Friday, May 30, 2008

Me Rite pretty To-day

One impetus for starting this blog was a desire to sharpen my writing skills and combat the inevitable decline that occurs when making the transition from college to the work environment. College professors at Mary Washington, and I should hope most institutions of higher education, required demanded their students to produce well written papers; eloquent, thought-provoking, interesting, and sometimes controversial. A few of the better professors challenged students to take our own opinions and explore other perspectives in writing, a technique often used when preparing for a debate. Writing on a topic of personal passion is easier than penning a viewpoint that opposes that passion, compelling a person to choose their words and delivery method wisely. These exercises tested not only our journalistic skills but our very belief system, creating avenues for personal philosophical debates and sharpening of our thought processes. Business writing utilizes some of these developed skills, but does not require nearly the same eloquence or allow for ample time to get the point across. While my days of 15 page papers might be long gone, there is still some skill needed to produce PowerPoint bullets that have a point and prove that point; even when you do not agree with the point. After acknowledging that business writing presented a different set of challenges than academic writing, I began my quest to write like a college student and am happy to report that the success of the endeavor.

According to the “Blog Readability Test,” a service that analyzes blog pages to determine what level of education is needed to read the site, Explosive Bombchelle is written at the college reading level.
blog readability test

This means I can still use words like a college student! Most of my work writing is geared at communicating to executives and colleagues who could certainly read at a college level, but do not have the time to devote to that level of reading. Others I work with utilize readability services and consultants that help gear their writing to the general populace and adhere to US government regulations and plain language laws. It is not uncommon for graduates to struggle with maintaining all the knowledge and writing skills developed in school. A good writer, like a good athlete, needs to strengthen their skills through hard work and practice. Even those who write for a living must find it difficult to maintain the same skill level they once possessed in school. Writing for a college professor is much more difficult than writing for any given publication; the New York Times and Washington Post maintain a High School reading level, Sports Illustrated is written at a Junior High Level. The government maintains that Medicare and Medicaid mailings should read at the Fifth Grade level yet the Internal Revenue Service Code is written beyond college reading level, go figure.

In conclusion, writing this blog has allowed me to:
  • Sharpen my writing skills.
  • Maintain my college level vocabulary.
  • Explore my thoughts and opinions.
  • Understand and analyze the opinions of others.

Bullets… just in case you required an Executive Summary.

Many thanks to Stepher for posting the Blog Readability Test.
Amendment to original post:
In response to my cousin Drew’s comment regarding the readability of the US Constitution, I had no choice but to see what the Blog Readability Test had to say about our founding fathers’ writing:
blog readability test

Very humbling...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Poop Before You Pump

Any runner and most athletes have at one time or another experienced a case of “the craps.” Not to be confused with cramps, "the craps" are the sudden and urgent need to bee-line to the nearest bathroom to drop a deuce in the toilet rather then the workout attire. There is no way to prepare for a case of the craps; even going to the bathroom prior to working out is no preventative guarantee. During a recent colorectal emergency running on the treadmill at work, I was shocked and physically pained to find the normally empty potties in the locker room unavailable. After risking injury and embarrassment by jumping off the still moving treadmill, I was nearly homicidal seeing the stalls occupied by people not leaving the anytime soon; women pumping breast milk.

Before jumping on me for being completely insensitive to the needs of women who choose this very healthy eating option for their infant child please hear me out. The State of Minnesota, where I currently reside, is considered the most progressive in lactation-friendly legislation and policies. Minnesota requires employers to accommodate breastfeeding mothers by providing them with adequate breaks as well as private and sanitary rooms to express milk. By law these lactation rooms, frequently known as Mother’s Rooms, cannot be within a bathroom. Yet these two women, who had a clean, quiet and toilet free Mother’s room at their disposal, chose to sit on the commode to pump when the Mother’s room is across the hall from the gym. The choice to bypass the Mother’s Room to use a bathroom stall is almost a slap in the face for the mother’s groups all over the world who often declare that we do not eat in bathrooms so we shouldn’t expect breastfeeding to happen in bathrooms.

The women pumping in the two stalls in the women’s locker room undoubtedly chose them because they are most often empty. The issue is when someone in the gym gets moving and things get moving they REALLY need to get moving to the toilet, pronto. Workplaces in Minnesota must provide Mother’s Rooms, so I think it is reasonable to expect that breastfeeding women can be so kind to use their designated room. Fellow employees cannot use the Mother’s rooms for meetings, office space, push-ups or pooping; breastfeeding only. Common courtesy would apply the same logic to toilet usage; pottying only please (especially in the gym!).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Only when a woman decides not to have children, can a woman live like a man. That's what I've done."
- Katharine Hepburn

Friday, May 23, 2008

Forbidden Fruit

Most diets have a laundry list of foods you can or cannot have and, as a recovering serial dieter, I had to admit my food fears and address whether avoidance of certain foods is justified. Many of these avoidance habits were picked up from the fad diets found in supermarket magazines claiming to have the magical formula for “Losing 2 dress sizes before Memorial Day!” With years and years of dieting, we add new items to growing lists of what not to eat and never take the old ones off that list. After avoiding anything with taste to drop a few dress sizes with little to no success, I now realize everything I missed out on by banning certain foods from entering my mouth.

Fruit: Weight Watchers devotees often avoid fruit since it has points. For years the only fruit I consumed were the wedges of lime and maraschino cherries in my happy hour cocktails. With the large number of people on the Atkins diet and Weight Watchers I am surprised we do not have a rampant scurvy outbreak in the United States. After the nearly decade long fruit hiatus it was actually difficult to bring myself to eat even the smallest apple for fear the high sugar content would make me fat. When I confessed this issue to my health coach she pointed out how hard pressed I would be to find one person on this planet suffering from obesity because of their fruit consumption habits.

Granola: It never dawned on me that granola must be good for you otherwise the healthy granola heads of Colorado and Oregon would have a different nickname. Granola is higher in calories, fat and sugar than other breakfast options like Special K or a breakfast bar so it never made a rotation in my diet. Upon the encouragement of a nutritionist I introduced granola into my morning routine and saw amazing results. Unlike cereals puffed with air, granola is not only tasty but managed to keep my tummy from growling well past 10:30 in the morning.

Yogurt: Through the years I have consumed plenty of the tasteless, fat-free garbage with an almost gel like consistency but avoided “real-deal” yogurt. Eating nasty diet yogurt was not done for eating enjoyment, but simply out of dairy and enzyme needs. Real, creamy yogurt is a rich and beautiful thing full of flavor, incredibly filling and satisfying. My personal favorite is Stonefield Farms Vanilla, although their plain yogurt with crunchy granola is perfect for breakfast or dessert. The combination of granola and yogurt is so filling the clock tells me it is time for lunch, not my stomach.

Eggs: The jury keeps changing their ruling on eggs, some studies they are good and others they should be avoided more than a pit bull in heat. Since there is a bit of truth to any study eggs demonstrate how important it is to enjoy a bit of everything in moderation to get the health benefits of the item while limiting the risks.

Regular Bread: Through the years bread became nothing more then a cold cut delivery mechanism. Only on special occasions did I enjoy good bread with any hint of flavor. Most of the time “lite” cardboard like slices were the only baked good passing through my lips; low in calories, carbs and flavor. When I did have good bread I often over-indulged which led me to believe I couldn’t be trusted in a bakery. Food should be savored and enjoyed, not just stomached and there is really nothing enjoyable about lite bread. The smell of bread from our oven or local bakery now fills our home and it is possible to enjoy a single slice of good bread without going over the top when it is no longer forbidden fruit.

Oils: Any person “watching their fats” avoided fatty foods like salmon, nuts, and bottled oils for years. The concept of good fats and bad fats was either undiscovered or unadvertised and the message in magazines and many health journals was loud and clear; all fats are bad fats. We now know that “good-cholesterol,” clinically known as HDL, controls bad cholesterol to maintain healthy levels. Salmon is an essential food in delivering fatty acids crucial in raising good cholesterol which is necessary to fight bad cholesterol. Salmon also provides a huge range of health benefits beyond the heart healthy including brain, skin and joint functioning. The one thing to look out for is farmed salmon; wild caught salmon is healthier. Medical reports claim that people who eat nuts are less likely to develop diabetes than those who don’t. Studies worldwide indicate that cultures with diets rich in healthy oils like Olive or Safflower enjoy greater longevity (and are probably happier since they get to eat Olive Oil!). Avocadoes are another food that diet aficionados would never dream of eating, I heard so many times at Weight Watchers how people would not touch guacamole because of how fatty it was. Eat up everyone, avocados might be high in fat but it is the good monounsaturated fat. Avocadoes also deliver more potassium than a banana, are an excellent source of vitamin B and have more fiber than any other fruit, beats taking Metamucil. Without fat skin dries up and hair falls out; carrying a little extra fat is certainly prettier than those options.

Cheese: Wine and Cheese, Cheesy Pizza, Grilled Cheese, Cheese Omelets, Crackers and Cheese, Cheese Steaks, Queso Dip; the list of yummy things made of or with cheese goes on and on and on. If you have ever attempted to include fat free cheese in your diet you discovered it is made of some strange rubbery material that tastes like crap and doesn’t actually melt. I tried and tried to convince myself that this was a necessary substitute for the battle of the bulge but each package of fat free singles felt tasted more dreadful than divine. The true test came when Luna, my dog who would sell her soul and toys for Tillamook Cheddar, spit out the Kraft Free cheddar after performing a trick. If a dog spitting something out is not evidence enough that something tastes bad then I don’t know what is.

Ice Cream: Does anything say summer more than a soft serve ice cream cone? Ice Cream is a major player in food substitution marketing. You want nothing more then a Blizzard but instead get some low-fat or no fat substitute from your local grocer’s freezer, momentarily tricking your brain into thinking it actually got some ice cream. Hours later it becomes impossible to resist the thing you wanted in the first place and rather then just having one real ice cream treat in your stomach you actually have a full box of the fake ice cream AND the real stuff. Cookies also fall into this bad substitution scenario. One cookie from Mrs. Field’s oozing with warm chocolate chips is a lot better than a full box of snackwells.

Regular Beer: Drinking light beer is basically resigning yourself to give up on flavor and taste in return for a slight buzz. It is possible to get used to light beer, and many people claim they cannot taste the difference but this is delusional at best; good beer is far superior to its watered down cousin. After Amstel Light, my skinny beer of choice, started giving me unexplainable headaches I started drinking regular beer again and was reminded of the beauty of a good beer on a warm summer day. A few okay tasting light beers like Sam Adams are found in my fridge, but these are reserved for consuming later in the night when taste buds disappear anyway.

Chocolate: Yeah, right. Like I ever tried to give up chocolate.

Potato Chips: This could be the one item I should avoid but life would be dim and no longer worth living. The crisp, saltiness of a good potato chip is one of the most simple and beautiful food pleasures around. My problem with potato chips sounds much like a Lays commercial; I cannot eat just one. Often I snap awake from a binge coma to find my hands layered in greasy crumbs at the bottom of an empty bag. Sure I could just avoid the temptation all together, but we all need our vices, don’t we?

Moderation is the key to enjoying anything and everything your heart desires. Obviously if you have a food allergy or other health issue there are times when foods should be abolished from the menu, but otherwise eat up and stop feeling guilty about eating fun and fabulous foods. Variety is the spice of life; if your mouth is bored then chances are you’ll be cheating on any healthier lifestyle you choose.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quote of the Week

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.
- John Burroughs

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Walk This Way

People that don’t know how to walk are quickly becoming the source of my biggest pet peeve. This is not a horribly insensitive shot at the physically challenged; these sentiments are reserved for those who can physically move one foot in front of the other but somehow lack the mental capacity to walk without wreaking havoc on everyone around them. Countless people seem to have an inability to navigate in public places and the number of individuals affected by this social disorder is either on the rise or my sensitivity to the stupidity is at its breaking point. Everywhere I go I feel inundated with hundreds of people who clearly think they own the sidewalk.

Stop in the Name of Love: The most dangerous habit shared by the socially inept walker is their susceptibility to stop without warning. Large crowds are moving along like a well choreographed dance production and suddenly one person throws off the entire routine, stopping in their tracks and sending everyone else tumbling. Adding to the annoyance of these sudden and frequent stops are the dangerous places these walking challenged individuals decide to put on the brakes, and the worst offenders are often found at the top of escalators motionless, clueless to the throngs of people about to fall like dominos behind them.

Long and Winding Road: Walking without purpose or intent is great for a leisurely walk on the beach but is a recipe for disaster in most other situations. Mapping the path of people who walk without direction looks much like something from the comic Family Circus when Billy’s route from point A to point B resembled a ball a twine more than a straight line. These people bob and weave without knowledge or cares of the number of people they cut across, run into and just otherwise annoy. While installing a blinker system on their asses could potentially help oncoming traffic better understand which direction they will go next, but in all honesty these are probably the same people who neglect to use their turn signal when driving anyway.

Never Stray too far from the Sidewalk: Pedestrians often forget they are sharing paths with people using modes of transportation other than their feet. When walking on mixed use paths it is important to remember some basic rules of acceleration and deceleration from mechanical physics. Just as a car cannot stop on a dime due to factors like speed, mass, and brake technology; neither can a bicycle or skate. So if someone moving at a fast speed with badly designed brakes, as are often found on bikes and rollerblades, on a mixed use path yells “On your left!” or “Watch out” and a pedestrian is stupid enough to get in the way, they deserve to be plowed over.

Pass the Dutchie on the Left Hand Side: Just like with driving, it is common courtesy for slow traffic to stick to the right lane and faster traffic to pass on the left. The only time this basic common sense rule should be ignored is when walking in a country that drives on the left (or wrong) hand side of the road to which the tenets of passing politeness should be reversed.

The Wall: Brainless walkers travel in packs like wolves and are able to combine forces inflicting greater impact with their thoughtless actions. These packs can often be found taking up entire sidewalks, hallways and paths, causing anger and frustration to those attempting to pass. Some popular places these packs strategically obstruct are stairwells, hallways, and doorways. Those traveling without their pack can overcome their lack of numbers with simple props like a bicycle or triple-wide stroller.

Parents Just Don’t Understand: Children are often the victims of their parents’ inability to teach them the rules of the sidewalk. There is a time and a place for children to run around without structure and direction but the local mall, bike path, or restaurant does not qualify. If a child gets hurt by someone because they got in the way a parent has no right to be indignant and angry at anyone but the person who is responsible for protecting their safety; themselves.

We are all guilty of walking offenses, but when most people run over, trip, push or cause others to dive out of the way they apologize for their actions. It is the completely self-absorbed masses who after causing collisions, falls, accidents and injuries are unapologetic or even confrontational that I have issues with. These idiots are an utter menace to society and should have their right to walk among others revoked.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quote of the Week

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Purging Bad Behaviors

What do you picture when you think of a person with an eating disorder? It is hard not to think of a skeletally thin woman; weak, pale and sickly. This almost universal image focuses on the most extreme sufferers, anorexics, but leaves out so many others that endure various other forms and degrees of eating disorders. Those struggling with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, but those who are not thin often go untreated or undiagnosed as they display no observable signs of their disease. Very few recognize or understand the wide spectrum of eating disorders or the people who struggle with them. Far too many people, women and men, have an eating disorder and do not recognize the signs or are too ashamed to admit to their issues.

After years of yo-yo dieting and struggling with weight and poor body image I finally recognized early this year, with the help of books, a health coach and other medical professionals, that I suffered from a binge eating disorder complete with a side of exercise bulimia and super-sized diet obsession. This was only half a surprise as my past includes a dark bulimia nervosa period in college and my early 20s. While I stopped the puking, a pattern of binging, feeling guilty, starving myself, hiding my food consumption from friends and family and then binging again out of hunger and frustration was long established, deeply cemented and refined over the years, becoming just as much a part of who I am as my blue eyes and big smile. Half jokingly, I used to think that anorexics were lucky in their obviousness of their struggle with food and body image. Shamefully, the biggest struggle with “coming out” about my problem is the embarrassment of people thinking that being thin is an eating disorder pre-requisite and therefore I must just be a fat person looking for an excuse. While it would be easier to hide the issue I feel compelled to begin sharing some of the obstacles, insights and discoveries in my journey to combat my problem with overeating and exercising.

Bad habits, entrenched such as mine, cannot be fixed with a diet; I needed to tackle the “demons” in my head. Food is not the enemy, fat is not the enemy, carbs are not the enemy, I am the enemy. Through the years I had varying amounts of success with every diet imaginable. From liquid and pills to fasting and hypnosis, no approach to weight loss was left unturned. As a binge eater, fad diets were even more dangerous, bringing a level of justification to my problem and masking the extent of the issue. Bingeing within the guidelines of the diet de jour, bacon binges during the Atkins phase or Snackwells during the fat free craze, seemed perfectly legitimate in the mind of a compulsive overeater. People often develop fads of their own, disguising their eating disorder as healthy eating. Some vegetarians actually suffer from eating disorders, giving up meat as a weight loss tool. Others employ strange eating obsessions like refusing to ingest mammals with gestation periods less then 322 days or only eating foods that begin with the letter Q. Don’t be fooled into thinking these people are doing something healthy, they are just creating their own little disorder.

Even the healthiest diets can turn bad when put into the hands of a person with an eating disorder. Weight Watchers, unarguably the healthiest food plan in the diet market when done correctly, can teach the average person how to eat healthier and with more controlled portions to lose weight safely. Weight Watchers provides the necessary tools and tips to both lose weight and keep it off the weight in a world filled with restaurants and holiday parties. Yet somehow I managed to turn the healthiest diet on earth into an obsession that spiraled out of control.

Losing 60 pounds in six months back in 2002 was easy, all it took was calculating the points of every single item I ingested, avoiding friends and temptation like the black plague, and working out 3 hours a day, 6 days a week to ensure that everything I ate was burned off (aka, anorexia athletica). Piece of cake, right? Wrong. The weight was impossible to keep off and I blamed everything from breaking my left foot, changing jobs, breaking my right foot, and moving for the scale creeping up, up, up. Not until I re-joined Weight Watchers this year did I acknowledge my deep rooted issues with food and how I could manipulate any diet or eating plan into a compulsion. Almost immediately I transformed into what is un-affectionately known as a “Points Nazi.”

After a few weeks of being “on-plan” and eating like I was in prison or “off-plan” and gorging like it was my last meal I decided to switch from the flex (points) plan to the core plan. For those not religiously affiliated with Church of Weight Watchers, the core plan includes a menu of healthy foods that you are permitted to eat as much of as you want, so long as you stop when you are almost full which brought to light a major issue; diet plans, news, friends, family all teach us how and what not to eat, but no one really ever teaches us how to eat and when to stop. This was a major discovery in tackling my overeating. Somehow through the years I developed a mindset that my mouth was either turned on to eat everything not nailed down to the floor or turned completely off to everything but water. Eating until full then stopping was a foreign concept but a necessary piece to master in maintaining a healthy weight. Out of all the lessons I’ve learned over the past 6 months, this is one of the most difficult but important.

It is estimated that over 30% of women seeking to lose weight suffer from a binge eating disorder and after understanding my own issues I quickly saw the signs in others. My time attending Weight Watchers came to an end because there were far too many women making the same mistakes I made years ago; approaching the diet as another goal to be attained and not addressing their real issues. I could look around the room and pick out those who would lose weight in record time only to put it back on again and it pained me to hear their dieting triumphs and tragedies. While I could try and point out their paths to failure, dangerous habits and need to address their emotional health, I needed to focus on fixing me which couldn’t be done in a room full of women dieting and talking about their guilt and shame in eating. We each have to find our own path to combat our own issues and realize the journey of self-discovery is the most important of them all. I have been consuming solids for over 32 years now, but am really just beginning to learn how to eat.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Quote of the Week

"The best way to get over someone is to get under someone."
- Mommy T.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Quote of the Week

Vacation used to be a luxury, but in today's world it has become a necessity.
- Author Unknown