Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weight Watchers....1970's Style

Back in 1963, a woman named Jean Nidetch founded a group where women went to weekly meetings to help each other lose weight and to stay on track during and after the weight loss. Of course I am talking about Weight Watchers. The diet itself came from a diet clinic in New York state, but the comradery and team work were all Nidetch's idea. After losing 20 lbs, she needed that group effort and support to keep off the weight. Little did she know her efforts would lay the groundwork for the futures of Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig and other diet programs.

In the early 1970's, I had a very dear aunt who had a heart condition caused by childhood rheumatic fever.  After having her children, she had never taken off the weight and by the weight standards of those days, she was overweight. I remember going to her house one time and seeing her. She was obviously uncomfortable with herself and her size and in a day and time when women still wore house dresses, hers was large and loose fitting. I remember my mother and my other aunt talking about her on the way home and being upset because they were worried about her and her heart.

It was a year or two later and we made another trip to see family. There was my beloved aunt. No longer was she wearing a loose fitting dress. She was wearing slacks and a top and she looked like a million bucks. She was the talk of the trip and if I remember correctly, she had lost somewhere between 30-50 lbs. This was the first time I ever heard the words....Weight Watchers(WW). At the time it was still a young program, but success stories like my aunts were popping up all over the place. My aunt was an avid devotee to the program. It literally changed not only her life but the quality of her life. For the rest of her life (almost 30 years)she was on the maintenance program and never did she put the weight on again.

Later in the 70's, my pencil thin mother began putting on weight. I guess divorcing and being uprooted will do that to you. First there was 5 pounds, then 10 and when the 20 lb mark was hit, my aunt gently persuaded my mom to find a local WW chapter and go to a meeting. I still remember her first day. She took my brother and I with her to the meeting and she got all of her stuff. We left the meeting and drove promptly to a Mr. Swiss which had awesome slushies. My mom went in, got a grape slushie and said...."This is my last treat until this weight is gone," and she stuck to that. Once that slushie was gone...she never looked back.

The WW program of the 1970's was nothing like the program of today. They were given a scale to weigh their food on, right down to the very ounce. They got the program which was a little pink brochure like pamphlet with maybe six pages and they got their weekly sheet in which they wrote down every mouthful of food that passed their lips. The foods were pretty basic with a lot of chicken, fish and liver (good for elasticity in the skin), fruits, veggies, milk and they were pretty stringent on three meals a day with a couple of small snacks in between.

It was at this time that my brother and I learned to, if not like vegetables, then to at least eat them. We also ate tons of tuna. Mom wasn't big on chicken or many types of fish, but tuna she would eat. This was also where I learned that not all milk was created equal. The first time I tasted skim milk I thought I might actually die. Obviously I didn't but it sure took some time to get used to that watery substance they were laughingly calling milk.

After six weeks and not one "illegal" food (back then on the program you had legal foods and illegal
foods) my mother had shed 25 lbs. She looked phenomenal and for many years, she too was on maintenance. Not until she shattered her leg and ankle in the 1980's did she ever start to put it on again. The fact is though, people really lost weight on the old school program and you could find a WW meeting in almost any town you went to. I think the reason for this was that their were very few "diet" foods back then. Diet pop had only in recent years made its debut, but other than that, "diet," "lowfat" and "fat free" were not common words nor were they common foods. The foods eaten on the old program were "real" foods. The program was about eating real life foods and portion control. Portion control in turn taught self control. It really was both a healthier time and a healthier program.

Today Nidetch is still alive at 90. Perhaps that might not be the case without WW. In 1978 she sold WW to the H. J. Heinz company for a very tidy profit I'm sure. Since then, WW has taken on a very different face. What started as a program book, a weekly planner and a scale has turned into a billion dollar enterprise. The program has changed to the point that I doubt Nidetch even recognizes it. WW now has a line of foods, books, multiple programs, workout equipment and all sorts of weight loss bells and whistles to help you lose and manage your weight loss. They even came out with an online program in 2001 for those who don't want to go to the meetings but still want the support. Instead of a few women sitting in a circle supporting each others goals, you now have people from all over the world to cheer you on. My question though.....have all these changes really made it a better program?  

In my book, WW is the only "real" program out there. With all of the weight loss program competition today, WW is the only one that in my opinion teaches you how to eat and lose weight in the real world. While it can get pretty pricey if you buy all the books, equipment and extra's that they pull out at every meeting, if you stick to the basics and just go to the meetings, it is one of the most reasonable programs available. The program consists of real foods that you can make and manage yourself which means you aren't paying for prepackaged food and you are eating things you actually like, know where they came from and how they were prepared. Of course for those who like prepackaged, WW has those too. The key to the program though is two fold. First the meetings. They keep you accountable and give you support for both the good and the not so good weeks, and second and possibly more important, you must still write down every mouthful of food you eat. This makes you aware of what you are eating, when you are eating and sometimes even....why you are eating. It is simply another way to hold yourself accountable and keep yourself aware of what you are putting into your body. As Dr. Phil always says...."You can't change what you don't acknowledge," and with WW you have no choice but to acknowledge.

So why all the talk about WW? Because I am thinking I might just go old school.....1970's style. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Marijuana and Seizures

Since this blog is about health and wellness, I am going to talk about something a little different this week. I am going to talk about pot! I know there has been controversy over the use of this substance for years and currently in my state (Kansas) it is still illegal.

Personally, as a recreational substance....I am not a fan. I have debated, argued and had down right fights with family and friends over this drug and my view of the drug of its recreational use. Now I am not a hypocrite. I did try weed when I was young. For me, it never did anything but make me sick. To this day, I can smell weed on someone and it will immediately give me a headache and make me nauseous. My reaction to it though is not why I am not on the weed bandwagon. My reasons come from what I have seen it do to people personally. I have a couple of friends who are now my age and started smoking in high school. For them it was not a passing phase. For them it became a lifestyle choice that has affected their lives all these years. One has kept and maintained the same job all these years because he works in a place where they all smoke weed. He smokes before he goes to work and the second he gets off work, he heads straight home to spend the evening......with just he and his bong. He doesn't date, he doesn't go out and the only friends he has are his pot buddies who on occasion come to his house and get high with him. He turned 50 this year and one time when he was not high, he told me that he hated his life because he was so lonely. When I suggested he give up weed and get out in the world, he became very angry with me. We haven't spoken since.

Another friend who started in high school....just to be social, also has never stopped. She has lost marriages, her kids and jobs....all because of weed and what it has done to her. She has been in and out of the courts and jail due to drug charges, she has used money that was suppose to go to bills and the house payment to buy weed and random drug tests have caused her to get suspended or  lose jobs. It has been thirty years of this and still she chooses weed over everything else. And they say it is not addictive. 

I have had other run ins with weed and people I care about. It changes their attitudes, their incentive and their ambition if they use it regularly and the sad thing is.....they simply don't see it. They deny to the end that it affects them and make excuses for the fact that one day they wake up and the only friends they have left are their pot buddies, they can't hold a job for more than five minutes and they don't have the ambition to get off the couch. They go into defense mode and defend the new love of their life weed and get beyond angry if you don't both see their view and agree with it. Eventually, weed becomes the barrier between them and the rest of the world and they never see it.

While I could go on for days and pages about what I know to be true about weed, I know there are going to be those out there that take offense and become defensive over just reading this. Let's suffice it to say that I don't think pot should be legalized for a lot of reasons and because of the above personal experiences, I don't see that ever changing. That being said though, I do feel differently about medical marijuana(mm).

I know that mm has been used by people with cancer going through chemo for sometime now. It is my understanding that it helps the pain and other side effects caused by both the cancer and the chemo. My interest in mm though was peaked when I started hearing about cannabis being used to help seizures. I had been hearing about it for awhile and after the first of the year when my son David's seizures had come back with a vengeance, a facebook friend of mine was asking me if I had heard all of the advances they were making with the use of mm on seizure disorders. I decided to start doing some research.

I learned that there are different strains of cannabis and the strain that is used in mm to help seizures is cannabidiol. This strain has a non-psychoactive ingredient that targets the brain without making the user high. The mm can be given in pill form, liquid form or in edibles such as brownies, cookies and candy for kids. The research showed that there was great promise with mm and seizure reduction in epileptics and people with all kinds of seizures. Learning this, I decided to go to the people I consider experts in the field. So the last time David had a neurology appointment, I cornered the physician assistant and asked about mm. I was surprised at what I learned. According to her, mm is currently being tested on seizure patients as a last ditch effort, meaning patients who have been tried on a whole cocktail of different seizure medications and still have found no relief from their seizures. What they have found is that cannabis does in fact give these patients relief from their seizures and in many cases makes them seizure free.

The possibilities behind mm helping and even saving lives in seizure patients are endless and amazing. Even in those like David, who have their seizures controlled by medication, the side effects can still be awful. They can cause extreme drowsiness, weight loss, weight gain and aggression just to hit the tip of the ice berg. Apparently cannabidiol has none of these side effects. Currently though, if a patient has seizures controlled by medication, they won't even consider putting them in a trial for mm. Right now it is only for those who can't be helped any other way. That is why several that I know who suffer from seizures are making the trek west to Colorado and self medicating that way. It is not the safest route to go, but to them it is better than continuing to suffer and quite honestly.....I can't fault them a bit.

Please don't get me wrong. I think cannabis has great possibilities in the medical world. I have also read that not only is it helpful with chemo and seizures, but it is looking like it could help eradicate certain cancers in time. No...I would not support the legalization of pot for recreational use (go ahead and say what you want about me) but if it ever became legal in Kansas for mm to fight seizures, you can bet....I would have David at the head of the line!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Put it Down, Look Up and Move

There are some fundamental steps required to change your life, whether it be losing weight, exercising or simply getting your life organized. Each requires the exact same first step.....getting up and getting started! 

I saw a video today that was the catalyst for this particular blog piece. It was about the fact that each of us is given only so many days, minutes and seconds in this life and from the second we are conceived, those moments start ticking down. We should be making the most of each, but instead we are being swallowed up by cell phones, computers and video games. We are short changing ourselves and our precious moments of life by replacing the real with the virtual. It really hit home in a fundamental way to me. 

While technology such as workout apps, Weight Watchers apps and even organizational apps can accessorize our lives, it seems like technology itself has taken over and overwhelmed our lives. I never go anywhere without my cell phone and on the rare occasion when I do happen to forget it...I almost go into panic mode. It has become a part of me and the very thing I use to educate myself, entertain myself and more importantly pull myself into a lazy and anti-social abyss. 

If you think about it...if there were no TV's, computers, video games or cell phones, what would we do? We certainly wouldn't sit on the couch with a bag of chips and stare at a blank wall nor would we be bleary eyed and semi-coherent after staying up all night trying to achieve the next level on some overly violent video game. We would no longer have 1,000+ "virtual" friends so we would actually have to go out and socialize. No more would we sit in the same room with and ignore our real friends while we madly texted to our virtual ones how much fun we were having. I've seen this done time and again and what is worse is that I myself have done it. 

I won't go so far as to say that technology has made us fat and unhealthy, but I will say that because of technology, many of us have chosen to live in a virtual world instead of getting up and living in the "real" one.... complete with actual movement and real friends. We have basically allowed technology to overstep its bounds and in some ways....rule our lives. I mean, if you think about it, without technology there would be a lot less identity theft, catfishing would be non-existent and there would be no cyber bullying. People would actually pay attention to their kids and spouses, there would be a lot less accidents as people would pay more attention while driving and not worry about texting or talking on the phone and kids would be playing kick-the-can outside by street light instead of Assassins Creed planted firmly on the couch in the basement not moving for hours. And don't get me wrong. I don't blame technology itself. I blame people (myself included) for allowing technology to take such a hold on us. We gave ourselves to technology....body, mind and in many cases....soul. Quite is an overwhelming thought when you stop and wonder just how many moments have I missed or lost because my face was stuck in technology? In a way, it is almost too sad to actually comprehend. 

So do you want to change your life? Do you want to lose the weight, gain back your health, get organized and more importantly.....take back your life? Then take that first fundamental step and get up! Put down the cell phone. Turn off the TV, the video games and the computer and GET UP! GO to the gym! GET UP and join a walking group! MOVE and organize! And if your goal is to simply have a happier life....face the real world one on one and give the virtual one a much needed rest. 

In case your are wondering about the it is. It is well worth those virtual moments to watch it!