Is the media still indirectly promoting smoking?

Everyone knows smoking is bad in today’s times. But why are people still smoking? I don’t believe the reason is due to lack of awareness in the dangers from smoking as there are many adverts and campaigns around that talks about that, even the packets of cigarettes themselves have pictures and labels of warning. You still see young people smoking like it’s something cool. If the campaigns and education on smoking being bad are effective, we shouldn’t be seeing this at all. So where is the new contributor of misinformation, that smoking is good, coming from then?

Most advertising and product placements are in television and movies. Maybe 10 years ago it would be strange to have so many adverts in a single show, but today, you cannot avoid adverts even if you want to. They are not only in television and movies, there are everywhere on the street, on websites, on your phone, on newspapers, and especially in music videos. One can only be led to believe that such product placements work, that’s why these advertising methods have prevailed over the years.

Now, when it comes to smoking, many governments have openly admitted it is bad. But do they stop or remove the tobacco industry? Nope. The tobacco industry is a very rich and powerful one, maybe that’s why. Outside of anti-smoking campaigns and adverts, there are movies and television shows that reaches the mass public regularly. Television is there 24 hours a day, everyday of the week. Movies are no longer something that is a treat, people have access to movies any time and every where they want. So is it that surprising to think the media is indirectly sending messages that smoking is fine?

When you think of movies with people who smokes in it, what kind of characters come to mind? It’s usually the bad guys, cool, aloof characters, lone rangers, the very misunderstood underdog character in the movie right? With young children to teenagers, those characters appear cool and enable teenagers to relate to themselves. These kids, with minds susceptible to what they are exposed to, often grow up accepting smoking as a character trait rather than a health risk. It is only when they get older that they are exposed to the information on bad effects smoking have on the body. But because the knowledge of smoking as a bad thing comes later in their understanding of that activity, it becomes harder to change their perception on it.

Educating children on the bad effects of smoking is the responsibilities of parents, not the country, I agree with that. However, how is all the educating in the world going to work if the media keeps portraying smoking as nothing harmful? To some, the difference is distinct between entertainment you see on television and in the cinema, but to children, they see both as one.

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The correlation between emotions and food

It had only recently occurred to me that wanting to eat healthy and making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle requires a minimal amount of contentment with one’s current state of mind. For the longest time there has been a link between eating disorder and depression, but not many articles focus on the opposite. There could be some sort of sub-conscious activity in ourselves that perceives what we deserve to have and what we don’t. Take for example, people suffering from depression or low self esteem often indulge in binge eating or are bulimic. Their mentality is that they are not good enough, and their eating habits are often a passive aggressive way of punishing themselves.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is not one that happens accidentally. It takes good planning and minding to make it happen. The choice of wanting to be healthy stems from a certain wanting to love yourself that can only deprive from being happy. Speaking from experience, I was not always happy and healthy. If you’ve read the short little introduction on myself on this site, you would know that I led a complete opposite kind of lifestyle to how I’m living now. And during that period in my life, to say the very least, I was not happy at all, I was in a bad place and was figuring my life out. Looking back on my past eating and lifestyle choices now, I realize they were extremely poor.

I know, back then, that even if I had the knowledge of food like I have now, I wouldn’t be bothered to do anything about it because it wasn’t the top of my priority. It is very much a mental state of mind that determines what kind of lifestyle you subconsciously choose for yourself.

I am now very contented with my life, even though it’s not perfect and I’m still figuring things out, but I know I am happy. It is a kind of happiness that comes from inside and drives you to take even better care of yourself and your loved ones around you. Quoting Paul H Dunn, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination; happiness is to be found along the way not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it’s too late. The time for happiness is today not tomorrow.”

How about you? Do you have any related food stories to share?

How I improved my eczema

I used to think having eczema was like having a certain trait of the body that I cannot change and that I have to live with it. For years my skin was sensitive, prone to itchiness and hives, and was told that because it’s genetic, there’s nothing much I can do about it. How wrong that was.

While it is true that I cannot completely eradicate eczema, I can significantly reduce its flare ups and the inconvenience that it causes. The first thing I did was replace my body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, and facial wash with organic ones and they were not only gentler on skin but also free of sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) especially. There’s also the famous ‘dirty dozen’ ingredients in the products that I replaced, but that’s another story in another post. For me, SLS was the largest irritant for my skin and I assume for most people with eczema, that would be too.

Simply by removing these items my skin seemed calmer during and after showers. There wasn’t any more ‘squeaky’ clean feeling after, which was what triggered the itch in my skin. From there, I started keeping a little notebook to note my diet whenever I get an eczema flare up. Sounds tedious, but really, it doesn’t take more than a minute just to write down what you ate.

I found out eliminating dairy, grains, and gluten and wheat free products helped tremendously in preventing an eczema flare up. Also, eating foods rich in B6 and B12 foods will boost the healing of your eczema over time. Not only did that prevent flare ups, i found that I barely needed moisturizing as much as I did before. I also avoid refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white sugar. If I have to, I’d take brown rice over white rice.

Avoid white rice if you can

Sadly, I find not eating white rice the hardest because in Singapore it seems everyone eats white rice. Whenever I’m with relatives and they see that I haven’t touched my rice, they tend to make fun of me, thinking I’m afraid to put on weight. Frustrating as it is, I stuck by it.

Only recently I realized I’m allergic to corn too, as I had quite a severe bout of eczema just hours after eating it that lasted a couple of days. That recent hiccup made me realize how much my eczema improved because in the past, I loved to eat corn and i never remembered having a significant flare up after eating because my skin was always itchy! But now it’s as clear as night and day.

If you too suffer from occasional bouts of eczema flare ups, try changing your diet instead of focusing on topical solutions. You may find that it works even faster and more efficiently.

The new drug of the century: Junk Food

The struggle with preventing and controlling obesity is nothing new. In Singapore, more and more people are having health problems even before they reach obesity. It doesn’t take an obese person to be unhealthy in today’s times. An average sized person who eats badly, can be inviting a host of physical problems very quickly in the near future.

Some of the main reasons people cite as to why they are not as food conscious as they should be, points at the lack of time in their lives. Processed, packaged foods are much faster to prepare and requires almost no washing up after, according to busy working adults. It seems like convenience is the key to the choice of foods these days. 

Apart from convenience in preparation, taste could be a factor in buying these junk foods, as they often contain high sodium and sugar levels. Working adults aren’t the only ones consuming more junk food, it seems that children are exposed to consuming junk in younger ages and in larger amounts in recent years.

Researches have found that burgers, chips and sausages have built the human brain into craving more sugar, salt, and fat laden foods as our taste buds adapt. It is found that overconsumption of high calorie foods actually trigger an addiction-like response in the brain that is similar to that of drugs.

A three year research on rats have presented “the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms”.

The rats were divided into three groups. The first were fed healthy amounts of food to eat, the other was given restricted amount of junk food, while the third had unlimited amount of junk food. The third group, as you would imagine, got fat very quickly and started bingeing.

Apparently, eating junk food registers as ‘pleasure’ in the brain, and the more they ate over time, the larger the quantity it takes in order to reach the same amount of ‘pleasure’ registered by the brain. The brain practically got immune to the intake of junk food, and needs more to reach the same ‘high’ it felt the first time, just like drug addicts. This pretty much sums up the act of overeating, and may very well be the cause of obesity.

The addiction to junk food, whether we acknowledge it or not, has even been compared to the famous tobacco history, as smoking was not always admitted as a health risk especially the misinformation through advertising and marketing by the large companies.

However, not everyone thinks the research results are enough. Lobbyists for food industries insists there’s no such thing as a food addiction. Richard Adamson, consultant for the American Beverage Association said, “I have never heard of anyone robbing a bank to get money to buy a candy bar or ice cream or pop.”

Well, yeah sure, those people are too busy getting fat and stuffing their face with foods to do that, in case you didn’t notice, Mr Adamson.

What’s a good life to you?

Image from 'http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/rich-tehrani/4g/att-wireless-service-improves.html'

My question to you today is exactly what my title presents – what is a good life to you? It’s nothing new that everyone wants different things in life, and if you get to choose, what kind of life do you want? I think it’s safe to be practical, but once in a while it’s good to take a breather and do something that makes you happy.

It’s also not uncommon to see tons of massive advertising and  marketing on the streets of Singapore. It’s at every bus stop and every train station to say the least. The message these adverts send out is “consume, consume, consume”, and sometimes, they use fear to target your insecurities, and in turn, you buy their products to assure yourself and feed that fear that never existed in the first place. It’s these subtle things that gear you towards a direction that is far from what you wanted in life as a kid.

Why do you think girls are piling on more and more makeup and products on their face these days? It irks me to no end when I see young girls with makeup so thick you aren’t even sure how she really looks like, and ladies who dresses like they work the streets at night. What about that worker drone who does nothing with his life but clock in and out of work daily? And of course, a good family that isn’t aware of what is in their food, stocking up on processed food for the week, feeding their lovely kids these junk.

Image taken from 'http://georgiem-onster.deviantart.com/art/Zombie-Doesnt-Like-Dumb-Girls-266262247'

What I’m trying to say here is, the generation today is one that I can’t say I fully agree with. To me, a good life is when one is brought up with good morals and beliefs (no matter what our beliefs may be), is smart and able to think with common sense (you’d be surprised at how this is severely lacking today with the younger generation) and not needing to spend and want excessively in order to feel happy.

I’m suspecting this is a strongly written article because of my bad encounters with a group of teenagers last night that led to this build up of angst. Despite all that angst, I understand that it’s this difference in thinking that makes the human race distinct and interesting from the other species, I guess. Don’t wait till your mid life crisis before you realize what you really, really want to do with your life. Start realizing yourself today.

Not all vegetarians are healthy

I, myself, eat more vegetables than meat nowadays. But I don’t believe I can eliminate from eating meat entirely even if I wanted to. Most vegetarians and people who suffer from eczema, needs vitamin B12 which can only be found from natural animal sources. I have occasional flare ups from eczema, thus, can never do without vitamin B12 and besides, I don’t believe in taking supplement pills. My point here is, being vegetarian is a healthy choice. However, just like everything else, you have to take in a good variety of foods to be healthy and this rule applies to vegetarians as well.

I’ve known a couple of vegetarians before I was food conscious and they (not every vegetarians) were always weak, tired and stressed. They weren’t exactly healthy at all, or so it seemed like it. It’s only now as I start being more aware of what I eat, that I realized those friends of mine, who are vegetarians, consume as much (maybe even more!) junk and processed foods as those who weren’t vegetarians. Yes, I understand some vegetarians choose not to eat meat because of the morals and ethics of slaughter houses. But really, I think it’s a very bad thing to do to yourself when you limit yourself to all foods that do not contain animal products, but eat everything else.

I do promote people to eat more vegetables and fruits than meat, but the message I’m sending is to be healthy, love your body, and learn to treat your body better. So whatever your diet may be, as long as you are getting the nutrients you need, that’s all there is to it. EAT YOUR VEGGIES AND FRUITS!! 😀

Tips for starting on eating healthy

There will always be a handful of people who are intrigued and want to eat healthy but have no idea where to start, and for some, it can be harder than others because of the environment that is making it harder for one to be vegetarian or to choose to eat healthy. I believe making the choice to eat healthy is a personal one and can be done, albeit tougher in the beginning of transitions. I gathered some tips on making it easier to start, because we all know that having a good foundation is important, and changing your eating habits can be rather challenging as it takes us out of our comfort zone that many of us have known for years.

Plan your meals in advance. Especially for those who lead a busy lifestyle, be it students or working adults, planning in advance makes you able to eat at the specific time and not waste any on deciding and hesitation. Plan up to a week in advance, and prepare little lunch boxes if you have to, or even bring fruits that are easy to transport around. If eating a full vegetable filled lunch won’t do, at least eat a large serving of salad before anything else, as vegetables are alkaline and will help those who are prone to gastric, not to mention increase your vitamins and fiber intake. If you don’t like to bring salads out, opt for places that has salads for appetizers. Never eat your fruits and vegetables after your meal though.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean boring meals. Spice up your meals by looking up recipe books and try making something yourself, if it turns out good you know what to cook the next time you run out of ideas where to eat out. Not only is it satisfying cooking a meal from scratch, it can be a fun thing to do with your partner over the weekends. Making your own meals also means taking a trip to the supermarket. Take that time to really have a good look at the vegetables and fruits section to see what they have in stock, and if you’re hardworking, you can write down names of vegetables or fruits that you are keen on trying and then go home to look up recipes with that food. 

Do it with a friend or a partner. Having someone to eat healthy together definitely helps because not only can you both decide on new healthy places to eat, there will be tips to share with each other and always learn about new thing related to eating healthy. It also makes it easier to stick to eating healthy food when you have someone else ‘watching’ over you.

Keep reminding yourself why you wanted to change your diet in the first place. Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you are sick of always falling sick, or maybe you want to improve your skin and complexion. Whatever your reasons and motivations are, keep reminding yourself of it. Don’t lose sight of what made you want to change something as drastic as your diet in the first place. I find that reading books or magazines, and even websites, related to healthy living regularly works in reminding yourself why you had started this change.

Matching your mind and body. Eating healthy or going vegetarian straight away will make you crave for unhealthy food and may make you miserable at times. The best way to go about this is to be moderate in the changing pace of your diet. Do not give up so easily, but rather, set a more realistic pace for yourself in this transition. There is no point in chugging down healthy foods that you dislike and making eating healthy such a terrible affair. Don’t cause unnecessary stress to yourself and be realistic in your goals.

Change your diet slowly. Different people have different pace. Some will be able to adapt the change in diet better than others, and you have to see what suits you best. A sudden change in diet might make you feel unhappy mentally and emotionally if you aren’t used to it. You have to give yourself time to adapt. And remember, you are aiming to change your lifestyle for the better, not doing a detox. Whatever you are trying to improve will be a long term commitment, so the key is to be realistic in your goals.
It is okay to snack once in a while. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t resist a couple of chocolate biscuits once in a while. As long as you know majority of your diet is a healthy one, you shouldn’t be feeling bad for snacking occasionally. Love your body not torture it! 

It is possible to eat with people who do not have the same diet as you. You don’t have to avoid eating out or eating with friends with bad eating habits entirely. You can suggest places that sells salads and meat so both of you can have different choices on food. If unable to order individually, you can always opt for the healthiest food among the bunch and eat lots of vegetables before that or in the next meal. Don’t sweat it too much. 

Never feel guilty for your eating choices and never make others feel guilty for theirs. Eating preferences are personal choices. If you prefer to eat healthy but most of the people around you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Find a way to work around it during meal times. What really turns people off is when you start lecturing everyone at the table on how unhealthily they are eating. Not only is that rude, but it’s really making them less likely to take your word for it. You wouldn’t want them to laugh at your eating habits, so don’t do the same yourself. If someone is genuinely curious about what you eat, they will ask you about it without having you to start.

Whatever reasons and motivations you have for having a healthy diet should reflect your general wellbeing and overall, improve your health, so never ever get stressed out or worrisome when it comes to food, or it will be no different from an eating disorder. Learn to love your body and yourself. 🙂

The controversy of genetically modified foods (GMO)

Some people choose to buy organic because of the unnatural way many companies have chosen to produce their crops or livestock. We have been subtly introduced genetically modified foods since the middle of 1990s and look at us now – we cannot even tell the difference between foods that are genetically modified and foods that are planted and harvested by conventional methods. Documentary (part 2) by journalist Jane Moore went on a mission looking into origins of our foods these days and the truth will shock you if the term ‘genetically modified’ does not already.

The reason why many people shun organic food is because of the price, and because there has been no proper education given on the technology that is used on foods known as genetically modified organisms (GMO). Genetically modified foods are separated into two categories. The first one is genetically modified crops and the second is the way live stocks are being bred to produce meat that is virtually sold everywhere today. The GM crops are created by introducing genes in existing plants to produce ‘superior’ and ‘purer’ harvest that are supposed to be resilient to pests and weeds, to be easier to grow, and supposedly to be higher in nutrient levels.  Most live stocks including cows, chickens, pigs, and even some salmon fish farms, are usually injected with growth hormones and antibiotics that will make them grow faster and bigger than what was considered normal size about a decade ago.

While these GM foods are supposed to be better, they are not everything they claimed to be. Companies creating these GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also companies that sell the pesticides used on these crops as it turned out GM crops are even more in need of pesticides and herbicides. Despite its claims, GM crops are harder and more expensive for farmers to sustain, and whether it is safe for the environment is another issue.

Government bodies would have assured you that there has been no direct health or environmental concerns linked to the use of genetic modifications, but many concerns have been raised regarding the long term side effects of consuming GMOs in accumulative amounts. Some states in Brazil have entirely banned GM crops, and the Brazilian Institute for the Defense of Consumers, in collaboration with Greenpeace, has prevented the importations of GM crops. In Europe there are large numbers of consumers unhappy with the increase in GM crops, leading them to mandate labeling of GM foods and non-GM foods so people have a choice.

A Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) in Singapore was set up in April 1999, however, all foods containing GMOs entering Singapore must be proven safe by competent national regulatory bodies of the exporting country before being allowed into Singapore. This would mean we do not have our own national guidelines regarding GM foods. In regards to labeling of GM foods in Singapore, a consumer writing in to Straits times questioning the safety of international food safety standards was replied by GMAC that “The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) requires GM food intended for sale in Singapore to be subject to rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries.”.  This “rigorous assessment and approval in the developed countries” would include the very confused regulatory process in the United States, which has three different government agencies that have jurisdiction over GM foods.

In the United States, they have the EPA, USDA and the FDA. In a nutshell, the EPA is in charge of evaluating crops for environmental safety, and the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow. Companies creating GM crops do not require a permit from USDA if they meet these 6 criteria:

1) The plant is not a noxious weed;

2) The genetic material introduced into the GM plant is stably integrated into the plant’s own genome;

3) The function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease;

4) The GM plant is not toxic to non-target organisms;

5) The introduced gene will not cause the creation of new plant viruses; and

6) The GM plant cannot contain genetic material from animal or human pathogens (see http://www.aphis.usda.gov:80/bbep/bp/7cfr340 ).

Image from 'http://www.whatisall.com/science/what-are-genetically-modified-foods.html'

Not one of those criteria involves checking for long term effects when consumed by humans in accumulative amounts. Lastly, the FDA evaluates pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products and additives, not whole foods. And so asking FDA to regulate something like corn, or apples and soybeans is not possible because these are considered “whole foods”.  The FDA’s take on GM foods is that they are  substantially equivalent to unmodified, “natural” foods, and therefore not subject to FDA regulation. When consumer interests groups asked the FDA to include their evaluation on whole foods, they replied that “the agency currently does not have the time, money, or resources to carry out exhaustive health and safety studies of every proposed GM food product”.

I believe consumers have the most say in deciding what foods they want. I find it highly unfair that this technology so widely used in our foods today is not being thoroughly explained or even made known to every consumers. People should be more aware and selective when it comes to food, as many people get too comfortable and trust blindly what is laid out there, instead of reading what’s on the label of their purchases.

Could chronic worrying be the reason for your ailments?

Many of us today are faced with more stress than ever. When dealing with problems that can’t be solved immediately, the next thing we do is worry. Many people don’t think they worry a lot, but they do find themselves thinking about subject matters obsessively. And that could eventually lead to stress. 

There are many reasons for worrying. Some people believe the more they think about the problem, the sooner they will think of a solution to it. Or it could be they are afraid of overlooking certain issues and would rather be prepared than surprised at the outcome. Being preoccupied with never ending ‘what ifs’ is also a form of worrying. While the list of reasons for worrying is a long one, so is the list of ill effects from worrying.

By worrying, you are making your body more inclined to produce stress hormones and some stress hormones stay in the body even when the ‘stress period’ is over. Stress hormones linger longer in people who are older, making them more susceptible to the side effects of stress. Worrying also makes your body unable to repair itself quickly and over a prolonged period of time, your immune system will be affected, leading to other problems. Excessive production of stress hormones will have physical effects on your body such as:

  • faster heart rates
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • inability to concentrate
  • irritability
  • muscle aches and tension
  • nausea
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • nervous energy
  • sweating
  • trembling and twitching
According to this site, when these hormones are excessively present in our bodies and isn’t used for any physical activity, it can have serious consequences such as:
  • suppression of the immune system
  • digestive disorders
  • muscle tensions
  • short term memory loss
  • premature coronary artery disease
  • heart attack
With the immune system being vulnerable, it increases the risk of falling sick more often, and aggravation of existing ailments in the body. There are many ways to decrease and even stop unhealthy worrying entirely, especially since most worries are not able to be solved immediately. Here are some ways to stop/lessen worrying.
Skip your coffee and drink tea instead.
Coffee increases the release of stress hormones and even though tea contains caffeine as well, it is not as harmful as coffee. Tea also has a calming effect on the body. Try Chamomile or Green tea.
Taking a slow, long bath.
The sound of water is therapeutic and relaxes not just the mind but the body as well.
Writing them down.
Listing your worries on paper will let you have a clearer view of how small those problems are. When you keep going them over and over in your head, you tend to magnify the problem. Some people worry because they are afraid of forgetting or missing out certain things, in this sense, writing is very useful.
Postpone your worries and focus on the present.
Many people get caught up with worry and neglect the present. Instead of constantly having thoughts going through your mind, stop thinking and concentrate on what you’re doing. Learn to enjoy the present.
If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it.
There are two things in this world. 1) things that we cannot control and 2) things that we can control. If your problem falls in the category of things you cannot control, then stop worrying about it!