Tag Archives: medical

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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Filed under Books, Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, International, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Without the ability to be gay and treat serious things lightly after the serious thinking is done and the decision is reached, I doubt whether any man could long carry the job of being President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt

An article in the New York Times called “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let it Happen to You,” is interesting, especially in light of the robust discussions we have had on this blog about the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The article discusses things that we do to ensure that we are unable to relax, even when on vacation.It offers several helpful tips and suggestions.

We all know how this works and this article validates our experience. The first few days of vacation, it can be difficult to unwind. The last few days of a vacation, we dread returning to real life. Hopefully, we can find a few days in between, where we actually relax.

With the onslaught of technology, especially e-mail and smart phones, many of us remain connected even while on vacation. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t want to return to an avalanche of messages in my inbox, so I handle minor things while on vacation.

But I have considered the dangers of doing this. If something significant occurs and I learn about it while on vacation, what happens to the relaxation and disconnection that is meant to help prepare me to handle these crisis in a better way upon my return?

I lived in New York City when I graduated from college. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the city. I thought Central Park would be a refuge from all of that, but I found the intensity still palpable; it like people were intensely relaxing.

I have written much here about the importance of slowing down and finding a balance between work and life. But if we cannot even give ourselves permission to disconnect when we’re on vacation, what hope do we have?

CopyrightJC Politi Photography

The good news in the article is that we seem to view three day weekends and one day holidays differently than we do vacations.

So, this 4th of July, for those of you in the United States, let’s commit to turning off our work messages completely.

Let’s enjoy the heat that slows everything to a snail’s pace and notice the coolness of the water when we swim and the savor the tastes of the food on the grill and a refreshing cold drink. Let’s take time to laugh with family and friends and play with our pets. Now THAT is freedom!

What do you think? Do we feel the need to remain connected when we are on vacation because of the expectations of our employers or do our employers have these expectations because we remain connected on vacation? Do you have trouble disconnecting when you are on vacation? Do you check e-mail when you are gone?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, Parenting, Peace, Photos, Relationships, Social Media, social pressures, travel

Broccoli Battles: What are the Long-Term Consequences of the Supreme Court Decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

What a week for the United States. I generally shy away from writing about politically divisive issues on this blog, but there is no question that the news of the times this week in the United States was the Supreme Court decision on health reform.

I will not take a position on the merits of the bill here. As I have written previously, I firmly believe the health care system in the United States is badly broken and in desperate need of repair. But I will leave it to the experts to figure out how to do that.

This Supreme Court decision was about much more than just health care. This decision may have placed significant limitations on the future of the federal government to legislate.

While progressives collectively cheered the decision on Thursday and conservatives collectively gnashed their teeth, upon further analysis, I am not sure that these reactions are warranted.

Several recent articles have begun to explore the long-term ramifications of the decision. There will be more to come.

Many of my friends are health care policy experts and I would welcome their thoughts and clarifications here. In my reading of the Supreme Court decision, the Court rejected the use of the commerce clause as a basis for constitutionality and, in effect, punted the Medicaid decision to the states.

Looking through this lens, the decision was not a significant loss for conservatives, especially over the long term. In fact, it may go down in history as a turning point for limiting the powers of the federal government, which is a fundamental conservative principle.

An article in the New York Times goes into some detail about past use of the commerce clause, which has been used to pass legislation ranging from labor protections, to civil rights laws, to the Violence Against Women Act.

If the ruling this week limits the federal government’s ability to use the commerce clause to pass social legislation, this could be a significant gain for conservatives.

The other part of the decision, which has gotten little attention in the media, is the decision regarding the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is the health insurance program that serves low income families in this country.

My understanding of the Supreme Court decision is that the court decided that the federal government can not take away all of a state’s Medicaid funding if a state chooses not to implement the expansions included in the Affordable Care Act.

The court limited this provision to say that the federal government can take only the portion of a state’s Medicaid funding that would have paid for the expansion, but not all of the state’s Medicaid funding, if the state chooses not to implement the expansion.

In effect, the Supreme Court made this provision, which for many, is viewed as one of the most crucial provisions of the law, a state option.

This pushes the question of whether to expand Medicaid onto state governments, where the issue will likely have to be relitigated in political halls on the state level. This will likely be highly politicized and there is absolutely no guarantee that all states will expand this program.

This could mean that, in some states, people with higher incomes, from 133% of the federal poverty level to 400% of the federal poverty level could be given tax subsidies to enable them to purchase health insurance, but families on the razor’s edge of poverty could go without insurance.

Again, I am not advocating any particular position; I am just trying to lay a foundation for robust discussion. But it seems to me that the Roberts decision may, in the long run, have done more to forward conservative ideals than progressive ones.

What do you think? What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision? Why do you think Roberts made such a bold move? Do you believe that there will be long term legal consequences to this decision? How do you think this will affect the November election? Will you or your family personally benefit from the Affordable Care Act? Have you already?

I know this is a complex topic, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Affordable Care Act, Culture, Economy, End of Life, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Obamacare, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Women

No More Golden Parachutes for Firefighters! Why Are Pensions Always the First to Go?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An article in the New York Times this week entitled “When ALEC Takes Over Your Town” examines the financial problems of a town in Rhode Island. This town could be just about any town in the United States.

The article discusses the demise of a proposal to increase taxes to boost the local economy in the town and highlights the fact that one of the two legislators in the House of Representatives who blocked the proposed increase is on the on the national board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

While ALEC is a blog post topic for another day, anyone who is unfamiliar with this group should simply know that this is a highly conservative lobbying group posing as a non-profit, which promotes some of the most mean-spirited state legislation you can possibly imagine.

One of their pieces of model legislation, which they shop around to state legislators around the country, is the infamous Stand Your Ground Law that was the subject of much conversation in the Trayvon Martin case.

ALEC also devotes significant energy to working to shrink the size of government. But again, I have no doubt that I will write a post another day on ALEC.

But what interested me in this article is something that also came up in the comments section from yesterday’s post about the European Financial Crisis. The issue that I would like to explore today is the issue of what many call “bloated” pensions and what impact these pensions are having on budgets around the world.

As one of my brilliant readers noted yesterday, many say that pensions play a significant role in the financial problems in Europe today. We know that this is also an issue here in the United States, especially on the state and local level.

But it is important to remember what we are talking about here – the people who will be receiving these pensions are people who have served their country in one way or another, be it as a teacher, a fire-fighter, a police officer or some other sort of public servant. These are not people with golden parachutes and corporate bonuses.

I would imagine that firefighters and teachers plan for their financial future just like the rest of us. So, what happens when the legislature or local government slashes these benefits? What is the human impact on the people who depend on these benefits?

I understand that the math is complicated when it comes to talking about pensions. And I also understand that we have an aging population which creates complications on a number of levels, with significant fiscal consequences.

But shouldn’t we be focused on finding solutions to the problems that arise with an aging population? And why are the pensions of hard working individuals the first thing on the chopping block?

What do you think? Why do you think there is so much attention right now on pensions? Do you see other ways that a government could address the aging population that could actually help save money? What do you think people do when their pensions are slashed? Are there other areas of the budget where you think states and localities could find savings? Have you, personally experienced a reduction in the benefits you were expecting to receive? How has that impacted you and your family?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading

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Filed under Career Planning, Economy, Education, End of Life, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government

The Price of Slowing Down: What Has Caused the Increased Interest in Buddhist Practices?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An article, entitled “Buddhist’s Delight” is the number one most e-mailed article in the New York Times this morning. This is fascinating to me.

We live in a time where technological advancements have required us all to become multi-tasking masters, enslaved to the pings of smart phones and e-mail. But clearly, many people seek new ways to regain a simple focus on the here and now.

The irony, of course, is that the focus of Buddhist practice is meditation, whereby people sit in silence and attempt to empty their minds to listen to the voice within. There could be nothing less technological than this. And yet people are willing to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to go on spiritual retreats to work on cultivating this silence and emptiness.

I, too, seek the peace that comes from meditation and yoga. I savor the moments at the end of a yoga class when we lay still and listen to our bodies and feel the softening of the mind. But soon after I return to my everyday life, this peace quickly dissipates.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We live in a fast paced world where instant gratification has become the norm. Perhaps this is what causes many of us to seek a religious philosophy which encourages us to slow down.

Imagine a long distance relationship, where you run to the mailbox every day to see if there is word from your far-off lover? Or disconnecting from work every night and waiting until you get back to the office to see if there is anything pressing which needs attention? Really, would this be so bad?

What do you think? How do you explain the interest in Buddhist philosophies and practice? Do you think this is related to the hectic pace of everyday life? Do you practice meditation or yoga or otherwise find ways to try and remain aware and present? Have you found any strategies that help carry this peaceful state into your everyday life? Do you think that interest in these practices will grow or do you think that this is just a fad?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Health, International, Peace, Religion, Technology

Give Me A Break: Why Do the US Jobs Offer So Little Vacation Time?

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Last night on Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher’s final “new rule” was related to the fact that the vast majority of jobs in United States offer little to no vacation time, especially in comparison to the rest of the world.

To see the youtube clip, go to: Real Time With Bill Maher – New Rule June 15th

This really struck me in 1999, when I spent four weeks travelling in Guatemala. I thought I was fortunate to be able to build up enough comp time to take such a long vacation break, until I spoke with people from other countries who expressed their sympathy that my trip was so short. And most of my jobs since then have only had two weeks of vacation time.

It is hard for me to understand why the United States vacation system is so meager compared to the rest of the world. I can only assume that companies are trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of workers.

But I can’t help but wonder whether expectations that people will not take a vacation, or the fear that a person could lose his or her job simply because of using vacation days, actually leads to less productivity in the workplace – and to more sick days.

I believe that the low number of vacation days in the United States also likely contributes to rising health care costs and to increased obesity rates as we all sit on our rear ends for at least 40 hours every week, only to go home so exhausted, that all we can do is sit on our rear ends for a few more hours in front of the television. I can’t believe that this is actually good for any of us.

What do you think? If you are working now, or when you worked previously, how willing were you to use your vacation days? Did you feel pressured not to use your days? Why do you think the United States is so far behind the rest of the world on this issue? Do you think that this will change? What do think it is about the American culture that perpetuates this problem? If you are not from the United States, how many vacation days do people in your country start with when they start a job? And how many vacation days do you have? Do you use them?

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Filed under Career Planning, comedy, Culture, Fitness, Health, Income inequality, International, Politcs, Role of Government, social pressures, travel

Let Them Eat Salt: Who Funds These Studies?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There was an article this weekend in the New York Times that questions conventional wisdom about the harms of salt. I know that my husband will be delighted to read this news, as I believe that he thinks salt should be included as its own food group.

This article is another example of the mixed messages in the media regarding the health consequences of overindulging in one food or another. It is also another example where it seems the wise advice of “everything in moderation” probably applies.

I wrote a blog post last month about how difficult it is to know what health-conscious people are supposed to be eating with all of the mixed messages we get in the media.

One of my readers, Maketheworldworkbetter wrote a fantastic response that really helped me understand the complexities involved with releasing these types of study data and the complexities involved with showing that eating a certain food causes a specific health consequence. His analysis was thorough and informative, so I wanted to share it here.

This article does make me think about the ethical issues surrounding scientific studies, which is a subject I would like to understand more fully. For example, when a study comes out which questions climate change and is touted as hard science, but upon further exploration, is determined to have been funded by the oil and gas industry, should there be a requirement to disclose this information?

What do you think? Do you think the media does a good job critically analyzing studies which they report on? Should there be a requirement that the media disclose who funded a particular study? Or do you think that the public simply does not look with critical enough eyes at these types of reports? Do you look at who funded a study before deciding how much credit to give that study? Do you think that who funds a study impacts the findings of the study? Should it?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I know that this is a complex issue and that I have only briefly opened the door for a conversation here, so I hope readers will help expand the discussion. Thanks so much for reading.

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Filed under Culture, Ethics, Fitness, Health, Policy

What Was I Saying? What are the Consequences of our Multi-Tasking Society?

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An article in this week’s Wall Street Journal, entitled “How to End the Age of Inattention,” provides some excellent food for thought.

We have all heard much discussion about the recent proliferation of multi-tasking in our everyday lives, as many of us text while walking, read e-mail while on the phone, or update our Facebook status while on vacation. This article explores whether the trend of constantly divided attention may have contributed to some of the issues that have been in the media this year, namely the JP Morgan loss and the secret service scandal.

The article highlights a fascinating class, which has been woven into the Yale Medical School curriculum, called “Enhancing Observational Skills,” where students visit a museum to look at classic paintings. They are then asked to describe health related aspects of the people depicted in the artwork.

Apparently, some version of this course has been instituted in a number of schools across the country. According to Linda Friedlaender, the Curator of Education at the Yale Center for British Art:

“We are trying to slow down the students. They have an urge to come up with a diagnosis immediately and get the right answer.”   

This is fascinating to me, as I am generally more likely to see the forest than the trees. To link increased multi-tasking and a reduction in attention spans to the JP Morgan and secret service scandals is intriguing.

While I agree that shorter attention spans, which have clearly become a fundamental component of our society are troubling, I am not sure that this is what led to the scandals the author cites. Scandals like these, especially the secret service scandal, have been a constant, at least in my lifetime. And I am quite sure that any historian could highlight some juicy scandals from the past.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But the author raises an interesting point. Courses such as the one highlighted at the Yale Medical School serve a need. They enable students to step away from all the technological innovations that have been developed over the past 50 years, and forces them to depend more on skills that have been there all along – skills of observation and attention.

Personally, I think this may be a promising new type of progress.

What do you think?  Do you think that there is a correlation between the reduced attention span and recent scandals, as the Wall Street Journal article posits? Are you concerned about the shortened attention spans cited in the article? If you have kids, are you doing anything to try and increase their attention span or to encourage uninterrupted activity? Do you have any tools you use to help yourself with this? Do you use any specific exercises to help you or your kids pay more attention to details? (I could use advice on that last one – in fact on all of these – myself!)

I hope you will take a time to share your thoughts. Thank you for reading!    

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Filed under Career Planning, Education, Health, Parenting, Social Media, social pressures, Youth Leadership

Meet the Jetsons: New Ideas for Innovations

The New York Times posted a list of innovations that are currently in concept mode. The introduction of the article describes the original failure of the electric light bulb and points out that most innovations and successes are the result of much trial and error.

I have heard it said before that most successful people do not see a failure as an end, but rather as an opportunity to try another path. I like that mindset and try to think that way whenever possible.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The list of innovations in the article sounds so futuristic – I guess it is, by its very nature, futuristic. The list includes things like electric clothes that enable your body heat to power gadgets and video games on subway straps that people hold when they ride the subway.A sampling of the ideas – there are 32 in total – includes:

Turning an entire room into a computer monitor and doing away with computer screens

Clothing that will track your activity level and report the information to a computer to encourage exercise

An in-car system that would alert paramedics to possible injuries in a car accident

A mind-reading shopping cart (I like this one, although if it really read my mind , who knows what would end up in my cart – but I may not mind if it would actually shop for me!)

A tooth sensor that would identify plaque and alert your dentist (I like this one a little less)

Edible food packaging

These ideas seem far-fetched, but when I think back to my college days in the early 90’s, e-mail and iPhones would have seemed pretty far-fetched if you had described them to me; in fact, the internet would have sounded the most far-fetched of all!

Sometimes I wonder what changes will occur over the next decade and how I will adapt. Things change at such a rapid pace and at times I find it difficult to keep up. I have to admit that I don’t even understand what Pinterest is! (Feel free to educate me in the comments section, as I know many bloggers are very skilled in this area.)

I also wonder whether a failure to keep up with technological innovation has become the dividing line between who is considered employable and who is considered an unskilled worker. What will this mean for kids who do not have access to much technology? Students leaving college now grew up with this type of rapidly moving innovation and have learned to adapt to the changes. What will that mean for those of us who are running to catch up?

What do you think? Do you picture yourself using any of the technologies listed in these articles? What changes have occured in your lifetime that you never thought were possible? Do any of these ideas make you uncomfortable? How do you try to stay up on the latest innovations? Do you have an idea that is not listed here or any suggestions for budding inventors who may have an idea they would like to create? Have you ever had an idea that failed spectacularly but then led to something that succeeded? Do you think that an understanding of how to use a wide range of technologies will become as important as a college degree? Or do you think that this will just be one of many characteristics that employers will be looking for?

I hope you will add your thoughts. And thank you for reading!

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Filed under Career Planning, Education, Fitness, Health, Parenting, Social Media, Youth Leadership

Can We Make a Glass Look Half Full? What if our Life Depends on it?

There was an article in the New York Times earlier this week entitled “A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full.” It talks about the health benefits of optimism and lays out some suggestions for how we can all be more optimistic. It seems that these stories are ubiquitous lately.

I am always fascinated by these stories. Can a person really change their entire outlook from one of pessimism to one of optimism? And if not, how helpful is it for those of us who are not naturally optimistic to hear that this is bad for our health?

I have always believed that I am an optimistic person, but even I recognize things in this article that I could not live up to in the quest to be a true optimist. I am sure that friends from high school will painfully recall that I was always sure that I would fail every test after I took it – And I suppose that does mar my credentials as an optimist.

I find it hard to believe that a person can truly change something that seems to be so much a part of the fabric of who that person is. But I would love to hear from all of you and be proven wrong.

I do like the strategies suggested in the article and think they are worthy of note:

Regardless of the nature of your work, identify some aspect of it that is personally fulfilling. If your job is scrubbing floors, stand back and admire how shiny and clean they look.

Surround yourself with positive, upbeat people. But be aware that if you are chronically negative and always see only the dark side of things, the optimists in your life may eventually give up on you.

Focus on situations that you can control, and forget those you can’t. I would also suggest using voting power, money or communication skills to forward a goal that is beyond your personal control.

But I am not overly optimistic that these strategies will change the lens through which I see the world.

What do you think? Do you think a person can work to change their outlook from one of pessimism to one of optimism? And what about vice versa? Do you think that a person can become a pessimist based on their life experiences? Do you have any tips or strategies for people who are interested in changing their outlook to become more optimistic? Have you, or one of your family members or friends, successfully worked to change? So much of this seems rooted in negative self-talk – have you found ways to quiet that inner critic that you would be willing to share?

I would love to hear your thoughts. And thank you for reading!   

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Filed under Education, Health, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Women

What Foods are Good for Me This Week?

In today’s New York Times, there is one article discussing the benefits of drinking coffee and one article questioning the positive health impacts of high levels of good cholesterol. It was comical to observe that one of the studies made me cheer – yay, more coffee! – and one of the studies made me frown – boo, less guacamole!

I try to stay on top of the latest health research but it seems like there is a different study coming out every week touting the benefits of one food over another. I seem to be more willing to believe the studies that tell me that things that I like are good for me.

For example, when the studies came out saying that red wine and dark chocolate are good for you, I stood up and paid attention. And rushed to the food store!

Health advice seems to change at a rapid pace. One day researchers are telling us that something is good for us but it is likely that, within a year, that same food item will be on the cover of a weekly magazine reporting the hazards of eating that particular food.

Eggs are a perfect example. I can’t keep track of whether I am supposed to be eating more eggs or less eggs. All I know is that my grandmother ate a lot of eggs and died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 92.

Maybe that is the health advice we should really follow – we could look at what worked for our elders and emulate that. My grandmother ate some delicious foods, so that is a health plan I think I could follow!

What do you think? Do you follow the latest research on which foods are good for you and which are not? Are there certain authorities that you wait to hear from before you make a change in what you eat? What food advice did you learn from your elders?

I would love to hear your thoughts. And thanks for reading.

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Filed under Health

Three Cheers! Leadership is in Vogue…

Last week, the New York Times, Slate, Forbes, and a number of other media outlets reported on a new policy at Vogue Magazine. Vogue announced a new commitment to stop using underage models or models who appear to have an eating disorder.

This is exciting news and has been a long time coming. For decades, fashion magazines have portrayed a physical ideal that is simply unattainable for most women. These images, with which we are bombarded on a daily basis through magazines, television and movies, lead many women to go to extremes, starving themselves to try to achieve the ideal figure they see portrayed in these media outlets.

This is an issue that has troubled me for years. The societal pressures that we all, women and men, face to have a body that looks a certain way can be incredibly destructive. But the pressures felt by young women can be downright lethal.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my food.  But I recall when I was younger; I had a boyfriend who told me that he thought that I could never have an eating disorder – that I loved food too much. I had to explain that every woman could fall prey to this dangerous disease, given the right circumstances. The pressures are enormous.

I have known a number of women over the years who have struggled with this issue. The pressures are real, they are dangerous and they are internalized by the vast majority of women in the United States. I applaud Vogue magazine for taking a lead on this issue; in fact, maybe I will finally subscribe!

What do you think? Do you think that fashion magazines should be allowed to use any models or do you think that these restrictions placed by Vogue are a step in the right direction? Do you believe that the market should dictate who ends up in magazines? Have you felt the pressure to conform to society’s ideal body shape and type? Do you think that the media exacerbates this pressure?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! And thank you for reading!

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Filed under Fitness, Health, social pressures, Women

20 Minutes That Can Change Your Life

The New York Times posted a book review entitled “The Shortcut to Better Health,” and an interview with the author. The book is called “The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer,’’ and is written by New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds.

While I haven’t read the book, it was refreshing to read this interview, where Gretchen Reynolds talks about the benefits of moving just a little bit more than we currently do. Our culture is so obsessed with appearances, it feels like we are bombarded with fad diets suggesting that we must try the next big thing to achieve the perfect body – one week it’s eating only grapefruits or drinking apple cider vinegar before a meal, and the next week it’s eating only bacon double cheeseburgers – without the bun, of course.

It was refreshing to read that the advice in this book calls for simply going for a twenty minute walk. The American obsession with weight loss, fueled by the unattainable images that we are bombarded with daily in the media and in Hollywood, have led people to follow some extreme measures to try and reach this ideal.

I think that the proliferation of these extreme diets and exercise programs have intimidated a lot of people, who think that they could never accomplish what is required in these regimens. It seems that many people feel that they will not be able to commit to the extreme  requirements, so they think why do anything? This book appears to promote a sensible strategy for achieving fitness that any person can start today. In fact, this is a sensible fitness strategy that is so old, it is new again!

I am fortunate that I have a little four-legged friend who requires that I move, at least a little, every day. In fact, he is looking at me right now to ask when we are going for a walk. Now that is welcome pressure!

What do you think about this idea? Do you think that people avoid starting an exercise regimen because they feel that they will not follow through? Do you think that promoting the idea that a twenty minute walk can make a meaningful difference in a person’s health could encourage more people to move a little more? Do you think that this strategy is not enough to make a difference for people’s health?   

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Filed under Fitness, Health, social pressures

Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients

An article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients” by Roni Caryn Rabin appears to be a step in the right direction, albeit a controversial one. You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/health/doctor-panels-urge-fewer-routine-tests.html.

Who, among us, doesn’t know someone who went to a doctor to check on one medical issue and came out with a litany of tests allegedly needed for something else entirely? Frequently, these tests examine issues that do not negatively impact a person’s health – they turn up things like cysts that are common-place and completely benign, but which must be poked and prodded to confirm their innocence; and then the medical bills pour in.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that in a small number of cases, these tests save lives and can identify disease that would likely not have otherwise surfaced until the disease had progressed.

There seems to be a general consensus on a rational level that the US medical system, or at least how it is financed, is broken. The Supreme Court issues of this past week notwithstanding, there will continue to be a pressing need to discuss how to contain costs and how to keep healthcare from further plunging the US economy into further debt.

But these issues are also deeply personal, which is what makes them so complex.

Questions for Discussion: What do you think about the new push to reduce the number of tests and medical procedures? Have you had an experience where you have been subjected to endless, needless tests which turned out to be of no benefit to your health at all? Have you had tests or procedures that actually ended up harming your health in the long-run? Have you been one of the lucky few who may have been saved by one of these tests of procedures? We all know that medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the US; where does that fit into this discussion? And how can we help quiet the political rhetoric surrounding this deeply personal, but financially consequential issue to enable politicans and health experts to look for realistic and meaningful solutions to these issues?

Please share your thoughts! And thank you for reading.

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Filed under End of Life, Health