The Organic Diet

If, like me, you tried to access this site yesterday, you probably didn’t have much luck. The MySQL service was acting up again. It seems to be doing that with greater frequency lately and I’m not sure why. My host has created a task that restarts the MySQL service every morning. I assume that’s why the site seems to be behaving today. That’s a good thing, however, I don’t like the fact that the site was down for a whole day. It’s a terrible inconvenience to you and it probably cost me a few bucks in Adsense revenue.

At the MVP Summit, I was told that eXTReMe Tracking (see the icon in the footer) overstates their numbers. I went to see how many people visited my site yesterday and it was the same as any other Saturday. That doesn’t mean anything because there was probably a lot of people, like me, who visited the site several times but never saw any posts. The tracker picked those since it’s just some javascript in the footer. To see if eXTReMe is logging the right numbers, I checked it against (yes, they started their beta finally). Reinvigorate shows 1088 and 1071 for today and yesterday, respectively. eXTReMe shows 1037 and 1024. Maybe both of them are overstating. Either way, thanks for showing up yesterday and looking at nothing.

One of my 2006 New Year resolutions was to sell and buy something on eBay. I tried in earnest to buy football tickets, but I quickly tired of the process. I’m not a particularly rich guy, but I won’t soon be going through that process again to save a few bucks. I didn’t end up buying those Cotton Bowl tickets from eBay and I’ll never get that two hours back.

I am, and was, a bit of an eBay noob, so I’m sure I wasn’t doing it right. I looked for people selling Cotton Bowl tickets that had only a few minutes left in the auction. I would bid just higher than the latest bid and I would be the winner for about 7 microseconds. I quickly learned that you can bid an amount, and eBay ups your bid as necessary to win until it reaches that amount. I progressively bid more money until I got to the point that I bid what I was willing to pay. Not exactly the bargain I was expecting. However, at the very last moment, I would be overbid and lose. I was overbid by the same person in each of the seven auction in which I participated. There’s a game going on there whose rules I am keenly unaware of. I gave up and paid face value for the tickets – something I should have done two hours before. Maybe tickets to sporting events are different from other things, but I won’t be buying anything from eBay any time soon. My time is simply worth more than that. But I tried.

Today, the wife and I were hovering over a big box of books. We decided to unburden ourselves of most of the books and started going through them. In the end we had a keep pile, a salvage pile, and a throw pile. I told her that the options for the salvage pile (about 100 books) was to donate them to the local library or to sell them on eBay. We decided to sell them on eBay. My local library sucks eggs. That may inspire some people to donate their salvage pile, but not me. If they’re not even going to try, why should I.

I went on to eBay to sell some books. I sorted the books into groups that I would sell as a bundle and chose the bundle of how-to-play-poker books to sell first. The series of forms that I had to fill out were confusing and unintuitive. When I finally figured everything out, or so I thought, I clicked the “Save and Continue” button. It did nothing. It brought up a new page that looks exactly like the page I just left. I was expecting a new page that said “Click here to confirm your item for sale” or “Hey, you screwed up this part. Fix it and try again.” I went to live chat, but they were too busy to talk to me. I sent them an email (another strange process) and I can expect to hear from them in 24-48 hours. That’s great. I’m a little sour on the process. I’ll follow through with this sale, most likely, but the Omaha Public Library can probably expect a donation of about 96 books next month.

Last fall I read a book entitled The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. When I say read, I mean listened to. Whenever possible, I buy books on CD and try to make the most of my 25 minute commute. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone that asks. As a result of reading this book, I went on a diet. That’s not particularly earth shattering. I’m a fairly fat guy and I’m constantly going on and off diets. My theory for this diet was that what I was eating was as important as how much I was eating. If I ate the right kinds of foods, the portions and metabolism would take care of themselves. No need to count calories or weigh myself.

The theory was half-baked from the start, to say the least. But I wasn’t really doing anything so I had nothing to lose by trying the diet. The rules of the diet were thus:

  1. I can only eat things that have ingredients that I know.
  2. I can only eat things with 10 or less ingredients.
  3. I can only eat things with ingredients that I judge to be minimally processed.
  4. There are times when it’s O.K. to break the rules.

Here’s a brief explanation of the rules:

  1. Take a look at the ingredients of the some of things in your pantry. Do you know what guar gum is? Maltodextrin? Sodium benzoate? I don’t. I only ate foods that had ingredients that sounded like food. I ate Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Medium Shells. Ingredients: 100% Durum Whole Wheat Flour. That’s an ingredients list I can comprehend. The sauce that I put on that past was Amy’s Premium Organic Pasta Sauce. Ingredients: Organic tomato puree, organic onions, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, organic garlic, spices. That last one is a little dubious. Why not just list the spices? But I started to get an idea of which foods were good and which weren’t. I wouldn’t trust ‘spices’ on a product that had a bunch of stuff I can’t pronounce, but Amy’s seemed to be a straight shooter.

    More examples? I have salad dressing that has among its ingredients; high fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum, sorbic acid, and sulfites. I started using Ginos Wine Vinaigrette with these ingredients: Soybean Oil, Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Salt and Spices (hmmm, more spices).

    Great River Pancake Mix: Organic whole wheat pastry flour, organic corn flour, organic buttermilk powder, organic wheat bran, baking powder, sea salt. Full Circle Maple Syrup: Organic maple syrup.

    These examples are on edges of what I ate. The vast majority of my meals consisted of fruits and vegetables. Man, did I eat a lot of salad. It’s very difficult to find foods that come in a package that meet these criteria. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I did get sick of salad and apples.

  2. I originally started at five ingredients or less, but I upped it to ten. If I stayed true to the first rule, the second rule was never an issue. Food with a lot of ingredients always contains something I never heard of.

    Meat: This is pretty much a vegetarian diet. Meat was certainly acceptable as long as I knew all the ingredients – which was almost never. To know the ingredients of a pork chop, I had to know what the pig ate. To know what made up the steak I wanted, I would have to know what the cow was fed. That limited me to non-farmed fish and grass-fed beef. I live in corn-fed beef country so that’s not so easy to find. In fact, I had no meat during my three months on this diet except for a talapia filet. Cows don’t eat corn naturally, so I wasn’t going to eat corn fed cows. Same with pigs, chickens, and turkeys.

    On exception I made to the meat thing was eggs. There something about vegetarianism that I just don’t like and that’s B12. Apparently vegs take B12 supplements because they can’t get enough without eating meat. I ate eggs from cage-free, vegetarian fed chickens. The first thing I learned on this diet is don’t trust packaging. I don’t believe for a minute that these chickens were cage-free. And while they were probably not fed any meat, they also weren’t allowed to eat what they would normally eat. It was a violation of the rules, but I made an exception anyway.

  3. This was an important rule. I could learn, for instance, that maltodextrin is just corn or that xanthan gum is just corn. Corn is good, so I can eat stuff with maltodextrin and xanthan gum. Following this logic, I could eat almost anything. Everything in that carton of ice cream can be traced back to something that’s food. There’s no plutonium in it. There are some foods that do contain petroleum products, according to the book, so not everything would be kosher.

    I had to choose foods that were minimally processed. Foods that were as close to their natural state as possible. Everything in a store is processed to some degree. Someone had to pick that apple from the tree. Someone had to pick that asparagus and put the twisty tie around it. But just as corn-fed cows don’t appear in nature, neither does xanthan gum.

  4. I might as well be honest about breaking the rules. People who lose weight and keep it off probably don’t cheat, but if I have to live like that, I’ll pass. When someone invited me out for dinner, I went. I ordered the menu item that was as close to compliance as I could, but I know every rule was broken. When I went to football games, I drank beer. I skipped the stadium dogs, but I drank beer. I didn’t want to be maniacal about this. Reasonableness rules the day.

The result is that I lost a few pounds, but the theory was debunked. The portion sizes didn’t self regulate and my metabolism didn’t change, at least to the extent where it offset the caloric intake. It wasn’t a total bust, though. I had more energy in those three months than I’ve had since high school. I was getting by on seven hours sleep (unheard of for me), no naps on the weekends, and I quite consuming caffeine. I felt great every day and was never dragging.

You might be thinking that this sounds expensive. It was. Cheap food is bad for you and expensive food is good for you. That’s the general lesson I picked up. Most of the food I bought was fresh, which meant that I had to go to the store every other day or so. It’s hard to compare the food bill from every other day to the old way of once per week, but I think I only spent slightly more on this diet. I bought less food, but paid a higher unit price.

I miss the extra energy and the general well being that I experienced on this diet, so I’m starting it up again. One thing I’m adding to the diet is cereal. I still won’t drink milk, but there are some cereals that get close to minimally processed. Also, it’s nearly summer where I live so I’ll be drinking gin and beer. In spite of these changes, I still think there will be benefits.

One of my favorite Excel MVPs told me that his all-time favorite band is The Clash. I’ve never been a Clash fan, but I decided I’d better get an album and see if I like it. If you have a Clash album you’d recommend, recommend it to me.

O.K., enough rambling. Back to Excel posts tomorrow. Actually, I have at least one more Outlook post, but I’m sure I’ll start using Excel again soon.

Posted in Uncategorized

18 thoughts on “The Organic Diet

  1. The Clash: London Calling is a great album to start with. If you don’t like that, you won’t like the Clash (and you’re not a man).

    Worst Diet: Atkins. Can you say dry mouth and chemical bars? Sure…have a delicious Atkins shake in the morning then get migraines and diarrhea for the rest of the day. You can eat all the Kilbasa and nitrates you want, but whatever you do, stay away from fruits and too many vegetables. I can’t believe I fell for that.

    Best Diet: Weight Watchers. Works like a charm for geeks like us, because it’s all about accounting. You get 21 or so points and you have to manage them. I even found the formula to the Weight Watcher’s point system and built an Excel widget that tells me the points to any food I can find.

    I can’t believe I’m sitting here at midnight commenting on a blog about dieting. Boy…I’m livin the dream now.

  2. Rock’n’Roll lifestyle Mike ;-)! Agree with the album recommendation, best work they did (and the easiest to get into)

    (it’s Monday morning here in the UK, and ANYTHING is better than data-cleansing last week’s stuff, so that’s my excuse for talking about weight loss!)

    Atkins is definitely the worst high-profile one out there. Anything which says “just eat this food group and nothing else” is asking for trouble – balance is best. Look at what happened to Dr Atkins himself for the best recommendation to stay away from that one… Sure, it leads to weight loss, but the side-effects just ain’t worth it. Same with fruit-only, green vegetables only… doesn’t matter what it is.
    I’m not a huge fan of the Weight-Watchers style, because it seems to use the “guilt” factor more than I think is psychologically healthy. But that might just be me ;-)

    I’m diabetic, so diet is obviously pretty important to me. The best advice I can give is:
    – eat “snack” portions quite a few times a day – this means that at “main meals” you’re less likely to gorge and overload your system with too much to dispose of at once, which leads to more being stored as fat. Snack portions should be something reasonably healthy though, rather than Mars bars and jumbo-bags of chips! You’ll find you eat less at “main meals”, which is a good thing. And if you put less on your plate, it’s been psychologically “proven” that you’re likely to eat less but still remain full – apparently this is due to people being brought up to “clear your plate” so we still try to do so as adults, even if it’s more than we actually want/need.
    – Have breakfast as early as you can – it wakes up your metabolism. A piece of fruit or a couple slices of toast etc is best, rather than a full fry-up though!
    – Steer clear of additives and preservatives where possible. Organic is better most of the time.
    – Don’t believe everything you read. Your example of free-range eggs is perfect, as we’ve just had a kickoff in the UK about this – a major supermarket is being investigated for selling eggs from caged hens as free range. Eggs and meat from a butchers is more reliable and less likely to have junk in just to extend the shelf-life.
    – Home cook stuff rather than throwing ready-made pies/quiches/battered fish etc into the oven. It usually tastes better and you know what’s going in there.
    – Alcohol. Spirits with a diet mixer actually have a “negative” sugar impact, so drinking Jack Daniels and Diet Coke can assist with weight loss :-D… Beer contains sugar, which, seeing as you go to bed immediately after drinking most occasions… turns to fat overnight. Dodge alco-pops like the evil things they are – stuff like WKD, Smirnoff Ice etc is the devil’s work, chock-full of sugar, synthetic artificial flavouring and other nasties.
    – Drinks. Sodas all through the day aren’t a good thing, even if they’re diet – the fizziness can damage your insides over the years if you drink a lot, leading to digestion problems, and potentially organ damage, especially kidneys. Fruit juices/smoothies etc seem healthy, but most of them have a high sugar content that hits pretty quickly (way faster than if you eat the fruit), which your body can have trouble disposing of without converting to fat. Neither’s bad in moderation, but I know people who go through 4 litres of pepsi in a day, or who will sit and drink a litre carton of fruit juice in a half hour – then go get another.
    Exercise. The best weight-loss plan there is. Walk 20 minutes rather than driving for 4. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Make 2 easy trips from the kitchen to the living room rather than one with your arms piled with stuff. Walk about while you’re on the phone rather than sitting down.
    – Treat yourself. Breaking the rules now and again doesn’t hurt. If you go out for dinner, and you’ve eaten healthily all week, then have something you like the look of. Just remember that “now and again” doesn’t mean every day…. ;-)

    (Admittedly, I am an excercise junkie, having been a practicing martial artist since the age of 10, high school rugby and athletics, blah blah. I work out for a half-hour a day minimum in addition to the recommendations I give above, and more four times a week, but that’s for the idiots like me who like to pretend we’re still 22!)

  3. “The Clash: London Calling is a great album to start with. If you don’t like that, you won’t like the Clash (and you’re not a man).”

    Quite right!

    Diets don’t work, get down the gym! But i think your spot on with the food thing. Eat healthy and good quality when you can. ;-) – Good luck Dick.

  4. Last time I went on a diet I produced an Excel based progress tracker – at least that way I knew how badly I was failing! Good luck…

    As far as The Clash go, consider this another vote for London Calling!

  5. I started a diet a few months ago. It consists of a few guidelines:

    1. More smaller meals, watch serving sizes.
    2. No processed sugars and minimize starchy foods.
    3. No grains unless they’re whole grains.

    1. I have about five meals a day. The trick is to eat before you’re famished, so you don’t binge on convenient stuff that violates 2 & 3. The other trick is to have some fat and some protein at each meal. This means tuna, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and leftover grilled chicken from the previous dinner.

    I still have too much for dinner each night, violating serving size. But I’m learning that when I start to feel full, I can save the rest for one of my small meals the next day.

    2. You know how many ways there are to say “processed sugar”? As Dick points out, packaged food tends to be bad food, where sugar is often the second or third item (or second and third and more, with all those synonyms). I’ve also cut out potatoes, but sweet potatoes are a very tasty and healthy alternative.

    While processed sugar is bad, I have not cut out all carbs. I consider fruits and vegetables something I can have almost without limit. Especially bright colored veggies, like red peppers, tomatoes, etc.

    3. I don’t eat much bread anymore. I really don’t miss it, either.

    I don’t avoid meat, but I look for lean cuts and try to control the portions. I also try to exercise regularly. I try not to cheat, but nobody’s perfect. At least now I don’t binge. I try to satisfy myself with a single handful of Fritos, or just two or three Hershey kisses.

    This is the kind of diet I couldn’t do if I still had a real job, but working from home allows me to break for a small meal whenever. Since I’m driving across town a couple times a day to chauffeur the kids, I have opportunities to drop into the grocery store for fresh produce.

  6. Dick, I’ve been having trouble with your site for days – sometimes the whole thing, sometimes just the recent comments sidebar.

    I read the first section of Omnivore’s Dilemna. I also read his previous – The Botany of Desire. I love his perspective on how plants use us to their own ends.

  7. Dick,

    eBay has an option to make a bid and also to specify a maximum bid. That’s probably what you were up against.
    Let’s say that you bid $10 on an item that someone else has already bid $9 on but they have a max of let’s say $20. You bid the $10. eBay accepts it. It checks on the automatic bidder and his kicks in an $11 bid automatically. (that takes about 7 seconds as you discovered). You bid $12 and 7 seconds or so later, he outbids you again. It’ll go on and on until you reach his max. At that point, he’ll get an e-mail alerting him that he’s been outbid and he may go in and up his max to $30. And the beat goes on.
    The only way that you’ll get anything cheap on eBay is if no one else wants it.

  8. Another vote for London calling or any early stuff
    Key tracks : White man in Hammersmith Palais, London Calling, Londons Burning, I fought the Law, Bankrobber. If you get an album with any of these you shouldn’t go far wrong.

    Site wise I’ve had a few problems getting to DDOE.

    Diet wise I’m with Nick. For me, a decent bit of exercise has a double benefit, its burns cals and takes the edge off my appetite. I still don’t do enough of course.


  9. I meant to say on the ebay front – there are programs called snipers I think that specialse in submitting a bid in the last few seconds of an auction for a couple of cents more than the current highest bidder. (google ‘ebay snipe’ for the full story).

  10. Talking about libraries…

    A long time ago, the local library got a whole bunch of new display racks. Six months later they remained unused. When I asked why I was told they did not have the resources to move the books — whatever that means since I would have thought it would in the job description of the employees. Be that as it may, I volunteered to do the same and was told that would not be possible. Apparently, only employees could be trusted with the Dewey Decimal System. Volunteers were restricted to licking stamps and stuffing envelopes with requests for donations. I stopped donating $$, something I naively (stupidly?) used to.

    I had a whole bunch of books — fiction and non-fiction — that I thought the library could use. For example, it had stopped buying a range of technical books because of financial problems. So, I offered my latest books on various subjects. No, not an option. Only the “library acquisition committee” (or some such) could authorize purchases that could land up on the shelves. And, no, the committee would not consider donated books. Those would be sold off at 25 cents for paperback and 50 cents for hardcover. So, it got none of my books.

    On yet another occasion I mentioned to the checkout clerk that my address had changed. The dialog went something like:

    …and my new addre…

    “Sorry, sir, we need proof.”

    OK, here’s my driver’s license.

    “No, that’s not good enough. We need a recent letter addressed to you at your new address.”

    OK, I’ll do that and for the time being why don’t we leave the old address as the active one?

    “No, we can’t do that. You’ve told us it’s no longer valid.”

    Ummm…so, let me get this straight. You believe me when I tell you my old address is not valid. But, you won’t believe me when I give you my new address?

    “Yes, sir.”

    She did let me check out the books I wanted but it left me wondering how many people don’t use public libraries because of what seems to me like a “us vs. you” mentality.

  11. Back in the mid 1990s, when I used to visit the central produce market downtown, I asked the manager what constituted organic produce he pointed to a semi backed to the loading dock. He said that when the produce was unloaded, organic product was stacked on the right and the rest was stacked on the right. Of course, he was talking about the same produce for both categories. So how were we supposed to know back then. Now the U.S. Government has blessed us with ‘organic’ standards. Feel safer?

    Ah, smoothies, gotta love them. They are good for you and offer great income potential for people wishing to ca$h in on the juice and frozen yogurt craze. You can learn more at our Web site,
    Juice Gallery Multimedia:

    Healthy regards,

    Dan ‘The Smoothieman’ Titus

  12. After many years of eating organic foods, exercising vigorously, drinking an organic veggie juice daily, and drinking plenty of healthy water, the thing that made all the difference was the awareness of the fungal parasite that is in most everyone’s bodies(because of yeast in breads, grains stored in massive silos contamined with fungus/mold), antibiotics, alcohol, birth control pills and gardening. Once I starved and killed the parasite, my cravings dropped dramatically. Once the parasite enters the body, they proliferate with great speed. All those times I had those unrelenting cravings for sugar and starch, it was not my brain triggering them, it was the parasites demanding to be fed. Within 2 weeks, it became apparent that the parasites were running for their lives and dying. The die-off period makes everyone quite miserable. The results were amazing. Not only did I lose the excess weight, I could bend my finger fully for the first time in 5 years, arthritis symptoms completely disappeared, as well as a stomach discomfort I had for nearly 7 years… all gone. I’ve talked with people who had suffered with Lupus, MS, Crohn’s, Cancer and other diseases all cured from killing the parasties. For a limited time, stop eating sugar and starch. Stop eating grains such as bread, pasta, rice, beans (including coffee beans). Only eat grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and wild fish. Fruit; only berries, green apples, and grapefruit. Most vegetables are ok, avoid starchy types(potatoes) or sweet types (beets, yams). Dairy; only raw/unadulterated cow’s milk, organic eggs, organic butter, organic sour cream, organic cream cheese (in moderation), organic goat cheese, organic goat’s milk. Salad dressing; a mixture of organic extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. This diet will starve the parastite. To accelerate the extermination, drink apple cider vinegar, eat garlic and onion, and take anti-fungal suppliments such as; olive leaf extract. Livia

  13. Gees, I just typed a huge comment and when I hit the post button I got a page that just came up blank??? Please tell me that post got posted? I do NOT want to write that out again…lol. I don’t know what happened…anyone?

  14. If you’re interested in eating more organic foods, one of the things that you may have trouble getting past is the price tag. After all, organics tend to be a lot more expensive than chemically treated products. The best solution to that, especially if you have the space, is to grow your own organic vegetable garden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *