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Archive for April, 2013

Reasonable Cause… and Effect

Some of you may already know that we live in controversial times. The level of mistrust in our government, and the breakdown in common culture has led to a place where people are angry, fearful and suspicious. We don’t trust our public institutions. Whether you are on the health side of things, railing against “Big Ag”, Monsanto, “Big Sugar”, the high fructose conspiracy, or GMO’s, or, if you are on the second amendment side, worrying about a government gun seizure, there is a lot of fear and anger brewing.

My question is how much is justified, and how much is simply rumor and fear mongering? How much is truly conspiracy theory worthy, and how much is just disagreements on what constitutes the public good? For example, lets take GMO’s. We have been genetically modifying our food since agriculture began by selectively breeding, storing seeds, etc. Farmers farmed to feed their families, and traded the surplus for goods and services.  In the 70’s, we had the “green revolution” for an overview, I quote Wikipedia:

Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. It forms a part of the ‘neo-colonial’ system of agriculture wherein agriculture was viewed as more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one.[1]

The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution” credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

One of the primary sentences in that quote is that agriculture became more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one.  This is vitally important, as cities could not have attained the population densities they have without this. The fact that most of us don’t have to farm is a result of the change in farming practice. There is a backlash against this now, as the logical extension is GMO’s and Monsanto. If you are constantly striving to produce more food, at less cost, the choices you make may not be the best in other respects, like ethics or quality. On the other hand, starvation is far less common in the world than it used to be. Even third world nations are having obesity problems. Not dying of hunger is a good thing in my book. So is “Big Ag” is evil or beneficent? Are they conspiring to take over the world or trying to feed a constantly growing population? Is it possible someone could use the power of these large conglomerates to “enslave” us, and to what end?

The gun right debate is similar. Gun technology has vastly improved since the founding fathers fought it out in the 1700’s. We have far more capacity to hurt each other than they did. However, for the most part, gun violence has gone down. Because of modern media, and sick people’s desire to create a huge scene, it appears to be the opposite, than gun violence is increasing. The media and politicians react to this by  saying we must “do something”. Gun owners see this as the end to liberty. Some go so far as to think that some of these tragedies are instigated by the government, in order to create public support for gun seizures.  It is true, that if only the government has guns, they can rule by force. However, is that what those in power intend?  Or intend or not, could that be what happens?

So, are our worst fears groundless? Or do we live in a world where the people around us have evil designs, wanting to take over and control us? Wether they have any intentions of doing so, does the law of unintended consequences dictate that it will occur?

Do spend our money on bunkers and dried food? Just like the saying “a stopped watch is right twice a day”, really bad things happening could justify all our paranoia. Does that mean we should invest all our money in body armor and heirloom seeds? Where is the line between prudent caution and rampant paranoia? I don’t have the answer, other than to say so far everyone who said the world was going to end has been wrong in general, but he was right for the people of Pompeii. Personally, I don’t believe in massive conspiracies. I’ve seen no evidence that people are that smart, or organized. However to quote the title of Robert Bork’s book, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”, we could easily be haphazardly sliding towards our own destruction. I’ve seen no evidence in my lifetime that we are capable of foreseeing the results of our actions and I see that as the real danger, rather than thinking that our fellow human beings are out to get us.

If, as some believe, 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing were done by our government to “distract” us, or any other reason, then it is a world of such petty and unthinkable evil that I could not even begin to comprehend it. In that case all one can say is “come now Lord Jesus”, because I certainly don’t want to survive in the bunker with the rats. Two or four legged.

Read This, Read This, Read This

There, did I say it enough? I always try to write informative and helpful blogs, but Charlotte, from The Great Fitness Experiment is a professional blogger, and it shows. What I want you to read is her post: Eating Disorders Make You skinny” and Other Popular ED Myths, Debunked.  I want you to read it as eating disorders are sneaky, pervasive and more common than you think. Many people who don’t have full blown eating disorders do engage in disordered eating from time to time. (How’s that for a convoluted sentence?) In other words, we can all have food issues from time to time. Most of us have a very hard time looking at food as fuel, and instead, see it as a reward, punishment, sin, indulgence, temptation, comfort and on and on. Even if it is a full blown addiction, it is one we can’t escape, since we need to eat to live.

I think I’ve mentioned before, my mother was anorectic, and it contributed to her early demise. I flirted with it as a teenager and young adult, and fortunately escaped. Anorexia is a frightening, deadly disease, and bulimia isn’t far behind. There are other eating disorders- binge eating and orthorexia (the obsession with healthy eating), as well as other behaviors that don’t fall into the larger catagories- like only eating a limited number of foods, refusing to eat in front of other people, etc. These diseases are hard to diagnose, hard to confront and easy to disguise until it is too late. While most sufferers don’t die from their disease, they are suffering, mentally, physically and spiritually. No one wants their life to be miserable and tortured, but it is hard to see what you are doing to yourself until it is too late.

If you have any concerns that you might have an eating disorder, or someone you care about does, please read this, and use it as a springboard into a discussion or to get help.

Let the Buyer Beware

I’m always looking for new podcasts on health and fitness. It is such a rapidly growing and changing feild that there is no end things to learn about and new information. However, there is a lot of junk out there. One of the new podcasts I sampled is an example of the junk that is out there. It’s called “Duke and the Doctor” . They are entertaining, and there is some fact mixed in with the sales pitch, but make no mistake, they are hawking products and that is the entire thrust of the show.

Here are my problems with their show and the products they are selling:

  1. They are selling “natural” remedies to any and all complaints- any time you take an ingredient and make a pill out of it, it is no longer “natural”.
  2. Their products are all formulas, not individual ingredients. Do you really need all those other components? How do they work together? If you are allergic, which one are you allergic to?
  3. They are selling their remedies as cures for illness. While many herbs do cure illness, most simply support your health for your body to take care of itself
  4. They do mention the real health facts of most of the questions they get- the importance of diet and exercise to most any problem, but then gloss over it to get to selling their solution.
  5. It’s still the mindset that a pill will solve all your problems.
picture of supplements

Does this look natural to you?

People- unless you are eating fresh herbs, there are no “natural” remedies.  The fact that they are made from natural ingredients doesn’t mean much. So are fruit loops, and no one is calling them natural. We need to be honest and smart about what we put in our bodies. Do I take “supplements” to help problems? Yes. Do I think they are safer than what the drug companies sell? Not necessarily. The health food industry is an industry, just like the drug companies. Just like the drug companies, they make money selling drugs. You are buying them to affect your bodily processes- they are drugs. Is a vitamin safer than any other concoction? That depends. If you are on blood thinners, vitamin K can stop them from working. You can o.d. on fat soluable vitamins. Also,  how do the natural drug companies get their vitamin D? E? K? Is the source safe? You would be hard pressed to eat enough carrots to get too much beta caratene, but you can pop a handfull of pills easy enough. Fitday has a blog that covers some of the issues.

In the episode I was listening to, they were comparing an energy drink to coffee, saying that Starbucks coffee had more caffeine than the energy drink, and that the drink was going to market itself as a beverage, rather than an energy supplement, do avoid all the stringent oversight about the amount of caffeine in their product. The hosts made the comment that it proved that the supplement industry was more regulated. Than what? Than food? People, when we say the supplement industry has less stringent regulations, we aren’t comparing it to food regulations, but to drug regulations.

I don’t mind if people who put podcasts out sell products. Everyone has to make a living, and most of the podcasters who sell health products really believe in those products. I do mind if that is the main thrust of the show, and the answer to every question. I have tried some products that seem almost miraculous, but I don’t think pills are the main answer to most questions. Get your diet right, exercise regularly, with thoughtful care, and you’ll find many of your problems go away on their own.


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