Five so-called “Health foods” that are making you fat

  1. Granola. I love granola, but I don’t delude myself into thinking it’s good for me. It’s just oats (carbohydrates) coated in sugar (more carbs) and fat. As Xzibit would say:
    Sprinkle a tiny bit of it on your full-fat Greek yogurt once in a while, which brings me to my next point.
  2. Low-fat yogurt. Real, natural yogurt, is incredibly good for you, in moderation. But most of the yogurt we eat has had sugar added, and what’s worse, the fat has been removed, so your body absorbs the sugar even more quickly. This should make you very angry. Instead, it just makes you fat.
  3. Fruit Juice. Fruit is good for you because it’s fresh and it has fiber. But fruit juice is just the sugar water with everything else discarded. Yes, it’s natural sugar water. But it’s still sugar water. Why do you think hypoglycemics reach for orange juice when their blood sugar is low? And how many vitamins do you think it has after it’s been pasteurized (boiled) and left sitting on a shelf for weeks?
  4. Whole-wheat bread. The term “whole wheat” is very loosely regulated by the FDA, so a lot of the time your “whole wheat” bread might not have that much whole wheat in it. But even if it does, the extra fiber and protein doesn’t really slow down the absorption of the carbs that much. Treat bread like the high-carb treat it is, and eat it very sparingly, preferably right after working out. And put lots of butter on it to slow down the absorption of the carbs!
  5. Honey. Just ‘cause it comes from bees, doesn’t mean your body won’t treat like it treats every other form of sugar – by sending it straight to your fat cells. Use in extreme moderation.

Stay sexy, my friends.

Why Setting Goals Doesn’t Work

It’s the received wisdom that we should set goals and work toward them. But amidst all this positive thinking, no one ever talks about why it fails. Laziness and lack of motivation are obvious reasons, but I think another important reason is that people get focused on the milestone instead of the behavior that leads to it. They focus on the product instead of the process. Some examples:

“I just want to lose ten pounds”. This is a classic example of stupid goal setting that leads to stupid counter-productive behavior like juice fasts and other crash diets that destroy the muscle that was keeping your metabolism high, screw up your hunger-regulating hormones, ensuring that you’ll get fat faster in the future. Weight is a meaningless number, after all. If you told me you gained or lost 10 lbs in a month, the first thing I would ask you is how much of it was muscle.

“I wish I could get her phone number/get her to go out with me”. Ok, and then what? Getting a girl to go out with you is just a milestone in the whole process of attraction. A lot of guys focus on getting girls’ phone numbers, not realizing that that’s actually the easiest part. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way. I have a lot of numbers in my phone of extremely hot women, most of whom don’t text back. That’s ’cause I didn’t take the time to develop a real connection with them BEFORE I asked for their phone numbers, because I was stupidly focused on getting the phone number as though that was the magic key.

“I wish I had a million dollars”. Most people who win the lottery end up bankrupt and in debt within a year, because they haven’t learned how to be rich, successful people.

Instead, for each of your goals, you need to dig a little deeper and figure out what you REALLY want, and not just look at the outer signifiers or the milestones.

“I just want to lose ten pounds”. No, you don’t. You want to be a fit, healthy person. But that’s not a two-week project. It’s a lifestyle change. But trust me, it’s worth it. And the two-week crash diet will just make you miserable in the short-term and fatter in the long-term. It’s scientifically proven.

“I wish I could get her to go out with me”. No, what you really want is to be so attractive that women like her actually WANT to go out with you. That requires you to work on yourself and improve your social skills. But it’s worth it.

“I wish I had a million dollars”. No, you don’t. What you really want is to be successful. The million dollars is just a trophy that proves you were successful.

Try this with all the goals you set for 2015 and see if you’re focusing on dumb external measurements instead of the things you really want.

How eating more fat can help you lose weight

What's the most unhealthy thing on this plate? Hint: it's not the bacon or the eggs.

For decades, it was the received wisdom that fat made you fat. Yet despite the proliferation of low-fat foods, obesity has only continued to rise. I don’t need to quote statistics to convince you of how fat Americans have become. You can see them all around you. Maybe you see one in the mirror.

If you are what you eat, then why doesn’t cutting the fat out of your diet cut fat from your waistline? Allow me to illustrate with an example from my own life:

I recently was out with a friend and I suggested getting gelato and she said “I prefer frozen yogurt because it’s low fat”. So we go to the frozen yogurt place and she orders a large. FAIL! She reduced her fat intake, but doubled her sugar intake. Of course, this is fairly typical behavior at a frozen yogurt place, many of which now price their yogurt by the pound, and have a whole selection of toppings so you can add in the flavor that was lost when they took out the fat. Gelato places never have toppings, and they always price their product by the scoop, because you don’t need more than a scoop or two to feel satisfied because it’s so rich in flavor and texture.

Maybe if the yogurt had more flavor, you wouldn't need to pile all that other junk food on top of it

Now, some of you may be thinking that none of this matters, that since fat has more calories per gram than sugar, you end up eating the same number of calories anyway. But not all calories are created equal. The human body is not as simple as the calories in/calories out model of weight management would have us believe. In reality, the sugar is digested much more quickly by the body, causing your blood sugar to rise. Your body can’t tolerate this condition, so it pumps out insulin to get the glucose out of your blood and into your muscles, liver, and fat cells. If you’re a sedentary, well-fed American, your liver and muscles are already storing everything they can, so your body puts the surplus glucose the only place it can: your fat cells.

This is why frozen yogurt is worse for you than gelato, despite the fact BECAUSE it’s low-fat. There’s no fat to slow down the absorption of the sugar, so all of it goes straight to your fat cells.

But that’s not even the worst part. You see, now that the insulin has done its job, you have low blood-sugar again. You start to feel hungry and cranky, and your willpower gets weaker. And eventually you give in and eat another low-fat, sugary snack, and the cycle repeats itself.

This is how we’ve become a nation of big fat dieters. Everyday, somebody eats low-fat cereal with skim milk for breakfast and then feels hungry two hours later, so they eat a muffin or a donut. Every day, somebody orders a salad with low-fat dressing, then has to hit the vending machine around 3pm because they’re hungry and cranky.

But if you add fat to every meal, you’ll feel full and satisfied longer. It’s not a silver bullet. You can’t eat gelato every day and expect to be thin. You can’t put butter on all your pastries and hope to mitigate the damage caused by the carbs. Fat is not, as one author suggests, “a condom for your carbs”. But adding healthy fats to healthy meals will decrease your appetite for junk food and help you get through the day without running to the vending machine to eat whatever some corporation thinks you should eat.

Here are four easy ways to add more healthy fats to your diet:

  1. Eat raw or dry-roasted nuts. Avoid salted nuts, since the salt will trick you into eating more than you need to. I like to keep a jar of natural unsalted peanut-butter in the fridge for nibbling.
  2. Eat more avocados. Some people think it’s hard to find good avocados, but the trick is to buy them when they’re still rock-hard and let them ripen on your counter. Placing them next to bananas will speed up the ripening process.
  3. Keep Greek yogurt in the fridge for a dessert. It’s deliciously creamy and very high in protein. And yogurt doesn’t have as much lactose (sugar) as milk does.
  4. Pour olive oil and vinegar on your salad instead of a sickly-sweet low-fat creamy dressing. Cream doesn’t belong on salad.

What you add to your diet is just as important as what you take away. Add more fat to your diet and start leading a richer, healthier, more delicious life.

Stay sexy, my friends.

7 easy ways to boost your confidence and feel like a sexy, manly man.

Nothing’s sexier than confidence. A good-looking person hiding in the corner will only accomplish a fraction of what an average person with confidence can accomplish. And that applies to so many aspects of life, from business to dating. You can’t fake confidence, but you can pump it up from the inside using the following tips:

  1. Do something that scares you. The first time I sang in the New York City subway, I was nervous, but afterward, I wasn’t afraid of anything. I was walking down the street singing, smiling and making conversation with people. Can you imagine how cocky you’d feel if you went skydiving? It doesn’t have to be that intense though. Try singing karaoke or playing at an open-mic, talking to a complete stranger, joining Toastmasters to practice public speaking, anything that gets you out of your comfort zone.
  2. Lift weights. Heavy weight lifting produces a surge in testosterone and growth hormone, both of which we could all use more of. To maximize the benefit, do compound exercises and use free weights so you can work more muscles per exercise and spend less time in the gym grunting. (I talked more about weight-training here).
  3. Stop looking at porn so much. I’m not a prude. I think looking at porn once in a while is probably fine, but chronically overstimulating yourself will result in abnormally low dopamine levels, leaving you depressed and anxious. Not sexy. Read more about it here.
  4. Stand up straight.  Good posture not only makes you look more confident, it makes you feel more confident, too. Instead of getting all stiff and awkward, just relax your shoulders and neck and picture a string attached to your breastbone pulling you upward. So, chest up and out, shoulders down and relaxed. And tilt your head up slightly, like you’re relaxing and taking in the air on a beautiful summer day.
  5. Smile. Sure, we smile when we’re happy, but did you know it actually works both ways? Smiling makes you happy, and happy people are more confident. And since smiles are contagious, people will smile back at you, which will make you feel even more happy and confident, and so on and so on in a positive feedback loop. I find that this works best when I smile from the inside. In other words, don’t just flash a smile, think it. Let it start from your eyes and then slowly wash over your face. Read more about the power of smilling here.
  6. Put on a nice shirt. If you look better, you’ll feel better about yourself. There is a difference, however, between a shirt that’s “nice” and a shirt that makes you look good, and it all comes down to fit. Fit matters more than price, fabric, color, or designer. Get a perfect fit by making sure of two things: 1) The shoulder seam aligns with your actual shoulder (this makes your shoulders look square and manly) and 2) Avoid excess fabric around the mid-section (this just makes you look fatter).
  7. Get a haircut.  There is probably no cheaper and quicker way to dramatically improve your appearance than with a good haircut. If you’ve been going to some lazy barber who’s been hacking at you with a clipper, take the time and money to find a real hair-stylist who can suggest an improvement.

Any other suggestions?

 

Nick Cannon forced to start living like a Sexy Geek

Nick Cannon’s kidney problems have forced him to give up junk food and start taking better care of himself. I’m not sure if his poor eating habits caused his health problems, but I’m sure they contributed to his condition or at least aggravated it. Read more here.

I especially like this quote of his:

I always considered myself as someone who was in great shape, but I was doing too much (to my body) so my immune system got confused and just started attacking my kidneys… I look like I’m in shape, but I was putting the wrong stuff into my body, speeding all the time, not sleeping and eating properly – it’s all about taking time and really caring about yourself and how you fuel yourself.

I’m glad that he’s cleaned up his diet, but it’s clear that his attitudes to food still haven’t changed. He and I clearly have different definitions of “good oatmeal”:

Cannon’s since had to replace his beloved sugar-filled Lucky Charms cereal with oats as he “can’t have none of that stuff anymore”, but he moans, “(It’s) not even the good oatmeal. (It’s) real oats, like horse-feed stuff – but it’s cool. I’ve got to start to love it.”

Dude, what do you have against real oats? Maybe you’re just not making your oatmeal properly. Try this recipe from eat2succeed:

  • 1/2 cup (45 g) of rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup (157 g) of skimmed milk
  • 2/3 scoop (20 g) of chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1 cup (125 g) of frozen raspberries
  • A dash of cinnamon

    High protein chocolate raspberry oatmeal (photo by eat2succeed)

 

Personally, I would use whole milk because I think the fat is probably good for me and it’s more filling. And I would add some chia seeds for a nice crunch and some extra fiber and god knows how many vitamins and minerals (’cause chia apparently has all of them in abundance).

Remember, if you put garbage in your body, your body will look and feel like garbage. If you put healthy food in your body, your body will look and feel healthy.

Eat smart, live smart. That’s The Sexy Geek way.

How sparkling water can help you lose weight

I have an oral fixation. Throughout my life, I’ve had problems with drinking, smoking, and eating. Sometimes, I just get bored and I want to put something in my mouth (that sounds dirty, but it’s not. Not usually, anyway). For me, sparkling water, aka club soda, or seltzer water, or carbonated mineral water, is the perfect pacifier.

Sparkling water helps you out by:

  • Silencing phantom hunger pangs — It’s two hours after a meal, you know you shouldn’t be hungry, but your stomach’s doing something funny that you just can’t ignore, and it’s impeding your ability to focus. Don’t reach for a snack, a sugary soda, a beer, or even a piece of fruit — have a glass of sparkling water instead. The bubbles will make you feel full. I suspect this is one of the reasons people drink soda. Well, now you can have your soda without turning into a fatty.
  • Ensuring adequate hydration — this may come as a surprise, but sparkling water contains large amounts of water.
  • Boosting your metabolism — if you consume it cold, your body has to burn energy heating it up. This effect is small, but significant. And don’t overlook the metabolic impact of getting up and walking to the bathroom.
  • Reducing your glycemic response — if you squeeze a lemon into it, according to Tim Ferris: “In my personal trials, three tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice just prior to eating appeared to lower blood sugar peaks by approximately 10%”. That’s a lot of lemon juice for a 10% effect, so consider the lemon juice optional, and rinse your mouth out with plain water after consuming it — you don’t want citric acid sitting in your mouth eating away at your pearly whites.

And finally, sparkling water is just more fun than regular water. As I always say: I like my water to sparkle — like my intellect.

The most efficient way to exercise

Guys often ask me “What do you do for cardio?”. They’re always shocked when I answer “Nothing”. Once in a while I go for a run around the block, and I enjoy taking walks, but I don’t do it to burn fat. I do it because it makes me feel good and it gets my blood pumping. I don’t feel the need to regularly do “aerobic” exercise, aka “cardio”. Why? Because I burn plenty of calories when I’m lifting weights. This is due to the fact that I lift hard, I don’t take long breaks to flex in the mirror or chit-chat, and I don’t waste time on the treadmill like a bored hamster in a cage.

Why is weight-lifting the best form of exercise for men who want to look like men?

  • It burns more calories than aerobic exercise — The afterburn, or the increase in your metabolism from weight-training lasts considerably longer than the afterburn from aerobic exercise. Some studies have even seen metabolism boosted all the way into the next day, but this required an amount of exercise that I don’t recommend to beginners or amateurs, including myself. The catch is that you have to lift hard. Sitting on a machine and pushing out a few reps won’t burn calories or build muscle.
  • It gives us the results we actually want — girls want to lose weight and be skinny. Men want to sculpt their bodies into something better.
  • It boosts testosterone and growth hormone, giving you confidence and manliness.
  • It makes you stand up straighter and generally feel like more of a man – what do you think boosts your confidence more, lifting more weight than you’ve ever lifted before, or putting in 90 minutes on the treadmill at a slightly higher speed than last week?
  • It gives you strength that you can actually use in your everyday life — How often are you going to actually need to run several miles? In what post-apocalyptic universe will you not be able to just get into a car and get there in half the time? Lifting heavy objects, on the other hand, is something all men are expected to be able to do. My mom once got a frantic phone call from her lesbian friend Lynn. “I never thought I’d say this” she said, “but I need a man!”  Had she undergone a sudden change in sexual orientation? No, she just needed to install her air-conditioner and couldn’t lift it herself.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Ok, I’m sold. How do I start?”. A complete course in weight-training is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I can give you some basic principles to guide you as you learn:

  1. Good form (i.e. proper technique) — This means lifting and lowering the weight in a way that provides a maximum benefit to your muscles. When you look at it this way, why would anyone want to cheat and use poor form? You’re not competing against anyone but yourself, so when you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. And you’re putting yourself at risk for an injury. Examples of cheating including swinging your body and using momentum to move the weight faster or using less than your full range of motion.
  2. Maximum effort = maximum results — when you’re starting out, you can get a lot of benefits just from putting in a little bit of effort. And it’s important not to use all your strength to do something you don’t know how to do. But in the long-term, if you want to get results, you’ve got to push yourself really really hard.
  3. Plan your work and work your plan — If you walk into the gym and wander around trying different exercises, you’ll waste your own precious time and you won’t get the same results as you will if you make a plan and stick to it. The time to research new exercises is when you’re at home. The only experimenting you should be doing while at the gym is finding out how much weight you can lift on a particular exercise.
  4. Work as many muscles per exercise as you can — When you use free-weights instead of machines, you exercise additional muscles to stabilize your body, promoting faster growth and burning more calories. Doing exercises that work the entire body, like the squat and the deadlift, are also ideal. And two arms is always better than one. Maximum effort = maximum benefit.
  5. Get plenty of rest — weight-lifting tears up your muscles. It’s while you’re resting that they grow back stronger.
  6. Warm-up —  Always start by warming up. You don’t want to exercise cold muscles. Jog down to the gym if it’s less than 1.5 miles away, or step on the treadmill for five minutes to get your blood-pumping. Another great way to warm up is to jump rope. I like it because it requires more coordination than running on the treadmill, which, let’s face it, is a pretty brainless activity.

If you lift hard 2-3 times a week and eat right, you’ll burn enough calories and boost your overall metabolism to ensure steady fat loss, while building muscle. This is the way to get ripped, buff, shredded, cut, whatever you want to call it. It’s how to look better naked.

And it’s a lot easier than spending hours on the treadmill.

 

 

Hormone produced by exercise keeps you healthy

A fascinating new study has discovered that a hormone produced by the muscles in response to exercise can turn your white fat cells into brown fat cells. In case you didn’t know, brown fat cells are “good fat” cells — they burn calories, unlike white fat cells that just sit there making you look gross.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/exercise-hormone-helps-keep-us-healthy/?src=recg

Bizarrely, at the end of the article, the author says that the hormone affects your metabolism, but that it can’t make you lose weight? Huh? If you increase your metabolism while consuming the same amount of calories, you’re going to lose weight. That’s just common sense.

Granted, if you eat more after you exercise because you’ve worked up an appetite, or you think you’ve earned it (you probably haven’t), you’re not going to lose any weight. That’s why smart people eat right AND exercise. And they exercise efficiently, getting the maximum metabolic boost in a minimum amount of time.  I’ll talk more about the most efficient way to exercise at a later date, but for now the short answer is: weight-training.

Huy Fong Chili

Here in SoCal, the weather’s been in the 80s for about a week now, which is just bizarre to someone used to New York winters. But for the rest of you who are shivering right now, here’s a chili recipe I found on Huy Fong’s Web site. Simple and delicious:

Chili
* 1 lb. ground beef
* 1 package of chili seasoning mix
* 1/2 cup water

* 1 16 oz. can of whole tomatoes, cut-up
* 1 16 oz. can of kidney beans, drained (optional)
* 1 Tbsp. (or more) of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Chili Sauce

1. In Dutch oven, brown ground beef and drain.
2. Stir in chili seasoning mix, water, tomatoes, beans and Sriracha Chili Sauce
3. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes.

*Serving suggestion: Garnish with chopped red pepper and scallions, if desired.

The Sexy Geek’s suggestions:

  • Definitely do not consider the beans optional — they’re what fills you up.
  • Buy organic, grass-fed ground beef. It’s better for you, and not to mention for the cows. May cost a little bit more, but you’ll probably get several meals out of this pot of chili, so it’s worth it.
  • Make sure your chili seasoning doesn’t have MSG or sugar or anything else nasty in it
  • Add lots of Sriracha sauce!

I’ll make some later and upload a picture.

Update: Here’s a picture. I added an extra can of beans because I felt that the meat-to-bean ratio was too high.

So spicy!

Garbage in, Garbage Out — the secret of successful cooking

A fundamental precept of programming is “Garbage in, garbage out”. It means that a program that is fed garbage input can only produce garbage output. It can’t work miracles.

It’s interesting that most introductory books on programming describe a program as a recipe for solving a problem, for turning input into output. Think about a program that has to try to extract information from text. If the input is garbage — poorly formatted, misspellings — then the program will have to be exceedingly complex. If the text is well-formed and structured, the program can be incredibly simple. A simple script or parser will often suffice.

Now turn the metaphor around and think of a recipe as a program for turning raw ingredients into an edible dish. When your inputs are fresh, high-quality ingredients, you can cook the simplest dishes with a minimum of time and effort and they will taste amazing. If, however, your input ( raw ingredients ) is garbage, then your output ( final dish ) will be garbage as well.

When you start with high-quality, fresh ingredients, turning them into something delicious is pretty simple. For example: A steak. A pork chop. A nice piece of salmon or tuna. All of these things can be prepared by putting a pan on the stove, setting it to medium-high heat, and cooking for a few minutes on each side. You can get more complicated if you want, but start simple.

Obviously, just as a bad program can still make a mess of perfect data, a bad cook can make a mess of good ingredients. Good ingredients do not guarantee success. But they make it much more likely.