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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fat Chance

I was first introduced to the work of Dr. Robert Lustig when he was interviewed for a nutrition course I took on Coursera last year. I was already aware of the dietary evils of sugar, thanks to my sister loaning me her copy of Potatoes, Not Prozac many years ago, so Dr. Lustig's pronouncements against this substance came as no great shock, but I thought he made a clear, compelling and evidence-based case. Later, I watched his 90-minute presentation, which has more than 4 million views on YouTube, and I've read several news stories on his anti-sugar crusade.

So what more could I learn by reading his book? Enough to make it worthwhile to check out from the library. The key point -- sugar is a toxin and likely the primary culprit in the obesity epidemic -- has already been disclosed in the news stories and videos. Fat Chance provides scientific background, practical consumer suggestions, and some public policy recommendations.

The practical suggestions, which will be of the most interest to readers of this blog, are in the shortest section of the book and are general recommendations. This is not a diet book. It doesn't have a 14-day plan or recipes (although a separate cookbook provides those). Dr. Lustig's diet advice resembles what you would get from any certified nutritionist or Michael Pollan: avoid processed food, eat whole fruits and vegetables and foods rich in fiber, and exercise regularly.

At last night's dinner meeting, I resolved on some new personal food rules based on my understanding of Dr. Lustig's book and sound advice from other sources. My new plan:

1. Limit my consumption of sugar, or any food with added fructose, to one day a week.
2. Increase fiber by eating legumes daily, avoiding refined grains, and of course, including vegetables in every meal.
3. Eat an apple a day.
4. Limit alcohol to one glass of red wine a day.
5. Eat all food at the table. If I'm not hungry enough to sit down, I'm not hungry enough to eat.
6. Eat only satisfied, not until full.
7. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly.
8. Eat fermented food daily -- yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, kimchi, etc.
9. Exercise daily. Cardio every day, yoga or stretching every day, and resistance or strength at least three times a week.

This seems reasonable.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Good morning, fitness friends!

The holidays are over and we can now be guided by our good intentions to eat better and exercise more. According to a poll, the most popular New Year's resolution is to "lose weight," with "exercise" and "eat healthier" as separate goals in the top five. So, odds are, you or someone you know is currently recommitting to a diet and exercise plan.

What works? The team behind the Lift App aim to find out by enrolling volunteers in a quantified diet study for the next four weeks. I'm participating and following the DASH diet, which basically seems to be what I was eating most days anyway. I suppose the trick will be to mindfully follow it every day.

I'm also reading Dr. Robert Lustig's book, Fat Chance, to bolster my efforts to avoid sugar. Sugar isn't a banned substance in my diet, but I've learned to treat it as something I should stay away from most days.

We're blessed or cursed, depending on perspective, to live in an age of information overload, so finding resources to help with your food and fitness goals is easy. Whittling away the nonsense can be challenging. I'll continue to share links here and in my Flipboard magazine from sources I trust (although I will occasionally flip something just because it's interesting and provocative).

One of my favorite blogs for healthy recipes is Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. If you want to stop reading my blog and just read hers, I wouldn't blame you! Of the many delicious recipes and ideas she shares, I'd like to draw your attention to the kale rice bowl, which makes a frequent appearance in various configurations on my weeknight dinner table. It is easy, tasty and versatile, meaning just about anything in it can be substituted for something similar you have on hand. And it would be considered a complete, balanced meal for most diet plans, except perhaps the grain-shunning paleo. Give it a try!