"Awareness Month" Awareness Month

I just got some news that, frankly, has rocked my world. And I have to share it with you all, because I cannot let another day go by without actively making a difference in the lives of everyone I know. It's a very tough topic to discuss. Frankly, it's upsetting and, in some cases, disgusting. But I believe in being open and honest, and while I may offend some people, I hope that I can help so many more.

I found out yesterday that I was completely unaware of how many Awareness Months there were.

You can imagine my surprise -- me, Joe Peacock, the most aware guy you know. I read over one thousand blogs, news sites, aggregation sites and other feeds (literally, over a thousand of them). I thought I was immune. I thought I had a very strong grasp on my awareness.

I was so wrong.

I mean, I knew about Breast Cancer Awareness Month being October, since every fucking thing in every fucking store is pink. Yogurt, soda, crackers... You can even buy pink wines with pink ribbons on them. Hell, every NFL team wears pink with their uniform, regardless of how little sense it makes:

And this campaign, as destructive and greedy as its founder has been, has actually been a fantastic success. There's no doubt whatsoever that women across the country are now more diligent about getting breast cancer screening and talking openly about this very serious disease. It has been, without a doubt, a great thing.

But then, I heard about Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And it's in October, too. Only, its color is purple.

It was a cacophony in my head.  How can I be aware of BOTH Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence in the same month? That's TWO things I have to be aware of in a month! That's a lot! And don't even get me started on how horrible pink and purple look together.

But then, I saw someone wearing a shirt yesterday that professed it to be Bullying Awareness Month. It  was very similar to this one:

It's not quite purple, and not quite pink. It's purpink. And it doesn't quite make sense to me. I went to junior high and high school. Trust me -- I'm aware of bullies. It's not news to me. I was bullied all the time as a kid, and when I was finally able to handle myself, I hunted down bullies and taught them lessons.

I think it's really great that discussions about bullying have entered the national dialog, finally. It was really upsetting to me that it wasn't more of a discussion after Columbine, which whether you like it or not was a direct response by two kids to the bullying they experienced daily, without recourse or recompense from faculty, staff and administrators. You know... The people who are supposed to protect them and create an environment where there are solutions to being tormented that don't involve shooting up the school.

But I wasn't aware until someone wearing a shirt around town made me aware that it's Bullying Awareness Month. And that's when I realized, it's not enough to be aware of things. You have to be aware of the Awareness Campaign attached to it, because how else will you know when it's time to wear shirts that call attention not to the issue, but to the fact that YOU are aware of (and involved with) it?

So, I took to Google, and I summarily had my mind blown. I found this list of Awareness Months. I couldn't believe it. It was a slap in the face; a wakeup call. There are SO many awareness months! For example:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Bullying Prevention Month
Book Month
Campaign for Healthier Babies Month 
CyberSecurity Awareness Month 
Dental Hygiene Awareness Month 
Domestic Violence Awareness Month 
Down Syndrome Awareness Month 
Filipino American History Month
Fire Prevention Month 
Italian-American Heritage Month
Adoption Awareness Month
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month 
Arts and Health Month
Diabetes Awareness Month
Epilepsy Awareness Month
Nonprofit Awareness Month 
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month 
Prematurity Awareness Month
Political Correctness Awareness Month 
Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month
AIDS Awareness Month 
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
Lupus Awareness Month
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
Rett Syndrome Awareness Month 
Selective Mutism Awareness Month 
Vegetarian Awareness Month

And that's only October.

There are 184 Awareness Month campaigns in that list, and that doesn't even come close to covering the local and statewide awareness campaigns I've seen just where I live. So now, I'm aware of how many Awareness Months there are.

Too fucking many, that's how many.

I didn't even read that list I pasted here, and that's just one month worth of awareness. I can't keep track. It's made me not give a shit. Which, I would think, is antithetical to the purpose of Awareness Months in the first place. Or maybe it's not. Not now, anyway. Maybe now the point isn't so much to make you aware of whatever condition, syndrome or situation it's supposedly the month to be aware of. Maybe now, it's about selling t-shirts and ribbons. Maybe it's about industry.

At first, wearing something like a pink ribbon you made yourself with tool or streamer or other ribbon you can get for a nickel at any craft store was a sign of solidarity and a clever means of getting people to ask about it, so you have the opportunity to discuss it with them and make them aware. But now, it's just "Look at me, I give a shit!" Or, worse, "Look at me, I have a connection to this cause and am using it for attention!"

In the case of bullying and equal rights, I don't understand why it's so important to people to wear shirts about tolerance and acceptance. Why not just, you know, be tolerant and accepting? Why is it so vital to your personal identity that you be seen as tolerant? Why do you care if I know you're tolerant?

Because it's not about your tolerance. It's about fashion. When how you're perceived is more important than how you act, your motives are no longer pure. So yay, you're tolerant and you're very dedicated to making sure how many people know you are. You win at tolerance. Let me know what the trophy looks like when you get it.

In the case of things like Autisim (which long time readers know that I think, in a vast number of cases, is mostly bullshit to begin with): I read your shirt and I see your ribbon. Now I am aware that you know about Autism. I already knew about Autism, so the ribbon and shirt didn't do much more in the way of educating me. But I know that YOU know about it. Maybe you have a kid that's been diagnosed with it. Maybe your nephew or niece has it. And now, I know that's the case.

What now? Do I go get vaccinated? Can I catch it? No? Then why did I need that information? If your kid has Autism, that's your fucking problem. But you're aware, and now I'm aware.

What now?

Well, not much. But there are plenty of shirts to buy if you're affected by Autism. Or Chron's Disease. Or Diabetes. And there's tons of indignance to heap upon anyone who dares to not care about your personal problem.

But I get that it's important to be Aware, and that's why I want to declare November as "Awareness Month" Awareness Month. It's vital that, in November, you be aware of how many Awareness Month campaigns there are, or else you don't care. You're a horrible fucking person. You should eat all your food off the floor because you're an animal who doesn't care about civility. Here's your goddamn ribbon:

Spread the word!


"Teach A Man To Fish..."

We all know the saying:

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

But what about when the man doesn't want to learn to fish?

First, yes, women can fish, but usually women are smart enough to know they need to learn something and just do it themselves. So for the sake of this argument, let's say it's a man. Let's also assume, of course, that you care about the man in question. You want this person to eat. You want them not to starve. And they aren't looking for you to give them fish all the time, but if you don't, you know fully well they're going to fuck themselves in the ass (not with the fish. That's gross, and in most states, illegal).

You can beg him to let you give him fish, but if you do that, you're stuck feeding a grown man for the rest of his life (because, of course, if you don't, he dies).

You can beg him to let you teach him. But of course, this is like begging a dog to let you teach it to 'heel'. They don't get why it's in their best interest. They don't understand that you're trying to get them to not run into traffic or run off and scare a stranger and end up being put down by the vet. They're stupid; after all, they don't want to learn a skill that will save, if not prolong, their life.

You can stealthily educate the guy on fishing. You can drop hints and leave literature around. But of course, if they're not interested, they're not going to tune in.

You can ask everyone he knows to convince him that it's in his best interest to learn fishing. He doesn't even have to learn from you... Just learn to fucking fish so he doesn't starve. This COULD work, but for the most part, people who are lazy and/or obstinate with you are lazy and/or obstinate, period.

So, you care about this hungry guy who, if he'd just let you help him with the knowledge you have, would do very well for himself. But for whatever reason -- he's lazy, stubborn, egotistical or just stupid -- it's not happening.

What do you do?

You realize that everyone, ultimately, is responsible for his or her own happiness. And while it is sad to watch someone you care about starve themselves because of a dogmatic refusal to do what's in their best interest, you can't make yourself responsible for it. Because you're not. And it sucks, because if you were, this person you care about would be much better off.

But you're not. Period.

So, if a man does not want to learn to fish, you have to decide how long you're going to sit around and be party to watching him starve himself.

As an aside, you might want to start paying attention to how many people around you are giving you advice about moving on from sitting around trying to teach this guy about fishing. They may be facing this same exact situation, but about you and your stubborn refusal to move on.

(Also, here are some other takes on that famous saying, some of them actually kinda funny)


The No-Bulls**t Guide To Losing Weight (And Keeping It Off)

Preface: A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is just starting out at the gym told me he read my Absolute Beginner's Guide To Working Out. He liked it, but noted that he read the guide over a year ago, but wasn't ready yet to join a gym -- which he thought was mandatory to losing weight. It's not, it's just a part of a strategy.
So this is the follow-up to that piece, four years in the making, for those who haven't yet gotten to the "join a gym" phase and simply need a kick in the ass to get healthy.
Note: If you're fit, or if you're genuinely happy with yourself, or if you're a zen master Buddhist monk, this isn't for you. You may read it if you wish, but I'll go ahead and tell you, most of it is just going to sound mean and terrible and harsh. That's because what you're about to read is a conversation that people who hate themselves have with themselves, only I'm here to moderate. If you're not... Well, get ready, because this is going to sting a bit.

Also, those looking for an easy to follow bullet point list can find it at the end of this article. If all you want is the bullet points, click here or scroll down until you see them. But I really do hope you'll read the whole thing, because, hey, I wrote it. No one writes a thing they don't want read. 

Let's just get it out of the way:

You're fat.

I don't say that to be mean. I say that because it's true. You've heard it for a long time now, and you've thought it to yourself, and you've somehow dismissed the notion or lied to yourself about being happy with who you are. So it's time for the gloves to come off. I can call you overweight, or weight-challenged, or any number of bullshit terms which equivocate to you being fat. So I'm coming at you hard and furious with the bare knuckles of truth. I wanted to just get it out of the way, right away, because you are fat. 

It doesn't feel good to hear. But let me warn you, a lot of what I'm about to talk about doesn't feel good. If you want something that feels good, head to Amazon.com and check the Self-Help section. There are literally thousands of people writing thousands of books, all of which soften concepts in the hopes of taking your money. This blog runs no advertising and costs nothing at all to read. I don't sell things to you, so I have nothing to lose by telling you the truth.

For most of you, hearing the words "you're fat" just lands on the surface of your ego and bounces off. You've heard it all your life, or at least for the portion of it leading to now where you've been unhealthy. But someday soon, you're going to have an experience which is going to hammer you so hard, you have no choice but to face the honest, real truth that you are going to die prematurely due to your lack of concern about your health, and every day until then, you're going to be miserable because of your body's condition.

There's been a movement the past few years that, frankly, saddens me. "Body Acceptance" and "Obesity Acceptance" is fine, because sure, we're not supposed to judge people by how they look. Except it's a lie. Of course we do. We're humans. We do that. To pretend we don't is bullshit.

But that's the thing -- the "Obesity Acceptance" movement attempts to define acceptance as changing everyone else's views of large people. "It's not MY problem I'm fat, it's YOUR problem you can't get over it... And it hurts my feelings when you don't, so stop thinking it and making me feel bad. It's society's fault that it's a problem I'm unhealthy." And so on.

It's also fundamentally flawed, in that it compares a completely controllable, self-created issue to things like race, gender and sexual preference... These things are not under anyone's control, nor are they indicators of a certain type of personality or behavior. But being overweight is. It's a strong dislike for yourself, because you don't care for yourself. And of course, because you don't care for yourself, you let yourself go, which makes you not like how you look, which makes you not care for yourself... It's a destructive downward spiral.

(Note: of course there are medical conditions which exist which make weight gain uncontrollable. If you have one of these, well, I can't do anything for you, and this isn't really about you. So please spare me that argument. I'll only say that I know people with Type 1 Diabetes who have found a way to participate in long distance endurance events, and people with Type 2 Diabetes who reversed their condition by finally taking care of themselves. If you're living off an IV, have no control over what you digest, and are overweight -- fine. If you've been stuffing donuts into your face because you "have a medical condition" so you can't lose weight, so why bother... You're not helpless, no matter how helpless you think you are).

Look: if you're unhealthy, overweight or obese, and you're genuinely happy with who you are when espouse all that bullshit bravado I've seen the past few years about "Body Acceptance" and "Obesity Acceptance" and whatnot: yay for you. You're a fucking liar, but yay. You've found your coping mechanism, and it's annoying people with your delusions that it's okay to loathe yourself and expect everyone else to turn a blind eye to that fact. You get to aggressively attack people for thinking you're fat.

Why don't I believe you? Because goes against the entire core of our existence as human beings. Buddhist monks spend lifetimes attempting to neutralize the ego and achieve nirvana. It's a rare feat indeed when they do, and those who do are usually quite old. And not many of them read blogs. So if you're reading this, I can safely assume you're not a zen master level Buddhist monk. Which means, in short, I think you're a liar.

And of course, If you're ACTUALLY that happy with yourself and you genuinely believe it, the last thing you care about is my opinion, so if I hear from your type, I know I'm right and you're just very well-versed in self-deception.

I know, because I was. This was me in 2002, the day before my wedding:

That shirt is a size 4XL. And you can still see the boobs and huge gut. I was 375lbs, 41% body fat. One day, I had a wake-up call. A family member of mine who is morbidly obese had a health-related situation. It shook me. Hard. It woke me up. It made me realize I was on the exact same path, and if I wasn't careful, I'd be putting my wife in the same situation.

More than that, it made me realize, it was MY fault I was overweight. I had control. I could change the path I was on.

As fat people, we are in a lot of pain, both physically and mentally. We make jokes, or we hide, or somehow otherwise gloss over the fact that we are unhappy with ourselves. We feel out of control. We feel helpless. We feel like we can't not be this person.

Here's the thing: none of that is true. At all. If you want to change, you can change. But you have to want it.

I won't lie: this particular change is going to be very, very hard. It will require willpower, determination, control and other things that, being overweight, we haven't been doing very much or very well. But if you look at the pain associated with the changes you're about to make as simply taking all the emotional and physical pain you feel as a fat person, piling it all up, and pushing through it and past it to get to the other side, things actually get a LOT easier.  Because that's what you're about to do: you're going to trade long-term emotional pain for a shorter-term physical test. And when you pass it, you'll be happier, live longer, and feel better.

And it's going to hurt... At first. Changing is hard on the mind and the spirit. But as I wrote yesterday, the actual steps to change are pretty simple:

1) Don't do the thing you want to stop doing.
2) Do something else. 
3) Repeat.

I promise you, after a little while, you'll actually start to like the pain. It sounds like bullshit now, but trust me -- there will come a time you actually like eating healthy. There will come a time where you look forward to exercise. Again, I've been there. You're not reading the advice of a stranger who makes money off self-help anything. This cost you nothing, and it comes from a guy whose only motivation is to bring some sort of light to dark places. Feel free to not do any of it.

But if you do, you'll want to thank me. And when you do, I'll remind you, you did ALL of the work yourself. So thank yourself. Because the results will belong to you, and no one -- not the people from your high school; not the disappointed parents; not anyone on this planet -- can ever take it or any of the time you spent achieving it away. Ever.

It's not going to happen overnight, either. The key here is to eventually incorporate a total lifestyle change via a system of small, deliberate changes over time, such that you make them your new habits. This isn't just another program like you see on Dr. Phil, Oprah, Dr. Oz or any of those shows that make their money on getting you to constantly and continually tune in for the next big thing.

Don't treat this like an obligation. You're not signing any contracts. You're not adhering to any rules. You're making a decision. You are deciding to live differently, because you want to be different. If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done.

Also, feel free to start slow. If you take every single step I post and start doing them all at once tomorrow, you may succeed... But my guess is that you will encounter fatigue and then discouragement long before you encounter success. So, part of this change is to acknowledge that it's gradual. You can start as heavy or as light as you wish, and my suggestions on how to break things out into phases are listed here, but you can do what you want. Just know that plunging headlong into anything completely different is going to be a shock, and like most shocks, you'll want it to end because it's too hard.

Lastly, being fit and losing weight doesn't mean "looking fit" or "being skinny" or any other socially-dictated measure of your personal fitness. It means losing weight and being fit, period. Don't get caught up in body image shit, and focus more on how you feel. The more fit you are, the more weight you lose, the better you're going to feel. And of course, this will project outward, not just because you're dropping size, but because you're building confidence -- and confidence is sexy.


How To Lose Weight And Keep It Off Forever

There's no fad program. There's no book to buy. There's no self-help tapes. When it comes to programs, fad diets and trendy methods of being healthy, I've tried everything. I did Atkins, I did South Beach, I did Paleo, I even tried going Vegan early on. I tried cleanses. I've tried it all. I know LOTS of people who have tried them all. We all have one thing in common: eventually the program grows tiresome, and the weight comes back.

You can't do sit-ups and burn belly fat. There's no such thing as localized fat loss. It doesn't work that way, unless you get liposuction. It's a lie. There's no ab machine, sit-up program, pill, cream or belt that will make you lose fat only on your belly, or your arms, or your thighs.

There is one -- only one -- program of systematic lifestyle change that has proven to not only take unhealthy weight off the human body, but keep it off for the rest of your life. Just one. Ever. In the history of ever. It's called diet and exercise.

"Diet" doesn't mean a diet program. It means learning how to eat correctly. Knowing how many calories you require in a day, and meeting those needs.

There is one commercial program that succeed with this. Believe it or not, Weight Watchers is actually very, very successful at teaching you how to eat and manage calories of various kinds. It combines learning how to assign "points" to your foods (which is little more than a scoring system for the calorie content) with assigning points for exercise to tell you how much you meet or exceed your daily caloric need.

It also puts in place two very vital things: rewards and accountability. You attend meetings with like-minded folks in the same situation as you -- they're unhealthy and want to be healthy. So, having that peer support group is a BIG help. Also, there's no punishment if you gain weight in a given week/month, but when you lose it, you earn accolades.

But Weight Watchers isn't required to change your life. No real program, including mine, is. Once you've decided you don't want to be fat anymore, you'll figure it out. I did.

So, after much ado, here's the list of how you will lose weight and keep it off.

1) Know that you deserve to be happy. The very first step. You deserve this. You deserve to feel good about yourself. Should you decide to incorporate exercise, you deserve the time you set aside to treat yourself well. You deserve it. You don't think so now, but you do. You must give yourself permission to change, and in order to do so, you need to realize, you deserve it. And let no one tell you otherwise. Tell yourself this. Seriously. Out loud. Look yourself in the eyes in the mirror and say "I deserve to be happy." You will feel silly. You will be embarrassed. And if you're like me, somewhere around the fifth time, the embarrassed smile will fade and you will begin crying. Because you feel like you don't deserve it, and it's a lie. It's not. And the person you should trust most in this world -- YOU -- just looked you in the eyes and told you so. You deserve to be happy. Know it.

2) Write down EVERYTHING that goes into your body. Every single thing. I use an app called Lose It! on my iPhone, and they have it on Android as well. Lose It! and others like it, like MyFitnessPal and MyPlate by Livestrong, make the process of tracking your food and exercise very easy. They also include social elements so that you and your friends can keep track of who is logging their meals and exercise, although if you're keeping this private, that's fine too. This one step changed my life forever. It made me aware of every single snack, dense dinner and so on. It made me think twice before I started shoving things into my mouth.

3) Don't drink your calories. No more sugary sodas. No more Kool-Aid. No more Frappuccinos (even skinny ones). If it's liquid, it should be calorie free. Diet sodas are better than sugary sodas, yes, but even they should be curtailed. You can still drink coffee (trust me, I drink plenty) and tea, if those are your vices. If you need caffeine delivery methods that aren't coffee and tea, you may be in trouble. Diet sodas aren't a very good substitute if your goal is weight loss. I cover this more in the suggestions area. But they're a damn sight better than drinks loaded with sugar. These are called Empty Calories. They contain energy that is unused, delivered via non-nutritional means.

4) Read the labels on EVERYTHING you eat. Know the calorie count. Know the fat, carbs, protein, and ingredients. This will help you when you're writing everything down, especially when you start working calorie-counting and ingredient awareness into your lifestyle change.

5) Cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup. I'm not going to hop on a political or Capitalism soapbox and tell you about the industry of HFCS. What I will tell you is that by avoiding HFCS, you avoid calories by default. HFCS is found in all kinds of places you'd never expect, like bread and peanut butter, so check the labels.

6) EAT. Do NOT starve yourself. Too few calories is just as harmful as too many. If you starve yourself, your body will shut down and begin storing ALL energy intake, putting more fat on you. Meanwhile, it'll begin devouring it's own muscle, which is a richer short-term nutrition solution. This is contrary to the goal. You should find your ideal caloric intake and stick as close to that as you can. Extremism is what gets you in trouble -- high OR low.

7) No more fast food. There are certainly "healthy" options at Wendy's and McDonalds and Chipotle, but the problem is, there's more unhealthy ones than healthy ones. And if you're like me, the temptations to occasionally dip into the dollar menu and get some fries is eventually going to get you. So don't be around it. The same goes with buffets, pizza joints and other super calorie-rich places. Cooking food yourself and preparing your own meals also has the benefit of letting you know exactly how many calories are in each dish / meal.

8) Drink more water. Water flushes your system of impurities, speeds digestion, helps promote weight loss due to all-day digestion and calorie burn, and overall is just a good idea. Start slowly. Incorporate an additional cup (8 oz) of water a day until you get to the point you're drinking half your body weight in water a day. I weigh 303lbs and I literally drink a gallon or more of water a day. Some of it is in the form of green tea and coffee. There are conflicting theories on whether or not brewed drinks count as "water" but until someone definitively proves it doesn't, I'll count it myself. Sodas definitely do NOT count, though. And if you get sick of plain water, add some sugar free Crystal Light flavor packets. There's tons of really great flavors, and they change things up a good bit.

9) Exercise. Yep, the biggie. It's the thing everyone dreads. But it's also the greatest key to becoming healthy. You can eventually join a gym, get into biking, or do all kinds of things, but to start, all you need is 20 minutes to yourself and a stretch of open road. Don't start with 10 minutes -- that's an easy way to begin thinking "eh, I'll get to it in a while." Figure out a time you can spend 20 minutes on making yourself better and stick to it. I also think you should do it every single day. I don't believe in rest days for walking. If you decide to start a gym program, I've written a very thorough guide for absolute beginners. To date, I've received over 300 emails from people who have read and followed that guide and have changed their lives for the better as a result.

10) Don't give up, short term or long term. Just because you had a heavy meal or treated yourself to something you're trying to cut down on doesn't mean you failed. The only failure is giving up on yourself. Taking a meal or a day or even a week off isn't failing, it's just delaying things. Just hop right back on the horse -- the sooner the better. Just because you had pizza at lunch, don't write your entire day off. Eat better for dinner. Eat better tomorrow. Don't use language like "skip the gym," instead say you "took today off." That will encourage you not to take another day off.

11) Do reward yourself. Eat some chili from time to time, but limit the sour cream, cheese and crackers to an accouterment, not a hearty portion. Eat a slice of pizza or two. Enjoy your vacations and all the delicious foods associated with them. Drink a beer or two. It's not going to undo all of your hard work... Unless you make it your lifestyle again. Just know two things: Missing one day of proper diet and exercise is the first step in missing two days, and missing two days is the next step to abandoning all that you've worked so hard for. So definitely indulge. Just keep a leash on it.

12) Persist. Never give up. The days you don't feel like going out and exercising are the days you usually have your best workouts, because you feel like you need to show yourself up. The days you feel like diving head-first into a chocolate cake because you had a hard day at work are the days you'll find far more rewarding if you work the stress out instead of eating your feelings. And if today was bad and you ate a whole one-pound bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, well, tomorrow don't do that. And keep not doing that. Again, it's not the end of the world if you slip. It's just a day you didn't participate in making your life better. Try to get back in the game as soon as you can.

Some further suggestions:

  • Find a peer group to take this on with. Even if it's one person. Support is vital. If you have no one, email me. I'll gladly give you encouragement... As long as you try. 
  • Seriously do the "look yourself in the mirror" thing. It works. 
  • Keep a journal -- not just of your calorie intake and exercise, but how you feel. You're not writing a novel. No one ever has to see it. Just write about your feelings each day, along with what you did that day. You'll be surprised to find that your worst habits usually have a pattern, and how you feel governs them. You'll also be surprised to see that your overall mood improves over time, pretty much permanently. It's great to go back and see the improvement. 
  • Join a gym. Scout them first. Go to one that makes you feel comfortable. There's many ranges of types. There's female-specific (Curves), family-oriented (Planet Fitness), muscle and athletic-oriented (LA Fitness, Golds Gym, Bally's) -- find the one nearest you that makes you feel good, not just the one nearest you. If you like going, you'll go. Simple, right?
  • Join a walking group / riding group / group class at the gym. Misery loves company, right? Being able to look over at some like-minded folk and know they're toughing it out along with you is a big help. 
  • Try new things related to fitness, but when it comes to diet, stick with the tried and the true. Don't fuck around with Paelo-this and Vegan-that. The body needs protein, carbs and fat, all three.
  • I've mentioned this method of keeping on various programs in the past, so here it is again, because it works: get a calendar and put a big red "X" on every day you eat right and exercise. Then, don't break the chain. After a few days, that block of X's is going to look pretty neat. Then, you'll find yourself not wanting to see gaps in the chain. It works for just about everything, ever. Don't break the chain. 

Also, know that you're not the only person to have done this. You know of at least one other person -- me -- and I am telling you it's great. But if you look it up, you'll see there's thousands, if not tens of thousands, of blogs people have written dedicated to changing their lives.

But you don't have to trust me. Try it yourself and see how you like the results. If you don't like it, you can always go back to eating chicken by the bucketfull and finishing it off with a carton of ice cream. No one's stopping you.

But if you do like feeling better, being happier with yourself, spending time on yourself and rewarding yourself with a whole new wardrobe and outlook on life -- Well now. Isn't it worth trying out to see? My greatly-diminshed gut says it will be.

By the way, I purposely didn't post my "now" picture in this article, because that's not the point. This isn't about me, it's about YOU. If you want to see what I look like, Google me or follow me on Facebook and Twitter -- there's TONS of pics of me that float through every day. You'll get sick of my smiling mug eventually.


The Secret To Change

"Change is like a diaper. The new one takes some work to get into and chafes at first, but at least you're not sitting in your old shit anymore."

I wrote that as a note to myself a few years ago. It's still relevant. In fact, it's one of the few that I actually kept and didn't toss.

I'm going to do you a favor. I'm going to save you tens of dollars in self-help book purchases and just give you the real, honest, no-shit secret to change:

1) Don't do the thing you want to stop doing.
2) Do something else. 
3) Repeat.

Yep. It's that simple.

This isn't being naive. This isn't being short-sighted. I know, because I've been through it. Multiple times. I've done the posturing. I've done the self-deception. I've done the "It's too hard..." crap. And then, one day, I just stop doing the thing that I don't want to do anymore, and instead, DO SOMETHING ELSE.

People don't like change. Patterns are easy. They're routine because they're routines. Wash, rinse, repeat. Disrupt the routine, and you glitch the system. Glitches suck. They shock. They cause discomfort.

If you want to stop smoking, you can start chewing nicotine gum, or get a prescription for Chantix, or buy any number of books or tapes or even software that will coach you in the process. To me, this is all bullshit. It's not something else, it's "something else." It's like that guy who's always telling you about the comic book he's perpetually working on, and today, he did a bunch of character roughs! But you've never seen a single panel. Or, the guy who is always "writing a book" who never shows you page one. Or, the girl who says she's going to quit smoking, who uses another delivery method for the drug that she gets in smoking until she finally realizes she might as well smoke.

You can do this bullshit.


You can do what my dad did and, one day, just don't smoke. And then continue to don't smoke.

I've never smoked, so I can't tell you I know how hard it is to quit smoking in particular. But I have, at one point in my life, been 375lbs due to overeating and being lazy, and I have faced several addictions. The funniest of them (and the one I don't mind talking about): video games. You might laugh at the idea of video game addiction, but it's real, and it sucks. "Who can get addicted to Mario?" Well, anyone who would rather play in a fantasy world than face their real world. Just like living in chat rooms online all day. Just like obsessively posting to Facebook and Twitter for validation via "likes" and retweets.  Just like overeating. Just like drinking. Just like everything.

Every addiction is a seeking of normalization and control over self that isn't present in day-to-day life. You feel helpless, so you find something to control. Living in this world sucks, so you go to the other world. It's escapism. Gambling, alcohol, heroin, food and yes, even video games.

Bad habits are the same thing. They may not be compulsions to a behavior -- they may be lack of another behavior. But the result is the same. One day, you decide you don't want these things to control you, so you control them. Even for a minute.

And there it is, the secret to change: decide what it is you don't want to be, and then one day, just decide you won't be that thing. Even if it's just for that one day. And then the next day, don't be it again. And again. And soon enough, a habit forms. And then, it becomes your new routine.

Yes, people will notice. Yes, people will complain. I know about smokers' circles. I know about the socialization that occurs during lunch hours at work spent at buffets and Taco Bells and whatnot. I know about gaming guilds. I know about happy hour at the bar.

I know how hard it is to not show up to those things and have people asking "Hey, where were you?" And then 'where were you' turns into "Hey, what gives?" And then 'hey, what gives' turns into "Traitor."

And then you're on your own. Thank God, because you're free.

My father loves to tell the story of when he quit smoking, because he loves punchlines to jokes. It's almost comical -- my entire life, I've watched this man build stories up around his experiences, just so he could deliver that zinger at the end. And his zinger at the end of the quitting smoking story is that he never really had a problem with quitting smoking -- the hard part was figuring out what to do with his empty hand! His entire routine up to that point was spent doing everything he did with his right hand, because his left hand always had a lit cigarette in it.

That's the problem, isn't it? Filling that empty hand... Filling that empty time... Filling that empty space. You must fill it, or else you're just leaving open vacuums from which no desire can escape. You snack while relaxing. Instead, chew gum. You drink with friends at the bar -- go to the gym instead. You hate your job and disappear in video games all night and on weekends. Write a book instead.

Join a cooking class. Make stuff. Draw. Run a mile around your neighborhood. Take up biking.

Or, keep being miserable, because it makes you "happy." And keep posting to Facebook and Twitter how much you wish whatever you hate about yourself and your life would change, and follow it up with "FML" or "But what can I do?" or other helpless bullshit.

And make no mistake: it IS bullshit. Because you're not helpless, you're just lazy. Everyone has the power to help themselves. You can help yourself by going to a meeting at the local Whatever Anonymous than the bar or the buffet or game store. You can help yourself by working out. You can help yourself by talking about your attempts at change with your friends and family. You can help yourself by removing yourself from ANYONE who doesn't support you in those attempts.

Or, you can help yourself to another drink, cigarette, ice cream bar, or 12 hour gaming binge. The choice is yours, and it's always -- ALWAYS -- a choice. And when you make the one that leads you to ultimate misery, and you complain on your social networks about it, and everyone else commiserates with you and shares your lament because they're miserable and misery loves company...

Know that at any time you want to, you can just step out of this Hokey Pokey circle and DO SOMETHING ELSE.


There's Probably No God.

The photo in this post is of a piece of graffiti I pass on my way to my studio every morning. Every time I see it, I chuckle. I love how undecided it is, while being so dogmatic. I find statements of religious ambiguity to be the most honest statements that can be made about the whole concept of higher powers. Because no one actually knows.

And so, as with most things that make me chuckle, I decided to share it. I posted it as my cover photo on Facebook, and for the most part, people liked and laughed.

But I got some email... Oh boy, did I get some email. And I think it's most telling that no one on Facebook got up in arms over it publicly -- probably because there tends to be a pile-on effect when people post contrary things on my statuses.

Of the 7 messages I got about being offended or angry about my posting a photo with a "stance on God", one email in particular really stung. It was from a very long time reader, who at one point lauded my "How to Actually Talk To Atheists (If You're Christian)" article. I won't share it here, because I just don't feel it's appropriate, but the gist is that she always thought I was tolerant of other faiths until she saw that photo, and she decided to never read me again.

That's her choice. And I respect that she has the right to make it. But I think that it's heavy handed, mostly because I didn't state there is no God, nor did I post a photo stating that.

The sentiment shared here is not that there isn't a God. The idea is that, in terms of odds based on current information, there probably isn't one. It's a theory based on the fact that there is not only a ton of evidence that points to the fact that a creator did not in fact create us, but that there isn't enough evidence to refute that concept.

You cannot prove there is a God, and meanwhile, many people can provide many fact and evidence based reasons why there isn't one.

It's the White Raven paradox, as explained by William Poundstone in Labyrinths of Reason (which, by the way, is one of my favorite books ever -- it's free on Google Books from the link I posted, and if you're even barely interested in logic, reason and paradoxes, you should tear through that book at lightning speed).

The general gist: Say that you believe that all ravens are black. Every black raven you see reinforces your statement. You've never seen any other color raven, so the more black ravens you see, the more valid your point.

Let's say that over the course of 30 years, you've seen a raven a day, every day. 10957 ravens have passed your field of vision, across as many days. And every single day for 30 years, you say to yourself, "Yep, another black raven. Every raven is black."

Then one day, on the 10958th day, you see a white raven. Boom -- 30 years of evidence is thrown out the window. The idea is that it doesn't matter how much evidence you pile up, one bad sample will invalidate the entire theory.

That's the statement on the wall. There's probably no God. Based on the evidence, it's 100% correct. There probably isn't.  Also based on the evidence, there's probably no way to travel at light speed. There's probably no cure for cancer. There's probably no way for a human to land on Mars. There's probably no white ravens.

And yet, there are white ravens:

Well, there's one "probably" blown out of the water. Just like the probability there wouldn't be a black President of the United States, there would be no way to carry the entire internet in your pocket, or the idea that there'd even be an internet in the first place. History is built on every new plateau where someone thought "probably" a thing that just happened couldn't happen.

That's what beliefs do to you when you allow them to cap off the vents of thought. They stagnate you. They stop you. I always go back to a quote I read on the inside of a Tool album cover: "Beliefs are dangerous. Beliefs allow the mind to stop functioning. A non-functioning mind is clinically dead. Believe in nothing…"

Except I don't. I can't believe in nothing. I'm not a robot. No one is. But I temper every belief I have with that sentiment, such that I remember always it's something I believe, not something I know. I believe my wife is at work right now and not cheating on me with a bread delivery guy. I have faith in our vows and her love for me, or else we wouldn't be married.  I believe I won't get into a car wreck every single time I get behind the wheel. I have faith in my abilities not only to pilot my own vehicle, but that everyone has at least a modicum of ability to pilot theirs, or else I wouldn't drive. I believe I will be mauled and eaten by tigers if I approach them, which is why I don't approach them.

Faith is the dotted line between two points of fact, where no fact exists. You base a connection to another point on the conclusions drawn from other factors. When that conclusion is drawn from logic, it's not so great a leap. But when it's drawn from emotion, it's a crapshoot whether or not it's even remotely right.

The idea that God will smite you if you don't go to church on Sunday is drawn from at least 100 other factors, most if not all of them based on ceremony and emotional delusion. First, you have to believe there is a God. Second, you have to believe this God created you. Third, you have to believe this God has within it the desire to subjugate its creations. Fourth, you have to believe in the concept that there is a Sunday mandated by this God, and not by the math derived by ancient civilizations who govern farming and hibernation seasons based on a pattern. And so on.

Look: if you even remotely understand math, you know that in terms of probability, there's probably no God. And it doesn't matter how much I, or you, or anyone believes there is one, there probably isn't. And yet, I still have my beliefs. And so do you. And so does everyone, regardless of how analytical their mind. Because there's no way to prove there is or isn't a God. But we work from the evidence we're given.

The difference between me (and, I presume, tons of others) and people who blindly state there is or isn't  a God: I acknowledge that my feeling there is a higher power and a higher consciousness is a BELIEF. I don't know there is a God just because I think there's something beyond the here and now. I just feel something greater than myself. And just because you feel something doesn't make it so. And I cannot say that there isn't a God, because to prove there is no God requires an amount of evidence humankind is incapable of gathering. But of all the data we have gathered throughout the whole of human civilization, every single religious phenomenon ever witnessed, written about or conceived has some basis in either science or deception (illusions, Michael!).

And every single raven I've ever seen personally is black. But in the big huge world outside my particular field of vision, there exists white ravens. Outside your field of vision exists possibilities you've never considered, because they "probably" don't exist.

Challenge your beliefs, always -- otherwise, how can you know why you believe them, much less if they're worth believing? Who the hell walks on a frozen lake without at least testing if the ice will hold their weight?

Idiots, that's who. Usually cold and shivering idiots, at that.


Me Write Again, Good

I decided this week to come back from hiatus from writing the blog. A lot of folks have asked if I was ending it, given the fact that I took a break shortly after writing this post, which is about walking away from things. The answer, as you can see now, is no.

I just have two severe afflictions which have contributed to my having a career in writing in the first place: not thinking about the juxtaposition of two separate actions (like, say, writing a blog post about walking away from something without saying that's what you're doing, and taking a break from it... Or, playing with matches during a drought and setting a Hooters on fire),  a lack of understanding (or, at least, concern) of the consequences.

I decided to work from home today, and just a bit ago, I ended the morning's work. My morning work includes doing anything related to scheduling, planning, logistics, spreadsheets, writing checks, paying bills or anything clerical. I find it best to finish those things early, because once my brain fully wakes up, all it wants to do is run free in a field of mental dandelions and marvel at the beauty of thoughts floating on the breeze and all that irresponsible horseshit which gets you evicted from your house because you didn't pay the mortgage.

And I thought, since today is a pretty day and I'm feeling a bit spunky, I'd get back to writing the blog. It'll be a good thing, and I can finally stop receiving emails asking why I'm not writing my blog anymore and how much it upsets some people (and, in two cases, thrilled them). Which, while those emails are very appreciated and sweet (except two of them, which were ignored because I don't have time for people who have nothing but time to write kneejerk bullshit all day), make me feel bad for disappointing people.

I decided it was a good time to watch a little Netflix while I write. I also thought that it'd be nice to not have to flip between windows on my laptop, so I flipped on the TV with the intent of streaming it through one of my several game consoles. Just as I hit the power button on the remote for the television, I heard a crash coming from the kitchen.

Shit. Oh well, I had to make coffee anyway, so at least dealing with whatever just collided with the ground wasn't out of my way.

With a sigh and a grumble, I plodded into the kitchen to survey the damage. It seemed that the cat, being a cat, got curious and hopped up on the kitchen island I used as a drawing desk last night. He was sniffing around and, again, being a cat, decided that the tray of Copic markers sitting near the edge would work better on the floor. So with all the polite courtesy he could muster in his fat front paw, he knocked it over. I did not need to be in the room to know this is how it happened; I know my cats. They're all assholes.

As I began picking up markers, I heard a... Noise. That's really the only word to describe it. It wasn't a crash like I'd heard when the markers hit the floor, or the gurgling of the Kuerig spitting out my coffee, or the birds chirping through the open windows... No. This was shrill. This was painful. This was excruciating. It was like a migraine in my ears.

Have you ever seen The Matrix? (If not, by the way, feel free to either remedy that or never, ever tell me you haven't, because you should have by now, what's wrong with you, have you been living under a rock, all that.) That face Neo makes the first time they plug the jack into his head and he enters the training program? The sound that occurs during that scene? It was like that... Only there was no training program with white walls and Morpheous to explain to me what just happened, nor was there a relief from the screeching and thumping in my head.

It was then that I realized that the television had been left on NBC from the night before, and since I didn't think to swap over to the console for Netflix, I had just set myself up to be accosted by the worst non-lethal weapon known to man: Kathy Lee and Hoda on the Today show.

My face twisted to look like Arnold Swarzenegger in Total Recall when he pulls the grip off the chair and stabs the guy in the neck. My brain melted out of my ears. I began to feel stupider.

My IQ dropped, like, REALLY fast, like when that Metroid girl gets in the lava and the health bars aren't red anymore cause they start going down, and there are alarms and stuff... And I can't clean up the mess from my kitty cause this is really bad for me, it hurting and I no like. Kathy Lee's voice hurt me in my ears and my ears lead to my head and my head hurt. Kathy Lee voice bad. Bad is bad. I want bad to stop.

I move slow. I try move fast, I not move fast. Head hurt too bad. I move foot... Foot move slow. Step in pile of goo that was brain dripping out ear. Not thinking anymore. Can't think without brain. Brain now goo. Move like roach... Instinct. Scramble to tv. Screaming. Stop screaming. Focus. Where power button? Button. There. Power. PUSH.

I collapsed.

Slowly, I regained consciousness. I couldn't feel my legs, arms, happiness, sadness, remorse... I couldn't tell if air was passing through my nostrils into my lungs or if I was just hearing the wheezing sound of a desperate man begging for the pain to stop. Slowly, I rolled over to my stomach, pushed myself up to my knees, shook the cobwebs from my head, and chased my cat away from rubbing his butt across my arms while I was trying to get up.

And that's what I decided to share with you today: If ever you work from home, and your cat knocks over some shit in your kitchen as you turn on the TV, before you go to investigate, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, make sure that it isn't left on NBC with Kathy Lee and Hoda. Because that shit is bad.

Bad, I tell you.