It’s 2019 and grown-ass adults have to be told not to drink bleach. Apparently.

Every now and then I stop to ponder how we, collectively as a country, could have been stupid enough to elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. A job he was clearly unqualified for to anyone who had more than two brain cells to rub together. Surely there aren’t that many drooling idiots out there that are so susceptible to Russian propaganda as to make such a thing possible. I know the results of the election show that, yes, clearly this must be true, but my brain struggles to accept the obvious conclusion.

Holy shit, don’t actually do this.

And then I come across a warning from the FDA telling these same people that, no, drinking bleach will not cure your AIDS/Cancer/Autism/Hepatitis/Flu and that they should stop drinking it and/or, even worse, making their kids drink it. You might think I’m kidding, but I am not:

Since 2010, the FDA has warned consumers about the dangers of Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, Water Purification Solution (WPS) and other similar products. Miracle Mineral Solution has not been approved by the FDA for any use, but these products continue to be promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions. However, the solution, when mixed, develops into a dangerous bleach which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

“The FDA’s drug approval process ensures that patients receive safe and effective drug products. Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved, and ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason,” said FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “The FDA will continue to track those selling this dangerous product and take appropriate enforcement actions against those who attempt to evade FDA regulations and market unapproved and potentially dangerous products to the American public. Our top priority is to protect the public from products that place their health at risk, and we will send a strong and clear message that these products have the potential to cause serious harm.”

Source: FDA warns consumers about the dangerous and potentially life threatening side effects of Miracle Mineral Solution — U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Note that first sentence: “Since 2010.” Meaning people have been drinking bleach in hopes of curing various issues that largely do not have a cure for almost a fucking decade. I think this explains a lot about the current political environment in America today. It’s not the Russian propaganda all over Facebook and Twitter that is the problem, it’s the fact that enough people are drinking bleach as a miracle cure that the fucking FDA has had to repeatedly tell them to stop. Apparently to no avail.

Where the fuck did people get the idea that drinking bleach was somehow a miracle cure? From a religious nut, of course. A former Scientologist dude named “Jim Humble” (of course) founded and then declared himself the archbishop of The Genesis II Church of Health & Healing. Except it’s really not a religion as you don’t have to have any particular beliefs to join it — not even the ones espoused by the founder(s) — you just have to be able to cough up $35 and, voila, you’re a “church member” complete with an ID card spelling out all the advantages membership brings. Stuff like:

1. Protection against vaccinations, unwanted x-rays, scans, or health insurance mandated by human authority. We are a church and it is against our church’s beliefs. People have already used their membership cards to keep from being vaccinated, and from going through scans.

2. The ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity including but not limited to food, plants, vitamins minerals, herbs and all remedies in any quantity necessary for yourself or your family. This protection will be more understood when the church has its own health food stores right in the church building. The belief includes the right to maintain these products in your own home.

3. The membership includes a picture membership card with these rights written on the back and a notice that anyone violating these rights will be prosecuted by the Church.

Wow! Not even Jesus promises the ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity! Though the definition of “health products” is being very loosely applied here as one of the big things that Mr. Humble promotes is his Miracle Mineral Supplement which Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about:

I want to tell you about a breakthrough that can save your life, or the life of a loved one. In 1996, while on a gold mining expedition in South America, I discovered that chlorine dioxide quickly eradicates malaria. Since that time, it has proven to restore partial or full health to hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a wide range of disease, including cancer, diabetes, hepatitis A, B, C, Lyme disease, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, malaria, autism, infections of all kinds, arthritis, high cholesterol, acid reflux, kidney or liver diseases, aches and pains, allergies, urinary tract infections, digestive problems, high blood pressure, obesity, parasites, tumors and cysts, depression, sinus problems, eye disease, ear infections, dengue fever, skin problems, dental issues, problems with prostate (high PSA), erectile dysfunction and the list goes on. This is by far not a comprehensive list. I know it sounds too good to be true, but according to feedback I have received over the last 20 years, I think it’s safe to say MMS has the potential to overcome most diseases known to mankind.

Repeat after me “anecdotes are not data.” He’s right about one thing though, it does sound too good to be true. Because it isn’t true.

Jim gives away the recipe to this miracle on his website for free which has lead to a shit load of unscrupulous people setting up websites and selling it on the Internet. Fortunately, the FDA is cracking down and prosecuting the folks peddling it. Which is good because drinking it can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea — which a lot of these websites will claim proves it’s working — and can cause much bigger problems like dangerously low blood pressure, damage to the digestive tract, acute liver failure, and kidney damage. Poison control centers across this country have seen almost 17,000 cases of idiots drinking chlorine dioxide — industrial fucking bleach — since 2014.

My cynical side says that this is the definition of a self-correcting problem. If enough idiots drink enough bleach then it’ll go away on its own. The issue is not only are they not drinking enough bleach, but they’re inflicting it on others who don’t have the ability to say no. I draw the line at people trying to sell it as a legit medicinal product and at you deciding to shove it down your kids’ throat because you can’t handle the fact that he/she is autistic.

However, It’s a free country and if you want to chug some industrial bleach in hopes it’ll cure your gout then more power to you. The recipe, as I said, is freely available on Jim (I’m so) Humble’s website. You’re an idiot, but you’re an idiot with the right to do stupid things to yourself if you really want to. That said, I would highly recommend that you consider the following bit of text at the bottom of the page that has the MMS recipe on it:

Disclaimer: The protocols described on this site are official sacraments of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. The reader accepts 100% responsibility for any and all use made of any information herein.

I don’t know about you, but any church that has to cover its ass with a disclaimer for its “miracle cure” is one I wouldn’t have much faith in. Bottoms up!

Brain supplements are a waste of money.

If you’re getting on in years you may have noticed that a lot of web advertising these days consists of pitches for supplements that are supposed to improve “brain health” and prevent things like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The industry that makes these products pulls down $3.2 billion every year showing that there’s lots of folks worried about falling victim to these conditions as they age. There’s just one problem with these products: None of them have been demonstrated to do a damned thing other than drain your wallet.

“This $3.2-billion industry … benefits from high-penetration consumer advertising through print media, radio, television and the internet,” the neurologists wrote. “No known dietary supplement prevents cognitive decline or dementia, yet supplements advertised as such are widely available and appear to gain legitimacy when sold by major U.S. retailers.”

Are brain supplements a big waste of money? – MarketWatch.com
Image by Melanie Simon from Pixabay

It’s bad enough that these bullshit products are sold alongside legitimate medicines at your local pharmacy, but apparently there are also licenced medical personnel that are pushing pseudo-medical treatments:

“Some of these practitioners may stand to gain financially by promoting interventions that are not covered by insurance, such as intravenous nutrition, personalized detoxification, chelation therapy, antibiotics or stem cell therapy. These interventions lack a known mechanism for treating dementia and are costly, unregulated and potentially harmful,” the article states.

There are a lot of companies out there that are eager to cash in on your fears. According to the MarketWatch article, the FDA ‘issued a statement saying it posted 17 warning and advisory letters to domestic and foreign companies that illegally sell 58 products — many of them dietary supplements — that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health conditions. […] “These products may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.”’

Unfortunately, the MarketWatch article takes a nosedive in the latter half by talking with a naturopath who proscribes Homeopathic treatments which is another big woo-woo bullshit industry. To her credit she agrees that using dietary supplements that aren’t backed by solid research is a problem, but that’s about the only credit she deserves. Homeopathy is an even bigger batch of nonsense than the dietary supplement industry. At least the supplements contain actual ingredients.

Don’t fall for the bullshit. The causes of Dementia and Alzheimer’s are complex and promising research is ongoing, but so far nothing has been shown to be an effective preventative of these conditions. Not only are brain health supplements just a waste of money, but they’re also potentially harmful and could end up interacting with other prescription drugs you may be taking in negative ways.

Hell, this is true for dietary supplements in general. Most do nothing other than cost money. Some are dangerous when taken with other prescription medication. Vitamin supplements are arguably useful, but only when your doctor says you actually need them. If you’re already getting all the vitamins you need from your diet then you will literally piss away anything extra you get from a supplement.

Happy New Year 2018!

Yes, I know I’m a bit late with this, but I have a good excuse. My new year started off poorly with the onset of excruciating pain in my left hip/leg after eating lunch at a local Olive Garden. It got worse on the ride home and attempts at sleeping it off did nothing to help. By 4:30 PM it was so bad that I couldn’t get into the car to go to an urgent care center. After deciding against calling for an ambulance I continued to try and rest, but the only position that didn’t cause immediate pain was laying on my belly, a position I never sleep in, or standing straight up, which is also not conducive to sleep. Still, I managed to doze off a couple of times and by 2:30 AM things had improved just enough for me to fold myself into Anne’s car for a trip to the ER at Saint Joseph’s Mercy hospital in Ann Arbor.

This is me in my hospital gown standing up in my room because it’s too painful to lay down.

I was admitted pretty quickly and had an IV stuck into my arm whereupon I was given healthy doses of morphine which helped in making my immediate situation bearable. Over the course of the next day and a I half I had a couple blood labs done, an x-ray session and, ultimately, an MRI. By Wednesday evening they had worked out what my issue was. Despite it being the location of all my pain and misery, my hip and joint were ruled out as having any issues other than some minor arthritis. However, upon looking at my spine they noticed a problem:

L4-L5: Moderate-large size central to left paracentral disc extrusion. Slight caudal migration. This results in compression left anterior/lateral thecal sac with moderate to severe narrowing of the left lateral canal. Encroachment on the expected left L5 nerve root. Mild left foramen stenosis. Right foramen patent.

Which is to say that I have a partial disc herniation that is pressing on the root of one of the major nerves in my leg resulting in, to put it more collequially, “sonofafuckingbitchthatfuckinghurts.”

The first time I was able to lay on my back in over 24 hours and only because I was very doped up on that sweet, sweet morphine. You can tell it’s only slightly dampening the pain in my expression.

Near as I can figure, this is the result of a fall on my stairs that I took nearly three weeks prior just as I started my annual end-of-the-year vacation. Stepping down the two steps from my kitchen to the landing in front of the side door of my house, we had a small rug there to collect debris on shoes as we came in and I slipped on it falling backwards and smacking my ass and right arm into the edge of the step. I thought I had only bruised my ass badly (and, indeed, there was some sign of that in the x-ray), but I thought I’d come closer to breaking my arm than my spine.

After much more waiting around, I finally got word from the neurological surgeon that was consulting on my case that they wanted to try giving me a lumbar epidural steroid injection Thursday morning and then they’d keep me around until Friday evening to see if it had any effect and if it didn’t reduce my pain by at least 50% then I’d be scheduled for spinal surgery on Saturday morning. Considering that I had already missed most of the first week I was supposed to be back at work and that surgery would mean four to six weeks of recovery time, I was seriously hoping that the epidural would work.

Fortunately, it did. This is me sitting up on the edge of the bed eating my breakfast Friday morning.

Mind you, I’m on a healthy dose of percocet in the picture above, but it was still more than I’d been able to do for three days. They kept me around into Saturday, but I was finally let go with a prescription for more percocet and ibuprofen (to reduce inflammation). After a weekend spent sleeping off and on, I went back to work on Monday.

I’m far from fully recovered, but I’m at a point where I’m able to stretch out how often I take my pain pills from the recommended 6 hours for the percocet and 8 hours for the ibuprofen to as much as 10 or 12 hours depending on if I’m sleeping through it. I’m able to sleep on my side again, but I can only manage sleeping (in any position) for at most 4 hours before I have to get up and walk around to get my leg to stop hurting enough to go back to sleep. The pain still manifests in my hip and the calf of my leg, the latter feeling like the muscle is just this side of going into a full charley horse. Additionally it causes numbness in the pinkies of both my hands and along up the edge of my arms. The medication keeps it down to an annoying roar, but I can definitely tell when the pills have worn off. Walking is a bit rough at times as all this also makes my left leg somewhat weak hence why I have my cane handy.

But, I am able for the most part to function. I’m on restrictions with regards to lifting heavy things and bending over too far, which makes putting on socks and shoes fun. I am also scheduled for another injection in February with the possibility of one or two more depending on how much progress I make in the coming weeks. It may be that I’ll end up having to have the surgery in the future anyway, but at least this offers some hope of avoiding that for the time being.

So, yeah, my new year is not off to a great start. I’m hoping this means things can only get better from here on out. I’m not looking forward to the bill for all of this and finding out how much of an additional pain in the ass my insurance company is going to be about this. They’re already refusing to pay for more than one week’s worth of percocet and only once a month at that leaving me to pay it out of pocket, but that’s a rant for another time. Here’s hoping your new year was pretty good or at least not as eventful as mine has been so far.

Apparently showering is another thing I’m doing completely wrong.

showerheadIt seems the list of ways-I’m-failing-to-live-my-life-properly grows with each day. The latest addition the the list? Taking showers. I take very hot, almost scalding, showers every weekday morning and I love every minute of it. It’s one of the few things that make getting up to go to work every day tolerable.

Alas, more and more I’ve been seeing articles saying that what I should be doing is taking cold showers instead:

Cold showers are hard. That’s why you should take one. : TreeHugger.

The scientific evidence is there. Studies have shown that cold showers stimulate blood circulation, act as an anti-depressant, improve athletic performance, and can help with weight loss by burning off stubborn brown fat deposits. (See 5 reasons why you should take cold showers.) Despite knowing the benefits are real, however, very few people are willing to turn off the heat and stand under a stream of cold water. In the words of Carl Richards, a financial planner from Park City, Utah, “There is still this daunting gap between knowing I want to (and should) take the cold shower and actually doing it.”

I can tell you right here and now, that ain’t gonna happen. The whole reason man discovered fire is so he wouldn’t have to take cold showers anymore. You could tell me that taking cold showers every day cures cancer, makes me look like Brad Pitt, and will make me a financial genius and I’d probably try it once or twice and go back to being an ugly, destitute sloth who will die young from every cancer ever and I’d be happy about it because at least I’m taking nice hot showers.

The article I linked to above, however, says even if I don’t do it for the health benefits I should still do it preciously because it’s so hard to do it:

In an article for the New York Times, Richards explains that there’s another reason for doing turning the tap all the way to cold or jumping in a lake when you’re still cozy warm from bed that goes beyond the health benefits. He believes you should implement a daily cold shower precisely because it’s the hardest thing you can do first thing in the morning. Once you’ve got that under your belt, everything the day throws at you will seem easy by comparison.

Fuck that. Taking a hot shower is what enables me to face the day’s trials and tribulations. Also, making what the day throws at me “seem easy” is not the same as making it easy. Maybe if it actually made things easier I might consider it. Possibly. Perhaps.

OK, no, not really. I lurvs me my hot showers.

My employer wants me to drink more water.

Like many companies the one I work for has a vested interest in healthy employees. Too many people, myself included, are overweight and inactive and we contribute to the higher rates all of us pay for healthcare. As a result our HR department has been trying to motivate folks to be healthier.

This manifested back in the Fall of 2014 with the Fitbit Challenge where the company offered to give us a $99 Fitbit Flex for free if we managed to walk 8,000 steps a day for 20 days in a single month. I took on this challenge in the hopes that at the end of it I’d be well on my way to a habit of walking regularly. I successfully completed the challenge and even kept walking regularly and then winter set in and it all came crashing to a halt. The Fitbit got packed up when we moved last year and I have no idea which of the boxes it’s still stuffed in. Still, it was a valiant effort on the part of my company.

I don’t recall what they they tried last year to get people motivated to be more healthy, I’m not even sure they bothered, but this year they have a new challenge: The Water Challenge!

Are you ready for a new challenge?

Did you know that roughly 70 percent of the body is made of water? Brain 75%, Lungs 90%, Bones 24%, Blood 85%, Skin 80%, Muscle 75%.

Drinking enough H2O has numerous benefits to the body. Are you drinking enough water per day?

Challenge: Drink 64 ounces of water per day for 25 days during the month of July (1 – 31). Only water intake counts, any other beverages such as coffee, juice, sodas do not count!

This is their big idea for this year? Let’s all drink more water? It doesn’t help that the email is written in Comic Sans which makes it impossible to take seriously. I also don’t know what the little factoids at the start have to do with this challenge. Those organs are also made of protein so I guess we need to eat a shitload[1] more protein than we are too?

Don't leave home without it.

I never leave home without it.

My hatred of water is well document on SEB. As is the fact that it’s what I primarily drink these days. I have a mug or two of coffee in the morning and then it’s water from my trusty 32oz Contigo water bottle that I keep with me everywhere I go. I hate every fucking sip of it, but I drink it just the same. On average I go through 3 to 4 full bottles throughout the course of a day and some days it’s even more. So I’m already doubling this challenge on a regular basis. It turns out the recommendation for males is 16 8oz cups of water a day which works out to about 4 of my water bottles. Keep in mind that the average diet includes sources of water other than drinking it straight so you don’t necessarily have to drink 16 8oz cups a day to hit the recommendation.

Needless to say, I’m underwhelmed by this challenge. I fucking hate drinking water and I’m already exceeding the challenge by quite a bit. They want us to track our intake using our Fitbits, smartphones, or just an Excel spreadsheet, but there’s no real way to verify that anyone is actually drinking the amount they’re claiming. Up for grabs are four $100 Dicks Sporting Goods gift certificates which is something I have absolutely no use for being that I don’t exercise and have never set foot inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.

To be fair, I have no idea how many glasses of water the average American drinks in a day and it’s entirely possible that most of us are probably relying too much on extracting water from other foods over drinking it straight. I know I’m guilty of that in my youth where most of what I drank was Coca-Cola, which does get you some water along with a whole bunch of stuff that counteracts anything good about the water in it. A quick and dirty Google search provides this CDC article on the National Cancer Institute’s 2007 Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey:

Overall, 7% of adults reported no daily consumption of drinking water, 36% reported drinking 1 to 3 cups, 35% reported drinking 4 to 7 cups, and 22% reported drinking 8 cups or more. The likelihood of drinking less than 4 cups of water daily was significantly higher among participants aged 55 years or older than among those aged 18 to 34 (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.3), among residents of the Northeast than among residents of the South (AOR, 1.4), among participants who consumed 1 cup or less of fruits or vegetables per day than among those who consumed 4.5 cups or more (AOR, 3.0), among participants who did not exercise than among those who exercised 150 minutes or more per week (AOR, 1.7), and among participants who were neither trying to gain nor lose weight than among those trying to lose weight (AOR, 1.3).

So it sounds like there’s more than a few folks who could benefit from drinking more water, but 2007 was a long time ago so it’s possible things are better (or worse) today. Still, maybe this water challenge is just what my coworkers need to be better hydrated. As for me, I’m already running to the bathroom more times in a day than I’d prefer. It’s that use of the Comic Sans font, however, that makes me want to start drinking pop again just out of spite.

[1.] I wasn’t sure if it’s spelled “shitload” or “shit-load” or “shit load” so I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to see that Merriam-Webster actually has a definition for it. It’s spelled “shitload.”

Dr. Oz will never let your health get in the way of his ratings.

dr-oz-memeThe popularity of celebrity doctors always baffles me. Whether its Dr. Phil — whose license to practice psychology has been retired since 2006 — or, more recently, Dr. Oz.

In all fairness I have to admit that I’ve only ever watched a few episodes of Dr. Oz and those were mainly because someone else was watching it at the time, but that was enough to call into question any medical advice he has to offer. You see, he’s really big on “alternative” medicines and diet pills and he promotes them heavily on his show. Stuff like raspberry ketone or green coffee extract both of which he has proclaimed as “miracles in a bottle” on his show and both of which haven’t been shown to do jack or shit when it comes to weight loss. However, the lack of scientific evidence beyond a sketchy study or two isn’t enough to prevent Dr. Oz from promoting them heavily.

At it turns out, these outrageous claims by Dr. Oz have been egregious enough to land him in front of a Senate subcommittee that’s looking into the whole green coffee extract nonsense. There he was grilled by Senator Clair McCaskill, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She did not go easy on him:

“When you feature a product on your show, it creates what has become known as ‘Oz Effect,’ dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products,” the Senator explained. “I’m concerned that you are melding medical advice, news and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.”

via Dr. Oz Grilled By Senator Over “Miracle” Weight-Loss Claims – Consumerist.

It’s a fair statement and you’re probably guessing that Dr. Oz ended up feigning ignorance or trying to claim the products really do work. Nope, he admits that — at best — the products he promotes as “miracles” are crutches that can not replace proper diet and exercise:

Dr. Oz openly admitted that the weight-loss treatments he mentions on the show are frequently “crutches… You won’t get there without diet and exercise,” and that while he believes in the research he’s done, the research done on these treatments would probably not pass FDA muster.

“If the only message I gave was to eat less and move more — which is the most important thing people need to do — we wouldn’t be very effectively tackling this complex challenge because viewers know these tips and they still struggle,” said the doctor. “So we search for tools and crutches; short-term supports so that people can jumpstart their programs.”

In short, he knows better. As he should if his medical degree is legitimate in any sense of the word. McCaskill wasn’t letting him off the hook so easily:

Sen. McCaskill quoted three statements that the great and doctorful Oz had made about different weight-loss treatments on his show:

•(On green coffee extract) — “You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight-loss for every body type.”

•(On raspberry ketone) — “I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat” (raspberry ketone)

•(On garcinia cambogia) — “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

“I don’t get why you say this stuff, because you know it’s not true,” said McCaskill. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”

At this point the good doctor defended his claims on the basis that he believes the products in question do work despite the lack of any reason to do so and then admitted that his claims result in scam artists jumping to sell this crap to everyone dumb enough to listen to him, often using his likeness and statements to endorse it:

“I do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show,” responded Dr. Oz, who acknowledged that statements he’s made in the past have encouraged scam artists and others looking to make a quick buck on people looking for an easy way to lose weight.

“I do think I’ve made it more difficult for the FTC,” he continued. “In the intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate that ended up being not very helpful but incendiary and it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.”

Call me old fashioned, but when you’re making medical claims I would think you would want to avoid “flowery” language. However, this raises another point: The intent of Dr. Oz’s show isn’t to give you sound medial advice. It’s to entertain you. He feels he has to engage his viewers by making outrageous claims because apparently the truth won’t get him the ratings that really pulls in the big bucks.

“My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I wanna look — and I do look — everywhere… for any evidence that might be supportive to them,”

In short, he’s selling false hope. He’s willing to promote whatever quackery he can find that offers the smallest of hopes based on the flimsiest of evidence. Sure, that’ll probably make you feel good, but it isn’t doing you any favors. He’s perpetuating nonsense that does nothing but lighten your wallet. The worst part is, he knows it. A lot of the other pseudoscience bullshit peddlers out there at least have the excuse that they’re not really doctors or trained in medicine. Dr. Oz is and he admits that he knows better, but that won’t get him the ratings he needs.

Time for another “Les isn’t dead yet” update.

exercisemotivationI last wrote about my state of health back on August 2nd so I figured it was time to give those of you who are interested an update on my current status.

The short version: I’m not dead yet.

The long version: I’m doing better. I still haven’t lost any weight — in fact I shot up to 308 pounds at one point which was a first — but I am doing better. We still don’t know for sure exactly what my chest problem was, but it’s gone away and hasn’t been back and I’m no longer taking Prilosec for it. I’ve been trying to exercise and count calories since that incident flared up and I started off really strong managing to do 15 minutes on our elliptical every weekday morning for near three weeks until my back flared up and I took a week off. Since my back got better I’ve only managed two to three times a week for reasons including sore legs and back twinges. I’ve also given up on trying to accurately track my calories as the MyFitnessPal app only worked occasionally on my smartphone and figuring out dinner counts was way more of a hassle than it was worth. Not that it matters as even with over-estimating how much I was eating I was still coming in under what it said was my limit that should have made me lose a pound a week and yet, as you’ll recall from the first sentence, no weight loss has occurred.

I saw my doctor this past Monday and told her about how demoralized I was getting with the whole process. I’ve been told repeatedly the exercise will get easier. It hasn’t. I’ve been told to expect a little weight gain at first, but after a couple of weeks I’d drop below my starting weight. I haven’t and it’s been almost three months. I still can’t make it more than 15 minutes without risking my legs giving out. The only indicator I had that there was any improvement is that it now takes almost 10 minutes before I start sweating profusely whereas it was just a couple of minutes at the beginning. Other than that I’m making myself miserable and not seeing any positive results for it.

My doc is a smart lady. She knows I need something to show me I’m making a difference so she orders me to have blood work done right then and there without bothering to fast first as you’re supposed to. So I do as I’m told and yesterday we got the results back.

I mentioned last time that almost all the bad stuff was too high and the good stuff too low. I specifically mentioned that my sugar was 254 and this time it was 247 which is still high, but my HbA1C, which is an average of my blood sugar over the past few months, had dropped from 9.8 to 8.2. The goal is to get it to 7.0 or under and I’m headed in that direction. My total cholesterol has greatly improved dropping from 235 to 140 with the goal being less than 200. My LDL (bad cholesterol) went from 151 to 79, the target is 100 or less, but my HDL (good cholesterol) also dropped from 36 to 27. She says that happens sometimes when you lower the bad stuff and not to worry about it just yet. Finally my Triglycerides were 169 down from a high of 241 last time and the goal for that is less than 150. Considering this was a lab done without fasting that’s seems pretty good to me.

So the upshot of all that is I am far from perfect healthwise and I’ve not lost any weight yet (I was 299.6 on Monday), but I’m definitely getting better. She wants me to keep exercising for as long as I can managed it every other weekday (Mon, Wed, Fri) and if I can squeeze one in on the weekends that’d be gravy. I’m still trying to pay attention to calories and portion sizes and she’s pointed me to a couple of other possible apps to help with that. I go back for another lab and followup in three months.

I’m happy to see that at least something about my health appears to be improving, though even a tiny bit of weight loss would go a long damned way to helping my motivation. I don’t think I’ll ever be thin again, but losing at least a few pounds would be really nice. So I’m keeping at it. I’m not particularly good at it, but I’m managing it in my own way.

Yet another study shows using magnets for arthritis doesn’t do shit.

commonsenseThis shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with half a brain, but there’s yet another study that shows slapping a magnet on your arthritic joints won’t do anything other than lighten your wallet.

From the NYTime’s health blog:

British researchers randomized 65 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to receive one of four treatments: wearing a powerful magnetic wrist strap, a weak magnetic strap, a non-magnetic strap and a copper bracelet. Each patient wore each device for five weeks and completed pain surveys. The study appears in the September issue of PLoS One.

The patients reported pain levels using a visual scale, ranging from “no pain” to “worst pain ever,” and recorded how often their joints felt tender and swollen. Researchers used questionnaires to assess physical limitations, and tested for inflammation by measuring blood levels of C-reactive protein and plasma viscosity.

There was no statistically significant difference in any of these measures regardless of which type of device patients were wearing.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the last time I bothered to write about a study showing that magnet therapy is bullshit, but it appears the popularity of this particular kind of snakeoil hasn’t waned in that time. Estimates are that the sales of magnet bracelets tops $1 billion a year worldwide despite there not being one double blind, randomized testing showing they have anything more than a placebo effect. And that’s just the bracelets. You can buy all manner of things with “healing” magnets in them these days from insoles to underwear.

The only good news to be had is that there are so many people pumping these craptastic products out these days that if you’re gullible enough to buy into the nonsense you won’t end up wasting huge amounts of money on them as they tend to be cheap.

One man’s solution to the obesity problem: Fat-shaming.

meanwhileinamericaBy now it’s pretty common knowledge that Americans have a growing (get it?) obesity problem. The word epidemic is used quite a bit to describe how big a problem it is. According to the Center for Disease Control the percentage of adults over 20 who are obese was 35.9% in 2009-2010. My home state, Michigan, is the fifth heaviest in the Union with 32% of adults here qualifying as obese. At 299.3 pounds I’m certainly part of the problem and I’m paying the price with things like my recent back problems.

So there’s really no argument here. We’re a bunch of fat bastards who could stand to lose a few pounds, but how do you get people to go about doing so? In Michigan the state government is rolling out a program to try and encourage folks (like me) to get off their fat asses and shed at least 10% of the body weight through exercise and eating a better diet. The program will mostly be an educational effort telling folks about the dangers of being overweight and offering encouragement to do better via an online website and/or text messages.

I can tell you that I know it probably won’t work on me. I’m already well aware of the potential problems of being obese and despite making some attempts to do something about it — choosing the weight watcher options when eating out and buying an elliptical that clogs up my living room collecting dust — I’m rapidly not losing any weight at all. I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve been hovering around the 300 pound mark for several years now.

I can tell you what else won’t work. This guy’s solution of Fat-shaming:

Fat-shaming may curb obesity, bioethicist says – TODAY Health.

Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, put out a new paper this week calling for a renewed emphasis on social pressure against heavy people — what some may call fat-shaming — including public posters that would pose questions like this:

“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”

Actually, yes, I wear my weight pretty well. A lot of folks who know me personally are surprised when I say I’m just a smidgen under 300 pounds. Sure, I’m heavy, but I don’t look that fat to most folks. It helps that I’m tall so it’s spread out a bit more than most. I’ve had folks describe me as “solid” when I’m about as solid as a giant marshmallow (and probably not even that solid). For a fat guy, I look pretty good. At least with my clothes on.

Callahan outlined a strategy that applauds efforts to boost education, promote public health awareness of obesity and curb marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

But, he added, those plans could do with a dose of shame if there’s any hope of repairing a nation where more than a third of adults and 17 percent of kids are obese.

“Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work,” wrote Callahan in a Hastings Center Report from the nonprofit bioethics think tank.

The author circa Sep. 2010. I've not changed much since.

The author circa Sep. 2010. I’ve not changed much since.

The problem with this idea (to use the term generously) is that it assumes there isn’t any stigma or fat-shaming already taking place. I don’t get much of that myself because apparently I scare people by being big and beardy, but my sister has put up with it throughout her entire life. I can tell you that it doesn’t work as a motivation, though it does a great job of destroying one’s sense of self-worth. Of the three of us siblings, my younger sister is probably the best of us in terms of compassion, generosity, and just generally being a decent person yet she has been on the receiving end of some of the most heartless comments I’ve ever heard anyone receive about their weight. It’s probably safe to say that women in general have always suffered more from the stigma of being overweight because we, as a society, tend to hold them up to some pretty ridiculous ideals shaped and promoted by popular media whereas most men are considered halfway to genius if they can tie their shoes without drooling all over themselves. How many sitcoms over the years have had pudgy — if not outright obese — oafish, middle-aged men married to thin, attractive, brainy wives?

But I digress. The point is that there’s already plenty of fat-shaming and stigma being tossed around at fat people out there. Quite a lot of it coming from fat people themselves. I’m not sure how encouraging such behavior is going to improve anything in terms of getting folks to shed some pounds.

It certainly won’t work on me. My problem isn’t an educational one. I already know I’m not at a healthy weight and I’m well aware of the health risks that come with it. I’ve watched an uncle suffer from Adult Onset Diabetes before his death and my dad is struggling with it now having had it cost him most of his eyesight. My own back gives out on me on a semi-regular basis because it gets tired of carrying around all the excess weight.

My problem is motivation. I’ve never enjoyed exercise even when I was skinny way back in my youth. Which isn’t to say I never got any back then, but it was because I was “playing” not “exercising.” Riding my bike, playing baseball, running around like a crazy person pretending he’s a superhero, that was all exercise that didn’t feel like exercise. Then I became an adult and got a car and into computers and most of what I did for fun stopped being so physical and the pounds came rolling in. The non-exercise that was really exercise disguised as play went away and I didn’t have any real-exercise habits to take up the slack. And I hate exercising. Just typing the word sets my teeth on edge. Hated it back in school. Jumping jacks? Running laps? Sit ups? What kind of idiot do you think I am? When do we get to the fucking dodgeball game??

It took me 34 years to switch from regular sodas to diet pop and when I did it helped me lose about 40 pounds only to gain it all back within the next year. It took me another 6 years to give up on diet sodas. For the past four years or so the majority of the liquid I consume is plain old tap water. I hate water. I hate drinking water. I hate every single nanosecond of it. Not as much as I used to hate it, but I still hate it. Yet I do it. It took me entirely too long to make the switch even knowing it was a healthier choice and I would be better off for it.

I have the feeling that the same will be true of getting into the habit of exercise. I’ve made some starts at it in the last year or two and breaking down and actually buying a piece of exercise equipment was a big step in that process. Even if I’ve not been great at using it regularly. Part of the reason I keep it in the living room instead of moving it to the basement is, well, it’s because the fucker is too damned heavy to move down the stairs by myself, but also because having it in the living room gnaws at my subconscious and reminds me that I really do need to start getting on the damned thing. This latest round of back problems has been severe enough that it’s acting as a great motivator as well. It’s amazing how your body just giving the fuck up will get your stupid brain’s attention really fucking quick.

For as smart as I supposedly am, it seems I just have to do some things the hard way. It’s stupid. I know it’s stupid. I feel stupid for knowing how stupid it is. Yet it is my nature and I will continue to struggle with it — probably in the stupidest way possible.

[SEB Guest Post] Schools deny girls cervical cancer jabs on religious grounds.

It’s been almost three years (!) since I’ve written a Guest Post for SEB, but a recent news story here in the UK prompted me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write something.

Over here in the UK, some religious schools have opted out of offering free HPV vaccines to their students. HPV – the Human Papillomavirus – is linked to as many as 70% of cases of cervical cancer and is therefore offered, free of charge, to girls aged 12 and 13. Around 1000 women die from cervical cancer each year, so this vaccine has the potential to save hundreds of lives. And normally, it is up to individual parents’ to opt their children out, but these schools have made the decision to opt out of the vaccine for all of their students.

The HPV vaccine is controversial – not because of any side effects, but because HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection. Consequently, some parents opt their children out as they do not want to encourage sexual promiscuity, or feel that because their religion forbids sexual intercourse before marriage that this is incompatible with their faith.

The key problem is that a number of these schools have not informed local doctors that they have chosen to opt out. Consequently, should a child’s parent actually want their child to have the vaccine, it is not subsequently being offered by their doctor and so some children may miss out.

What is laughable are some of the reasons given by the schools for opting out, such as:

“pupils follow strict Christian principles, marry within their own community and do not practise sex outside marriage”

Because we know how likely that is. Regular SEB readers will know that abstinence-only sex education is not effective and actually results in a higher rate of unprotected sex – and consequently puts both men and women at risk of contracting the virus. Although the vaccination programme only targets girls, men can carry the virus and it while it frequently results in no adverse symptoms, carriers are at a heightened risk of other cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some handy information if you want to read more.

Should schools be allowed to put the health of their students at risk in this way, in the course of religious observance? And if so, should such schools be forced to make the effort to provide parents with the information they need to seek alternative sources of the vaccine?