Free Agent Nation: Scented Jeans? ‘Ficks’ a hangover? High-tech bookmark?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation

Fragrance Jeans

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their third column …

America isn’t the only Free Agent Nation, and today we’re taking you on a quick trip around the world to show you three more products we’d like you to rate—and tell friends (via the blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons) if you think these ideas are worth sharing.

Yesterday, we looked at Serviceable ideas. Today, we focus on the second “S”—Seductive ideas.


Portuguese fashion brand, Salsa, has created scented jeans.

The pants, made from a blend of cotton and elastane, are embedded with microcapsules of fragrance. According to the manufacturers’ sales pitch, many jean enthusiasts believe that jeans are best left unwashed to protect their style and texture. Obviously, this can lead to undesirable side effects, which prompted Salsa to develop the product. They claim their fragrances will last up to 20 washes, and you can choose from 5 different scents: apple, blueberry, strawberry, lemon and orange.


Ficks Cocktail fortifierIf scented jeans are designed to keep young people smelling sweet even if they socialize night after night—a California company has created Ficks to take care of another problem associated with too much partying.

It’s a hangover solution, an “all natural cocktail fortifier” that was created in tandem with Fortitech, the company that formulated Vitamin Water. Their products are based on “years of research on scientific studies related to alcohol metabolization, liver health and medical causes of hangovers.”

Even Amazon now sells Ficks and so far the six reviews posted on the product page are voting 2 to 1 in favor of Ficks. There are four 4- and 5-star reviews vs. only two 1- and 2-star reviews; no one is wishy washy about this one—not a single 3-star review.


Dancing the night away? Worried about hangovers? Well, millions of people aren’t tempted in either direction. In fact, a Brazilian company is launching a small high-tech device that encourages—more reading.

Tweet For a Read is a campaign launched by a Brazil-based Penguin-Companhia publishing house. They recently developed a computerized bookmark with a WiFi-enabled computer, timer and light sensor. When the book is closed, the light sensor sets off the timer. When it’s been too long since you last opened the book, the bookmark (which is linked to your Twitter account) will notify the author’s Twitter account, which in turn will send you a reminder to continue reading the book in question. The tweets are actually pre-written by the author, or are phrases taken from the book you’re reading.

Here’s a short video about this product:

PENGUIN BOOKS | Case Tweet For a Read from Rafael Gonzaga on Vimeo.

Like this idea? Will it succeed? You could help to insure its success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.

Body Weight: Is obesity contagious?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Body Weight
Grocery bag of junk foods

The National Cancer Institute provides this stock photo to illustrate the problem of poor shopping in households that regularly bring too much junk food into the home. Photo now in public domain.

Body weight seems like an individual decision, doesn’t it? It’s something that’s under individual control, right?

Well, it is—and it isn’t. Our body weight is influenced by those around us. Could it be that body weight is contagious?

Americans are gaining weight, on average, though the desire to do something about it has not changed much over time. As we’ve discussed this week, the majority of Americans are concerned about body weight, some occupations are more susceptible to obesity than others, avoiding the dentist is a predictor of obesity, and healthy eating habits have declined during the course of 2013.

Body weight is contagious, argue researchers Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler. But a biological virus is not the agent; a social virus is the cause of contagion. We are influenced by those around us—members of our social network who influence our values and norms about appropriate body weight. This research was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Using data collected over three decades in Massachusetts, the researchers documented some startling facts. Here are a few:

  • Your risk of becoming obese increases by 171% if a close friend becomes obese. This effect is much stronger for men than for women.
  • If your brother or sister becomes obese, your risk increases by 40%.
  • If one spouse becomes obese, the other spouse is 37% more likely to become obese as well.

Now, all this works in reverse as well. If your close friend, or sibling, or spouse achieves ideal weight, your changes of doing the same are much greater, too.

Are you surprised by the social influences on body weight?

Is your body weight considerably different from the body weights of your close friends, your siblings, or your spouse?

Body Weight: Are eating habits getting better or worse?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Body Weight
CLICK on this chart of Gallup results to visit Gallup's website and read the whole report.

CLICK on this chart of Gallup results to visit Gallup’s website and read the whole report.

QUICK: Did you eat healthy all day yesterday?

Got your answer? Then read on …

If you did eat healthy yesterday, your chances of being overweight are lower than if you said no. Not eating healthy is a major factor linked to obesity, as we discussed in Part 3 of this week’s series. So, trends in eating habits are important to consider.

Is that trend up or down this year? Our eating habits have worsened over the course of this year compared with 2012, according to Gallup. This year, Americans are also eating fewer servings of fruits and vegetables per week, compared to last year.

Fast food is still popular among Americans, says Gallup. About 80% of Americans eat at fast-food restaurants at least once a month. About 20% eat there several times a week or every day.

What percent of American say they never eat at fast-food restaurants? Only 4%. At the same time, three of four Americans (76%) say that fast food is “not too good” or “not good at all for you.” Only 2% say is it “very good” for you. Among different age groups, young Americans (ages 18–29) eat fast food more frequently than any other age group. As people age, they are less likely to eat fast food.

Fast food is cheap—but Americans with the lowest incomes are the least likely to buy fast food. Americans with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are actually more likely to eat fast food, compared to Americans in the lowest income group.

Have your eating habits improved or worsened this year?

Are you are a habitué of fast-food restaurants?

What is your prescription for healthy eating?

Body Weight: “Say ahhh!” (a dentist may help your waistline)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Body Weight
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

The average American is 15 pounds heavier now, compared to the average American in 1990. One implication is that more Americans are now considered overweight or obese than ever before.

What are the predictors of obesity?

Gallup collects data on 26 behavioral and emotional factors that are correlated with body weight. Here are their top eight in alphabetical order. Which would you pick as the most important predictor of body weight?

  • Access to a safe place to exercise
  • Depression diagnosis
  • Exercise
  • Having a personal doctor
  • Healthy eating
  • Smoking
  • Struggles to afford food in the past year
  • Visiting a dentist

Insufficient exercise is the #1 factor linked to obesity, according to Gallup. Insufficient exercise means exercising fewer than three days a week. Other major factors are not being able to afford food, not eating healthy, lacking a safe place to exercise, a history of depression—and, yes, not going to the dentist every year.

Not smoking is also a predictor of obesity—but this is not a prescription to take up or keep the habit. Gallup notes that nicotine is a well-known appetite suppressant, which is one reason many smokers who break the habit tend to gain weight. In a rather droll statement, Gallup analysts say, “Still, the negative health effects from smoking arguably outweigh any healthy weight benefits.”

Are you surprised to learn that avoiding the dentist is linked to obesity?

Which of the eight factors is the easiest for you—or the hardest?

Body Weight: Which occupation will make you fattest?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Body Weight

STUCK IN A CUBICLE ALL DAY? Gallup’s latest report on health and well-being suggests that such a career may strain your waistline.

Obesity rates in the U.S. are near an all-time high. But obesity is not a democratic condition. It is not shared equally. Different groups have higher rates than others. The same is true for occupation. Obesity is more prevalent in some occupations than in others.

Today, we’ll look at national data on which occupation is the worst from a body-weight point of view—and, we’ll look at which is the best.

Out of 14 different occupations, transportation workers have the highest rates of obesity, according to Gallup’s health and well-being figures for 2012. More than one third (36.4%) of workers in this occupation are obese. This is closely followed by workers in manufacturing or production (29.9%), installation or repair (28.3%), clerical or office (26.6%), managers, executives, or officials (25.6), and service workers (25.6%).

Which occupation has the lowest rate of obesity? Physicians. Only 14% of physicians occupation are considered obese. Other occupations with low rates of obesity include business owners (20.4%) and K-12 teachers (20.9%).

Why do physicians have the lowest rates of obesity? It’s not just medical knowledge. Nurses, for example, have considerably higher rates of obesity (25.2%) than doctors (14%). Rather, physicians are likely to have a safe place to exercise, they can afford healthy food, and they have low rates of depression.

Employers in specific industries can do something to help their employees attain and maintain a healthy body weight. “For example,” notes Gallup, “employers in the service industry—the group which struggles most with affording food and with diagnoses of depression—could develop discount programs to make healthy food more affordable for their employees and could make confidential depression screenings and resources readily available.”

Are you surprised to learn that transportation workers have the highest rate of obesity?

Or that medical doctors have the lowest rate?

Tomorrow: What are the major predictors of obesity?

Body Weight: Are you overweight now? Let’s compare …

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Body Weight
An aerobics group for military families at Fort Bragg. U.S. Army photo in public domain, by Crystal Abbott.

An aerobics group for military families at Fort Bragg. U.S. Army photo in public domain, by Crystal Abbott.

FEASTS & FASTS are traditions for millions of men and women in December. Most Americans feast their way through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations—and leave the resulting body weight for January dieting. But, Eastern Orthodox Christians traditionally fast, each year, in the weeks leading up to their Christmas feast. It’s safe to say: As the Northern Hemisphere darkens at the end of each year, all of us spend a lot more time thinking about our food—and our weight.

I’ll start, this week, by admitting that this is a challenge for me, too. I’m sure it’s a sensitive topic for many of our readers. So, you’re not alone in taking a deep breath and comparing yourself with Americans nationwide, thanks to a new Gallup report.

Here’s the first question this week: Where do you feel your body weight is right now? Are at your ideal weight? Or, do you feel you are above (or below) an ideal weight for you? Today, we have a fresh opportunity to compare those assumptions with other Americans.

A recent poll by Gallup shows: The majority of us are concerned about our weight right now. Only 18% of Americans report that their current weight is their ideal weight. Men are a little more likely to say that they are at their ideal weight (20%), compared to women (17%). The majority of men (58%) and women (59%) say they are above their ideal weight. Only 17% of men say they are under their ideal weight, compared to 12% of women.

Do you want to lose weight? The majority of Americans (51%) want to shed pounds, according to Gallup. But only 25% say they are “seriously trying to lose weight.” This wide gap between the desire to lose weight and doing something about it has persisted for over a decade. In 2003, for example, 58% of Americans said they wanted to lose weight, but only 24% were actively trying to do something about it.

This persistent gap between words and deeds is more of a problem now than it was in the past. Americans today are an average of 15 pounds heavier than they were in 1990, but the percentage of Americans who want to lose weight has not changed since then. In other words, Americans are gaining weight but only one in four is actively doing something about it.

Indeed, the obesity rate in 2013 may end up being the highest ever, says Gallup. The American Medical Association now classifies obesity as a disease, recognizing the national trend toward obesity and its deleterious health consequences.

Are you at your ideal body weight?

If not, are you actively trying to lose (or gain) weight?

Are you concerned about the national trend toward obesity?

Tomorrow: Do you know which occupations are the healthiest—and unhealthiest—from a weight perspective? Comment today and join us tomorrow to find out!

Sex & Violence are appealing, but parents make a difference

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Media Sex & Violence

Teen with a laptopParents matter in the religious lives of America’s youth.”

Media sex and violence are very appealing to millions of teens and 20-somethings, but the bottom line in religion newswriter David Briggs’ reporting on these issues is a more reassuring truth: Parents have a powerful influence on the spiritual lives of young people. That’s more than a fond wish. It’s a conclusion based on impressive evidence, including from the National Study of Youth and Religion in 2002-2003, the most detailed study even done on teens and religion.

In a column about this issue, Briggs shares words from the investigators: “What the best empirical evidence shows … is that even as the formation of faith and life play out in the lives of 18- to 23-year olds, when it comes to religion, parents are in fact hugely important,” report Christian Smith and Patricia Snell of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

Briggs then cites other studies supporting this conclusion:

In research using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.

Autonomy had the opposite effect, Bader and Desmond reported in an article in the journal Sociology of Religion. Children subjected to fewer rules attended church less often and attached less importance to religion.

In the National Study of Youth and Religion, having highly religious parents was one of the strongest variables associated with youth being highly religious as emerging adults.

Do these conclusions surprise you?

What’s your experience of generational influence?