Skip the bread, have a biscuit.

And more carbonara on my spaghetti, please.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

5 thoughts on “Skip the bread, have a biscuit.”

  1. One of the greatest lines ever, in my view, was the Eastern Germany high school student, a year after the Wall fell, to his teacher (who was doing her best to adapt to changed conditions): “Miss, are you lying to us now, or were you lying to us then?”)

  2. "Both groups were encouraged to eat vegetables, and the low-carbohydrate group was told that eating some beans and fresh fruit was fine as well."

    Well duuuh! "Eat your vegetables." Hmmm … I think I've heard that before. Nutrition is a complex subject. How the body processes nutrition is not uniform among all people; different of us have different tendencies, different problems, and different reactions to the same input. But there are some widespread truths that most of us should pay attention to, and that is certainly one of them.

    Nevertheless, that's not nearly enough detail.

    The body doesn't send fat out of the GI tract into the blood stream to be deposited in cells. That's been known for a long time. Rather, the sequence (oversimplified, for sure, but essentially correct) involves the GI processes putting sugar into the blood, and the body converting excess sugar into fat to be stored in cells. Here is a pretty good easy-to-read article explaining it:

    The beginning of the sugar-to-fat process is the arrival of excess glucose (above the energy need of the body) in the bloodstream. The convertibility of food nutrition into glucose is a food attribute known as Glycemic Index. Each food has a glycemic index, which will differ based on both its constituents and its method of preparation. The following is from the Harvard University Medical School at this link:

    "Glycemic index and glycemic load offer information about how foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower a food's glycemic index or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Here you'll find a list of the glycemic index and glycemic load for more than 100 common foods."

    Following that is a table of glycemic indexes of many common foods. Here are a few samples from the table, selected to show the wide-ranging variability of foods from the same food groups. It illustrates why it behooves us to try to understand (or at least acknowledge) the complexities of the process, and to pay attention not just to a single oversimplification but to the details.

    Baguette, white, plain95
    White wheat flour bread71
    Whole wheat bread, average71
    Corn tortilla52
    Wheat tortilla30

    Cornflakes, average 93
    Oatmeal, average55
    Instant oatmeal, average83
    Raisin Bran (Kellogg's)61

    White rice, average89
    Brown rice, average 50
    Converted, white rice
    (Uncle Ben's®) 38
    Fettucini, average32
    Spaghetti, white, boiled, avg46

    Green peas, average51
    Carrots, average35
    Baked russet potato, avg111
    Boiled white potato, average82
    Sweet potato, average70
    Yam, average54

    …and here's a complete surprise–

    M & M's®, peanut33

  3. I am going to eat a lot of fat now because I know there is only so much time before the next study reverses this latest reversal of advice.

  4. RhodesKen, thanks! Always nice to see a refresher on the GCI.

    This doesn't surprise me, though I do take Keith's point that "they" might change their minds again. Mostly through the good influence of family and friends, I cut down on simple carbs a while ago. Meanwhile, I also switched to full fat dairy and I eat a lot of nut fats too, and olive oil, and as much complex carbs as I want. And I still eat potatoes too. Since I had taken up an active hobby, I lost weight during these years too, even though I ate as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted.

    But that's just me. Plus, no idea what my cholesterol is. That's kind of the wild card. In my family we don't get heart issues, we get other stuff. Still, I plan to check that in the nearish future.

    Meanwhile, I have this vegan friend. A lot of what he says makes sense. When I listen to my body, the only things I never regret eating are fruits and veggies. Everything else, I don't really know.

    So if I were going to make an index card, it would say something like this: find some activity you like, and do lots of it, especially with other people, because they will push you. Eat lots of fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts, and just eat "some" of a variety of everything else, except sugar and refined flours which should be considered dessert. Avoid trans fats entirely (at least for now). Sleep as much as your body tells you to sleep. Find a less stressful job and/or spouse (jk! Therapy before divorce…) *Maybe* take a multivitamin? (not sure about that one…) Put health, including *mental* health (ladies… looking at you…), ahead of weight. Don't get obsessed with counting calories or the scale or any of that. Your body is part of you, not the other way around. It is there for you to live in joyfully. Don't date people who are fatphobes (maybe that should go at the top…) Don't be a fatphobe.


  5. I don't know if my other post got eaten, but anyhow, I forgot a couple things.

    The exercise/fun needs to have an interval aspect to it. I'm pretty sure that's what made a difference for me. I've been a gymgoer for many years, but group exercise made me work out harder and at the same time, we also took breaks. I think that produced HGH, because I noticed I would sleep very hard the night after, and I was hungry all the time. Not exactly scientific certainty, but I think that's what happened. I see no other reason why all of a sudden I could eat everything in sight and still lose the pounds. (I'm a bit sorry to say, I'm in a plateau now. But the flab hasn't returned. I could use to lose a bit more of my gut, but overall I feel better than I deserve, I'm sure.)

    Can't emphasize the fun part enough. You are not a hamster. I'm not even sure a hamster is a hamster in that sense. Your body is not bad and it doesn't need to be punished. Find something you like so much that you don't even bother with the gym anymore. I doubt if it much matters what it is. If you add the social aspect, you will probably end up getting sucked in deeper and deeper without realizing it. (Of course, if you are someone who tends to overdo … then, try less. Or, maybe go to the gym, where it's boring and crowded. Leave early.)

    If you are someone who tends to feel insecure, limit your exposure to our bleeped-up media culture. At least 50% of it is cr*p. You really, really don't need it.

    Anyway, I am convinced fat and even weight aren't the real problem for most people. People are alienated from their bodies by our nutty American lifestyle and culture. Obviously, medical issues should be addressed with a doctor.

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