Category Archives: Sláinte

Santa: Role Model or Overweight Elf?

Santa, role model to children the world over? Or overweight Saint who needs to get his own act together before passing naughty/nice judgments on others? In this investigative piece Sláinte looks at the activities of this self described “jolly old elf”.

One witness this reporter interviewed saw Santa, aka St. Nicholas, the night of the twenty fourth. When asked to describe him Clement Clarke Moore said this:

“He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!”

Something tells Sláinte that round belly was neither little nor full of jelly. Santa is just plain overweight. The children might have sugar-plums dancing in their heads but Santa has them dancing through his stomach. He needs to cut back on the sweets and eat more fiber laden whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. If he follows Sláinte’s Holiday Diet, he can reduce his weight and the risks that go with it.

Santa is widest around the middle and shaped like an apple a condition health professionals call abdominal obesity. This is bad because the type of fat cells that grow around the abdominal organs (visceral fat) are different than the type of fat cells that grow under the skin (subcutaneous fat). Visceral fat is home to the killer fat cell. This tissue acts like a gland spewing dangerous chemicals, including inflammatory substances, into the bloodstream. The more fat you have the more chemicals you spew. Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis (which causes heart disease) are all associated with visceral fat and an increase in these inflammatory peptides.

The combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels and insulin resistance (where the body’s muscle and fat tissue resists the action of insulin) make up a condition called the metabolic syndrome. When this occurs blood glucose levels rise because the glucose cannot enter hungry cells. This is dangerous because high levels of glucose can be toxic to certain cell types and tissues including those that produce insulin.

To be fair to the big guy Santa’s nighttime delivery service might be contributing to his weight problem. Lack of sleep is associated the accumulation of visceral fat and so is the stress so common this time of the year. Maybe the elves should chip in for yoga lessons.

“His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry”

Symptoms of chilblains? Or an indication of a drinking problem? Could Santa be drinking and flying? By presidential proclamation December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Does the President know something we don’t?

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

Santa if you are reading, that pipe has got to go. It’s a dirty habit and one that is associated with cancer of the lip, tongue, mouth, larynx and esophagus not to mention stained teeth, mouth sores and gum disease. Keep up with the pipe smoking and you might not have a “droll little mouth” or any teeth left in it to hold that pipe. Smarten up, oral cancer is the 6th leading cause of cancer in the world.

Do you see the Tooth Fairy, Tinker Bell or Easter Bunny smoke? No. Apparently they all care about the impressionable minds of their believers. Get with the program Santa and quit that nasty habit. Pass that pipe to Frosty. He can’t light up to get into trouble.

“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.”

American and Canadian kids desperately need to get more exercise yet each year they are exposed to a man who, rather than just walk next door, prefers to get into a sleigh and fly there. Santa needs to kick the sleigh habit. Perhaps he should ask Mrs. Claus to give him the gift of a pedometer this year so he can work up to 10,000 steps a day. Sláinte’s sure if Santa wants to get back on Mrs. Claus “nice” list he will have to drop a few pounds and change a few habits.

It’s clear to this reporter that Santa desperately needs to follow the example set by his sober hard-working elves. Until he does, Santa earns a big naughty mark from Sláinte.

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore. Excerpts from “A Visit from St. Nicholas” )


Nutrition for Irish Dancers

Sláinte, April 2011

Sláinte is going to talk about the Irish dancer today. What is the most important on feis day? The costume, cape, shoes, poodle socks? (the wig is not, Sláinte is very anti-wig, makes them look like little Dolly Partons) What about the steps? Nope, the important thing is the food you will put in your dancer. The higher the level she competes, the more important nutrition becomes. Her muscles have been trained to give the best performance they can give, but in order for them to work they must be fueled. Same goes for the brain. You want your dancer to remember her steps, correct?    Continue reading Nutrition for Irish Dancers

The “F” Word

This month Sláinte is going to indulge in some plain talk and use the “F” word. If this bothers you, read elsewhere. Still here? Good because we are going to discuss something that bothers a lot of women and a growing number of men. That  “F” word so many people-doctors included-are afraid to say for fear of offending: fat.

Do your thighs jiggle like Jell-O that has escaped from its mold? Do your upper arms flap? Ever been mistaken for pregnant? Overweight and obese are just polite terms for the real thing. Fat. “Fatties” outnumber “skinnies” 2 to 1 in the US right now. Are you fat? Are you a fattie?

Many of us have already suspected that fat is not the inert substance doctors told us it was. It seemed to be too responsive to our actions for that to be true and we were right. Fat does has an

Beer or baby?

agenda and that is to keep you as fat as possible despite all your efforts. Fat is good because only the fatties will survive the coming famine. Naturally thin women think fat takes orders from the thinking part of the brain. Using self-control you can impose your will on those recalcitrant fat cells and tell them what to do. But fat people know better. Fat cells answer to the primitive brain deep in our skull. It equates weight loss with famine and death so it unleashes the most powerful weapon known in the universe: hunger. Hunger almost always trumps self-control.

I know what you are thinking. If in this war on fat when the blockade on calories no longer works, then maybe we should consider a surgical strike to take out the offenders. Something like we did with Bin Laden. Something called liposuction. Be honest, haven’t you thought about liposuction? Take a nap and wake up with a flat tummy. It’s almost too good to be true but it’s a surgical procedure. It’s not like some quacky potion that claims to get rid of fat, you see all the fat they suck out of those cellulite riddled thighs.

Alas, to everyone’s amazement, it looks like liposuction was too good to be true. In a study published this month in the journal Obesity, University of Colorado researchers found that liposuction does not remove fat, it just puts it someplace else. In their study, fat was suctioned from the lower abdomen or thighs and it later reappeared in the upper body in the arms and upper abdomen. Of course, it wasn’t the same fat cells sneaking back (although Sláinte wouldn’t put it past them) but an average of 3 pounds of fat was removed in this study and an equal amount was gained back in the upper body within a year.

Moral of the story: don’t try to fool Mother Nature. Or a Fat Cell.

While researchers look for ways to counteract the “fat is good” messages being sent to and from the brain, what can you do now? You have only to look on a science news website to see all the ways you can incur the wrath of the Fat Cell and gain more weight. You would go crazy trying to control them all. So, own who you are. Be fat and love your body. Accept it and accept the fact that being fat is going to put your at greater risk for some disorders. Accept also that there are some things under your control like what kinds of foods you eat or how much you exercise. Being fat is not an excuse to eat anything you want. But being fat does necessarily means unhealthy just like being skinny does not necessarily mean healthy. Health is more than body shape. It’s linked to the kinds of foods you eat, the kind and amount of exercise you get, and other lifestyle factors like stress control, how much deep sleep you get, and of course, if you use tobacco.

The best advice is the simplest. Most of your diet should be real food,  that holds true no matter what your shape. Fats should be vegetable fats especially nut oils, canola oil and olive oil. Avoid fake food and fried food as much as you can; real food does not come in boxes and your body knows that even if you don’t. If you must have them (and sometimes we must), put it off until you have eaten all the recommended servings  of fruits, vegetables, seeds and whole grains for the day. Then you can eat one serving. The problem with fried foods is twofold: the fat makes them very high in calories and the high temperature used to deep fry changes the nature of the oil so it is likely to damage your arteries.

Sláinte strongly suggests you learn the nature of your hunger beast. What feeds it? Pay attention to the kinds of stimuli that makes you feel hunger. Sláinte might not be hungry at all but then she sees a Red Lobster commercial and she wants butter drenched sea food. Do the odors of food make you hungry? The sight of food? The time of day? Make a list of what feeds your hunger and brainstorm ways to avoid them. For example, if the sight and smell of chocolate makes you crave chocolate, don’t put chocolate-scented chocolate-shaped magnets on your bulletin board or fridge where you see them all the time.

Finally, being fat is one thing and being morbidly obese is another. Don’ t let yourself cross over from fat and overweight to obese.