Most of us don’t need Mrs. Claus’s encouragement to fatten up over the holidays.
I lost 40 pounds a couple years back and have been in maintenance mode ever since. It’s gone OK, but I’ve lost a bit of ground in recent months—anywhere from 5-7 pounds depending on the day. Since I’m training for the Disney marathon next month, some of that could be muscle: my clothes more or less fit the same. But I know that some of those pounds come from lack of vigilance. Weight maintenance is harder than loss. It’s so darn forever.
December is going to be a challenge. It always is, with its parties and potlucks and cookie exchanges and countless batches of pralines. And this year I have the “moral balance sheet” to contend with, which is the feeling of virtue in one area of your life that gives you mental license to cheat in another. In my case, I’ve got 18, 19 and 20-mile training runs coming up in the next few weeks. Shouldn’t I be able to eat what I want as a result?
It doesn’t seem fair that one should have to watch what one eats while running 30+ miles a week. But life ain’t fair (and let’s be honest, there are way more egregious examples of that in this world than MaryAnn not being able to stuff her face with gingerbread men without consequence).
Here’s the approach I’m going with this year. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works for you.
I will enjoy the foods I love without guilt. I will be mindful of portions rather than abstaining from favorite goodies altogether.
I will prioritize homemade foods over processed and store-bought items. Nothing against the Candy Cane Joe-Joes—we’ve already gone through a box in the Dana house. But a homemade cookie, in addition to being delicious, touches a deeper place. Depending on the recipe and the baker, it may represent family, or tradition, or simply care. Yes, food is connected to love. You’ve got to be careful how you live with that truth, but it’s true nonetheless.
I will prioritize eating rather than drinking my calories. I love a good mulled wine, or a hot cocoa with a shot of Baileys and topped with marshmallows. But given December’s many delights, those treats will take a backseat to other things I enjoy.
I will track what I eat every day. I’ve been intermittent with MyFitnessPal for the past year or so, and it shows in my gradual weight gain. My deal with myself this month is this: I have to record what I eat. I may go over my calorie allotment in a given day, and hey, that happens, but I’ve got to write it down. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
I will make exceptions to #4. I will take a break from tracking one day each week. I haven’t decided whether to set a specific day or be strategic about it based on what’s going on. Also, I won’t track on long run days.
I will weigh once a week. I like to weigh myself several times a week, just to keep a bead on where I am. I’m going to relax that and just weigh once a week. After the marathon’s done on January 12 I will reassess that practice.
I’m excited to share what’s going on at Tiny Church (Idylwood Presbyterian) in a few weeks. Mainly because I’m very proud of our small but mighty congregation for taking on a massive effort such as this. But also because if you’re local, I’d like you to come.
And if you have contacts in the media here in the DC region, please let me know. Our story is compelling. It is a faith story. It is a story of light out of darkness, life out of death. Please help us share it.
Jacob and Eric Osman
Idylwood Presbyterian Church will sponsor a bone marrow registry drive on Saturday, November 16 from 10 a.m. – noon. This Be the Match campaign is inspired by Eric and Jacob Osman, brothers and members of our church who lost their battles to adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare genetic disease. Eric and Jacob were students at Lemon Road Elementary School before being diagnosed with ALD, and sadly this disease took each of their lives by the time they were eight years old.
The drive will take place on the two-year anniversary of Jacob’s bone marrow transplant. It is our way of putting faith into action and tending the glimmers of hope that can rise from of tragic circumstances.
Tens of thousands of children just like Eric and Jacob are fighting life threatening diseases, and you could be the answer to their hopes and prayers. The registry process is simple: just fill out a form and swab the inside of your cheek, and you might Be the Match for one of these children.
The registry drive will be accompanied by a health fair at the church. Questions about the Affordable Care Act or allergies and asthma? Need a flu shot? We will have people to answer your questions, check your vision, body fat or blood pressure, and more. There will be door prizes as well.
Please help us get the word out. Several years ago a man in his 40s joined the registry. He ended up being Jacob’s donor. The person you invite to join the registry—or you yourself—could give someone the gift of life.
Idylwood Presbyterian is 7617 Idylwood Rd. near Route 7 in Falls Church.
The actress Angelina Jolie recently revealed she’d had a double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed the BRCA1 gene linked to breast cancer. Now that the long series of procedures is done, Jolie is speaking out in order to demystify the issues around breast cancer testing and preventive treatments.
Jolie writes, “[My children and I] often speak of ‘Mommy’s mommy,’ and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me…. [Since the procedure], my chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”
The overwhelming reaction from the public has been positive and supportive, even warm. “Your mother would be proud of you,” one commenter wrote. Breast cancer survivors and others have applauded Jolie’s candor, her courage in tackling the issue head-on, and her thoughtfulness in discerning the best way forward for herself, in consultation with her doctor.
Jolie’s story has highlighted just how vulnerable we are to illness—all of us. Wealth and status do not protect us from the limitations of our human bodies, and health can be a fickle friend to us all.
What we’re not talking about enough is this: the genetic testing and treatment Jolie undertook are only available to a relatively small number of people with the means to afford it…
First off: I have several good friends who’ve published books recently, and while I’ve mentioned them around the Internets in a piecemeal way, I wanted to make sure y’all knew about them. In most cases, I’ve read the book and can recommend it; in all cases, I can recommend the writer. These all came out in the last few months:
Last week I linked to an article about Adam Grant and was intrigued by what I called his radical generosity, even as I pointed out the stay-at-home wife who helps make such generosity happen. Here is an article that looks at the book’s findings, apart from the personality of Grant. “If you’re a giver at work, you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.” Takers, by contrast, get more than they give, always trying to find what’s in it for them; matchers try to keep the ledger as even as possible.
It’s not surprising that givers often end up on the bottom of the career ladder. But guess who rises to the top? Read the link to find out.
An excellent resource for those of us who are trying to equip our kids to make good food choices:
Focus on health not weight. And emphasize function over form. Remind your son that a healthy body is what allows you to do all that you do in the world. Think of something your child likes to do – whether that is a sport or otherwise – and point out how it’s his body that does that. If your child is an athlete, he or she probably gets a lot of reinforcement for this idea. But even if what your child most likes to do is to sit quietly and read or draw, you can reinforce the concept. You can say, “Your body is what allows you to do [fill in your child’s favorite activity]” to foster your child feeling good about his body’s capability.
A study by researchers at UNC’s medical school, published in the journal Appetite, showed the kind of choices people make when randomly presented with different types of menus with differing levels of nutritional information: one with no nutritional info, one with calorie info, one with calories plus the minutes of walking required to burn the calories, and a fourth with calories plus the distance required to burn off the calories.
“People who viewed the menu without nutritional information ordered a meal totaling 1,020 calories, on average, significantly more than the average 826 calories ordered by those who viewed menus that included information about walking-distance,” writes Scientific American. People who saw the menu with walking-distance info also ordered less than people who just saw calorie info.
I’m pretty good at the Sabbath thing—setting aside time for rest, play and puttering—but my problem is I absolutely jam-pack the rest of my life. I’m working on this lately. My current tweak is listening to music while running. (I’m usually a podcast runner.)
30 pages is enough. Not enough to grasp the key message, but enough to understand if it’s worth grasping. If by page 30 of a book I’m not hooked, I stop reading. A writer has to hook our imaginations, and 30 pages should be enough to do just that. Need more pages? I say need more editing.
I read so many short things (articles, essays) that when I do pick up a book, I feel like abandoning it is a sign of failure. I stick with books to prove to myself that my attention span can hack it. So this system intrigues me… But I give it 50 pages. I recently abandoned The Casual Vacancy. Broke my heart to do it—I applaud J.K. Rowling for tackling something so radically different—but I just didn’t care about the characters.
What do you have planned for the weekend? I’m pinching myself because Robert and I came into some tickets to the biggest party in town. You know those people who respond to “how are you” with “better than I deserve”?
I have a great life. It would be poor stewardship not to enjoy the heck out of it.
In her most recent book, Twentysomething: Why do Young Adults Seem Stuck,co-authored with her twenty-something daughter Samantha, Robin Marantz Henig delves into the hard data… what—if anything—is it about kids these days? the mother-daughter team asks. And why is it that every generation seems to think that there’s something different going on with kids these days, as compared to any other?
In 2000, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett proposed the existence of a new stage of development: emerging adulthood. Whereas before, we’d go straight from adolescence to full-blown young adultdom, now, there was a step in between, an area where our adult selves were emerging but not-quite-emerged…
As Marantz Henig is quick to point out, Arnett isn’t the first to discuss this possibility. In a 1970 article in The American Scholar, the psychologist Kenneth Keniston also thought he discerned a new trend of unsettled wandering. He termed in simply, “youth.” And that youth “sounds a lot like Arnett’s description of emerging adulthood a generation later,” Marantz Henig writes, going on to say that, “despite Arnett’s claims to the contrary, we weren’t really all that different then from the way our own children are now. Keniston’s article seems a lovely demonstration of the eternal cycle of life, the perennial conflict between the generations, the gradual resolution of those conflicts. It’s reassuring….”
As a member of Generation X, who heard a lot of the same criticisms leveled at me and my generation that I am now hearing about the Millenials, it is reassuring indeed.
First up: the moon and Jupiter conjunction in just a few days:
Jan. 21: Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction
For North Americans, this is a real head-turner, one easily visible even from brightly lit cities. A waxing gibbous moon, 78-percent illuminated, will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. (For reference, your closed fist held out at arm’s length covers 10 degrees of the sky.)
These two bright luminaries will make their closest approach high in the evening sky for all to see. What’s even more interesting is that this will be the closest moon-Jupiter conjunction until the year 2026! [Amazing Photos: Jupiter and the Moon]
My kind of confession. Long and equivocally unequivocal:
For some centuries now, no small confusion has arisen from the fact that we talk about belief in God, rather than love of God. The two amount to the same thing, but the first of these expressions, at least since the beginning of the modern period, pushes us willy-nilly into the field of evidence and argumentation, a field where the standards of commitment have nothing to do with the issue at hand, and so not surprisingly, though for poorly understood reasons, belief in God cannot but be a failing proposition.
As they told us at CREDO, “credo” means “believe,” but really it means “I give my heart.”
But start from love, start from joy, and the demand for further evidence vanishes. To continue to make it would be like demanding to see the hormones that cause an erection before accepting that there is such a thing as eros. It would be vulgar. It is vulgar, every time we hear it from the puffed-up fools who believe they are defending the honour and integrity of something, which they also do not understand, but which they call ‘science’. Science has more often than not been driven by what its practitioners have experienced as joy and wonder before God’s creation. This is a historical fact, and even if you are one of the puffed-up fools who thinks belief in God deserves nothing but mockery, you cannot change this fact.
…Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the ‘John 3:16’ banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God’s absence– the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God’s hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can’t even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.
Four years ago, I made a simple change when I switched one meeting from a coffee meeting to a walking-meeting. I liked it so much it became a regular addition to my calendar; I now average four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. Today it’s life-changing, but it happened almost by accident.
12 hugs a day. Hug your child first thing in the morning, when you say goodbye, when you’re re-united, at bedtime, and often in between. If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when she first walks in the door, realize that with older kids you have to ease into the connection. Get her settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub. (Seem like going above and beyond? It’s a foolproof way to hear what happened in her life today, which should be high on your priority list.)
Some of them I need to work on:
Welcome emotion. Sure, it’s inconvenient. But your child needs to express his emotions or they’ll drive his behavior. So accept the meltdowns, don’t let the anger trigger you, and welcome the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you’re the one he trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it. Afterwards, he’ll feel more relaxed, cooperative, and closer to you.
Sabbath is a health issue too. Dr. Sleeth (a former ER physician) puts it well:
It’s interesting, when a doctor sits down and does a primary intake with a new patient, they ask about smoking, exercise and diet, but they don’t ask how much you’re working. They don’t get any sense of if you’re working seven days a week, or if you have time set aside — like people have always had — for rest.
I think the lack of rest is reflected in our saying, “We don’t have enough time.” I think it’s pretty much generally felt that we don’t have enough time to really get to the things we want to do in life.
The other day I heard radio show on gun control. It was frustrating because the so-called gun rights advocate had good points to make that the gun control advocate could not, or did not, hear. At the same time, I found myself wishing that the gun rights advocate had offered more constructive proposals rather than shrugging and saying “It’s all a matter of semantics.”
This debate, hosted at scienceblogs.com, is a good model. It’s not pithy. It’s long and wonky. So be it. Serious times demand no less. Mark starts off:
Mass violence is not just a problem in the United States. Similar incidents have occurred in other countries, even mass shootings in countries with significant restrictions similar to what I would advocate. However, the experience of other countries is less in frequency and severity. Yes, other countries have mass violence despite strict gun control, even countries like Norway. However, no other comparable industrialized country has gun violence similar to ours. No you can not compare the United States to Mexico. No, gun control is never perfect. No, we can not prevent all murder, all mass murder, or all violent crime, but we can decrease the death toll.
Now any preventable cause of even a single death should be prevented, and while mass murder shocks the conscience in a way that the anonymous and impersonal forces of nature cannot, this ought to cause us to pause and consider whether what is being proposed will actually do any good. The choices we make in response to these tragedies will have consequences that we foresee and consequences we don’t. These consequences may well include the failure of new laws to save anyone in the future. This concern is not hypothetical – we’re well over a decade into our government’s frantic response to 9/11, and we may well be less safe than we were on 9/10.
Both men own and operate firearms. Both are reasonable, non-knee-jerk types. More of these, please. (I hope they will keep going.)