What The Hell Is That…

I have a friend who is an administrator at a major university. She manages a department of a dozen or so people, most of them under the age of 25.

Several months ago, some light construction took place in her office. This made it necessary for her employees to shuffle a half-dozen or so cubicles, and temporarily relocate their workspaces. Also involved in this, was the relocation of a storage cubicle – you know, the one nobody works in, but gets used for the storage of things deemed too good for the trash.

Fast forward…

The construction was completed, and the day arrived for everyone to un-shuffle, and return to their cubicles of origin. Toward the end of the process, a young employee, under 25, requested that my friend (her boss) meet her at one of the storage cubicles – she had seen an item that she didn’t know what to do with it, because she didn’t know what it was.

The two met at the cubicle, and the young woman pointed to the item, looked perplexed, and exclaimed to her boss, “I don’t know what this is, do you…?”

Her boss smiled a secret smile, kept her chuckle inaudible, and replied…

“It’s a typewriter. They were used before computers and word processors.”

Apparently the young woman had never seen a typewriter before. Even after the explanation, she looked perplexed, and failed to understand the straight forward concept of a typewriter. Her boss explained to her that she would take care of it, and directed her employee to return to work.

On one hand, it’s easy to think of the young woman as dim, or perhaps even clueless. Nope. Just young, and born into an age of profound technical innovation.

 

vvv
As technical innovation approaches the rate of exponential, so too does the rate of obsolete. Don’t blame a young person for failing to understand the past. Just hope that they are competent enough to handle the present, and are prepared for a rapidly changing future… Jhciacb

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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 Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens.  Enjoy…

 

Words can’t express…

Two month’s notice…

That day finally showed up last Thursday.  The day I knew had been coming for several months now, but hoped never would.  George, a client of many years, and a friend for precisely as long, explained that he would be leaving Fallbrook in mid-January, and relocating to a senior living community in Orange County.  George is 74, and lives with Parkinson’s disease.

On George…

George stepped into my studio for the first time years ago.  He was in his 60s, and was scarcely into his retirement from his career as an executive with an energy company.  George wanted to begin a fitness regimen to augment his twice per week golf schedule.  George also wanted to lose a few pounds around his waist, and improve his overall shape.  If functional strength training might help his golf game, peripheral weight loss would be a cherry on top.

George was focused with his workouts, and made progress quickly.  His balance improved.  His flexibility improved.  His endurance improved.  His strength improved – to a point where he could leg press several hundred pounds, and do so safely in proper form.  His golf even improved.  He even dropped a few pounds through the years here and there, occasionally joking that Nabisco wasn’t going to get anymore of his money.

Though our workouts have always been results focused, conversations of life, politics, family, and sports are always present within the fiber of our exercise sessions.  In fact, those conversations have been at the heart of this friendship.  My conversations with George, even when of a serious nature, always had a positive tone.  Nobody ever asked us to, but if challenged, George and I are prepared to save the world.

Witchcraft in the wind…

Maybe 5 years ago, George was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The pragmatic engineer in him accepted that affliction with no resistance. He approached it with a resolve to wake up each day, and address Parkinson’s in the best way he could; stoically, and with a strong faith in western medicine.  Though there is no cure for Parkinson’s at this time, his neurologist has excelled at helping George use medications to treat his symptoms.  George’s wife, Judy, has been a supreme support system.  He often refers to her as, The Project Manager.

In the years since his diagnosis, George’s physicality has suffered some, but not disappeared entirely.  This is partially due to the disease itself, and partially due to the medications he uses to offset Parkinson’s.  He still plays golf twice weekly, continues to exercise regularly, mows weeds, and periodically hunts for gophers, and squirrels on his property.   His attitude and acceptance of the cards life has dealt him have been exceptional.  We should all be so graceful under these circumstances.

A couple of years back he entered my studio one day, and I asked him how his golf outing went the day prior.  This was his response:

“It was great!”

He continued,

“I didn’t play too well, but the turkey sandwich was excellent, and my friends and I laughed a lot.”

I was as humbled by his attitude, as I was by the sincere smile on his face as he spoke.  George and I often talk about how fortunate we both are, to the point of silliness, both grateful that we each seem to have won the lottery of birth.

The inevitable…

George no longer leg presses several hundred pounds.  Most of George’s workouts take place with a broom stick for resistance, and some 3 and 5 pound weights in his weathered hands.  We work largely on balance, and with a secondary goal to minimize muscle wasting.  He still gets pissed off when he misses a step on one particular balance exercise we do.  He rests more during the sessions these days, and the conversation extends more as the exercise have been scaled back, but the time is still useful for us both – for us both.

There is no way to quantify how George’s functional strength workouts have helped offset his fight with Parkinson’s, or whether they have made a difference at all.  The exercises themselves are quantifiable, but there are many variables involved with determining success; aging, medications, sleep, nutrition, etc. We both just agree, as does his neurologist, that he just keep moving.  I have seen no data source which suggests people with Parkinson’s avoid exercise.

George, and I last week.  George is the one wearing eye glasses...

George, and I last week. George is the one wearing eye glasses…

Of functionality, and fulfillment…

At a time when I struggle walking the line between the utility of functional exercise and the personal fulfillment of more intense exercise, George’s presence in my life has been a grounding factor.  If I don’t hit a PR in the deadlift, I’m good with it.  If i have trouble walking up stairs, I take notice.

George has paid me well for my time and resources through the years.  As time has gone on, I ruminate more and more over all I have learned from George – about how to address aging, disease, and the perspective he applies to both.  I have wondered increasingly, who should have been paying who all these years.

Passing of the torch…

The community George will be living has an onsite exercise facility, and a trainer to help facilitate exercise for the residents.  He and I calculated that he would have roughly 20 training sessions left, and we both want to maximize them.  I offered to capture some of our upcoming workouts onto video to share with his new trainer, and George agreed this was a good idea. This will not be about instructing the new trainer on how to work with George.  Rather, this will be done so the trainer can more easily assess George’s limitations, and abilities.

I have great faith that the trainers there will help George continue on his path of most resistance.  I can only hope they will appreciate his good nature, intellect, and wit, and warmth.  I have worked with many clients of varying ages, and for varying reasons through the years – hundreds.  It is an honor that George is the first person I induct into the Contemplative Fitness hall of fame.

Footnote…

My own father lived with Parkinson’s disease.  He also died with it.  Thoughts of the physical deterioration associated with this affliction resonate with me daily.  Though the data is incomplete as to whether or not there is a genetic lineage, I somewhat expect it at some point.   We’re not much for curing great diseases in recent years.  Maybe we’re not supposed to.  Perhaps the best we can do is to take care of ourselves well enough that we avoid disease, in hopes research will help us treat the symptoms as best we can should we ever become afflicted.

I have been writing this blog for many years now.  I have done so strictly as a hobby.  I have never asked that it be supported by donations, nor have I sought sponsorship.  I ask today, one time only, if you have found value in reading this essay, please make even a small donation to the Davis Phinney Foundation, or a similar organization.  Thank you, and be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Kingston Trio.  Enjoy…

 

Modernity, Complexity, Conflicting Data, And Guruism…

Increasing complexity…

Every so often I sit down to write what I perceive will be my final essay for this blog.  To this point, I have been incorrect to have made those assumptions.  Today was one of those days, once again that feeling came over me that this was it.

In the 10 years or so since I began writing fitness related essays, the world has changed more than it had in the 30 years prior.  That’s not an exaggeration.  The complexities of culture have increased, and expanded in a seemingly exponential way.  It appears no part of culture is exempt from this.  Ideas, boundaries, rules, opportunities, and arguments have grown more complex in all aspects of culture.  The ideals of exercise and fitness are part of that cultural expansion. 

Complexity begets complexity...

Complexity begets complexity…

 

Conflicting data….

As there are many more ideas in what exercise and fitness should be then there once were, there are now many more resources, more information, and more people supporting these ideas, resources, and information.  Along with the increasing ideas, have come increasing platforms.  There are many outlets now for anyone who wants to share their fitness advice.   If a person has an idea, and a computer, they can establish a dedicated following in short order.  That said, there are now many more conflicts within the ideals of fitness and exercise.

I say often that we live in the age of conflicting data.  For every argument one can make in support of a cause or an idea, and back it up with some kind of data source, someone else can make an opposing argument supported by a different data source.  Few data sources, on either side of any argument, are without agenda.  Though such conflicts are as old as culture itself, in this technical age arguments come much faster – often faster than they can be processed or understood, and that’s a huge problem. 

Social media has become a platform, if not a battle ground, on which these conflicts are increasingly played out.  The utility, as well as the benefit of any good idea can be quickly obscured by the clouds of argument.  Information becomes chaotic. 

World War III might not a a terror based war.  It just might be a war over conflicting data...

World War III might not a a terror based war. It just might be a war over conflicting data…

As is usual in battle, truth seems to be the first casualty.  The internet is scattered with millions of peddlers selling products, ideas, and agendas with varying degrees of sincerity behind what they sell.  The internet is lined with millions of consumers, not all of whom are discriminating enough to avoid becoming the unwitting victims of those pushing a lesser agenda.  The intentions of those on both sides, of course, can range in reason and motivation. 

Information Merchant…

Personally, I fall into both categories.  I use the internet as a consumer of ideas, to gather fitness, and exercise related information.  I also use it as resource to promote my business; that I may share information.  In short, I am an information merchant.  I hope my intentions are on the reasonable side, and believe they are.

Through my social media platforms; my Facebook page, youtube channel, and this blog, I attempt to share information, and generate a peripheral income with my online training business.  I make my primary living though, teaching exercise in a one-on-one environment.  Be it in my studio, or via Skype, a student can look me in the eye, judge me, and even question my intent for his or her self.  He or she can walk away if they prefer to purchase the information elsewhere, or not at all. 

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail...

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail…

 

As it relates to my information, I have never sold my ideas, values, or techniques as absolute.  Rather, I have sold them as useful suggestions which may carry some level of utility based on how they are accepted, and applied.  I believe I have something to say, and I appreciate that I have had a clientele through the years willing to purchase my information.

Guruism; it’s the new hobby…

The relentless guruism touted by the self-appointed leaders in the fitness social media, and the concussions of the conflicts they create, have begun to wear me down.  Many of the so-called leaders in the online fitness community simply dress themselves up in low body fat, tanning solution, and a catchy logo only to regurgitate bad or stale information in exchange for cash.  At the end of the day many of these people are selling untested or second hand information, and don’t have a clue to stand on. 

Several years ago a reader of this blog, a 30-something fitness enthusiast, part-time professional writer, and mother suggested to me that she wanted to switch careers, and become a fitness trainer.  Through many emails, phone conversations, and even a personal visit on my part, I not only helped point her in the right direction and encouraged her, I was her biggest cheerleader. 

hello

In less than a year’s time, she began a training business, and grew her fitness blog to be one of the most popular online.  She has thousands of followers, and now makes a very good living at it.  All it took was a weekend fitness certification, a few steamy pictures of her torso on her website, and the platform of social media.  She is now free to give absolute and exclusive advice to anyone willing to pay for it.  There are thousands more out there too, just like her; supremely knowledgeable, absolute in their beliefs, and connected to PayPal.

Here are a few things (from a list of thousands in my head) that would-be fitness gurus of the social media era might want to consider as they strive to promote themselves, and their business:

1)      Leadership involves listening, and not being exclusive.
2)      Admitting gaps in one’s knowledge base, and subsequently filling them is always a good thing.
3)      Even that best ideas don’t always need to be shared with everyone, because they don’t always apply to everyone.
4)      You don’t always have to be right.
5)      The primary objective of your business endeavor should not be to keep score, to sell books, to hook up subscribers, or to count fans or web hits at the end of the day.  The primary objective of your endeavor should be to share information applicable to the audience, do so in a concise way, and be available to the end user should they have any questions regarding your messages or your intentions.  If there’s money in that at the end of the month, then count your blessings!

rag18

Snorting creatine, because that one guy on youtube told me I should…

 

This will not be the last fitness related essay I ever write – not by any means.  By way of my social media platforms, I will continue to share my ideas, values, and experiences in exercise and fitness, never making claims that my ideas, techniques, or experiences are exclusive, though I will suggest they are often unique.  I will though, become much more discriminating in the social media outlets I support, and champion.  I will encourage you to do the same – this platform included. 

It’s funny, after reading this a time or two, I can’t help but feel this message could well be superimposed over similar conflicts in the areas of politics, and religion.  But you already read between those lines, yes….?  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Deer Tick.  Enjoy…

 

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

 mystic

When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Spain.  Enjoy…

Downshift…

Preying for change…

I’ll begin this by stating in clear terms; I have no problem with the killing of, or the eating of animals.  So long as those animals have been raised humanely by organic methods, or have been caught in the wild by methods which will not significantly reduce populations or threaten the species, I’m good with it.  Man has been eating other animals almost from the beginning, as animals have also been eating other animals, including man.  All who are born, are born as a potential snack.

What I can no longer do, what I am no longer willing to accept, is to eat animals raised inhumanely, sustained callously, and slaughtered brutally.  Between the callousness of their surroundings, the hormones and antibiotics they are reared with, and within the filth they are raised in, high volume animal farming is something I can no longer support.

Shake up in the cabinet…

As I have cleared the last of my farmed meat from my freezer; beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, and as I have used my last egg given by a caged chicken,  I now begin a process that will have me obtaining most of my protein from plant-based sources – even if those sources contain GMOs.  I would rather eat genetically modified soy curd, than an inhumanely raised chicken, or farmed or threatened fish. Or to put it more succinctly, I would rather have more GMOs in my diet, than OMGs.

As I can access and afford it, I will also include protein derived from un-caged chickens, unchained dairy cows, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered beef, bison, and whatever game and fish I catch, or my friends are willing to provide to me.

This is not a stand against eating Bambi.  If Bambi is in the right place at his wrong time, and ends up on my dinner table, I ‘m down.  This is a stand for how I believe we should conduct ourselves as a species, and as the stewards of this planet.  I am no longer willing to accept the way many corporations raise, slaughter, distribute, and market animal food sources.

BambiII

Guess who is coming to dinner…?

Sensationally speaking…

I understand the video below is social media sensationalism at its best.  I also understand that it’s real – nothing seen in it has been contrived.  These, and similar methods of animal processing are all around us, and have been for decades.  It is only social media that has many of us seeing red for the first time, over seeing red for the first time.  Seeing this video was simply the final push I needed to take this personal stand I have been on the verge of for more than a decade, but have selfishly resisted.

Judge Not, Roy Bean…

In this decision I am not passing judgment on anyone else, nor am I advocating similar actions by others.  The complexity of our food system – of our society has expanded to a point where answers and truths can no longer be established by outside sources.  In this era of increasing complexity, I truly believe that the best answers and the best truths we can depend on must come from within.

Sadly, people are certain to judge me on this decision.  There will be jokes cracked, social media friendships threatened, more than a few snickers.  That’s on them, not on me.  Though I don’t believe I will waiver on this, as I have not wavered on not owning a vehicle, I certainly won’t attempt to predict the future – I consistently suck at it.

 Restaurant not impossible…

Though I expect making these changes might offer some challenges in the beginning, I’m not too concerned about the adaptation process.  My weak link though, will be in restaurants. I eat out often, sometimes several times a day.  Most everything I eat in restaurants I have deemed acceptable until now.  That definition has changed.

Most of what I order in restaurants has been chicken or egg based.  My friends may roll their eyes as I add tofu or textured vegetable protein to a garden salad at the local diner.  Perhaps not as much if I just thrown a little ground bison that salad, and call it good.  We shall see.  Regardless, eating out will need to be modified.

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu...?

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu…?

The hustle to keep up the muscle…

Lastly, as a lifelong weightlifter, bodybuilder, and weekend athlete, I have raised myself to be the ultimate carnivore.  I have eaten red meat most every day of my adult life, often by the pound, with a belief that animal protein, beef in particular, is a requirement for strength, energy, and forging a tasty aesthetic.  This is going to be tested to be sure, since my bodybuilding aspirations remain intact.

If my strength, energy, and aesthetic suffer for a lack of feedlot beef, farmed fish, and caged eggs, my soul certainly will not suffer.  In these days, and in these times, my interest lies much more with soul-building than with bodybuilding.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Alabama Shakes. Enjoy…

Gimmie back my playlists!!!

Home is where the lyrics are…

Listening to, and appreciating music has been at the front of my existence since I was young.  I bought my first record, Harry Chapin’s, Taxi, when I was in the 3rd grade.  I was captured by the movie in my head.  I have been buying and listening to music of all kinds ever since.  I have often thought of music as my home.

Through adolescence, well into my adult life, I have always apportioned some percentage of my weekly wages, and directed them to the local record shops.  This had been how I collected music over time; 1-2 albums, 1-2 times per month.  I would dream about having a collection so vast, I would have instant access to any music I wanted to hear.

We live in an amazing age… 

In this era, electronic media and music sharing services have evolved, and platforms like iTunes and Spotify exist.  My life-long dream of instant access to all things music has been fulfilled.  Unlike cataloging records, cassettes, and subsequently CDs, tracking electronic music has required more structure due to the high volume of music available.  Playlists were born. 

My Spotify playlists were several years in the making, and ongoing creations.  They involved thousands of songs from many genres of music.  They represented the musical genres I have been most fond of including the Paisley Underground, Alternative Country, Blues, Traditional Country, Punk, Classic Rock, Bluegrass, and more. 

Of them all, my favorite playlist was titled, Old, Odd, And New.  It was an amalgam of alternative country, paisley underground, some Scandinavian hard rock, and a lot American garage rock from the mid-west and the east coast.  The primary theme of this playlist was that it contained songs with filthy guitar sounds, raspy voices, and consisted of songs created largely by artists who never had much success.  This playlist was the soundtrack of my recent life – it felt like home.

 Technical difficulties…

It may sound trite to compare the loss of music playlists from an electronic medium to the death of a loved one, but I’m about to do that.  Several weeks ago I woke one morning, turned on my Spotify browser, and attempted to queue up the playlist I named, Morning Start.  It was 800 songs or so, and was the music which lured me through my morning rituals of showering, making coffee, letting the dog out, checking email, and prepping for the day ahead. 

As I attempted to navigate my browser, it looked noticeably different – all my playlists were gone.  My Spotify browser had the look of an application just downloaded; a factory reset kind of look.  Morning Start was no longer there.  My stomach sank.

It felt like I was looking into my child’s bedroom, only to see the child missing from the bed – as though he had been kidnapped. ..

Gibson

Trying not to let my emotions get the best of me, I followed a progression of logical steps required when dealing with technical snafus.  I restarted my computer.  That didn’t help.  I uninstalled the Spotify program, and subsequently reinstalled it.  That didn’t help.  I began searching youtube and internet message boards to see if others had suffered similar afflictions, and to learn how they resolved the issue.  I had no luck there. 

Finally, I contacted Spotify for help.  I received only this simple statement several hours later:

“We are not able to explain why your playlists disappeared.   Short of the steps you have already taken, we have no suggestions for you.  We are sorry for your difficulties.”

Spotify 

My loved ones were gone.  I was sad, depressed, and very emotional for days after my loss. 

Humpty Dumpty, three chords, and the truth…

My playlists were art in continuum.  They were sculpted by me, malleable and always changing.  They were organic, and well represented the changes in my recent life.  Several days after they disappeared, I came to accept there would be no ransom payment, no search party, and no beautiful conclusion – they would never be seen again.  Closure. 

Each day, after I accepted said closure, and as spare time would permit, I attempted to begin the process of reconstructing those playlists.  With each attempt though, came an increasing realization that my playlists could never be reconstructed – no more than a lost loved one could be brought back to life.  It was time to let go and move on.

Home where the heart is… 

Two-thousand miles and several weeks removed from the playlist crime scene, I found myself in Chicago for the event of a lifetime.

photo(52)

My daughter’s mother and I had just attended our child’s college graduation.  It was early on a Sunday, and before most people walked into church that day, her mother and I had watched our daughter walk, along with 3,000 other students, into the next phase of their lives.  By 10:00am commencement was completed, and the three of us were in a taxi headed back to our riverfront hotel. 

I was on one side of the bench seat in back of the taxi, my daughter on the other side, with her mother in-between us.  Shortly after we entered the cab, I looked over to see my exhausted daughter laying her head on her mother’s shoulder.  In that sweet moment, I knew at that my daughter was home.  She was at peace, in her happy place, resting comfortably on the one shoulder she knew would always be there for her.  It was music to my eyes. 

Playlists be damned, nothing else will matter to me more than that sight so long as I live.  In that pure, perfect moment, I realized how insignificant any material object is.  I also realized just how very significant family love is.  The love of a momma, the love of a daughter, and the man who sees them both with awe and with great appreciation; we were captured by the music of the moment, and we were all home.

The living versus the idea…

A child too, is art in continuum.  She was sculpted by me, by her mother, by her circumstances and environment, and by her own free will.  Malleable and always changing, she is organic, and well represents that which helped sculpt her.   

She is a playlist of another kind.  Unlike my silly music playlists, my daughter is the product of love, not of a need to fill a void of entertainment.  She represents the genres of joy, intelligence, happiness, love, humor, and many others.  Seeing the look on her face, as her cheek rest on her mother’s shoulder is all the music I will ever need.  Sometimes music is to be seen, and not heard…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Townes Van Zandt.  Enjoy….

A slow turning…

Much is discussed and argued in the media and online communities these days, about the state and the future of the food system.  Many take note that our national eating behaviors are worse than ever.  Others suggest that there are better ways to feed the nation.  Most just sit back, observe, and continue to accept the status quo.  Pass the hydrogenated, sodium laden, 20-year shelf life butter substitute please.

There is no shortage of opinions on the subjects of fast food, GMOs, obesity, diabetes, local farming, corporate monocultures, high fructose corn syrup, and the varied eating styles and dieting fads which fall in and out of vogue these days. These conversations are ubiquitous, but are they productive…?

It’s obvious something is wrong.  It’s obvious there are potential solutions.  It’s obvious that there are as many people who care about improving the food system, as there are people willing to exploit it, or settle for it in its current state.

I’ll suggest that the following statements are true:

– We would all like to see a more mindful food system.

– We would all like to see more intelligent uses of the food system; one which promote healthier lives, and healthier lifestyles for everyone.

– The food system, in its current state, is not set up to promote health as a first priority.  Rather, it exists to promote profit as a first priority – acknowledging though, that there are some considerations for health by some components within the food system.

– There is an increasing awareness among many segments of the population that the food system is faltering, but can be improved upon with corporate and individual diligence.

– To improve the food system, there will be required a spreading of awareness by way of activism, networking, volunteering, and use of the social media.

So where am I going with all of this…?

Changes of this magnitude don’t take place overnight.  Being Americans though, we do look for those changes overnight.  That’s not how social change works.  I’ll suggest if we just take simple actions daily, and encourage our children to take simple actions daily, we can look to the future for change in hopes that our children’s children will reap the benefits of the sacrifice we make today.

I have begun to think about the changes in our food system, and our use of the food system, as being analogous to the American civil rights movement during the middle part of our last century.  Change comes slowly. We often don’t see change as it manifests around us. That doesn’t mean that change isn’t taking place – just ask Darwin.

social_change_is_good1

We can look back at a history of widespread hatred; lynchings, church burnings, and acts of racial prejudice in the early and mid-20th century America.  Today, we can look around us to see black head coaches, generals, CEOs, and even a president.

Are there still hatred, prejudice, and acts of violence against non-whites…?  Of course there are.  However, these instances are fewer, and further between, by far, than they were 40 years ago.  Looking back, it took decades of consistent grassroots efforts, volunteering, activism, spreading social awareness, and sacrifice for those changes to slowly manifest.  To this day, those changes must be guarded.

racism

I look back at the progress though, that has been made with civil rights during the past 6 decades, and I do have some hope – if not for the food system of today, for the food system of tomorrow, through the work being done today.

A lynching today would not be acceptable.  Perhaps people 60 years from now will feel the same way about giving a 1,500 calorie milk shake with 225 grams of sugar to a child after school.  We still lynch, but it’s just a drive through kind of lynching.  The #3 Value Meal has enough calories to support a human life for 2 days AND, it costs less than $4.  We lynch ourselves, and we lynch our children – it’s just a slow lynching.

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it...

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it…

I understand there is a large difference between racially based hate crimes, and the offering of junk food to a loved one.  In that sense, perhaps we should refer to the ritual of sharing unhealthy foods as, love crimes.  Think about that; love crimes.

Take note:  My comparison of racism in America to the faltering food system is not about the severity or intentions of either.  There is no comparison.  Prejudice is an evil that far exceeds the dangers of Pop-Tarts, and aspartame.  My comparison is about the time required to see tangible results in changing social trends of any kind.

Take action today.  Teach your children today.  Have hope for the next generation, if not for tomorrow.  Be well.  rc


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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, The Men.  Enjoy…

 

Misguided Intentions…

Evolution Of My Wheels

Four years ago I gave away my Jeep in favor of a bicycle.  That transition wasn’t difficult.  I live in a small town, and I’m in good physical condition – bicycle makes sense.  For three of those four years, despite said small town, I commuted on my bike over an hour each day to and from work.  I embraced that commute as part of my workout scheme since I would have invested as much time in a cardiovascular exercise each day.

When I began my bicycle commute I rode a beach cruiser.  The workout, riding to and from work on a fixed gear bike, was both challenging and rewarding.  However, it was not time efficient.  After several months I would transition onto a mountain bike to shorten the duration of my commute.  I eventually transitioned to a road bike to further shorten my commute at a time when minutes mattered.

32 pounds of fun...

32 pounds of fun…

As the technology of my bicycle evolved and the length of the commute lessened, the “workout” became easier and less fulfilling.  I would make up for that lost intensity by intermingling sprints and stair-stepper sessions into my lunch break each day.  On the weekends, as I had time available, I would take my road bike longer distances, often carrying a weighted pack to force an increased cardio output.

My pretty red bike.  Monserate Hill,, Fallbrook, CA...

My pretty red bike. Monserate Hill,, Fallbrook, CA…

Paying More And Getting Less

My road bike is actually a touring bike.  I paid less than $1,000 for it new.  It has no carbon fiber, no titanium, and weighs over 20 pounds – much more than most road bikes.  Still, when I have ridden with my serious cycling and triathlete friends, I have had no problem keeping up with them, and have lead the way more than a time or two.  Most of my cycling friends have bikes much lighter than mine – bikes that weigh in the 15-18 pound range.

Most of my cycling friends have at least a few thousand dollars invested in their bikes, often much more.  One friend has over $10,000 invested in her bike.  She competes at a high level.  Most cycling enthusiasts don’t compete at a high level, or compete at all.  Many people get into cycling for the health benefits; to lose weight, increase their fitness level, or both.

There is a direct correlation between the cost of a bicycle, its components, and a lack of weight in the bike.  That is, when one invests more money into their bike, it’s to make the bike lighter.   The lighter the bicycle is, the more efficiency there is in peddling.  For the competitive cyclist, efficient peddling equates to faster times.  This makes sense since competitive cyclists ride exclusively for time.

However, for the common fitness enthusiast or weight loss candidate, riding for time should be a lesser concern, and cardio output should be a priority.  I’m no math whiz, but this doesn’t add up to match the popular trend of investing in a lighter bike.  If a heavier bike is less expensive, and riding it longer will promote an increased fitness level sooner, I fail to understand the investment in a lighter bike as a means of easier peddling.

Notwithstanding, I have known dozens of people willing to invest an extra few hundred dollars on their bike, only to reduce the weight by a single pound.  Yet many of these same people are carrying an extra 20 pounds around their waist.  That math adds up even less.  Losing weight is free, and without that extra 20 pounds of bodyweight, the overall load would be lightened considerably.  At some point, I wonder why the mentality hasn’t evolved into having an engine installed on the bike so one can just sit back and just enjoy the ride.  Wait, it has evolved that way…

For s few hundred dollars more, you might even fit a V6 on this thing...

For s few hundred dollars more, you might even fit a V6 on this thing…

The Technology On The Inside

I am reminded of the many golfers I have known who have come to depend on – come to expect club technology to improve their game.  I often think lesser clubs would be just as effective for the frustrated golfer, if only he would only take time to hit balls more regularly, take swing lessons, and concentrate more on the single shot, rather than showing off what he thinks he knows.  Be it in golf, cycling, or weight loss, it takes effort and consistency to improve.

The quest to have the lightest bike, and the latest in technologies seems to be much more about keeping up with trends than it does to reap the benefits of cycling.  I’ll suggest for most who invest in titanium forks, and who take time to cut off the seat post below the clamp, these values will never be noticed during the ride.  For those who chose to lose 20 pounds around the waist though, that would be noticed.

The technology most needed to affect change in the body is the technology on the inside – the circuitry inside the mind, where rational decisions are made, or not.  Primary among these decisions should be the acceptance that true change requires effort more than it requires technology.

I think of my friend, surgeon, pilot, and fitness enthusiast Dr. J and his bike, Desperado.  No gears.  No carbon fiber.  No body fat.  No problem.

Not sure if that's Dr. J, or Bruce Lee.  Same difference...

Not sure if that’s Dr. J, or Bruce Lee. Same difference…

Dr. J and I once joked,  “It’s called a workout, not an easeout.”   For guys like us anyway… Be well. rc

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If you liked this essay, disliked it, or are indifferent to it, please take a moment to return to the top of this page and rate it.

Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Thank you.

Point The Finger At You…

Many people I know complain – most people I know complain often about the healthcare system.  People complain about greedy insurance companies, convoluted billing systems, apathetic physicians and medical workers, and about how those in Washington only make the problem worse.

At the foundation of all of this, in my opinion, there is much truth.  The system in its current state blows.  However, if every capable adult chose to exercise for 20-30 minutes daily, and every capable adult chose to keep their calories in line with CDC recommendations, I suspect the healthcare system would be much more fluid, much more time efficient, and far more dependable than it currently is.

Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and strokes occupy a large portion of the healthcare pie.  Often times these ailments are genetically predisposed and can not be helped, but most often they are self-inflicted.  In either case, none of these are the fault of greedy insurance companies, they are not the fault of convoluted billing systems, and they are not the fault of healthcare workers, or lawmakers.  We can make the healthcare system better by making ourselves better.

A little movement daily, and a few less calories at each meal could add up to a drastically improved healthcare system.  It could also result in a country better prepared to deal with increasing its woes.   Be well.  rc

Some Mixed Thoughts On Larger Purpose, Food Technology, Prejudice, And Change…

Nothing new this week.  I’ll have something fresh in 2 weeks.  I wrote the essay below over two years ago.  Little has changed in the collective awareness we have of our food system since I wrote this — and little has changed in the system itself, or how we use it.  Me thinks the train has left the station and the 300,000,000 drivers of the train don’t realize they are the drivers…

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Larger Purpose; Time’s Arrow Slowing Down

Americans are less healthy, less fit, and less discriminating in the choices which comprise our physicality than ever.  We had seen this coming for decades, and we let it in anyway – because letting it in required less work than keeping it out.  And there’s this; the National Institute for Health now suggests an alarming trend that could manifest within a few decades.  Unless serious efforts are met to combat the increasing rate of childhood obesity, for the first time in American history, children born in subsequent decades will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

It is suggested by critical thinkers like Michael Pollan, and others like him, that we should work our way toward the past, in hope that we change our future to become a healthier food-nation.  Enter, Michael Pollan’s open letter to President Obama.

Inspiring but unrealistic…?

However, from historic human social and technical trends, I see little which has happened in the past to suggest these proposed changes of national bad habits could have a wide-spread effect on the future.  I suggest using the non-wellness related books of Charles S. Maier (Among Empires), Jared Diamond (Collapse), and Andrew J. Bacevich (The Limits Of Power) to further examine the ultimate wellness concern; the ability of a society to identify what needs to be changed, and the willingness of its people to insist on making those changes.

These works of social and political scholarship attempt to demonstrate that human societies are often capable of, but very often unwilling, to learn from their mistakes.  Thus, what we try to think of as advancements, are often just highly devised concessions to a more dangerous road, but one which is more easily traveled.  Increasingly, I am convinced the waters of our advanced food system, and the obesity culture it has created, flow too fast and too wide to be slowed down, let alone altered or reversed.

Perhaps a less fit, less healthy food-culture is just our social and evolutionary destiny – our Manifat Destiny.  And the white elephant in the room might actually be 300 million white elephants, each wondering what went wrong, and why everyone else is so heavy – and what time the drive-thru on the way home from work closes.

Homo-big-gulpus…

Advancement: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Modernity is a playground for the unintended consequences of our advanced food system.  Billions of people have contributed to the advancements of our food culture in the past 10,000 years, and billions more have been its victim.  Hunters, gatherers, herders, farmers, and then scientists, engineers, transportation specialists, nutritionists, and consumers have all played a part in paving the road on which we now roll.  We have all benefitted and suffered from these advancements, as we will continue to benefit and suffer from them.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean to us, not to them…

Despite that, this is where we are in our food culture, there is an increasing prejudice from a few toward the many who consume highly processed foods, as well those who have helped to create these products.  I am reminded of my father who wants to move to a new assisted living center; one with fewer old people in it.  That scenario seems both contrarian, and prejudiced.

There are now volumes of books available distilling all the political and economic reasons – the contributing factors of how our food system has evolved into its current state.  Yet there is little credence given to the concept that; it all might have seemed like a good idea at the time…  Be it Diet Coke, Snack Well cookies, or single-serving ravioli in a can, we have often embraced these advancements at their introduction, as meeting the needs of changing human, social, and economic conditions.  But we learn and quickly forget, again and again, that from such good ideas, sometimes comes a whole lot of not-so-good.  It seems the unintended consequences of advancement, might tend to stifle…   advancement?  Or, humanity itself is God’s own Ponzi scheme.

Concepts And Realism

Though the notion of turning back our food system one hundred years seems like an enticing idea on the surface (to me it is a supreme idea), what Mr. Pollan and others like him amay not be accounting for is a lack of willingness on the part of many people to make those necessary changes – individuals and leaders alike.  That is, people can be informed of what needs to be changed and of how those changes can help us, but history shows we’re not very good listeners.  Our best shot at success with the food system may just be to keep on pumping those extra B vitamins into those Ho-Ho’s, and to keep trying to perfect protein infused Gummy Bears and pork rinds.

History offers us few good examples of us reversing strong social and technical trends.  We may abandon some social and technical trends in favor of others once we realize they are not working well for us, but we tend to not reverse anything.  Humans are more the walking away type.  It is frequently proven that the next positive advancement in the food system is just as laden with unintended consequences as the advancement we had just abandoned.  It’s official; I have no answers, only questions, and a heart full of concern.  Be well.  rc

I end this diatribe with 2 questions from which I would appreciate your responses to:

1)      Do you believe that our food system will truly be in a better state in 10 years than it is today?

2)      Will this column affect how you think about our food system?

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head…