Purplicious and “Suicide Slurpees”.

Sometimes in life there are moments you just wish you could freeze and hold on to forever. I remember various times in my life saying to myself, “don’t ever forget this. Try to remember every detail, what the weather was like, what time of day it was, how you felt…”.

The other night was one of those times. Over the last 48 hours or so, I’ve just been turning this moment over and over in my mind, unable to shake it. Some things just resonate, I guess.

I got home the other night, and as soon as I walked in, I grabbed Abby, turned around and headed over to the library. My wife had some books she had reserved that had come in, one of them being “Purplicious” for Abby. The rest were books she had been really looking forward to reading, and since the baby was up, she couldn’t get over there, so I agreed to run over there and pick them up for her. Besides, it gave me a chance to give the Graphic Novel section a good once-over and see if any new graphic novels had arrived for 2011. Believe it or not, the Horry County Library has a pretty kickass collection of graphic novels. Abby wanted to tag along and who was I to say no to taking a kid to a library, right? As soon as she realized that one of the books on hold was not only hers, but it was the copy of “Purlicious” she had been waiting for, she squealed in that way that only happy four year-old girls can squeal.

One ritual that Abby and I have adopted… well… okay, one ritual that ABBY has adopted, has been stopping off at the new Turtle Market on 707 and getting a Slurpee (I call them Slurpees, they’re not technically Slurpee brand Slurpees, but that’s what I call ’em). As soon as we got in the car on the way to the library, she popped the, “can we stop on the way home and get a slurpee, daddy?” question. When the store opened a couple months ago, I took Abby over there and introduced her to the concept of the “suicide“. Since then we’ve been exploring every possible combination of mixed Slurpee recipe you can have. We’ve done green and orange, orange and pink, pink and green, etc. This time, we did pink on the bottom, and orange on the top. “It’s like orange, but it’s sour like lemonade and it’s pink when you suck it up the straw!” She was delighted with this one.

She paid for her drink, we walked back to the car, and I started buckling her into her car seat. She handed me the drink to hold, and looked me right in the eye and said, “Daddy, today has been the best day ever. I was good in school, I went to the library, I got Purplicious, and I made the best Slurpee ever!”.

I sort of sat there for a second, awestruck.

You know, we have lives that throw all kinds of “complications” at us. We have dental issues, insurance problems, car troubles, economic anxiety. We worry about jobs, our family members, our loved ones. We ponder futures and create stress. We drive around, oblivious to the world, completely unaware of the moment.

But right now, in the mind of a four-year old, the world revolves around Purplicious and Suicide Slurpees, and it couldn’t get any better.

“Where’s the camera? I need it…”

This weekend I’m sitting on the sofa, minding my business when a “supposed to be already in bed” little ball of energy come bounding around the corner.

“Dad, where’s the camera? I need it…”

Now I’m curious. Why would a 4-year old need a camera after nine at night?

“It’s in the diaper bag… why do you need it?”

“Because I’m going on a safari”

“…”

Well, apparently, over on Nick Jr., Olivia was going on a “wildlife safari”. Not the Ernest Hemingway type, mind you, but the safe, fun, “adventurous-for-your-four-year-old” kind. As someone who has actually gone to Africa and experienced a real life, “holy-shit-this-is-awesome”, life-changing Safari, I was intrigued, so I pressed further. “Are you prepared for your Safari?”, I asked. “Yes, I have a backpack, and a camera, and a map, and everything!”, she replied.

Good enough for me!

About 12 hours later, I’m going through the camera and I stumble across the below photos. All descriptions come directly from first-hand accounts of the dangerous expedition undertaken earlier that morning, while I slept. You owe it to yourself to read them:

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Balancing your blogging chi.

For the last week or so I’ve been almost completely immersed in the world of “my work”. I love what I do. Sometimes, there’s friction between your personal life and work (too much work, not enough personal?), or perhaps I might get “burnout” just like anyone else who’s passionate about what they do, but overall, I wake up pretty much every day excited by the job I get to do. I’m creative, but not in any overt “artistic” way. I make things. Sometimes the things I make are elegant, sometimes they’re clever, sometimes they look great… and sometimes they’re all three (or an extremely rewarding combination of two of the three).

Attending the Adobe Max conference every year is like sensory overload. Wait. It’s not “like” sensory overload, it IS sensory overload. I’ve been back at work now for two days and I’m still having trouble digesting everything I saw into usable bits of information. I struggle with “actionable” items. I see so much that I want to literally do everything. I mean, suddenly I’m interested in publishing digital magazines to tablets because of the monstrously mind-blowing digital publishing demo we saw on the very first day. jQuery Mobile, a lightweight framework for developing highly engaging and interactive mobile sites (and thus blunting the momentum of, “I’ve gotta write an app for mobile!” that seems to be the mantra of everyone right now) is only in an early Alpha release and I’m already plotting and scheming about how to use it. I’ve come back to work such an Adobe Fireworks evangelist that I’ve already lined up internal classes/meetings to “spread the gospel” amongst my heathen, creative brethren.

So to say that my head is spinning would be an understatement.

But that’s not all me, you know? I’ve done nothing but eat/sleep/and breathe “Adobe, Adobe, Adobe” for the last two weeks, and I think the thing I need to do is make an effort to regain the other parts of my life. Maybe blog about more fun/mundane things. Other things I’m passionate about, or find interesting or fun.

You know, “balance my blogging chi” as it were.

So I think I’m going to spend the next week or so just having fun, trying NOT to blog about work stuff, and look around, smell the flowers, and have some fun with this shit. Oh sure, there might be some things that change around here. I mean, after all, I’m human. I’ve got a couple of itches that I want to scratch, developmentally (Have you *seen* this site on a mobile device? I mean, it’s okay, but nothing to write home about) so you may notice that I move some shit around, or some things change (Type-Kit’s only $25 for a year license? Look out, I’m about to go web font crazy, people), but it’s the content that I wanna focus on. There are a lot of really great, fun things going on that I wanna get out of my system. The new Avengers cartoon, Walking Dead on AMC, Fallout New Vegas, The Return of Bruce Wayne, Why Marvel’s animated features suck and DC’s are so awesome, how frustrated I am that I ate like shit in Los Angeles but how it really didn’t matter. Lately, the past couple of months, my daughter and I have just bonded on such a level, sharing nerdisms like Legos, Cartoons, our sense of humor and every day I see more and more of myself in her (and I gotta write about how that scares the shit out of me…haha… I know what I’m in for…). Just tons of really great stuff that I feel like I’m just busting at the seams to write about.

So kick back, relax, check back and follow along. I’ll try to keep you entertained… because seriously, if this shit isn’t fun, then why do it?

In keeping with the “Snack Food” theme I’ve got going on…

I just discovered the most awesome thing. I’m claiming it as my own “invention” and passing it on, because as I sit here eating it, I’m enjoying the pure pleasure of a newly discovered treat that’s blowing my mind, man!

This weekend while I was out, I grabbed a large container of Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt. Now, this is plain, unsweetened… (did I mention plain?) Greek Yogurt. I loved it because a frickin’ CUP of this shit packs about 20 grams of protein, zero fat, and only 120 calories. We’re talking good shit here. But, like you, I was a little concerned about the “plain” part. So I had a kind of “stroke of genius” (or perhaps simply a stroke) and thought, “why can’t I make my own vanilla yogurt?”.

I know, right? Like I said, genius.

So last night, as I was putting together my lunch, I decided to measure out a big ol’ cup of this stuff, add a few drops of vanilla, and a tablespoon of clover honey. Stir, place in refrigerator, and I’m good to go.

But that’s not all.

Pineapples are cheap as hell right now. I’m talking a fresh, whole pineapple for like, $2 if you look around. So naturally, when I saw ’em, I grabbed one, sliced and diced it all up, and put it in a handy little tupperware container, 2 cups at a time.

So what does the kid do? Why, he tosses all that delicious naturally wonderful shit into a big ol’ container and stirs it all up. The result? Only the greatest single snack in the history of snacks. I’m telling you, I could eat this 24/7… and until the pineapple runs out, I just might.

What’s the final tally?  Well look no further, here’s the rundown:
329 calories
21.73 grams of protein
4.3 grams of fiber
64.3 grams of carbs
.37 grams of fat (yes… that’s 1/3rd of 1 gram for 329 calories)
89 milligrams of sodium

I told you. Run, don’t walk and get yourself some Plain Yogurt, Vanilla, Honey, and Pineapple. You’ll thank me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some gorging to do…

My Top Ten Snack Foods

You know, I eat about 6 times a day. If you subtract breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that means 50% of my day is what you’d be forced to classify as “snacks”. The simple math says if you’re eating every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and you’re consuming around 300 calories each time, you’re consuming about 1800 calories a day, on the low-end. My breakfast typically runs from 220 calories (Oatmeal and a cup of blue/black/straw/raspberries) to 270ish (6 egg whites, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and a whole wheat bagel). My HUGE lunch (Double fiber whole wheat bread, low sodium roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, a cucumber, half a dozen stalks of celery) stuffs me and weighs in at about 270 calories, so that leaves me some wiggle room at dinner to consume about 400-500 calories,  and three opportunities during the day to consume about 300 calories and I’m still significantly under 2000 calories a day. Now factor in AT LEAST half an hour of hard cycling a day (which burns anywhere from 500-700 calories JUST for a half an hour… imagine what I burn in three hours of riding on weekends?) and AT LEAST two to three days of swimming or weight training each week… and you can see how I end up in a serious calorie deficit and a lot of times have to eat significantly more just to avoid losing too much weight.

So my snacks have become somewhat of an obsession with me and I’ve got so many creative ways to eat 300 or so nutrient dense, healthy calories. I’ve noticed however, that over time, I’ve settled on a handful of what I would consider my “go to” snacks of choice. What follows is kind of my own personal “top ten” (but purposely in no particular order… it’d be like trying to pick my favorite child) list of snacks that I really love to eat.

Popcorn – (Serving Size: 3 Tbsp, Calories: 130) – A $20 Air Popper from Target changed my life. No oil, half a cup of kernels, and you’ve got all the makings of a delicious, 300 calorie snack that basically fills a bucket. Every night (and I mean every night) I end the evening sitting down with a nice hot bowl of freshly popped popcorn with no mess to clean up. It’s high in that dietary fiber that our hearts and arteries love so much, it’s actually got a little protein to it, and dammit if it doesn’t fill you right up.

Chobani Greek Yogurt – (Serving Size: 1 Cup, Calories: Approximately 140) – I discovered this through “Eat This Not That: The Supermarket Guide”. Actually, to be more accurate, I discovered Greek Yogurt through the book. Chobani just happens to be my favorite brand. I love the Peach, Strawberry, and Blueberry, and was fortunate enough to run across it at Costco, which sells a dozen containers for just under a dollar each, which is a pretty good price. Each one of these little gems packs about 10 grams of protein into 140 calorie servings with zero fat. It’s almost like your own little delicious cup of protein bar. Think about that. You’re looking for about 300 calories to snack on, and if you added a boatload of fruit to this, you’d be hard pressed to get it up to 200 calories. Go ahead, treat yourself to some Triscuits while you’re at it.

Kirkland Signature Dried Mango and Berries – (Serving Size 1/3 Cup, Calories: 100) – My wife found these at Costco as well. As if I don’t get enough fruit already, here’s a great way to carry it on car rides, on trips to the beach, family outings, picnics, bike rides in the park. You name it. 1/3 a cup is only 100 calories, so you could cram a whole damn cup of these things into a ziplock baggie and snack on them all afternoon. As an added bonus, I’ll point out that the dried strawberries are so delicious you’ll be fighting over them, so pick and eat strategically. I treat them like I used to treat the marshmallows in Lucky Charms. I’d eat all the cereal first, so I’d have a whole bowl of marshmallows to end my breakfast. I like to try and end with a bag full of dried strawberries. Then I treat myself to a grand finish.

Chex Mix – (Serving Size 2/3 Cup, Calories: 120) – I love Chex Mix. Some of the flavored versions are good, some of them are bad, some of them are somewhat nutritionally bad, but when it comes to guilt-free snacking, nothing beats the good ol’ original flavored Chex Mix. I love those little brown melba toast bits and my daughter and I regularly spar over them. 2/3 a cup is actually a nice bowl-full and if you wanna double it, you’re only looking at about 240 calories, so this is one snack that I don’t feel very bad about over-indulging beyond the single serving recommendation. Like all snacks of this nature, watch the sodium, but if you’re generally eating healthy and this is your only sodium rich indulgence, then I think it might be okay.

Oatmeal – (Serving Size: 1/2 Cup Dry, Calories: 150) – Breakfast? Has to be oatmeal. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but sometime over the last year or so I became a 100% official crack-addicted oatmeal addict. I have to eat the shit at least once a day, and if I don’t eat it for breakfast because I chose egg whites that day, then I make it a point to eat it as a snack later in the afternoon. It fills you up like no other food, and when you add fruit to piping hot oatmeal, and the oatmeal cooks the blueberries, blackberries or strawberries a little, it’s heaven. Pure heaven. I don’t sweeten my oatmeal in any way, because, like I said, at some point I just started to realize that I loved the flavor of oatmeal. I don’t like brown sugar in it, but if I have no other fruit around and have to resort to a serving of raisins, I’ll lightly sweeten it with just a teaspoon of brown sugar, and when you don’t normally sweeten your oatmeal, a teaspoon is more than enough. One of the best things I’ve discovered is using frozen berries with the oatmeal. Frozen berries, like most frozen fruits and vegetables are actually as good, and in some cases better nutritionally than fresh picked fruits and berries. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly frozen, trapping important nutrients that a lot of times get lost in the time it takes fresh fruits and vegetables to make it to your dinner table. You can find mixed berry medleys at every supermarket I’ve been to, and the price is reasonable. Put them in the fridge and they don’t even need to thaw all the way before use, the piping hot oatmeal will thaw anything you add to it. Quaker Instant Oats, a cup of Frozen Mixed Berries, and in about 2 minutes, you’ve got the most delicious way to start the day since coffee was invented.

In-Season Fruit – (Serving Size: One Fruit, Calories: Depends) – There’s nothing I can say about Fruit except, “I’ve never met an in-season fruit I didn’t like”. Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Peaches, Watermelon, Grapes, Pineapple, Apples, Kiwis, Oranges, Tangerines, Grapefruit. I eat so much fruit on a daily basis that I never worry about heart-healthy dietary fiber because I’m sure I get it in fruit alone. I love adding fruit to my yogurt. I add fruit to my oatmeal. I eat bananas on Triscuits. You name it, I’ll put fruit on it, in it, near it…

Cucumbers – (Serving Size: 1 Medium Cucumber, Calories: 45) – Man, I can’t get enough of cucumbers. I actually went to Target one day during a lunch break to go get my own paring knife because I was hogging the one here at the office because I ate them so much. Look, they’re forty-five calories, man! What do you expect? They fill you up like mad, they’re astonishingly delicious chilled, and if you wanna REALLY knock ’em out of the park, thinly slice them, mix them with some red onion, add a dash of olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and go ahead and treat yourself to a little mouth orgasm.

Food Lion Seltzer Water – (Serving Size: Unlimited, Calories: 0) – I don’t drink sodas. At all. Ever. I don’t even like them when I go out to dinner as some kind of “treat”. I honestly can’t stand them. Syrupy Sweetness of Corn Syrups or over-sugared drinks that, at this point, just nauseate me. It wasn’t always like that though, and I can’t remember the exact moment that I realized how much I disliked sodas, but it happened as a result of discovering this at my local Food Lion. For about 88 cents (yes, you read that right) I can get a two liter bottle of Seltzer Water. Not “Club Soda”. Not “Tonic Water”. Seltzer Water. Look at the ingredients. See what it says? It says, “Water”. That’s it. Nothing else. You buy two or three of these, and with the money you saved over Coke, Pepsi, or whatever shit you’re buying, walk over to the produce section and spend it on a couple lemons and limes. Now guess what? You’re drinking water with lime and lemon… and it’s carbonated. It’s refreshing, light, effervescent, and most of all, delicious. You’ll never drink a shitty over-sweet soda again.

Triscuits – (Serving Size: 7 crackers, Calories: 120) – Again, scoring points because of the ingredients list, which (for the reduced fat version) is all of three ingredients. Whole (notice that key word? “Whole”?) Grain Soft White Winter Wheat, Soybean Oil, Salt. Seven of these babies packs 3 grams of dietary fiber too. Great for the heart. They pair up easily with other items as well. A couple of ounces of cheese slices, some fresh, homemade guacamole, cottage cheese, peanut butter. The possibilities are endless, and each one is as delicious as the last. Definitely my “go-to” snack food. The dietary equivalent to the “Multi-Tool”.

Nut Butters – (Serving Size: 2 Tbsp, Calories: About 190) – This, I believe is my number one snack (I know, I said “not in order”… but this is my one exception). Notice I didn’t write “Peanut Butter”. There’s a reason for that. Peanut Butter is a close second, but it’s just behind Almond Butter. If you haven’t tried Almond Butter, then I highly suggest you close this browser window right now, get up, get in your car and drive to the nearest location that sells almond butter. It’s easily the greatest snack on earth. High in monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E, and lower in saturated fats than Peanut Butter, Almond Butter is the gift that keeps on giving. My favorite brand is Maranatha. They sell no-stir varieties, but I believe the no-stir contains palm oil. In the case of both peanut butter AND Almond Butter, I will absolutely insist on the ingredients being simply the nut, and perhaps salt as part of the roasting process. Palm oil is a cheap oil that’s added to nut butter to prevent the oils from separating. Unfortunately, it’s really high in saturated fats, which actually makes the whole exercise of eating nut butters pointless. Why on earth would you add sugar, palm oil, or any other additive to something as delicious as a peanut and an almond? You wouldn’t, unless you were a moron. Smucker’s makes the MOST delicious all natural peanut butters. The Crunchy version has a delicious, deeply roasted, peanut flavor, and if you simply must have a sweetened peanut butter, they make an all natural smooth peanut butter sweetened with honey. The ingredients read like some down-home recipe, “Peanuts, Salt, Honey”. They’re wonderful, delicious additions to your diet, just make sure you maintain strict portion control. I recommend partnering the peanut butter with the single serving of Triscuits. There’s a great snack that will fill you up for a couple hours, and only weighs in at about exactly 300 or so calories.

My toolbox (for Doug… who asked).

I got an email last week from a friend of mine who wanted to advice on weight loss. He’s looking to lose some extra weight and wanted to know if I could help him out.

I struggled with this for a while, wrote a couple of drafts that went nowhere, mainly because I fixated on weight loss, nutrition, etc. It became a rambling, incoherent soapbox of a post with no direction or purpose.

Then I just sat back and thought about what he was asking. He was just asking, like, “what did you do?” and I was busy getting all philosophical and shit on him.

So I decided to just kinda chill, kick back, and write a nice, easygoing post about the shit that I do, and how it contributes to my discipline. Because don’t get me wrong, the name of this game is discipline with a capital fucking “D”. If you don’t make a lifestyle commitment to this, and you view it as a “diet” or a “way to lose weight”, then I’m afraid you’ve already lost the battle my friend. This shit here is for life. Unfortunately, I’ve sadly reached several conclusions over the last couple of years. The first is that I’m a man in my 40’s, and with that comes a higher level of dietary maintenance and discipline if I wanna live past 50. The second, and most recent lesson, is that you can’t slack. Lifestyle change means lifestyle change. It doesn’t mean, “lifestyle change for the next couple of months, then back to what I was doing before”.

I’m not here to tell you what you can and can’t eat, that’s all for you, but for me, I’ve got a finite number that represents my daily caloric intake, and I’m not about to fuck it away on shit food that does nothing for me. I’m all about the nutrient density. If I put it in my body, I want it to be as close to unprocessed and good for me as possible. My whole idea of “taste” has changed dramatically over the last couple of years as a result. I don’t like salty, oversweetened, fried, greasy, fatty, overprocessed food. I love the taste of fresh vegetables, fruit, etc. I don’t sweeten my oatmeal in the morning because, dammit, I actually like the taste of oats. I eat whole wheat english muffins without anything on them because I eat breads and rolls so infrequently that when I do treat myself to some kind of bread, I like to taste… you know… the bread.

So without further ado, I’m going to list some of the things that I’ve discovered have been invaluable to me, or put another way, “I wouldn’t have been able to live so well without them”.

But first, a quick word or two about, “why”? I want to just state, for the record, that all of this has nothing to do with losing weight. I’ve detailed this in previous posts, but the short of it is, I’m a grown, adult, white male in his early 40s. Right now my main concern is cardiovascular health. If I have a strong, healthy heart, then everything else is gravy. If I’m doing everything I can to strengthen my heart, and increase my cardiovascular fitness, then weight isn’t an issue. I’m eating right, exercising, and living a stress free, relaxing, healthy lifestyle only to create an environment that’s best for my heart-health. As a result, weight melts off me, diabetes isn’t even in my vocabulary, my cholesterol manages itself, and my blood pressure is so low you’d think I was a corpse (I have a resting heart rate of between 45 and 50 beats per minute… and I’m 43). So for me, weight loss is secondary. In fact, I don’t even think much about my weight except in the summertime when I bike so much that I have to increase my caloric intake or else my weight drops below 160 and I start to look a little sickly (my wife hated my summer weight, she thought I looked “malnourished”).

So what are the tools in my “heart healthy toolbox”?

1. A bicycle
It goes without saying that I love riding bikes. I think a more accurate way to say that would be, “Jeff is addicted to riding a bicycle”. But do you know why? I’ll let the American Heart Association Website explain:

For health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week at 50–85 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can accumulate 30 minutes in 10 or 15 minute sessions. What’s important is to include physical activity as part of a regular routine. The training effects of such activities are most apparent at exercise intensities that exceed 50 percent of a person’s exercise capacity (maximum heart rate). If you’re physically active regularly for longer periods or at greater intensity, you’re likely to benefit more.

So there you go. I ride a bike because it’s a vigorously intense aerobic activity. I currently ride anywhere from 100 to 120 miles a week. My weekend rides are generally in the range of 35-40 miles and last about two hours, and during the week I ride about 11-12 miles a day at a faster, more intense pace. This leads me to my second most important tool, but one that was probably the most important purchase I ever made.

2. Rollers
I can’t say enough about rollers. Not a stationary trainer. Rollers. As in, you just put your bike on them and ride. Why rollers? Lots of reasons, not the least of which is vanity. I remember years ago, when I was in the Navy, I was friends with a guy who was probably the most serious cyclist I ever knew. This guy turned me on LeMond, Eddy Merckx, and the peloton. He schooled me in the art of riding, and gave me an appreciation for Road Riding at a time when my whole life had been about BMX and bunny hops. He drilled into my head the importance of form and cadence, and was the first (and up to now, only) person I met who rode rollers. So when I decided last year that I wanted to start riding in the winter to prepare for Spring, I knew there was only one way to go if I wanted to get into proper cycling shape. Nothing else will force you to maintain an even pedal stroke. Rollers have repercussions. Fuck off on rollers at your own peril, and likewise, become skilled on rollers and watch your efficiency on the bike go through the roof. I rode some last year with some local riders who easily have more time in the peloton than I could ever dream of having, and I had enough confidence to jump in precisely because I knew I was able to ride a bike and not stomp up and down for two hours. Rollers will turn you into a cyclist. They’ll smooth your rough edges. Trust me, if you can maintain a 110+ rpm cadence for a couple of minutes at 32+ miles per hour on rollers, the rest will be cake.

3. Eat This Not That
(Full disclosure time. I’ve actually been picked to be featured in the 2011 version of this book, so I might come off a little biased.) Last year, when I started riding to get healthier, it only took me a couple of weeks before I realized I needed to overhaul my diet. I’m fortunate to have a little more formal training in metabolic pathways and probably a better grasp on nutrition fundamentals including the chemistry of food simply because of my biology/chemistry background. So I knew what needed to be done, what needed to be eaten, and in what proportions and ratios. I also knew what needed to be avoided and why. What I didn’t know, or have access to, was some way to accurately compare the foods I was buying at the supermarket without spending hours and hours reading labels. Enter this book. They’ve done all that research for you! The greatest thing about this book, by the way, is that this isn’t a diet book! You’ll lose weight if you use it as a buying guide, that goes without saying, but not because of any particular dietary magic. This book is all about one thing: healthy choices. It bases its conclusions (“you should eat this… not that) on strictly health (heart/sugar) criteria. Why is one food a better choice than another? Because of sodium content, or because it contains more dietary fiber than its counterpart, or because it has the fewer calories derived from added sugar. It’s simply putting the act of shopping for groceries (if you use the supermarket guide… I don’t eat fast food, so I skipped the restaurant guide) into the simplest framework possible. That it’s just a matter of making the right decisions when you’re reaching for something that you’re going to spend your money on and put inside your body. If you’re going to spend money (you are) and you’re going to put it in your body (you are) then why wouldn’t you choose to pick the best item on the shelf? I’ll tell you why most people don’t. Because they simply don’t have the time, or tools to look at every label and make that comparison. That’s where this book is a lifesaver (literally). I changed everything about how I eat just by using the supermarket guide for a couple of months. I went shopping every week, and every time I left the house, this book went with me. I’ve never seen a book that even came close to being as valuable as this book became.

4. FatSecret
Now, again, keeping in mind that I didn’t start down this road to lose weight, this last tool might seem a little counter to that, but it’s really not. When I first started trying to get a handle on my diet, I was mainly concerned with the breakdown of calories. I wondered, for instance, just how many calories a day I was eating. How much sodium was I taking in? How much fat? Protein? So I started off writing everything down in a notebook. Then I thought, “Hey, I wonder if there’s an app for my phone?” and (at the time) there was only one app for Android (remember, this was about two years ago… before app craziness and before Android and iOS made “app” a household word). It was called, appropriately enough, “Calorie Counter”. When I initially installed it, I was dismayed to discover that it required a membership on a website, fatsecret.com. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to join a website, so it sat on my phone, unused, for a week or so until one evening I decided to give the website a try. I fell in love immediately. Studies show that people who keep a food diary, on average, double their weight loss. This isn’t a fluke. The discipline of keeping track of what you eat every day is probably the most important piece of this whole puzzle. If you wanna know where you’re going off track, or what the makeup of your diet is, there’s no more valuable resource. The site’s easy, it builds a library of frequently eaten food, facilitating the biggest barrier to keeping a diary which is data entry, and quickly becomes your go-to resource. Not only does this site track your food, but by entering your height, weight, age, and weight loss goals, it will track physical activity and compare calories in vs. calories out, giving you an immediate snapshot of your lifestyle. It’s all a simple matter of doing the math. If you’re taking in more calories and you’re burning, then what do you think is going to happen? Likewise, if you’re burning more calories than you take in on a consistent, day to day basis, how do you think you’ll look in a month or two? Well, if you kept a diary, you’d know the answer to those questions.

I keep a daily diary of everything I eat. Everything. I track my physical activity every day as well, and I make sure I’m doing regular cardiovascular exercise. I swim regularly, I ride almost every day, and I make sure that every decision I make about the foods I eat are all well-informed. I do everything in moderation, and I treat myself regularly to indulgences that, because I take care of myself, are actually, real, honest indulgences. I’ve maintained a fantastic weight now for about two years without anything close to what I’d call “effort” or “sacrifice”. I have a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is active, healthy, fun, outgoing and energetic.

So Doug, there you go. I told you it was more than I could put together in an email, and I’m sorry it took so long, but as you can tell, it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Literally. I hope it helps you with what you were asking, and if you wanna ask me any questions about any of it, feel free to drop me a line in the comments. I think it’s a topic that people may find interesting and helpful, and anything either of us can do to help anyone else out there get healthier, lose weight, or (hopefully) pick up a bike and start riding, then it was worth every minute I spent putting it down on “paper”.

Update 1: I’m calling this “Update 1” because I have a feeling I’ll update and add to this more than once. This afternoon, while I was out riding, I realized that I have an additional tool in my toolbox. When I started riding, I realized I needed a heart rate monitor. After shopping around and reading some reviews, I settled on the Mio Motiva Heart Rate Watch. This has been invaluable in helping me track my heart health. The Motiva measures heart rate with a dynamic display that quickly shows you what percentage of your Maximum Heart Rate you’re currently at. The contacts on the front of the unit never, and I mean never fail me. I can quickly and easily get my heart rate in a matter of seconds no matter where I’m at and it’s dead-on accurate. I’ve taken it to doctor appointments and it’s never been off by more than a single beat. It has a “calorie management system” that uses your age, weight, etc and uses your heart rate and exercise intensity to calculate calories burned and counts that against your recommended daily caloric intake. I can’t recommend enough the Mio Heart Rate Watch. As an aside, I had some simple issues with my first watch when it arrived, and I contacted Mio and they quickly and effectively handled my issue. I was blown away by their customer service, so I’m what you call a “raving fan”.

“Batman doesn’t kill anyone…”

I like to think that the reason I blog mostly is that I like the idea of putting thoughts down in some kind of tangible way. It’s really been one of the most rewarding things I’ve started doing over the last couple of years.  Lately, one of the thoughts that have evolved out of that original idea is the process of trying to preserve some of the amazing conversations I’ve begun having with my daughter. Abigail’s four years old now and along with her incredible vocabulary, comes this amazing thought process. In short, I love how she thinks and how her head works. I’ve got this idea that maybe one day I’ll just turn on the video camera and record us just having a conversation while we build things with legos, because when she’s sitting in front of those things, it’s like her brain goes a thousand miles an hour.

Anyway, sometimes we just have these great conversations that I tell myself, “I don’t ever want to forget this moment”. Mostly they occur in the time between waking up in the morning and dropping off at Montessori school. There seems to be ample opportunity while eating breakfast, getting dressed, watching cartoons, etc to formulate the most amazing thoughts.

This morning was a great example. I had gotten a new Batman game for the Wii yesterday. It’s not the greatest game (in fact, it’s quite bad), but I noticed this morning when I woke up that the Wii was glowing with that purple “hey, there’s an update” glow about it, so I quickly powered it up to see what the hubub was about, and when it came on, Abby immediately picked up on the fact that there was “Batman” in the space formerly occupied by Mario.

“Hey, you got a new Batman game!”
“Yep, I got it yesterday, it’s not that great though.”
“Can I see it?”
“Maybe when I get home, we’ll play it together a little before I send it back.”
“Does it have Joker?”
“I didn’t get that far, I only saw Two Face and I think Cat-man… not Catwoman, so it was kinda lame.”
“Does it have all the bad guys?”
“I think so…”
“Batman needs to kill them.”
“What? Why would Batman kill them?”
“Because they’re bad… Batman kills the bad guys.”
“Sweetheart, Batman doesn’t kill the bad guys ever. He puts them in jail, where they belong. Batman doesn’t kill anyone.”
“Like the police…”
“Yep, exactly like the police”

Looking over at the tank top I’m wearing, she says, “I remember me and mommy saw the police arresting that bad man once, he was wearing a white shirt like yours without the sleeves”.

A few minutes later, she’s dressed and waiting on me to get ready and gather everything up for our quick trip to school. Cartoon network’s on (naturally) and it’s Hotwheels: Battleforce.

“Dad, which color do you like?”
“I don’t know… I think I like the blue.”
“I like the red. You know why I like the red?”
“Nope, why do you like the red?”
“Because he (the driver of the red car) has hair like Tyler (a boy in her class that she talks about nonstop). His hair’s yellow like Tyler’s, but it doesn’t look like Tyler’s hair (I think Tyler’s got long hair… the boy on TV has short blond hair).”

Following me around while I gather up lunches, bags, laptops, and dolls.
“Hey, you have a ring just like mommy!”
“Yep, it means mommy and I are married, they’re called wedding rings.”
“When I’m a big girl, know who I’m gonna marry?”
“No… who?”
“Tyler.”
“Oh yeah? You’re gonna marry him when you’re a big girl?”
“Yeah, that’s why I wear mommy’s rings”
“I’m also gonna marry you too daddy”
“You’re gonna marry Tyler AND me?”
“Yep, but where am I going to get a wedding dress?”
“I don’t know sweetheart, you’re going to need one though, aren’t you?”
“Yes… I know, I’ll borrow mommy’s… borrowing is good. I borrowed my cousin’s dress… she let me, so I’m gonna borrow mommy’s wedding dress.”

By this time we were pulling into the parking lot at the school. I was tempted to just shut the car off and continue our conversation… she said something about making mommy jealous, which I would’ve loved to hear her elaborate on more…

I think I’m gonna pursue that topic a bit more tonight at dinner.

The joy of Legos, Star Wars, and bike rides.

Today wasn’t the greatest day. Professionally, personally, whatever… it just kinda sucked. It’s 1 AM and I’m still up. I don’t wanna really do anything besides ride my bike, which I’ve already done tonight. I don’t wanna go to bed, because if I do, then I’ll have to wake up, and right now it seems like the odds are that tomorrow will be about as good as today was.

I’m generally a happy guy. I’ve got a terrific family, a great career, amazing health, and my future’s so bright, I gotta wear welding goggles.

But everybody has a bad day, right?

So I came home and buried myself in comic books, but that didn’t really distract me in quite the way I was hoping for. So I jumped on the Xbox and tried to chase away the blues by pretending I was a Persian Prince who controls time. When that didn’t work, I jumped on the computer (even though the computer, or more accurately what I didn’t wanna see or read on the computer, seemed to be the source of most of my frustration and anxiety). Sure enough, ten minutes later, I closed the top of my laptop in anger and disgust. It was like the whole universe was working against me.

So I decided to cathartically write about it. I really don’t know why I thought that would help. Nothing like wallowing in a little self pity, I suppose.

While I was sitting here typing, unsure where this whole post was going, I heard my wife shuffle down the hall, probably to check on me and see why I was still up, and more than likely remind me that “Sons of Anarchy” was a little too loud and I should turn it down a little, lest I wake the baby.

Only it wasn’t my wife. It was Abby. She was thirsty and she wanted a glass of water.

So I stopped typing, got up, and got my daughter a glass of water (“with ice, daddy!”). She stood there sleepily in the kitchen watching me fill a glass with ice and water. When I handed her the glass, she said, “thanks dad”, smiled at me, took her glass and went back to bed.

And just like that, I realized that whatever bad day I was having, no matter how bad I felt, or how down in the dumps I was feeling, none of that mattered. What mattered was standing in my kitchen, waiting for a glass of water so she could go back to sleep.

I stopped for a minute and thought about just the last four days. A few days ago, out of the blue, my daughter announced she wanted to watch “The Real Star Wars”. You know, the one with Luke, Leia, and “Black Vader”. I gotta admit, I was pretty proud. She’s spent the better part of the last four days playing with the thousands of Legos her dad’s given her, digging through bins of bricks, minifigs, accessories, and “special pieces” to build the most imaginative, amazing things. Again, I have to admit, it gave me more joy watching her beam with pride over her latest creation than I ever really thought I possessed. Lastly, I thought for a minute or two about this afternoon when I came home from work. She was playing down the street at her cousins house and I had to go pick her up. I thought, “you know, I’ll take her balance bike with me, and we’ll ride bikes back home”. She was so stoked when she saw I had brought her bike, she threw on her helmet and I raced her from mailbox to mailbox as we leapfrogged back to the house, in 15 yard bursts of laughter.

So what did we learn today (er… tonight)? Well, we learned that everyone feels bad at some point, and everyone has shitty days. Life isn’t one of those things where every day is a picnic and everything always works out the way you’d like. Sometimes life gives you lemons. Some people make lemonade, some people enjoy a nice tart wedge of disappointment, and some people are lucky enough to catch the smile of a sleepy daughter who’s just happy you got her an ice cold glass of water.

With ice!

I’m confirmed for TEDx Myrtle Beach, Woo Hoo!

Earlier today, I spoke to the Coastal Organization Human Resources’ September meeting about Social Media. My talk was titled, “Practical Social Media, Twitter for Human Resources”. It was a great group and I had a terrific time. They had great questions, which is always makes for an awesome experience. I think more than a few of them left with some good ideas.

I love speaking to groups, so I was super-excited when Dr. David Powers reached out and asked me if I’d be interested in speaking at a TEDx conference he was putting together for Myrtle Beach with the Chamber of Commerce. Was I? I couldn’t even believe he had to ask. Of course I would! I’m a HUGE fan of the TED conferences. For those of you who live under a rock, TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design” and it’s a world class conference, attracting world class talent to give the talk of their lives… in 18 minutes.

From their website:
TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds:  Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

TEDx is an independently organized TED event. David Powers and I met during my participation last year in the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Grand Strand program and became fast friends, initially bonding over our shared love of comics. He’s a local leader and a real inspiration. When I signed up for, and was accepted, to LGS, I hadn’t even met David, but he was the kind of person I was aspiring to be as a result of my participation in the program.

So I know this will be a outstanding event, and I’m really proud to be a part of it. It’s going to be held on October 21st, 2010 from 9 AM to noon, at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

My topic, by the way, will be, “Technology Ubiquity: A Brief History of the Future”. I’m going to talk about what kinds of technologies are rapidly becoming part of our everyday lives, and what effects this might have. We (David and I) kind brainstormed together and arrived at what I think will really be an inspiring 18 minutes.

Check his site out and sign up! Seating is limited, so act soon. I look forward to hopefully seeing you there!