Category Archives: Health, Food and Body

Weed, Warriors, and Women under the Influence

I read my friend the first line of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

“Perfect,” she said. “Only we’re somewhere on the edge of the Rockies and our drugs are Synthroid and hormone replacement.”

I was heading to Denver to cover the Cannabis Cup last year, and my friend, Tina, was my 300-pound Samoan attorney. Actually, she’s small, a dynamo who lets no one get in her way when she’s creating Victorian homes, silk gardens, or erotic collages.

She was also my driver, as I was dealing with chronic vertigo that made it risky to drive. High Times, which sponsored the Cannabis Cup, during which they’d present awards for the year’s best marijuana strains and edibles, was expecting 20,000 to attend the festival. There was no parking at the site, except for VIP’s, and no disability parking, I’d been told by the media spokesman. But he said the press could enter the Denver Mart through the VIP doors, which would have shorter lines.

I guided Tina past the Denver Mart, where I saw a sign, “Parking Lot B—VIP Parking.”

“Turn here!” I said. A man in a jumpsuit was guarding the entrance, which had a chain in front of it. I opened the window and called, “We’re press.”

He looked puzzled. “Press?”

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What Pot Goes with Pork?

Sativa with fish? Indica with steak? Or is it the other way around?  Welcome to the world of pairing strains of marijuana with specific foods to enhance their flavor—the hot trend in states where marijuana is legal.

pot to be paired

Pot to be paired            photo by Maya Dooley

This is not like eating food cooked with cannabis, which people have been doing at least since Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas served their guests in Paris hashish fudge. “It should be eaten with care,” Toklas wrote in her cookbook. “Two pieces are quite sufficient.”

That’s the problem: with edibles, it’s hard to know how much THC you’re consuming until it’s too late. I went with Jeff Steingarten, the food critic for Vogue, to a dinner in Colorado where everything we put in our mouths—cocktails, gnocchi, trout, chocolate decadence—was infused with cannabis. I wound up prone in the guest bedroom before dessert was served. But with pairing, you’re offered a different strain to smoke with each course, so you know right away how high you’re getting.

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Colorado — Medicare for All?

A revolution is sprouting in Colorado that could make it the first state to create a single-payer health care system that covers every resident. They’re calling it “Medicare for All.”

ColoradoCareYes, a citizens’ group, wrote an amendment and collected enough signatures to get ColoradoCare on the ballot in November. If passed, it would cover everyone, with no deductibles and no co-pays for primary care.

Irene Aguilar, the only state senator who’s a practicing MD, is a driving force behind ColoradoCare

Irene Aguilar, the only state senator who’s a practicing MD, helped create ColoradoCare

Obamacare, they assert, fails to provide what it promised—affordable care. Insurance companies still control the deck, and are raising rates. The New York Times reported recently that about 20% of insured people are struggling with “crushing medical debt.” Others are paying more for health care and getting less than they were before Obamacare.

Take, for example, my neighbors, Matt, 33, and his Korean wife, Nuri, 29. He works for an educational nonprofit, and she just started her first job in America, as a stock person at a clothing store.

Before Obamacare, they had a plan that cost $500 a month for them both. They could see any doctor they chose, and their deductible was $1000.

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Women, $ and Weed

They came wearing stiletto heels, running shoes, cowboy boots, ballet flats and even high heel sneakers. They were hard-working professionals, most of them mothers, gathered around a fake campfire at the five-star Cordillera Lodge in the Rocky Mountains. Despite the occasional rain shower, they roasted marshmallows for s’mores, howled with laughter, and soaked naked in the Jacuzzi while eating crème Brule.

It was May 15, the first night of the Leadership Summit organized by Women Grow, a group whose mission is to train—or “cultivate”—women to be leaders of the cannabis industry, which the Arcview research group has called “the fastest growing industry in the U.S.”

Leaders of Women Grow

Leaders of Women Grow

Now that marijuana is medically legal in 23 states plus the District of Columbia and fully legal in four, Women Grow asserts that it’s time for women to claim their place.

The Summit sold out quickly, drawing 121 women from 20 states, ranging from 23 to 68. They included lawyers, doctors, farmers, dispensary owners, research scientists, financiers, and C.E.O.’s of companies, one of which is valued at $40 million.

Every conversation began: “What do you do in the industry?” By day they attended panels and made deals, and by night they let loose—dancing with abandon and gathering in groups to try new marijuana strains, massage oil and edibles.

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Iron Mind

My son, Andrew, entered the Ironman race in Boulder a few weeks ago, startling himself and me by completing it—just 20 minutes short of the cut-off time of 17 hours. At the start, he’d given himself a 50-50 chance of finishing: swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, then running a full marathon of 26.2 miles, in 90 degree heat, at altitude of 5500 feet. He’d never swum that long, biked that far, or run a marathon, let alone done all three in a row.

Finish!Halfway through the bike course, his face and body overheated, his head hurt, his energy dropped, and his stomach and digestive system stopped functioning, causing him to vomit. For the last three hours, he couldn’t keep down anything— water, nutrients, electrolytes. The doctor who saw him puking up water advised him to drop out.

Yet he kept going, from 6:50 in the morning until shortly before midnight. When he knew he was going to make it, he picked up speed and at the finish line, did a victory dance, jumping like a fiend, punching his fists and wiping tears from his eyes as the crowd chanted, “You – are – an – Ironman!”

“What kept you going?” I asked the next day. “It’s all mental,” he said. “You just keep telling yourself: You can do it. You can do it. Keep going. Don’t stop.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of the mind, neuroplasticity, and how Andrew’s triumphant mindset might be applied to other aspects of life, like healing the body. For three months now, I’ve been suffering from extreme vertigo, where I’m dizzy every minute.

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The Mystery of Dr. Sha

Last fall, John Chitty, a man I know in Boulder, was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. His PSA score was 266! (Most doctors consider a normal score to be 4 or below) The cancer had metastasized to his bones and lungs with tumors “too numerous to count.” His prognosis, obviously, was dire.

Because John founded and heads the Colorado School of Energy Studies, he launched a full-out campaign to heal himself, doing everything he knew or learned about to make his body inhospitable to cancer. He ate only greens and seeds, had coffee enemas and oxygen treatments and took supplements too numerous to count.

A friend brought him to a talk by Dr. Zhi Gong Sha, who has an MD in western medicine from Xi’an JiaoTong University, was named Qigong Master of the Year in 2002 by the World Congress on Qigong, and is a Grandmaster of Taoist healing. That meeting would dramatically affect the course of John’s illness.

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The Zen of Swimming

Just watching the video made me anxious. I was sitting in my warm, dry home but I started to feel panic — water entering my lungs, struggling, choking.

I was watching a demo of Total Immersion Swimming (TI), given to me by Danny Peleg, my TI instructor, a former Israeli navy seal. The video showed a man swimming freestyle in a graceful, steady rhythm, barely raising his lips out of the water to breathe so you could hardly see when he was taking in air.

“I can’t do that!” I thought.

Danny Peleg – “Yes, you can.”

But this story is a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to learn something that scares you, and learning a new skill is the best antidote I know to depression and the blahs.

I grew up by the ocean, had swimming lessons and was constantly in the water, but I was never comfortable doing what was then called the Australian Crawl. Breast stroke, side stroke, backstroke—no problem. But with the crawl, I couldn’t manage the breathing. I’d suck in water, gag, sputter and after one lap I was exhausted.

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THE V-WORD

Published January 22, 2008 by Sara Davidson
On Christmas Eve, Joan Borysenko and I re-created a dish that her mother and my grandmother used to make. In our memories, it tasted like heaven, but we hadn’t eaten it in more than 30 years and were filled with nostalgic longing. Her mother in Boston called it a “veal pocket,” and my grandmother in Los Angeles called it “stuffed breast of veal.” The recipe had been carried here from the shtetls — Jewish villages in Eastern Europe — and used ingredients that other folks discarded: the ribs of the calf and stale bread.

Joan and I with shtetl food.

We hatched our plan one night while we were talking about the ancestral dishes we grew up with – our comfort food – that our children hadn’t known. Sure, they’d eaten matzo ball soup, brisket and potato pancakes, and my daughter used to love chopped liver until she became a vegetarian. But they’d never eaten my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage, kishke, knishes or any kind of strudel. Would these foods soon become the snows of yesteryear?

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DIET SCANDAL

A new book by Gary Taubes is making me ponder what I know about eating, weight and disease. In “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” Taubes asserts that there’s no scientific evidence that cholesterol and fat cause heart disease, or that overeating and laziness cause obesity. Nutrition, he says, purports to be a science but functions like a religion, where theories are not tested but become cemented into dogma.

The Eisenhower Paradox: Ike dieted after his heart attack, exercised and ate no fat, yet his cholesterol kept rising and he died of heart disease.

The book’s title is misleading, making it sound like a new diet fad. Barbara Ehrenreich says it might be called “The Great Low-Fat Diet Hoax.” Since the 50s, Taubes writes, scientists, the AMA, the surgeon general, the American Heart Assoc. and the USDA have urged Americans to eat less fat and lower their cholesterol to prevent heart disease. In fact, since the 60s, Americans have made an effort to eat less fat and there’s been a 30% reduction in high cholesterol levels, yet the incidence of heart disease has not gone down, and obesity and diabetes have risen at alarming rates. One in three Americans today is clinically obese.

Taubes advances the alternative hypothesis: that carbohydrates, especially starchy foods and sugar, are the cause and should be limited. But he acknowledges that there’s no scientific evidence yet to support that theory either.

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PICKLES FROM GRANDPA LOUIE

Published September 20, 2007 by Sara Davidson

It’s the moment of truth. Six glass jars have been sitting in my garage for three weeks. Like a mother hen, I’ve been watching them as the water inside turned cloudy and the cucumbers morphed from bright green to a yellowish pea color. Nervously, on the 21st day, I open the jar. Fzzzzzzzt! The brine bubbles and spurts – it’s alive! I pull out a pickle, take a bite and…. Glory to God! It’s the exact same taste as the dill pickles my Hungarian grandfather used to make, every year when I was growing up.

“Best pickle I ever tasted,” says my friend, Jenna Buffaloe

His pickles set the standard: crisp, tangy, juicy, spicy, a symphony of flavors, whereas all other pickles I’ve tasted have at most, two or three. Even pickles from delis on the lower East side of New York taste tepid by contrast with Grandpa Louie’s. His pickles were comfort food; every time someone in our family moved to a new home, one of us would bring a jar of pickles and set it in the kitchen. No house was a home without it. No holiday table was complete without a dish of pickles. But when my grandfather passed away in the 70’s, his pickles died with him.

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