Saturday, March 30, 2013

Is dieting sacred?

Continuing on with Pesach...

Matzoh brei with mushrooms, onions, mustard greens, habanero and tuna. 
Turning tradition on it's tasty head!

I know I will be disappointing my legions of fans, but I'm not terribly observant of dietary restrictions for holidays, especially if I feel it's going to lead to unhealthy eating. And lots of carbs, sugary confections and dense creations tend to come along this time of year, both from my own background and the pastel foods of Easter. Just as I don't think that fasting when you're sick shows your piety above others, I do not believe that just sticking to ancient dietary tenets are more important than, you know, the OTHER stuff in religion about neighborliness and helping others.  I'd rather be a healthy, good person than just strictly scriptural. 

And yet, there was a recent op-ed piece about how if we follow what was written in the Talmud and in Ancient Greece, we would all be healthier. Many philosophers, educators and physicians of olden times talked about not eating til one was full, but rather letting that space be left in ourselves. Whatever the reasoning behind that, it does show that portion control is not a new idea. 

The article also states that it was felt that "excessive consumption would disrupt the four humors constituting the human body." But I think we just have to look at Roman orgies with their vomitoriums and the excessive banquets of Byzantium to see that ignoring portion control is also not a new idea. 

What I find funny, or sad (or both) is that this still is treated like some sort of new, amazing answer to our growing obesity problem. And the reactions I get from folks when I say that portion control is part of my regimen is almost akin to saying you can only eat beets for a year. 

I'd like to say it's not that hard. But it is. One of those words is "control" and that is never easy. The mere fact it's mentioned in early religious and medical texts means there was a call to remind people to do it. 

And yet it is easier than trying to "diet." Every time a friend or acquaintance or online buddy tells me that they're about to go on a new restrictive, odd-timing food plan, I can only shake my head. Why go into a system where you're given no control and therefore more apt to continue?

There are also so many contradictions in going the extreme route. For example, here's a recent article that studied the different types of gut bacteria and their role in weight loss of people with bariatric surgery. Neat, huh?

And then here's another one that shows an increase in weight based on gut bacteria. Oops!

Whether you are religious, a classicist, or just a tattooed librarian who'd rather not go back to their "big boy" pants, let's break this millenia-old chain of choosing to not control what we eat. To err in our eating habits is human, to be able to walk away from that is ...well, I won't say "divine" but it does make you feel a lot better!  


Crane, Jonathan K. “The Talmud and Other Diet Books.” The New York Times, March 26, 2013, sec. Opinion.

Liou, Alice P., Melissa Paziuk, Jesus-Mario Luevano, Sriram Machineni, Peter J. Turnbaugh, and Lee M. Kaplan. “Conserved Shifts in the Gut Microbiota Due to Gastric Bypass Reduce Host Weight and Adiposity.” Science Translational Medicine 5, no. 178 (March 27, 2013): 178ra41–178ra41. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3005687.

Mathur, R., M. Amichai, K. S. Chua, J. Mirocha, G. M. Barlow, and M. Pimentel. “Methane and Hydrogen Positivity on Breath Test Is Associated With Greater Body Mass Index and Body Fat.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (March 26, 2013). doi:10.1210/jc.2012-3144.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Let My People Eat

It's that time of year again. Yes, it's Pesach. Or Passover. Or, if you come from Holland, the unfortunately misnamed "Jewish Easter" (You cannot make that up.)

Which means one week of:

Yes, to remember that escape from slavery and hardship, we eat unleavened bread which tastes like cardboard. Which means that we start finding tons of faux food recipes to use matzoh in a creative and tasty way. There's matzoh lasagne, matzoh peanut brittle, matzoh meal cakes and the ever popular matzoh brei, which causes more arguments among people as to it's preparation than there are types of pizza in this country.

I myself alternate between a savory onion and mushroom version and a sweet version with maple syrup. Of course there was the time I made it with kimchi and daikon:

People will do anything to cover up the taste of matzoh for the week. (Except for the Dutch, who eat the stuff year round because they love it and they're not even Jewish. What is WITH that country?)  

But the thing is, it's supposed to be tasteless and a hardship to eat. It's supposed to make us reflect on what it symbolizes. And it's for one lousy week, not 40 years. Not only is faux food just naturally annoying, it covers up the true meaning of the holiday.  

But in the interest of using matzoh effectively during the week, let me share a recipe that I developed during my Retro Ska Librarian Days. It's not entirely unhealthy, but let's face it: matzoh is just one big carb cracker. But you can change it up.

I made this up one day after I read about chicken cooked over bread. I figured it was a worth a try and it is now the hit of many seders.

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Chicken with Matzoh "Stuffing"  

  • Chicken parts (preferably with skin)  
  • Matzoh (enough sheets to make two layers in the pan)  
  • Olive oil 
  • Onions, sliced thin 
  • Garlic, chopped  
  • Lemons, sliced thin (with peel)  
  • Rosemary  
  • Thyme  
  • Salt & Pepper to taste   

 You'll notice I don't list measurements. This is really a "use what you need" kind of recipe.  

1. Combine oil, onions, garlic, lemon, rosemary and thyme in large ziploc bag. Add chicken and coat thoroughly. Let sit in marinade in refrigerator for a 1-2 hours.
I only have small baggies, so it was divided into two
2. Preheat oven to 350.  

3. Layer two layers of matzoh in the bottom of a roasting pan or baking dish, interspersed with some of the marinade. Place chicken and rest of marinade on top. Salt and pepper to taste.
I'm using whole wheat matzoh. It has a semblance of healthier eating!
4. Roast for about 70-90 minutes or until chicken is done.  

5. Remove chicken. Scramble matzoh and marinade together to form a "stuffing."
Mmm...the marinade and chickeny goodness form a combo of crispiness and hearty dumpling-like quality. This would most likely work well with many kinds of meat.

Happy Passover!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stressed over stressing. Or not.

Snowy Saturday post-bootcamp lunch: Surimi and cucumber salad in a mustard sauce and a socca with kale and garlic.

Been fighting some achy flu-like feelings the past few days, but I've still made it to the gym, even for today's extra Saturday session of bootcamp with my trainer. I'm not saying that in a smug, superior way, but rather, more with a tone of amazement. Usually the easiest excuse of not going to the gym or for a run or whatever has always been "I don't feel well."

To me, exercise had always been a chore. I'm not sure when I actually had a clickable moment regarding an exercise regimen, but I do acknowledge it's different now. My trainer refers to me as a real gym rat, although I hope I never get to this level.

Even with a injured swollen shin, I hobbled to the gym to work out the rest of my body. I've gone with cuts, bruises, opened callouses and ankle issues. The only training session I've missed in the past two years was the one where I had just been put on antibiotics for a respiratory infection. If I'm out of town, I still try to exercise. (One caveat: As Pilates is on Sunday, I do tend to miss more of those due to conflicts, but I still run the 10 miles if I'm not working with my Pilates guy.)

I still know I HAVE to continue to do this, but it no longer is the case that I don't WANT to do this.

And now there's a new report showing that enforced exercise or exercise under stress is as beneficial as other exercise. "Stress exercise?" The NY Times article citing this report defined it as working out because your doctor or spouse makes you.

And then they pointed out the study had only been done on rats. I bet those rat spouses can be real bitchy.

So again, this is sort of "der" research. Yes, exercise makes us feel better, even if we start out not controlling it. Expending energy can help us deal with stressful situations better. However, I do feel that it takes an extra step to continue during stressful times. It's very easy to stop the workouts, even easier than falling back on bad food habits. 

But I still say it doesn't get easier. I like doing working out now but I still worry that it might slip. But hearing it from other people that I SHOULD do it is not going to push me.

On the other hand, I know these past few years for me have not been stress-free. On the contrary, they've been nerve-working firestorms of stressful activity. And now I wonder how I might have handled it if I hadn't been such a gym rat during this time. Forget if I'd be thin. Would I even be healthy?  Would I even be alive?

I'll just keep joining the rats on their treadmill.


Greenwood, Benjamin N, Katie G Spence, Danielle M Crevling, Peter J Clark, Wendy C Craig, and Monika Fleshner. “Exercise-induced Stress Resistance Is Independent of Exercise Controllability and the Medial Prefrontal Cortex.” The European Journal of Neuroscience 37, no. 3 (February 2013): 469–478. doi:10.1111/ejn.12044.

“When Exercise Stresses You Out.” Well. Accessed March 14, 2013.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Happy National Registered Dietitian Day!

RD Day

Yes, Happy Day of celebrating your work, your methods and providing me with endless opportunities to delve into personal research topics!

Yours was not a profession to which I knew much about nor I was drawn to it, despite my years in the Food & Ag areas.But my road to Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle has made me see the similarities in our work and let's me appreciate all you do. (Including joining in a monthly food exchange! How bad can that be?)

So, in honor of the influence you've had, you RDs of many lands, here's my off-the-cuff homage, creating that melange of interests. Let it be an inspiration for working on many things at once:

The Del Monte "tombstone" is from my work running a Food & Agribusiness Library in a previous job.


And go find your organizations' librarian to get some work done together!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Truly a coffee buzz

"I never have been afraid of the dietitians or the infant-feeding experts or any of those people. It's the people who take care of my brain babies,the librarians and the editors, of whom I always have been afraid. The parents of a real baby have something to say about things. They can take the baby out of the hospital if they want to, and kill it with kindness if they want to. However, once the father of a paper has put it in the hands of the librarians and editors, the father has little to say and all sorts of excrescences are going to be cut off of that squalling paper whether or no-and some of them were such pretty excrescences." 

Charles H. Mayo (yes, THAT Charles H. Mayo) speaking to a gathering of medical librarians.

Ah, Librarian love! We do live for these pieces of appreciation, although Dr. Mayo was speaking a library conference and they rarely invite keynote speakers who would dis the profession. 

(Although saying you're afraid of us isn't exactly a compliment. So maybe dietitians win this round again!)

Still, it's nice to see some connection and appreciation between the fields of health and information. I'd like to think that it's my ability to parse that health-info combo that has helped me in my journey towards a healthy weight and diet. 

Until I find out that something I love really is bad for you: 

Too Much Coffee Man copyright by Shannon Wheeler
Yes, I like coffee. A lot. I function on caffeine. While other vices have gone (or greatly lessened), my coffee and I are never to be parted. Now, I know that there are many studies that show large caffeine intake can negatively affect insulin levels, thereby preventing effective weight loss. Is my coffee ingestion preventing me from truly experiencing the Ultra-Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle?

It's possible, but we all know that a good researcher can find studies to back their own beliefs! (Remember that history wasn't written by the winner, it was written by whoever was lucky enough not to have their writing destroyed). So, I can take some hope in this new study that was recently published in Science that caffeine enhanced flora improved memory of pollinating bees. Caffeine is good for bees!

Not that this means it does the same for us. But if it did, would a better memory worth preventing better weight loss? Thankfully I don't have to decide.There's no real connection. We're not bees, adorable and productive as they are. 

I do imagine this memory study will somehow be promoted as something for advertising agencies to use. "New caffeine supplements! Bee approved!"
But it would be false. (Not that stops anyone).

And excess of anything can be bad. The bee study shows that larger amounts of caffeine in the plants produce a level of toxicity, which insects then avoid.

So, can I use the bees to justify my present Streamlined Ska Librarian self? Only if I can remember it!


Beaudoin, Marie-Soleil, Brian Allen, Gillian Mazzetti, Peter J. Sullivan, and Terry E. Graham. “Caffeine Ingestion Impairs Insulin Sensitivity in a Dose-dependent Manner in Both Men and Women.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 38, no. 2 (February 2013): 140–147. doi:10.1139/apnm-2012-0201.

Keijzers, Gerben B., Bastiaan E. De Galan, Cees J. Tack, and Paul Smits. “Caffeine Can Decrease Insulin Sensitivity in Humans.” Diabetes Care 25, no. 2 (February 1, 2002): 364–369. doi:10.2337/diacare.25.2.364.

Mayo, Charles H. “LIBRARIANS, DIETITIANS AND FARMERS: REMARKS AT THE ROCHESTER LUNCHEON *.” Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 25, no. 1–2 (September 1936): 73.

Petrie, Heather J., Sara E. Chown, Laura M. Belfie, Alison M. Duncan, Drew H. McLaren, Julie A. Conquer, and Terry E. Graham. “Caffeine Ingestion Increases the Insulin Response to an Oral-glucose-tolerance Test in Obese Men Before and After Weight Loss.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80, no. 1 (July 1, 2004): 22–28.

Wright, G. A., D. D. Baker, M. J. Palmer, D. Stabler, J. A. Mustard, E. F. Power, A. M. Borland, and P. C. Stevenson. “Caffeine in Floral Nectar Enhances a Pollinator’s Memory of Reward.” Science 339, no. 6124 (March 8, 2013): 1202–1204. doi:10.1126/science.1228806.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Librarians vs. Dietitians: The Mediterranean Holiday Edition

It turns out March is National Nutrition Month®!

From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website:

"National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. NNM also promotes the Academy and its members to the public and the media as the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically based food and nutrition information."

I'm always curious how other professional organizations handle promotional events and the like. And now that I've been drawn in by the siren song of dietetics and nutrition, I'm eager to see how it's done with this group. 

In Libraryland, we have National Library Week and Banned Books Week, but not a whole month so kudos to you dietitians, for not only working hard but making sure people know what you do!

(Note: I did write a piece some time ago criticizing Banned Books Week, which delves into many library issues, as well as the accepted definition of banned material. But as I said in a previous post, we all have issues with our professional bodies.)

And, hey, March 13th is Registered Dietitian Day! I'll have to remember to post something about that, too. Because I still feel the RD-MLS connection must be made stronger. (Or just must be made!)

But as I continue to appreciate all the scientific based food information these health professionals show us, I also continue to be amazed at how it gets thrown into the general media-sphere and becomes more than somewhat skewed.

And once again I blame the NY Times. Instead of poring over the Health & Wellness sections, I made my usual weekly comfort check on Wednesday's Dining & Wine section. And, there it was. Another reason to blog.

There was that op-ed piece by Mark Bittman on sugar and diabetes. Now, Bittman is not one to promote processed and sugary foods, but the study he cites makes a pretty clean case towards staying away from a lot of this manufactured crap. And the result of this study is: excessive sugar can increase incidences of diabetes.

Maybe people actually need to hear this. Maybe it is not so obvious to all. Maybe it is because we are force fed "facts" about health and nutrition from the very companies who may not actually value our health over their bottom line. 

But...why is any of this a surprise?

But that's not the one that gnarled me. It was another article (also by Bittman) on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Yes, it's healthier than eating than processed crap! Yes, you can eat somewhat naughtier things on this meal plan without resorting to excessive flour-sugar concoctions. And your cholesterol and other health problems will fade away!

But let's look at the actual report from which Bittman quotes. First off, I do want to say, it looks like a fascinating bit of work, and, to be honest, something on a more 'realistic' scale than some other diet research out there. (And RDs are a big part of their research! Yeah! But no word on librarians.Just who did their literature research?)

But here's what the researchers said:

"The generalizability of our findings is limited because all the study participants lived in a Mediterranean country and were at high cardiovascular risk; whether the results can be generalized to persons at lower risk or to other settings requires further research."

So, while so many forums and news bytes are going on about this amazing "discovery for life-long health", did anyone stop to ask if was repeatable elsewhere? More importantly, did anyone ask about things things like portion control? Sure, I eat a lot of olive oil, nuts, mainly veg...that's healthy and tasty. But it's also easy to overdo the bowls of oil and nuts. And chocolate. And wine. Give me unlimited amounts of that stuff and I'd be back to my Retro self, and probably not too healthy, cardio-wise, either.

I also take a bit of offense at this whole "Oh, these people have always been more attuned to natural eating. They're so much healthier." Which is why I suppose it was pretty easy to find this many subjects for the test who had heart issues, huh?

I heard the same thing when I was living in Japan. "Oh, it's all so healthy here...just simple rice and fish." Except for the huge bowls of sodium laden pre-packaged ramen all the salarymen sucked down after a few bottle of whiskey. Evidently, "pure and simple" also means one of the world's highest rates of hypertension.

To go back to the Mediterranean diet, here are two of my favorite Mediterranean foods:

Cassatine Siciliane - cannoli filling surrounded by marzipan and royal icing and sugared fruit. Just as natural as when it was harvested from the field!

Baklava - pistachios are indeed healthy, but even more so when doused in honey and butter! So....earthy and primal.

And that's the point. Mediterranean folk don't live austere monk-like existences. And there are unhealthy folks in all regions of the world. But a more vegetable laden, less-processed meal plan is better for you than eating honey-nut cake every day. 

And again...this is a surprise?

Here was my dinner last night:

Walnut-parsley pesto with beans, peppers, tomatoes, salami and cheese.
Is it Mediterranean-inspired? Well, I don't know if they have Hebrew National salami over in Malta, but I guess it could be popular.

This "recontextualixzing of the other" seems to be a way to place blame on the industry around us than on our own habits. Yes, we've seen big companies do market stuff that is extremely not good for us. But look at our dietitian pals. They're saying eat healthy. 

Maybe they should do it in a foreign accent and we'd all listen more.

So here's my pitch, you RDs come to us for more backing research and we'll come to you to learn better promotion and eating habits!  

It's certainly better than "Banned Cookbooks Week."


Basu, Sanjay, Paula Yoffe, Nancy Hills, and Robert H. Lustig. “The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data.” PLoS ONE 8, no. 2 (February 27, 2013): e57873. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873.

Bittman, Mark. “When Diet Meets Delicious: The Mediterranean Approach.” The New York Times, February 26, 2013, sec. Dining & Wine.

Estruch, Ramón, Emilio Ros, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Maria-Isabel Covas, D.Pharm, Dolores Corella, Fernando Arós, et al. “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet.” New England Journal of Medicine 0, no. 0 (0). doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1200303.

Kolata, Gina. “Fill Your Days With Nuts, Olive Oil, Chocolate and Wine.” The New York Times, February 25, 2013, sec. Health.

“It’s the Sugar, Folks.” Opinionator. Accessed March 1, 2013.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Confusing yourself after too many beef rivulets

Hit it, Chloe!*

Which means it's the time to post the latest workout schedule prepared by my trainer. The past month's plan did end up with an increase in my arms, a decrease in my gut and, as the trainer says, being "more solid." He's right.

This month's schedule is all about concentrating on one area per day:

Monday: (Morning) Boxing, abs, cardio (Evening) Back

Tuesday: Chest
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: (Morning) Boxing, abs, cardio (Evening) Shoulders
Friday: Arms
Saturday: Running and area of choice or (with trainer) bootcamp
Sunday: Running and Pilates

You'll notice that there's not as much cardio on the list this month. Part of that is due to an old ankle injury acting up which makes cardio machine work painful (running seems to be ok). But this first week of this schedule has actually been as hard and sweaty even without the time spent on machines. We'll see what we need to adjust. But I'm enjoying this. I needed a change up.

Like Chloe says, it's always good to have some variety when you work out. Now, I know this is touted by so many "expert" types as muscle confusion, but that really is another gimmicky name. I think it's really always been called circuit training. If you do a semantic web search on muscle confusion, you'll find a lot of medical texts on involuntary muscle reactions to drug interactions or genetic issues. Not exactly what they're trying to sell in P90X, I'm sure!

Circuit training, or whatever you call it, doesn't "confuse your muscles", but different exercises do help work different muscles in different ways. It's one of the reasons I mix Pilates into my schedule. It's a very different way to work the arms, back, legs and core, than deadlifts and skull crushers.

But I do think variety is important to keep you interested in exercise, especially in the gym where, let's face it, it's not too exciting. One of the reasons I like running outside is that it's great to experience all that's happening around you: different people, landscapes and buildings, faded signs of yesteryear, and so on. Not so much in the gym.

I'm not the only one that thinks so. A quick patent search shows that there are certainly enough devices invented to relieve boredom during exercise. It must be a thing.

I did find one report that looked at varying workouts and how that would make participants adhere to exercise regimens. Both boredom and enjoyment were measured (based on participant input). The hypothesis was that varied workout would be less boring. Interestingly enough:

"The analyses did not support this hypothesis. All participants in this study cited a statistically similar boredom level for their exercises. Yet these findings appear counterintuitive. Changing the exercise routine increased enjoyment but did not decrease boredom, despite a significant negative correlation between the two constructs."

Now this is only one study, a variety of factors were being tested and participants basically self-selected their response to their boredom level based on a one question with a seven point range. But even the researchers were surprised by the results. We just expect that a change of pace will liven things up, workout-wise, especially among us newer types. And the study did show that enjoyment was increased, even if boredom didn't decrease.

But I think it's more than that. It's the determination to make it work. Mixing it up helps it happen, but it's all back to our own selves again. 

Your muscles don't need to be confused. They just need regular attention. Especially after all those calorie-laden demi-dark cocoa-dipped bumblebees.

*The REAL Chloe Sevigny once stopped to admire my leg tattoo as I was walking home from the gym. Hipster credentials have been cemented.


Glaros, N. M., and C. M. Janelle. “Varying the mode of cardiovascular exercise to increase adherence.” Journal of Sport Behavior 24, no. 1 (2001): 42–62.