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Archive for November, 2010

Today was great. I ended up having to get pants that are another size smaller. I can’t believe that I’m now down to a 40 inch waist. This is the second time I’ve had to get smaller jeans. Just for fun I tried on the jeans I use to wear and they fell down. I might not be losing the weight as quickly, but I’m definitely losing the inches. I think the last time I had a 40 inch waist was around 2002. I still remember the horror that came with realizing I had a 40 inch waist. Now, I can’t believe the joy that comes from being down to 40 inches.

I try not to let my mood be dictated by external forces but when something like this happens I can’t help but be overjoyed. These milestones like every 20 pounds lost or every new size of pants always seem to do that to me. However, even though I’m happy for the moment, I have to remember this is just one small stop on a larger journey. These moments are just signs that I’m heading in the right direction. I think what I’m dealing with here are issues pertaining to impermanence. The fact is I’m happy to weigh what I do because it’s so much less than I’ve been in years. This gives me reassurance that I’m doing the right things and the weight loss is just going to keep on going. I’m allowing myself to think, incorrectly, that the weight loss process is happening on its own and will continue. This causes me to become upset that it’s not really that way. See how this works? It’s a great example of how Buddhism really does have a handle on the causes of our emotional suffering and turmoil. In applying the four noble truths to my situation, I am able to identify the illusion I am clinging to and see it for what it is: an illusion. Once you identify the illusion, it’s simply a matter of finding a solution to “cut through” it. In my case, this is applying a bit of “right view” and “right action”.

Right action is easy to apply. I’ve made it a point to get my not-as-fat-as-it-use-to-be ass to the gym yesterday and today. I’ve spent a lot of time on the arc trainer and on the treadmill. In the past two days, I’ve burned 900 calories and covered 3.2 miles. Additionally, I’ve downloaded a couple of new apps for my Android phone that help me track my exercise, create an exercise plan, track my daily caloric intake and, by using my initial weight and end weight for each week, calculate how much weight loss is from exercise and how much is from caloric reduction. With daylight savings time ending tonight it will also be easier for me to get out of bed and into the gym. Here in the Northeast, the sun hasn’t been coming up until after 7:00. Now, it will rise a bit after 6:00 so getting up won’t require moving around while there’s still hours of darkness left. That’s one correction taken care of. I have also found a great website where I can store all this data and my exercise app automatically syncs with it to track my daily numbers. I’m going to review this app and web site in greater detail soon so come back often to find out more.

Right view is a little harder to apply because it is a mental change and not as easy to measure on a check list. It really has to deal with my attitudes and outlooks and demands a lot of attention to enact. That’s where things like smaller jeans really help. It’s those small boosts I get from these happy moments that help me keep in mind the longer term goals that I’m moving to. I am trying to transform external stimulus into internal motivation and keep that motivation going. Doing that requires that I be continuously mindful of the beneficial things I am doing for myself and finding things to celebrate on a regular basis. I will need to maintain my list of things that make me happy with as much as I can think of. The new jeans size will definitely be on the list. The other thing I did tonight was dig up my medical test results to review the positive changes I’ve made over the past 5 months. For instance, when I started this journey, my blood pressure was 148/92: not good at all. Today when I checked it, I was at 123/75. That’s going on the list too. Once you get started doing this, it’s gets easier. Keep a gratitude journal and add to it and review it daily: it works wonders for your attitude.

The name of this blog is Dharma Loss. The title of this post is “I’m a Loser”. In both of these cases, I am using the word “loss” – a word that we often ascribe negative attributes to, in a positive way. I am losing the weight and the unhealthy attitudes that were harming me. I am losing my old self that was hurting so much that death was preferable to life. I’m losing my habits that held me in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and weight gain. Today I think more in terms of what I’m gaining, but back when I created this blog I was coming out of a very dark period so I wasn’t capable of thinking in positive terms like I can now. It just didn’t occur to me that I could phrase things differently back in July. Now, I’ve got the name so I’m sticking with it; kind of like my tattoo that I have no intention of ever having removed. I also chose the title for this post because it’s the Beatles song I’ve had stuck in my head today as I’ve thought about losing weight and becoming healthy. I’m going to keep on losing and eventually I’ll get where I need to be. For now, I’m just going to remember that the weight loss is happening as a result of my effort and I need to continue to apply that effort in order to keep the pounds away. I have a lot more to say about this topic but it’s late, I’ve written a lot tonight and I still want to meditate before going to bed. Goodnight everyone and don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour.

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Don’t believe everything you read. For example, the title of this post is a lie. I guess that’s just one other way that losing weight isn’t like baseball. I’m not admitting to crying or anything, but there has definitely been a lot of ups and downs and time spent in some uncomfortable territory. That comes from not only trying to lose weight but from losing my old relationship with food. As the saying goes,  breaking up is hard to do.

Now, we’re entering into the frenzy of the holidays and all of the food that comes with it. In less than two weeks, we’ll be heading out to California for Thanksgiving with my family. I’m really looking forward to the trip but I’m also feeling anxious about the massive amount of unhealthy food I’ll be exposed to. Fortunately, we’ll be in California so it will be vegetarian friendly. I’m trying to get myself mentally psyched up for the holidays this year because this is going to be a time full of some of my favorite foods. I don’t know about you, but I love eggnog. I love pumpkin pie and dressing and mashed potatoes and corn and gravy and ham and turkey and everything that goes along with a holiday meal. One year, I spent most of Christmas in the kitchen with my brother and we actually made a Christmas goose with traditional chestnut stuffing. Then there’s the cookies and candies and cakes and candy canes and those little hard candies that magically have a Christmas tree in the middle. I love that stuff and I’m sad that I won’t be indulging like I have in the past. I’ve been asking myself what’s more important to me though: eating holiday food or becoming healthy. The truth is that it’s more important to me that I continue to live a healthy lifestyle than it is for me to eat all the Thanksgiving and Christmas goodies.

Ever since I hit the 55 pound mark for weight loss (as marked by my much more generous bathroom scale that puts my weight in the 260’s) I’ve had a hard time continuing to be as mindful as I was when I was in the 300’s. I stepped on a scale at the gym today and it also had my weight at 275 instead of the 260’s I’ve been seeing every day. This really had me down for a bit this morning but it also renewed my resolve to work hard and continue to lose this weight. I’ve had nothing but water to  drink today (about 4 liters) and I’ve eaten only salads for my meals. I also spent extra time working out today. I spent 45 minutes in the gym and burned 450 calories between the arc trainer and the treadmill. That made me feel good about myself and I’m pleased that I was able to exert that kind of effort without pushing myself too hard but I really did want to eat something other than a salad today for lunch or dinner.

I’m going to have to spend some time thinking about why I’ve been feeling this way lately. My last post pretending to wonder why I was still up was just that: pretend. I knew I’d had too much caffeine and then had an energy drink in the late afternoon and my body was in no shape to handle that. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have been phased by all that caffeine and other stuff but I’m not that person any more. I think maybe I’m in a bit of a grieving mode. I’m realizing with a bit more clarity just how hard it is going to be to maintain these lifestyle changes. I’m determined to do it though and I’ll get through this mental blockage and then get through the holiday season as a changed person. I’m nearly 60 pounds lighter than I was in the middle of this year and by the time next June rolls around I think I’ll have lost a hundred pounds. I’ve got hope about that but trying not to get attached to that coupled with a desire to not be attached to my old habits has me felling a bit adrift on my journey. One of the techniques to deal with these feelings I learned in Savor is to list out the reasons I have to be happy about where I am in this adrifted state.

  • I’ve lost nearly 60 pounds
  • I have more energy than I did in June
  • I’m no longer suffering from the effects of depression
  • I know how to eat healthy foods
  • I am able to share my thoughts on a blog where other people have come and been inspired
  • I no longer fear dying early of a heart attack
  • I’m only obese now instead of morbidly obese
  • I’ve already had to buy smaller clothes once and I need to go out and do it again very soon
  • I have family and friends who love and support me
  • Even after a large effort in the gym my body really isn’t in that much pain from it
  • I am more focused and able to be more efficient in my work
  • I look for ways to help others and enjoy doing it
  • My creativity is at an all time high in writing and in designing solutions with computer applications
  • I have an inner peace that is not being disturbed by the shallow emotional stuff I’m going through
  • I have the skills to cope with my feelings and make the right decisions
  • My life is significantly better now than it has been in a very long time
  • I have goals that I am able to work toward and I see progress toward those goals
  • I am loved in ways I can never know and I feel that love inside me
  • My blood sugar is very low and I do not fear diabetes
  • My cholesterol is low and in a very good place for someone my weight/age
  • My blood pressure has gone down a significant amount and I am no longer considered pre-hypertensive

I feel better already. Seriously, I do. Just the act of having to think about the things I’m happy about and seeing them listed out in front of me is a great thing. Sure, there are times when I’m going to feel down and I’m going through one of those times momentarily but the fact is I have a lot more happy in me than I do sad. So, now that I’ve finished writing this post that I started 12 hours ago I think I’m going to drag my tired body up into bed and collapse into something like a coma and sleep long and soundly. As long as I get more than 5 hours of sleep tonight I think I’ll be good. I do not want to be writing on this blog at 1 A.M. again.

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What Am I Doing Up?

It’s 12:30 in the morning and I’m still up. I should have been in bed hours ago but can’t seem to be able to sleep. I can’t think of any particular reason for why I’m still up, but I am. The only thing that I’ve done out of the ordinary was to get my new phone connected to my home network in order to stream/copy data between my phone and computer. This was a lot of fun for me and I still can’t get over how cool this phone is. I downloaded the new Matt & Kim album today and copied it over to my PC without any issues/problems. It’s nice to know that unlike an iPod or an iPhone I don’t need to connect the device to the computer to copy data from one device to the other. So, new music and new technology could be why I’m still up but I don’t know.

I’m lying here in my bed tapping away on my iPod keyboard while my wife quietly snores next to me. Maybe it’s her snoring that’s keeping me up but I don’t know.

It’s finally getting down into the 20s & 30s here at night so the house is a little colder than normal and my feet feel like two blocks of ice stuck to my legs. Maybe it’s the cold that’s keeping me up but I don’t know.

Since I’m lying in bed, my cat Spencer thinks this means it’s time for him to be in bed too. He sleeps between my knees. Maybe my cat is keeping me up but I don’t know.

It’s raining outside and I can hear each drop hit the windows and the skylight over my head. Maybe it’s the sound of the rain that’s keeping me up but I don’t know.

The rain seems to amplify the sound of the traffic outside so it’s louder than normal when cars go by. Maybe it’s the sound of the cars that’s keeping me up but I don’t know.

Since it’s cold outside, the heat cycles on more frequently now and the baseboard heaters make noise. Maybe it’s the crinkle and crackle of expanding and contracting metal that’s keeping me up but I don’t know.

Now that I have a solution to a problem I was stuck on at work, I can finally wrap up this never ending project. Maybe it’s excitement and anticipation that’s keeping me up but I don’t know.

Or, maybe it’s the fact that I had more caffeine today than my body is used to because of mindless consumption of coffee followed up by accepting an energy drink that someone offered me in the late afternoon. Perhaps too many stimulants coupled with an overacting analytic mind has caused me to stay up far too late thinking about why I’m not doing what I should be doing. But I don’t know.

If only there was something I could put my finger on and know that it was the cause. I guess I’ll never know. I think I may go downstairs and mull it over with a fresh cup of coffee…

Goodnight everyone.

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This has been a difficult week for me at work. I have a project that I’ve been working on for months that I just want to get done with so I can move on to the next thing. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. I need to get this project completed and deliver a high quality solution that will meet my customer’s needs. I was hoping to have delivered it yesterday except that the simple component I had to develop on Monday turned into a massive ordeal that has taken me four days to complete. Without going into a lot of technical details here, I’ll just say that it’s amazing how complicated creating an email message in one application and delivering it to another application that fills the task of delivering that message can be. It’s not like email hasn’t been around for decades. By Internet standards, email is a dinosaur. Oh, well, at least I have a solution I’m happy with now. I just can’t believe it took me as long as it did to fix this “simple” problem.

The reason I was able to solve the problem was because I was admitted that I couldn’t come up with a solution I was happy with. I could have been like a lot of technical people who rely on their own skills and egos to get things done but I kept my manager updated with my progress and admitted that I wasn’t sure how to solve this problem. Fortunately, he had experienced an issue like this once before and by working with him we were able to create a solution that I was able to implement in a matter of minutes. Sure, I spent three solid days working on the problem determined to find a solution but I didn’t let that determination keep me from seeking help when it was needed.

Determination is a very important trait to possess when you are trying to lose weight or learn something or accomplish a task. It will keep us focused on a goal and assist us in keeping to the path to reach our desired outcome. However, we can attach to determination just like we can attach to anything or anyone else. When we attach to determination it ceases to  be something helpful and becomes obsession. There are very few obsessions I know of that are ever helpful in the long run. Personally, I’m obsessive about breathing but I don’t see that as a real problem for me. I think that’s about it as far as healthy obsessions go. The problem is that we have a hard time seeing when we cross the line from determination to obsession because of that little thing we like to call the ego. It’s the job of the ego to cling to things like a possessive gorilla with a bunch of bananas.
Go ahead: try to take a banana away from a hungry 600 pound gorilla. It ain’t going to happen. Keeping the gorilla from grabbing the bananas in the first place is the best way to keep us from going bananas with our obsessions

How do we do this? It seems like there is always something that is crying out for our attention. Someone always needs us to do something or there are things we feel we need or must have in order to be happy. Those things cause us to be determined about something (either to achieve our goal or to avoid whatever it is making demands of us). So, determination is really nothing more than a commitment to put forth the required amount of effort to get something done. This is a good thing. There are a thousand good examples of determination I could use here: practicing for a race or to learn a piece of music or to lose five pounds or whatever. The ego becomes involved when we begin to identify with the object of our determination. Once we can apply the word “I” to a thing or a goal, the door for the ego is opened and the gorilla starts to smell those fresh bananas. It’s only a matter of time before he pounces on them. Once you equate your happiness or peace or whatever to achieving whatever you are determined to do/get/learn/etc. you become attached to it. At that point, determination goes from a positive to a negative. If I think I can’t be happy unless I’m able to bench press 150 pounds or win the affection of that cute girl in accounting I’ll never be happy: even if I do get strong enough to bench 150 or find myself with the girl of my dreams.

There are a lot of reasons for this and I’m not going to try to explore them all here. The one I would like to focus on is that when we attach to the object of our desire or become obsessed with something, we build up impossible dreams and ascribe mystical power to something other than ourselves to determine our happiness (or whatever we think the object of our desire will bring us). We build up a false separation in our minds between ourselves and the object of our desire and then we try to bridge that separation as if our lives depended on it. This never works. In the history of humanity, it’s never worked and it never will. That we keep believing it works and we keep acting as if it will work is the greatest affirmation of the phrase “Delusions are endless” that I’ve ever seen. When we are determined to do something, that is good. When we are obsessed, that is not good. Being aware of how we move from determination to obsession is the key. There is no one answer that I can offer that will work for everyone. You need to find what drives you and examine what your expectations are. When we see our motivators for what they are, the gorilla fades away and we can avoid the attachments that drive us to obsession in the first place. Then we are able to have our determinations and experience the real joy that comes from having that determination rewarded.

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My trip to Trader Joe’s the other night scored me another item for my pantry that comes highly recommended: Trader Joe’s Three Grain Tempeh. Instead of just making fake bacon, I did my research and found a recipe I just happened to have all the ingredients for. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and made some minor adjustments to make it more to my liking and I was quite pleased with the results. In order to attempt this recipe you must like tempeh, chili peppers and onions. If you do, this is totally worth it. The sweetness of the onions really plays off the heat of the jalapeños and the soy sauce brings out the flavors. Then, the crunchy tempeh rounds out the dish very well. Unfortunately the pictures of this didn’t come out as well as I’d like them to but I was trying out the new camera on the phone instead of using my normal camera to get pics of the food.

Oniony Tempeh

Ingredients

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 package tempeh
1 yellow onion
1 red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 red jalapeño
1 green jalapeño
1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar

Directions

1. Dice the tempeh into small rectangular pieces.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the tempeh. Cook the tempeh until it is crispy and brown on all sides.
3. Remove the tempeh from the oil and put aside
4. Cut the yellow and red onions in half from top to bottom and then cut each half lengthwise so that you end up with long strands of onion (think half circle onion rings) – incidentally,  this type of cut is referred to as Lyonnaise.
5. Sauté the onions until they are translucent and aromatic. While the onions are cooking, mince the garlic and slice the jalapeños into thin pieces.
6. Sauté the mixture briefly the add in the tempeh and stir around.
7. When everything is mixed well, add the soy sauce and the brown sugar. Stir continuously until the brown sugar has dissolved and the tempeh and onion mixture has been completely coated.

 

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I’m currently reading Brad Warner’s new book Sex, Sin and Zen and have been enjoying it a lot. His writing style in this book is very similar to his other books and he is entertaining, enlightening and educational all at the same time. As the title suggests, the book has a lot to say about sex. However, there’s a good bit of Zen in there too.

One of the topics Mr. Warner covers is a discussion on whether or not sex can be a path to enlightenment. It’s an interesting discussion and he doesn’t give a straight answer about the subject (when has a Zen master ever given a straight answer to a question) though he expresses his doubts that it could be done easily. Instead, he advocates sitting in meditation as a more effective path. I really loved his rationale for this: meditation is boring; it’s so boring that learning to be open to your true self in the midst of it will make it possible to be open no matter what you’re doing.

I’m nowhere near as skilled a writer or communicator as Brad is so I’m simplifying his argument quite a bit and I do recommend the book if the subject matter is of interest to you and you want to dig deeper into what he has to say about this. What he said really did strike a chord with me since I have found this to be true for myself. There are few things more boring than sitting on your ass for 20 minutes trying to keep a clear mind without anything to hold your brain in check. If you can find peace of mind while doing this, it really does become easier to find it at other times. I think it’s easier sometimes to have peace of mind while a small child is going “Dad, dad, dad, dad, DAD!!” at you every two minutes with one silly question after another than it is to find it while sitting in meditation.

I’ve only been sitting in meditation for 4 months now but I’m already starting to see the truth in this. When I’m in the middle of a frustrating or annoying experience, it is easier for me to deal with the feelings that I have in those times. Likewise, when I am happy or having fun, I’m able to focus on those good feelings rather than have my mind wander away from the present moment. I am able to be my true self with a little less effort. It’s still quite a struggle to do most times but I have seen some improvement. The fact that I’m even aware that it is what I should be doing is a great improvement in and of itself. To bring things back to the topic of eating and weight, when I was stuck in my old habits and patterns, eating was just something I did. It was like breathing or sleeping or having a heartbeat: I didn’t have to think about it and often couldn’t control it if I wanted to. Now I find that my enjoyment of food and eating has gone up quite a bit even though I do far less of it. That still strikes me as ironic since it is so counterintuitive to the way we normally think more=better. A lot of that new found enjoyment is a direct result of the time I have spent in meditation. I’m much more comfortable in my skin and more at ease with who I am. I’m learning to live with my self and be open to allowing my true self to come forward instead of the false self that I we are so often wrapped up in. I’m going through the chocolate into the rich creamy nuggety center of the real self. It’s even better than I thought it would be.

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Well not really but sort of. I guess I need to preface this with the news that we finally have a Trader Joe’s here in Maine. Now that the crowds have died down (a bit), I ventured over there last night. It was great to see all the old familiar Trader Joe brands along with low prices on all kinds of great things. One of the things picked up was the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie spice mix. It came highly recommended from another blog that I read a while back and don’t remember the address of right now. That blog included a few recipes for what to do with this spice mix. One of the recommendations was to put it into oatmeal. I tried this today and am pleased with the results. It’s a little odd at first but pumpkin pie flavored oatmeal works. Now, if I only had any coffee left at home I could try making my own pumpkin-spiced flavored beverage. I guess that will have to wait for another day.

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