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If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.
-Buddhist saying

We live in a largely individualistic society. Our culture emphasizes self-sufficiency and control in the pursuit of achieving individual goals. We must make an effort to guard against the tendency to focus on ourselves to the exclusion of our fellow human beings. The tendency towards selfishness rather than giving.

I’m not saying we all follow this, it simply happens, through busy work schedules, stressful events, and just our hectic lives in general. Even for those of us that follow a self-centered approach, helping others has its own advantages:

  1. It makes you feel better about yourself.
  2. It connects you with another human while helping them.
  3. Improves the state of the world.
  4. Your good deed could lead to a chain of good deeds.
By no means does helping have to be a production, simple signs that we acknowledge the existence of other people might be enough to make someone feel a little better. Volunteer, donate, teach, help, listen, smile, and most importantly, love. Let’s make this world a better place, put a smile on someone’s face.
 

8/18/08 – 4.1 miles in 00:35:18
8/16/08 – 6.42 miles in 01:01:21

Advances in medical science paired with behavioral and social changes has led to an increase in life expectancy and lowered death rates. With these advances unlikely to stop, quality of life becomes the focal point.

A 21-year study examined the effects of running on disability and mortality rates of adults over 50. At the start of the study in 1984, many scientists thought vigorous exercise would do older people more harm than good. Some feared the long-term effects of the then “new” jogging craze would be floods of orthopedic injuries, with older runners permanently hobbled by their exercise habit. Emeritus Prof. of Medicine James Fries came up with a hypothesis called Compression of Morbidity, which holds that healthy lifestyles will not only prolong survival, but will also decrease the number of years with disability.

The researchers at Stanford began tracking 538 runners from a running club over age 50, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners. The subjects answered yearly questionnaires about their ability to perform everyday activities such as walking, dressing and grooming, getting out of a chair and gripping objects (this served to assess disability). The researchers used national death records to learn which participants died along with the cause of death. Nineteen years into the study, 34 percent of the non-runners had died, compared to only 15 percent of the runners. Death rates were higher in every category {Cancers, Cardiovascular (strokes and coronary artery disease), Neurological, and Infections (Pneumonia)} for non-runners when compared to the runners. 

On average both groups in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging, but for runners the onset of disability started later. “Runners’ initial disability was 16 years later than non-runners,’” Fries said. “By and large, the runners have stayed healthy.” Not only did running delay disability, but the gap between runners’ and non-runners’ abilities got bigger with time.  

A companion paper also debunked the long standing myth that runners have a higher prevalence of knee and joint problems. The paper also showed that running was not associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis in their elderly runners. Runners  in the study did not require more total knee replacements than non-runners.  

The basic message of the study states that exercise at any age helps reduce disabilities while increasing longevity. That said, the overall feeling of well being and the reduction of tensions as a result running would have been more than enough reason to continue my running habit. Being a relative newcomer (1 year) myself, I will post some tips on how to start running and keep at it. 

 

8/14/08 – 2.32 miles in 18:15 (7:51 per mile pace)

Dangers of Fat Acceptance

WordPress opens a world of discovery, the streams of passionate and knowledgeable writing flows endlessly. Amidst this river of ideas, being a strong proponent of health and well-being, I encountered several Fat Acceptance blogs under the health section (Shapely Prose, Junkfood Science, & Eat a Cheeseburger). Having become an ardent reader of these blogs, opinions bounce around my head waiting to be released. Many of these blogs seem to be intolerable of outside opinions so my thoughts/comments remain unpublished, this will serve as my outlet.

The concepts proposed by most FA websites promote self-confidence, with a call to end societal pressures to obtain THE ‘ideal’ body presented by the media. The sites also address the ineffectiveness of dieting and the potential dangers resulting from it. They deal with obesity as a human rights issue with a call to end all size related discrimination. All these valid points serve a wonderful purpose and can enrich the lives of many people. 

On the surface everything seems perfectly normal, but when one peruses the comments and reads some of the eating habits promoted by the sites, one quickly sees the detrimental impact. On numerous occasions people write what can only be labeled as careless eating habits. Claiming that if you want something go ahead and have it. While I am not against the mentality of eating whatever one wants, one needs to realize that overeating never serves a good purpose. 

Many FA sites spew contradictions. I have observed people claiming that weight loss as an impossible, unreasonable goal. Most argue that they live a fat but fit lifestyle exercising regularly and eating well. Yet they also take pride in reckless eating. Some go further insisting that excess weight is harmless to health.

FA sites urge acceptance of something that can be changed–excess weight–while trying to change what they cannot: the reality of its health risks. To be sure, some of us are born with larger bone structures, or lower metabolisms but few of us were born to be obese. We can change how much we exercise and what foods we choose. Unlike acceptance, these choices require effort. Let’s put forth the effort and help each other. 

 

8/03/08 – 5.53 miles in 50:53

Most people strive to become financially stable to the point of spending all their time on leisure activities. Money paves the way for such a lifestyle… freedom — from work, money worries, household chores and screaming kids. Free to veg out, watching a large-screen plasma TV or playing golf all day. 

According to research by Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist, quoted in an article in the Washington Post, “being wealthy is often a powerful predictor that people spend less time doing pleasurable things and more time doing compulsory things and feeling stressed.”

People who make less than $20,000 a year… spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure—watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way—putting their legs up and relaxing. Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional. The richest people spent nearly twice as much time as the poorest people in leisure activities that were active, structured and often stressful—shopping, child care and exercise.

It turns out that wealth is a predictor (i.e., not necessarily a cause or effect) that people will spend less time on passive leisure activities (such as watching TV).  

A few things to note from the study:

  • Poor was anyone making <$20,000
  • Even though the wealthy spend more time with stressful activities, they report being happier in general (though not by as much as one would expect).
  • Past the point of poverty, one’s happiness stays relatively stable throughout the $30,000 – $100,000+ income range.
  • Increases in income are expected to raise well-being by raising consumption opportunities but these material possessions only offer short term pleasure
  • People’s aspirations adapt to their possibilities (people always want more).
  • There is a weak relation between income and global life satisfaction.
There are several holes in the study but in general, people with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives but are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, they also tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities (though I argue that active leisure is extremely pleasurable and I don’t find watching TV that pleasurable).

I say all one has to take from this study is to focus less on income and live life to the fullest (whatever your definition of fullest is). Here’s a little tip though, no one achieves goals by sitting around a television set.

The entire journal article can be found here.

Dunkin’ Donuts has a new menu for customers watching their health and weight. The “DD Smart” menu, which will debut in stores Aug. 6, will feature new flatbread sandwiches. Customers will be able to choose either a turkey sausage egg-white sandwich or a vegetable egg-white sandwich. Both will be under 300 calories with 9 grams of fat or less, the company said.

“We just felt it was important to provide some choice in our menu,” said Will Kussell, president and chief brand officer.

The new menu will also include current menu items that have 25 percent fewer calories, sugar, fat or sodium or are made with more “nutritional ingredients”. Current products that will join the new sandwiches on the menu include a multigrain bagel, Cofee Coolatta with skim milk, Iced Latte Lite, a reduced-fat blueberry muffin, and more.

The entire DDSmart menu can be found here.

Hopefully in the future, success of this ‘smart’ menu over their old offerings should drive them to make this their ‘regular’ menu. I am strong proponent of fast food joints offering smarter choices not in special menus but making those choices the norm. It’s all about small steps and this decision by Dunkin’ Donuts provides a step in the right direction.

 

7/30/08 – 4.66 miles in 47:37 (slow run with Sparky)

Chili’s, Outback, T.G.I. Fridays… Sit down full-service restaurants remain a hot spot for anyone looking for good filling meal. As great as the food and atmosphere might be, a lot of damage (as far as goals to get fit) can happen here. Most of the entrées at these establishments contain well over 1000 calories, couple that with a drink and you might end up consuming over 1500 calories in one meal!

While many might argue that self control issues need to be addressed to prevent over-eating. The easiest way I have found to control this bingeing involves taking a ‘to-go’ container with you. As soon as your food arrives, simply place a good portion of it into your container.

The reasons I promote taking your own container is one can pack away the food as SOON as it arrives not after one is already stuffed and because of the environmental impact of the styrofoam boxes. Styrofoam is not a part of most curbside residential recycling programs, even though it is labeled with the recycling number 6. Styrofoam is made from polystyrene and is extremely bulky and lightweight, which makes it costly to recycle polystyrene in small quantities.

The second important step involves limiting/eliminating the amount of soda you consume at the establishment. Free refills often urge people to down several cups. These cups often hold 22-32 ounces, that’s more than enough. Limiting oneself to water might be the safest way to avoid any possible urges to order a refill.

These little changes in habits might seem pointless but everything adds up. The weight loss you might not see now will arrive 6 months later. I by no means am a pinnacle of human fitness, verbalizing these goals just helps me keep with it.  Just enjoy the journey and try to keep everything moderate.

7/24/08 – 4.6 miles in 42:34

A new rule requiring chain restaurants in New York to post calorie information on their menus took effect this past Friday. The regulation defines a chain restaurant as one that has 15 or more outlets across the country.  In New York, the rule affected 2,000 restaurants or 10 percent of the total in the city. Among them are such restaurants as McDonald’s, Burger King, Applebee’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Subway.

The rule also states that caloric information must be presented in the same font and format as the price and name of the food item. Health inspectors may issue fines from $200 to $2,000 for establishments not in compliance. 

I hope the rule makes it nationwide. This will prevent people claiming ignorance about the unhealthy nature of meals they consume. It will also serve as reality checks for people consistently consuming fast food. Several customers have claimed to be unaffected by the advent of the rule, if it changes a few decisions a week, I think it’s well worth it. 

The enforcement of this rule would definitely affect the way I sometimes attack the dollar menu at fast food restaurants. 

7/22/08 – 4.6 miles in 41:42 (8:56 per mile pace)