Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ontario Pediatrician Recommends Taxation Based on BMI

Last Friday I participated in a call-in show on CTV Newsnet regarding the role of government in obesity prevention policy. A well-known Toronto paediatrician – Dr. Mickey Lerner, joined me.

While I knew from my pre-interview discussions with CTV that Dr. Lerner and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything and that Dr. Lerner felt willpower and education are the keys to success, I was beyond dismayed when Dr. Lerner, on National television, stated that he thought that rather than tax sugar-sweetened beverages, that we should tax obesity. He stated that he thought it would be wiser for Canadians to be asked to enter their BMIs on their tax forms and be levied taxes proportional to their weights than to unfairly penalize those who aren't overweight with soda taxes.

I was appalled.

Putting aside the fact that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is no healthier for skinny folks than fat ones, as I’ve blogged about before, even if obesity were purely an individual’s problem, even if the research that suggests that weight and health are not in fact mutually inclusive or exclusive were wrong, even if over the course of the past 50 years we’ve truly suffered an epidemic loss of willpower and that we’re lazily and gluttonously choosing not to try, even then medicine is not about blame.

And that’s what made my blood boil.

So just for kicks I decided to spend a few minutes of my time today compiling a list of other folks we could target with higher taxes.
  • Folks who don’t complete their course of antibiotics and require further MD or hospital visits.
  • Folks who stop their antidepressants too soon and crash, go on disability and require regular MD followups.
  • People who never bother going to MDs who later require any number of procedures or hospitalizations as a consequence of waiting too long to address a treatable condition (like the non-compliant diabetic who receives a triple bypass and 6 years of dialysis).
  • Anyone who’s non-compliant with their medications for a chronic condition (like the teen with asthma who requires multiple ICU stays because they don’t bother with their puffers)
  • Athletes who don’t respect their injuries and end up damaging something bad enough to require surgery
And then of course there’s the new lifestyle section
  • Folks who don’t exercise the minimum 150 recommended minutes a week
  • Folks who consume more than 1,500mg sodium a day
  • Folks who don’t consume 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Folks who consume trans-fats
  • Folks who have desk jobs and don’t take the time to ensure they get up to minimize their sedentary behavior based risks
Heck, if we decide that taxation should be determined on the basis of how well we look after our medical conditions and live our lives we could kiss our deficit goodbye in a hurry because I'd bet there's barely a person alive who consistently follows through with completely clean and healthy living.

Taxing products that are themselves unhealthy to consume is no doubt the responsibility of any government. But taxing people with excess weight because in theory they might have gained their weight eating those products? That's just hateful or misinformed stereotyping of a condition that has dozens if not hundreds of causes and it ignores the fact that scales are absolutely terrible tools to measure health. I know skinny folks who live incredibly self-destructive and unhealthy lives that cost the tax payers huge sums of money, and folks who are fat who live healtheir lives than me and cost the system nothing.

During the call-in show there were many callers who agreed with Dr. Lerner, and while they might not be expected to know any better, the same can’t be said about the good doctor.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parental "No" Files - Forget About Breakfast Out

That picture up there is the kids' menu "Hansel and Gretel" breakfast from the Tutti Frutti restaurant here in Ottawa.

I guess it's appropriately named because it would certainly feed both Hansel and Gretel and perhaps even the mean witch.

My wife took the picture while on a "special date" with my 5 year old.

It's not surprising either.

A study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public interest a few years ago revealed that 93% of kids' meals contained more calories than a kids meal ought.

And those were primarily from the fast food places.

Fast casual things are probably even worse (as you can see up above).

Now my wife and I can count on our fingertips the number of times we've taken our 8, 5 and 3 year olds out to restaurants when we weren't travelling so I wasn't particularly concerned about the meal - yet many families practice regular meals out....

But I'm posting this for another reason as well. Take a peek at the portion up above as compared with the photo of the portion from Tutti Frutti's website.

I'd say the portion served to my daughter was nearly double the size of the advertised portion, and while Tutti Frutti doesn't post calorie counts on their menu, had they done so we'd have been duped as the portion served was markedly larger than the optimized portion used for photos and presumably also used for caloric analysis.

Gotta say - as far as parental "Nos" go - this is one I wholeheartedly think is on us as parents. The world isn't built for kids (or adults for that matter) to eat out regularly and come out the other end unscathed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wanna See What We're Giving Out for Halloween?

Hey a feel-good story for once!

Took my kids to skating this past weekend at that same sports and recreation facility that serves the atrocious food.

Was thrilled to find these coupons. They cost $1 each (sold in books of 10) and they entitle the recipient to a free skate or swim. They're being sold in each and every city run recreation facility in Ottawa so if you're interested, you've still got a few days to return the candy and pick these up.

My only complaint is the cost. We live in a neighbourhood with fairly few kids so the 30 that we bought will likely last the night.

Where we used to live I'm guessing we'd easily have between 100-200 kids. If they could price them down to $0.25 I'm thinking they'd be much more readily adopted.

While I realize you might not have a similar opportunity near you, in previous years we've handed out little playdohs, stickers, temporary tattoos and sugar-free gum. And as far as acceptance goes - we have yet to be egged.

On Halloween overall, stay tuned for my post on US News and World Report on Wednesday regarding my thoughts therein.

Have a scary one!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Stories: Some Horn Tootin' I Guess

I realize you read what I've got to say all week, but there were a few extras this week that I thought might be worth calling attention to.

Here's a great piece by John Hoffman in More Magazine on the relative roles of diet vs. exercise in weight management (I'm quoted a fair bit).

Here's my column from this week's US News and World Report Eat + Run blog that asks if you're trying too hard to eat healthfully?

And lastly here are two more videos that I shot with the folks from Key Gordon Communications in support of the Stick It To Fast Food campaign.

The first is on Fast Food and nutrition.

The second on whether or not corporations are part of the solution.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Breaking! Ontario High School Students Launch Awesome "Stick It To Fast Food" Boycott!

I'm thinking we're going to want to take this one beyond Ontario's borders.

The logo up above says it all, but some brief back story. Ontario high school students, frustrated and angered by the toxic environment we've allowed to proliferate around them, with the help of a Toronto design firm, have launched a campaign that's meant to "Stick It To Fast Food" whereby they're encouraging their fellow students to boycott fast food for the entire month of November.

As you might imagine, I think what they're doing is wonderful. But at the same time, I think it's sad. The wonderful part's obvious. The sad part? That high school students felt they needed to do this. That high school students took a look around at a society that doesn't seem to care that we allow the food industry to target our children, at a school system that for the most part serves no-name junk food in their cafeterias, at politicians who talk and talk but do nothing, and at their declining determinants of health, and decided that they needed to take a stand.

At the press conference (if you're a quick clicker it's going on as you read this), Kourosh Houshmand, one of the student organizers explains,
"Fast Food isn’t real food. It was designed by scientists in white lab coats. Sure, sometimes it tastes good, but that’s their trick. If you put enough salt, sugar and fat in anything, it’ll taste good. Fast food companies are getting rich feeding us garbage. And it’s making us fat and sick. This November, let’s go fast food free and Stick it to Fast Food. We deserve better."
If you want to get involved, aside from sharing this post as widely as you can, visit the Stick It To Fast Food website. There you'll find videos, posters, graphics, and blogging resources. Students and adults alike can join the boycott. And you can even buy an awesome Stick It To Fast Food t-shirt.

Why can't November be both Movember and the month that as a society we decided to Stick It To Fast Food?

Kudos kids.

(Here's my video message to the students. FYI - I was explicitly asked to give the laundry list of titles at the beginning of the talk)

Colbert Offers Trump $1 Million If He Just Does What?

Long time readers will definitely know that I have a huge man-crush on Stephen Colbert. Today's Funny Friday video, his response to Trump's promise to give Obama $5 million dollars to the charity of his choice if he releases some information, is a great example of why.

Trump lovers, folks who aren't familiar with Trump's $5 million offer to Obama, those with sensitive ears and those who are easily offended - definitely don't click.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers you need to head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Did the OMA Go Too Far With its Childhood Obesity Recommendations?

The uproar has been furious. Literally.

And I certainly understand why. But it's not because the Ontario Medial Association (OMA) went too far, it's because the OMA lost control of the message.

For readers who aren't aware, on Tuesday the OMA held a press conference where they outlined multiple initiatives that they hope if enacted, will help in preventing further increases in Canada's rates of childhood overweight and obesity, and perhaps even help to lower them.

The initiatives they recommended included (verbatim from press release):
  • Increasing taxes on junk food and decreasing tax on healthy foods;
  • Restricting marketing of fatty and sugary foods to children;
  • Placement of graphic warning labels on pop and other high calorie foods with little to no nutritional value;
  • Retail displays of high-sugar, high-fat foods to have information prominently placed advising consumer of the health risks; and
  • Restricting the availability of sugary, low-nutritional value foods in sports and other recreational facilities that are frequented by young people.
The OMA's calls to action stemmed from what they described as "Lessons learned from anti-tobacco campaigns" where indeed the use of graphic imagery, taxation, retail display changes and advertising bans did have a tremendous collective impact on smoking rates.

The challenge would be in implementing these sorts of interventions without vilifying people with obesity - and it would indeed be a challenge, but not one that I think would be insurmountable. Moreover I think dealing with that challenge might serve society well in terms of truly exploring the stigma and bias faced by those with weight.

So could the OMA have simply left out "obesity" from this initiative altogether? After all, the consumption of the products targeted by this campaign are no less unhealthy for skinny folks than for fat ones. Could the OMA have simply focused on the fact that as a society and perhaps especially with our children, over the past 50 years or so, we've completely normalized the regular consumption of junk food, of highly processed boxed meals instead of cooking, of frequent meals out, of no-name fast food in school cafeterias, of chocolate-milk school milk programs, of pizza days, and at the same time created a Food Guide that specifically states juice is a fruit? I think that in an ideal world the campaign could have targeted those normalizations all by themselves, but in our real world, I don't think it would have garnered much attention or cultivated much discussion.

Putting the actual recommendations aside, what the OMA is really saying here is that we need to get off our collective asses and actually do something - because talking isn't getting us anywhere.  How and what we do is certainly up for debate, but losing sight of the need to start doing, of the need to formatively change the incredibly unhealthy landscape in which we raise our children, and instead exclusively focusing on whether or not the graphic imagery is a good plan, is missing the forest for the trees.

And that's definitely where the OMA struggled some. The media, and indeed even some of my colleagues, have latched onto this notion that the OMA is suggesting that obesity is the new tobacco. Ultimately I don't think that's the message they're promoting, but admittedly it was their backdrop and call to action. Actually reading through their materials, and speaking with the folks involved, I think their real message is that junk food, not obesity, is the new tobacco. That just like with tobacco we need to denormalize junk food's provision, marketing and consumption and that were we to start exploring recommendations like those they put forth, we'd be starting down that very important road of doing rather than simply sitting around and casually talking about it while our children suffer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ontario Medical Association Effectively Calls Out Heart and Stroke Foundation BS

While I'll be blogging more about the significance of the OMA's call to action early next week, today's blog's a quickie.

Have a gander at the photo up above.

That's the warning label that the OMA wants to place on grape juice (and presumably other juices as well). They want a warning because there's risk to the regular consumption of grape juice - a beverage I've labeled the world's least healthy beverage - in that it contains roughly double the calories and sugar of Coca-Cola. 10 ridiculous teaspoons of sugar per glass.

Now contrast the proposed label from the OMA up above to the actual label from the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program on grape juice down below. What's that Health Check logo for again? Here's the Heart and Stroke Foundation's explanation,
"The Health Check logo tells you the food or menu item has been reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s registered dietitians and can contribute to an overall healthy diet."

As far as I'm concerned, the only options that would explain the Heart and Stroke Foundation's endorsement of juice as something that contributes to an overall healthy diet are, ignorance, pigheaded stubbornness, or greed.

And given the American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Pediatric Society have both long ago come out to recommend a half cup juice maximum for younger children and 1 cup maximum for everyone else, I'd say ignorance is the least likely option.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

WTF? An Insane Parental "No" File from London's Children's Museum


That's exactly what I did when I opened the email that contained the photo up above (I think I may have swore too).

It was snapped just a few weeks ago in the London Children's Museum where for reasons I can't fathom they have a miniature McDonald's set up for kids to play in. Here's another shot that I found online:

So if you're a parent who's trying to limit your kids' exposures to fast food I guess you'll have to just say "No" and cross this museum off of your to visit list.

And while that's certainly something in every parent's power, can anyone out there explain to me WTF a mini McDonald's is doing inside a children's museum?

Monday, October 22, 2012

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

Have you ever heard of "Concerned Children's Advertisers"?

Superficially they sound awesome! Check out their 2 stated mandates,
"To contribute to the overall wellness of Canadian children as it relates to their emotional, social and physical well-being through innovative and effective social marketing and education programs.

To promote media literacy, ethics and responsibility in advertising to children."
But dig the teeniest, tiniest bit and you'll discover that they're just a food industry front group.

So you tell me. Do you think it's ethical and responsible for Concerned Children's Advertisers to have partnered with the Canadian Sugar Institute to create a video that's targeted at teachers to use in their classrooms about "Nature's Sweet Mystery" and healthy eating?

Here are some choice transcripts from the video (which is also embedded below):

"Q: What is the primary source of energy for all life.

A: The Sun

Q: What is the process called where plants make their own food from sunlight, air and water?

A: Photosynthesis

Q: What food is made through photosynthesis?

A: Sugar

and how about these gems,
"The body prefers carbohydrates for fuel, especially for the brain.

Sugars and starches are carbohydrates.

Glucose provides energy to our cells all over our bodies.

Let's recap. A lot of what we eat is broken down into a vital nutrient called glucose. This helps fuel our body.

Carbohydrates provide energy

And then lastly here's the video's call to action,
"For more information on photosynthesis, food chains and healthy eating visit"
Because who better than the Canadian Sugar Institute to teach your children about healthy eating?

More horrifying? Check out the who's who of organizations partnering with these "concerned" advertisers - a group that includes the Canadian Association of Principals, Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Teachers Federation.

Like I said, you can't make this stuff up.

[Hat tip to the equally horrified Suzie Pellerin the Director of Quebec's Coalition québécoise sur la problématique du poids.]

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Stories: Multivitamins, Dr. Oz and Veggies

Alex Hutchinson nails it on the multivitamin prevents cancer study, "For now, though, I'm sticking to the belief that eating as many fruit and vegetables as I can is the best possible multivitamin."

A Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Nutrition named Bruce Chassy writes a scathing open letter to Dr. Oz and his show's producers.

Darya Pino on Summer Tomato covers the difficult subject of getting your kids to actually eat their vegetables.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jimmy Kimmel Nails the Pre (yes Pre) Debate Wrap Up Interviews

I know I'm Canadian, but I can't help but follow the electoral hoopla down South.

My favourite piece this past week was Jimmy Kimmel who a day before the town hall debate interviewed folks on who they thought won.

Today's Funny Friday - the video. Not so funny? The fact that everyone in the video is a voter.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taking the "Weight" Out of Pediatric Weight Management

Had a nice chat yesterday with some great folks from Sudbury, including an exercise physiologist/kinesiologist who works in a paediatric weight management program. We were chatting about whether or not I would consider a trench talk that highlighted paediatric obesity topics.

Now I've often been asked about whether or not I see kids, or whether I'd be interested in setting up a program to help.

Here are my two lines in the sand.

1. I'd only ever recommend involving kids directly in treatment if they already suffered with weight responsive conditions (diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, etc.), and then only within the context of a program that explicitly excluded weight as a focus of treatment.

2. For kids without weight responsive conditions I'd only want to work with their parents.

I worry about the impact a tertiary or community based medical weight management focus might have on kids' relationships with food, body image and self esteem, and so for the kids with problems, they might benefit from a clinic focusing on improving their specific health problems through lifestyle change and a non-weight centric focus, while for kids who don't have problems - studies to date suggest parent exclusive treatment is just as good or better than treatment that directly involves the children.

Now I know nothing about the program in the graphic up above - and truly it may be a world class program - but how might you feel if you were a kid who needed to go there? Would you feel "new hope"? Or might you feel shame? I'm not saying it's fair, just that society has associated weight with personal failure, and while I disagree with the linkage I don't think my disagreement will change the fact that there are likely kids going to New Hope, where fair or not the name alone gives them cause not for hope, but for despair.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Does CSPI's Real Bears Video Promote Anti-Fat Bias?

That was the question posed to me by 3 keen young RDs who attended my last Friday's trenchtalk in Toronto.

Funny thing is, I knew exactly where they were coming from. The first time I watched CSPI's Real Bears video I too scratched my head and pondered whether or not the message was fair.

In the video (which if you haven't seen it is embedded below) a family of polar bears is depicted drinking "happiness" by means of a caramel coloured sugared soda that looks like Coca-Cola and in turn suffering some health consequences.

Papa bear gets it the worst. He gains weight, splits his pants, develops diabetes, endures bleeding gums and tooth decay, suffers erectile dysfunction, and requires a leg amputation.

Baby bear also suffers a touch as he finds himself too large to hunt a delicious and tasty fish.

So indeed, CSPI's video portrays an association between the consumption of sugared soda and obesity (and diabetes), but I don't think it promotes anti-fat stereotypes.

The fact is drinking sugar sweetened beverages does increase your risk of developing obesity and/or type 2 diabetes and what CSPI does not do is stoop to stereotype to add flavour to the bears. The bears aren't portrayed as lazy. They're not portrayed as gluttonous. They're not portrayed as stupid. They've just found themselves caught up in the current of junk food marketing and have made sugar-sweetened beverages a regular part of their lives.

CSPI targets a behaviour - drinking sugar-sweetened beverages - as unhealthy. And guess what? They're right.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Unhealthy Celebrity Endorsement Shame Page

Pop Star Beyoncé shills for Pepsi
Yesterday's post got me to thinking.

I wonder whether or not a well designed, brutally irreverent, actively managed web site/Twitter feed/Facebook page that served to highlight and shame celebrities (and movie studios/brands, and conflicted health professionals) who choose to promote the consumption of junk food to kids would be valuable in the fight against Big Food?


Celebrity examples?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The CFL Teams Up With Nestlé and Tells Parents Garbage is Healthy

Sports heroes are great marketers. Kids revere them and consequently their words may well carry far more weight than their parents' - especially when their words are crafted by Big Food marketers.

I'm guessing that's what Nestlé is banking with their partnership with with the CFL and their Team Up With Nestlé 2012 campaign.

So what is the campaign promoting?

Carnation Instant Breakfast, sugar-sweetened milk beverages, Aero and Kit-Kat bites, Mini-Drumsticks (ice cream treats), and frozen pizza.

So far 3 CFL superstars have signed on - Geroy Simon, Mike McCullough and Scott Flory and in their Team Up with Nestlé commercials their families take the spotlight.

You can watch all of the commercials online (for now) via this post's included inline links but only one's on YouTube and I'll embed below. In it you can watch Geroy Simon describe how his family apparently isn't worth or doesn't bother with the maybe 10 extra minutes of time it would take to actually make a nutritious breakfast and instead they choose to serve their children Carnation Instant Breakfast - a beverage where per bottle there's 9.75 teaspoons of sugar. Then you can watch Geroy's wife grab candy bars and sugar sweetened milk boxes (with 20% more calories drop per drop than Coca-Cola and 4 teaspoons of sugar) to put in their kids' lunches for snacks while leaving the apples on the table.

I wonder if the Simons know that if they give their kids a Carnation Instant Breakfast every day, in a year each would down 31 physical pounds of sugar, just under half a 5lb bag a month? Add the sugar from just the candy bar bites and the drink box and if consumed daily we're likely talking a full 5lb bag a month.

In Mike McCullough's videos (Video 1, Video 2) he explains that in his home his family doesn't want to take the time to prepare actually healthful snacks and from the video it would appear that instead his family relies on candy bars, sugar-sweetened milks, instant breakfasts and mini-drumsticks.

In Scott Flory's videos (Video 1, Video 2) his wife talks of how, "Delicio pizzas are great" and Scott adds in his kids could "eat them all the time", while his family's dinner table hosts chocolate syrup and mini-drumsticks. In a second video Scott's seen to be eating a mini-drumstick while an open bag of Kit-Kat bites and a bottle of chocolate syrup sit in front of him.

So CFL stars are basically teaching Canadians that taking the time to actually cook healthful foods is a waste, that kids aren't worth the effort of cooking, and that junk food is in fact a regular healthful snack. In so doing the stars are also revealing that either they are too dense to know that sugary, highly processed foods aren't foods they should be regularly feeding their families, or that they're so greedy for sponsorship dollars that they'll happily abuse the trust their celebrity status affords them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Amazing Piano Playing Pooch

Today's Funny Friday has a pooch that reminds me of my skills both as a pianist and a singer.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Badvertising: Dole Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites

"Real fruit in every bite".

Must be good for you, no?

And yet looking at their nutrition fact panels I learned two things.

Firstly that despite there being "fruit in every bite", no bites contain any vitamin C - odd given vitamin C is something I thought was found in most "real" fruit.

Secondly that these are pretty much nutritionally equivalent to Chips-A-Hoy cookies though to be fair they do contain 20% fewer calories and 10% less sugar.

Here's a shopping tip for you: If you put "fruit" in a cookie, it's still a cookie.

Eat cookies because you love cookies, but don't let someone dupe you into thinking you're making a healthful choice or that fruit-inclusive cookies somehow are a "better" cookie choice.

Less bad is not the same as good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The City of Ottawa Feeds Its Children Junk, Junk and More Junk

Whether it's recreational lessons, figure skating or hockey, I'd venture it's a rare child growing up here in Ottawa who doesn't regularly hit their local City funded and run arenas to skate.

My kids are no exception and this past weekend I decided to take a tour of what the City was offering my kids to eat in the Walter Baker Sport Centre's cafeteria.

Honestly, it was beyond appalling, it's a complete and total embarrassment where the hypocrisy is truly deep fried.

On the one hand we have the City of Ottawa's public health department in their May 2012 report Healthy Eating, Active Living, and Healthy Weights stating,
"Let's work together to create environments that help make the healthier choice, the easier choice."
And on the other hand, there are pretty much no healthful choices being offered for sale in the Walter Baker Sport Centre's cafeteria. Moreover the environment is quite literally designed to make the unhealthy choice the easier choice with a bank of candy machines serving as the cafeteria entrance as well as junk food (candy and chips) taking up the primary counter real estate.  Looking at the menus, there simply aren't healthful choices aside from "salad" - something I didn't actually see there, but again, if the only thing you can point to on a menu as being healthful is salad, your menu simply sucks.  And then of course there are the banks upon banks of vending machines situated it seems every 100-200 ft or so throughout the building.

The hypocrisy is made all the richer given Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson's former position as Ontario's Minister of Health Promotion.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a video walk through of what I saw this past weekend leading me to ask simply, "Where is Health?"

So parents your two choices are clear at Ottawa's publicly funded arenas, and truly there are only two choices - yes to junk food (as that's all they have) or a parental "No".

Gee thanks City of Ottawa. Way to nurture our children.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

YMCA Stepping Up for Health in Ottawa

I have to admit it, when we were first approached by the YMCA here in Ottawa to discuss a partnership I wasn't too sure. For whatever reason I associated the YMCA with for lack of a better descriptor - discount fitness.

Boy was I shocked when I actually popped by.

The facilities were spectacular, truly top-rate equipment, clean, spacious and most importantly, welcoming.

The YMCA isn't like some other fitness facilities - it's terrifically inclusive and doesn't give off the elitist vibe that some gyms might.  Amazingly too, the YMCA is truly for everyone in that there's no such thing as not being able to afford it as they have the means to assess need, and if need be, offer their services freely.

I blogged a few weeks ago about the incredible free program the Y is offering Grade 6 students.  Today I'd like to highlight the exercise prescription pads they whipped up for us. Simply put, they're prescription pads that can be used by any health care provider to extend to their patient a one week free pass to the Y. No strings. No obligations. And they created the program and pads consequent to a simple discussion with us where we suggested they might be useful to local physicians.

We'll be giving them out at our trenchtalks Ottawa event tomorrow, but if you're a health care provider in Ottawa and you'd like a pad or two for your practice, just give our front desk a call at 613-730-0264, or pop by our office.

Thanks YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Junior Achievement Reading Comprehension Pushes Sports Drinks (Parental No Files)

Dedicated blog reader and healthful living advocate Casey Hinds sent this my way. It's a lesson from her 10 year old daughter's Junior Achievement (JA) program.

For those of you who aren't aware, JA provides in-school and after-school programming for kids in kindergarten through Grade 12 in an aim to improve their work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. According to a recent press release, JA programs reach 4 million American children and an additional 5.8 million in 127 countries worldwide.

The lesson in question was teaching 5th graders about "resources" and to illustrate their points they used the story of Dr. Robert Cole, the inventor of Gatorade.

Looking through the scans among other things this JA lesson on "Resources" taught Grade 5 students were,
"water wasn't enough to keep his players healthy and capable of playing in the hot weather",

"when athletes lose fluid by sweating they also experience changes in body temperature and blood pressure. These changes can cause serious damage and even death",

"To replace what pours from the body during exercise, the research group created a drink that would get these fluids, salts and minerals back into the athletes' bodies quickly",

"As the Florida football team began to win national games, the word spread that their secret weapon was Gatorade"
So perhaps it wasn't then all that surprising that when Casey asked her 10 year old daughter what she learned from the lesson her daughter answered,
"Gatorade is good for athletes".
Wanna know what's in a sport drink?

Here's a video I made a few months ago, and yes, while elite athletes and those who are truly killing themselves exercising for truly lengthy periods of time may find sport drinks useful, those descriptors don't fit many Grade 5 students.

Lastly Casey found it rather ironic that Junior Achievement recently accepted $300,000 from Coca-Cola. Ironic in that it's Pepsi-Co that makes Gatorade.

Personally I wonder whether this Gatorade advertisement occurred consequent to a back in the day Pepsi donation around the time this lesson plan was created or whether it is simply consequent to the incredible job sport drink makers have done in convincing the world their products are essential despite less than robust scientific consensus.

So while a parent may not be promoting the consumption of sugary sport drinks to their children, that doesn't mean their childrens' schools, institutions that children (and parents) implicitly trust, aren't.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Saturday Stories: 2 Important Must Watch Videos and Correlation/Causation

Great piece from Slate on correlation and causation (and it's not what you think).

Friday, October 05, 2012

Last Chance To Join Me For trenchtalks Obesity 2012!

Just a quick heads up for those of you who might still be mulling over coming out to see me and some friends at trenchtalks Obesity 2012.

There are only 2 free STUDENT tickets left for Ottawa (enter STUDENT as the promo code), sadly none left in Toronto (still room in Montreal) - please bring your valid student ID to the talks.

More importantly - the ticket office closes Sunday night as we need to provide the hotels with final numbers.

University faculty interested in coming can email me via gmail (yonifreedhoff) from their University affiliated email account and I'll send back the discount code for a half price ticket.

Group sales, buy 3 get one free with code 341

Registration for Ottawa (Wednesday October 10th) is here.
Registration for Montreal (Thursday October 11th) is here.
Registration for Toronto (Friday October 12th) is here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

You Need This Stupid Thing!

Yup, today's Funny Friday is every infomercial ever.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Parental "No" Files: iPod Edition

My oldest daughter is 8.

For her birthday this year she told us she wanted an iPod Touch - all her friends had them and she wanted one too. We told her she could choose between all of her closest relatives chipping in and buying her one, or her getting a more traditional and more voluminous haul of gifts.

She chose the iPod.

So what did she show us the other day?

The photo up above which also came along with this automated note from her also 8 year old sender,
"This is a cool app I found. You should download it too. Here is the Apple iTunes App Store Link:"
I emailed the developer to ask whether or not it was a licensed McDonald's app, but never did hear back.

In investigating the app, I found dozens of others - all geared towards elementary students. All involved the "fun" use of junk food.

Yes indeed, parents can police a child's apps (though the impact that might have on trust isn't necessarily trivial or easily discountable in the grand scheme of parenting), but what a sad statement that junk food is so normalized that there's literally a genre of apps, specifically targeting kids under 10, that serve only to further glorify dietary crap.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

City of Ottawa Encourages Exercise As An Excuse to Eat Junk Food?

Sure, I get it. I'm sure I've even done it. I've eaten indulgently, "because I exercised", but when I was driving behind the bus that told me, "Less Sit, More Whip", with a photo of what looks like a mocha frappuccino, I did a double take.

Honestly, it said, "Less sit, more whip".

Yes, if you actually bother finding the URL and heading to it you'll learn it comes from a City run campaign encouraging active commuting and indeed, if your commute to work includes a brisk walk of 1hr and 20mins each way you'd burn off the Quarter Pounder worth of calories in a Grande Mocha Frappuccino with Whip. Cycling's a bit better - there it'd just take you a fair paced 30 minutes each way.

Unfortunately this campaign does two things wrong. It implies exercise burns far more calories than it actually does, and it basically serves as free advertising for junk food.

Off the top of my head couldn't the campaign have focused on things like coming off medications, playing with grandchildren, going on dream active vacations?

Yes junk food's part of our modern day world. And yes, even I sometimes indulge in it, but my double take had to do with the fact that there's no question in my mind cities (and my tax dollars) shouldn't be encouraging the consumption of junk food or suggesting that exercise buys people a free pass to the candy store.

[Also of note - Ottawa's Public Health (OPH) department had privately criticized this message before it was unleashed on the public. In speaking with them yesterday they noted, "it's counter-productive to everything we're trying to do", and that they are, "very disappointed that they (the folks who commissioned the ad) didn't feel strongly enough to change their visuals". Makes me wonder why the OPH isn't given more clout in City sponsored public health messaging?]

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Senior Coca-Cola Executive Calls Eating at McDonald's "Shameful"

Perhaps more ironic than the fact Coca-Cola's Canadian Director of Communications and Public Affairs referred to eating at longtime partner McDonald's as "shameful" is the fact that I disagree.

I don't think eating at McDonald's is "shameful". Heck, I don't even think drinking Coca-Cola is "shameful".

Of course I don't think either are "healthful" behaviours, and would argue that done regularly both could be "harmful", but I wouldn't use the value judgement of "shameful" to describe them.

Examples of what I would consider "shameful" behaviours would include corporate sugar water lobbyists suggesting their products don't contribute to ill health, Coca-Cola executives claiming sugar-water branded dance parties and video games don't prey on youth, and of course Coca-Cola's regular claim that they never target children with their advertising.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Giving Back! TrenchTalks Discounts and Now Free to Students!

I blogged about them a ways back. They're called TrenchTalks and they're what I see as the answer to boring CME - great speakers, only clinically relevant discussions, intimate settings, ever-flowing coffee and absolutely no one reading off slides.

Our first TrenchTalks are (go figure) TrenchTalk Obesity and they're taking place October 10th in Ottawa, October 11th in Montreal and October 12th in Toronto.

I'll of course be speaking along with:
  • Dr. Jamie Beckerman author of the Flex Diet, Medical Director of the PlaySmart youth cardiac screening program, Chair of the Oregon Governor's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports and the team cardiologist for the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer team.
  • Dr. Derek Puddester, co-author of The Time Management Guide - A Practical Handbook for Physicians By Physicians, Director of the Behavioural Neurosciences and Consultation -Liaison team at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and the Director of the Faculty Wellness Program at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa
  • Dr. Laz Klein, co-author of The Complete Weight Loss Surgery Guide and Diet Program, and Head, Division of General Surgery, Humber River Regional Hospital, Toronto.
  • Joanne Kurtz, one of my office's stellar dietitians and someone who doesn't just walk the talk, she runs it.
In order to give back to the health care community I've waived my speakers fee so that we at TrenchTalks can make the following announcements:
  • Students go FREE!  TrenchTalks will pick up the tab for any student who's interested in coming (and that includes the free lunch) - all we ask is that you bring us your valid student ID the day of (otherwise we'll have to charge you). Just use the promotional codes STUDENTS when you sign up
  • University faculty pay half price ($75)! - call our office at 613-730-0264, give us your University affiliated email address, and we'll send you the discount code.
  • Everyone else if you buy 3 admissions, you'll get one free! Just use the promotional code 341 when signing up.
Thus far the Ottawa based TrenchTalks program has been accredited by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Ontario chapter for up to 5.5 Mainpro-M1 credits and the paperwork has been submitted for Toronto and Montreal.

Don't delay - seating is limited and these deals are first come, first served.

To take advantage of these offers - head over to our TrenchTalks registration page and give us your deets.

For Ottawa click here
For Montreal click here
For Toronto click here

Looking forward to seeing you there!