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Posts Tagged ‘food’

First Taste

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Here’s a super slow-mo video of kids trying new foods for the first time.

It’s Wednesday and you need this.

Tracking is Knowing: The Fitbit

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Last week we talked about the notion of tracking is knowing as it relates to understanding the food you eat (in terms of caloric value and macronutrient breakdown). As I said, it’s probably the biggest step you can take to getting a handle on your health and fitness, because very few people understand how much food, energy-wise, they’re eating on a daily basis.

The next step is understanding how much you’re moving. This isn’t about tracking your workouts – that’s another topic. What I’m talking about here is simply getting a handle on how much you move on a daily basis. Spoiler: it’s astounding how sedentary most of us really are.

Let’s face it: we all pretty much sit around at a desk all day staring at an LCD panel. Or we’re in our cars, sitting, taking calls, getting info about the valeters insurance, listening to the radio. Or we’re at home, sitting on the couch, watching TV or messing around on our iPads.

Very few folks have an ‘active’ job where they have to stand or walk for a good part of every day.

Enter the Fitbit. The Fitbit is a wireless tracking device that clips to your clothes. It has an uncannily accurate gyrocope/accelerometer combination that tracks how many steps you take every day, how many flights of stairs you climb, how far you wind up walking and how many calories you burn. You can even wear it to bed and have it track your sleep quality. Once you set up your profile (which takes into account your gender, age, and weight) and start using the Fitbit, you will have a picture of your quantified-self that you’ve never seen before.

(Note: Fitbit can also track food (like My Fitness Pal, mentioned last week), but I find its database far inferior to My Fitness Pal’s. It can also track workouts and factor them into your activity, but I don’t use that feature because of the specialized workouts I do. If you do fairly standard exercise, Fitbit’s exercise tracking is fantastic and I recommend it.)

I use the Fitbit One, which is the smallest tracker they have, as well as the most feature complete. The battery lasts a solid week (maybe more) between charges. It’s so small you barely notice it.

And there’s the rub: it’s so small, you barely notice it. You need to be very mindful that you’re wearing it, or you will wind up washing whatever piece of clothing it’s attached to, and boom, goodbye Fitbit. That’s the only caveat I’ll yell from the rooftops.

Here are some pics of my Fitbit. This is the basic information you can get from the LCD display:

How many steps I’ve taken.

How many flights of stairs I’ve climbed so far.

The distance I’ve walked so far in miles.

How may calories I’ve burned so far. This is based on my age, gender and weight, which Fitbit uses to calculate your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate.

Finally, your flower. Your Fitbit flower grows or shrinks based on recent activity, so it’s a graphic reminder to get up and move if you see it withered and shrunken.

The default goals Fitbit uses for your daily activity are:

  • Steps: 10,000. This is more difficult to achieve than it sounds. As a general rule, you need to walk somewhere between 3-4 miles to even have a chance at 10K. That’s not too hard, but you must get up and move around regularly to hit the 10K number.
  • Flights of stairs: 10. Pretty easy to hit, especially if you live in a house or work in an office with stairs.

Of course, no biometric tracking endeavor would be complete without a web presence, and here Fitbit doesn’t disappoint. Here’s a snap of my Fitbit ‘dashboard’:

(Click to enlarge)

This, in conjunction with My Fitness Pal, gives you everything you need to know about your current state of food intake/nutrition combined with activity level. This is enough to make meaningful changes in your life. In fact, it’s more than enough. You walk into any doctor’s office with this sort of data, and most likely they won’t know where to begin.

So, the Fitbit one is about a hundred bucks very well spent. I wear mine every day.

If you believe that you will have a harder time getting to where you are going without knowing where you are at the current moment, this is your device.

When It Comes to Health and Fitness, Tracking Is Knowing

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The Taking Control of Your Health series thus far, in case you missed earlier posts:

I’ve given you a lot of information about how to take control of your health, but a lot of the information is just that — information. Today, I’m going to show you perhaps the single biggest practical step you can take to get started on a healthier path.

There’s an axiom in the health world: tracking is knowing. Meaning: it’s hard to truly know what you’re eating, or what your workouts look like, unless you take steps to track your daily progress.

Question, and answer quick: how many calories did you eat yesterday? How many grams of carbs? Of protein? What did your macronutrient breakdown look like?

You probably have no idea. Until about a year ago, neither did I. Then I found a tool that helped me quickly and easily track what I was eating, and believe me when I said it was very, very enlightening.

For example, I can tell you that last Tuesday I had a total of 2065 calories. I had 208 grams of protein, 113 grams of carbs and 85 grams of fat. I was about 650 calories under my calorie goal for the day. It was a busy day, so I actually under-ate.

I know this thanks to a free app called My Fitness Pal, which is available on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. It also has a web interface once you create a free account.

The premise is simple: whatever you eat gets logged in My Fitness Pal. As you continue to use it, it recognizes the foods you eat the most frequently and categorizes them together for quick entry. After a few weeks, assuming you eat more or less the same group of foods, entering meals and snacks is a breeze.

Below is what an average breakfast entry looks like. This took me about 20 seconds to log in My Fitness Pal.

I don’t use all the features of My Fitness Pal. For example, it has social features so you can connect to your friends to see what they’re eating and what their workouts are, but I don’t do that. If you’re doing a group fitness class, or maybe some sort of transformation challenge, this feature would be very valuable.

In addition to being able to log foods easily and see total calorie consumption vs. your goal (your goal is set by the profile you create), you can also see exactly what your macronutrient breakdown looks like:

My Fitness Pal has the largest (and most accurate) database of foods I’ve ever seen, with a great deal of the data being accurate (My Fitness Pal uses a social confirmation system to allow users to ‘confirm’ a food’s data once it’s entered, and highly-confirmed foods appear in search results first). In addition, it allows you to track your ongoing progress, whether progress is tied to your weight (the most common) or even neck, waist and hip measurements.

Again: tracking is knowing. It’s amazing what happens when you start shining the light into areas that once were dark. If you know your calorie limit is 2,200/day, and you’re heading into dinner with 1,800 calories under your belt, you know a light dinner is in order. Likewise, if you were slammed all day and only ate 700 calories heading into dinner, you know you have a bit of headroom.

And that’s just the beginning: if you’re trying to keep carbs under 150 grams per day, and you had oatmeal and bread and a few bananas during the day, you know you might want to keep your last meal centered around lean proteins and healthy fats.

Tracking is knowing, and it’s impossible to overstate the value of a tool like this, especially if you’re newly traveling down the health/fitness path. I’ve been at the fitness game for over three years now, and I can tell you that even though I have a good off-the-cuff understanding of what my meals look like, calorie-wise, I still use this tool 90% of the time.

I rank tracking your food, especially in the beginning of your fitness efforts, as important as actually going to the gym itself. No hyperbole. Give it a try and bounce any questions you have my way.

Understanding What ‘Real Food’ Is, Part 1

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Last Friday, I told you we’re going to do a multi-part series on taking control of your health. Today, we’re going to start discussing food, because your diet is the cornerstone, the 90% component, of any fitness effort.

Yes, 90%.

There are two parts to taking control of the food you eat:

  1. Deciding what foods to eat and not to eat now that health is a priority, and
  2. Understanding what food is from a biochemical perspective (we’ll get into this another time, and I promise it won’t be boring.)

So for today, here’s what we’re talking about…

Rule Number One: Eat Real Food

Most folks think that ‘real food’ is merely the stuff they get from their local supermarket or specialty store, minus the obvious nasty-bombs like Double Stuff Oreos. That’s not exactly all there is to it, because our supermarkets are full of processed, refined, industrially-farmed food, which isn’t food at all – at least as far as our evolutionary history is concerned. (In other words, for the first time in our species history, we are eating foods that do not and did not exist in nature. Being a guinea pig to spark evolutionary adaptation to garbage food is not the honor you want, trust me.)

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Casual Friday: Taking Control of Your Health and Fitness

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Welcome back. I hope everyone had some relaxing time over the holidays.

A ferocious number people head up their new year resolution lists with one thing: get in shape. For most, this means losing weight. This goal is atop resolution lists every year, and it’s also one of the least-achieved goals a person can set.

Why?

There’s an absolute ton of information out there, some of it contradictory, all of it perplexing for the layman. In a lot of cases, the “I don’t know where to start!” complaint is what derails a fitness/weight loss effort before it can even begin.

I consider myself a self-educated expert on fitness and nutrition, and it’s something I’m passionate about. If I were going to write a book or start a business about anything, it would be in the realm of health, exercise and diet. I think it’s one of the most profound transformations a person can make.

The good news is that there’s never been a better time to want to get in shape. If you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone, there are very valuable tools at your disposal.

But none as valuable as knowledge.

Over the next several weeks, my Friday feature here on MIPRO Unfiltered will be a series about health, fitness, exercise and diet. We will cover a wide range of information, and I will be happy to take questions about whatever it is you might want to know. If I don’t know the answer, I will research it for you. No charge, no BS. If I still can’t get you a solid answer, I will refer you to some resources who might be able to help.

A bit about me: I’ve been active all my life. In my 20s, I played semi-pro beach volleyball in the MPVA. After that career was over, I became something of a gym rat, and then a whole bunch of real-life happened and I was sedentary for several years. My energy levels and overall vigor suffered. Then, three years ago, I got serious about fitness again. Today, I’m 43, 6’2″, 200 lbs. with 11.5% bodyfat — a massive improvement from where I started 36 months ago. When I read, I’m reading about this stuff.

I’m an insufferable nerd in more ways than one.

So, if you are looking to get in shape and improve your health — and whether you’re sedentary and suffering the ravages of a desk job or an athlete and just want to improve performance — I’m going to do everything I can to help.

If you have questions already, ask away. If not, peek back on Fridays, starting next week.

Ready? Let’s do this.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 10/14/11

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Stories from Italy, Vol. 1

The big difference between Italian and American drivers is that Italian drivers are competent and Americans decidedly less so. The second difference is that Italian roadways don’t suffer idiots.

Let me explain.

On the Italian superstrade and autostrade — Italy’s two major highway classifications — there’s a system. The speed limits are 90 KPH and 130 KPH respectively. Speed is monitored by stationary cameras, which anyone with a decent GPS will know are coming well before they can get you. These speed checkpoints only serve as quaint suggestions to slow Italian drivers down for mere seconds, after which they resume their meteoric and extremely competent driving.

What you never see in Italy is a driver totally spacing out in the left-hand lane, futzing with their cell phone and Starbucks 96 oz. extra-whip Frappucino in their Escalade while driving well under the speed limit and swerving across two lanes. Those drivers are killed and eaten by Italy’s subtle gene-pool enhancement strategy. More on that in a second.

Italy’s left-hand lane is the crux of its automotive organization. If you’re going too slow in the left lane — and let’s be clear, you are — Italian drivers in their turbodiesel BMWs and Audis and Mercedes and Alfa Romeos will race up to your tail, stop literally inches away, and wait for you to move over. If you don’t, I suspect they would just ram you out of the way, but I didn’t test this theory. I did get shoved aside by faster drivers about 330,000 times, however. Once you’re shoved aside, there’s no gesticulation or middle finger or even angry stare — they just fly past you with a practiced efficiency.

It’s awesome to behold. The entire driving culture is a meritocracy: if you’re slow, move over and let the faster drivers pass. Signs are minimal, but they make perfect sense once you understand them. Speed limits aren’t posted every 500 feet so an ADD-addled brain can remember how fast it should be going; they only post speed limit signs when it changes from one value to another. The rest of the time, they assume you know what you’re doing. They do not cater to those who don’t or might not. If you don’t, too bad, good luck, thanks for playing.

And the curvy roads in hillside towns and the mountains? Not for the faint of heart. More than once, I found myself driving tight ess-curves and even legit hairpins on mountain ledges, off of which one would plummet over 500 feet to the Italian gulch of genetically less-than-gifted drivers. The best part? Through these mountain curves, where most Americans (including yours truly) slow down to a ridiculous pace, Italian drivers whip around them, car leaning wildly, with utter calmness. Italians seem to be more in touch with their cars, whereas most Americans white-knuckle the doorhandle the second the car starts to lean heavily into a turn. To us, it’s an emergency; to them, it’s just another thing their car does.

Finally: there are no shoulders on the highways in Italy. NONE. If you zone out on the autostrade at 130+ KPH, you have what I’m guessing is six inches max before you nail the steel girder road boundary and grind your rental Panda into a lawn statue. No margin for error whatsoever, and that’s probably why the Italian drivers are so good — the bad ones don’t last.

So, yeah.  Some links for you:

The iPhone 4S has been announced. There’s a lot of whining that it’s not an ‘iPhone 5’, but the internals are 100% new. Would there be this much chagrin if the new 4S was called the 5?  Or if it had a new housing? Phones are all about the internals, and the 4S is cutting-edge. I don’t get it.

How to get a decent meal at a bad restaurant.

Whatever happened to the iPad rivals of 2010?  Here’s a (mostly) sad retrospective.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 8/5/11

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It’s Friday, and that means I get to answer the hundreds of reader emails I don’t get.  From anyone.  Ever.  So what I do is sit around on Thursday night and send emails to myself from ancient, forgotten email accounts, then I answer them. Sad and pathetic? Yes. Sociopathic?  Probably.  But how many well-written, inquisitive emails are you getting from yourself, big shot?  Exactly.

That aside, I do get asked about what I eat for breakfast by people who know I’m into the primal/paleo thing that’s going around right now.  As someone who tries to eat as close to paleo/primal as he can and who is almost always in a fevered rush, smoothies are a blenderful of awesomeness that even I can prepare without messing anything up.  Honestly, I have them five or six days a week for breakfast, and they’re fantastic. Today, because you asked nicely last night, I’m going to share my recipe with you.

You have to be careful with smoothies, even though they’re universally marketed as healthy.  Done wrong, smoothies are a sugar bomb, and the calories climb very quickly if you don’t keep an eye on what you toss into your blender.

Regardless if you’re a primal/paleo nerd or not, just about any modern diet will tell you that it’s all about controlling your insulin response, i.e. how much sugar you ingest. Fearing fat is the stinky potatoes of yesteryear.  In the smoothie world, watching insulin response means traditional standbys like orange juice or apple juice are things you’re going to want to avoid.  You’ll also want to avoid milk, as it’s horrendously over-processed and highly insulinogenic.  Don’t get me started on milk, because I have a ton of things to say and you probably don’t have the attention span to listen to a food nerd go on and on about homogenization.

(I don’t blame you, either.)

Oh I can’t help myself, sorry: If you must do milk in your smoothies, please make the effort to go and find full-fat, raw milk from a farm or similar source.  If you can’t do that, the next best milk I’ve found is Farmer’s Creamery, which is vat pasteurized and non-homogenized.  Don’t opt for skim, because it lacks the fat that helps slow insulin response.

So anyway.

I have been making almost the same smoothie for a year now, and as far as primal/paleo goes, it’s pretty solid.  It’s also full of deliciousness.  Here it is.

Primal/Paleo Smoothie

If you like your smoothies a bit thinner, add water to taste.  Also, if you want more calories, add some heavy cream (I sometimes add one tablespoon).

Making this with the PaleoMeal product, it’s a very reasonable 352 calories.  Usually, the carbs are higher than any other meal I eat during the day, and this is because 4-5 days a week I am in the gym doing stupid stuff to make my body hate me and break itself so I don’t keep doing it.  Every human body needs some glycogen if it’s going to voluntarily injure itself in a gym.

Here’s the smoothie macronutrient breakdown: 9.9g of fat (4.4 saturated), 48g of carbohydrates (only 12g of sugar and 15g of fiber), and 28.3g of protein.  If I’m feeling tired or think I need more help with recovery, I’ll add a half scoop of Optimum Nutrition Natural Gold Standard protein, which adds 65 calories and 12g of protein.

If you happen to be a DailyBurn user, I’ve created the recipe for you here. You’re welcome.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s the healthiest and best quick breakfast going.  The major flaw is a distinct lack of bacon, which is why on the weekends I go insane and eat all the bacon I can cook before I get dehydrated and someone needs to hook me up to an IV.

In addition to the smoothie trick, I have some links for you. Yay? Yes, yay.

What is this crazy primal thing, anyway? If you’re interested, you should head over to Mark Sisson’s site and spend, oh, ten hours there. I know I have.

A great collection of significant historical and cultural Creative Commons or No Rights Reserved audio clips.

This is one stubborn bird.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 7/29/11

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Last week, I talked to you about Charleston, South Carolina and the very real chance that you would burst into flame if you dared walk outside.  I’m happy to say that I have returned uncombusted and in fact with a report of perhaps the best singular meal I’ve ever eaten.

So yes, here I’m going to briefly talk about food.  That I have eaten.  That you, if you are lucky, have eaten too.  That if you are unlucky and have not eaten, are hereby simultaneously lucky, because you have something to really look forward to.  In fact, if you have not eaten this dish, you are like the Schrödinger’s cat of the culinary world, both dead to the dish yet alive to the possibility, all at once, in unison, amen.  How cool is that?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you real lowcountry shrimp and grits, as presented by the Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC:

Wha?, you say.  What’s this?  Looks like a greasy bowl of Cream of Wheat with some cooked crustaceans on top. And nice grease stains on the table paper, Jeff, you no-motor-skill-having slob.  Well ignore all that, because mocking this dish can lead to tooth loss and higher gas prices. Some things you don’t trifle with, and this is one of them.  Are we clear?

Whatever Hominy Grill does to this dish, it’s magic.  As near as my insanely refined palate can tell (Ed. note: his palate is not insanely refined.  He can barely differentiate bacon from peanut putter.), it’s got the following ingredients in it:

  • Stone-ground grits, fresh off a farm about three hours away from Hominy Grill itself (so said my waiter)
  • Farm-raised bacon, cooked perfectly
  • Smallish chunks of mushrooms, which despite me not being a subscriber to Mushrooms Illustrated, are still amazingly good
  • Enough heavy cream to fill the interior of a 1979 Buick
  • A zip code’s worth of unsalted butter
  • A dash of hot pepper-infused vinegar which, if this were readily available here in Michigan, I would put all over everything, including my food, hair and cats
  • A benevolent smile from the heavens, for lo, this is good and deserves it
  • A finishing wedge of perfect cornbread, which, when combined with butter, could end world wars

This dish taught me in one fell swoop that here in the North, we don’t understand grits.  We’re grit idiots.  Here, we get these nasty, probably instant, grits and put maple syrup, butter and salt on them.  Which is wrong.  Dead wrong.  If someone from the South saw us doing that, they’d have every right to get up and strangle us and ask us why we hate our country so much.

The right way is the lowcountry way.  Real grits, heavy cream, a dash of spice, thick bacon, perfect shrimp, butter and a dash of salt and some vinegar for acid.  I don’t know what else to say except this: it’s worth making a trip to Charleston just to go to the Hominy Grill for their shrimp and grits.  They will change your life.

In other news, it was brought to my attention that my last Friday Linkology post didn’t, in fact, contain any links.  I blame router gremlins, the CIA, or LeBron James, not the fact that I wrote the post several days before publication and I forgot to add links by the time it went live.  Oh no.  That’d be impossible.

So, to make up for that horrible error, I present to you the following fine hypertext products:

If this video of two dogs chasing one another doesn’t make you laugh, check your pulse.  Or, more accurately, have someone check it for you, because you’s dead.

Russell Brand on Amy Winehouse.  Sad and poignant.

If you’re going to supplement with protein shakes, do it with whey, not soy.

Unless you have pure sub-Saharan African blood in you, you probably have Neanderthal genes. There’s your conversation starter for tomorrow’s graduation party.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 3/25/11

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Know This

I missed this last week, but better late than never: Alec Baldwin offers advice to Charlie Sheen.

Voice map assures Britons they’re not speaking like Americans.

Why most of the world’s cuisine is comfort food, despite modernist trends.

A clever deconstruction and analysis of the phrase, ‘it turns out.’  It turns out I agree with most of this.

Read This

How Rovio made Angry Birds a winner.

A declaration of cyber-war.  If you read one thing this weekend, make it this.  Nerds especially welcome.

Watch This

Cat makes a toddler play fetch.

Smithsonian WILD: remote cameras capture images of rare animals in their natural environment.  Love the jaguar one.

Despite being a winged-yet-flightless bird, a penguin makes a death-defying leap.  The soundtrack is pure gold.

This cat knows how to exit in style.  You will wind up watching this more than once, I promise.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

More Linkology posts.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 3/11/11

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Know This

Vanity Fair’s A. A. Gill has posted a downright funny (and thorough) review of L’Ami Louis in Paris, which he has decided is the worst restaurant in the world.

Anthony Atala, a tissue engineer, prints a dummy (but biocompatible) kidney model onstage at TED 2011.

The Reddit community interviews a 4 year old boy, with his father moderating.  Love this.

Read This

Serious Eats’ J. Kenji Lopez-Alt goes full-mongo and reveals to you the ultimate In-N-Out Secret Menu (and Super Secret Menu).  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Secret menus?  Wha?  That’s why you need to read this.

Julien Smith with a smart blog post about the advanced tactics of saying no, which should indeed be required learning in our information-saturated, distraction-filled 21st century.

Watch This

Tiny Wings is going to be a huge game for iOS devices – like, as big as Angry Birds huge.  Featuring procedural graphics and gameplay that reminds me of a cross between Angry Birds, Solipskier and Canabalt, it’s a perfect game for touch devices.  Here’s a gameplay trailer.

Finally, nothing says Friday like a dog on a scooter.  And maybe some pre-summer mojitos, but that’s another discussion.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

More Linkology posts.

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