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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Excuse Me. So Sorry. Excuse Me…

Until this week, I’d never witnessed this on a plane.

I’d read numerous stories and essays about passengers trying to shame seat-mates for their weight, but I was not prepared for what that sounds like or how it looks.

We were a full plane, except for a single open seat in first class. I was seated in the immediate row behind that section and had a clear view of the remaining spot. I fly a lot but usually not with this airline. My upgrade was as likely as my exiting the plane a foot taller than when I had boarded.

A man three rows back thought he should sit there, and not because he had paid for it or qualified as a frequent flyer. His “circumstances” entitled him to it, he said, because he was seated next to a large man.

I didn’t know his reason at first. I heard the airline attendant patiently explaining how upgrades work and thought nothing more of it. A few minutes later, that same passenger started yelling at the attendant to take a picture with his phone. That’s when I pulled out my notebook. A columnist’s habit.

“Take it,” he said, holding out his phone. “Take a picture of us to show how ridiculous it is to make me sit next to him. Look at him. Why should I have to sit here?”

Several of us whipped around, and at least a couple of passengers sitting closest to him made disapproving sounds. The man did not care. “Take the picture,” he said, his face growing redder. He pointed to the passenger next to him. “Take the picture of us so that I can prove what happened here.”

The passenger he was attempting to humiliate was still and quiet, staring straight ahead. The airline attendant remained calm, explaining that he could not take a picture of both of them. “If you want a photo of yourself, hand me your camera,” he said, “but I can’t photograph another passenger.”

The angry man finally gave up, but the damage had been done — and nobody can explain why better than Tommy Tomlinson.

Tommy has been a reporter, columnist and essayist for about three decades and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005. Like countless others, I am proud to be his friend because he is also a kind and gentle man. His recent book, The Elephant in the Room, chronicles his lifelong struggle with obesity.

In an excerpt published earlier this year in The Atlantic, he describes taking a crowded subway in New York City, scared that he might fall and hurt somebody. “None of them could take my weight,” he writes. “It would be an avalanche. Some of them stare at me, and I figure they’re thinking the same thing. An old woman is sitting three feet away. One slip and I’d crush her. I grip the pole harder.

“My palms start to sweat, and all of a sudden I flash back to elementary school in Georgia, standing in the aisle on the school bus. The driver hollers at me to find a seat. He can’t take us home until everybody sits down. I’m the only one standing. Every time I spot an open space, somebody slides to the edge of the seat and covers it up. Nobody wants the fat boy mashed in next to them. I freeze, helpless. The driver glares at me in the rearview mirror. An older kid sitting in front of me — a redhead, freckles, I’ll never forget his face — has a cast on his right arm. He reaches back and starts clubbing me with it, below the waist, out of the driver’s line of sight. He catches me in the groin and it hurts, but not as much as the shame when the other kids laugh and the bus driver gets up and storms toward me—

“and the train stops and jolts me back into now.”

Sharing cramped public spaces is often uncomfortable. Impatience can sneak up on us like black mold, turning us into someone we don’t recognize and quickly leave behind. But anytime we try to shame someone else, only one of us gets to walk away and act as if it never happened.

After our flight landed, I joined the long line of passengers waiting for a gate-checked bag. I was on the lookout for the man on the receiving end of that passenger’s rage. I just wanted to smile at him, and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one.

He just looked down at his feet as he walked. “Excuse me. So sorry. Excuse me,” he said — all the way up the ramp.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Cooking With These Foods Can Help Battle Predisposition For Obesity

By Alison Bowen, Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Incorporating more foods into your diet to avoid gaining weight — it sounds too good to be true.

But one doctor says that a few foods can slow your risk of obesity.

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, author of The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle, which focuses on reversing gene damage to maximize longevity, talked to us about foods to take out or bring in.

Research shows, Gaynor said, that multiple genes affect someone’s chance of becoming overweight.

“What we used to think is that if you had a gene or genes, for instance, a lot of people in your family were overweight, you would just assume you would be overweight at some point in your life as well,” he said.

But, he said, “Genes are largely dynamic, and you can change the expression of genes.”

For example, you can eat foods that are protective against things that your genes might predispose you to, like cancer or obesity.

Genes affect the formation of new fat cells — people form new fat cells at different rates.

But even if you can’t change your genes, you can change what’s happening in your body, said Gaynor, who is also founder of Gaynor Integrative Oncology in New York City.

And knowing whether you’re predisposed to genes that, for example, cause obesity, can help you know how to counteract that.

If you’re more predisposed to obesity, Gaynor said, you can home in on the hormones that influence weight.

According to Gaynor, three major hormones affect what the scale says: insulin, which helps the body process sugar; and leptin and glucagon-like peptide-1 (or GLP-1), which make you feel full.

Everyone has those three hormones, but sometimes inflammation blocks them.

“The major causes of inflammation are too much white sugar and white flour and heat-damaged vegetable oils found in fast food and processed food,” he said.

So in addition to the oft-prescribed fish, for example, consider cooking with other anti-inflammatory foods, such as rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, artichokes, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon.

“It’s good to have cinnamon at the end of every meal, even if you’re having cinnamon tea, or you could have desserts with cinnamon instead of white sugar,” he said.

(c)2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Steven Jackson

Coca-Cola Takes Heat For Funding ‘Energy Balance’ Group

By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)

ATLANTA — Coca-Cola found itself on the defensive Monday after a report said the beverage giant had been secretly funding a “scientific” group that says Americans are getting fatter because of a lack of physical fitness — not sugary drinks.

The group, Global Energy Balance Network, bills itself as a not-for-profit “dedicated to identifying and implementing innovative solutions — based on the science of energy balance — to prevent and reduce diseases associated with inactivity, poor nutrition and obesity.”

But a New York Times report said the group did not reveal that its operations are financially backed by Atlanta-based Coke.

Coke did not directly respond Monday but said it supports efforts to cut Americans’ calorie consumption.

Health officials and those who link consumption of sugary drinks to obesity and diabetes said the lack of transparency is part of a growing trend among some companies attempting to influence public opinion through scientific expertise.

Other examples include the American Council on Science and Health, the International Food Information Council and the Center for Consumer Freedom, author and blogger Vani Hari, also known as the Food Babe, wrote in a July blog on “hired” experts.

“They are trying to hijack the narrative, to cause confusion,” said Dr. Mark Hyman, a physician with the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass., and author of several books on diet and controlling blood sugar.

Coke has struggled to stop a domestic decline in consumption of its carbonated brands — such as Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite — which peaked in the late 1990s but have suffered as consumers switch to waters, teas and energy drinks because of obesity and health concerns.

The brands have seen an uptick in interest in smaller, 7.5-ounce and aluminum-bottle versions, which helped Coke report second-quarter profits of $3.11 billion, up from $2.6 billion a year earlier.

In a statement, Coca-Cola did not address the Times report that it funded the GEBN, but said it has joined with the American Beverage Association, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and others to help every person reduce calorie consumption by 20 percent by 2025.

“Coca-Cola supports finding solutions to obesity, including funding scientific research. We recognize that moderation and diet play a pivotal role in managing health and weight in combination with exercise. In fact, we continue to take steps to help people manage their calories — whether it’s through the introduction of smaller-sized packs, front-of-pack calorie labeling or innovation through new products such as Coca-Cola Life,” the company said.

In a video on the Global Energy Balance Network’s site, exercise scientist Steven Blair, of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, said there is a need to find out what is actually causing the obesity epidemic and that more data is necessary.

“Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is ‘Oh, they are eating too much’ … blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

The Times story said Coke donated $1.5 million to start the GEBN last year and that its website, gebn.org, is registered to Coke headquarters in Atlanta.

Coke registered the website because network members did not know how, James Hill, a University of Colorado School of Medicine professor who is president of the group, told the Times.

“They’re not running the show,” he told the Times. “We’re running the show.”

The Times also said that since 2008, Coke provided close to $4 million for various projects for Blair and Gregory Hand, dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health. Both are founding members of the organization.

Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, compared the tactics used by such groups to those employed by the tobacco industry when it was under fire.

“Professors routinely sell bits of their souls to companies, but it really should be an embarrassment to them,” he said.

Joseph Agnese, an analyst for S&P Capital IQ, said he was neither shocked by the story nor does he think it will hurt Coke. He thinks the public has become accustomed to corporations using various tactics to spin information in their favor.

“People somewhat expect it,” he said.

Photo: Coke is trying to hijack the conversation away from its allegedly harmful products, say many health and obesity experts and a section of the public. Kristin Andrus/Flickr

Is Thin The Only Way To Be Healthy?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., EatingWell.com

Whether it’s possible to be healthy and heavy has been an ongoing debate among health professionals.

For a while, the research seemed to favor being fat and healthy. Last year, for example, a review study of nearly 100 studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at close to 3 million people and found that people who are overweight (defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9) live longer than normal-weight folks. (Obese people, however, didn’t have a lower risk of premature death.)

But newer research may be turning the tide. A study published in April in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at 14,828 adults with no known heart disease and found those who had a BMI of over 25 had more early plaque buildup in their arteries than normal-weight adults, putting them at risk for heart disease.

Just because you’re thin, though, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Research shows that being “skinny fat” (i.e., your BMI is in the normal range, but you have high levels of body fat) ups your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes and shortens your lifespan.

Plus, you don’t want to be too thin: A study published in March said underweight adults have a higher risk of dying sooner than normal-weight people–and an even slightly higher risk than obese people.

Bottom line: Despite the research focus on BMI, look beyond that number. Carrying fat around your midsection is more dangerous than anywhere else on your body. A larger waist (for women: 35 inches, and for men: 40 inches) puts you at a higher risk for health problems–such as heart disease, cancer–and death. So aim to keep your waistline trim. For that, the best “medicine” is eating well and being active.

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.) (c) 2015 EATING WELL, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

Photo: Jannino via Flickr