November 30, 2009

Things that will kill me that used to be safe

When I was a kid, my parents threw me in the back seat of the car without seatbelts. I drank water from the garden hose and I’m pretty sure I ingested a fair share of lead paint. It’s a miracle I’m not dead. But that got me to thinking… What items do we encounter in our lives that used to be considered safe but now will kill you? The list grows daily. These are just some off the top of my head but I’m sure you might have others. Let me know so I can go live in my plastic bubble. Oh, wait. Make that glass bubble. Plastic will kill you.

  • Plastic bottles
  • Vaccinations
  • The Flu
  • Icebergs (Titanic not withstanding)
  • Cell Phones
  • Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sugar
  • Fake Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Floor Mats
  • Being Uninsured
  • Fish
  • Paint
  • Water from hoses
  • Cough Syrup
  • Beds of pick-up trucks
  • Bacteria
  • The Sun
  • Rain
  • Air
  • The Internet
  • Television
  • Video Games
  • Diet Soda
  • Soy
  • Pesticides
  • Blogging (Kidding. I think.)

November 24, 2009

How to lose a gut in six weeks

Many people have been asking lately what my secret was to losing over 15 pounds in six weeks.  I know that when it comes to weight-loss, everyone is looking for the magical formula that will shave pounds in a hurry.  And, my friends, I have found the perfect formula that is guaranteed to maximize weight loss.

Eat less.  Exercise more.

I know that you are shocked at this magical formula.  I did not take a pill or do a cleanse or try  hypnosis or order specially prepared food with little numbers on it.  I didn’t change my diet to high protein or low carbs or low fat or low taste.  I didn’t starve myself but I did change the amount I ate.  And it worked.

And along the way I picked up some nuggets of wisdom that I thought I should share with you.

It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.
The number one thing I learned during the past six weeks is that a diet will get me to where I want to go, but then what? Would I diet for the rest of my life? No. The answer was going to be a greater self awareness on what I was eating in terms of calories and how many calories I was shoving down my throat.

I used an iPhone app called Tap & Track that allowed me to input my height and weight and lifestyle and a weight loss goal (up to 2 lbs a week), and then it would give you your daily caloric intake needed. You can also find something similar over at Livestrong’s Daily Plate. This alone was the single most effective tool I used. Scrutinizing how many calories was in every food I ingested was eye opening to say the least. And over time I not only adapted to the calories I was eating but really came to realize that many of the calories I was eating were not necessary.

Creating new habits takes time
I’m not gonna lie. The first three weeks were pure hell. All of a sudden I was eating at least 1,000 calories less a day than I had been (and probably more than that on most days). I was going from at least 2,500 calories a day to about 1,300 net calories and my body was giving me the biggest WTF?! ever. But after 3 weeks my body began to adapt and less calories not only became easier but also necessary. I began to feel really full anytime I ate something that was nearing 400 to 500 calories.

Along those lines, I also began exercising. My exercise of choice was 30 minutes on the treadmill but at first it was only 15 minutes. A slow 15 minutes. Then I built up to a slow 20 minutes. Then a slow 25 minutes. Then a slow 30 minutes. And then I began to try and pick up the pace. By the end of the six weeks I went from running 1.75 miles in 20 minutes to about 3.5 miles in 30 minutes. The baby steps were crucial to not getting overly sore or discouraged. Being a former collegiate track athlete, this was one of the hardest parts for me. I wanted to run like I used to and I have to remind myself that I was half my age then. Speed is not what it’s all about anymore.

Find time to exercise
The hardest part of this wasn’t cutting calories. It was exercising. But there’s no other way. You MUST find time to exercise for 30 minutes. If you don’t, you will be an ornery, starving shell of yourself. Exercise not only cuts stress, tones you up, and makes you feel better but it also lets you do one crucial thing that is so incredibly important when doing weight loss. It lets you eat more.

Many days, when I didn’t feel like exercising, I was so hungry that I actually exercised just so I could eat more. The 400 calories I’d burn while exercising meant I could eat 1700 calories rather than 1300 and THAT made all the difference.

After a while I actually looked forward to exercising. During the six weeks, I missed a total of 5 days. Two days I was traveling, two days I was sick and one day I just wanted a rest. But now, I’m going to run my first 5K race on Thanksgiving and will run another one New Year’s Eve. I’ve created some momentum and I want to keep it running. (Pun intended)

What you can and cannot eat
Like I said before, I didn’t alter my diet. I just ate less. But what I learned was that there were some things I just couldn’t (and, really, should never) eat. Fast food does present a problem. The only thing I could really eat at McDonald’s, for instance, was a plain hamburger, small fries and a diet coke. That was 480 calories. (A salad with grilled chicken and ranch dressing is 490 calories. I’ll take burger and fries any day, baby!) At first, the fact I could only eat a small burger and fries was a painful revelation. (Where’s my Quarter Pounder, dammit?!) But after a few weeks, it was plenty filling. It turns out, anything more than a hamburger and small fries will make you fat. Go figure.

I didn’t cut out my Starbucks coffee. I’d rather strip naked on the side of the highway during rush hour than say goodbye to this caffeinated crack. I did, however, downsize to a small (tall) and switched to non-fat milk and cut out the whipped cream for my caramel mocha which cut my calories in half to 170.

Finally, I cut out snacks. At first I needed a late afternoon snack to get me through the day. I had 150 calorie packs of almonds that worked wonders. After a few weeks, however, I didn’t need that afternoon snack as my body adjusted.

Legal Crap
This is what worked for me. I’m healthy who just needed a push to drop a bit of weight. My cholesterol is low, my blood sugar is fine and I’m a handsome dude. You might not be. Check it out with your doctor before starting something like this. But do something. You won’t regret it.

November 20, 2009

Hell hath no fury like a pre-schooler scorned

It starts out with a quick, jerking up of the head – as if she’s still not sure she heard you correctly and wants to verify that you did, indeed, dare to utter words she does not agree with. This is almost instantaneously followed by a narrowing of the eyes and a wrinkling of the nose that clearly indicates displeasure and, if one did not know better, that lasers will soon shoot out of her eyes and pierce your skull, shattering your illusions of a sweet, innocent child.

If we are lucky, this is followed by a little “Humph!” noise of displeasure and a stomping off to sulk in the corner of some room looking pitiful and sullen and wanting attention that we refuse to give. But more often than not, we are NOT lucky and she screams a loud, “NO!”

As we calmly tell her that yelling is not allowed and that she will not be getting what she desires with an attitude like that, it is like we have done the unthinkable like spit on Dora or pulled on Cinderella’s hair and she quickly erupts into full-blown tantrum in .025 seconds.

The screaming is accompanied by last-ditch efforts to win us over. As if being loud and teary will suddenly be the final piece of evidence that proves to us her point of view is the better one. “I WANT A WHOLE BANANA!!!!” or “I DON’T WANNA WEAR THAT! IT’S NOT CUTE!!!” or “IF I CAN’T EAT THAT COOKIE, I WILL CUT YOU DADDY!!”

Okay, maybe not that last one. But no matter the words coming out of her mouth, she is a fireball of fury. She looks like an exorcist waiting to happen. Neighbors must be contemplating picking up the phone to call Child Protective Services somewhere around this point. I’m looking up adoption services in the Yellow Pages. Small dogs begin yapping throughout the neighborhood and our cat Nutmeg races to the safety of under the bed in the guest room for several hours after.

If she’s in rare form she begins flailing on the ground, kicking and hitting anything she can. This might include the floor, cabinets, toys, yours truly. She is out to punish and she does it with a vengeance.

It is about this time she either earns a timeout or more likely we just ignore her, not wanting to validate the tantrum. Which, of course, only pisses her off even more. After all, what’s the point of throwing a good tantrum if your parents don’t even pay attention?! (Of course, that’s the point we’re trying to drive home but our girl is stubborn. She’s not going down without a serious fight.)

The weirdest part of the whole entire tantrum, even if it last 45 minutes (her record), is that five minutes later, she’s smiling and acting like the ham she is. The puffiness around the eyes might betray her, but you’d never know the girl had just tried to bring down Western Civilization as we know it.

And it’s a good thing she can put it behind her so quickly because it usually takes me that long just to find the adoption agencies in the Yellow Pages. Often, she’ll come up to me, grin and smile and nuzzle me with her forehead – As if to say, “I just brought my A game and you didn’t budge. Well played, Daddy. Well played. Now aren’t I cute?”

November 18, 2009

It’s a good thing I lost over 15 pounds

So I had a bet.

This bet, you may recall, was a six week bet with my friend Tania over at Chicky Chicky Baby to see who could lose the greatest percentage of weight. Forty-two days of starvation and painful exercise. And for approximately 37 of those days, I was kicking Tania’s butt. I was certain I was going to win. I knew that there was no way she could make up the ground that she’d need. After all, she’d only lost 8 pounds in 37 days. How could she possibly lose 3.5 pounds in five days? Not likely. Especially since she was ready to throw in the towel on day 37 because of a “broken toe” and a “head cold.” I had this in the bag.

I forgot one simple thing. The woman is as stubborn as an elderly mule.

So this morning, when I weighed in for the final time, I was greeted with 15.5 pounds of weight loss. I emailed that info to Tania and waited for her reply. I imagined the joy I would have in winning our bet and goading her into showing her spandex-clad self in all its glory.

But then I received her email. 11.5 pounds. A quick calculation determined that I had lost 8.18% of my body weight. She had lost 8.24%. She won. By .06%. I think my reply to her email was something like this…


So, being the good sport that I am, I went to the local Nike Outlet store and purchased me some spandex. And this evening I took a few photos while I worked out. And I would like it to be known that I could have wimped out and posted me out of focus or curled up in a ball but that’s not how I roll. Also, I wanted to show me in all my spandex glory because that’s the way our good friend Anissa would want it. So here it is. For Tania and for Anissa… Me rocking the spandex.

Get the flash player here:

November 17, 2009

Free Anissa

Earlier today, spurred by the recent discussion on Twitter about blogging for money and bloggers disclosing their income, I got a little fed up at the blogging community.  I was longing for the day when blogging was purely about sharing a passion with whoever wanted to read it.  I was longing for the day when making a simple connection with another blogger who happened to live in another part of the country, or even world, was cause for joy.  I was longing for the time when blogging was simply about creating community and supporting each other in our common crusades.

And then, out of the blue, I heard that a fellow blogger had suffered a stroke.  Anissa is one of the few bloggers that I have met in real life.  We met at BlogHer and her infectious personality and winning smile drew me to her like a moth to a flame.  I have admired her strength as a mother as she chronicled her daughter’s bout with cancer and I have laughed at her zany sense of humor that often borders on obscene.  She’s genuine and real and well-loved.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.  I follow a little under 1,ooo people on Twitter and it seems almost all of them tonight are sending Anissa prayers and support.  I have seen several references to blog posts regarding Anissa’s condition and I am suddenly reminded that the blogging community is still there for one another.  And today, I want to be there for Anissa.

I ache for her and her family.  I’m sure her husband Peter is struggling with untold emotions.  I’m sure her children are scared for their mother.  I feel helpless being across the country but I know that we can help in some small ways.  Tomorrow, I’m told, the ladies at Aiming Low (Anissa was the creator of this blog) will be setting up a P.O. Box for people to send gift cards to support Anissa.  Right now they are asking for restaurant gift cards, movie and video rental gift cards (for the kids), and even hotel and gas gift cards so Anissa’s family can be supported as they travel to Atlanta.

Please keep Anissa in your thoughts and prayers.  She is a wonderful woman with a family who loves and needs her.  And she has a fellowship of friends who love her and need her too.  If you would like to help, please visit Aiming Low for more details.

November 10, 2009

Helping out Disney with their Princess Dilemma

In our home, Princesses are a big deal.  We’ve got Ariel and Aurora.  Belle and Cinderella. A little bit of Jasmine. (Not really a Mulan or Pocahontas as Disney doesn’t seem to push the Princesses of Color as much – I’ve got some thoughts on that, but that’s another post.)

Disney is making another Princess movie, The Princess and the Frog (little known fact, I was briefly considered for the role of the The Frog, but  I wasn’t the right shade of green), and I’m starting to wonder what other Princess stories they can come up with to continue to cash in on the obsession of preschool girls (and their twin brothers who seem to have the hots for a certain red-headed princess with fins) for every cartoon character with a crown.

So I have taken it upon myself to brainstorm some ideas.

The Princess and The Pimp. This follows the story of a cute little prostitute from West Hollywood who doesn’t realize she is really a princess.  Her pimp, an evil man who loves nothing more than to screw young girls out of their future (both literally and figuratively) discovers her true identity and goes to great lengths to prevent her from learning the truth. Prince Charming rescues her after a great night of “snuggling under the covers” and she lives happily ever after – or until she dies from Hepatitis a few years later.

Princess Chastity and the Magic Pole. This soon-to-be classic follows stripper extraordinaire Chastity who fights evil by swinging around on her magic stripper pole, destroying evil and delighting boys of all ages.  You must pay for the movie fee with $1 bills.

Princess Portia and her Special Princess Friend Ellen. This movie is a double bonus as girls get two princesses for the price of one.  Both princesses are extremely successful in their own right and the synergy of princess power is hard to ignore.  The movie is bittersweet in that it is difficult to live “happily ever after” when the ultimate scene is not a wedding but a civil ceremony certifying them as “domestic partners.”

Princess Oprah Rules the World. Why not, right? Oprah pretty much owns everything else on this planet – why shouldn’t she get to be a princess too?  Promos abound with Oprah screaming, ‘IT’S THE BEST PRINCESS MOVIE EVVV-AAAAAHHHH!”  Added bonus: All the dolls of Princess Oprah will come in two sizes: Petite Oprah and “The camera adds 50 pounds” Oprah.

Princess Kate Plus Eight Munchkins. A takeoff on the classic Snow White, Princess Kate suddenly finds herself taking care of eight little ones after her loser Prince turns out to be a skirt-chasing scumbag.  Unfortunately, Princess Kate succumbs to the pressures of Princesshood and ends up sleeping with her bodyguard royal servant.

Princess Swee’Pea and Princess Monk. This movie is based on real life examples of how Princess Swee’Pea owns all of the beautiful princess gowns but her brother covets them and wears them every chance he gets.  The movie ends when Princess Monk is finally given his very own Princess Dress to wear whenever he wants.

These are just a handful of ideas. If Disney wants to hire me to do some consulting for their next big Princess film, then I’m more than willing to help out.

November 5, 2009

Way less than 6 degrees of separation

The year was 1993 and it was a beautiful spring day in New York City. Cherry trees were in blossom, snow was long gone, and the melodic sounds of birds chirping mixed nicely with the bellowing horns of cabs and the occasional “Fuck You AND your mother!” emanating from the bustling streets of the City.

On this particular day, a Sunday, yours truly and his family are celebrating an amazing milestone. My graduation from college. At a couple of different times in my four years at Columbia, I feared I wouldn’t finish. But there I was, diploma in hand, with a very proud mother who wanted to treat me to a celebratory dinner.

We decided to eat at the famed Tavern on the Green, located on the Upper West Side of Central Park and a short walk from Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon. On this day, we have come to dine and my mother would spare no expense. In fact the food was so good that I don’t remember one thing that I ate that day. But I do remember I had to pee.

So I went to find the men’s room. It wasn’t hard to find but I remember that it wasn’t particularly large. There were two urinals against the wall and there was already someone using the one furthest from the door. I sauntered up to the other urinal and proceeded with my business – being careful to follow the Man Rules of looking straight ahead at the wall in front of me. No glances anywhere to my left would be acceptable and I followed the rules to a tee. After I was done, I zipped and headed to the sinks where the other guy was already situated. We both washed our hands in silence. As I glanced up at the mirror my sink partner’s sandy brown hair hung loosely across his face. As we finished up, he stood up taller as we reached for the towels on the counter. It was then we made eye contact for the first time.

“Hi.” He said softly, accompanied by a slight nod of his head.

“Hey.” I said back, nodding my head in reply.

We both threw our towels in the trash and I reached the door first. I held it open and he thanked me as he passed by. He turned right to return to his table and I turned left to return to mine, never our paths to cross again.

And that, my friends, is how I met Kevin Bacon.

November 3, 2009

It’s been 38 years and I still haven’t figured out girls

I’ve always wanted a little girl. I knew what I’d name her, that she’d hold my hand wherever we went and love her Daddy with all of her heart. I’d have a sweet little girl who was as delicate as a flower for me to nurture and protect.

Four and a half years into parenthood later, I can tell you that all of that is true. Except the delicate part. My little girl is not the delicate flower I imagined. No, she’s got a mean stubborn streak that makes me smile when I think of her future husband who, at this very moment, is probably eating paste in pre-school, not knowing the horror that awaits his fate.

Even at four years old, my daughter baffles me. Take getting dressed, for instance. I could hand her brother a garbage bag and some duct tape and he’d put it one without complaint. I choose a dress that even hints at being “not pretty enough” and I have to go to battle with Swee’Pea the entire morning. Of course, she’ll scream, cry, kick, wail and flail until she’s red in the face but five minutes later she’s laughing and joking and making fart jokes with her brother.

And I’m left scratching my head. (Note to self: May have figured out why I’m going bald so quickly)
At every stage of my life, from as early as I can remember thinking about girls, I have been baffled. Does she like me or doesn’t she? Does she want me to open the door for her or not? Do I really tell her if her butt looks big in those jeans? (Learned the hard way on that one. Definitely not.) And finally, “What do you want to wear today, Swee’Pea?” is not that easy of a question.

Someday, I hope to have girls figured out. Perhaps by the time I turn 92. Or I won’t care by then which will be just fine too.


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