Sunday, November 30, 2014

Households under microscope - The STAR

Khazanah Research Institute has released ‘The State of Households’ report which sheds light on problem areas including housing, food, education, salaries and BR1M, among others.
FOR Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) managing director Datuk Charon Mokhzani, one of the most surprising things he and his team found while doing research on the state of households in Malaysia is how much data is already there.
“You wouldn’t know if you never looked. There are all kinds of data publicly available,” he says in an interview.
So with its focus on the “pressing issues of the nation”, KRI pored through data and information from various government departments, ministries and bodies such the Department of Statistics, Economic Planning Unit, Education Ministry, EPF, Fama, Bank Negara, World Bank, and Demographia to come up with its 68-page “The State of Households” report.
KRI was set up about a year ago and its objective is to carry out data-driven analysis and research on “pressing issues of the nation” and come up with policy recommendations to the government.
The State of Households report is its first.
“We managed to do it in less than six months. It gives a broad picture of the state of households – an overview of where we are,” says Charon.
Dr Kuppusamy Sigaravello from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Economics and Administration, who read sections of the report, thinks it is “well presented in a graphical way” that would help the layman understand it.
“It’s the new way forward to explain things easy,” he says.
A number of facts in the report are quite revealing.
For example, only 10.4% of the country’s working population have a degree, while the “vast majority” are not educated beyond Form Five! So the vast majority work at lowly-paid jobs.
Real median household income in the country grew by 19% between 2009 and 2012 and the median monthly salary for individuals in 2013 was RM1,700 a month.
(Median income is different from average income. With average, you total up the incomes and divide it by number of people. With median income, it is the half-way mark you get, if you list down all incomes from lowest to the highest and take the mid-point figure where half would be earning more and half earning less. Median is seen as a fairer assessment than average.)
The report also shows up huge disparities in income and spending patterns in the country.
About 74% of households in the country earn less than RM6,000 and of this, 23% take home less than RM2,000; and that only 4% of active EPF members make more than RM6,000 a month.
The report also highlights wealth inequality in the country.
At one end, there are 38,000 Malaysian millionaires, wealthy Malaysians are buying million ringgit houses and luxury cars, Malaysians were the fourth largest buyers (4%) of newly built property in London in 2012, and are the top buyers of homes in Singapore.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who earn low wages and have no savings, who buy their electrical appliances and furniture on interest-based instalments and end up paying as much as a quarter of the purchase price in interest alone, who are really affected by rising food and utilities prices, and the poorer households are able to afford only RM55 a month or RM1.83 a day on meat.
Charon says KRI will be doing a more in-depth study on food soon to see how to bring prices down.
“If Malaysian food prices are not following world food prices, then we want to know why, and if there is a good explanation for it or if there is a monopoly or middle man involved.
“People always blame the middle man. We don’t have the data yet to tell you if there is a middle man. This is something we are looking to find out.
“There are permits for food importation and incentives for different types of food, and we want to look at all that and see what needs to be changed so that we can bring food prices down to as low as possible.”
He, however, points out that if world food prices go up, Malaysia would not escape the price rise.
“What we want to get away from is that if world prices go up by a little bit, should our food prices go up many times?”
UM’s Dr Kuppusamy thinks it is “simply nonsense” when the government says it can control the price of food.
“Most food are value added along the food supply chain and whether you want it or not, it is also related to the price of fuel and other inputs because food has to be transported and the workers, including those transporting food products, have to be paid,” he says.
He adds that enforcement of price control in the country is poor and done only occasionally and reactively.
“Government enforcement goes ‘off’ about a month after some controls,” he says.
The KRI report also estimates that less than 23.8% or RM5.6bil of the entire fuel subsidy went to households in 2013 while the remaining RM17.9bil went to corporations, businesses and elsewhere.
In calling for a removal of the “blanket subsidies”, the KRI report favours targeted cash transfers like BR1M to help cushion the impact for the lower income group.
“If you want to help people, then decide who you want to help and give them the help. But don’t do it in a wasteful way through blanket subsidies for all. Subsidies encourage wasteful behaviour, smuggling and all kinds of bad behaviour. People are wasteful if things are cheap. If we stop subsidies then people will be less wasteful,” says Charon.
Dr Kuppusamy is all for removing subsidies and assisting those in need with cash transfers like BR1M “if the method to identify the target group is implemented correctly.”
He says the recent move to remove fuel subsidies is the right move, but thinks “the way it has been done is too fast and too soon”.
“Prices of goods have escalated way before the targeted removal of such subsidies. In real terms, the government gains but the rakyat loses faster than the government can react to help those who need help,” he stresses.
He points out that removing the sugar subsidy does not “hit people that much” compared to the fuel subsidy which affects almost everyone on the ground.
“I expected a gradual removal of the fuel subsidy. However, the rich seem to be ‘punished’ for earning more through high tax while the poor is ‘released’ tax-free.”
What this means, he says, is that the rich end up having to pay more for goods especially at the higher end.
The KRI report also touches on the tough housing problem people are facing in the country.
The report states that affordable housing should cost three times the annual median income, but in Malaysia prices are 5.5 times the annual median income.
This makes houses here, in median income terms, more expensive than in the United Kingdom (4.7 times), United States (3.5 times), Ireland (2.8 times) or even Singapore (5.1 times).
The profit margin of property developers in Malaysia too is high at 21%, which is almost double that of the US (12%), the UK (17%) and Thailand (14%).
UM’s Dr Kuppusamy says he actually expected the profit margin of Malaysian property developers to be higher than 21% because housing is purely business and “driven by the private provision of goods”.
Charon says KRI came up with these numbers by going to Bloomberg and having a look at the profit margin of all housing developers in the country and comparing it with the listed property developers in other countries.
And, as affordable housing is now one of the main concerns here, KRI will be doing an in-depth study to see if and how prices can come down.
“There are three elements which are the cost of land, the cost of building the house and financing it, and we are looking at how to lower these.
“Maybe it can be through better technology or maybe there is anti competition in the construction supply chain so the price of cement and other supplies are higher than it should be,” says Charon.
There are many other interesting findings in the report including the ethnic, gender and urban-rural disparity in income, the number of luxury cars sold in 2013, high level consumption of households (98% own a television set, 95% have mobile phones, 91% have washing machines,78% have cars, 57% subscribe to Astro, and 39% have Internet subscription.)
Despite the fact that 74% of the households get less than RM6,000 a month currently, Charon believes Malaysia is still on track to becoming a high income developed nation by 2020.
He says efforts are being made for people to have more disposable income and better purchasing power through higher incomes with better jobs and reducing food, household and transport prices.
“You can’t change the economy tomorrow but you can change it over time,” he says.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nasihat lelaki terkaya Asia pada usahawan muda berpendapatan RM2000 By Shubhi

Li KaShing Billionaire Richest Advice For Success Nasihat lelaki terkaya Asia pada usahawan muda berpendapatan RM2000

Artikel ini khas untuk anda yang masih muda dan dah jadi usahawan muda. Kalau anda muda dan masih makan gaji, anda juga boleh ambil nasihat yang sama untuk mencapai misi menjadi usahawan muda.
Siapa dia lelaki terkaya Asia?
Namanya ialah Li Ka-Shing. Jumlah kekayaan bersihnya mencapai USD31.9 billion !!!. Li Ka-Shing sekolahpun tak habis. Dia merupakan seorang kaki baca buku. Sifat itu adalah pengaruh daripada bapanya yang merupakan seorang guru yang yang mencintai ilmu.
Li Ka-Shing kehilangan bapanya sebelum berumur 15 tahun. Akibat daripada itu dia tidak dapat meneruskan persekolahan. Dia dilahirkan di ChaoZhou, sebuah tempat di daerah Guangdong, China pada 29hb Julai 1928.
Bermula daripada seorang buruh kasar di sebuah kilang plastik, dia mencuba nasibnya menjadi seorang jurujual, jga dalam industri barangan plastik. Cerita berkenaan lelaki paling kaya di Asia ini merupakan antara cerita paling mula yang saya tahu.

Terpengaruh dengan usahawan muda Li Ka-Shing

Saya banyak terpengaruh dengan cerita dan cara berjimat dan bersederhana beliau. Dan memang terbukti pengaruh itu banyak membantu saya menjadi usahawan seperti mana yang saya ada sekarang.
Walaupun kaya raya, Li Ka-Shing hanya memakai jam Seiko yang dibelinya pada masa mula menjadi usahawan muda dahulu. Dia memang terkenal dengan cara hidup yang berjimat cermat dan amat suka membaca bagi mengumpulkan ilmu.
Mungkin sebab itu saya juga memakai jam Seiko, limited edition yang saya pakai sejak tahun 2001 dahulu. Walaupun hati meronta-ronta untuk membeli jam mahal setiap kali saya meronda di kedai jam mewah. jam Seiko yang masih utuh dan tepat waktunya itu sering mengingatkan saya pada jam Li Ka-Shing (Anda tak perlu ikut cara saya dalam bab pakai jam ini… hehehe)
Ketika mula bekerja sebagai buruh kasar dia berpeluang membantu majikannya mengarang satu surat penting. Peluang itu berlaku apabila kerani majikannya tak hadir dan tiada orang yang boleh membantu majikannya buat surat.
Oleh kerana Li Ka-Shing tahu membaca dan menulis, orang menunjukkan beliau pada majikannya. Setelah Li Ka-Shing berjaya buat surat, majikannya kagun dengan keupayaan beliau mengarang dengan baik. Lalu ditawarkan kerja pejabat yang lebih mudah.
Tapi sikap sebagai usahawan muda yang ada pada dirinya membuatkan dia menolak tawaran tersebut. Dia meminta untuk menjadi seorang jurujual daripada majikannya daripada menjadi seorang kerani.
Oleh kerana suka dengan sikap Li Ka Shing, majikannya mengizinkan beliau menjadi jurujual. Terbukti bakatnya sebagai seorang jurujual amat hebat. Hasil jualannya seorang diri mengatasi hasil jualan kesemua jurujual yang ada dalam masa yang singkat saja.
Bila dia bercadang nak buka Kilang buat bunga tiruan dari plastik, majikannya yang yakin akan bakat Li Ka Shing mahu mengikutinya dan menjadi rakan kongsi Li Ka Shing. Ertinya majikannya sanggup berada di bawah pimpinan Li Ka Shing yang masih muda itu. Majikannya sanggup jual kesemua kilangnya untuk mengumpul dana bagi menjayakan hasrat Li Ka Shing.
Dan kini, Li Ka Shing adalah orang paling kaya di Asia. Dia masih kekal bersederhana walaupun kekayaannya amat hebat….
Ok! itu serba sedikit cerita berkenaan Li Ka-Shing. Sekarang mari kita belajar apa petua beliau untuk usahawan muda yang mahu berjaya dalam hidup.

Petua Li Ka-Shing untuk usahawan muda

Katakan anda berpendapatan sebanyak RM2000 sebulan sekarang. Tak kira samada anda dah berniaga atau anda masih makan gaji. Pastikan anda bahagikan pendapatan itu kepada 5 bahagian.
  1. Belanja untuk sara hidup anda. Pastikan anda bersederhana dalam belanja sara hidup. Jumlah sebanyak maksimum RM600 mungkin dah cukup jika anda pandai berjimat. Bajet sekitar RM20 sehari untuk perbelanjaan hidup anda walau apapun yang berlaku.
    1. Makan pagi secara sederhana dengan makan bihun atau nasi goreng, telur sebiji dan air segelas. Itu dah cukup mengenyangkan.
    2. Makan tengahari juga dengan cara yang sederhana dan sedikit buah.
    3. Makan malam pastikan anda masak sendiri dengan cara yang mudah dan sederhana. Makan sayur dan buah dan minum segelas susu sebelum tidur.
  2. Belanja untuk bina rangkaian kawan. Untuk itu anda perlukan sebuah telefon bimbit. Bajet sekitar RM100 saja sebulan untuk bil telefon anda. Peruntukkan sebanyak RM300 lagi untuk belanja kawan makan. Anda boleh bajet dalam 3 orang sebulan dengan kos RM100 seorang. Jadi jumlahnya adalah dalam lingkungan RM400 untuk aktiviti bina rangkaian kawan ini. Pastikan kawan yang anda belanja itu adalah mereka yang:
    1. Lebih berilmu daripada anda. Jangan belanja orang yang entah apa-apa yang berfikiran negatif dan tidak punya ilmu yang lebih baik dari anda sendiri.
    2. Lebih kaya daripada anda. Belanja mereka walaupun mereka lebih kaya kerana apa yang mereka tahu perlu menjadi rahsia yang anda perlu korek.
    3. Orang yang membantu anda dalam kerjaya atau perniagaan. Tak ada usahawan yang boleh naik tanpa bantuan dari mereka yang prihatin dan besar jiwanya membantu orang anda. Jadi hargai mereka dan jangan kemut untuk belanja mereka. Ia bakal menadi magnet untuk lebih ramai lagi orang lain datang memberikan anda bantuan selepas ini.
  3. Belanja untuk aktiviti menuntut ilmu. Jangan ambil mudah dengan aktiviti menuntut ilmu untuk berjaya. Tak ada orang yang boleh pergi jauh jika malas mencari ilmu. Untuk itu anda perlu pastikan sejumlah RM300 diperuntukkan untuk:
    1. Beli buku pengetahuan. Jangan pula beli buku mengarut seperti surat khabar, novel, majalah mangga dan sebagainya. Belilah buku yang anda boleh kutip ilmu dan aplikasikannya dalam kehidupan anda Baca betul-betul dan jangan sia-siakan wang yang dibelanjakan untuk beli buku tersebut. Mungkin anda perlu siapkan dalam RM100 sebulan untuk beli buku.
    2. Ikuti seminar atau kursus keilmuan yang anda rasa penting dan dapat membantu meningkatkan kemahiran dan pengetahuan diri anda. Belanjakan dalam lingkungan RM200 sebulan untuk kursus atau seminar yang baik untuk anda. Anda akan dapat ilmu dan penting lagi anda akan berkenalan dengan mereka yang turut sama mahu berjaya dalam hidup seperti anda.
  4. Belanja untuk melancong ke luar negara. Peruntukkan sebanyak RM200 sebulan untuk aktiviti berjalan ke negeri orang. Anda boleh tetapkan satu aktiviti berjalan ke luar negara sekali setahun. Jika anda sediakan RM200 sebulan, setahun anda akan ada sebanyak RM2,400. Jumlah itu memadai untuk anda melancong ke negara jiran yang kosnya murah. Berjimat dengan penuh kemut ketika melancong. Bukan kemewahan yang yang anda cari tapi apa yang boleh anda pelajari daripada pengembaraan anda itulah yang paling penting. Jauh perjalanan, luas pemandangan !.
  5. Peruntukan untuk simpanan. Baki selanjutnya sebanyak RM500 hendaklah disimpan dalam akaun simpanan anda. Masukkan dalam tabung haji atau mana-mana akaun yang susah nak dikeluarkan. Ia adalah pelaburan untuk modal memulakan perniagaan anda.
    1. Mulakan perniagaan secara kecil-kecilan terlebih dahulu. Trading mungkin satu pilihan yang baik. Bila mula kecil, gagal bermakna anda hanya hilang wang yang sedikit. Jika berjaya, ia jadi suntikan semangat untuk anda berjaya lebih tinggi sedikit lagi.
    2. Cuba buat kerja tambahan untuk tambah pengalaman. Libatkan diri dengan aktiviti menjual kerana menjual adalah perkara penting untuk setiap usahawan yang mahu berjaya.
Li Ka-Shing nasihatkan pada semua usahawan muda untuk berjimat cermat sejak dari awal. Jangan perabih duit dengan beli pakaian dan kasut mewah. Simpan terlebih dulu wang anda. Bila dah kaya nanti, belilah apa saja yang anda mahu, tai bukan ketika anda masih muda dan miskin.
Satu lagi masihat menarik dari Li Ka-Shing untuk usahawan muda adalah, jika anda miskin, banyakkan masa diluar. Keluar dan cari kawan dan buat apa saja aktiviti. Jika dah kaya nanti baru banyakkan duduk dalam rumah dan kurangkan keluar… kenapa dia kata begitu saya tak pasti. Kalau anda nak baca lebih lanjut lagi, sila ke sini.
Demikianlah serba sedikit nasihat yang saya rasa amat menarik untuk usahawan muda yang membaca blog ini. Dalam bab belanja makan sebulan sekali, jangan lupa peruntukkan sekali sekala untuk belanja saya makan. Mungkin saya lebih banyak ilmu dari anda dan mungkin saya juga lebih kaya dari anda, jadi dah memenuhi kriteria untuk belanja saya makan.
Anda boleh tempah masa jika saya ada kelapangan untuk belanja saya makan. Asalkan anda ada hasrat untuk jadi usahawan muda yang berjaya satu hari nanti, saya berbesar hati untuk berkenalan dan berkongsikan ilmu dengan anda. Selamat berusaha dan moga berjaya!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wise words from the young - The STAR

Pioneer group: (From left) Dina, Firdaus, Teoh, Alia Aishah, Kam, Sunil, Tan and Kanya.
Pioneer group: (From left) Dina, Firdaus, Teoh, Alia Aishah, Kam, Sunil, Tan and Kanya.
The Star encourages youths to voice out on the shape of the future.
THEY are brave. They are bold. And they are young. Meet the pioneer group of Young Moderates who will be sharing their views on a regular basis in Sunday Star in the next phase of our Voices of Moderation campaign.
They are among the many young Malaysians who believe that we should all stand up and speak up for moderation.
They, too, are essentially fed up with politicians and political wannabes who play the racial and religious cards in multi-racial Malaysia.
They want a future that is good for everyone. But they will argue their cases logically and with the right decorum.
We are happy to provide the space for these young people to share their views on what they see of our country today, and their hopes for her future.
This column will run together with our campaign to bring the message of moderation to the campuses.
Star Publications (M) Bhd chief executive officer and group managing director Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai hopes more young people will come forward to share their views.
“Our Brave Views, Bold Ideas campaign has endeared us to many Malaysians. They have commended our media group’s stand – that is to stand up for moderation,” he said.
Wong is encouraged that many like-minded partners are supporting The Star to spread this message to the younger generation.
“This is not just about the older citizens looking back at the good old days. We know that the younger citizens are just as concerned about where the country is heading, and they want to speak out to drown the voices of racial and religious extremists.
“I am glad that these pioneers are willing to step forward to make a difference,” he said.
The pioneers are:
Dina Murad is a former literature student turned rookie journalist who enjoys reading and writing about Good Samaritans. She also appreciates the little things in life – cats, long naps and baking.
Firdaus Zulkifli is part of a team of change makers at Genovasi who aspire to make Malaysia a better place through education and design. He believes that all Malaysians (himself included) should strive to be part of the solution and help solve problems instead of just complaining.
Michael Teoh is the Founder-Strategist of Thriving Talents, a company that consults and trains youth talents in companies and universities to succeed in life and work. He is an awardee of Prestige’s “Top 40 Under 40” Awards for Malaysians and was recognised as one of the world’s leading enterprising youths by the Global Entrepre­neurship Week in 2011.
Alia Aishah Shahrir is the daughter of a Penangite father and Muarian mother. She believes she has inherited the bark of the north and the bite of the south. Law student by day, and documentary enthusiast by night, she is a realistic optimist with a soft spot for comparative theology and philosophy.
Hannah Kam holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the London School of Economics & Political Science. She completed the Bar Professional Training Course at BPP University, London, and is a member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. She believes that the promotion of a culture of mutual acceptance, respect and tolerance will secure a safe and vibrant Malaysia for generations to come.
Sunildave Parmar is a passionate social entrepreneur who believes that moderation is the way forward. He embraces the saying that “every drop of water makes a mighty ocean” and wants the young generation to work towards a harmonious future.
Tan James Anthony is a budding entrepreneur who loves flying. Tan is the first and youngest Malaysian to fly solo around the world in a single-engine Cessna 210 Silver Eagle aircraft, a feat which he accomplished over a 50-day period starting on March 28.
Kanyakumari Damodaran is passionate about issues relating to mental health which are terribly downplayed in Malaysian society. Being a “reasonable feminist” she is also into matters concerning gender bias and women’s rights, and would like to shed light on some of these issues which have been in the dark for far too long.

Monday, November 17, 2014

12 Graphs That Show Why People Get Fat By Kris Gunnars - Authority Nutrition

People are fatter and sicker than ever before.
Obesity rates have tripled since 1980 and have increased particularly fast in children.
The reason why this has happened is still debated among scientists, but it must be due to changes in the environment because our genes don’t change this quickly.
Obese Woman Eating Junk Food
This article contains graphs with historical trends and results from obesity studies, showing some of the main reasons why obesity has become such a massive problem.
Here are 12 graphs that show why people get fat.

1. People Are Eating More Junk Food Than Ever

Food Spending, Smaller
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Fast Food, Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance.Whole Health Source.
People are eating more calories than before… but pretty much all of the increase has come from processed foods.
In the graph above, you see how the population changed its eating habits in the past 120-130 years.
At the turn of the 20th century, people were eating mostly simple, home-cooked meals. Around 2009, about half of what people ate was fast food, or other foods away from home.
This graph actually underestimate the true change, because what people are eating at home these days is also largely based on processed foods.

2. Sugar Consumption Has Skyrocketed

Sugar Consumption in the UK and USA
Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.
Numerous studies show that eating excess amounts of added sugar can have harmful effects on metabolism, leading to insulin resistance, belly fat gain, high triglycerides and small, dense LDL cholesterol… to name a few (12).
There is also a plethora of observational studies showing that the people who eat the most sugar are at a much greater risk of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer (345).
Sugar is also fattening, partly because it doesn’t get registered in the same way as other calories by the brain, making us eat more. It also has adverse effects on hormones related to obesity (6789).
Not surprisingly, studies show that people who eat the most sugar are at a high risk of future weight gain and obesity (10).

3. People Gain Lots of Weight During The Holidays, Which They Never Get Rid Of

Holiday Weight Gain in the US
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Why do we Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective.2014.
Most people don’t gain weight overnight… it happens slowly, over years and decades.
But the rate is uneven throughout the year and spikes dramatically during the holidays, a time when people tend to binge on all sorts of delicious holiday foods and eat much more than their bodies need.
The problem is that sometimes people don’t lose all the weight back. They might gain 3 pounds, but only lose 2 after the holidays are over, leading to slow and steady weight gain over time (11).
In fact, a large percentage of people’s lifetime weight gain can be explained just by the 6 week holiday period.

4. The Obesity Epidemic Started When The Low-Fat Guidelines Were Published

Low Fat Guidelines and Obesity Epidemic
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (US). Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults. 2009 Mar. Chartbook.
There was an epidemic of heart disease running rampant in the U.S. in the 20th century.
A lot of scientists believed fat, especially saturated fat, to be the main dietary cause of heart disease (although this has since been disproven).
This led to the birth of the low-fat diet, which aims to restrict saturated fat. Interestingly, the obesity epidemic started at almost the exact same time the low-fat guidelines first came out.
Of course, this doesn’t prove anything, because correlation doesn’t equal causation.
But it does seem likely that putting the emphasis on saturated fat, while giving processed low-fat foods high in sugar a free pass, may have contributed to negative changes in the population’s diet.
There are also massive long-term studies showing that the low-fat diet does NOT cause weight loss, and does not prevent heart disease or cancer (12131415).

5. Food is Cheaper Than Ever Before

Food Price Trends as Percentage of Disposable Income
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Why do we Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective.2014.
One factor that has most likely contributed to increased consumption is a lower price of food.
From the graph above, you see that food prices have dropped from 25% of disposable income to about 10% of disposable income in the past 80 years.
This seems like a good thing, but it’s important to keep in mind that real food isn’t cheap… it’s processed food.
In fact, real foods are so expensive that a lot of people can’t even afford them. In many poor neighborhoods, they don’t even offer anything but junk food, which is often subsidized by the government.
How are poor people supposed to stand a chance if the only food they can afford (and access) is highly processed junk high in sugar, refined grains and added oils?

6. People Are Drinking More Sugary Soda and Fruit Juices

Caloric Beverage Consumption in USA
The brain is the main organ in charge of regulating our energy balance… making sure that we don’t starve and don’t accumulate excess fat.
Well, it turns out that the brain doesn’t “register” liquid sugar calories in the same way as it does solid calories (16).
So if you consume a certain number of calories from a sugary drink, then your brain doesn’t automatically make you eat fewer calories of something else instead (17).
That’s why liquid sugar calories are usually added on top of the daily calorie intake. Unfortunately, most fruit juices are no better and have similar amounts of sugar as soft drinks (18).
Studies have shown that a single daily serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage is linked to a 60.1% increased risk of obesity in children (19).
Sugar is bad… but sugar in liquid form is even worse.

7. Increased Food Variety Contributes to Overeating and Weight Gain

Food Variety and Weight Gain
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Why do we Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective.2014.
One factor that contributes to overeating is food variety.
The graph above shows a study where rats were split in 3 groups… one group got regular healthy chow, the second group got one type of junk food, but the third got multiple types of junk food at the same time (20).
As you can see, the rats eating one type of junk food gained more than the ones eating rat chow, but the rats eating multiple types of junk food gained the most… by far.
There is some evidence that this is true in humans as well. When we have more types of foods available, we eat more… and sometimes more than our bodies need (21).

8. People Don’t Burn as Many Calories When Working

Trends in Occupation-Related Physical Activity
A lot of people blame obesity on decreases in physical activity, that we’re just burning fewer calories than we used to.
Although leisure time physical activity (exercise) has increased, it is also true that people now have jobs that are less physically demanding.
The graph above shows how people are now burning around 100 fewer calories per day in their jobs, which may contribute to weight gain over time.

9. People Are Eating More Vegetable Oils, Mostly From Processed Foods

Fat Consumption in USA
The fats we are eating have changed dramatically in the past 100 years or so.
At the beginning of the 20th century, we were eating mostly natural fats like butterand lard… but then they were replaced with margarine and vegetable oils.
Most people aren’t frying real food in vegetable oil, they are getting it from processed food. Adding these oils to the foods increases the reward and caloric value, contributing to overconsumption.

10. The Social Environment Can Strongly Affect Calorie Intake

The Social Environment and Food Intake
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Why do we Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective.2014.
The social environment is another factor that determines calorie intake. For example, eating in a group can dramatically increase the number of calories consumed.
According to one paper, eating a meal with several people can increase calorie intake by up to 72%, or 310 calories in a single meal (22).
There are also studies showing that people tend to eat more during weekends (23).

11. People Are Sleeping Less

Historical Sleep Trends in Hours Per Night
Source: Cauter EV, et al. The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. Medscape, 2005.
Sleep is often overlooked when it comes to weight gain and obesity.
It is known that poor sleep has negative effects on various hormones that are related to weight gain, and can contribute to increased hunger and cravings (242526).
In recent decades, average sleep duration has decreased by 1-2 hours per night. The reasons for this are numerous, but increased artificial lighting and electronics are likely contributors.
As it turns out, short sleep duration is one of the strongest individual risk factors for obesity. It is linked to an 89% increased risk in children, and a 55% increased risk in adults (27).

12. Increased Calorie Intake

Obesity and Calorie Consumption
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Why Do We Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective.2014. (Data from CDC NHANES surveys and USDA food disappearance data)
People may argue about the causes of obesity… whether it is sugar, carbs, fat, or something else.
But one indisputable fact is that calorie consumption has increased dramatically over the past few decades (2829).
According to studies, this increased calorie intake is more than sufficient to explain the increases in obesity (30).
But it’s important to keep in mind that it is not some collective moral failure that drives the increased calorie intake.
All behavior is driven by the underlying biology… and the way the diet and environment have changed has altered the way our brains and hormones work.
In other words, these changes have caused malfunctions in the biological systems that are supposed to prevent us from getting fat.
This is the underlying reason for the increased calorie intake and weight gain, NOT a lack of willpower, as some people would have you believe.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Germans Work Fewer Hours But Produce More: A Study In Culture -

When many Americans think of Germany, images of WWII soldiers and Hitler often come to mind. But what many people don’t realize is that Germany is the industrial powerhouse of Europe, and is a leading manufacturer of goods for export to developing Asian nations. We don’t hear about the superiority of German engineering in Volkswagen commercials for nothing!
The economic engine of the EU, Germany single-handedly saved the Eurozone from collapse in 2012. At the same time, German workers enjoy unparalleled worker protections and shorter working hours than most of their global counterparts. How can a country that works an average of 35 hours per week (with an average 24 paid vacation days to boot) maintain such a high level of productivity?

Working Hours Mean Working Hours

In German business culture, when an employee is at work, they should not be doing anything other than their work. Facebook, office gossip with co-workers, trolling Reddit for hours, and pulling up a fake spreadsheet when your boss walks by are socially unacceptable behaviors. Obviously, in the United States these behaviors are frowned up on by management. But in Germany, there is zero tolerance among peers for such frivolous activities.
In the BBC documentary “Make Me A German“,  a young German woman explained her culture shock while on a working exchange to the UK.
“I was in England for an exchange… I was in the office and the people are talking all the time about their private things… ‘What’s the plan for tonight?’, and all the time drinking coffee…”
She was quite surprised by the casual nature of British workers. Upon further discussion, the Germans reveal that Facebook is not allowed in the office whatsoever, and no private email is permitted.

Goal-Oriented, Direct Communication Is Valued

German business culture is one of intense focus and direct communication. While Americans tend to value small talk and maintaining an upbeat atmosphere, Germans rarely beat around the bush. German workers will directly speak to a manager about performance reviews, launch into a business meeting without any ‘icebreakers’, and use commanding language without softening the directives with polite phrases.Whereas an American would say, “It would be great if you could get this to me by 3pm,” a German would say, “I need this by 3pm”.
When a German is at work, they are focused and diligent, which in turn leads to higher productivity in a shorter period of time.

Germans Have a Life Outside Work

Germans work hard and play hard. Since the working day is focused on delivering efficient productivity, the off hours are truly off hours. Because of the focused atmosphere and formal environment of German businesses, employees don’t necessarily hang out together after work. Germans generally value a separation between private life and working life.
The German government is currently considering a ban on work-related emails after 6pm, to counter the accessibility that smartphones and constant connectivity give employers to their employees. Can you imagine President Obama enacting such a policy in the United States?
To occupy their plentiful Freizeit, most Germans are involved in Verein (clubs); regularly meeting others with shared interests in their community. Common interests in Germany include Sportvereine (sports clubs), Gesangvereine (choirs or singing clubs), Musikvereine(music clubs), Wandervereine (hiking clubs), Tierzuchtvereine (animal breeding clubs – generally rabbits/pigeons) and collectors’ clubs of all stripes. Even the smallest village in Germany will have several active Vereinen to accommodate residents’ interests. Rather than settling in for a night of TV after work, most Germans socialize with others in their community and cultivate themselves as people.
Germans also enjoy a high number of paid vacation days, with many salaried employees receiving 25-30 paid days (the law requires 20). Extended holidays mean families can enjoy up to a month together, renting an apartment by the seaside or taking a long trip to a new, exciting city.

Business Respects Parenthood

Germany’s system of Elternzeit (“parent time” or parental leave) is the stuff of fantasy for most working Americans. The United States does not currently have laws requiring maternity leave, while Germany has some of the most extensive parental protection policies in the developed world. The downside of these maternity leave benefits is that employers may avoid hiring women (with the fear that they will take advantage of the extensive benefits), and German boardrooms are consistently male-dominated at a higher rate than other developed nations, although the government is working to eradicate this trend. The financial benefits of staying home (from both Elternzeitand Elterngeld or parents’ money programs) are often too good to pass up for German mothers, and can lead to stagnant or non-existent careers.
Since “at will” employment does not exist in Germany, all employees have contracts with their employer. Parents who have been gainfully employed for the previous 12 months are eligible for Elternzeit benefits, which include up to three years of unpaid leave with a “sleeping” contract. The employee is eligible to work part-time up to 30 hours while on leave, and must be offered full-time employment at the conclusion of the parental leave. Parents may also choose to postpone up to one year of their leave until the child’s 8th birthday. Either parent is eligible for parental leave, and many couples make the choice based on financial considerations.
In addition to the preservation of the employee’s contract, the state will pay up 67% of the employee’s salary (with a cap of 1800 Euros per month) for 14 months. Parents may split the 14 months however they choose. These benefits apply equally to same-sex couples.
Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet?

Put Some German In Your Office

The German work culture is very different from the average American office, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from our German counterparts. The diligent focus Germans bring to their working life is to be admired. Separating work from play can help us lead a more balanced life; putting the phone down after hours gives us a mental break from stressing about work, and we can return to the office refreshed in the morning. When it’s time to get something done, closing Facebook and turning off push notifications helps keep our minds quiet and the flow steady. Direct conversation can lead to increased efficiency, and more clarity of communication among team members.
Americans often equate longer hours with increased production and superior work ethic, but examining the German model makes one wonder: When it comes to time at work,maybe less really is more!