Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kids, diet, and education

I've got some stuff to post from the weekend but have regular work to attend to first. So, instead, I'm posting an old article on how a changing diet can lead to improved performance.

Food affects more than just how you look, it also influences how you behave.

By Steve Edwards

In Appleton, Wisconsin, one of the most amazing occurrences in the history of education happened in the late 1990's. In 1997, Appleton Central Alternative High School implemented a health food program. The Coke and candy machines were removed and the cafeteria quit serving standard school lunch: burgers, fries, etc. A company, called Natural Ovens (http://www.naturalovens.com/), set up a program to serve salad, veggies, whole grain breads, fresh water, and meats using only healthy recipes. The results were astonishing. Grades went up, truancies went down, fights stopped occurring, arguments were rare, and the teachers were able to focus on teaching instead of disciplining students.

Junk food doesn't just make you fat, it alters the way you think, feel, and react. It affects your entire emotional state. Yet we, as a country, are eating more junk food than ever. The worst of this often goes to our youth.

According to statistics sited in Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation, some of the worst meat goes to fast food restaurants, schools and pets, in that order. So it's no surprise that an entire school's population might benefit from better nutrition. What's surprising is just how much it changed.The school cafeteria has a long history of serving less than palatable cuisine. Those of my generation probably harbor "fond" memories of such brain foods as Salisbury steak, corned beef hash, and soggy peas. The newer generation is faring far worse. In the late 80's, soft drink companies started contracting with schools to place vending machines in school hallways. Schools, often desperate for money, caved in.
Fast food companies followed suit and soon, soggy peas and processed steak were replaced by fries and soft drinks. The trade off was going from poor nutrition to bottom-of-the-barrel.

Appleton Central Alternative School is, well, an "alternative school"; a place where problem students end up. Greg Bretthauer, the dean of students, was offered the job prior to the program and found the students "rude, obnoxious, and ill-mannered." The school had so many problems with discipline and weapons violations that a police officer was recruited to be on the staff.

The new program had an instantaneous effect. In the state of Wisconsin, each school is required to file a report each year detailing the number of students who have dropped out, been expelled, committed suicide, or got caught using drugs or carrying weapons. Since the start of the program, the numbers at ACAHS have been the same each year: zero.

This would be a stat that any public or private school would be proud of. For an alternative school, it's nothing short of astonishing.In the story A Different Kind Of School Lunch, published in Pure Facts, the newsletter for the Feingold Association of the United States (http://www.feingold.org/), other schools in the Appleton district have made more moderate changes, such as eliminating candy and pop machines, and have also seen results.

"I see the kids this year as calmer, easier to talk to," said middle school teacher Dennis Abrahm.

"If you've been guzzling Mountain Dew and eating chips and you're flying all over the place, I don't think you're going to pick up a whole lot in class," stated Mary Bruyette, a teacher at ACAHS who claims things are now different. "I don't have to deal with daily discipline issues; that just isn't a factor here."

One student may have summed it up best saying, "Now that I concentrate, I think it's easier to get along with people ‘cause now I'm paying attention to what they have to say and not just worrying about what I have to say to them."

And how is the program working now, five years from its inception?

"I don't want to say better than ever, because it's always worked," said Bretthauer, "but we've made minor revisions, based on experience, to improve it. We've incorporated flaxseed and focused on the omega content of foods. Made fresh water even more available. We have monthly fruit smoothie days, and have really worked to incorporate more education about eating away from school—trying to get students to follow through at home. We've found the diet does play a major role in increasing the ability to concentrate. And we haven't had any type of emotional outbursts, still!"

On why this phenomenon has been slow to sweep the nation, Bretthauer rationalizes, "The economics of past practice is one thing and people are always resistant to change, but it's coming. In the next two to three years, most schools will have major changes. It's starting to happen. I think LA is eliminating soda machines and any carbonated beverages from being sold in their schools."

"This year, we had a junk food day and served nothing but sugar-laced foods, caffeinated beverages, foods prepared with palm oils, etc, and it had a significant effect on the kids. They ran around like hyped-up squirrels, felt sick, couldn't seem to concentrate."

"Pleeease," they said. "Don't have another one this year."

Since some people have told me that they wouldn't believe this piece if I hadn't called the school myself, you can read more about the school on their web site at: http://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/aca/

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Letter to the Editor

A received a letter this morning from someone who'd dug up an old piece I'd written on the effects that school nutrition had on children. This school was later featured in the film, Supersize Me. In essence, a alternative school (kids that had been kicked out of regular school due to bad behavior) hired and natural food company to provide their nutrition program, as well as banning all candy and soda. What happened was nothing short of astonishing, as the schools trunacies fell to zero, their graduation rate shot to 100%, and fights on campus completely ceased. When I read about this school it was still new. When I wrote my article they'd been going over five years and the results were even more conclusive.

Anyway, when I don't have much to say, I think I'll post old relevant articles in this blog. It's also rallied me to call the school and see how things are going now.

This week, I'm off to a nutrition/supplement conference and the Natural Products Expo, so I'll be back at'chya next week.



ps - I hope someone out there won some money on Northwestern State!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tourny Picks

I'm only posting these since they've been requested because, frankly, I haven't a clue as to who will win this year. In a way, this means it's more fun. In another way, it feels strange because I can't think of a scenario other than a 16 seed making a deep run that would leave me shocked.

Most of the "experts" have played it safe and gone with the odd-on, year-long favorites: Duke, UConn, and Nova. UCLA is getting a lot of respect because they're hot. Conversely, Memphis and Tenn are not. The Vols have showed a chink in their amour by losing 4 games down the stretch but we shouldn't forget this team slaughtered Texas a couple of months ago. This, however, didn't seem to affect anyone with 'Nova, who were waxed in their conference tourny and are still the media's darling. Memphis has done nothing wrong other than play in a weak league. And they easily handled UCLA early in the season but, granted, it's a shadow of the current Bruin squad.

I'm assuming a few things in my picks. First, with an apology to a completely irrational Dicky V, the ACC sucks this year. Check the NIT for confirmation. Virginia is blown out by Stanford; Wake gets pummled by Minnesota. The Big 12 is also down. I mean, Texas lost by 30 to Duke and 20-something to Tenn at home! The Big 10 is tough, and maybe too tough. All this beating each other up has their teams hobbling into the dance. UConn lost in the first round of their tourament, a scenario that no team has overcome to win a title.

So let's get to it:


Duke, George Washington, Syracuse (uber hot), LSU, West Virginia (tough win), NW State (yep), Cal, and Texas (though I'm not sure about this).

Duke (could lose here, very real), LSU (big, strong and how long can Syr stay hot anyway?), West Virginia (all on whether their shooting comes back around), Texas (who isn't that good but matches up well against Cal).

LSU (ACC sucks, remember), West Virginia (if they made it this far their touch has come back).

LSU (they're not great but big and strong and nobody's that great.)


Memphis (could be tough), Ark (hot), Pitt (also tough), Kansas, Indiana, Zags, Marquette (bama lost to Kentucky, fer chrissakes!), UCLA

Arkansas (hot matters a lot and second rounds are always difficult), Pitt (Kansas is hot, but very young), Zags (very real upset here with Indiana playing inspired, but I want Gonzaga cause their fun), UCLA (tough 2nd round again)

Pitt, UCLA (if just for the cool Howland factor)

UCLA (defense, baby)


UConn, UAB (Ketucky would be more at home in the NIT, sorry Ashley), UDub, Illi, G.Mason (which MSU shows up?), UNC, Witchita St (for real), Tenn

UAB (2nd round thing again. hey, it's better than they did in their conference), Wash (take the better shooting superstar here), UNC (I guess, the Heels youngsters could fall at any time), Tenn (tough game. toss up. If Tenn wins, look out)

Washington (senoirs n' stuff, plus a bit o' revenge), Tenn

Tenn (if just for the next game)


Nova, Arizona (somehow), Nevada, Pacific (BC looks great but remember that conference), Wis-Mil (Okies could win but can always lose too), Fla, G'Town (no picnic and a boring game at that), OSU

Nova, Nevada, Fla, OSU (someone from the Big 10 has to survive)

Nova, Fla (Billy ball is back)

Nova (if just for the next game)

LSU is that kind of team that gives UCLA trouble. Therefore, UCLA wins

Oh, yeah. Two little teams running around pressing with smaller starting line-ups than most high schools. This'll be fantastic. Go with the seniors... Nova

Trendy pick but, again, going with age of inspiration. UCLA will be back. Could be a while for Nova.

Villinova 68-63

Monday, March 13, 2006

Coach's Corner

As a recovering basketball coach (14 seasons of addiction), and 2nd generation coach at that, once per year my thoughts turn to the big dance. The first few years of my "retirement" were tough. Now I'm used to it and no longer pine for the days not sleeping after losses, waking up in the middle of the night and scribbling schemes on a notepad, losing my voice once a week, and forever feeling underprepared. There's an old saying that the difference between a coach and a player is that as a player, you feel like you're never goint to lose. As a coach, you feel like you're never going to win. Those were the days... or not.

Regardless, once a year my coaching sentiments return and I pour over information as if scouting the next oppenent in an attempt to dazzle my friends and co-workers in the March Madness office pool. Here are my thoughts on 2006.

General Questions:

- Was the Big East really as good as advertised?
- Was the Pac 10 really as bad?
- Does getting hot in the overrated ACC truly mean North Carolina can make a run at the final four?
- Are the Big 10 teams too beat up to make a serious run?
- Can Gonzaga win without any sort of defense?
- MVC: tough as nails or just plain boring?
- Does a 9th place team have a legitimate beef for not getting invited to the dance?
- Will there be a 12 - 5 upset?
- Is Oral Roberts the best 16th seed in history?
- Will G-Mac run out of magic?
- Has the tourny ever been this wide open?

In reverse, let's start with the obvious: this in anybody's tourament. I can't recall ever seeing no favorite going in. You'd be hard pressed to find an "expert" last year who didn't pick Illinois or Carolina. This year, a look at the number one seeds leaves only questions.

Duke - eeked out a win in the ACC tourny after losing their last two conference games. Dominant? Hardly.

UConn - the most talented squad in the country but how many NCAA champions began their run by losing in the first round of their conference tourament?

Villanova - great team that's been solid all season--and incredibly fun to watch. But getting throttled by big, strong Pitt shows the reason why most teams don't use a 4-guard set.

Memphis - their weak conference has the doubters squawking but they've done nothing all season to show any sort of weakness. Thye're talented, have already gone toe to toe with Duke, like to bury lesser opposition, but are they rusty for top flight competion?

Perhaps as prep, and therefore not a sandbag, Memphis gets a tough first round matchup in Oral Roberts. OR's losses have mainly come to teams that are still playing, and most were close. They also beat USC (who beat UCLA and North Carolina) by 20. If Memphis isn't sharp, this could be the first 16 - 1 upset in history.

I think this year's 12-5 upset special has moved to the 11-6 game. All four 6 seeds could fall without a huge stir. In my bracket, I may only pick Michigan State to advance. I'm not picking any of the 12's.

I love to watch Gonzaga play. This year, however, you'd better watch them next weekend because I can't see a team playing their brand of matador defense lasting long.

The MVC is tough, no question. But let's hope it's overrated, since watching underdogs slug their way to 50-49 upsets will wear its welcome out pretty quickly. So. Illini is best positioned for a deep run. Here's hoping West Virginia finds its shooting touch again soon.

The Big Ten is a mystery. They've also managed some tough early matches where it would hardly seem like an upset if none were left after the first weekend. I think a few will prevail. Iowa has a horrible first round game against a NW State team that's talented and experienced. Beyond that they could make a deep run. Indiana plays a hot SD State squad but they'll be aided by a lot of emotion for coach Davis. OSU looks headed to a second round barn burner with Georgetown.

Cinci was doing a lot of crying about getting left out. How can a team that finished 9th cry over anything? C'mon. That league is loaded, but still. I think it may not be quite all that. If it were, Syracuse (who lost to De Paul by nearly 40 a couple of weeks back) wouldn't have won its tourny, G-Mac or no G-Mac.

Finally, does the Pac 10 suck or is UCLA the hottest team in the country? They look like a shadow of the team that barely lost to West Virginia and Memphis early in the year. To track improvement, look how a "no hope" loss to Cal early in conference transitioned to a gritty overtime victory into a full scale domolition in the tourny final. I tend to think the Bruins are going to be difficult to beat.

Oops, just forget something. The Big 12--usually one of the top conferences--isn't this year. Texas has talent but not many championship caliber teams get buried by 20 or 30 points ever dozen games or so. Just a matter of how long before they implode. Kansas is hot but, a-la UCLA, North Carolina, and Boston College, how much does this matter if you conference isn't good? Second round matchup with Pitt woudn't seem to favor the 'Hawks.

So that leaves everything clear... as mud.

It's anybody's dance.

My picks tomorrow...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Really Long Runs/Adventures/Records

Really Long Runs/Adventures/Records

I guess this sorta thing looks crazy to most people but when I read it, my palms sweat, my heart races, and I begin to concoct ways in my head to shave off time. So many adventures out there. This one's in my backyard, so I may have to give it a shot this summer.Congrats to all those out "pushing the hairy edge". It's not about the records; it's all the the adventure.

John Muir Trail Trip Report

Checking on that 'record,' someone else had the same idea. it's been smashed. Here's a good piece on the stuff I do. This is all running, making it more digestable for the masses than my stuff that usually includes more esoteric activities like climbing. But make no mistake; these people are part of my tribe.

"I hope that no one going for one of these records gets so caught up in the attempt that they miss the joy to be found in the wilderness. The power of wild places to transform one's spirit is more valuable than all the records in the book."

Trail Running Records and Personalities

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Jacobellis, PC, and Panache

I posted this earlier on another blog but thought it appropriate here as well.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

PC, The Olympics, and Panache
Current mood: irritated
Category: Sports

Anybody who's paid any attention to the media that last couple have days has heard the story of US snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis' gaffe that lost her the gold medal. To hear the media's take on, you'd think the method air that caused her to fall and, hence, lose out on the gold, may as well have been her flippin' the bird to all of America. I mean, America's all about winning, right? No matter what: style, sportsmanship, ethics, whatever. We just want to win and anyone hurting our "American Dream" should be chastized. Hey, maybe Jacobellis is a terrorists. Had we ever thought of that?


When did this happen? What the hell is going on in this county? Okay, the girl probably got a little celebratory, certainly lost focus for just a sec, and muffed a move that she probably doesn't fall on one time in a thousand. And she lost. Big deal. It's just a race. And she wanted to win it with a little panache. What's wrong with that?

It's French, I guess. We used to lionize panache. Now we have rules against it. Aren't sports supposed to be fun? When did everything become about winning and losing? Only one person can win. Is everyone else truly a loser? And, if this is the case, what kind of reflection--or psyche--is that going to instill on society? Win or go home. That certainly doesn't leave much hope for most of us, does it?

Jacobellis is going to be remembered as the girl who 'lost the gold medal' when, in fact, she was trying to make the gold medal actually mean something.

A famous French rock climber Patrick Edlinger once said, "If you're just trying to get to the top, it's a waste of time. The idea is to do it in a style that's pleasing to the mind and body." And this is in a situation that's life or death.

Panache, man.

I think US could definitely use a little right now. We've become the big bully of the world; throwing our weight around, not following the rules of the rest of the world (even though we helped write them), making terrible excuses for our complete lack of ethics. We're thugs. We've got no style. All we care about is "winning".
Their's a lot more to life than winning. Weren't we the country that coined "it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game"?

Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest American heroes. Yet, I believe, the America who treats him as a demi-God has forgotten just how the champ became a hero. You want to talk panache? He was the king of it. He may not have been the greatest fighter of all time, but he was the undesputed world champion of panache.

Ali looked good. He sounded good. He could work a crowd. Hell, he could work an entire country. The man was 100% style, and we loved him for it. Even in defeat, he was about style, telling the world that Joe Frazier "was too ugly to be champion" even after smokin' Joe has pummeled Ali senseless. The man had style. He had panache. And he was the embodiment of "America".

Nowadays, we want our athletes to be politically correct. To give bland interviews where they credit their victory to "my teammates," or "God". To get respect, you have to win as if it were graced to you.

Of course, you can't lose either. We are terrible losers. Our women's hockey team, after being completely out hustled, out coached, out fought, walked away in digust. No homage to their oppenent. Some of our players wouldn't even shake their hands. "Win or go home." It's no longer how you win; it's only that you win.

At least Jacobellis didn't yammer on using excuses:
"I was having fun," she said. "Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share with the crowd my enthusiasm. I messed up. Oh well, it happens."

This, my friends, is panache. She didn't want to win; she wanted to live. Yet our press is spinning this with shock, disdain, even horror. "How dare you do anything to risk an American win. You must hate America!" We are becoming--no, we are--the world's primadonna.

What the USA really needed was for Jacobellis to glare at Switzerland's Tanja Freiden (who won the gold) and say, "you're too ugly to be Olympic champion."

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.-Edward Abbey
Live Your Life

10 days to... something

Inspired by my boss (http://carldaikeler.blogspot.com/) I got up at 6:00 this morning to WOWY (http://www.wowy.com) with him and some others from Beachbody. Since my training is generally sports specific I usually don't participate in these things because I'm always training differently than everyone else around here. This was perfect timing. I was sick last week and my birthday challenge training suffered (http://www.birthdaychallenge.com/steve/2005/2005.html). For 10 days, my moring workouts will focus on my rehab (from a shoulder and knee injury) and my mind. Not generally a morning person; a steady diet of AM workouts are perfect for cycles when it's time to shake things up and get serious. My more intense workouts will remain in their evening slot, effectively creating a 10-day boot camp.

Contemplating my own self study on a nutritional strategy next week. Hmm....

Finally, a study that may mean something

From the Buffalo News, I just learned of a study happening on obesity. This study will clinically check the validity of diet and exercise. It's "duh" as far as I'm concerned, but maybe it will help spread the word that exercise and nutrition, and not drugs and surgery and hokey "supplements", is the only true solution to the obesity epidemic.

It's also sponsored by Blue Cross, so maybe it will lead to a reduction on healthy insurance costs for healthy individuals.

UB, BlueCross BlueShield launch study of nonsurgical obesity treatmentsBy HENRY L. DAVIS News Medical Reporter3/8/2006

Charles Lewis/Buffalo NewsAlphonso O'Neil-White, CEO of BlueCross BlueShield, right, talks Tuesday with Dr. Maurizio Trevisan of the University at Buffalo.

It's the dieter's dream, a weight-loss program that takes the pounds off and keeps them off.
The goal eludes so many. However, a major research project being launched in Buffalo may improve chances of success.
UB and BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York announced Tuesday a five-year, $5 million study to look at weight-loss alternatives to surgery for the severely obese.
The study will examine four different weight-loss regimens, comparing their cost and effectiveness to surgery.
"It's essential that alternative, nonsurgical approaches to help people who are severely overweight be evaluated," said Dr. Michael F. Noe, principal investigator. "We need to determine if these new approaches are safe, doable and cost-effective."
It's obvious from our expanding waistlines that such research is timely.
Nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and 31 percent are obese - 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's an increase from 15 percent in the late 1970s.
The growth in obesity has led to skyrocketing demand for bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass procedures. It's estimated that more than 170,000 surgeries were done in 2005 at a cost of about $4.5 billion.
But overall spending on obesity and its related illnesses, including diabetes and stroke, is much greater - $117 billion and growing, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General.
The research initiative is necessary and urgent because the costs to society and the economy are far too great, said Alphonso O'Neil-White, president and chief executive officer of BlueCross BlueShield, which is sponsoring the study.
Bariatric surgery has been shown to be helpful for the severely obese, and even more effective than diet and exercise alone. But while many patients meet the criteria for surgery, the surgery is risky, expensive and not always an attractive or available option.
The dilemma for physicians and insurers is that they lack a gold-standard alternative that's effective, O'Neil-White said.
The study, to be conducted in the Center for Preventive Medicine in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, will involve 280 BlueCross BlueShield subscribers who will be divided into four groups.
The first group will follow a low-calorie diet of between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day and participate in behavioral treatment.
The second will follow a very-low-calorie diet of 800 calories daily for 12 weeks, then switch to the low-calorie diet, and participate in behavioral treatment.
The third group will follow a low-calorie diet, with behavioral treatment and medication.
The fourth will follow the very-low-calorie diet for 12 weeks, with behavioral treatment and medication.
The behavioral treatment includes exercise, education and motivational strategies. Those who receive medication will get one of two weight-loss drugs: orlistat, also known as Xenical, which blocks some fat from being absorbed by the body, or sibutramine, also known as Meridia, which acts on the appetite control centers in the brain.
The investigators theorize that those who stay on the very-low-calorie diet and receive medication and behavior treatment will achieve the best results. The trickier part, of course, will be preventing the predictable backsliding.
Said Noe: "I hope we demonstrate that we can get people to take off weight and keep it off."