Archive for the “Random Musings” Category

I usually make it a policy not to get involved in internet squabbles among bloggers, but I can’t resist this time – largely because one of the blogs is basically a front for a food company, and its owners are acting like adolescents jumping onto social media to slam their Very Worst Enemies from junior high school.  Not exactly what I’d call appropriate behavior for corporate executives.

If you read Jimmy Moore’s blog, you know he tested his glucose reaction to Julian Bakery’s low-carb (ahem) bread awhile back, and the results weren’t pretty.  The stuff spiked his glucose just like any other bread.  Others have reported the same result.  One angry customer even had the bread tested by an independent lab, which found that it contains way more carbohydrate and far less fiber than the company claimed.  The FDA also sent the company a warning letter about the claims on its label.  Jimmy reported that too.

Now, this is the point at which intelligent, mature executives would either keep mum and let the controversy pass, or perhaps announce that they’re working on fixing some errors in their process.  But the goofballs running Julian Bakery aren’t intelligent or mature, so they stooped to producing blog posts and YouTube videos “exposing” Jimmy Moore as a fraud … oh, and Diane Sanfilippo too.  I don’t know how or when she angered the adolescents running Julian Bakery, but they apparently felt the need to “expose” her too.

The blog posts and videos consist of the people who run Julian Bakery interviewing each other as experts … so it’s all roughly as believable as watching executives from Monsanto interviewing each other on the health benefits of semi-dwarf wheat.  That alone would merely be laughable, but then the same people claiming to be angry over accusations of fraud prove what honest and trustworthy people they are by engaging in fraud — this time using pictures.

The pictures appear in a post with the laughable title of Low Carb Blogger & Author Jimmy Moore Exposed As Fraud By Heath Squier.  (Heath Squealer – er, Squier – is one of the adolescents who run Julian Bakery.)  Let’s check some quotes – and no, I’m not going to link to this garbage.

This picture specifically outlines Jimmy in 2009, when he stopped eating our products, and now, it shows him in 2014, and this is a current picture at Paleo fx in 2014.

Uh, Mr. Squealer, how exactly does a picture “outline” Jimmy?  Is one picture of Jimmy surrounding another picture of Jimmy?

Okay, never mind.  Here’s what Mr. Squealer was referring to in his didn’t-excel-in-English style of communication:

Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  We see Jimmy in 2009, looking pretty good for a guy who once weighed more than 400 pounds and has battled obesity for his entire life. But then – and this is no doubt the crux of the problem – he stopped eating Julian Bakery products!  He went on some crazy ketogenic diet and (as the article informs us) got fat.  Man, if only he’d kept eating that Julian Bakery bread, he might still look as good as he did in 2009.

And we know that leaner-looking Jimmy picture is from 2009, because the Julian Bakery people said so, and they’re not the kind of people who would lie for the purpose of selling their products.  That’s why they’re so gosh-darned sick and tired (as they inform us in their videos) of being accused of dishonesty.  So I can only conclude that in addition to his other talents, Jimmy Moore is capable of time-travel.  I can’t believe he never told me.

Take a good look at the t-shirt Jimmy is wearing in the (ahem) 2009 photo.  Look familiar?  Here, maybe this will help:

Yup, the lean, mean, fightin’-machine Jimmy is wearing one of our Wheat Is Murder t-shirts.  We began producing those in June of 2011.  Judging by the background, that’s a photo from one of the low-carb cruises.  Can’t be the 2011 cruise, because the cruises are in May.  So the earliest possible cruise where he could have worn a Wheat Is Murder shirt was 2012 – but we all know darned good and well that’s not a 2012 photo, don’t we?  Jimmy weighed more than 300 pounds during the 2012 cruise.  He was getting advice or insults from every direction.

The advice that finally made a difference came from Dr. Jeff Volek, who explained to Jimmy how to adjust his diet to stay in ketosis — you know, the diet the adolescents running Julian Bakery want you to believe ruined that great physique Jimmy had back in 2009, when he was still eating Julian Bakery bread and hopping into his time machine to buy a t-shirt I first produced in 2011.

Since that “2009” picture couldn’t possibly be from the 2012 cruise, it was likely taken during the 2013 cruise – i.e., after Jimmy had been on a ketogenic diet for a year and lost 80 pounds, despite not eating Julian Bakery bread.

But what the heck, let’s take the mystery out of it.  Here’s a picture I know for certain was taken during the 2013 cruise, because I took it.

Darned if that physique doesn’t look just like the one Jimmy supposedly had back in 2009, when he was still eating Julian Bakery bread and buying t-shirts produced in the future.  The length of his hair looks identical too.  So I’m going to step out on a limb and say both of those pictures are of Jimmy after a year on his ketogenic diet.

Like I said above, I don’t know what exactly Diane Sanfilippo did to produce a temper-tantrum among the adolescent executive corps at Julian Bakery, but whatever it was, they responded by posting this picture from Paleo FX 2014 as proof she’s gotten fat – no doubt the result of failing to include Julian Bread in her diet.

I know a little bit about photography, so when I saw this picture, my guess was that the “fatter” Diane was result of bad lighting, not a “chunky” body.

Chunky?  Yup, the adolescents named the picture Diane Sanfilippo Chunky when they uploaded it.  Then one of them wrote this:

Of all the people I have searched for current photos belonging to the Paleo or health community, Diane was the most difficult to find any recent photos of. When I did find them, they were never full body and always a strange angle. It appears someone is working overtime to make sure that people don’t see, just like Jimmy and many other of her buddies, she has reverted back to her previous weight.

Hmmm … I found a different picture of Diane from the same event – with an angle I certainly wouldn’t call strange — and it only took me a few seconds.  Perhaps Mr. Squealer and his fellow executives are mystified by Google.  Or perhaps we should interpret that claim as:  Of all the people I searched desperately hoping to find a picture that made her look fat, Diane was the most difficult.

Anyway, here’s what I found:

Geez, what a fatty, huh?  I’m surprised she didn’t cite unspecified “security concerns” and back out of the event so no one could take her picture.

She looks exactly like she did when I met her on the 2013 cruise – which is to say, she’s built like an athlete, with too much muscle to ever be a skinny-Minnie, and she’s got great curves.  (I say that with Chareva’s blessing.  Unlike certain bakery executives, Chareva doesn’t have a fragile ego.)  Perhaps Diane ate some Julian Bakery bread after that first picture and quickly lost weight as a result, then posed for the second picture.

In addition to warning readers about how Jimmy and Diane got fat after refusing to eat Julian Bakery bread, Mr. Squealer posted pictures of his own weight loss – which, I presume, was mostly induced by eating Julian Bakery bread.  Take a look, and be sure to read the weight figures:

So that’s what a 33-pound weight loss looks like, eh?  Boy, that’s got to be discouraging news for any guy with a big ol’ beer belly.  He’d look at Mr. Squealer’s before-and-after pictures and think, “Geez, this guy loses 33 pounds and barely shrinks.  That means I need to lose at least 300 pounds – which sucks, because I only weigh 285.”

I went to high school with a guy who was thickly muscled and as cut as I’ve ever seen outside the body-building world.  And yet during a game of pickup basketball, I noticed that when he was winded, his belly relaxed and protruded a bit as he sucked in air.  His abs appeared to go soft for a moment.  Then he’d breathe out, the belly would shrink, and the abs looked chiseled again.  It never occurred to me to stick a scale under him to see if his weight was fluctuating by 33 pounds as he breathed, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case.

I once managed to semi-starve myself into a 35-pound weight loss.  I was still a road comedian at the time, and when I walked into clubs where people on the staff hadn’t seen me in a year or so, the comments ranged from “Wow, you look like a totally different person!” to “Uh, pardon me for asking, but are you okay?  You’re not sick or anything, are you?”  I went from wearing either size 38 or 40 pants, depending on the style, to size 34 pants.

I don’t have any other pictures of what a 33-pound weight loss looks like, but here’s what a 50-pound weight loss looked like on Tom Hanks:

And here’s what a 60-pound weight loss looked like on Christian Bale when he starved himself for his role in The Machinist.

Bale lost 60 pounds and went from looking beefy to looking positively cadaverous.  Mr. Squealer claims he lost a bit more than half that much weight, but the main difference I see in his before-and-after pictures (besides the degree to which he’s contracting his abs) is the lighting.  I can only come up with three explanations:

  1. When you lose body fat, the first 33 pounds don’t make much of a difference in your physique.
  2. Mr. Squealer’s body produces a unique form of adipose tissue that is denser than lead.  (I believe eating Julian Bakery bread cures the condition, however.)
  3. Mr. Squealer is lying about his weight loss.

But it couldn’t be number three, because that would be dishonest — and it’s not as if the company has been busted for false claims or anything.  And it’s not as if the Julian Bread executives would stoop to grabbing a picture of Jimmy Moore from 2013 and claiming that’s what he looked like when he was eating their bread in 2009.

A couple more quotes from the blog before we go:

Talk about the absolute bipolar opposite of what we preach in the primal and paleo world, at least what I teach.

Um … what exactly does the “bipolar opposite” mean?  Is that an opposite that sometimes isn’t an opposite and sometimes is, depending on whether it’s feeling manic or depressed?

Again, look at the photos. I won’t say anything. Just go look at the proof, and go look at these people on the Internet and their photos. They’re overweight and their weight fluctuates big time. Not to mention a lot of their employees. If you and your book is so great, why are almost all the people who work for you overweight?

If you and your bread is so great, why isn’t you able to grasp the relatively simple concept of subject-verb agreement?  But more importantly, why doesn’t you act like grown-ups when your company’s product is criticized?  Is it because you is immature?

And here’s a quote from one of the YouTube videos:

Paleo FX and Ancestral Health Conference are a joke.

So the Julian Bakery people have these bread products they hope to sell to the low-carb and paleo communities, and these are the strategies they employ and the statements they make in public.  Brilliant.  I’m sure these posts and videos are doing wonders for their corporate image.

It’s always so much fun watching children pretend to be grown-ups.

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So far I’ve only read about 2/3 of Keto Clarity, Jimmy Moore’s recent book.  (As usual, I’m behind on my reading.  The book was released three weeks ago.)  Since the book is about nutritional ketosis, naturally I’ve been replaying the debates about ketosis in my mind as I read.  I don’t want to clutter up my soon-to-appear review of the book with those debates (the book, after all, is mostly a how-to guide for people who have already decided to try a ketogenic diet) so I thought I’d chime in with some thoughts on ketosis now and review the book on its own merits.

I’m not a fan of caustic debates among bloggers and authors who all advocate a more-or-less paleo, whole-foods diet but disagree on safe starches or ketosis.  I explained why in my post about Differences, Commonalities and the Judean People’s Front.  We agree far more than we disagree, but when the topic of ketosis comes up, you can almost sense some people wanting to yell “Splitters!” across the coliseum.

Depending on which splitter has the floor, nutritional ketosis is either the natural human metabolic condition and should be sought by everyone who wants to be lean and healthy, or it’s an emergency-only condition that will ruin your metabolism and possibly kill you.  I don’t buy either argument, at least not as a blanket statement for everyone.  I believe achieving ketosis could be beneficial or not, depending on the individual.  So I’ll just toss out some of the arguments I’ve come across recently in books, blogs and podcasts and respond with what went through my head when I heard them – and that’s all these are: my personal reactions to those arguments.

Ketosis was the natural metabolic state of our Paleolithic ancestors.

I used to believe that, but I don’t anymore.  I think paleo people probably drifted in and out of ketosis, depending on the season and what foods were obtainable.  Fossilized bones and fecal samples tell us that many if not most early humans consumed a wide variety of plants, including starchy plants, and a whole lot of fiber.  We call them hunter-gatherers for a reason.  If all they ate was meat, they’d just be hunters.

As Jimmy’s book and others point out, to achieve and maintain nutritional ketosis, you not only have to restrict carbohydrates, you will probably have to restrict protein as well.  I don’t think paleo people would have restricted either.  As the Jaminets discussed in their Perfect Health Diet book, the hunter-gatherer tribes whose diets were documented typically consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 30 percent of their calories as carbohydrates.  That alone would prevent nutritional ketosis for most of us.  Meanwhile, the Inuit – our poster-boys for a carb-free diet – apparently consumed rather a lot of freshly killed seafood that contained perhaps 20 percent of its calories in the form of glycogen, otherwise known as muscle starch.

But let’s suppose for the sake of argument (since the point has indeed been hotly debated) their seafood didn’t contain that much glycogen.  It’s been documented that adult male Inuits consumed an average of 240 grams of protein per day.  That’s not exactly what I’d call protein restriction, and I find hard to believe anyone would stay in nutritional ketosis while eating that much protein.

Paleo humans only ate plants as a fallback food if there wasn’t enough meat available.

I know that one isn’t true.  At least it wasn’t true for many Native American tribes.  I just recently read that in areas where hunting tribes and farming/gathering tribes lived near each other, they got together for food swaps.  The hunters traded meat for maize, beans, squash, etc.  I don’t think they’d voluntary trade away precious meat for what they considered a desperation-only food.  They must have liked those starchy plant foods.  As someone who enjoyed fresh squash from Chareva’s garden with dinner a couple of nights ago, I can tell you I’d happily swap some excess meat for it.

If you’re not in nutritional ketosis, it means you’re still a sugar-burner.

Simple math says otherwise.  I believe (as do the Jaminets, by the way) that we should get most of our energy from fat.  But you can get most of your energy from fat without being in nutritional ketosis, which is defined as a reading of 1.0 or higher on a blood ketone meter.  Let’s look at some numbers.

Suppose I consume 2,000 calories in a day, including 100 grams of protein and 100 grams of carbohydrate – in other words, roughly what I consumed during my Fat Head fast-food diet.  That would be 800 calories from protein and carbohydrates combined, plus 1200 calories from fat.  My brain would have used up much of the carbohydrate, and since my muscles didn’t shrink, I certainly wasn’t converting all that protein to glucose and using it for fuel.  But what the heck, for the sake of argument, I’ll say all 800 protein and carbohydrate calories were used for energy.

With me so far?  Good.

Given the weight I lost during that month, I was burning at least 3,000 calories per day, possibly more.  That means I was burning 2200 calories or more in the form of fat … which means even if every gram of carbohydrate and protein was used for fuel (which it wasn’t), 73% of my energy needs came from fat.  So I obviously wasn’t a sugar-burner.  But I can tell you from my own n=1 attempt at maintaining nutritional ketosis that I can’t do it while consuming 100 grams of protein and 100 grams of carbohydrate in a day.

Here’s another recent example:  as I recounted on the blog, I spent five hours last Saturday clearing the brush from our fields.  It was hard, physical work that no doubt burned rather a lot of calories.  For breakfast (my only meal before all that work), I had four eggs fried in butter and two pieces of gluten-free toast slathered in butter.  The toast provided 22 grams of carbohydrate, or a whopping 88 calories.  If I wasn’t burning mostly fat during the day’s labors, I would have keeled over.  And yet I wasn’t in nutritional ketosis.  I checked out of curiosity and registered 0.4 on the meter.

If you don’t feel good or experience health problems while in a constant state of ketosis, there’s something wrong with you and you need to fix it.

I disagree completely, and when I hear that one, it sounds eerily like vegan-think.  Tell a vegan you felt lousy while trying to give up animal foods, and she (because most vegans are she) will reply that meat is evil, we know it’s bad for you, so if you don’t feel good without meat in your diet it means you’re addicted to meat, or you’re not doing your vegan diet correctly, or there’s an underlying health problem you need to identify and fix so you can give up meat.

Nonsense.  If you feel lousy on a vegan diet but then feel better after eating a steak, it means you should eat the steak.  That’s how any proponent of a paleo diet would reply.

But if you tell some people in the everyone should be in ketosis crowd that you felt better and saw some health problems disappear after eating two or three potatoes per week, suddenly the potato becomes like meat to a vegan.  No, no, no, the potato is bad!  If you feel better after eating the potato, it means you’re not doing your ketogenic diet correctly.  You need more fat.  You need to eat nose-to-tail.  Something is still broken in your metabolism, so you need to dig deeper and find the underlying issue and fix it.

No, it means you should eat the potato.

The whole premise of paleo diets is that the ideal human diet was shaped by evolution.  The diet that kept our paleo ancestors healthy is the diet that will keep us healthy too.  For reasons I explained above, I don’t believe our paleo ancestors lived in a state of chronic ketosis.  There’s no reason we should all be genetically geared to thrive on a diet that none of our ancestors actually consumed.  In fact, adopting that diet might be a bad idea for some people.

But once again for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that with enough diligence and determination, you could identify that deep, underlying problem that’s causing you to feel lousy when you stay in ketosis for weeks on end.   Here are your options:

  • Spend months of your life and hundreds if not thousands of dollars undergoing tests, waiting for results, undergoing more tests, digging and researching and visiting specialists and perhaps finally identifying that deep, underlying metabolic problem that caused you to feel good after eating a potato … but feeling like crap until you do identify the deep, underlying metabolic problem.
  • Eat the potato, feel good, and go on your merry way.

Pretty easy choice, if you ask me.

Ketosis will ruin your metabolism.

Like I said, I believe staying in chronic ketosis could be a bad idea for some people.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone.  Dr. Jeff Volek has lived on a ketogenic diet for decades.  So has Nora Gedgaudas.  Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt has been measuring ketones and maintaining ketosis for (if memory serves) at least two years now. If their metabolisms are broken and their health is going down the tubes, you sure as hell can’t tell by looking at them.

Back during the raging safe-starch debate on this blog, I mentioned that I’ve heard from people who lost weight and felt better after adding some starch back into their diets, and that I believe them.  I have no reason not to believe them.  I’ve also seen posts and read comments from people who were able to lose weight and keep it off for the first time in their lives after going ketogenic.  I believe them too.

A ketogenic diet has clearly been a godsend for Jimmy Moore.  Yes, you could argue (as so many internet cowboys have) that if Jimmy can’t keep his weight down on anything other than a strictly ketogenic diet, it means his metabolism is broken.  Fine.  Drinking a 12-pack of Coca-Cola per day and ballooning up to over 400 pounds by age 30 probably will break your metabolism.

But if going ketogenic allows you to feel great and lose nearly 80 pounds and keep it off, then go ketogenic … unless, of course, you believe it’s better to remain obese while spending years of your life and hundreds if not thousands of dollars undergoing tests, waiting for results, undergoing more tests, digging and researching and visiting specialists and perhaps finally identifying that deep, underlying metabolic problem that prevents you from losing weight while eating potatoes.

Ketogenic diets are stupid because everyone apart from diabetics should be able to consume at least 150 grams of carbohydrate per day.

I don’t think the everyone should eat starch argument makes any more sense than the no one should eat starch argument.  All humans have the AMY1 gene, which makes it possible to digest starch.  That’s one of the many reasons I believe our paleo ancestors ate starchy plants.  But some clearly ate a lot more than others.  Let’s review a quote from Denise Minger’s book Death By Food Pyramid:

It turns out the number of AMY1 copies contained in our genes is not the same for everyone. And the amount of salivary amylase we produce is tightly correlated to the number of AMY1 copies we inherited. AMY1 copy number can range from one to fifteen, and amylase levels in saliva can range from barely detectable to 50 percent of the saliva’s total production. That’s a lot of variation.

It sure is.  And that means some people can handle a whole lot more starch than others.  Research shows that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene are more likely to be obese.  To quote a study I mentioned in a previous post:

The chance of being obese for people with less than four copies of the AMY1 gene was approximately eight times higher than in those with more than nine copies of this gene. The researchers estimated that with every additional copy of the salivary amylase gene there was approximately a 20 per cent decrease in the odds of becoming obese.

That’s why when people have pointed to the Kitavans as examples of people who are lean and healthy despite a diet very high in starch, I’ve replied, “Good for them.  But I’m not a Kitavan.”  I haven’t had a genetic test to determine how many AMY1 copies are floating around in my DNA, but given the difference in my weight and health on high-starch vs. low-starch diets, I suspect I’m in that under-four-copies group.

I usually eat two meals per day.  To get 150 grams of carbohydrate into my diet, I’d have to consume 75 per meal.  Not a chance.  After supplementing with resistant starch, I’ve found I can have that potato or squash with dinner and end up with a post-meal glucose peak in the 125-135 range.  I’m fine with that.  So now I have a potato with dinner a few times per week.

But when I consumed two potatoes (i.e., about 70 grams of starch) awhile back as an experiment, my glucose ended up at 195 and stayed high for two hours.  I’m not fine with that.  And no, I don’t think it’s because I need to eat more starch to raise my tolerance.  That’s just another version of the if you can’t be healthy on this diet, it means you’re not doing it right argument.  If I’m in the low-amylase group, there is no way for me to do it right.  Yes, I can eat some starch – but only some.  Based on my experiences and n=1 experiments, I’d say 100 grams is the upper limit for me.  Your upper limit may be higher or lower.  We’re all different.

A ketogenic diet will starve your gut bacteria and ruin your gut health.

If there’s one warning ketogenic dieters should pay attention to, I’d say that’s the one … although I think the possible danger lies in a lack of fiber, not ketosis per se.  I recently watched a two-part series on the gut biome produced by ABC Catalyst in Australia.  The bottom line is that our gut bacteria need fiber, period.  It’s their food.  I no longer buy the notion tossed around by some low-carbers that fiber is useless.  It’s not only useful, it’s probably crucial for long-term gut health.

In part one of the series, researchers did some blood work on a young, very fit gymnast after feeding him a meal of French fries and other junk food.  He was surprised to learn that his body was pumping out a higher-than-average level of insulin to normalize his blood sugar – in other words, he was at risk for developing diabetes.  (The doctor/journalist who hosted the episode only pumped out half as much insulin after the same meal.)  In part two, after a month on a high-fiber diet, the same gymnast ate the same junk-food meal.  This time his body required only half as much insulin to do the job.  Fiber has been shown in research to improve insulin sensitivity – and since most of us who adopt low-carb diets want to lower our insulin levels, fiber should be part of the diet.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the fiber has to come from starchy plants, but if were on a ketogenic diet, I’d sure as shootin’ be loading up on as many high-fiber vegetables as I could.  I’d also try supplementing with resistant starch as soon as possible.

Okay, those are my thoughts about the ketosis pro and con arguments.  You may now proceed to the comments and yell “Splitter!”

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When we got the brush-cutting mower we’ve since nicknamed The Beast, Chareva’s first request was that I clear an area around the chicken coop so she could expand the chicken yard.  A day or so later, she put up the electric fence that had previously surrounded Sara’s goats.  The idea, of course, is to discourage raccoons or bobcats from treating themselves to any more chicken dinners.

Here’s more of the fence, from the other side of the coop:

I hope it works.  If it comes down to a choice between losing chickens or killing a predator, I’ll kill the predator.  One chicken produces 250 eggs or more per year.  Rocky Racoon killed four of them, so he cost us 1,000 eggs over the next year — and all we got in return was one raccoon-stew dinner.  The bobcat cost us another 250 eggs per year.  But as several readers mentioned, that bobcat is a beautiful animal, and I’d rather just convince him to go away.

The chickens won’t be wandering the expanded chicken yard until we put some nets over the area.  Hawks aren’t impressed by electric fences.

I got home from work on Friday with about two hours to go before sunset, so I released The Beast and tackled the section of the side field you see below:

That gave me more of a workout than I’d expected.  It’s difficult to appreciate the slope of these hills unless you’re standing on them, but this picture taken soon after we bought the land should give you an idea:

That was the area I cut on Friday, and I found that my usual method of cutting around the perimeter wasn’t possible.  The mower wanted to tilt and turn downhill if I tried cutting across the slope.  So my only option was to guide it downhill, make a 180-degree turn, and go straight back up the hill – over and over.  The back wheels are powered, but there are no front wheels, which means I have to push down on the handles and keep the front slightly elevated, especially when cutting uphill.  It wasn’t quite like pushing a heavy weight uphill each time, but close.  So let’s just say I slept amazingly well on Friday night.  This is the after picture:

Same area, but looking up from near the bottom of the hill:

That left these two big sections of the side field still to be cut:

I figured I’d tackle those next weekend.  I was more interested in clearing the area behind the house, which had grown to look like this:

When I finished my morning coffee on Saturday and starting pulling on my work clothes and boots, it occurred to me that I was actually looking forward to the work.

What the …?  Is that my brain getting all happy about a day of manual labor?

Yes, this is your brain.

But the whole two years we rented a house in a suburb, I never even mowed the lawn.  Mowing a lawn is drudgery.  That’s why I paid a service to do it.  Why the heck is this fun all of a sudden?

I don’t know.  I’m only a brain.  You figure it out.

So I spent two hours pushing The Beast around the area behind the house (only about a third of which is visible in the picture).  Now it looks like this:

I planned on calling it a day after that and working on a music project.  Then my brain started up again.

You know, you still have plenty of daylight left.  You could knock down one of those two sections in the side field.

Why on earth would I do that?

Because you want to.  You know you do.

Look, buddy, I do not want to spend the entire day … holy crap, the brain is right.  I do want to.  Okay, I’ll take down one of those two remaining sections.  Then I’m going inside.

So, despite being drenched under my shirt from the afternoon heat, I took down another section.  Then I turned The Beast towards the garage.

Hey, remember me?  It’s your brain again.  You know, that last remaining section really isn’t that big if you think about.

But I’ve already been doing this for nearly four hours, and it’s ninety-some degrees out here and … okay, I’ll get the gas can.

My muscles were tired and I was huffing and puffing at times as I hit the steeper slopes.  And yet I had to admit:  I was enjoying myself.  I don’t know if was endorphins from the work, the pride of accomplishment, or what Charlie Daniels called Dog-Tired Satisfied in one of his songs, but after spending five hours working outside on a hot, humid day, I felt terrific.

It occurred to me that this is one of the unexpected benefits of living on a small farm.  I’ve been a software programmer for years.  I’m good at it, I like it, and it pays well.  But of course, I sit down for that job (and for blogging).  The whole time I lived in Chicago and Los Angeles, I didn’t even have a yard.  I knew it was important to get some physical exercise, so I took long walks and worked out in a gym.  I still do.  A good workout in a gym is satisfying, but it’s not like this.  It’s not the joy of being Dog-Tired Satisfied.  I get that feeling when I spend a day tearing down a briar jungle, or cutting up a pile of wood, or pounding fence posts into the ground.

When we first bought the farm and started cleaning it up, cutting away the rusty barbed wire, digging gardens, reclaiming the jungle, etc., I occasionally grumbled to myself that it seemed the work would never be done.

Silly, silly man, my brain replied when I recalled those complaints as I was falling asleep on Saturday night.  Of course the work will never be done.  And if it ever is, you should probably buy more land.  You’re Dog-Tired Satisfied, and it’s the best kind of tired.  Now go to sleep.

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I have to admit, that was kind of fun.  See, what I did with the headline for this post was to look at a couple of observational studies and jump to the kind of unsubstantiated cause-and-effect conclusions so beloved by media health writers – and particularly beloved by many vegetarian zealots.

Take T. Colin Campbell – please.  He and his vegan pals show up in vegan propaganda films like Forks Over Knives and solemnly inform that world that in countries with high rates of meat consumption, people are more likely to die of cancer.  Must be the animal protein causing the cancer, ya see.  (Unfortunately, this unscientific claptrap is persuasive to reviewers like Roger Ebert, who apparently knew a lot about good filmmaking but almost nothing about good science.)

There could be all kinds of reasons other than animal protein causes cancer! that people who live in countries with high rates of meat consumption are more likely to die of cancer.  I’ll give you just one:  Animal protein is expensive compared to other foods, so people in prosperous countries eat more of it than people in poor countries do.  People in prosperous countries also have longer lifespans because of better medical care – which means they live long enough to die from the diseases of old age, including cancer.

T. Colin Campbell, Neal Barnard, John McDougall … I’m sure they’re all intelligent enough to understand that correlation doesn’t prove causation.   I’m also sure they don’t care, at least not when they can dig up a correlation that supports their vegetarian agenda.  That’s because they consider eating animal foods immoral.  It’s a sin, you see, so if they need to tell little white lies in order to stop people from sinning, that’s okay.   Nothing wrong with portraying correlation as causation if it supports the true cause.

So in that spirit, let’s take a look at the studies that inspired my headline.  Here are some quotes from an online article about a study linking vegetarianism to poor health:

Vegetarians may have a lower BMI and drink alcohol sparingly, but vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts.

I think the only correct interpretation of that finding is that if you’re going to be a vegetarian, you should also try to stay fat and drunk.

A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.

Vegetarians were twice as likely to have allergies, a 50 percent increase in heart attacks and a 50 percent increase in incidences of cancer.

Wow.  More physically active, more economically prosperous, less likely to drink, less likely to smoke, and less likely to be fat … yet still more likely to be in poor health, including more likely to develop cancer or suffer a heart attack.  Has T. Colin Campbell been informed of this finding?

The cross-sectional study from Austrian Health Interview Survey data and published in PLos One examined participants’ dietary habits, demographic characteristics and general lifestyle differences.

Many past studies have instead put an emphasis on the health risks associated with red meat and carnivorous diets, but this study points the other dietary direction. However, the researchers do caution that continuing studies will be needed to substantiate some of the rather broad dietary distinctions, associations presented in this current research.

No, no, no, we don’t need to be cautious.  If we find an association we like in an observational study, we can treat it as cause-and-effect and trumpet it from the hilltops … or in a book called The China Study.

Overall, vegetarians were found to be in a poorer state of health compared to other dietary groups. Vegetarians reported higher levels of impairment from disorders, chronic diseases, and “suffer significantly more often from anxiety/depression.”

So a vegetarian diet will give you mental problems as well.  But as a health writer, I don’t want to rely on a single study to reach that conclusion.  So let’s look at another one.  In this study from Germany, vegetarians were found to have higher rates of depression, anxiety, hypochondria and eating disorders.

Now, if we wanted to be careful, we’d have to consider all kinds of possible explanations.  It could be that people who are sick or depressed or have an eating disorder are more likely to try a vegetarian diet, hoping for a dietary cure.  It could be that more vegetarians are obsessed with being thin, which makes them more likely to semi-starve themselves, which it turns leads to poor health and depression.  Eating or not eating meat may have nothing to do with it, at least not directly.

But I’m not in the mood to be careful.  I more in the mood to channel the spirits of Campbell, Bernard, McDougall, and the other great vegan zealots.  So I’ll just declare that according to the recent research, a vegetarian diet will make you sick and crazy.

Heh-heh-heh … like I said, that was kind of fun.

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After I went from a mostly vegetarian diet to a meat-based low-carb diet and saw my health improve, I swore I’d never swear off red meat. But … uh … (say it ain’t so, Joe) … a run-in with the wrong insect could apparently change all that:

A bug can turn you into a vegetarian, or at least make you swear off red meat. Doctors across the nation are seeing a surge of sudden meat allergies in people bitten by a certain kind of tick.

A tick? You mean those nasty little critters who crawl up my legs while I’m playing disc golf or working around the property? Oh, no …

This bizarre problem was only discovered a few years ago but is growing as the ticks spread from the Southwest and the East to more parts of the United States. In some cases, eating a burger or a steak has landed people in the hospital with severe allergic reactions.

The culprit is the Lone Star tick, named for Texas, a state famous for meaty barbecues. The tick is now found throughout the South and the eastern half of the United States.

Well, maybe the anti-meat ticks are farther south and east than where I live. So if I just stay in my part of Tennessee …

In Mount Juliet near Nashville, Tennessee, 71-year-old Georgette Simmons went to a steakhouse on June 1 for a friend’s birthday and had a steak.

“About 4:30 in the morning I woke up and my body was on fire. I was itching all over and I broke out in hives. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before,” she said.

A few weeks later, for a brother’s birthday, she ordered another steak. Hours later she woke “almost hysterical” with a constricted throat in addition to hives and a burning sensation. She, too, recalled tick bites.

Mount Juliet?! Holy @#$%, that’s not only near Nashville, it’s north of where we live. So the demon ticks are already in our area.

At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, “I see two to three new cases every week,” said Dr. Scott Commins, who with a colleague, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, published the first paper tying the tick to the illness in 2011.

One of the first cases they saw was a bow hunter who had eaten meat all his life but landed in the emergency department several times with allergic reactions after eating meat. More cases kept turning up in people who were outdoors a lot.

People who were outdoors a lot … gulp.

Here’s how it happens: The bugs harbor a sugar that humans don’t have, called alpha-gal. The sugar is also is found in red meat — beef, pork, venison, rabbit — and even some dairy products. It’s usually fine when people encounter it through food that gets digested.

But a tick bite triggers an immune system response, and in that high-alert state, the body perceives the sugar the tick transmitted to the victim’s bloodstream and skin as a foreign substance, and makes antibodies to it. That sets the stage for an allergic reaction the next time the person eats red meat and encounters the sugar.

A reader recently sent me a link to an article about a professor of bioethics who proposed making people allergic to meat to save the planet from climate change. Somebody should investigate and see if this little screwball has been messing around with ticks in his lab.

Doctors don’t know if the allergy is permanent.

Please, God, don’t let it be permanent.

Some patients show signs of declining antibodies over time, although those with severe reactions are understandably reluctant to risk eating meat again. Even poultry products such as turkey sausage sometimes contain meat byproducts and can trigger the allergy.

Michael Abley, who is 74 and lives in Surry, Virginia, near Williamsburg, comes from a family of cattle ranchers and grew up eating meat. He developed the meat allergy more than a decade ago, although it was only tied to the tick in more recent years.

“Normally I can eat a little bit of dairy,” he said, but some ice cream landed him in an emergency room about a month ago.

Okay, so if I get bit by one these little demons, all I’d have to do is give up beef, pork, dairy products, and perhaps poultry products. If you hear a scream loud enough to break windows in Georgia coming from Tennessee, you’ll know I got bit by a Lone Star tick.

Up to this point, I’ve been trying to be judicious in my use of Deep Woods Off before working outside. I believe I’ll start soaking myself with it. And washing my clothes in it. And using it for shampoo.

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I wasn’t around last night to write a post.  Sara took her goats to the 4-H livestock show at the county fair early in the morning, and in the middle of the afternoon, Chareva called to tell me one of the goats won his class, then his division.  That meant Sara would be competing for the grand prize in the evening.

So I wrapped up work for the day around 5:00 and took Alana to the fairgrounds to watch.  Here are some short video clips of the day:

Alana and I left around 8:30 PM, but Sara and Chareva had to stick around for the auction.  We’ll make a bit of profit on the goats (although I wouldn’t want to live on it), and Sara took home some nice prize money to put in her “I want a car when I’m 16″ savings account.

So that’s it.  The goats are gone. It was a great summertime experience for Sara, but with school starting up again, plus piano lessons and eventually band-instrument practice, I think she has enough to keep her busy for awhile.

In few more days, she’ll auction off five of her chickens at the fair.  Meanwhile, we’re starting to get small eggs from her flock.  When her 15 remaining chickens start laying full-sized eggs, it will be time to open that egg stand by the side of the road.

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