Grocery Fat

fat_americaIt’s quite appalling to walk through my local supermarket, be it Raley’s or WinCo Foods and see the crap many shoppers toss into their cart. It’s really no surprise when you look at the individual pushing the cart and they are fat. Sorry, I don’t need to be politically correct and say, “obese”? Does that put a more medical feel to this alleged disease? It’s not a disease, it’s individuals making poorly informed decisions as to the fuel they feed their body with.

Just take a look at some of the statistics as it relates to this “disease” and then look at how simple the solution could be, if people were to learn nutrition and become responsible they would not need to rely on the medication establishment to find a cure.

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

I will consider myself very lucky, as I was on the road to obesity 2 years ago but looking back it took a serious commitment and desire to make sure I did not end up another suffering statistic.

The numbers are staggering! It’s as if the population doesn’t care what they eat or the related health problems they suffer. As long as the medication establishment continues to push their drugs and provide “medical miracles”, consumers will go on eating as if it’s their last meal.


obesity2010If the thought of heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure or diabetes doesn’t scare you, then go on and eat whatever the hell you want. Being healthy isn’t completely on how you look, as those looks can be deceiving. It’s how healthy you are on the inside, which is why blood tests are imperative. You have no idea if you are one Big Mac away from a clogged artery or a coronary artery bypass graft.

Yet there is America (31.8%), a percentage point behind Mexico (32.8%) as the fattest nation among developed countries (source). The CDC images above are quite telling. We are all getting fat, especially the southeast. Yet many individuals are not willing to look at their diet and blame themselves for how they look or feel. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” That is how it goes with nutrition, you can provide the populous with the necessary information, but if they don’t use it, the situation will continue to spiral out of control.

Two years ago I learned nutrition, not what the schools taught, as I now believe they got it wrong and I was misled growing up. Armed with this valuable information I made drastic changes in my way of eating and shed 44 pounds in 10 months! Two years later my weight remains at my goal weight of 175 lbs and my total cholesterol is at 150 mg/dL. Now these are just two indicators of my health, but after 44 years I have never felt or looked better.

Why is it so difficult to change what you eat? I am sure if left unchecked, my weight would be approaching 230-240 lbs. Why? Because I was like many typical Americans eating those fast and processed foods (frozen) loaded with fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar and carbohydrates (the processed type). I was appalled at just how bad my way of eating had become. Thankfully I was able to look outside of the box, learn about nutrition and then commit to changing my lifestyle for myself, my wife and son.

I am not preaching to go out as I did and give up meat, dairy and added oil because it’s not easy. It’s even more difficult to control the intake of sodium and sugar since my taste buds had become so accustomed to foods high in both of these additives. Take a minute next time you are in shopping and pull off random items from the shelf, there is a high probability it contains HFCS or high fructose corn syrup. Better yet, read up on 5 reasons high fructose corn syrup will kill you. “Why is the corn industry spending millions on misinformation campaigns to convince consumers and health care professionals of the safety of their product? Could it be that the food industry comprises 17 percent of our economy?

If small steps were take by individuals obesity could be slowed and even reversed, but you are responsible for taking that first step. For some it’s a step that will never come. For others it’s a step they don’t believe they need to take (oh, I am already healthy). Yet for a few, who take that step they could be rewarded with better healthy and longevity.

While none of the “small steps” are simple, I believe cutting out all added oil is one of the best ways to start turning your health around. I don’t have statistical data or case studies to back it up. I do have a wonderful quote from Dr. Caldwell B Esselstyn and a piece I wrote regarding the myths associated with oil. It could that the benefits don’t necessarily outweigh the drawbacks. No longer do I sauté with oil or add ANY oil in all the cooking I do. When I shop, I make it a point to buy products that don’t include oil, even the exotic oils like palm, coconut, cottonseed, grape seed, or the “heart healthy” oil olive.

I challenge you, to challenge yourself and make a small change in the way you see and eat food. Remove dairy from your diet for a week, don’t use oil in cooking. Opt for almond milk instead of cow puss. Make it a point NOT to include meat in your cooking for 7 days. If you really feel up for a challenge try the 10-day free program that got me on the road to health and taught me about nutrition. The overall benefits have been amazing. Hopefully you can live longer and feel better physically and mentally. Live to eat, don’t eat to live.

Las Vegas Eating Adventure

Eating healthy in Las VegasLast weekend was our weekend mecca to Las Vegas for fantasy football. It’s not typical that a fantasy football draft turns into a full weekend, but our group makes it more than just a draft. That is to be expected with friends of 25+ years getting together, many who haven’t seen each other since last August. This year was different for me, I would be headed to Las Vegas and faced with an eating adventure. Since changing my diet last October I have been plant strong for over 10 months now, consuming fish only on the rare occasion. This weekend in Las Vegas was to be biggest challenge since changing my diet.

With the exception of one friend, no one knew I had changed my lifestyle, making the decision to stop eating meat, dairy and oil. It shouldn’t matter what I choose to eat and thankfully there was a bit of ribbing from my buddies, but that was to be expected. All of them accepted my changes and some even asked questions. I took being called “skinny Minny” as a complement. I was faced with decisions on what to eat. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I made the best decisions I could and didn’t worry about.

Thankfully I have improved my health the past 10 months and was already at my weight goal. While this might not be a big deal, I didn’t really worry about how much or what I ate and alcohol consumed. The only meal that had me worried was dinner on Friday night. As our tradition has it, we eat at The N9NE Steakhouse located in The Palms Hotel. The past years I have let loose my carnivore instincts and ate steak, much like my friends. This year after perusing the menu before heading to Las Vegas I was hoping to order vegetables and a baked potato.

Let’s start with Friday morning, as a habit before leaving the house I had a bowl of Nutty Nuggets (Grape Nuts) with almond milk. I was going to be the first to arrive in Las Vegas and I figured I would not have many options while waiting in the airport. I was hungry some 4 hours later while waiting for my friends to arrive. I settled on a Naked Blue Machine and roasted peanuts, which I planned on being a snack, but ended up being lunch. Someone from McDougall Friends (Facebook group) suggested a potato from the Wendy’s in the airport but looking at their menu I did not see it available.

Once we got checked in to the hotel it was off the bar at the pool area. While I have been very good the past 2 months on consuming alcohol, I knew this weekend would be two steps backwards, but I was willing to accept this. Actually standing at the bar I consumed 3 beers in about 3 hours. Unfortunately I was still hungry and waiting to get a menu, but decided to hold out until dinner.

Dinner was the highlight of the trip, as it usually is. Good friends, good food and good conversation. While every one was considering their order I was sizing up the menu again for what I would order. While not completely “on plan” I decided to start with an assorted sashimi platter. I considered a salad, but realized I would be picking more stuff out of the salad that I would be eating, so I decided against a salad. Soup was another option, but their choices all contained out. So it was either no appetizer or the sashimi platter, which I started with.

The dinner order was actually easy. I told the waiter I didn’t eat meat, dairy and oil and said in his English accent, “No problem mate, we’ll do you a platter of assorted vegetables.” Excellent! I also ordered a plain baked potato and a side of steak sauce. When the veggies arrived it was zucchini, red and green peppers and portabello mushroom, all of which looked as if they had been grilled. Never having a portabello before I was amazed at the meaty texture and the flavor, which was drizzled with a balsamic reduction sauce. Prior to the dinner I had ordered a scotch and water and order two more with dinner. I decided to pass on dessert.

After dinner I found myself satiated and ready to spend the next few hours (now 1000pm) gambling and hanging out with friends. After a few hours of gambling, I found myself getting hungry again. By this time I was done gambling and decided to head to my room. It wasn’t long before I was headed back down to the Mr Lucky’s, 24 hour cafe to order something “light” before bed. I ended up ordering a Thai Tuna Salad. Instead of turning to something fried chose the best option I could based on the menu options. Again, it was fish with fresh mango, cashews, edamame, red pepper, cilantro and I was able to get the mint-lime vinaigrette, on the side.

The following morning I went back down to Mr. Lucky’s to watch early morning soccer from England and have breakfast. This was an easy decision ordering the Steel Cut Oats (served with carmel apple compote, raisins, candied pecans and cinnamon sugar, all on the side) and a mixed berry bowl (with the vanilla bean cream on the side). I was beginning to feel like Meg Ryan with my ordering and everything “on the side.” This was a very good start to the day, as I held off using the cinnamon sugar and limited pecans. Instead I opted to add the mixed berries (blueberry, raspberry and strawberry) to my oats.

Saturday was probably the day I made the worst decisions, but still I tried to eat as good as possible, but it wasn’t realistic. The late morning started out with all sorts of problems as we tried to get our Internet connection online to start our fantasy football draft. After 90 minutes and much swearing, we had resolved the problem, not the best solution, but one that worked. By that time I was hungry and decide to get a Tuna Wrap. There were no vegetarian sandwiches or salads to order. We had ordered a plate of fruit, but that only tied me over for a short period. I would end up ordering another Tuna Wrap later in the day.

After the draft, just hanging out talking about our teams I decided to order the hummus plate, which came with pita bread and vegetables. Oil-free, the hummus was not, but I consumed it anyway. It wouldn’t be the food that did me in on Saturday but the alcohol. I didn’t have any beer, but had three Long Island Iced Teas through out the day. By the time these were in me many of these were water down. It wasn’t long after that I started in on the Johnnie Walker Blue.

I wouldn’t make it dinner that night, as I came up to my room, started to do some work on my laptop and decided to lay down. I recall getting a call from my roommate for the weekend that they were waiting for me for dinner (Nobu, the sushi bar). He even came up, saw me crashed on the bed and didn’t bother me. I ended up having no dinner Saturday night, followed by no breakfast at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas at 6am.

Little did I know I would be flying to San Diego and then onto San Francisco, with a 60 minute delay. While laying over in San Diego, I bought a Naked Green Machine. It wouldn’t be until I got home, about 2pm that I would break into the refrigerator and get back to good, healthy eating.

Looking back it was truly an eating adventure. While the decisions weren’t perfect, I did the best I could with what I had. Never leaving the hotel limited my choices on what I could eat. I probably ate too much fish this weekend, much like drinking too much alcohol. This was one of those “treat” weekends and in only resulted in a 2.3 pound gain over the course of 3 days. Now that I am home and have had a few days I am back on my program like I never left. Potatoes, grains and leafy greens have been on the menu all week long. While the Vegas trip was enjoyable, thanks in part to my friends I do believe I could have made it a “healthier” eating adventure if I would have remember to bring some foods with me. Thankfully this adventure happens only once a year.

Food Blogging

Since changing my eating habits to a plant-based, whole foods diet I have started avoiding the more well known food websites that offer nutrient-poor and calorie-dense foods. Rarely will I peruse Food Network or Epicurious as I once did looking for delectable foods to tempt my palate. These “commercial” sites rarely provide the sort of foods I want to consume.

I don’t claim to be a food blogger, while I have recently added a ‘Recipes‘ category not sure I have what it takes to be a successful food blogger. Many of the recipes I started with were collected over many years. Some have a source, such as my mother, who is a fantastic cook (as is my sister for that matter) others have been lost in translation.

It does seems that food blogging is in vogue, based on my recent foray into the world of plant-based cooking. Everybody seems to have a food blog and many of those food bloggers have something to promote and sell. That’s not always a bad thing, as there have been some great cookbooks I have been exposed to, such as Lindsay Nixon’s Happy Herbivore and Everyday Herbivore. Some may not look further than Dr. John McDougall and his wife Mary, who have authored The New McDougall Cookbook and The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook.

It seems that everyday I am finding new recipes I want to cook, some unique such as Malai Kofta and Ful Mudammas but as simple as black bean burgers with baked french fries and salt-free ketchup. Recently I have been on a chickpea kick, not sure why. I have been making baked falafel probably twice a week. Last night it was a smashed chickpea sandwich courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. Who says you can’t feel satiated and eat healthy at the same time? You can! It just takes a little work and creativity.

It has been a wonderful journey being introduced to so many recipes from a plethora of plant-based sites. Unfortunately not all these sites follow the guidelines I eat by, based of the research and experience of Dr. John McDougall. Many food bloggers may call themselves “vegan” this or “vegetarian” that, but could possibly include foods such as dairy, oil and those high in fats in their recipes…and even meat. Yes, it’s possible to be a fat vegan. In cases such as these it’s as simple as modifying the recipe to fit your lifestyle. Sometimes that is easier said than done.

Many of the older recipes I collected I was looking to “McDougallize” by removing the oil, dairy and meat from them. Not always possible. How do you replace 4 breasts of chicken, cream of mushroom, cream of chicken and 12 ounces of Velvetta cheese to create a healthy (Non) Chicken Spaghetti? Sometimes it’s not worth the time and effort to modify recipes when the results will be less than desired. That’s what makes McDougall so easy to get accustomed to. It’s can be very simple meals to prepare and eat.

Here are some of the sites I have bookmarked over the last 8 months with the intentions of making some of the recipes as seen. While I haven’t gotten to all the recipes I know I won’t go hungry.

100 Days of Real Food
Chef Chloe
Eating Bird Food
Fatfree Vegan Kitchen
Fifteen Spatulas
(The) Gracious Pantry
Happy Herbivore
Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Low Fat Vegan Chef
Post Punk Kitchen
Sodium Girl
Straight Up Food
True Love Health
(The) Vegan Version
Vegetarian Guide
Vegetarian Nutrition
Zoey’s Kitchen

Fuel Your Desire

While my outlook and opinion on food has changed, thanks in part to Dr. McDougall, it has not been an easy journey convincing people to “think different” when it comes to what they eat. I swear by a plant-based, whole food diet thanks to the changes I have seen and experienced in just over 6 months. I feel better than I ever have and looking at myself in the mirror I am more and more pleased everyday knowing the decision I made was the right one. Can you fuel your desire by eating differently?

Now I am working on an idea to share this way of eating with a group of people who are very competitive in the hobby of amateur radio contesting or radiosport. Not sure it will be all that successful, but why would you sacrifice that edge by filling yourself with crappy food over the course of a 48 hour contest?

It comes as no real surprise that many amateur radio operators (or hams) are not the healthiest bunch; struggling with weight, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes. Generalizing the group, many are older, some not in the best of health. So it would only stand to reason that else individuals who make a 36 or 48 hour commitment in a radio contest using the best equipment and sometimes the best antennas would compromise themselves when it comes to what they eat during the contest.

As a youth I can remember my the smell of coffee, donuts, candy and many other sugary snacks that were in my dad’s ham shack during a contest weekend. These days, not much as changed as hams turn to that quick energy to get them through a challenging period. What if they had the opportunity to eat better and not suffer coming down from a sugar or caffeine high?

The food would have to be something that allowed operators to feel satiated, but also something quick that doesn’t require much time to eat. It would need to be food that could be pre-made and  warmed up within minutes. There must be better food to fuel the body when you are dedicated to a long contest. Then again, maybe it’s somewhat of a pipe dream, being able to share my food ideas in this hobby. Maybe it’s not worth the effort, but the logic makes sense. Fuel your body with good, healthy food and you should be able to excel in your endeavors.

Live to Eat

A friend at work who enjoys to cook recommended the documentary, Forks Over Knives recently, not so much as an introduction to a vegan lifestyle, but as an introduction to help reduce my “high” (the doctor’s opinion) cholesterol. She told me a bit about the movie and that it was available on Netflix, so I didn’t hesitate to watch it.

I was quite surprised at what I saw and heard as it related to a “healthy lifestyle” and nutrition. Of course being a movie, I did take some of it with a grain of salt and consulted the interwebs for further details. Raw Food SOS had an interesting review of the movie and posed the question, “Is the Science legit?

It was interesting to read the blogger’s opinion, as well as the additional sources that were cited regarding the doctors in the movie, T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn. While some of the statistics are a bit ambiguous, much of the data seems to be very sound.

The movie steers clear of introducing a vegan lifestyle as opposed to promoting a “plant-based diet.” Just mentioning the term “vegan” sometimes gives individuals a false sense of implementing extreme changes in your diet, giving up all meat and promoting PETA. I never had that feeling as I viewed the movie that this change would be extreme at all for my lifestyle.

Five years ago I started going to the doctor annually for a physical. As I approached age 40 I was getting nervous about my healthy and wanted to make sure I had no major problems, so I could be around for my son and wife as long as possible. Unfortunately, for every ailment the doctor did not hesitate to prescribe medication. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago I was being prescribed medication for symptoms, but none that seemed to cure the problem. If the medication didn’t work, they prescribed something else. I found myself taking a handful of pills day and night and didn’t want to be relying on “big pharma” as I got older.

My introduction to Forks Over Knives couldn’t have come at a better time. With my cholesterol being higher than it was last year during my physical I had started to look for recipes that would be friendly for my change in diet. For the few months I have been cooking since my physical, I believe my wife, son and I had been eating better, but not good enough. What the real eye opener in the movie was that food was being used to cure what ailed the body. It was quite amazing to hear some of the results, including those of writer/director, Lee Fulkerson.

Granted the case studies in the movie were consulted by professional doctors, some that specialized in “emphasizing nutrition and lifestyle modification,” such as Matthew Lederman, M.D., and Alona Pulde, M.D., Founders of Exsalus Health and Wellness Center in Los Angeles, California and John McDougall, M.D., Founder of Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center in Santa Rosa, California.

To date it’s been 7 days since I last had meat. While I am not completely convinced I can eliminate meat I think I can have good success following a meal plan similar to what Dr. McDougall proposes or even using food that are better for the body when it comes to nutrition.

Since seeing Forks Over Knives I have also viewed Food Matters and Food, Inc. I have also started looking at “plant-based” cookbooks, even picked up a new one by Ani Phyo called Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods Recipes. We will see how this progresses, it’s just the start and hopefully the change will be apparent and I can “live to eat” instead of “eat to live.”