Servings: 4 Per serving: 575 calories 43g (40%) Protein 32g (30%) Fat 33g (30%) Carbs
2 cups Riced Cauliflower
1 cup Cooked Black Beans (you can use fresh, canned, or dry)
1 large Red Bell Pepper (thinly sliced)
1 large Orange Bell Pepper (thinly sliced)
1 large Yellow Bell Pepper (thinly sliced)
1 medium Purple Onion (thinly sliced)
4 tbsp Sour Cream
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1 packet Fajita Seasoning
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
4 oz Avocado (after peeling and pitting)
½ medium Purple Onion
½ medium Tomato
1 medium Jalapeno
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Cilantro
¼ tsp Dill Weed
1 tsp Oregano
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Alright you beautiful cooks … no, chefs! Let us begin. First up: The guacamole! Now, I make my guac using a food processor, but if you don’t have one (we’re equal access here at the blog that apparently discusses everything) I would suggest a blender. If you’re using a blender, I’d advice blending the onion, tomato, and jalapeno first, then adding the avocado, cilantro, and lemon juice. Otherwise, here were go!
Add avocado (peeled and pitted), purple onion, tomato, jalapeno, lemon juice, and cilantro to your food processor (see above fore blender suggestions) and pulse until smooth. (Side note: For creamier consistency, add more avocado. If you’re looking for more of a salsa-guac, add more tomato.)
After your guac is at your preferred consistency, mix in salt and pepper (to taste), dill weed, and oregano. (Side note: I like to add a pinch of Hellfire Salt for a smoky flavor.)
Got your guac all to taste now? Good! Go put that shit in the fridge!
Now, lets move on to the bowl components. First of all, you’re going to need to rinse out your food processor so you can rice some cauliflower. Unless you bought that shit already riced at the store, in which case, I mean … that’s cool. Why put any effort into it? Just kidding, I know you’re busy. Anyway, let’s get moving!
Get your steak. Rinse it, pat it as dry as you can, then rub a little salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a skillet to high. Once the skillet is hot, add in your olive oil. Once the oil is nice and hot, place your steak into the pan. Let it hang out for about two minutes on each side, then remove it. You don’t want it completely cooked yet, just a nice sear on the outside. You’ll be finishing the cook on it later. For now, just set it aside on a plate and forget about it. Don’t slice it. Just leave it, whole, on a plate somewhere, and forget it.
The pan you just seared the steak in? Keep it on that hot burner, and don’t rinse it out yet. You’re about to do some sautéing in it, so if you think you need to add a little more olive oil, go for it. First, add your garlic to the pan and sweat for about 20 seconds. Add onion slices. Sauté onion for about 1 minute. Add red, yellow, and orange bell pepper slices and sauté for another minute, constantly stirring. Turn the burner to down to medium, stir in salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about five minutes, then turn the heat to low and forgetaboutit.
Get another pan. Heat that mofo up on medium-high. Add a smidge of olive oil to the hot pan. Once oil is hot, add cauliflower. Stir constantly. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Go back to your peppers and onions. Take them out of the pan and set them on a plate. Slice your steak (can be as thin or thick as you want), then add it to the pan from which you just removed the peppers and onion. You should not need to add any oil at this point. Turn heat to medium-high. Add ½ cup of water to the pan and half of the packet of fajita seasoning. Stir thoroughly. Once water is boiling, reduce heat to low. Cook until water is absorbed. This should give you medium-rare steak slices. Once done, remove from pan.
So, your cauliflower and your cooked black beans. You want to mix these together. I’d suggest using the steak and peppers pan if it’s large enough. On medium-low heat, mix cauliflower and black beans. In a bowl, mix ¼ cup water with the remaining fajita seasoning until the seasoning is completely dissolved. Pour seasoning into cauliflower/black bean mix. Cook until seasoning is completely absorbed. Remove from heat.
Now the fun part! Assembling the bowl! Divide cauliflower/black bean mix between four bowls (or containers, if you want to save a serving or three as leftover meals). Add the pepper/onion mix, again dividing four even portions. Next, add the beef slices. Plop on your sour cream, then top it off with your homemade guac. Voila! You’re done!
Brett Blaylock is a nomadic cursory knowledge hobbyist and breakfast burrito enthusiast
If you Google “Best Breakfast Burritos in Los Angeles,” or if you make the same search in Yelp, Cofax is one of the first places that pops up. Cofax’s Breakfast Burritos have been featured by Thrillist, LA Eater, LAist, and numerous online city guides. But what is perhaps most remarkable is that not every article or list featuring Cofax’s Breakfast Burritos refers to the same burrito.
That’s because Cofax sells not one, but two of the most lauded Breakfast Burritos in LA (and they sell two more variations as well). There is the Chorizo Breakfast Burrito with the oft-mentioned smoked potatoes and the Pastrami Breakfast Burrito which has deli mustard, a surprising and effective choice.
Although their signage is bright blue, Cofax blends into the line of high-end skater shops, diners, coffee houses, and thrift stores densely packed into the Fairfax area. So, you’ll probably need to do a bit of scouring to spot it on the East side of Fairfax between Oakwood and Rosewood. Parking is hit or miss, but there is some non-zoned residential parking you could use as a last resort. The inside is minimal to the point that there are only a few places to sit and eat, which can be a problem because Cofax is justifiably popular. Not only do they have well-reviewed Breakfast Burritos, they have a fresh assortment of pastries and an impressive selection of rotating coffee roasters. In addition to their tasty offerings, every member of the staff that I have encountered has been really welcoming and knowledgeable about what they sell.
What’s in it?
As I mentioned earlier, there are two (sort of four) Breakfast Burritos at Cofax. Neither is too straightforward, but the less surprising one is the Chorizo BB. It mostly contains what you would expect in a BB: a grilled flour tortilla with chorizo, scrambled eggs, jack cheese, potato, and pico. But there are a few exciting twists: the potato is actually a smoked potato hash with grilled onions and bell peppers; and, as a little bonus, corn tortilla pieces are crumbled into the burrito, giving each bite a slight but satisfying crunch.
Then, there is the Pastrami BB, in which you will find pastrami (of course), tater tots, pickled jalapeños, a fried egg, and yellow deli mustard. This one is a major point of reference whenever I think or talk about clever BB, because the pastrami and mustard are downright startling to see included in a breakfast burrito, but the pickled jalapeños provide just enough tang and heat to tie the disparate elements back together.
The other two BBs which are sadly mentioned so infrequently are the Veggie and the Bacon BBs. The Veggie contains pretty much the same ingredients as the Chorizo, sans chorizo. If you don’t eat meat, it’s a great way to still enjoy the most exciting parts of that burrito, like the smoked potato hash. The Bacon has more in common with the Pastrami, but with different meat, no mustard, and a scrambled egg (though I’m sure they would fry the egg if you asked).
But wait … There’s more.
A serious dilemma arises when you look in the bottom of the bag and see two plastic ramekins of salsa. The red salsa has the slightest amount of heat and the roastiness pairs well with the smoked hash on the Chorizo. But the milder green salsa complements any of the BBs with a contrasting tang. The dilemma is not only which salsa to use for each bite, but whether to use the salsa at all. Both salsas are tasty, but the burritos are already so complete on their own. It’s a tough decision to make, but I trust that you can handle it.
Classic or Clever?
When it comes to how classic or clever Cofax’s burritos are, it depends on which one you’re talking about. Again, the Chorizo and, therefore, Veggie contain much of what you would expect in a Breakfast Burrito, but the smoked hash and the corn tortilla crumbles make these ones still pretty darn special. So, from classic to clever, they’re around a 7.
The Pastrami BB is a bit more adventurous. The mustard, pickled jalapeños, and the fact that it works so delicately make Cofax’s Pastrami Breakfast Burrito one of the cleverest BBs I’ve ever had. The fried egg doesn’t hurt either. From classic to clever: 8.5.
But, as always, a disclaimer:
These numbers are not reflective of how much I enjoy these burritos. I [bleep]ing love them. They’re both 10s.
$7-8, depending on the burrito you choose, which is a really good deal because, not only are these burritos smartly assembled, they’re pretty big too. And, no matter which you go with, I’m pretty certain you’ll be happy.
You can get these burritos any time Cofax is open. And they have donuts and cookies as well. And good coffee. They frequently post pictures of all of these things @cofaxcoffee on Instagram.
Cofax has seriously become one of my favorite places to enjoy Breakfast Burritos and absolutely deserves to be as ubiquitous on Best LA Breakfast Burrito lists as it is (if not more so).
Brett Blaylock is a nomadic cursory knowledge hobbyist and breakfast burrito enthusiast
As of this writing, my only active social media account is my Instagram. I used to have a facebook, but found it overwhelming for the typical reasons: it was time consuming and the primary function seemed to be to provide a soap box for emotional people to rant about their ill-informed political views. So, I deactivated it. Sometimes, I think of unplugging from social media altogether, but then something beautiful happens: either I receive a direct message from a friend about a breakfast burrito or I will stumble upon one in my feed. And I will be reminded of the essentiality of social media in finding new breakfast burritos.
A dear friend of mine, knowing my perfectly healthy obsession with breakfast burritos, showed me an image posted by @lafoodjunkie of a tortilla filled with lobster, eggs, and a red, creamy sauce. I knew I had to consume it. Shortly thereafter, we drove 40 miles (a little over an hour) from Los Angeles down to Slapfish in Huntington Beach to try a burrito that could become the cleverest breakfast burrito I had yet enjoyed.
Just off Beach Boulevard in the middle of Newland Shopping Center, you will find a busy, family-friendly seafood restaurant called Slapfish, one of seven locations spread throughout the Los Angeles suburbs (there’s also an eighth location just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah). You probably wouldn’t miss the sizeable red logo, but, if you did, you would probably notice a crowd.
The inside is nautical and kitschy, like a Long John Silver’s (or, for my friends from the eastern half of the country, Captain D’s), but homier. When I went, there wasn’t quite enough seating for everyone, but the turnover was pretty quick, which is to be expected from a fast, casual place such as this.
What’s in it?
Before I say what’s in it, just know that this is a hefty, rich breakfast burrito. Unless you are absolutely STORVING (yes, “storving” with an “o-r”), I encourage you to split it with a friend (or enemy and maybe turn them into a friend) and get something small to go with it. This burrito contains a substantial amount of buttery lobster, scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon, spinach, French fries, avocado, tomato, red onions, chives, and Slapfish’s “Awesome Sauce” (Chipotle aioli) in a large, grilled tortilla, garnished with cilantro; basically, there’s everything you would expect from a Breakfast Burrito and then some.
I so heavily encourage splitting this burrito because I was greedy and did not. I enjoyed every buttery bite and needed a nap immediately after. But I couldn’t because I was 40 miles from home. Maybe go with a friend, split the BB and get a lobster roll or “Clobster Grilled Cheese” to split as well.
Classic or Clever?
This burrito is quite the surprise. And it is rich. I know I said that already, but I mean it. Imagine a buttery lobster roll shoved into a more traditional breakfast burrito and you’ll get the basic idea. This is the height of Breakfast Burrito indulgence that I have experienced thus far in my life. And it is about as clever a Breakfast Burrito as I have yet consumed; so, measuring cleverness, it’s an 8.5/10.
But, again, strictly speaking deliciousness, it’s a 14/10 at least.
At $15, Slapfish’s Lobster Breakfast Burrito is steeper than a lot of other Breakfast Burritos, but remember two things: it could very well feed two people; and it’s loaded with delicious, buttery lobster. Once you consider that, it’s a great deal.
However, you should know that you won’t find this Breakfast Burrito on any of the menus at Slapfish. Although not quite a secret any more, this is off-menu. If you’re like me, that might make you feel special, like you’re in the know with some delicious gossip.
Slapfish sells their Lobster Breakfast Burrito whenever they’re open. Don’t forget that it’s off-menu. So, don’t be discouraged when it’s not listed on the board above the register. Order with confidence.
As far as I am aware, they do not sell coffee, but they do have craft sodas. If it’s coffee you’re after, stop by the Coffee Tale, which is only a couple miles away in an adorable Old-Town Village.
See? Social media is important. If it weren’t for Instagram, I might never have found out about Slapfish’s (kinda secret) Lobster Breakfast Burrito. Now that I’ve had it, I look upon that alternate reality and am relieved that I live in what Leibniz called the Best of All Possible Worlds. To find out more about Slapfish, follow @slapfish (of course). To see even more evil deliciousness, follow @lafoodjunkie.
This “one-a-week” posting makes me feel as though I’m neglecting you. But, needs must when you have bills to pay. Today, we’re going to talk about fitness and well being. This isn’t a “tips,” “tricks,” or “diet” post. Perish the thought. This is sharing what works for me and how I found it. Think of this post as motivation to find what will work for you. I hate to tell you this, but not everyone is the same. Yes, Dave, people do think that.
Pause for slow blink or over-dramatic eye roll. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Done? Okay, cool. Let’s get to it!
The Struggle is Real
When I was trying to lose weight years ago, my mom would always tell me, “Don’t go on a diet. Change your diet.” I didn’t really take that to heart at the time, because I was a young, fat girl and that is a sin in this society and I had to lose weight now, no, not now, right now! I was 262 lbs. at my heaviest. By the way, I’m 6’ and built like a linebacker and yes, when I was young, some people thought I was a boy. I had short hair at the time. Don’t judge me.
Anyway, I did the whole Jenny Craig thing. That worked pretty well—I got down to about 220 lbs. Then I joined an MMA-gym for five months and got down to about 190 lbs. Then I became super poor for several months and subsisted on discontinued M&M’s I bought from work for $.11/pack. That got me down to 175 lbs. I don’t recommend that. I also ate cheap Ramen noodles for a week, and I was pretty sure my veins were turning to cardboard. Definitely don’t recommend that. Finally, my finances smoothed out—and I often shopped at the grocery store that is “mom and dad’s fridge”—and I could eat normal people food. I maintained 180 lbs. for about a year and a half. For me, that’s a good weight.
Then, about a year and a half ago, I blew the fuck up! I got back up to about 215 lbs. I couldn’t go to the gym. I was at the doctor—a lot of doctors—a lot of the time for a back injury. It was a rough time. I went to physical therapy for a third time and hit the jackpot with the all-star team at Eskridge and White. I got better. A lot better. Two months ago, I got back into the gym. And God, is it good.
So, this little intro might not help everyone, but I wanted to include it because “fitness” does not come easily for many people.
Putting in the Work
When I started back at the gym during my physical therapy, I was pretty limited. I started easy with PT-approved exercises and spent time on the rowing machine and stationary bike. I started to jog, then got bursitis in my left knee and had to take two weeks off. When I got back to the gym after those two weeks, I had new PT exercises to incorporate for knee strength. About three weeks ago, I finally got to the point where I could mix in non-PT exercises. So, I started hitting the weights hard and doing a mix of full-body and isolation moves. It was two weeks ago that I found my favorite thing to do at the gym: supersets with supersets in between, working from top to bottom throughout the week. That sounds kind of weird, so I’ll break it down:
Monday: Three shoulder/chest supersets with three core supersets between
Tuesday: Three bicep/tricep supersets with three core supersets between
Wednesday: Three back supersets with three core supersets between
Thursday: Three hip/glute supersets with three core supersets between
Friday: Three leg supersets with three core supersets between
I never do the same core work twice in a week, and all the core work I do incorporates elements of the muscle group/s I’m working that day. The reason I combine two different types of supersets is because it works for me. There is little to no rest time, which keeps my heart rate up. When I’m dripping sweat less than half way through the workout, I know I’m on the right track. Once I started this specific workout regimen, sleep came so much easier. I’m the kind of person who has to take sleep aids—NuQuil—so this is a big step up for me. I’m getting more, and better quality, sleep. I’m also less tired during the day and in a much better mood.
So, here’s the thing: Before I found this regimen, I had a lot of misses. I tried a bunch of different workouts I’d found online and nothing stuck. Nothing felt right. It was only when I mashed a bunch of things together that I started seeing and feeling results. And, a lot of what I mashed together stemmed from PT exercises. My advice? Try as many things as you can until you can build a routine that works for you. Mix it up, mash it together, and if something doesn’t work, toss it.
Back to that diet thing, huh? Yes, Dave, back to the diet thing. Around the time I was figuring out my fitness regimen, I was changing my diet. That includes when to eat as much as what. The “what” to eat part wasn’t hard. Having an Aldi near my house makes it even easier—because it’s affordable. This change was more accidental than anything else. One week, I only had about $10 to spend on groceries to last me the week. So, I bought a bag of white rice, a cucumber, guacamole, and a dozen eggs. Mix all that together and chill it, and that was my lunch and dinner for the week. I’ll get to the lack of breakfast—the “when” to eat— thing in a moment.
I built my dietary change around those four staples. From there, I added smoked salmon and imitation crab—because I started making a lot of poke—as well as onions, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, strawberries, blueberries, and yogurt. That doesn’t sound like much of a variety, but I can tell you that when you get creative, you can make many dishes out of those few ingredients.
I stuck with this ingredient combination because it met my taste bud needs as well as my cravings. Yes, I will totally have a bag of Sour Cream & Onion chips and Jack Link’s beef jerky on cheat days—which happen once per week and only last for one meal. By cravings, I don’t mean “Man, I really want some ice cream.” By cravings, I mean when you’ve gone without a fruit or vegetable for “x” about of time and your body goes into need mode. I don’t know if that happens to everyone. If I go without broccoli for a certain amount of time, it’s like going without heroin—come on, man, mama needs her broccoli, just one stalk is all, come on.
Here we go. I’m going to give you my advice again. Find your staples. Find your main carb source, main fat source, main protein source, and main vegetable (or fruit) and build from there. No, Dave, pasta, butter, beef, and mashed potatoes are not the right path. Think healthy thoughts.
This will probably be my favorite talking point, as it calls back to another article/blog I wrote, which you can find here or here. The article talks about caloric restriction (CR), which is all kinds of good for your brain. You love your brain, right? It’s no secret that CR is a good tool in weight loss, but in terms of brain health, it’s the spacing out of meals that’s the kicker. There’s an eating schedule that capitalizes on the brain and body benefits of CR—intermittent fasting (IF). There are multiple variations of IF, one of the most common of which is 16/8. The 16/8 eating schedule—sometimes called Leangains—has you fasting for 16 hours and eating during the other eight.
I’ve tried doing the 16/8 before, eating from 7:00a to 3:00p, but it didn’t last. Part of this is because breakfast is a hassle and I’m a night eater. I have always eaten more toward the last half of the day. This schedule was never going to work for me. I picked this eight-hour eating window because I work out in the mornings, and everything you read talks about making sure to get in a post-workout meal (unless you’ve eaten pre-workout). Damn you, Google! I thought I could trust you!
Here’s the thing. For me, IF is not only not impossible, it’s easy. It even comes naturally. I just had the wrong eating window. For the past two weeks, I’ve been back on IF with my eating window from noon to 8:00p. That means exercising fasted, then continuing to fast for another five hours. In the hard-core fitness world, this is frowned upon for all kinds of reasons: you’ll lose muscle mass, you won’t see any gains, you’ll be sore longer, blah blah blah. Is that true for some people? Well, sure, but not for me.
Since combining my me-designed exercise regimen with my me-designed change of diet and IF schedule, things have happened:
Better, longer sleep
Slimming and toning
Increase in strength
My scale says the same thing it said two weeks ago. My clothes fit a bit looser as my thighs, waist, back, and arms have slimmed. My arms and thighs feel much more solid—not that I go around occasionally poking them or anything. I’m lifting 10-15 lbs. heavier depending on the workout. I don’t get as sore or for as long, even after I’ve worked to failure and can barely get my coffee mug close enough to my mouth to drink—or lift my arms high enough to wash my hair. When these things combine—don’t make a Captain Planet joke, don’t make a Captain Planet joke—they tell me that the post-workout meal isn’t necessary. At least, currently, not for me.
Find What Works for You
You probably hear/read this a lot. It’s great advice. I’ve gotten more results from the past two weeks of doing what’s right for me than I did during two months of personal training and one-on-one Pilates. I’m not saying either of those things are bad. I loved my Pilates trainer and would happily go back. Many people can—and do—benefit from personal training. That combination, at that time, didn’t work for me. What does work is physical therapy-based workouts, a dietary change revolving around frugality, and an eating schedule that is convenient. That creates a sustainable lifestyle change.
So, wash your hands—and eyes—of all the absolutes you find in fitness articles and only focus on the bit that says, “Find what’s right for you.” Oh, and any part that mentions talking to your doctor first before making dietary and exercise changes. That’s always a good idea!
Hallo there, guys and dolls! We’re about to get into a topic I really didn’t want to get into. Or, maybe it’s a topic I thought I’d never have to get into. Either way, here we are, about to discuss vaccines. And anti-vaxxers, of course. And how the anti-vaccination movement is contributing to an upswing in preventable infectious diseases. This is a topic I’m pretty passionate about—as in, it tends to make me angry when I think about it.
Here’s the thing: A parent’s job is to protect their children. That includes taking necessary steps to protect them from infectious diseases when possible. Likewise, it is each individual’s job—or at least it should be their motivation—to keep infectious diseases to themselves when affected. This drive to prevent people from getting preventable infectious diseases is essentially the reason behind having vaccines in the first place—not just because scientists like people to do science on. See here:
Infectious disease “A” is devastating to human health.
Infectious disease “A” is preventable.
Therefore, let’s do what we can to prevent infectious disease “A.”
When this formula happens, we get the results we saw with Polio which, in case you were unaware, was wiped out in the US. We’ve seen similar results with other infection diseases, as well. We’ll look at those later when I throw a bunch of statistics at you like a dodgeball champ.
The Spark that Caused a Movement
The problem is less of a problem and more of a shit-storm of problems—pardon my dirty mouth—starting with a theory. At a press conference in 1998, Andrew Wakefield voiced concerns that the MMR vaccine might be linked to autism via gastrointestinal issues. Susan Dominus explains:
[Wakefield’s] belief, based on a paper he wrote about 12 children, is that the three vaccines, given together, can alter a child’s immune system, allowing the measles virus in the vaccine to infiltrate the intestines; certain proteins, escaping from the intestines, could then reach and harm neurons in the brain.
Subsequent peer reviews found Wakefield’s theory unable to hold up to scrutiny. The theory was debunked. According to Dominus, the General Medical Council in Britain, “after a lengthy hearing, citing numerous ethical violations that tainted his work,” revoked Wakefield’s medical license. His funding was unethical and his research was fraudulent. Still, the damage had been done and Wakefield’s theory became the clinging dingleberry that sparked the anti-vaccination movement.
Fanning the Flames
Oh, my sweet, sweet internet. It’s just the best, right? It gives us kittens, Henry Cavill building a PC, recipes, and innumerable other awesome things. But, the internet is also the number one tool used to exacerbate fear, hate, misinformation, stupidity. I mean, then there’s the news of course, but really…
By now I think I can confidently say that we are all familiar with the phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The internet is a powerful tool and, as with any tool, the wielder decides how it’s used. That’s unfortunate when it comes to things like research, where you really have to work to weed out the mostly true from the moderately true and the moderately true from the questionable and the questionable from the modern day equivalent of “signs your neighbor is a witch.”
The internet is a plethora of misinformation and the platform on which anti-vaxxers can “learn” and spread the word—spread the fear—of the dangers of vaccines. Lena H. Sun explains, “One part of the anti-vaccine movement’s message is that vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t dangerous if people get modern medical care. But that’s a myth, and the failure to vaccinate can be catastrophic.”
And did I mention that anti-vaxxers are not only endangering their own children, they’re endangering the children of others? The wee humans too young for their first round of vaccinations are no longer protected by the vaccinated population around them. Now, they are subject to getting infectious diseases from non-vaccinated children. And it’s costing them their lives.
Texas health data shows a steady uptick in diseases such as pertussis and mumps in recent years. A recent mumps outbreak in Johnson County, southwest of Dallas, sickened at least 167 people, mostly students. In 2013, Texas experienced the largest outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, since 1959: nearly 4,000 cases. Five newborns who were too young to be vaccinated died.
What’s the World Coming to?
The uptick in preventable infectious diseases since the anti-vaccination movement kicked into high gear is ridiculous. Minnesota is going through its worst measles outbreak in three decades. The 2014-15 measles outbreak in California led to the state passing one of the US’s strictest requirement laws, according to Sun. Lianna Matt with Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) explains:
Measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000 but has recently resurged, with 667 cases in 2014 and 189 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pertussis dropped to fewer than 2,000 US cases for several years in the 1970s and ’80s before roaring back to more than 48,000 cases in 2012, a 60-year high, according to the CDC.
Outbreaks are not exclusively linked to anti-vaxxer population pockets. I’ll put that admission out there right now. Densely populated areas are higher risks for outbreaks, for example. Also a potential factor is waning vaccine immunity, which tends to happen when an individual waits too long between vaccination rounds. The CDC backs this information as well.
And yet… Highly vaccinated communities are more easily able to be rid of an outbreak. That’s a huge deal not just for individuals, but also for the economy. Outbreak intervention is extremely expensive in both dollars and man-hours. So, the elephant in the room has been addressed. The spike in preventable infectious diseases is not only due to the anti-vaccination movement. That doesn’t negate anything you read earlier. Non-vaccinated children—and yes, also adults—risk higher rates of contracting a preventable infectious disease, they risk more severe damage caused by the disease, and they risk having the disease longer. That last part is a detriment to those around them.
The longer you have an infectious disease, the farther you can spread it. And it will keep spreading until it has no more hosts or until it meets enough vaccinated individuals that it burns out. Along the way, there may be casualties.
Welcome back! Good to see ya, nice to meet’cha, let’s dive right in! Today’s topic is solely focused on suspicion and how it can affect your social and business life and mental processes. Of course, it’s only reasonable that I explain how this topic popped into my head.
You see, kiddies, I get extremely suspicious when certain people ask me questions. Whether it’s a stranger or an acquaintance, there are just some people I feel should not be asking me things—no matter how innocent the question. Take this conversation, for instance:
I’m in a break room, heating up food in a microwave. (OP=other person) OP: Heating up your lunch? Me: Yes. OP: What are you having? Me: …Soup OP: What kind of soup? Me: Homemade soup. OP: Well, what’s in it? Me: ::shrugs:: Vegetables and broth.
Yes, I knew what she wanted when asking what kind of soup. And, yes, I knew exactly what was in it. Yes, Dave, seriously. I can put edible things together in a bowl and pour broth over it. Anyway, the problem was this: I didn’t want to answer. Similarly, I don’t want to answer when asked about my prior weekend or my plans for the upcoming weekend. I don’t know why. My only reasoning is: It’s none of this person’s business. The next minute, I’ll turn around and tell the withheld information to a different person. And, I’m not the only one who does this. If some of you have picked this up as unconscious bias, well done. That definitely has an underlying role here.
We are all prone to unconscious bias, and I believe the type of guarded suspicion some of us have when asked questions by certain people is a symptom of this. So, why are some people more prone to suspicion, and why do certain people seem to rub us the wrong way?
Looking at the Science Behind Suspicion
Understanding suspicion through science is a ideal “where” to start with our conundrum. In order to figure out how people assess the credibility of others, scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTC) investigated the parts of the brain that function in suspicion: the amygdala and the parahippocampal gyrus. The amygdala “plays a central role in processing fear and emotional memories and the parahippocampal gyrus […] is associated with declarative memory and the recognition of scenes,” according to an article featured on VTC’s website. The study went like this:
76 pairs of players, each with a buyer and a seller, competed in 60 rounds of a simple bargaining game while having their brains scanned [using an fMRI]. At the beginning of each round, the buyer would learn the value of a hypothetical widget and suggest a price to the seller. The seller would then set the price. If the seller’s price fell below the widget’s given value, the trade would go through, with the seller receiving the selling price and the buyer receiving any difference between the selling price and the actual value. If the seller’s price exceeded the value, though, the trade would not execute, and neither party would receive cash.
The outcome? According to Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at VTC, and the leader of the study, “The more uncertain a seller was about a buyer’s credibility […] the more active his or her parahippocampal gyrus became.”
Knowing what parts of the brain are most active during a state of suspicion is the first step in understanding the emotion, as well as where the suspicion is based. Heightened activity in the amygdala would, theoretically, signify fear-based suspicion, while heightened activity in the parahippocampal gyrus would signify suspicion based on mistrust. Montague suggests the parahypocampal gyrus acts “like an inborn lie detector.”
“So, what?” you demand. “How is this actionable information and why should I care?” Good question! It just so happens that…
Suspicion can Cost You Profit… and Worse
First of all, not everything is about you. So, let’s look at the bigger picture. Like most things, suspicion in moderation can be quite good. There is a line, though. Being overly suspicious—either from fear or mistrust—can have negative consequences on financial success. According to Meghana Bhatt, one of the study’s authors:
People [taking part in the study] with a high baseline suspicion were often interacting with fairly trustworthy buyers, so in ignoring the information those buyers provided, they were giving up potential profits. The ability to recognize credible information in a competitive environment can be just as important as detecting untrustworthy behavior.
Not only can individuals with high baseline suspicion have a harder time achieving financial success, they can have a harder time achieving success in their careers. This can lead to a host of new problems, including an increase in stress and anxiety, as well as depression.
Speaking of the mental aspects, studies in suspicion can have implications for psychiatric disorders. “The fact that increased amygdala activation corresponds with an inability to detect trustworthy behavior may provide insight into the social interactions of people with anxiety disorders, who often have increased activity in this area of the brain,” explains Montague.
In short, studies such as these can help pinpoint sources of certain psychiatric disorders, which can better help scientists nail down proper treatments. But, these types of studies could also help to create a treatment or healthy way in which to promote balance for those with high baseline suspicion. Perhaps a better question is: When my internal lie detector goes off, who should I trust?
Well, I’ll back up a moment and talk you through that. There are a couple of issues that ebb and flow as “hot topics” and neither has anything to do with the other. The First Amendment is one. Eating disorders—specifically anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN)—is the other. I say “eating” disorders, but I think they are more aptly put into the category of “anxiety” disorders. But, that’s not really the topic right now. The topic, what has me concerned, is this: There are websites—quite a number of them, in fact—that glorify these disorders.
Pro-Ana (anorexia) and Pro-Mia (bulimia) websites have message boards where tips and advice are shared, not on how to overcome the disorder, but how to hide it better and be more efficient at it.
For obvious reasons, I won’t be linking to any of these sites, as I normally would.
Why do these sites exist?
Let’s turn to our friends over at ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. (what a mouthful), to get a little insight into this. According to ANAD:
~30 million people regardless of age or gender suffer from an eating disorder in the US
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (within the subset of eating disorders, AN has the highest mortality rate)
In a study following active duty military personnel over time, 5.5 percent of women and four percent of men had an eating disorder at the beginning of the study, and within just a few years of continued service, 3.3 percent more women and 2.6 percent more men developed an eating disorder
Nine percent of American women suffer from AN in their lifetime
One in five AN deaths is by suicide
Five percent of American women suffer from BN in their lifetime
This is maybe one third of the stats you can find on ANAD’s site. 30 million people in the US. That’s 9.2 percent of the US population. That’s 2,925,000 women suffering from AN and 4,875,000 from BN. If 26 percent of females and (according to ANRED.com) 10 percent of males suffer from AN or BN, a businessman would tell you that you’re looking at a ripe market. That’s one reason these sites exist. The market is so ripe, in fact, that one company has struck proverbial oil.
So, we know there is an audience for sites like these, but is that enough? Yes, and no. Sufferers of AN and BN are stigmatized, and none more so than men. To whom do you turn if you have a problem—and you know you have a problem—but you know you’ll be made to feel as though you’re worth less (if not exactly worthless) if you seek help. What will people think of you? That you’re weak? That you’re self-centered? That you value too greatly how others view you? That you can be manipulated by the media, or criticism of your appearance, or whatever the case may be? These feelings of worthlessness, of loneliness, of weakness, of anxiety only increase at the thought of saying something about your problem to someone.
With Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites, these individuals have a community. And it’s a community reinforcing the behavior of the disorders.
Why are these sites allowed?
This is my real question. I realize closely monitoring the Internet is like toilet training a cat—possible, maybe worth it, but definitely time, energy, and sanity consuming. Still, you would think websites that aid people in harming themselves, and which could potentially be considered aiding in suicide, would be … you know … not legal. In the same way starving someone is not legal.
I know, I just know, that if Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites started to be monitored and subsequently shut down, someone would cry, “You’re violating my First Amendment rights!” Is this true? According to First Amendment Center and Newseum Institute, there are essentially nine categories not protected by the First Amendment:
Defamation (including libel and slander)
Incitement to imminent lawless action
Solicitations to commit crimes
According to Deb McAlister-Holland, “Chat room conversations that [encourage] suicide [have been] denied First Amendment protection.” That, and also perhaps a bit of common sense, leads me to believe that Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites—including forums and chats on such sites—wouldn’t be protected. So, why are they still around, and why are there so many?
While rhetoric on such sites may not be the same as, “Go kill yourself,” in some instances, it’s very close.
There’s little doubt that illnesses, diseases, disorders, and the like can be scary. Moreover, they can be quite terrifying when little is widely known about them. The parasomnia (sleep disorder) known as Night Terrors (NTs) (sometimes, Sleep Terrors) is one of these misunderstood disorders. I first heard about NTs in a grossly misleading psychology class in college. The class, Motivation and Behavior Psych, was much more closely related to neurobiology or neurochemistry—it’s the class that sparked my deep love of neuroscience.
Right. Back to the topic. NTs are often confused with nightmares. It’s pretty widely known that nightmares suck donkey testicles; they’re vivid, scary, uncomfortable, and usually leave lasting impressions upon waking. In my worst nightmare, I awoke to someone standing over me while I slept. It was so real that, when I actually woke up, I thought the person was there. I couldn’t move, I was scared to open my eyes. It was only when I realized my dogs were calmly sleeping that I knew no one else was in the room.
Vivid? Check. Terrifying? Check! Seared into my memory? Super check. Gargling on the sack of a donkey? You bet! The nightmare, Dave, not me. Seriously. NT? Absolutely not.
So, what’s the difference between NTs and nightmares, and why is it important to know? I’m glad you asked!
Differences between nightmares and NTs range from when during sleep they occur to electroencephalography (EEG) activity. The point here is, the two are fundamentally different. Nightmares, and even nightmare disorder, are “different from NT [and consist of] a lowered motor activity […] the person is not confused on waking up, remembers the nightmares in detail, and the disordered orientation immediately recovers”.² The authors of the article, “Treatment Approach to Sleep Terror: Two Case Reports,” give a robust definition of NT:
NT is classified under parasomnias characterized with sudden attacks of fear associated with the increase in autonomic signs following crying and loud shouting during the first few hours of sleep during the delta stage (associated with the NREM period). Clinically, the person wakes up screaming, scaring, or performing sudden and self-destructive acts (like jumping, running, crashing into something, harming the person beside). The person is non-responsive to the external stimulus during this period […] The person may predominantly experience cognitive impairment signs, such as disordered orientation and memory problems, confusion, and fear on waking up. In addition to these mental symptoms, somatic symptoms associated with the overstimulation of the autonomic system, such as palpitation, sweating, shaking, skin rubor, pupillary response, may appear. While adults generally cannot remember what they experienced the previous night, children can indistinctly remember their fear.²
I think that about sums it up. So, while nightmares generally occur during REM, NTs occur prior to REM, during NREM—or non-rapid eye movement. The result of two independent sleep studies stated that NT episodes “begin exclusively during [NREM] sleep, most frequently during slow-wave sleep (SWS), and should not be considered an acting-out of a dream” and that “consciousness is altered during sleepwalking/sleep terror episodes.”¹ NT is most common in children, with a prevalence of ~3-15 percent, and decreases significantly with age, although, “it seems probable that the notion of sleep terrors is largely unknown to people, therefore different types of nocturnal attacks can be reported as sleep terrors.”¹
Difficulty in obtaining more concrete statistics pertaining to NT is a big indication that NT is a misunderstood parasomnia.
What Triggers NT?
Another great question! Both genetics and environmental stimuli play a role in NT:
It is well known that sleepwalking and night terrors run in families. Based on the study of familial incidence of sleepwalking and sleep terrors proposed that sleepwalking and night terrors share a common genetic predisposition, although the clinical expression of symptoms of these parasomnias may be influenced by environmental factors.”¹
The authors of “Treatment and Approach…” explain that “the risk of occurrence [of NT] among the first-degree relatives is ten folds more compared with those with no family history of NT.”²
Cases of NT have also been reported after stressful and/or significant life events, including divorce—personal or parental—death of a loved one, changing jobs or getting let go, changing schools, etc.
Why Does This Matter?
Part of why this matters is because additional research in NT could point to treatments aside from “making bedrooms safe” for NT sufferers or being prescribed benzodiazepine, which can cause rebounds or addiction. There is, of course, another reason it would be good to be knowledgeable about NT: “NT is highly associated with schizoid, borderline and dependent personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, [and] generalized anxiety disorder.”²
Which is not to say NT sufferers have those disorders. In fact, when comparing individuals with NT to individuals who only demonstrate somnambulism (sleepwalking), only a percentage of sleepwalkers had been diagnosed as psychotic:
In contrast to sleepwalkers, [individuals with NT] demonstrate higher levels of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive traits, phobias, and depression. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) profile suggests an inhibition of outward expression of aggression. A psychiatric diagnosis was established in 85 percent of patients with current night terrors. Although their psychopathology was more severe than in patients with sleepwalking, none of them was diagnosed as psychotic.”¹
Knowing the difference between NT, other arousal parasomnia, and regular ole nightmares can make a difference to the individual suffering from NT. Because a significant symptom of NT is sleepwalking, and because NT sufferers have increased mobility, they could cause damage to self or others.
¹Szelenberger, Waldemar, Szymon Niemcewicz, and Anna Justyna Dąbrowska.
….“Sleepwalking and Night Terrors: Psychopathological and Psychophysiological
….Correlates.” International Review of Psychiatry 17.4 (2005): 263-70.
What’s the big deal with dreams, and why is it so important we figure it out? Well, because when we dream, our brain is doing something. So, what if what it’s doing is helping or hurting us? The science behind dreaming—especially the physiology and how it relates to health—is a subject we just don’t know a whole lot about.
The topic of dreams has been a hot one for so many years you can trace it back to Ancient Greece, where they thought dreams told the future. The beliefs about dreams are numerous and range from ridiculous to plausible, including:
Dreams are a manifestation of the unconscious (show of hands, Freudians)
Dreams stimulate problem solving
Dreams help process negative emotions
Dreams are the collecting/discarding of brain trash (that’s very unjustly put, I admit)
Dreams consolidate short term memories to long-term memory
Dreams are a byproduct of neural impulses
Etc., etc., etc.
You see where I’m going with this? So, who’s right? Put your hand down, Dave, you don’t know the answer. There is no answer. Part of the reason for that is because it’s brain-stuff. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say more, but I will. Of all the sciences, neuroscience is probably the one top ones where the least amount of answers have been discovered. And that’s not a slam on neuroscience—for which I have a deep love—it’s a testament to the human brain.
Why Memory Consolidation is so Appealing
The theory of dreams being a byproduct of memory consolidation/processing makes very good sense to me, despite the nay-sayers. Part of the reason I’m so attached to this theory is because I can see it working. Take the elements in this dream I had, for instance:
I was fresh out of college and the only job I could get was as a manager of a local supermarket
I had crippling student loans
I had just come on shift when there was a zombie outbreak, so I had to lead my employees to safety
I had to run to my car to retrieve my revolver
That dream was both awesome and hilarious. It’s one of my favorites. I am also planning to write a book about it, so hands off my dream! Now, compare the dream elements with my reality:
When I was fresh out of college, I worked a retail job where I was in management
I have slightly less-than-crippling, although no less daunting, student loans
I had been marathon-watching Ash vs. The Evil Dead the day/evening before the dream
I keep a pistol in my car (this is a judgement-free zone)
This ability to connect dream elements with real world elements gives me the proof I need. But, you’re not me, so I don’t know if the same holds true for you.
Why All the Hubbub About Dreams?
Many people still believe that dreams mean something, whether it’s the expression of the unconscious mind or symbolism of what one might be stressing over, looking forward to, etc. And, if you fall into that category, that’s fine. Remember, judgement-free zone.
Learning about dreams—both causes and the result of REM sleep deprivation—can also lead to additional information on such mental health issues as depression, migraines, and the development of mental disorders. I want to note here that, in some cases, REM sleep deprivation has been shown to improve the state of depressive patients.
No matter what you believe dreams to be or not be, mean, or not mean, I’d like to think that we can all agree on this: The more we discover about the nature, physiology, and effects of dreaming, the more ammunition we may have against some types of mental health issues. And that, my friends, would be a beautiful thing indeed.