Saturday, February 16, 2008

Taking an SSRI? Read this

SOTD (study of the day):

Antidepressants of the future may work not on boosting serotonin, as SSRIs do, but on blocking a substance called GSK3ß in the brain. (OK, I had to copy and paste to get that funny little symbol at the end of the string of letters and numbers. I know it's Greek, but what is it?)

Pretty cool to think there's lots of room for improvement on the mental health front.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's the real thing, baby

One of the first lessons I learned in intuitive eating was that substitutions are unsatisfying. That is, if what I really, really want to eat is a baked potato with butter on it, then a baked potato with margarine or olive oil probably isn't going to cut it. Neither is a pretzel. Or an eclair. Or air-popped popcorn. When you're tuned in to your appetite, you can't pretend you want something else.

That holds true whether what you want is a hot fudge sundae or a bowl of kale with sesame seeds, both of which I find delicious at various times. And if you give me the sundae when I want the kale, I'm probably going to keep on eating until I'm either overly full or I find a bowlful of kale.

Now a new study done by Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson at Purdue University now supports the notion that certain kinds of substitutions just make you eat more. (Scroll down the link page for a free PDF of the study.) They found that rats given yogurt sweetened with saccharin ate more, gained more weight, and developed more body fat than rats who ate yogurt with sugar.

In other words, you can trick your mind, but you can't trick your body. Any food is unsatisfying when it's not what you really want, and fake crap like saccharin, aspartame, etc. is especially unsatisfying. Unless what you really want is a mouthful of chemical aftertaste.

I'm sticking with sugar, myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The "Piggy You" diet doll

Just in case you thought you'd seen everything, take a look at this dinosaur: the "Piggy You" diet doll, patented in 1991.

The doll attaches to your refrigerator with magnets along its tush. The charming caption underneath it is meant as instructions, I guess. Instructions for self-flagellation.

I really don't think I can express my thoughts about this any better than Elizabeth Valeri already did. Except to say thank God this doll never made it past the conceptual stage. At least I don't think it did.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One reader's description of the war on obesity

"It's as if an anal retentive ED is running the world."

So well said, by Mary, that I thought it deserved its very own post.

Thanks, Mary.

Some of the right moves (maybe) for all the wrong reasons (definitely)

That was my initial reaction to the news that a British ban on marketing "unhealthy" foods during children's television programming is now being looked to as a model by other European countries.

The rationale behind the ban was that it would--can you guess?--help fight obesity in British children. It's a testament to the pervasiveness of fatphobia: Only the O word could be a strong enough incentive to go up against the powerful free-market forces that throw commercials at kids.

Under normal circumstances, to suggest that maybe we don't need to turn kids into little consumers is something like saying you're a commie pinko who doesn't believe in capitalism. (Which I don't, but that's another story.) But when you brandish the O word, it seems, even the junk food marketers hang their putative heads in shame and back off. A little.

That this comes in the context of a British government ad campaign to fight obesity that has no idea what it's doing is hardly surprising. In fact, the ad campaign is a perfect microcosm of everything that's wrong with the war on obesity in the first place.

Conflicts over how exactly to execute this campaign abound. As the New York Times reported yesterday,

The government, for instance, wanted to be able to keep junk food brands from using the [newly developed anti-obesity] logo, but the food industry wanted to leave that decision to marketers.

Already we're landed smack in the midst of the debate over what, exactly, constitutes healthy and unhealthy food. Which, I need hardly add, the British government is not going to resolve, because, as we keep saying here, there are no unhealthy foods. There may be patterns of eating that aren't so good for you, but we know what happens when you demonize certain foods as "unhealthy": They become ever more appealing and powerful.

This is just one example of the kind of ridiculousness the British government is about to get into. Some of the suggestions in its plan to reduce childhood obesity seem positive, like promoting bicycle riding (great!) and offering cooking lessons in schools (also great, if we're talking about real cooking and not what passes for school cooking, which is opening packets and boxes).

But I find it very telling indeed that it takes the dreaded O word to go up against the monied powers that be. Marketing to children is just plain wrong, folks, whether you're selling Barbie dolls, candy bars, or educational computer games. It's wrong because all advertising is a form of manipulation, and our cultural values didn't use to support manipulating young children. And they still shouldn't.

Meanwhile, the Brits are busy fighting over what the logo for this new anti-obesity campaign should be. I'd love to see what's on the table: A headless fattie with a red line through him/her? A piece of chocolate cake with a red line through it? How about a cutesy marketing jingle about not stuffing your face? Really, the mind boggles at the possibilities.

If only all this energy could be used for good. For making the lives of children and adults truly better, and not just a knee-jerk response to the latest hysteria.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

If I ruled the world . . .

No one, including me, would spend any of their precious time in the world thinking about whether they were fat or thin.

Food would just be food--sometimes sensual pleasure, sometimes just fuel for going on with.

Obesity would carry no moral disgrace. Thinness would carry no moral virtue.

No one would diet.

Because no one would diet, few people would develop anorexia.

Those who did show the first signs of anorexia would be treated promptly, effectively, and compassionately--with food. They would bounce back quickly.

Families would be supported in supporting their children, whatever their issues.

Of course there would be no war. There would be good schools for all children and good health care for everyone.

Everyone would learn to dance.

Art would be just as important as math in school curricula and in the world.

Now how about you?