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Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM PST

I Am a Former Fatty: The Diet

by Sagebrush Grouse

This Diary is about how I lost over 120 pounds in 3 ½ years and the discoveries I’ve made along the way. I’ve broken this diary into three sections so readers can focus on what interests them. This section is specially dedicated to my fellow victims of obesity. The introductory section is  “I Am a Former Fatty: The Epiphany” with a companion piece “I Am a Former Fatty: How Medicine Kept Me Fat.”

On the eve of the Holiday season that drives all obese people to despair (All that food! All that weight gain!), I want you to know that there really is hope. If you learn the approach to eating I did, you don’t have to pay anyone for the privilege of losing weight and the Holidays can again become an annual festival of love and plenty that poses no threat at all to your well-being.

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This is the second part of a three part diary about how I lost over 120 pounds in 3 ½ years, and the discoveries made, and conclusions reached along the way. The introductory section is  “I Am a Former Fatty: The Epiphany.”For those interested in the specifics of my diet, part 3 is for you, “I Am a Former Fatty: The Diet.”

Obesity statistics both in America and around the World are appalling: The World Health Organization says that over 20% of the world’s adult population is obese; In America, over 35% of adults over the age of 20 are obese.

Vox has a chart on the subject: 21 Maps and charts that explain the obesity epidemic. I don't know that they actually know it, but the picture, showing a massive pile of carb loaded foods, is a perfect illustration of the problem!

So what’s wrong with the American Medicine that obesity is an unstoppable plague?  We’re supposed to be smarter and more capable than third-world denizens, right? With a place to lodge blame—Food Inc—why is there any lack of clarity about how to avoid or resolve obesity in otherwise normal people?

Because it is the business of Medicine, with help from Food Inc, to produce this obscene result.

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This month I achieved my lowest body mass in 24 years: 120 pounds down from my peak. It took 3½ years to reach this milestone. It's permanent because I know how to keep it that way and thrive.  My ultimate goal of a normal body profile is within reach, ”today less than 30 pounds; mere vanity pounds by some standards, though not by my standards. By the time I'm done, I will have halved my peak body mass.

But, apparently, I am an outlier; one among the single digit percent of overweight and obese people who achieve long term weight loss. The real thinking among "œresearchers", according to a recent CBC News report, is that long-term weight loss is impossible.

If you listen closely you will notice that obesity specialists are quietly adjusting the message through a subtle change in language.

These days they're talking about weight maintenance or "weight management" rather than "weight loss."

It's a shift in emphasis that reflects the emerging reality. Just last week the headlines announced the world is fatter than it has ever been, with 2.1 billion people now overweight or obese, based on an analysis published in the online issue of the British medical journal The Lancet.

Researchers are divided about why weight gain seems to be irreversible, probably a combination of biological and social forces. "The fundamental reason . . . is that we are very efficient biological machines. We evolved not to lose weight. We evolved to keep on as much weight as we possibly can."

That last paragraph should peg your bogosity meter; the reporter should have known she was getting punked.

I put "œresearchers" in quotes for a reason; most nutritional researchers are paid, directly or indirectly by Food Inc. Why do you think they are blaming biology instead of considering whether the crap sold as food in our world might be to blame? Isn'™t it interesting that obesity always rises as undeveloped countries become more "œdeveloped," as in exploited by Food Inc?

What I'™ve discovered along my journey is that our obesity epidemic is the result of toxic elements in our industrial food supply, aided and abetted by a medical establishment wherein the treatment of the obese amounts to a business plan and patient outcomes are an accidental byproduct of an otherwise commercial activity. That the scientific thinking on obesity has apparently evolved to the point of giving up, is all the evidence you need of how, in nutritional science, Food Inc. has thoroughly suborned Medicine across international boundaries.

There, I said it.

Like a proverbial canary in a coal mine, obesity exposes the dark underbelly of contemporary "œfirst world" society. It is intractable precisely because both major players in this particular entertainment—and food in our society too often is sold as entertainment rather than nutrition—work so hard to preserve the status quo. The food industry does it intentionally, with malice aforethought. The medical establishment does it in contemptuous disregard for the well-being of its customers. Both function like parasites indifferent to whether or not they kill their host.

This is the introductory portion of a diary published in three parts.  The second part is "œI Am a Former Fatty: How Medicine Kept Me Fat." The last part, specially dedicated to my fellow victims of obesity, is "œI Am a Former Fatty: The Diet."

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Suzanne Collins’ Panem, her imagined society of The Hunger Games where a small minority dominates the majority, is offered as a consequence of a thinly described war some 74 years in the past. Amid turmoil rooted in social upheaval, a war ensued and ended with the Treaty of Treason wherein the Hunger Games were established to cement and perpetuate the Capital’s dominance over the 12 Districts.

There can be no greater submission to the will of others than to surrender your own children to near-certain death in the Games.

It is hard to imagine a world where a majority has been more completely coerced and dominated. While Collins doesn’t dwell on the origins of conflict, the consequences are the heart of her theme. This is what happens when a minority finds levers of power to use against the rest to present a single, binary choice:

Rule or Ruin.
Or perhaps we can characterize it as Ruin or Ruin, since the “rule” choice blesses the minority’s intention to act in its own selfish interest regardless of the harm it causes others.

Our road to Panem may be approaching that intersection. A minority in Congress has decided to hold the entire government hostage over a variety of pet peeves.  The choice they offer the rest of us is a) we rule you, or b) we ruin you.  This is coupled with the clear whiff of disdain for the legitimacy of the rest of us.

We’ve been here before, over 150 years ago.

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The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations. . . [A]s this produce, or what is purchased with it, bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are to consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with all the necessaries and conveniencies for which it has occasion.

–Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)

[M]achines may soon be ready to perform many tasks that currently require large amounts of human labor. This will mean rapid productivity growth and, therefore, high overall economic growth.

But — and this is the crucial question — who will benefit from that growth? Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to make the case that most Americans will be left behind, because smart machines will end up devaluing the contribution of workers, including highly skilled workers whose skills suddenly become redundant. The point is that there’s good reason to believe that the conventional wisdom . . . is all wrong.

Paul Krugman, Is Growth Over?

What exactly would you expect to happen when labor–that is, the work product of a human being, whether by physical or mental effort–is no longer required to create wealth? What if labor is useful to the production of wealth only to the extent it (labor) can be obtained at rates that are below the survival cost (food, clothing, medical care, shelter, etc.) of the laborer?

    For one thing, you would have to characterize those kinds of labor conditions as at least virtual slavery. The laborer is forced to give up labor without a fair exchange of value, and must find a way beyond that to survive. The laborer pays for the undervaluation through misery, depravation and death; their lives become more primitive–hunting, foraging and black market economies–to try to fill the gaps. People eventually rebel against misery and depravation, but rebellions take time to develop and can be “managed” with population segregation and the careful application of force and terror. So it is for the denizens of the Districts in The Hunger Games.

    For another, there are obviously beneficiaries of those conditions: those who by virtue of being in the right place at the right time are part of an elite population positioned to enjoy the benefits, and those who exercise ultimate control over the assets of the society. The latter will be very few in number and control the wealth of the society.

    Welcome to the Capital of Panem.

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Sun May 05, 2013 at 02:41 PM PDT

Traffickers in Misery Goods

by Sagebrush Grouse

    As early news of the Bangladesh factory collapse spread last week, a conversation was overheard in corporate offices whose names read like the label emblazoning the butt of your jeans:

“Crap. Are they going to find any of our labels in that wreckage? Damn, better get out ahead of this story. Get the word out that we feel betrayed by our subcontractor; we are going to demand more from now on.”
    Disney says they are out.  That they were in the position to have to exit unceremoniously speaks volumes.

    I am assured by the New York Times this morning (Worker Safety in Bangladesh and Beyond) that the prevailing meager minimum wage in Bangladesh of $37 per month (assuming a 40 hour work week–and I would assume nothing here–that works out to 21 cents per hour), is still “far higher than the wages of farmers and maids.”

    The studied indifference embedded in that analysis is breathtaking.    When you try to account for the stunning disparity between $37 per month and the $1200 or so a minimum wage worker can earn in a month here (not a sum to be proud of, either), you cannot miss the wholesale devaluation of humanity that is at work. This isn’t some commercial venture gone bad: this is the intentional looting of human stock, exploiting their needs and misery to induce behaviors for economic gain. It is no different than exploiting the needs and behaviors of cattle to induce them to walk down the kill line.

    Everyone involved in this kind of third world supply chain are traffickers in misery goods. Until they are punished in the only way they understand–financially–the traffickers will flit from country to country, exploiting misery to extract value from local populations. Local strong men and weak elected governments will turn a blind eye to the abusive conditions of employment. The endless sea of advertising in which we are immersed will continuously assure us that we deserve more things at low prices. Follow me below the fold to talk about what this means.

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Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 06:18 PM PST

CEO Derangement Syndrome

by Sagebrush Grouse

    If you are short on examples of what’s wrong with the health care debate, consider David Goldhill, CEO of GSN, an entertainment media company owned by DirecTV and Sony. This self-styled deep thinker is certain – absolutely and impenetrably certain – that the whole problem with the health care system is that his employees have no clue what it costs.
    In his most recent diatribe, an NYT OP ed piece entitled The Health Benefits That Cut Your Pay, Goldhill proclaims with gimlet-eyed precision that health benefits are nothing more to him than a bit of compensation, a bit that is inexorably taking money that–he doesn’t quite swear to this point–he’d otherwise be paying in cash. Ignorance is the problem, he says, so deep that even the disclosure of actual money spent on benefits is meaningless:

But even with greater awareness, many Americans still might not understand that the largest effect of the cost of our health care system is to reduce the amount of money they actually take home.
How arch. Even with all the information we’re too stupid to figure it out.
    He then goes on to dismiss considerations like social equity, an aging population bubble (the boomers, a cohort to which I arrived late and with little fanfare), the costs (and profits) of medical technology, single payer systems (only look good in comparison to our broken system),  the tendency of players to game the system and so on. Ignorance, it turns out is not just a matter of what you know – you are apparently ignorant if you are not on the frontline of actually paying the bills.
    But wait, there’s more! He has a solution:
Let’s give every American health insurance, but only for truly rare, major and unpredictable illnesses. ... eventually the most routine and expected medical treatments, from checkups and minor illnesses all the way to common chronic conditions and expected end-of-life care, would be funded from our individual health savings; only the most major needs — for example, cancer, stroke and trauma — would be paid out of insurance.
Ummm how does that work?
Defining insurable events more narrowly and enabling Americans to use the premium savings to build health savings would reduce the distortions inherent in our insurance approach.
    Oh, that’s right, we’re going to save all that extra money you are going to pay us just in case our death is a little costly.
    Poor man.  Needs medical help immediately.  My diagnosis: CEO Derangement Syndrome.
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    The 1936 Summer Olympic Games were held in Berlin, a propaganda coup for the Hitler's regime. Hitler famously expected to prove the superiority of his Aryan race, and if the final medal tally were to be taken as a sign, then surely he succeeded.

    Or not. Jesse Owen's record-setting four gold medals is remembered for rebutting both the assumed superiority of Aryans and the presumed inferiority of African-Americans. Nor was he the only African-American to shine in those games. The first African-American to win a gold (on Day One of the Games) was Cornelius Johnson, who was in fact snubbed by Hitler (Jesse Owens was not; by the time he started winning, Hitler had given up personally meeting and congratulating winners). In the 200-meter dash, when Jesse won his third gold medal, two other African-Americans, Matthew Robinson (Jackie Robinson'€™s younger brother) and Martinus Osendarp, came in second and third respectively.
    But Jesse was special. And because of that he was the first African-American Olympian to gain a sponsor and wear the shoes, provided by the sponsor, that would become the Adidas brand we know today. The crowd in Berlin adored Jesse, chanting his name ("€œYesseh Oh-vens!") in the stands. A more humiliating (for Hitler) repudiation of ideology and demonstration of true superiority could scarcely be imagined. One can take pleasure in the fact that in 1984 Berlin renamed a street south of the Olympic Stadium €œJesse-Owens-Allee.€ Repudiation complete.
    What does any of this have to do with The Hunger Games, you ask? More than a few rest stops on the road to Panem are sporting and other competitive venues. Bear with me, dear reader, as we explore what the Hunger Games really are and how they surfaced in 1936.

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    Within the first few pages of The Hunger Games, we learn through Katniss that surveillance is a fact of life in Panem’s District 12. Even outside the district fence, in the forbidden wilds where Katniss and Gale hunt for their families, she has to pause and wonder if in the middle of nowhere she is being overheard. Surveillance is so pervasive that the innocent remarks of children can bring their families trouble.

So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts.
    We know from this that Katniss is different; she tries to adapt rather than submitting to the pressure of surveillance. Peeta gives voice to this idea at the training center and in the Games, wanting to find a way, even in death, to prove that he is not submitting to the will of the rulers. Katniss’ solution to the problem created by the gamemakers’ manipulation of the rules is pure defiance; she instinctively manipulates the surveillance/submission political model of Panem and its need to demonstrate submission to the people it controls. Hoist on their own petard, the gamemakers have to allow her to win the contest of wills, leaving us with the knowledge that she is a marked girl whose safety and survival are more in question than ever.
    The twin themes of surveillance and submission are important aspects of the trilogy and the environment within which Collins’ characters exist. Surveillance, backed by the constant threat of force from the Peacekeepers, is a primary means to pressure compliance. It is an open demand for submission. Surveillance is manifest as the constant monitoring of the citizenry and as the voyeuristic surveillance of the Hunger Games arena. The entire citizenry, even the privileged denizens of the Capitol are in a state of submission, represented at the extreme by participation in the Games, and by the consequences of the failure to submit: avoxing, where even the ability to express through silence is taken.
    The road to Panem is lined with security cameras, overhead drones and eavesdropping gear.  It is likely already there in your community. Do you feel constrained yet? If not, dear reader, you should.
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a-vox. [a - L fr Gr, not: without; vox - L voice]. 1. n A person in Panem who is punished for a crime [usu., a crime against the state, e.g. treason] by cutting the tongue to disable speech, and condemned to a life of servitude. 2. v To silence opposition.
    In The Hunger Games, Panem is a country, founded in the ruins of North America, of twelve subservient Districts plus the Capitol that dominates and controls them. Of course, the Capitol tolerates no dissent. Every strategy employed by the Capitol to demoralize and control its people boils down to enforcing conformity by silencing the opposition. Where the control mechanisms – such as constant surveillance and keeping people starving and in bone-crushing poverty – fail to squelch dissenting voices and behavior, the Capitol either kills the offenders or makes them avoxes. Of the two choices, the fate of the avox is by far the most stunningly brutal penalty.
    When the Capitol turns a person into an avox (“avoxes” them if you will), it not only destroys a voice, it tries to destroy the expressive power of silence.
    Think about that idea for a moment.
    This is, I think, the extreme end of a slippery slope that Collins wants us to see, and like all slippery slopes at their extreme, it ultimately contributes to the destruction of the dystopia. But it is also a critical piece of how the dystopia came to be. The novelist carefully lays the groundwork for our understanding in three early scenes.
    At the reaping in Seam, after Katniss has volunteered to take her twelve-year-old sister’s place as tribute, the crowd response – expected to be applause and cheering if for no other reason than relief among those not doomed to be tributes – is a silent salute. We know enough by this point to know that constant surveillance is the norm, and any unexpected behavior can be viewed as aberrant and defiant. This scene is revisited aboard the “tribute train” on the way to the Capitol when Katniss, Peeta et al view TV reruns of the reaping “festivities” from that day. The rerun is accompanied by official commentators who apparently notice and have difficulty explaining the crowd’s action, resorting to generalizing that District 12 has always been backward, but aren’t their local customs charming?
    Later, we meet our first avox in the Capitol, and learn that not only can they not speak, others must not speak to them except to give an order. Thus the squelch of a voice is complete.
    The length of the road to Panem is inversely proportional to how far we are willing to go to silence opposition; are we even willing to attack silence itself?
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    If you have not read The Hunger Games, do yourself a favor and give it a go (note: I’ve yet to see the movie so I can’t comment on how well it tracks the book).  You may not like the fantasy genre, you may think YA (“Young Adult”, ages 13 + up, for those who don’t know the parlance of the book business) fiction is too unsophisticated for your tastes.  Or maybe you don’t like to read.  Whatever.  Read it anyway, because whether you like it or not you’ll find yourself wondering how the hell did these fictional people end up in that level of misery. And that, my dears, is one of the points of the story.
    Collins gives some hints of the back story throughout all three books of the trilogy, but she does not necessarily draw a bright line.  She shows us the end result, hints at the conflicts that gave rise to Panem, but in the end leaves it to the reader to infer the connection between real life and the fiction.
    As well she should have in the tradition of dystopian fiction in both written and visual media. The dramatic tension is in the unveiling of the fictional world and the struggles of the characters to overcome the burdens of dystopian life. The final resolution of the trilogy in Mockingjay is the thing we live for as readers; like the destruction of Parliament in V for Vendetta, we find satisfaction when we see the characters we care about tear the dystopia down. But it’s the realization that a society can more easily fall down a rat hole than it can preserve democratic and social justice principles that drives writers to imagine dystopia, and both fascinates and horrifies readers (or listeners/viewers in non-text media).
    We are very much on the road to Panem right now. Leaving aside for the moment the most obvious contemporary parallel to the Games – reality TV and its occasional flirtation with snuff genre (ever watched Deadliest Catch?) – many aspects of our social fabric as showing signs of devolving in something we never intended. This the first of an occasional series wherein I hope to try to detect the telltale signs showing where our path is taking us and talk about why we should be afraid if we cannot find the way or the will to change course.

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Tue Jul 26, 2011 at 04:49 PM PDT

Invincibly Ignorant

by Sagebrush Grouse

    Barney Frank nailed the problem we have with the GOP last week.  On July 21, Barney was on Rachel’s show talking about the debt ceiling problem and said of the GOP:

We have this reality problem . . . . These are people who are–in the Medieval term– invincibly ignorant.

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