March 07, 2010
So, I hear people talking about how they prefer their sodas of choice to use the sugar recipe instead of the high fructose corn syrup recipe. Given that sugar and HFCS are pretty much identical, chemically, I was curious as to whether there really is a difference.
So I set up a test.
I went to the local grocery store, and bought two otherwise-identical bottles of Dr Pepper -- one using the current formula, and the other using the 'heritage formula' that uses sugar instead of HFCS. I chose Dr Pepper because that is my poison of choice. And yes: I AM WELL AWARE THAT I SHOULDN'T BE DRINKING SODA POP AT ALL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Pepsi was also an option to do the sugar versus HFCS taste test challenge, but Pepsi is not my poison of choice.
So. I made myself some peanut-butter toast to use as a palette reset. I asked Paulette to pour one type of Dr Pepper in one mug, and the other in another while I was out of the room, and to return the bottles to the fridge so that I couldn't be swayed by knowing which formula was in which mug.
I came back in the kitchen and began the taste test. I ate a bite of peanut butter toast, and then tried the first mug. Very bubbly. Otherwise, about what I'd expect from Dr Pepper. I had another bite of peanut butter toast, and then tried the second mug.
Hmmm. A very subtle difference. Very subtle. A little (only a weeee bit) fruitier, perhaps. More like... cough syrup.
I held out the second mug. "This is the sugar version."
"The difference is almost too subtle to notice. But given a choice between the two, I prefer the HFCS recipe."
So, there you have it.
If you slipped me sugar instead of the HFCS version, I probably wouldn't notice or care. But when paying close attention, when it comes to the taste of Dr Pepper, sugar is not an advantage.
This public service message is brought to you by the find folks at Rousselle labs, who remind you that all soda is bad for you, whether you bow to your Big Corn overlords or fall sway to the great "Sugar Is Better" lie.
February 07, 2008
I fell off the Soda wagon a little while ago, albeit not very hard.
My weight has been bouncing a little between 30 lbs and 25 lbs down from when I initially decided to kick soda in April of last year. I haven't been soda-free all of that time, but I've definitely been soda-reduced.
Recently, a doctor told me I was best advised to cut out caffeine entirely, so I've been soda-free again for a few days. My weight has not dropped any since my last Coca Cola. Nor, for that matter, has my tendency toward insomnia abated. (I'm typing this at 4:30am on what I still consider to be Tuesday -- even though it is actually now Wednesday. I'll schedule it to post on Thursday, just to be goofy.)
But I sure do miss scratching that soda-craving itch.
July 21, 2007
I won a bet a few months ago. The bet was with a fellow named Allen, and the wager was a copy of the final Harry Potter book. Because I won, Allen was to buy me a copy of the book on the day it was released.
Since then, I proposed that our community throw a "Harry Potter Party", which I may have mentioned in a previous post. The events committee in our neighborhood said it sounded like a great idea, and so they began the work of organizing it. One task fell to me, however, and that was to attempt to secure some copies of the book to give away as prizes. Although there is a small amount of money in our event committee's budget that could be used in that direction, it's always better to try to get donations, when possible, so that the money can be there for the next event.
Our neighborhood supermarket was very generous (Thank you, QFC!) in donating three copies of the book toward the event, and I picked them up about ten minutes ago, so that I'll have them in hand when I go to help set up for the party in the morning.
So here I am with three brand new copies of the book... a book that I am eager, eager, eager to begin reading. But these copies are for the party, and Allen won't be bringing me my copy until sometime tomorrow -- likely, after the party. But I want to read a copy now!
I thought about leaving them in my car, but it's raining tonight (unusual here, for this time of year; summer is the "dry season") and I don't want the humidity to warp the pages. So, here they are. Sitting on the kitchen counter. Calling to me. "Allan... Allan! Just one little chapter. What could be the harm? Nobody will ever know!"
That, ladies and germs, is how I came to be a hundred pounds overweight. "I'll just have one bite of that Ben & Jerry's. No one will ever notice." How does one bite become a hundred pounds? The same way one little chapter becomes staying up until the time my alarm goes off, the book half-read, and me having to buy another copy to hide my crime.
Nope. Better to just go to bed. I'll get my own copy tomorrow. No borrowing any sneaked peeks tonight.
Nor, for that matter, any ice cream.
Will power. It's not just for breakfast anymore.
May 05, 2007
So, I finally went to see a doctor about my vertigo, since it wasn't going away by itself. Of course, when I've been hit by this in the past, it's never gone away by itself, but still, I delayed seeing a doctor.
What finally pushed me over the edge was the growing pain I was noticing in one of my ears late at night, making it very difficult for me to sleep. This shouldn't have surprised me, as previous bouts of vertigo have almost (but not quite) always been accompanied by an ear infection or two.
Saw the doctor the next day and, sure enough, two external ear infections and likely one inner ear infection. Many drugs and several days later, and the problem began to subside.
One of the unfortunate side-effects of one of the drugs in question is headaches (nothing new, alas), while another is increase in appetite. As the vertigo began to clear and as my appetite grew, I began to crave soda for the first time since I went cold turkey. While I didn't succumb, I did manage to stuff my face with a bunch of other foods, thereby putting my weight loss to a temporary halt.
But all that is over now, and my appetite has been somewhat easier to handle. The vertigo has vertigone, I've still managed to refrain from spending time with ol' Dr Pepper, and the weight loss has resumed. As of yesterday morning, I'm fourteen pounds below my maximum weight, and still slowly dropping.
Not that you could tell to look at me. I guess that's to be expected when one is already eighty to a hundred pounds over their ideal weight; a fourteen-pound drop really isn't all that noticeable. Still, if I ever am to get to the point where my weight loss *is* noticeable, I'm going to need to continue to make the measurable-albeit-invisible progress I've been making thus far.
There was a Saturday Night Live sketch a few years ago that made fun of Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or some program like that, where they have meetings and talk about being fat. In the sketch, the meeting leader kept saying "No food tastes as good as being thin feels," as a mantra. I'm guessing that this particular line is an actually line lifted from a real weight loss program. It's a great line. I occasionally think of it, and reword it to my current situation: "No Dr Pepper tastes as good as being thin feels...."
But I don't feel thin. *And* I don't get any Dr Pepper. And some Dr Pepper would sure have tasted great with lunch today. But, well, who knows? Maybe I can eventually get to the point where I'll again experience how "being thin feels."
I seem to recall it feels like being hungry.
When I saw the doctor about my vertigo, we also talked about my general health. He had me do some blood work, and it turns out that, well, I'm a healthy guy. I think he was disappointed. It's easier to say, "Being fat is bad for you!" if, in fact, you happen to have all kinds of bad things in your blood that correspond with you being fat. To be totally honest, my cholesterol is just the tiniest bit higher than normal. Alas, that was also true the last time I had blood work done (ten years and fifty pounds ago), and the proportion of good to bad cholesterol remains healthy, just as it was back then.
So, yeah, the doctor is encouraging me to continue to stay off the soda (and to eat more veggies, besides), and he endorses my plan to add some exercise to the program before too long.
I've been soda-free now for over a month. I'll only have to keep this up for the rest of my freakin' life.MORE...
April 17, 2007
As I've commented elsewhere, I've become a bit of a butterball in the years since graduating from university. As much as it pains me to say so publicly, my maximum weight since college was a hundred pounds over my average weight during my senior year of undergraduate work. That is not a typo. One hundred pounds. And the last time I was at this fabled maximum weight? Oh, a few weeks ago or so.
I also grew an inch in height in the first couple of years after graduation. Alas, alack, one inch in height does not correspond, in any healthy way, to ten or so inches added to the waist.
A few interesting twists and turns have cropped up recently, and I appear to have accidentally begun a turn-around on this journey of a thousand pounds. It started with the coincidence of my most recent bout of vertigo (which has not gone away yet), my recent birthday (which was horrible, by the way, but for reasons having nothing to do with me being fat), and running out of Pepsi at home (even though I still had plenty at the office).
The inner ear problem I've been experiencing includes not only occasional vertigo, but also headaches. Having been in a foul mood on the weekend of April Fool's Day (and, sadly for me, having no inclination to play any pranks on anyone this year), and already experiencing headaches, and having run out of Pepsi at home, I accidentally ended up going a few days without any carbonated beverages at all. The caffeine withdrawal headaches can be a bitch but, well, I was already having headaches. And after I was a few days into this pattern, it became easier to turn it into a new habit.
I'm kicking the soda (can) habit.
It's a modest change, but combined with a few other minor tweaks to my eating habits, it has so far accounted for a ten-pound loss in weight. [And yes, this kind of weight loss is much too fast and it neither could nor should be maintained for any prolonged period.]
According to a recent study, diets do not work in the long term. The only way to successfully lose weight and keep it off is to make 'lifestyle changes.' What is a lifestyle change?
I posed this question over dinner recently with some extended family, and their response was the same as my original thought: if I never have a can of soda again, it's a lifestyle change. If I ever do have another can of soda, then kicking that habit was just a diet. Voila!
When I read the article on the failure of diets more closely, however, they seem to indicate that the only real success can be managed by incorporating more exercise into one's "lifestyle".
(Great. Now exercising is a "lifestyle choice.")
So I guess if I'm to build on any progress I'm making now, I'm going to have to start introducing tweaks to my patterns of physical activity before my 'diet' attains its maximum statistical threshold (ie, before I've lost 5 to 10 percent of my total weight).
I do know this: I don't want to go back to swimming three hours a day like I did when I was in high school. Uh-uh. Not only is it too time consuming; I've simply gotten sick of the smell of chlorine. Literally, I get sick from the smell. Oh, and swimming is boring, especially when one is no longer in high school, swimming alongside attractive and physically-fit high school girls. [sigh]
But according to that study, I'm going to have to do something. Otherwise, I'm doomed to gain all that weight back. Doomed!
Behind every diet silver lining, there's a dark lifestyle cloud.
[And for your information, NO, GOING OFF OF CAFFEINE HAS NOT AFFECTED MY MOOD, OKAY!? SO BACK OFF!]
March 29, 2005
As you may have gathered from a few hints I've dropped in earlier entries on my site, Paulette and I are expecting our second child before too long.
In the meantime, our son Alexander has had to adjust to a number of changes, including the move from one house to another and the fact that his Mommy is no longer up for running after him when he chooses to dash around like a crazed miniature T-Rex on PCB. We've been trying to prepare him for the fact that he has a younger sibling on the way by indicating his mother's belly and saying "there's a baby in there."
So, a few days ago, Alex puts his hand on *my* belly and says, "Baby in there!"
Ummm. How do you explain that, no, that's not a baby, that's too many french fries?
Occasionally, in years gone by, I'd psych myself up for a burst of weight-control efforts (diet or exercise program) by printing up a then-current picture of me (in which I was grossly overweight) and use that as inspiration to NOT BE LIKE THAT. Now, of course, I look at those photos and wish I could be that thin again.
There's a great line from an article that Chicago columnist Mary Schmich wrote as advice for the graduating high school / college class of 1997 -- this column was later set to music as "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)" and had been e-mailed around the 'net, misattributed to Kurt Vonnegut. The line in question:
"Trust me, in twenty years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you imagine." [Emphasis mine]
I remember photos from my last couple of years in college when I'd look at them and imagine I was fat. And the columnist is right, of course. I was not as fat as I'd imagined. NOW I'm as fat as I'd imagined.
True story: I look at a sumo wrestler on TV or in the movies and realize, hey, I could take him!
There's a saying that "realizing you have a problem is halfway to solving it." Bull. I know lots of smokers who know they should quit, but that doesn't bring them any closer to quitting. Realizing you have a problem might be the first step. Unfortunately, it's only the first step of what amounts to being a journey of a thousand miles.
But then again, as I mentioned earlier, that's how I got here: not all at once, but very, very gradually. One step at a time, over a long period, until I looked back and realized how very far I'd come, and how very, very far off course I'd ended up.
"The Journey of a Thousand Pounds begins with a single pint of Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heathbar Crunch."
--Ancient Chinese Secret
The worst thing about having this kind of a problem -- a problem that stems partially from poor habits and partially from destructive predispositions -- is encountering other people who have also had these kinds of problem and know exactly how to solve all of *your* problems.
There's the ex-smoker, for example, who simply decided one day a few years ago to quit, and did so, and therefore it's obvious that if you want to lose weight, you just have to decide to, and that's that.
Quite frankly, I've never had the urge to try a cigarette, I think they're disgusting and smell bad and can't possibly imagine that it could ever be enjoyable. I couldn't get hooked on cigarettes because I'm predisposed not to even want to try. So, for me to offer my opinions or advice on how to quit smoking could only ever be an academic exercise: I don't know what it's like, so I can only go on what I've read or heard. But for a reformed smoker who has never had a weight problem to assume that he knows what it takes to conquer a trend toward fattitude is just as misguided as me presuming to know how to advise a smoker to kick his habit.
Do *you* smoke? Well, then, why don't you just quit?
Glad I could be of help.
Then there's the advice from people who have taken an approach that worked for them for weight loss, and therefore are convinced that it will work in all cases. I work in an office where one of the guys got hooked on mountain climbing. "Allan," he'd say, "all you have to do is come climbing with me on the weekends, and you'll lose all that weight, no matter how much you eat."
He's almost certainly right. I've gone climbing with him, and holy cow that's a workout. And there is a lot to like about that kind of exercise. But aside from the fact that I'm now married with child and therefore have things to do on the weekends, the fact is that I don't find mountain climbing to be as interesting as he finds it. Any eight hour exercise session is going to become a bit tedious if you just don't dig it.
"No, Allan," his father advises me. "The only way to lose weight is to shut your mouth and don't let any calories pass between your lips." My employer has offered similar insights. "Exercise isn't the answer," he says (although he runs marathons and jogs something like a hundred miles a day). "You have to watch what you eat. It's the only way to lose weight."
Well, for my office mate's father, dieting was, indeed, the ticket. He eats a hard boiled egg for breakfast. I think he eats a slice of toast for dinner, on days he has dinner. And sure enough, he has lost a lot of weight.
As for my employer, I'm told that his regimen has produced substantial results (I haven't known him all that long), but I also know it includes a great deal of exercise as well as moderation in the eating department. Then again, he will also freely offer, "I completely subscribe to the do as I say, not as I do school of thought."
When friends, family, and co-workers offer me their suggestions that I tend to my weight, I know that they are doing so out of concern for my well-being. Well, except for my employer, who simply wants to avoid having to train somebody else to do my job.
Some broach the subject tactfully. Some are rather bold about it. Most wait (er, weight?) until I bring it up, and then they helpfully offer their advice.
As you might assume from my posts on the subject, I'm fine talking about it. In fact, as an extrovert, I'm more inclined to talk about whatever is on my mind than I am to mull it over. It's just the way we extroverts tend to work out problems. We talk it out. And this is, indeed, a problem that I'm trying to work out.
So I don't mind the advice. I don't mind suggestions or counter-suggestions or food-for-thought, such as it is. What bothers me is the idea that anyone knows the be-all-end-all solution to this problem. What works in some cases does not work in all. If there were one sure-fire method for losing weight, we wouldn't have an obesity problem in this country.
There is one sure-fire *basis* for losing weight (burn more calories than you take in), but I have yet to find a sure-fire method toward that goal. Therein lies a multi-billion dollar industry.
But I have some thoughts on the subject. Perhaps you do, too. Let's chat.
For starters, I'll note that I've come to believe the solution that will work for me will be found in the notion of "The Journey of a Thousand Miles" (or a Thousand Pounds, in this case). This is not a destination I can pursue simply by setting out to earn my black belt or enter a marathon or some such goal. More likely, I'm going to have to find small course corrections that I can make now and that I can sustain indefinitely.
That, or learn to exploit my current predispositions and pursue a career as a sumo wrestler.
March 27, 2005
I haven't always been fat, but I've always struggled with being or becoming fat. Friends who knew me in college or even high school might be surprised at that, but that's only because I was winning the battle at that time of my life.
About half-way through high school, I noticed that I needed to keep buying new jeans not because my inseam grew, but because my waistline did. At the same time, I took an interest in the opposite sex and realize that my interest would not be reciprocated if I continued to get fatter and fatter.
I had a 34-inch waist (at 5' 6" in height, at the time) and was continuing to grow (sideways) at the beginning of my junior year of high school. So, I took a radical step, and asked the coach if I could practice with the swim team. Swimming was a great way to work out, because it was non-contact and, since I wasn't on the team, I didn't have to worry about being criticized for not doing it right.
Swim practice involved something like two or three hours a day, five days a week (if I recall correctly, and it's possible that I don't). I would also often lift weights at a friend's house, who was a bit of a body builder and was an excellent personal trainer for me at that stage of my life.
Much to my surprise, the coach would egg me on in ways I'd never expected. At one point, he told me I couldn't practice with the team if I couldn't swim five lengths in the pool without stopping. So I did that. Then he'd put me in relays with the team members. Then he coached me to swim better. Then he coached me to swim faster. Then, when everybody on the team expected me to compete in our first meet of the year, I just sort of fell into it. Thus, without meaning to, I joined the swim team, became competitive, and eventually reached all-city honors.
So it should come as no surprise that by the end of my senior year, I had a 29-inch waist (and 5' 7" and still growing taller) and no flab to be found. This was not the result of being a naturally skinny guy. This was the result of hours of work every day, while also imposing some weird dietary rules upon myself. Hard, hard work. It paid off.
I didn't swim competitively in college, but my alma mater was located in a very hilly location, and I typically walked over a mile to get from home to class, and then vice versa at the end of the day. Up and down a couple of hills. I did swim as my elective phys. ed class for many semesters, and took fencing and ballroom dancing as well. Senior year, I lived all the way down the hill from campus and halfway up the next hill to the next college over. Yeah, that was a lot of strenuous exercise. So again, maintaining my "fighting weight" was the result of work, not of natural predisposition.
But anyone who knew me then and who knows me now knows that I've put a lot of weight on in the time since. Why? Well, I have a lot of reasons, but they all boil down to one simple fact: I've been taking in more calories than I burn.
It doesn't take much of an imbalance in that direction to push your weight up to 100 pounds over the ideal weight for your height. Imagine averaging gaining no more than, say, a pound a month. That's not much, right? Not much at all.
I graduated from college fifteen years ago.
Do the math.
Depending upon which charts you use, I'm probably about 80 pounds overweight, plus or minus ten pounds, for my height (I'm now comfortably between 5' 8" and 5' 9"). So I'm not doing quite so bad as gaining a pound a month. Also, my weight has not always been on an upward trajectory; there have been several periods where I've either lost weight or kept level. But the upward trend has prevailed over the long haul. I just don't have the two to three hours a day to maintain the kind of body I had in high school and college. Or, at least, I choose to do other things with that time (like stay married, stay employed, spend some time with my son, maybe write a short story or two, etc., etc.).
Last summer, I managed to bicycle to and from work, which boiled away roughly ten pounds. Then the weather got ugly, and my time became tighter as we prepared to buy a house, and the next thing you know, the scale slowly made that ground back up. By the time our move started, I was back up to where I'd started at the beginning of last summer -- at the highest weight I've ever been in my life.
The move has naturally siphoned away four pounds or so. Funny how, if you spend a couple weeks burning more calories than you take in, the weight goes down instead of up.
But the fact is that I've got a bit of a predisposition to take in more calories than I use. The problem is: what do I do about it?
[to be continued...]
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