Entries from January 2009 ↓
January 20th, 2009 — dieting
Nooooooooooooo! Magda Szubanski, the great Australian comedian and actor, best known internationally for her roles as Mrs Hoggett in the Babe movies and as Sharon Strzelecki in Kath and Kim, is now shilling for Jenny Craig.
She’s long been a role model for fat women; someone brimming with confidence, success, self-esteem, and no evidence that she thought herself ugly or unworthy because of her size. I recall an Australian Women’s Weekly article from a few years back where she tells of her disdain for diets and how they don’t work. And she’s consistently rated as one of Australia’s best-known and best-loved stars for nearly a decade, so it’s not just fat chicks who love her.
Apparently, Magda has now crossed the arbitrary line of too fat.
Features of the campaign include:
Press releases resulting in newspaper and magazine articles where Szubanski claims she is “eating herself into an early grave” and realised she was “killing herself with fat”.
(Unless you are eating chicken that’s been left out on the bench in summer or lacing your peas with arsenic, I don’t think so.)
An ad talking about all the crazy diets she’s been on, and how Jenny Craig is different
Another ad where she talks about how she hates having to wear ugly fat lady clothes (FFS Magda, we know you have enough money to afford some Igigi, Anna Scholz, and Svoboda) and she is going on the Jenny Craig diet because she really wants to be “a fox”.
Yeah, it’s all about health!
Also there’s the “exclusive” tell-all confessionals on the tabloid TV show A Current Affair. You know, share in Magda’s special journey.
There’s no evidence whatsoever that Jenny Craig produces long-term weight loss. NONE. A thorough search of peer-reviewed scientific journals showed nothing that would cast Jenny Craig in a positive light and better than any other diet. There are a couple of reports that go up to one year, but that’s it. One of those reported that people who stayed in the “Platinum Program” for one year lost approximately 15% of their initial body weight (which is apparently enough to earn the researchers’ recommendation…WTF). But no one’s ever followed up beyond that year; you can bet your right arse cheek that Jenny Craig would be crowing about it from the rooftops if there was a smidgen of evidence that their program worked long-term, but they prey on all those repeat customers.
What’s the Platinum Program cost? $459 (Australian dollars). A MONTH. Yes, that’s right. FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY NINE DOLLARS A MONTH.
And the food is, frankly, awful. Highly-processed tasteless rubbish. I’m not opposed to processed foods per se, however I expect food to actually taste good, which Jenny Craig meals do not. Why punish yourself like this, Magda? What happened? And, cynically, how much money did they offer you?
(Note: This isn’t meant to be a personal attack on Szubanski. Just a frustrated “Why??” against the whole diet industry and its practices. And the performative nature of weight loss. Szubanski is free to do as she wishes, of course, but it’s always so disappointing when someone you thought was an ally turns around like that.)
January 16th, 2009 — children, food attitude
On my quest for information about pernicious anemia, hypothyroidism, and various other conditions, I’ve come across more than a few pages full of How Eating This Way Will Cure Your Autoimmune Condition/Cancer/Dandruff/Whatever. One mentioned Julie Stafford, an Australian woman who claims to have kept her husband’s cancer in remission for more than 25 years because of a Pritikin-esque diet. Now, who knows if the remission might have continued regardless of diet. But she’s made a career out of publishing recipe books and health guides and appearing in the media.
Way back inna 80s, my mother, on one of her diet kicks, bought two of the Stafford books, A Taste of Life and More Taste of Life. They were full of recipes that were very low fat and cholesterol, no added cane sugar, and no salt. She was big on using apple juice concentrate instead of Evil White Sugar and egg whites only. Being the kind of kid that read everything, I read these books. Frankly, most of the recipes sounded pretty damn unappetising, even now with my more mature palate. Australian food in the 80s, whether regular or “health” food, was still pretty unexciting. A few stir-fries and some of the more tame pasta dishes were about as wild as it got, really. Maybe a curry made with Keen’s Curry Powder. (Ew.) These days, I do eat more than a few dishes that naturally fall within Stafford’s rules, only things I had never even dreamed of as a child: blindingly hot daal, intriguingly spicy Thai dishes, tabouli…oh how I love spices. Possibly a reaction against my bland childhood food: My mother was a good cook, but the spiciest we got was a bit of rosemary and a clove of garlic on a lamb roast. Anyway:
Reading through the section on recipes for children, I stumbled upon the most horrifying suggestion ever.
Instead of giving your child a birthday cake, you should decorate a cardboard box or upturned plastic container like a cake.
There are so many things wrong with that I’m not even sure where to begin. I mean, COME ON. I am pretty sure there are health nut parents out there that feed their children steamed kale and brown rice throughout the year but still go with an actual birthday cake, even if it’s a wholemeal vegan banana cake. I am pretty sure there are parents that have diabetic kids who are allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts and grains who manage to find a real cake. I just can’t imagine the kind of parent that brings out a decorated box instead of an actual food item at Junior’s birthday party, because if you dare eat a slice of real cake with real icing once a year you might get cancer or fat or some other horror. Or that one forbidden taste might send you on a spiralling binge into a trough of fat and sugar.
It was all the more puzzling to me because the books included recipes for cakes (made almost entirely of dried fruit, applesauce, and a tiny smattering of wholemeal flour, but cakes nonetheless). Why the fake cake? That’s not a taste of life, it’s a taste of orthorexia.
January 5th, 2009 — health care
In the course of investigations for possible thyroid problems, I found out I had B12 levels near the lowest end of the lab range. Since I have discovered the best thing to do with one’s lab results is to not simply accept that anything in range is “normal” but to do some research, that’s what I did. (Generally if your lab results are in normal range and you feel well, then that’s fine. Except for kidney results – you can feel pretty good right up until near failure. Look after your kidneys!)
I discovered that there are several forms of B12, and if you have a low B12 level, you should also get the following tested:
- Holotranscobalamin (HTC) (active B12 what gets into your cells)
- Methylmalonic Acid (MMA) (raised if B12 is too low for you)
- Homocysteine (ditto)
- Full blood count (to check for megaloblastic cells)
I convinced my doctor to order those tests, even though she was pretty sure that my low B12 was simply due to being vegetarian. For whatever reason, the MMA isn’t covered by Medicare here so I skipped it and its $245 charge. However, my homocysteine came back raised and my HTC came back rather low, and with a note from the pathologist on the results that I should be tested for intrinsic factor antibodies and parietal cell antibodies. Which my doctor also ordered, and the results came back positive for parietal cell antibodies. This means I can absorb less than 1% of all the B12 I consume, and I need B12 injections for the rest of my life. Many sources (including my doctor) reckon that you only need one shot every three months, but there are lots of other legit medical sources that say anything from once a week or whenever you feel a bit run down. It took some arguing but my doctor agreed to give me one shot a week, as I have neurological symptoms.
Ah, symptoms. There’s a lot of crossover with hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, celiac disease, and mental illnesses. Brain fog, breathlessness (it’s a bit more like needing to sigh a lot than being puffed) and fatigue are the big ones, along with depression, tingling in feet and hands, muscle weakness, and as it gets more advanced left untreated, even dementia and multiple-sclerosis-like symptoms. I am still fairly sure there’s something thyroid or pituitary related going on with me as I have many distinct symptoms. It’s not unusual for people with one autoimmune condition to have others, either.
Pernicious (“deadly”) anemia, despite the name, is not really a blood disease. It’s a nutritional deficiency, but before vitamins were understood that’s how it was named as signs and symptoms were similar to other anemias. Dr Addison was the first to formally describe it, in the mid-1800s, and until about 1920 it was fatal (1-3 years life expectancy), when it was discovered that ingesting large amounts of liver relieved symptoms. The three doctors involved in that won the Nobel Prize for their efforts. It wasn’t until 1948 that B12 (cobalamin) itself was discovered, and ways to produce it from bacteria were developed.
The liver worked because B12 is stored in the liver. It holds about 2-3 years’ supply in humans, so it can take a while before a deficiency occurs.
Pernicious anemia is more common in the elderly, and there are some medical researchers who are convinced that it’s undiagnosed or undertreated pernicous anemia that is a significant cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. B12 is a water-soluble, non-toxic substance (people with cyanide poisoning receive a 5,000 times larger-than-normal dose of B12 over an hour with no ill effects) and aggressive therapy seems to be the way to go with most with a deficiency. Like with the struggle to get proper diagnosis and treatment for hypothyroid, CFS, etc, many doctors are not terribly well educated on the topic and it’s sadly common for people with PA to suffer symptoms yet not be allowed a B12 shot outside of schedule. It’s mind-boggling, really. The way my own doctor reacted was almost like I was asking for heroin!
I’m on the waiting list to have an upper GI endoscopy, too, as people with PA have higher risk of atrophic gastritis, polyps, and stomach cancers. This will also include biopsies for evidence of celiac disease. (I won’t go into detail about my gastroenterologist appointment, save to say that they install lap bands and aren’t terribly fat-friendly.) The waiting list is up to six months, as despite the alleged enormous number of fatties, there’s only ONE endoscopy trolley rated for patients over 100kg available, in a population area of 450,000. If all those fat people are supposed to be so sick, then why isn’t the equipment a priority? I wonder how many fat people get sicker and sicker waiting for equipment to free up. As fillyjonk asks, tell me again about how it’s fat that’ll kill you?
Thankfully it’s not long until my appointment with a doctor known to be much more knowledgeable and sympathetic regarding issues like this. I’m hopeful I can get a good treatment and recovery plan.
For more information on pernicious anemia, the best resource on the internet is the Pernicious Anemia Society, a UK-based non-profit. It’s free to join and post on the forums, where there’s lots of helpful adivce and support to be had.