3.31.2018

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Life is a lot of trial and error and it takes a lot of experimenting to figure out how to get it right. I've mostly achieved my life goal of 80% awesomeness (or better). But it took close to 50 years to achieve my vision.

Some* of that slow progress has to do with my penchant for anti-authoritarian non-conformity (aka, a punk rock lifestyle). I don't typically trust "the experts" and I like to figure stuff out on my own, often playing Devil's Advocate to "test" the conventional wisdom. My buddy AquaMunkee would say (and has said) that I willfully go against what is popular, and he'd be more or less right, at least inasmuch as it comes to musical production and performance. That being said, we had together developed a fairly successful yet unconventional house concert performance model for our band HIATVS, until he moved to California and I sold my house (which had a sweet, subterranean rock room in the basement).

I wouldn't change my past and if I have any regrets, it is only about things I should have done but didn't. And as such, there is still time to do some of those things, especially since I have stumbled upon the secret to age reversal and longevity (which I never would have done if I had conformed to the conventional American model of diet and lifestyle).

I have been following a vegan diet for almost three months now and my weight has dropped to the lowest I can ever remember it being. Granted, I have also been exercising more frequently for some time, but that was true before I went vegan, and I was still about 10 pounds heavier than I am now.** I eat whatever I want whenever I want, as long as it is animal-free food. I can't tell you the science behind it, but I think it has something to do with the nutrition profile of the vegan diet being much more in harmony with human genetics. There will be naysayers to that philosophy, and I don't really care...veganism is working for me and they can eff off if they don't like it. I feel effing great. The osteoarthritis pain in my toe is gone, and I have even stopped taking my glucosamine-chondroitin supplement (which is actually not technically vegan anyway...it is derived from shellfish). I still sneak an occasional fish oil pill for EPA and DHA, but that's mainly to use it up so it doesn't go to waste (my wife went vegan too). I can get essential omega-3 fatty acids from flax seed powder and a vegan DHA supplement my wife and I order online. I'm vegan for health reasons, not animal-rights reasons, although the latter is certainly a moral/ethical perk of this diet. So I don't beat myself up if some meat by-product residue sneaks into my food without me knowing. I'd estimate that happens rarely, and probably only when we eat out at restaurants where the food ingredients are unknown. I am guessing I am 99.9% vegan compliant. One of our favorite restaurants, the Great Dane, has a food ingredient chart that compliments their menu, so we can see that there are several meat, dairy, and egg free items we can order when we go there. Conversely, there are some items that you would think are vegan that aren't, like pretzel sticks (they have milk powder as an ingredient). One of the funner aspects of veganism for me is experimenting with vegan desserts, trying to see how similar they are to their non-vegan equivalents. I have had great success with vegan peanut butter and chocolate chip (the non-milk chocolate kind) blondies, vegan key lime pie, and vegan cheesecake. The latter two delights are based on raw cashews and coconut milk and they turn out great.

Deborah and I talked to my mom and pops by phone today and there was talk of a tentative plan for a great southwest family trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounds next winter break, depending on our work and school schedules. That would be pretty slick.

*Note: Some of my progress has been hampered by THE MAN, negative nellies, and drama kings/queens, but over time I have found ways to disenfranchise such nuisance people from my life.

**Note: The current science on diet, exercise, and weight control puts about 80% of the variance on diet and only about 20% on exercise. In other words, more exercise does not correlate linearly with burning calories. In fact, there is a diminishing return on increasing exercise as a weight control measure. As humans exercise more, the body tries to conserve energy balance by slowing cellular metabolism. So even as your muscles are expending more energy, your body is shunting energy away from other organs and tissues. This partly explains the anti-inflamatory and age reversing benefits of exercise. It causes many cells in your body to simply slow down metabolically. Caloric restriction has much greater weight loss and health benefits than exercise and veganism is especially good for these things because unprocessed plant-based foods not only naturally have fewer calories, but also your body has to do more metabolic work to convert plant foods into what your body needs as compared with animal foods. An example is celery. It actually costs your body more calories to digest celery than it gets out of the celery.


3.29.2018

Threshold

I biked 15 miles round trip to my couples therapy class tonight, notwithstanding that the temperature outside was below the threshold at which I normally am comfortable biking. There were three main reasons for this. Due to a metric buttload of homework today, I did not have the time to go to the gym, so the 70 minutes or so of moderate intensity biking to and from campus (fairly hilly) was more than enough daily aerobics. Second, my mind was a bit scattered because of the frenetic pace of today's school work, and exercise serves a centering mindfulness role for me. On my bike, I am generally alone with my thoughts and it is quite cathartic. Third, I really enjoy the late night commute home from class, when the city streets are deserted and quiet, and I don't have to contend with car traffic. I have a windbreaker that my sister gave me one Christmas and when I wear it over my sweatshirt, it does a pretty good job of breaking the chill wind of an early spring night.

Journaling

In my Trauma Therapy class this week, we explored the value of writing about traumatic experiences and the emotions associated with them. As a writer in a past life, I can definitely see myself incorporating journaling into therapy with my future clients.
Writing about anything helps to structure one's thoughts about whatever they are writing about, but it is especially valuable for exploring emotions in a more cognitive way. Writing comes from a different part of the human brain, so writing about things that are hard to feel is a good way to transcend the avoidance reaction that is associated with traumatic memories. In a way, by putting the internalized thoughts and feelings on paper, they are externalized and that can help trauma survivors to alleviate some of the shame and/or blame that accompanies a lot of trauma. That transforms a "victim" into a "survivor."

3.26.2018

Dreams

Dreams underlie a lot of relationship conflict. I am not talking about the dreams you have at night. I am talking about life dreams and ambitions. Partners in a healthy, happy relationship more or less endorse and support each other's dreams and ambitions. A lot of conflict in relationships derives not from the cosmetic issue that is being argued about, but from deeper fundamental unspoken conflicts and resentments over unrequited dreams and ambitions. As such, a good way to reduce conflict in a relationship is to have some discussion with your partner about their dreams and ambitions, and where they derive from in one's life, developmentally. In addition to dreams and ambiitions, discuss values and philosophy of life stuff. That can really go a long way toward explaining why the more cosmetic day to day conflicts and arguments occur...failure to understand, appreciate, or validate your partner's underlying dreams. A simple example would be a couple who argues about buying a new car. When they examine their dreams and values, they discover one partner is frugal about money and wants to save for the future because he or she did not have much money growing up. Conversely, the other partner also did not have much money growing up, but they want to enjoy expensive luxuries while they can, because who knows if they will have money in the future. One partner gets a sense of security from saving money, the other from spending it. Both dreams are valid. Once the partners validate each others' underlying dreams, they can work toward a compromise. Maybe they buy a less expensive car or agree to save money for a year or two before investing in a new car.

3.23.2018

Friday Night 3/23/18

It's Friday night. I just finished a paper for a class and emailed it in. It's too late to go to a movie now.

This morning I had an interview for a Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) internship. I thought it went well. However, I thought the last interview I had went well too, and they nixed me! When stuff like that happens, a guy could start to think that all this super high achieving in grad school doesn't pay...but I am not quite that cynical...yet.

I had to get up earlier than I am used to this morning. I drank coffee and gobbled down a vegan breakfast of oatmeal porridge with fruit, nuts, maple syrup, and unsweetened almond milk, before shaving, showering, and suiting up for the interview on the other side of town.

Post-interview, I came home and dicked around before eating some leftover vegan chili for lunch. Then I succumbed to a potent afternoon power nap as I was nearing the end of a session of mindfulness meditation. Most of the afternoon was blown due to slumber. I made myself a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I woke up and waited for my wife to come home from work. She then took a power nap, which is when I decided to pound out my paper for my class. It's not due until Monday, but I wanted to get 'er done and gone because I need to spend the rest of my weekend on a much bigger assignment that is due later next week.

I didn't go to the gym today. I am way ahead of my goals on gym attendance, so it's not a big deal. I will go tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, if the weather doesn't permit a bike ride outdoors (preferred) instead. On the bright side, I have completed all the entries in my aerobic exercise journal, which I am keeping as part of yet another class assignment. That means I can proofread that and submit it pretty soon.

How was your day? Week? Leave a comment if you can...

3.19.2018

Monday 3/19/18

I am in and out of sleep between 7 and 9 AM, as my wife preps for work.
My alarm goes off at 9:30 AM. I dick around on my smart phone for a half an hour while lying in bed.
I get up about 10 AM and solidly ablute before starting breakfast and tending to my geriatric Boston terrier, Foster. My wife's dog, Maddie, sneakily eats Foster's food when I am not watching.
I swallow vitamins with fresh coffee and watch a bit of a Ricky Gervais comedy special on Netflix while I eat my oatmeal, fruit, and nut porridge.
I meditate for 15 minutes before starting work about noon. I am in the "Deep Work" zone until about 2 PM, when I shift gears, so to speak. I prepare a homemade salad "to go" and then bike commute to school with it and my books, dropping an application for hospice volunteerism in the mail en route. On campus, I study for three more hours, give or take, until class at 6 PM (I wear earplugs to block out ambient chatter in the public study area).
I am in class from 6-9 PM, learning more of the practical side of marriage and family therapy. The bike commute home after class is "brisk," to put it mildly, but I am dressed warmly enough and it's a short 3.5 mile ride on mostly quiet backstreets. I flash my bike headlight at driver's I am not sure see me. They see me.
At home, I sautee a chopped up potato in olive oil with herbs and spices and eat it to warm up, after snacking on some shelled peanuts and pistachios. I drink a glass of red wine while watching "Jessica Jones" on Netflix with my wife, who promptly falls asleep.
I make final entries in both my aerobic exercise and veganism journals (class assignments) and finish writing this post, before turning in myself.

In Vigor, Ate

Today was invigorating. Late last week, a brief perusal of the weather forecast indicated that today might have a desirable combination of circumstantial variables conducive to the sport of social bicycling. This more or less panned out, and at about 11 AM today, I found myself pulling my car* into the driveway of my friend Sherry's house, with my bike attached to the back by way of the fancy bike rack my wife and I bought last year. A few minutes later, Sherry, her BF Tyler, and I were tooling around Lake Monona in, albeit brisk, sunny weather. As we tooled, we discussed options for lunch, among other things, and eventually opted to dine at the Weary Traveler eatery, which we knew offered a variety of menu options for both vegan (like me) and non-vegan (like Tyler and Sherry) dietary orientations.

Excitement soon ensued. We got a table and ordered our food. I opted for a corn, black bean, and quinoa salad, which was topped with a generous amount of avocado (it looked like an entire avocado was used, but maybe it was less). A short while later, Tyler, who is known to understate things, said, "Hmmm...it looks like they have a leak in the ceiling." I turned to look where he had been looking, and indeed, a considerable volume of liquid was coming through the ceiling above the bar, and staff had responded rapidly by putting a bucket under the stream of water, which looked like it was capturing at most 60% of the wayward flow.

The staff did not seem overly alarmed and our waitress told us that there were apartments above the establishment and the aquaphilic tenant responsible for the deluge was being contacted. Shortly thereafter, the flow of water dwindled substantially. We never did elucidate the full facts of the scenario from our waitress, but were somewhat disappointed that we were never evacuated from the premises and granted a free meal as the result of said emergency. That might have been OK.

We stopped for coffee at Crema Cafe near the end of our ride, before getting back to Sherry's house. I drove home and changed from bike clothes into yard work clothes before heading to my buddy Stefan's house to help him with yard work, mostly chopping down small trees, clearing sticks, and pruning stuff.

On the way back from Stefan's, I got gas and stopped at the Pick-n-Save grocery store by our house for a metric pantload of groceries. I had not planned to get a pantload of groceries, but there was a lot on sale and I stocked up on vegan type non-perishable food items, like canned goods and dried beans, as well as frozen foods and some produce. I've decided I need to eat more raw food, mainly salads, on my vegan diet. I had been eating more starchy carbs lately, and even though they are whole foods, I wanted more complex, non-digestible fiber in my diet.

Long story short...we don't need to buy any canned or frozen food for a while.

Needless to say, you won't believe what I had for dinner. Wanna guess?

Salad.

I made my own dressing too, with olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and a bunch of herbs and spices. It was yum.

I rounded out the rest of the evening watching Sunday night TV shows with m'wife. Action packed day.

*Note: Technically, my wife's car...mine by marriage.

3.17.2018

Taxation WITH Representation

Today we did our taxes in under 2 hours.

But when I say we did them, what I really mean is that we went over to our tax accountant Pam's house and she did them.

Pam is awesome. She not only whips up our tax info lickety split, but if the IRS ever comes a-callin', she is authorized to punch them in their ballsax on our behalf.

All this peace of mind comes at a cost, but it's nominal and so worth it.

That being said, the new Republican tax bill eliminates ALL deductions on ANYTHING for ANYONE making under $250K per year. But those making OVER $250K per year can now deduct EVERYTHING and they ALL get a refund, paid for by the deductions we can no longer take. #FACT.

So this year, our goal is to make $250,001 at a minimum.

3.12.2018

Why is Veganism Easier for Me Now Than in the Past?

I have been successfully adhering to a vegan diet since the beginning of this year and the results have been outstanding. I have been losing weight on this diet like crazy with no restriction on caloric intake (a healthy vegan diet is naturally low in high glycemic foods that stimulate fat storage). My osteoarthritis symptoms from a foot injury 15+ years ago have essentially disappeared (joint pain and inflammation in my left big toe that had been chronically worsening). There are gastrointestinal benefits that my wife says I should not blog about, but suffice to say the pipes are clear. If the scientific literature is to be believed, my cardiovascular and urogenital systems are being restored to a more healthy state the longer I am on this diet.

I have tried to go vegan in the past without much long term success. It always seemed too inconvenient or difficult. So why have I been able to comfortably adhere to what began as a fortnight long New Year's resolution this time?

I think there are a few factors. One of them is that I've been stimulating my creative juices trying to find and prepare vegan recipes, which is fun, especially desserts. Second, I was able to extend the original short term duration of the diet by incorporating it into an 8-week graduate school class project on veganism and mental health. The weight loss and the absence of osteoarthritis symptoms is pure operant conditioning to stay on this diet. Eff foot pain! My wife is also doing it with me, so that gives me an "accountabili-buddy" to motivate adherence (and also makes meal prep and dining out easier). I have to admit that after turning 50 in January, longevity, mortality, and, most importantly, morbidity issues about chronic disease risk are more salient. My in-laws have adopted veganism for health reasons and my wife and I have been surveying the diet and health media for information, most of which touts the bennies of a whole food, plant-based diet. There has never been a study that showed eating MORE fruits and vegetables was detrimental to human health. Ever. Lastly, I cannot lie...there is a part of me that simply wants to outlive my enemies (I don't have many, but I encourage them to eat more junk food, lots of red meat and cheese, very little vegetables, and to start smoking cigarettes if they don't already...also don't exercise...at all!).

Feel free to ask a question in the comments section below and I will answer with as many non-alternative facts as I can.

Power Nappage

I succumbed to a power nap this afternoon whilst I was studying. It wasn't that the material was dull (it was actually pretty cool), but rather that I had had a pretty solid workout at the gym in the early afternoon and I was studying on the comfortable bed in our guest room. The exercise fatigue and the reclined position combined to knock me out for an hour or so. When I woke up, I finished an assignment I needed to submit and then watched Sunday night TV shows with my wife Deborah: Ash vs Evil Dead, Counterpart, The Walking Dead, and Homeland.

Before heading to the gym, I had a vegan breakfast of oatmeal with the usual whole food add ons (nuts and fruit, some flax powder, maple syrup, etc.). I got to sleep in a little bit today, which was nice, but also somewhat anticlimactic, since we had to set the clocks ahead this weekend. I talked to my folks in the evening, touching base. I am hoping they will try the vegan key lime pie recipe I sent them via email so I can find out what they think of it.

KEYWORDS: best weight loss diet, vegan recipes, lifestyle coaching

3.10.2018

Tubes

I reluctantly got up at 8:30 AM this morning. I might have lingered in bed a while longer, except my wife Deborah's son Devon wanted to come over and talk to her about something. So I got up and went to the gym for a quick workout, after eating a vegan breakfast of oatmeal with maple syrup, apple, banana, grapes, pecans, flax seed powder, and unsweetened almond milk (plus a dash of citrus flavored vitamin powder for a 10,000% RDA of the elusive vitamin B12 that anti-vegans are always complaining about). Around noon, Deborah, Devon, his girlfriend Gretchen, and I drove up to the Cascade Mountain ski hills and went tubing for the afternoon. It's basically quality controlled sledding that you pay for. We all went out to eat at the Flying Hound after we got back to Madison, where Gretchen (who is a licensed professional counselor) and I talked about brief therapy for a bit. After we parted ways with the kids, Deborah and I went home and chillaxed in front of the TV. Solid day. Tomorrow should be lazier. I am playing jazz at night, so all I need to do, at some point, is rehearse a few standards before I head to the venue. I'll probably go to the gym and do some studying too, because I am ambitious that way. Even though I am technically on Spring Break, I have a metric pantload of school work I need to get out in front of this week...stay tuned.