How to survive middle age
The answer is a revolution of the self. So start running
Perhaps if she had said yes when I offered her a cigarette; perhaps if she had said, “Splendid!” or “What a nice idea,” when I presented, like a nervous suitor, a bottle of chilled white wine and two Waterford crystal goblets from my briefcase, my life wouldn’t have taken the turn it did. But as soon as she said no — tobacco and alcohol being two of her allergies — I thought, of course not, Margaret Atwood wouldn’t smoke and likely wouldn’t drink much.
Prior to reading Survival I had resigned myself to thinking that I would never again be as stimulated by new ideas as I had been in my formative years. Life wore one down. Most of one’s friends settled down and dust settled down on top of them. Survival was a challenge to change. “There’s no cage, the door is open,” Atwood said, “therefore be bold.”
I had pictured us meeting (this was the first time) with a certain memorable grace. Instead, each time I lit a cigarette, or filled my glass again, I fancied that her eyes followed my motions (perhaps because our meeting, on a rainy day, in a dark, small, stoically underfurnished room at Massey College, was so spare in other gestures of visual interest) with close, clinical amusement. I felt embarrassed by my addictions. Unfree. Unfit.
How can a person, who, in the middle of a discussion of how Canadians victimize themselves (if Moby Dick were a Canadian novel, Atwood contends it would have been related from the whale’s point of view), burns a hole in a styrene coffee cup attempting to butt a cigarette and has to run to the nearest sink to extinguish the smoldering mess, possibly be taken seriously? In my case,
I had to dash out the door and down the hall to the nearest washroom, leaving Margaret in startled mid-sentence.
Who’s in charge here anyway, I asked myself, do you smoke them or do they smoke you? How can anyone who habit-
ually chooses to breathe poisonous gases and is knowingly impairing most bodily organs (with arsenic, carbon monoxide in addition to nicotine and tars) presume to take a stand on any moral question? It is transparent hypocrisy to pontificate on the problems of society, when the state of one’s own se/f-government is so corrupt, and suicidal.
In the days ahead I listened to a new inner voice. Do you realize, it asked, that when John Keats was your age, he had been dead for nine years? When, how, is your poetry, music, whatever, going to come, living as you do? Taking refuge in Aesop’s fable, I replied, well if I’m not a creative hare perhaps I’m a creative tortoise, gradually, stealthily, creeping up to achievement. I wouldn’t bet on it, countered this ungullible conscience, nobody who smokes a large pack of cigarettes a day (that’s 9,125 a year at a cost of nearly $300), drinks five or more cups of strong coffee, goes through a couple of chocolate cakes a week (butter, cream, eggs — all that yummy cholesterol) and rarely gets any exercise other than the odd stroll, is planning to live a long life. The only thing you’re stealthily gaining is weight; poor posture is thrown in free. You’re not fit to carry the torch of Canadiana; you’ll probably just sprain your back.
“Let’s see how many push-ups you can do,” the YMCA instructor said, at the outset of my first Fitness Test. I did 12 and collapsed, panting. He wrote, “Fair.” Sit-ups: 24; “Good.” Chin-ups: two; “Very poor.” So much for my muscular endurance. My oxygen intake was “low”: 2.1 litres maximum. I jogged a slow half-mile and felt as if I had run into a stone wall.
I was in average shape for a 34-yearold Canadian male, he told me. (I know what that meant: I was a wreck.)
In the days ahead, my inner voice grew jubilant with self-reproaches: “What a spineless creature you are! Damn it, don’t slow your pace! Are you going to whine about those water blisters, I told you to wear thicker socks, wool socks, and pick up your feet! Now get it on!” In the first three months of my “revolution of the self” I ran 203 miles, and did more than 750 kilometres on a home exer-cycle, in addition to a program of calisthenics and swimming. In all I missed workouts on only three days. At the end of that time I weighed 155 pounds (a loss of 14), had increased my vital lung capacity to 3.2 litres (a gain of 1.1), had developed a heart beat at rest of 56 (a drop of 30 beats per minute from my days as a sedentary smoker). My cholesterol level which had been 174 (considered fairly low) had dropped still further to 156; my triglycerides level dropped from 136 to 116; and instead of my paltry 12 push-ups in a minute I did 34; 30 sit-ups and nine
chin-ups. Percentage of body fat decreased from 14.8 to 12.6 (13% is considered ideal, although most athletes have about 10%).
With each small challenge successfully met, I felt once again that I was master of myself. One swam as best one could in an overwhelming world, but one did swim, that was the important thing, no more floundering, no crying out for help. There was a steady psychological buoyancy, strong enough to support the vicissitudes of each day. There is after a long, endurance run a sweet euphoria, I call it “the hum of health,” in which the whole body seems to sing with contentment. It is sweeter and deeper by far than the toxic pleasure of booze or other drugs; it penetrates every cell in the well-exercised body and bestows a heightened energy.
Albert Camus once wrote, “That which is creative must first create itself.” Many people accept as “reality” an external world full of stress and noise, bustle and pressure, and their response is intense alienation, which they relieve through drugs. But there is surprisingly much less stress and anxiety when a person is fit; it is a self-imposed weakness, to be adrift in the world and buffeted back and forth from manic biochemical highs to distressing depressions.
Scratch the first half of your life, a new inchoate self commanded upon taking charge; from here on you’re playing for keeps. Nationalism needs more than a big mouth.
The best exercise
One of the best investments you’ll ever make for less than two dollars is Kenneth H. Cooper’s best-selling book The New Aerobics (Bantam paperbacks, $1.25) which provides detailed programs for the whole family. Prior to beginning any strenuous exercise program, an exhaustive physical examination should be done to determine if there are any hidden weaknesses.
Warm-up exercises should always be done prior to jogging, followed by cool-
ing-off exercises. Warm-ups usually consist of knee bends and general calisthenics. Cooling-off exercises consist of sit-ups and leg raises, to return the blood flow to the upper levels of the body.
Cooper’s basic test of fitness, following a medical examination, is to have the subject run for 12 minutes, at the subject’s best speed. A distance of 1.5 miles is considered “good.”
Cooper maintains that jogging for less than 1.5 miles does not provide much in the way of an aerobic effect; two to three miles done three times a week, in a time range from 12 to 22 minutes, will ensure top fitness. Total workout including calisthenics should consume 400 to 600 calories, and take about an hour.
Equipment: Don’t cheat your feet. You may find it necessary to wear two pairs of socks (wool against the skin to absorb moisture, the outer sock a thick cotton or synthetic for cushioning effect) and therefore should buy your running shoes one-half size larger than streetwear. Adidas is the most famous name in running and jogging shoes, but this West German import is rarely the best bargain due to recent currency exchanges. Pony Sporting Goods, a Canadian company, with people such as Bobby Orr as investors, and Lloyd Percival as advisers, produces an excellent range of shoes at moderate prices (considerably less than European brands on an average) as well as jogging suits and equipment bags.
Buy your equipment cautiously; you’ll rarely be able to return it after use because a certain kind of arch irritates your feet, or a heel cup causes water blisters, or the toe proves too tight.
Getting old at 25
Middle-age is when you resign yourself to living at about 10% of your capacity.
Middle-age is when you think and remember backward more than you look ahead.
Middle-age is self-imposed depression; it’s flab that doesn’t have to be there, it’s physical and intellectual lethargy that can be dispelled. It’s the loss of self-respect.
“Canadian men, and to a slightly lesser degree, women, deteriorate physically between 25 and 35 more than in any other 10-year span of their lives,” Lloyd Percival contends. “The process actually starts earlier, in the early twenties, but it doesn’t show up clearly until the late twenties and early thirties. This is the period when the average person starts to become sedentary — his sports activities begin to fade as career, family and home take up more and more time and interest. We compared the fitness levels of individuals in their late teens with those age 30, and found
that there was a 50% increase in body fat, 21% decrease in flexibility, a 27% decrease in oxygen intake, a 14% decrease in strength, a 24% decrease in heart performance, in addition to deterioration of posture and endurance. I call it the decade of decay.”
If you haven’t had a medical examination lately, complete with blood tests for cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lung capacity, muscular strength and flexibility, blood pressure under stress, and physical endurance, it is unlikely that you have an accurate impression of your physiological age.
The responses and mental outlook of a physically fit person are substantially different (keener reflexes, more optimistic and energetic state of mind) to those of an unfit one. One principal difference is the response to stress. The death rate of widows and widowers is 10 times higher during the first year of bereavement than for others their age; divorced persons have an illness rate 12 times higher than married persons in the year following their divorce; up to 80% of serious physical illness seems to develop at a time when the victims feel helpless and hopeless.
Even positive change is a stress; a change of job, of residence, a vacation, graduation from college, can increase one’s vulnerability to illness, for a time, until the body system has adjusted. Physically fit people assimilate changes better and faster, they roll with the breaks more smoothly, than those who lead a sedentary life and have bad habits of nutrition. Brain cells deprived of ample oxygen do not perform efficiently; intellect, memory and reasoning powers fade as a result.
People deprived of REM sleep (periods of sleep which occur at roughly 90minute intervals during which time we dream at higher than usual electrical frequency and hormonal secretions) become psychotic and paranoid in their
behavior in a matter of days. Alcohol, barbiturates, sleeping pills, even the mildest of commercial sedatives, all tend to interfere with REM sleep, reducing its frequency and duration, and in some instances obliterating it. Though many people believe that they know themselves, that their tastes and habits are established satisfactorily, only a person who has been both fit and unfit can tell the difference between how he or she feels and the world appears, how strong the ability to cope, how imaginative the will to create is, given one state of health or the other.
One’s view of so-called “reality” is radically altered by the health of the perceiver. This is not something which our egos recognize. People who are overfed and undernourished on a diet of junk foods, whose circulatory systems are sluggish with blood sludge (fatty deposits and red cell clusters) reducing the amount of oxygen available; people who carelessly pile up stressful situations and erode their chances for lucidity and calm; people who drink excessively and deplete their REM sleep restoratives are all fast and loud with their opinions on every conceivable social problem. Unhealthy organisms have their own brand of personal and social reality, and it usually bears no resemblance, and has no correspondence, to the world as perceived by people with optimum health.
The “decade of decay” is a turning point in our lives. Either we can do more downhill coasting until we inescapably develop one or more of the high-risk factors involved in heart and lung disease, or we can discover an even greater sense of health and well-being than we had in the so-called “prime of youth,” for youth is notoriously spendthrift with its resources.
My advice — even before you make a conscious choice — is to greatly increase the daily intake of Vitamin B complex. Within a week, your body will make the correct choice for you, biochemically; you will have increased energy, stamina, and psychological strength. You will want to have active goals.
The changes introduced to your life should be gradual. If the idea of a major breakfast (a vital beginning to each day) seems repellent at first, one can take two desiccated liver tablets with juice and gain 24 grams of protein in an instant. The aim is to compromise with your former self as little as possible, until through a program of exercise and nutrition, the lazy, tired, bored, depressed, crutch-needing personality that has governed you for many years is thoroughly routed. One stages a revolution of the self (instead of blaming all of life’s problems on the government or the social system) a personal coup d’état. A new daily regimen, a new regime.
Nonsense you’ll read
“We must put a stop to the vicious cycle where food is used as a substitute for sex. This causes obesity which, in turn, makes the person less attractive and less desirable as a sexual object and creates even greater obesity. Reach for your mate instead of that plate of cake, nuts or ice cream. Sex is much more gratifying and will be doubly enjoyable when you see yourself becoming progressively slimmer as a result.
“Sex is an excellent form of exercise and one that is highly recommended. The physical work involved in sexual intercourse is most beneficial, since more calories are consumed in each session than in walking a mile or jogging for a half-hour. It’s one exercise that is easy to take, requires no fancy equipment and is not easily forgotten or abandoned. So rekindle the fires of passion, and use them to bum up that excess fat. If you wake up at night with a restless feeling, don’t run to the refrigerator and stuff your stomach with all the food you can lay your hands on. Make love, not fat.” — How Sex Can Keep You Slim, Abraham I. Friedman, MD.
“The lowly bumble bee knows all there is to know about nutrition.” — Arthritis And Folk Medicine, D. C. Jarvis, MD.
“When I learned that the Manson family ate practically nothing but chocolate bars, I wasn’t the least surprised by their criminal behavior.” — Adelle Davis, author of Let’s Get Well, Let’s Eat Right To Keep Fit, Let’s Cook It Right.
The vinegar diet
Coffee, Tea, Cola, Cocoa: All of these drinks contain caffeine, a drug that belongs to the speed pill, pep pill and amphetamine group, technically called analeptics. They are liquid “go pills.”
Tea also contains a related drug, theophylline. Cocoa and hence chocolate contains theobromine, too, of the same drug group.
Caffeine causes the heart to work harder. The reason is fairly simple. Since the metabolism is speeded up the circulation must deliver more oxygen to the cells, which means the heart must pump more blood or increase its work. Working the heart an extra amount because of drug effects places a strain on it without exercising it.
Healthy men should have resting heart rates below 70 per minute. Women have heart rates only a little faster. Coffee and cigarettes both increase the heart rate. Many office workers have a midafternoon rate of 100 or more. Stress, poor levels of fitness, caffeine drinks and cigarettes are usually the cause. These individuals are more likely to have heart disease or a sudden death. One medical study recently reported that people who drink five cups of coffee daily have a 60% greater chance of heart attack than non-coffee drinkers, while those who drink six or more cups daily incur 120% greater risk of such attacks. Tea and coffee are so firmly established habits in most people’s lives that a reduction of their use, as opposed to complete elimination, is all that can be hoped for. The following recipe, which can be prepared as quickly as instant coffee, not only helps to reduce the craving for caffeine drinks but surpasses them in providing a lucid, tranquil form of energy. It is ideal at any hour of the day, alone or with meals. Put 2 or 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar 2 or 3 teaspoons of liquid honey 2 or 3 teaspoons of fresh squeezed
in a cup and fill with hot water.
By varying the ingredients, one can make as tart or sweet a drink as desired. Unlike tea or coffee, this hot tonic has a useful vitamin and mineral content. By varying the honey, one can alter the bouquet and taste to suit individual preference. Caloric content ranges from 40 to 65; cost is about seven cents.
Hearts are trump
In spite of what cynics say, once you get past 35, there is something you can do which is fun even though it is not illegal, immoral or fattening.
In fact, this activity will help keep your midriff lean and will greatly improve your morale and your cardiovascular health. What is it? The simple act of walking.
This of course is not sensational news. You’ve known it all along. Even your doctor has probably told you to get out and walk, and you’ve told yourself repeatedly, “I must do more walking.”
If it’s motivation you need to get started on a good walking plan, then a new study by researchers at the Physical Fitness Research Laboratory of Wake Forest University in North Carolina will certainly provide it. Their study showed that a program of walking can help your heart as much as more strenuous forms of exercise, such as jogging. Walking, too, is aerobic. The subjects were healthy but sedentary men between the ages of 40 and 56. The exercise consisted of a brisk, one mile walk, daily. Some in the group showed an increase in oxygenintake capacity as high as 28%.
Remember, it is lack of oxygen which usually triggers a heart attack. If your heart is getting 28% more oxygen, then the risk of oxygen starvation is that much less.
Not only the heart benefited. So did the lungs. Pulmonary circulation increased by 15%.
While maximal heart rate, resting heart rate, and systolic blood pressure did not change, resting diastolic blood pressure reduced significantly.
Your heart is provided with an auxiliary system to ease the load of pushing some 72,000 quarts of blood through your system every 24 hours, over 2,550 miles of circulatory byways (in a 150pound man). The muscles in your feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, and abdomen give your heart a big assist, if they are exercised. As they work they rhythmically contract and release, squeezing the veins and forcing the blood along. It’s nature’s way of moving the blood to the heart and brain in spite of gravity. Exercise increases the efficiency of this auxiliary, heart-saving system.
To start any new program takes an extra push in order to overcome your inertia. Once you have done it several times, it becomes a good habit, something you look forward to. If you drive to work, park the car one mile from the office and walk. That’s all it takes.
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from page 37
The sweet life
Ordinary table sugar has 46 calories in a tablespoon (12 grams of carbohydrate) and that’s it. It is what manufacturers like to call “a pure food,” which means it is utterly devoid of nourishment. A tablespoon of ordinary clover honey has 64 calories (16 grams of carbohydrate), a trace of protein, 1.05 milligrams of calcium, .11 milligrams of iron, 1.25 milligrams of phosphorous, 11 milligrams of potassium, 1.05 milligrams of sodium, and traces of several vitamins. Unlike
table sugar, which needs to be digested, honey is predigested and consists of two simple sugars basically — dextrose (or glucose as it is more often called) and levulose (or fructose) which are identical in chemical composition, except that, when viewed under a polarimeter, an instrument for measuring polarized light, the dextrose bends the plane of a ray of polarized light to the right while the levulose turns it to the left. Honey enters the blood stream directly, within 20 minutes of ingestion. Dark honeys have a much higher mineral content than the light honeys — particularly heather and
eucalyptus. There is as much to know and savor in honey (there are hundreds of distinct types — from Lavender from France, Heather from Scotland or Hungary, Tupelo from Florida, Rosemary from Spain, among others) as there is in the world of wine connoisseurship.
Sugar is not only honey’s paltry substitute, it is seriously implicated by recent research in the rise of heart disease, diabetes and blood and rectal cancers. (See Dr. John Yudkin’s Sweet And Dangerous, 1972). Make it a new rule to cut back, if not eliminate, all forms of manufactured sugars. Instead rely on honey and fresh fruits for sweeteners and instant energy. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, advocated honey for long life, as did Pythagoras and Democritus (who reached 109). Honey is one of nature’s great inspirations.
Brewer’s yeast is one of the best sources of B vitamins and minerals. It contains 16 amino acids as well as 14 minerals and 17 vitamins; it is a source of enzyme-producing agents. Average national price in health stores is 100 capsules for $1.25, or 500 for five dollars.
Desiccated liver is liver that has been dried at a low heat to conserve all of its vitamins and minerals and then powdered for use as a food supplement. It has the same nutritional value as fresh liver (excepting Vitamin A) but less fat. One tablet equals 12 grams of high quality protein (I take two a day). Average national price is 100 for two dollars or 500 for $5.95.
Lecithin is a natural constituent of every cell in the human body and aids in the metabolism of fats. Lecithin granules, capsules or oil, used as a supplementary food, may soften solidified cholesterol, which has been deposited on the inner walls of the arteries and aid in its removal. Adelle Davis, 69, has eaten a diet for many years that includes a high consumption of eggs (two to four a day) and fresh liver (both of which contain large amounts of cholesterol) yet maintains a low blood cholesterol count of 170, which she attributes to the use of lecithin. Lecithin oil (perhaps because it is so thick and yucky) is cheap: $1.10 for a month’s supply. The granules (which are virtually tasteless) can be added to a wide range of foods, from gravies (where you will see the globules of fat disappear before your eyes) to puddings. They have a rising, unstable price between $3.50 and five dollars for a 16ounce bag. The capsules cost two dollars for 100 and are recommended by the manufacturer for use at bedtime as a sedative. Each brain cell has a coating of lecithin. Highly irritable people, it has been shown, have depleted lecithin sup-
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plies. When added to their diet again, it
has a calming effect.
Water is neither a nutrient nor a food; it is the vehicle for transmission of nutrients to the cells and for the elimination of waste products from the cells of the body as a whole. By volume, blood, as well as all other body tissues except bone, is largely water.
Soft water, either natural or processed, usually contains large amounts of sodium. Hard water contains inorganic mineral salts, often of calcium, magnesium or iron. People who live in hard water areas, or who use domestic or imported mineral water, tend to have a longer life span, than those who use soft water. The most famous mineral waters are Vichy and Perrier, imported from the natural springs in France. Perrier, in particular, has a divine taste and effervescence; an excellent aid to digestion.
Wheat germ is a rich source of the B vitamins, Vitamin E, protein and iron. One-half cup of wheat germ contains 13 grams of protein. It also contains copper, magnesium, manganese, calcium and phosphorous. Wheat germ contains a vegetable oil; therefore it should be refrigerated at all times to prevent rancidity. Wheat germ oil is a supplemental food high in unsaturated fatty acids and one of the richest sources of vitamin E.
The price of both these supplements is skyrocketing. A 24-ounce jar of wheat germ oil increased from $6.95 to $8.50 during the first six months of 1973, and conceivably will reach $10 or so in the near future. Many athletes take a tablespoon of wheat germ oil before a workout (it has a delicious, “non-oily” taste) for sustained energy. Wheat germ flakes, a Swiss product consisting of toasted wheat germ with added malt and honey (price ranges from 75 cents to $1.05 for a 16-ounce package) makes a wonderful addition to yogurt or crunchy granola breakfast cereals.
Yogurt is a food made by the fermentation of milk by specific bacteria. It is thick and semisolid. It contains firstclass protein, calcium and riboflavin. It also contains lactic acid, lactose (milk sugar) and 200 million bacteria (lactobacillus bulgaricus) to the cubic centimeter. More than 90% of yogurt is digested within one hour (compared to 30% in ordinary milk). The beneficial bacteria it contains displaces the more harmful types in the intestines (a regular eater of unsweetened yogurt will notice a dramatic lightening in coloration of the stools, indicating an arrest in the process of putrefaction) and when reinforced daily the bacteria colonize the intestine and produce additional supplies of B vitamins.
If you are unable to buy home-style yogurt in your city, write or go to your nearest health store and purchase some yogurt culture. With such culture you can make yogurt for a whole month.
The easiest way to make yogurt is to heat one quart of milk until it is on the verge of boiling. Let it cool, covered, until it reaches a luke-warm skin temperature, then add three tablespoons of ready-made yogurt, or, if you are making it for the first time, your package of yogurt culture. Pour this mixture into a wide-mouthed Thermos jar and let stand overnight, or into glass containers which are placed in a yogurt incubator (costs range from $12.95 to $32.50) for two to three hours. When yogurt appears solid, refrigerate immediately to stop bacterial growth, otherwise yogurt will taste too tart and have a runny consistency. Save your three tablespoons from each batch for the next one; properly used, you can make fresh yogurt for months from the initial culture.
A “health nut” is anyone with the slightest interest in health. Anyone who wants to survive, or better still achieve optimum health, should be prepared for some ribbing, even hostility, from people who are set in their ways and who say they don’t give a damn what their so-called “pleasures” cost them.
Is it a pleasure to sit watching television for almost five hours a day (the estimated national average for Canadians) filling one’s face with pastry products (you sock in the sugar and your pancreas has to work hard to produce the counteracting insulin, which may leave you with low blood sugar within 45 minutes), and all kinds of salted munchies and crunchies, swizzled down with beer? Small wonder so many television commercials are devoted to advertising headache cures, heartburn and stomach acid preparations, cold remedies, laxa-
tives, to say nothing of 18-hour girdles. The ad men sure know their market. We’re a nation of fat cats, finicky, pampered and neurotic.
The biggest struggle that any person will have in rediscovering their healthy self is against the social milieu they live and work in. Sickliness, like mediocrity, prevails; health, like excellence in anything, is a rarity.
At the Lloyd Percival Fitness Institutes (both, in Don Mills and Mississauga, Ontario, are $3.5 million establishments), which are to the world of fitness and exercise what the Savoy and the Waldorf-Astoria are in the world of hotels, the locker rooms have wall-towall carpeting, the lounges are furnished with Dubarry Imageline leather chairs and color television, the men’s wash and shower rooms are supplied with the shaving creams, lotions, shampoos of your choice, free of charge, and the facilities include an indoor putting range, a weather-domed tennis court, good restaurant, as well as the general amenities of whirlpool baths, ultra-dry saunas, temperature-controlled workout rooms, and crystalline swimming pool.
Annual membership (there’s a waiting list) is $395 for men and $370 for women; price includes a thorough fitness test and individually designed exercise program, which taken alone costs $65 for nonmembers, who wish to exercise elsewhere.
YMCAs are generally homely, unpretentious institutions and represent a “best buy” per dollar for the person seeking a regular place to work out. Equipment ranges from brand new to antique. Membership prices are based on age, and range from $30 for students to $75 for seniors, up to $155 for “the businessmen’s club” (business and professional men who often have their own locker-room facilities, away from the riffraff). While most YMs and YWs are separated, a few are following the Fitness Institute’s example of co-ed facilities, allowing couples and familie^ to attend together.
There are numerous chains of slenderizing salons and exercise emporiums where a good or bad deal cannot be predicted. Prices vary, they are always more expensive than the corresponding facilities at the Ys, but some people may find individual gyms, where the staff is friendly and helpful, where the location is considered useful, and where the membership is not overcrowded, justify the extra expense. Some of these establishments sign members to long-term contracts, which later become nuisances, if the member moves away or the firm goes bankrupt. ■