Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

19 Feb

Holy Grails of Health

Taking a look at the health headlines this afternoon, I’m struck again by how much information is really disinformation, misinformation, and my personal favorite, uninformation (e.g. exercise is good! try to quit smoking! eat healthy!).

Every day, I see the most sensational (but worthless), the most inaccurate, and the most outdated health information disseminated. Question the “holy grails” of health and suffer the wrath of so-called experts (who are often no better informed than you). The holy grails I challenge:

– Is type 2 diabetes a disease or a natural response to a toxic diet?

– Is cholesterol the cause of heart disease, or the body’s desperate attempt to repair damage?

– Why rely on the BMI – are there better indicators of physical fitness and healthy weight?

– Do we really need 8, or 10, or 12 glasses of water daily – or should we drink when we’re thirsty?

– Is milk fit for human consumption? How about grains? Why did these get the “perfect food” labels?

– Is our diet really providing all the nutrients we need?
Death warmed up.

The Onion

Consider one typical path of health information for a moment:

– A study is performed which may or may not be funded by a company or special interest hoping for a certain result.

– Scientists may or may not find the results that were desired, and may or may not present those results in an accurate way (if you’re a lab tech at the FDA, chances are good that you’ve been threatened, warned, or cajoled for attempting to do your job).

– The company or special interest releases this “news” in a particular way, and the media may or may not do background digging to determine the accuracy, fairness, or potential bias inherent in the release.

– Our own biases, background and desires filter how we interpret and accept or reject the news, which may or may not be accurate news to begin with.

– The government may or may not look out for the truth. The FDA is replete with ex-Pharma pros and the federal legislature is inundated with special interest dollars and deals. Though the government is supposed to look out for public health, I’d argue that public servants actually have less incentive to be honest or ethical than average citizens, because reelection is often tied to perception of results, not actual results. Fail, and you can spin it. If a businessperson fails, it’s hard to spin your way out of that – you failed, period. There are consequences.

Where are the consequences for the FDA or pharmaceutical companies? Theoretically, legislation and lawsuits “protect” the consumer, but I don’t see that these things have yielded measurable improvement. Sure, Big Puff shelled out a boatload of cash in the ’90s in class-action suits, but behind our backs, at the very same time, the very same tobacco companies were increasing the nicotine levels in cigarettes. If that’s not spite…

Who has a vested interest in Americans being sick, overweight, and unhealthy? With 74% of us overweight, and serious health issues like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension skyrocketing and leaving other industrialized nations in the dust, we are quite literally a sick nation.

It ain’t just Kentucky, folks. Clearly, individuals are not benefiting – so who is? Who would stand to benefit from addiction, sickness, and ignorance?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (and do they ever drive me nuts). On the contrary, I think the most obvious, logical explanation is usually the correct one. So, I’m not suggesting a group of old men with an affinity for expensive cigars cooked up a massive plot to enslave and profit from innocent Joes and Janes. They didn’t have to.

It’s plain as day, and really, it’s just biology: humans become quickly habituated, even addicted, to what is pleasurable and requires the least effort (enter fast food and huge portions). We’re hardwired for feast-or-famine. Problem is, these days, it’s feast all the time.

Humans also like to find a way to make money to acquire even more pleasurable things. We do this quite well, usually by supplying something other humans are demanding (enter pharmaceuticals).

humans are lion food

Built for survival and having learned through trial and error that passing up pleasure is a bad idea (hey, it might be a week before another juicy goat carcass pops up), humans tend to stick with activities that reinforce pleasurable feelings, and we tend to go for shortcuts – this is all built into our biology. It worked when we had to haul that goat carcass across the savannah back to our hole in the ground where our young were – hopefully – waiting, if they hadn’t been devoured by a passing lion. It doesn’t work so well now. Although, it’s certainly working for someone.

We’re feasting our brains out, with very predictable results: obesity, sickness, disease, depression.

So, who can benefit from taking responsibility, becoming as informed as possible, making conscious decisions congruent with your beliefs and knowledge, and actively pursuing good health?

You, that’s who.

You are the only one who is truly responsible for your own health – being a victim is not a modus operandi that does anyone any good. Period.

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19 Feb

Weekly Health Challenge

Don’t let heredity become a nonrefundable ticket to the land of illness. Just because a disease or illness is common in your family doesn’t mean you have to accept it for you.

The drug and medical industries like to tell us we can blame every flaw, problem and health issue on our genes. That’s really convenient if you want to give someone else control over your health (how nice for Big Pharma), but it’s inaccurate and frankly, no way to go through life.

Genes do play a role in predisposition, but you have far more choice than you may realize. Things like cancer, diabetes and obesity do run in families, because families perpetuate particular habits and lifestyles (there’s a no-brainer). Fortunately, so many “hereditary” health problems are often totally preventable! Through a combination of regular medical screenings, healthy food, stress management, and daily exercise, you can and will steer clear of most of these so-called “genetic” health woes. I challenge you to think about whatever illness is common in your gene pool – whether that’s arthritis or colon cancer – and take preventive steps right now. Start writing your own health history this week.

Web it out:

A very sensible apricot

My point exactly!

19 Feb

A Monday Moment

We all know we’re supposed to “forgive and forget” in order to move on from past hurts and get the most out of life. But of course, that’s often easier said than done, and it can even be confusing. Does forgiving mean being a doormat and letting people hurt us? Does forgetting mean we don’t get wiser with experience? Why forgive?

Navigating hurt isn’t easy. But it can be helpful to remind ourselves that forgiving isn’t really for the person who has hurt you – it’s for you. By no means should you “forget” the experience, because that’s just foolish. But forgiveness is empowering because it allows you to move on and not let the person who hurt you continue to have a hold over your thoughts and feelings – after all, that experience is in the past and no longer exists. That’s the forgetting part – you learn from your mistake (or theirs), but you forget the anger or sadness or whatever other negative emotion is associated with that experience. Life is hard; it is unfair; it is uncertain. Loving yourself enough to forgive, forget and move on is a healthy thing, because it’s an indication that you are embracing the present moment as it actually exists, rather than dwelling on things that no longer have any bearing on who you are at this moment.

This doesn’t mean we stick around for more abuse or act like doormats. It’s smart, and necessary, to move on from people and situations that have caused you harm. But you shouldn’t beat yourself up about these things, either, by continuing to think about them. Many of us are trapped by “ghosts” of the past. Sometimes letting go can feel like a loss of control or power. Letting go and moving on can even feel like insult added to the injury – as if to diminish or deny the validity and intensity of your own feelings (“if I let it go, were my feelings about it worth nothing?”). It can become a vicious loop.

I believe there’s a very simple way out of that cycle of hurt:

Love your past, but don’t live it.

Love your mistakes, your bad judgment calls, your feelings, your thoughts – all of it. Accept that it was all necessary to get you to this point. And then forgive yourself. You can love the “old you” who experienced that painful situation without continuing to live it. Moving on doesn’t mean that experience was invalid or you were necessarily wrong to act or feel the way you did. It’s who you were and what you were capable of at that time. But now you’re different – now you’re in this moment. So cut yourself some slack – love yourself for screwing up, feeling what you felt, and so on.

That was then, this is now – love your past, but don’t relive it. You have new, better memories (and mistakes) to make, so get to it!

16 Feb

Friday’s Fuss

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Peanut butter is being recalled, women are more germy than men, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief, because Donald Trump’s comb-over may soon become a thing of the past. Or maybe not.

Peanut butter isn’t the ideal food anyway (it’s fine in sauces and on fresh fruit, but a PB&J sandwich is no healthier than a donut). Girls still smell better. As far as Donald is concerned, we think his hair would make a great nest.

We're moving, kids!

Here’s the breaking clickativity:

1) Restless Legs Are Not News

Restless legs have a cure: movement. Restless leg syndrome is a modern phenomenon borne of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It is NOT a disease needing a cure. The cure is to move around once in a while.

Here’s an incredible expose on how pharmaceutical companies literally create diseases so you’ll take their drugs – and how the media are complicit in spinning the lies.

Bust a move!

2) Expect Plenty of Bad Leno Jokes Tonight

So Kentucky and West Virginia are overweight, heart-disease-ridden states. Before you gloat (or feel bad if you hail from these states), keep in mind that all 50 of our states are a giant collective embarrassment.

We are the fattest, sickest, soonest-dying, most diseased industrialized nation. Pretty pathetic, considering we’re leaders in medical research, have no shortage of nutritious food, and are the richest nation…on earth. But the media are covering this non-news like white on rice. Basically, we’re preschoolers comparing the size of our crayon boxes while everybody else has moved on to markers.

This is the kind of irritating health news we have to draw attention to, simply because it’s so stupid. It’s a good example of how the media alternately scares the living daylights out of people and reports frivolous non-news as “news”. Will anyone care about this in two weeks (or two days)? Will anything be done? Where are the investigative pieces and exposes that actually produce some change?

Bring it on, Jay. We're ready.

3) Bees Dying

This makes us very sad. And it could actually be a huge problem for crop production this year.

16 Feb

If I See 1 More Carrot-Cauli-Broccoli Blend, I’ll…

Smart Fuel

You know what I am sick of? Boring vegetable blends! No wonder people don’t eat their vegetables.

Every restaurant, catered buffet and frozen blend seems to feature the same old julienned carrots, pale broccoli chunks and soggy cauliflower (does anyone really, truly love cauliflower?).

Let’s not forget the ubiquitous cucumber slices with bitter skins and the endless selection of pithy, depressing tomatoes.

I refuse to eat boring, soggy, uninspiring vegetables. Why eat broccoli stem chunks when you can stuff yourself with olive oil-drizzled broccolini? Why deal with yet another white onion when you can try out shallots for the same price?

I’m not exactly what you’d call a chef, but fortunately, coming up with meals that taste amazing is incredibly easy if you just expand your idea of what “getting your veggies” means. It’s just about impossible to mess up vegetables.

So try something new this weekend. There are plenty of really flavorful, interesting plants to nosh on in your quest for flat abs and more energy.

Here are a few to try:

Heart of palm

We can’t get enough of this stuff around the Sisson household. You can slice these stalks up like potatoes au gratin and bake them with a little ricotta, goat cheese or cottage cheese for a really indulgent but healthy meal. Heart of palm is almost nonexistent in the calorie department, and provides a lot of fiber. The texture is similar to canned artichoke or bamboo but is far more rich and satisfying. Heart of palm has the perfect amount of chewiness and a mild, salty flavor that makes it perfect for replacing starchy items like potatoes or pasta – and it makes a great snack.

If you’ve tried and failed at tofu, you will love heart of palm.

No palm trees were harmed in the posting of this photo.

Thanks to Chodta for the picture!


If you’re from the South, you already know (and possibly love) okra. A lot of people hear “okra” and think “slime”. But prepared right, okra is…off the chain. I buy frozen chopped okra, thaw it, and rinse it thoroughly several times. It takes a little work to drain and press the goop away, but what’s left is a vegetable that makes a mean stir fry. I cook okra over a really hot grill to get it a little bit seared for maximum flavor, dryness and crunch. Goes great with chili flavors and hot sauces. Okra is just about the easiest way to lose that belly fat – you can eat an entire bag for fewer calories than a slice of cheese.

Southern staple

Sea vegetables

Seaweed is just the beginning. Look around – health food stores, organic and vegetarian aisles, and ethnic food stores all carry many types of unusual sea vegetables. Some of them are passable, but some are so good I don’t know why anyone continues to suffer through green-white-and-carrot. Experiment. Sea vegetables are nutritionally dense – they’re particularly good for the thyroid and the cardiovascular system.
A selection from Whole Foods


All those little packets of fresh herbs? Start buying and eating them. A lot.

Herbs are pretty foolproof. Chop them up and throw them into every recipe for amazing flavor, antioxidants, and vitamins (herbs are really just another type of lettuce, if you think about it). Certain herbs go better with certain meat and vegetable combinations, but you’ll almost never create anything that tastes bad. Basil, rosemary, dill, chives and ready-picked blends are all great.

don't forget me!

Thanks to photographer Sarah Williams.

© 2015 Mark's Daily Apple

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