Weighty Matters

What do you think came first? The obsession with food or could it have been the obsession with weight loss? Both certainly are very real, as obsessions go, and not just some figment of my imagination. As I drive around my hometown, I never cease to be amazed at the number of fast-food franchises, popular local eateries, ice cream parlors, chocolate stores, fancier restaurants, pizza shops, sports bars and assorted burger joints, and little diners and delis. It boggles my mind how many such establishments there are everywhere. Similarly, the sheer volume of books and online materials available today on various topics related to weight loss is equally stunning. Apparently, there is still more information to share about food and weight loss because these books being authored by people from all walks of life continue to come forth like a seven course meal. Perhaps, I should join the throng and write one. Well, my endeavor into this crowded realm of writers might be considered a mere pamphlet. What could I possibly add to an enormous menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts? Honestly, without intending to appear sarcastic or condemning, my masterpiece could conceivably consist of a single page. In large print, I would declare STOP EATING JUNK FOOD. I might add EAT AT HOME MORE FREQUENTLY. I suppose I might dare to encourage others by suggesting that they BROWN-BAG IT TO WORK. But, these simple words of counsel most certainly offer nothing particularly new or illuminating on these fascinating topics. It is highly unlikely that they would garner any attention at all. Neither are they exceedingly enlightening or sufficiently glamorous to draw a large crowd and a bright show of flashing lights as would accompany a grand opening of a new restaurant.

So, you love to eat. No shocker there. Most people do. But, I suspect that you overindulge more than you’d care to admit. Therein lies just part of the problem. Is it difficult to recognize that you have an unhealthy affinity for food? No, of course, not. Many actually have a love-hate type of relationship with food. The very first question should be “why?”. Then, it would be appropriate to address the next inquiry. What course of action are you going to take to resolve the issue? I certainly do not need to answer the hypothetical I posed in the introduction. Clearly, an addiction is a serious matter. I am not asking “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” Left unresolved, the root cause of an eating addiction, will continue to feed upon your body and mind for many frustrating years. I believe that you can take back control of your life. Understanding the “Why” of what and how you eat is essential. It may require a little more soul searching than you are accustomed to doing. However, discovery in this department will lead to effective application of a proven plan in your near future. There are countless guides offered these days to assist you in the restoration process. Indeed, these plans promise more than just a glimpse of former glory. From every street corner, the word is declared that a system has been formulated to help you rediscover that which you have lost. That sounds great doesn’t it? But, which direction should you turn? To which voice should you lend an open ear? Is there one plan that stands alone and beckons to you?

My objective is not to list all of the available weight-loss programs and critique each one of them. That goal has been accomplished by many others. You can find opinions on everything from short and long term effectiveness of these pound dropping plans to the cost and taste of the meal replacement offerings provided by some companies. Please do your research if you are inclined to start a new approach to your daily intake of food. If I may, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts. I love the fact that a few of the programs offer support groups. Sure, ideally the most important support should come from a spouse, a sibling, your entire family, or a dear friend. However, everyone around you has not reached the point where you are now standing. You are prepared for change. Not some sugar-coated, temporary version of it that you have sought after in the past, but a full blown life-changing type of transformation. So, therefore, if encouragement and applause comes your way from a program’s “health coach” accept it. If your help takes shape in the form of online tools and resources, embrace them. This journey was not meant to be traveled alone. You will undoubtedly need assistance in the future no matter how confident you may feel in the beginning of this wonderful process. You will continue to need a helping hand even when you have reached your desired goal. Strength comes in numbers and in a common commitment to improved health. Your belief in your ability to succeed will grow by leaps and bounds when you have found that there are others cheering you on to victory.

Does there exist a singular program that offers everything you are looking for? Does one individual weight-loss plan contain 100% of revealed truths regarding the safest, healthiest, most effective methods related to your daily consumption of food? What are you really searching for? Worthy goals such as reaching your target weight, maintaining a lifetime of good eating habits, influencing others to strive to be their very best, these will be by-products of the positive mindset you must develop. As you do your research, there is surely a little bit of knowledge that can be gained from each program on the market today. Most contain some elements which are good and beneficial to you. Do not be afraid to bring all the knowledge you have obtained from your search for truth and the prior experiences you’ve had and join it with something new and exciting. The reality is actually quite simple. It is not just the “meal program” that matters. Primarily, it boils down to you! When you are ready, you will know it. The frustrations of the past were not entirely due to an incomplete or poorly devised approach by a company pushing their weight-loss ideas. Yes, of course, there are some plans that are destined to result in failure. They are not built upon a foundation of solid principles. Nevertheless, there is no need to point the finger of blame or curse the name of a specific plan you followed for a season. Let’s face it. You were not fully committed anyway. It wouldn’t have mattered much which program you were introduced to at that time. Truly, you would not have recognized its virtues nor its faults. When you are ready, you will be able to see things that you were blinded to in the past. When you are ready, trust and obedience to a program will feel natural, while fear and uncertainty will lose their weighty hold on you. When you are ready, you will not become completely unraveled when you make a poor choice, or as some like to say, “cheat”. You will forgive yourself, and keep pressing forward. When you are ready, you will be prepared to handle the pressure which you face every single day while at home, or at work, at parties, business lunches, company events, church activities, neighborhood festivities, clambakes, holidays, and that special occasion at a favorite restaurant. You are well acquainted with that pressure. Combine a time- tested, proven method with the accompanying support, and you will develop the discipline necessary to avoid these potential food traps. But, I repeat once more. You must be ready. Is this the time when you will give no heed to the temptation of particular foods all around you? This fact is undeniable. The temptations which have so easily beset you most of your life are not going to magically disappear. You must learn though your daily meal program to strengthen your will power to the point where they simply begin to lose their appeal altogether. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? You will have gained back that control over all your choices. Is this the time when you finally declare, “I believe!”? You have the power to determine your destiny.

It is estimated that Americans are spending a whopping $42 billion each year on a wide assortment of weight-loss foods, products, and related services. I hope that you are focused so that you no longer feel that you are continuing to waste both your precious time and your hard earned money. Regardless of the number of enticing promises made by these big name players in the weight-loss business, you will surely have to make only one promise. That will, of course, be to yourself. So, whether it be Weight Watchers, Medifast, Jenny Craig, NutriSystems, or any of the countless others you choose to start today. This time you will choose not to abandon ship when the stormy trials come calling. You will cling firmly to that which you have learned. I believe in you! Remember, this is about more than just losing weight. You are on this journey to become healthier, and happier, more hopeful of your future, and more helpful to others. There is no giving up. There is too much at stake.

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The Lie Always Speaks the Truth

So, you broke down and hired me as your caddie for a day. That was a wise move on your part. You just might experience the round of your life today. Apparently, you seem to think that you need everything including the proverbial kitchen sink in your golf bag. No problem, I’ll manage to lug around this monster. Let’s go find your first tee shot. So, my friend, I thought I saw your ball take one hop into the rough. You really hit a nice opening drive, but were the victim of a bit of misfortune. Don’t worry about it. That’s golf! Accept it and move on. So, now let me do my job. I know you are infatuated with your range finder, but how about we make a deal. I know this course like the back of my hand and I am very well acquainted with the state of your game. So, no goofy golf binoculars are necessary and I get to hand you clubs with no talk of numbers. Trust me. I am going to save you a handful of shots over the next few hours.

Our goal for this morning is simple. There are some crucial elements involved in decision making when pulling a club from your bag. I want you to better understand the most important factors which you need to consider in this process. The most common mistake you make is apparently a universal problem. I witness it every single day. You have become so addicted to your laser yardage finder that you’ve been incorrectly programmed to think of distance first when you locate your golf ball. I don’t need your gadget to tell me what club I am going to have you swing for your second shot. I can clearly identify your golf ball in the rough. I don’t need to pick the ball up and announce that it is yours and then attempt to place the ball in a better position. Does that sound like a familiar routine? This may sound a wee bit harsh, but nonetheless I must say it. If you cannot obey the most basic and fundamental rule of this wonderful sport, then perhaps you should consider bowling! No offense meant to bowlers, I assure you. Please don’t touch the ball. Please don’t move the ball every time you don’t like what you see. You will feel better about that decision in the long run. I hear people attempt to rationalize their frequent use of foot wedges by saying, “I’m just out here to have fun.” That’s ridiculous. Who among you doesn’t play because of the very fact that golf can be incredibly fun? Reap what you sow and it will be more rewarding and satisfying. But, I digress for a moment, though not without a reason. This is heavy stuff. The rough, that is. Yes, it can be just as penalizing as hazards and trees. The number one factor which you must ponder when you arrive at your ball is the lie of the golf ball itself. It influences the quality of clubhead/ball contact you’ll potentially be able to make. Therefore, it influences the distance and trajectory of the ball as well. Yes, this means that it may very well affect your score on the hole itself. But, we can deal with this situation.

I see you glancing to locate the 150 yard marker. Yes, the hole location is on the back right of the green. That’s all well and good, but it is completely unrealistic to think that you can hit your “normal” iron shot from this lie. The lie always tells the truth. You can’t stand the truth at times because it is painful. I am here to make it easy for you. You are going to use this more lofted iron and swing smoothly. I have complete confidence that you will make sufficient enough contact to get the ball just short of the putting surface. This will leave you with a pretty lengthy pitch shot since the green itself is deep from front to back. I know how far it is to the front edge, so just hit the ball. You can give yourself a great opportunity to save par from in front.

Wonderful recovery from the rough! It rolled out a little more than we could have expected. Now, you definitely have a chance to get the ball up and down. If you had not hit the more lofted club I gave you, the chances would not have favored you making crisp enough contact to extricate the ball from the deep stuff. Some refer to this as playing conservatively. Others simply call it smart golf. It is knowing when your lie is not going to allow for you to be aggressive. Thus, this element of managing your own game, should be foremost in your mind at all times. If you choose not to factor in the lie of the ball as you prepare to hit a golf shot, you may pay a much greater penalty. There is no telling where your ball may end up. The wrong club, along with the incorrect mental approach, can certainly lead to a horrific approach shot. If you get a bad break, do not compound it by making a poor choice. The more times you choose wisely during your round, the more frequently you’ll be standing over makeable putts for bogeys, pars, and birdies, instead of those big numbers.

Hey, the wind is picking up and I think it’s going to rain. What an ideal setting, now, to continue teaching you about how to best deal with the ball as it sits awaiting your glorious blow with these ill-fitted sticks I’m carrying. Somebody once said, “Swing it easy, when it’s breezy!” That is always great advice. The harder you swing, the greater potential exists for a higher than desired ball flight. Particularly playing into the face of the breeze, you are always better off keeping the trajectory down. You don’t have to put the ball back a bit in your stance. You need not cut your follow through short. Just take more club than you normally would and swing it easy. Yes, it really is that simple. When the ground is damp, use the same thought process. Solid contact is your goal, not prize winning humungous divots. With your golf ball nearly bathing on wet turf, take one or two extra clubs and focus solely on making the most perfect swing you can. You can become a great “mudder” if you understand the importance of the lie. So, remember never to discount Mother Nature when it comes time for club selection. Your range finder doesn’t gauge wind speed or direction, does it? No, I didn’t think so. Your little gadget won’t be able to inform you if you have a “flier lie” in the rough, will it? No, it can’t help you there, either, I’m afraid. Neither is it capable of helping you determine just what to do from a lie that isn’t exactly flat. Undoubtedly, your ball will at times come to rest in a sloped fairway, maybe even in a divot, or perhaps, find a precarious spot on a mound covered with some gnarly grass. Side hill lies, uphill, or downhill lies present a set of circumstances that require you to pause and ponder prior to pulling a club. As your caddie, I can definitely come to your rescue in situations such as these. Before you look up to see if those tree limbs present a potential problem, before you look up and throw a few blades of grass in the air to attempt to figure out the wind, before you look up ahead to check out the hole location on the green, always look down. Not, down into your golf bag. Rather, look down to check your lie, because it never lies. The great deceiver is both the yardage in your head and the number on your club. Look down first, then up. Then play the high percentage shot based on the numerous variables you consider in the selection equation. So, you’ve got a decent lie, but it is in the rough. The rain has subsided, however, it has left its mark. Your ball is just slightly on an up slope. You can still feel a gentle breeze. It appears too be a helping wind. You are faced with a downhill shot, over a water hazard which fronts the green. Right of the green is Out of Bounds. You’ve got 131 yards to the middle with a difficult front hole location on a putting surface that slopes severely from back to front. How are you going to play this golf shot if you programmed only to think of numbers?

I know you watch a little professional golf on television. Why do you think it is that the on-course commentators are always asked, “What does the lie look like?”. Very simply, their fellow broadcasters in the booth know that the lie determines everything. If it is so crucial to the best players in the world, it should be important to you. Your 100% full attention is required when your ball is on a tight lie, a bare patch, pine needles, intermediate length grass, thick rough, or in wet grass, whatever its length. Oh, by the way, great round today. You shot 79 for the first time in your life. There is no charge. It was a privilege to watch you play.

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More Change is Coming

More Change is Coming

I am sure that you have stumbled across an article or two (thousand!) in fitness magazines which proclaims to offer the best workout routine ever devised. I have a problem with any such declarations and so should you. The only truly successful workout program is a lifetime approach to exercise that is in a constant state of flux. Please do not misread my comment. Virtually any exercise plan can be productive, for a time. A plan for your fitness sessions is what you need. You have lacked some structure and consistency when you visit the gym. So, the appeal of an article promoting a controlled, manageable routine which produces incredible returns is understandable. But, I implore you not to become overly fixated with this new workout program. This exciting discovery from a popular periodical can be fruitful, for sure. However, as I have recently written, you need to mix things up in order to see the progress you really desire.

I highly recommend that you change up something about your routine every thirty days. No matter how much you are infatuated with your plan, no matter the effectiveness of your program, no matter how comfortable you’ve become with your routine, my recommendation is unchanging. Your required change does not necessarily mean a major overhaul is in store for you each month. There is certainly no need to feel as if you will be losing something by retooling your efforts. I promise that you will not miss a beat. In fact, after a few months of altering your approach, you will actually begin to have more fun! Of course, I would not be encouraging change if it does not bring with it improved results as well.

Consider the fact that you have been following this highly publicized workout to the letter. I literally mean that you have not deviated one iota from what was printed adjacent to those glossy photos of a physique you desire. Therein lies the format you were desperately searching for, but therein also lies the trap into which many like you fall. What would be so terribly wrong or difficult if you just decided, on a whim, that you were going to change up the order in which you performed the particular exercises prescribed for you? Well, you would catch no flack from me for trying that simple idea. Hey, it works! Don’t be afraid that this will disrupt the time-space continuum. You know a bit about human nature. You certainly know yourself. Break the chains that bind you to the monotony of the supposed “perfect workout blueprint”. As a creature of habit, you may be a tad reluctant at first to mess with something that has been so good for you. Nevertheless, you need to free yourself.

“May I take a month off from using free weights exclusively?” you ask. Absolutely! There are so many wonderful strength training machines which you have purposefully been ignoring each day at the gym. I am certain that you could easily locate the proper machines to closely mimic the very same movements you have been engaged in with your precious dumbbells. If you can’t find one, just ask me for assistance. So, another very simple concept to apply when mixing things up is to change the manner in which you perform your exercises. You realize that those machines are not just for beginning exercisers. The design of strength training machines has improved so much you’d be greatly mistaken to continue to bypass them. Resistance bands, a cable cross-over apparatus (preferably the v-shaped type that sits in a corner), assisted machines, smith machine racks, and body weight movements are more than acceptable alternatives as well. I can guarantee that you will experience the following feeling. When you lay off from performing a certain task in a specific way for thirty days, upon returning to it, that same old movement feels brand spanking new. When you change your routine, your muscles will be ever so grateful. You give them a break from the same old, same old, and you will begin to feel things happening to them in ways you never imagined.

“Does changing my grip constitute sufficient change?” Now you are thinking! Using a variety of different hand positions is a super way to incorporate the very type of simple change I am referring to. Try a narrow grip instead of your usual wide one. Experiment with an underhand approach to gripping to replace your typical overhand selection. Some exercises may seem more challenging while others may appear to be easier to perform. An adjustment in the amount of resistance utilized may be required to compensate for switching an attachment or your grip.

“Would changing the movement speed for each repetition satisfy your decree for something new?” Now, you must be reading my mind instead of that article. Though not often employed, this strategy is extremely effective. It is also very challenging. It might not be too much of a stretch to say that this concept will provide you with your most intense strength training sessions ever. If your lift and lower rate has been set at about two seconds up and two seconds down, try adding a full second count to each phase of the movement. If your muscles can handle it, attempt to double the time it takes you to complete one repetition. Wow! That will be your reaction when your muscles begin the shake. You will notice that you need to lower the amount of weight lifted as you decrease the speed. Don’t let your ego interfere. The numbers don’t mean much here! The effective weight is greater because your muscles are under sustained tension for a longer period of time. This is wonderful for their development. You will not need to maintain the same overall workload for each session. So, don’t worry about this dramatically extending your stay at the gym.

If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times. Learn more ways to do each of your favorite exercises. This allows you to implement the thirty day “change challenge” with complete confidence. Educating yourself is very important for you to endure your fitness journey. So, by all means, keep reading that fitness magazine or online article. But, before the month is over, start laying the groundwork for your new plan.

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