About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, writer, and speaker. His articles, about topics from weight loss to popularity, receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in many publications. He writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Study Shows Vitamin D Prevents Major Pregnancy Complications

sun in trees

An important 2009 study shows that Vitamin D plays a very important role in preventing pregnancy complications. This is in addition to other studies that demonstrate the importance of getting enough of the sunshine vitamin while pregnant.

This particular study, carried out by Dr. Bruce Hollis and Dr. Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina, gave 600  women of various races, 4000 IU of Vitamin D per day, and followed them throughout their pregnancies and beyond (for 2.5 years). The control group received 400 IU per day, the official recommended amount of Vitamin D.

In the group receiving 4000 IU of Vitamin D, there were half the premature births as the c0ntrol group. Fewer babies who were “small for date” were born in the 4000 IU group. The treatment group also had 25% fewer infections. The “core morbidities” of pregnancy were reduced by 30%; these include diabetes, preeclampsia, and high blood pressure. Additionally, babies getting extra Vitamin D also suffered from fewer colds and less eczema after birth. In other words, consuming 4000 IU of Vitamin D per day, 10 times the RDA, was associated with better health of mother and child. And, during the course of the study, there were no adverse effects reported from taking that much Vitamin D.

Sadly, many Americans have now lost the ability to make Vitamin D because we are in the autumn, and the sun’s rays are not strong enough to cause our skins to produce Vitamin D. This means many mothers (and babies) will be at risk of preventable pregnancy complications, unless they take Vitamin D supplements.

Sun and Speed: Why Sunshine And Movement Are Essential To Your Health

fall landscape

No, I am not talking about doing drugs outdoors, but I’m referring to what ancient man (and woman) often experienced. They got a lot of sun, and they probably moved a lot, and it is safe to say that this is what we are probably the life we are meant to experience. While most of us may enjoy sitting down in a temperature-controlled room, we really aren’t physiologically wired to have this sort of experience every day of the year.

Think about it. When, in the history of humankind, until very recently, did people stay inside so much, and do such little activity?  The upper classes, few in number, perhaps had such an experience, but most did not. In fact, most people throughout human history have spent long hours outside and have been, whether as wandering nomads, hunter-gatherers, or simply working the fields, on the move.

You can’t take a human body, designed to be outside, and on the move, and stick it at an desk inside for 10 hours a day, and/or on a couch for 5 hours a day inside, and expect health and happiness. And this could be why many Americans are unhealthy and feel so darn unhappy.

There are many good reasons to actually be out in the sun, and one is Vitamin D production.  Studies show that many diseases are tied to low Vitamin D levels, including autism, cancer, depression, and multiple sclerosis, diseases becoming more common as Americans spend less-and-less time in the sun. While it is true too much sun exposure can increase the risk of easily treatable forms of skin cancer, and increase the rate that your skin will look “ridden hard and put away wet,” as local good-ol boys describe it, sun exposure likely helps prevent difficult-to-treat cancers like breast and colon cancer.

Ok, we need some sun, but do we need speed? Likely. One example is a study that shows that runners live significantly longer than non-runners, in part because running encourages new nerve growth.  And combining the two for some sun and speed, has some benefits as well.  For example, one study found that while exercising indoors reduced depression by 45% , exercising outdoors decreased depression by 71%, almost double the indoor rate. So basically, moving outside is much more effective at treating depression than exercising indoors. This could explain that while exercising at the Y can sometimes be a chore, I rarely have to be prodded to run outside, over the hills outside my old high school.

I often ponder these things while I am running outside, for example, yesterday in the blistering heat, which limited my time outside. One thing I thought of is that in the last 20+ years, we have been taught to value being inside, and honestly, to fear the outside. It seems as if parents are so worried about what may possibly happen to a child, that a lot of the stuff I did growing up outside (that kids had done for years earlier) is now off-limits. So, since a child can’t go outside and play at noon (the sun is too hot and a weird looking redneck just walked by), he sits inside glued to the computer, not that he would even want to go outside anyway, because he can just “go outside” on his video game.  Then when he does go outside for real, the sun has a kind of “it burns, it burns” feel, and being weighed down by too  many bags of snack-size Cheetos, he runs (not literally, of course) for cover for the nearest air-conditioned building. I am basically describing myself as a middle-schooler, except that my mom was never hysterical, and did encourage us to play outside, although since the Nintendo was inside, I often stayed there.

Basically, the point is my post is that a lot of our modern problems, including depression and chronic diseases (like cancer) could be related to the fact that our modern way of living is just contrary to our wiring. Instead of immediately reaching for expensive drugs, long courses of therapy, or self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or partying, we may just need a little more sun and a little more speed*. Of course, I say this while I type inside with the AC turned up…

* – Obviously depression is a real condition, and it is important to seek a doctor’s advice before going on or off depression medication, or before beginning an exercise program.

Review of Puritan’s Pride

Continuing my reviews of popular supplement companies, today, I want to review Puritan’s Pride in detail. This review is based on my experiences.

Overview

Puritan’s Pride is the mail-order, factory-direct, division of NBTY. Besides Puritan’s Pride, NBTY also manufactures Nature’s Bounty, Vitamin World, Rexall, Sundown, Solgar, and American Health products, some which are sold in supermarkets.

I have ordered from Puritan’s Pride since the summer of 2000, when I started getting into health again after a rather unhealthy hiatus, in which I ballooned up to 200 pounds. I had ordered from Lee Nutrition and Nutrition Headquarters in the mid-1990s, but by 2000, both companies were out-of-business, so I went looking for an alternative source of inexpensive supplements. Since 2000, I have ordered from them probably 30-40 times, so this review of Puritan’s Pride is based on quite a bit of experience. Some of the items I am familiar with include, B-Complex 50, Multi-Enzyme, and Fish Oil with Garlic.

Quality

Puritan’s Pride guarantees their products, and when tested by independent labs, all of Nature’s Bounty’s products, including those of Puritan’s Pride, perform very well. I feel very confident that Puritan’s Pride products are high quality. I haven’t had any quality problems with any of my Puritan’s Pride products.

Product Selection

Puritan’s Pride has a decent selection of products, most for great prices, although they seem to be slow to get some of the newer, cutting-edge products, and when they do, the price is often higher than their other products.  I wish they offered more multi-vitamins without iron, and with lower levels of Vitamin A (both of these concerns reflect newer research about supplementing with Vitamin A and iron). In this regard, their products seem kind of old-fashioned.  I am guessing most people with find what they need from Puritan’s Pride. I wish they had Bromelain 2000 GDU product, but I can easily get that elsewhere. Puritan’s Pride bought Doctor’s Trust a few years ago, and unfortunately, did not continue DT’s fine line of products.

Value

Puritan’s Pride always runs sales, and the key to getting the absolute best deal is to know which sale is running. I have never seen products sold for full price, so the deal you get depends on the sale they are having. They tend to have the following sales, listed below. I have placed the percentage savings off their regular price in parenthesis:

Buy 1, Get 1 free (50% off)

Buy 2, Get 3 free (60% off)

Buy 1, Get 2 free (67% off)

60% off

70% off

60-80% off

Rarely does Puritan’s Pride offer 70% off sales, or the 60-80% off sale (in which some items are 80% off, but not many). This means that the best regularly-offered deal is the “Buy 1, Get 2 free” special, which almost always runs every summer, and sometimes during other times of the year. Thus, I tend to stock-up from Puritan’s Pride products in the summer.

They also offer discounts on top of their other sales, so be sure to check and see what promotional offer is running concurrently with the advertised sales.

Puritan’s Pride does have several other sites, besides puritan.com, in which other sales sometimes run concurrently with the sale on puritan.com. These include puritansale.com, doctorstrust.com, vitamins.com, and puritancatalog.com. For awhile, puritansale offered 70%+ off many products, making it the best deal available, but unfortunately, most products on that site now are 50-60% off.

While I used to order almost all of my supplements from Puritan’s Pride, they have raised their prices on many products recently, and stopped offering some of their best sales as often as in the past. For this reason, I go to other sources for my supplements these days, since I wrote my original review.

Shipping

Usually the entire order is shipped out quickly, often arriving in a little less than a week. They always send out shipping notices via email, with tracking numbers. This makes keeping track of orders very easy.  A few times I have had to wait for back-ordered items, but very rarely. Typically, the back-ordered items are shipped out within a 10 days.

Service

Customer service is excellent and friendly. I have called them and emailed them in the past and they have always been helpful. I even emailed one of their representatives about the strength of their enzyme products (enzymes are measured by both activity and weight, and Puritan’s Pride only lists enzyme weight on their products), and she kindly contacted their scientists to find out the information I needed.

Overall

I used to consider them my primary supplement company, but now that belongs to Swanson, because Swanson currently seems to offer more variety and better prices. However, Puritan’s Pride offers high-quality products for a great price, and are well worth checking out if you think you are paying too much for your vitamins.

My Healthy Christmas List

A lot of us think of the temptations at Christmas (like endless cookies at work and parties in the evenings, with even more cookies, drinks, etc). One way to counter this is to shift your focus to healthy living, and one way to do this is to let your friends and family know that you want gifts that will help you maintain health, as opposed to lose it.

So, what do you get for someone who is really into health and fitness, who is really hard to buy for?

Rather than post this article in two locations, you can finish reading the article here. This is a slightly tongue in cheek article that contains plenty of gifts I actually use.

Do Women Like Jerks?

"scumbag Steve" - popular meme of a jerk

“scumbag Steve” – popular meme of a jerk

This is a controversial question, because it is not always politically correct to say “yes.”  However, ask any woman about some dirtbag her friend is dating, or ask any “nice” guy who has witnessed himself sitting at home on weekends while his bad boy roommate goes out with a string of women. The bottom line is that most women have an “I dated a jerk” story, or at least know tons of friends who dated jerks. They also probably know many “nice” guys that they themselves would never date but tried to fix up with friends (who also didn’t like, but tried to fix up with their friends). Unfortunately, attraction is not a logical choice.

So do women love bad boys? Do women love jerks?

The answer is “yes” — kind of. My hypothesis is that ‘”bad boys” actually present as attractive because they seemingly have attractive traits, like confidence, humor, and a high level of charm. However, these traits don’t come from real confidence or enlightenment, but from insecurity and narcissism.  So, once these guys get a female bonded to them (which easily happens via different brain chemicals, including Oxytocin), their true nature comes out, but by that time, the bonding has occurred.

This is why it is important to recognize jerk behaviors, such as lack of empathy and bullying, early, to avoid bonding to a total asshat.

Spring is Coming – Get Busy

White spring blossomsSpring is coming, in a few days in fact (this year it is Wednesday, March 20th). Here in Ohio it has seemed pretty cold for the time of year. Admittedly I am a little frustrated that things have been so cold, since I love getting out.

Nonetheless, the weather will be getting better, and the opportunity for outdoor activities will increase. Unfortunately, a lot of people get really excited (and buy all kinds of crazy fitness accessories) during the New Year. In the Northern Hemisphere, this also happens to be a very cold time of the year. Nothing saps your motivation like below freezing temperatures! So, people give up, and their brand new clothes sit in the closet until the next garage sale.

My thought is that a better time to begin an exercise program is the spring.

First, there is the whole spring/renewal connection. Spring is the time that nature renews herself; even animals come out of hibernation as the days get longer.

Second, spring is when the weather gets better. The sun is shining more, and the weather is warmer. It is much easier to get out. There are all kinds of activities available for you: biking, running, hiking, golf, and even more!

So, I suggest making spring 2013 a time to re-boot your exercise and fitness program. Did you abandon your new year’s resolutions? Well, that’s ok, because the spring is here and it’s time to start again. And, if you work hard now, you may fit into your swimsuit too!

“I Don’t Care If I Am Popular”

Pink spring blossomsI hear this a lot from people. They say “I don’t want to be popular” or “I don’t care if I have friends” and so forth. Almost to a tee these statements come from people that want more friends, but just don’t know how to get them. I am not trying to be mean, but a lot of people utter these phrases to convince themselves that the basic human desire to be loved and admired is bunk. Such a phrase is likely a lie because it goes against basic human nature.

I think the better solution would be to learn the skills that make a person popular, rather than swearing off popularity altogether. Teaching kids how to be popular in school, for example, would be more effective than having kids cram down their desires for friends and dates while their feelings of isolation grow.

Unfortunately, popularity has gotten a bad rap, and a lot of “popular” people are really just feared. The bullies and jerks appear popular, but are really secretly hated. Fortunately, reality often catches up, and these losers often fail at life after high school. Some succeed and end up bullying people in the workplace. Again, they are more feared and hated, than popular.

Also, people think to be popular they have to sacrifice their values. That is not true either. Some of the most popular people (like Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, and Jesus) are admired and loved because they stuck to their values. These individuals knew how to stick to their values without being obnoxious about it, something people of all faiths, political positions, etc, should learn.

So, yes, I do care if I am popular. I do like having friends. I do like the benefits of popularity.

A Year Later…

A path leading to a covered bridgeWe haven’t been updating this blog very much, although I still very much believe in the principles that we are about – healthy living, exercising, saving and making money, and keeping a simple and balanced home life.

In 2008, I started to look for “life in my years” but honestly, I wasn’t quite there. In 2012, I am farther along that path. I wake up most days excited about the possibilities. I have “decision latitude” and enjoy my job, family, and have numerous side projects that keep me excited about life, and also making a little money on the side.

Once such project is called The Popular Man. Over the last few years I have literally made a study out of learning what it means to be successful. These days, I mostly read books about Psychology, nutrition, etc, and how this applies to success at work, at home, etc. Honestly, the books I have read, the seminars I have taken, and the time I have spent networking have been much much cheaper than my graduate school and much more rewarding. Such are the lessons we learn in our thirties I guess!

Nobody’s Tool?

What is freedom?

In the past I would have given various definitions, but rarely would they have involved freeing my mind. I used to poke fun at the phrase “free your mind” because it sounded kind of hippieish and a little weird. Plus, the people I know that talk about freedom a lot don’t seem very free themselves, or they tend to like to impose their “freedom” on others so that others are less free.

I have been thinking lately about freedom, and how and why we end up in the systems we live in. Many people play the perpetual victim, and speak of freedom as someone else allowing them to do, or not do, something. But, shouldn’t we actually be questioning the worst limiter of freedom: our own minds, which are often mired in bad systems and patterns??

Before I begin, I want to state that I love my current job. I have a lot of freedom and flexibility, and I enjoy teaching. However, one system that I have been questioning lately is working for somebody else. From a young age through college, and into the world of work (whether this is the Academy, the corporate world, or at non-profits) we are conditioned to work for somebody else. The American dream is usually presented as getting a degree, working for somebody else, getting an occasional raise or bonus, and climbing up the ladder, so you can buy nice things. Even as a child, our career choices tend to fall within the same framework: we “dream” of working for someone else. Most people complain about this system, but still continually buy into it, even if it is physically and mentally killing them. Lately I have realized this system is very limiting, and the answer is not complaining about the system, or shifting around in the system (“same crap, different toilet” syndrome) but rather leaving the system and starting a new one. Let me explain why I question the current “work” system most of us fall into:

1. Working for someone else means that your best time and ideas benefit someone else – For some reason, very few people realize that by working for another person or organization, we basically hand over our time and ideas so someone else can get more money and influence, while we struggle to make ends meet. This happens in the corporate world, non-profits, and the Academy. If you are lucky (and this is a big “if”), the organization you work for won’t get rid of you or cut off your pension when times get lean. One of the issues I had with college0 was that my college was basically using graduate students (who I often found to be more talented teachers than full professors) as slave labor. Their time, talent, and ideas were barely benefiting them, yet many people were willing to put up with the abuse. It took me a few years being in that system to finally realize I couldn’t stand working in such a ridiculous and dysfunctional system. It is just as bad in the corporate world too, with people giving all they have, while the company benefits, and they get denied raises.

2. Your degree may or may not actually help you – I used to believe that to get ahead you had to go to college. I still believe this, but with serious reservations. I value my college education, but many days I question whether the amount of money I put into it (including student loan debt) is actually worth the return. My colleges were laughing at me all the way to the bank. My BA is in psychology and my Master’s is in religion. Both degrees pretty much leave me in limbo. The BA doesn’t qualify me to do anything related to Psychology, and the Master’s in Religion pretty much qualifies me to barely make ends meet for the rest of my life (whether I choose to teach, be an adjunct professor, etc). Yes, I chose these degrees, and yes, other people choose degrees that are marketable, but the system is broken in the sense that I was never told what life is like after college for people with my degrees. And why would colleges be honest? If they were honest, the few English poetry majors that are actually making decent money teaching English poetry (the tenured professors), would be out of a job. It is just not in the college’s best interest to be honest with its young and idealistic students. So, basically I no longer believe having a college degree=success. I think the person him/herself determines success.

3. By working for someone else you are making trade-offs – Many people dislike their bosses and employing company or organization, yet they remain in this system for the stability. This could be a regular salary, health insurance, etc. Others remain out of habit. Others don’t realize there is a way out. There is a way out, and it is called starting your own business, organization, or non-profit. The government makes this difficult (regulations tend to favor companies, especially big ones, that are already in business and can influence regulations), but it can be done. The question, however, is this: can you handle the risk? Doing your own thing requires trading stability for risk, but also trading resentment and monotony for happiness and autonomy. As I have gotten older, I have decided that the risk is worth it.

4. Isn’t working about sacrifice and heartache?? – “Work sucks.” I hear this all the time. If it is so bad, then why in the world would a person get up every morning and devote 40-60 hours of his week to such an endeavor? If you are doing this, stop for a second, and ask why any happy and free human being would do such a thing? Why does it have to be this way? Can’t you see yourself waking up every morning and loving your job? Why can’t every workday be exciting and full of possibilities? Many readers may scoff at this, but does it really take that much to be happy and fulfilled? I know people that are photographers, freelance writers, and handymen that love their jobs. We are taught to settle. We are taught to remain in limiting systems and jobs in which we are asked to do more, for less money and less freedom. We accept that micromanaging bosses and wasting away mindlessly in a cubicle are laws of nature. We are taught that we are victims, and that the only way out is retirement. Not true. You could leave today! You could leave right this very moment. I am not saying that is a good idea without planning, but you could do it right now.

Now, let me ask my readers, have you ever complained about your job or job system (job system= being in the corporate, Academic, or non-profit “worlds”)? Most of us have. Now, let me ask: how many of you have ever questioned the system itself? How many of you have actually looked into exiting the system? Unfortunately, studies show that once humans commit to something, it is hard for us to leave it. If we have gotten a degree, or given 5 years to a job, many people will stay simply because of past commitment. However, who says that spending 5 years working for a job means that you have to live miserably for the next 20 years? If the “system” sucks, then start your own system!

In today’s economy, it is illogical for people to hate business. Instead they should love business. I understand their dislike of big business that conspires with the government to run the little guys out of business and devalue the average worker, but in this era we need more competition, from the good guys, not less competition, so that our only options end up being to work for the unwieldy and uncaring big businesses, universities, and non-profits. This is why one dream of mine is to help schools pair with local entrepreneurs to teach a younger generation how to start and run their own businesses. Whether school systems, which generally encourage conformity and dependence, would ever encourage this, I don’t know.

At age 33, feeling more independent and confident than ever, I question the system. I now dream of being in charge, being the boss, not of other people per se, but of my own destiny. I don’t want to work for someone else or another organization anymore. I may not get rich (I actually believe I will), but at the very least I will be doing what I love, and enjoying my autonomy. Even though I do love my current teaching job, I don’t see myself being there forever. I went to a fundraiser a few months ago, and the teachers and principals were talking about how many sacrifices they have made over the years. The people we were honoring at the event, who donated thousands of dollars to help our schools, owned their own businesses or organizations and were using their extra money and influence to give back to others. I decided I would dream to be like them, not the people who after 30 years were still scraping to get by and scanning their mind for reasons just to get up in the morning. At that moment, I decided I wouldn’t be anybody’s tool, except perhaps, my own.

How to Start the Day Right

On ChurchYear. Net’s new subsite, ChurchYear.Net Basic, I have added a prayer for the day. Every morning, I try to start the day off in the right mindset, and prayer always helps with this. Individuals from other traditions, or those who are not believers, can meditate or just do some relaxation techniques to get a similar mental effect. Most Christians tend to prayer the Our Father Prayer, while Catholics use that, and the Hail Mary Prayer. Of course, Catholics are also allowed to make up prayers as well.

It is interesting that science has recognized the benefit of prayer to calm people, and even though it is disputed, some studies even suggest that prayer for another person across great distances benefits people. If true, this shows that there is some sort of nonlocal reality out there, that many of us consider to be part of what we now call the spiritual realm.