Friday, December 30, 2011

Avoid Breaking Bones on the Dance Floor

You're out on New Year's Eve dancing the night away in your glamorous new dress and stiletto heels. You feel something soft under your foot, and a woman behind you shrieks: you stepped on her foot with that stiletto heel. She gets your name and address before heading to the doctor. Two months later, a bill for her $3,000 emergency room visit arrives in your mailbox. You argue over the phone, and a year later, a judge yells at you for five minutes before handing down a judgment for the plaintiff's pain, suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Don't let this happen to you! If for no other reason than the spirit of good will towards men, leave the stiletto heels at home when you go dancing. They really can break a bone if you step on someone. Flats, wedgies and cuban heels, in my experience, cause a bruise at worst. The way you dance can help, too. A common newbie mistake is to take high, wide steps. Drag your feet just a little, and the worst you'll do is bump into someone else's foot. Your dancing will look better, too.

Notice how these dancers' feet stay very close to the floor. The lady sometimes lifts her foot, but brings it down straight under her body. Do as they do, and you'll make the dance floor a little safer for everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why You Should Give Up Cardio Workouts

A friend and I got into a discussion today about the benefits of exercise. She believes you have to exercise to stay thin and have muscle tone. I partly agree with her.

A few years ago, I was eating what most doctors and nutritionists would call a healthy diet: lean meat, cottage cheese, lots of "good carbs," low-fat. I exercised hard six days a week. And I was gaining weight! That weight wasn't muscle, either--unless gaining muscle makes it hard to button your pants.

I stopped eating wheat and started slowly losing weight. Then I went on a low-carb diet--about 50 grams of carb a day--and the fat fell off. I ditched the six-workouts-a-week plan because I didn't need it to stay thin.

I'm not alone. Cookbook author Dana Carpender wrote that she gained weight on a low fat diet while taking an aerobics class.(1) Dr. John Briffa often writes about clinical studies showing that aerobic or cardio exercise isn't effective for losing weight (see this, this, this, this, this, and this). And in nine years in Denver's lindy hop scene (lindy is a dance for the energetic--click for video), I've seen some pros, teachers and serious amateurs gain weight in their 30s. I haven't yet seen anyone start out heavy and end up thin. When I hurt my neck several months ago, I stopped exercising until it healed, and didn't gain a single pound.

I'm not against exercise. But the purpose of exercise should be to make you strong and improve your physique. Guys, do you really want to be huffing and puffing with a dance partner or while you walk your date up a few flights of stairs to her apartment? Don't sneer: the reason my friends don't date older men is because older men can't keep up with them. (Without weight-bearing exercise, people lose muscle as they age.) And what self-respecting paleo girl wants to ask her out-of-shape neighbors to help her rearrange her furniture because she can't move her couch by herself? These problems don't apply just to heavy people. I've seen thin people lacking strength and energy.

If we're being honest, I think we all know that no diet is going to give you good muscle tone. I do Slow Burn once a week--it's a weight lifting workout that's quick, and easy on your joints. In the summer, I garden, too. Pulling weeds, digging holes, dragging a hose around, and lopping off and bundling up dead stems are no dainty activities. And of course, there's dancing. Have you ever seen a dancer with a flat butt? That's another benefit of giving up cardio and other long exercise sessions for brief strength workouts: you'll have more time and energy to do the things you love.

(1) How I Gave Up my Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds by Dana Carpender.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Skin Repair

I've had problem skin most of my life. Even at age 42, I still get breakouts. This time, though, instead of getting random skin care products, I thought about what was wrong and what I needed. I experimented a bit, and even after just a few days, my skin is looking a lot better. Here's my take on dry, flaky winter skin and what to do about it. Your skin gets dry, maybe because you don't drink as much water in the winter, or maybe because you sweat less. (There are enzymes in sweat; perhaps they break down dead skin.) Your skin gets flaky, and if you're prone to acne, your pores get clogged and you break out. Meantime, your fingers can get so hard and dry that they crack and split.


Cleanse. Obvious, but we all need to find a good cleanser. Different people swear by cold cream, coconut oil, or olive oil, but those are all too heavy for me. I've started using Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser. The salicylic acid comes from willow bark.

Exfoliate. The dry skin has to go, either mechanically (by scraping it off) or chemically (letting a substance do the work for you, aka the easy way). Being protein, dead skin can be broken down with enzymes. Raw pineapple and raw papaya are rich sources of enzymes, or you can get a bottled enzyme mask such as Alba Botanicals papaya enzyme mask. For me, it's done a better job of exfoliation with less skin irritation than scrubs. It's a cool gel you leave on for five minutes and rinse off.

Dry up breakouts. Use Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask after you exfoliate, then put a dab of it on blemishes and leave overnight.
Moisturize. If you haven't found a good moisturizer, perhaps a subscription to receive beauty samples is up your alley. and are a couple out there; I haven't tried any of these services. I use a moisturizer from Burt's Bees that's a medium weight. What I don't want is something with vitamins C or E: they're antioxidants, and acne bacteria need to be oxidized to prevent breakouts.

Heal cracked skin. The best thing I've found is Carmex. Apply frequently.


Sufficient fat in your diet. Vitamin A is great for your skin--and as a fat soluble vitamin, it's far better absorbed with dietary fat. Good sources are liver and cod liver oil.

Drink plenty of water and get some exercise. Heaven knows I hate cliches, but they do apply here. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Food, Dance and How to Lose Weight

Merry Christmas! It's the second anniversary of Pain, Pain, Go Away! Thanks to fellow bloggers, researchers and authors, this Christmas I'm feeling a mile better than I was two years ago. (See my posts on root canals if you're interested.) I hope all my readers are well, too.

My polite responses were put to the test when my mother gave me a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas. This, from the woman with a serious case of diabetes, who complains about Dad always pushing high-carb food at her.

Me: "Um, I really shouldn't be eating these."
Mom: "But I've always gotten you those for Christmas."

I left them at a party later that night. No, I didn't have any.

Everybody danced at the party, and I was anxious to see the teenagers' hip hop moves since I've decided to learn the dance. The teenagers did the Charleston, suzie Qs, and a bunch of other 90-year-old African dance moves I already know. Maybe that will make it easier to learn this by Laurieann Gibson:

I bought one of Gibson's instructional DVDs and a solo salsa DVD for myself for Christmas. Looking around for DVDs, a lot of them were billed as "cardio dance." If you're new to the low-carb world, forget about losing weight or keeping it off with cardio, dance, or any other exercise. Unless you're going to spend hours every day dancing, you won't burn enough calories to make a difference. Just lay off the sweets, sodas, fruit and fruit juice, potatoes, pasta, bread and other sugary and starchy foods, and that will probably be enough to see weight loss. Take dance lessons or get a gym membership because you love it. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canine "Cavity" Update: No More Bones for the Dog

Readers may recall that my dog, Molly, has a cavity that I've been monitoring and trying to heal with a low-carb lacto-paleo diet a la Weston A. Price and Drs. Mellanby. The tooth recently started looking worse, so I took Molly to see a new vet (one closer to home).

Dr. Poundstone reminded me of some of the CPAs I work with: pleasant, professional and down-to-earth. She said that she saw very few dogs with true cavities, and most of those were from grainy tooth-cleaning "bones" made in China. The "bones" are so acid that it's like giving your dog a Coke--and the results are the same: cavities.

Without an x-ray, she couldn't be sure, but the vet believed that Molly had some flaws in her enamel instead of a cavity. She said that chewing on bones (actual bones, not fake ones) could cause this, making some grooves in the tooth, which is exactly what Molly developed. Dogs' teeth have only 1 millimeter of enamel, compared to 4 millimeters on humans, she added. Dr. Poundstone recommended rawhide instead. Molly also has some calculus buildup and minor gingivitis.

I was impressed that the vet said Molly's mostly paleo diet of real food was fine. (I have a scale and a spreadsheet for Molly to make sure I don't overfeed her.) She said Molly was overweight (however, she's lost five pounds), and I said that if I feed Molly less than 700 calories a day, she eats her own poop. The vet recommended green beans as something filling but low-calorie. An underactive thyroid can make a dog overweight, but the vet doubted that was Molly's problem because she also had such a thick, shiny coat.

The Plan: no more bones for Molly. She's scheduled for a dental cleaning, and Dr. Poundstone believes that the tooth can be smoothed out and filled in.

Last Minute Christmas Gifts II

A few gift ideas for your low-carb or paleo loved ones:

A pressure cooker. In an age of little time and less patience, it's unclear how this time-saver fell out of favor. It'll cook a three-pound roast in under an hour--perfect for a meat lover who doesn't want to wait hours for dinner.

A gift card to a coffee shop or grill. Yes, a lot of gift cards go unused. Make sure the person you're shopping for lives or works near the coffee shop or grill and would actually go there: don't get a Starbucks gift card for someone who hates corporations, no matter how much you might disagree.

French Cooking in Ten Minutes or Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life (1930) by Edouard de Pomaine. "First of all," writes Dr. Pomaine, "let me tell you that this is a beautiful book." How French is that? Not all the recipes are low-carb, but they're mostly meat and vegetables and the rest should be easily de-carbed. My favorite recipe so far is Liver American Style, or what Americans would call "chicken fried liver." (I use coconut flour and ground almonds in place of wheat flour and bread crumbs.)

A bottle of wine. My best friend and I loved Red Bicyclette syrah; California pinot and Washington reislings are wonderful as well. La Crema, Robert Mondavi, and Bex are some more I recommend. There are hundreds of great $10 wines out there--don't worry much about the price. And don't worry about notes and hints; many people can't detect them. A naked wine is one aged in a metal barrel, and a screw cap doesn't necessarily indicate an inferior wine: a small portion of corked bottles of wine go bad. The screw cap, for some vintners, is a quality control measure.

Books, magazines, book store gift cards, or a Kindle. As a group, low-carbers seem to be voracious readers and libertarians. Just make sure of their tastes before you give them a subscription to Reason or something by Thomas Sowell. It's a bit like giving lingerie: make sure it really is for the other person's enjoyment.

For further last-minute gifts:
Books recommended by Dr. Michael Eades:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guide to Politely Turning Down Food

Denver must be one of the most polite places. Strangers flocked to help me when I fainted on the street, I've never been bothered when walking downtown or in fifty-cent parking lots late at night, and on the rare occasion someone bothers me on the bus, the driver or another passenger puts the creep in his place. (It's the suburbs of Denver where people get shot.)

Pressuring people to eat things they don't want to eat isn't done here. (Colorado also has the lowest rate of obesity in the US. Coincidence?) Here are some things I say to politely refuse high-carb food. If a phrase doesn't work on the first try, just keep repeating it.

Q. Would you like a cookie?
A. No, thanks.

Q. Are you sure you won't have one?
A. It looks delicious, but I'll pass, thanks.

Q. It's low fat/honey sweetened/all natural/etc.
A. Thank you, but most sweets just don't agree with me.

Q. Are you on a diet? (Note: I've only heard of people asking this, so I'm improvising an answer.)
A. I'm sorry, but I don't discuss that.

Q. One won't hurt you, will it? (This is rarely said around here.)
A. I'm sure you don't want to hear about my gastrointestinal problems.

At this point, it's hard to imagine someone continuing to insist you take their cookie. If they do, take it, thank them, go somewhere out of their sight and throw it away.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Meditation for Heartburn?

A recent message on the elevator TV in the building where I work said that meditation could relieve mild heartburn. A better message would have been that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I can see how relief from stress (which may or may not result from meditation) could relieve heartburn: if tensing the stomach muscles pushes acid into the esophagus, relaxing them will keep the stomach acid where it belongs.  Problem: people are often in situations where they can't meditate. The larger issue is that if something about your lifestyle requires a lot of maintenance such as meditation, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the lifestyle.

An easy way to prevent heartburn is with a low-carb diet. Try it for a few days and see for yourself. Limit foods like bread, cereal, pastries, cookies, juice, noodles, cake, sweets, potatoes, rice, fruit, and other high-carb food, and see if your symptoms subside.

Next post: how to politely turn down holiday food.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Dog's Indulgence: Expensive Cookies

Would you feed cookies to your dog? What if the cookies were bone-shaped? Absurd? Read the ingredients in a Pedigree Jumbone:

Rice Flour, Glycerin, Sugar, Cellulose Powder, Wheat Flour, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Caseinate, Natural Poultry Flavor, Dried Meat By-product, Potassium Sorbate (a Preservative), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, D-calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Folic Acid, Dl-alpha Tocopherol Acetate [source of Vitamin E]), Minerals (Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate).
The fact that the treats are mostly flour and sugar is bad enough. But glycerine is an ingredient in soap, cellulose is indigestible by dogs, sodium tripolyphosphate is an ingredient in detergent, and calcium carbonate is an ingredient in cement.

But wait--it's not just junk food for dogs, it's expensive junk food for dogs. On Amazon, these flour/sugar/fake food treats cost--wait for it--$6.19 per pound.

My mother might indulge my dog with these, but that's what grandmothers are for. At home, my dog eats real bones, eggs, meat and vegetables, all with vitamins already in them and all for a lot less than $6 a pound.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Indulgence: A New Stove

Some people would call me "green": I tend to repair things instead of throwing them away, and I avoid buying disposable junk in the first place. My house is furnished in mid-90s estate sale, along with some antiques and good quality furniture I bought new in the 80s. I generally dry my clothes on a clothesline. (Really, I'm just cheap and lazy. Drying the clothes outside saves wear and tear on the clothes and the dryer, fixing the dishwasher and coffee maker was much cheaper and easier than running out to buy new ones, and so on.)

So I hesitated to replace my range, even though the burners didn't self-ignite anymore and the oven had stopped working. I looked up how to fix ranges on the Internet, but without an owner's manual, without diagnostic tools more sophisticated than my ohm meter, and without easy access to the stove's working parts, I didn't know what was wrong with it. (Contrary to popular belief, an engineering degree isn't much help when you need to repair something. Probably, people who are good at fixing things are more likely to get a degree in engineering than, say, French literature.) A repairman probably would have charged upwards of $200--and I'd have still had a range going on 30 years old. I decided to spend a few dollars more and replace it.

In its place is a gently used gas stove that I'm very pleased with. Its maiden meal was broiled pork chops and red bell peppers--pork chops too thick to have broiled properly in my old range. (The new range's broiler is at the top of the oven instead of the bottom: you can cook the food farther from the flame so that it doesn't burn on the outside and stay raw on the inside. And you don't have to get on your hands and knees.) The chops turned out tender and juicy and evenly cooked. The old range was hotter at the back of the broiler than the front. Since the oven stopped working months ago, I almost forgot how much I love broiled meat until I smelled those pork chops.

The AGEs (advanced glycation products) from cooking at a high temperature (around 500 degrees F) might concern some people, but I'll continue broiling my meat for two reasons. First, I love the taste. Second, haven't humans been cooking like this for a long time? Without pots and pans, wouldn't our paleolithic ancestors have skewered some meat on a sharp stick and held it over a flame?

If you're like me and willing to shave 30 seconds off your life to indulge in broiled meat, here's my recipe for broiled pork chops and red bell peppers.

1 pound pork chops, 1" thick
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1" strips
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
olive oil

Mix balsamic vinegar, garlic and anise seed. Place pork chops in a dish and sprinkle with the vinegar mix, turning them over to coat them. Cover and let marinade for at least 30 minutes. Turn on broiler. Place pork chops on a broiler pan, along with the peppers. The rack should be 5-1/2" to 6" from the flame. (If you don't have that much space, butterfly the chops before marinading them.) Brush the peppers with olive oil. When broiler is hot, cook the chops and peppers for five minutes on each side.