I'm off early tomorrow for Mardi Gras and won't be back online till next Thursday, so I'm having "Ruminations Friday" a little early this week. The best and worst from my bookmarks....
* Forget the tax rebate checks the feds are promising us. The British government has the right idea. Reward people for losing weight by paying them. "Money for Weight" was one of a number of ideas put forth, along with such boring and sensible things as locating fast-food restaurants farther from schools. But the school idea is aimed at kids; the money is aimed at overweight adults. Let's see, at $1 per pound, I could make....
* Ever wonder how cows feel about low carb? Just ask Runaway Steer, a big beefy guy who escaped from a slaughterhouse in Cincinnati. I was having fun thinking about this, imagining Big Beef on the rampage through urban Ohio, when I read that this is a repeat incident--a steer named Little Red escaped in the Cincinnati area last year. Now I'm wondering what it is with Ohio and cows...
* As if hauling my own big butt around isn't enough, now I can "exercise" throughout the day by wearing myPower Diet Shoes. These are athletic shoes with weights in the insole, so you lug around a few extra pounds as you shop for groceries or, as the photo on the website shows, as you jog through the sand on an isolated beach. And don't we all do that?
* Leave it to the spoilsport Aussies to tell us that, after all, chocolate isn't good for us. Now that they're slipping dark chocolate into everything under the sun, this study from the University of Western Australia says that consuming cocoa can lead to bone weakening in women due to the oxalate in the cocoa that leeches calcium. I say, just put extra calcium in the chocolate and bring it on.
* Finally, someone has come up with a way to punish Chinese industry for selling us all those unsafe pet foods and kids' toys. According to this Reuters story, Dunkin Donuts is moving into the Chinese market by opening its first store in Shanghai. Yep, that'll show 'em--send them our trans fats and sugar.
* Some aroma researchers have isolated a handful of smells that they claim stimulate male sexual response. I tried to imagine how these results were tested and verified, but decided it was really better that I didn't know. So, ladies, light your lavender candles and bake some pumpkin pie. Here are the aromas and the percentage of "increased penile blood flow" (and how many times do you get to type that into a food blog?):
Odor or odor combination....Average increase in penile blood flow
Lavender and pumpkin pie...40% average increase
Doughnut & black licorice...31.5%
Pumpkin pie & doughnut....20%
Lavender & doughnut...18%
Black licorice and cola...13%
Doughnut & cola...12.5%
Lily of the valley...11%
At first, I thought this was going to be an entertaining read, and for a while it was. The foodie site, "Divine Caroline," set out to expose the Top Ten Most Ridiculous Diets."
And what are they? In reverse order, "best" to "worst," a la David Letterman, here they are:
10) Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet. Now, if you work for Dr. Siegal, don't send me tons of "informative" e-mails. I'm not saying it's the 10th worst diet ever. Talk to the folks at the above-referenced website. I've been down this road with you before. I haven't tried your cookies, I don't intend to try your cookies. Anyway, you eat these cookies, which the Divine folks call "bricks of fiber-coated oats sweetened with prunes," and you lose weight. Uh-huh.
9) The Subway Diet. Eat two meals a day at Subway and, like the guy Jared on the TV commercials, you can lose weight. My only real problem with this one is the cost. Who can afford to eat twice a day at Subway? Not me.
8) The Cereal Diet. Eat two bowls of (fill in your favorite cereal here) plus a healthy dinner and you can lose six pounds in two weeks. Let's not even talk about the sugar in Special K. Let's just say that I, the sugar junkie who must be kept away from her fix, cannot be around cold cereal because I will eat it right out of the box.
7) The Cabbage Soup Diet. Never tried this one, but I gather you eat lots of cabbage. I like cabbage. I don't think I like cabbage twice a day for a long period of time, however.
6) Slim Fast. The Senior Adult in my household is drinking Slim Fast for lunch. Of course she has a snack at 10 a.m. and another at 3 p.m. And have you seen the amount of sugar in those babies? Yes, there's a low-carb version. They taste pretty crappy.
5)The Blood Type Diet. Yep, I always thought this one was pretty flaky, too. O's eat meat, A's eat veggies, B's eat dairy, and A/B's eat everything. Of course I have no idea what my blood type is, so I'm saying A/B.
4) The Russian Air Force Diet, supposedly developed in Russia as a quick trim-down for their recruits. Coffee for breakfast, two eggs and a tomato for lunch, a thin slice of meat and a salad for dinner. What's that, about 500 calories a day? Wonder if Kimmer was ever in the Russian Air Force?
3) The Hot Dog Diet. You eat hot dogs a couple of times a day, plus a cup of ice cream and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Ummmm...sounds nutritious...
2) Apple Cider Vinegar Diet. The one J-Lo (or somebody like that) swears by. Guzzle a few teaspoons of vinegar before your meal to cut your appetite. Or eat away your esophagus, which would also be an effective diet aid.
1) The Writing Diet. Hoo-boy here's a touchy-feely one. Since we do so much emotional eating, we should purge those emotions on the page. Like in a blog. Which I can write while eating hot dogs, ice cream and peanut butter.
And (drumroll) the "number-one most ridiculous diet"....yep, you knew this was coming. According to the Divine Caroline folks, it's the Atkins Diet, of which I feel protective even though I'm not on it right now. The author apparently tried it for a whole week and...surprise!...she felt like crap. Never heard of the carb flu, I guess. She sums it up thus: "The Atkins diet isn't a healthful lifestyle change, it's a limiting diet that requires you to eat a lot of not so healthy foods." What an absolute, mind-numbling idiot.
I'll just go off and have my Atkins-friendly chicken and vegetables now.
What's the grossest junkfood you've ever eaten? Ever tried the infamous Krispy Kreme burgers that were all the rage a couple of years ago--a big honkin' hamburger patty between two Krispy Kremes? Or how about the fried Snickers bar?
Of course, those were funky fair food offerings so you can forgive them just a little.
But what do you say to Frito Lay, who has come up with this new concoction for its Japanese market?
Yes, in case you can't read the Japanese script, it's Strawberry Chocolate Cheetos, just in time for Valentine's Day. It's a basic Cheeto, except instead of being drowned in messy orange cheese powder it's dunked in white-chocolate strawberry powder.
But if there's no "chee" are they still "chee-tos?"
I called my doctor in New Orleans by the accurate-but-unflattering name of "M.D. Lite." She was my post-Katrina doctor, since my real doctor never returned to New Orleans after the storm, preferring, for some reason, the relatively safe confines of her evacuation site, Texas. So, floundering in the early months after the storm and needing a doctor, I pretty much closed my eyes and pointed to a name. Thus began my two years with M.D. Lite.
She was nice enough, didn't treat me like an overweight fool without the sense to put down the sugar jar, and seemed competent to treat my (thankfully minor) ailments, which were generally limited to the flu and a ripped tendon in my foot (which to be fair she didn't recognize but at least had the sense to send me to a savvy physical therapist who recognized the problem).
So now here I am in the wilds of east Alabama, and I have no nickname yet for my new doctor because, quite frankly, I have yet to see her from the front. How does that work, you might ask?
Well, first, early last October, as my blood pressure meds were running low, I called to make an appointment, armed with my spiffy new Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card that will allow me to see most anyone. Problem: only two doctors in the county were accepting new patients. So, I make an appointment with Dr. X on the first available date: January 14. Sheesh! More than three months' waiting time. Hope I don't get sick, I thought.
Around Thanksgiving, Dr. X sent me a card saying she couldn't see me after all on Jan. 14--I'd have to come in on Feb. 5. By then I'd already been off my BP meds almost a month. So I called to whine and complain and beg, and her nurse relented and gave me a Jan. 23 appointment.
Here comes Jan. 23, and I show up for my appointment, only to be told there was no record of me having an appointment and the first time Dr. X could possible see me is Feb. 22.
I ask for the other doctor that was accepting new patients in October. Now, he's not taking anyone new.
I head for the Urgent Care clinic to get some prescriptions since I'm massively pissed off, and a stroke in my unmedicated high blood pressure state must surely be imminent. (BP: 110/70. Maybe I don't even need those meds.)
Before I left, though, I spotted the elusive Dr. X, all neat and trim and tidy in her little gray pants and white doctor coat, with her back to me, explaining to the nurse who denied making the appointment for me that she could not possibly work in a new patient.
So, I think I do have a new name for her after all: The Horse's Backside.
So, we're headed toward Mardi Gras--Fat Tuesday. It is preceded by Lundi Gras--Fat Monday. And even though I no longer live in New Orleans, I'm getting ready to head back down with friends for the festivities, from Feb. 1 through Feb. 5. So no blogging those days--there are beads with my name on them headed my way.
So, what's involved in Mardi Gras besides bead catching and parade watching? I didn't get it for a long time, but it's people watching and, being as it IS New Orleans, after all, eating.
Here's the routine. Hours before parade time, you head with your camping or festival chair out to the neutral ground (which the rest of the world knows as a median), where you strive to be closest to the street. You park your butt in your chair alongside your pals, and in a spot convenient to all you place your cooler. If you're a REAL man or woman, you rope in your seating area with police tape, set up your grill, put up your folding table full of side dishes and set your cooler of beer or whatever underneath, and plan to stay in the area until the cows come home or the parades end for the day, whichever comes first.
We're planning a middle range of activities--we're taking out the chairs and snacks, but no grill or police tape.
Which is all a long way of thinking about King Cake, the traditional New Orleans pastry covered with sugar dyed in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold. Sometimes it also has icing and often is filled with cream cheese or some sticky sweet fruit filling. And if there's anything worse for you than sugar, I'd imagine it's sugar coated in purple vegetable dye.
I haven't seen a King Cake since last year. Usually by this time, my office in New Orleans would have shared at least a dozen. If you look back at my NOLA blog about this time last year I was bemoaning the sea of King Cake Carbs floating around the office on a daily basis.
Now I look in my new office area, and I see a carton of yogurt and a bottle of Kraft Light Three Cheese Ranch salad dressing. Sigh. It ain't the same, but no doubt it's healthier.
Sigh. Here's the new modified government-issued Food Pyramid for senior adults, ages 70 and older.
No, I'm not there yet, though I'm barreling toward that age at an alarming rate.
But I do have a senior adult living with me, and my Resident Senior already has a fixed view of nutrition based on a combination of conflicting scientific reports over the years.
There's good news and bad news with this new food pyramid. The good news is that they've done it at all--recognizing that what's good for a hyperactive 20-year-old (theoretically)doesn't meet the needs of an octagenarian. Yes, before you even go there, I fully realize the food pyramids are so warped for any age that they're virtually useless. And that's the bad news.
So what changes have been made for folks like my Resident Senior? Mostly, more dairy. Unfortunately, the more dairy came at the expense of protein rather than breads and grains, which seem to have grown even larger. So still 9 servings a day in this category (the foods they show are whole grain bread, waffles, something that looks like a cow patty but is probably a rice cake, Frenc bread, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, pasta, rice and crackers).
* From the "what on earth will they think of next" files...The Tapeworm Diet, which advocates that, although people have an inexplicable aversion to worms, a nice tapeworm can be a lovely means of weight loss. The diet's proponents, who will take your donations to help support their efforts in protesting the USA's unfair decision to prohibit the sale or transport of tapeworms into the country, then proceed to tell you how to obtain one from the cyst from a cow or pig. Note to self: don't even think about it.
* From the "I'd snore if I could only get to sleep" files...More evidence that lack of sleep plays havoc with weight and health. A Dec. 31 study showed that even three consecutive nights without deep sleep has the same negative effects on the body's insulin-management capabilities as gaining 20-30 pounds. I'm a bonafide insomniac. I can't remember the last time I actually slept for more than four or five hours. And I don't know what to do about it. So there.
* This poor guy in Houma, La., near my old New Orleans stomping grounds, was recently banned by a local Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet because, at 6-3 and 265 pounds, the tiny little owners thought he might eat too much of their food. Well, okay, apparently he had been there before and had eaten quite a lot. Still, if you advertise it, stand by it.
* From the "scare the hell out of you" files, this article about a Canadian woman who struggled with weight her whole life, dieted like mad to lose enough weight for weight-loss surgery, and then died four months later. For the first time, I have insurance that would pay for this kind of surgery, but frankly it scares the heck out of me.
And because we can't ALWAYS be serious and gnashing our teeth and moaning over our big-a** jug of water, here's your weird story of the day. A woman in Texas was apparently so taken with herself that she had a life-sized wedding cake made in her image. Have a bite of armpit, anyone?
A comment made to yesterday's post about my dislike of plain water gave me pause for thought. The reader said, basically, that it was no wonder I struggle with my weight since I don't like drinking plain water and that I should spend my money on a therapist to help me understand what "normal" people expect out of their food and beverage in terms of taste.
Of couse, I laughed at the therapy comment. I no doubt need therapy for many, many things. The fact that I do not enjoy drinking plain water is pretty low on the list of all my neuroses, however.
It did make me think, though, about expectations. I think most of us would agree that food is not just "fuel" for the "human machine." Perhaps in its most technical state, it is simply that, and perhaps it should be simply that. But that's true for very few of us, and I'd be surprised if even my critical reader doesn't find some enjoyment of food or some emotional attachment/component to food.
But, is the reader right? Do "normal" people not really care if their food tastes good or not? Are my expectations warped that I should actually enjoy something I'm supposed to spend 64 ounces and at least an hour each day consuming? Have my years of eating "tasty" spoiled me to the enjoyment of eating "healthy regardless of taste?"
Don't know the answers here, but it's an interesting train of thought. What do you think? What are your expectations of food and drink?
Okay, it isn't politically correct or anything, but I'll just say it. I hate water. Play in it? Fine. Wash with it? Okey-dokey. Drink it? YUCK.
So I'm trying to play nice with my Nutrisystem program and do everything I'm supposed to since the whole point of a no-brainer program like NS is to have them tell me what to do so i don't have to think about it.
Except, just like the brilliant Dr. Atkins and everyone else on the planet, yeah, yeah, yeah, need to drink that 64+ ounces of water a day.
Forgive my repetitiveness, but, YUCK.
So I contact my handy-dandy Nutrisystem "counselor" (probably a bored college kid making a few extra bucks) about what, in fact, may I consider water besides, well, water.
Crystal Light counts as water! Yea! I like Crystal Light. Only problem is, along with other major life changes I'd like to reduce my intake of aspartame (or "nasty-tame," as someone once called it--maybe my old buddy Jimmy Moore over at Livin' La Vida Low-Carb).
The greedy gusses at Crystal Light, however, use Splenda in their prefab bottled version, but retain cheaper aspartame in their more affordable powdered version. Now, if I am gonna drink at least 64 ounces of this crap a day, can you imagine how much $$$ it's going to cost to do bottled? (I can answer that: about $5 a day.) And can you imagine how much "nasty-tame" I'll be ingesting if I bottle my own at a much more reasonable 75 cents a day?
What's a thirsty girl to do? And don't tell me "drink water." At the risk of really sounding repetitive: YUCK.
Well, this has nothing to do with diets or food insanity (mine or the manufacturers') but my new coworkers were kind enough to throw me a housewarming party this week at my new house--well, new to me anyway. Which required me to actually get it sort of cleaned up and organized.
It's not my little baby Victorian from New Orleans--which, thankfully, sold in five weeks--but it's mine (well, okay, technically, the bank's) and it's close to work, albeit in somewhat of a soul-less mid-80s subdivision. And of course, I have to include my entire wall of built-in (unorganized as of yet) bookcases--a big selling point for this bookworm, and my furbabies Shane (red) and Tanker (black).
Watching celebrity diets is sort of like watching a train wreck...you know it's going to be painful but you can't quite pull your eyes away from it.
So, new to our shelves is The Black Book of Hollywood Diet Secrets because, as we all know, if only we knew how Cameron Diaz stayed slim we would automatically look like her, right? (Never mind that there ain't a skinny blonde in my gene pool as far back as at least the signing of the Magna Carta.)
So, while we're daydreaming about exercise, we might as well look at how to LOOK like a star. Depending on who you want to look like, in no particular order, here are some tips from the book (parenthetical comments by yours truly because I can't help myself):
* Wanna look like John Cusack? Don't eat any white foods (not a bad strategy, actually).
* Oprah or Rachael Ray? Both drink Wulong Slimming Tea. (Wonder why they don't look more alike?)
* Heidi Klum or Cindy Crawford? Sip vinegar before dinner to kill your hunger pangs. (Wonder what it does to your kidneys?)
* Jessica Simpson? Detox with So-Cal cleanse, a trendy detox product. (Wonder if she's ever tried maltitol-sweetened chocolate?)
* Sharon Stone? Eat prunes to ease bloating and prevent wrinkles. (Would that be FACIAL wrinkles?)
* Demi Moore? Eat apples with peanut butter. (All day long?)
* Jennifer Lopez? Sniff grapefruit oil, which "affects your liver enzymes, which causes fats to be broken down and burn off." (I honestly couldn't make this stuff up--I ain't that clever.)
* Owen Wilson? A daily dose of asparagus and parsley, natural diuretics that diminish bloating. (Doesn't do much for mood enhancement, apparently. Okay, sorry, low blow.)
* Matthew McConaughey? Brush your teeth after every single bite of food--he carries his toothbrush to restaurants with him. Apparently, the fresh minty taste signals your brain that you are full. (My brain isn't that stupid.)
So I'm sitting here at my desk with an aching back, caused by the simple activity of climbing a ladder and spending 30 minutes with my arms stretched over my head wrestling with an outdated and possibly dangerous light fixture. I lost the wrestling match, I might add, and that was before the back pain started.
So, let's just say exercise of any sort is not my forte. Oh, I know it's important. It won't make me lose weight but it would make me less prone to bizarre back injuries, if nothing else.
So I was very interested in this NPR story recently about exercise, and the perception of exercise.
According to this Harvard psychologist, Ellen Langer, who has become one of my favorite people in the world, if we think we're exercising, it can have the same effect of really exercising, more or less. Langer did a study of hotel maids and how they perceived their activity levels. Now, I'd hate to be a hotel maid. They have to stay on their feet all day, doing hard work and getting lots of exercise. Yet most of those Langer studied reported that they did not get any exercise--because their idea of exercise was jogging or doing some kind of gym-torture. And their bodies didn't reflect the level of activity that they are, in fact, doing just as part of their jobs.
So Langer took half the maids and told them how much exercise they actually were getting, and the informed half had a loss of weight, blood pressure, etc. The placebo effect in action. "Hence, the theoretical possibility," the article says, "that one might be able to sit around eating chocolate and still lose weight."
So, if I sit here with my giant pepperoni pizza and think about how much exercise I'm getting by lifting the slice to my mouth, chewing, swallowing and digesting, it pretty much nullifies the damage, right?
Well, okay, it probably sounds too good to be true, and there have been some negative nancies at Duke and the University of Texas who have pooh-poohed the whole idea.
Still, I think I'll go and have a daydream about powerwalking up Mount Everest. I feel a sweat coming on.
So, how attached are you to your toes? Or, rather, to having only five of them? Would you be willing to have six toes on one foot to reach your ideal weight?
There was an interesting story on CBS News--one of those interminable New Year's weight-loss things--about how far people, primarily women, would be willing to go to reach that elusive magic scale number. The survey was done for Fitness magazine.
So here are some of the results.
* About 25 percent would spend a week in jail.
* 85 percent would be happy to squeeze an extra toe into their (wider) shoes.
* 23 percent would shave their heads.
* 51 percent prefer Keira Knightley's body over Queen Latifah's.
* 50 percent would rather lose 20 pounds than live to be 100.
Now, okay. To weigh a nice svelte number that I haven't seen since, oh, about sixth grade, I would spend a week in the slammer. Does that include laundry duty, community showers and new girlfriends named Big Bertha, I wonder? I would take an extra toe--heck, an extra toe on each foot. Who cares, really? Bunions and sandals are poor bedfellows anyway. Yep, I would shave my head. I might have curly hair when it grows back, after all, and I could pick a new haircolor.
Hmmm...yeah, I'd probably rather look like Keira than Latifah, but I'd rather look like Latifah than myself, so...whatever.
Now, the last one gives pause. I absolutely would not give up living to 100 for 20 pounds. 20 pounds? Let's see...fat and 99 or fat-minus-20-pounds and dead? You do the math.
So, here I am, first of the year, what's a chronic dieter to do after being on a three-month out-of-control snackfest? The good, self-controlled dieter would say, here's my copy of Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, hunker down with a few hunks o'meat and some veggies, and just slog through the low-carb flu for a few days.
The unmotivated, lazy, uncontrolled dieter would say, hmmmm, what's easiest and requires the least amount of time and brain cells from me?
Which brings us to NutriSystem. Now, in my own defense, I honestly had already signed up for their South-Beach-in-a-Box program well before I began seeing the cheesy, sleazy New Year's ads aimed at all us poor disheveled behemoths looking for a new start in January. And when my sarcastically inclined senior maternal live-in adult (which only proves I come by my sarcasm honestly) asks me when I'm making my own cheesy N/S television ad, I respond that when they pay me I'll prance on a stage with before and after photos. Because if you read in the very, very, very tiny print beside those before and after photos, next to where it states "results not typical," it also says that the people have been paid.
Which they should, because the program is ridiculously expensive, and I probably can't stay on it more than a month without entering the poor house, where I would be fed beans and rice every meal. And while that doesn't sound so bad, it would play hell with my carbs.
So why the title "getting fruity?" Because as part of the Nutri/System South-Beach-in-a-Box program, I'm eating a bit of fruit (keeping it low carb, of course) for the first time in a while. Pretty tasty stuff, fruit.
So, here I am, living in a new environment after 15 years in New Orleans, and before that in San Diego and Houston. It has been quite an adjustment. I walked in my backyard a couple of nights ago and saw stars for the first time in years. I had forgotten about stars! The sky is bluer, and I can drive five minutes and be in the middle of the woods. People here complain about traffic but, believe me, except on days when the Auburn Tigers have a home game, there is no serious traffic.
On the other hand, there also is no DVR service available--well, there is, but apparently there are only so many DVR units available in the county and I had to go on a waiting list. And there's no local TV stations, so who knows if there's any news here (judging from the teeny-tiny newspaper, that answer is no). And there is no Lebanese or Greek food to be found, and one of my favorite low-carb meals was a gyro plate from Byblos or Babylon in New Orleans, a nice lamb blend with onions alongside a salad and a little mound of labneh. Sigh. On the other hand, there's lots of BBQ. I mean, LOTS of BBQ, usually smoked and you do the sauce yourself so that's good. And then there's the Auburn Meat Lab, which I'll write about later. A low-carber's dream.
I find myself trying to adjust my city-girl mindset. I am way too early for everything because I'm used to leaving 45 minutes before I need to be somewhere, not five minutes. I think I was almost arrested in the Wal-Mart parking lot last weekend for stalking because I was following a woman in my car as she walked through the lot with her cart. I just wanted her parking space. We do that in the city; apparently, not here. Scared the poor old girl to death. And this morning, as I sat at a red light looking in the next lane at some poor guy whose car had broken down, I was horrified to see three guys jump from the truck in front of me and run over to the car. OMG! I thought--they're going to rob him. Well, no, actually, they were going to help him get his car pushed over to the side of the road. Gotta get over that crime thing, but that may take a while.
It's good to settle down after more than two months of commuting more than an hour each way. To be here at work by 7:30 I'd leave before dark and got in the really bad habit of pulling through the Burger King drive-through I passed on my way to the interstate to grab a carbolicious breakfast. How often? Well, let's just say the last morning I went through, getting a late start, the woman at the drive-through line said, "Honey, you're running late this morning." Now, if that's not a sign you've been out of control, I don't know what is!
Nope, I didn't forget. Yep, I'm still around (and round). Things have started settling down with the new job and home--lots of changes! So, in the next few days, "Waisted in the Wasteland" will become simply "Waisted" (that, unfortunately, hasn't changed). Hope my readers will find their way back!
A belated thanks to my reader friend in France for the book--it arrived in New ORleans after I left, my realtor hid it in my "for sale" house and I didn't find it till I was packing up for the final move-out! But I love it, Harry Potter geek that I am. So THANK YOU!!