At Trip to Mitsuwa – Japanese Food Store

Being Memorial Day weekend and nothing planned, my wife and I packed up the kids for a long car trip to Mitsuwa – a Japanese mall in Edgewater, on the Hudson river, in New Jersey. There’s an interesting grocery store there with all kinds of products you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere in the world outside of Japan. There’s also a food court of authentic Japanese food. This isn’t a tourist trap: this is where Japanese who live in the area shop. Continue reading “At Trip to Mitsuwa – Japanese Food Store”

Does Your Diet Make You an Asshole?

To get to the answer to the question straight away: it might.

This was brought up in a study reported on, part of which states:

…new research has determined that a judgmental attitude may just go hand in hand with exposure to organic foods. In fact, a new study published this week in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, has found that organic food may just make people act a bit like jerks.

“There’s a line of research showing that when people can pat themselves on the back for their moral behavior, they can become self-righteous,” says author Kendall Eskine, assistant professor of the department of psychological sciences at Loyola University in New Orleans [ed: also known as ‘Captain Obvious’ by his friends]. “I’ve noticed a lot of organic foods are marketed with moral terminology, like Honest Tea, and wondered if you exposed people to organic food, if it would make them pat themselves on the back for their moral and environmental choices. I wondered if they would be more altruistic or not.”

You can see where this is going. They administered tests to a number of people that sounds kind of arbitrary to me (go read it yourself if you’re interested) and concluded:

“There’s something about being exposed to organic food that made them feel better about themselves,” says Eskine. “And that made them kind of jerks a little bit, I guess.”

Why does eating better make us act worse? Eskine says it probably has to do with what he calls “moral licensing.”

“People may feel like they’ve done their good deed,” he says. “That they have permission, or license, to act unethically later on. It’s like when you go to the gym and run a few miles and you feel good about yourself, so you eat a candy bar.”

It think our researcher here is right – and wrong.

I like this notion of ‘moral licensing’, but it doesn’t just occur in people who eat organic food.

An asshole is created any time a person’s behavior or circumstance permit them to fall victim to the delusion that they are better than someone else, or are somehow qualified to be a moral ‘decider’ for others.

It’s easy to see how eating organic, with its high cost and the sheer amount of trouble involved, would engender in people the desire for a greater payback than the quality of the food they by. Self-righteousness comes free with every organic product – if you choose to take it.

By extension, ANY DIET can come with a dose of self-righteousness that can be applied to people on diets that differ, or people who don’t diet at all.

I’m going to hit the local farmer’s market this morning and see what my farmers got growing. I’ll pass on the self-righteousness.

Of course, the problem with being an asshole is not knowing you’re being one. It happens all the time. That’s why I invite anyone who reads my blog to point out any ‘pot calling the kettle black’ behavior on my part.

Lastly, I love the response one person has to this self-righteousness in others as reported in the article:

“At my local grocery, I sometimes catch organic eyes gazing into my grocery cart and scowling,” says Sue Frause, a 61-year-old freelance writer/photographer from Whidbey Island. “So I’ll often toss in really bad foods just to get them even more riled up.”


A Call for Civility in Alternative Nutrition

I’m going to start this post discussing Sigmund Freud – but it’s not what you think – really. This post is not about psychology.

Sigmund Freud was a cokehead in a time when it wasn’t a big deal. The notion of doing drugs at the time was not a counterculture phenomenon – it was something that was considered more a bad habit at most. Freud was a doctor in Vienna and possessing an active imagination, as well as a coked-up personality, invented psychoanalysis as a means to make a living.

It was quite popular with the well-heeled Viennese women of the day, and this quack became quite famous. It wasn’t all a waste of time: Freud invented the notion of ‘ego’, which is something that we probably should have had if he hadn’t invented it.

The problem, as I see it, was that as interesting as some of his theories were, it wasn’t science. A doctor listened patiently while women complained – and they felt better. That’s not science. While Freud provided an air of science to the proceedings with his amusing theories, it was nothing of the sort.

Very early on there was dissention: Carl Jung was one of his students but soon parted ways. He was best known for his notion of the ‘collective unconscious’ – a common underpinning that all humans supposedly had. Later on, Abraham Maslow came along with his ‘hierarchy of needs’ which is insightful – but again, it isn’t science, but more a sort of observational philosophy.

This observational philosophy permeated psychology well until the late 20th century, at least in my 4am unsourced and highly subjective narrative here, but early in the 20th century, there was a response to what was being viewed at the time as a mish-mash of theories of the mind that were fun, but really weren’t actionable science.

The result was a new school pf psychology called behaviorism.

Behaviorists purposely didn’t care what went on inside the mind. They cared what the organism did as the result of stimuli. My take on it was if you give a rat a small rat yummy every time he steps on a little lever, he’ll learn to click the lever to get rat yummies.

Yeah, sure – boring compared to imagining the rat having penis envy or the Electra complex, but it was observable, measurable, and certainly seemed more like science than all that other stuff.

In my horrible overview of the history of psychology here, behaviorist considered the workings of that little rat mind a ‘black box’. This is important because it begins to get to the point of this post – which I’m sure you’re still wondering about. In a quote I found on the Internet (the link promptly didn’t work the next day), I found this description, which I like and will use:

A metaphor of black box is usually described to explain the behaviorist approach about learning, i.e. the learner is a black box and nothing is known about what goes on inside. Knowing what’s inside the black box is not essential for determining how behavior is governed by its environmental antecedents and consequences. The behaviorists believe that the psychology as a science to develop a reliable and useful theory of learning have to use observable, reliable data as evidence.

I like that. It’s sciency. It’s also history: behaviorism, like Freud, has been put in the garbage heap of history for the most part. Psychology has moved on to more subtle means of understanding the human mind and more practical therapies for changing behavior than the nonsense that was the foundation of psychoanalysis or the crude observations of behaviorism.

The behaviorists served their purpose. They brought psychology back from pseudoscience to science again, and while it was discarded as too simple and replaced with a more effective combination of cognitive therapy and medication, it was a great launching point to a real science of psychology.

I was thinking that perhaps the example of the behaviorists ought to be applied to nutrition.

In my ninth year of doing low carb, I still don’t know why it works for me. Theories abound, and on other sites on the Internet, fierce and vicious debates surround the mechanisms by which some people lose weight on low carb. Gary Taubs is vilified. Atkins is called ‘Fatkins’. Even Jimmy Moore, the decent human being that writes, is viciously attacked. Every time I read these debates, my head hurts.

The truth is – we really don’t know. To paraphrase Michel Pollan: Nutrition science is where surgery was in about 1650 – interesting potential, but I’m not sure I’d want to have an operation then.

I suppose I feel a bit like those behaviorists in the early 20th century looking for refuge in some real, actionable science rather than these ‘I’m smart – he’s an idiot’ debates between Atkinistas, Paleos, Vegetarians, Vegans, and so on.

How about this:

  • People try low carb – and it works for them. They feel better. Their blood work improves. They lose some weight.
  • Some people try low carb and it doesn’t work for them. They don’t lose weight and or don’t feel good. They try something else.
  • Some people try ANY diet and it works for them. Then it doesn’t. They try something else then.
  • And none of us prance around feeling smarter or superior to other people who hold a different opinion or seek to try a different approach than ours. Instead, we compare notes – what works, what doesn’t. We respectfully disagree if we need to, and we encourage one another to find our own roads to optimal health through empirical research on ourselves.

Just because some study says such and such doesn’t mean that embracing or avoiding a certain behavior or food will have the same effect on you – it does mean that there might be some merit in trying it and see what happens. It also doesn’t give anyone the right to engage in name-calling.

Now – none of this is for those of us who play it safe, and follow the guidelines set out by the medical authorities currently in vogue. If we choose to take personal responsibility and consciously ignore their advice, we must also bear the risks.

And for those of us willing to do this, a call for civility. A vegan and a low carber have more in common with each other than we do with someone eating the Standard American Diet. Stop making a way of eating into a religion with notions of good and evil, saints and heretics.

Maybe there’s multiple paths to optimal health, and maybe those of us searching for new ways deserve each other’s respect for at least trying.

Fat People Are Destroying America

Thank GOD we’ve sorted that out.

Some of us thought it was Wall Street destroying Amreica. Some thought it was illegal immigrants. Others thought it was moral decay.

All wrong – its fat people doing it.

Fat people, according to this article in Reuters, are a drain on the economy. Let me cherry pick a few of the high points in this insightful article:

  • U.S. hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients.
  • The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking.
  • Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.
  •  the obese are absent from work more often than people of healthy weight.
  • Even when poor health doesn’t keep obese workers home, it can cut into productivity, as they grapple with pain or shortness of breath or other obstacles to working all-out.

Sadly, we fat folks disappoint the public health researchers because, unlike smokers, we don’t die off as quickly, reducing the societal burden.

It must be self-satisfying to thin folks to be able to blame our frigging GASOLINE CONSUMPTION on fat people instead of the fact that they all want to drive gas-guzzling SUVs. And of course, businesses are concerned that they won’t be able to work you to death as fast if you’re obese.

What I want to know now is which candidate – Romney or Obama – are going to do something about these fat people.