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Monday, November 24, 2014

My Secret Cranberry Relish Recipe


When I was growing up, no Thanksgiving meal was complete without cranberries. Unfortunately, it was canned cranberry sauce. And "sauce" isn't the right word. It was actually more like cranberry gelatin. Yuck. (If you like it, that's fine, you can have my share of it.)

This is real cranberry relish. Fast and easy, healthy and delicious. Give it a try!

Cranberry Relish
Serves 6-8
1 pound fresh cranberries, washed
1 apple, quartered and cored
1 navel orange, peeled
Sweetener, to balance tartness. Depending on the sweetness of the apple and orange, this may not be needed.

Place all ingredients in food processor. Process until evenly chunky. Chill and serve.


Nutritional data (per half-cup serving)0
Calories:        44
Fat:               0.1g
Sat fat:             0g
Chol:                0g
Sodium:     1.1mg
Carbs:         11.6g
Fiber:               3g
Protein:         0.4g

A variation is adding one jalapeno pepper for a nice southwest flavor.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Secret Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

(Photo to be added later.)

Poultry Stuffing
Makes 12 portions (approximately 4 ounces by weight, about 2/3 cup by volume)

This looks like a scary long recipe, but it is really very simple.

18 slices Healthy Life bread (or any preferred bread.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2-4 clove garlic, mashed and minced
Spices and herbs (rubbed sage, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, celery salt or anything similar.)
Chicken stock (approximately 2 cups) warmed, but not boiling

1. Preheat oven to 425F
2. Lay bread slices on counter. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
3. Sprinkle lightly with sage, onion, garlic, pepper and celery salt.
4. Lay on cookie sheets in oven, until beginning to brown and are dry (about 30 minutes).
5. When toasted, cut into small cubes. Set aside in a large bowl.
6. In a large non-stick skillet, heat over med-high.
7. Add olive oil. When hot (the oil should shimmer) add onion and celery.
8. Saute until the onion begins to turn translucent (2-4 minutes.)
9. Add garlic. Saute for 1 minute.
10. Add 1 teaspoon rubbed sage, 1/4 teaspoon each celery salt (or powder) and black pepper. Saute for 1 minute.
11. Pour onion-celery mixture over bread cubes.
12. Pour half the chicken stock, gently mixing. Add more stock as needed. Mixture should be evenly moistened, but not soupy. (If you add more stock, and it doesn’t get absorbed, that is too much. Pour it off.)
13. If you still need more liquid, you can use hot water, or any preferred liquid for added flavor: beer, wine, apple juice/cider.
14. Preheat to 350.
15. Put stuffing a 2 quart casserole, sprayed with cooking spray for easy clean up.
16. Bake uncovered until hot (30-45 minutes.)

Nutritional data:
Calories:       80
Fat:              2.4g
Sat fat:         0.3g
Chol:           0mg
Sodium:  109.mg
Carbs:        14.7g
Fiber:           3.4g
Protein:        3.3g

A few notes:
I use my own homemade chicken stock, which has no added salt. That accounts for the low sodium numbers in this recipe. You can use commercially prepared stock, but it will have more sodium. On the other hand, you can find fat free chicken stock, which will result in even lower calories per serving because mine isn’t fat free. (Everything is a trade-off.)

Use your favorite herbs and spices. Penzey’s Spices makes incredible mixes. Their Sunny Paris is excellent in this.

Instead of Healthy Life bread, use your favorite bread. Whole wheat makes a much more robust version (and needs more liquid). Cornbread is sweeter and more delicate.

Add hot peppers if you like a spicy version.

If you want a sweeter variation, add 2 chopped apples or pears to the onions and celery.

Mushrooms work well in this (I like fresh baby bellas.)

Add meats (bacon, chicken/turkey trimmings, sausage, burger, oysters/clams, chorizo, Andouille, bratwurst or anything) if you want. It will add calories, but also add more flavors.

I don’t like to stuff turkeys. It slows the cooking time on the birds, increasing the risk of dried breasts while you wait for everything to cook. That is why I make it in a casserole separately.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Are You Riding in Back, or Up Front?

Photo by Matthew Clark, via Unsplash.com

In the photo above, the person in the back is on a nice ride, but he has no control over where he is going. He doesn't even have an oar in his hands. He is passively along for the ride. If he ends up in a good spot, maybe a sunny bank along the lake, then he chose wisely. 

But if the front person is over-eager, and aggressively tries to paddle through the rapids of a river, the trip will probably end differently.

What does that have to do with weight loss, or any goal achievement? This idea builds on the concept of being your own person. Take charge. When you passively exist, you only receive what others decide for you. In the USA, we are soon going to have national, state and local elections. Vote! Take a stand. Choose a position. Make your choice. If you don't vote, and you don't like the election outcome, you are not in a position to complain.

If you are on a weight loss journey, you really can't do it passively. It takes action, determination and drive to lose weight. Oh, well, actually you can do it passively, in a fashion. If you are using prepackaged meals, that is a relatively passive method of weight loss. But the problem is that it doesn't let you learn how to eat healthy for the rest of your life. If you follow their plans, you will lose weight. Will it stay off? That is the real question. 

When you are in control of what you eat, you make decisions every day. Hopefully most days are good decisions, but even on those days where you choose unwisely, you are still learning about self-control.

In that picture above, what would be the result if the rider in back were to grab an oar? First he could help steer the canoe. He would be able to exert some influence upon the direction he moves. But he could also help propel the canoe faster, and reach their destination quicker. 

But no, he is simply riding. Passive. One could even say "useless." That is never a descriptor of anything good.


What about getting on a railroad? That is a choice you can make, too, and with that choice, you know the end destination. Depending in the railroad and ticket, you have a reasonable assurance that you will disembark where you are planning. No rapids for the engineer to steer through, and if the train derails, it will have nothing to do with your actions.

But once again, you have no control over how fast you arrive and actually, your potential destination choices are also limited. This is like choosing a very restrictive weight loss plan, strictly limiting certain foods. Might that work? Sure. But will it take you exactly where you want to go, in the comfort that you desire? Maybe not.

Clint Eastwood said "Fate pulls you in different directions." He's right. Some things that happen to us are out of our control.

That's why it is so important to take charge of all those parts of your life which are under your control.

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If you would like to listen to this blogpost, this was the basis for a recent podcast episode.
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Unsplash License:  "All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 5)

This is the final step of our journey of finding more self-control.

In the first four steps, we've covered how to use our dinner plates effectively for improved weight management and weight loss, and have gained self-control while grocery shopping, at the office, and in restaurants.

The last place can sometimes be the most difficult.

At home.

We are going to apply three of the previous lessons here.  

First, I want you to treat your dining area as if it is a restaurant. Plate your first serving in kitchen, and do not forget to use the “Half Plate Habit” that we learned in Part One. 

But additionally, here we are going to divide all the food in the kitchen, just like we do on our plate. After we serve ourselves, bring the veggies, lettuce salads, fruits and milk to the table. Leave the entrees and starches in the kitchen.

This reinforces three previous tricks: “Half Plate Habit”, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and the “Six Foot Rule.”

You will always eat what is easily obtained, so make sure the vegetables and fruit are always prominent. And this applies not just during a meal. Have a bowl of fruit out on the counter and hide the chips, cookies and crackers in the pantry (or get rid of them altogether.)



Make sure that everyone has water in a glass waiting for them on the dining table. Again, if it is already in front of them, it will more like be consumed.



Make the dining experience enjoyable, not rushed. Do what most of the nicer restaurants do to make people satisfied with the environment. Dim the lights a little to help people bring focus to the food. Soft music in the background is excellent. 

And turn the TV off. Television is a distraction and leads to mindless eating, instead of what we are trying to do here, which is mindful eating. And everyone stays at the table until everyone is done eating. Make dinner a social event something to be enjoyed rather than rushed through.

Those are the five “secret” tricks to gain control while eating, whether you are at home, in the restaurant, at work or anywhere. When you use these simple actions, you will begin experiencing controlled eating. You will start enjoying those Simple Small Successes. And that will give you the confidence to make other changes to your eating habits.

And you will enjoy life more than before.

By now, you may have already read the five secret tricks, but if you want to listen to me as I talk about them, here is the podcast episode http://makeyoursomedaytoday.com/5Tricks.

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Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. You can buy these books using the affiliate links within the show notes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 4)

Welcome back to this series of life-changing tips which are very simple to use!

To recap, we use going to use the “Half Plate Habit” everywhere, chew gum while shopping, and move temptations at the office out of sight.

But many of us eat one or more meals away from home and office. What about when we eat at a restaurant? How can you use the “Half Plate Habit” when you are not in charge of plating your food?

I will offer a few simple actions. Oh, I know, you already know the trick about having the server pack up half the entrée before they even bring it to the table. That will prevent you from eating the entire meal without thinking.

(Do you do that? I don’t. I should, but I don’t.)

And we probably should order all those “heart healthy” foods. You know, those foods with the little heart logo. But do we? Not usually. Sometimes those foods just don't look appetizing, or the portions seem too small, but for whatever reason, we ignore those options.

So what can we do? I have three simple suggestions.

  • One is seating location. Ask for a seat near a window or a well-lit location. When people sit in a booth, in the far corner, dark and isolated, people tend to order more and then eat more. Sitting near a window or on the outdoor patio, generally helps people make healthier choices. When you can be seen, you will usually do what you “should do.”

  • The second step is when you order a meal, remember to use the “Half Plate Habit”. Instead of a starchy side dish, ask for extra vegetable or a side salad. And when the server arrives, immediately ask for a glass of water with a lemon or cucumber slice, and ask him or her to not bring the dinner roll basket.

  • Lastly, you should try to limit alcohol consumption. Not only is alcohol empty calories, but one of the first effects of alcohol is to put our “decider brain” into a deep sleep. That is why we tend to eat when we drink. But if you are sitting near the window you probably will also not be sitting near the bar, so that decision will be easier. 

If you really want to throw caution to the winds, and bypass everything we've learned so far, order food while sitting at a dimly lit bar, during double-bubble happy hour, and with 2 televisions going.

But if you really want to do that, we will need to have a one-on-one session.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week's podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)

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I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 3)

If you just found this blog, I am giving five tricks (they really are not secret) for learning how to gain control over your eating habits.

On Monday, we learned a new method of portion control. It does not require weighing or measuring your food, nor do you need to record what you eat. It is called the "Half Plate Habit." Yesterday, we went grocery shopping and learned a simple (and tasty) tip for keeping your buying habits under control while at the grocery store or market.

What about at work? Oh, that is a major challenge, right? I know coworkers who always have a bowl of candies on their desk. In fact, I have a bowl of candy in my cubicle, too.

There are two saying that could apply here. One is “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But the saying which really applies is “Out of sight is out of mind.”

Did you notice the difference with my candy bowl? Mine is not on my desk. I keep it in a cabinet drawer, locked, behind my chair. I only use it when I know I am meeting with students, especially at the end of the semester. I unlock the candy, and place it out just before the students arrive, and when they leave, I immediately lock it back up.

The time it takes to unlock my cabinet is just enough for my “decider brain” to kick in and remind me that I really do not want nor need that candy. Another option is to put the candy in a covered bowl (ideally not a clear bowl) and moving it a mere six feet away. Just six feet! Those few steps are enough to get your “decider brain” active and in control. Candy in sight and within reach is candy that will be eaten.

Something else to do at work is to lock you purse or wallet in another drawer. That will prevent the random wander past the vending machines or cafeteria. The other tip for the work place is to bring your own food from home. When you pack your food, you are in control of everything. You know exactly what you packed, and how much you have. (Remember, you will still use the “Half Plate Habit” even when packing your food.)


Don’t sit at your desk and eat. Go to the cafeteria or go outside and eat while enjoying the sun. But don’t bring your money with you, so that will eliminate the temptation of buying some food there. Enjoy your time away from your desk. Enjoy your food. Recharge your mind away from your desk.


And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week's podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)

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I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about a new approach to weight management. Specifically, I gave you the idea of  the "Half Plate Habit."

Using the Half Plate Habit whenever you eat from a plate will help you regain control over your eating. It is an easy method of teaching self-control, and costs nothing to implement. That's right. A free new method to assist weight management and possibly weight loss.

While the Half Plate Habit can be used anywhere, the next suggestion is location-specific. Another place where you encounter food is at the grocery store. We all know that shopping on an empty stomach is a bad idea (but we still do it all the time). 

However, studies show that it is not that we are hungry when we shop, but rather that our good memory and imagination kicks in to tempt us. We walk past broccoli, cabbage and onions with no imagination input, but walk past the delicatessen, the aisle full of potato chips or the bakery with its fresh doughnuts, and we start remembering how good those donuts taste, we remember the sound of crunching those chips, and we revel in the memory of the last time we ate those warm onion rings (at the last football game, right?)

(Side note: as I sit here and write this section, my stomach is growling and my salivary glands are working overtime. And I do not have anything in front of me other than my laptop. It is all my imagination and memory creating this physiological response, just as if I were standing in front of an endless sea of sweets.)

How can we short-circuit our imagination and memory? We are going to give it something else to focus on:

Gum

It could be Bubbliscious, Juicy Fruit, or Bazooka Joe, but when we chew gum while shopping, it is more difficult to imagine the taste of those onion ring and sweet rolls. Please give this a try. This is the only suggestion that will cost you any money, and the price of gum will probably be offset by the savings when you don’t buy that bag of Cheetos.


That's it for today's tip. Tomorrow will be a suggestion for simple changes on the job.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week's podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)

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Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books, were the source of these suggestions.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 1)

Let’s start with the beginning. 

Most people are overweight in the US. Recent studies show more than 60% of people 12 and older are overweight, and about half are clinically obese. It’s not getting better over time, it is getting worse.

But everyone already knows that, or if you don’t know that, I’m not sure where you are living. The US is big.

That was the origin of my blog and podcast. I wanted to help people reach their goals—all goals—including weight management. And my constant refrain is “calorie counting and move more than you used to.”

I still believe that to be the foundation of any successful weight management program. I use LoseIt to easily count my calories and my Fitbit to keep reminding me to walk more.

But, that is not enough. Or rather, maybe that is too much, at least in the beginning. Learning to eat the correct number of calories, and then log them all, and then create a new habit of walking more are three very large goals. They are worthy goals, but it is possible they are too large, too aggressive, and too monumental to talk all at once.

I am working with a weight loss client. Let’s call him “John”. We connect about three times a week with email, video mail and Skype calls. Last weekend we were talking about his strategy, and a phrase came to me. I told him that while his goal is large, we are going to focus on "Simple Small Successes". Small goals that can build on each other, creating a succession of successful actions. We are going to set John up for success, because each goal has a very simple threshold. Success breeds success. As we move further into his program, the goals will continue to be simple, but eventually they will result in very large changes to his eating and living habits.

I started to think about how I can help more people. I’d love to be able to meet with all of my readers and listeners as I do with John (and it is possible for some) but until I am able to become a fulltime consultant and coach, I will give your advice here.

There are five areas that affect our eating habits, five locations that we can make very small changes to help you make better choices.

You will not need to buy different food, cook differently, or eat at different restaurants. You will not count calories, do special exercises, and go to meetings. In fact, there is only one thing you will need to purchase, and it will cost you only some spare change! But we will get to that in a bit.

But before I give you my ideas, I want to give full credit to Dr. Brian Wansinck. He is the author of two books about the habit of eating. “Mindless Eating” is an excellent discussion of our bad habits while eating. And we all have them. His newest book, “Slim By Design” takes his first book and adds many actions that will help the reader change their life. So to be clear, none of these ideas are mine. I am using his ideas. My words. His ideas.

We encounter food in four general places: home, the grocery store, the work place and restaurants. I am going to give you specific steps for each of those places. Remember, I am focusing on Simple Small Successes and each one of these ideas are free, simple and effective.

What are they?

Let’s start with the first idea, which can and should be used anywhere. Let’s consider the plate you use to eat.

How much of eat group are you supposed to eat? And what size plate?

The USDA has a complicated definition of how much of eat type of food to eat. And if you want to follow that, you will eat very healthy. But it is not simple, and remember this is all about “Small Simple Successes”.

This is what MyPlate looks like on my actual plate.

So instead of the USDA plate with its four categories, I suggest an easier approach. It is simply eating with a “Half Plate Habit.” Take your plate—any plate—and visually divide it in half. That is easy enough, right?

Then—here comes the easiest part—when you eat, fill one half with fruits, vegetables and green leafy salads. Tuna pasta salad and potato salad do not count here. But all the steamed, roasted, grilled and raw veggies you like, your favorite fruits, and a nice salad with fresh greens, that will be how you fill half your plate.
Easy enough?

The other half? Anything you want.

Seriously.

Anything you want, but with two rules: the food cannot extend over the edge, and you cannot pile food on top of other food. But otherwise, pizza, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, BBQ ribs, quinoa salad can all go on this half. This is where the tuna pasta salad and potato salad will go, along with the onion rings, French fries, and brownies.

Wait a minute! Do I really think this will help you gain control over eating? It sounds like I am suggesting that pigging out is the answer to being overweight.

Yes. It will help. Think about it. First off, you only have half a plate to fill with the “pig out” food, and I limit it to not extending over the edges, and not piled high. So the reality is you will not get a lot on that plate. But the other half is full of the really good food, the healthy food. The fruits have sugars, which will satisfy your sweet tooth (and we all have one) while the veggies and their fiber help fill our stomach with bulk but not many calories.

But the real magic happens when you decide you want that extra piece of pizza. When you get up to go get it, you then remember that you will also need to eat a half plate of fruit and veggies, too. Many times, you will decide that maybe you really do not want that pizza that badly, and you will stop eating, and very likely eat much less than you normally would have eaten.

What happens if you cheat and take the pizza but not the fruit and veggies? Well, yes it is cheating, but the only person who loses is you. This “Half Plate Habit” will only work if you really want it to work. It will be the most difficult of my five suggestions, but it is the most important, because you will be able to use this everywhere: at home, at a family gathering, at an all you can eat buffet, and at work.

This one habit will be the first habit to propel you to success.

That is my first "secret" trick to gain control over your eating habits. This trick can be--should be--used everywhere you eat.

Tomorrow we will go to a specific place of food, and give you a simple and extremelt inexpensive trick to help you maintain control.

If you do not want to wait for the next blog post to reveal and explain the next tip for control, you can listen to my podcast http://makeyoursomedaytoday.com/5Tricks and hear all of them.

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Note: the links to LoseIt and Fitbit are my affiliate links. That means if you click on those and buy one (or all) I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast Make Your Someday Today. That is the only firm of payment I have here, or in the podcast. I tell you about tools that worked for, and if you belief they can help you, your purchase keeps my work going. And for that, I thank you!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Do You Want to Eat Healthier, Gain Control and Maybe Even Lose Weight?

Such a simple thing: a bowl of fresh fruit

This bowl of fruit will help you eat healthier by making better choices. It will help you gain control over your eating habits and your life. And it will help you better manage your weight. It may help you lose weight.

It may help increase your happiness.

It sounds like it is magic, bit its not. But it is a sneaky trick.  Our brains our powerful and sometimes work against our best interests.

Next week, I will post a 5 part series here, beginning on Monday, October 27, 2014, giving you secret "tricks" that you can do anywhere: at home, the office, in a restaurant, in the grocery store.

These tricks are simple. And effective when used. And they cost almost nothing. Well, one trick will cost you about 50 cents a month. Maybe less.

But take note. With these five small changes, you will not be asked to:

  • Buy different food
  • Cook differently
  • Eat at strange restaurant
  • Stop eating at restaurants
  • Count calories (Yes. That's right I said "NOT count calories!!!!")
  • Weight and measure your food
  • Perform exhausting exercises
  • Attend meetings
  • Buy special "fat burning, metabolism-revving, appetite suppressing" pills
So what are the five secret tricks?

I'll post them next week, one a day, beginning on Monday.

Yes. I know. This is an unsufferable tease. Do you really want to know what they are sooner? If so, you can listen to my podcast where I release all the goodies. 


Wow. Such a mean way to oncourage more people to listen to my podcast. (Guilty as charged.)

And after you listen, go to the homepage (http://MakeYourSomedayToday.com) and click on the yellowish button that reads "Varsity Squad" and join the group of team mates who get the earliest scoop on new information.

Get ready for five simple changes that will change your life.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where Do You Want to Go?

Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be?

Photo by David Marcu, via Unsplash.com

I don't know your answer to those questions. Maybe you don't either. But your options are nearly unlimited. Or rather, they are only limited by one thing: you.

What do you want?

The first step in anything is having a plan. Choose something as your goal. Weight loss. New career. Launch a podcast. Walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Anything. Find a goal, something that you are passionate over, and make a specific goal statement. Picture what success looks like. Write your goal--on paper--and attach it somewhere you will see it frequently. Be as specific as specific as possible. Set a deadline, for all goals except weight loss. Our bodies are frequent obstinant about losing weight. Focus on the end weight, not a due date, and you will have less frustration.

The next step is take action which moves you toward the goal. Right now. Don't wait. Tomorrow will not be any better than today. Just act. Will it be the right action? I don't know. Neither do you, until you try. If you want to lose weight, maybe that means downloading a calorie-counting app (like LoseIt, which I use.) Start using it. If you find success, great! If after a few weeks of consistent use, you find it unhelpful, try something else. Nothing will happen until you do something!

You may decide to get more active. I wear my Fitbit to help keep me moving. But you need to 1) wear it, and 2) keep moving to get any benefit!

I have a friend who stated in November 2013 that he would launch his podcast in one year. To date, he still is chasing ideas for his podcast. As he puts it, "When you chase two rabbits, you don't catch any." Now, that isn't a terrible thing, but until he know what he really wants, he will continue to chase those rabbits.

Deepak Chopra put it nicely when he said "No solution can ever be found by running in three different directions.”

Do you want a new career? What do you love doing? That isn't necessarily what you enjoy as a hobby, but what makes you feel completed? I homebrew beer. For a few years, I actively considered creating my own brewpub (brewery and restaurant) because I make really good beer, I am a good chef, and I love servin people my food and beer. But the more I looked at it, the more I realized that while I love brewing and cooking for myself, my family and my friends, doing it every day, on a demanding schedule would not make me happy. Look into classes at your local community college. Maybe you can test your resolve by taking a class in accounting (if you want to become an accountant) or welding (if that is your plan.)

Side note: here in Northeastern Wisconsin, we can't seem to find enough skilled welders. The college that I teach offers welding programs that are always filled. A good job, if you like that type of work, might be waiting for you in Wisconsin.

Do you want to start a podcast, blog or write a book? Well, guess what? Those don't magically appear. They all involve writing and a significant committment of time and energy. And they all take consistent effort. That is similar to students who buy a textbook but rarely--or never--open it, and then wonder why their test scores are low.

Find a resource, sit down and take action. To learn how to podcast, go to Meron Bareket's Podcast Starter Kit. Starting a blog is easy when you follow Leslie Samuel's "Become a Blogger" plan. Jeff Goins is an awesome author and his blog "Goins, Writer" helps new authors get their start.

So, you have a plan and you took your first steps. Are you having any success? You need to always evaluate your progress. Maybe not daily, but weekly or monthly is a good timeline for assessment. Sit down at the same time each week, and look at your metrics. How many pounds did you lose? How many days did you eat within your budget? How many words per day did you write, or how many interviews did you record and edit? Is that answer what you need to reach your goal? If yes, stick with it. If not, consider small changes to maximize your chances of success. Maybe find a mentor, face to face or vitual to help provide accountability. That is what I do for my weight management clients.

When should you do this?

Right now. What will be accomplished by waiting? Even if you say that you need to wait until tomorrow for that flight to Tibet, you can still take action today to prepare for it. Act now. It is the only time that you now you will have.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

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Note: the links to LoseIt, Fitbit and the Podcast Starter Kit are my affiliate links. (Other links are simply excellent resources.) That means if you click on those and buy one (or all) I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast Make Your Someday Today. That is the only firm of payment I have here, or in the podcast. I tell you about tools that worked for, and if you belief they can help you, your purchase keeps my work going. And for that, I thank you!

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Find Your Own Voice!


You can go your own way and be your own person. Or you can be one of the sheep. The choice is always yours.

Don't get me wrong, I love sheep. Seeing a large flock of walking puffs of clouds over a rolling green hill is relaxing. They are cute (well, at the petting zoo for my kids, they were cute.) They make wool. I love a nice wool suit. And delicious meat (roast leg of lamb is incredible.) And they produces milk for cheese. They are...well, they are animals that graze and exist until we need some part of them.

They are a commodity. An object used to create something else for sale. And just about any single sheep can be replaced with any other sheep. They may have different personalities, but they are interchangable in their role within the drove.

That is a lot like people, in a way. People like to think they are irreplaceable in the job. But they aren't (and deep down, I think we all know it.) We are needed only because we can push the right button, or throw a football nicely, or sing a song beautifully, but in reality, many people can push that same button, throw a football, and sing that same song. In the workforce, people are commodities.

We are all just a very large, very fast-moving flock of people. Everything we do is a blur. Everything runs together, like a watercolor painting left out in the rain. We are all interchangeable. Oh, it may take some retraining to pull one person out and put a new person in their place, but that is the same as when you introduce a new sheep to the pasture. There are 7 billion people on the planet.


Or maybe there is just one person, but with seven billion different faces.

This is not what I normally write about, is it? Sort of grim. But wait, this is only half the story.

See, as a nurse, I am replaceable. Just about any nurse can be taught the skills needed on the job. As an instructor at my local community college, I am a little less replaceable, but only because there are less nurses with the right education credentials. But those can be earned.

So where am I going with this?

There is one way I am irreplaceable. Only one position that only I can fill. One area where I am not a commodity.

As a person, I am the only ME there is. So I need to make the most of it. While many people can do what I do, I am the only person who does it exactly I as do it. I am the only person with exactly my background and history. In all of the world, there is likely only one nurse who is:
  • male
  • weight loss coach
  • bartender (6 places)
  • chef (2 places)
  • a television guest chef
  • fast food restaurant manager
  • security guard, 
  • courier
  • dairy bottling plant shipping manager
  • direct salesman (4 companies)
  • telemarketer
  • carpet cleaner
  • grocery store clerk
  • car wash attendant 
  • day care custodian/substitute teacher
  • home brewer
  • certified beer judge
  • who is also a podcaster, blogger, and YouTuber.
I think I can say I AM unique.

That is what makes me separate from the herd. I am a herd of one (to borrow from a US Army slogan.) I use all those experiences to make me a better person at everything.

That does not mean I am an expert at everything. Heck, I'm not an expert at anything. I am gaining new skills every day. I will admit to making mistakes repeatedly, although I try to not make the same mistake twice.

This realization did not happen overnight. I'm 51 years old and it's only been in the past couple years that I have started to believe this. As an instructor at the college, it took more than five years to find my voice. There is working "outside your comfort zone" and "learning the lay of the land." I started teaching in January 2009, and it was not until this semester that I finally decided to remove parts of my mask and show the real me. Just yesterday, a colleague commented on how much more engaged I am, and my only response was I finally feel as though my real voice is taken as valid.

But the point is that I am finally being myself!

Stepping out, seizing your own space, using your own voice, those are all methods of being your own authentic self. And all of those can be intimidating. But until you take those steps, you are just another blurred face in the crowd.

If you don't use your own voice, if you don't act the way you truly feel, you are not loyal to yourself. You will change as the powers around you change. You will be a flag in a hurricane, whipping violently in one direction until the hurricane passes and then you will whip violently in the opposite direction.

In doing so, you lose yourself.

“If a man is not faithful to his own individuality, he cannot be loyal to anything.”
Claude McKay, Jamaican-American writer and poet (1889 – 1948)

I'll leave you with a few questions. Please feel free to answer them in the comments.

Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you want?

What do you bring that no one else can? Do you use it, every day?

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In researching this essay, I knew that a collection of sheep was a "herd", but was not sure about any other terms. According to the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center a collection of sheep can be called a "flock, herd or drove." I knew that elephants were a herd. Do you know the name for a group of apes? Badgers? Martens? Eagles? Starlings? Toads? Trout? Jellyfish?

(That is the sort of thing that interests us nurses who are guys that have experienced that list of careers above.)
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Unsplash License:  "All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches on Rye


Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches on Rye
Serves 4

4 pork cutlets, 3-4 ounce each
1/8 c flour
Seasoning (I used Penzey's Bavarian Style Seasoning)
1 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon cooking oil (corn, canola or safflower)
  1. Cover a large plate with parchment paper.
  2. Coat cutlets in flour.
  3. Dip in egg wash.
  4. Press in panko crumbs, pushing firmly to help it adhere.
  5. Place cutlets on the parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (This helps the breading bond to the meat.)
  6. Preheat non-stick skillet. Add oil.
  7. Fry each cutlet until brown and crispy (3 minutes per side.)
  8. Serve on rye bread with sliced red onion, lettuce and brown mustard.
Nutritional data:
Calories:           313
Fat:                    9.9g
Sat fat:               1.7g
Chol:            89.5mg
Sodium:     560.2mg
Carbs:             35.6g
Fiber:                4.7g
Protein:           24.3g

I served this sandwich with my homemade low-sodium pickles.

And since it is October, and this was a German dish, I needed a nice beer from my friend Brad at Stillmank Brewing to go with it.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Achieve Success on Your First Attempt!

“Character consists of what you do on your third and fourth tries.” James Michener, US author



How many people reading this have tried to lose weight just one time and achieved permanent success?

Has anyone ever grabbed their skateboard and landed a 360 kickflip on their first try?

How many people started a blog, podcast or any online business and immediately became a success?

Anyone?

I didn’t think so. Weight loss,  skateboarding, blogging, and podcasting, like almost everything in life, is not smooth, easy, and predictable. It requires the ability to try and try again, repeating it over and over if needed. What do you think about the person who attempts something difficult and quits the first time they encounter an obstacle? Maybe you mentally label them a “quitter.” Maybe you look on them with scorn and tell yourself that you would be stronger than that. Maybe you feel pity for them, because you are sympathetic to their plight.

But does anyone look at that person with increased caring and concern? Probably not. But here is the kicker. No matter how other people look at the person, no matter what label we apply, that is nothing compared to what he/she feels of themselves. It is utter failure. Again. It is further proof that we are not good enough, that we don’t deserve success.

And that is what tarnishes the character of the person. Their self-doubts, their assumption of inevitable loss, their inability to stop looking backwards at previous attempts, all play a role in future failures. I know. This is not my first attempt at weight loss. I felt all those feelings. I understand the feelings of defeat and despair.

But this is my first successful attempt at weight loss. (I won't claim success in launching my podcast quite yet.) I don’t know how to put into words what was different this time. I think I finally reached my breaking point. I think I started looking at things with a sense of realistic dread of what my path was leading to. I didn’t want to be the patient in the ER who required four people to move in bed. I didn’t want to have a heart attack or stroke. I was developing uncontrolled high blood pressure, so high that the Red Cross continually deferred me from donating blood.

Some people would call it an epiphany. I just call it life changing. I decided that I didn’t care how many times I had failed to reach my goals; I was not going to stop this time. I would not let anything deter me. My goal was my priority. It helped me make difficult decisions, and it kept my focus laser-sharp. Honestly, I was scared. I was fat and scared.

I don’t know if I would have been as successful losing weight without LoseIt and Fitbit. Maybe I would have, but I’m glad I don’t need to find out. I am almost 18 months at or below goal weight. I will not go back. It isn’t even an option. My entire being is now focused on the idea of staying where I am, staying healthy, and enjoying life. With that attitude, choosing to not get an ice cream cone is easier. (Not “easy”, just “easier.”) It also helps that I still use LoseIt and Fitbit, and will forever (or until LoseIt goes away.)

And I must thank my friend Meron Bareket and his Podcast Starter Kit because that is how I was able to launch my podcast. Meron didn't promise success. No one can promise you success in anything. But Meron, and I, give the tools that are needed to work toward goals. You still need to add the magic ingredients: determination, drive, and the right effort.

My character used to be defined by my failures, by my willingness to quit when it got challenging. Now it is defined by my successes. Everyone here has those same choices to make. You can decide to take the easy way out, stop measuring your food, or log only occasionally, or drive when you could walk. You can choose to have a “cheat day” (which then can become “cheat days”) or you can decide this isn’t fast enough and find something else. Or you can decide that your health and well-being are more important than that extra donut at the office, and that happiness with yourself is worth more than sitting on your butt and watching TV.

Our actions and choices create our character. How do you want to define your character?

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Note: the links to LoseIt, Fitbit and the Podcast Starter Kit are my affiliate links. That means if you click on those and buy one (or all) I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast Make Your Someday Today. That is the only firm of payment I have here, or in the podcast. I tell you about tools that worked for, and if you belief they can help you, your purchase keeps my work going. And for that, I thank you!


Note: the links to LoseIt, Fitbit and the Podcast Starter Kit are my affiliate links. That means if you click on those and buy one (or all) I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast Make Your Someday Today. That is the only firm of payment I have here, or in the podcast. I tell you about tools that worked for, and if you belief they can help you, your purchase keeps my work going. And for that, I thank you!

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com and Victor Erixon.


Unsplash License:  "All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two Side Dishes


Sweet Potato Fries and Three Bean Salad
These recipes feel a little like cheating. They are so easy that I almost think I should not include them here, but I don't want people to overlook these.

Sweet Potato Fries

I bought a small electric fryer (This is not exactly the model I found at my local Aldi, but it is very similar and for a similar price.) It is just large enough to make one potato's worth of fries. (Or as my friends from Great Britain would say, "chips".)

Peel the sweet potato (and of course, these instructions are true for white potatoes.) Cut them into slice 1/4-1/2 inch thick, then cut them again at the same size to make the fries.

Rinse under cold water, then place in a bowl. Fill with water and ice. Let them chill for 30min to overnight.

Get the oil hot, 325F/162C. Use an oil that remain liquid at room temperatures (canola, corn, safflower or peanut work very nicely.) Drain the water off the potatoes, and using a clean cotton towel, get the fries as dry as possible. Carefully place in the oil. Let let cook for 6-8 minutes. They will start to get limp. Remove them from the oil and let drain. set them aside to rest.

Turn the heat up to 350F/175C. When hot, place the fries back in the oil for 1 minute. they will quickly get golden brown. Serve immediately.

Three Bean Salad
Makes approximately 8 portions (1 cup each)

2 cans cut green bean
1 can cut wax (yellow) beans
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed until clear
1 medium onion, slice thinly.
apple cider vinegar 
sugar (or I used Splenda)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place everything in a non-reactive bowl (glass is best). I try to find low sodium versions of the vegetables. That way, if you need to add a bit more, you are in control of how much is added.

Mix the dressing (equal parts vinegar and sweetener.) I make it in small amount ata time until I get enough. How much is enough? Hard to say, but after placing all the vegetables in the bowl, you want to add enough dressing to come about 3/4 of the way to the top. It's okay if not everything is submerged. The onions will get soft and collapse, and the beans will give off their own juice. 

Mix together, season as needed, cover and refrigerate overnight. This is a salad that tastes better a few days after making it.

Nutritional data (using Splenda, and no-salt-added vegetables)
Calories:       149
Fat:                     0g
Sat fat:                0g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:    295.6mg
Carbs:            32.6g
Fiber:               6.7g
Protein:            6.7g

Most of the calories and carbs are from the kidney beans.

I served these sides with burgers, fresh off the grill. I dressed my bun with Vidalia onion and avocado slices (on the bottom bun) with a dollop of coarse German mustard on top of the meat.

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Note: the link to Amazon is an affiliate link. That means if you click on it and buy one, I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast http://MakeYourSomedayToday.com

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Toasted Ham and Swiss with Fresh Figs and Vidalia Jam


Toasted Ham and Swiss with Fresh Figs and Vidalia Jam
Serves 1

This is a combination of many flavors,  but it works!

2 slices rye bread
Coarse German mustard
Vidalia jam
Arugula (or other greens)
1 ounce shaved ham
1 ounce Swiss cheese
2 figs, sliced

  1. Toast the bread.
  2. Spread mustard on one slice, Vidalia jam on the other. Layer the other ingredients in order.


I'm not going to give nutritional data, because this is too variable. Use more or less mustard or jam. Different meats (turkey or pancetta) would change the numbers, as will the different breads. 

This recipe is meant to stimulate your imagination.

Enjoy!



Monday, October 6, 2014

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

"Yesterday's home run don't win today's games!" Babe Ruth

Today is a new day. You woke up. That is your first reason to celebrate!
















What you ate yesterday does not matter anymore. It is gone. You logged it. And in logging it, you accepted responsibility for your actions. That is a second reason to celebrate, because you are making conscious changes to your habits.

What you are going to do tomorrow does not matter. It has not happened yet. But you are already making plans for what you want to accomplish, which is yet another cause for celebration. You are learning to take control of your situation rather than simply react to what happens around you.

You can only control what you do today. You will log your food, you will make good choices. You will move more that you used to. You will stay positive, confident in the belief that you CAN succeed!

You will take one more step toward success. Today. Right now.

Success is inevitable if you treat every day as another day to make good choices. You have the power! Even though I have not met anyone here, I believe in all of you, because you are here, reading my words. You are dedicating your day to yourself, to reaching for success. You are important and you deserve success!

I am honored to be surrounded by such friends. I receive comments from readers who say that I help them, but it goes both ways. Being accountable to you helps me stay focused on on track.


Have a powerful day!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Burger Bomb

Burger Bombs
Serves ??

It's football season. That means it's time for junk food, eaten out of hand. But we need something other than the usual burgers, sandwiches and pizzas (although all those are good!)

Try making Burger Bombs!

I'll give you the nutritional data for what I made. If you do something different, obviously the numbers will change.

Ingredients:
Prepare biscuits (Pillsbury Buttermilk work very well)
Raw ground meat
Slices of cheese, cut in half

  1. Make meatballs from the ground beef (or ground pork, or anything else). Each meatball is 1 ounce.
  2. Flatten the biscuit dough and stretch it to about double the original size.
  3. Wrap the meat with a strip of cheese.
  4. Place in dough and seal it shut by pinching the dough together.
  5. You can make many of these ahead of the game and refrigerate until needed.
  6. Preheat your fryer or a kettle on the stove to 375F.
  7. Place enough in the oil so that they are able to float around a bit. Don't pack them too tightly.
  8. Fry until they are golden brown as in the picture (about 4-5 minutes).
  9. Serve hot. (But I'll bet they'd get eaten even if cold!)

Nutritional data (per bomb):
Calories:            140
Fat:                     6.5g
Sat fat:                   3g
Chol:                 30mg
Sodium:       233.8mg
Carbs:                  11g
Fiber:                  0.5g
Protein:               11g

Variations: 
Cut sausages into 1 inch lengths instead of ground meat.
Use different cheese.
Just use cubes of cheese.
Slices of beef and sauerkraut.
Your imagination is the limit

Friday, October 3, 2014

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

What if you could do one small, almost invisible thing, and that simple act would help reduce your calorie intake by up to 359 calories a meal?


Would that help you get healthy?

Would it help the people you live with?

What would you pay to prevent gaining 38 pounds a year?

Would you make the decision to act?

Many current sets of dinnerware feature dinner plates that are 10-11 inches. I've seen one with 12" plates. The set of Corel plates that we formerly used had 11" dinner plates and 8.5" salad plates.

These are much larger that our vintage plates from the 1950s, when dinner plates were 9" and salad plates were 7.5". That doesn't sound like much, until you calculate the area that each plate holds.

My wife and I use the 9" plates, but we leave a thumb-width around the edge. That reduces the available area to 8". Why don't we just use the 7.5" plate? Because by always leaving a thumb width on every plate, we train ourselves for those days when we eat at someone's home. We've done it long enough that we know how much empty space to keep all around the plate.

We only fill it one time, and we don't pile food on top of each other, so we are careful to only choose the foods we love.

What a difference an inch makes!

Plate Diameter  Square Inches   Ratio to 8” plate
         12”                   113.1                  2.25
         11”                     95.03                1.89
         10”                     78.54                1.56
           9”                     63.62                1.27
           8”                     50.27                1.0

So what does all that mean?

When I used the 11" plates and filled them to the edges--not an uncommon practice in my previous life--I was able to put 1.89 times more food on that plate than I can now. If my old way of eating allowed me to load 1000 calories (imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and all the rest of my most favorite meal), my new plating habit now only allows 529 calories. Changing that eating habit saved me up to 471 calories, and since I routinely ate second and third helpings, my other new habit of only one serving saves many more calories.

If you just switch from a 10" to 9" plate, you will save a lot of calories. That 10" plate holds 1.23 times the food a 9" plate will hold. Again, comparing a potential 1000 calories piled on the 10" plate, that will be reduced to 813 calories (edge to edge) or only 641 if you use my thumb-room method.

That is potentially 359 calories saved. In ONE meal! Over the course of a year, that would be almost 131,000 calories eaten. Eating off your old plates could add almost 38 pounds--or using the new plates may help you lose the same amount.

In every case, we will see a full plate. Our minds will think that we are getting a LOT of food, but we will be limiting how much we eat.

The difference in how much food a plate can hold, based on comparison of square inches.

The equation is area = πr2 (where pi = 3.141592654) 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Make Crispy, Crunchy Fried Chicken

Crispy, crunchy, breaded chicken is easy. Simply deep fry it.

But if you are looking for a healthier version, that requires baking it, and sometimes the results are not as crisp or crunchy as desired. I tried several versions, and found that the secret ingredient is Panko Bread crumbs. (My preferred brand is Kikkoman.)

Panko Crumbs adds an excellent and light crunch to everything!
In both versions, I used a buttermilk wash and seasoned flour. I baked the chicken on a cooking rack to allow airflow around the chicken, but the pieces that were given a second coating with panko turned out demonstrably crisper and crunchier.

These pieces had a crisp and satisfying crunch and that contributed to the excellent flavor.

This was very flavorful, but lacked the crunch.

The specific details:

I used chicken legs (thighs and drumstick.) I left the skin on (because sometimes I just want all the flavor possible.) I think this technique would work with skinless chicken, and I will run that test soon.

I seasoned 1 cup whole wheat flour with 
  • 2 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon rubbed sage. 
My wash was buttermilk.

The flour-only version was dipped in buttermilk and rolled in flour. The panko version was rolled in the seasoned flour first, then dipped in buttermilk and coated in panko.


Bake on a cooking rack in another shallow pan (I used a 10x15in jelly roll pan) at 425F/225C for 15 minutes, then 375/190C for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temp is 165F/74C.

Don't bake solely based on time. If you remove the chicken at 165F/74C, you will have perfectly cooked chicken that isn't dry. However, the downside of this is you don't get the beautiful golden-brown color of deep-fried chicken. (I can live without the color!)

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This recipe was requested from Tosha, one of the listeners of my podcast, Make Your Someday Today. In MYST 53, Tosha left a message on my voicemail system (Speakpipe) which you can find on my home page. If you have a question, please give me a call!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Open Faced Tuna Melt


Open Faced Tuna Melt
Serves 2

1 can (5 ounce) tuna
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 slices rye bread, toasted
Arugula
4 strips of cooked bacon
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 slices cheese (your choice, I used a marbled slice of Colby-Jack)
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Mix tuna, onion and mayo.
  3. Top each slice of toast with arugula. 
  4. Spread tuna mix over the arugula. 
  5. Lay the bacon on the tuna, then the avocado, and top with cheese.
  6. Place in oven for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
Nutritional data: 
Calories:          380
Fat:                23.6g
Sat fat:             8.1g
Chol:           68.1mg
Sodium:    624.7mg
Carbs:            18.6g
Fiber:               2.7g
Protein:          28.3g

Served with a side of Snapea Crisps. A crunchy and tasty side instead of the more traditional potato chip. Healthier, too.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Stop Trying To Be Happy! Just Enjoy Life!

Today we have a guest post by Scott Wilson. An author and engineer, Scott finds problems and then designs the solutions. With his blog, Designed2Succeed, he helps his readers design their most important project: their own lives.

After you read his post, please leave him a comment here, and then check out his thoughts on his blog.
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Everyone wants to be happy, right? I mean as far as goals go this one seems to be right up there on most people’s list. The United States constitution even guarantees the right to pursue happiness. So much of the modern advertising industry is built upon the premise of selling the elements that deliver happiness. It is safe to say that trying to be happy is definitely a common priority within our society.

People do many things in their unending efforts to become and remain happy. They seek friendship, love, romance, marriage, children, fame, fortune, spirituality, god and so much more all hoping that these will lead to lasting happiness. It is my observation that all of these things have at best fleeting success in attaining happiness.

Every single one of the ideals that I have mentioned above is mixed with joy and pain, happiness and sorrow. The best friendships will still occasionally disappoint. Romance waxes and wanes. Marriage and families are filled with great joys and heart-crushing events. Even religion and spirituality do not grant immunity to the trials and pains of life.

And yet mankind spends an amazing amount of time and effort chasing the dream of happiness. In this powerful pursuit we demonize sadness and depression. North America is an abundant and rich country where we enjoy a standard of living that far exceeds that of over 60 percent of the world. Still Americans currently spend an estimated $11.3 billion dollars annually on anti-depressants, consuming more per capita than any other nation. American use of anti-depressants skyrocketed 400% from 1988 to 1994. We go to great pains to avoid being unhappy in any way and in the process we treat almost all sadness as an illness.

So what is wrong? Why can’t we seem to lay hold of this ultimate prize despite our herculean efforts? We have material wealth and security like no other nations but we are failing at the very pursuit that our predecessors nobly guaranteed for us. It actually seems that the harder we try obtain happiness the more difficult it becomes to obtain. I actually believe that this principle holds true, and so I propose that it is truthfully our very quest for happiness that causes the problem.

We live in an impermanent world. All things that live will die and everything that is created eventually decays and fails. Why then do we expect our happiness to be permanent? In Zen Buddhism it is believed that our attachment to objects in this ever-changing world that leads to sadness and frustration. There is much truth to this belief, however even detachment will not guarantee happiness just as an absence of pain does not guarantee pleasure. So the problem of happiness remains.

I propose that we release our iron grip on the pursuit of happiness and instead focus our pursuit on joy. No, I am not just playing with semantics. Joy is defined as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (from Merriam-Webster). I believe that it is the last part of this definition that is telling: ‘emotion evoked by… the prospect of possessing.’ There can be joy in the pursuit even if the item pursued is not obtained. I would go so far as to say that we can actually enjoy pursuing happiness even if we fail in that pursuit!

I further submit that joy supersedes happiness. As my father lay in pain dying of bone cancer in I enjoyed our much of our time together and so did he. Despite all that my father was experiencing he still enjoyed the simple pleasure of a cappuccino from a local coffee shop. Were we happy? No, not at all. That did not stop joy. In my life and in others I have seen joy in the midst of sorrow, pain and even death.

We need to allow ourselves the ability to experience joy. This often involves slowing down and actually paying attention to and experiencing our lives. We can have goals and quests for worthy ideals but we need to expect that there will be bumps on those journeys. Let not our pursuits rob us of our joy. I have observed people in pain struggling to be happy at Christmas, the supposedly happiest time of the year. In their struggle, these poor souls not only fail to obtain happiness but they deprive themselves of their joy.


Can we still pursue happiness? Yes, but don’t expect to catch it and keep it. Happiness will come and go, and that is alright. Do not run from sorrow especially when the seasons of life call for it. Hold fast to joys, especially the simple ones. Joys can be our greatest treasures in times of tribulation. At all times take pleasure in kindness, smiles and love. In this challenging life, when happiness seems so far off, remember that there can still be great joy in the journey.
©Scott D. Wilson 2014