Dad at 40

Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, and Life

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.

The Price of Being a Woman – Seen Through the Eyes of a Man

So, first and foremost, I cannot begin to comprehend the actual price of being a woman. I speak academically and anecdotally. I have spent a lot of time doing research and a lot of time focusing on fitness and health. More importantly, I read a lot of everything just to try to stay well-rounded. In my 43 years, I have seen and experienced a lot. Thus, I am taking a risk with this post and talking about something that many women find sensitive. But, I am trying to show that I do not just dimiss this issue and that it carries weight for me.

beauty

For the Guys – Framing

First and foremost for the men that will take the time to read this. Let’s be honest – we have objectified women. I would like to say that we are more evolved and more considerate and compassionate. But, we have used terms like smoking, balls hot, hottie, sexy, fuckable, and so many others. Conversely, we have used terms like brown-bag special, fugly, and so many other pejorative terms that it really makes us look bad as a gender. Even now, I find it a real challenge to break from those bad habits. You see, we have been just as conditioned to expect something as women have (which I will discuss momentarily). Now, if there is a guy out there who has never used any terms that objectified women in any way, I will be truly shocked. Is this wrong? Yes. Does it happen? Oh hell yes…all the time. I am lucky though, I have sons. I am not forced to face the reality that men objectify my daughter because I have no daughters. So, we do this….and worse yet, some of us that do it have daughters. It is like women are open territory, but those people with daughters can exempt their little girls from that reality (and I say little girls because to a parent, regardless of age, they are out “little” children).

But, we do not learn. I myself struggle with this still. It is something that men in general grow so comfortable with, they do not realize they do it. Think about this – at the gym, the store, a park, the mall, wherever you may be, you will naturally gravitate towards the woman who is attractive versus the woman you perceive to be unattractive. She gets ignored. Don’t believe me?

Try this article from way back in 2002:

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=123853&page=1

Or take this one from 2011. This is interesting, it basically is the old prettiest girl at the dance may actually not be asked to dance theory. It is mathematically calculating that there is a probability that women who are more attractive are often less engaged or messaged because men think they have more suitors than they really do. It suggests that women who may have some slight imperfections may 1.) be attractive to some folks who like those imperfections and 2.) may be seen as potentially more available because fewer men will be contacting them as they are not rated as highly as “hot” women. Wait what? That is real???

http://www.businessinsider.com/surprising-statistics-about-hot-people-versus-ugly-people-2011-1#

At the end of the day, women are forced to deal with a lot by society. Notice, not just men. But society in general.

Imagine all this crap that women have to deal with and then you add the insult of pay. Women make less pay than men. Now, you toss into this equation that women perceived to be “beautiful” will make more than women perceived to be “not beautiful”. Man…this really sucks. The least we can do is try to understand it from a woman’s perspective. It is a real drag to know that your wife, sister, female friend, daughter, or really, any woman out there has to deal with this. And holy hell Batman, let’s not even start talking about it if you are some type of minority or exist outside the norms. Here is some data for you:

http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

So that was for the guys…..

For the Women – Framing

Now, my observations for women. When I was being the typical guy I had no idea or paid little attention to all you faced. Now that I am trying to undo years of programming and terrible habits, I am seeing so much that just shocks and annoys me. Let me see if you all think the following challenges are real. I will just list the things I see (and I know this list is not all-inclusive):

  1. Magazines – what the shit? Every magazine cover I see has some completely photo-shopped woman on the cover. She is in a bikini, the perfect dress, or something incredibly cute. She looks like someone who is completely happy, gets a perfect night’s sleep, and has not one care in the world. I mean, seriously. What the hell? I saw the cover of women’s health at HEB and I photographed it for you all. blogimageGet. Her. Abs. Just three moves. Really? Just three? I am going to guess the three moves:
    1. Be rich
    2. Hire a trainer
    3. Hire a chef
      Ta-da….you too can have Gywneth’s abs. And Sexy, easy hair. And hotter orgasms. But, if you have jobs, kids, bills, stress, no time for the gym, no time to cook super healthy meals, limited budgets, and shitty relationships, well, you may struggle just a bit to get her abs. But seriously, that probably only impacts like 1% of you all.
  2. Is it just me or are all the sizes getting smaller? I see super cute stuff in the petites and smaller sizes. Then I got into the bigger sizes and it just looks like you went from being a young and happy dresser to dressing for church or an office luncheon. And seriously, even stores like Sears and JC Penney seem to glorify ridiculously over-sexed clothes for girls at a younger and younger age. Listen, I am no prude, but at a certain point (and maybe this is just me aging or something) it gets exhausting just trying to find something nice looking that is attractive and fairly modest and affordable. And yes, I look weird walking through the ladies clothing section at stores, but I have to do my research.
  3. Toys – Barbie. Bratz. Or whatever popular toy exists out there for girls. Seriously. How about end of a work day and frazzled Barbie? Or how about dealing with the kids all day Barbie? Maybe the just left the mammogram Barbie? These toys promote an unrealistic expectation of body image. I mean, you ladies are getting hit over the head with this from an early age. Every doll seems to have a thin waist and big boobs. Oh yes, tons of makeup too. And seriously, why does it look like every toy doll has the perfect life?
  4. Mall mannequins – is it just me, or are you all noticing a disturbing trend with mall mannequins. I mean, now they have nipples popping out and looking all sexed up. At least in this regard, guys get it too because I see male mannequins that look like NFL players. But seriously, you ladies really get clobbered over the head with this one. Super small waist. Rather large and perfect mannequin boobs. How about the mall mannequin that has had to breastfeed? Or the mall mannequin with boobs that are too large but she cannot afford a breast reduction? Or maybe the “she lost a lot of weight and has some excess skin” mannequin? These are real challenges that women face. But no, it is always the perfect mall mannequin.
  5. Makeup section – I have seen so many women get inundated with requests to give them a free makeover. Or let me help you look better with our new product. Or you walk through a mall and someone accosts you telling you I have this perfect cream to help with the bags under your eyes – but I will just do one eye so you can see the difference (translation, buy my products so you do not look like an older than you should be woman). Wow, I mean I never really noticed it until I started to really pay attention.
  6. Nightwear and underwear – sweet sassy molassey. What the hell? If you are not wearing something lacey and cute, it is basically considered granny panties. Gee thanks for making me feel good. Oh yes, that stuff is at the very back of the area…hidden behind four trap doors, and pretty soon will require you to sign a waiver to buy it indicating that you acknowledge you are old and beat. You need thongs! I mean, I guess they are comfortable. Sure, they look great with pants, but is having a piece of material crammed up your ass really comfortable? Someone please tell me….because it does not look comfortable to me.

These are just the things I see that are obvious. How much more do you all face? I mean, there is probably a ton of stuff that I have overlooked. And worse yet, I have been part of this problem. I am a part of this problem. I am working hard to break these bad habits, but bad habits are hard to break and like all things, you will find yourself having setbacks.

As I thought about this for my blog, I also started thinking about the why behind it. What is the driving force that pushes women to do what they do? You see, for years, I wanted to be fit because I wanted women to look at me and want me. Yet, I always failed. I not only failed, I failed spectacularly. But, one day I just let that go. I stopped caring what other people thought and just focused on fitness. I focused on myself. My mental health. My physical health. My state of mind. I applied discipline and consistency to myself and one day I woke up and not only did I have the body that people admired, I was actually healthy. I stopped caring how I looked. I was okay with a breakout. I was okay with being hot and sweaty. I was okay that I looked like crap in the gym. I tuned out all the noise. And it happened. Now, funny enough, I talked to a lot of women in my gym and the ones that are the most successful tune out the noise. They do it for themselves. They grind it out. They are not doing it to meet any societal standard or expectation. They just do it to say they can. Now, this is not to say that the woman who does it for the sake of looking good when others see her does not make progress, but I see those girls come and go. They drink hard, party hard, play hard, and live hard. I respect that. Nothing wrong with living the way you want to. But, the ones that do it for themselves are consistently in the gym busting their asses. I see them putting in the work….the effort….and the time.

So, as you ladies look to start your health and fitness journey, ask yourself why you are doing this. Take a moment to truly check in with yourselves about your motivation. You can make strides for any number of reasons, but it is my hypothesis that those of you who do it for yourselves and remove any of the bullshit distractors (i.e., societal expectations) will truly have the most success as you move forward.

My Takeaways

So, as I ponder this and think about this far more than I should, I had some thoughts. These are general thoughts and suggestions for both men and women.

  1. Ignore the media and the hype – it only serves to distract you from your true goals of being healthy and happy.
  2. Treat yourself – not just mentally, but physically. Exercise is not punishment. It is a reward for your body. You will feel better and be healthier (but it takes time).
  3. Remove negative influences – cut out people who would doubt you and your ability to succeed. Family…friends…all of it.
  4. Stop searching for affirmation – insecurity is a real challenge. To compensate, we try to seek affirmation that we look sexy or fit into some expectation. Post pictures because you are proud of your accomplishments and to prove to people that they too can reach a goal they set, but do not do it because you want people to think you look great.
  5. Not all attention is good attention – remember, the attention you seek is not always good attention. You are always free to want what you want, but sometimes, what you get can be far worse.
  6. Confidence is sexy – believe in yourself. Do not doubt yourself. You may not be perfect, but none of us are. We all have to push ourselves to be better.
  7. Compassion is the best – be kind and considerate to others. Help each other reach goals. It is not a competition with anyone but yourself. Do not tear each other down. Lift each other up. Support each other. Lend a hand. Share a kind word. Be humble.

Most importantly, I think we should understand that men and women are different (not that we don’t get that). But men, for the love of God, chill out. Stop looking at women like they are meat and you are hungry. I know this is easier said than done. But take a moment to get to know them. Right, like that is not obvious, but I mean really get to know them. There is a study that shows that woman are pretty much willing to overlook all flaws in a man (except for height, women love height). Obesity. Baldness. Skin problems. Women look for your best qualities and try to love you for that. But we typically look at their looks. Great…..they are willing to overlook our flaws and we sell them down the river for theirs. So yeah…come on guys.

Women….you are all beautiful. Yes, some of you have better external looks than others and societally we need to change how we treat women in that capacity. But, do not lose sight of your beauty. Do not let yourselves be defeated by despair and self-loathing. Love yourselves. Know that you give life. Know that you nurture and provide comfort and shelter. Know that your kindness and compassion is necessary for children to flourish and blossom. Know that if your kids become the typical guy, it is not your doing, but the impact of society putting pressure on boys to act like idiots. Do not lose hope because of a scale or because you are being marginalized by the patriarchy. Do not let media advertising fool you into thinking you are not good enough or amazing enough. Embrace who you are….and simply work to make yourself the best you possible without trying to conform to any expectation that people have of you…especially us men.

I still think to this mother who wrote about the whole bathroom debate some time back…and though her thoughts were about the issue of who uses what bathroom, her message about women and girls was loud and clear – you are warriors. Take a read….

http://americannewsx.com/human-interest/mom-shreds-every-bathroom-banner-startling-rant-everyone-must-read/

Yes, it is extreme and blunt and uncomfortable, but I can tell you that it is very real…even more so in this day and age. I do not think all men are bad or that all women have to be preparing for a complete gender war….but I think that we all can learn a little something from each other. I think we can all work to better ourselves. My focus is on health and fitness, for the sake of health and fitness. But I do recognize the challenges that we all face to be better.

Hopefully I have not insulted any women. I really am trying to look at it through your eyes. To see my faults as a man. And to try to raise my boys to be men that are better than me so that they can in turn pass it on one day. And, I do this by framing health and fitness as a body and mind positive experience. Good luck on your journey…and please share your thoughts. I do not mind being wrong and I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Keep in mind, these are just my observations…I could never know the full depth of all you go through.

Fitness and Life – A Game of Inches

So, as I pondered what particular topic I wanted to write about next – proteins, stacks, workouts, motivation, and a host of other topics, my mind kept coming back to this idea, this belief that our lives are all about acquiring inches to move forward.

Thus, I want to share a speech with you. It is a completely fictional movie speech (Any Given Sunday), although rumor is it was based off a real speech. For me, it is a metaphor for so much more than football. It has resonated with me for a long time now (and for this blog, I have changed it a bit to reflect the reality that we all face – my changes to the original are in red):

I don’t know what to say, really. You are facing the biggest battle of your lifeand it all comes down to this moment. And either you heal yourself… or you’re going to crumble. Inch by inch, moment by moment, until you’re finished.

You’re in hell right now. Believe me. And you can stay here and get the shit kicked out of you, or you can fight your way back into the light. You can climb out of hell. One inch at a time.

Now, I can’t do it for you. I’m too old and that is not my job. I look around, I see your faces and I think … I mean, I made every wrong choice a person could make. I have been irresponsible with my money, believe it or not. I have chased off people who’ve loved me. And sometimes, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get older in life, things get taken from you. That’s — that’s part of life. But you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches.

Because in life, the margin for error is so small … I mean, one half-a-step too late or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of this life, every minute, every second.

In your life, you fight for that inch. In this life, you tear yourself and everyone else around you to pieces for that inch. You CLAW with your fingernails for that inch.

Because you know when you add up all those inches, that’s going to make the fuckin’ difference between WINNING and LOSING! Between LIVING and DYING!

I’ll tell you this — in any fight, it’s the person who’s willing to die who’s going to win that inch. And I know if I’m going to have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what LIVING is! The 6 inches in front of your face!

Now, I can’t make you do it. You have to look at the person staring at you in the mirror. Look into those eyes. Now, I think you’re going to see a person who will go that inch with you. You’re going to see a person who will sacrifice themselves because they know when it comes down to it, you’re going to do what it takes to get that inch.

That is your life, people. And either you heal now…. or you will die alone. That’s it, folks. That’s life. That’s all it is. Now, what are you going to do?

This was a great speech delivered by Al Pacino (one of my favorites) and the power with which he delivered it was amazing. The first time I heard it, it had little impact on me because it was just a movie and I was too busy fighting my own demons to understand what it really meant. But, as I heard it over and over, it started to take on a completely different meaning for me. It became less about football and more about life. I was always trying to go for the big score. Trying to get the proverbial heroic touchdown or slam dunk. Every moment I spent trying to get that was a moment I sacrificed on the fundamentals of my life and health. I kept putting off for tomorrow what I could do today. I kept ignoring the inch in front of me hoping that I could take a foot or a mile!

And as I got older, I gained wisdom. Slowly. Painfully. I gained focus and resolve. I realized I had only this life to make a difference. To change myself and maybe, just maybe, change others for the better. And that despite losing so many inches while chasing a mile, I could still claw those inches out. They were still all around me.

It starts with yourself. Heal yourself. Put your demons to rest. For some, it is easier than others. I am not a therapist, but I can tell you that you have to want to move forward. We all need to put our energy into breaking free from that which holds us back so we can claim that first inch.

It starts so small….a tiny hint of movement. It is barely perceptible. We have all probably felt like we are stuck, not moving forward at all, even moving backwards. But, if you keep working hard and believing in yourself, you’ll get that forward movement. I am not saying that living a healthy life will solve all your problems, but it is something you control – you own. You can fight for those inches. You can claw for those inches. You can change yourself and see results. Yes, you will stumble and fall. You will have setbacks. But ultimately, you can and will prevail. And as you stand there victorious, you will realize you have the strength to conquer so much more.

And it doesn’t take anything fancy. Just willpower and dedication and desire. You just have to commit. You have to truly claw and fight for each inch. And that is why this speech resonates so much for me.

We succeed not because life dropped success in our laps. We succeed because we clawed for it. We fought for it. And when we finally stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and started focusing on what we needed, it changed us for the better. It is important to be a part of a team, and friends and support helps. But, we have to be prepared to go at it alone. We have to fight for our lives with our last breath.

Because you know when you add up all those inches, that’s going to make the fuckin’ difference between WINNING and LOSING! Between LIVING and DYING!”

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…….

 

Ch…ch….ch…..Changes

I have spent a lot of time away from my blog this past year. I have a ton of ideas and thoughts and musings I want to share. However, time and life got in the way. As a new dad again, in my 40s, I did not realize how challenging this would be. The “I got this” mentality is something that I need to keep in check. In reality, I did not “have this” and have found that being a father again in my 40s is much more challenging than I had thought possible.

Add to that the fact that we had a crazy election year and that our country was challenged ideologically and I found myself stuck in a rut. Why a rut? Well, it is not so much a rut as it is frustration. You want to change things, but your voice matters little in a sea of voices screaming at the top of their lungs. So, I pushed back and tried to fight a battle that I could never win. It wasn’t even a draw. People will be who they will be. I can accept that. But, it affected me personally. I lost my focus and my energy to write about what I was passionate about. Instead, I tried to use logic to explain to people the fallacy of their views, which really just amounted to me hitting my head against a brick wall.

So, I am officially giving that up. I am going back to writing about my passion. That is this blog. It originally started as a place to share my musings about fatherhood in my 40s, and I will continue to do that. But, it is changing. It is going to focus on fitness.

Why fitness? What makes my blog so special in a sea of blogs about fitness? Well, it isn’t that special. However, it is the real deal. I am not going to bullshit you with craptastic advice. I am going to shoot you straight. I am not going to try to sell you anything or convince you to buy anything. I am just going to share my thoughts, ideas, and practices.

You can disregard anything I say. You can take to heart what I say. You can ask questions or reach out to me. What I do not know, I will research. What I do know, I will share. What is beyond my ability to properly answer, I will give you resources that do know. But this is my outlet and it is for everyone out there that needs some advice or some help or just a place to vent about the challenges you face. It is not just for dads, but for all men. For all people. But, I will tend to focus more on men our age. So please stop by and enjoy……

 

 

Losing my S!*% at Luby’s Cafeteria

So, I have been relatively quiet these last two weeks or so. It has been a busy time with South by Southwest in town. I will write more about that soon, as I have some really great stories to tell about my experiences this year. However, this story is about something much more personal to me.

Many of you may think this is ridiculous. Some of you may wonder why I even choose to eat at this restaurant. I have heard a ton of stories about it being a dinosaur from a bygone era. But, it was a dinosaur that I was familiar with. My mother would often take me to the theater in Harlingen, Texas and right after or before, we would stop to get a bite to eat at Luby’s Cafeteria.

To this day, my mother loves Luby’s. That is until yesterday. So, I relay this warning to you all as a courtesy. And before you go lambasting me about I get what I deserve for going there, please remember that a large number of people use Luby’s – especially the elderly who grew up with that food as a generational thing. This is why my story is so disturbing.

Yesterday, March 17th, I decided to join my mother and son at Luby’s. Was it my ideal choice? No. I prefer other food. However, in a pinch, it beats a burger. Now, the last time I went there, my food was mostly cold. I chalked it up to a bad day. The manager dealt with the issue and got me hot food. Bravo for him. But yesterday was a totally different story. Truly.

We get in line to get our food. My son went to sit with his little brother in a booth. As I am standing in line looking at what I want to eat, I glance over to the back kitchen area. I see a large, probably 6’2″, heavy-set guy with reasonably sized (and hairy arms) elbows deep in a huge vat of macaroni and cheese.I was immediately revolted. I pointed it out to the assistant manager. He looked back and turned to me and said that he was wearing gloves. Gloves! Ok, well, that was still gross, but gloves would make it better I thought. Then the guy stops mixing the macaroni and turns to wash his hands. No GLOVES!!!!

SO, I complain again. The manager (the same gentleman I met before in the hot food incident) explains to me that the guy washed his hands before and then mixes the macaroni and then washes his hands again. It was safe.

I am not going to lie. I was dumbfounded. I did not want to make a scene or embarrass my mother. So I told the assistant manager that if they were going to do something so disgusting, to do it behind the scenes and out of the view of the public.

I ended up not being able to eat my food. The thought of this guy elbows deep in the macaroni really grossed me out. I got a full refund on my meal and called corporate to complain. Corporate was dumbfounded. This was not our operating procedure they told me. They would report it to the area manager. Great. I did my part. About 20 minutes later I get a call from the manager at the Luby’s telling me how grateful he was for my feedback and that it would start a conversation about hand cleaning procedures. He also told me how gloves were not going to really make a difference and it was about hand cleaning. He then went on to list other things Luby’s made by hand and that they were proud of making things by hand. I seriously wanted to puke and I tried to explain to him that it was unsanitary. I explained my position that you can wash your hands and still have gunk under your finger nails. He simply said they would have a conversation about better hand washing.

I get it. I do not work in the food service industry. I was not trained in their specifics. But here is my inexperienced and non-food service educated response to them. HELL NO!!!

How about this? Let me really wash my feet well. Then let me mix up the macaroni and cheese with my feet. How about that? Pretty arbitrary? Right? No? I would probably be told by them that is ridiculous. And they would be right. Just as ridiculous as a guy elbows deep in a vat of macaroni!!! I am not sure if I am more grossed out by what I saw or what I heard. Rather than say we made a mistake and that vat was thrown away and that is not how we make our food, he actually told me they make a ton of food that way, they are proud of their hand made tradition, and they will improve their hand washing techniques.

Here you go Luby’s (some thoughtful feedback):

  • hand washing never quite cleans our skin because the water can never be hot enough to truly kill bacteria
  • to truly kill bacteria on our skin, medical specialists use betadyne (that red stuff) instead of alcohol or anything else – this is done to ensure a truly clean surface
  • how does hand washing prevent arm hair from falling off
  • is there truly a way to ensure that someone follows an exact protocol to wash hands
  • if a guy goes almost elbows deep in food, you would expect him to wash up to his biceps (did not happen in this case)
  • by being elbows deep in food, he had to bend over it, which means sweat, drool, dandruff, or anything else can fall into the food
  • how expensive is it to buy a large wooden or metal spoon (and that does not invalidate the made by hand mantra)

I mean, WTF. You see, the problem with this experience is it got me to thinking about the food we eat. It really grossed me out. I know that perfectly sanitary conditions can never be truly achieved. I am not foolish. But this blatant violation of my trust put that fact in my face. It slapped me around a bit with it and eroded my trust that restaurants make safe food (thanks to Chipotle and now Luby’s). It left me feeling very uncomfortable about what I saw and how my food is prepared at any restaurant. Generally, food is prepared out of our line of sight for this very reason. I am sure if we saw how horrible it looked, we would never eat out again. Yesterday was so difficult because Luby’s threw in my face those deep seeded fears that food is probably not prepared as well as I would hope it is. And while the manager was nice and thankful for the feedback, the poor dude did not realize that he simply made it worse by telling me that gloves were no solution and they would basically keep doing what they were doing.

My 76-year-old mother was grossed out too. She stated she would never eat there again. I am grossed out. I will never eat there again. My 18-year-old son is grossed out. He will never eat there again. My 3 month old son will never touch their food. Four generations of diners lost in one 30 minute period. And, I say to all of you, if you eat there…please stop. It will be fine until it is not fine. You may feel sick one day after eating there. All the equipment will be clean. All the food prep stations will be clean. Hand cleaner stocked up at all the washing stations. All inspections passed. History is great with sanitation. But just remember, somewhere…some guy is elbows deep in your food.

Gross…………………

 

 

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.

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