No contest: spicy every time.
I enjoy listening to various podcasts when I work out, when I’m on the stationary bike or even when I’m running!
One of the channels that (almost always) climbs to the top of my playlist each week is Freakonomics, an economics podcast by the authors of that book with the same name that you’ve heard about, maybe even bought, but probably haven’t read.
Yet, if the prospect of an economics podcast just sent shivers down your spine, then put on a sweater and give a few episodes of this one a listen. I suspect you may face your fear to positive effect.
One episode I would suggest for runners is the recently posted “The Cheeseburger Diet” which while it does talk a lot about cheeseburgers, is actually less about cheeseburgers and more about the tangential observation that humans are interesting creatures and we do strange things… like this thing called compensatory behavior.
I’ve heard some of you compensating with my own ears
Compensation: You do it, too. I know you do. Because I’ve heard some of you compensating with my own ears.
So, the podcast led in with a story about one woman’s obsession with finding the ultimate cheeseburger. She sounded like my kinda gal: not because of the cheeseburger obsession, but because of the analytical, over-thinking process she went through of setting up a process, schedule, a grading system, and then (essentially) writing a book-length document chronicling the results and her adventure (which she has no plan on publishing, of course.) In the context, you think the story is leading to something about a new fad diet of eating cheeseburgers and fries twice a week as a model of some unexpected outcome relating to weight loss, but it turns out to be a little more mundane and grounded than that. (Get it? Ground-ed? Hamburger? Oh, never mind.)
As it turns out she followed some classic compensatory behavior. Just like salivating over a fresh burger, this is the stuff that makes human economists drool.
“If you take on some extra risk in one area of your life, you might need to compensate by adding some precautionary behavior in another area. Some of us are certainly better at this than others, but it is a nice act of faith, isn’t it? Faith in ourselves, and our ability to self-regulate, as opposed to relying on some top-down guideline that may produce the behavior you’re hoping for — or, given the power of the law of unintended consequences, may produce the opposite behavior.”–Freakonomics Podcast, Episode 230
Cheeseburger Lady did not actually end up gaining a hundred pounds over her year of eating greazy burgers. Why? Because she made up for it in other parts of her diet: she ate healthier for the other nineteen meals of the week, as she put it, rather than just adding a more fast food to her menu. She compensated for one increasing health risk by consciously reducing another.
All Of You Runners?
Runners do this. I know we do this, because (a) we’re human, and (b) I’ve done it and (c) I’m therefore extrapolating my observational data to include all runners in the entire universe. Can you believe I actually have a university science degree?
Sarcastic exaggeration aside, I’ve noticed that many of us seem to do this in both positive ways and negative ones. We do this in ways that usually relate back to eating more because we’re running more. We do it by saying (stupid) things like: I’m burning more calories by training so I deserve a desert today. Or, I just ran ten klicks so I’m going to have a great big cookie at coffee afterwards. In fact, I’ve heard one particular refrain come from the mouth of many of my fellow runners at one point or another: “I run because I like to eat.” You know that one? I know that one? I may have even said it myself.
eating all the cheesyburgers
In the podcast, Cheeseburger Lady had managed to maintain her healthy weight over the year of her cheeseburger quest, and in fact improved a few other health factors like her cholesterol counts, and the reason proposed was that she had been compensating for a new risk factor (eating all the cheesyburgers) by behaving better in the rest of her life (walking more & eating less other junk.)
As the podcast concluded, it was revealed that Cheeseburger Lady’s biggest struggle came when she stopped eating two burgers per week: she no longer had reason to compensate, perhaps. Her discipline wavered. The balance she’d found between risk-factor extremes had unbalanced, and…
The takeaway lesson, at least I think so, is simple to understand (if not-so-simple to implement.)
We run. We fuel. We eat. We train. We burn calories. We consume some more. And in this complex mathematical dance of calculating optimal caloric intake to meet the ever-changing requirements of a casual fitness schedule we find a narrow path down which one side is hunger and the other side is over-eating. Straying from that path is as easy as under –or over– compensating. And when we compensate as a matter of course, as a purpose for the effort itself, that compensation in either direction becomes an excuse. In other words, if we learned one thing from Cheeseburger Lady it’s that we should not let compensation become justification.
It’s October. A month of moving into the slow, huddled chill of the impending winter months. A month of big meals and trick-or-treats. A month of big excuses, hiding out indoors, and watching the impending season of sloth creep back. In retaliation, I present Hacktoberfest, where the duty of all struggling fit-o-philes falls to pushing back the autumn slump and hacking their mind, bodies, and souls into better beings. Hack on, my dear readers. And read along each day as I do the same.
Did I mention I like to bend the rules? Well, I don’t know if I “like” it, but I do it nonetheless and then feel a little bit guilty about it after. Each morning I get up (around) six and have breakfast. Then there is this five or more hour gap until lunch. Then a six or seven hour gap until supper — and that’s not counting those days I don’t eat until after I’ve run, so occasionally eight or nine hours.
The Problem: Too many calories at work because of between meal snacking.
The Hack: Instead of one long lunch break with a single large meal, two short lunch breaks with smaller meals about three hours apart.
The Hypothesis: Two smaller meals means less inclination to snack and fewer calories consumed each day.
Hack Duration: October.
It’s easy to justify sneaking in a snack here and there. It’s really easy when I work in an office attached to a mall with multiple cafes and four food courts. It’s extremely easy when there’s free candies and chocolates sitting around.
The spirit of this hack is to get under the skin of my eating-nay-snacking habits and break up the pattern. Rather than settle on one big meal (which too often is not a great, healthy meal) I’m forcing myself to (a) find smaller portion options on off-peak lunch hours and (b) be more mindful of what I’m eating and when. It also means that when I go out for that coffee break stroll in the afternoon or between meetings I’m not grabbing extra calories in the form some chocolate or other junk… I’m grabbing the second half of my lunch.
I’m not seeking an eating revolution, but maybe a more conscious way of thinking about what I’m consuming.
Another “Hackable Me” post, which for the newbies is a few words on incremental personal self-improvement: a personal hack of mind-body-soul to ultimately better myself. I’m not a DIY, fixer-upper, read-this-book-to-change-your-life sort of self-improvement guy. On the other hand I tend to consider that (a) publicly scrutinized goals and (b) introspective evaluation of those goals through words tends to lead to making me a better person. This is some words to do with that.
I have about a million reasons for not brown-bagging my weekday lunches. Well… maybe not a million, but at least five or six good reasons and a few other modest excuses.
I’m not looking for absolution here. I’m just saying it’s one of my indulgences and probably a subconscious holdover from a youth of always bagging it while I enviously watched my friends drench their high school angst in ketchup-soaked french fries from the school cafeteria.
Not bagging it, though, means that eating healthy on any given workday is chore. Spontaneous decision-making is clouded in highly variable moods echoing the frustrations of work-a-day mornings spent in long meetings or plugging at mentally-draining projects.
So, occasionally, I do break from my sub-burrito-salad cycle and indulge.
The Hack of the Realistic Reward
There is one particular indulgence that, I will admit, is the food equivalent of a heroin hit.
Every city has that place, the hole-in-the-wall, cash-only, mom-and-pop operation that is spoken of in knowing whispers and which draws a daily lunchtime crowd lineup resembling the release of a new Apple product. That place, our place, is a five minute walk from my office. Dangerously close. And they sell chicken… spicy, salty, ginger-wokked, dry, tasty chicken over a bed of noodles and stir-fried veggies. And the young lady who runs the place remembers your name and what you like and treats you like a king for the eight seconds it takes for her to dish up your little container with a calorie-rich indulgence that is soon to be your lunch.
If I hadn’t given myself a reward-based restriction, my belt would owe an extra notch to hot-and-dry chicken.
This meal is my hundred klick reward. It is the indulgence I allow myself when my annual odometer clicks over another century on my running-track-o-meter.
Three hundred klicks: chicken.
Four hundred klicks: chicken.
Five hundred klicks… you get the idea.
But nothing more… and nothing less. A realistic reward for passing a personal milestone. I know it’s there. I can see it approaching on the horizon. I can plan for it. Yearn for it. Work for it and earn it. It is my weakness made my strength.
I have a far way to run to taste my victory.
a mash-up of radio & food
I spent about twenty minutes this morning looking through various charts and search results and the best I can figure is that there are two types of audio food podcasts that still exist: ones that are not popular enough to crack the top 200 on the charts, and those that haven’t published an episode in at least half a decade. Sometimes they belong to both categories.
My research is hardly complete, of course, but it just strikes me as singularly odd that in a web full of reviews, blog, general information, recipes, and shopping tools, the idea of the food podcast has drifted into the ethereal archives of ancient memory.
There used to be podcasts. I know I used to listen to a short but interesting list of eclectic podcasts that I only discovered because they hovered near the upper levels of the download and popularity charts. I’m not a deep-cuts kind of guy, so they must have been.
a mash-up of public (communication) & solo (travel)
In another life I think I’d like to be a travel writer. I’d go off on a meandering adventure, but still find time crammed in amongst the clutter of events and exploration to wax poetic on the substance of the journey and grace pages with introspective fluff on the metaphysical implications of seeing the world.
When I travel I usually blog, a habit I fell into back before blogging was “a thing” and while most folks could only be bothered to send home a couple postcards, there was me seeking out an internet cafe in some narrow European street somewhere or begging a distant relative of their computer for an hour, why, so I could update my blog. Thus, the question of what makes for good travel writing has rolled through my notepad once or twice in the last couple decades.
Spicy and crunchy-dry ginger beef.
a mash-up of sex & food
One may only imagine the vast quantity of words that have been spilled across the historic pages of humanity on the subject of the aphrodisiac. In fact, in the modern world one needs only go so far as the SPAM folder of one’s own mature email account to learn of the vast variety of exotic concoctions that claim to improve romance through ingestion of the same.
Daily invocations to click on message subjects such as “to men who want to act better in bed” or “give your woman the first-rate intimate experience” implore the presumably hapless (and physically humbled) recipient towards further explorations down dark and deep rabbit holes of creepy web addresses hosted in foreign lands.
Don’t dare click those links save the few who possess the technical prowess in untangling digital the snares that surely lurk therein.
Our curiosity with the often mundane potential of exotic foods to tip the genetic balance in favour of some kind of yet-to-be-woken, still-slumbering sexual prowess is obviously not new, and one may wonder why the myth of the super-food cure-all-inadequacies eat-this-and-be-awesome clings so firmly to our collective story.
Perhaps, frustrated by the lack of effect from the daily and mundane diet each of us endures, our resilience towards untested hope overpowers our logic and reason. Each of us travels with our palates, adventures with our stomachs, and journeys to the distant lands of the unusual culinary curiosities in the hopes of unlocking something. Perhaps that something is little more than an experience or a check box on a long list of daring delicacies. Or it is possible that the aforementioned something is a kind of emotional desperation, a lighted beacon in the fog of life that promises civility and hospitality at its source.
And then just maybe that’s the rub of it all. Each person who yearns for an exotic aphrodisiac does it in their own way. Some by ordering magical pills through the mail after venturing into dark digital alleyways. Others, by braving the culinary adventures of exotic lands and reshaping the manner in which those experiences present their existence to the universe.
Either way, it’s trading the notion of adventurous ingestion for the too-often-hollow promise of that elusive “first-rate intimate experience.” And if those historic pages of humanity have anything to teach, its that such an experience has been long sought and rarely found.
Once more it is June. Again. And again I embark upon that epic effort of daily blogging, take three, wherein I call upon myself for a kind of rambling focus, picking from a list of daily topics, and with neither planning nor advance writing, strive to pepper this blog with the free-thought, free-writing wonder that is another one of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be:
June 25th // Something You Want To Taste
blueberry pie | a tall glass of pink lemonade | ginger beef | a dark roasted coffee | bacon and eggs | cream cheese on a toasted bagel with smoked salmon and onions | a slurpee | gummy bears | hot and dry chicken | lemon sherbet | fresh garden raspberries | actually, fresh garden anything | a cold beer | my blue mile victory hamburger | banoffee pie | chocolate chip pancakes | something spicy | anything spicy | a dynamite roll smothered in spicy wasabi | cranberry green tea
That is all. For now.
A “Hackable Me” post is a few words on incremental personal self-improvement: a personal hack to better myself. I’m actually very skeptical when it comes to the kind of DIY, fixer-upper, read-this-book-to-change-your-life sort of self-improvement one normally thinks about. On the other hand I tend to consider that (a) publicly scrutinized goals and (b) introspective evaluation of those goals through words tends to lead to making me a better person. This is just a thing to do with that.
With one last family holiday party now offically behind us, my mind has gone back to the project getting my fitness level back on track.
And, seeing as how I sometimes use my lunch hour to pepper out a blog entry, my mind is currently thinking about how all this relates to just that: lunch.
See, apart from drifting back into the the all-too-frequent habit of munching too many snacks throughout December, I’ve managed to stay fairly strong and true to the no snacking rule (at least at work.) Hey, it’s tough to ignore the mountains of holiday baking and colourfully wrapped chocolates overflowing from every bowl. But enough is enough, and its now mid-January… so, Hackable Me 2013 is officially starting.
Last year my eating plan — specifically during that five month span while I lost the weight — revolved around a kind of carrot-stick, gamification-slash-accounting model. Specifically, I point-ified bad foods (negative points) and point-ified good behaviour (positive points.) The game was to keep the balance sheet in the black. And it worked.
But this year, at least so far, I’m lacking the so-called carrot part of that equation. And it’s tough without that part. I’ve been dabbling in the same method and… yeah. A new plan was required.
My new concept — the new plan — then has been to play a little something I’ve called Lunch Roulette. It works a little bit like this…
I’m a plan-based thinker. Follower.
First, I’m a plan-based thinker. Do-er. Follower. Want to know how I managed to run over 1200 km last year? Well, it’s because I charted out goals, sometimes months in advance, and then I tried very hard to meet those goals. The plan said to run X distance… so I ran X distance (give or take.) If I miss the goal… well, then I’m only cheating myself.
The problem with eating is that the mental accounting works great when you’re aiming for a goal, but on a day-to-day, just tracking kind of approach, it loses steam pretty quick. I mean, I walk out of the door planning on having a salad, but by the time I get down there the line is long and I’m kinda thinking some ginger beef would be nice, and…
My fix has been Lunch Roulette. Ask me what I’m going to eat next Tuesday. Or on July 18th. Or any weekday for the next year. Sure, it might be slightly mundane to have charted out my meals for the next year, but in my poor little hack-worthy brain plan equals following the plan. And if I determine to eat healthy lunches for the next year, plotting them out in advance, then I’ll probably bat at least a .900 for the year. No kidding.
— a salad, a sandwich, a bowl of soup, etc. —
The “roulette” part comes into play because (using another column in my fitness log spreadsheet) I added a column of randomly generated (but now static and fixed) digits. Each digit represents a type of meal — a salad, a sandwich, a bowl of soup, etc. — in a kind of weighted proportion. (For example, I’ve got eight slots representing a salad day, but only three slots representing a sub day.) I’ve even added in a few “choice” days, just to allow myself an indulgence here and there. The plan: look at the day, eat what it says. (Oh, and avoid the snacks and other crap. No cheating, right?)
Today, I got myself a wrap. That’s what came up on the plan.
It won’t work for everyone — and hey, I’ve only been doing it a few days myself, so it might not even work for me — but I’m going to try it and maybe an update (hopefully a positive one) will show up here in a month or two.
Got any fitness hacking ideas? Comment below.
This is a post from my “Daddy Daze” series, an anecdotal exploration of my odd little adventures in parenting in bite-sized chunks (for your reading enjoyment) and because the last thing this world needs is yet another doting parent blog.
Epic Spring Snowman
It has been a poor couple of years for building snowmen. Everyone seems to think that the moment that snow falls on the ground that — BAM — you build the traditional three-ball-stack with a carrot for a nose. Not true. It can snow, and that snow can unequivocably suck for the pack required to roll even a baseball-sized wad of the white stuff let alone the stickiness required for a three-foot ball of fun. The last couple of winters have provided us with lots of snow, but little snow that was up-to-the-task of the fine art of snowman construction. Claire has been routinely heartbroken because of this, because how do you explain to a three- or four-year-old the physics and chemistry of snow that won’t stick? All she knew is that her lazy old dad couldn’t be bothered to put on his gloves and build her a snowman, and didn’t care that the flakey, icy powder in our backyard did not a construction kit make.
Our luck turned this past weekened, and being in Red Deer for a family-ish event we found ourselves in a wide open, freshly-blanketted, un-trampled snowy park with three energetic kids and lots of free time. The Epic Six-foot Snowman that resulted from this effort surprised even me. The kids absolutely loved it. And Claire finally got her snowman experience.
Thirty Minutes After Eating
For a while Claire was back doing the ‘not eating her dinner’ thing again. I start to think of these things like they are just another one those mythic “phases” of childhood, as in… “it’s just a phase.” But then I remember that the whole phase-ideology is probably just bunk and kids are just as prone to bad-habit-forming as anyone else.
We opted to boot her out of this habit by trying out a new meal-time strategy. It has two parts: First, she dishes her food herself, presumably taking what she wants (and a little of what we tell her) hinting at a level of independence that also leads into a kid-like notion of responsibility for what she takes. So far, so good. Second, she has been instructed (and seems to have absorbed) that the quicker she eats — the less dawdling she does — the more time exists between supper and her bedtime, time for something fun… like going swimming with her dad. She scarfed three (kid-sized) helpings of spaghetti last night and informed me that — as she had eaten so quickly — we could now go to the pool.
Before I had finished my single (grown-up-sized) helping, she was upstairs, changed, and ready with a towel and her goggles in a bag.
The pool was absolutely nuts, of course. What else would one expect for the Sunday evening leading into local spring break? But an hour of swimming with her dad seems to have brought home one good reason for her to cooperate better at mealtime… or so she told me every five minutes between eating and long after she should have been in bed asleep.