Entries in WiThings (5)

Tuesday
Aug232011

Mixing (Juicing) It Up with the Breville Juice Fountain Elite

Lately I've been watching lots of health/nutrition documentaries on Netflix, and recently came across an interesting documentary called Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead, which is basically about a guy that's significantly over-weight with lots of health problems who decides to go on a juice fast to cure his maladies and lose lots of weight. I won't spoil the movie, but I'll just say it got me wondering how adding some "green juice" (kale, chard, collard greens, et cetera) into my diet would affect my overall goals of health.

Breville 800JEXL Juice Fountain Elite

After pondering and researching for a couple weeks, I finally decided to pull the trigger on a Breville 800JEXL Juice Fountain Elite. I went with Breville primarily because that's the model of juicer they use in the movie, and I went with the Juice Fountain Elite because it has 500+ customer reviews on Amazon, of which almost all are 4 and 5 star. I looked at "lesser" models, but was concerned that cheaper juicers have a hard time with leafy vegetables, and that was going to be one of my primary use cases. So far, I've not been disappointed. I've been able to juice a wide variety of greens and have had great sucess with most everything. I will say that the curly leaved kale variety seems to return much less juice than something like a lacinato kale variety, so I try to avoid that when juicing. Other than that, I've had little to no issues, and am actually very pleasantly surprised with how easy this thing is to clean. I pretty much just rinse out everything but the filter basket, and then do a 30-second scrub of that basket with the provided brush, and then set it on a towel to dry. All in all, the juicing takes under 5 minutes, and the cleaning takes under 5 minutes, so it doesn't wear me out or make me dread going through the process.

Green Lemonade

So now that I've got this fancy contraption, what am I making with it? Primarily, I started with a "green lemonade" recipe, which I think I found on YouTube (there are hundreds of green lemonade recipes out there), and then started tweaking it slightly each day to make it taste ideal.

Most recipes include something like:


  • Kale or chard or other leafy greens

  • Celery

  • Apple

  • Lemon and/or Lime

  • Ginger

Currently, I've been finding the freshest looking green stuff each week at my Co-op and using that. This week, my recipe was:


  • 5 Leaves of Kale

  • 3 Leaves of Chard

  • 2 Leaves of Collard Greens (these are huge)

  • 4 Stalks of Celery

  • 3 Granny Smith Apples

  • 1/3 of a Lemon

  • 1/3 of a Lime

  • a 1-inch Chunk of Ginger

That recipe makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 600-800 ml of juice, and I divide it into 3 servings, of which I have one with breakfast (of bacon and eggs), and one in the late morning, and then give the third serving to my wife (who drinks it very slowly over the course of an hour or two).

So how does it taste? Well, it depends on who you ask. I personally love the taste, and could drink it all day, but my wife seems to not be as big of a fan, though she has readily admitted to me that it's really primarly a mental hurdle of drinking something that is bright green and pulpy.

Conclusion

I've been juicing for about two and a half weeks now, and have no regrets. At the moment, I definitely wouldn't go on a juice-only fast like the guy in the documentary, but at least I can now officially tell all the naysayers of my low-carb diet that in combination with the blueberries and raspberries I've started eating (which have low glycemic load) and the large salads and other greens I have with lunch and dinner, I'm getting more than enough of my fruits and vegetable servings per day, while still maintaining a pretty low-carb diet otherwise after having pretty much cut out all starches.

In addition, according to my WiThings Scale, I'm now weighing in at 168 with 16.0% body fat, down from 193 at 26% body fat, so I can't argue with the results. My weight loss has slowed fairly significantly, but then again, I don't expect to keep the pace I started with now that I'm back in normal ranges, and I haven't gained any weight since adding this to the diet. My goal is still to settle in at 160/10% by November, which I feel is still definitely reachable, but at this point, I guess time will tell.

If you have any questions about the juicer, juicing, recipes, or anything else, feel free to post in the comments.

Happy Juicing!

Janssen

Saturday
Aug062011

The New Fit Lifestyle Part 4 - Measuring with Blood Work

One interesting thing I've always found when doing something a bit different than the norm or going against the flow of the general populace is that it's generally met with skepticism, doubters, scoffers, cynicism, and more. When I find myself going down that path, I take solace in one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect".

A few weeks ago, I posted a screenshot of the measurements from my Withings Wifi Scale, but that doesn't address the concerns others have stressed about "eating too much meat and eggs", and "not enough fruit". To go a bit further in addressing these concerns, I'd like to post the results of my two latest physicals and corresponding lab work. The first was taken 3 months before starting the "low-carb/slow-carb" lifestyle (The 4-Hour Body), and the second was taken after somewhat consistently following the program for six months (taking a cumulative few weeks off during conferences and vacations). Some highlights from the before and after are that after six months of changing my diet, I:

  1. Lost 21 pounds
  2. Lowered my total cholesterol by 11 points
  3. Lowered my triglycerides by 70 points)
  4. Raised my HDL (the "good" cholesterol) by 7 points (taking me out of the "risk factor range"
  5. Lowered my LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) by 4 points (though still slightly above the desired range)
  6. Lowered my Cholesterol/HDL ratio from 5 to 3.8, taking me out of the "risk factor range"
  7. Lowered my systolic blood pressure by 10 points points bringing me to the border of the "optimal range"
  8. Lowered my diastolic blood pressure by 12 points points bringing me into the "optimal range"

The actual numbers

Measurement September10 June11 Ideal
Weight 193 172 <174
Glucose 78 89 70-99
Cholesterol 181 170 <200
Triglycerides 135 65 <150
HDL 38 45 >=40
LDL 116 112 0-100
Total/HDL 5 3.8 <=5
Blood Pressure 132/86 122/74 <120/80

I realize that these numbers can vary over time, and I don't contend that this is 100% proof that it all works, but I do contend that this is very good evidence that it likely works. I'll continue to do full lab work every 6 months or so, and keep comparing the numbers. Since this is a lifetime goal, and not a short-term goal, this is simply the start of documenting and measuring how these changes affect all my numbers. Anecdotally, I'll also say that I have more energy throughout the day and I don't find myself needing to snack throughout the day like I used to. In time, I'll soon post more measurements, but wanted to get this much up as another form of documentation of the changes and effects I've been going through with the low-carb/slow-carb lifestyle.

**Update: I meant to post the original post a week or two ago, but didn't get around to it. I thought it would be beneficial to go ahead and post my latest numbers, now that a bit more time has passed. According to my Withings Wifi Scale, I'm now 169 at 17% body fat (I started at 193 with 26% body fat), and my latest blood pressure results are 114/69. I'm continuing P90X workouts 3 days a week (the weights days, but not the cardio days). Still truckin' toward 160/10%!

Saturday
Jul162011

The New Fit Lifestyle Part 3- Tracking with the Withings Scale

A lot of people will instantly balk at the idea of spending $159 on scale, and to those people, I would say this: "You are not buying a scale, you are buying a service (and an awesome one at that)". I attribute a large part of being where I am today in reference to where I was last December with this device. In fact, I might go so far as to say that this is the single most important thing in the process.

The Formula for success

I've listened to enough Tony Robbins to know that even when people know what they are supposed to do to Achieve X, they often don't do it, solely because they aren't being driven to Achieve X. The general formula for succeding at anything is:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Know why you want it.
  3. Learn what steps you need to take to get there.
  4. Move in the direction of what you want.
  5. Constantly measure and correct course.

 

Where the Withings Wifi Scale fits in

That formula applies to just about anything, and you'll generally find that if you're missing one or more of the ingredients, the likelihood of getting to X diminishes rapidly. The WiThings scale goes along way in taking care of Step 5, since it does everything for you. You just get up in the morning, stand on the scale, and you're done. Your weight, and lean mass / fat mass percentages are instantly uploaded to the cloud and you have full access to them any time any where from an iPhone, iPad, Android, or computer. Being able to open these charts up at any time and any place goes along way in motivating and keeping one on course. When I start to stumble and start eating junk, this chart gives me a very clear picture that I'm going in the wrong direction long before I start to notice my clothes feeling a bit tight. Here's my chart from so far:

I added the callouts myself, but the rest just comes straight from the web, and it looks pretty much like that on the mobile devices as well. It's extremely easy to use and tweak. Notice the first major spike on the chart. That occurred as soon as I "took my eyes off the prize". I went a full week without weighing in, and ate regular food the way I used to eat food (snacking throughout the day, and having a few drinks with friends at night). I was pretty shocked when I got back home and stood on the scale, but then it doubly hit me when I saw it on the graph.

To Summarize...

Obviously, tracking isn't the only thing involved, and correcting course involves going back and relearning things along the way, trying new things, dropping things that don't work, et cetera. You'll notice on the right side of the chart that the slope is about the same as it was at the beginning once I went back and restudied what I needed to do and reaffirmed why I needed to do it (to follow in a later post), and I once again have momentum, and can actually see the momentum on the chart. The chart tells a story. That's what the $159 buys. If you don't need that, you can just pick up any old scale at WalMart for $19.99 or less.

I'll be travelling next week, and you can bet I'll be packing my scale on the trip, and making adjustments each day to stay on track. I'll continue to post the charts over time as well as I work toward the final goal of 160 pounds at 10% body fat.

To learn more about the WiThings scale, you can check out the WiThings website, and to buy it now (and pass along a dollar for my web hosting expenses), you can head on over to Amazon.

Good luck! And if you have a similar story to share, feel free to drop a line in the comments.

Janssen

Thursday
Jul142011

The New Fit Lifestyle - Part 2 - Diet

I'd like to start the deep dive in this series with discussing the biggest change I've made (and likely what has created the biggest impact to date), my change in diet. I would not say that I've "gone on a diet", as that generally implies a short term change made in an effort to lose weight. Instead, I'd say I've permanently changed the way I eat, as well as the way I plan to eat in the future. I firmly believe that if I went back to eating the way I ate in 2010, it would only be a matter of time before I came back to previous health, weight, cholesterol level, blood pressure (all to be documented in a future post), et cetera. So what's the big change?

Low-carb/Slow-Carb

Over the years, I've heard of many people discussing low-carb diets, Atkins diets, et cetera, and never game them much credence. I had subscribed to the principles taught by my Junior High and High School Health teachers (who I don't remember in hindsight being particularly healthy, but I digress), which basically stated that you should eat lots of grain, lots of fruit, lots of vegetables, and a little bit of fat - the traditional food pyramid. I had assumed this was all science which had been tested and proven true over the years, and was generally inarguable.

In hindsight, many years later, I realize that a lot of the things I was taught in school weren't necessarily true, and in time, I finally came around to realizing there's more to diet than the food pyramid, and that the food pyramid could indeed be fundamentally flawed to the point that it's a significant cause of a lot of the health problems today (along with fast food, soft drinks, energy drinks and such).

Though I've read a lot about food over the past year (Michael Pollan, Andrew Weil, Bill Phillips, and others), the majority of the information I've taken to heart and implemented has primarily come from two authors: Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman) and Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It and Good Calories, Bad Calories ). Their overall ideas are similar, but their end implementation is a bit different. Both propose that the cause of weight gain, and hundreds of related health problems, is generally rooted in insulin spikes causing, to possibly oversimplify to the point of making too simple, the body's fat cell gates to open in one direction, causing calories to be stored rather than burned, leading to a weight gain loop. The theory is that by eating foods that don't trigger insulin spikes, the gates open in the other direction, leading to a weight loss loop.

The recommended things to eat vary a bit between the authors, and I won't go into deep details here (you can always follow the links above and pick up the Kindle books), but I've combined them a bit into a great level of success, dropping about 20 pounds since Christmas (charts to come soon in a later post in the series). I've also found that when switching back to eating the way I used to eat (which I've done while travelling, going to conferences, vacationing, et cetera), and I can put on weight at a rapid pace. So without further ado, here's my general diet of 2011:

Breakfast (most every day)

  • Uncured bacon - 3 slices
  • Scrambled eggs - 3eggs or 2 eggs+egg whites
  • Coffee

Lunch (when at work)

  • Chipotle - Salad with black beans, pinto beans, chicken, mild salsa, medium green salsa, and guacamole (no cheese, no sour cream, and no rice)
  • Cracker Barrel low-carb menu, with turnip greens, green beans, and salad

Lunch (when at home)

  • Grilled chicken or hamburger (no bun, no cheese), broccoli or salad, cottage cheese or beans (kidney, black, pinto etc)

Dinner

  • Grilled salmon, grilled chicken or steak, salad, kale or spinach or mustard Greens, beans

When eating out

  • Steak, chicken, or fish, a salad and greens or mixed vegetables (no potatoes)

Post workout

  • Protein shake (no sweeteners) with Green Drink powder

Drinks

  • Sodastream carbonated water with lemon/lime essence
  • When traveling, mineral water or soda water
  • Coffee
  • Kombucha

There's some variety here and there, and I do usually take a day off once per week (or at least one meal off per week), and still have cake or ice cream when celebrating birthdays and such, but those types of foods are the exception rather than the rule. The big thing is that I rarely eat bread, rice, pasta, sugar, cookies, crackers, any sweetened soft drinks (with sugars or with fake sweeteners, so no Diet Coke). I try to eat greens with every meal other than breakfast (which I just haven't been able to get into the habit of yet).

With this basic change in diet, and the addition of some supplements, I've dropped almost 20 pounds this year, and am back in the "normal weight range" for the first time in a really long time, and that's almost without working out at all. One important thing to note is that with eating three eggs or more a day and a lot of meat, multiple people have told me they were sure I'd be sending my cholesterol through the roof. Taubes and Ferriss refute this in their books, but I decided to prove the results for myself by getting a physical and blood work done both before I started eating this way as well as 6 months after I started eating this way. And I have proof from the lab work that after 6 months of eating lots of steaks, bacon, and eggs, not only have I lost 20 pounds, but my cholesterol and triglyceride levels have improved. Since I'm also taking some supplements, I can't say the percentage of what's related to supplements and what's related to diet, but I can say that all of my numbers have improved, and I have more energy than I did before I started. The actual numbers will be coming shortly, along with the charts from my Withings Wifi Body Scale.

Until then, I'd encourage doubters to check out any the books above and decide for themselves.

Saturday
Jul092011

4HB + P90X = 24" Pythons (or at least improved fitness)

Contrary to what I've historically written about, I don't spend all of my time sitting in front of a computer. Today I decided to step away from my normal tech writing and discuss one of my resolutions for 2011 - improving my level of physical fitness, as well as my general energy level.

After college, I've cycled through a few of the popular fitness programs, including Body for Life , and P90X, and have generally done very well in getting back on track, but usually after somewhere between 3 and 6 months, drifted back off the program, sometimes triggered by an injury, a vacation, a busy work schedule, or some other distraction.

When my son was born in March 2009, I was in pretty good shape, coming off of a P90X cycle at the time, but in the following two years, due to lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and general exhaustion, I managed to gain about 25 pounds and push my way back toward my all-time high weight of 195 pounds. Then around Christmas 2010 I discovered Tim Ferriss' new book, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. Tim makes some pretty radical claims at times (which is actually why I like his books so much), and the weight loss stuff made sense, and I decided to give it a try, while also researching further. I came across a similar book by Gary Taubes, titled Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It . Since Christmas, following guidance from those two books, I've dropped back down to 173 with fairly minimal exercise (three or four pull-ups a day, 10 push-ups or so, and some air squats), and have dropped a few inches off of my waste.

Now I'm ready to push things to the next level, as I start a new P90X cycle in better shape than I was at the beginning of my last P90X cycle in 2008. I plan to document the changes as I go, and also post shots from my Withings Wifi Body Scale along the way. My end goal is to settle at 160 pounds at 10% body fat, which I hope to achieve by November.

In the coming posts, I plan to document what I'm eating, which supplements I'm taking, which exercises I'm doing, and what tools I'm using to measure my progress. I just wanted to get this post out as a stake in the ground, partly to motivate myself, and partly to motivate anyone else that's looking to get back in shape after "taking some time off".