Mailbag: When to Show a Woman Interest

by GK on October 22, 2011 · 1 comment

If it seems like I’m taking longer between posts these days, it’s because you’re right. I’ve started some online-editing work and while I’m excited to work full time again, I’m finding it tougher to switch gears between Greg the Editor and GK during the workweek.

It’s a big time saver when you guys feed me some common questions I can answer here. Sometimes I forget to write about the basics because by now they’re so, well, basic to me.

Thankfully, I got a good question courtesy of Tom from Canada, whom I recently coached over the phone. Here it is:

It has to do with the whole idea of SOI’s and SOA’s. I understand what they are, but I was wondering the following:

I) How soon after starting a conversation with a girl should I use them
II) I was wondering if you could give me a few examples of SOA’s you use, not so I’ll have lines, but you mentioned on your site that women have complimented you on your direct approach, and I was hoping to gauge how aggressive your SOA’s and SOI’s are, or how direct they are, or if you just have to work it on a case by case basis.

For the uninitiated, the SOA (Statement of Appreciation) and SOI (Statement of Interest) are popular with the Charisma Arts crowd, of which I was of course a member. This is one of those times where what I teach and what I practice in my own life are a little different.

When a guy has spent his whole life playing it safe and not showing interest in girls, he needs to take some simple steps to change that. You wouldn’t give a Ferrari to a first-time driver (not without a ton of insurance), for instance.

I never cared for the term SOA — I find it confusing when all it really means is showing a girl you like her. But telling her you like her was, of course, part of the Big Four I taught. Even though I often don’t say it. But guys often got quick results with that because it was easy to remember, and they were escalating for the first time in their lives.

As for the SOI, while it’s important to show romantic interest in a woman, I found many CA guys (including instructors) misunderstanding this. The words “I find that sexy about you” became inextricably linked with the SOI, and I think it was to a lot of guys’ detriment because they wouldn’t make an actual move. I can tell my buddy’s girlfriend that she’s sexy, but it doesn’t mean I want to hook up with her.

There are many other (and better) ways to show interest, and I’ll cover some of them here. Let’s break down Tom’s two questions:

I): The simple answer for when to show friendly or sexual interest in a girl is this: show it when you think she’s earned it. That could be as soon as you approach her, when she’s wearing the T-shirt of your favorite football team, or it could be days after you met her, when you discover during a friendly drink that you want more than friendship with her.

Guys often wait for some kind of cue from the girl to show interest when they should simply act on instinct. You’ll come across as far more confident that way, and you won’t suffer paralysis from analysis.

Don Draper doesn't worry about when to show interest. He just does it.

 II): It is true that I often take a direct route with how I show interest in women, but how I do it varies greatly, depending on the situation and my own mood:

  • For one thing, my statements of interest are often not statements at all, since I’m not a big talker. It can simply the way I maintain eye contact with a woman when neither of us is talking. Or the way I take her hand as we joke around.
  • I’ve also met a lot of women on the dance floor, where talking is minimal. So sometimes the best way to show interest is to get up close and kiss her. The verbal interest can come later.
  • When I am in conversation, I don’t hand out many compliments. The most common verbal way I’ll show interest is to use the word “date.” This works for me because I’m showing intent, not just interest. For instance, I’ll jokingly ask that she not embarrass me in front of the staff at my favorite bar on our first date. Or I’ll just straight-up tell her I want to go on a date with her. There’s no misunderstanding my intentions that way.
  • There will be times, such as when you’re visiting a town or meeting her in the daytime, where it’s better to keep the interaction going rather than plan a future date. So, rather than just give compliments, I’ll simply invite her to sit down with me. Or if the bars are closing, invite her to my place or even back to hers. Again, this is showing intent as well as interest, which is more my style.
  • If we’re hanging out on a non-date but I feel the vibe shifting, I might say that I was thinking about helping her meet a guy that night, but now I wanted her all to myself.
  • Sometimes I’ll show interest just by getting her logistics: “Before I keep flirting with you, do you have a boyfriend?” It may seem obvious to me that we’re flirting, but it’s not always to her.
  • When I do give compliments, they’re usually light and simple: “Hey, you’re fun to talk to. Let’s hang out another time.”

I should add that another way I show interest is by simply listening to the girl. Guys are often so busy racking their brains for the next witty remark that they miss hearing what’s really important to her. When I ask her a follow-up question about her interest in painting five minutes after she mentioned it, that’s another way for her to feel appreciated.

But you know what? You don’t have to do any of these things. Just find out what works for you.  My buddy Tre Tre will simply have a normal conversation about everyday things like cayaking, but he does it with such enthusiasm and commitment (and occasional dirty humor) that the girl will throw herself at him once it’s time to escalate things.

Just remember to Always Be Closing, and you’ll show interest one way or another.

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My Thoughts on Simple Pickup

by GK on October 6, 2011 · 21 comments

I generally avoid pickup-artist-related content — it’s one of my favorite parts of being retired from regular coaching. But when Tre Tre sent me a Salon article about the Simple Pickup guys on YouTube, I felt compelled to investigate.

I’ve watched all 19 videos on the Simple Pickup channel (I’m making this my excuse for why I’ve taken so long between posts), and I suspect I’ll be contradicting myself here. Because I was genuinely entertained by the guys, and I do think they have something important to teach. But the videos aren’t really meant to be educational. Kind of.

You see what I mean?

For the uninitiated, here goes: Simple Pickup are three ordinary-looking Southern California guys — Jason, Jesse and Kong — who appear to be in their mid-20s. The slickly produced episodes are spent coming up with outrageous-yet-honest ways to flirt with women on the street in the pursuit of phone numbers, and they collect many of them. In the process they made me laugh more than a few times.

To get an understanding of their “Jackass”-like stunts, just watch the opening seconds of the above video, where Jason gets on top of a cafe chair and shouts a random Internet meme, then uses it as an excuse to approach a girl.

The threesome also offer tips on how to talk to women, such as making eye contact. Just from Kong’s LOL-inducing impersonation of Mystery, I can see they’re well aware of the seduction community, and much like Jon Stewart, they straddle the line between entertainment and information. Their popularity is undeniable — they’ve got almost 130,000 subscribers.

So, do they get the GK stamp of approval? If I actually had a stamp?

I could make two reviews here: one review of Simple Pickup as entertainers, and one of them as role models on how to meet women. Because a Salon article with the headline, “Are these the greatest pickup artists of all time?” and the stance that Simple Pickup videos are the answer to frustrated guys seeking help, is no small claim.

Ever picked up a girl while dressed as Harry Potter? These guys have.

The entertainment part is, well, simple: these guys are a riot. Unlike so many of the self-absorbed pickup dudes out there, they seem like normal, fun guys I’d enjoy hanging out with. They mix bravery, vulgarity and humility, and I can’t think of another show like it. If you don’t mind cringing at hearing a guy in tight shorts tell a girl she likes semen on her face (she’s not offended), you’ll enjoy this.

Evaluating the videos’ instructional value is much trickier.

The underlying message of the show is that a guy can say anything to a woman, as long as he believes in it, and connect with her. Well, not anything. But they’re generally right — getting a woman’s number  is easy and should be fun.

As inspiration, the videos are tough to beat. They’re aimed at a younger crowd, but if at any age you can’t get in the mood to meet women after watching the guys flirt with wrestling catch phrases, you might as well consider castration. I know I’ve headed out with a hop in my step after watching them.

While it’s easy to question the guys’ game  when the videos are so highly edited, I’m no hater: they seem legit to me. I’ve been close enough to the industry to know of some staged pickups on camera and I can smell a fake — this doesn’t look fake, and there are some teachable moments:

  • Their overall vibe and body language is well worth studying. They display just the right amount of indifference, fun and confidence.
  • While dressed as a “Jersey Shore” douchebag, Jason does a great job of showing commitment in getting a girl to stop and talk to him, even when she had to feed her parking meter.
  • When they’re not going for shock value, their approaches are straightforward and charming, such as Jesse’s approach that led to walking off with a girl (one of the few closes that go beyond a number).
  • Jason gives a textbook example of approaching a girl who’s sitting with another guy.
  • Though I’m sure much of what they say is scripted for humor, they also respond with wit when challenged. Such as here.
  • The way they laugh off being rejected is perhaps more instructive than anything.
  • We don’t see much seduction out of them beyond phone numbers, but they do have one nighttime video in Vegas where they each appear to pull women to their hotel rooms, and they make it look good.

I should add that all this content is free, and the guys are generous about responding to their viewers. That’s more than I can say about all the seduction gurus who charge a king’s ransom for their products with little to no engagement.

Now, for the criticism. There’s an abundance of content over context here, and if we’re going to call the men of Simple Pickup instructors, the show could use more of the latter.

I agree with much of the advice the guys dispense in their five “Simple Tips” episodes. But I didn’t care for their first one, which is about how to touch a woman. While you can kiss a reluctant girl right away in a club or pull her closer when she moves away, it doesn’t mean you should. This might especially mislead guys who aren’t club-goers or who are just not that aggressive. It’s one time where the show’s stars seem too “pickupy” for my taste.

Finally, getting a woman’s number — that’s the show’s title — is so easy, it’s not necessarily an accomplishment. If the guy didn’t connect with her or rushed the conversation, often a woman would rather hand over her number and not respond rather than outright refuse him. I’ve always emphasized instant dates over numbers with guys, and that’s where the real results come.

Now, perhaps the Simple Pickup guys would say the numbers are beside the point. What they’re really teaching is how to behave confidently around women, and I might buy that argument.

But because we rarely see an interaction that lasts more than a few seconds at a time, it’s tough to know what happened between the approach and the number or how long they talked. Or if they actually date any of these women. For instance, we see Kong end up with a number after she had initially turned him down. But we don’t see what happened in between, and like so many of the numbers they get, we can’t tell how solid it is.

Showing the meat of a conversation might make the show less entertaining, but it would make it more informative for a beginning guy.

Maybe that’s the ultimate stunt the guys haven’t exploited yet — use no stunts at all for one episode. Broadcast an interaction from start to finish and show how you can connect with a girl without the dick jokes.

So yes, I’m contradicting myself. Despite the Salon article’s contention, I don’t see the Simple Pickup guys as an evolutionary leap in teaching men how to connect with women. There’s still no substitute for in-person coaching. But if I have to choose between them and so many of the PUA gurus out there, I’ll gladly put on some Spandex and join them in their next adventure.


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Read This: Sex at Dawn

by GK on September 17, 2011 · 11 comments

Pickup artists, biologists and conservatives have more in common than they think. Sure, they may not hit up the same parties, but they intersect here: all of them look at winner-take-all, monogamous relationships with “alpha males” and mutual double-crossing as the foundation from which our relationships have evolved.

I could see the truths in such theory over the years, but I also had doubts that I rarely saw answered. That’s why I was so glad to read “Sex at Dawn” recently, because it raises those doubts and does so with scientific, witty precision. To those who say we have evolved from isolated, monogamous relationships based on access to resources, sexual jealousy and “alpha” genes, the authors say they have it all backward. I’m no Oprah Winfrey, but I heartily recommend this book.

Beyond sex, the book is really about one word: nature.

It’s ironic that the authors emphasize the unnatural nature of Western marriage, lifelong monogamy and nuclear families when they are a married couple themselves. But Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha aren’t anti-commitment. Rather, they insist that for most of human existence, before agriculture, people lived in tightly knit societies and engaged in committed-yet-promiscuous relationships and shared the raising of kids.

The book refers often to a “standard narrative,” one that’s been fed to us by everything from religion to romantic comedies to Charles Darwin. It includes the following:

  • Women have always been passive when it comes to sex and naturally commit to one partner.
  • Males are sexually jealous of their partners because they don’t want to risk raising another man’s child.
  • Women always looked to men for access to wealth and status, though they would cheat to give birth to a child with superior genes.
  • Pair-bonding, marriage and the nuclear family are a fundamental condition of humanity.

No shortage of Ph.D’s and intellectuals have made such claims, and I love it that the authors refute them not only with hard facts, but also with a cartoon. Our attempt to apply modern views of everything from monogamy to war is no less anacrhonistic than the prehistoric characters of the “Flintstones” using telephones and cars.

The authors contend that one defining moment turned what was then into what is now: agriculture. Once our hunter-gatherer ancestors — whose descendents live on in scattered societies around the world — started forming civilizations and competing over scarce resources, women became a commodity too. And so monogamy was born as a contract of sex for food, with love as a vague justification for it.

 “Modern man’s seemingly instinctive impulse to control women’s sexuality is not an intrinsic feature of human nature,” they write. “It is a response to specific historical socioeconomic conditions — conditions very different from those in which our species evolved.”

The authors use ample anthropological evidence from the hunter-gatherers of yesterday and today, where food, sex and child-rearing are shared among everyone, and women aren’t shy or shamed when it comes to initiating sex. This isn’t some noble ideal, but rather a practical one: if everyone’s getting laid, everyone’s happy. Just look to Middle East terrorism and the promise of virgins in Heaven as evidence that deprivation can lead to problems.

And if that’s not proof enough that promiscuity is natural for us, Ryan and Jetha add the following regarding our animal cousins:

  • Of all animals, we are most closely related to two apes: the chimp and the bonobo. Both are social and live on the ground, like us, and are highly promiscuous. The only ape to practice monogamy — the gibbon — lives a solitary life in trees.
  • Among bonobos, sex is shared with everyone to relieve tension and strengthen social bonds, and with apologies to the seduction gurus out there, there is no such thing as an alpha male. In fact, the females have higher status than males because no alliances are formed to control them.
  • Men have big balls. Once again, we more closely resemble the more promiscuous chimp and bonobo in this regard, whereas gorillas — who do include alpha males and harems — and gibbons have small testicles.

Ultimately, though, the real evidence can be found in civilized societies such as America, where marriage and nuclear families are on the decline, with adultery and boredom a leading cause of divorce. Because it’s taboo to even discuss the idea that we’re not meant to be monogamous for life, we continue to wear a garment that doesn’t fit. And the seams are showing.

The authors don’t offer much of a solution to the problem, because while the standard narrative may be misleading, much of our culture is jealous and opportunistic when it comes to relationships. And discussing this with someone you care about is no easy task. But we have to start somewhere, so we might as well start from the beginning.

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When a Woman’s Age Matters

by GK on August 29, 2011 · 1 comment

One of the many ways I’ve taught guys has involved age — factoring how old the guy is along with the age of women he’s trying to meet. Sometimes, it makes the difference between happy dating and tragic dating; sometimes, it doesn’t matter at all.

I’ll do a little breakdown in this post, but I’ll say it simply first: age and age differential matter far more if you’re looking for a serious girlfriend than if you’re just looking for casual fun.

In most cases when we’re talking about women, we’re talking about younger ones. Guys tend to prefer them younger, and with good reason: young women tend to be hotter. In case you hadn’t noticed, we men are a visual lot. Also, as I’ve mentioned in my post on rating women, there are social pressures that lead to us chasing the “10,” even when she doesn’t have much else to offer.

Those social pressures range from our friends to Hollywood, where it’s somehow plausible that a midlife-crisis-suffering Jim Carrey is saved by an attractive, upbeat, early-2os Zooey Deschanel (I’m talking about “Yes Man”).

I’m not about to stand on a soapbox and preach against dating young, hot girls– if you averaged it out, I’d guess the women I’ve dated/hooked up with were five years younger than me. I had a 19-year-old girlfriend when I was 26, and it was a normal relationship. This isn’t strictly about age — it’s about tailoring the right girl for the guy.

For instance, let’s say you’re a 36-year-old, career-oriented guy who would like to settle down and start a family in the next few years. You own a house, you eat fine foods and you’re not a big partier. Which of these girls might be better for you?

A: A smoking-hot 23-year-old grad student who has a proclivity for dancing at house clubs and might be living anywhere in the next two years.  

B: A 29-year-old who doesn’t turn as many heads but still stays in great shape, has a steady job and would like to commit and have kids.

I’ve met some guys who consistently go after Girl A yet complain about staying single.

Now, if that same 36-year-old guy lives a youthful lifestyle, looks good for his age and isn’t so concerned with settling down, suddenly Choice A makes a lot more sense. So again, it’s not all about age here.

That said, in my experience I have noticed different truths and myths about women of different ages. I’ll break them down, along with their dateability, here:

Women 19-25: This is your basic college-aged girl. While there was a time when girls this age were looking to marry or settle down early, those times have changed in much of the Western world. This survey offers one example of that change in America.

The pros to such women are as follows: they’re physically in their prime, they have less baggage, they’re more open to trying new things and they’re a lot of fun. For all the talk of women reaching their sexual peak in their 30s, I don’t find the younger ones to be any less lusty.

The cons: It’s really one major con, and that’s a lack of life experience. These girls often don’t know who they are or what they really want, and if you live in a place like California, they’re focusing on their careers and having fun first. Even the ones who seem mature for their age and say they want a relationship will often show their immaturity when you don’t expect it. So looking for a long-term partner in this neck of the woods might get you lost.

Ideal for: Guys who are in their 20s or who just want to have fun.

Women 26-32: These girls are more likely to have established their careers and settled down in a geographic area. San Francisco is full of such career-oriented women who have moved from other cities. They may have been married or engaged once, but many still haven’t reached that point.

Pros: The more health-conscious girls still look and feel great. They’re more secure in themselves and less likely to choose douchebags over you. 

Cons: Some of these women have paid the price for being so career-conscious, at the expense of their social skills and health. Beware of the ones who look physically attractive but are emotionally wrecked from too much fast food and bad dating. Also, if you’re not looking for a relationship, you might struggle with this age range because of a contrast in agendas.

Ideal for: This is your prime demographic for guys who are in their 30s or beyond and interested in commitment.

Women 33 and up: We’re approaching “cougar” territory at this point, though many don’t deserve that term. I find women in their mid-30s to early 40s to vary. Some may have divorced or been burned but want to commit again soon, others are career women who lack relationship experience, and others are acting out their “Sex and the City” fantasies.

Pros: I’ll let Benjamin Franklin make the case for me. He preferred older women for casual dating, and here’s one of his reasons: “Because when Women cease to be handsome they study to be good . . . there is hardly such a Thing to be found as an Old Woman who is not a good Woman.” I know one guy who spent a large chunk of his single years having flings with older women, and he loved it.

Cons: Some will have too much baggage for a serious relationship, and younger guys may have a hard time connecting with these women. And of course, they’ve got wrinkles.

Ideal for: Guys who are over 40, or pool boys.

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Birth of a Player

by GK on August 15, 2011 · 1 comment

Here’s some more sugar for me to toss your way. I recently got an e-mail from Gavin, the Canadian guy I coached in San Francisco earlier this year. His love life was already doing better when he wrote me in this post, but now he tells me he’s reaching new heights. It pretty much made my week.

I have the entire e-mail at the top of my reviews. But here’s an excerpt for you:

“I feel like things are really coming together for me.  It’s funny to think back on the shyness and desperation and frustration that I felt for so long because it feels alien to me now.  …

I wrote in the comments section on your site (I forget which article, but I’m sure you saw it) about meeting a super cute art history nerd at a bar back in May.  I still see her regularly and she likes to tease me about being a player.  That’s something I’ve started getting in the last month or so:  joking accusations of being a player.  Last weekend, a girl told me I was “way too good at this” and that I was exactly the kind of guy she tells herself to stay away from.  But since then, while she’s been away camping, she’s been texting me every day.

Erica, the art girl, has told me on multiple occasions how she really admired my directness because most guys try to pussyfoot around.  She’s told me she’s sick of dating boys and is happy to have finally met a man who actually knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go for it.  Another girl told me straight up “guys in Victoria have no balls.”

Well, if we could add just one pair of cojones to the Great White North, I’d say I’ve done well in my retirement. Congrats, Gavin, and keep us posted on your successes.

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A large portion of this blog is devoted to helping guys put their best foot forward socially so that women like them. We shouldn’t pretend to be above wanting to be liked. And as I discussed in my Jay Cutler post a while back, few of us can go through life without being liked at all.

But let’s not forget that we have some approval of our own to give. Or in some cases, to not give. Here’s an example of that.

Mock my shirt at your own peril, ladies!

I was out with my buddy Tre Tre recently at our favorite local bar. Often, our nights there are spent more on discussing football than talking to girls, but this time Tre saw potential.

He spotted two ladies seated behind us at the bar, and he thought the blonde was cute. We used a little stealth in getting up from our seats and sitting next to theirs by saying hello to the bartender and chatting him up briefly. The girls were talking to the bartender as well, and Tre waited for his chance to join the discussion.

When he heard the blonde discussing her upcoming trip to Turkey, where he’d spent a lot of time, he had his chance.

As only Tre can do, he had the girls’ complete attention by talking about his experience in Turkey and asking about her trip. I hadn’t even said a word to them yet — I didn’t need to. I had no doubt that Tre had the blonde, but then, the blonde lost him.

Tre was suggesting she not wear loud colors in Turkey as a safety measure, and out of nowhere, she pointed at me and said, “Yeah, like that guy’s shirt. It’s so jarring.”

It was my first night wearing my red-and-blue striped Rugby shirt — a shirt I was excited to get, by the way. I could only presume the blonde was joking, even if she had a straight face.

I was caught off guard, but I just smiled and said that I hadn’t even talked to her yet and she was ripping my style. She had every chance to smile or say “just kidding,” and it would have defused the whole thing. Maybe I would have liked her more for it. Instead, she kept her straight face and said, “Just giving you constructive criticism.”

I wanted to say a lot to her, especially that I didn’t take fashion criticism from women who wore loose, one-shouldered sweaters straight out of 1983. But I bit my tongue and let the conversation continue, out of loyalty to Tre Tre.

But Tre had seen enough right there. It’s not that he needed to defend me over a shirt — I’m a big boy — but she had just displayed a character trait he disliked in women. She was a bully, and if she showed negativity to his friend right in front of him, she probably did the same with other people.

So Tre turned away from them, and even when they re-engaged him on their way out and gave him every chance to ask for the blonde’s number, he didn’t do it. Much as a certain famous athlete had ruined it by disrespecting a girl’s friends, this girl had done the reverse.

Obviously, I loved Tre for doing that just for my ego’s sake. But this isn’t about me. It’s about having some lines in life — not many, but just a few. And when someone crosses that line, you know there’s no going back. Had a girl I liked picked on Tre that way, I would have dismissed her just the same.

In the big scheme of things, a good rugby shirt beats a lame woman every time.

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Cooking with GK: Fish en Papillote

by GK on August 1, 2011 · 4 comments

I’m putting on my manly apron one more time for you guys in the name of finding date-worthy dishes to cook. Today’s recipe calls for fish en papillote, which is a fancy (re: French) way of saying fish in parchment paper.

This dish fulfills my date criteria in lots of ways: it’s tasty, it’s presentable, it’s easy to make yet sounds impressive, it takes little time to cook, it’s cheap, it won’t make you stink and it involves little cleanup. It even includes hearts. If the fish could only play soul music, it would be perfect.

I’ll walk you step by step through this. First, the short list of ingredients:

  • Two fish fillets. I go with a meaty white fish such as snapper, which takes a little longer to make than a leaner fish such as sole but rewards you with a steamier, more textured product. Salmon would work as well.
  • Parchment paper. If you haven’t cooked with this before, you can find it in most markets next to products like aluminum foil. You can use foil if you like, but it doesn’t have the same aesthetic appeal and I don’t think it retains the taste as well.
  • Sixteen asparagus spears.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • One lemon.
  • Dill.
  • White wine.
  • Olive oil.

Now, here’s how the magic happens:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (do a trial run and practice cooking at this temperature, then adjust for your date if need be).
  2. Take out about 12 inches of parchment paper, fold it in half and cut it into the shape of a heart. Because you’re a romantic like that. Do this a second time for the second fillet. 
  3. Brush the hearts lightly with olive oil.
  4. Wash the asparagus spears and break off the lower thirds with your hands. Stack four spears on each side of the hearts.
  5. Put the fish on top of the asparagus.
  6. Drizzle the fish with a little white wine, then squeeze some lemon on it (you can use lemon slices instead). Then sprinkle salt and pepper, then the dill. If you want something creamier, top the fish with some butter.
  7. Now it’s time to wrap the fish. It took me some practice and there are several ways to do this, but I do as follows: I fold up the edges, then I fold the fish in half and tuck in the remaining edges. The better your wrap it up, the better you retain the moisture.
  8. Shove the wrapped fish side by side in the oven, and let it bake for 25 minutes (less if you’re using a leaner fish).
  9. Take out the cooked fish, and taking care not to burn your fingers, unwrap the paper while leaving the fish in. The escaping steam makes for a cool effect.
  10. Pair this bad boy up with some white wine (or red if you’re using salmon), and eat your heart out. Get it?

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Sugar and Socializing Don’t Mix

by GK on July 25, 2011 · 6 comments

In my crusade to teach good, healthy game to my fellow man, I’ve compared myself to broccoli while likening the flashy pickup gurus to sugar. But this year I’ve had a wake-up call involving real sugar, and for those wondering how you can improve your energy when socializing, this post is for you.

I’ve covered some other methods on improving your energy. But do you want one simple way? Avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners. Like, entirely. On the other hand, avoiding sugar isn’t so simple. Because it’s everywhere, including things we think will give us more energy.

A few months ago, I came across the above presentation by Dr. Robert Lustig of UC-San Francisco. I was already health conscious with my diet, and I had been cutting down on processed foods and taking better supplements. But this was like getting scared straight.

Lustig makes a convincing case on why sugar is more than just bad for us. He outright calls sugar a poison and says any amount of fructose or sucrose is toxic. This, of course, has ramifications far beyond having the energy to talk to the hot blonde at the bar. Use your own judgment, but I suggest you take 90 minutes to check out the video.

I had already looked hard at food labels, but I got even more aggressive about checking them for sugar. Unlike with fat, in the United States we have no daily recommended allowance for sugar, even though fat is less harmful. We’re just told to eat sugar moderately, whatever that means.

I have the metabolism of a jackrabbit and I walk a lot, so I’m fortunate to have about the same weight at 35 years old –147 pounds — as I had in college. For me this was about wellness and energy, not weight.

Would you like some Coke with your fructose?

But there I would be, eating dinner before a night on the town, and I was downing a glass of fruit juice — hey, it was organic! — that had roughly 35 grams of sugar in it. Dinner might have included a can of beans that had 35 grams of sugar in it. That’s before I’d even gotten to desert.

One by one, I removed sugar-laden items from my diet, except for dark chocolate, which I will eat till my dying breath but is at least high in antioxidants.

Carla Heiser, a brilliant woman who runs the Avellino Group, suggested I never eat more than 10 grams of sugar at once, so I have (mostly) followed her advice. I’ve replaced juice with unsweetened iced tea, and that suits me fine. I’ve always been good at having the right energy for socializing at night, but at 35 I can still party later than a lot of 25-year-olds. So I’m doing something right.

Here are some high-sugar drinks and foods you can cut right away to help you get your game on:

  • Energy drinks. Don’t believe the hype. Sure, Red Bull will give you wings — until you go down Icarus style after the crash. There are 27 grams of sugar in an 8.-3 ounce can of Red Bull — that’s the small can — and you can add a lot more to the bigger cans like Rockstar’s. Also, the worst hangovers I had came when used to I mix energy drinks with alcohol.
  • Fruit juice. This one flies under the radar because we equate fruit with good health. But an 8-oz  glass of Minute Maid orange juice has 24 grams of sugar in it.
  • Sports drinks. Unless you’re planning to be in the 2012 Olympics, you shouldn’t drink these.
  • Soda. Merely eliminating Coke from my diet in college is probably why I’ve never gained weight. One 12-oz can gives you a whopping 39 grams of sugar. And don’t think the diet drinks are any better. They’re packed with aspartame,  which is way sweeter than sugar and is linked to depression, headaches and cancer, among other ailments.
  • Smoothies (unless you make them). Again, this is one you wouldn’t think about. Jamba Juice is healthy, right? The vitamins sure are nice, but the 73 grams of sugar in a Sixteen Size Banana Berry will crash you like the Hindenburg.
  • Clif Bar. It’s like the food version of Red Bull. One bar has about 20 grams of sugar.
  • Canned foods. There are some low-sugar versions I’ll eat, but pay attention to the label. Beans especially can be loaded with sugar.
  • Condiments and sauces. What do ketchup, spaghetti sauce and barbecue sauce have in common? Yes, they’re red, but they also have sugar.

Just eliminating the above will make a big difference in your sugar intake, and with it your energy. You can save the sweetness for your personality.

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