Monday, March 27, 2006

The Basics of Healthy Living

“Remember, I am offering you the truth, nothing more.”

Monitor and Control
Health care in the U.S. soon will not be reliable when you need it most. So what can you do to not need it? The answer is Monitor and Control! Nearly every physical condition can be controlled, alleviated, reversed, or prevented through eating habits and exercise alone. According to functional medicine practitioners, you can control 80% of all disease by regulating your adrenaline, cortisol and insulin, which means in daily life you must lower your stress levels and manage your blood sugar.

Insulin, which comes from your pancreas, is the hormone you have greatest control over and is the master hormone to control if you want all your other hormones to stay balanced. You control insulin by regulating what you eat. If you feel you have lost control of your body shape, ask yourself this question: "Have I ever eaten anything by accident?" Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, remember that your body fat is telling you something. It is giving you a sneak preview of the health of your hormonal system.

The vast majority of modern day illness is caused or intensified by inactivity, insufficient nutrient intake, chronic acidosis, dehydration, sleep deprivation, drug abuse, etc. Through an integrative process of health care assessment and discussion, I have found that virtually every symptom of illness, such as infection, fatigue or obesity, can be traced back to its source. Treating chronic symptoms with drugs will not remedy the problem. To kill a weed, you’ve got to pull it out by the roots.

The principles of physics teach us that every effect has a cause, so the challenge lies in the search for the cause, as human life is frequently complexified by emotional disarray, mental aberration, philosophical debate, religious prejudice, confusion and fear. This is where Einstein’s theory of quantum physics comes in, as the variables that drive our behavior or hinder our pursuit for excellence are seldom tangible in essence. Searching for causes on all levels takes time, patience, money and compassion. But once the process is complete the results are seldom less than outstanding.

It’s important to rationalize health in the context of how we "feel" and clearly, the emotions associated with the need for change are instrumental to human motivation. But to rely entirely on our own subjective experience is unwise. To complete the picture, we can greatly benefit from information derived from an outside, objective view. To see ourselves "as we are," so to speak.

Most people take better care of their vehicles than they do their own body. When was the last time you had a physical or check up? This year? Last year? The year before? When was the last time you had your car in for work? If you follow your oil change recommendations you have your vehicle checked out about four times a year. But you only check your own personal health, once a year, once every two years, or more? Does that make sense? Most every insurance policy covers at least one yearly physical. In fact they encourage you to do so. They want any potential conditions caught early and rectified to avoid costly treatments. This should also be your goal. Monitor and Control. I know it’s scary to go for a checkup. What if they find something? However, you shouldn’t be afraid of what they’ll find, you should be afraid of not finding it in time. Of the 2.2 million people that die each year in the US, cardiovascular diseases account for the most victims, more than 48% of all deaths! Moral of the story: get a physical/checkup once a year, every year.

Changing The Rules
What kind of body do you really want?
Think about it for a second. Ask yourself, “What kind of body do I really want?”
Women often say something like, “Oh, I just want a nice, toned body. Not too big, but firm.” Toned and firm? Okay, sounds good to me. Men usually say something like, “I want to be big, muscular, and lean.” Well, I’m with ya. That’s a noble goal.

You know what you want to look like. You can picture it in your mind. You know exactly what kind of body you want. Now brace yourself and ask yourself honestly, “Why don’t I already have the body I want?” “Why don’t I look the way I want to look, right now?” “What’s holding me back?” Well, let’s consider the possibilities . . .

Is it a lack of motivation?
Maybe. In my experience, however, people who actively seek out solutions to their problems have motivation enough. You don’t need to move mountains to get in the best shape of your life; you just need to get started, and everyone can do that. If you can start, you can finish, as long as you do the right things! You see, once you’ve started to change your body, you don’t need motivational slogans and pep talks. What you need are results! Results are the true motivation. When you’re doing something that works, you just look in the mirror and say, “Damn, I look good, this stuff really works.” It’s positive reinforcement of what you’ve been doing, and you keep doing it. So the problem isn’t inspiration. It’s something else.

Poor exercise habits?
Sometimes, especially if you’re completely sedentary. If your daily activity involves nothing more than moving from one piece of furniture to another, you’re simply not going to get that body. Looking good naked requires exercise and probably more than you’re told is necessary.
30 minutes three times a week? I don’t think so. I know lots of people who are already exercising with highly skilled trainers and coaches, and even then, the results don’t come easy. So what else could it be? What is it really?

Bad genetics?
Look, this is a definite NO. A complete cop-out. You know what bad genetics are? Being born without legs. A propensity to gain fat around your midsection is NOT bad genetics. Sure, each of us has certain genetic limitations; for instance, you may not be equipped to play quarterback for the Patriots, play center for the Celtics or win the Boston Marathon. In other words, you may not have the genetic makeup to reach the upper limits of human performance. But you can always lose fat or gain muscle. In years of working out with people of all stripes, from office managers to elite athletes, I’ve yet to see a single case where they couldn’t make significant body composition change, and that’s what you really want, isn’t it? So if you’ve been using the old “bad genetics” routine, stop shaking your fist at the heavens, and look a little closer at the real problem.

So what is the real problem?
Ask yourself again: “Why don’t I have the body I want?” What’s really holding you back. Look, it’s not your lack of inspirational posters. It’s not the set/rep scheme you use in the gym, and it’s definitely not your genetics. Make no mistake about it, your limiting factor nearly always resides in the 160+ hours per week that you spend outside of gym. And what do you think is the most important factor in those 160+ hours? What, in that time, has the greatest impact on your body composition, health and performance?

Answer: Nutrition. Whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat, or just live healthy, the limiting factor is almost always nutrition.

Poor nutrition is what holds you back.
And good nutrition is what will move you forward. Good nutrition is what will feed muscle and shed fat. It’s what will improve nearly every health marker you can measure. It’s what will drastically improve recovery and mood, so you can work harder, longer. Good nutrition is what will get you the body you never thought you could have. Change your nutrition, and you’ll change your body entirely. Change your nutrition, and you’ll quite literally change your life.

Just look at people who have made major changes to their body. And I mean major changes, the type of changes that make people take notice when you enter the room. The common denominator is that they all completely changed their nutrition.“Well, great,” you say, “I understand the importance of nutrition to my body, and I do want to change. The question is how!”

But I think my nutrition is already pretty good – do I still need this?
Well, first of all, how do you know your nutrition plan is good? Because you “try to eat healthy?” Because you think your diet is low-carb, or high-carb, or low-fat or high-fat, or low-protein or high-protein or high in fiber? Because it looks good on paper? Or because it meets some other criteria for "pretty good nutrition"? Let me lay this out in the clearest, most concise way I know how . . .
If you don’t already have the body you want, then your nutrition plan is not good enough.

Listen, the only one way to determine whether your nutrition plan is any good is to look at your results. That’s the plain truth. I don’t care if your plan meets so-and-so’s guidelines, or is “low-carb” or contains enough vitamin C or whatever the latest B.S. indicator of good nutrition is in the popular press. There is only one rule: what works is good; what doesn’t is not. That’s the only rule to live by.

My approach is entirely outcome-based. It’s about getting results and nothing else. So if you want to know whether it’s right for you, then just ask yourself this question:
"Do I have the body I really, truly want?" Answer it honestly. Don’t worry, no one is listening.

If the answer is yes, then great. But if you answered no, “in all honesty, I don’t yet have the body I really want,” then I can say without the slightest hesitation that this plan is exactly what you need. Optimizing your nutrition plan is the true secret to transforming your body.

Simple Strategies Remarkable Results
People think that radical changes to their exercise and nutrition habits are extremely difficult to make. And you know what? They’re right. Radical changes ARE extremely difficult to make. But who said you need radical changes to get great results? Here’s the reality: the changes that get remarkable results are SIMPLE. The hard part is figuring out what they are. We need to establish a system of specific, simple steps that will allow the results we want.

Most diets and nutrition plans fail to get the results they claim. It’s that simple. They survive only as novelty items, as fads or gimmicks that help them stand out on an overcrowded bookshelf. If you want to succeed, you have to learn how to filter out the nonsense. You have to avoid the pitfalls that lead to failure, and focus your energy only on what works! Well, the reality is that some plans do work. Some do get the results. And guess what? The successful plans are surprisingly similar, as different as they claim to be. The key, then, is not to worry about what’s different between the successful plans, but rather to discover what is the same. Those similarities are the key to your success.

What are the rules of good nutrition? What types of things must you absolutely do to succeed. What types of things must you avoid? Seriously, take a moment and think about it. What rules do you think you’ll need to follow if you want to eat in a healthy way. A way that will improve the way your body looks and the way it feels? Pause for a moment and come up with that list in your mind right now.

Now that you’ve considered these rules, I want you to take a second and think about your list. Specifically, think about where you learned these rules. Certainly your rules have been influenced by how you were raised, no? Certainly they’ve been influenced by your experiences dining with friends and relatives. Comfort foods, right? Of course, no set of nutrition rules is immune to media influences. You can’t help but be bombarded by those Got Milk ads! Your rules have probably also been influenced by what you’ve heard others say. Heck, every 3rd episode of Dr. Phil is about food and dieting. And, no doubt, your nutrition rules have probably been influenced by your own past attempts at changing your body, whether you’ve been successful or not. I could sit here all day and list potential nutritional influences. But I’ll stop here since there are probably hundreds of ‘em and to enumerate them all would be gratuitous.

At this junction, I’d like to go ahead and make my point. And the point is this: very few of your “Good Nutrition Rules” have been influenced by those who know anything about good nutrition, let alone about long-term success or about what it really means to eat in a healthy way! And worse yet, most of those rules have been hammered home without you even knowing it! It’s time to change the rules.

Now I’ll admit it. Changing the rules, just like changing your habits, is difficult. Not only does it take a desire to change, “want to,” but it takes a strategy for change, “how to.” The “want to” is all your own. But the “how to” is what I’m here for. I’ve committed myself to helping people do just this, to change their rules and change their habits.

In changing these rules and habits, everything changes; the way you’ll eat, the way you’ll sleep, they way you’ll look, the way you’ll feel when you wake up in the morning, and the way you’ll perform in day-to-day activities.

I’m going to teach you a system; a system based on three criterion. What are the criterion for? Well, they represent a three step way of evaluating a strategy for its usefulness.
Step 1 – Simplicity Are the rules easy to follow?
Step 2 – Science Are the rules based on sound scientific principles?
Step 3 – Success Have the rules produced success in the past?
Using this criterion, the systems developed will always produce a positive result.

Think again about your nutritional rules, rules that you might be quite attached to. Which criterion did you use when determining your rules? Are your rules based on Simplicity, Science, and Success? Have your rules produced the desired effect? A lean, healthy body that you’re able to maintain; a body that you’re happy with when looking in the mirror? If not, perhaps they could use a re-evaluation.

Now that we agree that your nutrition habits are ineffectual, lets identify some of those possible habits and discuss why they are poor behaviors to embellish.

Nutrient Displacement
Now, this applies to you even if you are not obese… Yet. You may very well be young, thin, and a real hottie. But in ten or twenty years, you will be obese if you continue to regularly dine on rich chocolate brownies and frappaccinos for lunch, bagels and coffee for breakfast (American’s breakfast of choice), soda throughout the day, and leftover casserole for dinner.

Of course, obesity isn’t imminent in all cases. Most young, intelligent, and reasonably disciplined people will probably be able to restrain their eating habits enough to stave off full-blown obesity. But the fact is, simply moderating ones portions isn't enough to achieve optimal body composition and health.

The "All-Treat" Diet
There's a big difference between a healthy diet to which treats are occasionally added and an all-treat diet. In the former, less healthy foods are consumed rarely and in addition to healthy foods. In the latter, less healthy or unhealthy foods are consumed often and instead of healthy foods. This is called food displacement and must be avoided if optimal body composition and health are your goals.

Sure, I indulge in a slice of sugar-laden junk food occasionally. But looking only at the junk food that we eat presents a woefully incomplete part of the picture. The presence of bad food in our diets is much less important than the absence of good food.

To elaborate: I eat a small amount of junk food in addition to my antioxidant rich, protein filled, nutrient dense meals, of which I eat seven such meals a day. And that is one of seven such days a week!

You see, the bagel, the brownie and latte, the soda, etc. are consumed instead of good healthy choices. So, in essence, their empty calories displaced the good, nutrient dense food that could've otherwise been eaten. Don’t consume nothing but empty calories, calories more likely to be stored as fat than burned, calories that actually degrade health or do nothing to improve it, calories that'll make you hungry and food-obsessed all day, and calories that'll make you tired just an hour or two after consumption.

Convenience and Calories
Know anyone like this? Chances are you know lots of individuals like this! In the US alone, there are about 129.6 million overweight individuals and probably many more well on their way.

These stats beg the question; how did otherwise intelligent people get to be so bad, exchanging good nutrition for empty calories? While an explanation is probably multifactorial, there are a few simple answers that pop into my mind.

First, I think that North Americans strive daily for nutritional convenience. Sure, when the typical person goes out for a nice dinner at a restaurant, he or she usually gets a decent meal. But, unlike many Europeans, North Americans select everyday meals for speed and convenience.

A nice egg and spinach omelet with oats and pineapple on the side takes some time to prepare and eat. On the contrary, a bagel and coffee can be carried into the car and eaten on the way to work. So in our quest for speed and convenience, we get very little in the way of good nutrition. That’s why we’re overfed and undernourished, and that's how people can eat so much yet still have nutrient deficiencies.

Secondly, I think we’ve gotten too calorie conscious. Most people who make poor food selections aren’t stupid. They know if they want to be thin, they can only eat a certain amount of calories per day. If they eat more, they either feel monumentally guilty or, much less often, they head to the gym for marathon cardio sessions designed to exercise those extra calories off.

In trying to walk that thin tight rope of energy balance, they realize if they eat good, healthy food (i.e. marinated chicken breast with a spinach salad and a piece of fruit), they’ll be eating a bunch of calories which simply don’t taste as good as the brownies they’re craving. In this sense, the healthy food will displace the tasty junk they often crave.

So in an attempt to get the tasty brownie calories, they choose instead to displace the good chicken and spinach calories, kicking them out of the diet. In their minds, "a calorie is a calorie" and therefore if they simply eat a brownie instead of the chicken, they’ll stay just as thin. Thin, in our society, is synonymous with healthy. Little do they realize they’re setting themselves up for losses in lean body mass, an ever slowing metabolic rate, micronutrient deficiencies, and all sorts of nutrition related health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and syndrome-x. It’s hard to stay lean when the metabolism is dwindling as a result of insufficient protein intake and a low thermic effect of feeding. The metabolic rate takes another plunge because of deficiencies in essential fatty acids, not to mention decreasing muscle mass.

It’s also pretty difficult to stay lean if you’ve got diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and/or syndrome-x. To support this notion, all we need to realize is that in the last twenty years the incidence of obesity has doubled, yet our average daily energy intake hasn’t increased much at all!

North Americans aren’t getting so darned fat and/or unhealthy simply because of overeating. Often they replace good foods with the super-sized sugars, the trans fats, and the other nasty fast food ingredients. The good foods have the power to negate the effects of these nasty, health-degrading junk foods, but because people become too concerned with energy balance, they simply displace the good stuff.

In fact, if people simply ate a high protein, antioxidant and micronutrient rich diet supplemented with junk food, they’d end up leaner and healthier than those who got the same amount of calories (and often even fewer calories) from empty, displacing foods.

Obesity is epidemic, diabetes is on the rise, and heart disease is our number one killer. Even those who exercise fairly regularly can find themselves struggling with body fat and related health issues. Yet, bizarrely, rather than choosing wholesome foods, we’re often taught portion-control as we live and eat in a world of processed, pre-packaged abominations.

Where does this leave a health conscious person like you? Without good dietary judgment, it could leave you a frustrated, metabolic and hormonal train wreck struggling to get off that body fat in a world polluted by "frankenfoods." Sound familiar? This is most commonly the situation.

Sometimes I wonder what my grandfather would say if he walked into a modern grocery store. Probably something like: "Where’s the FOOD?" He’d see aisle after aisle of brightly colored cans, boxes and bags of tasty, processed, confectionary delights. But he’d be thinking: "Don’t these people eat actual food? Where are the lean cuts of meat, the fruits and the vegetables? That’s what we used to eat."
They’re along the side or in the rear of the store, Grandpa. They’re stuck over there because they’re boring and nobody eats actual food anymore.

Perhaps saddest of all is that those of us who want to stay lean without being hungry all the time are offered "health foods" that are just as false and freaky as the junk foods. Let’s take a look at foods that you may have in your own cupboard. Foods that leave your body wondering how the heck it’s going to deal with them…

Low-fat Peanut Butter
Brilliant. Let’s take the healthy, mostly monounsaturated fat out and mix-in some corn syrup solids. Whether this appeases the leaders of the "fat witch hunt" or not, it just creates a nice fat-plus-sugar combo that we just don’t need. And although Consumer Reports has stated that there is actually little trans-fat in most peanut butters, I still pass on the creamy run-of-the-mill stuff. I like the taste of real mashed-up peanuts in their own oil. It’s bizarre, if you think about it, that we have to pay significantly more for "natural peanut butter." In the name of George Washington Carver! That’s the REAL stuff! In fact, it’s sometimes only offered in stores with a specialty foods section. Ugh.

Here’s another smart move, eh? Industry’s efforts to find an alternative to butter (which admittedly isn’t something that should be over-indulged-in) brought our society to margarine. Trans fatty acids replaced the saturated ones and voila, vascular disease is more common than ever.

When I use margarine, it’s an olive oil-based, trans fat-free type. Or, on occasion, I even use actual butter. Or how about just getting used to life without it? Learn to suck it up, you pampered child of the kindly West! You’re just smearing fat on your carbs by remaining dependent on buttered toast and margarine-fried pancakes. Not good for a dieter. These foods aren’t really that different from donuts; would you eat those regularly?

Listen, margarine, at least in its original form, was basically a mistake. Even if it is a modern-day staple. On holidays, I still find myself smiling at how far society has drifted into our fancy new hydrogenated world when my mom announces "I’m serving this with REAL butter!"

Fat-free hotdogs and bologna
Exactly what is this stuff, anyway? More demonization of fat, as if our ancestors didn’t evolve on the stuff, has resulted in these freaky little processed thingamabobs. They’re typically just as riddled with nitrites as the fatty versions. And nitrites are (arguably) potently carcinogenic.

Admittedly, however, not everyone agrees on the carcinogenic potential of n-nitroso compounds. One study found significant relationships between hotdog consumption and brain cancer in kids, especially those rugrats who didn’t get a multivitamin. Not good. I don’t even want to think about how many hotdogs and bologna sandwiches I ate as a kid. Although an upcoming summer picnic can admittedly leave me buying a pack of low-fat dogs for indulgence ("real" hotdogs and bologna are similarly abominable), this stuff just has no place in usual eating habits.

Fat free ice cream
Hey, I know! Let’s take all the fat out of something that was never meant to be eaten regularly so we can indulge in a little sugar rush/ insulin nightmare every night! Forget the fact that it’s supposed to be a rare treat. Gobbling the stuff as an after dinner desert is even better! At this time our glucose tolerance is so bad, we might as well insert an intravenous drip of Karo syrup. But hey, it’s fat free, right?

Of course, we can take the advice of certain nutrition authorities and self-enforce rigorous portion control, frustrating ourselves on a nightly basis with a mere quarter cup! Why do this to yourself? Time once more to suck it up and lose the crutch.

Historically, Frankenfoods have been myopic mistakes that folks use as a crutch (unwittingly to their own detriment) rather than learning REAL, biologically correct dietary choices. It has yet to dawn on us that our efforts to make something "healthy" that was never meant to be anything but a rare treat backfires more often than not. By trying to fool Mother Nature, we have perennially created abominations that catch up with us in the long run. Why frustrate yourself continually when learning not to crave these foods, which admittedly takes months for most of us, is so much more logical? Then, if you want the REAL stuff on a special occasion, go eat a big bowl without guilt.

Diet Soda
Although perhaps less offensive, this useless Frankenfood is one of the most common. It rots your teeth with its acids, adds in a little extra sodium and caffeine and offers nothing by way of actual nutrients—aside from the fluid itself.

Still (and sadly) it’s a big improvement over the even more tooth-rotting, occasionally sodium and caffeine providing, nutrition-less AND sugary soda pops. Did you know that pop is being called "liquid candy" by researchers? Did you know that Pepsi has a pH of just 2.4? Yikes! Whose teeth wouldn’t demineralize? I personally don’t want to swish around in my mouth and then actually swallow something that would eat a hole through my living room carpet.

Here’s a tip: go drink some freaking water. If you need some flavoring to help increase consumption, find some spring water with a twist of lime or perhaps small amounts of sucralose flavoring.

If you’re a diet pop junkie, try replacing just one diet soft drink daily with water containing a twist of lemon or lime; barely-sweetened green tea is a great choice too. And regarding your teeth, mineral waters are a research-supported "safe alternative to more erosive acidic beverages", not to mention they actually give your body a fluid it recognizes. By sweetening drinks yourself, you can titrate the sweetness downward each month. Over time you’ll actually lose your taste for ultra-sweet Frankenfoods.

Regular Hamburger
I’ve certainly admitted before that I love beef in a big bloody way. But as a society we’ve taken cattle off their natural diet (grass) and served them up copious quantities of corn. Can you imagine a free-ranging cow up on its hindquarters nibbling the tip of a stalk of corn? Me either. It’s like the furniture commercial says: "that’s just not natural!"

It’s true that the term "corn-fed beef" does sound appetizing to a carnivore like me but "grass-fed beef" is far superior. The fatty acid composition is much better suited for human physiology. Although I am grateful that agriculture successfully maintains much of the world population, I am also grateful that I live in a culture that provides a biologically correct alternative.

That’s right, bread. Don’t let its prevalence fool you. White bread is perhaps more disturbing than the rest of the Frankenfoods put together. Just because you grew up on the stuff doesn’t mean it’s okay. There is actually literature describing Americans’ preference for white bread over healthier types. There’s also literature relating this spongy Frankenfood to obesity. Here’s a scary quote:
"The mean annual change in waist circumference was more than 3 times as great for subjects in the white-bread cluster as for those in the healthy cluster.”

It's been stripped of most of the grain’s benefits and artificially fortified a bit in an effort to resuscitate it. It's so insulinogenic that it’s actually used in glucose tolerance tests (e.g. in labs to spike blood sugar/ insulin as rapidly as possible). This kind of food doesn’t exactly lend itself to fullness and satisfaction. In fact, did you know that 76% of foods offer more satiety than white bread? This stuff needs to be saved only for post-workout periods, if ever consumed.

And the "wheat" bread you see is usually just white bread dyed brown. It’s like a fat guy with a tan. He’s still a fat guy. Unless it specifically says "whole wheat" in the ingredients list, it’s not. The fiber content and other nutrients are just like white bread. Besides, if you’ve been feeling good about consuming the usual brown stuff instead of white, ask yourself what the white stuff is made of… wheat, duh!

Canned Vegetables
Since so few people eat vegetables at all, it would be remiss to chastise everyone for consuming some canned green beans or corn. Vegetables are a great way to increase fiber intake, reduce calorie load, take-in beneficial phytochemicals, and even lose body fat over time. But if you’re trying to eat more veggies for health reasons, why bother with sodium-loaded, unattractive canned types? Most fresh or frozen vegetables aren’t typically expensive and they're WAY more attractive than those grayish, canned "green" beans you’ve been choking down.

My guess is that you’ve had a hard time complying with recommendations to eat more vegetables; do you think those daily canned, gray, salty "Franken-beans" are helping? Have you ever thought: Oh yeah! Give me a second helping! Conversely, a purposeful attempt to buy a different bag (or three) of fresh or frozen veggies each week can go a long way toward complying with your nutrition plan and reverse your downward spiral into that hormonal-metabolic-physique trainwreck we mentioned earlier. You’ve just got to take a moment and think about preparing them in a quick, visually-appealing way.

Summary Table
Frankenfood/ Better Choice

• Low-fat PB/ Natural PB, mixed nuts

• Hydrogenated corn oil margarine/ Olive oil margarine, straight olive oil or nothing

• Fat free processed meats/ Fresh chicken breast - perhaps bought un-brined; salmon; 93% lean burger or grass-fed beef; round steak

• Fat free ice cream/ Low-fat or no-added-sugar ice cream, as a treat only

• Diet pop/ Water, tea

• White or "wheat" bread/ 100% whole-wheat (or 100% whole-grain) bread or better still: baked potatoes with skin, oatmeal, oat bran hot cereal, wheat bran cereals (hot or All-Bran type) or other unrefined sources of carbohydrate (vegetables)

• Processed, canned vegetables/ One to three 16-oz. bags of frozen veggies weekly to be entirely consumed within seven days
Listen, eating real food doesn’t have to be excruciating. Blandness and unattractive presentation of wholesome foods is a real (and huge) factor that drives people away. Unfortunately, the ever-convenient, ever-tasty, ever-colorfully-packaged Frankenfoods are beckoning. They aren’t just fun-foods, they masquerade as "healthy choices" that are little more than a crutch for the weak minded. Some people "cave" to the temptation but some resist with a little effort at the grocery store and the stovetop. You have to ask yourself flatly and DAILY: what is my choice?

I often mention that physique success is 90% nutrition and recovery, at least temporally. That is, even with a lengthy two-hour training session (which admittedly is a critical 8-9% of one’s day), one is still left with 22 hours each day outside of the gym. That’s over 90% my friends. Do you want to put in thought and effort only 10% of the time? What kind of health and progress do you expect to achieve living on Frankenfoods, even if you do train well?

Maybe this little tirade was a wake-up call; maybe we all just need to be reminded of some basic, obvious stuff at times. But for those struggling to rid themselves of body fat and improve health, these adjustments away from Frankenfoods would be a measurable help. Don’t make your diet a horror story.

This is the short list, just to open your eyes. Later I’ll go over some specific food choices, what you should be eating everyday and more of what you should avoid. Remember that if you don’t buy it you only have to resist the temptation once. Avoid these foods one time, while in the grocery store, and you are home free. Lets talk about that.

The First Stop on the Road to Health
Welcome, my friends, to grocery shopping for health. Grocery shopping?!? That's right; this section is all about grocery shopping. And I'm not kidding either! So what's up with that? I'll tell you what's up with that, you don't know how to shop.

Okay, maybe some of you do. But I'd wager that most of you don't have a clue as to how to navigate the perilous aisles of the grocery store. And I'm willing to bet that at least half of the men out there aren't comfortable at the grocery store either.

I maintain that learning how to navigate the grocery store is critical to your progress if you're trying to lose fat or improve your health. When I say that your trip to the grocery store is the first, and probably the most important stop on your road to success, I mean it.

Interval Shopping
In North America we shop less frequently than our European counterparts. While we shop every 1-2 weeks, they may shop every 1-2 days. Why the difference? One reason is that these norms have become habit, for sure. But the other is that Europeans typically buy items that are closer to their natural state, items that have short shelf lives. Conversely, we North Americans buy a lot of packaged stuff loaded full of preservatives that takes a little (or a lot) longer to expire. So we need to shop with less frequency. Of course, this is to our detriment.

I suggest that you shop once per week or even more frequently, based on your schedule (but never less than once per week). With all the fruits, veggies, and meats you're buying, once per week usually is just about right to ensure nothing goes bad. Getting in a set pattern of shopping ensures that there are fewer occasions to run out of food. Amazingly, when some start with this program, they forget to shop and even claim that they forget to eat! Obviously, if the fridge is stocked, it's less likely that you'll forget. And if it’s stocked full of the right stuff, it’s less likely you’ll eat the wrong foods.

The Psychology of Shopping
You will always visit the grocery store prepared. You will visit the store with a pre-planned list that'll cover you until the next planned shopping excursion. Below is an example of a one week shopping list. You can use this as a template to start with. Eventually, once you customize your intake, you'll need to make your own lists based on the number of calories you should be eating as well as which foods you're going to incorporate into your plan.

5 large bags fresh spinach
2 large bags fresh carrots
1 pineapple, either fresh or precut
7 apples
7 plums (or oranges, pears, etc.)
4 bananas
7 potatoes/yams
1 bag of quinoa (ancient grains)
1 lemon
1 clove garlic
4 large red bell peppers
1 onion
1 lb walnuts
1 container non-stick cooking spray 1 box high fiber cereal
1 jar of pesto
1 box green tea
1 container apple cider vinegar
1 bottle flax oil
1 bottle extra virgin olive oil
5 lbs extra lean beef
3 packages of chicken or turkey sausage
5 containers egg whites
1 dozen omega 3 eggs
1/2 lb sliced cheese
2 large containers plain yogurt
1 bottle salmon oil/fish oil capsules

High Intensity Shopping
Once you've got a grocery list goin' on you'll be able to breeze in and out of the grocery store in a mere 15-20min; you'll know exactly what you need and exactly where it's located.

Sure, from time to time, you can feel free to browse the aisles for new healthy offerings and interesting food variety. But most of the time, you're not going to want to waste time walking up and down the aisles being tempted by the newest BBQ sauce or frozen entrée. Make your shopping a high intensity affair and you're in and out of the store in a flash.

Disease Aisles
If you knew someone had the clap, would you mess around with them? Probably not? Heck, you probably would just steer clear of them for fear of catching somethin' through simple proximity.

Well why not treat the grocery store the same way. Since many of the aisles contain foods that'll surely "infect" you with diseases like diabetes, heart disease, etc. why not just steer clear of them? To this end, I encourage you to avoid all the aisles that contain foods not conducive to your goals.

Much of the best food is found around the perimeter of the grocery store. Around the perimeter you'll find the produce section (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, nuts, etc), the meat section (chicken, lean beef, fish, etc), the bakery section (choose the fresh whole grain breads and not the desserts, please), and the dairy aisle (cottage cheese, plain yogurt, eggs, etc). Sure, the middle aisles might have to be visited from time to time for things like legumes, oats, etc. But be on guard, it's the aisles in the middle (snacks, juices, etc) that can get you into trouble with their pretty packaging and "magically delicious" flavors. Stay away from the bright, shiny objects.

Why So Many Rules?
Ok, I know what you're thinking. Does shopping really matter that much? Why so many rules? Well, if you're looking in the mirror and aren't liking what you see, the chances are that you've got your own set of rules (whether you know it or not) and these rules are just perfect for creating a sorry physique. The rules I put forth are perfect for creating a perfect physique. So which would you like to follow again?

When you're trying to re-pattern your life, there's little room for "winging it." Although training to lose fat is fun, eating to lose fat is fun, and watching other people's faces as they appreciate your new body is fun, exchanging old, ineffectual habits for new habits isn't always fun; in fact, it can be downright difficult. However, like all good investments, the larger the amount of capital you're willing to put into the investment, the larger the reward.

Reading The Food Label
Under regulations from the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the food label offers more complete, useful and accurate nutrition information than ever before.

With today's food labels, consumers get:
• nutrition information about almost every food in the grocery store
• distinctive, easy-to-read formats that enable consumers to more quickly find the information they need to make healthful food choices
• information on the amount per serving of saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and other nutrients of major health concern
• nutrient reference values, expressed as % Daily Values, that help consumers see how a food fits into an overall daily diet
• uniform definitions for terms that describe a food's nutrient content--such as "light," "low-fat," and "high-fiber"--to ensure that such terms mean the same for any product on which they appear
• Claims about the relationship between a nutrient or food and a disease or health-related condition, such as calcium and osteoporosis, and fat and cancer. These are helpful for people who are concerned about eating foods that may help keep them healthier longer.
• standardized serving sizes that make nutritional comparisons of similar products easier
• Declaration of total percentage of juice in juice drinks. This enables consumers to know exactly how much juice is in a product.

These and other changes are part of final rules published in the Federal Register in 1992 and 1993. FDA's rules implement the provisions of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA), which, among other things, requires nutrition labeling for most foods (except meat and poultry) and authorizes the use of nutrient content claims and appropriate FDA-approved health claims.

Nutrition Information Panel
Under the label's "Nutrition Facts" panel, manufacturers are required to provide information on certain nutrients. The mandatory (underlined) and voluntary components and the order in which they must appear are:
• total calories
• calories from fat
• calories from saturated fat
• total fat
• saturated fat
• polyunsaturated fat
• monounsaturated fat
• cholesterol
• sodium
• potassium
• total carbohydrate
• dietary fiber
• soluble fiber • insoluble fiber
• sugars
• sugar alcohol (for example, the sugar substitutes xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol)
• other carbohydrate (the difference between total carbohydrate and the sum of dietary fiber, sugars, and sugar alcohol if declared)
• protein
• vitamin A
• percent of vitamin A present as beta-carotene
• vitamin C
• calcium
• iron
• other essential vitamins and minerals

If a claim is made about any of the optional components, or if a food is fortified or enriched with any of them, nutrition information for these components becomes mandatory.

These mandatory and voluntary components are the only ones allowed on the Nutrition Facts panel. The listing of single amino acids, maltodextrin, calories from polyunsaturated fat, and calories from carbohydrates, for example, may not appear as part of the Nutrition Facts on the label.
The required nutrients were selected because they address today's health concerns. The order in which they must appear reflects the priority of current dietary recommendations.

Understanding Serving Sizes
To understand more about food labels and serving sizes, look to the sample food label above. At the top of the label under Nutrition Facts, you'll see the serving size and the number of servings in the package. The rest of the nutrition information in the label is based on one serving. In this example, one-half cup is designated as one serving, and the package contains four servings.

That means that if you eat the whole box of macaroni and cheese, you’re eating four servings, not one, so you’ll have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams and other nutrients by four to get accurate nutrition information.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Reading a Food Label
Until you become accustomed to reading food labels, it's easy to become confused. Avoid these common mistakes when reading labels:
• A label may say that the food is reduced fat or reduced sodium. That means that the amount of fat or sodium has been reduced by 25% from the original product. It doesn't mean, however, that the food is low in fat or sodium. For example, if a can of soup originally had 1,000 milligrams of sodium, the reduced sodium product would still be a high-sodium food.
• Don't confuse the % DV for fat with the percentage of calories from fat. If the % DV is 15% that doesn't mean that 15% of the calories comes from fat. Rather, it means that you're using up 15% of all the fat you need for a day with one serving (based on a meal plan of 2,000 calories per day).
• Don't make the mistake of assuming that the amount of sugar on a label means that the sugar has been added. For example, milk naturally has sugar, which is called lactose. But that doesn't mean you should stop drinking milk because milk is full of other important nutrients including calcium. What you can do is look at the list of ingredients. If you see the words high-fructose corn syrup or sugar high on the list of ingredients, it probably means refined sugar has been added to the product.
A common mistake people make, especially with packages dispensed from vending machines, is to assume that a small item contains one serving just because the package is small. If you eat a bag of pretzels from a vending machine, for example, you may find that it contains 2.5 servings. So you need to multiply the numbers by 2.5 to figure out how many calories and the amount of sodium and other nutrients you are eating.

Nutrient Content Claims
The regulations also spell out what terms may be used to describe the level of a nutrient in a food and how they can be used. These are the core terms:
• Free. This term means that a product contains no amount of, or only trivial or "physiologically inconsequential" amounts of, one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, and calories. For example, "calorie-free" means fewer than 5 calories per serving, and "sugar-free" and "fat-free" both mean less than 0.5 g per serving. Synonyms for "free" include "without," "no" and "zero." A synonym for fat-free milk is "skim.”
• Low. This term can be used on foods that can be eaten frequently without exceeding dietary guidelines for one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories. Thus, descriptors are defined as follows:
o low-fat: 3 g or less per serving
o low-saturated fat: 1 g or less per serving
o low-sodium: 140 mg or less per serving
o very low sodium: 35 mg or less per serving
o low-cholesterol: 20 mg or less and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving
o low-calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
Synonyms for low include "little," "few," "low source of," and "contains a small amount of."
• Lean and extra lean. These terms can be used to describe the fat content of meat, poultry, seafood, and game meats.
o lean: less than 10 g fat, 4.5 g or less saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.
o extra lean: less than 5 g fat, less than 2 g saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.
• High. This term can be used if the food contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient in a serving.
• Good source. This term means that one serving of a food contains 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient.
• Reduced. This term means that a nutritionally altered product contains at least 25 percent less of a nutrient or of calories than the regular product. However, a reduced claim can't be made on a product if its reference food already meets the requirement for a "low" claim.
• Less. This term means that a food, whether altered or not, contains 25 percent less of a nutrient or of calories than the reference food. For example, pretzels that have 25 percent less fat than potato chips could carry a "less" claim. "Fewer" is an acceptable synonym.
• Light. This descriptor can mean two things:
o First, that a nutritionally altered product contains one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the reference food. If the food derives 50 percent or more of its calories from fat, the reduction must be 50 percent of the fat.
o Second, that the sodium content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has been reduced by 50 percent. In addition, "light in sodium" may be used on food in which the sodium content has been reduced by at least 50 percent.
The term "light" still can be used to describe such properties as texture and color, as long as the label explains the intent--for example, "light brown sugar" and "light and fluffy."
• More. This term means that a serving of food, whether altered or not, contains a nutrient that is at least 10 percent of the Daily Value more than the reference food. The 10 percent of Daily Value also applies to "fortified," "enriched" and "added" "extra and plus" claims, but in those cases, the food must be altered.
Alternative spelling of these descriptive terms and their synonyms is allowed--for example, "hi" and "lo"--as long as the alternatives are not misleading.

Healthy. A "healthy" food must be low in fat and saturated fat and contain limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium. In addition, if it' s a single-item food, it must provide at least 10 percent of one or more of vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber. Exempt from this "10-percent" rule are certain raw, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables and certain cereal-grain products. These foods can be labeled "healthy," if they do not contain ingredients that change the nutritional profile, and, in the case of enriched grain products, conform to standards of identity, which call for certain required ingredients. If it's a meal-type product, such as frozen entrees and multi-course frozen dinners, it must provide 10 percent of two or three of these vitamins or minerals or of protein or fiber, in addition to meeting the other criteria. The sodium content cannot exceed 360 mg per serving for individual foods and 480 mg per serving for meal-type products.

Other Definitions
The regulations also address other claims. Among them:
• Percent fat free: A product bearing this claim must be a low-fat or a fat-free product. In addition, the claim must accurately reflect the amount of fat present in 100 g of the food. Thus, if a food contains 2.5 g fat per 50 g, the claim must be "95 percent fat free."
• Implied: These types of claims are prohibited when they wrongfully imply that a food contains or does not contain a meaningful level of a nutrient. For example, a product claiming to be made with an ingredient known to be a source of fiber (such as "made with oat bran") is not allowed unless the product contains enough of that ingredient (for example, oat bran) to meet the definition for "good source" of fiber. As another example, a claim that a product contains "no tropical oils" is allowed--but only on foods that are "low" in saturated fat because consumers have come to equate tropical oils with high saturated fat.
Although not mandated by NLEA, FDA has issued a regulation for the term "fresh." The agency took this step because of concern over the term's possible misuse on some food labels.

The regulation defines the term "fresh" when it is used to suggest that a food is raw or unprocessed. In this context, "fresh" can be used only on a food that is raw, has never been frozen or heated, and contains no preservatives. (Irradiation at low levels is allowed.) "Fresh frozen," "frozen fresh," and "freshly frozen" can be used for foods that are quickly frozen while still fresh. Blanching (brief scalding before freezing to prevent nutrient breakdown) is allowed.
Other uses of the term "fresh," such as in "fresh milk" or "freshly baked bread," are not affected.

Health Claims
Claims for 10 relationships between a nutrient or a food and the risk of a disease or health-related condition are now allowed. They can be made in several ways: through third-party references (such as the National Cancer Institute), statements, symbols (such as a heart), and vignettes or descriptions. Whatever the case, the claim must meet the requirements for authorized health claims--for example, they cannot state the degree of risk reduction and can only use "may" or "might" in discussing the nutrient or food-disease relationship. And they must state that other factors play a role in that disease.
The claims also must be phrased so that consumers can understand the relationship between the nutrient and the disease and the nutrient's importance in relationship to a daily diet.
An example of an appropriate claim is: "While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease."

The allowed nutrient-disease relationship claims and rules for their use are:
• Calcium and osteoporosis: To carry this claim, a food must contain 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for calcium (200 mg) per serving, have a calcium content that equals or exceeds the food's content of phosphorus, and contain a form of calcium that can be readily absorbed and used by the body. The claim must name the target group most in need of adequate calcium intakes (that is, teens and young adult white and Asian women) and state the need for exercise and a healthy diet. A product that contains 40 percent or more of the Daily Value for calcium must state on the label that a total dietary intake greater than 200 percent of the Daily Value for calcium (that is, 2,000 mg or more) has no further known benefit.
• Fat and cancer: To carry this claim, a food must meet the nutrient content claim requirements for "low-fat" or, if fish and game meats, for "extra lean."
• Saturated fat and cholesterol and coronary heart disease (CHD): This claim may be used if the food meets the definitions for the nutrient content claim "low saturated fat," "low-cholesterol," and "low-fat," or, if fish and game meats, for "extra lean." It may mention the link between reduced risk of CHD and lower saturated fat and cholesterol intakes to lower blood cholesterol levels.
• Fiber-containing grain products, fruits and vegetables and cancer: To carry this claim, a food must be or must contain a grain product, fruit or vegetable and meet the nutrient content claim requirements for "low-fat," and, without fortification, be a "good source" of dietary fiber.
• Fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain fiber and risk of CHD: To carry this claim, a food must be or must contain fruits, vegetables and grain products. It also must meet the nutrient content claim requirements for "low saturated fat," "low-cholesterol," and "low-fat" and contain, without fortification, at least 0.6 g soluble fiber per serving.
• Sodium and hypertension (high blood pressure): To carry this claim, a food must meet the nutrient content claim requirements for "low-sodium."
• Fruits and vegetables and cancer: This claim may be made for fruits and vegetables that meet the nutrient content claim requirements for "low-fat" and that, without fortification, for "good source" of at least one of the following: dietary fiber or vitamins A or C. This claim relates diets low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables (and thus vitamins A and C and dietary fiber) to reduced cancer risk. FDA authorized this claim in place of an antioxidant vitamin and cancer claim.
• Dietary sugar alcohols and dental caries (cavities): This claim applies to food products, such as candy or gum, containing the sugar alcohols xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, isomalt, lactitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, hydrogenated glucose syrups, or a combination of any of these. If the food also contains a fermentalbe carbohydrate, such as sugar, the food cannot lower the pH of plaque in the mouth below 5.7. Besides the food ingredient's relationship to dental caries, the claim also must state that frequent between-meal consumption of foods high in sugars and starches promotes tooth decay. A shortened claim is allowed on food packages with less than 15 square inches of labeling surface area.
• Soluble fiber from certain foods, such as whole oats and psyllium seed husk, and heart disease: This claim must state that the fiber also needs to be part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and the food must provide sufficient soluble fiber. The amount of soluble fiber in a serving of the food must be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Ingredient Labeling
Ingredient declaration is required on all foods that have more than one ingredient.
Because people may be allergic to certain additives and to help them better avoid them, the ingredient list must include, when appropriate:
• FDA-certified color additives, such as FD&C Blue No. 1, by name
• sources of protein hydrolysates, which are used in many foods as flavors and flavor enhancers
• declaration of caseinate as a milk derivative in the ingredient list of foods that claim to be non-dairy, such as coffee whiteners.

As required by NLEA, beverages that claim to contain juice must declare the total percentage of juice on the information panel. In addition, FDA's regulation establishes criteria for naming juice beverages. For example, when the label of a multi-juice beverage states one or more--but not all--of the juices present, and the predominantly named juice is present in minor amounts, the product' s name must state that the beverage is flavored with that juice or declare the amount of the juice in a 5 percent range--for example, "raspberry-flavored juice blend" or "juice blend, 2 to 7 percent raspberry juice."

To learn more about health and nutrition, visit my Health and Nutrition Blog .

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blame and Responsibility in American Culture

Everyone seems to want to blame someone else for the position they’re in rather than take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. Everyone’s whining and crying, these days, about everyone else. Everyone wants to blame their parents for their own failures in life. They say that somehow their parents imposed some abnormal emotional state, or that they somehow failed to provide them the faculties they need to be a successful and productive member of society. Many also blame the government for their position. They believe the government should do more to help them in their circumstances. That the government somehow is to blame for their lack of ability to fit in our society. These people look outward for blame when they should be looking inward for responsibility.

This mentality of not wanting to except responsibility for a given situation is so prevalent in our society that it seems to be engrained into our psyche on some deep level. We are so conditioned with this that it seems nearly impossible to “see” things any other way. Our society is in great need of a basic paradigm shift where this principal of responsibility is concerned. It seems to me to be a matter of maturity and dependence. Dependence is the idea of you, you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn’t come through; I blame you for the results. Independence is the idea of I, I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose. True independence of character empowers us to act rather than be acted upon. It frees us from circumstances and other people. Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Even recognizing this fact, I myself have to make a concerted, conscious effort to keep myself from falling to the trappings of the blame game. Every single situation you ever have any involvement with is a direct result of a decision you’ve made. This is the dictum by which I try to live my life. No matter what the circumstance or how “un-lucky” things seem to be, I can always trace this very moment directly back to some decision I’ve made at some point in my life, past or present. We live presently through our previous actions. Every choice you make has a cause, even if you decide not to choose you still have made a choice. That choice, too, will have a cause.

“Choose your attitude, it may be your only choice.” For each individual situation there is a typical emotion and a typical action which accompanies it. Though not always logical, it is the conditioned response taught to us through some combination of factors. This response is typical, but not mandatory. There are basically three theories of determinism widely accepted to explain the nature of man. Genetic determinism basically says your grandparents made you this way. It’s in your DNA, it just goes through the generations and you inherited it. Psychic determinism basically says your parents made you this way. Your upbringing, your childhood experience essentially laid out your personal tendencies and your character. It’s the way your parents brought you up. Environmental determinism basically says your boss is making you this way, or your spouse, or that bratty teenager, or your economic situation, or national policies. Someone or something in your environment is responsible for your situation. Each of these is based on the stimulus/response theory. The basic idea is that we are conditioned to respond in a particular way to a particular stimulus. This is reactivity, or the reactive model. While you can’t always choose your emotions, you can choose your attitude and you can choose your actions. If something angers you, you can choose not to lash out in reaction. If something saddens you, you can choose not to act in revenge. If something elates you, you can choose not to celebrate in the face of others. You can always choose your action and you are, therefore, always responsible for your actions. As human beings we have free will, the ability to act based on our self awareness, free of all other influence. We also have self awareness, the ability to think about the thoughts we are having; imagination, the ability to create scenarios in our mind beyond our present reality; and conscience, a deep inner awareness of right and wrong, the principals that govern our behavior, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them. This gives us the ability to choose our thoughts independently of outside influence. That means that between stimulus and response we have the freedom to choose. In any particular situation we can choose not to respond in the way we’ve been conditioned. This is proactivity, or the proactive model.

While it’s true that most situations and circumstances rely, at least partly, on outside influences, factors outside of our control, we are always in control of ourselves. We are in control of how we react to those factors, we’re in control of the decisions we make, and we’re in control of how we act based on those decisions. It may, at times, seem as though someone else’s actions are the cause of our misfortune or circumstance. However, if you look more closely at the situation you find that prior to their actions, a choice that you made or an action you chose brought you directly to the position you’re in. So you see that while someone else’s actions may be a factor in your situation, your actions brought you to theirs. You’re choices always precede those of the people around you. You are your own person and you control everything that you do. Your behavior is a product of your decisions, not your conditions. Just look at the word responsibility- “response-ability” –the ability to choose your response. Proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions. Reactive people are often affected by their physical and social environment, good weather and good treatment makes them feel good while bad weather or bad treatment makes them feel defensive or protective and affects their attitude and performance. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstance, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values. Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli is a value-based choice or response.

I ask you now, which one are you? Reactive or proactive? Which one would you like to be? Once you admit it to yourself, you have the choice to be either. Repeat after me, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” If people just realized that the lives we live are the sum of the choices we’ve made, they could effectively shape their lives by making choices congruent with their particular set of values. But instead they want to place blame rather than take responsibility for themselves and their lives.

A Sedentary Lifestyle

North Americans are leading a life of luxury with everything automated. From the dawn of the industrial revolution the goal of our society seems to have been to make the lives of average Americans as easy and comfortable as possible. Beginning with the invention of the light bulb and shortly followed by electric wiring in households the daily life of Americans have become less and less difficult and more and more encumbered by gadgets and machines with each passing decade.

With increased mechanization and the advent of “utilities” people were doing less manual labor and began entering the workforce of factories and management. Household servants left the households for the more independent role of factory workers. In order to replace those servants contraptions were developed to perform their duties. Iron wood burning stoves replaced the open hearth fireplace. This meant that meals could be prepared much differently than they had been up until this point. Rather than porridge and stews, created in one pot, now separate courses and dishes could be prepared. Coal soon replaced the wood burned by those ovens, which in turn required an income in order to purchase on a weekly basis. Self sufficiency was going to the wayside. Soon following the wiring of households with electricity came refrigeration. This meant food could be kept much longer, and this again changed the way in which food was prepared. Smoked meats and pickled vegetables were no longer a necessity. Also, shopping was required less frequently. Soon refrigeration came to the homes air as well and air conditioning became popular. Following in quick succession was the mechanical and then electrical washing machine, air suction carpet cleaners (vacuums), electric sewing machines, electric toasters, electric mixers, and of course the gas range stove/oven. From there, of course, the electric gadgets and appliances multiplied tenfold.

The changes these appliances created in the household would shape our society as we know it today. They solidified the roles of men and women in our society for one. Men became the so-called “breadwinners” going to work and earning an income to pay for the appliances and the utilities to run them. Women stayed home and managed the household and its appliances. She was free to do chores as she saw fit. Blue Monday was no longer. People used to change clothes on Sunday, therefore Monday was for washing clothes, and it took all day. Clothes then were hand made and very heavy when dry let alone wet. Tuesday, then, was for mending and ironing them. Making and then mending the clothes for an entire family was a huge uptaking. That is until the invention of the electric sewing machine. The electric sewing machine made the manufacture of clothing a viable industry and the mending of those clothes less of a chore. This trend would continue in nearly every area of the house and business place for the next 100 years.

These days we have every convenience and amenity imaginable. Manual labor is nearly unheard of. Only farmers and those in construction know anything of physical labor and even those trades are heavily mechanized these days. Less work is required now to accomplish the same result than ever before in history. Americans are doing less and less as the years pass. “Work” is no longer physical, walking has become riding, and chores simply no longer exist as gadgets, appliances, and utilities have replaced them all. Every single day there are advertisements for products to make our lives yet easier in some way. Gadgets to be used in place of actually doing something. At the same time, all day long television is filled with commercials for exercise equipment and weight loss systems, supplements, and pills. A possible connection? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Further, we don’t even prepare our own meals anymore. We buy prepared and pre-packed food which we then re-heat. There’s a whole food industry geared toward ease and convenience, marketing their products to the public at large. Food now is highly processed and highly chemical laden in order to preserve shelf life and therefore profitability with no question or concern toward the possible health concerns or repercussions. More than this, we often don’t even bother with food at home, we simply “eat out” stopping for food at one of the many, many fast food restaurants. The food products here are an abomination and I contend they are not fit for human consumption. Fast food is not grown but engineered. But I digress.

My point is if we don’t wake up and change our habits the repercussions will be vast and, certainly, beyond the scope of this post. The single largest of these, however, is the physical detriments this lifestyle promotes. The inactivity and total lack of any physical activity at all, besides walking from building to car, coupled with the atrocious diet of the modern western culture is resulting in serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies, metabolic disease and disorders, and medical conditions resulting in decreased quality of life as well as decreased overall life span. It’s thought that the current generation is the first which will not outlive their parents. Again, I leave it to you to decide if this is some sort of weird coincidence.

Monday, March 20, 2006

True Words of Wisdom

“One man’s justice is another’s injustice; one man’s beauty, another’s ugliness; one man’s wisdom, another’s folly; as one beholds the same objects from a higher point. One man thinks justice consists in paying debts, and has no measure in his abhorrence of another who is very remiss in this duty, and makes the creditor wait tediously. But that second man has his own way of looking at things; asks himself which debt must I pay first, the debt to the rich, or the debt to the poor? The debt of money or the debt of thought to mankind, of genius to nature? For you, O broker! There is no other principal but arithmetic. For me, commerce is of trivial import; love, faith, truth of character, the aspiration of man, these are sacred; nor can I detach one duty, like you from all other duties, and concentrate my forces mechanically on the payment of moneys. Let me live onward; you shall find that, though slower, the progress of my character will liquidate all these debts without injustice to higher claims. If a man should dedicate himself to the payment of notes, would not this be injustice? Does he owe no debt but money? And are all claims on him to be postponed to a landlord’s or a banker’s?” – Emerson

“The only reprehensible materiality is the materialism of getting lost in your material so you can’t find out yourself what it is all about.” – Frost

“The one inalienable right is to go to destruction in our own way. What’s worth living for is worth dying for. What’s worth succeeding in is worth failing in.” – Frost

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” – Marilyn Vos Savant

“Ultimately all you will have left at the end of the day are your name and your reputation. Invest in them wisely and you and others will simultaneously reap the rewards.” – Leonard A. Schelesinger

“The only thing wrong with capitalism is capitalists. (They are too greedy)” – Herbert Hoover

“We sell the thrones of angels for a short and turbulent pleasure.” – Emerson

Marketing and Advertising in Corporate America

Americans have a problem with placing, read displacing, blame and taking responsibility for their actions, behavior, and especially bad habits. Contemporary marketing has observed this and zeroed in on it. Big business marketing serves to perpetuate these habits of shifting responsibility by reinforcing them. To sell you their product of convenience they tell you it’s ok to be lazy, it doesn’t matter that their highly packaged / highly disposable product is filling up landfills and adding to the problems of our already stressed society. They say it’s not your fault, you can’t control the situation, it’s someone else’s doing. You aren’t’ the one to blame for your attitude, your habits, or your lifestyle anyway, you should just buy their products to make your life easier. You should buy and use them despite the fact that they serve to continue or even further your poor habits and sedentary lifestyle.

These companies take no responsibility for the condition or quality of life their products produce, create, or support. They take no responsibility for encouraging negative and possibly detrimental morals, behaviors, and other aspects of our society. It’s a bottom line game, profit at all cost, ALL cost. They have no interest what-so-ever in what happens once their product has been sold. Companies universally claim they have no responsibility for what their products do to you or you do with their products once you have purchased them. They claim to have no accountability for the products they produce and sell to us no matter the circumstance, loss, expense, damage, injury, impairment, or condition the product causes. Further, they have no liability for the process which they use to manufacture these products. Whichever process is the cheapest. In order, of course, to keep profits as high as possible. The cheapest materials, cheapest labor, cheapest process, but highest retail possible. This approach to profit at all cost is entirely void of any ethic, moral, principal, or civic duty.

Rest assured; they will use any and all techniques possible to get you to buy their products. It’s simply a study in psychology. Left to your logic and good sense, you wouldn’t buy nearly any of their products. They have to appeal to the deeper emotions of the human condition and they start from a very early age. It’s said that brand loyalty can begin as early as the age of two years old. They certainly try to start marketing to us at these early ages. Cereal, candy, toys, soda, fast food, the list goes on and on. Morning cartoon commercials, happy meals with toys, fast food restaurants with playgrounds, fun and cute mascots, sugary cereals on the bottom shelf at the supermarket (kids’ eye level), toys in the cereal box and games on them, and so on and on and on. And for all of these products, we each have a favorite. Irrational as it is we find some emotional connection with one brand or another of a certain product and only, or usually, buy that brand. Most of the American population would be hard pressed to recognize any but a very few of the leaders of our cities, states, and country but even small children widely recognize and can name the trademarks of product brands. These “love marks” are easy to pick out, here are just a few examples:

Companies like these play to your emotions. They say; ”It’s impossible to do or accomplish what you should/need to, so why even try? Buy our product, it will make your life more easy and convenient.” They also play off of your guilt and your “should” feelings. For example, to be healthy you “should” eat enough vegetables and you “should” get enough fiber. One ad tells you that to get enough fiber you’d have to eat vegetables “all day long” and who could do that, right? Why not just take these chewable pills, it’s much easier and more convenient. They establish an emotional connection with you, the audience, by appealing to your apprehensions concerning your guilt and these “should” feelings. Making you feel validated in your doubts, and ultimately failure, in meeting the expectations of those ideals.

The negative repercussions of social issues such as; energy consumption, waste production, health issues due in part to sedentary lifestyles, misplaced morals, ethics, and principals, corporate conglomerates monopolizing whole business markets, and an ever increasing gap between social and financial classes are ignored and exploited by marketing strategies. The strategies of the very conglomerates who are a very large part of the problem.

The next time you’re watching TV, pay attention to the commercials and be mindful of the emotional manipulations these companies are trying to use against us. They are trying to use our own feelings against us. How gullible do they think we are? Most commercials are an appalling insult to our intelligence. How ignorant do they think we are? They don’t think we can see through their charade? What do they expect to happen? Are we supposed to say; “Oh look at all those beautiful girls. I’m going to drink that type of beer so I can have a bunch of beautiful girls too.” Well, I guess that’s must be just what we do because that’s about the only ploy the beer brands use and it seems to be successful, according to the drunk driving statistics. But I digress.

The point here is that I pose that it’s time for reform in the marketing and advertising industry. Ad agencies need to be accountable for the propaganda they create. Now, while this will help some it’s truly only treating the symptom. We need to get to the root cause of this problem, and that is held deep in the heart of Corporate America. To do that we have to show an example of the moral fiber and character on which this country was built. We need to stand up as a people and tell these big business conglomerates that we will no longer abide their indifference and lack of moral obligation. We have to show them that they are responsible for the products they produce and peddle. Both before and after they are sold. Some, I suppose, would say boycotts are in order and perhaps that would be effective. I warn, however, that if one were to abstain from all that touches evil or wrong doings, he soon would be naked and starving. You must choose your battles. Be cognizant in your daily routine and find the single largest injustice which touches your life. Then act rightly to impart your ideals, morals, and ethics to that single cause. If every American chose one single cause and made a genuine effort to begin building an inroad into the solution of that cause, we soon would see some level of reform at the root of those causes- big business. I leave you, then, with this challenge. As I,so, challenge myself.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The American Way?

As I come to recognize more aspects of our society, I’m more compelled to reject it. I love this country, I am an extreme patriot. I have flown the flag, literally, everyday of my life since I was 12, either inside or outside. I host a patriotic website and I love what this country stands for. Or at least what it stood for. I hope the past tense in not necessary here. I hope we still stand for the freedoms, morals, and ethics that we have always upheld. That remains to be seen, however, in this “pop culture” society in which we live.

As I see it, two separate things are happening here. One, the American people are becoming more and more superficial and materialistic. Both of which opens the door for big business marketing and political propaganda to sway and steer public opinion and lifestyle. That direction of steerage seems to be to become further superficial and materialistic at all cost. The second thing is that the government is somewhat out of control. The government seems no longer to be representative of the people. Our American government system seems to have forsaken the very freedoms, morals, and ethics for witch it stands. I am, however, reluctant to say that this is the result of the government not listening to the people. Quite the contrary, the problem is the people aren’t saying anything. Nothing at all. We don’t vote, we don’t demonstrate, and we don’t write to our local senators. Hell most people don’t even know who their state representatives are, let alone how to reach them.

This lack of interest and action results in two possible things happening. One, the minority rules. By the majorities lack of voting and action the minority’s voice is heard and taken for the majority. And two, the government is left to it’s own devices and unchecked. We are all human, politicians included (although some would argue otherwise), and as humans power is corrupting. Left unchecked, that corruption will run awry and allow influence from improper sources. Such as, say, corporate conglomerates, oil execs, and the rest of the power elites. Where should the blame fall? Whose fault is it? Look in the mirror my fellow Americans. It’s you, it’s your fault, it’s your neighbor’s fault, it’s my fault, and it’s the fault of the American public at large. It’s your inaction and lack of interest in the state of things as they are today, the state of the union. So what’s the union? We are, you and I, our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. We have become so disconnected from our own governmental system that we hardly remember who we are and what our position and responsibility is.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that throughout my life my distaste and disdain for politics has kept me fairly removed from the process. I rarely vote and I rarely know anything about the issues or platforms up for debate and voting. Regardless of the reason behind it, I think this is fairly representative of the general population.

As I awoke from my relative slumber and looked around at the state of the American society I’ve been living in, I must say I was disappointed. I don’t agree with the direction of American culture, and I don’t agree with the direction of American government such that I can not abide the actions of either. What then am I to do as a conscientious American citizen? Civil disobedience? Passive resistance? I don’t have this answer; I don’t know the most effective method to affect change. As I’ve said I’m new to this whole activist thing. I’m simply researching and learning as I go. I do know, however, that anything you do to make your voice and your opinions heard is a step in the right direction. Some might say; “what is my opinion worth?” “Who am I to say what’s right?” You’re an American damn it! Your opinion counts! Make it heard! If the opinion of the people, the average Joe and Jane Shmoe, don’t count for anything, then the system has failed and perhaps America no longer stands for the ideals it once did.

I sincerely hope this isn’t the case and I refuse to accept the notion that it is. I will go to my grave as a devout free American upholding the ideals of the American way. I will go to my grave fighting for the freedom, morals, ethics, and principals laid out by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I will live my life the best way I know how and in accordance with these same ideals.

I AM AN AMERICAN and I… Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


Misery Loves Company

Misery truly does love company. Our society thrives on other peoples misery. Have you had a chance to watch day time television lately? It’s distended with other peoples miseries. Starting with the daytime soaps whose only basis for existing is to portray human tragedy and misery, “he slept with her, she cheated on him,” “she is having who’s baby?!” So on and so forth. Then you have the so-called courtroom shows. Shows such as; “The People’s Court,” “Divorce Court,” “Texas Justice,” “Judge Judy,” “Judge Joe Brown,” “Judge Alex,” "Judge Mills Lane," and “Judge Hatchet.” Here we have supposedly true tales of “this one did that one wrong” and all the emotion and heartache which goes along with it. We get to see our peers and neighbors air their dirty laundry and show their stupidity and ignorance thereby making us feel better about ourselves and our pitiful lives. Finally we get to the daytime talkshow. Here we find shows like “Montel Williams,” “Dr. Phil,” “Maury Povich,” “Oprah,” “Donahue,” and the king of daytime drama “Jerry Springer.“ With these shows we get to hear people talk about their past heartaches and drama, usually involving their significant others and their infidelities. We, as a society, can not get enough of these shows. We love seeing other peoples pain, we love watching it unfold before us. Primetime TV doesn’t do much better with dramas such as The OC, Laguna Beach, 90210, Malibu, Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and so forth. Further we have the hugely popular “reality” shows; Cops, The Real World, The Apprentice, American Idol, and so on. With these shows we get to see the drama and situations develop in front of us from week to week. We just can’t get enough of this human drama. Take racing as another example, do you think Nascar became the largest motor sport in the world because people like watching cars drive in circles? Absolutely not! It all comes down to the fact that we want to see wrecks. Physical wrecks or emotional wrecks, we just want to watch people crash and burn. Severe and scorching. Like it or not it’s who we are and it’s so pervasive in our culture it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

The Education of Patrick

Self Education at it’s Best
Recently a friend gave me a book to read called Introducing Philosophy. Philosophy is a subject I've been interested in but have never learned. It was by far the best book anyone has ever given me to read. You see I've been wanting for some time to further my education in many areas. However, the lack of funds and the difficulties of scheduling have forced me to put it off for now. But this book, it has driven my thirst for knowledge even further and somewhere lost in the text I had the epiphany that I don't need to wait till I can take classes. I've decided to set up my own class structure for my self-education. The Internet (and library) truly is (are) a wonderful thing(s)! So I've chosen the subjects in which I wish to expound and I'm setting up a five day a week schedule in which I set aside two to four hours a day for study and each area of study will have a designated day. This, of course, is the theory. I have to adopt a mindset, which will enable me to make it practical. I believe I have to think of it as "going to class" just the same as I would if I were going to class at a school or college. I also think I need to have an action of recourse, or discipline, for missing class, an incentive if you will for not missing classes, such as depriving myself of some sort of privilege. Although, I can't think of an effective one at the moment. Possibly no TV, although that's not really much of a punishment to me as I really don't care if I see any TV or not. I'll have to work on it.

This plan of action is not intended to replace my plan of taking classes when I can. It is simply to suplement them intill that time.

Following are the subjects and schedule I've come up with thus far. A certain amount of "tweaking" will be necessary I'm sure.

 Philosophy
 Psychology
 Sociology
 Politics
 English
 History
 Literature
 Foreign Language
 Mathematics
 Science
 Physics
 Chemistry
 Biology
 Music
 Art
 Religion
 Mythology
 Health
 Business

Philosophy of Science
Analytic Philosophy
Continental Philosophy
Ethical Philosophy
Political Philosophy
Celestine Prophecy
School of Carvaka
Nyaya School of Hindu
Nicomachean Ethics
Hylomorphic Theory

Critical Theory
The Enlightenment
Paradox of motion


Marquis de Sade
Walter Benjamin
The Republic- Plato
A Theory of Justice – John Rawls
Walden – Thoreau
The Varieties of Religious Experience – James
The Prince – Machiavelli
The Myth of Sisyphus – Camus
The postmodern Condition – Lyotard
Meditations – Descartes
Philosophical Investigations – Wittgenstein
Ethics – Spinoza
Discourse on Method – Descartes
Critique of Pure Reason – Kant
Confessions – St. Augustine
The Concept of Mind – Ryle
Civil Disobediance – Thoreau
Being and Nothingness – Sartre
Being and Time – Heidegger
Against Method – Feyerabend
The Unity of Philosophic Experience – Etienne Gilson
What is it like to be a bat – Nagel
Quantum Mechanics – Bohr
Uncertainty Principle – Heisenberg

Kapila yoynavalkya
Lao Tzu
P.R. Sarkar
Zhuong Zi
Xun Zi
Zhu Xi
Han Fei Tzu
Yang Ming

The Freud Wars
Malanie Klein
Evolutionary Psychology
“The Principals of Psychology” – James

American Politics
The holocaust
Lenin and the Russian Revolution
Political Philosophy
Trotsky and Marxism
Environmental Politics


American History
European History
World History
Ancient History- Greece/Rome

Nathaniel Hawthorn
Walt Whitman
Thomas Jefferson
Edgar Allen Poe
Mark Twain
Benjamin Franklin
Abraham Lincoln
William Faulkner
James Joyce
Anais Nin
Origin of the Species
Audis Huxley
T.S. Eliot
Franz Kafka
Samuel Butler
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Foreign Language:

Keynesian Economics

General Math

Fractal Geometry
Quantum Theory
Stephen Hawking
The Universe

Newton and Classic Physics
Quantum Physics



Music theory
Fretboard Logic
Cross/Sweep Picking
Song memorization


Natural Theology




Native American



2 Hours per subject, per day. Semesters are four months each.
Semester 1-





Semester 2-

Foreign Language




March 15, 44 B.C. THE IDES OF MARCH

Julius Caesar is stabbed

"Beware the Ides of March," the soothsayer urges Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's Tragedy of Julius Caesar (act I, scene ii). Despite the forewarning, Caesar is stabbed in the back by his friend Marcus Brutus. Caesar falls and utters his famous last words, "Et tu, Brute?" (And you, Brutus?)

Shakespeare's source for the play was Thomas North's Lives of the Nobel Grecians and Romans, which detailed the murder of Caesar in 44 B.C. Caesar's friends and associates feared his growing power and his recent self-comparison to Alexander the Great and felt he must die for the good of Rome. North's work translated a French version of Plutarch, which itself had been translated from Latin. Shakespeare's version was written about 1599 and performed at the newly built Globe Theater.

Gaius Julius Caesar, dictator of Rome, is stabbed to death in the Roman Senate
house by 60 conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius
Longinus.Caesar, born into the Julii, an ancient but not particularly
distinguished Roman aristocratic family, began his political career in 78 B.C.
as a prosecutor for the anti-patrician Popular Party. He won influence in the
party for his reformist ideas and oratorical skills, and aided Roman imperial
efforts by raising a private army to combat the king of Pontus in 74 B.C. He was
an ally of Pompey, the recognized head of the Popular Party, and essentially
took over this position after Pompey left Rome in 67 B.C. to become commander of
Roman forces in the east.In 63 B.C., Caesar was elected pontifex maximus, or
"high priest," allegedly by heavy bribes. Two years later, he was made governor
of Farther Spain and in 64 B.C. returned to Rome, ambitious for the office of
consul. The consulship, essentially the highest office in the Roman Republic,
was shared by two politicians on an annual basis. Consuls commanded the army,
presided over the Senate and executed its decrees, and represented the state in
foreign affairs. Caesar formed a political alliance--the so-called First
Triumvirate--with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in
Rome, and in 59 B.C. was elected consul. Although generally opposed by the
majority of the Roman Senate, Caesar's land reforms won him popularity with many
Romans.In 58 B.C., Caesar was given four Roman legions in Cisalpine Gaul and
Illyricum, and during the next decade demonstrated brilliant military talents as
he expanded the Roman Empire and his reputation. Among other achievements,
Caesar conquered all of Gaul, made the first Roman inroads into Britain, and won
devoted supporters in his legions. However, his successes also aroused Pompey's
jealousy, leading to the collapse of their political alliance in 53 B.C.The
Roman Senate supported Pompey and asked Caesar to give up his army, which he
refused to do. In January 49 B.C., Caesar led his legions across the Rubicon
River from Cisalpine Gaul to Italy, thus declaring war against Pompey and his
forces. Caesar made early gains in the subsequent civil war, defeating Pompey's
army in Italy and Spain, but was later forced into retreat in Greece. In August
48 B.C., with Pompey in pursuit, Caesar paused near Pharsalus, setting up camp
at a strategic location. When Pompey's senatorial forces fell upon Caesar's
smaller army, they were entirely routed, and Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was
assassinated by an officer of the Egyptian king.Caesar was subsequently
appointed Roman consul and dictator, but before settling in Rome he traveled
around the empire for several years and consolidated his rule. In 45 B.C., he
returned to Rome and was made dictator for life. As sole Roman ruler, Caesar
launched ambitious programs of reform within the empire. The most lasting of
these was his establishment of the Julian calendar, which, with the exception of
a slight modification and adjustment in the 16th century, remains in use today.
He also planned new imperial expansions in central Europe and to the east. In
the midst of these vast designs, he was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C., by a
group of conspirators who believed that his death would lead to the restoration
of the Roman Republic. However, the result of the "Ides of March" was to plunge
Rome into a fresh round of civil wars, out of which Octavian, Caesar's
grand-nephew, would emerge as Augustus, the first Roman emperor, destroying the
republic forever.