Monday, April 30, 2012

"Everything in moderation" is used without moderation!

As my fixation on nutrition continues, I'm becoming more irritated by people talking about moderation. I might say that wheat gives me a stomach ache or that starches cause weight gain or that natural animal fats are actually good for us, and someone will respond with "I say: everything in moderation."

Everything in moderation. I hear this so frequently in discussions about the wretched state of American health, I'm really beginning to question it. Clearly, Americans can't do things in moderation. We suck down sugary and starchy foods all day long. We buy soda in 32-ounce sizes. We polish off entrees that could feed two or three people. We binge drink. If Americans -- and I include myself -- were capable of moderation we wouldn't be facing the health crises we are facing.

Yet the word appears frequently in diet articles, weight loss tips and health discussions. It's as if we think that if we keep repeating the word moderation, we'll magically bring it into our lifestyles.

The only part of everything in moderation that Americans practice is the everything part. Really when someone says "everything in moderation" they're just refusing to restrict their habits. They use the word "moderation," but that's not the spirit of their statement. The spirit is that they don't want anything to be off limits. That's how Americans do moderation: we want the freedom to destroy ourselves with toxic substances, too.

So please, no one tell me "everything in moderation" ever again. Everything isn't good for us and Americans are worse with moderation than we are with grammar.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's Wrong with Separate Bedrooms?

I will not comment on this topic here, but encourage you to read about it on The Spinsterlicious Life blog. The Spinsterlicious Life discusses topics that don't get a lot of airplay at social gatherings and happy hours, such as why a woman might not want children or why a woman might not want to get married. She also talks about dating and relationships in general.

Even though I've been legally married for four whole years now, I still feel like a single person. I guess that's because I was really single through my 20s and 30s, which means that I strongly identified as single, relished being single, wrote about being single, examined the experience of being single and then desperately fought to stop being single. All my friends were single and I didn't receive a wedding invitation for about 12 years during that time. I got married at age 41, so singledom was a big part of my adult life and I don't count out the possibility of being single again one day.

I like The Spinsterlicious Life because I appreciated a lot of things about being on my own and this blogger completely affirms those things. Having your own space, your own time and your own everything is wonderful. I love my husband, but even he knows there are things I miss about being single.

I like reading The Spinsterlicious Life because many of the topics feel like they still apply to me. Separate bedrooms? No desire for children? Advantages of being never-married? NOT being afraid of ending up alone and childless? Yes, I definitely fit in the Spinsterlicious demographic and I'll keep coming back because, after all, the blog should probably have some token married readers.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why do Americans treat our pets like people?

[Does this photo look like cruelty to you? It does to me.]

As a new dog owner, I'm irritated by people treating their dogs like humans. American pet owners like to call our animals our "best friends" or the person we can always "talk to." But while you can talk to an animal, all it can do is its best to read your emotional state and try to respond as appropriate. I prefer human best friends. Ones that talk.

Although many pet owners don't like to think of ourselves as "owners," we are owners. Most of us paid good money for these animals and hold the power of life and death over them. Our animals are not our equals, however we might live in the fantasy that they are. They aren't going to grow up one day and take their seat beside us in decision-making and family-raising. They just animals. Yes, I said "just."

Here's my theory: Americans anthropomorphize our pets because we're lonely. We're a splintered society that has mostly forgotten how to build community, nurture friendships and tolerate our families in close quarters. We don't get sufficient emotional intimacy or physical touch from each other, so we turn to animals. In past centuries, people used dogs for guarding, herding or hunting. These days in the U.S. most dogs are there to be our companions.

We draw on pets to fill in for the children or friends or partners we wish we had (even if the children, friends or partners actually exist in our lives). Pets boost our esteem and help our depression. We stroke their fur and hold them close because that makes us feel better. We tell ourselves our animals love us back and feel about us the same way we feel about them.

They don't. Humans practice "love" in all kinds of different ways, many of them fear-based and self-destructive. We would really have to stretch the definition of "love" to make it apply to how animals feel towards us. I've seen evidence that our dog trusts us and feels loyal to us, but does Ozzie "love" as humans practice love? I haven't seen it and I'm glad. Human love is often harmful in ways that the trust and loyalty of a pet aren't.

But the idea of a pure and nurturing love is irresistible to us, so we call our animals' licking and rubbing and companionship "love." The problem is that if we call what animals do "loving," then we must find another name for what humans do, which is complicated, with hundreds of nuances and reasons. Americans wear each other out with the twisted behaviors we call "loving." Love is one of the most destructive forces we use on each other. Maybe what our animals are doing is the ideal of unconditional acceptance and devotion that humans aren't very good at. We need unconditional love in our lives and, unable to get it from each other, we draw it from our pets.

There are so many lonely Americans with no idea how to connect with other humans in an intimate and meaningful way. The modern dog's main job is no longer guarding or herding or hunting. Their jobs are now better described as being the child I haven't had yet, or keeping me from feeling lonely or reducing my pain and helping me sleep at night. These are the kinds of jobs American pets have. Is that good? Is it bad? It sounds emotionally vampiric to me, but what do I know? I've only been a dog owner for six months.

I understand that people have similar relationships to their pets in other developed countries like the U.K and Japan. Is this a developed nation phenomenon? Can anyone weigh in from outside the U.S?

[Addendum 10 April 2013: Maybe Americans have brought the working dog into our homes to serve as a source of and model for the kind of unfailing respect and love we wish humans would practice. We've started to replace each other with dogs, making dogs our surrogate partners, children, etc. There are Americans who believe dogs make ideal humans, but I think those people just don't like humans.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Save the Planet?

I don’t believe we humans have the power to save or destroy the planet. That’s hubris. All we can save is ourselves, and we probably can’t even do that.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Ozzie's First Easter Egg Hunt

Happy Easter to everyone who cares about Easter. Easter's a rough holiday for me (don't know why), but this weekend is pretty good. I took Ozzie to an Easter egg hunt in Horner Park in Chicago, Illinois USA. There were well over 150 dogs! Each plastic egg contained a mini Milk Bone dog treat. I had to open them for Ozzie because he never did figure it out, but he was very good at hunting them down. Some dogs lost interest quickly or didn't like the Milk Bones. More for Ozzie!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Don't listen to a hypocrite (me)

In the initial flush of my discovery of Gary Taubes' Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It (which I strongly recommend), I've gone whole hog low-carb. As I've posted in the past, I go on the candida diet every several years for health reasons and get great results from cutting out sugar, wheat, grains and dairy products. My chronic health problems always get better when I eat that way, and they come back when I go back to the wheat products and sweet stuff.

But this time I really developed the fanatic's gleam in the eye. I've been stuffing my head full of information on nutrition, human history and research on vegetarian diets as well as starvation diets and high animal food diets. I became convinced that my pro-meat way is the only way and everyone who thinks humans should avoid eating animals, or who thinks grains are actually good for us, doesn't know much about nutrition and doesn't know what true health feels like.

It's fun to say and write things like that, but I hereby officially, publicly take it back. A website called Beyond Vegetarianism contains various articles about the zealous and unhealthy attitudes of vegans and vegetarians who demonize those who eat meat and I recognize myself in the descriptions. Tom Billings' Functional and Dysfunctional Lunch Attitudes describes:
  • Lunch mindfulness: you eat healthy foods in a healthy way, but don't think too much about it.
  • Lunch obsession: you stick to strict rules about an ideal diet because you are actively afraid of what will happen if you don't (fears of becoming ill or spiritually impure, for instance).
  • Lunch identification: how you eat is part of who you are. if someone criticizes the way you eat, you take it personally and become emotional.
  • Lunch righteousness: because of your diet you feel superior to all others. Everyone who doesn't eat exactly as you do is destructively evil or an idiot or both. When you keep doing this even though your diet is making you ill or is having a negative social impact on you, it can be called orthorexia nervosa.
So! To stop being the nutrition @#$-hole, I am making a commitment to take the religious edge off my nutritional posts and conversations. I will keep in mind that there are very few hard conclusions about health and diet and the best way to go is to simply listen to your own body. Decide for yourself what foods work best and don't listen to jerks like me.

That said, I won't stop talking about nutrition and health, but I will no longer expect anyone to listen.

And now because I'm just as big a hypocrite as the next person (so here I go with my advice), here is my list of the few things that anti-meat and pro-meat (to pick an arbitrary distinction) nutritionists seem to agree on. These are probably safe to accept as true:

  • Diet strongly affects health.
  • Avoid refined sugar and refined flour. There is nothing good in them.
  • If you eat the foods that are truly right for your body, weight and general health will self-correct without effort or calorie counting.
Did you get that last one? When it comes to wholistic living and losing weight in a true and lasting way, calorie counting isn't part of it.

My final evidence for being a hypocrite is the foods that I've eaten in the past three weeks that are not on my candida diet:
  • rice cakes
  • raisins
  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • 85% dark chocolate
  • bacon
  • beef wieners
  • potato chips
  • coffee w/ half & half and table sugar
  • And of course the anniversary celebration of 3/25 when I ate every kind of sweet treat I could think of.
And yet, I've still managed to drop 10 pounds in that three week period. This shows me that:
  1. I'm a big, not-quite-so-fat hypocrite.
  2. It's possible to go off a diet periodically and still do well if I stick to it most of the time.
There are nine weeks left to the weight loss challenge we have going at my workplace. Again, I think focusing on weight is not a good way to think about health, but since I'm dropping the weight anyway for health reasons, I want to win this thing! It turns out that I don't have a competitive bone in my body for games or contests, but I do for health and weight loss.

This hypocrite is signing off for now. Time for some eggs and bacon.