Monday, January 5, 2009

I Was Wrong (and Kettlebell Workout)

Hang cleans from Saturday's terrible workout. Picture stolen from Tim. Why do I always look up when I'm going into a squat? I think it's a weird balance thing. Or maybe I'm asking for help from the heavens to not fall on my ass.

Today's Kettlebell Workout

7 rounds for time of:

15 KB snatches left hand 12 kg
12 ball slams
15 KB snatches right hand
6 burpees

Time: 23:19

And now, all the way down here, I'll bury my real post, entitled I Was Wrong.

I hate to admit when I am wrong. But sometimes I just have to own up to it. I went back and read my post on nutrition from October, and I was wrong about the Zone diet. When Tim recommended it, I groaned and thought, I need to write something about nutrition because this Zone nonsense is just pseudoscience and a big marketing scam. But when he brought it up again, I decided that as a good scientist, I should do my research rather than jump to conclusions. And it turns out I was wrong (and Tim was right - gah!). There are data, controlled experiments even, backing it up. The mechanisms and claims set forth are not pseudoscience, they are quite reasonable. And I've been doing it for several weeks, and it works. My metabolism is in hyperdrive, I have more energy, I'm hardly ever hungry, and my clothes keep getting looser.

The thing about nutrition is that we all think we know what good nutrition is. But we have been getting bad information from so-called experts for a long time. (CrossFitters know that you can't always trust the "experts", especially when the data is on your side.) Here are a few things that are accepted as Incontrovertible Truth but for which there is very little real scientific evidence:

1. A low-fat diet helps people lose weight.
2. A low-fat diet prevents heart disease.
3. High carbohydrate diets are safe for long-term health.
4. The only thing that matters for weight maintenance is calories in/calories out.

You might balk. You might say, I've been avoiding fat for the last 20 years! I eat lots of rice, pasta, and cereal, low fat/diet everything, and barely any meat because that's what's good for me! That's what my doctor says to do!

Here's an example of what I suspect many people (including many doctors and so-called nutritionists) would consider to be a healthy day of eating. (I didn't get this from anywhere, just making it up to illustrate.) Let's call it Menu 1:

breakfast: bowl of cereal with skim milk, orange juice
lunch: turkey sandwich with no cheese on a large whole wheat roll with diet mayo, fat free potato chips
snack: pretzels, diet soda
dinner: big bowl of pasta with low-fat marinara sauce, salad with "lite" dressing, whole wheat roll with low-fat butter substitute
dessert: low-fat ice milk or frozen yogurt

Now look at Menu 2 (also made up, but not unlike what I've been eating lately):

breakfast: scrambled eggs, an orange, a little bit of toast with sliced avocado
lunch: tuna salad made with mayo and olive oil over red peppers and lettuce
snack: cottage cheese, cashews, apple slices
dinner: salad with oil and vinegar, olives, small sirloin steak
dessert: almond butter, crackers, and dark chocolate

A lot of people would look at Menu 1 and say that it's much healthier than Menu 2 because it's very low fat and has "diet" foods. But Menu 1 will make you fat, sluggish, and hungry, and Menu 2 will make you lean, energetic, and satisfied. Menu 1 has way too much sugar and other carbs, not enough fat or protein, and not enough nutrients. Menu 2 has less processed food, a "Zone-like" balance of protein, carbs, and fat, and is rich in nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, and vitamins.

Here's a distillation of what I've learned so far:

1. Fat does not make you fat.
2. You're better off trying to eat more high nutrient foods (vegetables, fruit, probably protein) than trying to avoid "bad" foods.
3. Diet foods are not really food and they are a bad idea.
4. Sugar is everywhere and eating too much sugar is bad. Sugar is in just about everything that's processed, especially foods marketed as low fat. And starches like pasta and rice turn into sugar when you digest them.
5. Portion size matters, no matter what you're eating. (There are no "free" foods.)
6. Chances are pretty good that if you're trying to eat healthy, you aren't getting enough fat or protein in your diet.

I really wish more people knew about this and didn't accept today's conventional wisdom about nutrition. In my October post, I said something about trusting your instincts in choosing healthy foods. But I think that's where I went wrong. It's important to understand that our instincts about food and what's healthy are shaped by what we see in the media, in advertising, in government recommendations, in all the misinformation that's out there. We can't trust our instincts, we have to learn new instincts.

There's no need to take me at my word. Here are some references that I found compelling:
  • Any of Barry Sears' Zone books. The one I read was Mastering the Zone: The Next Step in Achieving SuperHealth and Permanent Fat Loss. (This is not an ad for his books, just recommended reading. You can get them from the library.)


mtbjune said...

Nice the way, I do the exact same thing with looking up all the time. Not sure what it's all about?!?

Hope you had a great time in PA, all of your knitting projects looked great!

Anonymous said...

Nice post Amy. Wait until I go off on the running shoe industry. It is along the lines of accepted truths.

Margaret said...

Somewhere sometime someone told you to look up. It isn't helpful, try looking foreward or out and down. It puts your neck in a better position
Amy I totally admire that you did the kettle bell WOD today.

lucinda said...

Loved your post...
If you want to read more about 'against the mainstream' nutrition you'd get a lot out of the books by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig: Nourishing Traditions, Eat Fat Lose Fat and the Coconut diet (or something to that effect). I changed the way I eat after reading them...but to really follow their suggestions you'd have to live on a farm... They make a lot of sense -I'd love to hear what you think!

brg said...

i found this blog through crossfit.

In 1993 I followed a eating plan called "Lean Bodies" basically it's a no sugar, no processed food, 5 small meals a day. I think the thing I took away from that way back when was to only try to eat food with 5 ingredients or less and if I didn't know what the ingredient was then I don't eat it.

I used to think eating canned veggies was healthy but canned veggies have a ton of sugar in's pretty sneaky what foods have added sugar.

I get lazy every now and then and everytime I need to drop 3 or 4 lbs I go back to the Lean Bodies plan.

So when I was reading 'menu 1' i was thinking 'yowza there's a lot of processed food in that menu'.

enjoyed the post!