Friday, June 29, 2007

Eat Like an Egyptian

I've been fascinated this week by the identification of an ancient Egyptian mummy as being that of Queen Hatshepsut, a powerful pharaoh -- the most powerful Egyptian queen -- who ruled in the 15th century B.C. She apparently was known for dressing like a man and wearing a false beard. Did they call it cross-dressing back then? I want my mummy!

Anyway, this mummy that was discovered back in 1903 was removed from its site in the Valley of the Kings two months ago and taken to Cairo for examination, at which time it was discovered that the mummy was missing a tooth--leaving a space that matches a tooth known to be from the queen.

So, besides being dentally challenged, what do we know about Hatshepsut? Interestingly, she was obese and had diabetes and, possibly, liver cancer. Whoa here. Didn't all Egyptian queens look like Liz Taylor in her Cleopatra gear?

Well, probably not. A little research into the dietary habits of ancient Egyptians shows that only the rich were able to have meat, and had it at every meal. Dairy products were also available for the wealthy. But the ancient Egyptians were major fans of bread--plain bread and sourdough bread. They had quite the sweet tooth, and used copious amounts of honey and dates to sweeten their breads and make cakes, particularly the wealthy. Beer was the beverage of choice; the wealthy could generally afford wine as well.

So Old Hatsy was a bread-eating, beer-guzzling rich lady with a weight issue. Or was it revered back this, a great weight a sign of wealth and power? Ironic considering too often today it's found among the least wealthy and least powerful.

To quote King Solomon, I guess there's really nothing new under the sun.

The Diet Plate--Revised

Thanks to PJ of the excellent blog The Divine Low Carb for the idea. After I posted yesterday about the new Diet Plate being touted by the low-cal community, she wondered what a low-carb plate might look like.

Well that, of course, sent me into gales of laughter and a whole new project to test my Quark XPress and Photoshop skills.

So here's the result of my Low-Carb Plate project. Think this looks about right?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Home Plate

According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, people have problems with portion sizes, and all that's needed is a bit of guidance.

Enter the Diet Plate, available in sizes for women, men and kids. There's even a Diet Bowl.

The Diet Plate folks claim it is "probably the truest product to ever come to market to help in combating and preventing obesity," which sounds like quite the hype. The plates are made in England by Royal Stafford Tableware and come with an eight-week weight management plan plus online support. The plate for women, they say, will allow you to eat your regular foods and lose 1-4 pounds a week for women who have fewer than 60 lbs to lose. If you need to lose more than 60 lbs, I'd imagine the rate of weight loss is greater.

It's an interesting idea, actually, once you get around the hype. Similar in idea to the fake foods you can buy to show you what a real portion should look like. If you're like me and have been known to "sneak" an extra bite or two of something, particularly something bad for you, or who can "eyeball" a one-cup measurement and really get something like three cups, it's an interesting idea.

But the written recommendations are the same old-same old:
Breakfast: 2 pieces of fruit and bowl of any cereal using The Diet Plate Calorie Controlled Breakfast Bowl, or 2 pieces of fruit, boiled egg and 1 slice of wholemeal toast.

Lunch (Female & Child): Choose any 300 - 400 calorie option. A small fun size banana or two small portions of fruit (not a kilo of grapes!) Drink water, tea, coffee or calorie free soda.

Dinner: Your own preference but served on The Diet Plate!

Aim to drink 8 glasses of water a day and include 400ml - 1/2 a pint of skimmed milk in your diet. Use a low calorie vegetable soup as a tummy filler for those hungry moments. Cut bread down to only two slices a day maximum. So if you’re having a sandwich at lunch this is your allowance.

Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday.

So the Diet Plate is basically a gimmick to get you to follow a "balanced," very low calorie diet. Although, to give them credit, they recommend you avoid "puddings, sweets and sugary foods."

Aw, and I was just wondering how big the portion size for Krispy Kreme donuts was.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What a Sicko?

So, filmmaking rabble-rouser Michael Moore is out on the interview circuit, talking about his new healthcare system expose, "Sicko." And while he's at it, he's sharing diet tips to share the wisdom he's learned in recently losing 30 pounds.

You have to exercise about 40 minutes a day, he says. You have to get lots of sleep. You have to eat lots of fiber. You have to not "diet" per se, but eat "heavy foods" that fill you up on fewer calories.


So did Mr Moore lose the weight doing these things? Yes--that, plus a $3,800-per-week stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, complete with a personal trainer. And we know what that means: super-low fat, to the tune of 10% of calories per day.

Wow indeed. Talk about doing it the hard way! (Although at least he did it, which is more than I can say for my wide and happy butt these days.)

Message in a Bottle

I sit here this morning, typing and drinking a Diet Coke. Yes, I know. Horror of horrors. I'm a soda junkie. Not only am I a soda junkie, but I hated the Coke with Splenda, which I thought had a strange citrus-y taste, and am addicted to plain old Diet Coke with--eek--aspartame.

I've studiously avoided all the proclamations about the poisonous effects of aspartame, being old enough to remember the huge public outcry against the carcinogenic effects of saccharine in the 1970s. Which makes me old indeed, but that's another story for another day.

So now here's this new study from Environmental Health Perspectives, where the group of Italian researchers who did the initial damning study of aspartame--irritated that the FDA and European food regulatory agencies say aspartame is safe regardless of how much cancer their little aspartame-fed rats developed--have repeated their study. Results confirm an increase in lymphoma and breast cancer among rats fed a daily aspartame ration equivalent to average human ingestion.

Jeez Louise.

So, what's a girl to do? Well, right now, this girl has a meeting to go to. But I do think I'm gonna have to find a new soda to drink. What do you folks drink? (And if you say "water is all you need," well poo to you. I need SODA!)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Supplemental Income Needed

So, what's your view on supplements?

I get spam e-mails occasionally from Prevention, king of the low-fat health magazines, and am always seduced a bit by their professionalism. Being in publishing myself, I've always found their books -- expensive books, by the way -- very attractive and fun to look through.

Today's e-mail blast, in large blue and green type: "Want to Lose 20-60 Pounds or More? You need help from the world's most effective "weight loss wonders"! You'll find them all in your free-preview copy of The Natural Fat-Loss Pharmacy!"

It's all about supplements. Dietary supplements -- I think today's buzzword is "nutraceuticals" -- you can take to "speed up the fat-burning process." Supplements that cost so much you practically need a "supplemental income," so to speak, to pay for them.

The late great Dr. Atkins got into dietary supplements as well--particularly his own brand of them--and I always wondered if they really made any difference or if it was just a clever money-making scheme. I note that Atkins Nutritionals stopped making them once the Atkins craze cooled off.

One of my favorite low-carb books is Jonny Bowden's Living the Low Carb Life, a most rational exploration of all the major low-carb or controlled carb eating plans.

He also highly advocates a number of supplements. Once, just to see what it would involve, I made a list of the recommended supplements and looked them up on the Vitacost website, and it totaled well over $100 for a month's worth of these "beneficial" food supplements. The list contained: GLAAlpha Lipoic AcidGTF Chromiuma B-Complex, a separate B5 supplementOmega 3L-Carnitine5-HTPMagnesiumGreen Tea Extract and L-Glutamine. I ended up buying a bottle of Centrum for $10 and leaving it at that except for a milk thistle/dandelion root combo for liver health that I started taking after having slightly elevated liver enzymes turn up on blood tests for a couple of years running.

But I wonder..... What do you take besides a multivitamin? And what does it do for you?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Wacky World of Weight Loss

A recent issue of Newsweek said it all: "The Dieter's Dilemma: People Will Try Almost Anything to Lose Weight. Really."

It was a lighthearted look at some of the currently fashionable fad diets--and, believe it or not, Atkins and Low-Carb didn't make the list, which means some small inroad into acceptability, I guess.

So, since I'm lollygagging around the last few months, are there any of these to capture my interest and get me back on track?

The Astrology Diet. In which your diet and exercise type are dictated by your astrological sign. I'm a Taurus, so, according to diet developers Ellen Barrett (a trainer) and Barrie Dolnick (an astrologer), I find great pleasure in eating so a restrictive diet will not work with me, and I thrive on "gentle but thorough" workouts, preferably at home. Yeah, well, okay.

The Blood Type Diet. Peter D'Amato's theory that what you eat should be dictated by your blood type. The popularity, Newsweek surmises, is that it makes people think it's more personalized. Which is all fine and good, I say, until you realize that 72% of Americans and Europeans have either O+ or A+ blood types, so how personalized can it be, really?

Single Food Diets are making a comeback. Grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, pineapple diet, popcorn diet. Been there, done that.

Detox Diets, popular these days, theorize that cleansing out your system is good for you and good for your weight. But, really. "Cleansing with Colonics," called for by diets like 21 Pounds in 21 Days, means, quite simply, enemas. Let 'em stick that diet where the sun don't shine.

The Maple-Syrup Diet, made famous by Beyonce, who used it to trim down for "Dreamgirls." Dieters drink 2 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a cup of water, several times a day. Uh, no.

Remember? I'm Taurus. I find great pleasure in eating.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Onion Rings & Carrots

I'm still not too keen on Hilary Clinton, and thankfully this isn't a political blog so I don't have to make my mind up and make any kind of endorsement yet!

But you have to admit her video sendup of the Sopranos finale is pretty funny. Of course, Bill steals the show.

He joins Hilary at a diner full of common folk--just the sort of place the Clintons probably eat every day (snort snort)--and as Bill is seated, the waitress plops down a plate of carrot sticks.

Dejected, Bill asks why he can't have onion rings, and he munches sadly on a crispy carrot stick while Hilary tells him she's looking out for him.

I feel his pain.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happiness is Egg Shaped

Those of us who have eaten low-carb for any amount of time at all have eaten our share of eggs. Boiled, scrambled, fried, cooked in an omelet with just about anything, in a crustless quiche...well, you get the picture. Eggs are our friends.

So in a typical bit of stupidity, we have a story from CalorieLab that the Egg Information Service in the UK was all set to re-release this 1950s TV ad about the perfect protein of eggs when they were blocked from doing so by the "Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre," which regulates advertising standards.

The BACC was concerned that the 50-year-old ad celebrating the egg with classic comedian Tony Hancock would send unsuspecting Brits into a dangerous way of eating. BACC spokesman Kristoffer Hammer said it was not a question of whether an egg a day would cause any harm, but that it should be served with fruit juice and toast. Fruit juice and toast! Heck, might as well add a Snickers Bar as well.

Anyway, enjoy the classic ad that won't be running on TV in the UK anytime soon.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Let Us Entertain You

I know this has nothing to do with anything I usually do on this blog--it's a cross-post from my New Orleans post-Katrina blog. But I thought I'd share...

Here is the trailer for the new Fox drama about post-Katrina New Orleans. It made me cry. I don't think that's the reaction they're going for and I'm sure it will be entertaining for the rest of the world and I know New Orleans needs the revenue filming this here will bring, but I don't think I'm ready for it. What do you think?


Left Behind

There's an interesting correlation between a couple of news stories out today.

The first is the results of three large national database studies showing that between 1971 and 2000 the death rate of men with diabetes has dropped significantly and is in line with the overall rate of decline in death rate among all Americans. The same is not true, however, of women with diabetes, whose death rate did not decline at all.

One of the researchers concluded: "The improvements seen in men suggest that the improvements in diabetes care are working on longevity as well. But the finding in women is concerning and means we may need to explore whether different approaches are needed to improve health outcomes for women with diabetes."

One answer -- one very big, systemic answer -- might be found by reading between the lines of health guidelines being given to women. Take, for example, the recent eating guidelines from the American Heart Association, which one of my favorite blogs, Junkfood Science, rips apart at the seams. Go and read author Sandy Szwarc's breakdown of the AHA recommendations.

In short, though, she points out that:

1) The AHA Guidelines state that to prevent heart disease and premature death, women should maintain or lose weight and maintain a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 with a waist circumference of 35 inches. However, when the studies to support this recommendation are examined, there are ZERO clinical studies cited to support that women who lose weight live longer or decrease their chances of cardiac disease.

2) The AHA recommends that women consume no more than one alcoholic drink daily. However, an examination of their 54 pieces of "evidence" shows that few were actually clinical trials, and most were conducted only on men. And the AHA expert committee even noted that the results "are not applicable to women."

3) The AHA says to prevent heart disease and increase longevity, women should consume ample fruits and vegetables; eat whole-grain, high-fiber foods; consume fish at least twice a week; limit saturated fat to less than 10% of calories (7% is preferred), and limit sodium to approximately 1 teaspoon of salt a day. Trans fats should make up less than 1% of calories.

To support these recommendations, the AHA cites a whopping 94 studies. However, as Sandy of Junkfood Science discovered, 36 of the studies included no women and the AHA committee noted they were not applicable to women. Another 8 studies were not applicable because they were studies of previous cardiac patients, not prevention studies related to the guidelines. Forty-eight of the studies were observational and could not point conclusively to causal relationships between diet and disease. Only one study was a clinical intervention trial.

Sandy's conclusion: "Not one observational study was able to credibly support the AHA heart healthy eating recommendations for women to prevent heart disease or premature death. The only observational study specifically looking at Healthy Eating in accordance with our government’s dietary guidelines found no benefit. And finally, the strongest evidence — an actual clinical trial of the heart healthy diet on the primary prevention of heart disease in women, that went on for more than 8 years — found it had no effect on heart disease."

So, let's go back to the first data about how women with diabetes aren't experiencing the decline in mortality enjoyed by their male counterparts and non-diabetic Americans as a whole. Is it apples and oranges? I really don't think so. Until and unless we develop a body of clinical work specifically studying the effects of diet and disease on women, we're going to lag behind on more than just pay rates.

Okay. Off the soapbox now. Jeez. I sound like a feminazi. I'm not. Really.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Poop on Poopy Pants

Well, that got your attention, didn't it?

Actually, I'm talking about a bit of an advertising war between GlaxoSmithKline's new OTC diet drug, Alli, and the OTC weight-loss drug Leptopril from Generix Labs.

Seems Generix created an ad for Leptopril based on its lacking some of the ugly side effects of Alli, a lower-strength form of the diet drug Orlistat. The side effect in question? Poopy pants.

Alli basically forces you to eat a very low-fat diet while taking it by causing uncontrolled diarrhea and, well, poopy pants if you eat too much fat. Leptopril is the drug with the obnoxious commercials that say "don't buy this product unless you're significantly overweight because it works too well for the casual dieter," or some such nonsense.

But anyway, when CBS, NBC and ABC all rejected the Poopy Pants commercial, saying it was in bad taste, Generix placed their ad on YouTube and other video spots. And you gotta admit, it is pretty funny.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Yeah, Well, At Least I Don't Have a Square Head

Which is pretty much my response to American Medical Association president William Plested, who spoke recently to a civic group about what he thinks is ailing American healthcare.

Is it obesity? No.
Is it the aging of the giant Baby Boom generation?
Is it a shortage of nurses?


It's the legal system and the fact that people can actually--gasp--sue their physicians if they do a poor job and cause more problems than they help.

Now, I admit this has become an overly litigious society, and everyone's answer to everything is "sue the bas..uh...bad guys."

But to blame every healthcare system ailment and, by association, every health problem society faces, to physicians' fear of lawsuits seems a bit over the top.

And, yes, part of my gripe with Dr. Spongebill Squarehead, pictured above, is that he said the result of all these lawsuits-in-the-making is that "we're going to pay for this with a generation of fatso's with every disease you can imagine."

Gasp. Not FATSO'S!!

Sheesh. Maybe I will sue the bas...bombastic boxhead.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Raising the Cereal Bar?

At first I called it "baby steps," today's news that The Kellogg Co. has adopted new nutritional standards for its products that are marketed to children.

It's a huge step for a company to take, I thought when I first heard the news--a big old company voluntarily making its products healthier. A lot of tinkering will be going on in the old cereal labs, I thought.

So, what are the new "nutritional standards?"

Basically, they set an upper limit of 200 calories per serving maximum, 2 grams or fewer of saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 230 milligrams or fewer of sodium, and 12 grams or fewer of sugar.

How does this compare with some of their currently marketed products?

Well, a pop tart (hot chocolate flavor) has 200 calories, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 200 mg of sodium and 18 grams of sugar. So basically, the pop tart has to trim only 6 grams of sugar to make the cut. (And this is for one Pop Tart and does anyone really eat just one? Really? You leave the other one in that little foil bag? Not me!)

Froot Loops? 120 calories, .5g saturated fat, 140mg sodium, 13g sugar. Virtually no change.

Rice Krispy Treats? 100 calories, 3.5g saturated fat, 95mg sodium, 10g sugar. Virtually no change.

And on and on it goes. So the crafty folks at Kellogg have made this big media splash about all they are doing for our obese kids while, really, they set the "bar" so low that they barely have to lift a foot to climb over it.

Jonesing for a Soda?

So sue me--I am a soda fanatic. I even love Diet Coke, aspartame and all, even though I recognize that it's probably pickling my interior regions with formaldehyde as we speak.

So I was surprised--and pleased--to find a new offering at Wally World last week...Wally World, I might add, that in New Orleans since Katrina barely has any regular supply of merchandise at all and can take weeks before a sold-out item is restocked. And, yes, remember the post-Katrina footage of hooligans ransacking a Wal-Mart and hauling out electronics and massive amounts of Nikes? Well, that was my neighborhood Wal-Mart. But I digress.

So there on the shelf was a sugar-free Jones Soda. I was surprised, since the uber-hip, cultish Jones Sodas are known for their radical refusal to sweeten with high-fructose corn syrup. Their bottles, in fact, boast that they are "Pure Cane Sugar Sodas." So to see sugar-free was surprising.

I snapped up an overpriced four-pack and took it home. As I sipped a fizzy, refreshing, extremely tasty Sugar-Free Green Apple (sweetened with Splenda), I read the bottle, about how for years people had been begging them for a sugar-free soda but they never could find a taste they liked and that lived up to their standards.

Well, I guess they found it and I have to agree--it's mighty tasty. I notice on their website that they make sell sugar-free cream soda, root beer, and black cherry soda. Finding it is a bigger challenge, as I don't have much hope that Wal-mart will carry it long-term or in any variety of flavors. I think that was a fluke.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Probiotic vs Prebiotic

So yesterday, Regina from the top-notch blog Weight of the Evidence pointed out that I had referred to inulin as a probiotic when, actually, it is a prebiotic. And, as another reader asked: What's the difference?

Good question, actually, because we're seeing these terms thrown around a lot these days as more "functional foods" come online. And when you see TV commercials talking about Dannon yogurt with "L casei Immunitas," I guess it's time to find out just what the terms mean. (More on "L casei Immunitas" later.)

For a definitive answer, I went to the godfather of all references, the Oxford English Dictionary--one bonus of working for a university is online access to this beautiful monstrosity.

And here we have it. A "prebiotic" is a non-digestible food ingredient that selectively promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. The beneficial bacteria themselves are "probiotics." So inulin, which I wrote about yesterday, is a prebiotic because it promotes the healthy bacteria. The term "probiotic" first appeared in 1995 in a Journal of Nutrition article--which is the kind of trivia one obtains from reading the OED. We also find that the two main prebiotics are the non-digestible oligosaccharides inulin and oligofructose, the richest nutritional sources of which are chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and onions.

Oligofructose is used in what I personally think is the best low-carb chocolate, made by Maine Cottage Foods, which is sweetened with a blend of erythritol, Splenda and Ace-K.

But I digress, which I tend to do when there's chocolate around :-)

What Dannon touts in its Activia and DanActive yogurts--even the "plain" also contains sugar, by the way, so don't go rushing out to buy any--are "L casei Immunitas" and "Bifidus Regularis," which are really the company's own blends of probiotics (bacteria, or live cultures) that they claim promote a healthy immune system (immunitas) and bowel health (regularis). They don't tell us what the blend is--it's their "trade secret"--and tout that they're the only yogurts to have it. (Well, of course they are--Dannon made the blends up, including their "official" fake Latin names. Duh.)

But I don't eat that sugar-laden junk anyway. What I DO eat is plain Lifeway Kefir, which with a splash of DaVinci syrup makes a great yogurt smoothie. It contains 10 active probiotics: 

  • Lactobacillius Lactis
  • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
  • Streptococcus Diacetylactis
  • Lactobacillus Plantarum
  • Lactobacillius Casei
  • Saccharomyces Florentinus
  • Leuconostoc Cremoris
  • Bifidobacterium Longum
  • Bifidobacterium Breve
  • Lactobacillus Acidophilus
What do all those probiotic bugs do for me? Couldn't tell you. But it tastes really good with some DaVinci Sugar-Free Irish Cream or Kahlua. And, yes, we could talk about spiking healthy yogurt with chemical-laden artificial sweetener. But that's a biology lesson for another day. Class is dismissed!

Out of the Inbox

Just cleaning out the files...

• Have you read about the new "Jelly Belly" diet pill? It's a new Italian creation, but unfortunately doesn't offer the flavor offerings of real Jelly Bellies. Instead, the idea is that you swallow this pill and it inflates to a gelatinous mass the size of a tennis ball in your stomach. Makes you feel full and you don't want to eat as much. It eventually dissolves and goes out in the usual manner as if you had simply eaten 42 cups of Jell-O. I think if the scientists hadn't used the words "gelatinous mass" I could get into it a little more. Still, cheaper than gastric bypass.

• Just in case you didn't think most foods' health claims were a bogus bunch of advertising fluff, here comes Frito Lay, who decided that since they have switched to using more non-saturated fat in their chips, they can now make health claims for Ruffles. It seems to be under serious consideration by the FDA, which I think once this passes can officially change its name to the Food Disaster Administration.

• A recent survey by the NDP market research group found that 70 percent of adult Americans want to cut down or avoid sugar completely, with 40 percent saying they check food labels for sugar content. As a result, food manufacturers are responding to the resultant demand for more reduced-sugar or sugar-free products. Great! Well, except that the survey analysts stated that Americans had gotten on an anti-sugar kick in the 1960s, too, and we apparently got over it.

• The buzz over probiotics continues. This latest, from a food industry newsletter, says the science is "building" behind the use of the probiotic ingredient inulin. Inulin is a root fiber that promotes probiotic bacteria in the gut, has a sweet taste, and is classified as a soluble fiber. The latest study, published in Nutrition Research, shows that probiotics such as inulin, consumed regularly, help protect against colon cancer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Microwave of Evil

How often do you use the microwave oven? I'm thinking, for myself, at least once a day--sometimes more. I tend to reheat more than actually cook in it. I know some low-carbers cook eggs in it but I've never liked them microwaved.

But I also don't blame my microwave for any weight problems that might be found in my household.

Under the heading of "stupid health stories," file this under "REALLY stupid." A UK professor claims thatmicrowave ovens triggered the rise in obesity.

Say huh?

Because the increase in microwave usage parallels the increase in obesity from the 1980s, this undoubtedly means that the microwave did it. Sounds kinda like the "Devil Made Me Do It" defense, and where's Flip Wilson when you need him? Oh yeah, he's dead.

Probably microwaved himself into a size 10X.

And if you need further proof of the evils of microwave cooking, look on the front of your microwave. Chances are you'll find convenient settings for popcorn and potatoes.

So toss out your microwaves, one and all! Heat up your big ovens. Pop in a cake. Obviously, if it ain't cooked in the microwave, the calories don't count.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Porky for President?

I guess it was inevitable, as more and more folks talk about Al Gore as a desired presidential candidate, that talk would turn to his weight. Now, obviously, Al has put on a few. But does his weight make him a worse candidate for president than others? Aren't there better things to make fun of him for?

Guess not, according to the pundits on this recent clip from Chris Matthews' "Hardball" show.

They could at least have joked about him increasing sales of low-carb products and not SlimFast!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Livin' Large

So, I'm always fascinated by what marketers and retailers think Big People need and want in their lives. It can make quite the sociological study.

Obviously, for example, women's clothing manufacturers and retailers have several preconceived notion about overweight women:

  • Our arms hang down beyond our knees so we need extremely long sleeves;
  • We are very fond of very large prints;
  • We enjoy clingy midriff tops (preferably in very large prints);
  • Novelty items with pigs, elephants, or cows on them are big favorites, so that we can invite rude comments from strangers; and
  • Two words: fluffy chiffon.

Note to manufacturers: these assumptions are not true.

So it was with extreme interest that I came across the LivingXL website, with products designed for plus-sized men and women.

And what do the folks at LivingXL think we need? Let's see: robes up to 8x; super-sized towels; hand-held showers; and the "Big John" toilet seat that holds up to 1,200 pounds. Egads. High-capacity scales. Hmm..a Leg Lifter. Wonder what that does? A "bottom buddy." That's in the personal hygiene category and I don't want to delve too deeply into its use. Large patient gowns--and if you've ever gone to the doctor and had to don a gown that doesn't quite meet you'd see the beauty of having your own. Large-sized life jackets. Don't laugh--I have one of these, for those Hurricane Katrina-like events. I also own an inflatable boat for the same reason, but that's a topic for my other blog. Benches. Picnic tables. Are picnic benches a problem for overweight people? Ah, an airplane seatbelt extender, which you can choose by airline. Travel iron. Uh...fat people need special travel irons? How have I lived this long without realizing that? Oversized clothes hangers. Now that's a great idea.

Oh well.

I'm making light of all this, and admittedly some of the items are pretty strange. But others sound dead-useful, so why not.

On the other hand, let's see what we can do about those orangutan arms that manufacturers insist on putting on plus-size clothing.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kimkins Revisited

Like many of you who are fans and/or followers of low carb, I'm an avid reader of Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low Carb blog. He is, after all, the poster child for the active, successful low-carber and has been so supportive of so many of us who read his blog.

While Jimmy runs a lot of ads for the Kimkins program and reports on its many success stories, I was really surprised to read this recent post that Jimmy, who has had an amazing success with losing weight on Atkins, was going the Kimkins route himself due to a little bit of what I call "creepage and leakage" on his weight.

I have really mixed feelings about the Kimkins program.

Does it work? Oh, heck yes. I lost about 40 of my 65-pound loss last year on Kimkins and have tentatively been planning to do another Kimkins round later this summer when I have a few months without any big conflicts like trips or houseguests. So probably about August 1. Sound like an excuse to postpone? Probably, but from a voice of experience.

Why do I feel the need to plan to go on Kimkins so carefully? Because it's very, very, very unforgiving. And it's not for the faint of heart. You have to commit 110% and be absolutely unswayed.

I haven't been back to the Kimkins site (linked above) in several months, and it sounds as if there are some more variations to the plan than when I was on it last summer.

Basically, Kimkins--at that time, at least--was both low carb and low fat and very low calorie. You ate the basic Atkins Induction diet except all the protein had to be lean, and it was limited to a certain # of ounces per day, or as little as possible to stave off hunger. Most people posting on the Kimkins chat boards were eating fewer than 800 or 900 calories per day, and mine added up to about 900-950. I reached the Kimkims-desired state of SNATT (slightly nauseous all the time), which meant that even though I felt a deep, deep emptiness, I didn't really feel the need to eat. But even one or two off-plan bites would send me into a weeklong stall. Once, when I was only losing two pounds a week and sent in my menus in frustration--after all, I was eating 900 calories a day--I was told that I should cut back on fat.

Seems very counter-intuitive to a traditional low-carb plan. And when I added in more fat and calories and went back to Atkins, I started losing weight again.

But who am I to question any plan since I've been doodling around not accomplishing much of anything the past few months? Kimkins does work, and it works quickly--which is plan founder Kimmer's whole point (she lost about 200 pounds on the plan), that you lose your weight fast and get on with your life. And I will likely go back on it this summer to kick-start my weight loss. I'll check to see if there are other variations to the basic plan now and report back. Stay tuned.

Oh, and best of luck, Jimmy! I'll be following your Kimkins progress with great interest--please give us frequent updates.

Off the Rails

I've been out galavanting around the Southeastern US the past few days, averaging more than four hours in the car each day with gas at $3 a gallon, but let's not even talk about that.

On the other hand, let's talk about gas prices because we really, really don't need to be talking about my unabashed, off-the-rails three days of eating fast-food in the car.

I did have a real sit-down dinner one time, at an Italian joint--don't ask--and one sit-down lunch at one of those pizza-and-sandwich bistro type places, where I had an interesting conversation (held over a lunch whose contents I'd rather not discuss but let's just say there was white flour involved) about how weight-loss programs are so very difficult to maintain concurrently with a social life.

Yeah, an excuse, I know. But it does make it hard unless you're as focused as a terrier after a...well, after anything. Terriers are really focused.

So I'm still having trouble -- after two months of this -- getting my groove back and stringing more than a few good days together at a time.

On the positive side, I've been able to maintain my 65-lb loss. On the negative side, I've been maintaining it for about three months now.

(Knocking on skull)Must.get.out.of.this.funk.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Oh, Rebiana

Now here's a scoop for you--Cargill, an "agribusiness," and Coca-Cola have filed 24 patent applications for a new artificial sweetener made from the herb Stevia.

I've read a lot about Stevia over the years but have never tried it--isn't it a little bitter?

I like the idea of this, since theoretically it would involve fewer chemicals in the diet sodas I can't seem to give up.

Anyway, this little article is short on details but does say the product's tentative name is Rebiana. And how, I ask, do they come up with names like that? At least "Splenda" and "Equal" have names that are supposed to conjure up "splendid" and "equal to sugar."

Bad news for us here in the USA: since Stevia is only approved here as a food supplement and not a food additive, the first products are likely to be outside the US. Among the countries recognizing Stevia as a food additive are Japan, Brazil and China. What about you readers out there in Great Britain or France?

However, Cargill is thought to be working on clinical trials of the sweetener and planning to use the results to petition the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) for permission to use rebiana as a food additive in the US.

Stevia is a member of the daisy family, and the extract is said to have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar.

By the way, I'm out of town for a few days. Look for me back and blogging on Wednesday!

Friday, June 1, 2007

What the World Eats

Fascinating issue of Time magazine is out, focusing on The Science of Appetite and the way we eat. There are several parts to the special report.

"The Science of Appetite" (link above) talks about how we're hardwired to overeat, often the wrong things, and how complex is the whole subject of appetite and weight. It's quite even-handed and doesn't begin spewing the low-fat mantra.

"How to Curb Your Appetite" offers no surprises: eat fiber, eat regular meals, brush your teeth when you're hungry. Nothing new. Although it was interesting in what it calls the "Big Three" of diets: Atkins, Weight Watchers and Ornish, and the downside of each. The downside of Atkins is that it's hard to stick to long-term; the downside of WW is that you get hungry (duh) because it espouses portion control based purely on calories; the downside of Ornish is that it's so strict it's impossible to stay on it.

But, for me, here's one really interesting part of this package of stories--"A New Diet Equation"--that talks about why and how different diets seem to work for different types of people. If you are someone who has developed metabolic resistance you likely gain weight in your midsection and have the classic "apple" shape. Apple shapes lose weight best--and keep it off longer--on low-glycemic diets. Period. End of sentence. Pear shapes can lose on either low-fat or low-carb in about equal measure, but tend to gain the weight back faster regardless of how they lost it. And the article talks about the difference between low-carb and low-glycemic diets and says that while both approaches result in greater weight loss than low-fat diets for "Apples," low-carb is faster, more effective, and also more difficult to do.

Another interesting part of the issue is What the World Eats, a photo-essay of a sample family in different countries, with their weekly food bill amount and their favorite foods. It was interesting to me because it really shows how homogeneous the "developed" world is. Samples:

  • Japan: $317.25 a week. Favorite foods: sashimi; fruit; cake; potato chips
  • Italy: $260.11 a week. Favorite foods: fish; pasta with ragu; hot dogs; frozen fish sticks
  • Kuwait: $221.45 a week. Favorite food: chicken biryani with basmati rice
  • USA: $341.98 a week. Favorite foods: spaghetti; potatoes; sesame chicken
  • Mexico: $189.09 a week. Favorites: pizza; crab; pasta; chicken
  • England: $253.15 a week. Favorites: avocado; mayonnaise sandwich; prawn cocktail; chocolate fudge cake with cream
  • Germany: $500.07 a week. Favorites: Fried potatoes with onions, bacon and herring; fried noodles with eggs and cheese; pizza; vanilla pudding

Remind me to blog sometime about mayonnaise sandwiches. I'm astounded they appeared in England.

There are also articles on "The Biggest Loser" show, a funny first-person by a reporter who undergoes a two-day "master cleanse" fast and lives to write about it--albeit very grumpily, and a "How the World Eats" article to accompany the photo-essay.

A really fascinating issue--check it out.

A Warped View of Our Bodies, Ourselves

Thanks for all your comments on the post about "American Idol" Jordin Sparks and some skinny blonde anti-obesity lamebrain's comments about her being a bad role model for teens because of her weight.

I was particularly struck by Sheena's remark that Jordin is a size 12, and I just had to laugh and shake my head.

When I graduated from high school back in "the day" oh so long ago, I weighed 130 pounds and wore a size 12. I thought I was a hippo unfit for human society and had by that point been put on every diet known to humankind by my misguided but well-meaning mom who feared I'd end up like my dad's side of the family. You know, "big" people. I starved, exercised to distraction, sneaked food when I couldn't stand it any longer, and could never get below 130. In the process I set up a lifetime of binge eating and bad habits and metabolic resistance.

And now I'd kill to weigh 130, or anything close to it. I look back at photos of myself from that time and think, "I wasn't fat at all--how could I have thought I was?" And I don't know, except even then a size 12 made you a "big" person in terms of what we saw on TV, in magazines, and praised among the "popular" kids in school (as opposed to my geek-pals). If only we could protect our daughters and nieces from buying into what society says they should look like and just reinforce the positives of letting them be who they are.