We're results-oriented people. We don't care about the process; we just want the product. Instead of working out and eating healthy food and losing weight gradually to enhance health and quality of life, millions of people take diet pills and have liposuction to lose pounds. They simply don't have the patience. They don't understand that who you become as you progress toward your goal is the real reward.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Father Frank told us about Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning. This is a profoundly serious subject and it was a long sermon, but the idea is as simple as this - the meaning of life is found in every single moment; not in our circumstances but in how we choose to react to our circumstances.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. ~Viktor FranklI've written before about the meaning of life, and I stand by my assertion that it is found in our relationships. This meshes perfectly with Frankl's theory because our relationships are built or destroyed by the choices we make every single moment.
Just think about everything you did and everyone you interacted with yesterday. From the time you woke up until the time you fell asleep again, you had literally hundreds of opportunities to make choices that define the meaning of your life.
How did you react to the little things? Did you say "excuse me" to the strangers you bumped (or who bumped you) while walking in a crowd? Did you slow down or change lanes to let another car ease into traffic? Did you say "thank you" with a smile to the person who made your coffee?
How about the more important things? Did you choose to tell the truth when a lie seemed easier? Did you fulfill a commitment that you really, really wish you hadn't made? Were you a friend when a friend needed you? Did you forgive when it was asked of you? Did you deal honestly in your personal and professional life? (By the way...you can't really separate the two.) Were you faithful?
My life - where I am right now - is the sum total of the choices I have made for fifty years. My relationships are what they are because of the choices I have made. Some broken relationships can never be repaired. As much as I would like to, I cannot go back and make different choices.
All any of us can do is go forward with the knowledge that every choice matters, even when it seems trivial. Because the choices we make in each moment collectively define who we are.
So go out there and make good choices today.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
So as I packed up the last of my diet books to bring to the resale shop, I wondered just how many of these things I've read in the last 40 years. Seems like thousands, but it's probably in the hundreds. And I'm not alone.
Search the word "diet" in the Books section of Amazon.com today, and the number of results returned is 55,625. Search the word "baseball" and the number of results returned is 29,391. So much for baseball being our national pastime.
I browsed the list for a while, and among the titles I recognized as having read were The Beck Diet Solution, Atkins, The South Beach Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, The Core Balance Diet, The 3-Hour Diet, The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, Sugar Busters, The Weigh Down Diet, Joy's Life Diet, The Writing Diet, Never Say Diet (Hobbs), Never-Say-Diet (Simmons), The Zone Diet, Good Calories Bad Calories, The Easy GL Diet, The Paleo Diet, The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan, The Eat Clean Diet, Master Your Metabolism, The Martini Diet, Eat Right 4 Your Type, The Metabolic Typing Diet, The Sonoma Diet, What Would Jesus Eat, The Glycemic Load Diet. Lots of these titles are actually series of books, journals and recordings. And I know there are more that I've read - books on food combining, vegetarianism, raw food.
And as I browsed I found some books on diets that I am very, very glad I never tried - The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Lemon Juice Diet, The Hay Diet (I sure hope that refers to the author), The Clothesline Diet (huh?), The Alli Diet Plan (never read the book but did read the side effects on the drug package at the store, and it only took two words to make me drop it - "anal leakage").
How is it possible that we have an obesity epidemic when so much attention is paid to dieting? According to one of the few books I am keeping, dieting is not the solution. Dieting is the problem.
Dieting: The Number One Cause of Weight Gain
Up to 83 percent of those who start formal weight loss programs drop out because: (1) they can't stop eating; (2) they can't lose weight; or (3) they continue to gain weight while sticking to their diet plan! More than 60 percent of all dieters are neither overweight nor overeaters to begin with. But after enough dieting attempts, dieters progressively gain more weight and are apt to become overeaters. Those who are already compulsive eaters know that they tend to lose all control after a monitored fast or more gradually lose control after less extreme diets. More than 95 percent of dieters gain back any weight they lose within two years after a diet. But many have gained more than they ever lost to begin with. It is typical for dieters to become progressively heavier than they ever would have been had they never dieted. Has rebound weight gain set off a panic that propelled you into more dieting, more rebound weight gain or, eventually, into an eating disorder?(from The Diet Cure by Julia Ross)
The only way you can win this war is to stop fighting.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Later that same day I informed my trainer I would no longer let him weigh and measure me. We had been doing this almost every month for over two years. When he brought up the subject, I simply said "nope, we're not going to do that anymore". We will measure my fitness improvements in other ways. Let's say one of the terms of my peace treaty was now established.
On Sunday, I had a delayed euphoric reaction. I found myself literally dancing in my seat while driving to church. If anyone on Higgins Road saw me bopping up and down and side to side, and wondered what I was dancing to, it was to "ABC" by the Jackson Five. I was experiencing the overwhelming joy of living in a peaceful world after decades of war. Of course I felt like dancing!
It was going to be a fun day...our church picnic. It's always a good time - lots of fun but also lots of work. And the food - the delicious fattening food - that in years past would be stubbornly resisted for a time then completely succumbed to, causing massive guilt.
This year was different. I did eat a lot...more than my hunger called for. Over the course of the day I ate kielbasa and kapusta and potato dumplings and a cheeseburger and ice cream, and washed it all down with two kinds of beer. The weather was rainy, then sunny then oppressively humid. By the end of the day we were all exhausted. But it was a great day.
On Monday morning, instead of waking up with dread wondering how much weight I must have gained and thinking I need to start another diet and oh man I got up too late to hit the gym, my first thought was "eggs and apples". Yes, I thought of food, but in an entirely different context than I would during wartime. When I went to sleep the previous night I was doing a mental review of what was in the frig cause I knew I had to go grocery shopping. Lucky me...I had leftovers from the picnic so all I needed was some fresh raw food and some eggs, cause I love me some eggs for breakfast.
And that's how "normal" eaters generally think. They think of food as fuel and something to be enjoyed. When you're fighting the diet wars, food can sometimes be your worst enemy and other times be your best friend. Sometimes it's a weapon and sometimes it's medicine. When you are at war, food is never just "food".
When a war ends, and you get past that dancing-in-the-streets surge of happiness, you then have a period of recovery before you can get back to "normal" (or more likely your new "normal"). You never quite know how long recovery will take. It depends on how long and damaging the war was.
My war lasted almost forty years. The damage it caused to my physical, mental and emotional health is not easy to quantify. My physical recovery actually started when I walked into that gym two years ago.
As for the rest, I'll just have to see.
Saturday, August 07, 2010
When I look through my photo album, it's like there is an invisible three-digit caption under every picture of me. Junior Prom (185). Pat's wedding (165). My wedding (285). Staff photo 1983 (180). Staff photo 1985 (280). Mackinac Island with Daniel and Dad (330). Those captions should be more like Junior Prom (nice dress). Pat's wedding (I caught the bouquet). My wedding (love the hair). Staff photo 1983 (hate the hair). Staff photo 1985 (hate the uniform). Mackinac Island with Daniel and Dad (freezing on the ferry).
Dieting and weight - I'm tired of thinking about it. I'm tired of talking about it. I'm tired of my weight being the first thing I think about every morning and the last thing I think about every night. I'm tired of having shelves filled with diet books. I'm tired of hoping that the next book, web site or miracle food will be the answer. I'm tired of dreading measurement day at the gym. I'm tired of wearing old clothes because I don't want to buy anything new if I need a bigger size. I'm tired of putting things off until I lose x number of pounds. I'm tired of counting calories, fat grams and points. I'm tired of thinking that seven almonds is good but seventeen is bad. I'm tired of feeling like a sinner if I eat ice cream.
I refuse to spend the rest of my life letting a scale or a tape measure or the label on my jeans dictate how I feel.
So I'm done with dieting. From now on I will eat when I'm physically hungry and stop when I'm near full. I'll eat what I want, but pay attention to how my body reacts. I will occasionally eat too much, but not feel guilty about it. I'll eat more fresh food and less processed food. I'll train and take classes at the gym because it makes me feel good to move. I'll walk and jog and swim because it's fun.
From now on, I will honor my body instead of treating it like an enemy to be conquered.
Today, I put down my weapons and declare peace.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
The promoters of tonight's event are gambling. They've done their research, promoted their product, and decided that now is the time to try getting paid better for it. There are a lot of angry fans out there who are used to getting it for "free" (or almost free, after paying for cable tv or internet access and watching a bunch of commercials). Some of them want to see it and would normally be OK paying for it, but they've already paid big bucks to see other recent events that they feel did not end up being worth the money.
In the marketplace, quite simply, a product or service is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. Take onions, for example. This morning I paid $7.50 for three medium onions. Am I crazy? No...I just really hate chopping onions. Plus I was short on time. So the price I paid included somebody cleaning and chopping them for me.
On some other day, in some other situation, I might not pay that price. But the people who produced those three containers of chopped onions took a gamble that there are people like me who don't want to chop onions.
And that, kids, is the nature of business. The consumer is king. YOU determine with your dollars what a product or service is worth to you. If enough people are not willing to pay the price, those producing that product or service will either change it or stop making it. But no product or service will ever be truly free.
As for me, the price of the event is worth it. At least today it is.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Right after I wrote the last post I left for a week-long visit with my Michigan family. I brought my computer with every intention of finishing this series within a few days. But having lost the momentum and being distracted by the rest of my life, here it sits unfinished a month later.
Sure, I'm busy. I'm in the midst of changing jobs, have been on a long business trip and am trying to keep up with lots of stuff. But I have also wasted a lot of time during the last four weeks. I could surely have taken an hour or two to sit and write. I'm only here now because of a combination of insomnia and a lack of new content (since late last night) on my favorite web sites.
Immediately surrounding me at this moment are reminders of at least 10 other things I need to do...bills to pay, meetings to schedule, emails to send, papers to file, plants to water, dishes to wash. And I just thought of something I want to take on next week's business trip. If I don't get up right now and put it near my suitcase I might not remember it later.* But if I get up right now and put it near my suitcase I am likely to get distracted by something else on the way back to my desk. And I just finished my coffee and want to make more. And I'm hungry. And my feet are cold.
It is taking every ounce of determination I have to stay in my chair right now. How the hell am I ever going to have even a fraction of the focus I admire in those MMA fighters?
An article in this month's Discover Magazine gives me some answers. The article reports the results of studies comparing the brains of athletes and non-athletes. Athlete's brains just seem to function more efficiently. But it is not just a matter of genetics:
How do I become that which I admire? The answer is practice. By staying in my chair until I finish this post, I am training my brain. I am developing my ability to focus by focusing. I am developing self-discipline by practicing self-discipline, one task at a time. The more I do it, the more natural it will become.
Good genes may account for some of the differences in ability, but even the most genetically well-endowed prodigy clearly needs practice—lots of it—to develop the brain of an athlete. As soon as someone starts to practice a new sport, his brain begins to change, and the changes continue for years. Scientists at the University of Regensburg in Germany documented the process by scanning people as they learned how to juggle. After a week, the jugglers were already developing extra gray matter in some brain areas. Their brains continued to change for months, the scientists found.
Will I ever reach the level of achievement in my chosen pursuits as these athletes have in theirs? I don't know. But I definitely won't if I cannot achieve small victories, like finishing this post. Even if I were the most gifted, inspirational blog writer in the world, it means nothing if I never get to the point of pushing the "Publish" button.
This weekend I'll be watching WEC 48. Don't know where yet, but I wouldn't miss it. Because I love these guys. I love them for their brains...their focused, passionate, excellent brains.
*The item was a nightlight, and it's been placed in my suitcase. And now I can make my coffee.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Focus - As you might have guessed by the way I write (sporadically and in pieces), I sometimes have a short attention span. I might have been diagnosed with ADD if it were fashionable back when I was a kid. And it sure doesn't help that I spent a significant portion of my career in the era of "multi-tasking".
For a long time we believed that we could be more productive by doing two or more things at once...like writing an email while talking on the phone. We have since learned that while it may seem we are focusing on multiple things, our brains are actually just really good at shifting focus rapidly. The problem for me is that I tend to let go of my focus on one thing before I get the job done. While writing this, I've already stopped twice mid-sentence to do other things. When I let that happen I may end up doing a lot, but not doing any of it particularly well.
Watching that MMA event, focus is the first of the three words that came to my mind. The fighters never take their eyes off each other. They are constantly scanning their opponent to find their opportunity to score a point or get the knock-out. It's intense and it's thrilling.
Yes, you need focus in other sports. But other sports are more forgiving of momentary lapses in focus. If you strike out in baseball, you likely have several more chances. Same if you fumble the football or miss the free throw. It's not over until the clock says it is.
Lose your focus during a fight for even a split second, and if your opponent hasn't he will take advantage. Next thing you know they will be helping you onto the little stool in the middle of the ring while somebody the other guy is celebrating his victory. No do-overs. No two-out-of three.
Fighters actually do multi-task during a fight, but they do it effectively. It's during training that their focus is singular. They will practice each move hundreds of times until it becomes almost an automatic reflex. Then during the fight they are able to execute that move the moment they have the opportunity. It's their ability to focus singularly during training and shift focus effectively during a bout that I admire so much.
Because we tend to admire the things we feel we lack in ourselves.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Passion. I have always admired people who approach what they do with passion. It doesn't matter if you're a doctor or an entrepreneur or a pastor or a fast food worker. When you do what you do with passion, that passion shows. And it's contagious. Spending time with passionate people is energizing. It's like you automatically tap into their energy just by being around them.
And the opposite is awful. People who hate their work or their lives (especially those who don't seem to be doing anything to change their circumstances) create an atmosphere that is dark and draining. There is almost nothing less appealing to me, in men or women, than treating their work or their life with disdain or calling it drudgery.
The passion these MMA fighters possess is obvious. I mean, you would have to have a serious passion in order to walk into the octagon knowing what might be coming your way. It's sure not the money, at least not until you hit the big time...title fights, big endorsements and merchandising. A $20,000 payout might seem like a lot for a few minutes in the ring. But take away taxes, trainer fees, manager fees, equipment, travel and medical expenses, and you might be lucky to afford a new customized mouth guard.
Excellence. It seems to me that the pursuit of excellence is not valued the way it used to be. True, there are some situations where "good" is certainly good enough. But when "good enough" becomes as far as we ever want to bother to go, it becomes the new "excellent". What a depressing thought.
One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13. This is a true story of the triumph of excellence over the consequences of not-quite-good enough. In a machine with hundreds of thousands of parts, one single part - a damaged coil in an oxygen tank - caused an explosion. And it was the excellent work of thousands of people that saved those three astronauts. How might this story have ended if even a few of those thousands of people stopped short of their absolute best?
An MMA fighter must pursue excellence in a multitude of disciplines. It's not just about who is the biggest or the strongest. Striking, grappling, footwork, cardio conditioning and more. And on top of all that you have to know all the rules. A fighter who falls short in their work on any of these aspects of the game is not going to get very far.
But what I think I admire most about these guys is their focus.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
But mixed martial arts? Seriously? Yep, that's what I'm into.
Every since watching my first event last August, I've been fascinated by the world of what is also known as "ultimate fighting". I prefer the term "mixed martial arts" as it is simply a more accurate description. Yes, they are "fighters". Yes, there are knockouts and there is blood and even an occasional broken bone. At first glance it is savage. But from the beginning I saw more.
And I've tried to figure out what the appeal is for me. It's not like I have even the slightest desire to get in the ring myself. My entire personal "fighting" history consists of one schoolyard scuffle in sixth grade (that I tried desperately to get out of) and a kick fight with my sister. I think it was about a sweater, and I think she broke my pinky toe (but she was in the right).
And it's not just the natural reaction of a healthy woman to the sight of a well-made man. Although that sure is appealing. There is something I admire about these guys beyond their athleticism and machismo.
Finally, I decided to watch an event and concentrate on coming up with three words that describe the elements of what I was seeing that I most admired. And here they are:
Focus. Passion. Excellence.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Have you recovered yet? Did the hype and expectations come through? Or did you wake up the next day with tears and chocolate stains on your pillow because things didn't work out like you hoped?
I've written before about Valentine's Day (2009, 2004). Sure, it's nice to express your love in a fun, romantic way. And what girl doesn't like receiving gifts? But as I told you last year, I would rather have the sometimes-boring, steady, daily kind of love that quietly endures the bad stuff than all the flashy red hearts and flowers in the world.
During another touching sermon by my pastor on Sunday, he choked up talking about the kind of love he has witnessed in his many years of ministry. It reminded me of some friends who went through an awful time a few years ago.
Everyone knows at least one couple like this. They bicker, they complain about each other, they crack you up with their stories (sometimes to the point of too much information). The guy is just a few years away from grumpy old man status. But when his wife had a sudden and very serious health crisis, he turned into a knight in shining armor. I realize now that he was probably always that knight...just in subtle, private ways.
So now that another Valentine's Day is over but still fresh in your memory, think about the kind of love that is really worth having. The fire of romantic love is wonderful, but it does not last. It's nice to receive those public displays like flowers arriving at your desk. But it's what happens in private - how we care for each other when nobody is looking - that really matters.
That's the kind of love you build a life on.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Today's culture presents love (especially the couple relationship) in a lot of screwed up ways. One hour at the gym glancing at those ridiculous music videos they play convinces me of that. But one thing in particular is completely, 180 degrees backwards. That would be the premise that "you can't love anyone else until you love yourself".
The truth is, loving yourself is a result of loving others...as long as that love is expressed or practiced or experienced within those guidelines from good 'ol 1 Corinthians 13. When you treat others with patience, kindness and respect, avoiding jealousy, rudeness, selfishness and anger, you are loving them. And we are called to do just that, whether we happen to be feeling love for ourselves or not.
When I was growing up, we spent a lot of holidays at my aunt's home. On the wall in her living room was a plaque that read:
A song is not a song until you sing it.
A bell is not a bell until you ring it.
Love was not put in our hearts to stay.
For love is not love until you give it away.
I think I'll take my own advice on this today.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
So said the tough-looking dude in the seat next to me to the guy next to him on a flight from Denver to Southern California. He was wearing pants with the "Tapout" logo and had quite a few tatoos. When I glanced over he seemed familiar. Found out he was a mixed martial arts fighter (for the WEC) as well as the owner of several gyms.
Most of the conversation was between the two guys. When the tough guy mentioned that he has two daughters, I immediately grinned imagining the looks on the faces of any suitors who asked one of the daughters for the first time what her Dad does for a living. Heh heh.
And a few minutes later I came to know just how fortunate those girls are to have this professional fighter as a Dad when he pulled out his Bible. Now, it's not that I think only men of faith can be good fathers. It's that - whether you believe or not - the Bible has a lot of great stuff, especially about love.
My pastor's sermon last Sunday was on this very topic. He mentioned those awful segments on some daytime TV shows about couples where one is totally abusive and the other justifies staying with their abuser because "I love him/her". Don't you just want to scream at the television..."WHY??? THAT! IS! NOT! LOVE!"
So what is love? It's all laid out there in 1 Corinthians 13; it is patient, it is kind, it bears all things, it never fails. Love is not jealous, pompous, or boastful. It is not rude. It is not easily angered, and it does not keep a record of wrongs.
(Read the whole awesome chapter here.)
The best thing you fathers can do for your daughter is to follow the Bible's guidelines on love...especially in how you treat her mother. Give your daughter a model of love so she knows what love is, and what it isn't. That goes for your sons too...they watch you to learn how to treat a woman, and how they should be treated by her. And they will know how to defend and build up their sisters when they are not being treated right by a guy.
Although it does not seem like it a lot of the time, parents are still the most influential people in a child's life...that goes for the good and the bad. There are a lot of influences out there in the culture. When it comes to love, who would you like your children to emulate?
So besides having an automatic (and healthy) fear of a Dad who punches guys in the face for a living, that fighter's daughters have a man who looks to God for guidance. Lucky girls.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I believe that the meaning of life is found in our relationships. What other aspect of life truly defines who you are? Your looks? Your job? Your money? Those are just things you have. From the most casual to the most intimate relationships, the way we treat people - and the way we allow people to treat us - reflect our character and our self-worth.
So what is the meaning found in the bro-ho relationship? To be a ho to a bro seems to mean that you are allowing yourself to be used to fulfill his immediate needs without much (if any) consideration of your own. Maybe you feel you are just having some harmless fun and it is all part of being young. Maybe you hope that the casual will lead to the serious, and I suppose that could happen. But remember...each encounter says something about you. Just make sure it is what you want said.
Same goes for you bros. Maybe you don't care about what your lifestyle says about you to people outside your bro-hood. But someday you might. Some day you may want the kind of relationship that takes place outside the bedroom (or car or hot tub or alley) and lasts for more than one night. Maybe some day you will have a daughter. And the kind of relationships you have will absolutely have an effect on the kind of relationships she has.
Back to those two young people who started this story. Is said guy a bro? On a scale from one (has a circle of male friends with whom he enjoys spending time) to ten (Tucker Max), maybe he's a three (still plays an occasional game of beer pong). Is said gal a ho? Obviously not, or she would not have hesitated to meet said guy.
What would be really sad is if said guy is what said gal says is the "worst kind of bro" - a nice guy who thinks he has to act like a bro.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Changes in societal norms happen over time. When we are young, we are living within a time, and we are not seeing that things were ever different than they are right now. So you gals of a certain age might not know that calling each other bitches and hos used to be extremely insulting. Perhaps you cannot imagine a time when a girl getting a tattoo was taboo.
And that's OK. Trends come and go, and most trends - especially those relating to fashion - are ultimately harmless. Like the trend of guys getting perms (early 1980s). Although somewhat horrifying in retrospect, it was short-lived and was naturally resolved in the time it took to grow it out.
What disturbs me about today's culture isn't that girls call each other hos. It's that actually being what we called a whore or a slut back then is no longer outside the realm of acceptable behavior. It appears to be close to the norm now.
Hear me out before you write me off as just an old prude. I'm not referring to sex between consenting adults in a committed relationship, or even the "friends with benefits" thing. I'm talking about women wilfully offering themselves up as the very "sex objects" that, in my day, men were villified for desiring. During the wave of feminism that I experienced, those types of men were referred to as "male chauvinist pigs".
Just a few decades ago, the feminist movement fought to empower women through educational achievement and professional equality. The goal was a society in which women and men could compete at an equal level. The struggle was about banishing every negative stereotype of female sexuality. Today, those very stereotypes are not only accepted, but are actually held up as the new standard of empowerment for women.
Hos, you have given the bros exactly what they wanted.