dad from day one: Autism Awareness (and Prevention)

Week 9.

Warning: May contain many unpopular views and opinions or have been processed in a facility by a nut (myself).  Tempting disclaimer, huh?

Though it may make me a heartless cynic to say so, I feel a bit overwhelmed with the constant conveyer belt of magnetic ribbons and colorful rubber bracelets showing up in popular culture, each promoting their own sincere cause.  And I know where this unpopular perspective of mine comes from: I am the kind of person who is bothered when I feel that prevention is passively ignored, while the search for a cure is actively worshipped.  So while it’s good when I give my money to research, no matter what the just cause, it’s also important to ask, “What can I do besides make myself feel good by giving money in the name of hope?  What can I actually do?”

My Italian grandfather, who I was very close to, passed away due to cancer a couple of years ago, just a few weeks after I got married.  I know what it’s like to watch someone you love have to suffer from something as awful as cancer.  But just like he himself did as long as I knew him, I worship cancer’s prevention more than I do its cure.  It puts the responsibility in my hands, not someone else’s. Granted, I really, really, really hope they find a cure for cancer. Soon.

In my scarcely read post, BS Detector, I explained it this way: “For all the millions of dollars we have donated to breast cancer research, the strongest findings they have released to us is this: The more fat a person consumes on a daily basis, the more likely they are to eventually get breast cancer. This does not necessarily mean that overweight people are more prone to breast cancer.  Because some people eat a lot of fattening foods, yet stay slim.” So while my Shell Diet may seem a bit extreme, it’s my way of making the most of what researchers have actually learned so far from the millions of dollars we’ve donated to the good cause of cancer research.  Granted, it’s not likely I am prone to get breast cancer, but I am overaware that what I eat is related to the chances of me getting or preventing some kind of cancer or disease.

In recent years, I have found myself to be confused when I see “Autism Awareness” magnets on cars.  I have trouble understanding how I am supposed to physically react.  If Autism Awareness is supposed to mean that people need to be aware of the symptoms of an Autistic person so that they can be more understanding when interacting with them as well as devoting a respecting reverence (not pity or indifference) towards the families of the Austistic; well, sure, I can agree to that.  But now that I have a child, the term “Autism Awareness” means something entirely different to me than that.

The exact cause of Autism has yet to be determined, but everyone has their own suspicious reasons of why they think it is caused.  Perhaps the most popular suspected cause of Autism is from vaccinations.  Not me.  While I am one of those kooky people who is very cautious of antibiotics and prescription drugs in general, yet strongly supports natural medicine for the suffering, including medical marijuana, I see no consistent evidence between vaccinations and Autism. Instead, the most convincing case I have heard of gained national attention in 2006 thanks to a Cornell University report: watching TV may cause young children to develop Autism.

In an article for Slate Magazine by Steve Easterbook, he explains that the reported number of Autistic cases shot up in 1980 (just a few months before I was born), when cable TV and VCR’s became the norm in American households.  The instances of Autism were higher in states where the weather was gloomier (like Oregon and Washington) where children were more likely to stay inside and watch TV.  Interestingly, cases of Autism are nearly non-existent in Amish communities where TV’s are nowhere to be found.  But how could Autism possibly be tied in with TV time?

In 2009, I wrote a 14 part series called Manspeak (its table of contents is featured at the very bottom of this post), where I documented all my findings as a recent newlywed regarding the social and psychological differences between men and women. The most important theme was that men are wired to be black-and-white, “just the facts”, problem-solving machines who only process things one at a time. However, women are wired to be charismatic, “it’s a long story…”, emotional social networkers, who naturally are gifted at multi-tasking.  With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that according to this article in USA Today, males are four times more likely to develop Autism than females, and children who develop Autism almost always do so before the age of three years old.

To me, it’s very clear that Autism is a social disorder caused by one’s environment, not a physical disease. Obviously though, genetics may very well play a major part in it, as with most things.  I believe that when human social contact is replaced by TV’s, it alters a child’s perception of social reality.  So for me, it’s no surprise that the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends against any TV for children under the age of 2.  Because it is during that time, especially for boys, that that the “social processing” part of the brain is being set-up for the rest of the child’s life.

It is my belief that when a child watches TV before their own social skills have largely developed (around age 2 or 3), the TV’s constantly changing camera angles, flashing lights, and switching channels, the child’s learns his or her social skills from the TV; therefore, Autism is developed.  Obviously, people were Autistic before TV’s were around, by I have to believe that when children under the age of 2 or 3 watch TV, their chances of becoming Autistic are greatly increased.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard Autism described like this:  “It’s like having the channels constantly changed.”  I take that familiar comparison as a major clue as to how Autism is largely caused.  It makes sense that more boys are Autistic than girls:  As previously mentioned, females are wired in a way that socially, everything is connected together and relevant.  For males though, everything they do is compartmentalized.  I believe that when young boys aren’t given the chance to develop their social skills on their own, unlike girls who naturally have more of a buffer or insurance against becoming Autistic because they tend not to compartmentalize things, their social life becomes compartmentalized, but with “changing channels”, as mimicked from the TV.

So how does this information affect how I handle my now 9 week old soon?  I constantly make a conscious effort to make sure he is not facing our TV for any more than just a few minutes.  Granted, the picture of him with my wife featured twice in this post was taken Monday night while The Bachelor was on: He was very intrigued by the women on the screen, as his facial expression reveals.  (I write a recap of The Bachelor every week.) But as always, after a few moments of letting him see the bright lights of the TV, we turned him away and focused his attention elsewhere.

I know that children can develop Autism without ever seeing a TV in their life, but if I’m going to personally take “Autism Awareness” seriously, being aware of his exposure to TV early on (and by telling anyone else who is willing to listen) is a way I can actually do something and be involved in Autism Awareness.

Manspeak

Catch up on what you’ve missed from my 2009 series, “Manspeak”.  Originally,  I had intended to write a series about true masculinity for a male audience.  Then I learned that the majority of my readers are actually female.  So females, here’s a look into the wiring of the male mind and a reasoning for your man’s behavior.  Just click on the title to read the post.

-1 Boyspeak

0 Introduction

1 Humor

2 Heroism

3 Filtration

4 Stance

5 Movement

6 Filtration

7 Bromance

8 Relaxation

9 Appearance

10 Exploration

11 Responsibility

12 Transparency

13 Composure

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Marketing Schemes Involving Breast Cancer Research

I have a strong sense of smell.  I call it my “B.S. detector”.

No one hates e-mail forwards more than I do, especially ones that tell me I’m not a good enough Christian because I don’t forward the cheesy things to everyone in my contacts list.  The forwards I despise the most are the ones that mention kittens and/or guardian angels.

Knowing this, one of my friends takes special care in finding some of the worst ones to send to me, as a joke.  I received one last week that tells the story of an old married couple living in a tall apartment building.  When they argued, the man would wave around his unloaded shotgun at his wife, for dramatic effect.  However, this particular time he pulled the trigger, it was loaded.  The bullet missed his wife but coincidently hit a man jumping off the roof who fell past the couple’s window as he committed suicide.

He died from the bullet, not from the fall.  The old man would have been convicted of murder of the jumper, but they found out that the jumper was actually the son of the couple and his name was Ronald Opus.  The son had loaded the gun, knowing that his father waved it around in times of argument, knowing that his father would pull the trigger and possibly kill his mother.  Inheritance money is what the son was after.

But after trying for months to find ways to kill his mother, Ronald Opus gave up and jumped off the building.  The irony was the police cited the incident has suicide because Ronald himself loaded the gun.

BS.

That’s all I could think.  Immediately I Googled “Ronald Opus”.  And sure enough, there was a full Wikipedia entry for the fictional urban legend of Ronald Opus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Opus

I’m no Doubting Thomas; I just pick up on red flags when stories don’t add up or seem legit.  The thing is, I’m not usually one to call a person out on their BS.  I’d rather let them believe that alligators live in the sewers of New York City.  Why should it be my role to rain on their parade?  When a person starts a sentence with “did you know?…” that typically means whatever they are about to say is urban legend or a fabricated story.

Read “Did You Know?” http://wp.me/pxqBU-g

Of course there are also political situations that just drive me wild.  I can easily think of ten people I personally know that have had a DUI, and I’m also familiar with all the stories of people being killed by a drunk driver.

Yet, let me count all the people I know that have been arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana.  Let me think of all the stories I’ve heard of people being killed by a driver under the influence of marijuana.

Zero.  None.  (And my predicition is that no one reading this knows anyone in that situation either.) I’ve heard of alcohol AND marijuana causing problems for drivers, but not just marijana.  Yet marijuana is illegal and alcohol is not.

BS.

I have to call out another BS situation too right now.

Since last week, I have been seeing this commercial for a popular fried chicken restaurant franchise advertising that they are now donating a portion of their profits from the sales of both grilled and “original recipe” (fried) buckets of chicken to breast cancer research.

BS.

For all the millions of dollars we have donated to breast cancer research, the strongest findings they have released to us is this: The more fat a person consumes on a daily basis, the more likely they are to eventually get breast cancer. This does not necessarily mean that overweight people are more prone to breast cancer.  Because some people eat a lot of fattening foods, yet stay slim.

It truly angers me to see companies try to take advantage of people with what I call The Breast Cancer Gimmick: “Want a find a cure for cancer?  Buy and eat this bucket of fried chicken and we’ll help by donating money to research.”  But really, the fried chicken only increases the chances of getting cancer and encourages a lifestyle to stay unhealthy.

Of course it’s not just fried chicken restaurants committing this insulting and greedy gimmick.  It’s pretty easy to find chocolate candy companies during the same thing.

Here in Nashville, I recently saw a car dealership’s commercial advertising that they will donate $400 to breast cancer research for every car purchased within the month.  That’s tacky, but at least it doesn’t contribute to the unhealthy lifestyle of the customer.

I very much want the cure for breast cancer to be discovered, but I refuse to fall for a marketing scheme like this.

If you want to donate money to breast cancer research, do it.  Just don’t let a fast food restaurant or a candy company be the middle man.

Because that’s just BS and you’re smarter than that.

To read more about the actual causes of breast cancer and ways to prevent it, click the link below:

The Unholy Trinity of Food http://wp.me/pxqBU-Hk

The Unholy Trinity of Food: Sugar, Fat, and Sodium Cause Obesity, Heart Disease, Cancer, Depression, Inactivity, and Hyperactivity

Sugar, fat, and sodium.  The three most rare food elements found in nature are the same three that have caused a national epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, as well as allergies, depression, inactivity, and hyperactivity.

Given that these health problems have been steadily increasing since World War II, it only makes sense to return to the way people lived before the 1940’s.  In order to do that, we must take matters into our own hands and fight the Unholy Trinity, by simply avoiding this enemy as much as possible.  The members of the Unholy Trinity are none other than sugar, fat, and sodium.

Sugar:

Consider a time in history when food couldn’t be bought in boxes or bags.  A time when people cooked their own food based on ingredients they either grew themselves or traded at the local market.  Most likely, the people simply ate fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, oats, and lastly, meat, as they could afford it.  And they drank water, wine, and beer.

foods high in sugar

Did they eat ice cream, cookies, and cakes?  Did they eat Nutrigrain cereal bars which are also loaded with sugar?  No.  While they could get their hands on sugar, which wasn’t necessarily easily obtainable, they mainly only cooked with sugar in very rare occasions.

Cavities were much rarer in those days.  A person’s intake of added sugar directly affects his or her ability to fight off cancer and disease.

Sugar is a drug that is so easy to get a hold of these days.  But it hasn’t always been that way.

Fat:

In order to eat foods high in fat, a person must have access to an animal that is either milked or killed for its meat.  We do, we just forget about how much trouble that is.  We just buy it from a store or restaurant.  Because we’re so far removed from livestock and farms, we don’t realize how easily we’re consuming animal products on a daily basis.

foods high in fat, obviously

There is such an awareness of women’s breast cancer and finding a cure for it.  But my question is this:  For all the money we’ve already donated to research, what have we learned?  While it’s important to find a cure, what have we learned about prevention?  After all, it’s better to avoid getting breast cancer all together than to ever have to fight it.

 

Until theres’s a cure, which I hope we find as soon as possible, there’s prevention.

The smartest thing to do is to look to the women who are not getting breast cancer:  Asian women living in Asian countries.  Specifically Japanese women. They are the least likely to get breast cancer.  Why?

Very low fat content in their diets. http://www.cancerproject.org/survival/cancer_facts/breast.php

Very high intake of chlorella, which is found in seaweed, which they eat regularly (namely in sushi). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NAH/is_1_29/ai_54062648/

Research over the decades has shown us that the #1 reason women get breast cancer is from a high fat content in their diet.  Unsurprisingly, American has the highest rate of breast cancer in the world.  Breast cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in America, and the 2nd most common cause of cancerous deaths.

Just in case we need more evidence of how to avoid breast cancer, when Japanese women move to America and adopt an American lifestyle and American diet, their immunity to breast cancer disappears.

So it’s a little ironic that from time to time M&M’s does a campaign where they donate a portion of the profit from their pink M&M’s to breast cancer research. The more M&M’s we buy (and eat), the more money that is spent to learn what we already know:  That the more fat in a diet a person has, the more likely a person is to get breast cancer.  And the more M&M’s a person eats, the more fat they are adding into their diet.

That actually makes me angry.

Sodium:

Let me ask myself a question:  In real life, how many times have I seen salt on its own in nature?  The answer:  Never.

Yet salt is everywhere and in everything.  Especially in appetizers at restaurants, frozen foods, canned soups, and all meat.

My boss got an app on his iPhone called My Fitness Pal.  It counts all his calories based on sugar, fat, and sodium to help him make sure he’s eating right.  He was eating perfectly.  Only lean, organic meats along with whole grains, fruits, and veggies.  Yet he kept going over his sodium.

foods high in sodium

I told him, “It’s from the meat.  Only eat meat in one of your three basic meals every day and see if that works.”

It did.  We eat too much meat.  And it’s giving us too much sodium, which leads to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.  But that’s a different post, and I haven’t finished it yet…

I have found that the best way to avoid fat and sodium is to avoid sugar.  Sugar is the easiest unholy member to get a hold of.  Because it’s even in wheat bread (unless it’s Ezekiel Bread).  To find food without added sugar, in most cases, means it’s a food with low fat and low sodium.  And a food without added sugar most likely means it’s not a processed food.

So ultimately, the bottom line is this: The best way to avoid the Unholy Trinity is to avoid processed foods- 1) anything that comes in a box or bag, 2) anything that has more than 6 ingredients (because more than that means those ingredients probably include either chemicals or one of the Unholy Trinity), and 3) anything that can last a long time in your pantry or fridge before it goes bad.

It’s a lot of trouble though.  To avoid sugar, fat, sodium, and processed foods.  To have to plan and prepare healthy meals ahead of time to avoid being tempted by convenience foods.

Is it worth it?  Is it worth the trouble to be healthy and avoid cancer and disease?

For a lot of people, it’s not.

Christianity and Beer

Would Jesus drink beer?  Maybe the question is, did He?

Ironically, in the way that many Christians view alcohol consumption to be okay when in moderation, I feel the same way about other beverages- ones that contain no alcohol. A typical can of soda (or tall glass of sweet tea) consists of about 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar, not to mention the caffeine. Would I normally eat 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar in one sitting? No way, that’s disgusting and totally unhealthy. Sugar is at the very top of the food pyramid and should be used sparingly. But that’s what soda is. And it’s so common. No “sin associations” either.

But it is extremely difficult for my conscience to deal with the thought that if the body is a temple, how consuming that much sugar all in the name of a common beverage is justifiable, especially compared to a single serving of beer or wine. Last night I drank two glasses of Dr. Pepper with some friends. And today I actually am a little ashamed that I did it.

And that is the power of taboo and its attached guilt. I feel bad about drinking soda, while someone else may feel halfway guilty about drinking some wine at a wedding. One person may be offended by me drinking a 12 ounce bottle of Blue Moon beer, but I may be offended by seeing someone drinking a liter sized bottle of Mountain Dew.

Both can be abused. Beer can cause drunkenness and alcoholism when handled irresponsibly (causing harm to self and others, possible to strangers). Drunkenness is an immediate warning that too much has been consumed. Sugary drinks do not cause drunkenness (but can also cause harm to self and others, through second hand poor dieting habits). Since no drunkenness is involved with sugary drinks, they have no immediate way to warn a person of the unhealthy dangers they can do to the human body when consumed too regularly.

I believe laws for drunk driving should be much stricter than they are. I disapprove of drunk driving as much as I loathe careless drivers and drivers that eat and/or text while driving. As much as I loathe murderers and perverts of every kind. Ultimately beer is one of those things like sex and money- wonderful, yet so easily can by used to corrupt, when mishandled.

Diet sodas, I don’t trust ‘em. After learning that my parents pour a little bit of Sweet’n Low onto ant beds in their yard, which within a few days kills off the whole colony, I figure artificial sweeteners are left better off as a pesticide. The tiny ants’ bodies can’t handle the unnatural ingredients in the artificial sweeteners. Maybe my 5’ 9”, 170 pound body can, but it’s just not a drug I am willing to experiment with.

Juice that is actually 100% natural (no added sugars or dyes) is bearable, but also has a high content of sugar. So if I do drink 8 ounce servings of juice, I realize that I have to consider the sugar content just as I would a normal beverage.  That is equal to a few tablespoons of sugar.  But if the fruit is eaten in its whole form, the fiber of the fruit itself absorbs the sugar so that it does not count as our actual sugar intake for the day.

So for me, I’m not left with many drink choices or dinner. I do drink a minimum on 3 liters of water throughout the day. But in addition to water with my evening meal, I often have a bottle of good beer (not anything cheap that can be easily found in a can, not anything with the word “lite” in its name, not anything that is advertised through funny commercials during the Super Bowl).

I can enjoy the simple formula of the drink that has been enjoyed since Biblical times (it was brought to America by the Christian Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock). Water, barley, yeast, and hops (from the small family of flowering plants called Cannabaceae, in which cannabis is also a member). Beer contains no fat or cholesterol. Studies show then when consumed regularly in repsonsible amounts, beer can help the body fight against stroke, heart attacks, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, to name a few benefits. When it’s consumed responsibly, it’s healthy and good. When it’s abused, it’s unhealthy and dangerous. Too much of anything usually isn’t a good thing anyway.

So did Jesus drink beer?  It’s obvious He drank wine.  Beer has been around since at least 9,000 B.C.  and was discovered/invented in Egypt, so I’m sure He had easy access.  Since it wasn’t taboo for His culture to responsibly drink alcohol, I would actually be surprised if Jesus didn’t drink beer.  But again, wine has a high alcohol content than beer anyway.  Choose your irony.