Thursday, December 26, 2013

Race to the End (of the year)

I have been proud of myself that I have managed to maintain the exercise ethic and good eating habits during this tense holiday season. (The holidays don't make me tense, but let's just say it's bad timing). A great 10 mile run on XMas Eve Day, some frozen bike riding yesterday and today I was up at 5 AM to get my heavy chest/tricep regimen done before having to schlep to work.

Except the gym wasn't open. Mind you, it was supposed to be, but it wasn't. And I stood there for 25 minutes in my winter coat and shorts, hopping up and down, assuming they were just running a bit late and at least I could get in a partial workout. Or maybe quick cardio. Or something, which soon became less and less of something...

But it was not to be. Someone just didn't bother coming by to open the place up. Well, you get what you pay for. So, I took that pissed off attitude and channeled it into some sort of sweaty activity. In this case, 15 minutes of HIIT on my apartment floor (much to delight and amusement of my cat) and then a brisk icy bike ride up to work (with several more blocks of walking. The NYC bike rental program doesn't yet go that far uptown). So I arrived, cold, sweaty and late.

Do I feel better about this morning? Not really. Better than if I did nothing, but I wanted something much more intense and had given myself the time to do it. I tend to know that unless I get some sort of intensity going in my workout, I don't feel like a lot has been done. Back in my retro Ska Librarian days, a little bit of exercise made a huge difference. But in Streamlined form, I can't just slack off and think lowering my calorie count is going to make the entire difference to health. Even if one is not looking to lose weight, just getting your butt moving helps.

It's the reason I took up running in Japan. I was bored, I had no money for a gym and I got breathless walking up stairs. This from the once-young Ska Librarian who would be dancing non-stop at most ska shows in the tri-state area. Running was for health and stamina. The weight loss idea came later. 

But that being said, it is the intensity that matters. I should feel like I got a workout when I exercise. I'm not in the "must do it til you puke or are injured" school, but you should feel sweaty and used (as it were.)

And now, as if on cue, here's the latest from the NY Times telling us that studies show that intensity does matter, especially if don't have much time to exercise. And it can cause a profound difference in our physical and mental well being. 

And that's why I do it at an intense level. I can see how much better I handle stress, how much better I feel, how less likely I am to grab that infamous tub of frosting. And that's why it's frustrating when it's out of one's control like when your gym "accidentally forgets" to post the hours for this week.And knowing enough that substituting a 15 minute HIIT workout instead better mean that I'm going to (paraphrasing the Times article), "maintain a thumping heart rate and spray sweat droplets around the room."

So, if I have to think of resolutions for 2014, these would be mine:

  • Find a new gym that keeps their hours
  • Find a new trainer to increase that intensity
  • Make 10 miles the minimum for each run
  • Make sure that even my "make-up" exercise sessions induce sweaty floors and a thumping chest

It's not about weight loss, it's about returning to that good feeling. 

Happy almost 2014.


For Fitness, Intensity Matters. (n.d.). Well. Retrieved December 26, 2013, from

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sweetly coming clean at the end of the year

We're rounding the corner to the end of 2013, which means we are approaching the first anniversary of this version of my blog. Now most research shows that the majority of blogs only last a few months. It's hard to actually find current stats on this because even Technorati's "State of the Blogosphere" hasn't been updated for a few years, which I suppose says something right there.

Obviously social media changes (Friendster anyone?) and perhaps blogs will be gone soon and only Instagram/Vine will remain, but as for now, I am pleased I have managed to keep this format going to many visitors. This is the third iteration of my blog in the past 15 years(!) and probably the most viewed of all three. Maybe weight issues are that much more exciting to folks than ska music and librarianship.

And what have I learned? Well, even though this blog does have a lot of links to research, it is still my personal journey and it's both freeing and terrifying to talk about oneself online. I worry sometimes that it seems narcissistic, but it really isn't too surprising that I get a of e-mails and posts from folks saying they went through the same thing. I suppose one way we deal with uncertainty is to find answers we feel match our own beliefs and wishes, but the idea that others seek the same can be empowering.

So, it's time get a little more personal and be a little more terrified. It not only marks the 1st anniversary of the blog and the 2nd anniversary of weight maintenance, January 2014 also marks the 13th year since I stopped "partying". 

I won't go into huge details, but let's just say my earlier years were not spent in a very healthy way, which probably didn't help my weight either. Just as food was used to feed feelings, so were other items. And while calling food an addiction can be troublesome at best, one can certainly see some similar behaviors from food intake and illicit substances. Ritualized preparation, hiding behavior from others, the obsessive quality of searching for it, the binge events, even withdrawal.

Yes, withdrawal. Years ago I went on an Atkins-like diet, with only about 10g of carb intake a day. This was after eating lots of cakey-candy snacks a few times a day. Naturally, the water weight came off pretty fast and furious. I lost 14 lbs. in the first week. And that first week was AWFUL. When I told people it felt like withdrawal, most people poo-poo'd that, saying, "Oh, Dan, don't be dramatic." 

But it did. And I knew it did because I'd been through withdrawal. The aches and shakes. The unstable moods and emotions. The shamble of bodily functions. The signals from your body trying to suck one tiny milligram of that substance back into your system. And this time it was just from sugar. 

It made me much more aware of the power of food. So, is sugar addictive? I can't say it from a scientific point, but I certainly saw the connection to other addictions.

And now there's some new research that shows sugar affecting different parts of the brain's reward system, more so than fat. Which means of course that all those Low-Fat/Non-Fat treats which usually have more sugar in them are actually worse for you. But it also shows that the action of sugar can mimic addiction. It rewards us in our pleasure centers. But like any substance, it doesn't mean everyone is affected the same way. Some people can handle it and some have more trouble. However, anything that excites our pleasure zones tends to be more desirable in large amounts.

But I also think this speaks to a lot of the other "special diets" out there, because even though they all have their acolytes, a lot of them can be traced back to less sugar. Paleo? Well, you're probably eating a lot less processed sugar, unless you're one of those cookie baking paleos. Gluten-free? Well, most of those gluten treats are processed baked goods with sugar. So is it really gluten that was causing your self-described health issues or was it something else? (Note: I do understand and appreciate the difference between the actual immuno deficiency disease of celiac disease and those who just claim they "can't eat gluten" until it comes to cupcakes.)

Whatever the idea, how much has sugar played in it? 

And don't get me wrong. Sugar can be great. I'm not kicking it out of my kitchen. A pinch in sauce is usually as important as that pinch of salt. And baking with agave syrup is not the same. But I also know need to be vigilant to see when I'm jumping from occasional treat to bingey/addiction behavior.  

So now we start a new year and there will be new media pieces on food, new fads and new acolytes. And hopefully there will be continuing blog entries of the Streamlined Ska Librarian. I still have so many things to post about, such as the search for a new trainer, the continuing issues of men's clothes and perceived body image, and the rest of my continuing journey. 

So Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all my readers, lurkers, linkers, friends and family. Thank you all for being part of this. 

And Happy Multiple Anniversary to Me! See you next year!


“Food Addiction – Myth or Reality?” Accessed December 22, 2013.

Kamal, Ahmad M., and Jacquelyn Burkell. “Addressing Uncertainty: When Information Is Not Enough / Faire Face À L’incertitude : Quand L’information Ne Suffit Pas.” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 35, no. 4 (2011): 384–396. doi:10.1353/ils.2011.0030.

Stice, E., Burger, K. S., & Yokum, S. (2013). Relative ability of fat and sugar tastes to activate reward, gustatory, and somatosensory regions. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(6), 1377–1384. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069443

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Virile Holidays

More than just some...

And days later, I'm still digesting.

Now that the big (or double big) holiday is done, there's still little escape from the feasting opportunities. The prerequisite work related holiday parties (3 this week), the times to be social with pals (2 cocktail parties plus my annual "guys steak night without the spouses" I've done with 3 of friends every year for the past decade or more.) And let's not forget New Year's Eve. Cooking, socializing and nibbling that's more like grazing.Yup, even for someone like me who doesn't celebrate Christmas still gets overwhelmed by festivities and stress. It's festive eats, with stress related eating.    

Now granted, this is the time of year I see folks who I only see occasionally. many of them have never seen me in Streamlined form. Even those who have seen me still comment how great and different I look. The comments are now skewing away from "You're so skinny!!" to "Oh my god, you look like a football player!" *fumbling grope towards my chest and arms* 

But even with this ego stroke and my friends copping a feel, I still have bouts of doubt about my appearance. Bigger muscles means tighter clothes which means thoughts of weight gain, which leads to....yes...stress eating.

So, I am trying to continue my awareness when it comes to food intake now more than ever. After these years of Streamlined life, I tend to be more set in decent size meals and afternoon  snacks (usually a piece of fruit), but evenings can be dangerous. Add to that the holiday grazing and it can be very messy.

At this time of year you can find eight billion articles, blog posts and videos on trying to "eat right" during the holidays. But instead of looking for low-cal egg nog and only eating rice cakes, I have to just go with the more mindful eating ideas. I know I'm going to want to try certain holiday snacks and totally denying it will probably just make me have a binge attack at some point.

However, I also don't subscribe to "Oh, it's a special occasion" because, let's face it, you can justify that for just about anything. And with 5 events in one week, does that mean every meal is a special occasion? I don't think so. Yes, I'm the one who just brought in 5 lbs. of rugelach from my neighborhood oasis, Moishe's, for my staff party, but I didn't eat any. Why? because I can get them anytime! (They are good, though!).

So, unless there is amazing sweet or gooey homebaked something I must try (and even then only a few bites), I tend to stick to the cheese, nuts, fruit and olive plates at parties. A little salt, a little fat, a lotta fiber and protein. It keeps you going, it keeps you social and while it can still be a chore not to graze, it keeps you less on the sugar fueled binge attack mode. 

And these are my usual go to snacks. I was never a huge nut eater in my Retro Ska Librarian days, but now they perform a tasty duty in my diet. And there's certainly enough recent studies showing their health benefits.  

When I was in my more severe calorie counting stage, I kept pistachios on hand at all times. It was also easier to pour a bowl of unshelled pistachios and the extra bit of effort to eat them made it less likely I would just be mindlessly shoveling them in my mouth from the jar. In some ways it's like a little extra treat when you find one that you haven't unshelled and eaten. You can even fool yourself of the extra half a calorie you burned shelling them. 

And bonus! A recent study shows pistachios can improve erectile function parameters! Between increased testosterone from weight lifting and my pistachio intake, I'm should be leading a remarkably fulfilling social life!

And how YOU doin'?

Manly functionality aside, my goal is to get through this month and start 2014 at the same place I was 2013. Yet I know that's impossible, because my body is already so different. It took me a few years to get used to skinny Dan. Now I'm muscly Dan. Neither of those is what I was for 90% of my life. But I intend to ensure that I will not slip too far this holiday season, nor will I obsess needlessly over anything gained right now.

In fact, all those nuts should make me very popular this new year!

Streamlined Ska Librarianship is a lifetime commitment. Not a sloppy holiday slip. With or without nuts.


Aldemir, M., Okulu, E., Neşelioğlu, S., Erel, O., & Kay|[inodot]|gil, Ö. (2011). Pistachio diet improves erectile function parameters and serum lipid profiles in patients with erectile dysfunction. International Journal of Impotence Research, 23(1), 32–38. doi:10.1038/ijir.2010.33

Snacking Your Way to Better Health. (n.d.). Well. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from