The Ultimate Weight Loss, Loss…

Proceed With Caution…

As a fitness trainer, I’ve been associated with roughly 40 people who have lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off. On one level, I feel pride in being part of those experiences. To have aided in such life changes, is near justification for choosing a career path which has been too often maligned.

However, there’s a darker side to the weight loss experience, and one I struggle with, even now. Going back 17 years, and with the exception of just one man I worked with in 2005, each person I have worked with who lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off, has ended up out of their relationship.  Marriage, engagement, boyfriend, girlfriend, or domestic partner, all but one I have helped, would go on to become single.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many, and not just limited to the reckless abandon that one assumes might come with a new waistline.

Before I take this any further, I’ll state that this a singular set of experiences, that are exclusive to one fitness trainer, from a sample of roughly 40 people, and within a unique Southern California demographic.  I don’t mean to suggest that losing a lot of weight will doom a relationship.  However, the experiences I’ve seen unfold, might be a cautionary tale for some.

One: I’m Leaving…

“I’m planning to leave my husband/wife, and I want to be in the best possible shape when I start my new life…”

No sentence you ever hear, will sound as unsavory…

I have been approached with those words, or some similar, at least a half-dozen times since 2000.  My place is not to be judgmental, or even inquisitive, for they might be planning an escape from hell.  My place is only to determine whether I can help the individual with their weight loss objectives, or not.  If they are a viable candidate, I will accept them as a client.

Not too much to read between those lines though.  People who have approached me from this angle, are decisive, motivated, and usually successful in weight loss.  I do my job, wish them luck, and try hard not to get involved.
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Two:  Left Behind…

With most people though, the motivation isn’t abandonment.   The common motivations are usually wanting more energy, better health, increased longevity, more confidence, keeping up with the kids, etc.  If I’ve learned one thing about the psychology of approaching weight loss though, it’s that people can be dishonest when stating their motivations, and often aren’t aware of how dishonest they are being – even with themselves.

Give a middle-aged man or woman a new body, some opportunity (very often in the workplace), and it could be goodbye – if only for a while.  But it can be more complicated than that.  A person can lose a great deal of weight, change their life for the better, be the pillar of fidelity, and it can still go horribly wrong.

Often the other partner, if they are also overweight, but not motivated to lose weight, will feel left behind when their partner succeeds.  A division can form, and feelings of jealousy might manifest.  There can then be a withdrawal from, or even aggression toward the successful one.

The newly fit person might have a new life – the gym life, which will include gym behaviors, and may include gym functions and gym friends.  The couple now has less in common, and live more separated lives which, may go on to be separated lives.  I saw one woman eventually leave her husband, and partially blame me for her departure…

“I can’t stand who he has become…”

I don’t blame her.  I can’t stand who he became either, but my job was to help him lose weight, not carve out the new lifestyle he chose.

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Three:  Sabotage…

I have seen the left behind partner sabotage the successful one.  Repeated attempts are made to bate them into gaining the weight back, or derail the from their success – to keep that common ground.  This is also complex.

If going out for Italian, followed by ice cream, a couple nights per week is a standard practice and a time of enjoyment for a couple, then taking it away can be a legitimate loss for both parties.  For one party though, there is a good tradeoff for that loss – a new body is the reward.  For the other, the evening they looked forward to all week is suddenly gone.  That might be one evolutionary step toward separation of values, which might lead to a separation of other things, each other included.

I had one client tell me, as she was in the process of losing 80 lbs., that each time her husband came home from work, he would drop a King Size Snickers in her lap.  Why would a spouse do this…?

One possible reason is that his wife had begun turning heads wherever they went.  She was a grounded and devout wife – the embodiment of fidelity.  However, his insecurity had convinced him that her new abs were going to lead her astray.  This snowballed to the point of serious friction.  Never once did she stray, but he became jealous and even accusatory.  If nothing else, he no longer believed he was good enough to keep her – despite her assurances.  They are no longer married.

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Four: Separate Lives…

A scene I have been guilty of myself:  A dinner table is set.  The family sits down.  Dad is eating broccoli, brown rice, and skinless chicken breast.  Mom and the kids are eating lasagna with breadsticks.  After a while, the smell of the lasagna gets the better of dad.  He breaks down and finishes what his family leaves behind.  A few hours later, he’s mad at himself for cheating on his diet.  Out of frustration he becomes grumpy with his family.  They spend the evening separately.

Eventually, and solely to avoid the temptation of lasagna, dad begins eating at a separate time of the evening than his family, and/or in a separate room.  This probably isn’t going to work out too well for family unity.  Either dad caves and forsakes the diet for the sake of peace in the family, or it becomes a bigger priority to him to avoid his family at dinner time.  That might be one more evolutionary step toward separate lives altogether.

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Those are just some of the scenarios and complications which might result from a successful weight loss.  I have seen all of those, and many more play out before me.  There are many more angles and possibilities when it comes to the effect of weight loss on relationships.  The point of this isn’t to disclose them all, as much as it is to illuminate to any reader that there can be more than weight lost in the course of weight loss.  There is a darker side, and few people care to talk about it.

Back To Honesty…

Ten years ago, I participated in online conversation, hosted by one of the premier weight loss bloggers in the country at that time.  There were roughly 30 participants.  As I described some of the scenarios above to this group, many participants, all of whom were successful at losing weight, were quick to tell me that they did not have those experiences, or any similar.  Rainbows rained.  Unicorns grazed.  And happy hubby loved the new bod!  Amen.  The problem is, it wasn’t true.

After the chat was over, I was met with a half-dozen emails, confessing that their relationships were in jeopardy, coming apart, or already ended – all due to their weight loss, but they didn’t wish to make that public.  That was the first time I had ever considered that my profession, along with my good intentions, had played a role in couples coming apart.  Though I don’t hold myself accountable for the separation or divorce of any client as a result of helping them lose weight, I now approach weight loss candidates with great apprehension.

Yesterday I interviewed a potential weight loss candidate – she wants to lose 75 lbs. When we spoke on the phone three nights ago, I didn’t ask if she was in a relationship.  I was concerned only with her objective, and with whether I might help her fulfill it.  She will begin working out with me next week.  I hope to have the good sense not to warn her if looks like she’s going to succeed.  I’ll just stand by quietly, and watch as she navigates the minefield of that comes with profound change, and I’ll hope she’s the exception to this pattern…  Jhciacb

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Occupational Hazard…

I make my living as a fitness trainer. I have worked a small town 17 years, Fallbrook, California.  Because of what I do, the size of the town, and my time in place, many people know me here – know who I am and what I do. Wherever I go, at least a few people always identify me as Roy, the trainer guy.

And then there’s the local market. Because I work from home, I go to the market daily. It’s a reason for me to leave the house – which is important when you work from home. Every day, whether I need something or not, I enter the market, pick up a handheld basket and stroll the isles, to justify leaving my home.

As a fitness trainer, I tend to be a conscientious eater. Still, there are times when I might breach from that, and enjoy a treat or five. I might also pick up something for my mother; Oreos, Betty Crocker frosting, Milano cookies, or Fritos. These are the daily rewards one is entitled to, should they make it into their late 80s.

If at a given time there are 40 people in the market, pushing carts, carrying baskets, and seeking out the best lambchops, strawberries, or baby wipes, at least 5 of those people will know who I am – and what I do for a living.

Without fail, when I run into somebody I know or who knows me, no matter how hard they try not to, their eyes always break contact with mine, immediately peering into my basket – to see what trainers eat. And just as quickly, as though they were a dog caught drinking from the toilet, their eyes break from my basket and rejoin mine, trying to look not guilty for their examination of my stuff.

Yesterday this happened several times. In my basket were Saltine crackers, some Progresso soups, and cough drops – my mom has been in bed sick. One client I ran into saw the cough drops, and I swear I’m not making this up, said to me…

“Oh, cough drops. A candy you can justify…”

Yes, I said. You caught me. Sugar and menthol – the two things I crave most when I’m i bodybuilding mode.

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If I’m going to cheat, I assured her, I would get the wild cherry cough drops, and have them with ice cream – lots of and lots of ice cream…  Jhciacb

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Eat The Fucking Ice Cream…

Last week a client in her 70s, prompted me about some changes she wished to make. She walks for an hour every morning before sunrise, works out with me 2 days per week, is a very good eater, but is concerned about the fat rolls over her hips.

I asked her bluntly what she needed to do to minimize her alleged fat rolls…

“Well, I should cut back on the wine, and maybe the ice cream” she said.

I asked her if she enjoyed the wine and ice cream…

“Of course, I do. The ice cream I can live without” she said, “but I’m not giving up the wine!”

We both chuckled. I reminded her that she’s teeny tiny, way ahead of the game for being in her mid-70s, and told her emphatically to eat the fucking ice cream, and to enjoy the wine.

I suggested that her alleged fat rolls were not visible to me, are not a health risk, and to make them go away would require a dietary sacrifice that isn’t consistent with enjoying her life.

And that’s where it ends for me these days, at least in my little world.

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Our food system has become increasingly complex, and outright sinister. It lures people in one direction, as asinine social expectations pull people in the opposite direction. This tearing apart of the human spirit has confused and corralled people into a pen of fear, frustration, and too often into a state of shame.

Whether you want to lose small pockets of fat from your hips or 100 lbs. from your frame, I encourage everyone to eat a little better and move a little more – just a little better and a little more, you will feel and function better for your efforts, and so too will those who depend on you… Jhciacb

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Life, At Face Value..

Lives Which Matter…

Last winter, after a couple of young persons I know of lost their lives, I began an exploration in my head about the value of a life.  Shortly thereafter began the string of musician deaths which will partially define 2016.  This got me thinking even more.  Ultimately the dots connected further and I began to also consider animal lives.  As all of this was playing out in my head, I moved my aging mother in with me.  One more life to consider.

From teenage girls gone too soon, to older people hanging on.  From puppies loved, to Glenn Frey and David Bowie, to the would-be lamb chops on my plate, I cannot help that throughout each of my days, I spend some time contemplating the value of any of these.  Not that I am in pursuit of any hard answers or true knowledge on the value of lives.  I simply want to distinguish better, that blurry line which separates the lives that matter from those that don’t.

Little Balls Of Duality…

An unexpected day off landed me beach side today to take it all in.  On a quilt my mother stitched by hand, I lay staring into the distance, thinking about the past and taking sporadic inventory of the many lives which surrounded me.  Mom lives.  Seagull lives.  Kid lives.  Surfer lives.  Dolphin lives.  Some lives guarded by lifeguards, others only by fate.  I was surrounded by life, yet I could not pick out a single one which I could deem unworthy

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A mother with pale skin and chubby legs stood beneath her wide brimmed hat, slathering sunscreen on her two small boys and then on herself.  Oddly though, she struggled negotiating between the tube of sunscreen in her hands and the cigarette in her mouth.  That’s when I began thinking that, as a species, we’re just little balls of duality when it comes to this lives matter stuff.

A young mother, fending off cancer with one hand, and inviting it with the other.  I hearkened back to a client who was recently grieving the loss of his niece during one of our sessions.  Shortly thereafter he proclaimed that a would-be President Trump would wise carpet bomb the Middle East – Middle Eastern nieces notwithstanding, I guess…

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Little Balls Of Duality…

Staring into the horizon, and with the sun on my back, I continued to ponder.  On one hand, we go to enormous lengths to protect and preserve the lives which matter to us, our own included.  We medicate, radiate, negotiate, and we pray.  We exercise, wear seatbelts, have designated drivers, and enrich our junk food with extra vitamins – just in case.  We bow to caution.  We respect and avoid threatening forces.  We sacrifice, and we will go into insurmountable debt in the name of preserving a life, be it a toddler or a terrier.  The lives we love matter most –most of the time.

On the other hand, we can be careless and casual when it comes to any life with which we are not fully vested, also, our own life included.   We take risks.  We partake in that which we know might be harmful.  We overeat, but when we pass by the man on the corner with the cardboard sign asking for food, we take caution not to make eye contact.  We leave some out in the cold as we sit warm by the fire.  We apply a tangy sauce, add a little sea salt, and take another bite.  We change the channel when we are asked to help starving kids in Africa, or see dogs held in cages.  A truckload of dead Mexicans overheated in the desert while trying to cross over…?  Some call this a tragedy, while others consider it an evolutionary response to population control.

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And Further Complicating Things…

In the social media era, we are bombarded with suggestions that the universe is so large, so magnificent, and so potentially full of life, that we are selfish to give so much credence to our own tiny lives.  Yet, when I think of Clara, or when I see the lost look in my mother’s eyes when she momentarily forgets what she’s doing, I can’t help but believe that each life granted has far greater significance to its constituents than all the potential of all the stars combined.

I’m ashamed to say this, but sometimes my mind swings the other way.  Please forgive me for this next thought…

It’s not a popular question to raise, and I truly don’t mean to offend anyone, but I often wonder if we fulfill our quests to cure cancer, cure heart disease, cure diabetes, stop epidemics before they begin, and in our quest to end all wars, where are we going to house all the survivors, and whose jobs will they take…?  I’m ashamed that I think about this, but, I do think about this.  I dunno…

My own life…?  Well, I’m a little dichotomy too.  I bend, I stretch, I lift, and I step, that I have a better quality of life, and a longer one.  I also do dangerous things like ride my bike without a helmet.  I have taken my liver to the brink and brought it back to health with all the zeal of parent searching for a kidnapped child.  I have taken risks, overindulged, been outright reckless at times.  I can honestly say I have had a half-dozen self-imposed near death experiences.  But do I value my life, I guess…

By the way, this isn’t about Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter.  It’s simply been an exploration in my head about why so many lives matter to most of us, most of the time, but also why so many don’t.  I guess all I really know about the value of a life is that each one has infinite cascading effects on so many others.  That, and when one life goes out, it will rarely be at the right time, and just as rarely for the right reason.  We are little balls of duality, ongoing.  Be well…  rc

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Swimming In Systems…

Girthing Globally…

The so-called obesity epidemic has made headlines once again.  Another study released this week suggests that obesity on a global level is still on the rise.  In the days since this study was published, I have read a half-dozen feature articles and blogs about how we can reverse this generations-old trend.  Yet, for all the intellectual studies, discussion, and attention obesity gets, and despite all the good intentions behind solving the problem, obesity levels worldwide are still increasing.

When it comes to fighting obesity, as with many other consequences of our social and technical advancements, too often our thinking is narrow, poorly aimed, and most often searching for singular fixes in small areas which feel good to pursue, but are often demanding and fruitless.

What is largely ignored in all the conversations about solving obesity, is the entirety of the problem; the constant expansion of the many systems which have led to its existence.  Food systems.  Marketing systems.  Social systems.  Political systems.  Religious systems.  Educational systems.  Pharmaceutical systems.  On and on.

Any one of these systems could alone be considered a monster.  Together, they conspire to be a leviathan.  Like any good leviathan, obesity is going to go where it wants to go, and will only die when it runs out of the fuel on which feeds it.  I am reminded of two fleas attempting to steer the dog they sit upon.

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Complexity begets complexity…

On the surface, solving obesity may seem like it’s all about calories in vs. calories out, changing portion sizes, providing better school lunches, CrossFit, Yoga, using a treadmill, going low-carb, low-fat or paleo, standup desks in the workplace, and even the use of qualified fitness trainers.  These may hold some value for some people at some times, but alone these aren’t going to change a thing.  The fact remains that scientific advancement and social awareness relating to obesity are at all-time highs, and our collective girth is still girthing.

How’s The Water, Boys…?

While in mid-thought this morning, as I was pondering obesity, it finally occurred to me that systems – all systems, whether they apply to the obesity epidemic, politics, consumer culture, or anything else, is the water that David Foster Wallace spoke of during his now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  Whether this was his intention or not, it seems to me that systems, invisible and everywhere, are the water which surrounds us.

If you’re not familiar with the speech above, please bookmark it for when you have time.

 We live within millions of systems.  We navigate and transcend them, never really seeing their entirety, and always under the influence of delusion, believing we possess some level of control.   We live, breathe, act, choose, survive, delight, frown, frolic, and even get fat as a result of our systems.  We select our presidents, career paths, partners, and even our gods as influenced by an invisible ocean, and like the young fish who replies to the older fish, “What the hell is water”, we are oblivious to it as we swim.

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When I think about obesity in this context, or when I think about any disturbing social trend from air pollution, to engineered corn, campaign finance, political partisanship, landfills bursting at the seams, and even when I think about war, I tend to be more gracious these days in my judgement for both the victims as well as the perpetrators.  We are all born under water and begin swimming through our sea of systems immediately, most often with the best of intentions.  All the while though, we never really know we are swimming at all.  So, how’s the water today, Boys…?  Be well.  cc

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Catharsisaurus Rx…

The blender in my head…

I’ve live pretty deep inside my head.  I am continually haunted by the complexities of modern life, and how they may be impacting my reality, assuming there is a reality. That doubt, of my own reality, is the heart of the thing.

On the surface I train clients, check on my mother, text my daughter, and reassure my dog.  Underneath all of this, my mind is bombarded by tiny pellets of doubt, all day long, that are slowly deteriorating the shield which protects my rational side.  Among my greatest fears is that this shield will parish before I do, leaving the chaos in my head to play unbridled havoc with my mind as I age.

My inner Cartesian has come to appreciate those frantic moments in my life, like when my frozen vegetables fly out of the bag and land all over my floor because I pulled them too quickly from my freezer.  That things like this always happen at the worst possible time also serves me well.  Those moments snap me out of my doubt, if only for an instant, and halt the existential banter between all the Roys within.

The life within the life…

I regularly entertain the life within the life.  I imagine waking from a nap on a summer’s day, my right cheek stuck slightly to the warm concrete beside the swimming pool of my youth.  The distant chatter of Marco and Polo awakens me.  I am 12 years old, and the life that I have lived since will have been only a dream.  Reagan never won.  I never married so I never divorced, and the internet was all in my imagination.

Perhaps though, I’ll awaken in an asylum, and not by the pool.  My arms tied behind my back, and with a crayon between my toes I write my suicide note on a foam wall.  This life I write from right now will have been a peaceful dream, and what lay ahead, a nightmare.

And don’t get me started on my lifetime of chronic bad dreams.  Where do I go when I dream…?  Is what I do any less real than what I do when I’m awake…?  In an active mind, I often feel that the only thing separating my memories of life from my bad dreams  are the words memory and dream.

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Kinda hopin’ Really hopin’ I don’t wake up here…

Occasionally I consider that all other people are just extras in an orchestrated game between the gods.  I am at the center of their illustrious amusement – just a silver ball in their game of pantheonic pinball.  At the end of the game, I wonder, will the gods rise in unison and offer me the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down, based on how well I performed bouncing off the obstacles they set before me.  Ever-present is the feeling I am being watched and judged.

The illusion of conclusion…

Even if I am real, where and how am I real…?  Between parallel universes, infinite universes, or an eternal universe where anything that can happen will happen, I find myself right here, right now, and in this glorious life.  Although in the quantum world, I’m only probably here, and probably now.

Physicist Brian Greene tells me freewill is only an illusion and suggests that mathematics supports this.  The calculations of my future have already been laid out, he says, and that I have no say in my say.  However, I don’t steel tips off tabletops in restaurants when nobody is looking, and I don’t push people down the stairs – even when they deserve it.  Sounds like free will to me.

Some scientists suggest existence as I know it is some kind of holographic image created in an alternate reality, and is smaller than the tip of a pen.  Others say I am slave to the algorithms within a cellular automaton.  Just the thought of that has me pining to be a slave building a pyramid, for at least then I would exist in a simpler state.

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Holographic Youniverse…

The idea that some being in another dimension might be administering my every thought and every motion by way of a joystick bubbles under the surface of my daydreaming as I clean my studio.  On one hand this appeals to me inasmuch as if it is true, then I am exonerated from all indiscretion and responsibility.  However, if I’m not a Sea Monkey in a jar on some extraterrestrial kitchen counter, atonement and responsibility are not only my duty, they are my only hope.

Dog is one of us…

When my eyes lock with my dog I feel love and truth – simultaneously.  That emotion is a daily confirmation that I am real.  When our eyes break though, I can’t help wondering if my dog is actually an angel sending signals back to God, or an observer sending recommendations back to the mother ship.  I wonder the same thing with many of my human contacts too, you who is reading this included.

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“Stroolde calling Orson, come in Orson…”

I flash back to a time in school when I was taunting a special needs kid.  My friend Jeff stopped me and said…

“Roy!  Don’t tease Milton!  What if he’s God and he’s just testing you…?”

Jeff was joking, but I’ve never been able to get that thought out of my head; that anyone else might be God, or a designated representative of the Junta Grande.

The scratch ticket and the interwebs…

I feel guilty for having won the lottery of existence.  All my needs are met – exceedingly.  I’m able to enjoy and appreciate so much.  That I get to make a living doing what I love, and do so in such a beautiful place seems unjust to me, on behalf of those who can’t.  I wonder why I’m not a knobby-knee’d Ethiopian child with fly on one eye suckling his mother’s dry tit.  Yet I seem to be me, and this seems to be my time and my place – probably.

Living in the internet age has only thrown gasoline on the fire of my doubts.  I wonder if this increased connectivity with people and information around the world isn’t just an expanded test by my maker.  It makes no sense that I have instant access to most of the much of the knowledge ever attained and so much information, even if it isn’t always accurate.

Are my social media friends and my analog friends truly connections, or are they an audience watching me and trying to influence the way I bounce off the bumpers in the pinball game of my life…?  They might just be 7-billion lesser gods.

When I look the grocery clerk, the beggar, or the barista in the eyes, I often wonder if they’re thinking,

“He’s on to us…”

That people so seamlessly merge in and out of my digital and analog lives makes me feel increasingly uneasy.

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My maker…?

The known universe is precisely 54 years old…

Let’s assume I am real.  I see memes on social media daily that remind me how small and insignificant I am relative to the immensity of the universe.  This is bad internet juju in my opinion.  I am the only component in the universe that I have absolute dominion over.  If ultimate inter-connectivity is inevitable, then the universe can’t fulfill its own destiny if I fail to fulfill mine.

I was dead for nearly 14-billion years before I was born.  I’ll be dead again in a decade or two more.  I better get this thing right while I’m still here.  It’s all pretty overwhelming at times, this work of performance art which I call my life.

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At the end of the day, I suppose my reality is simply my choice – my decision to carry forward without worrying too much about any of this.  Whether or not I’m a spec in the universe, the center of it, or an organic shuttlecock in game of badminton between gods, so long as standing in nature stirs my heart, and my daughter returns my phone calls, I will choose to act and feel real.  I will though, always have my doubts.  Be well, and thank you for taking the time…  rc

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Enjoying God’s creation, in his creation, and where I feel most real..

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Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.

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I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

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A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc

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We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dave Alvin.  Prettiness and such like that.  Enjoy…

Service With A Smile…

This week I sat down with the intention of writing a manifesto of sorts, on how new fitness trainers should conduct themselves.  Seems I got offtrack and ended up writing this.  Perhaps some of these can be superimposed on other career paths -or life paths…

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Pride And Circumstance…

I take pride in a handful of things in my life. Of them, I am most proud that as a trainer – as a businessman, I have kept a full schedule since the first week I opened here in Fallbrook in 2000. In 16 years, I have done almost no marketing or advertising. I drove into a small town, looked around, decided I wanted to stay, set up shop, and within days my business course was primarily set

A good part of that is accidentally landing in a great demographic. A fair portion of the population here have discretionary time and money. That doesn’t represent all of my clients though, as I have a more than few working people who have become puzzle masters to fit me into their budgets and schedules.

Social Circles And Demographics…

I say often of doing business in a small town, that if you do a good job for 1 person, 5 more people will know about in a week. If you do a bad job for someone, 10 more will know about in a day. That ideal is as much responsible for my consistent schedule as any.

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Gonna die in a small town, and that’s probably where they’ll bury me…

Though we don’t all live in small towns, most of us do live in small circles.  In the information and social media era, where business reviews can be published online in seconds, treating the customer right matters more than ever.  It may sound a bit simplistic, but doing a good job for the client is the most important part of my job.

Meet & Greet…

I do my best to greet every client at the door. This isn’t always possible on days when I have back-to-back sessions, or when sessions run late. I do though, attempt to greet every client before they enter the studio. Meeting a client at the door gives them a feeling of immediate security in what is too often an intimidating environment – the gym.

Meeting someone at the door shows them you are there for them, as much as you want them to be there for you.

Dings, Pings, And Echo Location…

Clients come with inherent aches and pains, some more severe than others. Through a written medical evaluation, I take inventory of any medical or physical issues prior to my first session with all client, and then I am sure to remember them.

Each time I meet a client at the door I ask them for a quick rundown of how they came off of our last workout in the form of soreness, stiffness, or aching. If I have done my job well, the answer should not influence the workout ahead. If they speak of any dings or pings, I adjust the workout accordingly.

Throughout the course of the workout I will ask frequently how they are feeling – if I am pushing too hard or not hard enough. Most often I don’t even listen to their answers. I learn all I need by looking into their eyes as they hear the question. This is like echolocation with dolphins; I send I signal to them, they send one back to me, and I know where we are in the course of a workout.

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When echolocation goes bad…

Before starting a session, I also ask them the last food they ate and how long ago they ate it. This information can also influence the direction and the result of a workout.

Don’t Eat In Front Of Clients…

If one’s job is to instruct and motivate, it’s hard to accept that this can be done with a mouthful of cold oatmeal or sipping from a shaker cup as many trainers do. Eating and talking lacks professionalism.

I can’t say I have been perfect here. There are those days when sessions run back-to-back and I have said excuse me to the client, and then asked permission to grab a bite as we begin the session. I can honestly say that in 16 years in Fallbrook, I have done this less than 16 times.

I also keep my phoned turned off during sessions. That hour belongs to my clients, not to me.
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Business Cards…

Former Levis Strauss executive and Bit-by-Bit Computer Rentals founder, Tim Cling once told me,

“Business cards aren’t what you give to people, they are what you take from people! You take the card, you call the number on the card, you introduce yourself, and explain concisely how and why you can help them.”

That is the best business advice ever extended to me. Too many fitness trainers put enormous stock on designing and handing out business cards – cards which get tucked away, thrown away, or otherwise used to stabilize the lose air conditioning vent in their car.

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Great for helping balance uneven table legs.  As a form of marketing…?  Not so much…

In the year 2000 I had 1,000 business cards printed up. In 2015 I still had 950 of them. What few I handed out were used as appointment reminders, or scratch paper for my personal notes.

On Form, Focus, And Conversation…

Overstating the obvious; a trainer should never turn his back on their client. A trainer’s eyes should always be fixed to the client’s exercise form – period.

Only when I am sure a client’s form is correct, does any conversation take place. I have no issues with a client talking during the course of their exercise, so long as they are moving and breathing properly.image76-e1422567572804

One of the better aspects of life as a fitness trainer is the conversations which have taken place in my studio through the years. In a sense, those conversations have given me a master’s degree in life. My older clients offer me wisdom. My younger ones offer me context from which I can better appreciate that wisdom.

There is much to learn from listening to the experiences of others. I get to do this all day long. I won’t hear the wisdom though, if I’m not listening, so my ears and my mind remain open at all times.

Relationships And Progress…

Making my living as a fitness trainer is about progress, of course, but it is also about relationships. It took me far too long to learn this. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress a client might experience, progress being a relative term.  Only if there is trust with the client, can I add a little more, push a little harder, and ask a little more of them over time – always in small doses. That is where progress comes from. They progress as the student. I progress as the teacher.

From this I am also reminded, living on this earth is also about relationships. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress we might experience as a species. If there is trust with one another, only then can we ask a little more of each other, and push a little more over time – always in small doses. Be well…

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Enjoy…

Fan Day Go…

“Me winning isn’t. You do.” Ty Webb

The Jig Is Up…

Some athletes know when the time is right to hang up their cleats. John Elway is the supreme example of this. After a storied career and 3 Super Bowl losses, Elway won 2 Super Bowls back-to-back and called it a career. We hold in high regard, the athlete who goes out on top and rides into the sunset at the pinnacle of his professional success. That metaphor endures, as we all wait for Peyton Manning to make it official sometime this spring.

Other athletes though, hang on too long. Brett Favre. Muhammad Ali. Michael Jordan. The list goes on. With many athletes, playing the game is too ingrained in their psyche. For them it’s less a matter of letting go, and more a question of who they will become when their careers are over…?

Run Ricky Run…

I was in middle school. I have a clear memory of my father leaping from his chair, landing on his feet with arms in air and fists clinched as he screamed…

“Run, Ricky, run!”

Denver Bronco, Rick Upchurch, was running a punt back for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders. My brother and I watched silently beside him.  That may be the day I became a sports fan. I wanted what my dad had – passion. Within a few years I was every bit the zealot my father was, but it didn’t end with the Broncos.

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Run, Ricky, Run!

As I grew older, and I better understood the games of football, baseball, golf, track & field, boxing, and other sports, my capacity as a sports fan grew. So too did my desire to follow these sports. Then one day I woke up and cable TV happened. Enter ESPN.

Sports Center became a requirement, 2-3 times per day. It was Cliff’s Notes for sports fans. I could enjoy several sports, and more than a few games in just 60 minutes. This did not eliminate my desire to watch complete sporting events on the weekends, it only enhanced the experience during my workweek. Crude math suggests that in my adult life I have spent some 15,000 hours watching sports news & highlights, sports analysis, and listening to sports talk radio.

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Go Big Screen Or Go Home…

In the early 2000s I was living alone in a 3-bedroom house. I had TVs in my master bedroom, my kitchen, my living room, and even one in my walk-in closet – that I not miss a moment of Sports Center as I was preparing for, or winding down from my workday.

One morning in 2005, on realizing the ridiculousness of having 4 TVs for one man living alone, I gathered them and placed them on the sidewalk in front of my house – to be taken by whoever wanted them. They were gone in an hour. Though well past my peak as a sports fan, I was done with sports and ready to retire. Time to give my attention to other interests.  Then one day I woke up and the internet happened…

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We take it for granted now, but in 2005 the idea of using a computer as a TV set was somewhat fresh. Internet speeds were improving, live streaming was crude but increasingly available, and suddenly I found myself unretired, once again watching Sports, and Sports Center from my 15” window to the world — every chance I got.

This was less a matter of letting go, and more a question of who I would become when being a sports fan was over…? I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

Slowly though, I began to come to my senses and realize I was well past my peak as a fan.  This came to a head in 2011 when Tim Tebow lead the Broncos to victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game.  Earlier that week,my father – you know, the “Run, Ricky, run” guy had a mild heart attack. He lay scarcely conscious in a Las Vegas hospital as the Broncos marched off the field in victory that day. Already on hospice, my father would never watch another Bronco game. That was the 1st time I truly thought; it’s only a game.

Sports Transcends, And Body Slams…

In an era when professional athletes are seen as crybaby millionaires, and as people increasingly turn away from sports due to everything from allegations of domestic violence, performance enhancing drugs, concussion syndrome, and that the underlying current that all sports is the ejaculate of corporations stroking their wallets, I have defended professional sports for its transcendent qualities.

Sports gives us a reason to come together. Sports separate us, if only for a while, from the boss, the workplace, the responsibilities of the yard, the bills, the wars, and school shootings. Sports fulfills our need for ritual in an increasingly secular world. Sports can elevate us from an otherwise dreary life.

Sports though, can also be brutal.  It make a good day bad in an instant.  Sports can body slam us and give us an emotional beat down that even a bad boss or a cheating girlfriend couldn’t. Ask anyone who has ever watched their team lose a Super Bowl.

After The Thrill Is Gone…

It’s too late for me to hang up my fan-cleats the pinnacle of my career. That should have happened when I drove my 7-year old daughter home from the parade in downtown Denver after the Broncos won their first Super Bowl in 1997

When the Broncos won the Super Bowl for the 3rd time last week I should have been overjoyed. I should have cried, tipped over my coffee table, and run around the neighborhood screaming as my brother and I did in 1997 when they won their first. I didn’t though. I just sat in my chair and thought, that’s nice, as I continued to pet my dog and reflected Super Bowls past.

It was less a case of being grateful that Denver won, and more the comfort of knowing they didn’t lose that soothed me. I was relieved I wouldn’t have to spend the next 3 weeks in a state of pointless depression. And that was my signal to walk away once and for all. I just don’t enjoy it as much as I once did.

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The Only Big Screen I Need On A Sunday…

I live in a beautiful place. I have things to do, friends to see, a business to run, and some would-be volunteering to pursue. Like my meat-free lifestyle, I am going to give a sports-free lifestyle a legitimate chance without the expectation of perfection.  After all, I do still have meat on occasion, and the Masters is only weeks away. Maybe that will be a cheat day 4 days. I am committed. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Dharma Violets. Enjoy…

Epidemicology…

Caveat: I chose not to cite any data sources in support of this essay. There is much conflicting data on the topic of obesity and health. The opinions expressed here are based solely on my experience in health & fitness, my observations, as well as books, data sources, and websites which, it turns out, all agree with me.

Not Really…

We are all familiar with the term, obesity epidemic. We see reports, studies, and media programming that remind us how dangerous yet widespread the obesity epidemic has become. We are led increasingly to believe that being overweight is unhealthy, avoidable, and wrong.

I’m not going to argue in favor of, or against obesity. I’m going step back and share my big picture perspective that obesity is less an epidemic and more the unavoidable result of our increasingly complex food system and shifting cultural values, and that fighting obesity on an individual basis will not slow or stop the expansion of the expansion.

The Flow…

While it is true that obesity, as defined by the CDC, has increased steadily over the last 6 decades, I believe that any large scale reversal of that pattern will not be the result of the individual mechanisms we use to fight obesity on a personal level, such as gastric related surgeries, liposuction, excessive dieting, excessive exercise, nutritional supplementation, and pharmaceutical support. With these means being more available and more used than ever, and obesity still being on the rise, that math does not add up. It simply demonstrates that, collectively, fighting individual obesity is not working to reduce obesity overall.

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Though some individuals find success with using exercise, diet, and medical/pharmaceutical technologies to reverse or to avoid obesity, a majority of people who use these resources will not find success in the long-term. I believe any permanent change to the cultural obesity trend will be the result of both large and small changes in our food system, over time, which are organized and called for by society as a collective, similar to the changes in civil rights, animal rights, and global ecology that we have seen in recent decades.

Those efforts to change the food system are already forming and gaining traction, but the arc of their results is a slow turning. Examples of this are laws requiring calories to be included on menus, local food movements, transparency in food manufacturing & marketing, and social awareness created by the propagation of literature; books and documentary movies on the subject.

As It Relates To Health…

We have been fed the ideal over time that obesity is intertwined with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and the probability of early death – a lesser quality of life notwithstanding. Increasingly though, there is data that suggests that obese people who exercise regularly, and include reasonable amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets are no more likely to suffer from these ailments than people of average body weight. Some call this fat but fit. I call it, doing one’s best within a failing system.

Still, many people who fall into this category of larger, but healthy, attempt to fight their obesity by the means mentioned above, because they feel a social pressure which suggests they are unhealthy and undesirable. Whether or not they are unhealthy is coming into question, and that fruitless debate continues. Being socially or personally undesirable is simply a matter of bigotry.

As It Relates To Vanity…

Yesterday I visited a friend in the hospital who, for the last 13 months, has been dealing with the severely debilitating consequences of a lap-band surgery gone bad. I am removed from the internal thinking which led to her to the decision to have lap-band surgery, but from the outside looking in, though she might have been overweight at the time of the surgery, she was attractive and seemed to be in good health.

That is, her surgery was as much about vanity and/or social pressure as it was about health. My friend will remain in the hospital for at least several weeks. Her life has been in jeopardy as a result of this failed surgery on at least two occasions, though it appears now she will ultimately be okay.

Wide And Prejudice…

The epidemic which scares me more than the so-called epidemic of obesity, is the epidemic of prejudice toward heavier people. If a person wakes up in the morning and fails to eat fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast, fails to remove the pile of clothes from the treadmill and put in a hard 30 minutes, or if they fail to stop at the gym on their way to work, they are not a bad person. And doing any or all of these will not make them a good person.

Being a good person is more related to mindfulness, kindness, and noble effort. Being a bad person, I suspect, is more related to disrespecting people, institutions, and animals – period. Body weight and body size have nothing to do with one’s character. Judging somebody for their shape size or weight does – period.

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The Slow Turn Of A failed System…

When I look at our social values as it relates to body image, male or female, young or old, and when I observe what it is that we revere and what we are willing to do in the name of looking better or being leaner, I often shudder.

I don’t fault anyone for wanting to pursue or maintain an attractive appearance, and I have certainly put effort into that ideal through the years. I’ll suggest though, for those who strive to improve their physical appearance, that before they begin, they closely examine the potential for cascading consequences which may result from the means they choose.

The quest for a smaller stature, and the emphasis we place on it is as old as culture itself, and I’m not arguing we abandon that pursuit. I’ll suggest though, similarly to civil rights, animal rights, ecology, and government, that the system we have allowed to place us here, and that we are all caught up in, is more in need of repair than any of us as individuals. I believe the arc of this system improving is on the rise, though obesity may still be a social issue for a few more decades.

That obesity is a contributory factor to poor health is, in my opinion, still just a theory. That we treat obese people with a greater guard, is simply a shame. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from the Dharma Violets. Enjoy!