Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Save yourself, quit smoking

It's national quit smoking week again.

I smoked most of the major brands, filtered and non-filtered.  Tried menthol, didn't really like those but I'd smoke one if I was desperate enough. Did the roll your own thing.  I could roll a smoke with one hand. I also had one of those mini automatic cigarette makers where you load a blank tube into one side and the soft, sweet smelling luxurious tobacco into the other. In a satisfying shick shick mechanical motion not unlike cocking a gun I would make myself my very own dart of death, and cheap too.

I had a pipe for a while.  A pipe is the ultimate portrayal of the educated smoker who has advanced their carbon monoxide connoisseurship beyond that of the pedestrian inhaler.  

Quitting smoking was one of the best things I've ever done, but it wasn't without challenge.

Rather than re-write my quit smoking experience, here are links to two posts where I relate what I went through..

Non-smoking week 

No safe level of cigarette smoke

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fake data behind red wine benefit claims, experts allege | CTV News

Fake data behind red wine benefit claims, experts allege | CTV News

The old red wine argument.. I've never found good quality research that demonstrated any truly significant advantage to consuming red wine for any health purpose that was more effective than the standard of eating healthy, exercising regularly, keeping weight down, and consistently getting good sleep.

You think you read about research that proves cardiovascular benefits of red wine consumption? Maybe not.. Dipak Das, a researcher known for his work demonstrating heart health benefits from red wine has been exposed as a faker, falsifying data more than 100 times.

I did a simple pubmed search using "das red wine" as the search criteria and found 39 studies where this Das was an author or was cited.  Searching for abstracts that included this authors name alone results in 619 studies.  Disheartening that many of these studies were spoiled by falsified data regarding red wine and resveratrol, an important antioxidant found in dark coloured grapes, cranberries, cranberry juice, purple grape juice, and red wine, with the highest concentrations in red grapes, cranberries, and the juice of these.

I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater, there is ongoing research done by other researchers finding possible benefits of resveratrol.

Much to the chagrin of many, I have steadfastly maintained that there isn't really any good health related reason to drink red wine. You want a glass of red wine? It won't hurt, but more than 1.5 or 2 glasses per day may be harmful (woman, men). For sure overconsumption of booze is undeniably harmful in many ways physically and psychologically.

What I really believe is that many will use the "it's healthy" excuse to justify daily wine drinking. Get over it, because it isn't.

We'll have to wait and see if someone does discover some truly significant health benefit from wine drinking. For now, wine can't compete with a healthy diet, exercise, keeping weight down, and getting a good nights sleep.

The experts say that if you don't drink now, don't start, as the possible health benefits are not great enough to justify starting to drink.

There is no harm in infrequent light drinking so don't worry about that.

Mindful eating strategies can help people who dine out | CTV News

Mindful eating strategies can help people who dine out | CTV News

This CTV article is about a study that demonstrated that by navigating typical restaurant food choices it's possible to take actions that can result in not gaining weight, even losing weight, eating at restaurants.

I couldn't help but thinking that in order for such a study to occur, some interesting criteria is required; restaurant menus require careful navigation to avoid overeating, as the article points out a seemingly healthy taco salad contained 1,100 calories and 71 grams of fat.

What if most menu items in most restaurants were not laden with meals that have enormous caloric values? It would be hard to do this study, in fact there would be no point.

Allow me to digress with an apt analogy:

What if some astute researchers did a study on how to prevent getting wet walking through puddles.. the intervention group stepped lightly to prevent splashing, and wore big rubber boots. The control group stomped through the puddle wearing socks.

Wow.. the intervention group got less wet!

Someone comes along and says, "there are no puddles on the other side of the street. If you don't want to get wet, walk there". Kind of makes the puddle study somewhat useless, leaving the researchers all wet.

I think it's crazy that restaurant eating strategies are seen as the way to resolve overeating in restaurants. How about not having the majority of the menu items being high calorie? What, exactly, is the point of having almost all meal choices, save for a few, being so hyper-caloric?  How about not going to restaurants that serve mostly high calorie meals?

Delusion of choice

I think we are given a false sense of choice when presented with most restaurant menus.  How's that? Check it out.. the majority of the menu items will be high calorie, high sodium, and high fat.  Your choice is between how you want your fat bomb delivered, bottom line; most of the choices are obesogenic. It's a lipstick on a pig thing.  You can try as many different colours of lipstick as you want, but those are still pig lips you're kissing.  Those menus are not increasing your choices, your choices are restricted to choosing between fat bombs.

The other interesting criteria required for this study to have been conceptualized is that enough people in the population habitually overeat that it's perceived that the public may benefit from learning about how they overeat, and how to manage overeating.

So we have a large portion of the population seeking to overeat in restaurants, and a great many restaurants serving meals that are so huge that to eat just one constitutes overeating.

A proposed answer to this is not to reduce the size of restaurant portions, but rather develop food ordering strategies to try and compensate for the poor choices available in restaurants.

Personally I almost never go to restaurants that serve these 1000+ calorie meals. What for?

Instead I go to restaurants where the majority of menu choices are healthy and of reasonable caloric value. Of course the food has to taste good, that's part of why I eat out, when I eat out.

It's true we definitely need to exercise personal responsibility and choose to eat less, eat healthy, and learn to realize how much more gratifying it is to eat healthy while working on our contrived beliefs in crazy notions like; in order to taste good, food has to be bad for you, or that you have to stuff yourself in order to be satisfied. Those distorted beliefs cause us nothing but trouble.

If you've decided you're going to make a difference in your life, lose weight and get healthy, what is the point in going to restaurants where you need to pick apart every single meal in order to alter it to be a reasonably healthy meal? You are essentially remaking the meal yourself.  Why not just go to restaurants that are catering to those who are looking for healthy great tasting foods? Why support those who primarily serve obesogenic meals?

 If you read the CTV article and are interested in trying some of the eating strategies.. half those strategies are not needed if you go to restaurants that specialize in healthy eating.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Just teasing

Back in high school I had quite the wit, as did a few of my best friends.  At any given moment the gauntlet would be dropped, usually a not so subtle cut down delivered with confidence and a bit of premature gloating as though the most cleaver and indefensible witticism had been unleashed on our hapless peer who surly would concede defeat to satirical superiority.

Of course a retort salvo delivered with impunity was the only possible response, and expected response, despite the pretence of a no contest victory.

Each counter attack expanded the creative use of foul vulgarity, coaxing us to exercise our cerebral powers with more passion than any physics class could hope to muster.  The escalating exchange of zingers would bind our friendships more as we opened ourselves to benign thrusts that would surly emotionally injure the unprotected.  A deserved tip of the hat gesture or "touché" was the currency of trust and acknowledgement of "a good one" delivered into your court with such alacrity and venom that a return was not possible.. until the next serve.

These exchanges were like an episode of Seinfeld, in that they were essentially about nothing, but we sure laughed a lot. At the time I really enjoyed it.

Over time the one-upmanship banter lost its lustre and our conversations, as we navigated adolescent maturity, waded into the meaning of life, politics, as well as biceps, girls, and the myriad of subjects that randomly occupy the young soon to be adult mind.

This teasing in retrospect seems to be some kind of right of passage or perhaps pseudo intellectual conversation for those who are not yet comfortable enough or experienced enough to rely on meaningful exchanges to engage each-other.

An interesting conundrum with teasing is that while some research shows that the non-bullying type of teasing is seldom meant to be hurtful to the recipient, the recipient more often perceives the tease as hurtful. (1)

The explanation is that teaser knows what they are doing in advance, and the teased does not, making the delivered insult hard to see as benign most of the time.  Additionally, the person being teased is likely to perceive the teaser as disingenuous.. their clumsy delivery of an insult thinly disguised with humour displays a lack of ability to be conscientious.  The old "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything" applies here.

It seems that teasing, according to experts, has a better chance of working in a benign or even uplifting way if the tease is delivered with obvious openness instead of coy mischievousness, and between those who have accepted that teasing is ok between them.  Otherwise most of the time teasing is an epic failure for both teaser and teasee.  When this happens the teaser doesn't understand that being an a$$ isn't really a good idea, because they can't perceive how such behaviour is a$$-like.

Instead of diffusing the situation amicably the teaser will stubbornly raise the ante by delivering the quintessential socially inept accusatory question, "what, can't you take a joke?"

Take a joke.  As though the purpose of peoples existence is to be the wanting and diminutive recipient of the teasers put-down.  Or that the recipient is somehow implicitly expected to be indoctrinated into complying by gestating and delivering an equally dismissive comeback.

While truly benign teasing is fun, it's prone to failure if it's unexpectedly sprung on someone.. you need to be in tune with the person you're teasing to avoid either hurt feelings or being perceived as a jerk.

Aside from simply being annoying teasing can become bullying and harassment.

So why am I writing an article about this?  In the context of living healthy, our emotional health is of course of paramount importance.  Unless under the ideal scenarios I've described here, I've more often witnessed teasing be either hurtful or annoyingly inappropriate.

It seems that the chronic teaser lacks the ability to produce a genuine compliment or constructive criticism to others, always attempting to veil their social ineptness with humour, which makes it hard to take them seriously.

We all know how good it feels to receive a truly genuine compliment, and how it feels to be the butt end of joke, or to be annoyed by the eternal jester.

So if we all know this, wouldn't it be better to offer more genuine compliments to each-other?

I'm not talking about platitudes and phoney smiles.. no need to make up heartless anecdotes.  It really does make us feel better whether we are the ones doing the delivery, or are the recipient.. compliments and being good natured makes us feel good, not in a way that clouds judgment or plops rose coloured glasses on us, but simply feeling good.  What's wrong with that?

Research (2) shows that with practiced mindful thinking the part of our brain that allows us to be complimentary and compassionate grows larger while the part of our brain that processes being negative and judgmental shrinks.  Amazing.. through being genuinely nice to others our brain remodels to become more efficient at producing positive thoughts and less at producing negative thoughts.

Have you ever felt burdened by negative thoughts that seem to never go away?  Feel stressed about all the negative people out there?  Some of that negativity may be self generated. We can't really control others, and the world will always have unfair, rude, ne'er-do-wells, but what if there was something we had real control over that really did reduce our stress and leave us feeling happier more often?  There are a lot of things we can do to achieve this; one of them is being mindful of where our emotions come from, and how our actions may affect others.

 Next time you're thinking of delivering a zinger, think about something genuinely good about that person and say that instead.  You may be surprised how good you feel about being compassionate.  And while you may get the odd person wondering what you really want, the person on the receiving end will also feel a bit of a warm fuzzy.

Think this is too egalitarian or devoid of real practical usefulness?  Guess again.. Being positive and mindful of our own and others feelings has a place, and does contribute to better relationships, better efficiency in the work place, and less stress.  Additionally teasing is devastating to many people leading to eating disorders, self esteem challenges, depression, and suicide.  Not so funny hey?

Try it!  Give out genuine complements to someone today.  It has to be genuine though, otherwise it's phoney and counter productive.  You won't have to wait long.. Lot's of people do good things frequently.. when they do, that's your chance to pounce!  Carefully though.. overdo this and you might merely become an ideologue..

Spread some happiness :-)



(1) PsycNET - Display Record

(2) http://www.umassmed.edu/uploadedFiles/cfm2/Psychiatry_Resarch_Mindfulness.pdf


Showing empathy to patients can improve care