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“Examples of What Not to Eat”

623 0 06 Sep 2009

Are you confused about what not to eat?

There’s an enormous variety of nutritious foods available to us North American shoppers.  Still, it’s easy to become confused about what’s good for us to eat and, so, develop bad habits when buying food.

Some media hype is well-placed.  For example, all trans fats should be avoided.  Trans fats are found in all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, oils, and margarines.

Avoid all foods that have been harshly processed.  These are the best examples of what not to eat.  This even includes frozen, milled, or canned foods (such as canned vegetables and frozen dinners) or commercially baked goods (such as cakes and cookies).  Harsh processing destroys nutrients.

Avoid large fish such as shark and swordfish because they may contain high concentrations of mercury.  Avoid eating tuna more than once a week for the same reason.

Avoid all foods containing processed or refined carbohydrates.  These are great examples of what not to eat.  Especially avoid anything made with white flour or sugar of any kind.  This rules out breads, pastas, rolls, muffins, crumpets, pastries, cakes, cookies, doghnuts, pretzels, corn chips, most Mexican food, pizza, croissants, white rice, soft drinks, granola bars, breakfast bars, and breakfast cereals.

It’s also a good idea to rule out anything made from gluten-containing grains such as wheat, oats, triticale (a wheat-rye mixture), rye, barley, spelt, and kamut.   Also avoid corn, rice, so-called wild rice, teff, millet, sorghum, sugarcane, cane sugar, and corn syrup.  This means avoiding candy, sweetened foods including drinks and desserts, and dried fruits.  Remember, when digested all carbohydrates become sugar.  The human body did not evolve running primarily on sugar (glucose).  All sweets and other refined carbs are what not to eat.

In order to keep your daily grams of carbs well under 100, severely limit your intake of sweet fruits and high-carbohydrate vegetables.  I suggest varying your daily carb intake, but average only about 60 grams daily.  If you have too much body fat and make this one change, you may quickly be pleasantly surprised by the results.  You’ll realize that you have been eating too much of what not to eat.

Avoid sweetened dairy products such as frozen yogurt, and limit (or eliminate) products from cow’s milk.

Avoid unnatural flesh foods.  This especially includes grain-fed beef, bison, and beefalo that are raised in feedlots and treated with antibiotics and, often, hormones.  (The antibiotics are necessary because nearly all of those animals raised in those unnatural conditions are sick.)  Similarly, avoid farm-raised fish.  Since animals grown in captivity neither eat what their wild cousins eat nor move like their wild cousins, flesh foods from them are, not surprisingly, much worse for us to consume than flesh foods from their wild cousins.

It may appear that, if you avoid all these common foods, you’ll always be hungry.  Not so!  I’ll explain why in my next post.  In fact, just as there’s no good reason for you ever to be thirsty, there’s also no good reason ever for you to be hungry!

“Bread, Milk, and Other Toxins”

548 0 05 Sep 2009

Are bread and milk really toxins?

The processes of evolution grind slowly on.  This is why there is no single diet that is optimal for everyone.  Some people metabolize sugar or alcohol or saturated fats better than others.  If I ate like my training partner, whose favorite food is pizza, I’m sure I’d weigh over 300 lbs.!

The truth, though, is that our successful ancestors did not eat flesh from domesticated animals or plants raised by farmers.  There was no farming and, except for dogs and cats, no domesticated animals.  You may be able to tolerate some modern foods better than others, but you might not want to bet your life on it.

Do you ever crave candy bars, chocolate, or hard sugar candy?  Do you ever crave cow’s milk products like milk, sour cream, or ice cream?  Do you ever crave bread, pasta, noodles,, bagels, or other grain-based foods?

If so, you are probably suffering from food intolerances that are causing you physical problems such as weight gain! What happens is that, when we eat foods that don’t agree with us, our bodies try to calm the irritation by releasing powerful chemicals to soothe us.  If we continue to eat those foods, we can become addicted to those chemicals!  That’s what causes the cravings.

There are two major food groups that our successful ancestors did not eat.  It’s eating foods from these groups that causes most of the problems caused by unnatural diets.

(Of course, bread and milk do contain some beneficial nutrients.  Some people can flourish physically eating them.  My point is that you might not flourish physically eating bread and milk because your ancestors did not evolve eating them.)

First, the greatest source of calories consumed by humans today comes from rice, wheat, corn, barley, oats, sorghum, millet, and other cereal grains that were hybridized from a family of wild grasses.  Because the seeds of the ancestors of today’s plants were much smaller than our domesticated versions and very difficult to harvest, our successful ancestors probably only ate these carbohydrates to avoid starvation in extreme conditions.

Grains are difficult for all humans to digest.  Especially for those of us whose ancectors came from northern Europe, about 25% of us are genetically vulnerable to celiac disease, which is the most severe reaction to gluten-containing grains.  Of those grains, by far the most problematic is wheat.

Sugar is hard on all of us, and all carbohydrates become sugar when digested.  Sugar can cause joint pain, headaches, mood swings, and hyperactivity among other allergic reactions.  Just as alcohol, which is sugar’s cousin, can cause hangovers, headaches, irritability, mood swings, and energy swings, so can sugar.

Second, since our successful ancestors did not consume dairy products, it’s hardly surprising that many humans today have difficulty digesting milk sugar (lactose) or milk protein.  We don’t have any difficulty digesting human breast milk, and we can sometimes digest milk from goats or sheep.  Products from cow’s milk are much more problematic.  If you consume plenty of cow’s milk or sometimes crave cheese, ice cream, or yogurt, you actually may be allergic to them!

It’s good to be skeptical.  Why don’t you test yourself?  Simply eliminate all bread and other products based on grains or milk and all other dairy products for two weeks.  (Doing that may be much more difficult than you think; these products are ubiquitous.)  Then honestly ask yourself if you feel better.

If you don’t, you may tolerate them well.  If you feel better, though, I suggest eliminating them from your diet.

In my next post, I’ll get very specific about which foods, in general, are best to avoid.

What To Eat

544 0 04 Sep 2009

Let’s eliminate confusion about what to eat.

In theory, it’s simple:  eat foods that are as similar as possible to what our successful ancestors ate.  Why?  Humans evolved eating a certain kind of diet.  Evolution designed our bodies in a certain way.  When we live in accordance with that design, we flourish physically; when we don’t, we don’t.   Let’s begin by noting three important facts about what to eat.

(1)  Little about our bodies has changed in recent millennia.   Less than one-tenth of one percent of our genes have changed in the last 10,000 years. Since the advent of farming and the domestication of animals there has been very little cumulative genetic modification in us.

(2)  To our detriment, though, there has been considerable cumulative genetic modifications in the foods we consume.  This complicates the topic of what to eat.

There are big differences between eating wild plant foods and eating cultivated plant foods, and there are also big differences between eating wild flesh foods and eating domesticated flesh foods.  In general, it’s better for us to eat wild plant foods than cultivated plant foods, and it’s also better for us to eat wild flesh foods than domesticated flesh foods.

That’s because, in general, wild plants have more protein, fiber, and calcium than cultivated plants while at the same time being lower in sugar and starch, and wild flesh foods contain much less fat than domesticated flesh foods and the variety of flesh foods we eat has dramatically declined.

(3)  The minimum daily requirement for carbohydrates is zero.  We don’t need any carbohydrates to flourish physically; they are not what to eat–especially processed or refined carbohydrates.  This doesn’t mean that you should never eat them.  For most of us it’s a very good idea to get about 50 or 60 grams of carbs daily from (preferably organic) vegetables and, perhaps, a fruit or two, in other words, from unprocessed sources.  That is very different from basing one’s diet on them:  the average American eats about ten times that amount daily!  That’s a sign of widespread ignorance about what to eat.

I’ve just explained why obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, dental caries, hypoglycemia, and the other diseases of Western civilization are rampant.  Our bodies evolved to eat a diet of mostly fat and protein from wild flesh foods and wild plants and, instead, we are eating a diet of mostly refined (processed) carbohydrates from domesticated plants.

Ignorance is eliminable.  If there were less confusion about what to eat, there’s no doubt there would be a huge decrease in the lifestyle diseases of western civilization.  This is the practical importance of understanding what to eat.  It’s not just about becoming more attractive or even feeling better.

Therefore, if you want to flourish physically, I recommend following a more naturally balanced diet, which is one that derives about one-third of its calories from proteins and about two-thirds from fats and carbs.  That’s what to eat.  The foods should be as natural as possible.  In my next post, I’ll list what to avoid eating (except, of course, for an occasional “cheat” meal).

What should you eat?

More of your calories should come from fats than from proteins or carbs.  These fats and proteins should be natural fats from such sources as  the muscle and organs (like marrow, brain, heart, pancreas, and liver) from game animals (such as deer, elk, and rabbit) as well as from grass-fed ungulates (such as bison, beefalo, and cattle) that have not been treated with antibiotics or hormones;  skinless free range poultry that has not been treated with antibiotics or hormones;  fish from the sea–especially deep sea fatty fish like sockeye salmon, mackerel, and herring; shellfish; eggs; occasional wild game birds (such as duck, geese, pheasant, and quail); goat; and nuts and seeds.  Carbs should come from (preferably organic) vegetables, berries, and, in moderation, fruits.

Obviously, there’s a wide variety of foods that make good choices.  It’s a matter of degree:  the more you follow this natural diet, the less likely you are to suffer from the rampant illnesses of Western civilization.  Occasional cheat meals are alright, but I encourage you really to think twice before putting into your mouth any food that isn’t on this list.

It’s also important to drink plenty of purified water.  I usually drink 3 or 4 quarts daily.

Incidentally, if you are skeptical about a natural diet like this, I challenge you to follow it strictly for just 4 weeks.  If you do, you may be amazed at how much better you feel!  Don’t be surprised if you drop a few pounds without even trying.  If your present diet is based on processed carbohydrates and you adhere closely to this natural diet for just 28 days, you are simply going to be healthier than you are now.  “Listen” to your body:  it will tell you the truth.  Your skepticism will evaporate.

“Are You Confused About What To Eat?”

645 0 03 Sep 2009

You are almost certainly confused about what to eat!

That’s especially true if, like me, you are a Baby Boomer who was born between 1946 and 1961.  We’ve lived through one dietary fad after another and so many conflicting scientific studies that it can lead to giving up on science.  We’ve been led into one blind alley after another.  Everybody knows from personal experience what the “yo-yo” syndrome is.

Well, I’ve good news for you:  despite all the confusion of recent decades, the big picture about what to eat has finally clarified.  So, what should we eat to flourish physically? Which foods should we prepare and serve ourselves and our loved ones?

Like all great ideas, it’s simple.  What to eat?   Eat what our successful ancestors ate. If you really want to eat well to flourish physically, all you have to do is to refuse to put anything in your mouth that is unlike something one of your successful ancestors 20,000 years ago would have eaten.

Of course, you don’t always have to follow that rule strictly.  Having a “cheat” meal several times a week is, psychologically, a good idea.  Still, for the most part, you’ll greatly improve your odds of enjoying physical wellness if you’ll follow that rule about what to eat most of the time.

Skeptical?  That’s fine.  Just don’t get stuck there or your skepticism will become mere negativity.  There are plenty of readily available books on the market today that are packed with specific recommendations about what to eat backed by sufficient evidence.  What books?

Here’s where to find a list.  Go to my website:  http://www.lasting-weight-loss.com/ .  Look down the menu bar on the left side of the page until you find the box that reads “Best Self-Help Books.”  Click on it.  When you get to the page, look at the books in the first section, which is on flourishing physically.

(Of course, there’s no penalty for looking at some of the titles of the books in the other sections!)

Pick a few of the books and read them.  I think you’ll quickly agree with me.

In my next post, I’ll give you a few specific suggestions to sketch out what may appear strange new territory.

Remember:  there’s no such thing as a healthy mind with an unhealthy brain.  Living well is difficult.  Why not make it as easy as possible by at least feeding yourself well?

“Why Everyone Is Dead Wrong About Being a Good Cook”

634 0 02 Sep 2009

How should we approach being a cook?  What is a good cook, anyway?

Beginning with Julia Child on PBS some forty years ago, I’ve enjoyed watching many celebrity chiefs on television.  I own lots of cookbooks.  I occasionally bestir myself to cook or bake something delicious.  I’ve created some of my own recipes and even received my share of compliments.

Eating is one of our few genuine needs.  If we don’t do it for a few weeks, we die.  Suppose that I am to prepare a meal for a friend.  How should I do it?

I may think that if I want to be a good cook I should prepare a meal that is delicious, a meal that flatters my friend’s taste buds.  I should do my best to practice being an excellent chef.  I should aim to treat my guest so well that he or she asks me exactly how I prepared such a delicious meal.  That’s what being a good cook is all about!

Not!

That seems to be nearly everyone’s approach.  What it really is is an undisciplined, irrational, unloving approach to being a good cook.  Everyone who practices it is wrong.  I don’t think any serious philosopher would disagree.  Here’s why.

Plato distinguishes two different kinds of cooks in his dialogue “Gorgias.”  Let’s say that a cook of the first type is what I’ve described, in other words, someone interested in preparing delicious meals that flatter the taste buds.  Such a cook may honestly believe that what he or she is doing is moral.  Following Plato, I think not.

What is the purpose of eating?  Rationally, everything should follow from the answer to that question.  The purpose of eating is to flourish physically so that we can live as well as possible. The first and chief criterion for whether or not a meal is good is whether or not it is nutritious, physically beneficial.  Taste is less important than good nutrition.  If I am to love my friend,  if I am to serve my guest well, I should not primarily value appearances and concern myself with flattering my guest’s taste buds; instead, I should understand what really benefits my friend and provide it as skillfully as possible.

So a cook of the second type starts with a good understanding of nutrition and prepares a meal that really is good for those who eat it (as opposed to preparing a meal that only appears to be good for those who eat it).  A cook of the second type is primarily concerned with preparing a nutritionally beneficial meal and is only secondarily concerned with preparing one that flatters those who eat it by focusing on the taste and presentation of the meal.

Which kind of cook are you?  Do you seriously try to benefit or love your guests or family when you prepare a meal or do you, in effect, try to undermine their physical well-being?

“The Truth about Evidence Concerning Eternal Life”

747 3 01 Sep 2009

What kind of evidence is there about eternal life?  [Please don’t confuse this question with the related one about immortal life; see the two previous posts.]

My answer:  There is knowledge, not just opinion, about it.

Those who have directly experienced it know that it is qualitatively different and incalculably superior to everyday life.

Whereas immortal life is supposed to be a continuation or more of the same, eternal life isn’t.  Immortal life, if it is real, is only available after death; on the other hand, eternal life, if it is real, is only available in the present moment.  We live our lives in the present moment.

In my view, the fundamental difficulty about immortal life is that it is based on confused, irremediably flawed thinking about the nature of individuals.  Specifically, it depends upon the adequacy  of  a  “substance” ontology.  It assumes that individuals are, or have, separate “selves” [“substrata”].

Let’s assume, at least for the moment, that a nonsubstance ontology, which many thinkers including the Buddha or Hume have argued for, is correct.  Let’s assume that individuals are empty of separate “selves.”  If so, that’s a sufficient reason to let go of the idea of immortal life.

If you were raised with an uncritical acceptance of the idea that you are a separate self and that that separate self is immortal and you let that idea go after it fails to withstand examination, you may feel disappointed–or even upset or afraid.  Actually, as Nietzsche argued, your mood should improve rather than deteriorate.  Why?

Because letting go of attachment to immortality dissolves an obstruction to living well.

Any focus on immortal life is, since it is focus on death or non-life, not a focus on life.  Letting go of attachment to immortal life permits full focus on life, on living well in the present moment.

How could eternal life be qualitatively better than everyday life?  What, exactly, is it?

It’s ineffable.  How could one clarify participation in the domain of timelessness?  It cannot be conceptualized, understood by discursive thinking.

The reason is that conceptualization isn’t up to the task.  A concept is a principle of classification (separation, sorting, division, categorization).  We understand conceptually by dividing objects according to their similarities and differences.  Obviously, it is logically impossible for conceptualization to understand unity.  Separation cannot grasp nonseparation.

To know timelessness is to experience it directly, something like the way you occasionally experience a headache.  When you directly experience a headache, you know that you have it.  It doesn’t even matter if you are asleep and dreaming—it’s still a pain!

To experience eternal life directly is to have the unitive experience.  It’s a direct consciousness of the unity or interconnectedness of everything.

If you haven’t had that experience, you just lack evidence concerning it.  If you have had that experience, you have knowledge of eternal life.

That’s amazing, isn’t it?  Though it’s impossible to know that immortal life is real, it is possible to know that eternal life is real.

“The Truth about the Evidence Concerning Immortality”

664 3 31 Aug 2009

[This post continues the discussion of the last one.]

What is the evidence for or against:  (i) immortality is real, (ii) it’s false that it is real, (iii) eternal life is real, and (iv) it’s false that eternal life is real?

Let’s consider immortality in this post and eternal life in the next one.

Unless there’s evidence to the contrary, it’s always rational not to believe that something is real.  By way of analogy, in our legal system, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, not on the defendant.  In other words, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty; the defendant does not have to prove a negative, that it’s false that he or she is guilty.

When it comes to the existence or nonexistence of something, the burden of proof is always on whoever makes the positive existential claim.  If you think that yeti are real and I disagree, in order to settle the dispute I don’t have to prove that it’s false that yeti exist; rather, you have to prove that they do exist.  This is because, unless one can demonstrate a contradiction (as can sometimes be done in logic or mathematics), it’s not possible to prove a negative existential claim.

If you are inclined to disagree, try to imagine how you would prove that, say, there are no yeti.  Since, if they were real, they would be perceivable objects, you would be required to have perceptual evidence of every place in the universe at one moment.  So, it’s impossible to prove that there are no yeti!  Naturally, then, the burden of proof falls on whoever thinks there are yeti.  Without a cadaver or other good evidence to the contrary, it’s rational to think that it’s false that they exist.

The concept of evidence is the chief concept in epistemology, much as the concept of reality (existence) is the chief concept in ontology and the concept of value is the chief concept in axiology.  So, like the concepts of reality and value, it is a fundamental concept.

It’s important to distinguish the two kinds of evidence, namely, demonstrative evidence and nondemonstrative evidence.

Demonstrative evidence yields knowledge.  Strictly speaking, we know something only when it is certain.  Butchvarov argues that knowledge is the unthinkability of mistake (see his THE CONCEPT OF KNOWLEDGE).  We know something if and only if we cannot even think of how we could be mistaken about it.  The domain of knowledge is limited; we can know some necessary (analytic) truths (for example, “red is a color” or “three is less than four”) and some truths about immediate experience (for example, “I have a headache”).  There’s no such thing as false knowledge.

All our other beliefs are in the domain of opinion.  Whereas there’s no such thing as false knowledge, there can be false opinion.  The evidence in favor of any opinion is nondemonstrative.  What is nondemonstrative evidence?  I don ‘t know.  Nobody else does either.  The chief problem in epistemology is figuring out what it is.  How can we tell the difference between a true opinion and a false one?  That’s a difficult nut to crack.

So it might seem, then, that either proposition about immortality is an opinion.  Not!

Here’s why.  Propositions must be intelligible to be true or false.  I don’t think that propositions about immortality are intelligible!  If so, they are neither true nor false.

What is it that is supposed to have immortal life?  What is it that is supposed to continue living beyond death?  Which subject is supposed to have immortality?

I have no idea.  At least for me, at this point the discussion loses sense!  I’m not bright enough to figure out what a nonbodily “soul” could be.  Though you may have one or believe you have one, I assure you that I am empty of such an entity.  I feel like someone born blind must feel when others are discussing colors.  I just don’t get it.  After a short while, I simply lose interest.

Notice, for example, that such a nonbodily soul could not be a something that perceives.  Therefore, too, it could not be something that imagines.  What would it do?  How could it be singled out (identified)?  There’s a good slogan in ontology:  “no entity without identity.”  Well, here, at least for me, there’s no identity and no entity.

Therefore, propositions about personal immortality are unintelligible and, so, neither true nor false.  Talk about them should be dismissed as something like confused wishful thinking.

As a matter of fact, and here’s the real stunner, propositions about separate persons are unintelligible and, so, neither truth nor false!  I intend to discuss this very important point in other posts.

In my next post I’ll discuss the evidence concerning eternal life.

“The Hidden Confusion About Immortality Exposed”

599 0 30 Aug 2009

Are you curious about immortality?

Observing a funeral always reminds me of the appalling ignorance concerning the distinction between immortal life [immortality] and eternal life.  Fortunately, ignorance is curable.

Since the prefix “im” negates what follows it, our topic is the opposite of mortal life.  It is life after death, or, if you prefer, life after life.  Therefore, it is not available now, during life.  It presupposes duration or continuance; in other words, it merely involves a longer time.  It’s the claim that there is a greater quantity to life than is initially apparent.

By way of contrast, eternal life is available now.  Eternal life is timelessness.  It has nothing to do with time; eternity is the opposite of temporality.  It’s qualitatively different.

This distinction yields four possibilities.  Neither is available to humans.  Both are available.  One is available, but the other isn’t.

Which of the four positions should we provisionally adopt?

Well, that depends upon the evidence.  Only now that the four possibilities are clearly distinguished does it make sense to inquire about which is best supported by evidence.  (I intend to talk about the evidence in my next post.  I shall commit myself to one of the four possibilities.)

It’s important, though, to distinguish what a claim is from the evidence regarding it.  For example, it’s senseless to argue for or against the existence of God without first becoming clear about the subject of the dispute, about what God is.  Otherwise, it’s impossible to determine which evidence is relevant.  Similarly, it’s senseless to try to think about immortality without clearly distinguishing it from eternal life.  Sadly and unnecessarily, that’s a distinction that is commonly overlooked.

Since these are important matters, it’s wise to insist on clarity.  Step one is becoming clear about what immortality is.  Step two is gathering and evaluating the relevant evidence.

“Life’s Momentum”

548 0 29 Aug 2009

Exactly one week ago I canoed on a river for the first time.

I’ve had considerable experience canoeing across northern lakes.  The proper canoes for that are 18 to 20 feet long with keels.  They are often heavily laden with camping equipment.  It’s usually hard work.  One must consider the wind, but lakes lack significant currents.

River canoes are shorter than lake canoes and have no keels.  Ours were lightly loaded.  As a result, they easily slipped sideways, which is a useful trait in white water.  Partly because it requires almost no paddling but only steering, river canoeing is fun.  The river’s current provides the momentum.

Did you ever wonder what provides the momentum in our lives?

Surely it’s our habits.  I like what Ed Foreman said about them:  “Good habits are hard to form, but easy to live with; bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.”

What are the habits that lead to living wisely, excellently, well?

Does the quality of your habits accurately reflect the quality of your life?