Digital Casserole

WHAT I BELIEVE: I believe in the power of a single idea. A single good idea, anyway. Frankly, there’s just not a lot of power in a single bad idea, like scheduling “Bat Day” when the Red Sox play at Yankee Stadium. I believe in long, slow downloads that last 3 days. I believe in the designated driver, the fungo bat, and keeping words like gazebo and zamboni around just because they’re fun to say. I believe in naps but not Napster.(more..)

Location: Strongsville, OH, United States

Monday, December 14, 2009

Eat Whatever You Want on the Holidays!

Every year around the Holiday season, scores of well-meaning, tongue-clucking, “It’s Good-For-You” articles start appearing in newspapers, magazines, and blogs telling people about the latest No-Fat gravy OR how exchanging cornbread for rhubarb will make Grandma’s secret stuffing Low-Carb. Or maybe how to track, shoot, dress and carve the ultimate Tofurkey OR about an ancient Aztec custom of combining orange tree bark and gruel to create the perfect pumpkin-less pie. These recipes and suggestions are then coupled with drill-sergeant-like commands ordering you to immediately speed-walk after dinner to work off ALL of those calories before you’re allowed to return to the dining room for your choice of low-carbon Mocklate, free-range-coffee, or tea and strumpets.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Once and for all, I would like to deliver a message to all of these, “Healthier-Than-Thou” killjoy punditz on behalf of the rest of the 99.9% sane red-blooded, white-meated, blueberry-pie-eating, wish-bone-breaking, football-watching, nap-taking, majority of true Americans: SHUT UP! Bah Humbug! It's a HOLIDAY! A Special Occasion! A Festival, Fiesta, or more commonly “Celebration” – a Middle English noun derived from a triumvirate of three Latin roots: “Cele” meaning football, “Brat” meaning food, and “Shun” meaning crawling upstairs to the guest bedroom to take a nap without guilt. Stop the insanity! Give the frowning, finger-wagging, wet-blanket lecture a rest! What you EAT, DRINK, and DO on the 15 Holidays sprinkled throughout the year won’t make a hill of baked beans difference. It's what you do the OTHER 350 days of the year that matter. It’s your eating, sleeping, exercising, hygiene habits and daily choices the OTHER 96% of the year that will determine your longevity, quality of life, body image, BMI, and health and fitness level.

The Weight of the World

According to The Atlantic Monthly, “In 2000, for the first time in history, the number of overweight people in the world – more than a billion of them, 300 million of whom were obese – matched the number of underweight people.” And that was nearly 10 years ago!

According to Parade magazine, 67% of American adults (138 million people) are overweight, 32% are considered obese (30 or more pounds over weight) and these same adults weigh an average of 18 pounds more NOW than they did in 1979. In addition, there are now over 10 million Americans classified as morbidly obese (more than 100 pounds OVER their ideal body weight) representing 1 in 30 people.

And if that’s not enough, according to, the prevalence of overweight children and adolescents between 6 and 19 has tripled since 1970, and now over 20% of children and teens are overweight (including over 1 in 3 kids in Ohio) with millions of these children facing a higher risk of developing obesity-related disorders and who are TWICE as likely to be overweight as adults.

America’s Health: Are We “Too Big to … Succeed?”

According to USA Today, “If Americans continue to pack on pounds, obesity will cost the USA about $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018, eating up 21% of healthcare spending,” an assumption based on current trends projecting that in 10 years 43% of American adults will be obese.” Why does this matter? Because the average annual medical bill for a healthy weight adult in 2018 will be $5855, compared with $8315 for an obese person – nearly 50% MORE!
Closer to home, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer reported on 11/18/09, “By 2018, over half of Ohio’s adults will be obese,” and the average Ohioan will see costs for obesity-attributable health care services QUADRUPLE in the next 10 years.

Why does this matter? Here’s why - $$$

Our country has been embroiled in a passionate national debate over healthcare for the past 5 months and the discussion always eventually comes down to the same wearied couplet: “What will it COST?” and “Who is going to PAY for it?” The U.S. currently spends about $1.8 trillion annually in medical costs associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and all three are linked to smoking and obesity, the nation’s two largest risk factors, according to the America’s Health Rankings report.

Smoking is still the #1 preventable cause of death in the country, accounting for about 440,00 deaths a year, and even though 1 in 5 American’s still smoke, more than 3 million people quit smoking this past year. Did you hear that? They QUIT smoking – they stopped voluntarily treating their bodies in a way that they knew was harmful and took the personal responsibility to change their behavior and stopped smoking. Was it easy? No Way! But 3 million people decided to quit. Did the government force them to quit? No, but they did pass laws making cigarettes more expensive and creating smoke-free planes, buildings, and restaurants making it harder to light up. Did insurance force them to quit? No, but they did raise the premiums for smokers to reflect the higher financial burden they place on the health system. Did society force them to quit? No, but collectively the cultural norms have evolved so that – instead of being celebrated – smoking is now frowned on and discouraged via negative reinforcement in our schools, businesses, and major media.

Here’s my question: “What if 3 million people decided to quit weighing too much next year?” What if 3 million decided to stop voluntarily harming their body, took personal responsibility, and changed their behavior to make positive choices regarding their health? Could the government, insurance industry, or society force people to do this? No, no, and no, but – like smoking – if combined, they could work to change the cultural norms and establish a positive reinforcement infrastructure via financial incentives, reduced premiums, quantifiable health benefits, and visible “success stories” to head off and curtail the worst of this nationwide plague.

Which Epidemic is Worse? Swine Flu or Porky People?

Forgive me for getting on my soapbox here, but the collective hypocrisy is just too indicting to remain silent. Reports about the H1N1 virus have been television’s “Lead Story” and “Front Page News” in circulars across the country ALL YEAR! What is H1N1? How do you contract it? What steps can you take to avoid it? Swine Flu in the workplace/at home/at school, vaccinations, shortages, and on and on it goes – countless stories of medical and media hyperbole. Is it important? Sure it is. But folks, I GOT Swine Flu last month – I felt sick for a week, and then it took another week to feel normal again – that’s it!

Meanwhile, as this hysteria has been playing out across TV’s, E.D.’s, and LCD’s, another 1.2 million have been added to the ranks of our country’s overweight/obese population. As Americans, we’ve perfected this propensity to miss the Black Forest Cake for the trees, and the H1N1 vs. Obesity discussion is the perfect example. With the breakout of Swine Flu, we’ve obsessed with washing, cleaning, prevention, education, and even radical behavior modification like wearing gloves and masks to avoid getting the Flu – which we only have a known statistical possibility of contracting – and even if we DO get sick - it will only be for a week or two and we’ll be back to normal. (The CDC has traced less than 4,300 deaths NATIONWIDE to Swine Flu so far. I am not trying to downplay this loss of life or the continuing risk it poses). However, contrast that with the daily, non-stop epidemic of unhealthy Americans – over 138,000,000 are overweight with 10,000,000 considered morbidly obese. Hello? We now know that weighing too much contributes to heart and gallbladder disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, hypertension, sleep apnea, and even some cancers (not to mentioned missed work, extra physician visits, limited mobility and quality of life, and countless hours lost trying to fit into those “skinny jeans.”)

The good news is that they’ve discovered a CURE to obesity-related diseases guaranteed to work for 98% of the population – eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly – but are people lining up for this? No! Why isn’t, “Doctor Discovers Cure for Obesity” front-page headline news every day? Recent studies have revealed that, “Physical exercise is central to reducing your risk of cancer,” according to Dr. Michael Thun at the American Cancer Society, so why didn’t his finding make it out of medical journals and into the mainstream? And if it wasn’t for our local Plain Dealer, we never would have read Cleveland Clinic leader Toby Cosgrove’s insightful observation, “Without controlling obesity and smoking, and without dealing with wellness, it’s going to be very difficult for us to ever control the cost of health care in the U.S.”

Can America AFFORD a “Weight and See” approach to health care?

Dr. Louis Aronne, Director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, says treating obesity may be the most cost-effective way of addressing many chronic illnesses that are driven by excess body weight. “When you go to the doctor now, they treat your high blood pressure, diabetes and your cholesterol,” he says. "What I envision is your weight could be the primary target of treatment because by treating your weight, not only will you get the diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but you'll get the many other underlying problems caused by your excess weight. We could reduce health care costs by managing the root cause."

The reason information and thinking like this is not “Top of mind” in our society is because the dominant culture has an appetite for the sensational. They would much rather fixate on the sexy symptoms and radical remedies than the root cause. They would much rather feature striking images of vaccination shortages for Swine Flu shots than cover the exponentially more significant impact of personal health and accountability. If you think about it, that’s why they call it “News” – the only criteria is that it’s “New” – nobody ever said it was proportionately important.

This same distorted perspective is evidenced by the landslide of “Healthy Holiday Eating” articles I referenced earlier. The media would rather fixate on making healthy choices on the 15 Holidays during the year, rather than looking at the “big picture” and focusing on the importance of choices made the other 350 days of the year. They’d rather report on what people eat on Thanksgiving or if they keep their New Year’s Resolution and exercise on January 1, rather than focus on what people eat during those other countless weekday lunches or whether people get up at 5am and hit the gym - on a cold, snowy Tuesday in March – and those other hundreds of mornings sandwiched in between January 2 and December 31.

Society tends to “Major in the minors” and put disproportionate emphasis on what’s “Hip” versus encouraging and challenging people to do what’s hard – commit to a lifestyle of self preservation and improvement. Case in Point: Our auto industry is obsessed with prevention, having introduced anti-lock brakes, seatbelts, airbags, reinforced pillars and crumple zones all designed to avoid or minimize the impact of a collision. Unfortunate automobile events are called “accidents” – sudden, spontaneous, unpredictable tragedies – and carmakers and insurance firms have invested BILLIONS in to prevent or minimize the damage caused by these events. The health choices Americans make on a daily basis are considered “on purposes” – rational, informed, habitual decisions – yet the cumulative effect of these choices have a FAR GREATER probability of impacting your life than random auto accidents – yet so few give ANY consideration or priority towards prevention in this arena.

Your Personal Health Sustainability Plan

Going green? Concerned about sustainability? If you really care about the environment, your personal footprint, and your impact on the collective, how about eating your greens and initiating a sustainable lifestyle? If everyone stepped up to the plate – by stepping away from the plate – and made proactive, positive, disciplined choices to do their part – think of the impact! Instead of our current “Sick Care,” we might finally have the “Health Care” model we aspire towards. Society has made it “Not cool” to smoke anymore. What if we made it “Not cool” to be unhealthy anymore? Heck, I’d be willing to meet half way on this – I’ll settle for overweight – only 25 pounds more than ideal weight (to avoid all of those arguments about being “big boned” or the perceived flaws of Body Mass Index measurement). What if every obese person changed their habits to become simply overweight – imagine the savings! In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I am willing to personally come to your office in the Cleveland area to talk to your firm about practical, real-life strategies for obtaining and maintaining a sustainable, healthy lifestyle for your employees. (Email me directly at for details).

Food For Thought

So, go ahead and stuff yourself on Thanksgiving, eat your heart out on Valentine's Day, plant yourself in front of a cheesecake on Arbor Day, drink a fifth on the Fourth of July, eat like Adam on New Year's Eve, make it a Good Friday, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Super Bowl, President’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and enjoy Labor Day and Birth Day SO MUCH that you get contractions. LIVE IT UP on the Holidays – it’s what you do the OTHER 350 days of the year that matter.

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