Monday, July 28, 2008

News from the trans fatosphere

Sorry for the hiatus.

I guess the big news since last time is that California is banning trans fats from restaurants.

It sounds like good news to me, but already the whining has begun. The owner of Bertha's Soul Food in Los Angeles is quoted in the LA Times as saying that "The government is infringing too much on the rights of people to even eat what they want." OK everyone, raise your hand if you "want" to eat trans fats... I didn't think so.

This is the problem with America. (OK, one of a few problems with America.) Here we have restaurants selling us all sorts of nasty-ass chemicals and calling it "food" and not being legally required to even tell us what kind of terrible shit is in there. Finally the state government has decided to step in to protect its citizens from one particularly insidious type of "food" ingredient that should never have been invented, and now restaurant owners are calling this an infringement on consumers' rights. Give me a fucking break.

Now, I will admit that the trans fat ban may be based partly on some wrong, crappy attitudes held by some of our fine leaders in Sacramento. According to this New York Times piece, the author of the trans fats bill, (Democrat) Tony Mendoza, was motivated by "obese children": "They are heavy. They eat out a lot, and you realize there are trans fats out there." Umm, connection? Not really seeing it. But at least the Governator's statement about the bill (the parts I've seen in the news reports, anyway) refrained from veering into scary-fat-kids-OMG-panic-obesity-epidemic territory. Of course we know he's not the world's most enlightened guy when it comes to things fat, but at least in his statement he focuses on the link between trans fats and heart disease rather than "obesity". And in any case, whatever the real motivation for the trans fat ban, I consider it a win.

Now, how long before VegNews gets in on the whining?

The image is from ABC News. Do you love it as much as I do?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Continental sux redux

A quick follow-up from last week's post: I encountered the same problem on my return trip. This time, my "meal" was a little packet of about 8 baby carrots, and the old familiar Fun Pack of M&Ms. And a mustard packet. At least this time when I asked whether there was a Vegetarian Option, the flight attendant had the decency to say no.

So I get off the plane in Houston, starving, and make my way to the food court where I order a veggie burrito at this little Mexican place called Pappasito's. The cashier asks if I'm vegetarian. I say yes, thinking she's just making small talk. Then she's like, "Well, the sour cream has chicken broth in it." I'm only half paying attention, so I'm like, "That's okay," thinking she's just asked if it's okay to cook my veggies on the same grill as the meat. Then it actually registers what she said. And I'm like, "Excuse me, did you just say the sour cream has chicken broth in it?" And she's like, "Yeah." And I'm like "???"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Houston, we have a problem

Not a major problem, mind you, but I just wanted to say "Houston, we have a problem." I told Seamus I was going to find some excuse to say that today since I have a layover in Houston (which is where I'm blogging from now). I was thinking I'd go to Starbucks and order a drink, and then tell them they got my order wrong and go, "Houston, we have a problem." (This is where you laugh.) (You probably had to be there.) (Which would technically be impossible since I didn't actually do it, I was just talking about doing it.)

Anyhoo, moving on, here's my problem: the "Vegetarian" option. On Continental Airlines, they might as well rename it the "Don't Bother" option. What happens is that when you buy your ticket, you click a box that says you want the "Vegetarian" option (if it's a long enough flight that they're serving a meal). Then, they ignore your request. Then, when you get on the plane, you have to tell them that you want the "Vegetarian" option. Which is what I did. I said, "Do you have a vegetarian version?" and the flight attendant said "Yes," then handed me my little plastic box that contained: a flaccid iceberg lettuce "salad" (with no other veggies in it), a packet of dressing, a "fun pack" of M&Ms with about 25 M&Ms in it, and a ketchup packet. She also gave one to my seat-mate, and then she handed him a hot sandwich. I sat there munching on my nasty salad, waiting for my cheese sandwich or whatever it was while the flight attendant chatted with someone about the total awesomeness of Veggie Tales (irony!) and how much her kid looooooves it, but it turned out there was no cheese sandwich. The "Vegetarian" option is just the regular old ketchup and M&Ms salad, sans sandwich. So I'm pretty sure I didn't derive any nutritional benefit from my "lunch", except for maybe 200 calories (I guess it would have been 225 if I'd eaten the ketchup) and some minimal amount of fiber from the lettuce. They serve better lunches in Gitmo. They also serve (marginally) better lunches at faculty meetings at the fine institution where I teach. At least in the vegetarian lunch at faculty meetings, you get some little cabbage pieces and maybe some carrots mixed into your iceberg lettuce. And if you get there early enough, there are even cut up pieces of hard-boiled egg that you can use to add that extra special something to your meal. Yum-o!

Will this be the year that I work up the courage to round up some fellow vegetarian faculty members and demand that the administration offer us a vegetarian option that's equivalent to the turkey wraps that come with the non-veg option? I mean, everyone knows that when it comes to the airline industry, you just have to bend over and take what they give you. And of course people have been complaining about airline food and will do so until the end of time (or until the end of air travel as we know it, which could come sooner than we think, but that's a topic for a different post). But higher education is supposed to be different, dammit! So who's with me??

Monday, July 07, 2008

Just when you thought you'd heard it all...

...CNN reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending low-fat milk for 1-year-olds and CHOLESTEROL DRUGS FOR 8-YEAR-OLDS.

8-year-olds, Dude.

Could I just remind everyone that the rate of "childhood obesity" in the U.S. leveled off in 1999, meaning this "epidemic" we keep hearing about is a complete load of horse shit? And could I also remind you that the BMI standards defining "overweight" and "obese" were lowered (from 27 and 32, respectively, to 25 and 30) after an NIH report that came out in 1998, based on research funded (natch) by the weight loss industry and pharmaceutical companies? No wonder "childhood obesity" rates leveled off in 1999 -- they were level before, then millions of people (both adults and children) became "overweight" or "obese" overnight when the BMI standards were lowered in 1998, yielding a big jump in the percentages, and then they were level again. Could all this obesity hysteria really be based on a statistical trick designed to make more money for the diet industry, you ask? Yes. Yes, it could.

Before I blow a gasket and become one of those obesity-related casualties we keep hearing about, I'm going to just go back to the specifics of this CNN article. Here are some things that are causing my left eyebrow to arch so high that it may just migrate right off my face:

(1) The AAP spokesdoctor quoted in the article, Stephen Daniels, "has worked as a consultant to Abbott Laboratories and Merck & Co." -- "but not on matters involving their cholesterol drugs". OHHHHH, thank god he wasn't working on matters involving their cholesterol drugs. Because you might think he had some impure motives in recommending his former employer's cholesterol drugs to 8 year-olds if he had worked on matters involving their cholesterol drugs, but since he didn't work on matters involving their cholesterol drugs, I can't see any possible conflict of interest, can you?

(2) Cholesterol screening is now "recommended sometime after age 2 but no later than age 10". Yes, you read that right. They want you to have your 2-year-old's cholesterol screened.

(3) "The academy has long recommended against reduced-fat milk for children up to age 2 because saturated fats are needed for brain development. 'But now we have the obesity epidemic and people are thinking maybe this isn't such a good idea,' said Dr. Frank Greer..." Yeah, who gives a shit about brain development, people??? WE'VE GOT AN OBESITY EPIDEMIC HERE!!!!1!11

(4) "...the academy recommendations say low-fat milk is appropriate for 1-year-olds 'for whom overweight or obesity is a concern'. Daniels, a pediatrician in the Denver, Colorado, area, agreed that could include virtually all children" (italics mine). Two thoughts. First: ARRRGH!!! Second: do you think they literally mean '1-year-olds for whom overweight or obesity is a concern'? Because I don't know a lot of 1-year-olds, but I'm guessing most of them aren't concerned about overweight or obesity (yet) (although in Australia they're putting 3-year-olds into compulsory diet and exercise programs, and 5-year-olds are being diagnosed with anorexia, so I guess weight-conscious 1-year-olds wouldn't surprise me much at this point).

(5) "With one-third of U.S. children overweight and about 17 percent obese, the new recommendations are important, said Dr. Jennifer Li, a Duke University children's heart specialist. 'We need to do something to stem the tide of childhood obesity,' Li said." Yeah, you know, that tide that came crashing onto the shore about, oh, NINE YEARS AGO WHEN THEY LOWERED THE BMI CUTOFFS, THEREBY ARTIFICIALLY CREATING AN OBESITY EPIDEMIC.

Um, excuse me, have we managed to colonize Mars yet, or is there some other planet I can relocate to? Because this one is really starting to freak me out.

As if all this weren't enough, Cookie Monster is cutting back on cookies to set a good example for all those little fatties out there, letting them know that "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food". This happened a while back, but I only heard about it from Cookie Monster's recent appearance on the Colbert Report. I thought it was a joke, but it's true -- Cookie Monster is on a diet changing his lifestyle.

Is nothing sacred?