Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Stories: Arsenic, Flowers and Webcams

My fellow US News & World Report Eat + Run columnist Dr. David Katz brilliantly covers the case of arsenic, mercury and other environmental toxins.

My friend and fellow blogger Dr. Arya Sharma wonders whether we need a "stop to smell the flowers" day?

Adam Dachis on Lifehacker on how he used a webcam to break bad habits (seems quite easy and for him at least, extremely effective).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Remember The Later Cosby Show Seasons?

Boy were they painful.

And to emphasize that point some brilliant re-mixing has Bill Cosby watching the Cosby show for today's Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Personal Request for Help

Dear folks,

Long term readers know that every once and a while I'll ask for some help, and that more often than not it has to do with charitable fundraising. In this particular case, fundraising for breast cancer research.

This year though, I've got a twist to my request.

If you value my ad-free, ask-free, blogging I would love for you to consider sponsoring my 8 year old daughter's CIBC Run for the Cure fundraising effort (you should know too, CIBC and Komen are NOT in any way related and CIBC has not sold out the way Komen has to pink wash questionable products). While she's done the run for the past 3 years, I think she's only really just recently grasped the true concept and role of charity.

So while I'll never ask you for money for the truly countless hours I've worked to provide you with what I hope is an entertaining and informative blog, if you had even just $5 or $10 to spare, I'd love it if you could both support worthwhile research and help to inspire my daughter who is already beyond thrilled that she's exceeded her friends and family fundraising goal of $300 by teaching her about the generosity and caring of a community.

Please click here to be taken  to her fundraising page to make your tax-deductible donation.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canadian Human Rights Commission Has an Obesity FAQ?!

I find the Canadian Human Rights Commission's section on obesity to be rather surprising.

It's surprising in that their FAQ includes this statement,
"There are very few complaints filed about obesity. The number has been constant for many years and remains at 5 to 10 cases a year."
For context, that's 5-10 cases per year in a country of nearly 35 million people.

That's surprising in two ways.  Firstly it's surprising that a condition that the Canadian Human Rights Commission only sees 5-10 times per year would warrant being the only condition singled out for FAQ treatment on the Commission's website.  Secondly it's surprising because given the staggering amount of bias and discrimination faced by those with obesity, if those numbers are accurate, I can't get over how few people in Canada are standing up for their rights.

I guess society's just beat them down too far, too often.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

House Republicans - "American Kids Don't Eat Enough"!?

For some this might seem right out of the bizarro files. America's in the midst of rapidly rising rates of childhood and adolescent obesity and the House Republicans have introduced a bill to repeal the maximal school lunch calorie limits put in place by the new USDA guidelines.

Amazingly the bill has been named the, "No Hungry Kids Act" (I swear I thought the article I was reading was an Onion piece when I first saw it).

So just how badly kids would starve if the limits were left in place depends on their age.

If they're in kindergarten through fifth grade they'd be stuck with a paltry 650 calories a meal; sixth through eighth grade - 700 calories; and ninth grade and up 800 calories.

The horror!

But wait, 650 calories is more calories than I have for lunch.

So what do you think is driving the Republicans' desire to feed American kindergarteners larger lunches than mine?

My money'd be on Big Agriculture and Big Food lobby dollars.

How about yours?

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Most Painfully Stupid Thing I've Read in a While

It was written by the American Beverage Association in response to the barrage of articles condemning sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) the New England Journal of Medicine published this past Friday. The articles beat the dead horse that sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to rising weights.

It's a dead horse because as the American Beverage Association themselves report,
"Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute about 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet."
And guess what? 7% is a lot!  If you lose 7% of your total daily calories you're probably going to either lose weight or gain more slowly.

Of course even that's disingenuous as what the ABA doesn't report is that the percentage of sugar-sweetened calories is dramatically higher in teens (as much as 25% of calories coming from sugar sweetened beverages), and moreover, looking at all comers, ignores the fact that there are many folks who don't drink any sugar-sweetened beverages at all meaning that for the actual drinkers, the percentage and/or number of SSB calories they're consuming are likely much, much, higher.

What other arguments are trotted out by the ABA to defend the regular consumption of sugar water?

1. All calories count
2. You can balance calories in with calories out
3. Consumption of soda is going down, yet obesity rates are going up
4. There are people who struggle with weight who don't drink SSBs
5. SSB manufacturers also make non-SSBs
6. We don't advertise SSBs to kids
7. We're part of the solution because we've worked with Bill Clinton and Michele Obama

My responses?

1. And?
2. Sure, just balance those calories you consumed in all of 3 minutes each day by adding 3.5-7 HOURS of exercise a week.  Easy peasy.
3. And?
4. So?
5. And?
6. LOL!
7. Sigh.

Really?  These are the best arguments the beverage industry's got?  If that's the case, I'd say we're getting somewhere!

Here's hoping that America's current Surgeon General Regina Benjamin takes this opportunity to grab a page out of C. Everett Koop's shoes and actually take a useful stand on a product that's undermining global health.

If for some mind bogglingly bizarre reason you're still on the fence on SSBs and their contribution to weight, why not have a read of the editorial published in NEJM and perhaps the articles themselves (they're free).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Stories: Holistic Allergies, Homeostatic Imbalances, and GMOs

A two parter from Diane Sousa from Skeptic North on her adventures surrounding "Registered Holistic Allergists" and "Bioenergetic Practitioners"

A great critical post from Forbes' Tim Worstall on that study suggesting GM maize caused rat tumors and early death (and because it's such a hot topic, readers should know I own no Monsanto stock and while I'm not as worried as some about eating GMOs, I do worry about their potential impact agriculturally as the genes inevitably jump).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sarah Silverman on American Voter Fraud and Voter ID Laws

Bless you Sarah, you're awesome.

Today's Funny Friday has lots of cuss words, so no kids, and volume low.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers you need to head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Is Weight Loss Quackery Being Sold By Pharmacists?

A reader sent me the photo up above. It shows at best non-evidence based, at worst completely useless and not necessarily safe weight loss quackery is being prominently sold by placard in at least one Ontario pharmacy at their pickup counter.

How is this legal?

The short answer is that it's legal because Health Canada just doesn't care. They don't care that pharmacy shelves are filled with nonsense that not only wastes their money, but also potentially their health as they may supplant physician visits and medical care for the promises festooned on the side of a bottle.

But do pharmacists care? In this case do they care that my reader thinks customers will take the promotion of Dr. Oz miracle pills at their pickup counter to be a professional endorsement by the pharmacists themselves?

Pharmacists are highly educated health professionals and here in Ontario (where the photo up above was taken), they're regulated by the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP), and represented in Canada by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

Peeking at the OCP website I came across their Model Standards of Care document and in it, this statement,
"23. recommend non-prescription drug therapy only having collected and interpreted patient information to ensure that:

• there are no significant drug interactions or contra-indications, and
• the medication is the most appropriate in view of patient characteristics, signs and symptoms, other conditions and medications, and
• the dose and instructions for use of the medication are correct
But given that there is no dose (no human trials) how could any amount of it ever be considered "appropriate"?

And what of the CPhA?

While they don't have the same sort of Standards of Care document, they do have one on Direct-To-Consumer Advertising and in it they note,
"the information available to patients must be objective, accurate and comprehensive."
Does that sign up above suggest objectivity, accuracy and comprehensiveness?

I know I have pharmacists who read my blog. Given the ability to comment anonymously, would love it if you might weigh in on how you feel selling products that have no scientific basis whatsoever behind their use and whether or not you feel it challenges your ethics or your College's codes of conduct.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Favourite Cookbook of the Past Two Years!

[Today's a rare recycled post. It was originally published in 2010, but I'm republishing it today as a thank you to the authors. I'm thanking them because we finally got around to trying their 5 minute, no-knead, rye bread and given how amazingly well it turned out, we'll never be shelling out $4-$5 for a bakery rye ever again. If you baked 4 loaves a year, you'd pay for the book!]

You should ditch your bread maker!

A few days ago in the comments I promised someone a positive post and so here it is. It's about a new cookbook I recently bought and am very excited about. It's called, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking and after a quick read and a trial run, I'm willing to bet it lives up to its billing.

The premise is simple and builds off the concept of no-knead bread making. All you've got to do is mix the ingredients together (either by hand or via a mixer with a dough hook), stop, let rise for different amounts of time depending on recipe, put in fridge and then use on an as needed basis for up to 2 weeks! What that means of course is you've got a large batch of dough (enough for let's say 4-6 loaves) in your fridge and then when you feel like fresh, preservative free bread, where you've controlled and been in charge of every last ingredient, you simply cut off a hunk of dough, let it rise for 20 minutes and pop it into the oven in a loaf pan or on its own.

The recipes look gorgeous, extremely easy to make and with stores like bulk barn selling all sorts of different types of flour, very inexpensive.

If you want your own copy has it for $22.56 CAD while has it at $16.00 USD (for the sake of transparency you should know those links are Amazon Associate links).

You'll also want a pizza stone (on which to cook some of the recipes) and some lidded containers that will hold large volumes of dough in your fridge.

Over the course of the past 2 years, it has become perhaps our most beloved cookbook!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Brown Bagging Weight Management

The proverbial brown bag.

I know many of my readers likely are already brown bagging their daily lunches, but for those of you who aren't, those of you who think your cafeteria serves "pretty healthy" meals, or who lean on various fast food options, simply bringing your own lunch can go a long way at helping to manage your weights.

I also have what I call a "go-to easy lunch" which is the lunch I can assemble in less than 30 seconds if I forgot to put one together the night before. It consists of two slices of whole grain bread, 30-45g of cheese, a tomato, an apple and an orange. It's far from gourmet, but it does the job.

I have a very simple rule about lunches out. I'll only have them if someone else buys.

If you're frustrated by your scale's lack of movement, and yet you're buying your lunch regularly, why not see if a one month promise to yourself to brown bag it doesn't get that dial moving again? Worst case? You'll save yourself a pile of money and give yourself the opportunity to eat far healthier fare.

Sounds like a win-win scenario to me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Do You Know the Difference Between a Diet "Cheat" and a Life "Choice"?

I hear it all the time,
"I cheated on my diet"

You cheated?

What does that mean?

Does that mean you ate a food that was high in calories? That you used food for a role other than fuel?

Isn't that just a choice?

Sure I believe that all choices need to be informed, and to inform a dietary choice, if weight's a consideration, quantity and calories may well matter, but the simple fact that you decided that food was a pleasure in your life? Well if you can't make that choice from time to time I'd argue you're cheating on living a realistic life, and that cheat's probably more likely to lead your diet to fail than any other.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Stories: Blood Pressure, Horse Whisperers, and Booze.

Dr. Julian Tudor Hart's Rapid Response in the BMJ on why treating mildly elevated diastolic blood pressure is unnecessary is perhaps the best Rapid Response to any journal article I've ever read.

The Horse Whisperer's author Nicholas Evans writes of his experience with deadly mushrooms in the BMJ and in so doing does a great job of laying to rest the notion that everything that grows in the ground does so for humankind's benefit. Natural doesn't necessarily mean good.

Cambridge's David Nutt asks whether or not alcohol would be legal were it only discovered today?

Friday, September 14, 2012

A 7 Second Video That Encapsulates My Week

Today's Funny Friday is my sheep doppleganger. Volume should most definitely be on.

Have a great weekend!

(Email subscribers - head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Study Reveals Overweight Teens Have Fewer Arms Than Healthy-Weight Ones

A truly shocking study published today ahead of print in the journal Pediatrics revealed that overweight teens reported having one fewer arm than their healthy weight counterparts.


(I'm sighing a lot these days).

No, overweight teens don't have fewer arms than their healthy weight counterparts, and I'm equally doubtful that overweight teens eat fewer calories than so-called healthy weight teens either, yet that's what's been trumpeted all over the media and blogosphere for the past few days.

The reporting stems from a paper entitled, "Self-Reported Energy Intake by Age in Overweight and Healthy Weight Children in NHANES, 2001-2008". In it researchers detailed the "surprising" finding that overweight and obese girls over age 7, and overweight and obese boys over age 10 reported consuming fewer calories than their healthy weight peers.

What I find rather amazing though is that the researchers, rather than focus on the story being overweight girls as young as 7 and boys as young as 10 may have already suffered sufficient societal stigma to under report their dietary intake when asked how much they're eating, instead decided to conclude that contrary to what the laws of thermodynamics require, overweight kids and teens either have created for themselves a, "self-perpetuating" state of obesity, or that they're significantly less active.

Now to be fair they also mention a third possibility, that perhaps overweight kids under report their dietary intakes, but then they explain why they think that isn't the case.

So is there evidence out there suggesting that overweight teens are in fact the world's worst dietary historians?

Why yes there is.

In February of last year there was a review paper published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity titled, Assessing dietary intake in children and adolescents: Considerations and recommendations for obesity research. Regarding under-estimation, here's what the review paper's authors had to say,
"One of the most robust findings in dietary studies of children and adolescents is the positive association between under reporting and increased body fatness, particularly in adolescents (4,14,15). This is consistent with studies in overweight and obese adults (16). The extent of mis-reporting irrespective of weight status increases with age and has been reported as 14% of energy intake in 6-year-olds (17), 25% in 10-year-olds (18) and 40% (4,19) to 50% (14) in obese adolescents.."
The authors further report that the type of study most likely to suffer from under-reporting is the very type performed here,
"Studies characterising under-reporting have focused on total diet assessment methods and in particular, energy intake"
So let me ask you a question.

If we knew that when polled obese teens under-reported their number of limbs by 50% do you think it'd be wise to take their reporting at face value and come up with theories as to why one of their arms fell off, or would it be more useful and important to try to understand the drivers that led those teens to misrepresent their limb status'?

Sir William Osler one of the founders of modern medicine once said,
"When you hear hoof-beats think horses, not zebras"
The horse is under-reported calories. Moreover it's a horse that's been spotted many times. To ignore that horse and instead focus on one-armed teen zebras? The only explanations for that behaviour I can come up with are ignorance, or willful misrepresentation in the name of publication or publicity - and neither are pretty.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gary Taubes Launches Non-Profit to Prove His Low-Carb Hypothesis

Today marks the formal launch of Gary Taubes' new non-profit organization NuSI whose stated mission is to, "improve the quality of science in nutrition and obesity research", and whose implied mission is to prove Gary Taubes' carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity is as correct as he clearly believes it to be.

So let's for a moment presume that Gary Taubes is one hundred percent right. That what his NuSI backgrounder calls a "controversial" hypothesis,
"that the fundamental cause of overweight and obesity is the overconsumption of food in relationship to physical activity",
is truly dead wrong and that instead it's,
"the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates – plays the more critical role in both the accumulation of excess body fat and the chronic diseases that are associated with obesity"
So that means for the moment just ignore data like those from the Ewe tribe who were recorded as having an obesity rate of 0.8% despite diets that were 84% carb. Ignore the various studies that held calories constant while varying macronutrients that demonstrated weight stability. Ignore the results from Cuba's "natural experiment" in the 1990s.  Ignore the folks from the National Weight Control Registry who've lost and sustained their losses with widely divergent dietary strategies.  Ignore the fact that even the most low-carb positive studies demonstrate only minor differences in weight loss as compared with higher or middle of the road carb diets. Instead I want to ask you whether or not, assuming Mr. Taubes' shiny new researcher's bench is entirely, incontrovertibly, 100% right in placing blame squarely on carbohydrate consumption, would that bench-side proof actually have broadly applicable clinical utility for folks who struggle with their weight?

My bed-side says no.

That's certainly not to say that low-carb dieting doesn't help some manage their weights and health, it just means that no amount of bench-made "proof" will change the fact that low-carb dieting, for many, is far more of a restrictive diet than it is a livable, long-term lifestyle. Meaning that even if low-carb were the holy grail of diets on paper, that fact would be worthless in practice unless you happened to enjoy low-carb enough to stick with it, and judging from the folks I see regularly in my office, that's far from a given. In fact it's a very rare person that I meet who hasn't tried a low-carb diet at least once.  And all of those folks? No doubt when they undertook their low-carb diets they were true believers. As far as they were concerned low-carb was to be their salvation, and many report to me having had real success losing but that they just as rapidly regained everything when they couldn't stomach living low-carb anymore. It's that last bit that makes me think that regardless of the outcomes of Mr. Taubes' new non-profit's future studies, low-carb diets aren't going to be a panacea, just as they weren't in Banting's 1860s or Atkins' 1990s.

Mr. Taubes thinks that study design is the broken paradigm that's crippling weight management. He thinks that nutritional research hasn't asked the right questions or used the right methodologies and so that's why we're mired in this mess. And while it's easy to agree with him that there have been libraries filled with poorly designed studies, as far as clinical weight management utility goes, more effectively asking or studying whether low-carb diets have better outcomes than low-fat or other diets isn't likely to help much.

I think the paradigm that's crippling weight management are "diets" themselves.

Whether it's low-carb diets, low-fat diets, GI diets, middle-ground diets, vegan diets, and even bat-shit crazy diets, there are long term success stories and recurrent failures with each and every one, where the common ground to success is a person actually liking their life enough to sustain their new patterns of reduced dietary intake, and where the common ground to failure is suffering or restriction beyond an individual's capacity to enjoy their life.

And so while I don't share Mr. Taubes' view that there is one simple or predominant cause and treatment for obesity, and would in fact argue that anyone who thinks there's a singular cause for the society's weight struggles almost certainly doesn't work with actual living, breathing, human beings on their weights, I do agree that the research on what works and what doesn't work is inherently flawed. But it's a flaw that Mr. Taubes' is likely setting out to sustain and fund in that the flaw I see from my bedside is the arrogant belief that there's one right way to go and only one path to weight gain (or loss).

There's also the issue of spin.  Now I appreciate you've got to tell a good story when you're trying to raise money, but given Mr. Taubes has built his empire on the notion that science has misrepresented data on obesity for decades, you'd sure hope that he wouldn't simply do the same.

Without getting into it too deeply I want to present one graph that he includes in his non-profit's backgrounder that he uses to prove his point that it's the carbs, stupid.

The graphs are meant to be very clear. Carbohydrate intake has gone up since 1971 while fat and protein have gone down, and hey look, weight's gone up too. Must be the carbohydrates, right?

But yet a deconstruction of the first graph by Evelyn over at her Carb-Sane Asylum really gets right to the meat of things with this statement when considering the graph on the left,
"looking at this data, we have the men reducing fat % from 37 to 33% while carbs rose from 42 to 49% of intake. And the women? Fat went from 38% to 33% while carbs rose from 45% to 52%. Given all the studies done where the low carb diets were "hardly low carb" according to the militant keto wing of the movement, can we at least have a wee bit of intellectual honesty here and admit that the differences in macro proportions is largely insignificant?"
What she's saying is that from a macronutrient percentage perspective, the difference between the 1970s consumption of a diet containing 45% carbs (for women) and the 2000s diet of 52% (and for men the difference between 42% and 49%) is pretty insignificant and that 1970 diets were anything but low-carb and yet our weights were so much better.

But more disingenuous is the fact that Mr. Taubes left out his arch nemesis from the graph. Calories.

Here's a graph from Stephan Guyenet that superimposes increased American calorie consumption over that graph on the right hand side of Mr. Taubes' slide.

And would you look at that. As weight rose, so too did caloric intake.  Pretty much perfectly.


Why we're eating more is the question that needs to be answered, and while the increased consumption of highly refined carbohydrates may indeed be a player, there's zero doubt in this bed-side's mind, the game that's being played isn't one-on-one. There's no doubt it's not as simple as, "eat less, move more", and there's equally no doubt it's not as simple as just cut carbs.  If either were true, everyone who wanted to be would already be skinny.

So huge props to Mr. Taubes for being such a passionate man and for truly wanting to see his theories proven - honestly, his bordering on pathological tenacity is genuinely laudable, though I wish he would hold his own spin and writing up to the same degree of scrutiny to which he holds others'. But ultimately, whereas Mr. Taubes now wants to trade in his pen for a bench and conduct research that presumably he himself won't instantaneously and churlishly deride as being useless, when it comes to clinical utility and weight management, the last thing the world needs is to believe that there's only one right way to go.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ewe Super High Carb Diet - 99.2% Effective!

This one was yanked from the vaults by Whole Health Source's Stephan Guyenet.

It details a 1987 study in the Lancet that involved exploring the diets, diabetes prevalence, and weights of 1,381 rural West Africans of the Ewe tribe who subsided primarily on carbohydrates which in their case primarily took the form of cassava roots (basically an African potato - that's it up above).

The researchers estimated the Ewe's average calorie consumption by actually measuring their common food portions and reported that the average young male was consuming just under 2,000 calories daily with a macro-nutrient breakdown of 84% carbohydrates, 8% fat and 8% protein.

The results were pretty straightforward. There was no detectable cases of diabetes as measured by blood glucose levels. Weight wise, mean BMI was just over 20. There were only 11 total individuals with BMIs exceeding 27 (0.8%).

Weight wise the results aren't particularly surprising either as less than 2,000 calories a day for men will sustain a very lean weight. But what of the folks who believe calories don't count and it's all and only about the carbs?

More on that tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The American Heart Association Hires Cheetos Mascot To Hand Out Chips at Heart Walk

Or to be more accurate, the American Heart Association (AHA) sold Frito-Lay the right to hand out chips and have Cheetos mascot Chester the Cheetah walk with the crowds at this past weekend's AHA Dallas Heart Walk.

The walk is meant to raise money to fund heart disease research and it's a popular one. This year it raised over $4 million, and from the photos it would seem thousands came out.

Photo by Twitter's @andy_kahn (Andy Kahn, MD, FACEP) 

And leading those thousands in dance (have a peek right in the middle)?

Photo by Twitter's @RyanEverhart

Yup, this guy, clearly capitalizing on Frito-Lay's walk sponsorship,

Photo by Twitter's @dallassinglemom

Cheetos' mascot Chester who I would imagine was part of the team who then after began handing out bags of chips to the participants.

Photo by Twitter's @RyanEverhart
So what's in it for Frito-Lay?
  • Tying their brand to the positive emotions of the walk - joy, hope, charity, happiness, spirit, camaraderie, health, and generosity.
  • Direct marketing and sampling of their chip products and the hopeful conversion of participants, ideally young participants, into brand loyal consumers.
  • A great "corporate social responsibility"opportunity with which to defend against industry unfriendly legislation and actions as well as use as a foot in the door for other such sponsorships.
  • The further normalization of junk food as part of everyday life, this time with the explicit blessing and tacit support of the American Heart Association.
Undoubtedly Frito-Lay expects the return on their investment to exceed the cost of their sponsorship - be it in direct sales or in indirect benefits, but either way, Frito-Lay isn't in the social service business.

As to what's in it for the American Heart Association? Cold. Hard. Dollars.

My eight year old was watching me as I was encouraging participants to send me pictures of this unholy union. She asked me what I was doing and I did my best to explain it to her. This was her response:

I wonder what the AHA would tell her?

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Saturday Stories: Organic, Front-of-Packages, and Breastfeeding

Summer Tomato's Darya Pino goes behind the headlines on the organic food is the same as conventional study.

RD Andy Bellatti and lawyer Michele Simon argue that front-of-package labeling is just a gift horse to the processed food industry.

Ruth Kamnitzer's fantastic piece on her experiences breastfeeding in the land of Genghis Khan.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Lemon Beagle vs. Actual Lemon - Fight!

Today's Funny Friday is a fight to the death between a cute lemon beagle, and a pucker your lips sour lemon.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, you need to visit the blog to watch)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Are You an American Parent Fed Up with School Food? Read This!

Wow, two days of positive stories in a row!

Today's positive post comes from the Rudd Center. For those of you who don't know, the Rudd Center is a world leader in the fight against weight bias and the toxic food environment. Think of them as the Pentagon and just like the Pentagon, to carry out missions they need foot soldiers.

And that's where you come in.

While you might be fed up with school food, being fed up isn't enough. You need to be trained in combat and the Rudd Center has put together an online bootcamp entitled, "Rudd 'Roots Parents" where they'll drill you through the whys and wherefores of school food policies along with tangible tools and worksheets to help you with your grassroots school food advocacy efforts.

While it's truly a sad state of affairs that such a site is necessary, huge kudos to the Rudd Center for putting it together.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Are You the Parent of an Ottawa Grade 6 Student? Read This!

Today's a rare good news post!

My local readers might know that my office has recently begun a pilot partnership with the YMCA-YWHA here in Ottawa. What that means is that people can enroll in our office's program and get seen at Ottawa's downtown Y location and at the same time, catch a large combined break on the costs of our program's unlimited visits and a year-long Y membership. What it also means is that I've been able to learn a great deal more about the Ottawa Ys.

So here's the thrust of this post. If you've got a Grade 6 child living in your home he or she is entitled to join the Y Kids Academy. There's no cost whatsoever and what it affords your child is the following:
  • A 12 hour free healthy living after-school program that teaches your child the basics of the safe use of fitness equipment and healthy living strategies
  • A free Y membership allowing your child access to every Y in the city (save the executive Y downtown across from the CBC studios) (awarded on completion of the 12 hour course).
  • 6 free training sessions with the Bytown Stormtroopers Triathlon club
  • A $200 rebate for you if you'd like to purchase a family membership
Honestly, this is an unbelievably generous and healthy opportunity, and for parents who might struggle with the financial cost of after-school activities, a real blessing.

If you're interested enrolling couldn't be easier. Click here to print out an enrollment form, fill it, show up to the Y where you'd like your child to take the course, and away you go. Session schedules available here. First come, first served.

Ottawan readers - please spread this post far and wide through your own social networks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Parental "No" Files - Canada's Wonderland, Where Healthy Eating is Banned!

This one's courtesy of a great blog post by Toronto based pediatrician Daniel Flanders.

The long and the short of it is this: If you're planning a trip to Canada's Wonderland your kids are going to eat junk food all day long. There's literally no way around it. You see according to Dr. Flanders there are food police working the entrance to the park. Every bag is searched for "outside" food, and so when Dr. Flanders' family got searched, their home made healthy lunches were deemed contraband and were confiscated.

Dr. Flanders postulates that the rationale for the ban is money,
"Scratching my head, I wondered, why the ‘no outside food’ policy? As I walked through the facility, The answer became quite clear – there is way too much money to lose when allowing patrons to bring their own food. A pizza costs $25.00. A fountain drink: $4.00. A bottle of water: $3.00. ”Criminal” I thought to myself."
And I can't help wonder whether or not it is?  Given what else passes for human rights violations in our country you'd think that we'd have the human right to decide what food we'd like to eat when spending a by definition day-long activity where meals are undoubtedly required. Whether it's for medical, religious or preventative health reasons I would have thought preventing people from bringing the food of their choice to a location where the primary fee is for non-food based entertainment would, even with a private enterprise, be a denial of their basic rights.

But I'm not a lawyer.

If there are any Canadian lawyers reading this post, would greatly appreciate their opinion as to whether or not it is legal to ban "outside" food from Canada's answer to Six Flags?

But of course for those of you who feel that the sole line of defense against an environment that incessantly pushes junk food down our children's throats should be a parent who says, "No", clearly it was well within Dr. Flanders' power to turn around at the gate and not take his kids to Canada's Wonderland.  But do you really think that's the answer?

While I'm certain at some point to bring my children to Canada's Wonderland, reading Dr. Flanders' post I'm now also certain it'll be an extremely rare visit rather than a more regular one.

Go on and read Dr. Flanders' post. It's excellent and eye-opening.

(And if you're reading this and thinking, "Ah come on now, is one day of junk food really all that bad?", please click the tag labeled "Parental No" below to start getting a sense of how this is just one in a long, long, never-ending line of days rather than just one")

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Saturday Stories: Mortality, Longevity, and Deception

Hopefully one day I'll take the time to read the book, but for now here's Slate's review of Christopher Hitchens' death memoir - Mortality.

Slate has a fantastic piece talking of the latest in monkey calorie restriction and how what you eat, not how much, may matter more than anything else.

Collector's Weekly and their top 10 collection of deceptive advertisements from days gone by.