Otagenki Report 2: Fit Expo 2014

I really was not expecting to enjoy myself so much at Fit Expo 2014, because Fit Expo 2013 was such a lame experience. I don’t know if the people who run the show read my piece on this blog, but this time it was a big difference.

It seems like a new, and very welcome IMHO trend is REAL FOOD. Yes, you now can get a fair choice of nutrition bars and other fitness goodies that have ingredients you know and can pronounce. The only food like that you could find last year was at the Ralphs booth, and from a small company that sends a box of organic produce to your house every month. Yes, the frankenfood peddlers were still there, as were some very questionable supplements, (Ephedra? Oh really?) but there were a lot more items that were labeled organic, and a lot more with identifiable ingredients.

Another difference was a lot more experiential stuff…a lot more exercises to try, and mini-classes. The exhibitions were more interesting too, including some amazing feats of strength by professional athletes and very well trained amateurs.

So yeah, here’s another Otagenki Report. This doesn’t have any commentary…my goal with the Otagenki Reports is to tell the story with footage, not with words. I want to create something universal, that’s understandable in any language. I’ve always loved video essays and photo essays, they’re a real art form, and narration sort of breaks the mood.

Sometimes you learn something unexpected.

MargarineVsButter
(click photo to enlarge)

Take a close look at this picture. On the left is a margarine tub. Canola Harvest. From a Canadian company based in Alberta. On the right is a tub of whipped butter, Challenge brand, from a California dairy. Read the ingredients. Read the calorie count. Read the amount of sodium. Now, whipped butter includes a fair amount of air whipped into it to make it more spreadable and give it more volume. I grew up on margarine instead of stick butter, so something spreadable in a tub is sort of personal preference.

So yeah…science is now saying that the move away from butter to margarine was not a good idea, and that the hydrogenation process used to make liquid oils solid made something far worse than saturated fat for our cardiovascular health. The Canola/Palm oil margarine on the left does not have hydrogenated oils in it, but it has way more sodium than the butter, and more calories when you compare the volume of margarine vs. the volume of whipped butter. Yes, if you go by weight, the margarine serving is heavier than the whipped butter. But our eyes see volume instead of weight, so ultimately the amount that fills a tablespoon is the same. That tablespoon’s worth of the whipped butter looks, to our eyes, like that tablespoon of margarine.

And where the difference really becomes clear is when you look at the ingredients list on the margarine vs. the butter. Butter: cream and salt. Margarine: a long list of substances that are hard to pronounce and go halfway down the package. And then there’s also the fact that the butter came from a dairy in California, and the margarine is from thousands upon thousands of miles away. Local food is better than non-local food for the Planet.

Moderation is key in all things. You don’t want to be eating out of that tub of whipped butter with a spoon. But the occasional bit of it on a potato or on a whole wheat English Muffin is fine. And probably better for you than those mystery ingredients in that tub of margarine.

Frankenfoods, Frankensupplements, and your liver.

Green Tea Fields, Japan

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/us/spike-in-harm-to-liver-is-tied-to-dietary-aids.html

I drink a fair amount of green tea nearly every day. I’ve been doing so for about a year, when I substituted homemade, unsweetened iced tea for my Pepsi MAX habit of 2-4 cans a day. I don’t do artificial sweeteners anymore, (with the occasional lapse or accidental consumption, mind you) and I keep nutritive sweeteners to a minimum. If I drink a sweetened beverage, chances are it’s sweetened with Stevia or Monkfruit extract, or a blend of both.

However, steeping tea in water is one thing, using chemicals to extract the maximum amount of catechins from green tea leaves, then concentrating that extract, is yet another. A glass of wine at dinner is pretty much a good thing, unless you are taking meds that specifically do not allow alcohol consumption. However, chugging a whole jug of red table wine is harmful, to say the least. A few cups of green tea, spread out over a morning and early afternoon, is fine. But taking large doses of diet supplements with green tea extract in it can screw up your liver even faster than alcohol abuse, apparently.

I strongly believe that the closer to nature food is, the better it is for you. You can’t always eat that way but the more fresh stuff you eat and the less processed stuff you eat, the better off you will be. Unfortunately, the Diet Industrial Complex and the Bodybuilding Industrial Complex is very successful in selling special food and special supplements to people trying to either lose weight or gain muscle. It’s a huge business, and last year I saw it in action, up close and personal.

Even if you don’t want to check out that link, I want you to take a look at this picture. Check out the hellbroth of chemicals in this supplement, and all the disclaimers. It’s scary stuff.

Holy Disclaimers, Batman!

Seriously, that’s a packet of “high performance fitness supplement” I was given at that event. Do you think anyone wades through all that verbiage before popping one or two in hopes they can get that leg up on weight loss or training? Of course not! We should not be surprised that doctors are seeing really scary side effects from these supplements and pseudo-meals. There’s also the way some people train that’s very dangerous…yes, I like Crossfit, but people take it to extremes and some people wind up coming down with Rhabdomyosis, which is a muscle wasting disease that actually can be brought about by insane overtraining.

The fact of the matter is this: health should be the goal of any fitness and/or eating regimen. If you are endangering your health in the chase after skinny or buff, you are missing the point completely.

The Reasons Poor People Might Not Eat Healthy

Poor people are being priced out of the real food market. This is why you see a lot of obese poor people.

Poor as Folk

I see  a lot of discussions regarding the topic of people living on food stamps/ poor people and “Why can’t they just eat right?” and talks about not letting people buy “junk food” with SNAP.  There are a lot of things your average American who has never lived in poverty don’t consider. People largely seem unaware of obstacles that face poor people when it comes to food or…well…anything at all. They’re failing to grasp that just getting enough food period is a challenge , let alone healthy food.  I’ve had to become a very forgiving person when I see certain remarks but it’s become easier since I’ve made this connection that people who say these things are speaking from a place of privilege and  ignorance and really don’t understand the complexities of food scarcity in the US.

Here are 5 reasons good food is hard to find for poor people sometimes.

1. FOOD DESERTS –…

View original post 1,515 more words

An apple a day…or maybe 5…

I love this little animated piece…

It points up one of the worst problems in US farm policy: corn and soy, prime ingredients in junk food, are heavily subsidized by the USDA. However, the food we really need to eat more of to be healthy, fruits and veggies, are not subsidized and often there are roadblocks put in the way for farmers who want to grow them. We need to change farm policy — and the SNAP program — to emphasize fruits and veggies, and de-emphasize King Corn and Queen Soy. Especially the GMO versions of same.

Eating clean shouldn’t be more expensive than eating dirty.

Applying SCIENCE to the problem.

SCIENCE! What causes obesity…is it a simple matter of calories in, calories out, or is it what we eat rather than how much we eat?

Scientists are finally going to do some serious study on the matter. I am looking forward to what comes of this experiment. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for it…the study is estimated to finish in 5 years.

Read about it here:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-makes-you-fat-too-many-calories-or-the-wrong-carbohydrates

Emphasis and de-emphasis

image

OK, I have been thinking about a whole new way of looking at food. Instead of saying “I can’t eat this,” or that I’ve given up a food or a category of foods, I am going to say “I have de-emphasized this food and I will emphasize other foods in what I eat on a day-to-day basis.”

For example, instead of saying “I have given up dairy,” it would be more like, “I have de-emphasized dairy in favor of non-dairy sources of calcium.” Yes it’s a semantic game. But semantics are important: that’s how we program ourselves mentally.

It means complete liberation from the idea of “forbidden foods.” The legends of Adam and Eve, and of Pandora, all have to do with “the one forbidden thing” that creates an uncontrollable urge to indulge in that same “one forbidden thing.” In terms of healthy eating, forbidden foods set us up for binging on those forbidden foods.

Some people can do the diet game. Some people do it very well, Ali Vincent is a good example. However, there are a lot of people who cannot. I will venture to say that most people do not have the mental makeup to diet healthily. For most people, it becomes a cycle of going on a diet, falling off the wagon, and then getting back on after a period of self-recrimination. For some, it means adopting unhealthy behaviors, my mom being one of those.

So yeah, instead of being on that particular merry go round, I will simply say that there are no forbidden foods for me, that I will be emphasizing certain foods in my daily intake, and de-emphasizing others. I will also be paying closer attention to hunger and fullness signals from my body, eating only when hungry and no more than is necessary.

I already know from experience that there are foods that make me feel less than healthy after eating them. Those are foods from which I will stay away,  not because they are “forbidden” but because I know they have negative effects on my wellness. I know how I feel after eating pizza from most places. I know how I feel after eating one of those greasy, butter-drenched pretzels from the mall.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at regarding food philosophy. But how does that fit in with that picture of my wrist with my Fitbit Flex? OK, second subject. I have pretty much figured out that my activity measurement device of choice is the Flex.

I have tried standard and motion- sensing pedometers in the past. I have tried GPS units, both on my mobile phone and a wristwatch unit. But nothing compares to the simplicity and relative accuracy of Fitbit in general and Flex in particular.

Simplicity: it’s on your non-dominant wrist all the time. I only take it off when showering, but that’s unnecessary caution. Theoretically you can swim with it on.

Relative accuracy: it’s accurate enough, although not as accurate as my Garmin. It is also accurate in far more places than any GPS that you can get. GPS requires being out of doors. Fitbit keeps measuring activity indoors and out. It doesn’t pick up everything you do, which is a double-edged sword. This means that it’s good at rejecting things like typing on a computer, but it’s not good at measuring walking in place or on a rebounder.

So yeah, Fitbit Flex is a bit more expensive than a pedometer or the GPS that comes with your phone, but it’s worth it. And it is certainly less expensive than most wrist GPS units. The little Garmin I have is about the same price. However, it’s worth it.

The Fake Food industry and the Diet-Industrial Complex…

hand in glove.

I’m not surprised by this revelation, but I’m sure some will be. The same companies who engineer food-like substances for maximum addictiveness are the same that are also getting into the diet business and pushing it hard.

Let’s look at the rogues’ gallery:

  • Nestlé: Jenny Craig
  • Heinz: Weight Watchers
  • Unilever: SlimFast

And what else do these multinationals serve up?

  • Nestlé: Nesquik, Hot Pockets, Stouffer’s, Tombstone Pizza…
  • Heinz: Ore-Ida Potatoes, Bagel Bites, TGI Friday’s Frozen Foods…
  • Unilever: Knorr, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Ragu Spaghetti Sauce, Klondike Bar…

In short, they get you coming and going. They get you through thick and thin. Perhaps it’s time to ditch the Frankenfood for some real food for a change?

ChewBakas, an attempted Paleo remix (UPDATED)

This version is good for a lot of people who eat Paleo. Oats have been replaced with Quinoa. However, this recipe is not Vegan…there is an egg in the mix to help the Quinoa bind together. Like the oat version, this has no added sugar save for the sweetness of the applesauce, bananas, and the dried fruit.

Quinoa, however, is an ingredient that is actually controversial with people who eat Paleo. A friend of mine who does eat Paleo no longer eats Quinoa. “Yeah, it’s a seed, not a grain, however, it has been found to behave like grain in your body.”

So yeah, back to the drawing board on this. If you want to try this, go right ahead. However, I really do prefer the Oat version of the bars to the Quinoa version, and I am not interested in personally going Paleo. It engenders too much of a “dieting” mindset, and because of my family history of eating disorders I can’t allow myself to fall into that mindset.

Ingredients
Coconut Oil Spray
3 cups cooked Quinoa
1/2 cup nut mix (any nuts you like, just 1/2 cup of them)
1/2 cup fruit mix (any fruits you like, just 1/2 cup of them)
1/4 cup seed mix (by seeds I mean seeds like poppy, sesame, flax or hemp, just 1/4 cup total)
(optional) 1/4 cup each roasted unsweetened cocoa nibs and unsweetened coconut.
(Just the unsweetened coconut is fine too…unsweetened cocoa nibs are hard to find.)
1 egg
3 ripe bananas
1/3 + 1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Prep
Preheat oven to 350F.

Dry mixture: add oats, oat bran, nut mix, fruit mix, seed mix, cocoa nibs, and coconut to a large bowl.

Wet mixture: in a food processor or a blender, liquify the three bananas and the applesauce together. Add the extracts, the egg and the cinnamon. Whisk until combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until well-combined.

This time I made them in two 12 x 8 x 1.33 baking pans, and it yielded 24 bars. This yields a more crumbly bar. It also needs more time to set up…45 minutes to cook.