Monthly Archives: March 2016

Podcasts 101

I’ve recently got into podcasts. Despite my relatively new-found simple living enthusiasm, (and therefore new-found guilt over anything that vaguely resembles multitasking,) I really love listening to them when I’m walking the dog, or preparing something long and slightly tedious in the kitchen. Actually at the moment, everything in the kitchen seems long and very tedious but never mind…. I find them far more rewarding to listen to than reading a blog post, which I only ever seem to skim through. I’ve also discovered I really enjoy listening to them when I run. I recently did the Coatesville Classic Half Marathon and my “training” runs (such was they were) were less painful with some interesting subject matter to listen to, rather than just a somewhat clichéd playlist.

I’ve found three that I regularly follow so thought I’d give them a plug…

  1. Happier with Gretchen Rubin

No surprises here, Gretchen groupie that I am. I loved this podcast from the first episode. She hosts it with her sister, who she talks about in her books. They seem genuinely quite close, although they live on opposite sides of the US and have very different lives, careers and, seemingly, personalities. Their discussions are very much based around the themes of Gretchen’s books about happiness (obviously) and habits, so a lot of the content is familiar to me. Despite this, and what I find quite impressive, it doesn’t get boring. Each episode is divided into well-defined segments and those segments appear each episode. This may not seem like such a bit deal but several of the podcasts I’ve tried and given up on really fall down for their lack of structure. They pretty much consist of two people wittering on for an hour about a subject they consider themselves qualified to talk about, but really, it’s just like eavesdropping on a conversation you’re not able to join in, and most of the time, don’t really want to anyway. So, “Happier”, I’m hooked!

  1. The Slow Home Podcast with Brooke McAlary

I wasn’t too sure about this one when I started but it’s grown on me. Australian slow living enthusiast Brooke McAlary (who I’d never heard of before I found her blog and then podcast) hosts a weekly discussion that usually consists of an interview with a guest. The guests vary in their degree of interest, relevance (to me anyway) and notoriety- they have been as mundane as a self-proclaimed “normal” person, who was simply a narcissistic podcast listener who put herself forward to be interviewed under the misapprehension that other people might be interested in her “story”- groan…. and as well-known as (can you guess?) Gretchen Rubin and Bea Johnson. When I first started listening I was a little irritated by the casual colloquialism of the podcast- I thought it made it sound a bit amateurish. The 5-10 minute intro she does with her husband, which generally includes a bit of giggling and silly couple’s jokes as well as occasional interruptions from their kids only exacerbates that. But as I’ve stuck with it I’ve got used to the (?over-) familiar introductory chit-chat and besides, the real meat of the podcast is in the people she talks to and most of the interviews (narcissistic listener aside) have been really interesting. She actually does a pretty good job (not that I’m exactly qualified to say!) as an interviewer, and I think (without wanting to sound patronising) she’s really improved since I started listening. So for now I’ll keep it on my playlist!

  1. Eliza Starting at 16

Ok so the ONLY reason I started following this one is because she’s (I’m really sorry) Gretchen Rubin’s daughter! Yep, and she’s 16, so I feel even more tragic. I didn’t sign up for this one straight away but I gave it a go and I’ve kind of been drawn in. Partly because it’s short but also because I’m actually quite impressed by how articulate and intelligent she appears to be, without sounding too precocious. Her venting over 16 year old “issues” in some ways reminds me of my own 16 year old angst (well to be perfectly honest, it resembles more the 16 year old I wish I had been). Occasionally she even hits the nail right on the head and articulates, very eloquently, grievances I still share. For instance, her vent about pop-music snobbery and how everyone’s too cool and too intellectual listening to alternative indie music to admit they find Top 40 cheese quite catchy. As soon as she said it I thought “Yes! That’s exactly how I felt all through uni and sometimes even now!!” Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s not for everyone (the podcast, not just Top 40 music), but I like it.

And that’s it, I’ve tried and tossed about 10 others but I can’t be bothered moaning about those!

I Quit I Quit Sugar (Before I even started)

Recently I became interested in the I Quit Sugar program, made famous (?) by Sarah Wilson. I’d looked at it before, partly motivated by a friend of mine who’d lost quite a bit of weight by following it. She actually reviewed the book on her blog. My parents also lost quite a bit of weight by “giving up” sugar, although they didn’t do Sarah Wilson’s program.

Sarah maintains that the real enemy in the Western diet is fructose. Apparently (she’s sketchy on the biochemical explanations) fructose “cannot be utilised by the liver” and is converted straight to fat. Hmmmm. She quotes (repeatedly) a paediatric endocrinologist who is credited with this metabolic pearl of wisdom.

I’m not an endocrinologist and I didn’t do brilliantly at university biochemisty. I cannot draw the Krebs cycle or whatever cycle it is that fructose features in. But even if fructose IS “converted directly to fat”, this theory of it making us fat, to me, still seems highly flawed.

This is my reasoning as to why this is rubbish:

Our bodies burn energy (calories) through a) intentional activity ie exercise and b) metabolic processes such as generating body heat and digesting our food, which add up to a figure known as our basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Our BMR is mainly determined by our gender, our age, our weight, our body composition, disease states and medications and is far more significant than voluntary activity when it comes to burning calories. In the short term, we have no voluntary control over our BMR (we can change it in the long term by altering our body mass or composition or by taking drugs, but we can’t decide to “ramp up our BMR” one day and slow it down the next.)

Our bodies obtain energy to fuel these processes through the food, or calories, we eat (and drink).

If we consume more calories than we expend, we store the surplus as excess body weight. If we consume less than we expend, we obtain the deficit by burning off body weight, and if the two are equal, we are in equilibrium and we stay the same.

Now, Sarah Wilson maintains that all the fructose we eat gets turned into fat because our bodies can’t “use” the calories in that fructose. Ok, let’s assume that she’s right. So, take a person who consumes the same number of calories as they expend. Assume none of it comes from fructose. Great. They burn what they eat, and stay the same weight. Now take someone who consumes, say, 30% of their calories in the form of fructose. Their livers can’t use those calories and covert it to fat. But then they are short that 30% of their caloric requirement. So what happens? Surely that person obtains the shortfall from their glycogen and then fat stores? So they may be “putting on” weight from the fructose calories, but they ought to be burning an equal amount of weight to obtain what they supposedly can’t get from the fructose. So it balances out.

Critics of the CICO (calories in calories out) model will say “Oh but not all calories are equal, some foods require more energy to digest so they actually don’t give your body all the calories they contain.” Yes that’s probably true, but I am very doubtful it makes a significant difference, especially in a balanced diet. The same would also potentially be an argument for this whole fructose theory- if fructose is effortlessly converted to fat while other substrates use up a lot more energy in that conversion then perhaps Sarah’s onto something. But I doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sugar is way too prevalent in our diet and I am not for a minute suggesting a high sugar diet is good, or even “not bad” for us. But I don’t think there’s anything magical about fructose. I am extremely cynical about all those other “natural” sweeteners too- stevia, agave, rice bran syrup (like, HELLO!!! cane sugar grows naturally and abundantly in far north Queensland- I’m not sure why it’s considered “unnatural”)

But this is why I think we should minimise our sugar intake:

  • Sugar is high in calories
  • Sugar has no other nutritional value, ie it provides us with no good stuff apart from energy (sure if you were starving this wouldn’t matter so much but there are other more nutritious sources of energy for most of us)
  • You rarely eat sugar by itself. It’s usually combined with other calorie dense, nutritionally sketchy ingredients, like fat and white flour, to make tasty “treats” that are ok to eat from time to time, but most of us indulge in a bit too often, in quantities which are too large.

The final nail in the IQS coffin (for me) is Sarah banging on about other pseudo-scientific rubbish (actually there’s nothing pseudo about it, it’s just un-scientific). She advocates “activating” nuts and seeds, “sprouting” legumes, “fermenting” vegetables and drinking apple cider vinegar which allegedly helps “alkalinise” our bodies yet somehow also gives the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs a helping hand with digestion. (Never mind university biochemistry, it doesn’t sound to me like she did much high school chemistry either). All these processes are supposed to “help” our bodies digest and absorb the goodness from these foods. Seriously? How did the human race ever manage to evolve without the assistance of sprouts and kombucha?? It’s a miracle we’re alive at all, thank god for Sarah and other proponents of this twaddle.

In summary, all I’ve taken away from Sarah’s 2 books (borrowed from the library) is that:

  • I actually don’t eat much sugar when I think about it- no soft drink, no (well not many) lollies, no store-bought baked goods, no store-bought sauces (thanks zero waste!)
  • I should eat more fruit, not less, I don’t care which ones are high fructose
  • I should eat fewer cakes and pastries (which I do bake too many of), not because of the fructose but because I am a greedy guts who can’t seem to stop at just a tiny, calorie-controlled, nibble!!

I’m not sure I really needed her to figure any of that out!!