Journey to the end of the world — Chronicles from Concordia

Dr. Stijn Thoolen is the ESA-sponsored medical doctor spending 12 months at Concordia research station in Antarctica. He facilitates a number of experiments on the effects of isolation, light deprivation, and extreme temperatures on the human body and mind. Find this blog post in the original Dutch below. The end of our world is full…

via Journey to the end of the world — Chronicles from Concordia

Map to Genkijima

In the last entry, I promised to post a copy of the map I mentioned once I got it done.  I made this on a big sheet of foamcore, and it’s truly no great work of art but was fun to do and also does the job.  I have fourteen foil stars indicating fourteen pounds lost on the path, as you can see.  I’m using silver ones for regular pounds lost and gold ones for each tenth pound.  It’s now hanging on my living room wall, just as obnoxiously colorful as you please!

On this map you can see such places as “Monotony Marsh,”  “Give-up Grounds,” “Pitfalls,” the beacon at “Onederland,” and “the Running Fields.”  I could have made a much prettier version digitally but I don’t think it would be quite as compelling.


Genkijima Map 1000


Postmenopausal rats!

I was doing some research on muscle building, and I saw the abstract of a study about a hormone called DHT and its effect on muscular growth.  In particular, the study mentioned “postmenopausal rats.”

I laughed so hard at that.

I’ve owned rats, though the only female I had wasn’t with me long enough to attain menopause, not that I could detect a breeding cycle anyway.  I think the domesticated ones make adorable, sweet, intelligent pets.   My mind started playing with the idea, though.

rat1rshawSo, what would a postmenopausal rat be like?  Would she be a little slower, a little more wise?  Would she know her way around all the traps?  Would she know all the ways of cats?  Would she have a really nice nest in the good part of the wall?  Given rat breeding rates, would she bake cookies for her great-great-great-great grandpups?

It definitely was something to think about.  A matronly rat with kind eyes, perhaps, because being kind really helps your longevity and you need to be an old rat indeed to outlive your breeding cycle.  You’d definitely need to be wise to avoid all the dangers to rat-kind.  Your collection of paper shreds would be impressive.

Then I thought of what the study was about and started laughing again.  It was determining the effects of added DHT on muscle growth in postmenopausal rats.  So that meant they weren’t just postmenopausal rats, they were DOPING postmenopausal rats.  In effect, tiny bodybuilders.  (All love to bodybuilders, by the way, and I know they don’t all take extra hormones.)  So then the next image came to my strange mind – a tiny weight set, with an old lady rat grunting out reps and trying for a new PR.

I don’t need TV to entertain me.  Really, I don’t.

*grunt*  Just two more sets to go…



What to do when you’re dieting and your spouse makes toast

sourdough loaf 900


It’s a dilemma for sure…

Diet in full swing.

Hungry spouse.

Don’t want to break the diet….

But hungry spouse.

It happened to me.  I was on the third day of a dieting contest started at work, and about $400 of prize money is on the line.  (In dieting, motivation is important.  Money motivates me pretty well, which is why I chose to take part.)

I was doing pretty well, too.  I was a little under my caloric goal (a modest 1800 calories a day), had limited my carbs, increased my protein, and made sure my fats were healthy.  I was even pretty on track with fiber.  Eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, ample low calorie vegetable snacks, protein shakes when needed.  I’d had a good dinner with mixed vegetables and chicken breast, and I was feeling satisfied.

Then the spouse says… “I’m still hungry.  I’m going to toast some bread.”

This bread, by the way, was lovingly baked a few days before, by me, and I happen to know that it’s lovely and slightly chewy and soft and everything homemade bread should be.

I knew that the minute that wonderful, tantalizing aroma hit my nostrils I’d be a goner, and nothing but pure carbs would fill that void.

So what was I going to do, balancing on the horns of that particular dilemma?  After all, I didn’t want my spouse to be hungry, and the bread needed to be used before it went ad.  But I didn’t want to increase my food intake when I was doing so well.

Enter the mint oil!

Beyond beneficial effects to those sniffing it, peppermint oil also does a great job of preventing you from smelling anything else.  I applied a bit around my nostrils, being careful to do it so it didn’t burn.


Barely any delicious toast smell intruded, even though we were sitting near each other.  And I went to bed, still satisfied, having dodged a bread bullet.

Now it’s day four and I”m still on track.  I’ll share my principles in case anyone’s curious.  I’m not using gimmicks this time, just solid strategies that people have used with success over and over again.  I’m combining several strategies because I WANT THAT MONEY.  Of course, what I really want is to feel better and look better, the money reward is a tool toward that.

My Simple Diet Plan

Write down everything you eat, tracking carbs, fat, and protein.  (Fiber and sodium are good to be aware of too.)  I’m using MyFitnessPal for this.  It’s free.   This makes you aware of exactly what you are eating, how much, and what it’s giving you.  Just doing that alone has been shown to help people lose weight just through awareness.

Cut 500 calories a day from what you normally need.  Again, tools like MyFitnessPal are good for this, although there are plenty of other apps/sites/charts that will help you.  Usually you will take your weight, activity level, age, gender, and weight loss goal, plug them in to a calculator, and it will give you a target.  I do like MyFitnessPal because it lets you also set goals for how much protein, carbs and fat you want to eat.  To lose a pound, you need to use 3,500 calories more than what you are taking in, so if you cut 500 calories per day (or exercise enough to burn that off) you’ll lose a pound a week.

Do both cardio and strength training.  Cardio burns fat, strength training grows muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat does.  In my case I’m doing some fairly heavy weight lifting three times a week and supplementing that with stretching, calisthenics, and walking.  The weight lifting seems to be helping to improve my skin and hair, which can happen because a female body naturally releases human growth hormone after weight training.  It’s our answer to male testosterone when it comes to growing muscle.

Do exercise that you like:  Whether it’s bicycling, swimming, walking, weight training or whatever, try your hardest to find a way to do whatever it is that you like the most.  That’s the only way you’ll stick with this unless you have way more willpower than me.

Cut out stupid crap.  I’m talking things you don’t really need – like white sugar, empty starches, junk food.  Think of calories like money and you only have so much to spend.  you want to get good food value for the price, right?  If you are doing step 1, you’ll see that, and think things like “wait a minute, is that bag of chips really worth it when it doesn’t give me any fiber or protein and I’ll just want more after I’m done?”

Eat Clean.  More vegetables, minimally processed meats, swap whole grains for white, cut down on preservatives wherever possible.  Cook for yourself when you can.

Make it easy for yourself.  Convenience is key here.  If you’re busy, and who isn’t? then make stuff ahead and portion it out.  For example, I needed chicken for lunch.  So I baked several breasts of it.  Then I boiled a dozen eggs at once.  Now I can carry those with me and just cut some chicken when I need it, throw some mini bell peppers in with them along with a piece of fruit, and off I go.  If I had to individually prepare everything I probably would have quit by now.   Similarly, make sure whatever you need to exercise is accessible and conveniently placed.

Start with protein in the morning.  This comes from a multitude of sources and helps stave off that carb-cycle that has you hungry long before lunch.

Basic food principles:

More Protein.  This keeps you full, builds muscle.  Eggs are cheap, and a great way to start.  Hard boiled eggs are easy to pack, and a simple mushroom scramble is tasty and nutritious too.  Yes, egg yolks have cholesterol but your body needs that to make estrogen or testosterone and keep your brain healthy.

Less Carbs.  Yes, carbs are the body’s fuel, but we usually eat way too much of these.  Especially from really awful sources.  I know, I’ve done it most of my life.

Eat good fats.  I’m not going to eliminate fat because as above I need a certain amount to keep my brain healthy.  Nuts, eggs, olive oil, coconut and flax are good sources.

Cut down on sugar.  Eliminate white sugar, and limit honey or molasses.  It’s not a very good “value” nutritionally and it always makes you want more.  Most of your sugar should come from fresh fruit.

Drink lots of water.  Coffee and tea are fine too if they don’t have sugar.  Green tea is amazing.  Water, water, water.  “Bathe your cells.”

You don’t have to be rich to lose weight.  Healthy foods like beans, lentils, vegetables, fresh fruit, and sometimes even lean meats can be relatively affordable.  It pays to shop around.  Also check out ethnic stores, sometimes they have really good deals on things that are expensive at the supermarket.  Shop sales, use your freezer, stock up.  Buy big amounts, make things in batches.  Eat less.  That saves a lot.  Also, those dollars saved when you don’t buy chips and soda can really add up.

Have a positive attitude.  This can be the hardest part of any diet.  It’s easy at the beginning.  Then stress piles up, you start thinking the goals are far off and unattainable, or you think “I was ‘good’ today, I can ‘cheat’ a little…” and you step off the wagon with one toe.  Then another, and another, and pretty soon your whole foot is off, and your’e falling off the wagon really hard, right into a Boston Cream Pie.

Things that will help your attitude:

A support structure, even if it’s just one person who encourages you online.

Reminders, whether they are pictures, book, a computer wallpaper, or music.  Have something around that reminds you of why this stuff is important for YOU.

Pay attention to small victories.  This can be as simple as feeling less creaky in the morning, or noticing your jeans aren’t as tight, or even just being able to walk a little further.

If you ‘fail,’ you can stop ‘failing’ any time.  Failure is never final.

Planning.  If you know your motivation is likely to be low at a certain time of day, do something to distract yourself.  Or if you know, like me, that your nose will cause you to be really hungry even when you’re full, be prepared.


You’re not alone, I’m doing this right now.  All this stuff.  And it’s really not so much once you see how it fits together.  Do what works for you – so far, though, this is working for me.  And it worked for me before, too, but I kept forgetting that last reminder.

The next time my spouse wants toast, I’ll be breaking out the mint too.  Or, if I have enough carb grams left for the day, I may join her.




The ‘Raid’ to supply Concordia – new video — Chronicles from Concordia

Generally when you raid supplies, you are taking stock and using them for yourself. The Antarctic ‘Raid’ however is the opposite: traverses are used to transport heavy items and the trip across Antarctica takes ten days to complete, climbing over 3000 m from the coast to reach the plateau where Concordia was built. Pulled by…

via The ‘Raid’ to supply Concordia – new video — Chronicles from Concordia