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Hey guys! This blog still exists! There are plenty of things I should probably talk about (...okay, well, maybe only two, but "plenty" sounds so much more exciting) but for now, let me present you with an article about why eating high fructose corn syrup is worse than eating sucrose.

This is based on a scientific publication looking at rats that were fed either "HFCS + rat chow" and "sucrose + rat chow" and let the rats eat as much as they wanted. Apparently, those with the sucrose option were better able to monitor how much they had been eating.

What I like best about the article, though, is the quote from the publication about why the scientists think this is happening. The short, non-biochemically specific answer is that the "fructose raises triglyceride levels in the blood, which in turn signals the body to store more fat." Check out the article for more information about why that is.

I had two problems with the article. One: I am not entirely sure whether "high-fructose sucrose (table sugar)" is the same as "sucrose." There's only a slight difference in the proportion between high-fructose sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. I'm guessing they are the same thing, since small differences can make a huge difference in biochemistry, but I wish that had been made more clear. Two: The article mentioned Supersize Me as "proof" of what happens when you mix HFCS and high fat diets. Yes, this one guy had a negative reaction but A SAMPLE SIZE AND REPETITION OF ONE DO NOT A GOOD STUDY MAKE. This is especially frustrating to me because this article is from a column that's supposed to take a critical look at science in the news. *headdesk*
Ok, Newsweek is a magazine I really love, but two articles relevant to our interests in two days? They are totally rockin'.

This ties into my last post, and I'll expand a bit on it.

The Fat Nutritionist: On Loving My Job and My Body

Her opening line: Let’s start with this: I identify as fat because, well, I’m fat, and also because I don’t think being fat is necessarily a bad thing─it’s just a thing.

I couldn't really think of another way to open this. Anyways, this is more like an opinion's column, but I think it works very well. Michelle Allison talks about her attempt to be thin, and how she ended up miserable. She eventually reads Health At Every Size which was actually a book referenced in the article I reviewed yesterday. I think I'm going to go try and pick it up at the local library.

I mentioned this before in my last article. I'm obese. I know I really need to be watching what I eat. But all around me, I'm getting mixed signals.

-My doctor says I'm healthy, and everything is looking in good shape. (...well, except my good cholesterol, but even then it's not that low.) My mother, who is only 10 pounds overweight, has high blood pressure. Of course, this might be more of an age thing there than a weight thing.

-I don't feel big. It drives me nuts when I see pictures of myself, because I always look bigger than I feel. It's the same with some mirrors. And I can't help but think "Is this the way other people see me too?" I mean, I don't feel small, but I don't feel big either. I feel... comfortable.

-I identify myself as "big." This is a bit of a paradox given the last statement, but I don't use "fat" because of society's negative connotation with it.

-People say I'm pretty. Let's face it, my belly is not by best feature. But I have awesome hair and a great smile and great legs. And something I hadn't thought of until my boyfriend pointed it out to me - nice shoulders. Physically attractive features don't have to be one's stomach. So what should we do? Play up our good features and play down our not-so-good ones!

-I'm tall. Both my sister and I are tall. I'm 5'9" and she's 5'11.5". However, that's about where the similarities in our body types stop. She has the body of a model (which has given her her own set of problems), and I have a big frame that can support a lot of weight. One thing that we do have in common is that we don't weigh what we look. Even though my sister is really thin, she's going to weigh more than other girls who have her waist size because she's six feet tall. And so it's the same way for me. My weight isn't nearly as overweight for my type as other girls, because I'm taller. Also, my frame is built to hold more, well, flesh. When people try to guess my weight, they are usually fifty pounds off. Fifty pounds lighter.

-People actually seem to care about me. I feel like a lot of the rifraff who I wouldn't want to associate with anyways simply avoid me to start with. People who don't care about body size and actually care about things like personality are not going to let me being a size 20 bother them when talking to me. So it's like my size is a society filter. Don't like that I'm fat and don't want to talk to me? Well, I don't want to talk to you either if you're that shallow.

Shortly before I graduated, I ran into one of my friends on campus and we had lunch together. At one point I talked about how I want to lose weight, and she practically blew up in my face. She said that she thought I looked perfectly fine, and how she hates how society makes us believe there is only one body type that is beautiful.

HER: We have different skin colors, and different heights. Why can't we have different body sizes?
ME: I agree, and I know I'm always going to be a big girl. But health problems run in my family related to weight and I want to fight against it.
HER: Tell me this - can you walk a single flight of stairs and not get winded?
ME: Yeah.
HER: Then I don't think your problem is as big as you think it is.

It was reassuring, in a way, to see her anger about this. (I will admit that I'm glad the anger wasn't at me.) It also helped that she had just gotten out of training for ROTC, and was still in her camouflage. Someone who was training to be a soldier told me it was perfectly alright to be what I was, how I was.

I also found out later from a mutual friend that when she was younger, she had bulimia. This really surprised me, but at the same time her hatred for society's ideals about "beauty" suddenly made crystal clear sense. But eating disorders because of society is a whole different subject.

So my questions to you are: How do you identify yourself? And what do you think are some of your good physical features?

[Exercise] Exercise Won't Make You Thin?

An interesting article from Yahoo! News via thorne_scratch: Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin. What I get out of this is that most of us don't really grasp how few calories we burn exercising in comparison to how many calories are in the foods we eat, but I wanted to post this here to get some other perspectives. What do you think? Do you find you're less active overall on a day when you've exercised vigorously, and do you think that cancels out the benefits you're getting from the exercise? Do you think your self-control weakens every time you use it?


Supersize Me

I finally got around to watching Supersize Me, which is a documentary about a healthy man who decided to eat only McDonald's food for a month. You can watch it on YouTube over here.

I have a couple of issues with how things were presented, but on the whole, it was a very effective documentary and I would highly recommend it. Some things I thought were especially interesting:

- Morgan (the man who ate all the food) started feeling depressed after a week or so of McDonald's food. I know this wouldn't be true for everybody, but I can easily see this happening to quite a few people.

- "Problem youth" from a public school system ate school lunches that were prepared fresh every day, from non-processed foods. The students ended up with better behavior. I'm sure the lunches aren't completely responsible, but it's an interesting difference. (The usual school lunch consisted of processed foods that were all frozen or fried or snack foods.)

- After two or three weeks, Morgan couldn't climb two flights of stairs without having physical difficulties.

- He became addicted to the food within three weeks. He said he experienced headaches when he wasn't eating and felt depressed during the day, but as soon as he ate the food he felt "100% better." I really wish we'd gotten to hear what it was like for him emotionally and physically as he recovered. Did he feel cranky? Did he go into withdrawal? Did he and his girlfriend argue more?

Anyway! It was pretty interesting. Anyone else seen it? Any thoughts?


I took an introductory level jazz dance class through my school last semester. “Yes, Jecca, that’s … very nice for you,” you may be thinking! Actually, I was asked to post an entry about it and my experience (like, half a year ago. I am nothing if not prompt, oh yes), because maybe it would be something people might want to try, but would be too nervous to. And I thought that might be a good idea! So, uh. Here it is! Yaaay.

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Overall, even though I was very nervous about the whole thing, I think it was a really good experience to have. Aside from the obvious bonus of getting me up and moving around a lot, it also helped me with my self-confidence and helped me feel a lot more comfortable with my own body. Once I have more free time, I want to try and find something similar, because in the end, I had a lot of fun, and I felt better for being more active. So, if you’re looking for a simpler, fun activity to get into, I might recommend at least considering a beginner’s dance class, or group, or whatever they decide to call it, somewhere.

- There is no storage form for proteins, which means when you eat more proteins than you need, you're just eating extra calories. The extra protein doesn't satisfy future protein requirements, it just gets converted to carboyhdrates or fats. In fact, eating too much protein can be stressful on the liver and kidneys.

- Proteins are always being degraded, so even if you don't exercise/weight lift, you still need a regular supply of quality protein. This is partially why if you stop exercising, you get out of shape quickly.


- Eating too many fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin A, D, and E, can be toxic. When you eat too much, the excess starts building up in your adipose tissue instead of being flushed out of your system. Vitamin A is particularly toxic.

- Water-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin C and B (all of them), are usually flushed out frequently enough that toxic build-up isn't a problem.*


- According to the food pyramid, lipids should not be more than 30% of your diet. The average American diet is currently about 45% fat.

- Many people feel that the original food pyramid, published in 1992, has serious flaws. It emphasizes carbohydrates too much and describes all fat as bad.

- A new food pyramid has been produced. The base of it is daily exercise and weight control, followed by whole grain foods and plant oils used at most meals. Vegetables should be in abundance, with 2-3 servings of fruit.

1-3 servings of nuts and legumes, with 0-2 servings of fish, poultry, and eggs at the next level up. Dairy or calcium supplements should be 1-2 servings.

Red meat, butter, white rice, white bread, potatoes, pasta, and sweets should all be used sparingly. (B-but! MY FAVORITES...)

- The benefits of this new food pyramid are: it distinguishes between healthy and unhealthy fats and carbohydrates and limits the consumption of dairy products. You can find more information about the new food pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov. This website includes interactive programs to help assess your lifestyle and nutrition choices, including worksheets to record your daily consumption of nutrients.


- The protein leptin has been linked with control of obesity in mice and is still being researched for humans. Mutations in the obesity gene (IN MICE) can lead to a deficiency of leptin, which leads to increased appetite and decreased activity, which of course leads to weight gain. Injections of the protein (IN AFFECTED MICE) led to decreased appetite and increased activity, which leads to weight loss. Injecting leptin in leptin-deficient humans has shown reduced obesity in SOME INDIVIDUALS. However! Clinically obese people often have a high level of circulating leptin. Some forms of obesity may be caused by a lack of sensitivity to leptin, rather than a lack of leptin itself.


- Insulin helps maintain the level of glucose in your blood. It transports glucose from the blood to the muscle cells or to your fat cells. It is produced in large quantities when you eat a high-carbohydrate meal.

- Insulin can inhibit the body's ability to use fat for energy.

- A high-carbohydrate meal can cause reactive hypoglycemia, which means the high level of blood glucose causes a lot of insulin to be released. The insulin clears away too much glucose from the blood, which leads to a blood sugar crash shortly after eating. This is why, if you eat a high-carbohydrate breakfast, you may find yourself weak, shaky, or sleepy afterwards.

- Many people tend to eat more calories in the form of carbohydrates than they do in the form of fats, because fats are more filling.

- Type II diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Insulin levels are increased with Type II diabetes, because it takes more insulin to do the job. Insulin increases levels of a protein (beta-amyloid) that forms plaque in the brain. It's possible that an increased high-carbohydrate diet can lead to increased risk of Alzheimer's. The book speculates that the increased number of people with Alzheimer's in our society may be, in part, caused by our fast food, high-sugar diet.

- If you do morning exercise, eat only a little before exercising. Eating a carbohydrate-filled breakfast can cause your insulin to clear away too much of your blood glucose. Plus, the high levels of insulin will cause fat to be made, instead of being broken down for energy.

- You may also want to drink coffee or tea in the morning. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and inhibits insulin production and stimulates fat mobilization.

- One study found that after two days without exercise (of almost any intensity), the levels of insulin required to clear glucose from the blood approximately doubled. In other words, daily or every-other-day exercise can keep your insulin levels low, which will increase the amount of fat that gets broken down.

* For people who know about the biochemical process of respiration/metabolism, NAD, NADP, and Coenzyme A all come from vitamins. CRAZY!

[Exercise] Goals and Obstacles

From an article in Diabetes Forecast magazine:
A group of women ages 30 to 50 who answered a set of questions designed to identify goals and overcome obstacles worked out almost twice as long per week as a control group that received health information but did not learn the “self-regulation” technique.
The "technique" is really simple: it boils down to taking a few minutes to write about your fitness goals each night by answering these six questions:

1) What is your most important current goal?
(I want to fit some exercise in every day!)

2) What is the most positive outcome of realizing this goal?
(Better sleep and more energy.)

3) What is the most critical obstacle?
(Finding the time.)

4) What can I do to overcome the obstacle; when and where does the obstacle occur?
(I can set aside a certain time of day to be exercise time. The best time would probably be right when I get home from work, since that's when I seem to have more energy. Once I sit down and unwind a bit, it gets a lot harder to get up again.)

5) What can I do to prevent the obstacle from occurring; when and where is an opportunity to prevent it from occurring?
(I guess the biggest thing I can do is not put it off. Maybe change into exercise clothes right away when I change out of my scrubs.)

6) What else could I do to be physically active for at least 30 minutes? And when and where can I do this?
(I could take a fifteen-minute walk around the neighbourhood after dinner.)

That's it! The idea is to do this regularly and to be specific and detailed, thinking about steps you'll actually take during your day. Just taking some time to think about your goals and obstacles will make you much more likely to get moving.

So, give it a shot! And share your answers in a comment!
Over and over again, while looking up tips on how to be more environmentally friendly, I've found an innocent little sentence that says something like, "Eat less meat. It takes more energy and resources to raise animals for food than it does to raise plants." I made a mental note of it, but I don't think I ever understood what that really meant until I started reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan's theme here is that every time you eat, you're engaging in a transaction with nature; at some point, even a Twinkie used to be a variety of plant species, a part of nature. Pollan makes his point by following the food chain to show how (and to some extent, why) food is grown and processed and ends up in a supermarket and finally on our plates. It's really, really fascinating, and very scary.

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So, I finally understand why eating plants is better for the environment than eating meat. At the end of the day, we get less energy out of corn (in the form of food calories) than is put into it (in the form of fossil fuels). And it takes two pounds of corn to produce one pound of beef. Factor in the fossil fuels used to run the tractors for planting the corn and the trucks for transporting it, and you find that each and every corn-fed cow represents about a barrel of oil.

Eating less meat is sounding pretty good right now, and so is checking out a local farm that raises grass-fed beef. As an added bonus, grass-fed beef is leaner than corn-fed beef and is richer in omega-3 fatty acids. If you're interested in switching to grass-fed meat, Eat Wild is a great directory of pasture-based farms. And I really recommend reading the book. (In the next chapter, Pollan is tackling organic food, and I'm really curious what he'll have to say.)

I know this isn't a very comfortable topic, but this book has been a real eye-opener for me. I guess I'm naive, but I never realized that... well, that most of the people growing, processing, and selling food really don't give a hoot about those of us who are going to eat that food -- and they care even less about the planet that's providing us with the food. Reading this is making me realize that making responsible environmental choices isn't just about what you buy or don't buy; it's about being conscious of what went into that product, and of the price we're all paying for it.

[Exercise, Health, Nutrition] Links!

- Okay, now this is really cool: Plus 3 Network is a site that lets you log your exercise, and for every mile of running/walking/biking/whatever you do, their sponsors will donate a few cents to a charity of your choosing. I know a few cents doesn't seem like much, but hey, I log my exercise anyway, and I think this could really add up! (And fortunately, DDR's workout mode keeps track of my miles, so I don't have to do any complicated mathematics.) Anyways, go check it out! It's a great motivator to exercise. Info about the sponsors and causes can be found on this page, and signing up is quick and easy. It's a pretty new site, so I'm excited to see where it will go if there's enough interest. If you're signing up and want to friend me, send me an e-mail or leave a comment!

- Ergocise is a neat little free program that will remind you at set intervals of 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes to take a break and stretch, with a number of animations to walk you through different stretches. Seems like a really cool idea for if you're spending a lot of time at the computer. (Now if only they had a Mac version...)

- Act Like an Optimist, Improve Your Health -- an interesting article from Redbook magazine about the link between optimism and health, with some good tips on how to act like an optimistic even if you don't really feel like one.

- Food Mistakes That Can Get in the Way of Healthy Eating (WebMD). Some interesting tips here, especially the one about stir-frying garlic. As I'm reading different articles about eating healthy, it's been interesting to see how research is showing that healthy foods are, well, more than the sum of their parts.

Tools of the Trade

One of the first things they teach you at Weight Watchers is that it's so damned easy for your mind to play little games on you in regard to how much you actually put into your mouth. That's why all people at WW are asked to keep meticulous journals of what everything that you eat and drink throughout the day.

However, not everyone can afford to spend $50/month for the privilege of those small paper journals, nor for the good -often very good - cheering squad.For those who cannot, there is an online free food journal service now:

Like LJ, you can pay for a fancier model and get more bells and whistles. But the basic journal is free and a great start.