My Visit to the World’s First Gym for Your Face

Self-improvement imperatives always offer the seductive notion of untapped potential: it’s a bummer to feel like you have to change, but a thrill, sometimes, to imagine that you can. The trouble is that there is no feasible end to this process.

And this, too:

Today, young female professionals have an unprecedented amount of economic and social capital; at the same time, our adulthood has been defined by constant visual self-surveillance, a market-friendly feminism that favors any female acquisitive behavior, and an overwhelming redirection of anxiety into the “wellness” space.

The Ecology of Obesity |

Part of what makes obesity a wicked problem is how existing solutions — farmers markets, anti-corporate marketing — led advocates to frame the problem in particular ways. “The picture painted by advocates of grocery stores and gardens in the inner city was compelling to so many in no small part because it combined an established way of thinking about poor neighborhoods as materially deprived along with rising cultural support from middle-class Americans for eating healthier, locally grown foods,” Lee writes.

So we’re debunking “food deserts” now. More from Jacob Geller, I thought this was a useful way to think about it:

What I think is going on in America is that if someone really does want to eat healthy — and they know how to — then they will eat healthy, but huge numbers of Americans “choose” not to.  The cost and the distance don’t much matter.  And I put “choose” in air quotes, because people are not “choosing” per se, rather they are hooked.  They buy sugar instead of broccoli, because sugar tastes awesome and goes with everything, whereas broccoli is gross.  The deck is physiologically stacked in favor of sugar.  The cost and the distance are virtual non-factors for most Americans, outliers notwithstanding, and obesity really does need to be tackled aggressively on the demand side, if at all possible, precisely because distance and cost are virtual non-factors.

The economist’s way of saying the same thing is that unhealthy foods (like sugar) tend to be sort of addictive, or habit-forming, or are at least advantaged by our physiology or biology, so our demand for that food tends to be pretty insensitive to price (or “inelastic”).  And because our demand is insensitive to price, shifting the supply curve one way or the other isn’t going to change the quantity consumed all that much.  You can fiddle with the supply curve all you like, but the problem is ultimately that this inelastic demand curve is keeping quantity consumed stuck more or less in the same place.  So from a public policy and public health standpoint, it’s better to just tackle the demand curve, by shifting it leftward or making it less inelastic, through solid health education curricula or forming good eating habits during childhood, or whatever, if possible.

The Ecology of Obesity |

How external cues make us overeat.

Why not make the fruit bowl more visible? Put your fruit on the table and not in the refrigerator bin. People say, “That’s okay because I have self-control.” Why not give your self-control a break?

Excellent interview about various findings from research on eating habits. External cues, exercise, perceptions, norming, status, mindfulness, and more generally, over-confidence.

How external cues make us overeat.

Gary Taubes on Dieting | FiveBooks | The Browser

If you look and see who is healthier, you’ll find out that people who were mostly vegetarians tend to live longer and have less cancer and diabetes than people who get most of their fat and protein from animal products. The assumption by the researchers is that this is causal – that the only difference between mostly vegetarians and mostly meat-eaters is how many vegetables and how much meat they eat. I’ve argued that this assumption is naïve almost beyond belief. In this case, vegetarians or mostly vegetarian people are more health conscious. That’s why they’ve chosen to eat like this. They’re better educated than the mostly meat-eaters, they’re in a higher socioeconomic bracket, they have better doctors, they have better medical advice, they engage in other health conscious activities like walking, they smoke less. There’s a whole slew of things that goes with vegetarianism and leaning towards a vegetarian diet. You can’t use these observational studies to imply cause and effect. To me, it’s one of the most extreme examples of bad science in the nutrition field.


Gary Taubes on Dieting | FiveBooks | The Browser

How To Not Get Sick On An Airplane


I get sick every time I go home for Christmas, and while it isn’t helped by lack of sleep and alcohol abuse, I’m pretty sure 75% of it is the 3-5 hours I spend on what is, essentially, a flying petri dish.

So thanks to The Wall Street Journal for these tips (which I’ve summarized):

  • Hydrate (drink water, use saline spray).
  • Clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Use disinfecting wipes to clean off tray tables before using
  • Avoid seat-back pockets.
  • Open your air vent, and aim it so it passes just in front of your face. Filtered airplane air can help direct airborne contagions away from you.
  • Stay the hell away from people who look sick

The air vent thing was new to me! Now I’m off to get disinfecting wipes and some saline spray.

Update: thanks to @aweissman for this suggestion: “i do this and it almost always works: basically OD on Vitamin C before you get on the plane – right before. Use EmergenC or a similar product, drink it all up while waiting.”

See also: Daniel Pink’s travel tips. Episode #1 is about avoiding illness. I like his ointment-in-the-nose trick. And don’t forget (environ-)mental health tactics: earplugs, headphones, eye mask!

How To Not Get Sick On An Airplane

How We’re Wrecking Our Feet. It’s the shoes. Old news, but worth hearing again and again.
Foot freedom is a movement in the ultralight hiking community as well. Once you realize that you don’t need to carry 50lbs for a weekend trip, you realize that you can ditch the leather boots and hike with shoes. And after that, for me at least, it’s been an ongoing search for the lightest, most flexible shoes I can find. I really like Inov8‘s line of “trail slippers”. The Vibram Five Fingers models were mentioned in the article. Shoes from Vivo Barefoot were also mentioned but I have no idea why even their cheapest models cost over $120. [via link banana]