Archive for the ‘Health & Wellness’ Category

June 30th, 2011

Conscious Intent vs. Actual Behavior: On Meth, Cigarettes, and Not Trusting What People Say

By Kyle Morich

The girl, barely 16, studies herself in the bathroom mirror as she confirms plans with her best friend. “Yeah, my parents think I’m sleeping at your house,” she confirms, “Okay, bye.”  She hangs up and gets into the shower.  As she begins to bathe, something catches her eye in the tub below her.  She glances down and a gasp escapes her lips—there’s blood and dirt pooling in the bathtub around her feet.  She looks around in shock, trying to find the source.  Her eyes discover the culprit, a skinny and broken girl her same age, curled into a ball at the end of the tub, face and arms are covered in fresh cuts and bruises, eyes are sunken in, and entire body laboring with each wheezy breath.  The girl’s horror becomes fully realized when she recognizes this spectral creature: it is herself.  She screams in terror.  The ghastly version of herself shakes her head and rasps, “Don’t do it.  Don’t do it.”  The screen goes to black and the slogan appears: Meth.  Not Even Once.

Titles at the end of the Meth Project “Bathtub” ad

Georgia has a meth problem.  The state of Georgia is a national center for the production, sale, and use of methamphetamine, costing the state $1.3 billion annually.  The drug is so powerful that only a fraction of those who use are successfully treated, so the Georgia Meth Project was launched to target those who have never tried meth and keep it that way. The hard-hitting ads, like the 30-second “Bathtub” spot above, are broadcast on television and radio throughout the state. Recently, the non-profit released study results that they believe demonstrate that these scare tactics are working.  Of teens participating in a “Methamphetamine Use & Attitudes” survey, 78% said the ads made them less likely to try or use meth, and 85% said the ads showed them that the drug is more dangerous than they had originally believed.

True, it is a great endeavor to ensure that Georgia teens know about the harmful effects of meth and are decreasing their intentions to use, but are these harrowing ads actually translating those intentions into behavior? Nowhere in the study were references to any changes in actual meth use, so I looked into the 2009 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a bi-annual monitoring of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults, to see how methamphetamine use has changed.  The YRBS showed no statistical difference in meth usage for Georgia 9th through 12th graders from 2007 (when the Georgia Meth Project began) to 2009.  My first assumption was that perhaps meth use remained flat while usage increased for other illegal drugs, but the YRBS shows statistically unchanged numbers for cocaine, marijuana, inhalants, and heroin over the same time period.

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January 21st, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions and the Myth of 21 Days

By Kyle Morich

We’re 21 days into the New Year: how are your new habits going?

I felt compelled, like many of us, to come up with a list of resolutions for the New Year.  Some I’ve done well with (enjoying more quality leisure time) and others have been completely ignored (spending less time during the day browsing the web).  Numerous publications and commercial blogs (Lifehacker, for instance) got a lot of mileage in the first few days of 2011 on articles discussing good and bad habits and how to change them.  One of the more frequent pieces of advice alluded to the “21 Day Habit Theory.”  If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it originated with Maxwell Maltz’s 1971 self-help book Pscho-Cybernetics that suggested the brain needs 21 straight days of a behavior to make the proper neural connections that allow habits to form.  The idea has stuck around because A) it was a popular book, selling over 1 million copies and B) because it SEEMS right.

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September 30th, 2010

Beyond 70.3: The Habit Vacuum

By Kyle Morich

Last Sunday, I competed in the ESI Ironman 70.3 in Augusta, Georgia.  A half-Ironman, the race was a grueling 1.2 mile swim in the Savannah River, a 56 mile bike ride in the rolling hills of South Carolina, and a 13.1 mile run on the flat city streets of downtown Augusta.  I finished in 4 hours and 57 minutes, beating my goal by 3 minutes, and I consider the athletic feat one of the better accomplishments in my lifetime.

But now it’s all over.  After 4 straight months of training six days a week, swimming 50,000 yards, biking nearly 1500 miles, and running 250 miles in preparation for the five hours of athletic performance, I have nothing to do.  While my body is certainly appreciative of the break, my mind feels very uncomfortable with the whole thing.  Consider the routine behaviors that are now disrupted or eliminated by the abrupt end to my triathlon season:

  • The time I wake up in the morning
  • The type of breakfast I eat
  • The exercise session before work
  • The number of meals I eat during the day, and the types of food I eat
  • The time I leave from work
  • The route I take home from work
  • The exercise session after work
  • The time I eat dinner
  • The time I go to bed
  • The time I wake up on weekends
  • The long training sessions on Saturday and Sunday mornings
  • The daily tracking of my training progress

And so on.  (more…)

April 7th, 2010

Being “Health-Conscious” Just Won’t Cut It

By Kyle Morich

The health and wellness of our society has been under heightened scrutiny these past few months. Outside of the polarizing political issues of regulation, deficit spending, and social programming, the most salient topic has been our unhealthy lifestyles. We’ve seen mountains of data shoved through the newswires illustrating this point. 58 million Americans are overweight, and 40 million are obese. 78% of us are not achieving basic activity level recommendations. Diagnoses of Type II Diabetes in adults 30 to 40 years old have increased 76% since 1990. Oh, and McDonald’s profit is up 23%

Up to 75% of healthcare costs are caused by behavioral factors, such as over-eating, forgetting to take medication, smoking, or a lack of exercise. As we learn more about the brain and the influence of unconscious habits on our everyday lives, it becomes readily apparent the unhealthy lifestyles of the American population are not the results of bad morals, but bad training.

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