Saturday, December 26, 2009

Can eating carbs make you thin?

So, with people feeling fat after the holidays and New Year's resolutions being considered, the typical glut of diet books seem to be circulating. We received one in the mail the other day so I picked it up as the title made the diet sound a little different from the normal fare. The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs--Nature's Own Appetite Suppressant--to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain was written by two experts who founded a weight loss center.

They start the book by explaining that carbs are not the enemy. From what I gathered from the first chapter, eating carbs helps the brain to produce serotonin (the brain's natural "feel good" chemical and appetite suppressant) which in turn keeps a person happy, stabilizes his or her mood, and results in less stress eating. Eating protein alone, on the other hand, results in less serotonin getting to the brain and may produce a lack of energy and binge-eating of carbs. So, the way to quit binge eating carbs is to eat carbs in a more controlled manner with snacks and foods that feed the brain serotonin.

It seems to me this is all rather intuitive, so who needs a whole book about it? If I don't eat carbs for even one day, I am grumpy and in search of them the next. But the book is worth a read if you want some good examples and details of how to eat carbs in a controlled and sensible manner. It has a kitchen list for meals for those who don't want to cook and basic meals that lay out what to eat and when. They are also a big fan of snacking and have you eat three carb snacks daily during the first phase of the diet. This phases out over time. But the snacks look decent and include low-fat biscotti, Fig Newtons, marshmallows, and pretzels.

The book also contains good information on how to help yourself if you are on antidepressant drugs and are gaining weight. Overall, it seems to be pretty decent and based on some good research.


Is cable worth it?

Every six months I have to get into it with Comcast, my cable company who doubles or this month almost tripled my bill when a "promotion" ran out. I have been calling and getting the promotions for over 4 years now but this time pretty much ran into a brick wall when the customer service representative just kind of shrugged and gave me simply a ridiculous number instead of an over-the-top one.

One thing I really hate about Comcast in Knoxville is that if you want to quit, they will not cut your bill off immediately. Instead, you have to pack up the equipment and drive it across town to some out of the way building in a far away location. I assume they do this on purpose-- knowing full well that many people do not have the time to get the equipment back quickly and either forget it or take weeks to return it. What do you do if you are a single person who is disabled and wants to cut off service? Perhaps you have no way to get the equipment back.

I hate to quit cable altogether as I use it for work, ideas for blogging, and I like HGTV. But I can't stand the stress of wheeling and dealing with Comcast.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Update: Comcast Customer Service responds in the comments:

Hello all!

I just wanted to drop a line here for Dr. Helen and anyone else who may be interested in our team's assistance. Feel free to email our team at the address below with your billing or service concerns. Our team is always happy to help.

Kind Regards,
Melissa Mendoza
Comcast Customer Connect
National Customer Operations

Update II: I emailed Melissa Mendoza to tell her my complaints and she said she would have someone call me from the local Comcast office to see what can be done. My phone rang and a professional Comcast customer service person listened to my complaints but said that I would have to pay the extra charges, downgrade my service, or bundle all my services together to get a reduction in price. Nice gesture, but nothing was accomplished.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Women's violence against men is really dangerous

Ann Althouse makes a good point in response to an article that reports Elin Nordegren hit Tiger Woods with a golf club to wake him from an Ambien-induced sleep. Her response is to a commenter who thought that hitting a man with a golf club wasn't attempted murder, but a wake up call:

AllenS wrote: "Nonsense, it was a wake up call." Now, I was going to use a "wake-up call" wisecrack in the original post. Why did I reject it? Because it would signal that women's violence against men isn't really dangerous, isn't really a crime. It would say that when a woman has a righteous reason to be angry at her man, what would otherwise be a crime is not a crime. Think about how ugly it is to hit someone with a golf club while he is asleep. Did she know it was an Ambien-induced sleep — from which it will be very difficult to wake up and defend himself? How hard a swing did she take at him? It seems it was scary enough to make him run out of the house and attempt to drive — quickly — when he was in no condition to drive.

I'll add this: it doesn't matter if Nordegren knew Woods was in an Ambien-induced sleep. A spouse has no right to hit his or her partner with a golf club for cheating, regardless of the reason. Yell? Yes. Cry? Yes. Tell him to leave? Sure. Leave herself? Of course.

But to use a weapon to whack him and run him out to the car to escape, if this is what really happened, is not the way to resolve a problem like this, nor should it be legal for a male or female to beat their spouse with a weapon for cheating. It is very dangerous in this case, because, as a man, Woods probably had no other recourse than to get in the car and get away, or face being put in jail for defending himself.


Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope all of you have a wonderful day, whether spent with family, friends or in peaceful solitude.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Learned helplessness or learned optimism? You decide.

A reader emailed me today to ask if the American people were experiencing a kind of learned helplessness in response to our current government, much like the dogs in psychologist Martin Seligman's studies. For those of you unfamiliar with learned helplessness--it is a technical term that "means a condition of a human being or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected."

Are people fed up and ready to give up in the face of overwhelming obstacles such as the health care bill debacle? Perhaps some, but I pointed out to this reader that one third of the dogs in the learned helplessness studies never gave up or became helpless:

However, not all of the dogs in Seligman's experiments became helpless. Of the roughly 150 dogs in experiments in the latter half of the 1960s, about one-third did not become helpless, but instead managed to find a way out of the unpleasant situation despite their past experience with it. The corresponding characteristic in humans has been found to correlate highly with optimism; however, not a naïve Polyannaish optimism, but an explanatory style that views the situation as other than personal, pervasive, or permanent. This distinction between people who adapt and those who break down under long-term psychological pressure was also studied in the 1950s in the context of brainwashing.

Like the more resilient dogs, those of us who love freedom, believe in making our own health care choices and know to our very core that the government does not own us must never become helpless but must continue to find ways out of an unpleasant situation, and look forward with optimism, knowing that no condition is permanent.

Update: Stuart Schneiderman has some additional thoughts.

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I was saddened to hear that Brittany Murphy died of an apparent heart attack at 32. RIP.