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

Butter Better?

butter_betterLast week I posted a link on Facebook from the UK Daily Mail, Why Are We Fatter Than Ever?. Take a moment to review the graphs and associated data. There are a combination of factors that see obesity and health related illness, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD), on the rise. It’s not surprising all are interrelated as obesity is a factor in both diabetes and CHD.

Back to my post, which drew a smattering of comments from friends and acquaintances on the topic with a varied level of understanding in nutrition. Now, I am not a nutritionist, nor do I play one, even if I happened to stay at a Holiday Inn Express, but a comment caught my eye in response to some who said, “I feel like crying. I LOVE butter. Excessive amounts too. The response was “No, grass fed cow butter is good for you.”

Now, I have nothing but the utmost respect for my friend who responded with the “grass fed” comment and in some regards there is probably truth to be had eating “grass fed”  or “free range.” I made the decision to stop eating meat, favoring to go to the source and eat the grass, so to speak. I had to chuckle a bit as “grass fed” ranks up there with the term, “clean eating.” This was something that would require further research into, yet I didn’t think I would stumble onto this “superfood” while dabbling on the Internet.

The Business Insider carried the same graphs as from the UK Daily Mail site, titled What’s Wrong With The Modern Diet? As I read their commentary on the graphs, I stopped at number five.

5. People Replaced Heart-Healthy Butter With Trans-Fat Laden Margarine.


The graph looked straight forward as “the “war” on saturated fat was an increase in margarine consumption.” But it was this comment, “Grass-fed butter actually contains nutrients that are protective against heart disease (like Vitamin K2), therefore the advice to replace heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine may have done a lot of damage (24),” which led me to Authority Nutrition.

Based on my reading, the individual in question does not have a nutritional background, but is a medical student and personal trainer, who “has spent years reading books, blogs and research studies on health and nutrition.” Doctors fail to make the grade when it comes to nutrition. “Thirty years ago, only about a third of medical schools required a single course on nutrition. That number has since dropped to only 1 in 4…No wonder doctors get failing grades in tests of basic nutrition knowledge about diet and heart disease, our #1 killer. More disturbing, the percentage of medical instructors that think this deficiency is a problem has also dropped over the last decade” (source).

Before I get well off topic, let’s handle the “grass fed” comment. Authority Nutrition has a piece under ‘Healthy Eating’ titled, “Grass-fed Butter is a Superfood For The Heart.” My heart stopped or so I thought. Butter is now good for your heart? I just had to research further. I found another top 10 list of superfoods and at #9, raw organic grass-fed butter. Understanding there are high quality nutrients, such as vitamins (D, E and K2), as well as trace minerals, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), “healthy” fats like omega-3 and omega-6, as well as Glycospingolipids (protects against infection) and Wulzen Factor, which ensures calcium remains in your bones and isn’t leached in joints and other tissues.

Still butter is fat and commercial butter must be at least 80% fat (source). I still hear the written words echo in my head from Dr. John McDougall, “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.” At what point do the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to food, like butter? For all the “superfood” qualities it possesses it’s still 3200 calories/pound. A level high enough for weight gain or an inhibitor to prevent weight loss. Again, the words of Dr. McDougall are present, “people love to hear good news about their bad habits.”

There is no escaping the fact you are ingesting pure fat into your “healthy” body because it’s now labelled as a superfood. Many require butter on a wide variety of foods, I was this way just 2 years ago, but realized all this salty, fatty substance did was mask the true taste of food. Butter is still high in saturated fat and cholesterol. It’s other SUPER qualities; good at clogging arteries, super yummy, super addictive, super fattening.

As an option, I will still choose the safe and healthy way to get my EFA (essential fatty acids), in natural packaging such as starches, vegetables and fruits. “Here they are found in the correct amounts in protected environments surrounded by vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals to make them balanced nutrition. If you desire higher concentrations than are present in these foods then you will want to include more nuts, seeds, and soybean products in your diet” (source). I will continue to bypass butter, as it’s not better for me or my health.

Obsessed with Eating Healthy

obsessed_with_foodEating healthy isn’t easy, but it’s not as difficult as some make it out to be. The media (here and here), as well as physician Steven Bratman and clinical psychology will have you believe otherwise. Bratman “coined the term “orthorexia nervosa”  to denote an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating” (source). I do have an obsession to be healthy, but I find nothing unhealthy about the decisions I make and the foods I eat. Call it what you will, but in no way am I “obsessed with the “perfect diet” and the cleanliness of food, eating on a highly regulated regime” (source). In fact I don’t believe I have ever termed how I eat, “perfect.” Nor am I better than anyone who doesn’t agree with how I eat. That won’t stop me from discussing it, as I am obsessed with eating healthy.

“People love to hear good news about their bad habits” (source) says Dr. John McDougall.

They’re Thinking: “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Look at me, I’m still alive. Life would not be worth living without my favorite foods: beefsteak and banana cream pie. Plus I have read chocolate, cheese, and wine are good for me

I understand: I was once at the same place myself. I could not see past my own dinner plate. I once believed pizza and milk chocolate sundaes were great sources of protein and calcium. I now know that this is untrue. More importantly, because I now eat differently, I see the world from a new viewpoint. As I walk by a table surrounded by overweight diners, the cause of their conditions is obviously the spread of rich foods set before them. A U-turn in your thinking can cause you to become drastically different—trimmer, younger, happier, more functional, and less medicated—too” (source).

Still no amount of data, scientific study or physicians and nutritionists will convince people to change how they eat, in the name of health. People refuse to give up their “favorites” even if they are slowly killing them. Cancer, obesity and heart disease probably wouldn’t stop some from continue to dine on their bacon, butter and fat laden meals.

Eating healthy has consumed my life the past 2 years, but that’s a good thing. My blood work numbers, appearance and health are a testament to the power that food has when it comes to your health. Prescription drugs are no longer part of my daily regime. No longer do I walk into the closet only to find my pants are getting smaller, when in reality my ass is getting bigger. Physical activity level has never been higher, as I work towards my first 2014 goal of accomplishing a 50k, something I would NEVER have considered just 2 years ago.

So call me what you want; obsessed, compulsive, crazy, stupid, vegan, vegetarian, plant based, deficient, extreme, impossible, fanatic, the results don’t lie. My health has flourished and will continue to do so based on MY food decisions. So if being obsessed with healthy eating is a disorder, I hate to think of the disease and illnesses of those following a Western pattern diet.


perspectivePeople are passionate about a variety of things, from sports teams to politics and religion to the food they consume, this should come as no surprise. Social media seems to draw the best and the worst out of people, as I’m sure many have read via the many outlets, from discussion boards and Twitter to Facebook. For as many comments supporting a topic, there will be just as many opposing it and providing alternatives. I guess that’s what makes the Internet a great place, when individuals can share ideas and comment on topics they have in common or debate issues at hand.

Scrolling through new posts on a plant-based Facebook group I ran across a topic that asked, “Where can I find the number of people who have benefited (so far) from McDougalling?” McDougalling, for those readers new to T6F, is the term associated with an individual who follows the teachings of Dr. John McDougall, who promotes a starch (plant) based way of eating while excluding meat, dairy and added oils in your diet. I still consider myself a McDougaller for just over 2 years now, which has seen a dramatic improvement in my health. Over the course of this journey I have learned about nutrition and the role it plays for building a healthy body.

The thread seemed to get derailed rather quickly as a debate flared up about a plant-based way of eating being a “sacrifice” regardless of the positive results many have experienced. The comments and ensuing discussion had nothing to do with the numbers the original poster was looking for. However it started me thinking about the change in my lifestyle; was it a sacrifice or a choice?

Prior to changing my diet in October, 2012 I knew the food I was eating contributed to my increasing weight and myriad of health related issues. While I wasn’t as sickly as some who turned to Dr. McDougall for answers, I struggled with a growing list of pains that I had no relief for; migraine headaches, foot problems, an increasing cholesterol, side pains and joint issues. The documentary Forks Over Knives was the revelation I needed to approach nutrition and take control of what I eat.

While I feel I made a choice to exclude foods that promoted disease and obesity, in the thread, Vikki makes a great point. “In the beginning it does feel like a sacrifice. But once you start seeing results, once the weight starts coming off and the test results improve and you can get off the drugs and you can quit worrying about heart disease and diabetes and, and, and, it no longer feels like a sacrifice. Now it feels like a reward.” That was exactly how I felt.

Sure there were yearnings at times for cheese or the smell of BBQ had me salivating for a nice steak, but the longer I went without being tempted to these foods, the better the results. Weight continued to fall off, the problems I had, started to disappear and I saw an amazing decrease in my total cholesterol (total of 134 points). My doctor couldn’t explain it other than to say my decision was “extreme” and that I could “not have long term success.” Instead of saying a plant-based way of eating is a sacrifice it’s the perspective from which you view it.

For many of my friends I communicate with using social media, friends, those I see regularly and co-workers, many tell me they could not do what I have done. Many could not sacrifice their vices; meat, cheese, cooking with oil, fast food or alcohol in the name of health. From my perspective I have done what I felt was required to in order to take control of my health and improve how I feel. While around me I see many more feeding on a handful of medication, increasing in weight and not doing anything to better themselves. Why not? Why sacrifice your health?

Many of these people must be happy in some aspect of life, maybe being healthy doesn’t mean fueling your body with good food, instead letting the industrial medical complex and big pharma protect you from disease and heal you when sick. All the time continuing to eat a Western pattern 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). This usually leads to pleasure gained from the fats, sugars and salts this diet is guilty of.

The thread continues, “since you’re apparently ignoring the obvious “pluses” to unhealthy food, I’ll point out the obvious: The added effort of shopping and preparation is a sacrifice in and of itself. The act of eating healthy food healthfully (taking time to thoroughly chew food that has substance) is another sacrifice. The lack of fats, sugars, and salts has an an undeniable effect on flavor.” Yet the madness doesn’t stop there. “One does not have to be “intensely” suffering from withdraw to:

  • realize the implications of never being able to eat out
  • never eating food prepared at a friend’s house,
  • awkward dinner parties with friends who eat differently
  • always having to plan meals ahead,

having everyone you know look at you silly when they’re having pizza, and you’re having a baked potato and squash. It’s not ALL about personal satisfaction from eating bad food.”

Shopping, it’s not for everyone and based on my most recent trips to the market many don’t care what they eat as baskets are piled high with CRAP: carbonated junk, refined sugars, artificial sh*t and processed foods. That must be a hell of a decision standing in the frozen section debating which frozen meal to get.

Food preparation can be challenging, especially if you have no talent in the kitchen. I will consider myself fortunate that I had some basic skills that have only improved, spending more time cooking healthy food. The first book I purchased to support my lifestyle change was filled with simple recipes. It’s not as simple as popping in a frozen dinner into the oven or opening a bag from Taco bell. How difficult is it to bake a potato or yam? Heat some frozen veggies? Boil water or vegetable broth for a soup base? Sorry, some effort must be made on your part to cook.

Eating foods free of fats (or low in fat), sugars and salt doesn’t have be like chewing flavorless cardboard. Many seem to have that misconception. I can understand many foods I cook would taste bland, due to the fact your taste buds still have a penchant for fatty, sugary and salty foods. My wife reminds me this time and time again when I share a new dish with her. This fact alone could deter individuals early on and see them regress back to a Western pattern diet, sacrificing their health solely in the name of flavor. Yet from my perspective, I don’t feel I am sacrificing flavor in the name of health.

The implications of not being able to eat out, go to parties or feel awkward at parties should not be a reason to avoid healthy eating. I don’t see this as a sacrifice at all. There are very few restaurants that serve healthy food. Take the time to learn about nutrition and see just how unhealthy many restaurant menus are. In the rare times I have eaten out, I can order a baked potato and steamed vegetables and be satisfied. If this makes you feel awkward, sorry that’s on you. Don’t worry about what I am eating. Usually my way of eating becomes a topic of conversation and I share nutrition information I have learned. I expect no special treatment when we RSVP to a party or visit friends for dinner. Why should I?

Healthy eating is not a sacrifice depending on your perspective. When I made the decision to change my lifestyle and eating a plant-base diet I chose not to fuel my body with meat, dairy and added oil. I did not want to keep these foods that feed illness and disease in my diet. Why sacrifice my health? The decision to change my way of eating was one of the best decisions I have made. I have no regrets, regardless of perspective.


Food Funk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am calling it a food funk, that is what I have been in recently with the news of a triple bypass heart surgery for my dad about 12 days ago. Much of the anger, frustration, confusion and stress has subsided, but I question if what I am doing is good enough for my health and goals I have set? Many already view my way of eating as extreme, which is fine. I don’t have an issue with what or how much eat. No longer am I overweight or suffering from an increasing cholesterol number, a testament that changes to my lifestyle have resulted in a healthier being.

Much of my nutritional rebirth started with Dr. John McDougall and expanded to others; Dr. Caldwell B Esselsytn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Jeff Novick MS RD,  along with many celebrated Internet cooks and educators who share their knowledge, experience and recipes. I won’t say what I have learned is correct, although I would like to think that, there will always be an opposing group who present information against a plant based lifestyle. That’s fine, as what works for me might not work for you.

There are also a number of people I communicated with on a daily basis via Facebook who’s opinions I respect when it comes to promoting a healthy way of eating. Many of these individuals, at one time were sicklier or heavier than I was and turned around their lifestyle. I am still amazed at the results I accomplished and that I now control my health, not the industrial medical complex or big pharma, who continually pushes pills to make you feel better.

I have been described as orthorexic, which (in my opinion) is a made up disease by Stephen Bratman, M.D. “Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy” (source). Taking that ridiculous statement into consideration, I feel I am making better decisions when it comes to foods I want to ingest, as well as foods I want to avoid. “Bratman proposes an initial self-test composed of two direct questions: “Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?…Does your diet socially isolate you?

Does my diet socially isolate me? Within my circle of coworkers and friends, yes, it probably does, but I don’t have a problem with it. I can find an acceptable and pleasurable meal nearly anywhere. Yet, people I talk to feel my way of eating is “too restrictive.” On the contrary I am probably eating a wider variety of food now than I was 2 years ago. Most everything I eat is better for me promoting my health to where it is now. No longer do I need to eat animal products (meat and dairy) in order to thrive. Yet that continues to be an uphill battle, even if you have just suffered two heart attacks and successfully had bypass surgery.

Every meal I eat is pleasurable, my motto now is “live to eat” rather than “eat to live”, which is what I was doing 2 years ago. Popular opinion or that of individuals doesn’t phase my strong convictions when it comes to how I have chosen to eat. I am happy to have cut the animals products and dramatically reduced the oils, sugars and sodium. I still have my vices, but continually monitor what I am eating, in hopes of further refining what I fuel my body with.

If those refinements see a further change in what foods I eat, in the name of health, so be it. Nothing is permanent and change can be beneficial. During my previous 2 years, I took 30 days to see how I would feel while going gluten free. While I didn’t feel any different that doesn’t mean wheat or gluten would be something to remove in the future. GMO or genetically modified organisms has been a hot topic when it comes to our food supply, which include corn and soy. These two foods are currently in my “healthy” way of eating. Some claim wheat could be damaging to your health. Chances are wheat will be the next food to be reduced or cut out. There are many other options for grains; barley, brown rice, spelt, kamut and quinoa just to name a few.

Health After Heart Surgery?

openheartThe last 10 days have been a real mental struggle for me, as it has me questioning the steps I have taken the past 2 years when it comes to lifestyle and how I maintain my health. The steps I have taken could be considered “extreme” and many find excuses not to improve their health or think they are healthy based on what they eat or the fact they exercise. But my way of eating is not perfect, I think anyone would be hard pressed to find any way of eating that is “perfect” for everyone.

It took me quite awhile to realize that how I eat can’t be pushed on other individuals. While I didn’t want this to happen, my convictions were quite strong and my good intentions probably came over a bit brash. No longer do I “push” a plant-based lifestyle, it works for me but that might not be the case for others.

My sister and I received an e-mail from our mom telling us that dad had suffered what appeared to be a minor heart attack. Needless to say, I became angered and frustrated with many of the words I had been preaching to my parents for the better part of 2 years. My dad was overweight, had high BP and was on cholesterol medication. His exercise consisted of playing golf, but usually that meant rolling up to the ball in a cart and not walking. A few years prior he had a stent implanted to improve blood flow through weakened arteries. This would hopefully would help the circulation in his legs, which was becoming a problem.

Last Thursday we received a text message saying she took him to the hospital as he “didn’t feel right” as a precaution. It probably turned out as a life saving move, as it was the onset of another heart attack. Since his admittance I have been very hard on myself; confused, angered, frustrated and questioning. Fairly or not I probably took it out on my wife and sister unintentionally. Thankfully I have an online support group who understands the life threatening situation and provided me some good information. That’s not to say my wife and sister didn’t, but the online support is a plant-based group on Facebook following the Dr. John McDougall way of eating.

I was questioning how and why this was happening and my fingers were pointing to my mom as the reason my dad was in this position. In reality that wasn’t the case, but all the years of living the lifestyle he did and the decisions he made led him to a hospital bed and days later a triple bypass heart surgery. After the first heart attack I sent my parents a copy of Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Hopefully this first visit to the hospital would be an event best not repeated. I don’t believe either of them took this seriously and based on some of the answers my mom gave me, they didn’t bother reading the book.

I will agree with my sister, eating a sweet potato won’t clean your arteries overnight, but continuing the same poor eating habits won’t strengthen your chances on not having a second heart attack. Open heart surgery isn’t the answer to someone who has years of build up and plaque in their arteries. While the success rate of open heart surgery exceeds 95%, you need to look at your lifestyle and how you are going to eat. Continuing with the same standard American diet will cause the same damage to the endothelial cells and potential blockages that will lead to further heart attacks or worse, death.

I have said before Americans don’t know moderation. They can’t moderate what they eat and when they do, the data shows they moderate the incorrect foods. Jeff Novick from the Myth of Moderation, “Moderation is no longer an option in regard to calories, or in regard to the foods we know can be harmful, or in regard to the foods we know to be beneficial.  We are so far from what constitutes healthy in America, that we have much work to do to get back to where we could once again discuss moderation.  Rationalizing the over consumption of harmful foods, or the minimal consumption of beneficial foods, with a saying that does not apply to our situation, will not help us.

While I don’t believe my parents will change their lifestyle after nearly 70 years, they need to make further changes to their post open heart surgery way of eating. Meats (yes mom, even white meats like chicken and pork) as well as oil (yes mom, even that small tablespoon) need to be limited. Meat should no longer be the focal-point of a meal, it should after as a side dish. She is amazing with grains and vegetables, so I don’t doubt she could put together some excellent meals. Will she? Probably not. I don’t care if the meat you buy is grass fed beef or the chickens are free range. It also doesn’t matter if that oil you bought is coconut, truffle or any other fancy type.

I do agree with many individuals that fats are needed in any diet, even if you are attempting to lose weight. Natural fatty foods, such as avocados, olives and nuts are just a small sampling of foods you can eat without having to dip into processed oils for cooking. While I don’t expect my parents to make the same radical changes in their lifestyle, I do hope this is that “ah ha moment” in which they look at what they eat and make changes.

It’s my hope I can see my dad drop 10-15 pounds, decrease his total cholesterol and start walking daily. This would also require the support of mom to cook “cleaner” foods that promote health. I have offered to give her countless recipes that my wife, who is rather finicky, when it comes to how I eat, enjoys on a regular basis. It requires more than just an effort, you need to make a change in your conscience to understand the steps you are taking to improve your overall health. This also means to stop drinking scotch and wine as regular as they do. My sister and I comment on the drinking regularly. Alcohol has been one of the toughest items for me to remove from my diet the past 2 years. No longer and I drinking nightly or even weekly. To be honest, I don’t miss it.

While I don’t want to single out my mom or place all the responsibility on her, hopefully they will take the words of wisdom I speak to heart when they look at life after open heart surgery. Changes can be made, even now to improve their lifestyle and health. The choice, is theirs. I can only provide information, support and most of all love.