Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Slimier Than Pink Slime

Ok, maybe not actually slimier.  But the “food” Melanie Warner writes about in Pandora’s Lunchbox is about as “foody” as pink slime.

I can’t claim to have read it yet, but I can’t wait.  This conversation at the Huffington Post with Warner gives me enough to, umm, chew on, for the time being, however.  The highlights of the article:

  • “Processing” food isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Making food into unrecognizable “food,” is.
  • The FDA is underfunded and not protecting us the way we think it is.
  • Most vitamin additives are created in China.  Out of the best reach the FDA could possible offer.
  • Soybean oil is highly suspect.  Unless, you know, you enjoy a little hexane in your diet.
  • A lot of the dairy products we consume (think Greek yogurt) is fortified with “Milk Protein Concentrate.”  YUM!  Or not.

Sigh.

Why can’t they just put quality food on the shelf?  I know, I know, they do – at the Co-op and at the farmer’s market.  Buy as much food a you can from those sources.

Thanks for reading.  Stay away from the pink slime.

My Doc Rocks.

A couple of weeks ago I had some blood work done at the request of my family physician.  Last week I got a message from the doc asking me to come in for a chat about cholesterol.  This morning I was pretty certain I’d be leaving her office with a prescription for statins of some sort.

Now, this won’t come as a surprise to regular readers, but I regard Big Pharma with about as much skepticism as Big Ag.  Which is to say, I’d rather, where possible, keep them out of my life.  I do have a couple of ongoing prescriptions, and they are absolutely quality-of-life enhancers, but somehow the prospect of taking three prescription drugs every day at 45 years of age seemed … wrong.

I have had, in the past, family physicians whose first response to anything is to write a prescription.  I have many friends and family for whom that is not only an acceptable option, but what they expect from their doc.  Clearly that is not what I expect.

My cholesterol, it turns out, is not so good – not awful, but not where it ought to be (let the record show that my blood sugar, heart rate and blood pressure are all “outstanding”).  The “good” is not quite good enough, the “bad” is too high and the other stuff could be lower.

“So we have three options,” she said.  “Drugs will fix the problem, but there are always side effects.  I don’t like side effects, so let’s talk about the other options.”

And that’s why my doc rocks.

The other options are a couple of supplements (fish oil, which I’ve done on and off – mostly off – for years, and red yeast rice) that I promptly picked up at the local health-food store and, you guessed it, losing weight.  She says five or ten pounds will make a big difference.

I did not share with her my goal of losing down to 207 eventually, nor did I tell her about Skipping Dessert … yet.  My plan is to easily breeze past her goal and farther before I go back in three months.  And then I’ll insist that she not only read Skipping Dessert, but that she prescribe readership to all her patients.

It’s all about the blog, friends.

I’m relieved that drugs were not her first stop, and very pleased to have made a good choice in physicians.  And this will help me keep my eyes on the prize moving forward.  I damn sure don’t want to go back in 90 days and tell this person I failed.


Tomorrow – bonus Thursday blogging!  Thanks, as always, for reading.  Remember, you probably have friends who haven’t read Skipping Dessert.  They’re depending on you to introduce them …

Let’s Talk About Gluten

Why not?  Everybody else is!

Seriously, I just did a Google search for “gluten” and got sixty-six million results.  You can’t swing a cat on the internets (or in a bookstore) without rubbing up against some gluten.  

What exactly is the stuff, anyway?  Let’s go to Wikipedia, shall we?

“Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye.”

Hmm.  That’s a broad net.  I eat a lot of foods (actual Pollan-definition foods) “processed from wheat and related grain species.”

What’s the problem with it?  The editors at Slate had the same question.  I’ll condense their answers for you.  Essentially, there appear to be a couple of issues: First, there’s this thing called celiac disease.  About one of every one-hundred Americans has celiac disease.  That means – medically speaking – you probably don’t have celiac disease (Ok, if enough of you read this, yes, you do have it, but not all of  you have it).  It’s an auto-immune disease that does particularly nasty things to you based on your inability to process gluten correctly.

The second thing might be “baker’s asthma” or a wheat allergy.  It’s present in about the same numbers as celiac disease.  Which means you probably aren’t allergic to wheat either.

Now, there’s this book/diet/phenomenon out there called Wheat Belly.  The guy who wrote it is a cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, and he’s sold a bunch of books.  I am neither a cardiologist nor a bestselling author, so please receive my review of his work accordingly.  I read his book, and it turns out Dr. Davis is convinced that whatever ails you is the caused by modern wheat. He makes a convincing argument for a time that modern wheat is a lot different from its more ancient relatives, and I’m sure that’s true.  I’m equally convinced that there are more people for whom wheat is a problem in the 21st century than, say, the 19th.  I am not convinced, however, that everything that’s wrong with me and you – from heart disease to attitude – can be cured by walking away from our favorite grain products.

“But dude,” you say, “I just gave up wheat and I feel so much better!”  I reply that I do not doubt that one bit.  I’ll bet if I cut wheat out of my diet I’d feel better for a while too.  Because when you cut wheat out, you, as a rule, have cut out bread, donuts, beer (yes, beer), rye whiskey (sucker), most cold cereals and a variety of other products that, if consumed in large amounts, will make you feel bad. When you give up something like that you also can’t help but be intentional about your eating, which, as I’ve long preached on this blog, is a very, very good thing.

You’ll lose weight, feel good, etc. Just like you would on any other “diet.”  Same thing happens on a low-fat diet. Atkins, Pritikin, etc.  And then you start to really miss what you’ve taken away.  And then you eat a little of it.  And then you eat a lot of it.  And they you’re worse-off than when you started.

Look, if your actual physician tests you for celiac disease or a wheat allergy and you actually have one, you should give wheat up today. But if you’re on this because Doc Davis sounds convincing (he’s a cardiologist – of course he sounds convincing), I recommend you take a deep breath and step away from the gluten hysteria.

Instead of worrying about whether your vitamin supplement contains wheat starch (yes, if you’re serious about a gluten-free diet, it’s going to be a huge pain in the ass), just (you know what I’m going to say, don’t you?) Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.


Thanks for reading, as always.  On Wednesday, a whole new list of terrifying foods.  

Sometimes, the Burger Just Calls You.

I’ve been out of town for several nights now, and I’m over it. Needed quick, easy comfort food.  That I didn’t have to get out of the car to get.

Enter the Southern California legend, In-N-Out Burger. Even Zagat thinks this chain is awesome.  Yes, this violates the letter of my “no fast food” rule.  But not the spirit.  The (outstanding) burger and fries were fresh, not frozen, as were all the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc. on top.

Not something I’m going to do regularly (particularly since we don’t have any of these), but today, it was the right choice.

Thanks for reading.  Monday, we’ll talk about gluten.

Good Things for You to Watch, and to Ponder

Yeah, I know, in the last post I promised to get back to talking about food in my next post.

Sorry.

At the conference I’m attending, our plenary speaker today was Dr. Brene Brown (there’s an accent over that last “e”, but I’ll be damned if I know how to produce it here.  Use your imagination).  Apparently I’ve been living under a rock for two years, because until today I’d never heard of her, despite the millions of hits her original TED video has garnered.

She studies shame, guilt and vulnerability, and how vulnerability is the key to all things awesome.  She makes a hell of a case, and one that fits right into the Skipping Dessert gestalt.

I am feeling, at least in the near term, rather evangelical about her message, so I’m sharing these two videos with you.  I strongly urge you to watch them both in their entirety.  They’re 20 minutes each, and both worth every minute.

And then, I swear, we’ll get back to food.

The first, from 2010:

The follow up, from 2012:

Thanks, as always for reading (and for viewing), my friends.

A Skipping Dessert Endorsement

I feel like we’re kind of in a rut here at Skipping Dessert.  It’s time to take a short break from telling you what (and what not) to eat so I can tell you something else to do.  This is primarily directed at my male readers. And maybe those females among you with fathers, sons, brothers or friends who might be males.

Gentlemen, you need a shave.

good shave. Not that barely-awake face-scrape you give yourself with a four-blade disposable cartridge and some otherworldly-colored foam every morning.  A shave.  With a straight-razor.  In a barber chair, from an old-school barber.  Hot towels, maybe even a manly fragrance or two.

There was a time when a good shave, by somebody who could not only handle a straight-razor but could give you some pointers in its proper use, was available to most men in most neighborhoods.  Sadly, that time is gone.  We’ve become convinced, by the Gillette company and a variety of others with a stake in the game, that the manly and proper thing to do is to shave yourself, and to do so as quickly as possible with the strangest – and most expensive – bundle of elements your local pharmacy can sell you.

I’m here to tell you, if Sinatra could take pleasure in buying a good shave, it’s OK for you as well.  Maybe you already know about this, and maybe you already have a place in mind. If not, let me recommend a chain you can depend on:  The Art of Shaving has locations in most large-ish American cities, and they know their stuff. They can sell you what you need to do the job better on your own and they can give you good advice on kind of “best-practices.”

Or they can give you a shave.  And a haircut too, if you’re interested.  And you should be interested.

My Lovely Wife gave me a gift certificate for The Art of Shaving back around Father’s Day, but the nearest location is in Jacksonville, so I just never got around to it.  This week I’m in San Diego for a conference, and yesterday I had a free morning. Best forty-five minutes I’ve spent in weeks.

Do it.  Get yourself a shave.  You’ll be glad you did.

Tomorrow, more food talk.  Eagle-eyed readers will note that I’m away from home – and thus my scales – and deduce that there will be no weigh-in report this week … which is probably good.  Conference travel and weight-loss, they don’t always work hand-in-hand.

Thank you for reading, as always.  Don’t be shy about sharing.

Let’s Talk About Fish.

Actually, we’ll just use fish – one in particular – to illustrate how really, honestly hard it is to establish a healthy diet.

We all know we’re supposed to be eating more fish.  Up until about a decade ago I thought that should be easy.  Tuna is everywhere.  Canned tuna is cheap, tasty and versatile.  I love tuna salad.

Then I read all about how tuna is loaded with mercury.  Reckoning that I am not smart enough to sacrifice the brain-function I’d lose digesting quicksilver, I backed off the tuna.

Lately, I’d convinced myself it’s OK.  The mercury content can’t be that  high – the FDA wouldn’t let them sell it to us, right?  Wrong.  But at least it’s actually tuna, right?  Wrong.  Apparently, nearly 6 out of ten servings of “tuna” are not so much tuna.  Grocery store “tuna” is the most reliable.  Only 18% of that appears to be fake.  The worst is “tuna” from sushi restaurants.  Nearly three out of four of those are serving fake “tuna.”

Aww, maaaaan!  Seriously, how bad can it get?  But this fake tuna, this escolar, it’s still good stuff, right?  Sure.  If you’re having trouble going to the bathroom.  Seriously.  Maybe they could start marketing “tuna” as “high-fiber.”  (Yes, I understand the difference between food that causes this nasty side-effect and food that is high in fiber.  I was making a funny.)

My – very serious – question here is, “Why the hell does the government let people sell “tuna” that isn’t TUNA?” It’s mostly a rhetorical question.  I’m pretty sure I know the answers.  First, we don’t want to fund the FDA well enough to actually inspect our food and help keep us safe.  Second, the FDA (and a whole lot of regulatory agencies) are in a constant legal war with the extreme money Big Ag brings to the table, and you and I don’t get a seat at that table.  And third, we kind of don’t want  the truth about stuff like this.  If we (and I mean the collective “we”) wanted better regulation we could get it.

So, in brief, don’t order the “white tuna.”  Unless your bowels need a little push.

This blog post helps illustrate the problem so many of us have with trying to find food that not only tastes good, but is good.  You can drive yourself to distraction with this stuff.  Please read the link.  You’ll be glad you did.

Then follow Pollan’s advice.  Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Thank you for reading, as always!

Stuff That Works

A few months ago I read an article that swore up and down that drinking water before consuming anything else every morning – a fair bit, a pint, a quart, I can’t remember the magical formula – was a key to optimal health.  The piece included impressive sounding references and actual science, but between you and me, most of that science is beyond me.  It made sense and sounded like a good idea with little downside.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been following exactly that.  Before coffee, before Cheerios and frozen blueberries, before meds (Singulair – the allergy blocker of the gods) or supplements, water.  About a pint and a half.

I think it works.  I’m not sure exactly what it does (other than make a visit to the men’s room my first stop at work every day), but it feels positive.  So I do it, and I’m claiming it works.  You should try it.

Speaking of supplements, I believe I’ve mentioned before that I take a B-Complex every morning.  B-vitamins are a  group of nutrients that do all sorts of things, and that naturally occur in a variety of foods.  Taking a supplement might be superfluous. Or it might not. I was wondering recently if that was doing me any good.

One of the things a B-supplement is supposed to do is increase energy and /or awareness.  I ran out of my B’s a couple of weeks ago and didn’t really give it much thought.  If anything, I had become dismissive of it.  Then I forgot about it.

After about five days, I noticed I was really tired in the early evenings.  Now, my Lovely Wife will tell you (and it is true) that without something actively going on, I can pretty much always fall asleep.  So this is not the sort of thing that mighty be obvious, but I noticed an overwhelming exhaustion, without anything having changed.  Anything, that is, other than that my B’s had run out.

As an experiment, I bought a new bottle of good B’s and took one with breakfast, as instructed by the bottle, and as I have been doing before running out.  I won’t tell you I noticed a sudden rush of energy, but without making any other changes, there is no question the the evening tiredness went away.  Is that evidence? Is it scientific?  Probably not.  But it’s good enough or me.

You might give it a shot as well.

I stole the title of this post from a Guy Clark song I like.  Thought you might enjoy it, so here it is:

Thanks, as always for reading.  If  Skipping Dessert is “stuff that works” for you, share it please.

Yep. Left a Mark.

As predicted, the cake, beer, etc. was not helpful.  Up a pound this week to 263.  If I was y’all I’d be about sick of reading me not making progress.  Thanks for stickin’ with me.

I’m worn out, frustrated and fresh-out of bon-mots.  Lucky for you, my crack research director found this amazing article from the Washington Post. I’d really like you to read it, and I promise I’ll get you something fresh and original on Monday.

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

Sprightly Daughter Number One turned eight years old this past Friday.  I ate cake Saturday.  It was sort of compulsory.  The beer at the concert Saturday night and the sugary baked beans at my mom’s on Monday were … less so.  The pancakes and syrup at Shrove Tuesday dinner?  I could make excuses, but I’m guessing they would sound hollow.

What I’m saying is that I am not hopeful regarding the weigh-in on Friday.  I’ll let you know.

Weeks like this remind me of how tough the process can be.  The name of the game is concentration.  Or mindfulness, I suppose.  Pick the one that works best for you.  But, you know, I’m not going to say no when the eight-year-old says, “You’re going to have birthday cake, right, Daddy?” Of course, that’s when it falls apart.  The first slice is emotionally compulsory, the following slices chemically so. The baked beans were kind of the same process.

Speaking of Shrove Tuesday, which you might know better as Mardi Gras, depending on your tradition or lack thereof, it leads into Ash Wednesday.  Lent.  Longtime readers might recall that Lent, 2011, is when this process started.  Lent is a time of introspection, spiritual healing, etc.  It’s traditional to give something up – often something relatively frivolous, but the older I get the better use I’m able to make of this process.

This year I’m working on giving up anger.  If not actually giving up, at least isolating it when it happens and being mindful of it with the hope of minimizing it.  Which fits really well into that whole better living thing that Skipping Dessert is all about.  Right now I’m working on not being angry at myself about those pancakes I wrote about up in the first paragraph.

Thanks for reading – if you’re working on your own Lenten journey, best of luck to you.  Let me know if I can help.

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