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  • Meal Prepping May Actually Be Sabotaging Your Diet

    Portioning your weekly meals into plastic or even BPA-free containers packs some major risks. Among them is weight gain.



    If your Sunday nights are dedicated to meal prepping for the week ahead, you’re part of a mighty group of health nuts.


    The planning ahead of meals is a main tip of weight loss coaches, food bloggers and nutritionists.


    Indeed, meal prepping’s popularity has exploded on social media. On Instagram alone there are 5.5 million photos tagged #mealprep and 1.1 million tagged #foodprep.


    While perfectly portioned-out food for seven days does make for the perfect #foodporn snapshot, meal preppers are onto an idea that — at least in concept — is good for your diet, according to research.


    People who spend more time preparing meals are more likely to have healthier diets, according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


    They eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.


    They also eat at fast food restaurants only half as often as people who only spend less than an hour each day prepping and cooking their meals.


    In addition, they spend less money on food.


    More recently, a 2017 study of 40,000 adults in France found that people who meal prepped at least a few days at a time were less likely to be overweight and stuck more closely to nutritional guidelines.


    The survey also found that meal prepping led to more food variety over the week.


    Portion control is one key way food prepping helps people maintain a healthy weight or lose a few pounds.


    A review of several studies around the role of portion control in weight management showed that eating the appropriate amount of food is directly linked.


    One component of portion control that researchers stress is choosing the right portions of water-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, and eating less energy-dense foods — like most fast foods and candy.


    If you prep your food, it’s easier to not only eat the right amount, but to avoid foods that are bad for you but oh-so-tempting.



    If you prep your food, it’s easier to not only eat the right amount, but to avoid foods that are bad for you but oh-so-tempting.



     


    Food containers contain hazards


    However, if you’re portioning food out into plastic containers, all of that healthy preparation could actually create a new barrier to staying trim.


    Dr. Aly Cohen, a rheumatologist, as well as an integrative medicine and environmental health specialist who is on staff at the CentraState Medical Center, explained.


    “An effective diet is not just about healthy eating, managing sugar and carbohydrates, and exercise,” she told Healthline. “Reducing chemical exposure is also key because many of these chemicals can disrupt normal hormone function, impede weight loss, and even cause weight gain. Just because chemicals may not have an obvious effect, like causing a rash, doesn’t mean they aren’t tinkering with your body.”


    Whipping up a big batch of healthy chili, scooping it out into several plastic containers, and quickly reheating it in the microwave come mealtime is one example of how a healthy meal prep turns into several dinners brimming with the harmful hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA).


    BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic (plastic #7) and canned food linings, as well as many other things that we touch every day — including our smartphones.


    “Most human exposure to BPA is through ingestion from canned products, but BPA can also be absorbed by touching paper that uses BPA to seal ink onto its surface and then touching your hands to your lips. BPA can also be absorbed in smaller amounts through the skin,” Cohen said.


    Cohen noted that BPA is pervasive — 8 billion pounds of BPA are made every year — since it’s one of the cheapest ways to make packaging.


    BPA and — if your plastic container is marked “BPA-free” — similar, sometimes more harmful chemicals are lurking in your plastic food storage set of containers.


    Heating up plastic containers by putting hot food in them or microwaving them can draw out BPA — right into your food.


    How BPA affects the body


    BPA was first discovered in 1891 and then rediscovered in 1936, according to Cohen.


    “It was used as an estrogen replacement drug for women, and it was also used to fatten poultry and cattle. In the 1940s it was discovered that linking the molecules together created a hard, clear, glass-like plastic,” she said.


    BPA can confuse the endocrine system, which regulates hormones, by mimicking estrogen.


    We’re regularly ingesting BPA, and therefore continually disrupting the messages that help our bodies function properly. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90 percent of people have detectable levels of BPA in their systems.


    To date, nearly 100 studies have been published tying BPA to various health problems, from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to infertility, according to the Endocrine Society and IPEN’s Introduction to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals.


    Some other effects of too much BPA exposure are directly contrary to weight loss and healthy eating goals.


    BPA may be wrecking your diet


    BPA passes through a person’s system fairly quickly, but detoxifying still isn’t easy.


    “Despite the fact that BPA has a short half-life of six hours, which means an exposure will wash out over a day or so, people continue to have high blood levels,” Cohen noted.


    “There are two problems with BPA,” added Laura Vandenberg, PhD, a spokesperson for the Endocrine Society, and an assistant professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “One is that we are constantly exposed in our environment, so the levels never really seem to drop. Even in people that have been fasting, metabolite levels in urine are still detected. The second problem is that, if exposures occur during a vulnerable period of development, like fetal development, the effects can be permanent — even if exposures cease.”


    For adult meal-planning fanatics, constant re-exposure to BPA may mean that meal prepping is actually sabotaging your diet.


    “BPA is so ubiquitous, that humans are continuously exposed, making BPA ‘pseudo-persistent,’” Cohen said. “What’s interesting in terms of weight is that BPA can turn stem cells into fat cells and make fat cells turn larger. That’s not great news for our waistlines — let alone our overall health.”


    A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2015 was the first study to prove that BPA-glucuronide (BPA-G), which accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the metabolites your liver produces when processing BPA, doesn’t just get excreted from your body.


    The researchers showed that BPA is an active agent that can prompt cells to become fat cells.


    That’s not the only proven way that BPA exposure can interfere with your weight goals.


    A recent study published in Endocrinology found that BPA exposure makes it much harder for you to feel full.


    While meal prepping helps with portion control, the BPA in the plastic food storage containers may ironically be causing people to want to eat larger portions.


    “BPA-free” label doesn’t equal safe


    Even buying plastic containers marked “BPA-free” doesn’t protect you from the harmful effects of plastic.


    Some BPA-free products can actually release estrogen-simulating chemicals that are more potent than BPA.


    “Many products are now labeled ‘BPA-free.’ However, BPA is often replaced with bisphenol S , which are less studied but appear to have similar hormone-disrupting effects,” Rebecca Fuoco, MPH, director of Health Research Communication Strategies, told Healthline.


    That means scientists and activists that study toxic chemicals like BPA and push to remove them from everyday products often end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what’s in the new compound.


    “When a chemical is found to be harmful, manufacturers change the molecule ever so slightly and put it out to market again,” noted Cohen. “From BPA came BPS, BPF, and BP-FB, which are molecules that have been found thus far to have more harmful effects than the chemical they were designed to replace — also known as ‘regrettable substitutions.’ Researchers are essentially playing whack-a-mole, because plastics and their ingredients are proprietary and considered ‘trade secrets,’ so the recipes and ingredients are not shared with researchers or consumers.”


    Policy favors manufacturers


    In 2012, 4.7 million metric tons of BPA, valued at about $8 billion, was estimated to have been produced, according to GlobalData.


    And reports of the harmful effects aren’t slowing production. The demand for BPA has risen 6 to 10 percent annually.


    Oleoresin is a vegetable-based alternative that can add about two cents to the cost of manufacturing of cans, according to Cohen.


    So far, it has only been used in a small percentage of cans on the market.


    “Our government has given more priority to manufacturers than to consumers. The vast majority of food packing ingredients are going out to market without ever being tested for toxicity,” Cohen said.


    In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still considers BPA to be safe, stating on its website that their research has “showed that BPA is rapidly metabolized and eliminated through feces and urine.”


    On the other hand, regulatory agencies in Europe have recently re-evaluated BPA. Last week, there was widespread agreement by countries in the European Union that this chemical should be labeled a human endocrine disruptor.


    For Americans, though, toxic chemicals like BPA remain a concern.


    “We shouldn’t expect individual consumers to have detailed knowledge of chemistry to make safe decisions for themselves or their families. Safety decisions should be made by regulators using the best available evidence. I will continue to push for improved regulations that use modern data to protect public health,” Vandenberg told Healthline.


    Four ways to avoid harmful diet-sabotaging chemicals


    Even though BPA-riddled plastic containers are out there, Vandenberg and Cohen noted that people can still make small changes over time that add up.


    Here are some ways to ensure your food containers aren’t keeping you from losing weight.



    • Buy glass, ceramic, or stainless steel food containers. While cost can be a concern, avoid plastic containers whenever possible and invest in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel food storage containers instead. Remember that you shouldn’t assume that a “BPA-free” label means a plastic container is safe.

    • Don’t heat up plastic containers or use harsh detergents to clean them. If you can’t shell out the cash for new glass food containers, there are still ways to make using your plastic containers safer. Using harsh cleaning supplies to wash your plastics or heating them up can increase leaching of BPA into food. Use eco-friendly soaps, never microwave plastics, and don’t pour hot liquids into your containers.

    • Toss out worn or cracked BPA containers. Another way to make plastic containers safer is by tossing out the ones that are broken down or cracked. Clear hard plastic can often turn opaque from washing, and is more prone to breaking down in your food. Throw those containers into the trash and just use your newest, intact plastic containers.

    • Buy fresh produce. “If you can, switch from canned food to flash-frozen organic — or even non-organic — food. Aim to buy fresh food whenever possible,” Cohen recommended. “Buying fresh foods instead of canned is also good, if possible. But eating healthy is also important, and if canned vegetables are the only affordable choice, they are better than no vegetables at all.” Vanderberg said.


    Meal-prepping in plastic is still better than no meal prepping at all, if it helps you eat healthier.


    “These chemicals are ubiquitous — they’re everywhere. You should do the best you can. Cutting chemicals out of your life is a journey, not a race. Every day I learn something new and try to add it into my life,” Cohen said.


    By Whitney Akers


    This story was originally published on Healthline.com.

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  • Why The Relationship You Have With Yourself Should Always Come First

    “One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.”


    Right now I don’t know if it’s worth holding onto. A marriage so broken, so shattered, putting the pieces back together seem nearly impossible. My mind flashes back to when I was younger and I would hear my parents fighting in the room right across from mine. Money, sibling rivalries, lies, and deceit. I remember taking my favorite pink pillow from my bed and bringing it with me into my closet, where I’d bury my head in it and cry. I’d cry for hours, sometimes until I fell asleep. Most times my mother would find me and cradle me in her arms. She’d kiss my forehead and tell me everyone would be alright. She gave me a glimmer of hope I’d grasp onto.


    But 15 years later, the same fights, the same arguments, the same screaming, and tears. The difference now is that I understand the full story behind these fights, and instead of being the little girl who hid in her closet crying, I became the one stepping in to stop the fighting with tears streaming down face, but this time without the comfort of my closet walls or my favorite pillow.


    My parents are the most amazing parents, and I have been truly blessed in that way. They’ve always provided the best they’ve could for, been there to support me, and have given me more love than I could ever ask for. Their unhappy marriage has definitely taken a toll on me, however, their ability to be great parents and role models has never been compromised.


    Growing up, I watched in awe as the heroes swooned the heroines with smooth lines and smiles framing their dimples. And I imagined that one day I would find my true love just like all the heroines did in my favorite Bollywood movies. As I entered my freshman year of high school, I buried my nose into novels by Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts. Each one left me with a longing, a longing to find the one. My soul mate, who I’d be able to spend the rest of my life happily with, who’d love me till death do us part. Looking back, I was a die-hard romantic, but recently that hasn’t been the case. Part of me thinks that I am not meant for love, for marriage, for a soul mate. It’s much easier to imagine a future of just me in it than one with someone else. Up until recently, I was so ready to fall in love. So ready to find my person and settle down. But now I’m not so sure.


    Over the years, I’ve seen that falling in love is the easy part. Abiding by that love, that’s the real test. Truthfully I’m scared of being hurt, of being let down and left behind. There’s no guarantee that the person I end up marrying will live by the promises made, and that we will still be just in love as we were when we were first started things. The scariest possibility is realizing that despite loving each other, we are no longer in love with each other. And that fear alone seems to be enough to make me want to build a future alone. The only reason people end up hurting each other or letting the person close enough to hurt them is that they put themselves in such a situation. If it were avoided in the first place, then there would be no hurt. But then I wonder if it is better to have loved than never at all… There are so many questions flooding through my brain, that sometimes it’s easier to say “forget it,” than to face the demons that they come with.


    Flipping through my journal, I come across a page dated April 4th,


    “My face is always lit up, a smile spread across my face and I can’t stop my insides from jumping. The smile has become part of my face, growing and blossoming at the smallest of things. I can’t explain this feeling. Nothing wonderful has happened, but yet I wake up feeling as if something has. There’s an extra pep in my step. I don’t know how long this will last, it seems just too good to be true. I’ve never felt so elated over nothing. Is this what happiness feels like? Are my days of pretending over? Can I breathe easy, hoping that the worst is finally over…? For the first time in a long time, I feel carefree… I feel happy!”


    I want so desperately to feel that again, to know that my happiness should never have to depend on another. For the longest time, I’ve always thought that true happiness would come from the experience of sharing my life with someone else. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized how wrong I am. My happiness has and should always come from unapologetically being myself. It has stemmed from within and it’s the best kind of happiness out there. It’s the kind that doesn’t need anyone. It’s the kind that makes you smile and laugh at the smallest things. Sometimes even nothing at all. It pushes all the good memories you have to your forefront and shows you that the only people who matter in your life, are those who contribute to your happiness, never taking away from it. To be truly happy, you must fall in love with every part of you. Right now I may not believe in love in the romantic sense, but I still do believe in love in every other sense. And most importantly, in the kind of love that stems from within, created from a journey of soul searching. And for that journey, I need nothing but some confidence and myself.


    My parents’ crumbling marriage may have discouraged me from believing in the kind of love that lasts forever, but it’s made me appreciate and understand that the most beautiful and fulfilling relationship I’ll have right now, is the one with myself. It’s taught me to truly fall in love myself, in every sense. To love the world I come from, to embrace the pain and joy that it’s given me, and to appreciate every experience that has made me who I am today. Life has a funny way of teaching us things, and each lesson gives us the opportunity to grow. Whether that growth is positive or negative, it’s ultimately up to us to decide. This yearning for happiness I have has nothing to do with someone else, and everything to do with me.


    Originally written by Samantha Walisundara on Unwritten

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  • How The Gas Industry Can Help Fight Climate Change In Siberia

    Andrew Hopkins, Australian National University


    Permafrost is the layer of permanently frozen earth – over a 1,000 metres thick in some places – that lies just beneath the land surface in Arctic regions. It formed over the past few million years when ice ages predominated.


    Now, under the influence of global warming, it is melting. And research suggests that this may have reached the point of triggering runaway climate change, unless we can find ways to intervene.


    The problem is that permafrost contains huge amounts of methane, anatural gas that’s being progressively released as the ice melts. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, having up to 80 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide.


    We can’t stop this process, but could we capture the methane as it is released? It just so happens that the gas industry has the technology to do just this, and join the fight against climate change.


    Trouble on the tundra


    Scientists working in northern Siberia announced in March this year that they had identified some 7,000 small hillocks created by methane that has been released underground and is pushing the ground upwards. The hillocks are between 50 and 100 metres across.


    In 2014, scientists also started discovering strange craters in the landscape, which appear to have been formed as a result of explosions. It seems that the pressure inside the hillocks builds up until a huge methane bubble is released with explosive force. These violent gas releases are dangerous to people and infrastructure, and scientists are working on ways of estimating the local threat.


    Similar mounds have been discovered in the shallow waters off the Siberian shelf, and in 1995 a drilling vessel accidentally drilled into one, releasing a vast bubble of methane that almost sank the vessel.






    F


    These releases have global consequences. They are a massive new source of greenhouse gas, making runaway climate change more likely. And there’s something that the gas industry could do about it.


    The right kind of mining


    The industry is already experienced in collecting coal seam and shale gas from large numbers of widely distributed, relatively small wells. It should be possible to use the same technology to tap into these massive gas bubbles before they burst, collect the methane and transport it to market.


    If this turns out not to be commercially viable, internationally funded subsidies may be needed to provide an incentive to the gas industry.


    If there is no prospect at all of marketing the gas, at least it could be flared - burnt - converting methane into CO₂ This would be far better environmentally than allowing the methane to escape. But it would need to be fully funded by governments.


    Petroleum companies, meanwhile, are considering mining reserves of frozen methane that lie far below the surface of the Arctic, and that are unlikely to be released by natural processes in the foreseeable future.



    In order to be exploitable, these stable reserves need to be stimulated in various ways, such as by pumping hot water underground. But if gas producers were to focus on these stable reserves of methane, they would contribute to climate change rather than help combat it.


    Any scheme to encourage gas companies to take up the challenge identified here would need to guard against this possibility.


    And now the sea bed


    A second type of methane release has also been discovered, coming from the Arctic seabed. The area is shallow, with an average depth of 50 metres, and was once dry land. At that time, it froze to great depth.


    Now beneath the sea, it is thawing in particular spots known as taliks.


    The result is that areas of the sea floor – some about a 100 metres across and others up to a kilometre across – are releasing streams of small methane bubbles that are rising to the surface in continuous fountains, and escaping into the atmosphere.






    Russian scientists have been monitoring these releases for several years and their most recent research, published in late 2016 , shows that the area from which this seepage is occurring has expanded.


    They conclude that the rate of permafrost degeneration may have increased. They also note that the amount of methane being released from the Arctic seabed is comparable with that being released from the tundra.


    For the continuous fountains of methane being released from the Arctic seabed, it should be possible to place domes over the escaping gas and bring it to the surface in a controlled fashion.


    The gas industry already has the technology to do this. But this technology aims to stimulate the release of methane that might not otherwise be released.


    Again, this would be counterproductive from an environmental point of view. So again, if the industry were to receive a subsidy for harvesting methane in this way and transporting it to market, or at the very least flaring it, controls would need to be in place to ensure that no additional methane was being harvested beyond that which would have been released in the normal course of events.


    It’s now widely believed that even if human emissions of greenhouse gasses could be reduced to zero in the near future, it wouldn’t be enough to prevent catastrophic global warming. One of the additional steps we need to take is to curtail naturally occurring emissions.


    Given the rate of technological change occurring in the renewable energy industry, the role of gas as a transition fuel may not last as long as the industry hopes. But if it can find a way to harvest methane escaping from the melting permafrost, it will have assured itself a longer term future.


    The ConversationThe Paris Climate Summit envisaged developed countries finding US$100 billion a year to subsidise the efforts of developing countries to reduce greenhouse emissions. If that kind of money could be found to fund the capture of Arctic methane emissions, then the projects sketched above could become feasible.


    Andrew Hopkins, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Australian National University


    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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  • Big Pharma Worms Its Way Into Congress’ Medical Malpractice Bill

    While the nation pays close attention to the Senate’s health care bill this week, the U.S. House of Representatives intends to do more egregious harm to everyday people who encounter the health care system. On Wednesday, the House will vote on H.R. 1215, a bill that has languished for three months due to unprecedented progressive and conservative opposition. Between the cruel original bill, and the harsh amendments that will be added to the bill on Tuesday (no Democratic improvements will be allowed), H.R. 1215 would quite literally immunize the health care industry for most kinds of misconduct, from horrendous medical malpractice in hospitals, to nursing home abuse and neglect, to sexual assault by doctors.


    Let’s assume all this bill did was make it impossible for patients severely harmed by a hospital’s negligence to bring a case or be adequately compensated. The bill would impose a federal “cap” on what are known as “non-economic” damages, awarded for injuries like permanent disability, mutilation, trauma, loss of a limb, blindness, sexual or reproductive harm, and other types of suffering and pain. H.R. 1215 would federally-mandate that if you suffer the most severe non-economic injuries, they are worth exactly $250,000 (no matter what a local jury finds). This is what your baby’s suffering would be worth if she were severely burned and disfigured in a surgical fire (like little Dahlia Ramirez of Illinois), or what your own life would be worth if, say, your “good” testicle were removed by an incompetent surgeon, condemning you to a lifetime of horrible pain (like Steven Hanes of Pennsylvania). In both Illinois and Pennsylvania, such compensation caps are unconstitutional, as they are in many states. The House leadership doesn’t care. H.R. 1215 would force them on everyone.


    It is true that in 26 states, lawmakers have already written such caps into state law (although few are as harsh as this one, and many are constitutionally-questionable). Add to these laws the myriad of other medical malpractice “tort reforms” already on the books, and it becomes clear that health care providers have more liability protections for negligence or recklessness than any other group in the nation.


    Yet as bad as many of these state laws are for patients, almost none of them limit the liability of reckless drug companies. In fact, the vast majority of states believe it’s wrong to cap liability for manufacturers of unsafe drugs and medical devices. Yet, H.R. 1215 would do that, too. We know this simply by looking at the bill’s buried definition of “non-economic damages,” applying the $250,000 cap to cases involving “the provision or use of (or failure to provide or use) health care services or medical products.” “Medical products” are further defined as a “drug, device, or biological product.” It is pretty clear what’s intended. And the bill has even more provisions to limit this giant industry’s liability for causing harm.


    Burying drug industry immunity in federal medical malpractice bills is nothing new. In the early 2000’s, when the Bush Administration was pushing similar legislation (the U.S. Senate rejected at least five such bills), legendary New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote of another drug industry provision hidden in a similar bill:


    So tucked like a gleaming diamond in proposed legislation to curb malpractice lawsuits is a provision that would give an unconscionable degree of protection to firms responsible for drugs or medical devices that turn out to be harmful.… The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, was blunt on the matter. He said, “Congress should not be giving a free pass to big drug companies at a time when millions of Americans may have had their health put at risk by pharmaceutical giants.”

    Organized medicine is not clamoring for this bill and why would they? Doctors’ premiums and malpractice claims are about the lowest in history. This law would have no impact on health care costs, except make them go up. And it will certainly add to the misery of children like Dahlia Ramirez, whose preexisting condition was caused by the very health care system that should have protected her, and whose responsibility this bill would eliminate.


    But even more than that, H.R. 1215 is one huge, deceptive gift to the pharmaceutical industry.

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  • Stop The Opioid Epidemic Before It Stops Us

    Deaths from opioid overdoses are skyrocketing across the country. Unless we take immediate action, the nation is about to witness a tsunami of drug-related deaths unlike anything we have seen since crack cocaine ravaged the country a generation ago.


    A recent investigation by the New York Times estimates 59,000 people died in 2016 from drug overdoses, making it the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Figures from three Oregon counties indicate that for each person who dies of an overdose, 26 experience non-fatal overdoses, and 100 are dependent on or addicted to opioids. The median age when people start injecting drugs is 21, which explains the surge in adolescent overdoses this year in states like Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maine and Ohio.


    State law enforcement chiefs are banding together to investigate the role drug makers may be playing in the wave of addiction, overdoses and deaths. As the head of Covenant House, the largest charity in the nation serving homeless, trafficked and vulnerable youth, I worry a great deal about how pain pills, heroin, fentanyl and other opioids affect the youth we reach each year.


    As anyone knows who has read Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, a brilliant but depressing account of the spread of black tar heroin and pill mills dispensing painkillers, the forces behind the scourge are formidable: drug cartels that operate like pizza delivery services, avoiding police with replaceable drivers; drug companies that sell painkillers aggressively; doctors who over-prescribe; patients who overuse; illegal markets for pain pills; and drugs spiked with fentanyl or carfentanyl, which can be deadly.


    For many of the young people we see, who typically lack safe housing, a supportive family, decent education and viable job prospects, the carnage is likely particularly high, although nationwide data is still emerging. A 2012 paper published by the National Institutes of Health called homeless youth “an important subgroup of young adults who should be included in future studies to better describe the spectrum of prescription drug misuse.”


    Many kids are exposed to alcohol and illicit drugs when they are homeless and alone, which makes street outreach efforts essential to help them avoid the ugly underbelly of street life. Drugs can numb young people from the pain of losing their families, homes, and communities, or from trauma related to abuse.


    This problem is not confined to the homeless, however. None of the drug-related funerals I attended in the last year involved friends who were homeless. And of course the most famous opioid overdose in 2016 was the music icon Prince, who did not lack for resources or shelter. The tragedy of opioid abuse is affecting people across the socio-economic spectrum, including the actor and youth advocate Cory Monteith, who played Finn on “Glee” and died in 2013 with heroin in his system. Cory, who had reportedly struggled with addiction, was a friend to Covenant House Vancouver and other organizations helping vulnerable young people.


    A number of initiatives are bubbling up to address the crisis, including treatment programs in jails where inmates can go through detox and fight their addictions behind bars. Doctors need to be more judicious in prescribing opioids, often a gateway drug to street heroin.


    “The solution is to stop handing out like they’re candy,” said Peter Shumlin, former governor of Vermont, addressing a panel at Harvard. “Full stop, that’s what we’ve got to do.”


    Federal mental health experts recognize the need for recovery support services like “housing, educational and employment services, spiritual coaching, child care, mentoring, family support, life skills training, and vocational training.” Such “social capital” is the biggest factor in helping people stay clean, researchers found.


    The newest wave of opioid addiction is spreading rapidly and killing 160 Americans a day. The time for an aggressive, nationwide public health response is now. 


    Need help with substance abuse or mental
    health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the
    SAMHSA National
    Helpline
    .

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  • What Can We Do To Hold Police Accountable?

    Although record keeping is poor, experts estimate that out of every 1000 people killed by police in the United States, only 1 officer is convicted of a crime.


    What can we do to change that?


    1. Start with ourselves


    It is very easy to point a finger and say, “those bad officers shouldn’t do that.”


    It’s much harder to look ourselves in the mirror and recognize how police reflect us.



    The truth is police were created in our country to enforce slavery and suppress uprisings against the ruling class.


    Police brutality against black and brown people enforces the overall disdain of black and brown people in our society, even among some black and brown people.


    “It isn’t Richard Spencer calling the cops on me for farming while Black. It’s nervous White women in yoga pants with “I’m with Her” and “Coexist” stickers on their German SUVs.”


    Often white people who are racially profiling a person of color call police or post on Nextdoor, sometimes with fatal consequences.



    Police are not going to change until there is an overall societal shift towards antiracism, that begins with you and me.




    • Admit that we harbor racist beliefs and work to change ourselves and influence others to join us.




    • Learn to recognize the humanity in everyone, and that all people are equal in every way and deserving of respect and kindness, employment and housing.




    • Lose our pro police bias. Open our eyes to the way police interact with people of color.




    • Practice antiracism in every sphere we influence, from our kid’s school to our workplace, in conversations with our friends and family, and especially when we serve on juries.




    2. Vote for candidates who support police accountability at all levels of government


    Ultimately, convictions of police officers are very hard to obtain because of the Supreme Court decision Graham v Connor, which grants police tremendous discretion in how they use force, and because prosecutors depend on police to win convictions, creating a conflict of interest.


    Reading Graham v Connor you can feel Supreme Court justices’ biases towards police officers and against people of color.


    “Police are courteous and kind to me, almost without exception, and black and brown people are scary, so let’s create a legal standard that protects police.”


    - subtext of US Sup Ct Graham v Connor decision


    To change the Graham standard, we need more Supreme Court justices like Sonia Sotomayor, who have a very different understanding of police and race.



    This means we need a President who will appoint justices like Sonia Sotomayor.


    We also need more prosecutors who are committed to justice for all. Vote for pro police accountability candidates for District Attorney, as voters in Philadelphia recently did.


    Demand elected officials change the way police are prosecuted to make prosecutions more likely. Prosecutors depend on police to try cases, creating a strong disincentive to indict police. Juries tend to sympathize with police, making convictions of police unlikely, another factor that weighs in prosecutors’ decision making. Prosecutors who charge police face tremendous backlash.


    One suggestion would be to create independent prosecutors at the state wide level who would investigate and prosecute police use of force cases, without conflicts.


    Here in California we have some of the strongest legal protections of police in the United States, stronger than Alabama’s. The Police Officers Associations and Correctional Officers Unions are united as a powerful lobby and influence other unions to support their policy stands, even against the interests of the unions’ members.


    To countervail them, we need good government groups like the League of Women Voters to take a stronger stance for police accountability.


    3. Apply pressure locally


    Police chiefs report to Mayors and in some cities to Police Commissions who set local Use of Force policies. Officers must follow locally- established Use of Force polices or face discipline.


    Police unions are powerful politically and local oversight is unlikely to demand police accountability unless they feel the heat from citizens.



    Learn what your police department’s Use of Force policy is. Does it require deescalation? When was it created and last updated? How is it enforced? Come together with people who feel the same way and demand change.


    Last year, despite vehement opposition and litigation by our Police Officers Association, activists got the San Francisco Police Commission to update our use of force policy, which had been enacted in 1995, to prioritize deescalation. We also got our Police Chief fired and replaced by an outsider committed to reform, despite a protracted struggle with our Police Officers Association.


    We are currently struggling to get our District Attorney, George Gascon, to charge police with murder in the 11 open cases of SFPD fatal officer involved shootings; to prevent the implementation of TASERS; to oversee the implementation of 272 recommendations by the US Department of Justice to change SFPD; to raise funds to celebrate Mario Woods Day on July 22nd, his birthday; to raise funds to build a permanent memorial to Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill where SFPD executed him on March 21, 2014; and to get a real fighter appointed head of the Department of Police Accountability.


    Learn your local police issues, organize with others, and fight like hell for change.



    4. Rethink policing entirely


    When high profile cases of police brutality happen, we often think prosecuting the police involved, or technology like body cameras or TASERS is the answer, or training, or other reforms.


    When I started in this movement, I thought we could fix police, too.


    More and more now, I see clearly the wisdom of Angela Davis and others who have been in this struggle for a long time: a piecemeal approach is not going to solve this problem.


    We need the whole enchilada.


    “The problem with always pursuing the individual perpetrator in all of the many cases that involve police violence, is that one reinvents the wheel each time and it cannot possibly begin to reduce racist police violence. Which is not to say that individual perpetrators should not be held accountable — they should.”


    “We cannot simply call for reform. We want an end to incarceration, period.”


    -Angela Davis


    Malkia Cyril, Director of the Center for Media Justice and cofounder of the Media Action Grassroots Network observed at the Tech Crunch: Justice conference:


    “We cannot insert technology into white supremacy and expect anything other than white supremacy.”


    -Malkia Cyril @culturejedi


    The Movement for Black Lives addresses it this way:


    INVEST-DIVEST


    "We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people. We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations." 


    -Movement for Black Lives


    Police are expensive.


    In addition to manifesting racism, they are not particularly effective at working with youth, mentally ill, homeless, LGBTQ+, immigrants, disabled, pregnant, or intoxicated people.


    SFPD Officer Caught on Camera Making Deportation Threats


    The San Francisco police department internal affairs division is investigating whether one of its officers violated…www.nbcbayarea.com


    Many police don’t have the right skills or mindset to be medical first responders, which they are often called upon to do.


    Court filing: City agrees to pay $9.5 million to man tased by officer


    The city of Chicago has agreed to pay $9.5 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a man who was severely injured…www.chicagotribune.com


    Some police don’t handle programs designed to improve relations with young people very well.


    LAPD chief urges cadets to be ethical in wake of scandal


    LOS ANGELES (AP) - Police Chief Charlie Beck told graduating cadets on Saturday to "be strong. Be ethically correct. Do…m.sfgate.com


    Police scare people, and police are scared of people.


    People are scared of people, too.


    And corporations have found ways to profit off our fear.


    If we truly want police accountability, we must shrink the current police into nonexistence and develop an alternative.


    An explicitly anti-racist, diverse across every dimension, kinder, gentler, unarmed corps, with deep roots in the community they serve, with experience in youth development, creativity, emotional intelligence, deescalation, mediation, mental health, physical health, spirituality, and community and relationship building.


    This corps would practice restorative justice to uphold laws by engaging the person who violated the law, the victim, and the community.


    We cannot fix what was broken from the start.


    We must start anew.


    Want to discuss police accountability further? Join my mentor Ken Williams, whistleblower cop and expert witness in police brutality, and me for a live webinar, or reach out to me directly.



    Karen Fleshman is the founder of Racy Conversations. Her mission is to build and support a community of people committed to love, learning, accountability, and action on race in America. She cofacilitates workshops on race nationwide and online and contributes to Huffington Post. Karen is a cofounder of San Franciscans for Police Accountability and serves on the workgroup overseeing US Department of Justice recommendations on ending bias at SFPD. www.karenfleshman.com @fleshmankaren



    #BlackLivesMatter #BrownLivesMatter #Justice #Racism #Politics

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  • As An Eating Disorder Therapist, I’m Concerned About Netflix’s ‘To The Bone’

    The trailer of Netflix’s upcoming movie, ‘To The Bone,’ opens with a plate of food and a young, frail, girl tallying up the calorie counts of each item. Her friend laughs and says, “it’s like you have calorie Asperger’s.”


    The movie, which was written and directed by Marti Noxon and stars Lilly Collins and Keanu Reeves depicts a young girl’s battle with anorexia. It has already been met with a lot of controversy, especially within the eating disorder recovery and treatment community.


    I think that the creation of this film was well-intentioned. The director and lead actress both shared that they have personally struggled with eating disorders in the past, and that their aim was to raise awareness and to diminish shame and secrecy.


    Raising awareness of eating disorders and diminishing shame and stigma surrounding seeking help is crucial.


    However, as an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland, I have some major concerns about the way that anorexia is being depicted both in the trailer and in the press surrounding the movie.


    The Problems With The Press Coverage


    Lilly Collins, who says that she recovered from anorexia herself, has appeared in press interviews for the movie where she discusses how she lost weight for the role “in the most healthy way possible,” with the help of a nutritionist.


    It was difficult for me to even type that sentence. Saying that someone with a history of anorexia is able to “lose weight in a healthy way,” is akin to sharing that an individual with a history of alcoholism is able to “drink in a healthy way.” It’s just not possible and frankly it’s an incredibly irresponsible message to share, as it could be highly triggering to someone in recovery from an eating disorder.


    Let me make one thing clear, there is no such thing as purposeful “healthy weight loss” for someone with a history of anorexia. Even if an individual’s intention is to do it “in a healthy way” (whatever the heck that even means?!) they have underlying genetic and temperamental factors for a life-threatening mental illness, which can be activated by energy deficit and weight loss (regardless of what the intention behind this is).


    Concerns About The Trailer


    The problem with depicting a story that details someone’s struggle with an eating disorder is that it can quickly become a “how to” manual for those who are already struggling or have the underlying genetic predisposition towards an eating disorder.


    The trailer discusses specific calorie counts of foods, depicts an actress that appears highly emaciated, and displays eating disorder behaviors, such as compulsive exercise, restriction, and triggering messaging i.e. the actress stating, “I’ve got it under control.”


    As an eating disorder specialist, I can tell you that eating disorders are often “competitive illnesses.” Individuals in recovery who view this film could easily use it to continue to fuel their eating disorder.


    Further, the trailer reinforces stereotypes and myths about people who have anorexia. It’s depiction of someone with anorexia as an emaciated, Caucasian, young female, who is starving herself to “feel in control,” is not representative of the variety of people impacted who struggle with this disease.


    First off, while the desire to feel “in control” might be one aspect of an individual’s struggle with anorexia, it’s important to highlight that eating disorders are caused by a combination of genetic, temperamental, and psychological factors, which are then triggered by environmental stressors. Depicting anorexia as a desire to be “in control” or to “look like a model,” perpetuates the myth that people are simply “making a choice,” rather than struggling with a serious mental illness.


    Additionally, eating disorders do not discriminate based upon age, gender, or race. In my practice, I have worked with teens and adults, men, women, transgender individuals, as well as people of diverse races and ethnicities.


    It is also often hard for those with anorexia to recognize that they are struggling with the disease, as “the eating disorder self” will often tell them that they are not. There already is this pervasive cultural narrative that anorexia mainly impacts young, white, Caucasian, females. Therefore, I’m worried that someone who is struggling with doesn’t meet these narrow criteria might not seek help, as they believe that they couldn’t possibly have an eating disorder.


    Also, eating disorders (including anorexia) can impact people across the weight spectrum. It’s important to note that you do not have to appear emaciated, like the lead actress in the film, to be struggling with anorexia. This dangerous myth can cause people to avoid seeking life-saving treatment, as they might believe that they are “not sick enough” to get help.


    You cannot tell who is struggling with an eating disorder by looking at them. Eating disorders are one of the few mental illnesses, where we judge someone’s “level of suffering” based on their physical appearance. This is not ok. Someone can be seriously struggling with anorexia-at any size. No matter what your weight is, if you are struggling with an eating disorder, you deserve to seek treatment and help.


    It’s also important to note that there are a variety of other eating disorders, including binge eating disorder, bulimia, and OSFED, which are all serious mental illnesses. These eating disorders are not as frequently discussed in the media. No matter what eating disorder you struggle with, you deserve to get support and treatment.


    The Bottom Line


    If you or someone you know thinks that they might be struggling with an eating disorder, it’s so important to reach out for help from a professional.


    Seeking help when you are struggling is a sign of true strength, not weakness. No one should have to struggle with an eating disorder alone.


    With access to treatment and support, individuals with anorexia can recover and go on to lead meaningful and purpose-driven lives. Full recovery is possible!


    Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD. She provides eating disorder recovery coaching via phone to people worldwide. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com





    If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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