Affordable Care Act: It’s Time to Sign Up

I last had employer health insurance when I worked full time for the UCB in 2005. I had cobra insurance for as long as I could after I quit, but that ran out in 2006. At the time, I didn’t think it was a huge deal. I anticipated getting another job soon or getting insurance as a freelancer.

Over the next few years, I was able to make a living by being self employed. But I never had good health insurance again. I was denied coverage because of a previous condition, a sleep apnea. And once I was denied coverage, it was impossible to buy my own private insurance.

I did buy these 6 month policies every once in a while. They did not cover pre-existing conditions and they did not roll over, meaning if I got sick during one 6 month period, that would then become a pre-existing condition for the next 6 months. In other words, it was pretty crappy insurance that would not protect me if I got a serious, protracted health problem. These plans are among the ones that can’t be offered anymore, because frankly, they suck.

Then the Affordable Care Act was passed and I hoped that I would not become sick before January of 2014. I was lucky. I haven’t had any serious illnesses in the last few years. And I made it. Last week, I used healthcare.gov to enroll in a health care plan for the first time in 7 years. My insurance begins on Jan 1.

Apparently, I’m just above the income line that I would be able to get a subsidy, so I’m paying for it all by myself. But it’s a relief to know that when I get sick in the future, I’ll have access to good doctors and that I’ll be protected from losing everything if something terrible does happen.

Although the ACA isn’t perfect and it’s not what I’d have preferred (I think some kind of single payer plan would have worked much better), I’m grateful for the opportunity to buy into a healthcare plan.

If you don’t have coverage through work, I strongly encourage you to at least go through the initial steps and see what plans are available. You may be surprised how affordable it is. And you still have time to enroll this week and get coverage by January 1st.

An Argument for More Frequent Intermissions?

Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes

… or for playing “Sit, Stand, Lean”?

“Sitting for long periods of time — when you don’t stand up, don’t move at all — tends to cause changes physiologically within your muscles. You stop breaking up fat in your bloodstream, you start getting accumulations of fat … in your liver, your heart and your brain. You get sleepy. You gain weight. You basically are much less healthy than if you’re moving.”

– Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes

Unprocessed Food Diet (Again)

Photo by adactio via flickr
I’m back on my Unprocessed Food Diet (UFD). I had been maintaining my weight under 190 for a while, but over the past year, my eating habits deteriorated. My once a week cheat days on the slow carb diet became cheat weekends. Then I started eating badly all the time. It finally got to the point where I was eating fast food again daily, and my weight was going up every week. Add the holidays to the equation and well, I had to change things.

A few weeks ago, I started a fitness boot camp at my gym. As has sometimes happened in the past, over the first couple of weeks, my eating habits actually got worse and this Monday, I peaked at 198.8, at least 25 pounds over where I’d like to be. So I decided to put myself back on the UFD and continue working out. Continue reading “Unprocessed Food Diet (Again)”

The Unprocessed Food Diet – the first month

About a month ago, I changed my eating habits quite drastically. This is an update on how it’s going.

First off, I’m mostly over my cravings. I no longer feel like I did when I was quitting smoking. In the first week, I was a bit obsessed with food, and I never felt satiated. Now, I’m feeling much more in balance and less obsessed. If there is a sugary treat in front of me, I do find it hard to resist, but if none is around, I’m not thinking about it. Continue reading “The Unprocessed Food Diet – the first month”

The Unprocessed Food Diet – The first two weeks

What is the unprocessed food diet? It’s pretty simple. Follow these guidelines when preparing food for yourself.

  1. Eat unprocessed, whole foods like meat, eggs, nuts, vegetables, fruit. Buy it fresh when possible, but frozen is fine too.
  2. Cook foods simply without adding oil, spices, sugar, salt or anything else.
  3. Do not mix foods together.
  4. Eat smaller portions than you are used to.
  5. Eat as often as you like, and as much as you like overall–no need to count calories.
  6. Eat as many of your meals like this as you can, and especially avoid chain restaurant meals and processed foods from the supermarket.

Here are some sample recipes: Continue reading “The Unprocessed Food Diet – The first two weeks”

You should unprocess your food


I just finished The End of Overeating by David Kessler, former head of the FDA in the first Bush and Clinton administrations. In it he argues that the primary driver of our current obesity epidemic is the ubiquitous availability of large portions of hyperpalatable foods. What are hyperpalatable foods? Open a Chili’s menu or visit your local Panda Express or Cinnabon and you will see plenty of examples. These are highly processed foods with layers of suger, simple carbs, fats, salts and flavoring designed to be irresistible to consumers. They are foods that we crave, that we have become accustomed to eating in huge portions, that are dense in calories and often have strong flavors. The food and restaurant industries have become very good at making foods that we want to eat and the result has been millions of people essentially addicted to fattening foods.

For anyone old enough to remember when a Quarter Pounder was the biggest hamburger available at a fast food restaurant, this won’t really feel like news. We’ve watched the food industry evolve over the last 30 years first hand. Portions have grown, foods have become more indulgent, more flavorful, with more textures. Comfort food is everywhere, and eating it feels great, at least it does for the two minutes it takes to shovel it down our throats. What might seem like news is the extent to which the food industry knows and understands what they are doing. Continue reading “You should unprocess your food”

Running and personal checklists

I wonder how many people out there keep personal daily checklists. I’m thinking of developing one. There are quite a few things I’d like to do on a daily or weekly basis. I tend to be someone who likes seeing progress in some chartable form and this ability to chart progress definitely motivates me.

For instance, I have long wanted to be a runner. I have many times started exercise programs and incorporated running or walking into the program. Last winter, when I was working out at the gym I realized that I especially like walking or running for long distances. Once I was on the treadmill, I preferred going for 45 minutes rather than just doing 20 and being done with it. But what I really wanted was to run and walk longer distances outside. I tried a few times to run outdoors in winter and I couldn’t stand it. The cold was simply too much.

Later in the summer, I decided once again to give it a try. This time I was walking and running outside and I was enjoying it, but what really got me hooked I think was when I started using Nike+ with my iPod. To use it, you need a small chip which you put in your shoe (or put inside a little pouch that attaches to your shoelaces). The chip acts like a pedometer, transmitting a signal, presumably whenever you take a step. You have several choices for a receiver to keep track of your progress. iPod Touches and iPhones have an app built into it that you can use to track your runs. You can also buy an attachment for other iPods or you can buy a separate bracelet to track your runs.

Continue reading “Running and personal checklists”

Shangri-la Diet Take II

About two years ago, I tried a novel way of losing weight, drinking oil. It worked well, allowing me to lose about 40 pounds over about nine months (from 218 to 178 pounds). But then I stalled a bit and couldn’t get below 175. After reading some books on various topics related to food, health and weight, I decided to try a low carb approach. At first that worked well, too. At one point I hit 163 pounds, less than 10 pounds from my goal weight. But over time, I gained that weight back and for a while I was stuck around 175.

This spring, things started to go downhill, I gained about 10 pounds in a couple of months, due largely to an increasing amount of fast food and beer. I decided that I can’t give back all the gains that I had made. I started running in July, and slowly I made progress. Over the weeks, I’ve been able to run longer distances and my walks are now pretty brisk and long. I was getting a little fitter, but I wasn’t losing any weight.

It was time to give SLD another shot, to see if I could take off the 10-15 pounds I’d recently gained and to see if it could get me any closer to my goal weight of 155. So last week I decided to do the following:
Continue reading “Shangri-la Diet Take II”

Are Kids Fat Because They Are Lazy?

The conventional wisdom is that is more obesity in kids these days because they exercise less. If this is true, then you would expect that adding exercise into the routine of school kids would help the problem. However, research just presented at a recent Canadian Paediatric Society conference suggests that it doesn’t:

Harris said researchers looked at 13 trials of six months to three years duration in which pre- and post-BMI measurements were taken.

In studies involving nearly 10,000 children, primarily in elementary schools, none demonstrated a reduction in BMI with those who were assigned to the most phys-ed time, compared to those who didn’t have as much.

“School-based physical activity interventions do not improve BMI although they may have other beneficial health effects,” he said. “There are improvements to bone mineral density, aerobic capacity, reduced blood pressure and increased flexibility,” he added.

Continue reading “Are Kids Fat Because They Are Lazy?”