2021 Goals and Resolutions

As I mentioned last week, my main goal for 2020 was to finish my book and I did not achieve that. Completion of the book remains my main goal for  2021. I have been working on the sixth chapter since the fall. When I finish that, I will have four left. I am really going to try to complete it this year.

My goals for 2020 did not include anything about losing weight but i did lose 20 pounds  last year. I know many people gained the COVID 15, but I am glad I went in the other direction. At the beginning of 2020 I tried intermittent fasting which I did for a while. The big change came in June when I joined Noom. Noom is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  and uses artificial intelligence (AI) in its work with clients.

Although I did not count my calories every day, as the program suggests you do, I did watch my calories and weigh myself everyday.  The other part of Noom is reading articles, answering quizzes and interacting with both a group coach and an individual coach. I am not sure if either of these are real people. They may be bots. I have gained insights about my behavior, eating and otherwise, from Noom.

My resolution for 2021 is to lose the remaining three pounds I have to  lose to get to my original weight goal and to not gain the weight back. I have lost weight before but I have always gained it back. I hope that the lessons I have learned from Noom stay with me even when I am no longer paying for the program.

I plan to continue to tweet every day and post on this site every week. Between politics, the pandemic, beer, and other topics, I am fairly confident I will have plenty to say. Today will be the last Wednesday that I post a blog. I am going to return to Friday as the day I post.  I am hoping this will create a better writing schedule.

See you January 22nd.

Beer and Taxes

At the end of January Congress introduced the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. The bill would reduce the tax rate for large and small brewers. Both the Beer Institute which primarily represents mega brewers such as Anheuser Busch InBev and the Brewers Association which is the trade organization for craft brewers support the legislation. Similar legislation was proposed in the last Congress but did not pass. The prior bill had bipartisan support as does the current legislation.

Small brewers who produce less than two million barrels (a barrel is thirty-one gallons) annually would have a reduced rate of $3.50 a barrel for the first 60,000 barrels. All other would have a reduced rate of $16 per barrel for the first six million. The current rate of $18 a barrel would remain for companies that produce more than six million barrels a year.

The beer industry has been trying to reduce their taxes since 1991 when the rate of $9 a barrel, in effect since 1951, doubled to $18. The small brewers differential, enacted in 1976,  defines small brewers as those who produce less than two million barrels. These producers currently pay a reduced rate on their first 60,000 barrels.

The proposed legislation keeps that definition but creates another tier for brewers who produce between two and six million. Thus there is something for everyone in the bill. Mega brewers get some tax relief, small brewers who represent the vast majority of the 4,269 American breweries keep their differential  and some craft brewers like Boston Beer who have outgrown the current small brewer definition also get some relief and more importantly  get to maintain the cachet that goes along with being a craft brewer rather than a large brewer, It is not an accident that the name of the legislation includes the phrase “Craft”.

Although brewers are hopeful that the proposed legislation will succeed in the  current Congressional term, it is not clear that , after twenty-six years, they will finally achieve their goal of tax reduction. The current President is a teetotaler and he will need revenue for some of his deficit enlarging schemes such as a massive tax cut for the rich, the border wall and infrastructure projects.

Excise taxes are a very stable source of revenue that the federal government has relied on to supplement internal revenue since the 1930s. Time and again from the Civil War on, when the state has faced a shortfall they have  looked to the liquor industry to make up the gap. If the bill was not successful during the Obama administration I  don’t see why it will be any more likely in 2017.

Right now a fried egg sounds great: Third Week of VB6

Tjalf Sparnaay,  BMG Fried Egg
Tjalf Sparnaay, BMG Fried Egg

( For more information about this picture, click here)

We have completed two full weeks of VB6. I was doing pretty well but yesterday I had a lot of food cravings including visions of fried eggs, bacon, and macaroni and cheese. Yesterday morning I made “hoe cakes” – Mark Bittman’s version of corn cakes. After eating them my verdict was that they would have tasted a lot better with an egg in the batter, fried in butter and slathered with maple syrup.

Sticking to the diet is complicated because it is not just about eliminating animal products but it is also making a commitment to eat whole grains and minimally processed foods. This is not so easy to accomplish.

Mark Bittman is a writer who makes his living cooking, eating and writing about food. For the rest of us it is not so easy to find the time to make homemade vegetable stock since all commercially available stock and cubes contain more than 5 ingredients and a lot of sodium.

Time or the lack of it is the biggest factor to making VB6 not a diet for many people. Most people will not have the time to cook the lunches he has recipes for and also may not be able to find the ingredients he requires. If anyone can tell me where to find whole-wheat couscous I would really appreciate it.

As far as meat-eating goes Bittman presents compelling arguments about the negative environmental impact of such a diet. This is not a new story. Over forty years ago Frances Moore Lappe wrote several impassioned books about the harmful consequences of meat eating and the much better path of vegetarianism.

Although I don’t think even part-time veganism will appeal to most Americans, I think Bittman’s incremental approach has merit. Some contemporary writers maintain that the American diet, which Bittman labels as SAD (Standard American Diet) has developed because it is what the public wants, a heavy focus on inexpensive meat. That may be true but it does not follow that it cannot be changed.

Because we are a market based society I think changes for environmental and health reasons must be market based. Also the more familiar the new thing is the more likely people are to do it. In terms of energy consumption by cars, if there are fill-up stations that look just like gas stations but provide electric cars with electricity this will be easy for people understand and then respond positively.

In terms of food many of Bittman’s vegan recipes are familiar – they are salads with fruit in them. It is fairly easy to put the beans in and leave the chicken out. The problem for me has become the monotony of it. In the fourteen meals we have prepared we had a cooked, hot dish only four or five times.


First Week of VB6

We have completed a week of vegan dinners as part of our plan to follow Mark Bittman’s VB6. I basically used his lunch recipes from the book and made those for dinner. Out of seven nights we had salads as the main course two nights and salads with another dish three nights. Two nights we had soup and every night at least one of the dishes had beans in it.

I was pretty anxious about having so many salads and beans but it worked out pretty well. Unlike most diets Bittman lets you eat as much fruit as you want. Salad with fruit is very good. Spices help as well.

In our scheme lunches can be non-vegan and even have meat. This past week, because I had cheese at some of my mid-day meals I was vegetarian but not vegan. I didn’t have any meat or eggs for a week. My husband was completely vegan for the whole week. Today, as I am writing this, I am having a turkey sandwich with some of the cabbage salad from Saturday night’s tacos.

Before deciding to try this approach to eating, I looked online to see if other people had done it and what their experiences had been. I wanted to go beyond the level of Amazon reviews. One blog was thekitchn.com. The blogger did not lose any weight but didn’t gain any either. Bittman does say if you eat more grains, the weight loss will go more slowly. Her description of how she ate was heavy on grains because she had a grain salad every day for lunch.

HashandEggs was the other blog I read. He needed to lose a decent amount of weight; after a month he lost at least seven pounds. He cheated a lot since even for the non-vegan meal you are supposed to eat healthy and in moderation. I don’t think chicken nuggets count. To be fair he was doing this based on an article because the book hadn’t come out yet.

I was skeptical about the weight loss aspect of this and actually I still am. According to the scale I lost five pounds but I don’t know if I believe that. If I did I think it is more of a short-term diet effect and less life-changing. It remains to be seen whether this experience will ultimately yield a long-lasting change.

On the Road to Health: VB6

I have decided to write about something that is a little more personal than what I have usually posted on this blog. It is not about beer (except indirectly), women (except that it is about me and I am a woman), nursing, (except that health maintenance is a big part of nursing)or history (except that patterns of food consumption is a very complicated historical subject). Anyway …

Today my husband and I are starting to follow Mark Bittman’s VB6. The short version of this is that he became a part time vegan several years ago and lost thirty pounds and got healthier. He wrote a book about it and then a cookbook.

We decided to do this because I would like to eat healthier. Last year, because of various medical issues, I went from March to June not eating soy or cow diary. That was quite an eye opener as I discovered that soy is in everything we eat and use.

Of course, like most people, I would like to lose weight but I don’t think his weight loss was typical. I totaled up the calories for one day of his 28 day diet plan and it was 1800 calories. If I ate 1800 calories a day I would gain weight. I think his weight loss came from giving up alcohol which I bet he drank a lot of. I am not saying he was or is an alcoholic but I am pretty sure that people in the food business drink a lot.

Bittman’s plan is for you to eat vegan for breakfast and lunches and then healthy dinners that can have animal products. He also wants you to try as much as possible to eat “real” food; if commercially prepared it should have five ingredients or less. His final stipulation is no alcohol or a lot less. He says; “More than anything else in the VB6 diet, alcohol is a judgment call: definitely off limits during the day, and up to you at night. But if you’re seriously trying to lose weight, very limited drinking – or none at all – is something to consider.”

Bittman’s admittedly arbitrary division of vegan before 6 p.m. really doesn’t work for us. The lunches seem like they take a long time to cook and if you are not at home for lunch how do you do that? We decided to try to be vegan for dinner because that is the meal it seems we can handle. Breakfast is pretty much vegan without trying unless you have bacon and eggs which I usually don’t. For now we are leaving lunch as the meal that can be non-vegan but we will see how that goes.

I am writing this before we have had our first dinner. I will let you know how it turns out.