Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Which Is It--Fat or Dead?

Okay, I know no one wants to be overweight. But what would you give up to not be overweight?

I'm not sure. I wouldn't give up my house, or my pets. I wouldn't trade a year of my life, or allow a limb to be lopped off. Does that mean I don't want to be the paragon of thinness?

This piece from was published last summer, but I was startled as I stumbled across it this week. In "20 Things You Didn't Know About Obesity," it shows how pervasive the vilification of fat people has become.

Just a few of the "facts":

  • 50 percent of people would give up a year of their life rather than spend it as a fat person.
  • Up to 30 percent would rather give up their spouse than be fat.
  • Up to 30 percent would rather suffer clinical depression than be fat.
  • Up to 30 percent would rather become an alcoholic than be fat.
  • 5 percent would rather lose a limb than be fat.
  • 4 percent would rather be blind than fat.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want to be overweight--it's why I'm working to not be that way. But really. I would rather be overweight than dead, depressed, alcoholic, maimed or blind. Maybe that's my problem--I'm not willing to give up enough to lose weight!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What Shall We Eat Today?

I've had Michael Pollan's bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma, sitting in my "To Read" pile for the past month or so--it was a Christmas present, or, actually, what I bought myself with the Barnes & Noble gift card that was my Christmas present.

After reading this weekend's article by Pollan in the New York Times (registration required, I think), I'll have to move the book higher up in the stack.

In "Unhappy Meals," Pollan says a lot of things strict low-carbers will disagree with--he advocates a mostly plant-based diet, albeit of "real" foods, not processed foods, with meat as a side item rather than the star of the meal.

But the article is fascinating for his insights into the food industry, the food lobbyists in Washington, and how the ridiculous food pyramid has been compromised and sold out in the name of politics over the years.

His thoughts are interesting about how the transition was made from eating a diet based on foods to a diet based on nutrients (counting carbs, fats or proteins). Who knew George McGovern played a role?

His point that we need to get back to the basics of planning our diets around real food is well made -- he points out all the conflicting research coming out of the nutritional arena. It results in what he calls the "cognitive dissonance of the supermarket shopper."

"Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease," Pollan writes. "The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions. While the Institute of Medicine stated that “it is uncertain how much these omega-3s contribute to improving health” (and they might do the opposite if you get them from mercury-contaminated fish), a Harvard study declared that simply by eating a couple of servings of fish each week (or by downing enough fish oil), you could cut your risk of dying from a heart attack by more than a third — a stunningly hopeful piece of news. It’s no wonder that omega-3 fatty acids are poised to become the oat bran of 2007, as food scientists micro-encapsulate fish oil and algae oil and blast them into such formerly all-terrestrial foods as bread and tortillas, milk and yogurt and cheese, all of which will soon, you can be sure, sprout fishy new health claims."

More later--gotta go to work now. But check the article out if you haven't read it!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Are You a Food Snob?

Apparently, most Americans are, to some degree. This article talks with Barry Glassner about his new book, The Gospel of Food. I want to get the book--it looks ready-made to be something that will just really set me off big-time!

In the meantime, he has interesting comments to make in the Salon article about how we are such total snobs about whatever type of diet we support. Low-fat snobs, of which there are such an abundance, not only disagree with low-carb proponents but are absolutely disdainful of the idea. Unfortunately, most low-carb proponents are just as snobbily disdainful of the low-fatters. Basically, we all think we're right, and that's that.

Calianna, over at Calianna's Low-Carb Cottage, touches on a similar topic today, aimed primarily at the low-fatters but basically saying: What works for some people doesn't work for other people.

A problem for low carbers, of course, is that we've had to defend this way of eating for so long--and we're so frustrated that the high-carb-low-fat mantra continues to predominate in the face of mounting research evidence that simple carbs are slow poison--that it's hard for us not to push back in the game of Bully Nutrition.

Only time will tell.

Only 31 Years?

Now, why don't I find this surprising? In an article from the London Daily Mail comes the news that the average woman spends 31 years of her life on a diet.

According to a new report, British women spend an average of six months a year counting calories, and more than 20% are on a "permanent diet" throughout their lifetimes. Men spend 28 years dieting.

When you set that up against the fact of spiraling obesity, don't you just figure something is not working? Like high carb, low fat austerity? The article goes on to say that half of the dieters who quit their programs say it is because they "don't have enough willpower." A quarter say it's because their diet leaves them depressed.

I don't know how much of my life has been spent on a diet but it has been significant, and yet I still have a real weight problem. Which is why I'm trying to change my way of eating and thinking about food instead of "dieting" now.

The first diet I remember going on was in 8th or 9th grade, when my mom would ply me with hamburger patties and cottage cheese. Now that I think of it, it was a pretty nice controlled-carb diet. I did the Stillman Diet, the Rotation Diet, some horrendous liquid protein stuff. I did grapefruit diets, cabbage diets, and several rounds of Atkins that I didn't stick with. I did Nutrisystem--twice, and Weight Watchers at least four times. I've tried Sugar Busters and South Beach, and Carb Addicts. Hmmmmm. Did I mention the Scarsdale Diet, and the Wine Diet (a personal favorite)?

If you feel like a trip down memory lane for your own dieting adventures, check out The Fad Diet website.

Today's Food Trivia: Aardvark

A fine low-carb food, that aardvark. According to my new Oxford Companion to Food, aardvarks have a good reputation as human foods and tastes like pork. Since it "has the reputation" as being good, I assume the author of the Oxford Companion never ate any. I've had Ostrich and Buffalo, but never have I seen aardvark on the menu! Aardvarks are "one of a kind"--they have no relation to any other animal group, but their name, which comes from the South African Dutch, means "earth pig" because they root and tunnel into the ground, where they eat termites and such until they can grow as large as 6' long and 220 lbs. That would make some fine aardvark steaks.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

I've been uncharacteristically quiet the past few days, tending to my mom after her surgery (which went well).

But now I'm back!

I couldn't believe it when I read this story about a California man, a Hepatitis-C sufferer, who was denied boarding on a Southwest Airlines flight to Arizona for a liver transplant? Why? Because he was "too fat" and they wouldn't let him fly without purchasing an additional ticket so he'd have two seats.

Wow, I thought. He must have been really huge. Well, not really. The man weighs about 300 pounds, according to his daughter. He's on disability and couldn't afford the extra ticket.

Now, while I wonder why the guy was flying alone, why no one was with him to pick up the cost of the ticket and sort it out with Southwest later, etc., the fact remains that some ticket counter personnel thought it was more important to punish the fat guy than have some compassion for someone who was ill--the flight wasn't even sold out.

On the other hand, another Southwest employee bought him the second ticket so he could make the flight.

I have to fly to Chicago in March on business, and I'm already dreading it!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm Hatin' It

Check out this video on uTube to see a subliminal ad for McDonald's supposedly found during an episode of Iron Chef America on the Food Network. Hmmmm.....wonder if you're supposed to crave a Big Mac if this is flashed at you enough times. Am I the only one who finds this totally insidious?

Hi, My Name is Binji and I'm....

Let me introduce you to Binji, my evil twin. Binji likes to binge. When faced with an opportunity to overconsume, she becomes out of control. Her mind stops working; all reason is lost. The little voice in her head that is me, is ignored (if she hears it at all). She is the possessor; I am the possessed.

I've had Binji on a short leash for the past five months, and boy is she unhappy. When she escaped her leash on Christmas Eve, I let her roam free for a few days, until New Year's Day, when I reined her in again.

She didn't like that.

And yesterday, she saw her chance to escape again, when a friend showed up to watch the New Orleans Saints-Chicago Bears debacle of an NFC Championship game, bearing (no pun intended) chips, popcorn, and Blue Bell ice cream in Binji's favorite flavor, Homemade Vanilla.

Binji broke free about halfway through the first quarter of the game and rampaged till bedtime, when I, ironically, finished reading Courtney Rubin's "Weight Loss Diaries," a raw and honest account of her own battle over binge eating. I was about 20 pages from the end before I accepted that no way was she coming up with a solution, a breakthrough, a-ha moment, before the end of the book. She sabotaged herself through 200 pages despite running marathons, battling compulsive eating and poor self-image over a two-year period. Her final analysis? Relax and do the best you can; you have to live your life, and accept that battling food is always going to be a part of your world.

At what point is it relaxing, and at what point is it surrender and defeat? I'm not ready to concede it yet.

She's back in her pen now, and it's another day.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What's in Your Vitamin?

We all take our multivitamins like good little girls and boys, trusting the big old vitamin manufacturers to have our best health in mind.


This story from MSNBC cites a study by that shows half of 27 brands of multivitamins failed a quality test.

One vitamin--The Vitamin Shoppe Multivitamins Especially for Women, was contaminated with lead. Lead!

Others didn't contain the ingredients they claimed, or contained them in different amounts. The article said, "Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, a multivitamin for children, had 216 percent of the labeled amount of vitamin A in the retinol form, delivering 5,400 International Units (IU) in a daily serving. That's substantially more than the upper tolerable level set by the Institute of Medicine of 2,000 IU for kids ages 1 to 3 and 3,000 IU for those 4 to 8."

Nature's Plus Especially Yours for Women took twice as long as allowed to disintegrate, while AARP's Maturity Formula took almost twice as long. Eniva's VIBE, had only half the amount of Vitamin A claimed on the label.

The good news is that if you stick with the big brands, you're probably OK. Among the multivitamins passing the test were Centrum, One-a-Day, Flintstones Complete, and the Member's Mark brand from Sam's Club.

Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to the site to see the full report. Hopefully, it'll get picked up somewhere else to get the full list.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Which valentine gift works best for your sweetie? The Krispy Kreme heart-shaped donuts or the heart-shaped low-carb cheesecake? Or some heart-shaped cheese,better yet!

The 10 Worst Foods?

Interesting piece from The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Everyone's favorite killjoys have identified 10 foods that we should never, ever, ever eat--and it's obvious the CSPI folks are still under the hypnotic influence of the low-fat mafia. What are the 10 worst foods?

  • Pepperidge Farm Original Flaky Crust Roasted Chicken Pot Pie, with 1,020 calories, 18 grams of saturated fat (oh the evils!) and 13 grams of trans fat. I agree this is a nightmare.
  • McDonald's Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips. A five-strip order has 630 calores and "11 grams of artery-clogging fat." Frankly, I'd be more concerned about the 1,550 mg of sodium and the floury mix the chicken is breaded with.
  • The Cheesecake Factory's Six-Carb Cheesecake, with 610 calories and 29 grams of saturated fat. Oh heaven forbid! Hey...where can I get this. Wish we had these restaurants here.
  • Dove Ice Cream, with 300 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat for a half-cup. Uh, what about all the SUGAR?
  • Mrs. Fields Milk Chocolate and Walnuts Cookies, with 300 calories "and as much saturated fat as a 12-ounce sirloin steak." Yummmm...steak. Also has six teaspoons of sugar per cookie!
  • The Starbucks Venti 20 Oz. Caffe Mocha with Whipped Cream, which CSPI calls "A Quarter-Pounder with Cheese in a cup." 490 calories and 16 "grams of bad fat."
  • The Burger King Quad Stacker. Four patties, 4 slices of cheese, 8 strips of bacon, and sauce on a bun, with 1,000 calories, 30 grams of saturated fat and 1,800 mg of sodium. Hmmm. Wonder what the carb count is without the bun...
  • Campbell's Chunky, Select, and Red-and-White-Label Condensed Soups. Too much salt. I agree with this one. All those noodles and flour aren't too cool, either.
  • Chipotle Chicken Burrito, with 1,180 calories and 19 grams of saturated fat. Is this a chain? I'm not familiar with it. Anyway, it's tortilla, rice, beans, plus chicken and salsa. Mexican is hard to low carb, by the way--my office is doing a Mexican birthday lunch tomorrow and I still haven't figured out what to eat. I think fajita without the wrap.
  • Haagen Dazs Mint Chip Dazzler. Three scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, Oreos, chocolate sprinkles and whipped cream. The 1,270 calories and 38 grams of saturated fat aren't the biggest problems here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another Pyramid

This one was created by the folks at Harvard School of Medicine in response to the USDA's new "customized" pyramid (see yesterday's entry) because they didn't think it adequately reflected the current research.

The Harvard "Healthy Eating Pyramid" (shown above) takes a few more steps in the right direction but still remains too heavy on the grains, in my opinion, while continuing to vilify saturated fat.

BUT it is an improvement. Although whole grains take up half of the bottom rung and are recommended for "every meal," an equal weight (up to 35% of daily calories) are recommended from the so-called "good" oils. But non-plant protein sources--fish, poultry and eggs, are relegated to the bad side of the pyramid, as is dairy. They prefer a calcium supplement. At the very top of the pyramid, to "use sparingly," is red meat, butter, white rice, white bread, white pasta, potatoes, soda and other sweets.

It is irksome that they're lumping red meat and butter with sugar and white bread, though.

My Little Pony, uh, I Mean Food Pyramid

Did you know that the USDA never really published their revised food pyramid--it's only online? And that they're now going to start a push to drive people to their interactive website, where you plug in a little basic info (age, activity level) and they will provide you with a "personalized" food pyramid?

So I did that, and here's my daily food recommendations according to Uncle Sam:

-- 6 ounces of grains--half of them should be whole grains. I guess the rest can be Frosted Flakes.

--2.5 cups of veggies daily, or 16.5 weekly, of which 3 cups should be dark green, 2 cups should be orange, 3 cups should be dried beans or peas, 3 cups should be starchy (I thought peas WERE starchy--guess this could be potatoes, and 6.5 cups should be other. More potatoes?

--1.5 cups daily of fruit. How many cups is an apple?

--3 cups a day of milk/dairy

--5 ounces/day of meat/eggs/protein. Five ounces? Less than grains?

--5 teaspoons of oil a day.

--195 calories a day of "extras" such as sugar or extra fat.

It's better than what it was, and it's easy to see it headed begrudging toward lower carb. Still need to up the protein, lower the grains, be more specific on the type of oil that's recommended.

To find what they want you to eat, click here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Monkey Business

Now, this is too funny. According to this BBC piece, a Brit reality special was planned based on what would happen if you took nine ordinary folks and put them in a zoo--specifically, a tent in a zoo in Devon, England. The participants agreed to eat the same diet as the inhabitants of the Ape House next door for 12 days.

One volunteer, for example, weighed 266 pounds (19 stone). His normal breakfast was four slices of toast, followed by a mid-morning snack of a bacon, egg and sausage sandwich; fish and chips for lunch; Chinese takeout for dinner. By the end of his experience emulating the Great Apes for 12 days, he had lost 12-1/2 pounds, and reduced his cholesterol by 20 percent. All participants experienced greater energy and better overall feeling of health.

So, what did the Apes and the apers eat? That would be 2,300 calories of raw food: broccoli, carrots, radishes, cabbage, tomatoes, watercress, strawberries, apricots, bananas, mangoes, melons, figs, plums, satsumas, and hazelnuts.


Once upon a time, I wouldn't drink diet sodas but drank so many regular sodas that I proclaimed myself the "carbonation queen." Then I figured out that if I drank diet soda I could have more calories for food, so I began downing enough Diet Coke to pickle a frog.

One of my big things now is to limit my diet soda consumption to one a day.

Apparently, I wasn't alone in my soda habit. According to this Chicago Tribune article, sodas are the new favorite breakfast beverage. I can believe it. I remember many a restaurant breakfast accompanied by a Diet Coke.

You...As a Guinea Pig

Okay, enough is enough. I've been on a soul-crushing cycle of losing and gaining the same five pounds for almost three months. Time to stop. I'm taking a bold and probably stupid move this week and leaving the Extreme Atkins plan for the first time since August 6--47 pounds ago--and putting myself to the test in a two-week experiment. I'm bored to death and need something to jolt me out of my boredom.

For the next two weeks, I will be doing a low-carbish version of the Weight Watchers program. I say "low-carbish" because I'm opening my food options up to include whole grains and fruits, two things that have been forbidden since August, when I've kept my carb intake to 20-25 total (NOT net) carbs per day. It's South Beach, for all intents and purposes, or Sugar Busters. Not so much low carb as controlled carb.

Will I puff up like a blowfish? Gain back all 46 pounds in two weeks? Start feeling sluggish again?

Well, that's why I'm putting a two-week limit on it. If I gain, it's over. But I won't step on the scales till the first week is over.

So stay tuned. Suzanne the Guinea Pig is reporting for duty!

Any thoughts about this? (Don't worry--I'm not going to start eating "rat poison" again!)

Dream Girls

Two actresses who wear more than a size 2 won Golden Globes last night. Could this be a sea change in Hollywood's love affair with anorexics? Nah, just a little glitch. Nice to see America Ferrera and Jennifer Hudson not held back by their size, though (Ferrera is a hefty size 12, I bet).

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Now Here's a Cookie For You

Read the comments from my Cookie entry a couple of days ago, and then try six of these cookies a day. Add one low-carb meal and you've got about 800 calories, about 15 grams of carbs, and 24 grams of fiber. And the cookies come in four flavors. They're made by Dixie Diner. First time I've seen these, though they may not be new. Has anyone tried them?

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Last Acceptable Form of Bigotry

In our politically correct age, it's no longer acceptable to make fun of minorities, nationalities, senior citizens, folks who wear glasses, or people with mental of physical handicaps. We can lampoon politicians and celebrities with the meanest of spirit, but they're public figures so to some extent they have accepted that risk.

But it's still okay to make fun of fat people--not famous fat people, but just overweight people in general. I remember when I was much younger, in my 20s, and I was walking into a restaurant in Houston with a friend. Some guys about our age came out as we were going in, and they made it a point to loudly proclaim how glad they were they had gotten their meal before we got there because there might not be enough once the fat chicks chowed down.

I wasn't that overweight at the time. And it pretty much ruined the meal and the evening out.

But as adults we develop a thick skin over time, and learn to talk back or ignore. Kids don't have it so easy.

A recent Canadian study found that overweight girls, ages 11 to 16, were 90% more likely to suffer abuse about their appearance than "normal" weight girls. Another study, this one out of Rutgers University, found that prejudice against fat kids had increased by 40% since similar studies were done in the 1960s.

If we teach our kids not to make fun of people who have different skin color, why is it so much harder to teach them not to make fun of people who weigh more? Probably because the parents are folks who, 20 years ago, were making fun of other overweight folks at restaurants in Houston.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another Scam Coming Your Way

There's a lot of buzz about the upcoming nationwide availability of Dr. Stanford Siegel's famous Cookie Diet, which, according to various reports, have led patients at his South Florida clinic to eat lots of cookies and lose 15 pounds a month.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

Well, of course the ingredients of the Magic Cookie are top-secret but you can figure out some of them. Sugar, for example. Flour. And probably fiber to give the cookies their "secret" hunger-killing properties.

Here's the deal. You eat six cookies a day, whenever you're hungry, and then have a dinner of 6 ounces of chicken or fish, plus one cup of green veggies. No red meat, because it's "too high in fat."

HELLO? The daily calorie total on the Cookie Diet is 800. Well, yeah, I guess you would lose 15 pounds a month on 800 calories a day. And be miserable and hungry and ill-tempered and, oh, did I mention listless and tired?

Odds and Ends

Clearing my folders of things that have been languishing a while...

* From UCLA, this study is sort of mind-boggling in that it supports a strange phenomenon known as the "obesity paradox." Apparently, the one time in your life when it pays to be obese is if you're hospitalized for heart failure. The heavier you are, the better your chance of survival. The researchers think that obese people have more nutritional reserves to draw upon as they fight the heart failure. I have no idea what practical purpose the study will serve--can't imagine it would cause any docs to advocate weight gain!--but it's interesting, nonetheless.

* The Brits may be in trouble. In this study, scientists have discovered that all the antioxidant benefits of drinking tea are erased if you add milk to your tea. Most "Yanks" don't have milk with their afternoon tea--we're more apt to add sugar!--but it's quite common in Europe. Has something to do with the milk preventing the tea's artery-relaxing properties from kicking in.

* If you're starting a new exercise routine, you might want to drink a cup of coffee before you start. The newest issue of the Journal of Pain has a study that the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee cuts post-workout pain by 48 percent. The downside? If you're already a moderate coffee drinker, your body is probably immune to the caffeine effects and it might not work.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stirring Parents into the Mix

Was it just me, or did the mayor, DA, police chief and city council members look pretty well stumped as they made pronouncements yesterday about how we were going to get a handle on crime in New Orleans?

They're going to step up police patrols between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Uh, why wasn't that already being done?

NOPD Chief Riley is going to pull more officers off desk duty and put them on the streets. Good idea. Why did it take a public outcry to make that happen?

There's talk of hiring a "crime czar" to coordinate and oversee crime strategies--a police commissioner, in effect, to look at best practices from other cities. Didn't they all go trotting off to New York and Boston a year ago to look at best practices--with no results?

There's the proposal to install crime-surveillance cameras--25 per police district--at sites determined by the communities and NOPD. Great. At least you can have the shootings on film.

I shouldn't pooh-pooh these ideas because, goodness knows, it can't hurt. But in all the talks of increasing police presence and chiding the public for not coming forward as witnesses, I haven't heard a single comment addressed to the parents of the gun-toting teens who are holding our entire city hostage.

Excuse me, but don't you figure if your 15-year-old is out on the streets somewhere at 3 a.m., he's probably up to no good? Do you ever, pardon the pun, rifle through your kids' stuff to see if there are guns or drugs? Do you make your kids go to church? Participate in family activities? Account for himself in any way whatsoever? Do you ever even TALK to your kids in any meaningful way?

I propose arresting parents along with any offenders 18 and under. Maybe the threat of some jail time would create at least the illusion of responsible parenthood.

How Did I Miss This One?

I'm always amazed by "fair food"--you know, the weird food that is sold at fairs and festivals. Most of them are a low-carb nightmare. Or would that be a high-carb nightmare?

Some of the best (worst):
--The battered, deep-fried candy bar. Snickers and Milky Way Bars are popular. I've heard this actually started in Scotland, where Fried Mars Bars became a delicacy. I just can't imagine.
--(Fill in the Blank) on a Stick. In Louisiana, 'Gator on a Stick is popular. This is actually a perfectly good low-carb option!
--Deep-fried Twinkies. Nuff said.
--The Fried Banana Pudding Wrap. Hmmmm. I didn't make this up--there's a sign here.
--Fried Pickles. Well, okay, I've tried these and they are good.
--Deep-Fried Coca-Cola, invented by the same guy who invented...
--The Deep-Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Banana Sandwich. Where's Elvis? Wasn't this one of his favorites?
--The Deep-Fried Cosmopolitan, a pastry filled with cheesecake, fried and topped with a cranberry glaze and a wedge of lime.
--Deep-Fried Oreos.

See a trend here?

Anyway, I stumbled across an article about the big trend for 2006 in fair food, which seems to have begun with the Gateway Grizzlies minor-minor-league baseball team, who signed an agreement with Krispy Kreme to develop Baseball's Best Burger. It consists of a burger topped with sharp cheddar and two slices of bacon--then the whole thing is placed between Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.

Then it took off in California, where an "extreme fair food" developer came up with the healthier version, which is the Chicken-Swiss Krispy Kreme Sandwich with a side of honey. Yikes!!!

Tagged . . . Again!

I got tagged over on my New Orleans blog a couple of weeks ago and sent the tag swirling into the low carb world. Now, I have a taste of my own medicine! I've been tagged by Cindy over at Cindy's Low Carb Life, which is always a great read. Check it out if you haven't already.

So, here we go, five little-known things about me. Yeah, I know. Pretty exciting, eh?

1. One of my first jobs out of college was as a crime reporter for a daily newspaper. I worked horrible hours--from 5 a.m. till 1 p.m. Monday-Thursday and a split shift, 5 a.m.-9 a.m. and 5 p.m. till 10 p.m., on Friday. On my first Friday night shift, I had to cover a double-murder and got the coroner out of the shower to make a comment. Ah, the good old days. Don't miss 'em a bit.

2. I'm an avid quilter and especially enjoy the technique called paper-piecing. Every spare nook and cranny of my house is filled with scraps of fabric. I abide by the saying among quilters: He who dies with the most fabric, wins. Here's one of my quilts.

3. I live in a New Orleans-style Victorian cottage built in 1900. When Hurricane Katrina unceremoniously dumped a 60-foot tree on my roof, I had to replace the original, 100-year-old slate roof. Sniffle. Here's a little bit of my little house.

4. I have lived in five states--always moving for a job: Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; Houston, Texas; San Diego, California; and, for the past 13 years, New Orleans, Louisiana.

5. I used to be a fan of pro wrestling, and actually own a couple of shares of stock in the WWE. Okay, now I've said too much....

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Try This, Dawlin'

Made up a pot of this GUMBO for dinner last night--I had mine without rice, of course. It was terrific and makes a ton. You could further reduce the carbs with sugar-free tomatoes, which I can't find locally, and using a whole-grain flour. Nutritional data I've calculated (at the end) reflects regular old Del Monte canned tomatoes and (egads) white flour. You also can add shrimp but I didn't.

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 large onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups chopped smoked sausage (I use Richard's Cajun Mild)
4 large boneless chicken breasts, diced
1 cup cut okra (I used frozen)
28-oz can diced tomatoes w/ liquid
32 oz. chicken broth
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 lg. bay leaves
gumbo file to taste

Brown 2 Tbsp. flour into melted butter over medium heat in 8-qt stock pot, stirring constantly, until your "roux" is the color of light chocolate--this will take longer than you expect! Stir in onions, garlic and pepper and saute 2-3 minutes. Add sausage, chicken, okra, tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, cayenne and bay leaves. Simmer for 50 minutes. Stir in file to taste (I like a lot, so I added about 1/4 cup--original recipe only called for 1-2 Tbsp); add salt and pepper to taste. It's supposed to be better on the second day, but it's tres bon, y'all. Nutritional date calculated on 10 servings of about 1-1/2 cup each:

Nutritional info per serving:
357 calories
19 fat
10 carb
3 fiber
35 protein

Monday, January 8, 2007

Tanker on a Diet

Tanker, November 2000

Tanker, January 2007

A full 25 percent of last month's paycheck went to the vet, where my two dogs were boarded, vaccinated, microchipped and treated to a day of beauty while I was out of town for the holidays.

Both of them are about seven years old, and both were rescued at age 1. Shane, the Irish/Australian terrier mix, was neglected and underweight and had never had any vet care but was otherwise healthy. Tanker was a street stray who came one day and wouldn't leave, a rottweiler/chow mix who had pneumonia, heartworms and was so skinny at 39 pounds that his hip bones stuck out. His diet had consisted of trash, when he could find it, and leaves.

Last week, I was informed that Tanker, at 74 pounds, is officially overweight. He's fat. He needs to lose 8 pounds. "I'm sure it's his Katrina weight," said the vet tech, referring to the stress poundage all of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 experienced. I had 25 Katrina pounds of my own, which I have, thankfully, lost.

So now Tanker is on a diet, and he's going to join me in a new exercise regime.

Will I give Tanker the new Canine Obesity Pill? No way. All diet pills do is offer you the promise (usually unfulfilled) of allowing you to continue your bad eating habits without paying the consequences. Tanker needs fewer treats, just like his mama.

And, if the last couple of days is any indication, it isn't going to be a piece of cake (pun intended).

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year in New Orleans--Mardi Gras season, which officially kicked off this past weekend on Twelfth Night. The real parade season won't start for another month, but in between there is King Cake Season.

A King Cake is a big round circle of cinnamon-spiked soft Danish-style pastry, into which has been baked a plastic or ceramic baby. On top are some variation of the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold--sometimes in colored sugar, other times in icing with colored sprinkles. There are lots of variations--bavarian cream filled, fruit filled, etc., but they're all made along those lines.

The tradition goes that if you get the plastic/ceramic baby inside your piece of cake, it's your responsibility to purchase the next cake.

My office loves cake.

In the final frenzy leading to the weekend before Mardi Gras Day itself, when my office shuts down for four days of parade-going, we have had a new King Cake show up every single day for two weeks. We've had contests among the different venues around town selling King Cakes.

Last year, I succumbed once or twice to King Cake. This year, despite making the pre-emptive strike and buying the first one for the office today, I hope to make it through the next six weeks without eating any at all.

I hear them out there now, crowded around the table, munching away. Glad I got the photo before my co-workers arrived!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Low Carb Diets Blamed for Birth Defects

Ah, we knew low carbing was getting too much good press lately.

Now, this Associated Press Article lays the blame for a drop in folate levels among young women of childbearing age to the increased adherence to low-carb diets.

Folate is a B vitamin found in bread--particularly artificially-enriched white bread. Increased consumption of whole-grain breads--or no breads at all--could be the culprit, according to the CDC epidemiologist who conducted the study into folate levels.

Although the story headlines scream "Low Carb Diets Cause Birth Defects," another, more likely, culprit is buried in the story--obesity. Fat people metabolize folate (or its chemical counterpart, folic acid) differently than thin people. If fat people get that way from overconsumption of carbs, then it could well be that low-fat, high-carb diets are the cause! Or at least that's my logic.

"Atkins at Home" Revisited

Did you ever hear of the "Atkins at Home" program? It was an Atkins Nutritionals version of the popular "Diet to Go" online program--you choose the plan, and they send you seven or 14 days' worth of meals at a time. Frozen and delivered in a nice cooler with dry ice.

I did the "Diet to Go" thing a few years ago (low fat, didn't work) and must say I enjoyed it but finally quit because it was just too expensive and, I now realize, low-fat just doesn't do it for me. Now, Diet to Go has a low-carb version, but they aren't any cheaper. Still about $135 a week--LOTS more than I can spend. But it's interesting to look at a "typical" menu for low-carb:

Breakfast: Western Omelet with Fajita Veggies, Sausage Links

Lunch: Baked Turkey Cutlet in Curry Sauce; Onions & Peppers; Cauliflower

Dinner: Crab-Stuffed Flounder w/ Dill Sauce; Cauliflower; Green Beans; Creamed Spinach

Then, in today's spam E-mail folder, I found an unsolicited e-mail from Pure Foods Low Carb, which apparently has taken over the business of Atkins At Home. They're running a special of $5 a week off their regular price of almost $250 a week. YIKES! Can people really afford that?

The attractive thing about these pre-fab programs, if you're independently wealthy, is that you can have something different every day. Granted, they don't teach you much about meal planning, but the mindlessness of it is attractive to me, as well as the variety. I have pretty much the same thing all week long. Oh yeah, I know, Superwoman can plan her meals ahead, cook up a storm on the weekend, create a freezer-full of low-carb meals already prepared that she can pop out on a moment's notice. I'm not Superwoman, just a poor schlep who works full time, doesn't like to cook, and wants to do fun things on the weekend.

So back to sauteed mushrooms and grilled chicken breasts for me.

Low Carbing with Paula Deen

I know she's fast becoming a cliche, but I do love Paula Deen--well, her recipes anyway. She's the anti-healthy chef, offending low carbers and low fat people alike with her rich recipes full of real food. I mean, any woman who can come up with recipes using sour cream, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk--in one dish!--is okay with me.

So I've been working at adapting some of her recipes to low carb and ferreting out some that already are. Here's an original for you:


4 medium-sized shrimp, cooked
4 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp finely chopped dill
salt and pepper

While eggs boil, peel and devein shrimp and chop finely. Cool and peel eggs, then halve lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl. Mash egg yolks with a fork and stir in shrimp, mayo, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice and dill. Add salt and pepper to taste, then restuff into egg whites. Garnish with additional shrimp and dill, if desired. YUM!!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Goal-Setting--Or Not

When I started this new LC "lifestyle" last August, I set a mid-range goal of losing 80 pounds by the end of March, when I am chairing a national conference and have to talk in front of 350 colleagues.

Frankly, I'd rather have my tongue fried than talk in front of 350 colleagues, but that's another story.

So I diligently entered my goal into Fitday, and set about logging weights and meals and tracking every last carb.

Until my holiday mind melt, which suddenly has Fitday telling me that instead of losing 2.2 pounds per week to reach that goal, I now have to lose 4.5 pounds a week. And we all know that isn't going to happen. Some folks go on Kimkins and lose that much but my stint on Kimkins--basically very low carb plus calorie-counting--never netted me more than 2.5 pounds a week.

So now I feel all discouraged and irritated with myself for setting a goal in the first place. Maybe the thing to do is set a general goal like "stay on my plan" or "feel better."

New Orleans fitness guru Mackie Shilstone did a radio show last week on goal-setting. His take is that you shouldn't even set intermediate goals. Set your goal as your ideal weight and stay focused on that.

Maybe it's not the goal-setting that is the problem. Maybe it's attaching a TIMETABLE to the goal.

You Aren't What You Eat

A study published today from the University of Alabama-Birmingham puts a question mark on the assumption that consuming more calories puts a person at greater risk for cancer. This study, published in the journalCancer Research, found that it's not the number of calories you eat that impacts your cancer risk, but how your body uses its calories. If your body hangs onto extra calories by packing on the pounds, it also makes you more at risk for cancer growth. In other words, cancer risk is more tied to body weight than to calorie consumption.

To read more about it, click HERE.

Money Talks. But Does It Eat?

Once you get past the obnoxious ego trip, this little piece from the Violent Acres website actually--almost accidentally--makes an interesting point. It's a heckuva lot cheaper to be fat than thin. Research has shown a correlation between income and body weight. "Rich and thin" is like other cliches--based in truth. Mr. Violent Acres can't spell "Ramen Noodles," but his point is well taken. If you're broke and living paycheck to paycheck, you can stretch a dollar a lot farther on Ramen noodles than on protein and fresh veggies.

Of course, what Mr. Violent Acres doesn't take into account is that no matter how much money you have, it still comes down to personal choice, doesn't it? I have a hard time committing to an exercise program NOT because I can't afford a personal trainer (although I can't) but because I still hold out some (fast fading) hope that I can avoid it.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Voices of Experience--or Not

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a tad obsessive. Okay, more than a tad.

So when I'm trying to lose weight, I want to drown in the world of diet. I buy magazines with what turn out to be ridiculous diet articles ("Lose 200 pounds in just 10 days!"), and obsess over every conflicting research report.

This time, I've moved on to books--particularly memoirs, or accounts of people who've lost weight and want to present their own navel-watching account of their journey from flab to fab.

But I've made a recent discovery: most of those books are by people who had very little weight to lose, and I'm sorry, but what the heck do they know about facing a real weight problem? Even their good ideas seem lacking in any real-world test.

I recently read Linda Moran's little book, How to Survive Your Diet, and thought--and still think--it has a lot of good ideas as far as "eating normally" in terms of portion and hunger-satiation. But you're led to believe throughout the book that Linda has battled real weight issues over the years, and don't find out until the end that she battled something like 10 pounds. Now, she says in the book that the reader might discount her ideas because she only had 10 pounds to lose--sort of the reverse-psychology equivalent of "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." But, sorry, I think you have some great ideas for maintenance but 10 pounds just doesn't gain my respect for weight-loss tips.

Next, I read Wendy McClure's I'm Not the New Me. Wendy's the author of the popular blog and in the book she had lost about 30 pounds on Weight Watchers. Not shabby but only borderline "real" weight loss in my book. Mostly the book was the obsessive ramblings of a woman on the prowl for the perfect guy, posing as a book about dealing with body image. "X" that one off the list, although she does write well, albeit with too much profanity for my taste.

Then I read Dr. Nick Yphantides' My Big Fat Greek Diet. While Dr. Nick did lose an amazing 220 pounds, the way he did it is way out of the ball park for most of us (pun intended). Dr. Nick was wealthy enough to take a year off from work to drink a liquid diet while he tooled around the country indulging his passion for Major League Baseball games. Yeah, right. I'd be living under New Orleans' Danziger Bridge in about two weeks. Welcome to the real world.

Now I've begun Courtney Rubin's Weight Loss Diaries, and while she doesn't seem to have a tremendous amount of weight to lose, I'm identifying with her "all-or-nothing" mentality. You know the one: "I ate that bite of (name the food that doesn't fit on your food plan), so I might as well have whatever else I want today and start again tomorrow." Or: "I have to eat out twice this week for social engagements so I might as well wait to start next week." I'm not far enough into it to see how she's going to resolve these things but I do believe fixing your thoughts is the biggest thing you can do to improve your chance of successful weight loss. So we'll see how she does it.

Meanwhile, you can't do much better than the irrepressible Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low Carb, where he chronicles his own 180-pound loss eating low carb. His "take no prisoners" attitude toward weight loss doesn't give us a lot of introspection or navel-watching, but it's an honest, real chronicle of serious weight loss that doesn't involve surgery or off-the-wall baseball schemes.

There are a couple of other books in my "to read" stack (told you I was obsessive!), so stay tuned.

What's Your Virtual Age?

There's an interesting Age Calculator online that is more detailed than the simple calculators I've seen before. According to this calculator, I should live to a ripe old age of 82. And, get this--recommendations to improve my lifespan? The Atkins Diet! Well, okay, either Atkins or Weight Watchers. Still, to have Atkins actually recommended is very cool, yes? Click on the link and try it for yourself.

Oh yeah, and I need to start a regular exercise program. Sigh. Like this is news?

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Supersize This

Happy New Year, and new starts and all that nonsense. After a 10-day, 4-pound-gaining break from life as we know it, I'm back in the low-carb saddle and thinking about the horrors of carb addiction. I spent the past 10 days as a walking, talking, bloated example of the carb-obsessed, out-of-control addict that I now know myself to be. Enough already. I'm sitting here with a bottle of water and waiting for withdrawals to begin.

I did manage to watch the documentary "Supersize Me" over the holidays--okay, so I'm a few years behind the 8-ball on this one. I found myself getting more and more irritated as the thing progressed. By the end, I wanted Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker, to go ahead and have liver failure already and die a righteous death trying to save fat people from the evils of Ronald McDonald and just get it over with.

I realize that eating Mickey D's or any other fast food for 30 days straight, three meals a day, is not something one should do. But to think that on day 21 his liver was damaged "beyond repair," according to his Drama Queen MD, just strikes me as absurd. The whole thing struck me as absurd, actually. Our bodies are amazingly resilient, as witnessed by the fact that his "failing liver" returned to normal in, oh, about a week. Sheesh. All the drama.