I don’t buy it….. and neither should you!

An Expensive Zero-Sum Game

The modern fitness industry has captured nearly one-trillion dollars.  To demonstrate the magnitude of that, it has been calculated and even famously quoted by Ronald Reagan that a stack of $1,000 bills, laid one on top of another, would rise to a vertical height of over 63 miles – that would be one-trillion dollars.  That is nothing in comparison to the stack of empty promises which have been laid down, one on top of another, by the marketeers of useless weight loss supplements and fitness devices over the past 40 years.

Miles and miles of money into the pockets of thieves...

To stack all the claims of easy weight loss, one on top of another, would be to create a tower of lies rising to a height beyond the trillion dollars which has fed the pockets of these corporate criminals.  To similarly measure the lack of results provided by these supplements and devices, would be to construct a tower of disappointments which would extend well into the cold empty universe, where there would be nobody around to acknowledge the promises left unfulfilled. Had PT Barnum lived in the modern era, he would certainly have been in the fitness or supplement industry.

My cynicism aside, you can be assured that when a legitimate weight loss supplement (drug) becomes available – one which is proven to work, and with few or no side effects, it will be a larger story than the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby and the moon landing combined. On the day – that very day when CNN, Fox News, and NPR all lead off with the announcement of a scientifically conceived and federally approved weight-loss drug that really works, then and only then should we stop, listen, and take an optimistic note.

If it were only this easy. Buyers beware....

For all their arrogance and frenzy, the American media works well when it comes to getting the word out, be it a space shuttle crash, a Mid-East invasion, or the sudden plummeting of the Dow, and I suspect the sharing of a true weight-loss product would also get that kind of coverage. Until that day arrives though, when those media messengers provide us with that media message, just assume that all other promises of weight loss, any claims of getting ripped, or any assurances of losing belly fat, for the act of just taking a pill or stirring in a powder, are false promises made by greedy people willing to sell us disappointment in exchange for our hopes and our dollars – Jillian Michaels included.

Until you read it here, DON'T BUY IT!!!

My Own Belief

Given a choice, everybody – EVERYBODY would want a lean, well shaped, and well functioning body. Given another choice, nobody – NOBODY would choose to be overweight, lesser functioning, and aesthetically unpleasing. Considering the volume of who EVERYBODY and NOBODY includes, when that true weight loss product is conceived, tested, and approved for sale, traffic will stop, news anchors will chime, infomercial hosts will turn to smoke, and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates will take their places as the 2nd and 3rd richest men on Earth.  Surely this product won’t be cheap, but it will be known and sought by everyone, instantaneously. Beyond that, and hopefully within a couple of years of its would-be release, there will be a notable decrease in the rates of obesity, diabetes, related illnesses, and the havoc they reek on our social structure.  Oh, and we’ll all finally be collectively hot as a nation.

As a nation, this is what we should aspire to be...

Just like the collapsing economy, we all heard obesity knocking on the American door 40 years ago, and we let it in anyway – despite its known intent.  We simply wanted with calories and laziness, as we have wanted with easy credit and low interest rates, and subsequently the economy of our bodies is on the brink of collapse. It seems that we are too far gone to turn the tide ourselves, and by natural means, thus we look to science and technology for help. 

As a nation, this is what we tend to be..

Where I was once opposed to a quick-fix obesity drug, I am now praying for one.  I see a significant devolutionary utility in the discovery of a legitimate weight loss drug. Think of it as an oral stimulus package for our national healthcare system and our collective waistline.   Until it happens though, until the man in the white lab coat screams “Eureka” from within a room full of brilliance and beakers, anything less than a product which is the lead story on the evening news, is just the sum of good marketing, excellent double talk, and greed – all cast out in a net to catch the millions of fish swimming lost in the sea of guilt, and willing to spend a trillion dollars on a cure which will not work.

Race for the prize -- let's hope this guy finds the fix...

In the mean time, those who do wish to lose weight, be it 5 pounds or 500, that weight-loss will need to be earned away by making hard choices at the dinner table, in the break room at work, and at the grocery store – and all reinforced with a dash of reasonable and regular exercise. Be well. rc

Until that day comes, we'll have to depend on these pills...

Fat Tuesday…

This week’s column was written by my friend Dr. J (yes, a real doctor) over at www.calorielab.com.   This week Dr. J shares his thoughts on Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday — or Transfat Tuesday as I prefer to call it. 

I once lived near New Orleans, and attended a Mardi Gras there in 1986 – it didn’t really enjoy it, and it fell much below the high expectations of my young imagination.  Excess is never good, especially when it is done excessively. Please take time to read Dr. J’s column, and please pass it along to others.  Thank you.  roy

 Fat Tuesday

by Dr. J

While in the last year of my surgical residency, during a frigid February in the Midwest, I was graced with a one week vacation. My best friend and I formulated a complicated plan, drive south until we found warm weather! Finally getting the car started in the sub zero temperatures we were off. When we reached Gulfport, Mississippi, we decided to make a right hand turn and soon found ourselves in the warmth of New Orleans and discovered they were celebrating Mardi Gras!

After the better part of a week around http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beignet beignets, booze, and beads, we managed to extricate ourselves from too much fun, click our surgical clogs together three times, and somehow we were once again in that knee deep Midwestern snow!

Mardi Gras:

The origins of Mardi Gras, or more affectionately translated as Fat Tuesday, http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/MardiGras/ traces its name and origins from Catholic roots and the feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival as people were preparing for the abstinence of Lent. http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/MardiGras/

Mardi Gras and fitness:

I wouldn’t say the folks at Mardi Gras were the fittest folks I’d ever seen, but then, it’s hard to hide much when all you are wearing is a few strings of beads. Still they didn’t look too bad, and as doctors, we were used to seeing a lot of skin. I wasn’t at Mardi Gras this year, but studies http://www.allbusiness.com/medicine-health/diseases-disorders-obesity/13599664-1.html  show that since 1990, the prevalence of obesity in Louisiana has increased by at least 135 percent, and it’s not the beads that are getting larger! Actually, Louisiana http://calorielab.com/news/2008/07/02/fattest-states-2008/ has one of the largest rates of overweight and obese individuals in the country, with New Orleans one of the leading cities in this unhealthy statistic. What is even more unsettling is that these rates in children is these areas rank in the top ten nationally and are increasing. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/mississippi_has_highest_rate_o.html  

New Orleans and food:

Even though in this years Super bowl, the Colts were the favored team, in a food war between the two participating cities, Indianapolis and New Orleans, there was no contest. The wide variety of New Orleans cuisine was an easy favorite over the bland casseroles of the Midwest. Really, few cities can compete with New Orleans in the food court!

Although the origins of the cuisine in the French Quarter is, well, French, the so-called French paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Paradox does not seem to be valid in New Orleans. The reason for this is likely that even though the origin of the food is French, it has been changed to the all-American style of increased portion sizes with even more fat, sugar, and salt than the original recipes called for to suit the ever gluttonous American palate.

Too much food, not enough activity:

Although Mardi Gras is officially a two to three week holiday http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Orleans_Mardi_Gras#Contemporary_Mardi_Gras, eating like it’s Mardi Gras has become an all year round event! The only realistic answer http://nutrition.about.com/od/foodfun/a/obese_overweigh.htm is to eat less unhealthy food, eat fewer calories, eat more healthful food, and to be more active. Perhaps concrete ideas such as choose smaller portions, don’t eat seconds, avoid buffets, eat out less and eat more at home. Make your own meals, shop for healthy food choices and stock your home with these healthy foods. In addition, develop a personal exercise program. All of these ideas can be helpful if you are willing to apply them.

It’s very important, if you haven’t already, to make these types of changes. After all, the only thing we want to be fat is a time of celebration, and maybe a calf!

Dr. J

State Of The Art Starts With Smarts…

Albert Einstein was in his later years.  A young journalist was granted a rare interview by Einstein, the interview to take place at the elder physicist’s home.  After the journalist arrived at Einstein’s home, he was offered a tour, including a view of the study where Einstein spent a good part of his days – still grappling with his theory of everything.

On a window sill in the study was a telescope, and apparently not much of one.  Surprised that a scientist so well connected to the cosmos would have a lesser telescope to study the movements of the stars, the young journalist questioned Mr. Einstein,

That???  That’s what you study the stars with Mr. Einstein?”

To demonstrate what tool is primary to any study, Einstein softly tapped his index finger upon his forehead and explained,

That!!!  That is what I study the stars with!”

True or not, that tale remains one of the most important lessons I have learned thus far in these cosmos.  That I learned it young, I am grateful.  That I immediately had an analogous place to apply it in my own life, was key in my understanding the value of that lesson.  The lesson, that state-of-the-art is much more internal than external, still feeds my soul daily in this age of exponential advancements in everything from communications, to interactive entertainment, to the foods I eat and to the toys I play with.

That tale of Einstein was shared with me by a golf pro in Denver when I was 13 years old.  Jay has earned his keep for 30 years teaching people how to hold, swing, and use a club, that they score a better score.  Jay had always strived to teach his students that in golf, the mind is much more powerful than the most advanced golf club, and primary to the best outcome.  Each month Jay offered himself and his students a reminder of this – an aesthetic lesson in priorities. 

One Friday per month Jay played one round of golf with a set of clubs he bought from K-Mart in the early 1970’s.   Each month that round of golf, pushed by those K-Mart clubs, would net my friend a score of 76-78.  Other days, on the very same course, with his expensive custom clubs, Jay would usually shoot below par; a 71, plus or minus, depending on the day.  Not a huge difference when one considers the disparity in the cost of, and technology behind those state-of-the-art clubs.

Still, golfers of lesser skill regularly seek out the most technologically advanced equipment to better their game – attempting to buy success, by way of the thinking of others.  In many cases though, those better clubs do little, if nothing to improve the common golfer’s game.  For these folks have yet to tap their finger to their head and said,

That!!!  That is what I play golf with!”

 Lessons Learned From Einstein To Nine Iron

I now own a gym, so I use it.  My gym is state-of-the-art – for me.  Others might call it crude, laughable, or both.  Other times when I have not owned a gym, I have been a gym member.  Some gyms I have joined have been outfitted with the most advanced equipment available; technology which might be found in the hands of world class athletes.  Others gyms I have used more resembled dungeons, with equipment made from the scraps and leftovers of other machinery gone bad.  In either case, I have always used well, whatever equipment I was dealt. 

Once, I didn’t have a gym at all.  I was a crewman on the US Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet, a 213 foot ship with a crew of 75, and there was no room for a gym onboard.  Still, during oceangoing patrols that often lasted months at a time, I granted myself my daily workout Einstein style, having remembered that lesson I learned so many years earlier. 

I used my head and created a gym from my environment, doing proper pull-ups from water pipes overhead.  I did lunges and pushups on deck, and curls and presses with anything from links of anchor chain to tool boxes belonging to the ship’s engineers.  I made up and performed challenging movements that I called exercise, with anything I could find on that ship that I was strong enough to lift.  These were some of my best state-of-the-art workouts.

State-of-the-art is much less what is used, and much more about how it is used in any endeavor – exercise included. The name on the equipment and the technology behind that name may be advanced, but brand name and improved technology are a poor substitue for improved thought, and usually much more than any of us really need to accomplish the task.  Rather than trying to get more from your workout by spending more on technology, or seeking out the latest and greatest equipment, just stop, place your finger tip to your head, and let your next workout begin there – regardless of the tools you have to work with.

The whole world is a gym if you are willing to think, and explore. Be well.  rc