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Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

Bad Eating Habits Start in the Womb

Posted by tinako on February 5, 2014

Great NY Times article on studies showing the lifelong effects a baby’s diet has: “changing food preferences beyond toddlerhood appears to be extremely difficult.”

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Exercise affects Satiety

Posted by tinako on March 15, 2013

This connection took me completely by surprise.  I have been asking friends and family how they experience satiety, the sense that you’ve had enough to eat, and found there was a wide variation.  One friend says she has never felt satiety, that she always wants more.  A family member tells me that to him satiety is on or off, and that it doesn’t kick in for a while after eating.  My son and I, on the other hand, feel it slowly coming on as we eat – we feel a stretching sensation in our stomachs and know from experience at what point we need to stop or we will feel ill later.  Is the knowing satiety, or is it the ability to stop eating?  There was a time (before I ran) when I would eat myself sick and continue to eat – did I experience satiety or just a stomachache?

I also figured satiety was something people were ignoring, or the call for food was overpowering will. My friends and family are often surprised that food just doesn’t have much of a hold on me.  For this reason I’m rather humble about my ability to maintain my weight – somehow my wiring has made it easy.

A recent article in the New York Times has astonished me.  In The Appetite Workout, two studies are cited opening a window onto a new view of satiety, and it’s all about exercise-induced hormones.  The article is short and well-written, so I won’t summarize it.

But they weren’t measuring people’s sense of how full they were.  They were measuring how much they ate.  In this case, at least, satiety is not the awareness but the action.

By the way, I run, but my son doesn’t, and we’re both normal weight, but at 13 he still has less control over what he eats than I do, since I shop and he is penniless.

Posted in Exercise, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Healthy Food is Cheaper than Junk

Posted by tinako on July 26, 2012

The USDA has an interesting new view of the argument that healthy food is more expensive than junk food: that may often be so calorie for calorie, but how about satiety?

Check out this article, “Healthy Food is a Better Deal than Junk Food

Posted in Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Big Food

Posted by tinako on July 23, 2012

I just listened to a Yale Rudd Center podcast about a new exhibit at the Yale Peabody Museum called “Big Food: Health, Culture, and the Evolution of Eating.”

I’ve asked my city’s science museum to consider hosting this exhibit.  In addition to wanting to see it for myself, I love the idea that area schoolchildren could be exposed to these ideas in a fun way.

Maybe you’d like to see it at your local museum, too.

Posted in Nutrition, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Putting Eating in its Place

Posted by tinako on June 3, 2012

I read an article my dad clipped out of The Wall Street Journal for me, “A Divine Way to Resist Temptation,”which is about how it seems to be easier for people to control what they eat when the restraint is religious-based, such as kosher rules.

We’re not Jewish, and my dad probably recognized that I would appreciate this not from a religious law basis, but from a values perspective.  It is not hard for me to resist eating animal products, because they are so dissonant with who I want to be.  A friend, standing with me in front of a non-vegan dessert display, once told me I must have a lot of willpower.  Her comment took me by surprise because willpower doesn’t enter into it.  These products represent misery and do not appeal to me at all.

This brings me to something I heard in a Buddhist talk.  Gil Fronsdale made the point that sometimes what seems like patience, isn’t.  For someone whose buttons are being pressed, say by a long ticket line, they have to actively be patient, but if their buttons have been deactivated through practice, there is no call for their patience – the wait in line is just not a problem.  And Starbucks desserts don’t press my buttons any more.

Returning to the title of this posting, when we forgo the pleasure of certain foods or accept the boredom of waiting, whether for a higher power, compassion, or just to remind ourselves of the Buddhist concept that waiting in line is a perfectly fine place to be, what we’re doing is taming our sense that we have to have what we want when we want it, being slaves to pleasure of all sorts.  (Do you understand the difference between pleasure and happiness?  This seems like a good explanation.)  One of my favorite parts of my daughter’s choice to become vegan is that she will get lots of practice saying no thanks; I believe this will make her stronger in every aspect of her life.

Veganism was the big push – it was a painful decision, but then I was highly motivated to say no to a lot of food.  Since then I’ve found that every time I decide to reduce another food in my diet, it gets a little easier, counter-intuitive if you consider that with each restriction the pool gets smaller.  But I’m just not that attached to any particular food that much any more – I love my choices and the taste of food, but none of it has hold of me.  What a feeling of liberation, and this from someone who couldn’t have candy or tortilla chips without gorging.  I find this decrease in attachment translates over into other parts of my life as well – I could just as well call this post “Putting Pleasure in its Place.”

So if your habits seem too hard to overcome, try to find a more compelling reason to let them go.

Posted in Buddhism, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Boiling my Garbage

Posted by tinako on March 14, 2012

My husband once told me that he and his friends used to make fun of one of their moms who would freeze her garbage.  This sounded ridiculous until he explained that she was freezing food scraps in a bag so they wouldn’t stink up the trash can, and then would throw them away on trash day.

But I can’t help thinking of this story since I have begun boiling my garbage.  The short story is that I’m making never-ending soup stock.  I’ve just started keeping my smallest pot in the fridge, lid on, and any vegetable trimmings that aren’t spoiled go into it right off the cutting board.  It gets peelings, ends, and even the pulpy centers of peppers, and don’t forget the onion skins.  I typically fill this little pot every day.  When it’s filled, I cover the trimmings with water, simmer an hour, and then let it cool.  I drain it into a plastic container with whatever stock I already had.  The soggy trimmings then complete their detour into the compost bin.  If you’re going to keep adding stock to an existing container, of course you’ll want to make sure to use it all up frequently so you don’t have a mix that’s getting older and older.

The long story: I’m not only doing this to reduce waste and save on purchasing stock, since after all the cooking gas isn’t free.  I’m also doing it to try to cut down on salt.  The bouillon paste I use, Better Than Bouillon, is awfully salty.  Despite my pretty healthy lifestyle, my blood pressure has been climbing for a few years, and I’m consistently in prehypertension now, in the 120’s over whatever.  The word prehypertension sounds like something you don’t need to worry about yet, but a Dummies book I read said it would be better called “lower risk hypertension.”  It’s still hypertension, it still does damage, it still increases risk of heart attack and stroke, just not as much.

After reading the book, I bought an automatic blood pressure monitor and have started tracking some things I think might affect my bp: sleep (snoring husband), exercise, meditation, alcohol/caffeine, and salt.  Too little data to comment yet.  I read that vitamin D deficiency may affect bp, so after several years of failing to bring my D up with vegan D2, I did a 45-day trial with some vegetarian D3.  It certainly brought up my D3 levels, but it didn’t make any difference in my bp, so I’ve returned to the D2.  There are other things that affect bp, such as obesity or lack of fruits/vegetables, but they don’t apply to my situation.

I eliminated most prepared foods, a huge source of sodium, from my diet years ago.  This past few weeks I’ve been able to cut way back on the salt I use in cooking, and while my family often adds salt at the table, I don’t miss it.  I made Lentil Soup last night without salt; I used my stock instead of water and some diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce; I thought it was great.  I’m not planning on being an anti-salt fanatic, especially if it doesn’t turn out to affect my bp readings; but why not adjust my taste buds to a healthier habit?

Posted in Cardiovascular, Disease, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Junk Food – Where do we go from here?

Posted by tinako on November 19, 2011

I read Mark Bittman’s article, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?“, several months ago.  It’s time to blog.

It starts with a comparison of costs and nutrition of three different meals: McDonald’s burgers, fries, and Coke, $27.89; chicken, potatoes, salad (which seemed to be just lettuce with oil dressing), and milk, $13.78; Canned pinto beans, bacon, rice, and milk, $9.26.  There was a brief mention that you could omit the bacon from the last meal and use dry beans, but that idea didn’t get its own cost or nutrition breakdown.  It’s unfortunate that in a discussion of cheap, healthy eating, the cheapest, healthiest meal mentioned didn’t get it’s full shot.

Nutritionally, of course, anything beats McDonald’s.  The chicken had almost three times as much protein (not that most people need more protein), and a lot fewer carbs, probably because of tossing the soda.  The rice, bacon, and beans had a third fewer calories, less than half the fat, a third fewer carbs, and still more protein than McD’s.

I liked Bittman’s point that these meals were calculated with regular supermarket fare, not necessarily the healthiest possible choice anyone could think of (organic brown rice, sweet potatoes, organic heirloom carrots shredded in the salad), because “the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux….The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food.”

Bittman goes on to talk about evidence of addiction to processed food.  I especially liked his term that companies created a “food carnival, and that’s where we live.”  It made me think how I used to go to a fair and think, “Well, as a treat I’m going to have one really awful thing,” and away I’d happily go with my enormous funnel cake or whatever.  But this stuff is everywhere now, in drug stores, office supply stores, school hallways – where can you go that you can’t buy cheap, attractive calories?  Every day is treat day now, every moment an opportunity to splurge.

A few years ago I poked fun at a book review for The Art of Choosing, when the reviewer suggested that perhaps people become vegan to reduce the overwhelming food choices they face.  I laughed at the idea that limiting my choices when I’m out was a benefit of being vegan.  I have been meaning to revisit that post, because while it certainly was not the reason I became vegan, I find I am actually grateful that most of the food carnival is closed to me due to deeply held values.  No amount of advertising or colorful packaging could induce me to eat that McDonald’s meal.  I drive by Dunkin Donuts without even a wistful glance.  Candy bar display?  Pah!  Foods that had a hold over me, habits I seemed unable to break, all gone.  I walk easily, whistling, through this food carnival.

Bittman finishes his article with the challenge that we must begin to tear down the carnival, a difficult task with companies shouting “Nanny State” any time someone tries to undo the manipulative environment they have so carefully assembled.  But we did it with tobacco, and we can do it with food.  Bittman says we will need both cultural and political change, and sums them up:

The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.

Political action would mean agitating to limit the marketing of junk; forcing its makers to pay the true costs of production; recognizing that advertising for fast food is not the exercise of free speech but behavior manipulation of addictive substances; and making certain that real food is affordable and available to everyone. The political challenge is the more difficult one, but it cannot be ignored.

For the first time in 200 years, our children are expected to live shorter lives than their parents due largely to the food carnival we call the United States.  We need, desperately, to get past the dismissive nanny state argument so we can consider legislation on its own merits, and decide what kind of food culture, and ultimately, health, we want to pass to our children.

Posted in Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Things Fat People Are Told

Posted by tinako on May 26, 2011

I follow the Yale Rudd Center podcasts, and today I heard an interview with Dr. Samantha Thomas,which was about her research into fat stigma’s effects on overweight people, and how negative anti-obesity public health messages are often counterproductive.

She said from talking to obese individuals she found there were three main types of fat stigmas:

  1. Direct Stigma: Someone yelling at a fat pedestrian from a car.  Ridiculing a fat person in a pool.
  2. Environmental Stigma: Chairs too small, having to pay for two seats on an airplane, being weighed in the doctor’s waiting room.
  3. Insidious Stigma (I think that is the word she said): Self-consciousness of overweight person, assuming others are judging, for instance, contents of grocery cart when shopping.

She said the last stigma has the most impact on people, their health and well-being, but it was the combination of the three that was preventing people from engaging in activities such as social relationships or employment opportunities.  I was very moved in listening to her examples, and in considering what it must be like to be subject to this every day.

As I listened to this podcast and followed up by looking around Dr. Thomas’ blog, I was struck that many people would probably argue (and indeed do in the comments sections) that fat people should feel bad, that it will motivate them to fix their problem, and that obesity is a costly, unacceptable problem that we should not be tolerating.  Let’s restate that: we’re doing fat people a favor by ridiculing them.  Oooh, that doesn’t sound as noble, and as Kelly Brownell has said many times, how is that working for us?  How has shaming and blaming the obese, playing the personal responsibility card, worked to reduce obesity?  Turns out it hasn’t.

Let’s relegate the pillory and the stocks to the past and instead support people.  Fat bias is on the increase, and if we can agree that it is not helpful either for the victims or for the bullies, maybe we should think before we speak and also stand up against it, the same way we would speak out if we heard racial slurs shouted on our streets.

Curious about what you hear when you’re overweight?  Here’s an eye-opening sampling of Things Fat People Are Told.  For more on what it’s like to be obese, read Living Large.  For more on obesity in general see my Nutrition category.

Posted in Nutrition | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »