Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
On January 1, emblazoned on the cover of every popular magazine, we find words touting the latest miracle diet. And we are gullible souls; we buy and read and try. Those same magazines sabotage with a hundred pages of full-color, fattening foods. They feature Aunt Helen’s famous pecan pie.
Like millions of Americans, I am one of those people who whip off their glasses before stepping on the scale. Every ounce counts. One of six children, I am blessed with a fraternal twin sister. Being a twin invites daily comparison in almost all aspects of life. My sister is small, thin, and wiry. People divided us six children up into those who favored my father’s side of the family, thin, and those who favored my mother’s. Body types on my mother’s side were round. My older brother and I fit the maternal body type. Auntie Liz offered me sympathy in my perennial quest to remake my body. “You can’t make a greyhound out of a pug.”
In my childhood we weren’t as vitamin-conscious. It gave us considerably more latitude in trying peculiar remedies: weird diets. My first diet was one consisting entirely of bananas and milk. Next came the grapefruit and hard-boiled eggs diet, followed by one emphasizing drinking eight glasses of water, next one that allowed the participant to eat all the green beans she could hold, then the liquid formula food, counting pink and yellow and green squares, and figuring food exchanges. I have listened to a lecturer assert that a muffin made of an egg and dry bread crumbs is every bit as tempting as one made with butter, flour, sugar . . ..
Lamenting to my husband’s physician about this never-ending quest for a successful diet—one in which the dieter not only takes off extra weight, but keeps it off—I was assuaged by his observations. We humans are faced each day with complex, multi-faceted problems and we yearn for simple answers. He observed that some body types are gas-guzzlers, requiring much more fuel to perform their daily tasks than others. At yet another level we have not explored the long-term effects of starving our bodies, noting that in doing so, we may be training our bodies to overcompensate the next time we limit caloric intake. We humans in our caveman days were designed to be able to withstand periods of starvation. All in all, he concluded, we fail to recognize the multiple influences and interactions of heredity and environment.
Meanwhile a new discovery has hit the headlines. Our bodies have brown fat—a calorie-consuming, heat-generating, internal furnace. Researchers activated the brown fat in mice, causing a huge weight loss, by subjecting them to a shivering 41-degree existence for a week, even as the mice consumed a high-fat diet.
Innovation is the life-blood of our economy. I’m ready to go. Rent that room, turn off the heat, and turn up the refrigeration. We’ll shiver our way to thin. I think I’ll name my new franchise: Quakes.
*This article first appeared in Northwest Prime Time, January, 2012
Monday, August 6, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
PLEASE DON’T LABEL MY CHILD
Please don’t label my child. I’m speaking literally. I want no red flag, gluey stickers stuck to his shirt, no name badges plastered to his collar. I’ve scraped my way through a houseful of window stickers. I’ve chiseled away blue masking tape bordering a freshly painted wall. I’ve picked the price tag from a gift, one flyspeck at a time. All of this was only training for the Happy labels.
Mark’s first-grade teacher hit on a plan to inspire good behavior; she gave a Happy Face at the end of each day’s class to those children who followed the rules, who were good helpers, the ones who refrained from attacking their classmates. At the close of the first day of her experiment Mark was puffed up with pride as he sported his shining yellow smile. He wore the label all evening. At bedtime he whipped off his shirt, turning it wrong side out. The next morning I washed and dried the shirt, wrong side out. Turning it to fold, I discovered a faded viscid circle on the front where the Happy Face had been. Tentatively I scratched at the goo. Sometimes these things roll up quite neatly. No such luck. I tried a little household cleaner. It made no impression. I searched for another cleaner, one that would dissolve the glue and not the shirt. I found nothing. I grubbed through the kitchen drawer for another label. Sometimes one gluey item picks up another. But not this time! In the back of my mind I recalled another day, another child, and chewing gum on Sunday pants. That time I had used an ice cube. I fetched the ice and rubbed at the circle. It produced a cold, gummy circle. I scraped with a knife. Nothing!
I pondered the problem. The heat of the dryer had caused a metamorphosis. Adhesive and fabric were blended into one. (Undoubtedly it was an experience such as this that led to the discovery of iron-man glue that holds two thousand pounds with one tiny drop.) I decided to test the theory of reversal. I folded the shirt and stored it in the freezer. This generated a whole new line of household humor: “Mom’s working on a new method of ironing—freeze-dried.” “Watch out for the stew.” “What’s the new roughage?”
A few days later I took the shirt from the freezer. The gummy spot had become a frozen circle on an icy cold shirt. That glue refused to rise. I threw the shirt in the bottom of the laundry basket. Here it joined a second shirt with a rubbery round.
In the course of two weeks I collected three such shirts and developed a new form of evening amusement called grit-picking. Time to change tactics! I fired off a note to the school: “Please don’t label my child. But if you must, try tattooing his arm. It’s washable.”