Sugar is Toxic

When I was a kid, back in the dark ages of diet books I remember one book that say on my parents living room shelf entitled “A calorie is just a calorie.”  But that 1960’s way of looking at calories has changed dramatically and the whole premise of that book is wrong.


Today New York Times Food columnist Mark Bittman finally reported the proof exists of what he has been preaching for years; Sugar is toxic.  At last a big overwhelming conclusive study was done that confirms that “increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity.”


Bittman goes on to write that this study published in the journal of PLosOne likens the connection of sugar to diabetes is as big a smoking gun as tobacco is to cancers. “Perhaps most important, as a number of scientists have been insisting in recent years, all calories are not created equal. By definition, all calories give off the same amount of energy when burned, but your body treats sugar calories differently, and that difference is damaging.”


So sugar is not just fattening, but bad for you in a killer type of way.  No kidding.  I wonder if now there is going to be some distinction made between fat people, those who are just fat and those who are fat due to eating sugar.  According to this study, skinny people can also have metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions – increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excessive body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  “Metabolic syndrome is a result of insulin resistance, which appears to be a direct result of consumption of added sugars,” writes endocrinologist Rob Lustig, one of the authors of this study.


Since cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) cause 30% of all deaths and sugar consumption is a strong tie to CVDs do yourself a favor and try and cut down on your sugar consumption no matter how skinny you are.  Apparently “Death by Chocolate” could actually be on your death certificate if you are not careful.

Head Up, Shoulders Down

Which came first, a person with a very long neck and then the desire to be a ballerina or a person doing ballet and then a very long neck?  Of all athletes I always think of ballerinas as having the most beautiful necks and shoulders.


I had a very short lived and doomed ballet career.  In the fourth grade I spent one tortuous hour every Saturday morning at Mrs. Kruger’s ballet school.  Mrs. Kruger was an old, mean Russian woman who ran ballet class as if the livelihood of communism was dependant upon perfect child ballet dancers.  I was consistently getting whacked on the back of my knees by her bamboo stick for locking my knees.  You would have thought I was spitting gum out on the street in Singapore for all the caning I took in that class.  It turns out that I was double jointed in my knees and they naturally went back further than Mrs. Kruger deemed acceptable.  After one semester of being beaten my parents decided to save their money and the skin on the back of my legs.


Fast forward four decades and I have now discovered the joys of yoga.  The same lengthening of the neck as ballet with none of the instructor inflicted beatings.  Today, while RJ our teacher was having us do a bridge pose she told us that it massages the thyroid glad because it moves the chest up towards the chin, thus increasing our metabolism.  What?  What was that part?  Increasing my metabolism?


Apparently opening up my chest or holding my head up higher, my shoulders down lower, my shoulder blades back as far as they can be makes my thyroid happier and maybe helps me burn calories more quickly.  I intuitively knew that increasing muscles burns more calories and increasing heart rate was the bomb, but massaging my thyroid was a totally new concept to me.


When I think about all those beautiful ballerinas with those giraffe like necks, looking that way because they held their shoulders way back and as far down as they could get them, I begin to see they were secretly massaging their thyroids all the time.  Aiding their quest for that perfect ballet body. Why has this thyroid massaging exercise not been more highly advertised?  For goodness sake any woman over 35 knows what a Kegel exercise is and what that is improving is almost never seen by the human eye.


So if you see me out walking around like I have a big stick up my ass with my head held high like I’m trying to eat the leaves off the top of a tree don’t think I have became pompous.  I am just practicing my thyroid massaging hoping that will improve my ever-slowing metabolism.

You Don’t Let Your Dog Pee Inside

I ran into a friend the other day who after three or four years of vigilant healthy eating had fallen off the wagon and gained more than a few pounds.  Like the ole’ Carly Simon song goes, “You think this song is about you.”  I will tell you this story is about so many of us, so I am not writing just about you.

Dieting is a major issue in America.  Billions of dollars are made helping people lose weight.  Sure, most of us need help losing weight, but the real money could be made in helping people maintain that weight loss.

I have to think about eating good food like owning a dog.  I have to pay attention to it everyday.  There is no “Day-off” from either walking a dog or eating right.  The benefits are great, but the work is always there.  You can’t say to your dog, “I don’t feel like taking you out in the rain, so I will just let you pee in the house.”  One day you live in a nice clean house and the next you are hold up in a s#$@ hole.  Talking a day off from being vigilant about good eating can have similar effects.

The problem is you are much more likely to recognize you need to do something about your dog defecating in the house than you are about not reaching for another thin mint cookie.  Naturally thin people I have known have said things to me in the past like, “Now that you have lost weight, you won’t have to do that again.”   Whoa, whoa, whoa.  It is always there.  I don’t think I know many people who at one time or another don’t fall off the wagon, but why?  And it’s not just falling off the wagon, but staying off and being dragged behind it for a while.

For some reason, getting out of control with eating can happen fast.  There are a lot of human emotions involved; denial –I can eat this and not gain weight, deserving — I have not eaten any pasta in a coon’s age, exhaustion – I’m tired about thinking about eating the good for me foods, amnesia – I used to know what to eat that helped me lose weight, but I can’t seem to remember right now.

It takes time and usually a good number of refound once previously lost pounds before people regain control.  What is the answer to this problem?  Stay vigilant to your commitment to eat right everyday.  If you slip up at one meal, or one minute, recognize it and stop it then.  Never let one bad bite make you give up on a whole day, week or month.  We all have moments of poor choices, but make sure they are just moments.

Enlist the help of others.  Confession at least keeps you from hiding your problem. One reason I write this blog everyday is not just to make you laugh, but to help me keep my commitment to better eating.  Sure, some days I have nothing much to write about and it would be easy to skip a day, but that could lead to my taking an eye off the eating ball.  One day of not writing could lead to one day of some French fries and then three weeks later I’m on up side of the scale.

If you think this song is about you, ask for help. Recommit.  You did not forget about how to lose weight you just need some guidance to get back on your best path.  I will never forget one of the best phrases I learned at Weight Watchers years ago that applies to any weight control program, “Show up, pay attention, ask questions, don’t quit.”  It does not matter what happened yesterday.  Let’s work on what we can do better just today and again tomorrow.

Frigid Feet

 February is such a fickle month in North Carolina.  Yesterday is was almost seventy degrees, sunny and soft.  Today it is in the low forties, grey and steely.  What a tease yesterday was and now it’s back to the torture.  It is Monday however so if there is going to be a let down day, let it be today.


One of the only side detriments to losing weight is that my body is so busy trying to hold on to calories that it forgets to make any body heat.  When I say any, I mean none.  My hands and feet are particularly icicle-like, but before you think it is just the extremities that don’t have warmth I will also tell you that even my butt is freezing.


Luckily my sweet dog Shay-Shay is a little furnace who just wants to snuggle.  I just wish she were bigger and could cover all of me at once and transfer all that extra heat she produces.  It is only fair that Shay gives me her heat because I have to spend more time outside walking her on this frigid day, which just makes me colder.


Today I had a lovely hour and a half yoga class and after returning home I thought Shay deserved a good workout of her own.  Off we went, me in my yoga clothes and running shoes, she in her curly brown fur coat.  By the time we had walked far enough from home for her to do her duty all my good Yoga warmth had worn off and the chill was beginning to set deep in my bones. 


I turned Shay around and decided that I was so cold we would run home.  Running is not an activity I like or do often, but when being chased, especially by Frosty it is something I will do.  Shay was thrilled to get the gallop-go-ahead and off we headed.  As we sprinted down the street, cold air was streaming through the vents that would be the entire uppers of my running shoes.  My white cotton socks were no insulation against the biting breeze.  My previously very cold toes were now just numb nubs.  The pins and needle stabbing pains were taking over.  What could I do, but continue running until I reached the house.


Certainly I cannot be the only circulation challenged person who might need to run in the cold.  I understand the desire to have lightweight running shoes, but how about ones that keep the wind from whooshing over your toes?  Here I sit an hour later and the feeling has not completely returned to my left foot.  Enough of this cold, bring on some hot sand to bury my feet in.






My Love Affair With My DVR

I love to watch TV.  I am not a snob about it and am happy to admit that I do it.  From news in the morning to the Good Wife at night, there are lots of different types of shows I love to watch.  With the exception of the Super Bowl ads, I would rather skip the commercials, especially food commercials and ones for local car dealerships.  Mostly I want to skip them because they are eating up my allotted TV watching time and I want see the story.  But I definitely want to skip the food ads, restaurants as well as individual foods, because they start my brain thinking I want to eat something, even if I was not hungry before.


The DVR, or Digital Video Recorder, is almost the best diet tool I own.  The ability to record my favorite shows and then fast-forward through all the ads keeps the cheesy gooey pizza ads from planting the desire in my head.


On one memorable occasion an ad had an adverse effect on me.  As a teenager I was home sick with the flu.  Hold-up on the playroom sofa watching TV an advertisement for Ragu came on the screen.  I will never forget how seeing those images of sauce-laden spaghetti made my stomach feel and before I knew it I was running to the bathroom barley making it before the projectile show began.  It was months before I could even look at spaghetti again, all just from watching the pictures on the tube.


Unfortunately I got over that Pavlovian experience and now have no ill feelings when I see that yummy red sauce.  Rarely are commercials for plain steamed broccoli or one perfectly ripe peach.  Individual fruits and vegetables don’t have agencies or campaigns.  But burgers and fries or gooey chocolate chip cookies can be seen hourly enticing weak willed beings to crave them.


DVR is our only defense.  Don’t let those brilliant marketers get into your head because your head controls your stomach.  The power of suggestion is great.  The best way to fight eating the wrong thing at the wrong time is not to have any reminders it exists.  You could just read a book, but eventually you will want to know whom the Bachelor gave the final rose to.

Tapping to Thinness?

Have you ever seen a person out in public tapping on their face or collarbone or underarms?  Neither have I.  But it is a stress relieving technique that was brought to my attention called EFT which does not stand for Electronic Funds transfer as I have known that acronym, but Emotional Freedom Techniques.


According to EFT Universe, the largest EFT website in the Universe, this technique was developed using Cognitive and Exposure Therapy combined with acupressure and is good for helping people with over 30 different problems from ADD, allergies, carpel tunnel, phobias, sports anxiety to weight loss.  From the little I have learned, it involves tapping on the acupressure points and talking yourself out of what ails you.  Your pressure points are places like your temples, besides the outside of your eye, the bone under your eye, the place between your nose and mouth and the center of your chin.


I have no personal experience with this method and since it is simple and free I can’t call it snake oil because I don’t know who is benefitting from promoting it.  The way you do it for weight loss is if you have a food you crave you are supposed to smell it and then start this tapping process on eight places on your body, tapping each place ten to fifteen times saying all the while, “Even though I deeply crave this (fill in the blank, let’s say brownie), I deeply and completely accept myself.”


Then tap, tap tap.  Smell the brownie again and if you still crave it, do the tap-talking again.  Still crave, tap-talk.  Hell, if I had a brownie in front of me and I was smelling it I am sure I could tap on the side of my face with one hand and lift the brownie to my mouth with the other hand.  If I was supposed to be tapping with two hands I easily could bend my face down to the brownie on a plate and take a bite handless.


Maybe this technique is supposed to help with future brownie encounters and somehow if I meet one on the street I am just supposed to tap my pressure points and I will somehow lose my desire to take a bite, but that seems just too simple for me.  I think that by doing this smelling-tap-talking I would probably actually sensitize myself to want a brownie anytime I accidentally tapped one of these pressure points.


Maybe people who are prone to being hypnotized could have success with Emotional Freedom Techniques.  Somehow I just don’t see that I am one of them.  I think that the best EFT stress reliever for me is still Electronic Funds Transfers, as long as they were transfers into my bank account and not out.  As for brownie cravings, my best defense is steering clear and definitely not smelling them.

Kids Make a Difference


It’s cold here today — like the rainy and bitter cold.  It’s the kind of day you would like to make a big mug of hot chocolate and sit in front of a fire.  But that’s not what Carter, and her friends Mason and Ellis did with me today.  For a mission project the four of us went down to the unheated Durham Food Bank warehouse and sorted brights.

Brights might be a term you are not familiar with unless you are in the canning or food banking business.   A bright is a can without a label.  The kids spent the afternoon inspecting dented cans and identifying the contents by a stamp on the lid and adding labels to those without one.  After doing all that they had to box the good ones and then carefully stack the rejects in a giant box to be sent off to a hog farm.  Since they were the first crew on this bright shift the reject box was empty.  One kid had to climb inside the box and the others handed the cans in.  Carter was the last one to put her finger on her nose so into the box she went.

Let me set the record straight that I did not do any of the work.  I had other Food Bank business to attend to while I was there.  Thankfully Carter’s mentor Jamie came and supervised when I had to be elsewhere.  By the time I came back they had sorted through a good size pallet and Ellis and Mason were just handing the last of the cans down inside the box to Carter.

It was not hard work, but good work.  Their volunteer time was equivalent to what it would have cost the Food Bank about $120 if they had to pay an employee to do it.  Instead of spending their resources doing that the Food Bank will be able to spend that money acquiring more food to feed hungry people.  They can turn that $120 into $1,200 worth of food so in essence that is how much food the kids were providing to hungry people by volunteering.

North Carolina kids hold the Guinness World record for the largest food drive by a non-charitable organization in 24 hours.  Two years ago the students at the NC school of Science and Math in conjunction with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC collected 559,885 pounds of food in Durham – A WORLD RECORD.

The kids at Science and Math had tried to break that record in years before and even though they had not succeeded they had fed thousands of people with the food they collected.  Their not setting the record was still a big win for the Food Bank.

So today on this cold and blistery day I am thankful for the generosity and hard work of kids.  Everyone can make a difference in the world no matter your age.