Thursday, December 19, 2013

Leveraging That Holiday Lull

Despite the encouraging pressure of making year end goals (usually with a prize or a trip on the line), network marketing professionals often struggle around this time of year. Each day more and more people fall into their "holiday mindset" and essentially end their business year. It becomes more challenging than ever to schedule appointments, and often those that do get on the calendar fail to happen or don't accomplish much when they do. People are done with this year, and not ready to start the next one quite yet. Decisions seem best put off for a few more weeks. What is the ambitious network marketer to do?

Well don't join the herd in writing off the rest of the year. Even though it is unlikely that you will convince anyone to focus very much on your opportunity right now, in fact it is a great time of year to advance your business. How? Do the same thing everyone else is doing - look to next year. But do it with purpose. The year-end holiday season is the perfect time to meet new people. There are family gatherings, workplace parties, social outings and community events of all sorts going on, and there are people you don't know at all of them. But instead of trying to get them to a meeting or a sit down right away, beat them to the punch.

"Hey I'd love to sit down with you and share this right away, but with the holidays I am just slammed. What does your schedule look like after the first of the year?"

You will be amazed at how willing people are to schedule a meeting with you once they understand you aren't pressuring them to do it tomorrow. (Just make sure you schedule it, don't accept "I'll be in touch".) And having a full calendar is a really great way for you to start the new year. So don't slack off over the next two weeks. Instead, set yourself up for a running start into 2014. It won't win you that trip, but it will move your business ahead of everyone who has a "Gone for the Holidays" sign up in their head.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Type 3 Diabetes?

As if we needed another reason to "cut the crap" in our diets and lifestyle, new evidence is emerging linking Alzheimer's disease to insulin resistance. That is to say, the same mechanism that makes Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes so devastating. Since 2005, a series of studies have convincingly linked pre-diabetic and diabetic cellular insulin resistance to decreased brain function and memory loss. In short, to Alzheimer’s.

My mother is a late stage Alzheimer’s sufferer. The disease first robbed her of her ability to live her life, then of her memories, then rotted away her brain to the point where she could not even feed herself. Now it is finishing its work by killing her. It is a brutal, horrific disease that destroys not only individuals but entire families. How exciting would it be to discover that the same diet and lifestyle changes that we know will reduce our lifetime risk of developing Type 2 diabetes offered us significant protection from Alzheimer’s as well?

Read about the details here. And then do something about it. Before you forget.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Social Media vs Social Networking

Let's say you've decided to add traditional business networking to your marketing mix. You find a couple of local groups, schedule the time and show up at the meeting with a pocket full of business cards and a well rehearsed "30-second commercial". Now what? Do you rush around handing out your cards to everyone else in the room (Spamming)? Do you monopolize every conversation talking about yourself and all the quirky, fun things you do? Do you give your commercial and then sit in the corner waiting for people to approach you? Is your idea of relationship building squirming in your seat waiting for someone to shut up so you can talk about your business? Probably not. And yet this is precisely how many people try to use "social media" to attract new customers and grow their business.

Back in the days when AOL was credible and MySpace was cool, and Facebook and LinkedIn were just getting started, this whole online genre was called "Social Networking". The recent movie fictionalizing the dawn of Facebook was named "The Social Network". And that is what they were about, people connecting with other people socially online. There are over a billion people using Facebook alone today, and dozens of other popular social systems online as well. So its not surprising that before too awfully long, businesses and their marketing arms moved in. This is not entirely a bad thing. Someone has to pay for these things to exists, and advertising is a well established way of funding "free" systems. It wasn't long after the arrival of the marketers, however, before things morphed from "social networking" into "social media". And the distinction is anything but trivial.

"Networking" is all about establishing connections and building relationships. Its the sort of thing salespeople understand and gravitate toward. "Media", on the other hand, is principally a means of mass communication. A way of taking your message and broadcasting it to as large an audience as possible. A vehicle for advertising. And it is the province not of salespeople but of marketeers.

These days it seems like everyone is clamoring for instructions for "using social media to grow my business". And there is no shortage of consultants and trainers stepping up to meet the demand. Hey, at least someone is making money on social media! And what advice do we usually get? Be active. Post cool, interesting things about yourself - often. Slip in ads for your business every now and then but don't overdo it. Make your profile look like this. Say that. Avoid doing this other thing. Wait till someone says something related to what you do and then pounce. More followers is better than less followers. In short, good marketing advice and bad networking advice. And manipulative.

Let's go retro and start thinking of it as social networking again and leave social media to the social media consultants. Start to apply the same principles and approaches you would use at a networking meeting. Don't wait to be found, reach out to others. Don't just connect with the people you know, or hope people will find you, make the effort to find them. Connect with people you share meaningful common interests with, business or personal, and build on that. Build relationships, whether or not they ever lead to a sale. Have fun and let it show. Be yourself. Look for quality connections instead of just a lot of them. Give back, contribute, offer to help.

I've taken this advice to heart recently and its making a noticeable difference in how I use Facebook and LinkedIn and for the first time ever it is even producing some real business results. Give it a try yourself and see if networking doesn't beat advertising by 2 lengths.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Does Your Downline Have a Game Plan?

Its no secret that the actual success rate for new distributors (lets call "success" a distributor who is still in the business 3 years later and satisfied with their progress and results) in many network marketing companies is dismally low. Ten percent or so is not uncommon. With such a simple business, its reasonable to wonder why this is.

First of all, let us not confuse "simple" with "easy". Network marketing is work, and those lacking the determination and/or work ethic to put some serious effort into making their business successful are nearly always going to fail. (There is simple random luck of course, more on that later.) But what about the people who really take a run at it, invest significant time and effort, and still end up disenchanted and dropping out?

Often it is because they go into it without any sort of game plan for success. In my opinion, this is a failure primarily of their upline/
sponsor, who's job it is to train and support a new distributor and show them how to succeed. But too often this comes down to "Here, watch this DVD, make a list of everyone you know, call them up, set an appointment and let me know when you need my help."

A better way is to have a specific process you use to help your new distributors get off to a good start and experience some success in their first month or two. Network marketing guru Eric Worre calls this a Game Plan. Sitting down with your new recruits and making sure they have a plan for success, that they understand it, that it connects with their own hopes and aspirations and that they know exactly how to get started will go a long, long way toward making them successful and not another droppout. And isn't that what you, their sponsor, want? Their success?

What should a Game Plan address? Just a few basics may make all the difference.

1. Reinforce their decision to join the business.
2. Clarify exactly what their role and your role are going to be going
3. Set realistic objectives for their first 15, 30, 45, 60 and 90 days in
    the business.
4. Map out, precisely, what they are going to need to commit to do in
    order to reach those goals and what you will - and won't - be
    doing to support them.
5. What their immediate next step is going to be, how and when
    they are going to get it done.
6. How they want you to support them when you see them starting to
    slip or backslide.

At the end of the day, it is entirely up to your new distributor how they are going to run their business. They don't work for you. But if you want to be successful yourself you need to maximize the chance that the people you bring in will be successful too. Having a clear, realistic plan for getting them a few wins quickly will go a long way toward keeping them out of the failure column. And remember, hope, luck and good intentions are not a plan.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lost Jobs "Not Coming Back"

"These jobs are going, boys. And they ain't coming back." - Bruce Springsteen, My Hometown

One of the things I hear a lot when out talking to people about my network marketing opportunity is that its just "too risky" to work on what amounts to a 100% commission basis. But more and more its starting to look like the real risk lies in traditional "time for dollars" employment. In fact, "having a job" has been the norm in America only for the last 60 years or so. In 1900, about 90% of the US workforce (including farmers and agricultural workers) were self-employed, held multiple part time jobs, or was a mix of the two. By 2010 that had fallen to nearly 10%. As this Morning Edition report on NPR illustrates, perhaps the pendulum is beginning to swing back.

More and more people competing for fewer and fewer full time jobs paying less and less money with fewer and fewer benefits is not a recipe for worker prosperity. For network marketers, the future has never look brighter.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Study Links Diet & Lifestyle to Cellular Aging

We all know that eating the right foods and getting regular exercise is good for us, even if we don't always do it. Sort of like flossing. But a recent study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco might give you the bit of additional motivation you need.

The study concluded that relatively small changes to diet and lifestyle can have a major effect on aging down to the cellular level. And perhaps can not only slow it, but even reverse it. Our body's ability to produce a steady supply of healthy new cells to replace those that wear out is perhaps the primary factor in determining how quickly we age. Not in a chronological sense, of course, but in a biological one.

 “So often people think ‘Oh, I have bad genes, there’s nothing I can do about it,’” said Dean Ornish, MD, study author and a clinical professor of medicine at UCSF, said in a statement. “But these findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life.”

That seems like quite a bonus for doing a few things you really should be doing anyway.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How Much Time Have You Got?

I have a real problem with procrastination. Working from a home office compounds this, as there always seems to be some distraction or other that offers an excuse to put something off. And, well, there is always tomorrow, right? Wrong.

We all know we are not going to live forever. But we often seem to live day-by-day as though we were. Would we see things differently if we head, literally, a deadline? If we knew how much time we had left?

The internet is a marvelous place. Frighteningly so at times. I recently was introduced to something called The Death Clock. By completing a very brief survey on your lifestyle and current situation, it makes an actuarial forecast of the day on which you will run out of time. It sounds gruesome, but I have found it to be quite the opposite.

First, I was gratified to learn that I had nearly 20 years left to go. And second, knowing this, I am starting to see "today" through a whole different lens. 4, 500 days might seem like a lot of time if its the time till your next vacation. But when that is the time remaining in your life, each of those days assumes a whole new level of urgency and importance.

If you'd like to take a look into your own future, any of the links below will be a good place to start. You can even get a clock widget for your PC or phone - just in case you don't want to miss a second.                 

Moble Widget

You can also find apps in the Apple or Google stores. Or just Google "Death Clock".

Have fun with this and I will see you around. As long as its before March, 2030.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Does High Cholesterol Really Cause Heart Disease?

Total cholesterol level is probably the health related number that most people are familiar with. Many people know their number and accept as an article of faith that lower total cholesterol improves their odds of avoiding cardiovascular disease. But is it really so?

In fact cholesterol (both the "bad" LDL kind and the "good" HDL) play important roles in the body. Cholesterol is required for the building of healthy new cells, and is closely involved in the production of Vitamin D and several hormones. It functions as an anti-oxidant as well as catalyzing the production of bile - which allows us to digest fats. It helps us absorb calcium and is involved in effective synaptic function in the brain. None of us would live very well or very long without it.

More to the point, cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol, is used by the body to repair inflammation induced lesions in the vascular system. "Dr. Mary Enig, suggests that blaming cholesterol for heart disease is something akin to blaming firefighters for fires. The key to stopping heart disease is to stop the lesions (fires) in the arteries from occurring in the first place (Full article)." And the key to that is reducing inflammation, not lowering cholesterol. The famous Framinghan Heart Study results show that about half the participants who had high cholesterol levels suffered no coronary events, while about half the people who did had cholesterol levels well within the normal range.

Meanwhile, the evidence that lowering cholesterol levels reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease is at best mixed. There is some (although not conclusive) support for the idea that people with existing cardiovascular disease benefit from lowering cholesterol (primary prevention), but little support for the proposition that it lowers risk in people without any pre-existing condition (secondary prevention). The primary medical treatment for high cholesterol is the administration of statin drugs and "the National Cholesterol Education Program revised its guidelines to recommend statins as primary prevention. Although the panel cited randomized trials to support statin therapy for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a report in Lancet notes, "not one of the studies provides such evidence." Journalists have questioned the interests of the doctors who made such recommendations, as eight of the 9 doctors on the panel were discovered to have been paid by statin manufacturers. (Full article)" More recently, AstraZenica, the manufacturer of the statin Crestor, has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for approval to recommend Crestor as a preventive measure to people as young as 25 with no personal or family history of heart disease. According the the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of statin drugs has increased 10-fold in people 45 years of age or older.

Statin therapy involves known risks and numerous serious side effects. It is one thing to take this risk in exchange for a significant benefit - avoiding cardiovascular disease. But if in fact the culprit is inflammation, then the whole cholesterol obsession starts to feel like a scam - albeit a very profitable one. As always, educate yourself and make up your own mind. Caveat patientes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Happiness Habit

What is the difference between a happy person and a negative, dissatisfied, dis-empowered one? Is it money? I'm thinking not. Some of my happiest experiences were during and after college when $20 was a fortune to me. Is it a great job? I dunno, my best job was certainly not my happiest time. I was traveling constantly, had no social or family life. I know, its luck, right? People are happy because good things happen to happen to them!

Or maybe, as Dr. Steve Maraboli suggests in Five Life-Changing Dynamics, happiness is a choice. And the more of a habit you make of choosing happy, the happier you get.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hope vs Hopelessness

I was sitting out at our local AAA baseball stadium on a perfect summer afternoon with a few friends and we got to talking about how it was possible that huge numbers of Americans were facing a retirement of, if not outright poverty, at least greatly diminished expectations. These were not, by-and-large, lazy gits who just never paid attention. Mostly they are ordinary people who worked at various jobs all their adult lives, and now they are facing ritirement with nothing - or not enough - set aside. Why wasn't there a huge outcry about this? "Because," one of my friends opined, "they have given up. Nothing they have tried has worked out. They've just lost hope."

It took a few days for this to really sink in for me. America has always been a hopeful society. We expected more, we expected better. Each generation building on the work of those who came before. Have we lost this vital aspect of our national character? Have we really given up trying because we've given up hope? Has cynicism become so widespread as that? Raising a generation of children so poorly nourished that, for the first time ever, they are not expected to live as long as their parents. Drastically lowered expectations of financial progress, or even basic security. The feeling, more and more frequently expressed, that "everyone is cheating everyone else". Unemployment dragging on now for years with no real end in sight. Fighting over shares of what is increasingly viewed as a smaller pie. Is this the future we are going to accept? Have we really given up?

In Proverbs 29:18 the bible cautions us that "Where there is no vision, the people perish." How is your vision? Are you making progress? Are you on your way? Is your tomorrow going to be better than today? Or have you lost hope that you will ever realize it?

As we move now from summer to the near perfect days of autumn, what better time to take stock. If your vision and attitude and outlook need a tuneup, now is the time. Remember, vision is your dream and attitude is your choice. Don't let yourself be drawn into the negativity and hopelessness that seem to be all around us. Surround yourself with positive people, places and ideas and then go build your dreams. Life, after all, is simply a brief vacation from death. Make the most of it.

"Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." - Martin Luther

Monday, August 19, 2013

Epigenetics Explained -- Sort Of

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. It refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Gene expression can be controlled through the action of repressor proteins that attach to silencer regions of the DNA. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell's life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism.

Eyes glazed over? Have a look at this video for a simple and entertaining explanation of epigenetics for those of us who are not research scientists.

Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Good Reasons to Eat Less (Or No) Red Meat

A nice rare steak or a hamburger with the works is so American one might easily assume it is a right enshrined in the Constitution. "Meat and Potatoes" defines a certain sort of person. And seriously, can you picture the Marlboro Man  chowing down on a juicy tofu burger? Of course not. But then the Marlboro Man is dead. And according to a 2012 Harvard School of Public Health study the people who eat the most red meat have a 30% greater chance of joining him in any given year than the people who eat the least. "Eating red meat increases the chance of dying early," says study co-author Adam Bernstein. "We estimated that ... 10% of deaths in men could be prevented if they consumed less than half a serving of red meat per day. That's remarkable."

And if that is not remarkable enough for you, evidence that red meat threatens public health in other significant ways is both surprising and disturbing.

So here are my 5 Top Reasons to eat less red meat - or swear off it altogether.

1. Antibiotic Resistance
    Margaret Chan is the Director-General of the UN World Health
    Organization. Last year she issued a dire warning that got almost
    no media coverage. The world is facing, she said, "and end to
    modern medicine as we know it. Strep throats could once again
    kill people, and hip replacements, organ transplants and cancer
    chemotherapy would become far more difficult, or even too
    dangerous to undertake." The cause of this alarming suggestion?
    We are losing our first line of antibiotic drugs to ever increasing
    strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. As for new drugs to fight
    the threat, Chan was not optimistic. "The pipeline is virtually dry.
    The cupboard is bare."

    Part of the problem is simply overuse by doctors and patients
    (even for things that the drugs have no impact on, like viruses,
    and as a preventive step of dubious value). But 3/4 of the
    antibiotics used in the US today are given not to people but to
    livestock. And antibiotic resistant bacteria are now showing up
    with regularity in the meat at your local supermarket. E-coli
    has been detected in around 3/2 of the beef and 40% of the pork
    tested at markets. And about half of the samples were resistant
    to antibiotics - about triple the percentage found in 2002.

    Antibiotics are not only used to treat sick animals but also given
    in low doses to encourage faster, larger growth. In the 1990s,
    Denmark banned the use of antibiotics in animals other than to
    treat the sick ones. The impact on their livestock industry was
    approximately nothing. Why can't we do that in the US? Good
    question. Meanwhile, if you intend to continue eating red meat,
    be sure it is thoroughly cooked before you do - this kills most
    bacteria. And maybe spring for organically raised, antibiotic free
    meat. Its not just about you, this effects us all.

2. Live a Healthier Life
    The list of serious health issues to which red meat is a significant
    contributor is long. Vascular and heart disease, stroke, cancer and
    diabetes top the list. Meat eaters as a group also tend to be more
    overweight than non or occasional consumers. If you would rather
    die than give up red meat, there is some good news. "You don't
    have to stop eating meat entirely," says Walter Willett, chair of the
    nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
    "Eating meat only once a week eliminates most of the risk." Try to
    remember though what a "serving" is. Its about 4 ounces. Not a 24
    ounce porterhouse.

3. Live a Longer Life
    In addition to the Harvard study cited earlier, a 2012 National
    Institutes of Health study reaches similar conclusions. The study
    estimated that replacing just 1 serving per day of red meat with
    other foods (including fish and poultry) reduces mortality 7% -
    19%. As a bonus, your longer life will also be a healthier one.

4. Live on a Healthier Planet
    The beef industry is a major contributor to climate change and
    global warming. Deforestation, water use (it takes about 1,300
    gallons of water to produce one pound of beef), methane
    production (23 times the heat trapping capacity of carbon
    dioxide), pollution from nitrate fertilizers used to grow feed,
    solid waste and the transportation of feed, animals and meat
    products are all significant environmental issues.

5. Save Money
    Since I have cut back on eating red meat to one or two times per
    month (hey, what can I say?) my weekly grocery bill has
    declined by about 15%. I've also been forced to be more creative
    about finding tasty, satisfying dishes with which to replace the
    steak and hamburgers. The good news is there are lots of them.

The evidence continues to mount that eating a lot less red meat would make us all healthier people.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Attitude is a Choice

People who know me well would not say that I am the most optimistic person on the planet. I've often taken a perverse pride in being a "realist" and avoiding "excessive enthusiasm". As The Who said so well, "If I smile tell me some bad news, before I laugh and act like a fool". A recent experience has prompted me to reconsider my whole attitude about attitude.

I was in Orlando after an exciting Reliv 25th Anniversary International Conference. As I sat in the hotel lobby waiting for my airport shuttle, my phone rang. It was the airline letting me know that my flight was delayed 35 minutes because of a "minor mechanical issue". Uh oh! I've traveled often enough to know that where airlines are concerned there are no "minor" issues, and I had a tight 55 minute connection to make if I was going to get home that day. Noon arrived and no shuttle. A call to the company resulted in an unsympathetic dispatcher telling me that the shuttle had been there, I must have been at the wrong entrance (maybe mention that when I reserved the ride?), and the next one would be by in an hour.

I was now an unhappy person, and spinning all sorts of plausible scenarios in which I didn't make it home till the next day. Then it occurred to me that the 35 minute flight delay just might save the day! Without it the missed shuttle was an automatic loser. 

All along here so far, I was assuming the worst case scenario - several worst case scenarios actually. But why was the best case not possible? On paper, at least, I could still make the flights. So I had a 20 minute argument with myself about it (I must have sounded like Gollum to passers-by) and made a decision that, since these matters were mostly out of my control, I would do the best I could and assume that things would work out for the best.

Suffice it to say that the trip home was much more of an adventure than I'd have preferred. But when I finally walked through my door, I was only 58 minutes later than scheduled. I'd had a chance to meet several people on the way home who were interested to hear more about what Reliv could do for them who I would not have met otherwise. And as I stood in Chicago waiting out weather delays, my new attitude spared me from the stress and anger that was all around me.

But suppose things had not worked out so well? Suppose one of those worst case scenarios had played out? I might well have been presented with new and different opportunities that I would have missed out on had things gone smoothly. Second, the experience could have provided valuable lessons and learning experiences for use next time. And finally, by relaxing, doing what I could and assuming the best, the trip would have been far less stressful and aggravating than it otherwise would have. What was my other choice? Congratulate myself on expecting the worse and being right? Scant comfort that.

The big lesson for me? Attitude is a choice! I can choose to see things from a negative filter or a positive one. I can expect happy outcomes or miserable ones. Being positive and optimistic about things doesn't change the outcome, but it does change the experience. Being a "glass half full" person is just more fun. And I bet it attracts a whole different sort of person to me. Try it yourself.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Studies Show

The food and nutrition industry has fallen head-over-heels in love with clinical studies. Everyone has them now. Even those late night TV infomercials for the diet pills that "make the fat melt away without you having to make any changes in your daily routine!" are now "supported by clinical studies". Should you pay any attention to any of this?

As with nearly everything in nutrition and wellness these days, you need to take claims of clinical evidence skeptically. According to a January 2007 study by Boston Children's Hospital and published in the Public Library of Science Medicine, industry supported studies were 4 to 7 times more likely to be favorable to their sponsors than research paid for by disinterested parties. To be fair, the study suggests that such bias may not always be deliberate, citing the study design, what data is collected and how it is analyzed, and even the way the questions themselves are framed can all influence the results. And this bias is not limited to the food industry or even commercial organizations. Studies funded by government and advocacy groups show similar levels of bias.

Unfortunately, given the opportunity to gain favorable publicity for their position or products, few organizations are able to resist trumpeting their clinical proof - whether it proves anything or not. The media quickly and uncritically publicize such study results, which in turn drives consumer behavior. And this assumes that a study was actually done in the first place. The food and nutrition industry is notorious for taking the results of other, unrelated studies, extracting one out-of-context item, and then using it as "clinical proof" that their Sugar Coated Flax Seed Flakes are good for you.

What is a consumer to do? First of all, the double blind clinical study is still the gold standard for medical and wellness research. Just be aware that what someone tells you that "studies show", they may or may not have a clue what they are talking about. Who conducted the study? Who paid for it? Who analyzed the results? Independent, credible, research based organizations such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest or Consumers Union are unlikely to produce unreliable results. Studies sponsored or heavily supported by anyone with something to gain from the results, including universities, should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Caveat emptor.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"It Costs Too Much"

"I'd love to but I just can't afford it."

"I'm pretty sure that I can get it cheaper somewhere else."

"I'm sorry but it just costs too much for me right now."

Anyone who has been in network marketing, or any kind of sales for that matter, for more than a few days has heard dozens of variations of "It costs too much." Is that the end of that sale? It all depends on how you respond.

The first thing to realize is that for most people "It costs too much" almost never really means that they think it costs too much. Instead, they are telling you that you have not communicated the value of your proposition to them clearly, or that there is information they need to make a decision that you have not provided. When you hear the cost objection, your job is to uncover the real issue(s) and resolve them. If they really just cannot afford your product or service, why are you still selling to them? You should have uncovered that key fact in your qualification process.

Once the cost issue has been raised, you need to probe deeper to uncover the real concerns your prospect is raising. Two things you should definitely not do are offer a discount (aka, lowering your income) or get into an argument over whether or not it really does cost too much. Instead, do what you always do whenever an objection is raised in the sales process. Empathize and establish that you understand their concern, maybe shared it at some point, and certainly do not dismiss it. Then get to work asking questions until you have the information you need to address their concern(s). Here are a few that you might find useful.

"Yes, I completely understand. Let me ask you, if the price were not an issue for you, is there anything else that would hold you back from getting involved with the program today?" Isolating the issue this way will often uncover the real objection.

"I understand. Tell me though, in today's market, what would you expect to pay for a product that would .... " Refocus them on what they are getting for the investment, the value they will receive.

"Yes everyone is concerned with controlling cost these days. Have you considered what it might be costing you to not give this a try?" Presumably the are speaking with you because you've indicated your product or service will solve a problem they are dealing with. What is the cost to them of not eliminating the problem?

"Where does this fit with the rest of your important priorities?"  If someone wants something, they can usually juggle around their priorities to get it. They may not have even considered that getting involved with your product or service might save them effort or time or money in other areas.

The important things to remember are:

1. "It costs too much" probably doesn't mean it costs too much if you have qualified your prospect.
2. Empathize! Let them know you really do understand the financial concern.
3. Find out what they really want and re-focus the discussion on how your solution will get that for them.

"It costs too much" is just another bump on the path to "Yes!"

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Nation of Sugar Junkies

Fat and salt get a lot of attention when the SAD (Standard American Diet) is under discussion. Sugar might deserve a lot more attention than it gets. The average American today consumes about 140 pounds of sugar a year - roughly 45 teaspoonfuls per day - and most of this by far is not sugar that we are adding in ourselves. Roughly half of this total consumption consists of sugars that are added to foods during processing, including foods that we are used to thinking of as "healthy". For example, some brands of yogurt contain as much as 11 teaspoons of sugars. And the trend is toward even higher consumption. "Sugar consumption has been going through the roof," says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It has increased by 28 percent since 1983, fueling soaring obesity rates and other health problems."

Most of the sugar we consume comes in soft drinks, candy, pastries, fruit drinks and milk-based deserts (ice cream, yogurt, etc.). As usual, it is not always easy to know how much you are consuming as the labeling on food products is ingeniously confusing - if not actually misleading.  Honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, corn sweetener, glucose, sucrose and dextrose are all sugary names that you probably recognize. But what about barley malt, galactose, rice syrup or the supposedly "healthy" agave nectar? All sugar.

Besides packing on the extra pounds, sugar has many other deleterious effects on our health and well being. It pushes us toward diabetes, decalcifies and demineralizes our bones, created a disease friendly acidic environment in our bodies, interfere with hormone balance and reduces the effectiveness of our immune responses. Further, like alcohol or narcotics, sugar is addictive because it briefly but powerfully elevates level of serotonin in the brain.

What's a person to do?

First, just become aware of the sources of sugar in your diet, and how much of it you are consuming. Don't try to eliminate it too quickly. Consciously ease up, reducing the amount you take in little by little. Like smoking, going "cold turkey" is likely to fail. Substituting fresh foods, especially sweet fruits and vegetables, for processed convenience foods and water for sodas and sweetened fruit juices will carry you most of the way.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Avoiding Work-at-Home Scams

As a network marketer I am also a work-from-home business owner and a large part of what I do involves helping others start work-at-home businesses of their own. I encounter a high level of skepticism about this, and based on a study by training and employee development company Staffcentrix of Annandale, VA, this suspicion is well founded. Staffcentix says their recent study showed that there are about 60 work-at-home scams on the internet for each legitimate opportunity.

Most scams are easy to spot, but some have become highly sophisticated. Here are a few things that  you should always do to avoid getting caught up in a scam.

1. Avoid up front "membership" fees, and avoid any offer that
    requires you to pay a significant amount of money to join
    (anything over about $50 sounds fishy to me).
2. Research any potential opportunity carefully before you
    become involved. Check out the company behind the offer
    with a thorough Google search and see what others have to
    say about it on sites like and You would not start a brick and mortar business
    without doing your due diligence, don't start a work-at-home
    one either.
3. Consider extravagant income claims to be a warning sign. If its
    so easy to do and will make you rich quickly in just minutes per
    day then why isn't everyone already doing it?
4. If the offer comes to you on a phone call, get a name, a phone
    number and an email address and schedule a time to call back
    after you have had a chance to review their information and do
    your own research. If they aren't willing to do this, hang up.
5. Check the Better Business Bureau and the
    Federal Trade Commission web sites to see if there are a lot of
    complaints filed against the company behind the offer. Anyone
    can draw a complaint or two. But a lot of them is a problem.
6. Email is "free" and anyone can send out millions of them. Its
    generally wise to avoid offers that arrive by email. If its a real
    opportunity, and there is some reason to think you would be
    interested and qualified, someone will call you.
7. Does the caller actually do the business that he is trying to pitch
    to you? If not, how good an opportunity can it be?

There are real opportunities out there for people who want a work-from-home job or business. But 1 out of 60 is daunting odds. Ask questions, do your research and use a good dose of common sense and you can find one that is right for you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Problem of Perception

When we talk about making an effort to shed some pounds, the discussion normally centers on what we should, and should not, eat. But according to the April 2013 issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, maybe we ought to be paying a lot more attention to portion sizes. Since the 1950s, food portion sizes have grown about 300% and Americans seem to be growing right along with them. The following data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta tell the story:

     Food                         1950 Portion                 2012 Portion
     Hamburger                    3.9 oz                            12.0 oz
     Fries                              2.4 oz                              7.0 oz
     Soda                              7.0 oz                            40.0 oz

It doesn't help that restaurants and food companies have deployed innumerable clever marketing and presentation tricks to help us eat the larger (and more expensive) portions that now surround us. "We believe that people overeat because food tastes really good or because they are really hungry," explains Brian Wansink, Professor of Marketing at Cornell University. "In reality, those are two of the last things that influence how much people eat." The amount we eat, as opposed to the food choices we make, tends to be strongly influenced by our perception of portion size.

Here are some suggestions for reducing the quantity of food you eat without leaving yourself feeling deprived or unsatisfied. I've tried them and amazingly enough, they really work.

1. Use smaller plates, cups and bowls. When the plate looks full, we
    perceive it as being a larger portion. Studies show that children
    will serve themselves 28% more breakfast cereal when given a
    large bowl to eat it from. For adults, the discrepancy is even
    greater - 53%.

2. Use smaller utensils. It will take you longer to eat what you have,
    and you will perceive that you have eaten more and will feel more

3. Slow it down. Eating more slowly leaves you feeling fuller and
    more satisfied. It also allows you to tune into "fullness" signals
    that your body sends when you have had enough.

4. Eat with a friend. Having a conversation along with your meal,
    besides being socially rewarding (unless its with your kid about
    his math test), will generally result in your eating slower (see
    above) and being happy eating less.

5. Don't leave the serving plate on the table. Men eat about 29%
    more - and women 10% more - if the serving dish is left on the
    table instead of over on the counter.

Again this is really not about "cutting back" so much as it is relearning how much is enough. Give some of these ideas a try and see if you don't discover that less really can be more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Raiding Your Retirement is the New Normal

Retirement isn't what it used to be. Unless you are a government employee, the days of "defined benefit" pensions are long gone. The once near universal retirement age of 65 is largely a thing of the past. And while there are many reasons that a person might work past the age of 65, one of the major ones today is that people simply cannot afford to retire.

Consider a person who wants to have a dependable retirement income of $50k per year. That's a comfortable income, but hardly wealthy. According the to Social Security Administration, the average retiree will receive a benefit of $14,760. The other $35,240 must come from their retirement savings and personal assets. How much does someone need in retirement savings to produce an annual income of $35k? If we make an optimistic assumption that they can earn 5% on their investments they will need to have approximately $700,000 accumulated to generate $35k per year in income without depleting their savings.

Unfortunately the situation for the average about-to-retire worker has deteriorated in recent years. While there has been some recovery of value, many retirement accounts were significantly reduced during the recent recession. Worse, according to the Washington Post, 1 in 4 people are using their retirement savings to pay current living expenses. The number is as high as 1 in 3 for people in their forties who have been hard hid by unemployment. As a result of these factors, and generally low savings rates, that same average person will have total retirement savings of about $56K by age 65. If we assume that same 5% return, that generates an annual income of only $2,800 - a 92% shortfall.

What does this mean in human terms? If you are one of the 34% of Americans who say they plan to live out their retirement solely using their Social Security Benefits you are delusional and should seek qualified treatment. For most of the rest of us it leaves us with three generally unattractive alternatives:

1. Continue to work at least part time for the rest of your life. More
    than 60% of American workers expect this to be the case for
2. Lower your expectations for the kind of lifestyle you will have in
    your retirement. About 45% of us expect to do this.
3. Rely on charity and the generosity of family members. Ugh.

This does indeed seem like a dismal picture, but those are the facts and the numbers. I would like to throw out a fourth alternative that is well outside the traditional advice - consider starting a network marketing business. Direct selling is not physically demanding, can be scaled to the time, effort and income goals you want to set for yourself, and requires neither a large investment nor any specialized skill or background to start. According to the Direct Selling Association, 250 companies account for 90% of the direct sales volume in the US, so there is a wide range of companies, products and services for you to consider. Find one you like.

Here's a closing thought. If you had a network marketing business that was generating a monthly income of just $3,000 you would have, because of the residual income feature, the equivalent of a retirement account of $720,000. Problem solved.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hard Truths about Soft Drinks

In September of 2007, Scientific American published a special edition entitled "Feast and Famine". The subtitle aptly captured the core message of the issue: The Global Paradox of Obesity and Malnutrition. On one level there were the predictable articles about obesity in rich, developed nations co-existing with stunning levels of malnutrition and starvation in poor countries. But the thing that most caught my interest was the emerging phenomenon of obesity and malnutrition co-existing in the very same nations - and often in the very same individuals.

In exploring this apparent paradox, one article concluded that "One of the biggest contributors to the obesity epidemic in the Third World is the recent popularity of sweetened beverages." In particular, highly sweetened carbonated beverages like Coke and Pepsi. A person consuming just one 12oz can of regular Coke per day adds about 51,000 calories per year to their diet. Everything else being equal, this would produce a weight gain of about 14.6 pounds. It doesn't take very long to become obese if you manage to gain 14 pounds per year.

Worse, those same 365 cans of Coke provide virtually zero nutritional benefit, consisting as they do of water, sugar and salt. How much sugar? Although the sweeter used in  soda is most often high fructose corn syrup, it is equivalent to about 10 teaspoons of table sugar (sucrose) per 12oz can. Pile up 10 teaspoons of sugar on the counter sometime, just to see how much that really is. Per can.

Here are some more hard facts about these soft drinks that are of direct concern to us here in the US.

Sodas continue to contribute to the rising obesity rates here just like they do around the world. in 2011, according to the Gallup organization's Well-being Index, 26% of Americans defined themselves as obese. That is one in 4 of us. And obese, not simply overweight. And since this was a self-assessment, it it reasonable to think the numbers are low, if anything. The Washington non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest labels heavy sugar consumption as the most direct cause of America's fasted growing health threat - Type II diabetes.

If you think switching to "diet" sodas solves the problem, think again. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition directly linked diet drinks with an increased risk of developing Type II diabetes. (In fairness, this may well be a "non-causal correlation". We've all seen people wash down their Superberger and MegaFries with a diet Coke.)

How about checking with your doctor for his opinion? Not a bad idea but keep in mind that the soft drink industry donates billions (with a B) of dollars every year to doctors, dentists, dieticians and major anti-hunger groups. And as independent evidence mounts connecting sugary drinks with serious health problems, so does the industry's donations - increasing 30 times between 2005 and 2009.  Not that any of these organizations would be swayed by a few billion dollars. Just saying.

What does the soft drink industry have to say about all this? "None of these studies say that drinking a soft drink will make you obese," according to Christopher Gindlesperger of the American Beverage Association. I can't disagree Chris. But let me ask you, who do you know that drinks "a" soft drink?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's in Your Supplement (Part II)?

When someone looks at the nutritional label on a food product, they probably do so with the assumption that the labeling is, at a minimum, accurate and truthful. After all, these are regulated by the government and the labeling standards are enforced by the FDA, right? Well, in the case of nutritional supplements, yes and no.

The authority of the FDA to regulate supplements is defined in the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. You may be shocked to discover that one of the groups exerting significant influence over the content of this law was.... get ready for it .... the dietary supplement industry! As a result, and contrary to what the title of the Act may lead you to believe, the law severely dilutes and restricts the authority of the FDA to regulate supplements. One major difference is that while a drug must be proven to be safe and effective to the FDA's satisfaction before it can be released onto the market, a dietary supplement is presumed safe based on the manufacturer's word, need not be proven effective for any purpose and needs no approval before it can be marketed and sold to the public. There are no requirements to register the supplement product with any regulatory agency. Manufacturers are expected to comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) standards and are required to report to the FDA any "serious adverse event" reported to them and associated with the use of the supplement.

As for the accuracy of the product labeling, manufacturers "must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading". Let's see how they are doing with that.

Back in 2010 I examined the manufacturing mistake that put 1,000 times the intended dose of Vitamin D in Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal, powering Gary Null and several of his customers to severe kidney damage. Since that time, the situation has apparently not improved much.

In a 2013 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, Kaiser Permanente scientists, as part of a separate study, tested the potency of vitamin D pills.  They found that only 1/3 of the pills fell within 10% of the stated dose. An expanded study revealed a variance in actual potency of between 23% and 146% of the dose stated on the labeling. In a followup study to that, vitamin D-3 supplements were tested from 12 different suppliers and found to vary from the stated does in a range of 9% to 146%. There were large variations even within the same manufacturing lot number.

According to the independent consumer testing organization Consumer Lab, nearly 1/3 of vitamin supplement products (all of them, not just vitamin D) fail to meet standards for quality and labeling accuracy.

Supplement products have been found to contain glass particles, fecal material from rodents and insects and adulterated levels of pharmaceutical products. (None of these were listed on the label.)

This is not an argument to stop supplementing. But unless you are comfortable taking the manufacturers word for it, you are well advised to check with independent testing services such as Consumer Lab and Consumers Union to verify what you are taking. And check out the company behind the pills.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Five Reasons Why Your Network Marketing Business Will Fail

According to the Direct Selling Association, companies generated about $154 billion in worldwide sales (2011) through network marketing. In the US alone, nearly 16 million people operate a direct selling business and almost 75% of Americans have purchased goods or services from a network marketer. And yet, while many people successfully generate large - even 6-figure - incomes, the majority do not. And large numbers of distributors leave the business, with annual turnover rates over 50%.

With a broad range of products and companies to choose from, among the lowest start-up and ongoing costs of any business, the many tax advantages, and the ability to scale your business to the time you have to invest and the results you want to achieve, network marketing has a lot to offer. But there are many reasons why someone might fail at a network marketing business. Here are five of the most common ones.

1. You don't love the product(s). Network marketing, like any successful sales business, is based on trust and personal contacts and referrals. It is difficult in any case to sell someone something that you yourself do not believe in, but in network marketing it is - if not impossible - a horribly bad idea. If you don't use the product yourself, believe in it completely and feel genuine enthusiasm for what it does for you then others will naturally be suspicious when you propose it to them. "Be a product of your product" is a good rule to follow. Would you be using the product even without being in the business? Your enthusiasm will attract more people than your pitch.

2. Your expectations are unrealistic. Without a doubt, successful network marketers can make very significant incomes while having a lot of fun doing it. Five figure monthly incomes are not uncommon, although certainly not the rule. It is easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the business presentation and the excitement of getting started in a new adventure. The Grand Imperial Vizier level Diamond Executive Double Platinum Ambassador almost certainly invested a considerable amount of time and effort into building her business to that lofty level - years, most likely. There is nothing impossible about expecting to grow your business to a six figure residual income. But it is probably not going to happen by next month. Be sure your goals and expectations match the time and effort that you plan to invest.

3. You failed to carefully check out the company. You would not invest in a stock or buy a franchise business without doing your research first, so why ever would you start a network marketing business without checking out the company behind it? How long has the company been in business? Is it public or privately held? Who is the management team and what backgrounds and experience do they bring to the table? What do other distributors have to say? Is the company a member of any professional organizations like the DSA? Has it been a party to any lawsuits or complaints by customers or distributors? You get the idea. Caveat emptor.

4. You do not treat it like a real business.  If you want to grow your network marketing business into a serious income, you have to make it a netWORK marketing business. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to make just enough income to pay for your own products and perhaps a little extra every month. Lots of people do. But if you treat it casually and regard it as a hobby, you can't also expect much in the way of financial success. You should plan to invest at least as much thought, time and effort into your business as you would into a job working for someone else - and, realistically, a lot more.

5. You refuse to be teachable. If you join a company that has been in business for some time (and, really, there are not a lot of good reasons not to) then it is reasonable to expect that they and their distributors have figured out how best to do that business. Learn from the people who have been successful, copy what they do, and teach the people you sponsor to do the same. It can be tempting to go off and do things your own way, but it will rarely pay off. Embrace the system your company has developed, make it your own and follow it.

Network marketing is a very simple business that doesn't take years of experience and a large investment to start and grow. But that doesn't make it easy (nothing very worthwhile is). Before you jump in, spend a little time educating yourself and your chances of succeeding will increase significantly.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet Lunasin

In 1999, based on a meta-analysis of 27 clinical trials, the FDA approved the statement that "25 grams of soy protein a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". Almost immediately the American Heart Association objected to this claim on the basis that the "mechanism of action" by which soy protein might have such an effect was unknown. In other words, it might or might not have that effect, but since we have no idea how or why let's not make the claim only to find out later that it was simply a misleading correlation and not a cause-effect relationship.

Earlier that same year, Dr. Alfredo Galvez, working at the University of California at Berkeley, discovered that a peptide in the soybean had interesting bioactive properties. The peptide, lunasin, had first been isolated in 1987 and Galvez was investigating its cancer and inflammatory preventive properties. Subsequent work by Galvez and others identified lunasin as the ingredient in soy that was responsible for its cholesterol lowering effect. In November of 2012, Dr. Galvez was invited to present his findings to the annual conference of the American Heart Association, and his conclusions were published by the AHA in their journal Circulation. The mechanism of action for soy protein's cholesterol lowering benefits had been identified.

Lunasin works epigenetically to reduce the expression of the HMG-CoA gene responsible for the production of an enzyme necessary for LDL cholesterol production in the liver. An additional gene who's expression is enhanced by lunasin increases the removal of LDL cholesterol from the vascular system. Together, these epigenetic effects account for the anti-cholesterol properties of lunasin.

Lunasin may thus offer a natural, nutritional alternative to statin drugs, which are taken my millions of Americans and carry a long list of damaging side effects. This problem is that soy beans contain relatively low levels of lunasin, accounting partly for the ambiguity of the results in studies of soy and cholesterol.

A partnership between Dr. Galvez, the Missouri Plant Science Center, Soy Labs, Inc. and Reliv International, using only non-GMO methods, has produced a soy protein containing as much as 200 times the natural level of lunasin. This is now available in Reliv's LunaRich products.

A nutritionally based statin alternative is certainly good news. But Dr Galvez was and continues to be a cancer researcher. Ongoing studies of lunasin hold the real promise to address cancer and inflammation, which is at the root of so many of the things that plague us - allergies, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and more. Introduce yourself to lunasin, and be prepared for more exciting reasearch results.

(Check out this page for a wealth of videos explaining how lunasin works.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why We Hate Sales

From time to time, I have the opportunity to give talks to small groups about network marketing. Not for the purpose of enlisting them in anything, but rather to explain objectively what network marketing is, how it works and why someone might want to consider a business that uses such a selling model. I always begin by asking "Who enjoys sales and selling?" Very few, if any, hands go up. I then rephrase the question and ask, "Who would rather gouge their eyes out with a spoon than be involved in sales or selling?" Nearly every hand goes up.

My point is that everyone is engaged in sales and selling. Not everyone gets paid for it. We don't all have a product or service we are selling. But we all sell ourselves in interviews, our ideas to our employers, our vacation preferences to our families. Even the choice of a place to go out for dinner, or what movie to watch involves some selling. Why then does the profession of sales seem to enjoy such a dismal reputation? Why are salespeople ranked right up there with politicians and attorneys and IRS auditors?

I'm sure you can list your own reasons, but here are mine.

1. At one time or another, we have all been annoyed, harassed,
    disappointed or burned by a salesperson.
    People love to buy, but no one likes to be "sold" something. We've
    all ended up buying something from someone who was all about
    what he had to see and could care less what you needed. Had our
    meal interrupted calling you off a list with some incredible offer
    that you would never in a million years be interested in buying.
    Been let down by the quality, utility or value of a product we were
    talked into buying. Twice burned, once foolish. But how do you
    handle this in a different situation? Say you are seriously
    disappointed with an over-hyped movie. Or perhaps you have a
    terrible experience in a new restaurant you try out - bad food,
    worse service, premium prices. Is that the last movie you will
    ever go to see? Do you stop eating out? Probably not. I bet you did
    learn a few things about choosing films and eateries, and that you
    put it to use the next time you take in dinner and a show.

2. It is easy to buy into the stereotype.
    It is a favorite of stage and screen. The pushy, obnoxious,
    insensitive, back-slapping, fast talking, plaid jacket wearing
    salesman who pumps your hand in a crushing grip while picking
    your pocket with his other hand. Most of us would rather give an
    unrehearsed speech to a large audience than to be thought that
    kind of person. And lets face it, there is always a germ of truth to
    a stereotype. But, objectively, of all the sales professionals you
    have met how many were like that? I'm going to guess a pretty
    small percentage. Why? Because people like that don't last long
    in sales any more - if they ever did. They fail and move on, or find
    a new career.

3. We all fear rejection.
     It can be hard to separate the rejection of what you happen to be
     selling from a rejection of you, personally. This is especially true
     if your product or service is one that you are excited about, use
     yourself and really believe in (and if it isn't, why are you selling
     it?). No one likes to be turned down, to hear "No" or, worst yet,
     to be dismissed out of hand. On the other hand we all hear "No"
     from time to time and, so far as I know, it hasn't killed anyone.

Do we "hate" sales only because of fear? The fear of being a bother to others, of being thought poorly of, or of being rejected? I'm certainly not saying that a career in sales is for everyone. But sales can open up all sorts of opportunities - social, professional, financial. In business or in life, nothing much happens until somebody sells something. Good selling is not pushing. It is helping people to solve a problem or obtain a benefit by looking at things a little differently than they have before. Think about that the next time you are advocating for that golf vacation instead of a trip to your in-laws in Detroit.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Deadly Drugs

Most Americans are aware that heart disease, cancers and strokes are the three leading causes of death in the United States today. They may not be aware of #4: the adverse effects of prescription medications. Every year, more Americans die from drug errors than from traffic accidents - forty people a day from prescription pain killers alone. And while nearly 40,000 of these deaths arise from behavior that might fairly be described as "drug abuse", nearly 750,000 perish is what can only charitably be called "mistakes".

To make matters worse, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that nearly 60% of the prescription medications taken by patients are not needed, and that 88% of patients reported feeling better when taking fewer or no drugs.

Let's take a look at just one type of prescription medication, the statins that are prescribed to lower cholesterol and which are the most prescribed, highest selling prescription drugs in the USA. One study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy found that 75% of people taking statins reported memory loss or other cognitive problems, and that fully 90% of them who stopped taking the medication showed rapid improvement. Other major side effects are well known and include muscle pain and weakness, neuropathy and an elevated risk of developing diabetes.

One of the less well known (among us non-experts anyway) measures of drug effectiveness is the so-called Number Needed to Treat (NNT). NNT is a measurement of how many people would need to take the drug in order for it to produce one beneficial outcome. Obviously the lower the number the better. For the popular statin drug Lipitor the NNT is 168. This means that 168 people would have to take Lipitor (for 4 years) to prevent one "cardiovascular event". Unfortunately, the risk for side effects can be as high as 1 in 10. That means 16 people will suffer the side effects so that 1 person may be helped. No doubt the fact that statin drugs produce an annual revenue of about $25 billion dollars in no way influences their popularity at the prescription pad. But to me these seem to be stunningly bad odds.

If you are taking two prescription medications a day, the odds of having a bad interaction between them is about 6%. If you are taking 5 per day, the odds skyrocket to about 50%.... 1 person in 2. With half (yes, half) of Americans taking at least one prescription drug (and nearly 1 in 5 taking 3 or more) this quickly produces large numbers of endangered people. We may be the most medicated nation on the planet.

I'll close with a personal story. About 10 years ago my mother, who was living in Florida and suffering from advancing Alzheimers disease, was no longer able to care for herself safely. As a result, she moved to California to be close to my brother. One of the first things he did was make an appointment with a neurologist, and on their first visit he took a list of the prescription medications that she was taking on a daily basis. She had prescriptions for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, arthritis, degenerative heart disease and, of course, Altzheimers. Eight medications in all. When the doctor reviewed the list, she reacted with a combination of alarm and disbelief. Four of those medications were "mutually exclusive" - meaning that they had known interactions and were not prescribed together. Reducing my mothers medications to 3 per day produced an immediate, allbeit temporary, improvement in her mental and physical condition.

How could this happen? Because she was seeing four different "specialists", each of whom were prescribing medications without any idea what the others were doing. The doctors failed her, the pharmacist failed her, the insurance companies failed her, the healthcare system failed her and, to be fair, her family failed her.

The late Stephen Covey, in his book "First Things First", describes what he called "the rescue fantasy". "Most of us understand that a good percentage of the health problems we have are lifestyle-related. We live the way we want to live - little or no exercise, poor nutrition, burning the candle at both ends - and then when there is a problem we expect the medical profession to fix it. There's a pill for that."

There may be, but as more and more of us turn to medication to "fix" ourselves, we are starting to see that the cure may be more deadly than the problem.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lifespan vs Healthspan

Most people - and governments, healthcare providers and charitable organizations - are focused on extending our lives. Our Lifespan. This is hardly surprising. When I ask a room full of people, "Who wants to live a long life?", about 100% of the hands go up. But as I make the question more specific, and more real - "Who wants to live a long life confined to a long term care facility? On medication to manage disease and chronic pain? Tethered to an oxygen tank? Bedridden?" - I am usually left with very few, if any, hands in the air. And this illuminates an important issue.

When we think about a long life, we rarely think of ourselves as infirm. Rather we picture good health, mobility, activity, interaction with family and friends. In other words, we picture ourselves healthy, not simply alive. "We need to adjust our thinking and aim for 'healthspan'," says Prof. Michael Thorner, an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia. "Improving how long we have a robust and functional life."

In the United States (2009 data), the average lifespan for a male is 75 years (81 years for a female). This is up from 66 years in 1960, quite an impressive improvement. But after age 50, 1 in 4 of us is diabetic. By the time we reach age 60, 60% of us will have hypertension. At age 65, 41% of us will have cancer - 21% fatally. Our Lifespan is exceeding our Healthspan by 25 - 30 years! This is fantastic news if you are a healthcare provider or a pharmaceutical company. For the rest of us, no so much.

And what do you think is the #1 thing that anyone can do to increase their Healthspan? If you said "lose weight" you'd be correct. The consequences of being overweight, let alone obese, are well known and significant. Carrying extra pounds makes you far more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and other chronic problems. Coincidentally, these are the very things that kill us, and drain an approximate $215B out of our economy annually.

Here is a wonderful, simple to remember and simple to use formula that you can use to regain control of your Healthspan: Eat Less CRAP; Eat More FOOD.

C - Carbonated drinks                           F - Fruits and vegetables
R - Refined sugar                                 O - Organic lean proteins
A - Artificial colors and sweeteners        O - Omega3 fatty acids
P - Processed foods                              D - Drink lots of water

Losing weight is not about dieting. In fact the "weight loss industry" grows apace with our waistlines. It is about making lifestyle choices that will keep you not only alive but healthy. A better diet, better nutrition, more exercise, a positive attitude. None of these things are beyond the means or ability of anyone.

So what will it be? A long life? Or a long, healthy life? It's your choice.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Retirees Nervous about Size of Nest Egg

Retirement isn't what it used to be - if it ever was. Recently and soon-to-be retired Americans share a host of worrisome concerns and only 39% of them believe that they have or are building a sufficient nest egg to allow them to retire at all. (In fact, studies by Transamerica and others indicate that the real number is probably closer to 5%, but that is a story for another day.) More than half plan to work past the "traditional" retirement age of 65 in the hope of amassing more assets and slightly more than 50% say they will never be able to stop working entirely. As in not ever.

Future health-care costs are the most common worry, cited by 3-in-4 retirees. Not considering any expenses related to long-term care or nursing facilities, Fidelity Investments estimates that the average retired American faces medical costs of $240,000 with a 6% rate of annual inflation. When you consider that the average 64 year old American about to retire has total retirement savings of about $70,000 you can see why people are nervous.

The traditional advice to "save more" is valid of course, but much more so for the 25 year old than the 65 year old. Continuing to work "forever" is certainly an option. If a person has a job that they can still do. Perhaps its time for people to dust off those "network marketing pyramid schemes" and take another look. There is something to be said for a business that allows you to create a residual (i.e., ongoing) income that will last you the rest of your life.

Social Security or residual income? I know where my bet is going.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sneaky Salt

When the calendar flipped over to 2013, I made a decision to consume less sodium. This in turn was driven by the unexpected realization (I make a real effort to eat healthy) that I was routinely taking in 150% - 200% of the recommended level every day - and those percentages are based on the upper end of the recommended range.

Ok, no problem. I never add salt to anything anyway so I will just look at the food labels and buy things with less sodium. Woah! Did you ever DO that dude?

What I discovered was that many of the things I was eating had enough sodium in them that they probably ought to be considered poisons. Just a few of the more egregious offenders:

  • Campbells's regular Condensed soups. These things should just be labeled "liquid salt". One serving of Cream of Chicken soup sports a hefty 790mg of sodium. But "servings" are just one of the clever ways that food manufacturers manipulate the labeling. Who eats just one serving? Eat the entire can and you get 1,975mg - nearly a whole day's worth. If you must eat this stuff look for the their "Healthy Request" line. They still have 800mg - 900mg per can, but less is better.
  • Marie Callender's frozen pot pies. "Only" 800mg there. But wait, that's per serving again (half a pie). Eat the whole thing and you get 1,600mg - again just about your whole day's worth.
  • How about a can of chili while watching the game? 900mg. Oops! Per serving. Eat the whole can and plan on a heart pounding 1,800mg.
Are you starting to see how this works? Well it gets worse when you eat out and there are no labels. Olive Garden's "Tour of Italy" dinner ought to let you accumulate points toward a free bypass surgery, clocking in at an astounding 3,830mg of sodium. Thinking of just having the salad instead? Fugeddaboutit. If you put dressing on the salad (and who doesn't) you are wolfing down 1,530mg. Its easy to pick on McDonald's of course. But have a Big Mac and a large fries and you can plan on taking in 1,420mg. Just 1/4th of the "healthier" Tour of Italy.

What is the recommended amount? It depends who you ask. Food labels and the food industry suggest 2,400mg per day. The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention - who do not to my knowledge sell any food products - recommend "less than 2,300mg, with 1,500mg being a completely adequate level for most Americans". I'm shooting for 2,000mg.

I've been doing much better at limiting my sodium to under my 2,000mg target level, but its taken some detective work. Its also required eating a lot less canned and processed frozen foods and changing my choices when I do.

The lesson here is that you cannot rely on claims or even food labels to know whether what you are eating is truly good for you or not. (Lean Cuisine? Healthy Choice? Read the labels.) Its your body, and so far as I know we are all only issued one. You might want to start reading what you eat before you start chewing it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"The less you know the better," say Dairy Industry Groups

"... milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can 'more easily identify its overall nutritional value.'"

This quote comes from a petition to the Food and Drug Administration by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) in which they are proposing that artificial chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose be included in the definition of "milk" so that they would no longer have to be listed as an ingredient on the nutritional labels. That's right. They are arguing that you and I would be able to make better food and nutritional choices for ourselves if the actual ingredients in the food we eat were kept hidden from us. The less consumers know, according to the dairy industry, the better off they will be.

If granted, the industry would have permission to add artificial sweetening agents not only to milk, but to 17 different dairy products including yogurt, cream, sour cream, eggnog and whipping cream. Legally, the very definition of "milk" would include the additives and so eliminate the requirement to inform consumers of their presence.

There is quite a public debate going on regarding the safety of these additives, as well as the suitability of milk and milk products themselves. Regardless of which side you take in these disputes, how can any reasonable person agree that withholding information from consumers helps them to make better choices?

The public comment period on this petition is open until May 31, 2013. If you do not agree that less is more when it comes to nutritional information on the foods you feed yourself and your family, this would be a good time to make your feelings known. You can provide your comments here, and you can review the content of the actual petition on that same page.

Here is a summary and editorialized report on the petition from