The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Archive for June, 2008

The Best Diet. Ever

Posted by thearrow on June 27, 2008

Eat Yourself Slim, by Michel Montignac. In Romanian, “Ma hranesc, deci slabesc.” This is something I can preach with more conviction than being a vegetarian, which I’ve been since 1994. Sort of, I have to admit, since I eat fish and seafood, but maybe once a month. But back to the diet.

It’s the most balanced, sensible diet I’ve heard of and, since the author is French, you can be sure you don’t have to sacrifice good food :). The beauty of it is that you don’t have to endure any kind of silly starvation, which Montignac is completely against. You do have to change what and how you eat, which is not necessarily simple but it’s not draconian. In a nutshell, you need to make those changes for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll never eat cake again. You’ll manage your little abuses, so if you’ve had some forbidden food, you just eat more strictly the next couple of days.

The book is a lot of fun to read and the translation in Romanian was really good, from what I remember. My favorite part was when he explained how the French shunned the potato for about 200 years before they integrated it in their meals. Funny how now a lot of people like French fries (btw, are they really French?).

Anyway, I thought I’d make it easy for you and lay out the ground rules. I still advocate buying the book, though, because it give great explanations of metabolic processes and why you should eat certain things and not others. It gives you lists of good and bad food, good and bad carbs, fat, etc. It even gives recipes!

You keep the strict(er) diet for two-three months, depending on how much weight you need to lose, and then you continue applying these principles for the rest of your life if you want to maintain that low weight. Dieting for a few weeks and then going back to the fattening foods you’ve eaten before will never work. Another plus of this diet is that you don’t gain weight that easily after it. You really have to stuff your face with the bad stuff before that happens. I probably shouldn’t have said this but I’m hoping it can be an incentive.

Rule no. 1: No food high in carbs. This means no potatoes, pasta, white bread, corn, beets, beer, and liquor. Forget that these exist :). Also, no sodas or any kind of juice, really, other than freshly squeezed. Fruit is always better than juice because you get the fiber.

You can eat whole-wheat bread, but only two or three slices in the morning in the weight-loss stage. I’d say if you only need to shed a few pounds, you can add maybe another two slices to your lunch, depending on what you eat then, but definitely no bread in the evening.

You can also eat whole wheat pasta, depending on what you put on it; see below.

Rule no. 2: Don’t mix carbs and fat, which together are very fattening. This means no bread (even if whole wheat) and butter. No Romanian “mamaliga cu brinza” either (polenta and feta cheese). No steak and potatoes (not even just mashed potatoes). No Alfredo pasta and, in general, no cheese and pasta, which, I know, takes the fun out of it. You can have whole pasta with vegetables and marinara, though, and still have a very satisfying meal. So when you look at food next time, think if it’s in the fat category or carb category. If they have seen each other’s eyes, big no-no, ok? 🙂

Yogurt has both carbs and fat, but because it’s a healthy food you can eat low-fat yogurt by itself, for instance. I’d say even if you eat regular plain yogurt by itself, you’ll be fine. But those fruit yogurts are on the black list. They should really be called “jam yogurts” because they’re all made with jams, not fresh fruit, so they’re a big scam. Sure, if you want to eat one as a treat, that’s something else, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s healthy. Because fruit contains some amount of sugar, you shouldn’t be mixing it with yogurt either. It’s probably not that much more sugar, so again it depends on how strict you want to be.

Milk also contains both carbs and fat, so Montignac recommends skim milk.

You can eat carbs 5 hours after you’ve had a fat- (or protein-) based meal. You can eat a protein meal 3 hours after you’ve had carbs. That’s how long it takes the body to process them.

You can eat dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cacao content. You can’t eat milk chocolate because the milk fat will plot with the sugar to get you a fat ass. The high cacao content makes the taste so intense that you can only eat a few bites; it has built-in moderation, so to speak. That said, I can eat lots of dark chocolate with whatever cacao content it is possible to have 🙂

Rule no. 3: no animal fat. If you eat pork, beef, chicken, you need to trim the fat or buy lean meat; no chicken skin.

Fish is the exception; apparently, the body processes it differently. So you can eat very fat fish and you’ll be just fine. The same for vegetable oils.

Other rules:

No coffee. It contributes to weight gain, particularly if you drink it mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when sugar from the digested food goes from your blood to your cells. Very interesting factoid, which he explains better than I. I wouldn’t be able to live without coffee though, so I try to have just a mug in the morning.

Eat fruit on an empty stomach. This might come as a surprise, since people usually eat fruit as dessert. Bad idea! Fruit is metabolized differently from regular food, so eating it after lunch or dinner will just make a big mess in your stomach and will ensure that nothing gets digested properly. I can personally testify that he is right. I could never eat fruit after a meal and didn’t know why until I read his book. You need to wait about three hours after a meal to eat fruit. Eating it on an empty stomach ensures a higher absorption of the nutrients, too.

Personal tips:

Try tahini (a.k.a. sesame paste) on bread for breakfast; especially since you can’t eat bread and butter and margarine is hardly healthful. It has a nutty, rich taste (which I absolutely love) and it’s just a seed, so it has to be good. I put salt on it.

Not having grown up in America, I like salty breakfasts, so cereal is not on my menu. This can be a big challenge for Americans, since cereal is such a breakfast staple here. Not sure what to suggest other than 1. get whole grain cereal with the lowest sugar content possible, 2. switch to oatmeal, and 3. find alternatives. I linked to the U.S. edition, though, which I’m sure has great advice.

– Eat very little for dinner. In my experience, eating late and a lot contributes to weight gain. This, again, can be a challenge in America. My impression was that Romanians are not that big on having a substantial meal for dinner; my family just nibbles on sandwiches, I don’t remember my mom ever cooking for dinner.

This is it, (sort of) in a nutshell. I’m telling you: it doesn’t fail. Quite a few of my friends lost just how much weight they needed; not more, not less.

And don’t forget those push-ups 🙂

Posted in health | Tagged: , | 23 Comments »

Shower in the Kitchen

Posted by thearrow on June 21, 2008

Here’s another American paradox that still puzzles me: many homes have a shower pull-out heads attached to the kitchen faucet, but not to bathroom faucets. To be more precise, I’m talking about shower heads with a hose that lets you move them around wherever you want to. The kind that I think everyone in Europe has. They look something like this. (I’m not endorsing any particular product; I just picked what I thought was a good illustration.)

I just don’t understand how something so useful has not found a place in the American bathroom. That was among the first things I bought here; there was no way I could live without one. To this day, I still don’t know how people manage to clean their bathtubs without one. How on earth do you rinse the farthest corner of the bathtub after you’ve scrubbed it with detergent without that kind of shower? Not having that kind of flexibility would drive me nuts.

On the other hand, I think it’s absolutely brilliant to have the same device in the kitchen. Sinks are fairly small in Romania, so it might not be that big a deal not having pull-out showers there, but I bet a lot of people who have redone their kitchens have installed big sinks. A flexible shower head would be a great addition.

Another thing that also drives me bananas (have to alternate the fruit here) is that a lot of bathrooms have faucets that don’t allow you to get a lower volume of water. Amazing. The volume is set at a certain level and all you can do is move along the cold-warm spectrum and turn it off. Of course, if you want just lukewarm water, you’ll use probably double the amount because the cold and hot water have to be combined. I had to reduce the number of showers I was taking while in my temporary home; I couldn’t live with the idea of using wasting so much water. And even if this was a fairly old house, I’ve seen the same kind of faucet in a newly built apartment building. Now I realize that Kramer was on to something when he was cleaning vegetables while taking a shower 😀

And, since I’m taking about appliances, another really great device is the InSinkErator: a garbage disposer installed in the middle of the sink, through which water drains. You just throw food scraps or vegetable peels in it, run water, flip a switch, and it grinds them. Buh-bye stinking garbage! It would be great to have those in Romania, too, but I wonder if it might require some major change in the plumbing system (no idea). Now, some models are better than others. Mine is probably average and I’ve managed to clog it a few times, so I’ve learned it can’t handle just anything :). I was lucky enough that the building maintenance guy didn’t charge me anything when I asked for his help to unclog the thing. I didn’t even know I should have offered to pay; I didn’t realize it wasn’t exactly his job to fix it until much later. Now I know better and I’m careful not to throw anything it wouldn’t handle. Boy, what a marvelous invention!

But I still can’t get over why Americans don’t have flexible shower heads and faucets that let you adjust the water volume in their bathrooms :).

Posted in American culture | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Big Dog

Posted by thearrow on June 19, 2008

For a week now I’ve been keeping company to Jackson, a big golden retriever. A really sweet dog :). Very quiet and wise. His favorite thing is for you to throw a toy for him in the back yard. The thing is, he doesn’t give it back, so I end up scouting the yard and the house for all the toys and throwing them one by one. I’ve hoped that I would be able to teach him to drop the toy. Heh-heh. Good luck with that :).

The other day, he got thirsty and dropped the ball, heading for the water bowl. I thought I’d seize the opportunity, so I took a step towards the ball but he grabbed it before me and dropped it in the water bowl, with a bit of an exasperated air: “Damn, I have to keep an eye on this thing!” :).

The next day, he wouldn’t let me tie my sandals. It was clear he was unhappy I was leaving, but I thought he just wanted to be petted. But no; he kept putting his head between my hands and my feet, to prevent me from tying them :). I had to push him away and he retreated to a distant corner of the living room, behind a wall, head on paws, an endlessly sad look on his face. Tons of guilt fell on me instantly.

The first night here I let him sleep in my room, but it was too hot for him, he was panting really hard, and I couldn’t sleep because of the noise. The next night I let him out and closed the door, but he barged in at some point. More panting. I took him out again and locked the door; heard a big sigh. I thought he was going to sleep downstairs, where it’s always chillier and more comfortable for him. Next morning I found him in front of the bedroom. Now he’s sitting next to me and it’s too hot for him again, but I wanted to write this while I was still inspired by his presence :).

I now see that there’s an important advantage to having such a big dog: you don’t need to bend down or kneel on the floor to pet him. I can hug him from the chair or the couch :). The only disadvantage is when he comes up the stairs at night and the stairs squeak under his weight and it freaks me out because it really feels like there’s a stranger in the house. I sit frozen in bed until I hear sniffing at the door. But there’s great relief when you hear that deep bark or growl if something sounds suspicious.

I’m going home tomorrow and, while I’m anxious to get back to my routine, my much faster computer and huge LCD screen, I’ll miss Jackson a lot. I have the day off, so at least I’ll get to play with him for a few hours. And now I’ll have to excuse myself; someone with reddish fur is waiting to be petted.

Posted in fun | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Reading and Writing Online

Posted by thearrow on June 17, 2008

I’m no expert on this, but I’m trying to learn. Here’s a helpful and appropriately short article on the dos and don’ts from Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2193552.

I’ll get back with more substantive postings at the end of the week, when I return home. Just wanted to show I wasn’t ignoring my three readers :). Also, I’m being brief, just like Slate advises.

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

Email (and Brain) Overload

Posted by thearrow on June 13, 2008

As someone who has to deal with an onslaught of emails every single day, I can’t wait for the solution to the overload problem that the information giants Microsoft, Intel, Google, and IBM are joining forces to find, according to the New York Times article Creators of E-Mail Monster Now Try to Tame It. They need to enlist David Allen, the Getting Things Done guru, and folks like Chris Brogan, who has apparently managed to tame his Inbox.

The problem is simple: more information means more work. Even just organizing it takes a lot of time. I don’t know about other employers, but mine seems to be a bit oblivious to the problem. I haven’t heard many people complain about it, so either everyone is doing a heck of a job keeping track of everything, or they pretend they can :). Hard to tell. I’m afraid if I complain I’ll come off as whining or incompetent, but I think at this point I should care less about that (since I don’t have much of a future here anyway) and I’ll start asking my coworkers how they’re dealing with it. At least just out of curiosity. It bothers me less that no one has a solution yet, as it does that no one says we have a problem and I can’t believe I’m the only one that does.

At any rate, I’m glad I checked my email these two days I was off because there was no way I could have faced roughly 100 emails on Monday. I have resisted the temptation and haven’t responded to any, but at least I know what to expect and filed away those I wanted to keep. And I’m glad I don’t have a Blackberry; or, more exactly a Crackberry :). One less work-related addiction. I really wish I could have three or four days off from regular work, so that I could organize my stuff. I kept hoping that would happen but now I know it never will in this job.

Ok, I should stop blogging about work on a Saturday night :).

Posted in technology, work | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Fluttering Wings

Posted by thearrow on June 12, 2008

I finally took a day off to decompress a little bit and went to chase butterflies at the Natural History Museum. It’s a small, climate-controlled enclosed space inside the museum; butterflies fly around you and you can linger on as much as you want.

Here is the day’s bounty: picasaweb.google.com/simonne.c/Butterflies. I stayed there for about two hours, until I made sure I captured almost all of them. However, the most beautiful of them all, the Morph, turned out to be very elusive. It has beautiful patterns on the wings’ outside and a stunning blue on the inside. It looks like this: http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/1426759/2/istockphoto_1426759_blue_morpho.jpg. That is, if you’re lucky enough and it opens its wings right in time for you to take a picture. The two or three they had in there kept flying continuously, tantalizingly close but never setting down on anything. And when one did get tired, it went to some far away cranny and promptly closed its wings. Man, that was frustrating :).

I have a modest suggestion, though: instead of “Butterflies + Plants” they should have called it “Sauna + Butterflies” :). But, aside from the temperature, humidity, and (just like with the frogs) little kids moving in unpredictable directions it was wonderful. And actually, the kids were somewhat more predictable just because butterflies like to land on the floor, so everyone had to pay attention not to step on them. They also liked to land on people and just stay there 🙂

Tomorrow I’m moving to Bethesda, another DC suburb, where I’ll be house and dog sitting the whole next week for a friend. It will be a nice change to play with a dog when I come home.

Posted in color, photography | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Test

Posted by thearrow on June 11, 2008

The next guy I’m going to be dating will have to take a fitness test with push-ups. Wine, dine, shmine, whatever. Drop down and give me thirty. 🙂 Hey, if I can do it he can’t have an excuse.

Posted in fun | Tagged: | 4 Comments »