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You’ll Be Fed Up In 95 Minutes!

2014 September 10

An alarming documentary I watched last weekend, called Fed Up, prompted me to text my daughter, who has an 18-month old son:

“Don’t ever give Primo any cold cereals or other supermarket foods that have tons of sugar, even if the boxes say low fat or no fat. It’s scary what’s happening with children’s health in America because the food industry is producing such crap.”

I challenge anyone to watch this 95-minute documentary without having a similar reaction. Even if you’re smart enough to keep yourself and your family far, far away from processed foods, you’ll be shocked to learn just how much they’ve contributed to the snowballing childhood obesity epidemic, the likes of which the world has never before seen.

First consider these two ridiculous, well-known facts:

  • American auto companies freely manufacture (and sometimes even surreptitiously sell) defective cars that can kill us
  • American tobacco companies knowingly produce cancer-causing cigarettes

Here’s a third equally ridiculous fact, that isn’t as well known; as a matter of fact, it’s one of America’s best-kept, dirty-little secrets: The mammoth American food companies knowingly make cereals, cookies, frozen breakfasts, lunches and dinners—hundreds of thousands of processed foods—that are creating a “tsunami of sugar” sweeping up our children and putting them at precipitously high risks for developing cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

And nothing is stopping these companies from continuing this despicable practice

Not Michelle Obama (although she’s tried with her Let’s Move campaign). Not our schools, 80 percent of which have deals with companies, including Coke and Pepsi, to serve junk food and beverages to our children and grandchildren. Not parents, who succumb to the lures of food marketing, on TV, on the internet and around practically every corner they turn. And certainly not our children.

Yep, that’s right. One in five children today is obese, compared to one in 20 in the past. Obesity isn’t just unattractive and sloppy. It leads to chronic illness. Imagine an eight-year-old giving himself insulin shots. You don’t have to imagine. It’s happening. It really is. Once limited to adults, Type 2 diabetes has become a childhood disease.

The amount of added sugar in the 600,000 processed foods currently manufactured in America is horrifying. Sugar isn’t just in cookies and desserts; 80 percent of our processed foods have added sugar. Our kids are becoming sugar addicts. The American Heart Association recommends a daily sugar intake for women of 6 to 9 teaspoons, but our daily intake is actually 41 teaspoons.

If we keep traveling down this sugar-paved road, it’s estimated that 95 percent of all Americans will be obese in the next two decades.

The seeds of the epidemic actually were planted in 1977, after a government committee on nutrition and human needs heard expert testimony that obesity was the #1 form of malnutrition in the US, caused by a diet overly rich in saturated fats, rich in sugar, rich in fatty meats and rich in cholesterol. When the committee report recommended the creation of dietary “goals” for Americans—that we reduce our intake of fat-rich, caloric food—the egg, dairy, beef and sugar associations united, rejected it and demanded a rewrite.

If Americans reduced their intake of fat-rich, caloric food, that would translate into less business, the food industry correctly reasoned. Can’t have that, manufacturers thought, so they started getting creative, and devious: They re-engineered their food with less fat and fewer calories, but began dumping in more sugar to make it taste better. Otherwise, the food would have tasted like cardboard. That’s when the marketing gurus stepped in and designed labels that made bold statements, such as: “Now with half the fat and one-third fewer calories.” What the labels didn’t say was that the re-engineered food contained twice the sugar. The upshot? Americans doubled their daily intake of sugar from 1977 to 2000.

Remember when the heads of the tobacco companies “lied through their teeth” about the dangers of smoking, the film asks? Everyone watching the lineup of tobacco execs seated before Congress knew they were calculating clowns, but we let them get away with it. Until we didn’t. And when the government, media and the public finally took on the tobacco companies, in the mid 90s, changes were swift and effective. Smoking ads were banned on TV; smoking was banned in planes, in the workplace, in restaurants. Labels on cigarette packs were honest. The fact is, we should ban smoking entirely, but the tobacco lobby is too strong, so we’re settling for second best. The good news is that half as many high school students are smoking now than they did 20 years ago.

Well, my dear FOFriends, the documentary claims that the food companies have been lying through their teeth for the last 30 plus years about the damage that sugar is causing to the health and well being of our children. And we will have to “demonize the food industry, like we demonized the tobacco industry,” if we are going to cure obesity, the documentary emphatically states.

I’m ready. Are you?

Here are 19 other crucial facts and statistics I gleaned from Fed Up about the obesity epidemic and the effect of sugar on our children’s (and, of course, our) health.


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Come On, Suck It Up!

2014 September 5

I don’t like to load or unload the dishwasher. I’m not crazy about cleaning the stove. And if I never did another load of laundry again, I wouldn’t weep. But, I LOVE to vacuum. Yes, you read that right. Ever since my mother tasked me, in the early sixties, with “carpet sweeping” (a mechanical device that basically lifted the top layer of dust from carpets), I have enjoyed the process of sucking up dirt, lint and other small particles of whatnot from wall-to-wall carpeting, area rugs, and floors.

Believe it or not, I also wrote about the “floor care” business, when I was the editor and publisher of an influential home furnishings trade newspaper. I toured vacuum cleaner manufacturing plants; I dined with the presidents of Hoover and Eureka; I even knew how many vacuums Sears sold every year. And I could write a thesis on the relative merits of one style versus another.

As you’d suspect by now, I’ve owned all kinds of vacuums in my time, good, bad and horrible.

Heavy uprights that looked like they could suck up small trees, but could barely lift a twig; canisters with unwieldy cords and clunky bodies that knocked into every wall on their travels from room to room and were daring me to trip over them; handheld vacs that made lots of noise but labored trying to lift sand from the back seat of the car and ran out of charge quicker than the original iPhone. The vacuum I now own is a pre-owned European import that normally costs an arm and a leg. It looks a lot better than it performs.

Of course, I was game when Dyson asked if I’d try out their new cordless vac, the Dyson Digital Slim™ DC59 Motorhead. That’s like asking an 8-year-old if he wants to try a shiny new bicycle!

Dyson claims that DC59 Motorhead “Out-cleans the top 5 best-selling full-size vacuums across carpets and hard floors. Without the hassle of a cord.” Naturally, I was skeptical.

Turns out, they were right.

  • It’s light: Under five pounds, and its small motor is located in the handle, making it a cinch to lift—with one hand—for overhead cleaning and to carry around the apartment.
  • It’s powerful and versatile: It sucked out every bit of the dirt deep in the seams of our often-used living room chairs; picked up pieces of packing material off the hardwood floor in seconds; dusted in places I haven’t touched in ages, including the tippy top of the kitchen cabinets, and perked up the little silk rug in our bedroom.
  • It’s convertible: The light aluminum wand can be removed to convert the unit into a powerful handheld vacuum for cleaning car interiors, upholstery, and more.
  • It’s flexible: The cleanerhead maneuvers with a flick of the wrist to easily reach hard-to-reach places.
  • It’s compact: It can be hung, with its docking station, on a wall or inside a closet without taking much space.

I used the unit for about 15 minutes and the suction remained as forceful as it was when fully charged. The battery charge reportedly gives you 24 minutes of cleaning time with full power.

Whether you need a new vac, want to buy one for your daughter’s new apartment, or think it would make a great gift for an approaching bridal shower, I strongly recommend you buy this one.

To enter to win the Dyson Digital Slim™ DC59 Motorhead ($549.99 value), fill out the form below!

By entering this giveaway, you agree to receive emails from FabOverFifty and Dyson.

This post is sponsored by Dyson. Thanks for supporting FabOverFifty!

1 FOF will win. (See official rules, here.) Contest closes September 30, 2014 at midnight E.S.T. Contest limited to residents of the continental U.S.

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Let’s Start A National Movement To Ban The “S” Word

2014 September 4

I hereby declare the start of a movement to banish the word “senior” from the English language,
as in “senior citizen.”

And, while we’re at it, let’s say bye-bye to the phrases “golden years” and “old age.”

I didn’t think of myself as a “child” when I was 8, a “teenager” when I was 15; a “young adult” when I was 24, or a middle-aged woman” when I was 45. And I surely didn’t start thinking of my myself as a “senior” at the tender age of 50, when the depressing, AARP organization sent me a membership application. I don’t feel any different, at 67. What’s more, If I’m lucky enough to live into my 80s or 90s, don’t call me “elderly.”

I realize it’s convenient for demographers, sociologists, academics and psychologists to label people populations, but boomers refuse to get “old,” even if 60 is a bigger number than 20 and it takes us a little longer to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Consider what Harry Moody, 69, former director of academic affairs for AARP, told a New York Times writer a couple of years ago: “What’s going on is we have a problem with the subject itself. Everyone wants to live longer, but no one wants to be old. Personally, I tend to use the term ‘older people’ because it’s the least problematic. Everyone is older than someone else.

“Much of the time, it’s completely unnecessary to use age as an identifier at all. People don’t like it. That’s why you see organizations changing their names. Elderhostel got rid of ‘elder’ and became Road Scholar. AARP shortened its name, which now doesn’t mention age or retirement,” Moody said.

I also think women who refuse to disclose their ages—even if they’re clearly over 50—are doing us all a disservice. Aren’t they actually capitulating to those who think we’re useless and elderly after 50? If I have more energy, passion, drive and creativity than many people half my age, why should I hide the fact I’m 67? I can hear all my 30-something friends lovingly calling me “a pain in the neck,” “stubborn,” and “opinionated,” but I don’t think they’d pin the label “senior citizen” on my new jean overalls.

Press releases with the “S” word continually pop up in my email, such as one with this headline:


Don’t you just love the term “senior-friendly”? The release was sprinkled with other endearing words, like “the elderly”, and gave us spectacularly uncreative advice, including taking “the elderly” on “fun” activities like picnics. My mother died a few years ago, one month shy of 87. I never referred to her as elderly a single day of her life. And her “fun” activities included going to the Shakespeare class at the Y and playing bridge.

I decided to ask the “junior” PR person, who sent the release, to explain how her company defined “senior.” She responded: “Someone who is at least 60.”


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Why I Decided To End The Life of My 14-Year-Old Cat

2014 August 26

We euthanized Remy, our 14-year-old cat, this past weekend.

I met Remy in late 2001, maybe a few weeks after 9/11. Lauren (my first employee when I launched my own business in 1998, and still a dear friend) and I were walking near our office on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, when we passed a young woman cuddling a cute kitten in her arms (are kittens ever anything but cute?) We stopped to ooh and aah, and learned the kitty was up for adoption since her owner discovered she had a cat allergy.

A few hours later, I went to pick up “Remy” at the dance studio run by her now-allergic owner. That was the name I was going to give my first child, if I had a girl. I had a boy, but still loved the name. Remy was about a year old, her unofficial-looking papers reported.

She was a wonderful cat from that day forward. I remember hearing her cute faint meows for months after I brought her home, as she pitter-pattered next to my bed in the middle of the night. She eventually slept most of the night, but usually made her way to the pillows of houseguests at some point before morning. Whenever she decided to sleep between me and David, on a pillow, her purring was more soothing than any sound machine in Brookstone.

When the vet first examined Remy, he said she must have had an accident because her jaw was misshapen. It didn’t affect her ability to eat. As a matter of fact, she weighed in at 12 pounds as an adult, and Dr. Johnson advised me to put her a diet (she took after me, I guess.)

Aside from two pelvic fractures (one, the result of getting tangled up with a lightweight metal sculpture, which came crashing to the floor with her when she tried to extricate herself from it; the other, from a totally mysterious cause), Remy was healthy, content and extremely independent. She’d go about her business without fussing, and she only meowed when she wanted something she couldn’t get by herself (e.g. jumping over the high bathtub, in later years, to drink from the faucet, or opening up the door to our tiny outdoor space, where she’d bask in the sun and intently survey everything around her, as cats do so well.)

Not a cat who demanded or gave much affection, Remy would sidle up to certain people when she was in the rare mood to be held, stroked or kissed. She loved my nephew, Brian; his mother, my sister Shelley; my aunt Sylvia, and Douglas, my former husband.

Interesting, she appealed most to people who were not cat lovers.

“She was a wonderful cat, the first animal I ever cared about,” Shelley emailed me Sunday, when I told her Remy was gone. And David, who had disliked cats, bonded with Remy as soon as he met her, around 12 years ago. He couldn’t leave the apartment without knowing where she was and that she was safe and sound. Remy was a champ at bringing out his caring side.

We brought five-month-old Rigby, a Norfolk terrier, home when Remy was about 6 years old. When he wanted to be her friend, he’d gingerly approach her to nuzzle, but Remy was not in the least bit interested. She’d hiss at him to get away. Other times, Rigby would quietly watch her approaching from the other end of the hallway, and, as she got closer, he’d suddenly turn to chase her. He’d bark loudly as he began his pursuit, and Remy would let out a wild scream and head for the hills. Rigby always backed off.

Remy stopped looking and acting like herself about two months ago, when she suddenly started to meow a great deal, first mainly at night and then quite a bit throughout the day, and lost the sparkle in her pretty green eyes. At one point, I decided she was once my father, who had similarly colored eyes, but I changed my mind and thought she was a kinder, gentler Edgar, because she had the same piercing look. For those of you who don’t “know” Edgar, he was the Mississippi (snake) charmer with whom I spent 12 years.

When we took Remy to the vet for an exam, she was down to 8 pounds, from around 11 last year. Weight loss and excessive meowing are often symptoms of hypertension and diabetes in older cats, the vet told us. Her blood workup ruled those out, but did reveal a UTI (urinary tract infection). The doctor put her on meds. The infection cleared up and the meowing subsided, but Remy’s appetite was diminishing.

Subsequent blood tests showed she most likely had a type of leukemia that, fortunately, is treatable. Although the diagnosis wasn’t fully confirmed, Dr. Cavanaugh started treatment anyway and prescribed an appetite stimulant. He also noticed that Remy had a loose tooth, which looked like it was infected, so he injected antibiotics and told us to return in 10 days to have it removed.

But something more was wrong, I thought last week, as I noticed Remy’s mouth looking more and more misshapen every day. She’d start eating but would stop within a minute. She’d approach the water bowl, but turned away. Her meowing intensified again. Perhaps the antibiotics didn’t work and the infection had worsened. At least she’d have the tooth removed on Sunday.

The moment Dr. Cavanaugh looked at Remy’s mouth Sunday morning, he knew something more was indeed wrong. Turning to me and David, he told us that Remy had an “aggressive malignant tumor” on her jawbone and began to explain our options. He’d recommend an oncologist, who would probably take xrays and a biopsy. Depending on the results, part of her jawbone could be removed, along with the tumor. However, it was likely the tumor would return in short order. “Is she in pain?” I asked, of course knowing the answer because she was trying to tell us she was in distress ever since she started meowing a couple of months ago. “Yes,” Dr. Cavanaugh answered. “But we could give her pain medication.”

At that moment, my decision was made. We needed to stop Remy’s pain, but not
with pain drugs.

David would have prefered to take her home to prepare himself, but I couldn’t deal with that so I emailed my son, who also has a 14-year-old cat, and asked his advice. He agreed with my decision, and David also came to terms with it.

Dr. Cavanaugh gave Remy a sedative around 10:45 am Sunday, then inserted a catheter into her leg that carried the drugs to peacefully end her life. I couldn’t bear to be in the room. David told me she looked liked she was asleep. He cried, something that I’ve seen him do only once since we met, when Remy was around 2 years old.

All I could think of Sunday was Remy’s meowing during the last two months, as she tried to tell us she was in pain a great deal worse than any of us suspected. I am upset at the thought that we weren’t doing anything to help her, despite the antibiotics, appetite stimulant, leukemia drug. Although her mouth didn’t show any outward signs of cancer until last week (except, in hindsight, the loose tooth), the tumor obviously was causing her great suffering. I now realize that when she’d sit completely still, on the top of the sofa back, facing the wall, it was probably the only time she felt less pain.

My heart aches picturing her in that position and imagining what she was feeling.

Rigby, in the meantime, seems a bit lost since David and I returned to the apartment Sunday, absent Remy. He sniffed around her carrier and watched me empty the litter box and gather up her belongings. Crazy as it sounds, I think Rigby and Remy must have derived some comfort from one another, even when they fought like cats and dogs, and that they probably socialized when we weren’t home.

I wish Rigby and I could tell each other how we feel.

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