Monday, August 30, 2010

You Want it, You Got it....Fancy Chips and Dips

Remember when the beverage aisle at the grocery store was water, Gatorade, and soda pop?  Now it's lined with all sorts of fancy waters, teas and juices in an array of colors.  They're called sexy names and maybe they provide vitamins or herbs or the essence of some sort of emotion.  Some cost close to $5 and most don't even fit in the beverage holder in your car.  Ever wonder where all those things came from?

See, I was watching The Devil Wears Prada again last night, for about the 30th time (I can't get enough of that movie) and one of my favorite parts is when Miranda (Meryl Streep) berates Andrea for laughing over what belt to pair with a dress...they're so different...or are they (drama)?  Miranda points out that Andrea's cerulean blue sweater was actually "chosen for her by the people in this room" (see I can quote it because I happen to memorize that line at viewing #25).  In essence, Miranda was saying that all fashion is dictated by a small set of people and that all of us minions just follow along with the decisions that they make for us.  Since I am not in the fashion industry, I presume this to be true, but please let me know if otherwise.

The food industry is quite different. There's no hard-nosed [female dog*] sitting in a room in Manhattan deciding that all of America will start drinking fancy water.  In fact, the collective "we", as in the consumers of food and beverages in this country, decided that "we" wanted fancy schmancy water.  Since "we" like these waters so much, a bunch of companies came out of nowhere to provide us with endless choices to satisfy our thirst.

So how do "we" voice our opinion?  Well, there's the obviously power of persuasion that comes from purchasing.  But, that would put companies at a disadvantage since some products can take up to a year to get on the shelf.  

As such, there are several companies that try to get an early read on what "we" like by having focus groups or following a trendy spot in the U.S. (yes, it's chic people in LA and NYC) or tracking restaurants, etc.  One of these companies just released the 2010 top 10 most popular snack trends, which I find to be rather interesting.  Based on their data, fancy chips and dips are "in" (think pita chips, pretzel crisps).  If you thought there were several different types of these fancy chips available now, just wait 6-12 months.  There's going to be a whole lot more!   

Other trends include a shift towards more protein-based snacks (thank goodness), more nuts (sorry those of you with life-threatening allergies), more fruit (yeah), and more nostalgic snacks like Twinkies (boo).  What do you think?  Will you be indulging in more Little Debbies and Ho-ho cakes this year? 

*For the record, my blog will now be exclusively G-rated at the request of my HE and following a spirited discussion this past Saturday night. all of you Ds are in my blog!  :)    

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A SHE, a Pedicure, Men's Health, Cannonball

This is probably not a surprise to you, but men don't care about their health as much as women.  Women are much more likely to seek out information on nutrition and health and make food purchasing decisions with health in mind.  As such, the following statistics are not surprising:
  • Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.
  • Men are 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes and are more than twice as likely than women to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes.
  • Men are 24 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.
Despite knowing this, I have to admit that I was absolutely shocked over the weekend while getting a pedicure.  After quickly reading the highlights in People and US (since I have never seen Jersey Shore, was a quick read), I picked up the only remaining magazine in the stack next to my station: Men's Health.  I figured, why not!  I read Women's Health and I like it for the most part (although I have to quickly hide them so my daughters don't grow up too fast...have you seen the latest issue?!?).  

So, I started to peruse the magazine.  Here is a really bad Blackberry photo of one of the feature articles:

For those who cannot see it, it's an article on how to properly do a cannonball in order to make a bigger splash in the pool.  I'm completely serious.  There were other articles on how to properly mix a cocktail and a whole bunch of other stuff that makes me blush.  Apparently the term "health" is used loosely over there at that magazine.  

To the men that read my blog, kudos to you for being a better man and taking an interest in your health!  For the women that read my blog, the health of your man may lay in your hands.  And to all, the diameter of a cannonball splash is dependent on the angle of entry...just an fyi.   

Monday, August 23, 2010

What is Age Appropriate Slang for my Decade?

My HE is many things in my life...most recently, my censor.  He gets my blog post sent to him every morning and 90% of the time, he either says nothing or gives me some sort of positive reinforcement.  Following my last blog post on the HCG Diet, he said, "I can't believe you used the word XXX in your blog".  One of my readers said the same thing to be in e-mail (thanks K).  As such, the word has been removed.  

In all honesty, I struggle with age appropriateness in several aspects.  Every party, every girls night out, every special event....I never know what to wear. Too old for a mini-skirt?  Too young for a sensible shoes?  Too old for thigh-high boots?  Too young for a blazer?  I ascribe to the belief that just because they make it in your size, doesn't mean you should wear it.  But there's quite a bit of wiggle room in there!

Now about the word, XXX.  Of course, I would never use such a word at work.  In fact, I'm working on a book that was inspired by inappropriate use of slang in a professional environment.  My working title is, Never Say Pimpin' at Work (officially trademarked as of right now).  And yes, I actually had to have this conversation with someone who worked for me at a Fortune 500 company.  I also had to tell a young female that it's not okay to wear a purple Victoria's Secret under a white shirt.  It doesn't matter how professional and conservative the shirt is, it's just never okay.  And this rule spans all ages...even when worn with sensible shoes and a blazer.  

It's the other areas of life where I struggle with the appropriate use of slang.   Interestingly, I did some research and what starts as edgy slang often ends up as common language at some point.  For example, being "decked out" in your mini-skirt and thigh-high boots is actually slang that was started in the 1940s.  The word "scumbag" was started as derogatory slang around 1970 (but was originally used in the '60s to describe a male contraceptive device according to entymology dictionary...who knew?)  I have used these slang words in several contexts and they do not seem to be inappropriate or offensive for any age/sex group.

Now the "d" word that I used in my previous blog originated as slang in the 1960s.  But for whatever reason, it hasn't really caught on as part of the adult-not-offensive-vernacular.  And I find that to be a travesty.  (just kidding) 

So just to sum apologies if I offended anyone with the XXX word and I promise not to use it again...pimpin' is not appropriate slang for professional settings...I need to buy some thigh-high boots because I keep talking about them, which obviously means I want them regardless of my age...and when I use the word scumbag, I now have an entirely different picture in my mind.    

Friday, August 20, 2010

The HCG Diet...Seriously, Don't be Dumb

I'm just back from vacation and I'm feeling funny.  Not "ha ha" funny, but more like "I ate and drank way too much" funny-feeling-in-my-belly.  I even ate a Funyun for the first time in about a decade.  I didn't even know they still made those things.  Geez, maybe they don't and the bag I ate was from the 90s???  

Anyway, I'm sure when I step on the scale tomorrow morning I'm going to be disappointed.  And despite being a Dr. Dork Nutritionist, it's still really hard for me to shed those extra pounds that were so fun to put on.  What diet won't I be doing?  This silly HCG diet.  I've had several folks ask me about it lately and I thought I'd do just a few bullet points about it:

  • HCG = human chorionic gonadotropin.  It is produced shortly after conception by the cells that eventually form into the placenta and is what is detected by a urine pregnancy test.  Back in the early 1950s, a Dr. Simeons thought it would be a good idea to give people injections of HCG in addition to following a very low calorie diet (500 calories a day).  And yes, the HCG was coming from the urine of pregnant women.  
  • Dr. Simeons claimed that it helped shed fat while reducing hunger.  This prompted several research studies to be conducted.  There was absolutely no effect of the HCG.  Sure, the 500 calorie a day diet did lead to weight loss, but that HCG had no additional effect.  It just doesn't work!
  • It fell off the map until that idiot, Kevin Trudeau, wrote about it in one of his, "scam the public so I can make more money" books.  This guy is likely one of the biggest scam artists on the planet.  He wrote about HCG and Dr. Simeons' diet in his 2007 weight loss book, despite the fact that by 2007, over 20 research studies had proven that HCG doesn't work.     
  • Because the HCG diet is gaining popularity again, there are numerous places on the web where you can buy this stuff as either an injectable (ick) or as a pill (ick ick) or as drops for under your tongue (ick ick ick).  Just a reminder, HCG is made up of protein and such, there's a pretty high probability that it gets digested up into something that is not HCG with the rest of your food if taken as a pill.  Sure, you could buy the injectable but do you really want to inject yourself with something you bought off the internet?  Please say no, please say no, please say no!  And the drops are just as ineffective, so why bother. 
  • Is HCG safe?  This is a tricky question.  HCG is approved by the FDA as a treatment for infertility in women and puberty disorders in young men.  In those situations, the benefits of HCG outweigh the risks.  Whether or not the HCG you can buy on the internet or receive at a clinic is the same as that used for these conditions is not clear.  These fly-by-night companies make a lot more money if they sell you something that is not HCG and as such, the safety is not well known.   
  • A 500 calorie diet is an effective way to lose weight under the care of a physician for folks that are obese.  However, such a diet is generally not recommended.  Possible side effects include fatigue, constipation and gallstones.  Plus, gaining back the weight is really easy because metabolism will be lowered to such a degree.  
Save your money and try a diet that is safe and effective.  My personal approach to losing a few pounds is to increase my protein and vegetable intake and add an extra mile to my runs.  It's not very glamorous and it doesn't have an official name (yet), but it's inexpensive and rational.    

Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Denny's is Launching a Heart Attack Sandwich...Nice

I'm currently on vacation, drinking and eating to such a degree that I will regret in the near future (just an fyi...farmer's market cucumber in a glass of vodka is fantastic).  But one of my favorite SHE friends (and frequent reader of my blog) sent this picture to me and I just couldn't let it slip by without a comment or two. 

If you missed this, it's a picture of Denny's new sandwich coming later this month to restaurants everywhere:  The Fried Cheese Melt.  It's fried mozzarella sticks covered with American cheese in between two slices of white bread.  It's served with a side of fries and marinara sauce.  The chain hasn't released nutrition information yet, but some experts figure it's about 850 calories.  I get about the same by my calculations (bread = 180, 4 mozz sticks = 400, American cheese = 150, butter for bread = 100), although this may be an overestimate...the whole meal is $4 so it's possible that the mozz sticks and American cheese are on the skimpy side (my guess).  Plus a side of fries is 425 calories according to the Denny's website.  So, it's about 1250 calories for this one entree.  Most average women and men need about 1500 to 2500 calories a day to maintain their body weight, so this is on the high side for sure. 

Is it obscene?  Sure, but guess what?  It's not the worst thing on their menu.  In fact, most of their burgers are all higher in calories.  Too soon to tell about things like fat, saturated fat, and sodium. 

What's most interesting to me is the apparent 'one-upmanship' going on in the fast food industry.  Seems like every company is trying to launch a nutritional nightmare.  And then all the nutrition do-gooders take notice and point fingers in the media.  So this would lead me to believe that these companies are making money off these things...either via all the bad press (the "there is no such thing as bad press" principle) or else people buy a lot of these nutrition nightmares. 

So the question that always arises it socially responsible for these companies to be coming out with these high calorie, high fat items at a time when 2/3 of the American population is overweight or obese?  

What do you think?    

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toxic Feminine Care Products

Tampons.  There are just not enough blogs about tampons.  I never considered blogging about tampons until they started to scare me.  Did you know that most mainstream brands contain trace amounts of dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical?  Here I've been concerned about eating organic foods and using earth-friendly soaps and detergents.  I never once thought about introducing nasties in other ways. 

That is, until the nice people of Maxim sent me a trial pack of feminine products and some lovely cotton pads, puffs, and Q-tips all made from certified organic cotton.  

According to their product literature, conventionally-grown cotton uses an unbelievable amount of pesticides.  Here are some other interesting tid-bits on cotton that I found:

  • Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop.
  • China, India and Pakistan alone account for almost 60% of the global cotton harvest and more than 70% of the world's cotton growers.  
  •  In California, it has become illegal to feed the leaves, stems, and short fibers of cotton known as ‘gin trash’ to livestock, because of the concentrated levels of pesticide residue. Instead, this gin trash is used to make furniture, mattresses, tampons, swabs, and cotton balls. 
  • The average American woman will use 12,000 tampons or sanitary pads during her lifetime (can you believe that?!?).  With puberty starting in children as young as 7 years old these days, that means even more tampons used over a lifetime. [Note to stock in organic tampon company....and Xanax]

I tried all of the products and I can sum them up in one word: equivalent.  By that I mean I think they just as good as the regular products I was using...sometimes natural products may be of inferior quality.  Of course like any good Dr. Dork, I quickly scanned the scientific literature to see if there's ever been a study done on organic vs. conventional tampons and presence of dioxin level in the blood.  Couldn't find anything.  But sometimes even scientists have to make a personal decision based on theory and not hard evidence...I'll take my tampons without toxins, thank you.

For a free trial pack to see if you like them too, check out the Maxim website where you can also see their fun tag lines like, No Toxins in our Vaginas. A free tampon out of 12,000 is a good deal any way you apply it!  


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ugly People Should Consider a Career in Science...or as a Prison Guard

Remember sitting with your academic advisor discussing what you wanted to be when you grew up?  Perhaps that person asked you about your strengths and interests.  Perhaps they asked you about your economic expectations, interest in travel, or other job-related aspects.  But according to a new research study, they just need to look at you to identify your most promising career track. 

According to the study, unattractive women are more likely to succeed in jobs such as manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer, or prison guard.  Attractive women should pursue jobs in sales or administration.  The same was not true of men.  This means that academic advisors would merely need to evaluate the attractiveness of each student and advise them accordingly: "I'm sorry to burst your bubble young, attractive female...but you will never succeed as a prison guard....can you type?"

There are several studies to show that being attractive and tall can be an advantage in life.  But this study suggests that in male-dominated positions, attractiveness is seen as a negative perhaps because it may suggest the person is less intelligent.

I would like to suggest an alternative theory based on my experience as a scientist...a career where laboratory rats are the most attractive living creatures in the field:  Hiring and promoting unattractive people makes the other unattractive people feel more attractive.  Follow me?

Everyone wants to feel good about themselves.  If you surround yourself with unattractive people, there's a good chance you will feel more attractive.  For many reasons, it's socially acceptable as a scientist to let yourself go.  Having attractive women around may just make them look and feel bad about themselves. 

It's just a theory, of course.  The good news is that there are so many easy ways to become more or less attractive.  For example, if you were an attractive woman applying for a job as a scientist, consider not showering, wearing mom jeans or stirrup pants, accentuating dark circles under your eyes, encouraging gray fly-away hairs, drawing in a mono-brow, and wearing those weird orthopedic sandals with the thick bottom and 1970's buckle.  I'm just speaking from experience....I've hired several women just based on stirrup pants alone.

And one last thought...thank you all for your comments to my postings!!!  They make me laugh, make me think, make me happy that I'm generating a discussion with other smart amazing people!  Keep them coming!        

Monday, August 9, 2010

Avocados...The Deadliest and Healthiest Food in the Kitchen

I had an unfortunate "avocado pitting accident" over the weekend.  In retrospect, I deserved the knife in my hand and am quite lucky that I escaped serious injury.  I was holding half an avocado and tried to stab the tip of a Cutco knife into the seed.  Instead, the knife slipped off the seed and went through the flesh of both the avocado and the palm of my hand.  (For future reference, a cold compress and vodka drink seemed to ease the pain...followed by antibacterial ointment and a tight bandage).   

But with injury, comes opportunity!  Here are some interesting facts that I just dug up about avocados ranging from the dangers to the nutritional benefits:

  • A Hand to Shoulder medical center in Nevada has deemed avocados the most dangerous food in the kitchen.  They perform at least one surgery a month to correct nerve and tendon damage in hands due to avocado-related lacerations.  
  • In 2006, the last year for which there are national statistics, about 10.6% of emergency room visits were due to injuries of the hand, wrist, or fingers.  However, only 1.6% of visits were due to lacerations or cuts.  It's not clear how many of these were avocado-related.
  • Like tomatoes, avocados are considered a fruit in the botanical world.  
  • The majority of avocados are grown in Mexico and California.
  • Avocados are also called alligator pears because they look like a pear but with rough, scaley skin.  Boy, the person that came up with that is brilliant.  I don't understand why that name hasn't caught on?     
  • An average avocado has 250 calories, of which about 80% are fat (mostly monounsaturated fat...the good kind).
  • An avocado has more potassium than a banana.  Maybe one day the post-race tables at sporting events will be filled with avocados versus bananas???
  • In April, I watched Jillian, the militant trainer on The Biggest Loser, tell the audience of The Today Show that avocados can prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and pretty much every other lifestyle-related disease.  That is pretty impressive for an alligator pear!  In reality, avocados are a smart nutrition choice that contain lots of nutrients and good stuff...some would say they are one of nature's most perfect foods.  In a petri-dish, avocado extracts do seem to slow the growth of cancer cells, but that is not very strong evidence that avocados prevent cancer.  And replacing bad fats (saturated and trans fats) with good fats (unsaturated fats) has been shown to lower cholesterol.  At the end of the day, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is known to reduce your risk for all of those nasty diseases so bring on the alligator pears!  Just take out the pit with a spoon, as demonstrated here.   

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lose More Weight and Hair with a Low-Carb Diet...Worth it?

A study was just published yesterday in Annals of Internal Medicine reporting the results of a 2-year study comparing a low-carb diet against a low-fat, lower-calorie diet for weight loss in middle-aged, obese men and women.  And by low-carb, I mean the Atkins Diet which starts off with less than 20 g of carbs a day and increases from there.  

There have been several studies now comparing these diets.  What makes this study different is that it was 2 years long.  And as such, the results are quite interesting.  Here are the highlights:

  • People lost weight faster on the low-carb diet.  But after 2 years, weight loss was the same for both groups. 
  • For both diets, people only lost weight for the first 6 months.  After that, they spent the next 18 months gaining back the weight, albeit slowly.  This is a sad reality of weight loss. 
  • For the folks eating low carb, about 50% of them reported significant hair loss during the first 6 months.  This is pretty common on these really low-carb diets and something that people should seriously consider before starting such a diet.  Is it worth losing your hair to lose weight more quickly?    
  • At the end of the study, the folks on the low-carb diet increased their levels of "good" cholesterol whereas those on the low-fat diet did not.  Quite interesting since people tend to freak out that the Atkins Diet is bad for your heart.  
  • Also at the end of the study, there were no differences in bone density between the low-carb and low-fat groups and bone density didn't change over time in either group.  This is pretty significant because again, people freak out that all the high-protein from animal products will cause bone loss.  Not according to this study. 
So what does this all mean???  Opinions will vary, but to me this means that we have got to start studying the real do you prevent weight gain after successfully losing weight?  There have been numerous studies that show that the approach doesn't matter...low-carb, low-fat, South Beach Diet...they all work for weight loss.  They just don't work for more than about 6 months for most people.  

This also means that I will continue to enjoy 'weekend bacon' and my other high-protein foods, but at a reasonable level that keeps my hair intact (see my posts on protein).  And alas, it means that some other schmuck will publish a weight loss book that will be all the rage, but in reality will only be as effective as every other diet that is in existence (at least for the first 6 months)...but that person will be rich and famous and laughing about it all as they head in for their annual liposuction.       

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Porn for Women

I'm always looking for fun and different things to give as gifts to girlfriends.  Check out this little book that I recently found:

It's pages of HEs saying the nicest (and totally uncharacteristic) things!  It's probably hard to read in these pictures, but I'm sure there's at least one or two pages in this book that will make a SHE friend smile. 

Porn for Women is actually a serious of books.  There's even a triple X book called "Hotter, Hunkier, and More Helpful Around the House".  That's too much for me...I'm just not that kind of girl.  I like my porn lukewarm and above average helpful.  And I haven't used the word "hunk" in about....well, never.  Who uses that word?  Reminds me of Magnum P.I.  In case you were wondering, there are no men in the Porn for Women book that have a bushy dark mustache and wear a Hawaiian button-down shirt.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Gwyneth Paltrow Avoids Gluten...Should You Too?

It seems like lately, gluten is becoming a 4-letter word.  Along with "cleanses", gluten-free diets seem to be all the rage in Hollywood.  Gluten-free foods and bakeries are on the rise and why not....who wouldn't give up gluten in an effort to look like Gwyneth Paltrow!

Should you give up gluten?  Before you decide, here are a few facts for your consideration:
  • Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, triticale, rye, barely, and oats (at a low level).   It is also used as a food ingredient in many processed foods.  It's everywhere!
  • About 1% of the population has a diagnosed gluten disorder (e.g., Celiac's Disease), but its estimated that 2-3% of the population actually has some form of a gluten sensitivity (many cases go undiagnosed).  Rates have been increasing over the past few decades.
  • It's not clear why some people develop a gluten sensitivity and some don't, but it appears to be a function of being genetically predisposed and encountering some sort of environmental trigger.
  • Other conditions are linked with gluten sensitivity.  For example, people with schizophrenia are more likely to have a gluten sensitivity than the people without schizophrenia.  Whether people with a gluten sensitivity are more likely to develop schizophrenia (or the reverse) is unclear. 
  • People with a gluten sensitivity are at a much higher risk for other diseases (e.g., cancer), especially when they are not treated.  The treatment for a gluten sensitivity is a gluten-free diet. 
Proponents of a gluten-free diet boast that it will lead to weight loss, increased energy, and other warm fuzzy benefits in anyone...whether you have a gluten sensitivity or not.  These "anti-glutenites" contend that American gluten is the worst (as opposed to European gluten), a function of our breeding/farming practices.  That said, there is overwhelming evidence that people that eat more whole grains have lower body weights, lower risk of diabetes, and lower risk of heart disease.  The whole grain most commonly consumed in America is whole wheat....loaded up with gluten. 

I have never tried a gluten-free diet myself, so I cannot speak from experience.  I will say that studies have shown that going on any kind of a restricted diet (e.g., salt restriction) can often lead to weight loss because people become more conscious of what goes in their mouth and the number of possible foods that one might consume is greatly reduced.  I believe this is one of several reasons why a low-carb diet works for folks in the short term.  

And there does not appear to be any harm in avoiding gluten (although a vitamin/mineral supplement is recommended).  In a perfect world, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables and lean sources of protein would replace the gluten-containing foods.  And then of course, a person would probably lose weight, feel more energetic, and vibrant!  So is it the gluten-free diet or the healthier diet that is responsible?  

What do you think?  Has anyone gone gluten-free?  Has it been a good experience?  Has anyone tried to migrate their blog from blogger to their own host site and successfully completed this process without developing an ulcer?  

Just wondering...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sometimes Change is Like a Hemorrhoid!

For some reason, I decided to migrate this blog over to a site that I own and manage.  At some point in the not too distant past, this felt like the right thing to do. Right now, it feels like a giant hemorrhoid...the really painful kind that pulsates and burns and makes you feel dumb. 

Here's the thing...I did migrate the blog and I even transferred all of the content to the new site.  I even found a coupon to save some money in the process.  Yeah me!

But that is as far as I got because sometimes software instructions are written for dorks of another kind. we are...still at the same site...because I just couldn't close the deal.  And it's Sunday night and I'm tired and I want to watch Thursday's episode of Glee and relax.  Damn, if only I had a pole I could walk around in a circle to unwind.