Sunday, April 25, 2010

Memory Lane

While googling myself (don’t pretend like I’m the only one who does it), I came across a xanga blog. I had completely forgotten about the short-lived blog I had back in college. Anyways, reading through it, I found one of the funniest posts.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

So, here are my goals for the next 3 weeks:

1. No more fast food. Period. I know that I can eat badly when I cook at home too, but it won’t be 1600 calories for a combo meal with a shake every night.
2. Go to the gym twice a week. I am done by 4:00 on Mondays and Tuesdays so I will hit the gym for an hour before I go get Kaelin.

3. No more soda. This is going to limit my caffeine, and I am sure I will get a massive headache the first few days, but I will feel much better when I start drinking more water. And it’s cheaper.

Maybe it’s not so funny as much as it is sad. Apparently, I’ve been trying to kick some of these habits for longer than I thought. It’s a bit discouraging. I mean, if I haven’t been able to kick soda over the last 4 years, am I ever going to be able to do it?

Then I want to slap myself. There are tons of people who are able to quit real addictions everyday. My mom smoked for 20+ years, and has been cigarette free for almost two. It took her who knows how many attempts to do it (and a nice dose of Chantix) but she managed.

Know of any drugs to kick the Red Bull habit? 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chemical of the Week - Aspartame

I’ve been working on this post for weeks because if there is anything I’m passionate about it’s chemistry (and why we shouldn’t eat things found on a lab bench.) I want to do a new chemical that’s commonly found in food each week, but I’ve decided to start with aspartame because it is everywhere. It’s also one of the most dangerous food additives currently being used and if I could just stop one person (including myself) from eating the crap, I’ll have done my job.

What is it?
Aspartame is a chemical sweetener invented in 1965, also known as N-(L-α-Aspartyl)-L-phenylalanine, 1-methyl ester. While aspartame isn’t calorie free, it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar so smaller quantities are used to get the same sweetness.


Aspartame was denied by the FDA 8 times before it got approval. In fact, when it was finally approved, the FDA revoked it’s approval and determined that the company’s safety data on aspartame had been manipulated. The US Attorneys Office began proceedings against the head of the company, G.D. Searle. However, while the investigation was underway, the lead attorney left the case and took a job with Searle’s law firm. Sketchy, right? In 1980, the FDA set up a review board which found that aspartame had not been shown to be safe for use as a food additive. A year later, a new FDA commissioner was appointed and overrulled the review board allowing aspartame to be used in food. Want to take a guess who he started working for after he left the FDA? Yep, he started working for Searle’s public relations firm. Congress began to prosecute Searle for giving the government false information, but the attorneys assigned to the case chose not to proceed. Not to sound repetitive, but they also landed jobs with Searle’s law firm.

In 1996, the FDA approved aspartame without restrictions and without public notice.

Health Benefits
Although aspartame supporters argue that the chemical is useful in the management of diabetes, studies show otherwise. Not eating sugar is really what helps manage diabetes, not eating chemically sweetened products made from aspartame. Heroin doesn’t cause lung cancer, but is it really a good replacement for cigarettes?

Health Hazards
Numerous studies have shown a link between aspartame and brain tumors. There are more than 90 different side effects from aspartame consumption ranging from headaches and dizziness to memory loss and seizures. Aspartame is directly linked to weight gain and causes formaldehyde accumulation in the body. (Thing of high school biology.) More than 75% of complaints to the FDA are aspartame related. Aspartame has also been linked to birth defects. Sadly, the FDA must not be informed of any of these studies. Their official position is:
Since it was first approved for use in the United States, the safety of aspartame has been questioned by some. To date, however, the agency has not been presented with scientific information that would support a change in our conclusions about the safety of aspartame. Those conclusions are based on a detailed review of a large body of information, including more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies regarding the sweetener’s safety.
Good luck trying to track down any of those 100 studies, though. Their website turned up very little information of aspartame. And, um, what about the hundreds of studies I found after a quick search on Google Scholar?

The Bottom Line
Aspartame is obviously bad stuff. If you are wondering why the FDA would approve something so dangerous, remember that it’s a $1 billion industry.

Whether or not you believe the hype on either side of the debate, the important fact is that aspartame is NOT food. Aspartame is a chemical. Apples don’t have aspartame. Eggs don’t have aspartame. Spinach doesn’t have aspartame. Sodas do have aspartame. Processed foods do have aspartame. Candies do have aspartame. I don’t think you need a scientific study (or goverment organization) telling you which diet is healthier.

I swear it's my last one.

Note:  This blog post is not all-inclusive.  It's a truncated review that points out what I find important.  Please do your own research if you feel mine is lacking!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bad Habits

The theory is that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit so it makes sense that it would take 3 weeks to break a bad habit, right?

Oh goodness, do I have some bad habits that need breaking.

Normally, I eat fairly healthy. I don’t care whether or not high fructose corn syrup is bad for you because I don’t eat it. It’s not food. If it has more than 5 ingredients or it has an ingredient I recognize from my chemistry class, I just don’t eat it. Lately, I’ve been slipping though.

I have a small caffeine problem. I am a Red Bull addict. When I got pregnant, I stopped drinking it for a few months, but my OB recommended picking it back up because I was getting the WORST headaches. But now, with a new baby and little sleep, I find myself reaching for 2 or 3 a day. This isn’t good. Red Bull is full of CRAP. I drink the sugar-free stuff but it’s not like that’s any better. Aspartame. Acesulfame potassium. Both of these chemicals have been linked to numerous health problems such as cancer and obesity. (More on that topic later.) Plus, it’s expensive. I can get it at the commissary for about $1.50, but you can pay as much as $2.50 for a small can at other stores. That’s about $100 a month! Man, I can think of a lot better things to spend a hundred bucks on.

My second bad habit is… diet soda. (Yes, I supposed Red Bull is technically soda, but still.) During my hard-core World of Warcraft days, I was going through about 6 12-packs a week of soda. My desk looked like a recycling center. I don’t remember when, how, or why, but I stopped drinking soda. Ok, maybe I didn’t actually stop because any time I eat out or get fast food, I get a Diet Coke, but I wasn’t drinking 10+ cans a day. Yet, for some reason, I’ve been buying soda at the store again and my desk now looks like a recycling center. Soda is bad! In addition to the chemicals in Red Bull, the acid in soda leeches calcium out of your body. I can only imagine how good that is for a nursing mother with joint problems and a family history of osteoporosis.

Next up — candy. Mmmmm, candy. I have a sweet tooth. If it’s sweet or made of chocolate, I’ll eat it. I got really fussy for a while and wouldn’t eat anything that was less than the most expensive gourmet chocolate (which isn’t bad because you can only afford so much of that stuff), but lately, I’ve been binging on crap. I’ve eaten BAGS of white chocolate truffles over the last few weeks. I haven’t counted, but I would say at least a dozen. I’ve been eating crappy candy bars almost daily. I’ve been picking in Kaelin’s candy stash more than I should. I’ve eaten so many black jelly beans that I felt sick.

Finally, I’m a fast food fiend. I hate this because I don’t even like most of the fast food I eat. McDonald’s is terrible on so many levels, but there I am sitting in the drive-thru. Actually, I’ve been doing much better with fast food recently than I have in the past. I used to eat it 3+ meals a day and my cholesterol levels were scary high for someone in their 20s. Now, I’m only getting it once every couple of days, but that’s still too much considering that I don’t even like how it tastes. Seriously, when I was still married to my first husband, we were spending about $1000 a month on fast food. We NEVER ate at home. Now, Jason and I have a $100 a month limit on eating out, and I would much rather go to a decent restaurant every now and then instead of giving the money to a stupid clown face.

Four bad habits (at least, 4 that I’m focusing on for now). Four bad habits of which I’m getting rid. It’s going to be painful and Jason doubts that I can do it, but for the next three weeks — no Red Bull, no soda, no candy or chocolate and no fast food. Twenty-one days. I know that in moderation, none of my habits are particularly bad, but I’m not a very moderate person. If I have candy, I’m going to eat the whole bag. If I have a case of Red Bull, I’m going to drink it over a couple of days.

Then, after 3 weeks, when I kick this challenge’s ass, Jason will owe me. BIG.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hello, 5 AM

As I was lying in bed this morning, I was mentally writing today’s post. It started something like this:

“I feel like a failure. My workout clothes are neatly laid out, my shoes are at the door, and my iPod is charged, but I just can’t do it. I can’t get dressed and go run. I’m tired. It’s early. I didn’t sleep well. The baby was up less than an hour ago to nurse. It’s cold. It’s dark. I’ll do it tonight.”

Screw that. I got up, put my shoes on, and ran.

It wasn’t long. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t far. But I did it.

The feeling of accomplishing something, something that is hard and that most people don’t do (I mean, really… how many runners are out there at 5:00 AM compared to 5:00 PM?), is so much better than an extra 9 minutes of sleep.

Hello, 5:00 AM. I kicked your ass today. See you Wednesday!