Monday, August 25, 2014

Accountability or just plain ol' fat shaming?

I know I usually start my blog posts with a jaunty introduction about something in my life, but then I was checking up on the website of Registered Dietitian Aaron Flores and he posted about this video:

I am so disgusted, I can't even be jaunty. 

I know we need to take accountability for our actions in life. And yes, it shows the "body" in question avoiding too much exercise and eating a lot of cake. Mmmm...cake.

And yet for all this lack of moving and hidden stash binge eating (that was a trigger for me) and endless huge meals, it was this guy's mother's fault for enabling this lifestyle! The shame! Fast food and juice for infants! You ruined your baby, mommy!

Look, my mom forced me to eat home-made granola and foods from The Vegetarian Epicure and Recipes for Small Planet. In other words, healthy, hippie food. And I still ended up with binging on hidden candy stashes, giving up on exercise, and tipping the scale at 300 lbs. in my 30s. 

Giving your kid french fries isn't the sole reason he dies of a heart attack.

In fact, studies show that parents trying to set more stringent dietary rules on their kids end up with more eating disorders AND obesity issues. 

Then again, you can blame it on television. Or the school system. Or anyone else who you need to place shame upon. 

In other words, its a rich tapestry of reasons as to why we might be obese and suffer from health issues because of it. And by shaming both the obese person and their might as well be blaming them for the economy, too. It doesn't help. In fact, I can only imagine it will make it worse, because you're making the situation worse. You're not asking or helping people take accountability. You're just abusing them for having birthday cake.


Which reminds me of THIS video, which is meant as a joke, but I think covers what the ad is trying to convey in a much better fashion and far more truthfully:

The answer is try to be healthy. Work on it and own it. I can certainly blame my parents for a ton of things, but my current weight and health are my responsibility alone.

Carter R. “The Impact of Public Schools on Childhood Obesity.” JAMA 288, no. 17 (November 6, 2002): 2180–2180. doi:10.1001/jama.288.17.2180-JMS1106-6-1.
Clark, H. R., E. Goyder, P. Bissell, L. Blank, and J. Peters. “How Do Parents’ Child-Feeding Behaviours Influence Child Weight? Implications for Childhood Obesity Policy.” Journal of Public Health 29, no. 2 (June 1, 2007): 132–41. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdm012.
Flores, Aaron. “Balance Variety and Moderation RDN: Childhood Obesity PSA - The Completely Wrong Message.” Balance Variety and Moderation RDN, August 14, 2014.
Klesges, Robert C., Mary L. Shelton, and Lisa M. Klesges. “Effects of Television on Metabolic Rate: Potential Implications For Childhood Obesity.” Pediatrics 91, no. 2 (February 1, 1993): 281–86.
Robinson, Thomas N., Michaela Kiernan, Donna M. Matheson, and K. Farish Haydel. “Is Parental Control over Children’s Eating Associated with Childhood Obesity? Results from a Population-Based Sample of Third Graders.” Obesity Research 9, no. 5 (May 1, 2001): 306–12. doi:10.1038/oby.2001.38.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Happy fluffy dinner balls

[No references, just a recipe]

It's just been a wacky week. Along with gout recovery, we're finally getting repairs done on the apartment. Repairs that were needed from Superstorm Sandy. And of course, some of the "simpler" fixes have turned into multi-day event dramas:

I just wanna take a shower!
So between work obligations, dealing with maintenance men and having newish pets still acclimating to each other (and said maintenance men), all of a sudden it's 6 PM and dinner has to be on the table. 

What's a streamlined ska librarian to do?

Thankfully we had some ground turkey, and meatballs are usually quick, but I wanted to kick them up a bit and still keep them healthy. I had some yams, egg whites and tons of spices. And then I added a little molasses for contrast and taste and also to help create some caramelization. They were very light and barely solid, but I didn't want to go the flour route, so I threw in a little corn meal.

The result?

Not the best photo but I'll leave that to the "foodies"
They were amazingly fluffy and wonderfully fragrant with just the right molasses crust on the bottom. Paired with a little sauerkraut cooked in a sherry-sour cream sauce and fresh tomatoes with zataar....perfection after a stressful day!

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Fluffy Spicy Meatballs
(Serves 4-6)

1 lb. ground turkey
3 TBS. Tandoori spice blend (I buy mine from my local fave, Dual Specialty Store.)
2 tsps. minced garlic
1 TBS. dried ginger
2 TBS. molasses
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato or yam
1/2 cup corn meal

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In large bowl, combine all ingredients until well blended
3. Form into balls about 1 1/2 to 2 in in diameter
4. Place on oiled baking pan
5. Bake until done (about 30-45 min.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

What's Next...Lumbago?

This post took longer than expected. In fact, it was supposed to be about another topic and released before the end of last month. But then I developed gout. Yes, you read that right. And, boy, was it not pleasant!

The gout james gillray
There is no exaggeration to this image.(Via Wikimedia Commons)

I find it ironic that during my Retro Ska Librarian Lifestyle (aka Sedentary, Binge Eating Unhealthy Diet Life of Dan), this never happened. But a few years into Streamlined, Leafy Green, Daily Workout Ska Librarian Life of Dan .... hot poker glass shard demons jam into my bunion joint.

I'm hoping this was a one time event and not a chronic condition. And forcing myself to spend several days immobile with my foot up has once again made me realize how much I really need and want to move on a daily basis.

(What's also fascinating is finding out how many of my friends are gout sufferers. Who knew this persnickety affliction affected so many? I guess I know a better class of people than I thought!)

I tried to avoid too many fitness and nutrition websites during my recovery, lest I get too antsy, but I did start falling back to the Nutrition Blog Network, figuring my RD "colleagues of another terminal degree" might give me some interesting recipe ideas. And from that website, I came across this recent post from Dietitian Without Borders on "How to Walk 10,000 Steps a Day".

And here I can only walk zero! *sob*

But it did give me an idea for a blog post. All those steps...

I see a lot of friends and colleagues with the FitBit bracelet nowadays. Interestingly enough, many of these were gifts to these people from loved ones. Nothing like passive-aggressively telling someone to move more...

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great if you want to keep track of moving. And, as that aforementioned link shows, it's something we should probably all be doing in simple easy ways. I see it in the same vein as calorie-tracking, which I'm sure will get me in trouble, as that seems no longer a supportable choice for weight loss and maintenance. 

But I look at it as a template. I can see calorie levels and get a better understanding of portion control, even if not I'm not following calorie counting to the exact digit. And knowing that 10,000 steps is equivalent to 5 miles, well that can give you a better sense of how much you should really be moving. And when these FitBit and similar apps show you how much you actually move ... I'm sure it's an eye opener.

But many of my NYC pals using these apps (gouty or no) find it funny that they tend to go way past the limit of steps per day pretty early on each morning. That's because we live in a city where walking is just something you do, even during motorized commutes:

Subway, New York.  Step Lively... Digital ID: 836141. New York Public Library
It really hasn't changed all that much via NYPL Digital Gallery

We are a walkable city. It's been measured. Evidently, and not surprisingly, my NYC neighborhood has a walkability score of 100. Of, course, you can look at it from the other side: 3 or out 4 gas stations in the neighborhood closed in the past few years and there's no parking without a huge cost. And not that walkability always signifies a good thing to urban planners. You can look at the research that shows financial status can play a much bigger role in walkability as opposed to all other markers. (i.e. If you can't afford to drive, you won't).  This report that shows a correlation between high walkability and higher crime rates.

But that's not taking into account a place like NYC. We just move more.We sort of have to. 

So, lot's of walking, better diet ... was I a candidate for this dreaded "disease of kings?" Could I have done everything to prevent this issue? Slept more and eat even better? This study showed that while those people who slept less tended to eat for a longer period throughout the day, they did not intake more calories than those who slept longer. That doesn't quite take into account those of us binge eaters. Longer hours awake may mean more opportunities to binge. And this one showed that a low glycemic diet (in a controlled test) did show a lowering of weight, but did not really decrease inflammation, as it was thought it might. Although I'm pretty much already in the low GI fruit eating group anyway.

No, it may have just been fate that did me in.It was also pointed out that stress could have been a factor. So even with extra walking and good eating, I'm not sure I could have escaped this pain.

If it does come back (and man, I certainly do hope it does NOT), I just need to be more aware of the situations and how it might be better controlled. And I think that means being more aware, but also getting back to taking of advantage of this oh so walkable, moveable city of mine. It may not have made me the healthiest young adult, but it always has the potential to get you moving more:

Men and boys playing paddleball, Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1950
Believe it or not, I even played this when I was a Retro fella. Via The Center for Jewish History on Flickr


Carr, Lucas J., Shira I. Dunsiger, and Bess H. Marcus. “Walk ScoreTM As a Global Estimate of Neighborhood Walkability.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 39, no. 5 (November 2010): 460–63. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2010.07.007.

“How to Walk 10000 Steps a Day.” Dietitian without Borders. Accessed August 4, 2014.

Juanola-Falgarona, Martí, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Núria Ibarrola-Jurado, Antoni Rabassa-Soler, Andrés Díaz-López, Marta Guasch-Ferré, Pablo Hernández-Alonso, Rafael Balanza, and Mònica Bulló. “Effect of the Glycemic Index of the Diet on Weight Loss, Modulation of Satiety, Inflammation, and Other Metabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 100, no. 1 (July 1, 2014): 27–35. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.081216.

Kant, Ashima K., and Barry I. Graubard. “Association of Self-Reported Sleep Duration with Eating Behaviors of American Adults: NHANES 2005–2010.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 1, 2014, ajcn.085191. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.085191.

Manaugh, Kevin, and Ahmed El-Geneidy. “Validating Walkability Indices: How Do Different Households Respond to the Walkability of Their Neighborhood?” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 16, no. 4 (June 2011): 309–15. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2011.01.009.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

I was writing another post, but time just snuck up on me...

The Lean Green Bean

So it's time once again for free food in the mail!

I had taken a few months off of the food trade. There were many other obligations and lately the local post office hasn't been too up to snuff when it comes to packages, so a few got lost or way delayed in the mail. (And I'm not the only one in the neighborhood feeling that pain). 

But I figured I'd give it another shot. 

This month I was matched with Ilona from New Jersey. On the plus side, an "almost local" make for easier to deliver packages. On the not so plus side, Ilona's wasn't going to be so impressed with NYC local delicacies she can get with a short drive across the river. So I put together a few odds and ends from the neighborhood. And even though Ilona's all about recipes, I weighed my package more on the snack side. You can check out her site for details of what I sent.

But what did Ilona send me? 

It was another caffeinated delight of a package! There was coffee beans (called Americadoodle flavor - have yet to try that), Coffee Rio caramels (lasted about 2 days), J Morgan's vanilla sea salt caramels (lasted less than two days), Haribo juicy gummis (shared with many and gone fast), a Pamela's Whenever bar, and the piece de delices, Vintage Bee creamed honey with spiced apple.

You can't see my other hand is sticky with honey already...

This stuff was AWE-some! I tried to parse it out, but it did not last more than a week. It ended up in a few desserts, but mostly it was just eaten out of the jar. I'm thinking I will have to buy some of this in bulk and use it in my honey cookie recipe for upcoming Rosh Hashana.

So thank you, Ilona, for getting me back on the FPP track.

If you're interested in joining the free food in the mail brigade, find out more details here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hitching a ride on names

For many years, I had heard about Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce recipe: an incredibly simple idea with what looks like not enough ingredients that somehow becomes something magical. Crushed tomatoes, butter and an onion, cooked for about 40 min. That's it.

I've talked before about not following recipes to the letter, but I do like to try them out correctly on the first go, before I decide what I can do to tweak them to my taste. So I made Marcella's recipe as it was written.

Oh. My. God.

There are some creations of masters with which you do not tamper! It was pretty amazing both in its simplicity and it's final complex taste. My only concession is that the end product does not always end up on pasta. I use it on veggies, meats and on occasion, just plain toast.

Heinz - Woman with tomato shap... Digital ID: 1675405. New York Public Library
Mmm...funny shaped tomatoes! via NYPL Digital Gallery

I don't see it as an everyday sauce. (that's a lotta butter for my everyday Streamlined lifestyle!) And sometimes I do want different flavors and textures, but then what I am making is not Marcella's sauce.

And doing a brief search around the internet, you see quite a few photoshopped versions of the sauce, but there's also a few where someone decides to "modernize it just a bit." Perhaps "veganizing" or "paleo-ing" it up. 

And a lot of those "modernizations" usually include substituting butter with olive oil and perhaps adding garlic, basil, hot peppers, etc.

Which means you're making ANOTHER SAUCE!  

There's nothing wrong with making other sauces. I myself love garlic and basil in tomatoes, or chilis, or fish sauce or assorted vinegars and curries, but I can't stretch that to say I'm making a"modified" Marcella sauce. The whole purpose of it is that it really is just those three ingedients. 

And all those other recipe bloggers're just using name recognition to try to get some more attention. I find this ironic as more and more folks are trying to find "food authenticity" and yet you're completely changing something while claiming this provenance. 

Harsh? Yeah, but we see that even more so in the fitness world. Yoga has been reiterated so many ways that it's become impossible to know what is considered that form of exercise. Pilates has gained so many "improvements" that I can only wonder that the canterkerous old boxer would probably smack all these modern practitioners. 

But the biggest shift I see is taking all these exercise regimens and making them more ... comfortable. Basically creating a spa environment for what should probably be just a sweaty time. 

Take this recent article about a new CrossFit studio in NYC. I'm not a huge fan of CrossFit; I have far too many leg and hip injuries and, as I've said before, I'm not too big on team exercise classes or events. So, not putting it down, but it's not for me. And what I do like about it is that it's about movement and exercise taken to a rather basic form. 

But here's a studio looking to "deliver the luxury-level amenities to the CrossFit community" by adding yoga, spa treatments and the like.

So is this still CrossFit? Isn't this really ... a spa & gym? It seems to me that they're just taking the name and using it as a marketing ploy. 

Or is it that people just don't like exercise to be basic and dirty? They need pampering along with a name exercise?

The spa, Central Park. Digital ID: 800960. New York Public Library
Do they have pull up bars at this spa? Or is just hot yoga? via NYPL Digital Gallery
I get that people need a push. This study shows that overweight subjects found exercise less pleasurable the more they had to exert during the exercise. And that, of course, led to less adherence to the exercise regime.

But is claiming a name making it more palatable? I don't think you'll get more intense exercise out of added facials and rubdowns. 

Exercise is still hard. And calling something that it's not is merely pasting glitter on the same idea. Trying to make yourself popular without actually BEING the thing in question is just bad form.

I'll just wait for butter to be included in my pilates workout, then.


Ekkekakis, P., and E. Lind. “Exercise Does Not Feel the Same When You Are Overweight: The Impact of Self-Selected and Imposed Intensity on Affect and Exertion.” International Journal of Obesity 30, no. 4 (2006): 652–60. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803052.

“Is ‘CrossFit Chic’ Coming to New York City?” Well+Good NYC. Accessed July 16, 2014.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Illiteracy of Life

"Whaddaya mean 'illiterate'? My father and mother were married right here in the city hall!"- Dorothy McNulty (aka Penny Singleton) in After the Thin Man.

Ah, I love that movie.

There's a strong movement in many professions about literacy or one's knowledge about a certain subject. Certainly in my own profession of librarianship (or more often academic librarianship), there's a constant push for information literacy. Some professional library organizations like the Association of College and Research Libraries (or ACRL) spend an awful lot manpower on it. And virtually every academic library has to partake in this exercise.

To weigh over on the Librarian side of the Streamlined Ska persona, I have some serious issues with how information literacy is thrown en masse as THE answer to successful students navigating the ever changing resources in front of them. I'm more of a fan of developing critical thinking skills among library users and less of a specified learning objective. If I base technical proficiency for librarians based on when I was in Library School, well then, it probably hasn't changed much. I don't think being technically savvy is the answer to successful research. It's part of it, but just enabling one key phrase is not going to get youngsters to understand how to formulate a question in order to find an answer that might be more than just parroting their favorite website.

That's my very small nutshell. I would suggest reading Lane Wilkinson's take on ACRL's attempt to recast info lit in terms of threshold concepts to see a larger timeline and set of resources as to part of this argument.

"But what has this to do with food and weight maintenance," you ask? Well, we're now in the age of trying to teach food literacy. (I mean "we" in the sense of us all, although librarians did stick their nose in it, too.)

And it's very similar to info lit: If we teach the basic tenant of this subject to someone, they will better prepared to make an informed decision about their food intake. And a recent literature review of food literacy programs geared at adolescents shows ... that few of these initiatives show a positive impact on dietary choices. Even though the need is still there. Whomp-whomp.

And yet if you look at the 19 studies reviewed in this paper, they all had different learning outcomes. While they were all about getting a better understanding of healthy eating, there was not overriding method or exercise.

So we have librarians trying to agree on a set way of determining outcomes and we then have ... well, I was going to say "Dietitians and Nutritionists have many ways to determine outcomes," but that's not entirely true.

It seems a lot of people feel they can teach you to eat better and be more healthy, even without a professional accreditation. Information literacy still tends to stay in the Academic wheelhouse, and usually with the librarians. For food it's not always the professionals. Sort of in the same way as "Why do I need a library? It's all online." Anyone can write a cookbook.

Man, people are stupid.

Still, getting back to actual research in food literacy, I'm thinking the reason it's so difficult to tackle this in a uniform matter is that most people have very different concepts not only of food, but of themselves. It's one thing to say, "I prefer searching Lexis-Nexis to Westlaw." It's another to say, "I only eat vegetables that look and feel and taste this way," such as in this study from the Netherlands.  (Although as a long time former employee of a Dutch company, I rarely found any Dutch who liked their veggies raw or crunchy!)

Het spijt me, maar het is waar!

And let's look at this study about perceived body fat. While gender made a huge difference in results, it seems very few folks were correct in estimating their own body fat percentage nor were they satisfied with their current body fat.

So here we are studying ways to get folks to make better choices when they already cannot perceive themselves correctly nor do they prefer the taste and texture of healthier foods. How do you change that? How do you teach someone to make lifelong decisions that may often go against their internal make up? Is it the same as teaching a freshman how to better prepare a research question?

At this point, I suppose I could make a grand conclusion summarizing how once again the librarian and dietitian groups need to come together to create some universal moment of literacy. But I'm not, because I don't really think that'll work this time. Not that we shouldn't play together, but not like this.

Instead I really think we need to move into the idea of critical thinking. It's not if you're an expert on a subject. It's that you know enough to try to question WHY something might work for you, information or food-wise. And it opens up your mind to finding out more in order to make an informed decision that works for you.

I always say that's what makes a good librarian anyway. Perhaps that's also why the Streamlined Ska life has been manageable, as well!

ETA: I will say that most of my career OUTSIDE of academia, we never worried about this stuff. It was always just critical thinking.  


Bongoni, R., R. Verkerk, M. Dekker, and L. P. A. Steenbekkers. “Consumer Behaviour towards Vegetables: A Study on Domestic Processing of Broccoli and Carrots by Dutch Households.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, June 1, 2014, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/jhn.12245.

Brooks, Natalie, and Andrea Begley. “Adolescent Food Literacy Programmes: A Review of the Literature.” Nutrition & Dietetics, December 1, 2013, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/1747-0080.12096.

Campisi, J., K. E. Finn, Y. Bravo, J. Arnold, M. Benjamin, M. Sukiennik, S. Shakya, and D. Fontaine. “Sex and Age-Related Differences in Perceived, Desired and Measured Percentage Body Fat among Adults.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, June 2014, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/jhn.12252.

“Information Literacy Resources.” Accessed July 8, 2014.

“The Problem with Threshold Concepts.” Sense & Reference. Accessed July 8, 2014.

Yang, Sharon Q., and Min Chou. “Promoting and Teaching Information Literacy on the Internet: Surveying the Web Sites of 264 Academic Libraries in North America.” Journal of Web Librarianship 8, no. 1 (2014): 88–104. doi:10.1080/19322909.2014.855586.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Pinch of Oz

So, almost a year after getting my "Dear John" letter from my trainer, I finally bit the bullet. No, I didn't get a new trainer ... yet but I did decide to return to the bigger, more expensive gym where I first met him. And you really do get what you pay for:

Via the NYPL Digital Collections

Perhaps it's the initial giddiness of these first two weeks back in the old place (although the actual gym moved down the block, but it's still the same chain as before). The sheer happiness of finding fully equipped weight rooms, working squat racks, TRX bands, a decent amount of working cardio machines and even the semblance of regular cleaning so there's not a patina of mystery stains after using any stretching/abs/floor areas. Maybe that will wear off in a bit, but for now I can see the difference in my workout already. And that has had a positive effect on my food intake, as well.

Of course, there are a few of the regular flies in the health ointment. That huge cabinet of supplements still stands near the main entrance and the hard sell has begun. My last trainer had a reflex flinch every time we passed by that cabinet after our first session when I ripped him a new one and said if he ever tried to sell me one pill, our sessions were over. Harsh? Yes, but it worked!

But now the push is back. They even offered a welcome back goodie bag of the stuff (I declined). 

If you're running a place that pushes exercise and even nutrition as hard work (no judgements, and fun, but hard work) , why are you also then selling this "easy boost"? (It's rhetorical, I know why.)

I know this is a business model. I know this is a way to make some extra funds. But I see it as a mixed message. And yet, it's not like it's the only place trying to sell us a "cheating way to win."

I get sent lots of library links, cute tattoo videos, and of course, many links about nutrition and weight loss from a variety of my friends. Most of these are out on the usual social media memes, so I often receive them again and again.

And then Dr. Oz happened this past week. So I got a loooooot of links about it.

While I'm not surprised at the results of the hearing or the backlash around it, it does raise the question: If everyone supposedly thought Dr. Oz was a quack about these supplements, why did he still sell so many of them? My "professionals-of-another-degree-mother," the Registered Dietitians, have been weighing in on Oz's claims for quite some time, a lot of it critical towards the man. (Although there are some who use his show as their own PR sounding board). You think having some credential might be taken into account.

Yet we still all want to believe that something will be a "miracle," especially when it comes to our health and weight. One study a few years back showed that the majority of people surveyed did believe that dietary supplements would help in obesity. The numbers were higher for people who were overweight or obese. Yet results, especially those from evidence-based research, show that the efficacy and safety of these supplements is still unknown, and even the ones from "natural ingredients" have not been shown in any positive results of dieting individuals.

And these are often the same people who "eat clean" or deny certain basic food groups. They'll still take a mystery concoction that is "magic"? Is it ethical to promise a miracle, especially if you have a few initials after your name and a global audience?

There's nothing wrong with having faith that you can achieve whatever you want for your body in terms of being healthier. But I'd rather do it on my own belief that "mystery miracles" are not part of the equation.

via The Smithsonian Collection

Yeah ... no.


Laddu, Deepika, Caitlin Dow, Melanie Hingle, Cynthia Thomson, and Scott Going. “A Review of Evidence-Based Strategies to Treat Obesity in Adults.” Nutrition in Clinical Practice 26, no. 5 (October 1, 2011): 512–25. doi:10.1177/0884533611418335.

Pillitteri, Janine L., Saul Shiffman, Jeffrey M. Rohay, Andrea M. Harkins, Steven L. Burton, and Thomas A. Wadden. “Use of Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss in the United States: Results of a National Survey.” Obesity 16, no. 4 (April 1, 2008): 790–96. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.136.