Culture of Eating
I love being an American; I’m thankful everyday that my parents immigrated to the US back in the ‘70’s, the freedoms which we have, and the opportunity which we have for socioeconomic mobility is unparalleled, as is the diversity with which we exist every day. Unless you live in a very rural part of the country you will almost assuredly come into contact with someone whose family is a recent immigrant. Yet this diversity which makes our society so great and rounded is also the reason why we have identity issues when it comes to defining what is American.
When a society ceases to be homogenous, it loses with it a single identify, and takes on the identity of the sum of its parts, regardless of how wide a cultural gap may exist from extreme to extreme. With every new immigrant wave that enters our country it brings with it a piece of a new identify, as the newly found Americans choose to assimilate in some areas yet choose to retain to their cultural heritage in others. This same notion exists within our food culture.
Michael Pollan brings up a fantastic point in Omnivores Dilemma, of how not having a single minded food culture leaves us open to diet fads, and nutritional mantras built on the back of pseudo science. Ours is a food society no longer developed from a single nutritional school taught by our parents, but is one derived from nutritionist, dieticians, and health professionals. We talk more about macronutrient information, in relation to volume than we do to communicate thoughts on taste, flavor or texture.
This has created a situation which makes us easily influenced by marketers, and turned what is central to our existence into cheap commodities, where grocery store slogans like “Stack it high, and sell it cheap” can exist without punitive reproach.
In another book written by Michael Pollan titled “In Defense of Food” he goes into a discussion about how the lack of a solid ingrained food culture, has left our dietary choices to that of the whim of marketers who are more concerned about moving product than our health.
What price do we pay by choosing cheap prices and higher quantity of food as opposed to higher priced lower quantity items?
Scientific research has shown that the less you eat the healthier you are, calorie restriction has been shown in animals to slow down the aging process, prolong life span, and many scientist believe there is a direct link between diet and cancer.
Eating too much promotes cell division, and promotes most dramatically cellular growth in cancer cells. Cutting back on calories, slows cell division, and stifles the production of free radicals; it curbs inflammation, and reduces risk of most western diseases.
A recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that people who were active yet still obese had a mortality rate 91% higher than that of a thin and active people.
So we are faced with a twofold problem, first we have to choose what to eat, and how much of it. The first problem is relatively simple we have to choose foods which are nutrient dense foods; essentially you have to get the highest nutritional bang for your buck or in this case bang for calorie. Try eating 8 ounces of chicken breast, 2 cups of spinach, 1 cup of mushrooms, and 1 cup of broccoli with a 2 tbsp of light dressing and see if you are full. All total this meal will amount to about 370 calories total, compared to 200 calories for 1 Kripsy Kreme donut, it’s a no brainer to understand which one will fill you up, and which one you need to eat more of to even begin to feel full.
The second problem is portion size. Because we don’t have an inherent food culture which tells us like the Okinawan’s that you should stop eating when you are 80% full or a cultural food stigma like the French that it’s improper to go for seconds, we find ourselves using outside influences to help us determine when enough is enough.
A study conducted by a Cornell Professor Brian Wansink who is a specialist in Marketing and Diet, showed that Americans pay more attention to external cues rather than internal ones to determine satiety. He conducted a study were he rigged bowls of soup which would automatically refill from the bottom, these test subjects ate 73% more than the control group which ate from a regular bowl of soup, many ate as much as a quart of soup.
Wansink also conducted another study where stale popcorn was given to theater goers, with some of them getting medium size bags and others getting large size bags. When asked the test subjects who had the larger bags if they thought they ate more than the people with medium size bags because they were given a larger bag the majority answered “no”. The reality of it was that when the bags were weighed at the end of the movie those with the larger bags on average ate 53% more stale popcorn.
Why is that we as Americans need this external force to tell us enough is enough, why is necessary that an empty plate, or empty container is what tells us to stop eating? Does this lack of ability to control what we eat internally come from a place because we have no true food culture, or because we have chosen for years to eat based on cost and volume as opposed to quality and taste?
By eating better foods we will satisfy the energy needs that our body requires, rather than satisfying a need to just consume. In choosing foods based on uncorrupted flavor, and picking foods which are low on the food chain we will eat foods which are derive energy from the sun and soil. We are not just what we eat anymore, but we are what our food eats. If our foods are grown or produced via unnatural methods including pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, then those elements will find their way into our bodies, yet if we choose organics and pasture produced foods we will be consuming the sun and soils plethora of nourishment.
I realize this a bunch of hippie shit, but if we choose to pay more for better food, we will live longer, be happier, and find ourselves in overall better health. Don’t say it costs too much, because that’s a lie, 20 years ago did anyone have an extra $50 – $100 a month for a cell phone?
Make the choices, I have and you can’t imagine how great I feel. Beyond the workouts, this fundamental change in what I eat, how much of it I eat, has permanently changed my health. I too am an American, and suffer from the need of external cues to tell me I’m eating too much, fortunately I am piling my plate high with vegetables so the fall out is not as negative, yet I am trying to learn to listen to my body, and create a personal food culture which is based on my ethnic origin, and my nationality (that is USA).
Eat based on taste, quality of food, and not on buying cheap calories to satisfy a sugar rush. Take the challenge. Try going two weeks without eating any refined carbs, so no breads, rice, or crackers for two weeks. See if you feel better eating more fresh raw vegetables, and fruits, I assure you will not only feel better but will add time to your overall life expectancy.
My morning workout with Ian was again not as I expected. On Tuesday towards the end of the workout he told me that Thursday we would work on strength, so I thought great nothing cardio intensive.
Thursdays are apparently “kill me now” Thursdays. He introduced a new concept called autoregulation., from the e-mail which gave me a chubby:
“Autoregulatory workouts are designed to maximize output at a neurological level and increase the connection between what your brain wants your body to do and what your body actually does. The reason that we are incorporating them into your training is to build a solid neuromuscular linkage to sustain your efforts through the work to come. As you start to move heavier objects and get stronger, you will need to make sure to channel each individual effort into a peak output. To do it, the signal leaving your brain and headed to your muscles has to be as strong and clear as possible. This method is relevant to you for one simple reason… You are about to start winning big…Autoregulation makes sure that the the parts of the system are all in tune with each other so that we can isolate inefficiencies based on the idea that everything is in sync. Doing this makes sure that we are constantly moving in the right direction at the optimum pace…”
He started me on something called “M-90”, which is a variation on M-100. I had to do 10 assisted burpees, 10 four count mountain climbers, and 10 squat into squat jumps. This was done for 3 cycles, which ended up being 90 reps which is where the 90 comes from following the “M”. After the warm up I knew I had brought the wrong brain, because I was not anticipating ramping my heart rate up.
Each exercise we did was done with a weight that was about 80% of my overall capacity, within each set I would do only 5 reps. In any given lifting scenario if you think low reps then you think maximum weight, that’s not the case with autoregulation. In doing the 5 reps, the focus had to be on power, and speed. Ian kept using the analogy of a marathon runners muscle composition versus that of a sprinters, something about the fast twitch muscles.
I started with a flat bench press using 50 lb dumbbells, in doing each rep I would lower the weights with control, but power the dumbbells upward as if I was trying to throw them into the air. To give a bigger chest burn Ian had me rotate my wrists inward so the dumbbells would rotate and touch.
Following the chest press we did a Hang and Clean, a Push Press, and a Dead lift. We followed the same principle of being explosive, focusing on form, and controlling the weight.
After each exercise was complete, Ian had me a single cycle of the M-90 (I guess you could call it M-30). This was done to keep my heart rate moving between exercises.
Every exercise we did, didn’t have predetermined number of sets, it was about working until the form started breaking down to the point where it would hurt me more than help. I think each exercise I did somewhere between 6-8 sets of 5.
We finished up with some bicep curls and core work both of which really sucked, we did several variations of the bicep curls, but the main one he had me do was curl with resistance bands while holding a 5 lb dumbbell. I can’t believe how sore my biceps feel now. It was a strange feeling because you have the unstable nature of the resistance bands, with the consistent pressure of the dumbbell.
The last thing we did was some core. Let the video speak for itself. My abs are still sore, although I’m sure some of it is left over from core class. It was just one of several similar exercises.
I'm looking forward to a weekend off after tomorrow, and hoping to give a big uppercut to my competitors this week.