Feb 22

Thirty million obese children in the U.S. might be slimmer and healthier if they read more, according to the findings of a recent study by the Duke University Medical Center. The “Study of Children’s Literature and Healthy Lifestyle” found that obese girls from 9 to 13 years old who read an assigned novel decreased their Body Mass Index (BMI) seven times more than girls in the program who were not assigned a book to read.

The results of this study seem counterintuitive since sedentary lifestyles are pointed to as one of the major causes for childhood obesity and reading isn’t exactly an aerobic activity. In this case, though, the assigned reading was a fiction novel with an overweight heroine who creates a healthier lifestyle for herself. Presumably, the heroine became a role model and her success in the story inspired readers to create success for themselves.

It makes sense that a fictional character could make this kind of impact, considering how much teens are influenced by fictional characters in movies. A 2006 study by Dartmouth Medical School found that the more movies that children watched in which alcohol was consumed, the more likely they were to start drinking alcohol while they were still in their teens. Dartmouth researchers also found that the children who most often observed smoking in films were twice as likely to start smoking themselves.

So if the real-life behavior of teens and pre-teens is influenced greatly by entertainment channels, it only makes sense that messages that combat the growing childhood and teen obesity epidemic would be best delivered through an entertainment medium that has an impact on them.

This is exactly the logic that led a 14-year old boy in Georgia to create a fitness plan for himself that was inspired by his favorite video games. He called it “The Ultimate Fitness Game” and, with the same gaming strategies he had used to rack up high numbers on a video game scoreboard, he started creating low numbers on his bathroom scale. Three years after taking on the starring role in a three-dimensional game of his own creation, Taylor LeBaron has lost – and kept off – 150 pounds, half of his highest body weight of 297.

“As soon as people started noticing my weight loss, I began to hear, ‘How did you do it?’” Taylor wrote in his book, “Cutting Myself In Half,” which explains his Ultimate Fitness Game. “They were looking for my secret so they could lose a lot of weight too.”

“The secret is: There is no secret,” LeBaron writes. “Weight loss isn’t quick. It isn’t easy. And gimmicks don’t work for long.”

LeBaron believes that taking it slow is one of the most important strategies that can help other obese teens. “Naturally we all want fast results – we’re the DSL generation,” he says in his book. But trying to achieve too much too fast with weight loss is a big mistake, in his experience. Putting it into video gaming terms that teens can relate to LeBaron says, “In gaming, that’s called ‘overlocking’ – running your processor at a faster speed than it’s rated. That burns up the processor and can ruin it permanently.”

The teenage desire for instant gratification is not an easy mindset to reboot, however. Perhaps that’s why there is so much discussion going on about using gastric band surgery as a treatment for obesity in teens. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that gastric band surgery resulted in obese teens losing more weight more quickly. This surgical approach, however, is controversial because it creates a drastic change to a child’s physiology, and there are no statistics about what kind of long-term effect those changes might have on their overall health and well-being.

Instead of making drastic surgical choices, First Lady Michelle Obama is working to encourage obese children to make drastic lifestyle changes instead with her “Let’s Move” program. The First Lady is challenging children to take one hour out of the usual seven that they spend in front of electronic entertainment each day to work on achieving the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. The award is given to children who achieve exercise goals five days per week for six weeks.

Speaking about exercise, Obama said, ‘There are so many ways that we can make this fun, make it a competition, have the rewards be really cool. And kids respond to incentives.”

That’s a philosophy that LeBaron agrees with wholeheartedly. That’s why he thinks about everything in his own fitness regiment in gaming terms. Calories are money. Unhealthy food is the enemy. Eating healthy food gets energy points. The overall score is measured in weight loss. Just like the First Lady says, LeBaron made it fun, made it a competition with himself, and the rewards, so far, have been much “cooler” than he could have imagined. LeBaron has discovered that permanent weight loss is all about attitude.

In January, Taylor LeBaron was one of ten teens who were chosen by Coke to carry the Olympic torch in the relay leading to the 2010 Vancouver games. As an obese video gamer he couldn’t walk to his mailbox without getting winded. As a physically fit “Ultimate Fitness Gamer,” the 300 meters he ran with the Olympic torch in his hand was “the most incredible distance I’ve ever traveled,” LeBaron said in his blog.

According to the Journal of Obesity, if things keep moving the way they have been in the United States, 86% of men, women, and children will be overweight or obese by the year 2030. For future generations, that statistic would resemble the tragic life depicted in the Disney movie, “WALL-E.” For Michelle Obama, that statistic would represent a “move” in the wrong direction. For Taylor LeBaron that statistic would mean one thing for the population of the United States of America… “Game Over.”

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Feb 18

In his press conference statement, Tiger Woods extended many apologies, but never answered the one question that the worldwide public wants to know. “Why?”

The revelations about Tiger Woods’ serial cheating was a devastating disappointment to the fans of the golf superstar, and Tiger’s first public appearance probably disappointed quite a few people too. When Tiger emerged for his first public appearance since both his car and his sports superhero image crashed on Thanksgiving weekend, 2009 he did so in a very controlled environment, and in a very censored and calculated way. The worldwide public has been waiting for Tiger to come out of hiding, but what Tiger is really hiding probably wasn’t revealed in his ten-minute statement.

Disillusioned Tiger fans just want to know “Why?” Beyond the obligatory apologies, though, Tiger did not answer that “why” question to the satisfaction of onlookers because he may not know the answer himself.

Just as Tiger had to deceive his wife and his sexual partners in order to successfully orchestrate his serial infidelity, he also had to deceive himself, according to a new book, “The Tiger Woods Syndrome.” In hiding the truth from so many people, it would be quite understandable that Tiger, somewhere along the way, lost touch with the truth about himself as well.

Tiger Woods seems to be a classic example of a “mirage man,” according to the first published book relating to his multiple sexual affairs. “The mirage man leaves his true self to conform to his mate with little regret. He becomes committed to living a lie, and he rationalizes his behavior as the necessary cost of gaining sweet affection,” says the authors of “The Tiger Woods Syndrome.” If this is actually what happened with Tiger, then it is doubtful that years of living a lie are suddenly going to transform into a rigorously honest disclosure to the international press.

In the absence of a self-aware explanation from Tiger that rings truthful, the dissatisfied public will continue to speculate and the press will continue to stalk him. Reportedly, the stalkarazzi followed Tiger all the way to Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where it was speculated that he was undergoing treatment for sexual addiction. Since the tradition of addiction recovery is based on anonymity, however, Tiger rightfully should feel no obligation to discuss that with anyone. At his press conference he eluded to treatment and therapy, but did not disclose the nature of either.

If Tiger has identified himself to be a sex addict, though, he is one of an estimated 16 million Americans who are as well. Despite its emerging prominence in the field of addiction treatment, sex addiction is still not formally recognized by the medical system in the U.S. In the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) released in February, 2010, gambling and binge-eating are recognized as “official” addictive disorders, but sex addiction is not.

According to the authors of “The Tiger Woods Syndrome,” whether or not Tiger Woods is a sex addict, and whether or not his alleged sex addiction treatment was part of a plan to repair his professional image is not really the important issue. What is important is that “Tiger aptly exemplifies the behaviors, motivations, and destructive patterns of many American men,” the book says.

“Like Tiger Woods, many American men seek superficial values, hide their true feelings, and conform to win their dream girls. Commercials, television shows, movies, and even music drum into men’s brains that conformity and deception are part of the dating and mating scene,” according to authors Dr. J. R. Bruns and Dr. R. A. Richards II.

Continuing the lies and deception after marriage is also seemingly sanctified when successful high profile men like Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Michael Jordan, John Edwards, and Rudy Guiliani publicly revealed multiple infidelities, and seemingly suffered no consequences. While men and women around the world are busy questioning whether Elin Nordegren should divorce Tiger Woods and why the wives of serial cheaters stick around, the real question should be why so many marriages in America are a sham in the first place.

The divorce rate in the U.S. has been at an epidemic level for years, at 50% for first marriages, 67% for second marriages, and 74% for third marriages, according to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. The authors of “The Tiger Woods Syndrome” believe that the root cause of the American marriage crisis is “the artificial way men and women relate to one another as they try to find a common life together.”

“Artificial intimacy actually involves both a physical attraction to each other and a type of approval seeking,” according to Bruns and Richards. “This involves a submersion of the man’s true self so he can easily conform to the woman’s tastes and thus heighten the sense of commonality between them.” This fabricated commonality is used by both the man and the woman as justification for the tremendous sexual attraction between them.

So, according to “The Tiger Woods Syndrome,” there is a growing tendency for both men and women to come together based on sexual attraction, hide their true selves in order to win the prize of the “perfect” marriage partner, and then continue the lies about their false identity as they look outside of the marriage for more artificial intimacy.

This seems to be the paradigm that the Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren marriage crisis has revealed to the world. And it is the universal truth found in this marriage deception and serial cheating story that has struck a troubling chord with men and women who are living a lie in their own relationships, and are looking for Tiger and Elin for easy answers and a tidy conclusion.

Millions of people wanted Tiger Woods to say just the right words in his staged press conference so that he could be plausibly forgiven and regain his superhero status. But it is in the best interest of couples everywhere that he left the “Why?” question unanswered, forcing everyone to redirect that question to their own broken marriages and deceptive relationship patterns instead. It doesn’t matter why Tiger Woods was hiding out in his double life as much as it matters why there are millions of other Americans who are consciously, or unconsciously, participating in marriage deception and double lives themselves.

More about “The Tiger Woods Syndrome”

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Feb 02

In a recent high profile case, a Canadian woman was convicted of assault and ignoring flight attendant instructions in an air rage case that lit the media and blogosphere on fire because of the connection of the incident to menopause.

Colleen Walsh, who was convicted of slapping another passenger and ignoring flight attendant instructions, blamed her behavior on “menopause exhaustion” caused by a combination of her hormone replacement medication, wine, a sleeping pill, and the lack of sleep. Media and blog commentaries criticized Walsh for fabricating excuses, and accused her of casting a bad light on women in general, and women of menopause age, in particular.

While menopause is not an excuse for Walsh’s “air rage,” it actually could be the cause of her erratic and irresponsible behavior, according to Mia Lundin, a hormone and brain chemistry expert in Santa Barbara, CA. In her book, “Female Brain Gone Insane,” Lundin explains the connection between menopause and brain chemistry imbalances that can cause women to experience what looks and feels like insanity.

“The typical patients that I see cannot sleep, they feel wired and tired, they can’t stand the way they’re acting, and they feel like they’re going insane,” Lundin says. “There are millions of women who are suffering from this imbalance.”

The incident with Colleen Walsh actually seems to be an example of biochemistry gone amok, which is a condition that is more common in women than most people realize, according to Lundin. Perimenopausal and menopausal women who are depleted of estrogen are also depleted of the chemical serotonin, which is an inhibitor of anger and aggression. Without enough serotonin, women find themselves lashing out, seemingly without control, because they don’t have enough of the chemical that gives them the control over their anger in their system.

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, low serotonin can cause a condition called “intermittent explosive disorder,” which is linked to road rage, rage outbursts and even spousal abuse. While most people believe this type of behavior is the result of bad choices or a bad attitude, this study concluded that uncontrolled rage is actually a result of bad brain chemistry for an estimated 16 million Americans.

Low serotonin in perimenopausal and menopausal women is a current epidemic, according to Lundin, but the condition can wreak havoc for post partum and premenstrual women as well. “Serotonin imbalance is one of the most common contributors to female mood problems in the U.S.,” Lundin says.

People who have no personal experience feeling completely out of control due to brain chemistry imbalances tend to discount these symptoms as exaggerated or invalid, according to Lundin. “Too many women are told ‘Your emotional suffering is all in your head,’” Lundin says in her book. But having experienced her own bout with brain chemistry induced “insanity,” Lundin knows firsthand that it is all too real.

Lundin writes about her own hormonal trauma in “Female Brain Gone Insane.” Two decades ago after the birth of her second child, she suddenly felt like she was drowning in anxiety, fear, and panic. “I felt like I was spinning out of control. I had no idea where this was coming from, and I was convinced I was going insane,” Lundin writes.

It was the research she did to cure her own “insanity” that led Lundin to discover the vital connection between hormone balance and brain chemistry in women. After the successful treatment of her own condition she became motivated to start her specialized female health practice. It is her twenty years of experience in that practice treating hormone and brain chemistry imbalances that leads Lundin to believe Colleen Walsh’s claim that her behavior had a hormonal connection.

Only medical tests could have determined if, in fact, Walsh was suffering from low serotonin at the time of the air rage incident. But interestingly enough, low serotonin has been proven to cause both insomnia and cravings for alcohol. From an outside perspective, Lundin sees that the pieces of the brain chemistry imbalance puzzle seem to fit together for Walsh.

Rather than hold Walsh in disdain, Lundin hopes that women will see this incident as a cautionary tale. “Millions of women who feel out of control are really just out of balance,” Lundin says. “These women feel like they are ‘losing it’ and that is real.” Ignoring imbalances has serious consequences, according to Lundin, and the Colleen Walsh air rage incident is just one demonstration of how serious those consequences can be.

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