Choke-Proof Hotdogs: What’s Next? Outlawing Grapes?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Any mother worth her title knows that grapes are the number one choking hazard. At my kid’s pre-school, they actually make parents cut up grapes due to the risk. No warning on hotdogs, though. Until now:

Nutritionists have long warned of the perils of hot dogs: fat, sodium and preservatives to name a few.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics wants foods like hot dogs to come with a warning label — not because of their nutritional risks but because they pose a choking hazard to babies and children.

Better yet, the academy would like to see foods such as hot dogs “redesigned” so their size, shape and texture make them less likely to lodge in a youngster’s throat. More than 10,000 children under 14 go to the emergency room each year after choking on food, and up to 77 die, says the new policy statement, published online today in Pediatrics. About 17% of food-related asphyxiations are caused by hot dogs.

“If you were to take the best engineers in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child’s airway, it would be a hot dog,” says statement author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “I’m a pediatric emergency doctor, and to try to get them out once they’re wedged in, it’s almost impossible.”

Full disclosure: I got yelled at a lot because I didn’t cut up the grapes, so you probably know where I’m going with this.

Could America get any less risk-averse? I mean really.

This is the country that conquered the West, sent a man to the moon and just beat Canada’s ass in hockey and we’re going to re-design a hotdog so kids don’t choke?

What kind of message do we send to our kids when we mitigate against every little risk? We send a message that Americans are WEENIES. Kid-sized weenies and big, overbearing, obsessive parenting weenies.

With all the problems in the world, hotdogs should be relegated to the category of awesome. I do not want to go out to the baseball park and eat a re-engineered hotdog. In the future, however, I shall praise my own courage in buying a foot-long at the park. I ate the whole thing without choking! I could have died!!

On Weight Loss…

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Hi guys, I see that you’re having a discussion about weight loss [at]. It’s not a burden to the website. Thought I’d share a couple thoughts and you guys can continue the discussion:

1. Often, there is an underlying issue around why a person gained weight. A physical trauma like a busted knee that forces immobility, say, or an emotional trauma that causes the cortisol-insulin feedback loop to go haywire.

2. Often, a person has to resolve the underlying issue in order to get to the desired weight.

3. Weight loss is a simple equation: burn more calories than you consume. Simple does not mean easy.

4. Nearly everyone (I see this in practice all the time) knows the answers for weight loss for himself on some level. That is, they know that ___________ thing is bad for them and that they should avoid it, but they often feel a compulsion toward the unhelpful thing. There can be a mind or body component here. For example, many people crave sugar because it is a natural serotonin booster which is the feel-good hormone. Like a nutrition expert I know says, “Diabetics are happy people. It’s the starving super models who are mean.” Sugar makes for a sunnier outlook but can reek havoc on the endocrine system. Eventually, the body gets tired of trying to adjust to the swinging. Some people avoid the very foods they need, too. For example, many vegetarians avoid meat because they feel disgusting eating it while suffering low energy. They need meat–they often also need to resolve the hidden digestion issue. Their bodies aren’t breaking food down properly to get the nutrition.

I.E. it’s not what you eat, it’s what you absorb.

5. Eating unhealthy is easier. People are busy….grabbing carbs–chips, cookies, candy bars, etc. is convenient.

6. Some people need to face the truth: They would rather eat that ding dong (they love ding dongs) than be thinner. I had a diabetic patient tell me, “I’d rather drink Coke and die, than not drink Coke.” Okay, then. I gave advice with that in mind. There were still other things he could do to help himself.

7. Metabolism is closely related to hormones. It IS hormonal. So, especially as we age, our vitality is closely related to our levels of hormones which relates to our activity levels. It’s circular. If the cycle can be broken either by exercising or by intervening with hormone therapy, often a person can get the positive reinforcement needed to press on with the efforts.

8. Weight loss is a very individual thing. What works for one will not work for another. I got into it with the leader of a dance troop who encouraged everyone to eat mostly vegetables and only chicken. Only problem was that one of the dancers was borderline anemic and thrived on red meat. She needed it in a way others didn’t. People need to do what works for them. As my mentor told me, “One person’s pleasure is another person’s poison.” When it comes to diet, it is most definitely true. Also, when and how a person eats is also individual.

Here are some principles (keep in mind, I struggle with this too. I’m healthy, but I am by no means thin.):

1. Start with protein. Start the day with protein–eggs are good. You’ll feel more “full” all day.
2. Eat regularly. That is, don’t stress your blood sugar system by waiting too long between meals and putting your body into a calorie hoarding state.
3. Eat protein with everything. It will regulate your blood sugar and fill you up.
4. Eat socially. Have company.
5. Sit when you eat.
6. Stop eating before you feel full.
7. If food is your non-stop focus, food isn’t the issue.

Anyway, my two cents. Somewhere between obsessive skinniness and obesity, there’s a healthy balance. Genetics plays a big part in longevity. Being at a healthy weight can enhance your genetic potential. These days, I see way more people obsessed rather than living joyfully. Making food a god, either by avoidance or over-indulgence is wasteful. Food is meant to not only be functional but also a sensory and sensual delight. The irony is that for all the focus and fear, people are not getting thinner or healthier, they’re just more miserable. If you’re gonna be fat, might as well be happy!

Bathing In A Sink

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

A Burger King employee celebrated his birthday by bathing in the restaurants kitchen sink. He was fired. He was also caught on video tape. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in eating at a fast food restaurant, but did you have confidence before?

If I Paid For It, It’s Mine, And I Can Do What I Want To

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

It is nectar from the heavens, I tell you.

This is something I noticed at the most awesome Houston restaurant I went to last week: chocolate cake. Big deal, right? Chocolate cake is the desert that everyone wants who is a desert denier regularly. So, it figures to be on the menu at fine restaurants. Or not. Too many are too smart by half and offer up exotic concoctions that have an artistic flair but no one wants. They want chocolate. They want chocolate cake.

I don’t drink coffee, mainly because it smells so good I know it would be immediately added to my addiction list and it’s already too long, but James Lileks does and so does the guy he’s referring to (and the secret observer, careful companies, people are watching your crappy service and they’ll talk about it):

As for the coffee shop story – a guy wanted his espresso with ice, the “barista” wouldn’t do it, so the guy asked for ice on the side – and was given a dressing-down by the barista for insulting the integrity of the craft and the virtue of the crema, or whatever. The comments are amusing; while some people hammer the blogger for his crude reaction, others side with the barista for sticking up for the espresso, for saving it from the indignity this barbarian wished to inflict upon it. Criminey. The man paid for his coffee. If he wanted to add ground-up goat-glands and drizzle donkey spittle on the top once money had changed hands, that’s his right. I love coffee; I love good coffee. I love coffee so hot and strong it would exfoliate a yak, but I don’t regard it as some holy ichor. This is the blood of Juan Valdez, shed for you. Here is the biscotti, consecrated by a snob with a artful piercing who carefully vets the notes on the community bulletin board to make sure everyone’s using recycled paper. Coffee was simpler once. Worse, but simpler.

This is something else I don’t understand: A dude who is getting paid $8/hour to trot to the expresso machine and push a button to make something frothy getting all high and mighty with a guy who just wants his bleeping coffee, thank you, and to get to work. The hauteur is annoying. It’s the same snobbery the ladies and gents (who look like ladies) wear at the make-up counter in the department stores at the mall. When one of the 50 year old women cops a ‘tude, I want to yell, “YOU WORK AT THE MALL”. Good grief! It’s make-up. It’s coffee. It’s dessert. It’s not curing cancer and ending world poverty. Get some freaking perspective.

Back to dessert. Turns out, I did not buy the chocolate cake at Mark’s American Cuisine. I’m sure it was perfection. Everything was perfect that I shoveled into my mouth. I decided that since I don’t get out much and have a palate bludgeoned into fast-food submission by Wendy’s that I’d follow the waiter’s advice. In fact, pretty much all night I asked his recommendation and took them. It was a good decision. The dessert was essentially some raspberries and blackberries made magical. I ate magic berries. It was incredible. He brought a glass of wine to go with the dessert and I’m telling you, the whole experience was like sitting on a cloud with Zeus and having ambrosia dropped from heaven. Sigh.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to go with the expert opinion. Sometimes, you just want your expresso your way. It’s a free country. Last I checked, if you want your expresso iced, you damn well can have your expresso iced.