UNHEALTHY

I was in North America for a few hours recently and I grabbed a quick bite in a food court – avoiding the fast food chains (which is really hard) and getting a scratch made sandwich. I walked down the drink aisle and found it depressing. Pop, a few vitamin waters, high sugar energy drinks – a wasteland of unhealthy drinks and obesity in a bottle.

Just so different to Japan where it is pretty clear that the vending machines are one of those secrets to long life and a low BMI.

Compare.

A North American drink shelf.

pop

Now Japan. In the country with a vending machine for every 13 people, the diversity is amazing. Coffees, green teas, hot – cold, jasmine tea, sparking water (in many flavors), flavored waters sweetened and unsweetened, this grape drink with aloe cubes and everything in between.

2014-05-25 11.40.26

Sure, you can buy a pop (I still love a cold Coke) or a different fizzy drink, but it makes up a very small percentage of the vending machine real estate.

image

Lattes, vitamin C, milk tea, fiber drinks …

2014 04 20 Shrine sale_-30-2

This is a pretty common sight, 4 or 5 vending machines in a row. They are everywhere.

2014 04 20 Shrine sale_

Here is my current favorite drink, the “Green Shower”. It is humulus lupulus sparkling water – and has an herbal taste to it.

image

For those of you who do not know what Humulus Lupulus is (I certainly did not):

Humulus lupulus (common hop or hop) is a species of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family, native to Europe, western Asia and North America. It is a dioecious, perennial, herbaceous climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome in autumn. Strictly speaking it is a bine rather than a vine, using its own shoots to act as supports for new growth.

Who are the companies that make all of those healthy, amazing Japanese drinks? Ironically, the same ones that delivery very little choice in North America. Or perhaps, they are delivering what the market wants – which is too bad.

THE FAILING WAR ON DRUGS AND DECRIMINALIZATION

 

It seems like I have read a number of articles on the failing “War on Drugs” lately. There is no doubt that addictive drugs are a huge burden on society and as someone who actively avoided drugs, I am personally fine with the ban.

That being said, I really do wonder if other nations have it right and we have it VERY wrong. Most of the news on the failed war on drugs is in the US (although Canada could probably be substituted – just divide all dollar numbers by 10); the border that does not work, tens of thousands killed in the Mexican drug war and tens of thousands before them in Columbia, the ongoing funding that it provides to terrorists, the $20B+ per year that the US spends on the war on drugs which they could divert to education, medical care or debt payments and of course, the fact that the stats prove that it just is not working.

You know it must be failing when Pat Robertson says it is failing and time to consider decriminalization. I have never agreed with anything that Pat Robertson says, he is a nutter. This would be a first.

And the stats prove it all out – just look at Holland versus the US. The US fails on every metric (Canada would similarly fail).

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What prompted this post? An article which created a sickness in the pit of my stomach on how much we spend and how we restrict people’s choice resulting in much higher usage. Human nature revolves around “If I cannot have it, I want it more. Allow me to have it, and I lose interest” and we are driving more people to drugs.

The article: Portugal drug decriminalization policy works (2012). It is not true Holland type decriminalization but a variant that has seen a radical drop in drug usage:

Portugal’s move to decriminalize does not mean people can carry around, use, and sell drugs free from police interference. That would be legalization. Rather, all drugs are "decriminalized," meaning drug possession, distribution, and use is still illegal. While distribution and trafficking is still a criminal offense, possession and use is moved out of criminal courts and into a special court where each offender’s unique  situation is judged by legal experts, psychologists, and social workers. Treatment and further action is decided in these courts, where addicts and drug use is treated as a public health service rather than referring it to the justice system (like the U.S.), reports Fox News.

The resulting effect: a drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years. Portugal’s drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states, according to the same report.

Too bad our a Prime Minster doesn’t have the leadership vision and strength to take this issue on.

You can read the full report on soros.org here. Very sad that our government will not face the facts and stop wasting time, money and people’s lives.

EVOLUTION

 

A friend fired off a joke ‘Evolution’ email last week with all of the traditional ‘man to ape’ cartoons showing different types of evolutions. One evolution I found particularly interesting was the evolution of the Coke bottle.

Evolution of Coke

As you can see the picture stopped at 1994 and didn’t jump into the other ‘soda drinking options’ that made Morgan Spurlock and Supersize Me famous. Consider these two photos. The ‘King Size’ of old at 12 oz. (which was a jump from the original 8 oz.)

And today, the 8 and 12 oz. has turned into the 32 OZ medium. Via.

image

That is a lot of sugar.

QUICK LASIK UPDATE

 

Three months have passed. Fantastic. Slowly but surely, my random flashes of ‘I should take my contacts our’ are lessening, no halo’s at night, dry eyes are not a problem and it is just so convenient. Awesome.

20/15

 

I had my last follow-up at Lasik MD and everything is fantastic. I continue to marvel at how profound the change is. In the evening, I keep having the thought ‘Remember to take your contact lenses out’, it is such a weird (and great) feeling.

While in the Doctor’s office, they made sure the corneas are fine and did the standard eye test. Over the last month, I had moved from 20/20 to 20/15 – which is better. But I realized, I do not know why it is better? In fact, I really don’t know what this whole measurement system is all about, so I looked it up:

In the term "20/20 vision", the numerator refers to the distance in feet between the subject and the chart. The denominator indicates the size of the letters, specifically it denotes the separation at which the lines that make up those letters would be separated by a visual angle of 1 arc minute, which for the lowest line that is read by an eye with no refractive error (or the errors corrected) is usually 20 feet.

More:

If a person has a visual acuity of 20/40, he is said to see detail from 20 feet away the same as a person with normal eyesight would see it from 40 feet away. It is possible to have vision superior to 20/20: the maximum acuity of the human eye without visual aids (such as binoculars) is generally thought to be around 20/10 (6/3) however, recent test subjects have exceeded 20/8 vision.[6] Some birds of prey, such as hawks, are believed to have an acuity of around 20/2;[7] in this respect, their vision is much better than human eyesight. This helps them hunt more efficiently.

Using this logic, I probably started at 20/140. So at 20/15, I am somewhere between a normal person and a hawk. Amazing.

Via.

MY LASIK EYE SURGERY EXPERIENCE

It is now 6 days after my Lasik eye surgery at Lasik MD and I remain in awe of the experience with my mind remaining confused by the change. I keep having this flash in the evening ‘take out your contacts’. It truly is life changing.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had walked away from surgery 8 years ago for a host of reasons. This time I went through with it after a very informative initial assessment and conversation with the consultant followed by a host of reading. The internet is full of stories on what it is like, so I thought to post my experience for the benefit of others.

The whole thing starts in an office where they do a very thorough eye exam. You find out if you qualify, if you have potential issues and what level you need to buy. Simply put, if you remain within their norms, you can go for the standard – lower cost option. If you deviate, you need to go to the more expensive custom option. I went with the custom option simply because it offers a life time warranty (i.e. I can get redone if there is an issue) and due to the fact that it takes less tissue off of your cornea (up to 30% less). The last step is selecting your surgeon, which is a unique experience. They give you the credentials on each surgeon including their educational history, specialties and number of surgeries performed. A far cry from the ‘begging for a Doctor’ experience in the Canadian medical system.

On the day of the event, I was nervous. It is, after all, my eyes. The night before I did a little more reading and found an interesting statistic; no cases of blindness have been recorded by the FDA due to Lasik surgery. I am not sure why that had such a significant settling effect on me, but it did. We arrived at 9:30am and went through the check-in steps:  fill out a form (which included a few very scary caveats with regards to the downside potential), go through another eye exam to confirm the readings (very reassuring) and then in to the final consultant to learn about post operative care, to hand over a credit card and to get a tiny little white pill that will relax you (Ativan).

Ten minutes later they call you up and you enter the room. My Doctor was fantastically friendly. He started by asking me if I had any last minute questions or concerns and reiterated a few things about relaxing, taking deep breaths. As I lay back under the machine, I asked him what number I was – how many had he done? This was my way of seeking reassurance but he handled it in a completely unexpected and impressive manner, he said ‘I have a lot of experience but you are not a number to me. This is all about giving you a great experience, right now’. Impressed, it started.

As best I can remember (I was not really in the ‘write it all down’ mood), these are approximately the next steps. They put numbing drops in your eyes. The doctor then tapes one eye closed, the other is taped open. More numbing drops are added to the open eye. He asks you to look into a green light and inserts a clamp into you eye. He mentions that it is about to get dark, at which point another device is lowered onto your eye and you hear the word ‘suction’. It all goes black for a second. Staring up at the green light, he then cuts your eye (I assume that is what he is doing), opening a flap. Everything goes a bit blurry and he asks that you stare at the green light. A big red light appears. It is an odd light as it appears like a hundred little dots making up a big red circle. I was asked to relax and take deep breaths and I assume the laser starts. I say this as I could smell a little burning and heard the nurse call out a few numbers. A few seconds later the light is gone. I believe he flips the flap back in place and rubs your eye with some instrument. The other instruments are removed and voila, you are done. All in all, I would wager it took less than 5 minutes.

He then does the second eye.

When I was getting up the doctor asked me to open my eyes and said it would look like I was underwater, which I found to be an accurate description. I could see quite well, but everything was a bit out of focus. They take you to a couch, administer drops and ask you to relax for a few moments.

Now, how does it feel? I will admit, it felt claustrophobic and very unsettling. I would imagine, how could it not? After all, it is your eyes. But with my entering and leaving in a total of less than 15 minutes, it was surprisingly painless and super quick.

After resting and the nurse administering more drops, you head to the waiting room for an hour where you continue resting. Slowly, my vision improved but I avoided the temptation to try them out and simply rested with sunglasses on. After an hour I was called up to go through an eye test, everything was fine and I was released. In the literature, they say your eyes start to heal after 1 minute.

I spent the day sleeping and resting, as per a friends suggestion. He found that sleeping for a few hours in the afternoon really helped – I would agree. The Doctor reiterated this, sleeping will speed the healing process. Throughout the day I administered drops every two hours, as per the instructions and kept sunglasses on. It is made very clear, you must adhere to the drop schedule to ensure proper healing. Through the day, my eyes felt like there was dirt in them, slowly getting less sensitive.

I slept with the sunglasses that evening (to protect from accidental eye rubbing) and woke the next morning with clear vision. I went in for my check up and was cleared with 20/20 vision, a slight swelling and a prognosis that my vision would get even better through the week. I go in for my next test tomorrow, and I have to say, I expect that I have better than 20/20 vision. Yesterday I sat at the far end of a conference room table and had no problem seeing the screen. All scratchiness is gone.

I will not say that I wished I had done it earlier, because I do not. I finally felt comfortable so the time was right for me. But I can see how this is going to change my life. No more water sports with goggles (I went surfing 2 weeks ago with goggles), no more contact lens issues while playing hockey, tennis or golf. No more fumbling around in the morning after I wake up. It is surreal and I keep smiling every time I look in amazement at something far away and can see it clear as I could with glasses.

We live in an amazing time.

LASIK

It is early Friday morning and I am waiting for the Doctor’s office to open for my follow up appointment. 24 hours ago I had custom Lasik  surgery on my eyes.

I have had many friends undergo the surgery and several described the experience like a miracle. They were asked to look at a clock before lying down and of course it is all fuzzy. Minutes later, they sit up and it is clear. (They didn’t ask me to do that).

It wasn’t quite that cut and dry for me, but close. This morning for the first time in 26 years I woke up and did not need to fumble to the bathroom. The world was crystal clear and I walked around going “wow, I can see that” … “wow, I can see that!”

Probably as close to a medical miracle as I will get. I am still in awe. Amazing.

THE LAST TIME

I jumped on the plane this week to Vancouver and forgot two things, my BOSE headset and my glasses. I can’t prevent forgetting my headset, but on April 21st, I hope to send the glasses on their merry way for the first time in 26 years.

I still remember when I first got glasses. The chalkboard got a little harder and harder to read in class, until I had to see the optometrist and the verdict was in: I needed glasses. I was 16. Since that time, my prescription has remained virtually the same at -2.25. About 8 years ago I went into Lasik MD and went through a consultation on having corrective eye surgery. The company was rather new, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that the founder was the doctor who did the consultation.

After much thought, I walked. I just was not comfortable. It also didn’t help that a colleague had just had it done and suffered through detached retinas (unrelated, but still spooked me). I stuck with glasses and disposable contacts. And every year I would think, this year?

Last week I bit the bullet and went in for a consultation. I asked a lot of questions; about monovision (I decided on full correction) and the difference between the stock program and custom Lasik. In the end, I have decided to go for custom and on April 21st, I go under the laser, joining the 14M+ North Americans who have had the procedure.

The last time I woke up in the morning and did not have to fumble with glasses, suffered through an irritated contact lens on the golf course or had to worry about whether the contact was inside right was 26 years ago.

I can’t wait.

TO SMOKE

 

I have become a David Sedaris fan over the pervious months and had a great laugh reading the essay ‘Diary of a Smoker’. As a non-smoker, I am this person (waving the arms):

I rode my bike to the boat pond in Central Park, where I bought myself a cup of coffee and sat down on a bench to read. I lit a cigarette and was enjoying myself when the woman seated twelve feet away, on the other end of the bench, began waving her arms in front of her face. I thought she was fighting off a bee.

As a non-smoker, it got me wondering, what is the state of smoking rates around the world with all of the ‘stop smoking in public’ effort? The BBC has a nice article and chart on it, although the below is a more comprehensive view. Lots of white.

THE GUY AT HOME IN HIS UNDERWEAR TO FIGHT CANCER

 

This week I had someone say they knew me from the old University days and I just could not place the name. So I fired out a note to a few old friends to ask if they remembered. No one did. But it did open a ‘man, it has been a long time since we saw each other. We should get together’ email thread.

To which one added ‘You should invite Toe after that underwear thing’. Of course I had to ask ‘what underwear thing?’ I could only imagine, he is a great guy, definitely was the craziest out of the lot and has a life full of stories. For example, the story of why Mark McIntyre is called Toe. They sent me this:

http://guyathome.com/

Mark is a testicular cancer survivor. How he found out that he had testicular cancer is a story in itself, you can read it here. I have not talked to him for a long time, but I went through the site, was in awe of the effort and really enjoyed the videos. In the end, he didn’t raise $25K for cancer, he raised $50K AND he raised awareness. Just do a search and you will see, the media was all over it.

Congratulations Mark. How appropriately memorable from a guy who is the main character in many of my University stories. Especially the car and the lake story (smile). Great guy, great accomplishment.

A FEW MORE FROM THE INTERWEB

 

  • The question of whether or not you can catch up on sleep is often debated. Turns our that a weekend spent sleeping late after a week with little sleep does work, according to the Sleep journal:

A study in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Sleep suggests that a dose of extra sleep on the weekend may be good medicine for adults who repeatedly stay up too late or wake up too early during the workweek. However, even a night of 10 hours in bed may not be enough to cure the negative effects of chronic sleep restriction.

  • There are many articles about whether or not video games are beneficial. It is amazing to watch them play now, so fast, much faster than me. According to a University study, there are benefits; fast paced video games improve decision making:

Participants in a University of Rochester study, "Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games", by UR professor of brain and cognitive science Daphne Bavelier played 50 hours of video games over multiple weeks. Players who played action games like Call of Duty 2 (pictured here) made quicker decisions than those who played slow-paced strategy games like The Sims without sacrificing accuracy.

  • Esquire had an article for the holidays on how to be more interesting (in social situations) …. Most are common sense, but 8 made me think:

8. With people you don’t know, limit stories to the last five minutes of your life — the turnout, the Scotch selection, the homeless man you mistakenly took for a valet.

The Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed Award to three British Holiday Inns for launching another new amenity – human bed-warmers. During a January cold snap, guests who paid an extra fee could have a staff member in a one-piece sleeper suit crawl between their sheets to preheat the bed to 20 C. The service is “a bit like having a giant hot water bottle in your bed,” chain spokeswoman Jane Bednall said. Guest Evan Jones disagreed. “It’s slightly creepy,” he said. “I might pay to not have it.”

  • Enjoyed the article How Canada’s Dollar Got Ahead and Left America Behind in Esquire, discussing Canadian financial prudence and the fact that there wasn’t a single Canadian bank bailed out during the recent crisis. The article could have been called ‘Revenge of the Conservative’.

canada dollar

CROSS COUNTRY

 

This Christmas brought another new family sport/gift to the house.

We started downhill skiing years ago, and last year, on the advice of a friend, we picked up snow shoes for the family Christmas present. We would clomp across the snow, in a quest to find great toboggan hills. A successful investment.

This year we ventured into another winter sport, cross country skiing. Narda did it as a child, I have done it a few times and our eldest son loves cross country running (and is pretty amazing at it). It is a reasonably low cost sport to get into and if you have the good fortune to have some open terrain near you (we do), it is a zero cost sport to enjoy each day. We ventured up to Mountain Equipment Co-Op, where their enthusiast staff was of great help and in short order kitted up the family.

The only real decision was wax or wax-less skis, as we are not interested in skate skiing as that only works on groomed trails. The conversation went like this:

Me: ‘What is the difference between wax and waxless?’

Her: ‘Wax skis require continual maintenance. Waxless skis mean you really only need to maintain the tips’

Me: ‘So waxless is less work?’ (Knowing full well who would become the family ‘waxer’)

Her: ‘Correct’

Me: ‘Waxless it is’

Our biggest concern was that cross country skiing across a golf course or open field would not be as fun as on groomed trails. Fortunately, the concern was unfounded. Personally, I find cutting a trail across an open space, the first one in the new fallen snow, a wonderful experience.

What has been most surprising is just how good a work out it is. I would wager that part of the exertion is due to having to work harder as we learn the sport. However, as we get better, we will simply see the same level of exertion but higher speeds. Definitely a great workout.

A friend said his favourite time to cross country ski is during a full moon. I can’t wait to try that. Maybe I will bring a camera.

KINECT

 

Microsoft may be struggling with a few of their products and people, but one thing that isn’t struggling is the XBOX. The now departed Robbie Bach did an amazing job to ensure that the product lives on in greatness. Our Wii continues to gather dust ….

I pre-ordered our Kinect about a month ago, good thing as it is selling out already. It looks like a break out experience and the start of a whole new mode of gaming. Truly hands free control that has been envisioned in movies for decades.  Personally, I am really looking forward to the many fitness programs, already have the basement set up for it. Glad I didn’t order the Wii Fit. It looks truly amazing.

 

Now if the could just make a P90X version ….

SMOKING REDUCES HOSPITALIZATION

 

The CBC article ‘Smoking bans cut hospital admissions: study’ states the following:

In Monday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers reported the following changes since the ban took effect:

  • 17 per cent decrease in the heart attack hospitalization rate.
  • 33 per cent decrease in rates of admission for respiratory conditions such as asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • 39 per cent decrease in admissions because of cardiovascular conditions such as angina and stroke.

This article isn’t all that fascinating. One would think that this is a logical outcome. Smoke less, live longer and be sick less. Common sense? I thought so until I started reading the comments on the article (obviously, for the smoking community this is a hot topic). A sample:

.. 2nd hand smoke is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the general public by its own Govt

A hogwash study to justify the moronic freedom-destroying legislation from our Nannystate.

Yet another example on how one can cheat with statistics. Headline says what it says. Detail makes it pretty clear that the whole thing is baloney.

The Smoker’s History site makes it pretty well known (using BOLD LETTERS) that they believe the whole thing is a hoax:

The stock pretension of the morally depraved anti-smoker spin-meisters (who self-righteously spew unadulterated Nazi pseudo-science in our faces) is to pretend that big-money investments by pension funds are a moral issue of profiting from tobacco. In fact, their financial control gives them voting control, and that is how the anti-smokers elect traitors and appoint stooges who let the anti-smokers get away with their scientific frauds to lie the public about the risks of tobacco, support cowardly sell-out politicians, and throw lawsuits so that smokers will be forced to pay outrageous and unjust "damages."

And they add in analysis that smoking is not responsible for heart disease.

They performed no new studies, and merely uncritically regurgitated "published and unpublished data and testimony on the relationship between secondhand smoke and short-term and long-term heart problems." They ignored the CDC and other data on death rates which shows no discernable effect of smoking bans, and which furthermore reveals that the authors of the anti-smoking studies cynically cherry-picked their study periods and control populations. This data is freely accessible to the public, AND TO THE MEDIA, WHO UNQUESTIONINGLY PARROT THEIR FLAGRANT LIES AS TRUTH. (Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence. National Academies Press, 2009.)

The comment on the article that really caught my attention was this one:

By the way, I do not smoke. However, a study has been made (and ‘interestingly’, not published widely) that smokers actually SAVE tax payers money. They live shorter and health care costs are way more in old age. Hence, total cost to taxpayers is actually LESS for smokers (not even counting the extra taxes they pay).

HENRIETTA LACKS

 

Both Wired and Popular Science had articles on Henrietta Lacks in February. Who is this amazing woman?

Henrietta Lacks (August 1, 1920 – October 4, 1951) was the unwitting donor of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were cultured by George Otto Gey to create an immortal cell line for medical research. This is now known as the HeLa cell line.[1]

Her cells are unlike any other cultivated today:

Researchers "discovered that [Henrietta's] cells did something they’d never seen before: They could be kept alive and grow."[14] According to reporter Michael Rogers, the subsequent development of HeLa by a researcher at the hospital helped answer the demands of 10,000 who marched for a cure to polio just a few days before. By 1954, HeLa was used by Jonas Salk to develop a vaccine for polio.[12] To test Salk’s new vaccine, the cells were quickly put into mass production in the first-ever cell production factory.[15] Demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew. Since they were put into mass production, Henrietta’s cells have been mailed to scientists around the globe for "research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and countless other scientific pursuits".[12] HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products.[citation needed] Scientists have grown some 50 million metric tons of her cells. [16]

But most interesting is that her family never knew (or consented):

In her 2010 book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot documents the histories of both the HeLa cell line and the Lacks family. Henrietta’s husband, David Lacks, was told little following her death. Suspicions fueled by racial issues prevalent in the South were compounded by issues of class and education. For their part, members of the Lacks family were kept in the dark about the existence of the tissue line, and when its existence was revealed, family members were confused about how Henrietta’s cells could have been taken without consent and how they could still be alive 50 years after her death.

And how important are her cells? (From the Wired article)  More than 60,000 scientific papers have been written using her cells, and basically every major genetic finding has some link …

image image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all without her consent. I wonder if she would have agreed?

TED: Jamie Oliver

 

I have started watching a few of the TED videos (I would love to attend this conference). Jamie Oliver’s speak on obesity is a reminder than many need to hear. It is the number 1 killer in North America, preventable and getting worse.

 

His point on teaching about food in school is also very interesting. Something simple, that does not get taught.

HOW TO KILL MOSQUITOS

 

I don’t know if this is an urban myth or not, but it landed in my Inbox. Posting this in the dead of winter … will mean that I need to remember it for the spring. I have not dealt with mosquitoes for a few years, and expect them in droves in the summer:

I was at a deck party awhile back, and the bugs were having a ball biting everyone. A man at the party sprayed the lawn and deck floor with Listerine, and the little demons disappeared. The next year I filled a 4-ounce spray bottle and used it around my seat whenever I saw mosquitoes. And voila! That worked as well.. It worked at a picnic where we sprayed the area around the food table, the children’s swing area, and the standing water nearby. During the summer, I don’t leave home without it

 Living Mosquito

We will see.

Not so living mosquito

THE PHYSICAL

 

I had a physical the other day and I was left wondering, why? Now don’t get me wrong, there is a piece of mind element and as you cross that magic 40 year old barrier, things start to break and you need to watch a bit more carefully. But after the whole event, I was left wondering if it really did anything.

I have heard the stories of someone who caught something early due to a test, urban myth or not. But one has to wonder, does it really help? When I told my little brother, he went on a tirade about it, complaining that the medical system is burdened by these tests which come out inconclusive, and then lead to a bunch more tests with costs piling up and statistics demonstrating that most of the pre-event testing is a waste of money.

HBR seems to agree. From the article Executive Physicals: Whats the ROI?:

Very few screening tests have been proven to identify diseases before they begin to cause noticeable problems. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention that does tough-minded assessments of health care interventions, recommends that only a handful of them be performed regularly (if not annually). These include checking for unhealthful behaviors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet, and lack of exercise; monitoring stats such as weight and blood pressure; and testing for cholesterol. Once the doctor finds a problem, he or she may prescribe preventive treatments endorsed by the task force – for instance, low doses of aspirin for adults at increased risk of heart disease or estrogen receptor modulators for women at increased risk of breast cancer. The task force also suggests doing a modest number of imaging tests, such as ultrasounds for abdominal aortic aneurysms in high-risk men (65- to 75-year-olds who have ever smoked), mammograms and bone density tests for women over 65, and colonoscopies for people over 50. It does not call for other imaging tests that are often part of executive physical programs; full-body and coronary artery CT scans are especially not recommended. Indeed, many leading scientific and medical organizations caution against using these scans to screen for disease.

And to support the point of view about leading to additional tests:

Many times the scans are “falsely positive”: They detect suspicious-looking spots that turn out to be benign, raising needless worry and frequently prompting invasive tests. They also can be “falsely negative”: They may find nothing wrong when in fact a disease is present, creating a sense of security that leads the patient to ignore early warning signs. Even if a recent CT scan of an executive’s coronary arteries indicates a low risk of heart disease, she should tell her doctor about the squeezing sensation in her chest and the mild nausea she has started to feel after about 10 minutes on the treadmill. Not doing so could prove fatal.

I am not sure. I left glad to know that I have a ‘good’ physical fitness (but not great) for my age .. it took me 9 minutes and 36 seconds to get my heart rate to 90% of maximum (161). At my age, ‘excellent’ health is 10 minutes or over. Oh yah, and my cholesterol is a tad high …. Such a cliché for my age.

STUMBLING UPON A GREEN GYM

 

This weekend we were up north and came across this playground. It was all outdoor gym equipment. It looked really odd but was surprisingly functional. Turns out that Green Gym (a Canadian Company) is making headway around the world. With the levels of obesity in our society rising steadily … what a great idea. And how nice is it to do it outside? Neat company.

For the press exercises, you push your own weight (instead of weights).

IMG00016-20091115-1112 IMG00014-20091115-1111 IMG00015-20091115-1112

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST or NATURAL SELECTION?

 

According to Ralph Keeney, a century ago only 5% of deaths were related to personal choice. Now a full 55% of deaths of people aged 15 to 64 can be attributed to decisions made that have alternatives (like smoking, overeating, driving without a seatbelt, etc.) – the other 45% are mainly attributed to disease. No surprise, as 23.1% of Canadian adults are clinically obese (almost double the rate from 1978).

His last line is interesting:

Keeney notes that society already holds people accountable for some actions: Some workplaces disqualify smokers as job candidates; alcoholics are often denied liver transplants. We could deploy more of these penalties: costlier health insurance for the obese, or criminalizing texting while driving the way we do drunk driving. But in the end, punishment is inevitable anyway. "The ultimate penalty is death," Keeney says. "I don’t want to totally thwart survival of the fittest."

Full article here.

In business, keeping weight down is very difficult. Hectic schedule makes getting into a regular work out routine hard and the schedule of off the plane, on the plane, in the hotel, dinner with client, business lunch or breakfast means that it is easy to gain weight (some cream with that dinner Mr. Weening?). Clean your plate at a business dinner and you are guaranteed to lose the battle of the waistline (sorry Mom). A friend of mine has a business dinner rule .. he only eats the size of his fist and leaves the rest.

In the end, I choose to allow nature to select me … I really do want to see 100. Imagine what the world will look like in 2068? In the article ‘To change effectively, change just one thing’, Peter Bergman has a few insights on how he lost weight and interesting details on a diet study (and how they are all the same).

I agree with him, just find that one thing. I also wear a seatbelt, don’t drink often and don’t smoke. It all adds up to better odds.

FRANK BRUNI’S RESTAURANT SURVIVAL TIPS

 

I have been travelling a lot over the last month and one of the biggest challenges is food – doing client dinners and lunches and breakfasts can be threatening, thanks to crossing 40. It also does not help that I have a personal goal of stopping in a DQ in every province (Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta complete).

Frank Bruni has some great advice:

  1. Don’t fast beforehand: If you prep for a big meal by avoiding food all day, you’ll eat madly and mindlessly, your hunger and sense of sacrifice egging you on.
  2. Pace your alcohol: If you start right in with two martinis, you’ll lose perspective and restraint. Enjoy a cocktail or two–but gradually, as the meal progresses.
  3. Lose the breadbasket: Indulge for 10 minutes, max, and then have the basket removed. If it’s there, you’ll reach for it without thinking. If it’s not, you won’t miss it.
  4. Take inventory: You don’t need to eat everything. If the food is great and you’re not full yet, have some more. But if the food’s disappointing, stop scarfing it down.
  5. Share a dessert: It’s a kindness to your wallet as well as your waistline. You’ll still enjoy your sweet fix. And as sacrifices go, it’s not a huge one. (Don’t know about this one … let’s share a dessert mr.client …. how about don’t order or don’t finish it).

Via.

THE MYTH OF SLOW METABOLISM AND WEIGHT

 

The debate on the impact of metabolism is an interesting one. You often hear comments like this:

"I’m super lucky with my metabolism. I have to be realistic – that might not always be the situation. That’s why I chose really intense training."

A recent article in Men’s Health (March 2009) states differently:

Overweight people, on average, have slower 3,000m steeple chase times than slim people. They also close the fridge door slower. Overweight people DO NOT, however, have slower metabolisms. To blow this myth out of the water, a recent study by the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute discovered that most groups of organisms favour the same optimum metabolic rate, while Germany’s Journal for Nutritional Science found overweight people actually have faster basal metabolic rates (presumably because of the extra effort shifting that excess weight around).

Personally, as I have crossed into 40land, I have noticed weight gain when my lifestyle becomes less active and my consumption of food outstrips my bodies ability to burn it off.

Time and time again, it all comes back to lifestyle and staying active. The only thing that will slow down is my choice to get off that couch!

A FEW RANDOM MUSINGS

 

On the train to London I went through the latest Men’s Health and here are a few points that caught my attention:

  • On family: ‘What are you normally doing at 5:47pm? According to a recent study, just 10 years ago you would have been around the table with your family …. Office for National Statistics research shows the average working man now spends just 15 minutes a day caring for kids’   Something to always keep in mind.
  • On no sugar drinks:  ‘Researchers from Purdue University in the US have found that low-cal alternatives are linked to a gain in fat. This is because their sweet sugary taste tricks the body into expecting a massive calorie hit … when this doesn’t happen, your body starts craving those empty calories making you more likely to fill up on junk. The researchers suggest that to beat the bulge, you should have a little of what you fancy and count calories rather than opting for ‘diet’ versions of popular products’      Personally, I cannot agree more. I would rather have a single can of real Coke over 4 diet Cokes any day.
  • In the how the heck did they figure that out category:
    • The perfect age to get married: 31 years, 9 months (University College London)
    • The perfect age to write a blockbuster novel: 50.5 years (Based on analysis since 1955)
  • Making the perfect gym drink: 750ml of water, 250ml of orange juice, 2 tsp of sugar and 1 large pinch of salt.
  • In the make up your mind category:  To get the best workout, it use to be slow and steady (70% of your maximum heart rate). Now the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is saying that high intensity intervals burn as many as 30% more calories. Put the tread mill on high Scotty!

FLU

 

I am not sure why, but I have been getting sick a lot more in the UK than in Canada? I have come down with another mancold at the most inopportune of times. I have to speak at the Mobile Broadband Congress this afternoon and will doing my utmost not to break into a coughing fit.

The really frustrating thing is that I started to vitamin bomb the cold too late and missed the window of opportunity.

Irritating.

HEALING POWER OF CINNAMON AND HONEY

 

An email is floating around the web (as they do) espousing the power of honey and cinnamon. As I am now interested in these things due to my forced health consciousness due to arthritis, I read it. I then went on the web and found this site with a post on the topic. A few that caught my eye …..

TOOTHACHE: Make a paste of one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and five teaspoons of honey and apply on the aching tooth. This may be applied 3 times a day till the tooth stops aching. (Or your tooth rots and fall out).

ARTHRITIS: Arthritis patients may take daily, morning and night, one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. If taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured.
In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week out of the 200 people so treated practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain and within a month, mostly all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis started walking without pain. (I wonder if they forgot to mention that the people were also participating in a test of Ibuprofen in the next building over).

BAD BREATH: People of South America, first thing in the morning gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water. So their breath stays fresh throughout the day.

There are many other benefits – slowing hair loss, curing an upset stomach and on and on. I do know that cinnamon in your coffee is good for you (and is a great flavor).

Who knows. As I was just knocked flat by a 24 hour flu, perhaps it is time to go drink a gallon of honey?

30 RANDOM WAYS TO BE HAPPIER

 

An interesting read here, found on Wil Wheaton’s site. A few that stand out to me:

2. Let go of your need to make all the choices all of the time. Other people have better ones sometimes.

10. Love what you love. Don’t trick yourself or others.

11. Cut out people that bum you out.

14. Ignore social constraints if more convenient or sensible than abiding by them.

15. Learn to play D&D.  If you’re already laughing this one off, learn it immediately. (This one really cracks me up, I know how to play D&D, I did it all through junior and senior high school)

16. Feel free to simply let parts of your past go.

17. Get rid of the stuff you’re hoarding. It’s an emotional drain. (Moving really helps)

21. Whoever makes you happy most of the time, that’s "the one."

From the comments section, an addition:

8. Don’t ever begrudge anyone their personal success, because their success may come in handy to you someday. (A good one that my wife and I have talked about. I would add ‘Be happy for their success’)

I also enjoyed his ‘I am a Macaholic’ blog. Read it here.

RANDOM HEALTH STATS

 A few random health notes …

·         Men’s Healthy, November 2006: A study in the journal Stroke reports that researches have found that coated aspirin is not as effective as plain aspirin in preventing heart disease. In a test with 71 patients, after two weeks those that those who took uncoated aspirin had level of thromboxane (which contributes to blood clots) that were 87% lower than those who swallowed coated pills. I take an aspirin a day, and have switched from coated 80mg a day to uncoated (but could only find it in a children’s bottle).

·         In the October Men’s Healthy, October 2006: The Omega-3 fats found in fish oil reduce chronic pain as we as ibuprofen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. When neck and back pain sufferes replaced their daily NSAID with 1.2 grams of fish oil for 10 weeks, 60 percent reported feeling better. They like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega. I have been trying less exotic names from the local store. A combination of Flax Oil and Omega 3 oils (And trying to eat more sushi! I love sushi). It has almost been a year since I stopped taking inhibitors, limiting my pill intake to the odd Ibuprofen. The arthritis pain is bad sometimes, but for the most part manageable although I am not sure if it is these types of vitamins or the regiment of exercise, constant hydration and trying to reduce processed sugars (Which is the toughest of the three. I am Dutch. I love sweets).

WEIGHT IN BUSINESS

I wanted to expand on the losing weight comment and how it relates to business (See yesterdays blog). In business, we are always going to lunches and dinners which are killers to the waist line. For a few key reasons:

1.       Most people don’t know how much they are eating:  In the January issue of Men’s Health they did a survey of people to determine if they were aware of how many calories are in what they eat (With an eye to the average of 2000 calories per day for a male). I was a bit shocked by the number of calories in some dishes:

a.       Hamburger and Fries: Average guess was 777 calories. Actual number: 1,240.

b.      Fettuccine Alfredo (One of my favourite dishes): Average guess was 704 calories. Actual number: 1,500 … YIKES.

c.       Chicken Fajitas (A Jack Astors favourite of mine): Average guess was 704 calories. Actual number: 1,660 calories.

A friend of mine recently told me about his Maynards Wine Gums experience. He was gaining weight and changing his diet to fix it. One of his vices were 1lb bags of Wine Gums from Costco. At Christmas he had a shock, 12 wine gums have 165 calories. Imagine how many calories are in a 1lb bag!

2.       Most people clear their plate:  It is the depression era, right thing to do! Be thankful that you are not a child in the 3rd world who is starving is what they would say! Clean you plate to show thanks for the blessings we have been provided they would say!

Now apply that logic to a business meal. Appetizer. Entree. Dessert. Drinks. 2000 calories? In a single sitting. It all adds up.

For me, I have implemented the pant waist size warning system to ensure that I am on the right track (I have worn the same pant size for 10 years and it will never change), I exercise a few times a week (It varies, 2, 3 or even 5 times a week depending on life’s schedule) and don’t clean your plate!

(archive) WHAT YOU ARE IN YOUR 40s IS WHAT YOU ARE

My wife has an insightful philosophy: How you are in your 40’s is how you will be in your 50’s, 60’s and on.
 
In your 20’s, you are finding yourself – your sense of ‘me’ does not truly reflect who you are. For myself, the 20’s were a decade of many changes, and candidly, I was many people during that time. Sometimes I was proud of who I was, sometimes not so proud. But it was a period of constant change. I compensated for lack of knowledge with pure energy and I was always learning (There was so much to learn!).
 
In your 30’s, most are experiencing a different type of change. Family life kicks in (children, etc.), the job is getting serious (and is often crazy) and you are building those experiences that shape your vision of self. It is a period of craziness, growth and slowly but surely, becoming who you will be. I would suggest that this is the period where we all recognize that we are not as smart as we thought we were in our 20’s (smile).
 
And in your 40’s most people are who they are. You are comfortable with who you are, it is the peak earning years where you are leveraging your skills and experience to maximize income, the balance between skill, experience and raw energy is attained. In the philosophy, she would also suggest that this is the period where your health is determined. If you don’t work out, watch your weight or take those steps to monitor your health, chances are it will not happen. After all, how many people pick up working out in their late 40’s? Not many I would wager – although those people do cyclically fund a robust multi-billion dollar diet industry.
 
An interesting viewpoint on turning 40:
‘I have been plagued by a gnawing sense of insecurity since childhood, something that I have tried to work on for years. I didn’t always like myself and found it hard to have confidence in myself or my work. Friends and family would often be frustrated when paying me a compliment because I never wanted to believe them. I thought that they were only saying the words to be nice. But for some reason, turning 40 is making me look at my life and the things that I have accomplished differently. What I am realizing is that I really do have some good stuff under my belt. I am realizing that I am the only one holding me back and that I can have another 40 remarkable years if I let myself. I am beginning to truly believe that age is only a number and that the soul is only as old as you feel”. Read the article here.
40 is now 2 years off. Maybe that is why I started working out?

THE METAMUCIL HOTLINE: YES – IT EXISTS (from the archive)

I have stated in the past that I have done stupid things, just part of life. It is good to laugh at myself, helps to ensure I never take myself too seriously. On that note …Last week, my wife was doing a fast/natural cleanse. On Wednesday night she offered to share the fibre drink with me. I declined, but decided to participate by drinking a double dose of Metamucil. The next day, I felt great and was laughing with a buddy about cleansing. He mentioned an interesting stat, the average male has 10 lbs. of gunk stuck in the digestive track from red meat and the like. From Colon Complete 3000 (As seen on TV):
 
A toxic colon is a major factor in the development of food intolerance leading to chronic ill health. You cannot expect to be well if the main organ responsible for ridding the body of toxic waste is under-functioning. When the colon is irritated by diet, stress, drugs, chemicals, and other substances, it tries to protect itself by producing more mucus. This additional mucus can bind with the sludge from refined foods, such as white flour, and build up on the wall of the bowel, narrowing the lumen. This layer of gluey, hardened feces can weigh several pounds and is a good place for harmful organisms to breed.
 
This got me thinking … So when the fibre drink time came on Thursday night, I doubled down. Well actually, I 8X down. That is right, 8 times the recommended dosage (Note: Don’t try this at home kids).
 
The first clue that this was a bad idea should have been how quickly the drink became thick and undrinkable. I had to add water three times. The first warning that I had made a terrible mistake was after I gagged the drink down. I started reading the label which stated that Metamucil can expand rapidly and cause choking. Uh, OK … In the back of mind, I knew I was in trouble (my stomach was sending signals) as I went to bed. But I hoped that it would pass (no pun intended).
 
At 12:30AM I woke with such excruciating stomach cramps that I thought I was dying. Was it the mushroom soup and food poisoning? Was it the 24 hour Norwalk flu that my son had a week earlier? I had yet to clue into the Metamucil link. The night was not pleasant, I was in a LOT of pain.
 
To make it worse, I had a very important meeting at 730 the next morning with our global VP, new Canadian president, managers and and directors to announce our new boss. No call in allowed, in person only. What am I going to do? I sent an IM to my current boss explaining that I was dying, he said no problem .. You can call in for the first 15 minutes. 7:30 AM arrives, I am in my office when Narda comes in … There is someone on the phone for you (** groan **). Sure enough, the entire room has called my house. Not the type of profiling I am looking for … ‘Hi, is Michael there?’… ‘Who is this?’ (Kids fooling around in the background) … ‘It is the office. Is he there?’ .. ‘One sec’ ..(Everyone listening) ‘MICHAEL PHONE’
 
Around 10AM, I start to worry. It is not getting better, I am dying or giving birth (Note to women: I know, it is nothing like birth. But having never experienced it and as I have a lower tolerance to pain, it is all relative). So I call the Metamucil hotline (Yes, they have a hotline). My anxiety grows as the prompt states ‘If this is a medical emergency, please press 1′. I get (what sounds like) a kid on the phone and explain my situation. After his snickering subsides (In his defense, I was laughing about it too), he explains that while he is not a ‘medical professional’, Metamucil does have the side effect of causing gas and bloating. It is up to me to decide whether or not to go to the doctor.
 
** GROAN ** I decide to hang on and spent until 4:30 PM in agony, when it finally breaks.
 
So be warned, exceed the recommended dosage at your own peril. That being said, I feel very detoxified. I just did it the hard way.
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