Tag Archives: health and fitness

Adventures in “slow carbs”


The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated.

Okay, you can take the title with a grain of salt, but I’ve been slow-carbing over the past few days and seeing very encouraging results.  The basics of the diet are what is typical in low-carb diets, minus dairy (butter is okay), plus beans, plus red wine(!).  Lots of veggies, no fruit. No grains of any colour.

I’ve been having one of the recommended breakfasts each morning (fried eggs on a bed of steamed spinach, topped with salsa, and coffee with cinnamon and a small amount of cream (only allowed dairy along with butter.)  I had a bit of a cheat yesterday at lunch when I was served fruit with my omelet, and had some profiteroles at a birthday party last night, but otherwise I’ve been true to the diet.  Oh, and the best part?  One complete binge day per week is acceptable!  Like, eat ’til you’re sick if you want.  My first binge day won’t be ’til next Saturday, but I don’t feel incredibly guilty about those two cheats on one day this weekend. Tim wouldn’t be happy, but you know, it’s my gig. 

Ferriss is a very compelling writer and a big proponent of tracking stats.  On everything.  But it’s not necessary to do that to reap the benefits of this plan.  In the past four days I have dropped 5.6 pounds, of which 4 pounds were fat.  ( He’s also big on tracking body fat, which I am doing with a scale that (possibly not completely accurately) hands me this lovely measure.)  My body fat % is quite high, so I’ve got to work to get this down and low-carb approaches have always worked best for me.

On the plan for today is to make a big pot of beef and bean chili for dinners, and a cold bean salad to have in the fridge for lunch with a pile of greens.

If you’re looking for a realistic (no big cooking efforts needed) low carb diet that understands why red wine is an integral part of the examined life, give it a try.  It’s available as a kindle ebook as well.

I’ll keep you posted!

So, what CAN he eat? The post-kidney-stone diet.

My dear one had his follow-up appointment with his surgeon yesterday following the removal of his stone.  Analysis suggests that it was a calcium oxalate stone, with some magnesium as well, which is the standard type.  He was given a sheet of dietary guidelines to help prevent future stones.

First, remember how I mentioned that he was getting so much sleep now that he didn’t have pain?  Well, with the amount of fluid he’s to be getting every day (3 litres), he’s up at night for other reasons. 

On the diet front….

Calcium:  post-surgery, he realized that he was not bothered by what he thought was lactose intolerance anymore and had been enjoying café au lait in the mornings and ice cream after dinner.  Hah!  He has to keep his calcium intake to 500 mg per day, or about 1.5 cups of milk-equivalent.  He could switch back to soy milk, but….oops….soy in on the verboten list (see below).  Knowing Z, he’ll stick to cheese and drop all other forms of calcium.

Oxalate rich foods:  this is so funny.  I mean, all the things that he’s been eating as part of the Mediterranean diet seem to be limited.  For example, he takes 3/4 cup greek-style yogurt with a handful of walnuts and raisins in his lunch every day.  Yogurt?  calcium =>limited.  Walnuts (in fact, all nuts)?  oxalate =>limited.

What else is on the oxalate list?  beets, beans (he heats up cans of mixed beans for lunch), parsley (tabouleh????), celery, okra, sweet potato, dark greens (spinach, kale, chard, endive, etc), strawberries, tea (TEA????), marmalade, chocoate, cocoa, nuts, wheat germ, cola, tofu.  

Animal protein: He is to eat less meat, poultry and fish, with special emphasis on avoiding the following foods that increase uric acid: organ meats, goose and partridge, anchovies & fish roe, game meats, rabbit, sardines, herring, mussels, scallops.  This is so depressing.  We eat anchovies.  We love sardines and mussels, and had been eating lots of the former for fish oils.

Sodium:  reduce it.

Fibre:  increase it, particularly using rice bran and wheat bran as they bind to calcium.

Supplements:  NO Vitamin D, Calcium, or Vitamin C supplements, or fish oil.

It’s going to take me a while to figure out some new meal plans to avoid or reduce our intake of oxalates.  I’m already a fairly low sodium cook, and now that he’s giving up nuts, that will be reduced even further.  But I’ll have to re-evaluate our vegetable purchases, and forget about anchovies on pizza, those great packs of mussels from Costco, and the multi-can packs of sardines we go through every month.  We’ll have to keep tabs on the amount of protein he consumes because so many good sources are limited due to either calcium, oxalate, or uric acid issues.  Pleasures?  I don’t see coffee, beer, wine or other alcohol on the list.  Most fruit seems okay.  

My little (n=1) sleep study

I week and a half ago I blogged about a new iPhone app, Sleep Cycle, that I was trying out.  In a nutshell, it’s an alarm clock that also monitors nighttime movement to determine when you’re in the various sleep stages.  It attempts (within in a half hour window) to wake you up when you’re in light sleep, leaving you feeling more refreshed. By looking at your nighttime graph, you can also see what kind of sleep you got.

After the first couple of nights, allowing the app to calibrate itself, I had a period of a few days of poor sleep.  Here’s one graph:


The time axis is along the bottom. The left hand axis goes from deep sleep at the bottom to “awake”at the top.  I fell into deep sleep immediately (at 12:30 pm) but had a number of periods of near-wakefulness throughout the night, and relatively little time in deep sleep. 

A week later, I had nights like this:


Apart from one period of wakefulness early in the night due to Wilson barking at a stranger (to him) in the house, I was in pretty deep sleep for most of the night.

One thing I have realised is that my natural sleep cycles put me in deep sleep around 6:30, which is typically the time I set my alarm for.  This means that I have to pull myself out of sleep with great effort, and don’t feel particularly refreshed when I wake.  Examining the entire series of graphs suggest that waking at either 5:30 or 7:00 am might be better for me. Not great choices, but 5:30 would work if I could get myself into bed earlier in the evening.

I find this very interesting, especially when I’m in a time of life when my sleep can be very disturbed.  More insight into some of my natural patterns should help me get a handle on how best to manage this most precious of resources.

Those of you with an iPhone can download the app at iTunes here for $0.99.


Wellcome Trust Book Prize Shortlist

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable organization dedicated to improve human and animal health.  The book prize recognizes excellence in novels or non-fiction works with a medical theme. 

The titles on this year’s shortlist are:

Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox by Gareth Williams

Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Medic: Saving Lives from Dunkirk to Afghanistan by John Nicol and Tony Rennell

  • For reference use only at the Toronto Reference Library

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Parks

The winner will be announced on November 9.

This came via the Toronto Public Library’s Book Buzz Newsletter. I’d never heard of this book prize and am intrigued by the award criteria.

I’ve listened to the audiobook of Lionel Shriver’s So Much For That and though it was a terrific novel covering some very difficult issues. I’ve just downloaded the The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks audiobook from the library and that”ll be up next.

High-tech tracking for a low-tech need.

A recent series in the National Post on the quantified self got us thinking about our sleep (or lack thereof).  We both have issues, although different, and though it would be a good idea to track our sleep patterns.

In seeking an easy journalling device, I came across this nifty iPhone app that is extremely intriguing. Using the accelerometer in the phone, Sleep Cycle  tracks your sleep patterns (based on movements in your sleep) and helps you awaken in the morning during light sleep, ostensibly making the morning wake-up easier, less disruptive, leading to a better day (or at least morning).

You place the phone upside down on your mattress under the sheet (I use the top corner of my bed) and the during the first couple of nights it calibrates your sleep cycles.  You set the alarm (using one of the included gentle sounds to wake you up) and it awakens you in the period up to 30 minutes before the time when it determines you are in light sleep.  Here’s an example from the website of what a night of sleep might look like.


I have used this for two nights and got two very different looking patterns, which makes sense since I had very disrupted sleep last night, compared to the first night.  

Here’s an example of a good night’s sleep.


And one of a disrupted night (which looks quite a bit like my last night.)


It also tracks how long you sleep and lets you review your previous nights with a simple swipe of the screen.  You can also send your sleep graphs via email and (if you so desired) post them to Facebook.

Here’s a link to the app in iTunes.  For $0.99, it’s a steal.  I’ll post my personal gleanings after a few more days of use.

Day One of Paleo Diet

Other than a massive headache, it went okay.

I’m not sure whether the headache was due to lack of caffeine, lack of sugar, too much Angry Birds on my iphone, or an act of God, but I couldn’t make it to choir last night and only managed to watch two episodes of Weeds and one of Mad Men before retiring to the kitchen sofa with a book and promptly falling asleep.

Here’s how the food portion of my day went:

Breakfast:  two scrambled eggs, two mini cucumbers, two large black plums, tea with honey

Snack: almonds

Lunch: tuna salad with real mayo (no dairy) and pickle relish, two plums, two mini cucumbers

Snack:  cashews and raisins

Cocktail:  arak with water

Dinner:  large spicy sausage with mustard, steamed broccoli with dijon-honey dressing, strawberries, two plums, plain tea

Snack: mixed nuts

My digestive system has felt a bit wonky, but better this morning.

I also decided that I’d make coffee and drink it black, because I have a meeting this afternoon and didn’t want to risk another headache.  I actually quite enjoyed the coffee and realised that I’m not ready to give it up, even without cream. 

This morning, I made a mushroom and two-egg omelette, and had an orange and two cups of java.  Larabars look suitable for the diet, so I’m going to start carrying a couple in my bag for those times I need to eat and suitable fare isn’t available.  And a bag of plain, raw almonds.

I’m off to Canadians Connected 2010 this afternoon down at the Westin Harbor Castle.  It’s a Symposium and the AGM for CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), of which I am a member, owning a couple of .ca domains. Terry O’Reilly and Mitch Joel are two of the speakers and it should be an interesting afternoon. Hashtag is #cira2010 for those of you on twitter and interested.

I need to shock my system

I have been incredibly lethargic these past few weeks, probably a combination of stress/grief/anxiety….and unbridled consumption coupled with not-so-much exercise.  I had the old “I’ll just cut back on portion sizes” talk with myself, but apparently I wasn’t listening.

A random tweet crossed my iphone this evening that took me to this blog post, and I found myself thinking that this might be the ticket.  Something to try for a month and see how I feel.  The Paleo Diet.  Lean meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds. (Or maybe not seeds.  TBD.)  No added salt.  Honey or maple syrup for sweetening. No dairy (cheese!  coffee cream!). No grains (bread! pasta! rice! cookies!).  

Now you medical people amongst my friends and family are probably shaking your heads in dismay, but if I’m able to drop some weight and feel better in apparently many potential ways, I think it will be worth a try.  My main issue will be cooking for my men, but I’ll just have to do the layered thing that I did when the boys were toddlers, except that I’ll be the one not eating some of the food. 

I start tomorrow.  

Friday Five

  1. My allergies are killing me.  The week started with me getting over a cold, and then wondering why it was taking so long to feel better, then realizing that there was a big ol’ oak tree shooting pollen over my back door and deck.  I have most of my energy back, but the itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and scratchy throat, despite prescription allergy meds, is very annoying.
  2. Alex is coming home for three days to study for his final exams.  I can’t believe that he’s finishing his first year of university.  He broke a bone in his foot (long-boarding) while we were in Rome, and so we’re going to drive to Kingston to pick him up tomorrow morning as he can’t manage public transit with his crutches and bags. I”ll drive him back to Kingston on Tuesday so he has a day to prep for an exam on Thursday.
  3. I’ve been remiss on blogging about our trip.  I had hoped to more-or-less liveblog while we were there, but difficulties with network access through my iPhone were extremely annoying.  Despite a long call with our service provider here in Canada, we were unable to get my phone to do any data transfer, and I didn’t feel like paying the exorbitant rates for the hotel access.  So I want to try to post at least some of the highlights over the next week.
  4. Keep Toronto Reading is a wonderful festival happening this month in my beautiful city.  I haven’t managed to attend any events yet due to sickness, but I’ve been participating via Twitter (#ktr2010 and #keeptorontoreading).  Next week there are some author events that I’m planning to attend, including Michael Crumney (Galore) and Linden MacIntyre (The Bishop’s Man).  TPL Foundation
  5. Today’s to-do list:
    • Make bread
    • Organize Alex’s room
    • Pick up prescriptions
    • Go to Service Canada to get CPP info
    • Return library books
    • Pick up a video or two for tonight
    • Tackle some of the ironing pile
    • Tidy main floor
    • Clean Michael’s bathroom