The Bacon Conundrum

http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/15/scientists-in-oregon-discover-bacon-flavored-seawe/
http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/15/scientists-in-oregon-discover-bacon-flavored-seawe/

Are we the first generation to actually think we will beat death? Do we believe that if we do everything possible to keep ourselves alive as long as we can we’ll be around when the cure for death is discovered and live forever?

This smacks into reality when we consider whether or not we would want to be doing, what we are doing now, for eternity. If this day-to-day existence is the only one we will ever be able to experience, is it worth prolonging? Q examines this question on Star Trek repeatedly. What is there to do once you’ve done everything? In one episode, a Q choses to die just to end the boredom of living forever and being omniscient.

But I digress, regulations with the sole function of increasing your life span are very much in our awareness at the moment, because of the bacon conundrum. It was one thing when it was just smoking. All of the ex-smokers hated anyone smoking and all of the helicopter parents felt the risk of a whiff of smoke, when entering a building, could doom their babies to poor health and artificial voice boxes. But now, we are talking about ham at Sunday dinner, pepperoni pizza and bacon and eggs. All but the strictest vegetarians among us partake.

However, if regulations are justified to limit the habits of smokers, to keep them from harm, similar laws will need to be applied to smoked meat products. Age limits on purchases and warnings with graphic photographs, for instance. Possibly restaurants that serve these implicated foods will require identification before entrance, if public consumption is allowed at all.

Will you have to show ID to purchase a pepperoni pizza? Does this mean that we’ll now be seeing colonoscopy photos of cancers on packages? Perhaps post surgery depictions of abdomens when the guts needed to be removed. Same level of risk, same requirement for equal legislation.

Or could we possibly, look at the absurdity of the above and recognize that both bacon and smoking have no redeeming qualities other than enjoyment? And before someone jumps up and says, “second hand smoke”, second hand smoke is NOT as dangerous as bacon so the rules can apply to bacon without suggesting that second hand smoke needs to be treated the same way. In other words, the “risk” presented from second hand smoke is less than the risk from the consumption of cured meat products.

Could we all come to grips with the fact that we are all going to die? Yes, even you. There is more to life than avoiding death. Enjoyment of bacon, for example. Living causes death. Regardless of what you do, you are going to die. Get over it.

For all of the “harm” smoking was doing, it gave people a break in their days. People congregated for a drink and that often included a smoke as well. People went outside purposefully to smoke creating an opportunity to get up and go out. It was a very social activity. Now, you can’t even smoke alone in parks. But you can eat bacon.

No one has ever bothered to explain why, despite the fact that they smoke and eat processed meats, both Spain and France have longer life expectancies than we do. True story. So what’s up with that? Could it be that consuming these products is not the defining issue about how long we live?

If regulations are there to enhance our health, shouldn’t enjoyment of life and being social factor into the equation? Being social has been shown to enhance your life expectancy beyond any other single factor. Smoking was one of the things that people did when they were together. Now, the bingo halls, legions and bowling alleys are almost all gone. Did we enhance the life expectancy of this group of smokers by socially isolating them?

It could be argued that bacon has less value in that it is not generally done in groups. It is less familiar to hear someone say, “lets go out and eat bacon together. ” or ” meet me for some smoked pork belly” but I digress. There is no question that it is delicious. But leniency on the rules cannot be argued because it brings people together. Smoking did.

Not surprisingly, our casinos have never been big hits. If you are going to fly to a city to go to a casino, you are not going to fly here. Many other casinos allow you to smoke and drink. There is a recognition that not everything has to be about prolonging life. Many cultures actually relax and enjoy themselves without obsessing about all of the ‘evil’ out to kill us.

But, health considerations, specifically what you consume, (not how you live) have trumped all others. Lung cancer victims, especially those that have never smoked, are treated as pariahs. Everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer so if you have it you are guilty of indulging in a socially unacceptable activity no one shows you mercy. Truth is, many of them have never smoked. Turns out smoking is not the ONLY cause of lung cancer. Go figure!

Increasingly, in light of our war on smokers, we will have to face the reality that many of our friends and relatives, who have never smoked, will die anyway, often of what used to be referred to as natural causes. Treating all death as a pathology that could have been prevented allows us to believe that we are the generation that will beat this and live forever, if we just make enough laws about how people can behave. Perhaps we should be rethinking all of this.

The Perils of Play

IMG_3790Lawyers and insurance companies are ruling the world and they are taking us in the wrong direction. Simply put, there is more to life than avoiding death. We have been sucked in anyway to avoiding risk at all costs. This is especially acute in today’s parents who have coddled this generation of children so much; they are likely to never leave home.

Many of the children have never walked to school, or been unsupervised for any length of time. Their lives are spent in the home or during a scheduled activity or play date. No parent would risk abduction and let their child play outside alone! Lets not forget the perils of having sunshine on unprotected skin or the risk of a fall.

But we have taken it so far the saying, “Better safe than sorry” is no longer a truism. Take the playground issue for instance. After a particularly damning report about the perils of the city’s playgrounds; that actually was written with a view to how things “should” be built in the future, not a comment on the current dangers on the playground, the city of Toronto ripped out all of it’s play equipment from public properties and schools.

We have all heard this argument. “Now that there is a report saying that the playground is potentially dangerous we are exposed legally.” Again, with the lawyers and the insurance companies. If a child was hurt and the parents decided to go for a windfall of cash, the city would be liable. There was no way to take the risk. Rip out the playgrounds.

The post-game analysis done by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ),
showed a great improvement in safety citing 550 less injuries on playgrounds. Now, an injury is described as any time a form is filled out and “includes injuries attended to by teachers or school staff, as well as those in which the child went home or to a health facility”. Funny thing that the CMAJ article made no mention of how this lack of activity affected the children, their ability to concentrate, their weights or their happiness, to name a few undiscussed variables. The study focused entirely on the reduced risk of injury.

Now with funding the way that it always is — tight, the city did not have a plan to replace all of the equipment with the recommended “safer” equipment. The wealthier neighbourhoods did fundraising and refurbished the playgrounds but after 9 years many of the playgrounds remain barren. So now we also have an economic split. The poorer children are more likely to have no way to be engaged and active during the school day and become higher risk for being named a troublemaker.

In other cities, the rules have become so strict that normal games like tag are not allowed because it requires “touching”. Throwing things can be hazardous. Boisterous play can result in someone getting hurt. In other words, we are asking our children not to play because it is dangerous.

So an entire cohort of children is not being allowed normal physical activity. This same group of children is the fattest, most out of shape generation of children North America has ever seen. The way that we are dealing with this lack of exercise is to take away play. Interesting.

Children that cannot make the adjustment to this lack of exercise can become troublemakers because they will have difficulty concentrating or paying attention. These children may be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and medicated. For that matter, in 2011 one in ten children were diagnosed with ADHD in the US. If children cannot sit still, they are given a pharmacopeia of drugs to help them calm down. So let me summarize, many of our children are driven to school and then they are not allowed to play all day and we medicate them to keep them from being too restless. There is no way to over state this.

A particularly nonconformist principal in New Zealand decided to get rid of all of the rules on his playground at school and yes, there were a few injuries, but many of the other “bad behaviours” decreased. In fact, the students focused better in class. Bullying, tattling and vandalism all decreased and fewer children were getting hurt. Perhaps, just perhaps, kids need to be able to play to stimulate themselves and well, be normal children.

Now the question becomes, how do we deal with the lawyers and the insurance companies that are salivating at the thought of a child breaking her arm on the playground? Until we address that issue, we are putting all of our children at real risk, not just the normal childhood risk of a scraped knee or a bruise.

 

How to Lead a Low Drama Life

Master Coach Lori Race is ready to share with you her secrets on how to create a more Zen-like existence. 

Beautiful, Bodacious, Boundaries

Learn How to Say No.

Can Stress Be Good For You?

IMG_4985As our understanding of how stressful our lives have become expands, more and more people are talking about meditation, leisure, slowing down and living in the moment. It is generally believed stress can hurt you and you should take every opportunity to reduce it in your life.

In a very two-dimensional way, this seems obvious. If you are worried, on edge and generally unable to relax, it must make you sick or at least tired. We can all think of someone who is so stressed their health and possibly their life has fallen apart. But this belief misses a larger truth. Many of our great accomplishments, enjoyable activities and even some of the pivotal and positive things in our lives are inherently stressful.

Worrying your true love will refuse your offer of marriage may be stressful, but that does not mean you should not ask. Standing up in front of a group of people to give a presentation, is also stressful, but it may be invigorating. People choose to sky dive for heaven’s sake!

So what is really going on? Kelly McGonigal, a doctor who studies the impact stress has on us has made an interesting discovery. In her TED talk 

she explains that if you “believe” stress is bad for you, it does more harm to your health. Simply put, it is our own brain’s interpretation of the effect of stress that ultimately determines how likely the stress will be harmful. Her study demonstrated that if you experienced a stressful event you were 43% more likely to die the following year ONLY if you believed stress was harmful for your health.

In contrast, those who experienced stress but did not believe it was harmful, actually had a lower risk of dying than people who had the least stress. Woah!! That is not what we have come to believe. Could this be because doing interesting things, taking chances, putting yourself out there makes life interesting and more enjoyable, even though it is stressful? I think that may be the case.

Is life worth living if we are constantly trying to be as risk and stress free as possible? I think not. We all know what that would look like and it would be incredibly boring. So, think of your heart pumping and your breathing increasing as your body prepping for action, not as something that is bad for you. Get out there. Take a chance, do something exciting, it may even reduce your risk of dying…

The Meaning of Life?

http://trekcore.com/gallery/albums/picard/picard_s5hq_pbvariant.jpg
http://trekcore.com/gallery/albums/picard/picard_s5hq_pbvariant.jpg

When Jean-Luc Picard is faced with his mediocre new life after travelling back in time to fix a “mistake” he made when he was a young man, we all understood the significance of his epiphany. It is better to live a passionate life full of experiences, mistakes and opportunities than it is to play it safe and end up in an uninspiring life of drudgery.

In this particular Star Trek episode, Q sends Jean-Luc back to address a regret. Jean-Luc decides not to battle a Nausicaan this time. This saves Jean-Luc embarrassment and gives him a new lease on life. All of this is occurring during open heart surgery to replace the artificial heart that was required because of the initial fight with the Nausicaan. What Jean-Luc discovers is that his new life, as a low level technician, does not inspire him and he decides that he would rather have a meaningful, albeit shorter, life than a safer boring one.

Even though we understand this concept, our current preoccupation with “safety” at all costs is in direct conflict with this entire notion. How many people do you know who take any risks at all?  The mantra, “Better Safe than Sorry” is unquestioned, as an almost religious belief, which begs the question, Why?

Over several centuries, we have gone from believing that everything is in the hands of a supernatural being to worshipping science as the be-all and end-all answer to every conceivable question. There is a comfort in knowing that facts can be determined, numbers can be added and used to prove points. It is defensible to state knowledge and support arguments, but is that all that there is?

We all need something to be passionate about. That is how we were designed. A quick look around will reveal that people stand up against injustices, fund raise for medical research and put their energy into things that are important to them. Problem is, without recognizing that this is our very nature, many of us take the latest snippet of news, research or gossip and become passionate about that. This causes our passions to be paper thin and as changing as the wind.

Have you noticed the current obsession with kale and avocado? If you missed the initial scientific announcement that these are the new “super foods” you must have at least noticed that you can get avocado at almost all of the fast food places now. It is a topping on burgers, an ingredient in salads and included in beverages—yes, beverages.

We have internalized this notion that doing all that we can to avoid death, or prolong life gives our lives meaning. But does it? We understood what Jean-Luc felt because a life without passion and purpose is, not only depressing, but it misses the point. Could it be possible that the purpose of our lives is to find joy and live in passion?

Jean-Luc had the opportunity to re-live that part of his life and he went back and got into the fight again. For us mere mortals that have to live linearly I guess we should just follow our passions more and do those things that bring us joy, but more on that later.

The Chemistry of Connection

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00679/duckrescue404_679621c.jpg
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00679

We have all laughed at videos of little ducklings following inappropriate things around. Ducks and geese both imprint on the first moving object, that is larger than they are, that they see upon hatching. Imprinting is designed to ensure survival since the hatchling must rely on its mother for both food and protection.

Oxytocin is responsible for this behaviour. It might be alarming for you to know that oxytocin plays a similar role in bonding in humans. While siginificantly fewer people follow someone around all of the time, bonding is just as important in human social interactions and survival of the species as it is to the duckling.

Oxytocin, which is released in response to many social activities, is one of a cocktail of chemicals that are released when people interact with one another. Opioids, norepinephrine, vasopression and likely more, all seem to play a role.

Opioids that are released during relationships may be responsible for how awful we feel during a break up. We become addicted to them, in the same way that we become addicted to taking drugs, and consequently feel the same withdrawal and the associated pain when the relationship ends.

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is instrumental in the formation of social attachments and the reduction of fear, especially fear resulting from social interactions. Simply being with other people can create a certain amount of bonding, even if it is just a gathering. This mild effect may be totally offset by how much you dislike the people, however.

The more intimate the interaction, the more oxytocin is produced and it is produced in large quantities during childbirth, breastfeeding and coitus. It is not difficult to see how bonding can be very valuable during these activities ensuring a pair is created. This is in the best interest of the survival of our species since babies with loving parents are the most likely to thrive.

There are however, people that are not as affected by oxytocin and their personalities are associated with callous-unemotional traits. So, in a relationship with say, a narcissist, you get a hit of oxytocin and further bond and they do not have the same hormonal response. This immediately tips the power into their favour. They are not as bonded as you are.

Ironically, even in a bad relationship, the oxytocin that is produced, makes you feel “safer” even if you are not actually safer. In addition to that, oxytocin is responsible for the feeling that “our group is better than their group” and supports the practise of excluding others. This double wammy makes it very difficult for a person to be rational when they have pair bonded with an unfavourable person. Simply put, they feel safer with this person and they feel separate from other groups of people.

Threatening situations, even those created by your partner, may encourage the return to a secure base and the strengthening of social bonds, which are, provided by your partner. So, a vicious cycle ensues. You feel threatened and then you form a tighter bond with the person threatening you. We have all seen someone that chooses to stay with someone that is not good to them. It is nice to know that it is not just a lack of judgement.

There are two take away messages here. First, you should make sure that you really like someone before you become intimate with them because the hormones that you produce during intimate contact can make sober thought difficult. The second is that if we find ourselves in these terrible relationships, perhaps with a narcissist for instance, we should be gentle with ourselves. Our biology, in these cases, is working against our greater good, not unlike the duckling imprinting on a predator.

My Newest Book, The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

Can Stress Be Good For You?

IMG_4985As our understanding of how stressful our lives have become expands, more and more people are talking about meditation, leisure, slowing down and living in the moment. It is generally believed stress can hurt you and you should take every opportunity to reduce it in your life.

In a very two-dimensional way, this seems obvious. If you are worried, on edge and generally unable to relax, it must make you sick or at least tired. We can all think of someone who is so stressed their health and possibly their life has fallen apart. But this belief misses a larger truth. Many of our great accomplishments, enjoyable activities and even some of the pivotal and positive things in our lives are inherently stressful.

Worrying your true love will refuse your offer of marriage may be stressful, but that does not mean you should not ask. Standing up in front of a group of people to give a presentation, is also stressful, but it may be invigorating. People choose to sky dive for heaven’s sake!

So what is really going on? Kelly McGonigal, a doctor who studies the impact stress has on us has made an interesting discovery. In her TED talk 

she explains that if you “believe” stress is bad for you, it does more harm to your health. Simply put, it is our own brain’s interpretation of the effect of stress that ultimately determines how likely the stress will be harmful. Her study demonstrated that if you experienced a stressful event you were 43% more likely to die the following year ONLY if you believed stress was harmful for your health.

In contrast, those who experienced stress but did not believe it was harmful, actually had a lower risk of dying than people who had the least stress. Woah!! That is not what we have come to believe. Could this be because doing interesting things, taking chances, putting yourself out there makes life interesting and more enjoyable, even though it is stressful? I think that may be the case.

Is life worth living if we are constantly trying to be as risk and stress free as possible? I think not. We all know what that would look like and it would be incredibly boring. So, think of your heart pumping and your breathing increasing as your body prepping for action, not as something that is bad for you. Get out there. Take a chance, do something exciting, it may even reduce your risk of dying…

The Perils of Play

IMG_3790Lawyers and insurance companies are ruling the world and they are taking us in the wrong direction. Simply put, there is more to life than avoiding death. We have been sucked in anyway to avoiding risk at all costs. This is especially acute in today’s parents who have coddled this generation of children so much; they are likely to never leave home.

Many of the children have never walked to school, or been unsupervised for any length of time. Their lives are spent in the home or during a scheduled activity or play date. No parent would risk abduction and let their child play outside alone! Lets not forget the perils of having sunshine on unprotected skin or the risk of a fall.

But we have taken it so far the saying, “Better safe than sorry” is no longer a truism. Take the playground issue for instance. After a particularly damning report about the perils of the city’s playgrounds; that actually was written with a view to how things “should” be built in the future, not a comment on the current dangers on the playground, the city of Toronto ripped out all of it’s play equipment from public properties and schools.

We have all heard this argument. “Now that there is a report saying that the playground is potentially dangerous we are exposed legally.” Again, with the lawyers and the insurance companies. If a child was hurt and the parents decided to go for a windfall of cash, the city would be liable. There was no way to take the risk. Rip out the playgrounds.

The post-game analysis done by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ),
showed a great improvement in safety citing 550 less injuries on playgrounds. Now, an injury is described as any time a form is filled out and “includes injuries attended to by teachers or school staff, as well as those in which the child went home or to a health facility”. Funny thing that the CMAJ article made no mention of how this lack of activity affected the children, their ability to concentrate, their weights or their happiness, to name a few undiscussed variables. The study focused entirely on the reduced risk of injury.

Now with funding the way that it always is — tight, the city did not have a plan to replace all of the equipment with the recommended “safer” equipment. The wealthier neighbourhoods did fundraising and refurbished the playgrounds but after 9 years many of the playgrounds remain barren. So now we also have an economic split. The poorer children are more likely to have no way to be engaged and active during the school day and become higher risk for being named a troublemaker.

In other cities, the rules have become so strict that normal games like tag are not allowed because it requires “touching”. Throwing things can be hazardous. Boisterous play can result in someone getting hurt. In other words, we are asking our children not to play because it is dangerous.

So an entire cohort of children is not being allowed normal physical activity. This same group of children is the fattest, most out of shape generation of children North America has ever seen. The way that we are dealing with this lack of exercise is to take away play. Interesting.

Children that cannot make the adjustment to this lack of exercise can become troublemakers because they will have difficulty concentrating or paying attention. These children may be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and medicated. For that matter, in 2011 one in ten children were diagnosed with ADHD in the US. If children cannot sit still, they are given a pharmacopeia of drugs to help them calm down. So let me summarize, many of our children are driven to school and then they are not allowed to play all day and we medicate them to keep them from being too restless. There is no way to over state this.

A particularly nonconformist principal in New Zealand decided to get rid of all of the rules on his playground at school and yes, there were a few injuries, but many of the other “bad behaviours” decreased. In fact, the students focused better in class. Bullying, tattling and vandalism all decreased and fewer children were getting hurt. Perhaps, just perhaps, kids need to be able to play to stimulate themselves and well, be normal children.

Now the question becomes, how do we deal with the lawyers and the insurance companies that are salivating at the thought of a child breaking her arm on the playground? Until we address that issue, we are putting all of our children at real risk, not just the normal childhood risk of a scraped knee or a bruise.

 

How to Lead a Low Drama Life

Master Coach Lori Race is ready to share with you her secrets on how to create a more Zen-like existence. 

Beautiful, Bodacious, Boundaries

Learn How to Say No.