Monday, August 27, 2007

Home sweet home

OK, we're back from our little vacation, and as promised I feel more cheery now and I'm not going to post about anything crappy today. Even though I'd love to rip into this article that appeared on CNN today. OK, just one little comment about it: if the US gets its own "obesity czar," how do I apply for that position? Because that would be awesome...

Anyhoo, our garden produced its first tomato, so I thought I'd post a photo of it. Mmm, juicy, yummy, roma tomato goodness. Fresh tomatoes from the garden make you never want to buy those waxy orange tomatoes from the grocery store ever again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fat cooties!

This article appeared on today, reporting on a study that shows that a common virus known as adenovirus-36 may contribute to weight gain. Researchers found that stem cells exposed to the virus differentiated into fat cells and more readily stored fat than did stem cells not exposed to the virus. They also found that 30% of "obese" people have antibodies to the virus (indicating previous exposure) while only 11% of the rest of the population has the antibodies. So this may mean that the virus causes or contributes to people gaining weight.

The CNN article is interesting, but it also kind of sucks because it keeps pointing out (in case any of us fatties might get the wrong idea) that being fat is still your own damn fault even if you were exposed to the virus. For example, Dr. Samuel Klein is quoted in the article as follows: "We don't want obese people to feel that it's all their fault because it is not all their fault ... but clearly the buck finally lies with the person." Oh, let me get this straight: we don't want fat people to feel like it's all their fault since it's not all their fault, but ultimately it's all their fault. Yes, that's very clear. And a helpful bullet point at the top of the article boldly asserts: "Bottom line cause of all obesity: Eating more calories than you burn". Of course this is not true if you define "obesity" according to BMI, since as we know, BMI only looks at height and weight, so a muscular person like Brad Pitt can be "obese" based on BMI, and probably not because he eats more calories than he burns. And furthermore, even if we restrict the term "obesity" to refer a high percentage of body fat, the "calories in - calories out" model (which the same Dr. Klein quoted above also puts in a plug for) is still not a very practical concept even if technically correct. This is because, as has been demonstrated time and time again, not every person burns calories at the same rate, and some people are more efficient than others at extracting and storing calories from food. So it's not as if you can just read the number of calories on the food label or the number of calories on the digital display on your treadmill and be confident that those are the actual amounts of energy that you are taking in or expending.

I guess I just think that this finding, while interesting from an intellectual point of view, isn't really going to have much impact on fat people -- we don't know how much effect the virus has, there's no vaccine for it currently, and "curing" people of the virus will probably not make them thinner. So I don't really think fat people are going to look at this and think, oh, I guess I will stop exercising and start eating a less healthy diet now that it turns out it's not my fault that I'm fat. And so I don't know why the author of this article was so hung up on trying to prevent people from seizing on it and using it as an excuse for being fat. Well, OK, I guess I do -- it's because if anything other than laziness and gluttony contributed to fat, then maybe it wouldn't be quite as awesome to discriminate against fat people. And that would sort of take away all our fun as a society, wouldn't it?

I (and therefore the Fatosphere) will be on vacation for a few days, so try not to miss me too much. I bet my posts will be more fun and lighthearted after I get back!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Top Ten Reasons Why I Will Never Read VegNews Magazine Again

(Except To See If They Print My Letter To The Editor In Next Month's Issue)

I used to subscribe to VegNews (subtitle "VegetarianNEWSPOLITICSFOODTRAVELBUZZ"). I stopped my subscription about a year ago because (a) it's not really a vegetarian magazine, it's a vegan magazine, and if you're "just" vegetarian (or if, god forbid, you eat fish), you get insulted at least once per issue; (b) they promote conspicuous consumption, running an annual "Vegan Weddings!" issue and always doing tons of product features and advertising; and (c) I got tired of how they are always promoting the cult of celebrity, doing all these features like "Hottest Vegetarian!" or "Most Fascinating Vegetarian" and it's always some actor or singer like Pamela Anderson or Moby. They also always have this nauseating two-page spread with photos of the VegNews publisher and staff hobnobbing with various (vegetarian) high society types at glitzy gala events.

But anyway, I do occasionally still buy a copy off the newsstand because I like some of their recipes and their features on vegetarian restaurants in various cities. Well, no more. The August issue was so offensive in so many ways that I have decided to permanently cut VegNews out of my reading diet. Here are ten choice items:

1. In the Publisher's Note at the beginning, Joseph Connelly takes aim at the Slow Food movement for not promoting vegetarianism and not "setting a place at the table" for a prominent vegetarian. It's not made clear that Slow Food actually excluded any vegetarians who wanted to get involved -- Connelly is calling on them to make an explicit invitation. OK, but there might be a nicer way to do this than to publish a piece entitled "The Slow Developmentally Disabled Food Movement". I'm not big on political correctness, but is it absolutely necessary to use "developmentally disabled" as an insult? And do they have to insult Slow Foods anyway? It's a pretty great organization from what I know about it.

2. On p. 24, a blurb called "Go Veg, Al Gore!" This piece congratulates PETA for hassling Al Gore about not discussing the contribution of animal farming to global warming in his movie, and for not being vegetarian himself. The reader is referred to an earlier issue of VegNews where they already hassled him about it in a nasty Publisher's Note by Joseph Connelly, that one entitled "You Know It's Hot Out Here for a Wimp" (the 'wimp' being Al Gore). I guess if you make a documentary, your lifestyle has to be acceptable to everyone who might possibly watch it. PETA seems to think so, anyway, since they also openly hassled Michael Moore for being fat when Sicko came out.

3. Another blurb on the next page called "Trimming the Trans Fat" comments on New York City's law that will phase out trans fats in restaurants, with an end goal of eliminating all artificial trans fats by July 2008. OK, so far so good, except that the blurb actually puts a negative spin on it! The blurb ends with a quote from someone named Freedom Tripodi, who owns a vegan fast food restaurant in Brooklyn and is "concerned about paying more for non-hydrogenated margarines and passing the costs on to customers." Tripodi says, "If that happens, it will reinforce the argument that being vegan is more expensive, which is something that we have worked very hard to debunk." Cry me a river!

4. On page 31, a collection of quotes (clearly intended as things You Should Agree With) from a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on Dr. Neal Barnard's "Vegan Plan for Diabetes". The most irritating: "Barnard, who has long advocated a diet free of dairy products, eggs, fish and meat of any kind, said the obesity epidemic in this country is fueling a secondary epidemic of type 2 diabetes..." So this guy buys into the "obesity causes diabetes" theory so fully that he states it as a fact, and we're supposed to believe anything else he says? I don't know, I bet you can be a diabetic vegan if you try real hard...

5. Pages 32-33, "VegScene," that thing I already mentioned with all the celebrity photos. This month features gems with captions like "Actresses Amy Smart and Wendie Malick smile for the flash-bulb frenzy" and "Alexandra Paul and husband Ian Murray nuzzle together for the camera." The spread includes a photo of Rory Freedman, author of Skinny Bitch, a "tough love" (i.e. mean and anti-fat) diet book that VegNews has been promoting the hell out of.

6. Page 42, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, is one of the "25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians" and gets high praise for recently switching from vegetarian to vegan, and because Whole Foods has implemented a "humane production system" for food animals. Wait, what? Al Gore gets berated for not being vegetarian and not pointing out why animal farming sucks, but then Mackey is a great guy because he went vegan, even though he and his company make a shitload of profits off of killing animals and selling their dead bodies for food? Just because they do it "humanely"? I don't know, this seems like kind of a double standard...

7. A vapid piece called "Veg on Every Budget" that features caricatures of vegetarian women from three different economic classes and suggests what fun vegetarian stuff they should spend their extra money on. The "High-Rolling Herbivore" has $30K of disposable income per year and spends it on, among (many) other things, "truffle-infused olive oil, Prius with hemp interior, solar-paneled summer house in the Hamptons"... and don't forget "one smokin' pair of Raffia Stiletto sandals". Wow, she sounds like a great person.

8. The very most egregious thing in this issue: an article by cartoonist Dan Piraro, who has discovered that dairy is the root of all evil. Apparently dairy is the reason why people are fat and why they have heart disease, so we should all go vegan. Here's a sample of the nice things he says: "...we all know obese vegetarians whose hearts think they are trying to pull a locomotive out of a swamp every time they attempt to get out of a chair." Charming. Later on he lists some "facts". "Fact: The calcium you get from milk comes with artery-clogging saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, and pus." (Really? Even if it's nonfat organic milk from cows not treated with growth hormones?) But here's the best fact -- "Fact: Anyone following your sizeable posterior down the street knows you're addicted to dairy." Hey Dan, here's another fact: Anyone taking the time to read your insipid article knows you're just a dumbass cartoonist with some kind of stick up your ass, pretending to be an expert on something you know nothing about.

9. "No Kidding," by Kristine Genovese, about her struggle to adopt a child. Apparently once the social workers found out she was vegetarian, this started coming up every time she talked to them about an adoption, and now they keep trying to hook her up with kids who love salad. Mind you, Genovese acknowledges that her vegetarianism has not actually held up the adoption process, but she still complains about it coming up at all. And in the process, she finds it necessary to spew out prejudice against fat people, who must all feed their kids "fried foods and sugary desserts". Genovese doubts that "overweight or obese" people would have as much trouble adopting as she did -- apparently she has missed the numerous recent cases of fat people being prohibited by the courts from adopting. She's mad because some of the other people trying to adopt were fat, and yet she doesn't think they got hassled at all because "...questioning the eating habits of an overweight person would be considered, at the very least, politically incorrect and at worst, downright cruel." Ha! Hahahahahahaha!

10. A regular feature on the last page called "What's In Your Fridge?" with a picture of a self-satisfied reader and his/her open refrigerator filled with vegan food. This month's fridge owner, Carol Banning of Los Angeles, has a lot of processed, packaged food. But hey, it's vegan! Admittedly, Carol's fridge isn't nearly as bad as the one in the last issue I saw, where this guy had a fridge that was completely full of junk food and not a single fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. But still, I'm sure we can do better than Boca Burgers, Gardenburgers, Sunshine Burgers, Silk, etc. And these companies are all getting free advertising out of it! (In case you didn't know, Boca Burger is owned by Philip Morris.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New pawns in the obesity war:

Pregnant women!

According to this article that appeared on today, the Institute of Medicine is planning to review its suggested guidelines for how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy, and is expected to decrease the recommended amounts. The current [stupid] guidelines recommend that women with a "normal" BMI should gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, while "obese" women should only gain 15, and underweight women should gain 40.

How they came up with these specific numbers that are supposed to apply to all women everywhere, regardless of how tall they are or how their bodies are composed or how big their babies are, is beyond me. But the new proposal is likely to be even more idiotic. Apparently women gaining too much weight during pregnancy "...has been one factor in causing the epidemic of overweight and obesity that we see in our country" [oh, the horror!]. This is according to "doctors who say heavy moms are gaining too much weight and the current recommendations do not factor in the country's obesity epidemic." No mention of who these doctors are or whether they are basing their complaints on anything other than their own anecdotal impressions, but no matter. Pregnant women are a segment of society that used to be left alone (relatively speaking) as far as fat phobia was concerned, and we can't possibly let this whole group of people not be hassled about being fat! We must guilt women into going on diets when they're pregnant, even if it harms their babies! We can't let fat people gain weight and not give them shit about it!

One assface, Dr. Patrick Catalano of Case Western Reserve University, actually says that "an obese woman has nutrients stored away and doesn't need to gain weight to provide for the baby." Umm, maybe doctors don't have to take a lot of hard math classes in school, but you don't need a graphing calculator to figure out that in order for your weight to stay the same while you have a fetus, placenta, and all that other baby stuff growing inside of you, that means you will actually have to lose some of your own body weight during the pregnancy... duh... which means going on a diet while pregnant... which I really hope this guy is not advocating... Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he might have meant that "obese" women don't need to gain any weight in addition to the weight of the baby and stuff. If that's what he meant, then CNN needs to issue a clarification! Right away! So that no fat pregnant women start going on diets and cause harm to their babies!

I'll just sit here and hold my breath waiting for them to post that clarification...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Be yourself, but only if you are thin and you eat beef

Saw this post on's Broadsheet yesterday. It's a sarcastic response to this crappy article in the New York Times that basically says women should order a big juicy steak on a first date, because it signals to men that they are not worried about their weight or about seeming dainty or feminine. So that's great -- women should be thin, but they shouldn't try to be thin. Or if they are trying to be thin, they should pretend that they aren't trying to be thin. And either way, a cow should be slaughtered. Of course, all this advice is geared towards thin women -- there's no word on whether a fat woman should want her date to think she is worried about her weight. Presumably a fat woman just won't be on a date to begin with.

Another thing that grinds my gears about this article is the way that vegetarianism is portrayed. From the adjectives used to describe meat-eaters in this article, you are led to conclude that vegetarians are: pretentious, not down-to-earth (that one gets in there twice), neurotic, obsessed with their weight, people with "food issues", high maintenance, mousy, wimpy, insipid, childish, vapid, uninteresting, and finicky. The article does acknowledge that maybe the best thing to do is to order what you want instead of thinking too hard about what other people think you should order, but it is quickly made clear that "what you want" is sure to involve a dead cow. So, as the title of the article says: "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order The Rib-Eye"!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Down on the farm

Admiral Seamus and have been inspired to do some gardening lately, and I think someday we might end up with a whole backyard full of veggies and stuff. At the moment we're growing basil, mint, sage, lavender, cilantro, rosemary (which was already here when we moved in -- it grows in bushes here!), soybeans, limes, tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce, plus some fun but less practical stuff like jasmine, marigolds, impatiens, bougainvillea, succulents, and palm trees. We plan to add onions and carrots at some point, and who knows what else. And we just started composting. This is all part of our master plan to become self-sufficient. Of course we're a long way from that, but in the mean time it's pretty cool growing at least some of our own food.

Anyway, I figured I'd post some links to a couple of friends' blogs that also deal with gardening and farming. One is M-M-M-M-M-My Pomona, which is written by some friends of ours who just bought a house in Pomona and are dealing with all the joys of home ownership including yard maintenance. Another is Notes from Ethel's Cottage, which is written by a friend who just bought a house in the Bay Area and is engaged in what she refers to as "suburban farming" (and yeah, she uses the same blog template that I do).

In the future I'll post some photos of our garden for your enjoyment. For now, here's a picture of a verbena flower from the little garden we had at our old place.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Been caught speeding

So I was running on the treadmill at LA Fitness today, and it just so happened that the Admiral was on the elliptical machine right next to me (this is the first time we've done that -- usually we're on opposite sides of the room). I was about a mile and a half into my usual 5K (3.1 miles) when one of the trainers came up to me and motioned for me to turn off my iPod. Then he said, "Can I get you to put your hands on the heart rate sensors?" I was like, "Fuck you, get lost." But then out loud I said, "Uh, it won't give you your heart rate if you're going faster than 4 miles per hour" -- he should have known that since he works there. Then he asked what my target heart rate was, and I was like, "I don't know, I usually just look at this chart on the treadmill," and he said something about how the chart isn't necessarily accurate for everybody. Then he said, "Did you know that if you work out above your target heart rate it can ruin your metabolism?" I don't know if that's true or not, or even what it means exactly, but I quickly got the idea that the reason this guy was hassling me was that there's a speed limit for fatties, and it's less than the lighting-fast 4.7 miles per hour at which I was zooming along. And also that the guy was assuming that if a fat girl is in a gym, her primary goal must be to lose weight rather than any other athletic goal she might have for herself, like, say, running a faster 5K. The hassling went on for a little while, and finally I told the guy, "You know, I've been running for 11 years." His eyes widened, but before he could stammer out his dumbass reaction to this mind-boggling revelation, suddenly the Admiral, my knight in sweaty gym clothes, chimed in: "Are you singling her out because she's fat?"

Whoa. You should have seen the look on that guy's face as he whipped his head around to see who was sticking up for me. Deer in the headlights would be putting it mildly. Keep in mind that at that time the guy didn't know that the guy on the elliptical machine was anything more than a stranger to me. And man, did he get busy backpedaling. "Oh, no, not at all," he said. "I just circulate around and talk to people. In fact, let's check out *your* heart rate." He was smooth, but I could still see him sweating. He tried to get the Admiral's heart rate, but the sensor wasn't working, so he just kept up this random nervous chitchat. He asked the Admiral how long he had been coming to the gym. The Admiral looked at me and was like, "What has it been, a year now?" and the guy was like, "Oh, you two come in together?" The guy looked back at me and clearly his mind was blown at this point -- the fat girl is a longtime runner, and now it turns out the fat girl has a *man*?! As the computer from Logan's Run would say: INPUT CONTRARY TO ESTABLISHED FACTS.

So at this point I was back in the conversation. The guy asked me a bunch of questions which were either meant to make clear that he totally respected that I was a serious runner, or else to test whether I was really a runner. He asked if I had ever run a marathon, and I said yes, two of them, but that I was working on my 5K time now. He asked what my time was, and I said that it was 37:30. Then he asked when my next race would be, and I said I was planning on doing a 10K in Ohio over Labor Day weekend. I guess all this satisfied the guy, because then he started telling us about his own exercise routine (as if we gave a shit). He mentioned that he had suffered from shin splints, and at this point I decided to turn the situation around on him. So I asked in a helpful way (as any veteran athlete would), "Oh, do you know the stretches to do for shin splints?" Pretty soon after that he was on his merry way.

OK, what to take from all this? Well, at first I was just pissed at that guy for stereotyping me and assuming that a sweaty fat girl on a treadmill was going to harm herself. But then I realized that the guy was just reflecting the general attitude at LA Fitness, which is that the reason to go to the gym is to lose weight. They currently have signup sheets for personal training sitting on a table right at the top of the stairs that go up to the treadmill area, and they say at the top (something like): "If you want to burn fat and keep it off, running may not be the best way. Learn more with a personal traning session..." I've never bothered with my free training session, but a friend of mine (who is not fat) did have hers a while back, and she said that the trainer kept wanting to get her on a program to work on her "problem areas" when all she really wants to do is run. So clearly this is kind of a "thing" at our LA Fitness location. I'd like to think this emphasis on thin, toned bodies above all else (including health) is just a quirk of LA Fitness or maybe just a SoCal thing, but sadly I think it is a nationwide (and even international) problem. I just think it is a sign of a pretty fucked up society when fat people are constantly hassled about not taking care of their health, and yet when they are in the gym engaging in the healthiest activity imaginable, then they get hassled about not doing the optimal workout for weight loss. It makes pretty clear what our real priorities are.