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Archive for September, 2010

Dharmaloser Unmasked!

Well, here is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I’ve claimed to have lost 50 pounds but for all you know, I could just be a clever writer working on a character for a book. Take my word that I’m not. Now that I’ve lost 50 pounds, I’m prepared to show my old and new self to the world. So, without any more delay, here is what I used to look like.

In this profile picture, I’m with my wonderful daughter enjoying the frigid cold waters of Maine on a sunny day here in Maine. Notice the big belly and the fact that I’m doing my best to avoid the camera and showing myself off. The shirt wasn’t on because I was cold, I was covered up because I hated the way I looked.

Shortly after I started reading Savor, I went to the Zen Center for the first time. This picture was taken a few days after that initial visit and I had my hands in the mudra position because the garden I was in was extremely beautiful and the only way I knew how to respond to the beauty was to sit quietly in meditation and take it all in.

Here I am with my family. My wife, daughter, son and a little girl that we would adopt in a heartbeat if we ever had the chance. She had come up to Maine to visit with us and this was taken the day she went back to Cincinnati. This was mid-July and I had just finished reading Savor for the first time and was thinking very seriously about what changes I would make to lose my weight. I had started to get the depression under control by this time due to new medication.

I didn’t really get more pictures taken of me for a while but this one was taken after having lost about 40 pounds. I just happened to be wearing the same shirt as I was in the photo above. Notice how much different the shirt (and I) look.

In this picture, I’m loving the fact that I had gotten back an old favorite shirt. It’s the one that inspired this post. I was getting really close to hitting the 50 pound mark. I was probably at 284 or 285.

Here I am from earlier tonight. 50 pounds lost and loving every moment of it.

Remember that profile picture of me in the water? Check out the new profile.

As you can see, I’ve come a long way and I still have more to go. I want to lose at least 30 more pounds and would love to lose another 50. It’s been an amazing few months here of self discovery and growth. Thank you one and all for your support and encouragement. Every pound has been a small victory and together they all add up to one tremendous one. I couldn’t be happier right now.

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So, here I am. I started really paying attention to my weight on June 30. I actually started before then but I didn’t make it a point to remember the date so I picked that one because I knew it was truthful to use. Now it’s been three months to the day and the scales are close enough together in agreement that I’m comfortable saying I have lost 50 pounds. I’m having a hard time envisioning just what this means. Honestly, the number doesn’t even seem real to me. I’ve lost 15.15% of myself. The rate that I’m losing has tapered off to a much healthier level so I highly doubt I’ll be posting something about losing 100 pounds total three months from now but I do plan on continuing to post about my losses. One of my fears has been that I’ve lost weight too quickly and that I’ll rebound back to a higher weight. I don’t think that will happen though because I’ve made too many changes to allow that to happen as much as if I were just doing things through a few quick fixes.

  1. I have changed my eating habits. Instead of eating fatty and salty and sweet foods, I eat healthy vegetarian low-calorie and low-fat meals.
  2. I have made it a habit to exercise. I’m exercising for long-term benefit and do not see giving it up even after I reach a healthy weight.
  3. I have changed why I eat. I no longer eat to boost my mood or to cope with stress or pain. I eat to provide my body with what it needs.
  4. I have learned to enjoy food in a whole new way. Food was a drug for me and I loved it for that effect. Now, I love it for the opportunities it gives me to practice mindfulness and good health. Food is a symbol of hope and not despair.
  5. I have improved my outlook on life. I’m no longer going through the motions of living but I’m really enjoying every day and feeling wonderful.
  6. I am helping others. Through this blog and my contacts with friends and family, I have inspired others and get to hear stories about how I am helping others to become healthy.
  7. I’m healthier. Besides lowering my weight, I’ve lowered my blood pressure and stress levels and cholesterol and blood sugar. My body is in much better shape now than it’s been in ages.
  8. I’ve given up snacking. Instead of eating to give my hands and mouth something to do, I find better ways to spend my time. That means not watching as much TV and if I do feel hungry between meals grabbing a piece of fruit, some edemame or other vegetable that I can “snack” on. No more salty fatty junk food.
  9. I’ve given up soda and sugary drinks. The few times I’ve had soda in the past few months, it’s almost sickening for me to taste how sweet it is. Water is my main drink of choice now or if I want something fruity or sweet, I have a 0 calorie Sobe Lifewater.
  10. I keep thinking of new ways to live a healthy lifestyle. I’m trying to find new recipes and learn new things about keeping my body healthy so that I don’t get worn down through boredom or a lack of variety. Mindfulness practice has also been a big help here in keeping me aware of how unique each moment of my life really is.

Those are long-term long-lasting changes. Even if I start to slip in one area, the other areas of change keep me going and help me to continue to live a healthy lifestyle. When I decided to no longer be fat and to no longer live the way I was living, I decided to jump right into the deep end of the pool. I gave it my full attention and I spent a lot of time thinking about my lifestyle and how all of the different factors of it contributed to my weight gain and my general lack of health. As we enter the last three months of the year, seasons change and there are parties and snacks and the stresses of holidays. I have given myself the tools that I need to navigate this season in a way that will allow me to focus on the fun and the good things about it rather than stressing out or eating too much or eating the wrong things. I appreciate every single person who has visited my blog and read my posts. I hope that I have been able to inspire others or to help them move closer to their own goals. Eliminating the suffering of all sentient beings is a goal of Buddhism and this is just one way that I am doing my part. I hope that everyone who reads this has a wonderful fall and winter and that they continue to improve their own lives and see their own sufferings come to an end. Peace to you all.

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When is Pride OK?

Today I am full of pride. In fact I can feel it welling up inside me like it wants to burst. I’m so proud that it’s almost palpable. I’m totally 100% happy to feel that pride. Why? Because it’s not directed at myself: it’s for my daughter.

My daughter has my love of reading and language. She reads every day and has been reading far above her level for as long as she has been able to read. Today, in a meeting my wife had with my daughter’s school, they informed her that they were going to refer my daughter to a gifted program for language arts and reading. Additionally, they told my wife that she is doing very well this year and is adjusting well. This is a big deal for her as she is extremely introverted to the point of being referred to a specialist to see if she may have Asperger’s. We’re still waiting for that trip to the specialist as it’s incredibly hard to get in to see him. To hear that she is doing well and is working well in social situations (as well as we could hope for) is a great thing. As a parent you want what’s best for your child and I know that a program that helps addresses her abilities in language arts and reading will be fantastic. When I was her age, I spent most of my time wrapped up in books. I learned about the world around me by reading and not by experience. My daughter is the same way. She reads books and she loves music. It’s like watching my childhood unwrap in front of me all over again. I love to listen to her sing and to watch her pick out tunes on the piano after having only heard a song once or twice. She has a beautiful voice and an incredible amount of potential if she chooses to pursue music seriously.

I love her so much and I am so proud of her accomplishments and her growth and development. I know that she will have challenges to overcome. I had to overcome a lot of similar challenges when I was her age. I know she can do it and I’m so happy to know that she will excel in whatever she chooses to do. For now, I’ll continue to gush with pride and admiration for the only other woman in my life that I love as much as my wife. I’ll continue to cheer and guide her and continue to discover just how deep a father’s love and pride can really be.

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One of the great things about living in Maine is that there is a lot of local foods available. These are usually fresh and organic and delicious. Today I was at the grocery store and I saw some amazing looking tuna steaks for sale. I couldn’t pass it up, because it looked so good: deep red and visibly fresh. I knew I’d found my dinner.

When I got home, I had to figure out what to do with it. I realized I had leftover sesame seeds from the sesame crusted tofu that I made the other night so I did something that you usually find done way too much in restaurants: sesame crusted tuna. It’s extremely easy to do. You put your sesame seeds on a plate, add some pepper and, because I like it, cayenne pepper. Put the tuna on top of the sesame seed mixture and press down firmly. Turn and do the same with the other side. Then, do the edges. Set it aside for a minute or two to rest. While the tuna rests, heat a little olive oil in a pan and then add the tuna. Cook it until the seeds start to brown and then flip and cook the other side. Then, do the edges. It’s quick and extremely easy. I prefer my tuna practically raw on the inside so I don’t cook it very long at all. It came out looking like this.

After I had the tuna resting on the plate, I decided I needed something to go with it. I remembered I had some pears in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten so I grabbed one, cut it up into slices and then drizzled some Blueberry Balsamic vinegar that I got down at Whole Foods the other day. It is made by a really great lady here in Maine and is only available locally here. I met her and we talked a bit about the vinegars she makes and how to use them. I loved the Blueberry so much that I had to get some. If you really want to try this, I did find a recipe for it that looks pretty good over on the Food Network site. Between the tuna and the pears, I was quite full and very content till breakfast tomorrow.

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I just saw a story about a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey that found that atheists and agnostics scored highest on a survey asking questions about religious knowledge. They were followed closely by Jews and the Mormons were in a solid third place. Here is the executive summary from the Pew Survey Results site.

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

One of the nice things the site does is allow you to take a quiz that is similar to the one that they took and reported on. Just for fun, I decided to take the quiz. Here are my results.

I think I did OK on it overall. I then went on to take the full test used in the survey and only missed one question. It was about what religious group Maimonides belonged to. Once I looked up his name on Wikipedia, I did a head slap for forgetting who he was since I would have been able to answer that one correctly at one time. Once again, I am disappointed in the group that until recently I was a part of. I don’t know about other areas of the world but mainstream Protestant Christianity in America has become so anti-intellectual that I’m ashamed to have been associated with it for so long. Personally, I have always valued learning and understanding the way the universe operates. I know that this is a personality trait that I have inherited from my family as we have some extremely intelligent people in it. Obviously, everyone is different and has different interests and motivations and values. However, I don’t understand the sociological issues that drive mainstream conservative Protestants to devalue education to the extent that they do. I have known some extremely intelligent people in that tradition and learned a lot from them. I went to school with many people whose intellectual bona fides I’d never doubt for a second. Why are these people so much in the minority is what I have always wanted to know. I guess I’m just frustrated and still disillusioned with my past. I wish that American Protestants still valued education the way that they once did. As some point in the 20th century, they adopted an “us vs. them” attitude and it has done so much damage to their credibility and their relevance to society that they may never recover. I hope I’m wrong about that. Christianity does have a lot to offer and even though I don’t consider myself a part of the Christian faith any more, I have no ill will towards Christianity. As Huston Smith once said, only two people in history have been asked the question, “What are you?” instead of “Who are you?” when people encounter them for the first time: Jesus and Buddha. It would be a shame to see the legacy of one of them go away because those who made up that legacy chose to remain blissfully ignorant while the world around them changed.

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The Big 50?

According to the scale in my bathroom, my weight is 280. That means I’ve hit the 50 pound mark. According to the scale at the Y, I’m 282 and still have 2 pounds to go. According to my Wii Fit, I’m 285 and have 5 pounds to go. Right now, I’m averaging those numbers together and I’ll say my weight is 282 meaning I’ve lost 48 pounds and have 2 to go. I’d love to just go with the lowest number but it’s also the least reliable of the three scales because it’s an analog with a spring that turns the numbers on a dial. The Y is a little more accurate because it is a balance scale but it’s open for interpretation because there is play in the slide and you can bump it up or down a bit and have it still balance. The Wii is all digital and supposed to be very accurate. However, I don’t like seeing the number that the Wii tells me so that’s why I have decided to split the difference. I’m hitting the classic difference between precision vs. accuracy. A measurement tool may get extremely detailed and be very precise but it may be measuring things completely wrong. A thermometer that says it is 83.28479523 degrees when in fact it’s closer to 80 degrees outside is very precise but totally wrong. The other thing may be a scale that measures something in pounds only and considers something that is 10 pounds 1 oz. or 10 pounds 15 oz. to both be 10 pounds. It’s accurate (both are in the 10 pound mark) but not very precise. That’s one reason why I measure myself on different scales to get a more well rounded picture of what I weigh. Unfortunately, when I really want to be able to claim to have lost 50 pounds becuase, honestly, what’s not to get excited about losing that much weight, I think it would be premature to make that announcement. Just keep coming back because it will be happening soon. Eventually those three numbers will average out to 280 and when they do, I’ll be jumping around like a game show contestent on the Price is Right. I guess this is why I keep going back to the gym and keep eating those salads. Today I’m wearing another shirt that I hadn’t been able to put on for a very long time. When I compared the excess room that it now has to what it looked like when I used to stretch the buttons almost to the point of popping out I realized I’ve lost at least 4 inches off of my belly at its biggest area. Even though I may not be at the 50 pound mark yet, I still have a lot to celebrate.

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One of the things that the book Savor touches on in a few places is the power of food advertisement and how it impacts our desire to eat things that aren’t good for us. One thing that I’ve done to try to make positive changes in my life is to seriously cut back on the amount of TV I watch. I guess that’s why I hadn’t seen this commercial or not been aware of it until recently. I’m not sure what makes me madder about this commercial: the message that it’s presenting or the fact that it’s aimed at kids. If I weren’t getting so many new visitors to the blog thanks to the generosity of Savor’s Facebook page linking to me, I’d unleash a stream of profanity at those responsible for this commercial that could burn holes into any monitor it appears on. The commercial in question is for McDonald’s Happy Meals®. I used to love getting them when I was a kid and they were a brand new concept in marketing food to my generation. I guess we’d gotten tired of listening to some clown and his cohorts dance around the screen on Saturday mornings interrupting our He-Man and Smurfs cartoons telling us to go out and buy more food. I can still hear my brother and I thinking, “if we go to McDonald’s, we can get a box with a toy and some food in it! Isn’t this great?” or, “If I go to McDonald’s, I get a toy!”.  Why is it that every major fast food chain does this? Because it works. Getting kids hooked on instant gratification and shiny new toys that break the day after you get them home is good for the shareholders. Who cares if they’re killing kids by making them fat right? Their bigger bottoms are good for a bigger bottom line so it’s all OK.

My kids are just like most others and when we ask them what they want for dinner they usually give us the name of whatever fast food joint currently has the coolest toy being hocked on TV. Right now that’d definitely McDonald’s because they have Star Wars skateboards and my son is just as crazy about all things Star Wars as I am. Most of the time we don’t do the fast food thing but reinforce the message that just because a toy looks like fun on TV isn’t a good reason to go get food. It’s become a lot easier for me to do this now that I don’t eat at McDonald’s any more (though I do crave a Big Mac every so often).  Recently, a lot of parent’s groups have started to complain about using toys to get kids to want to eat at these restaurants so McDonald’s is trying a different marketing tactic. Check out an example of it below.

How many things can we find wrong in that commercial?

  1. It’s got a catchy happy tune that’s designed to make you associate that feeling with the brand.
  2. It’s got a cute kid in it whose space man helmet is too heavy for his head. Once more, positive feelings = brand message.
  3. It’s got a doggie playing with the aforementioned kid. We have a cuteness overload here people! How can the brand not be wonderful just by association?
  4. The animation is interesting and well executed. It’s visually appealing and slick. It makes you want to watch it and listen.
  5. It’s got a mom giving her special little spaceman boy “all his favorite things”. That’s right, the food from McDonald’s is right up there with a mother’s love. Isn’t that great?
  6. The message. We can’t forget the message. “Joy is a gift. This is the box it comes in.” If you give your kids a happy meal, you give them joy. You wouldn’t want to be a bad parent and deprive your precious little snowflake of joy would you? Look how happy the boy is. Don’t you want that for your kids?

The message from this commercial is what really gets me angry. I feel like going of on a rant that would make Lewis Black hand me some blood pressure medication and remind me to breathe. Who in his right mind would be so evil as to come up with this piece of manipulative crap? Who would then take that evil to a new level and make a national advertising campaign out of it? Who approves all of this stuff and why am I not seeing more critiques of this piece of commercial filth? Telling people that eating fatty foods is joy is just plain wrong. There is no way to justify this. Telling people that feeding their kids fatty foods is joy is even worse! Equating positive and happy feelings with a specific brand that’s dedicated to creating suffering and death and disease is an outright act of commercial propaganda that we should not tolerate. I used to fall for this garbage hook line and sinker in the past and I’ve personally eaten more Big Macs and fries than I could ever hope to count. At one point in my life, you could have probably found special sauce in my blood work if I would have ever had it done back then. I know full well the power of how these advertisements work. I’ve been involved in marketing companies in the past and I know the methodologies used by them to create these branding messages. It’s sick. It’s twisted. It’s unacceptable that I have to constantly fight these messages that are bombarding my kids. We have done a lot to cut back on the amount of television that they watch but when McDonald’s runs a commercial like this every single time Nickelodeon stops for a commercial break they can’t help but see or hear the message. I also try to point out to my kids how the commercials are trying to make them do something. They’re getting better at seeing this stuff for what it is but I don’t know who’s winning the fight for their minds. What happens to other kids who may not have restrictions on how many hours of TV they watch? What if their parents don’t spend time critiquing commercials with them? What message do they pick up when they hear over and over that food is joy. This is just one commercial for one company. Every kids movie, every cartoon, every toy brand all have a special tie in with one restaurant or another to promote themselves. Some of the stuff they do is pretty cool too. I’ll be the first one to admit that. Hell, if I were still a kid, I’d be all over some of the toys offered in these meals. In fact, I’m looking at an Einstein bobble head figure that came in a McDonald’s happy meal that my son gave to me. It was a tie in to a movie and I love seeing it on my desk. I just don’t want to see any more kids grow up to become obese adults. I don’t want people to think that unhealthy food is a source of joy or that giving this food to the people that matter the most to them will bring them joy. It’s an outright lie and it’s killing us all. Even if you don’t eat at these restaurants we’re all paying for the extra costs brought on by treating the diseases that eating too much of this food brings. We’re all suffering because of it.

I think I’m done ranting for now. I still can’t believe this commercial and I hate it to the very core of my being. I’ve said everything that I can without going too far. I feel sickened by the thought of what this commercial is doing to us and our kids. I feel saddened about my own poor choices in the past from buying into these lies. I want the world to change and be better. I want others to complain about things like this in order to get it off the air. I hate the fact that McDonald’s is one of the better fast food companies as far as social responsibility goes and actually does make an effort to do the right thing (sometimes). They lose their moral credibility when something like this comes out. Pay attention to the ads that you see and listen and analyze their message. Think about how they effect you and others. Unless you fear that they might make you sick.

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