didn't even think that was possible.  My sister told me that my father would start walking two days before a doctor's appointment so that he could tell the doctor he had been walking.  He did play a lot of golf, but he reportedly used a golf cart for much of that.  I remember walking with him around the golf course, but my sister remembers the golf cart being his default way to get around.

An acquaintance of mine, who I see frequently, recently went to the doctor because his arms were hurting during his workouts.  After a long series of tests, they found one of his arteries was 95% blocked.  They cleared it out, but now he's on blood thinners and statins.  His blood pressure has always been low, his numbers all looked good.  He thinks it's just genetic.  I hope my father's difficulties with his heart were more diet and activity related than genetic.  I think that medical emergency happening in my peer group also may have helped contribute to my dark mood of late.

I plan to go in for my yearly physical around my birthday and see if my blood work looks better this year than in 2013, (when I last saw my doctor).  If it is, I'll consider sticking with a paleo-style of eating.  Though, if I can also get my weight down, I may occasionally have a bowl of steel cut oats.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Steady On!

I've been feeling down lately, though I have no real cause to point to.  (My journal entries going back for decades rant about feeling trapped by pet ownership - I like to take off on weekends to explore, but I haven't been pet-free since 1997 - my struggles to become a famous author of essays and fiction - still very much only in the works - and my desire to own very few things in a Zen-like atmosphere of calm, space, and dust-free-ness - I grew up with asthma, and I have a sheer horror of house dust and pet hair.  Lately I have added the presence of the internet, computers, and smart phones in my home, family space to those rants.  I'm afraid my children are going to be bored and horrified by my journals.  I seldom write when I am happy.)  Those are all examples of the outward targets of my depressions, and when I feel depressed I feel VERY depressed, though when I take depression surveys online, I don't rate as depressed.  My sex drive is good to very strong, thank you very much, and I sleep well, and I have hope for the future, though my wait to be once again a pet-free explorer of the wild places of the earth seems to go on and on.  As that is my biggest passion, that is always a frustration.  Maybe I'm not really depressed.  Maybe I'm just frustrated, and I don't know how to get on with the things that mean the most to me.  I spend a lot of time waiting, and I'm at the point where I am aware that I am growing older, and I am losing time in which to wait.  Though this is not really a blog about my personal psychology, I think a lot about it.  There are two things I think about.  One, as a young boy, I had two older brothers who were simply out of control, and my mother spent a lot of tear-filled, shouting-filled hours trying to get them to shape up.  My oldest brother was more or less out of the house before I was very old, so I don't remember much of the difficulties with him, but the brother who was six years older than I - he passed away from ALS in 2004 - at one point dropped out of middle school and was dealing pot out of the house, along with drinking, and various other escapades.  I took it upon myself to protect/take care of my mother.  As I got older, that became a matter of feeling like I could not really be myself.  I couldn't drink.  I couldn't screw up.  And I did end up going to parties and drinking, but I was probably a little better at hiding it.  I was embarrassed to be a human being at home.  I had to be perfect.  My father worked nights and slept during the day.  In some ways, it felt like he was out of the picture.  I have often wondered, throughout my life, how similar I am to him.  He died when he was 59 when the truck he was driving was hit by a teenager who ran a stop sign.  He always seemed to be waiting to me as well, in some ways.  His role did not involve the family to a great extent.  He never suggested things to do as a family, though he did take me fishing often and did his best to teach me how to golf.  Aside from vacations, he and my mother never did anything together besides go out to eat, though they were affectionate and never seemed to argue, though my Mom complained that he was always off hunting, fishing, or playing golf.  I never heard him stand up for himself.  He quietly went his own way.  This is a long, roundabout way to comment on one of the odd aspects of my character.  When the family is home, I feel like I am in care-for-the-family mode.  That, by and large, involves a) waiting and b) cooking.  I get so sick of waiting and cooking.  I want to go climb Lake Peak!  I want to bicycle up into the mountains for the night!  But I never suggest things like that because a) I would feel selfish doing those things alone, and I really want to be outside with my family b) I have no role models for the non-introverted, let's all go camping, hiking, bicycling mode.  I don't know, maybe there's no explanation.  Perhaps it's not just as simple as my father was quiet and passive, so I'm quiet and passive.  But I wait.  I wait for suggestions of camping trips.  I wait for excited teenagers to wake up on Saturday morning and say "Let's go hike the Rio En Medio today!"  I wait for affection.  I wait for conversation.  I don't know, sometimes I just feel like a great big blob of waiting, and that's depressing, because as I get older there is less time.  My kids are 13 and 15.  They don't really want to do much together anymore.  What's odd is how distinct my waiting state is.  During the weekend, to some extent, I spend most of the time waiting to see what everyone else wants to do.  I don't even like to do chores.  I need to paint the roof for example.  I'm not likely to do that on the weekend.  The weekend is family time.  I'll probably do that on my Tuesday off.  Actually, I spend a lot of time standing in the kitchen wondering when someone will suggest something: "Is it time to make love?  Is it time to go have a latte?  Is it time to go for a hike?  Is it time for a backpacking trip?  Is it time to sit in the backyard and read a book? Is it time for me to go try to write a story?  What if someone needs something? (which, when I was an at-home-dad seemed to happen every time I picked up a pen or turned on the computer). Is it time to listen to the Rolling Stones "Some Girls" album real loud and dance around the living room?"  OK, I have limited interests in a typical order.  When I'm home alone, I go about being myself.  There's no one here I have to wait for.  Waiting is exhausting.  It seemed to be the mode my father modeled.  How do you break out of that?

As far as being Paleo goes, I have been angry all week.  My weight is not really coming down.  I don't like eggs.  I'm not all that fond of eating meat.  I'm getting sick of cheese.  I believe I come from a family of emotional eaters.  There was always snacking going on.  Gallons of ice cream were consumed.  Boxes of Oreos.  Lots of white bread sandwiches.  With this depression, I've been struggling with the drive to eat.  I tend to snack on nuts, but nuts have carbs, not many, granted, but they're there, and I would like to keep my carbs under 40 grams a day.  I know there's also other concerns about peanuts.  I love peanuts, and I love peanut butter.  I could easily eat half a jar of peanut butter a day.  I'm trying to limit it to one small spoon in the afternoon.  With my mood so black.  I've been eating three or four.  It doesn't help that my default position is to stand in the kitchen.  All week, I've been having cravings for things I should not eat under this regimen, and that has only added to the frustration.  I want my oatmeal in the morning dammit!  I want to eat fruit, not just a little bowl of berries and yogurt in the evening, but bananas, oranges, apples, dates!

But I am keeping on keeping on.  I'm doing 20 situps, 20 squats, and 15 pushups in the morning.  I am trying to write more when everyone has gone in the morning.  In spite of the "don't jog" advice, I'm trying to start a habit of going for a short run when I get home from work, before I do anything else, that anything else usually being snacking.  Hopefully, I'll break out of this mood, my weight will continue down, and somehow, I'll eventually completely change my character and stop waiting so much.

In the meantime, I have to go to work, but I think I'll play the beginning of "Some Girls" real loud and dance around a bit first.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eat Bacon, Don't Jog: A Somewhat Rambling Review

When I decided that I needed to stop eating the kids' bagels and pop tarts and start keeping an eye on what I ate again, I bought a copy of Grant Petersen's Eat Bacon, Don't Jog: Get Strong. Get Lean. No Bullshit. I know Grant Petersen primarily as the owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works.  In 2001, I purchased a bicycle he designed, and I'm still happily riding it to work every day.  (That's another story.)

Grant has also long championed low carb eating.  He's carried Gary Taubes's books on the Rivendell website, and he has written on the subject occasionally.  His book follows the format of his previous book Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike.  It's a collection of short chapters conveying a range of information.

Unfortunately, I ordered the Kindle version.  I have a bit of a don't-like-much/hate relationship with Kindle.  Occasionally, I think it's great because there's less clutter, not trees were harmed, no pollution from shipping the book, and so on.  But you can't flip through your books.  Eat Bacon, Don't Jog is primarily a book for browsing.  I don't think it took me very long to read through it, (though I skipped a lot of the details about exercising), but I like looking back through it.  I always need a little reminder from day to day, to stay on course.  For me getting off course looks like a piece of toast now and then, followed by a bagel now and then, followed by a bagel or toast every morning, sandwiches for lunch, a few M&Ms from the vending machine, too much sweet fruit at night - I am clearly not an orthorexic.  I've noticed an increase of articles on orthorexia recently, and it is some food for thought.  I might tackle the subject at a greater extent later, but I see problems with it.  It seems to demonize some healthy eating habits.  For example, the linked article asks the question "Do you assign moral qualities to foods?"  For example, do you think sugar is evil?  Well, sugar is one of the unhealthy things we put into our bodies.  Sometimes it helps change habits to assign moral qualities to foods.  I guess it becomes a problem when it becomes obsessive.  If I am offered food at someone's house, I'll eat it.  I fully plan to have some pie on my birthday.  (I hate cake).  It's good to keep Mark Sisson's 80/20 rule in mind.

Back to Grant's book:  He covers all the bases.  He goes through the insulin response, the fact fat doesn't make you fat, carbs make you fat.  He talks a lot about foods he likes.  I appreciate that, and I very much appreciate that he suggests eating habits that don't involve obscure ingredients found only at $84 an ounce from specialty stores found only in neighboring big cities.  He is a big fan of canned fish, and his book has compelled me to eat more sardines, or rather, eat sardines at all.  I don't think I've eaten a sardine in my life before this past month.  Generally, I don't like canned food, but what the hell.  I might as well try canned fish for a while.  Sardines do fill me up.  I can eat a can of sardines around lunch time, and I'm really not hungry until the next day.  I am still uncertain as to whether I actually like them.  The first few cans seemed kind of nasty to me, but I've grown used to them.  I'm also not sure if I like canned oysters.  I kinda do.  I also kinda find them repulsive.  Grant's blog for the book covers a lot of the food he eats.  It all seems fairly simple.  I really love the cookbook Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.  However, many of the recipes involve multiple steps, odd things like Rapadura, (which is basically sugar.  I'm not sure what it's doing in there), or starting with beef or chicken stock which takes beginning your recipe days before.  Dumping a can of sardines into some scrambled eggs with a few brussel sprouts is much easier.

He also has some great chapters on exercise, including exercises with kettlebells.  It's on my list to buy some, but it may be a while.  I admit I skimmed the exercise chapters.  I don't have a way to block my feet, so I haven't been able to try Janda situps.  I am trying to keep my arms a little closer to my body when I do pushups.  I'm still not too excited by exercise.

He moves toward the end of the book with chapters on physiology - all short and understandable.  He makes a case for blood sugar testing, which I might get around to trying.  There are also tests for ketone bodies.  Grant is arguing for a ketogenic diet, where you power your body from ketone bodies made from your body fat rather than from sugars broken down from your food.  I don't believe paleo and primal diets are necessarily trying to be ketogenic.  It makes some sense, and I'm trying to keep my carb intake under about 50 grams, but I can't say exactly whether I am succeeding.  I don't really measure.  My main downfall, right now, is probably the big bowl of nuts that sits on the table next to my desk.  I try not to eat too many.  A quarter cup of nuts has about 7 grams of carbs.  I hope I'm not eating two cups of nuts while I go about my daily work, but who knows?  (The nuts are part of a weekly catered event.  They bring in a lot of them, and they simply aren't eaten at the event, so we have them available in the office)

I do have a few bones to pick with Eat Bacon, Don't Jog.  I make my own yogurt.  Grant makes the claim that Greek yogurt is the only way to go because it lacks more of the sugar-containing whey.  (That's as in the natural sugars in milk, not extra added sugar).  I checked the labels on yogurt the last time I was at the store, and the Greek yogurt contained 15 grams of carbs per cup, and the plain yogurt contained 17 grams of carbs per cup.  That does not seem like enough of a difference to me to demonize my homemade yogurt.  I also make my own kefir.  I've cut down on how much I drink, but I'm not cutting it out completely.  I've kept that little kefir SCOBY going for years.

He also makes the claim that eating vegetables such as kale is OK because they don't cause harm.  I think theres enough evidence that vegetables - non-sugary, non-starchy vegetables - promote health.  I personally would talk up the positive aspects of kale a bit more.  However, I like kale.  I'm not so certain Grant does.  Maybe it's possible to live off sardines.  I'm not here to judge.

Overall, I love the book.  I hope to get a physical copy so I can actually flip through it.  At that point, when I can have a physical book next to me at my desk, maybe I can offer more than this rambling review.  It's just too frustrating to try to scroll around the Kindle trying to find the information I want to write about.