Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Jordin Sets a Bad Example? Puh-leeze.


I don't know much about the National Action Against Obesity and its founder MeMe Roth, but check out this video from Fox News' Neil Cavuto "Common Sense" show.

Arrggghhh (sound of hair tearing from scalp).

Ms. Roth, or should I say MeMe--because it's obviously all about HerHer--is on a rant about how Jordin Sparksshould not win "American Idol" because in her "obesity" she sets a bad example for teens. Okay, let me get this straight. This is a smart, pretty, enormously talented 17-year-old who is not anorexic but, I mean, really, this is a singing competition, right? And we don't want her as an example for our kids.

By this way of thinking, then, I suppose MeMe would think Paris and Lindsay are great teen role models in their anorexic state. (Not pudgy Britney, though.)

How really warped is this line of thinking? Is it just me?

Aarrrggg (more hair ripping from scalp).

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Skinny Bitch

No, I'm not going on a rant about one of my coworkers, or even Paris Hilton.

Skinny Bitch is actually a "diet" book--and I use the term loosely--by Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman. Once I found it was the diet rage among such celebrity "role models" as Posh Spice, I knew it had to be ludicrousentertaining. Its subtitle: "A no-nonsense tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous." The authors are "former models," which means they wouldn't know a weight problem if it bit them on their skinny butts.

This isn't a new book, I discovered--Jimmy Moore did a rant, and rightly so, about it last year. But I missed it somehow. And just in case you did too, here are some excerpts from Skinny Bitch. Draw what conclusions you will, but WARNING: It's pro-vegan and they call anyone who does Atkins a "total moron." Hey, don't Vegans kill their babies?

• "Brace yourselves, girls. Soda is liquid Satan. It is the devil. It is garbage. There is nothing in soda that should be put into your body.… Diet soda is even worse. Aspartame…turns into formaldehyde. Laboratory scientists use formaldehyde as a disinfectant or preservative. They don't f***ing drink it. Perhaps you have a lumpy ass because you are preserving your fat cells with diet soda."

•• Never before has the United States seen such a ridiculous diet trend as the "low-carb" phenomenon. Every restaurant, grocery story, and fast-food chain caters to this utter nonsense...Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to capitalize on the trend, whether it is healthy or not. Not."

•• "Another worker at another plant said, 'I personally have seen rotten meat--you can tell by the odor. This rotten meat is mixed with the fresh meat and sold for baby food. We are asked to mix it with the fresh food, and that is the way it is sold. You can see the worms inside the meat."

•• "Mother Nature is no fool. All species, including ours, have just what we need to get by. She did not intend for grownups to suck their mothers' t**ts. We don't need our mothers' milk as adults, just like grown cows don't need their mothers' milk anymore. We are the only species on the planet that drinks the milk of another species. We could be putting gorilla milk on our cereal or having zebra milk and cookies."

•• "Fruits and vegetables are the answer. And unless you are an idiot who wants cancer, obesity and enlarged organs, organic is the way to go. You are what you eat."

•• "If we had a penny for every time some meathead asked us, "So where do you get your protein?" we'd be richer than Oprah. Have you ever, ever, ever in your entire life heard of anyone suffering from a protein deficiency? Did you ever see an elephant, moose or giraffe jonesing for a protein fix? It's a complete myth that we need a massive amount of protein."

And I must know: How do they KNOW the moose down the block isn't jonesing for a protein fix? Or a bite of cheese?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sugar....Oh, Honey, Honey

Remember that old song by the Archies? "Sugar. Oh, honey, honey. You are like candy, girl,and you got me wanting you." And what a stupid idea for a band were the Archies anyway? Did Jughead sing backing vocals?

But I digress. Check out this amazingly intelligent article from The Economist about rat poison. No, I don't mean my pal Jimmy Moore's total characterization of sugar as rat poison, but instead what I believe to be the worst of the many types of rat poison: high fructose corn syrup.

Anyway, this little Economist piece rightly, I think, points the finger of blame at HFCS and its effects on Americans in particular for any number of a host of health problems. The combination of Japanese technology, and flawed American agricultural policies in the late 1970s, has been a killer. Literally.

Donald Trump Needs Your Money

Yeah, yeah. I know. Eat more chicken and fish. Eat more veggies. Pork is the other white meat.

But don't you just love a good steak?

I have trouble finding a good steak, frankly. I can buy one that looks nicely marbled and it still end up tougher than John Wayne's boot leather despite my best marinades and pre-grill TLC.

I have ordered from Omaha Steaks before but when you live in a city that could double as a blast-furnace between May and November, getting anything frozen delivered is sort of a joke.

But there's a new player in the mail-order beef biz: The Donald. Just check out Trump Steaks. Ah, yes, this has the makings of a joke all over it. But, alas, no.

And it makes a great Father's Day gift, according to the Sharper Image folks, who are selling the steaks online. There are Filet Mignons, New York Strips, Cowboy Bone-In Rib Eyes, Porterhouses and Trump Steak Burgers. You can get four of each type of steak and 24 burgers for a mere $1,000.

Okey-dokey. Back to Wal-Mart for me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Big Fat Pigs. And cows. And farmers.

A truly astounding story in the Wall Street Journal (only available by subscription online) tells what the recent rise in corn prices has done to our meat supply. Or, actually, what the ranchers and farmers are doing to pigs, cows and chickens.

Now, think about it. If your Miss Piggy and Mr. Cow and Henny Penny were all used to eating corn but all those nasty environmentalists who wanted ethanol to run their machinery and reduce their carbon footprints were hogging all the corn, what would you do? Well, what's cheap? Hmmm. How about JUNK FOOD?

So, the WSJ article quotes a livestock nutritionist who are supplementing their grain with other items. "Besides trail mix, pigs and cattle are downing cookies, licorice, cheese curls, candy bars, french fries, frosted wheat cereal and peanut butter cups," said David Funderburke, a livestock nutritionist at Cape Fear Consulting in Warsaw, N.C. "Some farmers mix chocolate powder with cereal and feed it to their baby pigs. It's kind of like getting Cocoa Puffs."

Idaho ranchers aren't doing much better. According to the article, they are feeding their cattle uncooked french fries, Tater Tots and hash browns by the truckload.

Grass, people. Have you ever heard of GRASS?

The Stupidest Rape Defense Ever

I'm still steaming over this story about a gang-rape case in England in which the attorney for the rapists claimed the 16-year-old victim "may have been glad for the attention" since despite recently losing weight she still weighed 174 pounds. Now, I realize it's just another sleazy legal maneuver to blame the victims--reference was also made to the clothing being worn not just by these girls but by young teen girls in general. I mean, really. Can anyone be that stupid? Apparently so.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All the News That Fits

Sorry for "falling down on the job" lately--some things going on I don't want to jinx by writing about yet. Hang tight.

In the meantime, there's been a lot of (the usual conflicting) health news out recently. A recap:

•• The diabetes drug Avandia is about to join Vioxx in the lawsuit game as researchers are finding a correlation between the drug and heart disease. I took Vioxx at a high dose for arthritis a while back, and finally quit taking it because of heart palpitations. And THEN I heard about the problems. So the FDA contends with that constant tug of war between making drugs available quickly to people who need them vs. longterm testing for safety.

•• Arrgghh. This study coming out of Calgary is making the rounds to reinforce those belonging to the Church of Low-Fat Dining. According to the study, women who consume a high-fat diet while pregnant pass on a greater possibility of their children becoming diabetic. Well, the women's diets were low fiber and no info as to sugar. Duh.

•• So, according to Chicago's public health commissioner the reason so many kids these days are obese is because their moms work outside the home. Yep, moms staying home baking cookies with the rugrats would certainly solve that problem. Sheesh.

•• Just in case you don't want to eat sugary Jelly Bellies but would like to smell like them, here's a companyproducing a new line of Jelly Belly colognes. They already have some candy-scented colognes. Which brings me to the whole question of the psychology of a person who wants to smell like blueberry muffins. I mean, am I missing something here? What type of suitor would a woman wearing Hot Fudge Sundae cologne attract? I guess someone more interesting than the one attracted to another of their scents, Dirt.

I'll catch up more, later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Can Chocolate Toothpaste Be Far Behind?

I'm kinda behind on this story, which is really inexcusable since it's news out of my own back yard. A Tulane University PhD candidate has found that an ingredient in cocoa powder is a better tooth-decay fighter than the old standby, fluoride. Turns out, not just a little better--but a lot.

But just in case people rush out to find a Snickers Bar, the British Dental Association found it necessary to remind people that chocolate bars are also made with sugar, which sort of defeats the purpose.

I say, not if you try some of the absolutely yummy sugar-free chocolates, especially those made without nasty maltitol, that are available today.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Da Vinci Code (Sort of)

It's always fun to delve into the food customs of other times, so the book DaVinci's Kitchen: A Secret History of Italian Cuisine, while not actually focusing on DaVinci per se, does have some fascinating food history from 15th- and 16th-century Italy. For example, did you know that the higher your status when invited to dinner, the more likely you were to be seated with your back to the fireplace? Gotta keep that royal "hiney"ess warm, you know. Or that the first cookbook, in the modern sense of the word, was handwritten by Maestro Martino about 1460 and was called Libro de arte coquinaria, or "Book on the Art of Cooking?"

In researching the book, author Dave DeWitt went through Leonardo DaVinci's copious notebooks, looking for food references and even found Leo's salad dressing recipe! He also found DaVinci's Philosophy of Diet, as follows:

  • Do not eat when you have no appetite, and dine lightly.
  • Chew well, and whatever you take into you should be well-cooked and of simple ingredients.
  • He who takes medicine is ill advised.
  • Beware anger and avoid stuffy air.
  • Stay standing a while when you get up from a meal.
  • Make sure you do not sleep at midday.
  • Let your wine be mixed with water, take little and often, not between meals, not on an empty stomach.
  • Neither delay nor prolong your visit to the toilet.
  • If you take exercise, let it not be too strenuous.
  • Do not lie with your stomach upward and your head downward. 
  • Be well covered at night,and rest your head and keep your mind cheerful.
  • Avoid wantonness and keep to this diet.
Well, pretty wise, eh? I wonder what role sugar had in the 15th-century Italian diet. Granulated sugar hadn't been invented, so I imagine it was the occasional honey and was a treat. Might be wrong, though. These days, Italian food generally is spelled P-A-S-T-A and is a carb nightmare.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Physicians, Heal Thyselves

I've waxed poetical numerous times here about my doctor, whom I refer to as MD Lite because, basically, I go to her, tell her what is wrong with me and what I want to do about it, and she orders the test or writes the prescription or whatever and we're done with it. I point out subtle changes in my bloodwork, which she seems to find interesting, and I nod politely when she points to the "exercise pyramid" poster in the exam room and writes me a "prescription" for 1200 low-fat calories a day.

So the 2007 Obesity Report from epocrates was no surprise. A national survey of physicians on the state of health care, the report says American MDs rate obesity as the No. 1 health problem in the country. The culprits, according to the docs, are big portions and lack of exercise.

Now, I have to agree that many restaurant portions could feed a small nation, but the docs are still hung up on the calories in-calories out mantra. Ninety-three percent of the docs believe Weight Watchers is the best weight-loss program, followed by South Beach. You can do WW and SB in a lower-carb way, but both basically focus on fat and calories. At least SB gives a nod to eliminating sugar and simple carbs; WW is flexible enough for you to do it on your own, but doesn't encourage anything other than low-fat.

Health initiatives the MDs think will help: education, cutting trans fats in fast food, reducing availability of sodas in schools, and making overweight people pay higher health premiums.

(Uh. I haven't taken a sick day in about five years. Why the heck should I have to pay higher insurance premiums so my thin, sickly friends can get better treatment?)

Only 13 percent of the physicians acknowledge a genetic component to obesity.

There's more fun and frivolity to be found in the full report.

Off to hang myself from the balcony now. Guess my dangling feet will earn me a few exercise points before I choke.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What Kind of Eater Are You?

I recently found this interesting post from fitness coach Alice Green about determining what kind of eater you are.

I've talked a lot about my Katrina Evacuation Chocolate Frenzy, as I've come to think about it. I had never been a big chocolate eater and didn't think I was really a stress eater, being a generally laid-back, calm type of person. But as I sat day after day watching my life fall apart on national TV, I wanted chocolate, I wanted lots of it, and I wanted it BAD.

But this was an interesting list of "eating types," and the author contends that our eating type determines how we struggle with food. And that most of us are a combination of types. This all makes a lot of sense to me.

So, what are her types?

  • The Chaotic Eater. Tends to skip meals, eat without routine, and don't plan. This is NOT me. I'm a by-the-clock eater.
  • The Unconscious Eater. Isn't tuned in to how much she's eating, tends to eat while doing other things--TV, talking, working. I do have some of this in me.
  • The Emotional Eater. Uses food to cope with feelings. Often eat a whole package of something before they realize it. Feel powerless around food. Yeah, okay, I've owned up to this one.
  • The Waste-Not Eater. Hates to see food go to waste so has to finish it off. Nah, I'm not shy about throwing stuff out.
  • The Refuse-Not Eater. Can't say no when someone invites them out or offers them food whether they want it or not. Eats to make others feel good. Uh....not really, I don't think.
  • The Restrictive Eater. Always going on one diet or another with a vengeance. Constantly creating lists of "good" and "bad" foods. Vascillate between under-eating, over-eating and bingeing. Obsessive. DING DING DING. Raising hand now.
  • The Intuitive Eater. I guess this is the one we should all strive to be--conscious of body hunger signals. You know, eats when hungry, stops when not hungry.
It's how to get from Point A to Point B that's the problem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And That's What I Like About the South

I grew up with a love-hate relationship with my native South, and over the years it has grown into a love-love relationship as I've stopped being embarrassed by the eccentricity of my native soil and started appreciating its weirdness for what it is.

Take food, for example. I've always said if a Southern cook doesn't know what to do with something, she'll batter it and deep-fry it as sure as I'm sitting here. Thus you have such Southern delicacies as hush-puppies (fried cornbread), deep-fried pickles (don't laugh--these things are yummy), fried pies and fried corn fritters. We, however, will not take credit for fried candy bars and other fair food travesties. That the obesity level in the South is higher than the rest of the country, and how that relates to our proclivity to batter and fry everything, is a topic for another day.

But now there's a new Southern-Fusion twist I'm not so sure about: the Kool-Aid Pickle.

Do 7-11 type stories outside the South have those requisite big jars of pickled pig snouts and other body parts sitting by the checkout counter? Well, the newest thing is giant dills soaked to the gills in a Kool-Aid mix.

Take a gallon of dills and cut them in half. Mix some double-strength Kool-Aid with a pound of sugar--preferably cherry, tropical fruit or strawberry--and soak the pickles in it for at least a week. Slice your pickles and they'll soak up even more flavor.

I suppose this isn't so very different than the making of "bread and butter" sweet pickles, but it just SOUNDS so very bizarre, never mind the infusion of massive amounts of sugar into something as innocuous as a dill pickle.

But the fluorescent-red pickle's kinda cool.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

Doesn't this look like one of those "food porn" shots you see on the front of women's magazines (next to all the "5 ways to shed 40 pounds in 5 minutes" story promos)?

It's actually my "birthday cake"--tomorrow's the Big Day Whose Number Shall Not Be Named.

So to splurge I ordered some "Pecan Bark" from Maine Cottage Foods--I'd never tried their low-carb chocolate before--maltitol free and high-fiber. I've always been a fan of the Chocoperfection bars but this is WAY better. And only 1.9 net carbs for a huge chunk. This is now my all-time-favorite LC chocolate. Not cheap but a nice splurge.

Tonight friends are taking me for steak.

Steak and chocolate! Does it get any better?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Boo Hiss Pffffffft

Okay, I'm just gonna say it straight up: I hate to exercise. I find it boring. I've tried videos, books, my iPod cranked up to peppy music---booorrriinng.

I cannot begin to list all the various and sundry pieces of equipment designed to make exercise FUN! EXCITING! FULFILLING! that have made interesting objects d'art in my life over the years. Well, yes, I can begin to list them. Let's see, there have been a series of stationary bikes--traditional, super-duper, and recumbent. There have been stair steppers, bands, balls and mini tramps. There is currently a dust-covered Gazelle in the corner with quilting fabric piled on the foot rails and a couple of shirts hanging over the handles.

"Take a walk," you say. Well, I could do that. I would probably be a) murdered or b) eaten by mosquitos or c) both, but I could do that. "Walk at the mall," you say. Well, sure, I could do that except the nearest mall is in the 'burbs 45 minutes away and I work 10 hours a day.

So of course I was pleased as punch at the recent reports that exercise doesn't really contribute to weight loss in any significant way, even though I knew that wasn't true for health in general. Now, even that self-lie won't work, as these British doctors have taken it on themselves to say even thin people who don't exercise are borderline obese because they have "hidden fat."

Great. I not only have visible fat but now hidden fat as well.

Okay, guys, help me out here. Anyone with ideas that go beyond "just do it?"

Thursday, May 10, 2007

An End to Fat Free Diets!!

You just gotta laugh at some of the headlines these days. What do you think if you read the above headline? I'd think: "Great! People have finally wised up and realize dietary fat isn't evil!"

But, of course, I'd be quite wrong.

This headline was actually related to new research coming out of Wake Forest University. Researchers have apparently done some knockout-mice research that offers the promise of genetically altering US so we don't suffer from eating that nasty fat.

A "knockout mouse" sounds like a cartoon character, but it's actually a hot thing in genetic research circles. A knockout mouse is one that has had a specific gene or set of genes "knocked out" for research purposes. In this case, the mice had their ACAT2-producing gene removed. The ACAT2 enzyme affects the impact of fat when ingested.

I'm making jabs at this research but it really is quite promising for people with the predisposition to develop atherosclerosis, regardless of whether that atherosclerosis is actually caused by a particular kind of fat.

On the other hand, it could just open the door for people to think they have a "free pass" when it comes to doughnuts or other trans-fatty foods that also contain a lot of sugar and simple carbs. Then folks won't have atherosclerosis but it sure won't have an impact on diabetes, obesity or overall health.

Knockout THOSE mice, why don't they?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Gene Genies

Yo dog, check it out. (Sorry--too much American Idol and if you didn't recognize it, that was my Randy Jackson impression.)

There's a new book out within the past few days that I find quite interesting. It's called Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, and is written by New York Times reporter Gina Kolata.

The New York Times ran an excerpt yesterday, and it's quite fascinating.

Basically it talks about some studies with which I was unfamiliar, and a few I'd heard of, studying the genetic link to obesity. I always knew it was strong--take one look at my family and that wouldn't be up for any debate. But it seems to be even stronger than I thought.

Now, I should have this caveat up front: I don't think genetics means losing weight is hopeless. It means losing weight will be harder for some people, and it means maintaining weight loss will be harder still. Study upon study has shown that most people who lose weight gain it back. Here's a big reason why.

Back in 1959, a Rockefeller University researcher named Jules Hirsch conducted a groundbreaking study on obese people. He wondered whether, when obese people lost a lot of weight, their fat cells shrunk or disappeared. He took eight people with lifelong obesity, put them on a 600-calorie liquid diet, had each of them lose on average 100 pounds, and then looked back at their fat cells. He was satisfied--the formerly obese folks' fat cells hadn't disappeared but they had shrunk to a "normal" size.

He sent them all on their merry ways, but then was horrified that they all regained the weight (duh, how many went back home to 600-calorie liquid diets). Anyway, they repeated the study and got the same results every time, but in subsequent studies also monitored diet, activity, psychiatric conditions, and metabolic rate.

Ding ding ding. Every obese person who lost weight measured metabolic rates comparable not with normally thin people but with people who were starving. They also had a psychiatric syndrome called "semi-starvation neurosis" that had been observed in people of normal weight who had been starved. Anxiety, depression, secreting of food, binging.

The excerpt in the Times notes other studies but the bottom line is this: there's an 80% chance that if your parents are obese you will be too. Is it impossible to lose weight? Of course not--there are so many of you out there who've lost lots of weight and have kept it off with a low-carb lifestyle, particularly.

But point is, you who have kept it off have also kept your weight on the front burner. As the book says, "there were a few who did not get fat again, but they made staying thin their life's work."

Which, I suppose, is one of the reasons we write blogs and read blogs and stay focused on weight and health issues. And because of the low carb diet's satiety factor, which is I think its biggest advantage of all, I wonder if that changes the equation any.

So many questions. What do you think?

Consumer Retorts

What a surprise!

"Rating the Diets," touts the new issue of Consumer Reports. "Plans that work best. How good are the latest diet books? Plus 8 simple ways to lose weight (& 3 to avoid)."

Oh boy, I know this is gonna be good.

Let's see. Let's rank the 8 most-tested diet plans, from best to worst:

1. The Volumetrics Eating Plan, by Barbara Rolls. (basically, fill up on bulky calorie-bereft foods to find satiety)
2. Weight Watchers (low fat)
3. Jenny Craig (low fat, eat their food)
4. Slim Fast (low fat, eat their meal substitutes)
5. eDiets. (low fat, unless you use their website to follow any other plan of your choice--for a fee--including low carb)
6. The Zone (equal carbs, fats, protein)
7. The Ornish Diet (ultra low fat)
8--ta da--worst, and the only diet to get a negative rating:
Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution

Here is what the brainwashed drones expert panel says about Atkins: "There’s growing evidence that dieters aren’t as hungry on Atkins as on some other diets. But many find it too restrictive, so long-term adherence is below average; long-term weight loss is average. Its nutritional profile is far outside dietary guidelines." In their ratings chart, Atkins received a below-average overall rating, with a "worst" rating for nutritional content.

And what are the 8 strategies that work, and 3 that don't?
1. Eat breakfast. (okay here)
2. Choose (and limit) your fats. (sigh)
3. Eat sparingly. (and strive for anorexia!)
4. Exercise (yeah, yeah, whatever)
5. Consider cutting carbs. (Who. Wha-huh? They just ripped Atkins. Methinks they speak with forked tongue--with some sauce on the side. But I digress...)
6. Fill up on low-density foods. (Yeah,pile on that rice and be hungry again in 30 minutes)
7. Weigh often (I've tried three times a day and it's frustrating)
8. Eat a monotonous diet--too much variety stimulates your appetite. (oh.kay.)

The three "not-so-workable" strategies:
1. Diet drugs. (I'm with them here.)
2. "Angel" and "Devil" foods--seeing any food as evil sugar rat poison or perfect.
3. The glycemic index. Why? Because it tempts you to make foods "evil" and you don't know how to count mixed foods.

ARRRGGGHHH (sound of hair being ripped from scalp). Now, that won't confuse folks, will it? Talk about "Junkfood Science."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Feast and Famine

Feast and Famine and Sugar, oh my!

A couple of interesting pieces from the London Daily Mail that there are symptoms of famine in the UK.

Apparently, the number of hospital patients diagnosed with malnutrition has risen by 44 percent in the past five years--4,000 cases last year alone. Experts estimate that the real number is more like 3.6 million.

In the worst cases, the symptoms of malnutrition are pot bellies, wasted limbs and emaciated bodies. But the millions not at that point are more likely to be obese, lethargic and suffering vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

The cause, experts say, is a growing reliance on fast food coupled with binge drinking.

It's really a pretty scary article.

Now, think of it in terms of this piece about how the amount of sugar in so-called "healthy products" has doubled in the past 30 years. Picked out as the worst offenders? Breakfast cereals, so-called "whole-grain" breads, and soups. Special K cereal--touters of big "eat us twice and day and take off the weight" campaigns--went from 9.6 grams of sugar in 1978 to, currently, 17 grams of sugar. And that's not to mention their "Vanilla Almond" and other flavors with extra sugar. The article points out that while the UK government and watchdog groups have focused on the amount of salt in foods and on the table, the spiraling use of sugar has gone unchecked.

And so have the rates of diabetes and obesity and insulin resistance and all other sorts of good things.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Warning--this is just me whining and has no relation to diet. Just in the interest of full disclosure so you don't get to the end of this and say, "What does that have to do with weight loss or health?"

Remember the old disaster movie spoof "Airplane?" Leslie Nielsen's character, puffing on a dozen cigarettes at once, says something like "Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit smoking."

Well, looks like I picked the wrong day to start training for a marathon--or to walk, for that matter. See, I have a couple of boo-boos.

It all started at Home Depot, as so many of my personal disaster stories have since Hurricane Katrina. Last week, a plumber told me my bathroom sink leak couldn't be repaired--I needed to replace the 1930s-era faucet set in my 1900-era house, but I probably couldn't find anything to fit so I'd need a new sink too, and then once the 1930s pedestal sink came out I'd need to refloor the bathroom because the tile wouldn't fit around a different-sized base.


I search the Internet for the rare faucet set with a 12-inch spread, highly resenting that I am not independently wealthy, surrounded by servants and know things like what a widespread faucet set is. And I find a few 12" ones from restoration sites but they're outrageously expensive.

So I go sink shopping. I find a nice beadboard white small vanity that will fit in the tiny bathroom and has a larger base so I don't have to refloor the room. A nice marble vanity top and sink. An old-fashioned looking brushed nickel faucet set. And home I go.

Superwoman! I decide to unload the car, having no handy-dandy males standing around flexing their muscles and offering to help.

I manage the 75-pound vanity up the brick stairs with much huffing, puffing and rest-stops along the way.

I pick up the marble vanity top and sink. Hm. About 40 pounds, I'd guess. Piece of cake. I wobble up the steps, into my entry hall and...


I'm lying face down on the floor with my face in the marble sink, my shoes have flown off in multiple directions, my body is twisted in some strange formation. The sink isn't broken--its impact was absorbed, for better or worse, by the middle finger of my right hand. After the immediate shock passed and I managed to get myself upright, I realized the nail of my finger had already, in less than a minute, turned a lovely shade of turquoise that just happened, coincidentally, to match my shirt.

As the day and night passed, new maladies arose. A badly bruised and hyperextended foot. Big-ass bruise on leg and arm, back spasms. Oh and did I mention my finger HURTS LIKE HELL? It's now black and so swollen I'm expecting it to shortly split like a hot dog in the microwave.

Oh well, at least the sink didn't break.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Buying Local---Not

Well, I tried. I tried to be a good citizen in my weekly shopping today. But the barriers were too overwhelming.

Barrier #1 is 81 years old and goes by the name of Mom. She wants Yoplait fruity yogurt. She wants Special K Vanilla Almond. She wants Blue Bell Cherry-Vanilla ice cream. I cannot buy those things at Whole Foods or the farmer's market. So off I go to Sprawl-Mart for $125 in Senior & Stubborn Foods. But I refuse to buy Sprawl-Mart produce--here, at least, it's really abysmal, nasty looking stuff.

So next I go to Whole Foods and run into Barrier #2. The only locally produced product in the entire store was strawberries. Now, theoretically, I could live on strawberries and splenda and Kefir. But instead I bought grapes from Chile, onions from California and managed to get the rest of my produce from Texas, which is at least not a half a world away.

So I need to make a big farmer's market run on Tuesday, which is the day the Green Market sets up in the parking lot of the building I work in. Maybe I can eat something local that isn't red with little black seeds.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Shelley Winters Syndrome

If you have ever struggled with a weight problem, have you ever felt as if you had to be 10 times better than everyone else just to prove that you're "worthy?" To prove you're good enough to "compensate" for your size?

It's the Shelley Winters syndrome. In one of my all-time favorite disaster pics, Shelley Winters plays the fat lady stuck in the Poseidon Adventure (1972 version) after the ship hits the iceberg, turns upside down and six or seven of our fair heroes follow fallen priest Gene Hackman to their eventual rescue. The survivors are all "types." You have the fallen priest, the waifish girl, the gritty ex-cop with the reformed-hooker wife, the old man, the child, and the fat woman--which is where our fair Shelley comes in.

As they climb and climb to escape the rapidly water-filling ship, they make constant allowances for Shelley so she can get through the tight openings and manage to climb through the physical challenges. Shelley feels bad and is always saying how they're having to risk themselves for the fat lady. Then, finally, they come to a quandary--someone is going to have to swim underwater through a long flooded corridor carrying a rope so the rest can pull themselves through. Wait! says Shelley. I can do it! I once was a champion swimmer! Never mind she hasn't tread water in 40 years and 60 pounds.

But she does it, by gosh. She jumps in, swims and swims, secures the line, and then, of course, promptly dies of a heart attack. She has sacrificed her life to prove she was worth saving.

The reason I even began thinking about it was from reading this BBC piece about ethical dilemma questions. Two of the four questions involve sacrificing fat people to save other, presumably thin, people. I found the questions mildly offensive, but it did really make me start thinking about how often we sacrifice ourselves out of some misguided attempt to make people like us/think we're "good people"/think we're worthy of something.

How hard and how often do you try to "prove yourself?"

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Making Yogurt

So, after our discussions yesterday--and thanks, Tess, for the yogurt tips!--here is the Four Corners Diet recipe for making your own yogurt or kefir with nothing more complicated than a glass jar. The yield is 4 servings; serving size is 1 cup.

1 quart whole milk
1 ounce starter culture

1. Purchase your first live-culture kefir or yogurt from the grocery store. Make sure it is plain, with no fruit or sugar added, and make sure it says "contains live cultures" (not "made with live cultures"). Take out about 2 tablespoons to use as your starter.

2. Place a bottle of milk in a large pot containing enough water to cover half the bottle. If you buy your milk in a carton or plastic jug, transfer it to a clean glass bottle.

3. Open the lid a little to allow for expansion of the liquid. Bring water to a boil and simmer for five minutes. You have now pasteurized your milk. Allow milk to cool to room temperature.

4. Add 2 Tbsp of kefir or yogurt to each quart of cooled milk and put the bottle top on. Mix the starter with the milk. Place bottle on top of fridge and leave for at least 24 hours. In cool climates you may need 36-48 hours.

5. You have yogurt or kefir! Save out 2 Tbsp for your next batch.

Just FYI--you can also make it with skim milk or 2% but it will be thinner. Two-thirds of the milk sugars/lactose will be removed by the culturing process. Homemade yogurt will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Nutritional info per 8 ounce serving, made w/ whole milk:
135 calories
4 grams effective carbs (11 g total)
8.1 grams fat
5 g saturated fat
2.3 g monounsaturated fat
.3 g polyunsaturated fat
33 mg cholesterol
8g protein
291 mg calcium
33 mg magnesium
120 mg sodium
370 mg potassium
.1 mg iron
228 mg phosphorus
2.3 mg vitamin c

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Intestinal Fortitude

So despite my rant a couple of days ago about being bored with my diet, I have to agree with Livin' La Vida Low Carb buddy Jimmy Moore's questioning of the intestinal fortitude of anyone who gets bored eating low carb. Sound like a contradiction? Not really.

I have a character flaw, you see. My name is Suzique and I am a tad obsessive. Well, okay, more than a tad. Suzique needs something to obsess over, diet-wise, and once her eating plan becomes too automatic and easy, she need to shake things up a bit.

Which is why she did some low-carb reading and decided to have a crack at the Four Corners Diet, which is the re-named, updated GO-Diet devised in the late '90s by Drs Jack Goldberg and Karen O'Mara.

If there was ever a diet designed to cater to a middle-aged obsessive, uh, woman of stature, shall we say, this is it. I can count and count and count to my heart's content. I can devise myriad Fitday charts and goals to track. I'm as happy as a melamine-fed pig at a quarantined hog farm (can you tell I'm still really PO'd about this latest federal bunglefest?).

Anyway, the four corners of the table on which this food-happy eating plan stands are:

Corner #1) Low carbs. Limit net carbs to 50 or fewer a day. 50 grams of carbs?? That sounds like a TON. Can I lose weight on 50g a day? Can my 50g of carbs come from Blue Bell ice cream? Well, no. Because part of this #1 Corner is a tad more specific and bans the usual suspects (thankfully): sugar, starches, etc. And a max of 15 net carbs per meal.

Corner #2) High monounsaturated fat. Drs. GO tiptoe cautiously around the issue of saturated fat and don't find themselves willing to go all-out and give sat-fat their blessing. So the program asks not that you limit fat intake at all--the more, the merrier--but that 50% of your fat intake come from monounsaturated fats. Between my great fondness for Cardini Original Caesar salad dressing and anything drenched in olive oil, this will not be a problem.

Corner #3) High fiber, to the tune of a minimum 25-30 grams a day. And I may mean "tune," literally, y'know? Do any of you add flax to your foods? I figure I will snack on a couple of yummy Chocoperfection Chocolate Bars a day, at 14g of fiber each and 2 net carbs, and that requirement will be taken care of, at least until I'm hauled away in the paddywagon to the poor house because I've spent my mortgage payments on the not-so-cheap Chocoperfection Bars (although the best prices I've found on them are at Netrition, fyi).

Corner #4) Pharmafoods. Now, this is an interesting corner to me given my interest in functional foods, though there are still lots of questions about the validity of their claims. The Four Corners plan calls for some form ofprobiotics every day, plus five servings of vegetables per day, as many as possible from the "pharmafoods" group, which they say are foods whose nutritional punch is greater than the sum of their micronutrients: dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds, high-fiber low-sugar fruits such as berries and melon, broccoli, onions, peppers, etc.

Now, if you've stuck with me this far, you'll finally get to the thing I really want to talk about, which is yogurt, namely full fat yogurt without sugar added. Apparently there is a consensus among low carb "experts," thatyogurt carbs aren't "real" carbs as long as the yogurt contains live cultures. (This supposedly also is true of buttermilk but since I don't know what to do with buttermilk other than make cornbread, I don't care.)

Note I said "CONTAINS" live cultures and not "MADE WITH" live cultures. If your yogurt says it's made with live cultures, chances are they aren't live any more. So look for the word "contains." Said cultures feed on the lactose in yogurt, rendering it a non-carb. What's left, the whey, can be strained off the top.

Or you can enjoy kefir, which I have trouble finding, or something like Fage Total, which is a strained Greek yogurt that has 7g of carbs per 8-ounce serving. I added a little Torani Sugar-Free Irish Cream syrup to it this morning and it was quite the treat.

So, low-carbers, what's your take on yogurt?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

It's a 'Wonder'-ful World

I collect novelty cookbooks. As I scan over my shelves, I find such delights as The Nancy Drew Cookbook, Gilligan's Island Cookbook, Are You Hungry Tonight--Elvis' Favorite Recipes, and one of my favorites, the Mike Douglas Cookbook: Recipes Made Famous on the Mike Douglas Television Show.

OK, I'm showing my age here. I actually REMEMBER the Mike Douglas Show.

Anyway, it was with delight from a collector's viewpoint -- and horror from a dietary viewpoint -- that I heard the news that white, squishy Wonder Bread has released, in honor of its 85th birthday, the Wonder Bread Cookbook. You can buy it at Amazon for a discount if you also purchase The Twinkies Cookbook.

The Wonder Bread books touts itself as "an inventive and unexpected recipe collection," which just begs one to ask: so, what's in it? Well, there are:

• Good Morning Wonder Bread, with breakfast recipes such as Pigs in Wonder Blankets.

• Wonder Bites, with appetizers such as Wonder Beef Cups

• Wonder Sandwiches, such as Grilled Baloney (sic) and Wonder

• Baked Wonder, including Sweetened Tomato and Wonder Casserole

• Sweet and Fruity Wonder, including the Wonder Easter Egg Sandwich

• Wonder Bread Pudding and Crepes, including Wonder Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

• It's a Wonder, an unidentifiable category with such delights as Creamed Fish in Wonder Patty Shells and Pilgrim Pies.

It is a wonder.

I'll leave you instead with a selection from the Mike Douglas Cookbook:

Lady Bird Johnson's Spinach Souffle
2 packages frozen, chopped spinach
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
Milk or cream as needed (approx 1-1/2 cup)
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Dash nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp sugar (Splenda hadn't been invented yet)
1 tsp grated onion
5 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 375. Thaw spinach. Drain. Reserve liquid. Add enough milk to liquid to make 2 cups.

Melt butter over low heat. Add flour and blend well. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until thick. Add spinach and remaining ingredients except eggs. Cook for or five minutes over low heat, stirring to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks until thick. Add equal amount of spinach mixture and blend well. Add to first spinach mixture.

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold spinach mixture into egg whites. Pour into greased 2-quart casserole. Set in pan containing 1 inch of hot water and bake 40-50 minutes or until table knife inserted 2 inches from the edge comes out clean.
Serves 6.