Vacation of Carbs

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At this very moment my stomach feels so fat that it is currently protruding onto my keyboard and obstructing the right-click button. This is a major problem because I am a Registered Dietitian and there are levels of fluffiness which cannot  be surpassed. My recent weight gain is a result of my family vacation to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oldham family vacations are not the type of trips where one lays by a pool and relaxes. No, the Oldham family vacation is more like a marathon where volunteers hand out ice cream cones instead of cups of water. We are all healthy people when not on vacation but we tend to go about our trips as if we were all possessed by some carb demon. From the beginning, bags of chips, cookies, granola bars (not the healthy type), and chocolate populate the car on the 8 hour road trip. We did not eat when we were hungry but rather when we solely glanced over at the carb bag-the temptress entangling us in a dance of seduction that always ended in a lust for more.

Upon our arrival to Minneapolis, we went to the grocery store to gather our precious food for the week. Normally, when I go to the grocery store, my cart is filled with fruit, vegetables, and meat; on the Oldham vacation a cart like this would be promptly doused in lighter fluid and set on fire. The vacation cart is only filled with the most precious carbs that are unthinkable for consumption at other times in the year: double stuffed oreos, Cheetos, Doritos, gallons of ice cream, biscuits, donuts, potato chips, pizza [insert favorite carb]. We get enough food for two weeks but somehow find ourselves back at the grocery  store only a couple days later for another hit of the good stuff. Purchasing food at the grocery store is not enough for the Oldhams-we require carbs from all sources. After purchasing the groceries, we headed to a famous ice cream store which serves enormous portions. I decided to order the biggest portion and was presented with a gallon sized bowl of ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream-my father and wife circling me like vultures over a dead wildebeest.

This obsession with eating continued throughout the week with an equal obsession with bike riding/walking. You might think that bike riding and walking at least offset some of the eating. Wrong! We biked 15 miles each day, to the point that it hurt to fart, and yet we still couldn’t suck in our stomachs. I walked around the Mall of America for six hours, to the point that I needed a fricking scooter, and yet stretchy pants still felt tight. Each day I though that I couldn’t go on, that I had to go back to my normal diet. Each day I tried to refrain but it was as if I would black out and find myself eating cereal out of a Tupperware container or savoring Chips Ahoy while taking a shower. My low point came on the last day. The last meal. The final countdown. We ate at Olive Garden and then immediately went to get ice cream. After the ice cream I said that my vacation was over and I was finally ready to eat healthy again. One hour later…I must have blacked out again because I found myself in the kitchen eating two microwaved hot dogs sandwiched between a hamburger bun. Do I regret some decisions over the past week? Yes. Did I have an awesome vacation that will be with me in memory and waist line forever? Yes. Am I looking forward to next year’s vacation? Let’s just say i’m already mapping out the ice cream shops.

Tomorrowland

In the year 2050 I will be 60 years old. It seems like a long time from now but I know the date will suddenly slam me in the face along with familiar phrase, “where did the time go?” It seems like all the predictions of today are framed around the year 2050: the global population will double, the earth will be 3 degrees warmer, we will need millions more pounds of food, Donald Trump will be in his 8th term as Supreme Leader. It makes me scared because none of the predictions are positive and I worry about the abuse we are putting upon our planet. Obviously, global warming is a big deal and something everyone needs to be educated about. To better understand how we have caused this precarious situation I read The Prize and The Quest by Daniel Yergin. I already talked about The Prize  which summarized the last 150 years of oil in a previous postThe Quest talks about the oil industry of today and how we need to transition from oil to more earth-friendly sources of power. Using the information that I learned from The Quest, I want to write a letter to my future 60 year old self…

“Hey you older frick! I hope that you have had an excellent 34 years since the time this blog post was written. Is the world as crappy as we thought it would be? I hope Justin Beaver isn’t running for President. Anyways, I want to write some of my predictions for what 2050 looks like. You are currently driving an all electric car that is charged by solar panels installed at the house; ideally, there is a very high efficiency battery that powers all your electrical needs throughout the day even when there is no sun. Charging the car is fast and easy because stations are ubiquitous across the country. Utility bills are nearly non-existent because the house is built to optimize heating and cooling throughout the year. Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are now decreasing each year and there are large government sponsored initiatives to remove the existing carbon from the atmosphere and oceans. Sadly, i’m guessing these initiatives only came after drastic damages to worldwide agriculture, coastal property, and most importantly-Wall Street’s trading computers. Are there still coral reefs? Do we still have our beautiful snowy days? Will our grandchildren have a promising future? I want to believe that the US now receives most of its power from solar, wind, biomass, nuclear, and natural gas. The Middle East is a center for banking and finance, now that their revenues come mostly from overseas investment funds. Maybe there is less turmoil with terrorism because oil no longer funds their operations. The developing nations in 2016 are probably much-more developed by now and may be the last countries depending on oil. Society as a whole is much more concerned about conservation and there are concerted efforts to bring carbon levels back to pre-industrial averages. The whole world has united in its effort to reverse global warming and they predict by 2100 that the earth will finally have normal levels of greenhouse gases. What an awesome time to be alive!  Of course i’m sure there are many problems in 2050: poverty, crime, starvation, and illness to name a few. Heck Kim Kardashian still probably has a reality TV show. At least, the climate issue is being addressed and you will have many more beautiful years on a healing planet earth. 

What can we do in 2016 to help reverse Global Warming? Below are three practical steps.

  1. Offset your carbon footprint by supporting programs that aim to reverse global warming: carbonfund.org
  2. Update your house with energy efficient appliances, lighting, and insulation. It will safe you money every month and decrease energy usage significantly.
  3. Lose weight: when you weigh less you use less fuel, eat less energy intensive food, and you just feel better. Win-Win.

 

Racist Smells to Rising Empires

Which type of meat would you like in your Chop Suey…rat, cat, or dog? Is this an odd question that seems completely ridiculous? Unfortunately, the idea that Chinese people ate these dirty or taboo types of meat came about in the mid 1800’s. The first major influx of Chinese immigrants to the US was during the 1849 gold rush in California. These early immigrants were a source of cheap labor in three distinct industries: mining, personal servants, and laundry. The early Chinese immigrants were pigeonholed to these lower class jobs because of racism and a general sense of superiority by white Americans. The history of Chinese food in America begins in this setting of prejudice and is explored in detail in the book Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America by Yong Chen. The early Chinese immigrants were seen as barbaric propagators of disease and hence the myth came about that they ate the animal equivalent of themselves- sewer rats. Early Chinese food in America was also given negative press because the restaurants in the mid 1800’s had distinct unfamiliar smells. These smells were from the Chinese tobacco smoked and the unique spices used in cooking; unfortunately, white Americans associated them with dirtiness and race inferiority. This was the stigma that Chinese food had to battle against and it is truly amazing that today, Chinese food is the most popular ethnic cuisine in America. How the heck did this happen?

The negative stigma towards Chinese immigrants began to shift from dirty rats to great workers throughout the late 1800’s. Whites commonly employed Chinese men as house servants because they were extremely hard workers, attentive, and more than anything clean. As more immigrants moved into the US, “China Towns” were erected to give the isolated Chinese a community and sense of home. These exotic town centers propagated a large amount of Chinese restaurants that served authentic Chinese food. As time went on, the image of Chinese cleanliness along with a shift away from personal servants provided a huge source of ideal restaurant laborers; this created a surge of Chinese restaurants throughout the US in the early 1900’s. The restaurateurs quickly began to shift their menus from traditional delicacies like bird nest soup and shark fin to the more Americanized dishes like Chop Suey and Egg Foo Yong. Along with adjustments to America’s gastronomical tastes, Chinese food filled America’s imperialistic tastes-material abundance, expansion, and democracy.

Chinese food in the twentieth century met the demands of the growing empire of America by providing cheap labor, affordable food, and quick service. The ever expanding middle class flocked to restaurants because it was a symbol of wealth and social status. Chinese food was the perfect democratic fit for all races, classes, and economic demographics. African Americans, Jews, and those in their 20’s especially flocked to Chinese restaurants as a haven where they felt accepted (for the most part). Chinese food was the original McDonald’s that fed a rising nation and created the quick, cheap food culture that is ubiquitous in the 21st century. Today, Chinese restaurants continue to adapt to American tastes and are more popular than ever. The history of Chinese food in America is not just a story of food but rather the relationship between two empires. China’s cheap labor satisfied America’s mass consumer needs in nearly every sector of the economy. The next time you eat some Crab Rangoon or Sesame Chicken think about how much that seemingly unimportant food allowed you to drive an over sized SUV, live in an over sized house, and live the over sized American lifestyle. 

Sugar and Gluten: America’s Most Wanted

Would it be an exaggeration to say that sugar and gluten are poisoning most Americans? I would argue that both of these substances, albeit natural, are toxic in levels that are regularly consumed in the United States. As a Registered Dietitian, I have strong views about the subject of nutrition and what merits a “healthy” diet. I am an indomitable supporter of the primal/paleo lifestyle because it makes evolutionary sense. For 95% of human existence the amount of grains, gluten, sugar, and general carbohydrates in the diet was negligible. Today the typical diet of westernized countries includes all those aforementioned categories as staples. Am I extreme in my thinking, a rogue dietitian hell bent on smacking cupcakes out of children’s hands? For a long time I thought so, but I think the medical community is slowly coming around.

One of those coming around in the medical community is David Perlmutter MD, a highly-acclaimed neurologist, who wrote the book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Going into this book I thought I knew the gamut of negative effects that wheat, carbs, and sugar had on the body; however, I had no idea how drastically these compounds affected the brain. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and causes either obvious or subtle inflammation throughout the body. Obvious cases include explosive diarrhea in those with Celiac Disease, subtle cases include bumpy skin or annoying headaches in those with sensitivities. Gluten can affect the brain and body by causing inflammation in the intestines which elicits an immune response and subsequent systemic inflammation. Also, gluten can enter the bloodstream partially digested and act as an exorphin in the brain (think addiction) or deposit in joints, skin, or countless other organ systems. In addition to gluten, excess carbohydrates can cause high blood sugar which results in protein glycation in the blood vessels throughout the body-including the brain. Glycation is a very bad thing because it inhibits neurotransmitter function, and decreases overall cognitive function. A gluten free diet has been shown to be more effective then prescription medications in those suffering with ADHD, Schizophrenia, dementia, Alzheimer’s (delaying the onset), and depression. That last sentence alone is enough to say, “crap Jon why am I eating this piece of bread!” 

Another point that I need to harp about is that saturated fat is not bad for you! Saturated fat does not cause high cholesterol or heart disease….period. Watch the informative video I posted for a little history on how we came upon this scientific lie. The cause of heart disease is extremely complex and is mainly from inflammation and oxidized proteins circulating in the blood. This oxidation is caused by a myriad of things including gluten, Omega-6 fatty acids, and trans fat. High cholesterol compared to low total cholesterol is actually found to decrease mortality, increase cognitive function, and decrease risk of depression. If all of these points make you want to curl up into a vegan ball of fear then you should pick up Grain Brain, Wheat Belly, The Primal Blueprint, or Paleo Manifesto. So my prescription to my readers is simple: Try your best to avoid grains, processed oils, eat less than 100 grams of carbs a day, lift weights regularly, walk in nature regularly, sprint once a week, and get plenty of sleep. So get rid of the gluten and excess carbs so you can start feeling like the best version of yourself.