Articles

Adderall and the American Dream

Adderall, a drug intended to treat ADD/ADHD, has been around for a long time. People have used it, legally and illegally, for a wide variety of things. Adderall, being an amphetamine, is sometimes prescribed to people with narcolepsy. Similarly, it is commonly referred to as a ‘study drug’ because it helps students stay up all night to cram for an exam. More recently, Adderall has become popular with Millennials. In Lawrence Diller’s article: America’s Love Affair With Legal Amphetamine, he provides a unique opinion of this generation of young adults. Diller blames the spike in misuse of Adderall on our country’s economy, irresponsible pharmaceutical companies, and mainstream culture. Besides these obvious contributors, he offers a new reason as to why Millennials turn to drugs like Adderall. He goes as far as creating his own hypothetical psychiatric disorder. “My disorder is called Achievement Anxiety Disorder (AAD), and it explains the increasing reports of prescription amphetamine misuse most often in the form of Adderall abuse.” Millennials are the first generation to live worse-off than the previous generation. Diller says that this, along with a “broken cultural norm that makes happiness impossible to achieve,” is the root of AAD.

Diller’s Fake Diagnoses

Lawrence Diller has a medical degree and has written various books about Adderall and other amphetamines. His credibility is undeniable. The statistics included in his article make it clear that the millennial generation does, indeed, have a problem with Adderall. However, his argument contains fallacies and is somewhat problematic at times. The subtitle of the article sets the tone for his argument, “When will we be able to just say no?” That line in itself is condescending, and it delegitimizes the struggle of addiction. Diller’s article recognizes the tragedy of America’s prescription drug problem while making it seem as if he believes solving the problem is as simple as saying no. He goes on to take jabs at drug companies for creating new psychiatric disorders out of thin air by doing just that. Creating Achievement Anxiety Disorder for the sake of his argument is inappropriate but could possibly be overlooked if it added anything new or constructive to the conversation. This phony disorder seems like a thinly veiled attempt at mocking Millennials and those with mental health issues. He compares AAD to legitimate conditions. “Just what is Achievement Anxiety Disorder? Like all psychiatric conditions, there are no blood tests or brain scans to make the diagnosis” (Diller). Not only is this a clear attempt to delegitimize disorders people have, but it is incorrect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, brain scans show, “In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder.” Diller’s inaccuracies work to further discredit him.

Diller goes on to explain AAD, “You can see it all around us- frantic people working ever harder to achieve a certain level of material satisfaction and security.” He takes in to account the difficult economy handed down to Millennials, but he seems to point to the generation’s collective attitude of entitlement as the real culprit. Diller is playing into the ever-popular narrative that Millennials are whiny and weak-minded and in need of a participation trophy. While it is true that today’s young adults must work harder and go above and beyond to attain the lifestyle their parents did, this does not directly relate to Adderall use. According to an article in The Atlantic, young adults that graduated during the recession of the 1980’s were also worse-off than their parents. The struggles they faced did not push them to Adderall use even though the drug was in the market by then.

Millennials as ‘Casualties’ of Adderall

A recurring trend in this article seems to be the criticism of today’s young adults. Diller continues to connect the country’s rampant Adderall use and misuse to Millennials’ shortcomings. He compares previous generation’s perceptions of the American Dream to Millennials when he says, “A once-personal struggle for self-acceptance and success has turned into contagious angst about a collective failure to live up to our dreams.” This line suggests that this new generation has turned the American dream into something toxic by obsessing over failure and relying on substance to avoid it. It suggests that past generations were intrinsically motivated, and the current generation is more focused on material gain. Diller’s stance throughout his article seems to be that Millennials are caving to the pressure of everyday life and turning to Adderall to deal with the stress. His general perception of Millennials is that it is a weaker generation.

Towards the end of the article, one line sticks out as outright offensive, “Our young adults who are turning to Adderall are the stark casualties of this broken cultural norm that makes happiness impossible to achieve.” Here, Diller basically labels anyone who takes Adderall as a ‘casualty’. This is significantly more problematic than simply taking a jab at drug companies for creating disorders. Saying this, even if it is an opinion piece, is extremely inappropriate and it discredits the rest of the piece. ADD/ADHD is a legitimate disorder that can be tested and detected in brain scans.

The Reality of Being Prescribed Adderall

Rhetoric like Diller’s is insulting to people with ADD/ADHD who truly suffer. Untreated, ADD/ADHD makes concentrating in school and even performing day-to-day tasks incredibly difficult for people. This results in bad grades, disciplinary issues, and in turn a general anxiety about anything school related. When people are given the necessary medication, such as Adderall, the side effects are miserable. Those who have to take Adderall for their ADD/ADHD will tell you how much they hate it. It stifles their personality, diminishes their appetite, and inhibits them socially. In this piece, Diller calls the DSM-5, “America’s official psychiatric bible of common life dilemmas translated into mental disorder.”  Here, he is brushing over not just ADD/ADHD, but all mental health conditions. The real common life dilemma that plagues those with ADD/ADHD is if they want to take Adderall and succeed in school while feeling like a zombie or take no medication at all and suffer through school and work.

By the end of the article, there is no real take-away of what or who the true culprit is. Diller takes jabs at Millennials, the economy, new social norms, and drug companies, but ultimately, he offers no real solution besides the subtitle that reads, “When will we be able to just say no?” Lawrence Diller attempts to give a unique answer to America’s rampant Adderall use by creating his own psychiatric disorder and taking jabs at anything from Millennials to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The Presentation of Macronutrients

The Distorted Perception of Food: Macronutrients

Once there was a time when humans ate whatever was necessary to live. Eventually, the elite were able to choose the more glamorous foods, and the common folk were welcome to moderate quantities of the less exciting options. Now most citizens of industrialized economies have plenty of readily available food choices. Abiding by enough scientific and political influence, business have chosen to present food on the foundation of the three macronutrients which humans need to function: Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins.

Fats

Fats have the most fascinating history within the evolution of the food industry. With a raise in the occurrence of obesity, the FDA decided to inform people of the dangers of eating too much “fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol” with the “healthy eating” campaign of 1980. With the substantial rise in obesity rates, the FDA continued to update guidelines up to and beyond the food pyramid of 1992, and signaling the danger of fat has persisted to this day. 2% milk replaced whole milk, and if skim milk didn’t taste so ridiculously bad, it probably would have replaced 2% milk. Margarine nearly replaced butter, and the movement for lower quantities of processed vegetable oil to replace natural fats reached nearly all available options.

Excessive quantities of modified food products including modified (hydrogenated, heated, and/or refined) oils, and fat substitutes are detrimental to the human body. Unfortunately, proof is still pending since they haven’t been readily available during much of the process of civilized evolution. Contrary to popular government and marketing promotions, the ingestion of healthy fats including unprocessed saturated fats (coconut oil) are not a primary cause of obesity or unhealthy cholesterol (high LDL) levels in the human body. After practicing the ketogenic diet for 2 years using coconut as my primary source of caloric intake, blood tests confirmed healthy cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and body fat levels during or after the process. The toxic overload of modified food products, especially sugar/fructose loaded options, directly relates to the internal stress markers of the human body which correlate with high LDL levels, metabolic inconsistencies, and the initiation/maintenance of fat storage.

Proteins

Proteins are the glorified trophy of macronutrients from ancient times as well as present culture. Hunters returning with their prey would receive an immense amount of praise from their village. The entire fish, animal, or bird would be prepared to fulfill the needs of the village, and every aspect of the fish, animal, or bird was useful and respected. Rather than isolating the most lean and tender region of meat, the food source was balanced with fat, macronutrients, fiber, and also protein. Today the staple food of any plate is the premium cut of lean meat.

Meat was the trophy for generations and was consistently expensive and/or difficult to attain. Meat became the goal, and food industries readily created the protein idol within that goal. Certain grains and beans had enough protein to be marketed as an inexpensive meat replacement. Fat could be removed from dairy leaving the ever-important protein. The egg yolk could be overlooked, or a half-gallon of pure egg whites could be purchased from the local grocery. Protein shakes loaded with whey protein and soy proteins, fitness bars, and the most recent PB2 evolution have glorified protein as the fitness macronutrient of choice. Based on advertisement proclamations, ingesting large amounts of protein results in the body of an attractive model: a model with a low body fat percentage, a perfect tan, and a stellar muscular physique.

Carbohydrates

Although fruits have evolved to become the idealistic size and shape to initiate human salivation, it is easier to cultivate large quantities of sugar from other sources. Sugar Cane is the easiest for large-scale farming, and refining the sugar is also easiest from that source. There aren’t many valuable nutrients to strip from sugar cane, but it might as well be the pure white color the human eye desires. From here the sugar can simply be mixed with ingredients including emulsifiers, stabilizers, and/or flour to make an ideal mass of sweetness. The motivation to purchase comes from the additional beauty of food coloring, texturing, packaging, and marketing. The candy and cake aren’t eaten all the time; only on special occasions, like daily treats of pleasure after eating a healthy meal.

Fruit and sugar are not the only carbohydrate sources. Whole grains, like corn, are often fully processed before ingesting. Excessive levels of heat are used to condition the product for processing. Chemical solvents are used to extract the oils from the grain. (The oil is then neutralized, deodorized, and bleached to yield vegetable oil.) Excessive levels of heat are again used to evaporate the solvent from the grain. The remaining grain can then be degerminated and ‘polished’ before it is milled into the wonderful corn flour it was meant to be. This process removes the pericarp and tip cap which are the outer fibrous coverings of the kernel. The internal germ containing vitamins, enzymes, and minerals necessary for seed growth is also removed. All relevant sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber must be removed for the sake of a longer shelf life and business profitability.

The current movement influencing personal choice

The current ‘choose my plate’ government promotion continues the idiocracy of the American diet. The only slightly positive remark I have regarding this image is the recommendation for a large portion of the plate to contain vegetables. However, based on the chronic over satiation of corn and deep-fried potatoes which conveniently fulfill the vegetable intake recommendations, I do not foresee health improvements in the near future. As schools promote this choose my plate model, a visually assumed macronutrient ratio of close to 65% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 5% fat remains the common perception. Fat is still demonized, and the dairy industry is still cashing in on excessive lobbying bias to define public policy.

Over time, processed food tastes better, and unmodified foods look, smell, and taste worse. Unpackaged foods are uncomfortable and messy. Unprepared foods take too long to make and don’t last long enough before and after cooking. The carbohydrate overload readily fuels the physical and psychological dependence on easy access foods. More is purchased, more is eaten, and businesses attain higher profit margins. Sweeter tasting foods continue to replace the previous trend. Quick fix sugar replacements pretend to solve the problem of excessive caloric intake. The processed foods become more different, and the processed foods distort natural human perception beyond repair.

That being said, the population has experienced some progress in a few isolated areas. Blatantly toxic choices are frowned upon. Most agree that eating an entire cake is unhealthy since the trend will likely be linked to obesity and diabetes. Most agree that smoking is unhealthy since the trend will likely lead to lung cancer, peripheral artery disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder to name a few. Unfortunately, most unhealthy choices remain normalized. Consistently eating candy from the vending machines in schools is OK because the lunch meal almost follows the choose my plate guidelines. Consistently drinking excess alcohol at a local bar is OK because a higher blood alcohol levels always support positive human interaction. Hopefully my logic for the last half of the paragraph was interpreted as sarcastic.

I hope that one day food will be perceived as a necessary component supporting the physiology of the human body. The logic of eating foods which are not processed will simply make more sense than the constant overload of modified junk food. Foods won’t be obsessively categorized into good/bad macronutrient categories (Fat Free! Sugar Free! High Protein!). The average human body will regain an ability to accurately monitor levels of hunger, and a balanced plate of natural foods will allow hunger to be satisfied until the next meal.

Agree or Disagree?

Sleep Training

I recently posted an article comparing the CIO (Cry It Out) group supporters to the Co-Sleeping supporters, and briefly discussed our daughter’s experience with both sleep plans. We are now 4 weeks into implementing a successful CIO bedtime and nap-time routine for our 11-month-old daughter. I have not seen a detailed example of how CIO plans are implemented, so I have decided to share the specifics of our plan.

First, I would like to clarify that my previous article was not well accepted nor appreciated in some groups. Several individuals firmly believe that subjecting a child to CIO is inadequate and cruel parenting. Therefore, if you believe children should not be subjected to CIO, then I recommend that you do NOT read this article. If you and your partner are not ready to commit to a sleep plan, it would not be a good idea to implement a sleep plan. I apologize to those that I have sickened. I do not claim to be a parenting expert, and I believe that every parent should consider researching multiple resources before making substantial child raising decisions.

Before we begin, I must clarify the following: successful sleep training methods require schedules, routines, and consistency. I strongly recommend implementing the following suggestions before starting sleep training. Under each point I have noted some of the specifics of the schedule we had before attempting sleep training.

Sleep and Feeding Schedule

  1. Set a sleep schedule with at least a 3-hour window between the last nap and bed time.

From the age of 9-10 months, we had set a somewhat consistent nap schedule for our daughter. Her first nap started about 2.5 hours after waking in the morning and 3 hours of waking from her second nap. This usually left about 4 hours until bed time.

There were times when the nap was pushed back too late. If she wouldn’t fall asleep for the second nap we would then take her on a car ride to help her fall asleep, and that was often too late in the afternoon after the failed nap attempt. A child certainly needs sleep; however, we should have kept that 3-hour window between the last nap and bed time even if she was exhausted. The night-time sleep plan trumps the nap plans.

  1. Set consistent sleep routines with the night sleep routine lasting about 10 minutes.

From the age of 9-10 months we also started implementing a sleep routine. We would read to her before each nap and bed time for about 5 minutes. The bed time routine also included a diaper change and putting her in her pajamas.

The night-time routine should have lasted closer to 10 minutes, and we should have included a more detailed, consistent, and step-wise routine. This will be further discussed in the ‘Re-Set’ plan below.

  1. Set a consistent feeding schedule, including a dream feeding if necessary.

We did not put this into practice until we started the CIO plan at the age of 10 months. We used the bottle as a sleep aid, and this was a mistake. Looking back I have realized that even if the initial CIO method would have worked at the 6 or 9-month attempts, it would not have lasted through the night. This is probably the case even if we would have implemented a well-timed dream feeding because she was dependent on the bottle as her soothing requirement. If you want to implement a sleep plan, the bottle should not be used as a soothing tool.

The last feeding must be at least 15 minutes before the start of the night-time sleep routine. If feedings are necessary during the night, a dream feeding should be scheduled before the child would wake for the feeding. At 10 months we decided a dream feeding was not necessary since her night feeding usually resulted in a skipped morning feeding.

Additional Considerations

There are situations when such schedule synchronization is difficult to implement. If all of these variables are perfectly set, your child is probably very close to being perfectly sleep trained anyway. Most parents who are researching sleep training are facing exhausting and overwhelming inconsistencies which need to be corrected. That is exactly where we were, and we started the successful sleep training from a fairly unstable starting point. Our daughter did not have any self-soothing skills before our 10-month sleep training attempt. Furthermore, her inconsistent sleep from the age of 4-10 months left her exhausted for too much of the day. This scattered her eating schedule, and the cyclic nature of inconsistencies continued. We didn’t realize how exhausted she was until about 5 days into our successful sleep training attempt.

(Re)Set the Sleep Stage

  1. The Child Must Sleep in a Crib, and That Crib Is the Only Sleep Option.

Allowing a child over 6 months old to fall asleep while feeding, being held, riding in a car, or co-sleeping are not helpful options when attempting to acclimate a child to sleeping in a crib. If the child is used to those options, the challenges of sleep training increase exponentially. The crib must be the only option. By the age of 10 months we had allowed alternative sleep options much too frequently, and she knew that crying in her crib would eventually result in being removed from her crib.

Before the official sleep training attempt began, she was required to sleep in the crib for 4 nights. She hated it, and it didn’t matter if we were in the room or not. I decided to lay with her in the crib for an hour, and then sleep next to her on the floor for the entire night. Your methods are up to you, but before a sleep training attempt it must be accepted by all parties that sleeping in the crib is the only option.

  1. Optimize the Sleep Environment

For us, the two final steps for the optimal sleep environment included adding about 8 more pacifiers around the crib and using a white noise machine. The room should be completely dark and a comfortable temperature.

  1. Continue or start a schedule.

If you haven’t already, do your best to set the sleeping and eating schedules. The more defined the schedules are, the easier the sleep training will be. As these schedules are set all milk feedings should be at least 15 minutes from any sleep attempt.

For bed time, the consensus is a 7:00 – 8:30 time window. During our four days of preparation we aimed for a 7:30 p.m. sleep time. This would be +/- 15 minutes depending on when she woke up from her last nap. In the morning we took her out of the crib no earlier than 6:00, but if she was sleeping we let her sleep until 7:30 (that never happened). The first nap would start 2.5 hours after she woke up in the morning. The second nap would start 3 hours after she woke up from the first. The second nap would not continue past 4:30 p.m. We had to wake her up twice on the occasions when she fought the second nap for too long.

Ideally, the previously mentioned sleeping and eating schedules as well as not using the milk for soothing purposes would also be integrated as much as possible. The better these foundations are set; the easier sleep training will be.

  1. Optimize a Sleep Routine.

Set the sleep routine of your choice. The final feeding should start at least 20-30 minutes before the child is set in the crib for the night. After the feeding, allow the child to sit or be held upright for about 5-10 minutes, then proceed to the sleep routine. This part of the routine should last about 10 minutes. Our routine included a diaper change, a coconut/lavender oil massage, dressing her in her pajamas, two books (4-5 mins), clicking on the sound machine, and then laying her in her crib. As you are prepping for the sleep training, you could be crazy and sleep in the crib as I did, you could stand by the crib, and/or you could stand across the room. Whatever works! The goal is as little crying as possible with as little contact as possible. For naps we included a diaper change and one book.

Sleep Training

If steps 1-7 are going well, sleep training might be as easy as all of the CIO and Ferber advocates proclaim. Our sleep training started by implementing the previous 7 steps within the narrow time window of only four days. Since we were consistently implementing each step, and we were confident that our plan would work. The small 4-day window of preparation as well as the previously failed attempts (intermittent re-enforcement) did not make our sleep training path easy. However, it worked.

  1. Start with only night-time sleep training.

There isn’t much to say about the sleep training once steps 1-7 are set in place. At 10 months she no longer needed a dream feeding. After the night-time routine, we left the room for the night. For the first week she averaged 25 minutes of crying, for the second week she averaged 10 minutes, and for the third she averaged 5 minutes before falling asleep. For the first two weeks we only implemented sleep training at night. Since naps are more challenging with less of a physiological sleep synchronization, we remained next to her crib until she fell asleep for naps.

As our daughter became more comfortable with the sleep training routine, she also had some interesting behavioral changes. After the feeding we would walk into her room, and she knew that it was sleep time. For some reason she always accepted diaper changes, but after the first week she started to fight the diaper change. She knew that it was bed time, and she knew that she would be stuck going to sleep once it happened. After the diaper change she usually calmed down more during the massage and dressing in her pjs. Then, during the book reading she was very calm. The battle shifted from fighting sleep in the crib to making a short plea within the bedtime routine.

  1. Continue to nap sleep train if necessary.

After the first week of sleep training at night, the naps became more challenging. She wanted us to pick her up out of the crib. We were focused on the night-time plan, so we would often give in to relentless crying and take her on a drive so she would fall asleep. I don’t necessarily regret this decision, but after the second week of night-time training, we also implemented CIO for naps. The first week of nap-time sleep training also had it’s challenges. We maximized CIO to 45 minutes, and she reached that two times. We are now at week 4, and over the last four days she has averaged 5 minutes of light crying before falling asleep for naps, and she is averaging less than 5 minutes of light crying for bed time.

Conclusion

By our daughter’s 10 month mark, it seemed as if co-sleeping or sleep training were the only two options we had. We thought co-sleeping would have been a fairly easy pathway and at least another 6 months of low quality sleep for us and for her. We figured sleep training would at least require a solid three days of torture for everyone involved. If sleep training worked, we were pretty sure it would be worth it, and even if it didn’t, we had to know if it wasn’t a possibility. Sleep training did require several hours of crying over the first week, but from weeks 2-4 there has been significantly less crying than we were used to. After the first week our daughter started to crawl, pull herself up, and balance herself while standing. She has started to interact with us more than ever, she has been more interested in everything around her, and she is a happier girl in general.

Hopefully this outline was helpful. If you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions please leave a comment!

Retirement Investments

Thinking About Retirement

It is your rational intuition to have a job which provides a paycheck to support yourself, your family, and the economy. Some of that pay is dedicated to state taxes, federal taxes, social security, life insurance, healthcare plans, etc, and there is a chance some is invested toward retirement. Sometimes a company matches a percentage invested up to 3–6%, and usually we select that percentage to invest toward retirement without much thought. Eventually, we assume that we will retire, and our retirement will be supported.

The table above shows an example of an individual investing 5% (+5% employer match) of a $50K income over 40 years. A standard stock index return of 7% with a low annual investment fee of 0.10% would yield a retirement account totaling $1,008,000. Certain companies including Vanguard (my personal favorite) and TIAA (in rare situations) do offer plans with similar fees, but most retirement investment partners including Voya and Valic have fees with closer to a 2% minimum (read the fine print!). These 2% fees would have costed you about $388,000. Rather than a $1,008,000 retirement account, the value would be closer to $620,000.

Vanguard offers index investment options with fees in the area of 0.05 – 0.40%. Another investment company with similar options may also be a good choice. The most important take-home message:

Find all the investment fees associated with your current plan.

School systems are often heavily influenced to partner with companies like Valic and Voya. These companies often provide Vanguard or other index stock options with annual investment fees presented as something close to 0.35%. Within the official paperwork it is a bit harder to find the fact that all accounts are subject to an annual investment fee of  1.25%. This means that the low fee Vanguard option is great, but you are still paying 1.6% of investment fees. Rather than ending $388,000 dollars short of potential investment gains with the 2% fees, the best investment option within the overarching company would still cost you close to $350,000 with their 1.6% fees.

But investment advisors within these companies have reassured me…

You are in a safe location with plenty of growth potential.

Your investments are outperforming ‘insert other random comparisons here’.

Fees are this ‘insert a low number here’ which is better than ‘insert another random comparison here’.

Don’t forget to remain paranoid. Low fee index options are bad because at one random time the market dropped 50% in this 4 month period and it will probably crash again soon.

I have heard those arguments, and I learned a few things since then. High fee investment options usually contain several index investments anyway. They may not crash as hard as an index only fund when the market crashes, but they probably won’t profit as well as the index either. Over a period of 30–40 years, the ‘studious’ investment analysts may perform slightly better than the index, but the annual fee they require drops your investment gain potentials more than they are willing to admit. The flashy numbers and graphs selling their product rarely includes the annual investment fees when predicting potential investment gains. Is this costing you slightly less or significantly more than $388,000?

If you are unsure, here is a link to bankrate retirement calculators.

There are times when only one company is selected, and your investment options are limited. If your company’s chosen investment partner is funding vacations and dinners for your company’s finance department, you are probably funding vacations and dinners for your company’s finance department. That being said, a $620,000 retirement plan yield is better than a $0-dollar retirement plan. Social norms have prioritized ‘owning’ large houses (via mortgage), and nice vehicles (via loan) over long-term investing. When nothing is invested toward retirement, fee details become a moot issue.

A savings account investment plan would be slightly better than the previously mentioned 0-dollar retirement plan option. Investing $5000 (5% of 50K + 5% employee match) per year in savings account with a 0.25% return will result in a figure closer to $210,000. Considering the employee match isn’t going to happen, that number will actually be closer to $105,000. Succumbing to excessive annual investment fees would still leave you with more money than conservatively stockpiling your cash at a local bank ($620,000 is indeed greater than $105,000).

Take home point: Invest toward retirement. But if you see hundreds of advertisements promoting your investment company and/or your financial advisor is driving a luxury SUV, find somewhere else to invest.

Please leave a comment, and let the debate begin!

Cell Phone Upgrade

Consumer vs. Cell Phone Monopoly

I am a longtime family member of a Verizon family phone plan. In the past it was less expensive to be in a family plan rather than pay for individual plans, and free phone upgrades were included every two years. After discovering that phone upgrades were no longer included in the plan, I held on to my Motorola Droid Mini for 4 years before damaging my phone beyond repair. Verizon confirmed that they and all cell phone monopolies no longer offer discounts for phone upgrades/replacements. The local Verizon retailer implied this was OK because phones are bought on contract where low monthly payments are required for at least the first month. This retailer was convinced that $10 monthly payments do not add up to the cost of the new phone, $240, over a period of 24 months.

That extra zero is challenging sometimes, so I double checked the math on my old calculator since the calculator app from my Droid Mini was dysfunctional. Results: $10 x 24 months does indeed equal $240, and that seemed a bit high for the cheapest and lowest rated phone being offered.

Technology Considerations

It was also implied that I didn’t have many easy switch options since my SIM card from my old phone probably wouldn’t be compatible with anything. This blatant lie was followed by a statement implying that Verizon does provide SIM card replacements if necessary, for a small cost.

I left the store slightly irritated, but it was a great motivator for some interesting research. Fortunately, unlocked phones compatible with the Verizon network (CDMA card and matching 3 and 4 G network frequencies) can easily replace current phones on that network. Also, the SIM card from my Droid Mini was compatible with most new phone options I was searching.

The New Cell Phone Purchase

After an avid search for the best online deals, I purchased a MOTO E4 for $100, a bouncy protector case for $8, and a glass screen protector for $4. Upon arrival I immediately switched the SIM card from the old phone to the new phone and it was fully functional! The Verizon cloud app allowed me to easily transfer all pictures, music, text messages, and phone calls from my old phone to my new phone.

My contacts had not saved through the cloud app, so I was not able to transfer my contacts from my old phone to the new phone. In an attempt to resolve the issue, I installed the Verizon content transfer app on both phones, but it didn’t allow the phones to recognize each other when face to face. The new phone couldn’t recognize the old one because the screen was cracked. The Verizon store was close, and I figured they would be able to quickly transfer my contact list from my old phone to the new one. I also wanted to talk to them about updating my account to clarify the phone update.

The Opposite of Customer Support

Upon entering the store with my new phone, I talked to the same retailer who I had previously asked about new phone options. After asking for help transferring the contact list, she quickly said “we charge $19.99 for that.” She knew that I would not pay that much for a service. One might think such a service would be free for a Verizon customer of over 12 years. She wanted me to leave the store since I didn’t purchase the phone from that store, and even though I have paid Verizon wireless a total of $7,200 in the last 12 years, she felt that a ‘screw you’ implication was most appropriate. Rather than continuing the conversation, I decided that more research about the contact list data transfer, and a phone call to the Verizon support team might be a more efficient way to solve the problem.

The Verizon support team confirmed that the cracked screen wasn’t allowing both to sync. I pondered why face to face screen recognition for  data transfers are required. They recommended backing up my contact list through the google drive and then re-syncing it with my new phone. That may have worked, but I manually reentered my contact list using the numbers from recent phone calls and text messages. If Verizon didn’t own my current phone number, as well as the collective deal my family appreciates on the family plan, I might have switched carriers. Unfortunately, that probably wouldn’t have solved anything since the competing monopolies have collectively agreed to overcharge for products and services.

Conclusion

I paid a total of $112 for a quality phone upgrade. A new phone, case, and screen protector would have been closer to $265 at the local Verizon store. Although the process was somewhat time-consuming, it was a valuable learning experience. I also enjoyed avoiding the $153 gratitude payment to my controlling and manipulative cell phone service provider.

Let me know if you have any comments to share!

The Child Sleep Conquest

The internet is flooded with child sleep recommendations, and after reading all of them I am still not sure I have the answer. However, I do know that there are two distinct teams: the co-sleep team and the cry it out (CIO) team.

Co-Sleep team vs. Cry It Out (CIO) team

Here is how the CIO team would describe the co-sleep team:

Co-sleeping with your infant is nothing short of attempted murder and child neglect. Sleeping in the same bed with your child will significantly raise the probability of SIDS. Your child will be deprived of any self-soothing ability if you constantly cater to their needs.

Here is how the co-sleep team would describe the CIO team:

Letting your infant CIO is nothing short of attempted murder and child neglect. Abandoning your child to cry relentlessly for hours will significantly raise the probability of SIDS and cause internal brain damage. Your child will be deprived of any relationship potentials if you subject them to neglect for more than half of their living time.

If you are feeling some tension, there is really nothing to worry about. Life isn’t that black and white.

Although both parties have categorized the other as inhumane, they agree that children do need quality sleep which requires the following:

  1. Safe sleep conditions
  2. A nighttime routine
  3. A dark room
  4. A room with predictable noise consistency (no sound or a sound machine)

They also agree that children will experience physical and psychological growth which will alter their sleep patterns. Thus far, that has been one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. Is our daughter crying because she is sick, teething, hungry, hurting, or something else? Maybe this is related to my question the norm type thinking, but it was pretty easy to find a variable to question as my daughter was crying relentlessly during the night.

Our Infant Sleep Experience

As we started the child raising journey we faced an immediate challenge of digestive system sensitivity. This made the first two months rather challenging. It wasn’t quite this extreme, but it seemed as if our daughter was always hungry but never wanted to eat. Therefore, laying her down in the tilted infant bed was rarely a pleasant experience. With the help of probiotics and the elimination of dairy and egg white proteins from breast milk, she was finally able to experience a more consistent sleep routine.

However, our daughter was rarely comfortable with the sleeping experience, and this was compounded when we moved her to her crib. To remedy the situation, we would help her to fall asleep, pick her up to soothe her if she woke up, and maintain night-time feedings for longer than what was recommended. We were doing the equivalent of co-sleeping in the uncomfortable standing position for too much of the night.

At the 6-month doctor appointment we were told that babies are fully capable of self-soothing, and it was time to let our daughter adapt. We tried the 15-minute interval Ferber method. For two nights she cried relentlessly for three straight hours before reaching a state of exhaustion. For the rest of the night she would wake every 1-3 hours followed by another 30-60 minutes of crying before falling asleep again. Each morning she woke up in a state of fear, sadness, and exhaustion. The fear I saw embedded within the eyes of my daughter during and after each night was a truly disheartening experience. After the second night we decided it was time for Co-Sleeping. The SIDS risk drops significantly after six months, our daughter was finally able to roll over, and we are both isolated sleepers. Even though the CIO group frowned upon our decision, we all needed sleep. Our goal was for her to be an independent sleeper, but after the two-night CIO attempt, we decided to join the co-sleeping team.

After three months of co-sleeping for at least the last half of the night, we were strongly encouraged by our doctor to attempt the Ferber method again. Children at nine months undoubtedly need to learn to self-soothe, and parents undoubtedly need to attain adequate sleep. Although the co-sleeping made things a bit easier, it is hard to get a good night sleep next to a baby, especially one who is very sensitive. After a three-hour period of intense crying enhanced by our ‘calming’ attempts at 15-minute intervals, we jumped ship again. The co-sleeping community welcomed us back with plenty of supportive blog posts and encouraging responses to our questions.

After another week of co-sleeping, we transitioned her to a floor mattress next to our bed. This resulted in more crying, so one of us ended up laying next to her for about half the night. Since the consistent night wakings disrupted everyone’s sleep, we moved the floor mattress back to her room. At least one of us would get a good night sleep while the other would sleep next to her on the floor.

Looking back, our thinking may not have been all that clear throughout this journey. In addition to our lack of sleep, the comments received from friends, family, coworkers, doctors, and psychologists lacked cohesion.

The Sleep Study

Because of our ‘child sleep’ related internet searches, we were the advertising targets of sleep teams around the country. We were planning to pay a group in Florida $400 for a sleep plan and a three-hour support phone call. This had us questioning reality since I often walk to the grocery rather than paying for the gas and mileage costs my car imposes. Fortunately, we stumbled upon a local research study for sleep training. We were quickly accepted into the study, and we were told the cameras would be installed on the crib within 3 days. One day before the team arrived we transitioned our daughter back to the crib.

She absolutely hated the transition, and on that night, she cried hysterically for at least four hours. After the first hour of hysterical crying, I literally climbed into the crib to console her. She was a bit shocked for about 5 minutes before she started screaming again. After another 30 minutes I finally picker her up out of the crib, rocked her to sleep, and then slept with her in the crib for about an hour. For the rest of the night I laid next to the crib, and she woke up crying every hour. Each time took about 15 minutes to console her back to sleep while she remained in the crib. Even though I was by her side for the entire night; it was almost like subjecting her to the CIO method.

The next morning, we decided that if it was that bad for another night, we were going to abandon the plan and fully join the co-sleeping team until our daughter could talk. Fortunately, both of her naps in the crib went better than anticipated. While we were still touching her in her crib, she cried lightly for only about 10 minutes until falling asleep.

For the sleep study, cameras would record baseline data for the first three nights before we were assigned to a group. The control group would allow us to keep doing the same thing, and after the study we would receive a sleep plan. The first intervention group would be given a bed time CIO plan, and we would follow the same night-time practices if she did awake during the night. The second intervention group would be given a bed time CIO plan and that would be followed throughout the night.

Even though our routine didn’t change as the baseline data was collected, the first night of the sleep study was a significant improvement. She cried lightly for about 30 minutes before falling asleep. We also consoled her back to sleep for three night wakings, and she consoled herself back to sleep within 2 minutes of a few other night wakings. Our daughter realized that she would be sleeping in the crib, and she was able to accept that fact. This is the foundation of a rational CIO plan, and we had made the first small step in implementing a working CIO plan.

The second night of the sleep study was even better. For the first time she was laid in her crib awake (but exhausted) and fell asleep without crying at all. She was able to console herself back to sleep during all but two night wakings, one of which was a ‘necessary’ feeding. On the third night she again fell asleep immediately, but she was up a few more times during the night. After her feeding at 3 a.m. she was awake until 5 a.m. There were hundreds of variables to ponder, but I chose not to worry about it since there was a 66% chance we would be put in an intervention group.

We were selected to be in second intervention group. We agreed on a bed time plan, and we would not re-enter the room to console her during the night. We also chose to not implement a dream feeding for that plan. In the past, she would certainly drink plenty milk if it was demanded, but then she would refuse milk in the morning. We were pretty sure our daughter would re-experience another full night of relentless crying, but we were lucky to be incorrect. Since we weren’t in the room her crying was closer to a calm whining rather than a plea of relentless hysteria. The following table shows the amount of time she cried or lightly whined before falling asleep for the first seven nights:

Sleep Table
Cry It Out (CIO) Time Per Night

She continued to have a few night wakings, but she put herself back to sleep each time. It was light crying because even with both doors open we only faintly heard a few of them.

Even though it still took her 42 minutes to put herself to sleep, by the third day of the sleep training we were 100% committed to the CIO team. By the third day of the sleep training we were both fully rested for the first time in 10 months. After the first three days of sleep training our daughter was finally sleeping for an adequate amount of time to be rested and content during the day. She was not aggressively screaming for help each time she rolled over in her crib, and she was not demanding immediate consolation following each sleep interval.

Her body was finally able to synchronize with a schedule. Rather than six ‘attempted’ feedings randomly dispersed over a 24-hour period, she is drinking 6-8 ounces of milk exactly four times per day. Rather than naps ranging from 20 minutes to over two hours, she is consistently taking two 45-75 minute naps per day.

At this point we are only one week into the sleep study. I planned on writing this article when it was completed, but there is no reason to wait. We might implement the CIO method for naps after the two-week study is complete, but that matters much less than I thought it might.

There are certain cases when co-sleeping might be the better option, but for our daughter the CIO method was what finally worked. We start her last feeding 4-5 hours after she wakes up from her second nap (around 6:40 pm). She still fights the bottle every once in a while, but she usually drinks 6-8 ounces of breast milk within 20 minutes. By 7:00 we change her diaper, give her a light coconut/lavender oil massage, put on her pjs, read two books (5-10 minutes), and then put her in her crib. She is content during the time we read the two books. However, she is slightly discontent when we dress her in pajamas, and she is also discontent for the last few seconds as she is placed in the crib. Maybe that will improve after a couple more weeks, but it doesn’t really matter. The night-time routine lasts 15 minutes, so she is in bed at 7:15. In the morning we planned to get her out of her crib by 6:00 if she was awake. That happened on the first night, but for the rest of the first week she slept until between 6:30 and 7:30. We all needed a more consistent schedule, and the consistent schedule is what finally allowed our daughter to sleep independently.

All situations are unique, and this is certainly not an article meant to apply to everyone. From 4-9 months our strategy evolved into a situation where our daughter became too dependent on us. It was a difficult cycle to break, but we realized our relationship had to be modified. She was not getting enough sleep, and it was not healthy for her development to be deprived of sleep. We were not getting enough consistent sleep, and it was not healthy for us as individuals or as parents.

Here is what I learned from the experience:
  • If your 6+ month child is not hungry in the morning, the child may not have needed a night feeding.
  • If your child is waking multiple times during the night, the child will eventually want to be fed.
  • If the child anticipates soothing during the night, soothing will be requested multiple times per night.
  • If the child understands that night soothing won’t be provided, eventually it won’t be requested.
  • If the parent is not in the same room, it is easier for the child to understand that night soothing won’t be provided.
  • The more acclimated to co-sleeping and/or night soothing the child becomes, the harder it is to break the cycle.
  • It is extremely difficult to break the extra night feeding and extra soothing cycles requested by the child when co-sleeping.

I am not advocating for CIO methods for children under six months old, and I am not advocating for CIO methods as the solve everything solution for all families. However, I am thankful for the CIO as well as the co-sleeping community advocates. I hope that advocates from both groups remain focused on family support rather than criticizing the other side. Looking back, I still don’t think she was ready for CIO at six months. Our situation might have been slightly (only slightly) easier if we would have transitioned her completely back to her crib for two full weeks, practiced a consistent bed time routine, and implemented dream feeding rather than demanded night-time feedings all before implementing a CIO routine at nine months.

People asked me how I felt about having a child, and I always said that I was 100% confident that she would be perfect. Raising a child is not quite as easy as I proclaimed it would be, and I was certainly lacking some sleep for a short period of time. However, I still stand by my original proclamation. She is perfect. It just took some time and strategy for her to become a perfect sleeper.

Please share any comments you may have!

Resistance Training Motivation for Women

I have spent some time gathering resources to motivate friends and family to start a resistance training routine. I value many different forms of exercise. However, resistance training provides added benefits which are not as easy to attain via alternative exercise plans. I have decided to integrate several external references, mostly by female authors, within my plea to encourage resistance training.

Fitness Magazine asked a great question: Why aren’t more women lifting weights? The answer to that question, as you may already know, is that many women are not motivated to start a resistance training routine out of fear of ‘bulking up’.

My egotistical macho manself would have guessed that women want to be dependent on men for anything that requires strength, and all men have built and maintained enough muscle mass to satisfy these needs. The men will be there to unscrew the pickle jar lid, hoist the 18ft Christmas tree onto the minivan, and rescue the injured child from the aggressive pitbull. Then again, men have to work all day so there are some flaws to that theory. Anyway, back to the science…

Men and women will not gain excessive amounts of muscle mass with a 3-4 hour per week resistance training routine. Without questionable hormone or steroid supplementation, it is simply not possible. Resistance training is not an immediate weight loss miracle either. In fact, it is possible that the scale may read heavier after starting a practice of resistance training. Muscle is more dense than fat, and a hydrated body is heavier than a dehydrated body. In addition, after years of cyclic dieting routines and inadequate caloric intake, the body becomes conditioned to store additional calories if they are provided (hence why dieting is rarely a good idea). If the number on the scales is your primary obsession, I am not willing to bet that resistance training will not offer immediate benefits.

Resistance training is not an immediate miracle, but with practice it will improve strength, bone density, and muscle tone. Plenty of popular 10 best reasons internet articles have also thrown the mental health and physical disease curing miracles of the resistance training routine. If you are curious as to the research behind these proclamations, here are a couple of studies covering the physical (fighting obesity, diabetes, and general inflammation) and mental health (fighting depression) benefits.

Once you are halfway convinced that weightlifting is right for you, there are plenty of easy starter references awaiting your attention. Since over thinking the over-bulking result is inevitable, the most readily available website workout options recommend spot toning and lightweight exercises for you to accomplish your materialistic and topical goals. They earn plenty of advertisement money since that is what people want to see. Since you won’t be seeing the promised results, you will revisit their site multiple times to make sure you are following the routine appropriately. You will also be more likely to buy their additional help books and advertised supplements. Please let me know if you would like me to kindly critique popular suggestions from a specific article!

Spot toning your biceps, stomach, and hips overlooks significant areas of muscle mass. Therefore, the metabolic and physical responses you had desired from your body will not be significant. On the other hand, more complex exercises incorporate more muscle mass. This requires more areas of your body to work, and your body becomes accustomed to working with itself. A beneficial exercise routine of complex exercises can be completed in as little as thirty minutes, while benefiting from spot training would require closer to an hour and thirty minutes for similar results.

If you are not comfortable with exercises, it is necessary to start with light weights. To avoid injury and wasted time your body must be comfortable with the motion before significant weight is involved. [Rather than suing me for personal injury, please consult knowledgeable references for appropriate introductory training] Once you are comfortable with the exercise, it is absolutely necessary to continue increasing the weight. If your body is comfortable performing the exercise with excessive repetitions, you are not lifting enough weight to attain your desired benefits. Your last repetition should cause your muscles to fail. Again, please to not pass out with a squat bar on your shoulder, but if you are simultaneously chatting with gym friends and completing weightlifting set, it is time to increase the weight!

Here is a quick list of my favorite complex exercises to use as a starting reference.

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Cleans
  4. Clean and Press
  5. Bent Over Row
  6. Lunges
  7. Pull-up/Lat pull down
  8. Push-up/Bench Press
  9. Shoulder Press
  10. Upright Row
  11. Shoulder, back, and chest fly

Bodybuilding.com is one of the best weightlifting references. The following article motivates resistance training and includes a weightlifting schedule. There are also images and a detailed explanation for each exercise.

Strongerbyscience.com wrote the best research summary I have seen to this day covering strength training for women.

Even though this reference is topical and sub par, Harvard is a name that everyone respects so I am including it.

Nothing more needs to be said. It is time to get to the gym!

Lifestyle changes, not a magic pill, can reverse Alzheimer’s

Last summer, a research group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) quietly published the results of a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. What they found was striking. Although the size of the study was small, every participant demonstrated such marked improvement that almost all were found to be in the normal range on testing for memory and cognition by the study’s end. Functionally, this amounts to a cure.

These are important findings, not only because Alzheimer’s disease is projected to become ever more common as the population ages, but because current treatment options offer minimal improvement at best. Last July, a large clinical trial found little benefit in patients receiving a major new drug called LMTX. And after that, another hopeful drug designed to target amyloid protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, failed its first large clinical trial as well. Just two months ago, Merck announced the results of its trial of a drug called verubecestat, which is designed to inhibit formation of amyloid protein. It was found to be no better than placebo.

The results from UCLA aren’t due to an incredible new drug or medical breakthrough, though. Rather, the researchers used a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications to optimise metabolic parameters – such as inflammation and insulin resistance – that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were counselled to change their diet (a lot of veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common ‘side effect’ was weight loss.

The study is notable not only for its remarkable outcomes, but also for the alternative paradigm it represents in the treatment of a complex, chronic disease. We’ve spent billions of dollars in an effort to understand the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s in the hope that it will lead to a cure, or at least to more effective therapies. And although we have greatly enlarged our knowledge of the disease, it has not yielded many successful treatments.

The situation is analogous in kind, if not quite degree, to the many other chronic diseases with which we now struggle, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While we do have efficacious medications for these conditions, none work perfectly, and all have negative effects. Our understanding of the cellular processes at the root of these diseases is sophisticated, but technical mastery – the grail of a cure – has remained elusive.

Acknowledging these difficulties, the researchers at UCLA opted for a different approach. Beginning from the premise that Alzheimer’s disease is a particular manifestation of a highly complex system in disarray, they sought to optimise the system by changing the inputs. Put another way, the scientists chose to set aside the molecular box which has proven so vexing, and to focus instead on the context of the box itself. Although we cannot say precisely how the intervention worked, on a cellular level, the important thing is that it did work.

The method isn’t entirely novel. Researchers have already shown that multi-faceted, comprehensive lifestyle interventions can significantly improve outcomes in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. But it’s difficult for these approaches to gain traction for two reasons. First, these protocols are more challenging than simply taking a pill at bedtime. Patients need ongoing education, counselling and support to effect meaningful change. And second, the pharmaceutical mode of treatment is deeply embedded within our current medical system. Insurance companies are set up to pay for medication, not lifestyle change; and physicians are taught pharmacology, not nutrition.

Despite these difficulties, it’s time to start taking these approaches much more seriously. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next three decades, to nearly 14 million in the United States alone. Diabetes and other chronic diseases are expected to follow a similar trajectory. Trying to confront this epidemic with medication alone will raise a new host of problems, from prohibitive cost to adverse effects, without addressing any underlying cause. We know that comprehensive lifestyle modification can work for many chronic diseases, in some cases as well as medication. It deserves more than passing mention at the end of an annual check-up – it’s time to make it a cornerstone in the treatment not only of Alzheimer’s disease, but of all chronic disease.Aeon counter – do not remove

Clayton Dalton

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Experiencing the Moment with One Half of the Mind

As mentioned in my story, I had a tumor removed from my left temporal lobe. Before the tumor was surgically removed I experienced complex partial seizures isolated within the left hemisphere of my brain. During these one to two-minute complex partial seizures, I was unable to speak. It felt like I was entrapped within a dysfunctional mind. My silent, slurred, or illogical communication attempts during seizures were always frustrating and sometimes embarrassing.

The Wada Test

My neurosurgeon wanted to confirm that temporarily disabling the left hemisphere of my brain would indeed leave me unable to speak, and he also wanted to know if the right or left hemisphere of my brain was my primary memory operator. If the test concluded that the disabled brain hemisphere was important enough, a functional MRI would have also been performed before the surgery to ensure valuable parts of the brain were not removed. Of course, I wanted the functional MRI performed regardless of the primary memory location of my brain. Most of the time I would make a convincing argument against extreme practices for very little benefit. In this case my insurance deductible was already met, and this procedure, the Wada Test, sounded like an entertaining adventure.

The Adventure of Half of the Mind

A catheter was inserted into the femoral artery in my leg, and it was pushed all the way up to the internal carotid artery of my neck. It felt weird in my stomach area, but I couldn’t feel it move any further than that. However, I could see it through the computer screen showing an ongoing x-ray of my body. The catheter then released dye into my body which heated significantly as my body rejected the visitors. The x-ray clearly showed the dye map out all the veins in my left hemisphere.

My neuropsychologist prepared me for the memory test of random objects shown to me when the anesthetic would be released into my left hemisphere.

First as the anesthetic was being injected, I had both hands up wiggling my fingers and counting. At exactly 33 seconds I was unable to speak, and my right arm fell to the bed. As I was trying to say the number 34 I gazed at my right hand in awe as I tried to move it back to where it was originally. I was staring at it and expecting it to move where I wanted, but it wouldn’t move. My left hemisphere was undoubtedly numbed by the anesthetic.

Then the neuropsychologist started showing me the random objects. I was supposed to name them; however, I was unable to speak. Initially I thought my lack of speech was because I couldn’t think of the name of the object. I convinced myself I was just trying to remember the name before I said something. I would sometimes use filler words like umm, or uhh at times when I experienced partial seizures, or just couldn’t remember names. In this case I just couldn’t speak at all. The Wada test was like an extremely long and intense partial seizure. It felt like I was entrapped in a realistic dream where I was unable to speak. I was stuck with a goal that simply could not be accomplished.

He kept showing me the objects anyway. I was baffled by my inability to speak. In that moment I did feel confident that I knew the name for one or two things out of the fifteen. I also recognized all the objects, but the names for the others were just nowhere to be found. I was trying very hard to push the words out, but they just didn’t go. When I hear the word speechless, I think back to the Wada test experience and wonder how closely that relates to their word choice.

After about 15 minutes the anesthetic wore off. Since half of my brain wasn’t functioning it actually felt more like 2 minutes to me. He showed me the objects again. I knew immediately if I had seen them earlier, and I could clearly remember a snapshot of the moment he showed me each one. It was very relieving because it confirmed some functional immediate memory in my right hemisphere. This meant that all of my memory would not be lost as a result of the surgery.

What I learned about myself

Shutting down my left hemisphere with an anesthetic was similar to having an intense seizure in the left hemisphere of my brain. This was an interesting realization considering hyperactive neuron firing of a seizure is the opposite of the anesthetic numbing of the Wada test. The recovery process after a complex partial seizure was also similar to the recovery process my brain needed after the Wada test. I was able to experience the effect of a seizure within a controlled experiment.

This knowledge was valuable as I prepared for the upcoming surgery and dealt with my occasional seizures. Seizures were no longer a baffling annoyance and irritation; after this procedure the experience of a seizure evolved into more of an experimental data point. For the sake of my health I did everything I could to minimize the occurrence of seizures, but seizures became less of a fear. When the occasional seizure occurred, I was able to fully accept that moment in time. Rather than push to overcome the effect of the seizure, I learned to rest within the unaffected areas of my body until the seizure had quieted.

Have you experienced a challenging situation which lead to a peaceful realization? Please share!

The Top 4 Healthy Diet Roadblocks

A consistent healthy diet is not the social norm. It seems bizarre to many that I do not eat processed foods or anything with added sugars. I have thought about the differences between my choices and the common perspective on eating. I have concluded that healthy eating is uncommon for the following reasons.

  1. Diet Trends Are Misunderstood.
  2. Processed Foods Profit Business.
  3. Unhealthy Eating Is Overlooked.
  4. The Social Norm Is Prioritized Over the Self.

Diet Trends Are Misunderstood.

My recent post discussed the Nordic and Mediterranean diet trends. This section will overview two others: the Vegan and the Paleo diet. The vegan diet recommends eating plenty of grains and no meat. The Paleo diet recommends eating minimal grains and plenty of meat. Some would bet their life on the health of the vegan diet, and others would bet their life on the Paleo diet. In my opinion, both of them have positive qualities, yet both of them are also somewhat extreme.

I do not follow the vegan diet because I value the fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals which are readily available in meat. I do not follow the Paleo diet because I value the carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals which are readily available in grains and beans.

The Pegan diet was a trendy introduction that meets somewhere in the middle, but still discourages most dairy products (vegan) as well as most starches (Paleo).

I could continue this list for another day or so, and each trendy name makes a persuasive case against all diet opponents specifying why that practice will lead to human demise. Some are valid points, but the extremes without a religious or legitimate health purpose are narrow-minded. Unfortunately, this constant battle can be overwhelming for an individual trying to make some diet changes.

Processed Foods Profit Business.

Businesses strive to make money, and enough people consistently buy their processed foods. Personally, I do not see the end to a large demand for foods modified to fit the newest diet trend, foods that are conveniently packaged, or foods that taste better than actual food. Businesses profit when their product is inexpensive to produce, appeals to the customer, and has a long shelf life.

Large-scale crops yield the cheapest grains and large-scale farms yield the cheapest milk and meat. These cornerstone calorie sources are then modified and enhanced with cheap additives to yield the highest profit.

The food itself cannot decompose within the package so it will be preserved with additives such as Brominated Oils, Potassium Bromide, BHA, and BHT, and Azodicarbonamide. Although these ingredients are banned in the EU and most other countries, the FDA of the US is still waiting for more evidence. The metal can, the packaging seals, the plastic container, and the internal lining all need to withstand the test of time. We will continue to overlook the PFOA, PFOS, phthalate, and BPA additives which achieve this goal until there is plenty more evidence of immediate health consequences.

Some will intermittently buy these foods. Some will live primarily on these foods. Businesses will continue to profit by selling the artistic presentation of blatantly over processed ingredients in soft drinks, chips, candy, cake, cereal, and ‘nutrition’ bars to name a few.

Unhealthy Eating Is Overlooked.

Unhealthy eating is overlooked because long-term toxicity is overlooked. If the processed food does not cause an immediate health issue, it is approved by the FDA. The FDA makes 4 assumptions:

  1. The modified junk food contains enough food-like substance to call it a ‘food’.
  2. The modified junk food is not addictive.
  3. The modified junk food will not be eaten in high quantities.
  4. The modified junk food will not be eaten consistently.

When the deep-fried chicken, packaged foods, and the lowest priced Mac and Cheese options are eaten consistently over a 10-year period, other factors will also play a role in the potential development of obesity, oxidized cholesterol buildup, high blood pressure, and clogged arteries; therefore, the product is defined as a food which provides the food energy necessary to the human body. And everyone who buys the product agrees with that assumption.

Many children experience candy and cake as the focal treat of desire and a primary purpose of living for the first 10 years of life. From the age of 5 to 18 the ‘healthy’ cafeteria meal often consists of a hot dog (meat?), corn (vegetable?), and jello (fruit?). After years of physical and psychological reinforcement, it is hard to break the habit. The intermixed processed food eating habit is healthy enough since it topically appears that many friends are healthy, and they follow a similar diet trend.

The Social Norm Is Prioritized Over the Self.

When part of the family celebration includes eating deep-fried chicken it feels ok to eat some deep-fried chicken. When the group of friends is drinking beer with chemical additives overlooked by the Tobacco and Alcohol Trade Bureau, it feels ok to overlook the additives and enjoy the beer. When work colleagues are enjoying a celebratory cake, it feels ok to eat a serving of the cake. The trend was ingrained within you since childhood, and those trends are hard to break.

The trend is hard to break, but here is why it feels impossible to break:

When part of the family celebration includes eating deep-fried chicken, you are perceived as rude and disrespectful to not eat the meal that was prepared for you. When the group of friends is drinking beer with chemical additives, it is perceived as stuck up, insecure, and/or uninterested to deny the beer. When work colleagues are enjoying a celebratory cake, it is perceived as antisocial and arrogant to deny the cake.

The trend feels impossible to break with unending and relentless force. Here is a brief snapshot of some key days within the first half of the 2018 calendar:

  • Jan 1, New Years Day: Family Meal at Grandma’s with traditional food, wine, and cookies.
  • Feb 4, Super Bowl Sunday: Friends gathering with hot dogs, fries, and beer
  • Feb 9, Winter Olympics: A few weeks of friends gathering with burgers, fries, and wine
  • Feb 13, Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday): Church celebration with cookies and punch
  • Feb 14, Valentines Day: Chocolate and Sweet candy for everyone
  • Mar 17, St. Patrick’s Day: Green icing and beer with family and more beer with friends
  • Mar 23, Spring Break: One week of unregulated vacation food and alcohol intake
  • Apr 1, Easter Sunday: Family Meal at Grandma’s with traditional food, wine, and cookies
  • Apr 14, NBA Playoffs: 1.5 months sports bars and beers
  • May 5, Cinco de Mayo: Friends gathering with burgers, fries, cake, beer
  • May 13, Mothers Day: Eat out with both sides of the family, wine with both grandmothers
  • May 28, Memorial Day: Hot Dogs and Burgers cookout with plenty of beer

….We are half way through the year, and I have not included date specific:

  • Birthdays (yours, friends, family, colleague): more cake and beer
  • Anniversaries: more cake
  • Work Celebrations: more cake and beer afterword
  • Family Traditions: more beer

You have a few options:

  1. Follow the social norms and ignore your long-term health
  2. Move to an isolated retreat in Alaska where living is prioritized over questionable norms.
  3. Claim a health issue as your excuse for bypassing full participation in the social norm, but still attend the event (I am about 50% this option)
  4. Talk some scientific jargon about the food processing industry and chemical additives until people become disinterested in offering you junk food (…and this is my other 50%)

Here is the best option: Prioritize yourself and your well-being over the social norm. If the group denies or ridicules your choice, find a different group. If it is family, consistently apply options 2-4 from the previous list.

Leave a comment, and let me know if you have a few other ideas!