Monday, February 24, 2014

How I Killed Fatty McFatty

     I was too fat to play keeper anymore during the pick up soccer matches at our local soccer complex. So I quit. I didn't want to quit playing soccer, just playing keeper. So at the beginning of the summer of 2013 I showed up at the fields and stepped onto the pitch without my gloves, or other keeper gear, and took my new position as a forward. I jogged down the field to get warmed up. I had to stop before I got to the end line because I was out of breath and my chest burned. This might not end well, I thought. The match started and I made two runs down the field and I had to sit on the sidelines to catch my breath. I finished the match somewhat but came hobbling home. I could barely move my legs and my back hurt. I was breathing heavily again at the top of my single flight of stairs heading up to my apartment. 

   I got home that night and knew I had a decision to make. Either I would need to give up the sport that I loved or I would need to get back into shape. I couldn't bear the thought of only getting to watch soccer for the rest of my life.  I was in bad shape. I hadn't taken my shirt off in public since 1991. It was a chore to tie my own shoes. I had to use my arms to lower myself into the seat of my car. I could use my stomach to hold my plate while I watched tv. It was easier than trying to reach the TV tray.

     I had heard Rush Limbaugh mention more than once that the biggest factor in losing weight was simply caloric intake. So I decided that I would begin to investigate this claim. I read dozens of articles online and in health magazines and the underlying message was the greatest facilitator of weight loss was the simple formula of burning more calories than one eats each day. 

     I love eating. I love eating just for the taste. For me, hunger has no relation to eating. "I'm not hungry for a donut" has no meaning for me whatsoever.  This didn't change when I decided to burn more calories than I ate. I also discovered that I used eating as a coping mechanism. When things didn't go right during the day, I would turn to a Carmel Roll or a cheeseburger. Or a Taco Burger, or a donut. Or several donuts. You get the picture.

     Here is what I did to begin my quest to lose weight and play soccer successfully again. 

     I searched out a dozen calorie calculators online and entered all my information. I specified that I wanted to maintain my current weight and that I led a seditary lifestyle. I felt this would give me the best base calory count off which I could work. I took the answers to ten of those results and averaged them. This gave me the basis for how many calories I needed to eat each day. The formula then includes subtracting 500 calories a day from that calorie base for every pound you want to lose each week. 1 pound a week is reasonable. 2 pounds a week is probably close to the max. I set my self to lose 2 pounds a week. This meant I needed to consume 1,000 calories a day less than what I had determined was the amount of calories I needed to maintain my current weight. Granted, as you lose weight and eat less and exercise more, these amounts change and their effects differ but this was a good place to begin. Of course, counting calories is hard. If you are eating out of a box, it is easier, but eating out of a box is part of the problem.  So determining how many calories is in tephe awesome meal your wife cooked for you for supper is not an easy task. Keeping track of this day in and day out is even more difficult. If you do not keep track, you will fail. So I turned to technology. For me, I love using apps on my iPhone and iPad. Love it! I found several good apps for keeping track of what I was eating each day. They let me set goals and helped me keep them. They even had mechanisms for searching for foods and then providing the calories and other nutritional information for me to save into the app. The best part was that they keep a record of what I have entered so the next time I ate the same item, I didn't need to search for it again. I started with one app and then after several months I switched to another. There are many options and features to suit your needs. Most have a website version to use if you do not use a smart phone or tablet. It helped me succeed immensely.

     Next, I determined to essentially eliminate sugar from my diet and reduce my carbs. I did this a number of ways. I stopped drinking all pop, juices, or any other beverages that were not water or milk. Now I am not saying not drinking juice was the best plan, it is just what I did. Eventually I began to drink a can of zero calorie pops either at lunch or at supper. It might not be the ideal plan but it helped me refrain from drinking the really bad stuff. I also purchased sugar free chocolates and cookies to satisfy my need to finish a meal with something sweet. Keep in mind, I drank pop nearly exclusively for decades. Sweets were also an entire section on my food pyramid. It replaced vegetables, I think. What I am saying is this was a gigantic departure for me in my daily diet. It was a shock to my system. It was not easy to do. But it needed to be done. Moderation in this regard would have been equal to failure. I also switched to a low calories whole wheat bread. The cost is comparable and the taste and texture are really good. I didn't miss out on my breads at all and cut my caloric intake in half. Along with my diet modification, I always ate breakfast, I always ate lunch at a near specific time and I never ate after supper. Not even a snack.  This was the most difficult thing for me. Eating was a past time. But nothing good comes from the calories you take in after about 8 pm. So I stopped that all together. 

     To replace all that pop, I began drinking water exclusively (save for the milk I had with my cereal in the mornings).  I increased my water intake to half of my body weight in ounces daily. This was difficult. I weighed a lot. That was a lot of water. I tried adding no sugar flavorings to the water to make it more palatable. But what I discovered was always maintaining a supply of ice cold water did the trick. As long as it was cold, it was refreshing and I didn't need the flavors to help me drink enough. I purchased an insulated water bottle for my work, for my home and to take with me when I played soccer. This way there was always cold water within reach. If it was available, I found I would drink it. Thankfully, where I live, the water out of the tap is virtually ice cold. It is a little less so in the summer but it is still cold. Regardless, I used two bottles that I would refill and place in the freezer so I would always have cold water available. 

     And I played soccer. I had been playing just once a week because that's what my schedule allowed and that was all my body could handle. A few weeks after beginning my lifestyle change, I went to a chiropractor to get a back issue dealt with and I mentioned to her that was was playing once a week and I wondered if that exacerbated my back problem. She responded to the contrary. She encouraged me to play more if possible. The main reason was it would help build up strength in my back and would not hurt it but actually help remedy it. Of course, increased playing time during the week would burn tons of calories as well.  I rearranged my schedule and began playing 3 times a week. It was really painful in the beginning. But the passion I had for the sport helped me push through it. 

     The final thing I did was to begin to sleep 8-9 hours a day.  This was difficult as well. It meant I needed to get to bed at a certain time no matter what. It also meant I needed to adjust that time as I discovered the need to get up earlier in order to facilitate positive changes in my activities during the day, such as morning exercises and other things to get my mind and body going strong earlier in the day.  Sleeping at least 8 hours a day is extremely beneficial to your health. One side benefit to my weight loss was the fact that your body actually burns fat while you sleep. Well, I should clarify, it burns calories while you sleep. If you just had a huge meal or a snack just before bed, then it will burn those calories, however, if you have refrained from eating after supper and you go to bed on an empty stomach, your body will still burn calories, but it will be your fat instead of the food you just ate. If I can burn fat while I sleep, I am all for it! That kept me motivated to fight the cravings to eat in the evening.

     Last night I scored my first goal in our indoor season. It wasn't pretty (I used my knee) but hey, a goal's a goal.  I also stepped back into goal and made a few saves and didn't give up any goals. I didn't limp at all after the match. I bounded up the stairs to my apartment and didn't even have to take an extra breath. I have lost 46 pounds, a fifth of my previous body weight, and my back no longer is an issue. 

     Your lifestyle change might entail slightly different modifications. You need to find what works for your body, but this is how I did it and if I can do it anybody can.  I am not finished yet. The winter has been a struggle with the limited opportunities for playing soccer but I do not plan to go back to my previous lifestyle. This was truly a lifestyle change, not a diet. I hope something of what I have done will work for you. And I would love to hear about it and also hear what has worked for you. Maybe it will help me get to the next level.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Remember Those Camel Bones That Disproved the Bible?

     Recently, a study was released that supposedly proved Old Testament writings of the Bible were fabricated and inaccurate. It turns out, as it always does, the "experts" are the fabricators.

Bactrian Camel statue from the third to second millennium BC
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Camel Deniers Ignore Reams of Secular Research for Bible Smear Campaign

Sam and Page's "Coming Out" Thrusts Hypocrisy Back Into Limelight

     About a year ago, Robbie Rogers, an American soccer player, told the world he was gay. He promptly retired from professional soccer only to be lured back into the game with an offer from the LA Galaxy. At the time, there were countless articles written in support of him. He is a decent player, won an MLS Cup Championship, is capped for the USMNT and played in England, but I wonder, after watching several LA matches last year, if he would have been playing for a high profile team like LA if he has remained silent.

     It really struck me while watching an LA vs San Jose match, where Rogers didn't have a particularly good match, yet the commentators could say nothing but glowing things about Rogers. It nearly met the hysteria of the first few matches Beckham played for LA. The commentators were from San Jose. Granted, San Jose's commentary team is easily the worst in the league, still, the only explanation for their gushing commentary every time Roger's touched the ball, typically only reserved for there own players. can only be explained by the fact he is gay. This is no reflection on Roger's, mind you. This is about everyone else. This is about the media, the fans, the league.

     More recently, Michael Sam, a Missouri football player, told the world he was gay. The reaction was the same. "Proud" and "applaud" were words written repeatedly about Sam. Two interesting things happened with Sam. Immediately, people began to suggest if Sam doesn't get picked in the upcoming NFL draft, it is because of homophobia. This nearly guarantees he gets picked in the draft, regardless of merit. Additionally, because of a lack of negative backlash against Sam, the proponents of homosexuality in the media became angry that no one was speaking out against him. Quite strange this was. Stranger yet was the reason they posited for the silence; cowardice. they were ready with their typical defense of homosexuality with the "bigots" rant but when that didn't materialize in Sam's case, for whatever reason, they had to devise a new attack; 'cowards'.

     Then, perhaps the oddest event to date, Ellen Page, a Canadian actress, told the world she was gay. The requisite praise showered down from the complicit media outlets, but then something different happened. Stories began appearing questioning just how brave it really was for her to reveal it. One news site even went so far as to ask why this is even news any more. When I first read that, I thought maybe the hypocrisy had got so thick the supporters of homosexuality couldn't even continue to stomach it. In the end, however, that wasn't the case at all. She went on to blame the convenient and ever present straw man, homophobia, for the reason this still had to be a big deal.

      The hypocrisy of all of these events should be as clear as the nose on one's face. But those that are blind cannot see even that far. When, out of one side of their collective mouth, they scream for anyone who opposes homosexuality to shut up, and then out of the other side, shout it from the proverbial rooftops each time anyone of note deems it necessary to reveal to the world who they like having sex with, the irony is suffocating.

     It has become clear that our society will not be happy simply when all who oppose homosexuality shut up. Silence just makes them even more incensed. The reason for their euphoric reactions to every new gay star or starlett has nothing to do with supporting that person as a human being. It has everything to do with smashing it over the heads of all who might disapprove until they either change their minds or are shunned and eventually turned into criminals. The reactions from the faithful in regards to Sam and Page should make this extremely clear. What has been done to our society cannot be undone. It never has been in history.

     So how should true Christians, who understand the truth of homosexuality in relation to sin and God's Holiness, react when these events occur with more and more frequency? For me, the answer to this is more consuming than I can answer in this post. I am going to answer this question by asking another, and delving into it with another post. Let me ask you first, how does a holy person live in an unholy world? Answering this question properly will help immensely in giving Christians a new focus in our everyday lives and will potentially determine the fate of our country.

 See you next time...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Closer Day by Day: 2014 World Cup Finals

     Everyday there are new stories about the upcoming World Cup Finals in Brazil. There are riots in Brazil, Stadiums starting on fire or collapsing all together. There are players getting injuries that will keep them from their dream of playing for their national team in the WC.  More and more, people around me have become aware that this tournament exists and are striking up conversations about what we should expect this year.

  •      I recently had a conversation with a German friend of mine about this year's Cup. It was particularly interesting because Germany is ranked number two in the FIFA world rankings while the USA sits at a respectable 13th. The more significant problem for the USA is that Germany and the fourth ranked team in the world, Portugal are all in the same group. The final team rounding out the group is Ghana, who have been a nemesis for the USA despite being ranked 37th.  

     My friend was understandably confident in Germany's chances of winning the group. For me, the the chances of the USA even getting out of the group are pretty slim. Which is a horrible shame because I truly feel this team is significantly better than the last World Cup's team.  After the USMNT bowed out early in the last World Cup, I wrote a post expressing my sentiments. It has sat for the past four years on The Blackhorse Inn. So I am bringing that post over here to my new blog because I think it is so interesting to view the fresh thoughts after such a painful elimination as we anticipate a much tougher road for this year's Cup.  

     I would love to hear your thoughts about the USMNT or about your nation's team if they qualified. So without further pause, here is my post from the last World Cup.

USMNT's World Cup Run


    I don't know if I have completely comes to terms with the fact that the US Men's National Team lost to Ghana AGAIN, for the second straight World Cup but there are a few thoughts that I think need to be thought by more people than just myself. 

     Ghana were bigger, faster, stronger and more driven than the US was during their Round of 16 match but they were not better. The US is a better team. But that did not translate into a win. What resulted from a superior US team playing a sub-par Ghana side was the US giving up an early goal for the fourth time in as many matches. The USMNT allowed Ghana to score their first two goals in the run of play in the entire World Cup to that point. (Ghana's other two goals coming from penalty kicks). The USMNT scored only when given a penalty kick. And Ghana looked like a better team. They are not, but they looked it. 

     All of that is neither here nor there in the scheme of things. Every team has those days no matter who they are. Brazil nearly had a day like that in the Final of the Confederation's Cup. Spain had one of those days earlier in that same tournament. Both at the hands of the US. However, the thing that bothers me the most about this defeat is that the USMNT is no longer a team that should be expected to drop out of the World Cup. An often quoted goal of the team was to get out of their group. But that is far too small a goal for this team. 

     Obviously, depending on the team they had to play, the goal might be slightly different. For instance, if we had finished second in our group instead of winning it, we would have had to play Germany. The US is not a better team than Germany. Yet, on a good US day and a bad Germany day, they could have pulled out a victory. So there is no reason to expect this team to reach less than the Semi-finals of the World Cup. 

     And here is where we, the fans, and our media are letting down our team. I will admit not reading every story or comment out there about the result of the Ghana match but of those I have read and heard the common theme is that they played hard, played well and we are proud of our boys. Now, if I lived near the airport where the team will return to the States, I would be in the front row welcoming them home. But that doesn't change the fact that this result is a huge disappointment, it is embarrassing and frankly, it is unacceptable. As fans, we must begin to let the USMNT know that these sorts of performances are no longer going to be met with "good job" and "you played well". It wasn't a good job. They lost to Ghana. They were not even close to winning that match. They let Slovenia take a two goal lead, they let England score in under 5 minutes, they took 91 minutes to score on Algeria and they only lead for 2 minutes of the 4 matches we played. That is pitiful. It wouldn't be any big deal if this was the team of 1990. But the USMNT is not the team of 1990. They are the team of the 21st Century. And THAT team is one of the best in the world and should be expected to play like it. We should expect them to play like it. 

     Yes, there are many things about this team of which we can be proud. They never give up. They don't dive. (except maybe Altidore). They don't whine. They are tough. They can create chances, chances and more chances. They can attack. Still, in the end, they need to win the matches that they should win and they need to play hard in the matches where they are the underdog. And they should have won the Ghana match. And they should have played Uruguay and they should have beat them and they should have made it to the Semis. And as fans, we need to be there for them to push them to realize their potential. Not like the English or the French or unnamed Central American countries that shoot at their players but like Americans. This is our American team, this is our American soccer and as Americans, we need to demand the best from our team. Let's push them, support them, pick them up when they are down but let's not make excuses for them. The World Cup 2010 was a failure for the USMNT. Let's voice our disappointment and then let's show up at their next match and cheer them on to the heights we know and expect they can achieve. USMNT, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't care. And in so many ways, despite the disappointment, I, too, am very proud of you.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Welcome to my New Home

     I have been blogging for a few years now. However, the consistency and quality were lacking considerably. My previous blog The Blackhorse Inn, was a place where I felt very comfortable. Still, it seemed to struggle with the variety of topics that interested me. This is a difficult thing for me.

Sorry so SCARY
     I have been referred to on many an occasion, as an oxymoron.  I have come to accept this epitaph. I do not try to be like this, it is just the way it is. I don't look to celebrate it or commiserate over it, I just want to be.

     Therefore, I decided to design a new blog, a new place, a new home, where I can be me. No longer hiding behind an odd title that only a small handful of people would ever understand or a user name as equally obscure. In this blog, I am simply going by my real name. The design will be clean and the topics varied but organized. This will become the single place to connect with everything I am involved in and a hub for all the social networks where I am connected. 

     I have come to understand that I am unable to provide the content required to create a blog that is worth subscribing so I will be hosting guest bloggers from time to time. 

     I sincerely hope that you will subscribe and participate in this blog. I hope the things I write and share with you will benefit you or at least challenge you to think. Maybe it will even introduce you to a thought, topic or an artist you have never experienced before. 

     That is my hope. Now let's see how it goes. Join me for the ride if you will.