Monthly Archives: July 2009

The High Cost of Obesity

It seems that it’s very much in the nature of human nature to expect more without having more expected of us.  Because so much energy is being focused on the cost of health care and the proposed programs for universal health insurance, the flip side of the equation is starting to get attention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled a free website application last week called LEANWorks, designed to motivate employers to start “healthy living” and weight loss programs for their employees, because being overweight is a major cause of certain illnesses, and also contributes to missed work days and higher insurance costs.  Of course, representatives of organizations like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance are up in arms over this.

A keystone to the LEANWorks program is the “obesity cost calculator” for companies to estimate how much their obese and overweight employees are costing them in higher insurance rates and missed work days each year.  The ultimate point is to get preventive programs in place.

Of course, the “fat advocates” don’t want responsibility – just perks.  They are claiming everything from prejudice to discrimination.  In their view, facts are irrelevant.  It’s just their “feelings” that count. 

It’s no secret that obesity is a big risk factor for chronic diseases.  Obesity has accounted for over 25% of the rise in medical costs between 1987 and 2001, according to Dr. Bill Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the CDC.  While it is also true that people of normal weight have medical issues which result in work day losses and higher insurance costs, most of their conditions are not as controllable as excess body fat.

It is the moral responsibility of those who are overweight and obese, of those who smoke, of those who abuse alcohol and various drugs to correct their activities for the greater good of the community which has to take on responsibility for the negative consequences of their behavior, and their lack of self-discipline and commitment to health.

If the greater “we” is responsible for taking financial hits in order to cater to the predictable consequences of your actions, then you become accountable to the greater “we,” and we cut out the nonsense about discrimination and prejudice against fat.  It isn’t healthy, plain and simple.  And now that you think about it, it isn’t fair, either.

Miss Georgia is a Peach

One day after winning the title of Miss Georgia, Kristina Higgins relinquished her crown.  Was this another sex scandal or about something she said that was politically incorrect?  Was this about her perpetuating some fraud, like she was really a man, or that she’d had her whole body Botoxed?

No!!  It’s something that made me want to hug her to pieces.  It turns out that Ms. Higgins is a Gwinnett County school teacher, and she stepped down as Miss Georgia because she would not give up her responsibilities to the middle school children in her classes. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  She gave up her Miss Georgia title for her children!!

When the runner up found out that she would now become Miss Georgia, she dropped her plans for starting the University of Georgia Law School (where she had just been accepted) like a hot potato.

I am sooooo proud of Kristina Higgins.  She is a wonderful role model of a responsible young woman.

If she had no intention of serving as Miss Georgia, you might ask, wasn’t it a fraud to participate at all?  Nah.  First of all, there are a lot of entrants, and any one woman’s possibility of winning is small, but the whole exercise is exciting and challenging and fun.  Maybe she was debating within her soul what she would do, and when the time came, she had the right stuff to do the right thing.  No matter – somebody else gets to wear the tiara.

I wish a lot of parents would take a lesson from Kristina – who is putting her kids first.  Parents across the country should do the same thing.

Divorced, But We Get Along

As you’ve heard on my radio program, sometimes when people get divorced, they can’t stand to be in the same room with each other.  This week, I got a question with a slightly different twist:  should divorced parents (who aren’t constantly in “battle mode”) get together occasionally for family dinners?

Video: Divorced, But We Get Along

Or watch other videos at youtube.com/DrLaura.

Read transcript here.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good, the bad, and the ugly….

That was the title of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western (I loved all of them), but in this case, I’m referring to the Internet, but in the same way that I would refer to guns or electricity.  Do you think I’ve blown a mental fuse?  No.  Here’s my outlook:

Right now, the governments of China and Iran are working ceaselessly to block web access to its populace.  Why?  So information the government “does not want you to know about” won’t get in, and the truth of what is going on inside these totalitarian regimes will not get out.

Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and their ilk have revealed the atrocities against the people of Iran protesting the sham presidential elections.  Beatings and murders have been viewed around the world, as people have had the courage to use cell phones and such to take the governmentally prohibited pictures.

This, obviously, is a case of calling the Internet GOOD.

On the other hand, we have people in the United States of America (where communication is completely open, some say to an unfettered fault) using the Internet for pornography.

This, obviously, is a case of calling the Internet BAD.

Internet sites have been used to defame and harass people.  Internet sites are being used to “publish” speculation, opinion, and downright meanness as “fact.”  Internet sites have been used to troll for victims in order to rob, rape, and murder.  Internet sites have been used to incite violence, threaten, and frighten.

This, obviously, is a case of calling the Internet UGLY.

Electricity and guns can be thought of in the same way:  you can get electrocuted by dropping a hair dryer in the tub when you’re in it, or electricity can be used to run a ventilator and save lives.  Guns can be used in robberies and murders, or they can be used by the free to ward off tyranny and other assailants.

Objects have no moral value – the way they are used is the issue – and that assessment is in the hands of the user.  We all have the ability to choose right from wrong.  Our choices, though, generally depend greatly on the human atmosphere around us.  For example, we are more likely to be able to do atrocious things if we’re part of a group.  We wouldn’t dream of doing them alone.  Yet, there are those who can perpetrate evil all on their own.

We are more likely to choose good when we are surrounded by people supportive of “good,” and judgmental of “bad.”   However, when the cultural atmosphere dissipates with respect to values and moral judgment, it’s easy for an individual to operate out of the moment without regard to circumstances or their soul. 

It takes a strong person to choose good for its own sake.  There is often little reward or regard given to them.  There was a time when a child, seeing a dollar fall from an elderly gentleman’s pocket, would race to give it back to him.  He would then get his picture on the front page of the local paper – rewarding him for character.  Now, that same child would probably not even entertain the thought of returning the money.  What for?  Look around that child – parents cheat, politicians cheat, entertainers and sports stars cheat.  What’s the motivation?

The good, the bad, and the ugly – two out of three are on the wrong side.  You choose every day which side to be on.  Now, go do the right thing.

Quote of the Week

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled…do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES;….And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
               – Thomas Jefferson
                  The Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

The 13 Folds of the American Flag

One of my listeners sent me a story about “Why the American Flag is Folded 13 Times.”  This is another one of those emails that get passed around via the Internet, so we checked out the accuracy of the story.  It turns out that it is NOT true that there was originally a specific meaning to each fold and that’s why there are 13 folds.  The American flag isn’t folded this way because each of the folds has a symbolic meaning; the procedure for folding the flag 13 times was in place long before there was an assigned “meaning” to each fold.  These associations have sprung up over the years, and they have come to mean something to those who participate in the flag folding ceremony, but they are not the reason why a flag is folded 13 times.

Nonetheless, I found the “meanings” that have been attributed to each fold very moving, and I’m posting them here as something to contemplate as we display our flags for the Fourth of July:

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; for as American citizens trusting, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our Country, in dealing with other countries may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie.  It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, the in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

The thirteenth fold:  when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation’s motto:  ‘In God We Trust.’  After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.

The next time you see a flag ceremony honoring someone that has served our country, either in the Armed Forces or in our civilian services such as the police force or Fire Department, keep in mind all the important reasons behind each and every movement.  They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by honoring our flag and our country.

When Someone Believes in You

There’s an interesting program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro that aims to keep 12 to 18 year old girls in school, minus the sad drama of pregnancies or abortions.

The program is sponsored by College Bound Sisters.  Girls in the program attend 90-minute meetings every week, at which they receive lessons in abstinence and the use of contraceptives, and they receive one dollar per day that they are not pregnant.  The money is deposited into a fund that’s available for collection when they enroll in college.

Obviously, there are many who will say “Hey, bribery is not the correct way to handle such behavioral issues.”  But slow down and think about it – when a 12 year old believes that one dollar a day is a great incentive, it tells you two things:

1. the gentle maturity level of such young girls
2. how so very many young girls are hungry for direction

Keep in mind that 3 out of 10 young women become pregnant by age 20, and the costs associated with teen pregnancies exceed $9 BILLION annually.

So, what’s their track record?  According to the co-director of the program, 6 of the 125 who have been enrolled for 6 months or longer have gotten pregnant or otherwise dropped out since it began in 1997 (and it only costs $75,000 – not billion – to operate the program).  Recent graduates have left the program with up to $3,000 saved up for college.  Basically, the representatives of the program say “If someone believes in you, there’s no end to what a lot of people can accomplish.”

This reminds me of a patient I had years ago, who went from “ditzy” behavior and drug addiction to clean and sober.  She completed college and advanced nursing training, and has been employed ever since.  A little ego in me caused me to ask here, “What made the difference here?”  I thought she’d point out some brilliant intervention of mine.  Nope, not at all.  She pointed out that I had believed in her when no one else did, that she had respected me, and I respected her potential.  That made the difference in her outlook and choices.

So, when you’re confused as to how to really help someone, just believe in them, and let them know it.