Sunday, January 28, 2007

Greetings, and a Couple Recipes

I haven't blogged for ages. Why? I'm taking a heavy course load this semester so I can graduate in May, and also working part-time. I simply don't have time for much, unfortunately.

I've been eating dreadfully too, as a result of lack of time and failure to spend what time I can manage to plan meals. I need to develop a routine whereby on the weekend I plan out the meals of the week ahead and shop accordingly. Then I need to cook much of the food over the weekend, and portion it out in handy containers for lunches at school and maybe even dinners, since I so often drag myself in at the end of the day with no energy to cook or even open the fridge to see what's in there (which usually isn't much).

So, that's today's project, to spend some time and brain power on this today and tomorrow. Otherwise I'm going to wind up making my my life harder, as my body suffers the ill-effects of a gak-laden diet which certainly won't provide me the energy I need.

For you dessert fans, I wanted to share the following treat, a meal that eats like a dessert.

Toasted MegaMuffin with Blueberry Sauce

  1. Take about a 1/2 cup of blueberries (frozen is great) and put into a saucepan with some sucralose (to taste), a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and some grated lemon zest. Cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extracts are all good additions. For a touch of the exotic, try a dash or two of rose water--rose and blueberry is a gorgeous and flavor combination: you can tell there's something unusual in there, but it's subtle and elusive.
  2. Simmer until the berries break down and you reduce the liquid enough to thicken it somewhat. (You may have to add a few drops of water to get the simmering process started).
  3. Split a MegaMuffin and chuck it into the toaster (or in your regular oven) while you are simmering the blueberries.
  4. Remove MegaMuffin from the toaster (or oven), put in a bowl, and pour the blueberry syrup over it. (If you need some fat for the day, a drizzle of flax oil before the berry sauce is sublime.)
  5. Eat while your eyes roll back in your head and you wonder why you ever wanted cake with frosting.
  6. Imagine endless variations with other fruits and flavors.
Kale Chips

I've struggled to eat my kale. I chomp and chomp and after awhile I just can't face another bite. So I'm delighted to report that it is possible to turn leafy, chewy kale into a delightful crispy snack food that isn't out of place as an accompaniment to watching a movie: Kale Chips.

  1. Chop or tear a large quantity of kale leaves into small pieces (they will shrink so much in the oven that a mountain of kale is reduced to a mere mole hill)
  2. Drizzle with the smallest quantity of olive oil that coats the leaves enough to allow a bit of salt (or other flavoring--I'm going to try brewers yeast) to stick. You should be able to get by with a teaspoon if you take some time to really toss the kale until it's all lightly coated. Cooking spray might be an alternative.
  3. Spread out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet (parchment helps); you'll likely have to do several batches.
  4. Bake in low oven until dry and crispy (I started out with too-high a temp and some of the leaves browned which is less desirable; try between 250-300 degrees).
  5. Pour into a bowl and snack away, or bag 'em for later.

These are incredibly light and crispy, and though some of that cruciferous bitterness gets a bit concentrated, I still found them to be highly palatable. I offered them to friends and everyone was amazed that these light crispy little delights were actually kale. And because their volume is so reduced by the elimination of all the water, you can easily consume 1/2 pound of raw kale in a handful or two of easy to chew and swallow crispy Kale Chips.

"Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time."

That quotation from Fran├žois Voltaire seems a good way to start out today's belated Gratuitous Musing.

But first, a note about my recent silence: I started back to school the week before last, and am taking a lot of classes, plus working part-time. As time evaporates, I'm finding it difficult to spend as much time on the blog during the week. The blog is an important tool for my CR practice, and I really relish working on it, but have to keep my priorities clear so I can graduate in May. So, please pardon any longish delays between posts. I really appreciate that folks are reading and drawing some usefulness from my prattle, and I'll keep posting, just a bit less frequently. Now on to today's Gratuitous Musing.

If you haven't read "On Setting a Good Example," over at Apri's blog (1/24/07), do so at once, then come back and read this entry, which was inspired by it.

April writes:

"I'd have to admit, I've been a bit concerned as of late that some of you have the idea that I'm some sort of ice queen of food perfection. I mean, you sounded so shocked when I ate some hummus! If you want food discipline perfection, you've got to look to MR. Cause I do pretty well, much better than ever before, but I'm by no means invincible. That's one reason why I build a little margin into my daily calories, so that I don't end up messing up my long term CR program. Life happens! It's okay!"

The unfortunately conjoined-twin subjects of CR'ers behaving in non-CR-like ways, and the emotional and psychological gymnastics we perform in order to cope with our slip-ups, have been a recurrent theme in the CR newbie blogosphere since I entered the discussion a few weeks back. I've commented on it before myself in my "Shut the Hell Up on Pain of Bitch Slap" post.

I am one of the few males I know who wrestles openly with my self-demands for perfection, and the inevitable failures for which I then scold and criticize myself. I say "openly" because many--perhaps most--men experience self-doubt, lack of confidence, fear of failure, dissatisfaction with achievement, fear of being judged weak, and on and on, but almost as many seem to be conditioned to avoid expressing it. I don't know how those tough dudes work it out, but I get through it by boring a few very select, dear, close friends (plus the whole CR newbie blogosphere) to death with my mutterings. They then set me straight ( to speak).

Speaking of straight, I dunno, maybe the fact that I'm gay has something to do with all this. I was certainly exposed to some specific sorts of unfair pressures growing up. I lacked the physical desire to do the sorts of things that the other boys were doing, things that would have established me as a more "normal" member of the tribe. I was a deviant in the purely sociological sense: I was different. It's no surprise I developed my closest, longest-lasting relationships with females, people who make up just over half the population of the United States and still somehow are still treated as if they are "other" or "different" from normal (which is of course white, male, and heterosexual). Perhaps I absorbed more than just companionship from my close platonic friendships with girls who were carrying around--or struggling against--society's ludicrous and oppressive gender baggage.

Now as a young(ish) gay male adult, it's easy for me to see some similarities in the pressures I face to those of many women in our society, including the pressure to look a certain way. Tyra Banks was recently mocked for being 30lbs heavier now than at the height of her modelling career. Noel Gallagher of Oasis described Jack White (from the White Stripes) as "Zorro on donuts." Okay. So these wildly successful, career-oriented, accomplished folks gained a little weigh. That somehow means they should be publicly ridiculed? Society demands perfection and so breathlessly and gladly sneers at anything less.

I commit the unspeakable sin of being too fat for a gay man. Try being a youngish urban gay male AND too fat, and then try to get noticed by gymbot physical-perfection-obsessed urban gay male society. My basic identity has long included being constantly aware that I'm not perfect. My fear of being too fat inevitably becomes an element of my CR goals and practice. How could it not? Enter my obsession with perfection, as expressed by that Embittered Nasty Little Troll: "Oh no! You ate a chicken burrito with sour cream and cheese at Chipotle Mexican Grill for an astonishing 1200 (delicious) calories! You failed! If you can't do it perfectly, you can't do it at all. Might as well say 'fuck it' and hop right off the wagon." You guys see why I don't like to listen to this guy, right? He's such a dick.

I had a friend in my hometown of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who like me wanted nothing more than to leave town and live somewhere else, somewhere cool like Chicago. In 1993, at the age of 22, I packed whatever I could fit in a big suitcase and headed east to Washington, DC, where I lived for six years before moving here to Chicago. I did my messy and exciting and and tragi-comic growing up in DC (The drugs! The booze! The sex! The really bad food!), then came to Chicago to enjoy my maturity. Soon after moving to Chicago, I visited my friend in Ft. Wayne who still wanted to move to Chicago himself, so badly. But he was going to wait until he could "do it right." I wasn't sure what "right" meant, but whatever it was, it kept him in Ft. Wayne, where he remains today. Granted, much more is at stake with relocating than eating a burrito, but still my friend had a sense of perfection that, if he couldn't achieve it, immobilized him--quite literally. He didn't even try.

Meanwhile, people who appear to actually be perfect in some way get stuck in a different kind of trap: if perfection is the achieved norm, then losing that perfection becomes a constant concern and source for fear. The risks in fear-driven behavior are many, and include the propensity to be very annoying and humorless.

And let's not forget there are some unpleasant forms of perfection. There are people who seem to have perfected being assholes. Some politicians have demonstrated that they are perfect idiots. Some manage to commit the "perfect crimes," and the perfect aspect in grammar has caused more than a few headaches for students of languages.

So, I think it's more than totally cool that someone who is a visible and charismatic proponent of CR publicly acknowledges her imperfection and the struggles that make CR challenging for her, even after years of practice. Especially for us newbies, this candor about struggle is also absolutely necessary in order to build an authentic, solidly supportive community that we hope will grow into larger grass-roots movement.

Adjusting to this lifestyle is HARD, even on the very easy, low-hunger days, and I don't trust anyone who tells me "it was nothing." It's such a radical departure from what we are used to. Food is so emblematic, so tied to tradition and ritual, that we sometimes feel we are cutting ourselves loose from our moorings, set adrift in a strange and by turns inviting and intimidating sea. There's no way that sort of heavy transformation isn't gonna hurt. We are going to stumble around in the dark, stubbing our toes on the furniture, and then when we finally find the light switch and flip it on, we'll see that the room is a mess, and it's going to take awhile to clean it up. And we have to find a place for all the clutter before we can even think about vacuuming the floor, or dusting, or repainting.

It's so great to be able to stumble around and yet keep going, and that's easier when we can be reminded that the experienced CR folks still stumble too. The trap of perfectionism is not going to turn out to be a useful tool for making this transformation. Put on some old ripped jeans and a stained t-shirt and prepare to get messy. Prepare to come up with a brilliant plan today for your "perfect" quotidian diet, and then find yourself at Chipotle Mexican Grill tomorrow. Prepare to make four trips to Chiptole Mexican Grill this month, but only three next month. And only two the month after that. And then sometime two years from now, to look back and say, "I haven't been to Chipotle Mexican Grill for six months...maybe I should....naw, I don't really want it that much anymore."

Prepare to think about this lifestyle in terms of months and years, not days and weeks, and readjust your notion of what perfection is. Perfection is not "all or nothing," and this isn't a "zero-sum game." Perfection is a process, not a goal. Perfection is deciding what you want to do, then taking frequent and steady--albeit small--steps towards that goal, steps that include stumbles, stubbed toes, maybe even an all-out face plant or two. Just remeber that even stumbling, you are moving forward. Even taking two steps forward and one step back still makes progress.

I'm not just musing gratuitously here. I'm engaging in a therapeutic reframing of my own successes and failures, because lately, since going back to school, I feel like I've been doing CR more in theory than in practice. Not yet fully comfortable with my new tools, in moments of weakness I've been choosing some old, comforting ones. For every three good days, I have one bad.

I haven't been successful at keeping my calories as low as my target, and my weight loss--one of the easiest but also most psychologically loaded metrics--has leveled off at just five pounds since January 1st. Maybe I'll hit that magic eight pounds by January 31, but I doubt it. So I probably won't meet my first monthly target.

But not so fast: I lost five pounds and stayed that way! My jeans fit noticeably looser! That means despite my stumbles, I really did ratchet down my calorie consumption enough to lose weight, and that is undeniable progress, just a bit slower than I anticipated. But who cares about two or three pounds when I want to do this for the rest of my (long) life? For the month of February, I'll set a more modest goal: instead of having three good days followed by one bad, maybe I'll try for four good days in a row, followed by one not-so-bad?

So down with perfection, and up with progress! I just want to be happy with moving steadily forward with the rest of you on our long, slow journey!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Supplementation, Redux

Did I really get a comment on my blog from Michael Rae? Isn't that like a bike racer having Lance Armstrong comment on his blog?

It seems all I need to do is propose a reckless supplementation program to get individualized attention!

His response was so thorough that I felt compelled to repost his initial recommendations for anyone who is reading my blog and maybe didn't read the comments. Also, I'm finding it difficult to do much original posting now that the semester is in full swing AND I'm working. I'm also not eating as well--I'm having "growing pains" as I figure out how to do CR on the run. I do believe establishing that "quotidian diet" will help with that. And the MegaMuffin!

The good news, I suppose, is that my weight loss stopped, and that's good while I figure out what I'm doing. No sense melting away at too fast a pace for good health and longevity.

MR says:

Congrats on doing this carefully, supplementing nutrients that you need based on detailed nutrition analysis rather than just shotgunning everything. Do have a look at the following for some principles for supplementation: ... and the products based on this research (whose writeups give much of the above info in more compressed form):

See my important disclosure here:

[link currently broken :( ]

Wow--thanks MR!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Sorry I've been quiet the past couple of days. Just busy and/or tired. Today's entry will be dull, I'm afraid. No Gratuitous Musings today (though I have a a few in the works, so stay tuned).

I've decided, after a few weeks of CR, that it's time to add supplements to my routine--but just a few. I never knew much about vitamins and minerals because I never really paid much attention to what I was getting from my food. Food labels would have you believe the only things you need to pay attention to are Vitamins A and C, and the minerals Calcium and Iron. Sodium is the only mineral labels report by actual number of milligrams, while the rest just give percentages that may or may not reflect my needs.

Like most people, I always assumed that I was getting everything I needed if only because of the sheer volume of food I was eating (wrong), much of it artificially enriched.

What nutrients have I been lacking?

Like every other aspect of my eating routine, CRON-O-Meter has radically affected my understanding of my micronutrient needs and intake, and revealed some potential problems:
  • Vitamin D: Unless you delight in eating sardines on a daily basis or consume large quantities of fortified dairy products, it's extremely difficult to get adequate vitamin D, and recent list chatter suggests this vitamin is more important (and required in greater quantities) than we have thought in the past.
  • Zinc: I never knew before that men require so much more zinc. It's roughly analogous to a woman's need for iron, and like women, related to our reproductive equipment. But I'm not happy to eat oysters every day (or any day, really...I have not yet acquired the "taste" for these snotty little globs of grayness).
  • B's: I regularly find myself short on various B vitamins, but never the same ones, so determining one that I'm typically short on was impossible.
  • Biotin: While it's extremely unlikely that I am biotin deficient (especially since I've given up on my recent "discovery" of using raw (pasteurized) egg whites in my breakfast smoothies, when I read the list of symptoms, I had to acknowledge that it got my attention: hair and skin problems similar to ones I regularly experience. (I still wonder of pasteurization makes it safe for biotin: cooking egg whites denatures their protein in a way that prevents its binding to biotin, but since the pastuerized egg whites won't "whip up," I wonder if the process also makes them safe for biotin. I don't know how I'll figure out the answer to that one.)

How did I decide which nutrients to supplement?

I reviewed CRON-O-Meter nutrition reports that averaged my intake over the period that I've been doing CR, and looked at which vitamins and minerals were lowest, especially below 80%. This included the following:
  • Various B's (occasionally)
  • Vitamin D (regularly)
  • Vitamin E (occasionally)
  • Potassium (regularly)
  • Zinc (regularly)
Some others that I suspected I was low in were actually quite high on average. The only ones that remained low were zinc, Vitamin D, and potassium.

I decided that it was most important to supplement Vitamin D and Zinc; probably safe to supplement B's with a B complex (just to be sure); and to tweak my quotidian diet to fix the vitamin E and potassium deficiencies, which was pretty easy to do with a little attention and a daily MegaMuffin.

Here, then, are the supplements I am now taking:

  • Vitamin D, 400 IU, from fish liver oil
  • Chelated Zinc, 50 mg
  • B-Complex
  • Biotin, 1000 mcg

I'm interested in any tips and/or advice, and especially if I'm making any big and/or dangerous mistakes here. I'm especially concerned about zinc--is this the best form? What about balancing it with copper--that's something I don't understand very well yet.

It's a learning process, and I want to treat supplements as something very specific and deliberate, rather than the "one a day multi" approach most people take.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pooping in the blogoshpere

I hope you all are doing well, and thanks for all the support yesterday with my Skull and Crossbones dilemma. I am so much looking forward to going to the brunch now that I've resolved (with your help) my ambivalent feelings about what's "okay" for me to do, and confronted and (I think) disarmed my guilt reflex in advance. It takes time to make peace with food and all the emotional baggage attached to it. But I've never had it as easy as I do now. I hope it's not too sappy to say--especially for a man (but then I am a very sensitive type of man, after all)--but it feels like an emotional and physical healing is taking place, and you are all part of this effective treatment, so thanks for being there!

By the way, I find it interesting to note that it seems most of the blogs, and most of the comments on my blog, are created by women. Where are the men? There is something culturally interesting going on here, that both women and men are doing CR, but the support network seems heavily weighted towards women...this seems a good topic for a future blog. Your thoughts, ladies?

The picture to the right is beautiful psyllium, which in its herbal state, is really quite lovely and delicate in appearance--I think I would welcome it in my herb garden (if I had one)--especially when you consider the rather indelicate function it often serves. Yes, I'm going to talk about poop, here in public. But before you jump to the conclusion that my blog has descended into the e-toilet, let's talk about MegaMuffins, because as you'll see, in the same way MegaMuffins inevitably lead to good poop, MegaMuffin discussions can lead to good poop discussions.

I am flush with the fervor of the recently converted. I'm ready to go tell it on the mountain, to knock on doors, to rouse people from their slumber to let them know about the miracle of the Mighty MegaMuffin.

It's really quite impossible to overstate the allure of the MegaMuffin. It is the ultimate convenience food--so easy, and so satisfying that every time I eat one, I feel like I'm "cheating" (if there is such a thing). MegaMuffins have single-handedly saved my CR program during this hectic first week back to school, just as I was counting on them too. Isn't it great when you open your toolbox and find just the tool you needed for the job, waiting for you? MegaMuffins are like a super-fancy nutrition bar, only I made it myself and I know exactly what's in it and none of the ingredients frighten me (well, okay maybe one or two are sort of creepy). I trust the mighty MegaMuffin. Mighty MegaMuffin--I [heart] you!

I made my inaugural batch last weekend, and I wasn't able to obtain a couple of the ingredients, so it's hard to know if what I produced is like the MegaMuffins others make. But I guess that doesn't really matter--I like them, and on more than a couple occasions they've been the sole barrier between a good CR day and an ad lib disaster.

I see room for improvement though. I think I want to pump up the flavor with more spices. I'm the type who, when making a pumpkin pie, automatically doubles the spices called for in the recipe because I like it spicy and most people are spiceaphobic. And where's the vanilla? Vanilla is a must! I can't believe I didn't think to add some in the first place. And though there is already an entire orange (peel and all) in the recipe, I can't help feeling the flavor could be brightened considerably with the addition of a judicious amount of grated lemon zest! Fresh ginger instead of powdered, and a bit of clove, and I think I'll have a recipe tailored just for me.

And then there are the endless variations: why not some almond extract in one batch, and coconut extract in another? How about some rose water (or maybe even some rose hips--lots of vitamin C in those!) and cardamom, for a little Indian flair? It seems the basic ingredients of the muffin are so mild that almost any flavor profile could work. I'll be turning out another batch this weekend, so I'll post details about any delightful new ideas I come up with.

And now for a little graphic exploration of something very private, so tune out NOW if you are squeamish about discussing our elimination habits. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. But I feel compelled to share this in case anyone else has experienced the same problem as me:

During the first couple weeks of my CR practice, I was finding that I needed to have a bowel movement (sometimes quite urgently) after almost every meal, up to three times a day, and the results were not pleasant: loose and watery. I was consuming vastly greater amounts of dietary fiber than in my prior ad lib diet, but I think perhaps I was missing certain types of fiber for bulking up my stools, with the inevitable watery result, since it seemed there was nothing to bind it all together.

Enter MegaMuffin. I've been eating at least one of them daily, and sometimes two, and I have to tell you, thanks to all the bran and fruit fibers and the psyllium husks, that watery problem is gone without a trace. I've begun having large, firm (but not hard) stools that I'm able to eliminate without any effort and little mess. I'm convinced I was missing important types of bulking fiber, perhaps of the soluble sort. I haven't had bowel movements this healthy and comfortable and clean and effortless in years. So, that's yet another great thing about MegaMuffins: nice poop.

We'll be talking about poop more in the future, I feel confident. I mean, how long can we go on discussing what goes in without at least some mention of what comes out? But for our first poop discussion, was that really so bad?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Skull and Crossbones Secret Society!

A year ago, me and two of my very dear friends/neighbors (we all happen to live in separate apartments in the same house) put on a series of monthly brunches for all of our wide circle of friends--most of them fellow bicyclists--to keep the community tight during the otherwise rather slow winter cycling scene in Chicago. We called it the "Skull and Crossbones Secret Society" (not to be confused with the "skull and bones" or whoever they are at some important university somewhere).

We had a top secret initiation that everyone was subjected to:

"We have cleverly poisoned all the food with a secret toxin that only kills the people who are not fit to be members of the Skull and Crossbones Secret Society. If you eat the food--and survuve--you are automatically a member for life."

The irony in this is that we didn't actually poison the food (surprise), but by serving them the food we offered, we were, in essence, poisoning them with "secret" toxins, and they did survive--for now, anyway. Mountains of waffles, donuts, pancakes, bacon, sausage, gumbo, goose (yes I even roasted geese one time), the list goes on and on. Fruit? Maybe a listless cantaloupe or off-season pineapple. Vegetables? Only if they are completely enrobed in eggs and cheese and cream, in the form of a quiche or fritatta or strata.

But offering that fatty, horrible-yet-so-delicious comfort food to our best of friends on cold winter mornings was such a wonderful opportunity to sustain relationships and comfort one another with cammaraderie and companionship during a time of year that can often seem so isolating. I've missed the brunches lately, and there are people I haven't seen since the summer who would have been here if we'd been doing them still.

So, tonight I discovered in my inbox an invitation from two of the former attendees, a married couple who just had a baby in October (my birth month too). It seems they decided to end their long hibernation with the newborn this Sunday by appropriating the Skull and Crossbones Secret Society and making it their own.

I'm virtually compelled to go, and I really really want to anyway. Certainly the food table will overflow with nothing good for me to eat. I do have choices, but I also have a tendency to be an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and moderation is NOT my strong suit. (This is why I tend to avoid drinking alcohol--even for the health benefits--because I usually find it difficult to stop at one 4oz glass of wine, and it's just better if I don't start at all.) So here's how I see my choices:

  1. Go to the brunch, eat ad lib, and enjoy myself and the feast of badness as a "special occasion;" plan to try to make up for the claories later.
  2. Go to the brunch, eat nothing (unless there's some fruit to nibble on)--and hope no on notices
  3. Make a dish to contribute that meets my needs, and eat only that--and hope no one notices
  4. Don't go to the brunch. People WILL notice this for sure.

I know ultimately I'll end up doing whatever feels right in the moment, but if I at least walk in armed for whatever battle I choose, I'll stand a better chance at not being thoroughly defeated when it's over.

I also think my two ad lib days last week should demonstrate that all is not lost when one has a "bad day," particularly given my otherwise pretty low calorie levels (for a man of my size) for the past two and half weeks. The scale this morning tells me I've lost nine pounds since I started CR on January 1--well over my target, and probably too fast, based on the counsel I've recieved so far from CR experts.

So, I guess I'm looking for someone to tell me, "You know what Chris? By Sunday, you will have been doing a great job of CR for three whole weeks, and if you wanna cut loose just one time, enjoy it, and just try to make up for it later." That's what I really want. I want permission. I want someone else to tell me what to do, but I want their advice to be what I want to hear! At least I'm honest about my denial...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Thanks to all, and...feeling kinda yucky today

I'd like to take just a moment here to say a big THANK YOU to those of you who have been reading and commenting on my blog. I'd been wanting to start a blog for years, but never figured out what I could possibly write about that anyone else would want to read. I'm so pleased that through CR, I've discovered something I can work on and also help others with, one way or another. I may not always respond to your comments, but please know that I certainly do appreciate them!

I haven't mentioned it here on the blog, but I've been fighting off a cold the past few days. It's the kind where I'm coughing (productively), have lots of mucous, but am otherwise fairly functional. No fever or anything.

But today, the first day of classes for the semester, I started out feeling great, like I was over the worst of it, and deteriorated from then on. Now I feel pretty gross, a true feeling of malaise.

As for my food today, well I started out with my usual breakfast smoothie, but after that, I've had NO appetite all day. I forced down a Megamuffin before my third class because I know that it's hard to learn when one isn't adequately fueled.

But since then, eating sounds totally gross. I'm hoping this poor appetite is an artifact of being sick, and not of practicing CR, because the sick will go away, but if I'm feeling un-hungry because of CR and it persists, that could get sorta problematic.

In other news, I'm back to school today for my 10th and hopefully final semester (as an undergrad) at the University of Illinois at Chicago

My classes? Here they are:

  1. Race and Labor in Latin America (standard reading/lecture/writing class)
  2. Gender in Latin America (taught through film study!)
  3. Advanced Fiction Writing
  4. Latin American Music
  5. Introductory Logic

If it seems like there is a theme, there is: I am a Latin American Studies major. This is my last semester before I graduate, and I'm cramming in the last few requirements. But I absolutely love these classes so far.

Quick Tip: another use for Egg Whites

I'm always looking for low-calorie protein sources, and egg whites give a great protein bang for their caloric buck. But I am really unenthusiastic about scrambled egg whites. I'm also typically not hungry in the morning and find it difficult to eat...but if I don't, I become ravenous by lunch time and I don't like the helpless feeling I get when I'm out in public and suddenly intensely hungry. This feeling leads me to pizza!

So I find that a nice, light-tasting and refreshing smoothie goes down very easily and keeps me fueled for the first half of the day. One thing I've taken to doing lately is adding egg whites (uncooked) to my smoothie to give it a low-cal protein boost. I use Trader Joe's egg whites, which are pasteurized--and that means they are safe to eat uncooked. Here's the recipe:

  1. 1 cup nonfat yogurt
  2. 1 cup blueberries
  3. 1 cup egg whites
  4. 1 tsp flax oil
  5. 1 tsp cinnamon
  6. optional: one scoop whey protein

You could easily scale down this recipe to fit your caloric and protein requirements.

Banish from your mind the "ewww, gross" factor of raw egg whites. They aren't snotty-textured or gooey or stringy or anything. They are basically a flavorless liquid that completely disappears in the smoothie (actually, they improve the texture and taste in my opinion).

But think twice before you use fresh raw egg whites--there is some risk of microbes.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Guess what mustard greens taste like....

First, a few odds and ends, perhaps enough to make ends meet:

I recently decided to "Zone" up my targets, so I'm shooting for 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbohydrate. This has made getting adequate protein a bit more challenging. Also, I've decided to increase my daily calorie target again, because even despite my two very unCR days last week, my scale informs me that I've lost six pounds--in just two weeks. That's two pounds too fast, and while I at one time thought, "I want to lose as fast as I can," I'm also enjoying the chance to eat some extra food and still lose weight.

[As a cheery aside: it doesn't take much weight loss for you to start feeling it in your clothes, and I'm happy--oh SO happy--to report that my favorite pair of jeans, which were fitting exactly properly two weeks ago, are now somewhat loose--comfortably so. God that feels GOOD.]

Back to my targets: reviewing my CRON data reveals the truth, that I've been eating more than my 1500/day calorie target anyhow, sometimes up to1900 calories. So I'm going to raise my target to 1700, and see where that takes me in the next week. Recall, I began with a 1300/day target, raised it to 1500/day, and now 1700/day.

The downside of raising my target is that I will have to find new ways to consume more protein. This is a bit of a tedious process, but thankfully it's fun and rewarding too.

Now, on to the titular subject matter: Mustard Greens

The only way I've ever eaten mustard greens in the past is stewed to oblivion the way collards and turnip greens and kale are often cooked, with a nice ham hock, plenty of salt, a dash of vinegar, a little sugar, some red pepper, served with hot sauce. I used to make good old fashioned, old-school collards that could take their place in any soul food restaurant without anyone noticing the white boy made them.

That was then, when said collards would naturally be accompanied by sweet potatoes (and I mean SWEET with sugar), corn bread, macaroni and cheese, and perhaps chicken wings, or ham, or a smothered pork chop. Don't forget the cobbler for dessert (even though the sweet potatoes had just as much sugar...).

Obviously I don't do that anymore, but I've always loved greens, and given their powerful nutrient punch for low calories, finding new and exciting ways to eat them seems like a high priority for effective CR practice.

Given the fact that "cooked-to-death" was the only way I'd experienced them previously, imagine my surprise yesterday when I got home with a pile of fresh, curly, beautiful mustard greens, and tried a little piece raw.

Mustard greens taste like mustard.

And I love with a capital L-O-V-E the flavor and ephemeral vapory heat of mustard (and horseradish and especially wasabe, too!)

But here's the funny and almost tragic part (if I'd gone through with it): I was on a shopping trip looking for recipe ingredients for my inaugural batch of Megamuffins, which includes curly endive. Well, Whole Foods was out of endive, but had a mountain of mustard greens that looked sort of similar--same color you know. I thought, "well, maybe mustard greens will work," and I bought a bunch.

Fortunately I discovered endive in stock at another store and bought it too. Why? Because mustard greens taste like mustard, and that just might not be the best accompaniment to strawberries and cherries, the fruit I was using in my batch of Megamuffins.

I'd had NO idea mustard greens were so mustardy. I'd never had them when they still had a flavor of their own. What a revelation!

Which brings me to my next point: the different styles of eating I engage in each day.

I prepared some lightly steamed mustard greens, dressed with a quick "vinaigrette" of balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, brewer's yeast, pepper, garlic, and flax oil. The flavor was deliciously sharp and pungent--at first.

But after three or four bites, with a HUGE bowl still to go, it quickly became overwhelming. Too much pungency, too vinegary, too sharp. Just too flavorful, so flavorful I was practically crying out for a thin and tasteless broth to ease things up.

But I'd already mixed all those nutritious ingredients into the dressing, and I needed to eat ALL of it to get my budgeted nutrients for the day! So, I gritted my teeth, and chomped my way through a rather aggressive meal that, when I'd finished it, well, let's just say I was more than ready to be done with it. I turned to a big soothing mug of green tea to cleanse my poor overwrought palate.

This type of eating, this "ignore what's going on in your mouth and just bite, chew, swallow, bite, chew swallow," I'd charitably call "utilitarian," or "refueling" eating. I was not really enjoying the food (though I certainly wasn't hating it), and I was definitely eager to be finished. But I was also self-satisfied with the knowledge that every bite was packed with nutrition and while maybe my tongue wasn't exactly amused, my guts were all about it. (I can feel them in there now--my guts--descending on those greens like a pack of hungry wolves on a young buck.)

Well, mercifully, I got the "utilitarian" meal out of the way early. All the rest of the food I have planned for today seems indulgent by comparison, what I'd call "luxurious" eating:

  • salmon
  • sweet potatoes
  • kippered herring
  • yogurt
  • blueberries
  • chocolate (72% cacao)
  • a brand new Megamuffin (!)
  • ....and more!
Isn't it wonderful when you begin to notice your tastes changing such that a baked sweet potato (mashed with a teaspoon of flax oil, cinnamon, vanilla, chopped nuts, and maybe a dash of Splenda if you are really in the mood for SWEET) seems like a rich dessert? When blueberries seem like little nibbles of ambrosia? When just 10 grams of some of the finest chocolate you can get virtually explodes in the mouth with flavor?

Sensible eating, as CR is, turns taste buds into sensory super-athletes. Without the oppressive unctuousness of all that unnecessary fat (not to be confused with necessary fat) and salt and sugar--which overwhelm everything else in the food--taste buds are free to tune themselves to detect essences that hover on the edges, tastes that suggest the presence of important nutrients our bodies crave, subtleties we missed before that give food its fullest expression of flavor.

And good flavor is what keeps us eating, so to me, this process seems key to survival. I'm inducing my body to deploy some dusty and disused tools from my toolchest of evolutionary survival. There's something primal and honest about this, something that makes me feel in touch with the way things work, the way things are supposed to work, a connection to nature that had been lost, paved over with refined carbs and saturated fat and bizarre chemicals, like a garden turned into a parking lot where nothing can grow with any real enthusiasm. My body feels like it's been depaved, the soured earth beneath tilled and restocked with nutrients and moisture and springing to life once again.

CR makes it easy to love food again, instead of always thinking of it as a source of guilt and denial. It's a benefit I wasn't expecting so soon in my experience, but I'm so grateful it's here!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I don't care if I die tomorrow.

I don't care if I live to be 70, 80, 90, 145, or die tomorrow. Not exactly, anyhow. No, I don't want to die--I love life as much as anyone (and maybe more than some). But the notion of practicing CR for the purpose of achieving longevity is a concept that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.

Here's the thing: if I died suddenly, and didn't know it was coming, how could I possibly care? I wouldn't be around to notice it happened.

What I absolutely DO care about, without a doubt, is that I don't want to get sick and linger in some awful in-between state, not quite alive, not yet dead. I'm thinking of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, any illness that would directly or indirectly interfere with my ability to enjoy (not just endure) my life. I want to be vital, strong, healthy and energetic for as long as I can, and then I want to be suddenly, and without warning...dead.

Right now, if I were to suddenly die, and if my consciousness could somehow linger long enough to appreciate my own death, I could be satisfied that I hadn't descended into serious quality-of-life-ruining ill health, pain, fear and sadness, and that I'd been living my life according to my values and principles. But I'm only 36, and despite a few health conditions, I enjoy fairly healthy, happy existence--for now.

But statistics are NOT on my side, here. Give me another 30 years proceeding as I was before starting CR, and I could reasonably expect my death to be merely the logical and tragic end to a lot of suffering.

I don't want to do it that way.

So, as far as I can tell, this CR thing is my ticket to avoiding that tragic fate, to enjoying life as a strong and healthy person for as long as possible--however long that turns out to be. I don't need 140 years to feel successful here. I'd be happy to make it to 70, but have these next 34 years be vibrant and wonderful, instead of sickly and sad.

I guess, if I'm really honest with myself, I'm early into this process and I've been reluctant to share this blog with, for example, friends or co-workers, etc. because I'm sensitive to the idea that someone reading this blog who doesn't know anything about this process will be dismissive of CR before fully understanding that it's not only about some magical unknown future longevity, but about the quality of my life RIGHT NOW!

When I first trained for a marathon, our training coach said at the beginning, "Don't think about 26.2 miles, when today you only need to run 5. Can you run 26.2 miles? Of course not--not today. So why spend time stressing about how daunting that distance seems. Focus on what you have to work with right now."

I don't have 140 years to work with right now. I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol and I'm 40 lbs overweight--that's what I have to work with right now. That's the five miles I have to run today. Longevity? That's the 26.2 miles I'm slowly, gradually working my way up to. I'm choosing to be mindful of what's happening to me now.

So if you are reading this blog, and you are critical of CR, or you are interested in persuading me that CR isn't the absolute best way for me to work with my health concerns right now, you better first do the following:

  1. Demonstrate to me that you know what CR is, and that you are conversant in its premises and principles. (And be aware that it's taken me almost three months of study to just begin to understand it, and I have a long way to go, so don't imagine you can simply do a quick google search and convince me that you know what you're talking about. Be prepared to work for my respect.)

  2. Prove to me that you have a better solution that can survive scientific scrutiny (good luck)

  3. Show me how your solution is working out for you personally. (In other words, if you aren't personally a shining beautiful example of good health, I really don't want to hear advice from you.)

There's an expression, "stick with the winners." And it seems self-evident to me that if you want what someone else has, you should probably try to do what they did. So I'm taking my inspiration and advice from people who are doing this now, and achieving the kind of results that I want. Longevity? Who knows. Low blood pressure and cholesterol and weight loss and feeling good and healthy now? I'll take it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shut the hell up on pain of bitch slap!

I find the premise that we can control, or at least influence our psychological and emotional responses (what I usually refer to as my "internal life") by managing the substances we put into our bodies to be intuitive, even self-evident. But that was not always the case for me, and I'm regularly reminded that others do not always see this connection as clearly as I now do.

My experience training for marathons and other athletic endeavors taught me the value in keeping a training log in which I recorded not only how much exercise I performed, but other things, like observations about energy levels, mood, the weather, diet--anything that could have an impact on performance was fair game to be journaled. The purpose was in being able to look back over a period of time and draw some connections and conclusions about what worked on the good days and what contributed to the bad days. This approach diminishes the role of randomness, focusing instead on rational, predictable responses to various inputs and stimuli--the predictable results of behaviors, as opposed to simply being a victim of bad luck. So rather than saying after a bad day, "Oh you know, it was just one of those days..." one could just as easily conclude "I ate a bunch of crap the day before, didn't get enough sleep, then ran 30% further than my last run instead of just 10%. No wonder I feel like shit today and my per/mile average sucked and I'm stiff and sore and am missing today's workout because of it."

I'm starting to view keeping track of my CR experience as not unlike keeping a training log. It seems important to be mindful (mindfulness--such a powerful concept) not only of how I'm eating, but how I'm feeling, how my external behaviors influence my internal life, and how my internal life in turn influences my external behaviors (the image of an ouroboros comes to mind). Over time, it seems likely I can learn much about the predictable and mechanical functioning of my mind and body by reviewing this information. And I predict that when my mind and body live in easy balance with one another, I will perceive that experience as what I'll call the CR Happy Meal, a well-balanced emotional feast consisting of a judicious serving of relaxed contentment, generously spiced with optimism (and just a pinch of pessimism for contrasting flavor), served with a side of mixed energies and enthusiasms, with healing and restorative sleep for dessert.

My certainty of these premises has only grown as I've embarked on this new CR lifestyle. Its objective tools, like nutritional software, allow me to compare and perhaps correlate my moods and emotions with the foods I've eaten that day or in the days previous, while the more subjective tools like the blogs of other newbies struggling their way through the initial baby steps, and the blogs and mailing lists with the musings of long-time practitioners invite me to compare my experience with those of other people. I'm aware that what works for me may not work for others, and vice versa, but I'll add that these truths that I have concluded to be intuitive and self-evident were things I learned from other people, then tested in my own life and found to be true, so I'll be happy if anyone reading these words I write can identify with my experience in some way.

With all of that as a rather indulgent prologue, I'll now move on to the real meat of this morning's Gratuitous Musings.

I've had a couple bad--really bad--CR days. I haven't recorded my food in CRON-O-Meter since January 10. Why? Because I sacrificed mindfullness and allowed my emotions to dominate and overmaster my behavior in ways that I couldn't bear to record for posterity. I used to call what I'm feeling this morning "shame." But the real shame I should be feeling is for how I often sit in judgment of myself in a disdainful and destructive way that I would never subject anyone else to.


"Chris, I really fucked up yesterday. I ate 10 pizzas, drank a keg of beer, and finished up with three dozen donuts which I washed down with a gallon of heavy cream!"

"How do you feel today?"

"Terrible. I'm sluggish and tired, depressed, my gut is in open revolt, I gained 25 pounds overnight, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and I'm about to have a heart attack because my arteries have narrowed to a trickle!"

"Wow, you are a total fuck up! You should probably just kill yourself and get it over with. Here, have a pound of butter for a snack."

Ouch! No, No, NO, not in a million years, not ever, never never never would I even THINK such a thing about--let alone say it to--someone who was suffering from the results of a few bad choices.

And I'm not going to put up with that nasty voice whispering in MY ear either. Oh, he tried it. He got all up in my face, that embittered, nasty little troll, and I had to warn him to shut the hell up on pain of bitch slap.

So imagine instead:

"Chris, I really fucked up yesterday. I ate 10 pizzas, drank a keg of beer, and finished up with three dozen donuts which I washed down with a gallon of heavy cream!"

"How do you feel today?"

"Terrible. I'm sluggish and tired, depressed, my gut is in open revolt, I gained 25 pounds overnight, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and I'm about to have a heart attack because my arteries have narrowed to a trickle!"

"What were you doing before this happened?"

"Well, I was eating generous portions of delicious and nutritious vegetables and fruit, succulently fatty fish, nuts, tea, even delicious 72% cacao chocolate!"

"Wow, that sounds terrific. How'd you feel?"

"Oh, man, I felt GREAT!"

"Well, if that was working for you, maybe you should try that again."

"But was all so awful...I..."

"Don't even think about yesterday--or tomorrow, for that matter. How about we just focus on what we actually have to work with, which is now, today. Could you try that, just one day? I'll do it with you, and we can compare notes tomorrow. What do you say?"

Well, whose counsel do you prefer?

I know what some of you are thinking: "So much DRAMA about food. Relax!" Oh, I wish I could! But, that food is tied to psychological drama shouldn't be surprising to anyone. Food is the first thing we do in life after breathing. Love and dependence and ecstasy and survival become inextricably hardwired the first time we latch on to mother's tit, and there's no divorcing them again. There is so much emotional baggage attached to food that we should applaud ourselves for making even the most trivial of good choices.

Embracing CR or any healthy way of eating is an act of self-love and self-respect, and inherent in that choice is an optimistic view that we can and should be better, that we can be healthier and happier and that those are desirable goals because we want to be alive and life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.

But love and hate are not opposites, and this isn't a zero-sum game. A day or two, or a week, a month, even years of bad choices don't have to be seen as acts of defeating self hatred. We don't need to keep sabotaging ourselves with feelings of inadequacy and disappointment and self-shaming, because those things in the end do not contribute much to our lives or the lives of others.

I like to remind myself of something I learned when I did some research on Wicca for a class once, something called the Wiccan Rede:

"An it harm none, do as thou wilt."

It's a powerful statement, and not only because it advises us to be mindful of how our choices impact others. The unspoken message inherent in the Wiccan Rede is that we not harm ourselves. Human beings are fairly clever--too clever perhaps--we find a million ways to harm ourselves first, and then find we are unable to help but harm others.

Obsessing about one's health and well being, about CR--about any of these things--can at times seem self-indulgent and self-absorbed. But we also need to recognize that if we want to be of any use to the world at all, if we want to love and respect others, and be loved and respected by others, we first must take care of and love and respect ourselves. And that means enjoying our successes and our good choices and our good days, and learning from our bad ones without descending into self-sabotaging shame and regret.

As Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron said, "We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves."

As I sit here in front of CRON-O-Meter, peering at those two empty days where fear and loathing stood in my way and prevented honesty and acceptance, I can hear his receding voice now, that embittered little troll who visits me on days like yesterday, or the day before. He sounds so desperate and hateful, so unhappy. I'm tempted to give him an extra bitch slap for the road. But maybe like me, all he needs is a hug and blueberry/yogurt/flax oil/egg white smoothie.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A strenuous, high-calorie day

Whew...yesterday was a complete bust with regard to practicing CR! I overate by more than a 1000 calories!

I have a good reason, however: in my work for the department of transportation, I occasionally have to do field work, which I conduct on bicycle (because it's bicycle-related work). So I spent more than eight hours yesterday riding around in the cold, getting cold from time to time (and getting warm from time to time too!), and covering the entire city from 6400 S. to 6400 N. If you're not familiar with Chicago, that's FAR, especially to be biking.

By the end of the day, I'd ridden about 55 miles. Using an online exercise/calorie calculator, plugging in a very conservative 4-hour time period (when I was one the bike for at least 7, plus stops and breaks) and "light" intensity level (when actually I was riding a bike loaded with gear, and riding against the wind--the cold, cold wind--much of the day), I burned at least an extra 2000 calories yesterday over my usual. There's no doubt that when you are doing that much extra exercise, you're going to need some fuel!

I started the day well enough, with an extra big breakfast smoothie. But my mistake was in not anticipating just how hungry I'd become later (especially given that hunger has been eluding me most days), and not bringing healthy, CR-friendly choices with me. But I was carrying a lot of gear and didn't have much room for 2000 calories worth of veggies, fruits, and lean protein sources, so I figured I'd stop somewhere for a salad at lunch time, eat the sardines and nuts I'd packed as a snack, and eat dinner at home.

Well, let's just say that at 1:00 pm, after four hours of riding in cold, windy January conditions, my body was not interested in a salad. I wanted carbs, carbs, carbs. I had a deep-down full-body hunger that I hadn't felt for several weeks. So I treated myself to a vegetarian burrito at a dynamite taqueria in the Pilsen neighborhood, the "Mexican" part of town (despite the name). It was delicious, and I savored every delicious bite. And as soon as I was done eating it, I was back on the bike, and riding for another four-hour stretch.

Dinner happened much the same way: it was 5:00, my body was out of fuel, and I was dying for a cup of hot tea, as it turned out, along with a moderately sized sandwich of turkey breast and swiss on an italian roll with mayo! (At least I decided to forego the greasy potato chips.)

The eating orgy continued when I got home, with nuts, lite chevre cheese, dry raisin bran cereal, and chocolate. By the time I hit the sack, I'd topped out at an astonishly high 2784 calories (an estimate, since I don't really know the nutrient info for the food I ate out)!

Now, I'm philosophical about the whole thing. I know that averages are important, and that if I think about it that way, I've added only 100-150 calories/day to my 10-day average, fewer to my 30-day average, and nothing even worth noticing over my year-long average (which, granted, is pretty far off still). So I'm not gonna freak out about one "ad lib" day here and there. I'm still new at this, I'm vulnerable to mistakes and poor planning, and I'm gonna give myself some slack for awhile.

There's also another lesson in this: even at 2784 calories, I still fell short of important nutrients while exceeding targets like fat by 164%! It's very, very important to be honest with one's self and plug the foods we ate into the software even if they were nutritionally disastrous. Being reminded, eleven days into my CR practice, how easy it is to get dreadful nutrition out of massive numbers of calories is instructive. If I'd consumed 2784 calories using only the usual foods on my CR menu, I'd have exceeded every nutritional target by more than 100%, and probably still recieved enough energy to make it through my long day of bicycle riding. Very instructive indeed.

Here's the menu and crunch:

Menu for January 10, 2007

Kefir,lowfat,Trader Joe's 1 Cup 110
Egg, white, raw, fresh 1 cup 126.4
Blueberries, frozen, unsweetened 1.02 cup, unthawed 80.6
Flaxseed oil 1 tbsp 120.2
Spices, cinnamon, ground 2 tsp 12
burrito, vegetarian, Taqueria El Milagro (all guestimates) 1 Burrito 968
Bread, italian 2 slice, large (4-1/2" x 3-1/4" x 3/4") 162.6
LOUIS RICH, Turkey Breast and White Turkey (smoked sliced) 75 g 75
Cheese, swiss 1 oz 107.7
Salad dressing, mayonnaise type, regular, with salt 1 tablespoon 57.3
Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average 2 slice, medium (1/4" thick) 7.2
Lettuce, green leaf, raw 2 leaf outer 7.2
Nuts, almonds, dry roasted, with salt added 3 oz (22 whole kernels) 507.7
Candies, SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Bar 40 g 212.4
Chevre,lite,TraderJoe's 1 Ounce 35
Cereals ready-to-eat, KELLOGG, KELLOGG'S RAISIN BRAN 1 cup (1 NLEA serving) 194.6

Nutrition Summary for January 10, 2007

General (100%)
Energy2784.0 kcal 186%
Protein130.8 g 116%
Fat131.9 g 264%
Carbs285.1 g 150%
Fiber40.0 g 100%
Vitamins (80%)
Vitamin A8658.4 IU 289%
Folate295.3 mcg 74%
B1 (Thiamine)0.9 mg 72%
B2 (Riboflavin)2.6 mg 201%
B3 (Niacin)12.7 mg 79%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)1.7 mg 35%
B6 (Pyridoxine)0.9 mg 67%
B12 (Cyanocobalamin)2.7 mcg 114%
Vitamin C51.8 mg 58%
Vitamin D154.0 IU 77%
Vitamin E26.7 mg 178%
Vitamin K122.5 mcg 102%
Minerals (91%)
Calcium1524.8 mg 152%
Copper1.7 mg 185%
Iron19.2 mg 240%
Magnesium440.0 mg 105%
Manganese5.6 mg 243%
Phosphorus1197.2 mg 171%
Potassium2185.4 mg 46%
Selenium77.6 mcg 141%
Sodium4886.6 mg 326%
Zinc7.5 mg 68%
Lipids (88%)
Saturated50.4 g 252%
Omega-38.0 g 500%
Omega-617.3 g 102%
Cholesterol153.4 g 51%

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Talking about CRON at work

People at work have noticed that I'm doing things differently with my diet (bringing all my own food to work, not partaking of snacks and other goodies put out by the other office people, not going out to eat for lunch, etc.).

My work life is perhaps a little different than some. I work in the field of bicycling advocacy, as an intern at the Chicago Department of Transportation. Like me, most of my coworkers are reasonably healthy, active people who bicycle every day to work, school, grocery shopping, etc. They are naturally sympathetic to issues of healthy diet, a healthy food environment, environmental and social concerns, sustainability, etc., and many of these people are already fully politicized when it comes to the power of personal choice. So they are naturally sympathetic, I think, to the ethical reasons why I think CR is a good idea, even if they don't care about longevity. (The ethics of CR are something I take every bit as seriously as the personal benefits, but that's a discussion for another post.)

I'm unsure how best to respond to their questions. I worry that if I go into too much detail about CR, I will seem nutty--especially given that I am still significantly overweight. Who am I to represent the virtues of CR? So far, I've given a half-truth answer:

"I'm trying to address some of my serious health concerns with modifications to my diet."

I deemphasize the weight-loss goal, and longevity never enters into the conversation. I'm not ready to be a longevity advocate in public because if I fail to stick with this, it might persuade others that CR is unworkable. I also am the kind of person who would rather explain to people what I do that works for me, rather than offer advice about what they should do. And I'm not really the poster child for "what works," not yet. In July, maybe, after I've shed some weight and you can see the effects of CR just by looking at me!

So, I have a cunning plan. Okay, it's not that cunning, but it just might work. I'll give vague half-answers to their questions until I reach my goal weight. When I am the very image of virtuous CR practice, and can reasonably provide an appealing and authentic representation of what CR can do (in the short term, since the longevity issue remains an open question)--when they are looking at my thin, healthy body and asking "how'd you do it?"--THEN I'll open my big mouth and do some CR advocacy with my coworkers. And then they'll think I'm nutty anyhow. But I'll be able to say something arch and pithy, like "the results speak for themselves..."

I think it's important for me to fully internalize and prove my commitment to myself first, before I advocate to others.

How do I do it?

I've been asked to share my secret for getting CRON-O-Meter menus and nutritional reports into my blog. The answer probably won't be terribly helpful unless you already have more than a passing familiarity with coding HTML, and also have access to certain software programs. But here's how I do it:


  • knowledge of HTML coding
  • Excel (spreadsheet software)
  • Dreamweaver (website development software; optional if you're willing to do all the html work old-school style in a text editor)
  • You are using blogger or some similar blog software that uses its own "templates" (cascading style sheets--CSS--actually) to control the colors and layout of your blog


  1. Highlight and copy (ctrl-C) the day's menu entries, then paste (ctrl-V) into an Excel spreadsheet (this step is necessary because you can't paste the menu data directly into Dreamweaver; other HTML editors might behave differently). Leave this here for a minute, while you....
  2. Output an HTML formatted nutrition report (using COM's report function) for the date in question, clicking the little diskette icon to save the report to somewhere you can find it afterward.
  3. Open a blank HTML document in Dreamweaver, select and copy the menu from Excel, and paste it into the design panel of Dreamweaver (not the code panel!). You are now done with Excel, it was just a means to get the menu into table form for Dreamweaver.
  4. Looking at the code panel of Dreamweaver (or viewing the raw HTML in a text editor like Notepad), you can see that the tags in the menu table are full of "width" and "height" attributes that are trying to control the way the table looks in a browser window. The beauty--even the purpose--of HTML is that you can let the browser do this work for you. Use less formatting, and your data will be properly viewable for more people, so you're better off omitting these attributes and letting the user's browser layout the table the way that best fits the user's browser window. So, using Dreamweaver's find/replace function (or deleting manually in a text editor), strip out the following:
    • "<col width="64" span="4" />" tags (the "64" and "4" might be other values for you); delete the entire tag.
    • "width" and "height" attributes from the <td> and <tr> tags; delete ONLY the attributes--not the tags themselves
  5. Now, open your HTML nutrition report that you created earlier in Dreamweaver.
  6. Looking at the code panel, you'll see all the <tr> tags have the "bgcolor" attribute. Strip this attribute out (but not the tags themselves!). Then, select and copy all the HTML for this report.
The next steps occur in your web browser, and involve creating and modifying a new post.
  1. Create a new blog post, and open the Edit HTML window
  2. Copy the HTML for the menu table you modified earlier in Dreamweaver and paste to the HTML editor in Blogger
  3. Back in Dreamweaver, select and copy the HTML for the nutrition report, and paste this into the HTML editor in Blogger.
  4. Switch to "Compose" view in Blogger, and you'll see your two tables there. Dress them up with whatever titles you want, and you can do some final formatting here if you like, before you....
  5. ...submit your information for posting to your blog!
I know that seems like a lot of steps, but it's not really that hard--as long as you understand how HTML works. I've gotten really fast at doing all these steps, and it only takes me a few minutes to get my menu and nutrition report posted now. YMMV (your mileage may vary). It's good if more of us are posting our data for others to learn from, so If you try this and discover that I've omitted steps or made mistakes, please feel free to ask, and I'll do my best to correct these instructions and help you through any problems you have.


Menu and Crunch, 09-Jan-07

Menu for January 9, 2007

Kefir,lowfat,Trader Joe's 1 Cup 110
Blueberries, frozen, unsweetened 1 cup, unthawed 79
Flaxseed oil 0.66 tbsp 79.3
Spices, cinnamon, ground 1.5 tsp 9
Egg, white, raw, fresh 0.5 cup 63.2
Asian Vegetables, frozen, Trader Joe's 3 Serving 240
Egg, white, raw, fresh 1 cup 126.4
Fish, sardine, Pacific, canned in water, drained solids with bone 1 can 140
Nuts, almonds, oil roasted, with salt added 2.5 oz (22 whole kernels) 430.2
Coffee, brewed from grounds, prepared with tap water 2 cup (8 fl oz) 4.7
Coffee, brewed from grounds, prepared with tap water 2 cup (8 fl oz) 4.7
Sweet potato, raw, unprepared 350 g 301
GimmeLean Sausage 2 2 Oz. 100
Candies, SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Bar 20 g 106.2

Nutrition Summary for January 9, 2007

General (98%)
Energy1793.8 kcal 120%
Protein124.3 g 110%
Fat66.1 g 132%
Carbs180.8 g 95%
Fiber38.4 g 96%
Vitamins (79%)
Vitamin A56367.7 IU1879%
Folate125.1 mcg 31%
B1 (Thiamine)0.6 mg 48%
B2 (Riboflavin)3.4 mg 259%
B3 (Niacin)11.5 mg 72%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)6.9 mg 139%
B6 (Pyridoxine)1.1 mg 81%
B12 (Cyanocobalamin)8.6 mcg 359%
Vitamin C82.0 mg 91%
Vitamin D541.6 IU 271%
Vitamin E23.1 mg 154%
Vitamin K34.1 mcg 28%
Minerals (92%)
Calcium1236.5 mg 124%
Copper1.6 mg 180%
Iron14.7 mg 183%
Magnesium397.4 mg 95%
Manganese3.9 mg 169%
Phosphorus944.0 mg 135%
Potassium3688.6 mg 78%
Selenium114.6 mcg 208%
Sodium3571.3 mg 238%
Zinc5.0 mg 45%
Lipids (52%)
Saturated7.5 g 38%
Omega-36.0 g 373%
Omega-611.4 g 67%
Cholesterol11.1 g 4%

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Menu and Crunch, 08-Jan-07

Yesterday wasn't a great day, but given that I was out of groceries and had to find much of my food "out" yesterday, I think I did pretty well. The good news is that I shopped last night and am prepared for the week.

I keep topping out about 100 to 150 calories above target, but I'm also doing about an hour of moderately fast biking each day commuting to work, so I may need those extra calories for fuel. As long as I'm losing weight slowly, I think it's fine.

I picked up some egg whites from Trader Joe's, enough for the week, so that should give me a needed low-cal protein boost. Also got flax oil, which I'm going to start using instead of ground flax in my smoothies, and also in dressings for things.

I picked up some kefir. I think I'll start making it at home instead of yogurt. I can make twice the quantity of kefir for the same cost of buying it pre-made. But I'll make it with fat-free dairy milk.

I'm going to drop soy milk for awhile until I find out more about its health risks. If I learn that I can make kefir out of rice, almond, or oat milks, I'll consider trying that too, but these products don't offer the protein of dairy or soy milk, so it's a lot of calories for not much nutrition. So we'll see.

Once I successfully produce homemade kefir, I'll post my recipe.

Menu for January 8, 2007

Trader Joe's Shrimp Stir Fry 2.5 Serving 175
Egg, white, raw, fresh 1 cup 126.4
Flaxseed oil 0.66 tbsp 79.3
Tea, brewed, prepared with tap water 2 cup (8 fl oz) 4.7
Coffee, brewed from grounds, prepared with tap water 4 cup (8 fl oz) 9.5
Cheese, cottage, lowfat, 2% milkfat 1 cup (not packed) 203.4
Fish, salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, dry heat 1.33 3 oz 232.9
Nuts, almonds, dry roasted, with salt added 2 oz (22 whole kernels) 338.5
Peppers, sweet, green, raw 3 ring (3" dia, 1/4" thick) 6
Peppers, sweet, red, raw 3 ring (3" dia, 1/4" thick) 7.8
Carrots, raw 1 medium 25
Pineapple, raw, all varieties 0.5 cup, diced 37.2
Mangos, raw 0.5 cup, sliced 53.6
Kiwi fruit, (chinese gooseberries), fresh, raw 1.5 fruit without skin, large 83.3
Arugula, raw 1 1/2 cup 2.5
Lettuce, red leaf, raw 1.05 cup shredded 4.7
Chicory greens, raw 0.5 cup, chopped 3.3
Oil, olive, salad or cooking 1 tsp 39.8
Kefir,lowfat,Trader Joe's 1 Cup 110
Honey 1 tbsp 63.8
Chevre,lite,TraderJoe's 1 Ounce 35

Nutrition Summary for January 8, 2007

General (83%)
Energy1641.8 kcal 109%
Protein143.7 g 127%
Fat69.6 g 139%
Carbs117.2 g 62%
Fiber22.2 g 56%
Vitamins (91%)
Vitamin A17975.6 IU 599%
Folate253.2 mcg 63%
B1 (Thiamine)0.9 mg 73%
B2 (Riboflavin)3.1 mg 242%
B3 (Niacin)16.3 mg 102%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)6.4 mg 127%
B6 (Pyridoxine)1.6 mg 121%
B12 (Cyanocobalamin)5.0 mcg 208%
Vitamin C544.9 mg 605%
Vitamin D100.0 IU 50%
Vitamin E21.4 mg 143%
Vitamin K170.1 mcg 142%
Minerals (89%)
Calcium981.2 mg 98%
Copper1.4 mg 152%
Iron8.3 mg 104%
Magnesium345.9 mg 82%
Manganese4.2 mg 182%
Phosphorus1091.0 mg 156%
Potassium3228.5 mg 69%
Selenium121.7 mcg 221%
Sodium3132.9 mg 209%
Zinc4.6 mg 42%
Lipids (82%)
Saturated12.1 g 60%
Omega-37.6 g 472%
Omega-611.6 g 68%
Cholesterol119.3 g40%

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'll admit it: I have a lusty infatuation with my skinny, post-CR body.

I'll admit it: I have a lusty infatuation with my skinny, post-CR body. It goes around, hiding its sexy self inside an unflattering cloak of flab--I know it's in there, and I've repeatedly attempted to coax it to disrobe, but it's been holding out, teasing me from time to time with a glimpse of glutes, or a peak of pec, only to cover back up and walk away. So I decided to try a little CR, a carefully constructed campaign to win my body over.

Starting CR is an act of seduction. I have all kinds of things I want my body to do for me, but it gives the cold shoulder, and prances off coquettishly, tossing a come hither glance over its shoulder that says, "nice try, but I don't think so..."

I romanced my body with ardor for six long days, only to be rewarded with one tiny pound of weight loss--just a stitch in a sturdily constructed garment.

I thought, "if it took six days to lose one pound, there's no way I'm going to meet my target of two pounds per week. There's no way I'm going to get this body naked in six months." I'd been allowed a little heavy petting, then it pulled back--it wasn't ready. CR frustration threatened to cloud my judgment. My body was mocking me, dangling that one solitary pound in front of me. What a tease!

Well apparently some bodies like it in the morning. On day eight, I was greeted by more than the sunrise when I awoke. My body must have REALLY been in the mood this morning, because the scale revealed a 4lb weight loss--a three pound difference from yesterday! Whew! I finally got some!

I can hear you now:

"SLOW DOWN!" you caution. "You have some power in this relationship too--but you're moving too fast."

But things seem suddenly to be going great, I enthuse! And they do! I got four pounds this morning, and it was HOT!

"Don't let it go to your head," you reply. "It's all part of the tease, how your body gets its hooks into you. Now that you know what you were missing all this time, how good it was, your body can withhold all it wants. You'll do what it wants to get more. You are owned now."

I sigh. This isn't exactly what I wanted to hear. I thought my problems were over, and that me and my body were finally locked in a steamy, passionate CR affair.

"Yeah, you're desperate--we all are. So what? You don't have to let your body know that. That's not a turn on. You need to send the message, loud and clear: 'Weight loss? Meh. I could take it or leave it...' Now that's a turn on. Yes, your body has something you want, and it's teased you and excited you. But you have power too--you have things your body wants. You can use the power of tease, as well."

Like what? How can I turn this fling into a torrid, passionate affair that will last?

"If you want to enjoy this relationship for a long, long time, take a tip from the experts: you need to engage in a little foreplay if you want to get things moving on a regular basis."

Foreplay? You mean, like cooing into its ear, maybe running it a hot bath with rose petals and shampooing its hair lovi....

"Shhhh! Less willful talking, more willing listening." you chide. "Here are some tips: try seduction with almonds, and egg whites. Never underestimate the subtle power in the judicious use of kale, and tenderly--but firmly--apply a little zinc. A soft powdering with brewers yeast might be the cool touch that really heats things up...but watch the saturated fat--instant turnoff! Look at us--don't the results speak for themselves?" you ask boastfully. I bow to you. I am your pupil.

"And don't expect to get 4lbs every week," you scold. "That's just greedy, and no one likes a selfish CRer. Now get going!" you command with a light swat on my behind as you show me the door.

Duly chastened, I scoot sheepishly out into the big happy sunny world outside. 'Is the sky just a little bit bluer today?' I wonder, as I set off on my quest to gather the tools of seduction.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Surprise! Week One Seven-Day Averages!

Below are my seven-day averages for my first week of CR. I started out the week with a target of 1300 calories/day. After two 2000+ calorie days in a row, I decided my body was trying to tell me something, and upped my target to 1500 calories/day. As you can see, I wasn't too far over it. I can live with being that close to my target for my very first week!

I could definitely stand to cut the saturated fat down and maybe increase the Omega-6 fats, but I'm rationally using up stuff I have in the fridge, like some delicious butter and cheese, and whole eggs that I will later on not be eating too often. Cutting back on saturated fat (to be replaced with something like olive oil, or none) will give me room to increase my protein another 9% without a lot of extra calories. Egg whites to the rescue? I think so.

I was also pleased with my nutrient targets, mainly. I did it without supplementation, and the few percentages that I'm short, I'm confident I can correct with diet or "natural" supplements like brewers yeast, which I think of as a food, not a supplement. I still don't rule out supplements at some point, but for now, I'm going to keep tinkering with the diet to see if I can edge any of those numbers up naturally.

[Warning: abuse of italics ahead.]

I was a little surprised to be low on potassium (I wonder if it's time to enjoy some avocados instead of all that butter...that would offer potassium and good fat, right?); not so surprised about the B-vitamins, except that it was B3 and B5 I was short, instead of B12. B3 is also known as niacin, and that's in coffee. So another 4-6 cups during the week might have done it...but I don't think I can handle that much more caffeine--I'm already taking more than I'd like. Maybe more salmon, some mushrooms (is it crimini?), or brewers yeast?

Could definitely use some vitamin E. Can't remember where that comes from, but such info is readily googled.

On the other hand, I was happily surprised to see my high vitamin D level (thanks to tinned sardines), without supplementation, but not at all surprised that zinc was low. That's one I might consider supplementing soon. I understand it's important for healing.

My Omega-3 was great, and I'm always surprised by the foods I discover it in, like 11% from my morning cup of blueberries!. What remains unclear to me is if I need to achieve the 100% of Omega-6, when I've read that it is inflammatory...but perhaps only when it's consumed excessively? The Omega-3/Omega-6 issue is one I still need to learn more about.

If you're like me, by now you are sick of the word "surprise." I've written it so many times it's starting to not sound like a real word anymore. And you hope I never write the word "surprise" again.

Well...SURPRISE! I'm going to, because that is one of the main surprises about this experience--just how surprising these quantifiable, objective results are, and how much surprising information they reveal about me and my food choices. I have learned more about food this ONE week than in all my life, previously. I am serious. I'm also just a wee bit obsessed right now. But that's how I operate. That's how I get things done.

Nutrition Summary

January 1, 2007 to January 7, 2007

Daily Averages over 7 days

General (97%)
Energy1635.7 kcal 109%
Protein102.4 g 91%
Fat68.0 g 136%
Carbs181.9 g 96%
Fiber45.1 g 113%
Vitamins (95%)
Vitamin A25814.5 IU 860%
Folate527.0 mcg 132%
B1 (Thiamine)1.7 mg 138%
B2 (Riboflavin)2.7 mg 206%
B3 (Niacin)13.6 mg 85%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)4.9 mg 98%
B6 (Pyridoxine)2.3 mg 178%
B12 (Cyanocobalamin)8.1 mcg 336%
Vitamin C224.7 mg 250%
Vitamin D290.6 IU 145%
Vitamin E9.3 mg 62%
Vitamin K576.2 mcg 480%
Minerals (98%)
Calcium1579.1 mg 158%
Copper2.0 mg 217%
Iron19.7 mg 246%
Magnesium467.7 mg 111%
Manganese5.9 mg 255%
Phosphorus1501.6 mg 215%
Potassium4204.7 mg 89%
Selenium66.4 mcg 121%
Sodium2743.7 mg 183%
Zinc9.6 mg 87%
Lipids (79%)
Saturated15.9 g 80%
Omega-34.3 g 270%
Omega-612.7 g 75%
Cholesterol180.1 g 60%