Monthly Archives: August 2016

Invisible Meals

InvisibleMealI love food!  Almost too much.  This is at least one of the causes of my battle with weight loss.  Cravings for things that taste good at meal time are a daily occurrence.  Although I know all of the reasons for a healthy diet, the struggle still exists.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  The other day I started to give some real thought to this dilemma.  At that time I realized that most meals are invisible.  It’s not that we can’t see them at all but rather that they only exist long enough to serve their purpose.  After they are gone, they are generally forgotten.

If you were asked, I’m sure you could probably remember what you had for dinner, lunch and breakfast yesterday.  However unless you eat the same thing each day or have a schedule, the memory of your meals probably only goes back a week or less.  Even take a special meal like Thanksgiving, you probably remember what you had but don’t remember whether the turkey was dry or how many helpings of mashed potatoes you had.  The power of a meal is the power of an instant.  Based on our national problem with obesity, it is easy to see that we have a problem with getting past those instances.

Choosing what we want most over what we want right now is the key to overcoming this issue.  It does not just relate to food and weight.  It is a failure to fully decide what we want before the instant of temptation comes up.  Being prepared to react to those temptations with a steadfast denial by saying with your actions, “I already chose differently.”  It is not easy!  Without a doubt, this is most likely a fight against years or even decades of habit and desire.  Depending on the habit, like me, you may be carrying around a large reminder of all of those momentary choices with almost no memory of the “joy” that they brought.

So if the memory is going to fade of these instances and you know they will, can you start to make a better choice?  Can you choose to not be overwhelmed by now in the service of later?  Whether it’s food, sex, anger, distraction, beer or any other vice that you may have, make your choice before the moment arrives.  Then carry that decision into tomorrow.  You are not a machine!  This will take time and practice but remember that your present desire will eventually fade in your memory.  Most meals end up being invisible.

Have a great week!

Pete

The Air Conditioning Farce

heatIn these hot summer days of New Jersey, an air conditioned house, store or office is a sanctuary.  Relief from the pounding heat and humidity seems as if it is a necessity.  I often think about our “pre-AC” ancestors and how they reacted to days like this.  Most likely, they had to be slightly more intelligent about breaks, shade and water.  The prospect of artificial cool was long off in the future.  Like so many of our modern conveniences, the advancement of technology seems to come attached to a double result: the desired effect and it’s opposite.

An air conditioner is thought of as a cooling mechanism, unless you visit the back end of the unit.  There you will realize that the AC unit is producing almost as much heat as cold.  So the cool factor is for a selected space and temporary.  When the heat and cool reunite, the entire equation is most likely a wash.   The effect for us as the recipients is not particularly a wash.  The perception of cool and hot becomes skewed.  While we have in theory “beaten the heat” by creating air conditioning, we’ve made ourselves less able to adapt to it when it is thrust upon us.  This inverse relationship is evident in many areas.  The internet has connected us all but we are losing our ability to communicate.  Everyone has a phone in their pocket but people are talking less.  We have more information than ever about the human body and how it works best but obesity and diabetes are rampant.  It is as if we have forgotten something that could bring us back to the center.  The thing that we have forgotten is that we are animals.  Specifically we are mammals who were intended to find an equilibrium with our surroundings in order to survive.

The technological advances that we have created have brought us off of our center where we feel like we need to adapt.  The world is supposed to adapt to us, right?  Not quite, when we forget our heritage, not too subtle reminders will be visited upon us.  So my message is pretty simple: Find out, without!  Find out who you are without all of the gadgets that you use to cause comfort.  Think, plan and execute some time in an outdoor environment that slightly tests who you are as a human animal.  An overnight hike, a day without air conditioning, a period of time with no cell phone or any other exercise that allows you to come back to a natural center.  (Yes!  I realize that I’m asking you to unplug while writing an article over the internet.  Hypocrisy?  Only if I did this without doing what I prescribe.)

So find out, without!  Find out whether or not you can have a face to face conversation with one of your Facebook friends.  Find out if you really would shrivel up in this heat or do you just need to have a plan for hydration and find shade.  The human animal has conquered this world and found now that his biggest adversary is himself.  Don’t get crushed by your comfort!

See you along the path!

Pete

 

Temporary Real Estate

RealEstateA plot of sand at the beach, deck chairs at the pool, a spot in line, a seat toward the back of the class and hundreds of other locations are the temporary spots that we mark out for ourselves.  They are important to us only as long as we need them.  Although we know that they are just for now, we defend them and sometimes ruthlessly.  The territoriality of humans and the individually made rules associated with it are complex and seemingly inherent.  We want to have a space to call our own and defend it with fervor.

This phenomena was on full display for me in the past few days when I visited three different amusement parks.  The defensiveness of the space is heightened as the density of people increases.  Also the perceived stakes of the space comes into play heavily.  The value that the individual puts on the space is largely influenced by the scarcity of the “prize” that the space provides.  People waiting in line for entrance into the park are much more defensive than the people in the wave pool waiting to get hit by a wave.  Although it is all temporary, the ownership feels very real.

Ultimately almost all of our space is temporary and will eventually belong to someone else.  Houses, apartments, cars and even our burial plots will eventually belong to another person, creature or to nature itself.  Despite our very temporary hold on these forms of real estate, we spend time protecting and preserving them as if they were indefinite.  There is one place only you will ever own.  Yet many people allow easy access to this space as if it were just a blanket on the beach.

Your mind is your own and will be as long as you defend it.  Like holding your place in line, you need to be aware of those who are trying to sneak in.  Much like the owner of a house who has teenage children, you must be aware of people that you trust having a party at your expense.  No one will care for this space as much as you.  So mark your territory!  Be aware of who is allowed in and who needs to be kept out.  This is your real estate, don’t put it up for auction.

Have a great day!

Pete

The Chewing Tobacco Solution

tobaccoMy cousin who is fifteen years older than me used to go on vacations with my family each summer.  At the time, I was a teenager and he was in his early thirties with a very successful career in retail.  Despite my seemingly inferior station in life, I was able to change his life for the positive with little more than a few words.  I’m hoping that the process can give some hints about making big changes in your life.

It was completely unintentional but it sticks out in my memory as if it were scripted out.  My cousin was and is pretty fanatical about health and fitness.  He would run everyday, do push-ups and sit-ups in order to maintain his chiseled physique.  Despite this relentless pursuit of fitness, he had a habit that seemed out of place to me.  He used chewing tobacco daily.  It wasn’t anything that particularly bothered me.  I had friends who used it.  The thing that felt out of place was that it seemed contrary to all that he valued.  So as we were driving home from North Carolina and he got his spit bottle ready for his next lip full of tobacco, I made the simple statement.  “It seems odd to me that you do that.  You are so healthy in all other parts of your life but you do something that you know is horrible for you.  I just don’t understand.”  That was all that it took.  He didn’t tell me until much later that he had quit using tobacco and that was the reason.

Many of our decisions break down to the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  It could be true or it could be bullshit.  The main thing is that the story is effective at moving life forward in a positive manner.  The reason why my simple statement was able to change my cousin so quickly was that it showed an inconsistency in his story about himself.  In that situation, I knew his story about himself and showed him how the tobacco didn’t fit.  People want to stay consistent with the image that they have of themselves.  That’s the entire reason why the term “midlife crisis” exists.  Men (usually) make poor decisions in order to maintain an image that they have of themselves as young, cool, etc.

The first step to changing a behavior in yourself or someone else is to know the person’s story.  What is an identity that they want to uphold at all costs?  Is their family the center of their world?  Do they think of themselves as an athlete?  Do they think of themselves as successful?  Once you know the story, take that thing that needs changing and flip it against their story about themselves.  I keep saying they but I really want you to do this to yourself.  So if your family is extremely important but you are obese, then you actually don’t care about them very much.  If you truly cared, you’d do your best to guarantee that you’ll be around for them.  The combinations of stories and behaviors is infinite.

The key is to find the one that works.  Results are what we are after, not an excuse to feel bad about one’s self.  Your mind can play tricks on you.  It is time for you to play tricks on it to help you get where you want to go.  The possibilities of your tomorrow need to be forged in the thoughts that you have today.

Have a great day!