Hugging and Chalking

This blog is about obesity and the inanity/insanity it spawns, the encroaching lawsuits and growing diet industry. Obesity is a matter of genes and personal responsibility. You can have an endocrine problem, or you can have a balance problem (too many calories and too little exercise). It’s not where you eat, but how much you eat; it’s not McDonald’s fault, or Mama’s fault, or Washington’s fault if your body is too fat or too thin. Rosabelle.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Storm in a Fruit Basket

Wal-Mart in the USA is the parent company of the ASDA in Great Britain, where it is apparently illegal to promote the advantages of eating fruits and vegetables. Signs which promoted the antioxidant qualities of mangoes caused the company to get a big fine for violating a 1996 food labeling law.

“The firm had argued that though words in the claim were illegal, they were not untrue. Outside court, a spokeswoman for Asda said: "We think this is an absolute storm in a fruit basket. We cannot believe we are in the dock for telling people that eating fruit and vegetables is good for them." " Guardian

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Volumetrics by Barbara Rolls and Robert A. Barnett

Health Facts and Fears reviews the Volumetrics book: “The message is simple: Fill up on fruits and vegetables, which have few calories but have a lot of volume and you'll be likely to eat fewer of the foods that have a higher energy density, or more calories per volume of food. The theory, supported by Dr. Rolls' studies, is that people tend to eat a consistent amount of food. So if you need to eat, say, eight cups of food a day to fill your stomach, the light-weight but calorie-heavy potato chips are going to do little to satisfy your eight cup quota -- and they'll contribute lots of calories while not filling your stomach. You'll still be hungry -- or at least think you are hungry, even though you ate a lot of calories. Yet the same number of calories from apples and carrots would fill you up in no time. Just picture bags of chips instead of the cereal from those commercials that say "You'd have to eat twenty bowls of Frosted Flakes." That would be a lot of calories!

Dr. Rolls, a professor of behavioral health at Penn State, uses more than just sound nutritional science to help people lose weight. She uses psychology too. "People given the message to eat more fruits and vegetables lost significantly more weight than those told to eat less fat," Dr. Rolls told the Times. "Advice to eat more is a lot more effective than advice to eat less (emphasis added)," she said.

Foods with a lot of water -- like soup, melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers -- which have a low energy density will fill you up on fewer calories. So instead of eating less, eat more. Eat big. But eat more of the foods that are filling. And then, when it comes time to indulge on the energy-dense snack, you'll eat it for the taste, not as an attempt to fill your already-full stomach.”
Health Facts and Fears

Monday, October 25, 2004

Take Personal Responsibility

According to an AP story, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a bill in early October that bans civil lawsuits against restaurants and other parts of the food industry for serving or preparing fattening foods.

Rep. David Palsrok introduced the bill as a way to prevent future lawsuits. "I think it sends an important message to people in Michigan when it comes to issues of personal health and obesity," he said. "Folks have to take personal responsibility for their actions."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Boarding school for overweight teenagers

Required exercise at 7 a.m. sharp. No personal TVs or computers. A cafeteria bereft of potato chips and candy bars. Good-for-you vegetables.

Sounds like my adolescence. But it is a boarding school for overweight teens. The Academy of the Sierras has only 12 students, but expects to double enrollment this year. It just opened in September, 2004.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Christian looks at the science of fat

The September /October issue of Books and Culture has a review by Elissa Elliot of various anti-anti-fat books and articles, by Paul Campos, The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health (Gotham Books, 2004), Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, "Modern Science versus the Stigma of Obesity," Nature Medicine 10 (June 1, 2004): 563-69 and Dr. Katherine M. Flegal, "Trends in Body Weight and Overweight in the U. S. Population," Nutrition Reviews 54 (April 1996): S97-S100.

Not thoroughly convinced by her own research, she concludes: “Granting that Campos, Friedman, and other mavericks are right about the genetic basis for obesity, there are still many questions to answer. Why are there more poor fat people than rich fat people? Why is there an alarming increase in child obesity? Why are corporations signing multimillion dollar contracts with schools to put their fatty foods in kids' sweaty hands? (For a scathing account of how we've lost control of our eating habits, read Greg Critser's book, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World.) We are, without question, an eating-disordered culture, quite apart from genetic predispositions.”

Friday, October 15, 2004

What do they fear more? Not obesity.

At Overlawyered, Ted Franks writes:

“Childhood obesity is up, in part, because, while 90% of kids who lived within a mile of school walked to school a generation ago, that figure is now 31%. (And, ironically, the tendency of parents to drive kids to and from school has increased traffic near schools, increasing the chances of pedestrian-auto collisions.) An article in Salon discusses the Safe Routes to School program. SR2S hopes to encourage more kids to walk to school by assuaging parents' safety concerns by using elderly volunteers to create "walking school buses," but the program has found trouble getting off the ground because of liability concerns. Don't expect John Banzhaf to bring a class action against lawyers for their role in the obesity epidemic--or Salon to remember this problem the next time they fulminate against tort reform. (Linda Baker, "Walk to school, yes, but don't forget your lawyer", Salon, Oct. 13).”

We have neighborhood schools, we have sidewalks, we have traffic jams at our elementary school. It isn’t safe for the elderly at the senior center to even be in their own parking lot because the parents cut through there in huge SUVs. I went in to the principal’s office and talked to the administrative assistant, the same one who was there when my children attended in the 1970s. “What’s up with the traffic?” I asked. I was told that parents are afraid to let their children walk to school, even a few blocks. Afraid of what? Terrorists? Kidnappers? Traffic accidents? Apparently not obesity.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Once more, in English, please

One of the paragraphs in a recent BMJ article, "Promoting walking and cycling as an alternative to using cars: systematic review," by David Ogilvie and others, about the ecological and health advantages of walking or biking, stated:
“Ecological comparisons show that the proportion of walking and cycling journeys can vary between populations, both between and within countries, by an order of magnitude greater than the population effect size of any intervention included in this review. It may be unrealistic to expect interventions to produce substantial effects in relatively inactive populations without addressing the other, potentially complex reasons for such variations, such as attitudes towards cars and bicycles. Combining interventions in a genuinely integrated urban transport policy might be more effective, but we currently lack evidence from intervention studies to support this assertion. “
In turn, reader Michael McGrath of Australia writes:
“As an ardent cyclist I was keenly interested in reading your paper. Unfortunately the language style is so impenetrable that I’m not confident I understand your conclusions.

I refer you to a guide [plain english] on how to write reports that ordinary people can easily read and clearly understand.”
I love it.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A donut or bagel for breakfast?

Which is a lower calorie breakfast--a bagel with cream cheese or a chocolate frosted donut? Just from a calorie point of view, you may be better off with the donut--especially if you are planning to eat a regular meal or two later in the day.

“The bagel has more iron than, say, a chocolate frosted donut—35 percent of the Daily Value as opposed to 4 percent. And the cream cheese contains 10 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A. But a plain bagel with cream cheese from Dunkin’ Donuts also contains 550 calories and 13.5 grams of saturated fat—more than half the saturated fat that should be averaged in a day by someone following a 2,000-calorie diet. The chocolate frosted donut, on the other hand, has just 200 calories—and only 2 grams of saturated fat.”

Story at Health and Nutrition Letter

Monday, October 04, 2004

I'll see you in my dreams

I’m reading a book about a civilian prisoner of war, a British citizen, born in Shanghai in 1921. As WWII approached, she boarded a ship for the United States where she had relatives and got as far as the Philippines by December 7, 1941. She and the other internationals were interned in a Japanese prison camp (a former college campus) for four years. In 2001 she wrote her memoirs based on the diaries she had kept during those years.

Getting enough food was a constant worry. Being a person of privilege who had grown up with servants, she had no idea how to prepare food, plus nutritious food was scarce and expensive. Everyone lost weight and developed various nutritional deficiency diseases.

This next part will sound familiar. The main topic of conversation among the internees was food, recipes and what they would eat when liberated. Food was the first thing on their minds upon waking, and they dreamed about food. One woman exchanged a 1/2 pound of butter for a cookbook so she could look at the pictures of food!

The author counteracted this problem in two ways: 1) she was an excellent artist and kept herself busy doing portraits, and 2) she helped in the infirmary taking care of others. This kept her mind off her constant hunger and kept her out of conversations about food. I think there is a message here.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Children and obesity

“Until recently the halls of North High in Minneapolis were lined with vending machines where students could buy soda pop and other sugary drinks, as they can in most other high schools in the nation. But with rates of childhood obesity skyrocketing, the Minneapolis school district worried about pushing pop. The district needed a way to keep its lucrative vending contract with Coca-Cola while steering kids toward more healthful beverages.”

They replaced all but one of the machines with water and/or juice and began allowing water bottles in the classroom and tripled their sales.

Story about children and obesity here in US News and World Report.

Whether schools should be making money off students will be another story, I suppose.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Coffee addict?

The latest research demonstrates, however, that when people don’t get their usual dose [of coffee] they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. They may even feel like they have the flu with nausea and muscle pain.” MSNBC story, Sept. 30

Yes, I’m addicted, and I get all those ugly withdrawal symptoms--especially the headache which then causes the nausea. These days I’m only drinking about one cup a day, and it isn’t particularly strong, but dropping it suddenly would cause discomfort. But there is an easy solution, and it isn’t the one in the story.

Drink water. A lot of water. The night before the morning you give up that first cup, and each time you have to get up to use the restroom, drink some more water. The headache is from dehydration. Coffee is a diuretic, but you also get fluids when you drink it. If you stop the coffee and don’t replace the water it has eliminated from your system, your little nerve endings will cry out.