White Devils

I detailed my eight month treadmill desk experiment here and also my water drinking, and noted that neither of them caused any net weight loss. I’m sure I must have swapped some muscle for fat in those eight months, but as the water drinking was accompanied with a reduction in my soda drinking habits, I was expecting some sort of net weight loss. But no dice.

Of course, I started doing the Reams program in solidarity with The Boy and, much to my dismay, it worked. So, now I’m eating a largely vegetable diet, with meat two, three (okay, sometimes four) times a week. And there are things I am not eating.

No white flour. No white sugar. No white potatoes. Also, no corn syrup, and really, I’m not supposed to be eating corn (unless it’s white corn on the cob). I do have popcorn and soda at the movies.

Well, I guess it’s not mystery where my extra pounds were coming from. I’ve lost 20 pounds in two months. Without any exercise at all. I’m not supposed to exercise too much yet though I am finally back on that a little bit.

My interpretation of the various food prohibitions fall into two categories: Some foods are bad because they are actually harmful while others are bad because they take up the space you’d normally have for nutritious food. Shellfish, pork, protein bars are examples of food in the actually harmful category–something about the high protein content. (Again, this is my casual impression. I’m not claiming to understand this.)

Sure has made weight loss simple, though. If you call this living….


Freeman Hunt tweeted an article on organic being unsafe relative to other foods. This is probably true, if you take the entire category of foods that slap the word “organic” on their box/package/can, whatever.

The usual attack on “organic” begins with “organic doesn’t mean anything” or “it means ‘containing carbon’”. But, of course, since the ’40s at least, it’s meant “raised or conducted without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals”, presumably going back to the earlier meaning of derived from or pertaining to living organisms. Then, of course, there’s a larger, vaguer meaning which has to do with adherence to a particular set of dogma as varied and splintered as Christianity.

The premise of “organic” is that modern agricultural techniques result in less nutritious food, or food that otherwise has unwanted side-effects. If only, the argument goes, we had the nutritious food of the 19th century, we might all live into our 50s.

Actually, it’s easy to snark, and harder to make truly substantive points here. Many factors led to the earlier deaths of our ancestors, including (perhaps) a lack of food, but perhaps not the general quality of food when you could get it.

My suspicion is that many modern agricultural techniques are truly harmful, but only in the slow, ticking time-bomb way that is rather preferable to the less slow, horrible approach of starvation. The organic market is one that places a premium on long-term health (they presume) over short-term economic gain.

The yin to the synthetic pesticide yang is mineral depletion of the soil. It’s really not debatable that the foods we get in the market are not optimal, nutrient-wise. All you have to do is stop by a roadside vegetable stand or pick an apple off a tree to know that something is lost in transit.

Whether that’s due to the soil we can debate, and I’ll take that up at a later time. The point is, if mineral depletion of the soil is the key element, a product can be certified organic, be produced with the greatest attention to health imaginable, and still be as bad or worse than non-organic food. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m ignoring the myriad shams.) As bad, because just like their conventional counterparts, they lack the nutrients. Worse, because without conventional treatments, they’re susceptible to all the same diseases with none of the protections.

So, it’s not at all surprising to find “organic” foods more susceptible to disease or bearing disease: Between the charlatans, the well-meaning-but-ignorant, and maybe some bias in the research, I would be surprised to find anything else. (See the earlier discussion here about raw milk.)

I don’t have any kind of magic bullet here. Obviously, the ideal would be to test food items for both the presence of various substances: poisons, pathogens, phytochemicals, minerals, and so on.

Tricorder anyone?

Well, That Sucked!

I basically lost April from that damned ear infection, which now appears to be cleared up. My ears aren’t right yet, but that’ll take longer.

I started doing the same nutritional program as The Boy, only a bit more severely. I’ve just finished two weeks without meat, sugar, white flour–you know, all the good stuff.

Perhaps surprisingly, this hasn’t been particularly hard. Despite Trooper posting pictures of pastry. (Hey, the best thing is still on the menu.) And I have eaten like this before, even if it was as a strident, organic-lovin’, tofu-munchin’, birkenstock-wearing post-teen.

Guess I should’ve kept it up.

Anyway, meat should be okay, at least in small quantities, after a while. And I don’t plan to always be saintly. But for now, I’m on the wagon.

Weep for me.

On Eating Less and Exercising More

Last year I decided to lose ten pounds. I’m not sure how I did it, specifically. I just…decided, and in the space of a couple of months lost the weight. This is something I’ve done in the past, as well. Yes, I probably just exercised a little more and ate a little less, but I didn’t follow a plan or anything.

I mention this only because, since last summer, I’ve been exercising a lot more. And for the past couple of months, my diet has been rather dramatically changed. I’m drinking a lot more water and eating a lot more vegetables.

And I haven’t lost a pound.

This is sort of amusing. The point, of course, wasn’t to lose weight but to improve my health in other ways, so I’m not complaining. I just think it’s funny. To some degree, the weight gain may be from water and muscle growth–some of my clothes seem to be fitting differently–but still, I must be eating to compensate for both the increase and activity and replacement of my #1 vice–carbonated sugary beverages–with water.

On a lark, I may actually try losing weight again, to see if I can drop another ten.

Bodies are interesting things.

Juice Plus…plus?

I just went to that modern version of a Tupperware party known as the “nutritional supplement information presentation”.

I know that sounds snarky but, hey, Tupperware is good stuff. My mom has stuff from 35 years ago that still works. These days they’re all MLMs.

So, you kind of have two strikes there: Nutritional supplements and MLM.

But it was hosted by my chiropractor. My chiropractor is probably the least…chiropractor-y chiropractor I’ve ever had. Often, chiropractors–the red-headed step-children of medicine–are into far-out stuff.

I’m not knocking far-out stuff. I’ve seen some far-out stuff work. (I’m also a big fan of placebos. I think they’re under-rated.)

Anyway, this stuff looks interesting and when one of the person singing its praises is a similarly staid cancer patient talking about how it alleviated 99% of her chemo- and radiation symptoms, well, I have to take notice.

The light research I did before the presentation was fairly good. I thought I’d see how it did with the brood.

Have A Coke And A Smile And Shut the F— Up.

I’m “into” alternative medicine (in the sense that I’ve seen miraculous changes from a diet that’s not well understood), and I think there’s a lot of hoo-ha in “conventional wisdom” about the body and health. Still, articles like this set off the BS-meter.

  • In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.

A quarter cup of raisins has 44 grams of sugar to a 12 oz soda’s 36 grams. Think you could eat a quarter cup of raisins without barfing? How about 2 oz. of Raisinets, which is 40 grams?

  • 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)

Yeah, if you’re diabetic. Your blood sugar really shouldn’t be spiking much if you’re not. I do imagine you could exhaust your pancreas if you do it too much, but I don’t know.

  • 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.

Have you been fasting? Because even then the spike shouldn’t be too large if you’re not diabetic. True about the adenosine receptors, tho’.

  • 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.

Not quite. Heroin inhibits dopamine uptake while caffeine stimulates dopamine production. N.B. that the amount of caffeine in a 12 oz soda is anywhere from ½ to ¼ the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, depending both on the kind of soda and kind of coffee.

  • >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.

I thought we’d already suffered sugar shock. This is a diet drink now? Also, apparently, caffeine doesn’t increase the urinary excretion of calcium much at all. (New York Times)

  • >60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.

As it turns out, caffeine isn’t a diuretic! (New York Times, same article.)

But thanks for making soda sound like an exciting psychotropic experience!


I wanted to re-emphasize this point where the scold switches from “sugar” to “sugar and artificial sweeteners”. This is a common sleight-of-hand: The scold doesn’t want you to do something (or wants you to do something) and they just slip in an element that is similar (soda is soda, right? diet or otherwise?) but which, when you think about it, is dramatically different.

Artificial sweeteners may be bad for you (some people are most certainly affected negatively), but it’s, I think, chemically impossible for them to act the same way on your body sugar does. (Indeed, that’s the whole point.)

Lorenzo’s Snake Oil

I have mentioned here before, I think, that I am a fan of snake oil. Maybe not. But I am.

One of the reasons we’re in the current health care mess is that doctors lobbied very successfully to lock their trade down and to enlist the government’s help in beating the tar out of anyone who might compete.

This was a long battle, going back into the middle ages, actually, but fought particularly fiercely in the past two centuries. You can see casualties in likely geniuses such as Ignaz Semmelweis and likely quacks such as Wilhelm Reich. My great-grandmother used to cure tuberculosis patients–I’m not sure how, since she stopped early in her life when they threatened to throw her in jail for it.

Let that sink in for a bit: She was threatened with jail for curing TB. She didn’t charge for this, and her patients were people who had been sent out west by the doctors to die. Even so, she was a big enough threat for the local medical establishment (100 years ago now, mind you, and in a relatively small midwestern town) to leverage the force of the government against her.

Here in California, I believe it’s illegal to say you can cure anything.

I’ve had some interesting run-ins with snake oil.

This diet, for example, saved one of my kid’s life. It was fascinating because at the time we had a doctor who clearly cared–went out of his way to care for a child he knew was consigned to a shortened life of seizures and ineffective (and harmful) medications. He was a very good man, I think, and yet he resisted, strongly, even so much as trying the diet.

His resistance persisted well into the diet being successful.

Let that sink in for a while.

Anyway, this same doctor, in trying to dissuade us, brought up Lorenzo’s Oil. We hadn’t seen it–still haven’t, actually–but people kept referencing it, and curiously they all had different stories about what happened at the end. This doctor, for example, insisted that Lorenzo died in the movie.

So it was interesting to me to read that Lorenzo had just died at the age of 30.

I’ve seen a lot of this–it’s not hard to find people defying conventional medicine. It’s also not hard to find people hawking snake oil. Part of the Nanny State Americans accepted over half-a-century ago was the transfer to the government of the power to decide how to handle their bodies. (Unless it’s an abortion, of course.)

But while doctors can peddle drugs that have success rates about at the level of placebo (and some even perform worse!), and can physically harm you as long as the treatment conforms to some legal principle, non-doctors are thrown in jail (or threatened) for being successful.

I’ve done some treatments that worked for me, and I used to engage in debates about “scientific” principles and the like, but of course, all that I really care about if I have a health problem, is getting rid of that problem. I don’t care if I’m cured by a placebo effect or not. Hell, I’d prefer the placebo effect, since side-effects tend to be pretty low.

But I suppose that’s another freedom we won’t be getting back.

Raw Deal

Here’s a story from Pajama Momma on raw milk that would be funny if it weren’t such a blatant example of how the government protects established interests to not only the detriment of would-be competitors but to society as a whole.

We used to get raw milk delivered, but it periodically would be stopped due to, essentially, political reasons. As PJM outlines, those who try to compete are also dealt with through Congressional fiat. Of course, the justification is protecting our health.

In fact, raw milk was a problem (particularly in France) because the cows were so poorly cared for, and in such unhygienic conditions, that bacteria ran rampant, and people got sick. Pasteurization, in that context made sense. However, if you’re willing to pay the extra bucks, and get your milk from well-cared-for bovines, raw milk is vastly more nutritious. And it’s better tasting.

I’m pretty sure that none of this is in serious dispute. Pasteurized milk offers economy at the cost of nutrition. These days, the health risks are about the same.

Now, if you were to browse the Internet looking for information on vaccines, it would fall into three camps: the official story, the anti-vaccine crowd, and the aren’t-the-anti-vaccine-crowd-stupid-crowd. That’s not a quagmire I’m going to step in here, but I will point out this:

The more the authorities abuse their power to protect commercial interests with falsely inflated health issues, the more their credibility will be assailed on other fronts.