Archive for » April 18th, 2012«

From bling to diets, image shapes French campaign

Should you judge a book by its cover? France’s presidential candidates certainly think voters do, and more than ever have tried to get their political message across through their image.

With unemployment and economic woes topping voter concerns, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy has sought to change from a Rolex-wearing president with a supermodel wife to a more humble, discreetly dressed man listening to the needs of the people.

Almost conversely, Francois Hollande — the Socialist who tops polls ahead of Sunday’s first-round voting and admits to a penchant for hamburgers — saw his popularity surge after he went on a strict diet, modernized his glasses, and went from baggy, shapeless suits to darker, sharper designer cuts.

Image is important in politics almost everywhere. But striking the right visual tone is especially crucial in France, capital of the luxury and cosmetics industries, home to the world’s premier fashion shows, and whose Parisian salons have set global style trends for centuries.

And with candidates’ every public move now under scrutiny of smart phones and Twitter, observers say maintaining a good presidential image in 2012 is harder, and more paramount, than ever.

Hollande, described six months ago by satirists as an indecisive marshmallow, summed it up best himself, declaring in his February autobiography that: “Style makes the man, we say. Style also makes the president.”

“People here are incredibly critical and demanding of the image of the politicians … You can’t be too drab, and too showy is seen as vulgar,” said Rebecca Voigt, a Paris-based fashion writer.

As he campaigns, Sarkozy has been trying to shed the much-lampooned perception that he courts the rich in a country where wealth is meant to be discreet.

Five years ago, on the night of his election victory, Sarkozy wined and dined at Paris’ exclusive Fouquet’s restaurant and then vacationed on a French billionaire’s private yacht.

But this year, Sarkozy declared he would be “a different president.” He allowed himself to be personally approached at rallies, and modified the way he dressed.

“Gone are the severe black suits with patterns, replaced by light blue shirts, navy blue jackets and ties with hardly any decoration,” says Diane-Monique Adjanonhoun, a political marketing strategist. “This is intentional, blue is a color that makes people think you’re more open.”

But will this change of image convince?

Voigt doesn’t think so: “He came into office with a Rolex, the ultimate symbol of money. Though he’s changed his watch to a slightly less showy Patek Philippe, that unpopular showy side is not forgotten. (U.S. President) Barack Obama’s very calculating in how he dresses, he looks so quiet and everyday. Obama would never wear a Rolex, with people suffering the financial crisis.”

Footage circulating online of Sarkozy removing his expensive gold watch before speaking to voters at a rally Sunday in central Paris did not go down well: Was it due to fear of theft, French media asked, or of recalling the “bling bling” period the President had been trying to bury?

Controversy has also courted Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: French media drew comparisons between the French first lady and Marie Antoinette earlier this year, when she declared on France 2 television she and her husband “are modest people.”

However, the millionaire former supermodel and singer has indeed dressed down her image — and, some say, with political gain. In March, she was featured on the front cover of Paris-Match magazine clutching her new baby Giulia in a baggy gray cardigan, flat UGG boots and no make-up.

“She’s showing she is normal, and this is sure to win him votes,” says fashion consultant Isabelle Dubern.

In the Socialist camp, many were concerned that their candidate, Hollande — a middle-aged man viewed more as manager than visionary — was not considered sufficiently presidential.

That was before the crash protein-based Dukan diet that reportedly saw him shed 15 kilograms (33 pounds) by cutting down on wine, cheese and chocolate. Hollande is now slim enough to don the more fashionable, fitted and structured jackets more associated with Elysee Palace residents.

“It might have been unconscious but French people saw his round face and did not think of a leader,” said Adjanonhoun. “He dressed like he was from the country with cheap material. Now he has completely changed.”

Hollande’s language has changed, too, more often saying “myself, I,” which some observers say signals self-affirmation and a growing confidence that’s perceived as presidential.

His unmarried partner Valerie Trierweiler, a well-dressed and impeccably coiffed political journalist, is also seen as an asset to the presidential ticket.

Other candidates, too, have pushed the style button to make statements about their politics.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme right National Front and daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, has helped soften the anti-immigrant party’s image.

Being a woman — and at a relatively young 43 years old — she’s seen as less offensive than her aging, hard-line father. Her campaign poster shows her looking directly forward, relaxed and with an unforced smile.

“She has succeeded in seducing many with her natural expression, and even the wrinkles she allows on the poster. She has a navy blue jacket on a sky blue background, which is soothing but also symbolizes the color of the party,” said Adjanonhoun.

Another perceived style coup came from the firebrand left wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon. His trademark fashion statement is a red scarf or red tie — representing not only his leftist stance, but drawing a direct link with the only Socialist ever elected president in modern France, Francois Mitterand, who also wore red.

The Greens Party candidate, 68-year-old Norwegian-French Eva Joly has been the source of mockery as well as admiration for her eccentric spectacles. For many weeks she sported some flashy red glasses, only to swap them for a color perhaps more tasteful to her political convictions: a more ecological-looking green.

Whatever the outcome of the first round of the presidential poll Sunday or the second round May 6, political author Valerie Domain says that in France, while “a politician is meant to have ideas and conviction, the first (priority) is what you wear.”

KE Diet: Does It Work?

Ke Diet

Since it was featured in a New York Times article last week, the K-E Diet (short for Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition) has been a source of curiosity. Do some people (most notably, brides) really use a nasogastric tube — more commonly known as a “feeding” tube — to lose weight?

The plastic or rubber tube, which enters the body through the nose, is snaked through the esophagus and into the stomach and is a common tool for surgical patients and anyone else with an obstructed ability to eat. The K-E diet, by contrast, is its first known weight loss application in the United States.

“It’s pretty unique,” Christine Ren-Fielding, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Surgery and director of the weight management program at NYU Langone Medical Center, told The Huffington Post. “Typically, when you put a tube in the nose, it’s for making people gain weight.”

“Unique” is one word for it. Other words that have been used since the story appeared include “Gross” and “disturbing.” But is it dangerous? And does it work?

So far, the diet is offered exclusively at a Florida clinic run by Dr. Oliver R. Di Pietro, its creator and an internal medicine specialist. A brochure promises that, over 10 days, the diet can lead to about 20 pounds of weight loss — or about 1 percent of a patient’s total weight.

A patient is intubated with the feeding device and given a 10-day supply of a powdered food supplement (to be mixed with water), made entirely of protein and fat and amounting to 800 calories per day. Patients may drink water, unsweetened tea and black coffee during their treatment, but nothing else can pass their lips. They carry the solution in a tote bag at all times, where it provides a steady 24-hour drip of nutritional supplementation.

There’s nothing particularly invasive about a nasogastric tube, though there is a slight risk of choking. Any surgeon knows that intubated patients can sometimes experience aspiration. In fact, a 2003 review of clinical nutritional care established how common this complication can be. That’s because the tube leaves open the upper and lower esophageal sphincters that normally close to separate the stomach from the esophagus. This prevents acidic stomach fluids from eroding the esophagus – and prevents debris from entering the pharynx, which can lead to obstructions and choking. Bacteria from the stomach can also, according to the study, colonize in the upper respiratory tract, causing infection.

Other side effects, according to Di Pietro, include bad breath and constipation (another approved substance: Miralax laxitive), as well as potential kidney problems. Those with kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes may not be good candidates. And, as with any restricted calorie diet, there are risks of headaches, weakness, dehydration and fatigue.

Despite this — and the tube’s dramatic appearance — the K-E Diet isn’t the most dangerous weight loss fad on the block, according to Ren-Fielding. That doesn’t mean it’s a good solution for excess weight.

Any quick weight loss scheme — whether via tube, straw or fork — is a short-term solution. It will result in dropped pounds, but those come from lost water and muscle mass, rather than fat. The trouble with weight loss of this type is that it returns as soon as the diet ends — and, it is more likely to return as fat, rather than muscle.

“To lose weight from fat takes several weeks,” says Ren-Fielding. “The liver stores energy, muscle stores energy. Only once you’ve depleted that, will you get into fat.”

She added that exercise can help to preserve muscle tissue in this scenario, but that major levels of exertion would be complicated by a feeding tube and bag.

Di Pietro asserts that the diet leads to fat loss only. He told ABC News that the combination of protein and fat leads to a process called ‘ketosis’ that leaves muscle tissue intact. But according to the literature, ketosis simply suppresses appetite — it cannot control where weight loss comes from.

In the end, this quick fix might work in the short term — but it’s no panacea for major weight loss. And it certainly doesn’t address the underlying factors that lead to a healthy body: healthful, mindful eating and exercise.

“It seems to be illogical to do this for one fairy-tale day when most brides have plenty of time before their weddings to lose weight in a healthy way,” said Suzy Weems, a Baylor University professor and a former chair of a public policy committee for the American Dietetic Association. “The long-term solution to maintain a good weight is eat right and exercise.”

Ren-Fielding had a different take: “It’s a sad commentary,” she said. “It’s a reflection of how desperate so many people are to lose weight. So many people that would pay money for this, even when it seems so absurd.”

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Kim Shin Young shares her successful diet plan on ‘Strong Heart’

On the April 17th episode of SBS TVStrong Heart‘, comedian Kim Shin Young who successfully lost a significant amount of weight revealed her diet plans to the world.

Kim Shin Young started things off by sharing the stories of her peers who failed to lose weight in the past. She also admitted that she also failed to lose weight in the past because she could not control her eating habits.

Yang Sae Hyung shared, “Kim Shin Young was always on a diet, but she would always eat two bowls of rice, but leave only one spoonful because she said she was trying to control her portions. When we went out to drink, she would stick to anchovies. But she ate I think close to 2,000 anchovy pieces.”

Kim Shin Young eventually managed to lose a significant amount of weight and shared her meal plan with the other guests. “In the morning, I eat a bowl of brown rice with stir-fried vegetables. 2 hours later, I eat 10 almonds, soy milk, and a quarter of an apple. In the afternoon, I eat calamari or any another protein source with vegetables, and 2 hours later I once again eat 10 pieces of almonds and an apple.”

Her secret to success was sticking to this plan religiously. Her colleague Song Eun Ee remarked, “She sticks to her diet even while we’re filming. While we order our own food, Kim Shin Young eats the food she packed for herself.”

Kim Shin Young also admitted that after hearing MC Lee Dong Wook lost weight after walking up and down the stairs, she tried it herself but wasn’t successful.

Source Image: TVReport via Nate

Plants make healthy diet for planet

As a teenager, Michelle Hunsicker stuck to a pretty health-conscious diet. After an inspired reading of Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” in high school, she cut red meat out of her diet, sticking to poultry and fish.

“I ate meat,” the 21-year-old said. “But I hated cooking it.”

But four years ago, during her freshman year at the University of Georgia, Hunsicker went to a meeting of Speak Out for Species, a UGA student organization that raises awareness about animal cruelty issues.

She picked up some pamphlets SOS handed out, read them closely and within a few months became a vegan, a diet that excludes all animal products.

“There’s no guilt associated with the diet — except if you have too many desserts,” said Hunsicker, now co-president of Speak Out for Species. “I didn’t know that I was feeling so guilty about eating animals. It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Hunsicker is part of a growing number of Americans who are turning to diets that say no to meat and animal products. According to data provided by the Vegetarian Resource Group and a Harris Interactive study, 5 percent of the U.S. population follows either a vegetarian or vegan diet, with millions more increasing the amount of meat- and dairy-free meals in the weekly menu planning.

“Physically, I feel so much better,” she said.

For many turning to vegetarianism, personal health or animal cruelty isn’t the only reason they avoid meat — they’re worried about the environment, too.

Livestock grazing land takes up 26 percent of the Earth’s non-oceanic surface, and feed crop production takes up a third of all arable land, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The 2006 FAO report also says that livestock production is also accountable for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Raising cattle uses 10 times the arable land that growing plant proteins takes up, according to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Livestock eats up 40 percent of the world’s grain, the report states.

“If we focus our resources on growing people-feeding crops,” Hunsicker said. “We would have food for so many.”

But much of the U.S. agriculture base — its soil and climate — is better suited for animal production, said Julia Gaskin, sustainable agriculture coordinator in UGA’s department of biological and agricultural engineering.

“You can’t take all the land used in pasture or grazing and switch it to row crops,” she said.

Look at the fallow fields around Georgia, Gaskin said. Examples of the damage row crops can cause are plentiful.

Students approach Gaskin quite often citing statistics found in books by Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” advocating for local, organic and nonmeat diets. She always tells them to dig into the facts and find that there are good and bad aspects.

Local agriculture is great for the environment, she said. But the flipside is that it can be more expensive that standard grocery store fare.

“Conventional agriculture is very good at producing abundant and cheap food,” she said.

Simply comparing the carbon footprint of meat-protein versus veggie-protein isn’t the way to frame the argument, said Mark Risse, associate professor in the department of biological and agricultural engineering. So much of food’s carbon footprint comes from transportation, cooking, packaging and waste, he said.

Sure, vegetables have a smaller carbon footprint than meat, he said. Beef raised for consumption, according to Risse, produces 27 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per kilogram of meat, whereas yogurt creates 2 kg of emissions per kilogram produced.

“But you must consider that the nutritional density of meat is greater than that of yogurt,” he said.

Transportation and food waste are more environmentally degrading than meat, he said, adding that buying local, if possible, is a great way to eat ecologically.

Risse made it clear that he doesn’t condemn conventional production of meat or vegetables, noting that efficiency and economies of scale are improving agriculture’s carbon footprint.

“You can’t beat a vegetarian diet in terms of carbon footprint,” he said. “But I’m a cattle-producer, so I’m opposed to it. But in terms of nutrition, that’s another issue.”

Anyone considering a vegetarian diet needs find a replacement for vitamin B-12, said Mary Ann Johnson, a professor in foods and nutrition at UGA.

Meat, fish and poultry are high in B-12, which is extremely limited in plants, she said, except for fermented foods like kim-chi, which is “not the cuisine of most Americans.”

Johnson also suggested iron and vitamin D supplements for vegetarians, especially children and pregnant women.

“People think they can get enough (vitamin D) from the sun,” she said. But almost any health professional will recommend limiting sun exposure.

Cost likely is a huge factor for a family deciding to eat an environmentally friendly diet, she said, noting the often high price tags on locally grown vegetables.

Johnson considers gardening a great way to increase access to fresh vegetables. Tomatoes and beans can be grown at home in plastic containers, or families can turn to the many gardening programs at local elementary schools.

“It’s a great way for children to learn about the earth, and the relationship between soil and water,” she said.

Hunsicker reiterated that even without buying organic or local, a vegetarian diet still has less effect on the environment. Her meals look just like any other American plate — beans, green veggies and lots of fruit — only the animal protein is missing.

She understands the arguments that make wide-scale vegetarianism seem impractical, but thinks vegetarianism’s critics may not want to face facts. Just a small reduction in Americans’ meat consumption would be environmentally helpful, she said.

She recognizes meat’s traditional place in diets worldwide, but adds, “We have to be realistic. …The negatives to eating meat outweigh the positives.”



1 loaf of white bread or stuffing bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

8 ounces mushrooms (any kind), sliced

1 pound vegan sausage (Field Roast sausages, for example)

2 stalks celery, diced

14 cup vegan butter, melted

12 of a large onion or 1 small onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

14-15 ounces (about 134 cups) Imagine No-Chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 egg substitute, with dashes of salt and pepper added to it

Pinch of sage

Large baking dish, greased

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the mushrooms in a little water or vegetable oil until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add “sausage” (crumbled or chunked) until heated through.

In another pan, cook the celery in a bit of oil, then add the onion and garlic. Saute until tender.

In a large bowl, add the cubed bread and all the other ingredients. Mix together.

Add the stuffing to the baking dish and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, until the stuffing is not watery. Don’t cook too long or it may dry out.

This can also be prepared a day or two ahead. Just bake it for 45 minutes and refrigerate. Bake for 20 more minutes or so when ready to serve.

Enjoy with the vegan gravy of your choice.

Serves 10.

Why Do We Ignore the Simplest (and Best) Solutions for Losing Weight?

Did you hear the one about the bride-to-be who ran around town attending to last-minute wedding details with a tube up her nose? Sadly, this isn’t the beginning of a joke, but is instead something that has the potential to become a disturbing trend among brides-to-be who want to shed 10 to 20 pounds before walking down the aisle and saying, “I do.”

Well, I say, “Please don’t.”

Perhaps you saw the recent ABC TV news report about what’s being called the K-E diet. This so-called diet requires the insertion of a feeding tube, which goes in through the nose and runs down to the stomach. Through the tube, the dieter is fed a continual slow drip of protein and fat (mixed with water), which reportedly contains no carbohydrates and equates to ingesting only 800 calories in a 24-hour time period, according to ABC News.

Along with having the feeding tube running into their noses throughout the entire 10-day process, dieters must also carry the food solution with them at all times. ABC news also reports that brides-to-be who are on the K-E diet claim that this extreme weight loss method is warranted because they need to get rid of excess fat in order to fit into their wedding dresses. Needless to say, some doctors are somewhat skeptical of this process, noting that fad diets are often cyclical.

As someone who spent years (and years!) trying — and often failing at — different diets (many of them of the fad variety), I know what it’s like to desperately want to lose weight before a certain social obligation (not to mention just wanting to lose weight in general). But how walking around with a feeding tube up your nose (and a bag of fluid “feed” thrown over your shoulder) is preferable to simply eating less and exercising more is beyond me.

How is it that, as a community of dieters, we continue to ignore the simplest — and usually best — solutions for losing weight? Can living with a feeding tube in your nose (which snakes through to your stomach) really be easier than relying on a measuring cup when preparing meals and power-walking on a treadmill when wanting to burn calories? Really?!

I understand that much of our obsession with finding a “magic wand” to take off excess weight has to do with wanting it to come off quickly. But successful dieting does not require a degree in rocket science (much less a feed bag of liquid “food”). There’s nothing wrong with common sense solutions. And the real work involved with these common sense solutions can help us to stay grounded mentally, and therefore potentially keep excess weight off after we’ve gotten rid of it.

As anyone who has ever crash-dieted knows, although you might lose some weight quickly, the weight doesn’t necessarily stay off. And our bodies can become aware of the starvation mode and will often retaliate by gaining even more weight back than we’ve initially lost. This is to say nothing of the reduced energy level that going on a “diet” such as this one would potentially leave the dieter with. Can you imagine these brides, although fitting into their dresses, stumbling down the aisle in a low-energy fashion — as if they were cast members of AMC’s The Walking Dead?

Again, there are easier, even less expensive ways to lose weight. Not to mention potentially less dangerous to our overall health (and psyches). Most brides plan their weddings a year or so in advance. So why not start cutting back on portions and rich foods at the time wedding planning begins, rather than waiting until 10 days before the ceremony?

And if all else fails, why not choose a wedding dress with a flattering fit and a comfortable cut? Anyone who has been to a wedding will assure you that a bride’s real beauty shines from within. None of us are checking waist sizes as the brides walk (or potentially stumble like zombies) down the aisle. However, we will turn, stare and point at you if we see you at your bachelorette party with a tube sticking out of your nose and a liquid feed bag hanging from your shoulder.

While quickie solutions might sometimes be “quick,” they aren’t always “solutions.” If something sounds too weird, too wacky and too outlandish, take the hint and try dieting the old-fashioned way. Your health — and your body — will thank you for it.

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Diets for the lost and mortified

Oh, how weak we have become. How whiny and wretched, tormented and convinced — convinced! — we simply cannot do even the most mildly difficult thing all by ourselves, lest we break, wail and beg for medication.

Behold, the latest micro-trend story that’s not really a trend because no one you know is actually foolish enough to try it, all about how some otherwise healthy but still desperately inept women are paying large amounts of money to have a doctor insert a feeding tube up their noses, down their throats and into their stomachs. For multiple days at a time. By choice.

Are these women sick? Are they dying? Are they toothless and limbless and cannot feed themselves without spilling hot soup onto the rug? Are they Lady Gaga? No, they are not.

What they’re doing, of course, is taking part in a radical new diet. You know, for morons.

Here’s how it works: For ten fun-filled days or so, the freshly inserted feeding tube attached to your face like an unhappy worm not only looks wonderful and feels awesome, but it also slowly drips miserable liquid nutrients into your stomach so that you may stop eating regular food and crash out your system, all so that you may finally, finally lose those 10 extra pounds that just won’t go away by thinking about them, beating them with a meatball sandwich or, you know, actually working for it.

The ultimate goal? No, not better health, silly. That would be far too intelligent and thoughtful. The goal, of course, is to finally fit into that snug wedding dress, so as look presentable in the wedding photos and feel happy and skinny-ish for a day, safe in the knowledge that you will immediately gain the 10 pounds back in a week or two and never look that way again. See? Marriage is fun!

Is that too harsh? Unfair? I’m not so sure. But is it really all that big of a deal? Probably not. Just more mal-attuned humans joining the long-standing American tradition of brutally restrictive food regimens designed to force the body into this or that antagonistic contortion for the least salubrious of reasons. Hey, it’s what we do.

What’s more, I’m well aware the Sad Drip Diet (or whatever it’s called) is far from the most extreme diet out there (like surgery, vomiting, staring at a photo of Rick Santorum long enough that you become far too ill to eat). It’s just the latest, and perhaps the dumbest. Except for all the rest.

Let me be clear. I’m all for losing those 10 pounds. Hell, make it 20 if you want. I’m all for getting fit, feeling deeply healthy and alive in all parts and flavors of your skin. But the equation is violently perverted if you’re more willing to suffer the indignity of walking around with a feeding tube shoved down your face than you are to simply re-evaluate how you approach food and exercise, or to earn a profounder understanding of beauty and health. But maybe that’s just me.

As we pause to digest this cultural gem, let us turn our attention to the screaming hellbirth of a new fast food product that very much wants everyone who consumes it, dead.

Let us observe, with equal parts horror, revulsion, and honest appreciation for the genius involved, the arrival of Pizza Hut’s new hot dog stuffed crust pizza, available (so far) only in the UK, where this sodium-blasted colon grenade has apparently been killing people for many days already. Britain! When it comes to destroying the body as quickly and brutally as possible, they don’t screw around.

It’s a proud moment. Hot dog-stuffed pizza joins the KFC Double Down, Paula Deen and perhaps Taco Bell’s new breakfast wheel of horror in reminding us just how much the major fast-food titans despise all human (not to mention animal) life. As Bill Maher says. “New rule: Anyone who buys hot dog stuffed pizza has to pay more for health insurance.” Hey, it’s only fair.

Now then. Shall we attempt to map the forces at play? To find nefarious connections and spurious links between our two tasty stories du jour? Do you have enough whisky?

On one side, the vast and incomprehensible socio-economic engines and industries that work like demons to keep us sick, stupid, disgusted by our own smell and taste and reflection in the mirror.