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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

I have so many things to be thankful for. Even though I weigh more now than I did last Thanksgiving, I’m back on track and I’m making progress. A healthy lifestyle feels like it’s within reach again. I’ve gone through one of the darkest times in my life and been able to get through it. I am thankful for the newfound strength I have because of this.

I am thankful for all of the new friends I have made over the past few years since I moved to Maine. Moving a thousand miles from my home and family and friends was a difficult thing to do. It was another challenge that helped me to change and grow as a person.

I am thankful for my kids and the joy that they bring to my life. Their humor and energy and joy is contagious. I learn as much from my kids as they do from me. Being their dad is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I am thankful for my practice and my sangha. I have found in my practice a real and practical way to address the challenges and struggles that life presents. I have made many new friends and am thankful for every one of them.

Speaking of being thankful, I’m thankful for the people who visit this blog. I was remembering a discussion I had a few years ago with a friend and he was encouraging me to start blogging. I actually told him that I wasn’t one of the kind of people with egos big enough to think that others may want to read about what I had for lunch. Now, I blog about what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seriously, if you’re reading this, it makes me happy. And if you’re wondering, I had a big plate of bacon. It’s thanksgiving so I’m not worrying about it too much. Everything in moderation. I didn’t have anything else with it but a cup of coffee.

There are so many other blessings I have in my life that I lose track of them all. Sure, life is hard sometimes and there are things about it that I would like to change but when you add everything up, the good far outweighs the bad.

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There’s a Bear in my Bed!

One of the many down sides of being overweight is sleep apnea. Each night, I have to put on a face mask and have pressurized air blown into my nose to ensure that I don’t stop breathing while I sleep. Tonight, as I get ready to go to bed, I find this waiting for me. My daughter has put a bear to sleep in my bed and, since the CPAP mask is what you wear if you’re sleeping in my room, she has hooked it up to Mr. Humphrey. And, to make sure he’s comfortable, there’s a friend to keep a close eye on him while he sleeps. My kids have the weirdest sense of humor. I wonder where they get it from?

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This has always been my favorite vegetable. Seriously, when I see this veggie being served, I’m always sure to go up and get seconds and, if I’m lucky, thirds. If you want to be a vegetarian, all you need to do is eat this every single day. Check it out.

This is a vegetable?

Personally, I’ve always wondered why I don’t see it on the salad bar more often. Before you start posting angry comments in response to this story, I’m just going by the guidelines coming out of congress. The reasoning is that pizza has tomato paste in it. And what is tomato paste? It’s a veggie of course! We need to make sure our kids are getting a healthy serving of vegetables each day and, thank you GOP,  what better way to get those veggies into the kids than tomato paste?

This is a vegetable.

Another great vegetable is the potato. After all, it’s packed full of carbs and starch that the body converts to sugar and stores as fat. It’s also got those vitamin things that those nutrition people keep going on about. The great thing about potatoes is their versatility. They can be served in fries or tot form.  On special occasions they can be boiled, mashed and served with a generous covering of butter and gravy. What more could you want?

I've got tots

A tot expert

Let’s not forget salt! Oh, dear Lord, what would we do without a generous amount of that beautiful rock to add flavor and zing to our meals? Cutting salt content in the foods our children eat robs then of developing a false impression of what food is supposed to taste like. That’s just un-American. If we cut the amount of sodium in foods via federal regulation, we rob parents, schools and communities of the ability to voluntarily choose to reduce kid’s future chances of stroke, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, edema, enlarged hearts and stomach cancer.

It’s simply too much to ask for some sort of centralized standard that ensures some form of regularity and unity across the entire country when it comes to food content and quality. With obesity related health care costs sitting at a healthy $147 billion this year it makes no sense at all that children be taught early that a vegetable is a plant that comes out of the ground and is usually pleasing to the eye and to the tongue. Why would we want kids exposed to food that helps their bodies?

When will we stop thinking of the children and start to think about the processed food manufactures?! After all, they’re the ones who are really suffering. If we start to feed our children whole vegetables and fruits and prepare them for a lifetime of making healthy choices, what will happen to their profit margins? I shudder to think of the corporate executives who may not be able to afford bigger yachts if this were to become the way of the future.

When will we learn that it’s not the job of the government to dictate what our children eat? That job belongs to huge corporations that make processed foods and snacks. Why else do they have those massive marketing budgets?

For future reference, this is what vegetables look like.

I am proud to say that I kept the promise I made to someone when I told them I was going to be writing about this. I did not refer to the Senators and Representatives responsible for this proposal as fucktartds. Nor did I compare them to prostitutes who eagerly perform for their corporate johns who toss money at them for “favors”.  I also didn’t question their sanity, their humanity, their parentage or their ability to sleep at night. As I promised, I did not call them a bunch of brain-damaged idiots for whom the burden of thinking counts as strenuous exercise. Remember, my dear readers, it’s important to keep promises.

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A Good Answer

Cover of "Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: T...

Cover via Amazon

One of the four books I’m reading right now is Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. It is a great book full of different records of Seung Sahn’s interactions with his students. The title of the book is taken from one of the stories that Zen Master Seung Sahn would tell: one day a big man comes into the Zen Center smoking a cigarette. He blows smoke in the Buddha’s face and drops the ashes in its lap. If you try and stop him from doing this he will hit you. What do you do?

This type of story is called a koan (kong-an in the Korean tradition). Personally, I don’t know what the right answer is but my son seems to have come up with a good one. He saw me reading the book the other day as I was enjoying the cool evening air out on the porch. He asked me what the title meant so I told him the story. When I got to the end and asked him what he would do he looked at me as if it were as obvious as the fact that the book was printed on paper. His answer is one that I think any Zen Master would approve. It was short, direct, concise and absolutely right. It was one simple word: “dodge”.

Now there’s a clear mind at work!

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No, I’m not revealing the secret to how you can lose 5 pounds in one week and get the guy/girl of your dreams. If I knew that secret, I’d charge for it instead of throwing it out here on this blog.* Actually, I’m thinking about the struggle to lose weight while your life is moving at high speed. I’ve been under quite a bit of stress at work lately as I’ve been trying to wrap up three projects at once. It seems like as soon as I’m ready to finish one of them, something causes me to have to come back to it and continue to make changes. This is normal for my line of work but it can be one of the more annoying things that programmers have to deal with.

Between that and my schedule at home ramping up, things can feel a little out of control at times. When that happens, things start to feel stressful and your body has a tendency to really let you know that it’s not happy with what you’re doing to it. Times like this are bad even under the best of circumstances but when you’re trying to live mindfully and lose weight, it is a very stressful time indeed. I’m finding that as I feel stressed, the temptation to “eat on the run” goes up. When I think I can’t afford the time to get up from my desk to go eat a healthy lunch I’m really on thin ice. Convenience foods have an appeal in times like these than they may not have otherwise. After all, they’re meant to be made and consumed quickly right? Huray for a dehydrated, frozen, microwaveable salt block that is fully cooked in only 2 minutes and gone in 2 more. That leaves an entire minute to suck back a cold sugary beverage in your 5 minute lunch hour. Doesn’t that sound great? Not to me either. So, why is it that this becomes tempting to us? At what point does this become a good idea? I’m still not sure but so far I’ve done a pretty good job of not falling for the trap of convenience.

I think that a lot of it has to do with stress. When we don’t manage our stress, our stress manages us. In case you’re wondering, stress is kind of like a 12-year-old boy with Aspergers holding a magnifying glass standing in front of an anthill. In this analogy, you’re the ant. Stress never has our best interest in mind. It’s only concerned with keeping your body moving at a hyperactive level. In order to do that, it wants sugar and endorphins and carbohydrates in order to create as much energy in as short a period of time as possible. Guess what a good source of these things are? That’s right, convenience foods! These things are packed full of stuff that gives us a short-term boost and gets our body moving. Unfortunately, they’re also designed and packaged in a way to maximize consumption on our part. We end up wanting to eat more and more and we get trapped in a vicious cycle that can cause us to quickly lose control of our weight. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s one of the biggest ways that people who are trying to become healthy fail. Stress is just too big to fight sometimes and unless we’re prepared to face it, we can easily get stomped by it.

I’m sure that my diet hasn’t been as good as it could be right now but I’m still making choices and decisions that are healthy. This is because I’ve worked very hard at identifying how my body reacts to stress and I have made plans ahead of time of how to deal with it. So, how do I deal with the stress and still manage to eat healthy and if not lose weight, at least maintain my weight where it is? I’ve come up with a few tricks that work for me. Your results may vary and not everything works for everyone. However, feel free to give any of these a try if you want.

  1. Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is helpful for your body. Never be so stressed out that you can’t take a few minutes to find something to laugh at. One place I turn to for some funny stuff is fark.com. It’s a “news” site that is always good for a few laughs. Another thing is to make some time to watch a funny movie or spend time with friends and share a laugh with them.
  2. Don’t forget to breathe. An awareness of your breath is a great way to make sure that you are paying attention to your body. It is so easy to lose focus when you’re stressed and once you lose your focus, it is easy to make poor choices. I have a mindfulness bell program that I have installed on my iPod and I have it set to ding every 30 minutes. When I hear it go off, I take just a few seconds to stop what I’m doing and focus on my breath. It keeps me in touch with my body and helps me to calm down.
  3. Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. Stress will always screw with your perspective on things. The fact is that almost everything that demands our attention and keeps us moving at a crazy rate isn’t as important as we think it is in the heat of the moment. There are times when we face life or death issues but they are quite rare in our wealthy western world. Even where I am, working in a hospital, I don’t feel the pressure of life and death hanging in the balance of what I do on a regular basis.
  4. Don’t forget what makes you happy. When we lose the proper perspective on things because of stress, we often lose sight of the things that give us joy or that make us happy. There are so many good things in our lives and we need to remember them. It’s taken me three days to write this post because I’ve been so busy. However, yesterday I was busy spending time with my kids going to the bookstore and a movie and a slot car race track and introducing them to the joys of Chicago style deep dish pizza and taking them for lunch and ice cream at Friendly’s that I just didn’t have time to worry about the things that are keeping me frantic in life. I made it a point to be with my kids and I played with them all day. It did wonders for my stress levels.

In addition to some of these things, I also have hobbies that I enjoy that help me to fight off stress. I love to cook and I love to write. I also have been having fun playing with my new Droid 2 phone and learning how to make it do some really cool stuff. I go to the Zen center every week and spend time with my Sangha and in meditation. Sure, stress can push us around, but we can push back. Hopefully as things calm down again, I can return to writing more frequently than I have the past week. Other than the stress, it’s been a great week and I’ve got a lot to share if I can ever find the time to do it.

* Actually, I do know it and will be happy to send you my new book about it if you send me three easy payments of $19.95

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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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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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