The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

Is the U.S. Government Causing & Perpetuating the Obesity Epidemic?

I recently re-watched the documentary Fed Up about how the U.S. government has basically subsidized the obesity epidemic in this country. It continues to perpetuate the problem through policies and regulation that enhance the financial success of certain food industries at the expense of public health.

In the 1970s, we were told to decrease the amount of fat in our diets. This resulted in the creation of low-fat and fat free products where a fat was replaced with sugar. And it’s sugar that is largely responsible for our problems with obesity, diabetes, and other related problems according to this film. We have our society of people who don’t understand what proper nutrition is and it doesn’t help that our school system is feeding them junk food and tells them that French fries and pizza are vegetables.

Exercise is not enough to combat the problems caused by our horrific diets. This problem is not to be resolved unless we drastically reduce the amount of processed food that we eat.

After watching this film again, I scrutinized the labels on foods in my pantry. Now, I have a pretty healthy diet. Besides putting sugar in my coffee, I didn’t think I had that much extra sugar in my diet besides the sugar in my morning coffee. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked chicken, cottage cheese, and I thought most of my processed foods were on the healthier side. I was surprised that the second ingredient in my rice squares cereal was sugar and the first ingredient in my gluten-free barbecue sauce was high fructose corn syrup. (I’ve been more mindful about avoiding gluten in the last few years because I think I’m sensitive to gluten.)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Now that I’ve seen this movie again, I want to be more mindful about avoiding sugar (with the exception of my morning coffee). I want to limit my portion sizes of certain foods that contain excess sugar and eliminate others altogether – like protein bars. When it comes to sweet foods like jam, barbecue sauce, and desserts, I can at least use brands that don’t use high fructose corn syrup and use these foods as something to have on a special occasion.

In my gymnast days, my teammates and I avoided fat like the plague while we were indulging in sugar filled foods like Snackwell cookies and artificially-sweetened diet sodas. Based on the information in this movie, we would have been better off having an apple and a glass of water.

I’ve asked my friend who is a bariatric surgeon about what I should eat to manage my appetite. He suggested that every meal should contain fiber, protein, and fat; and there should be no limit on the number of fruits and vegetables you can have. In his experience, one of the best things a person can do for themselves is learn to cook. His patients that learn to cook instead of eating processed foods are the ones who have the most long-term success with weight loss. And when you cook you understand what you’re eating and I think you take more pride in what you make for yourself.

Some people may say that it’s their right to fill their body would junk food, and would agree with that. However, just like with cigarettes, I would endorse the government imposing taxes on unhealthy foods. These funds could be used to offset the government’s cost of health care and/or providing healthy lunches to children in school. I would support this, even though it would mean I would have to pay more for some of my favorite treats that I still occasionally indulge in.

If you haven’t seen Fed Up, see it and decide for yourself what role you want the government to play when it comes to your food.

Rosie’s Seeing-Eye Person

I have a new job – being Rosie’s right eye.

Rosie Peacefully Snoozing - March 1, 2015

Rosie Peacefully Snoozing – March 1, 2015

Last week Rosie started showing signs of being in distress – panting, lethargy, and excessively droopy eyes (even by basset hound standards). Her eyes were so droopy that sometimes the upper skin hung over her eyeballs, essentially blinding her and making her look like a zombie. I had to be careful to make sure she didn’t accidentally step off curbs or walk into walls.

We went to the vet and their first thought was she was relapsing on valley fever. They took an x-ray, drew blood, gave us some pain meds, and sent us home. The x-ray didn’t show anything was obviously wrong. When Rosie didn’t bounce back after 36 hours, we headed back to the vet. During this visit, it was obvious to our vet that Rosie’s right eye appeared to be bulging out. She checked the pressure in that eye and it was 90 (normal is below 20). She started Rosie on IV medication to reduce the pressure and sent me to the pharmacy down the street to get prescriptions filled for various eye drops.

When I dropped off Rosie’s new medications, my vet told me that Rosie has glaucoma in her right eye. She is completely and permanently blind on her right side. The glaucoma hasn’t spread to her left eye yet, and hopefully the medication will prolong Rosie’s vision in her left eye and allow her to keep her right eye. Rosie is currently on 6 medications (4 eye drops and 2 pills) taken at 8-hour and 12-hour intervals – so I can’t be away from her for too long.

For now, my job is to be Rosie’s right eye, especially while she’s adjusting to her changed vision. I try to keep her on my left side when we’re taking a walk so her blind side is closest to me and I try to be extra careful when were near gravel or uneven walkways. Being partially blind puts Rosie at a disadvantage, but I hope she never feels that way. I try to keep her alert to what’s on her right side that she may not notice unless she turns her head.

Rosie’s pain seems to be much more manageable than it was a few days ago. My beautiful brown-eyed girl is sleeping soundly in my reading chair as I write this post, occasionally sighing and stretching in her sleep. All I want is for her to be comfortable and to know that she is loved. And that will never change even as her vision gets progressively worse.

Nobody Knows I Have an Eating Disorder

Warning: This post may be triggering to some people. Please seek help and support if you need it.

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

From the outside, many people would say I’m young, successful, adventurous, and happy. I’m a daring entrepreneur and an outspoken writer. They have no idea that I struggle with an eating disorder.

As a size 4, I’m small but not emaciated. I don’t have the stereotypical eating disorder “look.” Most people don’t know that you don’t have to be severely underweight to have a serious illness that attacks your mind as much as your body.

They don’t understand how hard it is for me to eat. Most of my meals and snacks are carefully planned to keep my calorie count low. They don’t know how often I make a mental list of everything I’ve eaten that day to make sure I haven’t had too much. If I could give up food completely and just wear a calorie patch every day, I would.

They don’t know how I critically examine myself in the mirror, yearning to see more of the bones of my rib cage, shoulder blades, and collarbones. I don’t want to be horribly underweight, just “a little bit thinner.” They don’t know how important it is for me to be able to touch my fingers around my wrists. That tells me I’m still small enough. They don’t know how guilty and disgusting I feel when I’m having a “fat day.”

They don’t know how soothing it feels to devour a carton of ice cream or a big slice of cake, only to have that feeling overtaken by tremendous anxiety and shame – so much that I stick my fingers down my throat until I throw up again and again. There is no moderation in my world.

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I once described my disorder as having a Get Out Of Jail Free card. I can eat whatever I want without worrying about getting fat. (Never mind the toll it could be taking on my internal organs.) It’s like being able to drink and being able to make yourself instantly sober again.

Every day is a struggle for me. My mind is filled with anxiety when it comes to deciding what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop. I constantly deal with the fear that if I start eating I won’t be able to stop, and if I over indulge myself that I’m going to get really fat. And in my mind being fat means I’m undisciplined and possibly out of control, which is ironic because having an eating disorder means I’m out of control when it comes to managing my emotions. So I use food to manage, medicate, and escape my feelings instead.

Having an eating disorder is painful – both physically and emotionally. It is truly an illness; it’s not a diet; it’s not something I do to get attention. On the contrary, it keeps me depressed and isolated from the people I love because my shattered self-esteem tells me no one cares. And intellectually I know that’s not true. But this disease doesn’t care about intellect. I can’t think my way out of it.

Having an eating disorder is a bitch.
And most people have no clue that I have one.

Coming Home

Dad 2.0 SummitI spent the last few days at the Dad 2.0 Summit – a conference for dads who blog. I didn’t know what to expect, especially given that I am a woman and a non-parent. I wasn’t sure if it would be a locker room grunt-and-scratch environment where any naturally occurring source of estrogen would be deemed an outsider – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These were the kindest and most open and welcoming group of guys I had ever met. There were no pecking orders or ego issues. All the attendees were interested in being good parents, having work-life balance, and using their sites as platforms to share their experiences. They embody what it means to be a real man, not the stoic muscle man or the blundering idiot father that are too often portrayed in the media.

As I boarded my flight home, my mind was bubbling with new ideas about gender norms, parenting, and a how companies should treat their work force when it comes to parenthood. I thought about my new guy friends as I walked through the airport after my flight landed. There was a priest on my flight traveling in his black “uniform” and white collar. A pair of similarly dressed men greeted him with open arms after we crossed the threshold at Security. They embraced as I rode the escalator that would take me down to the shuttle and eventually my car. No one was there for me.

My Rosie watching "Dog TV"

My Rosie watching “Dog TV”

I enjoyed the quiet ride home in the early desert evening. It was a reprieve from the cacophony of sounds of the conference and traveling. I thought about my new guy friends as I walked through my door into my dark condo. I envision them being met with warm embraces from spouses and shrieks of “Daddy!” and leaping hugs from their kids or for the guys with little little ones, the sound of “Da da” and chubby arms reaching up to them from cribs. My home was silent, dark, and until I was in it, empty. I can pick up my “baby girl” from the kennel first thing in the morning.

I don’t think I’ve met a group of more content and self-confident guys than the ones I met at Dad 2.0. They know what’s important to them and they don’t need your validation. I aspire to have what they have. Does this mean I suddenly want kids? No. I aspire to figure out what matters most to me into simply do it – not because it makes me rich, wins me awards, or makes me famous in certain circles. It’s just what I’m meant to do. And hopefully I’ll have someone wonderful to share it with.

The Dad 2.0 Summit has an amazing community and I feel lucky to be part of it. I hope to see you all again at the 2016 event.

Night Sweats Experiment

Since my doctor suggested that my dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats are not due to a cardiovascular problem, I decided to do some research on the other causes of night sweats. I read an article that said that most night sweats are simply caused because the person is too warm at night. I wondered if I fell into this category before reading this article, and I tested it by pulling down the blankets before going to bed at night. I still woke up in the middle of the night with the soaking wet shirt. However, I decided to test this possibility further.

This is how my bed looks when I go to sleep - 2 fresh shirts ready to be switched out for sweaty ones

This is how my bed looks when I go to sleep – 2 fresh shirts ready to be switched out for sweaty ones

I have two sets of sheets. My summer sheets are simple cotton sheets. My winter sheets are also 100% cotton, but they are T-shirt sheets so they are thicker, softer, and warmer. I usually switch the sheets on my bed when the rest of the world changes their clocks to “spring forward” for daylight savings time or “fall back” to standard time. In the winter I usually have two blankets on my bed as well. One is a fuzzy soft blanket and the other is a heavier blanket that is crocheted using acrylic yarn. I like the weight of the heavy blanket on my body and the softness of the fuzzy blanket against my skin.

This is been a particularly warm winter in Phoenix. The high temperature during the day is often 10° above normal – in the mid- to high 70’s or low 80’s. The low at night is only in the 50’s, and my home is really well insulated. It made me wonder if sleeping with T-shirt sheets and two blankets were contributing, if not causing, my night sweats.

So this past weekend I switched out my T-shirt sheets for my summer sheets. I took the fuzzy blanket off my bed completely and I folded the heavy blanket down so that it’s only on the foot of my bed. I read somewhere that you get the best sleep when your head is cold and your feet are warm.

I wore this shirt with the cooler set up. It was still this wet 5 hours after I took it off.

I wore this shirt with the cooler set up. It was still this wet 5 hours after I took it off.

When I put myself to bed the first night in my colder arrangement, I was absolutely exhausted. I thought I would have no problem falling asleep – but I was wrong. Despite being in a condo that was around 70° inside, I felt really cold. I was uncomfortably cold, so much that it made it hard to get comfortable and fall asleep. I told myself this might have to be the payoff could not have night sweats.

I was wrong about that too.

A few hours later I woke up with a soaking wet shirt. I’m pretty convinced that my night sweats are not due to being too warm at night. But at least I have evidence of this to take to my doctor when I see him later this week.

Cleared to Workout Again

. . .and there was much rejoicing.”

For those of you who haven’t been following the drama related to my heart, I started having chest pain after long runs in November. After seeing to cardiologist’s and having two ultrasound, a stress test, wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, and getting a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), they diagnosed me as having a congenital heart defect called patent foramen ovale (PFO). However, my heart defect apparently is not the cause of my pain or the dizziness, fatigue, or night sweats I’ve been having.

My doctors aren’t sure what’s causing my symptoms but they’re pretty sure it’s not a cardiovascular problem so my first cardiologist said I was allowed to work out again and took me off the beta blockers. (Did you know that beta blockers are the only banned substance in archery?) I made an appointment to see my primary care doctor to run blood work to see what else is going on in my body. In the meantime, I’m working out!

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles - Feb. 14, 2015

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles – Feb. 14, 2015

And it feels so good to exercise again!

On Saturday morning, I took myself for a 3-mile run, probably at a 10-minute/mile pace. My body could definitely tell that it hadn’t worked out in a while. My chest hurt for most of it but not enough to get me to stop. My legs held up great. (I would be surprised if it turns out I have a bad case of costochondritis – which I’ve had off and on since I was 11 – plus another medical condition that’s causing the other symptoms. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the chest wall that hurts like a bitch that there’s not much they can do about it.)

I took myself for a bike ride on Sunday. I meant to do 10 or 12 miles but I ended up doing 14.5. My quads and butt muscles got a work out. I didn’t realize how steep Galvin Parkway is through Papago Park – thankfully I rode up the hill at the beginning of my ride so I can coast down it on the way home.

One of the best parts of working out again is it giving up my mind a chance to rest and let ideas flow through it. There is no way I can act on an idea while I’m running or riding – not even a chance to send myself an email – so my thoughts have an opportunity to tumble around in my brain and develop in a non-directed organic way. It’s the closest thing I have to being creative. It was very nice to have that mental respite again.

My return to running couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to the Dad 2.0 Summit this weekend in San Francisco (blogging conference for dads). I’ll be speaking with them about the legal dos and don’ts of having a blog. It looks like there’s going to be a group of us going for a run together one of the mornings. I hope our route includes at least one hill.

I Still have a Defective Heart – But That’s Not the Problem

So here is the update about my heart.

My doctor called me late on Tuesday afternoon to let me know that the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed that I have a hole in my heart (PFO) but there is no blood flowing where it shouldn’t be. My doctor said unless I have a stroke, I don’t need to have the hole patched. I seem to be one of those people who have a heart defect, but it is not problematic.

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

The good news is my fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and night sweats do not appear to be caused by a cardiovascular problem. The bad news is I’m still having the symptoms and we don’t know why.

So it’s back to the drawing board. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and we can attack this problem from a new angle. I suspect he’ll order blood work to see if my numbers have changed from my last full physical. I may ask him to throw in a hormone test to see if it might be early menopause. I called my other cardiologist to ask if I needed to keep taking the beta blocker. (Remember: I’ve never had high blood pressure.) His office called me to say that he wants to see me for a follow-up. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestions about what else could be causing the problem.

Since my heart defect isn’t causing my symptoms and my symptoms didn’t show up until I was running 15 miles at a time or more, I hope I can start working out again soon. Before I started training for the marathon, I was running 22 miles and biking 19 miles a week. I was doing two 4-mile runs and two 6.5-mile runs each week. I’d like to get back to that.

It’s frustrating to feel like part of my life is on hold. Part of me wants to say “fuck it” and do whatever I want whether that’s running the hills when I’m in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit, taking a high intensity step aerobics class, or treating myself to a few hours of trampoline tumbling. I don’t like being told that there’s something I can’t do. I definitely plan to have a candid conversation with my doctors about being more active while we figure out what’s wrong with me.

In case you are wondering, no, I haven’t become completely reckless. And yes, I make sure I’m wearing my Road ID before I leave the house, just in case.

Don’t Ban Laptops in Law School Classrooms

Last week, I saw the article on the ABA Journal website where Suffolk law professor Steven Eisenstat argued that law schools should ban laptops in the classroom because writing notes by hand increased comprehension. He cited a study that suggested that students using laptops would type everything the professor said compared to students who took notes by hand and only had time to summarize the main points which improved comprehension. (In this study, laptop users didn’t have access to the internet or other distractions.)

I'm a monkey! by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a monkey! by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

While I agree with Professor Eisenstat that law students shouldn’t be stenographers (or surf the internet excessively during class), there are many reasons to allow laptops in the classroom.  Laptops provide access to helpful resources in the classroom.

I admit that I am not a fan of the Socratic Method. It’s an inefficient way to teach and learn, especially in cases that are so old that part of the challenge is understanding the basic vocabulary. When I took Constitutional Law as a 1L, my professor set the bar high for us and incorporated aspects of the case that weren’t in the case book – like the surrounding historical context. I often had a split screen during his class: my class notes were on the left and the Wikipedia page about the case we were discussing was on the right.

(Footnote: I think we should do away with the Socratic Method in general and adopt a lecture + discussion model instead. A professor will let a student go off in the wrong direction for half the class before saying that everything we’d discussed for the last 30 minutes was completely wrong. How does that help comprehension?)

Two thousand seconds left in today's class by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Two thousand seconds left in today’s class by H.L.I.T. from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Additionally, having a laptop in class also gives you access to your classmates who can message you if you didn’t quite catch what the professor just said or if you need quick clarification. I took Criminal Procedure from a professor who was very old – and I mean old. If he was late to class we would worry he was dead in his office and he did pass away the following semester. He did not project his voice well and he tended to meander when talking about cases. It was handy to message my friend across the room, “Has he gotten to the holding yet?”

Moreover, sometimes you need to be able to respond to emails swiftly. Some opportunities are first-come-first-served so if you don’t respond fast enough, you could miss out. I remember one time my classmate and I both got email invitations for on-campus interviews. Most of the time slots were when we were scheduled to be in class, but since we responded immediately, we were able to get the only 2 slots that didn’t conflict with our schedules.

Furthermore, law students are adults! They should be able to decide for themselves whether they’ll use their laptop in class. If a school wants to encourage students not to use laptops in class, that’s fine, but don’t ban them.

I also wonder if this study is similar enough to the law school experience for the results to be applicable. The study was conducted with undergraduate students and I doubt the lecture they were presented used the Socratic Method. When it comes to studying the law, I often didn’t fully understand the concepts presented in class until the end of the course when all the pieces snapped together when I created my outline to study for the final. That’s when I could pare down my notes and describe the key concepts and identify what the professor would likely care about on the final exam.

This is what happens when you require students to take notes with pen and paper – Three Years of Law School Doodles by H.L.I.T.

I’m an Impatient Patient

I will be the first to admit that I can be pretty impatient, especially in situations where somebody has committed to having something done or the being somewhere at a specific time. In my defense, I’m also one of the most understanding people if you come to me with a valid excuse why you’re late or why you couldn’t deliver on your promise. Life happens and sometimes there are things that are outside of our control that we have to deal with. I get that.

Domo Attacks Florida by Richard Elzey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Domo Attacks Florida by Richard Elzey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Having said that, I’m freakishly annoyed with my cardiologist. I had a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) on Thursday, January 29th. I called my doctor’s office the following Monday to get my results and find out what the next plan of action is. My doctor’s assistant reminded me that he’s not in the office on Mondays and that he would call me on Tuesday with my results. Tuesday came and went without a phone call from my doctor. On Wednesday morning, I called my cardiologist’s office again to explain that I hadn’t gotten a call to make sure that following up with me was on my doctor’s to-do list for the day. I didn’t get a call that day either.

I know my cardiologist isn’t in the office on Thursday – he’s usually at the hospital doing procedures – but I called any way. My doctor’s assistant said I was on his list of patients to call the previous day. The office staff was understanding of my frustration and anxiety. I was elated when my phone rang from my doctor’s office that afternoon, until my doctor’s assistant explained that the earliest my cardiologist would call me is Tuesday of next week.

What the fuck?! I understand I’m not his only patient, and probably not his most critical patient by far, but he’s making me wait an extra week to get my test results? That also means if he is recommending any type of procedure related to my heart (like sealing the hole) he is delaying my treatment. It’s annoying to live with intermittent chest pain, fatigue, dizziness, and daily night sweats. I just want this fixed.

I have amazing loving friends who reminded me that if there was anything severely wrong, my doctor would have called me immediately. So no news is probably relatively good news in this situation. They validate my frustration and remind me to stay calm because getting anxious isn’t going to help anything. There is nothing I can do at this point in regards to my doctor except wait ‘til Tuesday.

So what did I do to deal with my frustration? I called the hospital and requested a copy of my medical record from my TEE. I may have to wait to get my doctor’s interpretation of the results but he can’t stop me from getting my hands on the raw data itself.

I told you I was impatient.

Closet Clean-Out 2015

Glimpse into part of my Closet - January 31, 2015

Glimpse into part of my Closet – January 31, 2015

For anyone who has been following my minimalism project, you know I just got rid of 2 boxes of clothes during my “packing party,” which was inspired by Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. Even so, it’s a new year and every garment is potentially on the chopping block again.

For me, minimalism is about getting rid of the things that don’t add value to my life. It is a constant process. Just because an item added value to my life last year, it doesn’t guarantee that it adds value to my life today. And if that’s the case, and that item should find a new home where it will be useful again.

On January 1st, I went into my closet and flipped every hanger so instead of curling towards the wall, each hanger was curled toward the center of the room. When I wear a garment and it returns to the closet, the hanger will be flipped back to the traditional position. I also took each pair of my shoes and flipped them so the toes were pointing towards the room rather than towards the wall. When I where a pair of shoes for the first time, I flipped them around when I put them away. It takes only a few minutes to flip everything around, and by using the system, I can see at a glance what garments and shoes I have and haven’t worn this year.

Historically, when I’ve done an annual wardrobe clean-out, it also included a checklist for garments that are folded like sweaters, workout gear, and T-shirts. I decided not to do that this year but instead will keep I mental checklist of what I have worn. The items that I don’t wear often will end up at the bottom of the piles and back of the drawers and I’ll decide by the end of the year if anything would be better off being donated to charity.

I got rid of a lot of clothes during my “packing party.” As a result, I seem to enjoy the clothes I have that much more and it appears I’ve flipped a lot more hangers to date then I did last year. It’s a very rare that I find myself rediscovering a garment in my wardrobe because I forgot that I owned it. It definitely makes me happier knowing that the things that I have actually help me be more comfortable and add value to my life.

I’ve considered trying the capsule wardrobe – creating a 3-month wardrobe based on mixing and matchng 24-33 garments. That might be something fun to try when I get back from all my spring travels.