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    Why It’s Hard to Break-Up with a Cheeto (addictive junk food)

Why It’s Hard to Break-Up with a Cheeto (addictive junk food)

CheetosHave you ever felt out of control with your eating?  Like you just couldn’t stop even though you wanted to and knew you should?

If so, you probably felt a certain amount of guilt, or even shame, about how much you eventually did eat.  That guilt made you feel bad about your own ability for self-control, and that, coupled with a food-hangover, made you feel pretty terrible in general.  Physically and emotionally.  You wouldn’t be alone if this turned into a destructive cycle that brought you back again and again for that very same food, followed by guilt and depression.  Perhaps this even happened with seemingly healthy or “diet” foods.  Even worse!

A fascinating article came out recently in the New York Times Magazine called The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food that explains why it’s so hard to put down the snack bag – and it’s NOT your lack of willpower.  I just want to say that again, and in obnoxious all-caps: IT’S NOT YOUR LACK OF WILLPOWER.

It’s been known for quite a while that sugar and fat are addictive – this article in Scientific American describes how rats, given access to high-fat foods, “showed some of the same characteristics as animals hooked on cocaine or heroin–and found it hard to quit even when given electric shocks”.  In non-technical terms, when you eat high-fat and high-sugar foods, your brain releases chemicals (neurotransmitters) that make you happy.  This makes you more likely to eat that food again.  After a few times you become desensitized to that food “high” and need more to get the same level of satisfaction.  Therefore you eat more and more.  It works just like drugs, with [...]

GMO Salmon Might Go Unlabeled

 Questionable Safety, Consumers in the Dark

The first genetically modified animal food product could hit shelves this year in the form of GMO salmon. Scientists from AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Massachusetts have created a salmon species that grows twice as fast as normal salmon and can therefore go from birth to market in twice the time. The scientists achieved this result by “adding a growth hormone gene from one fish plus an antifreeze gene from another”. The FDA has already ruled this fish safe for consumption, although several experts on the panel have voiced concerns about poor or missing data from the analysis and risk assessment.

Safety issues aside, the current issue being debated is whether the GMO salmon should be labeled on supermarket shelves. The industry representing these GMO fish is heavily pushing the FDA to leave the salmon un-labeled, citing a concern about “irrelevant” health concerns that consumers may have and thus prevent the sale of their product. Currently GMO grains and vegetables are not required to be labeled as such, and the concern is that this status-quo will apply to salmon as well.

Personally I find it unbelievable that GMO salmon could hit the market unlabeled, but I fear nonetheless that this will be the case. I still have safety concerns – nutrition and medical “experts” have made some pretty bad mistakes in the past – they used to think trans fats were healthful, for example, and yet still get confused about the simple chicken egg. How can they be certain about the unknown unknowns of eating GMO animals?

Again, safety issues aside, help ensure that consumers – yourself included – at least have the right to choose for themselves. Sign this petition [...]

US Congress guilty of child abuse

I thought about that title for a while before publishing this post, believe me.  But I just can’t get around how true it is…and I’ll get to my logic in a minute.  First the background: a couple weeks ago Congress changed parts of a bill that contained nutritional requirements for the National School Lunch Program.  In an effort to slow down the devastating increase in childhood obesity and diabetes, the law had several proposed changes, essentially amounting to more vegetables, less salt, more whole grains, and fewer french fries.  Congress changed it back: eliminating or delaying these updates.  Why?  Because the frozen foods, potato and salt lobbies wanted them to ($wonder why$). 

Most public schools participate in the National School Lunch program: 

“The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 101,000 public and non‐profit private schools and residential child care         institutions. It provided nutritionally balanced, low‐cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day in 2010.”   (Italics are mine.)

 This is a tremendous amount of food: 31 million children x 270 school days per year = 7,440,000,000 meals (that’s nearly 7 and a half billion).  To receive reimbursement a school must follow nutritional guidelines established by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).  Those regulations currently mandate a certain number of vegetables and fruits and provide general quidelines around numbers and percentages of calories (from fat, carbs, protein, sugar, etc).  Even children who don’t qualify for free or reduced price meals participate in the program, as their meals are still reimbursed, just at a lower rate.

Those all seem like pretty reasonable guidelines.  So why does school lunch frequently look like a piece of pizza, side of [...]

Dinner help has arrived

I’m super pumped, because my new dinner planning newsletter, No Plan Meal Plan has finally launched.  Check it out!  There are so many ways this can help you with your dinner-time routine; maybe you want to spend less time planning and be extra-efficient, perhaps you’re looking for fresh new dinner ideas, or maybe you’ve been wanting to eat healthier and reap the benefits of a cleaner diet, but aren’t quiet sure how to get started.  NPMP will help you in all of these aspects. 

For once I’m encouraging you to put less time and energy into dinner!  Go on, check it out!  Don’t take my word for it, read the great reviews here.

Higher calcium intake not associated with reduction in Osteoporosis

A new study of over 61,000 women in Sweden shows that high calcium intake did not lower the risk of developing osteoporosis or of having hip or other fractures.  Only women who consumed less than 700mg of calcium experienced higher rate of these problems.  In fact, the highest consumers of calcium actually had a higher rate of hip fracture:

“Dietary calcium intakes below approximately 700 mg per day in women were associated with an increased risk of hip fracture, any fracture, and of osteoporosis,” the study authors conclude. “The highest reported calcium intake did not further reduce the risk of fractures of any type, or of osteoporosis, but was associated with a higher rate of hip fracture.”

While it’s not a good idea to have low daily intake of calcium, the US recommendation is to have as much as 1,200mg daily (while quite beneficial to the dairy industry)  appears to be rather high. 

For the healthiest sources of calcium, make yourself a serving of one of the following vegetables (info was taken from this cool website).

Greens in the cabbage family, and mg of calcium:
Collard greens, cooked, 1 cup – 357 mg
Turnip greens, cooked, 1 cup – 249 mg
Kale, cooked, 1 cup – 179 mg
Bok choy, cooked, 1 cup – 158 mg
Mustard greens, cooked, 1 cup – 152 mg
Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup – 94 mg

UnitedHealth CEO made $101MM last year – highest paid in U.S.A.

Today I planned on having a nice, productive day working on things at home, such as my No Plan Meal Plan, among other things.  But I’m finding myself rather distracted by the news, which I saw in an editorial in today’s Plain Dealer, about the UnitedHealth CEO making serious bank.  More money than any other CEO in the US – $101MM to be exact, although not including stock, of course.  That would make it a whole lot more.  Even so, Stephen Hemsley from UnitedHealth beat out CEOs from big oil, tech firms, and even the CEO at Walt Disney.

That’s right, Stephen Hemsley tops the list of America’s highest paid CEOs of 2011 .  

Meanwhile the cost of your and your family’s health care plan has more than doubled since 2001.  An individual plan now costs nearly $10,000.  And pretty soon, your employer is going to get sick  (pun intended) of paying for it.  If they haven’t already, they’re going to start transferring those costs to you – the Reuter’s report (linked above) cites a shift of 12% next year. 

Who is to blame for the rising costs might just be the biggest blame game around right now.  Insurance companies blame rising health care costs and a sicker population.  Doctors blame law suits.  Some blame health care reform (which, btw, is estimated to account for a relatively small 2-3% of the 15% rise in premium rates this year).  And so on.

Almost everyone has a legitimate point to be made.  But it’s VERY hard for me to feel that sorry for health insurance companies when they’re booking record profits and paying their CEOs such enormous wages. 

At the same time, I really shouldn’t be that surprised.  [...]

Cleveland is fast becoming an urban farming hub

Cleveland tops another list!  We were just ranked the second best city in the country for local food.  The study cited our 225 community gardens, 12 farmers markets, community-supported agriculture subscriptions (City Fresh, Blue Pike Farm and others), urban farms, and of course talented chefs and local food procurement (Fresh Fork and others). 

What’s interesting about the study is not just that it says Cleveland rocks, but that it describes the incredible potential that urban farming has for the local economy.  The study says that a shift in 25% of our food sources, from out-of-state to a local source, could provide up to 27,000 new jobs.  That’s putting 1/8 unemployed workers back to work.  And of course there’s the accompanying increase in state/local taxe revenue associated with the additional income (estimated at $126 million state/local per year). 

This is all super fabulous, but not exactly easy to achieve.  To work towards this goal, the study advocates creating a NEO Food Authority.  I certainly hope that we can work towards this goal one way or another.  A 25% shift would be huge, but so would the benefits.  Economic, yes, but also for public health and general societal benefit.  We’re talking about eating more fresh local fruits and vegetables and fewer little debbie snack cakes.  More green space and fewer abandoned buildings.  More gainful employment, less crime. 

To support local food, shop at farmer’s markets (find one near you here).  When you go out for a night on the town, try to pick restaurants that support local food.  Vote with your mouth, so to speak.  Your food will taste better anyways 🙂

Health Coaches from IIN featured in Oprah Magazine!

Very cool!  The March issue of O Magazine includes an article featuring health coaches, and specifically highlights 5 experts who happen to be grads from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition – the school where I did my nutrition training.  I can’t wait to get a paper copy and include the article in my portfolio.

Health coaching is still a relatively new profession and concept, and it’s great to see it (and IIN) receive some good press.  Dr. Oz has also recently endorsed health coaching – you can watch a clip on YouTube here.  I love how Dr. Oz explains that health coaches are a “layer” of the health care pyramid, and that we make it easy for our clients to make the right decisions for their health.  That’s what it’s all about – providing information but most importantly, the SUPPORT that you need to really succeed.  If you think you’d benefit from high-quality support to reach your health goals, contact me today!

By |February 22nd, 2011|General, Public Policy|

"Secondhand" chemo causing cancer in healthcare workers

This article hits close to home for me, as I have serveral close friends who work in healthcare.  If you or someone you know is a nurse, pharmacist, doctor, or other healthcare worker that mixes, administers, or otherwise handles chemotherapy drugs, take the time to read this article in the Seattle Times about “secondhand” chemo exposure.  Chemotherapy drugs are known to be highly toxic – they’re actually descended from the deadly mustard gas used in WWI – and are themselves carcinogenic.  Yet the federal government does not require safety protocols that protect workers from contamination.  With approximately 2 million workers in the US who actually mix and dispense chemo, this is a huge public health concern.  Chemo drugs are increasingly being used in vets offices as well, opening up the potential harm to another huge population of people.

The article outlines the health dangers associated with secondhand chemo exposure – multiple cancers as well as miscarriages and birth defects, as well as others.  These health dangers aren’t a new discovery – in 2004 the CDC issued extremely strict guidelines and safety precautions for workers who handle chemo.  However, the guidelines are voluntary.  And the high costs associated with the “chemo gowns, double-gloving, use of sophisticated “closed-system” devices and specialized ventilation hoods, face shields and respirators” that they recommend certainly aren’t speeding up their adoption. 

Workers who handle these drugs have gotten cancers as early as their 20s.  Sad.  If you know anyone who could be affected, pass on this article to spread the word.  This is a public health issue and changes in federal regulations can be hastened by increasing awareness and demanding change.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution: Did you watch?

I was really looking forward to watching this show, where Britain’s celebrity “Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver promises to re-make the cafeteria food in Huntington, W Va. which was recently names as the most unhealthy city in America based on its rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and mortality.  Jamie’s mission is to get fresh, from-scratch foods with healthy ingredients into the town’s school lunches.  The program documents his many struggles in accomplishing this goal, which in the first episode (which aired last night) included the strong-willed school cooks, the principal, the food budget, the school kids’ taste buds, and the completely illogical USDA school food requirements.

In my opinion the show did not disappoint, and I highly recommend watching it, for so many reasons.  Perhaps reason #1 is that with very few exceptions school food is the same all over the country.  If you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, friend, or colleague of anyone with school children you will get an enlightening view into what our kids are being fed on a daily basis at school.  Pizza for breakfast, chicken nuggets, fries (which meet USDA criteria for a vegetable), and flourescent colored strawberry milk are just a few tantilizing menu items.  I know enough to understand that most of these heavily processed foods have scary, unnatural, and dangerous ingredients, but even I am shocked at some things.  For example, Fast Food Nation found that one strawberry milk has 59 ingredients, most of which are chemicals and “E” words (and no actually strawberries).  Chicken nuggets can be less than 30% actual chicken (in England one study found 16% – which includes skin), and the process that is used to make them is beyond [...]