Your Helmet Won’t Stop A Speeding Car…

I grew up during as time when the wearing of bicycle helmets wasn’t really a thing. And how could it be? I couldn’t wear a helmet while wearing earphones to my walkman, now could I? This was long before the advent of earbuds but honestly, as long as I was wearing a ball cap to protect my scalp from the sun and I was home before dark, my parents never imposed the wearing of a bike helmet. These days? Depending on the community you live in, the requirement of a bike helmet may be law. But there isn’t a day where I don’t see multiple people cycling in heavy traffic areas without a helmet.

It is what it is. Some people are more apt to follow rules and best practices than others. But the curious thing is, what purpose does a bike helmet serve? If you’re a young child and you happen to topple sideways on your bike, a helmet may save your skull from cracking on the edge of a sidewalk; no question. But whether you’re a child or an adult, you’re helmet won’t save you from any significant incident, such as getting struck by a moving car. This makes one wonder why it’s considered so necessary on most cases. And this post is about all of those little “rules,” not just bicycle helmets.

The reason behind certain rules and regulations isn’t always clear. And more often than not, it can seem unnecessary and perhaps even excessive. Especially if you find yourself on the receiving end of a penalty in relation to any of it. One good example is last week, when I was issued a traffic ticket for performing an “illegal” turn. I won’t get into the specifics of the ticket, other than to say that I definitely performed the alleged action, and the section of legislation does render it unlawful. So I really can’t argue the traffic ticket. But I couldn’t help but feel that I had done nothing wrong or unsafe and that being issued a ticket because of it was rather ridiculous.

The point behind today’s particular rant, is that even though it seemed perfectly safe and acceptable to me, doesn’t mean that it would be to everyone. In most cases, an incident likely occurred that led to that action becoming unlawful. By that logic, it becomes important for people to observe those laws and abide by them. Not only for their own safety, but the safety of others. At the risk of opening my comments section up to a plethora of argumentative points of view, this concept applies to a lot of rules, regulations and laws that are being enacted in response to the current state of the world. Some of them may seem unfair or excessive, but they all have the aim to protect and safeguard the population as a whole.

Most people can’t discern the difference between their “rights” and doing “what’s right.” The two often don’t go hand-in-hand and don’t always apply to one another. And sometimes, we need to abide by certain rules in order for society to continue to function normally. This is the cost of living in a modern society where we live in mass gathering of populated towns and cities. I’m quite certain that if a vehicle clips me while I’m out cycling, my helmet likely won’t do a damn thing to save me. Just like wearing a face mask “may” do nothing for me or the people around me. But I acknowledge two things: the first is that I can still observe my rights as a person while abiding by the rules. The second is that it costs me nothing, which tends to make peoples’ theatrics over most of these issues more than a bit ridiculous. this is why you’ll always see me do both those things, so long as it’s required of me. Food for thought… ☯️

Your Muscles Know, Even When You Don’t…

“I fear Not The Man Who Has Practiced 10,000 Kicks Once, But I Fear The Man Who Has Practiced One Kick 10,000 Times”

– Bruce Lee

Who doesn’t love Bruce Lee? Even folks who don’t study the martial arts can have a deep appreciation for his skill, speed and technique. The quote above the photo is one of the most widely-shared quotes allegedly said by Bruce Lee. I say “allegedly” because, well…. I wasn’t there! And there’s often a significant number of quotes attributed to a person, even when it may not be provided that they said it. After all, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Abraham Lincoln said that. See what I mean?

But now that I’ve finished being sarcastic, let’s get back to the quote itself. If one were to question the thought behind this quote, one could easily interpret that it suggests muscle memory is more effective than variety. And I would be inclined to agree. Even in smaller numbers, you may gain more from doing one technique for an entire workout than doing ten techniques over the same period of time. The idea is that doing too much waters down your ability to master certain techniques and find the ability to do them without thought.

This is why muscle memory is so important in the martial arts. When it comes to a real life fight situation, which you’ll hopefully never have to deal with, having the ability to call upon muscle memory can mean the difference between getting your ass handed to you and being seriously injured, or hopefully coming out of it with only mild injuries. Because realistically, there’s no such thing as a real fight where you don’t get hurt in some given way, shape or form.

So, what is “muscle memory?” Well, the Oxford Dictionary defines muscle memory as “the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.” Even just based on that definition, I’m sure you can see why it would be important in the martial arts. It’s a bit like a toddler, learning to walk. They’ll stand, stumble and take a few steps before falling. But then, they’ll get back up and keep at it. Through repetition, they’ll learn to walk and it occurs naturally through muscle memory.

Can you imagine if you had to remind yourself how to walk EVERY time you went somewhere? Granted, I have a tendency to walk into walks at the best of times, so perhaps my muscle memory isn’t as good as I think it is. But I digress…. The point is, muscle memory is important to the overall function of routine movements in the body. From the martial arts perspective, it becomes important because in a real fight scenario, your ability to respond depends on your muscle memory. Taking the time to plan out your defense usually doesn’t happen and if it does, chances are your opponent isn’t patiently waiting for you to figure it out.

Back in my “younger” years, I used to hate doing lines of one particular technique. It irked me to be doing only one movement when my body and mind wanted to throw in so much more. During youth, it can seem boring to do so little and we rarely have appreciation for the fact that as we perform frequent repetitions, we’re honing our bodies to be able to reproduce that movement on a moment’s notice, usually without thinking about it. Mastering one piece of the puzzle is how you ensure you’ll get a clear, complete picture. ☯️

How Buddha Got His Groove Back…

It’s been a difficult couple of years for the entire world and very few people have gotten away unscathed. The pandemic caused a lot of upset and difficulty for most people, causing the closure of businesses, loss of jobs and the loss of key life experiences that one will never get back, like high school graduation. As society begins to lick its wounds and the world re-opens (for now), I take stock and reflect on the fact that one of the biggest things that has affected me, besides Nathan being kept home from school, is the closure of my karate dojo.

For almost fifteen years, my policing career has dragged me all over Saskatchewan, to an extent where the thought of joining a karate class was a moot point. After all, what’s the point of joining a martial arts school just to have them lose me after the 3 to 5 that the Mounties usually required at any given one spot? So, it was an important step in the right direction for me when I transferred to Regina and found the current dojo that i train in. Imagine the irony, when I was forced to step away when the dojo closed due to the pandemic.

Oh, we tried the old Zoom training thing, as I posted about here. It was alright, per se… But karate isn’t a knitting circle. Eventually, you need some physical contact with an actual partner in order to train and practice certain techniques. We closed up shop for the summer, as we usually do. As Labour Day came and went, i got a little concerned when I didn’t get the customary “back to the dojo” email that I’ve gotten every year for the past five years. Five years… I’ve been training with the Regina Institute of Kempo Karate for five years, Still feels like yesterday…

Anyway, I got the email on Monday for class on Tuesday evening. I walked into the dojo and time melted away. it was two years ago, before the pandemic and lockdown. The same faces and the same class. the same energy and the same mojo. We were back. I was back. It was glorious. We were all a little excited to be chatting and catching up, so we started a little late. AND we took things a little easy to start off the season (I may or may not have pulled a bicep during a ridge punch) but it was a fantastic class. Next one is tomorrow night and I just can’t wait to get back.

I’ve been so focused on cycling and training by myself, I had almost forgotten the importance and value behind training with others. Who knows what the months to come may bring? With all the variants floating around and the way the world is treating the pandemic, things may lock down again shortly. And if they do, so be it. But when opportunities present themselves, it’s important to jump on them while we can. After all, you never know what you got ’til it’s gone. ☯️

Six Of One, Half Dozen Of The Other…

That time came once again to visit my endocrinologist. If you read the previous post, my last appointment was last May, when I received news of the lowest A1C reading I’ve had in almost two decades: 6.9. Why is this reading important? For you non-Diabetics, the A1C results basically calculate a Diabetic’s average blood sugars over a period of three months. Although still an important reading, one’s A1C can be manipulated through extreme highs and lows, making it a less efficient means of proper blood sugar control than one’s percentage of “time in range.” Time in range can’t be manipulated; either your blood sugars are good or they aren’t.

I made my way downtown quite early this morning; well before most businesses were open. The air was crisp and the morning had the feeling of autumn. I was only semi-caffeinated but the walk did its job and woke me up properly before I reached the doctor’s office. I was almost half an hour early, which wouldn’t have been an issue, pre-COVID. Now, most clinics and doctors’ offices frown on arriving early, since they try to keep patients from interacting as much as possible. But my laptop was outdated and couldn’t update to support the Medtronic CareLink Uploader, meaning I needed the office staff to do it for me. This did not please them.

Once my pump was uploaded, I saw my endocrinologist and discovered that my A1C had increased to 7.4, which was disappointing but I had expected a rise of some sort. I expected it because I’ve had a significant amount on my plate since the last appointment. Between starting a new job and a new routine in April, we’ve got major renovations happening in the house as well as my son Nathan, deciding to use his bedroom as a public washroom and basically hosing down every corner. This resulted in the removal of the carpet and discovery of asbestos tile, which obviously needed to be replaced. Then, we repainted, put in new flooring and new baseboards and basically dropped some serious G’s into renovating his bedroom far ahead of plan. And budget. FML.

Long story short, added stress and life issues caused some variations in blood sugars that I’m not proud of. What can I say? I’m human and far from perfect. As I said, I expected it. What I didn’t expect, was the increase in cholesterol and blood pressure. To the point that my doctor has increased some of the “preventative” pills that I take. My Endo considered me a bit of a medical oddity, since despite the increase in cholesterol, I somehow managed to lose about ten pounds. Ain’t medicine wonderful? He also added a new pill that would work in tandem with my other medications to help bring my cholesterol and blood pressure in check.

Despite the medicine aspect, we discussed some things that I could do to improve things on my own. The reduction (but not elimination) of sodium in my diet, increased water intake and reduce my alcohol intake (I don’t drink constantly, but everyone could stand to drink less) and ensure I cut back on foods that may be fried or processed. He also suggested trying to eliminate some of the stress in my life. This aspect can be a bit tougher, since some stress is inherent in the course of normal life and can’t necessarily be eliminated.

I left the doctor’s office feeling a little down. It was a strange combination of victory and defeat, considering one of my main goals has been to breach the 200-pound weight level. It was nice to have the doctor acknowledge my hard work in losing ten pounds, even though I haven’t crossed that 200 mark, yet. But the raise in cholesterol is concerning. Certain lifestyle changes will need to take place. I think that first and foremost, and if this wasn’t written here, many who know me wouldn’t believe it, that I need to cut back on the caffeine I consume in a day. I should refocus my efforts towards some herbal teas and water. I can easily recognize that the multiple caffeinated beverages I consume throughout the day easily contributes to my increased blood pressure.

My wife and I have been on a decent salad kick, recently. We fell away from that, somewhat. So tonight’s supper involved some chicken with a very lovely salad. The best part is that there was enough salad left over for me to bring to work tomorrow. The day wasn’t all bad. I got notice today that karate classes will resume tomorrow evening. That’s been a long time coming. I haven’t trained with others since March of 2020, so it’ll be good to get back at it. And last but not least, I’m currently typing this post on my newly purchased MacBook Pro. Since my old laptop could no longer support any updates or sync my phone, I decided it was time. In today’s world of technology, I think that six years is a pretty good lifespan for a computer. ☯️

Adaptation Does Not Mean Depreciation

I’m pretty late getting a blog post written today. That’s what happens when you waste away a cold, cloudy, autumn-like morning by laying in bed longer than you should, followed by dragging your feet at some errands before the work week starts. Luckily, once I was able to sit down in my rocker, play some daily crossword puzzles and get some caffeine into me, all was good.

Nathan and I started our day by having some breakfast (which consisted of cold pizza for me. What?! It’s the weekend…) followed by running to a local department store to grab groceries and items we would need to make it through the week. When we got home, Nathan was hungry again, which he practically always is. I fed him a snack and since the baby was in bed, my wife and I decided a cold, lazy Sunday was an appropriate time for a nap. I convinced Nathan to stay quiet for an hour so that we could lie down.

When we woke up, Nathan decided he wanted to go to the park. Since it’s the weekend and I have no reason to decline his request, I agreed on the condition that we take our bikes. I’m only about halfway towards my current virtual marathon, which requires 508 kilometres on the bike. I’m currently at roughly 200. Today should have been my day to break out a solid 40 or 50-kilometre ride, but the morning left me uninspired due to the cold.

Nathan and I donned our helmets and took to the streets, hellbent on making our way to a local park, which was about a kilometre away. Nathan still has his training wheels on, since he outright refuses to work his legs consistently to get them stronger. I’ve been threatening to remove his training wheels all summer, but I thought this would be a good opportunity for him to ride with me and get a feel for some actual biking that doesn’t simply include doing circles in the driveway.

Riding to the park with Nathan was a learning experience. For one, I got the opportunity to o learn how slowly I can cycle and still maintain my centre of balance on the bike. FYI, it ain’t very slow. But once on the street with me, Nathan gave himself the effort and started to push hard with his legs. He not only kept up at a reasonable pace, he overtook me a couple of times and the grin on his face was worth the slow speed.

His reward was playing at a local park with a batch of kids and making new friends. He even got to pet a dog. And despite not sweating through my fitness gear like I usually do, I added almost 3 kilometres to my virtual marathon. I’ll worry about great distances tomorrow. today, I got my son on the right track to start using his bike not only for recreation but as a source of transportation. And I can certainly appreciate the opportunity. ☯️

How Did I Get Here?

I’ve always made a point of ignoring my birthday. This usually involved working extra hours, burying my head in a book or doing something that kept me out of the limelight in order to allow this day to pass as quickly as possible without drawing attention to it. It doesn’t help that today is usually memorable to most people for different reasons. Then it was made clear to me a few years ago that when you have children, your birthday isn’t JUST about you anymore.

How did the path to my birthday this year come about? Well, let’s see… On Thursday, I had my eye injections. Loads of fun. Because I’m self-masochistic, I endured the evening’s pain without my usual dose of pub beer. I did, however, enjoy a plate of very filling, “Irish” nachos. These are nachos made with cross-track fries instead of nachos. Quite delicious. So, that wasn’t so bad. But the next day on the way home, a lovely officer of the law was kind enough to educate me on a mistake I made by serving me a $233 ticket. That was SO nice of him. Especially since it was for something I technically SHOULD have known but surprisingly didn’t, despite my previous career.

With any luck, I’ll be getting my hands on a raspberry pie this morning. Combined with some time with my family, it should make everything alright. Today is an important day of reflection for me, to examine where I’ve been, what I’ve been through and where i hope to go. The world has changed significantly since I was a kid, and I’m often amazed at the fact that I’m still kicking. But kicking, I am (karate pun fully intended) and I have too many plans and ambitions to slow down now. Here’s hoping the next year brings better tidings than the last three. ☯

The Cost Of Karate

I once wrote a post about the cost of Diabetes supplies and how financially devastating it would be to someone who isn’t lucky enough to have medical coverage. I won’t get into the specifics, since I’ve posted on it before and it can be read here. But there’s no denying that there’s been a noticeable increase in the cost of things, even in JUST the past twenty years. I remember buying my first car when I was 16 years old (that’s the reward of working at a young age, I was able to purchase my own first car) and gasoline prices were in the 50 or 60 cents/litre. When I got fuel for my SUV yesterday, the current cost was 132 cents/litre. Crazy, right?

This increase in cost has affected everything, from food to commodities and leisure products. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it had affected the martial arts world, as well. And why wouldn’t it, right? The costs associated with running a dojo have undoubtedly increased with the years, same as everything else. I’ve just been fortunate enough that it’s never affected me. Between time and circumstances, I was always in a position where inflation never came to my attention, at least not where karate or martial arts was concerned. Until recently.

When I joined karate in 1989, I was paying a monthly tuition of $20/month. That’s it. I bought a GeneSport cotton karate gi for $40 and there was nothing else associated. Of course, Sensei was always the kind of instructor who never charged for anything. He basically charged JUST enough tuition to keep the lights on. That’s it. There was no entry fee, membership dues besides monthly tuition and no charge for sport insurance or any of those things. Obviously, I’m not hear to argue the necessity of those costs in a modern dojo; I’m simply pointing out that they didn’t apply to our dojo.

During the last ten years that I trained in Norther New Brunswick, Sensei announced that due to the school board increasing rental costs for the gym we used, he would have to increase our tuition cost. The irony is most of us were wondering how we would afford a more expensive monthly tuition to keep training. Sensei announced he would be increasing tuition to $25/month. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s it?” He even asked us if that was okay with us, and we were all fine with it, but I can’t help but wonder what he would have done if we’d all said we weren’t fine with the increase.

Besides that 5-dollar increase in monthly tuition, I’ve never had to worry about increase cost of studying karate. That is to say, besides my own indulgences, such as purchasing a Tokaido or Shureido gi, or purchasing a custom belt with my name on it, when I graduated Shodan. But those are not necessities to studying martial arts. Otherwise, Sensei never charged us for belt tests, certificates or even his time. On reflection, I have to say that I got really lucky in finding him, as the character of one’s Sensei dictates how the pupil will grow or even whether they stick it out.

In 2009, I moved out to Saskatchewan where I joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and attended training for six months in Regina. When I completed my training, I was posted to the Province of Saskatchewan and have been here ever since. I was posted in multiple places within the Province but as I was never anywhere for longer than a few years, it made it difficult to commit myself to a local dojo or even open one of my own, which would have been my preference. But in 2016, I transferred to Regina and ultimately retired from the RCMP. We’ve been living in Regina ever since, and the city actually has better than a dozen martial arts schools of varying styles.

For the first time in almost ten years, I found myself searching for a place to train. I had gotten so used to training on my own that it was a bit surreal. I visited a number of dojos, but joining a martial arts school is a very personal and individualized process. Most people don’t understand that different people will be suited only by certain styles. But after visiting some schools, I settled on one and was taken aback at the prospect that monthly tuition was $60/month. This was almost triple what I had been paying a decade earlier. Despite that concern, I joined the club.

I trained with this club for almost two years when issues at work and with the house caused some financial hardship to the extent that I could no longer justify using $60/month for something that I could rightfully be teaching on my own. I made the difficult decision to step away, since I had made friends in this dojo. Luckily, the head instructor’s perspective was in keeping with Sensei’s and he agreed to allow me to train without tuition, given my rank and contribution to the club. It was extremely generous and I accepted.

Then, the pandemic hit and we tried some different things. We used to have training over Zoom, which allowed us to have group exercises and such. But i don’t think I need to explain that martial arts requires contact. I was looking forward to the dojo re-opening with the conditions lessened in our Province. But it doesn’t seem to have happened. The club’s website still indicates it’s closed with no indication of when it may open and no correspondence has been received. Which is odd, but it is what it is.

So I once again started looking for a dojo in which to train. Interestingly, I found a school of traditional karate, which would have been alright. Then I got roundhouse kicked in the face with the reality of inflation. monthly tuition was listed for adult pupils at $95/month! Are you fuckin’ kidding me??? That’s almost $1200/year JUST on tuition, not including the fees for sport insurance and the “mandatory” memberships to certain karate associations. And we all know how I feel about THOSE. Needless to say, it appears as though I’ll be training on my own for the foreseeable future. ☯

The Politics Of Karate…

This coming April (2022) will mark 33 years that I’ve been studying and training in Okinawan karate. It’s been even longer than that that I’ve been studying martial arts in general, so it stands to reason that over the last three decades, I’ve seen and done a lot while wearing what my son once referred to as “daddy’s magic kicking pyjamas.” And there’s one thing that I have unfortunately seen and been a victim to, over those years that I feel has no place in martial arts: politics.

I know what you may be thinking…. Hasn’t there always been a political side to the martial arts? Especially in Japan? Yes, you would be correct. Most people associate the term “politics” with the government,a new rightfully so. But it can be loosely defined as the activities associated with the governance of a specific activity, as well. In this circumstance, the politics behind the practice and governance of karate dojos and clubs. And this is something that’s been in place since the time when karate gained popularity at the end of the 19th century/start of the 20th century.

Originally, karate founders brought their teachings back from China, where they studied Kung fu in certain monasteries while trying to escape the military draft in Japan. This somewhat depends on what history book you’re reading, of course and it really doesn’t change the topic of today’s discussion. But these founders brought the martial arts to Okinawa, where interested pupils decided they wanted to learn. Okinawan karate was born!

These founders didn’t have associations, organizations and in most cases, they didn’t even name themselves as a style, per se. In most cases, karate styles were named and discerned from one another after the founder’s death, when students would name it after the founders, in their honour. It isn’t until all these styles began mingling with one another and spreading to the mainland that certain vested parties began imposing rules, restrictions and governance on karate schools, and the ability to do certain things or train in certain ways became difficult, if not outright forbidden.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, I was lucky enough to be taught by a Sensei who had no interest in politics. Sensei was never one for joining associations or organizations and taught karate plainly for the purpose of karate itself. And to pass on the knowledge, which should be an ambition of every committed practitioner. But I was never exposed to anything that required further membership to practice and study karate, nor were there any conditions to being taught or tested. Decisions and choices ultimately fell to the relationship between Sensei and myself. As it should be.

I bring this up, because I recently had the good fortune to find a school of my style within a day’s drive from my current location. This is important, as Sensei lives on the opposite end of the country and visiting for even just a few days costs thousands of dollars in flights and travel expenses. Not least of which is the fact that putting myself inside a contained, metal tube with a batch of people who could potentially be carrying the COVID-19 virus doesn’t appeal to me. So I was excited at the prospect of having found some of the “brotherhood/sisterhood” I had hoped to visit and train with, albeit on a contingency basis.

I excitedly opened up my email and reached out to the dojo, which brought me into contact with the dojo’s secretary. First red flag. Although it’s 2021 and I can easily understand that many if not most dojos have started to carry an online presence, knowing that a dojo has a secretary to manage day-to-day affairs tells me that this dojo is likely very commercialized. I’m viewing this through the lens of someone who has trained his entire life in storage rooms and rented gyms, after all. I received a response from the dojo lead instructor. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t name him here.

Our conversation was short and to the point. I explained that I was about 3,400 kilometres from my Sensei and would be, for the foreseeable future. I explained that I wanted a place to train where I could connect and grow with my style of karate (since there are dozens of martial arts schools in Regina,m but none are Uechi). I humbly asked permission to travel to the Sensei’s dojo to participate in a couple of classes on a contingency basis, and we could see where things would take us.

I should make a point of mentioning that the Sensei was completely polite, respectful and friendly. There was no animosity or rudeness in his reply. But the content of his reply took me aback. I had a phone call with this Sensei in order to introduce myself and discuss the matter further. Basically, I was a black belt but I wasn’t a black belt by “their standards.” In order for me to train and have my rank be recognized, I would need to be tested against their standards. I’m sorry…. I thought we were studying the same style. Perhaps I was wrong.

Once I took their equivalency testing, my rank would be recognized but I would need to join their karate organization, which of course involves fees and membership requirements. Then, I would be required to alter my training to accommodate the “right way of doing things,” based on the specific lineage of their school as their master had branched off from Uechi-Sensei some time ago. So, things I’ve learned and have been practicing for over three decades would need to be changed. Yeah, because THAT sounds like something reasonable…

But here was the last straw that broke the camel’s back…. He wanted me to get my Sensei’s permission, in writing and signed, allowing me to train in his dojo. Well. Last time I checked, I was an adult and free to come and go as I choose, but maybe I missed something in the fine print. Oh, wait! Sensei never HAD any fine print! I ended that phone call with a feeling of loss. I thought I had found like-minded individuals who trained in my style with whom I could connect and occasionally visit. This apparently wasn’t the case. Despite Sensei’s best efforts to prevent it, I had now been exposed to the political side of karate.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive on this one. Who’s to say? Well, I’m to say, and I don’t I am. The martial arts is something steeped in deep tradition, history and discipline. The political side of things should never touch karate. This who teach, should teach for the sake of passing on that knowledge and avoid the trappings of bureaucratic nonsense. But that’s just me. I’m old school. But it appears that at least for the moment, I will continue my martial arts journey on my own. ☯️

Carbs vs. Calories, The Battle Continues…

This is going to be one of those posts where I make a point of saying that I’m not a doctor or health professional, nor am I a nutritionist or dietitian. If you want the real Slim Shady on any of the facts I’m describing in this post, you should consult one of the professionals mentioned above. But I certainly have information I can contribute for the sake of conversation, so take what I write with grain of salt. But not literally, since you shouldn’t be salting your food. But I digress…

I’ve often written that the most important and consistent factor behind proper fitness and weight loss is being able to burn more calories in a day than you consume. I’ve also mentioned on many occasions, the importance of reducing one’s overall carbohydrate intake in order to promote better blood sugar control and to help with weight loss as well. So, which one is the important one? What should you be focusing on for your weight loss efforts? Well, the easy answer is… both.

Because I’m wordy and I like to write, let’s start by pointing out that “fad diets” are bullshit. I’m sorry, but they are. At their core, most fad diets (which I won’t name here because I don’t like the potential for getting sued) target a certain core demographic based on a gimmick, or a trend. The whole concept of “don’t eat this” or “only eat that” will always work for JUST enough people that the masses will quickly jump on the bandwagon to try and slim down using these methods, fully unaware that like everything else in life, it’s subjective to the person and that maybe eating like humans did in paleolithic times isn’t ideal, because our bodies have evolved past those methods and that method may have worked for your neighbour who now looks great in their yoga pants, but it won’t necessarily work for you.

Even if you partake of one of these trends or fad diets, it won’t change three very important realities. That being that no matter what the diet, 1) you need to include regular exercise, 2) you need to burn more calories than you burn, and 3) you need to make good lifestyle choices. It’s a holy trifecta of fitness that simply can’t be ignored. If you start dieting consistently, you may shed some pounds, but your efforts will plateau pretty damn quickly. You have to include some exercise in there to help with muscle tone, blood circulation and calorie burn. This is especially important for us Diabetics.

The lifestyle choices can apply to a significant number to things. For example, you may have gotten a solid workout in and ate a green salad for lunch. But those efforts are wasted if you cap off the evening by sitting back with a six pack of beer and nachos. Mmm,…nachos…. Umm, moving on! The point is, there has to be a balance. So, while I’m not saying that you shouldn’t occasionally treat yourself, since life is meant to be lived and it’s been proven by multiple sources that depriving yourself will make your efforts all that much harder, you still need to be smart about it. Still with me? Good. Let’s examine the difference between calories and carbohydrates.

Good old calories…. If you want to get all scientific about it, a calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a quantity of water by one degree. For the purposes of food consumption, calories are the measurement of energy contained within the food. When a person consumes more calories than they burn, the body tends to store the excess as body fat, which results in weight gain. On the flip side, consuming too few calories can lead to some dangerous deficiencies in the body, as one may not be getting all the vitamins and nutrients required throughout the day. Depending on the source you draw on and your age, metabolism, level of fitness and even gender, the average person needs to consume anywhere between 1200 to 2000 calories a day.

You may be asking, what’s the point of consuming them if you’re only going to burn them to lose weight? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply keep reducing one’s overall calories? The answer to that is no. Look at that previous paragraph, again/. While burning the calories is important in order to maintain good weight loss potential, you still need the vitamins and nutrients you draw from food. Eating at a calorie-deficit will prevent you from getting everything you need to keep your body running smoothly. Make sense? Good. NEXT!

Carbohydrates are a naturally occurring compound, found in most foods but not all of them. Carbs are a source of fuel for the body and since they are a key nutrient, are a requirement, as much as I’d like to eliminate them altogether. Mainly comprised of sugars and starches, they get broken down into energy for the body. There’s that word again: energy. And in case no one was paying attention, you need energy to well,… live. Because of the nature and composition of carbohydrates, they’re usually the nemesis of someone with Diabetes, since we need to take insulin in response to the amount of carbs we consume.

So, what’s the difference? One is the measure of energy, the other is fuel that gets burned as energy. Am I the only one who feels that they both kind of sound like energy? I found a good article posted by The Cleveland Clinic, and I apologize because I didn’t seem to be able to copy the post. But it discusses the fact that “a gram of fat has about 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein has about 4 calories. In other words, you could eat twice as much carbohydrates or proteins as fat for the same amount of calories.” That sounds like a lot of math to me, but you can go to my.clevelandclinic.org and check out the article entitled “Fat and Calories: The Difference & Recommended intake.”

For me, the difference still ins’t clear. But for weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume. We’ve already covered that. For carbs, you need to count the number of net carbs you consume, which involves subtracting fibre from the total carb count on your nutritional label. That is to say, if what you’re eating even has a nutritional label AND if they’’re count is accurate. That’s why portion control is important. Whether you count calories or carbs, portion control is important. I would say the latter is more important for Diabetics, since it involves insulin consumption.

No matter which you choose to reduce or limit in order to help with your weight loss journey, bear in mind that reducing either by too much will leave you feeling weak and may not actually help in weight loss. Instead, consume healthier foods that are lower in calories or carbs but still contain a lot of the nutrients your body needs in order to function properly. Vegetables, lean proteins and limited starches made of whole grains are ideal. And don’t forget to consult a health practitioner before starting any radical change in food regimen. ☯️

When You Just Can’t…

I recently had a reader comment on one of my posts, where it was mentioned that one of the issues faced with traditional forms of meditation is that staying in a relaxed position with one’s eyes closed will usually result in the body slipping into something akin to a dream/sleep state. At least for one of the posts, I was discussing the use of meditation as a means of refreshing oneself from fatigue, so this wouldn’t be an unexpected result. But the reader made a good point about the importance of experiencing one’s day with open eyes, to live in the moment to experience all the beauty that life can potentially offer.

I remember in my pre-teens when I started toying with the concept of meditation and more often than not, trying to meditate for more than ten minutes would typically result in my falling asleep. At that age, it was entirely a bad thing. But during adulthood, we scarcely have the free time to meditate in any form, much less being available to fall asleep randomly. Imagine taking your lunch hour to meditate at the office and falling asleep? Only to have your boss give your shoulder a shake and ask you what the hell is going on?

I’m not saying this has happened to me, and the fact that some employers not only encourage but provide the resources for lunch-hour naps notwithstanding, that’s a topic for another post. The question is, can one meditate with eyes open? Are there any benefits to such a practice and how does one do it? The answer isn’t as simple or easy as a yes or no. And there are a LOT of conflicting sources. Depending on what definition you read, meditation is simply defined as working towards an enlightened state of focus, concentration and awareness. It’s thought to be a technique capable of changing one’s consciousness, allowing for a number of physical and mental benefits. If you’re a reader of some old classics, you may remember that Marcus Aurelius wrote a book simply called “Meditations.” In this context, meditation is considered someone’s written discourse on a particular subject, weighing heavily on their opinion. The focus of today’s post is obviously the definition as I’ve provided it, above.

Nathan, taking his first crack at meditation

Meditating with your eyes open, or “wakeful meditation,” as I’ve heard it referred to, is a practice where one can go about one’s day and perform daily activities all while maintaining some basic level of awareness towards meditation. In some respects, this can be a handy tool for allowing yourself to be freed from distractions in one’s environment, to increase one’s focus and even in some circumstances, to block out certain forms of pain.

This is not without challenge, and I’d be lying if I said it was something that could be sustained indefinitely. But it’s certainly possible and definitely recommended. The thing about meditation that most people seem to forget, is that you don’t need to be dressed in robes, sitting in the lotus position with your eyes closed in order to achieve it. I had a math teacher when I was in high school, who would take the fifteen-minute recess to close his classroom door, sit at his desk and simply close his eyes and perform a simple, deep-breathing meditation. Fifteen minutes. That’s it. And it would leave him refreshed and ready to continue on with his day.

I found an analogy online that would seem to be fitting. The word “meditation” is a bit like the word “sports.” If you tell someone you play sports, they’d likely ask you what sport you play, since there would be hundreds upon hundreds of possibilities. Meditation is very much the dame thing. There are many ways of meditating, different methods, techniques and postures, all with the goal of helping one increase their overall awareness and consciousness. The key thing is to find a method that works for you and suits your purposes. Otherwise, it’s like picking out a car to buy. If you don’t get the model you want with the options you were looking for, it’ll get you from point “A” to point “B,” but there’ll always feel like there’s something missing. Meditation falls very much under the same comparison. A huge shout out to the reader who provided comments that elicited this post. If you’re reading this, inspiration is always appreciated. ☯️