The Quack Page with added Snake Oil

I am not a medical practitioner. Feel free to treat this page with total disdain, and if you do have a medical problem -get medical advice.

As they say, this is for information purposes only, and blood pressure can go up as well as down.

Dieting and Weight Control

I always swore that I would not diet, and I kept to this until I was 43. Even being careful about what I ate, I have put on around 2 kg (four pound) ever year since I was about 30. Even long period of exercise failed to make a significant difference to my weigh in the long run.

A recent study found that obese people have diets that have large portion size, have low fibre, high sugar (complex carbohydrates), and don't move about much. The study also found that the heavier they were, the more likely to feel that they can't do anything about it. All bad news, and most people will have stopped reading by now, but please listen carefully - I will only type this once. Exercise won't make you thin. Just make the portions smaller, three slices of bread for lunch rather that four. Wholemeal bread instead of white. Already sliced cheese instead of a block. You get the idea. Its like a car, your body does about 15 to 25 miles a day - without moving a inch (obviously getting up and moving, exercise, will do more miles, which is very good). Now some cars do 15 miles to the gallon (4 miles per litre) other can do 50 miles to the gallon (15 miles per litre), your metabolic rate; however when someone tells you that their car does 200 miles per gallon - then they are just plain wrong. Now the fundamental law of physics is that energy can't be created or lost; so if put less energy in the car than it uses every day, then the stored energy (fat) will get used up. So that means, someone on a 1500 cal diet, who is over ten stone (65kg) will lose weight, even if they don't get off the sofa - obviously it is better if exercise is put into the routine.

Several years ago, we discovered that sugar is the great hidden poison of our time. Okay everyone know about sweets, but you and try and find some sausages that don't have sugar added (usually sneakily called dextrose). While my wife, who teaches, could routinely identify children who were drinking a famous orange drink that was jammed full of sugars by their off the wall behavior. Too much sugar in the diet leads to a whole range of "conditions" from lethargy to personality changes - as well as "wearing" out the pancreas and giving people mature offset diabetes. So we routinely make sure that we don't get hidden sugars in our diets, and take note, a lot of low fat products are high sugar ones.

My wife decided that we should investigate the famous low calorie, high fat diet (Atkins). This took considerable effort as I was dead set against this diet, thinking that it was a load of rubbish; but my wife's a stubborn women. So I read the book and was very surprised, and I change my view. First off, it supported the great sugar poison theory. Secondly it stated that it was not fat that makes you fat but that fat is stored carbohydrates.

Let me put it this way. If I say you are fat, it make sense for you to eat less fat. If I say you have too many stored carbohydrates, then it make sense to cut down on the carbohydrate.

So we tried this diet. First off, it is not easy, or cheap for that matter. Don't expect to feel brilliant for the first few weeks, but once on the "maintenance" section of the diet, all the less pleasant effect are minimal. We do not follow the diet to the letter, and in the interest of brevity this is what I eat. Very few carbohydrates. I achieve this by making sure that most of the meal are low in carbohydrates, but usually one meal has them. A breakfast: cooked breakfast (good) or cereal (bad), lunch: pitta break with cheese and salad (good), egg baguette (bad), tea: meat (or meat substitute, I'm a vegetarian) some veggies and cauliflower cheese (good) or a pizza (bad).

The upshot of this in twenty weeks I have managed to loose around ten kilograms (a bit over twenty pounds). Now I used to eat a lot of bread and a lot of potatoes; which obviously I don't eat now. The main befit to this diet is that I have energy, and don't feel hungry all the time. Although when you do run out of energy, it hits rather suddenly.

So I would suggest that if you are interested, buy the book. I can prove that it worked extremely well for me, obviously the diet was augmented by exercise, but the interestingly having a few bad weeks both from the diet and exercise, did not significantly cause a major setback to the loss of weigh over the month. Obviously I intend to do a longitudinal study on this, but the result will only be finally in when I finally peg it.

Recently, my wife (now 54 years young, and trying to learn snow boarding), was told to try a non-meat diet by her osteopath, who is into Chinese medicine. She couldn't loose weight at all recently, and she really did not eat any rubbish at all. This was not to difficult as I have been a vegetarian for twenty five years. Basically, the diet is fish and salad, with a bit of vegetarian receipts thrown in. Also she had to stop all caffeine (coffee and coke in her case). The results have been very positive, two kilograms in a week.

Since I turned 50, I have had to really look at portion sizes. This has worked very well. As has a "milkshake" diet for my wife, who has lost typically 7kg (15 pound) in a week; although this is "professional" product (which has a very professional price). Her experience, back up with another study I read recently, show that people who lose a significant amount of weight in a short space of time, do maintain it off. Which is the opposite of a lot of "current" popular views.


Bad Backs

I have had problem with my back since I was around twenty seven when I foolish lifted and twisted while carrying a fridge on my own. This is not a good idea to attempt by the way. Consequently I have had to visit the osteopath every other year or so since. This normally knocks me out for a few weeks from doing things etc.

Two years ago, I badly strained my back painting the bathroom ceiling. The bathroom still remains unfinished (it is really amazing that my wife puts up with me). After nearly two years of problems restricting me from doing quite a lot of things, I was getting quite frustrated and more than a little depressed -nothing I tried appear to help.

Then I found some help from of all places, a financial information website (the foolish investor). They recommended a book, which I ordered along with other one that Amazon recommended. The result: six months later I'm training in an advanced taekwondo class, playing golf, and not visiting the osteopath weekly (but the DIY still isn't finished).

So how did this miracle happen? Well send me your credit card details and you too can be cured! Not tempted, oh well, here is summary.

First off the simple stuff. First off, if you have just had your vertebrae fused, or other major back surgery, talk to the doctor before attempting this. Now do the following exercise. The theory is that the multifidius muscle (a muscle that "binds" the spine together) is weakened on one side, this exercise with strengthen both sides. There is scientific evidence to support this view, whereas other "problems" with the back such as misshapen disks and curved spines the evidence is less clear as there is just as many people with these condition walking around without chronic back pain.

Multifidius Stretch (I just bet I have got the spelling wrong on that baby). The most difficult bit of this is the name (mult - tee - fid -ee-us). Start from the same position as the cat stretch (down on all fours like a pushup but on your knees). Extend the right hand out, and the left leg, and ... fall over. Yes there is an element of balance needed here, try putting a cushion or pillow under your knees, this will make the exercise a bit more comfortable. Try again. Right hand out, left leg out; hold for five seconds and return to the all fours positions. Now Left hand and right leg. This exercise is working on the muscle that "binds" your spine together, but it works all the back muscles nicely. Do thirty right hands, and thirty left hands (that is thirty "sets"), follow this with sixteen pushup on the knees. I use knee push ups (16), multifidius stretch (30), knee push ups (16), multifidius stretch (30), knee push ups (16), multifidius stretch (30), knee push ups (16) as part of my every other day back conditioning that keeps me out of the osteopaths surgery. For those with back problems -it works! An advanced option on this is to use weights on the legs (I'm not a great fan of full pushups by the way, a little too much pressure on the lower back). You can do the knee push ups alternatively with "spider hands" which is where you put all your finger tips (and thumb tip) to the floor instead of the flat palm. This give you the ability to crush other people's hands during handshakes; not that I would do that to people, but as an union rep I sometimes get to meet the management.

If you can get hold of one of those really big exercise balls, they are really good for this stretch, and also really good for sit-ups and getting a toned up tummy button.


Now the less obvious stuff. If you have back pain, and had it for some while, you know it hurts. Right now this is the difficult bit, lets build a hypothesis.

Snake Oil Treatment

First of all lets suspend everything we know about our back, the pain, and what we have been told (MRI scans, bulging disks, strained ligaments). Isn't it very scary to be told that you have something wrong with your back? How do you feel when to find out that there are just as many people with back problems (odd shaped disks etc.) that don't have pain?

Now lets consider what happens to all of us when we get stressed. Muscle tension (headaches and pain). This is real pain and is the physical manifestation of extrinsic events - it is not the head. However, how we react to stress is unfortunately in our head. Do you say: don't worry be happy! or do you say: I am concerned about this, and starting thinking and can't go to sleep and find yourself stressed?

Okay, by now you are pissed. This idiot is suggesting that the back pain I have suffered for years is all in my head. Now that was exactly my reaction; but lets move on bit. If I hurt my back and get pain; do I say "bugger" take some painkiller for a few days and get on with it, or do I say oh my back is playing up, nurse and protect my back, spend the day in bed etc. Now I was the latter, and now I am the former. I have managed, for the large part, to take the worry out of getting back pain.

Now the book that explains this, proves this, and will give you the tools to change the way that you think about your back, is four hundred pages. I am not going to convince of this in a few lines; but maybe this might just persuade you to try the book out. For me there were three landmarks in the recovery of my back. First I realized that I was worried about my back, and worried that I would never be able to do thing I love - like training in Taekwondo. Secondly, after reading about someone that was convinced that speed bumps were hurting his back, I became convinced that I was formulating theories about what caused was causing my back pain and reacting to the theories rather than accepting that playing golf was likely to give me a sort back for two days. Finally, after an hour of hard taekwondo my back was stiff but fine; twenty minutes talking to my work colleague about whether we were likely to become redundant, suddenly I had back pain.

So to break this theory into manageable chunks: first eliminate worry about your back condition. Work out when your back hurts and if you are like me your will find that it not related to physical effort or exercise (that is not to say you won't get a sore back doing the gardening). Get your life back. Start doing things that you enjoy and concentrate on that, then add in the things that you are less keen on, but have to do (work and DIY). Over time you will find that "episodes" of back pain get less frequent and less painful. Finally, take heart, there is every chance that you can make a recovery, but I will need your credit card number to ensure that.

You can always email the snake oil doctor if you like. I can't grantee to help, but its nice to get emails from people reading the website.

The books I have found to work:

Back Sense: A Revolutionary Approach to Ending the Cycle of Back Pain Dr Ronald Siegel

The Multifidus Back Pain Solution (Paperback) by Jim Johnson



Ankle Exercises

There is nothing like a nasty ankle strain to develop an interest in ankle strengthening exercises (took several doctors to decide that yes it was a strain and not a break).

FIrst, stand on tip toes, both feet; and push up and down. My favorite is to do this over a step so you can do down as well - very good for snow boarding.

Second, the lunge. Step forward and bend front leg; stretching out the strings (ligament) on the back of the leg. Move rear leg further back as you get better. Oh and swap legs. Push against a wall if you like, or push ups against the sink works well too.

Sit down (on something soft) kneeling, upper part of the foot flat to the floor. Lean back causing the feet to stretch (front ligaments).

Move the ankle in circles 15 time and then the other way (making big O's with the big toe).

Walk on tip toes around the room, and then back the other way.

Walk on tip toes around the room, sidewise, both ways (facing inwards and then outwards).

Finally try that going backwards (without falling over the cat, dog, or potty).

Finally stand on one leg, working up to sixty seconds. One leg after the other. When you can do that, try it on tip toes. If you want to look cool, do it Kung Fu Mantis style.