Why Calcium Isn’t Enough to Build Strong Bones (and What You Can Do About It)

Several months ago, when I wrote about my experience of gaining weight while drinking milk, and losing weight while eschewing milk, I promised I’d blog about how to keep your bones strong without the dairy products.

This is that post. 😀

Conventional wisdom – and lots of advertising – tells us that milk is the foundation of healthy bones. But like so many other bits of conventional advice about nutrition, it turns out to be wrong.

Here’s why.

1 • Calcium alone cannot give you strong bones.

Sure, calcium is an important building block for strong bones. You do need it. But you also need all the other building blocks: vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace amounts of chromium, silica, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, and potassium.

Taking a calcium pill – or drinking extra milk – won’t ensure that you’re getting all the substances that go into strong bones. It might even harm you, since too much calcium can lead to impaired kidney function, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and possibly even an increased risk of heart attack.

Additionally, if you ingest too much calcium, then your body must adjust its stores of other vitamins and minerals in order to process the excess calcium.

2 • Calcium intake is irrelevant, IF your body is not absorbing it and building with it.

People living in the United States ingest far more calcium than those living elsewhere, and yet US residents also suffer more osteoporosis.

What gives?

In addition to having all the building blocks on hand, the environment must also be right for actual building to occur.

Imagine trying to build a house in the midst of a snow storm. You might have all the materials on hand – bricks, mortar, wood framing, nails, etc. – but I doubt you’d get much building done.

Your hormones and your inflammatory status play large roles in determining whether conditions in your body favor the building of strong bones. Or not. High blood sugar and chronic inflammation both speed up the breakdown of bone and slow down the creation of new bone cells.

The foods you eat also influence the building conditions in your body.

Grains possess a lot of phytates (to protect the seed), and legumes possess both phytates and oxalates. Phytates and oxalates chemically bind to the calcium present, both in the grains and legumes themselves, and in other foods present in the digestive tract, carrying the calcium out of the body entirely.

Soaking and sprouting grains and legumes helps to reduce the volume of phytates, but cannot reduce it sufficiently to where its presence ceases to leech calcium (and other minerals) from your body. Additionally, from my previous post on insulin, we know that grains yield high blood sugar for a significant interval after you eat them.

If you don’t eat enough protein, you’ll get the same accelerated bone loss that high blood sugar and inflammation produce.

And if you don’t eat enough healthy fats, you won’t be able to assimilate vitamins D and K, because they are both fat soluble.

Bottom line: in addition to having all the building blocks on hand, conditions within your body must also favor the building and maintenance of strong bones.

3 • There are better sources of calcium than milk.

I remember seeing lists of calcium rich foods several years ago and being skeptical that anything could be better than milk. I was a big milk proponent. Sure, 8 ounces of kale might have 180 milligrams of calcium, but 8 ounces of milk has 300. And I can easily drink 3 glasses of milk every day, but I sure won’t be eating 3 cups of kale every day!

Ah, but!

The key is not how much calcium is present. The key is how much your body assimilates. The reason our RDA for calcium is so inflated is that most of the calcium from milk and pills goes right through. But the calcium from vegetables like kale and mustard greens and others gets absorbed and used. It is more bioavailable.

I went looking for some of the recent studies on calcium from plants versus calcium from milk and landed on the Harvard School of Public Health site with an interesting paragraph that I will quote below, since it occurs in the middle of a hugely long web page.

In particular, these studies suggest that high calcium intake doesn’t actually appear to lower a person’s risk for osteoporosis. For example, in the large Harvard studies of male health professionals and female nurses, individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than were those who drank two or more glasses per week. When researchers combined the data from the Harvard studies with other large prospective studies, they still found no association between calcium intake and fracture risk. Also, the combined results of randomized trials that compared calcium supplements with a placebo showed that calcium supplements did not protect against fractures of the hip or other bones. Moreover, there was some suggestion that calcium supplements taken without vitamin D might even increase the risk of hip fractures. A 2014 study also showed that higher milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in older adults.

So…if slugging down gallons of milk or dozens of calcium pills is not the answer – and it isn’t – how do we build and maintain strong bones?

I want action points! 😉

First of all, don’t look to bone density drugs such as Fosamax® and Boniva®. These deposit long-lasting compounds (alendronate and ibandronic acid, respectively) within the bone matrix, which give the illusion of greater bone density. But they do not form the normal matrix that actually makes bone strong. In fact, taking biophosphonates leads to bones that are more brittle and more likely to fracture! Talk about irony!

Okay, what does work?

1 • Avoid the foods that result in chronic inflammation, elevated blood sugar, and that remove nutrients from your body.

Highly processed foods and sugar-laden foods are especially bad. Grains and legumes become more and more problematic as we get older.

I hate to start with a “don’t,” but it’s a pretty important don’t. If your bones are currently strong, if your weight is normal, and your health is good, then you might be able to get away with skipping this #1 and leaning hard on #2, #3, and #4.

But I’ve got osteoporosis, I’m still carrying some extra pounds (even after the 23+ that I’ve lost), and I don’t have quite as much pep in my stride as I want. Action point #1 is critically important for me!

2 • Eat meat, seafood, and eggs, cooked with clarified butter, coconut oil, lard, or tallow to get adequate protein and adequate fats.

These are nutrient-dense foods containing many vitamins and minerals, in addition to the protein and fat. They help keep your blood sugar levels within the optimum range. They do not promote inflammation.

3 • Eat kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli rabe, cooked spinach (many of the nutrients are not bioavailable in raw spinach), sea vegetables, bone broth, sardines, anchovies, shrimp, oysters, and canned salmon.

More nutrient dense foods that are high in calcium and the other building blocks for strong bones. You’ll get what you need without having to worry about balancing calcium with magnesium and potassium and all the others, the way you would if you were trying to get it right using pills. Plus the phytonutrients that may be a part of why calcium in plants is more bioavailable than from other sources are present.

4 • Lift weights.

Or do heavy yard work regularly. Or do yoga poses, many of which build strength as much as they increase flexibility. Engage in physical activity that is weight-bearing.

The compression of working against gravity stresses our bones in a healthy way, triggering them to build more of the structural matrix that can support the load.

I’m a swimmer, which is not weight-bearing. It has all kinds of other benefits, but strengthening my bones is not one of them, alas. So I lift weights in additional to swimming.

And there you have it.

Eat meat, seafood, and eggs.
Eat green, leafy vegetables.
Do weight-bearing physical activity.
And avoid foods that produce high blood sugar and inflammation.

I’ve been trying a lot of new-to-me recipes over the last few months, and I plan on sharing them with you as I continue to blog. I’ve also got a few more health hacks to write about. Stay tuned! 😀

For more about health and nutrition, see:
Test first, then conclude!
Let’s Talk Insulin
Milk Is Highly Insulinogenic
Thinner and Healthier
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous

 

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Milk Is Highly Insulinogenic

When I first encountered that word, insulinogenic, I completely garbled its pronunciation. In-su-lino-whadya-hooya? What the Hades?

In-su-lino-gen-ic. Right.

So what does it mean? It means something that stimulates the production of insulin. In the context of milk, it means that milk produces a much bigger insulin response in the human body than it has any right to, given the amount of carbohydrates present in milk, mostly in the form of the milk sugar lactose. Milk punches so high above its carb content that it produces an insulin response like that of white bread!

Why is this of concern to me?

Well…when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, I really stepped up my milk intake. I didn’t know that milk was insulinogenic, and I did know that my bones could use all the help they could get.

I found it difficult to drink 4 cups a day, so I began adding a pinch of stevia along with cocoa powder to my evening milk. Yum! It tasted like dessert!

Meanwhile, my weight had been creeping up. There seemed to be several obvious reasons for that. I had two health problems in sequence that kept me away from the gym for nearly 2 years. I’d allowed pasta back into my menu, perhaps once every 10 days. And I was getting into my middle fifties. I didn’t like the upward creep, naturally.

I was relieved when I resolved my health problems enough to return to the gym in May 2016. And I rededicated myself to kicking the pasta back out of my menu. Remembering when I tried Phil Maffetone’s 2-week test with such stellar results, I expected to see the start of a drop in weight. Imagine my surprise when I continued to gain!

“How can this be?” I asked myself. “I’m swimming three times a week. Lifting weights two or three times a week. I’m eating fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. My calorie intake is modest; I’ve never been a big overeater. What the Hades gives?”

This unfortunate upward trend continued. “I wonder if it is the milk?” I asked myself.

You would think I might have done some more reading about milk, but I didn’t. I was attached to my milk. Besides, it was healthy milk from grass-fed cows lovingly tended by my local farmer, who had managed the apprentices at the famous Polyface Farm. It couldn’t be the milk!

But I suspected it was.

I tried to cut down and found that I couldn’t. Oh, oh! Was I addicted to milk?

Finally, in November 2016, after months of “quitting milk” and then “I’ll just have one last big glass tonight,” I decided I needed support. I’d visited a website devoted to the Whole30 way of eating some while back and noted that the Whole30 was the way I wanted to eat and that the site had forums. A forum sounded like exactly what I needed.

And it was!

Hanging out with a bunch of others who were eating the same way I wanted to eat – and posting on my progress – enabled me to give up the milk and ditch the last remnants of pasta. I saw almost immediate results. I had an annual exam scheduled with my doctor 3 weeks after I started my Whole30, and I found I’d lost 7 pounds. Without counting calories. Just by waving goodbye to milk. (Since I doubt my previous once or twice a month indulgence in pasta was the key to my previous weight gain.)

I also found my energy levels increasing and my mood improving. I felt good!

After 30 days of no milk (and no grains, no legumes, and no sugar – none), I’d lost 9 pounds. I decided to carry on as I was. I liked how I felt, I liked all the new meals I’d learned how to cook, I liked everything about my new routine. So far, I’m still losing weight, 20 pounds and counting at about one-and-a-half pounds per week. My yoga pants are beginning to get too loose!

It was only after these stellar results that I did a little researching on milk and learned that it is highly insulinogenic. Even my healthy milk from a local dairy farm run by a super careful and informed grass farmer.

When I was younger, I could get away with eating insulinogenic foods. At least, they didn’t pack the pounds on me, although – looking back – they did have other more subtle negative effects. But as I’ve gotten older, insulin in my bloodstream started to have the effect that it does in many, acting as a one-way gatekeeper that packs fat into the fat cells and doesn’t allow any withdrawals of that fat for energy. No more milk for this lady!

But what will I do for my osteoporosis?

That’s another blog post. Which I will write. I also plan to share more about my adventures with the Whole30 in future posts. But this is enough for now. 😀

For more about the effects of insulin, see:
Test first, then conclude!

For more on nutrition, see:
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous
Thinner and Healthier
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

Can’t wait for my future posts to learn more about the Whole30? See:
Whole30.com

 

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Mantra for Success

I first heard the middle school mantra for success in either the spring or summer of 2014. My twins were headed for 7th grade in the fall, and we were attending an orientation at Buford Middle School.

Be in the right place,
at the right time,
with the right tools
and the right attitude,
doing the right thing.

I’ll admit I wrote it off as simplistic and a blatant control move by authority. Admittedly, getting 500 students and 50 teachers and staff all pointed in roughly the right direction must be challenging. The administrative staff has their work cut out for them, and every bit of leverage helps.

But I didn’t pay much attention to the Buford mantra until today, more than 2 years after I heard it, and with my children now in 9th grade and attending high school.

So why did I think about it this morning? And why did I suddenly realize it possessed some useful ideas?

Confession time.

I love writing, but you already knew that. I love world building. I love making up characters. I love getting to know those characters and following them through their adventures. I love the hard work that a novel requires and the feeling of satisfaction that comes when I complete one.

But I have one guilty secret about writing that hides in the thicket of all of the above.

I like the way writing tends to automatically organize and prioritize my day. Because here’s the thing: when I’m not writing, I often have an uncomfortable, nagging feeling that I’m not doing the right thing, whatever the right thing might be. And I don’t know what the right thing actually is.

Oh, sometimes I know what the right thing is. But often, I don’t. And I hate that feeling. Hate it!

I’ve always tackled quelling the feeling that I’ve chosen the wrong thing with a straight attack, using logic as my tool. What should I be doing right now? Sometimes that works.

Voice of Reason:“I should be emptying the clean dishwasher, filling it with dirty dishes, and running it again.”

JM:“Uh. Okay.”

:: goes and does the dishes chore ::

loading the dishwasher

More often, that doesn’t work. At least, not for me.

Voice of Reason: “I should revise the cover copy for Livli’s Gift.

JM: “I’m brain dead right now. No can do.”

Voice of Reason: “Okay. How about KonMari-ing that cabinet in the bathroom?”

JM: “I could. And it does need to be done. But I’ve got a lot of more important things on my plate right now.”

Voice of Reason: “Okay. How about working on the new cover for Skies of Navarys?”

JM: “Fine. It doesn’t feel like the right thing, but it does need doing, I do have the mental wherewithal to do it, and it is important.”

:: goes to work on that cover, feeling all the while that something is not quite right ::

Three airships over landscape, feature size

Since I sent my current novel off to my first reader on October 4, I’ve been having conversations much like that second one for the last twenty-six days, and very uncomfortable has it been.

I’ve done a little writing on a short story. But, really, the weeks when I’ve finished the first draft of one novel and haven’t yet started the next one are the ideal time for me to get caught up (or at least make progress on) other priorities in my life. Because I definitely get behind on them when I’m writing.

When I’m writing, the conversation goes like this:

JM: “What should I do today?”

Voice of Reason: “Write the next scene of the novel. Then go to the gym and swim. Then help your son with that big school project. And then you’ll be tired. So read, if you’re in the mood. Or do some drawing.”

JM: “Great!”

:: pulls out computer and starts writing ::

laptop silhouette

So the bathroom cabinet does not get organized via the KonMari technique. I don’t develop a new dinner menu to add to the roster. I don’t mend the tear in that sundress. I don’t write a new “blurb” for Livli’s Gift. The garden does not get weeded. And many other tasks go undone.

But I feel like I am doing the right thing. Writing and going to the gym always feel like right things. Which is a relief.

Last week I tried talking with a friend about my problem of feeling like I’m doing the wrong thing. I was not very articulate about my problem. And I ended up sounding like I was a workaholic. But I’m not really.

Just yesterday I found myself roped into helping my daughter figure out a costume for a Halloween party she was invited to. I ended up pulling out some dresses of mine that I’d saved for her: a pink-flowered prom dress that my grandmother originally sewed for my my mother, and that I wore to go swing dancing in the 1980s; a teal velvet gown that my mother sewed for me and that I wore at feasts for the Society for Creative Anachronism when I was in college; a yellow chiffon gown that my father and I sewed together when he realized that all our father-daughter projects had been “boy things” (model railroads, model rockets) and none of them “girl things.”

(My dad is cool! What can I say?!) 😀

My daughter and I had a blast as she tried on all those special garments. And I had no desire to be working or doing anything other than what I was doing that afternoon. It was perfect. And it felt right.

So has lying in the hammock on a beautiful summer morning felt right. Or re-reading a favorite novel by Georgette Heyer.

backyard hammock

I have no problem enjoying non-work activities, and engage in them fairly frequently. That’s not my problem.

My problem is that I have difficulty consistently identifying what activity will feel right for any given interval of time. And, more often than not, I don’t succeed in identifying the right activity. So I do something else. And the nagging sense of “something wrong” drags at me, and dilutes any enjoyment I might feel.

I get things done. But I’m not getting as much done as I would if I weren’t continuously fighting the “something wrong” feeling. And I’m not enjoying living as much as I might be.

I’ve thought about this problem ever since I was old enough to make choices about how I spent my time and energy. I’ve journaled about it. I’ve tried to talk about it with friends and mentors, but I’ve never felt like I was able to communicate about it very adequately.

I’ve tried various organizational systems: Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, simple to-do lists, and lately my bullet journal. I’m still loving my bullet journal, but organizational systems don’t really address an immediate feeling of meaning.

When I sent my current novel off to my first reader, I tried to plan a way that I could occupy myself meaningfully while I awaited her feedback. The best thing I could come up with was that I would start the short story I had in mind. I did start it, and I’m excited about it. But writing more doesn’t really solve the problem of choosing meaningful activities when I’m not writing.

beautiful morning

So, this morning, while I got my morning sun on the front porch, I wrote about my difficulty in my journal. And while I wrote about it, that middle school mantra for success came to mind.

What if it did have something to offer me? What might I learn if I reconsidered it?

One thing I grew very aware of while I journaled was that I often don’t have the resources I need for the task I contemplate tackling. The most typical resources lacking are mental alertness and oomph or physical energy. But there are other resources missing at times: know-how and helpers are others that appear regularly.

What might I see if I took a prospective task through the mantra, instead of going straight to the knockout-punch question: Is this the right task?

The Right Place

For a lot of living, identifying the right place is very straight forward. If you are in school, are you in the right classroom? If you are working for an employer, are you in the right office or the right meeting room or the right site for a site visit?

If you have more control over your location, the answer to “am I in the right place?” can grow more complex.

If I’m cooking, clearly I need to be in the kitchen. If I’m doing laundry, I need to be in the corner of the basement that holds the washer, the dryer, and the drying racks.

But I have plenty of memories of doing something in the wrong place: trying to draw a plan for a work table while lying on my bed; using an x-acto blade to cut paper for a photo album while sitting on the bed; doing sit-ups in the narrow bit of floor between the bed and the bureau; spinning lettuce in the salad spinner on the dining room table, instead of the kitchen counter. I could go on.

I managed to accomplish all those activities in the less-than-ideal place. And half the time, there was a good reason for the non-standard location. But half the time, I just dove in where I was on whatever. And once I was well started, it seemed silly to stop while I relocated.

The question of the what the right place is may need only brief consideration, but skipping it altogether is unwise. For me, at least. And it’s not just because I might end up doing something inefficiently.

Skipping consideration of the right place means that I might miss the first clue that whatever I’m considering isn’t the right thing for me at this time.

For example, the times I’ve spun the lettuce in the salad spinner on the dining room table have been times when the kitchen counter is too full of dirty dishes. Sometimes, that location is the best one. If I’m in a hurry to throw together a salad and don’t have time to clear the kitchen counter and eat the the salad, then yes: table. If I’m too tired, and don’t have sufficient energy for both, then yes: table.

But I might also be better served to change my schedule and rest for 10 minutes. Or eat carrots and dip plus ham rolls, instead of salad, if I’m that rushed. Feeling the pull of a non-standard place or an inconvenient place is something to notice, not something to ignore.

The Right Time

Really structured environments tend to provided automatic answers to: “Is this the right time?” But my environment is highly unstructured. I must structure it. And this is an area where I go astray often.

It’s the morning, and I would feel good if I were writing. But instead I’m checking email.

It’s the morning, and I will be most comfortable if I eat breakfast before going on with my day. But I had a great idea for the next scene in my novel, and I wanted to get it written down before it eluded me. So I jumped on the computer and got lost in the writing, only emerging at 11:30 am, long after I needed breakfast.

It’s 12:30 pm, and the best window at the pool for swimming is from 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm, so I would be well-served to be getting ready to swim and then hopping in the car to drive to the gym. But I never did get breakfast, so now I’m starving and must eat before I do anything else.

It’s 3:30 pm and the kids will be arriving home from school in 45 minutes. I would do well to wrap up the scene I’m writing and rest a little before they get here. But I was late to the gym and didn’t get home until 2:30 pm, so I’ve only done an hour of writing in the afternoon, and I don’t want to stop.

Now, I’m not always doing the right thing at the wrong time, but often I am.

For me, the solution is not get rigid with my schedule. For one thing, it doesn’t work. I feel rebellious and rebel, with the result that my schedule is more disorganized, not less. Or else it does work, and I’m being marvelously efficient, but I’m not generating that good feeling of doing the right thing.

But I think that asking myself the question: “Is this the right time for this?” will heighten my awareness and improve my decision making, with the result that I feel good about my choice of activity, whatever it is.

The Right Resources

Okay, this one is huge for me. At least, I think it is.

Being able to do something without the right resources is a useful skill. It’s not always possible to gather those resources, and if the task is important… well, flexibility and ingenuity are your friends! 😀

But somethings just cannot be accomplished without the right resources. Or can only be accomplished so poorly, that it would be better to shift the activity from doing the thing to seeking the resources that will make it possible.

Currently, I see five categories of resources worth considering.

• tools
• know-how
• energy
• interval of time available
• helpers

I could discuss each of those categories and why they are important. But as I’ve been typing this blog post, I am seeing more clearly what first came to light when I was journaling this morning. These questions I’ve borrowed from the middle school mantra could be used for basic organization. But – for me – their utility is in raising my awareness.

If I lack the size of screws needed to attach the bar of hooks to my son’s door, then should I really be tackling the hook project right now? Maybe I would feel better if I shopped for the screws, scheduled the actual project for a different day, and then went on to get my swimming in.

If I am feeling lonely, but can’t watch a movie with my spouse that evening, because he must attend a soccer orientation with our daughter, then I lack a helper. So maybe I should call a friend and talk on the phone instead. Or maybe I should go with spouse and daughter, even though I neither play nor coach soccer! 😀

If I lack a resource, I would do well to consider either acquiring it or doing a different activity that does not require that missing resource.

The Right Attitude

Do I really want to do whatever it is that I am considering? Can I commit to it? And if I cannot, why can I not?

I suspect that if I ask myself these questions in order – Is this the right place? Is this the right time? Do I have the necessary resources for this? – I will reach clarity before I arrive at the question: “Do I have the right attitude?”

But if I answered, “Yes, yes, and yes,” to the first three questions and then find I do not have the right attitude, the attitude question will halt me before I head off in the wrong direction.

Maybe I don’t actually have the resources I need. In which case… back up and reconsider.

Or maybe there is something else that is a higher priority than what I am considering, and I know it in my heart of hearts, but have refused to consider that more important something. “Do I have the right attitude?” will alert me when I’m considering the wrong activity for me.

The Right Thing

Is this activity the right one? That’s the question that I very much want to be able to answer. And my hope is that by asking myself about the right place, the right time, the right resources, and the right attitude I will tease out what really is the right thing for me at a given moment.

the end of the day

Will it work?

Why am I even telling you about all this before I’ve truly tried it?

I think it is worth trying. I used it a little bit today, and I’m pleased with how the day went. My bio-rhythms are a little off. I read a really good book several days ago, and it was so good that I stayed up until 3:00 am to finish it. So I allowed myself to sleep in the following morning. Which meant is was hard to go to sleep the next night. I’m getting back to the sleep-wake times that work best for me, but I’m not there quite yet.

So I got up at later today than usual. I went outside for my half hour of morning sun and wrote in my journal about wanting to be able to choose the “right thing” more reliably and about the middle school mantra for success.

And when I’d done that, I asked myself: “Is this the right time for more journaling?” And it wasn’t. It really wasn’t. But the greater awareness produced by the question made me very willing to move on to the thing that was right: cooking a late breakfast for everyone.

It felt good. It felt right. And that right feeling is what I am seeking.

Thoroughly tidying up the kitchen after eating breakfast felt right also, so I did that. And then I thought about what would feel right next. I became aware that if I wanted to swim, I’d best do it soon. I’d lose the opportunity if I waited.

my son in the cherry treeBut the pause for mindful consideration using the mantra bought me something I might not have realized otherwise. Instead of just diving into swimming (my apologies for the bad pun) – or insisting that my son and I start work on his project right now – I would feel better if I consulted my son.

“I want to swim, and I want to help you with your project. I’d prefer to rest for thirty minutes ” – the kitchen work had tired me – “then swim, and then help you with your project. But will that work for you?”

He liked that schedule, so that’s what we did. And it felt good to me. It felt right.

So the mantra-generated questions worked well today. Much better than simply asking myself, “Is this the right task for right now?” Whether the mantra will work well over weeks and months remains to be seen. But I’ve learned that the time for telling others about something new that I’m trying is when it is new. I’m excited about it. I want to tell others.

If I wait until after I’ve thoroughly road-tested it, the communication becomes a chore. I still want to share, but I don’t have as much energy for it. Best to share while it’s fresh. I can always write another blog post later to report on how it’s working over time. And add an ETA (edited to add) to this post, along with a link to subsequent posts, to communicate the additional info.

Is this the right place?
Is this the right time?
Do I have the right resources?
Do I have the right attitude?
Is this the right thing?

I suspect not many people are so troubled by the sense of “doing the right thing at the wrong time” or “doing the wrong thing at the right time” as I am. I wouldn’t have gotten so many blank looks over the years when I tried to talk about this, if that were the case. But if you happen to be someone who has wrestled with this, I’d love to hear your experiences. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? And, if you give this middle school mantra a try… how do you feel?

ETA 11/10/2016

I’ve been working with all of the above for roughly ten days, and I’v discovered something really interesting to me. The very first question – without any of the follow-ups – is often sufficiently illuminating all on its own.

I’ll ask myself, “Am I in the right place?”

And then I’ll just know that I’m not. And I’ll know where I need to be and why.

A typical example:

I continue to love sitting outside in the morning for half an hour. It’s beautiful, and I just feel good. So good that I tend to linger a little too long. It’s okay to linger an extra ten minutes. Heck, sometimes even a full extra half hour is okay. But much more than that isn’t.

What I find is that I start getting an uneasy feeling after I’ve lingered for a bit. And when I use that feeling to prompt myself with the first question – “Am I in the right place?” – I raise my awareness sufficiently to know what would feel right for my next step.

I see now that when I planned my day in the past, I tended to think I’d done all the planning necessary. And when I went through that day, I could make the obvious adjustments (obvious to me), but I wasn’t making the less obvious adjustments. With the result that I would realize I’d gone wrong only after I’d been going wrong for quite some time. It’s a lot harder to fix that all-wrong feeling after it’s been building a head of steam.

“Am I in the right place?” helps me catch myself much sooner, with the result that I’m feeling a lot more satisfied with each day.

I’m going to keep working with this and see where it leads me. But I’m excited about the results thus far.

 

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Osteoporosis, Be Gone!

Osteoporosis_LocationsFive years ago, I was diagnosed with osteopenia. The literal translation is “bone deficiency,” and the diagnosis meant that my bones had lost mineral density, making them weaker and more prone to breakage than optimally mineralized bones.

This was not a good development, but few doctors prescribe medicines to prevent further bone loss at this stage of things. Instead, they instruct the patient to get plenty of weight-bearing exercise and to be tested again in 2 to 5 years. The hope is that the osteopenia will not worsen to become osteoporosis.

When my bone density was assessed a year ago, that hope was not realized. My bones had lost more density, arriving at the threshold (just barely) that marks true osteoporosis, literally “porous bones.” My doctor prescribed Fosamax, instructing me that I would need to remain vertical for 2 hours after I ingested the medicine in order to prevent heartburn.

I filled the prescription and only then realized I had a problem. I was dealing with a chronic pain issue that kept me lying down the majority of the time. I was going to find it tough to find 2 hours when I would be upright continuously.

In fact, I never did find them. I beat my chronic pain last December, only temporarily, alas. It crept back during my battle with my retinal tear. Not nearly as severely as before. I am able to be active now. I swim 400 meters three times a week. I could take the Fosmax. But the thing is that I want to build bone density, not merely slow further bone loss. The Fosamax won’t do that. But there is one thing that will:

Weight-bearing exercise.

But not mild weight-bearing exercise. I needed strenuous weight-bearing exercise. And preferably exercise that utilizes the whole body, rather than working muscles in isolation. Which meant I needed bodyweight training.

Bodyweight training would improve my coordination and balance by engaging groups of large muscles all at once, together with small stabilizing muscles. Plus it would work my heart muscle, because engaging many muscles requires much more aerobic support than engaging just a few.

I liked the idea that if I were to trip and fall, not only would my bones be stronger and less likely to break, but also that my muscles would be stronger and more capabale of catching me before I hit the ground, and my coordination would be better, giving me a chance to prevent the fall altogether.

Body by YouSo I went looking for guidance in books. Quite a few praise bodyweight training, but give only the most cursory descriptions of how to do specific exercises. I wanted detailed instructions. I found what I was looking for – and more – in Body by You by Mark Lauren. Lauren is an expert, who has trained thousands to good effect. His book provides the detailed instructions I sought, as well as step-by-step progressions for moving from the beginner versions to more challenging exercises and on to the most challenging of all.

I’ve just started, a mere 19 days ago, and I’m very de-conditioned from all the medical issues that have derailed me over the past few years. So I’m starting with the absolute easiest beginner exercises. But I can already feel a difference, so I’m hopeful that I will improve steadily, if slowly.

Lauren categorizes his exercises into five different types: pulling, in-line pushing (parallel to your spine), perpendicular pushing (perpendicular to your spine), squatting, and bending.

The easiest pulling exercise in the book is called a “let me in.” It works the muscles of the back (lats, spinal erectors, rhomboids), arms and shoulders (biceps, forearms, rear deltoids), and the core. Laren demonstrates the “let me in” in the video below using a door, but I would recommend against a door as your prop. Most doors are not made for this kind of abuse. Over time, you’ll destroy your door and be hurt when it fails altogether.

I use one of the metal support pillars in my basement, sunk into concrete at its base and bolted into a major floor joist at its top.

My husband cautions that not all such support pillars are fastened at their tops, and he has seen them slip. If you try this, check your support pillar to be sure it is secured, not just held in place by the weight of the house.

The easiest in-line pushing exercise is the military press with hands elevated to hip height. It targets your shoulders, triceps, and core. I use the chest freezer in my basement. It’s currently full of frozen meat and really heavy. It’s not going anywhere, even when I lean hard on it. 😀

The easiest perpendicular pushing exercise is the classic wall push-up. It works the chest, triceps, shoulders, and the core, especially the abdominals. The key for me is to find a stretch of wall clear of bookshelves and wide enough that my elbows don’t bump into anything. 😀

Lauren structures his workout so that you alternate between in-line pushing and perpendicular pushing. So, today being a Friday, I’ll shortly be doing “pull me ins,” wall push-ups, “good morning” bends, and squats. But on Monday, I’ll do “pull me ins,” military presses, “good morning” bends, and squats.

Bending exercises work the legs, glutes, back, core, and – depending on the specific exercise – the shoulder and triceps too. The easiest bending exercise is called the “good morning.” It is almost too easy for me, so I suspect I’ll be moving up to the version with the hands held straight overhead soon.

Squats exercise the glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, core, and calves. The very easiest squat is the “therapy sumo squat,” done with the toes and knees turned outward at a 45º angle. That doesn’t work for me, because it trashes my hip joints. So I am doing a basic squat with my toes and knees facing forward. I’ve not yet advanced to the hands overhead version shown below!

I’m pleased with how the bodyweight training feels so far. I’m making progress, and I haven’t yet injured myself! Always a concern. 😀

As I advance – crossing my fingers that I will – I’ll look for videos of the modified exercises to share with you.

Time to go exercise now! (I spent most of today writing the current scene of Tally and composing this blog post!)

 

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The Secret Behind Midnight Snacks

It’s a classic, isn’t it?

You’re reading a fantastic book, and you keep saying to yourself, “Just one more page!” Or your best friend forever is visiting from out of town, and you talk late into the night, heart to heart.

Big Ben Clock FaceSuddenly you realize that it’s midnight and you’re starving.

I never gave the classic midnight snack much thought. I’d heard health experts recommend against it for various reasons: it didn’t give your gut a chance to rest; calories ingested at night got converted to body fat more readily; etc.

I’d also read that the food-to-body-fat superhighway was nonsense: it didn’t matter when you ate, rather that how much you ate overall was the key.

But I never paid more than cursory attention to all the discussion.

When I was younger, I happened to be one of those lucky people who maintain an ideal weight without much attention or effort.

Now that I’m older, my metabolism has slowed – as most people’s do – and I pack on extra pounds much more easily. So the pros and cons of midnight snacking hold more interest for me than heretofore.

But I’ve also learned that the simplistic calories-in-calories-out model (calories expended must match or exceed calories ingested) still touted by much of the medical establishment grossly ignores the action of the hormone insulin on the body.

My blog posts Thinner and Healthier and Test first, then conclude! go into this more extensively, if you’re interested. But the bottom line is that most people become much more sensitive to the effects of insulin in the bloodstream as they get older. The hormone packs fat into the fat cells and, once we’re over 50, makes it more and more difficult for any of that fat to be removed and used for fuel. While starving yourself on super-low-calorie diets merely deprives your body of needed nutrients and lowers your metabolism further. Catch-22!

But I digress! 😀

Sleep SmarterThe reason I bring this up is because of something I learned in Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

When you are sleep deprived, the amount of glucose reaching your brain dips.

Brains run on glucose. They must have it. However, there’s no need to eat sugar to fuel your brain. In fact, don’t do it! Your liver can make all the glucose your brain requires, without you ever ingesting any sugar at all.

In a sleep researcher’s lab, where the amount of sleep deprivation induced for the purpose of study is extreme (24 hours), glucose reaching the brain dips by 6%. But suppose you regularly get by on only 6 or 7 hours of sleep. No doubt your glucose dips much less, but it still dips.

Even worse, the reduction of glucose to the brain is not distributed equally. When the reduction is 6% overall, the parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex lose from 12% to 14% of the glucose they should receive.

Why is that important?

The parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex are the areas of the brain we use for thinking, for discerning the differences between potential actions, for social interactions, and for knowing right from wrong.

When the parietal lobe and prefrontal are short of their necessary fuel, our decision making suffers.

That’s why you might do something really unwise late at night and then wonder in the morning: “What was I thinking?” In fact, you weren’t thinking, or not very well.

On top of this, your brain late at night – desperately seeking glucose, due to the growing dearth of this necessary fuel as the hour latens – knows perfectly well that a shot of glucose is conveniently at hand in a bag of potato chips or a bowl of Cheerios® or a few scoops of ice cream.

That’s why those foods prove so irresistible at midnight!

I took away several things from all of this.

1 • If I’m asleep before the glucose dip arrives, it will never even happen. Asleep, my body will be in the repair mode that occurs most intensely between 10 PM and 2 AM. (That’s another fact I learned from Sleep Smarter.)

My brain chemistry will be exactly as it is supposed to be, initiating repairs, instead of losing glucose and frantically seeking a resupply by prompting cravings.

(Unless I am chronically sleep deprived; in which case, the glucose dip occurs even in sleep and can actually wake me up!)

2 • It’s not that eating late at night is a problem in itself. It’s that such snacks are usually extra and often composed of sugar or simple carbohydrates. I’ve already ingested all the food I truly need at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Whereas, if I fall asleep somewhere between 10 PM and 11 PM, I’ll never even get hungry at midnight, let alone go seeking extra food.

3 • If I do happen to stay up too late – which will happen at times, because I’m a night owl – I have the perfect hack. I’ve tested it, and it usually works, although not infallibly. The brain in search of fuel is pretty fierce!

Curse of Chalion 300 pxHere’s the scenario: I get to re-reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my absolute favorites, and – whups! it’s midnight!

I realize I’m feeling really hungry, hungry enough that it will keep me awake, even though my eyelids are falling closed with my fatigue.

In the past, I’ve poured a big glass of local, farm-fresh milk and stirred a little stevia and cocoa powder into it.

The problem with that is that I’m getting an awful lot of carbs in the lactose (milk sugar) contained in that milk. On top of that, the sweetness of the stevia will trigger a larger insulin release into my bloodstream than would the lactose alone. And, on top of that, the big glass holds twice the amount of milk that I would normally drink in one go. So I’m getting a huge lactose hit with little else to cushion it.

While I was fighting my sleep schedule in the aftermath of my retinal detachment – before I read Sleep Smarter – I drank that huge glass of milk nearly nightly. And I gained 10 pounds. Not good!

(Chronic sleep deprivation all by itself causes weight gain, without any big glasses of milk, so some of my gain of ten pounds was no doubt due to several months of sleep loss.)

These days I’m usually asleep by 11 PM. Plus I’m finally visiting the gym swimming pool again after a long layoff. So I’m hoping to take those 10 pounds off! (Fingers crossed.)

But on those nights like last night, when I was absorbed in The Curse of Chalion and got hungry, this is what I do:

FIRST, I remind myself that my sensation of hunger, while powerful, is due to the dip in glucose to my brain. This actually does help, although it is not enough without my next step.

SECOND, I eat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

coconut oilCoconut oil is made up of largely medium-chain fatty acids that are not normally stored in the body’s fat cells at all. Instead they are quickly converted to energy. Additionally, coconut oil acts as a slight appetite suppressant for many people. It certainly does for me.

Anyway, it’s a much better option than the huge glass of milk. That 2 tablespoons of coconut oil diminishes my craving for food at midnight just enough that I can get to sleep. And it gives me a slight energy boost – not a frenetic boost like caffeine, but a calm can-do feeling – just enough oomph for me to go brush my teeth, spray some magnesium oil on my legs, and turn out the light.

CAUTION: If you decide to try my coconut oil hack and see if it works for you, be a little careful. The short- and medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil don’t require bile for digestion. But coconut oil also contains some long-chain fatty acida, and those do require bile for digestion.

If you’ve been eating a low-fat diet for a while, which many people do these days, your body hasn’t needed much bile for a while and has adjusted by not making much. It won’t suddenly produce more when you abruptly dump 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in! Which means you’ll feel nauseated and maybe even experience diarrhea.

So start with a quarter of a teaspoon and work up slowly to give your pancreas and gallbladder a chance to ramp up.

(I’ve blogged about the benefits of coconut oil in Butter and Coconut and Cream, Oh My!, if you’d like to know more.)

The bottom line? It’s really best to be asleep long before midnight!

But I found the why of the midnight munchies to be fascinating, so – of course! – I had to share it with you. 😀

To read the blog posts I mentioned in passing, see:
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep
Thinner and Healthier
Test first, then conclude!
Butter and Coconut and Cream, Oh My!

 

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How I Rehabilitated My Sleep

My torn retina in January devastated my sleep. When the ophthalmologist completed his repair of the tear, he injected a gas bubble into my eye and informed me that I would need keep my head upright, but with a slight tilt (which tilt he demonstrated by moving my head into the correct position), 24/7 for the next 10 days.

digital clock

As it turned out, that first 10-day interval was just for starters. I had several check-ups during the 10 days – with favorable reports on my eye’s progress – and then was told I must keep that head angle for another 2 or 3 weeks. All told, I think I kept that head angle for nearly 2 months.

Which meant I had to sleep sitting up!

Which meant I mostly dozed, and only for about 5 hours per night, when I was exhausted enough to do so.

By the time I was cleared to lie down again, both of my hip joints ached, most of the rest of my body was sore, I was seriously sleep deprived, and I was accustomed to starting my doze somewhere between 2 AM and 4 AM.

With permission to lie down, I thought, “Now I can sleep!”

I could not have been more mistaken. I hadn’t realized how much I tended to lie on my back while I slept, and I didn’t have permission for that position until the gas bubble was entirely dissipated. Lying on my back would cause the bubble to float up to my cornea and abrade it. Not good! So no lying on my back!

Lying on my side at night, the ache in my hip joints grew worse. I’d stay on the right side until I could not bear it. Then I’d flip to my left side. The relief to my right hip was wonderful…until roughly 40 minutes passed, and then the ache in my left hip was equally bad.

I did sleep. Some.

But when I was finally clear to sleep however I wanted, including on my back, normal sleep was so far in my past that I couldn’t remember how to do it.

I made efforts to return to a reasonable sleeping schedule with little success.

Sleep SmarterWhich meant that when I spotted an advertisement on June 2 for a book titled Sleep Smarter, I was ripe for checking it out. It sounded good, with information based solidly on sleep research and pleased readers who had tried its methods.

I purchased the book and read it. I liked what I was learning. I’d thought I knew a lot about sleep, but in fact there was more I didn’t know than I did. The author’s tone is clearly geared toward a pop audience, and I’m not convinced that every last one of his recommendations is backed by solid research. But he referred to many studies that I do have some familiarity with and that are valid. In any case, I figured that the proof would be in the pudding. All of his action-steps were easily implemented and inexpensive. I’d try them and see how they worked.

Here’s a list of many (but not all) of his suggestions:

• exercise for 10 minutes first thing in the morning
• get 10 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning
• turn off all screens 60 – 90 minutes before you want to be asleep
   (to limit blue light, which depresses melatonin production)
• during that hour, do something pleasurable and low key
   (read, listen to relaxing music or an audiobook, converse, meditate,    journal, take a bath)
• rub topical magnesium onto your legs
   (many westerners are magnesium deficient, and the mineral is
   necessary in many processes, including relaxing tense muscles,    reducing pain, and calming the nervous systems)
• drink no caffeine after noon
• get 30 minutes of sunlight during the day
• remove electronics from the bedroom
• keep the thermostat between 62°F and 68°F at bedtime
• use blackout curtains in the bedroom
• place a spider plant or a snakeroot plant in the bedroom
   (to clean the air)
• meditate for 5 – 10 minutes first thing in the morning
• move bedtime and wake time by only 15 minutes at a time,
   when you need to move them
• use low-blue light bulbs in the bedroom
• get glasses that block blue light for use when you choose to look at
   your computer, your phone, or the television late at night
• download apps that block blue light for your phone and computer
• wear loose clothes to sleep in
• do self-massage as part of your bedtime ritual

Not all of these recs appealed to me. Some were irrelevant: I don’t drink either coffee or tea or soda. My husband’s allergies meant that having a plant indoors was unwise. I didn’t feel ready to invest in blackout curtains right off the bat. But getting some sunlight immediately upon waking sounded excellent, as did turning off my computer by 9 pm.

Sleep Smarter included a plan for implementing the various strategies over the course of 2 weeks, but some of the easiest tips weren’t added until the second week. And some were those that weren’t going to work for me.

I decided to take what I’d learned and put it together with what I know of myself (I’m a night owl, not a lark, for example) and create a customized morning routine. One thing that was clear to me was that I’d always approached changing my sleep schedule with a focus on my evening routine. That’s important, of course, but it was never going to do what I wanted, if it was unsupported by an effective morning routine. In fact, for me, the morning routine needed to be the main focus. The evening would fall into place, if I got the morning right.

This is the morning routine that I developed:

• immediately upon waking, do 20 minutes of core exercises
   that prevent pain in my back
• the instant I am done with those exercises, go sit outside
   for 30 minutes on either my front porch or my back deck
   (bring my journal, if desired – which it generally is)
• walk barefoot on the lawn for 5 – 10 minutes
• come in and cook breakfast

maple trees from the back deckEven though my sleep schedule was a mess when I decided to try this, I’d been waking at 7:30 am. But I’d been so tired that I always went back to sleep. So my first morning, I went outside, instead of diving under my pillow.

And it was glorious! The air was cool and fresh. The sun through the tree leaves was beautiful, as were the fluting calls of the birds. When I walked on the grass, the earth under my bare feet just felt good. And I didn’t feel sleepy at all by the time 30 minutes had passed.

That was already a success, as far as I was concerned.

This is the evening routine I developed:

• turn off all screens at 9 pm
• spend the time reading or journaling or drawing
   or chatting with my husband
• at 10 PM, wash my face, smooth a coconut-based lotion on my face,
   and spray a magnesium oil on my legs
• turn out the light the instant I feel sleepy

It was a little hard finding quiet things to do after I turned off my computer. I tried coloring an adult coloring book that featured butterflies, but that didn’t hold my interest sufficiently. So I purchased a book that explained a pattern-drawing method called Zentangle® and discovered that drawing designs in this way is a perfect evening activity. Between reading, journaling, drawing, and conversing, I have enough possibilities.

So how did it work?

It worked wonderfully well for me! The first night I was sleepy by 1 AM, so that’s when I turned off the light and fell easily and swiftly asleep. An incredible improvement over my then-typical 4 AM! By the end of my first week, I was sleepy by 11 PM. I occasionally have nights when I’m sleepy soon after 10 PM, but I am a night owl. I suspect 10 PM would be my ideal bedtime, but I am happy with 11 PM. And I am thoroughly delighted with how pleasant I find the morning routine and how quickly it returned my sleep schedule to something that meshes well with the rest of the world around me.

Total success, as far as I am concerned! 😀

ETA: Keep in mind that none of the above is intended to address an actual sleeping disorder. If you’ve just gotten off track – as night owls like me do from time to time – then ordinary sleep hygiene, applied intelligently, can make a huge difference quite rapidly. But for certain types of sleeping disorders, some of the listed strategies could actually make things worse. So get help from an expert in sleep medicine, if you think you may have a sleeping disorder.

 

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Sunlight as a Source of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been in the news a fair bit lately. It’s an essential nutrient that keeps our bones strong and our immune systems functioning well. And – apparently – most modern people don’t get enough of it.

beach fun

I’d read that it’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Since I’ve had a melanoma (the most dangerous kind of skin cancer), I don’t dare even try to get my vitamin D from the sun. But I was curious about the claims that it is possible. And about the claims that it is not possible.

So I went hunting online to see what I could find.

First off: how much vitamin D does an adult need?

The standard these days is quoted as 5,000 IUs a day, although I also found a mention that it may not be enough. Different people at different ages metabolize D with varying efficiency. The experts seem in agreement that the only way to know for sure that you’re getting enough D is be tested for your blood levels. One study that tested D supplements found that 8,000 IU was needed to produce the correct D blood levels.

But let’s say the commonly cited 5,000 IUs is enough. How long would I need to soak up rays?

beach sun

The angle of the sun in the sky is critical to determining the answer. Human skin makes vitamin D when exposed to UVB radiation. When the sun is below 50 degrees in the sky, all of the UVB rays are filtered out by earth’s atmosphere. There are many locations where there are no UVB rays to be had for some portion of the year. Mine is one of them.

I live at latitude 38°2′ and the first day of the year when the sun reaches 50 degrees is March 15. Between 1:10 pm and 1:40 pm on March 15, UVB rays reach my patch of the planet.

The last day of the year when this happens is September 27, between 1:00 pm and 1:10 pm. Only 10 minutes!

From September 28 through March 14, there are no UVB rays and thus no vitamin D to be garnered in the garden at Casa Ney-Grimm.

How did I find out this sun angle information? The United States Naval Observatory makes a sun calculator page available at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/AltAz.php. If you live in the US, you can just type in your city and state and the date to get the sun angles for your spot on earth. If you live elsewhere, you’ll need to know your latitude and longitude. A simple online search should produce them.

The next step in calculating my vitamin D production would ordinarily be a visit to the page created by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research. Every expert I could find referenced this page as difficult-to-use, but accurate. But I could not get the page to load. Maybe, with summer right around the corner in the northern hemisphere, too many people like me are checking their vitamin D production. 😀

(Maybe you will have more luck than I did in getting the page to load. Here is the URL: http://nadir.nilu.no/~olaeng/fastrt/VitD-ez_quartMED.html.)

I was not ready to give up, however.

beach wave

With yet more searching around, I discovered that there was a consensus that light-skinned individuals (which I am) produce 1,000 IUs after 4 minutes of UVB exposure, while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. So, to get my 5,000 daily IUs I would need 20 minutes in the sun, at a time when UVB rays were getting through the atmosphere. If I needed 8,000 IUs, then I would need 32 minutes in the sun at the right time.

I suspect this general consensus probably refers to vitamin D production when the angle of the sun is at its steepest, well over 50 degrees. Which means that the spring months and fall months, when the sun barely reaches the minimum angle, would produce considerably less than 1,000 IUs in 4 minutes. But I won’t be able to check this until I can get that Norwegian page to load for me.

There are two problems, then, with getting vitamin D from sunlight.

One: In my locality, there are no UVB rays for nearly 6 months of the year.

Two: Light-skinned individuals will start to burn after 16 minutes in the sun. If I wear sunscreen, then it will block the UVB rays, and my skin won’t make any vitamin D. If I don’t wear sunscreen, then I must get out of the sun after 16 minutes, which limits my vitamin D to 4,000 IUs.

I could strip down to a swimsuit. According to the Vitamin D Wiki, wearing shorts and a t-shirt yields 32% of the skin exposed, while a one-piece swimsuit yields 73% of the skin exposed. Doing the math, in a one-piece swimsuit, I’d make 2,281 IUs in 4 minutes. Thus, 9 minutes would get me 5,000 units. And 14 minutes would get me 8,000 IUs. Possible, in the summer.

beach sceneOf course, due to my melanoma history, I would be unwise to spend 9 – 14 minutes in the noonday sun every day. And even if I were to pursue that course, I still couldn’t get my vitamin D from sunlight from September through mid-March.

I think I must conclude that it is, indeed, not possible to get enough vitamin D from the sun. Fortunately, there is another way. But that’s another blog post. Yes, I will write it. But no promises as to when. Tally the Betrayals, my work in progress, continues to call. 😀

 

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Getting Started with the KonMari Technique

KonMari drawerMy mother once remarked that she’s amazed at the useful tidbits of information that I find online. I was surprised by her observation. I’m not particularly adept at search terms. Nor am I truly computer savvy. I manage. But when I thought about it, I realized we were both right.

While skill has little to do with my online efforts, serendipity has played a large part in leading me to water in the online world.

When I finished my novel Troll-magic, I discovered Dean Wesley Smith’s blog with all his marvelous information for the writer who wants to get her work out to readers.

When I was longing for a greener way to wrap gifts, I stumbled upon a video that showed how to wrap presents using cloth.

When I realized that our modern ideas about what comprises healthy eating were probably incorrect, I bumped into Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions.

There were more happy discoveries, but I’m not going to list them all now. 😀

So what’s my latest discovery?

The KonMari technique for tidying up.

I’ve always had a liking for books about organizing and de-cluttering. The first one I ever encountered remains one of my favorites: Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. It made me laugh out loud even while it inspired me. Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern was another good one. And Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui also had some good points, although I disagreed profoundly with some of the information presented.

With my penchant for books on de-cluttering, you might think I struggled with tidying and organizing, but for much of my adult life I didn’t. My home felt comfortable to me and not overburdened with things. I read the books for enjoyment and for inspiration when I embarked on one of my periodic pruning of the possessions.

But after my husband and I bought a house, the balance tipped. Our house had less storage than my previous living spaces. My parents asked me to take the boxes I’d been storing in their house. (They were generous to keep them for as long as they did.) And my book collection reached a size that overflowed our bookshelves.

Then we had kids. Then I experienced a long string of illnesses interspersed with injuries, during which housekeeping fell even further behind. And, and, and.

Twenty years down the pike, my home was cluttered, and even my own spaces within it were cluttered. Cluttered enough that I felt overwhelmed and stuck. I didn’t know where to start.

cluttered bureau surface

That was the unhappy state of Casa Ney-Grimm when I saw mention of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, on the monthly newsletter from LibraryThing. The title attracted me, and I poked around on the internet to learn more about it. I discovered oodles of videos while I waited for my turn at the copy in our local library. What I found inspired me.

I’d looked at a few new books on de-cluttering when I noticed how stuck I felt around the whole issue, but they seemed to merely re-hash all the stuff I already knew. I needed a fresh, new angle of approach to deal with my situation. Neither plain commonsense nor the old advice from experts was enough. Marie Kondo’s technique looked to be that new angle I needed. I decided to give it a try.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpWhat is Marie Kondo’s technique?

1 • Tidy by category, not by location
2 • Keep only those items which spark joy

I liked the first of those two instructions, because it was different from anything I’d heard before. And I needed something different. I’d always tidied and organized room by room. The bedroom. The living room. The kitchen. And so on. What might organizing by category be like? What categories would Kondo use?

The second instruction reminded me of the quote by William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I wasn’t convinced it would be helpful, but I was wrong. After I’d heard Marie Kondo speak (via a translator, since she is Japanese) and after I’d read her book, I realized that there was one detail that was critical to my success with instruction #2.

Hold each item in my hands and notice how my body feels.

If my body feels energized and light, the item “sparks joy” in Kondo’s vocabulary. That item is a keeper.

If my body has that slight (or not so slight) sinking sensation, then the item does not “spark joy.” It needs to go elsewhere.

The first instruction – tidying by category – also possessed more to it than I’d initially realized. Kondo not only recommends tidying by category, but tackling the categories in a specific order, from easiest to hardest. That way, you train your ability to discern which items “spark joy” and which do not.

What is her order?

1 • Clothing
2 • Books
3 • Papers
4 • Miscellany
5 • Memorabilia

With that information, I dove into my clothing. It was time to stop thinking and pondering, time to start doing.

Kondo recommends finding absolutely everything in your house in each category, placing it on the floor of one room (or on your bed), and going through it in one fell swoop.

I can see why she does. Most people say: “Wow! I didn’t realize quite how many clothes I owned!” Plus comparing how each of two dozen tops makes your body feel makes it really obvious which ones “spark joy” and which do not.

But I’ll confess that I didn’t follow her instructions to the letter. I started with the clothes in my wardrobe and my chest of drawers. I didn’t pull out the dresses stashed in the back corner of my daughter’s closet. I didn’t pull out the trunk of clothes buried in the eaves under the roof. I knew that if I wanted to get started NOW – and I did – I needed to go with what could be accessed easily.

So I went through my clothes, and it was easy.

I discovered two consistent mistakes that I’d made all the other times I’d de-cluttered in my life. It hadn’t mattered when I was younger and didn’t have as much stuff. But it was a heavy contributor to the clutter that built up later.

I’d tended to get confused about useful things. Using the “spark joy” criterion cut through my confusion and showed me what was really useful and what was not. In the past, I been keeping at least a few things that might be useful, but were not truly so, because I never did actually use them.

I’d also kept things that were beautiful, but that I didn’t love. I’d never realized that just because I found something beautiful didn’t mean I loved it. I’d always assumed the two things went together. For me, they do not.

Getting rid of three gigantic leaf bags of clothing that didn’t “spark joy” felt wonderful. Of course, I’d felt that particular relief before, but this time there was something else that I’d never felt before. Kondo had mentioned it in her book, but I’d not truly realized what it would be like.

tidy wardrobeWhen I open my wardrobe now, I see only clothing that I love.

I’d never had that experience before. Never.

Always, until this month, my closet included a few (or more than a few) garments that I didn’t love. Opening the wardrobe doors onto only clothes that I love feels really different. It’s energizing. I begin to see why Kondo says her method is life-changing. Imagine if my whole house – not just my wardrobe – produced this feeling! I hope to find out!

I also discovered that I really did have enough clothes, even when I kept only those I loved.

I’d wondered about that, and apparently I’m not alone. Many of Kondo’s clients have wondered the same. What I learned is that the reason I’d felt like I didn’t have enough clothes before I got rid of so many was that the clothes I loved were hidden by all the clothes I’d grown to hate. It’s a paradox. Now, with fewer clothes, that “not enough” feeling is gone. I have enough.

Imagine that feeling multiplied through the whole house!

Kondo also recommends folding clothes into neat rectangles that can be placed in a drawer the way a book is placed in a bookshelf. This allows you to see everything in the drawer at a glance. It allows more items to fit in the drawer. And it prevents items at the bottom of stacks from getting crushed and creased, because there are no stacks. (The photo at the top of this post shows one of my drawers with the clothes folded and placed in this way.)

I was so energized with my experience of KonMari-ing my clothes, that I wanted to go on.

The next category should have been books. But I hated looking at the messy top of my chest of drawers, when the interior was so wonderful. And most of the clutter was paper generated by doctors’ offices during my last two illnesses. I didn’t want to wait until I’d finished books and started on papers. I decided to do a little location-based de-cluttering and tackled both the nightstand by my bed and the top of the chest.

I put the papers in a pile on my coffee table in the living room and went through them all in one swoop. Most could be discarded – either recycled or shredded. I placed them in the appropriate bins. A few went into a medical file folder.

I placed all the items on my bed and then sorted them – holding each in my hands – into keep or toss (give away). Here is where my discernment of the difference between “might be useful” and “actually useful,” as well as the difference between “beautiful” and “loved,” made a huge difference. I tossed many useful and beautiful things and felt great about it, because I kept the things I really use and love.

KonMari keep & toss piles

I changed my mind about the fabric-covered box that I’d thought to keep. It was actually useful (to store my barrettes), but I didn’t love it. In fact, just looking at it produces that sinking feeling, so it definitely needs to go. I chose an old blue and white sugar bowl from the china closet to keep my barrettes instead.

I aimed for quick in my first stab at the KonMari technique, rather than perfect. I suspect I will need to fine-tune some of the work I’ve done. I know I’ll realize that some of the items I’ve kept really don’t “spark joy.” That’s okay. Kondo herself recommends doing it right and doing it once. But I’m comfortable with revisiting my work after I’ve done it. I don’t fear the dreaded “rebound.” Maybe because that doesn’t feel like my problem.

My problem has been getting out from under. And doing this quickly will get me out from under. Once I’m out from under, I won’t feel overwhelmed. I’ll be up for tackling a little fine-tuning and the correcting of any mistakes.

KonMari tidy bureau

My spot de-cluttering has worked so well, that I’m going to do a bit more. There’s a shelving unit in the living room that really belongs in the study. It’s slowly accumulated clutter while awaiting its transfer to the proper room. I’m going to de-clutter it next. It will surely need that before it can be moved anyway!

And then I’ll move on to books!

I plan to share how each of the different categories goes for me. Cheer me on! 😀

For more life-changers, see:
Writer’s Journey
Test First, Then Conclude!
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Great Soap & Etcetera Quest

 

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Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

After reading Maffetone’s In Fitness and in Health and Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, I sought out more myth-busting information. Hold onto your hats! I’m going to tell you what I discovered, and we’re in for a wild ride!

The notion that intrigued me was this: what if saturated fat were actually good for you? Fallon’s notes on butter from grass-fed cows hinted at this idea. Maffetone’s advice to cut carbs out of your diet for his 2-week test echoed it. And the improved health and slimness of acquaintances following a low-carb regime further piqued my curiosity.

cover image with coconut palm treeI purchased Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and devoured it in one evening.

Here was myth-busting with a vengeance!

The book includes a review of the basic chemistry of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. It also touches briefly on the influence of the food industry on governmental agencies and the culture at large in promulgating the belief that saturated fat is bad for us. (There are big bucks to be made from processed food, with hefty profit margins if inexpensive vegetable oils are used instead of pricey animals fats or coconut oil or palm oil.)

(I read Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories after, not before, reading Eat Fat. He describes the sea change from “starches make you fat” to “fat makes you fat” in griping detail. I highly recommend giving his book a read yourself, if you haven’t.)

Many items in Eat Fat, Lose Fat grabbed my attention.

The first was Fallon’s analysis of the research to date about fats. Some consists of studies of the diets of indigenous peoples. Some are studies performed in labs.

I learned that the Massai, who drank a gallon of milk every day and consumed meat and blood for the rest of their nourishment, simply didn’t suffer heart attacks at all.

Then there were the employees of the Indian railway system. The largely vegetarian workers of Madras experienced 7 times more incidence of heart disease than the meat-loving Punjabi who ate 10 to 20 times as much fat.

In the Framingham-Peurto Rico-Honolulu study conducted by NIH, the participants who suffered heart attacks were those who consumed the most polyunsaturated oil.

A workshop held at the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute and analyzing studies on women and cholesterol found that, for women, high blood cholesterol is protective. The longest lived among elderly women were those with the highest cholesterol. Further, the statin drugs proscribed to lower cholesterol offer no benefit to women in preventing heart disease.

There’s more; a lot more. But I’m not going to list every one of the 18 studies presented in chapter 2. Fallon is concise, but it’s still too much for a blog post. The take-away point? Most studies looked at saturated fats and trans fats as the same thing. Mary Enig is the researcher who first blew the whistle on trans fats, and now we all know that no level of trans fats is safe. But all those studies with bad outcomes for fat in the diet? It was the trans fats doing it. Saturated fats have been tarred with the same brush quite inaccurately. Trans fats cause heart disease, contribute to cancer, cause hormone synthesis to go awry. Saturated fats? Probably not.

Next stop on our tour is a short list of various organs and other body systems which possess an intrinsic and critical need for saturated fat.

The Brain

60% of the brain is composed of fat. And phospholipids – 50% saturated fat – are an important component of brain cell membranes. Without saturated fat being supplied to the brain by diet, brain chemistry may be compromised.

Cells

Saturated fats maintain cellular integrity everywhere in the body. Every cell membrane is ideally composed of 50% saturated fat. When polyunsaturated fat fills in on the job, the cells actually become somewhat “floppy” and cannot work properly.

Bones

Saturated fat is necessary for calcium to be incorporated into the structure of the bones. Osteoporosis, anyone?

Liver

Saturated fat protects the liver from certain toxins, such as those in acetaminophen.

Heart

Saturated fats are the heart’s preferred food, especially in times of stress.

Saturated fatty acids lower the blood substance Lp(a), a proven marker for heart disease.

Saturated fats lower C-Reactive Protein, an indicator of inflammation, which may cause many cases of heart disease.

Lungs

The lungs require a surfactant in order to work, and the fatty acids in that surfactant are 100% saturated fatty acids. When trans fats and polyunsaturated fats fill those slots, the lungs suffer.

Hormones

Hormones are the messengers connecting the brain, nervous system, and glands into a synchronous whole. Some critical hormones cannot be synthesized in the body without the vitamin A provided by fatty animal foods such as liver and shellfish. The wrong kinds of fats substituted into the equation lead to problems with glucose balance, mineral metabolism, and reproduction.

Again, there’s more, but I’ll move on to the next myth-busting tidbits.

Myth: Plants provide enough vitamin A.

Fact: Many vegetables and fruits contain carotenes, building blocks for vitamin A. Our bodies can convert these carotenes into vitamin A via a complex operation in the small intestine, but usually not enough vitamin A. And some bodies cannot do it at all, lacking the necessary enzymes: diabetics, thyroid patients, sufferers from certain digestive disorders, and babies and children.

Myth: Sunlight provides enough vitamin D.

Fact: Our bodies make vitamin D only in the presence of UV-B light. In temperate regions, this happens only when the sun is directly overhead. And exposing merely face and lower arms is not sufficient. How many of us can sunbathe for 30 minutes at noon every day wearing swim trunks or a bikini? That’s what it would take – in the summer. In winter, with the sun lower in the sky, we’re out of luck.

The bottom line: Not only are saturated fats healthy, they are necessary!

Enter the oil of the coconut, the nut of the coconut palm.

Fallon calls it the queen of saturated fats, because of its special properties, and it really is a marvelous substance. It’s almost tailor-made for losing weight, since metabolizing the lauric acid within coconut oil (coconut oil is 50% lauric acid) actually uses more energy than it provides.

Three key benefits of coconut oil:

• The fats in coconut oil are not stored in the body as fat. They are quickly converted to energy.

(I can personally attest to the subjective experience of this. For most of my life I suffered from physical fatigue and lethargy, worsening as I got older. Once I started eating coconut oil (and reduced my carb intake), that changed. The feeling of having a physical reserve I can draw upon is wonderful.)

• People living in countries where the coconut is an important part of their diet have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.

• The fats in coconut oil kill viruses and pathogenic bacteria by stripping their protective outer layer. (You’ll get sick less often, when you eat coconut oil frequently!)

Next comes a run through nutrient-dense foods such as pasture-fed eggs, butter and cream from pastured cows, liver (the sacred food of many cultures), raw cheeses, lacto-fermented beverages, bone broths, and Celtic sea salt. And then we’re on to the food plans and recipes, some simple like fried eggs, some more sophisticated like chicken with coconut peanut sauce, but all good, all good for you, and all helpful for those of us watching our weight!

This book, together with Nourishing Traditions, In Fitness and in Health, and Good Calories, Bad Calories, completed the process of turning my nutritional know-how upside down. I’m still adjusting my cooking habits, still learning how best to feed this unique body of mine, but my health is better, my weight is down, and I’m optimistic about my future.

I’ve blogged about each of these amazing reads over the past year. If you missed those posts, you can find them at the links below.

In Fitness and in Health

Nourishing Traditions

Good Calories, Bad Calories

Good health and good eating to you all! And if you want your very own copy of Eat Fat, Lose Fat, here are some links for that.

Eat Fat, Lose Fat at Amazon

Eat Fat, Lose Fat at B&N

For more on books important to continuing nutritional education, see:
Thinner and Healthier
Test first, then conclude!
Yogurt and Kefir and Koumiss, Oh My!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous

 

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Test first, then conclude!

For over a century, from the 1860’s to the 1960’s, common wisdom said that eating too much bread and too much dessert would make you fat.

What caused us to change our minds?

Is it really true that pasta and cereal are the health foods we currently believe them to be?

Consider that in 1960, 12% to 14% of the United States population was obese. Today, that figure’s over 30%. Yet we eat less dietary fat than ever. Fifty years ago, 45% of American calories came from fat; now, less than 35%.

photo of butter pat on toastGary Taubes chronicles in Good Calories, Bad Calories how this sea change came about and how very little of it stemmed from solid research.

The story starts with Ancel Keys, who ran the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota. According to Keys, his lab would “find out why people got sick before they got sick.”

It was a praiseworthy intention, but what is it the adage says about the road to a very hot place? It’s paved with praiseworthy intentions. And Keys’ abilities as a scientist were questionable: he was wrong more often than he was right. Despite that, he possessed great strength of will and a desire to make things happen, no matter how unpleasant he had to be to do it.

And do it, he did.

Keys’ epiphany occurred in 1951 in Rome. A colleague from Naples stated that heart disease in Naples was not a problem. There was little of it. Keys visited the city to investigate this alluring circumstance and concluded that the general population was indeed free of heart disease, but not the rich. While dining with wealthy acquaintances, he noted that their table featured hearty meat sauces, parmesan cheese, and roast beef. In contrast, the tables of the Neapolitan workers were spare, lacking the meat that was so expensive in the post-war years.

Keys’ conclusion: fat in the diet causes heart disease.

Keys pushed this doctrine relentlessly. He was in a good position to do it, endowed with plenty of prestige and clout. His scorn for research results that challenged his could do real damage to a colleague’s career. When his own research results challenged his belief, he cited “conflating” factors that had yielded the unexpected result.

Keys made a fatal error. Good science starts with a hypothesis, with a question. Is it possible that this is true? Next comes carefully designed research to test that question. And, usually, after that, new questions related to the original, along with yet more research. Really complex questions – like those of diet and metabolism – can take decades and the work of a generation of scientists to understand. Only then may a conclusion with a fair degree of accuracy be reached.

Keys started with his conclusion!

That’s a recipe for bad science, but Keys followed it with passion and dragged all of us along with him.

What Keys missed on those wealthy Neapolitan tables: the ice cream and the pastries. Just as expensive as meat in post-war Italy was sugar, and the working class didn’t have it.

There were resisters to the dietary-fat-equals-heart-disease creed. And there was a significant body of evidence against it.

Some of the most compelling evidence came from the doctors working in missionary hospitals in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. These men treated native populations for decades and were poised to observe what happened when the foods of civilization arrived and spread. The process was remarkable wherever it transpired.

Albert Schweitzer arrived in West Africa in 1913. The conditions he treated initially were overwhelmingly those of communicable diseases and infections: malaria, sleeping sickness, leprosy, tropical dysentery. There were no cases of cancer. But as the forty-one years he spent there rolled by, cancer victims began to appear and grew ever more numerous.

Inuit by Jerry Hollens used under Creative Commons license, FlickrSamuel Hutton in the arctic in 1902 had a similar experience. He treated Inuit patients, and they fell into two categories. Those eating the traditional Inuit diet of primarily meat and fish, had no appendicitis, no asthma, and, most strikingly, no cancer. Those who had adopted the European “settlers’ diet” – tea, bread, ship’s biscuit, molasses, and salt fish or pork – suffered all the European maladies and more, being more prone to scurvy and fatigue, lacking robustness, and birthing children who were “puny and feeble.”

Many other physicians of the colonial era in other spots of the globe witnessed this same transition. An isolated native population displayed amazing health and vigor. Then the foods of civilization arrived, inevitably including carbohydrates which could be transported around the world without spoiling during the journey or being eaten by rodents: sugar, molasses, white flour, and white rice. As the new foods were incorporated into the native diet, the “Western diseases” would appear: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, dental cavities, appendicitis, ulcers, gallstones, and more.

Taubes carries his readers through this more distant history and then up through the research of the last half century on heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. He intersperses the dry science with more entertaining anecdotal nuggets.

One such gem is the diet of the sumo wrestlers of Japan in 1976. The wrestlers comprised two groups: the elite and a less accomplished lower echelon. The elites ate 5,500 calories a day of chanko nabe, a pork stew. The stew was both very high-carb (57% of the calories) and very low-fat (16% of the calories), yet the young men weighed over 300 pounds. Wrestlers in the lower echelon consumed 400 fewer calories, but their diet was even higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat: 80% and 9%, respectively. They weighed the same as their elite colleagues, but were significantly less muscular and more fatty. Could it be the carbs that made the necessary over-consumption possible?

From research on disease, Taubes passes on to research into “unusual” diets, where the tenacity with which the researchers cling to certain myths causes them supreme frustration. Why did subjects eating 800-calorie diets of fat and protein feel satiated, but then grow ravenous when 400 calories (of carbohydrates) were added to their daily rations? Why did obese patients eating 2,800-calorie low-carb diets of fat and protein lose weight, while those eating 1,200-calorie low-fat diets not lose weight?

“It is better to know nothing . . . than to keep in mind fixed ideas based on theories whose confirmation we . . . seek, neglecting meanwhile everything that fails to agree with them,” wrote Claude Bernard in An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. Indeed!

Maybe “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” isn’t true after all!

The answer lies in metabolism. Turns out that cardiology researchers weren’t talking with diabetes researchers who weren’t talking with obesity researchers who weren’t talking with endocrinology researchers. But the endocrinologists knew some critical facts for all of the above.

The hormone insulin is a top player in regulating metabolism. When insulin is released into the bloodstream, it signals that glucose is available, and the body then uses glucose for fuel. With glucose to burn, it does not withdraw fatty acids from fat cells for use as fuel. Only when insulin is low (signaling that glucose is in short supply) are fatty acids pulled out from fat cells and burned as fuel.

In addition, when insulin is present (signaling that glucose is present), the body packs any extra calories away as fat. As people age, the sensitivity of fat cells to insulin grows. It takes ever less insulin to trigger the fat cells to fill with more fat. Part of this fat-packing process is the creation of triglycerides (a proven risk factor in heart disease). Cardiologists, are you paying attention?

Worse, fat cells stay sensitive to insulin long after muscle cells become resistant to it. This means that when the muscle cells stop taking in glucose, the fat cells take in even more (glucose transformed into triglycerides). Obesity specialists, are you here?

When the muscle cells become resistant to insulin, the pancreas puts out more of it. Eventually, under this tide of extra insulin, the fat cells become insulin resistant as well. Diabetes specialists, are you listening?

By the mid-1960’s, these facts were well established:
1) carbohydrates prompt insulin secretion,
2) insulin induces fat accumulation,
3) dietary carbohydrates are required for excess fat accumulation, and
4) Type 2 diabetics and the obese have abnormally high levels of circulating insulin and a greatly exaggerated insulin response to carbohydrates in the diet.

Unfortunately, insulin resistance is measured on a whole-body level. And carbs temporarily make fat cells (but not muscle cells) more sensitive to insulin. So high-carb diets seem to temporarily relieve diabetes. Thus they are recommended for diabetics. But over the long term, the high carb diet increases the insulin resistance of even the fat cells, and the diabetes worsens. Plus the temporary illusion of diabetic improvement comes at the cost of greater obesity.

And then along came Ancel Keys and the McGovern Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. The men who insisted that carbohydrate restriction was merely calorie restriction in disguise (and rarely, if ever, treated obese patients) won the political battle. The doctors who actually treated obesity and found carbohydrate restriction to be the only effective tool lost.

photo of blue, green, red, yellow, and orange m&m'sAs funding for research projects, laboratories, and entire academic centers shifted to the food and pharmaceutical industries, good unbiased research grew harder to pursue. How can researchers consulting for the makers of Coke®, M&M®’s, and Kraft crackers possibly look honestly into the effects of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup and white flour? It is “scientists” such as these who routinely declare low-carb diets to be mere fads.

Taubes states near the end of Good Calories, Bad Calories that when he began work on the book, he had no idea that it would change everything he believed about nutrition and health. He believed the modern conventional wisdom along with the rest of us. Then he set out on his trail of investigation, trying simply to follow the facts, and learned that there were precious few supporting said wisdom.

He concludes that the “exchange of critical judgment” necessary to science is nowhere to be found in today’s “study of nutrition, chronic disease, and obesity, and hasn’t been for decades.” Today’s researchers in these fields may call themselves scientists, but they are not. They borrow the authority and the terms of science when they communicate to the public, but the beliefs they communicate merely masquerade as such. Their entire enterprise functions as a cult.

Taubes’ hope is that his book will start public discussion about the nature of a healthy diet that includes questions about the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates it contains. And with questions might come a call for honest research.

Taubes’ investigations turned his own ideas on nutrition upside down. As I read his account, my ideas flipped upside down. I urge you to read Good Calories, Bad Calories yourself and see if it turns your paradigm topsy turvy!

If what Taubes reports is true (and I think it may be), there’s a vast array of better choices open to us all!

Good Calories, Bad Calories on Amazon

Good Calories, Bad Calories on B&N

For more posts on my continuing nutritional education, see:
Thinner and Healthier
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumis, Oh My!
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous

 

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