Our Self-Absorbed Society

Just as a car was going by, I crossed the street and leaped onto the curb. Louie (a poodle) was startled by the car and jerked his chain (which was attached to my water belt) in the opposite direction from which I was headed. The slight pull from Louie while I was airborne was enough to make me stumble several feet and eventually fall, smashing my hand into the sidewalk, dislocating my pinky, and fracturing the bones in my right (dominant) hand. The passing car continued on without hesitation.

I don’t know whether he/she saw me fall. I sat up and felt my hand, winced in pain, and thought, “Crap, I think it’s broken. And that pinky does not look right at all.” I called my husband, who didn’t answer his phone. I called my son, who didn’t answer his phone. I tried each of them 3 more times as I started my slow, painful walk back home. Fortunately, my hand was the only major injury. I ended up with a bruised temple, shoulder, and forearm, but nothing broken there. (However, months later, the pain from soft-tissue damage in my neck and shoulders has started to emerge.) About a block from home, my husband called. “Want me to come get you?” Kinda late for that.

I’ve fallen like this before, but didn’t break anything. When I was in college, I was hurrying to class, running across a wooded area with tree roots sticking up. I tripped over a tree root and somersaulted onto my shoulders. Others on their way to class rushed on past, oblivious to my discomfort. (No one even held up numbers, as in a sporting event, to rate my somersault!) Embarrassed, but not injured, I brushed myself off and went on to class.

In January 2013, I ran in the half marathon at Walt Disney World. Running along a busy road with one lane blocked off for the runners, we were all running down a “cattle run” of sorts, barely enough room to run because of so many people. I kept to the right side of the “trail” so as not to impede the faster runners. A woman came up behind me, trying to pass those of us who are slower (and running on the right side, I repeat), and stepped on the heel of my shoe. Keep in mind, we’re all running about 6 miles per hour (some faster, some slower), so the shoe was launched off of my foot and flew off to the side, in the part of the road where the cars were.

As you might expect, the suddenness of it scared me, I yelped and stumbled, and my son caught me. He then stood next to me and held my arm while I put my shoe back on, and then we continued on our run. Meanwhile, the tall, Olive Oil-esque blond girl, with a  huge, bright smile, having the time of her life, continued on her merry way to the next set of Disney characters to get her picture taken, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort. It was bad enough that she stomped on the back of my shoe–she should have stayed to the left side with the faster runners and not followed so closely behind me. But she could have stopped, apologized, and offered to help me put my shoe back on. I doubt it even registered in her mind what she’d done. In fact, I may not have been her only victim that day! For all I know, for her it was part of the fun to stomp on the back of slow people’s heels for “extra points”!

Remember, this was a DISNEY run. It’s supposed to be fun. You’re not going to qualify for Boston on this run. She was hurrying because 1) she could and 2) she wanted to get in line to get her picture taken with the Disney characters along the route, but still wanted to finish with an unembarrassing (for her) time. The reason she had fallen back to where the slow pokes like me were is that she’d stopped at every other photo spot before this one. She should have known that her time was going to suck if she did that. But she’s (apparently) not the sort to care about other people, only herself. She was in a hurry and I was in her way.

Lately, I’ve been noticing many people are not the sort to care. Yeah, I know in times of major disasters like the Boston Marathon bombing, the fires in Colorado and California, the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, and so on, people do “grow a conscience” and actually help each other. But in everyday life, it’s rare for someone to go out of their way to help their fellow humans. Many people will pick up a mangy, flea-bitten stray dog before they’ll help a stranger who falls on a sidewalk. I’m sure there are many reasons for this attitude (our litigious society, for one), but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Take a cue from my mistake: don’t hook your dog to your water belt! Even a 13-pound miniature poodle can knock you off balance when both of your feet are off the ground.

Featured

Why is Sally SAD?

The Standard American Diet (SAD) needs an overhaul. We’re all eating what they told us in the ’70s is a healthy diet (no fats, “healthy” grains, no sugar), yet the majority of Americans are considered obese. This is Sally’s story.

The alarm shocked Sally awake at 6:30, as it does every day. She’d just, finally, fallen back to sleep after waking up at 2 am and surfing on the Internet until around 5. She rolled over onto her side, then slowly swung her legs over the side of the bed, placing her feet onto the floor, as the back doctor told her to do. She can’t just leap out of bed any more like she used to. “Boy, I really am feeling my age these days.” Each of her stiff, crackly joints reminds her to take it slowly. “Patience, Spot!” she tells her dog, who is whining to go outside to potty. “You wouldn’t have to hold it if you’d just use the darn dog door I put in for you!” Sally shuffles to the kitchen, puts her coffee cup under the Keurig, puts in a coffee pod, and pushes the brew button. While the coffee is “brewing,” she opens the back door to the let the dog out. An hour of Internet surfing and 2 cups of coffee later, Sally is still not quite awake, but she needs to get ready for work. “No time to cook breakfast. I’ll just have some Honey Nut Cheerios and skim milk. Maybe some toast with margarine, too.” Sally pours herself about 2 cups of cereal and a cup of skim milk, makes a couple pieces of toast, and eats it so fast, she’s burping and hiccupping her way to the shower.

After showering and dressing for work, Sally heads out the door. On the way to work, she stops at the Starbucks drive-through window to get a Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato and a coffee cake. “Ah, that should start waking me up!” Sally finishes off the coffee cake on the way to work, arrives at work just barely on time, grabs a Diet Coke, pulls up a chair, and starts to work.

Sally doesn’t move from her chair until 10, her usual break time. She’s happy to work at a place that provides free drinks and snacks for employees. Today is Donut Day, so she grabs a lemon-filled Krispy Kreme and a Diet Coke. After a quick “pee” stop, she heads back to her desk and puts her feet on a box. They tend to swell up at the ankles lately.

Finally, it’s lunch time and Sally is starving! She grabs her purse and heads for the McDonald’s drive through. She picks up a Big Mac, super-sized large fries, a super-sized Diet Coke, and an apple pie. Sally takes her lunch back to her desk, where she can read the news of the day while she eats her lunch.

At 3 pm, Sally’s been staring at numbers all day and needs a break. She nibbles on her apple pie and checks email. The apple pie made her thirsty, so she walks to the break room to get another Diet Coke. She makes a quick stop in the bathroom to pee and wonders when was the last time that she had a bowel movement. “Must be at least 3 days.” She wonders if she might need to take something for that.

Back at her desk, she finishes off the apple pie and the Diet Coke, and before she realizes it, it’s time to go home. She stops at Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home to pick up dinner: 20-pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, and biscuits. Her family of three easily finishes off all 20 pieces of legs and thighs and all of the sides.

After dinner, it’s “family time.” Sally, her husband, and their son sit down to watch a movie and have a bowl of “ice cream” and Diet Coke, and then they all go to bed. As she lies down in the bed, she fights gas and heart burn, and she just can’t seem to relax, as always. She thinks she might need to see the doctor about that. “I know there is a prescription pill to fix that. I should talk to him about my weight, too. I just can’t seem to lose weight anymore.”

Does this story sound all too familiar? Sally is eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) full of simple carbs and processed foods, and rarely gets any exercise. She thinks she’s doing herself favors by drinking Diet Coke and “Skinny” lattes. She sits at a desk all day long, then sits in front of the TV or computer at home until she can no longer keep her eyes open–yet she has trouble falling asleep. (Could it be all of that Diet Coke?) She has stiff, aching joints, she’s chronically constipated (alternating with diarrhea), suffers from insomnia, excessive flatulence, and heartburn, and gaining more and more weight every day. First, let’s examine Sally’s diet:

Food Calories Carbs, g. Sugar, g.
Cheerios, 2 cups

220

44

9

Milk, skim, 1 cup

86

12

12

Toast, 2 pieces, whole wheat

140

24

3

I can’t believe it’s not butter, 2 Tbsp

140

0

0

Starbucks Crumb cake

670

89

44

Starbucks Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato

140

21

18

Krispy Kreme glazed lemon-filled

290

35

18

Big Mac

550

46

9

Super large fries

610

77

0

Apple pie

260

34

13

4 pieces of chicken

1000

52

0

2 servings of mashed potatoes and gravy

240

40

0

2 servings of corn with margarine

140

32

0

2 biscuits

360

46

4

5 Diet Cokes

15

0

0

2 Keurig flavored coffees

120

22

14

Breyers vanilla ice cream, 2 servings

260

28

28

Total

5241

602

172

You don’t need a degree in nutrition to see how wrong Sally’s diet is. But here are a few numbers to demonstrate:

  • One teaspoon of granulated sugar equals 4 grams of sugar. Even though she was drinking Diet Coke all day, Sally still ate 172 grams of sugar—that’s more than 43 teaspoons of sugar! The American Health Association recommends women get less than 30 grams of sugar per day. Sally had almost 2.5 times the recommended maximum!
  • A 30-year-old, sedentary, not overweight woman should eat around 2,000 calories per day. (Older women and obese women need fewer calories; active women need slightly more.) Sally ate 5,241 calories!
  • In a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat about 250 grams of carbohydrates (per dietaryguidelines.gov.) Primal/Paleo dieters believe that’s still too many, especially if you want to lose weight, but Sally ate 602 grams of processed carbs! She had more carbs before lunch than she should eat all day.
  • Did you see any fresh fruits or vegetables in her diet? Nope. True, she had mashed potatoes and corn, but corn is actually a grain. A big salad of greens and fresh veggies would have given her diet a needed nutritional boost and she wouldn’t have eaten so much of the other stuff.

What is most shocking is how few nutrients and how many toxins Sally is consuming each day. Even though Diet Coke has very few calories, carbs, or sugar, it also has no nutritional value. What it does have is caramel color, aspartame, acesulfame-K, phosphoric acid, citric acid, and caffeine. Aspartame and acesulfame-K are artificial sweeteners. They trick your body into thinking you’re getting something sweet. When you consume Acesulfame-K, it stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin that you don’t need. (Too much insulin leads to “insulin resistance” which can cause a whole laundry list of problems.) Aspartame contains phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. (Certain groups of people should avoid phenylalanine.) Plenty of websites discuss the pros and cons of artificial sweeteners. In Sally’s case, she may as well drink regular Coke instead of the Diet Coke, but that would increase her already high sugar consumption. She would certainly be better off drinking plain water, mineral water, water with lemon, or herbal tea. (I would suggest black coffee or tea without sweetener, but I can’t do that, either. Blech.) You can buy powdered glucose online or at a health food store. Glucose is a sweetener that your body actually knows what to do with. Stevia is a sweetener made from a leaf that, so far, seems to be a healthy alternative.

Each time Sally has an ache or pain, she immediately heads to the medicine chest or the doctor. Many of Sally’s health complaints would lessen or go away entirely if she fixed her diet. And a little exercise wouldn’t hurt, either.

  • Her joints probably ache not only because of the excess weight she’s putting on them, but the lack of nutrients that she’s feeding them, and the lack of exercise she gives them. The most popular reason for not exercising: “I don’t have time.” Sally stays up late watching TV and stays in bed until the last possible moment, and feels tired from the moment she eases her body off the bed. She sits at a desk all day, and she serves herself and her family processed foods from a drive-through window. Why does she not have time to exercise? She doesn’t make the time. She could take the dog for a walk after dinner, instead of watching TV and eating ice cream. She could try asking for or making a standing desk at work so that she could stand for at least part of the day. At the very least, she should get up from her chair every hour and walk around the office for 5 minutes.
  • The heartburn and constipation tell me that she may not be digesting her food properly. That can be for a variety of reasons. For one, digestion begins in the mouth. Enzymes in saliva and the process of chewing start the breakdown of the food. If Sally is gulping down her food and not taking time to chew it, she’s missing out on part of the digestion process. Also, as we get older, we lose some of our digestive enzymes and she may need to take some in pill form and/or eat fermented foods like sauerkraut to help her get back on track. (Taking antacids will only make the problem worse. We need acid to digest our food.)
  • Her gut bacteria are likely overloaded with all of that sugar and processed carbs. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t have a major Candida infestation. Yogurt with live cultures and probably added probiotics in pill form would help her refresh the good gut bacteria, kill off the bad bacteria (Candida), and maybe even stop her sweet tooth.

The best thing Sally can do if she wants to feel better is fix her diet. I would suggest she have a consultation with a dietician/nutritionist who can provide her with a proper diet, not just for her, but for her husband and son, too. Once she’s in a routine of shopping for, preparing, serving, and eating healthy foods (and getting her husband and son to help with that), then she could look into adding more activity for herself and the family. (Starting both at once might be too overwhelming.) After a month, she’d probably lose at least 10 pounds, if not more. (Removing all of those processed foods would cause her to retain less water.) Her family could dust off their old bicycles in the garage and go for rides on the weekends. Maybe she and her son could do pushups and pullups together in the morning before school. No doubt her dog would also get healthier and lose weight, too. Maybe her son, like many, has been diagnosed with ADHD? That can be improved by eating fewer carbs and other dietary changes. In fact, some (children AND adults) get so much improvement by eliminating carbs and processed foods that they no longer need to be medicated.

Most of all, Sally should put some of her surfing time to good use and do some research into what she’s been eating and what she ought to be eating. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-feed beef, free-range chickens and eggs, cutting out all grains (not just processed grains) and processed foods, and taking the time to move frequently throughout her day would have her feeling like a new person in just a few months.

(In the interest of full disclosure, fixing my diet and exercising more is an issue I struggle with myself. It’s not easy!)

Cholesterol is not the enemy!

“Fat is stored inside the fat cell in the form of triaglycerol. The fat is not burned right there in the fat cell, it must be liberated from the fat cell through somewhat complex hormonal/enzymatic pathways. When stimulated to do so, the fat cell simply releases its contents (triaglycerol) into the bloodstream as free fatty acids (FFAs), and they are transported through the blood to the tissues where the energy is needed.” — http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/what-happens-when-fat-is-burned.html

At a recent physical, it was pointed out by my doctor that my cholesterol is very high. She also did the “Berkley HeartLabs” blood test that tells us about my genetic markers for certain heart-related diseases. She had an expert in the Berkley HeartLabs tests come to her office to go over my results with me.

During our discussion, the expert pointed out, repeatedly, that my LDL cholesterol is too high (but my HDL is over 60, which is very good). I said that my cholesterol number has always been directly correlated with my weight. She insisted that my cholesterol was high because I eat too much saturated fat, and my genetic tests indicated that I don’t process fats well. I told her that I have been working out a lot more, running to 3-4 days per week, and reduced my calories by about half.

I said, “Doesn’t it make sense that because I’m burning fat, I would have more cholesterol in my blood stream?”

She said, “What?”

I said, “Well, the purpose of cholesterol is to transport fats in the blood stream, right? And because I’m burning more fat, there is more fat in my blood, and therefore more cholesterol to transport it where it needs to go.”

She said, impatiently, “It doesn’t go anywhere, it just gets burned up.”

I said, “It doesn’t just disappear! It goes into the blood stream to be transported to the muscles that need it, right?”

She said, “Well, that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. Let’s continue.”

She has likely spent most of her life (maybe the past 50 years?) working with patients who have heart disease and high cholesterol and can no longer see the forest for the trees. She’s convinced that mainstream medical thinking is correct, and she can no longer think critically about what actually might be going on. Like many of her generation, she doesn’t question what she’s told; the doctor is always right.

Just to placate her and my doctor, I did the recommended carotid artery ultrasound. That involved running the ultrasound device over each side of my neck to look for plaque buildup in my carotid arteries. Buildup in the carotid arteries can indicate buildup in the arteries that feed the heart, which can lead to heart problems. There was no buildup in either of my carotid arteries.

  • Cholesterol is necessary in our bodies. “Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which is produced by the liver. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its outer layer.” (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152.php)”
  • Cholesterol makes up the protective membrane surrounding each cell’s internal organelles … contributes as a building block for many of the essential hormones in your body.” (http://www.livestrong.com/article/25345-cholesterol/#ixzz2HDdm4rhS)
  • “Only about 25% of our blood cholesterol comes from our diet. Most of the cholesterol in our blood (about 75%) is produced by our bodies in the liver, intestines, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs. ” (http://solidbodyfit.com/2012/what-does-cholesterol-do/)
  • “When a long time has passed since the last meal, the concentration of fatty acids in the blood decreases, which triggers [fat cells] to release stored fatty acids into the blood as free fatty acids, in order to supply e.g. muscle cells with energy. … In response to low blood cholesterol, different cells of the body, mainly in the liver and intestines, start to synthesize cholesterol. This is then released into the blood. … Abnormally low levels of cholesterol are termed hypocholesterolemia. Research into the causes of this state is relatively limited, and while some studies suggest a link with depression, cancer and cerebral hemorrhage, it is unclear whether the low cholesterol levels are a cause for these conditions or an epiphenomenon.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_lipids)

I have not been able to find research that discusses a correlation between fat-burning exercise and cholesterol/triglycerides in the blood stream. I think it’s about time the medical establishment looked in that direction, stop making fat and cholesterol the villains, and stop trying to pump us full of liver-damaging statin drugs. Doing a study on “normal” weight men with “normal” cholesterol would not be helpful. Testing needs to focus on “average” overweight people (20-50 lbs, not severely obese) who are regularly exercising and reducing their calorie intake, not healthy athletes, and not only men.

For example, test people who are not exercising, haven’t for quite some time, and eat a “normal” American diet of breakfast pastries, fast-food lunch, and meats and starches for dinner, with very little fruits and vegetables. Then put these people on various diets (high carb, low carb, high fat, low fat, high protein, no animal protein…), and have them do an aerobic workout for at least an hour every day, testing their blood for cholesterol, triglycerides, and so on. Unfortunately for valid testing, you would have to isolate the subjects for 3-6 months to be sure that they are following the proper protocols, which will never happen.

Should you eliminate grains from your diet?

As part of my weight-loss plan, I have limited the amount of sugar, grains, and legumes that I eat. I haven’t eliminated carbs entirely, I just get them from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy. Some people say, “You HAVE to eat grains!” but I have yet to find a reason why, and some reasons why I don’t. In a comparison of nutrients available in the various food groups, there is nothing that I can find that exists in grains and legumes that doesn’t exist in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy. What am I missing?

Nutrient Fruits Vegetables Dairy Meat Nuts Grains Legumes
Vitamin A

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Vitamin B1

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B2

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B3

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B5

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B6

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B9

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Vitamin B12

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Vitamin C

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

Vitamin D

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Vitamin E

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Vitamin K

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Calcium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Copper

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Iodine

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Iron

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Magnesium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Manganese

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Phosphorus

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Potassium

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Selenium

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sodium

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Zinc

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Carbohydrates

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Protein

Some

Some

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fats

Some

Some

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Note that grain products that you buy in stores are often “fortified” with various vitamins and minerals that either don’t occur naturally in them or were removed when processed. But the point of the table above isn’t whether grains and legumes have the nutrients, but to point out the fact that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy DO have all of the nutrients that I need—including carbs and fiber. True, there may be as yet undiscovered nutrients in grains that aren’t in other foods, but it’s not likely. There is also the problem of the depletion of nutrients in our soil that reduces the nutrients of anything that we grow in it. But that’s a different story.

What is considered “whole grain” is clearly defined by the FDA, but clever marketing has gotten around that to fool consumers into believing they’re eating “healthy” whole grains by labeling products as “made with whole grains.” The Whole Grains Fact Sheet states that for a product to claim that it is whole grain, it “must contain all portions of the grain kernel, contain at least 51 percent whole grain by weight per reference amount customarily consumed, and meet specified levels for fat, cholesterol, and sodium.”  (Sorry famous fast-food sandwich maker, but sprinkling a little oatmeal on top of your bun does not make it whole grain.) The website also says that “The Institute of Medicine (IOM) established a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates at 130 grams per day for adults and children. This is based on the minimum amount of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) required to provide the brain with an adequate supply of glucose.” This is the RDA for healthy adults—and most Americans get more than that per meal, not per day. Besides, if you grind the grain into a powder, your body doesn’t have to work hard to digest it, and it’s no longer whole, is it?

Having seen how my body reacts to grains, I have searched around to find out why my body is so different than those who embrace the “whole grain health” philosophy.

In “The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes,” the author explains:

“When we eat too many carbohydrates, the pancreas pumps out insulin exactly as the DNA blueprint tells it to (hooray pancreas!), but if the liver and muscle cells are already filled with glycogen, those cells start to become resistant to the call of insulin. The insulin “receptor sites” on the surface of those cells start to decrease in number as well as in efficiency. The term is called “down regulation.” Since the glucose can’t get into the muscle or liver cells, it remains in the bloodstream. Now the pancreas senses there’s still too much toxic glucose in the blood, so it frantically pumps out even more insulin, which causes the insulin receptors on the surface of those cells to become even more resistant, because excess insulin is also toxic! Eventually, the insulin helps the glucose find its way into your fat cells, where it is stored as fat.”

And this PDF on diabetes published by the Bellevue Medical Center, states:

“Type 2 diabetes is characterized by peripheral insulin resistance, impaired regulation of hepatic gluconeogenesis, and a relative impairment of beta-cell function. Insulin resistance, characterized by hyperinsulnemia without frank hyperglycemia, is the earliest detectable abnormality and may precede the diagnosis of diabetes by years. Eventually, beta cells are unable to compensate, and insulin levels are inadequate to maintain euglycemia (normal glucose content of the blood). In addition, rising glucose levels may further inhibit beta-cell function (glucotoxicity). The abnormalities in type 2 [diabetes] leading to insulin resistance are the result of genetic predisposition and weight gain. Weight loss, exercise, and decreased caloric intake improve sensitivity to insulin.”

After my father died from hyperinsulnemia, one of my uncles mentioned that one of their grandparents had diabetes. So not only is there a possible genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance in my genes, but my being 50 pounds overweight is a “risk factor.” My body isn’t reacting to carbohydrates the way a normal healthy adult body would react. The insulin receptors in my muscles aren’t being very receptive, and so the insulin is shuttling all the glycogen to my fat cells for storage. The only way to make my muscles more receptive to the insulin is to stop overloading my body with carbs, lose weight, and exercise.

In “Why Grains Are Unhealthy” and “How Grains Are Killing You Slowly,” the authors describe why they believe we shouldn’t be eating grains at all. (Grains contain lectins, glutens, and phytates, none of which are good for your body.) Both authors suggest giving up grains and legumes entirely, or to try it for 3 weeks to 3 months and listen to your body. It’s a good idea to take some before and after blood tests, too, since humans make poor witnesses. It is almost impossible to avoid grains unless you prepare your own food. This means if you are a fast food devotee, it will be even harder for you to avoid. (Did you know that a certain popular Sunday-morning breakfast restaurant puts pancake batter in their omelets to make them fluffy?!)

I know of many people who appear to be healthy and swear by whole grains. This guy in “How I beat diabetes with the ‘Duke diet’” says he’s lost weight and gotten healthier by SWITCHING to “whole” grains. See, there’s the kicker right there. He’s reduced the amount of processed carbs he eats and increased his fiber content, so he’s lost weight. He very likely also eats healthier overall than he used to, and he started exercising. All good things. But if he had never eaten grains and then started eating “whole” grains, his results may have been very different. The main thing is that he reduced his total calorie intake and started exercising, which caused him to lose weight, which then led to better health. At least, better health as far as he no longer has to take medicine for diabetes (but I haven’t seen his blood test results).

A study published 2012 July 6 “Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity,” states:

Each published experimental comparison of a diet containing grains with one excluding grains has found significant favorable metabolic effects in the grain-restricted groups, with beneficial effects large enough to render the studies adequately powered despite their small test groups. The randomized clinical trials have shown significantly greater reductions in weight and waist circumference in an ad libitum Paleolithic-style diet compared with the consensus “Mediterranean” or “Diabetes” diets and significant improvements over the Mediterranean diet in blood glucose control, independently of the superior waist-circumference reduction. All three diets emphasize whole foods, but the restriction of grains in the Paleolithic diet is a principal difference, which correlated well with the reduced waist measurement and the 20%–30% increased satiety per calorie seen in the Paleolithic-diet groups.

A Paleolithic-style diet produced significantly greater improvements in blood pressure, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profiles in a small group of healthy volunteers, with each individual participant showing improvements, indicating that these metabolic improvements occur independently of reduced caloric intake. (emphasis mine)

So, am I saying you should eliminate grains and legumes? That’s not for me to say. What I am saying is that you can get all the nutrients you need from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and dairy. I (and science) have yet to find a nutrient in grains and legumes that isn’t available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, or dairy. For myself, because of my family history with insulin issues and what eating grains does to my body, I am choosing to avoid them. I still “cheat” now and then and have a little pizza, a morsel of bread, a tiny bit of pasta when my husband “cooks dinner” (he always makes spaghetti), but my digestion and I pay for it the next day … and the next day.

Articles Cited:

My Standing Desk Project

I keep seeing blog articles for standing desks, so I’ve decided to throw mine out there.

I have made two attempts (so far) at making a standing desk. My first effort involved a wooden bench, which I made out of 1″x10″ pine shelving, and a laptop desk like you would use while sitting in bed. The laptop desk was not wide enough for my keyboard and mouse pad, and offered no space at all for resting my hand or documents.

Standing Desk v1.0

So I got rid of the laptop desk, and made the bench short enough to comfortably type and mouse on it. I found two mismatched monitor stands and put my monitors on them. The monitors are extended as high as they go and still aren’t tall enough.

Standing Desk v2.0

I put felt on the bottom of the legs to prevent scratching the cubicle desk, and I put contact paper, like you put in your cupboards, on top to prevent the keyboard from sliding off. I have my mouse pad on there also.

My biggest constraint is that I can’t alter the existing desk, which is built in to my cubicle. This was my process:

  1. The first step in designing my desk was to measure the distance from my elbow to the desk. That told me how high my desk had to be for good ergonomics. (Your forearm should be parallel to the floor when you’re typing.) My first effort was too high, because I didn’t take into account the thickness of the keyboard. So in my case, the height of the standing desk had to be the distance from my elbow to my cubicle desk, minus the thickness of the keyboard.
  2. Next, I had to decide how wide to make the desk. At first I was thinking it only needed to be as wide as my keyboard and mouse. But the laptop desk showed me that I needed room to the right of the mouse if I wanted to rest my hand, and I needed to room to the left of the keyboard for the same reason, and for documents. I also had originally planned to put both of my monitors on it (as shown in Standing Desk v1.0), so I measured the total width of them when they are side by side, which turned out to be plenty of room for the keyboard, mouse, both arms, and documents.
  3. And finally, I needed to decide how deep (from the front of the desk to the back) to make it. As I said, I wanted to put my monitors on it, too, but I have a couple of monitor stands I scrounged in the office, so they are working OK for now. The current depth is only slightly more than the depth of the keyboard.

The current setup works OK as is, but isn’t ideal. When I’m sitting (and the monitors are adjusted as low as they go), I’m looking up at the monitors, and when I’m standing (and the monitors are adjusted as high as they go), I’m looking down at the monitors. That’s not good ergonomics and definitely puts a strain on my neck and shoulders. When you’ve spent most of your career sitting at a desk, you have to work up to standing all day, so I have to set up and break down the desk often, which is a bit of an annoyance.

For the setup to be perfect, I need:

  • a drafting chair that can I can sit on at the same height as when I’m standing, so I can continue to work without setting up/breaking down the desk or adjusting the monitors
  • a taller stand for the monitors so that the top of the monitor is at eye level when I’m standing

My plan is to search Goodwill and other such stores to find a 30″ x 30″ end table. Then I can cut off the legs to the desired height.

If/when I build Standing Desk v3.0, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Learning to run

My New Year’s Resolution for 2012 was to “get healthy.” But goals should be SMART, which stands for “specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, and time-limited.” So my goal became “be able to run for at least 30 minutes before the end of this year.” Last year, Bill (husband) asked me to run in the Austin10K (6.2 miles) with him, his niece, Kristin, and her husband, Justin. I couldn’t really run then and Kristin was pregnant, so he assured me there wouldn’t be much running. HA! Kristin ran a lot more than I’d expected, but she’d been running before her pregnancy, so Ava (the baby) was OK. There really wasn’t a lot of running, but enough that I was worn out and sore afterward. I expected the usual “run with me” experience, where I walk by myself while Bill runs ahead to get his “PR” (personal record). Surprisingly, we all stuck together.

In May of this year, Bill nagged me to run in the 5K (3.1 miles) at Horseshoe Bay Resort with him and our youngest son, Jake. “Run with me” this time meant I was by myself, Jake was way ahead of me, and Bill ran the 10K, finishing long before I was done. This time I was able to run a bit for a 15-minute average pace. Yes, barely running, but not bad for out-of-shape, overweight cube farmer. It helped that there was one other woman about my age who was running and walking as much as I was. (And also why I won first place in my age group!) We took turns running ahead. In the last block, I finally “sprinted” past her to the finish. She was only 10 seconds behind me.

Bill, me, and Jacob after the Sunset Wine Tour 5K and 10K. Bill got first place overall Master (40 and over his trophy is a wine stopper), 2nd place overall, and I got first place, female, in my age group.

My next races (unless Bill comes up with another one before then) are the 5K and half marathon at the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend in January 2013, so I have plenty of time to train (I think). Bill, Jake, Alex (our oldest son), and I are all running in the 5K on Friday and the half-marathon on Saturday. Then Bill is also running the full marathon on Sunday. (Yes, he has a little OCD.) Disney requires that you keep a 16-minute pace or faster for the half, so I need to keep my current pace or (preferably) get faster. If you lose sight of the 16-minute pace runner, a van will soon appear, and people will wrestle you into the van and drive you to the finish. They have a schedule, people! (Just kidding about the “wrestling” part, but I do wonder what happens if you refuse to get into the van!)

I’m trying to increase the time I’m running and not walking. I’m up to Stage 10 of the Run Your Butt Off training plan, which is walk for 2 minutes, run for 13 minutes, and repeat for a total of 30 minutes. (I go longer if I have time and feel like it.) Training is not convenient. It means getting up at 5 am-ish, putting on running attire, and forcing myself to “just do it” for 30-60 minutes. I’ve worked out at lunch time, but it’s in the upper 80s-90s, and we have no showers at work. (I change clothes, of course, and use cleansing wipes and alcohol-based toner to wash off the sweat. I need to buy/make some sort of portable shower!) At least it gets me outside during the day so I can make some vitamin D, and the rest of the work day seems to go a bit faster.

Cheapest Form of Exercise?

People say, “Running is the cheapest form of exercise. All you need is a good pair of running shoes!” That’s not exactly true.

NordicTrack Treadmill T7si For when it’s too hot, too cold, too dark, or raining.

$1300

Nike Air Pegasus + 28 running shoes These run a little small. (I wear a 9, but had to get a 9.5). You should buy two pair so you can alternate if you’re running every day. Put some baking soda in an old pair of socks and stuff the socks in the shoes to freshen them up. Or just sprinkle some in your shoes, leave it in until the next time you run, and shake it out into the sink before you put them on. You can wash it down the sink to freshen it, too.

$95

Insoles for your running style and weight You need a quality pair of insoles for the shoes. Do NOT use the ones that come with ANY running shoe. They’re meant to be disposed. Pay attention to the weight designation for the insoles. I had to buy men’s insoles!

$20

Power Sox Good quality socks to provide cushioning, sweat wicking, and blister prevention. (I haven’t had a blister yet with these socks, knock on wood.)

$12

Anita Extreme Control sports bra #5527 If you’re a large-busted woman like I am, you need the industrial-strength running bra, which does not come cheaply, and not usually sold in stores.

$67

Fila Women’s Toning Resistance (compression) shorts If you’re “plus sized” like I am (in workout wear, that means any body part larger than a 12), you also need to search the Internet to find running clothes that fit you (or you can wear men’s running clothes until you lose weight).

$35

Garmin FR70 Women’s black/pink If you’re obsessive like Bill, or if you’re related in any way to a guy like Bill, you need a Garmin sport watch to prove that you actually did run, how far/long you ran, what your heart rate was, what your pace is, etc. This is Garmin’s least expensive model and is also waterproof and comes with a heart monitor. (Garmin uses the ANT+ wireless protocol. I already had a Polar, which uses Bluetooth, and works with my phone. Why can’t we all just get along??)

$130

Garmin Foot Pod Tracks my pace when I walk on the treadmill. (Fits in the space under the left insole in Nike+ shoes.)

$70

MP3 player It’s much easier if you get music with a speedy BPM to keep you moving! And Bluetooth so you don’t have cords dangling all over the place. I’ve been using my son’s old iTouch with a cracked screen, but will replace it soon with a Creative ZEN Style M300 16 GB MP3 with additional 32 GB available through microSD card, and Bluetooth.

$90

Jabra Sport Bluetooth Headset Best Bluetooth headset I’ve tried (out of numerous). This one is “military grade” and water (sweat resistant). I have to have the MP3 player/phone on my right side; otherwise, it cuts in and out when I’m walking/running.

$80

Nathan Intensity Race Vest If you’re running further than a mile, you’ll need some sort of water delivery system. In races, they always have water stations, but when you’re training, you have to carry your own. Bill has a belt with water bottles attached, but I decided to try a “running vest” with a water pack in it. The vest has a zippered pocket in the front for keys, ID, Gu packs, etc, and another open pocket for your music player. There is a bigger pocket in the back where I suppose you could put some after-running things, but I’ve never used it.

$70

That’s a lot of money. And you probably want 2 pair of your running shoes, 2 bras, more than one set of workout clothes, etc., so, “cheap” I think not. And after you’ve added the price of races, transportation and lodging for out-of-town races, buying running stuff at the expo before the race, sight seeing at the place where you’re running (if it’s out of town), etc. that’s not cheap.

Of course, you can just put on your good ol’ sneakers and some comfortable clothes, grab the dog and his leash, and take a hike around your neighborhood. As long as you’re moving, that’s what counts.

New Year’s Resolutions

Update, September 23, 2012: 

I had a slow start, but since March of this year I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost, for a total, so far, of almost 20 pounds and 1.5 pants sizes. (Depending on the clothing designers; the high-end pants tend to be cut bigger than department store clothes.) I “run” M-W-F each week and am up to 4 miles at a 12-minute pace. My husband nagged encouraged me to sign up for the Disney World half marathon coming up in mid-January. I haven’t officially started training for that yet, but you have to walk before you can run, right? I’ve also run two 5K races this year. In the first one, I came in first–there was one other woman in the race in my age bracket. In the second one, there were a lot of women my age (the run benefited a high school track star who had died), so I didn’t even come close to first, but my time was better. My 5K time (on the treadmill) is faster now that it was then, so I can see that my efforts are paying off.

How have I done it?

About eighty percent of health/weight loss is what you eat. I was using myfitnesspal.com to track what I eat, which also tells me if I’m getting enough of essential nutrients. (I never seem to get enough potassium.) I still go back to it now and then to see how I’m doing, but I HATE tracking every morsel I put into my mouth. But if you’re eating without thought and you’re still the mayor of your couch, you’re not going to lose much, are you? So I wake up at 5:30-ish every day (which, yes, was very hard to do at first), even on days I don’t run, and then 3 days per week I get on the treadmill. I started out with the treadmill set on “2” and forced myself to do that for 30-45 minutes. I eventually eased the setting up to 3 and then 4 and now, on occasion, I sprint with it set on 5–without being sore the next day.

I think that’s one of the keys–don’t follow the “no pain, no gain” myth. It might take a little longer, but you’re less likely to have to take a month or two off to heal torn muscles, etc. Instead, throttle down the exercise so that you are in the fat-burning zone without hurting yourself. If that’s a casual walk around the block after dinner with the dogs, that’s still better that sitting in your “butt groove” on the couch, nursing a family-sized bag of pretzels! But don’t be afraid to challenge your body and your lungs by stepping it up a bit every other week or so. You won’t know for sure if you can do it if you don’t try. If you can’t do it this week, try again next week.

Give yourself a break!

Also, it’s important to give yourself a rest day. That’s why I only run every other day. Yesterday (Saturday), I rode my bike behind my husband as he went on his 13-mile “long run” for this week. (He’s training for a marathon.) Not only did my legs need a break from Friday’s run, but biking uses different muscles (or at least uses them differently). Plus the ground was wet and soft in some places and very rocky in others, making it harder to to pedal. AND I ran out of water! My husband actually PUSHED my bike in some places. My butt, arms, shoulders, and neck are sore, but legs seem OK today. The hardest part (besides pedaling!) was keeping the bike upright on the very bumpy, muddy ride–which is why my arms, shoulders, and neck are sore. Nope, a 2-hour mountain bike ride the day after a 4-mile run is not a good idea for my body. Not yet, anyway.


My 2012 New Year’s Resolution

Every year for the past 25-ish, my New Year’s Resolution has been to “get healthy.” Anyone who knows anything about making goals would say that “get healthy” is too broad of a goal. For you to have any chance at achieving a goal, it has to be broken down into smaller, manageable goals. So this year, my main goal/resolution is to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Which still is probably too broad. Maybe it should be, “Get out of bed every morning at 6 am, put on workout clothes and shoes, and get on the treadmill (in the winter, when it’s still dark at 6 am) or take the dogs for a walk.”

Why running?

My husband, Bill, started running 2 years ago. He weighed about 230 pounds. Now he weighs about 160. He did that by running. He used myfitnesspal.com to track his diet. He discovered that he never eats enough because he’s always running! He’s run 3 marathons and 14 half marathons, so he’s always training for something. I often follow along on my bike, but 8 mph isn’t much of an aerobic workout. (The muscles of my legs and butt get a workout peddling up hills, though. If you don’t believe me, try it. Park your bike at the bottom of a steep hill, then peddle up the hill.) Obviously, running has worked out well for him. Not only has he lost fat, he also lowered his total cholesterol, raised his “good” cholesterol, lowered his triglycerides, lowered his blood pressure, and so on. In other words, he “got healthy.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching what I eat (mostly), cutting simple carbs, eating more fruits, vegetables, salads, etc., and trying to exercise enough to actually raise my heart rate and burn some fat. But that’s not enough. After a woman gets to “a certain age,” her metabolism slows down, especially if she took a 25-year break from exercise and got a desk job! To get the metabolism started up again, I need to run.

Learning to run again

No one who hasn’t run for 25 years is going to run a marathon. Or even a 5K. First you have to walk. And walk. And walk. That takes time and is usually quite boring, unless you live near a nice state park or a beach board walk, which I don’t. Getting motivated to walk for 30 minutes at 6 am when I’d rather sleep for 30 more minutes is difficult. To help with that, I bought Run Your Butt Off! a book from the editors of Runner’s World magazine. In Run Your Butt Off!, Sarah Lorge Butler, Leslie Bonci, and Budd Coates take you from not running at all to running 30 minutes over 12 “stages.” (Not 12 weeks, because each stage might take you more or less than a week.)

In the first stage, you just walk non-stop for 30 minutes. If you can do that 3 or 4 times in a week, you’re ready for the next stage, which is walking for 4 minutes, then running for 1 minute, and repeating that four more times. In each subsequent stage, you walk less and run more (2 minutes, then 3, and so on), until the final stage in which you run non-stop for 30 minutes. They offer helpful advice for both weight loss and running, and “coach” you through each stage. Just reading the first few chapters is motivating and puts you in the “get healthy” mindset.

Finding the time to run

In the first chapter of Run Your Butt Off! they discuss the number one reason people don’t exercise regularly—no time! The author writes, “You don’t blow off going to work every morning, nor should you skip your exercise appointment.” That’s true—but I won’t get fired if I don’t exercise. (However, studies show that healthy, attractive people tend to get and keep jobs more than unhealthy and unattractive people. Not fair, but true.) The running coach in the book, Budd, comments that it drives him crazy when the parents at his son’s gym practice complain about not having time. He runs while his son is practicing and says, “If you’ve been sitting here for an hour, you have time to run!” He has the same mentality as my husband—“my run is more important than watching my son practice.” I never enjoyed sitting out in a field watching my sons’ soccer practice, but I know they appreciated my being there. Most moms can relate to this excuse, and instead we try to fit exercise into our time (as if we have any!), not our family’s time. And if that means getting up an hour earlier, then that’s what we have to do.

In conclusion…

I’m struggling with whether I want to post “before” pics and measurements—I wouldn’t want to gross you out and scare you off! Over the next 12 weeks, check in here with my blog now and then to see how I’m doing (and “Like” or “+1” me to up my stats!). Maybe I’ll post pics and measurements. Maybe I’ll post some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that might help you “get healthy,” too. Maybe in 2012 I’ll be running in the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon! (OK, maybe just the Family Fun Run.)