Yin and Yang of Healthy Living, Part 1

You will never get in shape through diet, and you will never control your weight through exercise.

A little explanation here. My office is beginning a “Biggest Loser” style challenge this week, and this post is in support. Yes, I know everybody sensible did their posts on this topic at the beginning of the year. Perhaps this will help those at risk of falling off the New Years Resolution bandwagon. It’s never too late to start new, good habits. Those of you who have sworn off diets permanently should feel free to scroll down to the closing bits.

Part One: Diet

I know I’ve said this a number of times, but every weight loss diet that works demands that you sharply limit — if not completely eliminate — added sugars from your diet.

In the 70s and 80s, people could lose weight on a low-fat diet. It worked because people on these diets knew they couldn’t eat cookies, candies and cakes. They knew they couldn’t eat most sauces. They knew they had to eat plenty of vegetables. Dean Ornish never, ever said you could lose weight by switching from Snickers to Twizzlers. Then the Food Industry started making food-like chemistry sets with words like “low fat” and “fat free” in the name. Suddenly these people could eat cookies, candies, and cakes and pretend they were still following a diet. These people did not lose weight, and many of them decided that fat free diets don’t work.

In the 90s, people could lose weight on a low-carbohydrate diet. It worked because people on these diets knew they couldn’t eat cookies, candies and cakes. They knew they had to avoid added sugar in everything from turkey lunch-meat to yogurt to spaghetti sauce (which they could put on a nice chicken filet but not spaghetti). They knew that pasta was nothing more than pressed flour (yum?). People who actually read up on the subject before charging off to the meat counter knew they had to eat plenty of veggies.¬† Then the Food Industry started making food-like chemical sets with words like “low carb” and “sugar free” in the name. Suddenly these people could eat cookies, candies, and cakes and pretend they were still following a diet. These people did not lose weight, and many of them decided that low carb diets don’t work.*

I’ve known people who lost weight on a vegan diet. It worked because people on these diets knew they couldn’t eat cookies, candies and cakes. They knew they had to eat lots of vegetables and actually think about where their protein is coming from. I’ve known other vegans who depend too much on food-like chemistry sets to simulate eating food that they shouldn’t be eating such as cheeseburgers. They don’t lose weight.

Recently, people have been having a lot of success losing weight on a gluten free diet. It worked because people on these diets knew they couldn’t eat cookies, candies and cakes. They know that they have to look carefully in ingredient lists for things that might contain gluten, and for some of them this is a matter of life and death. Now I see “gluten free bakeries” and all kinds of chemistry lab crap labeled “gluten free and I see the end of gluten free dieting on the horizon.

See a pattern here?

Nobody will ever lose weight eating cookies, candies, cake, ice cream, or sweetened fizzy drinks. On the other hand, most people will have a hard time losing weight on the food-like chemistry sets that the Food Industry tries to sell people who are on a diet. The purpose of “diet food” is to get you to buy more of it, and you won’t do that anymore if you lose weight and get on a sensible weight maintenance program. Which brings me to another interesting point: if after losing weight, you go back to eating the crap that made you fat in the first place, you will gain back every pound you lost.

Success lies in a sensible path: no added sugars; plenty of water; plenty of veggies; sensible use of quality fats; fewer food-like chemistry sets and more real food; pay attention to what you are eating and don’t eat more calories than you use; only eat stuff worth eating, and then only if you are hungry. I don’t think there’s a nutrition expert in the world that will disagree with these points, unless they are paid to do so.

* The new twist on this is Paleo or Primal eating, which goes back to the idea that processed food (including corn syrup) is bad, grains and legumes are suspicious, and if a caveman wouldn’t have known it was food you should probably not eat it. Some mistakenly see this as “all the protein I can stuff in my pie-hole, and then put some bacon on it.” They probably aren’t really eating as many veggies as would be desirable.

In Closing: If hard work cured poverty, the third world wouldn’t exist; you mean your local university doesn’t have a SWAT team?; cyberwar; diamonds; shocking; and magic button.

Oh, Oh, It’s Magic

On my most recent trip, I had a unique book to read while lounging by a beach of white sand and impossibly blue water. That book was The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow. No, not a fantasy novel for young adults, but a book about women — oddly bereft of feminism. It’s a book about brides and a very special bridal shop in a small Michigan town. You’ll want to keep some tissues close by while you read it. You can get a little taste of it right here.

How did he end up in a bridal shop? When Mr. Zaslow set out to write “a nonfiction book about the love we all wish for our daughters,” he went looking for “a place with great emotion.” His wife suggested a bridal shop. And it’s not just any bridal shop, not one of those big chains or the boutique tucked in an obscure corner of a big department store. Becker’s Bridal has a long history: 4 generations of women in one remarkable family have worked here, in an old “small town” bank building, creating “magic.”

In addition to reading about the strong women of the Becker family and their business, we also follow a number of brides on their journey through the process. This does cause a bit of a muddle towards the last third of the book as the reader jumps from bride to bride, finishing out what happened between their trip to Becker’s and the wedding itself: is Courtney the one who decided not to kiss anyone until she got married? The kindergarten teacher who was in a car wreck? The widow who is getting remarried even though her kids are unhappy with the arrangement? The independent woman who is finally getting married for the first time in her 40s? Or is she the one with rheumatic heart disease? With many brides comes some confusion for anyone without a photographic memory.

As I consider the idea of my second wedding, I found the idea of a “bridal industry” somewhat creepy. No mistake, I understand and respect that there are people who make a living making sure I have a dress that makes me “princess for a day,” seeing to invitations, attiring my entire wedding party, putting together memorable services and receptions. I can’t imagine spending “between $19,907 and $33,178” as most American couples do. Even the cheapest sale dresses at Becker’s are more than I can justify spending on a gown I will — hopefully — only wear once.

Like the “funeral industry,” it doesn’t quite sound right to have an “industry” grow up around profoundly personal moments in somebody’s life. What’s next? Calling religious institutions part of the “faith industry”?

This being said, Mr. Zaslow comes up with some very interesting observations, presented in a rather dry,¬†tangential, New York Times sort of way: brides used to be “smaller,” oh no not because of obesity, but because they “didn’t work out” and “didn’t lift weights” and “didn’t eat the way Americans eat today”; roughly 15% of mothers of the bride want dresses that are “too revealing and sexy,” and 35% have to be reminded that they aren’t the grandmother of the bride; sometimes the boss has to “be a bitch”; and oddly enough, “advances in box-making helped fuel the computer revolution.”

In this world of Brides Behaving Badly, it’s refreshing to see that getting married doesn’t have to be a three ring circus. On the other hand, there’s something odd about a man writing a tear-jerker book about the bridal industry, and saying it’s about “the love we all wish for our daughters.”

Want to discuss this book more? Go check out the conversation already flowing over at the Blogher Book Club.

Disclosure statement: I read this book for the Blogher Book Club. In return for my participation I was given a copy of the book (e-book in this case) and I will receive $20. Nevertheless, the opinions expressed here are my own.

Ok then, who wants a heaping helping of In Closing?: made up words; moron; Anonymous does good; if school was a job, students would get more break time by law; it’s never too early to eat right and move your body; cult; and security theatre.

Cyrus: Shorties of a Serial Killer

8 Years: Somehow I managed to overlook my Blogiversary.

Next time you have a hard time getting through to your doctor’s office: Remember that the Feds are tying up the line trying to figure out how hard it is for you to get an appointment.

He’s just so nice: Matt Damon is trying to find ways to help African people get clean, safe water. And he’s good looking, and he can act.

On Fitness: Ladies, please ignore the fact that it comes from a publication called “Men’s Journal.” The Truth is unisex.

Let’s Get This Out of the Way: Everybody knows that yet another appeals court says there’s no Constitutional problems with the Affordable Care Act, right? Ok, moving on then.

In other news, Bill Gates Doesn’t Understand Capitalism: Ignoring the diseases of poverty isn’t a failure, it’s a sign that there’s no money in it. That’s why it’s called “poverty.”

Shut up and get back to work!: Yeah, it sure would be nice to have paid sick days. I have no idea how you’d do that for those of us who are self-employed.

Professor is Correct Again: Cutting the budget deficit won’t put a single person to work. In fact, it will put some government employees out of work. It will also reduce GDP — which by definition includes government spending. Who are the President’s economic advisers? The ghost of Herbert Hoover? A least he understands that there is no way to balance the budget without taxes.

Computer Security: Don’t stick strange memory sticks in your computer! You don’t know where they’ve been! Stupidity makes hacking possible.

Missing Cute White Girl of the Week Club: Why it’s bad for all of us. Amen, brother.

Senator Bernie Sanders: Speaking Truth in a place where it has been lacking.

To those of you who just got out of medical school: Sage words of a Dinosaur.

Too Big To Fail: Simply must be Too Big To Exist.

Sahara: The sign is going to be at the Neon Museum.

Most expensive used car ever: A painstakingly restored 1963 Volkswagen Microbus.

Looking forward to it: Shatner‘s latest film is a documentary wherein he interviews all 5 actors who have played a Star Trek captain.

Speaking of documentaries: Everything you know is probably wrong.

Screw Infrastructure: Apparently it is more cost effective to build a bridge in China and have it shipped here. We won’t have any lasting recovery until we get away from the Latte Economy.

Tomorrow, I’ll have some exciting news for you. In the meantime, stay cool.

Red Riding Shorties

In other news, sky blue, water wet: The cable industry recognizes that poverty is as big threat to their subscriber base as Netflix.

Duhpartment of Research: What do cats do all day? Mostly sleep and rest.

World’s Oldest Known Museum: Turns out to have been in ancient Babylonia.

Views of Vegas: From the Strip and from one of the mountains north of town.

Couldn’t have anything to do with it: Worker’s share of national income is plunging faster than a supermodel’s neckline.

Congress Can’t Outlaw What They Aren’t Told About: surveillance programs go unnoticed. It’s a bad thing.

Cancer Needs Sugar to Survive: Low carb diets prevent cancer.

Sure Would Be Handy: Let’s see, we have lots of unemployed people, and we have roads to fix, schools to build, and lots of infrastucture that needs to be constructed or repaired. Gee, why don’t we try putting those things together??? Aw, that’s crazy talk.

If you say so: Has anybody come up with a really good use for these things? Lots of people say I need them and then they can’t explain why.

Can’t Resist: I know I said it earlier elsewhere, but HA HA! Righthaven smacked down! Yes, the source of that article was intentionally ironic.

Shorties Horizon

Dead Zombie Horse: a few thoughts on health insurance reform. And Immaculate Infection.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree: you make a fine fish habitat.

Laughing all the way to the bank: Only $3 billion? Pshaw! Let me get my checkbook.

Speaking of Banks: FDIC may sue executives of failed banks to try and get some of their money back. Oh and if we won’t do anything about too big to fail, Europe will.

Just Call Him Phoenix: a real life superhero in Seattle.

Nice: The Westin St. Francis washes every coin it receives.

Nuts: the rift between environmentally conscious Christians and nutjobs who think Jesus will just fix the environment.

The Dude Abides: Well no, it’s really just Jeff Bridges.

Obligatory January Weight Items: most Americans think their weight and dietary habits are just fine, thank you. Here’s the 8 worst diet and fitness fads of 2010. And for the motivated, a kick-start workout guide (don’t forget to eat healthy foods in moderate quantities!)

On Poverty: officially and in reality. At least it’s creating jobs at Dollar General, for what it’s worth.

Nevertheless: I hope you never need to know this information.

On Republicans: Go ahead and read the Constitution. How do they get away with telling the same lies so much we start to believe it’s true? Three Cups of Tea (tell ’em, Howard!). Hey big businesses, what laws do you want to not follow anymore? Guide to Governance. The sane people are concerned. And an open letter.

On all the other parties: Ha! Seriously though, I’d like to see a big, televised debate between party leaders of all these “third parties,” live during prime time. It would be a great laugh (have you ever read some of the published party platforms??), and the few good ideas will get picked up by someone who can run with it.

Delicious: Bison.

Oops: I mean oats.

Immigration Reform: it’s more complicated than putting up a fence.

Images: ranging from merely amusing to mind-blowing.

Welcome to 2011.

On One Hand We Have GDP; On the Other We Have Reality

Steve Sack

Last month we were told that “Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the second quarter of 2010, (that is, from the first quarter to the second quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 3.7 percent.” Sure it did. The government says so and they would surely never tell us something that wasn’t true!!

Meanwhile, in Realityland, the FDIC took over 6 banks Friday afternoon. Canadian news sources are writing about the decline and coming fall of the United States as a “superpower.” This week we learned that the poverty rate rose to a 15 year high, with a 51 year high in the number of people actually living in poverty, 3,800,000 more than last year, including just under 1 in every 5 children who contrary to what some people think have no control over their circumstances.¬† Despite the passage of a new health insurance reform bill, the number of people with health insurance dropped for the first time ever. The net worth of Americans has dropped roughly $12,300,000,000,000 since 2007. The small businesses that are vital to creating jobs both now and in future decades can’t get loans, and the new law that was supposed to “help small businesses” will likely do nothing of the sort. Big businesses are hoarding cash. Some people are calling it a “lost decade.”

Meanwhile millionaires are whining about the very idea that they might have to pay more taxes (when they aren’t screaming about the federal budget deficit) and admitting that they have had illegal immigrants working in their homes (rather than hire an unemployed American).

And the experts wonder why more Americans think a “third party” might be just the thing we need.

Next time, unless I am otherwise distracted, The BAMTOR Principle.

In Closing: let’s hear it for Elizabeth Warren!; “that guy who agrees with me is an expert, that other guy who doesn’t is a quack”; Senator Reid mad at Republicans blocking food safety reforms; “Sorry soldier, you’re too fat for this exercise program”; new rules to make it harder for banks to hide debt (like that will stop them).

Two Sad Stories Involving Children

#1, in which Seatbelts Would Have Saved Lives

Yesterday, an ordinary looking minivan blew out a tire and clipped another vehicle. What happened next was horrifying. The van rolled multiple times. It turns out that inside that van were 15 people — in a van that normally seats 8 — only two of whom were wearing seatbelts. Thirteen children were thrown from the vehicle. Ten people were severely injured, five were killed, including a little kid 3 years old. One witness says there were “kids flying everywhere.”

Please, people. Make sure everybody in your vehicle is belted in. If that means taking two vehicles or getting a bigger vehicle, so be it. For that matter, check your tires regularly. This was preventable. The adults in that vehicle had a responsibility to do certain things to keep those kids safe and they failed.

#2, in which Grade School Kids Lack Almost Everything

Every city has a school like Vegas’s Whitney Elementary. In some ways, it’s like any other grade school in Clark County School District, one of the 5 largest school districts in the nation. It’s got a mix of students from all racial backgrounds, although it’s almost half Hispanic. It doesn’t have the best test scores, but the scores could be a lot worse.

However, of their 562 students in 2007-2008, 370 got free school lunches and another 62 got reduced price lunches. The principal estimates that 75% of the 622 current students have experienced homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. Because most of the families can’t afford much of anything, the school holds monthly birthday parties for all the kids who had a birthday, complete with cake and presents. The school has it’s own food bank, it’s own clothing donation stockpile. Every teacher has a story of a kid who needed help.

Now, say what you want about personal responsibility. These are little kids, all under the age of 12. Not one of them has any control over his or her circumstances. None of them can legally get a job, and frankly society is better off with them learning to read and write than becoming unskilled child laborers. There is a Christmas wish tree from these kids in my office. It will break your freaking heart. There are kids that just want a pair of pants that fits, or maybe a sweater. There are kids who asked for one toy, singular, that I could buy with the kind of money I typically have in my wallet. There is one family that all they want for Christmas is to have electricity!

So if it is in your heart to send something to Whitney Elementary, please do. If instead is in your heart to find and give to your own hometown’s version of Whitney Elementary, that is wonderful too. If all you can send is kind wishes and prayers or maybe spreading the word, it’s better than nothing.

In Closing: the best reason for Cheney to run for President in 2012 is that he thinks we run elections under Gallifreyan rules and won’t let him be extradited to the Hague (is this seriously the best the Republicans got??); The Life of Brian couldn’t be filmed today, and more’s the pity; I guess terrorists only count if they are brown; recycle small electronics with the USPS; yawning is good for you; obligatory item on controlling health insurance costs; Blue Cross BS demonstrates why we need reform now; I’m going to let the economists worry about whether this Dubai mess is a big deal (their Vegas investments notwithstanding) (sorry, a drop of 150 on the Dow doesn’t impress me anymore); WTF is wrong with Africa??; concentration of wealth; the importance of arts education; an a cartoon on commercial and industrial regulation.