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Archive for October, 2010

Last Saturday night, the kids really wanted spaghetti for dinner. It had been a long time since we’d had it so I whipped up some sauce and made the spaghetti. Overall, it was a good, quick dinner. I even kept my portion down to a reasonable level. It was great for me since I hadn’t had pasta like that in a long time.

Later that night, after putting the kids to bed I found myself back in the kitchen doing a little clean up work. That’s when things went sour for me. I saw the pot of leftover pasta and I grabbed a few strands to “test” them to see if it was still OK and able to be saved. The next thing I know, I’m shoveling handfuls of cold pasta down my gullet like some kind of hungry bird at a worm farm.

This was not the first time something like this has happened to me. That used to be my normal way to” put away” pasta. I absolutely love the stuff and I used to eat pasta four to five times a week. The thing is, I wasn’t planning on eating that way this time. As soon as I had eaten two strands of the pasta, I just kept doing it mindlessly. It felt so comfortable that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing. This is what Savor calls “habit energy”. It is habit energy that allows us to eat mindlessly and put away calories without realizing what we are doing.

The thing about habit energy is that it’s a lot like inertia: once it starts, it just wants to keep on going. For a number of months, that particular part of my habit energy had been at rest and had been pretty happy being at rest. However, it didn’t take much of a push for it to get moving again and it wanted to make up for lost time. I probably ate another one and a half servings of spaghetti before I stopped myself and walked away from the kitchen the rest of the night and went back to learning about programming for the Android. This was the harshest lesson I’ve had in the power of habit energy yet.

Besides giving in to an old habit, the thing that annoyed me the most about this was that  I had just written a post earlier that evening about finding things that keep our minds busy and prevent us from mindlessly eating. I think I was mad at myself because I’d been caught up in pride about my ability to resist giving in to bad habits and influences only to fall like that about 2 hours later. So, I’ve gone back to the beginning and worked on forgiving myself for engaging in this unhealthy behavior and I’ve done some self-examination about how to prevent it in the future. For me, the easiest thing would be to put the food away as soon as I’m done eating and am full enough to not want to eat anything more. I’d also know that the item is good to store and saved for later. If I wait for a couple of hours, I will have allowed myself to get hungry again and the thought of shoveling back handfuls of pasta could be too appealing for me to resist.

That’s how I plan to deal with this in the future when confronted with this situation. The past can’t be changed and there’s nothing I can do about it. The great thing about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path is that it provides a framework for me to think about what the right action is to take when presented with this situation again. I need not suffer needlessly for giving into my habit energy if I plan ahead. I’ve already figured out how to do this with the upcoming holiday season. If you don’t have a plan for navigating the dangerous waters of Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of the food and deliciousness that accompanies them, work out your plans now. Don’t wait until “Fat Thursday” rolls around to try and mitigate the problem then. It’ll be too late. I’m doing the same thing now with Halloween candy. I had my one piece of it last night with the kids and now I’m done with it (hopefully). Planning is easy, putting the plan into practice is harder. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it and continue on my way to reaching the 250 mark later this year. The weight that I have on this site is actually the middle point between the two scales that I weigh myself on each day. One says I’m at 265 while the other has me at around 275. Regardless of which one I’m going by, I’m still on track and still losing weight. As long as I keep my habit energy at rest I should be able to continue to ride my positive energy through the new year and into 2011 with a body that is healthier than the one I had in 2001. Regardless of what happens, it’ll be a fun ride.

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Today was one of those days that I really enjoy. I’ve done very little but what I have done was great. I got a new phone: the Motorola Droid 2. It’s much nicer than the one I had previously and, the best thing is, it’s on an open platform and you’re able to create applications for it if you happen to be one of those types of people who actually enjoys the arduous process of developing applications and learning programming techniques for a mobile platform. I just happen to possess that kind of craziness so I’m downloading and installing the development tools for the Android phone now. There are very few things in life that make me happier than learning something new.

Android robot logo.

I have a few ideas about applications that I’d like to make so I’m looking forward to being able to dig into the API (Application Programing Interface) documentation and learning the ins and outs of how to make programs for this platform. Another benefit of being able to learn is that it gives me something to pay attention to rather than sitting around and potentially eating or allowing unhealthy impulses get the best of me. Sure, mindfulness and meditation and exercise are great tools for becoming healthier, but sometimes you need something different to do. For me that’s learning. What type of techniques do you use to assist in your goal of living a healthy lifestyle? What kind of hobbies or interests do you have that give you joy and help you to live the life you want to live? While you answer these questions, I’ll be digging through technical manuals and language references. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?!

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A Lazy Saturday

This is the first Saturday in well over a month that hasn’t been a crazy day. It’s been great to not have to run around from one place to the next and to just hang out at home and watch movies with the kids and set up my new Droid 2 phone. I don’t think I’ve really done anything “productive” today and I’m totally cool with that. It’s refreshing to have a day like this every once in a while. We get so wrapped up in the day-to-day distractions that we almost begin to feel bad if we’re not doing something or going somewhere. In fact, I’m so totally into not doing anything today that I think I’m just going to go take a nap now. Have a good day everyone and remember to avoid the candy tomorrow. I know I’ll be trying my best to leave my kid’s candy buckets alone.

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As happens many times to me on the Internet, I noticed a link to a story today that grabbed my attention. The story concerns a report recently released demonstrating that the areas of a teenager’s brain that handle impulse control are smaller in obese teens compared to healthy weight teens. The study doesn’t say what the causation of the smaller brain region may be but it did find a correlation between the brain and weight and shows that it’s not just a matter of willpower to overcome the factors that lead some people to overeat. The story was interesting and I’ve got a link to the livescience.com article below. The version of this story I read was from a more mainstream source and contained a few more advertisements than usually appear on livescience. One ad in particular caught my attention and made my blood pressure rise.

The ad I saw

 So, we have an article all about obesity in children/teens and smack dab in the middle of it there’s an ad for Nestle Toll House cookies. Don’t the dad and the little girl look like they’re having fun with those juicy, yummy, sugary, fatty and salty little hunks of processed food-product goodness? The ad even asks a very relevant questions: Who would you bake some love for? Seriously, who do you love so much that you’d pump them full of calories and fat and sugars that will only lead to health problems in the future? My kids of course! Who else would I bake something like this for, my enemies? Seriously, who doesn’t love their children so much that they wouldn’t want to teach them the valuable lesson that food equals love? Remember, extra-chunky kids require extra-chunky chips so don’t go skimpy on them. Make sure you’re filling your kids up with enough carbs and sugar and fat from an early age that they’ll never be able to escape the grasp that the food industry needs to get its consumers into badly enough that they keep consuming even when they know it will kill them. I don’t know about you, but I sure am thankful that the Nestle corporation is thinking of my kids. It helps me sleep at night knowing that there’s someone out there thinking about how to hook help them have snacks that they’ll love that will love them back.

The other great thing about this ad requires a bit of in-depth examination. When you blow up the image so that you can measure the individual pixels, you will find that the word “Love” is indeed bigger than all of the other words. I measured the letter O in “Who”, “Some”, “Love” and “For” and this revealed that the “O” in “some” and “for” are both 14 pixels in height. The “O” in “who” is bigger at 19 pixels. The “O” in “Love” is a whopping 22 pixels tall. I found that the “V” shape of the “W” in “Who” is also slightly smaller than the “V” shape in “Love” by 3 pixels as well. It seems like a lot of busy work to measure individual pixels but believe me when I say this is an intentional move on the part of those who created this ad. Marketers are very creative people and are very good at what they do. The word “love” looks to be about the same size as the word “who” but it’s just big enough to make it stand out to your mind. Never believe an advertisement. Especially one that appeals to emotion.

The one thing I liked about this ad was the option to “Share Your Story”. I think it’s a wonderful thing that Nestle wants to know who I would love enough to feed their pre-made processed crap disguised as wholesomeness in order to enhance shareholder value by engaging customers in a social media paradigm that is designed to improve the overall experience and drive brand recognition and loyalty among a desirable demographic of parents with young children who don’t possess the intellectual acuity to know that they’re being played by a gigantic corporation with the sole purpose of increasing quarterly earnings in order to make the analysts happy. I think I’d like to help them out with this endeavor, but I wouldn’t want to rush into anything while I’m still fuming about their blatant disregard for the health and well-being of children and parents alike by pushing candy and carbs and fat as “love”. So, I’m going to have a poll. Please tell me what you think: should I share my story with Nestle? I’ll give it a week and then we’ll see what my readers think I should do. Of course, I’ll share whatever I post on their site here for the enjoyment of all. My only problem may be keeping it to 250 words but I think I can try.

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Sometimes, there are foods that I am aware of but I have never had the opportunity to try or have not made myself. Last night, those two forces combined into one fantastic dinner. For a long time now, I have known about tempeh: a soy product that is related to tofu but contains grains in addition to the soy protein. I had never had it and didn’t know what to do with it. Then, I saw a recipe for tempeh bacon. Needless to say, this intrigued me. I bought a block of tempeh, got out my cutting board and my sharpest knife and sliced the tempeh as thinly as I could. I then covered the tempeh with liquid smoke and seasoning for flavor. I proceeded to fry the tempeh slices in some hot olive oil and they came out crispy, brown and DELICIOUS.

I really liked the flavor of the tempeh. It is a bit earthier than tofu and it’s a lot easier to work with. You don’t need to press it or worry about getting the liquid out of it. Plus, it’s really versatile for cooking. You can bake it, saute it, fry it or steam it just to name a few preparation methods. I took my tempeh “bacon” and I put it on top of a salad. It took an otherwise standard salad to a whole new level. My daughter came out as I was making it, saw the tempeh sitting on my plate and asked me, “Is that BACON?” I explained to her that it wasn’t and offered to let her try some but she politely declined. I think her words were something along the lines of rather having her teeth pulled out than have to try something that gross but she’s only 10 so I can’t blame her for not being as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods. If you are looking for new ways to expand your vegetarian arsenal, I would really suggest checking out this great ingredient. It looks a little weird but it works great in just about anything I’ve seen it in.

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Believe it or not, I’m not an avid reader of Marie Claire magazine. I know: shocking. Last night, it came to my attention that there is a TV show called Mike & Molly. I’d never heard of it before and still don’t plan on watching it. Apparently, someone from Marie Claire wrote an op-ed piece making some disparaging remarks about obesity and people who are obese in response to this new show. Believe it or not, this didn’t go over very well with a lot of people. The writer then tried to apologize and retract some of her statements but this backfired on her too. It looks like her small post has gotten about 2000 comments so far and a ton of media coverage. That’s not a bad number when you consider I’m happy if a post ever gets 5 comments (including my own replies to others). Needless to say, I have a few opinions on this myself. Some quite strong. There are a lot of really good phrases going through my head that I really want to use to describe my reaction to this piece and some of the comments about it. However, I will refrain because I don’t think adding my rant to this “discussion” will do anyone any good.

Believe me, I could unleash a torrent of words about this subject that could burn your eyes if I allowed myself to let loose. Instead, I will attempt to state my thoughts on this issue as rationally as I can considering the vast emotional issues wrapped up in this topic.

First of all, as someone who is now just obese and not morbidly obese, I fully know the pain of being seen the way that this author views “fatties” as she so graciously refered to us in the title of her article. If you think it’s uncomfortable to have to see someone like me, think about how much more uncomfortable it can be at times to actually be me. I used to despise those plastic outdoor chairs that were always too narrow and somehow  magically buckled when I sat on them for too long. When a room of people turns to look and see what just happened as you pick yourself up off the ground and try to find a new chair to sit in, you feel every single one of those eyes and you don’t have to be a mind reader to know what they’re thinking. They very well may not be thinking what you assume but the perception of judgement is something you can never escape. When you are obese, you don’t need to read an article like this to know that you’re considered a second class person by others. However, articles like this do serve to put words behind the negative emotions that those of us who are obese feel.

The author makes a rather poor analogy between viewing the obese the same way she would a drunk or a heroin addict. While her analogy fails, she does hit on an important issue that needs to be discussed more: food is a drug. Especially the way that we eat food today. When was the last time you looked at a package of prepared food and actually knew what all of those chemicals were and knew what those long words meant. When food becomes more chemistry than cookery it’s an indicator that something is wrong. The food industry today does everything in its power to keep consumers consuming. It is in their financial interest to make these foods as appealing as possible. That means upping the fat, sugar and salt contents in a case of junk-food one-upmanship that has continued to spiral out of control. The largest drink offered at 7-11 actually holds more liquid than the human bladder can physically contain. Fried and salty fast foods assault our eyes and nose and mouth whenever we go out in public. Drive down a street in just about any town in the country and I’m sure you’ll see the same stuff offered by the same companies with the same negative impact on the health of the people in that town. Junk food is everywhere. It’s easier to get than drugs or alcohol and the unhealthy stuff often has the same hold on the brains of the obese as heroin or crack has on those who are addicted to them.

The article also makes the often-heard but grossly wrong statement that the obese could change if only they put their minds to it. We know this isn’t true of smokers, alcoholics or drug addicts and for the reasons I’ve stated above, this is true for those addicted to food as well. My weight was a symptom of a bigger issue in my life: depression and anxiety. No amount of will power would ever change my brain chemistry to allow me to no longer use food as a drug to self-medicate. There were times when all I wanted to do was stop eating but I couldn’t. I knew that eating all the chips or ice cream or candy or soda was wrong and bad for me but I had as much chance of stopping myself as I would stopping myself from falling if I trip down the steps. Many of us are obese because we no longer have the ability to make the choices that would allow us to make these changes on our own. For me, it took hitting an emotional wall where I was considering suicide and had chest pains and was suffering from such severe sleep apnea that I couldn’t even take a short nap without a CPAP to keep me breathing. Only then did I seek professional help from a doctor who helped me to see the underlying factors behind my weight and emotional state that I was able to begin to make changes.

The changes I made weren’t small either. I radically threw away my old lifestyle and embraced a new one in order to develop the habits I would need to break my cycle of eating and weight gain. I happen to be blessed with the Aspergers-like intensity that only a hard-core geek could have to make those changes. I used the same things that contributed to my situation to fight the effects that it had on me. Fortunately, most people aren’t like me. They don’t have something weird in their brain that gives them the ability to focus on one particular thing and learn everything possible about it to the level of obsessiveness that borders on madness. I’m one of the few lucky ones who just so happens to be able to throw myself into the deep end and learn pretty quickly how to float. I would never be so arrogant as to think that anyone else would be able to do what I have done the way that I have done it. Still even with that intensity, I would have failed without a lot of external support and assistance. Needless to say, it is very hard to make long-term lasting changes that will start to reduce ones weight. Having support and compassion from others is critical. Judgemental articles like this one do not help.

To answer the final question the author poses in her post, I do think she is being an insensitive jerk (her words not mine). However, she is also ignorant of a lot of facts about obesity and is lacking the understanding about what it takes to fight it. Having to look at a person who is obese should not be revolting. However, given the way that society does judge those who have been sucked into the obesity vortex our society has created, her attitude is in no way unique. What we need to do, as a society, is recognize how our choices have impacted not only ourselves, but everyone else in the world. We need to become more compassionate to those who have been labeled as “different” or “other” or “defective” regardless of what character trait, physical trait, preference or emotional issue may be causing them to be labeled that way.

Once upon a time, illness was pretty easy to understand. Germs and bacteria and viruses were the things that caused people to become sick and to die. Today, medical advances have made these issues much less severe. That has not made illness go away. Rather, it has made room for a whole new set of sicknesses to become the leading killers of people in the U.S. Depression, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. are all modern problems that should be treated with the same response that once fought tuberculosis, mumps, polio, measles, diphtheria, dysentery and cholera. Obesity is a sickness that has its own set of challenges and problems and if left untreated will cause an early death. Instead of turning a blind eye to this problem, I ask the author of the Marie Claire post and others who feel like her to rethink your own opinions of obesity and learn about ways to change our society for the betterment of all instead of pointing fingers and calling names. We know we’re fat. We do care. We are trying to change. We’re not the sole holders of responsibility for our present state: everyone is responsible. Just like the cost of treating obesity will fall on everyone, the challenge to make changes that will end it will also be the responsibility of everyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to lock myself in a small room and rant at the walls and then go eat a salad.

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This is another wonderful movie that I have watched twice now and really enjoy. It is a documentary called, “Wake up! On the Road with a Zen Master.” It was made about Zen Master Seung Sahn’s teaching trip to Europe. Master Seung Sahn was the founder of the Kwan Um School of Zen of which I am a part. He was an amazing teacher and those who knew him have wonderful stories to tell about him. I never had the chance to meet him as he died in 2004, long before I ever started to think about Buddhism. From what I have been told, this movie is a great way to learn about this dynamic man who, despite some of his faults, was a very loving and caring individual. The movie can be found at Google Video if you’d like to watch it in different sizes or below.

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