Losin’ it

Kind of makes me miss Fuddrucker's.I’m overweight. I’ve had a couple of recent epiphanies regarding that fact, and I haven’t been comfortable with how I look (or what size pants I have to buy) for quite a long time. Finally, I’ve decided to do something about it, and I wish I’d made the decision–or rather, the commitment–earlier. So I’ve looked up some decent science-based nutrition sites, followed Greta Christina’s advice, and downloaded a couple of calorie-counting apps. I also walked close to three miles today on a whim (it’s shocking how short a trip that actually is), even though the exercise plan I developed on DailyBurn doesn’t have me exercising on Mondays.

I’ve thrown myself into this pretty wholeheartedly, and I’m fairly confident that I’ll be successful. I owe that confidence to my skeptical, scientific mindset. First, I’m going to be seeking out solutions and practices supported by evidence. That’s going to require the second thing: lots of research. I’ve already been hitting the websites of some of my favorite restaurants for nutrition information, and I’ve gotten calorie recommendations from three or four different sources (haven’t talked to a doctor yet, but that’s on my agenda). Finally, I’ll be collecting and recording data regularly and diligently, so I have some objective idea of how well I’m doing. I’ve set reasonable goals and I have a reasonable attitude about what I can (and am likely to) achieve, and I’m not starting on a crash diet that I know won’t work in the long term.

Unfortunately, I have already hit a couple of stumbling blocks. First, the estimates for my healthy weight are all over the damn map (I can’t imagine what I’d look like at 6′ and 138 lbs, but I suspect I wouldn’t have all my limbs), which means the numbers I’ve gotten for a daily calorie intake are similarly widespread. I’ve settled on the DailyBurn recommendation of 2458-2708, though I think I’d like to keep it closer to 2200, which was the ballpark of another program’s estimate. So far it seems more than doable.

The other big problem I’ve hit is a lack of data. Sure, I can find nutrition information for a huge number of things, but the milkshake I got tonight to round out my calorie count (and in hopes of increasing my protein intake)? Not a nutrition pamphlet in sight. I used a reasonable facsimile in my count, but I think the solution is going to have to be avoiding some of those little mom-and-pop places with food of unknown value. I hate this whole dearth of information thing, and I really hate guessing–it goes against my instincts.

I don’t have any kind of conclusion (talk to me in a few months). I’m just sharing one more way that a healthy skeptical, rational attitude can help you out, and hoping that anyone with more/better information, estimates, and so forth can share their findings as well. Yay science!

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Ssssmokin’!

Clearing the air.So, Illinois just passed a state-wide indoor smoking ban. It’s an interesting situation, because it’s a place where various bits of my politics and my self-interest come into a difficult conflict.

I guess I’ll hit the self-interest first: I’m hypersensitive to cigarette smoke. If I’m around people smoking for more than a few minutes, I start to get a pretty nasty headache. Even smelling it on people’s clothes or in cars affects me in rather uncomfortable ways. As such, I tend to avoid places where the smoking is otherwise unavoidable, such as bars, dance clubs, and some restaurants. The ban has removed that danger, and so my recent trip to a bar was actually a moderately enjoyable experience. I didn’t have to venture out into the cold for fresh air even once.

On the other hand, I think businesses ought to be able to decide whether or not they allow smoking on their premises. Some businesses cater to smokers, and I, as a non-smoker, can always decide to take my business elsewhere. For the government to step in and legislate what happens on private property, especially when it may be to the financial detriment of these businesses, seems unnecessary and intrusive.

On the other hand, the employees are the people really at risk in these situations, spending hours in smoke-filled surroundings and suffering the ill effects. While the employees can always quit and get jobs elsewhere, it would be unscrupulous to the point of potential negligence for a business owner not to at least consult his staff in decisions regarding whether or not to allow smoking, when it could seriously affect the employees’ health. This ban takes that decision out of the hands of both employer and staff, leaving even totally voluntary smoking establishments out in the cold.

On the other hand, smoking is not anyone’s goddamn right, and I’m tired of hearing smokers complain that it should be. Yes, you absolutely have every right to stick whatever you want into your body. But your right to spew noxious chemicals ends at my lungs. Since you can’t smoke without exposing those around you to harmful substances, thus infringing on their equal right to choose what goes into their bodies, it’s your problem, and your right to indulge yourself doesn’t trump my right to stay healthy. It’s your right to choose whether or not to smoke, but you don’t get to make that choice for anyone but yourself. Don’t want to go out in the cold? Quit.

Bottom line: I think this was the wrong way to go about the ban. It fuels people’s concerns about the “nanny state,” it’s going to cost businesses some business (though I wonder how much will be balanced out by new customers who wouldn’t have patronized smoke-filled bars and eateries previously), and it denies entrepreneurs their rights to decide what happens on their premises. Granted, we do the same for any number of other health hazards (health inspections, fire hazards, etc.), but I think this situation is slightly different. What I would have liked to see instead would be an opt-in situation, where businesses could get subsidies and/or tax breaks for going smoke-free, with the caveat that employees must be consulted if the business is to remain a smoking establishment (and, potentially, could seek damages if failure to consult resulted in health problems down the line). Businesses that want to keep the smoking clientèle could opt to do so, businesses that want to go smoke-free could have their losses off-set by having lowered taxes, and everyone’s rights are respected to some degree.

But I’m not going to complain too much. After all, I like breathing.