Blaming Obesity On Food Cost?

So I saw this meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a picture of a salad and a picture of a hamburger. The price underneath the burger is $1, and the price underneath the salad is $7. The meme then states, “Please, don’t write another article on obesity in America until you explain why salads are $7 and hamburgers are $1”. Of course the poster of the meme gets lots of “likes” and “anger” clicks… Hoo Ah!!
 
Except the meme is wrong. For a moment let’s get on board with the righteous anger over the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad. I say this sincerely as of course I would like healthier food to be less costly. However:
 
  • Does that mean articles about exercise, sleep, and medical/genetic conditions and how they can affect obesity should not be written?
  • Does it mean that articles about how to budget and eat healthier, or articles about maybe holding the mayo and the cheese from the “dollar” burger shouldn’t be written?
  • Does it mean that articles on the psychology of eating and or eating disorders, such as binge eating, should not be written?
No. No. And No.
 
Further, should people who are currently obese, and those vulnerable to becoming so, be encouraged or emboldened to boycott information and abdicate responsibility for their choices, or trying to become more informed, in some sort of protest because of the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad? Yeah, that would help them. #Sarcasm.
 
The meme infers cost of food is thee reason/cause of obesity.  While there is some evidence to suggest there is some validity to a connection between poverty and obesity, according to Pew Research: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together.  It can’t explain it all away.  
 
In addition, education also impacts obesity. Meaning in some instances, poor an uneducated translates to higher obesity rates than poor and educated. (See here and here.) This highlights the need for more articles/education on obesity, not less.
 
To imply that ALL obesity is because of food cost is wrong.  And to imply that low-income earners can only eat burgers is also wrong.
 
As an aside, I work with a homeless and a low-income population that get food stamps from the department of social services, or SSI and or SSDI from the social security administration… I know it is anecdotal… but I see many of them spend a lot more that a $1 on the fast food burgers they buy, not to mention the soda, candy and other poor food choices that add up and cost more than a salad.

Generally, f
ast food burgers for a buck are usually pretty small. Calorie wise, a junior cheeseburger for a $1 from Wendy’s has 280 calories. Three or four of those a day, on their own, will not make you obese. In other words, what are $1 cheeseburger eating people eating in addition? Fries? Sodas? Milkshakes? Just eliminating soda can lead to reduced weight and risk of diabetes.  Also, what are their exercise habits?  Are there metabolic issues?  Etc..
 
Other FYI considerations:
  1. You can make your own salads for far less than $7 bucks. 
  2. Healthy eating now could mean better health and less disease and medical bills later.
  3. It could also mean improved mood, self-esteem, and productivity. All of which could possibly lead to… wait for it… more income! 
  4. The burger/ salad question has no bearing on whether or not you exercise or have a medical condition or are taking medications for another medical condition that could lead to weight gain.

A moment ago I spoke anecdotally.  What is not anecdotal is over 2 billion people suffer from obesity.  Over 4 million people died from obesity related illness in 2015.  According to Dr Christopher Murray, from the University of Washington: “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.” 

Obesity needs to be covered from every aspect.  From causes, or contributing factors already mentioned such as: Cost, the psychology of eating, genetics, and medical conditions. Too other issues not discussed here: Such as access to healthy food, the media’s and Hollywood’s role, and a big one, advertising. (Think billions spent on advertising unhealthy food vs. the last time you saw a vegetable commercial.)  

They all (as well as issues I may have missed) need to continue to be explored. Given the complexity and myriad of factors involved in obesity, solutions may vary from person to person and involve a combination of lifestyle and or medicinal changes. 

Please don’t write another blog about obesity in America? Given the number of people effected by obesity and the potential health consequences… We’re not writing, or doing, enough.

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The Religion Of Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry Neil deGrasse Tyson And Devotees of Science, but…

Just because Science doesn’t have a God.
Doesn’t mean it is not a religion.
Doesn’t mean that it is free of misinterpretation or miscommunication.
Doesn’t mean that it is free of bias.
Doesn’t mean that it is free of corruption or fraud
Doesn’t mean that it should not be questioned (even by the “uninitiated”).
Doesn’t mean that it is incapable of prejudice.
Doesn’t mean it speaks the truth because it says it speaks the truth.
Doesn’t mean that there is not a reliance on faith.
Doesn’t mean the phrase absolute power corrupts absolutely doesn’t apply.
Yes, Science deserve recognition for all of its accomplishments.
Yes, Science deserves a prominent seat at the table.
Just don’t tell me that nobody else can sit there.
That nobody can question you.
That your methods (even peer review) are beyond reproach or flaw.
Because then Science… Kinda of what you’re asking for…Is that we… the unenlightened… worship you.
Can you see the irony in that Science?
For even if Science is or ever becomes perfect…
Scientists are still human.
And all humans, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, are not.

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If you like this post some others of possible interest:

Why Science Is Never Settled by Robert E. Hampson PH.D.

The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Science According To 270 Scientists by Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, and Brian Resnick

Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals by NCBI PMC

And here is a previous blog I wrote on my other website, ComingTogetherToFightCancer.Com: Respect Science But Do Not Worship It

12 Tips On How To Eat Healthier

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In my previous food blogs, Food, The Ultimate Trojan, and 8 Reasons Why American’s Eat The Way We Do, I wrote about the good and the bad about how and why we eat, what we eat. And if you read those blogs, you know there is a lot of not so good.

Here I will make suggestions on how to improve your diet. But not to worry, as a foodie myself, I still love the taste of food and eating. That doesn’t have to change when you eat healthier!

Recognizing the challenge that changing one’s diet can be, I want to encourage you to embrace two concepts:

Progress not perfection – Focus on what you can do, and not on what you cannot. Feel good about the progress you make. Don’t beat yourself up if you do not live up to yours, or someone else’s expectations, all of the time.

Harm reduction – A less bad choice is a positive step in the right direction. Change will come easier for some than others. It is not a competition. If you consume something that has less sugar and “bad” fat, such as trans or saturated, for many, that is a good start.

It’s about the process. Oftentimes with diet or exercise, if people do not see or feel the results they’re hoping for in a short span of time they get discouraged and give up.

In embracing progress not perfection and harm reduction, “the win” is the positive steps you are increasing and or the negative steps you are decreasing. The results will come. It reminds me of the song from the animated classic, Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other. If the Winter Warlock can do it, so can you!

So without further ado, consider one or all of the below tips to help get you on a healthier more actualized path of eating.

12- Have a cheat day – No. Not that kind of cheat day! For some people, eating healthy 6 out 7 days is too much too soon. This tip is for people who want to change slooowwwwlllyyy. If you’re eating poorly seven days a week, or however you’re eating, for you a cheat day = one day a week of healthy or healthier eating.

Give yourself one day where you improve from whatever your baseline is. For bonus points:

  1. Eat a whole foods, plant based diet. You can incorporate meals around lentils, beans, fruits vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and spices*.
  2. No processed foods on this day.
  3. if you have meat, have it at one meal and just a single grass-fed portion.

For beverages? Eliminate soda, and energy drinks. Try sticking to water, herb teas, or vegetable based smoothies/juices. Experiment with different combinations of the above. You will find something you like.

After you get consistent with one healthy cheat day a week, stretch it to two. And after you get comfortable with two, well you can see where this is going.

11- Pick one – Another way to begin your adjusting, is to pick one. Pick one bad thing to outright eliminate from your diet. And pick one good thing to add to it.

At mid-life, a good friend of mine wanted to make a conscious effort to eat better, start exercising, and lose weight. For years I unsuccessfully tried to get him off the soda. Regular or diet, I’m not a fan. But now he was ready. He gave it up cold. It was challenging for him for about a month. However, it went from challenging, to progressively easier, to him saying, “My God I can’t believe I drank that garbage for so long!”

From there, he was able to make more changes. I am both happy and proud of him because he did not get the results he was looking for right away but he stuck with it. Tried different things. He kept making positive choices. He recently turned 50 and he has reached his goals and says he feels better than he ever has.

Whether it is a vegetable, a piece of fruit, a healthy omega 3 fat food, or supplement, pick something good to add to your diet.

And if you can’t eliminate something entirely, remember progress not perfection, and harm reduction, cut down and go from there.

10- Don’t be a sucker for the latest headlines – If you do see a post you like that makes a, to good to be true claim about a questionable food or nutrient:

  1. Question it.
  2. Read counter expert opinions.
  3. Check methodology of study, i.e. – know what is being compared to what.

Borrowing from Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org, and how easy it is to make something look good, (such as saturated fat), one could claim, that based on a recent study, a diet with butter lowers your chance of having a heart attack. Well, hypothetically, if I have two groups in a study, and one group has a small amount of butter, and the other has five candy bars a day and the candy bar group has 14% more heart attacks, the designer of that study can now say according to my study butter lowers your heart attack risk.

Now cue the, “butter is back”, headlines. And if the study is not explored further? You wind up with people bathing their food in butter as if it were the nectar of the Gods! Again, don’t be suckered by headlines.

Stick with tried and true, whole foods, plant based diet, with grass-fed meat for non vegans, and whole grains. Ix-nay on the transfat, keep the saturated fats and heavily processed foods down, and get plenty of omega 3.

Trying to change eating habits can be challenging enough without conflicting information playing on our desires and food addictions. Tune out the white noise as discussed in my previous post and here is the link that includes what experts with differing opinions on diet (paleo, vegan etc.) were able to come together and agree on.

9- Portion control – According to the American Heart Association a single serving of lean meat is two to three ounces. So if you go to a restaurant and get a ten to twelve ounce steak, you’re getting four to five times that. Factor in some bread and butter and I can feel those arteries cringing. Do this several times a week or more and do the math on how you are potentially taxing your system with excess fat, sodium and calorie intake.

I’ve got a word for you… LEFTOVERS! Eat less, save money, be healthier. That sounds like win win to me.

You can do the same with sugar. Depending on your height and weight 25 to 50 grams of added sugar a day may be what is recommended not to exceed. (added sugar includes all forms of sugar except for the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and dairy) Long term, ideally you will reduce this to as close to zero as possible.

For now, portion control your added sugar. If you’re not already, start reading labels. Devise realistic goals that you can accomplish. Aside from anything else, sugar is just plain dangerous.

8- Stop Overeating! – It goes hand in hand with portion control. In addition to portion control, eat slower, and try drinking a glass of water before you eat.

Here we can also take a lesson from the Chinese. Cut your food before you eat it, and eat with chopsticks instead of a fork. This may assist you in eating slower, getting content by eating less, and digesting better!

Do you always finish what is on your plate out of some sense of obligation to those in poor countries who do not have food? You want to help starving children in another country? Donate money to them, but using them as an excuse to stuff your pie hole is not helping them! (Or you.) Of course another option is to eat on a smaller plate!

Since, in theory your mind registering the feeling of being full operates on a delay, if you wait until you feel full or “stuffed”, you’ve likely over eaten. This may not apply to obese individuals or others who suffer from leptin resistance, however you don’t know until you try, plus there are other reasons to eat slower.

7- Don’t be intimidated by cost – If you’re eating less, slower, and having leftovers. If you’re eating less meat and less sweets, then the switch to healthier foods may be negligible at worst. Far more significantly, if you’re eating healthier, you are less likely to get sick in the short-term and add to the growing statistics of people who succumb to a preventative disease.

  1. More likely to live longer. 
  2. Less likely to miss work/pay.
  3. More likely to feel better on a day-to-day basis.
  4. More likely to save on medical costs. 

6- Disassociate food from moods. For example, if you’re a stress eater, come up with new ways to react when stressed. You must have ideas in place for this to work. The next time I get stressed I will… and fill in that blank. It can be exercise, talk to a friend, write in a journal, read a book, harm reduction, eat something healthy, heck, I’ll even take watching TV if it gets you off the skittles! Same goes for boredom and other moods.

For more on emotional eating, and solutions, click here.

5- Reclaim your free will – In my previous blogs I talked about the various influences that can creep into a person’s mind, such as advertising, parents, peers and so on that corrupt your free will. I challenge you to be or become aware of them and reject them. If you do and you still want to make the same choices, then go for it. However, you may choose to go in completely different/ healthier direction, or somewhere in-between. Ways to do this are through research (more on that below), shutting out advertising, and going through a periodic detox diet to kick-start yourself.

Hypnosis can potentially be a powerful tool in reclaiming your free will. A myth about hypnosis is that you are giving up control, when in fact it, when done correctly, it is about regaining it. Unfortunately it is not regulated so it may be challenging to find a credible one but that should not stop you from considering.

4- Do your research – Research? I know, not a fun word. But I’m thinking, with all the tweeting, posting, chatting, texting, and so on, there is a little time in the day for #research!

I can maybe understand denial or the blasé mentality of, “oh it will never happen to me”, when it came to things like cancer in the early 1900’s when the odds were somewhere between 1 and 20 or 30 people being diagnosed with it. But now, according to the American Cancer Society, it is roughly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 for men.

And cancer is the number 2 cause of death. I can rattle off more statistics for heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, Alzheimer’s and more but hopefully you get the point. Mindful, conscious eating has never been more important.

U.S. News & World Report has an annual ranking of best diets that can assist you in familiarizing yourself with some of what is out there. They have different ranking for diet based on this like weight loss, cancer, heart disease etc..

When you consider the Time.Com report that Nearly Half Of US Deaths Can Be Prevented With Lifestyle Changes, it makes sense to give your diet the attention it deserves.

In this era of fake news, fact check and don’t only go to websites that confirm what your already believe.

3- Create healthy (or less unhealthy) alternatives –  For example, I love warm apple fritters. So when I’m reaalllyyy feeling the urge I will have a piece of organic Ezekiel toast with a little raw organic honey, a splash of organic extra virgin olive oil, and some organic true cinnamon. It delicious and hits the spot!

2- Have a Plan – When I facilitate groups at the mental health center where I work, I often say the worst time to prepare for an earthquake is in an earthquake! If you try to make changes on the fly, you will make things harder on yourself.

  1. Keep a journal.
  2. Try apps like Myfitnesspal.
  3. Do it with a spouse or friend.
  4. Go to meetup groups.
  5. Prep your meals in advance. Start bringing healthy dishes with you to work and holiday parties.
  6. In addition to fat and sugar, restaurant food can be load with sodium. Here are some tips to help you plan for eating out.
  7. See if your insurance offers any discounts or services that could help. (such as gym, massage, supplements or other discounts)

Until I got comfortable with my diet I would type it out and save in the draft folder of me email. Don’t eat or shop when you’re hungry for as you may have heard it is far more difficult to be disciplined in those situations.

1- Pay attention to your particular needs and health circumstances – Blogs and articles are generally… you guessed it, general. You are a specific. Consult your doctor before making diet changes as he or she will know about any health specific concerns you should consider. Perhaps as important is to consult a dietitian. As medical doctors do not receive much training in nutrition.

If you’ve read my three food blogs, or even just this lengthy one, you have an interest in diet and self-improvement. I encourage you to continue to cultivate and act on it.  Follow reading the post by writing out a list of 5 things you can do next. I wish you well on your journey.

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*If you are not used to fiber in your diet, integrate it slowly. From My.ClevelandClinic.org: Add fiber to your diet slowly. Too much fiber all at once may cause cramping, bloating, and constipation.” Don’t let that discourage you! The Cleveland link also speaks to fiber’s many benefits! And most people are lacking in it.

Disclaimers:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

This website provides links to other websites.  I have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this blog provides links to other sites does not mean that I endorse or accept any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which I provide a link, you do so at your own risk.

8 Reasons American’s Eating Habits Are What They Are

 

eat-fast-foodIn my previous post on food, I wrote about food being the ultimate Trojan. If we don’t eat, we die. Faced with that choice the vast majority of us do choose to eat.

Given the extremely high rates of obesity, diabetes, acid reflux, cancer, heart disease, and so on, and the impact food can have on those maladies, it is fair to say we may not be making the best choices.

Like other human characteristics, habits and behaviors, the conditioning and socialization of how, when, and what we eat, begins at birth. It is influenced by culture, economic class, and parenting. As we age, peers, and other social groups subliminally assert their influence as well. And of course lets not forget the billion dollar food industry, with billions of dollars at stake, prefer not to leave you’re eating choices to chance.

So with that in mind, and in no particular order, here are 8 reasons why our eating habits are what they are.

Illusion of free willPerhaps more than any country, Americans pride ourselves on our free will. The food industry, consisting of many tentacles, does in fact spend billions of dollars in advertising trying to manipulate that free will. All the commercials, magazine/ web ads, product placement and integration in TV and film, celebrity endorsements, and billboards in the middle of bum f*#k nowhere; are done so that when you get hungry and think to yourself, “hmm what am I in the mood for?” You actually think you’re spontaneously thinking of their product…. Fat chance!

Think of it another way. Would American eating habits be the same if billions were not spent on advertisements for fast and junk food? Or if billions were spent on healthy food? I submit the answer is no. Our eating habits would not be the same, in fact they would be radically different. So the question then becomes, do we… do you… want to let advertising continue to manipulate your “free will?”

Misinformation campaign We don’t all have the time or the inclination to get PhD’s in nutrition. So, for many looking for professional guidance, that leaves us in the hands of the media and “experts”.  Of course big food buys themselves some experts. Their experts don’t have to convince us. They win by confusing us with misinformation about what is good or bad for us food/health-wise. Dr. David L. Katz details this well in his post, Why ‘No Two Nutritionists Agree’ Is A Myth.

If they can confuse us, they can get us to throw our hands up in frustration. “First they say this is bad for you and then it’s good, then it’s bad, whatever I’ll eat what I want”. Unfortunately, this is an effective strategy. Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org explains it nicely in two blogs:

In the past I have written how I think the precautionary principle, should be applied to cancer prevention. Science may not yet be able to prove certain foods and lifestyles cause or prevent things like cancer and heart disease, but as I stated in my previous food blog, with over 1.2 million people dying a year from them, I believe just a wee bit of precaution is warranted.  

To be fair, just because a specific industry is funding research that doesn’t disqualify the research in and of itself, but of course it should be disclosed, and a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent.  For example, according to Rebekah’s Kearn’s piece in CourtHouse News, “The egg industry is increasingly involved in financing studies on dietary cholesterol. It funded 29 percent of such studies in 1992, 41 percent of the studies in 2001, and 92 percent in 2013, the complaint states”.

Think about this the next time you see a headline promoting health benefits of eggs while denying or downplaying any possible health risk.  At the very least, their findings are worth a deeper look, especially if you read how Dr. Greger explains how easy it is to design a misleading study.

Food is an addiction And like other addictions, there are many times when addicts are in denial. Obstacles that may be unique to a food addiction are: it is easier to hide, it is legal, and lots of people do it. In other words, a food addiction can be hidden in plain sight. And of course while we don’t have to smoke, take pills or inject ourselves, we do have to eat something. 

Speaking of denial, if food is an addiction, then like other addictions, when one is in the throes of it, it may be very challenging to get them to admit it, or do anything about it. They may also seek to rationalize and justify their eating similar to how an alcoholic may do the same with drinking.

Couple denial with the fact that we are living in an unprecedented era of political correctness, it may be deemed too offensive to point out how someone’s eating may be contributing to their weight and current and possibly future health problems.  They may drop dead prematurely, but hey, at least they won’t be offended by anyone.  

Eating for the wrong reason If nature had its way we would eat when hungry to provide vital nutrients to survive. However, we eat when we’re depressed, bored, stressed, angry, and so on.  

This is neither physically or emotionally healthy. This is an extension of food being an addiction. Further, just as smokers and drug addicts will use their substance of choice as a response to “triggers”, so to will people form associations with eating when in certain moods, time of day, activities, etc., that have nothing to do with hunger. In addition, not only are there triggers for eating when not hungry, there are triggers for eating unhealthy foods.

We also eat when we confuse hunger for food when we are actually thirsty. Drink a big glass of water and see if that satiates you till your next meal.

Cultural traditionsThere are cultural traditions, and generational beliefs, associated with food, food preparation, and eating that mindlessly get passed down from generation to generation. These traditions and beliefs may originate from a time when there may not have been the knowledge of the effects of food on physical and emotional health that we have today.

Laziness and convenienceIn our rush rush world, who has the time to cook? Who has the time to read beyond the headlines of health news? Fast food, processed food and the dying art of cooking makes healthy eating more challenging.  

Blissfully ignorant – If everyone were in the movie, The Matrix, my bet is many would pick the blue pill. Some people are so in love with their food addictions that they don’t want to know. They consciously choose denial.

If only the blue pill came without consequences such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and so on.  But it doesn’t. Knowing and ignoring this is also symptomatic of denial of a different fact of life: Death. “Those bad things won’t happen to me”.  Hopefully they won’t.  And while there are no guarantees, the percentages are such that it seems unwise to ignore the effect of diet on quality and quantity of life.

Food cost – Crapola food can be cheaper than healthy food. There are two ways to address this. One, that is the short-term view. When you consider the cost of health, disease, the effect on mood, and so on, spending a little more for food in the present can save not only money, but pain and suffering as well.

Second, wherever you are on the continuum of health/unhealthy eating, I would suggest you can do better and that limited funds is not an excuse.  I say this as someone who works in mental health with homeless and mentally ill adults that are on food stamps.  I’m with them at the market. I make suggestions, they make choices. If you don’t want to eat better, you don’t want to, but in many cases it is not because of cost. 

An example I have given many times to friends and clients is two people buy the same car off the same lot on the same day.  Owner A, changes the oil and gets routine maintenance done on schedule. He drives close to the speed limit and so on.  Owner B saves money along the way and gets oil changes when he remembers and takes the car in for service a few thousand miles after an indicator light goes on. He frequently drives well over the speed limit. Which car is going to last longer?  As the cars age, which will perform better?  I suppose if Owner B is wealthy or doesn’t mind using credit cards he can get new car parts or even a new car if and when needed. Organs can’t always be replaced.   

There you have some reasons why we eat the way we do.  Sorry to get all gloom and doom on you towards the end but the best way to avoid the negative in the future is to confront it today!

One final note is that I am specifically not addressing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia is this blog, nor did I in my previous food blog. I feel those conditions require distinct focus and attention. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with any eating disorder please seek medical and psychological attention.    

In my next post on food I will offer suggestions for those interested in making some changes.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

 

The Greatest Athletes Of All Time? Not So Fast

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In modern sports it has become an obsession to talk about who is the “GOAT”, A.K.A., greatest of all time. Unfortunately, over the years, the conversation has escalated in frequency and devolved in to who has the most “chips”, as in championships. And that supposedly ends the discussion.

Growing up, I don’t recall Bill Russell being anointed as the GOAT even though he was the best player on those great Boston Celtic teams.  Same with Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I was a tennis fan for years before I heard the name Roy Emerson. FYI, that’s the guy who had the record of grand slam men’s title’s before Pete Sampras and then Roger Federer broke his record.

What a gross over simplification chip count is. Science suggests that in order to accurately compare two samples you would have to put them under the same conditions.

For example, in order to fairly compare San Francisco 49er QB legend, Joe Montana, to rising all-star QB of the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson, you’d have to clone every person they’d ever played with and against, was coached by and against, and play the games in the same weather conditions and under the same league rules.  This would give you the fairest and most accurate comparison between the two. Don’t get mad at me, that’s science. But this is sports so let’s not let a little thing like science spoil all the fun.

Before the chip obsession we relied on statistics, clutch performance, the optics of what our eyes told us.  Players with chips stood out but it wasn’t the be-all and end-all that it seems to be today.  Other factors were and should also be considered.  Such as teammates, coaches, level of competition, rules changes, and so on.

Further, the difference between winning and losing can be so small and contingent on these other factors that have nothing to do with a player and warrant that they be considered.  With that in mind I am going to try to marry a little science with the optics and take a look at some of the so-called GOATs in a few different sports.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday November 18, 2012 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New England won 59-24. (AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)

(AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)

TOM BRADY – He just led his team to the greatest comeback in the  NFL’s Superbowl history. Congrats to Brady and the Patriots.  It was a great/historic comeback that in the eyes of many clearly cements Brady as the greatest ever.  After all it gives him one more chip than Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.

As great as the comeback was…

  1. Atlanta’s defensive back drops a potential interception that would’ve sealed the game. *
  2. Atlanta did mismanage the game clock.  Their offensive coordinator called plays that moved them out of field goal range which would have sealed the game before New England’s game tying drive.
  3. The refs missed a face mask call that should have offset a holding penalty, giving the Falcons another down and 10 yards of field position.
  4. Julian Edelman makes a great/miraculous catch.  Coach Bill Belichik makes great second half adjustments.
  5. N.E. defense plays great in the 2nd half.
  6. Specials teams plays great.
  7. Offensive line gives Brady much more time in second half.

*(In fairness to Brady, had Asante Samuel not dropped a potential interception of Eli Manning, against the N.Y. Giants, in 2008, Brady/ Pats win another SB.)

Brady still had to do his thing, and he did, but if ALL of those things don’t happen we’re talking about his pic six, and open receivers he missed during the game, because Atlanta likely wins.

Not every QB plays with the assets Brady has had throughout his career.  True, he’s not playing with hall of fame wide receivers (except for when he had Randy Moss), but the guys he’s throwing to are often open.  Brady deserves his share of the credit but that does also speak to the system and to the coaching.

Two more words for you with implications on how Brady is viewed in the pantheon of great quarterbacks: Tuck rule.

Yes, of course Brady is great, all-time great, but like other greats, you give him time, he will pick you apart, you pressure him, like the Giants did in two Superbowls or Atlanta in the first half of this one, and he becomes mortal.  Give a handful of other great QB’s his defenses, his field goal kickers/ special teams, and his coaches, and their chip count is right where Brady’s is.  Maybe they have one or two less, or maybe one or two more.

I do put Brady in the discussion of all time greats, but it is and always will be just that… a discussion.

goat2

ROGER FEDERER – The Fed just did something no one thought he could do.  At 35 years of age, (geriatric for tennis) coming off a six month layoff due to knee surgery and having not won a tennis major since 2012 Wimbledon, he won his 18th grand slam title, The Australian Open. He increased his record and lead to 4 slams over Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras. To win the tournament he had to go the distance, 5 sets, in his last three matches, beating Nadal in an epic final. To many, this win, especially against Nadal, who has dominated their head to head competition, cements Roger as the GOAT.

You would think that declaring a GOAT would be much easier in an individual sport versus team but in tennis it certainly is not.  Tennis is played on different surfaces, clay, grass, hard, carpet, and indoor/ outdoor, that greatly affects the way the game is played.  Further, when trying to compare different generations, you have vast changes in racket and string technology, changes in surface, and advancement in training and recovery from injury.

I’m a HUGE Federer fan.  I was elated for him for his latest slam win. I draw personal inspiration from it as well, but objectivity requires that I point out the obvious.  Nadal is without question the better clay court player.  If not for a series of injuries, Nadal may have more slam titles than Fed, and he does have the head to head edge.  Pete Sampras, who was not the all-around player Fed is may be his equal or better on grass.  Novak Djokovic at his best at the Aussie? I’m not betting the ranch on either player.  At the U.S. Open, Andre Agassi in his prime, Sampras and others could have given Fed a run.  In fact in a hypothetical tournament of champions, Federer might not be the number one seed in any of the four slams.

Fed’s slam total, masterful play and the fact that he would likely be the first, second, third, or fourth seed in all hypothetical slams of champions of course puts him in the discussion, but cemented shut? Nope.  Most accomplished doesn’t automatically mean GOAT.

goat3

SERENA WILLIAMS – Sticking with tennis.  In the women’s game, Serena just won her 23rd grand slam, passing Steffi Graf for the modern-day women’s lead. Also at the age of 35, Miss Williams is still dominant, ranked number 1 and may add to her already spectacular resume.

However.  I’m going to name some other players for you: Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsey Davenport, Martina Hingis and Monica Seles. What do all of these players have in common?

  1. They all of have won multiple grand slams.
  2. They were all ranked number one at one time.
  3. Their careers all overlapped with Serena’s.
  4. They all prematurely retired, or took time off due to injury, desired to get pregnant and start a family, in the case of Venus Williams, illness slowed her down, and in the case of Monica Seles, she was stabbed on the tennis court.

Those are eight battle tested champions.  That’s a lot.  Setting aside Seles for a moment, let’s say that Serena is better than every player mentioned above.  I submit that if  half of these players didn’t leave the sport prematurely of suffer injury, they would have dented Serena’s slam total, which seems to be the nail that shuts the door on the GOAT conversation.  My Mt. Rushmore of women’s tennis is Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and of course Serena Williams.

My personal favorite female player is Seles.  Seles, the sports world, including other players like Graf and Williams, were robbed when Seles’ career was irreversibly effected by the stabbing. Seles ended up with 9 slams.  No doubt she would have had many more if not for the lost years and psychological effect of such an event.

Her meteoric rise at such a young age came before that of Tiger Woods’ ascension in golf. Seles, by age 19, had begun to dominate then GOAT candidate Graf.  God forbid Woods had been stabbed after his 8th slam in golf and had he come back to only win one more, we’d be hearing for decades how he would have won 15 to 20 more slams easy.  History has not afforded Seles the same status they should have and would have if she were born in America or perhaps if she was a he.

But I digress.  Serena is an all-time great and given the length of her greatness and dominance and the fact her career is still going, the female tennis GOAT conversation does begin with her, but it does not end.  And like the men, in a tournament of champions her seeding may vary by surface.

goat4

MICHAEL JORDAN – Toughest for last.  I love me some Michael Jordan.  When I think of MJ, I think of that scene in Rocky II when Apollo Creed’s trainer, Duke, is trying to talk Apollo out of a rematch with Rocky. Apollo asks Duke what is he afraid of. Duke’s answer is, “I saw you beat that man like I saw you beat no man before… and the man, kept, coming, after you … We don’t need that kind of man in our life…” Jordan, had Rocky’s heart and determination, and Apollo’s talent. A true terminator.  But the end of discussion GOAT?  I can’t go there.  Even for Michael.

When talking about all-time greats in basketball, big men seemed to get short-changed.  Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain. These are greats that can’t just be dismissed because their games don’t possess flash and style, or because they played more than 15 years ago.

Weirdly enough, the “chip” discussion in basketball only seems to apply to modern players and the flashy two guard or small forward. Kobe Bryant and Lebron James can’t be better than MJ because they have less rings?  (They’re not for other reasons but like I said, I love me some MJ) However, less rings doesn’t seem to disqualify MJ in the comparison to Bill Russell. Kareem has as many rings, scored more points and won more MVP’s, was an eleven time all defensive player, and had the most indefensible shot in the game.

MJ was a transcendent player who took the NBA to new levels.  With all due respect to the logo, (Jerry West), for all of his contributions to the game, and his game, the NBA should consider redoing the logo to Jordan’s image, and or do for him what hockey did for Wayne Gretzky and retire MJ’s jersey in all arena’s… But that still doesn’t make him the end of discussion GOAT.

These are just several examples of “GOAT” athletes.  I could have picked others.  In the case of Brady, Federer, Williams and Jordan, I am not saying that any of the them are not the GOAT in their respective sports, just that you can’t close the book, especially based on most championships.   There are lots of considerations, and this blog just begins to scratch the surface.

Food, The Ultimate Trojan

over-eating

According to mythology, a Trojan Horse was a huge wooden horse given as a gift. However, it was nefariously used to hide soldiers inside the horse to sneak them across battle lines, and help the Greeks win the war against Troy.

Today, more people are familiar with the term trojan virus; where something inviting, that you want to look at on your computer, is encrypted with something damaging. Once opened and inside, like the battalion of soldiers, the virus can be destructive.

So what makes food the ultimate trojan?  Unlike a wooden horse or a curious file we download, we need food to live.

The food we put in our mouths may seem like a gift and, if done consciously, food will not only enable us to live, it can give us energy, assist in making us feel better when sick, and extend our lives. However, if done haphazardly, this “gift” of food can operate like a trojan and wreak havoc on our systems.  It can sap us of our energy, assist in exacerbating or even causing depression and anxiety, it can contribute to or cause illness and disease.  

Ultimately “trojan food” can cause a premature systems failure: fatigue and moodiness at the least, and premature disease and death at worst.

We get all worked up about guns and terrorism (understandably so) but they are far less likely to kill us then our diet (combined with other lifestyle behaviors). In 2014, death by gun occurred 33,736 times, and for terrorism we lost 32 lives. This gives us a combined total of 33,768 deaths. Sad and tragic as this may be, it pales in comparison to death by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699) also in 2014, for combined total of 1,206,047. That is… one million… two hundred six thousand… and forty-seven. 

Between heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, respiratory illness, good eating habits is one factor that could greatly reduce mortality and assist with other chronic conditions facing many of us, such as Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

So, friend or foe, which is food you?

healthy_vs_unhealthy_food_foodguruz-in_

To put it bluntly, it is foe for a lot of us. The average American diet stinks. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. On average we only get one serving of fruit a day? And apparently if you cut out french fries and ketchup that number goes down. Wow.

Despite all of the rhetoric about what constitutes a healthy diet, there is a basic agreement that a whole foods plant-based is good, and processed crap (including processed meat, refined carbs and sugar laden “food”) is bad.

So why do so many reject or ignore basic healthy eating guidelines and continue to stuff their pie holes with crapola?

Like big pharma, big food spends not millions, but billions, to get inside of our heads. The goal being to get us to think that what we want, our free will, is what leads us to eat food that might actually be slowly killing us.  

evil-junk-food-companies1

And like the tobacco industry big food targets our kids because ya hook um young and you have a customer for life. Google the phrase “food is the new tobacco” and see what comes up. Here is one piece.

Further, food can be addictive.  Knowing this, what do you think the makers of big food do?  Put more or less of what is addictive, like added sugar, into their version of a trojan horse?  (FYI sugar substitutes have issues of their own.)

The good news is you can retrain your taste buds.  

Confession time. Despite always being thin, I have been a food glutton for a good portion of my life.  If it wasn’t stapled down I would eat it.  In the lunch room in high school, when friends would see me coming, they would go the other way, especially if I hadn’t eaten yet.  My motto was fast food wasn’t fast enough!   The older I got, the more into health I became.  My eating habits changed out of concern for:

  • Health.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Effects of food choices on the environment. 

An unexpected surprise was that these health foods started to taste really good!  A lot of the unhealthy things I use to eat that I have once in a while don’t taste as good, making it easier to further refine my habits.  Yes I still have my weaknesses and “cheat” here and there, but I feel like I have woken up.  

This isn’t about vegan vs. carnivore.  You can make healthy and unhealthy choices, including gluttony, within each realm.  The idea is to make conscious, mindful choices.  

Do some research, (these days I feel compelled to warn against fake news sites) and if you’re the all or nothing type, make radical changes. If you’re the dip your foot in the pool type, start small.  That is what I did, and the way I eat today is practically unrecognizable from where I use to be.  

Today, when I read through ingredients on websites and food labels, I get turned off by what I see knowing that the makers intentionally spike food with addictive substances (like sugar, fat, and salt) knowing how bad they are for health.  And just like suspicious emails that may contain a trojan, I stare at it for moment, shake my head no and move on.  Not today trojan, I’m not falling for you.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

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For those interested in the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian eating, I recommend the website: http://NutritionFacts.org

One of the articles embedded in this blog is Oldways Common Ground Consensus Statement on Healthy Eating.  The committee is composed of the below persons.  Co chair, Dr. David Katz has a great health and nutrition blog for you to consider following.  He has a non-judgmental balanced perspective.

The objective of the committee was to get experts with differing opinions on healthy eating (vegan vs. paleo, etc.) together to see what they can agree on.

Chairs:

David Katz, MD, MPH, Founding Director, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition; Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Participants:

Steven Abrams, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dell Medical School, University of Texas (Austin, TX)

Sara Baer-Sinnott, President, Oldways (Boston, MA)

Neal Barnard, MD, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine (Washington, DC)

T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University and Founder, T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (Ithaca, NY)

S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Professor Emeritus, Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Alessio Fasano, MD, Director, Center for Celiac Research; Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Associate Chief, Department of Pediatrics, Basic, Clinical and Translational Research, Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Christopher Gardner, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford, CA)

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

David Jenkins, MD, DSc, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto; Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital; Director, Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Ontario, CA)

Tom Kelly, PhD, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sustainability Institute at University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)

Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (Boston, MA) Malden Nesheim, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Provost Emeritus, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Dean Ornish, MD, Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (Sausalito, CA)

Simon Poole, MBBS, DRCOG, Medical Practitioner and Commentator (Cambridge, UK)

Eric Rimm, ScD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Loma Linda University School of Public Health (Loma Linda, CA)

Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, President, Hellenic Health Foundation and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nutrition at the School of Medicine, University of Athens (Athens, Greece)

 

 

Daily News Columnist Uses Donald Trump To Race Bait. Why?

racist2jpgOne flaw that some writers (and readers) fall prey to is giving more credence to the opinions of others than the merits justify. And when those opinions get restated in enough outlets? Well then obviously (insert sarcasm) they are facts. Further “facts” that align with our own opinions are more readily accepted and less likely to be fact checked.

New York Daily News columnist, Shaun King’s, article dated November 22nd, Now that Donald Trump won the presidency, it appears white folk are finally watching the NFL again, includes enough information to present his case. A case that irresponsibly concludes the main reason behind the fall and rise of NFL ratings has to do racism. 

There are enough legitimate issues, race and otherwise that are challenging to overcome, we don’t need specious arguments to inflame them. They muddy the waters and make progress more challenging. We don’t need writers who we depend on to inform us, educate us, highlight areas of need, and progress, to derail us.

Let me get specific. Mr. King’s main point is that for most of the NFL season, ratings for watching NFL games has been way down. He states the reasons for the ratings drop as reported elsewhere are: 

  1. Netflix
  2. Cord cutting
  3. Concussions
  4. Too many games on now (Thursday night football)
  5. Over-saturation of fantasy football
  6. The games haven’t been very good
  7. The protest started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. (His kneeling before the national anthem)

Actually Mr. King hypothesizes that Kaepernick’s protest was the main reason for the ratings drop.

As evidence, Mr. King stated in a November 1st article there is a “definitive” study/poll that says that 56% of the people surveyed believed the anthem deal was the main reason ratings are down.

Mr. King states: “Several studies also backed Donald Trump up and said that the top reason some fans weren’t watching was because of the protests of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by black players.”

So, when Mr. King refers to studies, I clicked on the link he provides and it takes you to an ESPN article that contains information on one study, not studieS.

As stated the 56% refers to people’s opinions. This would be laughable (if it wasn’t divisive) because it is 56% of people’s opinions, not on what they are doing but on what they think others are doing. The latter, as recently proven in the presidential election, is not always accurate, how can you use the former as definitive evidence?  

And while there is a valid point to be made that Trump was trying to appeal to a specific voting segment by blaming the Kaepernick protest, that doesn’t make Trump right. It’s not like the President-elect was prone to making controversial, offensive statements while campaigning that had no factual basis right? 

Further, the one poll referenced in the ESPN article was taken at Seton Hall. How many people were polled? (841) What was the age, gender, race and ethnic breakdown of this one alleged definitive opinion poll? (Merriam-Webster defines definitive as: authoritative and apparently exhaustive.  Does one poll asking people the opinion of other people seem exhaustive?)

With the recent increase in NFL ratings, Mr. King concludes: “Every reason that people gave for the ratings being down still exists, except as soon as Donald Trump won, and white folk were given a testosterone boost to their whiteness, ratings magically went back up.”

Race baiting language aside, I would imagine that the “white folk” that voted for Trump, (of which I am not one) as well as the black folk, Latino folk, Cuban folk, women, and young people who voted for Trump, are all feeling good about themselves, at least as it pertains to the election. That’s what happens when your candidate wins.

Just like I am sure all the white folk et al that voted for President Barack Obama… Twice… felt good when he won.

Above, I list seven reasons that Mr. King cited as reasons for the ratings drop. An eighth reason, which I believe he intentionally left out of the 11/22 piece, was the presidential election itself and the huge boost in ratings cable news received for its coverage of it.

Why do I say intentionally? Because Mr. King mentions it in the inflammatory column he wrote on November 1st, entitled KING: NFL ratings are down because racists despise black men who are truly free. Nice. Has anyone ever told this guy about not yelling fire in a crowded movie theater?

Anyway, in this article Mr. King mentions the Seton Hall study and how the 56% statistic being cited as the main reason for NFL ratings being down, and how that is listed as an even greater reason then the presidential election cable news coverage. (FYI, 50% of the people in the same poll cited cable news coverage as a reason for the ratings drop, but this stat is left out of Mr. King’s article.)

Now, neither Mr. King, nor I, can say for sure how many people tuned out of NFL games due to the Kaepernick protest, or the election coverage, (or for any other reason) but I can share the following information regarding cable ratings during the election that may or may not affect your opinion:

  • From Variety, Fox NewsCNN, and MSNBC — have seen their total day ratings skyrocket (due to the elections) 73% from last year. 
  • From Salon.com, If the American public is as tired of coverage, as they profess to pollsters, this certainly isn’t reflected in cable news networks’ratings as the country barrels toward Election Day. In fact, this could wind up being a record year for cable news. 
  • From the L.A. Times, “Through the first six weeks of the football season, Sunday viewing of cable news channels CNN, MSNBC and Fox News is up 79% compared with 2015 in the 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours when NFL games air.”

November ratings for cable news have yet to come out but here are a couple of quotes/ headlines forecasting the expectations:

  • From Chicago Tribune: CNN and Fox make plans to cushion painful ratings decline after blockbuster election.
  • From FortuneWith the election over, the expectation is that cable news networks’ days of record ratings are also over, at least until the next big election. 

Okay, so lets review:

  1. We have the NFL experiencing low ratings at a time when cable news has record high ratings due to coverage of a specific event, the presidential election.
  2. All major networks, liberal and conservative, experienced a ratings spike.
  3. We can assume it is not just conservative white folk who were following the election coverage.
  4. When this event (the presidential election) and the coverage of it ends, we see an increase in NFL ratings and a significant decrease in cable ratings is expected…. Hmmm.

From this, the logical conclusion to Mr. King (and his wife) is that white folk are happy Trump won and that racists whites don’t like seeing free black men?  Well the status of black men as a whole in the NFL has not changed since the election so that eliminates one reason.  

And I’m going to lean towards the election coverage being over as the biggest factor. I believe that the NFL ratings would have bounced back to at or near the same level had Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson won the election.

All of the other reasons cited above, including the Kaepernick protest, and others not previously mentioned here, such as Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman pointing to the NFL rules are eliminating the fun of the game, the Red Zone channel, where viewers can cut from game to game to see potential scoring action, may also contribute to the ratings decline. To what end? Neither you, Mr. King, nor I can be sure but I see them as secondary to the election coverage being over.

I just don’t see how Mr. King can presume, definitively and with such assurance, that racism is the main reason. Of course it’s possible racism is the primary reason, but the TV data and historical viewing trends (cable news rating historically getting a boost during election cycles) suggest it is not. The fact that Mr. King completely steers clear of an analysis of election coverage ratings/ data, if only to refute it, suggests he is blinded by bias or intent.

Mr. King doesn’t come close to reaching the civil court burden of proof, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt.  I’m not suggesting don’t bring it up. Our shameful racial history justifies that.  I am suggesting don’t take it to DEFCON 1 level unless you’re more reasonably sure.

In concluding, Mr. King states “If you are reading this and refuse to believe the role race and culture are playing in the everyday decisions millions of people make, then you are blind to the country we are living in.” 

Here I sadly agree.  Yes in a country of 318 million people there are millions of people who make race based decisions.  Just because this statement is true in the general sense does not mean it applies to NFL ratings.  Nor does it justify race baiting language that makes it harder for races to come together.  

He ends the article by stating, “White fans are boosting the NFL’s ratings because they were throwing a fit over protests. Now that Trump has won, their egos can handle it.”

It is never good when you begin a critical statement by generalizing and stereotyping an entire group of people.  Is it wrong to say Black fans are… Mexican fans are… Jewish fans are… White fans are… Yes, it is wrong to all of the above.

I’ve used the term race baiting a few times.  Here is a working definition. From the Urban Dictionary: Race baiting definition – One who insinuates that racism or bigotry is a dominant factor with regards to an event that either does not involve race or in which diverse cultures are involved are simply a minor element.

Here is an example of race baiting from the Urban Dictionary:

Race baiter (insinuating race): A person of color was abused by a white at school today, just another day in the U.S. of K.K.K.A. 

I would suggest that racist whites and blacks, who profit off of division want to look for or create division and racism where it doesn’t exist. Or if it exists, but not anywhere close to the magnitude they suggest, race-baitors will exaggerate it to profit off division and hate in some way, (career, status, or ego.)  They seek it at the expense of other possibilities because that is their brand.

In some cases race baiters may be well intended and operate under a means justify the ends thinking. However, when invoking racism inappropriately… race baiting can hurt everyone, and slow progress for all people, even those the author may sincerely want to help. And that is an ironic shame.

This too is America 2016.

Infected: Hysteria And Politics

fbloggedonI planned on keeping quiet about the election. Between trolls and obsessed true believers, in many circles the interweb has become a nasty place.  But a friend mine on Facebook sincerely asked me for my thoughts. I hesitated.  Then I realized that leaving the pool to the trolls and those who can’t play nice in the sandbox is assuring that the situation will only continue to get worse.

My response to election 2016 is maybe I was a little more surprised by the result then I should have been. (Polls are partly responsible for that.)

However, I think those in the media that play up the angry white vote angle for Donald Trump, continue to do a disservice to the public by acting like the school yard instigator and contributing to the divide.  Trump basically got the amount of votes consistent with a republican candidate regardless of the opposing candidate, previous president, or current circumstances.

Hillary Clinton received fewer votes than President Obama did in 2012, (including among blacks, Latinos and women) which when you consider that many, rightly or wrongly, felt that between superdelegates going to Clinton in states and caucuses she lost, and the DNC shenanigans that we became aware via wikileaks, the will of the people was subverted in the democratic primary.

Further, again, rightly or wrongly, we knew as far back as the primary that HRC came with baggage that President Obama (and likely Bernie Sanders) did not, so it is not a shock that while Clinton won the popular vote in the general, she could not inspire the voter turnout as much as President Obama, and thus lost the electoral.

How Did We Get here?

For years there has been this negative feedback loop between politicians, the media, (main and social), and the public, that escalates and accelerates the ugliness, hypocrisy, arrogance, condescension, and close-mindedness that pervades our elections, and “discussions” (if you can call it that) of politics and social issues.

It gets worse every election cycle and makes it harder to govern for whoever is in charge.  The “loyal” opposition (both parties depending on who is in power) do what they can to obstruct and get to the next election where they hope to get more senate/ house seats and or the presidency. Politicians do it to save their jobs and as part of their means justify the ends thinking. By individual partisans and the media, this obstructionism is seen only as unidirectional where one side blames the other for doing it, and is in denial about doing it when it serves them. Or they acknowledge and justify obstruction behind either:

  • A-Self righteousness (means justify ends) 
  • B-The childish defense of, “they did it to us so we’re going to do it too!”

Too many people talk at or down to others, and are unwilling to listen and compromise. Their voices are louder and drown out the attempted voices of reason. Partisans not only troll their counterparts, but those who would dare attempt to have a neutral position or try to find a middle ground.  I’m sure I have already angered some with this post and what they would call false equivocating.

Where have you gone respectful disagreement? Yes, I understand there are very serious, even life and death issues at stake. Passions are high. That makes it more, not less important to really hear and respect each other.  How is the other way working out for us?  Think outside of the microcosm of one election.  Think about the progressive dysfunction of the government, the growing chasm between compatriots, and the ignored and or mounting issues we face as a nation.   

Aside from the malevolent, I don’t want to say these adverse behaviors/reactions are things most of us have been guilty of at one time or another, because it is more like a hysterical emotional/ psychological virus (HEPV, sorry True Blood fans) that we are victims to, and then spread.

I don’t say this to  judge or invalidate any beliefs, just that even valid beliefs are subject to HEPV, that then morphs otherwise good and reasonable people into a semi-delirious uncompromising versions of themselves. Not the most effective way to communicate. I exaggerate to make a point.

Speaking of exaggerating.  Another effect of HEPV is vulnerability to Fake news websites, social media, exaggerated/ false meme’s, and unsubstantiated “facts”, oh my.  These things do not seem to matter to many when they align with existing opinions.

The media is biased, most of us know this.  Depending on the outlet, it may tilt left or right. The less talked about media conundrum is its sensational predilections which is partly why star power and charisma trump, pardon the pun, qualifications and experience when it comes to covering/ promoting candidates.

Further, the tabloids and internet websites created a frenzied rush to get stories out first. Cable news created the need to present it in an entertaining/provocative way. Objectivity, accuracy, and truth are often casualties of this war.

Many in the media have betrayed the public trust.  As a result they are not trusted, even when they are accurate. NO ONE should get their news from ONE source. 

As for our president-elect, he is a true wild card who does have the potential to surprise us in good ways.  Or, be the worst nightmare that many think he will be. Time will tell. I voted third-party (for the 3rd or 4th time in my life) because I truly believe the country needs a viable 3rd party, and in this instance because I live in a non battleground state. In case you’re wondering, if I lived in a battleground state, I would have un-enthusiastically voted for the devil I know in Clinton as opposed to the devil I don’t know in Trump. However, I do not fault those in battleground states who did vote third-party for too many reasons to go into here.  

Barring the start of WW III, (not an impossibility given current state of world affairs) Susan Sarandon may be on to something when she inferred maybe we have to hit bottom (with Trump via a Marxist Revolution) and start over.  I certainly hope not, but don’t know.

I’m not sure how we get out of this cycle of an escalating divide…this hypnotic trance we are in… but if we don’t, and if Trump is as bad as many fear, if THAT is not bottom, then the next war might not be WW III but CW II. 

The things I am speaking of, (HEPV) are generally easier to see in others than it is in ourselves. It is important that we try. Hate to sound cataclysmic but the fate of our democracy and more rides on it. #wakeup & #snapoutofit

Tips For Moving Forward:

  1. Get news from more than one source.
  2. Fact Check.  (For The Love Of GOD, Especially Memes!!!)
  3. Know that you’re not right about everything therefore those you disagree with must be right about something.  
  4. Be as tolerant of others as you would want them to be tolerant of you.  
  5. Breathe and say a mantra before you react to others.  Or let yourself cool off before posting on social media.  
  6. Don’t be a hypocrite (substitute other name(s) or group(s) to see if you think something is okay or not).  
  7. Don’t lose friends over politics.  
  8. Stay engaged outside of election season and find positive ways to interact and make a difference in causes you care about.  
  9. End conversations with a handshake, or a hug, or a positive emoji/smiley face 🙂
  10. Stay humble, stay grateful and stay hungry. 

Going forward, of course I, and I hope you, wish for the President-elect to succeed in his role in matters of national security and the economy.  For social issues, the environment, I share concerns that many of you have and I encourage everyone to get or stay activated, peacefully protest when desired, and engage in civil discourse. 

 

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10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression?

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When I scrolled down my yahoo news feed and saw a post with the headline, 10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression, as someone who works in mental health with clients who suffer from major depression, I was intrigued.

It’s an important subject because depression is far more prevalent than we would like to admit. Knowing how to see the signs and talk to people can make a difference.

I respect the author, Julie Revelant for writing the piece. However, while I agree with portions of it, I either disagreed or found much of her list to be an oversimplification.  You can read her entire article here.

Speaking of oversimplification, there is only so much to be gleaned from a blog on a topic like this. There are too many variables to account for every situation.

Therefor before I get to my critique of what Relevant says you should not say, maybe something you should say to someone with depression is have you thought about talking to someone professionally? While many experience mild to moderate depression, others experience major depression that can be life threatening.  This is not something to be diagnosed and treated by someone not qualified to do so.

Keeping the above qualifier in mind: Here are the 10 things Relevant states you should never say to someone with depression and my take on it.

1. “Don’t think about it.”

This is not an absolute.  Some may think about their depression too much, others not at all. Negative emotions can be signals your subconscious is trying to send you that something is off.  Another word for not thinking about depression or problems, is denial.

A common point where I will agree with many of the things on Relevant’s list is while some of the phrases don’t work as statements, they may work as questions.

If you think someone is depressed and is thinking about it too much, perhaps you can ask them how is thinking about the problem helping?  Is it possible to focus on something else for a little while?  Is the person ruminating and dwelling on problems?  If so, you can assist them in focusing on solutions.  In this way they are still “thinking” about it but you are redirecting them towards the positive by changing the focus.

Further, by questioning and suggesting rather than stating, you are acknowledging and empowering rather than belittling and dismissing.

Here, Revelant quotes Dr. Susan Noonan, a certified peer specialist and consultant in Boston, Massachusetts, “The thing about depression is that it’s not something you can will away. It’s a biologically based medical condition of the mind and the body”.

 

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I agree with the first part of the statement, in that alleviating depression requires some intervention. To try and will it away, on its own, is not enough. If the depression is mild maybe the person can intervene on his own.  For moderate to major depression, maybe a trusted friend or therapist’s help will be needed.

Where I respectfully question Dr. Noonan is when she refers to depression as a biologically based medical condition.  From this I infer that she believes all depression must be treated with medication and or by a psychiatrist.  And while those suffering from depression should have an initial evaluation by an M.D. and a psychologist, medicine is not needed for all.  In some cases a person may benefit from being on meds for life, others for a brief time, and others are capable of doing fine with talk therapy, and improving things like diet and exercise.  Never needing medication.

2. “Just think positively.”

If said on its own, I agree with Revelant that it should not be said.  But there is whole segment in the field of psychology called cognitive behavior therapy that is based on helping people see through cognitive distortions and redirecting absolute negative thinking. If a friend is depressed “because nothing ever works outs”… true, you should not say “just think positively.” However you can ask him, can you think of a time when anything, anything at all worked out? Usually that answer will be yes. Start with a small positive and build from there.

Ask him to forget about the big picture for a moment, and think about one or two things, no matter how small, that can move him in the direction he wants to go.

In this case you are not telling him to think positive but you are leading him to thinking positively or at least piercing the distortion, and having positive thoughts.

3. “Be grateful.”

One issue I have with the statement, “be grateful”, in addition to what Relevant talks about, is you run the risk of pushing the depressed person away.

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On its own, be grateful doesn’t convey empathy or understanding.  But let’s assume you spent some time expressing empathy and understanding; asking (as opposed to telling) your friend if they have anything in their life to be grateful for can be a positive redirect.  Or an indication of a deeper level of depression than you realized if he doesn’t respond.

And if after gentle probing and or suggestions of things to be grateful for, your friend cannot find something, you may consider contacting another friend or loved one to help, and or reiterate the importance of talking to a professional.

4. “No one ever said life was going to be easy.”

Certainly not an ice-breaker.  If a friend is struggling with or didn’t meet a life challenge, after expressing empathy, possible questions to ask are:  What were your expectations?  What can you learn from this? What can you do differently moving forward?

Revelant states, “This statement makes it sound as if the person who is suffering has control of what is going on his brain”.  IF the depression has a biochemical connection than all of the talking in the world may be insufficient, unless it’s the talk that gets the person to the doctor.

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However, our brains do get trained to think and react in a certain way and it is possible to retrain them. If the need for medication is ruled out or perhaps in conjunction with, a person can, if not in total, gain a measure of control.

If negative messages and thinking have seeped into our brains and predominated for years and years, then it will take more than one catchphrase, or one therapy session to turn it around.  But in many cases it can be turned around!  “Obstacles” can become challenges.  “Failures” can become opportunities to learn and improve… or… present an opportunity to make a different choice that works out even better!

Events that occur are immutable.  They are what they are.  Perspective, how we look at them and respond are very mutable… we can change them!

5. “Turn to God.”

I generally agree with the original post here.  I would add that faith is not limited to God or even a higher power.  There is room for faith to help in an atheist or an agnostic as well.

Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, uses a metaphor of avoiding a car accident.  He says, we are taught, if we are about to get into a car collision and we look at what we are about to hit, we will indeed get into an accident.  However if we look away, we will turn away.  You can encourage others to look in the direction they want to go as opposed to focusing on what they view as the accident.  It is a, “my room is a mess”, versus “today I am going to clean my room” mentality.

As Robbins would point out, One focus’ on the problem, the other the solution.  Is it a guarantee?  Of course not.  But faith can be a powerful precursor/motivator that can drive action and be the spark that helps initiate change, and positively affect mood while in its pursuit.

One can find faith in many places:

  • God.
  • Spirituality.
  • Religion.
  • In yourself.
  • In a process that has worked for many others.
  • In a healer.
  • In a friend or family member.
  • In having a purpose.

6. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

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Here, after expressing empathy, I would rephrase:  Are you feeling sorry for yourself?  If yes, ask why. Empathize, validate the feeling but then ask what would help you after feeling sorry for yourself?  This attempts to get your friend unstuck and moving forward.  If they don’t know, perhaps suggest keeping a journal, and free associative writing.

7. “I know how you feel—I’ve been sad, too.”

Relevant and the Dr. she quotes have a problem with this one.  I agree you shouldn’t say this just to say it. However, it can be okay if you truly can relate to how the person feels, and can offer an experience that is relatable to who you’re talking to.  In working with adults and abused adolescents, I have seen this work again and again.  As a facilitator of groups on various mental health topics, some of the most valuable moments come not from the educational materials handed out, or anything my co-facilitators or I said, rather the empathetic understanding of peers in the group who shared their similar experience.

And this is one of  those things where the situation or timing may affect the appropriateness of saying something like this to a friend, and his receptiveness to it.  Right after a person loses a loved one, they probably don’t want to hear, “I know how you feel”.  Five months later in a loss and grief group it may be beneficial to be surrounded by people who know how they feel.

8. “Get over it.” 

Yeah, not a fan of this one.  But in keeping with rephrasing, depending on the issue, you may be able to ask why do you think you’re having a difficult time getting over this?  Especially if the person has a history of being able to emotionally recover from depressing events such as breakups, not getting a job, etc..

9. “You don’t look depressed.”

Not as bad as number 8, but not a good lead in either.  My theory on this phrase, which is similarly used in response to when someone says they are terminally ill, is, it is a defensive response due to being caught off guard by sharing, and not immediately knowing what to say.

Relevant states that what the person hears is, “I don’t believe you or you’re a fake”.  What I hear is, the mask I have projected to keep you from knowing how depressed I am is working.

As with all of the above, the best thing you can do for your friend is get yourself to a place of empathy, make your friend feel heard and understood before attempting to go to positive redirection.  And if you gauge the moment to be right, at some point during the conversation you can offer positive reinforcement in an area(s) where your friend is doing/looking well.

10. “You need a hobby.”

At its worst this statement can come off as condescending, and at its best it can still come off as dismissive.

In question form, have you thought about a hobby?  Can take on a different meaning.  And follow the initial question with probing for areas of interest and you may come up with something. Pair this probing with the aforementioned empathy and understanding, while a hobby may not cure the depression, it may be able to assist.  Then it is not dismissive or condescending.

Revelant correctly points out that people who are depressed do lose interest in activities they use to enjoy.  Clinically, this is referred to as anhedonia . However not all people who suffer from depression suffer from anhedonia or the same degree of it. A little push and encouragement may be the thing that helps get your friend back on track.

As suggested in the beginning, both this and Relevant’s post are simplifications.  There is a broad range to depression, that is not limited from mild to major.  There is also bi-polar.

Treating clinical depression can be challenging enough for the trained professional, if a friend or family member reaches out to you with depression, I would encourage you to encourage them to seek professional help.

Practically speaking, a lot of people do prefer to talk to their friends.  In this situation you can bring your authentic intention to help.  Actively listen.  Provide empathy.  Provide validation. And if appropriate, ask questions and make suggestions that try to steer your friend to some positive thoughts.

If you are not comfortable or if your friend continues to use you as a crutch, and it is not helpful to him and stressful for you, then to take care of yourself and to keep from potentially enabling your friend, you may need to draw a boundary that is in the best interest of yourself and your friend.  Which circles us back to therapy.

RE: Therapy, there are many therapists who offer a sliding scale and there are other options for those with low-income.  You can try contacting a local graduate school and see if they have interns available for a low fee.

If a friend is resistant to therapy because they don’t believe in it…Encourage them to keep an open mind. If they tried it in the past and did not like the therapist, suggest there are good and bad of everything and to give it another try, especially if they have never been evaluated for medication.  There are natural remedy’s and diet changes to try first if they are uncomfortable with meds or that is their preference.  Full disclosure, I use a natural remedy called Sam-e (with b-complex) with some positive results.

Initially, the best thing you can do is just be there for your friend.  They probably realize you are not a pro and may not be looking to you for solutions rather just to be understood and perhaps for attention.  If someone comes to you beyond a level you’re comfortable with, then take care of yourself and gently let your friend know this.

Here are some referrals:

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  2. Befrienders Worldwide
  3. Families For Depression Awareness
  4. Teen Health and Wellness (this link offer hotline numbers for lots of teen issues)
  5. ULifeline (for college mental health)
  6. The Trevor Project (For LBGTQ)
  7. Postpartum Depression
  8. Vets Prevail 
  9. Crisis Help Line – Offers hotlines for many issues. 800-233-4357
  10. Crisis Text Line 

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THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  WHILE I DO WORK FOR A MENTAL HEALTH AGENCY WITH THE JOB TITLE OF, MENTAL HEALTH REHABILITATION SPECIALIST, I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

The above article by Jeff Schubert provides links to other non schoobysports.wordpress.com sites. Neither Jeff Schubert nor schoobysports.wordpress.com has control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that schoobysports.wordpress.com links to another site does not mean that Jeff Schubert nor schoobysports.wordpress.com endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which schoobysports.wordpress.com provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

When To Legalize PED’s And Medical Marijuana In The NFL

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Seems like we can’t go too long without a debate on the use of PED’s and medical marijuana in the NFL (and other sports). They’re not quite the same but, forgive the pun, I want to tackle them both. First up, PED’s. I’ve always been firmly against the use of performance enhancers for the following reasons:

  1. When used to get a competitive advantage.
  2. They can be dangerous if abused and taken over an extended period of time.
  3. When some players use it, it puts pressure on other players to make the same choice to keep up.
  4. It’s against the law and or is cheating.
  5. Bad example and dangerous for kids and teenagers.

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None of that has changed. However, Peyton Manning’s recent “exoneration” from an alleged HGH allegation got me thinking. Let’s pretend for a second he did use HGH. If a guy has four neck surgeries and missed an entire season, and uses some HGH to help heal and recover and get back to his previous established performance level, do we really want to compare that to the ongoing use of a healthy player using it to improve performance beyond his established level?

With or without medical advice there are a LOT of drugs that have side effects and are bad for you. In fact, according to Harvard University center for ethics, prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in America.

If a player has a season ending and or career threatening injury I am okay with him taking PED’s for a limited time, and under a league approved doctor’s supervision. In this limited circumstance:

  1. I do not see the player as getting a competitive advantage.
  2. It would not put undue pressure on other players to use when healthy.
  3. In this use, it wouldn’t be cheating if it was league approved.
  4. And it would be not a bad example to kids for the above reasons.

Marijuana is a little more complicated. I hear the NFL receiving criticism from many analysts on ESPN stating:

  1. Medical marijuana is legal.
  2. It is a hypocrisy for the league to test for marijuana given they make money from alcohol.
  3. It is not a performance enhancer.
  4. Football is such a violent sport, players need it for pain relief.

These arguments are not without merit. For instance, in 2013, what would you guess had more deaths related to it? Marijuana or alcohol? The answer is alcohol. Maybe that is not a surprise after all alcohol is legal. But what if I told you that the number of deaths due to alcohol in 2013 was 18,361 and for marijuana it was only 2,123? That’s a big difference right? Well guess what? I made those numbers up.  They’re worse. Deaths due to alcohol was 29,001 and for marijuana was, wait for it… zero! You can see the chart I pulled this from, here.

However I cannot fault the NFL or any league for keeping marijuana against it’s rules. First of all, until medical marijuana is legal in all states and survives initial appeals of such legality, I do not think the league should legalize it. But let’s assume that day comes.

If an NFL player wants to take marijuana for pain relief, or other approved medicinal use, I think he should be able to appeal for a waiver allowing him to take it in tablet form.

A medicinal reason to take marijuana should not be an excuse to “toke up” or chow down on brownies. Smoking and eating marijuana is associated with its recreational use and this is not what the waiver is providing for.

In order for this waiver to be approved, a league or team approved Dr. would have to:

  • Explain what other pain relievers have been tried and why the marijuana is needed.
  • The Dr. would have to inform the league of the dosage and length of time the player would need to use.
  • The player would need to submit to additional testing to measure the amount of marijuana in his system to ensure he is sticking to the prescribed dose and not abusing it.

Again, medicinal approval should not be a gateway to recreational use.

Yes, the league is hypocritical by looking the other way and profiting from alcohol. However, in this sense they are following the hypocritical lead of the country since the failure of prohibition, but to suggest that because they don’t do anything to prevent the use and abuse of one drug, alcohol, they should not for another is an argument I would expect from a rebellious teenager.

The league’s intention of keeping it illegal, is to protect their assets from themselves. Just like there are clauses in contracts to keep athletes from engaging in activities that increase the odds of injury, like skydiving or other sports.  

There is nothing wrong with this.  Owners invest a lot of money in players and it is not unreasonable for them to take measures to keep them from becoming addicted to a recreational drug that is addictive and can be a DPD, decrease performance drug, and a negative locker room influence.  

An irony here is that the NFL has been very rightly criticized for its handling of the concussion issue, but here they are getting criticized for not letting its players use an addictive drug?

I can just imagine if it was the opposite and the league had a lax policy for marijuana use.  They would be getting criticized for allowing players to do it, or looking the other way, so players can deal with pain and can get on the field and play through it. And with righteous anger they would state now you have these retired players who are addicted and have health problems and what is the league going to do about that?!

Max

ESPN’s First Take Co-Host Max Kellerman thinks the NFL is wrong on Marijuana Testing.

Talking heads love to talk and love to criticize.

So to surmise. Yes on PED’s to assist with recovery from season ending or career threatening injuries only. (I am open to its use for other severe injuries so long as the procedure is serious and legit and not used as a gateway/loophole for rampant use)

Yes to marijuana, if and when it becomes legal in all states where the NFL or a particular league plays, and with stipulations to help ensure it gets used for it’s intended purpose.