Category Archives: Health

On why people get fat.

In which this was originally posted elsewhere, but I’m moving a copy over here because I wrote it and I can.

Overweight is a metabolic issue and not a behavioral one.

It’s currently the fashion to believe that overweight people suffer from sloth and gluttony; however, adipose tissue is not the result of character defects but rather of metabolic function. Most of what you know about diet and exercise and health, it turns out, is completely wrong. Continue reading

Yesterday, at the nail salon.

In which there’s a post of no interest to anyone who does not wear acrylic nails.

Sunday I went to my favorite nail salon, LT Nails, over on Issacs street, for a fill.

“A fill” is the procedure in which, after your nails have been growing out for two or three weeks, they “fill” the part closest to the cuticle with new acrylic. Accomplishing this requires polish remover, a Dremel, two kinds of filing and buffering devices, an anti-fungal, and new acrylic, which is applied with a paint brush.

The guy who did my nails observed a discoloration about the size of the tip of a ball point pen on my left thumbnail. This is interesting, because my acrylic nails are fairly discolored due to the fact that I’ve had them on for quite awhile and they age; even though you get fresh acrylic every couple of weeks, the stuff on the tips is always many weeks old, and becomes stained by contact with food and heat. This tiny little dot of discoloration concerned him enough that he just went right ahead and removed the entire acrylic overcoat from my nail, and then tried for a while to buff the discoloration off my very thin natural nail. Continue reading

Dietary fat.

In which I basically just link to a bunch of research.

At the Peony the other day, I was discussing my weight loss with a couple of women who were asking me how I’d done it. I gave them my blood sugar/insulin/refined carbs spiel, during which I said, “Honestly, dietary fat needn’t be avoided. You can eat brie all you want, you just can’t eat the baguette.”

One of the women I was talking to said, “Oh, we can’t eat fat at my house. My husband has been diagnosed with heart disease, so we’ve seen a nutritionist and aren’t allowed to eat any fat.”

And I thought, That can’t be right. They can’t possibly still be telling people that, with all the research to the contrary. But they are. Every day. I have an uncle with high cholesterol who eats very little fat.

Here’s just some of the research:

Effects of a Plant-Based High-Carbohydrate/High-Fiber Diet Versus High–Monounsaturated Fat/Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Postprandial Lipids in Type 2 Diabetic Patients
A diet rich in carbohydrate and fiber, essentially based on legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole cereals, may be particularly useful for treating diabetic patients because of its multiple effects on different cardiovascular risk factors, including postprandial lipids abnormalities.

Randomized comparison of reduced fat and reduced carbohydrate hypocaloric diets on intrahepatic fat in overweight and obese human subjects.
A prolonged hypocaloric diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat has the same beneficial effects on intrahepatic lipid accumulation as the traditional low-fat hypocaloric diet.

Continue reading

The no-refined-carbs thing: an update on the experiment.

In which I tell you all about my avoidance of refined carbohydrates.

As you may remember, I went on a traditional low-calorie, low-fat, semi-starvation diet on January 5th. I did this because I was so fat I could barely cut my own toenails and I felt uncomfortable in my own body. I was twenty pounds shy of obesity, and at the rate I was gaining I’d have been clinically obese in a year or two.

I lost both weight – mostly water, at first – and inches for about five weeks. The experience, after the third or fourth week, was nothing short of miserable (save the pride I felt in my accomplishment): near the end of the diet I was obsessed with food and calories, and I literally spent most of my time planning my next meal.

By the end of the diet, my body was buying and consuming entire bags of potato chips without my consent. I was hungry all the time.

Then I read Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease, more or less by accident (someone must have recommended it to me, because I found the sample on my Kindle). It was astonishing, this book. Game-changing. Mind-blowing. It challenged every single thing I knew about diet and weight loss, and it did it with actual science. I decided that although a lot of the author’s conclusions were, by his own admission, anecdotal or theoretical at best, and needed more studies, I could do some experiments in my own lab: my body.

Continue reading

I quit! Again.

In which I tackle the old nicotine addiction. Again.

I quit smoking two or three times last year, and each time I was really ready to succeed… but failed because I just had one cigarette. Or three. Or five. Which, of course, led to smoking full-time soon after.

The first time I quit, I quit cold turkey. It worked for a few weeks, but then I broke down and bummed a smoke at a gig and bought a pack within the week. The second time, I used nicotine gum. It worked for awhile, but the gum tastes bad and the whole park-and-suck routine made my gums sore. The third time, I used lozenges, but those gave me mouth ulcers and made my already rapid dental tartar build-up even worse because of the sugary, chalky gunk they’re made of.

I failed to stay on the recommended dosages with both products because they were mildly uncomfortable to use. When in a high-risk circumstance I’d just go ahead and smoke because, let’s face it, that’s what my neuroreceptors wanted me to do: smoke the damn cigarette and ease the annoying cravings. There’s no better way than inhalation to get nicotine into the brain. Mmm, smoking. Continue reading

It’s not you. It’s the food.

In which I share some of my research about diet and overweight. It turns out dietary fat is fine; it’s the refined carbohydrates – white flour, white sugar – and the HFCS that are fucking killing you and making all those children fat and sedentary.

On January 5th, I started a weight-loss contest with a group of online friends. I weighed 160 pounds. I’m 5’4″ tall, so my ideal weight range is 122 – 150 lbs. I was officially overweight. My gut stuck out farther than my boobs, I was shaped like an old person, and I was tired and lazy.

I tracked my caloric intake, and pretended to be enthusiastic about exercise even though I’ve never particularly liked it. I hit the dietary target of 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbohydrates pretty regularly, although if you’re a vegetarian on a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet it’s really hard to get enough protein.

I limited my fat intake brutally. I drank fat-free milk, bought low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, cooked with spray oil, ate lots of beans and legumes, and had huge salads just like they tell us to. After all, “everybody knows” that to lose weight, one must restrict calories and exercise more. And that’s what I did.

The only problem is that, as logical as they seem, both of those medical theories have been disproven in study after study. Low-fat diets do not lower disease risk or help in weight loss. Exercise does not help with weight loss because it universally increases hunger, in study after study, making semi-starvation diets impossible to stick to and any weight loss achieved temporary and useless.

And you don’t know that these low-fat/exercise theories of health have been overturned because 1.) the AMA just, you know, hasn’t gotten around to admitting that they accidentally backed the wrong theories for seventy years; 2.) giant corporations who sell tons of low-fat foods don’t want you to know about it; and 3.) the media tends to be conservative about diet recommendations that don’t make their advertisers money.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I learned all that, I successfully followed my semi-starvation diet for eight weeks before I totally fucking lost control of it and found myself eating an entire bag of potato chips without conscious thought and arriving at Mexican restaurants before I even knew I’d decided to go out to eat. I’d lost 14 pounds, but found myself hungry all the time and obsessed with food. Continue reading


In which I just realized I haven’t blogged in, like, ten days or something! Ack!

I watched all four-point-five seasons of Battlestar Galactica in the space of half a month. It was frakkin’ awesome.

I have been in bed for three days with an evil, mean, awful cold. I’m coughing like I’m in a TB ward and I can’t smell anything.

Why can’t I buy simple cotton long-sleeved fitted women’s t-shirts anywhere? How hard is it to make long-sleeved freakin’ t-shirts that aren’t fugly and boxy?

I still need to buy new underwear, but I’ve run out of Xmas money and I’d rather pay my cell phone bill instead.

Bento #219: Falafel & hummus

Continue reading

Fat. I can haz it. Gah.

In which there’s dieting! Whee! Aren’t you glad you’re reading this crap?!

The little bastards over at Cocky & Rude are having another diet competition. The prize for the winner is probably a stinky old shoe and some gravel, but eighteen people signed up to compete anyway.

Including me. Because I’m fat. Fat, fat, fat.

My life of sedentary sedentary-ness wants very much to make me perfectly round, but due to my natural contrariness I just don’t want to be perfectly round! Pudgy’s okay, sure, fine, I can handle being pudgy, but in the past year I have totally moved past pudgy. Continue reading

I'm having a really bad day, you guys.

In which I need to vent or cry or complain or get a hug or something.

Bindu kept me up much of last night with terrible episodes involving screaming (the vet calls it “vocalizing”) and panting and whimpering and coughing; she’d calm down and almost sleep in between, but every couple of hours it would start all over again. Her squeal would have me leaping from bed to comfort her and pet her until she seemed to stabilize; in the process I’d end up working myself into a full-blown anxiety attack with the shakes and the clammy palms and the achey skin and the inability to get back to sleep and the whole nine yards.

She woke me up again at a quarter after seven; she was panting a little and looking haggard, but she was upright and clearly ready to start her day, so could I please get my human ass up and remove the blockade at the top of the stairs so she could get on with it? I petted her and asked her to wait 15 minutes for the animal hospital to open (no one had answered when I’d called at three and again at four in the morning, but their office hours begin at 7:30). I made an appointment, got dressed, gathered my things, and carefully carried my dog downstairs and then outside.

She seemed spry enough, and promptly peed… and then she walked about fifteen paces and started with the squeal/cough/pant thing again. She seemed to be in pain and looked abjectly miserable. IT FUCKING SUCKED. I put her in the truck and, still hoping it was a back problem that pain meds could resolve, drove her to the vet and checked her in, explaining that she’d once had a back episode and that her behavior reminded me of my ex-husband’s when he ruptured a disc. They asked me to approve radiographs and sedation; I approved blood work too because of her age (she’s ~14).

When I got home around nine, I promptly curled up in bed with a pillow over my head and crashed for two hours.

The vet called me with an update around one o’clock. Blood work, in areas I can’t explain that have something to do with poor organ function, indicates problems. The radiograph shows an enlarged heart and an enlarged liver. The vet wanted to do an ECG to find out more about the heart problems; for lack of anything better to do I said okay. Due to various factors (distended belly, coughing, drinking lots of water), the vet also suspects an endocrine condition called Cushing’s disease as well. Secondary blood work and ECG will need to be evaluated, she said, offsite.

The vet reported that Bindu doesn’t seem to have arthritis or a sore back, and that her discs looked good in the radiograph. Therefore, it seems that last night’s episodes – and the first one I noticed the day before, and the one G’ma noticed the day before that – were not actually due to pain from a slipped disc or back-related spasming, which is what I’d suspected, but from heart failure. (Most of the time, I was told, such episodes cause fainting, but in some dogs who fail to actually faint they manifest as “vocalizing, stiffness, panting and coughing.”)

Essentially, I’m waiting on another $90 test, one I don’t really need, to tell me that my dog is in the process of dying.

Last week I received an email from my advisor notifying me of a lecture today. I was pretty excited about it, after the disappointment of learning that my curriculum was all online. An actual in-person lecture, on campus, with people!

The Bindu thing dampened my enthusiasm a great deal, but I was grateful for something to do to help me occupy my mind. No one needs to know that I nearly burst into tears twice on the drive over there.

When I got to the lab, the whiteboard said the instructor was out sick and that there were no classes today.

Last month, when I went to Planned Parenthood to get a bladder infection treated, they shortlisted me for a free mammogram program. So I went and got my boobs smashed and shortly afterward I received a lovely letter telling me that I don’t have breast cancer.

Today, I got a bill for $86.

There was some kind of SNAFU in my client’s A/P department and my September 23rd invoice never got processed. I was assured last week that it would be paid Monday.

Today’s Thursday, I’ve just dropped a couple hundred bucks I don’t have on the vet, I owe St Mary’s ninety bucks, my settlement program is unpaid, and I have a $300 tuition payment due on the 20th. I haven’t paid my rent, either.

Guess who’s check wasn’t in the mail today?

I should be studying or working, but I’ll probably just sit here, freaking out and trying not to, until the vet calls back.

They called back. The voicemail says the ECG is done but they won’t have the results until tomorrow, and that I can come pick Bindu up.

Except that I can’t handle another night like last night, and I have no reason to believe that tonight will be different as there has, as yet, been no treatment for the symptoms I took her in for. The vet wanted the ECG and offsite blood work results before prescribing anything.

God, am I the worst dog mom in the world if I leave her there so I can sleep without listening to her wails? I can’t stand her suffering, but leaving her in a cage in a concrete room overnight seems like a sin. But if I bring her home, I’ll carry her up and down the stairs to save her the strain and have a panic attack every time she falls down and coughs, and as much as I won’t want to admit it all I’ll want to do is get away from her.

Oh, God. I always told you I would be a total wreck when this, the end of Bindu’s life, came along, and I totally am.

Update: I cried. Then I meditated. Then I called the clinic and said that I am “unable” to pick Bindu up until tomorrow. (I made it sound like I didn’t have access to a vehicle right now, which is completely untrue.) So, not only am I a bad dog mom who leaves her beloved to spend the night in a cage in a concrete room across town, but I’m a liar as well.

I am not pleased with myself, but this is not the first time since developing a panic disorder that I’ve been displeased with my responses to things. Usually when I’m freaking out I just suit up and go do whatever it is anyway (I don’t even know how many times I’ve done gigs in the throws of a full-blown panic attack), but I know that another night with a screaming, coughing, panting dog in my arms will… — it will, um… — hell, I don’t even know what it’ll do. I don’t have words for it. I just don’t want to do it. Even though it’s my duty, because I took responsibility for that dog’s life and health and comfort over a decade ago.

There may be treatment options, once there’s a diagnosis, I just don’t know anything about cost or efficacy, and she is 14 so none of this is entirely unexpected.

As G’ma has just returned from her afternoon volunteering at the museum, I’ve shared all the vet information with her. I told her I’d left Bindu at the clinic overnight even though they said I could come get her. Then I teared up. G’ma said, “We care too much about the little buggers. We might not show it, but we really do.” And then she went and made a cocktail and brought it to me here at my desk. For my part, I struggled not to start crying until she’d gone back upstairs.