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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Month of Juice

It's been a month since we bought a juicer (May 22nd).  I would have been the first to guess that it would quickly find a home in a cabinet, to be pulled out from time to time to impress other people or make the kids happy.

Instead, a funny thing has happened:  I've lost 9 kilograms.  That's 20 pounds!  From 117 point mumble-mumble down to 108.1!  I am still a big, heavy guy, but not as heavy as I was.

Nor as light as I will be.

I am just going to answer some questions that I've been asked a lot.  Once again, I'm not sure how to go about making a narrative of this, because I'm not sure what the end of the story is, exactly.

Q:  What do you put in the juice?
A:  Buchu, kale, spinach, cabbage, carrot, and ginger are my reliable standbys.  Add to the mix apple, asian pear, orange, beets, various greens as found at the market, tomato, cucumber, broccoli, and whatever else I can find cheap.  That's the juice itself, then I add some fresh tofu and blend it until it changes from a sharp green to more of an avocado green.

Q:  What is buchu?
A:  Allium Tuberosum.  The Wikipedia article is pretty straightforward about it, but if you Google it you will find that many consider it to be a very healthy food.  Koreans make a kind of fresh (not aged) kimchi with it that is served with one of my favorite foods, pork soup (

Q:  Isn't the whole juice cleanse thing kind of...
A:  There's no need to be polite.  You can call it bullshit in front of me.  Strictly speaking, yes.  There are so many conditions piled on the juice fast concept that many of them alone would make a big difference.  For example, most of my snacking now is juice, fruit or vegetables, and I have had soda once since starting this.  I miss potato chips almost as much as I miss my parents.

Q:  What's the most difficult part of this diet?
A:  Making the juice.  It takes a solid 90 minutes from the time I start washing vegetables until the components of the juice machine are drying on the rack and the juice is in containers in the fridge.  If I am also cooking for the kids, and doing dishes from other people in the house, it adds to the time I spend standing in front of the sink.

Q:  Is this sustainable?
A:  Not long term.  My friend Chad did 30 days of nothing but juice,  I haven't gone more than two or three days without other food.  My intent is to integrate vegetables and fruits into my diet.  When I look at the typical pile of vegetables that are going to be my calorie intake for the day,
 A friend told me that his daughter said I would probably lose weight and be healthy if I just ate all of those vegetables.  True, but less likely to happen than me drinking the bottles of juice that came from them.

Q:  Aren't you hungry a lot?
A:  Yes, but when I am hungry I drink some juice or water.  That's the plan, anyway.  When I am on the ball, and carrying a a bottle with me, I sip it through the day.  The point of this is to convince my body that I am not, in fact, starving.  In the past I've done this with chocolates, junk food, and sugary drinks.  The juice is a dose of vitamins and stuff that gets the message across and actually addresses legitimate needs that my body has.  Plus it is just not that appetizing as a snack, so it tends to shut down the hunger pretty quickly.

Q:  Do you feel lighter?
A:  Believe it or not, after losing 9 kilograms I still don't feel lighter.  The change has been gradual enough that I don't feel like I'm walking on air.  That said, my feet don't hurt as much.  I used to wake up in the morning with sore feet.  After all, they carried me around all day.  Now that I've set so much weight aside, I have fewer leg cramps and my feet are happier.

Q:  So what other differences have you noticed?
A:  My clothes fit more loosely.  A few very large shirts and pants have passed into ridiculously baggy territory, and the pants that were too tight last month are very wearable now.  I've gone from a 44 inch waist to 42, and can probably wear the 40 inch pants that are hidden in the closet.  

Q:  And...?
A:  I've been on Sevikar for hypertension (high blood pressure) for about five years now.  With it I had been maintaining a blood pressure of about 120/90, which is on the high end of normal.  My most recent measurement was 107/67.  Not low enough to be a problem, but creeping down.  This medicine only costs about $15 per month, but the idea of ditching it is very appealing.

Q:  What do you want to eat when you finish your diet?
A:  Here's the thing, I've been eating things I want to eat from time to time.  This isn't like coming back from Nepal.  For one thing, when I returned from Nepal my body was a rice burning machine; I could put away a heaping plateful of rice and dal curry, and ask for seconds.  I came to Korea and always, ALWAYS ordered a second bowl of rice to go with my food.  In some ways, I never got over that.  But now my stomach has gotten used to taking in less food.  When I have eaten real food, I get full much faster.  I recently cooked hamburgers, french fries and broccoli for the kids.  I served myself fries and broccoli, but no burger.  I had a few bites from each of the kids' burger, maybe a third of one burger total, and that was enough.  My stomach was done, and it told me so.

The problem is that my brain just loves a good burger.  If I had cooked one for myself, I would have eaten it plus what Maxine and Quinten left.  I am truly in a battle against my own brain, and always have been.  Now at least my stomach is more on my side.

Q:  You didn't answer the question.  Stop lecturing me and tell me what you want to eat.
A:  Jeez, no need to be a jerk about it.  I want to go to Pizza Mall.  It's a pizza buffet with some of the best tasting pizza I've had in Korea.  $10 for lunch, $13 for dinner and on weekends.  It's a dangerous reward, but I'm also considering it a test:  will I be able to eat a reasonable amount at a buffet, or will I pig out?  I am trying to set myself up for success on this one.  I will pick up one slice at a time.  I will savor each slice.  I will rest before returning to the buffet.  I will drink water, and maybe have some juice before I go.  I will get my money's worth in satisfaction rather than volume.  I can do this.

Q:  Have there been any downsides to this?
A:  My body is coming around, but for the first two or three weeks it was convinced that I was starving.  I was short tempered and easily tired.  The food was gone, and so was the fun.  The first three days without caffeine was particularly painful, though revealing of my dependence.  Resuming coffee consumption has made me a much more cheerful dieter.  And I have had some slight back pain.  I assume that this is a combination of changing bikes (my mountain bike was in the shop for two weeks, putting me on the road bike, then back to the mountain bike), carrying my body weight differently (maybe my posture needs to adjust?), and all the time I spend hunkered over the juice machine and kitchen sink.  Honestly, I am still somewhat irritable after meal times.

Q:  Aren't you missing out on all that vegetable fiber? 
A:  Nope.  If you don't want to read about poops and farts, skip this next bit.  I am missing out on some of it, for sure.  My clockwork throne time (every morning, 15 minutes after waking up if not sooner, a few sips of coffee can always hurry it along) has become intermittent: every couple of days or so, and sometimes not of satisfying consistency.  And (ick) green.  Red when I supplement with beets.  But some fiber is soluble, and I am getting that.  And the juicer is not perfect.  Since I don't strain my juice, it has a consistency thicker than V8, like pulpy orange juice.  The tofu also adds to the mix.  And here's a shocker:  I don't fart as much as before.  It hasn't quite become special enough to write home about (Dear Mom:  You won't believe what just happened!), but it's definitely less frequent and less hazardous!

Q:  Ick.
A:  I told you not to read that last part if you can't deal with bodily functions.  Speaking of which, when I'm on the full juice and water, I have to pee every hour or two.  Giving the kidneys a workout, I guess.  Hopefully avoiding kidney stones.

Q:  I want to ask you more questions about this, but I'm not actually another person.  I'm just you pretending to be another person.
A:  Wow, this is awkward.  I've really enjoyed this conversation, but finding out that all along it wasn't real... I feel used.  By myself.  Ew.

That's enough Q and A.  Maybe more than enough.  Anyway, I would be happy to answer more questions.  From real people.  Who aren't me.  Just write them in the comments here, or on my Facebook link to this post, or just post on my wall.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Little Girl who is Not Maxine

The little girl was in second grade at a regular Korean elementary school.  It was early in the school year, so the teacher was going over some class rules.

"You must take off your outdoor shoes when you come into the building, and put on your indoor shoes."

"Teacher, I've seen you wear your indoor shoes when you go outside, so why is it not okay for us to wear our outdoor shoes inside?"

Let me give you some possible answers, and you see if you can guess which one this teacher said:

a)  Ha-ha.  That's a good question, but we don't have time to answer it right now.  Why don't you ask me during recess?

b)  Because I only wear my indoor shoes on the school grounds, which are quite clean.  Teachers are also more careful not to step in dirty things than students are.

c)  My shoes are enhanced with nanobots which constantly monitor the outer surfaces of my shoes.  Should any foreign material be found, it is immediately either collected to repair damage or ejected to avoid contamination.

d)  You are being disrespectful.  Be quiet.

If you guessed d) you are either very cynical or have some experience with the Korean education system. And you are correct.*

The little girl was not satisfied with the teacher's response to her question (who would be?), and followed up with a variation on, "But why?"

And so she was brought to the principal's office.†  After hearing the story of what happened in her classroom, which of the following actions do you think the principal took?

a)  He laughed, offered the little girl one of the first three options from question one, sent her on her way, and suggested to the teacher that perhaps she should consider answering questions that her students ask.

b)  He told the little girl that her question was acceptable, but that the time and manner in which she asked it were not acceptable, suggesting other ways she might have dealt with the situation.

c)  He solemnly opens a small, jewel encrusted coffer on his desk, delicately takes out a pinch of powder and throws it onto the brazier of glowing coals to the right of his desk.  The powder crackles, and a light, fragrant smoke rises up, bringing to mind long lost secrets and hidden places.  The little girl and the teacher find that all of the words they had brought with them have been carried away by the smoke, along with the feelings that accompanied them.  They lower themselves onto the floor cushions, and enter a contemplative silence.  When they leave the office three days later, their shared journey through consciousness will forever after bind them together closer than sisters, a bond which would be instantly recognized by soldiers who have fought side by side.  The issue of what shoes are acceptable to be worn by whom is of no consequence to them.  All is communicated in a glance, a barely perceptible shrug of the shoulders, a tilt of the head.  

d)  He calls the girls father to come in for a conference.

If you guessed d) you are good at pattern recognition.*

So the little girl's father comes to the school and listens to what the teacher and principal have to say.  He is a new character in this story, but keeping in mind that he is not new in this little girl's life, you can probably guess his reaction:

a)  The father laughs in that nervous way that Koreans do when they are nervous, and replies, "Yes," or "Okay" to everything they said.

b)  The father promises to give the little girl a sound thrashing when they got home.

c)  The father refuses to speak.  They attempt to use the carrot first, but Korean principals and teachers do not at heart understand the idea of "fun," so it falls fast.  They do not mind, as they are much more accustomed to the stick.  Soon harsh words turn to blows, also answered with silence.  The science teacher is called in.  His training in biology makes him especially well suited to this work, and his passion for the subject usually yields quick rewards.  But the father spits out a broken tooth and asks, "Is that all that you've got?"  The session lasts well into the night, neither side willing to give a centimeter to the other.  Finally, as the morning sun creeps into the office, the teacher admits that maybe she could have been wrong.  The father nods agreement and leaves the teacher to the mercies of the principal.

d)  The father says, "I don't understand.  What's the problem?  And by the way, what is the answer to my daughter's very good question?"

Once again the correct answer is d).**  Don't worry, I'll change up the answers next time.

The teacher says, "I can't teach a child whose rude, disrespectful behavior is not only allowed but encouraged by the parents."  If you ask me, she should have stopped after the third word.  The little girl's father agreed, and figured that if the principal was siding with the teacher, that perhaps a change of venue was in order.

This year the little girl and her sister are attending Apple Tree Waldorf school, where I met the father and eventually had a long, incomprehensible night of drinking with him.  The little girl is in 2nd grade (so yeah, that horrible story happened in 1st grade!), and her 4th grade sister is in Maxine's class.

Not every Korean school is like this, and not every teacher in Korea is like this.  But the school system as a whole encourages behavior like this, while the hogwan system encourages the parents to make every decision in how the child is educated.  It makes me relieved that Maxine is in the school where she is.  There are times when I think that the children at her school are too disrespectful to the teachers, but it is not terrible.  And compared to the extreme taken the other direction is most schools, I believe that Apple Tree students will benefit from it.

Now that I've finished, I'm guessing that you are going to

a)  leave a constructive comment here or on my Facebook page.

b)  go on to the next thing to read.

c)  contact me immediately, tell me that I am exactly what your publishing company is looking for and can I start producing content next week, anything I am interested in would be fine, and would a dollar per word be an acceptable rate?

d)  spend the next five minutes ranting about what a horrible Roblog post that was, and wonder out loud when the heck tarnation Rob is going to write something that doesn't irritate your bowels.

Put some thought into this.  I want you to make the right decision.***

†[edit:  In actuality, the teacher called the girl's father directly, so the principal was never involved in this story.  Which makes it slightly more palatable, though still disappointing.]

*  If you guessed a) or b), you might have what it takes to be a teacher.  If you answered c) then you automatically qualify to be my friend.
**  If you guessed a) or b), you might be familiar with Korea.  If you answered c) again, you might want to consider seeing a therapist.
***  If you chose a), you are awesome!  If you chose b) or d), you are the internet.  If you chose c) you are most likely a figment of my imagination.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Juice is Loose

I am not big into dieting. Four years ago I tried Herbalife.  I dropped two or three kilograms, but didn't find it sustainable. Those shakes don't taste bad, but the idea of getting my nutrition from a canister was further along the road to dystopia than I wanted to travel.  Now if it had come with some sort of post-nuclear holocaust collapse of civilization, I could see it working, but I found I wanted something more natural.

My friend Chad got a juicer in May, and started going nuts on it.  He did a 30 day juice fast, eating no other food, but drinking juices from a variety of vegetables and fruits.  I took a sip of one of the juices and decided that it was doable, especially for the results he was having.

The idea of the Juice Fast is simple, if not easy: juice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Vegetable juice.  Kale.  Spinach.  Leeks, a.k.a. 부추 (boo-chew), a.k.a. garlic chives, a.k.a. allium tuberosum, a.k.a. breathanator grass.  Serious health benefits, all the charm of garlic.  Beets.  Lemon.  Fresh ginger.  And I've taken to blending in some tofu, to give it more body and protein.  It's like drinking a chunkier version of V8, with more kick and usually less tomato, though I always throw in a little tomato, or apple, or pear.  The sweet fruits counter the bitter greens, and make the whole thing more palatable.

The main thing that he talked about and demonstrated was an increase in energy; he was needing less sleep, feeling more cheerful, and he shared some details of his love life with his wife that were best left to someone else's blog.  The point of a juice fast is that the juicer does the heavy lifting for your digestive system, while preserving the nutrients that your body requires to be healthy.  At the same time, meats and processed sugars are completely eliminated, and the only carbohydrates you take in are the traces that you get from the vegetables.  In effect, you are putting your colon on light duty, giving it a chance to rest and recuperate.  This lets you redirect the energy used in digestion for other activities.

Like making juice.

Sometime around May 20th I stepped on the scale with a sense of dread, hoping that willing myself to weigh less had worked.  It hadn't.  I weighed 117 point something kilograms.  I suspect that it was a round-up decimal, as I immediately wiped it from my mind.  260 pounds.  I couldn't believe it.  I have been big (as in overweight) since second or third grade in elementary school.  Other than a downward trend during my time in the Peace Corps (I left weighing 80 kg, 175 lbs) and the brief stint on Hebalife (dropping from 113 kg to 110 kg) I have been constantly on the rise.  I saw Chad getting results, and suggested buying a juicer to Horyon.  She agreed, and I  added another kilogram to my weight over the next few days in anticipation of not being able to eat a bunch of stuff.

We got our juice machine on May 22nd, and made my first batch the next day.  I subbed it in for a meal, but ate two regular meals that day and the next day, Sunday.  On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I had two meals of juice, and Thursday and Friday it was all juice.  Saturday was the first cook out of the year at my friend Lewis' home.  I could not pass up a grilled burger.  I ate one, plus about a quarter of Quinten's hot dog (he was too excited to eat it all).  I ate some of Arlen's awesome baked beans (with bacon? Yes, please!) and Lewis' potato salad (the perfect blend of mayo and mustard), and some chips.  One plate of food, whereas my usual modus operandi is to follow that up with a second identical plate.  My brain was telling me to go for it, but my stomach protested.  I was full earlier than I expected to be.

Dessert was a problem.  Two cookies and two rice crispy treats may have been overdoing it.  But again, last summer I would have considered that a good start.

The one thing that I would drop next time is the Pepsi.  I had one cup of Pepsi over ice, and found that it just didn't taste good to me.  I also had some wine, and that worked just fine.

I was up .8 kg the next day, but my friends, both on FB and in my physical proximity, encouraged me to ignore that, and two days later it was gone.  The biggest problem was that my stomach was a sleeping giant, and poking it with all that food sort of woke it up.  Makes it harder to get back on to the juice only part.

Let me reassure you that I am not planning to go hardcore on this juice thing.  I am aiming to do a few days of nothing but juice, then go back to one meal per day with juice the rest of the time through this summer.  Next fall, I plan to drop it to one juice meal per day.  Dinner would be best, as it is my most destructive meal; I eat too much, don't get much exercise afterwards, and spend the night converting it to fat rather than burning it off.

For now I feel good.  Hungry, but not terribly so.  One tenet of the juice fast is that when you feel hungry you should drink your juice, to reassure your body that starvation is not immanent.  After all, if the starvation mode kicks in, your metabolism drops.  Keep it low for long enough and it stays low.  This is why I continue to ride my bicycle to work and for exercise.

Before breakfast this morning I weighed in at 109.8 kg (242 lbs).    I would like to make clear that this is not just the juice.  I have seriously cut back on snacks (though I indulge in raw fruit and vegetables indiscriminately), sweets (chocolate still calls, and I still answer, just not as much), and restaurants (no McD's breakfast for 3 weeks!  I'm dyin' here!).  No Pepsi, which previously rivaled my children for a place in my heart, and very little meat.  I am waking up more easily, and tightening my belt.  I ate breakfast yesterday, and plan to eat lunch today, hoping to keep some sort of balance that will be sustainable once I reach my weight goal, which is to still be large enough to barrel through a crowd of Korean ajumas yet light enough to leap from limb to limb as I make my way through the jungles of Kenya...

Seriously, I am not sure where I want to stop and maintain.  Under 100 kg will make a big difference for my health insurance,  My blood pressure is already down a lot, it would be great if I could stop taking daily medicine for it.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.