May 19, 2013 in Uncategorized
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It is both amusing and disturbing to hear these from women as a strong girl, someone who hope to make women stronger and healthier. If you belong to these categories, feel free to ask me if you want to know what to do.:
- I can’t lift weights because I am too weak. (That’s why you need to lift weights, babe!)
- I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible. (Inflexible people should do yoga.)
- I just don’t know what to do. (enter the internet?)
- My biceps have gotten so big since I started lifting weights. (Hey, what about your belly?)
- I want to lose my belly fat this year so I do cardio every day. (That’s one way to make your belly bigger.)
- I want my arms to tone up so I will use the 3 lb weights. (Does your grocery bag every do anything close to toning your arms?)
Meh, what would I myself be complaining about?
- I shouldn’t try to lose weight because I am too fat. (Trust me, if mentality wasn’t involved, I’m the least likely person in the entire world to get lean.)
- I can’t do chin up because I am too weak. (Hello, it took me 8 months to get my first one.)
Plug into the equation the obese girl at the corner who is covered in sweat and gasped for air after 4 flights of stairs, who was always blowing her noses. That fat, unattractive, anti-social girl in grade school.
January 20, 2013 in Rants
2013 is the 10th year since I first grabbed a pipet and did real work in the lab. I ain’t saying this to boast. I’m only emphasizing that it’s been a really humbling experience.
Few things in life, however, were less disappointing than discovering that I didn’t know a damn thing. My pride was blown up to the size of a football field when I won a national science competition and a scholarship so I had thought I knew every single damn thing Biology could cover. It had shrunken to the size of a pinhead as I sat in a thesis defense on my first day and observed 7 professors interrogating the doctoral student as if they knew nothing. The questions were deep, though; something along the line of “how did she find out this amino acid interacts with another amino acid at this angle?”. In fact, these brilliant scientists never stopped asking questions. The whole thing was just driven by extreme amount of curiosity.
If I couldn’t accept that I could have walked out, then avoided research forever and lived the rest of my life with my pride the size of a football field. But I stuck with it. And by sticking with it, that means failing 90% of my experiments for the entire year. Lots of late nights, sweats and tears. Science is freaking hard and there’s nothing luxurious about it.
10 years later I found myself weekly in a Naturopath’s office, attending classes on holistic nutrition, and even attending an expo where they sell chakra healing crystals. I have opted to use steam sauna over steroid creams to deal with my eczema. And I believe that chronic fatique is a real health problem that could be dealt with by lifestyle changes.
Every once in a while I get into arguments with people as I discuss my trying acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, emotional freedom technique and the natural remedies through things. “But you are a scientist!,” they said. It was indeed because I am a scientist that I decided to try all of them. It is because I am a scientist that I start to question what doctors recommend to me. Conventional medicine make people accustomed to putting their health and lives in the doctor’s hands without even learning the reasonings behind what they do to us. If you ever look deeper into how doctors operate, you will realize that the whole thing is guestworks. Thus, you can get a completely different diagnosis and treatment from one doctor to another.
Science has a big place in my heart. I have always considered myself a scientist first and everything else second. From counting mosquito larvae to how different things kill them in high school to operating experimental robots in college and to really pursuing my doctorate.
Here’s a few catch of being a scientist.
1) Few knowledge was discovered objectively. At least science isn’t typically done objectively, although it’s meant to.
I can’t properly count how many times I encountered the situation when the final conclusion of a research study was influenced by emotions, politics or someone’s desire to keep their job.
I just got off the podcast on Stumptuous.com where a researcher is trying to prove that some athletes die from drinking too much water rather than dehydration, and he faces (political) resistance to his finding.
2) I don’t know an effing damn thing. We don’t. Accept it. The longer we are in the heights of academia, the more we realize we don’t know. It’s humbling.
Like I said, the longer I have been in science, the more I run into unanswered questions, and the more I am okay with it.
3) I don’t need to know the entire story before trying a new thing. Because few things are entirely supported by science. Don’t expect science to be able to justify everything.
Scientists’ jobs are to ask questions, challenges previous studies or find gaps in our human knowledge and fill it. So, don’t be surprised if you want to validate a claim such as “GMO foods are unsafe,” and find literatures to support both sides of the argument.
Another aspect of this point is that few stories are simple. Like President Obama said (in his book “Audacity of Hope”), it’s almost always more than a soundbite solution.
4) Everyone is different. We learn this in individual genetics, and our traits are influenced by environment. Hence, cookie cutter solutions will not always work. The only way to know how something (no matter how controversial) works for you is to try it yourself – systematically, and give it enough time to decide whether or not it’s good for you.
5) I’m accustomed to information overload, and I have a good BS filter.
Textbooks that are so heavy they give you a workout are actually like a pin in a haystack of knowledge, and most of them are not on Google.
By the way, Google and Wikipedia don’t know everything. A lot of real quality information still requires payment or special privileges to access. It may be a good idea to check out a restaurant or a barber on the internet to see what other customers say. But when it comes to real knowledge for references, databases like Pubmed and ProQuest are still not providing 100% of their full-text content on the internet for free. Forget about validating health claims on Google. Simply because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.
One last good point that I learned is that many research publications (especially in nutrition) sell stuff. And you can look at different layers of information like who funded the research may influent the research outcome. Or anyone can always cite one side of the arguments to justify them trying to do or sell something.
This is not about conspiracy theory. Nobody is trying to dupe you by putting information out on the internet or by creating such a thing as search engine. Most of us have found helpful information on the internet one way or the other. I certainly believe that most of them have positive intent to do it. Ideally, scientific research should have the purity everyone assume it has, but it just doesn’t, and the problem is too scalably large to fix.
January 10, 2013 in Food
I found this recipe back in the day when I was eating macrobiotics.
January 10, 2013 in Food
Here’s the cookie recipe that may qualify for your detox week, if you are still friends with Elmo. It’s high fiber and has complete protein. Add some fresh fruits and vegetables for breakfast on the go.
It’s sorta ironic how it never crossed my mind to get a cast iron item into my kitchen until I became an iron pumper.
And I rarely have the cash to splurge on kitchen tools, no matter how much I love cooking. Most of my kitchen gadgets are hand-me-downs.
Back in my old world where dietary fat was an enemy, the big, heavy, black pan was my annoyance because I couldn’t lift it. It burns things much faster than my $10 STARFRIT nonstick that I got from Walmart, and it tended to stick if I didn’t add enough oil. And for some reason they seem unreasonably pricey.
My ex-boyfriend co-owned a restaurant where all the cookwares were cast-iron, despite the fact that all the employees are toothpick-skinny ladies. All the pans in his kitchen were cast iron which I could barely move. Plus, I kept burning things and getting the wrong consistently on all attempts to impress him failed miserably. I just concluded that I could not cook in his kitchen, period.
It clearly doesn’t take long for the STARFRIT pan to call it quit and start peeling off in layers. Soon enough foods started to stick to it. I knew that the peeling Teflon is probably toxic and carcinogenic but I held on to it because I was poor. I used it pretty much daily, from my morning omelette to the stirfry for dinner.
Years later I finally understand my ex-boyfriend’s obsession with cast iron cookwares in my class taught by a chef and holistic nutritionist Maxine Knight. She said that her favorite is cast iron because it conducts heat very well. The cast iron cookwares always last for generations. Also, the iron leaks into the foods, providing a source of dietary iron. She also said that aluminum should never touch foods because aluminum is toxic. The Teflon pans definitely peel, leak toxins into the foods and don’t last very long, which doesn’t make up for the discrepancy in the prices.
By then I have done enough iron pumping to achieve chiseled arms and enjoyed the increased strength enough to buy 10-lb bag of things, which saved me money. (I can’t be the only iron pumper with 40 – 50 lb of grocery on her bike, right? right?)
I also realized that I hate washing my nonstick pans because it is so fragile, and my hands get too dry in this weather. Cast iron would suit me well because I only have to rinse and scrub it in hot water without soap before greasing it with some oil.
That’s when I feel I’m strong enough to cook like a chef – as in shuffling cast iron pans like ninjas.
I went on a cast iron pan hunt, on the internet, of course. It surprised me that the price of the 12 inch cast iron ranges from the 20s to 100s. Being me, of course, I grabbed the cheapest one.
So far this baby has been the centerpiece in my kitchen. I cook pretty much everything with it. Well maybe except salads. I still need to speed up my kitchen action a little bit so not to burn things up, but I love the little crust I get when I brown my meats, burgers and garlic.
But I’m glad I’m strong enough to shuffle the pans around and not get annoyed by how the most important kitchen tool makes me feel too weak to be a chef.
Nevermind the fat. Fat doesn’t exactly make you fat, especially if you use a reasonable amount of coconut oil just to season the cast iron.
Seriously, if you are a female, you should get yourself a good cast iron pan. Whoever you are, you should toss out your nonstick pans.
As a nutrition-savvy (but poor) person, I have been asked more than enough times about whether to go organic. And in the discussions, I participated.
Since my recent eczema breakout, the fact that anything I eat could put me in a hell of itchiness made me that much more careful about what I put into my body.
But prior to that, I have developed a strong base of habitually and spiritually nourishing my body with whole, nutritious foods. I learned how disgusting processed foods can be, so I have evolved to not touch them altogether.
With that, I was able to sustain my life with less than $50/week of grocery budget, on average.
Did you know you can get a bunch each of broccoli and spinach, a cabbage, a bag of carrot, 2 boxes of strawberries, a huge yam, a bag of sprouts, a pack of mushrooms for $12?
I loved scouring Chinatown and other areas that are cultural islands, because they often have awesome deals on fruits, veggies and everything. In addition, I still look at flyers from nearby supermarkets that arrive in my mailbox every week. I would be the first person to know when the common bodybuilding staples (chicken breasts, salmons, tuna cans, greek yoghurt, cottage cheese) are on sale. I stocked them up.
With the recent body transformation, I consume much more proteins and have to cut out all soy from my diet.
When I saw the genetic roulette movie (geneticroulettemovie.com), something clicked within me.
Back in high school, I worked on protein engineering research on a Bt protein (not the one you find in GMO plants, but a similar one). I have been told all these times that the proteins only specifically harm its target organisms.
Now, I learned that any foreign proteins engineered into crops can very well be a food allergen, and that may be why more and more people are having allergies these days. Even if they don’t know it’s an allergy, it may be some odd symptoms they can’t explain like chronic fatique, compromised immunity, food intolerances, or even infertility. That also explains why people are becoming more sensitive to corn and soy, which used to be sacred staple crops in many cultures.
A more striking thing is that most corns are genetically engineered to be resistant to a pesticide called “Round-Up,” which is a metal chelator. These corns are then very heavily sprayed before it gets into our food chains and fed to animals that we eat.
First of all, my stomach churned. What have I been eating?
Second of all, it gives me a reason to supplement with magnesium, calcium and other important minerals. Chelators make these minerals less available to your body, and it can sequester these minerals from other sources in your body.
Third of all, I switched to organic meat because it turns out to be comparable in prices with the supplements I would be paying for.
Fourth of all, I get my dirty dozens organic and mostly local.
My grocery bills went from $30 – $50 a week to $80 – $100 a week. I have to give up eating out for now because of my eczema.
It feels like a manageable increase for me.
Here’s a few catch about going organic
And in case you think $80 – $100 a week grocery is a good deal. Here’s what I did:
1. I am not eating 100% organic. It’s a toxin-reduced diet. There’s no way you can go without toxins in your diet, anyway.
2. I located an organic food coop within my biking distance, and I get all my dirty dozens there. In downtown Toronto, I joined Karma Coop. I love the half-priced pile with less than attractive looking produces, as always.
By the way, apples are on the top for the dirty dozen because they are super heavily sprayed. Because organic apples are like $5/lb apples I eat now are the ones from the half priced pile. They are tricky to eat because I always find visitors inside of these apples. Protein source. Just so you know.
Spinach and kale from Karma coop are wonderful. I love the spinach in my smoothies and I make a million different things from my kales. They are organic and locals.
3. For the produces that are off the dirty dozen list, I still buy from Chinatown and other stores that sell local produces. I have established a routine of getting my local favorite produces from farmer’s market. 3 pumpkins/squashes a week for $5 makes me pretty damn happy. Pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin soups, pumpkin protein pudding, pumpkin cakes, roasted squashes.
4. I gave up all dairies from my diet, except for a stick of organic butter in my fridge and the odd parties when I slip up. There’s no need to drink milk because there’s enough calcium in my kale, nuts and other sources. I have my bloodwork to prove this to you if you want to see.
5. I eat less meat. There are other sources of (cheaper, less toxic) proteins like peas and grains, seed, and nuts.
I almost always buy organic meats from the discount pile. It’s the meat that made the grocery bill double because I still want to make sure my protein intake is about 20 – 30 g/meal and total of 120 – 150 g/day to maintain my muscles and strength. If you can do less, it’s easier and cheaper.
6. Animal fats are not epically bad for you, especially if you get it from grassfed animals.
I haven’t gotten fat by switching from chicken breasts to whole chickens, or pork tenderloins to pork chops.
I’m a carnivore. I like eating every single cut of meat and I don’t mind a cheaper cut. Again, my cholesterol numbers are wonderful because I exercise and balance animal fats with other good fats.
7. The ocean is not organic, so don’t spend money on organic seafood.
More and more seafood and fish are being farmed these days. These animals can still be fed corns, though, so go easy when you get farmed tilapia and salmons. They may be no different from conventionally raised chickens and pigs in terms of nutrition and toxins. Preferably, get wild caught seafood, limit consumption frequency and maintain variety.
How are you guys responding to the Prop 37 news and GMO labeling law?
What do you think about going organic?
Please comment below. Love to hear from ya. xoxo.
November 16, 2012 in Fitness
The holidays creep up to you, don’t they? The gigantic turkeys. The buttery stuffings. The apple pies. I kid you not.
I managed to lose 3% body fat over last fall and kept it off over the holidays. 6 major parties in December didn’t ruin my hard-earned work. Here are 8 things I discovered that helped me keep it off.
1) Control your insulin
I lost the weight with a low glycemic impact program, and it naturally stuck with me.
Here’s the catch: low glycemic impact diet is the least hormone-wrecking diet you can follow. If you have issues with insulin (an obvious sign is that you tend to accumulate fat around your tummy), it is wise to follow eat low glycemic impact to get your insulin in check.
It is more forgiving to have that gobble of fat when your insulin isn’t spiking, like when you just have that glass of coke.
One amusing aspect of low glycemic is that the actual glycemic impact of what you are eating depends on the content of your stomach. So, if you wind up eating a high glycemic impact item (e.g. cakes, rice, very ripe fruits, ice cream), it is wise to cut down the impact with some protein, fat and fiber. Never eat desserts or drink anything with sugar (juice included, even 100%) on empty stomach.
Oh, and remember one fact, dairy may spike your insulin at whatever state it is.
2) Resistance training and high intensity interval training (HIIT)
When you pump iron, a few things happen in your body that use energy in a not-so-obvious ways. That’s especially the case if you are a beginner.
Firstly, your nervous, structural and respiratory systems have to adapt. For example, you build more neuronal connections with your muscles. Secondly, you create energy deficit from destroying your muscles during your training sessions. Those processes are more energetically costly than those numbers you see on the elliptical machines. Last but not least, when you follow a well-planned, well-periodized program (and that doesn’t mean complicated) with proper recovery, you build and retain muscle mass.
Muscle burns more calories and they make you look smaller at the same weight. You will also be stronger and feel like a superhero.
Muscle makes more room for glycogen, reducing your odds of storing excess energy as fat. The 2 fold effects is that 1) when you eat a lot of food (especially carbs) after your workouts, your muscles look more full as opposed to your belly, or tummy, or thighs.
There are many breeds of resistant training, as I just learned. The best ones for this purpose is perhaps the high volume bodybuilding style training, density training and lactic acid training.
I would define HIIT as cardio intervals so hard that you feel like your lungs would explode at the end of each interval. Repeat 10 times. Well, that’s how I do it. But I would warn you that you should not be working out that hard if you have never done it, are de-conditioned or have lots of risk factors for heard diseases.
The thing with HIIT is similar to weight lifting. You burn more calories by 1) creating energy debt by using anaerobic respiration during your exercise and 2) forcing your body to adapt to the torture, so you feel less like a torture next time you do the same thing.
Remember, adaptation takes calories.
And you don’t need lots of time, either. I was a cardio queen with extraordinary endurance. I swam 60 laps in the pool with no rest and biked 70 km/day. But boy, just one Tabata workout that took 4 min made my lungs feel like they would explode by the end of the 2nd minute.
3) You may want to eat what you don’t normally eat, but don’t eat to the point of discomfort.
Your body has a natural barometer for measuring how much you should be eating. Try not to override it.
We evolved to eat natural, unprocessed foods from the wild, not chocolate cakes, stuffing and sausages.
So, it’s best to focus on the least processed foods or what you can recognize in its natural state. The rest of it, eat it only when it’s really worthwhile, make it a real treat.
And don’t eat to the point that makes you suffer. Who likes food coma, anyway?
4) Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is the practice of stopping eating for a period of time, and then eating again. More and more fitness figures are practicing this.
It might sound kinda crazy, like, “whoa, aren’t you gonna lose your muscles?”
I have seen too many bodybuilders do this to worry about that. For a reference, check this out for reference.
A simple rationale is that, the morning after the party, I would usually not feel like any food if I had my good share of party foods. It feels gross. And the last thing I would feel like doing is to eat.
So when that happens, it’s the body telling you that it has enough foods in the system to last for a while, that you don’t need to eat right then. You may be tired because your body still takes energy to digest the food, deal with new food allergens in the body, or clear out the alcohol. It’s telling you that it has enough work to do with foods.
So what I do is, I skip a day of foods and maybe even workout before I eat again. I make sure the first meal after the fast is full of protein and veggies, some good fats with very little carbohydrates. That’s my typical breakfast, anyway. It breaks the fast. NOT breakfast cereals.
I take my CORE supplement before carb-heavy or beer-heavy parties. It’s my security blanket with no side effects. It has the natural carbohydrate absorption inhibitor from white kidney bean, chromium that helps with insulin sensitivity, and leptin support herbs that reduce my appetite. This combination helps blunt the blow and reduce the odds of an endomorphic gal like me storing things as fat.
And if you happen to be eating lots of potatoes, breads and sweets, definitely supplement with chromium, Omega-3 and vitamin B complex. They help with metabolism of carbohydrates and insulin sensitivity.
There are also things like fat blocker (ever heard of Alli?), which I have tried myself. The problem with these is that they make you run to the bathroom with no mercy, and caused bad abdominal cramps. I’m not into this enough to recommend it, but it may be worth it if you are considering inhaling a whole wheel of double cream brie or boatloads of fried foods. While I’m a big fan of good fats, we all know that eating such amount of fats is a recipe to feeling like crap. So you decide.
6) Find the basis behind your cravings
Cravings often have biological basis. It’s your body telling you something. Either you have a hormonal imbalance or a real dietary deficiency.
Believe it or not? You are often craving what you are allergic too. When you get hurt, your body secretes endorphins to reduce the pain. When you hurt yourself by eating things you are allergic to, you may become addicted to that endorphins. I know, I know. I crave chocolate, too and I am allergic to it. L Do you know anyone who won’t part ways with breads, and pasta or dairy?
A chocolate craving is often a sign of mineral deficiency.
A salt craving is a sign of stress or corticosteroid imbalances.
Carb cravings usually means that your body doesn’t handle carbs very well, and that you tend to store them as fat. It also means that you tend to get your blood sugar in extreme swings.
7) Eat clean for the rest of the time
If you know you are going to party hard that day, it is wise to not show up ravenous or pre-stuffed with junk.
Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and lean protein sources consistently for the day, or better yet, for the week.
8) Find out what your food sensitivities/allergies are and avoid them like plaque
It takes a bit of time, real patience and will power to go on a hypoallergenic diet before experiment with potential food allergens. You can do a lab test for food allergies, if you would like.
If you notice some symptoms such as rash, major changes in energy level, mucus, etc, associated with certain foods, it is a good idea to avoid that item.
Overloading your digestive system with what your body doesn’t like may sensitize your body to become more allergic to other things. It can also compromises the functions of your digestive system in the long run.
9) Know a few favorite recipes of a side, a salad and a dessert that are “safe” for you nutrition-wise and food-sensitivity wise
If you really like some items and would rather have them in your life, it may be possible to invent a healthy version of it. I invented healthy chocolate cakes, mousse pies and cheesecakes that I have no shame in sharing with people or eating the whole thing by myself. Bring that to parties, impress people, and enjoy it! Check out my foods sections for a few ideas or feel free to ask for a recipe makeover.
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also a good idea to bring a salad or a healthy dish with lots of veggies over so you can ensure that there is something that is consistent with your goals at the party.
10) Don’t get yourself into OCD mode.
Nobody is perfect, really.
Attempting to count foods or calories, or beating yourself up for eating party foods will drive you nuts.
You want to enjoy life. Keep it simple.
Go right back to eating clean and exercising, even if there’s still 1 or 3 next parties. Even if it’s not next year yet.
Move. As much as possible. It doesn’t have to be in the gym.
Lastly, don’t be that annoying person that’s always not easygoing and complaining how fat you get. You are responsible for what you put in your body. Just you. Take it.
November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized