Recently I joined one of my local gyms on a two month trial basis. I mostly did this to take advantage of their group classes in Spinning. I used to enjoy mountain biking so I figured this would be a fun way to exercise inside while waiting for winter to end.
Upon joining the fitness club they conducted a 1 hour fitness test where they weighed and measured me. What I found was less than pleasing. I was almost 10lbs over my traditional resting weight and my BMI was 22% and I had finally crossed into the red unhealthy zone. They claimed I was carrying around almost 50lbs of fat! Wow that’s was a shocker.
At about the same time I had picked up two books In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (audio book version) and The 4hour body by Tim Ferriss. I listened to one while walking my dog everyday and spent my free time reading the other. This is a combination that I highly recommend as each book has very different goals but their content created a kind of synergy that reinforced their messages with depth and perspective.
About – The 4-Hour Body
In a nutshell Tim Ferriss is a man’s man and likes to find the best way to reach a goal without beating around the bushes. He is methodical in approach and highly motivated. His book covers many subjects: Fat Loss, Abs/Ass, Six Minute Abs, Muscle Gain, Lower Back Problems, Preventing Injury with balance training, full TOC can be found here. I plan on trying out a few of his suggestions which I have already started; first fat loss –“Lose 20 pounds in 30 days”. Tim advocates a new twist on the traditional low carb diet called ‘slow carb’. The basic idea is that you don’t count calories and that you eat a lot of legumes (beans) which are high in fiber and tend to release their energy slower than refined grains and starches (which have very low nutritional value and are often high in sugars). With enough legumes in your system you are much more likely to avoid terrible hunger pains between meals.
I’ll explore this book in more detail but for now it helps to know more about my motivation and about the food you eat. The typical North American Diet.
About – In Defense of Food
The book is broken down into 3 sections: The Age of Nutritionism, The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization, and Getting Over Nutritionism. The book review on amazon is a fairly good summary:
From Publishers Weekly
In his hugely influential treatise The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan traced a direct line between the industrialization of our food supply and the degradation of the environment. His new book takes up where the previous work left off. Examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of health, this powerfully argued, thoroughly researched and elegant manifesto cuts straight to the chase with a maxim that is deceptively simple: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. But as Pollan explains, food in a country that is driven by a thirty-two billion-dollar marketing machine is both a loaded term and, in its purest sense, a holy grail. The first section of his three-part essay refutes the authority of the diet bullies, pointing up the confluence of interests among manufacturers of processed foods, marketers and nutritional scientists—a cabal whose nutritional advice has given rise to a notably unhealthy preoccupation with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily. The second portion vivisects the Western diet, questioning, among other sacred cows, the idea that dietary fat leads to chronic illness. A writer of great subtlety, Pollan doesn’t preach to the choir; in fact, rarely does he preach at all, preferring to lets the facts speak for themselves. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The above summary is quite good but there is more to the story. This book helped me understand the role that nutritionists take in our society along with some of the history of their work. For example the Lipid Hypothesis which connects cholesterol with heart disease has been the basis of the medical communities recommendations on diet to the public for decades. Basically our nutrition experts say that to much of A=B, which is bad, so we recommend less A. Wow. Good work guys. Thing is the science of nutrition is reductionist, meaning that food is design/created by taking away all the things in our food that we don’t understand, just make sure it’s low in cholesterol (and other baddies of the day) and we’ll have a healthy population.
One problem. Doesn’t work. North American has the most engineered food in the world and coincidently one of the most unhealthy. Read anything about an obesity epidemic lately?
There have been dramatic increases in overweight and obesity among Canadians over the past 30 years, and many experts fear it to be an epidemic. This growing health problem has translated into a large economic burden, reaching approximately $4.3 billion annually by most recent estimates. The factors that lead to overweight and obesity are numerous, complex and intertwined, which has led several experts to suggest a population health approach for addressing overweight and obesity in Canada. In a July 2005 news release, the Canadian Minister of State (Public Health) stated: “Encouraging and supporting healthy weights will require cooperative action across all sectors and levels of government … Social, economic, physical and environmental factors must be addressed to create environments that will support Canadians in making healthy choices.
Michael Pollan goes on to talk about the different populations and ancient diets around the world. Some populations are healthy with high cholesterol diets and other diets such as the French sustain a population that ‘should’ be unhealthy but isn’t. When it appears there is an anomaly to our nutrition creed of the day nutritionists try seek out the ‘silver bullet’ of health. Is it Red Wine? Omega-3? Probiotics? Poutine? Michael thinks we don’t know and may never know or that it’s just too complex of a problem to boil down to A=B, kind of like the complexity of nature, our food chain, animals or the environment. Check out the problem these Asian Carp who were introduced to eat algae are causing in the Illinois River, this is just the start folks. Keep your head down!
Finally Michael leaves us with some telling observations.
- North Americans stop eating when their plate is empty, not when full
- We snack too much
- We don’t spend enough time enjoying our meals
I for one am both guilty and not guilty of this as I really do enjoy food and good food to boot. But I admit I have eaten in front of that awesome high-definition plasma once or twice.