One Mom in the Middle…
of parenting… of her career… of life…

Beans don't have gluten!

Published 9.22.2016
Robb Wolf is a "Paleo" guru, though reports are that not only is eating carbohydrates now, he's begun to talk about lentils on he podcast favorably. The moratorium on legume consumption remains one of the worst aspects of the "Paleo" diet. However, the lentil transformation seems to be a recent one, as in 2015 he gave a presentation at the 2015 Evolutionary Medicine Conference held at the University of California San Francisco that still banged on about all the anti-nutrients in beans.

Wolff wants everything in medicine to begin with considering the evolutionary aspect. Genetics he says are critical— though he has to acknowledge that epigenetics also plays a role. It's
epigenetics that is the real problem for those who tout evolutionary medicine and diets.

We've mapped human genetics… and the results were much less than hoped— because of epigenetic effects. Epigenetic shifts allow a much greater range of potential outcomes and successful human adaptations to environmental (including food) shifts. "Paleos" think they are being openminded and thinking outside the box, but the reality is that demanding that things be as they were because that's the way they were isn't how human society and knowledge advance.

I listened to the presentation, and what follows are my notes and comments taken while doing so. This is not a detailed synopsis of the presentation, rather it is my thoughts and opinions about it.
Read the rest.

Vegans and the reality of the energy balance

Published 9.21.2016
I've written before that veganism doesn't negate the energy balance, and that "Freelee the Banana Girl" and her advice demonstrate that fact. I noted when I first wrote about the woman, who is "Youtube famous," that I did so because my daughter had found her videos and nutrition advice, and that it concerned me. It still does, but I'm happy to report that my daughter has since done her own research, and no longer thinks Freelee is correct.

Yet, she still watches the woman's videos, and so I continue to monitor her site as well as others in the "Vegan Youtube" community. It would seem that others have discovered Freelee and her nutritional nonsense and have decided to debunk her.

For those who are unaware of the Freelee and her beliefs, she touts a vegan diet that she has branded as "Raw till 4" (with till spelled incorrectly). Folloiwng this diet, people are told to eat 2500-3000 calories a day, no matter their size and age. The conceit is that all the calories until 4:00 PM are to be raw foods, specifically fruit (she used to be a fruitarian). After 4:00, food can be cooked, but must still be very low fat and vegan.

She has over 720,000 subscribers to her Youtube channel, and has convince a number of vegans to eat this way— with an ever growing number of them becoming obese following this advice. Veganism does not negate the energy balance. Fruit can have fat content, and if you're are overeating, that fat will be efficiently stored in the body.

Freelee uses cult tactics?

A relatively new Youtuber using the handle "SheThrowsShade"(STS) claims to be a journalist student, and decided to investigate Freelee and her claims. Some of her source materials were discovered by this Youtuber, who doesn't say what her motivation was/is. The thesis of the STS investigation is that Freelee uses tactics similar to cultists to build and control her community. I don't know that I'm willing to go that far… however, the reports emanating from the Thai Fruit Festival held in Chang Mail Thailand and organized by Freelee and her former boyfriend are disturbing.

My focus here, however, is going to remain on the energy balance and Freelee's refusal to admit its reality. What these two investigators have done, is go back and look at the archived data on the web. Apparently when she began building websites, Freelee did so on host of ever changing free platforms. For those who don't code on the web, when you build sites on free platforms, generally you don't have complete control of the metatags. Metatags are code that tells the server how to treat your content when it is accessed, and whether or not to archive it. The default is to allow the content to be archived, meaning that a record of what you've posted can remain available on a remote server even if you delete the sites. Freelee appears to have been unaware of this fact.

I would guess that many amateur website creators aren't aware of the fact, and in general it doesn't matter— unless you're concerned about copyright (which is why sites like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal don't permit web archiving, though they maintain their own archives) or if you change your story from one site to another or over time. The latter is what Freeleee has done.

Freelee has changed her story a number of times, and when challenged she tends to delete those comments or denigrate the Youtubers doing it. It's hard for me to complain about people deleting comments though, as I won't even try to deal with them here myself.

But to get back to the point for this section: The charge is that Freelee uses cultist tactics:
Read the rest.

Blast from the Past: Volek vs Aragon

Published 9.19.2016
I came across this "debate" between Jeff Volek and Alan Aragon the other day, and made a few notes and observations while watching it. It wasn't truly a debate, really it was just two back to back presentations. Nor is it new, as the event took place in 2013. It was, however, new to me.

The topic under debate was whether or not a diet low in carbohydrates (low carb) is the best diet for athletes. Volek thinks yes, Aragon thinks no. Perhaps it became more of a debate in the question and answer period, but if their was one, it wasn't taped and disseminated.

Volek went first. These are not comprehensive notes, but rather a compilation of my thoughts while listening.
  • Volek thinks carbs are optional for athletes.
  • He starts off wit the false claim that our ancestors didn’t eat a lot of carbohydrates. That is a demonstrably false statement.
  • High carb diets do NOT cause metabolic syndrome (met-syn) in the absence of calorie EXCESS.
  • His opinion is that insulin resistance is caused by carb intolerance, but gives little evidence for this claim.
  • NO. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is not reversed on a low carb diet unless it’s a calorie restricted diet. T2D can be managed with a low carb diet NOT reversed.
  • At least he admits that fat is easily stored.
  • Claims that running without glycogen (so-called fat adapted) means athletes won’t “hit the wall.” If this were true, then serious athletes (who will do most anything to achieve their goals) would be overwhelmingly low carb. They are not because Volek's statement is false.
  • Being keto-adapted (used to being in the state of ketosis) is not necessary for fat stores to be accessed during long duration aerobics. Once glycogen is used up, the body gets its energy from fat. Read the rest.

Set Point Update

Published 9.16.2016
So I was looking through my notes, and I realized that I hadn't updated my personal record of my progress, and I haven't mentioned it here lately either. Since I don't diet, I am still eating roughly the same as I was before, and maintaining roughly the same weight. In short, after my weight loss, my body settled into a new set point, which I can easily maintain.

The goal, as a reminder, was to try and establish a new set point weight for myself that is ten pounds (4.5 kilograms) lighter than my current maintenance weight. There is no health reason to do this, just to be clear. It was to see if I could do it. Almost two years from the first decision, the answer to that question is, so far, no. Mostly because I have not decreased my intake despite my resolutions at the beginning of the this year.


A bigger factor is the changing nature of how I move during the day. As I've noted a number of times, I used to walk while working all day, walking as much as 10 miles in a day— which probably sounds extreme, but stop and think how far you'd trudge, even at a slow speed (1-2 miles per hour) if you did it for an entire work day. However, I no longer do that for a variety of reasons, instead I now stand or pedal while working. Neither alternative truly replaces the energy expended while walking however, nor does the gym routine I've established.

Back in June, I joined a gym with a friend. Although my friend has so far failed to make it part of her routine, I've established one. Monday through Friday I take either a pilates or yoga class, and twice a week I do some weight lifting. The weights I lift are still not all that heavy, though they are heavier than when I started. And I have added the jumping in place between sets that I mentioned previously. I also still walk on my treadmill at least three days a week, though I'm not running at all at the moment. Instead I walk at an 8-12% incline for at least 30 minutes. Thus I am still active, but it has been difficult to replace the expenditure of all that walking. Read the rest.

A working thesis

Published 9.15.2016
So back in March, I announced that I intended to write a series about cardiovascular disease (CVD). As I am not a medical professional of any kind, nor do I play on on the internet, the series was certainly never going to be an expert's view. Rather, it was going to be my own exploration into the topic. Well, I continue to explore, but haven't written any further pieces, because, well, the topic is both huge and complicated. The very last thing I wanted to do was present some completely ignorant essay on a topic I know little about— something that's way too easy to do on the internet.

However, recently there's been a spate of articles about the revelation that back in 1967, Harvard researchers writing a review of the evidence then known about the causes of CVD (including atherosclerosis) received payment from the Sugar industry. The payment wasn't disclosed at the time, but requirements for disclosure was different back in the 1960s. As everyone involved is dead, there isn't anyway to ask for clarification.

It is clear, however, that sugar producers were interested in influencing the outcome, and were pleased with the paper, which it saw before it was submitted for publication. If nothing else, there is the appearance of impropriety, and it is catnip to the "sugar is the devil, fat is the savior" crowd.

They go on to "conclude, on the basis of epidemiologic, experimental and clinical evidence, that a lowering of the proportion of dietary saturated fatty acids, increasing the proportion of polyunsaturated acids and reducing the level of dietary cholesterol are the dietary changes most likely to be of benefit." By contrast, they "conclude that the practical significance of differences in dietary carbohydrate is minimal in comparison to those related to dietary fat and cholesterol."

Read the rest.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed child

Published 9.9.2016
As I noted previously, we vacationed the last bit of July in the United Kingdom, and London was one of the places that we visited. Harry Potter fans that we are, we had to journey to Kings Cross Station to visit platform 9¾, which is, of course, a shop aimed at tourists.

Kings Cross Stationplatform9-34
We bought a few souvenirs for the kids, but also bought a copy of the book based on the new play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2. Harry Potter theater front
The first thing to note is that it's not, in any way, a standard Harry Potter book. It is instead the play script, which means it's mostly dialogue. Indeed, it's practically only dialogue, as the scenes where the action happens and even the characters themselves are barely described. I suppose the authors (which included J.K. Rowling) assumed that anyone buying the play would already be well versed in the Potter universe, so there was no reason to add extra detail. (Note: Taking a picture of the front of the theater is as close as we could get to actually seeing the play as it is sold out for months. The other thing I should note is that I removed people from the picture who were facing the direction of my camera.) Read the rest.

Sit less, move more

Published 9.8.2106
As I've ranted previously, it irks the snot out of me when doctors tell people that exercise is not important in weight loss. Actually, it's not really exercise that's important, it's not sitting all day that is important. Setting aside time each day to exercise is a first world phenomenon— and perhaps mostly an American one. However, moving through the day— more precisely not sitting (being sedentary) all day is common

Working out doesn’t negate sitting all day, which is why I do not (sit all day that is).

Last month in The Lancet, researchers tested whether any amount of exercise could ameliorate the risk of premature death that comes with sitting for eight hours a day. Their epidemiological analysis found that 60 to 75 minutes of concerted daily exercise might to the trick. Which is a lot. And the people weren’t necessarily healthy, just alive.

The reason I'm highlighting this particle result though is that fact that it suggests that NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) can make a difference. It's not about exercising for 30 minutes a day, it's about not sitting for 10+ hours a day.

This seductive trade-off psychology may also explain why the American Heart Association’s review concluded that: “Interventions focusing solely on reducing sedentary behavior appear to be more effective at reducing sedentary behavior than those that include strategies for both increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviors.” According to that, maybe we are devoting too much to advocating exercise and not enough to simply demonizing sedentariness. Maybe we should—at least in some cases—drop advocating “exercise” altogether?

Forget about "killing it" in the gym and simply sit less, and move more. If you don't have a standing desk (or can't fashion one from a box or shelving) then stand up while on the phone, or take the stairs rather than the elevator every day. Read the rest.

Adherence is the question without an answer

Published 9.6.2016
Kevin Hall Ph.D, who researches obesity at the National Institute of Health (NIH), and Yoni Freedhoff, MD, who operates a bariatric center, wrote an editorial in The Lancet. The full text is available for free, but you have to register at The Lancet site to gain access.

Freedhoff reprinted the editorial in total (with accompanying graphs) at his own website, if you want to avoid the registration. Some points to note before I begin my commentary on the editorial:

  • Both men accept obesity as a disease, I do not.
  • Neither man considers movement as a primary means of dealing with obesity, I think this is a mistake.
  • Neither believes that there is one "diet to rule them all." Here I agree.
  • Maintenance of weight loss comes down to long term adherence.

The editorial points out that even in the DIRECT study that lasted two years and showed that a low carbohydrate diet (low carb) resulted in higher weight loss than a low fat diet, over the longer term, both diets saw followers begin to put back on weight.

Adherence is the issue with ALL diets. Adherence is poor even in short term diets, which is why I designed my “diet” the way that I did. As I've written numerous times here, I started by eating at maintenance. And then determined whether or not I could live happily eating at that amount.

They also note that food diaries and surveys are basically worthless. People lie. Everyone assumes metabolic adaptation is why diet results get reversed, when the reality is that it’s lack of adherence.

Basically there is no ONE diet that is best for everyone. First, you have to recognize that the energy balance is the reality and that you must find a way to eat fewer calories. Second, you must realize that you have to do this for the rest of your life. If you can’t accept those tow facts, no diet is going to work for you. Movement can be part of solution. Exercise sure, but also NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Essentially all movement matters, not just that at the gym.

Their conclusion is that adherence should be the focus of diet science, not which diet should be crowned “king.” Read the rest.

No more NFL, how to fill the time?

Published 9.1.2016
I have watch NFL games since I was a child, which (scarily) amounts to almost half a century, Too many fall and winter Sundays have found me staring at grown men trying to concuss each other. Of course, that's not what I thought of it for most of that time, I have many good memories of watching games (mostly on TV) with friends and family. I've also attended and watched college football over the years, but not with the same interest and intensity.

All that ends this year.

I can no longer ignore the horrific effects of the game on the men that play it. Over the past few years I've been reading the coverage of the concussion, and have concluded that the NFL is doomed. It won't be a quick death, and there is no reason to assume that it will go gently into that good night. But the NFL is doomed.

I will note that the New York Times coverage of the concussion scandal has been first rate, and I think it won a few awards. But my point here isn't to collect a bunch of links proving the same point— to whit, that American football is dangerous to those who play it. Nor am I going to spend any time denigrating those who haven't reached my conclusion regarding football (yet— because I think ultimately, almost everyone will get to where I am now, hence the NFL is doomed).

My point here is to comment on the amount of time I am gaining— The NFL's pre-season is currently underway, and while I never really invested that much time into the preseason, I used to begin watching games and reading analysis of teams and their prospects as the preseason wound down, which would be right about now. That isn't happening this year.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will note that my own son never played (American) football, nor has he ever shown any interest in football ever. However, I have a nephew with a bit of related talent who is a huge NFL fan and who tried to play football in high school. Though he had some promise as a quarterback in the lowest levels of the sport, in middle school, he was relegated to the defensive backfield— and that's when the concussions began. Read the rest.

Menopause in not a disease

Published 8.31.2016

Per the New York Times, people are rethinking hormones. I'm going to comment on the topic because I went through early menopause shortly after the results of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were announced. With a history of breast cancer in my family, hormones were never a consideration.

It would be dishonest though not to admit that my inclination would be to avoid taking hormones anyway. I think mucking around with hormones is one of the most dangerous things a woman (or man) can do to themselves. Mucking with hormones is much worse than slamming supplements down your gob, which I am also against.

Menopause is not a disease, it is part of the natural aging process. I did have hot flashes for over a decade, and for a few years some were pretty intense, especially at night. My solution was to keep ice water on my nightstand to drink when I woke up sweating. Drinking a bit of iced water seemed to shorten the duration of the flash, and certainly allowed me to recover more quickly.

However, my attitude was that there was nothing abnormal about the process or the changes that were happening to me— at least once they were defined. I had a very years of odd symptoms that I only realized after being diagnosed were actually related to menopause. I am convinced that attitude towards the process affects the course of a woman's menopause. Yes, I realize that people have different discomfort levels (I almost put the word pain there, but menopause isn't really painful), but frankly seeing menopause as just under step along the path of life makes the discomfort easier to bear. Read the rest.

My osteoporosis tale

Published 8.30.2016
This probably should have been the first entry in the series, but I finished the book review first and so went with that. What follows is a brief description of my personal experience with osteoporosis, which is why the topic interests me. As always, it is important to realize that I am not any sort of medical professional. Absolutely nothing written here should be construed as medical advice.

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in May 2011. I'd begun going through early menopause in a different state, and neither my general practitioner nor my ob-gyn there thought to order a bone mineral density (BMD) scan at that point. Thus, the first time I had a scan was three years later, when my new doctor (who was extremely dismissive of the level of care I received in my previous home) immediately ordered one during our first meeting. The results came back osteoporosis, and I was prescribed generic alendronate sodium, which is identical to the brand name drug, Fosamax.

As for exercise, my doctor told me to walk 3 hrs a week, with weights on my back if possible. I was already walking 3.5 hrs a week and doing light free weights, so I added a backpack with 10 pounds. I had recently started walking on an incline because I read that was better for building bone. Certainly the first day I inclined the treadmill I felt it more in my hips. The walking with a backpack didn't last long though, because it wasn't comfortable so I never made it a habit.

Six months later, I was back at the doctors for another annual physical exam (the shortened time frame is because it had taken me quite awhile to get around to having the BMD scan done) complaining of gastrointestinal (GI) distress. The cause of the GI distress turned out to be (mostly) lactose intolerance, as
I've discussed previously. The only importance to restating this tidbit is that my dairy consumption declined precipitously after realizing what milk was doing to me. I still eat "hard" cheeses (those aged long enough to minimize the amount of lactose in them), but much less than I had been pre-diagnosis. To me, the risk of the gastro-distress is enough to keep my cheese intake low. I suffered through only a few months of an irritated bowel. I can't imagine how some people deal with it for years. Read the rest.

Sloth over gluttony?

Published 8.29.2016
Obesity is an energy balance problem occurring when energy intake exceeds energy expenditure. This is a fact, one that I have written about a number of times previously. The relationship is not linear— which is actually what people mean when the say that calorie in vs calories out (CICO) doesn't work. "Calories out" includes much more than simple bodily movements, but again, I've gone over this territory previously. "Calories in" is a simpler concept, basically everything you put into your mouth is considered energy intake.

Intake is easier to control than expenditure, and generally people accept that over time calorie consumption has increased. The most common estimate is that average consumption now is roughly 400 calories a day greater than in the 1970s. If true, there's your obesity epidemic right there. However, not everyone accepts the thesis that people are eating more and that's why as a population are fatter.

The thesis presented here is that our sedentary lifestyle more than our gluttony drives the obesity epidemic. Modern life is infinitely more convenient. In 2016, I can stand (or pedal) in front of a computer screen for the day and attempt to earn a living wage while my clothes are washed and then dried by machines. Before washers and dryers, laundry was a laborious, all day affair. I may not like doing laundry, but at least most of the process is automated.

Another example is the food supply. I don't have to plant and harvest my own food, I can go to the nearby farm stand or grocer. Cooking is made much easier with all the gadgets available today for home cooks. And of course, if you don't like cooking there are processed foods that can be simply heated up. they might not be the tastiest or healthiest option, but they are sustenance. Here's another example of how much easier it is to obtain calories now.

The problem with the "its all the modern conveniences" argument to explain obesity is that throughout the entire 20th century, new technology to make life easier was constantly being invented. Particularly in the 1950s the number of mass produced household gadgets, such as wash machines, became available to large numbers of people. I know how difficult laundry was to do by hand because my grandmother had a wash board that she used to clean the clothes of her seven children prior to owning a wash machine. I can say with certainty that my grandmother never looked fondly back at the era of cleaning. Here's the problem: obesity (at the population level) didn't increase with the additions of these technologies. Read the rest.

Yoga for Osteoporosis

Published 8.23.2016
Osteoporosis is a topic that has been of interest to me for about five years. I've been collecting and reading articles (both journal and popular press) about the condition for roughly that period. This will be the first of a series (however sporadic it turns out to be) related to osteoporosis.

Although it's noted in the site disclaimer that is linked at the bottom of this (and every) post, I want to re-iterate for emphasis:
I’m not any sort of medical professional, so I am not going to pretend to be one. My understanding of osteoporosis is based upon my layman’s analysis of the research I’ve read. In no way is anything I wrote to be construed as advice or a recommendation for treating or dealing with osteoporosis.

My path to using yoga as part of my treatment for osteoporosis began with a book. This is my review of Loren Fishman MD's Yoga for Osteoporosis: The Complete Guide.
I’ve owned this book for years, and I have read through parts of it often. This book helped me understand the disease and formulate my response to early onset osteoporosis. I highly recommend this book. The book is essentially divided into two parts. The first part is an explanation of the disease as it is currently understood— and make no mistake about it, osteoporosis is in NO WAY completely understood. Read the rest.

Re: NPR is closing its comment section

Published 8.18.2016
It's been awhile since I commented on the issue of comment sections on the internet, but I am writing about the issue today because NPR announced that it will be closing its comment section as of August 23. My opinion of comment sections is that they typically have terrible signal to noise ratios and are not worth a read.

NPR, of course, stands for National Public Radio, and as such it does receive some level of tax payer support for its operation. As well as the seemingly endless pledge drives that it runs to get money from listeners. Full disclosure: I used to contribute annually to NPR stations (yes, in the plural because I lived (and live) in a region where their are multiple NPR stations to listen to. The stations don't have the same programming, so I listened to both.) Note the tense there, I seldom if ever listen to NPR now (mostly because I'm not in my car regularly any more) and haven't donated any money in years.

I occasionally visit NPR's website, but have to admit that for me, NPR is a still a radio station, rather than a website. Still, I do occasionally visit and read the stories— I'm less likely to listen though, I prefer to read rather than listen on my computer. I almost never read the comment section though. That holds true universally though, I think comment sections tend to shed more heat than light on a topic— and that's if they don't devolve into a cesspool of hateful or trolling rhetoric. Comment sections, rather than "fostering connections" typically are useless at best, and harmful at worst.

Moderation can help. The New York Times comment section is generally readable— but the paper spends a lot of money on moderators. It also closes comments on articles after some amount of time. NPR's comments are moderated, but via a third party, which apparently couldn't keep up with the trolling. Read the rest.

Back from the Land of Brexit

Published 8.10.2016
After a lovely two weeks away, I am back at my home base and in front of my computer screen. As the title notes, my travels included ten days in the United Kingdom (UK), specifically stays in Wales, Scotland and London. Two of those three spot voted to remain in the European Union, while Wales voted to leave. We stayed in Swansea, which actually voted overwhelmingly to leave.

The topic of Brexit did arise a few times while we were in the UK, but this is not the site where my thoughts on the topic will be placed.

Arthurian sites

As I recently reviewed a book dedicated to looking for historical evidence for the man that could have been Arthur, I could not miss the opportunity to check out whatever Arthur sites were near us during the trip. Both Wales and Scotland we visited spots that claim a link to the man, myth or legend.

Below is a picture of an unmarked stone in the middle a pasture that is said to the stone from which Arthur pulled Excalibur. The rock (stone) looks as though it split— no doubt after the sword was pulled from it. Read the rest.

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