The Year of Oat Groats

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I’ve had oat groats with nuts and frozen blueberries every morning for breakfast for a year now.  Oat groats are hull-less oat kernels, the least-processed form of oatmeal.  (I briefly mentioned groats in my post about weight loss last September.) My girlfriend and I started out by eating steel-cut oats for breakfast, but she wanted to try oat groats after researching them online, so we ordered them from Bob’s Red Mill.  The taste and texture hooked us right away.  Cooked in large quantities once a week and stored in the fridge, they keep and reheat well for at least 1-2 weeks in our experience.  We never returned to steel-cut.

After last September’s post about weight loss, my weight eventually reached a steady-state twenty pounds less than a year and a half ago.  These are the dietary changes I made last year:

  • Oat groats + blueberries + nuts for breakfast
  • Decaf coffee + milk (café au lait) during breakfast
  • 2% skyr during breakfast
  • Cut out carbs with a high glycemic index (GI)
  • Replaced sliced bread with flourless, low-GI, sprouted grain bread
  • Cut out eggs entirely
  • Fasted for 1-2 meals weekly (intermittent fasting) over the past couple months to negate the effects of calorie creep and to maintain my weight loss
  • Didn’t snack between meals
  • Fell out of the habit of taking fish oil regularly
  • Fell out of the habit of eating oily fish and other seafood weekly
  • Ate more Greek yogurt and skyr
  • A month or two ago, started replacing non-fat dairy with 2% dairy (I might eventually go up to full-fat dairy, but I’m on the fence about that right now)
  • Continued to minimize red meat
  • Continued to eat veggies and fruits
  • Continued to eat an almond butter sandwich regularly (usually during lunch)
  • Continued to eat a small amount of 85% dark chocolate every morning (I might stop doing this)

My stress level increased as I transitioned from fellowship to being a full-time attending, and I realized a few weeks ago that the memory-foam mattress I bought 1.5-2 years ago had really ruined my sleep for at least 6 months.   I switched that out with a coil-spring mattress with a foam topper.  I continued to work out  5-6 days a week, alternating running with strength training.  Ironically, in spite of my belief that daily meditation is one of the most important habits, I didn’t meditate regularly at all. Nor did I practice yoga.  Everything else stayed about the same.

These are the other physical changes (besides weight loss) I experienced:

  • Blood pressure remained normal but is slightly less than before on average
  • Total cholesterol remained normal but dropped by 15 points
  • Triglycerides remained normal but dropped by 26 points
  • LDL remained exactly the same (normal)
  • HDL dropped by 10 points but remained normal
  • Transaminases remained normal but decreased significantly, suggesting I was heading toward a fatty liver before I started losing weight
  • Hemoglobin A1c remained normal but dropped to where it was three years ago

So, definite improvements overall.  Note that exercise was held constant while diet and a couple other factors (sleep, stress) changed.  Going forward, I hope to start meditating and practicing yoga regularly.  I might also increase my weekly intake of oily fish.

Autumnal Chinese Tallow Tree Leaf in Mixed Media

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My girlfriend asked me to create a painting of a leaf she found, so I painted it in watercolor and then used ink and colored pencil for final details.  It’s a Chinese tallow tree leaf.  In our neck of the woods, there has been a decades-long fight against these trees because they’re an invasive species with toxins in their leaves that make the soil uninhabitable for native species.  They naturally create monospecific forests if left unchecked.  The internet tells me that they were introduced to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. for soap-making in the early 1900s.

Cicada Wing Sketched in Watercolor

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I found this solitary, intact wing on the sidewalk–probably belonging to a cicada eaten by a squirrel, opossum, or raccoon during a recent emergence of cicadas in our area. The symphony of male cicadas is like white noise:  it drowns out nearly everything else on hot summer afternoons.  They fly erratically, bumping into things and people.  I often saw them crawling on concrete sidewalks, walls, even outdoor ceilings.  For many nights in a row, one of them “knocked” on my balcony door’s window, probably by jumping against the glass.

It’s remarkable how little one notices visual details unless one draws, paints, or sculpts what one sees.  Only after painting this wing am I able to reconstruct it in my mind.  This is no different than getting to understand anything else deeply: one must observe its behavior, interact with it, construct a representation of it if possible.

I draw and paint to build stronger, richer, longer-lasting memories of the world around me.