Sunday, June 05, 2005

Living Simply: No S Diet and the Shovelglove

A few months back I wrote:
I've written before about my concern regarding our use of fossil fuels. It is a subject that I've been thinking about over the past 15 years and it weighs on my mind more with each passing year. Recently it occurred to me that I might start writing a bit about how I try to limit my use of fossil fuels and related resources. I think this will take the form of a short tip-like post once a week. Feel free to add any ideas you've implemented in your own life.
I have not kept up with this. That said, I like the original idea and intend to try posting consistently on the theme. We'll see.

I'll continue on with No S Diet. What I like about this is its common sense simplicity and that it closely reflects my own diet. I don't like the concept of "dieting" because most folks seem to think about that as a special process oriented around the desire to loose weight. I don't use the word that way. My goal is to be naturally healthy all the time and I have always based that on eating simple, whole foods that require low energy inputs to grow (more about ecology and food in another post). So, just to be clear, I do not diet. I eat food.

No S Diet: No snacks, sweets, seconds, except on days that start with S.
There are just three rules and one exception:
• No Snacks
• No Sweets
• No Seconds
Except (sometimes) on days that start with 's'

...

Why is this diet so much better?
Because it is simple, sustainable, and you aren't really depriving yourself of anything. You don't have to sacrifice anything -- not time, not health, not any delicious thing... There are no magic potions and there are no poisons. You are targeting just the culprit, just the bad habit of overeating itself.

...

What do you mean by "sweets"?

I mean something whose principal source of calories is sugar. Go ahead and put sugar in your coffee or oatmeal; you have my blessing. Of course fruits are fine.

But beware of soda and corn syrup "juice" drinks. I'm not just being a killjoy; Americans get an estimated 10% of their calories from such nutritionally bankrupt "liquid carbohydrates." (footnote pending)

I wouldn't worry too much about borderline foods like yoghurt and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If these are a problem for you, i.e., you eat them every day and lay it on thick, then make them esses. If not, don't. Just by targeting the really egregious offenders you'll be cutting out a lot of calories. And you'll be that much more likely to stick with the plan. If you're like most first worlders, it's a little revolting to think how much unambiguously crappy food you consume. So forget the borderline cases, the clear cut cases are 80% of the problem and 0% of the headache.

This is probably the most important S. Do you know how many pounds of sugar the average American ingests each year? According to the USDA's Economic Research Service, 105 pounds (2001). That's about 20% of total calories. You could make a snowman out of that. That's less than 2 years till you've eaten your body weight in sugar. If you're a real whopper, chances are you eat even more sugar than that, so I figure it works out about the same. And this is a pretty conservative number. The ERS assumes that over 40 pounds of "delivered" sugar is "lost" (147 delivered, 105 ingested), which I find a little hard to believe, but I guess we're wastrels as well as gluttons.

How do you think that compares with the sugar intake of our ancestors? We don't have to go back to hunter gatherer times to find a striking contrast, or even before Columbus (when it was close to nil because there was no refined sugar in most places). 1821 will do: 10 pounds (that's delivered, not ingested!).

...

Nosdiet is slow, but the idea is, it's permanent. It's humane enough that you can do it your whole life. I find it enhances my enjoyment of food.
I also wanted to briefly mention a simple and common sense exercise system created by the same fellow. He calls it shoveglove and it's based on moving a sledgehammer to repeatedly mimic different kinds of work: chopping wood, shoveling, churning butter. Personally, I'm all for gardening and getting physical exercise that way but this seems like a great system for use in the winter when you may not have a garden or outside work to do. No fancy machines; just a sledgehammer or a similar weight combined with careful, controlled movement. He suggests 14 minutes a day which seems easily doable.

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