Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, My Way

I just saw this on BoingBoing.  Simple but true. 

This image was created by Adam Fields

The people who design government dietary guidelines are gagged by the fact that politics and business are so tightly intertwined in this country.  Their advice will never directly target the primary source of obesity and metabolic dysfunction-- industrially processed food-- because that would hurt corporate profits in one of the country's biggest economic sectors.  You can only squeeze so much profit out of a carrot, so food engineers design "value-added" ultrapalatable/rewarding foods with a larger profit margin.

We don't even have the political will to regulate food advertisements directed at defenseless children, which are systematically training them from an early age to prefer foods that are fattening and unhealthy.  This is supposedly out of a "free market" spirit, but that justification is hollow because processed food manufacturers benefit from tax loopholes and major government subsidies, including programs supporting grain production and the employment of disadvantaged citizens (see Fast Food Nation).

It’s difficult to write anything meaningful following such a terrible event in Norway. So, a succinct blog this week, with no glib photographs.

Sane is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month and, to mark the occasion, it will be continuing the fight to beat the taboos surrounding mental illness by producing larger-than-life-size sculptures of dogs that its founder and chief executive, Marjorie Wallace, hopes will be sponsored by companies, schools and individuals and put in prominent positions up and down the country. Details at:

Regular readers of this blog will know that DADAA are supporting the Black Dog Day Drop, and more details can be found at:

National Statistician's Reflections on the National Debate on Measuring National Well-being

I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel that was part of the Office for National Statistics debate at Bolton University this year, and so was excited to get first sight of the reflections on this national debate. Whilst there is no explicit sign of creativity, culture and the arts in this narrative as yet, it is important we stay connected with this ongoing process in the development of what the coalition government will see as a methodologies for measuring well-being (and understanding it).

Available in Welsh and English at:

A workshop
Wednesday 21 September 2011, 2pm-5pm Manchester Art Gallery

Much museum practice in the field of health and wellbeing has been to run projects with clinical health partners. The workshop will discuss how this work can be extended. We believe that the health promoting resources of museums can be made available to a broader but still targeted population through working with colleagues from public health and other fields.

Free but you need to book a place with 0161 235 8825  We will confirm whether you have a place.
For further information contact 0161 235 8849

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview on Super Human Radio

Today, I did an audio interview with Carl Lanore of Super Human Radio.  Carl seems like a sharp guy who focuses on physical fitness, nutrition, health and aging.  We talked mostly about food reward and body fatness-- I think it went well.  Carl went from obese to fit, and his fat loss experience lines up well with the food reward concept.  As he was losing fat rapidly, he told friends that he had "divorced from flavor", eating plain chicken, sweet potatoes and oatmeal, yet he grew to enjoy simple food over time.

The interview is here.  It also includes an interview of Dr. Matthew Andry about Dr. Loren Cordain's position on dairy; my interview starts at about 57 minutes.  Just to warn you, the website and podcast are both full of ads.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weight Gain and Weight Loss in a Traditional African Society

The Massas is an ethnic group in Northern Cameroon that subsists mostly on plain sorghum loaves and porridge, along with a small amount of milk, fish and vegetables (1, 2).  They have a peculiar tradition called Guru Walla that is only undertaken by men (2, 1):
Read more »

Potter v Murdoch; the Numinous; Networking Event; Arts and Mental Health diary date; BBC Radio 4 and Open Public Services

Some of you may have heard me give a full version of my paper on the Big Society: Arts, Health and Well-being at the nalgao conference last year. In my presentation, I gave an account of the interview between the terminally-ill playwright Dennis Potter and Melvyn Bragg. I share this clip with you in light of the controversy over News Corp and the phone hacking ‘scandal’ (does it really surprise you?)and to remind us that Potter’s ideas are as relevant now as they were then.

Sveiki atvykę - mūsų skaitytojams Lietuvoje (Thanks to S)

A few months ago I heard the term numinous used in relation to nature and the arts; in particular as a way of describing that feeling we sometimes get when we’re moved by something that blows our minds, or in some way fills us full of awe. This sensation, which I’d suggest doesn’t happen often, when it does, is like really seeing something remarkable for the first time. It could be the beauty of a landscape that’s transformed by the right conditions (think: a giant silver ball of a moon; a cornfield gently swaying on the warmest of breezes; all the wonderful insect sounds of a mid-summers starry night, and the cool hand of someone you love in yours)1…or equally, that feeling of sheer exhilaration when you are immersed deeply in the climactic moment of a book, a film or a play when, oblivious to all others, a tear of pure tragedy or joy escapes your normally retentive eyes: symphonic bliss!

Sadly, this feeling escapes me all too often, and surrounded as I am by the trappings of consumerist superficiality, I frequently miss this temporal euphoria or sometimes, transient fear.2

In an engaging film of an un-moderated 2-hour discussion, Richard Dawkins and others debate, amongst other things, the possibility of differentiating the numinous from the supernatural and reclaiming it from its religious roots. This thing we feel, the sublime moment that exposes us to our sense of being, is typically seen as a gift from God. The twentieth century theologian Rudolf Otto divided the numinous into two parts: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel.

Contemporary definitions define the numinous in relationship to a supernatural presence; the sublime; spiritual; sacred and transcendent. But if we are to understand the numinous in relation to the individual, isn’t it useful to separate the supernatural from the numinous? Is religion the only way of making sense of these rare and heightened moments?

Might it be that this experience is simply part of our neurology? –and if it is a heady mix of the social and the chemical, does removal of the supernatural diminish the meaning? I’m sure those of you who have dabbled in the illicit intoxicating world of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide may have an understanding of the chemically induced version of the numinous, as will those of you who have for other reasons, a fluctuation in your chemical balance. I think here, of our sometime giants of the arts world, who have been affected by precarious health and yet, have illuminated much of our thinking.

I’ve had the opportunity to share this notion of the numinous on my travels over the last few months, and responses to it have been varied, from dead-eyed incomprehension to complete recognition. For me, it’s useful for us to develop the ways in which we understand the reach of the arts and its occasional profound impact. Too often, the arts can be bland and prescriptive, offering mild distractions from our day-to-day reality, but once in a while, I’ll hear a story of an event, or moment that has had an overwhelming effect on an individual or group.

Last week, in what could have been a dull steering group meeting, a consultant in pediatric intensive care recounted the way in which the arts had rescued a young man from the darkest of suicidal thoughts, brought on by serious, life limiting disease. Through a moment of deep creative engagement, this young man had, had a lifeline thrown to him that had nothing to do with his illness; that transcended his frustration and fear, and illuminated the possibilities of life beyond the confines of sickness.

Did this young man have a numinous experience? – I have no doubt at all that he did. Do we have the evidence of this experience and its impact? – Of course not: that is the nature of our work. He wasn’t wired up to an EEG, ECG or a CT Scanner. Neither bloods, nor saliva were taken to scrutinize for raised levels of serotonin. And although a part of me would be thrilled to see those affirming areas of the brain sparkle and shine at moments of pure bliss, it would be an unnecessary health burden and entirely counter-intuitive.

Our semantics and the way we discuss the impact of the arts on health and wider society, means we should constantly explore what it is we believe and understand about our practice and its reach. By distinguishing the numinous from the supernatural, and articulating impact without making claims for miracles, we enrich our arts/health agenda.

1. Cheesy I know, but it is real and you do get the point?
2. Being driven by a friend across a desert the size of the UK in Central Australia, I woke from a slumber to whiteness as far as the eye could see. This vast, impossibly bright sand-scape was only punctuated by startling pillars of sand which rose high into the distant sky. I later learnt that these were part of a sand-storm heading in our direction. The experience was terrifying and exhilarating and the humbling product of the natural elements.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, the networking evening planned for next Thursday evening had been cancelled. Sorry for this, and normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Thursday 20th October,
Manchester Metropolitan University, Oxford Road

This event is being planned between the Greater Manchester Arts and Health Network and Arts for Health at MMU and isn’t a day of passive listening day, but one of moving this agenda on through learning and action.
Confirmed speaker/facilitators include:

Psychologist, Dorothy Rowe on Depression and Imagination
Mark O’Neill (Glasgow Life) on Cultural attendance and Public Mental  Health

We are currently discussing Artists input and Early Years input for the event, and will provide details shortly.
Please put this date in your diary, but remember putting this in your diary doesn’t guarantee you a place.

Written and Presented by CHRISTIE DICKASON
An Episode of Something Understood
At 6:05 am and 11:30 pm 
(And for a week thereafter on BBC R4 'Listen Again' at any time!)
An intriguing exploration of the unexpected interactions of art and illness

White Paper published
The Government published its much anticipated Open Public Services White Paper this week which presses for radical changes to public services. New measures will see public services markets open up, users given more control, and the encouragement of innovation to drive better services for all, which will encourage a wider range of providers of many public services.

The paper has classified the delivery of public services into three categories: individual services, neighbourhood services and commissioned services, with power devolved to those levels, accordingly. Some of the main headlines so far include: proposals allowing communities to bid to run services, a legally enforceable “right to choose” services and proposals allowing for providers of some services to make profits for delivering results. The paper is extensive and covers a plethora of services across the country and, of course, forms part of the Government’s wider Big Society agenda.

In November the Government will set out how departments will put the principles into practice to open up public services over the parliament, including proposals for legislation. From April 2012 departments will publish regular progress reports on the steps taken to open public services.

There will be a listening period between July and September 2011. To add your voice click here. To read BBC coverage of the main proposals please click here
(Source: NCA News via Arts Development Ezine Issue 8)

‘To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by the Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone…’
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 1954

Friday, July 15, 2011

Networking, New Opportunities, the News of the World and Dance

Mi hoffwn ddweud diolch yn fawr iawn wrth bawb yn Rhuthun a Chaerdydd roeddent oll mor groesawus. Mae'r gwaith 'da chi'n ei wneud yn anhygoel ac rwyf yn gobeithio y gallwn weithio gyda'n gilydd yn y dyfodol. Os y gallaf eich cefnogi mewn unrhyw fodd, yn enwedig i alluogi rhwydweithio rhwng pobl o'r un feddwl, yna cysylltwch a mi...Clive

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a range of people involved in museums and galleries and who see the potential reach of their work on well-being. Renaissance North West and the Museum of Modern Art in New York are two such organisations that are leading the way and I’d urge any of you not aware of their work to have a look.

This week I’ve been working with colleagues in Engage Cymru at the Ruthin Craft Centre and National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff on their excellent engage programme. As well as being inspired by the people and projects, I’m increasingly aware of the pockets of excellence that take place in diverse communities, that if I hadn’t had the good fortune to learn about on these occasions, I’d never know about.

And it seems when I meet these inspiring people/projects, they all feel that they are somehow, small-fry; not part of the bigger picture…and the truly exciting thing for me (with some bloated egos tossed to one side for a moment), is that these pockets of excellence are not only happening in Wales and England*, but all over the world. I’ve seen tiny projects in Australia as well as the big ones and recently heard visionary stories of work in South Africa and truly ground breaking work in communities in the USA.

I recently heard Mike White describe this movement as 'a small scale global phenomenon’, to which I am deeply indebted. This sums us up, doesn’t it?

The conversations I’ve had inevitably come round to training, finances and more often than not networking.

I for one, am really keen that our networking opportunities aren’t hampered by bureaucracy: language: egos or imaginary boundaries. Technology increasingly means that we can communicate with each other regardless of distance, and with our idiosyncratic google translator (to some extent), regardless of language differences too. So, do you want to network and explore some of these issues further and like me, do you think we can do this without being hung up on obstacles. Get in touch, make suggestions and lets explore what is possible.

*I don’t really need to tell you how much groundbreaking work’s happening in Scotland and Ireland do I?…just look at the Bealtaine Festival for a starter, or perhaps if your child is poorly the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital might be conducive to a speedy recovery…or the Maggies Centre’s…the list in these two countries is endless.

For the latest copy of Arts Development UK magazine (formerly nalgao) go to:

The Royal Northern College of Music are looking for an experienced evaluator for our Youth Music funded Medical Notes project at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Please find all details in the attached brief. Deadline for the submission of expression of interest is Monday 1 August 2011 at 10am. Interviews will be held in the week commencing 5 September.

CALL for 10 Facilitators with teaching and training experience for PAID contracts

There are 10 exciting facilitator roles in this project, apply if you have:
  • Experience in facilitating specific community groups with different specialism’s
  • Experience creating work for and engaging with community groups
  • 3 – 5 years of professional practice
10 facilitator contracts are available ranging from £2,500 - £4,500 (20 – 40 days, dependent on skills, experience / funding) Shadowing opportunities will also be available with this work.

Please e-mail or call 01606 861770 for an application pack and return this to us by 5pm Thursday 18th August 2011

Interviews will be on 24th and 25th August 2011. 

Whilst we're all keen to have a go at the Murdoch empire, don't we need to examine our own appetite for the salacious and popularist, fed by consumerism and the 'free market'? This new article by Christopher Hitchens examines our hypocrisy.

It took another dog to eat Murdoch’s dog
“It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about? Naturally, about a murder.” – George Orwell, Decline of the English Murder
...thanks Sally!!!
These '...characters, are consciously “slumming” it by picking up a newspaper that was intended for the less-literate elements of the proletariat. But for decades, in fact since well back into the mid-Victorian epoch, Britain’s News of the World was the winning formula for the depiction of crime and squalor and vice. The brilliance of the formula lay in its venerable hypocrisy; actually in two distinct kinds of venerable hypocrisy...'


...but just where is it?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple Food: Thoughts on Practicality

Some people have reacted negatively to the idea of a reduced-reward diet because it strikes them as difficult or unsustainable.  In this post, I'll discuss my thoughts on the practicality and sustainability of this way of eating.  I've also thrown in a few philosophical points about reward and the modern world.
Read more »

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Cause Fat Loss?

Gastric bypass surgery is an operation that causes food to bypass part of the digestive tract.  In the most common surgery, Roux-en-Y bypass, stomach size is reduced and a portion of the upper small intestine is bypassed.  This means that food skips most of the stomach and the duodenum (upper small intestine), passing from the tiny stomach directly into the jejunum (a lower part of the upper small intestine)*.  It looks something like this:
Read more »

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nothing but our thanks...

I have been overwhelmed by people’s responses to the Head to Head session last week at MMU. THANK YOU. In short, the event was superb, with 6 dynamic and exciting speakers sharing work of beauty, diversity and that challenged us. I want to say a big thanks to the speakers:

Mike White
Margret Meagher
David Doyle
Kate Wells
Ann O'Connor
Peter Wright

A great contribution from you all and I hope to share some of your presentations with participants from the event.

I have had a request from Peter Wright, who gave his card to someone at the event, only it had some notes on the back that he'd like! If you're the lucky owner of that card, could you get in touch with me directly?

As part of the Critical Mass events happening across the North of England, we also concluded the first stage of the m a n i f e s t o events and in between now and October, the meat is being put on the flesh. An especially big thanks to Ali Clough and Jay Haigh at the Looking Well in Bentham for launching this next phase so wonderfully last week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Liposuction and Fat Regain

If body fat really is actively regulated by the body, rather than just being a passive result of voluntary food intake and exercise behaviors, then liposuction shouldn't be very effective at reducing total fat mass in the long run.  People should return to their body fat "setpoint" rather than remaining at a lower fat mass. 

Teri L. Hernandez and colleagues recently performed the first ever randomized liposuction study to answer this question (1).  Participants were randomly selected to either receive liposuction, or not.  They were all instructed not to make any lifestyle changes for the duration of the study, and body fatness was measured at 6 weeks, 6 months and one year by DXA. 

At 6 weeks, the liposuction group was significantly leaner than the control group.  At 6 months, the difference between the two groups had decreased.  At one year, it had decreased further and the difference between the groups was no longer statistically significant.  Furthermore, the liposuction group regained fat disproportionately in the abdominal area (belly), which is more dangerous than where it was before. The investigators stated:
We conclude that [body fat] is not only restored to baseline levels in nonobese women after small-volume liposuction, but is redistributed abdominally.
This is consistent with animal studies showing that when you surgically remove fat, total fat mass "catches up" to animals that had no fat removed (2).  Fat mass is too important to be left up to chance.  That's why the body regulates it, and that's why any satisfying resolution of obesity must address that regulatory mechanism.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Food Reward: a Dominant Factor in Obesity, Part VIII

Further reading

I didn't come up with the idea that excessive food reward increases calorie intake and can lead to obesity, far from it.  The idea has been floating around the scientific literature for decades.  In 1976, after conducting an interesting diet study in humans, Dr. Michel Cabanac stated that the "palatability of the diet influences the set point of the ponderostat [system that regulates body fatness]" (1).  

Currently there is a growing consensus that food reward/palatability is a major contributor to obesity. This is reflected by the proliferation of review articles appearing in high-profile journals.  For the scientists in the audience who want more detail than I provide on my blog, here are some of the reviews I've read and enjoyed.  These were written by some of the leading scientists in the study of food reward and hedonics:

Palatability of food and the ponderostat.  Michel Cabanac, 1989.
Food reward, hyperphagia and obesity.  Hans-Rudolf Berthoud et al., 2011.
Reward mechanisms in obesity: new insights and future directions.  Paul J. Kenny, 2011.
Relation of obesity to consummatory and anticipatory food reward.  Eric Stice, 2009.
Hedonic and incentive signals for body weight control.  Emil Egecioglu et al., 2011.
Homeostatic and hedonic signals interact in the control of food intake.  Michael Lutter and Eric J. Nestler, 2009.
Opioids as agents of reward-related feeding: a consideration of the evidence.  Allen S. Levine and Charles J. Billington, 2004.
Central opioids and consumption of sweet tastants: when reward outweighs homeostasis.  Pawel K. Olszewski and Allen S. Levine, 2007.
Oral and postoral determinants of food reward.  Anthony Sclafani, 2004.
Reduced dopaminergic tone in hypothalamic neural circuits: expression of a "thrifty" genotype underlying the metabolic syndrome?  Hanno Pijl, 2003.

If you can read all these papers and still not believe in the food reward hypothesis... you deserve some kind of award.