Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Yeah, yeah, I know I’m supposed to be on vacation.  But this article in the Amarillo Globe-News came to my attention when I checked emails and such after landing in Fort Lauderdale:

Chris Hayes and his wife Michelle watched a documentary online nearly two years ago called “Fathead.” And while hard to describe, they said something just clicked after watching the 104-minute film.

“People call it different things, but you wake up and have one of those ‘eureka moments,’” Chris Hayes said. “You see something you identify with, and something just made us want to do this.”

“Fathead” was a rebuttal to the highly popular “Super Size Me,” in which a man ate at McDonald’s three times a day for 30 days, gained 24 pounds and looked horrible.

In “Fathead,” Tom Naughton went on an all-fast-food diet for a month, but kept it at 100 grams of carbohydrates a day. The result? A loss of 12 pounds and lower cholesterol.

Let me tell you, that ain’t nothing.

Approaching the two-year anniversary of their low-carb diets, Chris Hayes, the IT director at the Amarillo Globe-News, and his wife have combined to lose the equivalent of an NFL linebacker.

They have lost 232 pounds — 137 pounds for Chris and 95 for Michelle.

Nice plug, eh?  You can read the rest of the article online.

We now return to our regularly scheduled vacation …


Comments 10 Comments »

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

PETA wants our kids to get cancer!

Okay, just kidding with that headline. Now and then it’s fun to act like a True Believer vegan and accuse those who don’t agree with me of being horrible, horrible people – you know, the weenie mentality I described in the previous two posts.

Anyway, check out this article from the U.K. Telegraph:

Long term vegetarianism can lead to genetic mutations which raise the risk of heart disease and cancer, scientists have found.

No, no, no! Vegetarians don’t die of heart disease or cancer! Just ask them. (Or don’t … there’s a good chance they’ll tell you anyway.)

Populations who have had a primarily vegetarian diet for generations were found to be far more likely to carry DNA which makes them susceptible to inflammation.

Scientists in the US believe that the mutation occurred to make it easier for vegetarians to absorb essential fatty acids from plants. But it has the knock-on effect of boosting the production of arachidonic acid, which is known to increase inflammatory disease and cancer. When coupled with a diet high in vegetable oils – such as sunflower oil – the mutated gene quickly turns fatty acids into dangerous arachidonic acid.

So PETA wants you to follow a diet that will give your kids and grandkids cancer. Or something like that.

The finding may help explain previous research which found vegetarian populations are nearly 40 per cent more likely to suffer colorectal cancer than meat eaters, a finding that has puzzled doctors because eating red meat is known to raise the risk.

I see. So eating meat raises your risk of colorectal cancer, but vegetarian populations are nearly 40 percent more likely to suffer colorectal cancer. So that means … uh … uh … something.

Researchers from Cornell University in the US compared hundreds of genomes from a primarily vegetarian population in Pune, India to traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found there was a significant genetic difference.

“Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids,” said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell.

“In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer.

Okay, now I’ve got it: if you’re a vegetarian living in India and come from a long line of vegetarians, you need to move to Kansas. I knew there had to be a logical conclusion in there somewhere.

You can read more of the article, but I’d put this one in the “so what?” category … even though it would be fun to wave it in the face of the next vegan zealot who shows up here predicting my demise from colon cancer.

Sunbathing will extend your life and perhaps also kill you

More fun with observational studies … take a look at this article from Shape Magazine: (If you’re in the sun, you may want to put on your sunglasses first.)

You’ve made it a point to regularly choose the shade over the sun (right?!). Well, new research from the Journal of Internal Medicine challenges the whole “avoid the sun like the plague” thing.

According to the study, women who regularly sunbathed had lower mortality rates than those who tried to stay out of the sun. They also had a lower risk of developing heart disease and dying of non-cancer and non-cardiovascular-related causes than the shade seekers.

They were also linked to more boyfriends because of their nice tans.

The researchers, who followed nearly 30,000 Swedish women for 20 years, determined the sun avoiders reduced their lifespan by .6 to 2.1 years.

I wonder if those 30,000 Swedish women got tired of researchers following them around for 20 years. I’m thinking by around year 18, some of them were yelling, “Hey! Piss off and leave me alone! I’m trying to get a tan here!” (I’ll ask Dr. Eenfeldt to translate that into Swedish when I see him on the cruise.)

Researchers even went so far as to conclude that avoiding the sun is just as bad as smoking since nonsmokers who stayed in the shade had a lifespan similar to smokers in the sun-loving group. Cue confusion.

“Hey! Piss off and leave me alone! I’m trying to enjoy a smoke and get a tan! Go follow that pale-skinned lady around for a change!”

Not everyone’s on board with the study’s findings. “They could have dangerous repercussions,” says Stuart Spitalnic, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at Brown University School of Medicine. The results may be skewed since women who sunbathe likely come from the upper class, which is a group that tends to be healthier to begin with, he says. “You could then make a case that sunbathing perhaps shortens the life of sunbathers compared to similar people who avoid the sun.”

Yes, of course. You can speculate every which way, because it’s an observational study. We don’t know why the Sunbathing Swedish Stewardess—er, Swedish women had longer lifespans. (Sorry, I had a brief flashback to drive-in movies from my high-school days.) Could be they got more vitamin D. Could be that women who are lean and fit are more likely to go sunbathing because they look good in a swimsuit – and also live longer because they’re lean and fit.  Could be the upper-class connection the good doctor mentioned. There’s no way of determining cause and effect.

But I wish doctors and researchers would be consistent in their opinion of observational studies. Because I have a feeling if the sunbathing women died younger, we’d be hearing all about how getting a tan will kill you – an idea the doctor floated even though the sunbathers had longer lifespans.

Finally, a health magazine I like

While sitting in my chiropractor’s waiting room some weeks ago, I thumbed through his magazine collection. Usually the magazines in medical offices just annoy the bejezus out of me. Article after article (placed strategically opposite the ads for Weight Watchers meals and various drugs) proclaiming the wonders of whole grains and low-fat diets, stuff like that.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading articles in a magazine called Experience L!fe. The focus was all on real foods, good sleep, quality exercise, meditation, etc. I wasn’t in the waiting room long enough to read the whole thing, so I asked the receptionist if I could pull out the subscription card and take it with me. Sure, she said.

Here are some article titles from the issue sitting on my desk:

The Cortisol Curve
Rebuild Your Back
How to Measure Your Resting Heart Rate
Resistant Starch for a Healthy Gut

Here’s a bit of advice from the article on cortisol:

A low-carb diet can support weight loss, but it’s not idea for those with disrupted cortisol. In a 2014 clinical trial, subjects with cortisol issues were able to reset their curves by eating low-carb breakfasts, moderate amounts of health carbs in the afternoon, and higher amounts of healthy carbs (think sweet potatoes, not bread of pasta) in the evening.

Endocrinologist Alan Christianson, NMD, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet, directed the trial. He now prescribes carb cycling to his patients who are dealing with any type of cortisol disruption.

Lots of good stuff in the issue – and not one ad for Weight Watchers or Healthy Whole Grains!

Just thought I’d mention it in case any of you still enjoy the feel of an actual magazine in your hands, as I do.  Seems well worth $21 per year.

Serve the food we tell you to serve – or else!

Recommending good magazines, books, blogs and other educational material is one way to change people’s eating habits. Now here’s the government method:

The federal government is taking steps to fine schools that do not comply with first lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama.

The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains.

We are The Anointed. We know what’s best for you. Bow before us and obey.

A West Virginia preschool teacher was threatened with fines for violating the rules by rewarding her students with candy for good behavior in June 2015. The teacher ultimately did not have to pay, but the school had to develop a “corrective action plan” with training on the policies.

I don’t like seeing teachers reward kids with candy. But the proper response is to explain to her why it’s a bad idea … or just explain to your kids why they shouldn’t eat the candy. Or just let your kids eat the candy on rare occasions and serve them real food at home.

The government now seeks to make fines enforceable by regulation. Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs.

The fines would be the latest consequence of the healthy eating law that Mrs. Obama lobbied for in 2010. More than 1.4 million students have left the lunch line since the rules went into effect, as students have complained of small portions and unappetizing fare. The standards have been blamed for cafeteria workers losing their jobs, and some kids have even resorted to creating black markets for salt to add flavor.

We The Anointed commanded you to serve kids tasteless, low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie foods. Millions of your rebellious offspring responded by refusing to buy school lunches .. so YOU, YOU WORTHLESS PEONS, responded by trying to break our commandments. We The Anointed do not tolerate peons making their own decisions. You will submit. You will obey. We know what’s best for your children.

The Food and Nutrition Service is targeting schools that refuse to comply with Mrs. Obama’s lunch rules and said monetary penalties are a “useful tool” to get noncompliant cafeterias in line.

I’m afraid the federal officials have confused useful tool with useful idiot.

So let’s see … there’s no good scientific evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease or obesity, yet the USDA is mandating low-fat meals in schools.  There’s no good scientific evidence that salt causes health problems — in fact, a study commissioned by the CDC concluded that low-salt diets may be dangerous — but the USDA is mandating low-salt lunches.  Studies show that kids who drink skim milk are no leaner or healthier than kids who drink whole milk, yet the USDA mandates skim milk … but allows sugar in the skim milk, in spite of all the scientific evidence that sugar is bad for kids, from their teeth on down.  And now schools that refuse to comply with USDA commandments will be fined.

Well, at least the people imposing and enforcing all this unscientific nonsense don’t belong to what one reader insists is the “anti-science” party.

But I’ll stop now before I commit a microaggression.


Comments 46 Comments »

Items from my inbox and elsewhere …

It’s @#$%ing Daylight Saving Time Already?!!

I was re-watching an episode of Breaking Bad at what I thought was almost 2:00 AM on Sunday when the cable box suddenly displayed 3:00 AM.

What the … ??

@#$%!!  It’s not even halfway through March, but we’re already switching to the godawful “summer” time known as Daylight Saving Time. Just what a natural night-person like me needs: to be forced to get up and hour earlier because some lamebrains believe setting the clock forward somehow creates more daylight.

Here’s my reply to everyone who wants that “extra” hour of sunshine: go ahead and wake up an hour earlier.  We won’t stop you. Just leave the rest of us out of it.  I don’t want to attend a 9:00 meeting at the office when my body knows good and well it’s actually 8:00.  At the very least, save the saving of daylight for summer.

I was pretty sure we didn’t do this “saving” nonsense for a majority of the year when I was a kid. So out of curiosity, I looked it up. Turns out DST was imposed during both world wars on the theory that it would save energy. (Economists who have studied the matter say it does no such thing.) Some states continued their own version of DST, but the national DST was abandoned after both wars. Then it was raised from the dead in the 1960s at the behest of the transportation industry, which wanted standardized time zones and times to ease scheduling issues.

But even in the 1960s, we were only on DST from May through October. DST was expanded by a month in the 1980s and by another month in 2007. So now we’re on that wunnerful, wunnerful “summer” schedule for eight months of the year.

Well, I’m using this as further motivation to sell a million copies of the book. When I’m not working in an office for a living, I’ll just pretend DST doesn’t exist. I’ll sleep until I wake up, then show up for appointments an hour late and say, “Oh, sorry, I refuse to pretend that 10:00 AM is actually 11:00 AM for eight months of the year.”

In the meantime, this clip from Last Week Tonight sums up DST quite nicely:

The Fat Head classroom

As you may or may not know, free versions of Fat Head disappeared last year from various online vendors as the contracts expired. A teacher who had been showing the film in health class wrote to ask where the film was available now. So I donated a copy to her school. I received this in an email later:

I’m not sure how teachers get away with showing a film that says the USDA’s dietary recommendations are wrong, but I’m glad they do.

A paleo fix for diabetes

Remember that recent mouse study that (ahem-ahem) demonstrated how awful the paleo diet is? You know, the study led by the president of the Australian Diabetes Society, which receives shootloads of money from Big Food? This case study suggests an opposite conclusion:

A Hungarian study reports that a nine-year-old boy who was newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes achieved normal blood sugar levels, and came off insulin by following the Paleolithic ketogenic diet.

The child had been on insulin therapy for six weeks, alongside a high-carbohydrate diet. His blood glucose levels had fluctuated to a large degree, according to researchers at the University of Pécs.

The researchers put the child on a modified version of the ketogenic diet known as the Paleolithic ketogenic diet. This consisted only of animal meat, fat, offals and eggs with a fat:protein ratio of roughly 2:1.

The child had three meals a day and ketosis was regularly monitored using ketone strips. The researchers observed sustained ketosis – which is when the body has a high fat-burning rate – but the child had normal blood sugar levels before and after meals. His insulin therapy was discontinued.

The child’s blood glucose levels were significantly lower during the Paleolithic ketogenic diet compared to his six weeks of insulin therapy. The episodes of hypoglycemia he experienced on insulin therapy were not presented while on the diet.

Good thing the kid isn’t a mouse who eats a “paleo” diet of casein, canola oil and sugar.

Mandatory salt warnings upheld

After mandatory calorie counts on menus failed to change what people order in restaurants, naturally The Anointed decided salt warnings will work. The restaurant industry tried to block the new salt-warning law but failed:

A New York judge on Wednesday shot down a challenge by a restaurant trade group and upheld a city rule requiring many chain eateries to post warnings on menu items that are high in sodium.

The rule, believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, mandates restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide to post a salt shaker encased in a black triangle as a warning symbol next to menu items with more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the daily limit recommended by many nutritionists.

Let’s see, 2300 milligrams … that would be the limit a government-funded study concluded might actually be dangerously low for many people. No matter. The Anointed in New York have decided you need to be warned.

“This is really good news for the health of New Yorkers,” Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, said outside the courthouse.

Well, gosh, yes. Because as The Anointed have decided, what will happen is this:

  • New Yorker sees salt warning.
  • New Yorker is appalled and orders less-salty meal.
  • New Yorker avoids a heart attack by eating less-salty meals in restaurants.

I mean, they JUST KNOW that’s how it will play out.

“Information is power,” Justice Eileen Rakower of New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan said in a ruling from the bench. Unlike the city’s unsuccessful large-soda ban, she said, the rule did not restrict the use of sodium.

New York City adopted the rule, which took effect in December, to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

So the evidence that restricting salt (assuming anyone actually consumes less salt because of a menu warning) must be really strong.  I mean, it’s not as if The Anointed ever push through a Grand Plan without carefully considering the evidence …

No scientific consensus on salt

Here’s what an article in Medical News Today says about the science of salt and health:

An analysis of scientific reports and comments on the health effects of a salty diet reveals a polarization between those supportive of the hypothesis that population-wide reduction of salt intake is associated with better health and those that were not. In all, 54 percent were supportive of the hypothesis; 33 percent, not supportive; and 13 percent inconclusive.

The new article in the International Journal of Epidemiology is co-authored by Ludovic Trinquart, Columbia University Epidemiology Merit Fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health; David Johns, a doctoral student in Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health and an affiliate of the Data & Society Research Institute; and Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health and adjunct professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School.

Just over half of the reports say restricting salt would be beneficial. I guess the weight of the evidence tips towards restricting salt, eh? Not so fast.

“There are two almost distinct bodies of scholarship–one supporting and one opposing the claim that salt reduction in populations will improve clinical outcomes,” says Johns. “Each is driven by a few prolific authors who tend to cite other researchers who share their point of view, with little apparent collaboration between the two ‘sides.’”

“We pay quite a bit of attention to financial bias in our work,” says Galea. “We seldom pay attention, however, to how long-held beliefs bias the questions we ask and the results we publish, even as new data become available.”

long-held beliefs bias the questions we ask and the results we publish … Yup, just like all that (ahem) evidence that saturated fat and cholesterol will clog your arteries.

Even while the scientific debate over salt continues, public health officials, from the local to the global level, have enacted policies to lower consumption. World Health Organization guidelines recommend limiting salt intake. In December 2015, New York City became the first U.S. city to require chain restaurants to label foods high in sodium.

“Decision-makers often must choose a course of action in the face of conflicting, uncertain evidence,” says Trinquart.

Uh … no. Decision-makers don’t have to choose a course of action. When the evidence is all over the place, decision-makers can simply choose to do nothing. That would be the correct course of action.

But of course, that’s not how The Anointed operate. They’re often wrong, but that never shakes their self-confidence or dissuades them from imposing the next Grand Plan.

Restaurants listening to consumer demand

Here’s the no-coercion-required way to get restaurants to change what they sell: change what you’re willing to buy. We’re already seeing that in grocery-store chains, as they respond to the consumer demand for less-processed foods. Restaurants are responding to the same trend:

The movement toward real ingredients and clean labels has reshaped the restaurant world in the last year. A growing number of consumers are demanding quality, healthfulness and transparency in food.

“It is very strong right now, and when you look at consumer insights about the younger generation, you sense that it is not going to change,” says Trip Kadey, director of culinary for The French’s Food Company.

In fact, 25 percent of consumers say they have switched to healthier meat and poultry products within the last year, according to Packaged Facts research. More than 30 percent of consumers are cautious about serving foods with preservatives, up from 24 percent ten years ago, reports The NPD Group. And when the National Restaurant Association polled chefs for its What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast, natural ingredients/minimally processed foods ranked as a top five trend.

The time is now for operators to take action on these issues—it’s a golden opportunity to impress consumers who could be patrons for decades to come.

“There are 13-year-old kids who are actual food activists,” says Kadey. “They are really driving demand for clean and better-for-you food.”

See how that works? You express your preferences, vote with your dollars, and the people who produce and sell food conclude it’s in their best interest to listen. No new laws, no government coercion, and no Grand Plans required.



Comments 81 Comments »

Interesting items from my inbox, real life, and elsewhere …

Snake Handler, Part Two

Chareva walked into my office at home yesterday and told me there was a snake in her bedroom closet, and she didn’t feel like being brave about it. (You probably recall what happened last time, when she was brave about it.)

So I strapped on my six-shooters and prepared to go rescue my lady from distress, like a good cowboy. Well, okay, I actually grabbed a snake-catching contraption Chareva’s mom had sent to us after the last incident. Either way, I was ready to demonstrate my manliness by man-handling a huge, slithering snake.

Jeez, what a disappointment:

Chareva handles the big snake and gets on national TV as a result, while I get to toss out a glorified worm.  Sheesh.

FitBit Not Fit

I guess there’s a reason people are upset enough with FitBit to sue.  Mine seemed to work well at first — I checked it against my actual pulse and the reading was accurate.  Then it didn’t work so well.  I’d be working out, and according to my FitBit, my pulse would drop from 119 to 66 in mere seconds.  Or I’d tap the screen for a reading and get nothing at all on the heart monitor.  Then the clock started showing 15 minutes behind real time, even after I synced it to a PC that showed the correct time.

So I sent it back.  I’m now sporting a Garmin Forerunner 225, which appears to be accurate — no sudden drop in pulse rate while riding the bike, and I don’t have to tap the face for a reading.  I also like the larger display.  It costs twice as much as a FitBit, but apparently this is a case of you get what you pay for.

Tom Brady’s “Bizarre” Diet

New England quarterback Tom Brady has played in six Super Bowls and won four of them. He may be on his way to another, although I’m hoping Peyton Manning gets another shot this year instead of Brady.

Anyway, a CBS Sports article appeared recently describing what Brady (still at the top of his game at age 38) eats:

On Monday, Brady’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, gave us all a glimpse into Brady’s healthy lifestyle.

“No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. … I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt.

[Tom] doesn’t eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. So no tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants. Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month. I’m very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation.

What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy.

The kids eat fruit. Tom, not so much. He will eat bananas in a smoothie. But otherwise, he prefers not to eat fruits.”

A little later in the interview, Campbell also noted that they “stick to gluten free for everything.”

So then, what does Brady eat? The answer appears to be vegetables and lean meat.

“So, 80 percent of what they eat is vegetables. [I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.”

Hmmm … no sugar, no white flour, no diary, no MSG, and the chef only cooks with coconut oil. No canola oil. Easy on the fruit. Gluten free. Lots of organic vegetables, plus grass-fed steak.

Yeah, that’s bizarre, all right. Hasn’t Brady’s chef heard about the newest USDA Dietary Guidelines? They’re “science-based” ya see, so I think Brady should follow them.

Then again, I did mention I want Manning to win the AFC championship game on Sunday.

Glenn Fry is Already Gone

Man, I loved the Eagles when I was a teen. I still listen to them frequently. When I was in a band, we played several of their songs in our set. There were four us, we all enjoyed singing, so we gravitated towards songs with vocal harmonies. Can’t get much better than the Eagles for songs with lovely harmonies.

Along with millions of other fans, I was so sorry to learn that Glenn Fry, one of the band’s founders and songwriters, died this week at age 67. May he rest with a Peaceful Easy Feeling.

I don’t know what Glenn Fry ate, but according to his manager, the drugs he took for rheumatoid arthritis probably contributed to his death:

Eagles singer Glenn Frey’s death is being blamed partly on the drugs he took to combat rheumatoid arthritis: While used to treat thousands of American sufferers, the medicine can leave them vulnerable to serious infections, experts say.

Many of the medications that treat the autoimmune disease, which affects around 1.3 million Americans, come with a slew of possible side effects, from heart failure to tuberculosis.

That’s because some of the most effective treatments, known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), work to suppress patients’ overactive immune systems, which can make them vulnerable to infection.

Frey died Monday at age 67 from pneumonia and colitis, as well as the long-lasting effects of the arthritis on his body, his manager, Irving Azoff, told the website The Wrap.

Azoff added that the pneumonia he contracted was a side effect “from all the meds.”

Like I said, I don’t know what Glenn Fry ate. But I will mention that Loren Cordain was once quoted in a WebMD article as saying he believes cereal grains may trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Some months ago, Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis posted about a woman whose rheumatoid arthritis diminished when she went wheat-free:

Carol is thinner, yes, but has also reversed the autoimmune damage to joints. This happens because she has removed the initial trigger for autoimmunity, the gliadin protein of wheat. She has also removed the abnormally increased intestinal permeability permitted by the gliadin that allows bacterial components such as lipopolysaccharide to enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation. She has also removed the exceptionally inflammatory protein, wheat germ agglutinin. It all adds up to dramatic reversal of autoimmune inflammation.

Sticking to a wheat-free or paleo or “bizarre” Brady diet isn’t just about avoiding illnesses. It’s also about avoiding the nasty drugs used to treat the illnesses.

And speaking of bizarre diets …

The “Power of the Vegan Voice” goes after a burger restaurant

Q: How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: That’s NOT FUNNY, you @#$%ing MURDERER!!

In case you need more proof that vegans are by a large a humorless lot, check out this article on a U.K. vegan website:

Our message of compassion goes a long way, especially when heard in large numbers. Gourmet Burger Kitchen found this out the hard way over the weekend, when complaints came flooding in for their latest ad campaign, forcing them to backtrack and pull the ads after just two days.

One of GBK’s three ads seen across London showed a picture of a young cow together with the caption: ‘They eat grass so you don’t have to.’ Another read: ‘You always remember the time you gave up being vegetarian’, with a third depicting one of their burgers, with the caption ‘Vegetarians, resistance is futile’.

Now, if you choose not to eat meat but your body still contains a funny bone, you respond to those ads by chuckling and getting on with your meatless life.  Heck, I laughed out loud at this ad and didn’t feel the last bit insulted or threatened:

I didn’t feel threatened because I have a sense of humor. Not so in the case of our vegan pals:

GBK were inundated with complaints, as were the Advertising Standards Agency. The burger chain was accused, among other things, of picking on a minority group. Indeed, they appeared to be as unaware of the legal status of Veganism as a protected belief under equality laws as they were about the size and strength of the vegan community.

Picking on a minority group … a protected belief under equality laws.

Yeah, because if you poke fun at vegans in an ad, that’s just like refusing to allow African-Americans into the local public school, doncha know.

Good grief, the weenification campaign is apparently world-wide.  Millions of people are now convinced that if they’re offended, Something Very Very Bad has happened to them, and it must be stopped.

We’ve got college students demanding a “safe space” where no one is allowed to disagree with their beliefs (no matter how illogical), students demanding “trigger warnings” about books containing words or passages that may offend them, and there’s even a movement in some loony-leftie circles to repeal the First Amendment because …well, you know, it allows people to say things that other people find offensive!

Time to change the saying we used to teach kids:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will send me running to a therapist with deep psychological wounds that need healing … because I’m a weenie.

Here’s the problem with all these campaigns to stamp out “offensive” books, ads, speeches, or whatever: who exactly gets to decide what is or isn’t “offensive”? Why, the weenies themselves, of course.

After demanding an ad campaign they found offensive be yanked, the vegans replied with an ad of their own … which I’m sure some people would find offensive:

Since I’m not a weenie and have a sense of humor, I would never demand they take it down from their site. The right to speak must by definition include the right to say things others find offensive — after all, speech that offends no one doesn’t need protecting.  So for a reply, I had the Photoshop wiz I married put together an ad of our own:

Enjoy your weekend. Looks like we’ll be snowed in temporarily in Tennessee, so I expect I may have to remove more snakes looking for a warm place to sleep.


Comments 92 Comments »

It just so happens that some videos caught my attention, so I thought I’d share.  The first one is a TedEd video about simple and complex carbohydrates created by Dr. Richard Wood, director of the Center for Wellness Education and Research at Springfield College in Massachusetts.  (In my speech on diet and the Wisdom of Crowds, he’s the guy introducing me.)

Very nice.  Short and sweet — pardon the pun.

The second is part of an interview Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt conducted with me on last year’s cruise.  As I’ve mentioned before, Dr. Eenfeldt is now dedicated to educating people about diet and health full-time.  He closed his medical practice and has a production team cranking out lots of excellent material.

You can watch the video here.  If you join Dr. Eenfeldt’s site, you’ll also have access to all the videos and materials his team produces, including the full version of our interview.

The last video didn’t exactly catch my attention, because I created it.  At the end of each year, I put together a family DVD.  This is the video that shows our big spring project and trying to rustle the hogs.


Comments 25 Comments »

You’ve pretty much got to like a book when one of the main pieces of advice it offers is to slow down. Of course, that assumes you need to slow down – perhaps not a problem for most of us. If you’re already inert, you’d have to take up cycling or jogging and go too fast before “slow down!” would apply.

But slowing down is exactly what some people need to do. I’ve recounted this story again, but it bears repeating: on one of the low-carb cruises, a woman complained to Fred Hahn that she was overweight despite getting up at the crack of dawn several days per week to go running for an hour. Fred explained that she was exercising too much and sleeping too little. As a result, she was almost certainly cranking out stress hormones, and stress hormones can make us fat.

“But what should I do to lose weight if I don’t go running?” she asked.

“Take a nap!” Fred replied.

I could see the resistance in her expression.  This can’t be right.  Dangit, if you’re willing to wake up at dawn and horsewhip yourself into running for an hour before heading off to a full-time job, there ought to be a reward. It’s only fair.

But our bodies don’t operate on fairness. They operate on biochemistry, and the lack of sleep and chronic over-training were creating a biochemical mess for the devoted runner. Fortunately, she eventually learned the lesson. Several months after the cruise, she wrote a thank-you note on Facebook, telling Fred she adopted his advice and cut back on running to get more sleep … and lost 20 pounds.

Now, I don’t know how many frustrated dieters are out there running too hard and too often. My guess is not very many – partly because so many of us have already been there, done that, and found it didn’t work. While going through some old VHS tapes awhile back, I found one that showed me returning from one of my regular jogging sessions – and I was quite noticeably fat.

My diet was crap in those days (although of course I thought all that whole-grain pasta with low-fat sauce was good for me), so that was certainly a big part of the problem. But I’m also pretty sure I was running myself straight into what Mark Sisson calls the Black Hole in his latest book.

The book is titled Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast! Sisson co-wrote the book with Brad Kearns, who was a champion triathlete back in the day. Sisson, as you probably know, was also a champion runner and triathlete in his youth. Back then, he carb-loaded before races and over-trained. The health problems he experienced as a result prompted him to do the research that led to Mark’s Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint (still one of the best all-around books on diet and health).

Primal Endurance opens with a nice summary titled 115 Things You Need to Know. It’s essentially most of the advice in the book, boiled down into short paragraphs. The introduction also explains why this book is necessary: too many people trying to get fit are going about it the wrong way, using training methods that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst. In other words, they’re pushing themselves into the Black Hole.

The what? What’s a Black Hole?

Glad you asked. Chapter One is titled Slow Down!, and it explains what the Black Hole is and why you need to avoid it. In a nutshell, the Black Hole is the zone between a proper aerobic workout that burns mostly fat and a high-intensity workout that burns mostly glucose. A brief high-intensity workout is fine – in fact, it’s beneficial. A long aerobic workout is also beneficial. But if you push that aerobic workout too hard and for too long, it’s no longer truly aerobic, and your body has to start cranking out glucose — and to do that, it has to raise your stress hormones. That’s where the trouble begins. To quote from the book:

A chronic approach will lead to poor competitive performance, lingering fatigue, suppressed immune function, persistent stiffness and soreness, increased injury risk, failed weight-loss efforts, and finally – when your fight-or-flight resources become exhausted from chronic stimulation – burnout.

And later:

Metabolically, chronic cardio workouts are slightly too strenuous to emphasize fat as a fuel source, and instead emphasize glucose burning. While this makes the workout more difficult and generates more fatigue and sugar cravings right afterward, the truly damaging effects of chronic workout patterns occur around the clock.

… If your goal is to perform well in endurance events, get leaner, be healthier, and delay the aging process, it’s quite possible that your training sessions are promoting the exact opposite results of your goals.

A lot of us have already heard about the detrimental effects of chronic cardio, so we don’t do cardio workouts at all. No jogging, no aerobics, no Zumba classes, etc. We do slow-burn workouts with weights and let it go at that.

Heh-heh-heh … turns out that’s another one of those beliefs that needs some re-visiting. According to Sisson and Kearns, aerobic exercise is great for health and fitness – in fact, it should form the base of your exercise program – but you have to do it correctly. You have to stay out of the Black Hole. That’s where the “Slow Down!” advice comes in.

Avoiding the Black Hole is actually simple, at least if you have a reliable way of checking your heart rate during exercise. You simply subtract your age from 180 to find your target heart rate. (There are suggestions in the book for adjusting the rate depending on other factors). Then you exercise at a pace that gets you near but not above the target rate.

Sisson and Kearns emphasize several times that you absolutely must monitor your heart rate if you want to avoid the Black Hole. You can’t just rely on how you feel.

You may still feel quite comfortable as you extend your effort well beyond aerobic maximum heart rate. Psychologically, you might even gain a greater sense of satisfaction that you are actually “getting a workout” because of your slightly labored breathing pattern, elevated perspiration, and elevated perceived exertion in the brain…. The black hole has been confirmed by numerous studies as the default landing area for people relying solely upon perceived exertion to govern intensity level.

I can attest to that. Before I even finished the book, I wanted to see what a proper aerobic workout feels like. After some research into various heart monitors, I ended up getting a Fitbit. I like it because if I double-tap the face, it displays my heart rate. (That requires choosing a particular setting in the software interface, by the way.)

So with the Fitbit on my wrist, I got on Chareva’s new bike and began peddling with a fair amount of resistance. A minute or so in, my heart rate was still below 100. Geez, I thought, my legs are working kinda hard here. I don’t know if I can keep this up for 30 minutes.

Then my heart rate began to climb. And climb. And climb. Next thing I knew, it was above 140. I had to slow down, then choose an easier gear with less resistance, then slow down again. I finally found a pace that kept my heart rate right around 120 – and yes, I had to pedal slower than I would have guessed.  Once I settled into the correct zone, it was an easy workout.

So why bother with aerobic workouts at all? The book names several benefits, but perhaps the biggest is triggering the process of building new mitochondria.

Exercise not only increases the size and number of mitochondria, but also makes them more efficient by increasing the number of oxidative enzymes found in mitochondria. These enzymes improve metabolic function of your skeletal muscles, boosting fat and carbohydrate breakdown for fuel, and speeding energy formation from ATP.

To reap all the benefits from proper aerobic exercise, however, we also have to burn the right fuels. Chapter Three is titled The Primal Blueprint Eating Strategy, and if you’ve read any of Sisson’s previous work, you can pretty much guess what kind of diet he recommends.

There are also chapters on adding strength training and sprints to the exercise program, although Sisson and Kearns urge the reader to spend a few weeks building an aerobic base first.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to start (or retool) an exercise program, this is an excellent guide to doing it right. Sisson’s books are popular largely because of the solid information he provides, but also because he’s a gifted writer who explains things simply and clearly. Primal Endurance, like his other books, passes what I call my Aunt Martha Test: if you gave a copy to your Aunt Martha, she could read it and understand it all without becoming confused or running for a medical dictionary.

As I explained in my previous post, this book happened to come along right when I decided I need to do more than just lift weights during the winter months. I’ve barely started the program, so I can’t yet say if it’s making a difference. I’ll give it few months and write a follow-up.

I hope the results are very good indeed … because if slowing down is what makes aerobic exercise actually beneficial, that would be welcome news to the millions of people who hop on treadmills in January and give up by April when it’s clear the rewards don’t match the effort.


Comments 41 Comments »