Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Low Carb and Cancer

In December 1991, I drove from Houston, where I was living at the time, to Alabama to visit my parents for Christmas. When I arrived, I learned that my mom had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thankfully, the tumor was benign and it was operable, but of course we didn't know that for a while and the surgery was horrible nonetheless. She's now 81 and all of us still live with the specter of the tumor returning.

Why do I tell that story? Because of the heartening results of a recent study out of Boston College that brain tumors can be successfully treated with KetoCal, a diet prescribed to treat epilepsy in children.

What is Ketocal? Well, as you can probably guess from the name, it is a low carb, high fat diet that induces ketosis. The brain tumor is starved of the glucose from carbs that it needs in order to grow, while the brain and body are nourished by the ketones the body produces for fuel. It offers a viable way of treating brain cancer, which is difficult to treat by conventional radiation/chemo treatment because the good brain cells are killed along with the bad.

Ketocal is a powdered diet that is 90% fat, 1.6% carbs, and 8% protein, roughly, and also is low in calories. How a diet of "real" food with a similar nutrient breakdown would work wasn't addressed that I could tell.

The findings were based on a study published this week in the online journal Nutrition & Metabolism. The authors don't extrapolate, of course, but it makes sense to me that a low carb diet that starves tumors of the glucose they need to grow holds promise for other types of cancer as well.

The Insanity Report

Which is going to be my new name for rants about new and "healthy" products.

Like the new Krispy Kreme whole wheat doughnut.

Okay, let me get this straight. Krispy Kreme has bemoaned the loss of profits and blamed low carbers, so now they're going to prove they care about your heart--even though they haven't figured out how to rid their doughnuts of trans fat--by giving you a doughnut they call "whole wheat" and "heart healthy."

Ok, they get brownie points for using 100% whole wheat flour and not just "wheat flour," which is the same as "white flour." But they must not realize that trimming a whopping 20 CALORIES off their regular doughnut really doesn't make a bit of difference, especially since the "healthy" doughnut will be covered with their regular glaze. And adding a miniscule bit of fiber doesn't begin to make up for all the sugar.

Healthy? Don't think so.

News from Oz

Just as the U.S. is getting ready to sell the diet drug Xenical (orlistat) over the counter, Australia is pulling the plug on allowing manufacturer Roche to advertise the prescription-only drug to consumers.

Seems the company was targeting teens by advertising on the popular "Australian Idol" show and, according to the The National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee (the Aussie version of the FDA), was thereby encouraging people to take the drug who really don't need it.

Since it works so well anyway. I'm anxious to see what the TV ads for Alli, the new OTC form of Xenical, will look like. If the flash movie that opens their website is any indication, they're going to try and sell us with reverse psychology.

Instead of telling us what Alli will do for us, the movie that opens as you click on the Alli website asks if you're up for the challenge, if you're willing to change, if you're ready to make the commitment to alli--because you can't just try it, you have to commit to it.

In other words, they don't promise Alli is going to do anything for you (or at least anything that doesn't involve the words "oily discharge" -- eeeeuuuuwww), but they imply that if you haven't lost weight before, it is just because you haven't been willing to work hard, make a commitment, and do what it takes. I'm surprised the word "willpower" didn't show up in there somewhere.

Arggghhh. I'm gonna be complaining about this a lot. I apologize in advance.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What Part of 'Healthy' Don't They Get?

I've been seeing them lately--these ads for the new Quaker Oats Life Chocolate Oat Crunch Cereal. The release of this new cereal is the part of the onslaught of adult-marketed chocolate breakfast cereals with the goal of "delivering nutrition."

Quaker developed their chocolate cereal in response to consumer feedback asking for "a healthy cereal that satisfied their cravings and delivered nutrition," according to a MediaPost marketing report.

Next up, the new Special K Chocolatey Delight (that's the name of it, really!), which the company says fits in with their two-week weight-loss challenge touted on their other Special K brands.

So, what's in Chocolately Delight--which Kellogg, by the way, is hyping as a "late-night snack" as well as a breakfast food?

Well, let's see--3/4 cup has 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbs, less than 1 gram of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. Contents: Rice, whole grain wheat, sugar, chocolatey chunks (sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, cocoa processed with alkali, cocoa, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, milk), high fructose corn syrup, salt, malt extract, and a bunch of vitamins.


What about Chocolate Life? The company touts it as "made with whole grain Quaker oats, good source of fiber, helps reduce cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy diet, and low in fat." They forgot to add "brimming with sugar."

A one-cup serving has 190 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 40 grams of carbs, 3 grams fiber, and 5 grams of protein.

What's in it? Whole grain oat flour, sugar, whole wheat flour, corn, flour, rice flour, whole grain rolled oats, whole grain rolled wheat, semisweet chocolate chips (with sugar), crisp rice (with sugar), salt, calcium carbonate, honey, coconut oil, glycerin, corn syrup solids, and miscellaneous vitamins.

Wow. Glad we have these new healthy chocolate breakfast foods to eat!

Is it just me, or does it really irritate you that a few reports on the health benefits of chocolate and now we have an onslaught of "chocolatey health foods" with even more sugar?

Start Me Up

As I sit here thinking I'm kinda edgy, I realize I've just finished my second bottle of Celsius today and it got me to thinking about caffeine.

First off, Celsius is a new bottled "super-water," sold not as a food but as an "energy supplement." On the front of the very cool bottle it says "Celsius: Enjoy the Great Taste of Burning Calories!" It also has a big "No High Fructose Corn Syrup" label on it and you gotta love that.

Ever one to sacrifice myself for blogdom, I bought a case of the stuff to try it out. There's ginger ale, lemon-lime, orange, wild berry, and cola flavors. I had ginger ale and lemon-lime this morning, 16 oz bottle of each. I absolutely adore the taste of ginger, so the fact that both of these flavors are very ginger-heavy is a good thing with me and I love 'em.

Celsius is basically carbonated water sweetened with Splenda and jazzed up with vitamins and a "thermogenic blend" of caffeine, ginger root, green tea extract, guarana extract and taurine...They don't say how much is in their "proprietary blend" (which reads: trade secret), but, boy do I feel GOOD.

Anyhow, I started thinking about caffeine. Coca Cola recently announced that they will begin listing caffeine content labels on all their products, including their much-debated Enviga line. And now Pepsi has announced its own Enviga-like product, Pepsi Max, also laced with caffeine, along with ginseng.

It's all a part of the new buzz, functional foods.

And if that's not enough caffeine for you, sip this through your straw: a recent study has shown that senior adults can benefit from taking in more caffeine. In older adults (over 65), properties in caffeine appear to offer protection against heart disease. The theory is, according to the SUNY researchers, that the older patients' blood pressure is enhanced by the caffeine--the "proactive effect" was only found in patients who didn't have severe high blood pressure.

Interestingly, the protective effect of caffeine was not experienced by people below age 65.

I'm really jiggling my foot now and typing really fast. Wonder if I should save the rest of my Celsius till I turn 65?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The 5 Biggest Food Myths

I read an interesting article in Forbes recently, talking to author Barry Glassner, whose recent book, The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong, is next up on my To-Read pile. Basically, Glassner thinks we've all gone overboard in thinking about food, and assigning it a greater role in our overall health and welfare than it deserves. In the process, he says, we've lost the "pleasure factor" in eating, replacing it with guilt or duty.

More on that when I actually read the book!

What the Forbes article talks about is what they call Five Big Food Myths. And what are they?

1) "Fresh is Best." We tend to think canned or frozen food is inferior to fresh food, and that supermarket fresh food is inferior to farmer's market fresh food. Actually, Glassner points out, flash-frozen produce retains more nutrients than "fresh" produce that is trucked or shipped from parts unknown, unloaded, stocked and then sold. By the time it reaches your plate, many of its healthy properties have been lost or weakened.

2) "Vitamin-Enhanced Foods Are Better." It's the big thing now, the so-called "functional foods." We think that "blurring the line between food and vitamins or medications" means we're eating healthier. Just watch to see how many foods are released in coming months with Omega-3s. But Glassner says the vitamins are altered in the process of adding them to foods in which they don't normally occur--like Omega-3 Pasta--and we don't really know if they're effective, or even harmful.

3) "A Meal is Worthy for What It Lacks." By focusing on what our meal doesn't contain--such as fat, salt, or carbs--we lose sight of the pleasure a great meal can bring us, Glassner says.

4) "Natural Means Less Processed." There's no rules concerning the word "natural," Glassner says (unlike "organic," which does have some legal restrictions)-- "The only thing the terrm natural seems to consistently mean is a higher price," says Forbes.

5) "Some Foods Are Inherently Bad for You." Categorizing a food as "inherently bad" is unnecessary, Glassner says. Too much of anything--sugar, fat, whatever--is bad.But the food itself isn't. "Food like potato chips, which most of us enjoy, can still have a place in our diet," Glassner says.

Yeah, but what if you can't eat just one?

Happy Cherry Pie Day!

Yep, today is National Cherry Pie Day and oh how I wish the fresh cherries were in the stores! But not yet. I never ate fresh cherries as a kid--in fact, I only discovered them a few years ago. Cherries, to me, came in cans or, more often, as maraschino cherries in bottles.

But cherry pie is an easy, quick and healthy dessert to make--make a crust with your almond or nut flours and check out a low-carb cherry pie filling like Steel's (5 net carbs per serving) or no-sugar-added pie filling like Lucky Leaf. Top with a little whipped cream. Yum.

Guilty Pleasures

Does it seem like the "forbidden" element of eating food you shouldn't makes it all that more attractive? And why do we give food choice the power to elicit guilt or shame?

There's an interesting new poll from Canada that shows Canadians are just as food-possessed as Americans. The poll was conducted by the President's Choice Healthy Insider's Report. It was a big enough poll (more than 1,100 adults) to have some statistical accuracy.

Some of the results...have you done any of these things?

* Six of 10 respondents say they have eaten over the sink or directly from the fridge in the past month. [Yep. Yesterday.]

* Half of adults have eaten out of boredom. [Yawn. Give me a snack.]

* One-third of adults have eaten on the run in the past month. [I ate at my desk while I worked today and don't actually even remember eating.]

* One-fourth ate a bag of chips or popcorn for dinner in the past month. [Not guilty on this one.]

* One in seven have picked food off someone else's plate in a restaurant because they didn't want to order it themselves. [Not in the last month, but, yep, I've done it.]

Interestingly--not surprisingly--there also were gender differences in the answers. Fifty-six percent of women (vs. 41 percent of men) feel guilty after eating something "bad." And 30 percent of women (as opposed to 25 percent of men) think about every single bite that goes into their mouths.

Only 30 percent? Now, that's surprising!

Savor the Flavor

Has anyone tried the new Splenda Flavor Blends for Coffee? They come in three flavors--French Vanilla, Hazelnut and Mocha. As a big fan of the DaVinci syrups--I can't drink coffee without a splash of hazelnut or Kahlua--I like the idea of these. Plus, they come in small packets that are easily portable. The website also has some recipes to use them in, although most would need a few tweaks to make them more carb-conscious.

Now, I know there are many folks who don't go in for the artificial sweeteners, but I'm with my pal Jimmy Mooreon this one (Jimmy recently gave up his boycott of diet sodas)--it just helps keep me honest. Certainly the merits/demerits of Aspartame are much-debated, and there are already people questioning the long-term safety of Splenda. Are they dangerous? I maintain that they're no worse than sugar, sugar and more sugar.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Off the Rails

As I flittered around the streets today dressed as....what? Here I am--you tell me! Oh, and Happy Mardi Gras! Yes, I know, everywhere else, it's just Tuesday : )

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Out Partyin, Dawlin'

I'm "gone to da Mardi Gras." Which means hanging out in the neutral ground (known as medians in the rest of the world), waiting for masked parade riders to throw me shiny fake bling bling.

Back on Wednesday!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Temperature Check

Have you heard about Celsius? It's a new food supplement in the guise of a soft drink. It seems fairly ominous to me, being as I'm reading Michael Pollan's excellent book The Omnivore's Dilemma and am in the chapter about how many foods have been "invented" to accommodate the country's overproduction of corn.

Anywho, Celsius is a Splenda-sweetened soft drink that comes in a number of flavors and--here's the kicker--claims to be thermogenic. It supposedly burns calories while you drink your sugar-free cola or ginger ale or orangeade.

How can they claim this, you might ask, given the wrist-slapping Coke just took over their similar Enviga claims?

It's all in the way the laws of food versus "food supplements" is set up. Food supplements are not under the jurisdiction of the Food & Drug Administration and therefore are not regulated in what claims they are allowed to make--or at least that's my understanding of it. (If that's not right, let me know!)

So, what's in Celsius?

The usual suspects. Green tea extract, guarana seed and caffeine, among other "thermogenic" ingredients.

On the other hand, at least their website (see link above) rails against the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup. I may try one and see if it gives me heart palpitations. Is it a magic fat-burning potion? No. Is it a reasonable alternative to regular old diet soda? Why not? At least it isn't loaded with sugar or HFCS or aspartame.

Silly Wabbit--Trix are for Kids

I remember the baffling dilemma of breakfast cereal as a kid. It was before the days of "nutritional eating"--what the heck did we know (or care) about carbs or fiber or childhood obesity? Well, maybe the latter as I squeezed into my "chubby" size clothes.

All I knew was that I had a deep and abiding love for Frosted Flakes and Tony the Tiger. That, like Boo Boo the bear, I couldn't get enough of that Sugar Crisp. That I kept begging my mom for the "new" Lucky Charms cereal with marshmallow stars and clover and then wouldn't eat it because it wasn't sweet enough.

Was breakfast cereal marketed to kids way back in the day? You bet it was.

So, as King Solomon notes, there's nothing new under the sun, and it should come as no surprise that General Mills has rolled out a new group of breakfast cereals to be produced in conjunction with Disney.

The new Disney-themed breakfast cereals includes Princess Fairytale Flakes, which are coated in pink sugar; Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Berry Crunch, which contains no real berries; Honey B's, a honey-graham concoction; and Little Einstein Fruity Stars, which are about as fruity as Froot Loops (another of my childhood favorites). All three cereals, say the folks at General Mills, "are made from whole-grain corn" and are "lightly sweetened." All to make not-so-savvy consumers think of them as "healthy."

And here's the kicker. In a day when a box of breakfast cereal can run you $4, the cereals will retail for $1.99 a box, appealing not only to the clamoring sugar-crazed toddlers but the wallets of their parents.

They're sure to be a hit.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Eat Well, Be Well R.I.P.

Several folks have asked me about Eat Well, Be Well Foods, Inc., since I posted a link to their website a few days ago. The afternoon I posted about this Hood River, Ore., company formerly known as Carbsense Inc., their website shut down with only the message that the company was out of business as of Jan. 31, 2007. I've been looking for more information about their demise but so far, no luck. I'll update if I learn anything more. It seems sudden, as the company had just launched new sugar-free, no-sugar-alcohol product lines and two months ago hired former NBA star Dominique Wilkins as a spokesman.

I hate to see this company go down, as they were one of the very few to make whole-grain and chocolate products that were free not only of sugar but of sugar alcohols. I'll keep digging but if anyone knows the scoop, please share!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

S.O.S. (Snacking on Stress)

Let's talk about stress eating. Do you? Before Hurricane Katrina, I would have insisted that, no, I am not a stress eater.

I evacuated to a cheap hotel in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 27, about 36 hours before Katrina made landfall. I packed enough clothes for three days and had one pair of shoes. I would return home more than three months later. After three nights in the hotel, when it became clear I wouldn't be able to return home anytime soon, I dropped my mom off with a relative and went to Alabama to stay with a friend, along with my two dogs.

I watched CNN for hours on end, and craved chocolate. And ate chocolate. I normally am not a big chocolate eater. I downed bags of Snicker bars and Hershey Kisses. I took a break occasionally to have chocolate cake. It was a pigfest of the highest order.

One day, I realized, Hey, I'm a stress eater.

This morning at 1 a.m., I woke up to a frightened behemoth of a dog, slashing rain, intense lightning and high winds. Sirens started shrilling through the night about 2:30; it seemed to go on forever. I gave the dog a valium, afraid he'd have heart failure. Me, I had hot chocolate (sugar-free, of course).

I finally drifted off to sleep about 5 a.m. to be awakened by the phone at 6:30 by a friend wanting to know if we were OK. Tornadoes had ripped through New Orleans during the early morning hours, destroying more than 50 homes. Many were homes of people who had just rebuilt or were trying to rebuild after Katrina. An 85-year-old woman was killed in her FEMA trailer that was sitting in front of her Katrina-flooded, gutted home she was trying to rebuild.

All that to say, as I made my way to work--to discover the tornado had taken out a small corner of my office building--I wanted to eat. I sat at my desk--the only one who was a big enough idiot to go to work--and began casting around for something to munch on there in the dark with no power and no phones.

I found a can of unsweetened pineapple. I ate it. I found a box of cookies in the communal work area. I put one in my mouth but stopped before I bit down. I took it out and threw it in the trash. Then I turned out the office lights and went home.

Small victories.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sugar OK, But Hold the Cheese

Sometimes you just read those stories that make you shake your head in disbelief. Like this one. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has requested that the Federal Trade Commission ban advertising for cheese during children's TV shows. The "Responsible Medicine" group (quotes are mine and, yes, they are sarcastic) claims that because cheese gets 73% of its calories from fat, it is "not an acceptable food to be promoted to kids during the obesity epidemic."

There is a precedent, they say--the UK has banned "cheese and other fatty foods" from British TV shows aimed at kids.

But the PCRM aren't complaining about candy or cookies or "Twix are for kids." Only cheese. Because, of course, any practitioner of "responsible medicine" knows it's only fat that is causing kids to be overweight.

Aye carumba!

Monday, February 12, 2007

How Corny Are We?

I just started reading Michael Pollan's bestselling The Omnivore's Dilemma, and it has me thinking about corn.

I'm a Southern girl, but I did spend a few years living in the Midwest--north-central Illinois, to be exact--and I learned something there about corn. For one, I'm allergic to corn. Its pollen causes my eyes to water and swell, and I can't digest its kernals without problems.

So I don't eat corn as a rule, whether I'm following low carb or not. And yet, as Pollan points out, I actually DO eat it all the time, in some form or another.

So the book's early discussions of corn and its place in our modern food chain was fascinating to me. Here's an excerpt as Pollan tours the local supermarket:

"Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the tilapia and, increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are re-engineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made of corn. The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy cows that grazed on grass, now typically comes from Holsteins that spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.

"Head over to processed foods and you find ever more intricate manifestations of corn. A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do most of the nugget's other constituents, including the modified corn starch the glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter than coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di- and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget 'fresh' can all be derived from corn.

"To wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the supermarket is to have some corn with your corn. Since the 1980s virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)--after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient. Grab a beer for your beverage instead and you'd still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn."

Pollan goes on to show the corn connections to modified or unmodified starch, glucose syrup, maltodextrin, crystalline fructose, ascorbic acid, lecithin, lactic acid, lycosine, MSG, polyols, caramel color, xanthan gum--all common techno-ingredients in our food. Corn, he notes, is in non-dairy coffee creamer (and dairy as well, since it fed the cows), cheese, frozen yogurt, canned fruit, ketchup, candies, soups, snacks, frozen waffles, mayonnaise..and on and on and on.

Of the more than 45,000 items in the modern supermarket, Pollan says, more than 25% now contain corn--even in produce, where corn produces the vegetable wax that makes your cucumbers and apples shiny and in the pesticides used to grow your veggies big and strong.

So, if there's corn in everything we eat and if you have a sensitivity to corn, what the heck is all that corn doing inside you? Low-level, chronic inflammation is increasingly cited as a big factor in developing heart disease. If you're constantly ingesting even small amounts of things that your system is sensitive to, then how much inflammation is that causing?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chow Down

Always on the prowl for new things to eat, I've come across a couple of interesting finds lately.

First, the folks at Eat Well Be Well won me over a while back by offering a nice dark chocolate bar with only 2 net carbs (14 grams of fiber) and a great flavor and--best of all for me--NO MALTITOL.

Recently, I tried their Vanilla Almond Cereal, also sugar free and without sugar alcohols and made with whole wheat and brown rice. It's mildly sweetened with Splenda and Ace-K and if you can tolerate any grains in your diet, it's a nice crunchy breakfast cereal loaded with sliced almonds.

Next on my list: Fred's Incredible Muffins from the Maplewood Bake Company--I had to buy these online, but was intrigued by the idea of a decent-sized muffin with only 1 net carb. There are a couple of flavors--I bought the Banana Walnut. It doesn't taste much like banana but instead like a nice, nutty pumpkin muffin.

Which makes sense, as pumpkin is the first ingredient listed, along with Erythritol to provide sweetness and fiber (and none of the side effects of maltitol). The muffins are only mildly sweet but have a nice texture and pumpkin flavor for 100 calories, 1 net carb or--if you're doing Weight Watchers--1 point.

Book of Dreams for the Sucker Born Every Minute

You never know how much you'll miss getting junk mail catalogs till you don't get them any more. After Hurricane Katrina, our mail was disrupted. I didn't get any mail between Aug. 27, 2005, and roughly February of 2006, and even then it was only first-class mail. In June 2006, the mail opened back up to magazines and catalogs but, by then, I had been removed from all the junk mail lists. So much for the "rain, sleet or snow" of the U.S. Postal Service.

But I digress.

I'm slowly starting to get a few bits of junk mail again, so it was with some relish that I sat down last night to peruse a new catalog that came in yesterday's mail. "Time for Me," the catalog said. "Dedicated to the Art of Well-Being."

On the cover was a boobalicious blonde sitting in front of a mirror. She was obviously well-groomed and high-maintenance. I had no idea what the catalog was selling. But by the time I reached the end of its 48 pages, boy, was I fuming.

I know now why my dreams haven't come true. I know why I'm not pretty enough, skinny enough, healthy enough, and have strong nails. My problem is that I simply don't have enough money.

Because, according to this catalog, every woman can be "perfect" if she can only buy the products.

A quick rundown.

Page 1: A special shampoo ($20 a bottle, plus another $20 for conditioner) to help me "shampoo in stronger, bouncier hair." It will increase hair growth up to 123% in under a month! For gosh sakes, keep it away from my legs.

Page 2: For $19, a unique wrinkle eraser pen "will target wrinkles and erase them in minutes." For $39, "Luster Eyes will permanently banish dark undereye circles." For $34, the purest form of Hoodia will "kill hunger and cravings." For $39, a "Detox Wrap Home Kit" will help me "drop one dress size in just one hour." For $69, an injection-free facial relaxer will "relax my wrinkles."

Page 3: For $99, I can buy "tummy-tuck" jeans provide an exclusive slimming design to make me look like I just had a tummy tuck.

And on it goes, including:
$89 for an eye lift in a bottle
$50 for advanced lip-pumping power to puff my smackers up like Angelina Jolie
$349 for a Light Therapy machine that will reduce all my crow's feet in 4 days
$79 will get me a faux-wrap top with a secret liner inside to hold in my bulges
$39 will get my Thyroid T-3 capsules to reduce body fat and maintain muscle mass
$29 will get me some Bio-Ear to reduce the ringing in my ears.
$59 will provide Herbal Go to supercharge my weight loss
$29 will get me an arm wrap kit to firm my upper arms in one month.
$89 will provide me with enough Baebbe to shrink my tummy fat without liposuction
$17 Cinnergen will stop my blood sugar swings
$29 will cure my fibromyalgia
$27 Nite-Lite will burn fat while I sleep
$79 NuGen will give me natural hair restoration, but if that doesn't work
$99 will provide me a beautiful, natural looking wig
$199 will help my scalp become healthier
$14 will thicken my nails with just one coat of Barielle Nail Thickener
$19 will get me a facial massager to jiggle away my double chin
$18 will give me a special formula to change the color of my complexion
$28 will shrink my pores with Dermelect Pore Revolution
$24 will provide me with a "Self-Esteem Neck Firming Face Lift"
$19 will giveme some "extra oomph" up top without pesky breast enhancement surgery
$79 will intensify my erotic pleasure with the "Synergy Pleasure System." Hmmm...

And on it goes. Why am I wasting all this time trying to eat a healthy diet and lose weight? Obviously, because I don't have the money for the appropriate quick-fixes for every need.

Oh, wait! they have an online Outlet Store. Maybe the perfect product is waiting there for me.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Something Stinks

I have a friend named Ray whose doctor gave him a prescription for a new drug a few years ago--the drug was Xenical.

I won't repeat them here because they're really gross, but Ray regaled me with stories about the two weeks he spent taking Xenical before he finally decided that ship just wasn't going to sail. I won't repeat them here but they involved the words "oily discharge."


Fast-forward a few years and we have GlaxoSmithKline announcing the release of Alli (pronounced like "ally"), a half-strength version of Xenical (orlistat) that will soon be coming to an over-the-counter drugstore shelf near you. It's being touted as the first FDA-approved diet pill to be sold over the counter in the USA and will cost "less than $2 a day."

Basically, what the drug does is block the digestion of dietary fat and if that fat isn't getting digested, where's it gonna go? Well, it has to come out as its own oily self, doesn't it?


And the resultant weight loss, the makers admit, is "modest"--I'd call a six-pound weight loss in a 12-month period more like "miniscule." And that's six pounds when alli is combined with a "sensible diet and exercise program."

The insanity of it all is truly astounding. Just as science is grudgingly acknowledging that it's simple carbs--not dietary fat--that is the major player in obesity, the FDA is rushing out an anti-fat drug whose primary efficacy is to help folks on low-fat diets stick to their low-fat eating in order to prevent having the drug's side effects.

I have to wonder if the reason that Alli, which has been in the works for some time, was finally approved for OTC use is because somebody, somewhere figured out that the low-fat era is soon going to be ending. If people stop vilifying fat, a drug like Alli would have no commercial value. So GlaxoSmithKline can make their billions before the low-fat bubble bursts.

Okay, so maybe that's a cynical view of the FDA and Big Drug Business, but there it is.

Update: For whatever it's worth, here's an interesting link about a doctor who says alli is not only ineffective but dangerous.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to Slim

There's more and more evidence building up over the link between lack of sleep and obesity. This report came out today, but there have been plenty more the past couple of years. Witness this, and this or this. Whether it's because people who don't sleep well are tired and always on the hunt for something to give them a quick energy boost--especially fast-acting simple carbs--well, that makes sense to me. Maybe it's more than that. I'd like to sleep on it. But I can't. Yep, sleep is not something that comes easily to me.

At the risk of putting someone to sleep (okay, pun intended), here's an article I wrote a couple of years ago about my experience spending the night in a sleep lab. The published version of it was called "Wired."


"I have insomnia," I told my doctor gravely, spilling details of sleepless nights dating back to roughly age 14. I envisioned magic pills that would render me asleep within 10 minutes of retiring for the evening.

Instead, I was sent to a local hospital for a night in a sleep clinic. I couldn't imagine being able to sleep, even though the sleep center literature assured me that most sleep study participants, removed from the distractions of their home environments, sleep very well. I thought of the great fondness my dogs have for the sound of their own voices echoing through the house at night, and considered it a possibility.

Two weeks later, I and my pillow arrived promptly at 8 p.m., wide awake. There were three others there for tests the same night and we fidgeted in the waiting room and made sleep jokes before being led to our rooms. Hospital rooms, of course, but with a higher "cozy" factory -- real beds, nightstands, lamps. I had scarcely turned on the TV before the sleep lab technician came in.

The pictures I had seen on a previous Google search simply did not do justice to the tangle of wires and electrodes going to my arms, legs, chest, neck, head, nose -- even eyelids. I felt like Medusa on a bad hair day. "You can lie down and we'll hook you up, then you can watch TV till you get ready to sleep," the technician said as he plugged the myriad tentacles into a large electronic box somewhere in the vicinity of my head.

"I don't sleep on my back," I said conversationally. He flipped a switch, illuminating lights on the electronic box. "I don't sleep on my -- is that a camera?" I had just spotted the video camera in the corner.

It was 9 p.m. The technician left me in my prison of tentacles, a TV remote control in my right hand. I couldn't see the TV from my position so there seemed no point in keeping it on. I turned it off and lay there.

"Are you going to sleep?" a voice boomed out from the ceiling. My first thought was of God, but figured if He were going to audibly speak to me from On High, He would have a more intelligent question to ask. "I'm going to try," I answered the disembodied voice, which now I had identified as coming from somewhere near the video camera. Its red eye, not really noticeable when the lights and TV were on, was now glowing like the red Eye of Sauron, the embodiment of evil, the robber of sleep, the invading Orc of dreams.

God was feeling chatty. "Could you blink your eyes for me?" he thundered from above. I blinked. "Could you move your right foot?" I thought about moving my left out of sheer rebellion but, fearing I would be cast out of the sleep center, did as I was asked. "Enjoy your sleep."

The silence was deafening -- bad novels always say that, but it's true. I went through a litany of all my teachers since first grade, their subjects, and what I thought of them. I recited all the teams in the NBA.

"It has been two hours and you are not sleeping," commented the Voice from Above. Then I heard it, soft at first, then louder. Snoring. The man next door to me was snoring. I was incensed, livid.

I did it; I turned over on my side, hardly breathing. I began a recitation of all the books I've read this year, of what I would give people for Christmas. I dozed off.

A flashlight shone in my startled eyes as the Disembodied Voice morphed into the lab tech, who said I had disconnected some wires during my 20 minutes of sleep -- I couldn't believe he woke me up. He reestablished the connections and then I was left alone again in darkness, awake.

At 5:30 a.m., the Voice said, "Would you just like to go ahead and leave?" Yes I would. I was surprised to learn that in the 8.5 hours I was hooked up, I had managed a full 40 minutes of light sleep.

The lab tech was solicitous. "That was the worst sleep study I've ever seen but we got enough for a diagnosis," he said.

I was surprised, and asked what he thought the doctor's diagnosis would be.

"Oh, you have insomnia," he said.

I went home, crawled into bed, listened with comfort to my barking dogs, and slept.

Counting Our Chickens

There's an interesting post today over at Calianna's Low Carb Cottage about the ease of sticking with a low-carb diet as opposed to a low-fat diet. It got me to thinking about counting.

Now, not having to count is one of the most attractive things about the low-carb way of life. For some people. I don't think I'm one of them.

How many of you keep a food diary, or at least a mental tally of carb grams or calories or points, depending on what way of eating you follow?

I am a faithful chronicler at Fitday, even though it isn't the most user-friendly program. But it works on a Mac, as do I, and it's free. And it makes it easy to keep track of carb grams and also my overall calories. But mostly, like a blog or a diary, it makes me more accountable for what goes in my mouth every day. My only rule is--EVERYTHING has to be entered. So the day I went off the rails and consumed an entire bag of those evilly delicious Sweet Nut'n from Flax-Z-Snax, I faithfully wrote down all 900 calories and 54 grams of carbs of it. It wasn't a pretty day.

But it keeps me honest. Even though no one but me sees that daily summary, it's enough to know if I eat it, I have to write it down.

In the meantime, I don't recall where I stole this cartoon from, but isn't it funny?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

For a Good Cause

If you're a foodie, or pretending to be one while you eat at places like Applebee's, check out the new online foodie haven, Hello DELICIOUS, which bills itself as representing "the next generation of foodies...We are a delectable and daring twist, with a forward-thinking approach, that the gourmet world has never seen before. A fusion of a fresh, inviting environment with our unique selection of products is just the beginning. We spot trends, and represent the latest and greatest in an accessible way."

If you buy something from the site in February, type in TULNOLA in the special offer code during checkout, and they'll donate 10% of their profits to Tulane University here in New Orleans, a spot near and dear to moi. Co-owner Lilly Stein is a Tulane grad (and a "brandbabe/trend-spotter"). Check out some of the Sweetriot coffee nibs, which have a great taste with very little sugar impact, and the ultra cool pop junkie plates. The site is pretty small right now, but should be growing.

And, no, I don't have any affiliation with these folks other than the university tie-in.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Role Models

Is it any wonder young girls have distorted body images? Who are their role models? According to the latest issue of Newsweek, it's the "prostitots," Britney and Lindsay and Paris. Bleccchh! (Caution: showing age now!)

And then add Beyonce to that trio. Wait, you say. Beyonce is a nice clean-cut girl.

She's also having to back-pedal as she gets raked over the coals by nutritionists for the diet she followed to lose 20 pounds in 10 days for the filming of "Dream Girls."

It's the infamous Maple Syrup Diet--maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Drink it before meals, you ask? Nope, that's it. That's the meals. Three times a day. Sugar and diuretics.

Understandably, the nutrition community has had a cow over this dearth of nutrition, leading Beyonce to issue statements that she would never recommend it to anyone else and that she gained the weight back as soon as she began eating again. Meanwhile, people are stampeding to the stores for syrup worldwide.

And people whine about low-carb diets? Sheesh.

Happy Dance

Happy Happy Here We Go
I Finally Made the Big 6-0

Yep, 60 pounds gone. Woo hoo!!

The More Things Change...

The more they stay the same.

Or at least that's how I felt this morning. I've been cleaning up my mess of an office, which after many years has become a rat's nest that even Hurricane Katrina couldn't have dislodged.

Far underneath my desk, I found a journal. I've always liked the idea of journaling, but I usually can't sustain it--after a few weeks or months, I abandon it and it ends up being thrown out or, well, lodged underneath my desk for four or five years.

But it was interesting this morning as I read my entries from late August to early October, 2002. I was doing Atkins, and my weight was exactly then as it is today. I was being derailed by social obligations, stress, impending hurricanes (in this case, Isidore and Lili), and lack of commitment. Mostly, I think, lack of commitment. That was October 4. Skip to the next entry, Oct. 28, and instead of my weight I wrote: "Off Wagon." Also that I was "drained from a combination of carbs, stress and fatigue." I had eaten two McDonald's sausage and biscuits for breakfast! Egads!

After a couple of whiny days, I come across the next entry, dated July 15, 2004--almost two years later. I was dieting again. This time my weight was 60 pounds MORE than it had been in the previous entry and was a massive girth I would manage to maintain for another two years. It was the 60 pounds it has taken me since last July to lose again.

Is it different this time? I keep thinking yes. For one thing, I've stuck with it longer. For another, when I was frantically doing the Kimkins plan and trying to lose 80 pounds before my big business conference in March, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to "perform." Once I realized that goal wasn't going to be attainable at the rate I am able to lose weight, I didn't quit. I just let myself off the hook a little. I'm trying to focus on losing weight as I lose it and not trying to project where I could be in six months if I just lose x number of pounds--that has always been a recipe for disaster for me and my "all or nothing" mentality. My only goal right now is to stay on plan. Period. I lose what I lose however fast I lose it.

What will my journal entry look like in another two years? Hopefully not the same-old -same-old.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The "New" Eating Disorder

There it was, on the NBC Nightly News--a new study out of Harvard that identifies America's most common eating disorder, "far outpacing" the better-known and more openly discussed problems of anorexia and bulimia.

The disorder, of course, is binge eating or compulsive eating.

After untold secret frenzies of eating behind closed doors for years and years and years, I finally (duh) recognized that I was a binge eater not all that long ago. You might think it should be obvious. And I knew I overate--how could I miss that? Yet somehow I never linked overeating with being a binge eater. There is a difference.

The difference, I think, that lies in the secrecy of it. (Except you wear your secret for the world to see every single day.) You eat like a bird in public, but when you're alone you can consume a whole lotta food in not a whole lotta time.

In the Harvard study, which they called "the first national census of eating disorders," they found that 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men suffer from binge eating, which they defined as "bouts of uncontrolled eating, well past the point of being full, that occur at least twice a week." I suspect the number is higher; it's not something one wants to admit to.

Ah, control. What a difficult word. McLean Hospital's Dr. Harrison Pope, the author of the study, likened the binge eater's relationship with food to an alcholic's relationship with alcohol. There's a siren song that makes you plan your binge, prepare for it, and relish it with abandon. There might be a thought that goes through your head, something like "you're out of control, woman." But there's some buzzing overdrive in your head that drowns it out and makes you not care. The guilt and the shame--and more and more weight--come later.

I have to admit that fighting the urge to binge is my biggest battle in weight loss. I fight it every single day. Some days I lose. More days than not, lately, I win. Recognizing it for what it is has helped.

Now, you may not believe there is such a thing as a "binge eating disorder," and that it's just gluttons indulging their gluttony. And my recent recognition of my own binging as an "eating disorder" doesn't mean that I'm abdicating my responsibility. I'm not sitting back and whining: "It's not my fault--I have an eating disorder" and then using it as an excuse to continue the behavior.

For me, anyway--I can only speak for me--the recognition of the disorder simply gives my own demon a name. I think God gives us all challenges to face and through the facing of them we grow. Or in this case, shrink.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Soup's On!

Alanna from Veggie Venture, who has lots of great veggie recipes, has issued a soup challenge for February!

I just finished a mondo pot of veggie-beef soup that was ummm-ummm good. So here's my recipe.

Vegetable Beef Soup

1 lb. very lean ground beef
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 32-ounce jar of V-8 (regular or spicy, low-salt)
4 oz. salsa (regular or spicy)
14-1/2 oz. can Italian stewed tomatoes (sugar free)
2 cups shredded cabbage
10 oz frozen cut green beans
10 oz frozen corn (or, if you're low-carbing, use cauliflower)
1/2 c chopped celery
1 diced red pepper
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp black pepper

Saute onion, garlic and beef. Put in crock pot and cook for 4-5 hours on high, or in dutch oven over low heat for 4 hours.

Makes 12 one-cup servings.


I'm seeing a lot of buzz lately about products, specifically muffins and muffin tops, from the folks at Vitalicious. They have sugar-free, low-carb muffins (6 net carbs, or 1.5 points if you're doing the Weight Watchers thing) and I was all set to order some until I saw the deadly ingredient. Yep, there it was--Maltitol. 11 grams of it.

Why oh why must manufacturers make nice products with lots of fiber and healthy ingredients then take the cheap route out and use polyols for their primary sweeteners? The Vitalicious muffins have it as their third ingredient (behind water and whole wheat flour). They also have erythritol and sucralose, but in much smaller amounts.

Are there really that many people who can tolerate maltitol? Strange that among my family and friends I know ofno one who can eat more than a bite without suffering the consequences. And you know the consequences of which I speak!

So, no muffins for me. Sigh.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Me, on a Diet

Haven't updated my own sojourn lately. It's because I'm waiting impatiently for that next milestone. I'm 2.6 pounds away from the 60-pound-loss mark since beginning this journey for the long haul last July.

I switched from Kimkins, where I was floundering at 900 calories a day, back to Atkins, where I was still floundering but at least wasn't feeling like a concentration camp diner, to a Weight Watchers version of South Beach--still carb-controlled but adding some whole grains and fruit back in. The last change seems to have me jump-started again, so I'll stick with it until when and if I hit a plateau, then will swing back to Atkins.

I seem to remember from the old version of the Atkins Diet Revolution -- it has since been taken out of the "New" Diet Revolution -- that it could be beneficial to switch weight-loss tactics for a short period to jump-start your weight loss.

I'll update again when I reach that "magic 60." Never mind I have another magic

The 10-Minute Diet

Well, of course, I'm joking. Or am I?

Interesting story in Time Magazine about how there's a huge surge in Internet searches for diets and diet-related topics during the first week of January, when so many of us pledge we're going to turn over a new leaf in the new year, and the leaf won't be slathered with sugary dressing.

But we are a country in need of a quick fix, and the list of top searches for the first week of 2007 tells a lot about why, despite our best intentions, we as a country are not making much headway in the war on weight. On the other hand, if you look at what the top two searches are, it's a big plus on the low-carb side. The "authorities" might not be buying into low-carb, but the Internet searchers are.

The Top 10 searches:
1) South Beach Diet
2) Atkins Diet
3) Diet Pills
4) Diet
5) Diet Plans
6) Cabbage Soup Diet
7) Free Diet Plans
8) You on a Diet
9) Special K Diet
10) Lemonade Diet

Of course, the article also points out that, by the second week of January, the diet-related searches have dropped off considerably, and that six of the top 10 food-related sites visited in January were pizza-delivery sites.