Category Archives: health

The System

New job, new city, new insurance. So I am calling a UCSF clinic to make a doctor’s appointment.

“Have you been here before? Are you in our system?” The lady on the phone asks.

“No, I’m new.”

“Ok, let’s add you to our system. What is your name?”

“H…O…E…” I spell out my name to her.

“Oh, you’ve been here before. You’re in our system,” she says.

“No, I’m new,” I assure her.

“Let’s see. The last time you were here was…12/11/79.”

“That’s my birthday.” It hits me and I’m suddenly impressed with UCSF’s information system.

“Are you still on 11th Avenue?”

“Not for about 25 years.”

“Ok, let’s update your information in the system.”

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New blog: Food Fight!

Just wanted to let you know that I have started a new blog here on WordPress.com: Food Fight!

Check out my post about what is Food Fight, and today’s post about fiber, and let me know what you think.

I am off on vacation for about a week, so things will be pretty quite around here for a while. I’d say to keep an eye on Flickr for vacation pics, but my camera isn’t doing so well. I found out that I have to send it into Sony to get it fixed for $181! I haven’t decided if I am going to spend the money to do that yet, but no matter what, I won’t be taking pictures this week.

Book Review: Stay Slim for Life

Stay Slim for LifeI like old cookbooks. I baked cookies out of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook circa 1960 as a kid. I was quite happy to find, at a library book sale, a cookbook with just the desserts out of that old cookbook, complete with all of the pictures of cookies and meringue cakes that I remembered. I also am amused/aghast, as I think most women are, by old mid-century books on etiquette, housekeeping, etc. etc. for the proper lady. I like to laugh at the advice on the number of ash trays a hostess should put out at a cocktail party and things like that.

So I was proud of my find from the dollar table of a used book store in Jackson while on my Tahoe Adventure. It is called Stay Slim for Life: Reduce with low fat, low calorie menus and recipes by Ida Jean Kain and Mildred B Gibson, published in 1958. I was prepared to laugh at a 50s housewife diet fad and to be properly grossed out by the recipes (like Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974).

But I was wrong. Everything I read could have been written in any diet web site today: eat whole grains, eat less fat, and just eat fewer calories because you don’t need them with your lazy lifestyle (I am paraphrasing here).

Let’s start at the beginning of “Chapter 1: New Approach to Weight Control”:

Everybody loves to eat, nobody wants to be fat, and reducing is the talk of the times. We are in a dilemma. Out food habits and basic recipes no longer match our way of life.

There is no valid reason why fifty million Americans should continue to be burdened with surplus poundage. We have the scientific knowledge that makes it possible to eat well and be a desirable weight.

It is obvious that we have not dealt intelligently with out number-one nutrition problem, for obesity is on the increase. Faddy diets are not the solution…

I could go on, but you see what I mean. It goes on to explain empty calories, good fats, weight goals (it was right on for me), exercise, and preventing heart disease. How to handle parties and drinking are also covered. The book doesn’t talk about trans fat or fiber specifically, which are today’s hot topics, but it does warn against eating hydrogenated oils and encourage lots of vegetables and whole grains. Good enough for me.

Then it gets into the menus for “slimming,” as they call it. The book gives two side-by-side menus: one for Mrs. and one for Mr., explaining that unfortunately, women just don’t need as many calories as men. This was where I got my first big shock of the book, after getting over the book be totally right on about weight loss and nutrition. The “Mrs.” daily calories count is about 1050. For “Mr.”, about 1300. That’s hardly anything! But that’s how you lose weight. (For comparison, a Big Mac cheeseburger and medium fries are 1055 calories.)

The menus don’t look like they are only 1050 calories. They are all three meals a day, plus a snack. And they include pats of butter, whole milk, and steak. But then you look at the details: a slice of bread, I guess back in 1958, is only 50 calories. Your average slice of whole wheat bread today is 120 calories. The Oroweat “Lite” whole wheat bread is 40 calories and close to half the size of a regular slice of bread, and I have found no other bread that comes close to that. A serving of juice is 4 oz. in the menus, as opposed to our typical 8 oz. glass. And a “bouillon cup” of soup is only 6 oz. Yup, it just comes down to eating less and not eating crap.

The second part of the book, aptly titled “Adventures in Low-Calorie Cooking”, is the recipes, and I have to say, I did get my dollar’s worth of gross-outs, mostly in the salads chapter. Some of the appetizing names:

  • Grapefruit and green pepper salad
  • Celery stuffed with cottage cheese
  • Molded [ed. Jello] cucumber salad
  • Tomato aspic salad

Ida Jean KainHonestly though, aside from the Frankfurter kabobs, nothing else was really that gross (again, compare with 1970s Weight Watchers).

So much to my surprise, I recommend the book! I was entertained and motivated to eat healthy. I probably won’t make any of the recipes since they are all rather meat-focused, but I’ll end by quoting the piece of advice that really clicked with me:

Weight control is 90 per cent attitude. If you prefer desirable weight to excess food, that attitude prevails and there is no need to make a separate decision over every hors d’oeuvre or fattening dessert. When social eating is determined by habit rather than momentary choice, it becomes a matter of second nature to be moderate.

This is by no means the same as going to a party grimly determined not to partake of the delicious fare. That plan would be doomed to failure, for it accentuates the negative and takes away the fun. On the other hand, having made the wise decision to get down to a proper weight and stay slim for life, you will not be tempted to overinduldge. This new point of view is surprisingly freeing.

Morbid tool

Jackson West’s blog pointed me to a nifty CDC tool: WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports. I used to subscribe to the CDC MMWR (I take that back, I got rid of it because I never got to it in my email inbox, but I just added it to MyYahoo, so I am subscribing again. Have I mentioned how much I love RSS?), I am having way too much fun with this new tool.

Here are some of the random things that I have learned, looking just at CA data:

  • Young women tend to commit suicide with a gun, just like men, but when they get older, women tend to poison themselves, whereas older men are still more likely to use a gun.
  • In my age group (25-34), cancer is the #2 cause of death for women. That was really surpising, until I saw that the number was about the same as for men. The difference is just that there are a whole lot more men killing one another or themselves, so cancer is down at #4 for them.
  • The number of deaths from cancer and heart disease skyrocket at you go from age group to age group, but I guess that isn’t too surprising.
  • Diabetes is a top-ten cause of death starting in the 15-24 age group, and is #7 overall.
  • Men 25-34 are way more likely to die from injuries compared to women. At first I thought it could be because men do more stupid stuff than women. But then I remembered that most of those injuries are from car accidents. I looked at the numbers for car accidents are the same (about three times as many men than women). I would say that about the same number of men and women are on the road, so what’s the deal? Why are men more likely to die in a car? Could it be that women are better drivers? Are the guys not wearing their seatbelts?

Two things I care about

Ok, I am really busy today and don't have a lot of time, but there are two things that I wanted to quickly mention.

First of all, tomorrow is World Blood Donor Day, which is a celebration of volunteer blood donation. In honor of that, and because blood supplies are low right now (Stanford called me today asking me to donate), please get out there and donate if you can! There are three blood banks in the bay area: Stanford, Red Cross, and Blood Centers of the Pacific. I am personally a big fan of the Stanford Blood Center and have been a apheresis donor there for a few years now, although I have slacked lately, along with more things in my life. Most places take appointments online and also accept walk-ins, so no excuses.

Secondly, I thought I would put out a call for volunteers at HomeSafe Santa Clara. HomeSafe, part of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, is transitional housing for victims of domestic violence and their children (it is not an emergency shelter). We always need volunteers to work in our children's programs, especially during the summer when most of the college student volunteers leave. Why I volunteer there and why I think others would want to:

  • It is fun. I spend two hours every week playing with kids, running around, singing songs, doing art projects. It is a great change of pace from work.
  • It is part of a long-term solution. I like that I am a part of building strong, happy families that are working towards being independent and healthy.
  • The time commitment is perfect: two hours once a week after work.

Add a comment or email me if you have questions about blood donation (and apheresis!) or volunteering. I am happy to talk your ear off about two of my passions. Thanks!