Dec 212011
 

 

It is very important to conduct scientific experiments/research that produce relevant results. For instance, pharmaceutical companies conduct drug tests to ensure their poisons are effective. They need to get significant results (the drug produces a measurable effect) in order to convince the FDA, Health Canada, and other regulatory bodies to let them market their products as cures for whatever ailments are afflicting humanity. There are some people and companies who are actually doing good research and I don’t want to take away from them, but most research is motivated by financial gains (not bad in itself), not by providing cures.

There are also epidemiological and observational studies which are aimed at extracting meaning about something (disease, addiction, etc) from a large population. For instance, “what is the rate of diabetes in the province of Ontario?” would be a research question in an epidemiological study. These studies are meaningful in order to determine truths about populations, but there are so many variables in play that researchers cannot draw conclusions from their observations. The numbers usually represent averages, and we all know that the average human being has one testicle and one breast.

The China Study (1 & 2) is one of the largest observational studies in existence. Many books have been written based on the observations in the study, most of them drawing irrelevant conclusions from the numbers. Some of them even skew the numbers to fit their pre-conceived notions. Denise Minger did a great critique of one of these books, which is available here.

My point is that we cannot look at observational studies and give prescriptional advice that is applicable to other populations which weren’t studied. So, why did I name my article “n=1 experiments are relevant”? Well, for the simple reason that experiments with one’s own body can reveal relevant information for that particular body. That is to say if I do something to change my lifestyle, and that change causes me to feel better or worse, that is relevant to me. Someone who has peanut allergies may eat a peanut to test how allergic they are (I don’t recommend this by the way), and it turns out to cause severe anaphylactic shock. That experiment on one person (n=1) is quite relevant. As it turns out, that particular experiment and its results can be reproduced in the rest of the population, generating meaningful results.

Even if an experiment cannot be reproduced in the rest of the population, its results are meaningful to that one person undergoing the experiment. There is tremendous bias when doing an experiment such as this, but the results are what they are. In the example above, the person eating the peanut knows it will produce an allergic reaction (bias), the only question is the severity of the reaction (result), which can be quite objective.

The same applies to people undergoing lifestyle changes. They probably expect a change for the better, else they would not be undergoing the change. This bias may carry them through the first stages of the experiment, but meaningful results will eventually emerge after the initial “high” is gone.

My personal n=1 experiment is one of many with the same theme, and so far I’ve had quite relevant results. My original goal was to lose weight, which I did, but this has plateaued recently. Instead of being discouraged, I realized that the goal should be to improve health, not just to lose weight. I realize weight loss will come slowly, as healthy weight loss is wont to do. In the meantime I’ve made the following observations through eating whole foods and eliminating wheat:

  • I don’t feel “hunger” any more unless I don’t eat for 24h+
  • My body composition is changing despite lack of weight loss
  • I consume between 1700 and 2300 calories daily, without counting
  • I have constant energy, not spikes and lows
  • I sleep uninterrupted and I’m not thirsty during the night
  • I don’t have food cravings or the need to binge

Basically, my body is getting to a state of natural homeostatis, similar to that of hunter-gatherer traditional people. These observations are not limited to my own experiment, and many other people experience these changes when switching to whole foods, full fat alternatives, and eliminating grains. Science hasn’t really caught up to us, but I’m sure it will, if only to disprove our findings.

 Posted by at 10:56 AM
Dec 072011
 

 

Making fresh butter at home is one of the activities our developed society lost through “progress”. It’s simply too convenient to go to the store and get a pound of butter off the shelf. Many people probably don’t even know you can make your own butter at home, with minimal equipment.

Butter is one of the foods that has been vilified in the past 40 years as being one of the causes of heart disease, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The fat composition of butter is 63% saturated, 26% mono-unsaturated, and 4% poly-unsaturated fat. A growing body of evidence shows that saturated fats are extremely important in the make-up of cell walls, brain cells, and other structures, as well as helping increase high-density lipoproteins in the blood. The mono-unsaturated fatty acid most prevalent is butter is oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in olive oil, an omega-9 fat. Finally, the poly-unsaturated fats are mainly the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in a 1:1 ratio (assuming the butter comes from grass-fed cattle).

I like cooking with butter as it gives the food a rich flavor. I never put butter on bread because I don’t eat any bread. This combination of fats and carbohydrates, a big part of the Standard American Diet, has been shown to be the causative factor of cardiovascular disease. It’s not the butter, it’s the butter acting with the carbohydrates which causes an increase in serum triglycerides, small particle low-density lipoproteins, and promotes inflammation. Butter is the innocent bystander in all this as it is quite harmless, and mostly beneficial, by itself.

Here is what you will need to make butter at home:

  • 500mL whole whipping cream at room temperature (I prefer thick raw cream)
  • hand mixer with variable speeds

Method:

  • pour cream in a big bowl (I prefer the bowl to hold about 1.5L for every 500mL of cream)
  • set up mixer and place beaters in the cream
  • start mixer at lowest setting and stir the cream
  • continue mixing until cream starts to “rise” and develop a thicker consistency (at this point, whipped cream will form)
  • keep mixing the whipped cream and you willl soon hear the sound of swishing liquid (this is the butter milk)
  • the butter will now separate from the butter milk
  • once butter has separated, drain all butter milk, rinse butter ball, and squish out the rest of the liquid using your hands
  • place the butter ball in a small bowl and refrigerate or use directly (salt or leave unsalted)
  • this whole process does not take longer than 25 minutes

This process is fairly intuitive and if done right can yield about a pound of butter and a little butter milk (which is quite delicious). The butter stores in the fridge for a few weeks, just like store-bought butter, or indefinitely in the freezer. To get the most out of the butter, use cream that comes from the milk of grass-fed cows. The butter will be a rich yellow color, as opposed to the off-white of regular butter.

 Posted by at 1:41 PM
Nov 192011
 

Tuesday, by act of Congress, pizza was declared a vegetable. The Spending Bill before our elected officials contained an Agriculture Department provision recognizing that school kids are dangerously obese, and that subsidizing school lunches of frozen pizza and french fries is unwise and unhealthy. The Congressional response: a slice of pizza = a serving of vegetables.

Read more

 Posted by at 8:46 AM
Nov 082011
 

Weight loss is back on track today: 229lbs on the scale. I keep forgetting to buy batteries for the Wii Board to double-check the numbers. One of these days…

I also got my initial cholesterol numbers today. I did the blood test at the beginning of the experiment, November 2nd.

Total cholesterol: 5.1mmol/L or 197mg/dL

HDL: 1.3mmol/L or 50mg/dL (updated to 1.3 because otherwise it doesn’t add up.)

Triglycerides: 3.72mmol/L or 144mg/dL

Total cholesterol and HDL are great, triglycerides could be better. I’m not including the LDL number because it may confuse things as it is calculated, not measured. My blood was taken 7 hours after eating, not the recommended 12-14 hours. Also, I had a chance to stuff myself full of bacon and fat for the 5 days before this test. We’ll see what these numbers look like in 3 months.

Here’s my food for the day:

Breakfast
  • fried eggs (3)
  • bacon fat (1 tbsp)
  • cauliflower and brocolli (a few florets, less than a cup)
  • Schneider’s Country Naturals wiener
  • avocado (1 fruit)
  • Oikos 2% greek yogurt (3 tbsp)
Lunch
  • Dole Italian mix (10oz)
  • tilapia fillet
  • cauliflower and brocolli (a few florets, less than a cup)
  • raw cashews and pistachios (1/2 cup combined)
  • pitted green olives (4)
  • gluten free banana muffin
Dinner
  • lentil and sweet potato curry (1/2 cup)
  • skinless baked chicken thighs (2)
  • brocolli and cauliflower (1/2) cup combined)
  • Oikos 2% greek yogurt (1 cup)
  • gluten free banana muffin

Total calories: about 2300
Total sodium: about 1200mg
I did not exercise today.

 Posted by at 5:45 PM
Nov 062011
 

I was a wee bit disappointed this morning as the scale read 229, a gain of 0.2lbs since yesterday. It may be an insignificant gain, but I was expecting a loss due to the low amount of carbs ingested yesterday. The gain may be related to my exercise yesterday. I pushed myself while running and I think my muscles needed to rebuild. In the past, I’ve gained weight whenever I’ve had muscle damage due to exercise. This may be due to actual increase in muscle mass, water retention, inflammation, or all three. Tomorrow should tell another tale, as I’ve kept my carb intake quite low today.

On that note, here’s what I ate today:

 
 

Breakfast
  • Schneider’s Country Naturals ham (60 g)
  • gluten-free almond cookie
Lunch
  • sirloin steak (8oz)
  • roasted potatoes (1 cup)
  • fried eggs (3)
  • roma tomato
Dinner
  • smoked mackerel fillet
  • brocolli and cauliflower (1 cup combined)
  • Woolwich Dairy goat cheese (4 thin slices)
  • raw cashews (90g)

 
Total calories: about 2500 
I did not exercise today.

 Posted by at 4:40 PM
Nov 032011
 

The pound count this morning receded to 231.6, despite my intake yesterday. It appears that I seriously under-estimated the number of calories in the almond cookies so my calorie count should be well over 2000 yesterday.

Today, my diet was slightly more balanced, though I did eat an almond cookie in the morning with some yogurt, as stated in a previous post. It was delicious and I plan on doing it again tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s my menu for today:

 

Breakfast
  • Kirkland low sodium bacon (2 slices)
  • Oikos greek yogurt (1 cup)
  • gluten-free almond cookie
Lunch
  • Dole Mediterranean mix (8oz)
  • Schneider’s Country Naturals ham (8 oz)
  • Woolwhich Dairy goat cheddar (4 thin slices)
  • Green seedless grapes (1 cup)
Dinner
  • Woolwhich Dairy goat cheddar (4 thin slices)
  • smoked mackerel fillet (100g)
  • green seedless grapes (1 cup)

 

Total calories: about 2100
Total sodium: about 5000mg (yikes!)

 

I went to CrossFit today, burning about 300 calories:

WOD
    5 min to find 5 rep max deadlift (175lbs)
    5 min max distance row (1162m)
    5 min AMRAP: 5 Situps, 5 Burpees, 5 Wall Ball (4 rnds + 5 situps)

 

Nov 022011
 

Today I finished reading “Wheat Belly” and started on “Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. So far, it’s heading in the same direction as “Wheat Belly”, but I’ll reserve judgement until I finish. Robb’s writing style is more casual and relatable, so I might enjoy this one even more, if that’s possible. I also had a sensible eating day today, with a baking experiment to boot: I decided to make gluten-free cookies.

 

I’m not so good at baking and I made a few mistakes. I mixed 2 cups ground almond with 2 cups coconut flour and I didn’t mix the fluids separate from the rest. It was kinda hard to get it all to stick together, which is probably due to the mixed flours. The taste isn’t bad though…very nutty.

FYI, the cookie mix on the Wheat Belly blog contains about 6700 calories, so go easy on these cookies.

 

Here’s my menu:

 

Breakfast
  • Kirkland low sodium bacon (2 slices)
  • Oikos greek yogurt (5 tbsp)
Lunch
  • Dole Mediterranean mix (8oz)
  • sweet potato spears (1/2 cup)
  • baked trout (4oz)
  • raw cashews (60g)
  • Woolwhich Dairy goat cheddar (4 thin slices)
  • Green seedless grapes (1 cup)
Dinner
  • Pork picnic roast (2oz)
  • Woolwhich Dairy goat cheddar (2 thin slices)
  • Lindt Excellence 85% dark chocolate (2 squares)
  • Schneider’s Country Naturals ham (150g)
  • gluten-free cookies (2)

 

Total calories: about 2000 (probably lower)

I did not do any physical activities today.

 Posted by at 8:45 PM
Oct 312011
 

Here we are one day short of a week and a pretty small decrease in weight. Today was a normal calorie day, as opposed to yesterday, and I also worked out. The scale was 232 this morning, which means I gained a bit. This first week is just a prelude though, as my body gets used to the new diet, the lack of wheat, and the increase in fat intake.

We’ll see how this thing progresses during the next few weeks. I plan on doing the whole 3 months no matter what happens in the mean time. One of my weaknesses is that I follow the Hype Cycle whenever I start something new, reaching the trough of disillusionment very quickly. I’m going to stick to this plan for 3 months because this kind of change requires a certain amount of time.

Anyway, here’s what I ate today:

 

Breakfast
  • Kirkland low sodium bacon (2 slices)
  • Oikos greek yogurt (4 tbsp)
Lunch
  • mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, clementine slices, bean sprouts, and salmon
  • sweet potato spears (1 cup)
  • roasted chicken drumstick and wing
  • Royal Gala apple
Dinner
  • BOS smoked mackerel fillet (1/3 cup)
  • goat cheese (5 small slices)
  • pistachios (60g)

Total calories: about 1700

 

Activities:

I went to CrossFit tonight; here’s the WOD:

3×10 bent over kettlebell rows

5 min max weight jerk (135lbs)

5 min skipping rope (260 skips)

5 min as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) (2 rounds)

    • 5 clean and jerk with 95lbs
    • 10 deadlifts with 95lbs
    • 15 air squats

I’m looking forward to tomorrow as it marks one week from the start of this experiment.

 Posted by at 8:54 PM
Oct 312011
 

I’m starting to think my scale is broken. It’s showing 231.8 again this morning. I tried to double check with the Wii Board, but the batteries were dead. Don’t think I used that thing once in the past year. That says something about consumerism, but I won’t go into it.

Today I mainly sat on my butt, feeling the pain from Friday’s WOD everywhere. I ate a lot, which I’m not too pleased with. What I’m really not pleased with is that I ate 200g of carbs, when I’m trying to keep that under 100g/day. The carbs came from gluten-free pancakes (gluten-free does not mean starch free), sunflower seeds, and 3 apples. Sounds healthy right? However, sugar is sugar no matter what you call it.

Anyways, here’s my extravagant and not so healthy menu for today.

 

Breakfast:

  • fried eggs (4)
  • bacon fat (1 tsp)
  • smoked salmon (30g)
  • Oikos greek yogurt (3/4 cup)

Lunch:

  • gluten-free pancakes (4)
  • Schneider’s Country Naturals wieners (3)
  • Oikos greek yogurt (1/4 cup)
  • sunflower seeds (1 cup)
  • mango (1/4 fruit)

Dinner:

  • Kirkland low sodium bacon (3 slices)
  • sunflower seeds (1 cup)
  • Schneider’s Country Naturals wieners (3)
  • Royal Gala apples (3)

 

Grand total comes to about 3000 calories, give or take a few hundred. I’m dreading the scale in the morning.

Oct 292011
 

The day has finally come when I didn’t see weight loss on the scale. I was wondering when it would rear its ugly head, but today was the day. This is usually the time when I give up on whatever fad diet I think is good for me and go back to my regular eating style. Obviously, that’s not an option this time. The scale showed 231.8 this morning again, same as yesterday. At least it’s not a gain.

Today was also a somewhat special day (yes, that means I cheated) because my parents came over to celebrate my birthday. I had beer and wine, but the calories didn’t add up too much due to my decreased appetite. Here’s what I had today:

 

Breakfast:

  • Fried eggs (3)
  • Bacon fat (1 tsp)
  • Smoked salmon (50g)

Lunch:

  • Mary’s Gone Crackers Original (13 crackers)
  • Romanoff lumpfish roe (2 tsp)
  • Anchovies (4 fillets)
  • Moosehead lager (12 oz)
  • Butternut squash soup (1 cup)
  • Mixed salad (3 cups)
  • Roasted chicken with skin (wing + 3oz white meat + drippings)
  • Shiraz wine (1 cup)
  • Astro BioBest yogurt (3/4 cup)
  • Strawberries (1/2 cup)
  • Mango (1/2 fruit)

Dinner:

  • Sunflower seeds (1/2 cup)

Total calorie count was about 1900 which is just within the range of sustained weight loss for a person of my weight. We’ll see what the scale says tomorrow.

On an even more positive note, I’ve convinced my wife that bacon fat is not radioactive and that it is, in fact, edible.