Friday, March 30, 2007

Passover Time in Maneschewitzville

I've always wondered whether or not some ER in Israel has done a study to see if there's an increased incidence of bowel obstructions over Passover.

For those of you with seders coming up, Chag Sameach and enjoy this clip for Funny Fridays.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, if you want to have some fun this coming Monday, dress up in a toga with sandals and wait outside a Jewish home on Monday night (look for the scroll on the side of the door). When the door opens at around 8:30pm, walk straight in, head to the dining room and in the middle of the table will be a full glass of very sweet sickly wine. Don't say a word, grab it, drink it and leave.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Canada's Plan to Combat Childhood Obesity

Looking at the report that was released earlier this week by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, I'm saddened by their lack of real action.

They rile up the public with statements, true statements, like 1 in 4 Canadian children are obese and that it's predicted that this current generation of children won't outlive their parents, but then when it comes down to their recommendations, to rate them generously would be to call them cautious.

I'll summarize them all below, but first a quick story.

My wife was watching Global news and saw that a report was going to come out about the Committee's recommendations so she taped it for me to watch when I got home from work. Immediately prior to the start of the report was a commercial from the Dairy Farmers of Canada. The commercial showed a healthy looking infant crawling slowly on the floor while a serious woman's voice extolled the virtues of milk, specifically stating that Canada's Food Guide recommends that children have two cups of chocolate milk daily (remember, 80% more Calories drop per drop than Coca Cola) to help them grow up healthy.

What's your guess, did the Committee mention the Food Guide?

Here's a summary of the Committee's recommendations:

  • More research into childhood obesity
  • More funding for advertising campaigns designed to educate about childhood obesity
  • A call to implement the findings of the trans-fat task force
  • Research on the special needs of first nations Canadians in the battle on obesity
  • Improvement of nutrition labeling
  • Better data collection for research
  • The sharing of data with health professionals
  • The identification of what will become the "lead agency" on childhood obesity in Canada
  • The finding of means to reduce the costs of "nutritious" foods to the more remote parts of Canada
  • The tracking of childrens' involvements in sports
  • Improvement of school health and fitness curricula
  • New funding for improved infrastructure in schools for healthy fitness and food choices
  • The evaluation of the efficacy of the ban against advertising to children in Quebec.

    Oh, and if you're wondering about the significance of the picture at the top of this post, it's the first one that shows up in Google Images with the search for "Toothless".

  • Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    "The obesity epidemic is Bullsh!t!"

    That's how Penn and Teller opened up their 5th season.

    If you remember I blogged about the dilemma of loving the show but being scared to be interviewed by it when I came across some of their freelance camera guys at the Obesity Society conference last October.

    So I watched the episode last night and wanted to give it a review.

    I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I was pleased that I was only peripherally referred to as an a-hole, it was actually the content that disappointed me.

    I've watched Bullsh!t's other 4 season and more often than not Penn and Teller do a great job taking sides. They are usually merciless, with the strength of their convictions guiding their acerbic wit and making folks who think they're right look really, really stupid. This time, not so much.

    If I could summarize their message it would run something like, "The medical community considers obesity to be an epidemic, isn't very good at treating it, and is closely tied to the weight loss industry, while two other guys wrote books saying it's not an epidemic, and oh by the way, folks with weight to lose can be fit too".

    Not exactly hard hitting stuff.

    I guess the problem for Penn and Teller is that the evidence that weight's not statistically a healthy thing to have is rather overwhelming so it's difficult for them to make fun of much.

    Of course the fact that weight's not statistically a healthy thing doesn't mean that medicine's got all the answers, it doesn't mean that drug companies don't help pay for conferences, it doesn't mean that folks with weight to lose can't be fit and it doesn't justify any societal bias against obesity.

    What it does mean is that this episode of Bullsh!t isn't quite as biting as most.

    I give it a C+.

    It airs tonight in Canada on the Movie Network at 10pm and is being rebroadcast on Showtime in the States tonight at 11:05pm.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    World's Scariest Weight Loss Gadget?

    Due to the fact that we once bought 500 pedometers directly from China we still get emails about other wonderful products that various global companies think we should sell.

    Last week we got this one. It's called Slimming Series Equipment and it is distributed by a company named Zandi International, and while the English version of the website really doesn't explain what it does, that doesn't stop me from thinking it's the scariest looking thing I've ever seen (click the picture to see a larger version)!

    What the heck's in the IV bag and what does it mean when the site says,

    "advanced Super-cooling devices ensures more stable performance and higher safety factor"
    If you want to find out more, you actually don't have to travel to China, but rather you've got to travel to Richmond Hill Ontario where their office is. According to their website,
    "Zandi international is on of the biggest manufacturer and exclusive distributor agency of different products from Japan, Iran, Asia, Europe and North America in persian & oriental rugs, kilims, arts and tapestry. Medical cosmetic lasers & ipl, beauty cosmetics, medical hospital equipments, anesthesia machines, massage chairs and beauty health equipments for North America, Canada, USA, Asia, Europe, UAE and persian gulf"
    You know it's always bothered me that I can't buy persian rugs at the same store as anesthesia machines, massage chairs and scary super-cooled weight loss scams. Thank goodness I've found Zandi.

    If you'd like to visit or write to them you can head to: 160 East Beaver Creek Unit 3, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada 905-763-6563.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Nike +ipod Sport Kit Hands-on Review

    With May closing fast and with over 50 patients running their first triathlon, and with one of the great Somersault events actually named the, "Dr. Freedhoff try-a-tri Challenge", it's time for me to get my butt in gear and start training more seriously.

    One of my favourite training tools is the Nike +ipod Sport Kit. It consists of a small transmitter that fits on your shoe and then a small receiver that plugs into the base of your ipod Nano (it only works with the Nano). The transmitter houses at least one accelerometer and consequently what it does is track your speed and distance and then transmits them to your ipod.

    It's what the ipod does with that information that's great. As with most products Apple, it's incredibly easy to use. A human sounding voice speaks over your music telling you your elapsed time and distance along with your pace every time you briefly press the ipod's centre button. You can set the interface up to follow your time, distance or Calories burned and then at intervals the voice comes on automatically to tell you how far you've come and how far you've got left.

    At any point during your run you can push and hold the center button and your own preselected "power song" will immediately begin to play. It's like a nitro boost for your run.

    When you get back home and sync your ipod you'll also be given the option of syncing with the Nike +ipod website where you can track your progress, set multiple goals and join running teams.

    The best part - this thing is cheap! In the US, Amazon is selling it for $26.99 and in Canada you can get it on the Apple Canada website for $39.00

    Downsides to the product are few. The most obvious one is the fact that it only works with the Ipod Nano. The second is the fact that by trying to tie it in with Nike shoes (the Nike shoes have a little embedded crypt for the transmitter) if you want to run with your own shoes you have to either jerry-rig an attachment to your shoe yourself or buy a third party device for attachment.

    I bought the Switcheasy Runaway for $7.99 online. It's pictured below, works great and is very easy to use.

    I give the Nike +Ipod Sport Kit an A-.

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Who Doesn't Love Funny Cats?

    With over 4.5 million views on youtube, I imagine some of you have seen this before.

    After a week of particularly bitter blogging, I thought something light for Funny Friday was in order.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Juice doubles your child's risk of obesity

    A very simple study was published last month in the Australian journal Public Health Nutrition.

    2,184 children between the age of 4-12 year olds' parents were called and asked about their children's "intake of fruit, vegetables, packaged snacks, fast foods and sweetened drinks ‘yesterday’ and ‘usually’" in relation to those children's' weights.

    Given that juice has a heck of a lot of Calories (drop per drop the same as soda pop), the results were not terribly surprising"

    "Children who consumed >2–3, >3–4 and >4 servings of fruit juice/drinks ‘yesterday’ were, respectively, 1.7 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2–2.2), 1.7 (95% CI 1.2–2.5) and 2.1 (95% CI 1.5–2.9) times more likely to be overweight/obese compared with those who had no servings of fruit juice/drink ‘yesterday’, adjusted for age, gender and socio-economic status (SES)."
    The authors went on to say,
    "In addition, children who ‘usually’ drank fruit juice/drinks twice or more per day were 1.7 (95% CI 1.2–2.4) times more likely to be overweight/obese compared with those who drank these beverages once or less per week, adjusted for age, gender and SES."
    Good thing Canada's Food Guide specifically recommends the consumption of juice, huh?

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Big Milk's Dietitians are Easy

    My wife and I were cleaning the house this past weekend in preparation of showing our house. She came across this handy fridge magnet that was given to her at the hospital following the birth of our now 2 month old daughter. It's entitled, "How to Build a Better Baby".

    It was developed by the registered dietitians of the Dairy Farmers of Canada as evidenced by the seal at the bottom and by this seal on the back:

    It is meant to guide pregnant and breast feeding women to healthier choices in order to "build better babies".

    According to the back of the magnet,

    "Your diet is essential to you and your baby. Until birth and during breast feeding your baby depends on you to supply everything needed for growth and development. What you eat during pregnancy and during breast feeding will help you be healthy and give your baby a healthy start in life"
    Want to know what the registered dietitians of the Dairy Farmers of Canada feel women should eat in order to make "better" babies and help mom "be healthy" and give baby, "a healthy start in life"?

    Apparently whole milk, chocolate milk, ice cream, milk desserts, milkshakes, hot dogs and french fries.

    I kid you not.

    Take a look at these enlargements. They're from the bottom of the chart and they summarize the registered dietitians of the Dairy Farmers of Canada's guidance and examples as to what constitute "healthy" milk, meat and vegetable choices and servings.

    When I showed this to our dietitian at BMI, she sighed sadly.

    I can't imagine how the dietitians from the Dairy Farmers of Canada go to bed at night. If I was as big a sellout as them, I'd be too ashamed to sleep, but I suppose that'd be ok because if I was prostituting my degree and training out as much as they apparently are, nighttime would be for working.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Big Milk's Dietitians Just Plain Lie

    Don't trust this symbol!

    By way of illustrating why I'm going to ask you a few simple question.

    1. Do you think that a registered dietitian, a highly educated nutrition professional, would recommend that you feed preschool children, 36lbs worth of liquid Calories a year?

    2. Do you think that a registered dietitian, a highly educated nutrition professional, would lie and tell you that chocolate milk only has 1/3 more Calories than "white" milk when in fact it has double the Calories of skim milk and 80% more Calories drop per drop than Coca Cola?

    3. Do you think that a registered dietitian, a highly educated nutrition professional, would state that chocolate milk helped the body build and repair muscle?

    I've been in this business for a while and so while I know that the answer to all of the above questions sadly are emphatic YESes, perhaps you'd be surprised at how apparently easy it is to buy a registered dietitian's good name.

    In yet another quobesity goldmine I bring you the Chocolate Milk brochure from the Dairy Farmer of Canada's website. Smack on the back of the brochure is the following endoresement,

    "Developed by the Registered Dietitians at the Dairy Farmer's of Canada"
    So without further ado, I bring you the answers of the Registered Dietitians of the Dairy Farmer's of Canada to my aforementioned questions.
    1. "Preschoolers should drink at least 500mls (2 cups) of chocolate or white milk to ensure they're getting enough vitamin D."

    2. "Chocolate milk has only one third more Calories than white milk...which isn't much."

    3. "After activity chocolate milk helps to replenish your body's energy stores, and build and repair muscle."
    If you think this is bad, wait until you see tomorrow's post.

    Shame on them.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Frito-Lay just plain lies

    Last week Frito Lay rolled out their new Smart Spot endorsed (a PepsiCo marketing ploy that brands a label with a PepsiCo sponsored logo meant to tell consumers the product is "healthy") Baked Tostitos scoops.

    Their press release of course suggests that you, "enjoy them everyday", but what really blew my mind was the "product comparison" that is featured on their website and in the clipped picture for this post.

    Even without enlarging the picture by clicking on it, you can read their product comparison.

    They state that a serving of Baked Tostitos scoops (I would imagine in the neighbourhood of 18 chips)has 140 Calories and then they compare that with what they call a serving of both cheese and crackers and microwave popcorn.

    Let's start with their microwave popcorn. They state that a serving is 1oz and that it contains 150 Calories.

    What the hell kind of popcorn are they eating?

    Not even caramel corn is 150 Calories an ounce. I can have ten cups of Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop for 150 Calories!

    Next we move on to the cheese and crackers. They state that a serving is 1 ounce each of cheese and crackers and that the Calories are 240.

    I can have 16 Nabisco Wheat Thin crackers for 130 Calories and then spread out 3 ounces of low fat Cheddar for 120 more Calories OR of course I could have 8 Wheat Thins and 1.5 ounces of low fat cheddar for 125 Calories.

    So in terms of Caloric equivalents, here's a better product comparison: You can have 18 new Baked Tostitos Scoops or you could have 8 Wheat Thins with Cheddar Cheese OR you could have 10 cups of popcorn.

    What sounds better to you?

    I hate liars.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Mmmm Colon Blow

    I had to sign up for a Myspace account to get this video.

    Now I keep getting invited to be peoples' friend even though my mypage is under a fake name and has no profile or information whatsoever.

    Doesn't matter - it was worth it.

    Phil Hartman and SNL at the height of the fibre craze.

    "Haven't you heard, Fibre is good for you."
    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    How to Find a Healthy Restaurant Meal

    At least if you're in the States.

    Partially funded by the Centers for Disease Control a new initiative aims to help consumers make healthier restaurant choices.

    The web-based program, Healthy Dining Finder catalogues what it deems to be the Healthy Dining Choices at over 30,000 American restaurants and includes a searchable-by-zipcode tool to help you find what's near you.

    Their healthy dining choices are based on a number of criteria - and in a nutshell they are:

    1. Entrees must include a fruit or vegetable
    2. Only lean sources of protein may be used
    3. Only 100% whole grains
    4. Entrees must be 750 Calories or less, with less than 8 grams of saturated fat
    5. Appetizers and desserts must be 250 Calories or less, with less than 3 grams of saturated fat.
    So how about if you live in Canada?

    Well, you could certainly plug in a fake zip code and get the options at local chain restaurants, but hopefully, in time there'll be something better - maybe even with my involvement.

    Coincidentally these past few weeks I've been floating a similar proposal around and have had some significant interest from the government, private industry and some non-profit organizations.

    Our criteria would differ slightly from the Americans as I feel theirs are not sufficiently health conscious or sufficiently Calorie conscious.

    So until our program's up and running, the Healthy Dining Finder site may help, but I'm guessing if you want to spend a bit of time thinking before you order, you can do pretty well with your own due diligence and the coupling of a solid grounding in healthy eating with a dash of Calorie awareness.

    Oh, and don't sit down to a restaurant meal hungry because then you can forget about being reasonable.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    What Would Jesus Drink?

    Apparently taurine, caffeine, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, inositol and D-glucuronotactone.

    How do I know?

    Well I checked out out the nutritional information on the 1in3Trinity energy drink's website.

    Interesting marketing strategy - first alienate the 66% of the planet that's not Christian, then have a homepage that automatically plays Christian rock when you land on it alienating the folks like me that get mad as soon as a website begins playing unasked for music, and lastly make ridiculous descriptive statements about your drink such as,

    "Fused with "Fruit of the Spirit"
    alienating those Christians that get irritated by folks trying to pimp faith to sell product.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    A Strong Jab to the Food Guide

    Rosie Schwartz, registered dietitian, author and nutrition columnist for the National Post, has continued her crusade to illuminate the nation on Health Canada's whole wheat blinders.

    A few weeks ago Rosie published a piece explaining how Health Canada allows grains with roughly 70% of their germ removed (remember grain germs are good) to still call themselves whole (her article here, my commentary here).

    Today Rosie continues, this time taking aim at the Food Guide's weak recommendations to "Make at least half your grains whole", which when coupled with Health Canada's weak and industry pandering whole wheat labeling laws, means that even if you do try to choose whole grains more often in the hopes of reducing your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, thanks to Health Canada, you'll likely fail.

    Here are Rosie's thoughts on the matter,

    "... the government is perpetuating the myth that whole wheat is a whole grain. Or perhaps the people who wrote all the supporting materials for the food guide just didn't know the facts about whole wheat. You can bet that's closer to why all this wrong information is being provided by Health Canada. It's quite ironic when you watch the government's television commercials promoting the new guide that state that you need to start "with the right information."
    Unfortunately for me, my sense of irony in Health Canada's nutritional failings has long since faded away to basic expectation.

    Keep slugging Rosie.

    (Rosie's article is available here.)

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Does Walkability Matter?

    In November 2005, I attended a Think Tank on obesity and public policy in Toronto.

    I was surprised that obesity and the built environment was one of the main areas of discussion.

    I was surprised for two reasons. Firstly while certainly improving the built environment might encourage people to walk and exercise more, as readers of this blog are aware, walking and exercise, while integral to health, don't really do it for obesity.

    Last week Prevention Magazine named Madison, Wisconsin the United States' most walkable city in a study sponsored by the American Podiatric Medical Association.

    Here's their list of the most walkable cities in the US:

    1. Madison, Wisconsin
    2. Austin, Texas
    3. San Francisco, California
    4. Charlotte, North Carolina
    5. Seattle, Washington
    6. Henderson, Nevada
    7. San Diego, California
    8. San Jose, California
    9. Chandler, Arizona
    10. Virginia Beach, Virginia
    Let's compare this list with the list drawn up by Men's Fitness magazine (no, not the most reputable source in the world) who put together a top 25 fittest and fattest cities in America - certainly if walkability was a major factor in obesity treatment or prevention, you'd expect that the top 10 most walkable cities ought to at least be in the top 25 fittest.
  • Austin, Texas - the 2nd most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 21st fittest city.

  • San Francisco, California - the 3rd most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 7th fittest city.

  • Charlotte, North Carolina - the 4th most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 23rd fittest city.

  • Seattle, Washington - the 5th most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 2nd fittest city.

  • Virginia Beach, Virginia - the 10th most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 15th fittest city.
  • Looks good right? The more walkable cities are fitter right?

    Where's Madison? Where are the other five top 10 cities?

    Exceptions are bad for rules right?

    Bad news.
  • San Diego, California - the 7th most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 21st fattest city.

  • San Jose, California - the 8th most walkable city in the US, was also ranked their 10th fattest city.
  • For me exercise and fitness are crucial determinants of health; are integral in maintaining weight loss, but are generally not in and of themselves sufficient to dramatically impact upon weight.

    To walk a pound off a week would require you walk roughly 2 hours each day and I can't imagine there's anything we could do to our built environments that would lead to that (especially here in cold, snowy Canada). Moreover the likelihood is, in this Calorie blind environment that Health Canada has cultivated, folks who walk more will likely think they can eat more in compensation - likely a lot more. In fact I've often worried that if our government was successful at getting people more active without teaching about Calories that we'd actually see obesity rates rise faster as people ate what they felt they earned through exercise.

    So while I'm all for improving on our built environments to encourage more activity, it concerns me that Think Tanks like the one I attended deal with built environment as potential tools to combat obesity. It's worrisome mainly because if obesity rates are used as a means to assess outcomes from these improvements, they'll likely stop recommending that we make them and frankly I think they're important in their own rite.

    Friday, March 09, 2007

    World's Worst Burglar

    This clip has certainly made it around the net a few times.

    It's the world's worst burglar.

    Kind of a keystone burglars reality show.

    If it didn't look like it hurt so much, I'd think it must have been staged.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    France's Food Warning Labels

    French women are about to get fatter (so are French men).

    I've posted in the past about the fact that despite the book that suggests the contrary, the French are not a skinny nation, close to 50% of the country is now overweight or obese - a fact not lost on its government.

    Apparently now in France, all food ads will be contain new warning labels meant to help reduce rates of obesity:

  • For your health eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily.
  • For your health undertake regular physical activity.
  • For your health avoid eating too much fat, too much sugar, too much salt.
  • For your health avoid snacking between meals
  • France better hope people don't pay attention to that last one.

    Not snacking between meals or waiting until you're hungry to eat, has got to be the stupidest recommendation anyone could make to a person trying to manage their weight.

    Have you ever gone to a Supermarket hungry? You buy more, right? Well sitting down to a meal hungry is like going to the Supermarket, it's just that you're now only shopping for one meal.

    As soon as you're hungry you can kiss reasonable choices behind. Our bodies are trained through millions of years of evolution to satisfy hunger. Not snacking is a sure-fire way to invite hunger into your life.

    I'd be recommending, "Make healthy, low-calorie choices every 2-3 hours to control your hunger". Sure, it's wordy but if followed it would actually help rather than exacerbate the problem.

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Amazing Homemade Microwave Potato Chips!

    I've always been a salty rather than a sweet person.

    I came across a recipe on the internet for microwave potato chips that simply involved cutting the potatoes into very thin slices, spreading them out on a plate and then nuking them for 7 minutes.

    I figured I had to try it.

    First I used a mandoline to cut the chips.

    Next I took a silicone baking sheet and laid the chips out on it.

    I didn't bother using any cooking spray or oil.

    Then I threw on some Kosher salt and some habanero powder and popped them in the microwave.

    The results?

    Great tasting, very crispy, habanero chips.

    My baking sheet holds 5oz of potatoes, therefore for me this'll be a roughly 100 Calorie snack.

    The time and effort it takes to make is minimal, but certainly enough that I'll only bother when I really feel like chips. It's also enough time that I'll likely only make and eat one batch at a time.

    I've found that timing varies, both by microwave and batch. Basically they're done when they look like chips.

    I look forward to experimenting with different spices and also figure that the stuff they sell to sprinkle on popcorn may work great as well.

    Guess I'm contributing to the statistic that of all the vegetables consumed in Canada, nearly half are potatoes, but at least these ones aren't fried.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Atkins - the King of Diets?

    The Journal of the American Medical Association released a study today entitled, "Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women. The A to Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial".

    The media are going to have a field day talking about how this study proves that Atkins is the way to go.

    I disagree.

    Read the study and you'll learn some things.

    Firstly you'll learn every participant in the study receieved 8 hours of lectures from registered dietitians on how to follow their respective diets - real world, people buy books, skim them and kind of follow them.

    Next you'll learn that every participant receieved $150 for their efforts. Real world you don't get anything.

    Lastly, and most importantly you'll learn that even on Atkins, the crowned king of diets in this study, the average person, in an entire year of effort, only lost 10lbs.

    Does that make you want to rush out and cut your carbs?

    Fact is most people quit Atkins because it's tough to live that way - it's tough to eat out and it's tough to cook for your family.

    Best diet in the world for you involves two components: First, you have to eat fewer Calories than you burn, otherwise you won't lose weight. Second, you have to like what you're eating, otherwise you won't keep it off. On Atkins' it's the second part that's hard.

    The reason why there are 194,218 diet books today on is that none of them have proven themselves to be remarkable at long term weight loss. If one had, there'd only be one diet book on and it's the one we'd all be using.

    Bottom line - the only way I'd recommend Atkins is if you happened to love your life on the Atkins diet and felt that you could honestly and happily live that way forever. Otherwise, it's just another diet.

    The Amazing Wovel - a Hands-On Review

    So I've had my Wovel now for a complete winter season and I'm now ready to provide a comprehensive review.

    For those of you who don't know what a Wovel is, it's basically a giant shovel attached to a wheel and its website reports that it

    "clears snow with a fraction of the effort and (is) safer on your back"
    Being a huge fan of functional exercise (exercise that doesn't feel like exercise - shoveling, playing with kids, push mowers, biking to work etc.), I of course immediately bought one.

    First impressions were that it's very large - make sure you've got room in your garage. At our house I used two bicycle hooks to hang it off the garage wall and due to space constraints we have to park my wife's car beneath the hanging wheel.

    Assembly was fairly straightforward and given my tool-based ineptitude, since I was able to put it together, I'd say anyone can do it.

    The learning curve for woveling is not terribly steep and once you get going you'll find that indeed, it's much faster than a regular shovel and it's also much easier on the back.

    The picture above came from a recent snowfall. I started our two car driveway after my neighbour with a standard shovel had already cleared off half of her one car driveway. I finished before she did, and in the end my back hurt more from clearing my walkway with a regular shovel than from clearing my entire driveway with the Wovel.

    In terms of beefs, I've got a few.

    Firstly the shovel is not made of the sturdiest plastic in the world. I've got a driveway with a few divots in it and over the course of only 4 or 5 uses, my shovel blade got pretty dinged up - so dinged up in fact that I ordered the stainless steel reinforcement bar for the bottom of the shovel. I wish I had ordered that from the get-go as it really made scraping down to the asphalt a breeze and definitely protects the soft blade. Only drawback to the reinforcement is the fact that it will stick in cracks so if you've got cracks in your driveway, or asphalt that's not smooth, I would imagine it would make woveling much more challenging.

    Second beef is the giant wheel. Occasionally, after vigorous use, the wheel falls off mid-Wovel. It's designed for easy adjustability (depending on where you place the fulcrum you can either throw the snow higher or have an easier time with heavier loads) but I think the adjustability is a bit too easy given how often it falls off. I now tighten both pre-wovel and mid-wovel to ensure that this doesn't happen.

    Lastly, while the price of the Wovel is quite reasonable, the price for the extra package (padded grips, "gravel wheels" and the steel reinforcement for the blade) seems a bit high for what you get.

    If I were the Wovel folks, I'd make the stainless steel reinforcement part of the base model and then charge a fair bit less for the padded grips and gravel wheels. Grip wise I imagine handlebar tape would be a much cheaper and easier alternative though I've not used anything and have done just fine.

    I'd give the Wovel an A- and would heartily recommend it to anyone with a large driveway or a trick back who wants to shovel on their own rather than hire a snow removal service or buy a big polluting snow blower.

    If you're in the US, the Wovel website is having a 30% off sale ($83.97 USD) and while they do deliver to Canada, if you're in Canada you find the Wovel at Home Depot where it's on sale for 33% off ($99.95 CAD).

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    EATracker, your new Weight GAIN Weapon

    Every once and a while I get a phone call at my office asking if I can help someone gain weight. Now that I've found the Dietitians of Canada's new EATracker site, I've got somewhere to send them.

    Now I can't say that this is an entirely unbiased review of EATracker given that the site was created by the Dietitians of Canada - an organization that has come out in strong support of a Food Guide with nutritionally indefensible positions like advocating chocolate milk to children, refined carbohydrates and red meat to all, the inclusion of juice as a fruit, and the limitation rather than the elimination of trans-fats.

    That said, I was hopeful that at the very least EATracker would succeed where Health Canada failed - Calories.

    Before I get to the Calories, let's start with the site itself. It's slow - painfully, frustratingly, dysfunctionally slow, but perhaps that's just growing pains.

    It's laid out into 5 sections:

    1. Select a Day - an easily navigable calendar that lets you scroll through your entries
    2. Eating Diary - this is your food journal area.
    3. Activity Diary - this is your exercise journal area.
    4. Daily Assessment - their summary pages
    5. My History - where you'll find out how close the Food Guide you're eating.
    The eating diary is truly terrible.

    The food database is incomplete and challenging. For instance if you want to enter a banana you won't find one under banana. Instead you have to search for bananas plural. For the day that I tried to enter, I was unable to find egg whites or scotch and given that there's no means to enter your own food items, they got dropped off my list.

    I was also disappointed to find that the only way to adjust your portions is through Canada's Food Guide serving sizes - apparently there are no in betweens and no means to account for things accurately like simply inputting an exact weight or measure, and therefore if you don't buy and eat your food in Canada's Food Guide servings, there is no accurate means to account for your intake.

    You can also forget about adding in anything from a restaurant. No Tim Horton's, no Swiss Chalet, no McDonald's, no restaurant information at all - this despite the clear availability of chain restaurant Calorie information and the Dietitians of Canada explicit knowledge that Canadians eat out a lot.

    The activity diary works easily enough, you search for your activity and then enter the number of minutes that you participated.

    It's in the daily assessment where the weight gain magic begins, as it's in the daily assessment where they provide you with their, "Energy (Calorie) Feedback"

    Firstly I'll point out that despite clearly having a food database somewhere, EATracker only displays the total amount of Calories it estimates you've consumed for the day, not the itemized breakdown by food, thereby preventing you from learning from your choices.

    Where it really falls apart is when EATracker estimates how many Calories you should be consuming each day.

    EATracker told me that I should be eating 2,900 Calories daily based off my age, weight, height and reported activity levels. I generally eat in the neighbourhood of 2,200-2,400 Calories. Were I to eat 2,900 Calories daily I'd gain roughly 1lb weekly.

    I was at work when I was playing with this and so I grabbed some patients from the hall and had them complete the EATracker demographic collection and activity diary so as to see what it told them to consume.

    Patient number 1 is in her early 40s, 5'5", weighs 148lbs and is a runner. She's currently consuming 1,600 Calories daily and in so doing has lost nearly 50lbs this past year. She's still losing weight, albeit at a slow rate. EATracker told her to consume 2,700 Calories daily - an amount that would have her gain back the weight that she lost in roughly 6 months at an initial rate of close to 2lbs weekly.

    Patient number 2 is in her early 50s, 5'3", weighs 128lbs and is also a runner. She's currently consuming 1,600 Calories and in so doing has lost 30lbs. She's been maintaining her weight loss now for more than 6 months. EATracker told her to consumer 2,160 Calories daily - an amount that would lead her to gain roughly 1lb per week.

    So what does all this mean?

    If you want to gain weight, if you want to ignore careful weights and measures, if you want to forget about the fact that most Canadians eat out multiple times per week, if you want to adhere to a nutritionally flawed Food Guide, then by all means use EATracker.

    I don't understand the notion of putting out such a subpar product. There are fabulous, free food diaries out there. Sparkpeople is great. It's customizable in terms of weights and measures, allows you to input your own foods, and includes restaurants in its database. Why release a product that's clearly less expansive, less user friendly, less customizable and more misleading than the ones that already exist?

    The release of EATracker is analogous to a pharmaceutical company releasing a drug for blood pressure that's not even remotely as good as the ones already on the market. Frankly in the free market, that would never happen which is why to me, EATracker, heavily promoted on Health Canada's Food Guide website, looks like a collusion between Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada to promote our substandard Food Guide. I would be shocked to learn that Health Canada, and therefore you and me, didn't foot the bill for the creation of this useless tool.

    I grade it an F.

    Saturday, March 03, 2007

    The Hide the Calories Shell Game

    I know, it's a weekend and I'm posting.

    I'm having a cup of coffee downstairs while my wonderful wife looks after our two daughters (I had them from 5am to 7:30am).

    I saw this article on the wire and thought I'd throw it up here.

    It says that Quiznos, White Castle and Wendy's have all pulled nutritional information from their respective websites or restaurants in lieu of the NYC law mandating Caloric menu board posts.

    In an argument I heard first hand from a McDonald's spokesperson at an Obesity Think Tank, Big Food says that it would be too confusing for consumers to have both a price and a number of Calories on the menu boards, or alternatively, that the menu boards are too small to accommodate 3 or 4 additional numbers.

    Guess they think everyone's unspeakably stupid or that we've all got terrifically poor eyesite.

    If you do want to see Calorie information, head over to Calorie King where you can find data for all 3 restaurants - just put the restaurant's name in the search box.

    Friday, March 02, 2007

    TGI Fridays' new Right Portion, Right Price Menu

    In what hopefully will become a trend in the restaurant industry, TGI Fridays announced today that it has launched the, "Right Portion, Right Price" menu.

    Think less food for less money!

    No nutritional breakdown on the website but certainly fewer Calories than their regular sized (read gigantic) portions.

    Let's hope other restaurants follow suit.

    Juice - it's a health miracle

    If you don't believe me, just ask the juice industry - they cultivate that message more ardently than their crops.

    They've clearly done a great job considering there's a picture of juice in Canada's Food Guide passing itself off as a fruit or vegetable.

    Who cares if there are as many Calories drop per drop as Coca Cola? Who cares if a glass of juice causes an almost instantaneous insulin spike? Who cares that the actual nutrients found in juice pale in comparison with those of fruit? Who cares if global experts on obesity fervently caution against juice's overconsumption? Who cares if it's just a big tall glass of liquid sugar?

    God put in that sugar (well God and then selective breeding) and therefore it must be good.

    Well today for Funny Friday is a classic - Jim Carrey, back in his heyday, mocking Jack Lalane, juice and infomercials in a sketch from In Living Color.

    Have a great weekend

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    World's First Pizza Vending Machine

    It's like the whole world has been screaming that food is just too difficult to get these days, that someone needed to make it more convenient, easier and quicker.

    Thank you Wonderpizza.

    Just what the world needed.

    Exercise Inspiration

    Have you ever run 300 miles straight?

    Have you ever run 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days in 50 contiguous States?

    Dean Karnazes has.

    Perhaps he can inspire you.