Why I Don’t Buy Supermarket Ground Beef Anymore

There’s a wonderful/horrible chapter about hamburgers in Anthony Bourdain’s book ‘Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook‘, a brutally, if not violently,  honest and profane look at himself, food, the business of cooking and resturants, and a host of other things surrounding the world of food.

If you don’t mind frequent use of profanity and occasionally raunchy material, he’s screamingly funny.

His chapter on hamburger in America – and how it is made, that is angry and eloquent, is classic.

I wish I could write half – no, one tenth – as good as he does.

I’d recommend his book for this chapter alone. Get it from Amazon here, or your library, or just hang out at your local bookstore and read it (before it goes out of business).

Not going to do that? Check out this link from a review of the book that details – and lifts a number of quotes from – this particular chapter of his book.  A few selections:

“I believe that, as an American, I should be able to walk into any restaurant in America and order my hamburger – that most American of foods – medium fxxxing rare. I don’t believe my hamburger should have to come with a warning to cook it well done to kill off any potential contaminants or bacteria.”

“I believe that I shouldn’t have to be advised to thoroughly clean and wash up immediately after preparing a hamburger.”

“I believe I should be able to treat my hamburger like food, not like infectious fxxxing medical waste.”

“I believe the worlds ‘meat’ and ‘treated with ammonia’ should never occur in the same paragraph – much less the same sentence.”

It explains nicely part of the reason that I don’t buy supermarket hamburger anymore, and on the very rare occasion I do, it’s cooked to ‘well-done’.

Food Rules – A Book by Michael Pollan

Being on a diet for over 8 years – essentially the same diet for 8 years – gives one a different perspective on dieting than most folks.

I’ve come to reject a lot of the thinking surrounding the popular notion of diets, and am currently trying to sort out just how am I different from all the other folks over the years who have come to this site, commented, lost some weight – even had blogs of their own – only to pull the blogs down or stop posting.

I fear it wasn’t because they succeeded in their hard-won goal of losing weight and keeping it off for the rest of their life.

Here’s a random post, from a random fellow, found on a random weight loss forum:

Hello everyone I have a few questions for the trainers and the morbidly obese who have managed to meet their goals and lose weight to gain a happier life.I have recently decided to make a lifestyle change and get my self  in shape ,but i am very in experienced at doing this so I have decided to come here for advice ok so far I am 6 days in and I have lowered my calorie intake and for the last 3 days i figured i could walk non stop for 1hr possibly even more with being to tired or winded but i believe i could push my self to do something a little more rewarding.I have also purchased a stability ball from ball dynamics and i was wondering could you guys give me tips on what type a exercise a very big guy can do standing by himself or on a stability ball to shed weight and build strength IM still a rookie and i cant do push up yet so something looking for something low impact but effective i was also wondering could you guys refer to some workout videos for big guys thats not grueling that i can use to lose some weight.any tips would be highly appreciated it

It struck me that this person is probably going to fail. He’s eating Stouffer’s TV dinners and seems ashamed of eating a BBQ chicken – and wants to exercise to lose the weight.

I thought of posting something – but what? That he’s going about it all wrong? Do I have the right to do this? Do I know what I’m talking about?

The problem with starting a diet is that there is something wrong with the whole concept of ‘diet’ as we know it. Check out Everydiet.org, which attempts to give an overview of 400 + diets.

I wonder how many of them led to even a single person losing the weight they wanted and keeping it off.

I will bet you that each one of them laid claim to some science to back up whatever gimmick their diet was built around. And here’s partly the reason we go off the rails.

Science has become the new God – the supreme power that even God must bow to. Let me prove it. In the past year, I have had a Baptist and Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door in order to share with me their messages of God.

Both mentioned very early in the discussions that God was ‘proven by science’. These nice folks didn’t realize it, but they had made Science superior to their diety.

The problem with Science is three-fold:

  1. Science is done by humans, and sometimes it’s wrong – willfully or through a genuine misunderstanding.
  2. People – even scientists – sometimes think all science it the same. The science that put a man on the moon is a very different body of work than the science that is used in determining why people get fat or can’t lose weight. Unlike rocket science, which obviously works and everybody agrees with the principles, nutrition science has ‘proof’ that is unclear and debated by intelligent people of integrity.
  3. Science, to a lot of people, is inscrutable. Like God, if they are told things are a certain way and can’t understand the explanation, science becomes a belief system.
This is where Michael Pollan’s Food Rules comes in. To me, one quote sums up my thinking nicely:
Nutrition Science…is today approximately where surgery was in 1650-very promising, and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate on you? I think I’ll wait a while.
In this tiny, science-light book, he lists a number of simple rules about eating that I believe would be a great start for anyone trying to sort out how to be healthier – and maybe slimmer.
I don’t agree with every item, but it is a noble attempt at a different approach on eating healthy.
Here’s 6 rules from the excerpt on his site:

#11 Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

Food marketers are ingenious at turning criticisms of their products—and rules like these—into new ways to sell slightly different versions of the same processed foods:

They simply reformulate (to be low-fat, have no HFCS or transfats, or to contain fewer ingredients) and then boast about their implied healthfulness, whether the boast is meaningful or not. The best way to escape these marketing ploys is to tune out the marketing itself, by refusing to buy heavily promoted foods. Only the biggest food manufacturers can afford to advertise their products on television: More than two thirds of food advertising is spent promoting processed foods (and alcohol), so if you avoid products with big ad budgets, you’ll automatically be avoiding edible foodlike substances. As for the 5 percent of food ads that promote whole foods (the prune or walnut growers or the beef ranchers), common sense will, one hopes, keep you from tarring them with the same brush—these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

#19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

#36 Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

This should go without saying. Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.

#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking soda every now and then, but food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard-to-make treats so cheap and easy that we’re eating them every day. The french fry did not become America’s most popular vegetable until industry took over the jobs of washing, peeling, cutting, and frying the potatoes—and cleaning up the mess. If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they’re so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you’re willing to prepare them—chances are good it won’t be every day.

#47 Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.

For many of us, eating has surprisingly little to do with hunger. We eat out of boredom, for entertainment, to comfort or reward ourselves. Try to be aware of why you’re eating, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry—before you eat and then again along the way. (One old wive’s test: If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.) Food is a costly antidepressant.

#58 Do all your eating at a table.

No, a desk is not a table. If we eat while we’re working, or while watching TV or driving, we eat mindlessly—and as a result eat a lot more than we would if we were eating at a table, paying attention to what we’re doing. This phenomenon can be tested (and put to good use): Place a child in front of a television set and place a bowl of fresh vegetables in front of him or her. The child will eat everything in the bowl, often even vegetables that he or she doesn’t ordinarily touch, without noticing what’s going on. Which suggests an exception to the rule: When eating somewhere other than at a table, stick to fruits and vegetables.

It’s not a diet book, but would be a much better place for fat folks to start at than most on that list of 400.

Book Review: Unwasted by Sacha Scoblic

Note: I tend not to do book reviews because I feel I’m awful at them – and I’d only bother to do a review of a book that I enjoyed and found to be of value. If you agree that this attempt is a hatchet job like I do, I ask you to check out some real reviews, as this work deserves a look. 

I was at my local B&N one lunchtime trying to decompress from a brain-sucking morning at work when I stumbled across this book. I read a few pages and was hooked. As the Kindle version was a few bucks cheaper and reading on the iPhone doesn’t bother me for certain books, I bought it for that and consumed this short book in a few days.

While the book is about giving up alcohol, and dealing with the pitfalls of sobriety in a world where booze ads are everywhere and there’s a bar on every corner, it is also about any decision to go against the flow. The awkwardness that others might have in dealing with us. The awkwardness we might have with ourselves as we leave the comfort of our routines.

And the simple fact that addiction is a bitch – the Uncontrollable that We Must Control.

It reminded me a lot of low carb dieting.

It bothers me that I always feel the outsider – planning for a day where my food choices might not be under my control. Trying to avoid the carbs that set me off. Asking sheepishly what the menu will be. Trying not to be the pain in the ass. Eating ahead of time. Turning down food offered by well-intentioned and sometimes very demanding folks who don’t quite understand.

Then there’s the explanations. The wrinkling of their brow. Their trying to understand – sincerely trying to frame the information so it makes sense to them.

And if they have made sense of it – it’s usually only insofar as to partition you as unlike them. You’re now the Outsider. When dessert is served, they ask: “Can you have this? It’s low in calorie.”

They don’t quite ‘get’ low carb – it’s not their fault – not their deal, really. It’s yours.

And the really awful part of all this? You really WANT what they’re serving. But you say no.

In some ways Sacha has it easier. An alcoholic embraces sobriety by a total abstention of drink. But people on a diet still need to eat – the slippery-slope of no-carb to low-carb to high-carb to eating an entire pint of Hagen Daz is much easier for those of us prone to this.

You might might read her book and say: this isn’t me. She’s a druggie and an alcoholic. She did Ecstasy!

Is your Ecstasy a box of Oreos and a quart of milk?

I give her a lot of credit for writing such an honest and authentic memoir. I didn’t feel sorry for her. It’s obvious she doesn’t want our pity.

She makes a very good point about ‘hitting bottom’. It’s not necessarily the same for all of us. It doesn’t fit a stereotype.

It’s when you’ve decided to stop digging.

This point can apply to alcoholism, obesity, or a dozen other things in our lives we should control – that we tell ourselves: “Tomorrow I’ll do it.”

But don’t.

There is another strong similarity between alcoholism and obesity: you are never ‘cured’ of either.

You don’t stop being prone to obesity because you lose weight any more than you stop being an alcoholic because you don’t drink.

No matter how thin you get, you are only a few months away from gaining it all back.

If you’re here because you’re fat and want to be thin, or trying to stay thin, you should check out this book.

Even if you’ve never had a drink in your life, you’ll relate.


Gary Taubes Finally Gets Around to Writing a Book on Low Carb that People Can Read – And It’s AWESOME!

This was the book that I knew was inside of ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’.

‘Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It‘ was to the book to give to friends, doctors, congressmen, and anyone else who wants to understand the futility of our current nutritional advice.

Short and to-the-point, written in accessible style, this is the book I can give to people who find out I live low carb and look at me like I’m some sort of crackpot.

They’re the crackpots!

Low calorie diets, exercising for weight loss, calories in=calories out, and the sickening moral superiority of some of those leaner than thou, who think that our weight shows us as having some character defect – eviscerated. Clearly, obviously, succinctly, Gary shows us how scientific theories that explained obesity as a hormonal rather than moral issue was abandoned during World War II for simplistic theories based on thermodynamics that work in physics, but make no sense when used to describe the behavior of complex biological systems. These simplistic theories also put the onus on the patient’s behavior – ‘eat less and you’ll weigh less, you fat f**k!’ – and what has ensued is close to 50 years of collective suffering among the fat and obese in both their health and their standing in society that we can now begin to undo – by whacking this book upside the head of every ‘party-line’ nutritionist, moralizer, and dogmatic doctor.

Thank you, Gary Taubes.

Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

The story I heard was that Ben Franklin, like most young men, was not necessarily destined for greatness, but at age 20 he resolved to better himself – and came up with 13 ‘virtues’ that he attempted to follow the rest of his life.

it’s a good idea – and it worked for him well enough.

Here they are – stolen straight from Wikipedia – I think some form of this might also help me reach my goals. Think of it as a guest post.

Thirteen Virtues

Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of thirteen virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life. His autobiography lists his thirteen virtues as:

  1. “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  2. “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  3. “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  4. “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  5. “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  6. “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  7. “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  8. “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  9. “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  12. “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Franklin did not try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would work on one and only one each week “leaving all others to their ordinary chance”. While Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and by his own admission, he fell short of them many times, he believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted more pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his autobiography Franklin wrote, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”

Italian Zucchini in Butter with Romano Cheese

I wish I took a picture of this recipe. It came out really well, even though it was an off-the-cuff attempt to finish up some leftover odds and ends.

I am reading Nourishing Traditions, a cookbook of some notoriety in the Low Carb and Paleo world because of its strict adherence to natural and naturally produced foods as well as it’s co-author – Mary Eng, who is associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation and knows her fats – she actually wrote a book called ‘Know Your Fats‘, which has long been on my reading list though I haven’t gotten to it yet. The first section of Nourishing Traditions appears to be an introduction to fats, proteins and carbs, and was succinctly written and an informative pleasure to read.

One point made in this section was that both olive oil and butter are good, stable fats that tend not to go rancid nor oxidize as easily as other fats – very important by their way of thinking – but because of the type of fats in olive oil, olive oil will tend us toward weight gain more so than butter.

Is that right? I never heard that before. Continue reading “Italian Zucchini in Butter with Romano Cheese”

Losing Weight May Be Hazardous To Your Health

Warning: if you are easily discouraged when your assumptions are challenged, you might want not want to read this. Check back the next time I have a recipe or something.

If you need an excuse to stay fat, grab a box of cookies, pull up a chair and read this: many studies suggest that people who lose weight actually have higher death rates than those whose weight remained stable, even if they’re overweight.

Just call me Debbie Downer. Hey: you want a ‘rah-rah-happy-go-lucky’ low carb blog, look elsewhere – I’m far too cynical and skeptical for that.

Another aspect for me is: I’m not scared of people whose opinions differ from mine – I’m fascinated by them.

So if you’re game, let’s explore this avenue for a little while. Continue reading “Losing Weight May Be Hazardous To Your Health”

Gary Taubes Finally Gets Around to Writing a Book on Low Carb that People Can Read (Hopefully)

UPDATE: He has – go read about it in my more recent post here.

I loved the book ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ – the seminal work on the science behind low carb dieting – but I hated reading it. In my opinion, Gary Taubes is not a great author – he is a great presenter of information, but his writing style is dry and sterile – as if he places each word on the page with tweezers while wearing rubber gloves.

His style leans too much toward an audience accustomed to clinical research, where the author removes themselves from the content. In research, this is necessary as science is a presentation of ‘just the facts’ and any warmth or emotion carried in the message will put the research into question, making readers think that the message conveyed might be biased by the researcher’s own opinions.

This is always the case, of course – we’re just not supposed to show it.

I have read way too many books of similar depth that were more engaging, so I was very disappointed – this was supposed to be a work that would show the world the sound scientific basis for a low carbohydrate diet – and he created a near unreadable tome that would allow laymen critics to seize on the style rather than the substance.

I have always wished it would be rewritten – perhaps co-authored with Bill Bryson or Michael Pollan – two of my favorite authors – with both of them, I could read anything they wrote, no matter the topic or my interest in the topic because of the warmth, passion, and wonder they can inject into their narratives.

I have found engaging writers make me interested in subjects I never knew I had an interest in.

That’s what Gary Taubes needed to do in ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ so that detractors could come to see that low carb is not as quackish as many think.

He failed. Continue reading “Gary Taubes Finally Gets Around to Writing a Book on Low Carb that People Can Read (Hopefully)”

A List of Low Carb Recipe Sites

“If I go on low carb, what the heck am I going to eat?”

It seem I hear that a lot – most people think it’s bacon, eggs, butter and steak.

The problem is that most people go on a low carb diet before they read up on it. They usually end up eating eggs and bacon until they’re about to puke at the thought of any more, then quit and say low carb doesn’t work.

It’s a little bit more varied than that. Continue reading “A List of Low Carb Recipe Sites”

The New Atkins for a New You

In case you didn’t notice, Atkins Nutritionals came out with an update to the Atkins plan. I think the book came out March 2, 2010, so it’s literally hot off the presses. If you would like to read a real review (not my ramblings here), click on the book above. When I checked it out, Jimmy Moore had posted a long review of the book. It was the only one.

I’m sure it won’t stay like that for long – and the Atkins detractors will soon flood the reviews with 1-star ratings, probably without reading the book.

I picked up the book and have only read the beginning, but it seems to be a big overhaul of the Atkins diet that appears to try and answer just about every criticism of past Atkins plans, and lob bombs at some of their most strident enemies. Continue reading “The New Atkins for a New You”