Friday, March 15, 2013

Is Health Consciousness Making Us Stupid?

Marketing Tricks
That Make Us Fat
Does being health conscious make you… well, not so bright?  I don’t mean to offend anyone, but according to a couple of different studies published this month we find that people who consider themselves health conscious are more likely to fall for simple labeling tricks and could also use a little extra help reading menus. 

The first study comes to us from Cornell.  Yes, Cornell, a bastion of blue blood brilliance.  They wanted to know if the color of nutritional labels made a difference in the perceptions of consumers.  Specifically, if the nutritional information was printed in the color green would people assume the product was healthier than a similar product label printed in the color red. 

93 Cornell students were told to imagine that they were standing in the grocery store line and they were hungry.  42% of these kids had to first imagine that they were a housekeeper and that’s why they’d be standing in a grocery store line.  Anyway, they then showed these future Congress members images of candy bars with clearly readable nutrition labels, some with green font and some in red.  Regardless of the fact that the calorie content was identical they overwhelmingly chose the green as the healthier (lower calorie) choice.  The researchers pulled the same stunt with green vs. white labels and fooled them again. What’s curious and delights me to no end is that the students that considered themselves the most health conscious were the worst candy bar pickers of all. 

The next study comes to us compliments of the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois and some promising young Oklahoma State students.  These smarties wanted to know how effective calorie values on menus were in helping people make healthier (lower calorie) choices.  They put three types of menus into a local eatery.  All had the same foods on them, but one had no calorie reference, another had a numerical value for the calories and the last had the numerical values and a traffic light with a red light, yellow light or green light (the red being the highest in calorie, yellow medium and green lowest).  Duh. 

Here’s how it all shook out.  There wasn’t too much difference between what the patrons ordered from the no listed calorie menus and the numeric calorie menus.  There was a difference however, in what people ordered from the menus with the traffic lights.  People actually ordered lower calorie entrĂ©es.  This is wonderful.  Our over-eating problems might actually be solved… Oh, wait a minute.  It turns out that the traffic light patrons made up the difference by ordering more desserts and appetizers.  Crap.  Here’s the fun part.  Once again, the most health conscious patrons were most affected by the traffic light menus while the least health conscious were not impressed by the stupid lights at all, they were able to evaluate their choices just fine with the numeral values. 

The authors of the study were very enthusiastic and want the government to add some sort of symbol requirement to the calorie content on the menus.  As a side note, the majority of patrons didn’t like the traffic light thing.  I don’t like it much either so let me know what you think about the symbols below.


Now if you’re health conscious this isn’t meant to lessen your concern or make you feel dumb.  Eating healthy is super important.  What I think we should pull from these studies is that the advertisers and marketers are way ahead of us.  They know before we do what kinds of imagery, colors and fonts we are likely to associate with health and nutrition.  They think we’re suckers.  Just because that pasta comes in an ugly, recycled looking matt finished box baring the image of some Oregon hippy doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Well, that's my two cents and it's worth every penny,
Jake Holmes

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bloomberg, Soda and Obesity

 Just yesterday a New York State Supreme Court halted Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt at outlawing any sale of sodas over 16 ounces.  This ordinance applied only to restaurants, ball parks and theaters, but did not apply to convenience stores and vendors of the like.  In short the Judge Milton Tingling (That's his real name) basically said that it wasn’t any of the government’s business how much soda a person drinks.
  Micheal Bloomberg       Judge Tingling

Bloomberg, in numerous press conferences and interviews claims that he’s only trying to help.  In his opinion, his constituents are too damn fat and if can get people to drink less soda he’s confident he can put a dent the in the city’s obesity epidemic.  I think obesity in our culture is certain something to chew on so I don’t blame him for being concerned and he’s certainly welcome to weigh in on the subject, but a law?  Hmmm.

Now I’m not gonna get all political on you – we all have different tolerances for how much authority we think the G should have, however if they are going to take a swing at obesity they should really know what they’re talking about.  After all, some the worst trends in our society are the unintended side effect of good intentions.  In this case it happens to be which soda’s they want to ban.  See, the ban only effected sugar sweetened beverages.  Diet beverages were not included as they are sweetened with aspartame or other forms of chemical slight-of-hand.  This is where the F train jumps the tracks, which would be the only thing able to jump a track, a shoe box or anything taller than a Kaiser roll if this ban were upheld.

Sure, people drink a lot of soda and yes, it most likely contributes to obesity, yet restricting sugary beverages only and leaving diet beverage sizes intact would double or triple their problem.  If Bloomberg had his way and New Yorkers started choosing diet sodas over sugar sweetened ones their population would sink Manhattan in a New York second.    

Way back in 2005, Sharon Fowler, MPH (I don’t know what MPH stands for other than miles per hour) of the University of Texas, completed an 8 year study on soda consumption and weight gain.  Sharon and her health posse rounded up 622 people of normal weight and between the ages of 25 and 64.  Over the eight years of the study about 1/3 of the participants became over-weight (which is consistent with the national average).  They broke the numbers down into non-soda drinkers, sugary or regular soda drinkers and diet soda drinkers.  Here’s the waist band popping results:

For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

            26% for up to ½ can per day

            30.4% for ½ to one full can per day

            32.8% for 1 to 2 cans per day

            47.2% for more than 2 cans per day

For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

            36.5% for up to ½ can per day

            37.5% for ½ to 1 full can per day

            54.5% for 1 to 2 cans per day

            57.1% for more than 2 cans per day

For each can of diet soda consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up a whopping 41%. 

Okay!!!?  Holy crap!  Now that you’ve put down your Pepsi Max, let’s talk about this.  The researches were quick to note that they didn’t believe that diet sodas alone were the cause of the crazy weight gain among its’ fans.  Fowler theorized that perhaps when people sense they are beginning to tip the scales they resort to diet drinks to stem the tide.  Hmmm.  Some for sure, but no way does that account for 57.1%. 

Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, nutritional consultant to the Pittsburgh Ballet (Like what does she consult those bun-heads on? How long should one wait to smoke after inducing vomiting?) believes that people are more likely to feel better about over-eating if they wash it all down with diet soda.  “Some consider that dieting”, she said.  I think we’re all guilty of some of that, but again, 57.1%?  I don’t think so. 

I think the most compelling answer comes from David Peirce and his jean jacketed band of science yahoos at the University of Alberta.  Yes, Alberta is in Canada and Canada has universities.  These guys fed young very low calorie and zero calorie foods to rats and found that, like me at the sushi bar, couldn’t ever seem to get enough to eat.  They were never satisfied.  Finally, here’s some science. 

Diet and zero calorie beverages and foods are sweetened with things like Aspartame which your body does not recognize as food.  Because it doesn’t see them as food the body does not initiate the normal digestive cycle it would for actual food.  See, when you or I take a bite of chocolate cake or a sip of regular Coke it triggers our digestive system in order to begin breaking down the foods we’re eating or about to eat.  Fat and sugar also trigger the release of cholecystokinin an enzyme that tells us when we’re full.  Super low or zero calorie stuff doesn’t trigger anything of that, it does, however, tend to trigger our hunger impulse.  So now you’re eating more and more and not feeling satisfied.

So here’s the deal.  Unless there is some reason (like sugar sensitivity) that prevents you from regular soda it’s advisable that you give up the diet and zero calorie stuff.  Come over the dark side, the sugary side, the skinnier side. 


Well, that’s my two cents and it’s worth every penny.

Jake Holmes

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How a woman's posture can set a course for her life.

As a pilates instructor in SoCal, I’m constantly surrounded by single women, beautiful, smart, fun, single women.  Sadly, most of them are over being single and would prefer to be in a relationship they just can’t seem to find available men.  Now, if you don’t live here you might think these women are nuts, everyone knows Southern California and specifically San Diego is crawling with attractive, fun, athletic, nicely tanned, single guys.  Guys, yes, but men? Well, that's a completely different story.  Men in this town are in extremely short supply.
Guys and men are two different things.  Sure, they’re both male like Pee-Wee Herman and Mark Wahlberg are both male but I think we’d all agree that they’re vastly different.  In the animal world a man is more like a lion while the guy is more like a hyena.  The lion is a hunter.  He’s strong, confident, and proud.  What’s interesting about the lion is that when they hunt they target a strong, healthy and mature member of the herd as that animal will have the most meat and will not pass along any disease when consumed.

Conversely, hyenas are not proud and confident like the lion.  They are scavengers who prefer not to hunt, but to eat the lion’s left-overs.  When they are forced to hunt they target the young, weak and diseased members of the herd as these animals are easier prey.

In the singles world it’s not that much different.  A man hunts for a strong and confident woman, after all, she may end up being the mother of his children.  The guy, not unlike the hyena, scrambles after the immature, weak and insecure women as these are easier prey.  Most single women would much prefer a man over a hyena – right?  Right. 

 So how does a woman attract the lions of the human world?  Well, it’s hard to know too much about a person just from seeing them across the room, but there is one tell-tale sign… Posture.  That’s right, good posture.  A confident, healthy and emotionally secure woman stands tall and sits up straight.  Whether it’s conscious or sub-conscious, the man is attracted to this type of woman.  When a woman slouches with her head down and shoulders rolled forward she’s not communicating health and confidence, she’s telling the world that she’s weak and broken and ready for more abuse.  The guy, the hyena, is attracted to this woman.
"Wow" says the lion            "Oh boy!" says the hyena

Don’t believe me?  Try this, the next time you’re out with the girls at some restaurant, bar or club, make it a point to slouch and take note of the type of guys who notice you.  After an hour or so, sit up or stand up with good posture and see who notices you.  I’m sure you’ll see a difference in the quality of male you attract.  Remain patient, you probably won’t have as many males approach you, but remember, you’re after quality, not quantity.  There are a lot more hyena’s (especially in the bar scene) than lions.

So, how does one attain good posture?  First and foremost, awareness is key.  Remind yourself to situp straight and stand tall.  I know this might sound a little simple, but good posture begets good posture.  Standing tall and sitting up straight might feel a little awkward and it might even strain your muscles for the first few days, but by doing this you’ll be building strength in the muscles that reinforce good posture.  As an added bonus your’ abs will strengthen and your’ tummy will be flatter.  By the end of the first week your posture will be a ton better and by the end of the month good posture will be natural. 

Good posture paysoff in so many ways.  Not only will you be attracting better quality males, but you’ll feel better about yourself.  You’ll have more energy and your metabolic rate will improve causing your body to burn unneeded fat stores.  When walking down the street you’ll be less of a target for crime because you’ll have better peripheral vision and you won’t look like a victim.  People will notice the difference at the office too.  You might be the junior person in your department, but if you walk in tall and sit up straight the higher-ups will regard you more as an equal or even as someone poised to move up in the organization. 


Well, that’s my two cents and it’s worth every penny.


Jake Holmes

Friday, March 1, 2013

Strong Heart / Strong Mind

Kids who are fit are also better in academics.

In a study just released yesterday, researchers found that kids who did better on a jog/run test also did better in math and reading. 

Dr. Bob Rauner and his merry band of scholastic know-it-alls in Lincoln, Nebraska compared the little nose miners in the Lincoln Public Schools to see if there was any correlation between kids who are aerobically fit and kids who get good grades.  You bet your chubby little rear there was a correlation.

The elementary and middle school kids (I'm sure they tried to get the high school kids to run, but they probably just walked and gave the finger to the PE teacher) participated at gun point in a standard jogging/running test called PACER,  (Which is probably some lame government program that cost about $13,000 per student to run) and categorized the kids as aerobically fit or unfit.  Then they compared those results to standardized academic test scores and found that kids who were aerobically fit had a 2.5 times greater chance of passing the math portion and a 2.2 times greater chance of passing the reading. 

I love this because over the past number of years U.S. public schools have been dropping or reducing Physical Education and sports in order to try to improve academic performance and this study shows that they're headed the wrong direction.  I know, big surprise.  Something to keep in mind is that some kids had good running scores but also had high BMI's.  A high BMI would indicate that the kid was over-weight.  These kids also did well on the academic exams.  What this tells us is that what's critical here is aerobic fitness, not weight. 

Okay, so what does this mean to you and me?  As adults most of us don't have to take standardized academic tests but most of us have to use our brains to earn a living.  If we ignore our aerobic/fitness health we're less likely to do well at the office.  So, it stands to reason that if we get out and jog a few blocks a couple of times a week we'll be rich.  Well, at least, we'll have a better shot at it.

That's my two cents and it's worth every penny.
Jake Holmes