Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Author Spotlight:: David Zinczenko :: May 3, 2010

Read This, Not That!

My reading progress slowed down a bit last month as I was sidetracked by the shocking book series “Eat This, Not That” . I know, I know. They’ve been around for a while, but my library finally acquired the entire series. And now I too have read all of David Zinczenko’s (pronounced Zin-chenk-oh) ETNT books andthey radically changed my eating habits. I consider myself a savvy grocery shopper and am pretty knowledgeable when it comes to understanding hidden meaning, ingredients, labels and catch phrases like “all natural”, “whole grain”, and “reduced fat”. Rachael Ray had an episode a while back with Zinczenko as a guest. I was so intrigued; I added his series to my library queue when it became available.

The three that I got the most out of: the Restaurant Survival Guide, the Supermarket Guide, and Cook This Not That. Obviously these are reference books which don’t count towards my 52 books read this year. But many of my friends recommended I read them and so I did just that. You’d be surprised at how deceptive the food industry is, including the amount of hair, dust particles and moldy food that is LEGALLY ALLOWED in packaged foods. WHISKEY. TANGO. FOXTROT!!!!!!!!!????????!!!!!!!! I was so keyed up about this that I felt compelled to blog about it. Flip through these books next time you’re at a bookish establishment, you will NOT regret it. I’m tempted to order a few used copies from Paperbackswap just to keep on hand as reference.

On a related note, recently a friend and I re-committed ourselves to one of our favorite free websites, called CalorieCount. I’ve never been one to count calories but the site is so much more than that. It allows you to input what you eat each day, what exercise you do (yes, driving counts!) and does an in-depth analysis based on your body weight, height and age.  This analysis feature is new and improved and a major eye opener to to things-  1) I’m consistently consuming way too much sodium and 2) consistently not consuming enough iron. After just one day of inputting what you eat (it’s linked to restaurant nutrition facts so if you go out it calculates the exact nutritional workup of your journal entries), it has a bar chart and pie chart showing you the breakdown of your eating by carbs, fiber, sodium, protein and all the vitamins. For me the idea is less about weight loss and more about being conscious of what I’m eating. In a sedentary office job environment, so much time is spent just sitting in front of a computer working. Sure, you can use CalorieCount to help monitor your goal if you’d like to lose weight by a certain date. For me though, I really enjoy entering in all the things I eat on a daily basis and seeing how I’m doing each day, helping guide my nutrition. It also works as a placebo effect- you’d probably feel guilty about entering in that snickers bar or donut that you just might stay away! You can also connect with friends and help each other stay motivated.

As we get older, I find the focus more on awareness of what I’m taking in and how I feel. I live a very active lifestyle incorporating exercise, considering myself a pretty healthy eater and savvy restaurant patron. Eating heavy fatty foods doesn’t give a person the energy they need to constantly be on the go and sharp, making  your blood sugar nosedive. Skipping meals is also the WORST possible habit. Thankfully I get very uncomfortable migraines if I don’t eat, so I rarely skip meals. I also love to cook. The Cook This Not That is so eye-opening. One serving of mac and cheese w/ salsa made at home with low-fat milk is only 450 calories. Compare that to a mac & cheese dish from Cheesecake Factory and you’re down 1,475 calories!! Speaking of Cheesecake Factory,  they are one of THE worst restaurant offenders when it comes to calories per serving. Pair that with 2-4 times the average serving size and you’re talking about a dangerous combination for your arteries.

Definitely limiting eating out is key in the calorie crusade. My husband and I have a trend we employ during the warmer months. We live within walking distance from a few “restaurant row” plazas with fantastic dining. Now that the sun stays out a bit longer, if we’re going to eat out, we walk there and back. It’s a great workout, we love getting to spend more time together catching each other up on the day’s happenings, and we feel better by walking off our food afterward. Then, we come home and walk two dogs. It ends up being an awesome way to skip my typical evening exercise video routine when my honey is home early or on his days off. It’s a great trend that we hope to continue as long as the nice weather stays. Another habit that I’ve had for a while- when I know I’ll be dining out with friends or a group, I go check out the restaurant’s nutrition facts online and find a handful of items that are pretty healthful so I’m not swayed by the server trying to “upsell” me on fatty appetizers or “fries with that”. I also request the cook NOT dip my steak into butter, as they do automatically whenever you order a steak at a restaurant so it looks glossy and pretty. Unless you specifically ask, it will be butter soaked. And lastly, when I order a salad with the dressing on the side, I dip my fork in the dressing and then pick up some salad. I’ve noticed consistently I use 1/4 of the dressing I would have if I doused the salad. Little changes in your eating habits have lasting implications.

If nothing else, these books are great to flip through while you’re killing time at a bookstore this summer. I highly recommend them and wish the programming gods would come out with a DROID app for this. 🙂

“DAVID ZINCZENKO, SVP/Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health magazine and Editorial Director of Women’s Health magazine, is the author of New York Times bestsellers The Abs Diet and The Abs Diet for Women. Once an overweight child, Zinczenko has become one of the nation’s leading experts on health and fitness. He is a regular contributor to the Today show and has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, 20/20, The Rachael Ray Show, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”




Book #24 LibraryLove

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Book description~

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.  Author Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

While on vacation with my family 2 months ago, this blog challenge came up in conversation. My sister-in-law asked how I pick books to read. I explained that I view reading as an extension of my knowledge in this world. In addition to reading fun entertaining “light reads”, I LOVE reading books that enrich my life, teach me about topics previously foreign, and enable me to understand our world a bit.  More than anything, I’ve found my favorite books to be those suggested by close friends and family. So, please, keep the suggestions coming!

My sister-in-law, a cellular biologist at Columbia University, suggested I read this book about the woman whose cells changed the course of biotechnology. This woman’s cervical cancer cells were harvested during a routine procedure in the 1950s and became the first “immortal cells” discovered to grow in culture by human biologists. My sister and brother-in-law, both medical doctors, were also fascinated by the conversation I was having with my SIL. I quickly jotted down the name of the book and was completely intrigued. I requested it from my library but when I got home, I found the library wait was 80 people deep with me the 80th requestor. Then I got a phone call the next day from my sister telling me that Skloot, author of this amazing book just gave a lecture at the top hospital in which they are completing their medical residency! That’s not all- she’d also just gotten an autographed copy of the book by the author herself- talk about serendipity! I was so jealous that I’d JUST missed Skloot’s book tour date in my area. I’d never even HEARD of this book until our fortuitous conversation. I was so excited when I received my sister’s copy in my mailbox (after she read it first, of course)!

Although this book is in the genre of science/cultural studies, I love how it reads like a memoir of Henrietta’s life AND quite a bit of Skloot’s.  Skloot succeeds in combining Henrietta’s biography, an accurate timeline of the progression of biotechnology, along with the political and emotional hurdles she climbed through to write this book. I absolutely commend Skloot for having the patience and fortitude to overcome the racial and generational obstacles she did. Skloot persevered to tell Henrietta’s story once and for all, the way it was meant to be written. With a background in journalism, Skloot does Henrietta’s story much justice and makes her family proud, learning much about her own spirituality along the way. This book had me sucked just by reading this sentence on the cover, “Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion dollar industry. More than 20 years later her children found out and they’ll never be the same”.

Scientists nicknamed Henrietta’s cells “HeLa”. Biotechnologists investigated HeLa and began using her husband and children’s cells in research without documented consent. It was only then, more than 40 years after Henrietta’s untimely death that her family finally learned of her “immortality”. The saddest part of all- neither Henrietta’s children nor the Lacks Family decedents ever saw a dime from the multimillion-dollars made off the human biological materials from HeLa’s cells.

HeLa cells are still being used today because they grow so relentlessly in culture, which is rare for cells generally, which have a finite number of divisions. During the polio epidemic, scientists grew mass amounts of HeLa cells to test the vaccine. Before long, a commercial enterprise grew batches for large-scale use. Discoveries piled up. HeLa cells also led to the breakthrough discovery about the human genome and DNA mapping, enabling the creation of genetic tests to find birth defects like Downs Syndrome. Before too long, HeLa went cosmic! NASA launched HeLa into space to analyze how human cells behave in zero-gravity. The cells, in turn, helped launch virology as a field and shot medical research forward with warp speed.

HeLa cells weren’t all used in the most ethical ways. Skloot offered a great historical progression giving the reader much perspective. She went on to discuss the pre-Nuremburg trial era, when the Nazis performed extremely inhumane heinous medical procedures on Jews. Before the Nuremberg Trials or establishment of the Nuremburg Code, there was no regulation on human experimentation. As the book goes deeper into detail, codified ethics were in place to ‘govern’ human medical experimentation. These laws put a stop to doctors performing experiments on a population like prison inmates, whose ability to provide ‘informed consent’ was in question. But are your cells and blood plasma your property? Or are they the property of the hospital to further research? And what happens if the research from your cells could lead to a cure for a disease? Then what? The implications to the body of research are horrific to think about.

According to the book, “Experts on both sides of the debate worry that compensating patients would lead to profit-seekers inhibiting science by insisting on unrealistic financial agreements or demanding money for tissues used in noncommercial or nonprofit research”.

This book makes a great basis for conversation to argue both sides of the debate. For example, before these codified laws, Dr. Southam, mentioned in the book, put up a flyer in a prison asking for inmates to volunteer to be injected with HeLa’s cancerous cells. The findings were amazing- you’ll definitely want to read this book to hear the results and find out more about how HeLa cells are forever connected to “the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of”.

Skloot became an honorary member of the family during her time researching this more than decade-long labor of love.  She even set up a scholarship fund for the Lacks decendents so they may have the educational opportunities Henrietta’s children did not. I recommend this book for anyone living in America, especially those who like me, are fascinated, by the pharmaceutical industry’s treatment of cancer, the idea of socialized healthcare in our country, and ideas about bioethics and cloning. One of the most thought-provoking reads I’ve ever come across.

4.75/5 stars

24 down, 29 to go (almost over the hump)!

In progress, Secret Daughter