The SECRET to weight LOSS

I feel that this needs a special banner, as it's probably the secret the most people in the West want to know (lucky us: in Venezuela and North Korea, among other disastrous regimes, most people want to know how they can be well-fed again). 

I'm interested in nutrition fads and diet trends, and everything to do with how we live well, mind and body. It's sort of an occasional hobby. With a certain usually amused detachment I have watched our health gurus condemn salt, butter, bacon, eggs (or more precisely, yolks), alcohol, white bread, refined wheat in general, chicken skins and saturated fats, and of course, sugar. With the partial exception of the latter, these are all foods that I have enjoyed in abundance -- in fact, they belong in the core of my diet. (In my case the preferred alcohol is wine, apart from the beer or gin & tonic I indulge in during the summer). Anyway, the demons of diet come and go, according to current notions of what ails us, and depending on how flawed the scientific research that supposedly supports these notions. And the weirdest, most amusing current notion of the moment is that you can't lose weight by severely restricting calories, also known as going hungry. If you go hungry for a significant part of each day, you are 'starving' yourself, and your body goes into 'starvation mode'. This mode doesn't help you because your body puts up defences against starvation and so this is no way to lose fat. To which my response is 'HUH?'.

 If you're desperate to lose weight, try mountain-climbing. The lack of oxygen -- or 'thin air' --  causes thinness in people, as well .

If you're desperate to lose weight, try mountain-climbing. The lack of oxygen -- or 'thin air' -- causes thinness in people, as well.

I understand that the body is amazingly complex, and that it finds ways to compensate for many deficiencies. I also understand that there are cascades of physiological mechanisms that make certain goals more difficult for some people than for others. We all have different hormone ratios and responses, and different gut flora, and we are each of us walking individual micro-biomes. Understood. That said, the idea that there is a 'starvation mode' just waiting to foil you is bonkers. (Apparently this idea derives from an early 20th-century experiment involving a tiny group of unrepresentative and disadvantaged men. On such thin reeds do we lean so many of our theories.) I'll say that again: BONKERS. There is a reason why Paul McCartney wrote 'Too many hungry people losing weight' and not, for instance, 'All the hungry people -- where DOES the fat come from?'!

Apart from the emaciated condition that previously healthy people are found in when they die of hunger (like the lost woman in her bivouac off the Appalachian trail), the whole world knew until yesterday that if you don't eat much, you shrink. Mountaineers regularly lose weight while on expedition, and it's not just because they're burning tons of calories in 16-hour climbs. The fact is, once they get past base camp, they don't eat. As Ed Viesturs says more than once in his book, No Shortcuts To The Top, at high altitudes the climbers lose their appetite. They melt snow for drinking, as they simply must try to keep hydrated, but they might eat only a couple of Snickers bars (quality for a handful of days doesn't seem to matter). I suppose it's just as well, and much more convenient, that precisely where the climbers can't carry food and can't cook it even if they wanted to, they also have no desire to eat it. So they don't. And guess what: they lose weight. I'm sure that many mountain climbers bulk up by eating bigger portions of everything shortly before an expedition, just so that they can be a reasonably similar weight when they return. One thing is for sure: a fat-loss diet is not on their minds. But by not eating, they embark on one anyway.

So that's the secret to fat loss, folks. If you want to lose fat, don't eat as much. If you want to smooth out those bulges, cut your food intake. If you want a flat belly, get hungry. If you want to be lean, go for several daylight hours without eating. In short, dramatically reduce your calories. That doesn't mean you have to be a calorie-counter, please note. I believe that one should learn what sort of calorie counts apply to various foods: almonds, for instance, have a high calorie count per volume -- or to put it another way, they are a calorie-dense high-energy food. Cucumbers, mushrooms, green onions and lettuces, by contrast, are low-calorie foods. The specific calorie count per item is not really important. It's more helpful to think in terms of low-cal, mid-cal, and high-cal, and to plan so that most of your meals are being rounded out by low-and-mid-cal foods. It's also more important to think in terms of veg and protein, with low-and-mid-cal veg being your top priority. Another tip is not to think in terms of meals but rather to think of 'food combinations': that piece of pumpernickel bread, that green onion, that handful of olives. It's not a meal, like a stew, casserole, or a titled dish: it's merely a grouping of foods on a plate. If you approach your food in this way, you're much more likely to eat things that are close to or at their natural state. The closer your food to its original condition, the fewer additional calories you'll consume, and the smaller your portions are likely to remain.

Instead of counting up the calories, all you really need to do is know that each calorie counts. So say to yourself: 'This thing I'm eating has calories. Do I want these particular calories? If I take another bite, will it be surplus to requirements? What if I don't take that extra bite, and instead put those calories down?' Does that mean you'll feel a little hungry? Yes, probably. Hunger is the body telling you that if you don't go for new calories, it will have no option but to take from its reserves. And that's exactly what you want it to do. The first trick, then, is to receive the hunger signal, note it, and ride it out. The second trick is not to binge on the re-feed when you finally do put food in your mouth. Just enough, and no more: if you are honest with yourself, you'll come to know what that means.

 

 

The bra and the frog

 

Strange thing happened this afternoon: I had reached for my sports bra, hanging from a hook in the WC, when I felt an odd slightly firm-jelly texture that shouldn't have been there. As is my involuntary (female) wont, I threw the bra down onto the tiles and shrieked. (I'm a great shrieker, it's entirely instinctive.) And out hopped a rather large brown frog. It was not, I'd say, a Cuban tree frog -- the colouring struck me as different (browner, for a start). It wasn't an American bullfrog, either. So I don't know what the frog was. And more to the point, I have no idea how it came to be in my bra! I often open the WC window, but I checked the window screen and it is fully intact. I don't know how a frog as large as that got in! Anyway, my shriek brought hubby to the scene, he threw a towel over it and together we got it out of doors without incident.

My prediction for the royal baby name

Frederick. The middle names don't really matter. 

p.s. I would like it to be John or James, but neither of those is 'pre-Regency', 'Regency', or modern Anglo-Germanic. 

Update: Hmm, I never even considered Louis (pronounced Lou-ee, we are told -- not the usual English Lou-iss). Not that I gave it much thought, to be honest. A two-syllable name might have been preferred, though it must be said that the third one of 'Frederick' is awfully quick. Louis is a little outside the mould, but I didn't lay any money down so that's all right!

Update, Friday night: Definitely not keen on 'Louis'. I've long thought it a bore when reading about French kings (186 years of the same king name: talk about stuck in a rut!). Also, when not used by French kings, it strikes me as distinctly un-aristocratic, even anti-aristocratic. Think about it: Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground. Lou Grant (fictional character) of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Louis Farrakhan. I know that the royal family's associations are more positive, but I think those associations are overdone, quite frankly. Nope, I would have preferred almost anything else. Oh well. 

The suspect "autism awareness"

One website tells us: "As autism awareness has grown dramatically in recent years, many young adults and adults have learned the signs and felt there may be a connection between their feelings and behaviors and the symptoms of autism."

Or then again there might not be a connection: These people might associate their feelings and behaviours with living in a way that is universal or extremely common rather than deriving from a particular condition. In short, is it OK to say 'I have limitations, and that's because I'm a human being'? I have to wonder whether the so-called 'rise' in autism has to do with our greater 'awareness' of it -- whatever it actually is -- or whether the embrace of a possibly 'glamorous' disability that is meaningful for some people as an explanation or even excuse might be nearer the mark.* The problem also is not just the power of suggestion, persuading people that they are other than they are, but in certain cases there may be 'gaslighting', in which people are persuaded, against the truth and contrary to reality, that they are other than they are.

*Another article only confirms my suspicion: 'Despite much debate about the causes of the so-called autism epidemic, the consensus among experts is that the increase is mostly due not to a rise in incidence but to greater awareness, recognition, and testing, and to the wider parameters of who qualifies for a place on the spectrum (New Jersey, for instance, has some of the most robust autism services in the country). Such elasticity is nowhere so relevant as at the fuzzy, ever-shifting threshold where clinical disorder shades into everyday eccentricity.' BINGO.

 

the name 'Google'

I understand that it was originally a fortunate misspelling of the mathematical term 'googol', but I've always thought of it as two words run together, an exhortation to fill your eyes and mind: 'Go ogle'. I wonder how many other Internet users have had the same thought. Today's Google doodle seems to back me up. Not only does the animation begin with this floral scene, with 'Go' to the left, but the second O appears amidst the flowers, as a character with opening wondering eyes, just as the serenading pixie at bottom turns its own eyes to 'ogle' the O. 

 Today's lovely Spring Equinox Google doodle -- first view.

Today's lovely Spring Equinox Google doodle -- first view.

 The second view, as the flowers part to reveal a pair of eyes. 

The second view, as the flowers part to reveal a pair of eyes. 

How foreigners speak English, continued...

Reading the promotional blurb for an infusion pitcher, I was charmed by this statement: 

Remove the lid and insert your fruit of desire, it’s that simple.

There's something about 'fruit of desire' that is just more appealing than the prim and proper 'desired fruit'. Anyway, it's a bargain price and a nice design, so I'm buying it. It turns out that, with so many infusion possibilities presenting themselves continually, one infusion pitcher isn't really enough.

A doesn't-get-it review Of 'THE MERCY'

Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz star in a new dramatization of the Crowhurst tragedy familiar to many through the documentary Deep Water, through the book A Race Too Far, and through the 1970 first edition book (which years ago I plucked from my grandfather's study shelves), The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst. I've seen and read all these resources, and a lot more: I know quite a bit about Crowhurst and his times, at this point. I doubt many people know more about him: I have even contributed original research (from an Exeter library, now digitized by Wikipedia) to the late Rodney Hallworth's Wikipedia page. Rodney Hallworth, for those that don't know, was Crowhurst's publicist, and he features prominently in any documentary as well as in the new movie.

I believe on the evidence that in 1968, Donald Crowhurst was labouring under considerable financial pressures. Yet, according to Dave Calhoun of the TimeOut publication in London, Crowhurst embarked on the Golden Globe Race of that year in order to 'spice up his life'. Mystery 'still shrouds Crowhurst's story' -- I think it doesn't so much, actually, if you are willing to spend more than two minutes of lazy thinking on it -- and what's more, according to Calhoun, it's a story that is really about 'why a man would risk everything for an unattainable sense of personal satisfaction'. Give me a bloody break. If there is anything that motivates Crowhurst, it's the need to provide for his very young family of four children and a wife in broken, inflation-prone, not-very-affluent post-war Britain.

Where do they get these reviewers? What knowledge of the world do they have? Dare I ask how old they are? What sort of 'everything' does Dave Calhoun know about 'risking'? Callow youth, they spring eternal.

My own review of the new film will be posted in the Book & Film Review section, once it has come to America and I've had a chance to see for myself!

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Preparing for the new puppy's arrival

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Just a few days to go. Most of puppy's toys and games will be homemade, but when they are very young and everything is new, some store-bought toys are worthwhile, as well. It's also a good idea to have a box or hamper to store them in. This water hyacinth hamper contains a handful of toys that were bought by well-meaning family, long after my Darling Chummy had lost interest in that sort of play. But we held on to them, and the new puppy, I'm sure, will be delighted. In addition, a few recent purchases for her are waiting to go in the hamper, until the day they come out again....

Dog Ear Cropping Is Pointless, Unkind, And Immoral

There: I've said it. I know that American Boxer dogs are required to have those ridiculous unnatural ears in the show ring, but nowhere in Europe are they so required these days -- in fact, ear cropping is forbidden -- and Boxer parents that do not show their dogs prefer the natural and beautiful floppy ears by a wide margin. The fact is that cropped ears are out of date. They subject vulnerable dogs to a completely unnecessary, uncomfortable surgical mutilation -- and surgery should never be resorted to except for the health of the dog. Why the American Kennel Club continues to tolerate this mutilation of innocent animals is a mystery. Perhaps the American Veterinary Medical Association has something to say on the matter? How about Congress? 

And while I'm at it: I don't approve of tail docking, either. A dog should not be mutilated. What else need be said?

Well, one more thing. How do people that claim to love dogs do this with an easy conscience? How can they? It's a mystery. And it's a testament to human stupidity at the same time.

tarot cards as bookmarks

 Cards from the Marseille tarot deck (in the book and lying on the cover).

Cards from the Marseille tarot deck (in the book and lying on the cover).

If you read a lot, and there are two of you (or more) in the household, and you have more than one book on the go at a time (I usually have several, to match my varying moods and broad interests), then the question is: What do you use for bookmarks? A wispy strip of paper may do the job, but it's not very satisfying. A decorative bookmark can have bits that get in the way (I don't want strings and danglies, thank you) or be too thick (I want a bookmark to keep my place and otherwise mind its own business). 

The easiest thing to reach for, I've found, is a tarot card (or playing card -- but tarots may be slightly larger though no thicker). The tarot card is decorative enough without any distracting additions, and it's not going to slide around or fall out or seem either too substantial or not substantial enough. And buying a pack of tarot cards in a style you like is much cheaper than buying individual bookmarks. Bookmarks, like socks, tend to go missing. When you've got a pack to draw from, it doesn't matter.