Archive for September, 2010

Fit Fail – Diet Designs

September 26, 2010

Summary:

In the 90 day window I have from my poor bloodwork results (detailed here), I am adjusting/adapting/re-designing my diet. I am going Paleo. I have a prioritized set of “rules” I will be following, with the higher priority (i.e. more restrictive) towards the top and the lower priority (i.e. more permissive) towards the bottom.

Details (story):

In the last 12 years, I have tried numerous diets. Most have been some variation of low-carb. Those work for me to remove weight as that was my measurement; my focus. However, I love carbs. Much more accurately, I love Life cereal, chocolate chip cookies (especially BJ’s Pizzookie), chocolate cake and dark chocolate covered almonds. And these things are not driven by cravings. They are driven by my strong and deep emotional and social associations I have with these food objects and time I share with those about which I care. Just being up front that no matter what diet I choose, I will not be giving up the above items permanently. I can and will restrict when I get to have them. But I WILL have them again.

Thanks to my recent blood work results, it appears I must be even more attentive to the details of my daily diet. The last year of just being “moderate” apparently wasn’t good enough. So while that might work for others, it appears I have to be more diligent about attending to my daily diet needs (as well as augmenting with exercise).

I have chosen to “go paleo” for 90 days. I have not tried the paleo diet explicitly. I have been close to it, but not directly on it. My best friend, Bill, has been on it for 9 months and has had some remarkable results. My admiration for his results has me inspired to try it, at least for 90 days.

So what’s the paleo diet, you ask? The wiki has a good entry on it. And as with any diet, it has numerous variations. And as I implement what I think is important to the diet, I am relatively certain a new variation will be birthed. The version that I am starting with first is located here. And I will be modifying this list over time into my own list, generating less of a good/bad frame and more of a degree of alignment frame.

My personal diet plan is a mild re-interpretation of Panu’s (Dr. Kurt Harris) list.

Personal Diet Plan Rules/Guidelines:

  1. Always eliminating all foods containing gluten grains (i.e. wheat, rye and barley) and any of their derivatives (i.e. flour, germ, powder, etc.)
  2. Always eliminating all foods and drinks containing sugars (i.e. sugar-cane, sugar-beet, high-fructose corn syrup, milk lactose) – excluding freshly squeezed juice
  3. Always ensuring generation of enough vitamin D through daily skin exposure to sun and/or D3 supplements
  4. Mostly reducing to very small amounts non-gluten grains (i.e. rice, corn, etc.)
  5. Mostly eliminating snacking and practicing some form of intermittent fasting
  6. Mostly eating better fats (i.e. animal flesh fat, whole cream, coconut fat, avocados)
  7. Mostly replacing grain and/or seed derived (cooking) oils with fat based oils (i.e. butter, coconut oil, animal fat and/or ghee)
  8. Mostly eating ruminant animals (i.e. beef, bison/buffalo, lamb) – have smaller percentage come from eggs and fish
  9. Mostly ensuring Omega3/Omega6 balance strongly favors Omega6 (i.e. fish oil supplements)
  10. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating processed foods – strongly prefer eating foods in their natural or cooked state
  11. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating  fruits (i.e. apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, plums, etc.) – including their freshly squeezed juices
  12. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating  legumes (i.e. peas, beans, soy, peanuts, etc.)
  13. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating  nuts (i.e. walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, macadamia, etc.)
  14. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating  night-shades (i.e. potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, etc.)
  15. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating dairy (i.e. cheese, cottage cheese, butter, cream, sour-cream, etc.)
  16. Rarely (all but eliminate) eating and/or drinking caffeine (i.e. coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.)
  17. Rarely (all but eliminate) drinking alcohol (i.e. beer, liquor, wine, etc.)

Obvious Missing Elements:

Pork, fowl (chicken, turkey, etc.), artificial sweeteners, extremely dark chocolate, etc. I will address these in a future post. They are mixed in both being valuable and being tricky.

Common Misperceptions:

These are worth clearing up ASAP as they were surprises to me.

  • Corn is a grain, not a vegetable
  • Potatoes and Tomatoes are night-shades, not vegetables
  • Peanuts are legumes, not nuts
  • Consuming (good) fats is essential to maintaining higher brain function into one’s later years
  • The fear of the link between red meat and cancer appears to be largely nullified gluten grains have been substantially reduced and/or eliminated from the diet (more on medical diet myths in a later post)
  • The calcium justification for drinking milk to avoid osteoporosis appears to be largely nullified gluten grains have been substantially reduced and/or eliminated from the diet (more on medical diet myths in a later post)

Macro-nutrient Caloric Ratios per Meal (+/- 5%):

  • Fat: 65%
  • Protein 25%
  • Carbohyrdrates: 10%

Fundamental Principles Influencing the Design of My Diet Plan List:

  1. The closer to the paleo-orthodox end of the spectrum (which spans from paleo-lithic to neo-lithic), the more excess capacity the immune system gains to fight systemic issues (i.e. allergies, outbreaks, ph-balance, etc.)
  2. Affects on blood-glucose (sugar) directly influence insulin sensitivity, hence the use of the glycemic index is very helpful in choosing health and fitness effective foods
  3. Supporting an active lifestyle requires both the proper selection of foods in the diet combined with the proper timing of their consumption to maximize hormonal benefits.
  4. Life happens. Exceptions occur. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, etc. are special. And for most of those, all the above rules/guidelines my be broken for a meal, a day or even a week. The rules above for for living during all the non-exceptional times. The challenge is to find the right threshold to define an “exceptional” event. And that likely requires defining them prior to their occurring, not on the fly. Otherwise, it’s very easy to slide further and further out of alignment with the rules/guidelines.

In my next post, I will start addressing each of the diet plan items, going into much greater depth about what the item means to me…

Fit Fail – Bloodwork Breakdowns

September 19, 2010

Summary:

From my recent yearly physical, I received a poor grade on my blood work. My “health consultant” (doctor’s PA) prescribed a statin (Crestor) for my pre-CVD (CardioVascular Disease) “high” cholesterol and an anti-diabetic (Metformin) for my pre-diabetes high fasting blood glucose and elevated HbA1c. I have 90 days before I am to be re-tested. I’m going to get a much better (i.e. healthier) grade by NOT using “health consultant’s” prescriptions, but by using self-discipline, support and my critical thinking skills.

Details (story):

I got back the results of my bloodwork on Wednesday (blood drawn on Aug/23) and got some pretty undesirable news. Given the figures and my MD’s PA’s interpretation was that my cholesterol is bad (LDL is too high and my HDL is too low), my fasting blood glucose and HbA1c is too high. Ugh! Here are those undesirable numbers (where they are over or under the end of the recommended range / over or under change from last year’s numbers):

  1. Cholesterol, Total: 214 (+14/+57)
  2. LDL-C: 162 (+62/+57)
  3. HDL-C: 39 (-1/+2)
  4. LDL-P: 2984 (+1984/)
  5. Small LDL-P: 2414 (+1887)
  6. LDL Size: 19.9 (-0.6)
  7. Large HDL-P: <0.7 (-4.1)
  8. HDL Size: 8.3 (-0.9)
  9. LP-IR Score: 46 (+1)
  10. Glucose, Serum: 107 (+8)
  11. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c): 5.6 (+0 – top value of range – 6.4 or higher is considered diabetic)

There are some desirable numbers (measurement / over or under change from last year’s numbers):

  1. Triglycerides: 66 (-9)
  2. Vitamin D, 25 Hydroxy: 40.2 (first time measured)
  3. C-Reactive Protein, Quant: 0.5 (0.0)

What does all those numbers actually mean?

It turns out it largely depends up on who you ask. For example, my doctor’s PA interpreted these numbers to mean I have high cholesterol and need to be on a statin. And I have high blood sugar and HbA1c which means I am pre-diabetic. And if you ask the pharmaceutical industry, you would find they are the ones who funded the studies and marketing material my doctor and his PA have read, accepted and promote. And given the average person’s lacking taking responsibility for their personal health, it means that most of their patients just willing accept their newly diagnosed disease state and just begin popping the problem solving pills.

However, I am choosing to interpret them a slightly different way. I am choosing to see them as opportunities to make some adjustments to my list of the most important areas of managing  and maintaining healthy happy longevity (i.e. fun filled active old-age). They are listed in order of importance; i.e. their degree of influence in over-all fitness and health:

  1. Attitude – reducing stress and projecting a free, happy and successful possible future
  2. Sleep – repairing and growing basic physiological and neurological building blocks
  3. Breathing – maximizing and generating excess capacity in immune system function
  4. Diet – fuel for both the body and the brain
  5. Exercise – hormonal and neuro-chemical factory activation and pumping system

While I have listed them in order of influence, they all intricately depend upon the others. Having an effective (empowered and non-victimized) attitude is pretty moot if one has crappy sleep patterns and diet, regardless of how good the breathing and exercise patterns might be.

How did I get to this (blood work) state?

My numbers this time last year were awesome (according to my doctor) compared to those from this year.

  1. Did I really lose that much ground in one year?
  2. On my list of “Happy Longevity Influencers”, where did I go wrong to produce this bloodwork state?
  3. How can I feel confident about disregarding the “profession” (and pharmaceutical conglomerate marketing) advice I have received and just “do my own thing”?

1) Did I really lose that much ground in one year?

The answer isn’t simple, but can be summed up as probably. The first assumption to challenge is the objectivity of the numbers themselves. It turns out that even though the blood is taken from me in a fasting state, that does not mean the resulting measurements are precise. In other words, if I were to go in the next day in a fasted state, have blood drawn and the same numbers produced, some of the measurements could be substantially different (first 10 of the 11 listed above). Some would have very small differences (HbA1c, C-Reactive Protein and Vitamin D).

This same effect can be experienced by getting on the bathroom scale to measure my weight and body fat percentage. I can get up one morning, get on my scale 10 times in a row, and receive a different weight and body fat percentage every time. Granted, the measurement would fall in a range. For example, my weight might be 205.1, 205.7, 204.9, 205.2, etc. So, what’s my actual weight? The bathroom scale cannot tell you accurately. It can only give you an approximate answer with a +/-1.1lbs accuracy. To get a scale with an accuracy that has a smaller approximate range, you have to pay substantially more for it. And you have to frequently calibrate it with a known weight quantity just prior to using the device. It’s very accurate. And pretty darn inconvenient. And expensive too boot.

As a result, I do not put near the value in measurements 1-10 (or Triglycerides) as they have too much day-to-day fluctuation. If my insurance company paid for it, I am sure my doctor would be more than happy to take a series of measurements to get a tighter feel for the actual numbers. My insurance company won’t pay for it more than once a year (unless it’s for diagnosing an unusual problem). So, the single measurement is used with too much weight compared to it’s actual value accuracy.

And that leads use to the second assumption to challenge; that high LDL is “bad” or “undesirable”. And I don’t hold that assumption. I choose to imagine that nature wouldn’t have put a “bad” thing in us. The immune system is not “bad” just because a person has an auto-immune disorder (i.e. allergy). It’s just indicating there is some systemic issue that needs to be addressed that until address the immune system is going to react to a particular way. Said slightly differently, when one solves the root cause in the system, the “allergy” goes away because the immune system no longer has to “make do” with it’s current more stressful and undesirable response.

If one makes the assumption LDL is desirable and good, then one has to investigate why the liver choose to generate so much of it? In other words, rather than reduce my LDL directly using a statin, why not try to find other causes which might actually be responsible for the liver’s pathological response of producing high levels of LDL (and that’s assuming that I am not genetically predisposed to high levels of LDL in the first place which is a whole different tangent)? Back to this in a moment.

The next assumption to challenge is that lowing one’s LDL leads to a reduction in all-cause mortality, not just lowering one’s CVD risk. It turns out that there are a number of studies showing while statin use does seem to reduce CVD risk in middle aged males (not females), all-cause mortality goes UP. Translated, it appears that statins have a very limited affect on preventing CVD in a small age range of males while actually increasing non-CVD types of death to INCREASE!

If we return to the original question, “Did I really lose that much ground in one year?”, I want my answer to be based on the variables that have a longer term profile. And HbA1c seems to be the better candidate. And that variable did go up. And that variable is being found to have a strong correlation to all-cause mortality, not just the onset of Type 2 diabetes. So, I’m drawing the conclusion that I’m worse off than last year regarding my longevity goals.

2) On my list of “Happy Longevity Influencers”, where did I go wrong to produce this bloodwork state?

I was fine with my attitude and sleep. However, prior to the last 12 months, I did breathing exercises daily, played soccer once a week, practicing Yoga 2-3 times a week, went to CrossFit Plano 5 times a week, was on a pretty strict version of the Zone diet, did not eat mammal meat and was off of caffeine (no diet coke or iced tea). And then basically stopped all of that in the last 12 months. I just enjoyed a relaxing time not worrying about any of these areas strongly (large change in my personal life). I shifted to a low-carb-ish diet with at least one exception a week. And I didn’t work out more than once or twice a month, if that. It was not accidental. I chose to let go of all my old patterns. I wanted to restructure my life and wanted my patterns to re-emerge according to my new life priorities.

As a result, my insulin sensitivity dropped substantially. However, because I was eating large amounts of protein, I never lost much in the way of muscle tone or muscle mass. I just grew a nice large belly. I went from my comfortable size 34 pants to my comfortable 36 pants. And of course started sporting an additional 10-15lbs of weight almost exclusively in my mid-section. And then I didn’t really do anything special prior to my physical. Hence, my bloodwork being indicative of my imprecise diet combined with almost no exercise.

3) How can I feel confident about disregarding the “profession” (and pharmaceutical conglomerate marketing) advice I have received and just “do my own thing”?

In my research on statins, I was not please to see so many side-effects. And some of the side-effects have long term consequences related to physically intense activities. I am not willing to live with some of those possible consequences.

Additionally, I have been able to alter my numbers in these areas prior to now. So, I am convinced I can change them again using similar techniques that have worked for me previously.

Lastly, I have skin in the game and a deadline. I have to do the work to produce results within a relatively short time frame. That is very motivating to me.

What am I doing to do now?

I have continued my intermittent fasting and that seems to be having positive results in stopping my weight gains. However, it does not seem to be taking the weight off (even using my low-carb approach). And I find my current fasting schedule to be pleasing from an eating standpoint.

However, while I will continue with my intermittent fasting plan, I am now making some very large adjustments. More about these in my next post…

EagleEye – PS3 Gaming with PC Keyboard/Mouse (part 3)

September 5, 2010

So, I finally got to play BFBC2 (BattleField: Bad Company 2) with my EagleEye and a cheap USB keyboard and mouse.

I decided to dive into the single player game just to get my feel of the controls. I died quite a bit in the WWII Japanese scenes. I kept having to adjust the sensitivity of the game so the mouse would feel good. I played for about an hour.

Conclusion: It’s no where near as accurate or effective as playing with a mouse/keyboard on the PC. However, it is many times more effective than playing with the PS3 controller.

I then dove into BFBC2 multi-player. It’s quite a different game on the console. You can tell the skill levels are MUCH lower. And it was trivial to rack up some serious pwnage in just a couple of minutes. I experimented playing around just to get the feel of the game. I played for about an hour and enjoyed the experience over-all. It was certainly not as tight at the PC experience. However, I could actually get into playing the game on the PS3.

Summary: The EagleEye is a winner for me, at least with two hours of play in BFBC2. However, the initial cost of getting it to work was way too high.

In my next post, I will share what my expectations were which ended up being quite a bit too high compared to what Penguin United eventually delivered…

EagleEye – PS3 Gaming with PC Keyboard/Mouse (part 2)

September 3, 2010

Arising early on Saturday morning, I skedaddled out to BestBuy and bought the cheapest USB keyboard I could get. My goal was to test everything before making a commitment. And besides, the keyboard would work or not. There is only so fast I can actually click buttons.

I got back home very excited. I got the EagleEye out and reviewed the small single sheet of instructions provided. They were pretty sparse. I was too excited to care. I got the software (micro-sized) CD into my laptop and then plugged in the naked EagleEye; no keyboard and/or mouse plugged into it yet. I then carefully looked at the BFBC2 manual and slowly mapped the keyboard keys to the appropriate slots in the very rudimentary windows application that popped up. The text of the paper instructions were not clear. The application GUI was clearly designed and written by a hardware oriented person. It sucked. It didn’t follow standard windows GUI API customs. It misused radio-buttons, text boxes, etc. As I tried to make sense of the different bits of unclear English, I started having concerns about how to get things functioning. There’s a note about having to define all the key slots even if you aren’t going to use that particular PS3 button. And all the slots are empty. There isn’t a reasonable set of defaults provided from which one might override (or if there were, it was certainly unclear how to access them).

Thus began the 8 hours of fiddling around with the following loop:

  1. Plug in EagleEye to PC
  2. Run key map application (crap UI)
  3. Remove EagleEye
  4. Attach keyboard/mouse to EagleEye
  5. Attach EagleEye to PS3 (at main screen)
  6. Start BFBC2 (BattleField: Bad Company 2)
  7. Try out the key configuration, which didn’t work quite right (the WASD keys were not working even though they were mapped to left analog joystick)

This quicky got quite laborious. After many loops (+10) and interruptions (have other things to do on a Saturday than dedicate full time to this), I finally figured out the issue. The keyboard arrow keys cannot be assigned without blocking the WASD keys. So, once I changed the left control pad’s four buttons to the keypad (8462), the WASD keys worked. And I was out of time. I was  not able to actually get any play time. It was all burned up getting the EagleEye working. Naturally, I was a bit frustrated. I wouldn’t get another chance to try it out until late Monday evening.

So, thanks to some very crappy software written by a hardware company and some weird anomaly around using the keyboard arrow keys, I finally got the freakin thing working.

And I will share what happened when I got to play both single player and multi-player BFBC2 on Monday night in my next post…