This week I spent almost my entire food budget for the month on one meal and it was completely worth it even if it means I have to eat just ground beef from my dad's farm for the rest of the time.
I grew up on Chick Fil A and Kraft, so I didn't really discover fine dining until I was in college. I think my first date ever was probably at Cafe Luna, one of Champaign-Urbana's few fine-dining establishments, with a graduate student much older than I was. Fresh in my abandonment of veganism, I'll never ever forget the lamb shank I ate there, the way it melted in my mouth. This restaurant was where I was baptized into a love of truffles, duck confit, and aioli. I learned that pleasure from food didn't have to involve overeating, that it could involve more complex emotions, flavors, and aesthetic experiences. My taste and my food budget has never recovered.
In terms of the delicate avant-garde Kaiseki-influenced modernist cuisine that now dominates the upper tiers of fine dining, my first experience was probably at Manresa, in California. After that meal, I wondered if it is possible to become addicted to novelty? I suppose if that is possible, I do suffer from a terrible case of neophilia. The next day after a meal like that, my regular food seems so pallid and devoid of life. It's no wonder so many people who enjoy modernist cuisine are spurred to improve their own cooking skills.
Getting Next tickets was no small feat. I think I am either enormously lucky or very fast at clicking things. It felt good to be one of the thousand that won out, out of many thousands more who tried. Which was surprising, since this year's headlining meal is the most expensive that NEXT has ever done, because it is a tribute to elBulli, which was considered the greatest restaurant in the world before the head chef closed it so he could do other things.
Because I knew this was going to be a long, expensive meal, I vowed to get the most out of it. I read a book called A Day at elBulli, watching the documentary (though really it's mostly raw footage) Cooking in Progress, and watched Anthony Bourdain's episode on the restaurant.
A Day at elBulli is mainly pictures, which are important for getting a sense of what the restaurant was actually like. It was in a somewhat out of the way part of Catalonia, nestled along a picturesque coastline. Seeing pictures of that place, I experienced a wistfulness in my heart, one that I am familiar with. I remember I first felt it one very rainy day in New York City, when I was sitting on the Subway. I had just moved there from Uppsala, Sweden, and was trying to get my bearings. I looked up at the ads that are on the ceilings of every train. One was for Delta, advertising flights to Japan, Brazil, and all sorts of other places. It was almost like that feeling you get when you get a call from someone who you are yearning for. But this feeling was infused with wanderlust. New York City might be the greatest city in the entire world, but in that moment all I wanted to do was experience, once again, the feeling of waking up somewhere new. Perhaps that's why I lived in Manhattan, then Brooklyn, and finally Queens before I left.
If I haven't figured out how to eat in a way that made me healthy, I might have never left Illinois. I was supposed to study abroad my junior year, but one of the reasons I didn't do it was that I honestly didn't know if I could make it. I didn't want to be sick in a strange country. But I got healthy, and I went to Sweden. And it was good that I was pretty healthy there, because my roommates informed me that people didn't go to the hospital there for frivolous reasons. Eventually I did wear my health down a bit with booze and cake, necessitating a cleanup of my diet towards the end, but I never once needed to see a doctor.
Sometimes I wonder if my newfound health is as much about what I do eat, rather than what I don't eat. Sure I feel best when I leave certain things out of my diet, but I'm not particularly delicate. It took months of boozing and caking around Central Europe before I really started to feel it. It reminds me of one study in which they successfully treated GERD with melatonin (I think sleep is important in the causality of GERD) and vitamin and amino acid supplements. My diet when I had GERD probably didn't just have some terrible foods, it really honestly didn't have anything good. I probably didn't get many nutrients that are used to build the linings that protect our gut from potentially injurious constituents of food (any food can be an issues). I've gone from being a delicate flower (at one point I was so sensitive to histamines that I couldn't even have fermented foods) to someone who can really take a punch and keep going. Nothing was as gratifying as going to the allergist and testing positive for NOTHING this fall, when in the past I tested positive to almost everything. Inflammation makes you react to things, good and bad. Once you've got that down and repaired your digestive system, things get easier for many people.
Which is good. Because honestly, god knows what I ate at Next. There were certainly some innovative dishes that used other ingredients in place of things like pasta (cauliflower couscous and a ravioli made out of cuttlefish), but honestly, there were lots of things I ate that I would have trouble eating if I hadn't cultivated some resilience. The restaurant was explicit that this was one cycle where food allergies could not be accommodate. I'm lucky I don't really have any.
When dining, a guest can experience pleasure on four different levels. First, there is a purely physiological pleasure which comes from satisfying hunger; it is the most fundamental pleasure, but no less important for being so. Secondly, there is the pleasure perceived by the senses, which tells us, for example, if a dish is 'delicious,' whether or not we like it, if it is too salty, if we have tasted better in other restaurants or at another time, and so on. Third is the pleasure connected with emotions: everything related to the occasion, such as the attention and generosity with which a guest is treated, the company around the table and the guest's own expectations. Most restaurants are able to satisfy these three types of pleasure.
However, there is another kind of stimulus which is directly related to reason. It is the intellectual pleasure derived from judging the meal according to parameters that are not strictly gastronomic, in which other elements come into play, such as sense of humour, irony, provocation, childhood memories, or -- a very important point -- the appreciation of the level of creativity of a gastronomic proposal. These are aspects which the guest does not expect to find in a restaurant, but in fact they form an integral part of the dish and of the menu. This is what is known at elBulli as 'the sixth sense.' When a new dish is created, the aim is that the guest will enjoy it on all flour levels, and experience all the pleasures that the act of eating can provide.- From A Day at elBulli.
And it was all worth it. I can say I've often regretted buying things, but I've never regretted a journey or experience. In fact, without these, I feel diminished, as they are a major source of creative energy for me. I wish I could find this creative energy elsewhere, in some god or some romance, but it has never been that way for me, though these things also influence me. After a meal like the one I had at Next or a trip like the time I went to Big Sur, I feel broadened and sharp. I feel like all kinds of experiences I have had before have been coalesced and made more clear to me.
I'm not a materialist, I don't care for things. I don't like cars, I hate things that can be exploited. I live a simple life. The only luxuries I have in my life are travel and food. I don't even own a car—I use a small car that is here. It's not even my car. I use it to come to work sometimes. Really, to get from place to place, I just take a taxi. I have a cell phone that I use a lot. I use the phone to get organized, but on July 30, when I start a new life, I'm going to remove the phone from my life."- Ferran Adria
A tidepool, lying by the ocean in the sun, the curling bark of a tree I found in a park in Madrid, the colors in the drunk dream sequence in Dumbo, the way the first fish I ever caught smelled, a kiss you were not supposed to take, scratching the skin of a lime in my cousin's orchard, playing in my mother's garden when I was eight, sitting with friends in a smoky bar in Europe, the scent of the forest floor in Sweden, seeing El Greco paintings for the first time, a dream I had about Japan. Things too little to be easily remembered, except when the senses are tantalized.
cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce
When I got home I was somewhat drunk (which is why this is pretentious and rambling) and I thought about what a meal would be like if it were such avant-garde cuisine, but influenced by the Paleolithic. What if you did a meal that went beyond the banal and really reached into the depths of that era. The dish above was a big influence because of the variety of vegetal flavors surrounding the "cous-cous." Some of them were unfamiliar, even alienating.
The concept of alienating food entranced me because one thing I find is that people are often unable to conceive of the fact that the diet of ancient hominids was enormously diverse, containing foods that most people have never even thought of as foods. Many of the foods and flavors you find in paleobotany are profoundly alienating to the modern consumer. Some of them were multi-purpose as well, with the lines blurring between food, medicine, and recreational psychoactive substance. I would include such alienating flavors to emphasize the remoteness of the era. Of course maybe I wouldn't include so many psychoactives for safety reasons. Cocktails could stand in.
However, despite being strange and alien, the meal would also serve to humanize ancient hominids. Evidence shows that ancient hominids used natural materials not just as tools, but as decoration, utilizing shells, natural pigments, and feathers for aesthetic purposes. Some of the plants they used also don't seem to have much purpose, beyond imparting flavor. In incorporating these ideas, the meal would fight asceticism with aestheticism. Such associations would be emphasized with references to Japanese Kaiseki, which is a notable form of cuisine because many plants that were used in the Paleolithic are no longer used in modern cuisine at all...except in Japan. This also emphasizes the complexity and diversity that characterizes both Japanese and Paleolithic edibles.
Oh, also with inspiration from The Knife's electro-opera about Darwin
Some papers I read while drunk included:
Of course I had to substitute some things and even then, this menu includes things that would require a lot of foraging to procure, since they have never been commercialized. The format is mainly based on botanicals in Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food processing.
1. Alchemilla vulgari = medicinal plant in rose family
Rosehip cocktail with bitters
2. Pine-smoked oysters with various pigmented powders and seaweed "feathers"
3. Brachypodium ramosum = bunch grasses related to oats=
Oat crusted deer tenderloin with wild mushrooms and edible fried smoked insects
4. Arctium lappa = burdock, Anthriscus caucalis = relative of carrot
Japanese burdock and wild carrot salad
5. Bromus secalinus= relative of rye
boar liver pate on rye cracker with foam of blood and small edible flowers
6. Cyperus badius = relative of chufa =
Spanish Tigernut Horchata cocktail
7. Persicaria hydropiper = water pepper, tastes similar to Sichuan pepper, though water pepper is actually eaten in Japan, but I'm not sure I could find it here =
Sichuan pepper & salt crawfish
8. Scirpus lacustris = bulrush
Bitter sprouts and bamboo shoots, eel, cooked in bison fat butter with a garnish of fried fish bones
9. Sparganium erectum / : Typha angustifolia / Typha latifolia= bur reed (medicinal) / cattail rhizome =
cattail flour/buckwheat blini with roe, hazelnut “sour cream,” and yellow cattail pollen “golden” powder
10. Botrychium ternatum = fern root =
bracken starch mochi
Also, the table is decorated with wood chips and lamps made from small animal skulls hang on strings from the ceiling. On this menu is printed:
From Nabakov’s Pale Fire
What moment in the gradual decay
Does resurrection choose? What year? What day?
Who has the stopwatch? Who rewinds the tape?
Are some less lucky, or do all escape?
A syllogism: other men die; but I
Am not another; therefore I’ll not die.
Space is a swarming in the eyes; and time,
A singing in the ears. In this hive I’m
Locked up. Yet, if prior to life we had
Been able to imagine life, what mad,
Impossible, unutterably weird,
Wonderful nonsense it might have appeared!
Coming soon: My new book, the opposite of Paleo Comfort Foods, which will be titled Pretentious Postmodern Molecular PaleoGastronomy. All the recipes will require a fully equipped laboratory and ingredients that can only be found in remote mountain wilderness. However, I have been having trouble finding a publisher.
Since late last year, I've been working from home. I live in a studio apartment, which is because I prefer having more money for food and travel, rather than more space I have to clean and pay for. Sometimes I wish I had a big place so I could have supper clubs, but I know I'd only use it about once a month anyway.
Either way, I constructed a standing desk out of random laptop stands, which was pretty easy since I'm about five feet tall. If I were taller I would have to adjust the actual IKEA desk, which the manual informs me that I should not attempt alone
Anyway, I think it's perfect right now because if I do become lazy and want to sit, the stands are pretty easy to adjust.
Yes, if you work from home you can wear a kimono to work!
I have one main screen + I use the laptop for documentation and other things I need to reference occasionally while working. The laptop is on a 3M adjustable riser, which is actually kind of annoying to adjust, but it is cheap and does the job. The Viewsonic monitor itself is really nicely adjustable, but I have it on a Kantek stand for a little help
When anyone complains to me that they don't cook because their kitchen is too small, I snicker because honestly, my kitchen is one of the smallest I've ever seen (except in an RV) and I cook plenty. I have my forever alone teeny tiny crock pot for making braises and stocks. A cool orange Bodum water kettle for making tea. The amazingly efficient Simplehuman compact dishrack (which drains better than any I've ever owned). My mom gave me that over-sink cutting board, which is pretty useful since you can see I have almost no counter space. I'm pretty lucky to have a gas stove. You can see my ceramic and cast iron pans on it. I hate the sink (I wish it had one of those spray nozzle things...because I'm really bad about using too many dishes and end up washing so many every night), but overall I don't feel like my cooking is impaired by the size.
Dr. Lustig's recent moralistic tirade on how we are all so fat and unhappy because are trying to get pleasure from food reminded me of exactly why I love food. For me, gaining a better relationship with food meant learning to enjoy it as an experience rather than just a rote vaguely pleasurable activity. The pleasures I get from food now are far more multi-faceted than just a reward-axis compulsion driven by the unholy combinations of salt, fat, and sugar. When I think of great meals I've had, I think of the beautiful places I ate them in, their presentation, complex and unique flavors, and the people I shared them with.
Strawberries in Sweden
I know what you are thinking- that this is not a "meal." But it was at the time. I had just arrived in Uppsala, Sweden and I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I didn't even know where a grocery store was. But there are these stands in the summer where they sell just strawberries. And these were unlike any other strawberries I'd ever had. You know strawberry flavored candy? These tasted a little like that, but better. I said to myself "this is what a strawberry should taste like." Ever since then I've been unable to enjoy the bland giant watery things that pass as strawberries in America. Occasionally I can find strawberries like these at the local farmer's market, but they are a rare seasonal treat.
"Wolf fish", potatoes, and mussels with a cream sauce at Pingvinen in Bergen, Norway
Bergen is an incredibly beautiful place. My friends and I spent our days hiking the majestic fjords and afterwards were happy to find that Norwegian cuisine is simple, delicious, nourishing, and hearty. Pingvinen is a lovely little pub that specializes in traditional Norwegian food. Nothing fancy, but completely filling and satisfying to eat by the cozy fire as the dusk turned cold.
Pork knuckle somewhere in Krakow, Poland
Another gorgeous place I visited while backpacking across Central and Eastern Europe. There are a variety of places in the city that serve cheap, simple, peasant food. I don't remember what this place was called, but my vegetarian friends enjoyed it as much as I did. The pork knuckle was fatty and tender. I was happy to have the mustard to cut a bit of the greasiness though. It also reminds me why I love traveling in winter, because that's when comfort foods are really comforting.
Fresh cod in Iceland at the Blue Lagoon
Another boon of traveling in the dead of winter is that nothing is really that crowded. The bad part is that in Iceland we didn't get that many hours of daylight. We spent those horseback riding, glacier climbing, and hiking. On the last day we went to the hot spring for a spa day (we were there right after the currency crash, so we were quite rich even though we were just students). Afterwards I enjoyed this perfectly-cooked meal of fresh cod.
A variety of mangalitsa (a fatty breed of pig) sausages (I skipped the bread and the raw onions) from a street fair in Budapest
If you ever have the chance to go to Budapest, don't pass it up. I didn't know that much about it when I decided to go, but it's an incredibly elegant city with a rich history. And if you like high culture, it has fantastic opera, art, and very good food and wine. I enjoyed some amazing meals at fine restaurants like Cafe Kor, but this simple "meal" of sausages when we were exploring the park was so luscious and satisfying that I'll never forget it. It's hard to find sausage as good as this in the US.
Cocido at La Bola in Madrid
The food in Madrid is incredible and there are so many places that have different regional Spanish cuisines that are hard to find in the US. I ate very well there with my friend Nancy, who lived there at the time. Cocido is a traditional stew from Madrid that is very very very filling and delicious. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of my other favorite meal, which was at a bar specializing in Asturian food. They have a unique light sparkling cider that is poured from very high so it gets really bubbly. And you can also enjoy ham (which is everywhere in Spain), a rich blue cheese called Cabrales, and spicy patatas brevas.
Indonesian food made by a friend
A vegetarian meal? Yes, but this was so good that I hardly noticed. The spicy tangy flavors of Indonesian food taste good on anything. Lots of tamarind, black pepper, and chili peppers. And this is also when I realized that the stuff they sell as "tempeh" in the US has a fraction of the flavor of the authentic homemade Indonesian stuff. Unlike the cardboard American tempeh, Indonesian tempeh has a nutty flavor and a bread-like texture. Of course this food was even better because I enjoyed it with friends!
Sorbet and Reindeer at Aed in Tallinn, Estonia
Some of my favorite flavors of Scandinavia. The creamy tangyness of sea buckthorn, the tart brightness of lingonberries, and the gamey savory flavors of good lightly-seared reindeer.
Pig's head at Fatty Cue in Brooklyn, NY
I ate this with Rhys from Let Them Eat Meat and his friend Joe. I promise it was better than it looked. Unlike a lot of offal that have a mineral taste that some people find unpleasant, pig's head is mainly just fat. Luckily, they serve it with sides like a tangy Malaysian curry that works really well with the fattiness of the dish.
Sous vide pork + chanterelles at Manresa in Los Gatos, CA
One of the first really fancy modernist-style meals I'd ever had. The 14 or so courses were all delicious and each dish was a unique experience. This one was one of my favorites because the chanterelle flavor was so strong and worked so well alongside the tender juicy pork. It was even better knowing that the chanterelles came from my cousin Gene Lester's farm.
Bacon-cooked sea bass with citrus at Salt & Fat in Sunnyside, NY
I'm convinced that Queens is the most underrated part of NYC. When I lived there I was so happy with the variety of foods from around the world that were available all hours of the day. Salt & Fat is definitely one of the most creative restaurants in Queens right now, especially now that M. Wells is gone. The food reminds me a little of Momofuku, but it's more a home-style restaurant and the atmosphere is actually a lot more welcoming and creative than at any of the Momofuku restaurants. Of course I'm a little biased, because I love salt and I love fat and they do both brilliantly. Use of ingredients like exotic citrus prevents the food from tasting greasy.
Pork Ribs at Spring Lake Farm in NY
This is a delicious meal I shared with my friend Ulla and her family on their farm in the Catskills. Ulla's father Ingi has been feeding their pastured pigs an increasing percentage of their diet as hay and grass. He told me he was able to do that better because he pellets the hay for them to fatten on. I don't know how that works, but I know I had a really fun time on their farm and I was amazed at how much the pork tasted almost like a really fatty delicious beef! You can buy their pork from our meetup.
I am hoping to eat another incredible meal this Thursday and I hope to blog about it then! I would note that all these meals were eaten after I was able to get my illness under control through eating a paleo-style diet, which gave me the robustness to be able to see the world and eat an occasional treat without suffering any consequences.
I realized something hilarious today. Dr. Jack Kruse is the What the Bleep Do We Know? of Paleo. You know, that pretentious movie about "quantum physics" that was actually woo dressed up in scienecy language? Here is a fun game, which quotes is from Dr. Jack Kruse and which is from What the Bleep Do We Know?
a "If thoughts will do that to water, imagine what our thoughts can do to us."
b "One thought might just alter your DNA!"
c "Now that quantum mechanics has crashed into modern biologic theory, we have finally found out why we think the way we do with our brain. "
d "Each cell has a consciousness, particularly if we define consciousness as the point of view of an observer."
A and D are What the Bleep Do We Know. B and C are Dr. Kruse. I also find his random references to "quantum" to be quite hilarious and it reminds me of a Richard Feynman quote:
"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics"
It's also self-experimentation gone awry. For example, while self experimentation is great for finding what works for you, I'm not interested in someone beating a dead horse about carbs with anecdotes about how eating some blackberries prevented them from sleeping last night (that's one real robust Paleolithic-style metabolism right?). Self-experimentation works to place yourself on the bell curve, not to place others. It's like, cool data point bro, but maybe I'm on the other side of the curve.
Think a little bit about the fact that Dr. Kruse is a headlining speaker at almost every upcoming "paleo" event. Notice something about these events? Notice the complete lack or very small amount of evolutionary biologists and biological anthropologists? I don't know if they were even invited, but most of the ones I talk to would be too embarrassed to be part of the circus where people are having to debate whether or not 100 grams or starch is SAFE. It's almost like a joke.
More posts from people who have Balls and are willing to call Dr. Kruse out on his bullshit (I'm hoping more prominent bloggers will discover their balls in the future):
Carbsane has also written quite a bit on Dr. Kruse. I have a feeling that self-diagnosed "leptin resistance" is the new "candida."
I read an advanced copy of Why Women Need Fat when I was moving and because things were so hectic, I didn't have time to review it before it was released. I haven't heard that much about it though, except for this interesting interview with one of the authors in Salon. It's co-authored by Dr. William D. Lassek and anthropologist Steven Gaulin.
It's an interesting book, but it's slightly hampered by the fact that their theories and prescriptions are both quite complicated and controversial. Unlike most other diet books, the authors are not claiming that their diet will make you thin. In fact, they emphasize the importance of body fat to women and the unique factors that influence women's health risks.
So the book opens up a can of worms because it addresses fat in women, as well as evolutionary psychology. Talk about hot-button topics! But they are indeed strange bedfellows and it's interesting to see the synergy between them both.
The first chapter of the book addresses similar territory as Good Calories, Bad Calories with a history of how dietary fat, particularly saturated fat, became unfairly demonized by Ancel Keys and friends. But there is more discussion regarding the rise of polyunsaturated fats, which were erroneously believed to be a healthy alternative to the naughty animal fats.
Ironically, the next chapter starts with a discussion of Denmark, where women eat more saturated fat than Americans, yet they have lower rates of obesity and heart disease. It's ironic because last year Denmark stupidly started taxing saturated fat to discourage consumption. But here the book diverges a bit from Taubes because they note that actually sugar is a smaller share of calorie consumption in the US than it was in 1961 and overall we eat about the same amount of sugar as the Danes. They also note that the idea that carbohydrates are the culprit also doesn't make sense if you compare countries like Japan to the US.
Instead the authors look towards what they call the single biggest change in the American diet in the past forty years:the enormous increase in vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fat, particularly the omega-6 variety. We consume more soybean oil than any other country in the world. That's been great for industrial monoculture farmers and food corporations, but hasn't seem to have done much good for our health. To add insult to injury, many of the oils introduced into the diet were not only mostly omega-6 fat, but also were partially hydrogenated, which created trans fats. Trans fats are pretty much unanimous considered extremely detrimental to health even in small amounts (as an aside, on the issue of women and fat, I think it's criminal that the Girl Scouts teach our young women to sell cookies that still contain trans-fats.)
Most food corporations have switched away from trans fats, but polyunsaturated oils are still considered healthy by many, including the USDA. Even people who aren't cooking with the oils are getting generous servings in nearly everything, from salad dressings to baked goods.
But here is where I get skeptical- the authors say that omega-6 could be a cause of weight increases in the population because it's converted into arachidonic acid. But if arachidonic acid is the issue, it makes the later dietary recommendations in the book seem suspicious, because most animal products are rich in arachidonic acid. And many of the studies they cite simply show that people who are overweight have higher blood levels of omega-6, but that doesn't tell us that the omega-6 was the cause. Considering that omega-6 fats are added to almost every processed food, you could blame it on an assortment of things from the palatability of the food (The End of Overeating) to wheat (Wheat Belly). However, it is interesting that it seems that some studies show that the weight gain from those eating diets very high in omega-6 is disproportionately distributed in the waist.
So how do they think this all works? They say that omega-6 makes us heavier by producing certain types of signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which promote the growth and development of fatty tissue and fat storage. Another factor is that such eicosanoids make white blood cells more active, which increases inflammation.
Much like Wheat Belly did with wheat, they also frame their villain as an addictive drug, since the body can make marijuana-like molecules out of arachidonic acid called endocannabinoids. Yes, cannabinoids, like marijuana, and the authors claim that it can stimulate the appetite similarly. But then it goes back to the fact that if this were true, wouldn't other foods rich in arachidonic acid cause similar problems? And those foods include things like meat and eggs.
I think they erroneously dismiss Kressler's book by focusing on sugar, when in reality Kressler also pegged processed fat as a villain as well, just one that works in synergy with other components of processed foods, which seems more likely to be the issue with these omega-6 rich vegetable oils than arachidonic acid.
Either way, through the studies that show omega-6 can cause weight gain disproportionately in the waist seem quite tentative, it is an interesting thing to think about, especially since several chapters focus on the importance of fat distribution.
These are the chapters bring in evolutionary psychology, which discuss controversial theories on the functional attractiveness of the waist-hip-ratio. Anthropologists have surveyed hundreds of cultures across the world and one of the few measures of attractiveness that seems fairly constant is that men seem to prefer a waist to hip ratio between .68 and .72 (even blind men). Does this actually mean anything evolutionarily? Is there an adaptive reason men find this attractive?
Human women are unusual in the first place by how fatty we are. A slim woman can have a body fat percentage of 30%. A chimpanzee female has a body fat percentage around 5%. In this metric, we are closer to whales or polar bears than other primates. The fat is usually concentrated in the buttocks, breasts, thighs, and hips. Studies have shown that the average man finds fat in these areas particularly attractive.
What is this fat for? Interestingly, women tend to lose the fat in these areas as they have children even if they gain weight overall and have plenty to eat. The lose correlates to the number of children a woman has. Lassek and Gaulin found that most of this fat seemed to be lost during nursing. During this period, an average woman eats less than she needs and instead seems to use up this lower body fat.
Why is this happening? It doesn't make sense that women would be just using this fat to give the baby extra calories, because otherwise they would eat more.
Turns out that there is something in this fat tissue that the developing infant brain really needs. The human infant brain is unusually large and it's not just hungry for calories, it's hungry for fat. In particular it's hungry for DHA, the immediately usable form of omega-3 fatty acids that has been found to be crucial for optimal infant brain development.
Unfortunately, the diets of most American women only provide half of the DHA that a pregnant woman and her infant need. Another type of omega-3 fatty acid, Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) can be converted to DHA, but this conversion varies (though interestingly pregnant women have upregulated conversion and the placenta also has the ability to push DHA "uphill" creating a higher level of DHA in the infant's blood than in the mother's) and can be down-regulated by excessive omega-6 in the diet.
The authors theorize that towards the end of the pregnancy, a woman eats less in order to foster utilization of her own fat tissues that are rich in DHA. The fat in the hips, buttocks, and thighs has more DHA than the fat in other parts of the body. This DHA has been accumulated over many years, starting in infancy.
I read a frightening Facebook conversation I witnessed in which a girl was bragging about how her thighs didn't touch, another girl mentioned that she was so mad that her thighs kept touching even though she had gotten "thin.". Like this question on Paleohacks, many women find that weight seems to come off everywhere but the thigh/buttock/hip region where the gluteofemoral fat lies. This can be frustrating in a culture where slimness everywhere but the breasts is desired. But seen in the light of the importance of this fat, it makes sense why the body resists mobilizing this fat when weight is lost and many women can't achieve the thinness they want in this region without getting so thin everywhere else that they are dangerously overweight or their ribs are showing. These women don't have "lipodystrophy," they are normal women whose bodies are trying to remain functional in a world where our body ideals have become dysfunctional.
The authors own research that suggests that women with more of this important fat have smarter children.
They also attempt to find a reason why men seem to like small waists, despite the fact that they are associated with low BMI, which is associated with poor fertility. Women aren't just fatter than other apes, we have the riskiest childbirth, a consequences of our infant's oversize brains. The first birth is always the most risky because the birth canal is un-stretched. The authors present data that shows that smaller-waisted women have smaller babies (even though they eat more during pregnancy) and thus easier first-time childbirth. So for most of evolutionary history, it would seem more beneficial for a woman to be neither too heavy, nor too thin, with the fat concentrated in the buttocks, hips, and thighs.
But once the first baby expands the birth canal, a woman can afford to have a bigger baby. And biologically, bigger babies might not be good for a first-time mother, but if they make it out of the birth canal they are more likely to survive and thrive. So the authors theorize that the reason many women find that they are starting to get bigger around the waist after they have their first child is that the extra weight will benefit the next child.
The mechanism they use to explain this is leptin, which plays many important roles in fertility. It also tells a woman's hypothalamus how much body fat she has and then uses this as a guide to tell the body how much of the nutrients that come from meals that she should store and how much should circulate in the blood. When a woman has higher body fat, her hypothalamus "tells her cells to pay less attention to her insulin's request to save." Higher fat stores mean more fat, sugar, and amino acids in the blood. Nutrients are more available to the placenta in the first place and the brain is more amenable to requests for more. But too much fat can be a bad thing at a certain point. Heavier mothers are more likely to suffer from preeclampsia, which could be because the placental hormones that "request" more nutrients are overactive and then the cells of the placenta burrow deeper into the wall of the womb to access the biggest arteries, causing an immune-system reaction. Interestingly, it's more likely if it's the first time a mother is carrying a particular man's child and becomes less likely as she bears more children by the same man.
So Lassek and Gaulin theorize that a larger waist signals to a man that a woman might already have a child to take care of and has also already used up some of her valuable DHA-rich fat. Another controversial idea they introduce is that even a child-less woman will gain weight as she ages because she is likely to have fewer children, so in order to increase the likelihood of genes being passed on, it's more important for any children she has to survive because she might not get another chance. So her waist accumulates fat in order to have a bigger baby, even if that means increasing the risk of the childbirth.
But even if some weight-gain is desirable, things seem to have gone haywire recently. Women gain this weight much earlier and are overall much heavier than their foremothers. They also suggest it's possible that the low amount of DHA in our diets might be responsible for higher overall fat accumulation, reasoning that if a woman gets half as much DHA from her diet as another woman, she will have half as much DHA in each pound of fat. So in order for her body to accumulate an optimum total amount of DHA, she will need to store more fat. I didn't feel the evidence was very strong for this theory, mostly the observation that women are thinner in countries with high-DHA diets, but it is very interesting.
The next part of the book is devoted to the idea of achieving "a natural healthy weight." It examines several studies that show that being slightly overweight (BMI of 25-29) seems to actually be healthy for women (but not for men). A lot of this stuff is similar to what was in the Healthy At Every Size book I read.
Another reason why older women might tend to be overweight, was that in the past this represented a protection against infections like tuberculosis, which killed many thin women. This may be because fat confers more active white blood cells. Luckily, estrogen protects women from some of the downsides of having more fat. Higher estrogen means higher HDL, which is good cholesterol. In general, women are seven times less likely than men to die of coronary disease before age sixty-five (I suspect personally that iron levels play a role here too). There is a downside, in that higher levels of estrogen seem to be related to higher risk of breast cancer, but that seems to mainly hold true for obese, not overweight, women. Overweight women are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The authors recommend that women can follow a high omega-3, low omega-6 diet to help mitigate this risk regardless of a woman's weight.
Some other interesting facts are mentioned, such as the fact that heavier women are less likely to break their hips. Hip breakage is a common cause of death in the elderly. However, heavier women are more likely to have arthritis.
But overall, they say that the focus on heaviness itself is probably misguided, because it's where the fat is distributed that matters. Large waist size in particular seems to be associated with health risks. Interestingly, in the 1990s, about half of women in the overweight group had waist sizes in the unhealthy over-35-inch range. Today roughly three out of four do and 1/7 "normal" weight women also have this problem.
Unfortunately, dieting just doesn't work for most people and in fact people are often worse off after they try diets. Lassek and Gaulin say that calorie restriction makes women miserable and often ends up raising their set points. Instead, they say women should try to return to more human-appropriate diet, with special attention to consuming more omega-3 and less omega-6.
They have a section on reducing omega-6, which mainly focus on fried and processed foods that contain soybean or corn oil. They also recommend being careful about poultry, though weirdly they don't mention pork. They also have a whole section on potatoes as hidden sources of omega-6, but all the potato-foods with high-omega-6 levels are fried or cooked with high omega-6 oils, so it's not actually the potatoes that are the problem.
In order to boost omega-3, they recommend grass-fed meat, wild fish, and/or fish oil/algal DHA supplements. Annoyingly, they don't mention some potential caveats to supplementing such as "fishy burps" and general gastrointestinal upset. It's also definitely not a paleo diet, because they recommend you eat wheat, since it doesn't have much omega-6. They also recommend canola oil, which I personally view with skepticism, particularly if the goal is to return to the diet and thus the weights of our foremothers. I wasn't such a fan of this section of the book. It's clear the authors know much about anthropology and medicine, but not that much about food. I'm glad they are promoting grass-fed meat, but it honestly doesn't have that much DHA. You would have to eat 4.6 lbs of grass-fed beef to get the recommended 1.6 grams of DHA.
And then the rest of the book is about finding your realistic "natural weight," which is the weight your body will gradually shift to once you adjust your diet. This takes into account age and bone structure. Unfortunately, it also involves four steps of calculation. And there are also some eating tips, which are kind of easier said than done:
- Eat until you are satisfied and then stop
- Eat breakfast and avoid snacks after dinner
- Try to have smaller portions
- Chose nuts and fruit for snacks
- Limit commercial beverages
- Get regular exercise
- Reduce the amount of processed food in your diet
The interesting thing is that nuts have tons of omega-6. Shouldn't they be bad then? In the end I applaudan approach that recognizes that body fat plays a unique role in women and discourages the eating-disorder-like behavior and unrealism of traditional dieting. Unfortunately, while I think most bloggers I read have a healthy attitude, I see ridiculous bro-science about women's weight like this post on "Top 10 ways to get Skinny Fat." Besides the obvious fact that there are plenty of women who do those things who have ideal or very low body fat, I thought the choice of "scare" picture was telling:
Seriously? That is not a picture of an unhealthy "skinny fat" woman. In fact, there are plenty of women who eat the "magic" paleo diet that many of these sites tout and have much more body fat than that. Not that I think that's a bad thing. Those women are probably much healthier than some of the health bloggers I've seen who are so thin that it really worries me.
That's one limitation to the book. Despite having a more realistic attitude about weight than most books, it still seems to be primarily targeted towards people who want to lose. But the theory the book contains implies that not having DHA-rich fat stores would be bad as well. I personally believe it's possible even for women who are skinny to rebuild healthy curves. I was very very thin when I was raw vegan and over the years of eating fertility-supporting foods like butter and fish roe and improving my digestion I have laid down more fat tissue (and quite a bit of muscle) on my chest, thighs, and buttocks without increasing my waist size very much. I've received similar comments from other women. Is it any surprise that Marilyn Monroe ate a similar diet?
Also, let's get real here. Just like it's absolutely hilarious that writers can quote studies that show foragers are healthy in one breath, and demonize foods that make up most of their diet in another, I think it's weird to tout a very modernized female ideal as part of a "paleo" approach considering that forager women simply don't look like that and that art from the actual Paleolithic seems to portray a culture in which fertility-related fat was venerated.
I also enjoyed the evolutionary theory for the role of body fat in women. But I think their practical advice seems awkward and limited by lack of food expertise. I also think the evidence that omega-6 is responsible for obesity is somewhat limited, as laid out by a recent post by Stephen Guyenet, though I definitely agree that it can cause other problems. And maybe the association only holds up for women?
I wish someone had told me in high school that I didn't have to get up at 6 AM every morning to fuss with my hair in order to get a sleek smooth look. Turns out that the natural oil most American women shampoo out of their hair every day has a function. In its proper place, it keeps hair healthy and shiny. The fact that nearly every shampoo and conditioner in the drugstore is for "dry hair" seems to point to that being an issue for many women. Instead of using the oils naturally produced by our scalp, we wash all that off and then add something similar (but inferior) by "conditioning" our hair.
So "minimalist" hair care comes in. I certainly didn't start doing it because it's more "natural," I started getting interested in it when I started coloring my hair. Coloring your hair makes it more vulnerable to dryness. Also, depending on your color, every time you wash it's likely going to dull it a little. Other reasons that motivate people to chose more minimalist hair care are simplicity, getting a smoother texture, and preserving expensive chemical treatments (perms/straightening/relaxing).
So what is minimalist hair care? It basically posits that the oil in your hair is only an enemy in certain contexts. There is some evidence that constantly washing it out makes your scalpal sebaceous glands overactive, so when you first ditch the shampoo you might find yourself with ugly oily hair until your body figures out that you aren't going to constantly dry it out with shampoo and it doesn't need to overproduce. That was my problem at first, which was particularly bad since I have somewhat long hair.
Luckily there are two things you can do until your scalp adjusts: disperse and spot-reduce. I have a very supportive hair dresser who told me that many celebrities like Julianne Moore don't use shampoo. I don't know if that is actually true, but he told me that using a natural fiber hair brush helps distribute oil properly through the hair, bringing it from the scalp, where it can look dirty, to the ends of the hair, which are more prone to dryness-related damage.
Spot-reducing means getting rid of oil where it looks bad instead of washing your whole head. My hairdresser recommends vinegar rinses, but I prefer dry shampoo. I also do the Aveda red staining conditioner every week (luckily it doesn't have much actual conditioner so it doesn't make my hair oily), which extends the time I can go between colorings (I do Herbatint every 3 months with some staining/henna in between to minimize my exposure to some of the more questionable things that even Herbatint contains). After awhile you shouldn't have to do much spot-reducing. When done properly, no one should know that you are doing minimalist hair care.
A couple of days ago, a feminist site posted a quick little rant that used Erwan Le Corre as a segue to talk about how this whole "paleo" trend was promoting some hyper-patriarchal masculine past, comparing it to the modern Republican conservatism. It was pretty clear that the author didn't know much about the Paleolithic (her citation to how bad the Paleolithic was for women linked to the author of The Clan of the Cave Bear, which is fiction) and after significant negative feedback, the piece was pulled (but lives on thanks to the internet).
I commented that I really don't think that the Paleolithic diet/lifestyle thing is a man thing. But I think it seems that way to outsiders because that's how the media portrays it. It's the media that's selling the caveman hunter-barbarian stereotype, not the movement.
I've experienced this first hand, but I really haven't said much about it because it brings up so many personal insecurities. After the NYtimes article I was featured in, the NY Paleo Meetup and I interacted with a large number of media outlets, both television and print. We even managed two glorious comped dinners at Takashi that were filmed for various TV programs in the US and Europe. Overall, I probably spent hours and hours talking to reporters and being filmed or photographed. But I honestly don't have much to show for it except the original article. I was cut out of almost all of the things I was involved with.
I wasn't sure it was because I am a woman. I thought...well, you know, I'm not exactly some tall hot person. I'm a short awkward nerd. So I started inviting women I thought were gorgeous to come to these interviews. They got cut too. As for the men, well duh they featured some attractive men, but I have noticed that even men who were pretty unattractive were being featured in media. It was OK to be unattractive, as long as you had a certain feral look. I don't want to discredit all the men who were also cut. I would note that many of them, like us women, were not caveman stereotypes.
I also don't want to criticize the various writers, videographers, and photographers, who often spent a large enough time with me that it's hard to think that they thought they were wasting it. I always got the feeling that things were getting cut by higher-ups.
But I haven't said anything, because I didn't want to seem resentful. I've worked in male-dominated fields long enough to know that as soon as you complain, it can be seen as a weakness and used to tar and feather you as some kind of paranoid over-sensitive whiny woman.
I guess the good news is that woman in the Paleo community have gotten more and more visibility because so many of us have published books. Most of the good paleo cookbooks have female authors or co-authors. But I still think that when the media wants to do a "paleo diet" story that they are mostly going to pick someone to feature that fits that weird caveman stereotype. And that sucks, because I think this diet is really beneficial for everyone. I've seen it lead to easier pregnancies, help women with breastfeeding issues, get rid of menstrual cramps, and alleviate menopausal symptoms. And ironically, it may be that women benefit quite a bit more from meat consumption than men anyway, considering that anemia is more prevalent in women.
Maybe because I just moved from NYC to Chicago, I was a little insulted by this little rant the New York Times published on the horrible life of a vegetarian in the Midwest. Of course, she lumps the entire Midwest into her rant, even though it seems the author has only lived in one Midwestern city, which is Kansas City.
So, yes, I’ve “eaten” at some of these famous restaurants. There was the meal at the Golden Ox steakhouse (baked potato), Stroud’s fried chicken (rolls) and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, where, searching for vegetarian options on the menu, skipping over the lard-bathed French fries, pausing to consider the coleslaw, I ordered the safest option (a mug of Budweiser).
I'm sorry, but that just made me laugh, because this whole lard revival thing is going on right now in New York City. Maybe lard never left the menu on Kansas City, but in NYC right now, a lot of fancy restaurants are BRAGGING about the animal fat they are using to make their fries. In fact, I created a Dinevore list of various restaurants that use duck fat for their fries in NYC. It has 12 restaurants and I'm sure I'm missing a few. In fact, one of the most famous restaurant empires in NYC, David Chang's various Momofuku ventures, are explicitly vegetarian-unfriendly.
So I'm not sure what the point of harping on about lard was, except to write an article to make New Yorkers feel smug about themselves. I would say that New Yorkers can feel quite smug that they do have better vegetarian and vegan food though. I like to eat an occasional vegan meal myself, but so far the vegan food in Chicago seems to be stuck in an era of vegetable oil and wheat (would you like some breaded soy nuggets fried in vegetable oil??) that most vegan food in NYC has escaped.
But at least I'm not lobbying to have bread baskets burned. Back in the 1980s, vegan activist front Center for Science in the Public Interest lobbied for fast food restaurants to trade their animal fat for hydrogenated vegetable oil. Unfortunately for them, it became clear that synthetic trans-fats are probably the worst thing you could possibly eat.
But they are still in use in some fryers and the oils that have replaced trans-fats, industrial soy and canola oils, really aren't that much better for you. Nothing seems more backwards these days than trading lard for vegetable oils. Lots of New Yorkers know that. In fact, it's super easy to get very high quality lard in NYC, which I haven't found to be the case in Chicago. Oh the irony. However, Chicago has redeemed itself by having tallow fries at Longman & Eagle.*
* not that fried carbs should ever be a dietary staple, but it's nice to know when you are having an occasional treat that you are not downing a cup of vegetable oil crap for no reason
Now that it's been over four years since I first heard about "paleo" diets, I have been reflecting on how such diets have worked for me. When I first heard about paleo, I definitely thought it was a solution to all my problems and it worked really well for most of them. The original bane of my life in the pre-paleo era, GERD, is gone. But my IBS symptoms were harder to fix and even now I find myself experimenting. In the beginning, I often thought the solution was more "purity" in my diet. I thought if I just were better at my diet, then my problems would go away. But IBS is too complex for that. And it doesn't seem to care about evolution all that much. While evolution can be useful for hypothesizing, my gut is the product of a C-section birth, a subpar diet for almost two decades, and many many courses of evolution. I think of my maternal grandmother who is in her nineties and claims to have only had a stomachache once in her life. Compared to her stomach, my own stomach is a rather unfortunate thing.
So when I ate a pure "paleo" diet, what happened? My stomach problems got WORSE.
Luckily I found the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet). It's really for people with worse problems than mine, but it clued me into some of the things that were going on, namely that there was something wrong with how I process certain carbohydrates. Well, not just me, but my own microbiome in my gut. They were taking something I was eating and having a party consuming it and belching out all kinds of bad things. Bloating, cramping, gas, bouts of IBS-C and IBS-D were the result.
Unfortunately SCD is both too strict and not strict enough. The "legal" list of SCD foods, like the typical "paleo" list, contains foods I cannot digest properly. The specific carbohydrates I'm sensitive to are not the same as those that the SCD concerns itself with. I ended up just going carnivore for awhile, which helped with a great many things, but I had other symptoms on that diet (like extremely low blood pressure) and it is on the pretty extreme of restrictive. I also think that some products of carbohydrate fermentation are important.
I have no idea where I first encountered FODMAPs, which stands for
- Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galactans)
- Disaccharides (eg. Lactose), Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose) and
- Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)
But the theory is similar to the SCD, which is that for certain people, certain carbohydrates aren't processed correctly by the gut and end up feeding bad bacteria. But I think it was more useful for me because it breaks down the issue into a variety of potential baddies to experiment with. Lactose intolerance is the most famous type and all the other types are similar in that they can be dose-dependent. That's why I was so confused at first. Sometimes I'd eat potentially bad food X and feel fine and other times I'd feel terrible. Amount effects it, but that's the tip of the iceberg, because the context can affect it too. For example, with fructose, the amount of glucose ingested at the same time can affect tolerance.
So far you can see where my experiments have left me vs. the typical paleo diet:
It seems I have some fructose intolerance, but my tolerance is comparatively high. I can eat an apple, but if I start eating a bunch of dried apples (more concentrated fructose), then I start getting into problems.
Then there are foods that I can tolerate almost none of, such as brassica vegetables like cauliflower. Many "paleo" recipes use cauliflower in place of rice. I am much worse off if I eat that compared to real rice and in fact I've found that rice soothes my stomach quite nicely when it's upset, particularly when cooked in broth as a congee.
I'm still torn about wheat. I think I've tried every possible type of wheat at this point, including wheat that was fermented to remove gluten and a variety of "heritage" wheats. I still didn't tolerate it, which makes me think that it was never about gluten for me, but about fiber.
It's also pretty important to self-experiment and not just write entire foods off because they contain something that might be the culprit in causing you problems with another food. Onions are a major issue for me, but I've found I can tolerate them pretty well if they are cooked into oblivion (for example, in a sauce), which frees me to enjoy certain delicious Indian dishes. Tomatoes are only an issue for me raw.
I think this jives very well with the evolutionary idea that cooking was important in human evolution because it transferred digestion to the small intestine rather than the large. That seems to be exactly what is happening here. The large intestine is where fermentation takes place, so if fermentable carbohydrates are the issue, then cooking them to make them more available to the small intestine could help. Of course there is all kinds of fancy cooking science here I'm not getting into, which I need to research further. There is also the issue of tolerance improving if you manage to heal the gut lining and balance the gut bacteria somehow. I think that overall my tolerance has improved as I've eaten healthier. I used to not tolerate spicy food at all, which was practically a tragedy for me since I love it, but now I eat it quite often without an issue.
But people are always asking me to do an IBS post or series. And I kind of can't because it's been just all one weird experiment of me trying to figure out what I can tolerate and at what level. That's why I'm such a huge proponent of self-experimentation and not such a huge fan of dietary dogma.
This year I did a vegan(and later semi-vegan) paleo self-experiment that I never wrote up. I guess I never wrote it up because it wasn't terribly successful and I didn't finish the run I wanted to try. I wanted to go for a month on this diet, but I only made it a week on totally vegan and two more weeks on a modified version.
Why did I do this to myself? Is curiousity a good enough reason? After all, a similar diet is eaten by most of the Melanesian foragers popular in the paleo community. I also had a fantastic amount of access to amazing and cheap sources of starch in NYC. There are other reasons, but I feel they would weigh this post down with too many details about my personal life at the time.
The original diet was based on fruit, roots, nuts, coconut, tubers, and other assorted vegetables. At the local market I could get ten green plantains for a dollar. I could get a massive true yam as big as my head for about two dollars.
From the outset I was limited by my own food sensitivities, which limit vegetables, particularly brassica vegetables. These contain large amounts of galactans and raffinose, so-called FODMAPs that wreck me, but for vegans they are one of the best sources of calcium. I also seem to be sensitive to something in nuts, so I tried to limit them.
So my diet was mainly:
- Coconut milk, cream, and oil
- Cocoyam, cassava, plantains, taro, true yam, and Okinawan sweet potatoes
- Vegetables like carrots and spinach
- A limited amount of nuts
A typical meal was chopped starch boiled in coconut milk with some vegetables and a serving of fruit on the side. I focused on fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin A because I knew I would need more since I am a poor convertor of beta-carotene to retinol.
Where is the protein? I thought perhaps I wouldn't need much if I were only eating this way short term, but after a couple of days I felt a little off and I figured it would make a difference. I added skinless urad dal, the rare legume that doesn't upset my stomach. I stopped buying cocoyam because it was mediocre and taro because it was too hard to cook. The major issue I seemed to suffer from was just not feeling very energetic, so I gave up on the vegan angle and added in shellfish and then regular fish.
Oh great, another taro-ble meal
The shrimp-spinach-coconut milk curry from Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals became a staple. But even while eating fairly energy-dense dishes like this, I still was usually getting fewer calories a day than I was used to. When I read about the two low-reward food self-experiments at Whole Health Source, in hindsight I realize that I was on a pretty low-reward diet. Lots of plain bland boring starches. Even when I tried to make them more exciting with spices I seemed to make it worse since most spices tend to dampen my appetite. I started making smoothies towards the end because it was just so hard for me to eat enough starch. And I knew that if I didn't get enough calories I would feel tired and irritable.
Don't get me wrong, I love plantains. I love them fried in bacon fat. But boiled in coconut milk I got sick of them pretty quickly. If there is one lesson I learned from this is that you can make some pretty cheap and delicious meals out of starch cooked in leftover animal fat. And really, did it make sense for me to stuff myself in imported coconut products and shrimp when I had local meat? This plus issues with low energy led me to end the experiment about a week early. I had similar, but worse, problems on a raw vegan diet.
Perhaps this diet would be a good one for someone who wants to save a lot of money or lose weight? I also think it could be hacked by fermenting some of the starches, which would increase their caloric value and some fermented starches (like fufu) are quite tasty. A low-meat diet based on traditional African recipes that involve starches with animal broths and fermented fish sauces would also be a lot more delicious. I also didn't try supplementing the diet with DHA, taurine, and carnitine - nutrient candidates that might be the missing piece in understanding why some do not do particularly well on plant-based diets.
Self Experiment Results
- Me (I lost five pounds that I didn't really want to lose since I'm quite happy with my weight.)
- Plantains cooked in bacon
- My bank account (it's pretty sad that imported coconut milk from Thailand is cheaper than local meat in NYC)