Sunday, October 31, 2010

Obesity acceptance

I was reading Dr. Sharma's weekly links. One interesting discussion is  obesity is like alcoholism. Commenters rightly noted that obesity doesn't at all lead to the types of behaviour alcoholism does with the effects on others. But if obesity was treated as an addition like alcoholism perhaps more people would seek treatment.

I'm not sure we're seeking a solution that doesn't exist. A long time ago, a friend (who was taking a psych course at the time) told me that all people have addictive personalities as part of their pleasure/reward system. Research has not contradicted that pleasure is a powerful motivator and reward and we see it in all aspect of life. It's just as some are more socially acceptable than others. Most people admire successful/rich people. In the past, a well fed body was an indication of wealth. Now that there is an overwhelming availability of cheap palatable food everyone can have this wealth indicator.

I admit, I find it difficult to empathize with obese people. I don't really understand why, once you have to increase your clothes size a couple of times that you don't take steps to stop the increase by checking your portion size and making yourself eat different foods. Replace food as a reward with an activity you would do more of if you had more time/money. Take time to build new habits and don't multi-task while eating.

And then I remember dog training. My first dog never went on furniture - a firm rule but he also had to be on a leash because he was intermittent on coming when called. We're now on dog number 4. None of them have had really solid recalls though all of them come when I call them to watch tv or go in their space because I'm going out. I can make all the excuses in the world about time and other commitments but, in the end, as much as I would like (really like) my guys to come when I call them ALL THE TIME, it's not that important to me because I haven't made time to effectively work on it to make sure that they do.

Why does obesity matter to you? If you're activity level is slow walking, sitting, driving and you can do that, what is your motivation for change? If you don't mind taking pills to compensate for metabolic shortcomings why lose weight? If you are willing to take the increased risk of surgical risk, poor medication dosage then being larger isn't going to be a motivator. If you don't care how long you live because you'll be seeing everyone who matters in heaven, why would you be concerned about your length and quality of life?

Why does your obesity matter to me? Well, in a universal health care system there is a finite amount of money. I am currently healthy. A little physio and an annual checkup is about the extent of my use. But every dollar that goes towards a intervention of a manageable health problem is unavailable for other use. That means poorer assessment and treatment of cancer and other diseases. Longer surgical wait times because of the increased surgical complexities with increased likelihood of poor outcomes. Less research and/or health education funds.

Research shows that it's really is the calorie intake that matters; we over eat way more than we can compensate for with exercise. If the reward not being obese is not self evident, perhaps it means MORE food processing to take out calories while maintaining nutritional needs and inducing a sense of satiety. I'm not talking about deceitful marketing or emphasizing of one nutritional aspect in the face of overwhelming lack of value for calories (like chocolate milk and twizzlers). I'm talking about more intrinsic single serving packaging like precut pizza made with low fat cheese and salt substitutes with flash freezing for optimal palatability. Prefer pop/soda? Make it with stevia (natural has a better image!) and load it with nutrients. Many people denigrate food research because it is done by multi-national, profit based food companies. This is like denying the good that has come out of medications because they are developed by multi-national, profit based pharmaceutical companies. Use food processing to help those people who are not going to take the effort to garden, prepare raw food, measure serving sizes and all those other things that go into healthy eating habits.

I would like everyone to be more like me. Making the choice to eat healthier foods in moderate quantities. Exercising for fun and all that. But that's not realistic. Instead of using an authoritative control for a widespread problem, play into the behavioral aspect. Making the low calorie choice convenient, attractive and tasty may seem like giving up or giving in but what am I losing? The ability to be judgmental about people who make different lifestyle choices? Sure but I'm also hoping to lose the strain on the health care system and see people live with less medical intervention.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gender roles hurt men too.

I was wandering the interwebz before my exercise class this morning and ran across a discussion about this comic on Pharyngula. I have to admit that I naively thought that women would have more respect and status by now given that we are at least half the population but between the rise of uber-conservatism and the denial of existence of experts it's no surprise that women as still treated like second class citizens. Mostly it boils down to  men being unable imagine that women could have an area of expertise other than one related to sex - and really the only thing that matters to women is their sexual attractiveness. Oh and thinking they have the right to lack self control but anyway...

Eventually someone brings up the "men have it hard too" argument. Oh and gender roles hurt men.

Which brings me to the reason I'm blogging today. The instructors at NRG4Life are all certified and very well versed in musculature and how to exercise without injury. Kind of like EXPERTS! Today was Halloween fun so a woman brought her husband along to the class. Now you know that classes are through to be lame because - well they are female activity involving rhythm and music. For the class today there was some aerobics then some free weights. The deal with free weight is you do specific movements in a controlled manner to work specific muscle groups. You can challenge yourself by either upping the reps or the weight. Well the guy at the back of the class was using 3 pound weights (I could tell because they were lime green) when we were told to only grab heavy weights; then when we were doing shoulders he was swinging his arms around like he was scything hay. Let me tell you it's very distracting to have someone doing something so *utterly* useless in your field of view. He continued this trend through the entire upper body workout. The instructor didn't challenge him even though he was inviting self injury and I don't blame her.

That man was unable to comprehend that a woman could know something he didn't so he didn't follow the routine. I wouldn't be surprised if he told his wife that it was such an easy work out that other men couldn't be getting much out of it. This guy flirted with an injury because of his inability to follow directions from a woman. You can bet he would have blamed the instructor if he pulled something even though he wasn't doing what she said. Also he's old (like me only a little older I think) so it's going to take a long time to heal a soft tissue injury. There are a few men who come to the various classes. They use heavier weights to exhaust their muscles and they follow the routine so they the benefits of a guided workout. Kudos for being willing to show exhaustion when working out with the opposite gender.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

WM 7 is out - competition is good

WM7 had the big launch yesterday and there are tons of handsets out there. has a very nice overview of the handsets available with their specs. I've enjoying having a couple of WM handsets over the past few years. I don't even think their new catchphrase "always delightful, and wonderfully mine" is that creepy or any dumber than any other large corporate phrase generator :)

I do think MS has successfully edged between the iCrowd and the fandroids. The multitude of form factors will ensure there's something for everyone. The HTC Surround looks really cool with the pop up speaker and built in stand - hopefully you would have an office and not just a cube. You can get a vertical or horizontal keyboard which is nice for those who like physical keyboards. I'm always tempted by the HTC Pro until I actually pick it up - it's pretty heavy. Then there are, of course, the slabs from Samsung, HTC and LG. The sparse interface and closed app store will make it easier to control. A couple of new-ish players are being given a shot - I'm referring to Dell and LG - but it's no surprise to hear that HTC was working with MS from the start; they don't have a proprietary O/S.

Over the past couple of years, as I've been looking for the smart phone for me I've come to realize that tech sites really *fear* customization which is why they've liked the iPhone so much and cheered the new direction for MS. They want something good enough right out of the box that the reporters don't feel the desire to go below the surface. And they're sure if consumers dip below the surface they will be scared and/or disgusted by tiny print and a learning curve seen in WM 6.5 and even in Android (yes I have seen the little print - it lets you do the cool stuff). What they like to over look (or dismiss as fragmentation) is how consumers pick a phone.

My SIL is a general consumer and I am a gadget geek yet we ended up with the same phone. She wanted something with SIM. She texts, takes pictures, uses SoundHound, lets her boys play games, goes on line and makes the odd phone call. I wanted something with a SIM card that I could watch TV, read books, text, surf, bank, and make the odd phone call. It looked great, the on board interface was attractive to both of us and we're both really happy.

Against my better judgement, I made the jump to Android earlier this year; I had wanted to wait until after the launch but even after the launch I have no regrets. I played with an iPhone 4 for awhile the other day. It's small, heavy and has that screen of icons that I find unappealing. WM7 has those big the tiles and the closed App shop, I don't have a Zune or Xbox and I don't need Exchange compatibility. Even though I start out liking things out of the box, over time, I always customize. When I handed off Luigi (Omnia i8000) I reset to factory and was amazed at how different it looked. I had even changed the start up graphics! I know I'll need to learn a new OS so I'll go to something I can personalize.

And yes I do stare at my phone but not because I'm looking for something, I looking AT something I find interesting. It's a cute idea but glance and go isn't going to appeal to me or any of the people in the commercial.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Sermon - another ist

Last summer I participated in a survey of atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and sceptics titled administered by researchers at U of Waterloo (my alma mater btw). It was bound to have a bias as the survey was linked from many atheist web sites. I got an email from the researchers that gave a link to their preliminary results. As I read through the descriptions of respondents I realized that I hoped I didn't fall in the "new" atheist group. But I am. I'm in the group because I strongly agree with the idea that religion should be practiced privately and not inform  public policy and I'm in total agreement with individuating morality rather than binding/purity morality. I've held my religious (or lack thereof) beliefs for decades so why would it bother me to be put in the "new" atheist bucket?

Well for one thing gnu atheists *are* passionate about excluding religion for public policy. That means butting heads with pretty well all cultures as people seem to think you can't have culture without some kind of belief in a "higher something" authoritarian or not. This is not a fight I want to have. I just want to live my life according to my beliefs as I stay within secular law (hard sometime when it comes to speeding). My beliefs inform my actions and I expect your beliefs to form your actions.

For another - atheist are the last group public figures can malign and no one speaks up (except the Universal Society of Hinduism). Who wants to "own" that label? First the Pope now the Dalai Lama lay a lot of ills of modern society on criticism of religion as if the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Irish civil war, Yugoslavia and Bosnia atrocities and the ongoing deal between Israel and the rest of the Middle East are equal to words that simply saying that being religious doesn't make you more moral or ethical and religious documents do not correlate with known events.

And finally - whenever you read anything about how science and religion could get along if only those "new atheists" didn't rock the boat both belief, as it is commonly practiced, and atheism are distorted beyond recognition.

But after participating in and reading preliminary results from the Beyond Belief survey I'm happy to be identified with "New" Atheists who I would prefer were called informed atheists but I don't make up new terms just to make me comfortable. I am agnostic in that there could be an omniscient, omnipotent being pulling our marionette strings but how can we comprehend anything about such an entity much less how to make it happy? I am atheist about the existence of a God who listens to your prayers and decides what is best for you. I am "scientistic" about a shared reality that can be explored to give consistent measurable results that apply to everyone whether they believe or not.

When I was a teen, I thought religion was an effect way to control a diffuse population. Religious leaders were in it for the power. Everyone else was in it because it was the culture (and fear of punishment from the leaders). I couldn't imagine that there are people who are comforted by an authoritarian figurehead and unchanging world. Now that I've suffered some personal losses and empathized with friends who've had losses I can understand the appeal of a world view where you are promised that if you follow all these rules then you will get to see all those people/friends you've lost again. Your human suffering has a point other than mere existence and as a bonus you can feel superior to those who don't follow the rules as they've been handed to you (if that's the way you roll). Face it, premature losses haunt you as you wonder if there is anything that could have done. Change and uncertainty is frequently uncomfortable.

At this point in time it would take some extraordinary public event to make me accept the reality of God - that's the "scientistic" part of me. I'm sure I would resist the evidence but in the end, all the answers would lead to that reality regardless of whether I believed it or not.