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Dr. Weil Loses His Way

November 20, 2012

Dr. Andrew Weil’s latest book tour stopped in San Francisco  last week. He’s on the road to promote his latest literary effort, a cookbook  – True Food – based on recipes he cooks at home and are served in his emerging restaurant chain.

Dr. Weil and a fan at his recent lecture and book signing event in San Francisco.

As part of his Weil Lifestyle campaign the book purports to establish a new healthy lifestyle and healthier recipes while rebutting the myth that ‘health food’ has to be  bland or worse.

Dr. Weil was interviewed at Herbst Theater by fellow cookbook author Molly Katzen who spent an hour fawning of the integrative health guru while leaving it to the audience to ask  controversial questions. Dr. Weil’s book offers recipes based on his own food pyramid which, while different from the hated FDA guide, leaves out very few foods that have led to the United States obesity epidemic.

In fact , Dr. Weil probably is a pretty good representative of the US population since he clearly doesn’t skimp on any meals. A doctor approaching obesity levels may not be the best spokesman for a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Weil said he was also scouting sites for a new restaurant – one featuring good healthfood similar to the locations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. The fact that the Bay Area has been a leader in the trend Dr. Weil promotes doesn’t seem to rate a mention even though places such as Cafe Gratitude, Planet Organic or Gather are way ahead of the good doctor.

Dr. Weil was asked about supplements and admitted that, aside from a daily multi-vitamin, most folks can get all the nutrition they need from a healthy diet. This does seem to question the range of supplements marketed and sold by Dr. Weil on his own website.

Dr. Weil also took a minute to chastise the assembled group for the failure of Proposition 37 the GMO labeling question of the November ballot. “How you could let that fail?” has asked.

No one rose to answer, but I would note there were several folks in the room who had worked very hard to get the proposal on the ballot and promote it’s passage. No doubt a few of them were a bit insulted that someone from  Arizona, who did nothing to oppose the $50 million ad campaign put on by the Monsanto and Dow, would criticize their efforts.

Dr. Weil clearly does not oppose GMO food, preferring to wait for more evidence before branding it unhealthy. Of course, some folks would rather that it get proven healthy before allowing it in the food chain.

I’m afraid Dr. Weil has lost his way by promoting a food pyramid that would do little to improve the health of most Americans, selling suplements that he admits are mostly unnecessary and declining to oppose foods that have been shown to be unhealthy.

I’m sure it will do little to hurt his image or  his income.

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Happiness is Everywhere

April 5, 2012

Suddenly, it seems that we are consumed with the search for one of our ‘inalienable rights.’ It’s not that Americans just rediscovered the Declaration of Independence, or Will Smith’s 2006 movie, but rather, it seems to be the latest social science trend.

Consider it the replacement for behavioral economics the science that became popular after the book Freakonomics tried to explain how economics could explain human behavior. For a few years there was a new book out every month explaining why humans are irrational and how we could be led to do anything with the right incentive.

Now, it seems that happiness, and the apparently futile search for it, has reached the top of the grad student research list. Last month Harvard Business Review (subscription required) focused a whole issue on employee happiness; two weeks ago I received a brochure advertising a full day seminar offered in 8 convenient locations guaranteed to provide me with “effective ways to measure happiness.”

Daniel Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness,” a 2006 best seller may have sparked the recent interest. Gilbert’s book is a well-written and very interesting explanation of how humans define happiness, what it is or is not, and a slightly depressing conclusion that the human mind may never allow us to truly understand what will make us happy. He offers some solace that, at least now that we understand how the human mind works, we will know why we can never  find happiness.

Interestingly the writing style and reasoning of the book is quite similar to many of the behavioral economics books, such as “Nudge” or Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational.”

Andrew Weil’s “Spontaneous Happiness,” takes a different approach, offering suggestions for helping us find happiness. His is a less scientific approach and is more a lengthy essay on his own observations about happiness. He offers a number of suggestions of helpful methods to help his readers achieve a state of happiness.

If you are familiar with Dr. Weil’s work you will not be surprised that his suggestions run range from yoga and mindfulness meditation to more secular pursuits such as social activities or laughter. He even offers an ‘8-week Program for Optimal Well Being.”

Dan Buettner, author of “Blue Zones’ which explores circumstances surrounding the lives of the world’s oldest citizens has offered “Thrive – Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.” He investigates (and I use that term very loosely) the places around the planet judged to include the happiest populations according to annual surveys.

With apologies to Walt Disney, among the happiest places on earth appear to be parts of Mexico, Denmark, Singapore and San Luis Obispo, California. Even Buettner doesn’t seem to believe that any place in Mexico could be judged happy given the violence, but he doesn’t let that stop him from interviewing the population in an attempt to compile a list of factors that will lead to happiness.

After his trips, Buettner develops a list of “Finding Ways to Thrive” which includes items such as ‘put friends first,’ ‘grow a garden’ or ‘get into teaching.’ While many of his suggestions are valid, and some may apply to a lot of readers, his list is so long and tries to be so inclusive that it’s almost useless in trying to help anyone find happiness.

I have no idea what the answer is. Even Gilbert notes that happiness may be impossible to measure because we all use a different scale. A good friend of mine once suggested that unhappiness is caused by expectations not meeting reality. Maybe the answer lies in taking a more honest look at assessing what your own reality is.  And that’s something a coach can help you figure out.

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Outsourcing Realities

August 19, 2011

I’ve decided to keep an ‘outsourcing scorecard’ just to keep track of what direction the jobs are moving in the new world economy. I started about three weeks ago and so far the tally is 2-1 in favor of ‘offshore.’

The real surprise, I guess, is that there is any movement at all back to the United States.

I have several different jobs so I come in contact with outsourcing in several areas. I am a coach who does a fair amount of job counseling, plus I do business consulting for small firms, and I also work in health care dealing with insurers and doctors in the California Workers Compensation system.

The first score on my outsourcing scorecard, came two weeks ago when I got a call from a nurse case manager who was overseeing the care of a patient in the Bay Area. (Overseeing is the insurance company translation for making sure they are not spending too much of the insurer’s money)

That aside, she asked about the patient’s status but when the phone line kept breaking up, I finally asked where she was calling from. She said, rather matter-of-factly, The Philippines. I have no problem with the Philippines, or their residents, but the thought of a nurse checking on a patient’s condition and trying to assess care from 7,764 miles away, bothered me, so I told her to have someone in the United States call, I would be happy to discuss the case.

Last week, I called United Airlines at about 11:00 p.m. to check on a reservation I had made for my 91-year-old dad. I went through the normal phone tree and finally reached an operator and got the answer to my question. I was about to hang up when I realized that for the first time in over 25 years of dealing with United, I was not talking to someone in India.

I asked the agent and I could  almost hear the smile in her voice as she pointed out, “Well, United and Continental are now merged and the new CEO is from Continental, and he does not believe in outsourcing.”

I have been complaining about the call center in India for, well, forever, and I told her I was delighted to be speaking to someone in Chicago. Go Cubbies.

Score one for U.S.A.

Finally, this week, I was called from a local doctor’s office in the Bay Area about a patient they were referring to my wife, who is a psychologist specializing in pain management. They wanted to know if we had all the pages they faxed. I had to check so I got her call-back number which ended in a 5-digit extension, which I thought was a bit odd for a relatively small practice.

You guessed it, when I called back I was talking some an ’employee’ in the Phillipines working for a company that provides back-office services to doctors.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone is trying to cut expenses in the medical field, but I can’t help but wonder, how long it will be until a medical office is just one doctor and one receptionist and everone else is thousands of miles away.

Of course, the next step is that everyone is thousands of miles away and the doctor is an avatar in front of a computer.



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