Sunday, August 13, 2017

What would Naomi do?

eric1513 | 123RF.com
Like most of you, I've spent the last 48 hours alternately outraged and horrified by what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend.

To catch you up: Three people died and 26 were injured in connection with a protest conceived by alt-right groups to protest the Charlottesville city council's plans to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. One of the dead is Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was attending a counter-protest when a car plowed into the group. The driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fisher Jr. from Maumee, Ohio, is being held on charges of second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and hit-and-run. The Justice Department is investigating and may file additional charges against Fisher. His high school history teacher says Fisher was enamored with Nazis even then.

The other two dead were Virginia State Troopers whose helicopter crashed on landing in a wooded area not far from downtown. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Reaction to the events has been almost unanimously against the neo-Nazis, white nationalists, KKK members, and fellow travelers who conceived of the event. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have condemned the groups' actions. About the only people who have spoken out in support of these groups, in fact, are other white supremacists.

And then there's President Trump, whose remarks could most charitably be described as noncommittal. Instead of condemning the march's organizers, he spoke against "the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."

He also tweeted condolences to the family of the dead woman and "best regards to all of those injured."

"Charlottesville sad!" he said in another tweet.

I keep saying I'm not going to turn this into a political blog, but that guy in the White House, who has at least a couple of white nationalists on staff, keeps testing my resolve.

However, I will forbear. Instead, I'll risk turning this post into a shameless plug for my own books by dreaming aloud about how the characters in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe would react.

As it happens, the Land, Sea, Sky trilogy -- which is part of that universe -- is set in DC, mostly, and not too far in the future. Thanks to the return of the gods to Earth some years before, a powerful coalition of military, industrial, and legislative leaders has been watching its power slip away. The co-conspirators are organizing what they believe to be a foolproof plan to defeat the gods and put themselves on top again. (You may see a parallel here with the white nationalists who would like to claw back majority control of the United States by staging protests like the one in Charlottesville.)

The good guys in Land, Sea, Sky include Sue Killeen, who works as a project manager for a nonprofit called Earth in Balance; Tess Showalter, an investigative reporter for the New World News Network; Darrell Warren, a Potawatomi healer turned Navy SEAL; and their gods. All the gods, actually. And I included cameo appearances by some of the main characters from the original series: Naomi Witherspoon Curtis, Joseph Curtis, and their children, Sage and Webb.

Any of the humans would give the alt-right a run for their money. But I'd especially love to give Naomi a crack at them. Her special talent is pushing people to do the right thing, and she would have a field day with the boys of the alt-right. And in the White House, too. If Naomi could get hold of President Trump, his tweets would sound very different. Believe me.

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These moments of speculative blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Counting calories.

I've posted here before about weight loss, but not for quite a while. That's because I decided to quit trying to lose weight. I've been dieting, off and on, for nearly 50 years. At first I counted calories, then carbs, fat grams, and Weight Watchers points.

For a short while, I was on NutriSystem: prepackaged foods, a bunch of supplements, and no bananas. Seriously, no bananas. It had something to do with the way their diet handled potassium intake. I lost weight on it -- but anybody would. It was an 800-calorie-a-day, high-protein diet. They achieved the protein numbers by putting protein powder in everything -- even the prepackaged hot chocolate mix.

I've managed to stay away from gimmicky diet aids -- Ayds "candies" (remember those?), Slim-Fast shakes, fasts and cleanses, fen-phen. Haven't done any of them, ever. In most cases, I'm glad. I've also glad that I've never fallen for the siren song of bariatric surgery; nearly everyone I know who's had it done has gained the weight back, and some have had medical complications, to boot.

I've met with nutritionists several times over the years. I even signed up for a clinical trial for some weight loss drug, but I quit when the nutritionist gave me information that conflicted with information that another nutritionist had given me years before.

In short, over the years, I've lost hundreds of pounds...and gained them all back.

So I related to the New York Times story that came out this past week. It turns out that Weight Watchers has an image problem. People are tired of thinking about their weight. They're tired of thinking about food all the time. Instead, people today want to be healthy. They want to be strong. They want to eat clean (whatever that means).

Weight Watchers solved their problem by reinventing their program yet again (they tweak it every couple of years, anyway) and hiring Oprah to be their spokeswoman. Sign-ups skyrocketed. I highly doubt whether their results are any better, though, and here's why:
Diets don't work.
We have known this for years. One big reason is this one, from a Psychology Today article published in 2010:
Obesity and overweight can be conditions that are caused by early life trauma... In one early study of 286 obese people, half had been sexually abused as children. In these cases, "...overeating and obesity weren't the central problems, but attempted solutions." For these people, therapy might be a prerequisite to healthy weight loss.
Programs like Weight Watchers address physical hunger. They focus on the scale -- on measurable results to show investors and prospective clients -- and they basically tell you that if your problem is emotional eating, you just need to change your attitude, gosh darn it, and here are some tips for that.

Of course, there's a lot of recidivism in diet programs. As the author of the New York Times article says, if you want to be successful at Weight Watchers, you basically have to resign yourself to being a member -- counting points every day -- for the rest of your life.

No wonder I got discouraged and quit.

Unfortunately, that means the pounds have come back. So I'm trying something slightly different this time. It's an app called Noom Coach. You can download the app for free, but to get full use of the features, you have to pay for the coaching and group meetings. So far, I've been using it for a little less than a week. I haven't learned anything that I didn't know already, and the group chat feels a lot like a daily Weight Watchers meeting (for good or ill). But it's easy to log my food and the app does the calorie counting for me.

That's right! I've come full circle. I'm back to counting calories.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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These moments of calorie-free blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.