Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year 2010, Revisited

The good news about getting old and blogging is that you can look back to see what you did for the year.  Now that we are in the last two days in 2010, it's only appropriate to recap the year to see what I did to reflect on those experiences and make goals for the following year.

As you may know, I set 39 goals for my 39th year last year and am happy to report that I completed most of the goals.  Some were easy and I just needed to make time to do them and others were out of my control since it took more than myself to complete them, such as getting photos published in a magazine.  I have to say that it's been an exciting year and one I won't soon forget.

In 2009, I traveled the country in a tent with Max like I did this year so January was spent touring around in my city and putting up my etsy site.  Since I was hanging around Long Beach, it was only appropriate to get involved in the community and work with Scott Jones (Long Beach Person of the year) and his non profit organization, We Love Long Beach.  I helped them document the opening of the city's skate park and one of the many community breakfasts they have hosted in each neighborhood in the city to bring neighbors together.

In February, I had the opportunity to have my first art show in town.  I also stepped out and took photographs of barber shops, and went to a creative mixer that lead to a photograph published in our local weekly paper called, "The District."  Unfortunately, The District is no longer with us.

I began March by visiting the Salton Sea for the day to check that goal off of my list. I also baked a cake, painted, had a feature on the women's surf school las olas's website, took a trip to New York City, went back to the Salton Sea area to see Salvation Mountain and went on a camping trip to meet other ladies who love to camp and who love all things shiny.  I had a great time meeting these women that call themselves the "silver sisters" who camp together with their airstreams.  They allowed me to join the group even though I don't have an airstream but a silver teardrop trailer.

In April I started to prepare to get on the road so I donated all of my work clothes to "clothes the deal," I also had my first brave soul to be the subject of a senior portrait session, participated in a local art walk,  celebrated one year without alcohol, saw Sia in concert, and was selected to be a participant in the Month of Los Angeles (MOPLA) group show with a photograph I took a month earlier at the silver sisters rally.

In May, I took a photo editing class and decided to trade passions to own my first DSLR camera.  All photos up to this point have been taken with a point and shoot camera.  During this month, I also decided to see what an iphone was all about and started taking photographs with my camera on  my phone.   I spent most of the month going places to take photographs with both cameras even when I took an unexpected turn and ended up in the emergency room.  I felt the need to photograph that experience even as I was in the ambulance.  I also went on my first "sisters on the fly" gathering in Arizona, saw what life was like on a working ranch and finally traveling to my second sisters on the fly meeting in California.

June started out in Jackson Center, Ohio when I was asked to be the official photographer for Airstream's "Alumapalooza" event.  It was an exciting five days of meeting people from all over North America (and beyond!) with their shared love of Airstreams.  All of the people I met were so down to earth and friendly.  Even though the rain came and went, it didn't take away from all of us having a great time.  After the event, I put together a slide show of the people and activities that transpired during those days. At the end of the month, I went to a Johnny Cash tribute show, photographed the Long Beach Roller Derby, toured Venice Beach and then hit the road with my camera, tent and my dog, Max!

The first day on my adventure took me to Twenty Nine palms in triple digit temperatures to meet author and photographer, Candacy Taylor. Max and I then went to Big Bear and headed up North in the middle of the state and ended up in beautiful Yosemite. For my ongoing project, "Women's Work," I was able to interview and photograph some of the women park rangers of Yosemite during my stay.  The following weeks took me to Chico, Nevada City, and Lake Tahoe.  The heat was pretty brutal during this time so I thought the solution would be to drive to the coast and stay on the coast from Northern California to Seattle. On that journey, I met "muffin man," camped at a wonderful free site on the coast of Oregon, saw a hit and run in Tillamook, and ended up visiting my dear friends near Seattle. I toured the Seattle area for a while and then headed up to Canada to meet blogger friends, Kim and Deb who worked at a motel while living in their Airstream.

At the end of July, I headed back to America to camp in North East Washington and stopped in Spokane for a few weeks to visit my friend Cat. During that time, I photographed the Washington State University team Airstream project, herded cows on a working ranch, went to an art fair in Idaho, and met some great friends during my stay in Spokane.

In August I headed to Montana to visit Glacier National Park, and met and stayed with Photographer Lauren Grabelle.  From there I had to visit my favorite National Park, Yellowstone for a few days.  Even in August, it was hailing and temps dropped to 28 degrees.  During that time, Max kept me warm inside of the sleeping bag and was a trooper even in the sudden cold spell we were having.  After a few days in Yellowstone, we headed to the Badlands and then met friend, Kristiana Spaulding on her travels west in South Dakota. When I met Kristiana, it was my first stop at a motel 6 and a welcome one.  Max and I then headed to Illionis to visit Adriane.  It was the first time I took my cruiser off of the bike rack to take it for a spin with some very serious bike riders in Bloomington. During this time, some photographs I took were published in Airstream Life magazine and Nesting Newbies Magazine.  The end of August took me to Columbus, Ohio to meet writer/blogger Amy Kehoe.

September took me to the East Coast with my first stop being in Boston.  I stayed with artist, Ronnie White and was lucky enough to catch a Red Sox game in Fenway Park. Labor Day weekend took me to upstate New York to attend the third annual gathering of Westy owners for their "Westyfest" camping event. I headed back to Boston to attend a family reunion (I was a guest) and soon after that I was headed to one of my favorite states, Maine.  I met Adam and Susan at Alumapalooza in June and they offered Max and I to come visit and stay with them if we were in the area on our travels.  While visiting them, I was lucky enough to attend Jane and Paul's annual pizza party on Bailey Island.  Adam and Susan left to travel but extended an offer for Max and I to stay at their home while they were out and about.  Of course we took them up on their offer!  During this time, I met and got to know their neighbors Ralph and Dolly (Ralph's story was published in the Jan/Feb issue of Maine. The Magazine), ran into captain Andy and his yard ship in Rockland, met Susan of "Maine. The Magazine",  documented BINGO in the area, visited Red's Eats as much as possible and enjoyed the sights of the area. My best friend Dan came to visit me in Maine for a week which was a treat to see someone from home after being on the road for months. We toured the Portland harbor, went to Arcadia National Park and then drove together to Cape Cod before he left.

The beginning of October was spent in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Max and I were fortunate to be able to stay in the home of Lisa and Diane for a few weeks for the second year. We took advantage of the one sunny day and rode the cruiser around the ocean path with Max's trailer in tow. It was Max's first time in the trailer and I think he enjoyed it.  I love the cape and always will.  This time around it was a short visit.  After the cape, I headed back to Boston.  During this time, I started making my art boxes, finalized my Photography Website, met Sue Dooley for lunch, attended more BINGO halls, visited the museum of bad art in Dedham and hung out with Ronnie and her friends in Boston.

At this time, the leaves were changing and you could feel the chill in the air.  I headed South in November with my first stop being the coast of Delaware.  I drove down to Virginia while hugging the coast along the way South. I stopped in Myrtle Beach for some BINGO and headed down to Savannah, Georgia.  I loved this area so I stayed for a few days before breaking into the Florida panhandle. I met Rich Luhr and his family in a campsite in Destin, Florida for a night and quickly continued West on my journey.  My next stop was Mobile, Alabama and then New Orleans, LA.   I then drove west and stayed a few days in one of my favorite cities, Austin, TX.  In Austin, I met some great photographers and a few Airstream vendors and was lucky enough to be in the city during their East Austin Studio tour weekend.  Eventually I headed West to El Paso and then decided it was time to go home.

Once I was home, I made more art, showed in a few art shows and was finally able to get back into my house in December once the last renters of the season left.  I've been in one place for a month now and it has been an adjustment.  Living out of a car and being on the road can be a difficult way of life for some, but I got used to it fairly quickly.  Once I was accustomed to that way of living, staying put also has some getting used to.  I am still acclimating to the "home in one spot" way of life.  We'll see how long it lasts.

I am very fortunate to be able to do everything I did in 2010.  The year has been good to me.  I couldn't have done it without the help of old friends and new ones I met along my journey. Now that the year is over, I am working on my 40 goals for 2011.  So far, I've written down three.  It's not as easy as it seems but once they are written down, it's amazing how I hold myself accountable and look for ways to accomplish the goals...sometimes without thinking.

Thank you for reading about my adventures in 2010.  I look forward to sharing more in the new year with you!  Here's to the best year ever in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Documenting a Photographer's Bridal Self Portrait

The past year I’ve been saying yes to opportunities that normally I would question or instantly think of reasons to say no to. Putting fear aside, I decided that saying yes would lead to growth and if anything, an experience you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience if you said no.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from photographer, Susan Sabo that simply asked if I was around the following day to help her on a shoot.  We’ve been facebook friends for a while and I’ve only met her briefly one night but I didn’t think twice to say yes without question.  I didn’t know what she wanted me to do or what the shoot was about but I figured that if she reached out to me, she needed the help.
After I said yes, she told me she was working on self portrait series for the following year titled, “be the bride 2011.” She’s a wedding photographer and wanted to step in the shoes of brides she shoots to understand what it’s like to actually be the bride.
She asked me to meet her at the local park in the city to help her take her self portrait.  She set up the shot and equipment and my job was to help her get ready and essentially, push the button.  When I arrived at the meeting spot, I parked next to her car and wandered around a bit to look for her.  I had no idea what the shot would be like but I started looking by the creek and by trees in the area thinking that she would take a photograph of herself in your typical beautiful lush green surroundings.  I was wrong.
I texted her and asked where she was hiding and she text back telling me to go to the public restrooms.  She was in the bathroom setting up for her self portrait with her wedding dress hung up on the restroom stall and the camera set up and facing the toilet.  This was not your typical bridal scene.
I asked to take photographs to document this experience and she agreed.  I snapped away as I was helping her into her gown and handing her props she brought to use for the scene such as bubble gum, cigarettes, magazines and her bouquet. You know, everything a bride needs for the big day.
As she describes, her speciality is “off beat” weddings.  Also, she likes to go big in her self portraits.  She says, “because frankly, I’m not ready to go home.  It’s not about getting attention or getting a rise out of the viewer; it’s about doing it right, being true to my concept and not letting the fear that someone may not like it keep me from shooting it exactly the way I want.”
For that reason, I admire what she is doing.  She doesn’t care if the final image is shocking to some viewers because it’s her vision and she is holding true to who she is and wants her brides to feel the same way.  They don’t have to stand there looking into the sunset if that is not the person they really are.  It’s all about being true to who you are as an individual and having the photographs from your wedding reflect that.
Saying yes to help a photographer realize her vision was an experience I won’t soon forget.  It’s a good lesson to learn that whatever you want to do, you should do it.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  Be brave. Be yourself.  Don’t care what people will say or what everyone else is doing. You are the only person you have to live with twenty four hours a day so make it authentic to you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Facing Fears, Being Social and Taking Portraits of Strangers

A big difference in this past trip from previous trips is the amount of people I talked to and photographed along the way.  This year, I went out of my way and outside of my comfort zone to talk to people I would normally not approach, but wanted to inside.  I did things I would usually shy away from and just decided to take a chance.  It wasn't easy, but after I did it a few times, it became easier and easier to do.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  Well, the hardest part is actually doing it.  Not just once, but at least once a day for months.

I used to hide behind the camera and take shots of people without them knowing.  In the past, it was easier since I could hide the point and click camera I was using and most people didn't notice so I would just snap and walk away.

This year I decided to get closer.  Closer to the people I was choosing to photograph and that meant approaching them, asking for their permission to photograph them and take a photograph that wasn't "posed".  It was a fast conversation since I didn't want them to move or change their body language but long enough for them to feel comfortable.  Not an easy task.  A lot of the time, I approached these people because I saw the photograph right in front of me and I didn't want them to move but wanted them to know I was taking the photo and wanted them to be ok with it.

Because I decided to move past this comfort zone, naturally I learned a lot about myself and even better, made a positive connection with a stranger.  The more positive experiences with this, the easier it became to approach people.  It turns out, people are human, just like us!

I still use caution when I see what I really want to photograph and what would be safe to photograph. A lot of the time what I really wanted to take photos of wasn't a safe place for a solo female traveler to be.  I did take a few chances, however.  I drove up to homes and knocked on the door if I saw someone or something that looked interesting to me.  I asked homeowners in Ohio if I could take a photograph of their hanging laundry and asked a man standing outside of his home in Maine if I could take a portrait of him in front of the wrecked ship in his yard.  Each time, they said yes. However, each time I had no idea what I would come across when I stepped into someone else's property.

Beyond the strangers I came across, I also met and stayed with people I didn't know too well that have turned into dear friends.  Beware of what you offer people, sometimes they might just take you up on it.

As the year wraps up, I wanted to extend a heart felt thank you to all of the people I came across on the road.  Some of you I chatted with for a few minutes and some I stayed in your home for weeks.  I am thankful for each person I came across.  It has been quite the year.  Thank you for following me here on my journey.  I look forward to writing my 40 goals for my 40th year soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maine. The Magazine Jan/Feb 2011 Issue

I am thrilled to be a part of Maine. The magazine's January/February 2011 edition.  I interviewed and photographed Ralph Lewis for the Q&A section and was also selected to be featured as a contributor in this issue.

During my travels, I come across some interesting people and have blogged about them along the way.  When I was staying as a guest of Adam and Susan in Bailey Island, Maine, I met and chatted with their neighbors, Ralph and Dolly.  Susan introduced me and told Ralph that I was a photographer and after he kiddingly waved his hand at me and turned his back, he turned right back around with that contagious smile to greet me. A few days later, he came over for a visit and we chatted about what it was like for him to be the photographer for the State of Maine.  He showed me Maine road maps where his photographs were featured and told me tales of the people and things he took photographs of.  I blogged about my time with him HERE. Listening to his stories was such a treat. I asked him if I could come over later that evening to take his portrait and he said, "sure."

I went over later that beautiful fall afternoon to chat with him and his wife, Dolly.  They were certainly a pleasure to be around.  I instantly felt at home with them.  I went back to their winter home a few weeks later to record an interview for the magazine and took some additional shots of him talking about his experiences and while showing me one of the cameras he used. Ultimately, that photograph was chosen by the magazine to use for the feature.

The best part of this experience was getting to know Ralph and Dolly.  I feel as they are a part of my extended family now.  They are so sweet to me...I even received a Thanksgiving and Christmas card from them.

I also enjoyed meeting Susan, the editor of Maine. The Magazine and the people who work there.  I am very thankful to all of them for the opportunity. Each and every staff member was a pleasure to work with.  After falling in love with the state of Maine, this just added to my positive experience in that beautiful state of ours.  I know I will be back.

A Gluten-free January

Are You Gluten Sensitive?

Many people are totally unaware of the fact that they react poorly to gluten. Because they've been eating wheat, barley and/or rye products every day for virtually their entire lives, they don't know what their bodies feel like without gluten. In susceptible people, eating gluten is linked to a dizzying array of health problems that stem from an immune reaction to gliadins and other proteins in gluten (1). Are you a susceptible person? How do you know?

The gold standard way to detect a gluten sensitivity is to do a gluten "challenge" after a period of avoidance and see how you feel. People who react poorly to gluten may feel better after a period of avoidance. After a gluten challenge, symptoms can range from digestive upset, to skin symptoms, to fatigue or irritability within minutes to days of the gluten challenge.

With 2011 approaching, why not make your new year's resolution to go gluten-free for a month? A man named Matt Lentzner e-mailed me this week to ask if I would help with his (non-commercial) project, "A Gluten-free January". I said I'd be delighted. Although I don't typically eat much gluten, this January I'm going 100% gluten-free. Are you on board? Read on.

A Message from Matt Lentzner

Hi There.

My name is Matt Lentzner. I'm just some guy who lifts weights on his patio and tries to eat healthy. That's not important, but I have an idea that just might be.

I am trying to get as many people as possible to go gluten-free for one month - this January 2011.

I've considered this whole ancestral diet thing and I've come to a conclusion. If you could only do just one thing to improve your health then not eating gluten would be it. This is not to say that avoiding other nasty things like fructose or industrial vegetable oil is not important. They are, but you'd get the most bang for your buck from not eating gluten.

"Eat No Gluten" is simple and easy to remember. I think that sometimes the rules get so complicated and overwhelming and people just give up on it. We're keeping it simple here. Even at this simplified level I see that it's difficult for a lot of folks. I think people, Americans especially, tend not to pay much attention to what they're eating - what it is, where it came from, etc.

Getting people to get out of their eating ruts and think a little about what goes into their mouths is a valuable exercise. It sets the stage for better choices in the future. I hope that some success with the simple step will encourage people to further improve their diets.

I have a website at If you want to sign up just send an email with your first name, last initial, and town of residence to If you are on Facebook there's a community you can 'Like' called: Gluten Free January. So far I have over 120 people all over the world signed up. If you are already gluten-free then I still want you to sign up - the more the merrier. You can also use this opportunity to spread the word and sign up your family and friends.

Merry Christmas - Looking forward to a gluten-free New Year.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Dairy Fat and Diabetes


Having access to embargoed news from the Annals of Internal Medicine is really fun. I get to report on important studies at the same time as the news media. But this week, I got my hands on a study that I'm not sure will be widely reported (Mozaffarian et al. Trans-palmitoleic Acid, Metabolic Risk Factors, and New-Onset Diabetes in US Adults. Ann Internal Med. 2010). Why? Because it suggests that dairy fat may protect against diabetes.

The lead author is Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, whose meta-analysis of diet-heart controlled trials I recently criticized (1). I think this is a good opportunity for me to acknowledge that Dr. Mozaffarian and his colleagues have published some brave papers in the past that challenged conventional wisdom. For example, in a 2005 study, they found that postmenopausal women who ate the most saturated fat had the slowest rate of narrowing of their coronary arteries over time (2). It wasn't a popular finding but he has defended it. His colleague Dr. Walter Willett thinks dietary fat is fine (although he favors corn oil), whole eggs can be part of a healthy diet, and there are worse things than eating coconut from time to time. Dr. Willett is also a strong advocate of unrefined foods and home cooking, which I believe are two of the main pillars of healthy eating.

Let's hit the data

Investigators collected two measures of dairy fat intake in 3,736 Americans:
  1. 24 hour dietary recall questionnaires, six times. This records volunteers' food intake at the beginning of the study.
  2. Blood (plasma phospholipid) content of trans-palmitoleate. Dairy fat and red meat fat are virtually the only sources of this fatty acid, so it reflects the intake of these foods. Most of the trans-palmitoleate came from dairy in this study, although red meat was also a significant source.
After adjustment for confounding factors, trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with a smaller waist circumference, higher HDL cholesterol, lower serum triglycerides, lower C-reactive protein, lower fasting insulin and lower calculated insulin resistance. Furthermore, people with the highest trans-palmitoleate levels had 1/3 the risk of developing diabetes over the three years volunteers were followed. Keep in mind, however, that this is an observational study and does not prove that dairy fat prevents diabetes.

Even though certain blood fatty acids partially represent food intake, they can also represent metabolic conditions. For example, people on their way to type II diabetes tend to have more saturated blood lipids, independent of diet (3, 4)*. So it's reassuring to see that dietary trans-palmitoleate intake was closely related to the serum level. The investigators also noted that "greater whole-fat dairy consumption was associated with lower risk for diabetes," which increases my confidence that serum trans-palmitoleate is actually measuring dairy fat intake to some degree. However, in the end, I think the striking association they observed was partially due to dairy fat intake, but mostly due to metabolic factors that had nothing to do with dairy fat**.

Here's a nice quote:
Our findings support potential metabolic benefits of dairy consumption and suggest that trans-palmitoleate may mediate these effects***. They also suggest that efforts to promote exclusive consumption of low-fat and nonfat dairy products, which would lower population exposure to trans-palmitoleate, may be premature until the mediators of the health effects of dairy consumption are better established.
Never thought I'd see the day! Not bad, but I can do better:
Our findings support eating as much butter as possible****. Don't waste your money on low-fat cream, either (half-n-half). We're sorry that public health authorities have spent 30 years telling you to eat low-fat dairy when most studies are actually more consistent with the idea that dairy fat reduces the risk obesity and chronic disease.
What are these studies suggesting that dairy fat may be protective, you ask? That will be the topic of another post, my friends.

*Probably due to uncontrolled de novo lipogenesis because of insulin resistance. Many studies find that serum saturated fatty acids are higher in those with metabolic dysfunction, independent of diet. They sometimes interpret that as showing that people are lying about their diet, rather than that serum saturated fatty acids don't reflect diet very well. For example, in one study I cited, investigators found no relationship between dietary saturated fat and diabetes risk, but they did find a relationship between serum saturated fatty acids and diabetes risk (5). They then proceeded to refer to the serum measurements as "objective measurements" that can tease apart "important associations with diabetes incidence that may be missed when assessed by [food questionnaires]." They go on to say that serum fatty acids are "useful as biomarkers for fatty acid intake," which is true for some fatty acids but not remotely for most of the saturated ones, according to their own study. Basically, they try to insinuate that dietary saturated fat is the culprit, and the only reason they couldn't measure that association directly is that people who went on to develop diabetes inaccurately reported their diets! A more likely explanation is that elevated serum saturated fatty acids are simply a marker of insulin resistance (and thus uncontrolled de novo lipogenesis), and had nothing to do with diet.

**Why do I say that? Because mathematically adjusting for dairy and meat fat intake did not substantially weaken the association between phospholipid trans-palmitoleate and reduced diabetes risk (Table 4). In other words, if you believe their math, dairy/meat fat intake only accounted for a small part of the protective association. That implies that healthy people maintain a higher serum phospholipid trans-palmitoleate level than unhealthy people, even if both groups eat the same amount of trans-palmitoleate. If they hadn't mentioned that full-fat dairy fat intake was directly associated with a lower risk of diabetes, I would not find the study very interesting because I'd have my doubts that it was relevant to diet.

***I find it highly doubtful that trans-palmitoleate entirely mediates the positive health outcomes associated with dairy fat intake. I think it's more likely to simply be a marker of milk fat, which contains a number of potentially protective substances such as CLA, vitamin K2, butyric acid, and the natural trans fats including trans-palmitoleate. In addition, dairy fat is low in omega-6 polyunsaturated fat. I find it unlikely that their fancy math was able to tease those factors apart, because those substances all travel together in dairy fat. trans-palmitoleate pills are not going to replace butter.

****That's a joke. I think butter can be part of healthy diet, but that doesn't mean gorging on it is a good idea. This study does not prove that dairy fat prevents diabetes, it simply suggests that it may.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Potato Diet Interpretation

If you read my post on December 16th, you know that Chris Voigt saw remarkable fat loss and improvements in health markers as a result of two months of eating almost nothing but potatoes. This has left many people scratching their heads, because potatoes are not generally viewed as a healthy food. This is partially due to the fact that potatoes are very rich in carbohydrate, which also happens to be a quickly digested type, resulting in a high glycemic index. The glycemic index refers to the degree to which a particular food increases blood glucose when it's eaten, and I've questioned the relevance of this concept to health outcomes in the past (1, 2, 3). I think Mr. Voigt's results once again argue against the importance of the glycemic index as a diet-health concept.

It's often pointed out that potatoes are low in vitamins and minerals compared to vegetables on a per-calorie basis, but I think it's a misleading comparison because potatoes are much more calorie-dense than most vegetables. Potatoes compare favorably to other starchy staples such as bread, rice and taro.

Over the course of two months, Mr. Voigt lost 21 pounds. No one knows exactly how much of that weight came out of fat and how much out of lean mass, but the fact that he reported a decrease in waist and neck circumference indicates that most of it probably came out of fat. Previous long-term potato feeding experiments have indicated that it's possible to maintain an athletic muscle mass on the amount of protein in whole potatoes alone (4). So yes, Mr. Voigt lost fat on a very high-carbohydrate diet (75-80% carbohydrate, up to 440g per day).

On to the most interesting question: why did he lose fat? Losing fat requires that energy leaving the body exceed energy entering the body. But of course, that's obvious but it doesn't get us anywhere. In the first three weeks of his diet, Mr. Voigt estimates that he was only eating 1,600 calories per day. Aha! That's why he lost weight! Well, yes. But let's look into this more deeply. Mr. Voigt was not deliberately restricting his calorie intake at all, and he did not intend this as a weight loss diet. In my interview, I asked him if he was hungry during the diet. He said that he was not hungry, and that he ate to appetite during this period, realizing only after three weeks that he was not eating nearly enough calories to maintain his weight*. I also asked him how his energy level was, and he said repeatedly that it was very good, perhaps even better than usual. Those were not idle questions.

Calorie restriction causes a predictable physiological response in humans that includes hunger and decreased energy. It's the starvation response, and it's powerful in both lean and overweight people, as anyone knows who has tried to lose fat by decreasing calorie intake alone. The fact that he didn't experience hunger or fatigue implies that his body did not think it was starving. Why would that be?

I believe Mr. Voigt's diet lowered his fat mass 'setpoint'. In other words, for whatever reason, the diet made his body 'want' to be leaner that it already was. His body began releasing stored fat that it considered excess, and therefore he had to eat less food to complete his energy needs. You see this same phenomenon very clearly in rodent feeding studies. Changes in diet composition/quality can cause dramatic shifts in the fat mass setpoint (5, 6). Mr. Voigt's appetite would eventually have returned to normal once he had stabilized at a lower body fat mass, just as rodents do.

Rodent studies have made it clear that diet composition has a massive effect on the level of fat mass that the body will 'defend' against changes in calorie intake (5, 6). Human studies have shown similar effects from changes in diet composition/quality. For example, in controlled diet trials, low-carbohydrate dieters spontaneously reduce their calorie intake quite significantly and lose body fat, without being asked to restrict calories (7). In Dr. Staffan Lindeberg's Paleolithic diet trials, participants lost a remarkable amount of fat, yet a recent publication from his group shows that the satiety (fullness) level of the Paleolithic group was not different from a non-Paleolithic comparison group despite a considerably lower calorie intake over 12 weeks (8, 9). I'll discuss this important new paper soon. Together, this suggests that diet composition/quality can have a dominant impact on the fat mass setpoint.

One possibility is that cutting the wheat, sugar, most vegetable oil and other processed food out of Mr. Voigt's diet was responsible for the fat loss.  Many people find, for example, that they lose fat simply by eliminating wheat from their diet.

Another possibility that I've been exploring recently is that changes in palatability (pleasantness of flavor) influence the fat mass setpoint. There is evidence in rodents that it does, although it's not entirely consistent. For example, rats will become massively obese if you provide them with chocolate flavored Ensure (a meal replacement drink), but not with vanilla or strawberry Ensure (10). They will defend their elevated fat mass against calorie restriction (i.e. they show a physiological starvation response when you try to bring them down to a lower weight by feeding them less chocolate Ensure) while they're eating chocolate Ensure, but as soon as you put them back on unpurified rodent pellets, they will lose fat and defend the lower fat mass. Giving them food in liquid or paste form often causes obesity, while the same food in solid pellet form will not. Eating nothing but potatoes is obviously a diet with a low overall palatability.

So I think that both a change in diet composition/quality and a decrease in palatability probably contributed to a decrease in Mr. Voigt's fat mass setpoint, which allowed him to lose fat mass without triggering a starvation response (hunger, fatigue).

The rest of his improvements in health markers were partially due to the fat loss, including his decreased fasting glucose, decreased triglycerides, and presumably increased insulin sensitivity. They may also have been partially due to a lack of industrial food and increased intake of certain micronutrients such as magnesium.

One of the most striking changes was in his calculated LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol), which decreased by 41%, putting him in a range that's more typical of healthy non-industrial cultures including hunter-gatherers. Yet hunter-gatherers didn't eat nothing but potatoes, often didn't eat much starch, and in some cases had a high intake of fat and saturated fat, so what gives? It's possible that a reduced saturated fat intake had an impact on his LDL, given the relatively short timescale of the diet. But I think there's something mysterious about this setpoint mechanism that has a much broader impact on metabolism than is generally appreciated. For example, calorie restriction in humans has a massive impact on LDL, much larger than the impact of saturated fat (11). And in any case, the latter appears to be a short-term phenomenon (12). It's just beginning to be appreciated that energy balance control systems in the brain influence cholesterol metabolism.

Mr. Voigt's digestion appeared to be just fine on his potato diet, even though he generally ate the skins. This makes me even more skeptical of the idea that potato glycoalkaloids in common potato varieties are a health concern, especially if you were to eliminate most of the glycoalkaloids by peeling.

I asked Mr. Voigt about what foods he was craving during the diet to get an idea of whether he was experiencing any major deficiencies. The fact that Mr. Voigt did not mention craving meat or other high-protein foods reinforces the fact that potatoes are a reasonable source of complete protein. The only thing he craved was crunchy/juicy food, which I'm not sure how to interpret.

He also stopped snoring during the diet, and began again immediately upon resuming his normal diet, perhaps indicating that his potato diet reduced airway inflammation. This could be due to avoiding food allergies and irritants (wheat anyone?) and also fat loss.

Overall, a very informative experiment! Enjoy your potatoes.

*Until the last 5.5 weeks, when he deliberately stuffed himself beyond his appetite because his rapid weight loss worried him. Yet, even with deliberate overfeeding up to his estimated calorie requirement of 2,200 calories per day, he continued to lose weight. He probably was not quite reaching his calorie goal, or his requirement is higher than he thought.

Secret-tary making an ASSange out of our system...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

180 Degrees - its getting hot out there

I did these interviews with Douglass in the first few days of November before the fed announcement regarding QE. It is important to understand the spirit of the conversation is casual. The goal is to educate people in general terms regarding what is happening in the financial system and to empoer or inspire them to figure out their own way. Understand that the achievement of life's goals means having the courage to use its dissonances as trigger points and inspiration and to focus on tyring to keep things simple.

Right now there are quite a lot of manipulators looking to confuse as many people as possible. Just look at the ridiculous interview that Ben Bernanke did on 60 minutes. Keeping in mind that a bear market's objective is that nobody wins,  means that it would be especially important for one to be flexible practical and not suceptible to stepping in front of traps. The last section of the interviews discusses the power of dissonance and looking at a 180 degree different view has enabled very powerful results in my work. 

Trouble With RSS Feed?

I've received several comments that my blog posts are no longer showing up in peoples' RSS feeds. I've gone into my settings, and the blog is still set to full feed mode, so I don't know why that would be. I'm trying to understand if the problem is widespread or only affects a few people. Please let me know in the comments section if new posts (since the potatoes and human health series) are not showing up in your reader. Also, please let me know if new posts are showing up. Thanks!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A discussion regarding Municipal bonds I did in mid November

Douglass Lodmell is a talented attorney with integrity and formidable experience in the asset protection discipline...I will post additional information regarding his work on this blog as I believe that things are about to get rather challenging in the economy, financial system and general governance systems - which might make now be a good time to learn about real options you can use to protect what you have.

Debt or Depression...Which one is Obama, Bernanke targeting?


I will be posting new charts and updates on my systems view of the markets. As you may be aware, I am currently short Gold from around 1400, Silver from an around 30, EURO from 1.345 and 1.41, the S&P, DOW, Russell, Mid Caps and Nasdaq back on weekly shorts with full positions at these levels. There have been quite a lot of intraday long trades but we are now re initiating weekly system reticulation short trades on these markets and have been seeing some daily system activity around these levels.

November was a fantastic month, the second biggest of the year with returns for the month of roughly 18% for moderate risk allocations and substantially higher for aggressive ones.

So, far December has been a good month for shorter term and intraday trades and now we have some swing trades running. So, we will see how those go. All in all, 2010 has been very kind to the systems and my clients. I am hoping that 2011 will continue that trend as well as being a productive and positive year for all of you. My focus is on capital preservation with a core tenet of keeping as much cash out of the banking system as possible and I really want to encourage people to investigate this.

2011 will be a very dangerous year in my opinion for the insolvent large banks of the world. The results should be rather chaotic and confusing which continues the trend of the last years. Lots and Lots of misinformation, manipulation and unknown risks. I think its time for people to start looking seriously at cash as an investment via short-term treasury bonds of US, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland.

Its almost time to exit stage left...

I think now is a good time to pull this oldie but goodie out...

Authenticity in motion...

Authenticity has a way of bringing us where we need to go. This would be a good lesson for our false and hollow leaders to take note of. There are things ofcourse that you can not buy or sell...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interview with Chris Voigt of 20 Potatoes a Day


Chris Voigt is the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, which supports and promotes the Washington state potato industry (1). On October 1st, Mr. Voigt began a two month, potato-only diet to raise awareness about the health properties of potatoes. It was partially in response to the recent decision by the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) low-income assistance program to remove potatoes from the list of vegetables it will pay for. Mr. Voigt's potato diet has been a media sensation, leading to widespread coverage in several countries. He maintains a website and blog called 20 Potatoes a Day.

Diet Facts

For 60 days, Mr Voigt's diet consisted of nothing but potatoes and a small amount of cooking oil (canola and olive), with no added nutritional supplements. Based on what he has told me, I estimate that 10-15% of his calories came from fat, 10% from protein and 75-80% from high-glycemic carbohydrate. His calorie intake ranged from 1,600 kcal (first 3 weeks) to 2,200 kcal (remaining 5.5 weeks) per day. Prior to the diet, he estimated that his calorie requirement was 2,200 kcal, so he attempted to stay as close to that as possible.

Health Markers

Mr. Voigt has posted the results of physical examinations, including bloodwork, from the beginning, middle and end of the diet. The change he experienced during that time is nothing short of remarkable. He shed 21 pounds, his fasting glucose decreased by 10 mg/dL (104 to 94 mg/dL), his serum triglycerides dropped by nearly 50%, his HDL cholesterol increased slightly, and his calculated LDL cholesterol dropped by a stunning 41% (142 to 84 mg/dL). The changes in his HDL, triglycerides and fasting glucose are consistent with improved insulin sensitivity (2, 3), and are not consistent with a shift of LDL particle size to the dangerous "small, dense" variety (4).

What was your diet like prior to the potato diet?
My best estimate is that it was probably a little better than the average US citizen only because of a high rate of produce consumption. I generally would eat about 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But I ate everything else too. I would eat a wide range of food, a little bit of everything, including foods that aren’t considered “healthy”.
You essentially ate nothing but potatoes, fat and flavorings for two months. Can you give us an idea of how much fat you were eating? What kind of fat was it?
I averaged about 2 tablespoons of cooking oil a day over the span of the 60 days. Canola oil was used for frying and olive oil was used for roasting.

How was your digestion?
Potatoes are pretty easy on the digestive system. I actually got a lot of emails from people who suffer from severe digestive disorders and literally, potatoes are the only thing they can eat. My 60 days of potatoes was nothing compared to some folks with these digestive disorders. I was getting a lot of fiber so things were pretty regular, but not too regular :)

You lost 21 pounds during your two months of eating only potatoes. Do you have a sense of whether it came out of fat, muscle or both? For example, did your pants become looser?
Pants definitely became looser. I also noticed it in my neck size for shirts. I’m assuming most all of it was due to fat loss.

Do you think you were able to meet your calorie goal of 2,200 calories per day? Were you hungry during the diet?
I was not meeting the goal of 2,200 calories a day during the first 3 weeks of the diet. During the first three weeks of the diet I only ate until I was full. I didn’t realize that potatoes would give me such a high sense of fullness after each meal. So for those first 3 weeks, I was only consuming about 1,600 calories a day. After the third week I had lost 12 pounds and realized that I needed to change strategy. I then began to eat more potatoes despite the sense of fullness I was experiencing. So for the remaining 5 ½ weeks I was very diligent about eating the 2,200 calories. I continued to lose weight but at a slower place. I lost an additional 9 pounds over the course of those remaining 5 1/2 weeks. At the start of my diet I estimated, via a couple different on line calorie calculators, that I burn about 2,200 calories a day. Since I continued to lose weight, I’m assuming I actually burn closer to 2,800 calories a day. Something that may have also played a role in continued weight loss was the amount of resistant starch I was getting from potatoes. I ate a lot of cooked potatoes that had been refrigerated. These are generally higher in resistant starch. If I were to do the diet again, I would like to set up an experiment to gauge the effect of resistant starch.
What foods did you crave the most?
I craved mostly foods that had a “juicy crunch”, like an apple, or cucumbers, or carrots, or celery. I never acquired a taste for raw potatoes so virtually all the potatoes I consumed were cooked. No matter how you cook your potatoes, you always get that same soft cooked texture. I craved foods with a crisper texture.
How was your energy level?
My energy level was very good the entire time of the diet. I really didn’t notice a change in energy at the start of the diet so I assumed that the potato diet didn’t have a positive or negative effect on my energy level. It wasn’t until I finished the diet and started to consume other foods that I noticed my energy level has seemed to drop a bit.

How did you feel overall? Were there any unexpected effects of the diet?
I felt really good on the diet. I had lots of energy, slept good at night, and seemed to avoid the cold viruses that circulated at home and work.

The only unusual thing that occurred is what my wife told me. I’m a habitual snorer. The day I started eating only potatoes, my snoring stopped. It restarted the day I started to include other foods in my diet. I’m assuming it was just some weird coincidence but that’s what she tells me.

My doctor and I expected my cholesterol to drop but not at the level we saw. I’ve had borderline high cholesterol for the past decade. I started the diet at 214 and saw it drop to 147 at the end of 60 days. We anticipated a drop of maybe 10-25 points. It was a huge surprise to see a 67 point drop.
Your fasting glucose went from 104 mg/dL, which I consider high, to 94 mg/dL, which is on the high side for someone eating a high-carbohydrate diet, but within the clinically normal range. Do you have a family history of diabetes?
No history of diabetes. My parents are in their early eighties and their parents lived to their 70’s and 80’s with no history of type one or two diabetes.

Reading your blog posts, it seemed like you were having a hard time with the diet at first, but after a while you complained less and even seemed to enjoy it at times. Did you get used to it?
I would say that week 2 and 3 were probably the hardest. The first week was easy probably because of the novelty of the diet. Then reality set in for week 2 and 3. After that, I found my groove and it got easier. During the work week was easy but weekends, particularly Sunday’s, were the hardest. During the work week I did most of my eating at my desk so I wasn’t around a lot of other people eating or surrounded by other foods. Weekends were more difficult because I was around other people every meal and always had other foods in front of me at home.
What kinds of potatoes did you eat?
I literally ate every kind of potato I could get my hands on. I ate yellow skin/yellow flesh potatoes, red skin/white flesh, red skin/red flesh, purple skin/white flesh, purple skin/purple flesh, russet potatoes with white flesh, russet potatoes with yellow flesh, white potatoes, yellow potatoes with white flesh, purple fingerlings, yellow fingerlings, red fingerlings and numerous experimental varieties.
Did you peel them or eat the skin?
I ate the skin at least 90% of the time if not more. There is a myth that all the nutrition in a potato is in the skin or right under the skin. That’s not true, there are nutrients spread throughout the potato but most of the fiber is located in the skin.
What variety of potato is your favorite?
It really depended on the cooking method. For frying, I preferred russet potatoes. For baking, I preferred red potatoes. For mashed, I preferred yellow potatoes. For roasting, a toss-up between russets and reds.
How long did it take you after the diet ended to eat another potato?
As strange as it sounds, potatoes were my first two meals after my diet ended. I was saving my first non-potato meal for a special event that was planned at the local Head Start facility. The beef, dairy, apple, and potato producers put together a nice dinner event and nutrition workshop for all the kids and their parents at the Head Start center in Moses Lake. I still eat potatoes pretty regularly, but most of the time now I’m eating them with more than just seasonings.
Are there any other facts about potatoes you think Whole Health Source readers might find interesting?
Just a reminder that I’m not encouraging anyone to follow in my footsteps and eat just potatoes. This diet is not intended to be the next “fad” diet but was simply a bold statement to remind people that there is a tremendous amount of nutrition in a potato. There is no one food product that can meet all of your nutritional needs. I fully support a well balanced healthy diet, which potatoes can be a part of.

In 2008, the United Nations declared it to be the “Year of the Potato”. This was done to bring attention to the fact that the potato is one of the most efficient crops for developing nations to grow, as a way of delivery a high level of nutrition to growing populations, with fewer needed resources than other traditional crops. In the summer of 2010, China approved new government policies that positioned the potato as the key crop to feed its growing population. The Chinese government formed a partnership with the International Potato Center in Peru to help them facilitate this new emphasis on the potato.
Thanks Chris, for doing your experiment and taking the time to share these details with us!

In the next post, I'll give my interpretation of all this.

I wonder if Hoover was referring to the same conspiracy being promulgated by Ben Bernanke with a little help from buddies in the executive and legislative branch of the Fed.

``the individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.'' - J. Edgar Hoover, 1956,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Wikileaks and Climate Change Rap (I mean News) Report

Shelter Dogs Looking For A Home

When you are out there trying to find the perfect gift for a loved one, please don't forget the shelter animals that are looking for a home.  I am not suggesting that these dogs and cats should be adopted for a holiday since making the decision to adopt a pet is a life long one and shouldn't be taken lightly.  You can donate money, toys, blankets, beds or treats to your nearest shelter.  In the Long Beach area, you can help donate to Santa Paws fundraiser this Saturday.  The Humane Society and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary will also take donations to help homeless pets this holiday season.

It was hard to go to the shelter to see all of the animals looking for a home.  At times I had to fight back the tears but I kept on with the hopes that this may get to someone who is looking for a life long companion.  When I returned home, I told Max about it and he offered up one of his beds and some treats so we will be back to deliver these items to help keep them warm during the winter.  All of these dogs are available for adoption at the SPCALA Long Beach animal shelter.