Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's My Birthday!

It's my birthday today so I thought I would share some facts about myself that you may or may not know about me.  Since I am on a 39 goals on my 39th year kick, I put a list of 39 little tidbits about myself.  Can you relate to any of these?  I mean...haven't you sat in your trash can filled with cold water on a hot summer day?  Was I the only one?

Here are a few other fun facts about yours truly.

  1. I used to be a synchronized swimmer
  2. I love old school rap music
  3. My dream is to own an airstream and put it on a piece of land and live off grid
  4. I am horrible at math
  5. I was an assistant basketball coach for a college team
  6. I sold girl scout cookies
  7. I have the entire star wars figure collection
  8. My all time favorite musician is Elvis Costello and met him once.
  9. I’ve never broken a bone
  10. I don’t have tonsils
  11. I had stitches between my toes
  12. I slept as my neighbors house burned down
  13. I was a lifeguard
  14. I won an apple peeling contest
  15. Public speaking is my worst fear
  16. I don’t have a tattoo
  17. I bite my nails
  18. I don’t like crowds
  19. I haven’t used a blow dryer in years
  20. I don’t iron
  21. I dread shopping
  22. Coconut is my favorite scent
  23. I drink coffee everyday
  24. I grew up camping under the Hollywood sign
  25. I’ve never traveled to Europe
  26. I want to adopt every dog I see at the shelter
  27. I played college basketball
  28. I was a fencer
  29. I haven’t eaten a mammal in over 15 years
  30. I would rather text than talk on the phone
  31. 32 is my favorite number
  32. I am allergic to eggplant
  33. My first job was to tell people not to touch the plants at a county fair
  34. Since I didn’t have a pool growing up, I filled our trash cans and sat in them during  summer months
  35. I love all things weird
  36. In 5 days It will mark one year without alcohol
  37. King Crab legs are my favorite meal
  38. I like to take pictures (can you tell?)
  39. I love brussel sprouts

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Salton Sea Revisited

Every now and then I visit a place that stays with me enough that I feel the need to explore it again.  This was the case of the Salton Sea.  I've always wanted to go to this "sea" in the middle of the desert but didn't really have a reason to.  It's out in the middle of nowhere, but has a rich history that you wouldn't know about unless you sought it out.

It's beautiful and a bit sad at the same time.  Bombay Beach is one of my favorite places since it looks like it stands in time.  There are wrecked buildings everywhere that stay put from where they were built, old chairs, computers, water towers...all in their place among the wreckage.

Nearby is a town called Nyland where you can find Salvation Mountain and Slab City.  Slab City is a not really a city at all but a small community of drifters living on the land together.  I would describe it as a mini burning man that stays there year round.

I loved it.

If you are thinking about touring a place that you won't soon forget, visit the Salton Sea.  You can see more pictures from my visit HERE.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salvation Mountain "God Is Love"

Over the weekend, I took another tour of the Salton Sea and surrounding cities.  This time, the tour took me to Niland to visit Slab City and Salvation Mountain.  What a sight to see!  You will know you have arrived when you see an entire mountain covered in paint with "God is Love" etched everywhere. The artist is Leonard Knight and I was lucky enough to meet him and get a personal guided tour of his creation.  Right when you walk up to the mountain, you will be greeted by a gentleman saying, "Hello, make yourself at home."  That gentleman would be Leonard Knight.

Please take a visit if you are in the area.  Leonard will greet you and make you feel at home.

This was truly a sight to see.  For more pictures of my visit, click

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Las Olas Surf School and La Playa

I blogged about what a wonderful experience I had when I decided to surf with a bunch of strangers in my "Stepping out of Comfort and Into Growth" blog.

Las Olas (Surf Safaris for Women) has a new blog in town!  You can learn more about the wonderful women behind the scenes on their new blog, La Playa (A Community Of Women Who Love To Surf).

Lucky for me, I was featured under their "Saluting Surf Sisters" tab with my story.  Thank you Bev for creating such a wonderful community where women can come together, learn to surf, make new friends and leave home with the belief that anything is possible.

To read my story and others in the Las Olas community, please click HERE.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interesting Articles in the AJCN

I just received an RSS alert for the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition's latest articles. This upcoming issue is full of very interesting material:

1. Dr. Neil D. Barnard reviews food consumption patterns in the US from 1909 to 2007 (1). This is something I've written about a number of times. The most notable change is that industrial seed oil use has increased by more than 3-fold in the last 40 years, and even more in the last 100 although he doesn't provide those numbers. Butter and lard use declined sharply. Meat consumption is up, but the increase comes exclusively from poultry because we're eating the same amount of red meat we always have. Grain consumption is down, although it peaked around 1900 so it may not be a fair comparison with today:
In the late 1800s, wheat flours became more popular and available due to the introduction of new [high-gluten] wheat varieties, [low extraction] milling techniques, and transport methods, and during this time new breakfast cereals were introduced by John Harvey Kellogg, CW Post, and the Quaker Oats Company. Thereafter, however, per capita availability of flour and cereal products gradually dropped as increased prosperity, improved mechanization, and transport (eg, refrigerated railway cars) increased competition from other food groups. [Then they partially rebounded in the last 40 years]
2. Dr. S.C. Larsson published a paper showing that in Sweden, multivitamin use is associated with a slightly higher risk of breast cancer (2).

3. Soy protein and isoflavones, which have been proposed to do everything from increase bone mineral density to fight cancer, are slowly falling out of favor. Dr. Z.M. Liu and colleagues show that soy protein and/or isoflavone supplementation has no effect on insulin sensitivity or glucose tolerance in a 6 month trial (3). This follows a recent trial showing that isoflavones have no effect on bone mineral density.

4. Dr. Ines Birlouez-Aragon and colleagues showed that high-heat cooked (fried and sauteed) foods increase risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease (insulin resistance, cholesterol, triglycerides), compared to low-heat cooked foods (steamed, stewed) in a one-month trial (4). The high-heat diet also reduced serum levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins C and E.

5. Dr. Katharina Nimptsch and colleagues showed that higher menaquinone (vitamin K2) intake is associated with a lower cancer incidence and lower cancer mortality in Europeans (5). Most of their K2 came from cheese.

6. And finally, Dr. Zhaoping Li and colleagues showed that cooking meat with an herb and spice blend reduced the levels of oxidized fat during cooking, and reduced serum and urinary markers of lipid oxidation in people eating the meat (6).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We Can Do It Too!

I love stories of women achieving their dreams.  There really isn't anything we can't do once we put our mind to it.  We are so fortunate in America to be able to do what we want to do.  We can set forth and achieve any goal we wish with hard work and determination, unlike many women in other countries.

At this moment, 16 year old Abby Sunderland is setting sail to reach her personal goal; to sail around the world solo.  You can read about her journey on her blog by clicking here.

How inspiring to young women!  She realized her dream and is living it at such a young age. Also, how great is it that her parents are supportive of that?  At 16, I was crossing my fingers and hoping to pass classes so I could graduate high school.

I always played sports growing up and my family enjoyed camping together when I was young.  I have one brother who is 7 years older so as I child I learned how to entertain myself and explore on my own.  It could be a reason why I enjoy wandering and exploring new places today, at 38.  It's just inside of me.

The thing's never too late to do what you have always dreamed of doing.  I have to admit that it is easier for me since I chose not to have kids.  Instead, I worked right out of college and continued to work hard and climb a corporate ladder until I just couldn't stand it anymore.  The suits and heels weren't me.  I was pushing a product that didn't inspire or excite me.  Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for the opportunity I had and I learned a lot in the process but even as I left the company, most people knew and commented that the job just wasn't a reflection of who I was.

Who am I?  Well, I am a work in progress, as we all are.  I know that I am enjoying taking pictures and traveling.  Camping and being in nature rank high on my list of things that bring me joy.  As I mentioned with a previous blog, I met up with a group of strangers with one thing in common: we all had silver trailers and a love of the outdoors and camping.  A common topic of discussion among the group was how great it was for them to ditch their "normal" lives to come and spend a weekend with other women to talk about ideas, life and support each other with the belief of yes, we can do it too!  There were stories of how men would be in control of hitching and towing and that they never had the chance to do it or the opportunity to learn how to do it.  This was their chance to learn something new, feel empowered and leave with a sense of hope that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.

I am thankful to all of the women who paved the way for title 9 so I was able to have the opportunity to play basketball in college.  There are so many women who stuck their neck out to be trailblazers for a realization that yes, we can do it too.

I started a group on facebook for women who have a shared interest in camping and the outdoors.  If this is you, please click here to join (there is also a widget on the right of the blog).  No fees, just fun.

Today I am thankful for all of the women who took a chance so we are able to do the same.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Humans In Their Habitat

I love people watching.  There are some great places to people watch like the airport, county fair, festivals, cities and most any place where there is a gathering of humans.  As you know, I was in New York City over the weekend and that could be the top place to sit and watch people living their lives.

Of course, I love to snap pictures of all people doing their thing.  Most of the time, I go unnoticed but on occasion, they spot me taking their photograph.  I wonder what they do and what their life is like.  You can sit there and imagine how people live their lives and a lot of the time, you might be right according to the way they dress or carry themselves.

I love it especially when someone is dressed up...different from the crowd.  The fashion trends vary from state to state and when you get to New York, you have everything mixed together.  I picked up a rental sheet from one of the blocks I wandered on and after seeing the housing costs, I wondered how people can even afford to live there.

When I am home, I like to sit in a coffee shop and watch people come and go.  It's what I am doing right now. I wonder what they are working on, what they do, where they live.  It's all so interesting to me.

Perhaps I've had too much coffee writing this post, but when was the last time you took a moment to sit and observe?  It's a great form of entertainment and best of all, it's FREE!  Here are a few pictures I took of people living their life in their own habitat.  I have more from my travels HERE.  Perhaps you are in one of them.

New Review of Controlled Trials Replacing Saturated fat with Industrial Seed Oils

Readers Stanley and JBG just informed me of a new review paper by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues. Dr. Mozaffarian is one of the Harvard epidemiologists responsible for the Nurse's Health study. The authors claim that overall, the controlled trials show that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat from industrial seed oils, but not carbohydrate or monounsaturated fat (as in olive oil), slightly reduces the risk of having a heart attack:
These findings provide evidence that consuming PUFA in place of SFA reduces CHD events in RCTs. This suggests that rather than trying to lower PUFA consumption, a shift toward greater population PUFA consumption in place of SFA would significantly reduce rates of CHD.
Looking at the studies they included in their analysis (and at those they excluded), it looks like they did a nice job cherry picking. For example:
  • They included the Finnish Mental Hospital trial, which is a terrible trial for a number of reasons. It wasn't randomized, properly controlled, or blinded*. Thus, it doesn't fit the authors' stated inclusion criteria, but they included it in their analysis anyway**. Besides, the magnitude of the result has never been replicated by better trials-- not even close.
  • They included two trials that changed more than just the proportion of SFA to PUFA. For example, the Oslo Diet-heart trial replaced animal fat with seed oils, but also increased fruit, nut, vegetable and fish intake, while reducing trans fat margarine intake. The STARS trial increased both omega-6 and omega-3, reduced processed food intake, and increased fruit and vegetable intake. These obviously aren't controlled trials isolating the issue of dietary fat substitution. If you subtract the four inappropriate trials from their analysis, which is half the studies they analyzed, the significant result disappears. Those four just happened to show the largest reduction in heart attack mortality...
  • They excluded the Rose et al. corn oil trial and the Sydney Diet-heart trial. Both found a large increase in total mortality from replacing animal fat with seed oils, and the Rose trial found a large increase in heart attack deaths (the Sydney trial reported total mortality but not CHD deaths).
The authors claim, based on their analysis, that replacing 5% of calories as saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat would reduce the risk of having a heart attack by 10%. Take a minute to think about the implications of that statement. For the average American, that means cutting saturated fat nearly in half to 6% of energy, which is a challenge if you want to eat a normal diet. It also means nearly doubling PUFA intake, which will come mostly from seed oils if you follow the authors' advice.

So basically, even if the authors' conclusion were correct, you overhaul your whole diet and replace natural foods with industrial foods, and...? You reduce your 10-year risk of having a heart attack from 10 percent to 9 percent. Without affecting your overall risk of dying. The paper states that the interventions didn't affect overall mortality.

* Not even single blinded.  Autopsies were not conducted in a blinded manner. Physicians knew which hospital the cadavers came from, because autopsies were done on-site. There is some confusion about this point because the second paper states that physicians interpreted the autopsy reports in a blinded manner. But that doesn't make it blinded, since the autopsies weren't blinded. The patients were also not blinded, though this is hard to accomplish with a study like this.

** They refer to it as "cluster randomized", which I feel is a misuse of that term.  The investigators definitely didn't randomize the individual patients: whichever hospital a person was being treated in, that's the food he/she ate. There were only two hospitals, so "cluster randomization" in this case would just refer to deciding which hospital got the intervention first. I don't think this counts as cluster randomization.  An example of cluster randomization would be if you had 10 hospitals, and you randomized which hospital received which treatment first.  It's analogous to individual randomization but on a group scale.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Music On The Street

There are artists everywhere.  As much as I enjoy going to art shows on the street, I also love to listen to solo performers and bands jam outside on corners or busy intersections.
I especially enjoy it when the performer is just hanging out by himself/herself and is there for the music and perhaps some cash if you can spare a buck or two.

Music is life.  Sometimes I get in a rut and listen to the same artist over or the same station on Pandora that usually plays the same songs.  It's refreshing to hear something new that you wouldn't listen to otherwise.  You can change your entire mood by putting something different on in your home.  Try classical or jazz if you like rap (I know I do...I'm a big fan of old school rap), or opera if you usually listen to country. You get the drift. When you're not plugged into your ipod, there is music all around us...especially in the city.

My New York trip was unforgettable.  There is so much energy coming from the streets, it's hard not to feel a buzz flow through your body when you find a quiet space at the end of the day.  For me, it can be a little overwhelming since there is so much stimulation everywhere you look.  In fact, it would take me about 30 minutes to walk 3 blocks with my camera out...snapping away at everything that seems interesting. In the city, everything seems interesting to me. There is something going on in every direction at every moment.

Complete coordinated chaos.

You can find street musicians everywhere.  I've heard them on the streets of Los Angeles, Austin, New Orleans, New York and Boston...just to name a few on my travels.  I've included some photographs of my favorite performers on this blog.

Get out.  Listen.  You might find something you really enjoy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fatty Liver: It's not Just for Grown-ups Anymore

The epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of my favorite topics on this blog, due to the liver's role as the body's metabolic "grand central station", as Dr. Philip Wood puts it. The liver plays a critical part in the regulation of sugar, insulin, and lipid levels in the blood. Many of the routine blood tests administered in the doctor's office (blood glucose, cholesterol, etc.) partially reflect liver function.

NAFLD is an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver that impairs its function and can lead to severe liver inflammation (NASH), and in a small percentage of people, liver cancer. An estimated 20-30% of people in industrial nations suffer from NAFLD, a shockingly high prevalence (1).

I previously posted on dietary factors I believe are involved in NAFLD. In rodents, feeding a large amount of sugar or industrial seed oils (corn oil, etc.) promotes NAFLD, whereas fats such as butter and coconut oil do not (2). In human infants, enteric feeding with industrial seed oils causes severe liver damage, whereas the same amount of fat from fish oil doesn't, and can even reverse the damage done by seed oils (3). [2013 update: obesity is probably the main contributor to NAFLD.  Obesity is associated with ectopic fat deposition in a number of organs, including the liver]

So basically, I think excessive sugar and industrial oils could be involved NAFLD, and if you look at diet trends in the US over the last 40 years, they're consistent with the idea.

I recently came across a study that examined the diet of Canadian children with NAFLD (6). The children had a high sugar intake, a typical (i.e., high) omega-6 intake, and a low omega-3 intake. The authors claimed that the children also had a high saturated fat intake, but at 10.5% of calories, they were almost eating to the American Heart Association's "Step I" diet recommendations**! Total fat intake was also low.

High sugar consumption was associated with a larger waist circumference, insulin resistance, lower adiponectin and elevated markers of inflammation. High omega-6 intake was associated with markers of inflammation. Low omega-3 intake was associated with insulin resistance and elevated liver enzymes. Saturated fat intake presumably had no relation to any of these markers, since they didn't mention it in the text.

These children with NAFLD, who were all insulin resistant and mostly obese, had diets high in omega-6, high in sugar, and low in omega-3. This is consistent with the idea that these three factors, which have all been moving in the wrong direction in the last 40 years, contribute to NAFLD.

* Fatty liver was assessed by liver enzymes, admittedly not a perfect test. However, elevated liver enzymes do correlate fairly well with NAFLD.

** Steps I and II were replaced by new diet advice in 2000. The AHA now recommends keeping saturated fat below 7% of calories.  However, the new recommendations focus mostly on eating real food rather than avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Life In New York City

Yesterday, I spent the day walking around the city.  I've done it a few times before, but yesterday was a different experience.  What I loved to do best was to sit in a park, on a bench, or a stoop somewhere and just watch people and feel the energy all around.  Of course there are tourist spots and places where locals only go and I hope to do a little of both.

The day was spent in the Bryant Park area and Times Square.  I look forward to doing it all over again today.  Here are a few pictures I took as I wandered around.  To see more, please click HERE.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: The Primal Blueprint

Mark Sisson has been a central figure in the evolutionary health community since he began his weblog Mark's Daily Apple in 2006. He and his staff have been posting daily on his blog ever since. He has also written several other books, edited the Optimum Health newsletter, competed as a high-level endurance athlete, and served on the International Triathlon Union as the anti-doping chairman, all of which you can read about on his biography page. Mark is a practice-what-you-preach kind of guy, and if physical appearance means anything, he's on to something.

In 2009, Mark published his long-awaited book The Primal Blueprint. He self-published the book, which has advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage is that you aren't subject to the sometimes onerous demands of publishers, who attempt to maximize sales at Barnes and Noble. The front cover sports a simple picture of Mark, rather than a sunbaked swimsuit model, and the back cover offers no ridiculous claims of instant beauty and fat loss.

The drawback of self-publishing is it's more difficult to break into a wider market. That's why Mark has asked me to publish my review of his book today. He's trying to push it up in the rankings so that it gets a broader exposure. If you've been thinking about buying Mark's book, now is a good time to do it. If you order it from on March 17th, Mark is offering to sweeten the deal with some freebies on his site Mark's Daily Apple. Full disclosure: I'm not getting anything out of this, I'm simply mentioning it because I was reviewing Mark's book anyway and I thought some readers might enjoy it.

The Primal Blueprint is not a weight loss or diet book, it's a lifestyle program with an evolutionary slant. Mark uses the example of historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model, and attempts to apply those lessons to life in the 21st century. He does it in a way that's empowering accessible to nearly everyone. To illustrate his points, he uses the example of an archetypal hunter-gatherer called Grok, and his 21st century mirror image, the Korg family.

The diet section will be familiar to anyone who has read about "paleolithic"-type diets. He advocates eating meats including organs, seafood, eggs, nuts, abundant vegetables, and fruit. He also suggests avoiding grains, legumes, dairy (although he's not very militant about this one), processed food in general, and reducing carbohydrate to less than 150 grams per day. I like his diet suggestions because they focus on real food. Mark is not a drill sergeant. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for cheats.

We part ways on the issue of carbohydrate. He suggests that eating more than 150 grams of carbohydrate per day leads to fat gain and disease, whereas I feel that position is untenable in light of what we know of non-industrial cultures (including some relatively high-carbohydrate hunter-gatherers). Although carbohydrate restriction (or at least wheat and sugar restriction) does have its place in treating obesity and metabolic dysfunction in modern populations, ultimately I don't think it's necessary for the prevention of those same problems, and it can even be counterproductive in some cases. Mark does acknowledge that refined carbohydrates are the main culprits.

The book's diet section also recommends nutritional supplements, including a multivitamin/mineral, antioxidant supplement, probiotics, protein powder and fish oil. I'm not a big proponent of supplementation. I'm also a bit of a hypocrite because I do take small doses of fish oil (when I haven't had seafood recently), and vitamin D in wintertime. But I can't get behind protein powders and antioxidant supplements.

Mark's suggestions for exercise, sun exposure, sleep and stress management make good sense to me. In a nutshell: do all three, but keep the exercise varied and don't overdo it. As a former high-level endurance athlete, he has a lot of credibility here. He puts everything in a format that's practical, accessible and empowering.

I think The Primal Blueprint is a useful book for a person who wants to maintain or improve her health. Although we disagree on the issue of carbohydrate, the diet and lifestyle advice is solid and will definitely be a vast improvement over what the average person is doing. The Primal Blueprint is not an academic book, nor does it attempt to be. It doesn't contain many references (although it does contain some), and it won't satisfy someone looking for an in-depth discussion of the scientific literature. However, it's perfect for someone who's getting started and needs guidance, or who simply wants a more comprehensive source than reading blog snippets. It would make a great gift for that family member or friend who's been asking how you stay in such good shape.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Life In A Silver Airstream

As with my previous post, I am still in love with these silver trailers.  My camping trip with the silver sister's has come to an end, but it was a trip I will never forget.

I love being a part of a group which supports and empowers women to be independent.  A group after my heart.  It was a weekend for these ladies to get away from their jobs, husbands, kids (or bring the young girls to start in the experience), and just an escape from their "normal" lives.  It was also a chance to rig up a trailer alone without someone telling us what to do or how to do it.  All about growth and sharing a common love for all things silver and shiny.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about these woman and having fun by the fire, delicious meals and swapping stores...I loved taking pictures of these beautiful rigs and their owners.  I look forward to adding to this collection of female owners in the future to perhaps share in a book someday.  Along with the women, there were some happy dogs at the campsite.  It was picture heaven for me!

If you are unsure of the feeling I am describing, there is no doubt you will get the bug once you step foot in one of these rigs.  In fact, if you are Southern California, you can rent Meredith's trailer by clicking HERE.  If you are located in Northern California, you can rent out one of many beautiful trailers through Kristiana by clicking HERE.

Kristiana is a veteran to the airstream way of life.  She is also a beautiful jewlery designer.  If you can't get away and leave the house for an airstream vacation, bring the trailer to you by purchasing a one of a kind piece of jewelry inspired by silver trailers.  Please visit her shop at

I know I will be on another trip soon with "trailie" to join these women and other groups that have the same love for silver trailers, including teardrops.  I look forward to sharing more with you soon.  I tried to capture the beauty of these trailers and their owners.  Please click HERE to see more photographs of this trip.

Thank you ladies!  I look forward to the next time!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Silver Trailer Lifestyle

What a lifestyle it is to own a silver trailer.  I love my teardrop trailer, "trailie" and I haven't taken her out for about a year and a half so it was about time that I did.  This is Max's first time in "trailie" and I think he is loving it a bit more than the tent.

I decided to join a bunch of women and their airstream trailers for a weekend of camping.  I'm glad they allowed me to stay even though I don't have an airstream, but I have a silver trailer so I am going to say that counts. I toured all of their rigs and I have to sure is nice to be able to stand up inside.  What a luxury!

All of their trailers are so put together and fancy.  I love them all.  I do have a little trailer envy seeing how beautiful they are and one even has a bed that you can walk around.  No's like a condo on wheels.  I very stylish condo, I might add.

It's been a fun weekend meeting new friends, all from different parts of California and Arizona.  All with a common love for all things shiny.  Especially things that are shiny that you can live in and pull with your car.

I dream of owning one of these someday and setting it on some land somewhere with solar panels and live there, in the middle of nowhere.  Ahhh, to dream.  Taking Max out in "trailie" was one of my 39 goals this year so I can check that off.

It can seem a little scary to join a bunch of strangers for the weekend, but that is exactly what I am doing.  I am so glad that I did.  For the past few days, I have been taking a lot of pictures of these beautiful airstreams, click HERE to see more photos.