Dad at 40

Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, and Life

Archive for the category “Getting Older”

Obesity and Fitness – A Clashing of Differing Realities

Obesity-and-standing-desks

So, this is a personal posting because I generally do not like to talk about my son. But, I felt that this was important because of the nature of the topic here. And once again, it deals with obesity.

Obesity is an epidemic. There is just no question about it. I have found that my life has significantly changed to the “food is fuel” mentality. But, we have become accustomed to the food must be great and taste good mentality. We want variety. We want beer. We want chips. We want this and that. It has to be delicious. It has to be great. I see it on the cooking shows. I see these recipes online and they load food with cheese, with bread, with noodles, with all these things and it looks delish.

So, as I look around, I am seeing something disturbing. FAT kids. And listen, please….please……please understand. I am not fat shaming. I get that some will be offended by this posting, but the fact remains, that none of us were born overweight. With few exceptions, most children are born weighing 6 to 10 pounds. So, no fat kids are born. Obesity is a choice that is made consciously. It can be an obsessive type thing. It can be done to mask personal pain. It can be done for psychological comfort. Or it can simply be complete and utter carelessness with your physical self. I am not here to understand why a person is obese. I am here to deal with the reality of that.

Back to my son. He is relating a story from the perspective of an obese person getting on a plane. My compassionate side feels empathy for this person. I cannot imagine what the gauntlet of walking down a plane aisle is like knowing that everyone is staring and quietly thinking “please do not let that person sit next to me”. That must be emotionally brutal. And I can appreciate being tough and having a thick skin, but that still sucks. Worse yet, on airlines like Southwest, if you are obese and get stuck in the wrong boarding group, you will get a middle seat. Great….perfect. And then, adding insult to injury, people can be downright rude. It is emotionally devastating. This person wrote how they did not travel for a year because of that. And, that the person that complained stated that they would not do that to a person in a wheelchair or someone that was pregnant (by that I mean complain about the obese person and demand a seat switch).

This person stated they sit quietly. Keep their arms folded. Try to make themselves as small as possible. Ask for nothing. Have to deal with the indignity of flight attendants offering free meals (on longer haul flights) to the others in the row for having to deal with the situation. Worse yet, said person said they are required to purchase two seats. But here is the kicker, they pay for two seats, but the airline does not leave the seat empty. They fill it. WTF! If I want to pay for three seats in a row, they damn well better be empty as I fly. But no, airlines will fill them.

It was heartbreaking to hear because I picked up on a certain tone in his voice that I did not like. But here is the rub, I cannot completely dismiss his concerns either. He said he did not like fat people. However, there are plenty of people we know that are obese and he loves them. So, this must mean other obese people. Fine, he is entitled to his opinion. He added that he would never say anything mean or disrespectful to them, but he has a certain disdain for them. Why should he have to suffer in close quarters for what other people do? I cannot argue that point. I can say that the “suffering” is just limited to a plane flight or a movie theater. As a paying customer he is entitled to get what he pays for without it being encroached on by others regardless of how society feels about his opinion.

So, there is a real challenge here. Empathy and compassion versus the need to not have shifting societal norms be forced on you. You see, fitness is a real challenge for people. We recently were at Sea World (yes, hold the disdain) and noticed while walking around that a great many people were, to put it nicely, not in the best shape. You do not have to have a six-pack and be rocking a muscular body. I am not saying you need to make people’s eyes pop out when you wear a bikini. But as we have moved forward, I have noticed that obesity is becoming more widely accepted. While fat shaming is a terrible thing and I would never condone mocking people for their size, I think it is reasonable to wonder how it happens and why more proactive steps are not being taken to stay healthy. As a new instagrammer, I can tell you that some very obese people put pictures of themselves up where they weighed maybe 400 pounds and dropped to 250 pounds. They get nothing but love from people on there for making the effort to change. It takes courage to say I have a problem that I need to deal with. It takes courage to face it. What is easy to do is say this is just how I am and I am not going to bother changing. It is not wrong, but it is easy enough to do. It takes no work. It is a convenient truth we sell ourselves. And we continue doing what we do.

Listen, I am the first to admit that my diet is boring. Brown rice. Some fruit. Chicken or fish. Protein shakes. My idea of a candy bar is a Gatorade Protein Bar. Literally. Rinse and repeat. Day after day. After day. Yes, you see the rock have a 10,000 calorie cheat meal…but this guy works out like 25 hours a week. It is his job. He has to be the Rock. Who here saw the original Thor movie a few years back? Chris Hemsworth looked jacked….I mean really jacked. When he was done, he was quoted somewhere as saying he would be happy if he never ate chicken again. It was high protein, low fat, and repetition. Rinse and repeat. He ate for fuel.

So, for the average person, you have to find a balance of eating for fuel and eating what you like. But people have to start somewhere. Cutting out junk is first. Counting calories is second. Counting macros is third. Even without the gym, doing this and the weight drops off. So, then why are more people not doing it? Well, you carry weight around long enough, you lose skin elasticity. You drop a ton of weight. Awesome. But, your nipples are sitting one foot down your chest because of loose skin. The thought is daunting. Truly scary. Instagram is full of people who had surgery to remove excess skin. It looks painful. It looks hard. And it is expensive. So, obese people face real challenges. Boo hoo to the skinny people and their first world problems. But, most developed countries seem to have a problem with obese people. Certainly not all, but a great many do. Fit people, while popular, take a back seat. We are marginalized. At Planet Fitness, we are called Lunkheads. WTF. I am a lunkhead because I work out hard and leave it all on the gym floor? No, I do not accept that. How would you all feel if we put up signs in Gold’s Gym that said no fatasses? Not cool.

But getting back to Josh. I told him to be mindful of the slippery slope he was on. We do not know every story of every person with weight. We have to be compassionate and kind. We have to be supportive and help folks who want the help achieve their goals. We must face our personal biases. And we must be sure that our beliefs are not so transparent as to hurt others. I am not making excuses for obese people. They have to decide to change themselves. It is a deeply personal thing. But, we must also be encouraging and supportive. And however annoying it may be to be stuck in a plane or movie seat next to someone, we must be grateful that we are not having to face that issue. As uncomfortable as it is for us for those few hours, whether those people will publicly admit it or not, it is probably uncomfortable for them a great deal more.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation – Why Goals Fail and Succeed

what are your goals?

A question was asked about energy levels on my FB feed today. I think it is a good question. It got me to thinking about some possible answers. When I write, I write from experience. I do not write to you all in some prescriptive sense, telling you that my way is the right way. I write because my failures have given me insight into myself. I then like to share those thoughts and experiences with you and each of you have the choice to take what I say and mold it to your needs. Some may agree and some may disagree, but if it gets you thinking, then we have measurable success.

But to the question about energy levels, I think it might go a bit further. As humans, we are conditioned to set goals. Get to this point. Graduate high school. Graduate college. Get a job. Buy a car. Buy a house. Have children. Prepare for retirement. You can literally add anything in there you want. Each one of those things are goals we set for ourselves. They are measurable and attainable. I can go buy a car. I can go get a job. Pretty easy.

Then, we move into other goals depending on our philosophical leanings. If you are religious, you may say get closer to God. Or if you are academic, you might say continue learning for the rest of my life. These are more nebulous as you can never truly measure your closeness to God or just how much you learn relative to others.

So, we get to fitness. This is what I try to focus on (and back to the original question about energy levels). You see, I tend to think that people set goals for themselves. For example, you might say I want to lose 15 pounds for summer beach season. Or, I want to look good in a tank top. Maybe you have gained some inches on your waist and you decide you want to fit back into those 36” waist pants in your closet.  Perhaps you want to fit back into those size 8 dresses. But if you truly examine those goals, they are what we call extrinsic goals.

Some of you may know what extrinsic means, but just in case:

Extrinsic – not essential or inherent; not a basic part or quality; extraneous

Most of our wants are extrinsic in nature. The car. The house. Money. Looking good. Some would argue that they are shallow goals. I would not. We all work hard and we want things. So, no one should feel bad about that. You earn it, you use it the way you want to.

Now, we talk about intrinsic. Once again, pardon me for defining this for those of you familiar with it:

Intrinsic – belonging naturally; essential

We often set what I like to call extrinsic goals. We want to reach a certain point for a certain reason. As we slowly approach that point, we start to slow down. Now, you may think this is silly or not really think it applies, but I will ask you to think about many times you have seen a video of someone losing a race because they let up at the last second. Ever seen those? Person thinks they are going to win, raises their arms in victory, and ever so slightly slows down. That person in second place digs deep and grinds hard and pushes past to win by an inch (notice that theme….a game of inches….). The look of shock and disbelief on the person who just lost is sad yet funny at the same time. You think to yourself, that is what you get for easing up.

But, therein lies the rub. People tend to ease up when they think they have accomplished the goal. So, is it that energy is going down? Or is it that people are easing up because they think they have reached their goal? Are these the same thing? On the surface they appear to be. But, energy going down could be attributed to illness. Work life balance. Any number of things. Easing up is quite simply a person thinking they got what they wanted and they ease up. In my mind, these are very different.

So, as we look to set goals, we have to understand what we are doing. Are we setting intrinsically or extrinsically motivated goals? I think this makes a world of difference. But….and this is a big but, it flies in the face of what we are generally taught. We are always taught that goals should be measurable and attainable. The smart person will set a goal – lose 5 pounds. They can attain it. This is a common fitness philosophy. While it is not wrong or bad (as I have done it myself), it is also not necessarily right or good.

Now we start getting into the complicated stuff. Come on dude, you have a goal of trying to bench 400 pounds? Now you are telling me that goals like that are crap? Yes and no. I will use my goal of 400 pounds. When I first started pursuing that goal, it was for one simple reason. I wanted to bench 400 pounds so I could rub it in the face of all the guys I remember that played football when I was in high school who made a big deal out of benching 225 in the school gym. There I was struggling to bench 95 pounds (which is the bar and a 25lb weight on each side) while they benched the bar plus two 45lb weights on each side. Maybe they laughed at me. Maybe not. Really, who cares? It was high school man. But, in my mind I was going to show those dudes up. Lift, lift, lift. Boom….I got hurt. Hurt enough that I had to have shoulder surgery to correct it. Too much, too fast, and for the wrong reasons. Extrinsic and also shallow goal.

Fast forward a few years. I gained some weight after the surgery. I enjoyed food a bit much. I got lazy. Why? Extrinsic goals are easy to abandon once you reach them. I lost X number of pounds. I looked great for swimsuit season. I fit into that dress for the big party. Whatever it is. Then it is over. You start to slide back into bad habits. You search aimlessly for the next thing you want to be healthy for, the next thing you want to look good for. I have seen so many people fall into the vicious cycle. It is partly because we set goals and once we reach them, we sometimes stop. Now, some people will then set another goal, but sooner or later, you stop setting goals. Then your goals flip from losing 5 pounds to not gaining 5 pounds. Not gaining 10 pounds. This leads to poor eating habits. Gimmick products. And l know I sound judgmental when I say gimmick products and I am sorry for knocking something you may believe in, but what happens when you can no longer afford your products? What happens when the cost becomes prohibitive? Is it only people who can afford Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, or whatever other fad system or product is out there that are able to get healthy and lose weight? Is it really that special tea or shake that makes the difference? Or are these things crutches that we use so that we do not have to commit and use this thing we have called willpower?

So, when I looked at myself one day and realized that I had stopped focusing on me, I had a choice to make. This really coincided with the election cycle. As I saw the constant bickering and recrimination and the negativity that existed in the world, I just said enough. Not only did I put my hand over the mug, but I dumped its contents out and started over. I took a long and hard look at myself and asked myself what I was doing. More importantly, I asked why I was doing it. Did I want to do it so I could be admired by others? Did I want to do it so I could rub it in the face of people who I had been jealous of as a teen? What was my motivation?

About this time, I was gifted with my son Luke. As I looked into his little eyes, I saw a vision of a strapping and energetic teenager that would want to go hiking and riding roller coasters and exploring caverns and riding bikes. Would my body hold up to that level of activity when I was 55? Not at the rate I was going. So, I would say a profound change came over me. I have heard people say that the moment they accepted Jesus Christ in their hearts, they felt this profound change wash over them. Well, for me, it is like that. As soon as I let go of all of these extrinsic motivations, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I cannot describe in any better way than that. I stopped caring how I looked to others. I stopped caring how I compared with others. I stopping caring what others thought. Oh, I still clown with my friends and say some silly things, but make no mistake that being playful and silly doesn’t change the immensity of the philosophy shift I experienced.

Rather than set these limited goals – benching 400 pounds, I simply said I need to be better. I need to be healthier. This flies in the face of traditional fitness objectives. Lose 20 pounds. Fit into a pair of pants. Fit into a dress. Nope, I set a vague and nebulous goal. Some would say what the hell does it mean to be healthier or better? Exactly!!! What does it mean? It means nothing and it means everything! What the shit dude….I am really starting to hate you! But think about this….really think about it. It means that instead of setting a goal of a mile, I just decided I was okay with an inch. One inch at a time. One quarter-inch at a time. No one set goal. I just said do better. Make better choices. In doing so, I just said get up and get back in the gym. As I brought that cookie up to my face, I asked myself if I really needed it. Slowly, but surely, I started to change. Not just externally, but internally. I was free from the burden of trying to be something for society and I was happy with just being the best me I could be. Whether it is 5 pounds of 50, if you are the best you that you can be, then you are moving forward. The great thing about being the best you is that you can always be better. You are never hitting the finish line. Therefore, you will never let up. Just strive to do one more pushup. Say one more kind word. Make one more person laugh. It drives you from the inside.

Fast forward a year and I am pushing that 400lb bench press. Not because I want to show off, but because it is movement forward. It is a part of the journey. A waypoint. Not the finish line. I changed my eating habits. My thinking habits. I started blogging again, this time focused on health and fitness. I realized that health and fitness does not start in the gym, but inside you. You do not need a program, a class, a gym, a trainer, or anything else. You need to find the drive and willpower within yourself to move. To change. To better yourself. We have tools that can help with this, such as those classes, that gym, that bike, or any other tool. But, if we were without them, we could simply run, do push-ups, and do other body weight exercises to stay fit. We would not need a buddy to push us. We would push ourselves. This is the hardest state to achieve. It is brutally hard to get to that point. You feel like you are climbing Mt. Everest. That is one of the most difficult and technically challenging climbs in the world. But, for those that do it, they feel a sense of accomplishment like no other.

So, this post is a possible answer to the question of why do energy levels drop. Why do we ease up? Why do we fail? I think, and I stress the word think, it is because we have the wrong perspective when we set goals. We want something we can measure. We have been conditioned to look for the measurable. This is not bad. Obviously, you have to measure progress when you run a marathon or prepare for a competition, but if that is a smaller part of the whole “I am making myself the best me possible” then it is fine. If those goals are your only reason for doing something, you will most likely fail once you attain your goal. So think about this as you set goals. Especially as we approach a new year in 7 months. We love to sit down and make resolutions. But I say resolve to make yourself the best you possible and you won’t need resolutions. You will be living it daily.

Good luck out there…think that over. Ask yourself why you do what you do. The answer may surprise you.

 

 

No Pain, No Gain – Dumb Choices and their Consequences

No-Pain-No-Gain

So, the other day, my cousin posted about not feeling it and laying off his run. It got me to thinking about the choices people make when it comes to health and fitness. It is an important topic that is not often discussed and very often misunderstood. Thus, I felt it was important to discuss it in a bit more detail.

For years, we have been conditioned to buy into this concept of no pain, no gain. If you are not feeling pain, then you are not working hard enough. Kids are force-fed this line of drivel and they buy into it lock, stock, and barrel. However, it has also led to a ton of injuries. This mostly comes from this insane need to prove something to someone.

There are two variations of this:

Parent pushing the kid –

You have seen these parents. My kid does this. My kid does that. My kid is a star. I live vicariously through my kid. And perhaps their child is a star. Perhaps their child loves sport. But, more often than not, it is a parent pushing a child into something. Why? What is the psychology behind this? Well, without looking at any studies, I think it is safe to say that people want to see children succeed on the field, court, diamond, track, etc. Coming from a small town, I can honestly say that there was the notion of hometown Friday night fame that permeated the culture. It was something parents lived for – my kid is on varsity and is the hero of the game! Sadly, in my hometown and surrounding towns, a very stark reality is faced when small town kids face big town schools.

Let me share a personal story on this one. Many moons ago, I fancied myself a great basketball player (which, in retrospect, is completely laughable). I got invited to a tournament in Houston where I did marginally well, which earned me an invitation to a tournament in Phoenix. So, off I go spending money galore and thinking myself great and getting to Phoenix and walking on the course and having the coach call me the point guard. Whoa…whoa…whoa….I am a center coach. I have no idea how to play the guard spot. Cue team laughter and coach telling me to quit joking (come on, I am 6’8”…guard!??). But no, I am a center coach. Fine. Have it your way center. Tip off. Walk on to court and the opposing center is 7’2” and 280 lbs. with a scholarship to UC Irvine (so the dude was good, but not top-tier). Yeah…tough lesson learned and I realized all those hours of killing myself and beating my body up and busting my ass might have been better spent on academics. But of course my ego got in the way and I shirked it off and went back to the relative safety of thinking I was the best player on a small town team. Sound familiar? Know any parents like that? My kid is the greatest. Will be the best. You’ll see. Blah blah blah.

And if you do not believe me, just look up the statistics for the number of teens and kids that get Tommy John surgery. This being the best mentality really hits home in baseball. One study shows that teens 15-19 accounted for 57% of this type of surgery.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/teen-athletes-seek-an-edge-through-early-elbow-surgery/

Even more frightening, they may be doing it because it possibly gives them an edge of some type. Granted, I know little of baseball, but are you effing kidding me??

Person pushing themselves –

Next is the person pushing him or herself beyond the limits of what his or her body can do. But Rod, you show off these videos and you talk this smack about fitness…jackass. Yes, but it is a slow process and I have gained experience and knowledge and paced myself as I make this journey. I am talking about those people who try to do too much all at once. We have all seen them. Usually, it is younger people. But, you have moments where adults will make ridiculous choices and pay a heavy price physically.

A person hits that point where the body is subtly, or not so subtly, telling you that you it needs a break. It is saying stop right now please. I am hurting and I really need you to stop what you are doing. But instead of listening, you just push right on through it. No pain, no gain. And then boom, you are hurt. Now you have to lay off for 3 months. And all that progress and effort is lost. You just got age checked bro…enjoy it!

The Reality

I have been saying this pretty frequently. Healthy living and fitness is a journey a person undertakes on their own. It is not something forced on yourself or on your child. This leads to injury or to a lack of understanding of limits. And it has consequences. Let’s just say that for kids, living up to some parental or societal expectation can be damaging psychologically. But that is an entirely different topic. You push a kid too hard and he or she can hurt him or herself. ACL surgery, joint problems, neck injuries, and even death. They want to be the player that you want them to be and they will push themselves through the pain.

As an adult, it is dangerous too. You do not listen. You do not remember that your body is older. It heals more slowly. It takes longer to recover. Age is merciless. It does not care what you think. It keeps marching on with time. So, when you work hard for weeks or months to make gains and you finally get to a point where you think you have it covered and you feel that twinge, you decide to push through it. And pop goes the ligament. Or strain goes the muscle. Or out goes the back. And now you face weeks, or months, of recovery time. All your gains and your progress go right out the window. Ta-da….have fun with that. Age check bro!!!! Haha (in that Nelson from the Simpsons laughter)

A Smarter Approach

Well Rod, what are you saying then? I am suggesting you take a smarter approach to training. Listen, if you are one of those crazy parents who think your kid will be the next best thing, I cannot help you. I will not even try. I just hope you encourage your kids to be somewhat smart, since sports will not pay their bills. If you are one of those people who push yourself harder than you should, I suggest you take stock of your fitness level and honestly assess where you are. For those people, I offer these tips:

  • Assess your body weight and take a hard look at the impact it has on your joints, then use that to determine how much to push yourself on a daily basis
  • Test your cardiovascular fitness and work to make small, incremental improvements to it
  • Start with small challenges (50 push-ups a day for 15 days) to get tuned in to how your body feels so you can start gauging what it tells you
  • Be sure you get plenty of water and sleep on a daily basis
  • Do not mask the pain with pills because you will not know if you are going to hurt yourself (yes, you can take ibuprofen, but do not eat it like candy so you can work out)
  • Acknowledge your age and limitations and design a program, either yourself or professionally, that works within the limits of what you can do at your age and fitness level
  • Give your body the fuel it needs to heal – protein and amino acids
  • Maintain a healthy diet – watch your macros carefully

Doing this will not be the be all, end all, but it will help you on your journey.

Remember, pain is bad. Pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Discomfort is okay at times. But honestly, you should be going for measured workouts and some slight muscle soreness. If you feel pulling or tearing or your body is just resisting exercise, then lay off. Listen to your body. Do not give up or quit, but listen to it. It will make a huge difference.

Your Greatest Enemy – You

unable-sm

Being healthy is daunting. Being fit seems even more daunting. You see the achievements of some and look at yourself and say “I will never get to that point” and you give up. It happens. To all of us. This is nothing new. You step on a scale and your weight has gone up. You are beside yourself because you have spent the last month in the gym and you are not lighter. Instead, you are heavier! You quit. Life kicks your ass enough already, you do not need to add this to the list of things beating you down.

Now, some people will do the research and realize that they may have a weight gain because the density of muscle is far greater than that of fat. No, muscle does not weigh more than fat!! However, muscle takes up about four-fifths as much space as fat (Kent, 2015). And, the more muscle you gain, the more weight you can conceivably gain. But, you said it does not weigh more than fat….dude, what the hell.

Let’s do some math. According McArdle, Katch, and Katch (2014), the density of fat is .9 g/mL and that of muscle is 1.1 g/m/L. Thanks Rod…that makes perfect sense. I appreciate you clearing it up. Asshole. But weight (heh…see, I have a sense of humor), what this means is that if you have 1 liter of fat, that weighs 1.98 pounds. And if you have 1 liter of muscle, it weighs 2.3 pounds. This is based on volume in your body. So, let’s say that you have:

10 Liters of fat – 19.8 total pounds

And you work-out hard for many, many months and turn it into 10 liters of muscle, then you’ll have

10 Liters of muscle – 23.3 total pounds

You will have gone up 4 total pounds in weight. But damn man, I wanted to lose weight. Well, if you create 10 liters of muscle, you will have changed your body significantly and most likely look completely different, but you will have gained weight. So, that can be hard to fathom. More importantly, you are battling a psychological process that takes place when you see yourself daily – to yourself you seem unchanged, or hardly changed.

This is a byproduct of looking in the mirror every day. You just do not notice your changes. You could be far more muscular or slimmer, but you will not know it. Then, you step on that damned scale and your weight is up. Now, unless you have been eating like crazy, it simply means you are changing fat into muscle which looks smaller but makes your weight go up as the volume is what you see, not the actual weight. So, at this point a lot of people either give up or slack off and go back to bad habits. It never fails.

Understanding Yourself 

So, we talked about the science. Cool. Now you have an idea of the weight and density of muscle versus fat. That is the first step. Next, throw out the scale or use it very sparingly. It really does not help. But, that is a pretty easy one. I am just putting it out there. More important than the scale, is to understand yourself.

As a species, we are generally averse to pain. Who wants pain? I do not mean the pain that is so bad that you hurt yourself, but pain in general. If we have it in our lives, we certainly do not want more. If we have it at work, we want to be out of that job (although sometimes we are stuck in it which leads to other issues, like depression).  So, you have to accept that with health and fitness comes some discomfort.

Let’s take a look at this in more practical terms. I want to be healthy. Man, those nachos are so damned delicious. Guacamole, fajitas, tortilla chips, ten tons of cheese, tomato, onion, and what the hell….let’s add some more cheese and then salt them up and top it off with a margarita (maybe two). 78,000 calories later and you feel so good and stuffed and happy and you love it. Sweet. On the flipside, your healthy friend is looking at the same menu and is looking at their lite menu choices. He or she would like two fajita tacos on whole wheat tortillas with a glass of water and some sliced tomato and avocado on the side. And you are staring at them thinking “you dumb mother***er, I ought to slap some sense into your dumb ass for ordering that” because they are harshing your buzz and being a total killjoy. 1100 calories later, they are done eating while you are enjoying your mountain of diabetes inducing food.

Now, how is that causing discomfort? Seriously, do you all think that eating like that is easy? It hurts. You can smell the richness of the food next to you. You can see everyone around you enjoying those margaritas. You can practically taste how good it is. As everyone is laughing and drinking it up, you are drinking water and eating a very lean meal. Come on folks, healthy people want to enjoy food too. They want to just pig out sometimes and have a plate of nachos. They want a drink. They want to enjoy some soda. But, in the end, they know that as much as they want this, it is incredibly bad for them. So, sometimes, we just avoid those friends. Why be a buzzkill? Trust me, I have been the guy at happy hour that just has a glass of water while everyone drinks. It is no fun for them and, honestly, no fun for me. So, like-minded people tend to stick together.

Fitness is discomfort. It is being able to say no. It is knowing that you will be taking the road less traveled to increase your overall health.

Faith and Fitness

I see so many people out there that are religious, and I am not knocking the basic concept of religion. In principle, religion is good because it relies on faith. You have faith in God to deliver you from evil. Yet despite this, you tend to avoid dangerous places. Why? If God will deliver you from evil, you can go anywhere, anytime you want. Ta-da, end of story. But the reality is that you have to be responsible. God will hear your prayers, but the dude is busy, so sometimes he does not answer every prayer (but he does hear them). Right? So, with fitness and health, you have to take charge. And the faith is not necessarily in God, but in yourself. You have to look in the mirror and say I can do this. I have it within me to overcome this adversity. I can ask God for help. I can plead with the universe to help me in my life, but in the end, it will be the choices I make that define me. God will not tell me to put down that margarita. God will not make me put down that nacho. Why? Well, if you believe in the concept of God, he gave you free will. You have a choice. You have a choice to be good or be bad. You have a choice to be healthy or be unhealthy. It is that simple.

So, my next suggestion is direct some of that faith and belief to yourself. Believe in your ability to overcome the challenges you face. Do not quit when the going gets tough. Do not quit when the scale moves up a bit. Instead, rededicate yourself to your goal. Use realistic measures to determine if you are changing your body. Do those pants fit better? Is that top looking nicer? Can I do extra push-ups? Can I walk a little farther this week than I did last? Does a picture of me from six weeks ago look different than a picture of me from today? These are the metrics you should be considering when you look at yourself.

You should find it within yourself to not be your own worst enemy.

Facing the Wall

We all hit the wall. This is that point where we think we have had enough. Runners often face it when training for a marathon. Cyclists hit it. Pretty much everyone undertaking a physical or mental challenge faces the wall. You come up on it and see it looming high and wide in front of you. You stare at it and stare at it and just decide you cannot get around it. This is where your faith in yourself must come into play. You have to find a way to scale that wall. You have to find a way to break it down. That is the wall that keeps you from succeeding, not just in health and fitness, but in your life. We all face it. Fear is the fuel to the fire that drives you to be your own worst enemy. Failure is scary. I may be laughed at. Mocked. Derided. But you know what – who cares!! Tune it out. You have to tune out the negativity. You have to focus on the positive. When a runner hits that wall, they have a choice. Stop and quit. Or put one foot in front of the other. Crawl. Drag yourself until you cannot drag yourself anymore. You prefer death to quitting. You have to have the mentality that you will not fail.

If you want to see what that looks like, take a minute and a half to watch this video. Just fast forward to the 1:20 mark. Watch what this 16-year-old girl does. If she quits or asks for help, that is it. So just watch….because if she has the courage to do what she does…what is your excuse?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqBerM9FPwA

We all face the wall. It is exacerbated by a lack of faith in ourselves and a lack of knowledge about the science behind health and fitness. It is further compounded by people who would see us undo all the progress we make just to satisfy the need to drink, eat, and party. We have one life. If you choose to do those things, more power to you. We all pay a price for our choices. But, if you choose the path of health and fitness, you will pay a price too. But, the overall gain you get for being healthy is like doing your research and picking a winning stock as opposed to hitting the blackjack table and hoping you get a blackjack hand dealt.

Stop being your worst enemy. One day, you might even thank yourself for it. Good luck.

Fitness, Food, and the terrible N word….

*I am a Doctor of Philosophy. Not an MD. I am not a Doctor of a Biological Science. What this means is I am a researcher. Feel free to disregard any of this…or do your own research, but please remember, should you undertake anything, make sure you check with your medical provider if you have any health issues.

Hey everybody, today I thought it would be good to discuss nutrition. I recently completed Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred program. It was a brutal six weeks, or so I thought until I examined the work I would have to do on the Super Shred 8 program. While messaging an old friend, I was asked about my nutrition during the program. This got me thinking that nutrition is a really ugly N word that we are just truly afraid of. Now, please do not confuse my use of the concept of N word with other more pejorative terms. Those are wrong….bottom line. But for people looking at health and fitness, nutrition is a very difficult concept to grasp. Intellectually, we all understand it. But, what does that mean in a practical sense? How do we apply it? What are some of the challenges we face? So, I want to share my knowledge with you. This will be a bit of a long read, but please read it….and ask me questions if you need.

First, what is nutrition? I am going to provide a standard dictionary definition for you:

“the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth”

Great Rod….that is super easy. I get it. Thanks. All cleared up. I am ready to rock and roll. Yet, despite knowing this simple definition, we all struggle with this everyday. You see, we can have copious amounts of food with little to no nutritional value. And we can have highly nutritional food without any of the flavor that we have come to love and crave. For most, the biggest obstacle to health and wellness is the disconnect between food and nutrition. People have adopted the live to eat mentality as opposed to the eat to live mentality. This is highly dangerous to you as a human being. We will get back to that in a few minutes.

Calories

So let’s get to the nitty gritty of this issue. Bottom line, you need to watch your calories. You will read a ton of crap about eating properly. You will hear people say don’t eat before bedtime. Eat smaller meals. Do this…do that. I am here to tell you that all of that is really just psychological bullshit. Someone, somewhere is trying to sell you something. But the bottom line is calories. Don’t believe me? Read the linked article below about the nutritionist who ate twinkies and doritos. It will probably freak you out a bit. It certainly raises some serious questions about all this healthy eating stuff. Organic. Farm raised. Blah blah.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/index.html

How about small meals? Yeah….I need to eat six small meals a day. Or I need not eat right before bed. Yeah, that is the trick. I need to do that. Well, take a gander at this article:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/6_meals_a_day#1

If you do not want to read it, here is the telling part “And a research review reached no conclusions about whether meal frequency helps or hurts with weight loss.

What the shit man? You mean eating multiple small meals a day may possibly make me want to eat more? Damnit….damnit to hell.

Then, you have this little gem about Herschel Walker. The dude only eats one meal a day. And he is a freak of physical nature. It must be genetics.

http://www.bettermanproject.com/the-diet-that-contradicts-everything-you-know-about-nutrition/

So, according to this other blogger, you can actually gain some benefit from just eating one meal a day and it could actually be good for you. Ok, so now I am totally confused. I can eat twinkies just once a day as long as I do not exceed my total caloric intake and still lose weight and get healthy. That literally runs against the grain of everything I have ever heard in my life. Rod, I thought you said you were going to help me understand nutrition, not confuse the hell out of me. Thanks man….I hate you.

However, there is a point to all of this. You see, the real deal is that there is no magic solution. There is no surefire way to eat right or find a quick fix to your problems. In an earlier post, I equated fitness and health to yard work. To make your yard look beautiful, you have to put in the work. You cannot just plow over it with the lawnmower and expect it to look amazing. So, this is your challenge. What works for you? No one can tell you what works for you because each of us is different. It means you have to do the homework. You have to track your calories. You have to monitor your foods. You have to take into account your circumstances. YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO DOING THE WORK!

Macros

What does this mean? I hear it all the time. Macros simply mean macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates). You have to monitor your macros means you need to look after the ratios of proteins, fats, and carbs in your diet. Earlier, we stated you could eat twinkies all day as long as you do not go over your calorie threshold. But, it you want to build muscle you will be hard pressed to do so as twinkies have no real protein content. On the flip side, you can ingest nothing but protein, but not have any carbs to help you with energy to do an activity. Fats are critical because without them, our bodies would have a really rough time. We need linoleic and linolenic acid to help with brain development, the controlling of inflammation, and blood clotting (Medline Plus, 2017). So, we have to create a healthy balance of macros to fuel our bodies. An imbalance can lead to all sorts of problems – heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, death……

Read these two resources to help you better understand what to do with macros and to truly understand the purpose of fats:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/from-here-to-macros-4-steps-to-better-nutrition.html

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000104.htm

It sounds like rocket science, but it isn’t. It is work though. You have to track things for a bit. Write things down. Make the effort. Listen, I promise you that if you end up sitting there with an amputated leg or the doctor telling you that your diabetes made you go blind, you will wish you could get that time back and do the work. So, just do the work now. Suck it up…put in the effort.

I Effing Love Food

Listen folks, I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Mexican food was not just an item on a menu, it was a way of life. Enchiladas were their own food group. Tamales were darn near a religious experience. Drinking beer is likely preferred to water. It is no wonder that diabetes is a raging epidemic in the Rio Grande Valley. Nationally, diabetes is really causing problems. But, the South Texas region is literally ground zero for the epidemic.

https://www.texasobserver.org/revolutionizing-care-for-the-valleys-diabetes-epidemic/

Now, this may be anecdotal, but many people I know via Facebook regularly attend this little event called the Livestock Show and Rodeo. This is one of many events that occur back home where people just gorge themselves on some of the unhealthiest food imaginable. Listen, I do not fault people for doing this. Not one bit. Your body, your life. But, if you jump out of an airplane without a parachute, you probably should not complain on your way down that you are probably going to die. Sure, you might survive, but the odds are not in your favor. Wherever you live, you have to look at your culture, your surroundings, and your habits.

I have met a ton of Europeans that come visit Austin and they are totally shocked by the amount of food that we are served and, more importantly, the fact that people will consume everything put on a plate in front of them.  Here is a fun fact:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, a 2-ounce serving of tortilla chips, or around 18 chips, contains 275 calories. Carbohydrates contribute the most at 150 calories per serving. Fats deliver 110 calories, while proteins offer 15 calories.Feb 4, 2014″

That is just 18 chips!! How many chips do you eat when you sit down at a restaurant? How many margaritas or beers do you drink?

Eight ounces of a standard margarita on the rocks will set you back about 455 calories, while a 12-ounce margarita has about 680 calories. You can lighten up your drink by limiting the Cointreau — or triple-sec, which is sometimes used instead — and by using fresh lime juice instead of a sweetened version.Apr 23, 2015″

Now, if you are supposed to consume just about 2500 calories a day, imagine how you can blow through that. And then people wonder why they look the way they do or have diabetes. Sweet sassy molassey….it’s kinda obvious.

My Diet

Look, I love food. I love cake. I love warm cookies and milk. I love all the same foods that a majority of Americans love. But at 6’8″, I weigh 229 and have 9.5% body fat. How? Because I monitor what I eat. I pay close attention to macros. I have cut out the unnecessary junk. Water is my preferred drink.

When my buddy asked whether I followed the Stoppani diet, I had to honestly say I did not. But, that does not mean that I did not pay attention to the overall needs of my body to gain muscle, lose weight, and function effectively. I consume a multi-vitamin. I drink protein shakes. I consume essential and branch chain amino acids. And I have one meal a day. That was referenced earlier as the Herschel Walker diet, but it is really commonly known as the warrior diet. That diet hearkens back to our old hunter, gatherer way of life. The tribe would hunt during the day, eating snacks of berries and such, and then feast on the kill at night. One meal….once a day. Small snacks during the day for energy. Calorie count all the way. Now, I can increase my caloric intake if I like based on the intensity of my workouts. The more I exercise, the more calories I can consume without gaining weight.

But, that works for me. You have to find what works for you. That is the trick. So, all this to say that you have to figure your needs out on your own. You have to have willpower and dedication to make things happen. There are no fad diets. No drinks. No silly programs. It is just guts and willpower and a little science. Remember, this is about eating to live. To fuel your body. Not living to eat. Not eating because it tastes good. Not eating because everyone else is doing it. It is about your health. That simple.

So, I hope you learned something today. I hope that this helps. As always, I am here to answer questions and offer my insight. I also want to hear from you all. Share your experiences. But remember, you have to put in the effort.

It is okay if you do not. No one is judging you. But, at the end of the day, the only person you can blame or pat on the back is yourself. You are your own best friend or your own worst enemy. Good luck….

 

 

Fitness and the Challenges you Face

I have been on a journey to see just what my body can do at 43. I remember being 18 and playing basketball in high school and feeling pretty damned inadequate when I saw classmates bench pressing or squatting heavy weights. Rather than push myself harder, I just turned my back on it. I refused to face my fear and overcome it. Now, I am 43 and I kick that fear in the balls. But, those same people that I was intimidated by are facing the challenges I faced when I was 18 and they are now turning their backs on those fears and letting them win.

The real challenge to fitness is not the exercise (although it is a real ball buster). It is the mental mindset. So, I want to talk about that for a bit….well, actually a lot. One thing about having a fancy, schmancy PhD is that you learn all these terms and ideas, but thanks to some really chill people I met, I learned that the easiest thing to do was break down complex concepts into something that was digestible and easy to understand by all. This one applies to both men and women.

So, I like to work on my yard. I really enjoy making my yard look good. To make my yard look good, I have to really, really work at it. Now, we can hire someone to come and fix our yard, but in the end, we have no true ownership of it. So, we may enjoy it, but when and if that company stops working on it, or when we can no longer afford the service, it will fall into a sad state again. Thus, you have to learn to do the work yourself. Making it look good means getting your hands dirty. Getting down on your hands and knees and pulling weeds. It means sweat and dirt and hurt. You feel it after you bust ass in your yard. Your back is sore and you ache. But there is nothing more rewarding than to sit outside after you bust your ass in your yard and see how pretty it looks. We want to transform our yards from this:

notbeautiful

to this:

beautiful

That is hard work. It is not instant. It takes time and dedication and effort. You will have setbacks. You may never get it to that point – but you will always strive to do so because you want that yard. You want to show it off. You want to be proud of it. You want to say “I did that!” so that you and those you love can enjoy what you have created.

Well folks….that is your body. That is what it takes to change your body. It takes getting your hands dirty. It takes getting on your hands and knees and pulling weeds. It takes pain and hurt. And it takes times. It takes effort. But, the results can be spectacular. You may never see the perfect body, but you keep striving to make it better. You keep pulling those weeds. You nourish it. You protect it. Not just when it is convenient, but all the time.

Just like that yard, you want your friends and family to enjoy it. As a new dad again, I want to be there for my young son. I want to ride roller coasters in my 50s and 60s. I do not want to watch life from the sidelines. You want to be there for your grandchildren. You want to live in the moment. You want to celebrate life with your friends. This does not mean you have to look like a model or have that perfectly ripped gym body, but you have to make the effort to improve yourself….all the time. But it won’t be easy. You will not just change overnight. You have to want to change. You have to face that fear. You have to do more than just push the lawnmower over the weeds.

Exercise is easy enough. The biggest obstacle to changing your life is you. That is what you have to overcome. And, more importantly, you have to do it now, when all the burdens of life are really hitting you. But it can be done. You just have to want to.

In the coming weeks and months, I will start to share ideas, thoughts, and advice to those of you that want to change. This stuff works. I know. I see the results every day. Whether you choose to do any of it will be up to you. It is, after all, your yard…….

 

What it takes to be a Good Man

This morning, my mother took a trip to California. As I was driving her to the airport, she mentioned my godfather was in the hospital.

Me – “Will he make it out?”
Her – “Yes, he will be fine.”
Me – “When the time comes, will I be expected to go to the funeral?”
Her – “No, we all know you don’t consider them family.”

So, some quick background and why this posting is deeply personal for me. I am an only child. I grew up alone, with only friends and my godparents looking out for me. It pains me to be distanced from my godparents. But I will explain why I am. My godparents had three daughters and a son. All of their children are good people, but Marta was the one I felt most connected to, as she and I were a lot alike. Marta was brilliant and funny and a character. She was head strong and stubborn and not afraid to take risks and live life on her terms. If her family was a band, she was Bono. She was a rock star.

Marta had many opportunities in life. Men loved her. She was beautiful and carried herself in the most ladylike of ways. Just classy. So, when she finally picked the one, we were all happy for her and her chosen love. His name was Steve Harding. Now, our Mexican culture is such that bonds run deep. Steve was white. His culture and upbringing different from our own. Marta, as progressive as she was, was very much in tune with her culture – she valued family and close friendships. Through a strange twist of fate, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a brutal thing to have happen to someone so amazing. She handled it with grace and threw herself into her recovery while maintaining excellent scores in her work to become a Physicians Assistant. Steve could have ended the relationship right then and there, but he persevered. I remember being at their wedding as she stood there in her gown giving her vows while she was most likely sickened from the chemo treatments she was receiving. The chemo port was tactfully hidden from view, but we could all tell she was weak and we were so incredibly happy for her and Steve. He truly manned up in that moment.

While not quite remission, we thought her treatments were going well. However, the cancer would not be abated. You cannot reason with aggressive cancer. It is indiscriminate. Despite her tireless work and effort, it came back. She even completed her medical boards to become a PA as the cancer ravaged her body and mind. In fact, she so impressed her professors and faculty, that the Martha Zuniga Harding Memorial Scholarship was created at UTSA in her memory. Marta was truly inspirational. I still recall the weekend she went to Houston to find out about experimental treatments. I was optimistic that she would find a medical trial that would turn back the cancer for good. Little did I know that she would take a turn for the absolute worst and would pass away that weekend. Her family was in shock. I was stunned. And Steve Harding became a widower. Here is a brief thought from one of her friends: The Three Musketeers.

So, you may ask, “what does this have to do with your godparents?” Well, I am getting to that. But before I go further, I want to share a bit more about Marta. She was brilliant. And she expected no less from the person that she was with. Steve was brilliant too. Marta would not have been with him otherwise. He was highly educated, with an MBA from UTSA and he was in construction – home building. He worked for Pulte Homes and last I heard had some pretty high level position with Meritage Homes. This guy was smart and capable and seemed like a good and honorable man.

I loved Marta and by extension considered Steve family. So, when Joshua was born in 1997, I asked her and Steve to be his godparents. They were at the hospital when he was born. Steve and Marta held my son before I did! She was so excited to be a godmother to Joshua. I figured Steve felt the same way. Because of her treatment, I believe she was unable to have children of her own. I think they were preparing to adopt a child, as they both wanted children. So, she relished the role of being a godmother. But when she died, perhaps a part of Steve died with her. Perhaps the part that made him a man was extinguished when her light was extinguished.

Joshua is now 18 years old. In 17 and a half years, I can tell you that Steve has not seen Joshua once. Not one card. Not one phone call. Not one happy birthday. Nothing. He even lived in the same town as we did, but nothing. My godparents defended him. He was a good man. Blah blah. After a while I became bitter with my godparents. They had family. They had other children. Their grandchildren had aunts and an uncle. I had no one. Joshua had no aunts and no uncles on my side of the family and limited contact on his mother’s side. So Steve being a godfather mattered to me. It was important.

If you look up the term godfather, it has its roots in Christian traditions. Now, some may say that I am not religious. This is a true statement. I am not. But this is not about me, this was about Steve. While I never asked him if he was religious, I can say that he stood in that church and accepted the role of godfather to my son. Think about this, it is not merely a title, but it was a role that was meant to support, nurture, encourage, and guide my son. And, in the event of our untimely deaths, we had even asked them to raise him as their own. This was the level of trust I had in Steve and Marta.

But nothing. No words of encouragement. No contact. No support. Nothing. Luckily, I did not die. But, I did become bitter. So, what does it take to be a good man? You keep your word. Steve never talked to us again. He might say that he was not religious, so he is not bound to religious promises he made just for Marta. Fair enough. I hope he has not found God then because he turned his back on a very important role in Christian tradition. But fair enough, maybe he was not a god-fearing man. How about this one? He gave his word. He stood there not necessarily as a Christian, but as a man. He swore he would do right by my son. He did not. So, when I think of Steve Harding, I think of a person with no honor. A person who made a commitment before God in St. Ignacious Church to be there for my son. He broke that promise. A man who gave his word to do right by someone. He broke that promise. I do not care what title he carries. I do not care if he is wealthy or powerful now. When I think of him, I think of the lowest common denominator of a person. Truthfully, I cannot bring myself to even consider him manly.

So, my godfather is ill. And while I should be better than this, I cannot in good conscience forgive the fact that for 17 years, they have never once acknowledged the fact that this happened. They have never once said they were sorry for the choice he made. I heard how they defended him. I heard how the family had to keep reaching out to him to stay in contact until they probably lost contact….or whatever happened. Who knows? Who cares? But at the end of the day, they all let my son get screwed. As a godson, I should be grateful to my godfather for what he did for me. As a parent, I am less forgiving of what was done to my son.

So prospective parents, when you raise your children, be it boy or girl, and it comes that time to teach them those valuable lessons they should learn, remember to teach them the most important one: honor your commitment as a man or woman. See it through, regardless of the adversity that you face. And if you make a promise to a child, keep it. It feels good to get that out. It has been a long time coming.

And to Steve Harding. Go fuck yourself. There was a time when your perspective and knowledge might have been useful. You could have supported the child you made a promise to support. Not monetarily, but in all the ways a good man supports someone. You can wear suits. You can make big decisions. You can have fancy titles. But at the end of the day, you failed a child you promised to support and that is something I do not forgive.

The Sacrifice of Parenthood – Disabilities and Children

Parenthood is a very challenging experience. For so long in our lives, we truly only responsible for ourselves. Certainly, we understand the concept of love. We love our family and friends, but it is different from the love we end up having for a partner. We then have a relationship (sometimes several) where we discover an external love for someone not family. We fall so deeply and so passionately in love that we decide that we want to have a child with this person. You start the journey of pregnancy with some visits to the doctor and you get some ultrasounds. These scans tell you whether everything is good with your baby. Now, back when Josh was born, I recall the scan being sooner rather than later and I recall my relief when I heard the technician say that we had a healthy baby boy on the way.

But…and this is a big but, what if the technician had been silent? What is he or she had said the doctor will need to speak with you? What if the doctor had said that she saw some problems with Luke when he was in utero? I think about these things as I look at all the babies out there that are abandoned. You may say that babies are not abandoned, but I recently spent time looking through a listing of the children available for adoption and my heart broke at what I saw. Most of the children seeking a forever home had profound disabilities – physical, cognitive, or emotional. Of that group, the most noticeable were those with profound physical and cognitive disabilities. One child had the need for 24/7 nursing care, needed to be close to a hospital at all times, and needed a parent to be home with him almost all the time.

Now, when I started this blog, I said I would always speak honestly and openly. So, I would ask those of you that might read this – is that a gift from God or a prison sentence? Life is precious, I know, but we throw it away in this world of ours so frequently for people with no challenges. I am very lucky in that Luke was born healthy and without any issues. But what if he had not? Would I be able to give so selflessly? And if people think children are such miracles, why then are so many children in the state foster and adoption system children with profound disabilities? I am lucky to never have to be faced with giving up my child, but I see so many parents that do. I do not see these children being adopted readily. This is not to say that they do not find homes eventually. But, what if they do not?

So, this brings me to the topic. Medical termination of a pregnancy when you know that your child may have a profound disability. Some parents decide to have their child anyway, which I completely respect. Some lose their child soon thereafter and take with them memories of their little loved one….a love unlike that of a family member or your partner. It is a powerful love that can overwhelm every part of you. Those parents take with them to their dying day those memories. Other parents do not lose their children. Instead, they raise them. These children lead a long life. I recently saw a couple at a restaurant with a child that had down syndrome. This child was not highly functioning, but still high enough to behave quietly. The catch – the couple had to be in their 70s or 80s and the child looked to be in his early 40s. Somehow, I felt like this was their life.

I read an article about a mother with a child that had a disability. She was so grateful for an iPad because it distracted him. Her thought was that as a small boy, he was fine and so sweet and gentle. But, now, as a grown man standing about 6’4″, she was deathly afraid of him losing it in public. She had been at her daughter’s recital and her son started to lose his cool. How would she control a 6’4″ 300 pound child without it being a safety concern? Luckily, the iPad calmed him down and she was grateful for that, but she said this would be the rest of her life.

So, at once they are a gift, but they can also be a prison sentence. We, as  a society, cringe at the thought of medical termination. Make no mistake, I am not saying this for a child missing a hand or limb. We are talking higher level stuff here. These are questions you need to answer before you jump into parenthood. As you look at your spouse and you two decide to take this road, you have to ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice for it? Are you willing to give up your independence? Are you willing to sacrifice your time? Your future? Are you willing to give so selflessly that you put others to shame with your sacrifice?

I know we were not. We discussed it and we decided that we could not do that. To some, we might be monsters, but we knew the limits of what we could reasonably do. You have to find your limits. You have to have that talk. One couple I heard about had a child they knew was going to be disabled, but then got upset that they did not get more government support. These people knew they would not get support based on their income, but then got mad that they did not. Rather than pay for it themselves, they just stopped working so much so they could qualify. I am not saying that will be any of you, but what will you expect? Who will shoulder the burden if you decide to proceed with the miracle of life? More importantly, what if you do all this and then decide you cannot do it any longer. Remember, most of the kids in foster and state care have these profound disabilities. I wonder how many of those people thought a child was a miracle and would not entertain the idea of a medical termination.

This is a hard topic and to those parents that do this…that made those sacrifices. I have nothing but respect for you and your sacrifices. Truly. I am simply stating that prospective parents have to think about these things. These are issues that impact you and your lives for the rest of your lives. Give this real thought. Yes, life is a miracle and perhaps you would be out of favor with your god, but you will spend a lifetime doing what you have to for a child. Just give it some thought…real though. Have a conversation with your spouse. Know what you plan to do if the situation presents itself. I certainly hope it never does. Good luck out there…..

Parenthood and Psychological Warfare

I was in the military many years ago. I recall hearing about this thing called psychological warfare. Then if you fast forward about twenty years, you will possibly recall the issues the U.S. had with Abu Ghraib. I remember reading the things that they did in that prison setting. Now, I am not getting political, but I am going to explain what I am getting at here.

Parenthood is a lot like psychological warfare. Let me explain this perspective for a minute. At 42, I want some peace and quiet in my life. I like things to be ordered and flow in a natural progression that makes sense. However, children are not like this. I can live with that. But, when you get into infant territory, you are in what I like to call “holy shitsville”.

Luke is an amazing child, but he brings the pain. See, every time that he wakes up, he is screaming bloody murder. It is his thing. He does not like waking up and he lets you know it. He will randomly just start going ballistic. Once again, no rhyme or reason, just a small, screaming machine. He will do this at various times throughout the night, causing sleep deprivation. Just as you start to drowse off, a blood curdling scream is let loose into the bedroom and you are pulled from that comforting envelope known as sleep into a dark and depressing place.

So, we are starting to get into the psy ops stuff here. Sleep deprivation. That is a biggie. Then, he will want to be held while you stand. Not sitting, but you must stand and follow a specific pattern. I have flashbacks to seeing a poor prisoner standing on a box holding his hands up to his side. I am standing and holding this child in a position that will hopefully keep him calm and prevent him from crying. It sometimes works. Most often, I move incorrectly and cause him to start the screaming cycle again.

Then we get into the crazy stuff. Poop and pee. Seriously, this kid should be a sharpshooter with the aim that he has. And what the hell? Where does a two and a half month old get that much pee? He is a peeing machine and if you give him just a second, he will put you on blast. Poop….goodness. It is scary when he cries havoc and slips the dogs of war. He becomes the perfect machine to torture you. Now, I have it easy, but my poor wife is stuck with this way more than I am.

You may be thinking that I am crazy to make this comparison. But keep in mind, there are some significant parallels in the actions here. Intent is a different story and actual torture is a malicious act that I would not make light of. However, a child does much the same to a parent but because we love our little bundles of joy, we just quietly accept it. My wife often states that she did not read that part in any of her parenting blogs. I tell her that no one wants to talk about the hard side of parenting….the long nights with a screaming baby. Poop and pee parties that really leave you questioning your sanity. Walking laps in your living room because your child is going ballistic.

The reality is that parenting is hard work. It is not for the weak-willed. It takes courage and commitment. So many people have children then do not live up to the responsibility associated with being a parent. Kids and babies will push the limits of what you can reasonably handle, and then they will do it again. If you ever read those stories where a parent hurts a child, you will notice it is because the child is screaming and the parent loses his or her cool. This in no way condones any hurtful action towards a child, but it makes sense that a person could lose his or her cool if they did not know how to handle a small child.

Parenthood is scary. It is scary because there are a lot of unknowns. The scariest unknown is yourself. What will you do when you are stressed out and your child is screaming bloody murder? What will you do when you are tapped out and your child will not stop? What will you do when you cannot give another inch and your child needs a mile?

This leads into another topic I want to discuss soon enough….but I am trying to figure out how to word it. Stay tuned for that one…..it will be a tough one to discuss.

Bad Kids or Bad Adults

I have been pretty quiet for the last two weeks. Work and life got in the way. It happens. However, I am back with a much lighter load. I still do not know if anyone reads this, but this posting is something I take very personally. So here it goes….

Much is made about children acting up in public. This posting right here illustrates the problem. I was not there and the owner could have handled it a bit differently, but the point that the owner makes is accurate – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. If you are not interested in reading the article, I will sum it up. Family in restaurant. Kid starts screaming. Owner screams back. Kid is quiet. Family is outraged. Morality police scream bloody murder. Restaurant owner says all my other patrons bothered, and I did what I had to do.

I get this. Last night, we were having dinner at Dan’s, a local burger joint. Luke was chilling in his car seat and we were trying to enjoy a meal. Not necessarily quiet, as the din of the restaurant was clearly present, but it was just families having dinner with their kids. However, one family came in and turned it all around. They had several small children. Again, I was not too worried because they seemed to have it under control. Then it started. A little girl of about 3 or 4 just lost it. She went nuclear over something ridiculous. The first minute was understandable, as I can give some people time to deal with a child and try to calm them. But this went on for about 5 minutes. The mother just kept reading on her smartphone. The aunt, I think, started trying to talk above the screaming child. This brought her voice up to a yell – in a crowded restaurant. The child was not in pain or being done wrong in any way. The child was simply throwing a tantrum.

The mother finally stands up and asks the child if she needs to be taken outside. Finally….some common sense and respect for others. But that was it. It was an empty threat. I noticed the look of relief on faces when she said this and then the look of disappointment when she sat back down to look at her phone. Meanwhile, the aunt?, just kept raising her voice. The child just kept screaming. They kept acting like nothing was going on. This went on for a good 15 minutes. Then, once the child quieted down, the aunt kept her barnyard voice and kept hollering how she was an excellent referee and kept the calm. At this point, two women sat in the booth between us and them and I waved at them and told them to move. They had no idea why and I explained to them how loud those people were. They started to get up and sure enough, the kid starts up again and the aunt starts calling the cows to come back to the barn. The lady looks at me and thanks me. Sure, there was only two booths separating them, but I guess it is better than point blank range. At this point, we had had enough and left.

So, what is this – bad kids or bad adults? I call it both, but the real culprit here is the adults. They were to blame for allowing this to continue. Screaming kids should be removed from an establishment. Bottom line. Now, when you hear someone say this, the natural response is outrage because whoever says it must not know what it is like to have kids. Wrong! I do know. And I still say taking the screaming kids out. You see, we all work hard for our money. Very hard. When we go out, we want a reasonable experience. It may not always be pleasant, but it should at least be decent. A screaming child, or children, is not acceptable. While the parents of the screaming child also work hard for their money, at the point of a screaming child, they are not enjoying their meal. So, rather than be the only ones miserable with their screaming child, they decide to make everyone miserable. That makes sense. Real sense of respect for others around you. Hell no. Take that screaming kid out.

Restaurants are in a pickle. Most chains do not say anything. They fear the court of public opinion. Plus, there is the danger of overreacting too quickly. So, when is it a good time. I would think some common sense would prevail here. A few minutes without abatement would generate a “sir (or ma’am), would you please take your child outside for a few minutes so he (or she) settles down? Here is a kids cup soda to give to your little one” or something along those lines. But no, they do not. I am not saying to kick them out, but ask them to deal with the situation.

Wait, but you would not take your kid out. You are just saying this. Hell yes I would take my child out. In a heartbeat. I prefer a quiet meal. I do not want to hear any screaming kid. And if it is mine, then out I go with him. I will not let him ruin a meal for anyone but me. That is the nature of the beast. Certainly, special situations are different. Perhaps you have a special needs child. I can live with some measure of sound, especially with special needs kids. But at the end of the day, they can lose it too and you as a parent have to know the difference between them being happy and a little noisy and ballistic and over the top noisy. Same rule then applies, take your kid out. Admittedly, it is much tougher with a special needs child and I can empathize with that plight, but the collective should not be subjected to that beyond a certain point.

Oh yes, and for the love of all that is holy….do not take a baby or a small child to a movie theater. I mean, seriously, there is a special place in hell for people that do that. I know when Luke wakes up from a nap, he is full on ballistic. Sure, he might nap through part of a movie, but once he wakes up, it is fight time. So, why do that? I do not. You should not either. Common sense.

At the end of the day, I can only come to one realization – BAD ADULTS.

So don’t be a bad adult. Be a respectful one.

 

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