Public Health? Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

ABA Close UpDe do do do, de da da da. Entering the Brooklyn subway on a sunny day. But what’s this? A public health message? Move in closer….img_1921

Okay, I see. Big Soda is paying the MTA to endear us to their products, disguised of healthful advice. This ad is sponsored by the group that represents Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. (I miss Mayor Bloomberg.)
Public Health Indeed!

That was fours days ago. Then. today I woke up to this article in the New York Times: Coke and Pepsi Give Millions to Public Health, Then Lobby Against it. Ah, the public health part.

But these articles, also ripped from today’s headlines, put another spin on “public health”:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“The Academy”), the professional organization of registered dietitians in which I once held leadership positions, accepts (a lot of) sponsorship from Big Food. That’s why I am no longer a member. They have sullied my name and so they must be renounced. My dietitian friends will tell you, the phrase “The Academy” always evokes the response, “I hate them.”

Personally, I favor a soda tax (and everything else that can be done to reform our sick brand Capitalism.) I neither drink soda nor eat processed food. (Bread is about as processed as it gets.) I’ve written about why I favor a soda tax in the blog posts listed below.

Your thoughts: How can we stop this?

Squatters Get Free Subway Rides

Subway Squat

This is right up my alley. I ride the subway, I worship squats, and I’m all over free stuff. The proof is in my archives:
Do You Know (How to) Squat?
If You See Something Say Something
3 Degrees of Separation from Snackman
Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Free Yogurt

And so, you can imagine my excitement when I read the headline today:

—-   Russian Commuters Can Earn Free Subway Ticket by Doing Squats   —-

The news is that the Russian Committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics (in Russia) came up with a cool promotion for one month. They are giving away a free travel ticket to anyone who does thirty squats. How clever is that? And look at how easy it was to set up the ticket machine:

If this is another Space Race, then Russia is beating us for supremacy in physical fitness, public health and public relations campaigns. Our subway stunts don’t promote healthy behavior. Do you remember when Heineken Took Over the NYC MTA? You know, I’m going to email Mike Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and Stephen Colbert too right now.

Your thoughts: Should Americans get free subway tickets for doing squats?

Walk Like Your Life Depends on It

A bloggers holiday for me this week. Hurricane Sandy canceled life. Not that I’ve been inconvenienced in the least little bit up here in the “Heights.” Okay, my beloved Prospect Park and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are closed and my ride is busted for the foreseeable future. You may recall from past blogs (If You See Something, Say Something, Three Degrees of Separation from “Snackman” and Heineken Takes Over the NYC MTA) that I ride the New York City subway. Now, for me, the subway goes in one direction, East. To get to Manhattan, I can either wait in an insanely long line to catch a shuttle bus across the bridge or walk or ride my bike. Thank God I’m in shape.

insane line

Walking, Walking

The other day, my daughter and I walked to Dumbo to see the destruction (not bad). The walk was three miles there and three miles back. Whoops! I wore the wrong shoes. To get to Manhattan from my apartment, it is four miles to the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, and then it’s another three miles up to 34th street where the power works.

I have read that the average American walks only 350 yards a day, which is around 1/5th of a mile. That a total of 1.4 miles a week. Pretty useless, don’t you think?  I have not seen it written, but I believe it makes sense for everyone, except for the most infirmed, to be able to walk at least ten (that’s 10) miles a day. You don’t have to feel great at the end, but you should be able to do it. And so, if you can’t walk a distance, then start with this 10K (6.2 mile) Walk Training Schedule for Beginners from the Guide to Walking at About.com. You never know when your life might depend on it.

Your thoughts: Can you walk a 10K?

Heineken Takes Over the NYC MTA

Who, besides me, thinks it’s weird to see Heineken ads on the turnstiles at the MTA? Check out the 1-2-3 station at 7th Avenue and West 14th Street in Manhattan. I think it’s part of a promotional push by Heineken for the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Heineken reputedly paid many millions of dollars to have Bond drink their beer in the film. Last month, Heineken celebrated their Bond partnership with a party at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. But that party was private. The turnstile is not.

Advertise Responsibly?

I’m no Carrie Nation, but is this necessary? Research shows that alcohol advertisements promote underage drinking. The American Academy of Family Practice published a position paper against it. The subway is full of kids.

For products that are addictive, such as cigarettes, alcohol, and even candy, advertising cues may induce cravings. A abstinent alcoholic exposed to visual cues will experience physiological changes like increased salvation that characterize the urge to drink.

I know the MTA has financial issues and a fare hike is in the works, and Heineken’s money is nice and green, but this is too much blood on the tracks for me.

Your thoughts: Heineken ads at the turnstile. Good idea or not?

Three Degrees of Separation from “Snackman”

Can I assume, by now, everybody has heard about “Snackman,” the Brooklyn architect who broke up a fight on the NYC subway by inserting his 200-pound frame between the fighters as he munched on chips? Using a smart phone, someone made a video that went viral and Charles Sonder, “Snackman,” became the darling of every media outlet in NYC. Tweeters wrote, “Chips Not Clips!” And there’s this: Snackman: The Hero Gotham Needs Is Getting All The Marriage Proposals He Deserves. (Watch the Snackman video and read about Snackman in The New York Times.)

Snackman and I

It turns out that Snackman is from Rhode Island, along with me, where everyone is related by a degree of separation, Kevin Bacon-style. For instance, if two random people who grew up in Rhode Island met at a party in some faraway place, they would probably find someone they both knew within a short amount of time. This is how I am separated from Snackman: Snackman is my best friend’s sister’s son’s best friend from North Kingston.  But wait, there’s more! My daughter’s downstairs neighbor’s old girlfriend, Phoebe, is Snackman’s sister. The neighbor has no connection to Rhode Island. Crazy, right?

And so, Snackman, amigo, we are so proud of you! And forgive me for saying this, but it’s my job: Be careful about eating junk food, especially late at night. I am just looking out for your health and good looks, especially now that you are famous. And, listen, if you need a nutritionist in Brooklyn, I’m at your service anytime. I hope you don’t mind me riding your coattails, but I’m sure you understand because I too, am saving the world, one chip at a time.

You thoughts: If you agree that “Snackman” rocks, then leave a note for him here.

If You See Something, Say Something

The New York MTA subway voice calls out: “If You See Something, Say Something.”  Does this count?

Yesterday, I saw a young mom and her sons, ages four and two, sitting next to me on the 2 Line from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The children were clean and well-behaved, mostly because they were busy eating ample portions of candy. The older boy had a 1.5 ounce Kit Kat bar, the one that comes in four long pieces. With 210 calories and 11 grams of fat, I imagine it was quite filling and bound to spoil his supper. Pity it doesn’t contain nutrients. The little guy, not much of a talker, had a shiny yellow bag full of sticky, tooth-tugging nuggets. Mom had candy too, but she was further away.  All of the candy came from her purse.

I chose to say nothing as is customary. It’s not my place to help the mom see that special treats are not for everyday and that parents can show their children love and attention in other ways. It’s not my place to talk about the difficult battle she faces because children are exposed to an estimated 10,000 advertisements for food per year, 95% of which are for fast foods, candy, sugared cereal and soft drinks.(1) It’s not my place to explain that children need nutrients to grow and blossom, and their lifelong eating habits are being shaped, along with their patterns of fighting their biological preferences for sweets and salt, which will face them forever unless there’s a fundamental change. No, my eavesdropping had nothing to do with an unattended package or suspicious behavior, and so what could I say?

And one more thing: neither of the boys was overweight. If they had been, a subset of the population would have justified saying something. But, you know, some people just gain weight more easily on the same crappy diet. And that’s why it’s not fair to stigmatize fat kids. (Read about genetic obesity issues in my blog, Newspaper Ad Mocks Obese Women.)

Your thoughts: Do children belong to society? Should we say something?

1. Schwartz, M.B. and Puhl, R. Childhood Obesity: a Societal Problem to Solve. The International Association for the Study of Obesity, Obesity Reviews. 2003:4, 57–71