Friday, August 31, 2007

Random Articles from a Chinese Newspaper

I miss it sometimes, so today I decided to hit up the 'ol China Daily for some good time news and here are a few of the articles.

Taxi drivers not allowed to yawn

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-30 13:58

Taxi drivers in Shanghai are complaining about a new rule that says drivers should not yawn while driving.

One driver, Gong, who has been driving for more than 10 years, called it "ridiculous and unreasonable". Gong said although he always avoided yawning in front of passengers, he still believed it was a natural way to get rid of exhaustion.

Shao Xueqing, general manager of a local taxi company, said the rule was aimed at keeping drivers from driving when tired. But he conceded that it was not possible to punish a driver just because he yawned.

However, some passengers said they would worry about safety if a driver kept yawning while driving.

Man collapses in mahjong ecstasy

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-23 17:39

A court in Jiangning District of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, has backed appeals for compensation of 400 yuan each from friends, by the family of a man who became paralyzed after a sudden collapse during a mahjong game.

On April 22, Zhang sat down for a game with three friends in a neighbor's home. He reportedly burst into sudden laughter after he drew a tile he desperately wanted. The 76-year-old then fell to the ground and lay still. Although Zhang was treated, he became paralyzed.

Pepper oil joke leads to assault

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-16 14:58

A young man has pleaded guilty to a charge of assault for forcing his girlfriend to drink hot pepper oil when a joke backfired.

The 22-year-old, surnamed Lau, lives with his girlfriend, Li, in Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong. When eating at home on July 26, Lau put some hot pepper oil in a pancake to play a trick on Li. But Li didn't find it funny.

A fight broke out and Lau forced Li to drink half a bottle of hot pepper oil.

Fish in basement don't solve problem

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-02 15:19

Ingenious residents in Yantai, Shandong Province, tried their best over the years to deal with water seeping into the building basement every summer.

One clever resident surnamed Han raised fish in the basement water to feed on mosquito larvae. Other residents tried unsuccessfully to pump out the water. They finally teamed up to call the property management company, and the manager surnamed Gao gave them a satisfying answer.

The company will send workers to repair the road next to the building and the building drainage system.

You curse on bus, you walk

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-30 14:32

A foul-mouthed young woman from Tianjin Municipality was removed from a local bus on Monday after other passengers could no longer tolerate her cursing.

Soon after getting aboard, she received a call on her mobile phone and launched into a long conversation filled with curse words.

When passengers tried to persuade her not to curse, she refused. Passengers along with the bus driver then banded together to force her off the bus at the next stop.

Man denied beer writes bomb threat

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-30 14:32

A man was taken into police custody on Tuesday after threatening to blow up an airplane flying from Yinchuan to Beijing.

No explosives were found when the plane was searched after landing in Beijing.

Later, police were told that the man had kept asking for beer during the flight. After being refused by a flight attendant, he wrote the bomb threat.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Farewell Tour - PICTURES!!!! YAY

So, anyone who has had the unfortunate opportunity to talk with me lately will no doubt know about my new camera. I've spent some time on a farewell tour around Houston snapping some pics & thought i'd share a few. Let me know what you think, some are cool, some are lame, some are extra hobo'y...
- Luke

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Miscellanea - Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Program

I just wanted to put together a brief outline of some of the foods I eat and some of the foods I avoid. Anyone who has ever listened to a voice mail message knows that I tend to talk way to long, and I get the sense that the same thing happens when I write, so this is just a summary. It's the last chapter I've got planned (unless anyone wants to hear about exercise), after this feel free to hit me up with questions, delete me from your phone, change the locks or take whatever steps you deem necessary retaliation for putting you though this shit these past two weeks. I'll try not to get too jam-bandy with it. Drum roll….


What I eat:
Daily: One serving of oatmeal with a banana and a small mitt-full of walnuts.
Periodically: Egg-beater omelet with cheese and salsa

What I avoid:
Vitamin Shakes/Slim-Fast (aka Fat-fast)
Breadstuffs (toast, pancakes, other stuff that is awesome)
Eggs (the yeller stuff is bad fo ya ticker)


What I include
Spinach/Romaine Lettuce
Fresh Veggies/Fruits – cucumbers, celery, cantaloupe, onions
Tabasco sauce
Vinaigrette dressings
Always water instead of soda (even if it's diet)

What I include in small amounts

What I avoid:
'Accessories' – breadsticks, puddin', canned fruits
Croutons and bacon bits
Too much salad dressing

What I eat:
Simple chunk of meat, cooked to semi-perfection on the foreman, typically chicken or a hamburger patty
Toppers: reasonable amount of cheese and condiment (I love salsa baby!)
Salad or microwaved frozen veggies

What I avoid
Anything good

What I eat:
Cool Whip
Peanut Butter
Almond Butter
Unsulphured Papaya Spears (that means no-sugar added)

What I avoid:
Anything else, I don't have all month to talk about all the stuff I don't eat any more.

Cheating and Cheating Properly

What about eating out? Unfortunately, eating out is the best way to totally screw up a diet. Some of my favorite foods have been nearly completely removed from my life. Mexican food – out. Italian food – out. Greek food – out. Pizza, pasta, sandwiches – out, out out. Oftentimes, I end up at those places anyway and I typically try to find the dopest salad on the menu and tell them to hold the good stuff. Eating out is where my will power is tested to its fullest extent, which leads me into my next topic, cheating.

I cheat on my diet; it's cool to admit it. But now, I structure my cheating so that I can do it up right. Think about it this way; if you're at work and they cater in some food for lunch, what is it? It's usually some aluminum containers of pasta or Mexican food or a boxed sandwich lunch, where the best part is the dry cookie at the bottom. None of that food is good for you and if you eat it, you'll always say the same thing – I just ate some bad stuff and I feel guilty for it, it wasn't even that good. What I do now is pass on the work catered lunches and put it in my 'cheating bank', then I daydream about how I want to throw down some real cheating food. If you're going to do bad, then why not do it on your own terms, and why not do it up like Keith Richards in an Asian cigarette factory? I pick my favorite restaurant and when I eat there, it's a no holds barred situation. I get appetizers, main dish, drinks and top it off with the fattest dessert they have on the menu. I ate bad, but I knew I was going to do it, I had planned for it and because I passed up on the other shitty foods all week, I have less guilt about doing it.

I dream about cheating, I think about it all week. I plan for it like I'm planning out a bank robbery. For instance, right now, I'm going to dinner next week to my favorite restaurant in this city with my boss. I know its coming, so I'm working hard this week and eating right and passing on the bad stuff, and when I reach the top of the hill, there will be fat steaks and dancing ladies waiting for me and I'll do it up proper gangster style. The anticipation makes it so much sweeter.

The next day is the second most trying time for your will power and that's because you remember how amazing your dinner was and how easy it would be to hit up the donut shop where they still remember your name (or named a menu item after you). Cheating is fine but getting back on the diet warpath immediately is very important, otherwise, you'll get drunk on meat-lust and end up running through a South American street festival with soiled pants and bloody stumps for ears, and no one wants that.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Meat Meat MEAT!!!

Now that lunch is finished, my sights turn to attempting to make it to dinner without going crazy and eating anyone. Ever since I started exercising regularly, I’ve begun to get full easier but I also get hungry easier. This means that by 5 pm, I’m usually one seriously hungry honky. Typically, I end up having some sort of a snack in the afternoon. Most of the time this snack takes the form of a grapefruit, however if I get home without eating a grapefruit, I often break into my peanut butter stash.

I love peanut butter. It’s hard to describe how awesome it is. I used to eat it with just a spoon, but in the past year, I stepped it up a notch and began to get a spoon of peanut butter and dip it in Cool Whip. It basically makes it an instant dessert, and probably sounds disgusting, but screw you, don’t cast the first stone without having some peanut butter-delight at the Hutmacher house. I’m sure it sounds totally bad for you, but if you read the back of a container of Cool Whip, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s very low in calories, carbs and fat. I have a dangerous sweet tooth and Cool Whip has been my savior. I’ve also started making a dessertish creation that involves strawberries, walnuts and Cool Whip that is pretty amazing, and very healthy.

Technically, between the two zions of guilt, the peanut butter is worse for you than the Cool Whip, much worse actually. All peanut butter has added sugar, which raises the carbs, plus peanuts are about the only nut that actually has sodium (because they’re not really nuts, but legumes duh). Peanut butter is also high in calories and fat (like all nuts), but has a good amount of protein. That’s my one guilty pleasure that I do every day. I’m not saying it’s good, but it is much better than eating ice cream or chocolate or even bread every day.

Other good snacking foods are carrots (very high in potassium and they’ll keep you from going blind), celery and cucumbers (neither extremely flavorful, but they’re good for you). I also eat a lot of cantaloupe (after I destroyed about a dozen of them trying to figure out how to cut the bastards up).

Nuts are also pretty good snacks; however, they should be bought with caution and consumed with a few things in mind. First the bad, nuts are high in calories and fat; they’re actually really high in calories. But the good is that they’re low in carbs, have no sodium and are high in protein. This makes them nearly a meat replacement; except for that damn calorie thing (one cup of walnuts has 775 calories, which is two times higher than ground beef). Either way, when shopping for them always make sure to get raw nuts (unsalted, unflavored, unchocloate-covered, unfun-filled). There is really no reason to add the extra salt to your diet.

I love almonds and cashews for snacking, but cashews are actually pretty high in carbs (for a nut), but they’re awesome and packed with copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and zinc, all of which are important parts of a diet because they combine to form tiny soldiers in your body to fight communism.

Generally, between all that stuff above, I’m able to make it until Scrubs comes on at 6 pm to sit down and have dinner. Breaking down my typical dinner is quite anti-climatic. After all these days and chapters and words and whatnot, I get to the end of the day and I’m sure you’re going to be asking yourself (and me), “is that all the shit I’ma getting mofo?’

Yes it is.

Normally, dinner is the only meal of the day that I eat meat (which you should have been able to deduce by the lack of meat for the other two meals). What kind of meat and how much? Before I answer that, you should know how much I love meat. I love that shit. I mean, I really really really do. My favorite restaurant in the world is called ‘Fogo de Chao’ and it’s basically a Brazilian meat buffet. It costs well over $50 a person and every chance I have to eat there (on the company dime, any company, any dime); I throw down like a gay man at a cornhole festival.

Meat is good and bad. Actually, it’s good and really bad. The good is that meat is packed with protein. Protein is what you use to build up your muscles (if you’re the workin’ out type). It is not a good stain remover.

It is bad because it’s packed with sodium, cholesterol, fat and calories. But, for the love of god, it’s so good. Meat should not be taken in at the level that I do at the Meat Plaza for $50 a seat. However, taken in reasonable amounts, it’s good. Remember, all through this thing, I’ve been breaking it down low-sodium style, and this is where we throw it all away.

That said, on any given night, I do it up semi-proper. I fight all my urges to measure my servings by the pound. To put my dinner on a zoo-like delivery cart. To eat like it’s an hour before getting the gas chamber, and like I said, it’s pretty anti-climatic.

My dinner usually consists of some sort of meat item grilled on the George Foreman grill. A chicken breast, a couple hamburger patties, or a pork chop (in Houston, it’s actually called ‘poke’, but that’s beside the matter). I then top this divine meat with some cheese and some sort of condiment.

Remember, cheese is high in fat and calories, so don’t D-up on it too much (do as I say, not as I do) and most condiments are high in carbs and calories. I usually use a little BBQ sauce, some salsa or ketchup, and nearly always Tabasco or pickled jalapeƱos. I used to put some sour cream on, but it’s got so much fat and calories that I ended up ditching it completely and switching to regular cheese. The key to condimentating your food is to go light, which is tough to do sometimes.

I’ve tried to learn health aspects of the thousands of different meats and everyone keeps raving about how healthy fish is for you, but it doesn’t matter, I still hate the shit and can’t cook it to save my life. I’m sure that there are pages and pages of research on red meat vs. white meat and why eat fish instead of ribeyes, but everything I’ve seen, by just reading the labels basically says that the only significant difference between the meats is the amount of fat. Chicken and fish are low in fat; red meats are higher in fat. Everything else is still there in varying amounts and as far as I’m concerned, I can stick to chicken and leaner beef and be done with it.

Most people like to have more than a one-course meal for dinner, and I can understand that, even though I usually don’t do it myself (see: living the single life). If I get crazy and decide to build a side dish, I usually go with either a small salad or some frozen veggies with a bit of salt or pepper.

One common misconception about frozen stuff: freezing them hurts their nutrition. That misconception is total bullshit. Freezing something does nothing to the nutritional value of a food. Now, everything else you do to it can affect the nutritional value (how you cook it, dehydrating it, what you put on it, where you eat it…. Nah, just kidding), but freezing or eating frozen foods doesn’t effect the nutritional value. Just remember, if you’re buying frozen foods, read the label to make sure that the item doesn’t have anything added (salt and sugar are the most common things).

That’s about it. Its 7:00 pm, Scrubs is over and I’ve finished scrubbing the Foreman and ignoring the dishes. Usually sometime around 8:30, I hit the snacks, which usually means a little more of some of the stuff I mentioned earlier in this chapter.

A couple random thoughts about the end of the day. I’ve learned that it’s ok to go to bed without being full, or even a little hungry. I’ve learned not to eat anything an hour before going to bed, like swimming (‘learned’ it is different than being able to do it all the time). I never weigh myself at night, only in the mornings. I’ve learned to drink a ton of water in the evenings. I probably drink 3-6 bottles of water through out the evening hours. It re-hydrates me and keeps me fullerish, though I periodically have to wake up in the middle of the night to avoid wetting the bed. I’ve nearly completely given up soda, and when I do drink some, I get the 0-0-0 stuff (no calories, carbs or sodium), things like Diet Coke or Diet Hansens or even that cheap bottled crap that costs like $0.75 for a liter with weird flavorings like Orange-Mango or Elderberry-Bacon, just keep in mind they are NOT water substitutes.

We’ve now journeyed through a ‘typical’ day of my diet and I can understand that there is probably massive riot-like confusion for anyone who has tried to follow this garble for the past week, so what I’m going to do is write up one more chapter and try to provide a easier to read summary and maybe one chapter on how I worked exercise into my life.

All in all, I’m eating healthier and smarter. All it took was one year away from my friends and my family, one year of living in a hot-humid city, one year of long-distance relationship that crested and broke before it could find its stride, one year of confusion and regret, one year of looking in mirrors and trying to recognize the person in front of me. Time and idleness are the devil and for once, I may have accidentally done something positive with it.

I hate it, but it’s that same hate that keeps me inspired to do better, to exercise, to keep stepping on the scale only to be disappointed, to write poems that will never see the light of day, to carry around the extra weight of regret that doesn’t go away no matter how hard you work or how much you sweat. It’s a necessary hate and it’s become my companion, if I ever see you, just ask and I’ll introduce you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm Starvin, Hit Me Up With A Buffet Punk!

Lunch has been a dangerous meal for me for years. It falls right in the middle of the ‘eat out’ red area and I have traditionally capitalized on this any chance I got. I’m sure that everyone who works around other people can relate here, there is always someone who wants to go out for lunch and there is never a day that no one wants to go out. That’s why I’m dedicating this chapter to lunch, but in a broader sense, making a salad healthy (which I know now is a synonym for ‘un-funly’).

At my office in Houston, my boss and I eat out every day for lunch. Every day. There is a downtown tunnel system here that basically allows you to go from any one part of downtown to any other part without going outside. Kind of a Texan Prairie Dog city. Of course, you don’t just build a tunnel without finding a way to capitalize on it, so there are literally hundreds of restaurants down there (as well as various other oft-used businesses like barber shops, drug stores, dry cleaning, porn shops, and the periodic ‘happy ending’ massage parlor). The food quality varies from Chinese to Greek, BBQ to pasta, cheap to expensive and pretty much anything else in between; however there is no ‘good’ BBQ, that end of the Texas food spectrum simply doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, the ‘healthy’ end of the spectrum is pretty light as well, and this is due to the simple fact that it is very difficult to eat out healthily, and if you’re doing it on a daily basis, you have to figure some stuff out.

The front we decided to put up for lunch eating was pretty simple – Saladsville baby. We went around and around trying to find a good salad that we thought was healthy, and in the end we realized that if you let a restaurant make their own salad, they always tend to find a way to make it unhealthy, or at least not as healthy as you would probably like. Some put half a sack of croutons on top, some put sugar-roasted nuts on there, others put some form of deep-fried meat in the mix, and despite the fact that I fit the words sack, nuts and meat into a simple sentence, those vague references to the human body do not a healthy salad make (as Yoda would say).

Eventually, we ended up finding the cheapest salad bar (which is technically a buffet, so I kept my promise) and parking our lard-asses there every day. So now, I’m belly up at a salad bar with all these things in front of me, how do I build my masterpiece? It’s pretty simple, however, probably not all that fun.

A salad can be broken down to four parts (at least I’m saying that it can be broken down that way, there’s nothing official…yet…). The first part is the base layer. This is the key location for adding vitamins and basically consists of the leafy green shit. You often see three or four types of leafy green shit on a salad bar and they can be sorted by increasing healthiness – iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, leafy greens (mixed greens) and spinach. Luckily, even the least healthy thing on here (iceberg lettuce) isn’t unhealthy; it’s more ‘nothing’ than anything. It’s got fiber, but no vitamins to speak of. Romaine lettuce has quite a bit of vitamin A, leafy greens add some additional vitamins, but nature really brings it home when it comes to spinach. Scientifically speaking, spinach is barely even related to lettuce, other than the fact that it’s a veggie and doesn’t resemble chocolate in any way. Spinach is packed with vitamins (particularly vitamins A and C, with a smatterin of many others). I usually do about half and half spinach and romaine. Spinach isn’t really crunchy, so the romaine adds some ‘freshness’ to the mix.

The next layer is the base-layer additions; this is usually represented by the following 5 feet of the salad bar and contains all the stuff that can potentially add flavor to the salad before ruining its health by the third layer. Generally, I try to avoid carby or starchy items, such as beans and corn and load up on other veggies that I don’t hate. Items like celery, cucumbers, green beans, onions, tomatoes, and broccoli (which I personally never eat, I hate that shit) can be used in any amount and are either health-neutral or actually healthy. Remember, compared to how I used to eat, ‘health-neutral’ is considerably better than what I like to refer to as ‘the good ol days’.

The key to the second layer is ‘fresh’. Fresh stuff is always better for you than pickled stuff. I love jalapenos, pickles, cheese and cottage cheese, but they’ve been tainted by processing, which means added sodium (pickles, jalapenos), fat (cottage cheese and other cheeses), calories and carbs (all of the above), which is why they taste so good. Those other items aren’t necessarily bad, but should probably be used in realistic amounts. Another interesting thing, every time you see crab meat on a buffet, it’s not crab. Yet another interesting note, I love pepperoni, but that shit is Badsville for you.

This area often has some various meats (if you’re rolling on the good salad bars, the ghetto ones I frequent don’t give you shit for meat). Any meat that is breaded should be obviously ignored and chicken should probably be used above other meats. All meats are high in sodium, cholesterol and fat, but chicken is kind of the lesser of the evils. If the meat is there, I can’t resist it, but you really shouldn’t put more than a few chunks on the salad.

The third layer of a salad is where you can ruin everything, but it’s also where you can flavor the food to trick your taste buds into thinking that you’re not eating veggies – the Dressing layer. The main thing here is, if you use a reasonable amount of dressing here, you’ll be ok; the problem is the tendency (at least for me) is to put a couple ladles of dressing on the salad, thus turning the salad into a sort of veggie soup. Every dressing is bad in at least one way, and it’s kind of up to you to decide what bullet you want to shoot yourself with (or something witty like that…).

There’s just too many different kinds of dressing to go over them all, but I will say a few things. The best for you are the balsamic vinaigrettes, they’re low in calories and mostly have no carbs, fat, sodium etc. However beware of the signs, many of them are a type of ‘modified’ vinaigrette with added sugar, these are easy to spot because they’re soupy and not in a shaker (they also taste better). Most other dressings are high in calories and sodium, but have little else. Some have a gram or two of carbs, but not too many. Caesar is the worst for you, but it tastes awesome. Italian is low in fat and has no carbs, but is pretty high in sodium. The list goes on, but the best advice is use this shit sparingly because it adds up fast. A typical ‘serving’ is just one tablespoon, which means my normal salad has about 14 servings of dressing, which can add up to 1500 mg of sodium real quick. Fuck that shit.

The fourth layer of the salad provides another location to shoot yourself, but it’s somewhat easier to avoid the bad stuff. These are the various loose canisters of dry goods at the end of the salad bar. Nuts, bacon bits, crackers, croutons, sometimes a dried fruit medley whatever. I avoid the bacon-stuff because they’re generally not even real bacon (and if there is something less healthy than bacon, it would be imitation bacon-bits, and I just don’t want to chance it). I nearly always put a couple of spoons of nuts on my salad. Nuts are high in good-fat, high in protein, low in sodium (none) and low in cholesterol (none), but they’re also high in calories, so they should be used in moderation. Crackers and croutons should be used in extreme moderation or ignored altogether (carbs and whatnot).

There is a sixth part of the salad bar, but technically it’s not part of the salad, so I didn’t put it above, and that’s all the salad-accessories (to MURDER!) reside. Things like pudding, canned fruits, breadsticks and whatnot. These things should just be ignored; they’re nearly all very high in carbs, sugar and calories and will make your cankles swell up like an elephant.

Other maybe-helpful things I do when dealing with salad bar deathtraps is to try to drink a big glass of water before I eat. Water is totally dope for you and should be consumed as much as possible. Before eating it helps to put something in your stomach so you don’t overeat. It also gives you a reason to go to the bathroom every 12 minutes. It’s great for kidney function, lowering blood pressure and makes my toes cold. Used to have minerals and zinc in it, now it’s got lead and stink in it (Mos Def reference). I believe they say you should drink 250 gallons of water a day and I highly recommend it. You should also note the difference between ‘water’ and ‘liquids’. Just because it’s wet doesn’t mean it’s meant for swallowing people.

Also, remember it’s a salad bar, which means you can go back. Don’t try and build the Tower Of Babel Salad. Give it room to breathe, then go back up for seconds. When you finish your salad, wait a couple minutes. I estimate that it takes about 5 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain how hungry it still is. I don’t even know if my stomach (Edward) and my brain (Pierre) really speak to each other, but if you chill for a minute, you probably won’t build another mack-daddy salad. I’ve found that I usually make one trip and then that’s about it, of course it took a while to get to that point, but there is no law requiring you to ‘get your money’s worth’ out of every all you can eat threat in the vicinity.

Well, that’s all there is to it. I really don’t have any ‘funny’ story about a salad bar to end this with or any motivational speech that is way to long-winded and ends up too far out in left field to tie it back to the first three pages, so I’ll leave you with this: Sucks don’t it?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's a vein explosion!

Blood Pressure

Before we jump into the next highly informative chapter of lies about losing weight, I wanted to briefly give some hints about getting started and what I did. Hopefully these things will provide a nice lead-in to learning about bloooooood….

First thing I did was buy a scale. Actually, I already had a scale, but I decided to finally take it out of the box. These things all have varying degrees of accuracy, so I wouldn’t take the number between your toes as the gospel, but it provides a benchmark. If it says 200 Monday and 190 on Friday, you’ve lost weight, maybe not 10 lbs and you may not actually weigh 190, but at least you see some progress, because you probably wont really notice it in the way your clothes fit. This shit happens slowly, and I need something to tell me that I’m doing good, especially if it’s a machine that I know doesn’t love me.

Next thing I decided was that I should probably go to the doctor. It’s something that the average 30 year-old male probably doesn’t do very often. I think the last time I went was three years ago, and that was because it was required to go to China. Now that we’re getting older, we need to be aware of what sorts of things are going to go wrong in our bodies and early detection is possible, but you cant detect stuff by surfing for porn or watching Buffy reruns, you actually need to see a professional (they call ‘em doctors, and they don’t know SHIT about Buffy).

A quick story about my physical. I walked into the Baylor Medical Clinic examination room with Shaniqua, my nurse. On top of the white-butcher paper on top of the bed was a folded up gown and I jokingly asked Shaniqua if that was for me.

“Yes sir” she replied without a smile.

She did however crack a gold-toothed smile when I held the Medium sized gown up to my XXL sized frame.

“You can change after we’re finished here.”

She sat me down and took my blood pressure which was high, pre-hypertension, as they call it in the biz. That’s all she said, there was nothing about why or how it got that way or what it meant or how to lower it. It was simply ‘high’. This was the first glimpse I got of the amount of work I may have to do on the education aspect of losing weight. Shaniqua was basically a ‘machine’ with tattooed tits, not all that different from my scale – total impartial information. You weigh 225, you’re blood pressure is high. Deal with it.

After probing my nervous body a bit more she said, “Ok Lucas, the Dr. Crouch will be in to see you soon. Go ahead and put on the gown, make sure to take all your clothes off.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“No, you have to change into the gown.”

And with that, she left the room and left me confused and not really wanting to nude-up to wear a gown that was the size of a cracker when folded up.

So I unfolded the gown and noticed that it was basically the size of one of my t-shirts, took off my shirt and put it on and watched it casually drape itself down to my bellybutton. Next came the pants, the socks and finally the skivvies. Now, I’m standing there with this thin cotton gown, in a room that feels like a meat locker trying to figure out how to tie the damn thing, let alone figure out how to get it to cover up my overly exposed scrotum.

There was a single strap on it, but nothing to attach it to, like a shoestring without an eyelet on the other side of the tongue. I was confused and standing there facing the door with this thing hanging off my body, wide open and freezing.

I don’t like to telegraph my stories, but I’m sure you have all guessed that this is the time the doctor choose to fling the door open and come in.

That brief moment, several things were just plain wrong. I was holding my gown wide open trying to figure out what to do with it. The nurse station was directly outside of my room and there was no less than four nurses out there, all black with tattoos and gold teeth, all watching the doctor go into my room. It was cold and my twig and berries were in no way, shape or form in presentation form, but alas, they were tossed on stage like a nervous nerd at a talent show.

Let the physical begin. Picking, probing, questioning, cold steel, shy testicles. It was a great day.

They also gave my blood a run through the gauntlet, made sure my dick wasn’t going to fall off and briefly entertained the idea of shining a flashlight into my asshole.

The take-home from that story is that I have high blood pressure but good cholesterol and did not have diabetes.

Because my cholesterol was ok, I really didn’t look into much cholesterol research, however, the simple side is this: There are two kinds of cholesterol, the good cholesterol (HDL, which stands for ‘Happy Day Luke’ and the bad cholesterol (LDL, which stands for ‘Luke, Dammit, Luke’).

Good cholesterol keeps the arteries from getting blocked and removing fat deposits from the body. Bad cholesterol is responsible for blocking the arteries and boy bands.

Blood pressure, because mine was a bit high, I looked into a bit more. Everyone seems to know that the lower the blood pressure the better, but I really had no idea what caused higher blood pressure, why it caused it, what ‘bad’ meant and how to regulate that crap, so I just wanted to spend a page or two explaining it in my horrible and probably incorrect way.

Several things cause high blood pressure, all for different reasons. First of all, weight. Being overweight raises your blood pressure by making your heart work overtime. The heart has trouble getting the blood around to your love handles and your belly and back in a timely fashion. This causes backups and stuff, thus raising the pressure of the blood in your veins.

Secondly, smoking and drinking increase your blood pressure. They cause your vessels to constrict, thus raising the pressure because blood cant get through fast enough.

Thirdly, diet can effect your blood pressure. Foods high in sodium increase the…uhh…sodium…. in your bloodstream. This may be the most complicated reason to explain, but it’s also the biggest reason for high blood pressure in most people, so I’ll go into it a bit more in depth.

The cells in the human body are constantly burning energy. One of the biggest energy burners is called the Sodium/Potassium pump. This pump is basically the mechanism that takes sodium out of cells (and replaces it with potassium). Because of the charges on the molecules, it actually burns calories because it’s moving the sodium ‘up stream’ or against the body’s natural cellular charges. When you get too much sodium in your body, the pump cant pump fast enough to regulate your body’s chemical balance, thus, a buildup of sodium. That said, there should be two ways we can help our blood pressure from the effects of sodium. Less sodium or more potassium.

The reason sodium is such a big deal is that it occurs in so many of our foods. If it were the other way around, potassium in all of our foods, we’d be worrying about keeping potassium levels down (too much of which is just as dangerous as too much sodium). As it is, we typically don’t get enough potassium, so the buildup is on the sodium side.

What are the effects of high blood pressure? The two biggest effects are stroke and heart attack. Strokes and heart attacks are actually much more similar than people realize. They are both due to improper amounts of blood being delivered to parts of the body. If you don’t get enough blood to your brain, you have a stroke. If you don’t enough blood to your heart, you have a heart attack. We cant control what vessels clog and deteriorate, so that is why these two things often happen very close to each other. If you have one, you’re probably at a high risk for the other.

All that fun stuff aside. I decided to spend some extra energy figuring out how to lower my sodium intake, and it sucks.

Veggies and fruits are low in sodium. Meat is high in sodium, very high. But meat is necessary because it gives us much needed protein which keeps me looking like Schwarzenegger. The sodium aspect is something that makes the strict Atkins diet somewhat dangerous.

From time to time, I’ll likely mention food that I eat because it is low in sodium or high in potassium or whatever. Now you know why, assuming that the above is correct.

Stay tuned for the next round of rabble where I discuss my lunching habits. Unfortunately it does not contain ice cream or pizza, but it does include a type of buffet. Peace out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rise and Shine Fatty

Where to start, where to start. I never really had any intention of learning anything about diet and nutrition, I just knew that I was overweight and would like to be otherwise. I'm a man of routine and building an eating routine was important. Living alone for so long, I've always had eating routines; unfortunately, they often consisted of microwave burritos and large amounts of cheesy garlic bread. My idea of eating right was to only get donuts twice a week. This worked well for me for quite some time. I filled out nicely to the tune of 315 lbs and began to make trombone-like sounds while I was sleeping, thus driving my girlfriend to the couch and eventually back to Hays.

Everyone has always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, even though I had no idea why. So, the natural first place to start was by improving my breakfast lifestyle. For the longest time, I didn't even eat breakfast. I was never really hungry in the mornings, I was too preoccupied with extreme annoyance of being rudely awoken by my alarm clock, and one thing I do know, if you eat angry, no one really wins. Unfortunately, by 10:00 am, I was so hungry that by the time lunch rolled around, I would utterly destroy any food placed in front of me. Since I was ordering and paying for my own food, I didn't have that parental buffer of enforced control. I could knock out a slab of ribs and a super size order of fries and still have room for whatever the candy machine special of the day was. Pretty self explanatory, not eating breakfast is probably not the best for you.

Eventually, I started eating cereal for breakfast, but it really didn't do much more for me. I know now that that's because Cocoa-Puffs have no nutritional value. Also, I love milk. I can drink a gallon in two days and after learning a bit about the nutritional aspects of milk, I'm convinced that, not only is it not good for you, but for an adult who is not growing anymore, it's downright bad for you. It's high in fat, high in calories and high in carbs (it's also very high in total amazingness, but there you go). Those aspects of milk outweigh the level of calcium and vitamin C contained in a single glass (my 'glass' was a 32 ounce pickling jar for about eight years).

On top of that, even the healthiest cereals are very high in carbohydrates and calories and just don't have any real nutritional value outside of a small amount of fiber.

So there's kind of my first suggestion, nix the milk, nix the cereal. If you're eating those two things, you're doubling up on carbs and starting your day off with a glass of fat. Technically, you'd be eating healthier by eating a spoonful of Crisco in the morning.

Another thing that I learned about nutrition when dealing with breakfast stuff; the term 'fortified' shows up all over the place in the breakfast world (cereal, bread, my castle). Fortified means that the vitamins are not naturally occurring in the item, they're injected into it after the fact. These vitamin fortifications are usually in a powder form which your body basically treats as a foreign body and only processes a very small percentage of.

One positive benefit of eating a bowl of cereal in the morning was that I wasn't quite so hungry so early and the size of my lunches began to shrink some.

The next thing I tried was the fruit breakfast. I started taking two apples to work every morning and eating them at my desk while I surfed for new Pumas. The reason I choose apples was simply because all other fruits have a shelf life of about 20 minutes in the humidity that is southern Texas. I love oranges, but unless I wanted to eat eight a day or go to the store every morning, I just couldn't keep up. Same with bananas. After a while, I began to be curious of the nutritional value of apples. They were a good snack, but I really wasn't sure how carby they were for me (at this point, my idea of nutrition was still the fewest number of carbs in a day would be my window to smaller man breasts).

I found that apples really weren't all that healthy and probably shouldn't have been considered a 'meal'. They were very high in carbs and sugars compared to other fruits and they had very little nutritional value.

Additionally, they didn't stick with me for very long. An hour after eating them, I was hungry again. Thus began my quest for the perfect fruit. My goal was to find the healthiest fruits based on two things: Minimizing carbohydrates (thus calories and sugar) while maximizing nutritional content (vitamins and other stuff I don't know about).

Somewhere along the path to fruit awareness, I briefly thought I could achieve vitamin delight by making a morning vitamin shake. This took the form of a powdered supplement called 'Alive!' (Complete with the exclamation point). The stuff had 1000% of everything known to man and when mixed with water had the consistency of gritty snot, the color of slime and the taste of chalky Styrofoam. I immediately began to mix this with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, the effect of which was to change the color to dark purple play-dough and upgrading the taste to slightly-fruity dirt. It also made my pee bright enough to light up a football game (which I'm still counting as a benefit, it was actually quite helpful that night I had a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere).

As you can imagine, I just couldn't do the vitamin gruel for very long. I think it lasted about 2 months and, while filling me up in the morning, I just didn't enjoy it (which is the my favorite thing about eating – the desire to consume) and I wasn't too convinced that these extra vitamins were actually doing anything to my body (the pee was the first clue). Upon further internet research (not done at work of course…) I found out that a body just isn't set up to process these intense supplements. If taken in a pill form, your body can only get around 10% of the stuff that's in there, and in a powdered form, it increases, but not enough to justify the taste.

After I gladly shrugged this phase of breakfast off, I resorted to something that came highly recommended from my boss – oatmeal. Every morning, I had a single bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a very small spoon of Splenda Baking Sugar. Now, that shit was GOOD! After a couple weeks, I modified it to contain a full banana (dropped the strawberries, mainly because they just didn't stay good long enough and frozen strawberries get kind of old) and a small handful of walnuts.

I know it took me two pages of rabble to get to, but that is my daily breakfast. Some of the benefits that I can identify are as follows.

The oatmeal is high in fiber and non-sugar carbs. These carbohydrates serve to keep me full. I no longer am hungry by mid-morning (I wake up at 5:45 am, and am usually good to go until 11:00 for lunch). The fiber is good for getting you on the toilet. Disgusting, I know, but as I get older, I'm less and less regular (this is also an effect of keeping down the saturated fats and other stuff that tastes really good). Oatmeal has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, something that I plan on writing a whole 'chapter' about sometime soon, because it's super important (if you like living, if not, you can skip ahead to 'lunch').

The banana is high in sugar and carbs (which isn't good), but it's packed with potassium, which we will go over when it comes to the whole blood pressure thing, and fiber (which is good for the bathroom magazine industry). Bananas taste great and are a good sweetener for the oatmeal on whole. However, if you gain weight easily, like me, I probably wouldn't eat more than one a day. Of course, if they're going bad, like they tend to do in Texas, I've been known to eat four of them in a row just so I didn't have to toss them.

The walnuts are high in protein, which I wasn't getting enough of and we'll probably go over when I talk about my favorite subject – eating meat. Nuts in general are high in calories, but they have no sodium (except for peanuts) and no cholesterol and are typically low in carbs.

As to the rest of my fruit research, I have identified three fruits that are possibly the best for you nutritionally. Strawberries, cantaloupe and grapefruit. These three fruits are low in sugar (which is why they don't taste as sweet as, say an apple or an orange) but they're more packed with natural vitamins than nearly all other fruits. I put these fruits in a guilt-free category. I eat them nearly every day when I get hungry (I take one grapefruit to work every day and have a sliced up cantaloupe in my fridge at all times).

I have also stricken several things from my morning diet (or whole-day diet I suppose), which sucks because I like nearly all of them. All juices are gone. Even if they say 'natural', they've got added sugar and you'd be better off just eating the fruit itself (or drinking a bunch of Kool-Aid if you're on a high-sugar diet, let me know how that works). Cereal and milk, for the above reasons. Toast, for carb/nutrition ratio (all carbs, no nutrition to speak of).

I have also backed way off on my egg consumption. Eggs have never been a part of my typical breakfast just because I'm too lazy, but I LOVE eating an omelet on the weekend at a restaurant while reading a book. I still love it, but whenever I can, I substitute egg-whites or egg beaters. They taste the exact same, but have two very important things removed from them – sodium and cholesterol (they're also lower in calories and fat).

I still drink coffee like the antidote is at the bottom of the cup and will probably not stop. Everything I could find about coffee was positive (or at least not negative). It's got no calories to speak of, no sodium, fat, cholesterol, carbs etc. People often say that it raises your blood pressure, which is true, but all research points to this raise being minimal and short-term at best (like less than an hour).

So there it is. My breakfast. Written on flight 3307 from Kansas City to Houston. I'm not very good at positive reinforcement or being a good role model, hell, for all I know, all this stuff is horribly wrong, but it's helped me.

Stay tuned for my next chapter, which I'm thinking will be the chapter where I break it down blood pressure style, followed by something about eating lunch. If you don't want to wait, I'll give you a sneak preview:

Blood Pressure – high is bad and it will kill you.
Lunch – Saladbarsville baby.

I just want to be the oldest man in Pilgrim Village.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

By Request - The Slim Thug Diet

So, over the past year, I’ve lost some weight. Actually, I’ve lost a lot of weight. Over 50 lbs to be exact. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I weigh the same now that I weighed the end of football season my sophomore year in high school (16 years old, 16 years ago, or half a lifetime ago). Among other things, I also moved out of Kansas City, away from my friends and to a horrible city, a situation that I am in the process of remedying. That sentence may not fit with the first half of this paragraph, but what it means is that when I see my friends now, once every few months, I’ve been getting positive reviews about my weight.

Some of the comments have been as followed:

“Hey, it’s Luke’s shadow”
“Luke, you’re not as disgusting as you used to be!”
“Wow man, you actually weigh less than me now!”
““Luke, you’re not good for me, I’ve met another man and am moving to LA.” (This isn’t an exact quote, but it was responsible for losing my last 12 lbs so I feel obligated to include it in some form, probably falls under the category of ‘unintentional inspiration’.)
“How did you do it?”
“How’d you do it?”
“How’d ya do this?”
“HDYDI?” (text message)
"Luke! Your breasts have gotten so tiny!"
“I don’t know you; put your pants back on.” (Another story entirely.)

So, in lieu of the frequent queries about how I’ve lost some weight, and because this time I think I’m really onto something (oh yes, there have been other times), I’ve decided to write up a couple things about what I’m doing, diet wise, to keep healthy.

I’ll probably divide it up into a few manageable ‘chapters’ talking about various aspects of my twisted interpretation of health and nutrition, this will let me write more and will bore the general reader for slightly shorter time increments, but over a longer period of time.

That said, I’ve started writing the first chapter and hope to have it done in the next day or two. I plan on talking about what I’ve tried and how I’ve modified it, why it worked or didn’t work and my interpretation of what’s really going on after I swallow food. It is not a guide and I am not a dietitian, so if anything I do accidentally causes cancer or possibly begins to grow a third ear out of your ankle, don’t sue me.

It will be filled with jokes, angry comments about things, half truths, swearing and embarrassing revelations. It will probably have made-up words, incomplete sentences, blatant plagiarisms and stupid grammatical snafus. But, hey, it’s something to write about, it’s a change from my norm and, to be honest, it makes me kind of proud to think I can actually provide some help or guidance to my friends outside of comic relief and hip-hop quotes. Remember; only take me as seriously as I deserve to be taken.

That said, let’s begin. I would still classify this as a continuation of the introduction-slash-mumbo-jumbo, but it may be useful anyway.

The last time I lost a bunch of weight, I went the Atkin’s Diet route. This worked pretty well for me, I lost about 50 lbs over six months, but it was difficult to maintain. The fact is I love certain foods that just weren’t on the list. Bread, sweets, pasta all that stuff. I love ketchup, BBQ sauce and chocolate syrup. On top of that, I just didn’t really feel ‘healthy’, which is surprising as I was eating several pounds of bacon every week. Consequently, after the initial six months, my weight began to gradually go back up, never to its original high, but still higher than I wanted.

Then I moved to China. In China, you basically eat whatever is in front of you. Fortunately for low-carb lovers, the food appears to be pretty ‘healthy’. Lots of meat and veggies and there isn’t much bread or dessert in the country. True, there is quite a bit of rice, but I’ve never had any problem avoiding rice. I was there for about a year, and while I wasn’t weighing myself every day (or every four months for that matter); I felt that I was being reasonably healthy. Looking back on it, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

After moving back from China, I moved from Kansas City to Houston. While living in Texas, I found myself with much more time on my hands than I was expecting, even more than when I was in China. This was due to the fact that I just didn’t know anyone and was just kind of in a low-social time of my life. The truth is, I missed my friends and my family more and more every day. But rather than going down the slippery slope of bad health, I spent some time educating myself and trying to become dedicated into eating healthier.

While it would have been possible for me to do this alone, it would have made it more difficult. Lucky for me, I had two colleagues who were in the exact same position as me – away from their friends and family with way too much time on their hands. These two guys were already more health conscious than I was, but between the three of us, we kind of fed off each other and learned quite a lot and formed a sort of Voltron-like Health Machine, each providing different parts. Chris was the tenacious dedication to stuff that doesn’t taste very good, John provided the ridiculous dedication to working out, and I provided the ‘before’ pictures for all of us.

In the end, I found that it was easier and much more interesting to concentrate on nutrition more than diet. I think that statement may need a bit more explanation. Nutrition is how stuff goes into the body and the effects of it. There is nutrition information regarding everything, quadruple cheeseburger (bad nutrition) or celery (good nutrition), and learning why the bad stuff was bad became just as important, if not more important, than why the good stuff is good. Diet is just eating foods that are listed and set up according to how much and when. Hopefully I will be able to iterate the differences between the two more in the coming pages.

Another thing I learned is that it’s really not that difficult to learn or understand, it is a bit more difficult to actually implement and stick to, but all things worth living for are.

Stay tuned for more. Next I will probably begin with the intention of how I eat every day from sunup to lunchtime. No doubt, I will meander off the path into other topics, but anyone who has ever had a conversation with me should expect nothing less.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

An open letter to friends I have not met yet.

Hey you! What’s going on? Not much here, just keepin on. You probably don’t know me, but that’s just because we’re not actually friends yet, but seeing as you’re reading this, it’s obvious that it will change at some point. You’re probably a bit perplexed as to why you’ve gotten this letter, and I can understand. I know you’re busy, probably too busy to waste much time reading a letter from someone you don’t even know yet, so I’ll keep it short. I just wanted to get a couple things off my chest. I figured you should be informed, firsthand, of some things about me. I’m not sure what this will accomplish, other than maybe to give you an idea of what you’re getting yourself into, or what you may have missed out on. So where to start….

I used to be a different person than I am now, quite simply put. I used to be funny, I mean real funny. I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life, but often I would make people laugh by comments or interesting points of views. It was pretty damn cool.

I used to have problems with hints and subtleties. In a way, I think I still do, the only difference is that now I over analyze everything. I’m sure you know (or will know someday) that it’s quite annoying. Sometimes you’ll want to tell me that I should take comments the way they’re supposed to mean, there’s nothing to construe from them. If you tell me that you don’t mind me talking about my newest boring hobby, I’ll never believe you.

I used to love to dance. I never really did it in a social sense of the word, but more in a private way. When I was in a good mood and listening to good music, I had no problem dancing. Especially if you were the reason for my good mood, nothing would make me happier than to watch you smile while I made an idiot of myself.

I used to sing, a lot, and quite badly. It’s probably better that I don’t do this anymore due to noise pollution issues, but I still did it. The best was when I was in the car. I sat there and jacked around with the stereo until I found a song that I knew about half of the lyrics to and just bellowed them out, skimming over the ones I didn’t know and often making up the words as I went. Some of my friends used to tell me that my voice was ‘pretty good actually’ and it made me feel good, even if they were just being nice.

Ohh…while we’re at it, I should give you a brief rundown of some of my former hobbies. The main thing to take from this is not conversation topics or things to ask me about (unless you really want to), but rather an insight into my pseudo-obsessive compulsive slash attention deficit disorder personality. My life has consisted of intense concentration on something for a short period of time followed by complete abandonment of the hobby. It’s hard for me to guess how you may react to this statement, no doubt you would be tempted to apply it to relationships and other stuff and all I can tell you is that I am constantly working at not letting let these silly parts of my life to run over into the lives of my friends (which has happened in the past unfortunately). That said, I would ask you to kindly bust my mush from time to time if you feel that this is happening. In the past, some people have been better at it than others, I woud suggest the straightforward approach (if you are sick of hearing me talk about a video game, just tell me, I'll stop).

Either way, here a brief list, for good or ill:

* Baseball card collecting (2 years)
* Shooting lay-ups (2 months)
* Shooting free-throws (3 months)
* Collecting mini-rubberized robots and creating an army (2 weeks)
* Collecting mini-metal army vehicles and making a battleground for them out of Styrofoam in my basement (1 month)
* Creating a game with official rules for said battleground/army troops (3 months)
* Playing the game once (1 hour)
* Football (1/2 Day)
* Loudest Car Stereo In Halstead Kansas (2 years, the whole ke-boodle got theif’d)
* Collecting CDs (4 years, they were in the car with the stereo)
* Becoming a DJ complete with buying turntables and records (3 months)
* Entomology (1 year)
* Downloading Mp3s (2 years, stopped by a visit from the KBI)
* Techno (6 months)
* Playing Wall Street Sports online (6 months)
* Collecting baseball cards, again (2 months)
* Playing the real stock marked (1 month, see Enron)
* Diablo 2 (4 months)
* Saltwater Fish tank (3 months, just long enough to drop about $5k, but not long enough to ever put water in the tank)
* Congas (1 month, just long enough to actually buy them)
* Playing Kingdom Of Loathing (2 years, albeit one was in China)
* Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1 year, once I saw them all, no reason to continue, right?)
* Battlestar Galactica (6 months, see ‘Buffy’)
* M.A.S.H (5 years, see ‘Buffy’)
* The real stock market, again (6 months, cashed out to live my life)
* Building mobiles (2 weeks, I actually completed two)
* Growing Plants (2 weeks, the little shits die very easy)
* Reading books (3 years, ongoing still, but it’s the buying of books that’s the real issue)

On the other hand, there are some things that I still do that you may like to know about. It will be interesting to see how deep this rabbit hole runs as I rarely really think about what I like. Some of them are easy.

I still like donuts. I still rarely eat them.

I like zombie movies, but own none. I don’t like zombie books, but own four.

I still love going to the zoo, walking in any area with trees, listening to classical music with my eyes closed and sleeping with a fan on. I rub my forehead when nervous, look at the ground when I walk and eat almond butter. My hands shake easily.

I still exfoliate, antiastringentate and blot oil from my forehead. I still buy shoes that are on sale, too small or too big for me. I still dress like a skater, practice an English accent and facial expressions in the mirror. I still make up words and use them relentlessly around people, just hoping they catch on.

I still can’t look at cats without thinking of Coltrane, a clear sky without thinking of a great trip to San Diego, a painting without thinking of holding hands and whispering.

I can’t hear rain without thinking of fresh air, my text message beep without feeling hope or Jamiroquai without thinking of driving someone to the airport.

I can’t smell chlorine without thinking of summer, coffee without thinking of morning or fabric softener without wanting to lie down in bed.

I still daydream. I still think about people that I’m not around. I still hate the dentist. I’m still ok with cheap haircuts and expensive steaks. I still wear shorts to restaurant and still wear my hats crooked.

All in all, I no longer know what to think anymore, but it does feel good being honest again, even if you don’t know me yet. I wish I had something clever to say at the end to make you think I was smart or witty or quick or caring, but I have nothing and even if the above declarations drive you away, I can’t wait to meet you and hope you give me a chance to explain.

- Lucas (my name, because I forgot to introduce myself)