Before you grab that Twinkie.

November 10, 2010 · Posted in Policy · Comments Off on Before you grab that Twinkie. 

Ah El Rushbo.  Once again over-simplifying and missing the point.  Many of you may have seen this story on CNN that describes how a professor lost 27 pounds eating basically Twinkies.  Rush enjoys this, and in the meantime manages to make attacks on Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, fruits and vegetables, and gives horrible advice to anyone listening.  Some selected excerpts are below, but for the full transcript go here.

What have I told you about diet and exercise?  Exercise is irrelevant.

“Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables –” basically he ate cardboard

It is what you eat.  It’s the content.  It’s not all the health food garbage. It’s calories in versus calories out, pure and simple.  It’s not health foods; it’s not exercise, pure and simple.

One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama’s gonna be out there ripping into “food desserts” and saying, “This is why people are fat,” I know it’s not true.  “Rush, do you really believe that? It’s that simple to you, liberals lie?”  Yes, it is, folks.  Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy.  Very, very simple.  Now, my doctor has never told me to restrict any intake of salt, but if he did, I wouldn’t.  I’d just spend more time in the steam or the sauna sweating it out.

Rush’s political rantings aside, this is dangerous dangerous stuff to be mindlessly repeating.  About the only salient thing Rush says is that it’s calories in versus calories out for weight loss.  That much is true.  But let’s dig deeper into the story before we rest our case. A few facts.

1 – This story details weight loss over a two month period, full stop.  It does not measure long-term health, wellness, or any other of a number of measures that would indicate whether this “diet” was in fact a good idea.  As we will see in an upcoming post, food additives are incredibly harmful to our bodies and our environment.  Eating whole foods, fruits, veggies, grains etc that are minimally processed is the only way to ensure what is going into your body is actually food, and meant to be consumed by humans.

2 – Outside of weight, yes his cholesterol and body fat percentages went down.  We’ll obliterate this further in a minute, but first note that Dawn Blatner, a dietician, is quoted in the article saying being overweight can cause increases in cholesterol and obviously body fat.  So of course as this man loses weight those two measures will drop.

Here’s where it gets really stupid.

3 – A “normal” man Professor Haub’s size eats 2600 calories a day, the article claims.  I checked this math, calculated his BMR and all that – on this point the article is mostly right.  HOWEVER he would eat 2,600 calories per day if he were MAINTAINING his weight.  Since we can assume he has gained weight, perhaps slowly, over time, this number is actually probably low.  So he’s eating slightly more than 2,600 calories per day.  I also included a low amount of exercise since most people overestimate how many calories they burn during workouts.  If he’s working out “moderately” as he says he is, his caloric intake to maintain his weight actually increases.  This 2,600 number is most likely low for a man who was in Prof Haub’s position before this study started.

4 – He eats only 1,800 calories per day.  1,800.  He effectively cut more than 30% of the calories he eats in one day completely out.  That is by any standard a drastic measure.  If you eat three balanced meals a day, that’s essentially cutting out lunch or dinner.  I can’t imagine a scenario where your “average” person would be functioning after cutting out 30% of their caloric intake.  And would stick to it for TWO SOLID MONTHS.  No, instead we’ll have a public running around eating Twinkies, deciding they’re hungry later on, and pounding down some fast food because they want something salty to go with their sweet.  (Another of El Rushbo’s awesome suggestions – caramel popcorn at the movies to lose weight!)

5 – It’s calories IN versus calories OUT right?  So where’s the discussion of the OUT part?  Right.  Nowhere.  It’s irrelevant.  And yet….and yet…  There’s this funny feeling I have that if we exercised and burned some calories, that would count as calories OUT, would it not?  Should we even get into resting metabolic rate?  Or the fact that consistent exercise makes your metabolism more effective all the time?  Or that something like eating a proper breakfast will help you burn more calories throughout the day?  Nope.  Let’s sit on our couch eating 1,800 calories worth of Twinkies every day.

This “professor” shouldn’t be allowed around young people, and shouldn’t be spreading this kind of nonsense.  CNN, really?  We have an obesity epidemic costing our country over $100 billion annually and you publish a story that glorifies eating Twinkies?  Really?

Until we as a country stop looking for an excuse to eat garbage, we will have an obesity problem.  There just is no easy answer, no matter how hard we look.


The Backpacker’s Essential

April 1, 2010 · Posted in Policy, Travel · Comments Off on The Backpacker’s Essential 

Having done a fair bit of backpacking in my time, I think I should provide some perspective on what exactly to bring when backpacking.  This can be around Europe, Asia, Latin America, wherever.  This list will ensure you look like every other backpacker out there and cannot be mistaken for someone who has recently showered.  This is not a comprehensive list and merely my tongue-in-cheek random compilation.


Backpacker packing list

– Che tshirt
– Hammer and sickle t shirt
– One other ironic t shirt from wherever you are that’s supposed to shout your independence but just makes you look like every other mildly rebellious American. The “same same” t shirt from SE Asia fits here…
– Two days stubble.  (not necessarily recommended for women)
– Birkenstocks
– Friend with dreds (okay if this is actually you)
– One item of your choice – ridiculously over priced compared to everything else you own (a Canon DSLR is an excellent choice here – it’s high saturation in this particular market means it’s less likely to get stolen. Careful of your lenses though.)
– Street vendor bracelets
– For women – combo shirt/skirt/sarong, unwashed.
– Unintentional sense of irony
– Condescending attitude to everyone with a real suitcase and hence, not a real traveler like you
– A stench
– A book by famous dead philosopher or poet or politician. Anything communist is a good choice here.
– A towel. See Douglas Adams.  He was right.
– A CD player or Walkman. You wouldn’t dare own an iPod.
– Nothing clean.
– A country more dangerous or exotic than everyone you meet, that you have traveled to that’s less dangerous than current country, so you can always interject and say “yes but when in east Timor don’t do THAT!”
– Cigarettes.

Specific instructions for Americans
– Your gear will look cleaner and newer than most, despite the dirt you tried to rub on it before you left home
– Leave 2003, skip the Canadian flag on your North Face backpack. You’re not fooling anyone and it’s a dead giveaway anyway.
– Check the WHO health rankings before you travel. A handful of third world countries have better health systems than we do – might pay to get hurt there.
– English words in a foreign accent do not a linguist make.

– Bush didn’t hurt travelers reputations that bad and Obama won’t help them. It’s up to you so don’t be a humongous ass and expect everything to be easy. There’s a reason people like Canadians.  They’re just nicer.

– Except parting with your money. That’s always easy.

This should get you started.  You’re practically ready to have your very own, full-blown backpacking adventure.

I’m serious about the towel.