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Tuesday, 03 September 2013


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Why is it an all or nothing deal?
I think that if you try to force it upon yourself, you'll just give up in a few weeks. Instead, just make the conscious effort to choose the vegan/healthy option every now and then, gradually increasing as time goes on and you figure out what you like. And don't deny yourself the occasional indulgence.

I myself am about an 80% vegetarian who will occasionally enjoy a nice bacon and egg breakfast or a big juicy burger on the weekend.

BTW, here is a list of some yummy vegan recipes. http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/03/vegan-recipes-mains-soups-salads-breakfasts-sandwiches-appetizers.html

"I'm not a good cook, I'm not organized, I'm not a good food shopper or meal planner, and I generally don't care for vegetables. I positively dislike fruit; I'll eat it when it's served to me, but (apart from the sugary apple) I've never cared for it*."

Let's see if I'm understanding you correctly. You want to make a major change in your eating habits but you don't want to change your diet or your habitual behaviour?
As someone once said to me (in a context you'll probably recognise, Mike) "you want to go on repeating the same behaviour but with different results..."
Not possible.

[Roy, the diet I've been on for 22 weeks now that I described on Sunday IS a major change in my previous diet. A very major change. It also takes into account a realistic view of who I am, what I can tolerate, what I can actually do, and what I can stick with. --Mike]

I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian. Can't do it. But, I think it's important to reduce the amount of meat one consumes. There are two ways to do this:

1. Eat smaller portions of meat (half a chicken breast rather than a whole one).
2. Try to make a few days a week vegetarian or vegan. Start with say three and work your way up. I doubt I can do more than four. But three or four is something.

The best diet is the one you can live with that does you the most good and/or the least harm. For some, that may include foods others would never touch. So be it. Besides, wildcards such as genetics can take out the best eaters (and exercisers) among us, so it is all a crap shoot anyway.

Don't get hung up on any diet plan. The old rule is still valid - if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Yes. it must be a balanced diet without excluding carbs, protein or fat, etc. Thats why exercise helps, in addition to its cardiovascular and other benefits. And if your exercise includes strengh work, your weight will not drop as much, since the muscle you build weighs more than fat. But your percent body fat will drop.And thats what you want. Moderation is really the key.

[As I said before, I disagree with a lot of what you say here. But then it should be clear now that there's not a lot of agreement on this topic. --Mike]

I’ve been vegan for years and, before that, vegetarian for decades. I’m ridiculously healthy--my doctor can’t believe it. When people learn my age (far from young!) they display considerable shock and disbelief. But my diet is not foremost about myself; it is about the innocent, defenseless victims of industrial agriculture, who are mostly subjected to horrendous torture every single day of their lives. Excellent documentary, for those unfamiliar:

Shorter video:

Mike, here’s a quote from you:

“I'm intolerant of . . . cruelty (cruelty especially), selfishness, unkindness, . . . brutality, immorality . . . .”

I suggest you consider a first step of boycotting factory-farmed animal products. They are truly vile and disgusting. They are produced through atrocities. They are destroying the environment. They are a threat to individual health and public health. Factory-farmed eggs, meat, and dairy have virtually nothing in common with the wild equivalents that made up a small part of the diets of early humans. They are industrial products and can properly be considered to be petroleum products:

Unfortunately, 99% of eggs, meat, and dairy are from factory farms today--and many of them are labeled to suggest otherwise. Do careful research. If you have access to a Whole Foods Market, buy the meats there that get an animal welfare rating in the green range. Don’t buy any eggs except “pastured” or “pasture raised” (even “cage-free” and “free-range” are brutally cruel products). Be highly suspicious of feel-good, “humane myth” labels and marketing.

If there were under a billion humans on the planet, most of them could eat a little bit of the better-produced animal products regularly. The planet cannot support any large-scale production. For now, such products may be a good first step for you. Another interim solution is the fake meats; no, they most certainly are not health foods but have been an important part of the transition for many people. Here’s a guide for making such a transition:

I’m lucky that I live in a West-coast metropolis that seems custom made for vegans. I understand that it isn’t easy for everyone. It is extremely easy for me. I eat every sort of vegetable, whole grain, bean/legume, nut, seed, fruit, herb, spice etc. in preparations varied from Italian to Indian to Japanese, Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Mexican, Greek, Thai, contemporary American/Californian and on and on. I indulge every so often with vegan junk food.

Always at the top of my heart and the front of my mind is the defenseless victims who suffer so horribly. I do it all for them, but my health benefits enormously.

I hope this is at least partially what you were asking for. Thanks and good luck.

Your caveman comment about brussels sprouts brings to mind my ponderings on things like eggs and lobster (both of which I eat and enjoy).

Specifically, who was the first person to see an egg fall out of a bird's butt and say "Hey guys, let's eat that!" Similarly, who was the first fisherman to pull a gigantic, flapping, clawed insect-looking creature from the ocean and say, "Hey look! Dinner!"

Food blogger Denise Minger wrote critiques of the China Study that I found interesting. She writes in a lively style that kept me reading into the fine details. Even if you don't trust her work, scholarly papers written by Dr. Campbell and others paint a different picture.

Google china study criticism if you're interested.

I am a septuagenarian and more or less a vegetarian. I stopped eating meat in the early 1970's; I still eat seafood, dairy, and have at least a couple of drinks in the evenings. I exercise every day - I mix it up, run, hike in the woods, ride my bike, or work in my garden. And I say - as you get older you have to work harder and harder at it if you want to stick around for a bit longer.

My recommendation is to put more emphasis on physical exercise, running, biking, swimming, gym/weight training. Anyone with a sedentary lifestyle without exercise will gain weight. There is no miracle diet or pill on this planet that will help you shed weight. You have to get out there for a minimum of one hour every day and do some aerobic and anaerobic exercise ...

I went paleo two years ago after I started gaining weight when age caught up with me, and my superfast metabolism started slowing down (I'm in my late 30s). I lost 25kg on it and by continuing moderate weightlifting program. I have kept the kilos off by staying on a "primal" diet (essentially paleo with limited dairy, and the occasional non-paleo feast).

Other benefit is that (to quote Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory) "my bowel movements run like a German train schedule."

Dogmatic paleo, vegetarianism, veganism, Atkins, etc. easily becomes orthorexia - not to mention misguided idealism -, and cause of unnecessary stress. In other words, the very pursuit of healthy lifestyle might not be healthy in some cases.

Therefore I think you're on the right path, by recognizing what you are not willing to compromise on, while making necessary - and hopefully sufficient - changes for body recomposition. As much as I eat whole foods and prepare 99% of all my food myself, I'm not giving up my gin&tonics or Finnish liquorice.

Reconsider the fruits and vegetables, it ain't about liking, it's about anti-oxidants and cancer prevention.

Also, if looking for some good reading material on nutrition, I've always been a fan of Patrick Holford who takes a pretty all encompassing view of nutrition, from energy needs, vitamins & minerals to disease and cancer prevention and mental health. You don't have to take it all on board overnight, but I find his books a good compass for nutrition.

I'm slowly re-introducing more and more veggies into the diet after staying with a fit 70 year old woman for a couple weeks. We both share what seems like a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. She eats a lot of nuts, fresh greens daily, a fair amount of fish, venison and other game, lots of berries, and oatmeal. She just finished her annual summer trip to subsistence dipnet for salmon in the Copper river (by herself, off the rocks in a canyon). So I'm inspired, at 48. Plus I've done the 5+2 fasting thing and to me it's not torture at all, but rather a relief because it requires so little brain power (just a bit of 600 calorie will power a couple days a week). So far it has taken off a not missed 10 lbs.

Good luck with your own custom approach. I bet if you wrote a template guide for designing individualized diets it might sell! Your personal approach sounds like a good one for a middle aged, Midwestern, single man who skipped the whole "foodie" thing.

I would suggest you consider learning to stir fry. I started this a few years ago and it's been great. Buy a cheap carbon steel wok from the local Asian supermarket for about $10. Follow a youtube tutorial on how to season it properly - pretty easy. Get some peanut oil and some sesame oil - peanut for the main cooking, sesame at end for a bit of flavour and aroma. I mostly stir fry carrot, zucchini, beans, snow peas and capsicum. A decent meal costs less than $3 buying from the local fresh fruit & veg shop. Cooking time is about 5 minutes, prep time about 10. Tastes great, easy to clean up and undeniably good food. Sometimes I will add rice noodles, tempeh, steamed or fried rice, etc, so it's quite adaptable.

Mike, I realize I'm late to the party here, but I think it's important to re-emphasize a couple of points your commenters alluded to about exercise; without any mention of the lifestyle you're seeking to live or maintain it's futile to make suggestions about what to fuel your body with.

I eat fast food a few times a week and like yourself also struggle with the nighttime munchies so also make frequent trips to 7-11. I usually eat salads for lunch and whatever's easiest for dinner. My strategy is one of utter convenience and common sense.

The footnote is that I've been grappling on and off for over ten years, usually making it to class four to six days a week. I'm about six feet tall and walk around at 185lbs, which I'm working to get down to 175 and I'd say about 90% of the time I eat what I want.

Perhaps you're fighting the wrong battle? Instead of trying to work out your diet with alchemy maybe you need to find something physical you enjoy first?

Mike, if you did a Paleolithic diet you'd feel much better. Modern man has been around for hundreds of thousands of years but only discovered agriculture about 10,000 years ago. Our system wasn't meant to live on grains nor was our digestive tract developed for only vegan fare. Eat meat and fish but don't overdo it. Fill up on a lot of greens, fruits and nuts. Cut out excessive dairy products and carbs in general. Our body, when it needs to, transforms proteins into carbs. You'd be surprise how fast you can start feeling better. It's no use to have a good diet if you don't exercise though.

I was a vegetarian for about 8 years. Love the food, but I didn't lose any weight on it. I I always felt hungry on the vegetarian diet since I ate lots of carbs like rice and potatoes and sweets. So I ate a lot. And gained weight.

I have briefly tried a vegan diet and it wasn't for me. I had massive swings in energy levels. I did enjoy the food, but I didn't feel nearly as good on it as I do my current diet. But some vegans say the opposite, so I think this has got to be very personal, and one diet definitely doesn't fit all.

I went off the vegetarian diet and tried Atkins to lose some weight, which I did. But then went back to a "normal" diet with lot's of carbs. I put the weight back on, and then some. I was almost 200 pounds at 5'10".

18 months ago I went back to a low carb diet and am down to roughly 165. I eat lots of vegetables, nuts, cheese, meat, nuts and a tiny bit of lower carb fruits like berries. I feel good, am hardly ever hungry and have very little in the way of cravings, which I agree are a major problem. I plan to stay on this type of diet long term, since I feel better than I have eating any other way. My blood chemistry is also much improved.

Please go back to talking about pool

At home is a good qualifier!

Mike: We sold the 10-acre garden property, living a simpler life now...just a 1/4 acre. Retired as well, so couldn't afford to keep the big spread, unless I wanted to weed and mow 24/7, since hiring help now out of the question.

I have been enjoying the posts and comments about eating.

I think that to rule out the role exercise in weight loss (and longevity - one of your stated aims) is a mistake. In my experience, moderate exercise alone will not result in weight loss, as your appetite (and food intake) will increase accordingly. Prolonged strenuous exercise aside (trekking in Nepal, for instance), a combination of diet with moderate exercise can be extremely effective and have major health benefits. Approached correctly (e.g., joining a club or league, picking up a new sport), exercise can be even be fun, leading to a lifestyle change where healthy eating follows the desire to do your personal best in your chosen sport.

I say V+1. I made up the name, so don't look it up on the web! It means Vegan, +1 kg of quality meat per week. I guess Americans might call it V+2 (pounds).

It is true that our early ancestors ate between 1/3 and 2/3 of their diet as meat, and the balance as vegetable, without dairy and restricted grain. So that is what we are best suited to. Adaptation to variations (involving modern grain, dairy, or all-meat or all-vegetable/vegan) will vary from individual to individual. You would need to be a human guinea pig to find your personal level of adaptation, and wait 50 years for results: it's not worth it.

Meat is healthy for humans in principle, but we are too sedentary, and eat too much of it, and much of it in fatty sausage forms. Non-athletes need to have about 1 kg per week and relatively lean. You can make a decent, torture-free life out of that allowance.

Milk might be quite nutritious, but bear in mind that it is a custom-designed-by-nature food to make baby cows gain about 1 kg per week in weight. Also, no adult animal in the world eats milk. It is a baby-only food in nature, made for adding weight and fat cells and rapid growth. As adults, we don't need that. Milk might be from nature, but eating it as an adult is not natural at all. Same goes for cream and cheese. Just replace it with rice milk or other non-dairy 'milk', instead of drastically changing the way you use milk in your diet.

Grains are not evil, but nor are they all equal. Stick to oats and barleys and heavy rye breads, which are low GI and will tend to reduce the amount you eat anyway.

Fruit and vegetable are essentially open slather. Fruits were originally only available seasonally, and were a bonus treat to our diet, so a fun option, with a nod to authenticity, would be only to eat fruits that are in season at the time, in your hemisphere. This would add interest and variety, and discourage the tendency to eat favorites 'every day'.

V+1! (with an occasionally open menu, e.g. at dinner parties or a night out)

P.S. I had a good laugh over your Addendum: how true!!

As a baby, I was allergic to everything, including my mother's milk, and was raised on beef protein extract (which I used to love, yuk!). This was solved by three years of exclusion diets followed by five years of twice weekly injections. But I now develop intolerances to any food that I eat too often on a regular basis. My motto for my diet is therefore, "variety and moderation". It's also not a bad motto for living generally.

It's funny none of your books mentioned "everything in moderation." I suppose in the age of niche, there's no place for it.

I read (or watched) a documentary about how cholesterol levels in grain-fed beef is much higher than in grass-fed beef. And cows become mad from eating meat, which herbivores shouldn't do.

We keep tampering with how evolution designed things. How can we be this stupid?

I'm 63 years old and live in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Within 10 miles of my house there are dozens of restaurants of every kind... from fast food to elegant white table cloth dining. The parking lots of ALL the restaurants are nearly full every noon and evening.

I think part of the obesity epidemic has to do with the greatly increased frequency of dining out in America. I know people that dine out every day and the portion sizes in American restaurants are ridiculous. And, how in the world can we measure the calories in the meal the server sets in front of us?

When I was a kid we ran around with our friends all day (iPods and video games were science fiction then) and then went home for a dinner prepared by our moms. Now, dining out has become the basis for the majority of our social life. I have cut WAY back on dining out and my waist line is shrinking.

Good luck,
All I can add is to chew your food slowly so that it takes 20 minutes to eat: apparently 20 mins of chewing, saliva production or whatever makes your body think it's eaten more than it has.
Use smaller plates so the same amount of food looks like a larger portion; this fools your mind into thinking it's eaten more.

Take this advice with a pinch of salt (if you have that saying, and if it's not bad for your heart!).

best wishes

Just caught up on these posts. Very interesting to read about your "approach" and great that it's sustainable for you. Are you still cycling, Mike?

• Obsessing about anything is not good for your health.

@ Scott L. : Yes, absolutely. Everything you said. I cant add a single thing to it.

For those (thinking about you, too, Mike) proposing all sorts of other types, schemes, etc. Read carefully what Scott wrote and think about it. Understand that an important part of all this is looking past ones' own self and considering the environment, our resources, and other creatures (animal and human). If the shocking inhumanity of factory meat production isnt enough consider that there is simply no way to consume the amount of animal flesh that we do in this society without taking food, literally, from others.

Oh Mike, on the "what would I eat" issue? Since we went vegan I simply cannot believe the variety of taste, textures, colors, and smell that is now our food. Truly astonishing to me.

Look at it the other way: how varied is your diet now? 2 or 3 kinds of meat, a few veggies, a few fruits? How can you stand the boredom?

vegetarian, an old Indian word for bad hunter.

I lost 110lb over the course of a year by eating less of everything (1/2) cutting out in between meal eating. And more importantly increased the variety of food I eat. It's been 5 years and I've keep it off. Important tip! Splurge every now and then, a hair shirt gets to itch if it not taken off once in awhile.
Humans are meant to eat everything, not just one of the food groups

John Passaneau Photographer of stationary objects

Two points, even though I am late to add anything.

Spices: learn to use them and find out which ones you like. Bland food or a repetitive diet will be a lot better by learning to use spices. YUM!

Exercise: Every photo you want to take, requires that you walk or bike there. :-)

Hi Mike,

Just wanted to chip in on the side of "keep up with the OT articles". Much as I greatly enjoy the photo stuff from yourself and the other contributors, life is broader than that. Simply, I enjoy your writing and themes.

FWIW yours is the only blog I actual pay some money for, if that helps weight my opinion any :-)

Not looking for this to be posted (but feel free if you want to).


I used to wonder how one would pursue a proper vegetarian diet, because veg is boring isn't it? Anyway, then I went to India for the first time.....

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