[New Yorker] Against the Grain: Should you go gluten-free?

What’s so bad about gluten anyway?

“To find out the effect something like gluten has on people’s diets is complicated,’’ he said. “We’ll need long-term studies, and there won’t be a useful answer for years. So, instead of telling everyone you are going on a gluten-free diet, what if you said, ‘Hey, I am going on an experimental regimen, and it will be years before we know what effect it might have.’ I don’t know about you, but instead of saying ‘Eat this because it will be good for you,’ I would say, ‘Good luck.’ ’’

‘This is getting out of hand. We are seeing more and more cases of orthorexia nervosa”—people who progressively withdraw different foods in what they perceive as an attempt to improve their health. “First, they come off gluten. Then corn. Then soy. Then tomatoes. Then milk. After a while, they don’t have anything left to eat—and they proselytize about it. Worse is what parents are doing to their children. It’s cruel and unusual treatment to put a child on a gluten-free diet without its being indicated medically. Parental perception of a child’s feeling better on a gluten-free diet is even weaker than self-perception.”


The New Yorker always brings it with nuanced, well-research, and unbiased reportage.

Flight fancy: make your own travel spa

I usually loathe it when people groom in public. Whether it’s brushing your hair or putting on a full face of makeup on the train, it’s always squicked me out. I get that some people don’t have time in the morning, but still… so unhygenic for you and those around you. Especially that person who has the audacity to spritz on perfume. I’m looking at you. There are some things that should just be done in the privacy of your bathroom.

Watching Lisa Elridge’s pampering video has got rid of my prejudice! I had a long flight scheduled and remembered to pack face masks and the rest of my face routine in my carry-on. Considering my luggage, 50% was skincare, 30% books, and 20% clothes. That’s how we do.

The recycled cold air in plane cabins can make your skin dry, dull, and uncomfortable. 14+ hours of air conditioning and lacking the facilities to tend to your skin makes it easy to look haggard upon landing. I modified my Elridge routine because I have oilier skin than she does. I’m also much lazier.


visualize the serenity of 3 crying babies and a hacking grandma

Steps to soft, supple skin in flight:
1. Crank up the old school Mariah Carey jams, courtesy of Emirates air. This is required. Skin cells respond to her crooning and dolphin-range pitch. It’s like science or something.

2. With sanitized hands, use a baby wipe or makeup remover cloth to degunk your face. Bonus tip: use the wipe as a buffer between your fingers and incorporate a facial massage. Use your ring fingers and give firm pressure on the space between and above your brows, temples, sinus points, and jaw line.

3. Apply your favorite face mask by smoothing it on carefully and take the extra serum down to your neck and decollete. Make sure to make silly faces at any children sitting near you. You know you’re successful when babies cry upon seeing your face! I used the My Beauty Diary black pearl mask because it comes with so much frickin serum that I can use it on my neck and arms . It also sinks in fairly quickly, feels light, and make your skin feel lush.

4. Relax. After the mask dries a bit (~10 mins), you can put on an eye mask to block out light and really get into it. Face masks usually dry out within 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready to pull off when the mask cloth starts to pucker.

5. Remove mask and massage the remaining serum into your skin. If you’re as germaphobic as I am, use the method described in #2.

6. When the serum fully dries, apply your moisturizer. I also like to use a heavier duty moisturizer under my eyes and cheeks because I have a bit more dryness there.

7. Apply sunscreen.

8. Fill in your brows and under-eye concealor because you know you did not get enough sleep since the flight attendants insisted on waking you every couple of hours for service. Also your rude neighbors who played armrest wrestling.


I honestly had the biggest trouble with step 8 because somehow I was more comfortable looking like an alien with the face mask . Putting on makeup in public, no matter how minimal, still makes me uncomfortable. But if Lady Elridge can do it, why shouldn’t you? Just don’t use loose powder. WHO DOES THAT!?! That’s the one line I will not cross.

how does stress affect your hair?


Like skin, hair health can be a strong indicator of overall health. How often do you take a look at the texture, shine, or strength of your hair? Hair that looks dull, breaks easily, or has weak follicles might mean that you have nutritional deficiencies you need to address. We’ve all heard about how stress affects hair growth and texture due to malabsorption, hormonal change, or other stressors, but we don’t talk enough about stress-related behaviors. Trichotillomania affects many people. Even those who are not diagnosed with OCD may engage in hair pulling behavior when they are stressed out. Have you found yourself mindlessly seeking out crinkly strands of hair or searching for that patch of itchy hair on your scalp? It can be a really satisfying behavior because it focuses your attention on the sensation rather than whatever worry you have on your mind. Doing this repeatedly can lead to bald spots, some of which can be permanent. If you notice yourself losing more hair during periods of high stress, make a conscious effort to divert your attention from your scalp. Simple, yet very difficult. Take a moment to write down the to-do list looping in your mind and identify what emotions you might be going through. The most effective way of addressing destructive behaviors is to get underneath the habit, to figure what your triggers really are.


False promises

There are also tons of supplements on the market that promises great hair in a bottle. Before you add things like Biotin to your routine, note that it can have really adverse effects on your skin; it can break you out. Like most things, please talk to your doctor before changing up your medications and supplements. People who benefit the most from Biotin are nutritionally deprived of b vitamins. Likewise, other popularly recommended things like gelatin, fish oil, etc., have not been shown to have conclusive ameliorating effects on hair health. If you’re looking at products like Rogaine, beware that the side effects can be very unpleasant, including hair growth in unintended area. It is also not a long-term solution since hair regrowth typically stops when you cease treatment.


LOVED LINKS: skincare

I’ve spent my entire life struggling with bad skin, from an unfortunate combination of genetics and environment. As a teenager, I was a sucker for those adverts for the types of products that promised to nuke your skin. I also foolishly gallivanted in the sun without any protection because laziness. I’ve since atoned. It’s never too late to treat your skin health as lovingly as you can, because skin health is an indicator of overall health and fitness. Not to mention that melanoma is one of the rising killers of Americans.

Instead of half-assing my way towards a skincare routine (what, you have to have a routine!??), I’ve taken the evidence-based route. There is so much misinformation out there about the science of skincare. Don’t be a sucker for fancy packaging and futuristic promises that are too good to be true. Know your ingredients. Skincare doesn’t have to be expensive, but whatever you choose, make sure you are consistent.

Above all, rely on evidence-based medicine, not fads. I’ve learned a lot in my skincare journey. The following are a few of my favorite blogs that deconstruct and analyze claims about ingredients, formulations, and the latest research.

Hoojoo Skincare

Beauty Brains: cosmetic scientists who also have a great podcast!

Beautiful with Brains

Brightest Bulb in the Box: Beauty for Critical Minds…. she is the bestest, no bullshit betch

Chemist Corner


PocketDerm: yes, they are a service, but they’re also amazing doctors.

Skin and Tonics: great reviews, esp of Korean products

Link loves: fitnessing

Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of articles about all aspects of fitness, but very few have ended up helping me figure out my particular dietary and exercise routines. Below are some resources that kept me informed and engaged. As with all recommendations, your mileage may vary.


mfpMyFitnessPal: I don’t recommend counting calories for the rest of your life. It can be obsessive and destructive for certain people. What I loved MFP for was the supportive community and the tracking tools. While I don’t count calories anymore, starting out on MFP helped me learn what a serving size was and what calories can look like. I was shocked at the calories I was consuming without realising it. MFP plus NerdFitness helped me lose 25+ pounds a few summers ago. I can now guide myself without painstaking, meticulous tracking.

nerd-fitnessNerdFitness: Great place to start if you’re interested in body weight training. There are loads of useful articles and diagrams about proper technique. On his YouTube page, there’s also a few good videos on routines you might want to try out.

scoobyScooby’s Workshop: Good articles about the fundamentals. What I found most useful about Scooby are the calculators for figuring out calorie needs and fitness planning. Of course, they are guides and not laws.


troutmanSTroutman: I met this dude on MyFitnessPal. Through his forum posts and tutorials, I learned a lot about protein intake  needs, developing a personalised routine, and creating a sane diet plan. He also helped debunk a lot of fitness bullshit that was rampant throughout MFP. There’s nothing especially revolutionary about his approach, but I like that he approaches fitness from an evidence-based position. I’ve never actually signed up for personal training (I don’t live near him), but I would if I could.


xxfitness: Especially important for the lady-identified people. A lot of the fitness communities are very broish. XXfitness is a broad community of people fitnessing the healthy way, backed by science and support.

rediscoveries: NYX Love in Paris 09 Merci Beaucoup

hey cutie

hey cutie


This Project 10 Pan business is not easy. I had to take a break and look through some of the other goodies in my stash. As excited as I was for the Too Face Chocolate Bar palette, I wasn’t feeling too inspired. I forwent face makeup today and did a simple bronze smokey eye look with only two colors from the NYX Love in Paris – Merci Beaucoup palette. I used the medium bronze color (top middle) on my mobile lid and accented the V of my eyes with the shimmer dark brown (middle second row). Smudge the shit out of the two and DONE. I forgot how incredibly smooth and pigmented this palette was. The other Love in Paris I have (01-A la Mode) was a total dud. While I do have higher end palettes, this little guy will be perfect for my upcoming trip. It’s beautiful, blendable, and portable. Also, if I lose it at border crossing or in a hotel, it don’t matter. Cheap thrills.


HIT training

After months of being harassed by @CriticalMAS, I’ve finally decided to get serious about HIT training. Prior to our conversations, I’d only heard about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), which I’ve been practicing for years, with regular lapses. I loved NerdFitnessbodyweight routines (review to come) and found the perfect Tabata timer. HIIT works for improving your heart health and makes a great aerobic workout. While I did lose ~25 pounds, I didn’t feel like I gained a lot of strength. Part of my fitnessing goals is bettering my balance and gaining strength. I also need some new motivation for getting fit. I will continue to get in my aerobic exercise for mental health, but I also want to try some new things that will make me a bit more enthusiastic about not being a lazy bum.

Here’s where to begin with the HIT routine. Although you can do this at the gym with proper equipment, I am currently moving and don’t have access to a gym or gym equipment. I also have a full schedule and am extremely lazy. This program doesn’t require any equipment. My main challenge will be consistency. If I can do this a couple of times a week, I’ll be able to update any results that arise.

makeup confessions: what is this pan business

Are you there, makeup gods? It’s me, your beauty addict. I have a confession to make. Despite years of poring over reviews, swatching endless products, and buying a a fair amount to build up the Holy Grail collection, I have only hit pan twice. Five years ago, I finally bore through my MAC eyeshadow in #brun, and my Revlon matte shade in #vanilla. Since then, I’ve yet to use anything up enough to see the base of the product and it’s driving me NUTS. I used to view panned products as old and needing to be replaced, but now I yearn for the moment when I’ve used up enough product to see the bottom. It is such a gratifying feeling. I’m not alone, there’s even a reddit for it (r/panporn).

At my core, I’m a minimalist. I believe in making as little impact as possible as a consumer. I also love stuff. And even sometimes, things. I’m constantly on the search for that perfect thing. Searching for quality products for my personal needs has been a rough and tumble process. There’s just so much out there. Since I’m at a comfortable level of product hoarding, I’m ready to use up what I have. I want to hit some deep, dark pans this year. My search has to slow down for a while so I can truly appreciate what I have. Otherwise, I can satisfy my product craving by living vicariously through other makeup addicts. My collection will never match theirs, and I’d never want to match theirs because having too much overwhelms me. It’s like a bad binge-purge cycle. A few collections that make me 50 shades of green are EmilyNoel83, TaraBabyz (hhhhngggg on her beautiful storage), Promise, DAMN, Temptalia, Goss… I could go on but you get the point.

July Favorites

July Favorites
July has whizzed by us with some record setting heat. Most of my health concerns this month has revolved around skin health, which as you all know, is a very good benchmark for evaluating your over-all health. With my improved skincare regimen, I no longer have the kind of skin that would make BP envious. It’s now a more manageable combination skin with an oily tzone. The Skinfood Peach Sake BB Creme is great at oil control, especially with the NYX HD loose powder lightly applied on top. The Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge is a game changer. It makes even the cakiest foundation looking more skin-like; I am so in love.
I still double cleanse with mineral oil at night to take off the makeup, sweat, and city pollution off every night. The My Beauty Diary face masks are such a nice, luxurious treat, especially on hot days. The heat and sun has made my lips so dreadfully parched; I’m practically molting. Lansinoh is meant to be a nipple cream for breastfeeding folks, but this 100% lanolin is the Holy Grail for my lips as an overnight lip treatment. I’ve been trying to use up my other sunscreens as a part of my Project 10 Pan, but my EltaMD UV Clear  is still my first love. I just wish it weren’t so expensive!
I also found a hat big enough for my giant head. Don’t laugh, it’s been such a challenge! Haha. The silly thing about this F21 floppy hat is that while it looks cute and casual, it’s made of friggin wool. WHO DOES THAT? Whatever, I’m happy to withstand the forehead sweat for the sake of my skin.

[Results] The bet ends in a whimper

Double womps. We’ll just call it a tie. Competitors #3 and #4 are completely MIA. I tried reaching out to them for updates, but I think they have given up on getting fit. Some of that I can chalk up to our metrics. Competitor #4 is a young man who works a very physically involved job. His issue may not have been weight, but body recomposition. Of course, we chose 20# as a fairly arbitrary goal, and that may not have suited all competitors. Even for myself, that kind of loss may not have been realistic. The person who stood to gain the most out of this contest was #3; he’s a man in middle age who leads a sedentary lifestyle with a Standard American Diet. He did tie with @CriticalMAS in terms of weight loss at the beginning of the bet.


hur dur i makes you fat

hur dur i makes you fat


Lessons learned

1. Choose your competitors carefully

2. Choose your metrics/goals carefully

3. Don’t get injured

4. Froyo is the devil