Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A real 268, and it is comforting...

Nice. That means I am truly under 270 for the first time since about June. It feels really good. Moreover, it feels good to be in control again. It is a never-ending amazement to me just how pernicious "food as a comfort" is in life. People can and often do say that that's programmed into us, and in a sense that is true, but at the sam time, it also indicates a willingness to be a victim. If I know that eating to comfort myself is bad for me over-all, and I am alone with no one encouraging me to do either this or that, then it all lands squarely on me, doesn't it? Yes, tubby, it does.

But food as comfort is very powerful. Hell, iconic. Paula Dean build her fat-laden artery-clogging empire on it! But there are ways to translate that comfort from something uplifting but unhealthy into something that comforts both the heart and the body.

My daughter often stops by with a plea for me to feed her. She lives the typical hand-to-mouth existence that so many 20-somethings do these days. She works at a local fast-food chain that actually specializes in higher-quality fast food: free-range beef with no anti-biotics, high-quality ingredients, and local, seasonal offerings. As far as fast-food goes, it's pretty good. But the food for here there is not FREE. She gets a discount, but everybody's belts are tight right now. So "Can I has foodz" is a pretty common txt message plea I get. Her boyfriend--a champ of a guy--also sits at my counter pretty frequently. He's turning into a bit of a foodie working as a prep-cook and server at a local large-chain grocery store in town. He and I talk about food a lot. I share the same wisdom with him that I shared with my daughter while growing up (that she was at one point in time sick of hearing, but now really appreciates knowing) which is; "Understand that you and your food share a much greater connection than just 'plate, fork, mouth'. I teach him the same things: even if you're broke, 'cheap' food is cheap for a reason, and typically not a good one.

Last night I was on dad-duty, having been asked to make "comfort food" because her wisdom teeth are coming in, and they asked if I'd fix a squishy dinner: perogies and hand-made Hungarian-style seitan sausages topped with fried onions, vegan sour cream and ajvar. After the plates were clean, and she was basking in fullness with no jaw pain, she said "At the worst time in my life, I'd think about you and your cooking." I nearly started to cry. Then he made it worse by saying "Only my mom every made me feel this cared-for, and she wasn't half the cook you are."

I'm a good cook. Not a great cook. I know this. I'd fail at culinary school for a dozen different reasons. I cook because I love to make people happy. I cook because I need to eat, and no one is better suited to prepare something I'm willing to eat but me. My ethics are taken into account, from the store to the farmer's market to the cast-iron to the table. But to have that simple love from two people expressed so earnestly and simply is humbling. And to have the food be something that is healthier than any alternative they can get, yet be so satisfying to them just makes me feel better about it.

I was a strict vegan for nearly three years, and the vast majority of my meals are still, in fact, vegan. Living that way was an awesome and humbling lesson in food politics and ethics. I'm not a vegan anymore, and that is an even greater lesson. I will always respect my vegan brothers and sisters for their motivation to live their life that way, and it would be a much happier and healthier world were more people to at least TRY veganism. But two of the people in my life whose ethics I respect the most--my Dharma teachers--are not vegan. On retreat last March, I had a realization about my path. Those two people--healthy in mind, spirit and body--are not averse to eating things that at one point in time I eschewed for mostly ethical (virtually moral) reasons. And I suddenly realized the path for me: If they can find a point of balance and ethical moderation with certain ingredients and dietary inclusions, so can I. That's my lesson. That's my path. I need to find the middle way...

No matter how hard we try, we won't make the world a vegan planet. Yet at the same time, constantly eating any damn thing we want all the time like it's our birthright is the wrong end of the spectrum. And for as many vegans as their are showing the utility and practicality of a vegan diet, there should also be people who are willing to be closer to the center, showing that you can be healthy and happy by practicing simple mindfulness and moderation, and not necessarily abstinance. People who practice thanking the chicken for an egg every time it's included. People who are mindful that suffering has occurred in the most conscientious of dairy farming, and the cheese carries that karma, and they willingly take that karma on as a way to balance the karma of the world, thanking the cow, and the local farmer, actively in the process. People who use soy cheese so that they may have real dairy cheese once in a while as a treat, not a right. People like my kids, who are willing to learn about using just a little less, so that they can appreciate other things just a little more when it happens, and yet still feel comforted and sated. People like my teachers, who are more mindful of their connection to food than anyone I know.

And people like me, who are trying to show that there is a center, and there lies balance. People like me. Trying to find balance. I, too, must be a teacher. I, too, must be an example. If more people were like me, literally billions of lives would be spared, both animal as well as human. No, not as many lives as if we'd all be vegan, but the reduction of suffering is, and can never be, a unilateral deal. We must start somewhere, and we must live a realistic life. I have lost weight just by being reasonable, and enjoying things in (albeit strict) moderation. And it serves as both lesson as well as practice.

And I am grateful for both.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

266-ish (again, again)...

The changes I've been making are once again working. It's always the two things: diet and exercise. Always. I have been riding the exercycle almost every day. 20min sessions. Typically at least two sessions, but my stamina is back up, so often it's three, so that's 60min on the bike. It's beginning to make a few funny sounds and some grinding, so I think maintenance is in order. The last thing I need is for that thing to "grind to a halt". The rains are here now, and soon it will be really hard for me to get out of this flat, so that bike will be an indoor life-line to exercise when I can't get out and walk.

I'm back to having more energy, which is nice. It's amazing what that 15lbs feels like on me now and what it does to me. I'm really looking forward to getting back into the 250's again. My "goal" is the same: 250 by the new year. That's actually pretty reasonable (again). If it's so damn reasonable, then why haven't I ever made it? Hmmm?

The 266 may or may not be real, but at least is appearing to be for the past few days. I've had a few "cheese parties" the past three days or so, but at the same time, I've been very conscious of what I've had, and make sure to do 60min bike totals the days after. Fortunately, the cheese is now gone... ;)

Interestingly, my sensei hit me with something this past Sunday while doing my sanzen interview. I'd told him that I was doing okay, and wanted to ask him if I could start practicing with a koan. He said "I understand why you want to, but right now, I think the best thing for you to do is start being mindful of food." This really struck me, because I had actually begun that very practice about a week before-hand. "If you want to couch it in a koan form, ask yourself this: 'Who is it that craves? Who is it that hungers?' Explore that..."

And that is a very powerful practice, and one that I have wrestled with my whole life. It will be interesting to see where it leads me. I have an intellectual answer that jumps to the front of my mind, but as is typically the case, it's almost always the "not right" answer.

I am signed up for a week-long seshin the 3rd week of November. It's a "generosity seshin", and everything eaten is donated. I plan on making 48 seitan sausages (both links and patties) to contribute, along with dry goods.

I am looking forward to the ōryōki meals again. It's so nice to eat this way. Eating as a team. Eating as one hunger, with all needs met by your dharma brothers or sisters handing you everything you need, and you passing it on. All you have to do is focus on the sensations and flavors, and rest in the support that the sangha provides. Talk about gratitude.

This kind of generosity is more humbling than I can possibly describe....but know I deserve. That's because we all deserve this.

How sad that we have allowed ourselves to forget what is truly our birthright: Health, happiness, peace, joy and the support of family/sangha. I won't lie and say that I'm not looking for the weightloss aid that a week at the monastery will help out with, but honestly, as nervous as I may be about my first week-long seshin, what I look forward to the most is simply being held in that great vessel--that safe place--where, no matter what, I will be with those who love and care for me, and support me simply for who I am, and my willingness to be there as part of something greater than any of us alone. Everything you need is there, and in just the right amount. Truly. "Just enough..."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The beginning of the numbers...


  • 1 large sesame bagel: 375
  • 1/4 cup Tofutti cream cheese: 240
  • Mocha: 300
Notes: Obviously, the breakfast regiment has to change. Way the hell too many empty carb and fat calories...

  • 30 min Exercycle: -434
  • Smoothie 1 banana, 12 strawberries, 20 almonds, 2 scoops protein powder, 2 cups soy milk. Drank half now. Calories to be determined.


Well, I had a pretty decent day yesterday. Did 25min on the bike to start with. I walked a lot yesterday. Started by walking down to the Belmont library a mile from here, then took the bus to TJ's and got a high-protein smoothy base, plus salad fixins. Didn't really think about how heavy and bulky the bag would be bringing all that stuff home with me; big container of powder, 4 avocados, thing of cherry tomatoes, this, that, etc. I wound up having to shove the sprout container into my pocket. I'm sure that didn't look odd at all. Got back to the flat, unloaded, and then had to hit the road again rather quickly to go do a radio listener survey. I essentially listened to an entire day of KGON in 90min. Got paid $50 for doing so, though.

The trip home was awful. Fall/Winter is here, and the rain is starting. This is going to make the no-car life pretty tricky. How am I going to walk safely in the winter time? I'll find a way. I think I'm going to head to Mt. Scott community center and check out their weight/fitness room and maybe talk to a trainer. I'll also fill out a sponsorship/scholarship thing. Fat is costing me my life already; I can't have it cost me my wallet, although I'd be interested in seeing metrics on how much the dollar cost is to being fat. Anyway, the goal this week is to finish at 270 by Sunday. The big goal is to hit 250 by January 1st. That may or may not be reasonable. Then again, I may or may not be reasonable myself at this point...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

4 months later, 276-ish...

It's been a hard summer. I won't run down the details, but suffice it to say that I put back on about 10lbs since July. I've been much more active, but still not enough. I sold my truck back in August, and have been walking a lot more as a result, but I've also been eating a lot more things that are unhelpful to me--mostly refined carbs and starches. They're on their way out.

This is going to be really challenging. Winter's on its way. Who ever looses weight in winter?

It's gonna have to be me.