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Dr.  Russell has more opinions


Dear George,

My clients have been contacting me about three recent New York Times articles -- on high heels, fat and yoga.   


1.  A Scientific Look at the Dangers of High Heels (Jan 25)  I understand that it's part of a series with the articles "Science Says Humans Need Air to Breathe, Die Without It" and "Scientists at the University of California at Davis Predict that Cher Will Make A Comeback".   I mean, PEOPLE.  Did this really need to be scientifically proven? 


Your toes push the earth back, and your heels grab it in front of you.  Without toes to push back (because the joint is already bent back by the shoe) you'll step shorter and harder.  Most of us who wear high heels (I sure don't -- to me it's the Cirque du Soleil of Western clothing) know that they shorten your calves, push your hips forward, arch your low back and make your shoulders slope.  If you don't know it intellectually, you certainly feel it... not to mention the effects on your actual feet. 

 2.  How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body (Jan 5). This is the worst kind of article: it contains deep truths about yoga in America that would be great to take in -- if the author didn't make them sound like the 10 o'clock news rather than the New York Times. To read an elegant, beautifully written response by Joan Arnold, a yoga and Alexander Technique teacher with whom I collaborate, click here. . How does Joan manage to write so well?  Is it the high heels, or the yoga?.


3.  The Fat Trap (Jan 1) is a much more balanced and nuanced article about research suggesting that many fat people will have incredible difficulty getting thin (Who knew? OMG for real?) The findings are fascinating, and the topic is so loaded that it's good to discuss it a little more. Read this list of bullet points, almost all of which come directly from the article.

  • Genetics plays a big role in how big your body will be, including bones, muscle and fat.
  • Research suggests that people who have been overweight and lose weight are often more prone to gain weight than other people.
  • Most diets don't work.
  • Understanding the genetics and biochemistry of fat can help people to look, feel and weigh their best. Sometimes they will need professional help.
  • Some fat people who want to be thin may need to be vigilant (and hungry) for the rest of their lives, because being thin may not be "natural" for them.
  • The research doesn't prove that you can't get thin, but it's true that you might not be able to get thin. They're not the same thing.
  • Fat people are not to blame.
  • Being overweight can be unhealthy. Or not. Health is a function of fitness, blood chemistry, diet, attitude, choices, faith, genetics and toxins. There are terribly unhealthy thin people. These folks are doing all the "wrong things" but they look healthy because genetics keeps them thin.

Did you already know most of that stuff? Did you notice that seeing it "ratified" by science and the Times still scared the living crap out of you? Read on:

  • Science investigates the edges of mystery. Be careful not to turn research into dogma, because more will be revealed.
  • Before farming began about 9000 years ago, most of our species migrated (that means "walked") constantly, ate much less, and slept and relaxed more.  Those that didn't die in infancy or from a virulent disease lived as long as the longest-living people do now.  I suspect they were hungry most of the time (at least when compared with modern appetites) and they were thinking about food a lot because they couldn't store it.     
  • Longevity is directly linked to very few things, but one of them is how little food you eat.  
  • Lipophobia: Our culture (and the culture of our "tolerant" city) loathes and fears fat. We persecute fat people. We also persecute ourselves for having even a tiny amount of fat.   
  • I've seen people tell fat people what to eat and how to live - as if the obese hadn't noticed how they look and have no idea how they "should" behave to not be disgusting fatsos.
  • Most people can lose weight, prevent illness, and feel better if they eat better. Anti-inflammatory and alkaline ways of eating seem to me to be best.  For  nutritional counseling see a nutritionist or naturopath. Feel free to call me for a referral.
  • There are healthy, attractive and fit people who are overweight, and many people for whom weight is not a factor in the people they find attractive.  A super-handsome guy I knew, who had a healthy body, healthy belly, and a healthy sense of humor, used to say: "I DO have a six pack abdomen. It's just deeply buried."  
  • The majority of us have a negative and distorted body image. In general, women tend to think they're too heavy in every way, and men tend to think they're not strong enough in every way. Most of us need to talk about how we regard our bodies with somebody who's trustworthy. If you want to talk to me, call. If you want a referral to someone else, I'll give you one.
  • Don't give up. The miracle you're looking for may be a change in perspective.
Jaw Podcasts

I made two jaw podcasts:  one for bodyworkers, one for sufferers.  Have a listen.

New Exercise Video

I'm in a new video with one minute of exercise!  Jordan Smith, my resident actor/writer/director/secretary, wrote it and costars. Of course it's funny, especially the outtake we left in, and it teaches easy, sneaky exercises for the workplace. Click here to see it
Classes with my Office Mate Nora Braverman

Here's a schedule of classes taught by Nora Braverman, PT and yoga teacher extraordinaire.  Check them out!

Ayurveda: The Science of Health and Healing
February 21st, 2012  6-8pm

Pranayama: Revitalize Your Body and Mind With Breathing
March 13th, 2012

Nora also teaches Yoga classes, for more info:
Does your work involve training or touching the body?  Check out the new organization I formed with Aviva Geismar, Ericka Clinton and James Nicholson.  It's called Getting Better, the center for bodywork and movement.  Our blog is
Issue: 1
In This Issue
How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
The Fat Trap
Jaw podcasts, a new short video, and more!