Book: Wheat Belly by William Davis

Here is a book that I could not read, because it was so focused on the OMG! OBESITY! PANIC!, that it was hard to find any usable info.

I suppose I should’ve expected that with a title like Wheat Belly, but it’d been long recommended by people in the celiac disease community as the “a-ha!” guide to making sense of the hundreds of seemingly unrelated symptoms of celiac disease. But these authors brought everything back to fatness and weight, as glutenfreedom as the cure, and that being fat is icky.

They say glutenous, they mean gluttonous.

Anyway, I skimmed the whole book and couldn’t find a single page that didn’t loop back to anti-fatness.

I was hoping for a book about the history of wheat and how that impacts the body, but this book ain’t it.

Book: What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat, by Aubrey Gordon

This is less a book review and more of a (rare) blog post.

Some years ago, in the early 2000s, I had an epiphany. After countless attempts to starve myself thin, after countless doctor’s appointments where I was prescribed weight loss for everything from sinus infections to migraines to broken fingers, after countless unsolicited comments about my body from strangers and loved ones, after countless microaggressions and acts of hostility regarding my size, I had an epiphany.

I am fat. And that’s okay.

My epiphany came at a good time. I’d been starving myself and doing everything “they” say to do, and yet my weight wasn’t budging. The internet was booming, and there were neighborhoods of people dedicated to fat acceptance and fat liberation. They were part of or learned from groups like NOLOSE, ASDAH, and from fat elders. People just like me, who realized they were fat no matter how they tortured or stressed their bodies, their bodies were wise, their bodies knew best, and their bodies adapted. They stayed fat. Some got fatter. We all knew that our dignity and humanity should not be dependent on our ability to conform to a more socially acceptable size and shape.

By the late 2000s, fat acceptance had started being co-opted by “body positivity.” Body positivity was for thin, white, abled, cis-gendered women. Body positivity excluded the fattest among us. Body positivity was framed with “it’s not about being thin, it’s about being healthy.”

At a time when I was at my sickest, sick enough to be forced to quit a career I’d just begun, sick enough to spend more days in bed than out of it, sick enough to be congratulated on my illness-induced weight loss (while being simultaneously berated for continuing to be fat), I felt wholly excluded from this unrecognizable version of body acceptance. I wasn’t healthy or thin.

Today, fatness is demonized more than ever. While people are becoming more aware of other prejudices and slowly making efforts to mitigate them, anti-fat bias is on the rise. Let me reiterate: While small improvements in implicit biases like racism, sexism, and homophobia have been recorded, and while ableism and ageism have remained about the same, there has been a 40% increase in anti-fat bias.

Being fat has become a symbol of failure. Fat people embody sloth and gluttony and greed. We are drains on society. We are inconveniences. We are ugly.

Having visible adipose tissue now has a diagnostic code, because it’s existence now a disease, even in the absence of other markers of health. It’s on my every medical chart note, regardless of the reason for the visit that day. A group of professionals with a long history of being easily swayed by the shiny gifts and baubles from the pharmaceutical industry decided to pathologize an entire class of people (the majority of people alive right now) simply for how they look, regardless of actual measurable scientific markers of health. These professionals are using an utterly racist metric, which has no basis in fact or health, to dictate who is worthy of evidence-based healthcare. Regardless of the ample scientific evidence that it’s possible to be fat and healthy or thin and unhealthy, the American Medical Association has simply chosen to deny reality.

Relatedly, a study of autopsies of very fat people discovered that they had undiagnosed medical conditions, indicative of significant misdiagnoses and/or lack of access to adequate medical care.

This is the natural result of decades of fatphobia. Decades of healthcare workers being incapable of seeing past body size or shape. Decades of friends and neighbors being taught and believing that it is better to be dead than fat. People are willing to trade years off their life for the chance to be thin.

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is about all of these things, and so much more. It’s about the personal experiences of actual fat people. About how we are hated because of what we look like. About the magnitude of the oppression ingrained in ourselves, in our loved ones, in our culture.

Book: China Rx by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh

Before I got sick, I worked in pharma. I had a great pharma internship as an undergrad and I felt like I’d found my niche. I enjoyed analytical chemistry and I had a real knack for anything medical. I worked in the industry for a couple years, then took an analytical chemist position in another industry mainly because I wanted to move closer to my future spouse. I missed pharma and tried interviewing for positions closer to my new home, with no luck. (Probably for the best: the best prospect was at a brand new state-of-the-art research and development facility, which laid everyone off and shut down 6 months later.)

Once started treating celiac disease and adopting a mobility device for a failing back, I was ready and able to go back to work. But no one wants to hire a chemist who’s been out of the industry for nearly a decade. And by then, many of the jobs had moved overseas.

So this book was personally relevant.

China Rx describes the long game played by the Chinese government to become the only supplier of necessary items, including medications and supplements. Since the US government (and its corporations) is far more concerned with this quarter or this election term, it puts the Chinese government in a far better strategic position to achieve its long-term goals.

The US used to make its own antibiotics, vitamin C, and other drugs and drug products. Nowadays, much of the manufacturing of critical raw materials happens in China, because it’s cheaper. Drug companies want to maximize profits, which means purchasing raw materials at the lowest possible cost.

The book describes the heparin horror story when tainted heparin (a blood thinner used regularly in hospitals as standard practice to prevent blood clots, and which, incidentally, is a meat industry byproduct produced from the entrails of slaughtered pigs) sickened and killed many people. When the problem was identified, the FDA did not rush to act because recalling the US heparin supply would’ve caused a national shortage. It’s better to have potentially tainted heparin than no heparin at all.

The book also describes incidents in which Chinese companies prohibited from exporting to the US would use a different company’s label to circumvent bans and export to the US. These companies are partially owned by the state (Chinese government), so it seems more reasonable to assume this is a strategic governmental move, not unscrupulous business owners (although that happens, too).

One of the reasons China can manufacture so cheaply is its lax environmental regulations. For example, making antibiotics is a dirty job. It stinks, there are waste products, and an impact on the local environment. (Soil, air, water.) Rather than spending the money in the US to innovate a cleaner, safer manufacturing process, they outsource the same old ways to a region whose government doesn’t worry about it (to the detriment of its citizens).

The book discusses lax and loosening trade regulations that resulted from supply chain issues. The US military now relies on China for critical medications and medical devices. The US used to manufacture its own penicillin in wartime, but now it relies on China for the only treatments available for anthrax.

The FDA really has very little control over what comes in from overseas, and not much control over what happens in the US either. Recalls are voluntary. Testing is rare. The FDA lacks the manpower, authority, and budget to effect much change. And the revolving door between pharma and the FDA means that few people want to speak out. (Not to mention the overt censorship happening.)

Chances are, most of your medications and vitamins were manufactured in China. If not the entire product, then critical components like the active ingredient and/or the inactive ingredients responsible for extended release dosing. But labeling rules make it very difficult to figure out where your medicines are made. If you’re curious: you can call the manufacturer directly, and sometimes you can find the info on DailyMed or drugs.com.

It was interesting (if depressing) reading about places I’ve physically worked (and learning that some of those places no longer exist), and seeing what happened after I got sick. I know now that it wasn’t solely a long illness that prevented me from reentering the industry, but also many, many changes far beyond my control.

Supplements… again.

Turmeric has been found to be helpful with some types of pain and inflammation. My doctor recommended a supplement that combines turmeric with fenugreek, because apparently this combination is better than turmeric alone.

She recommended Turmeric Forte, which is manufactured by Mediherb in Australia, but the only company who can sell it is Standard Process in the US. Trying to find information about gluten-status is… difficult.

I left two messages in December for a callback from QA, and no one called. I called again this month to try again. I got more info, but it wasn’t good info.

Is Turmeric Forte gluten-free?

Mediherb manufactures their capsules in a gluten-free facility, and they test every batch for the presence of gluten down to 5ppm, which is outstanding. That alone is very safe for me and nearly anyone with celiac.

But then those capsules are shipped in bulk to Standard Process, who then takes this nearly pristine gluten-free product, and bottles it on the same equipment that they use to bottle all their oat- and gluten-containing supplements.

But Standard Process tests their products for gluten, right?

Nope.

They don’t test their bottled lots and they don’t test the equipment after cleaning to confirm the cleaning was effective.

When I spoke with their QA person, they had nothing to say. They seemed unconcerned that they could be adding gluten to a GF product.

Products like that aren’t for people like me.

But it blows my mind that I have always had such a hard time finding work while companies are totally okay with sloppy QA or sloppy IT. I don’t get it.

Anyway… The history of Standard Process is shady as heck.

Gluten-Free-ish Oreos

Nabisco has been talking up their new GF Oreos since last year, even though they wouldn’t be released until this week.

They’ve been pretty tight-lipped about it, officially. There were pretty social media posts with a classic Oreo, and a few words about them being gluten-free. But no details: what ingredients would they be using? Would they be dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan like the original? Is there a new dedicated GF facility for GF Oreos? There was nothing on Nabisco’s websites.

Well now they’re in stores, but nothing’s changed. GF Oreos are still not on the company’s websites. I tried to find an ingredients list, but the closest I could find was an MLive article talking about trying them.

They’ve got rice flour (not surprising) and… oat flour.

I don’t think oat flour is safe for celiacs. Maybe some can eat them without symptoms, but I am unconvinced silent damage isn’t happening. My reactions to GF oats are so severe, just as severe as consuming gluten grains, that I may as well be eating wheat.

If nabisco cared about the celiac demographic, they wouldn’t have used oats. Oats are a lazy way to make food that can be labeled GF. GF oats are easy to acquire now, and GF labeling rules are lax. So instead of making something that’ll be enjoyable by the largest number of people, they go for the largest marketing gimmick and the fad dieter demographic.

I don’t really miss Oreos, but I miss convenience and normalcy and the fun of sharing a treat with someone. I don’t even want to give money to companies like Nabisco. It’s not like I’d be making Oreos a regular part of my diet, or anything more than a rare treat.

But gimmicks like these just make me feel more excluded from the modern world.

I don’t do resolutions

But I think I’ve got some advice for myself in 2021:

  1. Put on my own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.
  2. No one knows more about me than I do. Time to act like the expert I am.
  3. My story is worth telling.

an update

It’s been awhile. I’ve given up on finding a job in tech. I am old, fat, disabled, and I don’t look good on tech companies’ websites. I’m okay with it.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this blog… I don’t really have time or energy for blogging for fun, but I sometimes think about it.

Here is a bullet list:

  • Still working at same job, doing taxes. Still enjoying it. Can’t imagine that changing any time soon. I’m an IRS Annual Filing Season Program participant, and I’m working towards becoming an Enrolled Agent.
  • Still disabled and chronically ill. Worse in some ways, better in others. This and work are why I don’t really have time or energy for blogging.
  • I got an electric trike, so when I want to step away from the computer, I can tool around on that.
  • I sometimes blog at Gluten-Free RV to give updates to friends and family, although not as often as I’d like.
  • 2020 was an awful year, but I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll survive it.
  • I taught myself Hugo to make a couple tiny websites for fun, but this particular tiny website is still running WordPress

Link Blog: June 25, 2019

Ghost networks of psychiatrists make money for insurance companies but hinder patients’ access to care: “Ghost networks” are insurers’ in-network provider directories that are full of outdated or incorrect information, and providers who no longer accept the insurance in question. A study of BCBS mental healthcare providers found that 75% of the listed providers were unreachable or unavailable. For pediatric psychiatrists, that number was 83%.

Ruth and Queer Family of Choice: this interpretation of the Book of Ruth is a beautiful explanation of the importance of family.

Gluten-Free Travel: how to survive on the road when you have celiac or food allergies, and can’t eat at restaurants. (Full disclosure: I wrote this post for my side project, GlutenFreeRV.)

Link Blog: June 9, 2019

Transgender adults are more likely to have lower health-quality of life compared to their cis counterparts, according to a recent JAMA article.

An Unprecedented Look at Spaceflight’s Effects on the Human Body: NASA studied the effects of spaceflight by comparing astronaut twins Mark and Scott Kelly, and providing the collected data to researchers. While this is an extremely small sample size (only one set of twins), it was interesting to read that Scott’s telomeres were lengthened during his time in space compared to his earthbound sibling, but those telomeres shortened quickly after returning to earth, and he ended up with more shortened telomeres than expected.

4/21 Organizers Want to Reclaim Cannabis From Corporations: After the 4/20 “weed holiday,” it’s important to remember how many people are still in jail and being prosecuted for possessing a plant that is legal in many states, and medicinal in many more. As white people prosper in the new cannabis industry, we must give reparations to people of color. They have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs and are often harmed by ongoing legalization efforts.

I Worked As a Bail Bond Agent. Here’s What I Learned. A former bail bond agent talks frankly about how the bail bond industry is built on the backs of low income women of color and why it’s time to end cash bail.

Link Blog: May 3, 2019

One type of diversity we don’t talk about at work: Body size. Despite all the documented evidence of anti-fat bias in the workplace, and all of the pro-diversity initiatives happening, companies continue to disregard the importance of fighting size-related microaggressions and discrimination. I’d argue they’re actively promoting size discrimination in workplaces that continue to cling to wellness programs (which are known to be ineffective at improving employee wellness).

The Bad News About Delivering Bad News: This is no surprise to anyone who’s ever received bad news from a doctor, but it turns out doctors have no idea how to deliver bad news to patients. They’re looking to researchers for guidance, and researchers are asking healthy volunteers…. apparently no one’s considered asking those of us who’ve received bad news how doctors could’ve handled themselves better.

Patients ‘Discouraged’ As US Announces It Won’t Ban Cancer-Linked Breast Implants: Despite mounting evidence that macro-textured implants are causing long term health problems (including a very rare cancer), despite evidence that manufacturers are hiding negative health outcomes to the public, and despite other countries’ decisions to halt sales of these same implants, the FDA says it will do nothing.

A biomarker for chronic fatigue symptom may have been identified: a new blood test identified people with and without CFS (or myalgic encephalomeylitis) with 100% accuracy in a very small (40-subject) study. The same test may also potentially identify patient-specific drug treatments.

China’s recycling ban has sent America’s plastic to Malaysia. Now they don’t want it — so what next? The US is sending its garbage to Malaysia (illegally under Malaysian law) because other Asian countries are refusing our poorly-sorted refuse. Instead of taking care of our own waste, we continue to heap it onto poorer regions, expecting them to clean up after us.