I am a stud muffin

All my life I have wanted to develop a better looking physique. Now I am well on my way.

Last summer, I probably looked like any other pasty computer nerd. Mediocre muscle tone, no particular strengths. Since then, I have regularly worked out at the SMU gym 3 times a week, concentrating on upper body exercises.

In that time, I have made considerable improvements on increasing my lower back strength. I can use all 190 pounds of weights on a torso rotation machine, and I can push 180 pounds of weight by extending my back on another machine.

I have also dramatically increased my arm strength; I can now do a few pull ups unassisted. (These are much harder than chin ups: palms facing away instead of towards your head.) I can also do several dips unassisted. I haven’t been able to do this since my undergraduate years when I held a marching baritone, the most difficult instrument to keep upright!

In the fall semester, I consistently worked out 3 times a week. I haven’t been able to maintain that schedule this spring.

For one, I caught 5 colds and a stomach virus in the 6 weeks following February 1. (Thanks, Alec!)

I also pulled a muscle in my back two weeks ago by allowing myself to go too low on the dip machine. I tried working out on Monday (10 days after pulling the muscle), but I only re-aggravated the muscle. This time I am sitting out for at least two weeks, and when I return, I will start with lower weights and build back up to where I was. Pulling muscles is a major problem because they take weeks to heal.

The only thing missing from my workout regimen is aerobic exercises. I need to get back into jogging. That is how I had planned to exercise my lower body. It’s difficult to make the time to jog with two classes and other commitments, but I look forward to resuming jogging once this semester ends and I gain back at least 12 hours a week.

I am at the best physical shape I have ever been in my life. I am beginning to get improved muscle tone. The only thing holding me back is a little pooge around my waist.

Now don’t misunderstand how I look. I am no He-Man, and I do not look anything like the Governator, and neither is my goal. Regardless, my newfound Adonis complex has propelled me well beyond where I used to be.

Don’t Lick My Food!

What is the nastiest thing done by otherwise reasonable people? They spit on everyone else’s food.

I don’t mean literally ejecting a wad of spit. It’s more insidious.

I used to attend a church that had an annual ice cream supper. This was great—as long as you were in front of a particular lady. She used her fingers to pull ice cream off the spoon, then she slurped her fingers between scooping each flavor. Now that I think of it, she did this with almost any wet food, not just ice cream. Yuck!

People who should know better spit on your food all the time. They lick fingers while cooking or serving, they put utensils in their mouth and then use them on community foods (such as using a personal spoon to scoop ice cream or repeatedly sampling foods with the same utensil while cooking), they redip items into queso or salsa, they place half eaten foods back into shared food sources, they cycle between scooping icing off an uncut cake with a finger then licking said finger, etc. Gross!

I see people doing nasty stuff like this all the time at salad bars and buffet restaurants like Golden Corral and Barnhill’s. Ever wonder why the serving spoons get sticky? Now you know.

For the sake of courtesy and disease prevention (all sorts of diseases are transmitted through saliva), please keep your spit to yourself. Wash your hands if they have been in your mouth, and only use clean utensils on shared food.

Organic crap

I believe that organic foods and gardening products are a silly and hypocritical fad.

According to Consumer Reports, “There is no definitive proof that organic produce offers a nutritional advantage over conventionally grown fruit and vegetables. Nor is it known how much risk is entailed in consuming the tiny quantities of pesticides on food over a lifetime.” (link to article)

Consumer Reports is a liberal publication. As a case in point, Consumer Reports was an outspoken advocate of single-payer, socialized medicine in the ‘90s. It’s especially poignant that Consumer Reports says this about organic products.

In the absence of hard proof, how do you justify paying the steep premium for organic products? You use junk science. A common premise is that everything synthetic is poison. Go read Howard Garrett’s Dallas Morning News gardening column. He squeals when anyone mentions synthetic stuff.

Everything synthetic is poison? I’d hate to live in a world without modern medicine, much of which uses synthetic products.

Everything organic is good? Go make some tea out of the cyanide that my (now gone) Carolina laurel cherry produced. Or talk to the residents of Greece, Corsica, and Turkey who use naturally available tremolite to white wash their homes. Tremolite is full of asbestos, another naturally occurring substance. Or go check out the environmental impact of organic chemicals like rotenone, sabadilla, or even soap. (Want to know a good way to kill a tank of fish? Add organic soap. Read this link.)

Even more humorous, “A study by the Southwest Research Institute found that the amount of produce containing detectable levels of pesticide residue dropped by half with washed samples. Where residue remained, levels were reduced by 29 to 98 percent.” This is again from Consumer Reports (link to article). This puts the pesticide levels of washed produce on par with organic products, which themselves contain a certain amount of background pesticide levels.

OK, so that argument fails. Aren’t carcinogenic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers causing cancer rates to rise? Not according to the American Cancer Society.

Well, aren’t organic products more environmentally sensitive? Not at all!

A mantra of the green movement is “use less.” Use less food, use less energy, use less paper, use less of everything. Inconvenient fact: organic products cost substantially more than traditional foods. It’s in large part because organic farming is substantially less productive than contemporary farming methods. Ultimately, organic goods’ increased price reflects the increased resource consumption required to produce the organic product.

Organic products have no clear health benefit and are more harmful to the environment. Why do people buy them? I suspect it’s in large part a fad and a social statement. The social statement aspect is misguided, like buying a SUV to give the appearance of being in touch with nature.

More comments on fruit juices

Trilia made some interesting comments on my fruit juice diatribe:

As someone who has been paying a lot of attention to healthy foods in recent days, I have to disagree with this assertion. Soft drinks generally do contain less calories per ounce than an equal amount of fruit juice, but as you show, the difference is about 50-100 calories. This amount can easily be compensated for with about 20 minutes of moderate exercise.

Also, soft drinks provide no nutritional benefit, carbonated drinks can make acid reflux and fluid retention worse, and their added caffeine has been linked to bone loss (possibly by not allowing calcium absorption). Juices, although stripped of a majority of the fruit’s nutritional content, still contain vitamins and aren’t going to bloat you like the Goodyear Blimp. I’m not saying skip the fruit for a juice, but if I have a choice between Coke and orange juice, I’ll take the juice.

It is true that fruit juices contain nutrients that soft drinks don’t, but these nutrients come with problems. If you eat reasonably, you already get “enough” nutrients and do not need supplements. So by adding fruit juices to your diet, you may be getting “too many” nutrients. I have yet to see convincing data suggesting that the average person benefits from more than “enough.” In fact, studies pop up here and there saying that more than “enough” can harm you.

Trilia suggested you can exercise an extra “20 minutes” (a day?) to counteract the fruit juices. Suppose you normally exercise 30 minutes a day, every day. That mean the first 20 minutes has no net benefit; it just counteracts fruit juice. Why not quit drinking fruit juices, thereby making all 30 minutes of exercise a productive effort?

I guess I wasn’t clear on one point. The absolute best hydrating substance for almost every situation is plain water. My point in comparing fruit juices to soft drinks is to show that fruit juices make you fatter than a form of junk food.

Soft Drinks Are Healthier Than Fruit Juices

Edited on 1-31-06: Old article links is broken (thanks, CNN!), added new article link.

A common, mistaken belief is that fruit juice is better for you than soft drinks. Consider how many calories are stuffed into a 12 oz serving of each kind of drink:

Drink Calories
Coke Classic 110
Sprite 110
Dr Pepper 136
100% pure orange juice 168
100% pure grape juice 231
100% pure apple Juice 176

(Figures from http://www.nutritiondata.com/. Note that 12 oz is the size of a traditional can of soda.)

Fruit juices are packed with far more empty calories than soft drinks.

Some people justify fruit juices because they are supposedly full of vitamins. In fact, fruit juices’ vitamin concentration can be inferior to that of whole fruits. But suppose it isn’t inferior? Believe it or not, there is such a thing as “enough.” If you get “enough” vitamins, additional vitamins aren’t any help. Fruit juices are an unnecessary vitamin source because you can get more than “enough” vitamins from a reasonable diet.

Another common justification of fruit juices is that they are “natural.” Well, guess what, smarty pants? A calorie of fruit sugar makes you just as fat as a calorie of refined sugar.

Fruit juices are clearly not a healthy alternative to soft drinks unless your health goal is to maximize your waist size.

Except for the rare time that I give my toddler some juice, I haven’t regularly stocked any kind of fruit juice in my house in years. We just eat whole fruits. I already have a hard enough time controlling my weight without juices.

Recently Texas started reducing soft drink availability at schools. Unfortunately, Texas politicians still pretend that fruit juice is good for you, so fruit juice remains as available as ever.

Recent CNN article about fat preschoolers and fruit juice.

Newer CBS article about sweet drinks, including fruit juices, and flabby kids