For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Friday, June 30, 2006

A quote for thought

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's not that simple...

One of the blogs I regularly visit brought attention to this article - Scientists List "Top 10" Reasons for Obesity. From the article, this is the list:

  1. Inadequate sleep. (Average sleep amounts have fallen, and many studies tie sleep deprivation to weight gain.)
  2. Endocrine disruptors, which are substances in some foods that may alter fats in the body.
  3. Nice temperatures. (Air conditioning and heating limit calories burned from sweating and shivering.)
  4. Fewer people smoking. (Less appetite suppression.)
  5. Medicines that cause weight gain.
  6. Population changes. (More middle-agers and Hispanics, who have higher obesity rates.)
  7. Older birth moms. (That correlates with heavier children).
  8. Genetic influences during pregnancy.
  9. Darwinian natural selection. (Fat people outsurvive skinny ones).
  10. Assortative mating, or "like mating with like,'' as Allison puts it.
Of course, there are immediate detractors. You'll note that diet and exercise are nowhere on the list, and since everyone knows that the only reasons people are obese is because they're too busy stuffing their faces to get any exercise, this list is likely to be brushed off by many - especially those in the diet industry.

While diet and exercise are certainly issues, I'm glad to see this list. It acknowledges that being overweight is not as simple as calories in/calories out. We all know skinny people who never exercise, eat any junk they want, yet never gain weight. Likewise, there are a lot of overweight people who exercise diligently and eat healthy, balanced meals, yet not only don't loose weight, but may even gain more. In our culture that worships thinness, it's far easier to stigmatize the overweight for being lazy gluttons, and a billion dollar industry depends on our continued disgust with fat - all in the name of "health," of course.

Personally, my own list of top causes of obesity would be slightly different. Here is my totally unscientific, based on my own research and experience, list of top contributors to the
"obesity epidemic."

1. The BMI: this thoroughly flawed index has somehow become the sacred definition of health. As long as you fit in the "normal" segment of the index, you are assumed to be healthy. If you are outside that very narrow field, you are considered unhealthy or, at the very least, at risk. The problem is three fold. First of all, it's based on an index developed by a life insurance company as a way to charge people higher premiums, which in turn was based on a hodge-podge of research that was used to back it up. Second, not too long ago, the upper margin of what a person's "correct" weight is was dropped some years ago. Overnight, thousands of people who had been considerred their correct weight were now considered overweight. And finally, the BMI is useless. I know people who, according to the BMI, are considered obese, yet to look at them, you wouldn't even think of them as being overweight in the first place. When I was my thinnest and strongest, the BMI put me at overweight. Today, based on the chart, I would be considerred "morbidly obese." Now, I know I'm fat, but there's no way anyone - including doctors before they actually weigh me and look at their charts - would consider me morbidly obese. I actually had one doctor completely change the way she treated me the instant after looking at the chart that rated me "class 3 obese." I was too busy laughing at the fact the chart was put out by a diet pill manufacturer to take it seriously.

The thing is, the BMI is nothing more than a mathematical formula. It gives no information about a person's actual health. Worse, it is a distraction, turning excess weight into it's own problem to be solved, rather than viewing as a possible symptom of larger health issues. The same doctor that suddenly treated me differently after seeing my chart immediately jumped to my weight being the problem, even though I came there for a completely different issue. In fact, she assumed that my reason for being there (extreme pain in my legs) was caused by my weight, rather than the other way around. It wasn't until she got the results of my blood tests, which came back "perfect," (her word, not mine) that she had me go for xrays and my OA was finally discovered.

2. Dieting. Research and statistics show that the more people try to lose weight by dieting, the more weight they gain in the long run. While they may loose weight in the short term, approx. 95% of dieters regain all or more of the weight they lost within 5 years. This yo-yo effect is shown to be extremely harmful to a person's overall health. Studies comparing groups of people who diet to loose weight with those who have never dieted show that the dieters often end up heavier than when they start dieting, and will all the obesity related illnesses we keep reading about. People who have never dieted to loose weight tend to stay the same weight in the long term, and don't show signs of these "obesity related" illnesses.

3. Thyroid problems. Of all the "morbidly obese" people I know, all but one of them has thyroid issues. Even among the simply overweight people that I know, for most, it's their thyroid that caused them to gain weight. One young man I know is a martial arts expert who used to travel on the competition circuit. He's got black belts in multiple arts and various belts in even more. As for his diet, he probably eats far less than he should. He's also on the highest dosage of thyroid medication his doctor feels he can safely prescribe, yet my friend is still overweight and struggling not to gain more.

and finally...

4. Illness/injury. I suppose thyroid problems could've been included in the "illness" category, but I've seen it so much, I gave it it's own. Illness and injury, however, is the category that hits closest to home, and not only because of my own injuries. My husband's initial struggles with weight began with a severe back injury that sometimes left him bedridden. As his overall health collapsed over the years, he found himself somewhere around 450 lbs. We don't know the actual amount, since we didn't have a scale he could weigh himself on. Even the dr's scale only went to 350 lbs. This, dispite the fact that he trained and taught martial arts, ate modestly, and maintained as active a lifestyle as he could without re-injuring himself. Since then, especially after his sleep apnea has been treated, he's lost about 100 lbs. He's still ill and we still don't know why. Another example is a co-worker of mine who is quite large. She's also got damaged ankles and at least one knees is badly injured. Despite the pain she lives with every day, she's one of the most active, hardest working people at my job, with more strength and stamina then then any of our thinner co-workers.

My whole point being, of course, that there's more to gaining and loosing weight than diet and exercise, and that prejudging a large person based on their size is down right stupid.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A new discovery

While taking public transit today, I happened to be facing a poster encouraging employers to hire people with disabilities. I then made an interesting discovery about myself.

It turns out, I'm disabled. Funny. I never knew.

After reading the list of "disabilities" on the poster - which finished with "other disabilities," to show that the already extensive list was incomplete, I've discovered that my husband and 13 yo daughter are also disabled. In fact, according to that list, just about everyone is at least potentially disabled.

I'm on the list because I have arthritis. Now, I have a hard enough time thinking of my post-traumatic osteoarthritis as a "disease" as it is. Now it's considered a disability, too. Back problems was on the list, which includes an aweful lot of people. Diabetes is considered a disability too, as is depression. Since just about everyone and their dog (or cat, for that matter) is considerred depressed these days, that sure covers a huge segment of the population. Substance abuse is also considered a disability, according to this list.

While I admire the intent of this organization, and agree that employers need to look beyond a person's disabilities, I'm taken aback by how all encompassing the term disability has become. Since when did illnesses become disabilities? Yes, some illnesses are disabling, but not all illnesses can be considered disabilities. I can see it in some cases - there are hundreds of types of arthritis, for example, and some are truly disabling. I have a hard time including most OA cases among them. OA is a wear and tear condition that we all will eventually get. It's just a matter of time and how well we take care of our bodies. Signs of OA are visible in Xrays of people in their early 20's, and many people don't even know they've got OA. Why would they? It doesn't affect them in any way. Yet, according to this list, they are disabled. And what of diabetics? I certainly can't view my type 2 diabetic FIL , for example, as disabled in any way.

I think, perhaps, that such an all encompassing list of "disabilities" may actually do more harm than good. We've done the same in other areas. Far too many children are being "diagnosed" as ADHD and drugged. Anyone who feels the blues (or anything other than being happy-happy all the time, it seems) is told they are depressed and drugged up as well. Not only do these fad illnesses lead to harm as people are taking powerful, mind altering drugs they don't need to be on, but the people who actually *need* this help are instead buried under the mountain of convenience diagnoses.

How can we be helping truly disabled people who are being discriminated against, if suddenly almost everyone is considered disabled?

Friday, June 16, 2006

still moving on... I think

I guess my blog title is still quite appropriate.

Today, my dh got a call from a company - one of several that had been "courting" him before he took the position he has now - looking to interview him. Several other people from the office he's in now have taken positions with the company, too, so he knows quite a bit about them. He's gone through an interview with them before, and they're familiar with him, as well, and we know that if they're calling again, they're serious about wanting him.

Considering some problems that creeped up after he took this position (misleading information, unprofessional behavior, etc.), he's not adverse to looking elsewhere, though he would rather finish off his current contract. Being in the IT field, he knows he has to keep his ears open all the time, too, so he's not about to just blow it off. He's got an interview set and we'll see what happens from there.

Although the position is in a nearby community, if things work out and he does end up accepting the position, it would mean we'd have to move. Again. It would have to be a pretty damn good offer for that to happen, and if we did move, it would be a step up in many ways - if nothing else, my husband might be willing to give the kids a bit more freedom if we move away from the "bad" area we're in now. Just the fact that they're courting him again is a positive thing.

So why do I feel so down about it? I knew our current living arrangements were temporary - the plan had been to stay here for a couple of years, then buy a house, though the buying a house part has been pushed back at least a couple more years, since it's taking us longer to get back on our feet financially than we expected (another "mistake" that makes us less than loyal to dh's current employer).

I know what part of the reason is. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I've moved a few times already. I don't think I've mentioned just how many, though. This last move was, for me, the 16th since I turned 18. I think. I'm starting to loose track. For my eldest, it was her 7th, and the 5th for my youngest. I'm getting tired of it. Actually, it's not so much the moving that I'm tired of. It's the fact that every time we do, we loose things. We sell things off, then can't quite afford to replace them as planned after the move. During one of our moves - what was supposed to be only a 6 month contract - we took along only what we could pack in the car as my husband drove out, and carry on the plane as the girls and I flew out a month later. We ended up being there for almost 2 years. Two years of things being extended 6 more months, then another 6 months. Two years of not buying proper furniture because we'd be gone in a couple of months, anyways. Then when we finally did leave, we only took what could be packed in boxes and shipped by bus, or what we could pack in - and on - the car. So much got left behind, even though we had so little to begin with.

My husband had promised me that we'd never go through that again, yet this move, that's exactly what we ended up doing. We got rid of or left behind all the furniture, and we are just barely starting to replace them now. And now we might move again. Not that we're going to get rid of anything this time - we don't have enough to do so.

I'm just tired of it. I'm tired of doing without. We've been married for almost 20 years; we're both sneaking up on our 40th birthdays, and what do we have to show for all those years? Nothing. In some ways, we've got less now than when we first started out together.

I guess I'm just wishing we had the normal, ordinary things of life. Like furniture - in *all* our rooms. A house that's ours. Being able to unpack fully. Having a kitchen properly stocked with tools and bakeware. Being able to take out and display the few items I've managed to keep throughout our moves, but don't have anywhere to unpack them to. Being able to do something long term, rather than thinking "should I bother starting with this, or will we be moving and have to stop/leave behind/otherwise get rid of, whatever it is.

I think what's happened after all these moves is that the old excitement of a new beginning has been replaced by the dread of "what will I have to give up this time?"

After all these years, I'm tired of it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mommy brag

I'm not the only blogger in the family. My eldest daughter has a couple of blogs, too, though one seems to be inactive at the moment. It occurred to me that I haven't got any links... so please excuse my proud mommy moment and visit my daughter's delightfully twisted blog.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"I was so embarrassed!"

So I go up to the staff room for break and the tv is on, but no one is watching. I switch it to the listings channel (reminding myself, yet again, why we don't bother paying to get tv at home) to see what's worth watching for the next 10 minutes or so. As the listings go by one side of the scene, commercials are played on the other. They are overwhelmingly for weight lost products - pills "available at your nearest Walmart."

A new commercial comes on. A bikini clad woman is shown walking away from the camera into deeper water. The scene is in slow-mo, with every wiggle and jiggle emphasized and exaggerated. The voice-over has a female voice saying "I was over weight. It was to embarrassing!" The scene then cuts to what is supposedly the same woman (she's wearing the same bikini, after all), this time walking towards the camera in normal speed. She, of course, is thin. Now the voice over is saying something along the lines of, but then I started taking X pills and lost Y lbs in a ridiculously short amount of time. I'm so much happier now.

The thing is, the woman in the before scene WASN'T FAT. She wasn't even anywhere near fat. Heck, the curves on the before looked a whole lot better than the 2x4 with no ass and inflated boobs in the after scene (normally, I prefer to use proper terms for body parts, but when it comes to enhancements, "breasts" just doesn't seem to be the right word anymore).

So here we have a commercial promoting the use of drugs to loose weight, using a person who didn't need to loose weight in the first place as an example of being fat, because *gasp* it's embarrassing! Forget about eating healthy, being active and living a healthy lifestyle. That won't make you skinny. Only these pills will. Go to Walmart and buy some now!!!!

The last time I was at Walmart, I decided to check out their display of these weight loss pills. It was a surprisingly small, hard to find section. A few labels specified that they helped lose belly fat. All promised fast weight loss with no need to exercise. Then I saw them, boldly labeled. Ephedra.

Now, that last I heard, it was illegal to sell ephedra in Canada. Something to do with all those people dying of heart failure and strokes. Now, I happen to be a big supporter of herbal remedies and natural vs. Pharmaceutical products for the most part, but I also recognize that herbal products, like pharmaceuticals, need to be used responsibly and judiciously. That's not happening when ephedra is used for weight loss purposes.

It reminds me of a poll my daughter did on Quizilla some months ago. Her questions basically boiled down to, would you rather be somewhat fat and healthy and live a long time, or unhealthy with a shorter life, but be thin. Respondents (over 1200 of them) overwhelmingly chose to be thin and unhealthy with a shorter life span.

There's something very wrong with this picture.


Friday, June 09, 2006

A quote for thought

I like to collect quotes. Here's one I felt might be pertinent in our current climate.

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag." - Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wake up call.

I'm not going to bother commenting directly on the group of men and youths arrested recently, accused of plotting a terrorist attack right here in Canada. Others are far better qualified than I to comment on it.

Having read this column, though, I just had to pass it on.

To those who continue to keep the blinders on and pretend that Canada isn't in danger of a terrorist attack, or believe that if we are, it's all because of the Big Bad Bush, this is your wake up call.

To quote the very end of the article...

"The terrorists in this country will keep trying against Canada. They are like bugs. Crush a few of them, but others will rise. Ottawa will be a target because of the symbolism for the terrorists. It is the capital. Like London and Madrid. It won't just be the Parliament, it'll be where many people are. Like a big shopping mall or arena. That is why we must support CSIS and the police and not listen to people who are so ignorant."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A question about money

Although I've worked retail before, including some very busy department stores, never before have I seen some of the things people do with money as I have since working in a grocery store. So, if anyone out there can enlighten me, please do.

First off, what's with the Ziploc baggies? I mean really. There are wallets, change purses, pockets, bags ... why do so many people use Ziploc baggies? I've rung in the groceries, given the total, and out comes this flimsey little bag (couldn't you at least use the stronger freezer bags?) filled with cash and change... and sometimes I get to see the customer search through a wallet full of credit and debit cards (but no cash) after they discover they don't have enough in the baggie to pay for their groceries. I can sort of understand using an envelope - get a check in the mail, cash it at the bank, put the cash in the same envelope the check came in - but a baggie? I just can't understand it.

Another question. How can some people carry such huge amounts of cash on them comfortably? Like the customers who pull out a thick wad of cash held together with straining elestic bands, then use $100 bills to pay for their $15 transaction. I've had some customers pull one thick wad of cash from one pocket, then a second one, then waffle back and forth between the two before deciding which one to use to pay for their groceries. I remember one customer who went through my express till, where transactions rarely reach as much as $40, pull out one of those bi-fold wallets with two pockets for bills. Out of one pocket, he removed a "fresh" bill from a respectable wad of cash. It was the other pocket that raised my eyebrows. It held a wad of bills at least an inch thick and, by the colour, I could see that over half of that consisted of $100 bills. *Old* bills, at that. The rest appeared to be old $50's. (those of you know know how our Canadian bills have been changing over the years will know what I mean.) The wad was so thick, it didn't completely fit into the pocket, and they had been there so long the corners of the entire stack were worn off, matching the wear and tear of the wallet itself. There had to be at least $2000-$3000 in that one pocket. Now, I'm not entirely comfortable carrying a few hundred dollars, never mind a few thousand! Then there's the thought that someone actually has a few thousand dollars they can just leave in the wallet and ignore long enough for it to show that much wear and tear... must be nice!

Then there's the crumplers. Why, why, why??? My husband is one of these, and he's never been able to give me any real reason as to why he does this. Rather than put the money into their wallet, or even just fold the bill at all, crumplers crumple the bill(s) in their hand before shoving it into their pocket. Then they dig it out to pay me, and I have to try and open these without tearing them, verify how many they actually handed me (I've had people hand me what they thought was a single bill, only to find 1 or 2 more hidden in the crumpled ball when I opened it), then I have to get the bill smooth enough to actually go into my till without catching on the top when I open and close it.

And finally, there are the dedicated non-cash users. I've had people, many of them repeat customers, so I know this isn't an isolated event, use their credit cards to pay for even the tiniest transactions. Seriously, when it costs more to use the card that the bill you're paying, why do it? I've started to wonder if it's somehow a cultural thing, since the customers that do this are overwhelmingly Chinese - but then, that could simply be because we're so close to Chinatown. Can someone enlighten me? Is there a cultural reason for it, or is it just co-incidence?

Just curious.