No Magic Pill

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Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Does childhood obesity equate to child abuse?

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I know posts have been practically non-existent here of late, but I couldn’t let this one slide.

Travelers Rest teen’s obesity may help expand definition of neglect

By Ron Barnett
Staff writer
July 21, 2009

Jerri Gray was doing all she could to help her son lose weight, according to her attorney, Grant Varner. But something had gone terribly wrong for the boy to hit the 555-pound mark at the age of 14.

Authorities in South Carolina say what went wrong was Gray’s care and feeding of her son, Alexander Draper. The 49-year-old woman from Travelers Rest was arrested in June and charged with criminal neglect. Her son is now in foster care.

The case has attracted national attention. And with childhood obesity on the rise across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Varner believes it could open the door to more criminal action against parents whose children become dangerously overweight.

“If she’s found guilty on those criminal charges, you have set a precedent that opens Pandora’s Box,” he said. “Where do you go next?”

State courts in Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, New Mexico, Indiana and California have grappled with the issue in recent years, according to a 2008 report published by the Child Welfare League of America.

In all of those cases except the one in California, the courts expanded their state’s legal definition of medical neglect to include morbid obesity and ruled that the children were victims of neglect, according to the report. Criminal charges were filed only in the California and Indiana cases, but the parents weren’t sentenced to jail time in either, the report says.

In the California case, the mother of a 13-year-old girl who weighed 680 pounds was charged with child abuse, but the child died before the case was decided in 1998, and charges were reduced to a misdemeanor level, according to the report. In the Indiana case, the mother was sentenced to probation and community service, the report says.

More recently, the case in New York in 2007 involved an adolescent girl who weighed 261 pounds, according to the report. The court ordered nutritional counseling, cooking classes and gym workouts, the report says.

Most cases of childhood obesity aren’t abuse, but some may amount to neglect and call for a structured plan of action that’s accountable to a court, said Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America. Criminal charges may be appropriate in some cases as a last resort, she said.

“I think I would draw the line at a place where there are serious health consequences for the child and efforts to work with the family have repeatedly failed,” she said.

Most of the time, the health problems associated with childhood obesity don’t become chronic until adulthood, which makes it difficult to charge parents with child abuse, she said.

In the South Carolina case, the mother followed nutritional guidelines set for her son by the state Department of Social Services, but the boy apparently got other food on his own while not under his mother’s supervision, Varner, the mother’s attorney said.

The boy has been placed in foster care, and Varner hasn’t been allowed to speak to him. Gray, the mother, has signed an agreement with a film documentary company for exclusive rights to her story and couldn’t comment for this article, Varner said.

“There’s a strong likelihood that this kid is going to school and could eat whatever he wanted to at school because you’ve got friends who will help him buy food or will give him their leftovers,” Varner said. “The big question is what is this kid doing when he’s not in mom’s care, custody and control?”

Greenville County Schools spokesman Oby Lyles declined to comment in response to that.

“This is not a case of a mother force-feeding a child,” Varner said. “If she had been holding him down and force-feeding him, sure, I can understand. But she doesn’t have the means to do it. She doesn’t have the money to buy the food to do it.”

The case could have ramifications beyond parental control over obesity, to other eating disorders, and even other behaviors not related to weight, Varner believes.

“What about the parents of every 16-year-old in Beverly Hills that’s too thin? Are they going to start arresting parents because their child is too thin?” he said.

“If your 14-year-old goes down the street and gets pregnant or breaks the neighbor’s window or steals the neighbor’s car, can the parents now be held criminally liable for that child’s acts as well?”

Jolene Puffer, a personal trainer in Asheville, N.C., said the problem, often, is parents “loving their kids to death,” especially in low-income families where food is one of the few things they can afford to give their children.

But too often, she said, school officials and doctors are “not sounding the alarm” when they should.

Puffer took one local family as a volunteer project and helped a 16-year-old boy who weighed 434 pounds to lose 110 pounds, while his mother lost more than 80 pounds and his sister shed nearly 50.

A social services counselor had recommended that the boy apply for Medicare, which Puffer said could have set him up as a lifelong disability case.

Puffer faults the social services agencies and schools for not doing more to help obese children.

“For the last year of their life, I have been their only advocate,” she said.

States haven’t been inactive in trying to combat childhood obesity, though, according to a report released this month by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For example, 20 states have passed requirements for schools to do body mass index screenings or other weight-related tests of children and adolescents, up from four states five years ago, according to the report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America.”

But it says although every state requires physical education in schools, the requirements “are often limited, not enforced, or do not meet adequate quality standards.”

The same report says 30 percent of children in 30 states age 10-17 are overweight or obese, with the rate hitting a high of 44.4 percent in Mississippi.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of obese children age 6-11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, while the rate for adolescents more than tripled.

Ron Jones, a corporate wellness expert based in Atlanta and Los Angeles, uses the phrase “child obesity is child abuse” in his promotional materials and says the nation as a whole has turned its head the other way when it comes to accepting that concept.

“If you gave your child a drug, you’d be held in the court. But if you kill them with food, that seems to be acceptable,” he said.

The difficulty with prosecuting such cases, according to Richard Balnave, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, is that most state laws require that the child’s health be in imminent danger for criminal charges to be filed, and the parent must be capable of helping the child but doesn’t take the necessary action. Obesity in children, while potentially dangerous, does not generally put a child in imminent danger, he said.

Supreme Court rulings have recognized the right of parents to raise their children how they see fit, Balnave said, but not to the point that the child’s health is endangered.

The arrest warrant in the Jerri Gray case alleges that her son’s weight was “serious and threatening to his health” and that she placed him “at an unreasonable risk of harm.”

Virginia Williamson, general counsel for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, said her agency petitioned the Family Court for custody of the 16-year-old, “because of information from health-care providers that he was at risk of serious harm because his mother was not meeting his medical needs.”

The department “would not take action based on a child’s weight alone,” she said, but only in “cases where health-care professionals believe a child is at risk of harm because a parent is neglecting to provide necessary medical care.”

Gray failed to appear at a Family Court hearing in which her child was to be turned over to foster care, according to a warrant issued in May. Police later found her with the boy in Baltimore County, Md., and took her back to South Carolina, where she was released on a $50,000 bond, her attorney said.

Talk about a sticky situation. I’ll make my comments in a minute, but just to give you an idea of the varying opinions on the topic, I give you some selected remarks from a message board discussion going on as I type this: “yes,” “no,” “maybe.” Of more substance (edited for spelling, grammar, and brevity; some content NSFW):

Yeah, obesity is not a black-and-white term. There would have to be a precise defintion.

In the article posted, yes. Not in every case. I think there are issues of income and parental knowledge that do come into play.

It does not take knowledge to see fat. Really fat fat. So, at some point, you have to take responsibility and get help if you can’t handle it.

(Food as Entertainment)
I think that from my generation to the present (there are many in between!) I have witnessed the transition of food from being something you ate hastily, so that you could go out and play, to being a pastime in and of itself. There is, I would venture a guess, far more eating for pleasure than for pure sustenance.

Combine that with the fact that kids today usually have much more access to food than kids did in my generation. You never went to the kitchen to just get something without asking your parents first. Mom always knew what was in her refrigerator and what was missing. There were always special things in the house “for guests only” that we never touched. Restaurants were a treat and not a way of life. Now, with parents out of the home most of the time, kids fend for themselves and parents simply replenish the supply on a regular basis without thought to what and how much has been consumed.

(Food Discipline)
There was actually a certain “discipline” about the use of food. You didn’t take without asking, and when it was put in front of you, you were expected not to waste it even if you didn’t like the taste. There was, in a way, a certain measure of respect for food that is missing today. Portions are enormous. We grab more than we can eat and throw away more than we consume without a thought to the waste.

Add to this that the average teen has more money in his/her pocket than I carried as an adult. This has to do with access, as well. They are able to go out and buy their own food at will and a lot of that food is relatively cheap and definitely fattening.

It can’t be easy for a parent, single or otherwise, but when the scales are tipping a quarter ton, there has to be an assignment of blame.

I think its more stupidity than abuse. The mother claims she doesn’t have time to cook because of her hours, so the kid eats unhealthy. She could just cook for him one day for the entire week so he has a healthier meal every day, but then again he might just eat the week’s worth of food in one day.

It’s neglect, plain and simple. No different then if the kid had the flu and she told him to fuck off instead of going to a doctor. Worse actually because buying some veggies instead of cookies is a lot easier then going to a doctor. I don’t want to hear that she doesn’t know any better because that’s bullshit. Maybe she doesn’t know the ideal macronutrient breakdown, but she sure as shit knows that broccoli is better than an ice cream sandwich.

That’s sad. And grossly irresponsible as a parent. Parents like this piss me off to no end. If you don’t teach your child the value of certain things like exercise and nutrition (to name a few), how else are they supposed to learn? Good job setting your child up for a lifetime of heartache, lady.

And so on and so forth. There are, of course, several tangents stemming from this discussion, namely rising health insurance premiums, various taxation methods, (un)restricted procreation (think Idiocracy), and (lack of) sex education.

There are two subjective metrics in play here, neither of which has a definitive boundary: obesity and abuse. Obesity has little to do with actual weight as two hundred pounds is vastly different depending on body style, body fat percentage, body fat deposit disposition, activity level, training protocols, and several other variables. My two hundred-plus pounds are far different from those on a five-foot-three, sedentary female. Sure, there’s a trigger in our minds that says “fat” or “not fat,” but it’s different for everyone, and in the case of the above article, I’m pretty sure all of us would say “fat.” The problem is how to standardize that trigger.

As for abuse, it’s the same as obesity. Some people consider Olympic-calibre gymnastics to be abusive while others think it’s the epitome of youth athletics. A bruise or broken bone suffered during a rec league soccer game is different from those suffered at the hands of a deranged parent. People can scream “case by case” until they’re blue in the face, but in today’s society, that’s not going to last very long without some debilitating legal implications.

So, does childhood obesity equate to child abuse? If you know me outside this blog, then you know my answer. Here, though, I’ll refer to yet other commenters:

The more that I think about it, the more that I think that it’s not about education as much as it is about personal responsibility. Talking about sex obviously. I would venture to say that at least 99.999% of pregnant teenagers knew prior to their actions that they could get pregnant. The issue is that they don’t fear the consequences of those actions. This is because we (society and especially the government) have too many crutches in place to support this behavior. There is no sense of survival of the fittest. They know that if something happens they can always fall back on the government to take care of them. Sad.

It’s also more and more common for parents to accept this as the way of the world. I’m not even old, but when I was in high school, parents would kick some ass if their kid was fucking around. I’m sure it was 1,000 times more strict for someone much older than me growing up. Now parents coddle their kids and blame everything on someone else.

It never ceases to amaze me that you have to get a license to drive. You have to register to vote. You have to put a license on your fucking BICYCLE in most cities. But any motherfucking dipshit who can fuck is allowed to have as many kids as they want and fuck them up with very little consequence.

Enough from me. Your turn.


Posted in Issues | 1 Comment »

The shave IS the haircut

Posted by Ben on Sunday, June 14, 2009

It’s done. The only visible hairs on my head are my brows and lashes. Before getting to the pictures, I’d like to thank everyone who donated, attended, and/or just spread the word. A little over a month ago, a couple guys were being guys (online, but that’s beside the point), and in the end, $225 went to the Komen Foundation (I’ll keep the fund page active for awhile so Jay’s pictures can be seen).

So far (a day), so good with no hair, and oddly enough, I kind of like the look and feel (more research needed, especially when working out and/or out in the sun for extended periods of time). If I decided to keep this look, I’ll invest in a HeadBlade, but I want to give this a couple weeks before making that call. For now, it’s very stubbly and feels like chapped skin, which I assume will go away the longer I’m bald and applying lotion. I will say that I like the thought of saving around $150 per year on haircuts.

Lastly, I put together a quick-and-dirty compilation of the videos taken, but it blows away YouTube’s size limits (that’s what she said), so I’ll be doing more editing and hopefully get it uploaded tomorrow, after which I’ll embed it at the bottom of this post.

Now, without (even) further ado…

And as promised, here’s the video (finally):

Still not as cool as this guy (NSFW language), but close.

Posted in Events, Issues | 4 Comments »

Gimme shelter

Posted by Ben on Monday, May 11, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I went on my first mass-group motorcycle ride. I’ve had my Harley since July 2005, so it took nearly four years for me to ride with more than one other bike, and I’ve only done that twice that I can remember. I’m perfectly happy riding solo since that allows me to chart my own courses and timetables while not having to coordinate rest breaks and calls of nature. However, a mass-group ride had been one of the few things I hadn’t experienced on the bike, and since this particular ride was put on by one of my radio stations (and since I’d been invited on the previous five iterations), I finally pulled the trigger.

The weather was pristine if a little hot, the laps around Lowe’s Motor Speedway were surreal, and the pictures from the ride were great, not to mention a lot of money was raised for a good cause. That’s about all the good I have to say about it, though. Just before buying my motorcycle, I took an intensive rider training course from a local Harley dealer that went far beyond what is generally taught at community colleges and the DMV here, and I’m admittedly a borderline paranoid rider—hey, all I have between me and the next thing is a helmet and some minimally protective clothing compared to the seat belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and every other gadget designed to idiot-proof regular cars and trucks.

With that course as my introduction to riding, I had the impression that the majority of motorcycle riders are at least nearly as cautious and observant as I am since we have to deal with the cluelessness of other drivers anytime we’re on the road. Instead, it seems that the majority of riders bring their four-wheel habits to two-wheelers, which made the actual ride that day a fairly stressful event, whether it was people not keeping speeds, not holding their formation lines, or not giving room for our law enforcement escort to pass (one officer ended up in an ambulance with serious though non-life threatening leg injuries). Let’s just say I’m all but done with anything that might involve more than a half-dozen bikes.

So, my impression of motorcycle riders was shot. It was a (most likely) one-time event that I can keep in the back of my mind and remember on rare occasions as needed. When it comes to health and fitness knowledge and practice, though, my assumptions are obliterated on a fairly regular basis, as if the moment I think things are either becoming somewhat sane or couldn’t get any worse, something happens that just blows my mind. Some examples:

KFC – Good thing they shortened their name to just an anagram, or the new marketing ploy wouldn’t work so well, but it has to be a good thing since Oprah endorses it, right?
—Wii Fit – I still don’t see how standing and leaning is considered a health benefit (especially if you’re cheating). BS testimonials are no help.
—Dance Dance Revolution – Speaking of video games, sure, you’re getting up off the couch, but how healthy is it for you to jumping and stomping on your heels (and you most likely will, thanks to deactivated glutes, foreshortened hamstrings, and overactive quads)? And you think your knees, hips, ankles, and lower back hurt now…
—Tracy Anderson –

Another case: a co-worker who, by most standards, is a fit and active person. He runs a three-to-five miles a few times a week, limits his calorie intake, and occasionally “lifts weights.” I’m not disparaging the guy—he tries and, for the most part, succeeds—but every now and then, when he asks me this or that about something health-related (usually nutrition), he’ll pull out some gem from the original food pyramid days with a measure of seriousness that he’s decided is the next step in maintaining or improving his fitness level, often contradictory to what I’ve found to be most beneficial (yep, chicken again, and yep, doing my weirdo foam rolling again).

Three words describe my understanding of people who still ascribe to long-outdated health guidelines like a carb-heavy, low-fat diet or three sets of twelve reps in circuit fashion on the numbered machines at the gym: DOES NOT COMPUTE. There’s just this sense of bewilderment at how what was once groundbreaking “knowledge” that has since been exhaustively refuted is still accepted as gospel. I fully admit that I live a relatively sheltered life. I do my reading and research and experimentation, I subscribe to various blogs and a couple journals, and I surround myself with like-minded people who both encourage and challenge my ideas on what it really means to be healthy. This has meant that I went from “lose fat at all costs” to “machine circuit warrior” to skipping the fundamentals to embracing the very basics of human movement. That’s not say I’m done—far from it—but I like to think I constantly challenge my own thinking to see if it’s still, ya know, valid. For example, I know I was sheltered in living downstairs from the office before the recent move; now I’m dealing with the same food prep and packing issues as other people who brown-bag it (more so since 99% of my commutes are on the motorcycle right now). Anyone else deal with this on a semi-regular basis?

Gah, I want to go lift something really heavy now. Instead, I’ll be doing some SMR and mobility work as scheduled since I haven’t done anything substantive in a few weeks, and I need to ramp up my conditioning a bit before jumping back in. Speaking of which…

Quick updates:
—The old/new house (hard to call a thirty-five year old house “new”) is going well. Lots of small-ish projects completed with many more to go. The romanticism of a reel push mower is gone, though—I can hack out the quarter-acre front yard well enough, but the acre-plus back yard is a different story altogether (read: ain’t happening), so I’ll be buying a gas-powered push mower and trimmer/edger next week. The back yard is plenty of workout that way, too.
—The hand laceration has closed up nicely, though there’s still some subcutaneous healing to be done, and the wound is nowhere near as elastic as normal. The blisters from the reel mower yesterday are a nice touch.
—I’ve been studying my IYCA Level 1 materials for a few weeks, but I’ve had no chance to block out four hours to watch the DVDs all the way through in one sitting, so I’m hopeful that this weekend’s beach trip will give me that opportunity. There’s really no reason to think that I won’t submit my exam by the end of the month. Then I can legitimately add some letters (and for-hire services) after my name :)

Posted in Issues, Rants | Leave a Comment »

Another magic pill gone bad?

Posted by Ben on Sunday, May 3, 2009

The thermogenic craze of a few years ago may have just officially come to an end. Caffeine wasn’t enough, and actual steriods (rather than all the stuff lumped into the “steroids” category by fearmongers and moralists) were/are really illegal and really dangerous in the hands of people who didn’t do their homework on how to properly use them. Enter the so-called metabolism boosters. Ephedra, yohimbe, even green tea extract, all marketed to make you think that you could still sit on your ass all day and still burn extra fat (to the exclusion of other tissues) just by taking these pills. As of Seven-Minute Abs wasn’t lazy—er, efficient enough, now exercise was completely unnecessary altogether. Pop a pill and RRRAAAAAAAWWWRRRR WATCH THE FAT MELT AWAY GET RICH GET LAID NOW!!!!1!11!!1!1 Or something along those lines.

Caffeine continues to be legal, embraced, and marketed in ever-growing fashion as the world’s most widely-consumed stimulant despite its addictive qualities identical to some narcotics. Yohimbe remains legal as the only non-Viagra variant shown to help treat impotence, which carries tremendous weight in public policy *rolls eyes*. Guarana is making a muted comeback in various forms after fizzling out from PepsiCo’s short-lived Josta drink. Ephedra is illegal in the US based on scant research, correlation interpreted as causation, and simple ignorance—yes, ephedra can CONTRIBUTE to heart problems… if you take SEVERAL TIMES the recommended dosage, fall into dehydration, and attempt to exercise intensely in hot, humid weather, but I digress. Spanish Fly is also illegal for similar correlative reasons. That literally leaves caffeine, which like alcohol is just as dangerous as other “sin” products, yet the moral majority has decided that this particular vice is okay (I won’t even get into the marijuana discussion here, but you can imagine where I stand on the issue). Energy drinks are now just a hodgepodge of caffeine, sugar, maybe some B-vitamins, and who knows what in those “proprietary blends.”

Hydroxycut has (finally) been officially recalled by the FDA. Of course, that means very little considering the “evidence” used to make that decision. Are you ready for this? Twenty-three reported cases—over the past few years—of liver problems and one—ONE—death only POSSIBLY linked to Hydroxycut usage out of over nine MILLION packages sold LAST YEAR ALONE. No causation has been publicly shown (to my knowledge), only correlations based on anecdotal evidence. Awesome. A friend of mine quipped, “Don’t forget that eight million of those nine million are frat boys. Drinking in excess isn’t the best thing for liver support in the first place.” Probably a little too generalized, but a good point nonetheless.

I’ve never used the stuff, but I have used ephedrine, a couple thermogenics from Biotest, and even Stacker. Hey, I was young(er) and naive, and while these things did literally give me some warm fuzzies and maybe a heart skip here and there, not only did I learn to minimize strenuous activity for a few hours after taking this stuff (talk about seeing stars), I also started with the recommended dosage and adjusted according to my reaction (at one point, I was taking one-quarter doses because I didn’t like how full or half doses made me feel), stayed hydrated since that was a suggestion on the product packaging, and otherwise eased myself into usage.

No reaction from Anna Nicole Smith’s estate so far. Rawr.

Posted in Issues, Nutrition | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Ben on Friday, January 16, 2009

I’m in the middle of a catching-up post from the past week, but this flew across my RSS reader a few minutes ago:

Got game in 7th grade? NCAA says you’re a prospect

Giving in to the young-and-younger movement in college basketball recruiting, the NCAA has decreed that seventh-graders are now officially classified as prospects.

The organization voted Thursday to change the definition of a prospect from ninth grade to seventh grade — for men’s basketball only — to nip a trend in which some college coaches were working at private, elite camps and clinics for seventh- and eighth-graders. The NCAA couldn’t regulate those camps because those youngsters fell below the current cutoff.

“It’s a little scary only because — we talked about this — where does it stop?” said Joe D’Antonio, chairman of the 31-member Division I Legislative Council, which approved the change during a two-day meeting at the NCAA Convention. “The fact that we’ve got to this point is really just a sign of the times.”

Schools had expressed concern that the younger-age elite camps were giving participating coaches a recruiting advantage, pressuring other coaches to start their own camps.

“The need to nip that in the bud was overwhelming,” said Steve Mallonee, the NCAA’s managing director of academic and membership affairs.

Though men’s basketball is the only sport affected, D’Antonio said he could envision future discussions on lowering the limit for other sports, notably football.

In other moves, the council deferred decisions on the NBA Draft declaration window, the admission of women’s beach volleyball as an emerging sport, the admissibility of online courses and the length of the baseball season. All will be submitted to the NCAA as a whole during a comment period and will likely be put to a vote again by the council in April.

The Atlantic Coast Conference proposed that underclassmen be given a 10-day period to decide whether to remain committed to entering the NBA Draft. Currently, a player who declares for the draft can take up to two months to mull over his decision, leaving his team in limbo.

D’Antonio said the consensus seemed to be that 10 days was too short of a span for a player to fully explore his draft prospects, but that the current window was too long. A compromise time period will probably be put to a vote in April.

“Is there somewhere in the middle that we can meet that would make the majority of the membership pleased?” D’Antonio said. “It appears we could be headed in that direction, but it’s too early to tell.”

Beach volleyball, which is NCAA is calling “sand volleyball” in the quest for more universal appeal, didn’t get the two-thirds approval necessary but looks certain to pass after the comment period, when only 50 percent of the vote is needed. If passed, it would be placed on the list of emerging sports for women in 2010.

The council gave four low-participation women’s sports the ax from the emerging list: archery, badminton, team handball and synchronized swimming.

In an era in which students are taking many courses online, the council wasn’t ready to allow athletes to do the same. Proposals to allow athletes to take online courses at other schools were defeated, as was a proposal to allow athletes to take all of their courses online at their own school. The council did leave open the possibility of an April vote that would allow athletes to take up to 50 percent of their courses online at their own school.

“There are perception concerns,” D’Antoni said, “that if you have an individual who is a high-profile student-athlete who’s taking nothing but nontraditional courses and never setting foot on campus, how is that going to be looked at by the general public?”

The council defeated a proposal to increase the number of scholarships for baseball but left open for comment proposals that would change the length of the season and reduce the number of games.

Today, the NCAA is scheduled to vote on whether to override a new rule that would prohibit men’s basketball coaches from attending popular but unsanctioned April tournaments for high-schoolers.

I’m going to let this one sit and simmer for a bit, but feel free to have at it in the comments section, and write the NCAA while you’re at it.

Posted in Issues | Leave a Comment »

When “health” becomes a game show…

Posted by Ben on Sunday, January 4, 2009

So, we’re already a few days into 2009. How are things going? For me, I’m approaching a full month away from formal training, so “antsy” doesn’t begin to cover it, but I’m this close to being pain-free (shoulder, hip)—all this throughout-the-day corrective work I’ve been doing must be helping (not to mention I probably just needed the break after promoting imbalances for several months, silly rabbit). I’ve made a couple concerted efforts to start formal training again, but literally every time I’ve started to head down to the basement, one of the dogs gets sick—if it’s not the puppy piddling in the floor, it’s the big boy barfing bits of hard plastic he decided looked yummy, meaning dogs get wiped up, floor gets mopped, and laundry gets started. Needless to say, I have plenty of fodder for that “bare necessities” post I’ve mentioned yet not written (I’m actually writing this post off and on at work today while it’s slow; the other post is taking longer as I’m having to go back and look for a good, short, quick-hit list of stuff). At any rate, I’ll have some belated New Year’s links coming up.

Aside from the expected election campaign-esque glut of commercials around this time of year for “fitness” and “health” items rather than politicians (though all make promises they ultimately won’t/can’t keep), I’ve noticed more frequent and sensational commercials for the show The Biggest Loser. I’ve never seen the show and have no desire to—ever—but apparently it’s now too much work for individuals to do the show, so this season is taking a page from The Amazing Race (haven’t seen that one, either) and making it a two-person team thing, the difference being that TAR has people busting hump to get places while TBL just has people (supposedly) busting hump. On top of that, TBL is screaming about having its heaviest-ever contestant (who, lo and behold, hails from good ol’ North Carolina—way to go, PR machine!) at four hundred-plus pounds. Wanna hazard a guess as to who has the inside track on winning this season? (Note: I have no idea if the game is won based on raw weight lost or percentage of starting body weight or what. I don’t care. It’s all ridiculous.). I probably don’t need to express (again) my inherent skepticism at the “personal trainers” supervising the weight loss in a “safe and recommended manner through comprehensive diet and exercise” other than to say this: the show is on a deadline to fit into a TV season, meaning there’s a deadline to drop whatever weight can be dropped, meaning I’d bet dimes to dollars that if a contestant really wanted to, he/she could take some extreme, even dangerous measures to shed pounds. Frankly, I’m just waiting for someone to die, and I’m also willing to bet that the show’s producers don’t go out and do feel-good montages of the continuing, successful lifestyle changes previous contestants embrace. I digress…

The questions that popped into my head during one of these commercials are (possible rant warning):

1. When did weight loss have to become a game show? Are people so helpless that they have to have the incentive of millions of people watching, a dozen people tracking their every movement, and a $250,000 prize? Is a long, fruitful life of being able to, oh I dunno, walk, bend, squat, and so on not enough of a reward? Hell, even my health insurance provider has a “fit lifestyle” rewards system (how they track it, I don’t know; all I know is that my premium goes up at least 25% every year for no f*cking reason). It seems to be akin to a “condition” I recently read about called Truman syndrome, where the “afflicted” believe their lives are actually a TV show and that they are being watched and manipulated at all times. Hear me now and listen to me later: You. Are. Not. That. Important. Get over it (by first getting up off the couch). Seriously, though, why does it take so much incentive to make life at least bearable and average rather than being painful and short-of-breath? No one held a gun to your head until you ballooned to three hundred pounds in the first place.

2. What kind of person(s) would watch a show like TBL? The same people who watch Jerry Springer: people who want to feel better about themselves by looking at how messed up other people are. I’m willing to bet that a large portion of the audience could stand to be on the show themselves (TBL and/or Springer). If you want feel-good stories, grab a Reader’s Digest. If you need to wallow in others’ misery to feel better about yourself, then you’re no better than they are (likely worse). If you’re really that hard-up for entertainment, either turn the channel to Discovery and actually learn something, or turn off the TV (no, really, I’m serious) and find a book/magazine/park/sidewalk. Those things do exist, and in great quantities.

3. What about the people who want to but can’t participate on this show? Part of the answer lies with question #2. The other part lies with my comments about the show’s producers. This show, just like 99% of the “health” and/or “fitness” products being peddled, is a temporary fix. I may be horribly mistaken about the follow-up stories from previous seasons (really, this is season 5!), but even if they do happen, they aren’t promoted. People don’t want feel-good; they want fat bastard (not to mention wanting the excuse that the contestants have supervision while the person watching the show just doesn’t have the time/money/backbone). The results, like the program, are temporary, short-lived, and not an internal shift. I’ll admit that there’s a SLIGHT possibility that something like this MIGHT be the much-needed kick in the pants for a couple people, but by and large, this is an external stimulus suppressing internal conviction (or lack thereof), not an actual internal change in resolve to maintain and improve upon the changes, and that’s just with something like this that’s closely supervised (and in the case of the show, practically compulsory). Even the accountability is temporary and largely ethereal (the millions of viewers might take their dismay and ridicule to Internet discussion boards, but that’s about it).

Reality TV in general is arguably the worst creation since daytime talk shows or maybe soap operas (no coincidence all are related to TV). Making personal health the cash cow for ratings and advertising dollars is… well… I can’t think of a civilized word that adequately expresses my disdain, but it ain’t good.

Housekeeping note: I’ll be going back and re-categorizing my posts over the next few weeks to make them more relevant only to the topics of discussion rather than including the links as well. As it is, I could legitimately categorize every post as everything, meaning the categories are pointless. Hey, I’m learning :P

New Year’s leftovers: three R’s, why resolutions don’t work (someone must’ve read my last post, but you’ll probably make them anyway), both NROL books went to paperback so go buy them, Eric’s rotten resolutions, hey from Ross, hey from Cassandra, hey from (long lost) Geoff, hey from Mark, Brian recommends some books, Tony’s last hurrah and first hatred, events and people to watch, websites to avoid, Times Square tech (pictures and goodies), Wired’s top thirteen stories, top videos, top vaporware, ten green tech breakthroughs, ten photo galleries, 2009 movie guide, predicting gaming trends.

Body bits: the fitness trifecta, randomness training, dealing with frozen ankles, Charles Atlas and (lack of) weights, homemade T-handles, grab bag of tools for mobility and rehab, corrective exercise myths, got snow and/or trees?

Edibles: a small reason to read labels, two proper studies supporting low-carbing, Paul continues his Trader Joe’s whoring (he got me hooked on their turkey chili), reason to question peanuts and green tea (not that I’m ready to decrease my own consumption), a Willy Wonka to feed the world, a university teaches Precision Nutrition.

Mind matters: memory decline may affect blood sugar control, different brains take different risks.

Kiddie corner: forty years of coaching, some teen diabetes cured with gastric bypass, virginity pledges don’t work.

Fiscal fitness: gadgets for hard times, get second opinions.

General health: as if you needed more reason to sleep, sun stuff, hazards of third-hand smoke.

—Transportation: greening of motorcycles, Lotus scans polar ice, quest for the 300mph helicopter.
—Tech stuff: Windows 7 Beta leaked, BlackBerry for n00bs, Twittering up the US image, another Internet threat come and gone (hopefully), 30GB Zunes dying, quarter-century of Mac, Zambonis phasing out, DIY genetic engineering.
—Nature: hair as fertilizer, Jurassic Park of agriculture, carbon-neutral gym (machines still suck), a case for diversity, why Neanderthal disappeared, beauty of evolution, Hubble’s namesake says we’re not alone, Dark Skies Awareness.
—Miscellaneous: Mac that’s not a Mac, how YouTube is changing social interaction, from ice cubes to ice castles, packing for an apocalypse.

Git r dun:
—Do your behaviors match your goals?
—Hope and recovery.
—Good guys do succeed.
—You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.

Posted in Issues, Rants | Leave a Comment »

Movember final product

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yikes. Well, there it is, untouched for just over a month with the exception of some plucking here and there to keep it semi-even (my right side grows a bit more liberally than my left). I don’t know, though—I’ve kind of gotten used to it, but I still don’t like the length. At any rate, people were kind enough to donate a total of $65 on my behalf. Not bad for having no fundraising goal at all. How cool is that? :)

I’ll trim and shave and shape and see what happens in a couple days—no, it didn’t get done today since it was a busy day of the gym, washing all the dogs, getting another pup adopted out (man, the two yesterday were HARD to give up, but there are still three black chow pups available), and otherwise making it through on some iffy sleep. My “weekend” is over now, so since I’ll be back at work for my usual week, I can actually get some stuff caught up on here.

Posted in Events, Issues | 1 Comment »

Let the comparisons begin

Posted by Ben on Saturday, November 22, 2008

Okay, it’s time to start naming the beard’s look-alike. I think I’ve outgrown the Robert Urich likeness (gotten that since I was sixteen, so who knows).

Took this just after 7am this morning while at the station, so you get the early-morning STFU look as a freebie.

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, this thing is… well… I’ll just say I don’t know how people do it permanently. I’ve curtailed my beer consumption since I don’t want to waste any getting lost in the whiskers (at least until I remember to get some straws at the next fast food joint I visit *snicker*). I never realized how unevenly my facial hair grows. It’d take a couple months of steady growth and grooming to get it all to even out, and while it’d work well for the grizzled biker look, I think I prefer a more aerodynamic look. At any rate, I’m thinking I’ll just grow it out completely, then take a couple pictures as I experiment with looks while trimming and shaving it down at the end of the month (unless I’m used to it by then).

This is going to be interesting sitting through Thanksgiving lunch with the girlfriend’s family with this thing. I just hope I don’t lose any turkey in there—well, unless it’ll keep until later. Ya know, now that I think about it, I get to wear this thing through the girlfriend’s birthday night out tonight (dinner, dueling piano bar, etc). Shirt, tie, scrub, awesome. I can’t decide if I want to go ahead and attempt grooming it down or just letting it poof as-is. Probably the latter. I’m feeling lazy today, and I’m sure any pictures from tonight will be roundly mocked regardless of facial hair :)

Posted in Events, Issues | Leave a Comment »

Who wants a puppy?

Posted by Ben on Saturday, November 15, 2008

This isn’t going to be a normal blog from me. Long story short, yesterday I came into possession of a litter of nine puppies who were staying out in the weather, which has turned rainy the past couple days and looks to get below freezing through next weekend.



Black – Moe (smaller girl), Larry (boy), Curly (bigger girl); white – Wilbur (runt boy), Rascal (bigger boy); brown – Tinny (darker-faced boy), Zorro (lighter-faced boy); fawn – Scooter (boy), Lyra (girl).

Yes, they’ve been named. I don’t know why. It wasn’t my idea—well, not all of them; I was going to give them all names of some of my favorite literary characters, but Lyra (Northern Lights) and Wilbur (Charlotte’s Web) is as far as I got before the girlfriend got to them, so I had to name a couple on the fly. More pictures on my Facebook.

Right now, they easily fit into half my bathtub, which is where they sleep (for now since I came home from running errands this morning to discover they’d learned how to turn on the water), and my bathroom provides plenty of room to run around and chew on stuff without me having to worry about them messing up the floor (yay tile!). I’m skipping resuming my training this weekend, which was the plan up until this morning after getting maybe three hours of sleep last night (note to self: never have kids), on which I place full blame for my eating two Egg McMuffins this morning. Shame on me (though I did make my weekly farmer’s market run this morning as well), but I’ll be back at it on Monday. Hopefully.

I have no intention of keeping any of them, but I did want to give them a chance to get good homes, so if you or anyone you know in the general Charlotte area is looking to adopt—it’s just over a month until Christmas *ahem*—please feel free to leave a comment below, email me, or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter (can you tell I’m accessible?).


Hey, look! I made it on Mark’s blog! I guess there’s something to that whole “topical” post thingy instead of just, oh I dunno, random crap. I’m SURE it also had NOTHING to do with the fact that (I’m guessing) half or more of the links in my last post were from Mark. Nosiree. Nothing like a little virtual back scratching, eh? Let’s see… he called it “wonderful,” so does that mean I use a similar adjective for one of his posts, his whole blog, or do I just send flowers and a thank-you card?


Now, for the original reason for this post:

Oh yeah, now we’re getting somewhere. In skipping the gym this morning, I was able to go pick up my Harley from its servicing at the dealer. Movember is halfway over, so it’s time to start thinking about grooming (if any). I’ll be okay for another couple days, but it’s going to start getting annoying soon, so I’ll entertain any suggestions for what to do with this scruff (I have a facial hair trimmer as well as a razor, so there are a lot of possibilities).

No links today, but they’re piling up, so be ready for a purge coming soon.

Posted in Events, General, Issues | 4 Comments »

On the cheap

Posted by Ben on Thursday, November 13, 2008

Generally speaking, I can’t say the whole economic mess has affected me much. Even the once sky-high fuel prices weren’t an issue since I work from home or only a mile down the street at the radio station. However, I’m also unmarried, childless, and pretty happy being a homebody for the most part. Most people are not in my position and so have to endure much greater financial expenditures, whether it’s for regular food (let alone GOOD food), fuel to get to and from places, doctor visits, or the cost of a family YMCA membership, and that’s just most middle-aged people—more elderly folks (and those who care for them) are facing their own sets of problems, too. It piles up quickly, especially if jobs and their benefits are in doubt, and when it comes to making budgetary decisions, individuals and families might mimic public schools in foregoing the basics of physical activity and healthful foods. While I can understand that decision, I also think spending priorities are WAY out of line (see: television—why deal with this in the first place, anyway?).

Whether it’s a knee-jerk reaction or a larger social phenomenon, people consistently fail to take their physical well-being into account when making monetary decisions—why is it that someone will drop hundreds of dollars on a “personal trainer” or the latest as-seen-on-TV fad gadget, both equally worthless, but won’t make the relatively minor investment in a jump rope, maybe some stretch bands, and a buggy full of veggies (I won’t get into the farce of “organic,” “free-range,” “farm raised,” etc labels right now)? Or, if you’re going to keep your broadband Internet service anyway (along with your TV), why not take some time to do at least a little research for product reviews and interactive places to ask questions and get (hopefully) informed answers? (Hint: look at the column to the right.)

A primary consequence of cost-cutting measures is a shift toward simplicity and moderation. Fewer resources means fewer options, and as I recently vented, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it should be embraced—humans seemed to do just fine (perhaps better) before Bowflex or Bally’s or Tae-Bo or any number of “Hollywood diets.” You don’t have the option to just tone up *face palm*—you either exercise or you don’t. To that end, I’ve gone back through the archives and picked from some previously unlinked articles to present you with some links with common themes: simplicity, frugality, and efficiency. Please feel free to add anything I missed to the comments section as well as (dis)agree with anything I’ve linked up here. The nice thing about all this stuff is that if/when the economy picks back up, you can continue doing these things and pocket the extra coin.

Note: I know some of the following may seem more expensive than necessary, which is halfway correct. The upfront costs may be slightly more than the most economical choices in the near-term, but the long-term benefits of these practices will more than pay for the initial investments (think: fewer doctor visits, fewer medications, fewer illnesses, etc), an encouraging thought considering the direction some things are going. You may also notice the bulk of the links focus on food or simply doing less. This is because budget-conscious exercise options are easy, but it’s considerably more difficult to abandon our grocery-buying habits or even just slow down. Massive thanks particularly to Mark Sisson’s blog for a wealth of information.

—Train like a prisoner or MacGuyver. Either way, master your body first, then look for free/cheap/homemade equipment.
—Video proof that you can exercise outdoors.
—Running seems like a no-brainer, but be smart about it (find a hill). Walking doesn’t count—you should do more of that anyway.
—Foam rollers = cheap self-therapy (you can also use basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls, and even rolling pins).

—Mark offers some general guidelines and recipes (quickies and snacks, too) to keep in mind.
—Eat seasonally, which in turn means eating more locally (which doesn’t mean boring). Here’s a start to winter, spring, summer, and fall veggies. If you’re in the Charlotte area, I can point you to some local meat farms as well (just drop me a comment or email).
—Ten-dollar meals are the latest rage (thanks, KFC) and promote quick eating. Don’t. You can do better, even by simply eating together.
—Junk food is cheap for a reason: it’s not good for you, but make sure your regular store is keeping up. Or you could cowpool :)
—Resist the cheap carbs, especially the single-serve variety (you can better spend your money elsewhere).
—Reconsider buying in bulk (unless it’s some of the less-desirable cuts of beef that make good jerky).
—Watch out for those liquid calorie bombs (including Jagerbombs).
Guides to square-foot gardening and composting.

—This one’s easy. Just kick them outside, and they’ll figure it out for themselves. In fact, play whatever games they make up. You’ll be gassed by the time they’ve halfway woken up.
—Use some parenting sense, but let the kids be kids, including dirt.

—Barefoot—and other primal considerations—is better (and ultimately cheaper).
—Keep journals for both training and diet. Numbers give you immediate feedback.
—Visit the library or the park (read: free stuff), not a psychic, and remember that it could always be worse.
—Consider the benefits of taking a break (just don’t go overboard). It’s quick, cheap, and easy, though while you’re at it, consider active meditation as well, but don’t think that relaxation doesn’t take work.
Vote every single chance you get (even early, just not often).
Sleep as well as you can, which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re no longer buying that daily four-dollar latte (since sleep is free, that immediately negates an expense).
—Having a kid? Have it a home.
—No matter how bad things may seem, hang in there.

Posted in General, Issues, Nutrition, Training | 1 Comment »