Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Biological magnification & importance of organic

Mercury filled fish for dinner

For anyone who had biology or an environmental class in high school, you're probably somewhat familiar with this term. Biological magnification is defined as a trophic process in which substances in the food chain become more concentrated with each link of the food chain. In a simpler statement, it's the accumulation of toxins as you go higher up the food chain. Indeed, not too good for whoever's at the top of it all.

Wait a second. Gasp! We're at the top.

Let's check out an example.
  • A farmer sprays pesticides all over his crops.
  • Not all insects are affected by the pesticides he used, so they still continue to eat his produce.
  • The insects are later eaten by a chicken that is allowed to roam freely. Of course, to satisfy his hunger, he eats many of these toxic insects (which accumulates in its body).
  • You have chicken breasts for dinner, and the toxins now accumulate in your body.
That's not too good for your health.

There's a reason to be eating organic. Eating foods involved with all these chemicals over a long period of time can't be good for you because they will build up in your body.

Humans eat a lot. No doubt about it and that's ok.
But, there should be an increasing importance placed on getting enough organic foods into your diet and supermarkets need to be supplying the consumers with them.

I hope that baby is organic

Do what's good for your body. Eat smart, eat healthy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's a System

Nifty diagram I made. (click to enlarge)

I recreated Urie Bronfenbrenner's contextual perspective/Ecological Systems Theory diagram from my Adolescent Development textbook, but made it with a few changes. Now, it relates to you and your goal(s) for health. I'll describe the basics and then explain how you can apply it to yourself.

Let's briefly go over the systems this model is composed of, which are:
  • Microsystem - Immediate interactions with others
  • Mesosystem - Connections & interactions of the microsystems
  • Exosystem - Environmental
  • Macrosystem - Governmental & cultural
  • Chronosytem - Time
Good so far? If not, don't worry, it will be easy enough to follow along.

Ok, but how does this diagram work? Let's see.
  • Center - It's your current status in regards to where you ultimately want to be. For someone wanting to lose fat, the end goal is the desired body/look. On the other hand, for a powerlifter, the end goal is a certain number for the big 3 competition lifts (squat, bench, deadlift). When the desired state is achieved, it also must be maintained.
  • Microsystem - This is all verbal communication. Basically, how others talk to you about your goal. Do they support you? do they criticize what you're doing? Positive feedback is the best, as is any social support.
  • Mesosystem - Interactions. When you eat with a friend, will they pick a healthy meal over the junk to reinforce the good habits you're trying to maintain? If you're with family on the weekends, are they doing activities to keep your fitness levels up? or are they watching TV all day? Is school/work becoming overwhelming that it affects your entire schedule? is it making you so busy that you can't make it to the gym or it makes you miss a meal? The paired relationships aren't set in stone. For example, you can change the meal with friends scenario to meals with family. Same rules apply. The main question is, is it helping you?
  • Exosystem - What's in your area? Are the places to eat nearby serving quality food? or is it a KFC? Can you go for a walk in the park? Is your gym spacious and conducive to your goal or is it always busy? Is the local grocery good?
  • Macrosystem - What's your state's regulations on certain produce like raw milk or black currants? Do you still believe in popular fitness myths? What about the current fads? do you follow them or stick to a structured program? Still under the assumption long distance cardio is the best exercise for weight loss and portion-controlled eating is healthy?
  • Chronosystem - Directly refers to your progress to your goal (knowledge gained, overcoming plateaus) while indirectly is the changes over time in the general population (becoming more inactive, obesity increasing), new equipment (sandbags, kettlebells, bands, etc.), less organic food, new diets, and the recession affecting (or not) the costs regarding your health.
As you can see, that's more expansive than the basics stated earlier.

Now, what kind of post would this be if I just left it at that? Let's use an example.

We have 3 people living in 3 different areas, and they're all trying to lose weight. 1) Guy living in an apartment in the so-so section of a city. 2) College kid living on campus. 3) Working man in the suburbs.
  1. Jason lives in a big city, so no need for a car, he just walks everywhere. But since he doesn't earn enough to live in a nicer place, he winds up having to shop at a grocery store that barely keeps fruits & vegetables and relies on the local pizza & fast food places. He doesn't even know of a gym within walking distance from his place, so forget lifting weights. He wants to slim down, but with the options he has, it's tough. He has to be creative with whatever he has access to (which isn't much). He reads up on all the new fitness information. Best thing he learns is how to make his own equipment to work out with. John is on his way to becoming more active and starting a healthier life.
  2. Billy's in college living the good life. He also walks everywhere since he lives on campus. He relies on the dining hall for meals or the places located around campus. The good thing is his dining hall has a full salad bar and the closest place to his dorm that's remotely healthy is Subway. Making his own meals is hard work, especially since the grocery store near him is small and not too great itself. On top of that, everyone else Billy knows indulges in fried foods, sweets, and beer. Self-control is ridiculously hard when all his friends are having a good time. But he stays strong and makes use of the university gym to take control of his life.
  3. Zack works the 9-5 and lives in a typical suburban town. Everything around him requires a car, so no walking for him. Since he lives in a nice area with a car, he has the benefit of shopping at a Trader Joe's and/or Whole Foods to buy his groceries from. Organic wholesome fruits, veggies, and nut butters, yum yum for Zack. Unfortunately, he only has commerical gyms near him that are $50 a month, yikes! He reluctantly stays as a member, despite the burden it puts on his wallet. As a result, he has to exercise in a crowded gym, where he not only wastes his money, but his time as well. Luckily, his family and friends support his efforts to lose that beer belly from college. Also, they don't mind eating at the restaurants nearby rather than the greasy fast food franchises. It's quality food for them and him. Zack might not be an exercise expert, but the other parts of his life are helping him lose weight.
Of course, I could go on and on, but hopefully this was enough to help you understand the whole point of this post. Whatever your goal is, (health-wise, financially, life in general) remember, it's a system.

Understand the parts it's made up of, and learn how to use them the best you can.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Everybody's an Expert, revisited

I had no intention of coming back to this topic, but yesterday I came across two different things that I couldn't pass up on discussing.

The first matter was a guy on a forum asking for advice. His situation was he never exercised before, and he paid a trainer at his gym for a health assessment. So, he was performing the workout he was prescribed, until midway

"I started feeling fucking sick!! I had no strength at all and could feel my body going numb. I almost couldn't talk or move. I sat down and looked down on the floor (NEVER LOOK DOWN). As soon as I tilted my head up I started barfing like crazy basically puked all my breakfast in front of everyone on the fucking floor. How humiliating is that man. Anyway no pain no gain I guess."

No pain no gain? Absurd! Advice other guys gave him? "Suck it up, keep at it, it's normal." Hell no. You do not puke at the gym. I was the only person to say he shouldn't have vomited. The trainer who he paid was studying Kinesiology at a university, but look at the program he created

Day 1:7 min warmup on stationary bike
  • Seated Rows 2x15
  • Leg extension 2x12
  • Leg curl 2x12
  • DB biceps curl 2x12
  • 90° - 45° crunches 2x 4-4
  • Lat pulldown 90°- 60° 2x15
  • Big 21 2x 7-7-7
  • Leg raise 2x15
Cardio 20 minutes threadmill

Day 2: 7min warmup on the Elliptical machine
  • Chest Press 2x15
  • Rope Pushdown 2x15
  • Lat+Front raise 2x10
  • Chopper twist 2x12
  • Pec deck 2x15
  • Skull crusher 2x12
  • Military Press 2x12
  • Russian Twist 2x12
Cardio: 8-10 min on the rowing machine

Seems good if you haven't exercised before, but on the contrary, it's too much for a beginner and there's nothing in it that will help the poor guy become ready for intermediate-level exercises. This guy paid $50 for a so-so service.

I said there were two things. The other was a website I came across. It's not horrible by any means, but I would not recommend it to anyone if they were seeking fitness information. I'm not really with the ideas of telling ladies to suck it up and advising use of the Smith machine. The site is designed to target women, but in reality, women aren't that different from guys. Sure, a few things here and there, but gender doesn't matter when you get fitness information. Alwyn Cosgrove sums it up extremely well here. Bottom line, it's about what you know.

Now, I can't just end this post without offering alternatives, so here we go!
I've said before there's a wealth of information in this day & age, and that list should help anyone get started. Enjoy the weekend eveyone.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Quick Fixes: Purses

Let's start with a story. Back in elementary school, I was sent to my pediatrician after a scoliosis check. I didn't have scoliosis (luckily), but my doctor asked how I wore my backpack. Of course, I had it slinging on 1 shoulder like all the other cool kids. What I didn't know was of the muscle imbalance I was creating. He said all I had to do was wear my backpack normally, easy enough to do.

That was years ago. But, I see women nowadays with gargantuan-looking purses like they're trying to rob a bank. It's fine to a certain extent, but I also see they carry
a lot of things with them. I once remember my friend coming by my dorm and inside her purse was a laptop, bagel, notebook, pens, a spare tire, toaster, fish tank, etc. (maybe not the last few). That's simply way too much to be carrying all at once, especially when the load is not evenly distributed on your upper body.

Huge purse, suspect in 8 bank robberies.

So how do we fix this? Easiest way is to lessen the amount of items you have or do some type of resistance/weight training. The latter option makes you strong. Your muscles become able to handle the weight being applied to one side. Don't like the idea of lifting weights? Well, either way, if you want to have kids, how are you going to hold a crying baby in the future? Can't make that baby weigh any less no matter how many diapers you go through. In fact, they only get bigger, and uglier in the teenage years.

This post isn't just for women; it also applies to the one-strap bags men wear. Keep your body in good shape, it's not hard doing a change here, a change there.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Everybody's an Expert

"Like a group of blind men, led by a man who is himself blind" (Mundaka Upanisad, Ch.1, verse 2.8)
In a previous post I said there's a lot of information available in the world. But it's a problem when you get the wrong information. Usually, this occurs when it comes from another person. It happens a lot in regards to exercise & nutrition. People are so enthusiastic to get in shape (which is good), but they will almost listen to anything they find/hear/read and then to make matters worse, this faulty knowledge gets passed along to someone else. Let's take a look at some silly things I've heard.
  • At the salad bar, "you shouldn't eat tomatoes, they have sugar" and this is while they both have chicken fingers on their plates.
  • Girl giving advice to her friend says "Only eat complex carbs. From the cereals here, you can eat Special K."
  • "Running is the best exercise."
You get the picture.

Where's all this come from? Can whatever you were told be properly explained? can sources be cited for it? If not sources, at least a credible person with an established name in the field?

People don't do enough questioning, but instead plain follow any advice. This article explains how personal trainers need stricter standards before being hired. Why? Because it's dangerous to allow any hired joe schmoe being able to tell you what to do with your body. Ask to see some credentials and what's their education background. How do you even know if they're going to do a good job if you don't take time to learn about them?

This trend, unfortunately, plagues any field. I'm done with the bulk of my psychology major (1 class & 1 lab left) and even I don't give advice to other people on the matter. Yet, I constantly see others give help to someone else. Sure, their intentions are good, but the fact is, they're not educated on the subject. Even if you might not have a degree in it, do you learn your material from successful professionals in the area? It's good to learn from others, but only when they are good at what they do.

In closing, don't be a dumb-dumb. You hear something, double-check with it. Don't be silly enough to believe whatever is tossed your way. You don't want to be like the group in the Upanisad quote, be better than that.

Friday, July 3, 2009

He said...

Co-worker's husband said, "you two look like friends."
He said, "my father said up until 18 it's a father-son relationship. After that, you become more like friends."

I'm sitting next to my dad thinking, "whoa, that's deep," but then jokingly told the guy "oh, we're not friends." Hopefully one day I'm even close to being that wise.

Have a good weekend everyone, and here's another vocabulary word to step-up your vernacular.

inveigle (in-vay-guhl) - v. - To obtain by deception or flattery.
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