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Health, Fitness and Weight Loss
Alcoholism and domestic violence - is community-based “women power” the answer?
Bad hair day?
Health, Fitness and Weight Loss
Exercises for arthritis, back pain and rheumatism
Regular readers of this column may have noticed a theme other then
my usual litany of “stay active”, “all things in moderation”, etc. All the
problems I have tried to cover as the result of ageing together with a less
than satisfactory Western lifestyle involving excess,( however enjoyable!),
and lack of personal care. I’m not being judgemental, just stating the fact
that in the majority of cases, we do it to ourselves!
Consequently, our bodies respond by malfunctioning or acquiring illnesses
that might have been avoided if our behaviour and lifestyle had been more
suitable. Of course, occasionally we may be unlucky enough to become ill or
have an accident, but for the most part our modern Western way of life is
responsible. An obvious example of this tendency is obesity, with resultant
late onset diabetes, on which I wrote last week. Another example is when a
previous injury comes back to haunt us in the form of arthritic joints, back
pain or rheumatism. This is, of course, localised and not life-threatening,
but can be extremely painful and debilitating.
The best protection against this is to condition associated muscles thus
giving the affected joint as much support as possible. One’s individual pain
threshold and range of movement are the only limiting factors. If you have
lived with an arthritis knee or hip for some while, you will, no doubt, know
a great deal about your condition and limitations. Within those limits,
however, there can exist a great deal of potential for improvement.
First, the “dos” and “don’ts”. Do not indulge in high impact exercises such
as running; avoid stairs and other climbing motions where your weight is on
the affected parts if possible. Do include stretching exercises, but don’t
overstretch. Select good training shoes with shock-absorbing soles. Do have
your feet checked for possible arthritic connections. Start aerobic
exercises gently - say, 5 minutes at a time - then build to 30 minutes 3 to
5 days per week. Walking, cycling, rowing and swimming are good - but don’t
use a stepper, run, or jog.
Strength training should involve all major muscle groups, with extra focus
on the affected area. Use free weights, machines, isometric exercises, with
only 2-3 repetitions at fist, pain being the limited factor for weight.
Increase reps to 10-12, 2-3 days per week. It’s important to stretch once or
twice per day; again, pain is the limiting factor. In all exercises, avoid
sideways pressure on the affected joints and keep to low repetition, low
impact, and low resistance exercises, increasing frequency and time when you
feel comfortable enough to do so. Remember the FITT principle?
Two more points - if you are going for a hip replacement or other such
operation, invest in strengthening supporting muscles beforehand - the
effort used will repay you handsomely, as will maintaining good posture in
all daily activities.
Alcoholism and domestic violence - is community-based
“women power” the answer?
We are all aware that alcoholism and alcohol-related violence,
often domestic, is a major concern worldwide. Most of us are probably
also aware of the means by which the problem is addressed in the West -
counselling centres, various 12 step programmes, (some religious, some
secular), rehabilitation clinics, psychotherapy, medication, etc. Of
course, the problem also exists here in Chiang Mai - but how is it dealt
with? A successful social experiment led by a woman and aimed at women
victims of drunken violence provides at least one answer.
In a small working-class community located in a Chiang Mai soi, an
anti-drinking and anti-domestic violence project was started in 2002 by
Mae Pung, a woman who had been exposed to alcohol-related domestic abuse
since she was very young, and who had been working to help abuse victims
in her small community for some years. Mae Pung’s father was an abusive
alcoholic; fuelled by drink, his violent behaviour was directed at his
wife and children. “But”, says Mae Pung, “when he was sober he was a
fair man and would help my mother”. The usual story, repeated worldwide.
As a child in the soi where her family lived, Mae Pung was aware that
almost all the soi’s small shops sold alcohol; the young men in the
community followed the older men’s example by drinking heavily.
Lifestyle, economic difficulties and social conditions exacerbated the
problem and fuelled dependency. If violence occurred, family members
were on hand to intervene. The micro-economy of the area was dependent
on the sale of alcohol; the result was a dysfunctional community with
its women and children bearing the brunt of the consequences.
Still living in the soi as an adult, Mae Pung began combating domestic
violence, at first by hiding terrified, beaten women in her home. She
consoled and counselled the women, telling them to avoid provoking their
men when they were drunk. Other women from the community joined her, and
the group began, bravely, to confront the men themselves, yelling at
them and occasionally threatening them. “We just helped each other”, Mae
Pung says. Soon she was talking to the men, trying everything she could
to stop them drinking - some stopped beating their wives as they were
afraid that she would put a sign outside their houses identifying them
in the public domain as violent abusers. “We were using the men’s pride
against them”, she says.
The group approached the small shops to ask them to stop selling
alcohol, thus removing the crutch of family involvement in violent
behaviour, as, if the men were forced to drink outside their own area,
they would have no-one to intervene should they become violent. Some
owners of liquor stores were not happy at the suggestion, knowing that
they would lose their livelihoods.
As the president of the fully functional December 5 Women’s Development
Group, Mae Pung has, over the years, instigated further projects to
improve the status of women in the community. A day nursery has been
opened, caring for the children of single or working mothers; a credit
union has been set up, run by women and offering small loans to its
members, now numbering over 1,300, mostly women.
In Western terms, an unconventional approach to a common and devastating
problem - in human terms a considerable success, tackling the reasons
behind alcohol dependency and the resulting violence in a small,
disadvantaged community. The reality is that many such communities exist
in the West; there, this issue is rarely confronted on a community
basis, as current “wisdom” prefers to isolate alcoholics whilst trying
to effect a rarely successful “cure”. Without doubt, alcoholism and its
resultant violence is a community issue, as it affects not only families
but fragments the community itself. Perhaps the West could learn from
Mae Pung’s undoubtedly successful approach.
Bad hair day?
When we think of scientists - what springs to mind? Highly
talented professionals with a string of letters after their names that
require oversized business cards - all working to rid the planet and its
inhabitants of whatever threats plague it and them. Probably - but
A report from the American Chemical Society’s annual thrash in
Philadelphia, trumpeted as one of the world’s biggest gathering of
scientists, might make us think again! German scientists, the report
declares, may have found the final answer to -wait for it - the BAD HAIR
Women of the world, rejoice! No more panic about split ends - no more
crying into the pillow when your mirror yells “ugh, bed hair”. As a
result of this ground-breaking and highly expensive research, we will
all be able to look like an advert for Clairol 24/7! What more could we
The report contains such delights as ‘For the first time, we present an
experimental setup that allows measuring the subtle forces, both
physical and chemical, that arise when single hairs slide past each
other or are pressed against each other. The findings will help provide
clearer strategies for optimizing hair care products.’, and “Apart from
the deep psychological effects for the unfortunate wearer, there is a
£30 billion industry out there desperate to prove it can prevent such
Perhaps that £30 billion pound industry really does believe that us
“unfortunate wearers” need urgent counselling should our current
hairstyle look less than perfect. Or that the vast majority of us would
consider this a “disaster”. Or perhaps we are being manipulated into
believing that we should all strive to be California girls whilst
holding down a job, a house, 2.4 children, the family dog and a husband
who last looked at our hair the day we got married! Answers on a
Reaffirming Human Rights For All
“In small places, close to home - so close and so small
that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are
the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives
in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or
office where he works. Such are the places where every man,
woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal
dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning
there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned
citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in
vain for progress in the larger world.”
The above quote heralds the opening of the UNESCO 61st annual
NGO/DPD conference, due to be held from 2-5 September in Paris.
The title of the conference is “Reaffirming Human Rights for All
- The Universal Declaration”. Its aim is to discuss ways and
means to contribute to enhanced awareness of the meaning of
human rights today as set forth in the Universal Declaration 60
years ago in Paris, the city where it was signed. The
conference’s press release asks attendees to “Help to raise
awareness of your work on this issue. Contact your local, daily
or weekly newspapers, call-in radio or TV shows and your NGO
publications to make them aware of your involvement in the 61st
Conference. You have a powerful voice: let it be heard. Be an
activist. Please share your involvement with us, so that we may
share it with the United Nations.” It goes on to ask, “What are
Human Rights”, and explains as follows:
“Basic equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms to
which all human beings are entitled, such as the right to life,
liberty, and security, equal protection of law, freedom of
thought, conscience, and religion, and the rights to work, to
education, and to be able to participate in the cultural life of
the community. Human rights are important so that each of us can
live a life of dignity and self-respect. Bringing the knowledge
of human rights to your community is the first step toward
peaceful co-existence and the reconciliation of past
The conference’s website urges all workers in the field to be
familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to be
vigilant in their communities and to educate those communities,
especially the young people.
China, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Burma - the full list is much
longer and may well include certain communities here in
Thailand. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed
60 - yes, 60 years ago. Here, in the Chiang Mai expat community,
there may seem to be little we can do about this issue,
particularly as governments pay lip-service to the declaration’s
absolute requirements and ignore the abuses taking place on
their own doorsteps. However, there are many organisations in
our city who are working tirelessly, often with inadequate
funds, to address the issue in many different but equally
important ways. They need our support, again in different but
equally important ways. We, a minority group ourselves, should
not stand by and do nothing.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: www.unhchr.ch/udhr/
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