T H E 6 T H F L O O R

Life in 6 Land

T H E  6 T H  F L O O R - Life in 6 Land

Put Down the Fork

PUT DOWN THE DAMN FORK, FATTY!

People need to put down the fork and pay attention to what is happening to their health. Many won’t, continuing to eat an industrial, Western pattern or “standard American diet,” characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains. It also typically contains high-fat dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and higher intakes of processed meat (source).

Your worst enemy, the fork. This utensil has lead to one-third (34.9% or 76.4 million) of U.S. adults being obese. “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death” (source). Yet with obesity numbers continuing to rise and the top 11 pharmaceutical companies seeing profits of $85 billion (in 2012), the message continues to be largely ignored.

Just over 3 years ago I was the poster boy for these “sad” choices in my diet. I failed to heed warning signs as my body was continually poisoned. Sickness and maladies plagued me, headaches were becoming a constant in daily life and my weight continued to increase. I was misguided to believe my pants and shirts, now ill fitting were getting smaller, as there were always bigger, comfortable, better fitting clothes to buy. That lifestyle changed overnight thanks to Forks Over Knives when I took control of my health

As we approach Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful son, a great job, good friends and most importantly, my health. That’s similar to what some of my co-workers would say, with the except of controlling their health. As traditionally happens at the workplace, a potluck takes place and each employees provides a dish to share. This year, many wanted to pass on the early helping of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and opted to do breakfast/brunch.

givethanksWhile sharing ideas I was taken back by the negativity, jokes and rude comments when offering plant based suggestions to share. The responses were not surprising, the entire office knows I follow a strict plant based lifestyle, which some believe is void of flavor and no fun. Through education, experience and challenging myself with plant based recipes nothing could be further from the truth. I use my wife is the measuring stick, if she eats the plant based recipes I cook and likes it others will too!

The reality of the situation, it no longer bothers me but one would think I was offering servings of poison by the reactions I receive every time we discuss food and toss out truly healthy alternatives. Why? Can’t people accept he fact they can be healthy AND happy? As Dr. John McDougall says, “People love to hear good news about their bad habits.” That is how many individuals have chosen to eat and many willingly accept the future consequences to their health. Give plants a chance and be thankful.

Potato Hack Redux

potatoesIn April, 2013 I participated in a potato hack for 20 days. It was a simplified, starch based way of eating for 20 days based off the ‘All Hail the Potato Challenge‘ found on the McDougall Forums last March. While I had achieved great health leading up to this challenge, I was looking to use my 20 days in order to “reset myself” and consume those foods that got me to where I am today. Over the last 12 months I feel my diet has improved from where I was this time last year. Yet my eating habits continue to get me in trouble from time to time.

Satiety or the feeling or condition of being full after eating food, is what Dr. John McDougall promotes when it comes to a plant based lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I have found myself eating more and more, especially at dinner time, which results in a “stuffed” feeling. It’s not just a single meal, looking back over a typical day I can identify failures starting without breakfast. These habits have seen my weight increase, lipid panel results increase and have a “blah” sort of feeling all day.

Food choices have improved, thanks in part to Julie Marie at Protective Diet (formerly Plant Purity), which I wrote about last year prior to starting my potato hack. Her recipes, like those from McDougall are meat, dairy and oil free. Yes, this includes chicken and fish, which are both meat. You would be surprised how many times people ask that question. It also include ALL oil. Yes, even those fancy oils that are promoted as “healthy” in your diet. Julie takes eating to a new level removing “nuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners and food additives.”

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What the hell do you eat?” Plenty of good, healthy, natural food that is satiating! I usually try to eat through out the day without a need to count calories or worry about eating too much. When I started following a plant based diet I used Fit Day as a tool to monitor my weight loss, which reinforced the fact my shirts and pants fitting better. Julie makes 123 recipes available for free on Protective Diet (just register for FREE). Prior to this, I was following an “SOS” approach promoted by Chef AJ and Ramses Bravo cutting out the “evil trinity” of sugar, oil and sodium.

Excess sodium intake has never been a problem in the past. Rarely did I pick up a salt shaker to “add flavor” to my meal (unless it was meat) prior to a plant based lifestyle. I understand sodium has been linked with hypertension, “which is an established risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. In addition, excess sodium/salt intake has been associated with stomach cancer, osteoporosis, edema, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, headache, angina, left ventricular hypertrophy, arteriosclerosis, and autoimmune problems.” (source)

The real culprits are sugar and food additives, which can be very difficult to cut out, but a diet based on whole foods makes this transition easier. “The warnings about sugar are mere whispers at best. Yet sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine, and Americans are consuming 152 pounds of sugar a year!” (source) For example after giving up dairy, I was introduced to almond milk, which is a great replacement for dairy milk. Yet 1 cup of Blue Diamond Vanilla Flavored Almond Breeze is loaded with 13 grams of sugar as well as a plethora of additives that my body doesn’t need; EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SEA SALT, POTASSIUM CITRATE, CARRAGEENAN, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2, D-ALPHA-TOCOPHEROL.

Additives aren’t easy to spot sometimes, disguised under the title of “natural flavoring” or “spices” under ingredients. Take MSG, “There are more than 25 names for MSG, so sometimes you find it spread out a little, just in case the manufacturer gets “checked out” by anyone other than the FDA. (source) These additives are synthesized by chemists so you desire more in order to get you addicted. “… they want you to only experience the best 1 millionth part of the taste – so you get “addicted” and keep having to go back for more and more, searching continuously for gratification – eating more of that product which in turns fills Big Food Companies pockets.” (source)

Many consumers don’t pay close attention to ingredients and know what these harmful substances can do (More on additives in a future T6F post). Many have been linked to cancer in animal studies, are carcinogenic, tumor causing and others that cause serious health related issues. So why ingest them?

I digress as I have moved away from my original point of having improved my eating habits thanks to Protective Diet. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and examine those habits and ask yourself “Am I doing everything I can for my health?” I know my diet still had flaws and I cravings that occasionally flair. For me, following a plant based wasn’t good enough.

Recently there have been times where I have consumed food I shouldn’t have for various reasons. Sometimes these “foods” are the best available option, other times I am hungry, without food. For example, white rice is probably the one food I exploit regularly. Within walking distance of Chinatown in Oakland, there are so many Asian restaurants, but most include ingredients or foods that I don’t eat. White rice, is simple, easy and satiating, but not as healthy as brown rice.

As many know, sometimes you don’t need a reason to eat off plan, you do it, forget about it and move on. Stating December 1 I will go 20 days basing my meals around potatoes…again! Mashed, baked, unfried, steamed, covered with cheese, chili, gravy or vegetables. Every meal I eat will contain potatoes in some form or fashion. This will allow me to “reset” myself and start the year off on the right foot.

 

Common Crap

preface: This will probably go through a few changes before I request to speak at the December school board meeting, but it’s about time to voice my opinion monthly in these meetings in support of teachers and against Common Core.


 

commoncoreSchool board members, Superintendent Rodgers, parents and most importantly teachers, thank you for allowing me a few minutes to voice my concerns that we face here in Oakley.

Since raising my hand at my first PTA meeting to volunteer, 4 years ago I have been engaged in my son’s education. Spending time helping in his classrooms with some excellent educators and volunteering my time at PTA events! The experience has been invaluable in his development.

Now 4 years later I fulfill the duties of Treasurer at Vintage Parkway, as well as a slew of other responsibilities, for the kids, for the teachers.

At home I am able to spend time helping my son with homework and answering questions based on information I gained from his teachers. Unfortunately, I am now being challenged to keep pace with the introduction of Common Core.

I remember last year I had to ask a classroom aid how to solve a basic arithmetic problem, as I didn’t have any idea about the methods they were using. Unfortunately, to many parents, there is nothing common about how to solve a basic arithmetic equation.

It’s unfortunate the district isn’t providing teachers the required resources to make common core successful. I for one won’t be surprised when my son’s test scores aren’t where they should be. Teachers are spending their money and valuable time learning methods in order to teach common core. Student’s who don’t understand the concepts could seemingly get left behind.

I have spoke to many parents and a common theme is forming. There is nothing common about common core. Parents are asking me how to do the math homework so they can better help their child. A few friends have hired tutors, again the lack of resources provided to teachers would help remedy this situation.

The implementation of common core reeks of a rushed implementation into our school district. Simple arithmetic is no longer simple, leading to further struggles at home. Kids are no longer being asked to solve a problem, but understand what they are doing, be a problem solver, a thinker. Many of these methods appear complicated and at times I have questioned if it’s appropriate for the grade level.

While I won’t support common core, I will accept it and do my best to keep up with the learning process in order benefit my son. I think it was best summed up in an article in The Atlantic, “some math programs strive to teach students to think like “little mathematicians” before giving them the analytic tools they need to actually solve problems.”

I also want to give teachers in the district my support in their fight for a fair contract. It’s appalling to sit in these board meetings the past few months and hear the passionate speeches being made. To think a teacher, with a credential and a Master’s degree is struggling to make ends meet each month. That is absolutely ridiculous!

These individuals should not be paid at 2007 wages, nor should OUTA be ranked 14th out of 16th districts in the East Bay. If the district wants to keep teachers in the district, pay them what they are deserved. Free up some of that reserve money and give them a raise and improve their benefits.

Thank you for your time.

Protein

gotproteinA conversation was initiated by my sister the other day when she commented via Facebook Messenger regarding a reply I posted to one of her foodie pictures, “I sure did eat that chicken.” This after she had viewed Forks Over Knives and said she was considering a plant based lifestyle. Needless to say I was ecstatic to see her taking control of her health. Positive changes were on the horizon, much like my experiences, she would see weight loss, a decrease in aches/pains and an increase in energy and overall glow. These changes would benefit her when it comes to her passion, participating in Spartan Races throughout the year. I was thrilled at what the future would hold for her.

Last Monday the topic turned to protein. “Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can’t be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It’s essential that our diet provide these. 1” Eight of these amino acids the body cannot produce and require a source. Many Americans link protein with meat, prior to changing to a plant based lifestyle meat was always part of my diet. Recommendations from the USDA as “commonly eaten protein foods” list “Meats” as the top protein source, but nowhere are vegetables mentioned 2.

My sister was taken back by my answer as it related to the amount of protein I eat, “30?!?!? That’s really low. For you.” In reality that number was actually higher, 45-50 grams, as I was reciting it from memory, when I was tracking my daily food intake for nearly 2 years. I can guarantee that level would have elicited a similar surprised response. When I made the decision to stop eating “animal byproducts,” dairy and added oil I also tackled the challenge to learn nutrition. I was under many misconceptions I had been fed since I was a child learning about the food pyramid and nutrition through school.

gr-totalmeatconsumption-462All the nutritional information I have gained is supported by science and research from well known individuals like Dr. John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. My opinions were not formed based on “broscience” gleaned from weightlifting forums, Paleo enthusiasts or crossfitters. Nor were they taken from the USDA, supported by powerful meat trade and lobbying organizations: the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, all of whom have a powerful pull in Washington D.C. 3

While meat still tops the list as the primary source of protein, there are other, healthier options available, yet they go against the conventional norm. Take quinoa as example,  8 grams of protein per cup. “While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom. 4” Other foods that get shunned include; rice and beans, soy, chia, buckwheat, seitan and vegetables.

Brussel sprouts, spinach and broccoli each contain 6 grams of protein per 1 cup . Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete.com has a comprehensive chart of Vegetarian Protein Foods, listing the amino acid, recommended daily amounts from WHO (World Health Organization) and the best vegan sources.

The amount of misinformation continues to promote meat as the top source for protein. Wrong statements from experts include:

Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in 1 or more essential amino acids and are therefore regarded as incomplete proteins. (American Heart Association)

Single plant protein foods usually are lower in protein quality than most animal proteins because they lack significant amounts of various essential amino acids. (Tufts University Medical School)

Other protein sources lack one or more amino acids that the body can’t make from scratch or create by modifying another amino acid. Called incomplete proteins, these usually come from fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. (Harvard School of Public Health)

These are a sampling of quotes compiled by Dr. John McDougall from his monthly newsletter, the article is titled, “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that men and women obtain 5% of their calories as protein. This would mean 38 grams of protein for a man burning 3000 calories a day and 29 grams for a woman using 2300 calories a day. This quantity of protein is impossible to avoid when daily calorie needs are met by unrefined starches and vegetables. For example, rice alone would provide 71 grams of highly useable protein and white potatoes would provide 64 grams of protein 5.

protein-fight-club-logoSo where does the confusion comes in? What is the recommended daily allowance? Why is more suddenly better? Since when are non-meat proteins “not as good?” Worse, what are the repercussions of too much protein on the body? In America, protein usually begins and ends with meat, recently we have seen the dairy industry promoting milk as a source of “high quality protein” in their ads. Unfortunately many Americans won’t question what is being promoted by the dairy and meat industry with their agendas.

Just how much protein does the body need daily? In the words of Jeff Novick, MS, RD, “I don’t know.” He goes on to say, “The only way to know the actual protein needs of any one person on any given day is to do a nitrogen balance study on that person on that day. But, realize that whatever your needs where today, they may be different tomorrow.6

Based on the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, “The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for both men and women is 0.80 g of good quality protein/kg body weight/d and is based on careful analysis of available nitrogen balance studies. 7” Using my body weight of 175 lbs (79.37 kg) that equates to 63 grams of protein daily.

In 1905 Russell Henry Chittenden published his findings on protein in Physiological Economy in Nutrition. These findings contradicted what German physiologist, Dr. Carl Voit concluded that protein intake for people should be 118 grams per day, which became known as the “Voit” standard. One hundred years ago he wrote, “We are all creatures of habit, and our palates are pleasantly excited by the rich animal foods with their high content of proteid (protein), and we may well question whether our dietetic habits are not based more upon the dictates of our palates than upon scientific reasoning or true physiological needs.7

Through experiments on himself, trials conducted at Yale University and scientific research on protein, Chittenden in 1904 concluded that 35–50 g of protein a day was adequate for adults, and individuals could maintain their health and fitness on this amount.  Studies over the past century have consistently confirmed Professor Chittenden’s findings, yet you would hardly know it with the present day popularity of high protein diets 7.

Suvée,_Joseph-Benoit_-_Milo_of_CrotonThe role of protein can be linked back to Milo of Kroton, Olympic wrestler in the sixth century B.C. said to be one of the strongest men in ancient Greece. Olympians came from the upper social strata in Greece, these families could afford to feed on more protein-rich legumes and meats to build muscle and did not have to rely on mostly breads, fruits and vegetables 8.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many people thought protein was a miracle food because muscle magazines hyped it so much. Bodybuilders and other athletes would follow diets made up mostly of meat, milk and eggs. The raw-egg milk shake was particularly popular, thanks to Rocky Balboa. Why would anyone swill such a concoction? The answer is simple: misinformation. Articles and advertising from those days falsely communicated the notion that protein from raw foods, particularly eggs, is more available to the body for building muscle than protein from cooked foods is 9.

Since the 1990s we have seen protein supplements and powders promoted. Muscle magazines ads and commercials. Misinformation regarding protein continues to fuel debate with a whirlwind of misinformation. One fact still remains, the RDA for protein intake is 8 grams per kilogram.

“Incomplete amino acids” is a term I heard constantly when I was registered at Stronglifts Forum as it relates to my plant based diet and being successful while lifting weights. This myth regarding as it relates to veganism was disproved years ago, says Jeff Novick.

The “incomplete protein” myth was inadvertently promoted and popularized in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé. In it, the author stated that plant foods are deficient in some of the essential amino acids, so in order to be a healthy vegetarian, you needed to eat a combination of certain plant foods at the same time in order to get all of the essential amino acids in the right amounts. It was called the theory of “protein complementing. 10

Lappé certainly meant no harm, and her mistake was somewhat understandable. She was not a nutritionist, physiologist, or medical doctor; she was a sociologist trying to end world hunger. She realized that converting vegetable protein into animal protein involved a lot of waste, and she calculated that if people ate just the plant protein, many more could be fed. In the tenth anniversary edition of her book (1981), she retracted her statement and basically said that in trying to end one myth—the inevitability of world hunger—she had created a second one, the myth of the need for “protein complementing. 10

As the health of Americans continues to decline and obesity continues to rise when will we realize our diet is the root of the problem. “The healthy active lives of hundreds of millions of people laboring in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America on diets with less than half the amount of protein eaten by Americans and Europeans prove that the popular understanding of our protein needs is seriously flawed. 11” Since the early 1930s, meat consumption in the U.S. has risen dramatically. In 2012 an estimated 52.5 billion pounds of meat were consumed! “Though meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped off slightly in recent years, at 270.7 pounds per person a year, we still eat more meat per person here than in almost any other country on the planet. 12” On average American men consider 6.9 ounces of meat a day or 50.6 grams of protein. Women eat 4.4 ounces or 32.2 grams. 13

Health issues start and end with food on your plate. As Dr. McDougall says, “Misinformation leads to disastrous outcomes. People have serious health problems like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory arthritis that can be easily resolved by a diet based solely on plant foods. However, advice to make this dietary change may be withheld from you or a family member because of the erroneous fear that such a diet will result in a greater catastrophe, like a nutritional collapse from protein deficiency.” My awareness on how and what I eat has increased after 3 years of following a plant based diet. I am more aware of the inaccuracies that continue rear their ugly head as it relates to this lifestyle, especially protein. Yet no one can deny the health benefits I have experienced. Still with proof (me) standing in front of them, many won’t accept this lifestyle as an alternative in order to promote their health.

1. “Nutrition for Everyone: Protein.” CDC.gov, CDC, Web. 4 October, 2012.
2. “What Are Protein Foods?” USDA.gov, UDSA, Web. n.d.
3. “The Politics of Meat.” PBS.org. Steve Johnson, n.d. Web.
4. “Quinoa: March Grain of the Month.” WholeGrainsCouncil.org, Whole Grains Council, n.d. Web.
5. Bowes & Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. J Pennington. 17th Ed. Lippincott. Philadelphia- New York. 1998.
6. “Protein Requirements” jeffnovick.com, Jeff Novick, Web. 11 February, 2012
7. The McDougall Newsletter December 2003: Protein, nealhendrickson.com, Dr. John McDougall, Web. December 2003
8. “Diets of Athletes at the Ancient Olympics.” topendsports.com, Web. n.d.
9. Kleiner, Susan and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson. Power Eating-4th Edition. Mercer Island. 1998. Print
10. “The Myth of Complementary Protein.” forksoverknives.com, Jeff Novick, Web. 3 June, 2013
11. “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?” drmcdougall.com, Dr. John McDougall. Web. April, 2007
12. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up.” npr.org, Eliza Barclay, Web. 27 June 2012.
13. “The United States Meat Industry at a Glance.” meatami.com, Web. March 2011.

Thanks OUTA & CSEA!

thankyouWhen approached and asked if I would be a write in candidate for the Oakley Unified School District I accepted. It probably should have never come to this point, as I struggled to write a candidate statement over the summer and submit he necessary paperwork before the impending deadline. Little did I knew that Kim Beede, was called upon that last moment and made her way to Martinez and the county offices to file. The difference, she made the ballot, I was a write in.

Through out the last 2 months I have learned more about the role of school board and problems that continue to plague the Oakley Unified School District. I continue to show my support, not only for my son but all kids by attending the school board meetings, which usually don’t have many attending. I do it now, more passionately for the teachers because without their dedication, effort and enthusiasm in the classrooms are kids won’t be prepared for the future.

Kim Ambrosino, third grade teacher at Vintage Parkway was the driving force behind my effort to “get my name out there.” At the September board meeting I had my moment of glory, so to speak as I stood up and announced to the board and all those in attendance that I was going to run in November as a write in candidate. The response was amazing and I felt the decision to represent the teachers was a step in the right direction.

Throughout September and October I spoke with teachers and interviewed with both OUTA (Oakley Unified Teachers Association) and CSEA (California School Employee Association) who made the decision to endorse my run for the school board. It was great to meet educators and hear them speak so passionately about their profession but at times it could have brought a tear to my eye. Teachers with 15-20+ years of experience, school and in some cases a Master’s degree be struggling to make ends meet. That should NEVER happen! These are the dedicated folks who spend countless hours teaching and watching over your kids every day, yet in Oakley they are one of the lowest paid in all the East Bay. The word unacceptable doesn’t do their position justice.

As a union member at BART, I know how hated the Board of Directors are, especially in 2013 during contract negotiations, in which many did not want to reward employees with pay increases, even through revenue and ridership were at all time highs! Without a second thought, I made the decision to back the teachers and their position on a new, fair contract and improvement in benefits.

At the board meetings, Kim took me around and introduced me to many teachers in the district, which was wonderful. I knew I had the Vintage contingency, who already knew my name and the volunteering I did at school but many new faces were excited to hear about candidate their union was endorsing. Backed by OUTA I felt very good about gaining a seat on the board and looked forward to this potential challenge.

As November dawned and the 4th drew closer more political signs popped up around town promoting candidates for different positions. Never did I see a sign in my local area for Mark Jordan, Art Fernandez (also endorsed by OUTA) and Kim Beede (newcomer challenging for seat). I saw 2 signs for Gloria Lott. That was it, not much in terms of promoting for a school board seat.

I met Kim Beede for the first time at the October school board meeting. I heard her the first time the month prior when she announced she too was running for the school board. We discussed are commonalities and backgrounds and seemed to hold the same concerns about gaining a seat on the board. Like me, she too was excited by nervous about the position and “learning on the job” but together we felt like we could get something accomplished for the teachers, for the kids.

I didn’t let the election worry me as it was out of my hands. My name was out there thanks to OUTA and CSEA but would it be enough to get a majority vote as a write in candidate? The support from the teachers was unwavering, which was awesome. There are not enough good things I can say about those teachers at Vintage and throughout the district. As the sun dropped, results started rolling in. I checked cocovote.us and was a bit dejected when I saw “write in” at the bottom of the list with 79 votes. It increased to 179 (2.54% of 7054 votes) in the final tally, which wasn’t good enough. Kim on the other hand garnered 23.21% of the votes and secured the third seat on the school board. Unfortunately Art Fernandez (OUTA endorsed) was ousted.

So my run has ended but my support for teachers hasn’t. I want to see the Oakley teachers be paid what their are worth. Unfortunately, even 8% raise will still have them near the bottom of the pay scale. I will remain involved on the PTA board, doing what I can to support Vintage Parkway. I also plan on continuing to attend the school board meetings as I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome of the negotiations. I haven’t even talked about the 16% reserve the board is sitting on, which could be used salaries, technology, materials and resources in order to support a foundation for CCSS (common core). Congrats also go out to Kim Beede, I wish her all the best and hope she is successful on the school board.