Views on weight loss, wor­ried par­ents and the Wahine.

Thoughts on overeat­ing, un­der-re­sourc­ing – and a reader’s North & South- in­spired ca­reer choice.

North & South - - In This Issue -


Last month, North & South fea­tured the cov­er­line, “The End to Overeat­ing: Have NZ sci­en­tists fi­nally found a pill that con­trols hunger?” ( Hun­gry No More, April). I’m hun­gry. I’m al­ways hun­gry. Ex­cept when I’ve eaten so much I’m way too full. I’m ei­ther hun­gry or way too full. I don’t re­ally know what it means to be “not hun­gry”; I do the­o­ret­i­cally, of course – just not ac­tu­ally. But is hunger the same as ap­petite?

In New Zealand in 2006, you could be pre­scribed the diet drug Re­duc­til. It is now not avail­able. I took it in 2006 for 12 weeks – it took away my hunger. It took away a few of my hungers, ac­tu­ally. But it also took away my ap­petite. I lost a lot of weight in 2006 – you can read about it on­line. “Mon­ster to Marathon Man” was the head­line on one story about me. I ran a lot; you could say I was hun­gry for it.

Twelve years later, my hunger is back, and so is my ap­petite. But Re­duc­til is banned. Have New Zealand sci­en­tists fi­nally found a pill that con­trols hunger? The ar­ti­cle is al­lur­ing, but it is also a lure.

Hunger is com­pli­cated. Of course, it starts from a not very mys­te­ri­ous bi­o­log­i­cal root; any­one who has had to con­tend with a new­born un­der­stands what must be the most pure of ap­petite ex­pres­sions. The baby wakes be­cause of hunger – and then the baby screams that need. Its en­tire lit­tle body is wracked with hunger. The baby needs food; noth­ing else works.

School-aged kids, how­ever, wake up hun­gry – not be­cause of hunger, just hun­gry. They have words they can use to ex­plain what will sat­isfy them. They want to know that you un­der­stand what they’re hun­gry for. Here, “feed­ing” is not enough. They want to eat some­thing you pro­vide with love. Hunger is more than just a need for feed­ing – it is more than ap­petite. It is de­sire.

This is what drew me to your story: Have New Zealand sci­en­tists fi­nally found a pill that con­trols hunger? The real ques­tion is whether these sci­en­tists have found a pill that con­trols de­sire. They haven’t, of course. What they have done is a nifty lit­tle bit of science; they’ve iden­ti­fied a com­pound that trig­gers a re­sponse in the body. That re­sponse, it seems, reg­u­lates ap­petite; it sends a mes­sage to your brain that es­sen­tially says, “Don’t eat any more right now.” It wears off over some time. The pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies look ex­cit­ing – it re­duced the en­ergy in­take in a group of nor­mal blokes by a de­cent amount. If it did that for me, I’d lose weight.

How many other com­pounds, how many other pills in the past, have claimed to con­trol hunger? Hun­dreds, prob­a­bly. It is elu­sive, a Holy Grail project for the cap­i­tal­ist-sci­en­tists among us. In our world of hy­per- ev­ery­thing, a non­cha­lant look­ing “plant-based” pill that will en­able you to shed the pounds without any work is a money press.

I’ve signed up for the up­dates. There’s no way I won’t spend $59.99 per month to at least try this thing that might con­trol my hunger. Maybe you should try it, too? But when you do, re­mem­ber hunger is not ap­petite. Ap­petite is what ba­bies are ex­press­ing in their an­guished cry – the cry that fades to joy on ap­pli­ca­tion of the teat. Your hunger is a thought process, me­di­ated through lan­guage. Con­trol­ling that is a dif­fer­ent thing al­to­gether. DR AN­DREW DICK­SON, SE­NIOR LEC­TURER, MASSEY BUSI­NESS SCHOOL *LET­TER OF THE MONTH


Ali­son Smith chart­ing her weight­loss surgery jour­ney raised sev­eral ques­tions for me and no doubt for other read­ers ( Los­ing It, April; Why I Went Un­der the Knife to Lose Weight, NOTED.CO.NZ). The most ob­vi­ous is, why is she overeat­ing in the first in­stance? Will she stop overeat­ing af­ter her surgery? Af­ter read­ing her ac­count, I doubt it very much. When it was time for her surgery, she couldn’t even con­trol her urge not to drink wa­ter, ad­mit­ting to “covert sips of wa­ter when no one was look­ing as wait­ing is thirsty work”! The anaes­thetist would have been ap­palled that she was so reck­less – there are good rea­sons why pa­tient are “nil by mouth”

be­fore a gen­eral anaes­thetic.

Smith states that “ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble is done to en­sure the op­er­a­tion and the post-op re­cov­ery goes as smoothly as it can”. Ex­cept she sab­o­tages the [doc­tors’] ef­forts by ad­mit­ting, “I did cheat a bit.” She had a few boiled eggs and a lit­tle cheese, which prob­a­bly means a lot of boiled eggs and cheese and, yes, it did come back to bite her later on. She’d been given the in­for­ma­tion about why she needed to lose weight pre-surgery and how to pre­pare for her op­er­a­tion. This was so her liver did not get in the way of her stom­ach surgery. She didn’t seem to care that her “boiled eggs and cheese” was go­ing to jeop­ar­dise this.

She cheated be­fore her surgery, so she is go­ing to keep cheat­ing af­ter her surgery. Her first meal af­ter the op­er­a­tion was fet­tuc­cine car­bonara, puréed. Ba­con, cream and cheese! Her food choices are ap­palling for some­one who has un­der­gone band­ing. Creamed spinach, ba­con sauce, mash with melted cheese... Did Smith read the di­eti­tian’s notes? It ap­pears not. Once again, she says, “I know with cer­tainty I will lose 40kg un­less I eat sweet and fatty things all day.” Ev­ery­thing she has eaten so far, I be­lieve, would be con­sid­ered fatty.

Hav­ing seen a num­ber of people strug­gling with their weight, and surgery, to over­come the same, I be­lieve tiny por­tions are never go­ing to be a plea­sure for Smith un­til she has dealt with why she needs to overeat. BRENDA BARNES, AUCK­LAND “I wrote the ar­ti­cle to as­sist people who were in the same sit­u­a­tion that I’d been in. I de­lib­er­ately gave de­tails of all the mis­takes I had made dur­ing the process, to show that I am only hu­man. Per­haps I over­did that a lit­tle, so the good de­ci­sions I’d also made were not so ap­par­ent. Any choice to have weight loss surgery (in this case a gas­tric sleeve pro­ce­dure) is a very per­sonal one and it is im­pos­si­ble to set out ev­ery sin­gle rea­son for why any of us does the things we do. I can say that since I had the surgery, I have lost 3-4kg each month, and my sur­geon is sat­is­fied I am right on track. If it’s any con­so­la­tion to the writer, I do have at least five serv­ings of fruit and veg­eta­bles ev­ery day! Also, if the de­tails of my jour­ney have clar­i­fied for just one per­son what their own ac­tions should be in the face of obe­sity, I am con­tent.” – Ali­son Smith


I was in­ter­ested to read the first­per­son ac­count of bariatric surgery and its af­ter­math. Will you be do­ing a fol­low-up piece about some­one who has been liv­ing with their new re­al­ity for a few years? From what I un­der­stand, there are some real men­tal health is­sues at about the 18-month mark as the re­al­ity that this is the per­ma­nent state of be­ing hits home. Also, I’d be in­ter­ested to hear about how the new, slim­mer ver­sion of the per­son ex­pe­ri­ences changes in their per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, and how they ne­go­ti­ate so­cial oc­ca­sions and cel­e­bra­tions where food is the cen­tre­piece. Do they ex­pe­ri­ence pres­sure to con­sume in the same way that a per­son who is al­co­hol-free ex­pe­ri­ences pres­sure to drink, and how do they ne­go­ti­ate those so­cial pres­sures? J. WAL­TERS, NEL­SON


The story of the Wahine sink­ing was in­ter­est­ing and did jus­tice for some ( 50 Years On: Wahine Re­mem­bered, April). Fifty- one people died and 684 were saved. For a roll- on/roll- off ves­sel, it’s amaz­ing the loss was not greater. This was be­cause of the ac­tions of the ship’s crew. Cooks, stew­ards, sea­men, engi­neers, deck of­fi­cers and the cap­tain all did what they were trained to do. Their pro­fes­sion­al­ism kept dis­tressed pas­sen­gers fed, warm and com­fort­able, and chil­dren ac­counted for. The stew­ards kept pas­sen­ger ar­eas clean and con­tin­u­ally checked cab­ins. They were to­tally com­mit­ted to pas­sen­ger wel­fare through­out their or­deal.

Seven crew paid with their lives, in­clud­ing one who was trav­el­ling to his job as bo­sun of the Aramoana. He lost his life tak­ing care of chil­dren. Those who drowned that day were: Howard Houn­sell (en­gine room), Christo­pher Mor­rah (as­sis­tant purser), Ge­orge

Mur­phy (stew­ard), John Ross ( pantry man), Lau­rie Say­ers (crew guest), Sa­muel Sy­mons (mo­tor­man) and Robin Udall (stew­ard).

We will mourn the loss when we gather in Welling­ton on April 10. In other coun­tries, there would be a plaque nam­ing the crew who lost their lives do­ing their jobs. Dunedin’s North­ern Ceme­tery has a mon­u­ment to the stew­ardesses from that city who lost their lives on the Wairarapa [which sank off Great Bar­rier Is­land in 1894]. It is high time Welling­ton paid those valiant men of the Wahine the same re­spect. GERRY HILL, WANAKA


I spent a ca­reer as a psy­chol­o­gist and aca­demic in the com­plex field of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and it has left me with some hard-won con­clu­sions ( The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent of the Boy in the Head­lines, March; and on NOTED. First up, par­ents, teach­ers and schools ei­ther be­lieve in the in­clu­sion of stu­dents with spe­cial needs or they do not. This be­lief and com­mit­ment is sec­ondary to ( but does not deny) the im­por­tance of re­sourc­ing. It does, how­ever, stand in con­trast to strate­gies that separate and stig­ma­tise chil­dren, such as stream­ing, spe­cial units, in­tel­li­gence test­ing, di­ag­no­sis and ma­roon­ing kids in class­rooms with ex­ces­sive teacher aide sup­port.

I worked with some won­der­ful prin­ci­pals and teach­ers who wel­comed stu­dents with ad­di­tional needs (the so- called “mag­net” schools), and I also suf­fered along­side par­ents at other schools where prin­ci­pals bla­tantly made en­rol­ment con­di­tional on ex­tra re­sourc­ing from the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion [MOE].

The sec­ond point is that suc­cess­ful in­clu­sion is typ­i­cally de­pen­dent on a teacher and par­ent col­lab­o­ra­tion. Needs-based assess­ment and in­di­vid­ual ed­u­ca­tion plan­ning can be ex­traor­di­nar­ily pow­er­ful method­olo­gies, but they rely on both par­ents and schools step­ping up. Where there are be­havioural dif­fi­cul­ties, par­ents and care­givers do need to be pre­pared to look at their own man­age­ment prac­tices as the power of par­ents to in­flu­ence chil­dren, rel­a­tive to teach­ers, is over­whelm­ing. In this coun­try, we are for­tu­nate that the MOE and other providers have sup­ported the ev­i­dence-based In­cred­i­ble Years par­ent pro­gramme and, in essence, what works for “reg­u­lar” kids is equally ap­pli­ca­ble to chil­dren with more chal­leng­ing be­hav­iour.

Pick­ing on the MOE is al­most as pop­u­lar a pas­time as knock­ing the old CYPFS. How­ever, the MOE doesn’t do it­self any favours with its own am­biva­lence about in­clu­sion. Iron­i­cally, the MOE is also un­sure about the place of knowl­edge and ex­per­tise in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and reg­u­larly em­ploys re­source teach­ers and “ad­vi­sors” in place of fully qual­i­fied psy­chol­o­gists. Again, this is not an ir­rel­e­vant point in an en­deav­our as com­plex and de­mand­ing as re­spond­ing to stu­dents with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion needs. DR PETER STAN­LEY, TAU­RANGA


I read with in­ter­est How Not to Re­tire (March). I re­tired last year, and can re­late to the re­tirees who feel at a bit of a loose end, and those who would pre­fer to stay in the paid work­force.

I came across a so­lu­tion that re­ally suits me and sat­is­fies my need for a bit of struc­ture in my life. It also al­lows me to meet a lot of won­der­ful people and have the op­por­tu­nity to give a lit­tle back to so­ci­ety. I give a few hours of my time to our local hospice shop as a vol­un­teer. We’re all just or­di­nary people, not one “sanc­ti­mo­nious do-gooder” in sight.

Vol­un­teers are the back­bone of New Zealand char­i­ties, and although I con­sider my own con­tri­bu­tion to be fairly mea­gre, I feel truly ap­pre­ci­ated. ELAINE EL­LIS, RICH­MOND


Your lead story in the March is­sue presents two sides of the story in David Bain: In­no­cent or Guilty [search “David Bain” at NOTED.CO.NZ]. It also fairly sug­gests the case split the coun­try down the mid­dle. Most cases do be­cause ev­ery­one has an opin­ion, not nec­es­sar­ily based on facts.

The main rea­son there is such de­bate about this case is be­cause the po­lice blew the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the mo­ment they ar­rived. Of course they should have tested for gun­pow­der residue on ev­ery­one. Not just David. Gun­shot in­ves­ti­ga­tion 101. This would have helped lead to the best sce­nario of what hap­pened in this tragedy.

One the­ory that fits all the known facts is that Robin, for what­ever rea­son, got up and be­gan shoot­ing his fam­ily, but in his state of mind, for­got David wasn’t home. He was on his pa­per round. When David re­turned, he was im­me­di­ately con­fronted by his fa­ther, in­tent on shoot­ing him, too. A fight en­sued, in which Robin was fa­tally shot. David, who had been am­bushed but es­caped his own demise, was then con­fronted with a dead fa­ther and, on dis­cov­er­ing the rest of his fam­ily, pan­icked.

He may have rea­soned that be­ing the only one left stand­ing, he was likely to cop the blame. He cleaned up as best he could – wash­ing items, ar­rang­ing his fa­ther’s body to look like sui­cide and tak­ing 25 min­utes be­fore he rang 111. Be­cause of this ir­ra­tional be­hav­iour, his abil­ity to claim self­de­fence was gone – although he prob­a­bly didn’t know it at the time. REX WOR­THING­TON, FORMER DE­TEC­TIVE SERGEANT, NZ PO­LICE, AUCK­LAND


Re­gard­ing the Bain case, could some­one ex­plain to me how David’s “rape fan­tasy story” (which he ap­par­ently re­lated to a fel­low stu­dent at col­lege, ex­plain­ing how his pa­per round could be used as an alibi) was con­sid­ered in­ad­mis­si­ble by the judge, while the so- called “in­ces­tu­ous re­la­tion­ship” between

“The po­lice blew the (Bain) in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the mo­ment they ar­rived. Of course they should have tested for gun­pow­der residue on ev­ery­one. Not just David.” REX WOR­THING­TON

Robin Bain and his daugh­ter Laniet, based on hearsay and ru­mour, was pre­sented in court as fact? GARRY CON­NOR, OTAKI


The ef­forts of your jour­nal­ists to rake over old crim­i­nal court cases seems to be a favourite hobby of North & South ( David Bain: Ex­pert Ev­i­dence, March). The crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is the same here as in most Western coun­tries, ex­cept we gen­er­ously pay our crim­i­nals’ lawyers to ap­peal their [cases] and, if suc­cess­ful in over­turn­ing the pre­vi­ous ju­di­cial con­vic­tion, the lit­i­gants may get a gen­er­ous pay­out.why North & South would think our jus­tice sys­tem is worse than any other coun­try in the Western world beg­gars be­lief.

The sug­gested Crim­i­nal Cases Review Com­mis­sion would only add to the ap­peals process and to an al­ready bloated jus­tice sys­tem, with more money be­ing spent on re­tired judges and high-priced bar­ris­ters and less avail­able for the truly de­prived – to re­duce poverty, for in­stance, or im­prove the health and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems in New Zealand. BRUCE WOODLEY, AUCK­LAND


In Au­gust 2003, at the age of 20, I picked up a copy of North & South and flicked through an ar­ti­cle about the fu­neral in­dus­try and what goes on be­hind the scenes when some­one you love passes away. I was ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nated – and 15 years later can say that ar­ti­cle in­spired my ca­reer. I’m now a qual­i­fied fu­neral di­rec­tor and em­balmer, and I’m back work­ing at the firm where I com­pleted my ap­pren­tice­ship.

Fu­neral work is very much a way of life. In my time as an un­der­taker, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a vast ar­ray of sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing di­rect­ing a sea burial and op­er­at­ing a cre­ma­to­rium. I’ve gained diplo­mas in both fu­neral di­rect­ing and em­balm­ing; writ­ten ar­ti­cles for Fu­neral Care mag­a­zine; trained ju­nior staff; and at­tended po­lice call-outs for sud­den deaths, in­clud­ing sui­cide, mur­der, ac­ci­dents and in­fant death. It has been a var­ied, colour­ful ca­reer, one in which I’ve made both fond and gut-wrench­ing mem­o­ries.

If it doesn’t chal­lenge you, it doesn’t change you, and I’m a firm be­liever in putting your­self out­side your com­fort zone. The fu­neral in­dus­try cer­tainly of­fers those op­por­tu­ni­ties. My ca­reer hasn’t been without its chal­lenges, as I ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fi­culty be­ing taken se­ri­ously as a young woman in a largely male­dom­i­nated in­dus­try. I took time off to start a fam­ily, and found the on-call na­ture of the fu­neral busi­ness ex­tremely dif­fi­cult while try­ing to jug­gle mother­hood and work.

I also ex­pe­ri­enced per­sonal loss, with the death of my lovely mum a lit­tle over a year ago. It was a chal­lenge to step down from my di­rect­ing role and al­low my­self to be the client; it gave me a fresh per­spec­tive on the in­valu­able ser­vice we pro­vide in guid­ing fam­i­lies through such an emo­tional time.

I en­cour­age any­one who has an in­ter­est in the in­dus­try to get in­volved. Life is short, and we know that all too well. OLIVIA MARTYN-RIDLER, CHRISTCHURCH


Peta Carey’s ar­ti­cle Birds in the Hand – and the Bush (Fe­bru­ary) got to the heart of the pre­da­tion of our na­tive birds. What we must do, by fair or foul means, is ex­ter­mi­nate all mice, rats and stoats from our off­shore is­lands. The late Sir Paul Cal­laghan was right on the money when he de­scribed a preda­tor-free New Zealand as “our Apollo project”.

My par­ents were so en­am­oured of na­tive birds, they named one of their race­horses “Sad­dle­back”. I’ve been en­deav­our­ing, so far without suc­cess, to con­vince Ra­dio New Zealand to in­clude the long- ex­tinct huia’s song in Morn­ing Re­port’s col­lec­tion of bird calls. As Carey points out, both North and South Is­land sad­dle­backs are of the same genus as the huia; the clue is their dis­tinc­tive tear drop-shaped wat­tle. BRIAN COLLINS, WELLING­TON

Olivia Martyn-ridler (right) says her re­ward­ing ca­reer as a fu­neral di­rec­tor was sparked by read­ing this North & South story in 2003.

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