Archive for the ‘Diets’ Category

‘Hello Kitty’ goes Gluten-Free

April 16, 2016

Recently I was in line at a music and video store to check out some movies. Of course your eyes wander to all the literal ‘eye candy’ and stuff you would buy on impulse… at adult eye level you see batteries, lighters, playing cards, gossip celebrity news and other rag mags. On the lower shelves, boxes of small toys for kids that they can grab even before you’ve secured your position in line. And of course, candy.

A particular bag of candy, hanging at shoulder level, caught my eye while waiting in line, Hello Kitty gummies! Now, I’m not a Hello Kitty fan, but I could just picture myself in line with my 5-8 year-old daughter, granddaughter, niece, or any female friend of theirs, who might love anything and everything Hello Kitty. They might have a ‘Hello Kitty’ themed bedroom. I wondered how long the ‘Hello Kitty’ brand had been around, so I did a little research – here’s a Google link with her biography.

Hello Kitty was born in London in 1974 ‘for the pre-teen girl in every girl’ – invented by the designer Ikuko Shimizu by the Japanese company Sanrio. The original idea was to create a new character that could be decorated on a plastic coin purse.

‘Hello Kitty’ turned 30 in 2004. She has been around for over 40 years! More research on Hello Kitty revealed how ubiquitous the brand really is. Sephora sells Hello Kitty makeup. Someone in an online chat mentioned you can even take a ‘Hello Kitty’ themed flight. Could this be true? Yes. Boeing 777 Planes are now flying the Hello Kitty skies. Check out this link! for photos of the Hello Kitty flight experience. Houston is now the seventh North American destination for EVA, joining Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.

I also read comments such as, “I know a 50-year-old woman with Hello Kitty stuff. She is my Pinterest friend. I had to block her Hello Kitty page on Pinterest, it was driving me crazy.” Another comment read, “Judging by the girls on my son’s (high school) math team, Hello Kitty is plenty popular at that age.’ – also, “In Japan newborn and up, definitely girls into their 20’s, even older.” Another: “My 48-year-old friend has a Hello Kitty toaster.” There appears to be no age (or product?) limit on ‘Hello Kitty.’

By the way, according to her bio, Hello Kitty’s favorite things include ‘candy, stars and goldfish.’

Back to the ‘Hello Kitty’ candy beckoning the shopper in the check-out line, here, I took a photo:

IMG_0514

Hmmm. They have the candy down to a science! Uh, the marketing of the candy that is. Your daughter spots the candy, looks at you longingly, “Oh, buy it, Mom, please!” It’s not enough that so many pre-teen girls in every girl already love anything and everything Hello Kitty. Lets let it be known scientifically, it’s a healthy food choice!

99% Fat Free! Gluten Free! Vegetarian! Vegetarian? Seriously? Here’s the ingredients listed on the back…

IMG_0513

The first four ingredients are wheat syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, and corn syrup. (Sugar, sugar, artificial sugar, sugar). How can wheat syrup be gluten free? Well, as another form of high fructose syrup, it is so highly processed and purified so as to eliminate any trace of gluten. Maltodextrin is an artificial sugar, also known as a polysaccharide.

Oh, but the candy also contains potato protein and hydrolysed pea protein! (Guess that’s the ‘vegetarian’ part?)

So how to explain the proliferation and enduring popularity of “Hello Kitty?’ It’s a very, very well-marketed brand.

Other brands are in tune and up-to-date with their health conscious marketing strategies. Later that same day we were eating at a local bar/restaurant when I spotted this sign:

IMG_0519

And I cheered and my heart jumped out of my chest! I can finally get a drink with gluten free vodka! Come on!!! Is there a vodka out there that isn’t gluten-free? I Googled it to make sure and confirmed, “all distilled spirits are gluten-free unless it is added after distillation.” (Yeah, let’s add gluten to this vodka just to mess with celiac sufferers!)

Check out this article about vodka marketed as gluten free, from Scientific American. It states:

“After a 2012 Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) interim ruling, gluten-free labeled vodkas hit the market this year, including National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O’Neal’s gluten-free “Luv Shaq.”

“But that guarantee is not necessary,” according to Steve Taylor, one of the country’s leading gluten testers. Taylor calls gluten-free vodka a “silly thing. … All vodka is gluten-free unless there is some flavored vodka out there where someone adds a gluten-containing ingredient. I know that many celiac sufferers are extra-cautious. That is their privilege. But their [vodka] concerns are usually not science-based.”

In other (my) words, vodka is a pure healthy choice, all by itself, even if you adhere to a gluten-free diet.

“… It’s not just alcohol, of course. The new FDA label guidelines allow bottled water, vegetables and fruits to be labeled gluten-free even though these products do not naturally contain gluten.”

“The new labeling has created a marketing frenzy that may become a $6.2-billion gluten-free product industry by 2018…”

Yeah, I’ll be growing some gluten free tomatoes in my garden this summer. But we’re passing on those Hello Kitty gummies or whatever that ‘food’ is. Of course, there’s no urges at our house to pacify a pre-teen girl (inside of us or otherwise) with any and all things ‘Hello Kitty.’

Rudy got fat

April 6, 2014

When our two older sons grew up and flew the nest we entered a new stage of life. Even the pets we had when the boys were young grew old and died. So six years ago we got a new puppy. A red miniature poodle. We named him ‘Rudy.” We’ve spoiled him rotten, which is of course, our perogative. After all, he’s just a dog.

But he’s a happy dog living in happy dog heaven. Why? Table scraps. He has trained us to be messy cooks who drop bits of hamburger, cheese, turkey, bacon, cooked brocolli, even ice cream (whilst pretending it’s an ‘accident’, of course). He stands waiting-and-ready by anyone at the kitchen counter, to pluck any wayward bit from mid-air, or to lap up any mess on the floor. He will gladly help with the dishes, too. He’ll hop up on the counter when we aren’t looking, lick the plates clean, you know, so we can just put them in the dishwasher. Lick the counter clean too.

IMG_7462

“You bad dog. Don’t give me that look. You’re not getting up on the counter!”

I remember when we first got Rudy and I was supposedly training him. A book written specifically about poodles stated in bold letters on about page 2: Do not feed poodles table scraps. Nothing should be added to their dog food.” (yes, I can hear you now.)

Lately, for a while now, I’ve realized he’s gotten fat. I’ve started shaming him about it. “You’re fat!” But he’s so adorable and bouncy and cute, and happy, who cares? He’s just a dog.

Signs have been there that he has been, shall I say, ‘expanding’. When we walk him in the park nowadays strangers will say, “Ah, what a cute dog! What kind of dog is he?” To which I’m thinking, Are you daft? Don’t you recognize a poodle? Actually, yes they do. But features like ‘stocky’ and ‘rotund’ or any description reminiscent of a ‘butterball’ do not describe poodles. People do know poodles. They’re just not recognizing that Rudy is one.

So, enter, a fatty tumor on Rudy’s left side. It appeared a couple months ago and has grown bigger. Megan and I took him to the vet last week to have it looked at. We got good news – and bad news. Good news: It’s a confirmed fatty tumor (albeit not a large lump of butter lodged under his skin that he filched from the butter dish). It’s benign. “No – it’s not going to grow tentacles or metastasize.” (Whew!) Bad news: Rudy had gained 1 1/2 LBS since his last visit. (I must stop these visits to the vet!)

“How fat is he?” I ventured to ask. The vet’s assistant hopped right on the question – taking various measurements of Rudy – his neck and head (which, admittedly his head is the only thin part left of him), his upper and lower leg, his torso. Then she disappeared, and returned with this 3-page printout – Rudy’s customized doggie-weight-management program. Page 2 presents the ugly facts along with visuals:

IMG_7461

Can you guess the breed of any of these dogs? I guess it’s your generic ‘tubby-living-a-dog-heaven’s-life’ breed. The news is not good in regards to Rudy. As a male “POO” his ideal weight is 13 1/2 pounds. With his real weight at 20.9 pounds he’s at 48% body fat and “at ‘serious risk’ for arthritis, diabetes, reduced mobility, increased physical injury, Cancer, respiratory disease, kidney disease, Pancreatitis, and shortened life expectancy.”

You expect me to pay for this vet visit?

We left the vet’s office with Rudy on a strict weight reduction plan along with a bounty of doggie heath improvement products, luckily most of them samples: Special Diet dog food, to be precisely measured and rationed throughout the day, reduced to account for additonal supplements, like the sample glucosamine chondroitin chews they sent home with him for joint support. Which begs the question, what about our joints? Give this supplement to our dog and feel it’s not necessary for us? Of course, his incessant leaping off our elevated antique bed would be the equivalent in height to us incessantly leaping off the roof of our front porch. Anyway, don’t think we’re going to spring for the enzymatic powder to sprinkle on his food for dental health – (hey, only 60 bucks for a 4-month supply!). I did buy some enzymatic toothpaste with a doggie toothbrush – both of which have since been sitting on the kitchen counter, unopened.

So my plan is to have Rudy down to 13.49 pounds in 27 weeks. The weight loss graph is all printed out on the third page. I took a ‘before’ picture of him – you know, the ‘before a third of what you see here’ melts away:

IMG_7460

I’m not sure about that look he’s pulling off with his eyes. Maybe a “Are you sure you’re gonna do this to me?” look.

I shared the whole plan with David. “Geez.” he said. “Let him enjoy life. He’s just a dog.”

And then after a long pause, “You’re not going to start on me next are you?”

Eat Less, Conquer Mange

July 16, 2009

Speaking of diets, longevity, brain freeze and, uh, monkeys – I can’t stop thinking about that 20-yr. study done with those rhesus monkeys which showed that cutting calories by almost a third slowed the aging process and fended off death. Some guy named Weindruch and his colleagues conducted the study where half of the monkeys were allowed to eat as they pleased, and the other half ate a carefully controlled diet that provided just two-thirds of the calories they would normally choose to eat. Well, they didn’t eat less by choice, did they? The monkeys were caged and the half that ate 1/3 less did so because their diets were were carefully controlled by that Weindruch guy and his associates. Caloric intake was reduced in the dieting group by 30 percent over three months and held at that level for the rest of their lives!

By the end of the study, 37 percent of the control group had died of age-related causes while only 13 percent of the dieting group had succumbed to age-related conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy.

It turns out that caloric restriction of around 30 percent also leads to health benefits in yeast, worms, flies, and rodents.

Yeah, well, during these studies, did anybody interview the worms, flies, rodents or monkeys to see how they felt about being held captive most of their lives and forced to eat 30 percent less than they wanted to? They couldn’t even make their own food choices. Their lives may have ended up more healthy, but were they happy?

A couple of days ago I tried to eat less. I guess I took this study to heart especially after watching this CBS Evening News clip. This and other recent news articles have effectively convinced me that I should eat less. For starters, I wouldn’t want to be eating naturally all my life only to end up with mange hair like the monkey in the control group who, you will notice (check out the photos in that first link) ended up with patchy, red balding spots all over his scruffy fur, whereas the monkey who was food deprived for 20 years had a thick, brown, lush coat of hair covering his body. What was with these contrasting photos? Some kind of scare tactic? Okay so I’ll cut my calories!

But I’ve been eating normally for 55 years already so I’ll probably still get mange hair and other nasty conditions in my older age. Geez, had I been depriving myself of my daily intake of food by 30 per cent over the last say, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years maybe my hair wouldn’t be this thin already.

As I mentioned, I did try to eat much less than usual about three days ago. I can tell you, it was difficult. I cut my breakfast and lunch in half. By 3PM, I was at home with no supervision, ravenous with hunger and scrounging in the fridge for something big and filling to eat. But hey! As I hung on to the open fridge door I paused and began breathing deeply to feel the hunger. You know, do a ‘Zen’ thing and be the hunger, embrace the aching hunger in my belly …”Hmmmm … good, kind, nagging, lovable, fending-off-death, hunger …”

Being hungry sucks! I devoured all the still-edible leftovers in the fridge and, still feeling hungry, cleaned out the Baby Ruth candy bars from the candy bowl on the dining room buffet. I don’t even like Baby Ruth candy bars, but I didn’t remember this until after I had eaten three of them.

My point here is, the average human couldn’t follow a caloric deprivation diet for more than about six hours, much less 40 or 60 years.

And the problem with these ‘caloric restriction studies’ is that a ‘caloric lifetime of deprivation is needed to achieve the longer-life benefits.’ Darn it! Forget that! Although some people might eat less longer by joining the calorie restriction society,they might never smile again (judging from the member interviewed for CBS News).

Or … choose to continue eating normally and possibly succumb to age-related conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, brain atrophy, and mange hair.

My plan is to keep on keepin’ on with my happy eating habits while holding out for some Big Pharmaceutical Company to replicate the positive results of the food deprivation study with drugs! Yeah! Because they have their research teams working on it, developing a souped-up version of the red wine compound resveratrol that has been found to make mice live longer and stay healthier. Not to worry! Just keep eating the way you normally do and slow your aging process and fend off death by taking a pill! How else could we ever do it?

That’s my plan! Hey, at least I have one! I may buy a wig too, because I really don’t dig the look of that mange hair.

And I do wonder, in the final analysis, how are you really gonna know that you are living longer?

Vit D, Brain Freeze and Monkeys

July 12, 2009

It’s Friday morning and I am holding my prescription bottle, examining the label and gazing at the three remaining greenish 50,000iu vitamin D capsules inside. I am supposed to ingest one this morning, like I do every Friday morning to keep my vitamin D level up. But I’m not going to. A 50,000IU single dose of a fat-soluble vitamin sounds toxic; it has always sounded toxic, ever since I began dutifully ingesting them every Friday beginning in January, because my doctor prescribed it. I told him at the time the dose sounded toxic. He declared it the standard prescribed dose for patients deficient in vitamin D. So I’ve taken my pill, faithfully, every Friday. But, not today. I’m not taking it today.

And I’m totally done buying bottled water. Turns out, any water can be bottled; there are no regulations on it. So you’d better hope that the bottled water you are drinking is tap water, since tap water is at least regulated and tested for contaminants. I’ve heard this before about bottled water, but I’m making a stand today. Just like the folks in Bundanoon, Australia, where the residents have recently voted to ban the sale of bottled water: 350 to 1.

I’m totally done with ‘diets’ too. Because I know what that word does to me. Uttering “I’m” and “diet” in the same sentence jolts me directly into pig out mode, wolfing down whole bags of cookies, or losing track of my right hand only to find it buried in the ice cream. Brain freezes are unrecognizable to me when I’m in this state.

I have a close friend trying to lose weight. She tells me she’s on a low-carb, low fat, and low calorie diet. Now that should do the trick! Because, hey! – they are all bad. Carbs are bad because they taste good and trigger that part of your brain that remembers the word ‘fun.’ Fats are bad because they taste good, trigger your brain and clog your arteries. Carbs and fats are both bad because they contain calories.

Calories are bad because they shorten your life. That’s right. Researchers have proved this after a 20-year study with monkeys. The result: those monkeys subjected to what the average human would consider near starvation, lived the longest. To quote an article about this monkey study that appeared in our local paper:

“A 20-year study found cutting calories by almost a third slowed their aging and fended off death” … “What about those other primates, humans? Nobody knows yet whether people in a world better known for pigging out could stand the deprivation long enough to make a difference, much less how it would affect our more complex bodies…” So we are too complex to stop ourselves from pigging out and so we’ll never know if we’re like monkeys?

Like I said, in my pigging out state, I don’t recognize brain freeze.

If humans are so into pigging out, then why do we need a gazillion supplements? I’ve been washing down fistfuls of pills with my morning coffee for years now, although somewhere I’ve picked up the warning, “vitamins may be useless to improve health and may even be bad for you…” Huh?… But hey, they are good for the economy! Think of all the people who have gotten rich selling supplements and bottled water – all in the name of increasing longevity and improved health. I think of my 96-yr-old mother-in-law. She has NEVER taken supplements. In her old age she takes a daily baby aspirin to thin her blood and a water pill to regulate her blood pressure.

Maybe as part of the stimulus package we could bottle Idaho air and ship it to California. Someone could get filthy rich while reducing the mounds of empty bottles in the landfills.

Should I take the weekly 50,000IU vitamin D supplement prescribed by my doctor? My vit D level was rechecked in April after I took the supplement for three months. It was up in the normal range. It made sense, with summer coming, to get off the pills, get out in the sun and let my skin manufacture my vitamin D.

But, Nooooooo! My doctor advised me: “Stay out of the sun, or use sunscreen, and continue taking the 50,000IU synthetic vitamin D.”

What is he, some kind of monkey? Does this make any earthly sense? How is it that we humans have totally convinced ourselves that sun is bad and taking a 50,000IU supplement of synthetic vit D is good? That bottled water is preferable to tap water? So a bunch of folks smarter than the rest of us can laugh themselves all the way to the bank getting rich selling sunscreen, bottled water and supplements?

I haven’t eaten yet today. I’m too confused. I was thinking about having soft boiled eggs on toast but my human brain knows the eggs are high in cholesterol, the butter is high in fat, and the bread, well, you know, is loaded with those horrible carbs. Maybe I should channel those starved monkeys in that study. Maybe I should pretend I have a monkey brain and purge my thinking of all my ‘knowledge’ of food, diets and supplements. And go out on our deck and lay in the noon summer sun without sunscreen, because it just feels good.

And take some aspirin for my headache.