Archive for August, 2008

Weekly Check In – Week 27

August 31, 2008

Okay, it’s official: last week was my worst week ever in the 28 weeks I’ve been doing this. I got absolutely none of my goals accomplished. Did really nothing.

There are a couple of learning experiences from the week. The first is that although I didn’t manage to eat on calorie, or on maintenance a binge day for me is now 2,500 cal, whereas before, a regular day for me was 3,000 cal. So there’s a silver lining there.

I’m also just amazed at how my body has reacted. For the last 28 weeks I’ve been slowly working myself off a diet that while not fast food, was a lot of take-away, grocery pre-made (not like frozen tv-dinners, but those pre-made just pop-in microwave dinners the grocery makes), high carb (lots’n’lots o pasta) diet. For the last 12 weeks would say I’ve been successful at eating a predominantly vegan diet, mainly local, fresh, organic foods.

One week back to my old ways and I am physically a mess. I’m very tired, I have little aches and pains in my hips, I just want to sleep all of the time. My skin is oily, I’ve never really had oily skin, but I feel almost as if I could take a squeegee to it for the past few days. I’m bloated and gassy and crampy, I’m constantly thirsty. I’m getting odd headaches. I got sick. I haven’t been sick in a long time, and I got fully sick to my stomach.

Mentally I’m not too much better. My mind is lazy. I don’t want to read, I just want to sit in front of the TV and veg. I’m not really happy, it’s a chore to get up and go out and see friends and do stuff. Everything is kind of “blah”, I’m not excited about anything, I just sort of exist in this state of platication where nothing is really wrong, but nothing feels right either.

I’ve felt like this in the past, after a few months of really letting things slide out of control, eventually I end up a bump on the couch eating awful tasting popcorn. I do usually manage to kick myself in the butt and get out of it. I’m just really very surprised how fast the onset was this time. It’s really sending me a clear message how much exercise and eating right do regulate my mood and my energy levels.

In a semi-voyeristic way I’m really fascinated by this change. Like I want to study it.

I really don’t want to get out of my comfy robe and go to the gym this morning, but I need to turn this around. And, I accept the only way to do that is to get outside, get moving and go to the farmers market and re-stock on good healthy food.

I keep thinking this is the reason people don’t get started, when I am eating right and exercising I feel great, absolutely on top of the world, like I can achieve anything. Right now I feel as though brushing my teeth will take too much out of me. This is pathetic. Gym, here I come.

Overall: 0%
Household: 4%
Health & Beauty: 0%
Finance: 0%
Career: 0%
Entertainment: 0%

The observant may wonder how I can have 4% on my household tracking and 0% overall. This is because I have daily goals that lead into weekly goals. If I don’t achieve the weekly goal I need to deduct a point for the goal not achieved. If I didn’t get any points in that area, or have deducted them all then I deduct them from the overall total, as I don’t bother with negative numbers. So I did stuff around the house, a bit on health, a bit on finance, but overall not enough.

Q2 Running Weekly Average
Overall: 43%
Household: 63%
Health & Beauty: 49%
Finance: 35%
Career: 27%
Entertainment: 48%

Quarter 1:
April 2008 – June 2008
Overall: 55%
Household: 75%
Health & Beauty: 62%
Finance: 46%
Career: 36%
Entertainment: 53%

Why Did I Eat That Crap?

August 29, 2008

I don’t know if it’s repressed sado-masochistic tendencies, a slow learning curve, or advertising susceptibility whatever the reason, I feel like crap, because I ate the crap.

I really don’t understand why I do this to myself, is it an addiction? A weakness of character?

I read Health Habits: How to Motivate the Unmotivated and he suggests the trans-theoretical model of change as a reason why some people are successful at changing their habits, and others are not.

Stealing his summary:

The five stages of change are:

Pre-Contemplation

Contemplation

Preparation

Action

Maintenance

Pre-contemplation is the state of ‘no change’. You have no intention to change your behavior. In fact, at this stage, you may be completely unaware of any problem. According to Prochaska, Pre-contemplators are “often characterized as resistant or unmotivated and tend to avoid information, discussion, or thought with regard to the targeted health behavior”.

Contemplation is the stage in which you become aware that there is a problem, and you are seriously thinking about overcoming it, but have not yet made a commitment to take action. Contemplators are “more aware of the benefits of changing, but remain keenly aware of the costs. As well, they are often seen as ambivalent to change or as procrastinators.”

Preparation is the stage in which you are either intending to take action in the next 30 days or resume the actions that you had already begun, but had recently abandoned. This is the most common stage of the yo-yo dieter and exerciser. Psychologists view this as a transition stage.

Action is the stage in which you have made changes to your behavior, experiences or environment in order to overcome their problems. The Action stage involves overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and effort. After 6 months in the Action stage, you get to graduate to the Maintenance Stage.

Maintenance is the stage in which you work to prevent relapse and hold on to the gains you achieved in the Action stage. This stage is indefinite, unless you fall off the wagon, and have to start over at the Preparation stage. According to Prochaska, Maintainers “report the highest levels of self-efficacy and are less frequently tempted to relapse”.

This all sounds reasonably rationale, logical and fairly simple. My problem is his conclusion:

If we assume that most overweight people are stuck between the Contemplation and Action stages of change, what we really needs are techniques that can help people move from thinking and obsessing about their weight to actually doing something about it.

While I certainly agree that there are likely a large number of people stuck between these phases, it has been my experience that most people I meet who are struggling with weight loss have problems with the last stage – maintenance.

(This difference in perspectives may be because overall of overweight people maybe “most” are not trying to loose weight so they are stuck between contemplation and action, however I think there are significant numbers of people failing to loose weight because they are failing in the maintenance stage).

Why do we do this? It makes no logical sense to me.

In a way I could understand if I was pursuing a diet, if I was denying myself foods I liked, if I felt deprived. But I don’t. Or, if it was hard, and I did not feel good, or was not seeing results. Here’s the mind bender for me. I was seeing results, had tonnes of energy, was on a “high” emotionally, felt all around better. And, still I crashed.

I am in serious need of a detox week next week. One of the most shocking things to me is that I feel this bad by eating poorly WITHOUT turning to fast food. Or at least not he big-chain big-name fast food. I let my life balance go totally out of wack, too much tv, too much computer followed by some Roti, some take away sushi, then some pasta alfredo and some pre-made wraps and sugary fruit drinks….

So no, it’s not big mac’s & soda but nonetheless I feel horrible. I feel hung over, sick to my stomach, gassy, my bathroom habits are nasty and really stinky (you needed to know), I hate the way my skin feels, it’s been a week and I think I could squeegee the grease off me. I feel like a big disgusting blob, I feel depressed, lazy, low energy, I am the supersized sloth.

Feeling like this is enough motivation for me to be back on the wagon starting today. But the question will continue to bother me. Why do I keep reverting to old bad eating habits when I know that they make me feel this bad?

How do we get to the maintenance stage and just fall off the wagon, when staying on the wagon feels so much better?

Weekly Check In, Weeks 25 & 26

August 29, 2008

It is safe to say that this is my quickest up and down. After the relative failure of week 24 I kicked my butt, worked super hard to get things in gear in week 25 succeeding quite well:

Overall: 79%
Household: 100%
Health & Beauty: 95%
Finance: 71%
Career: 52%
Entertainment: 81%

Then I went to the big FanExpo convention in week 26. It wasn’t the FanExpo itself. I was careful not to eat the junk at the convention. To choose real-food restaurants and to watch my portions. It was more the life balance that went. I couldn’t keep a hold of my other life priorities and the convention.

Overall: 38%
Household: 67%
Health & Beauty: 57%
Finance: 57%
Career: 23%
Entertainment: 0%

The worst part is I’m well into, almost done week 27 and this week has been worse than week 26.

Q2 is not looking promising so far:

Running Weekly Average
Overall: 49%
Household: 70%
Health & Beauty: 55%
Finance: 39%
Career: 31%
Entertainment: 54%

Q1 For Comparison:

April 2008 – June 2008
Overall: 55%
Household: 75%
Health & Beauty: 62%
Finance: 46%
Career: 36%
Entertainment: 53%

Weekly Check-In, Week 24

August 10, 2008

This week has been my weakest week since I started measuring my life balance goals. I did poorly in every category with a weekly overall average of only 11%. I still find it an interesting phenomena that when I feel in control of my eating and my fitness being in control of the other aspects of my life seems to fall into place. About midway though this week I surrendered to a maintenance level week after completing phase I of my plan. I also ended up letting many other aspects of my life slide. My bookkeeping and career search suffered the most, my kitchen is a mess and I haven’t even gotten the next two books for my bookclubs.

The good news is that with the olympics stared and a week of being idle I am really ready to get back to this. I delayed going back into it by a day for two reasons. One to round out one week of being idle and two to give myself that heightened sense of anticipation of going back into trying to achieve a goal and shoot for that success again.

One very positive thing that came out of the week off is that I had some of the foods that I normally cannot fit into my calories without sacrificing entire meals, and they tasted nowhere near as good as I remember. In fact they were pretty bad. Overly greasy, too sweet…. and I didn’t even eat fat food, these were just a few high-cal stir-fry’s that I made at home! I am desperately craving fresh tomatoes, corn, berries and greens.

Here we go, time for phase II to really begin!

Week 6 Q2 – August 3 – 9, 2008
Overall: 11%
Household: 33%
Health & Beauty: 19%
Finance: 0%
Career: 0%
Entertainment: 14%

Running Weekly Average
Overall: 45%
Household: 66%
Health & Beauty: 48%
Finance: 30%
Career: 29%
Entertainment: 59%

On Calorie Count, I run a weekly motivational group called Wagon Jumpers. It’s completely a self serving enterprise (well, sort of). Basically it’s a group for people who know that they are good at staring plans but not with the follow through. I’ve found that by running the group I feel responsible for not dropping out on people which keeps me honest and motivated. It also seems to be working for others as since the start of the group I have slightly over 30 participants who have been with me either since the group started 13 weeks ago, or when I closed the group to new participants 5 weeks ago.

Every week I post a discussion topic as a discussion starter, this week’s topic was “when wanting isn’t enough” what choices do you have to make to achieve your goals. Below is my answer.

This Week’s Topic

I have wanted to get fit and loose the weight for a long time now, almost 7 years in fact. I have had some success with calorie count before, but then I got bored, or busy or life happened. I have gotten desperate and tried stupid fixes like an all liquid diet, the grapefruit diet (I like grapefruit), and just straight up starving myself.

It’s taken 7 years for me to realize what commitment to changing my life means. That no program, pill or anything else is going to help me do this fast, and while people can hold my hand the cannot do the work and loose the weight for me.

To succeed in phase I I had to choose to adopt a long term vision, which was choosing a mind shift. I had to choose to watch people who were seeing results faster than I was because they were in diet range already, choose to not look at the scale meaning my precious measurements were gone, and choose every day to slowly look for healthier and more low calorie options as my intake was slowly reduced.

To succeed in phase II I need to implement the following choices:

1. Spend less time with online communities, specifically blogging so that I do not get as invested in them. Instead I will spend more time achieving my life balance goals and having more time to work fitness into my schedule.

2. Use my calendar even more. I have chosen to be responsible with my calendar for work and social events, I need to use that same calendar to make sure I am budgeting time responsibly for work outs rather than assuming I will find the time.

3. Say “no” to some social events, especially weekend events. I am overbudgeting my social time and I need to say no, or start weekend events later so that I have some time to go to the gym on weekends if I need an early start on my 4 days in the week or need to make it on a saturday. This means slightly less time with friends and family, but only really a couple of hours.

Canada Dives

August 9, 2008

CANADIAN WOMEN

 

Emilie Heymans and Marie-Eve Marleau

Emilie Heymans and Marie-Eve Marleau

There are few sports that show off the human body as well as diving. Requiring strength, grace, precision and a certain fearlessness to preform twists, flips and rolls from a frightening height. I know that I will never have the body of a diver, however, I love to look at these women. I would love to see more of these women as models. They have fit fantastic bodies that have shape and form to them and are completely inspiring, much more inspiring than many fashion models who look like they may pass out at any moment. There are really no more beautiful bodies than olympic bodies.

Emilie Heymans and Blythe Hartley are Canada’s hopes for Gold in Women’s Diving. Blythe Hartley on the 3m springboard and Emilie Heymans on the 10m platform.

Hartley and Heymans

Hartley and Heymans

26, North Vancouver - 3m Springbaord, Gold Medal Contender

Blythe Hartley: 26, North Vancouver - 3m Springbaord, Gold Medal Contender

Blythe Hartley

Blythe Hartley

27, St-Lambert Quebec - 10m Platform, Gold Medal Contender

Emilie Heymans: 27, St-Lambert Quebec - 10m Platform, Gold Medal Contender

Heymans and Marleau

Heymans and Marleau

Two other medal hopefuls show me that combined with the large number of rowers and kayakers from Quebec that my love for water sports (get your mind out of the gutter) is definitely from my French mother. Meghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion are both expected to contend for medals in the 10m synchronized.

19, Montreal Quebec - 10m Synchronized, Medal Contender

Meaghan Benfeito: 19, Montreal Quebec - 10m Synchronized, Medal Contender

Meaghan Benfeito

Meaghan Benfeito

21, Laval Quebec - 10m Synchronized, Medal Contender

Roseline Filion: 21, Laval Quebec - 10m Synchronized, Medal Contender

Roseline Filion

Roseline Filion

10m Synchronized, Benfeito and Filion

10m Synchronized, Benfeito and Filion

Rounding out the Canadian team are Marie-Eve Marleau who is expected to be a finalist in the 10m platform, and Jennifer Abel the youngest member of the team at 17 years old who is hoping to advance to the finals in the 3m springboard.

26, Laval Quebec - 10m Platform, Potential Finalist

Marie-Eve Marleau: 26, Laval Quebec - 10m Platform, Potential Finalist

Marie-Eve Marleau

Marie-Eve Marleau

17, Laval Quebec - 3m Springboard, Potential Finalist

Jennifer Abel: 17, Laval Quebec - 3m Springboard, Potential Finalist

Jennifer Abel

Jennifer Abel

CANADIAN MEN

Alexandre Despatie

Alexandre Despatie - Gold Medal Contender

Not to be outdone are the Canadian Men. As a woman I’m always a bit disappointed at the fact that the men do seem to get much more media attention than the women. We do get female profile, especially when there are no likely male medals for the taking. Diving is a good example of where the women are being overlooked. Alexandre Despatie is getting huge profile, touted as Canada’s hope for gold in diving, despite having broken his foot in April. I have no doubt that Despatie deserves the attention and the praise, however we do also have 2 women (Blythe Hartley and Emilie Heymans) who are expected to place Gold and 2 more women (Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion) who are medal hopefuls. Aside from Alexandre, there is only one other male diver that has a contention chance, and the other two men on the Canadian team are not expected to make it through to the final.

Alexandre, has also captured the teenage hearts of the nation if youtube tributes are any measure to go by.

23, Laval Quebec - 3m Springboard and 3m Synchronized, Gold Medal Contender

Alexandre Despatie: 23, Laval Quebec - 3m Springboard and 3m Synchronized, Gold Medal Contender

Unfortunately Despatie also peddles McDonalds, with the number of teenage fans he has it’s not surprising when we use sports stars to say McDonalds is good that kids are confused about what to put into their bodies. 

Alexandre’s partner in the 3m synchronized is Arturo Miranda. Miranda is also the oldest member of the team, but you would hardly know it to look at him. Originally from Cuba, Miranda now resides in Montreal.

37, Montreal Quebec - 3m Syncronized, Medal Contender

Arturo Miranda: 37, Montreal Quebec - 3m Syncronized, Medal Contender

Despatie and Miranda, 3m Synchronized Medal Contenders

Despatie and Miranda, 3m Synchronized Medal Contenders

Olympic Inspiration

August 8, 2008
Opening Ceremony

Olympic Stadium, Beijing 2008 - Opening Ceremony

In my journey to get fit I don’t think there could be a better inspiration than the Olympic Games. I have never been a sports fan in the American sense. I sleep through baseball games, can’t be bothered to figure out the rules of American football, loose track of the puck during Hockey, and can’t keep up with Basketball.

The olympics are different. In the first place there are a huge amount of single self-propelled sports. That is: archery, athletics (and all it includes: Track & field, shot put etc..), canoe/kayak, cycling, diving, gymnastics, pentathlon, rowing, swimming, trampoline, triathlon. In addition there are a variety of sports that are otherwise not popularized to the general public that simply spark some fascination.

Olympic inspiration comes from two places for me. First there is the unbelievable dedication that each of our athletes from around the world show to their sport, their bodies and their performance. In most cases they do this with very little monetary compensation, they are usually young, working and simple inspiring figures. The second part of the inspiration for me comes from looking at the actual athletes and realizing that my goals are not that unattainable.

I was born in July and my mother always said I learned how to swim before I learned how to walk. I was a water baby and I remain fascinated by water. If I could find a well paying career that involved swimming all day I just may go for it. As I’ve discovered new water sports they have become part of my inspiration to get my body back in shape. I will be following four events during these olympics: Canoe/Kayak, Diving, Rowing, and, Swimming.

This entry is dedicated to our boating sports. First, let me dig out my patriotism:

CANADIAN ROWING

 

Melanie Kok - Single Scull

Melanie Kok - Single Scull

Canada has a long and checkered history in rowing. We win big, or we loose big. I became fascinated with Rowing back in 1996 watching Marnie McBean lead the women’s 8 to gold.

A few years ago Breakfast Television did a spot on the Argonauts Rowing Club in Toronto. I was really excited to find out that I could do rowing just blocks from my house. Then I went on their website and came to the realization that I needed to drop some serious weight to do rowing.

This year Canada’s best hope for women’s rowing gold is the Women’s 8.

26, 60, 145lbs

Sarah Bonikowsk: 26, 6'0", 145lbs


26, 59, 165lbs

Ashley Brzozowicz: 26, 5'9", 165lbs


26, 511, 170lbs

Heather Mandoli: 26, 5'11", 170lbs


29, 60, 161lbs

Darcy Marquardt: 29, 6'0", 161lbs


Womens Eight

Women's Eight


30, 510, 143lbs

Jane Rumball: 30, 5'10", 143lbs


30, 510, 154lbs

Romina Stefancic: 30, 5'10", 154lbs


31, 56, 152lbs (I wonder if she fights vampires?)

Buffy Williams: 31, 5'6", 152lbs (I wonder if she fights vampires?)


49, 52, 99lbs (team coxswain)

Leslie Thompson-Willie: 49, 5'2", 99lbs (team coxswain)

I’m sure there are some more athletically inspiring pictures out there of these women, and I do hope to post some as the olympics continue. For the purpose of inspiration this is the second type of inspiration that I was speaking about. These women look like my friends, the girls I went to university with and my neighbours. They are slightly taller or slightly shorter than I am, and they have realistic attainable weight ranges.

For all the women out there who think they need to be less than 120 lbs at 5’9″ to be “fit” consider the women above. They are our olympic athletes, they have a good shot at winning gold in the 2008 Olympics, they look healthy and fit, and they are all about 140 – 170 lbs.

Romanian Women Edge Out Canadians

None of the other Canadian Women are expected to win, but we do have some expected to place.

Women’s Quad

28, 59, 160lbs - expected to place Top 6

Krista Guloien: 28, 5'9", 160lbs - expected to place Top 6


26, 510, 154lbs - expected to place Top 6

Janie Hansan: 26, 5'10", 154lbs - expected to place Top 6


29, 60, 163lbs - expected to place top 6

Rachelle de Jong: 29, 6'0", 163lbs - expected to place top 6


32, 58, 163 lbs - expected to place top 6

Anna-Marie de Zwager: 32, 5'8", 163 lbs - expected to place top 6

Women’s Pairs

Womens Pair

Women's Pair


27, 60, 165lbs - expect to place top 10

Zoe Hoskins: 27, 6'0", 165lbs - expect to place top 10


28, 58, 169lbs - expected to place top 10

Sabrina Kolker: 28, 5'8", 169lbs - expected to place top 10

Lightweight Double Sculls

Our lightweight women had a weight battle to make their weight before the olympics, lightweights must weigh and average of 125 lbs for the boat with neither partner weighing more than 130 lbs.

Lightweight Double Scull

Lightweight Double Scull


33, 57, 127lbs - small medal hope

Tracy Cameron: 33, 5'7", 127lbs - small medal hope


25, 55, 125lbs - small medal hope

Melanie Kok: 25, 5'5", 125lbs - small medal hope

The Canadian Men are “Rowing for Redemption” following the huge disappointment when they were expected to win gold and finished 5th place a full 9 seconds behind the leading US team.

Canadian Mens Eight Rowing for Redemption

Canadian Men's Eight "Rowing for Redemption"

Canadians take 5th place as US wins first victory in 40-years. Canada, give them another 40!

CANADIAN CANOE/KAYAK

Sport Yaking

Sport 'Yaking

I went white water rafting for the first time this past July. I was completely mesmerized by the sport kayakers who accompanied us. Our guides were amazing and the sport ‘yakers didn’t need to rescue anyone. They mainly kept us entertained as they did amazing tricks shooting rapids upside down, unbelievable rolls, jumps and surfing standing waves in level 5 rapids! They could look completely serene in the middle of white water, it was truly inspiring.

The big names for Canada to remember in Canoe/Kayak this year are two boys from where I grew up (no, I don’t know them).

Adam van Koeverden, who also was Canada’s Flag bearer in the opening ceremonies, has hopes for Gold in K-1 500 and K-1 1,000.

26, 511, 190lbs - Gold Medal Hopes

Adam van Koeverden: 26, 5'11", 190lbs - Gold Medal Hopes

Mark Oldershaw from Burlington is Canada’s best hope in Canoe in 2008.

25, 61, 207lbs - Medal Contender

Mark Oldershaw: 25, 6'1", 207lbs - Medal Contender

Not to be forgotten, Canada has world class rapids in Quebec and we’ve got a great showing of Quebec women coming out for first runs. The youngest is Genevieve Beauchesne-Sevigny at 22 years old.

Female Sport Yaker

Female Sport 'Yaker

Mylanie Barre - Top six contender, k-2 500

Mylanie Barre - Top six contender, k-2 500


Genevieve Beauchesne-Sevingy - Top six hopeful, k-4 500

Genevieve Beauchesne-Sevigny - Top six hopeful, k-4 500


Sarah Boudens - Top 20 Contender, k-1 Slalom

Sarah Boudens - Top 20 Contender, k-1 Slalom


Emilie Fournel - Top 6 hopeful, k-4 500

Emilie Fournel - Top 6 hopeful, k-4 500


Karen Furneaux - Top 6 contender, k-4 500 - Top 10 contender, k-1 500

Karen Furneaux - Top 6 contender, k-4 500 - Top 10 contender, k-1 500


Kristin Gauthier - Top 6 Contender, k-2 500 & k-4 500

Kristin Gauthier - Top 6 Contender, k-2 500 & k-4 500

All round I’m looking forward to a great Olympics, and seeing Canada and the rest of the world preform.

Fat Tax, Why Not?

August 7, 2008

Is there really a difference between Joe Camel and Ronald McDonald?

The knowledge of the negative impacts of moderate to high consumption of junk food on health are now running parallel to our knowledge of the impacts of smoking on health 25 years ago. The parallels are scary. The first lawsuits have been called frivolous. Individual responsibility and consumer choice/freedom advocates are paraded in front of the cameras; not to counter the facts, but to let us know it is our right to make poor dietary choices. As the debate rages on the scientific evidence and the bodies are piling up.

I can find no credible research that says that moderate to high consumption of calorie dense, low nutrition foods is good for you, or even, not harmful. Finding research on the effects of calorie dense, low nutrition diets is not difficult.

American Dietician Association – Fact Sheet on Healthy Eating on the Run
Government of Ontario – How To Read Nutrition Labels
Heart-Health Canada – Foods To Avoid

If we know with reasonable scientific certainty that junk foods are bad for us, why are we not taking action? Why have we not banned them, taxed them, or at least stopped advertising to our children?

Considering advertising may provide some answers. Junk food is big BIG business. I’ve stolen from Dr’s blog HealthHabits, his entry “Your Kids Are Being Targeted“, and here are some quick numbers on the advertising spending of the fast food and junk food manufacturers in the United States alone.

In short the Federal Trade Commission Reports that the nations largest food and beverage companies spent $1.6 Billion per year advertising products – especially carbonated drinks – to kids.

Here is the question for me, if America’s 44 largest food and beverage companies have $1.6 Billion dollars to spend on advertising each year, why should we not incrementally tax their products?

PERSPECTIVE

Before I get into this debate let me say that I am coming at this question from a Canadian perspective. As I see it there are three key differences in Canada that concern this debate. First, we have universal health care which we pay for through our income tax system. Second, we have controlled government-regulated access to alcohol and (less so) cigarettes. Third, we have mandatory food labeling.

WHAT WOULD A FAT TAX ACHIEVE?

Fat Tax, Twinkie Tax, Junk Food Tax. What I am referring to here is a tax that would be placed on high calorie, low nutrition value foods. Not a tax on individual people who are above a certain BMI or Body Fat Percentage.

    1. An Economic Dis-incentive to purchase junk foods.
    2. Create an Economic Incentive for the manufacture and production of more healthy food options
    3. A revenue stream that can be re-directed into public nutrition education, health care, healthy food subsidies, healthy food subsidies for low income households
    4. A reduction in the social acceptance of junk food consumption.

1. Economic Disincentive to Purchase Junk Food. A tax placed on the manufacture of calorie dense, low nutrition “junk food” has two potential outcomes. It may encourage the manufacturer to produce less junk food as it will now be more expensive to produce. Or, the manufacturer will pass the cost onto the consumer. If the cost is passed onto the consumer there is a wide body of research which shows that junk food is largely an impulse purchase item. Impulse purchase items are highly price sensitive, and, if the price is raised on impulse purchase items then it is reasonable to assume a decline in the rate of purchase.

2. Economic incentive for the manufacture and production of more healthy options. As the forced labeling of Trans Fats came in, there was a scramble by manufacturers to reduce and eliminate Trans Fats from their foods, then splash the news all over their packaging. As knowledge of the negative impacts on health of fast food has spread, fast food chains have increasingly offered menu items that at least appear to be healthier such as salads, soups, apple slices, wraps, veggie burgers etc… Forcing food items to be identified as junk food would create an economic incentive for manufacturers to healthy up their recipes or provide more health conscious options. This would work particularly well if revenues from junk food taxes were used to subsidize the cost of healthy foods.

3. Creating of a Revenue Stream That Can Be Re-Directed. If a new tax is created there are several options for the use of this new revenue stream. First, and foremost for our tax-sensitive citizens this new revenue stream could be tax-neutral. Tax shifting and tax diversification are both very desirable options to avoid continued tax burden on income and property taxes. If we do not opt for a tax-neutral solution, then revenue can be used to create education programs for our public or our children on better nutrition, dollars from the junk food tax could be re-directed into the anticipated health care needs of an increasingly obese population, a three tiered food ranking could be created where junk foods are subject to tax, foods that do not fit the junk food description are tax neutral and foods that are considered high priority for healthy diets could be given tax rebates, or we could re-direct the tax revenue into healthy food allowances or healthy food subsidies for low income families. There’s lots of ideas.

4. Making Junk Food Less Socially Acceptable. It took the Anti-Smoking advocates 25 years, limitations on advertising and many increases on taxation to reach a point where smoking is now increasingly socially unacceptable, and for the first time we are hearing reports of declining smoking among 18-24 year-olds, typically the highest category. In the long run the effects of a junk food tax are not to make people who are currently addicted to or heavy users of junk food reduce their consumption, but to make new entry into this market less desirable with more barriers to entry.

FAT TAX IS BAD!

The primary arguments that I have found against a fat tax are as follows:

    1. Will Not Reduce Obesity.
    2. Hurts Civil Liberties.
    3. Impacts The Poor.

1. Will Not Reduce Obesity. A tax alone will not reduce obesity rates, what is needed is more education on nutrition and exercise, better food labeling, and better health and nutrition programs in early childhood education.

2. Hurts Civil Liberties. Big Brother, The Government, and no one else should have a say on what I do with or put into my body. The Government is stepping into an area of private life where it does not belong, and it will cost the government billions of dollars to implement this tax. It is a waste of time and resources for an infringement on civil rights that should not take place to begin with.

3. Impacts the Poor. There is a socioeconomic relationship between obesity and poverty. Fatty junk foods cost the least. People with lower incomes are likely to have had or have access to less education and will not be as informed on food choices. By imposing a tax on junk food we would be taxing those who can least afford it, and who do not have the same tools to make nutritional decisions as upper classes.

REBUTTAL (Yeah, But…)

1. Part Of The Solution.

A tax on junk food will not single handedly reduce obesity. One tax increase won’t likely impact obesity at all in our generation. If there is a tax increase tomorrow, someone is not going to walk into McDonalds and think “$0.50 more for my Big Mac! I’m gonna go get that $6.99 free range organic chicken wrap down the street instead!“.

To reduce the rate of obesity and hopefully reverse it we need: better food labeling; better public education; more food, nutrition and exercise education for our children; and, less junk food advertising… In short we need a paradigm shift.

A junk food tax can be part of that solution. It can signal societies recognition that junk food, like cigarettes and alcohol are items that society considers indulgences and not entirely socially acceptable. The tax signals that more caution should be used when consuming these products than your average produce isle banana.

Claiming that the junk food tax should not be implemented because it will not single handedly solve the obesity epidemic is like saying there should not be a legal drinking age because there is still underage drinking.

2. Leave Some For The Next Generation.

The environmental movement has made it mainstream knowledge that what we do in this generation will impact the next generation. Every election in Canada Health Care is the number one issue. As we watch the baby boomers retire and consider the increasing demands on our health care system as better geriatric infrastructure and care is needed for our increasingly elderly population we need to consider what can be done to make sure that our health care infrastructure does not crumble.

Health Care is only part of the overall health formula. Increasingly research shows us that for every dollar we spend in prevention we save three dollars in health care costs. No one should be denied health care, but as long as we are sharing the costs of caring for our sick, should we not also try as much as possible to prevent our population from getting sick. This makes both humanitarian and economic sense.

3. Teach A Man To Fish.

The mark of a good society is how it treats is poorest citizens. We know that if you use junk food from moderate to heavy levels you are more likely to be obese, and obese people are at much higher risks for a very long list of diseases and health complications. To argue that we should not impose a junk food tax because it would hurt the poor the most, since they consume the most junk food to me is a complete deflection of the real problems in poverty.

If we accept that poor people are eating junk food because they cannot afford healthy food then we need to address why poor people cannot afford healthy foods. We need to provide better funding to our food banks, we need to provide more direct to family assistance, and we need to look at the cost margins of buying healthy vs. junk foods.

If we accept that poor people eat junk food because they don’t have the education to make better food choices. We are first making a huge assumption about the level of intelligence of lower income people. If we want to proceed down this path the solution is not to provide them with the tools to continue to make poor nutritional choices but to provide them with education programs in the communities, education programs in the schools and after school programs, pre-natal and post-natal nutritional information, and provide primary care workers nutritional educational tools.

CONCLUSION

I don’t see the downside to the junk food tax. We are going to need to generate revenue from somewhere to pay for our increasing health care needs, and I would rather have that revenue cost come from the manufacture and sale of junk foods than from the “Health Care Premium” recently imposed by the McGuinty Government.

Fat, Fatophobe?

August 6, 2008

Is this like being called a self-hating _______ (fill in the ethnicity)?

I spent too much time online yesterday discovering some new blogs that taught me some new words like Fatophile and Fatophobe. The terms seem to be the property of slang in blog land at the current time.

John of the Total Transformations blog has a good summary of the arguments on his entry titled Fatophile vs. Fatophobe

I should also thank McBloggenstein for introducing me to the term fatophobe on his blog entry, Wait… Does that make me a fatophobe?

To get the most acceptable definition of fatophile, or to be more politically correct “Fat Acceptance” I looked up the NAAFA: National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance Here is what they define as the issues:

Discrimination towards fat people in the workplace, education system, and healthcare system has been clearly documented and is growing rapidly. Weight discrimination was reported by 7% of US adults in 1995-96, and almost doubled to 12% by 2006.

To improve working conditions, healthcare, and overall quality of life for millions of Americans, weight must be added to the list of categories covered in anti-discrimination laws. This can be accomplished on a federal, state, or local level.

Size Discrimination Consequences are Real!

  • Creates medical and psychological effects
  • Results in wage disparity
  • Affects hiring and promotion
  • Affects academic options and advancement
  • Why Do People Partcipate in Size Discrimination? They Believe…

  • Stigma and shame motivate dieting and other attempts at weight loss
  • People fail to lose weight because of poor self-discipline and willpower
  • How Does Our Culture Allow Size Discrimination?

  • Sanctions overt expression of bias in social situations and through mass media
  • Says thinness is desirable & perpetuates societal messages that obesity = failure as a person
  • Places blame on the victim ignores contributing environmental factors
  • In response to the “Fat Acceptance” position people and organizations that promote reducing body fat do so almost exclusively from a health and wellness standpoint. A random google search can pull up any number of articles on the side effects of obesity on health.

    The Journal of American Medical Association: Vol 289, no 14, 2003 Effect of Weight Loss and Lifestyle Changes on Vascular Inflammatory Markers in Obese Women

    The Canadian Medical Association Journal: vol 160, issue 4 The cost of obesity in Canada

    World Health Organization Website: Obesity Epidemic

    The articles referenced above are from the most respected medial journals in the United States, Canada and the World Health Organization these are a very small sampling of what is available online.

    It is perhaps understandable that with national governments and international governing bodies lining up with health experts across the world to declare obesity a danger to individuals and society that a fat acceptance movement has emerged.

    Fat Acceptance: The Pro’s

    (Another good youtube video that takes too long to load – unfortunately http://www.youtube.com/watchv=YDakFfLQDF4&feature=related)

    There are some important points made by the fat acceptance movement:

    The flip side to obese is underweight or anorexic. There is a great deal of pressure on young women to be “too thin”. At the same time many women who are in a healthy size range report that they feel “fat” because they do not look as thin as the models, and women who are overweight are often vilified in popular culture.

    Increased images of a variety of body types and sizes in the media, advertising and popular culture could go a long way to building a society that is more accepting of difference.

    Research on size discrimination is not as widely available as research on the health effects of obesity, however there is a good body of credible research detailing the effects of size discrimination. The American Psychological Association agrees that size discrimination does occur and is in fact at its worst amongst children.

    Discrimination clearly does have all of the impacts listed by NAAFA

    Size Discrimination Consequences are Real!

  • Creates medical and psychological effects
  • Results in wage disparity
  • Affects hiring and promotion
  • Affects academic options and advancement
  • When considering wage, hiring, promotion, academic options and advancement, the only factors that should be considered are a persons ability as it pertains to the job, or field of study. Including factors that do not affect job performance or academic ability is unjustified discrimination to which I can see no social benefit.

    We also know that the highest rates of obesity occur in the lower middle classes. Higher education and higher incomes typically lead to healthier lifestyles.

    Finally there are environmental factors that contribute to obesity. The dollars spent on advertising of fast foods, junk foods, oversized restaurant foods and general consumerism of foods in North America is a multi-billion dollar industry that is largely unregulated.

    Fat Fear: Is it all bad?

    What if we were more afraid of fat? Can we be afraid of fat as a society without targeting individuals? If social values really do value thin is that a bad thing? Can we value thin without implying that someone who is fat is a failure?

    I agree that no one should be discriminated against in the job market or academic sphere because of elements that do not impact job or academic performance. I have trouble extending the Charter of Human Rights which in Article 2 is meant to protect people from discrimination based on physical attributes beyond their control or cultural practices which should be preserved to include the protection of fat people.

    As compared with hundreds of years of colonialization, slave trade, refusal of citizenship rights for minorities and women, the holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, and now Darfur I can’t see the plight of overweight people in the same category of protected persons.

    Why should fat be a protected status? The difference for me is that a black, hispanic, asian, jewish, woman, can perform work of equal quality to a white man but cannot (should not have to) change the colour of their skin, religion/ethnicity, or gender.

    A fat person can in most cases change their body size. The question becomes should they have to?

    I have already stated that so long as a persons body size does not impact their ability to preform a job or academic appointment it should not be a factor. That being said there is an overwhelming body of research that shows the sever impacts of obesity on health. These effect range from chronic diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular risk and disease and many many more.

    Here in Canada we are constantly debating how to best use our precious health resources without having to further burden our tax base. I strongly believe in universal health care, I do not believe that anyone should be refused health care. I also believe in civic responsibility.

    In this way I do not believe a fat person should have to change their weight to obtain a job they are qualified to do. I do believe a fat person should be socially encouraged to get fit as a social good, just like not smoking is now a social good.

    I do not believe a smoker should be denied medical treatment, however I do believe the government can and should engage in campaigns that limit the accessibility of smoking, that promote smoke-free lifestyle choices, and that stigmatize smoking to the young as a poor lifestyle choice. Likewise I believe these tactics should and can be implemented to reduce societal risk of obesity. When we all pay for each other’s health care we should take care to preserve it and it’s availability.

    I’m sure at this point some people are asking what about the people who can’t help but be fat?

    There are lists of diseases that contribute to or exacerbate obesity, it is however difficult to believe that all of these diseases have increased at the astonishing rate of obesity in North America such that the majority or even a significant minority of the obesity cases could be medically induced.

    Furthermore I would argue that if obesity were to go into decline, and lifestyle choices leading to obesity become less and less common then less research and funding will go into studying obesity epidemic as a cultural phenomena. Then more resources and funding could be diverted to study obesity causing disorders. This would give more attention to those specific diseases as individual cases rather than an assumption that all obesity is caused by poor lifestyle choices.

    The final NAAFA position argues that there are environmental factors that contribute to obesity. Essentially that society is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic and as a result should accept obesity as our own creation and therefore protect it.

    There are billions and billions of dollars spent each year on advertising of food, fast foods, junk foods, fad diets, and fashions that all send very mixed messages about what we should consume and what we should look like. I don’t think that it is easy to be fit in North America in this consumer climate.

    There is however a danger in the environmental factors argument. While they do contribute to obesity, these contributing factors cannot and should not be considered separate from or instead of individual responsibility.

    The advertising makes it look good, the smell engineers make it smell good and the taste engineers make it taste good (uh, sort of)… but it is each of our individual choices to decide what we do or do not put into our bodies.

    Would it not be more productive to create better education for people to make better choices with? To limit and discourage the advertising of fast food and junk food in the same way that cigarette and alcohol advertising has been limited? We as a society made a mistake embracing the fast paced, instant everything, consume at all costs mantra, but that does not mean that we should accept the results of that mistake rather than trying to fix the root causes.

    If fat fear was more common, would we develop a corresponding fear of the choices that make us fat? Would this consumer demand be big enough to create a larger market for healthy organic foods and realistic images of portion sizes? Perhaps a dose of fear would not be an entirely bad thing.

    Fearing fat people as individuals is not helpful, but fearing fat as a society and it’s impacts on our social infrastructure could be socially beneficial.

    Am I A Fat-o-phobe?

    I think I can firmly plant myself on the fence on this issue. Or more accurately I think there is a wide stretch of middle-ground that can be covered.

    We can embrace different body types, sizes and shapes, value a diversity of colours, races, genders, heights and yes… weights without promoting obesity as a valid lifestyle choice or minimizing the risks therein.

    We can fight discrimination in our society while also fighting for the promotion of healthy living over junk food living.

    We can reconfigure our mental environment to value nature, out doors activities, meeting our neighbours and forming viable sustainable communities that make individuals feel included and people not consumers.

    I won’t be placing my own BBW ad anytime soon, but I am not going to dismiss my next job applicants capabilities based on their weight either.

    In short I don’t embrace and never will embrace the “fat acceptance” movement, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize that we are all human and all entitled to dignity and respect.

    Poo

    August 5, 2008

    Yes, this post is about poo, dog poo to be specific. If you keep reading it’s not my fault.

    I woke up this morning to the very bad smell. If you are a dog owner you likely know that smell (or perhaps if you are a parent). It’s not just the poo smell it’s the rancid poo smell…

    This past weekend was Caribana in our neighbourhood, it’s a huge Caribbean festival, and involves a lot of Caribbean food, mostly chicken, specifically jerk chicken. The result is after the festival is done there are chicken bone all over the parks, they are on the side walks, in the gutters, in the grass on the walking paths…. everywhere.

    We own a beagle and a shepherd who think that Carribana is the best time of year because there is a chicken bone smorgasboard outside their door when we take them for a walk. These normally adequately behaved dogs become lunging, pulling, scrambling, skittering idiots to walk anywhere (as do most other dogs in the area). The shepherd is at least tall enough that we can hold onto the traffic leash and he can’t get low enough to the ground to grab the bones….

    Mr. Brown - Beagle
    Mr. Brown (Beagle)

    Jenkins - Shepherd
    Jenkins (Shepherd Cross)

    The beagle on the other hand, if I grab the traffic lead then he chokes himself, scrabbling on his back two legs fully extended, and I think he’s part frog as he uses his tongue to try to reel in the bones. It becomes a balancing act between not choking the beagle (or making him bleed, as he’ll pull so hard on the “no pull” harnesses to make his underarms chafe and bleed) and not letting him eat all the chicken bones. Of course he does manage to get some.

    The result is that rancid OMG I’m gonna puke poo… it was sooo bad this morning that he had had the runs right though the pillow we put in his sleeping crate with him and there was a bath involved.

    All of this disgustingness did make me think about diet and food.

    Our dogs are in very good shape, they get lots of exercise and we feed them the good vet food. They have shiny coats, are trim, fit and very active. We get lots of compliments on them, not just from other dog owners, but dog walkers and our vets. Our general “trick” is that we never ever ever feed them human food. We use dog treats (dehydrated liver) as treats not human food and we always feed them a very good quality food that has been tested over and over and over again and has all the nutritional requirements for them.

    I figure here is the problem with human diets and what we can learn from our own poo. So long as my dogs don’t get into the chicken bones, or human food I have to say that picking up after them is not a problem. It comes out in smaller than golf ball sizes, is put together and doesn’t stink all that bad. Reasonably the same for me when I’m in shape and eating well, my “functions” are normal, they do not smell excessively and there is no “mess”.

    I worked at a vet clinic for about 6 months while my partner was considering starting a dog walking business. What I learned there was that we can tell a lot about what is or is not going on with an animal based on their poo. I reckon it’s the same for people.

    After being on this clean food kick for close to half a year now, I have occasionally come across times when there are not alternatives to junk food, and I also remember what my bathroom “functions” were like prior to switching my diet. Really, I figure if William Shatner can talk about this on TV, then I can talk about it on a blog.

    Before cleaning up my diet I would find if I ate junk food, like fast food, greasy food then my movements would similarly be loose greasy and smell pretty bad. If I ate very spicy food I got similar results, but … with spice. Generally my “functions” were pretty telling of what I had been eating and it wasn’t good.

    I eat a primarily vegan diet now (mainly because eggs and cheese don’t agree with me) and while there was a bit of an adjustment when I switched while my system seemed to work itself out… generally a bit of stinky “what did I eat that was rotten?” stuff came out for about a week, but after that as long as I have been consistent in my diet I have not had to take reading material into the bathroom, worry if we have another roll of toilet paper under the sink, wonder if I can reach the pepto while sitting on the toilet or keep immodium in my purse. If those aren’t reasons to eat healthy, I don’t know what is.

    Competitive Motivation

    August 5, 2008

    This is a small confession on how petty I can be sometimes. I figure we can all be a bit petty sometimes, and I try not to be, but if I’m going to be petty it may as well be something that I can hide and confess in an anonymous blog rather than hurt someone.

    I started a motivational group for people trying to loose weight, maintain weight or otherwise achieve their health goals. The common thread in the group is that we all had health goals that we had trouble maintaining. That we knew how to maintain them, but we simply failed the consistency check needed to maintain them. We are people that are good at making plans, and executing them for a few weeks or months, but then for one reason or another we get bored with the plan, or sabotage the plan, or do something that basically screws up the plan and rather than picking up and dusting off we wallow, let ourselves fall apart until enough time has past that we must make another plan.

    I called the group the wagon jumpers. The idea of the group was to have everyone on the thread listed who is participating, the only requirement of the group was for each person to check into the group before Saturday of the week (Sunday – Saturday) and if someone hadn’t checked in then everyone in the group was to send them a positive and polite e-mail to encourage them to come back.

    I made two errors when I created the group.

    1. I assumed everyone who joined was as serious about beating this consistency issue as I was.
    2. I did not set a participation limit on the group.

    The result was that I ended up with over 50 participants. This meant that I had to do a whole lot of work when I would send out 2-day reminders, at least half of the people were not posting. And when the “Sorry we missed you last week” type notes went out I’m pretty sure that no one besides myself was sending them. I basically became the only administrator for what was supposed to be a cooperative group. People started complaining about the size about how much “work” it was to post once a week on “such” a long thread and I became very resentful of a lot of the participants.

    The good news is that I did have some cooperative minded people in the group and when I decided to cap participation I got a lot of support and I now have a good group of people approaching a total of no more than 30 who post regularly and are supportive of each other without to much encouragement from me.

    Here’s the petty part. I had one participant who was a pain in the butt in the sense that she complained a lot and did nothing constructive in the group. I was happy to see her out of the group. I always had to remind her, she resented the reminding but then also would get mad if I didn’t. Eventually she left the group and went and started her own group.

    The nice part of me should say “good for her, glad she found something that worked for her”… but part of me is really sort of snide that she couldn’t contribute to my thing but had to do her own thing. I should be happy for her, but I’m sort of not. Also her group is very much about her setting strict challenges for everyone in her group and has no collaboration. I don’t like people that need to be in control of other people to be happy.

    Today I’m happy, I read though her threads to see how many of her participants are sticking with her, and I’m happy that people are getting fed up with her and are leaving. I guess it does two things for me, first it shows me that there will always be some drop outs in any group like this, and second that people do seem to like to have their own agency more than being bossed around.