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Weight loss: Here we go again. June 14, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, airing one of my pet peeves: false advertising. I saw an article yesterday morning on Yahoo News that claimed that exercise and diet weren’t the keys to a healthy life at a healthy weight. Hmm, then what were the keys, taking long naps and exercising your mind, then refreshing your effortlessly fit, slim body with a heaping helping of barbecue and fries? Naturally, I clicked on the link to find out what magic bullet this author was pushing.

Turns out, he was pushing exercise and diet. Shock surprise! The way he spun it was to advise everyone to change their lives and habits to accommodate the exercise and diet restrictions, so nobody would have any excuse not to do them.

Some of his food-related examples included getting the junk (food and clutter) out of the kitchen and putting healthy snacks like crudites, nuts, nut butters, and fruits within easy reach on shelves and at the front of the fridge; taking packets of healthy snacks to work and in the car so you’re not tempted to swing through the fast food drive-through or dive into the office donuts, chips and candy; refusing to eat out with coworkers; skipping happy hour; making a healthy grocery list and sticking to it; and changing your route to work if it takes you past a drive-through, bakery, or the like that you find hard to resist. And persuading your elected officials, local schools, and grocery stores to promote fresh, healthy food at all times.

Exercise? Make fast friends with exercise buddies who’ll get you to walk rain or shine, or at least hit the treadmill if it’s really bad weather. Put in-home exercise equipment where you’ll pass it constantly as a reminder to use it. Encourage your community to establish convenient, attractive walking trails if they don’t already have them. Promote a “walk your grandkids to school” program in your neighborhood.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these ideas. We’ve always known that the sad, hard rule of eating less (and less high-cal) and exercising more is the key to health and healthy weight. What’s wrong is that they were falsely promoted: The article’s title promised that exercise and diet weren’t the keys to maintaining healthy weight and health in general. But the article atressed that they were the keys, with the age-old add-on that making it easy makes the difference.

Making it easier definitely helps: If you have your crudites (we like celery sticks, baby carrots, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, radishes, bell pepper strips, and scallions, aka green onions, for bite), berries, plain Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, string cheese and fruit or veggies, watermelon and cantaloupe chunks, apples and Cheddar, and/or tomatoes and cottage cheese right there when you’re hungry, it’s easy to reach for them. We like hummus or tzatziki sauce (Greek yogurt, dill, diced cukes, and lots of garlic) as dips for crudites, though I’m happy just salting them and eating them bare.

But make no mistake, “easier” isn’t “easy.” We’re still talking about monitoring portions of even these healthful foods and resisting the impulse to have a slice of pizza or a burger or some bread or pasta or whatever, much less a pointless and super-caloric drink from Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. Deprivation (What do you mean, I can’t have a burrito? No chips and salsa? No margaritas?! What’s the point of living?!!), moderation (no more than a handful—25 nuts), and exercise (get out there and get walking, slugs) are still the order of the day.

Good luck with getting your neighbors and officials and schools and so on to sign up for this. Do it yourself, and yes, you’ll lose weight and be healthier, I promise. Is it hard as hell, and does it take up a lot of your free time? Yes it is, take it from one who knows. Is it worth it? That depends on you, your health and your priorities.

Too bad they didn’t say all that up front.

‘Til next time,



Is obesity a disease? June 22, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. The American Medical Association recently joined a number of other major organizations in officially declaring obesity a disease. This has caused considerable debate in the medical community, with some arguing that obesity is caused by poor food choices, eating too much, and lack of exercise, while others insist that it is in fact a disease, a potentially lethal disease (since it ups the chances for a range of diseases, such as diabetes and cardiac arrest).

Whatever it is, a third of American adults are now classified as overweight, and another third as clinically obese. That would be two-thirds of the American adult population, and the number of overweight and obese children is also shooting up.

But, as I just discovered, there is hope for those of us battling belly fat or the extra ten or 20 pounds. Our friend Ben had brought me the July/August issue of Mother Jones because its lead story was “Gagged by Big Ag,” and he knows how much I hate Monsanto and all it and companies like it stand for. But frankly, I didn’t really need to see any more photos of murdered pigs and the like; I know more than enough about the horrors of factory farming, GMOs, etc., and have been a vegetarian and ardent organic gardener my whole adult life as a result. (You can access the article, if you have the stomach for it, at http://www.motherjones.com/.)

What caught my eye was another in-depth article, “Did the War on Microbes Make Us Fat?” (Sadly, I couldn’t find this one on their site, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to buy the mag or download it on Kindle.) It was a fascinating article with no horrible torture photos. And it presented a third view of what obesity is.

The research that it documented suggests that disrupting our intestinal flora, through eating high-fat, low-fiber, sugar-laden foods, is the cause of obesity and the host of ills it contributes to. These foods favor certain damaging gut bacteria and wipe out others, and the damaging bacteria cause inflammation, which at this point is thought to cause metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer, as well as disruption of hormonal functioning, which can lead to everything from sexual dysfunction to depression. Yowie kazowie!

It’s apparently not how much we eat, but what we eat (or don’t eat), that’s causing the damage, coupled with our obsession with anti-bacterials, from mouthwash to hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps and cleaners of all types, which wipe out the protective bacteria along with the “bad” bacteria. Cultures the world over that are exposed to a wide range of bacteria don’t suffer from obesity and related diseases, even if they indulge in rich, fatty foods. Being exposed to pets and farm animals and soil and other “dirty” (but natural) sources of bacteria is healthful, not harmful.

Short of eating soil, how can we take advantage of these research findings? First, we can eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso and shoyu, kimchi, and sauerkraut, all packed with “good” bacteria. (Hey, isn’t wine a fermented food? Just sayin’.) Next, we can eat plenty of whole grains, beans, greens, and fruits—all those veggies your mom always said were good for you—and avoid fatty processed and fast foods. (Sadly, this includes white rice, white pasta, white-flour breads, bagels, grits, popcorn, and anything else that requires plenty of butter, cheese, cream and the like to taste good, not to mention those McMonster burgers, fries, fried chicken, and the like, and of course non-fruit desserts.) Good news: potatoes and sweet potatoes both made the “good guy” list.

Finally, you can try taking probiotics, prebiotics, or a combination (synbiotics) to repopulate your intestines with healthy colonies of good bacteria. The research still is out about the effectiveness of getting your bacteria from capsules rather than nature, but my view is can’t hurt, might help.

As Columbo would say, however, there’s “just one more thing.” And it was a huge shocker. As a vegetarian, I’ve never been on one of those high-protein, low- to no-carb diets. But they sure are popular. The article noted that diets of this kind—mentioning Atkins as an example—created a bacterial profile in the gut that had been linked to colon cancer. Let me just say, it’s not worth dying to be thin.

‘Til next time,


Take a health quiz. July 24, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Thanks to our friend Rob, our friend Ben was recently clued in to a website, Organized Wisdom, that features advice from professionals across the health spectrum. It also has a whole bunch of quizzes that you can take to assess your health in everything from diet and bathroom habits to depression and bipolar disorder.

Our friend Ben headed to the site (www.organizedwisdom.com/Quiz/) and took the “How Healthy Are My Eating Habits?” quiz. Thanks not to my own inclinations but to Silence Dogood’s insistence on healthy eating here at Hawk’s Haven, I ended up with a “healthy” rating. But what was far more useful was the discussion at the end that explained why various choices were healthy. It offered a real nutritional education on a single screen.¬†

So, next time you have a health-related concern, head on over to Organized Wisdom’s quiz section and check it out. You won’t be sorry!