Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Another Blog About Dieting? Not!!!

Today's post is just a teaser about a new project I've been working on.

Those of you that know me may know that I have struggled with my weight for quite some time now. Decades actually!

Apart from the fact that being overweight makes you feel not so great about yourself ... there are also other side-effects that go along with the whole package. Things like joint pain, stiffness, difficulty sleeping and depression.

These maladies tend to compound and you start to feel like every day is an uphill struggle.

Well ... I've had enough and so this year I have resolved to do something about it. Not only do I want to lose fat and get down to my fighting weight again (that's more than 30kg's lighter than I am now), but I also want to do this safely, intelligently and responsibly. Oh ... and I also need some serious motivation!

Sustainable, healthy living over settling for being tired and a shadow of my real self.

So, I'm going to be starting up a new blog where I will be posting daily about everything I'm going through ... and exactly how I plan to go from slug to stud. I'll be updating daily (except when I'm sick of writing and need a short break) and I'll be pulling no punches.

This includes posting photos (uhhhggg!!) and maybe even the odd video (if I, or you, can stomach it).

I'll show you what my goals are, how I'll measure my progress, what obstacles (or perceived obstacles) I'm facing ... and how I plan to leap smoothly over every last one of them. Watch me ... I'm not kidding!

This won't be about dieting. That's just boring and I'm not a fan of dieting at all.

This will be about taking stock, finding one's balance and getting fit, strong, vital and healthy in a safe and sustainable way.

I figure if I'm willing to put myself out there, photos and all, then I'll have all the incentive I need. Hopefully a whole bunch of people who also need a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction will jump on board and follow right along with me.

Watch this space ... say goodbye to being tired, fat and depressed and become the person you know deep down inside you can be.

I'll help you.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Who's responsible For My First Degree Burns?

I couldn't resist posting about this little gem.

A 14 year old girl from Wales got a lesson in life recently when she flaunted warning signs posted at a self-tanning salon ... and sustained first degree burns over 70% of her body. Ouch!!

This morning in the words of BBC Breakfast "We ask her who she blames for her first degree burns".

Mother and daughter were interviewed and asked more on their position. To their credit, they were not seeking compensation and acknowleged readily that teenager, Kirsty McRae, was in fact acting irresponsibly. That's a relief ... so far.

Commenting on her 19 minute tanning binge, Kirsty said " ... we saw the signs, but there was no-one there to enforce it." Hullo ... that's the point. Are you really too young to not fully grasp that there was danger involved?

Of course not. You were being naughty, you deliberately ignored signs forbidding kids under 16 years from entry... and you got stung.


Mum feels differently and wants to see ramped up regulations calling for these tanning set-ups to be banned. She describes them as "a vending machine which dispenses ultraviolet radiation" and draws parallels with cigarettes and alcohol.

Ultimately she believes this unregulated product will cause a fatality.

She's probably right ... for the same reason that sometime in the future some kid is going to die playing chicken on the railway lines. Or die because they they've been smoking since childhood.

Aren't parents responsible for appraising their kids of the risks inherent in everyday life? All choices come with consequences.

Perhaps mum would be better served looking in the mirror at her own parenting skills. What kind of message did this send to Kirsty?

I guess she'll grow up into yet another adult who is constantly looking for someone else to blame.

Perhaps you were thinking that this post had little to do with health and more to do with common sense?

My point is that this culture of "someone else is responsible for my lack of responsibility" is translating into a nation that no longer sees the connection between the way they are living and their own failing health.

And someones' got to pick up the tab. A sobering thought.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Pizza Profits Buck The Trend

Dominos Pizza profits are up nearly 25%.

This at a time where nearly every business is reeling in a crippled global economy.

In view of the overwhelming response to my last article (on pizza), I thought my readers would feel pleased to get yet more information on their favourite "cheat" food.

Here's the reasons given for these positive numbers: due to the credit crunch (surprise, surprise) people are eating in more and not going out to restaurants. And ... cold weather!

I think it's because, irrespective of available finances, discomfort or inconvenience, people are increasingly hell-bent on eating themselves into an early grave.

And MacDonalds doesn't deliver.

Friday, 13 February 2009

World Gone Mad

In a recent interview with BBC radio 4's Adam Shaw, the founder of an international pizza chain suggested that pizza was a "healthy" and "nutritious" when consumed in moderation.

The gentleman in question was John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's Pizza ... who stated in all sincerity that " You can't eat five or six slices but if you eat one or two slices it's very nutritious."

Predictably Twitter, the blogosphere and traditional media went mad ... a blunder ... too honest ... monumental PR screw-up ... flash of PR genius ... what about the shareholders ...

Here's my two cents:

- Pizza in any quantity hardly qualifies as "healthy" or "nutritious" ... let's get that out of the way right up front.

- However, there's no denying the pshychological benefits of a few slices once in a while for those that crave it.

Now here's where it gets interesting.

- to accuse Mr Schnatter of being "too honest" or making a "gaffe" is just plain insulting to everyones' intelligence ... or is it?

- Other businesses are expected to lie to us on a daily basis and we accept it numbly ... so come on Mr Pizza Man ... don't you know it's prudent to lie?

- Does anyone with an IQ surpassing an amoeba honestly believe that sales would have spiked if the main man had said that eating a full pie was the way to go?

- So why then is this ridiculous expectation still touted as expedient?

- Isn't someone just a little bit tired of being spoon-fed all this drivel?

- Conversely, to suggest that his comment was "responsible" in view of his interests is pushing it.

- I think the response was savvy because it didn't paint him as a total hypocrit.

- Or maybe pizza could be nutritious and I haven't yet grasped the benefits of processed flour, loads of saturated fat and non-raw, non-organic dairy?

Perhaps the most scary thing for me is that so many people thought the comment was inappropriate because he was who he was. Maybe one day we'll evolve to the point where we actually respect candour unembellished by diplomacy or "dumb corporate robot disease"?

Not in my lifetime. God that's sad!

The UK Food Standards agency is talking to business owners about the feasibility of food chains displaying calorie numbers on menus.

I'm just speculating here ... but isn't the reason most people have no idea how to eat healthy because everyone and his dog is so fixated on calories?

While the message is a) weak ... and b) limited to "calories", "weight" and "diet" ... obesity will get worse, not better.

Of course, by then there'll be a pill one can take.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

And The Fire-Fighting Continues ...

Statins are considered a wonder-drug in the fight against high cholesterol. New research suggests they halve the risk of heart attack.

There are other possible benefits like protecting the kidneys, reducing dementia risk and improving bone conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis.

Pretty impressive stuff.

Of course we don't know much about the effect of taking statins for decades ... but they work and save lives. Enough said.

The numbers are considered high if total cholesterol is 240mg/dL (6.22mmol/L) or above, or "bad" LDL cholesterol is 130mg/dL (3.68mmol/L) or above.

Of course, before statins are prescribed, other risk factors are also taken into account. Family history, age, smoking, diabetes, stress ... the usual suspects.

If you are considered high risk for heart attack or stroke, it's a safe bet you'll be prescribed statins even if you haven't yet shown obvious signs of either disease. This is termed "primary prevention".

Once you actually have cardio-vascular disease the drug is prescribed as "secondary prevention".

Once you start on statins, you'll likely need to stay on them indefinitely. Stopping the protocol means cholesterol levels go right back up. So there's no going back! Ouch!

Now it has been proposed that the threshold for primary prevention be lowered so that more people become dependant for life. Of course I should muzzle my cynicism ... because lives will be saved.

In fact, it's estimated that one-in-four Britons over the age of forty will be statin-dependant within 5 years! And presumably less people will die of heart attack and stroke.

I'm sorry, I find the prospect of that statistic jarring! One in Four, over 40!

So statin prescriptions will increase at a rate of about 30% a year. An industry will boom, but lives will be saved.

And "healthy" people will be turned into dependant patients.

What if ... and I hesitate to even suggest it ... what if people were encouraged to stop smoking, stop drinking, manage their stress, change their eating habits and get more active?

Nah ... that will never happen. Keep going lads ... the doc's got you covered! This one's on the tax payer.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Until We Find A Cure ...

Official estimates for the number of UK dementia cases are set to double in the next 30 years, at a cost to our children of around 50 billion GBP annually!

Further, the incidence of the affliction in younger people is increasing.

Some legacy!

The government plans to unveil its new strategy on dementia which will include "memory clinics" to identify the condition earlier so that sufferers can remain independent for longer.

Dementia charities feel that more should go towards "finding a cure" as well as improving the lives of sufferers.

Of course, all this is laudable. I understand resources allocated for palliative care. But cure over prevention? Again?

I may not know much, but it seems to me that a complete paradym shift is in order.

Without a change in primary focus everyone will continue in firefighting mode and more and more resources will be needed. And we all know what that means!

Even worse the scale of suffering will continue increasing.

What's changed? Why is the condition virtually unknown in certain populations? Are they genetically different? Come on ... it has to have something to do with the way we are living.

But I'm sure the custodians of our health have thought this all through.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Dementia In Younger People

In the United Kingdom, about 15000 younger people (under the age of 65) are estimated to have some form of dementia.

However, this figure is thought by some to be a gross under-estimation ... and therein lies part of the problem. How can we assess the scope of the suffering if we don't have the resources necessary to accurately diagnose dementia in younger people, let alone treat it appropriately?

First, dementia is not just an affliction of the elderly. It can strike at any age and is becoming more and more common in people in their 40's and 50's. Yet many dementia care services have a minimum age requirement of 65! I kid you not.

Second, if you do get access to some sort of care, it very often is inappropriate because the responsibilities we have in middle age are usually very different to those we have in later years. I'm talking about mortgages, dependent children, other relatives, work and financial obligations etc.

Many younger sufferers feel like the proverbial "square peg in a round hole" ... and this only fuels their fear, frustration ... and anger.

Probably the most glaring injustice (aside from that which stems from ignorance) is the perhaps more understandable failure of medical professionals to accurately diagnose the problem in the first place ... then start appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Many people are mis-diagnosed with depression. Early, appropriate treatment is considered absolutely key in the fight against preventable suffering.

And what initiatives exist beyond traditional medical protocols with respect to prevention? Does anyone talk of the possibility of links between dementia and the way we eat ... or our sedentary, over-indulgent lifestyles? The emphasis, regrettably, appears solely focused on symptom management rather than root cause and strategies for prevention.

So what are the early signs?

Well, memory loss is a critical indicator. Specifically, forgetting the names of everyday objects, or the people that you know. See why so much misunderstanding is prevalent? How do we distinguish between this and "inadvertant forgetfullness" ... something which strikes all of us at all ages?

Then there's difficulty driving, forgetting to do obvious things that previously were done quite habitually. An erosion of our control ... and of our sense of control.

And when we first start suspecting that something is not quite right, where do we put the fear? Naturally, many of us would prefer to suffer in private. But we still may sense the diplomacy in others.

Another added wrinkle appears to be that many people are unaware that all dementia is not Alzheimers. In fact, only about one third of documented cases in younger people are Alzheimers. There are a multitude of other forms ... vascular dementia, fronto-temporal dementia, even alcohol-related impairment ... as well as rarer forms such as Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease. These lessor-known, more obscure variants account for about 20% of the cases seen in younger people.

So, unpalatable though it may be, the medical community simply does not yet have the resources and experience to handle these unique problems with the sensitivity that so obviously is needed.

Let's just hope it is a lack of experience and exposure, rather than stigma, that is preventing younger sufferers from getting the care they need.

And let's consider for a moment those kind souls who are quietly caring for the thousands afflicted with dementia ... patiently, in their own quiet way.