I had a terrific week in Nashville--thanks for all the well-wishes! Somewhere between prayer and Xanax I lost my speaking fear--it was a comfortable room, and I had lots of PowerPoint slides.
I had some terrific meals. At Mambu, there were lobster rolls and Chicken Joan of Arc, which featured feta cheese, olives, and tomato over a grilled chicken breast, all topped with a fresh date. At Sambucca, it was an amazing filet topped with gorgonzola. The Vanderbilt campus was beautiful, and the weather was less humid than expected. It was a nice week. I wasn't a serious low-carber but I got LOTS of exercise just walking, walking, walking.
Now, back to reality. My last day at work is August 8, so I'll be trying to finish up a lot of projects and not leave things in bad shape. At night, it'll be paint, clean, pack, ad nauseum. I'd feel better about everything if I had a little crystal ball and could see where things were going as far as selling the house and actually making the move, but I guess that's where faith comes in, yes?
Yep, I'm having heart palpitations--that's how stressed I am these days. I leave tomorrow for a conference in Nashville where I have to teach a class--mmmmm, how I love that public speaking (not)! And it comes at the worst possible time because...
After I return from Nashville I'll have about two weeks to get my house ready to sell (while still working full-time), put it on the market, get packed up, leave my job at Tulane University, move my mom to temporary lodgings in Birmingham, Alabama, and then move myself and my two furkids to temporary lodgings in Montgomery, Alabama. I'll start work at Auburn University in late August but will need to sell my house in New Orleans before I can find a place in Auburn. (Woo-hoo--waving at Bamagal!)
So, yes, I am leaving New Orleans. It has been a long and bumpy two years since Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures laid waste to my adopted hometown. I don't really know how to explain people's feelings about New Orleans except to say you either hate it and leave or you love it just as you would love a person. I'm in the latter group, and leaving breaks my heart and makes me feel as if I'm abandoning someone I care about. But changes in my job, coupled with crime, corruption, lack of adequate health care, and rapidly escalating living costs, have convinced me this is a city that needs to be rebuilt and repeopled by younger, wealthier or at least more optimistic people than I. I'm excited about my new job and home, yet I'm already homesick for New Orleans and I haven't left yet.
So, big stressful life changes are coming in the next month. I'll try to keep my online blog-complaining limited. And try to keep the stress eating in check!
And I'll try to blog "from the road" next week but may be spotty--keep checking back.
Now, if you know anyone who might want a nice little Victorian cottage in New Orleans, built in 1901, here she is!
A reader asked me to comment on the big controversy swirling around the Kimkins low-carb diet plan. The backstory is this: Kimkins, a plan created by a woman who I know only as "Kimmer," has been getting a lot of publicity lately because of an article in Woman's World magazine calling the program "better than gastric bypass." Then low-carb blogworld guru Jimmy Moore started the Kimkins program and has been having a lot of success with it.
But the controversy swirls both about the diet and about Kimmer herself. Kimmer keeps a low profile--she doesn't do interviews, for example, and the "self-portrait" photos on the Kimkins website are of what appears to be completely different people. So, she's a bit of a mystery. I don't know what her reasons are for staying hidden and using photos that may not even be her. Frankly, I don't care.
The issue for me is the diet.
Does Kimkins work? Yes, it does. Absolutely. The basic Kimkins diet is not very different from Atkins induction, except with low fat as well as low carbs, and keeping up with your calorie intake. You eat 20 or fewer grams of carbs (and don't subtract fiber grams), no sugar alcohols or other special "low carb food," lean protein, a couple of cups of salad or a cup of a green veggies and "enough fat" to make it palatable. That's it. There's also a "quick start" version that is a bit more spare.
The thing that turned me off the program -- for me, as a personal decision -- was not the program itself. Like Atkins induction, if you follow the program and pay attention to how you follow it, you can keep it pretty healthy.
But if you really get involved in the Kimkins website community, you'll see where the controversy comes in.
First, fiber consumption is not recommended because it "bulks you up"; taking a half-dose or so of Milk of Magnesia daily is encouraged to "clear things out" and is something Kimmer says she does.
Most folks on the Kimkins discussion boards are eating about 700-800 calories a day and obsessing over it if they "slip up" and eat "too much." If you find yourself losing less than 5-7 pounds a week and e-mail Kimmer about it, she will examine your food logs for the previous week and point out where you're going wrong. I did this a couple of times. I was eating about 900 calories a day and only losing 1-2 pounds a week, so I sent Kimmer my menus--she suggested I reduce the fat that my mushrooms were sauteed in and just use water or Pam, that I cut all cheese from the diet because of the fat, and make sure my protein was the leanest possible. So I did that, and I still, at about 800 calories a day, was losing about 2 pounds a week on the scale. But the scale wasn't telling the story because I developed a whole lot of saggy skin and felt weird. I'm not sure how to describe how I felt but I think the word is "empty." I didn't want to eat--a "desirable" state the Kimkins folks call "SNATT" (slightly nauseous all the time). When I finally broke ranks for Christmas and started eating a bit more, I was ravenous. It was like part of my five senses had shut down and suddenly had awakened.
It finally occurred to me, away from the seduction of the scale, that I had been starving myself. Had I started out from a thinner weight, there would have been little difference between my own diet and that of one of the pro-anorexia proponents.
So, does Kimkins (the diet) promote eating disorders? For me the answer is that, in the long run, you have to take responsibility for your own health regardless of what eating plan you follow. Personally, I could never see that avoiding fiber and taking laxatives made sense from a health standpoint, so I didn't lose weight at the "better than gastric bypass" rate. Unless he's changed his methods, I think Jimmy Moore is also adding fiber into his diet. If you follow the program, use your brain, and don't get sucked into the online community too deeply, Kimkins can be a fairly healthy, very low carb diet. As I said, pretty much very strict Atkins induction as it was originally devised (as opposed to the later version where the good doctor relaxed a bit on the sugar alcohols and other low-carb processed foods).
So, with that, here's my final take on Kimkins. Like any eating program, you have to be responsible in how you interpret it. You could technically adhere to the Weight Watchers "points" program while eating only junk food--but you know that isn't healthy. You can technically adhere to Kimkins while cutting fiber from your diet and cutting your calories down to nothing, but you know that isn't healthy either. I had stalled on Kimkins but when I cycled back to Atkins and started adding more calories and fat into my diet, I started losing again.
I had thought I wanted to lose the weight very quickly and then worry about learning how to eat in the real world. If that's you, then Kimkins works--not as a lifelong plan but as a measure to take weight off quickly.
But what I learned about myself is that I couldn't sustain that level of deprivation for a long-term weightloss period. I learned that I'd rather lose it more slowly and have a little more flexibility in my life.
Bottom line: know yourself, what you need, how things work for you, and use your common sense. Would I go on Kimkins again? It's unlikely--I'm more likely to restart Atkins induction.
If you've been following the lawsuits about the highly carcinogenic benzene being found at alarming levels in soft drinks, you'll be relieved to know that Pepsi has finally joined Coca-Cola and others in agreeing to reformulate their soft drinks to take benzene-containing ingredients out of their beverages.
Information on this latest development can be found on the Beverage Daily website.
The settlement involves PepsiCo, Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Rockstar Inc., Polar Beverages Inc. and Shasta Beverages Inc., according to Forbes magazine.
Coca-Cola settled a couple of months ago and has already reformulated its products.
Duh, I say, and what took so long? I suspect the answer is $$$$$.
As it currently stands, the following products (prior to last week's settlement) had higher-than-acceptable levels of benzene, as determined by the EPA. These are the worst offenders; a complete list can be found here.
Sunkist Orange Soda
Diet Safeway Select Orange
Bellywashers Blackberry Blast Juice Drink
Sunny D Citrus Punch
Kool-Aid Jammers Juice Drink Cherry
Diet Pepsi Twist
Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Ocean Spray Cranberry Blend
Ocean Spray Diet Orange Citrus Spray
Apple & Eve Light Cranberry
Shur Fine Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Harvest Classic Cranberry Juice
Giant Light Fruity Punch Cooler
Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail
How do you handle stress? I've talked on this blog about my discovery during my Hurricane Katrina exile that I was a stress eater. You'd think I would have known that already but I guess I needed some extreme stress to figure it out.
It occurred to me yesterday that maybe we learn to be stress eaters at an early age and take it with us like a pacifier wherever we go in life. I had a stressful day yesterday. I should preface this by explaining that my mom, who's in her early 80s, moved in with me a couple of years ago. Which has been overall a good experience, though she's so low-fat-hotwired that it makes low carbing a challenge. And a weight nag, but that's a whole other topic.
Anyway, I was pretty well verbally dissed and treated badly by a longterm coworker yesterday. I won't say now what it was about--maybe in a day or two--but I got my little feelings hurt. Then I was angry. Then I was hurt again. After a little crying jag, my mom--bless her--came and offered me an ice cream sandwich.
Ding ding ding.
Bells went off in my head. I don't remember sweets being offered as consolation when I was a child and was upset but I bet they were. And no, I'm not blaming my mom for my weight problems. It's just natural to try and comfort someone when they're in mental anguish.
I opted for some low-carb chocolate--still using food as comfort but less damaging.
What do "normal" people do to console themselves--exercise? Or do "normal" people get upset without ever feeling the need for consolation from something outside themselves? Or do they eat an ice cream sandwich, never fearing it will send them into a binging spiral?
With all our discussions in recent days about the stigma and prejudice attached to being overweight, I thought you might be interested in a site I found recently that has a free brochure on what it calls "Obesity Stigma."
I admit I haven't fully explored the site of this organization, called the Obesity Action Council. It is a nonprofit group that seems on the surface at least to be about education resources about weight issues.
But anyway, if you click here, they claim to have lots of free literature you can request. More specifically, if you click here you can download or order their "Obesity Stigma" brochure.
As I said, I can't really endorse the organization without knowing more about it, but the weight stigma brochure is cosponsored by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, which is a great organization. Which gives me hope that it will provide an interesting read about weight stigma in our society and how to combat it. A quick glance through it offers some sobering statistics.
Well, just in case we're not indoctrinated enough on the low-fat regime, here's an idea out of the UK: the fat tax.
There's already a "sin tax" in many areas placed on cigarettes. Theory being, if you want to save money you'll quit smoking or, if you want to continue smoking, you'll pay a little extra that will be rolled back into healthcare to take care of you when your lungs give out.
So, I figure, they'll tack on a few cents to the Twinkies and Krispy Kremes and Big Macs of the world--since only fat people eat those things, don't you know--and the assumption is that people won't buy them and therefore won't be overweight.
In the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers conclude that taxing certain foodstuffs in the UK could prevent up to 3,200 deaths from heart attacks and stroke every year.
They looked at three different taxation scenarios: first, taxing dairy products with high levels of saturated fats--cheese, butter, whole milk. Second, they looked at rating foods on a "healthy scale"--spinach would be a -12, while chocolate cookies a +29. Anything over +9 would be taxed. The third scenario would target fat, salt and sugar intake.
Uh huh. You see where this will go, should something like this be done. Food manufacturers will concoct even more high carb/low fat foodstuffs to get around the taxation rules, creating a glut of even more cheap, nutritionally empty crap for us to eat.
And it isn't just the UK. Here is a site just for you to vote on an American fat tax.
If you haven't been keeping up with the discussion in the comments section here and especially here, you should.
I have almost called a halt to it a couple of times when it looked as if it was getting too personal. But if you want to read the passionate writings of a group of smart, articulate, beautiful women, please take a look.
I think the amount of passion in these discussions really underscores what a loaded subject is obesity and our society's response to it.
ALL of us agree that it is wrong to ridicule or categorize or show bias toward a person because of his or her weight.
Where we disagree--and at this stage I think we just have to agree to disagree--is to what extent people who are obese should "be okay with it." That has different meanings to different people. To some, it means saying "to heck with dieting" and moving on with life. And that is their right.
To me--and, I suspect, to most readers of this blog--it means that while I still continue to work on weight issues, I am not going to put my life on hold until I'm a size 6. I'm not going to hate myself because of my size. I'm not going to accept being ridiculed or blamed for global warming.
Will I reach my goal weight? I sure hope so, and I plan to keep working at it. But I don't think that is at cross-purposes with living my life to the fullest and liking who I am, at whatever size I am at any moment in time.
It's time for my periodic purge of the stuff cluttering up my inbox and bookmarks--you know, kind of All the News That Wasn't Quite Fit to Print. In no particular order...
• It's Harry Potter month! I love the HP books, even if JK Rowling doesn't need any more money. Today's the release of the fifth movie, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"--not my favorite of the books, but I'm still anxious to see it. And on the 21st comes the release of the seventh and final book. How much do I love Harry? Well, my big souvenir when I went to London a couple of years ago was a boxed set of the original Brit version of the first four books, which weighed a ton and I had to schlep them all the way from Picadilly to my little Kensington hotel, then through Heathrow and JFK and all the way back to New Orleans. Anyhow, if you're a fan of the books, you know the kids are--what a surprise--always eating sweets of such notoriety as Bertie Bott's Every-Flavored jellybeans and Cockroach Clusters. So in honor of Harry, here's a set of recipes for your Potter party. Not a low-carb option among them. Oh well.
• Speaking of Harry Potter, there was an an interesting article recently out of Worcester about how overweight children are portrayed in literature. Think about it. If you read the Potter books, you know the horrendous cousin Dudley Dursley, who's such a little porker that one of the first acts of magic in book 1 was to fit him with a pig's tail. Is it any wonder kids grow up to objectify and ridicule fat people? (And, no, let's not start that discussion again!)
• Now here's some shaky science. A group of Edinburgh researchers have concluded that--gasp--sugar is not only not bad for you, it's downright helpful in losing weight. (Excuse me while I finish choking.) Yes, sugar was deemed to help dieters feel more satisfied on their diets and stay on them longer. Oh, and that's only when combined with 60 minutes of brisk exercise per day. Oh, never mind. That one's just too stupid to take on.
• A group of pointy-headed scientists at Yale have spent the better part of a week discussing whether or not people really do have food addictions. It's actually pretty interesting in terms of how people with severe food dysfunction describe their eating in the same terms used by drug or alcohol addicts. Yet it also differs from "traditional" addictions in that it does not accelerate in the same way. Now, I know that when I've been eating low carb for a while and I eat some sugary thing, it sets off an out-of-control craving and it takes a lot of self-control to resist diving headfirst into a vat of Ho-Hos. Would that make me a Ho-Ho 'Ho? But I digress.
• Last, but not least, this interesting piece about high-carb (also read: low-fat) diets increasing the risk of people developing cardiac disease--particularly overweight people...who are the most likely to be on high-carb, low-fat diets. Particularly true of carbs coming from processed foods. I swear, I think all these processed foods are killing us but who has freakin' time to cook? I leave the house at around 7:30 a.m. and get home about 6 p.m. Yeah, I know, plan ahead. Cook on weekends for the whole week. Guess the real truth is, I don't enjoy cooking. I'd rather read Harry Potter books and eat cockroach clusters.
Ever wonder why we do things to ourselves that make us miserable? I do (this) and I have (done it again) and I am (miserable).
No, I haven't gorged myself on Blue Bell ice cream, although if I thought it would help I might consider it.
It's that public speaking thing again. Why do people keep asking me? Why do I keep accepting?
So here I am again, trying to prepare in about 10 days' time, to head to Nashville to teach a class on magazine production. I don't teach. I don't stand in front of rooms of people thinking I have anything of interest to impart to them. I was insane for ever saying I'd do this. Why did I?
It's that Puritan ethic thing, I think. "It's good for me." To stray outside my comfort zone, to get experience in something new, to meet people.
"If I were only thinner," I think, "I wouldn't mind parading in front of a roomful of strangers who've paid umpteen dollars to hear me say something enlightening, when I have nothing enlightening to say."
"If I were younger/prettier/smarter/not such a freaking panic-stricken basketcase, I'd enjoy this."
But, really, even if I were thinner, would it make me a more authoritative speaker? More comfortable speaking in front of a crowd? Give me hair that would actually do something besides lay flat or stick out, Alfalfa-like, depending on the humidity?
No, probably not. And eating a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream won't help any, either. At least I've learned that much.
A reader named Katherine has been posting some pretty outrageous comments the last couple of days. I started out responding in a comment, but decided it needed a post of its own. I'm glad Katherine has posted her comments, as it drives home some of the points I've tried in my own way to make the past few postings.
No, Katherine, I'm not saying obesity is "good." I am not happy that I struggle with weight issues. I am not saying that I won't continue with my own weight-loss program. I am not saying that we should throw in the towel.
BUT. BUT. BUT.
What I AM saying is this:
• People should be treated with respect regardless of their size.
• It should be no more acceptable to ridicule a person for his or her weight than to ridicule a person for ethnicity, religious preference, or sexual preference. "But they're born with that--it's not a choice," you might say, especially for ethnicity. Neither is being fat. Anyone who thinks being overweight is a simple matter of "lack of willpower" needs to wake up and smell the DaVinci Syrup because...
• BEING OVERWEIGHT IS NOT A MORAL FAILURE.
• People who have never dealt with a weight problem have no right to spew judgment on those who know firsthand that losing weight is not a matter of "calories in, calories out." Genetics, medical conditions and--yes--lifestyle all contribute.
• It is not acceptable to "blame" the overweight for 1) poverty; 2) crime; 3) war atrocities; or 4) global warming. It's ludicrous on all four counts.
So there. It's my blog and you can comment if you want to.
Apparently fat people are responsible not only for the loss of proper aesthetics in the Western world and the decline of civilization in general, but also the rapid spread of global warming, the decline of the polar bear, and other sorts of impending global disasters.
Are we bad, or what?
This is the report coming from London public health professor Ian Roberts, writing in the latest issue of New Scientist in an article titled "Say No to Global Guzzling."
There is, says Roberts, a clear link between the world obesity "epidemic" and the rise of global warming.
Gee, and I thought it had something to do with ozone and carbon emissions. Oh no! Wait! We're like cows emitting vast amounts of methane, perhaps? Oh, no, I was wrong. It's because fat people drive cars and use other "labor-saving devices." Americans are particularly at fault, says the veddy British prof, because we are such a fat nation that we drive even more cars and use even more labor-saving devices.
Overweight people also ratchet up the global warming effect by eating more food, which results in more food production, which requires more of those labour-saving devices and manufacturing process.
Then after we eat all that extra food, we, uh, create more "organic waste," so to speak, producing the dreaded methane.
And we take up more room and get hotter and run our air conditioning more, so we're using up more fuel, too.
So, let me get this straight. ONLY fat people drive cars and use "labor-saving devices." And since overweight people are bigger they must eat much more food and create more manufacturing--because, of course, that food wouldn't be produced if there were no fat people in the world.
The worst part of it is, says Dr. Roberts, is that -- heaven forbid -- the militant American fat people are actually "changing public policy and perceptions about obesity." Egads.
That would be disastrous, for fat people to receive equal treatment and acceptance, he says. "The social stigma attached to obesity is one of the few forces slowing the epidemic...How long before there are calls for energy-guzzling escalators, moving sidewalks and motorized mobility aids?"
There are some things that women of a certain age and size should not be doing, which is why I am here blogging at 8 a.m. on a hot, steamy Saturday instead of being where I need to be: namely, perched atop an 8-foot fiberglass ladder holding a bucket of paint while said ladder is placed precariously inside a 1930s-era cast-iron bathtub.
Yep, today is bathroom-painting day.
Now, you might say that even if you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. So putting a fresh coat of paint on an 80-year-old bathroom (which is the "new" part of my little cottage built in 1901) will not make it a spiffy oasis of modernity. But it is long overdue, since I've owned the house for 13 years and never painted it. Fresh paint won't make me forget the 1930s light fixtures that were surely the height of chic in their day. They still look pretty cool but don't work. And I might not notice the noisy, rattling original fan if it was surrounded by fresh, mocha-colored paint.
But de pain, boss, de pain.
Oh well, enough procrastinating. I'm off to put some lipstick on that pig.
I'm pretty much aghast at a recent editorial by writer Jaime O'Neill that ran in a Sacramento newspaper.
Just when I start to think weight-related bigotry is isolated and rare, I come across something like this that makes my jaw drop.
Here are a few excerpts from "Fat Bastards: Today's Americans Have As Much Lard Between Their Ears As On Their Flabby Butts"--and, yes, that's the real title.
"[Fat people are] everywhere these days, people of a size once found only in tents where yokels paid a quarter to gawk at them. You’re not just fat; you’re huge, ponderous, beyond jumbo, a vast and undulating formidability of flesh, an avalanche of avoirdupois, a devolution of the species back to a future of protoplasmic balloon creatures. You’re becoming a living metaphor for the way the United States is viewed by much of the rest of the planet: a rapacious, gluttonous, insatiable nation of swine, the Pig People of North America, the fat neighbors who are fouling the whole neighborhood, consuming everything in sight, and strewing waste in your wake."
Or how about this:
"In Body Snatcher: 2007, the aliens have snatched the bodies of normal Americans and made them unable to wedge themselves into most public seating or, if able to sit, completely unable to extract their bloated butts from those no-longer-adequately-sized seats once their full weight has spread and settled."
Or here's a good one:
"Fat, dumb and ugly: We’re fat because we’re either too dumb or too lazy to either watch what we put in our mouths or take the trouble to inform ourselves of the high-fructose corn syrup added to nearly everything marketed as “convenience” food."
So who is this jerkoid? He makes some interesting points about American consumerism and the environment. But such hatred he spews!
Hope his hair falls out and he develops a pot belly from choking on his own venom, and his wife--should anyone be stupid enough to marry him--spikes all his food with HFCS until he bloats up to the size of a large land mammal.
Happy belated 4th of July! I had a lovely time with friends, sitting around and reminiscing about my friend Debbie's beloved Greyhound Chevy, who had to be put to sleep the day before. And we were served traditional Fourth of July fare, and I did partake. I honestly thought about having the burger without the bun, and bringing my own side dishes, perhaps some faux-tato salad.
But for the day, at least, I had my own Declaration of Independence.
What does that mean? Maybe this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal regardless of their weight, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and the freedom to participate in social activities without feeling deprived or ostracized.
Of course, now I am paying the price for my Independence. Why does it have to be so hard?
Just in case you are one of the three people left in the universe who haven't seen Joy Nash's "fant rant" YouTube video, here it is. I finally watched it and it made me howl. It has gotten enough attention that Joy has been doing a lot of media appearances, even starting her own blog.
Okay, no more lollygagging. I finally reached some critical mass--ugh, poor choice of words, after regaining 10 lbs--on Saturday and restarted my dedicated low-carb regime. I'm not doing induction, just keeping net carbs about 30-30g per day and not really counting calories.
I thought about doing Kimkins again, but I'm not mentally prepared for that level of deprivation. I know my palJimmy Moore has been having a raging debate over at the LLVLC website about his success on Kimkins, and Kimkins does work. I lost 65 pounds on it last year.
And if you haven't done so, go on over to Jimmy's site (link above) and read some of the debate that's gone on over the past two or three weeks since he started the low-carb, lower-fat, low-calorie Kimkins program. I was particularly interested in Calianna's comments wondering where the difference lies in a Kimkins follower eating 800 calories a day and an anorexic eating 800 calories a day. When is starvation not starvation? And, to complicate matters, I know from my earlier stint on Kimkins--though this might have changed--that fiber was discouraged as being "too bulky" and the taking of Phillips Milk of Magnesia, a mini-dose, on a daily basis was encouraged for those for whom things weren't "moving," so to speak. The Kimkins philosophy is do what you need to do to get the weight off quickly, then you can get on with the rest of your life in a healthier way.
But for me, at this stage and given my current stress level (more on that later this week) I think a simpler, more generous low carb option is better.
I don't have any answers there, but it's an interesting discussion.