Saturday, October 13, 2012

Soft drinks, marketing, and social restrictions

  There's a lot of angst going around right now over the NYC Board of Health enacting a restriction on soda- or sugary drink- sales.

  The current lawsuit rests on the idea that the Board of Health, being an appointed and not elected body, hasn't got the authority to enact rules that are "legislative."

  However, the campaigns to fight this decision, and previous decisions to ban smoking and require calorie counts on menus in NYC, have *not* been about the legislative process. That's just the legal avenue of approach for the companies, trade groups, and unions involved.

  two links out of many, which I will use for analysis:

Quote from Mike LaVorgna (Bloomberg spokesman):

"The Board of Health absolutely has the authority to regulate matters affecting health...."

  Which brings up the debate on whether or not this is, in fact, a public health issue.

  A passel of lawyers have already looked at this and said "aye."

  It is obvious that we have a ongoing health issue related to diet and lifestyle in "westernized" (commercialized and consumerized?) societies. There are many causal and correlative factors, but there has not yet been a reasonable method of combating them. Simply telling people to get healthy cannot compare in force with the advertising, addictions, programming, and lobbying of industry groups.

  And in this case, there isn't even a hint of fighting on nutritional grounds. The industry, trade, and union groups are *not* trying to address health consequences and nutritional data directly in this battle. We've come far enough that they no longer have the ability to pull quite that much of a propaganda campaign off.

  Noted in several articles (and the links I posted above have changed content over the last several hours, removing some of the references) are the campaigns by the industry, trade, and union organizations to put a negative spin on this in terms of freedom, individual choice, and unfair restrictions on struggling small business owners.

 These arguments can be discarded - with the exception, possibly, of the Korean American Grocer's Association, the concern for small business interest isn't really something evidenced in a realistic and consistent manner by industry groups. Individual choice is something that marketing and advertising industries have attempted to remove, limit, or control as much as possible. "freedom of choice" to them means "making people believe they can't live without it." And making- compelling- is operative.

  In terms of broader freedom, almost all consumer based industries (previous examples would include tobacco companies and fast food restaurants, among others) argue in terms of liberty and freedom. While deliberately- and often times dishonestly- slanting the available information, programming people through verifiable advertising and addiction vectors, and reducing individual liberty in favor of increased corporate liberty- these groups have attempted to defend themselves with the idea of individual enlightened self interest in making decisions.

  (So, if Joe Camel and spiked nicotine along with funded movie props get a teen addicted to smoking, it's obviously the teen's knowledgeable and educated choice!)

  So, the freedom argument by industry is a remarkably adept and long standing lie- they have no interest in freedom, and spend a lot of effort finding ways to reduce it.


  The lawsuit offers some interesting comparisons, stating that it will be legal to order a 20 ounce beer, but not a 20 ounce soda, or a large 800 calorie chocolate milkshake instead of a "240 calorie soda."

  Noting that a 12 ounce serving of Coca Cola is 140 calories, and the average observable medium (whatever they call it) size around here is 32 ounces at any fast food or theatre (larges are 44 ounces or MORE), the "240 calorie" statement is disingenuous if not outright dishonest. It is based on the "20 ounce soda" - with the implicit argument that the 16 ounce limit is going to cost a lot of money for a reduction of 4 ounces. Which isn't really the case.

  I'm not sure theatres actually OFFER a soda that small anymore. I recall the smallest size available for an adult at the last chain theatre I went to was 24 ounces.  And fast fooderies and convenience stores push much larger serving sizes. The argument isn't about 20 ounces sodas, it is about 32 through 64 ounce sodas.

  More specifically to the point, the comparison is of what industry has marketed as an all day, every day drink to a *beer* or a *dessert.*

  This is enlightening as is demonstrates that they don't make any sort of reasonable distinction between types of foods and drinks. It's pure consumption and profit.


  The Board of Health, while trying to accomplish *something*, *anything* to stem the tide, is missing the boat.

  In our current political and social environment, it's possible that there *is* no way to catch the boat. While easily verifiable in medical literature and pop-sci chemistry and nutrition, there's a huge resistance to allowing the differences between fructose and other sugars to be discussed- or even mentioned. Everyone seen the "corn syrup is just sugar from a healthy source" ads?

 Any psych graduate can look at the data on marketing instilling preferences and amygdalal happiness responses to certain images, scents, and tastes/textures as early as 6 months. We know we can do this, but the idea that it *is* possible, let alone common, is strongly resisted by the public.

  No one *wants* to be a slave to outside programming. That part is easy to see. I could argue- do argue- that there are influences beyond a simple distaste for the idea, which come from various industry, medical, and governmental (educational) sources.

  This is tougher to tackle than the "corn syrup is sugar" or "enriched wheat flour buns with sugar are healthy grains" arguments. Much tougher.

  Got no answers there. I know it's possible and not event hat difficult to reprogram, if it's socially accepted and promoted. But I'm at a loss for how that's going to happen.

  And so we have the idea that there's a fundamental right for McDonald's to exist. Though much of what they sell isn't food by any reasonable definition and they have a marketing department to die for- there's no way to restrict *their* operation because it somehow reduces *my* freedom. Not sure I buy that. And I'm not sure we can continue to afford to buy into this.

  I have a strong distrust of governmental interference on a regulatory basis- I eat paleo and the current corporate/governmental ideas on the wheat/corn/soy based diet would not be good for me. Certainly don't want to be forced by regulation to endure it!

  And I dislike taxation as a fine. (that's gotten so confused nowadays that a fine is considered a tax by the Supreme Court!!)

  But, perhaps, we do need to offer up some definitions of food. Not necessarily nutrition, but... food.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Conditioning- for weight loss

Bodyweight exercises, weight loss, and interval training come together...

This post is one I've worked on for a while, but am posting now for a friend. The bodyweight work revolves around "Convict Conditioning."

Now, there are dozens of bodyweight books and websites out there. Convict Conditioning isn't necessarily the best, but it has some major advantages for someone who has had physical difficulties, is out of shape, or especially for someone with a lot of weight to lose.

Any workable regimen will boil down to "eat better, move more." In keeping with that, any program that essentially follows those two principles will produce results.

The main reasons I like Convict Conditioning so much as a base for a training regimen are:

It's broken out into 6 uncomplicated exercise progressions. Push ups, Pull ups, Bridges, Squats, Leg raises, and Handstand puh ups. No isolated muscle complications, and with all bodyweight exercises- you work multiple muscle groups, so everything will get stronger as you go without recourse to cage machines.

The second main reason I love this book is that it starts the progressions out at beginning physical therapy levels. It's nearly impossible to hurt yourself going through the lower progressions attentively.

Of course, Convict Condition is not complete for the expressed purposes. You need some intense interval exercise to add to your regimen and you must find a dietary protocol- an eating plan- that works. I've mentioned in a previous post that nearly any of the better diet plans will work.

I would like to add here, though, that one that is a bit draconian and doesn't allow for subconscious cheating is probably better to start with.

Under my hybrid, you'll be doing your basic pushup, pullup, squat, and leg lift progressions in short sets, multiple times a day. If you *firmly* believe in the need to have rest days, work a bit hard before one. But take no more than 2 rest days per week. the 2 advanced progressions- bridges and handstand pushups, can be added after some weight loss and core strength is built.

This would start with, for example:

5 wall pushups (that's right, feet about 18 to 24 inches from the wall)- do your pushups - ONE SECOND down, ONE SECOND hold at bottom, ONE SECOND to raise.

Only 5? yeah, the first week. You will be doing the round 5 times a day. As you progress, feel free to bump the sets to 7 or 10- but watch that you don't burn yourself out in one morning set!

Same thing with wall or door jamb pullups. same thing with bent leg lifts, and shoulder stand squats.

These sets won't kick up the metabolism, though. So you need a pump. My suggestions for the pump vary depending on your condition and materials at hand. Under NO circumstances would I recommend jump roping or running if you are above 180 pounds going into this. Not a good idea.

Jumping jacks aren't a bad idea. 50 of those should finish off the workout fine - 5 times a day!   ----- start with 10, add 5 every other day.

Playing Hot potato over your head with a 15 or 20 pound dumbbell is a good starting point. 5 presses each side with a 20 or 25 pound dumbbell- or 30, whatever you can barely do, but do right.

Of course, if you have a kettlebell heavy enough, 25 swings is the best. (50 after the first 2 weeks, moving up slowly to 100 for each of the 5 workouts in a day)

If you do Jumping Jacks, don't jump high ---- jump enough to get your legs in or out, but don't jar your spine. You are wearing a full combat load or more in excess weight and don't have a strong back yet. you don't want to crush anything.

  --Why intervals? --

The intervals- 5 short workouts during the day- are there to boost your baseline metabolic rate.  This is essential to fat loss and daily energy- and doing more active things outside of workouts.

But, the intervals have to leave you a bit worked out. The bodyweight conditioning by itself can't do that in the beginning. You simply need time to develop the strength, flexibility, and body shape to do full pullups, one hand pushups, and handstand pushups.

So you need something to make you feel a bit of sweat or heart rate increase- be it kettlebell swings and snatches, jumping jacks, or whatever.

  -- The myth of days off. --

The days off myth comes from bodybuilding for show. We aren't trying to condition for a show event, we are looking for a dual functional strength increase  and weight loss/metabolic increase. This is why you need to do these daily. Once your body systems know they need to be active, they will turn active. Just like a farmboy.

  -- Weight Gain --

The same regimen is useful for weight gain. Not "muscle show" bulk, but healthy, general, weight gain. In certain cases- usually females, but my son is an example of the male effect- there's a tendency towards extreme slimness. this is generally accompanied with a low muscle tone and a generally good diet (meaning no extreme fat layering overeating or food choices)

The way to fix that is to build strength and metabolic rate! you will naturally eat a bit more, process the food differently, and add a bit of muscle mass and density.

-- but, girly push ups? --

Well, girly push ups are something you have to work up to, actually! - joint strength, neuron training, and basal metabolism.

Odds are, if you did push ups in school, you did fast, jerky, halfway push ups. It's harder to do 10 3 second, full down push ups on a table, than it is to do 15 jerky high school gym class push ups.

 This forms the underlying basis of Convict Conditioning (yeah, you need to buy the book) - and is the key element. It's only going to take you 4-8 weeks out of your life to work from level one to four in most areas, and you will gain a lot of safety and injury immunity in the process. In terms of your life, that's not a lot of time.

  --Progression-- a week to try those out, skip one of your baseline interval workouts and replace it with the progression test for each of the bodyweight exercises. If you make it, move up!

The book, Convict Conditiong, has in it a list of progression tests. Pick a day

Saturday, May 12, 2012

  This article originally came into my universe by way of  google plus and generated some good - and some off the wall- discussion.

  I have a few things I feel like posting on the topic- but first, give it 5 minutes and read this:

  I will tell you right now that I think Taubes is generalizing and simplifying a bit too much. There are.... details. But, in the general atmosphere of generalizing-

  If you look at the proponents of most dietary reginmens that are really working, whether they are no-red meat, lean meat, lotsa meat, paleo, atkins, primal, panu (archevore) - south beach, raw, mediterranean- the list is long.

  If the diet is working, almost regardless of the debate on fat, almost regardless of the elimination of grains versus the re-mapping of how and when grains are eaten- if the diet is working it will almost invariably include-

         lower carbs.

  Even a Mediterranean diet with pasta, done properly*, is going to be massively lower in carbs and sugars. Sugars, on a good Med diet, will drop from a 3 pound a week average (yeah, that's JUST sugar) to a quarter pound. Carbs, believe it or not, will drop by 30-60% (rough math, it's right within a large margin, I got 45% on the calculator)

  *properly- properly doing a diet is crucial. With very few- and exclusively market driven- exceptions, any of the diets I mentioned is going to be largely compatible with Pollan's Food Rules. (small book, go buy it) The rules essentially boil down to eating Real Food instead of packaged, manufactured, preprepared, and etc. I cannot stress strongly enough that this essential thread tying the diets together is of absolute importance. - Eating Real Food is decent proportions will cut so much sugar, refined carbs, and processed oils out of your diet that you can almost choose the diet as a "desktop theme" type of choice.


One person in the original discussion thread contended that insulin had nothing at all to do with fat.

"There is no evidence that insulin regulates the fat in our cells. At least not as the major contributor. It is another hormone.

  Actually, there is research that show that higher levels of insulin lowers the risk of getting fat. I can produce a dozen references, like, that shows this."

  Okay, if you go to that study, it seems to me, that there is less fat formation among the subjects who are insulin resistnant. Insulin resistance is a lessening of the ability of insulin to handle gllocuse in the blood. Which means less processing into fat.

  Pointing this out, I was informed that insulin isn't involved in processing the sugar in blood.

  This is wrong- Insulin tells the cells to absorb glucose, fat and aminos. Fat cells are cells. Insulin is the main fat storage hormone.

  High levels of insulin also block the activation of catecholamines (such as adrenaline, dopamine) which control the release of energy into the body.

  Quite possibly, the single most important reason that carb controlled diets (which may or may not be called such) work is that when you reduce the insulin spikes, you increase the activation of PKA and bang, increased metabolic rate.


  I mentioned the "theme" of diets. The reason a dietary plan is important is that you have to have boundaries and rules. Many of us traditionally were  provided these culturally or through our families. (Now they are provided by marketing firms, and don't work)

  This is absolutely crucial. Oh, you can change- from ketosis stage atkins to south beach, for example. But having and sticking to a set of food rules is really improtant.

  The single most important presupposition for any diet plan is this- no fakery.  No Atkins bars, No Atkins bread. No lo-carb energy shakes. Real food, on the plan. Real food.