Archive for the “Bad Diets” Category

Back in June, I wrote a post titled This Pretty Much Explains What Went Wrong.  The post featured a Wall Street Journal report about how the FDA is still considering whether to change its definitions of healthy and unhealthy foods.  Under the current definitions, an avocado is an unhealthy food, while Frosted Flakes are good for you because they’re low in fat.  That’s the kind of advice that turned us into a nation of fat diabetics.

I recently found another example of what went wrong on one of our bookshelves.  When we bought this place, we told the previous owner to just leave anything she didn’t want to move and we’d deal with it.  We’ve since re-purposed a lot of old farm gear she left behind.

She also left behind quite a few books.  Don’t know why I didn’t spot it before, but one of the books is titled Great Health Hints & Handy Tips, published by Reader’s Digest in 1994. It’s full of the usual drivel — and I don’t mean that as a knock against Reader’s Digest.  I wrote for a small health magazine in 1980s, and we offered the same kind of advice.  Back in those days, anti-fat hysteria was in full swing, and diet and health information passed through a small number of gatekeepers.  Fortunately, the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to crowd out such nonsense.

Anyway, here are some quotes from the chapter on nutrition:

Does it ever seem like everything you thought you knew about food has been disproved?  Information we learned in school on avoiding starches and eating plenty of red meat has been reversed.  We’ve found that other old favorites, like whole milk and cheese, should be limited.

Ugh.  If only that information we used to learn in school hadn’t been reversed.  Look at what’s happened since we decided we knew better than all those previous generations about what constitutes a healthy diet.

We now know that carbohydrates should form the largest part of your diet, approximately 55 to 60 percent, and that you should hold the quantity of protein to about 15 percent of calories.

And that’s how pasta-makers became a must-have in fashionable kitchens.  Load up on those healthy carbs, people, and cut way back on meat!

To avoid raising their blood cholesterol, most people have to follow two dietary rules: limit both high-cholesterol foods and those containing saturated fat.

Can you say Egg Beaters and margarine?

There is, of course, a color picture of the Food Pyramid, with this text on the opposite page:

The Food Guide Pyramid was created to illustrate not just food categories, but the correct proportions for a healthy diet.  Bread and cereals form the large base, followed by fruits and vegetables.

And a lot of us ended up with a large base by following the Food Pyramid.

Limit the amount of fat in your breakfast.  When eating pancakes, waffles or toast, restrict the butter or margarine to one teaspoon or skip it entirely.  For a topping, try a fruit spread or apple butter.

Right.  Because when you’re loading up on grains for breakfast, nothing enhances the metabolic effects quite like putting sugar on top.

Rather than a doughnut or sweet roll, eat an English muffin or a bagel.

That reminds of a commercial from back in the day:  the announcer says something like Now that we’ve learned a bowl of grains in the morning is good for your health, why not try this?  Then a bagel drops into a cereal bowl.  The book would apparently agree:

Bagels, which are low in fat, aren’t just for breakfast.  Top them with low-fat cottage cheese or salmon or tuna salad.

Bagels in the morning, bagels in the evening, bagels at suppertime.  Yup, that will help you eat the 6-11 servings of grains per day the USDA assured us was the key to good health.

Here are some tips for lunch on the go:

Sandwiches made at delis, diners and other eateries are often overstuffed with meat.  Ask for yours to be prepared with less mean than usual, or else remove some of the meat.

Think twice before ordering a diet platter if it includes a hamburger patty, hard-boiled egg and cottage cheese made from whole milk.  This high-fat meal is no calorie bargain.

And here’s some advice for packing your kid’s lunch:

If your son or daughter won’t eat vegetables for lunch, send extra fruit.

Pack 1 percent chocolate milk mixed at home instead of having your child buy 2 percent chocolate milk (which contains more fat) at school.

Obviously, this was written before the USDA decided to ban anything other than skim or 1% milk in schools.

Offer grains rather than white bread.  Quick breads, such as banana-oatmeal bread, pita wedges and low-fat crackers may also be good alternatives.

So there you have it.  Eat your grains – with fruit topping! – and cut way back on meat, eggs, whole milk, and anything containing cholesterol or saturated fat.

That’s what we were all told, and that’s the advice most of us tried to follow.  That’s how I ended up eating bowls of pasta with low-fat sauce as the main course for dinner.

And that’s how we became a nation of fat diabetics.

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I hadn’t planned to write another post about the American Heart Association’s “presidential advisory” report, but I came across a couple of items that speak volumes about why the report is nonsense.

Zoe Harcombe tweeted a link to a press release by the crop science division of Bayer. It was titled Bayer and LibertyLink Soybeans Help Protect Hearts in America’s Heartland. Here are some quotes:

In an effort to support heart health and improve the wellness of rural Americans nationwide, Bayer is proud to announce its support of the American Heart Association (AHA). The effort, which runs through 2017, supports the AHA’s Healthy for Good™ movement to inspire all Americans to live healthier lives and create lasting change by taking small, simple steps today to create a difference for generations to come.

For each bag of LibertyLink soybean seed sold for the 2017 season, Bayer will contribute 5 cents to the AHA’s Healthy for Good movement for a total maximum donation of $500,000.

A donation of up to half a million dollars. Pretty good payday for the American Heart Association – which of course recommends soybean oil as a “heart-healthy” replacement for butter and lard.

In the same tweet, Harcombe points out that the AHA’s report gives soybean oil a positive mention 12 times. Not bad. That’s $41,667 per mention. If only I could cut the same deal with the producers of bacon.

So at the risk of repeating myself, it’s important for people who believe the AHA is a neutral reporter of cardiovascular science to understand this: if the Diet-Heart Hypothesis ever goes away, so does the American Heart Association. The “presidential advisory” report was little more than financial self-defense against the growing (and correct) belief that arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria was based on bogus science.

Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks, the author of the report, was quoted in several media articles as wondering why the heck anyone would think coconut oil is a healthy fat. It raises cholesterol just like any other saturated fat, ya see, so it’s got to be bad. And there are no long-term clinical studies proving any benefits.

Several bloggers pointed out that both the Kitavans and the natives of Tokelau people have a high intake of coconut fat – 50% of total calories in the case of the Tokelau people. And yet they have very low rates of heart disease. If saturated coconut fat causes heart disease, why aren’t the people who eat the most of it clutching their chests and dropping dead?

Of course, we’re just making observations here, and observational studies don’t prove anything, right? Well, it depends.  If we find a correlation between A and B, it doesn’t prove A is causing B to happen. But a lack of a correlation between A and B is pretty strong evidence that A doesn’t cause B to happen.

In the Fat Head Kids book, I wanted to give youngsters a very brief science lesson on observational studies. After all, if they’re interested in health, they’re going to be seeing a lot of Some Food Linked To Some Disease headlines as they grow up. So in a chapter on how bad science led to the current dietary advice, we explained observational studies like this:

——————————————————-

Let’s suppose Dr. Fishbones visits a tiny world called The Planet of Tragic Fashions and gathers a bunch of data on all the residents. When he runs that data through a computer, he notices a surprising connection.

Captain! I’ve discovered that residents who get just-above-the-butt tattoos are more likely to develop cancer! We’ve got to put a stop to those tattoos, Captain!

Is Dr. Fishbones correct? Do his findings prove that the tattoos are causing cancer?

That would be incorrect, Captain. Dr. Fishbones conducted what’s called an observational study. In an observational study, we look for traits and behaviors that seem to occur in the same people. We may notice for example, that people who play basketball are often very tall. So we could say playing basketball is linked to being tall. We might also say basketball is correlated or associated with being tall.

But it would be illogical to conclude that playing basketball makes people taller. As Dr. Fishbones should know, just because a behavior and a result are linked, it doesn’t mean the behavior causes the result. Just-above-the-butt tattoos may be “linked” to cancer, but it could simply be that people who get tattoos are more likely to smoke. Or drink large sodas. Or play with toxic chemicals. These other factors are what we scientists call confounding variables.

——————————————————-

Here’s what we didn’t explain in the book: if people who get tramp stamps have higher rates of cancer, it doesn’t mean the tramp stamps cause cancer … but if tramp stamps DO cause cancer, people who get them will have higher rates of cancer.

So if we observe that people with tramp stamps DON’T have higher rates of cancer, we can be pretty certain the tattoos don’t cause cancer. (A researcher who didn’t want to let go of the tattoos cause cancer hypothesis would, of course, speculate that perhaps there’s a “protective factor” in some brands of tattoo ink.)

Anyway, the point is that Dr. Sucks has no actual evidence that coconut oil causes heart disease. All he could do is say it raises LDL, and therefore it must cause heart disease. But the evidence from populations who eat a lot of coconut fat (which wasn’t considered in the “totality of the evidence”) suggests rather strongly that coconut oil doesn’t cause heart disease.

But since the coconut-oil makers aren’t finding ways to funnel a half-million dollars into the AHA’s coffers, we’re told the stuff will kill us and we should switch to soybean oil instead. That’s why advice from the American Heart Association is irrelevant, if not dangerous.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo someone tweeted. It’s from back before the AHA added a low-sugar requirement for its heart-check logo. This pretty much says it all.

Bacon and eggs will kill you, but low-fat Pop Tarts full of sugar, processed flour and other bits of industrial garbage are good for your heart. That’s the kind of advice we’ve received from the AHA over the years.

Like I said, the AHA has a low-sugar requirement now. But while producing Fat Head, I bought a box of Cocoa Puffs with the AHA’s seal of approval on the box. That was in 2008. So I was curious when Dr. Frank Sacks became chairman of the AHA’s nutrition committee. Was it during the time “healthy” low-fat food like Cocoa Puffs and Pop-Tarts sported the heart-check logo?

I couldn’t find online exactly when he was chairman. But a 2008 article from the Washington Post described him as the vice-chairman at the time. I also found papers listing him as a member of the committee as far back as 2001. So yes, he was on the AHA’s nutrition committee back when they were telling us Pop-Tarts and Cocoa Puffs were heart-healthy foods.

The irony here is that in the latest report, Sacks claims the reason cutting back on saturated fat failed to reduce heart disease in many studies is that people made the mistake of replacing saturated fats with sugars and processed carbs.  Gee, I wonder what inspired them to do that?

‘Nuff said.

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Greetings Fat Heads!

Well, still here. Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Special thanks to all vets and their families. Tom and family are back from the 2017 Low Carb Cruise, happily exhausted. I’m looking forward to getting the full report. I told him if he wanted to wait until next week, I’d fill in Thursday with an “evidence-based” rant.

Anyway, when I left off at the last post, Jimmy Kimmel’s son was doing great and I was in a bad mood. Not about Mr. Kimmel’s son of course. That was the wonderful part. The level of care we have available in this time and in this country is beyond the imagination of what was available to the richest people and kings even a few decades ago.

I wasn’t even particularly stirred up over Mr. Kimmel’s making the availability of the miraculous procedure that saved his son somehow tied in with keeping Obamacare intact. Between being a dad just past a major health scare and living in La La Land among the economically illiterate (seldom right, but never in doubt) I’m okay with him calling it any way he wants. I put it in there with the “all brides and babies are beautiful” protocol. It accomplishes nothing to argue, and it’s just plain rude.

The rest of the Idiocracy, however, deserves no so respect. Instead of politely giving Jimmy’s emotional description props and then moving on, they treated his completely sincere and completely uninformed comments on insurance and Obamacare as the Magnum Opus of the health care debate.

At any rate, I stated toward the end “It’s not like we don’t have major issues with the health care system in the good old U.S. of A. But the issues are with the availability of dollars, not doctors, …”

There are issues with dollars. As I mentioned, I was aware of Kimmel’s son’s condition because The Oldest Grandson had the same thing – and the same miraculous treatment – when he was born just about ten years ago (yes—before Obamacare).

His mom, my daughter-in-law, pointed out that back then just his hospital tab was over $300,000, which would break anyone without insurance, not to mention that he’s facing at least two more surgeries. Under insurance as it mostly existed prior to the current debacle, there could be real issues with lifetime spending caps and him trying to get health insurance as an adult with that type of pre-existing condition.

To paraphrase an old politician, $300,000 here, $300,000 there – pretty soon you’re talking real money! Definitely a dollars issue.

So what’s a libertarian to do? Is there a solution other than “I’m sorry, Mr. Kimmel, there’s nothing we can do?” That’s what you would hear in most of those countries where it’s “free.” Don’t we want to save babies in this country? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do that and not go broke? How can we do that today, and still be able for that kid to afford reasonable health care later?

Fortuitously, Dr. William Davis’ new book – “Undoctored” came out just recently, and Tom did a book review.

[Confession time – I don’t read Tom’s book reviews any more. When I see he’s written one, I just save myself the time and buy the damned book.]

Now, if you want a great book on the disastrous macro-economics of our health care system, and policy proposals to address insurance and health system availability at a national level, don’t buy this book. That’s totally not what it’s about.

What it is about is you getting control of your health, which Dr. Davis reiterates throughout is not particularly connected to medical care. In fact, unless you get yourself informed and proactive, medical care can often be inversely related to your health. Although he doesn’t do a deep dive on the economic history of the health care system, he does do a great job illuminating how the money and incentives in the current system don’t line up with attaining real health as an individual. Then you’re off on a terrific primer in how to evaluate, improve, and monitor your health, in conjunction with health care professionals who will work with you and at your direction when needed.

Seriously, buy the book.

Okay, so how’s that tie in with the subject at hand? Well, the idea that the medical industry is more responsive to money than patient outcomes was nothing new to me – or probably any Fat Head, really. “Have a $tatin with that hearthealthywholegrain muffin” vs. “have the bacon and eggs and take a walk,” right? So, I was already on board with the concept.

Right in the introduction to “Undoctored,” Dr. Davis noted that we spend (endlessly pointed out with delight by the single-payer cheerleaders) over $3 trillion dollars a year – 17% of our GDP — on health care. Which I also already knew.  But this time when I read it I’d been thinking about Kimmel’s performance, and my daughter-in-law’s point, and then pretty close in to the beginning of the book Davis points out that:

“The system is ready and willing to commit you to a life of taking drugs and injectable insulin for diabetes, … providing “education” designed by people who put commercial interests first, while no one provides the handful of inexpensive health strategies that have been shown to reduce, even fully reverse, type 2 diabetes.”

Once again, nothing I didn’t already know, but it kind of all came together at that point and I thought, “well, just how the hell much do we spend on all of this crap?!?”

So I looked it up.

I tend to do that. I just stopped reading and went Googling for info on how much money we spend on the various medical substitutes for good habits. I’d like to think it’s due to my insatiable inquisitiveness when I’ve got an intellectual conundrum, but it’s probably just ADD.

I struck gold fairly quickly when I found a JAMA paper from 2016 titled “US Spending on Personal Health Care and Public Health, 1996-2013.” They collected seven years of data from 183 sources and sorted them into 155 conditions. The numbers, which, once again, we’ve probably all heard at different times, are stunning when you look at the whole picture.

The total spending for 2013 – the last year in the study – was $2.1 trillion. The estimate for 2014 was $2.9 trillion, so Dr. Davis’ $3 trillion seems to line up well with the reports info, and it would be safe to assume that the numbers I’ve got increased proportionately.  So, pretty much every number I’ve got has likely gone up by 50%. But here are some of the things we see:

Right off the bat, “diabetes had the highest health care spending in 2013, with an estimated $101.4 billion in spending, including 57.6% spent on pharmaceuticals…”

Keep in mind, that’s more like $150 billion today. One hundred and fifty billion dollars. A year. For a “disease” that’s easily 90% treatable by just stepping away from carbs.

Heart disease – the one that Dr. Davis put himself out of business from treating by getting people to change their lifestyles vs. post factum medical treatment — was $88.1 billion, so I’m calling it $130 billion.  I’m not saying no one would ever have a heart attack if we all stopped cooking with vegetable oil and started taking an evening walk, but it wouldn’t be an industry that by itself would rank in the top quarter of the rest of the world’s GDP’s.

Plus, that $130 billion does NOT include treatment for hyperlipidemia (i.e., statins) which earns itself $52 billion ($75B?) all by itself, or high blood pressure.

Here’s some other big ticket items, almost all of which the case studies of folks in “Undoctored” either completely reversed or substantially improved – often within weeks – of making the simple changes that Dr. Davis promotes:

Blood Pressure:  $84 Billion

Back & neck pain (think largely obesity and sedentary lifestyle related, so I’m counting it): $88 Billion

Depression (think mood disorders and gut biome dysbiosis. Not considered are other “mental” health issues – ADD, bipolar, etc): $70 Billion

Dental (tooth decay, inflammation): $66 Billion

Skin conditions: $55 Billion

Alzheimers and other dementias (i.e., Type III diabetes): $36.7 Billion

The 2013 numbers for all of those come up to about $469 Billion, which scales up to over $700 Billion in today’s spending. Mostly avoidable by straightforward, understandable lifestyle modification.

Like I said, some people will still have heart attacks, or pull a back muscle, or get depressed and need some help so you don’t have a 100% savings on the table; but the largest part of these diseases are self-inflicted and self-treatable.

I also left out other categories (Osteoarthritis – $47.9B; Asthma – $32.5B; Endocrine, metabolic, and immune disorders – $19.6B; and cancers, which were disaggregated into 29 separate conditions); so there’s some pickup available from the same lifestyle changes in areas I’m not counting. The point is that nearly one quarter of our health care spending is going to conditions that we have the capability of exerting a large degree of control over. Quickly.

Preterm birth complications, BTW, ranked 73rd at just under $5 Billion, so it seems like if we could get a handle on our grain and industrial foods habit, Jimmy Kimmel’s son and my grandson shouldn’t cause too much financial discomfort to the system.

After thinking about this, I had an epiphany.

I know Tom and many others, including myself, have compared the various and sundry mandatory coverages — dictated via Obamacare and other legislated and regulatory bodies — to requiring your auto insurance provider to include free oil changes, tire rotation, tune-ups, etc.  in your policy. The point being that these are known conditions that are a routine part of automobile ownership. Inclusion in a policy would only increase overhead and incentivize over-utilization, resulting in inevitable, recurring premium increases.

We completely misrepresented the argument. It’s correct as far as it goes, but it stops so short of reality that I count it as a huge error.

Our entire medical cost reimbursement system, as currently comprised, is like requiring that all auto insurance companies include DUI coverage in your policy.

It was stupid that my health insurance covered the two or three doctor office visits for the ear infections we knew The Sons were each going to get each year when they were toddlers. Same for the bottle of pick stuff we’d pick up at the pharmacy after each visit.

But it’s insane that insurance would pay for insulin for the 90% of people who could avoid the pharmacy if they’d stop blasting their system with sugar in all its forms. Same with all those other diseases of civilization driving a quarter of our spending. We’re making it convenient and cheaper for people to engage in behavior that’s harming them.

Add in the USDA budget with its massive grain subsidies and the SNAP (food stamp) program, and it’s like after adding the DUI coverage, we then pass out free booze to the people with the worst driving records.

So what about this — I say we should remove mandated coverage of all of those lifestyle diseases – Type II diabetes, blood pressure, non-emergency heart disease treatment, etc.

Companies would be free to make them available, but they’d be add-on items to a base policy and they’d also be rateable. I’m not interested in preventing someone from purchasing diabetes “treatment” coverage with their insurance, but I don’t want to be forced to “chip in.”

Rateable means they could adjust the premium, for example, based on a periodic A1C, fasting insulin, or some other marker to account for the risk and behavior of the policy owner. Behavior instantly gets coupled to economic consequences.

So people could pay higher premiums for diabetes treatment coverage, pay out of their own pocket for drugs and medical attention, or eat more veggies and fat and cut back on the sugar. I predict immediate, dramatic changes.

I don’t see why we couldn’t reduce medical spending by half a trillion dollars, plus another $100 billion a year by driving a stake through the USDA’s heart.  Putting money aside for just a moment, can you begin to imagine the quality of life improvements people would get?

Of course, I do see why we can’t. Politics. Money. Bureaucracy. Power. The usual suspects. But that doesn’t mean it’s not technically possible or the right thing to do.

It also doesn’t mean that you can’t get started, or step up your game so that you can limit your interaction with the medical system as much as possible. Just because you have to sacrifice them your money doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health, too!

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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Millions of people swear every January they’re going to improve their health. I’ve assumed for years that achieving that goal requires paying careful attention to what we eat.

Apparently I was wrong about that. Turns out countless processed foods are actually good for you. I learned that glancing at a bunch of labels and packages recently in the cafeteria at the building where I work.

I usually bring lunch from home or skip eating lunch entirely, so it’s been years since I took a good look at what’s on the shelves.  Imagine my surprise when I saw healthy offerings like this:

Whodathunkit? Swiss Miss hot chocolate is actually good for you! After all, it provides as much calcium as an 8-ounce glass milk! And if we turn that package over …

… we see the calcium comes with sugar, corn syrup (in case the sugar isn’t sweet enough), and hydrogenated coconut oil. Small price to pay for the health benefits of all that calcium.

Moving along, I found chips that contain 30% Less Fat or even 65% Less Fat than the leading Potato Chips – and as we know, anything lower in fat will make you healthy.

Here are the healthy ingredients in those Oven-Baked Lays:

Awesome. Corn oil, corn starch, sugar and soybean oil. Good thing they contain 65% less fat than regular potato chips, or I’d almost wonder if they’re good for us after all.

Of course, as the overlords at the USDA have been reminding us for years, one of the keys to better health is to eat more whole grains. I found several foods that fit that bill, such as these Veggie Wheat Thins that provide 100% WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT.

And here are the ingredients:

Wheat flour, canola oil, sugar and cornstarch. So they’re not just low in fat; the bit of fat they do contain comes from heart-healthy canola oil! Man, if we all could develop the discipline to live on foods like this, the nation’s health bill would plummet.

If you prefer breakfast foods while eating more whole grains to improve your health, Raisin Bran is a Good Source of FIBER & Made with WHOLE GRAIN.

Best of all, there are only 68 carbs in that little serving of whole-grain goodness.

Froot Loops are also good for you because, as you can see, they provide WHOLE GRAIN 14 g or more per serving.

With all that whole-grain goodness, it probably doesn’t matter that the primary ingredient is sugar. Grab the skim milk, pour it on that whole-grain cereal, and let’s get healthy!

But wait .. what if we don’t have any skim milk? No problem. Kellogg’s makes a healthy cereal bar. I know it’s healthy because Nutri and Grain are both in the name.

And as you can see, there are only 12 grams of sugar and a whopping two grams of protein in one of these nutrition-packed powerhouses.

There’s also a wee bit of fruit. And since fruit in any form is good for us, I was totally jazzed to find these Fruit Medleys, which are Made With REAL FRUIT JUICE and have Colors From Natural Sources. Boy, that’s got to be good for you.

I even found the REAL FRUIT JUICE in the list of ingredients, right after corn syrup and sugar.

Fruit juice is great, but if you want to get really healthy, you need some whole fruit. Luckily, I found these Pop-Tarts, which are Baked with Real Fruit!

Along with the real fruit that’s baked in, you can power up with some wheat flour, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, sugar, and modified food starch. The real fruit that’s baked in is listed down there in the contains less than 10% or less section … but it’s real fruit, so it’s got to be good for you.

So there you have it. Accomplishing your New Year’s goal of becoming healthier has never been easier. Just grab some Froot Loops or Pop-Tarts for breakfast, and you’ll put some real fruit or those all-important whole grains into your body. If you feel like a snack a few hours later (a near-certainty if you eat cereal or pasty for breakfast), you can grab some Wheat Thins for a dose of 100% Whole Grain Wheat. Then wash ‘em down with a yummy cup of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and you’ll strengthen your bones with as much calcium as an 8-ouce glass of milk.

With all these healthy choices sitting on the shelves in grocery stores and cafeterias all over America, I predict the nation’s diabetes crisis will soon be nothing but a bad memory.

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Hey there, Fat Heads!

Long time. Tom asked last week if I’d like to man The Big Chair while he and Jimmy have their Thanksgiving Disc Golf Death Match, to which I replied “About time! …um, I mean, sure, I could probably do that.”

It just so happened that last Friday, The Wife and I got to do our annual “Grandparents’ Breakfast” at The Granddaughters’ school.

[Previously known as The Grandkids, they’ve been assigned a new moniker as The Wife and I have been blessed with THREE grandsons since the last time I filled in here.

Grandson number one came as part of a package deal when The Middle Son got married on Dauphin Island this last May.

Yeah, I ended up back on Dauphin Island again. I’ve stopped saying I’m never going back, because Karma just loves a good practical joke. A co-worker suggested I just go ahead and buy a burial plot down there since that seems to be where I‘m going to end up!

Grandson number two was born in August to The Youngest Son and his fiancée, and numero tres showed up in September a week ahead of schedule for The Middle Son and his new bride.]

We were down to one grandkid as the older sister was home sick, but it was still a good time. Despite all of the changes we’re seeing as the Wisdom of Crowds starts to seep in to the culture regarding nutrition, I’m sorry to report that not much seems to have changed on the school menu front compared to the first time we did this a couple of years ago (see here). Bottom line is carbs are still cheap when you’re feeding a village.

I didn’t see the MyPlate poster this year, but this one was still on the wall:

Yep, remember when we were kids and constantly had to be watching out for our schoolmates keeling over from hypoglycemia?

Yeah, me neither. We didn’t really have to deal with it back in the day because one of the main causes, as stated on the poster, is from “too much insulin or diabetes medicine,” and kids didn’t have really have Type II diabetes back in the day. It was called “Adult Onset” because that’s when you got it.

So the Granddaughter picked out her breakfast, and we sat down to visit. We passed on the food offerings and just went for the coffee. Here she is with her plate:

So, a donut (obviously known not to be health food), a healthy box of orange juice, a healthy zero fat carton of chocolate milk, and a healthy wrapper of apple slices.

After leaving (and getting a McMuffin sans muffin top for breakfast), I went ahead and did a little research on the nutritional breakdown of our darling’s meal (sorry about the spacing!):

Calories            Carbs (g)             Fat (g)          Protein (g)
Donut                          260                       31                     14                          3
Choc Milk                    110                       20                      0                          8
OJ                                  60                       14                       0                          1
Apple Slices                  35                         9                       0                         0
TOTAL                         465                       74                     14                        12
est calories                                             296                    126                       48
% of total cal                                         64%                      27%                    11%

So WOW. Two things — the donut could just be the healthiest thing on The Granddaughter’s plate(!) as it’s at least got some fat for her brain. But not the good kind, I’m guessing. The other thing is that the composition of carbs, fat, and protein are pretty much right in line with the SAD nutritional guidelines. WINNING! Or, to put it in perspective, the public schools think this much sugar is about the right amount for a grade school kid’s breakfast:

(74 grams of sugar)

Sure, she could’ve skipped the donut, but the alternative would’ve been a bowl of cereal. No bacon and eggs on the menu.

I’m hoping maybe with the seismic political upheaval we’ve had that maybe we can start getting the Michelle Obama/The Anointed effect out of school menus. I don’t expect the kids are going to start getting meals like the Obama’s kids did at Sidwell, but it’s kind of sad to think that if we went back to when the Reagan administration got blasted for counting ketchup as a vegetable, it would be a yuuge improvement! I’m not hopeful, but after November 9th, who knows what the heck can happen, no?

Good to be back — see you in the comments.

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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Around this time last year, I wrote a post titled The Rider And The Elephant, which briefly summarized a concept from the book The Happiness Hypothesis. Here’s a quote from my post:

The author, a psychologist named Jonathan Haidt, presents an explanation of human behavior that I like so much, I’m borrowing it (with attribution) for the book I’m writing for kids.

As Haidt explains it, your body and your unconscious mind are like an elephant. Your conscious mind – the part of you that thinks and makes plans and vows – is like a rider on top of the elephant. We like to think the rider is in control. But he isn’t, at least not if he tries to guide the elephant somewhere the elephant doesn’t want to go – like, say, into a fire.

And later in the post:

If evolution has hard-wired one survival instinct into every living creature on earth, it’s got to be this: don’t starve. Starvation means death. In our conscious minds, we may believe going hungry for weeks on end is a fine idea if we’ll look good in a swimsuit by summer. But the elephant disagrees… If you simply starve yourself, you’re dragging the elephant somewhere he doesn’t want to go.

I followed that post with one titled The Rider And The Elephant And The Biggest Losers. Here’s a quote from that one:

People who go on The Biggest Loser are (as the article makes clear) agreeing to be in lockdown. Same goes for people who participate in metabolic ward studies. And yes, under those circumstances, you can probably demonstrate that all weight-loss diets work as long as the dieter sticks to the diet, as some internet cowboys like to point out. So what? All that tells us is that if you lock the elephant in a cell, he doesn’t run away — because he can’t. But he’ll be miserable the whole time, and when he’s no longer in lockdown, he won’t be hanging around for long – even if the rider thinks he should.

I don’t suppose many of us need more proof that The Biggest Loser is a b.s. show promoting insane ideas about weight loss. But what the heck, an article about the show from the U.K. Guardian landed in my inbox a few weeks ago, and I can’t pass up an opportunity to take another swipe at a show I believe is causing people to harm themselves. Here are some quotes:

The Biggest Loser is back. After more than a 30% drop in ratings last season, some were questioning if the competitive weight loss reality show would be canceled completely. But after considerable delay, its 17th season will premiere on Monday on NBC. The question is, with so much criticism suggesting the show does more harm than good, whether it should return at all?

“It was the biggest mistake of my life,” Kai Hibbard, the winner of season three told the Guardian. As part of the application process Hibbard had to sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her from publicly speaking about the show without first getting approval from a public relations representative from NBC. But her experience has prompted her to be an outspoken critic regardless of a possible lawsuit, though she has received several cease and desist letters from the network.

Winner of season three … that means we’re talking about a woman who’s had more than a decade to reflect on what being a contestant did to her. If she’s still mad, I’m thinking there’s a good reason.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hibbard described incessant fat shaming by trainers, “ridiculous” exercise regimens that were done solely for entertainment purposes, dehydration for weigh-ins, and manipulation by producers to pick winners and create “villains”.

Sounds almost as bad as a presidential primary debate.

“In my season there was a woman named Heather who was made to look like a combative, lazy bitch,” Hibbard said. “But in actuality, she had a torn calf muscle and had developed bursitis in both knees. When she refused to run, they edited it to make her look lazy.”

A torn calf muscle and bursitis in both knees. Boy, that exercise program designed by Jillian Michaels must really rock.

According to Hibbard, the show’s producers try to lead viewers to believe contestants have lost weight faster than they have. “Nobody on the show lost 20 pounds in a week,” she said. “Once, ‘a week’ was actually three weeks because of the shooting schedule.”

Folks, trust me on this: if you ever lose 20 pounds in a week, get yourself in to see an oncologist as quickly as possible.

“There is no good reason to pick up a piece of driftwood and sprint down the beach when you weigh 265 pounds, except that it looks good for the camera,” Hibbard said. The contestants are pushed to do daily workouts that are approximately 10 times the amount that is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. The fact that vomit buckets are always nearby, and regularly used, is telling.

Sounds like a perfect regimen for sending cortisol levels through the roof.

According to one former contestant, the extreme weight loss tactics used on the show lead to a high relapse rate. Suzanne Mendonca, from season two, explained to the New York Post last year that the reason why The Biggest Loser is reluctant to do a show reunion is “because we’re all fat again”.

Of course. When you finally let the elephant out of that prison cell, he runs from the fire. Or if you prefer a more scientific explanation:

According to one former contestant, the extreme weight loss tactics used on the show lead to a high relapse rate. Suzanne Mendonca, from season two, explained to the New York Post last year that the reason why The Biggest Loser is reluctant to do a show reunion is “because we’re all fat again”.

Eric Ravussin, a professor of human physiology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, published a study on The Biggest Loser in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. His findings help explain why Biggest Loser contestants put back on the weight they lost so quickly.

Ravussin and his team compared 12 people from The Biggest Loser with 12 people who lost similar amounts of weight via gastric bypass surgery. Because of the former’s extreme exercise regimens, the show’s contestants lost less muscle and more fat than the surgery group, but their drop in resting metabolic rate was double that of the gastric bypass group.

In other words, despite all the exercise, the metabolisms of the “biggest losers” crashed hard – much harder than those who lose weight at a gentler pace.

So these poor saps are starved and worked half to death, then they’re sent out into the world with depressed metabolisms and expected to keep the weight off.  Pure insanity.  Way to go, Biggest Loser!

Of course, the average weight-loss “expert” promotes what we could call Biggest Loser Lite: just semi-starve yourself and then spend hours on a treadmill.  Or if you’re a kid, eat your USDA-approved, low-fat, low-calorie school lunch and then Let’s Move!

Jillian Michaels quit the show after a dozen years. She said at the time it was partly because she was being unfairly portrayed as an abusive person. Well, unless the producers had a gun to her head when these scenes were filmed, she was an abusive person:

If you don’t know enough to stop pushing an obese person when he feels dizzy and nauseated, you shouldn’t be a trainer – for anyone. Another incident should have made that clear to the producers long before Michaels quit:

In 2009, contestant Tracey Yukich collapsed after being made to run a mile and had to be airlifted to hospital. It was sold as being heat exhaustion, but Hibbard said her sources reported Yukich suffered from rhabdomyolysis, a serious and potentially fatal condition that can be caused by overexertion.

That’s one good reason to dislike The Biggest Loser. Here’s another:

A 2012 study published in Obesity found that watching a single episode of The Biggest Loser generated significantly higher levels of dislike for people with obesity.

Shame does not encourage weight loss. In fact, it accomplishes the opposite. In a 2013 paper published in PLoS ONE, researchers from Florida State University asserted that not only does stigmatizing obesity lead to poorer mental health outcomes, but the authors stated: “Rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, weight discrimination increases risk for obesity.”

Ya mean fat-shaming people might raise their cortisol levels and trigger even more weight gain? Has anybody informed MeMe Roth?

The Biggest Loser is technically entertainment. But that entertainment comes at a high social cost. Shaming contestants, encouraging dangerous exercise and regimens, promoting nearly impossible weight loss targets leads Dr Freedhoff to the conclusion that “the Biggest Loser is everything that’s wrong with weight loss in America”.

Yup. And yet it still has fans.

Despite the vast amounts of criticism from physicians, obesity researchers and professional trainers, there are still some who praise the show, and say it’s changed their lives. Even the first lady, Michelle Obama, has appeared on it twice.

Great. She’s probably looking for ideas to incorporate into her Healthy, Hunger Free Kids campaign.

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