First, Do No Harm – To Yourself

For a long time, whenever I wanted to improve my health, I started by slapping myself hard in the face.

Not literally, but emotionally.

overweight with laptopHere’s how it would go. I’d want to lose a few pounds, or not feel sluggish, or stop eating so much chocolate, and for a long time I would just walk around with a vague feeling of desire + procrastination.

Then one day, I’d have HAD ENOUGH. Maybe I tipped the scale at 190. Or I was cramming chocolate bar wrappers into my pants pockets so I could throw them out somewhere else. And I would begin to feel really angry and ashamed.

Ha! That was the energy I needed to get into full heroic action mode. So I’d milk it in my mind.

“You lazy, hypocritical so-and-so,” I’d tell myself. “You fat slob.”

And it would work. I’d stop eating chocolate (or quickly consume the last six bars, so I could stop quicker). I’d go raw, or full vegan, or stop eating scallion pancakes cooked in enough sesame oil to float the Titanic, or whatever.

But it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t feel very good to be treating myself with such scorn and loathing. Read more »

Don’t Sweat the Sweet Stuff

beesMy neighbors’ beehive came last week, and a bunch of us gathered on a cool, overcast late afternoon to watch and help Max the teenager set it up. The sound of thousands of bees buzzing agitatedly in a container the size of a lunchbox had everyone a little on edge, and the virtually incomprehensible instructions, complete with apiarist jargon like “nuc” (pronounced, ominously enough, “nuke”) and “super,” made for a challenging couple of hours. Read more »

Atkins Diet is as Healthy as Smoking

Condering the Atkins diet because of all the studies that show it’s healthy and effective for weight loss? Perhaps you should also consider taking up cigarette smoking.
Cigarette smoke
There are as many studies showing the health and weight loss effects of cigarettes as there are showing the health and weight loss effects of the Atkins diet.

How can this be? It’s called cherry picking. If you have a large enough pool of data, and you’re dogged enough to sift through it all with a powerful enough microscope, you can always find some facts that, out of context, support your position.

Just for kicks, here are the 34 “smoking is good for you” references (thanks to the indefatigable Dr. Michael Gregor for the data – the reference numbers are from his excellent website, AtkinsExposed.com):

[546] Journal of Comparative Psychology 2(1922):371.
[547] Psychopharmacology 83(1984):93.
[548] Life Sciences 46(1990):1523.
[549] Life Sciences 43(1988):277.
[550] Behavioral and Neural Biology 53(1990):269.
[551] Lancet 8670(1989):1046.
[552] Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 43(1989):19.
[553] Life Sciences 44(1989):1521.
[554] Digestive Diseases and Sciences 35(1990):827.
[555] British Journal of Psychiatry 154(1989):797.
[556] Progress in Clinical and Biological Research 317(1989):189.
[557] Chest 87(1985):11.
[558] Psychopharmacology 108(1992):393.
[559] Psychopharmacology 108(1992):437.
[560] Addiction 88(1993):589.
[561] Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 38(1991):281.
[562] Progress in Drug Research 33(1989):9.
[563] Addictive Behaviors 9(1984):265.
[564] Psychopharmacology 108(1992):432.
[565] Psychopharmacology 104(1991):113.
[566] Psychopharmacology 108(1992):485.
[567] Psychopharmacology 108(1992):443.
[568] British Journal of Addiction 87(1992):1313,
[569] Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 42(1992):301.
[570] British Journal of Addiction 86(1991):571.
[571] Journal of Smoking Related Disorders 3(1992):43.
[572] Medical Hypotheses 52(1999):101.
[573] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100(2003):8182.
[574] Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2(2004):41.
[575] Journal of Family Practice 46(1998):460.
[576] Warburton, DM and AC Walters Attentional Processing, in Ney, T and A Gale (Eds) Smoking and Human Behavior (New York, Wiley), 1989.
[577] British Medical Journal 293(1986):359.
[578] International Journal of Gynecology 27(1988):57.
[579] American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 144(1982):655.

The Mediterranean Diet Study: More Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

The Mediterranean Diet has been in the news recently, thanks to media misinformation and misinterpretation of a very poorly conceived study.

Here’s my take on the study and the media lemmings all rushing off the cliff after the New York Times got it wrong first:

Got comments and questions? Leave them below.

What Babies Should Drink After Nursing

A reader asks: "I’m preparing to weaning my 14-month old in the coming months.  My initial thoughts are being influenced by mainstream, conventional directives to move to cow’s milk as the drink of choice.  But it just seems really odd to me now to think of giving my child the food that is created for baby cows.  What is a healthy staple drink for my child once he’s weaned?"

You’re absolutely right, pasteurized cow’s milk is right up there with soda and lead paint in the top 10 harmful foods for kids (of all ages). So that’s not really an option once you have the information. For more information about the dangers of milk, check out www.notmilk.com and Colin Campbell’s The China Study.

The question of what beverage to replace it with is easy, as long as you feed your child a health-promoting diet full of vegetables and fruits, grains, and raw nuts and seeds. The only beverage human beings had access to for tens of thousands of years: water.

Read more »

Confessions of an Uncompromising Man

For my 40th birthday, my then-9-year-old daughter gave me a little book of daily meditations for men, from the Touchstone series. She didn’t realize, not did I until I read the preface, that it was for men in 12-step programs, working through their additions and coming to clarity about themselves and their worth.

For all that, it was humbling to realize that just about every piece of advice, every insight, and every affirmation in the book applied to me pretty much to a tee, despite the fact that I have never participated in a 12-step program and don’t really consider myself an addict (not even to blogging, which was a worry of my wife’s early on).

My practice is to take a minute a day to read that day’s thought and meditation, and consider how I can go through my day in heightened awareness and kindness and joy and courage based on that reminder.

A Challenge from Dietrich

One day the meditation began with a quote by the Luther theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose last name is pronounced as if U2’s Bono had hooked up with J Lo), as follows:

There are things for which an uncompromising stance is worthwhile.

This is a guy, a German theologician, who decided to publish articles critical of the Nazis when they came to power in 1933, engaged in dangerous efforts to rescue Jews in the 1940s, and was killed by the Nazis in 1945. Possibly someone with an understanding of worthwhile causes and the toll they can take on a person.

I write mostly (in this blog, at least) about family health and fitness; what can parents learn and apply from a man whose life and death were so far removed from our mundane "Eat your vegetables" and "No, you can’t have a cookie, how about a piece of fruit?" existence?

I’ve written many times about not turning the dinner table into a battleground. About being reasonable, understanding, and non-fanatical. About taking the slow road of education and leading by example. Turns out I have a hole in my memory the size of 6 months…

Read more »

Tough Love for an Obese Child

Q: How do you convey to a child that you are not serving the food he wants right now because it is not healthy (ideally without becoming the meany he would think I was)? In this example, he wanted waffles (with lots of syrup) or pancakes or doughnuts. The child is already extremely obese. He is sensitive to his weight, so I sure wouldn’t want to point out the connection about eating this and becoming even fatter, also to not make him feel bad about himself. I know when I want some dessert (that’s what I call waffles and doughnuts), I wouldn’t stop or even care now because of some consequences later. How do I get him to eat healthy without ruining our relationship or his self-esteem?

A: You’re not going to like me for this answer. Read more »

4 Recipes for Very Picky Eaters

Golly gee, it’s happened to me! My son, E, age 7, has turned into a pasta-craving picky eater. Fruits are fine, but bread products are preferred. Vegetables look to him like 4-inch hypodermic needles poised to pierce his skin. And everywhere we go, he notices the desserts. Life has become a never-ending negotiation about how much of this he has to eat before he gets some of that.

I tell you this not to brag (yeah, right), but so you will think, "Ha! Howie goes telling everyone else how to feed their kids and here he can’t even do it right in his own home. What a fraud!"

No, wait. That’s not right either. Read more »

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