Hurricane Sandy Avocado and Yogurt Chili Recipe

This used to be a roller coaster at the Jersey Shore

When Hurricane Sandy hit, we were just about the bulls eye  We’re about an hour inland, and the ground is high where I am and we were lucky – very lucky compared to many other people.

But we’ve had no  power since Sunday, and have been told that it could be out until Monday.

While I don’t have a generator (note to self: buy one!), I do have an inverter – a gizmo that attaches to your car battery and, through a series of electrical cords running through the house, allows for the charging of devices, keep my sump pump running, and brew the occasional pot of coffee to keep me warm as the house is about 60 degrees a I write this. I *do* have to avoid draining my battery, however. Heat, warm showers, and teevee are out of the question, however. Continue reading “Hurricane Sandy Avocado and Yogurt Chili Recipe”

Starving Monkeys for Pointless Research

In an article that hit the Internet as if it meant anything, a bunch of starving monkeys seem to show that you don’t live longer on a calorie-restriced diet. But even a cursory read of the article, bleary eyed, tells me that this wasn’t a particularly good experiment and really a way to starve some monkeys and pretend something of worth was found.

Tell me if I’m reading this wrong:

Eating less cut rates of cancer and heart disease by half, for example. More than 50% of the animals were still alive, but the team detected a survival trend. Although overall mortality was the same, only 13% of the calorically restricted monkeys had died from age-related conditions, versus 37% of the control animals.

So you’re saying that the starving monkeys didn’t die of age-related illnesses, but died nonetheless? What did they die of – nothing?

They don’t answer that question, but they do go on to note a number of reasons why this might be:

One possible cause of the discrepancy, de Cabo says, is a difference in the animals’ diets. The Maryland monkeys noshed on more healthful food that included plenty of complex plant compounds, whereas the Wisconsin monkeys consumed processed food high in refined sugar. Control animals in Wisconsin also ate more than control animals in Maryland, which may even be slightly calorically restricted, de Cabo says. He notes that calorie restriction produces a bigger effect on longevity “if the control group is couch potatoes.”

Genetic variability between the groups could also be a factor. The Maryland group was more diverse, including Indian and Chinese animals, whereas the Wisconsin monkeys all came from India. Studies of other organisms have shown that genetic differences between individuals can affect the response to calorie restriction, notes molecular biologist Matt Kaeberlein of the University of Washington, Seattle, who wasn’t involved with the research.

Oh – you mean the control group is genetically different, their diets not only differed in quantity but quality, and from my quick read, one scientist discusses that the control group might be couch potatoes?

With that many variations, what will they ever prove – except that ‘more research is needed’?

Good news though: they have another 10 years of monkey-starving to go before these miserable animals finally pass – plenty of time for them to find funding for another monkey-starving experiment – and maybe this time they’ll have an actual control so that we might learn something.

Now maybe it’s the fault of the article itself – mashing up 2 different studies and confusing the hell of of readers and the author alike.

I gotta say though: good job all around, folks.


Know It All Diet Researcher Says He Knows It All – No Further Discussion Necessary

Not too long ago I read an interesting article in the New York Times entitled In Dieting, Magic Isn’t a Substitute for Science. It starts with a question that deserves a thoughtful answer:

Is a calorie really just a calorie? Do calories from a soda have the same effect on your waistline as an equivalent number from an apple or a piece of chicken?

The reason the NYT is even asking this question now is because of the research that recently came out that seems to indicate that high protein or Atkins-like diets have a small metabolic advantage over simply calorie-counting.

Now – the study was small – it is really, really hard to do this sort of research. Expensive and time-consuming – and unless you do these studies on prisoners, it’s hard to be sure exactly what these subjects ate exactly. Nonetheless, it is an interesting finding, when put into perspective as less than definitive.

The NYT talked to Dr. Jules Hirsch, emeritus professor and emeritus physician in chief at Rockefeller University, who has been researching obesity for nearly 60 years, who quickly dismissed this study as so much hogwash.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of taking a cheap shot at a gentleman I do not know, but the good doctor has been involved in research for 60 years, during which time the population has only gotten fatter. Something’s going on here:

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.”


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.

Is This Pro-Atkins Article Too Good To Be True?

From the Palm Beach Daily News:

Johns Hopkins researchers have made the proponents of the always controversial Atkins diet very happy.

A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s March meeting lauded low-carb diets such as Atkins for producing weight loss and belly fat loss — linked to heart disease — more efficiently than low-fat diets.

It goes on:

And in case this point was lost to those critics of Atkins, a press release from Johns Hopkins said, “These results show that weight loss, along with exercise, is important for improving vascular health, and suggest that following a low-carb diet rather than the conventionally recommended low-fat diet for weight loss is not a concern in terms of vascular health.”

If I were a shareholder in Atkins Nutritionals, which I’m not, I might be tempted to say, “so there” to all those naysayers.

But I’ll let Atkins staff do that.

“The findings from the Johns Hopkins study demonstrate what we already know to be true: Atkins has many scientifically validated health benefits, including improvements in cardiovascular health markers,” said Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins Nutritionals Inc., in a press release Atkins quickly put out. Continue reading “Is This Pro-Atkins Article Too Good To Be True?”

For Women, Your Fat Determines What You Earn – Not Your Brains

I have lifted this verbatum from

Overweight women make $13,847 less than average, while underweight women make $15,572 more. That means that a fat woman makes $29,419 less per year than a skinny one.

A study led by Timothy Judge at the University of Florida and published by the American Psychological Association studied the salaries of nearly 25,000 U.S. men and women. He found that women who were 25 lbs heavier than average make much less a year, while women who were lighter made more.

The pay discrepancy is telling because it reveals employers’ inaccurate assumptions about overweight workers, especially women. According to the study:

“Even though these stereotypes are inaccurate it appears that in the United States, obese employees are viewed by their employers as lazy and lacking in self-discipline…overweight women are consistently judged more harshly in the workplace than overweight men,”

The rewards for underweight women are staggering, according to the study:

This means that, all else equal, a woman who is average weight earns $389,300 less across a 25-year career than a woman who is 25 lbs below average weight.

For men, being heavier can actually pay. Scrawny guys made about $8,000 less than average, while peak earners weighed 207 pounds.

While I have been thinking that health should always come before the number on a scale, one conclusion that can be drawn from the above is that: in business, being thin pays. It’s economics. Another reason it’s called ‘the dismal science’.

There is something fundamentally wrong with our culture of thinness. There’s a big difference between someone wanting to fit into a dress, and someone facing actual discrimination their entire lifetime. Fat people – and especially fat women as evidenced by this –  are about the only people left that can be held up to ridicule and discriminated against in America – and I guess Americans need to look down on some group in order to feel better about their own inadequacies.

Researcher Study Just How Little Exercise You Need. Awesome.

Now here’s some researchers an exercise-averse person like me has gotta love.

“Millions of Americans don’t engage in much exercise, if they complete any at all and asked why, a majority of respondents, in survey after survey, say, ‘I don’t have time.’ Now Gretchen Reynolds reports that instead of wondering justhow much exercise people really need in order to gain health and fitness, a group of scientists in Canada are turning that issue on its head and asking, how little exercise do we need to maintain fitness and the answer appears to be, a lot less than most of us think — provided we’re willing to work a bit. Most people have heard of intervals, or repeated, short, sharp bursts of strenuous activity, interspersed with rest periods. Almost all competitive athletes strategically employ a session or two of interval training every week to improve their speed and endurance. Researchers have developed a version of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that involves one minute of strenuous effort, at about 90 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate (which most of us can estimate, very roughly, by subtracting our age from 220), followed by one minute of easy recovery. The effort and recovery are repeated 10 times, for a total of 20 minutes and the interval training is performed twice a week. Despite the small time commitment of this modified HIIT program, after several weeks of practicing it, both the unfit volunteers and the cardiac patients showed significant improvements in their health and fitness. ‘A growing body of evidence demonstrates that high-intensity interval training can serve as an effective alternate to traditional endurance-based training, inducing similar or even superior physiological adaptations in healthy individuals and diseased populations, at least when compared on a matched-work basis.'”

I lifted the above from Slashdot, a respected site that has been around forever. It’s well worth visiting the actual post as the commenters typically rise above the average Neanderthal comment and usually add something of value to the post subject. Continue reading “Researcher Study Just How Little Exercise You Need. Awesome.”

Great News, America! It Appears We Can’t Possibly Get Fatter Than We Are

The Wall Street Journal reported that, for some reason, America’s rising obesity rate stopped rising in 2003.

Actually, it’s not just the good ‘ol USA that this is happening in, but the entire world.

Researchers don’t know why, exactly, so they trot this out – at least this is the summary from the reporter:

The reasons for the leveling off — like the sharp increase that preceded it — aren’t precisely clear, the papers say. Flegal and her colleagues cite the usual array of presumed factors: an expansion of the food supply, energy imbalance, the possible effect of environmental endocrine disruptors. But they say more research is needed into the factors causing the sharp rise, as well as the plateau now.

Coincidentally, 2003 coincides with the beginning of the Atkins low carb craze.

Just sayin…


Are Vitamins and Supplements Worth it?

One of the paradoxes in a consumer society like ours, is that to lose weight, to remove something, we are typically instructed to do so by consuming something else.

It’s just how we’re taught: got a problem? Buy something to fix it.

A lot of folks think that they can fix their crappy diet by popping vitamins and supplements. I for one. Until perhaps 6 months ago, I would take a handful of supplements, including:

  1. a multivitamin without iron
  2. COQ 10
  3. Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl L-Carnitine
  4. Magnesium
  5. Fish Oil
  6. Calcium+D
  7. Vitamin E
  8. Selenium
  9. GarlicMax
  10. Ginseng

At one point I was using old prescription medicine bottles, and due to the fact that some on the list needed to be taken in multiples, I sometimes could not fit all of a day’s supplements in a single bottle.

But then I stopped taken them completely. Here was my concern at the time: I had read a very good book by the name ‘Swindled’, which described the food adulteration problems in England in the 1800s and in the US later into the 1900s. I do not want to do the book discredit by giving it a review, but I’ll note just one example (out of dozens and dozens described in this wonderfully written history) that comes to mind. Continue reading “Are Vitamins and Supplements Worth it?”