I Resolve . . .

Something Could Change

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Come 2009, I will commence on a new path. I will exercise regularly, smoke not at all.  A healthy diet will become my regime.  On Monday, January 5, my life mission will be realized in my work.  The opportunity to inaugurate again, to give birth to me at my best will inspire a rejuvenation.  Today, I resolve to . . . not make a single New Years resolution.  In truth, I never have committed to change.  Yet, the person you see before you is not the same being that might have appeared on any other day, of any other year.  I have evolved, and so do we all.

As the New Year approaches, I reflect on a reality I see and hear everywhere.  People far and wide seek a novel strategy, one that has never appealed to persons such as I.  Most everyone is ready for a new reality.  Individuals are intent.  Now is the time to begin anew.  Resolutions are rampant.  

No matter where an individual might reside, the calendar motivates people to review, reflect, and revise schedules that did not work as well as once envisioned.  Pages in an almanac pass, and people presume, surely, these sheets of paper were meant to show signs of progress.  Most ponder; twelve months of misery or mindless maneuvers.  It is time for a change.  Yet, the mantra few admit to on January 1st, is the one individuals maintain throughout their lives, ‘people do not change.’  Experts espouse there is evidence for this belief.  

Dr. Edward D. Miller, Dean of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, refers to the more than 70 percent of coronary bypass patients who revert to unhealthy habits within two years of corrective surgery. Although two-thirds of Americans believe they weigh seventeen pounds more than their ideal weight, few are able to shed the pounds.  In a recent study, nutritional specialists at Duke University affirmed that two-thirds of dieters gain back any lost weight within a year.  

While more than seventy-four percent [74%] of the Americans who are willing to confess, they smoke express a desire to give up the habit, 67% of these say they are addicted to cigarettes.  Even the most sanguine studies state “20 to 40 percent of participants are able to quit smoking and stay off cigarettes for at least one year.”  For nearly everyone, a New Years Resolution is no more than a trial declaration.  People propose; “I will try.”  Rarely do individuals voice a determined decision to do.

As I said, I never did.  My fear of failure secured my silence.  Personally, while it appeared that I battled with unhealthy habits, these were not my genuine challenge.  My fear for the change I thought would never come, a career that fosters contentment, a close connection with a compassionate someone who would not suffocate me, a personal sense of fulfillment were the greater challenges.  

Severe trepidation told me I could not achieve as I believed best.  Even if I thought the impossible probable in time, I trusted that a resolution would not help me realize a transformation.  Some might have said I was resistant, resigned to life as it was.

Certainly, Marion Kramer Jacobs, a Clinical Psychologist in Laguna Beach, California could concur with such a conclusion.  Doctor Jacobs offers the decree, defeatist yearn to hear.  “We’re hard-wired not to change quickly.”  She declares; “Think of what chaos would ensue if you could snap your finger and change instantly tomorrow. You would be one person today, someone else tomorrow.”

The author of “Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life . . . One Scene at a Time,” is cited amongst those who contend the challenge to change may have evolutionary origins.  She and other experts in human behavior surmise, mankind is accustomed to hierarchies.  Rules, regulations, [even traditional resolutions] inform us.  Societal structures require us to know our roles and perform them dutifully.  Oh, how we do.

Governments guide us.  Policymakers pass laws.  People obey.  Entrepreneurs employ us.  Bosses bark of business strategies.  Supervisors boom orders to subordinates.  Laborers walk in lockstep.  Families flourish when parents lead the little ones.  Therefore, the accepted theory seems to be a person cannot change without assistance.  Community, career, and domestic counselors count on this conviction.

Constituents are elated change has come in the form of a new President, Barack Obama.  

Small business owners are advised  if they follow a profound plan, they too will be transformed.  “Clarify and Simplify,” create an action plan for your workforce, soon all will be well.  Certainly, a focused staff with will reap fiscal rewards.  

Experts also seek to assist employees.  Articles and airwaves are filled with plans,  Again Americans are presented with secrets for success.  Follow this strategy and realize your dreams; secure your resolution.  Persons accustomed to being told what to do read essays such as, What says ‘hire me!’ to employers.

Dieters are delivered dictums.  The plump are given programs to eliminate the excess pounds;  5 small changes to help you lose weight.  Yes, fat persons, just as those fit to be tied by debt, an addiction to cigarettes, alcohol, or other penchants, are ready to follow the steps anyone might present.   The hope is they might avoid another year of harrowing habits.

“Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around,” said Alan Deutschman, the former Executive Director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to alter business agendas.  Mister Deutschman, author of “Change or Die,” declares in his diary, while most people have the ability to alter behaviors and attitudes, they rarely do.  “It’s exceptionally hard to make life changes and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own.”  

Perchance that is why most turn to friends or more frequently family for moral support.  Authorities who admit a personal life is not as predictable as supposed facts, figures, and formulas might pretend it to be, give parents recommendations that provide greater flexibility.  As 2008 exits, and 2009 enters, Moms and Dads are invited to resolve that they cannot solve every problem. This is the truth most people believe.  Good intentions, while admirable, do not achieve results.  Yet, men, women, and children never stop trying to transform others or themselves.

Perchance, rather than accept the rituals, adopt our roles, or obligate our selves to rules that dictate a future of failure, we might resolve to recognize that change comes slowly.  Transformation travels from within.  Growth is a process.  Dreams are not realized in an instant.  

As infants, we did not walk or talk.  Toddlers have few tales to tell and narrate none exceptionally well.  Children can make choices; however, by the time they are teens the decision to run out into the street, against traffic, may not seem wise.  Little humans change constantly, as do bigger-in-mind-and body beings.

Young adults will assess all they knew again and again.  What a woman or man, in her or his twenties, thinks is best may not be what the same individual at thirty would advise.  Resolve, as I have, no matter the day or eve, New Year, or old, that rather than bemoan the research that elucidates why eighty percent [80%] of people will not successfully embark on self-renewal projects, embrace that you are, just as I am, not as we were.  Tomorrow, we will not be as we are.

I resolve to remember change is a constant.  My path is well traveled.  At times, I tripped.  I fell from the healthier course and then I picked myself up.  Harmful habits went by the wayside with help from me.  Friends, family, and experts may have lent a hand.  However, they could not do what only I could achieve for myself.  On this, the First day of January, I resolve to recall that I have evolved.

Resources for Resolutions . . .

Bulimia. “Control,” Not the Means Nor the Mission [Chapter Seven]

Carousel of Romance? Top Revolving Carousel Musical Globe

Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

She heard it said every time the topic was brought up.  The words flow from their mouths as the food did from hers.  Terminology spills into the sink of the uninformed and ignorant just as her fare did almost immediately after she swallowed it.  Resembling her refusal to digest what she ate, they reject what is offered to them.  Bulimics do not do as they do so that they might feel in control.  While marinating in a myriad of feelings and flavors, a binger that purges is not exerting his or her desire to control.  She cannot.  She knows this all too well. 

In the same way an athlete understands, muscles have memory she recognizes a little practice goes a long way.  The first time might have been a choice.  The second was a consideration, followed quickly by an almost unexpected upheaval.  After that, there was no need for a prompt.  The cycle was complete.  She was on a carousel cemented in concrete.  She could not get off this ride.  Oh, how she tried.

For her physiology, neurology, and biology were forces to be reckoned with.  Psychology played a part, particularly on that first day.  There were so many feelings she wanted to avoid.  That evening she stuffed her face, inhaled her meal.  Surely, food would relieve the pain. 

Her stomach was bloated.  She felt sick.  Fingers were not necessary.  She just threw up.  After, she felt better, temporarily.  In those moments, she was not thinking ‘this would be gratifying or great.’  She only wanted the ache to end.  It did.  The throbbing in her head, her heart, and her body went away for an instant. 

She could not and did not control the hurt coming on; certainly, she was not controlling its egress.  In actuality, the anguish only increased.  Her life became a series, a sequel of events, repeated over and over again.

She awakes and thinks of food as she goes about the day.  Thankfully, since transitioning from anorexia to bulimia the thoughts are not as overwhelming.  Puking allows her to eat, and eat, and eat again and again.  Indeed, she has become an eating apparatus.  She consumes and is consumed. 

Each day she must make time for her doings.  She purchases her provisions.  She buys enough to feed a few, perhaps, throngs of people.  Preparing the fare will be full-filling for as she cooks she chomps on those condiments that need no roasting, toasting, baking, boiling, or frying.  She controls nothing more than the temperature of the comestibles.

However, much must be done before she can fully engage.  She has to drive or walk hauling her heavy load, pabulum for the voracious.  As she strolls or struggles to maneuver the curves on the road, she begins her antics.  Bananas are best for this part of the process.  Should there be an accident she will be less worried if only fruit sits in her stomach.  The long yellow crop exits the system easily.  Some foods do; others do not.

Knowing what will settle in the belly too deeply to be retrieved and what is pliable enough to take leave on command is important.  A scientist such as she is never able to fully control the chaos that is life.  There is much to consider and manage.  She learned long ago, nothing is truly manageable.  Control is but a myth and she has no illusions.

In those early days, she choose to chew nuts while in transit.  Cashews are beyond delicious.  Brazil nuts are not bad.  Peanuts are good-a plenty.  Nevertheless, she learned.  Too many of these, if the travel is long, or if the unexpected occurs, will not sit well.  She might worry.  Bulk gnaws at her.  What if she cannot relieve herself in time?  Besides, teeth crumble under the pressure.  This delicacy is too hard on the enamel.  After a fracture, a fissure, and the final falling out of dentine she forfeited the practice.

Once home was in sight, the excitement increases.  Still there was much to do before she might genuinely begin.  The groceries needed to brought in.  Imagine taking bag after bag into the house, then the kitchen.  She is a clean person and prefers to avoid chaos at all costs.  The items must be put away.  Some went directly into the stomach.  Others filled cabinets. 

The cupboards were never bare.  She back-stocked.  The idea of withdrawal, not having what she craved haunted her, even when not at home and not indulging or ingesting.  This young woman would never suffer; it was contrary to her every belief.  Yet, in truth she knew.  She was agonizing.  Nothing was in her control, not her thoughts, her actions, her feelings, and certainly, not her life.

After all was ready for her attention, there was more to be done before she could focus.  She needed to dress in her throw-up clothes.  She had a full wardrobe just for this purpose.  As a fabric lost its resiliency, it was placed in an honored bin, a treasure trove.  Shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, tee shirts, and pantaloons graced her body before the ceremony began.  She cleaned these fibers each evening.  She is a traditional soul and cherishes rituals.

Next, though she revels in sunshine and light, she needed to seal herself off from intruders.  She did not wish to be discovered.  Doors and windows were locked and sealed.  Drapes and shutters were closed.  Blankets, sheets, cardboard, and planks of wood were used to bar peekers from seeing beyond the shade.  She wanted no one to view what was within. 

Heaven knows what others might think if they knew what was going on inside the house, in her mind, heart, body, or soul.  There are gaps between the wall and the window frame you know.  She must eliminate these, close herself off.  Try to control the uncontrollable, the unruly, herself, her life, her feelings, most importantly her hurt.

That did not happen.  With each passing day, she was more distressed.  The agony deepened.  The doings had more power over her than she had over them.

The only consolation was, bingeing and purging were far easier than not eating.  When she was an anorexic, she had less control or so it seemed.  Starving a body starves a mind.  Without nutrients or nourishment, growth and learning were less possible.  She loves learning.  She always has.

The lesson she now  comprehends to her core is bulimia has nothing to do with a need to control or be in control.  There is in reality no such possibility.  Probabilities are chance.  Any scientist will tell you we can only control for what we can predict.  We can never fully understand the chaos of the universe.  She certainly did not grasp hers.  All that she was sure of was she was out of control.

She recognizes that she has no power.  She tries to flee from her feelings.  That is her deepest desire.  Weight is not the issue.  It is a derivative, a diversion.  She longs to take flight.  At last, she is organized.  The great escape can begin!

Addiction? Habits? No Laughing Matter. Ferguson On Spears

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Please ponder this presentation.  The film may provide a fertile foundation for deeper thinking.  Eye To Eye With Craig Ferguson On Spears

In my earlier missive, The Price of Addiction. Bush and War I went out of my way not to discuss “dependencies” as though they were obsessions, habits out of our control.  I did not wish to define a fixation as a tendency that could be easily contained.  Personally, I believe there are physical, physiological, psychological, neurological, environmental, ecological, and emotional components that cause us to do as we do and think as we might.  Every entity and each element effect  our thoughts, words, and deeds. 

From my reading, research, and experience, I surmise there are many influences.  Billions of determinants stimulate our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies.  Chemicals etch pathways in the brain.  Muscles have memory.  We cannot clearly determine if any one occurrence is the catalyst for another.  Avenues are opened and ignored.  Trails are cleared and some take the trek.  On any given journey participants will realize starkly different realities.  Conscious choice is truly a challenge.  The mind detects less than what occurs.  Humans miss more than see, hear, or feel.

Yet, although I tried not to engage in a dialogue that might be controversial, I received a comment on another site questioning my use of the common term “addiction.” Please allow me to say, I accept that I know little.  I understand nothing with certainty.

I recognize that the mind and body can and do embrace habits.  I have consistently indulged in many unhealthy activities.  I participated in numerous wise and wonderful patterns.  What worked well for me, ensures my safety, sanity, and stability remains mine.  The behaviors that once caused great harm, I happily left behind.

Last week, the mainstream media blasted the airwaves with talk of a tragedy.  I did not plan to speak of Britney Spears and her demeanor.  I was sad for her, for her children and her family.  I felt that Miss Spears was screaming out in agony, and we as a society were laughing at her expense.  Britney may have been asking for attention, as many assume.  I applaud her for knowing that she needs help.  We all do!

Life affords us many lessons.  We can learn none of these alone.  Every individual mirrors another.  When we reflect or relate to others we open doorways that we might never imagine.  I believe and have long stated, “Empathy is the best educator.”

Today I was reminded of a moment I thought stellar.  A comedian Craig Ferguson, mentored many with his words of wisdom.  Please ponder this insightful interview and share your thoughts.  If you have an experience with what is commonly called “addiction,” please recount your tales.  I trust your thoughts will teach others.   If you are as I am, what you say or write may enlighten even or especially you.

The Price of Addiction. Bush and War

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Please view the video presentation.  Do the Math.  What might The Cost of Iraq truly be?

Chapter and verse has been written on George W. Bush and his history of addictions.  None doubt his alcohol abuse.  The President speaks of this obsession often.  His own struggle to stop drinking may have endeared him to many voting constituents.  People in America can attest to their own struggles with alcohol dependency.  Some feel certain George Bush did his fair share of cocaine; perhaps, it was another drug of choice.  It seems marijuana was part of the party boy’s bingeing.  Currently, and for the last twenty plus years our President has been clean.  George W. Bush is sober and possibly no longer addicted to intoxicants, unless we are speaking of war. 

I am told killing and defeating personal enemies can be exhilarating.  I know not.  I think none are my foe, forsaking my own fixations.  I do know that many, myself included believe they have addictive personalities.  When I relish a pastime, I truly do.  However, I do not believe in the contention, “Once an addict; always an addict.”  Although, I acknowledge many do.  People can present a panoply of reasons to support their claim.  Rationale for such a belief is abundant.  Nevertheless, I am of the mind that habits can be left behind permanently.  No replacements are necessary. 

Over the course of my life, I have indulged in much that was unwise and unhealthy.  However, each of my habits was pursued simultaneously.  Slowly, I rejected one after another, until they were all gone.  I accept that my life and stories are my own.  Yours or George’s may be different.

However, I do assert as a friend, familiar, or family of an addict I would not be willing to support the habit of a devotee.  I wonder; would you happily bankroll the drugs, the booze, or the food that feeds the addiction of another?  I have, out of “necessity,” sponsored my own abusive practices.  Still, I surmise supplying the obsessed is unwise.  The habit will not die easily as long as it is fed.  Part of what helped me work through my addictions was the need to consciously consider the cost.

Drowning our sorrows in sauce, escaping in amphetamines, or feasting on foods until your body can hold no more is expensive.  Spreading democracy to satisfy an ego or to leave an impressive legacy takes quite a toll.  Trillions of dollars are necessary to continue this compulsion.

Money is not the only concern when we assess addiction.  The damage done to the devotee is awful enough.  The harm that comes to those the addict encounters is immeasurable.  When a person chooses to engage in abusive habits many are hurt.

Thus, I ask, do we really wish to support an unhealthy practice?  Consciously or not, we do.  We fund the President’s habit.  American citizens, Congress, or we the people sponsor the war in Iraq.

I do not believe in tough love; nor do I think behavior modification releases a person from their dependency.  I think each of these “treatments” offers only a temporary solution.  The hair-of-the-dog and drug therapies delay deliverance; however, these methods do not suppress a desire.  I maintain we must choose for ourselves when or how we work through our addictions. 

George W. Bush chose his path.  Mister Bush mentions that turning to the Lord, locating a place of faith contributed to his healing.  In 2005 . . .

Bush, a Methodist who credits his religious faith for helping him stop drinking and handle the demands of his job [said] “There’s all kinds of ways to quit drinking,” he added in remarks to a March conference of faith-based social service providers, “but one of the most effective ways to quit drinking is for a person to make a choice to go to a place that changes your heart.”

George W. Bush may be “right.”  For some, faith can move mountains.  Yet, a strong belief in the Lord does not seem to help with George’s current fixation. 

G-d, Jesus Christ, and President Bush’s belief in these miracle workers does not dissuade this man from evil doings.  George W. Bush violates the Commandments daily.  The tablets proclaim, “Thou shalt not kill.”  Yet, George W. Bush does.  This man is responsible for murderous acts.  He encourages mass slaughter. These reactive behaviors do not benefit a nation, a world, or even an individual.  What seems to be another addiction for George W. Bush is devastating the globe and we are paying for it.

I do not understand what motivate us, as a nation.  I do not comprehend what moves Congress to act as they do. Iraq war veterans are against this war.  Some of these soldiers were elected to office in hopes that they would find a way to stop the blood bath.  Freshmen members offer words of wisdom; yet nothing changes.

“We stand together to tell this administration that we are against the escalation, and to say with one voice that Congress will no longer be a blank check to the president’s failed policies,” said freshman Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.), who was a captain with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad. “The president’s plan to send more of our best and bravest to die refereeing a civil war in Iraq is wrong.”

We are still funding a failed war effort.  The argument is that if we stop supplying the dollars we will not be supporting the troops.  The troops themselves dispute this claim.  However, members of the House and the Senate fear the people will not believe this is true.  It seems Americans do not recall this action has been taken in the past.

A new report from the Center for American Progress details how, over the last 35 years, Congress has passed bills, enacted into law, that capped the size of military deployments, prohibited funding for existing or prospective deployment, and placed limits and conditions on the timing and nature of deployments.

Hell did not freeze over; however, with global warming it might.  George W. Bush does speak to our addiction to oil and recently relented that America’s compulsion to consume may be adding to the affect.  Still, I digress.

For some reason the charismatic Vice President Cheney and his partner in war crimes George W. Bush have a hold on Congress; thus, negating the “power of the purse.”

Vice President Dick Cheney has made it clear that he does not believe Congress has much to say about the war in Iraq, in particular, or about foreign policy in general.

With repeated assertions that the country “cannot run a war by committee,” the man who defended the Reagan Administration’s Iran-Contra wrongdoing and counseled the first President Bush to omit consultation with Congress before launching the Gulf War of 1991 has established the current administration’s view regarding which branch of government is in charge when it comes to warmaking. “The president is the commander in chief,” growled Cheney in a recent appearance on Fox News. “He’s the one who has to make these tough decisions.”

President Bush has dutifully echoed Cheney’s line with clumsy but apparently heartfelt references to himself as “the decider.”

Were it not for the small matter of the Constitution, the Vice President and his charge might be convincing on this matter.

Unfortunately for these transitory occupants of the White House, the Constitution affords them no comfort.

The document is clear in its language: “The Congress shall have the power… To declare war, grant letters of marquee and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; To provide and maintain a navy; To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress…”

If that makes it sound as if control over matters military was placed squarely in the hands of the House and Senate, then the founders succeeded in communicating their intent. James Madison and the other authors of the Constitution were exceptionally blunt about their hope that the president would serve as a mere commander-in-chief, implementing the directions of the Congress with regard to the targets or military actions, the characters of those actions and their durations.

The founders bluntly stated their fears about executive excess in a time of military conflict. “War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement,” warned Madison, who explained that, “In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand, which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”

The Constitution was written “to chain the dogs of war” by founders who believed it essential that the endeavor be “run by committee” — with the legislative branch fully empowered to check and balance the ambition, the avarice and the vanity of the executive.

Perchance the forefathers also predicted the possibility of delusion and dependence.  The writers of the Constitution may have known that a President can easily become addicted to power.  S/he may have an uncontrollable desire to conquer every entity in his or her path.  It seems George W. has this proclivity, and we, the people support him.  We honor this Commander with title of Chief.  The American people and their Representatives ignore the penchant of this President.  We give him dollars so that he may do his deleterious deeds.  Knowingly, we walk with Mister Bush down a path of destruction!

Why? Why are we willing to let a man that has a history of unhealthy habits lead us into battle.  More importantly, why do we fund such folly?

I beg; I plead; write your Congressman or woman.  Place a telephone call to your Representatives.  Sign every and any petition.  Speak to your friends and family; ask them to assist you in your quest.  Let us stop this insanity; exit Iraq.  End this war!  Do not allow this President, drunk with power, to dip into your purse.  Send the troops home before more harm comes to them.  Please help save your fellow humans from a fate that need not be theirs.  I thank you for caring.

Reasons to Reflect on George W. Bush and his Fixations . . .

  • Addiction, Brain Damage and the President, “Dry Drunk” Syndrome and George W. Bush.  By Katherine van Wormer.  CounterPunch.
  • Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media, U.S. Press Less Interested in Drug Remarks.  By Jefferson Morley. Washington Post. Thursday, February 24, 2005; 6:00 AM
  • pdf Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media, U.S. Press Less Interested in Drug Remarks.  By Jefferson Morley. Washington Post. Thursday, February 24, 2005; 6:00 AM
  • George Bush’s Addiction to Nuclear Weapons, By Lawrence S. Wittner.  George Mason University.  History New Network.  April 11, 2005
  • The Trouble With Tough Love.  By Maia Szalavitz. Washington Post. Sunday, January 29, 2006; B01
  • pdf The Trouble With Tough Love.  By Maia Szalavitz. Washington Post. Sunday, January 29, 2006; B01
  • Behavior Modification: Does It Work? © 2002 by Brian Thomas.  Courtesy of the Family-Content Syndicate
  • Two Fronts in the War on Poverty, Bush Seeks More Aid for Church Groups; Others Face Uncertainty.  By Michael A. Fletcher.  Washington Post. Tuesday, May 17, 2005; A01
  • pdf Two Fronts in the War on Poverty, Bush Seeks More Aid for Church Groups; Others Face Uncertainty.  By Michael A. Fletcher.  Washington Post. Tuesday, May 17, 2005; A01
  • House Begins Debate On War, A Partisan Divide On Bush Troop Plan.  By Jonathan Weisman.Washington Post. Wednesday, February 14, 2007; A01
  • pdf House Begins Debate On War, A Partisan Divide On Bush Troop Plan.  By Jonathan Weisman. Washington Post. Wednesday, February 14, 2007; A01
  • VoteVets.org
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War.
  • FACT CHECK: Congress Has Repeatedly Placed Limits On Military Deployments And Funding.  Think Progress.
  • Center for American Progress
  • What Congress Can Do. By John Podesta and Lawrence J. Korb.  The Center For American Progress.February 21, 2007
  • “Exercising Congress’s Constitutional Power to End a War.”  By John Nichols.  The Nation.  January 29, 2007
  • Childhood Obesity. Adult On-Set Diabetes. Osteoporosis. Soda

    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Former President Bill Clinton is out on the stump, speaking of soft drinks and how they adversely affect the body.  He is concerned with the rise in childhood obesity, adult on-set diabetes, and osteoporosis.  Mr. Clinton wants to do something to prevent these.

    Mr. Clinton realizes conditions such as theses are more prevalent in today’s society because people are drinking more soda.  Scientifically there is connection between our sweet sodas and our failing health.  I offer much of this research at the conclusion of this treatise.  However, my concern goes beyond what I believe is a superficial solution to the problem.  Having been a person saturated in soda water, I think removing the culprit from our schools, may not alter the effects.

    The Former President, along with the American Heart Association, negotiated an agreement with the three largest soft-drink manufacturers.  Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes, will willingly  stop selling fattening sodas and sugary drinks in American elementary and middle schools.  The companies will no longer offer the larger sized sweet beverages in the high schools.  The elder students will be able to buy diet drinks, sports beverages, and brews that are lower in calories.  The President and the producers propose, if young people have less access to the high caloric carbonated beverages, they will drink less and be healthier.  Possibly that is true; perhaps, it is not.

    The hazards soft-drink consumption is a subject I have thought of for decades.  I, as Mr. Clinton did imbibe great quantities of soda.  I knew as the President discovered, this action had its effects.  I am famous among hundreds of students for my “Mountain Dew Story.”  For close to a decade students have asked me to write and publish the tale.  This week as Former President Bill Clinton and soft drink manufacturers get much press for the simplistic solution they are presenting I feel compelled.  I will share the oft-told tale in writing.

    For me this story is not about soda, though superficially some may see it as that.  It is about choices, habits, and the decision to be healthier.  I offer this narrative to classes at the beginning of each term.  Students call it the “Mountain Dew Story.”  However, they know that is not the lesson of this tale.  They can quote the real reason for this narrative.  The lesson it teaches is,  “The manner in which we think, say, do, feel, and are is a choice.”

    We often think that who we are and what we think, say, do, and feel is our nature; we were born this way.  We are not.  We learn these habits at a very young age; so young we do not recognize that we are learning.  We do not know we have other options.  Therefore, we choose what we know, what is familiar, and what our families teach us, knowingly or not.  We adopt habits and assume these are personifications of us.  They are our nature; they are not.

    I offer this my own story in an attempt to illustrate that we can choose to change.  We can choose wisely; we can become healthier and happier.  Your habit may be one of zillions.  When I offer this thought to students I relate their possible habits to classroom conduct or aspects of life that relate to school.  I might suggest procrastination as a habit.  Nervous energy may be the practice I mention.  For those of us older; yet barely wiser our conventions may be different.  Whatever your custom may be the correlation is clear, if we decide to consider these.

    I grew up in a family that did not drink milk.  We had milk in the house; it was only for cooking and baking.  The first time I ever ran away from home was when my Dad decided I needed to drink the milk remaining at the bottom of the cereal bowl.  I did not want to do that.  I did not like milk.  I used it only as a conduit to moisten my cereal and to soak up the sugar.  After the cereal was gone and I had slurped up all the sugar, I was done.  My Dad thought not; he said so.  I fled from home with him hot on my tail.  However, that was only a moment, it occurred later in my life.  I was eight years of age at that time.

    When I was younger, very young, I began walking, talking, and I toilet trained my self.  I did all this by the age of eight months.  Therefore, I could be easily left with a babysitter.  The sitter my family and I preferred was my Grandfather.  My Grandpop owned a pharmacy and in those days, pharmacies had what were called soda fountains.  These were counters with stools in front of them.  Behind the counters were grills for short order cooking.  Soda was on tap.  I could have all that I wanted.  Happily, I would sit all day.  I read comic books, ate candy, and drank a lot of soda.

    I suspect my sisters did similar in their youth.  I am uncertain.  However, I have reason to believe that my eldest sister might still be drinking soda for breakfast.  I can relate.

    My grandfather did not like the way Coca-cola did business.  He worked with and sold only Pepsi products, and yes, I knew the difference.  In discussing this, my Mom shared, he had posters hanging in the back of the store.  They were pro-Pepsi and anti-coke banners.  I got the message.

    Years later, my family moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Lexington, Kentucky, Bluegrass Country.  This was the same year Pepsi introduced Mountain Dew.  Though I was a loyal cola drinker, I was interested in the new product, as was my Dad.  The company began advertising eight weeks before they brought the merchandise to the shelves.  I was anxiously awaiting it.

    My Mom theorized I was hooked on the advertisements; I was not.  I hated these, thinking them silly.  Originally, the soda was promoted as one bottled by “hillbillies” Patsy and Bill.  The slogan was, “Yahoo, Mountain Dew.”  Now, living in hillbilly country, I thought I must be meant to try this.

    Finally, the drink hit the shelves and soon appeared at our dinner table.  It was bright yellow.  Yes, I heard the chuckles and the words comparing it to urine.  These had no effect on me.  I indulged and indulged and indulged.  I changed my preference, my “poison,” I switched from cola to Mountain Dew.

    When I was living with my grandparents for a summer, in Florida, my grandmother became quite concerned.  She called my parents and said, “Betsy seems to be drinking an awful lot of soda.”  My father and mother did not share her apprehension.  They assured her, it was all right.  She relented, allowed me to, and I continued to drink.  In my mid-to late teenage years, I began freezing the liquid ambrosia.  I would pour the fluid into plastic cups.  I prepared five to eight of these nightly.  The next day, I would then eat them.

    Once frozen, the Dew developed a layer of syrup on the top.  The carbonation kept it from freezing as a hard as a rock; there were air pockets.  It was a delicacy.  I would run home at lunch, during breaks, and after school to grab a frozen “Dew.”  I was in a hurry as I dashed for my delight.  On these occasions, I could not be stopped.  I was on a mission.

    By the time I reached adulthood, I was an addict, a devotee, and an aficionado.  Those in the grocery store would insist, ??You should do ads for the company or buy stock in it.’  They knew, as did I, I could sell Mountain Dew to anyone.  I could profit from my own purchases.  We would laugh.

    Later in life, I hurt my back, then my arm.  I could no longer lift large bottles from the grocer’s shelves.  Nor could I push shopping carts loaded down with the quantities I drank daily.  Thus, I would call ahead to the request that these bottles be made ready for my arrival.  I would say “this is Betsy.” and the voice on the other end of the telephone would reply saying, “How many?”  I would answer twenty-four.

    That meant, “Please put twenty-four two liter bottles in a cart.”  Place these in the front of the store, I would be right over to pick them up.  I back-stocked.  The stores knew me so well that they gave me my own blue crates.  Typically, there is a deposit on these; yet, for me, there was none.  I would store three crates in the trunk of my car and more in my pantry.  I worried; I did not want to run out.

    I realized this was ridiculous, as was my consumption.  I read and read of the effects of soda, what the caffeine, sugar, phosphates and more were doing to my body.  I knew and I was scared.  I wanted to end this cycle; I wished for the cascade of effects to be eliminated, or at least reduced.  With time and age, these were increasingly apparent.  My teeth alone were evidence.  There were other maladies.  I suspect these too were related to my consumption.  However, I did not think I could stop.  I did love the drink.

    I would think of what I was doing and justify.  At least I had never had a drink of alcohol; I did not gamble or do “drugs.”  Though I wondered, what were sugar, caffeine, and phosphates for me?  Were these not my trappings?  Corn syrup and high fructose were other topics I could discuss.  However, I will leave these for another investigation.  I told myself Mountain Dew was a health drink.  Among its main ingredients was orange juice.  A friend that traveled to China said in that country, it was advertised as such.  That worked well for me.  Rationalizations, are they not quaint?

    More than seven years ago, closer to eight, which seems a significant number in my life, I began saying aloud, “I need to quit.”

    Each day I would go to the store to retrieve my drug of choice and instead of simply laughing with the cashers of my habits, I would say aloud, “One day I will give this up.”  The question was would I or could I?  A year and one half went by, and for no specific reason of note, I decided to stop consuming caffeine.  I would switch to a soda without that.  It was April 30, 1999.  It was a challenge.  I really did not enjoy the other options; nevertheless, it was important that I do this.  I needed to try to stop the flow of caffeine.

    I continued to read of the effects of soda.  Instantly, I realized eliminating Mountain Dew would not improve my worn tooth enamel.  The calcium was still being leeched from my bones.  Soda was the source of much of my concerns.  It was not merely the ingredients in the Dew.

    By May 25, 1999, I was done.  I stopped drinking all soda.  I digested no more empty calories.  I thought I would go through withdrawal.  I expected the sight of soda to stimulate salivation.  I though I would be as Pavlov’s dogs.  Surprisingly, I was not.  None of what I was told would happen occurred.  I did have an eyeball headache for a few hours; that was all.

    Actually, I began slowly, to eat better, to improve my habits in other avenues of my life.  I felt empowered.  I had made a choice and followed through.  Imagine that.

    More interesting to me was that I did not white knuckle this.  I never went back to soda.  I did not substitute another addiction for this one.  The years of thinking of this habit, telling the story had helped.  Working on me was the wonder.  The reflection was the labor; the change was my love.  I gave up nothing.  I gained so much.  Words will never accurately describe this.  It must be felt from within.

    Therefore, I have a sneaking suspicion that I could share more statistics, offer more facts, promote greater fear, and still do nothing to help those of you with a craving.  I believe that facts are futile, interesting, and possibly might stimulate thought and a decision.  However, only you can cast your habits aside.  I will not remove distractions, soda, or the source of your addiction.  Bill Clinton may have the power to do this; I do not.

    I only ask you to think of yourself.  Please do so before you do much more damage.  I know the process is slow and you can and will progress at your own pace.  Please do not be discouraged; do not rely on the government or manufacturers to help you work through your habits.  They may offer a quick fix, a simple solution; however, typically, these are short-lived.  While I appreciate Mr. Clinton’s attempts and I am awestruck by the soft-drink companies willingness to reduce soda sales in the schools, I do not think in the end, this plan is a solution.

    We are familiar with the process.  Persons on diets empty their homes of the foods they fear eating.  They find these same sweets elsewhere, or purchase them again later.  Individuals that want to quit smoking do, some do this time Habits are a challenge; change is not a whim.  Much conscious thought goes into altering who you are, or who you thought you were. You have long believed what you think, say, do, feel, and are is your nature.

    I offer this.  A thought stimulates action.  Without our thoughts, we remain as we are, as we were before we knew more.  Think through your habits and chose those that are healthy.

    Maybe the research will be your motivation, thus I share some of this.

    The sugar from soda takes a great toll.

    James A Howenstine M.D. writes in A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Products That Work

    “In an interesting experiment the sugar from one soft drink was able to damage the white blood cells’ ability to ingest and kill gonococcal bacteria for seven hours.”

    “Soft drinks also contain large quantities of phosphorus, which when excreted pulls calcium out of the bones.  Heavy users of soft drinks will have osteoporosis along with their damaged arteries.”

    Caffeine has replaced calcium in America diets.  The effects of this are documented.

    Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influenced Nutrition and Health (California Studies in Food and Culture) offers, “caffeine has replaced calcium in American diets.”  She believes there is cause to worry.  In her text, she continues . . .

    “Soft drinks have replaced milk in the diets of many American children as well as adults.  School purchases reflect such trends.  From 1985 to 1997, school districts decreased the amounts of milk they bought by nearly 30% and increased their purchases of carbonated sodas.”

    “The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.”

    “Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four-fold higher than those who do not.”

    “Sugar and acid in soft drinks so easily dissolve tooth enamel.”

    “Americans drink 13.15 billion gallons of carbonated drinks every year.”

    “Soft drink consumption in children poses a significant risk factor for impaired calcification of growing bones.”

    Soft-drink consumption leads to calcium loss via the kidneys.

    Dr. Neal Barnard, MD reinforces the earlier stated sentiments in Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect

    “Another advantage of avoiding sodas is that you will avoid the caffeine that is in many of them. Caffeine is a weak diuretic that causes calcium loss via the kidneys.”

    Soft drinks lower calcium and raise the phosphate level in the blood.

    Michael Murray ND and Joseph Pizzorno ND, write in the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition

    “Soft drinks have long been suspected of leading to lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the blood.  When phosphate levels are high and calcium levels are low, calcium is pulled out of the bones.  The phosphate content of soft drinks like Coca -Cola and Pepsi is very high, and they contain virtually no calcium.”

    “Many general dietary factors have been suggested as a cause of osteoporosis, including: low calcium-high phosphorus intake, high-protein diet, high-acid-ash diet, high salt intake, and trace mineral deficiencies.  It appears that increased soft drink consumption is a major factor that contributes to osteoporosis.  A deficiency of vitamin K leads to impaired mineralization of bone.  Boron deficiency may contribute greatly to osteoporosis as well as to menopausal symptoms.”

    Diet soda drinkers do not escape harm as they too consume empty calories.

    According to Carol Simontacchi, author of The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children presents this.

    Weight Gain Occurs, with or without exercise.  Reduced caloric intake does not change this.

    Greg Critser, penned, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World.

    He offers . . .

    “A joint study by Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital researchers in February 2001 concluded that such excess liquid calories inhibited the ability of older children to compensate at mealtime, leading to caloric imbalance and, in time, obesity.”

    “One extra soft drink a day gave a child a 60 percent greater chance of becoming obese.  One could even link specific amounts of soda to specific amounts of weight gain.  Each daily drink added .18 points to a child’s body mass index (BMI).  This, the researchers noted, was regardless of what else they ate or how much they exercised.  “Consumption of sugar [high fructose corn syrup]-sweetened drinks,” they concluded, “is associated with obesity in children.”

    There is much to consider, more to reason to choose wisely.  Please, be happy and healthy.

    References for your reveiew . . .

  • Soda Ban Means Change at Schools By Mary Otto and Lori Aratani. Washington Post Thursday, May 4, 2006
  • School’s Out for Soda By Sora Song. Time Magazine. May 4, 2006
  • Expelling Pop From School: Sugary soda could vanish by 2009, By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki and Chastity Pratt. Detroit Free Press. May 4, 2006
  • Soda?”A Look at the Effects It Has on the Human Body By Erin Sanders. Missouri Baptist University. October 28, 2003
  • Soda Consumption Puts Children at Risk For Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, and Cavities Northern and Southern California Public Health Associations. August 2005
  • The Real Dangers of Soda to You and Your Children, By Dr. Joseph Mercola with Rachael Droege
  • The health effects of drinking soda – quotes from the experts By Mike Adams. NewsTarget Network. Saturday, January 08, 2005
  • “A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Products That Work” By James A Howenstine M.D.
  • “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influenced Nutrition and Health” By Marion Nestle
  • Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect
  • Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno
  • The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children By Carol Simontacchi
  • Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World By Greg Critser