Thursday, January 03, 2013
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Like so many thoroughbreds exploding onto the track at Churchill Downs, the gates have burst wide and the race to resolutions has begun. “Here we go again!” was first out but is already off the pace. “This Time It’ll Be Different” is fading quickly, but, the across the board favorite “Throw in the Towel” is once again moving up rapidly on the inside.
Alas, ‘tis January, and we have entered the silly season.Barely two weeks ago, it was difficult to find a parking space at the mall — but no longer. Rather, it’s simpler than locating one at the health club. TV ads no longer tempt with sugary visions of chocolaty treats, opting to substitute video of hard-bodied men and bikini-clad women sweating to the latest exercise DVD available for three easy payments of $19.95. Interviews with specialists pontificating on the best value in gym memberships have supplanted chefs who provided recipes for holiday goodies. Store windows are now chock-a-block bloated with displays of diet pills, quick smoking solutions, and self-help books.
If you, like me, grow weary at this annual festival of advice; fret not, as it’ll be as long gone as last year’s chocolate Hanukkah gelt come Valentine’s Day. My question is, since it never works, “Why do we keep doing it?”
Oh sure, we’re a pretty self-critical bunch; never totally content with our lot in life. Lose a few pounds, get fit, spend more time with the family, work less, earn more, tuck this, grow that… it’s a never-ending catalog of imperfections. Yet, we can work on those any time. Why don’t we? Instead, every January, on the heels of two months of hedonistic over-indulgence, we stop for a moment to take self-inventory. After getting past the depression that follows such an unhappy assessment, we courageously commit to change every single solitary individual behavior that makes us feel sad or look bad. Within weeks — sometimes merely days — we’re exhausted by too much change in too short of a time, gorge on Valentine’s candy, and give up, proclaiming, “There’s always next year.”
Ready to break the cycle? It’s much simpler than expected.
As a New Year’s public service, I present a four-step-plan to a happier you.
- Now is the time, whenever “now” is. When the spirit moves you, don’t wait; not until next Monday, next month, or even until tomorrow. When the desire to change hits is when we’re most inspired — and it might not last. Don’t waste that opportunity.
- The larger the commitment (call it a “resolution” if you absolutely must), the more support necessary. Not only are you altering your own behaviors — but you’re forcing those around you to change how they interact with you. Recognize that, as well as their feelings in this process. Tell them what you want to do – and build support. Oh yeah, it’s also good to remind yourself that if you could do it on your own, you already would have.
- The simpler the change, the more likely its success. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, it makes more sense to promise you’ll walk a block every day — and really do it — then it does to swear you’re going to run a mile, but never get around to it.
- Setbacks are not failures. The process of change is a few steps forward interspersed with several stumbles. Like anything else you’ve mastered (career, relationships, skills), it’s not linear upward growth. You’ll fall down; count on it. Ask yourself what tripped you up, and then repeat steps one to three as necessary with overcoming that as your next goal.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Fret not; that thumping, rhythmic, heavy pulsing sound behind you is not the noise of Heaven and Earth colliding.
Rather, ‘tis the pounding of my sneakers as they hit the pavement while I jog. Yes, you read that correctly. I am now jogging. (Well, not this minute of course; it’s difficult to type while running.)
I had more excuses than a double bacon cheeseburger has calories to avoid huffing and puffing down the street. They ran the gamut from “I might pass out,” to “I’ll look silly.” (Of course the latter pre-supposes that I don’t naturally look “silly,” which might be up for debate.) Yet, recently, my walks have — at times — become my jogs.
What pray tell, you might ask, has caused this transformation on par with the changing of the earth’s axis?
I am the recipient of a neat-o, boss, whiz-bang, plaything that plugs into my computer called an accelerometer. As I understand, an accelerometer “knows” where it is in space. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t know it is in Eureka or Portland, but it is able to discern when it moves from one location to another, and at what velocity. Therefore, while it is on my person; should I go to and fro, hither and yon, nigh and far, or up and down; it measures that movement and speed. After an initial multi-day “assessment,” it computes my baseline activity level and sets up a 12-week challenge, gradually increasing my activity level. The result is I become more active, and hence, healthier — and hopefully thinner.
Each evening (as well as an obsessive number of times per day), I place it still on a flat surface to watch the ring of green LEDs glow. Should at least four of the six do so, I’m at 100% of my daily goal. Oh happy day! On the contrary, should I receive less than four, I better get moving.
At day’s end, I realized I forgot to check my progress.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I do not wish to be the type of person who slowly, sadly shakes his head, pining for a simpler past, longingly opening conversations with “When I was a kid…” Moreover, when I become aware of an unfortunate societal trend, I try to prevent cranking up my inner curmudgeon, cynically inquiring of my peers, “What has gone wrong with our society?”Having said that, something has gone wrong with our society because — when I was a kid — brides-to-be didn’t shove tubes up their noses to lose weight before their weddings.
While skimming TV channels, images of young women commuting to work with feeding tubes hanging from their noses flitted across the screen. They didn’t seem ill; quite the contrary, they looked to be “in the pink” (yet another reference from “when I was a kid”). The reporter explained that some women with upcoming nuptials are resorting to a severe calorie-restricted crash diet to drop ten to 20 pounds in the two weeks prior to their big days. That unto itself is not newsworthy; long before “I was a kid,” I imagine women (and even some men) resorted to last minute diets in order to present their best in front of friends, family, and God.
What was exceptional was that, in these cases, the method of choice consisted of consuming only 800 calories a day, delivered in the form of shakes served through a medically implanted feeding tube threaded through the woman’s nose, down the esophagus, and into her stomach. The tube remains in place ten days and the procedure costs about $1,500. Side effects include bad breath, constipation and dizziness. (Nothing says, “kiss the bride” like halitosis.) The doctor performing the procedure said, “At first I decided not to do it for people who just want to lose a few pounds. But then I thought, why should I say five or ten pounds are not enough? People want to be perfect.”
As long as there has been belly fat, there have been odd and controversial get-thin-quick schemes.
Yet, this is beyond the pale.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
In certain instances, job discrimination is considered acceptable.
For example, a Catholic Priest would have a tough road to hoe to get hired as a Rabbi, no matter how extensive his career background. There’s really no reason NOT to hire him, but it’s just not going to happen, is it? We accept that.
So when is discrimination out of line?
Under federal law, employers generally cannot discriminate on the basis of several factors, including (but not limited to) race, sex, religion, disability, or age (for workers over 40). Yet only Michigan and six U.S. cities ban discrimination against hiring overweight people.
I understand — to a point. After all, a severely obese person might also be very unhealthy. She might not be able to perform her duties, especially involving physical activity. However, is it tolerable to discriminate against her because she doesn’t “look the part?”
Citizens Medical Center in Texas now requires potential employees to have a body mass index of less than 35 (about 210 pounds for someone who is 5’ 5”). Their controversial policy states an employee’s physique
“Should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including an appearance “free from distraction” for hospital patients.
Lifestyle discrimination has precedent.
For example, certain companies will not hire employees who smoke. That, however, is because of the side effects of their behavior, such as higher health care costs or insurance premiums. It is NOT because they do not approve of the smoker’s appearance.
What’s different here is that the policy doesn’t indicate costs or side effects; nor does it suggest that obese employees are incapable of performing their tasks. Mostly, it refers to physical form, placing overweight applicants in the same category as those with visible tattoos or facial piercings (which is a whole other discussion).
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance claims, “discrimination plain and simple.”
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Why do flags flap on a windy day?
Believe it or not, this is just one of many questions science cannot surely resolve. There are others: What is gravity? Why do we dream? How many species inhabit our planet? Why is it that the freeway lane I choose is always the slowest? (Okay, in all fairness, I really doubt if scientists spend much time on the last question.)
Each of us has unanswered questions.
Since my field is health, I’ve often wondered why is it that we determine someone’s correct weight based on the Quetelet Index of Obesity, a formula dating back to nineteenth-century Europe? Granted, about a century later we shifted to Body Mass Index (BMI), which is weight divided by height squared. Yet the main premise remained in tact: how tall you are is virtually the sole factor to determine how much you should weigh.
That has never made sense to me. Why would a 5’ 6” forty-four year old vegan woman who enjoys yoga and jogs with regularity; and a sedentary man of equal stature who scarfs red meat, French fries, and drives his car 100 yards to the corner store; be considered healthy at the same weight? I have always thought something’s messed up.
It appears I’m correct – but I take no comfort in what I found out.
A recent study found that the BMI misclassified 39 percent of Americans. Instead of being “overweight,” it turns out they were more accurately “obese.” This is because BMI doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle, and some folks with “normal BMIs” may harbor dangerously high amounts of fat in their bodies. Without an accurate measurement of how much body fat, the researchers say, millions of people don’t know they are at high risk for a number of obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer, among others.
Dr. Eric Braverman, co-author of the study, points out
“Without knowing how much fat you have, you can't really save people from illness. It is the number one predictor of who's going to live or die.”
This new method of determining who is healthy is revealing some frightening stats. Of the almost fourteen hundred people studied, 26 percent were classified as obese using their BMI. That number almost tripled to 64 percent when measured with a Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan, which is commonly used to check for osteoporosis, measure percentage of body fat, muscle mass, and bone density.
The study discovered that misclassifications were more common in women then men and also increased with age. For example, among women in their fifties, 48 percent more were classified as obese using the DXA instead of their BMI. For women over 70, it climbed to 59 percent. This is because as women age, they lose more muscle to fat than do men. Since BMI does not distinguish between muscle and fat, their classification of “obese” instead of “overweight” — or “even healthy” — would go unnoticed.
Braverman and his co-author Dr. Nirav Shah, are suggesting that we lower the definition of obesity to include more people. Currently, “obese” means a BMI of 30 or above. They recommend dropping that to 24 for women and 28 for men. To put that in perspective, under present standards, a 5’ 6” woman is considered healthy at 150. Under these new guidelines, she would be considered obese. (Ouch!)
Just when we thought we were starting to turn the corner on the fight against obesity, it looks like we have a lot farther to go.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Did you know there is an International Association of Print House Craftsmen (which has several women members)? In the day of $99 ink jets and 24-hour print shops, these folks still “bleed ink.” What they construct with printing presses and paper is art – pure and simple.
If you didn’t know about the IAPHC, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either. One of the perks of my occupation is that I get to meet an expansive array of people from a gamut of occupations; some of which I had no idea even existed.
Take the Appraisal Institute. Never having the experience of buying nor sell multi-million dollar office complexes, I never realized that a spot-on, no variation, exact appraisal on the value of such properties — and hence the interest on the loan to purchase them — can cost one hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Decimal points really do matter. The folks of AI are dedicated to that.
Speaking of decimal points, one of the more mesmerizing people I have had the pleasure of meeting is Paul Kingsman, 1988 Olympic Medal Winner for swimming. That award would not have been his had he been five one-hundredths of a second slower. To understand what a short period of time is that, blinking your eye takes about ten times longer than the difference between Paul’s race time and the person who did not win.
Paul hails from New Zealand and now lives in Northern California. As a speaker and coach, he helps others become “distraction proof;” staying focused on what matters so they can achieve outstanding results, in any manner in which that applies.
I interviewed Paul, and although I expected good stuff, I was blown away by what I picked up. We discussed how some things can be simple but not easy. He also pointed out that mistaking “notoriety” for “substance,” especially in this media-consumed culture, often distracts us.
However, as a “recovering perfectionist,” what most resonated was “excellence versus perfection.”
In my interpretation, attaining excellence lets us evolve to new levels. Chasing perfection however, leads us to a frustrated place of stagnation.