Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Health at what cost?

Red peppers are sometimes $4 a pound and I wonder if I get a plot of land on a Chilean farm with that. The third world labor that picked the peppers gets paid less money seasonally and now I'm being asked to pay someones yearly income to garnish a salad. In my own American sort of way, I too am laborer class so I pass on the pricey peck of pretty peppers and console myself on the way out with a stop at Starbucks. The Americano was $2.68 or in more relevant terms, the cost of more than half a pound of peppers. I'm not sure how that worked in my head, but it's clear I blew my savings and exploited some other countries labor force. It's a thought that barely pokes through my happy caffeination and I'm sure my evil ways would sadden me more if I wasn't pleasantly buzzed.

Clearly not a math major, my shopping cart veers of course from a grey matter brown out at the sheer wattage demand of every word problem. 'If the train leaves Chili at 4:23pm with 6 tons of peppers and you're making a salad . . . . ' Shudder. There's unit price, serving size and budget to consider along with satiety, nutrient density and macronutrient composition. And do we even mention movements towards local produce and the benefits - politically and nutritionally - of getting to know your food in a neighborly sort of way? It's no wonder people pass on the peppers - eating healthy feels expensive well before you even get through the complicated logarithms and the time invested in researching your sources. But in my mind, peppers felt expensive but the coffee didn't. So what's in a word problem?

The Big Picture

If you're going to get all cerebral about it, the cost of good organic food could be considered life and/or lifestyle insurance of sorts. With no Aflac-ing duck to quack about it, good food keeps you healthy so if you want to count the savings in OTC cold meds, trips to the doctor (subsequent convalescent video rentals) and vitamins and supplements to prop up your artificial diet you may already be seeing a savings.

Also, on a superficial level, skin care products, expensive shampoos, dermatology visits, weight loss products . . . . squawking about pepper prices suddenly seems a bit feeble in comparison to how quickly cheaper food could outflank your wallet on every budgetary front.

When my nutrition takes a nosedive, I have a charming case of dermatitis as well as Rosacea to content with. I'm assuming the dermatologist has a costly prescription for that. And, since Rosacea is caused by the same bacteria as stomach ulcers, bring on the designer probiotics! That should set me back nicely. Few doctors would chase me out of the office yelling, "stop eating wheat, dumbass!" I save myself the co-pay and yell it at myself.

Budgetary Shifts

A long time ago I shifted my 'Entertainment Budget' and invested the money in regular meals. Think about the wisdom of eating marginal food all week and splurging on a meal or two in a restaurant over the weekend. Instead I just sit alone at home on a Friday night and bask in my nutritional superiority - it's a hoot. No, silly, I go out with friends and elect not to chew in sync with them - a practice that feels weird when I make it weird or when I'm with weird friends who can't relate to someone who isn't chewing.

I actually started doing that because I was intermittent fasting, which I still do, but it served the greater purpose of saving money on meals out. I would often steer friends away from mutual chewing anyway because I would end up paying money to make nutritional compromises I wasn't crazy about making. But in the evening, when it's time for them to eat, there's not much I can do about the lure of dining out other than tag along. Seriously, nobody cares and occasionally I indulge but it's with far less frequency than most of my friends.

On Friday night I went out with a bunch of gym pals to a favorite Indian restaurant and when I didn't order, Clarence looked at Harlan and said, "Why doesn't Heather ever eat when we go out." Harlan waived him off with a, "It's some sort of fasting thing." That's the extent of the average ruckus my choices create. Curious for a moment but not weird - I'm weird for so many more interesting reasons.

Some Assembly Required

If you're going to eat better food on the cheap, you'll so have to sous chef. Get over any dicey slicing phobias, because Cascadian Farms and Amy's Organic is a lousy investment. Your sweat equity is way cheaper so commence to mincing. Plus industrial organic is only marginally more nutritious than conventionally grown so your money doesn't buy much more than convenience and certainly not flavor. It also adds to the slippery slope of 'Organic' food suppliers getting sloppier and sloppier about quality guidelines to meet demand. Be a savvy consumer and if you're going to pay extra money, put it where it has an impact.

Satiety is Your Financial Friend

Four slices of pizza - 1,088 total calories - go down easy especially if you grease the works with several pints of Guinness Extra Stout (238 calories in a pint). The same cannot be said for the caloric equivalent of 155 cups of spinach which I wouldn't attempt even on a dare and regardless of whether my judgement was impaired by several pints of Guinness. Even the 23 oz of chicken breast wouldn't fly.

If you're eating clean food, you will eat less in total calories and volume unless of course your jaw is an ultramarathon competitor and you have the tenacity to work your way through buckets of salad on a whim. Somethings gotta give and it will be the time investment, the lack of interest or the capacity that cuts your meal short. Without the 'must eat more' mindset that comes with a craving, the desire to snack, nosh and nibble subsides leaving you with three squares of reasonably sized and reasonable priced meals.

Your eyes are only bigger than your stomach when they're clouded by sugar and the hallucinatory insulin spike which makes processed food less economical when you can eat it in bulk. The 'bag of this', 'pint of that' binge is seldom factored into a budget because most people don't even want to think about it. I've never even bothered to calculate how much money I spend on coffee because then I might have to do something about it. In my mind, coffee is bumped over to an entertainment expense with some illogical mutterings about, "well, some people will spend $8 on a movie . . . ." Kinda not the same thing.

An Example

"So it looks like we're saving about $200/month - but we're also not eating out as much, less booze, and more homemade lunches and dinners," said Jill, a client and a good little eater these days. Chad and Jill weren't eating too badly to start but their nutrition required a little tweaking. The budget wasn't as much of a concern and they hadn't fully calculated the difference (thanks, Jill, for taking the time to do that for me). The lifestyle changes happened naturally because some of what they were up to wasn't consistent with their overall goal. Though Chad always ate a variety of veggies, his portions have changed substantially and he's eating much more vegetable matter to balance his meals. It would be here that things would start to look costly but not when you work the numbers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Good Work, Honey

Wound care is not my typical topic but I was tempted to give myself a paper cut just to experiment with the healing properties of honey after I read that topical application fights bacteria in numerous ways. Then I remembered that angry paper cuts really smart.

Unlike a course of antibiotics which can have a terrible systemic impact, Honey can stave off infection without the global climate change in your intestinal tract. The only immediate impact I can see from the use of honey topically is the embarrassment of being strenuously licked by other people's pets. That and, depending on the size of the wound, the joys of becoming a walking fly strip. Of course you could couple that with poor hygiene and I call it a mobile study in exotic entomology.

According to reports, honey's combination of acidic pH, low water content (which dehydrates bacteria), and the hydrogen peroxide secreted by its naturally-occurring enzymes make it effectively immune to resistance.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Confused in a Jiffy

(Taha, don't read this post. It doesn't have any useable data and that will annoy you.)

It turns out my car has all kinds of exotic fluids in uncharted parts of my engine and that, apparently, I need to jostle, aerate, and agitate all of them occasionally to keep my car moving. It's a good thing Jiffy Lube is there to offer various services, at $49.95 each, to handle the siphoning and swishing of each respective substance for me. I believe for an extra $29.95 they can read my fortune in the burnt discarded oil much like the reading of tea leaves only way more sciency. (And slightly off-topic, I find it disturbing that they know every service I've ever gotten and the timeline of every service I need. Who wrote their database? Nicolae Ceau┼čescu?)

As I navigated their well-lubed floors, I was only half listening as I tried not to slide gracelessly into the checkout and under the counter like home plate was secreted there. They continued to babble on about how my discombobulator worked and what lubricant needed to be whisked in order to keep my engine from having an aneurism. It was something like that. I'll have to trust that the gentleman working on my car is a discombobulator whisperer and he's spiritually attuned to it's needs.

I smiled to myself as I stood there in a big heap of girl, not knowing what to say or to ask and wondering if a shirt the color of radiator fluid would be a nice spring addition to what I like to call my wardrobe. I'm partial to green and with a little bit of a summer tan . . . . anyway, the noises that they kept making were completely foreign and I didn't know which briefly recognizable snippet to grab a hold of to keep myself from drowning in their fluid talk.

Of course it made me think of exercise and nutrition because everything does. In this world there are plenty of experts spouting expertise and con artists making pretty noises that sound shockingly similar. And just when you think you're expert enough to figure out whose foolin' whom, you have the world wide web to get horribly entangled in. Without much else to go on, you start sorting through web data with superstition and conspiracy theories. You justify your conclusions with brilliant deductions like, "This is not the font of a credible organization," "This sounds like propaganda written by angry livestock", "Could an organization called 'Partnership for a Drug Free Dairy Cow' really exist?"

For these reasons, as if I haven't given you dozens more, it makes sense to eat real food and to move in functional full-ranges of motion. In that way, you aren't continually sifting through studies and for the most part you aren't setting yourself up for a good-intentioned poisoning. If you're goal is to flap you arms like a bird then commence to flapping often and if you want to stay strong and lean, don't eat non-foods.

[Insert name of spiritual being of choice here] didn't make your knees wrong and if your ass could touch the floor in a squat, maybe you should make sure it continues to do so. And, unless there are other religious books I haven't read, Little Debbie Snack Cakes weren't invented by [insert name of spiritual being of choice here] on the eight day which means they wouldn't likely be the fuel of choice in our owner's manual if we could find it in the glove compartment.

Most of all, Jiffy Lube reminded me that many of my clients are just learning about their nutrition and exercise discombobulators. They're still just chewing on what's 'real' in 'eat real food'. Stop, breathe, don't get distracted by the pretty colors and don't stray out of the produce isle. Exercise upright, bend more than one joint at a time and step away from any damn machine unless you plan to spend your days as a widget in it's machinery. Oh, and get the oil in your car changed occasionally, or you'll never get to the gym on time.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I buy used books because I read a lot of them, and I can get exactly the same publication for less because someone else read it before me. Occasionally I run across a book owned by some sleep deprived college student who, judging by my forensic analysis of smears, ate a lot of crap while studying which drove them to fits of nonsensical underlining and pointless scribbling. For the most part though, the reading is unobscured.

Some things make sense to buy at bargain prices but some things don't. I remember a day at CrossFit Eastside, slow on the draw for my edit switch in reaction to someone's disclosure that they take a 'one a day' vitamin, I exclaimed "What is that, like pennies a day?! Given the bioavailability, you might as well skip the pill and swallow the change!" I paused to see if I made the noises out loud. Yep, Michael was looking at me funny - half amused, half apalled. Nutrition Tourette's.

When it comes to vitamins, and I might have said this before, eat food. When you need a supplement, swallow the closest thing to food you can find even when it's pricey like designer water.

By Daniel H. Chong, ND
Americans are now spending more than $17 billion a year on supplements for health and wellness. Strangely enough, the rates of some forms of chronic disease have not changed, while the rates of others have actually increased. There are a number of reasons for these poor statistics and many things remain a mystery.
One thing seems fairly clear, however. Most supplements aren't helping very much.
I'm not saying there are no helpful supplements out there. There certainly are. What is becoming more apparent, however, is supplements will not help much if one does not first address the necessary basics of health and healing.
What is also clear is that not all supplements are created equal. The basics of health and healing were discussed in another of my articles, The Six Foundations of Healing. I believe these areas must be addressed for true healing to occur in any chronic disease. In this article, I will discuss some things you should consider if you need to or want to take some supplements. Specifically, I will address the differences between whole foods versus synthetic or isolated nutritional supplements.
Whole Food Nutrients Vs. Synthetic, Isolated Nutrients
Most people who read the eHealthy News You Can Use newsletter are at least somewhat familiar with the idea that whole foods are better for you than refined foods. Although there are numerous viewpoints on what kind of foods we should or should not be eating, as well as the ideal ratio of these foods, everyone from all corners of the diet and nutrition world seems to agree on one thing: No matter which foods we choose and in what ratios we eat them, whole foods are better for you than refined foods.
This fact has never really been argued. Everyone agrees raw honey is better for you than white sugar or that brown rice is better for you than white rice. Why should it be any different for vitamins?
Often, I have been puzzled by the average naturopath or nutritionist who goes on and on about the value of whole foods and how refined foods -- having been robbed of all the extra nutrients they naturally come with -- are not healthy for you. Then, they go on to prescribe a shopping bag full of isolated, refined vitamins for you to take!
Just like refined foods, these refined vitamins have been robbed of all of the extra accessory nutrients that they naturally come with as well. In turn, like refined foods, they can create numerous problems and imbalances in your body if taken at high levels for long periods of time. They can also act more like drugs in your body, forcing themselves down one pathway or another. At the very least, they won't help you as much as high quality food and food-based supplements.
Whole Food Supplements
Whole food supplements are what their name suggests: Supplements made from concentrated whole foods. The vitamins found within these supplements are not isolated. They are highly complex structures that combine a variety of enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered factors all working together synergistically, to enable this vitamin complex to do its job in your body.
Nutrients from within this complex cannot be taken apart or isolated from the whole, and then be expected to do the same job in the body as the whole complex is designed to do.
The perfect example of this difference can be seen in an automobile. An automobile is a wonderfully designed complex machine that needs all of its parts to be present and in place to function properly. Wheels are certainly an important part of the whole, but you could never isolate them from the rest of the car, call them a car or expect them to function like a car. They need the engine, body and everything else.
The same analogy applies to the vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin E (delta tocopherol) you can find on most health food store shelves. They are parts of an entire complex that serve a purpose when part of the whole. However, they cannot do the job of the entire complex by themselves.
With similar logic in place, one can analyze what a typical multivitamin truly is. The automobile equivalent of creating a multivitamin would be going to a junk yard, finding all of the separate parts you would need to make up an entire automobile, throwing them together in a heap (or capsule in terms of the multivitamin) and expecting that heap to drive like a car!
Obviously, there is a difference. Science cannot create life. Only life can create life.
Synthetic or Isolated Nutritional Supplements
Isolated nutrients or synthetic nutrients are not natural, in that they are never found by themselves in nature. Taking these isolated nutrients, especially at the ultra-high doses found in formulas today, is more like taking a drug. Studies show the body treats these isolated and synthetic nutrients like xenobiotics (foreign substances).
By the same token, food-based supplements are never treated like this by your body. For example, your urine will never turn florescent yellow, no matter how much meat (a good source of B vitamins) you eat. This sort of rapid excretion happens only with foreign substances in your body.
Not only are isolated nutrients treated like drugs or other chemicals by your body. Like drugs, they can create problems for you too. Nature does not produce any nutrient in an isolated form. The nutrients in foods are blended together in a specific way and work best in that format. For an isolated nutrient to work properly in the body, it needs all the other parts that are naturally present in the food too.
If the parts are not all there from the start, they are taken from the body's stored supply. This is why isolated nutrients often work for a little while, then seem to stop working. Once your body's store of the extra nutrients is used up, the isolated nutrient you're taking doesn't work as well anymore. Worse yet, a deficiency in these extra nutrients can be created in your body.
And, because most nutrients are isolated from the foods they come in -- using a wide array of potentially nasty solvents and other chemicals -- taking high amounts of these products can also expose you to these potentially toxic chemicals, if care is not taken to remove them. With the burden we are already facing from the high number of chemicals in our environment, why would anyone want to add more?
Synergy and Potency
The various parts of a natural vitamin complex work together in a synergistic manner. Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Nutritionist Judith DeCava puts it best: "Separating the group of compounds (in a vitamin complex) converts it from a physiological, biochemical, active micronutrient into a disabled, debilitated chemical of little or no value to living cells. The synergy is gone."
In other words, the automobile, in its original form, will drive better than a pile of its individual parts. Most people don't follow this logic when examining a nutritional supplement.
Supplement makers typically try to stuff as much as possible in a capsule, telling us that the more we take, the better it is for us. This is simply not the case. As you now know, it is not necessarily the amount of a nutrient you ingest that is important, but its form and how much is bioavailable that counts the most. In fact, remembering that ingesting single nutrients can actually create imbalances in the body, logic would dictate the higher the level of a single nutrient that you take in, the quicker this imbalance will occur.
What all of this means: The potency of a supplement has much more to do with synergy than with actual nutrient levels. It is a combined effect of all the parts of the food, rather than the chemical effect of a single part, that is most important.
Don't Forget the Basics
I fear all of this talk of supplements -- food-based, isolated or synthetic -- has detracted from the most important part of health and healing. The basics of proper diet, exercise, detoxification, structure, mental/emotional and spiritual health must all be in order for true healing to occur. No supplement will work on its own if these foundations are not in place.
However, even when these foundations are in place, or if the situation is acute enough to necessitate a more immediate treatment response, supplement support may still be needed for a while. You may also want to take one or more food-based supplements to ensure you are getting an adequate array of nutrients in your diet. When these situations arise, I strongly recommend food-based supplements be your first choice.
Keys to a Good Nutritional Supplement
How do you tell whether or not a supplement you're looking at is a good choice? For starters, make sure it has the following characteristics:
It is as close as possible to its natural form.
The utmost care has been taken in all phases of its production, from growing its ingredients, to manufacturing, testing for potency and quality control.
It works! I always try to select from companies that have a long track record of providing high quality products that produce good clinical results.
Dr. Daniel Chong is a licensed naturopathic physician practicing in Portland, Ore. His practice focuses on chronic disease and pain management. Contact him at:
Daniel Chong, ND178 SW 2nd AveCanby, OR 97013503-266-4329

Whip It Good

I now have a beautiful collection of red lash marks on my body to compliment the varied palette of old and new bruises in shades of blue and yellow. Who needs tattoos when you've inadvertently created your own evolving art work? Though it would be cool and a bit provocative to say I've taken up some sort of whip training as a sidebar to strip aerobics, that's clearly not my style. Nobody will be stuffing dollar bills in the waistband of my old-school sweatpants to see me toss weight around - whip or not.

Just as old-school, the marks where put there by my own clumsy hand thanks to a beaded jumprope. CrossFit Eastside has been playing with double-unders lately and in the hands of the unskilled, the learning process can be punishing. It's one of those tools I know I should add to my tool box but I just don't get around to training. Maybe that's because of the angry welts across my butt.

The first battle is timing the rope rotations to the jump in order to complete two rope passes in one jump. That can be learned fairly quickly with limited abuse to the ankles. The more complex part is stringing them together. Frankly, learning this will cure what ails your jump in general. In my case, I've always been heavy on the toes. This won't work for double unders and the reeducation will change my technique across the board. For this reason, I invite you to play along:

50 Double Unders for Time
String them together as best you can, note the longest unbroken set

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Getting a Grip

Oh, sure, my times on 'Angie' might look impressive but it doesn't reflect the number of times I slide off the pull-up bar. If I didn't have the tenacity of Wile E. Coyote (not to mention the colorful expletives of Yosemite Sam), Angie would own me. It's my grip.

You'd think I'd have 'crushing hands of death', too. After all, I have five years of experience grappling almost exclusively with a Gi - exceptions for spontaneous bouts in the lobby of CrossFit Eastside where the absence of hand-holds is much less troubling than the rug burn and the bruising from geometric miscalculations around furniture (a challenge for me even if I wasn't in mid-air at velocity).

when I read the following study* initially, it took me about three days before it registered that this data might help. First, the study was done on a 60-plus population which didn't exactly scream 'max pull-ups' at first. For another thing, researchers happened to test grip strength as a measure but wasn't specifically looking for grip improvement. I think I was driving mid-span on the 520 bridge when it dawned on me that it doesn't matter if the study was specific to grip strength as long as it improves it and that a layer of dust that thick on my dashboard could actually affect gas mileage as well as grow wild, organic root vegetables.

"For the current study, researchers analyzed data from the InCHIANTI study, which evaluated factors contributing to the decline of mobility in late life. The study involved 976 people who were 65 years and older from two towns in the Chianti area of Italy. The mean age of participants was 74.8 years. Data were collected from Sept. 1998 through March 2000. "

Again, I was thrown by the age group initially but since the study revealed that a Vitamin D deficiency may be the culprit, anyone is susceptible especially those of us living under near constant cloud cover who don't drink fortified milk or juice. As I discussed this article with my friend Tamim, a native of Kenya, he pointed out that some forms of rickets are still diagnosed in children from his country simply by grip strength (They may do that here but the code number on your bill makes it sound far more complex and the procedure costs a few hundred dollars ).

The researchers found that physical performance and grip strength were about five to 10 percent lower in those who had low levels of vitamin D. After looking at other variables that could influence the results, such as body mass index, physical activity, the season of the year, mental abilities, health conditions and anemia, the results held true.

Five to ten percent matters when your 75 pull-ups deep and your callouses are about to mutiny and drop you to the ground.

The study wasn't designed to evaluate whether low vitamin D levels actually cause poor physical performance, but the results suggest the need for additional research in this area, said Houston. She said vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function, so it is plausible that low levels of the vitamin could result in lower muscle strength and physical performance." But it's also possible that those with poor physical performance had less exposure to sunlight resulting in low vitamin D levels," she said.

This is one of the few times I've seen a research paper acknowledge the possibility that the results could be backward engineered.

Current recommendations call for people from age 50 to 69 to get 400 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day and for those over age 70 to get 600 IUs. Many researchers, however, suggest that higher amounts may be needed." Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other conditions such as cancer prevention," said Houston. "The current recommendations are based primarily on vitamin D's effects on bone health."

The Linus Pauling Institute makes a similar recommendation for dosage though many experts agree the number is conservative. The issue ultimately is toxicity.

Vitamin D toxicity (hypervitaminosis D) induces abnormally high serum calcium levels (hypercalcemia), which could result in bone loss, kidney stones, and calcification of organs like the heart and kidneys if untreated over a long period of time. When the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine established the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for vitamin D, published studies that adequately documented the lowest intake levels of vitamin D that induced hypercalcemia were very limited. Because the consequences of hypercalcemia are severe, the Food and Nutrition Board established a very conservative UL of 2,000 IU/day (50 mcg/day) for children and adults. Research published since 1997 suggests that the UL for adults is likely overly conservative and that vitamin D toxicity is very unlikely in healthy people at intake levels lower than 10,000 IU/day. Vitamin D toxicity has not been observed to result from sun exposure.

Obviously avoiding toxicity would be as easy as ensuring that all your RDA was met basking in beautiful sunlight but it's unlikely that our jobs or our weather patterns will allow that to happen any day soon and certainly not consistently. The Linus Pauling institute goes on the explain the recommendations for sunlight to provide an optimum dosage naturally:


Sunlight exposure provides most people with their entire vitamin D requirement. Children and young adults who spend a short time outside two or three times a week will generally synthesize all the vitamin D they need. The elderly have diminished capacity to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight exposure and frequently use sunscreen or protective clothing in order to prevent skin cancer and sun damage. The application of sunscreen with an SPF factor of 8 reduces production of vitamin D by 95%. In latitudes around 40 degrees north or 40 degrees south (Boston is 42 degrees north), there is insufficient UVB radiation available for vitamin D synthesis from November to early March. Ten degrees farther north or south (Edmonton, Canada) this “vitamin D winter” extends from mid October to mid March. According to Dr. Michael Holick, as little as 5-10 minutes of sun exposure on arms and legs or face and arms three times weekly between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm during the spring, summer, and fall at 42 degrees latitude should provide a light-skinned individual with adequate vitamin D and allow for storage of any excess for use during the winter with minimal risk of skin damage.

Situated in those sparsely sunlit latitudes, sits Scandanavian mothers who dutifully force feed spoonfuls of cod liver oil to their brood as if they naturally knew that Vitamin D would be in short supply over the winter. Cod liver oil is one of the very few dietery sources other than unnaturally fortified foods.

Food Sources

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. Foods containing vitamin D include some fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines), fish liver oils, and eggs from hens that have been fed vitamin D. In the U.S., milk and infant formula are fortified with vitamin D so that they contain 400 IU (10 mcg) per quart. However, other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are not always fortified with vitamin D. Some cereals and breads are also fortified with vitamin D. Recently, orange juice fortified with vitamin D has been made available in the U.S. Accurate estimates of average dietary intakes of vitamin D are difficult because of the high variability of the vitamin D content of fortified foods. Vitamin D contents of some vitamin D-rich foods are listed in the table below in both international units (IU) and micrograms (mcg). For more information on the nutrient content of foods you eat frequently, search the USDA food composition database.

One last curious point had me thinking of my winters here in Seattle. I've often found it harder to avoid the munchies here during fowl weather and I assumed it was boredom, comfort or some other psychological silliness I inflict on myself sometimes. The following statement, also from Linus Pauling, had me curious if perhaps the lower Vitamin D may be at the root of the issue.

The vitamin D receptor is expressed by insulin secreting cells of the pancreas, and the results of animal studies suggest that 1,25(OH)2D plays a role in insulin secretion under conditions of increased insulin demand. Limited data in humans suggests that insufficient vitamin D levels may have an adverse effect on insulin secretion and glucose tolerance in type 2 diabetes (noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus; NIDDM) (10-12).


*The research is supported by the Italian Ministry of Health and in part by the National Institute on Aging. Co-researchers were Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., and Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., both with Wake Forest, Matteo Cesari, M.D., Ph.D, with the University of Florida, Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., with the National Institute on Aging, Dario Maggio, M.D., and Antonio Cherubini, M.D., Ph.D, both with the University of Perugia in Italy, Mary Ann Johnson, Ph.D., with the University of Georgia, and Benedetta Bartali, R.D., with Cornell University.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Where's my bunny?

I'm meandering through a miasma of fatigue this morning but I'm at home with my com padres on The Hill. They all have hangovers. We're being propped up by invisible girder work - the mysterious physics of civil order - queuing for coffee. It might just be as simple as the smell and the knowledge that caffeine saves that holds us all erect but swaying. Either way, we're comfortably in our PJ's and only mildly pretending that the clothes we're wearing weren't peeled off the floor or slept in.

I did the CrossFit Total yesterday which today feels like a fifth of tequila and a couple of drunken tumbles. I taxed my muscles, my central nervous system and my will in a combination of max squat, max deadlift and max overhead press to firmly establish a meaningless ranking. I feel like I was mugged, stripped of my valuables and left for dead. I'm wondering as I hold my place in line if that wasn't nearly as toxic as the guy behind me who may have spent his evening drinking good martinis and having poorly-reasoned sex with a bad date. How, I wonder, did that rank?

I say it was a 'meaningless' ranking only because it's no resume builder and if I nudged the hungover guy behind me to share my triumph he probably couldn't muster the energy to be interested. It means something only to those of us who showed up and only to the degree in which we consider it a measure of anything.

In those three lifts I squatted, lifted and pressed 550 pounds. That's a lot of weight for a little middle-aged woman. My body would be happy to explain the impact of that if it wasn't busy trying to make me nap.

For me it's a number and a scenic overlook. I'm not 'there' yet - as if there's a 'there' there. But that long path I've taken is suddenly visible when I peer over the guardrails and I get a hint of how far I've come. At least for that fleeting moment until I swerve back onto the road.

Reasons, reasons, excuses, justifications, analysis and more reasons. Competitions like that are never as simple as getting weight to move. If it were only as easy as 'it was too heavy' we would never shy away from the platform. What stops us can be so many things and most of them are made up to explain some flavor of fear. My usual answer to failure is "I zigged when I should have zagged" in the immortal words of Bugs Bunny. Does it really matter? Most of the reasons are just Monday morning quarterback answers for why I wasn't there when I showed up. Figuring out why is such an easy sport but lifting the weight is so much harder.

What happened yesterday was that a lot of people picked up or pushed a lot of heavy things. That's not even interesting. The epic battle was the one going on in everybody's head and it was electric and tangible.

My battle was the same. I can out-lift every woman in the room - that's not judgement, I've just been doing this longer and I'll be happy to welcome them here when they decide they want to be 'there'. But I've become the first target for every man who walks in the door. Step 1 in world domination - beat the girl. I'm the carcass to step over. When that happens, it's expected because most of them will have the genetic potential to beat me - it's a boy/girl thing.

The guys all sat around the bar afterwards and had a long conversation about who they edged out and who is on their radar. They tasted victory but were spurred on by the sounds of noisy pursuit just at their backs. They talked about who was 'the bunny' to chase in a race with long odds. I sat quietly like the awkward 'tween' - not so much a kid, not so much an adolescent. I have no bunny, except the noisy scaredy-cat in my head that makes me drop things sometimes.

The competitor at your back can sometimes have more respect for you than you do. The clamour they make drowns out whatever noise your head generates. I would like to have that adversary who fears me and who I fear. It would keep me from crawling into my own mean thoughts which is proving the nastier fight for me right now.