Coronavirus Chronicles — The Covert Threat of Toxoplasmosis

Very often, homes where children live also contain cats. Cohabitation with cats is one way to catch toxoplasmosis, which is thought to infect from one-quarter to one-half of all humans. It can invade a person who eats undercooked meat, drinks contaminated water, works in a garden, eats vegetables that have not been sufficiently washed, handles cat excretions, plays in a sandbox, or lets cats walk on kitchen tables and counters. The toxoplasma gondii parasite then takes up residence inside the person, and mostly does not do much else. Or does it?

Let’s look at the relationship between the parasite and its frequent host, the mouse or rat. T. gondii can sexually reproduce only inside of a cat, so when it winds up in a rodent, it knows that it needs to get back into a feline. It tinkers with the mouse’s brain and sets up a “fatal attraction” trigger, making the mouse sexually aroused by the odor of cat urine.

The mouse loses all fear, and gets silly and dances around in front of the cat as if daring it to pounce. Enough mice end up inside of cats to start the process all over again. Sometimes, the plan fails, because the reprogrammed rodent becomes so bold and aggressive, the cat changes its mind, as seen in this one-minute video clip.

Our bodies

Inhabiting people, the parasites can asexually reproduce, form cysts around themselves, and stay forever. Mostly Toxo is basically latent, supposedly, but on the other hand, it has been accused of warping bodies and behavior in a bewildering variety of ways.

Toxoplasmosis may exacerbate the effects of epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, neurodegenerative disease, and other chronic conditions. It is why pregnant women are warned not to clean out cat litter boxes. Mothers with latent Toxo might have babies whose motor development is delayed. The parasite has been investigated relative to weight gain and thyroid disease in pregnancy, along with gestational diabetes mellitus, and the fetus’s height, body mass index, and waist-hip ratio — so there is a childhood obesity link.

Our selves

The parasite is also suspected of meddling with our mental and psychological health. Among the qualities it seems to affect are intelligence, cognitive function, novelty-seeking, learning ability, personality changes, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

According to legend, a medical professional noticed that motorcyclists who show up in the Emergency Room have a tendency to test positive for toxoplasmosis. Not surprisingly, Toxo has also been linked with altered reaction time, impulsivity, heightened extraversion, and car accidents caused by reckless speeding. It is accused of making people less conscientious and more prone to rage disorder, poor impulse control, and suicidal behavior.

Men in particular tend to become “introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules.” Maybe this explains the mindset that leads people to recklessly gamble with COVID, refusing masks, vaccines, and any other form of caution. The Toxo has gotten to them.

Our coronavirus

A study that has not yet been peer-reviewed, or published with the imprimatur of a respected journal, may yet contain a pertinent warning, especially when it originates with a researcher who has published scores of other papers, many of them having to do with the same parasite discussed here. That researcher is Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague, who is ruthlessly on the trail of relationships between T. gondii and various human malfunctions and ailments. He says,

In the past ten years, numerous studies had shown that infected subjects have a significantly higher incidence of mental and physical health problems and are more prone to exhibiting the adverse effects of various diseases.

Toxoplasmosis is known to mess with lung function and the immune system. Since it is a background factor in such a large portion of humanity, the researcher wonders whether it might be an overlooked or ignored factor in susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. There are grounds for suspicion that feline pets could be a vector for the transmission of COVID within a family. How Flegr reached this conclusion is of course explained in great detail, and it seems possible that a deeper involvement could be hiding in the evidence somewhere. He says,

Because toxoplasmosis affects a large segment of the human population, its impact on Covid-19-associated effects on public health could be considerable.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Rat Shows Cat Who’s Boss,” YouTube.com, 11/08/18
Source: “Jaroslav Flegr,” Orcid.org, undated
Source: “How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy,” TheAtlantic.com, March 2012
Source: “Toxoplasmosis: An important risk factor for acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection and a severe course of Covid-19 disease,” MedRxiv.org, undated
Image by Paul Anderson/CC BY 2.0

Coronavirus Chronicles — Variants Cause Unwholesome Changes

The previous post described two of the worrisome COVID variants, and one more will be mentioned here — the formidable Alpha, or the U.K. variant, otherwise known as B.1.1.7, which is rampant in Britain and has spread to 50 other countries. It mutates like crazy, and what its progeny seem to have in common is the ability to improve their spike protein, which helps them latch on to our cells.

Alpha is at least 50% (and maybe as much as 70%) more transmissible than before. The victims are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized. Journalist Zeynep Tufekci wrote of it,

Compared with previous surges, case-for-unvaccinated-case, this surge has the potential to cause more illness and more deaths, infecting fewer but doing more damage among them. We can also expect to see more younger, unvaccinated people falling sick and dying.

Tufekci also mentions the phrase “exponential growth,” which provides another opportunity to recommend a two-minute animated explainer that will be difficult to unsee. Trevor Bedford, a scientist with a ton of credentials, amassed over 300,000 Twitter followers through relating such facts as,

[I]t’s clear that non-variant viruses have been declining throughout the spring, while variant viruses have been responsible for multiple state-level-epidemics.

The latest crisis is messing with the Olympics and the World Economic Forum and the plans and hopes of millions of individual humans. Remember how some countries initially got a handle on the virus? They have lost their grip, thanks to the variants:

Cases are soaring in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos for the first time and returning in numbers that haven’t been seen in months in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.

Taiwan’s defenses worked spectacularly for a while, until they didn’t, and in May the numbers exploded. Some experts blame complacency, while others blame the emphasis on border control while neglecting in-country preventative measures. In any case, the new variants play a role. And then there is Singapore, which…

[…] has seen a sharp jump in cases, prompting the government to order lockdown measures on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year. The reversal marks a serious blow for Singapore, which has vaccinated one-fifth of its population and imposed border controls, deploying so-called safe distancing ambassadors and making a contact tracing app mandatory.

Muddled thoughts prevail

Americans seem prone to a particularly naive and dangerous brand of wishful thinking. It’s as if we expect the virus to give us credit for loving our families and trying to sustain human relationships. But the virus does not care about anything except its own agenda. It wants us to pick it up and carry it to our parents and grandparents and children and best friends. It preempts our finest qualities, our love and loyalty and longing for in-person communication, and turns those traits into weapons that threaten our whole population.

Abhishek Rimal, the Asia Pacific emergency health coordinator at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, sums it up:

The world needs to realize no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Coronavirus Is a Master of Mixing Its Genome, Worrying Scientists,” NYTimes.com, 02/08/21
Source: “The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different,” Archive.is, 03/30/21
Source: “Legend of the Chessboard,” YouTube.com, 01/11/11
Source: “Trevor Bedford,” Bedford.io, undated
Source: “These parts of Asia beat coronavirus early. Why they’re suddenly in lockdown,” LATimes.com. 05/18/21
Image by Marco Verch/CC BY 2.0

COVID Variants, New and Different

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding is always up to date on the latest coronavirus news. Earlier this month he wrote,

I feel that ignoring the risks in kids has been one of the biggest blunders of many Covid denialist and minimizer scientists (after ignoring airborne). (P)oliticians often act too late. Scientists are often too shy to shout from the roof tops early… What you get is inaction by politicians & slow vocalization by scientists until too late. Why did we not realize kids transmitted #SARSCoV2 last year?

He also reminds readers that people of any age — yes, even children — can serve as human incubators in which a new mutation may flourish. Other wise words come from writer Gregory Barber, who suggests framing the SARS-CoV-2 variants as “a series of epidemics within the pandemic.”

Scary for real

The reason for alarm is that the longer the virus is left alone to do as it pleases, the more it takes advantage and transforms into worse versions of itself. Many different variants are circulating, of which five are labeled “of concern” in the U.S. The most troubling ones at the moment seem to be Delta, Gamma, and Alpha. Delta is especially notable for sweeping through areas the seemed to have a pretty good handle on things.

In the most recent India resurgence, and due mainly to Delta, 730 doctors have already succumbed to the contagion. This new, improved COVID is spread faster, causes more severe illness, attacks children and teens, and is responsible for four times as many reinfections as the original virus. It does not give a fig about a single dose of Pfizer vaccine, though it does have some respect for the double shot.

In the United Kingdom, Delta (aka B.1.617.2) accounts for 90% of new cases and an exponential rise in hospitalizations. The government had contemplated full reopening, and then changed its mind and delayed that long-awaited moment for another month. In the U.S., Delta has already become the dominant strain in California and Hawaii, and the rest of the states are expected to follow suit.

Now, what about Gamma?

The so-called Brazil variant, or P.1, appears more eager than its predecessor to kill pregnant women, or at least to make their babies stillborn or premature. To pediatric patients, it is also liable to bring along its partner in crime, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.

The Brazil variant travels twice as fast as good old-fashioned COVID-19, does not recognize the concept of immunity, and kills a lot of kids. Its devastating effects on the young include severe gastric disorders, hearing impairment, and blood clots that develop into gangrene. Bloomberg.com says,

Given the presence of the Gamma variant in the United States — about 7 percent of Covid-19 cases in the United States can be attributed to this variant — it’s possible that pediatric and newborn Covid-19 cases could soon become more prevalent.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “DrEricDing,” Twitter.com, 06/07/21
Source: “Variant Hunters Race to Find New Strains Where Testing Lags,” Wired.com, 04/09/21
Source: “Covid-19 is killing infants and young children in Brazil,” ClinicalTrialsArena.com, 05/24/21
Source: “Gangrene, Hearing Loss Show Delta Variant May Be More Severe,” Bloomberg.com, 06/07/21
Image by Dennis Sylvester Hurd/Public Domain

Coronavirus Chronicles — Are There Grounds for Ignoring COVID-19?

Needless to say, we are interested in the coronavirus as both a result of obesity and as a contributing factor to it. Many people want to pretend that COVID never happened, and more importantly, that it is not happening now. Can this point of view be justified?

Have a look at the COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where the information is conveniently broken down into categories. In the USA, the weekly average number of new cases has definitely been shrinking. Hospitalizations are declining, with only about 2,500 new admissions each week. Deaths have gone way down. An estimated 40% of Americans are fully vaccinated, not nearly enough to achieve the ever-receding mirage of “herd immunity.” How soon might the vaccinated require booster shots? No one knows.

And the bad signs

COVID-19 and its brothers are not good for pregnant women, who risk more severe illness and pre-term births. And their babies can catch it. In the U.S., members of the 12-to-17 year age bracket are not doing well, although almost six million kids in this group have had at least one shot of vaccine. Their hospitalization rate went down in the first two months of 2021, but went back up again in March and April.

Granted, teens who catch it are not hospitalized as often as grownups, so they are not as likely to wind up in the ICU on a ventilator, but many feel that is not a satisfactory standard, because…

Recent increases in COVID-19-associated hospitalization rates and the potential for severe disease in adolescents reinforce the importance of continued prevention strategies, including vaccination and the correct and consistent use of masks in those who are not yet fully vaccinated.

New variants of the virus spread more easily and may elude whatever antibodies we have managed to cultivate, and they find children quite yummy. Infection rates, hospitalization rates, and death rates due to them are going up. Just ask Brazil.

Is the government trying to kill us?

A lot of crazy talk is going around. People complain about being a guinea pig for the vaccine, but don’t seem to mind being a guinea pig for the virus. Many individuals act in ways that display the welcome mat for the virus, and they don’t care who knows it. An elected official makes the dangerous claim that the virus is definitely an engineered biological weapon.

Anti-vaxxers stir up controversy about alternate treatments that supposedly work, and imply that by withholding them, the government is trying to kill us. Information on treatments successful throughout the world is supposedly being kept from Americans. On the other hand, primary care doctor Dave Austin says:

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine were both drugs that showed promise against SARS in vitro, meaning cultured human cells grown on media in a flask. Both HAD to be given a fair trial…

Hydroxychloroquine is well known. Numerous studies have found it to be ineffective in living people…

Ivermectin has also received numerous trials without showing significant benefit. Ivermectin […] kills parasites, not viruses.

Meanwhile, a seaside hotel that was meant to house the German visitors to the G7 economic summit had to close, because staff members tested positive.

We are told that the current Brazil crisis is “the result of the government’s failure to take adequate public health measures to limit the transmission of the coronavirus, as well as inadequate supplies of vaccines.” In many parts of the world, people make strenuous journeys and wait in long lines for their immunization opportunities.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., people turn up their noses. Or maybe, if offered a lottery ticket or a free beer, they will condescend to be vaccinated.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Covid Tracker Weekly Review,” CDC.gov, 06/04/21
Source: “There was a peer-reviewed paper,” Quora.com, 06/03/21
Source: “UK PM Johnson says G7 summit is a chance to learn COVID lessons,” Reuters.com, 06/11/21
Source: “Why Are So Many Children in Brazil Dying From Covid-19?,” NYTimes.com, 06/04/21
Image by Mike Finn/CC BY 2.0

Coronavirus Chronicles — The Feeling Is Not Mutual

Suddenly, a large number of Americans have made up their minds. They have had enough of COVID. But rather than unite for a strong push to eradicate the disease, they seem instead to have decided to not just ignore it, but actively deny its existence and furthermore, to nag and berate their fellow citizens, especially through social media.

They have decided that vaccines are poisonous or just a big scam, and that the government knows better cures and maliciously keeps them from the people. They believe that being asked to cover their noses and mouths is an unconscionable intrusion on freedom. We are in a situation as perilous as that of London when enemy bombers lurked overhead, hoping for some light to show. Decent, patriotic Brits put up their blackout curtains for the greater good, and stumbled around in the dark being hit by cars. But they saved an unimaginable number of lives. Today, Americans think that wearing a mask is too much to expect.

Dr. Fauci, whose titles are Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president, is vilified for not having had all the answers immediately, and for allegedly misleading the public, either of his own volition or on orders from higher up. Any blame that is to be allotted must surely stretch farther than one individual, but simple-minded public opinion does whatever it wants. Scientists, not only Dr. Fauci in the U.S. but others in such civilized countries as Belgium, are sent death threats by far-right anti-vaxxers.

Trials and tribulations

A California study (conducted by eight authors from three institutions) organized deaths by occupation and found that the job with the highest percentage of coronavirus deaths is cook. In the third rank are agricultural workers (who handle food). The fourth are bakers. The 11th group are chefs and head cooks.

All those professions have lost a greater proportion of their members than licensed practical/vocational nurses have done. Even bartenders are way further down the list than the harvesters, cooks, and bakers who prepare the food that is served in restaurants. And yet, this is the environment to which customers clamor to return.

Trolls are talking about how metal objects cling to a vaccinated person. They report that unvaccinated people feel ill when in an enclosed room with vaccinated people. They say the COVID statistics are exaggerated, and it’s just the common cold, anyway. Masks cause carbon dioxide poisoning. My body, my choice. Some women refuse vaccination because they have heard it will make them infertile.

It’s not over ’til it’s over

In The New York Times, pediatrician Dr. Aaron E. Carroll asked, “When can we declare the pandemic over?” Dr. Carroll wrote,

Cases are stalled or rising in many areas. Virus variants are becoming more prevalent. While many people are vaccinated, many more are not.

In this country, we have never properly engaged in contact tracing. Testing the asymptomatic has not been a priority. But the information that could be gained from putting more emphasis on these tactics might provide valuable clues about how to end the whole disaster. Words are being flung around, prematurely in the opinion of some experts — phrases like re-emergence; post-pandemic; return to normalcy. A hefty segment of the population wants to believe that if we just ignore it, it will go away.

In the 60s, Phil Ochs sang, “I declare the war is over.” John and Yoko sang, “War is over if you want it.” Those were inspiring yet not exactly factual lyrics. And now we’ve got people thinking COVID is over, just because they want it to be. Everyone has simply had enough. We’re done with it, ready to move on. But the coronavirus, in all its multiplicity, is apparently not done with us.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among Californians 18–65 years of age, by occupational sector and occupation,” MedRxiv.org, 01/22/21
Source: “When Can We Declare the Pandemic Over?,” NYTimes.com, 04/27/21
Image by Pat Hartman/Public Domain

Coronavirus Chronicles — The Acrylic Sheet SNAFU

When the pandemic started, face masks and body bags were not the only commodities the market rushed to invest in. The smart money gravitated toward acrylic sheeting, otherwise known as plexiglass (which is not a trademarked name unless it only has one S). Sales of this useful material went through the metaphorical roof. A year’s supply flew out of the warehouses in two months.

It is, however, fortunate that the material can be recycled. Increasingly, the use of hard plastic barriers is regarded as almost useless. A cashier or bank teller, who must confront masses of people up close, probably gets some benefit from a sheet of acrylic. Everybody else, not so much.

What does WHO say?

According to the World Health Organization,

Evidence shows that #COVID19 does not pose a high risk to children & schools are not drivers of transmission. We know how to reduce risks to children, teachers & families.

Some critics wonder how much the organization actually knows about risk reduction, pointing out that these are the same folks who once assured the world that airborne transmission does not happen with SARS-CoV-2. It does, which is why erecting transparent plastic barriers in indoor spaces is pretty much an exercise in futility. No, the WHO anti-Covid guidance for school operation doesn’t mention them either. It recommends personal hygiene, mask use, physical distance, ventilation, and surface disinfection.

Teachers, by the way, exercise their online comment power to say “Rubbish!” to the claim that schools are not drivers of transmission. Colds, flu, and head lice encompass schools like tsunami waves. A fed-up teacher might compare going to work with, for instance, playing Russian roulette every day.

Scientists who do studies say the same, in more academic language. Even if schools do not at the moment represent a high risk to children, the new Covid variants could change that overnight. Even now, asymptomatic children can carry the virus home to more vulnerable family members.

Expensive lessons

Horry County, South Carolina, is the scene of a quintessential story of pandemic confusion and the misallocation of funds through ignorance. Like many other authorities, the School District thought it was doing the right thing. Thanks to CARES Act funding, it was able to have plexiglass barriers installed in classrooms. (See photos of elementary schools that look like prisons and may be firetraps.) The five million dollar project was completed just this April, and now the clear partitions and their structural supports are already being removed (cost not known).

Journalist Annette Montgomery captured a quotation from a parent of two students, Lori Ard:

That money could’ve been utilized to place air purification systems in the school and to keep the environment clean and keep the air purified for our students and now we have $5 million worth of plexiglass that’s probably just going to sit in some storage building somewhere.

Sara-Lauren Dozier, with four kids in the system, asked,

If there were teachers who weren’t to come back because of COVID concerns then why weren’t we searching for other people to come in who didn’t have those same concerns instead of putting plexiglass up and wasting money?

Which kind of misses the point, which should be safety; not teachers’ or parents’ willingness to tolerate unsafe conditions. Mechanical engineer Marwa Zaatari remarked via Twitter,

If instead $5M was spent on buying HEPA air cleaners, they could have bought 14,300 air cleaners to be installed in ~7,200 classrooms to get air exchange rate (ACH) > 4.

For a comprehensive look at why plexiglass barriers may harm more than help, see this University of Washington document.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “World Health Organization,” Twitter.com, 06/10/21
Source: “‘It was a waste of $5M:’ Parents react to plexiglass barriers coming down in HC,” WPDE.com, 06/08/21
Source: “@marwa_zaatari,” Twitter.com, 06/08/21
Image by Yellowstone National Park/Public Domain

Helpers Face Roadblocks

One last point needs to be made about the life experience of fitness icon John Stone. As we have seen, unhappiness can be fuel for the transformative fire. One day, climbing out of the shower, rather than ignoring the image in the mirror, he decided to apply some careful scrutiny. He hated what he saw, and got mad, and changed his life.

But taking a step backward, what caused him to make the decision to stop and look? Life had been a drag for quite some time, and Stone realized he was miserable. But… an adult. Children and teens are even less equipped than adults to get in touch with their feelings. Often they don’t have the references, the vocabulary, or the emotional freedom to open up.

A while back, Dr. Pretlow wrote in regard to his research while developing the W8Loss2Go program:

In our three real-world studies we observed a marked disconnect between the miserable personal stories/struggles written in the app by the obese participants, versus what they said at the in-person group and phone meetings, where they claimed that everything was fine with no struggles.

It was nearly impossible to get them to talk about their angst or struggles from being obese. Only one child, out of the 123 obese youth in our three studies, expressed the misery and struggles of being obese, and she expressed this in only one phone meeting and never again. Two other teens broke into tears and hung up, when the subject of their struggles was broached in their phone meetings.

It’s also a mystery to me why the kids in our study won’t acknowledge their life difficulties from their obesity. Afraid of losing their drug? Afraid of admitting that they are out of control? We need to figure out how to tap into their angst to motivate them to change (go through withdrawal).

Online, responding to Dr. Pretlow’s poll asking about their satisfaction with life, young people will say things like “i hate my life,” “im going slash my wrists if i dont lose weight,” “i get teased everyday for being so fat,” and “no one wants to be my friends and also my parents hate me too.”

Dr. Pretlow wanted to hear more about the importance of food consumption as a coping mechanism. The unwillingness of kids to describe their struggles in person was strangely at odds with their outpourings to the website message board. In person, it seems as if their relationship with food is “so deep and so critically important that it is very scary for them to talk about it.” They are miserable, but somehow not miserable enough to embrace the alternative, the discomfort of withdrawal. Dr. Pretlow writes,

Why would obese young people so vehemently resist measures to decrease their obesity? The rub of course is that any approach requires decreasing food intake. It would seem that they fear loss of food more than they are bothered by being obese.

Withdrawal symptoms (grouchiness, depression), tolerance (needing to eat more and more for the same effect), loss of a stress coping mechanism, and giving up food’s pleasure as their main relief from life’s pain are likely factors. Moreover, as with other addictions, obese youth may be compelled to overeat just to feel normal.

For professionals who deal with patients who are not free agents, such as children, another layer of complexity is involved. A doctor or therapist who sets out to modify a child’s physical state is interfering in the most fraught relationship ever invented: the one between parents and children.

When a child is admittedly miserable and/or angry, there are bound to be thoughts and feelings, no matter how inaccurate they may be, about who is responsible for what. A therapist is not in the business of being judgmental, no matter how bad the parents may look. Parental feelings of guilt may flourish nonetheless, and with one thing and another, the whole process can get awkward.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obese Youth and Motivation,” ChildhoodObesityNews.com, 01/02/14
Image by Keith Rowley/CC BY-SA 2.0

Parents As Supportive Helpers

Harking back for a moment to the experiences of fitness mentor John Stone, we promised a special bit for parents, and here it is. The author’s thoughts were not even expressed with parents in mind. He was thinking about adult-to-adult relationships. But everything he said applies to parents too, and more so:

Hopefully everyone has some people around them who are supportive of their fitness goals. I was very lucky in that regard. Still, there are always people in your life who want to see you fail. Misery loves company.

Let’s not be mothers and fathers who transplant our own unhappiness into our children. Every person has a dark side, and being aware of that is healthier than trying to deny it. A parent who wants a child to fail, at anything, is much better off realizing such an aberrant thought because awareness is the first step in dealing with it.

Self-awareness is catching ourselves doing unworthy things, in time to do a course correction. Stone writes,

Maybe some of them are your friends, and perhaps some of them are people you have to put up with at your office or in your neighborhood.

And some of them are parents.

Schadenfreude patrol

It hurts to realize that one might, oneself, be that kind of parent. There is a subcategory of people who like to see others fail, and who sometimes take active measures to assure that failure. Among grownups, the maladjusted person might tempt someone who is trying not to drink. “Aw come on, just one won’t hurt.” Stone says,

They try to convince you to eat junk food with them.

Do we bring home high-calorie, low-nutrition garbage food? That thoughtless habit can hurt a child who is trying to be conscious and careful. Letting them eat it, and not letting them eat it, are equally counterproductive. The best idea is to just keep the stuff out of the house.

While outspoken critics are unpleasant, subtle undermining is even worse to cope with, because there is no clearly aggressive act that the victim can point to. Stone wrote,

The people I’m talking about are the ones who make light of what you are doing. They roll their eyes when you talk about your fitness program. Some of these kinds of people are more subtle than that, and some are more outspoken, but you always know exactly who they are.

Do we make light of our children’s ambitions for self-betterment? Do we tease them, or undermine their spirits by asserting that they will never succeed? Do we roll our eyes, or say things like, “I know you. You won’t stick with it.”

A tremendous amount of emotional abuse is inflicted on children in the name of humor. To disparage someone’s hopes and undermine their good intentions under cover of “just having fun” is a species of cruelty. If they accept it, they are knuckling under, and lose self-respect.

If they resist, they make themselves targets for progressively more hostile words. “What’s the matter, you don’t have a sense of humor? Awww, poor baby.” Some parents have trouble believing that other parents talk to their kids that way. But they do.

Kids are not grownups

Children are not equipped to deal with multi-layered emotional situations. What they need from their parents is the same humane consideration that those adults would probably extend to a valued colleague or a visiting clergyperson.

To adults, Stone says this about the obstructive others: “What I suggest you do is use their negative energy to your advantage.” It worked for him. But it doesn’t work for kids. They don’t have the skillset. They need parents to act like mature sane adults, so they can get on with the business of being kids.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Mental tricks to help you stay motivated,” JohnstoneFitness.com, 08/03/06
Image by Zaid Alasad/Public Domain

Use Mind Power for Good

In telling the story of body transformer John Stone, we paused at the idea that, in a project of this magnitude, a person can be their own worst enemy. The mind is powerful enough to destroy us, and also powerful enough to give us a second chance to build our best selves. Since the mind can do so many amazing things, we might as well put it to good use. Mental games can go either way, and Stone suggests playing the healthy, productive kind:

I would picture myself outside mowing the lawn and washing the car with a 6-pack, and the look on my neighbors’ faces. I would keep this image in my head at all times. Nothing was going to keep me from reaching this goal. I know this all sounds fairly shallow…

Obviously, this is an intelligent person, but to reach his goal he gave himself permission to draw on any psychological advantage he could muster. He realized that the desire to show off an enviable abdomen was a banal and immature motive for change — and gave himself permission to use that fantasy as an incentive that was effective, and did no harm to anyone else. Stone writes,

Each time you’re faced with a workout or a food temptation you’ll either do the right thing or you’ll allow your mind to convince you that you have a good reason not to. Ultimately excuses don’t matter one bit — excuses never get you any closer to your goals, so always remember that.

In another post about motivation, Stone wrote:

Start with diet and exercise. Those two things completely changed my life. Eating right and exercising will help you begin to feel positive and healthy again. Slowly you’ll find yourself eliminating negativity from your life. These changes take time, but if you take it one step at a time you’ll change your whole life.

From the photos on his site, it appears that Stone was able to afford a pretty sweet home gym setup. But a lot of people manage to stay in good shape with just body-weight workouts, or yoga, or isometric exercises. The basic principles of dedication and momentum remain the same. For the truly determined person, even equipment is optional.

Stone talked constantly about momentum being the most powerful force in the drive to lose fat. For some people, baby steps are the way to go. For others, the ability to take that all-or-nothing plunge is paramount. He called momentum his real secret — “not some silly notion that I was blessed with some rare form of superhuman willpower.”

Dr. Pretlow has emphasized that willpower alone is not enough. But it is one tool in the toolbox, and if a person can cultivate and grow it, so much the better. However, children should not be expected to have that willpower skill operational yet. They need all the help they can get, and of course, around here, we recommend that parents look into W8Loss2Go.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “My Transformation,” Web.archive.org, 11/01/20
Source: “Fat loss 101: Dedication and momentum,” Web.archive.org, 01/16/12
Source: “Mental tricks to help you stay motivated,” Web.archive.org, 08/03/06
Image by Lars Plougmann/CC BY-SA 2.0

There Is No “Muse” in Motivation

Here is more of the story of John Stone, which is found mainly in archived pages. He had spent a decade making war on his body in every possible way. Among other abuses, he described a typical lunch and dinner, which we will spare the reader on the grounds of grossness. He drank a lot and didn’t bother with haircuts, shaving, or other niceties. Even though life was no fun, he deprived himself of sleep, as if merely staying awake longer would somehow fix things.

As previously mentioned, one day Stone got out of the shower and took a good look at his bloated flabby shapeless self. He writes,

It was then that something very surprising occurred. This event happened so abruptly that it was as if someone flipped a switch in my head.

His misery and depression turned to anger, which for many people fuels motivation. The shower and mirror incident was a lucky break, a freebie, a sign of grace from the Universe. But motivation is no muse, no magical spirit that floats down from the sky to impart inspiration. A person has to make the first move, and put out some muse-bait, as a token of earnest intention.

Stone did this by quitting cigarettes cold turkey. He set a date, and stopped:

I liken it to taking a band-aid off: I’d rather rip it off rather than remove it slowly… I used all that repressed anger and frustration as fuel for a major lifestyle change. One by one I began to change my bad habits, and I never looked back.

Finding that he was able to quit nicotine was very empowering and confidence-building, and Stone went on to lose a bunch of weight. He wrote about his fitness procedures and mental states for a progressively broader audience and became a mentor for many other desperate people. He taught the supreme importance of momentum, and how momentum is best gathered by the application of extreme dedication:

What keeps your motivation the highest when you’re losing fat? Progress, that’s what. The answer is obvious: refuse to eat, drink or do anything that doesn’t bring you closer to your goals.

If your diet and training are dialed in and you’re working as hard as you possibly can, each week when you take your measurements tangible progress will be there waiting for you like a little present. You start to look forward to those weekly gifts more than any food you might be craving.

To keep a record of his progress, Stone snapped and published an extensive series of selfies every day. People would contact the website with questions, like how to maintain dedication and discipline.

The main thing, apparently, is to be aware that your worst enemy is your own mind. If you don’t know that a battle is going on, you certainly cannot win it. One part of the mind wants to lose accumulated fat and gain fitness. The other part wants to make excuses for why eating an entire large pizza is a good idea.

(To be continued, including special words for parents…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “My Transformation,” Web.archive.org, 11/01/20
Source: “Fat loss 101: Dedication and momentum,” Web.archive.org, 01/16/12
Source: “Mental tricks to help you stay motivated,” Web.archive.org, 08/03/06
Image by Thang Nguyen/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources