Meditation: Perception

Perception, even trying to define the word can create a challenge.  Let us see how various sources of information do this.  On Wikipedia it states the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment. Merriam-Webster dictionary states awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation. The Free Dictionary states, the process by which an organism detects and interprets information from the external world by means of the sensory receptors. This is how we develop are belief system, through are senses. Some of us develop very strong beliefs that can never be changed, by an outside party.  It is through these perceptions that people think our President is great or is horrible. No matter how the person thinks about the President it is unlikely that anybody is going to change his or her mind.  There are many subjects that can create very broad opinions and debates. On most of these subjects the way a person thinks or feels is not going to be changed. This is all brought about, on how each individual, perceives the subject.  Are any of our perceptions that we feel, hear, smell, taste and see, really correct.  Is our world something that we just create, to make ourselves feel better, or worse. How would we even know?  Let us look at one thing that we know is constant, and how we perceive it.

Everybody knows that time is a constant.  A second is a second, a minute is a minute, an hour is an hour, and 24 hours is a day.  But does it really feel that way?  Is that what your senses are telling you?  The answer is no.  When you are waiting in line, or for someone, 5 minutes can see like an eternity.  How does time feel when you are stuck in traffic?  How about when you are spending time with someone you really like or playing a game on your phone? Before you know it, 30 to 60 minutes is gone.  Seeing a very good movie, that takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, seems like nothing, but spend that same time waiting for your delayed flight, and you might think, you are never getting on board. You hear people talk about time even in the long term. It was a short summer and a long winter. No, it is the exact same number of days, each year.  I can’t believe that he’s 5 years old already, when talking about children or grandchildren. I don’t know where the time went.  I can’t believe its been x amount of years, when talking about any life event.  Time flies when you are having fun.  Maybe that’s why, we don’t want to have fun more often, just so we can slow time down. You can argue that these are just sayings, and people really don’t feel this way, but people do lose all concept of time, depending on what they are doing.  Our perceptions of time, can be way off on what the true reality is.  This is a fact, Jack.  If our perceptions of time can be this far off, could our perceptions of other things, be just as far off.  Most people would say, I know what I am seeing and feeling in other areas, and I know this is correct.  Well, I would not be too sure.  Having strong beliefs, will limit your thinking. It may be time to step back, and try look at situations from all sides, and double check, what you think may be going on around you, and other people.  Robert Burns said it best in the 1700’s when he wrote” O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us”. Since that is unlikely to happen, we need to take that inward look and check those perceptions.

Food: Caffeine

Caffeine is the most consumes drug in America, and probably in the entire world. In the United States, it is estimated between 85 and 90% of the people, consume some amount of caffeine daily, with the average being about being about 164 mg per day.  Over the years caffeine has gone from being bad for you, to being good for you, back to being bad, and now it is considered good for you, again. There are many medical and food sites, that discuss the pro and cons of consuming caffeine.  The general consensus is, that for the most part caffeine can help you, more than hurt you.  It’s pretty common knowledge, that caffeine affects the brain, and it seems to allow you to concentrate better, and be more alert, about one hour after consumption. The common side affects, are  keeping one awake at night, and it might give you some heart palpitations at higher doses.  Anyone can go on line and find the information.  However I did find some things that were interesting, and surprising, about how the scientific community feels about caffeine, and  there is still a lot to learned.

One thing I found that has to with nothing, but is interesting, is caffeine supposedly was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder, who gave it to his goats, and it seemed to give them more energy.  Why you would want goats to have more energy is beyond me. The second new fact, for me anyway, was that there is not a lot of difference between what is safe to drink and what could cause some problems.  Taking in about 150 to 300 mg of caffeine per day seems to be very safe.  However taking in about 500 mg very quickly can cause some heart and blood pressure problems. So drink that coffee slowly. There is a debate in the scientific community, on whether caffeine is addictive.  Some sites say that it definitely is, while other sites say that it does not have all the traits of what constitutes an addictive drug.  All I know, is that some people do seem to have withdrawal symptoms from caffeine, if they try to stop taking caffeine abruptly.  They can get the shakes, headaches, and will be come more agitated in certain situations. My most surprising finding was that it seems that we are all drinking  coffee at the wrong time.  It all goes back to that darn circadian rhythm, again.  Its seems that when we wake up in the morning, that cortisol levels are at their highest, and therefore we do not need that jolt of caffeine, even though are brains may be telling us something different.  It is best to hit the coffee machine about 10 am, when your cortisol is starting to go down, and your body really does need that boost.  We seem to cycle back down around 1:30 so another cup will help again.   It is best to end the caffeine intake just after 2PM if you want a good nights sleep.

There is no doubt that caffeine is a drug, and the affects of are real.  On the whole caffeine can be a benefit, to help and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  However, there are more dangers involved than the general media puts forth.  After all, the coffee industry is a multi billion dollar business.  It goes back to those idiosyncratic responses that so many people have to so many different substances.  I know many people that say they can drink one or two cups of coffee at 7 to 8 PM, and sleep like a baby.  If I drank one cup at 7 PM, I would be up all night. Caffeine has many health and wellness claims, some more substantiated than others.  One claimed benefit is helping to prevent gall stones. The dose for prevention is 400 mg per day and even higher.  I think I would take my chances with gall stones.  I am going to start drinking my coffee later in the morning, when possible, and see if it makes any difference. It boils down to the same old thing.  Please. just listen to your body, it will tell you all you need to know.

Food: How Did We Get Here

The consumption of food is costing us billions of dollars every year. I don’t mean the cost of the food. I mean the results of consuming too much food for our own good.  Over half the world is overweight.  Over one third of world is a lot over weight.  I am not going to use the o word, in describing how much a person is overweight. In my view, any amount of weight over your ideal weight, can cause a problem. This is different than being pregnant, where you can be a little bit overweight.  This should not lull you to sleep, thinking that this is probably ok for your health, because it is not. Spend an entire day carry around a 10 bag of potatoes, and see how you feel at the end of the day. This is how your body feels, after it  carries your ten pounds of excess fat around, for the last so many years. This blog is not about how to lose those 10 pounds or more, but to try and find out how the world go so fat. How did we get to this state.  This is a problem that is on the rise.  More people die from complications of being over weight than smoking.  The cost of treating weight related diseases is estimated to be 147 billion dollars a year.  Each individual has to take responsibility for their own condition, but let’s look at some big picture elements, that have a lot to do with it, and what if anything we can do about it.

The beginning of the fast food chains, has done has as much as any industry, to cause people to eat more.  The fast food industry has taken a lot of criticism, over the years, for not offering as many healthy choices as they should.  Because of this criticism, fast food has improved in quality and variety. However, fast food still entices you, in many clever ways, to eat more than you should.  From catchy names like the Big Mac, The Whopper, The Whaler, MAKE IT A MEAL FOR ONLY $1.50 MORE and SUPERSIZE IT, DUMB ASS. Not only do they entice you with catchy slogans, but the more you eat, the less you pay per unit. A single Burger at Wendy’s is 4.49, but put another patty on, for just a buck, and make it a triple for just another dollar.   It goes on and on, and every chain is like this.  Should there be a law against this.  If that’s what it takes, to keep this from happening, yes, I am all for it.  There should be at least a suggestion, like on alcohol commercials, to eat responsible, because we all don’t want to pay for  those 5 stents you’ll get in 5 years.  You should not have to pay more, but you should not get a discount, because your appetite is like the offensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The entire food industry is like this.  That’s the whole purpose to buying clubs like Sam’s and Costco’s, in that they want you to buy in bulk and save money.  Unfortunately, I think this makes you eat in bulk also.  This kind of thinking. in my view, must come to an end.  The idea of the bigger you buy, the less it will cost.  It is not doing us any good. By the same token, all you can eat food bars, should come to an end. Again, they just contribute to a problem that is escalating at an unbelievable rate. I know that none of these things are going to happen, but it would be interesting if they did, just to see if they helped this costly problem of American  and world health.

Everyone is responsible for their own health and well being, but it does not help when people are bombarded with the above nonsense.  Can we learn a lesson from all this? We can all get into the mode of moderation.  With some moderate consumption habits and some moderate exercise added to our daily regime I think most of us can get back to a more healthful condition of our body.  Even though I wrote that any amount of being over weight is not good for your body, any amount of weight loss is good for your body.  Enjoy your food, but only eat one patty of ground meat, and eliminate the word large or big from your vocabulary, anytime you are going to order food.  Unless you have a big family buy small and eat small.  In the long run you will make you and the world a better place. Now excuse me, as I take my 54 tater tots out of the oven.

Meditation: Breathing and Control

Breathing and control, two things that seem to be very different, but can have a strong relationship, if you understand them.  Breathing is something you have to do, to stay alive.  Control is something that you strive for, in managing your life.  Well meaning friends and relatives,  will often say get control of your life, when things may not be going well for you personally, or professionally.  This could mean trying to control an unwanted behavior, or making a decision concerning your career, to time manage your life better.  Trying to set aside more time for your personal life, and not letting a job or business run you.  Is control something we should strive for? Is it even possible?  Before we answer those questions, let’s look at breathing to see how unique it is, and how it applies to getting control of our lives.

Breathing is a function of the lungs, where we take in the oxygen from the environment, and expel carbon dioxide into the environment.  We breathe without thinking about it. We can control our breathing to some degree.  We can hold our breath for a certain amount of time. Some people are better at this than others, but most of us can hold our breath for at least 30 seconds.  Eventually, we all have to start breathing again. Under stress, our breathing may become very short and rapid. If allowed to go to an extreme, we may start to hyperventilate.  This is when we are told, to take a deep breath, and try to relax.  You will see athletes take a deep breath, as a way to relax, before they perform a function, in their sport. They are exerting some control of their breath.  When we start to exercise, our breathing will start to increase, and as the exercise becomes more strenuous, the breathing will become more rapid.  There will come a time depending on how good of shape we are in, that the breathing will become so labored, that we will have to slow down, or stop altogether. All of these things can be beneficial when dealing with everyday situations in life. Even though breathing is a natural and spontaneous function, there are ways we can inflict our control over how we breath, but only to a certain degree.

The same thing can be said, when we try to control what is going on in our lives. We all might think we have control of our lives, but in reality this control does not exist.  At times, we can control some aspects of our lives, but over all, it is circumstances, that are in control.  For many people this is a hard pill to swallow.  Trying to get control of your life, or certain situations, can lead many people to have debilitating frustrations. In order to gain control of your life, you must give up control of your life. When you realize this, your life will take on a whole new meaning, and it will free you from not only trying to control yourself, but other people as well. Just like breathing ,there are certain elements of your life you can control, like what time you might want to eat dinner, go to bed, and get up in the morning.  Even those things can be fouled up, by unforeseen circumstances.  Trying to set goals and not accomplishing them, may be seen as failures, in getting control of your life.  Even trying to improve personally, and not achieving a desired result can be more devastating, when it is tied in to the ability to control one’s life. That is why, when you give up control, that you get back control of your life.  When you realize, that life’s circumstances, whether seen or unforeseen, is what controls your life, you will become more flexible in dealing with day to day life.  It’s when you let go, allow things to evolve in the proper time and place, that your life becomes easier to live and accept. You create a new awareness, that will enable you to deal with life as it happens, not as you want it to happen. When things seems to be getting out of control, remember that life, like breathing, can only be controlled so much. Sit back and take that deep breath, dig in, and make the best of it.  You will be doing yourself your biggest favor.

Meditation: Ten Minutes Don’t Bet On It

There are many meditation apps available today, and they all have some positive things to offer.   They help with sleep, relaxation, stress management, and show other benefits of meditation. There is one area, where it seems they have all gone astray.  They seem to feel that 10 minutes a day of meditation is acceptable, and with this  amount of time, one will receive the full benefits of meditation.   I do not agree.   Maybe they feel in this day and age, with time being of the essence, that 10 minutes is all you can expect from the modern world. They are trying to make life a little easier by only requiring 10 minutes per day to meditate.  Whatever the reason, this has become a popular viewpoint. To me the minimum time for meditation, has to be 20 minutes.  Considering that there are some people that meditate for one hour or even longer, 20 minutes does not seem to be very unreasonable.  There are some things that need to be accomplished during meditation, and 10 minutes is not enough time. It is like any part of life,  how much can you accomplish in 10 minutes.  Do you eat lunch in 10 minutes.  Are you even able to complete any task at work in 10 minutes.  Now some people may argue, that there should not be any goals in meditation. These same people will use the term benefits when advocating meditation, but to achieve these benefits more than 10 minutes will be needed.  If you are a starting to meditate, naturally you will have to build up to 20 minutes.  Meditating for even one to two minutes per day will get you started.  Gradually increasing the time every 4 to 5 days, will eventually get you to the 20 minute mark.  Let us look at two important reasons to meditate and why 20 minutes is necessary to get the best result.

The first benefit of meditation is to relax the body.  It is a process of scanning the entire body, and relaxing each section.  This is going to take some time.  Think of other ways to relax the body.  One of  the common ways is to get a massage.  Most massages are going to be at least 30 minutes to do a good job.  I don’t think the 10 minute massage is going to sell anytime soon.  The hot bath or steam seems to be another method to relax those tired and tense muscles.  Does anybody take a 10 minute hot bath? In meditation not only are you trying to relax the muscles of the body, but also the mind. We should all know by now, that sleeping is not relaxing for either, the mind or the body.  Sleep is a necessity in order to function at your best.  It has nothing to do with relaxation. The second  benefit or function of meditation is to discover your inner or true self.  Sometimes journeys of self discovery are aided by health professionals.  Does anybody have a 10 minute session with them. If you are going to have a substantial benefit from meditation, then you must commit the 20 minutes per day per session.  Ten minutes is simply not going to do the job. Maybe that is why there are all the extras, such as sleep aids, relaxation music and coaches for success, on these sites, to make up for the fact, that they seem to think that 10 minutes is enough. Remember morning meditation is always nice, but you can meditate anytime during the day, and it will be just as helpful in finding your true self and well being. I know we live in a busy and hectic society, which makes it even more essential  to set aside that 20 minutes, to do the most important thing, that you can do for yourself, meditation.


Food: Breakfast, I Just Can’t Do It

The breakfast experiment is over, after only one week.  Maybe, you can not teach an old dog new tricks.   For 7 to 9 days,  I made a concerted effort to eat breakfast, before I started my day.  I will admit, I may have had more energy in the morning, but what I felt were problems, outweighed that perceived benefit. First, when I awake in the morning, no matter what time, I am not hungry.  There is nothing I can do about that.   Now believe me, I have eaten at other times of the day when I am not hungry.  I would have fairly large amounts to eat at breakfast.  I would have 2 hard boiled eggs, potatoes, and one sausage.  Another morning I had yogurt, with fruit, and two slices of toast, with peanut butter or cream cheese.   I would have more non traditional breakfast food, once having a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with pickle.  It did not seem to make any difference what I ate, I was always very hungry around lunch time, sometimes even sooner.  Though I may have felt I had more energy in the morning, I did not do anything more, than I usually do.  I walked about 3.5 miles and did my exercises.  Maybe I did not give it long enough, but I felt stupid, eating when I was not hungry, first thing in the morning. I will just have to face the fact, that I am heading for a 20 to 25% more chance of developing coronary artery disease and type II diabetes, by not eating breakfast on a regular basis.  Am I really?

The more I think of this breakfast thing the more I feel that my initial instincts were right.  I am not feeling this way, because of my failure to continue to eat breakfast.  Breakfast being considered the most important meal of the day is not something that is fairly new.  We have been hearing this since the late 1950’s and 60’s.  Let’s look at the three meals of the day, and I will take them in reverse order beginning with dinner. What foods do you associate with dinner.  The list can be very long, ranging from pasta, meats, vegetables, and other carbohydrates.   The same thing could be said for lunch, with some narrowing of the list.  For lunch, I think most people will think of soup, salad, and sandwiches.  Again, there can be a great variety of foods that one thinks about, for a typical lunch.  Breakfast has more of a traditional selection of foods.  Eggs, bacon sausage, toast,  home fries, waffles, and pancakes.  Breakfast cereals are at the top of the breakfast list.  Yes, some families for something different, may  have breakfast for dinner. There have always been more traditional breakfast foods.  To say the least it is a major industry.  Do you think the makers of breakfast cereals and eggs have anything to do with the thinking, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? The cynical side of me definitely thinks so.  Maybe this is the same side of me that is not hungry in the morning.

I will not ague the point, that I did not give the breakfast experiment much of a chance. Eating when you are not hungry, just seems to go against the grain of what makes sense, from a heath and fitness standpoint.  One of the newer crazes right now is fasting.  I am not an advocate of that either, but you could argue that. this is what people are doing unknowingly, when they skip breakfast.  Fasting advocates talk about, that not eating for 16 hours is considered a fast. Even if you eat as late as 8 pm, and then get up the next day, and don’t eat until around noon, you have done a fast. I not saying this is good for you either, but its becoming something, that is suppose to help your health and well being. As they all like to say, more studies and research is needed.   I think the bottom line here, is that it just goes back to the fact, that most recommendations fail to consider individual idiosyncrasies.  Are these the exceptions that make the rule.  I do not believe that, either.  I think everybody needs to plan their own form of a diet and health plan.  It boils down to one concept.  If it makes you feel good do it and if it doesn’t don’t. I am meaning physically good not emotionally good. Try to leave emotion out of it when it comes to health and food.  This sounds so simple but as I get older I am finding out that the simpler you make  things the better results you will get.  If anybody else that skips breakfast wants to do the breakfast experiment let me know after you have done it for three months.  I failed miserably.  But you know what? I feel much better for this failure.

Meditation: Death

Death took center stage this past Sunday, when Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash.  Anytime a well known person is suddenly killed, especially at a young age, the shock and sorrow is felt nationwide.  A tragedy of this significance, seems to bring out the best and the worse in the populous.  We hear of not taking any day for granted.  Give your love ones a hug, and appreciate them everyday, because you never know what is going to happen.  All of this is good advice, and it is a shame when something this sad has to happen to make people verbalize something, that should happen as a natural part of life. There is the saying, I believed attributed to Ben Franklin, that the only two things certain in life, is death and taxes.  However, in this day and age, with a good tax attorney, you may not have to pay taxes.  That only leaves the certainty of death. No matter how much we may think that we have  a lot in common with other  people, there is only one thing that links all of us, and that is death. There is not one day that goes by that someone from every age, from birth to 100 years old, will die.  Anytime, when someone young dies or children die, we try to make sense of it, or ask the age old question of why. There is no reason or explanation for when some people die.    For something that is going to happen to all of us, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the subject.  When somebody loses a loved one, whether young or old, people will say they have gone to a better place.  Is there any place after death? People like to thing so.

Let us look at some of the more popular beliefs of what happens after death.  The most common one is of heaven and hell.  If you are a good person you will go to heaven, and if you are a bad person you will go to hell.  This was started by the church in my view to help keep people in line.  The other belief was, that no matter how many bad things you did, you could be absolved by the church, at the time of your death, and still make into heaven.  Again, something the church made up, to keep people coming and giving. If you want to believe in such nonsense, I won’t try and dissuade you. There is no absolute proof that you are wrong, but you are.   There is no heaven or hell.  Then there is reincarnation, where we come back in a different body or form, maybe even an animal.  Again a nice fairy tale, but there is more of a chance of this being true, than the heaven and hell theory.  Then we have the belief of the spirit world.  This is where we become spirits, and roam the world in a totally different form.  Movies, like Ghost and Hereafter, depict  what the spirit world may be like.  Then, there are people that believe that this is it baby, we are born, and when we die it’s over, we are nothing. This one is always the hardest to come to grips with, if they are right.  But if they are wrong, and let’s say there is a spirit world, do they get to participate, because they do not believe?  Does what you believe in life, have any relevance at all, after you die?  Say there is a heaven and you have lived an exemplary life, but do not believe in God or heaven.  Do you get in?  Does a contract killer get in, because he believes and the church absolves him of his sin? Does your life have any affect on the so called after life, if there is one?

The questions about death are pretty much endless because nobody knows what exactly happens when you die, except the obvious, you no longer exist, in the living world. There are all kinds of way to die.  Death can come suddenly or it may be slow in a prolonged illness.  Is it worth fighting to stay alive.  I do know one thing, there are a lot of things in this world that are worse than dying. What some people have had to go through in their lives, whether it be through illness, actions of other people, or losing love ones, can make death seem like a blessing.   I wake up everyday knowing that this could be my last day on earth and go to bed every night thanking the higher power that my life is still good and my love ones are alive and safe.  I know I have no control over either situation. Like any one who has lived a number of years, I have had my close brushes with death.  As a 12 year old I fell through a ceiling and came out virtually unscathed, except for a small abrasion on my arm. I have had other close calls as an adult.  When people live to be 100 years old, there is always the reporter, who wants to know the secret, to the persons longevity.  They go through a few things, and some may make some sense. They all seem to leave out one very important thing.  Luck, in my view is the number one reason for longevity, just good old luck. What happens after is anybodies guess.  I will do my best to let you know when it happens to me.

Meditation: Old vs. Young

Most of the blogs I write require some research into the subject I am writing about.  Even golf articles, I will research certain ideas, to see what other people’s opinions are.  This blog will be an exception, in that I will be writing and discussing strictly from experience. What does old vs. young mean.  It is the long standing belief, of the older generation that the youth of today, have it easy,  are lazy, and in fact are not very intelligent.  I grew up hearing this from my elders, and about 4 years ago I experienced the other end of the spectrum, when I heard some of my former classmates from high school, talk about today’s young people.  They particularly hit hard on the intelligence of the  younger generation.  One  was a former school teacher, so I guess she felt that she should know.    How did all this get started, where the older generation thinks that the younger generation, has it so much easier than they did.  Besides that, it seems that this type of thinking can pervade everyone’s thinking no matter what the age of the person. There is the old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.  I think that should be changed to the grass is easier to take care of on the other side.  Let’s look at my experiences with this.

I grew up having the best father a child could have.  He taught me how to play baseball, golf, and bowling and he taught me well. He spent many hours with me and to this day was my main mentor in life. He taught me more about life than any person I have ever known, and I will always be grateful.  But even he fell into this analysis.  When he thought I was being a shiftless 10 year old, he told me that when he was 10, he and his brother laid a concrete sidewalk around and through his parents property.  He gave me other examples of how tough things were doing the depression, and how easy I had it. One can hear stories like this, even if the age difference between people is not that great.  When I was in the 5th grade, I would hear from my older friends how much harder the 8th grade was.  When I was in veterinary school, I heard how much harder it is out in the “real world” when I would be trying to work for a living.  But you know what I found out? It was not harder but just different.  As you grow older, and go through life, things are changing, you make adjustments and most of the time things will work out.  Life can give you some harsh blows, with the loss of love ones and health issues.  These things in life do not make you stupid or lazy or less than the older generation.   Of course, this goes in the other direction where young people think the older generation, is feeble, losing skills, out of touch, and is taking up space where younger people could do a better job.  As I moved into my 30’s and 40’s and had my own successful veterinary practice my father gave me more credit and respected my work ethic.  But he put that moniker on my daughter’s generation as the ones who were now the lazy group, and their life was now too easy.  He was saying the same thing about that generation, that he had said about my generation, but it looked like I had turned out pretty well.. I wonder if he thought he had a hand in that, because of him telling me how lazy I was as a youth.  I really don’t think he thought that way.

So why does the older generation think the younger generation is going to screw up the world with their bad attitudes, laziness, and lack of intelligence. Maybe because the older generation, has already screwed up the world, and it makes them feel better to think that the next generation, will do it worse. This  breaks the basic rule of meditation.  People do not look within, they look at outside of themselves, to make decisions, and evaluate the world.  We all have had crosses to bear.  Some have had it harder than others and some people have been able to overcome great odds to have successful careers and lives.  Some of their stories have inspired many people to create a better life.  But each of us has to look within, to see what we can do to make our life better and more enjoyable. At times, this is not an easy task, no matter who we are or where we come from.  One of the things that will not make our lives better, is to compare.  That is essentially what one is doing, when it decides a generation is lacking, or a part of society has had it easier. In some cases your feelings and thoughts  maybe close to the truth. The bottom line is, that  is still not helping you to make a better life for your self. Stop caring and evaluating what that other yard looks like.   Look within and figure out what your next move will be, no matter what your age or status.  The outside world does not need your judgement on the future.    Start meditating and young people will improve, without having to age.

Food: Eating Healthy

This would seem like an easy thing to do, have a healthy diet.  When you google eating healthy, there are many hits.  There are medical websites, nutrition websites, and weight loss websites. They all have similar things to say, with just a little bit of a twist, here and there. Some websites have things to sell, which is always a red flag on how legitimate their advice is on eating healthy. All the  sites are better at telling you what to avoid, rather than what to eat.  In general, they tell you to eat a wide variety of foods, mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.  That about sums it up,  end of blog.  No, it is definitely not that easy.  You would think that eating healthy and weight loss would go hand in hand. Unfortunately it does not. These sites do not break down foods well enough, to balance the good and the bad. I am  going to break down foods, that I consider overrated and some that are not given enough credit, for being healthy.  I am going to discuss some nutrition “facts” that in my view, are far from proven. I looked through about 50 websites.  What follows is a composite of these websites and with my views sprinkled in. I can not rank any website as outstanding and most of what they say is the same thing, so I am not going to mention any particular site.

First, lets get to the easy stuff, what is bad.  The first and foremost is soft drinks.  They have not one redeeming quality.  I know I love a Coke once in awhile, so I can’t say I never drink them, but I try to limit them to 2 per month.  Fatty meat is a big no no.  It is hard to not like  fat,  when you here on the food channel, that fat is the flavor.  One thing everybody can do when they buy a steak is to trim off more fat.  Every little bit helps.  Sugar is bad, which is what makes pop so bad.  Stay away from sugar if possible.  Think of it as a dessert only food. This can help you avoid it,  during the day.  Please stay away form diet pop, it is even worse for you than regular pop, but that is a whole other blog.  Stay away from the typical snacks, they are high in fat, and calorie dense. Stay away from highly processed foods, like bacon, lunch meats, and energy bars.  Some processed foods can be better than others, but it is best to stay away. Eating these things in very limited quantities, is the best way to go. The one that is the hardest to avoid is bacon, because everything is better with bacon.

Now, for the so called good stuff, that may not be as good as you think.  I feel the most over rated food is the nut.  The so called benefits of nuts, is far out weighed by how calorie dense they are, and this is any nut you can think of.  An 8 ounce container of peanuts has over 1600 calories. I could eat that in less than a half hour.  I saw none of this emphasized, on the sites I visited. The second overrated food is fruit.  Now, fruit has more benefit than nuts, but it comes at the cost of sugar.  Some fruits are worse than others, but even the so called lower sugar fruits have 7 to 9 grams of sugar per serving.  Some of the low sugar fruits are not even the kind you eat, like lemons and cranberries.  So if you are watching calories or sugar, go easy on the fruit.  On the other side of the coin I consider dairy products the most underrated food.  Skim milk is a great source of Vitamin D and protein.  Eggs are low fat and high in protein.  Yogurt has many positive effects for you intestinal tract and health.  Even cheese is not all that bad for you, but  limit some cheeses, due to the fat content.  The big knock on dairy products is their digestibility. The lactose intolerant group can not eat dairy products, and this is understandable, but the entire world is not lactose intolerant.  There is a theory that we were able to digest milk when we were infants, but as we age our ability to digest dairy becomes less.  Again, this is not true for most of us.  If you have no problem with dairy products then eat more, because it is very nutritious with very little down side. Vegetables are definitely the super food.  The more you eat, the better your health is  going to be. But certain vegetables, you still  have to be cautious.  Any vegetable that is high in Vitamin A, such as carrots,  you must eat with some moderation. Vitamin A is stored and processed in the liver and consuming large amounts of Vitamin A could cause some liver issues if done chronically.

Then there is the one nutrition saying, that states breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This statement has been far from proven.  There are lots of studies on this, although you could argue not enough, and the conclusions are still variable.  First, the number one reason that people don’t eat breakfast in the morning, is they do not have enough time. Maybe the results of not eating breakfast in morning, such as low energy, eating unhealthy snacks, and binge eating, could be attributed to a lack of sleep, and rushing in the morning. To me, the so called controlled studies about eating breakfast, were not all that well controlled.  Why not make sure that people are getting enough sleep, get up early enough to leisurely get ready for school and work, then skip breakfast, and see how they feel the rest of the day, compared to people, who did the same thing, but ate breakfast.  For me when I get up in the morning after a good nights sleep, I am not hungry.   Why should I eat?  This is the other area where I think nutrition falls short, and that is listening to you own body.  If you are not hungry in the morning why should you eat?  Despite what I wrote about the foods I think are underrated, if any of those foods make your digestive tract uncomfortable, then by all means avoid them. That doesn’t mean if potato chips are something easy for you to digest, that you should eat a half of bag full during the day. Remember to listen to your body, and that all foods have some drawbacks, even if they are reported to be healthy foods. There are plenty of choices out there, so stay away from the definite bad and still be cautious on what is supposed to be good.   In future blogs I will touch upon some of these things in more depth, especially the breakfast thing, which I find fascinating.

Meditation: Management

This blog will follow a pattern of many future meditation articles. This article will not have any thing to do with the process of meditation.  As you know, despite all the benefits of meditation, it is not done by the majority of North Americans. What I hope to show, is some of the things that can  happen, because of a lack of meditation.  The world has a wide diversity of people, views, and attitudes.  There  seems to be very little common ground, for the world inhabitants.  But there is one thing that  almost everybody seems to do, and that is to consume.   We are called consumers.  There are magazines, Consumer Reports and Consumer Digest, which will make you a smarter consumer.  There are people and companies that provide these goods and services, that we consume. Naturally I am a consumer, just about everybody is.  I have also been a provider of goods and services for around 44 years.  I have owned and run a business for about 28 years, and I have worked for various companies and institutions for the other 16 years. So lets look at these two factions of people, and see how they compare. Remember, some people do both, and some are just consumers ,depending what their job may be.

The consumer wants to get quality goods, and quality service at a good price.  Most consumers will do research to get that result.  They may make dozens of phone calls, and solicit many opinions from friends and relatives, before making a decision.  Obviously, some consumer decisions are bigger and more important than others.  I am not going to consider purchasing a home because that can be a life decision with many factors involved.  The next biggest consumer decision is purchasing a car.  We all want to get a good deal, because this will be our most costly decision, except for buying a house.  Next, will be furnishing and maintenance of your house and car.  Then, there are the more every day consumer decisions, of where and what to eat, movie to go see, sporting event to go to, clothes to wear, etc. etc.  In all of these situations the consumer just wants to be treated fairly and with respect. Some may want more than that, but most people know that every body has to make a living, and there is going to be a cost involved in any purchase or endeavor.  They want the provider to be a least polite, respectful, and listen to their questions and concerns.  They want the provider to be knowledgeable and have their best interest in mind, beside trying to make a profit.

Now we come to the provider.  Remember all providers are consumers, but not all consumers are providers, and that could be the first problem, but I don’t think so. What is  the big problem with providers?  Once they become the provider, they seem to forget what it’s like to be a consumer, even when they just stopped to get coffee on the way to work.  Watching other management teams work I see two major flaws.  One, they make no efforts to cut costs.  I mean absolutely none.  I guess they try to make up for this by paying low wages, another major flaw.  I was in a business that provided both goods and services.  I made sure that the goods I acquired to sell were at the best price I could get them. This took time and effort.   I have never seen another management team do that. It was a top priority in the business I owned, to keep costs down.   I paid my employees well, and they in returned provided good service.  Other companies I worked, paid low wages and had very high turnover rates, and  basically poor service.  It still boils down to the provider forgetting, that once he closes his doors he will become a consumer, again.  It is that inability to put oneself in the other persons shoes just for a little while, that seems to be at the heart of the problem.  I know that seems to an overly simple view of the subject, but sometimes the solution to a problem can be that simple.  If we can get in the consumer mode, when we are providing a good or service, then the interaction should be much more satisfying for both parties.  Just imagine that we are buying this service from our selves.  Could it be that easy?  My answer is a resounding yes.  Could meditation help us  to see what the other person is going through, and experiencing.  Another resounding yes. Can the same thing be said in reverse.  Yes, maybe, sort of.  As a consumer you can try and put yourself in the provider shoes and realize that the person does have to make a living, but if you are unhappy in the least with the goods or services, then just move away and move on.  In every situation, there are more choices to made in consumerville.  Don’t be lazy, go make them. Don’t be that over demanding consumer, who wants something for nothing. It is a two way street. Try  meditation, and see if it doesn’t make you a better provider, and a better consumer.