Fool’s Paradise


Back when my classmates were playing with blocks, I was stacking cartons. The glove compartment, as far as I know, might as well have been called the smokes compartment, because that’s all we kept in ours. I can visualize the plastic sealed, blanched white bodies, stacked in rows; I can still smell the unmistakeable insult of the ash that used to cling, like velcro on the lace of my shoes. He was going through two, three packs a day, habitually pounding cigarette after cigarette as if each puff was giving him life… when in fact, it was doing the opposite.

So, I’d draw family caricatures and bold, arching, colorful print that read something along the lines of “Please Stop Smoking DAD” and variations of. I’d sneak letters into his travel bag, and on the occasion I’d get to see him, I would beg him to quit. For us. For a healthier life. For, at only six years old, I was already afraid that the next time I’d see a plastic sealed, blanched white body, it’d be his.

What I had yet to learn was that the success of behavior change is determined by adherence, which can only be cultivated intrinsically. My father continued to smoke for many, many years, and despite positive behavior changes that renovated different aspects of his life, he could never fulfill the intricate web of physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and social health. Because wellness is a cumulative interaction between these six dimensions of health, behavior change that hinders the maintenance of this balance may –in consequence– be fleeting, inefficient, and even detrimental.

The film, “Fat Chance,” portrays the journey of behavior change intended for weight loss that is later redirected to self acceptance. Rick Zakowich is first introduced, thirty pounds lighter but not much happier since the start of his plan to lose weight. Feeling pressured by cultural standards of beauty and acceptance, he uses appearance-based motivation to take on behavior change involving diet and exercise. It is no surprise, considering how heavily our society weighs the significance of body image, to hear a even medical professional deviate from motivational interviewing. The physician advises, “Best way to make yourself feel better about yourself… is to lose weight so that your blood pressure improves, so that you look better.” Inherent in modern American thinking is that looking better equates to happiness.

As Rick finds support from those who are content with their obesity, he adapts to a new perspective that directly antagonizes fat shaming culture; he ends the documentary by saying, “The way you are is fine. Walk through this world in that way.” On a superficial perspective, one could argue that Rick achieves a step towards wellness by coming to self acceptance, increasing his self confidence, and joining an empowered community. However, despite it being a step in the right direction, Rick fails to recognize the danger of extremes. By orienting behavior change strictly towards emotional and social health, he completely neglects the other essential components, such as physical health. There is no doubt that self love, in the right context, is deserving of praise, but the fact that he is happier does not eliminate the risks of being overweight. By the summer of 2008, my father ended up in the ICU. If he, then, had settled on self acceptance and placed another cigarette between his lips, would you have applauded him, too?

Fat shaming and fat acceptance fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, and through understanding the crucial interplay of the six components of wellness, we unveil the importance of moderation. Had the medical professional taken a different approach, like educating the benefits of exercise, rather than implying blame or demonizing Rick’s body image, perhaps Rick would not have fallen victim to an illusory state of happiness that is likely evanescent. Increasing studies now indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity can improve multiple aspects of wellness and reduce the comorbidities tied to obesity, with or without weight loss (Dallow). This outlook on exercise may be a better approach towards positive behavior change, than one that is based on appearance. Furthermore, it would be of a greater benefit to implement behavior change that caters to both fitness, confidence, community, and other aspects of wellness. With Dr. Lerner’s medical knowledge and morale amongst Rick’s new connections, the support group could potentially be the perfect medium for a wellness program. With less emphasis on weight loss, they could tackle multiple obstacles at once and find a more permanent solution. In contrast of what they have been told by others –they can have their cake and eat it too.

To ensure safety, longevity, and efficacy of such program, professional advisement to promote adherence is crucial. Though the responsibility of wellness falls on the shoulders of each individual, it is equally important to have health care providers take the lead on public education. Patients are more likely to adhere to behavior change if they understand risk and the gravity of their conditions, so medical professionals can play a key role here (Stonerock). Proper motivational interviewing along with professional, objective, and evidence-based opinions is essential to assist others, particularly in the transition from earlier to later stages of the Transtheoretical Model. In “Fat Chance,” Dr. Moe Lerner highlights that obesity is caused by metabolism and dieting. Not once does he mention the importance of physical health. Despite his sensible attitude, his perspective holds a very narrow, almost defensive, focus to justify obesity. By relying on rationalizations and believing his physical state is not a problem, he, along with Rick and the others in the support group, regress and sink deeper into the precontemplative stage (Dallow).

In a society that strongly antagonizes fat and with a disproportionately increasing prevalence of obesity, there is a strong need for leadership towards fitness in all populations, especially obese individuals. The fact that Dr. Lerner’s personal stake in the issue does not take a backseat to his obligation to the public, and that another medical provider advises Rick “just do it” as a plan for losing weight reveal how the medical care system has ample room for improvement. Physical therapists, and all medical providers, can and should “provide key elements of effective behavioral change interventions” so that the general public can adhere to wholesome decisions about wellness (Rhodes). Even the most effective interventions whittle down to scraps, in the absence of patient adherence.

It is easy to believe a person is well when one aspect of wellness has been satisfied. One might say being fat and happy is better than being skinny and unhappy; one might argue the opposite. During an interview, supermodel Kate Moss was quoted saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” When we fall victim to such paradigms that cater to one aspect of wellness, such as emotional health, we neglect all else. The temporary contentment that follows blinds us from seeing the short-lived nature of it, and the resulting imbalance may put an us in a worse position than we started from. Fooling ourselves about our well-being is like sipping on a pina colada, floating comfortably above a circle of sharks. In shallow waters, it becomes more clear that a fool’s paradise –though paradise– thrives only in the minds of fools.



Bezner JR. Promoting health and wellness: implications for physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2015;95:1433-1444.

Dallow CB, Anderson J. Using self-efficacy and a transtheoretical model to develop a physical activity intervention for obese women. American Journal of Health Promotion, 2003;17(6):373-381.

Fat Chance. Dir. Jeff McKay. Perf. Rick Zakowich. YouTube. NFB, 17 May 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Rhodes RE, Fiala B. Building motivation and sustainability into the prescription and recommendations for physical activity and exercise therapy: the evidence. Physiother Theory Pract. 2009;25:424- 441.

Stonerock GL., Blumenthal JA. Role of Counseling to Promote Adherence in Healthy Lifestyle Medicine: Strategies to Improve Exercise Adherence and Enhance Physical Activity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis (2016),


You Son of a Kitchen

Elbows in, I reminded myself, watching in the mirror the course of my knees tracing the length of my body. I squatted as low as I could, tucking the 70lb dumbbell into my chest, as the metronome of J. Cole and Kendrick kept pace with my steady heart. 

I was simply putting some work in at the gym, isolated in a decent radius and minding my own (as per usual) when a neighboring beefhead got up from his bench to wave a pair of massive Russian banana hands into my field of view. I turned to him, removing a headphone from the right ear just in time to make out “–fucking space.”

“Excuse me?” I said, pulling the other plug from my left, “What was that? I couldn’t hear you.”

He tensed his eyebrows tightly together and repeated, “I SAID, you’re in my fucking space. I need my space.”

Say what?

In the past decade of lifting, the only times I have ever been interrupted mid-set were when men wanted to ask for the number of sets I had left on the bar, or for the number they’d have to call to get me TO a bar. So, you can imagine why I, without processing his message, instinctively reacted to his hostility with a “My bad, I’m sorry,” and consequently shifted my belongings further away. 

Only after he resumed pumping his weights into the air did it occur to me that I had been standing, at the very least, a good 3 feet away from his bench. I wanted to stomp about 6 large steps away, to sarcastically curtsy and say, I’m sorry, Nancy, is that enough space for you? 

But I didn’t. 

One, because I often find it difficult to be an outright dick, but mostly two, because I thought of the quip a tad too late and it would’ve been weird for me to say it after that much time had passed. Eh, you win some, you lose some. Half of wit is timing.

Every time I re-encountered a glimpse of his smug face in the wall reflection, I could feel myself growing a tiny bit angrier. I removed myself from the dumbbells to the power rack, so I could put the negative energy behind me.

I finished up, then I left the facility shortly after to hop on the green line. Little did I know, as luck would have it, he was trailing right behind me. 

I caught the subway train as the doors were about to close, wedging my body into a pocket of commuters, and when I turned to face the other way, I saw him running to fill the last bit of space by my feet.

I couldn’t help but immediately think of Elaine with no toilet paper, when her stall neighbor does her dirty by saying she doesn’t have “a square to spare.” And how, at the end of the episode, Elaine steals all the TP from the bathroom before the chick walks in so that she can taunt the infamous line back to her.

Karma isn’t a bitch; people are.

Now, what I could’ve done in that moment is step forward a couple inches, and say as the doors closed on his face: “Nope, take the next train; I need my space.” How deliciously sweet would that have been — well, I’m not all that sure, because I didn’t do it.

If an eye for an eye makes the world blind, I don’t want to forget that I have another to spare. The unnecessarily rude can take out my eye, but at least I have sight, and that’ll do more for me in the long run than petty revenge. 

Although that would have been pretty fucking fun, too. 

How To Lose Fat By Being Fat


Recent studies reveal: fat cells burn fat. I read it on the internet, so it must be true, right?

Bear with me — I can explain.

In an Animal Histology course, one of the simplest tasks you are taught to tackle is in distinguishing between white and brown adipose tissue. In other words, you learn how to microscopically differentiate what society has trained us to dread: Fat. However, most of us concerned about the amount of pudge spilling over our waistbands don’t even realize that fat exist in different forms. Fat is not the enemy; ignorance is.

White fat cells — easily identified as large, circular blobs — accumulate under the skin and around organs as a predominant source of stored energy. Your muffin top? Blame it on white fat. On the other hand, brown fat cells look more dense under the microscope. They appear “brown” because they contain far more mitochondria; their main purpose is to produce heat. That’s right, you heard me. Brown fat burns calories.

One might ask, then how come fat people are… still fat?

Though brown fat initiates fat consumption, it does not exist in abundance within the adult human body. Most of our jiggle is from white fat; brown fat is found in odd areas like behind the neck. In fact, scientists were previously led to believe brown fat is only found in infants and animals who cannot shiver to produce adequate body heat. We now know it is present in the adult human anatomy, but the percentage of brown fat in relation to white fat is predominantly lower in obese individuals. Whereas “fat people” have plenty of fat, they don’t have the right kind.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could convert our white fat to brown fat?

Well, we can.

Prolonged cold exposure causes notable changes in the body – specifically, in this case, activates brown fat, increases insulin sensitivity, and alters levels of metabolic hormones. In a controlled study led by Dr. Celi and Dr. Lee, five healthy 21 year old males were subjected to different environmental temperatures for three 1-month periods. When exposed to a colder setting for a minimum of 10 hours per night, the subjects revealed a “42% increase in brown fat volume and a 10% increase in fat metabolic activity” (Torgan, “Cool Temperature”).

It makes sense. If your body notices that it is cold, it will try to make up for the difference by burning stored energy (white fat) and producing it as heat! Since brown fat is efficient at this, the body accommodates by increasing its brown fat content. Researchers have discovered the presence of beige–or “brite” aka brown in white– fat cells that hold the same metabolic characteristics of brown fat (Torgan, “Insights”). One could potentially infer that the mixed appearance results from white converting to brown, one cell at a time.


Can it be as simple as sitting in a cold room for 10 hours to get the beach body we want? And is it worth it?

Typically, a cell converts chemical energy from fatty acids into a fuel called ATP. The process is called oxidative phosphorylation; a gradient of electric potential prompts a cascade of events which convert food into energy. Simply put, it’s how we survive. In brown fat, there are specific protein molecules called Uncoupling Protein 1 (UCP1) that are embedded along the surfaces of mitochondria. They “dissipate the mitochondrial electrical potential and drive the consumption of fat and its conversion to heat, not ATP” (Norris).

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, hang in there. I’ll explain in layman’s terms.

Think of mitochondria as machines that produce energy. Their job is to change food to ATP. These machines require an electric charge to do work. The proteins on the brown machines (UCP1) act like little hands that grab onto fatty acids, which transport positively charges (hydrogen ions) to the machine’s surface (membrane). When you have too many protons, it disrupts the normal charge across the membrane, so the machine can’t work properly. To return things back to normal,  the cell has to burn fat and produce heat!

The point is… An entirely different point.


The common consumer of knowledge will use this information and produce the take-home message along the lines of: cold temperatures will make me slimmer. Brown fat is the new brown rice. 

The take-home message is actually something drastically different: you, my dear, are too fucking gullible.

Blind acceptance of recruited knowledge leads to widespread ignorance.


There are things I didn’t tell you, things you assumed, and things you failed to challenge before drawing a conclusion. And this is why the internet has become a double edged sword.

Earlier I said, “in a controlled study led by Dr. Celi and Dr. Lee, five healthy 21 year old males were subjected to different environmental temperatures for three 1-month periods.” This study only considered five individuals. Of the five individuals, 100% of them were male and 21 years old. With a sample size this small and specific, we cannot conclude this applies to a 35 year old woman, a 21 year old male with diabetes, or even you and me.

What I didn’t mention is that when the five were placed in prolonged neutral temp environment, their fat levels returned to baseline levels of brown fat. And at warmer temperatures, there was a complete reversal effect (Torgan, “Cool Temperature”). As a diet fad only produces temporary results, prolonged cold exposure triggered brown fat activation but failed to keep the protein “on” for a lasting effect. Therefore, research is now devoted to bringing the actual science behind it closer to application; once we figure out how to manipulate the UCP1, it may be an invaluable weapon to combat adult obesity.

Also, if you haven’t read these particular studies yourself, chances are: you have no idea who Dr.Celi and Dr. Lee are. How can you assume credibility without having any reference as to who they are and what they study? They could be the names of a physical therapist and a psychiatrist. A prefix doesn’t imply accuracy. Had I quoted Dr. Pepper and Dr. Phil would you have even noticed?

What I presented isn’t bunk science –in fact, it’s potentially revolutionary– but it was skewed in the sense that a lot of information often gets left out while being transferred from person A to person B. There are so many unsupported articles that people post on Facebook… so many protein powders and waist trainers and juice cleanses that people promote on Instagram… And so many false claims floating around by word of mouth that we blindly accept.


My point is, WAKE UP.

Unless the source is presenting all sides relevant to the topic at hand, it falls victim to a bias. Truth and logic are at the convenience of the teller, so be aware. Question things. Research. Be an educated skeptic about everything you read and consider what you aren’t being given a chance to read.

Life is more variable than it seems on the Internet.

Do you believe me?


Works Cited

Norris, Jeffrey. “Researchers Identify Lynchpin to Activating Brown Fat Cells.” UCSF. University of California San Francisco, 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 May 2016. <>.

Torgan, Carol. “Cool Temperature Alters Human Fat and Metabolism |National Institutes of Health (NIH).” NIH Research Matters. National Institutes of Health, 28 July 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <>.

Torgan, Carol. “Insights into Energy-Burning Fat Cells |National Institutes of Health (NIH).” NIH Research Matters. National Institutes of Health, 15 April 2015. Web. 10 May 2016. <>.

Genuine confession

I’m really fucking happy.

My life isn’t close to perfect, but mindfulness makes the distance seem shorter. Highlight the positive; use the negative. Exercise your body and your mind — the more fine tuned your instrument, the clearer your sound. And most importantly PAY ATTENTION to the life you’re living. Awareness of detail will help you become the person you wish to attract. We’re naturally drawn to good energy.

I wanted to put it in writing in case I hit a rough spot and think otherwise later.

I’m feeling so affectionate these days I feel like picking up babies and twirling them around in joy. But I think a felony charge would dampen the mood, so I’m going to put a hold on that. For now.

Peace babes. Besos 😘

Sick as a Dog (in the early 1700s)

The first word that came to mind this morning was “fuck.”

No, I didn’t wake up beside a strange face, and no, it is a Saturday, so surely I wasn’t late for work. What got me to begin my day with a profane outburst were beads of cold sweat and a throbbing ache in my throat. It seemed all too familiar.

I rolled to the foot of the bed (I don’t move around when I sleep but can fall asleep in strange positions, so today, I awoke horizontal to the bed frame because I was up watching Family Guy the night prior). Then, I drunkenly stumbled into the bathroom. I opened my mouth wide and tip-toed closer to the mirror to find that my reflection, despite being dangerously attractive (I’m in a sarcastic mood today), had a throat swollen and red enough to be deemed… well, sick. “Fuck” was totally appropriate, then.

I cancelled my plans for the day, ate a big breakfast, and returned to bed.


As ironic as it is, sleeping when I’m sick always makes me feel sicker. So, eventually, after several hours of napping, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was overheating. I threw on a couple layers and left the apartment. I walked about a mile or so, feeling better as the atmospheric chill brushed against my heated cheeks; I slowly sipped on some fresh, outdoor air and let it soothe my aching throat. A second place alternative for Ricola, imo.

When I got to Cunningham Park, I felt fairly dizzy, so I laid down for a pit-stop in the grass.


And all I saw was this.


The sky seemed so empty and grey that I thought I was looking at one large cloud. I let my eyes lose focus, and suddenly, I could see tiny, clear moving particles (called Floaters) drifting in the sky above me.

simulated image of Floaters, from Wikipedia

It came accompanied with hundreds, maybe thousands, of small sparkles rapidly moving and bouncing off one another. It was hypnotizing. Captivated, I let “Before the Beginning” rip through my headphones and watched the atoms in the sky pour down on my face. I guess this is what people mean by “seeing stars.”

I went home, popped 2 nyquils, and soaked in a bubble bath while indulging in After Hours’ jazz tracks on repeat. I started the first chapter of High Fidelity — no spoilers, please. So far, it’s fantastic.

Half floating (cheating because my tub isn’t large enough for me to stretch out my legs), I let my ears dip into the warm soak and left my face exposed. Listening to a distant jazz through a layer of water made me feel detached from the world around me, as if this sickness could be put on pause.

The bubbles tickled my knees as I remained still, breathing in the warm fumes evaporating from the surface of the bath. I brushed my teeth, gargled with salt water, conditioned my hair, lathered my skin in coconut oil, and ate several hot, hearty meals as well.

The point of it all is: I, like many busy working people, rarely find time to take care of myself until I am forced to. It wouldn’t hurt to do this more often. I feel so much better already; my throat and sinus aren’t nearly as pissed off at me as they were this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, take a weekend and treat yourself. I promise you it’s worth it. Good day.



The Doctors Are Sick

For those of you who do not know:

just before my last finals week as a college senior, I got hit by a bus. Except there was no bus.


I was overloading courses and taking on night/weekend shifts at the time, so I thought the sudden pain and fatigue was sourced from overexertion, or perhaps too much caffeine. I slept for days at a time — I honestly don’t know how I managed to pass any of my exams. But I did. Nevertheless, this sensation was nothing like what I had felt before: stemming from deep within, an unnerving discomfort drilling into the core of my bones. I remember feeling completely, helplessly, broken.

After graduation, I continued to work long shifts, struggling to fake a bubbly attitude. One afternoon, I was hit with a wave of disorientation, as blisters appeared on the side of my neck. Go to the hospital, my boss said. I ignored her. Later that night, I collapsed, so I had to take a trip home. Luckily, Sally was driving back to Queens that week.

After we crossed into recognizable Jersey, I started feeling a numbness coursing through my neck and face. A thick hotness embedded into my jaw; an itching burn slapped me on the side of the neck. My arms screamed in pain. I’m fine, I initially told Sally, as if reassuring her would convince myself to, at all costs, avoid another hospital visit.

I ignored it until my hands and chest began tingling, when I suggested, OK, Sally, I think I need help. Buckling into best friend gear, she googled for a respectable hospital in Manhattan and sped over to the emergency room. Hours later, I walked out with a heavy dose of medication, a swollen upper extremity, and an instructive sheet of care for shingles. They missed the lyme disease, but so did everyone else (I went to my ex-primary care physician that week, who told me it was “growing pains”).

I was prescribed anti-virals, which made the blisters go away, but the excruciating pain remained. I rode back up to Binghamton, where I worked and lived with an ex-boyfriend for the summer, struggling with hot flashes, severe fatigue, and anxiety. I’m sure it was hard on him, too. I remember crying myself to sleep on multiple occasions, thinking the pain would never end. My thyroid levels were off, and my weight continued to fluctuate, so the quack of a doctor (the one who said I was having growing pains at the impressive age of 23) misinterpreted my lab results and misdiagnosed me with hypothyroidism. This inevitably created more issues (because treatment for it is the opposite for what I actually had: hyPERthyroidism). In the meantime, I got into a bike accident on Vestal Parkway and suffered a concussion and another broken nose, which at this point was almost humorous. With all that salt in the wound, I could have seasoned my steaks for the whole damn month.

I hit my all time low, then rolled off a cliff to discover there is always more room to fall. I quit my job, gained more weight, struggled with dating, and lost some friends. It wasn’t until nearly 5 months later that I switched to a new primary care provider (a keen and exemplary man) who uncovered the buried jackpot, lyme disease being the diamond of the bunch. I was put on antibiotics for 3 weeks; however, it was too late. It would not leave my system, and the pain raged harder than ever. At times, I daydreamed of amputating a limb or two, so that maybe, I could have a moment of peace.

In this time, I saw more doctors than I have in my entire life. An infectious disease specialist forced another round of antibiotics, three times a day for another month. I was prescribed antibiotics 3 more times over the course of the next several months. Pill after pill after pill, I felt weaker. If we eliminated one symptom, another would appear because my immune system was shit. Frustrating to say the least.

And to top it all off, I developed an allergy to a specific antibiotic, and gluten as well. You know what that’s like when bread and cake are your two favorite foods? It felt like a shitstorm hit me in the face. The more I restricted my diet, the more I wanted to shove poptarts down my throat. I actually, swear to god, had a phase where I would have cold-sweat nightmares about eating and dying from delicious, dancing bagels.

Eventually, this extended use of various antibiotics wiped all of the good bacteria from my abdomen, creating a safe haven for c. diff, a dangerous infection that is treated through… you guessed it, another cleansing round of antibiotics. I refused it, but was intimidated into taking another round.

Which brings me to my main point: the issue of over-medication concerns me. The side effects of the pills were at times, worse than the illnesses themselves. I would experience blurred vision, stomach cramps, migraines, persistent nausea — but I was pushed to take more. Aegrescit medendoIt is latin for Do not burn the house to get rid of the mouse.

I understand that there is concern for liability and habitual protocol amongst doctors, but what I wish is that they would assess us more as patients rather than risks and statistics. In a study released by The Journal of American Medical Association, a whopping 73% of a adult sample population presenting with sore throats were prescribed antibiotics. Only 5-17% actually had GABHS, “the only common cause of sore throat warranting antibiotics”. Doctors were and are over-prescribing to cover their own asses. Better safe than sorry, right? But only at the cost of the patient.

I got lucky. Yeah, believe it or not, I’m convinced that I am the LUCKY one. I am now relatively healthy (with manageable pain, made possible through self meditation, and a little help from my friend THC), back on the grind with frequent yoga and pilates, and happier than ever to have experienced and overcome this year of low blows. But I am aware of how this issue continues to remain prevalent across the globe, creating antibiotic resistance and long term effects in circumstances that could be avoided. I am aware of the incredible danger in entrusting people solely based on the two letters that follow their name. An incompetent doctor holding a license bears resemblance to an unstable mind holding a gun. It reminds me of Dr. Fata, the oncologist who was able to misdiagnose and manipulate his caseload of 1,200 patients without as much as a second guess or question of his judgment. The medical field is where we are most vulnerable and where we issue immediate trust, when maybe, it may not be justified.

I urge you to be aware that authority only reflects accomplishment; it does not grant accuracy.