Monthly Archives: September 2014

Avoid Sweet Flavors

Simple dietary rule for adults:  avoid sweet flavors.

Much of the low-carb “revolution” boils down to just that.  It’s easy to get caught up in complex rules, tracking, measuring, but not everyone has time and attention for all that.

A very simple rule of thumb is just to avoid sweet flavors.

The hard part is simply noticing what is sweet, especially when your sensitivity is blunted by chronic exposure to extremely sweet flavors. But that’s a homeostatic reaction that reverses easily.  

Start by moving away from the most extreme sweets: liquid sweets like cola and juice. After a few weeks, you’ll find you are more sensitive to sweet flavors. Next, drop ice cream. You get more sensitive again. At each step, simply remove the sweetest thing, and your palate will get more and more sensitive.

Once you are really re-sensitized, certain foods you would never think of as sweet suddenly taste insanely so.  Milk.  Cereal.  Bread.  Fruit.  Even carrots.  It’s no coincidence that these foods all deliver a high glycemic load. You can taste this fact, when you are re-sensitized and paying attention.

“But what about artificial sweeteners?  they’re sweet, but low-carb.”

This misses the point on a number of levels.  First, it turns out that artificial sweeteners may actually make you fat by confusing your insulin response.  Second, and more germane to this post, if you consume something extremely sweet, you blunt your own sensitivity to sweetness, making it harder to trust your own instincts about what is sweet, and so less able to make good choices without resorting to complex rules.

Ultimately the challenge is psychological.  Do you have the wherewithal to say no to experiencing a sweet flavor?  If you do, the payoff, in self-awareness and health, is huge.

Just avoid sweet flavors.


Sleep More

100-hour weeks are the dumbest thing about otherwise-brilliant Silicon Valley culture.  They result in suboptimal quality, but worse, they waste human capital.

A recent true-life post, The Truth About What It’s Like Working For Uber, sounds like every job I had in the Valley — except the company I ran, where I could  encourage rest.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the engineering culture for at least 40 years has promoted self-flagellating sleep deprivation.  For example, at a VC-funded software company I wrote code for in Menlo Park, our head of engineering held a contest to see which coder could sleep the least during the final weeks to our initial release.  The “winners” were basket cases for years afterward.  I took last place, sleeping an average of 5 hours a night — yet I am the only guy on that team to finish another programming project in the next 5 years.  The rest were wiped out, ruined in their mid-twenties.  This is not unusual.

Later, I ran a software company in Mountain View.  With the previous company’s death marches fresh in my mind, I gently asked everyone to leave the office by 6 or 7pm, to get some sleep.  With no death marches, we still hit deadlines, either by narrowing product scope or through clever workarounds.  We released groundbreaking mobile apps a decade before everyone else, but more importantly, we wasted no human capital:  our engineers generally went on to productive jobs elsewhere.

Programmer David Heinemeier Hansson concurs in his post, Sleep Deprivation is Not a Badge of Honor.  DHH created the Web development framework Ruby on Rails, co-founded cloud-based project management SaaS firm BaseCamp, and won the 2014 Le Mans auto race (how’s that for polymath?).  He does it on a reasonably consistent 9 hours of sleep.

Just sleep more.