So here I am, knee-deep in a recently published reader on food and sociology and I’m just reading along, minding my own business until I come to a chapter midway through the book. Well, slightly prior to midway. It’s written by what I can assume is a well-respected and well-researched author. However, I’m about a third of the way through the chapter and I’ve noticed that so far, up to this point, the author has almost entirely failed to elaborate on the thesis of the paper — which I have so far unsuccessfully ascertained — and to convey their own original thoughts. How can I be so sure of this?

In one and a half paragraphs, there are seventeen different citations. In a rough total of twenty sentences, excluding a lengthy quoted piece, there are seventeen citation. I’ve also read the phrase “in this paper”, “this paper”, “the paper”, or “the emphasis of this paper” about a dozen times as well. And I still have another 15 or so pages to slog through.

This means I have, so far, read more of other authors’ thoughts on the subject of this particular paper than the original author’s own. I fully expect something like this from an undergrad like myself or a grad student, just looking to stuff citations to meet a requirement but a paper by someone at the top of their field? That’s not writing, that’s cobbling together a lot of research notes and formatting them nicely. I’ve read biology articles in journals with fewer total citations in the whole thing than I have in just these twenty or so sentences…this year. I have heard that this kind of stuffing has become more popular in recent years, wherein authors basically round-robin references to each other to increase visibility in journals and scholarly search engines which can equal higher standing in one’s department and/or research niche.

But this? This isn’t even academic writing.

PS – I realize it’s been what, six months since the last post? Yeah. I’m not good at writing about life, I’m better at experiencing it.

We returned from our Disney trip yesterday and I am only going to assume it’s going to take a few days to recover. It’s not because we got sun burned (we didn’t, surprisingly, although it was 90F+ everyday), or we ate too much (…maybe), it’s because of this.

FitBit Ultra data for three days at Disney

FitBit Ultra data for three days at Disney

In what amounted to just a little over two and a half days at three of the four parks, we walked 33.6 miles (+/- 10% due to steps being added from rides being bumpy), with Saturday being the busiest day of ~12.1 miles. And I learned something interesting this weekend as well: my Trail Gloves are not fit for my feet. In the past, I’ve complained about them being too narrow and this weekend proved it. Even before we stepped foot into the parks, I could barely shove my flip flop-adorned feet into my shoes and it only got worse from there, with Saturday resulting in an abrasion on my right foot from the shoe’s webbing. With a little Body Glide, my flip flops never caused a problem, so that’s excellent. I knew there’d be a ton of walking, as is expected when visiting amusement parks larger than some towns, but I was incredibly worried about FOOD. And for good reason: amusement parks are filled to the brim with horrible food and Disney was no exception to this.

Most of the food in the park is what you’d expect, burgers, “chicken” nuggets/fingers, ice cream, churros, turkey legs, and so on, most of which the general population has no problems consuming but this presents a curious problem to those who’d rather eat healthier, no matter their dietary needs. But we had the curious choice of how to eat primal at Disney. So before we left, my intrepid girlfriend began looking up dining options and we discovered that most, if not all, of the restaurants in the parks and our hotel offer gluten-free food options. SCORE! We booked a few reservations at a few places and made sure to specify gluten-free for every meal and thankfully since Disney World gets tens of millions of visitors a year, no one looked at me funny when I said I was gluten-free. Now, while every restaurant offers this option, it still has its own problems, especially for us paleo- and primal-types who eat hefty portions of meats and vegetables:

Your option of restaurants is limited to buffets, basically

All of the walk-ups are out of the question, since most of them are nothing but crap anyway (hot dogs, hamburgers, candy, etc.) but even out of the sit-down restaurants, you’re still very limited. For example, this is what I was able to eat at Tangierine in EPCOT, and this was my first dinner of the night:

Chicken platter from Tangierine

Chicken platter from Tangierine

This was a $16 chicken platter because I couldn’t eat their lamb shwarma as it’s (somehow) made with flour. It consists of about 4 ounces of chewy chicken, 2 ounces of an olive salad, a few ounces of lentil salad, a heaping of hummus (which was tasteless), and some goopy sauce which was supposed to be tzatziki but tasted like kefir. Out of all the restaurants we reviewed in EPCOT, Tangierine had the best reviews and supposedly offered a wide variety of gluten-free options, neither of which is really true. Going gluten-free eliminated 5 of the 7 food options available, and almost all side dishes. I couldn’t eat their tabouleh or couscous since both are grains, so I was stuck with the tasteless hummus and lentil salad. For my first meal in EPCOT, this was a huge disappointment for me. It was even worse for my girlfriend who barely got to eat any of her food because 5 minutes after we started to eat, it was pouring rain and the only open seats were outside…so her food turned into a floating pita and parsley puddle.

Who wants tabouleh soup?

Who wants tabouleh soup?

My second dinner was some so-so bratwurst with sauerkraut on an American version of German bread, which was equally a let-down. But luckily on Saturday, our second day, things got much better food-wise. Our first meal of the day was at Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Word to the wise: NEVER EAT HERE AT 9 AM, IT’S FULL OF KIDS AND DISNEY CHARACTERS SINGING. This was almost a disaster because of the character dining alone, simply because it was too damned early for me to deal with kids or giant anthropomorphic animals singing. I think we heard the Hot Dog Song from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse half a dozen times, each equally annoying. But luckily this was a buffet and I was too hungry to care. The best part of telling the waitress you have a food allergy is that one of the chefs will take you around the buffet to describe what foods you can and cannot eat, and will even offer advice on what to eat if you’re mildly gluten-intolerant. This was great because it took all of the guesswork out of everything since sometimes, there’s even a smidgen of flour or gluten in products you’d never think of (like lamb shwarma). So I lucked out and was able to eat eggs, frittata, bacon, chicken sausage, and all the fruit I could stuff into my stomach. And for $30 a person, I was damned sure to eat as much as I was able to. I even had a gluten-free waffle that didn’t taste utterly terrible. So my mega breakfast carried me through most of the day, with a banana here or there with some Larabars, and I was content but then tragedy struck, it was dinner time! Most of the restaurants are reservation-only at dinner time on weekends due to the sheer volume of people coming through, so we decided to go the easy route and simply at eat at the same buffet for dinner.

This turned out splendidly because the options this time were quite delicious: beef tenderloin and roasted turkey. I believe I must have eaten a pound of the beef tenderloin alone, it was salt-cured and very, very fatty and delicious. Let’s just say that this is a meal I would have easily made at home and been very content.

Dinner at Hollywood & Vine

Dinner at Hollywood & Vine

I was able to stuff myself on gobs of fresh green beans (that were actually fresh!), marinated mozzarella, broccoli coleslaw (made with vinegar, not mayo), and an olive/tomato salad, along with the beef and roasted turkey. This was the best meal I had all weekend, despite it coming from a buffet. The rest of the gluten-laden options physically looked unappealing and gross to me, everything from the mac-n-cheese to the breads, it all just looked gross. But unfortunately, that’s where the love story with food ends. The next morning, my girlfriend brought up food from Picabu, the Walt Disney World Dolphin’s “buffeteria” which is really just a fancy name for a cafeteria because there’s nothing buffet about it. I got eggs, bacon, and two bananas. The unfortunate part was the fact that we had to get both the adult and kids’ portion of the food just to get enough to be satiated, which simply drove up the cost (with coffee, ~$23 for breakfast) of an absolutely dreadful meal. Again, everything we got was gluten-free but unfortunately, it was also taste-free, I’ve gotten better meals at Denny’s for half the price.

That’s the equivalent of about 4 eggs, some limp bacon, and bananas. The eggs tasted like they were from a carton rather than actual eggs with yolks and albumin and the rest of the good stuff, I had to drown them in Tabasco and pepper for any flavor. The bacon tasted like it was leftover from the day before, and well, bananas are bananas. What’s worse is the fact that this cost me $23 and tasted horrible, gluten-free or not. I had the displeasure of eating there twice and voiced my displeasure to the staff once we checked out. If you stay at the Swan or Dolphin resorts, which are great themselves, I suggest finding alternate options for eating breakfast.

I can’t comment on the foods from the Magic Kingdom because I didn’t eat a single thing while at the park, except for my Larabars. For us paleo folks, there are basically zero eating options at the Most Magical Place on Earth, and that’s no exaggeration. I already knew to avoid the walk-ups, so that was a no-brainer, but the restaurants were all a let-down as well. Since the park’s appeal is that of a weird hodge-podge of early 20th century Americana mixed with mid 20th century suburbia, the foods reflected that. Every menu I looked at from an in-and-out joint was basically the same thing with different prices: burgers, chicken fingers, french fries, “gourmet” hot dogs (meaning they were topped with chili and/or coleslaw), ice cream, and soda. I believe there were four or five quick dining places like this in the Magic Kingdom and they all served basically the same menu I just listed, so I knew they’d all be out. Then there were the very few sit-down restaurants in the whole place, all of which required reservations and more money than I was willing to shell out for food, so I didn’t even bother looking at the menus. And I didn’t bother looking because every place was booked up for the entire day, as our concierge was nice enough to point out. So if you’re paleo/primal, vegan, vegetarian, or don’t want to eat hot dogs all day, you’re SOL at the Magic Kingdom for food.

Which then leads me to our final dinner, which was at the Garden Grove in the Swan resort. This was simply a buffet disaster. The theme was ‘southern BBQ’, so I was excited since that’s stuff I’ve grown up on. The gluten-free options were as such: dried out guava-marinated chicken breasts, ribs, North Carolina-inspired barbecue pulled pork, something that resembled baked salmon, prime rib with au jus, fruit salad, mayo-heavy coleslaw, watermelon, and a cobb-style spinach salad with a bacon-infused dressing. And that was it. All of the gravies were off-limits — including the guava gravy for the chicken breast — and the other 90% of the foods were off-limits as well. The worst part of this was the fact that there were only two vegetables served at all, green bean casserole and coleslaw, and the casserole was full of bread and goopy cheese, so I got stuck with bland coleslaw. Honestly, this was a poor excuse for a meal.

Garden Grove's "southern BBQ" buffet special

Garden Grove's "southern BBQ" buffet special

Compare that with the meal I got at Hollywood & Vine from the night before, I had literally no options for food and it was more expensive. I had three plates of the same thing: prime rib, pork, coleslaw, and it was utterly boring food. If I were the executive chef, I would be embarrassed to put this food out on the bar. The food lacked flavor, it lacked color, it lacked appeal. Except for the salad, that was actually GOOD.

It was a bit onion-heavy for my tastes but it was heads above the main course offerings, I should have just eaten an entire salad bowl of that with a plate of prime rib. It would have been visually more appealing and loaded with flavor, comparatively. Everything else had the taste of what I would expect to come from a fast food joint, not a mid-range Sheraton resort with three star restaurants. And the poor line chef that was stuck out on the floor cutting prime rib for everyone, I felt bad for her because her knife was so dull it could barely slice the meat properly. Poor girl. Since we left yesterday, the 21st, I got to suffer through another meal from Picabu and it was just as bad as before.

So while the trip was amazing — it was my present to my girlfriend for her 33rd birthday and her first trip to Disney — the food options came out to be a less than stellar experience. We were lucky enough to find out beforehand that most places offered gluten-free options but that turned out to be an extremely mixed bag of food availability. If I actually had a real gluten allergy, I would be even more picky than I already was. And if I were a vegan? Well, I’d just make sure to bring my own meals to eat because you’re literally shit out of luck for food options. Don’t get me wrong, there are physical tons of food options available to eat at the Disney World parks but only if you like eating terrible food. Despite this, I’m eager to go back because at least one-third of the Magic Kingdom was closed off for renovations and repairs, so the entirety of Frontierland and parts of Fantasyland were off limits. That means no Dumbo ride, no Big Thunder Mountain, no Seven Dwarves Mine ride, which means we’re going to go back. But now that we’re armed with this knowledge about food, we’ll be much more prepared next time we go.

The moral of the story is very simple, folks: when you go Disney, go gluten-free and go big at the buffets. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it by choice or because of a medical condition, do it because you’ll eliminate most of the terrible food available to you. It may make eating out tough but that’s nothing you’re not already used to. Overall, I commend Disney for accommodating gluten-free eaters but they still have a long way to go in the terms of foods available to us, especially at Disney prices.

PS – If you want beer, bring your own. You’re basically stuck with Miller Lite or Yuengling.

Ok, there’s no real party planned, at least not this weekend. I think it is going to be a subdued one around here. The only things planned are going down to Competition Cycle in Davie to look for some new motorcycle boots, jacket, and handlebars. I sold the first motorcycle I had earlier this week, so now I have some extra money to burn. Hopefully I can find some new goodies, I definitely need boots to replace the ones I have where they cause knee pain within an hour of wearing them. I would be very interested in buying some soled by Vibram. Tomorrow may also involve some gut busting, so-not-primal Indian chow. It is always amazingly delicious to stuff yourself stupid on pure vegetarian food but it makes me so gassy. And it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even better.

School has dragged on all week. I am not sure which was worse, the fact that it rained every day or that my classes feel like they last 10 hours each. Tuesday was terrible because I was so lucky to ride to school in a downpour and sit through class soaking wet. Awesome. On my list this weekend is buying a rain suit. I hope that it will not melt as easily as my last one which only lasted two rides on the rain. I have no idea what else may happen on Saturday, I just know there will be a lot food and football involved, that’s all I need. It is the second week of the NCAA season, there is definitely still some interesting games that are going to be played.

Sunday is going to be an interesting day. It is the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the country will be weeping, anthologizing, and memorializing what happened that fateful day ten years ago. I will hopefully be in West Palm running the Freedom Walk & Run 5k for Operation Homefront and in memory of my step-father, a retired Army captain and helicopter pilot who passed away earlier this year. It is also my mother’s birthday, so I am looking forward to speaking to her. Sunday’s not really planned out so I have no idea what is going to happen after the run at 7:30 in the morning — ugh! — so I just hope it involves food.

Now it is time to get the weekend started!

Ah, the weekend is finally here. In just a few days, I have family coming in from out-of-town and we are going to spend next week goofing off until we leave for the Bahamas next Friday. That also means I get to spend most of tomorrow (Saturday) cleaning up and finishing off some chores. So luckily, my running partner helped prepare me for the weekend with a good brisk run yesterday afternoon. We were busy rehashing week 3 day 3 of the Couch 2 5k program that we have both been following and since I was feeling fresh and frisky, I set pace. While I am not a particularly fast runner, especially since my feet are still toughening up, I did not go too terribly fast but our average pace on the four running portions never crept over the 9:00 mark, which I was ecstatic about. Sure this does not mean much considering our whole jaunt was just under the 2.5 mile mark but we were busting out some serious speed on our short run portions. I expect to be returning to those days in the C25k app if/when I do sprint intervals, I definitely liked the speed.

And since it is now the weekend and that means today is Friday, I have to again conduct a little food experiment. After spending a significant part of my free time this week thinking about why my body seems to be holding onto so much weight over the Friday-Saturday time frame, I have come to a few conclusions, none of which I am very sure of:

    1. My body knows it is the weekend and since I have spent the last few years abusing it calorie-wise, it naturally slows down my metabolism in preparation for a night (or two) of beers and greasy food.
    2. Since I sleep more on the weekends, my body’s natural repair mechanisms work more slowly due to the extended periods of sleep. During the week, I clock in around five to six hours of sleep a night but on the weekends, I typically get a “good night’s sleep” of eight or more hours. This is in spite of the fact that I typically go to bed around 1:30am or 2am six nights a week, my body naturally sleeps longer on Saturday and Sunday morning.
    3. The weekends mean one thing to me, drinks-wise: I consume three or four times more coffee per day than during the week and so, my water intake plummets to just a few cups a day. And I am speaking strictly water here, I do not count tea as a cup of water.

Of course, it is more than likely a combination of any of these or none of these, I have no idea. But I do know that something is going on and no matter how much food I eat on a Friday night — or what it is, for that matter — I always weigh in two or three pounds heavier on Saturday morning. Each of the last four Fridays, including tonight, I have eaten a meal that has a rice portion (my only one during the week) and that seems to spike my weight loss for a few days. I hope to end that trend next Friday but since I will be out of the country and beholden to cuisine I have little choice over, I may have to wait my experiment out another week.

But now, I am just glad it is the weekend and I do not have to wake up and go to work tomorrow. While I do have a number of things, sitting in front of a computer all day is not one of them and I will make sure to go outside and generate more natural vitamin D supply. And once Sunday comes, I will get back out there and log some more barefoot miles. I am happy to say that each successive run this week has resulted in two things:

    1. Fewer blisters
    2. Less foot pain/throbbing the day after a run

Is this a sign of padding generation on my foot? Well, it is either that or I am killing all the nerve endings in the soles of my feet. Either way, I am happy with the progress and I do not really miss running in shoes, even though I really like running in my Merrell Trail Gloves. Maybe I will run the Levis 5k in two weeks in my Merrells!

Friday’s photo shoot at Dekka South went very well. While it started considerably later than expected, it was a lot of fun overall, we were treated to ten female songwriters who sang about some very interesting topics. I will start editing those photos tonight or tomorrow so I can get them delivered and posted to my portfolio site. I am glad that I ate such a large but late lunch on Friday as that held me over until Saturday morning, unexpectedly. However, due to the shoot and general lack of moving around, I ended up losing only half a pound between Friday night and Saturday morning. I attribute this to two things, both of which were preventable by me. I definitely felt a bit bloated when I went to bed Friday night.

    1. Poor hydration strategy
    2. Bloating due to liquid retention from #1

Normally, keeping hydrated during my shoots is not a problem because I am either moving a lot and have down time between artists to grab some water or a beer or I am on a modeling shoot where I can interrupt the flow of the action at my whim to take a drink. Around 95% of the time, I am fully in control of my ability to get something to drink but when in small venues like Dekka where the activity taking place is something people are usually quite concentrated on, a lot of movement interrupts the flow of the event and causes undue commotion. Imagine a wedding photographer endlessly shooting a bride and groom while they are saying their vows, but moving from side to side quickly and getting in everyone’s way. Yeah, that is how it is at these small artsy shows. Since I had only a large coffee and half of a 20 ounce bottle of water all night, I went to bed on Friday with some unnecessary water weight on me. The rice I had probably had something to do with the water retention as well but I have no definitive results to back that up. I simply know that bloating occurred and I was not happy about it.

Saturday was a lazy day, spent recouping from the night before while my girlfriend worked. I woke up weighing in at 205lbs which was a bit disheartening but I expected it given my lack of hydration the night before. I did not let it get me down, after all, I have made good progress over reformulating my diet and nutrition intake lately and there are bound to be ups-and-downs while I get everything sorted out. Or so I thought until we went out for a light lunch at Pei Wei Asian Diner. I ordered something that sounded splendidly awesome: minced chicken with cool lettuce wraps. And it did taste great, the lettuce was a crispy serving utensil for the delectable chicken, garlic, water chestnut, and mushroom pile sitting in front of us. Then I found out the caloric value of just half of what was on our meager plate:

    Minced Chicken w/Cool Lettuce Wraps (sauce not included): 310 kcal per 1 serving

310 calories for two to three slices of iceberg lettuce and a smattering of chicken+garlic+chestnut?! That’s insane. What the hell is in this to make it so calorie heavy? And how many calories does the sauce, slathered all over the chicken, have? My main course was the Japanese Chile Ramen with rice noodles rather than egg noodles and it was equally calorie-heavy: 540kcal per serving. How much of that is a serving? I have no idea, their nutritional info just says “serving”. It was good and I ate the whole thing so my intake for one meal tipped the scales at just under 1,300 calories. According to MyFitnessPal, that was over 2/3 of my entire day’s calories in one meal, which sucked. So instead I just had a delicious rib eye and some turnip greens for dinner. That gave me some good brain fuel to mess with my new B&N Nook Color all night and root it, adding the Android Market and Amazon Appstore to it. When I awoke Sunday morning, I had packed on a full pound from Saturday’s gut-busting excursion, so I ate light (eggs, steak, broccoli) for the rest of the day. Despite that, more bloating occurred.

I just spent the last week eating nothing but steaks, eggs, bacon, and vegetables and the only weight I gained the entire time was the two days I introduced a carb into my diet. I am definitely starting to believe in the Paleo diet ethos now, it proved its worth by melting weight off of my body in just a few days. While I am not eating strictly Paleo — that has caused some unnecessary stress in my household — I am closely following a synthesis of the Perfect Health Diet and the 4-Hour Body. Say what you will about Tim Ferriss and his endless self-promotion but in all honesty, the diet information in his book is fairly sound. He developed a Paleo diet all his own and has it highly tailored to his needs and its adaptability works. I have implemented some of his recommendations into my diet and the results are already there. Of course, it does not hurt in any way that the two diets I have mashed up are Paleo-based. Some would say I should attribute my weight loss to running but since I have logged only three runs this month totaling less than 8 miles and 1221kcal burned, I have hardly burned enough calories through exercise to single it out as the major cause.

Now that Tuesday is here and my momentary weight backsliding under control — weight was up to 207lbs yesterday morning, down to 204.5lbs today — I have my last run of the week to hopefully log today. I may or may not run as our local World of Beer is having a special Unibroue beer night tonight and I love their beer so I may just skip out and go drink some beer tonight instead. Will that cause more bloating? I do not know and really, I will not worry about it too much since I have drastically cut back on my beer consumption.