Practical Uses for Coca-Cola

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In general, I try really hard not to give unsolicited advice, but I have been on my dad’s case to stop drinking soda for years. I want to kick myself every time I hear something come out of my mouth like, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you when you have to get your foot amputated due to complications from diabetes.” Not cool. My comments come from a place of love, but it sounds like mean nagging.

We all have our stuff. For example, I chew gum after every meal—and sometimes in between. It would be very, very hard for me to stop. I would need to carry a toothbrush around in my pocket (not the worst idea, but still), and even then, I would probably still get twitchy. I rely on chewing gum to freshen my breath, clean my teeth, and deal with stress at work.

I know that telling someone not to do something that is a part of their daily life is not an effective way to inspire change, but as you can see, I know firsthand how hard it is not to speak up when your emotions get involved—and how hard it is to give up something you love and/or feel like you need.

Still, I can’t get over the fact that my dad’s doctor told him that a soda a day was okay. I’m sure this doctor is a smart guy, but doctors receive very little nutrition education. In the way that dietitians are not experts in medicine, doctors are not experts in nutrition. Calorie-for-calorie, yes, you can argue that a person can make room for a serving of regular soda each day, but it’s hard for many people to account for liquid calories. This is to say nothing of the various chemicals and colorings that aren’t doing anyone any favors. I can’t help feeling that a doctor telling someone with a family history of diabetes that a soda a day is okay is kind of like a nutritionist telling someone with alcoholism in their background that drinking alcohol on the regular and taking acetaminophen for hangovers is a good idea.

photo from Thought Pursuits

Oh, and then there are all the practical uses for coke that make it hard to justify putting it into your body. For example, I have vivid childhood memories of my dad using it to get rust off of golf clubs. It wasn’t until years later that I thought, “Well, s***. Why do we drink that? Yikes!” But hey, I ask myself all the time why I chew on minty little sticks of artificial sweetener, and I still do it…

What do you think about a soda a day? 

Soda Ban Drama

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photo courtesy of Village Voice

Surprise, surprise—Big Soda is none too pleased about Bloomberg’s soda ban here in NYC. In fact, the ban was banned the day it was supposed to take effect. Bloomberg says that city will appeal the overruling, but good grief—what a drama.

Of all the coverage of the topic I’ve been reading over recent months, I’ve been getting the most out of Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics. She just cuts right to the chase and has a way of letting facts speak for themselves…

As someone who puts sugar-sweetened beverages on par with cigarettes, I’d love to see people drink less soda. I think there are many, many ways this could be encouraged. Though I understand the criticisms and misgivings, at the end of the day, I happen to support some of the more drastic measures others prickle at. However, it’s not going to be an overnight or even peaceful process.

So I suppose we shall see. It occurs to me that I haven’t asked my dad, who will probably be buried with a glass bottle of coke, what he thinks of the ban. Maybe next time instead of nagging him about his hypothetical impending foot amputation, I should, you know, start a real conversation.

The Science of Junk Food

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IMG_0479Do you ever read a book that kind of knocks your thinking sideways? A few years ago, David Kessler’s The End of Overeating blew my mind in the way it discussed the “engineering” of junk food. It was fascinating—and a bit terrifying—to learn about the way food companies play with the sugar, fat, and salt content of products to find that sweet spot that will make a product practically irresistible to consumers. It’s important to take into consideration the kinds of flavor chemistry the average person is up against when it comes to making healthful food choices. Knowing what appeals to you and why can help you figure out how to navigate your cravings.

A lot of people have been talking about this article from the New York Times Magazine which explores this “Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” and features interviews with people who have worked in the industry. It’s definitely worth a read—and worth sharing.

Are there any foods you find irresistible? What do you think  of food companies “engineering” their products? 

NYC makes soda ban official

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photo courtesy of the Associated Press

On Thursday, New York City became the first in the country to ban the sale of large sugar-sweetened beverages. This is its latest controversial attempt to curb the rise of obesity and its related health problems, and will go into effect in March of 2013.

By an 8-0 vote with one abstention, the city health board outlawed sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in many locations they are sold, with the exception of groceries and convenience stores. Diet sodas are not included. Violators of the ban face a $200 fine.

Cue the critics…

While I understand the criticisms of the ban, it’s still possible to purchase these items—you might just have to walk a few extra blocks. Big freaking deal. I think it’s ballsy and, though I question its effectiveness, I’m glad to see a city take the lead. Someone’s got to be first to give something new a shot.

What do you think of the ban? 

Cancer group calls for study on sugary drinks, obesity

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As reported earlier this week, the American Cancer Society is urging the Surgeon General to conduct a large-scale study of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on consumer health, highlighting the role these types of beverages play in the nation’s obesity crisis and the need for an action plan. The proposed study is being compared to the U.S. top doctor’s landmark report on the dangers of smoking that came out in 1964.

“An unbiased and comprehensive report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages could have a major impact on the public’s consciousness and perhaps begin to change the direction of public behavior in their choices of food and drinks,” American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network wrote.
What you like to see a major study on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on public health? What do you expect the findings would be? 

In which Frank Bruni calls it as he sees it

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In this Sunday’s New York Times Review section, Frank Bruni responds to Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sales of large portion sizes of sugary drinks. In his essay, “Trimming a Fat City,” Bruni, who has written about his own struggles with weight and his relationship to food, makes a case for the ban. It’s definitely worth a read!