Wednesday, March 31, 2004

In my previous installment, I was talking about exercise devices and that you can buy from television ads that promise rapid weight loss and a body that looks as good as the one featured (“Operators are standing by! Order now and get this free exercise video!”). One thing that many don’t realize that in order to get that way requires permanent lifestyle changes and a little more effort than a 6-minute device can allow.

This brings me to dieting and diet trends.

I’m probably the least likely person to write about the subject as I have had few problems struggling with my weight. Okay, I have, but not in the way you’d expect. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 15 years old, yet any sort of muscular gain is very gradual. Much of this can be attributed to my training (I’ll admit that I could be adding a lot more intensity to my workouts) and the fact that I do a lot of cardiovascular work (martial arts training 2-3 times a week would do it).

However, much more can be attributed to my genetic makeup. My body type is what is referred to as an ectomorph, or a hard gainer, which means mostly lean mass and very little body fat. This usually occurs with a very fast metabolism. As a result, I have to eat roughly every 3 hours or so, or else I start to become weak and lethargic. As a result, most of what I eat is instantly converted into energy and burned off right away, and I can eat whatever the heck I want without gaining weight.

People who struggle to maintain their weight or are overweight hate people like me with a passion, because for them, keeping their weight down is a constant uphill battle. Some end up developing eating disorders, while the majority of them just have fluctuating weight as they try just about every single product or trend that is supposed to help in the process.

This is why anything that promises quick fix or changes in body without changes to lifestyle have become mainstream. As a society that wants everything now, now, now, people simply aren’t willing to make long-term sacrifices to make long-term goals.

The more popular diet plan featured on television is the Jenny Craig program, which promises significant weight loss for mere dollars per pound lost, plus the cost of food. And if you’re looking carefully enough, you might see the tiny little disclaimer that reads, “Results Not Typical.”

The cost of food does add up significantly, considering the fact that it’s specifically portioned and prepared. Once one moves off of the program, recurring weight gain can be expected. Incidentally, Jenny Craig International was at the center of a lawsuit back in 1997 because of this.

Even worse is the Slim-Fast plan, in which breakfast and lunch are replaced by a shake and then you have a “sensible” dinner. If you notice, the ads haven’t been seeing much broadcast time as of late. People are starting to catch on.

The current diet du jour is The Atkins Diet, which mostly evolves around high protein intake and low carbohydrates. While many people have lost weight on this diet plan, the jury is still out there, especially when there are significant health risks involved, which are not limited to heart disease and impaired kidney function.

People don’t often read into them, though, because it is viewed as a silver bullet for weight loss. That, and it’s remarkably easy. Instead of restricting foods that we normally shouldn’t eat (red meat, bacon, sausage), we can indulge on them, just as long as we don’t eat bread. No major loss, right?

When the good Dr. Atkins is 275 pounds at the time of his death, you know something’s wrong.

The common link between the three trends is that they all involve a quick solution to what is a long-term goal. People cannot have permanent weight loss over a short period of time unless one is willing to make permanent lifestyle changes and is willing to be patient with them. Rushing any sort of processes can cause significant drains on health and finances.

But, if fad diets seem to garner their creators millions of dollars, maybe I should put forth my own diet and exercise plan. It’s permanent, involves no exercise or dieting whatsoever. And best of all, the weight loss is almost instant.

I call it the Vince Plan. It involves amputating both of your arms. After that happens, you can easily lose at least 10% of your body weight in an instant. Best of all, the loss of both of your arms will make it much harder to eat, which means you’ll lose even more pounds after that!

I should publish a book and establish a chain of weight loss centers across the country.

I’ll be a millionaire before I’m 30.

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Friday, March 26, 2004

As much as I find violence deplorable, even an ardent pacifist would find this funny.

Fitness Icon Richard Simmons Cited for Slapping Man

Flamboyant fitness guru Richard Simmons has been cited by authorities in Arizona for allegedly "bitch slapping" a man in an airport for poking fun at his exercise videos. Simmons, 55, was ticketed for misdemeanor assault after allegedly striking the man across the face while in line at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Wednesday night. Sergeant Lauri Williams says, "He apparently said, 'Hey everybody, it's Richard Simmons, let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s,'" in reference to a series of his well-known videos. Williams adds, "Mr. Simmons took offense and said he had to 'bitch slap' him." The man told police that he wanted to press charges against Simmons, who was cited but allowed to board a plane to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Source: The Internet Movie Database

In the way of celebrity fitness gurus and nutritionists, love him or hate him, Richard Simmons is one of the few good ones. While his so-called “Deal a Meal” has essentially made way for more popular diet trends like The Zone diet and The Atkins Diet, his fitness videos have motivated people to get off the couch to improve their fitness level and, in turn, their health.

Contrast this to those ads you see on late night television promising to give you the body of the supermodel by strapping on a little device that is designed to work your abdominals or your thighs, for only 6 minutes a day, or those ads that say you can drop dozens of pounds if you have a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a “sensible” dinner.

By now, everyone knows that the nations of the world are getting progressively fatter and fatter. Physically demanding labour is replaced with robots while the quest for the almighty buck has left us with very little spare time to do things like exercise and play sports. Food high in cholesterol, fat, sugar, and sodium is cheaper and easier to obtain than things that are good for you like whole grain bread, fruit, fish, and vegetables. Because of this, it is easy to promote a product that promises the perfect body in a short period of time.

Things like this anger me because they imply that the perfect body can be attained with minimal effort. They also prey on the insecurities of their customers.

Some may remember another product that was introduced a few years ago. While the product name escapes me (there were several similarly named variants), the purpose of this product was to be strapped to the user’s stomach and used electro-stimulation to cause muscle contractions. This was supposed to replace abdominal exercises by doing the equivalent work of hundreds of sit-ups in a matter of minutes.

While electro-stimulation does have practical applications in rehabilitative medicine, it has limited use in fitness, especially for a device that can be paid off in three easy installments of $19.95. A nice idea in theory, but complete bogus, as it seems to forget that it is impossible to reduce fat in one area of the body while neglecting the rest (there are many people who still believe that it is possible).

Amusingly enough, this product was recalled after spending less than a year in the market. People who were using the product were left with permanent burn scars on their skin and were no closer to looking like the well-toned bodies featured in the advertisement.

The only way for a person to go from fat to fit is through permanent lifestyle changes that take a lot of dedication and time. No magic shakes, no 6-minute devices that are designed to tone one area of the body and neglect the rest. Unless people are willing to do this, they will either stay overweight or their weight will fluctuate.

One infomercial that has recently become popular is promoting a variation on a stair climber, which can be yours for three easy installments of $39.95. It features a bunch of very toned bodies and testimonials by people who have supposedly used them. They show before and after pictures, black and white images of people improperly using gym equipment, and downplay the cost of buying the product instead of actually going to the gym. Never mind the fact that one can get just as good as a workout as actually walking up a flight of stairs instead of taking an elevator.

People are going to be buying this product by the handful. And then, after the customer realizes that he or she has been duped, the product will be tossed in the closet to languish alongside the AbTronic, the ThighMaster, and the Abdominizer.

Another reason why these machines fail is because effective exercise routines must be constantly changed as your body will quickly adapt to them, which means one will get less of a workout than they did when they first started using the machine. Personal trainers will tell you to periodically change your workout routine to make it more effective.

Oh, and another thing. Having a six pack of abs means absolutely nothing if you have a five inch-thick layer of fat covering it.

Next up: Diet trends.

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Sunday, March 14, 2004

I'm not a violent person. For the most part, I have gone most of my 26 years without having gotten into a fist fight, especially over trivial matters as to whether or not the ball was in or not, or whether or not that was a foul. The world is supposedly less violent than it was before, although one wouldn't necessarily know that based on media coverage. As a result, there are fewer and fewer good reasons to act violently.

But then, every so often, you meet certain people that you just wanna punch. Not for reasons of self-defence or because they necessarily did anything to you personally, you just feel that they deserve to be punched.

This is not directed at anyone, merely person types. You see people like this all the time. So, without further ado:

The people that you just wanna punch:

1: The public transit shoplifter. This is the person who rides on public transit, carrying around hundreds of dollars of stolen property. I saw this one guy on the bus, wearing about 3 weeks of dirt on his face and clean looking track pants that were worth at least $80 (obviously shoplifted from the rack). He was wearing a bunch of rings, all of which still had the price tags on them. He also had a portable stereo system that had the words "Property of Cloverdale Community Center" written on it. He was also trying to sell the rings that he was wearing.

There is a strong probability that this person is doing it to support his addictions, but to flagrantly flaunt stolen property around is an open invite for a closed fist punch to the face. Not to mention his actions have immediate consequences for the people around him, like the dozens of people that have use of that portable stereo system with various classes and the like. Not that he cares -- it's buying him two hits of crack.

2: Person that lets their cell-phone/pager go off in the movie theatres. I took my mom to see Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings and there was a group of teenagers, all of whom had cellphones. Not only would they not shut up during the course of the movie, their cellphones continuously beeped and went off during the showing.

Actually, not so much as punching them, as I felt like taking their cellphones and smashing them. That's funnier. Besides, I'm not going to do that in front of my mom.

3: Punk-ass with a laserpointer in a movie theatre. This has replaced the jar full of butterflies as the modern movie theatre annoyance of choice. I was obviously not the only person that disapproved, as a chorus of groans went up as soon as the dancing red dot hit the screen.

For cripes sakes, punk. If you don't like the movie, JUST LEAVE.

4: Person distributing sign-language cards. While I do believe that it is a worthwhile cause, most of the time, it is a person who is pretending to be deaf, which is really taking money away from the people who really are hearing impared.

I don't need a sign language card to give them a universal gesture to tell them to leave me alone.

5: Visibly pregnant woman smoking cigarettes. Okay, okay, now this one's a little harsh. I don't believe in violence against women at all, except in self-defense situations. But then, if I paid another girl $20 to punch her upside the head, that would probably be okay.

Harsh? Perhaps. But if you'll notice, the common thread among the five is that they are all people who put their own wants and convenience ahead of those around them. Lacking common courtesy, outright disrespect, and just plain disregard will get people on this list.

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Friday, March 12, 2004

The three core symptoms of ADHD are:


Overly impulsive; seem unable to curb immediate reactions or think before saying things to friends or co-workers; may have problems with gambling or shopping.


Always seem to be in motion; may have trouble sitting still for long periods of time; may talk incessantly or fidget constantly. (In adults, the hyperactivity component is not always present, and a diagnosis of ADD may be more appropriate.)


May have trouble following conversations or keeping mind focused on one thing for any real length of time; is easily bored with a task after only a few minutes.



That certainly explains why I find myself updating my blog, when I should indeed be working on my latest article for Fangoria. I have to remember that the last article took me a really frickin' long time to complete because they gave me a lengthy deadline. On this one, I was essentially given a month to do it, and the worst part is that I can't remember how long it took me to do all the transcriptions. All I know is that I'm on page 6 of my interviews and I haven't even gotten through 30 minutes of audo tape (my last article, I compiled about 18 pages worth of interviews).

While I have never been formally diagnosed, I'm starting to realize that I do display several of the characteristics described above (either that, or I'm a hypochondriac). But I'm starting to realize that this wasn't really known way back in the day, way before they started doping kids with ritalin. Had they had known about ADD when I was a kid, it'd be likely that I'd have been diagnosed with it.

It's a pretty scary thing when child behavior can be modified with the regular doping with ritalin and other psychoactive meds. There are reasons why kids have short attention spans. You have kids that can stay focused on certain activities that they enjoy, but when they are forced to sit in a classroom for hours on end, their minds start to wander. Given in this computerized day and age, when kids are receiving information at the speed of light, that when forced to read an actual book, their focus starts to drift?

Psychoactive meds are a bandaid solution for a situation requiring a tourniquet, as it doesn't address many issues, such as the fact that current education standards aren't keeping up with technology. Let's face it. Class is boring and many teachers aren't willing to address this fact, instead opting for psychoactive meds to keep the kids in line.

I have yet to go through a formal diagnosis (I can't seem to stay focused long enough to find a doctor who can do a proper diagnosis), and admittedly I am a little weary of psychoactive medication that may cause permanent personality shifts, as there are ways around the disorder, should I actually be diagnosed with it.

But then, it does make for a nice excuse, should I fail to make deadline.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004


After waiting in the cold for about half an hour, a couple friends and I were let into the Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver, BC) for the Crystal Method (great show, by the way). After getting my copy of "Legion of Boom" stamped to gain green room access after the show, I then went to get hearing protection, as part of my job (and just about every day life) requires that my ears don't constantly ring.

Getting to the coat check area, I ask the girl behind the counter if she has any hearing protection. Ironically, she doesn't hear me the first time. I am quick to point this out.

That brings me to today's topic, wussing out and getting protection for a variety of applications (ie: sports, entertainment, sex). This time, I am not harassed for wearing any sort of hearing protection (in fact, one guy says, "Hey, good idea"), but in other situations, people do give a hard time and I could never figure out why.

At my dayjob selling consumer electronics, we have skateboarding videos running all day. Watching some of these videos shows the amazing skill of some of these skaters and on occasion, you do see the occasional spill. If some of the sponsored professionals take spills on occasion, I can only imagine what kind of permanent injury DIDN'T make the video.

I asked one guy who is an avid skater (who, interestingly enough, has the last name "Thrasher", of all things, which just happens to be the name of a skateboard magazine) about why most skaters don't wear any sort of gear or protection. The reply had something to do with the fact that extreme skaters that are featured on the ESPN X-Games usually wear gear while street skaters don't. He then went on to say that those on the X-Games are typically regarded as sell-outs. I think skateboarding legend Tony Hawk is included in this category.

While the aspect of selling out has more to do with the fact that skateboarding has a more underground appeal due to its grassroots origins and the commercialization of the sport supposedly dilutes that, one can't help but notice some sort of correlation. Sellouts wear proper gear, the original cool kids don't.

Additional arguments against the use of gear view it as restrictive and cumbersome in addition to being unstylish. In some respects, one can somewhat see their point, but once one becomes accustomed to using specific types of gear, any sort of restriction should be adaptable, should it not?

I have always been a strong proponent of protective gear for any application, regardless of how stupid it might look and I am speaking from experience. I have a scar on my right forearm about 2cm in diameter (.75 inches) that is a result of hitting a pebble and falling down a hill while going rollerblading. Because of all the gear I was wearing (helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads), that was the extent of my injuries and that's only because the elbow pad slid up while I was skidding downards.

While snowboarding, I always wear my helmet (to avoid the dorkiness factor, I put a cool looking sticker on the front...and YES, I do know that they say you're not supposed to put stickers on helmets, but it didn't say anything about it in the manual, so I think it's okay), even though I have yet to have a major enough crash to need it. However, enough attention has been brough to snowboarding injuries that no one makes fun of me for it. However, people do ask why I chicken out before jumps because I'm wearing a helmet. Maybe because a helmet don't necessarily protect against a broken spine? I don't know...

I remember proudly wearing a protective cup to a pick-up game of soccer with a bunch of people from school. "A cup," one of my friends muses, "You wore a CUP to a pickup game of soccer?"

"Uh...yeah," I replied. I do this because back in 4th grade, I took a soccer ball to the crotch and I was on the ground in pain for what felt like an hour (in reality, maybe 3 or 4 minutes), crying my eyes out, while the teacher could not figure out what was wrong. I mean, seriously. A guy doubled over, protecting his groin, crying his eyes out, and he STILL can't figure it out? Small wonder why he wasn't teaching phys. ed at that school the next year. To this day, if it's a soccer game that's even remotely organized and planned beforehand, I wear proper protection.

Argumemts against the use of the cup include lack of comfort and the fact that "You can't run with one." One of the opposing team players commented that I was able to run a little faster than him (which he felt justified him using a tactic that was just short of yellow-card worthy), and he was a lot more athletic than me.

A few minutes later, one of my classmates, a student hailing from Brazil (several times World Cup Soccer champions) takes a shot to the groin. Upon witnessing this, I say to the naysayer, "YOU SEE? YOU SEE?!"

And when it comes to any other sort of activities where protection is an option, you can rest assured that I will be taking advantage of it.

Getting back to The Crystal Method show. I like listening to my music loud, but I like to be able to hear the next day. Live music venues turn up their music above comfort levels. This is important because they have to be heard above the crowd and they have to be heard by the people at the back. For people who want a close-up view (like myself), this can be very uncomfortable after a while unless your hearing has already been permanetly shifted. But, with the volume turned down just a touch with ear plugs, it sounds fine, and I don't actually have to pull the ear plugs out in order to talk to someone (they have to speak into your ear directly anyway).

And as I type this, my ears aren't ringing at all. Heck, I got a stereo playing "Legion of Boom" right now and I can hear it fine (although I am having problems hearing it over the clack of the keyboard).

To finish, whenever someonen makes the argument that protection looks stupid, I usually counter with this...what looks dumber, a person in perfect health wearing a dorky looking helmet? Or a guy in a wheelchair that is permanetly brain damaged, has a metal skull plate and a series of stitches in his forehead and is drooling on himself while the fingers on his left hand constantly twitch?

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