Avoiding The Pointless, Downward Negative Cycle

I’m in the Trump Trap. I doubt I’m alone.

It’s impossible to ignore the President, but paying attention to him only feeds his narcissism and seems to make matters worse. To ignore his lies and race baiting is to condone both. I argue with a friend when he says “Obama was worse,” but that doesn’t accomplish anything. How to escape this pointless, downward spiral of negativity?

My friend, while totally exasperating on things political, has redeeming qualities. Among others, he’s committed to his family, he’s funny, he cares about those he works with. Why don’t I just focus more exclusively on those attributes?

There’s a direct correlation between how people feel about themselves, more specifically how secure they are, and their propensity to see the best in others and affirm them. If you don’t feel very good about yourself, if your insecurities win the day, you’re unlikely to sing anyone else’s praises. You don’t send thank you cards. You don’t risk any awkwardness by directly and specifically telling others what you most appreciate about them.

As if life is a zero-sum game. That there’s only so much positivity or praise to go around.

We can focus on the good in others, and name it, without any cost to ourselves. At all. Focusing on the good in others, and naming it, creates positive momentum that makes political disagreements less consequential. My friend’s politics are whacked, but he is not the sum of his politics.

One can be a good teacher, nurse, or executive, and liberally celebrate other teachers’, nurses’, and executives’ excellence. One can be a decent human being and routinely celebrate decency in others. We’re apt to recognize and publicly declare the redeeming qualities in others to the degree to which we feel okay about ourselves, the degree to which we like ourselves.

A few weeks ago, I made eye contact with another driver as I pulled into the Trader Joe’s parking lot. She was an acquaintance from church who smiled at me. “Finally,” the introvert in me immediately thought, “I’m going to get a chance to tell her how much I enjoy her blog.” Sure enough, halfway through my appointed rounds, she walked straight up to me and asked if I’d eat some fancy shmancy blueberry desert that she was thinking of making for a party. “Yes.” I assured her, and then said, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I’ve been enjoying cooking more and I’m amazed at your creations. And you’re really funny.” For good measure I added, “You’re a very talented writer.” To say she was touched is an understatement.

Her blog deserves a wider audience. When that happens, I will celebrate her success. Because it will not detract from this humble blog.

With respect to the President and my friend, my inclination is to ignore the President. My vote will be my proof that I’m not condoning his calculating and inflammatory rhetoric which will only get worse once the campaign begins in earnest. As for my friend, I’m going to focus more on his redeeming qualities and our common humanity.

 

 

The Diet Industry Is A Virus

A poignant takedown of the “wellness industry” by novelist Jessica Knoll who leads with this admission:

“I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear ‘wellness.'”

Half way in, a story:

“I had paid a lot of money to see a dietitian once before, in New York. When I told her that I loved food, that I’d always had a big appetite, she had nodded sympathetically, as if I had a tough road ahead of me. ‘The thing is,’ she said with a grimace, ‘you’re a small person and you don’t need a lot of food.’

The new dietitian had a different take. ‘What a gift,’ she said, appreciatively, ‘to love food. It’s one of the greatest pleasures in life. Can you think of your appetite as a gift?’ It took me a moment to wrap my head around such a radical suggestion. Then I began to cry.”

Further in, the three paragraph knock out:

“The diet industry is a virus, and viruses are smart. It has survived all these decades by adapting, but it’s as dangerous as ever. In 2019, dieting presents itself as wellness and clean eating, duping modern feminists to participate under the guise of health. Wellness influencers attract sponsorships and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram by tying before and after selfies to inspiring narratives. Go from sluggish to vibrant, insecure to confident, foggy-brained to cleareyed. But when you have to deprive, punish and isolate yourself to look “good,” it is impossible to feel good. I was my sickest and loneliest when I appeared my healthiest.

If these wellness influencers really cared about health, they might tell you that yo-yo dieting in women may increase their risk for heart disease, according to a recent preliminary study presented to the American Heart Association. They might also promote behaviors that increase community and connection, like going out to a meal with a friend or joining a book club. These activities are sustainable and have been scientifically linked to improved health,yet are often at odds with the solitary, draining work of trying to micromanage every bite of food that goes into your mouth.

The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too. I am a thin white woman, and the shame and derision I have experienced for failing to be even thinner is nothing compared with what women in less compliant bodies bear. Wellness is a largely white, privileged enterprise catering to largely white, privileged, already thin and able-bodied women, promoting exercise only they have the time to do and Tuscan kale only they have the resources to buy.”

Make it a four paragraph technical knockout:

“We cannot push to eradicate the harassment, abuse and oppression of women while continuing to serve a system that demands we hurt ourselves to be more attractive and less threatening to men.”

Knoll’s essay is an excellent rebuttal of wellness bullshit, but she errors in suggesting men are free of body image issues and dieting abnormalities. It’s just than men who endure versions of similar struggles are not nearly as willing to talk about what Knoll powerfully lays bare. That taboo is far too strong.

Which Way the Economy?

One of the perks of living in the upper left hand corner, is getting Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television programming. I dig me the CBC. So much so if hockey was my religion, I might move North.

A recent CBC documentary titled “Secret Suppers of Vancouver” was interesting on several levels. This 2+ minute trailer provides a nice feel for the case study of grassroots economic change.

When new business models bubble up, like Uber and Airbnb, the established businesses they most threaten, such as city-based taxi cab companies and hotels, hire lobbyists to get legislators to pass more and more legal requirements for businesses to operate which makes it virtually impossible for cash-strapped startups to comply.

No surprise that most of Vancouver’s restaurant owners find this loose network of semi-secretive personal kitchens threatening. The restaurateur in the trailer who says, “. . . and I respect the hell out of hustlers” is an outlier.

Some regulation is necessary for large swaths of consumers to trust businesses are competent, and in the case of the food service industry, to ensure public safety is maintained. But it’s wrong to use regulations as a tactic for limiting competition. Doing so stifles the creative destruction that’s part and parcel of a vibrant economy.

I couldn’t help but think about my industry, teacher education (and also charter schools) while watching Secret Suppers of Vancouver. My industry works tirelessly to make sure teacher licensure requirements remain sufficiently rigorous, thus protecting our jobs. Clearly though, one person’s “rigor” is another’s excuse for limiting competition.

Whether Vancouver, San Francisco, or your municipality is getting the regulatory dance just right is something upon which reasonable people will disagree.

It’s too simpleminded to generalize about regulations, we have to ask whether the current level is appropriate on an industry-by-industry basis. Once public safety is assured, we should error on the side of limiting regulations so that new new types of economic activity, like Secret Suppers of Vancouver, will regularly bubble up. Large, established companies should be expected to adapt to upstarts creatively meeting consumer’s needs and desires.

More personally, I was really conflicted by some aspects of Vancouver’s secret supper network. In all honesty, I would love to be a member of the club eating amazing food with all the cool kids. But the movement also has an exclusionary feel to it. You have to have ample social capital to even learn about the personal kitchens and to score an invite. Then you have to have more money than average to be able to afford the exquisite, personalized service.

Watch the full length documentary and then help me be less confused.

 

 

 

 

I’ll Never Be Mistaken for a Foodie, but. . .

. . . my culinary skills are slowly improving. At this rate, in a few years, I won’t completely suck.

This is how I’ve been starting the day—when we happen to have strawbs.

Can something this tasty really be good for you too?

I’ve been doing my own oatmeal thang for awhile, but I kicked it up a knotch thanks to this recipe/story/video. Whenever I begin working my oatmeal magic I’m hungry, meaning impatient, so I microwave it for two minutes instead of following the recommendation to cook it more slowly. Meanwhile, I gather the butter, brown sugar, strawbs, raisins, molasses. Given a blindfold test, I don’t think I could distinguish between microwaved and stove-top oatmeal. Thanks to Chef Bijou, sometimes I add a poached (or fried, improvising again) egg or two for extra protein. And once or twice I tried the recommended bananas, but I usually just go with raisins. I like my banana separate with peanut butter, usually between breakfast and lunch. Which is a nice segue to part two of this culinary tour de force—between meal grazing.

Most of the year I workout about 9-10 hours a week, meaning I’m always burning a lot of calories. As a result, I’m eating something about every two or three hours. Between meals, I throw open the kitchen pantry and start pillaging. If it’s sweets, like Costco chocolate chips, tortilla chips, or leftover cake, I can put on a few pounds pretty easily. If it’s healthy snizzle, like carrots (with a little Ranch, come on I’m not Michael Pollan), baked teriyaki almonds, hardboiled eggs, or a piece of fruit, I can snack to my hearts content and not gain weight. For the next four months I’ll be swimming, cycling, and running for more than 9-10 hours a week, so I can pretty much eat whatever I want without gaining weight.

What, upset I mentioned the most awesome snack in passing without further explanation? Recently, the Good Wife taught me how to bake and season almonds and so that’s now a part of my growing culinary repertoire. It’s really hard so pay attention. Spread almonds out on a cookie sheet or baking pan. I use a toaster oven. Bake them at 350 for 14 minutes. Fill a large bowl with a tablespoon or so of low sodium teriyaki sauce. After they’re done cooking, pour them into the bowl with the sauce. Mix them up well. Leave the bowl out for awhile and let them dry before putting them in a glass jar.

Snack goodness

Also, keep in mind, as Chris in the Morning once said on Northern Exposure, every day you have to do something bad to feel alive. That’s what these are for.

So few calories, go ahead, have a couple

And finally, some bonus pics. Here’s today’s lunch—an open faced leftover salmon sandwich.

Well, this was the START of my lunch. Add bagel, pistachios, tortilla chips, half a banana, you get the picture.

And remember how conflict-ridden my domestic life was a month ago. Smooth sailing this week. I took Sixteen to the Farmer’s Market last weekend and bought her a double scoop ice-cream cone. And then she helped me pick these out for the Good Wife. End result. . . smooth seas for the forseable future!

Note to self—buy flowers more often. No other investment has as good a return.

Shortcut Nation

From the September 29th, 2011 Wall Street Journal:

Reebok International Ltd., a unit of Adidas AG, agreed to pay $25 million in customer refunds to settle charges of false advertising brought by the FTC over the shoemaker’s claim that its “toning shoes” could work better than normal footwear to whip muscles into shape.

Its TV commercials featured women with shapely legs prancing around in the shoes while doing everyday activities such as walking, vacuuming, browsing a bookshelf and cooking.

Such shoes were one of the footwear industry’s smash hits, generating more than $1 billion in revenue last year though sales have slowed this year.

“The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

Sound science?! Does that mean Rick Perry can’t lace up his toners and run for the Republican presidential nomination?

Amazingly, the FTC didn’t find proof for Reebok’s claims.

Mary Lee Wagner of Fairfax, Va., bought into the craze four years ago, paying $230 for a pair of sneakers. The 58-year-old wore the shoes religiously for six months with hopes of shaping up her thighs. “There was no difference whatsoever,” she says.

She decided to give toning shoes another try after they went mainstream, reasoning that bigger companies had figured out a way to develop a more effective shoe. Two years ago, she bought a pair of Skechers Shape-ups for $75. After three months of use, she switched back to her $35 Ryka walking shoes. 

And dig this. Different article, same paper, same day. Can’t make this stuff up:

Scented products, including crystals you sprinkle on your food and products you inhale before eating, can trigger your body to think it’s full, aiding weight loss, say companies who sell the products. Nutritionists and doctors who specialize in weight loss say the research conducted so far isn’t convincing.

SlimScents LLC of Marlton, N.J., sells a $50 set of three pen-shaped inhalers, which it says last four to six weeks before losing their scent. Glacier Point Solutions Inc., of Long Beach, Calif., sells an $18 package of three Happy Scent jars—peppermint, banana and green apple—which it says last a year. Both products are designed to be sniffed five minutes before eating.

Another method is crystals you sprinkle on your food before eating. A six-month “starter kit” of Sensa crystals, from Intelligent Beauty LLC, of El Segundo, Calif., costs $289. The kit includes a new set of two types of crystals—one for sweet and one for other food—each month. On its website, Intelligent Beauty says the crystals, which it calls tastants, are designed to “trigger your ‘I feel full’ signal.”

The idea that scent can help you lose weight is “intriguing,” says Louis J. Aronne director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. But the research done so far is “not adequate” to show the currently marketed products work, he says.

Better name would be Louis J. Killjoy.

Intelligent Beauty says participants lost an average 30.5 pounds over six months in a 1,436-person study conducted by Alan Hirsch, a scientist it describes as the “founder” of its weight-loss system. However, Intelligent Beauty—which puts Dr. Hirsch’s photo on its Sensa packages—declined to answer questions about the study or whether Dr. Hirsch is on staff at the company, whether he has an ownership stake or whether he receives financial compensation from sale of the product. Intelligent Beauty initially set up a phone interview with Dr. Hirsch and then cancelled it, citing an “urgent matter.” Dr. Hirsch, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

James O. Hill, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry, a database of more than 6,000 people who have lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off for six years, says there is no quick fix for people who successfully lose weight.

No. Quick. Fix. Damn you, James O. Hill.

Registrants exercise a lot and are “conscious of every morsel they put in their mouths,” says Dr. Hill, who is executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado in Denver.

That doesn’t sound like much fun.