Thursday, September 27, 2012

This Just In: Kids Hate Diet Lunches

The Geneva Convention prohibits the killing of our taste buds. -Hawkeye Pierce, M*A*S*H

School lunches have never been known for being appetizing, but under the new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, they're so bad that students are organizing protests.

Some critics of the protests say that an 850-calorie limit should be enough, and if the kids don't like it, they should bring their own lunches.

First, the calories. They're poor quality sugar and starch that's like Chinese food without the flavor and texture: it leaves you hungry an hour later--or a minute later for some kids. Google school lunch images: it's a beige sea of bread, breading and potatoes. The new guidelines call for more fruits and vegetables--which the kids have to put on their trays--but (1) fruit is mostly sugar, (2) it's hard to eat certain fruits and veg if you wear braces, (3) fruit and veg aren't filling, and (4) the fruit and veg are going in the trash anyway. Those whole grains that the guidelines call for are basically starch with the antinutrients that most grains have. My own experience eating a carb-heavy diet was that I was hungry enough to eat the wallpaper every few hours.

Next, Just Say No. School lunches are taxpayer supported and they're supposed to be a service. Kids and parents have every right to complain if they aren't satisfactory. And some schools--probably illegally--don't allow students to bring their own lunches or dictate what kids can bring. This could force the issue to the tipping point. Speaking of which, I'm reminded of this scene from M*A*S*H*.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plans for my Dental Implant

Newly planted yellow sundrops line the path to my door. Photo from

My fractured arm continues to heal. Tonight, I set out 15 plants in my front yard, then stopped only because it was dark. Tomorrow night, I'll plant five clumps of tall grass in place of the large spruce my neighbors cut down. I'm hoping the grass will shade and cool the wild roses and golden currants to the north of them.

Friday, I met with my oral surgeon. As soon as I can get a temporary tooth made, he'll extract the broken tooth and (if possible) implant the titanium screw where the root is now. Down time should be about two days. The temporary tooth will be attached to my braces. It'll take four months to heal, and then my dentist will put in the permanent tooth.

My insurance doesn't cover braces for anyone over age 19, nor does it cover tooth implants. (The alternative to an implant is bridge work, which destroys the two surrounding teeth.) They might make an exception for my braces through my medical insurance since I have them because of an accident. In all fairness, my dental insurance is very cheap--monthly premiums cost less than a day's parking in my building. But I wish major medical insurance (where they only cover, well, major medical expenses and not routine mainenance) were still an option. It was inexpensive and a good deal for someone who didn't need regular medical care, but wanted financial protection in case of a serious condition.

The good news in this is that I'll probably be out of braces sooner than my orthodontist originally thought, and that I won't likely have to have braces on my lower teeth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good Teeth: A Confounding Variable in Veg Eaters?

Since injuring my teeth, I haven't been eating as much vegetable food as I used to. (I'd already given up fruit, since it's one of the worst things for giving me acid reflux.) Why? I have a hard time chewing them--just like my mother, who has several bad teeth and a partial. Bad teeth are a sign of bad health and are associated with diabetes and low socioeconomic status. And they make it hard to chew certain foods.

Sure, you can go to the trouble and expense of juicing, but people who do that are outliers who are probably doing several good things for their health. And V-8 is a bit like oatmeal for most people: the only reason they consume it is because they think it's good for them. For most people with bad teeth, it's just easier to eat tuna casserole and mashed potatoes or a hamburger and fries.

Someone who's being funny might look at my case and say, "Aha! She became tired and weak and had several medical appointments around the time she stopped eating leafy greens." Absurd, yes, but no more so than many other associations that researchers confuse with causation.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Getting Back to Normal

If I haven't posted much lately, it's because I've been resuming a normal life after a month spent getting well and getting by. I've weeded the yard, filed all my papers and amended my state tax return. I took my computer in for repairs and having lost all my data, reloaded my music and found a free home accounting program ( to replace Microsoft Money. My lindy partners have given my right arm some exercise (dance partners in lindy use one another's weight), my favorite stock screener brought up a promising company to research (Global Payments Network), and came out with a streptococcus puzzle and a "quick frozen" puzzle that have kept me busy.

My best effort at the new quick frozen puzzle folding proteins. I'm sheerbliss at #17, and my team is Go Science.
 Something that seemed to help push me back into feeling well was resuming my GNC Hair, Skin & Nails vitamins. I always felt good taking those, but got nervous about taking more vitamins than I should. I've also been diligent about taking an iron pill every night. My eye tooth (the one that was broken) has stopped bleeding when I clean it and the other teeth aren't overly tender or loose anymore. My arm is straight (but has a ways to go to match its double-jointed mate), and I'm back to eating solid food. My house is starting to feel like my home again instead of a haphazardly filled storage unit. It's good to get back to normal.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Banishing Stress

As much as people complain about stress, they go out of their way to create it. They over-schedule, overspend, under-sleep, and under-nourish themselves. I'm still working on getting enough sleep, but I've found some ways to reduce other sources of stress.

Poor diet will affect your mood. Contrary to what's written by a lot of self-help authors, your mood isn't just a matter of attitude. Your brain is mostly made of fat and cholesterol and requires various nutrients to run properly. It needs glucose, but the glucose needs to be in your bloodstream, not your stomach in the form of carbohydrates. (Your liver can make glucose out of protein.) Drs. Phinney and Volek describe how low-calorie, high-carb diets can affect the brain in The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. (The short answer: depending on how much you exercise, you can mentally and physically hit the wall.)

If for example you decide to eat 1200 kcal per day, composed of 25% protein (75 grams), 25% fat, and 50% carbohydrate, your daily carb intake totals just 600 calories. That's more than enough to keep your liver from making ketones, but it's just barely enough to feed your brain. But, you say, your liver can also make glucose from some of the protein via gluconeogenesis, which is correct, but that totals less than 50 grams (200 kcal) per day....But what happens if you decide to jog 5 miles in 50 minutes (which consumes 100 kcal per mile). Typically in this setting, people start to feel lousy (see "bonking" below)....[Upon bonking, or hitting the wall, I]f at this point you do not immediately stop and eat, the bottom falls out of performance capacity and you feel profoundly depressed.
If you're at work or puttering around the house, the same thing happens, but in slow motion. Even disciplined people lose their grip due to poor diet. During Ancel Key's starvation experiment at the University of Minnesota in the 1940s, two men--pacifists who grew up in the historic peace churches--got into a fist fight over a piece of macaroni. Another subject, perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, chopped off a few of his fingers. "Starvation" in the experiment was a calorie and macronutrient balance typical of some of today's popular diet plans. For further reading, check out The Great Starvation Experiment by Todd Tucker and my post on the bookThe Diet Cure by Julia Ross (Jimmy Moore podcast here) and my post Lousy Mood? It Could be the Food.

Turn away from a problem for awhile. An article about high-intensity training remarked that the American way of solving problems was to work harder and longer. Sometimes that's what needed, especially if you already know what needs to happen and it's a matter of doing it. But it doesn't lead to insight. How many times have you had to leave a problem for a number of days, and on going back to it, a solution came to you? Or you saw the problem wasn't worth worrying about in the first place?

Set up an emergency fund. Having bills you can't pay is a tremendous source of stress. If you don't have an emergency fund, create one at your bank and set up small automatic transfers to it every month or every payday. (A human at your bank will do this for you if you ask.) I'm sure this is one reason I haven't had too much stress from my accident a month ago: now that the bills are coming in, there are funds to pay them.

Find ways to spend less. Even things that tend to be expensive can be brought under control. Over the weekend, my niece got married in a simple but beautiful ceremony. The wedding was at the house of a family friend, and everyone had cake and punch afterward. (Two friends on mine were married in a similar fashion last year.) They're just as married as if they'd put on a production worthy of Broadway, both couples had a happy wedding day, and they didn't start their marriages under a strain of extra debt. (I've heard of couples whose wedding debt outlasted the marriage.) And, dare I say it, someone who gets cold feet can think about the upcoming marriage instead of the huge outlay of money for wedding expenses (the sunk cost fallacy).

Ignore what's supposed to work, and do what really works for you. Girly relaxation stuff isn't chocolate for my soul. If a candle-lit bubble bath de-stresses you, that's terrific. But to me, sitting in a hard tub full of water that's getting colder by the minute, knowing I'll have to scrub the tub and put away a bunch of candles later isn't relaxing. (Nor is worrying about the towels catching fire.) I also detest romantic comedies that don't make any sense (that is, pretty much all of them) and crying gives me a sinus headache. Dancing is my stress reliever of choice. And if I had a fireplace, I'd chop my own wood. Video games are underrated, at least by the fill-every-minute-with-useful-or-enriching-activity nerds. In practice, throwing yourself into something is an effective de-stressor, and might even save your life. A video game developer who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury created a game called Super Better when she started feeling like she had no reason to live.