Category: Daily Life

I Might Be A Viking

  • We’ve been watching the Netflix/BBC series “The Last Kingdom“. It’s pretty good, and worth the watch if you haven’t seen it. Similar to Peaky Blinders, watching with captions turned on is recommended due to the heavy English accents. I joked after one of the episodes that, being of Swedish ancestry, I might actually be a Viking. Mrs Troutdog walked away laughing. I was a little hurt. My family is from Sweden. As a young lad I spent my time surfing, sailing, and scuba diving. I love the snow and embrace the cold winter sports. Those things pretty much define what we think of as characteristics of the proud Norse people, right? I did a little bit of reading, and it turns out that the Vikings weren’t very nice people. Raiding and pillaging villages, taking people as slaves, and other unmentionable acts were pretty much the hallmarks of a Viking visit to your hometown. Fearsome warriors, the Vikings occupied much of Europe during their heyday. Ok, I admit I’ll probably never be tossed in the fearsome warrior category. But don’t worry, I can write a scathing email if my back is pushed against the wall. Continuing my extensive research, I stumbled upon a link describing Viking hairstyles. It turns out the “Viking look” is an actual thing right now. Hmmm, I kind of like the look. The problem is that I can’t grow a beard, look terrible with long hair, and Mrs Troutdog would never let me shave the sides of my head. Oh, and that’s probably not a look an old man can pull off anyway (unless you’re a 300-pound powerlifter). Oh well, I don’t really like pickled and salted fish and I’ve never actually been to Sweden. I suppose no radical hairstyle changes are in my future. But deep down, in the dead of winter, I may still have a few small daydreams of being a Viking.

  • Our next Supreme Court Justice, when asked to define what a woman is, replied that she can’t because she’s not a biologist. Her fear of saying anything that goes against the progressive narrative tells you all you need to know about her probable judicial leanings. It doesn’t matter, it’s all political theater anyway.

  • The weather this week will be turning warm. It’ll be in the mid 70’s by the weekend. Glorious warm sun and dry trails. I find myself paralyzed with indecision about what I want to do. Mountain bike? Trail run? Golf? Motorcycle ride? Winter is officially done.

  • Along with warm weather comes… yard work. At the start of winter, I boldly declared that I’m perfectly capable of maintaining the yards and got rid of the gardener. It’ll save us some money and won’t actually take me that much time. Now that time has arrived and as I’m surveying everything that needs to be done… I’m slightly regretting my decision. No matter, I shall rally and become the gardener that I was always meant to be! Stay tuned for frequent garden updates.

  • The Ukraine scenario continues to be awful. It’s horrific to see the suffering. It is a confusing mess in every way imaginable, with no clear or positive outcome. But for all the folks calling for U.S. intervention, you should first define how many American casualties are you willing to accept. How many young men are you willing to let die or be permanently maimed in the name of defending Ukraine? 50? 100? 1,000? More? 100,000 in small tactical nuclear strikes against U.S. bases in Poland or elsewhere? As is clear by the footage we’ve seen, this is not a video game. “Intervention” has consequences. Own up to what you think acceptable losses are – and intervening with zero losses is not a realistic answer.

  • I had jury duty this week. I dutifully drove downtown, parked, and made my way to the courthouse. Checked in, found a hard plastic chair, and began the waiting process. Eventually we were sorted out by red and green badges and lined up by number to proceed into the courtroom. Just before we entered the Jury director came out and said that everyone with a green badge is being dismissed, our case was settled. Hallelujah! Interestingly, in my county you’re still on the hook for the remainder of the week and can still be called in. Fingers crossed for me as I call into the jury selection recording number each night, to find out my fate for the next day.

  • I’ve been seeing a gym trainer twice a week for almost two months now. I’m starting to see progress. My range of motion is improved, balance is better, and core strength is significantly better. For the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to play golf or lift and move heavy patients at work without my back hurting the next day. I’m not quite ready to say I look forward to working out, but I’m actively making sure I don’t miss or find excuses to skip any workout sessions. This is a big change for me. Stay tuned…

Song of the day: Kaskade & Skrillex – Lick It (Official Video)

I Did A Bad Thing

I’m still not sure how it happened. Mrs Troutdog was out of town. God, this is so hard to say. I was, (chokes up a little), I was… hungry. Like, haven’t eaten in three days hungry. And I went to (takes deep breath)… Costco. You NEVER go to Costco when you’re hungry. That’s like rule number one. Like the very first thing they teach you as a new diet recruit at diet bootcamp. I’m so ashamed.

Now, fortunately there weren’t any blowouts with a 72-count case of doughnuts or anything. I’m not going to say I didn’t think about it, but I had at least a tiny bit of self-control. But there was bread. Oh god, so much bread. I honestly intended to simply get something to make a sandwich. I was hungry, it was lunchtime, and I was craving a sandwich. Having bread in the house is a bit of a forbidden thing, so standing in the Costco bread aisle felt very… naughty. Because you can’t get a small amount of anything at Costco, I put two giant loaves of sourdough bread in the cart. Enough bread for approximately 62 sandwiches (not including the heels). I almost abandoned the bread for giant tortillas, but they came in packages of about 120 and that a bit much even for me.

And then I saw the bagels. Oh my, I haven’t had a bagel in forever. I mean, I guess as long as I’m already having a sandwich, I may as well have a bagel for breakfast in the morning. But wait, we don’t even own a toaster (I wasn’t kidding, we don’t eat bread). So off to the appliance aisle to pick up a toaster. And then, as always happens when you get into a self-destructive mode, I thought – you know what, you can’t have a sandwich without potato chips. I’m already blowing it, fuck it, I’m getting chips. I did make a half-hearted attempt to find some kind of low-cal chips, but it didn’t last long. One ginormous bag of greasy chips into the cart. And what else do they have in the chip aisle? Popcorn. Oh my, I love popcorn. I looked at the calorie count and justified to myself that it’s not a horrible number as long as I don’t have it every night, right? (ignoring the fact that the calorie count is per serving and there’s like 20 servings in each bag). The 50-count case of Kirkland brand popcorn went into the cart.

I got home unpacked and made my sandwich. It was glorious. Toasted sourdough in my new toaster. Avocado. Sharp cheddar cheese. Bacon. Turkey. And a giant pile of potato chips. Oh my. If I was a smoker, I probably would have had a cigarette afterwards. And then the guilt set in. What have I done? Why am I so weak? I don’t understand why I do this to myself.

I walked into the kitchen and surveyed the wreckage of my frenetic sandwich making. Now if I was a smart man, I would have simply thrown everything away. Yep, had a moment of weakness and got it out of my system. Don’t beat yourself up. Dump it all, go for a run and eat clean tomorrow. Right?

Nope. I committed the other cardinal sin of dieting. The dreaded, “I already blew it, it’s the end of the week, I’ll start clean on Monday” justification. So, I’ve eaten it all. Day after day of sandwiches, chips, bagels, and popcorn. Sometimes twice a day. Mowed my way through a nearly 100% carbohydrate diet for days.

So now I sit here feeling bloated. My stomach’s a bit upset. I tried to go for a run but felt like crap. Mad at myself. Guilty. Ashamed. Vowing never to do it again. Mrs Troutdog is mad at me because she partook in the carb-binging as well. It was an end-to-end failure. Why do we do this to ourselves? Normal people, how do you resist these urges?

Sigh… Never go to Costco when you’re hungry.

It’s easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.

Margaret Mead

How’s Your Mood?

A month ago, I made the commitment to start going to a strength and conditioning coach. I tried to join the military to get that free bootcamp training, but the recruiters couldn’t stop laughing. I think that was a no. I wanted two things out of my training – someone who would promise to make me look like Daniel Craig in six weeks and someone who would come to my house and yell at me at 05:30 AM every day to get my ass up, put down the doughnut, and drop and give me twenty. I did find a trainer. Even though he ignored my first two requests he had all the right certs and degrees, so I decided to give him a chance.

Week one was pretty humbling. I was sure we’d start out with deadlifts, tire flips, and kipping pull ups. After doing an assessment, he said “uh, well, I think we should get a little foundation work in first”. Which is secret trainer code for “my eighth-grade girl clients are stronger than this guy”. It’s an absolute miracle that I’ve made it this long skiing without blowing out my knees. The stabilizing muscles for my knees are so weak, a few lunge type movements have my legs quivering like Jell-o and unable to maintain any balance or coordination. My core was mush. Planks, dead bugs, and bird dogs leave me shaking and lightheaded in just a few minutes. This is all a good thing. We’re making progress.

The best part though has been the motivation. I can get motivated to do anything for a short time. But being human my attention span drifts, and I find reasons to stop. Take this morning for example. I had a particularly hard shift yesterday and got home late. I was still tired this morning and had zero motivation. Left to my own devices I definitely would have bailed on any sort of workout. But I’d scheduled the trainer already, so I’m paying for it regardless. I would have felt guilty making up some excuse to not go… so I went.

And surprise, I felt great afterwards. I always do. The endorphin surge you get after a workout, a bike ride, a run, a ski, or any sort of exercise makes you feel good. It’s a natural mood enhancer. Every single time. I know that, yet still find reasons to be lazy. We humans are strange creatures. The amount of resistance and energy we put into avoiding something that will make us feel better is ridiculous. A little sun and a little exercise are probably the only prescriptions the vast majority of the population need to be happy. Screw big pharma, right?

Now, if I can just find a service that will come to the house and slap that doughnut out of my hands, I’ll be golden.

A Day In The Life

I’m an RN.

Yesterday was a busy day. I was pretty tired when I got home. My back hurt. I probably fell asleep thirty seconds after my head hit the pillow. In my previous career I was a software engineer. I thought I had busy days back then. Yes, I had some long days but mostly it was staying late to figure something out or catching up on emails. I’d be tired when I got home and declare, “whew, we need a vacation. It’s time to decompress”. Looking back, I was tired because I’d sat in a chair without moving for eight hours. I’d eat crap food and drink gallons of coffee. By the end of the day I’d have a headache from staring at the screen. I was tired, but not from “work”. I really had no idea what it felt like to be truly tired.

Yesterday I got to the hospital at 6:30 AM. Found out they were floating me to another floor. This makes everything exponentially more difficult. You don’t know who the doctors are, what their expectations are for wound care, etc… You can’t find the supplies you need. You don’t know what the access codes are to the various secure areas you need to get to. Basically, you need to ask someone for help for simple things all day long.

I transfused blood. Started IV’s. Removed IV’s. Changed dressings. I discharged three patients and admitted three more. I infused IVIG. Each of the transfusions requires staying in the patient’s room and monitoring vital signs every five minutes for 20 minutes, then every 30 minutes for the multiple hours it takes to finish. I did at least ten physical assessments. I lifted old people onto bedside commodes. I rolled, pulled, wiped, cleaned, changed sheets, and generally manhandled a 300-pound bed-bound patient who shit the bed. I argued on the phone with the pharmacy about medication timing. I struggled to coordinate how to admit a direct-admit patient with the doctor, the admitting office, and a unit clerk. I got yelled at by a drunk patient who was tired of waiting for his x-ray. When he got back from x-ray, he promptly shit all over the floor from the oral barium they gave him. I was told by a nasty old man that I was pretty useless and clearly didn’t know what I was doing. He had a critical hematocrit level and I had to sit in the room and convince him that yes, taking his blood pressure every five minutes was actually important. I sprinted down the hall every time a confused old lady set off her bed alarm to go look for her cat. I ran from one end of the hospital to the other to catch an Uber driver who was waiting for a patient and pleaded with him to just wait fifteen more minutes while we got the patient dressed. I had to sneak a patient’s anti-seizure medication into pudding and convince him to take it. Phone calls. And more phone calls. Charting. Paperwork. More charting. More paperwork because I forgot to add the year to a date on a form I sent to the blood bank. Written hand-off reports. Verbal hand-off reports to four different nurses.

After my shift was over, I spent another thirty minutes to finish charting things that I didn’t have time for during the day. I did not take a lunch. I left the hospital at 8:20 PM. In my previous life I thought I worked hard. I thought I was tired after a workday. I had no idea.

I’m an RN.

What’s Your Habit, Dude?

So, the other day I stumbled upon a YouTube channel. It’s a middle-aged guy who lost a hundred pounds and now competes in all kinds of running, cycling, and general fitness events. He’s articulate, funny, and doles out some pretty good, motivational advice. I’m not sure why, but I gravitate to those types of channels. Probably because in my head, any day now I’m going to go run an ultramarathon. Never mind that I’m struggling with 3 miles at the moment. The training is really going to kick in soon.

Anyway, in one of his videos he mentioned creating habits. He referenced a book that he says completely changed the way he thinks about this sort of thing. It’s called Atomic Habits by James Clear. Well, if it’s good enough for this guy it’s good enough for me. I jumped on to Amazon’s book site, found the book, and… it said I’d already downloaded it. I checked my Kindle and sure enough, there it was. I’d even read it. And I had absolutely zero memory of it. Clearly it didn’t make much of an impression on me.

But maybe I was taking too much cold medication that week? I decided to give it another go. Sure enough, something jumped out at me several chapters in. Something that further proved, once again, that Mrs. Troutdog is the smarter one in our marriage. She didn’t like my post from the other day, saying she hates when I talk negatively about myself. I agree that I tend to be very self-effacing when I write. Sometimes it’s for brilliant comedic effect. Sometimes it’s authentic voice. The truth is that I’m not much of a self-promoter. Besides, it’s hard to fail if you set the bar ridiculously low to begin with. Right?

So, what does this have to do with habits? One of the things that the author said about creating a habit is the importance of creating a positive affirmation. It’s a subtle thing, but one that makes a difference in how you view the habit you’re trying to start. Rather than saying, “I’m going to go for a run because I’d like to be considered a runner one day”, you need to tell yourself that you ARE a runner. It doesn’t matter that you can barely go three blocks… you ARE a runner and therefore you need to train. That subtle shift in mindset makes a huge difference in motivation to continue a habit.

I realized that this is exactly what I’ve been doing to myself, for years, and why it probably drives Mrs. Troutdog crazy. While a pure beginner may not know the difference, someone who’s participated in a sport or activity for a while can recognize the difference between an amateur and someone who’s actually good. For many of my activities I can tell when someone really knows what they’re doing. In my head, those are the people who can call themselves a cyclist, skier, runner, writer, etc… I’ve never viewed myself as one of those people. For anything. In my head I always see myself as a beginner. Not worthy of a higher rank.

I need to go for a run this morning because I’m a runner. That’s what I do. And runners need to train. Boom! Mind blown. It’s weird how such a small change in thinking, can influence your motivation to do something.

The other nugget that was in the book is about quantity vs. quality. I’ve always struggled with habits because when starting out, it’s hard. Your form is bad. You don’t have the coordination. Endurance and strength limits what you can do. You watch videos that tout “do this one exercise for 20 reps to make major changes!”. I can’t even to 10 reps, let alone 20. Guess I won’t be doing that one.

As the old saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Habits are formed by repetition, regardless of the quality of what you do. The author suggests that if you want to run every morning, start by getting up every day, lacing up your running shoes, and walk around the block. That’s it. Do just that for three weeks. Every single day. It makes no difference that all you did was go around the block. You’re creating a mental cue. Rewiring your brain to change what your morning routine is. It takes hundreds of repetitions to create a lasting habit. It doesn’t matter what your running form is, if you get better, how far you went, or how fast you go. What matters is a hundred times you reinforced that cue – get up, put your shoes on, and step out the door. It’s a habit.

I am a runner. I am a mountain biker. I am a skier. I am a motorcyclist. I am a fisherman. I am a photographer. I am a writer. Now please excuse me, I need to go train.

I’m Sick Of Diet And Food

I’m frustrated. I’m depressed. I’m angry. I’m absolutely sick and tired of thinking about diet and food. Here’s why…

In the last 7 days my activities have been as follows:

  • 3.7 mile run
  • Initial meeting with personal trainer, mobility, and strength assessment
  • A day of alpine skiing, 13 runs, 9.7 miles
  • A day of cross-country skate skiing, hills, 4.2 miles
  • Two 13-hour workdays, on my feet, walking an ungodly number of steps

My diet during this time:

  • Only two meals a day
  • One meal a day on the workdays
  • Out to dinner with friends but had only a salad
  • Had a burger one night but did salad instead of fries
  • Three total beers during the week
  • My only snacks were almonds and parmesan crips

Not bad, right? I jumped on the scale this morning and… I gained a pound and a half. Fuck!

It’s so demoralizing. Don’t get me wrong, I know exactly why. The meals were pretty high calorie. I ate a LOT of the snacks. Salad is not low calorie when you add gobs of blue cheese dressing. Beer is 200+ calories each. I know I ate too many calories. But I thought for sure that amount of activity I did would at least keep me at break-even. It’s a horrible feeling to be thinking about calories non-stop, to worry all week about getting enough activity in – and still gain weight. I’m tired of thinking about and dwelling over the number on the scale. It’s enough to want to just give up and eat whatever the hell I want. I’m getting old. It’s not like I’m trying to be on the cover of Vogue magazine or become a competitive cyclist. Why should I care anymore?

I’m so sick of thinking and stressing over food. I’m tired of keto. I want to be able to have a beer from time to time. Or a burger. Not every day, but once in a while without feeling guilty about it. I want to be active and exercise so I feel good about my long-term health. I want to maintain my balance and mobility so that I’m not afraid to stand on a stepstool when I’m in my 70’s. But constant worrying about exercise in terms of “did I burn enough calories today?”, is making it a chore that I have to do – not something I want to do.

Having to maintain a diet is not enjoyable. Having to move to the XL side of the clothing rack and skipping fun water activities with friends because you’re embarrassed at how you look isn’t fun either. Both things suck. I keep telling myself, a bit of short-term pain to get to someplace I’m comfortable is worth the effort. Then I can work on a maintenance level of calories rather than a constant deficit. But the daily grind and internal analysis just gets old.

At my age it’s clear that the only way to lose weight is extremely strict calorie restriction. There are no “cheat meals” allowed. I need to track every bit of food I consume. I can ramp up my activity a bit more, but not enough to compensate for the calories I ate this week. Every single thing I put in my mouth has to be weighed, measured, and counted against the daily and weekly calorie budget. I know this. And it pisses me off. Like the national debt clock, I need a continually running calorie clock so I can make appropriate decisions about food intake. I need to stop ruining reasonable food choices by tripling the portion sizes.

I know myself. I struggle with choice. When forced to choose, I often make bad decisions. I’m the type of person that needs to eat the same thing every day. The same breakfast, the same snacks, the same dinner. A known set of calories that doesn’t waver. And once in a while when out with friends, have a burger. But eat only half. I don’t need to consume the entire two pounds of burger, bun, and condiments. Eat enough to satisfy the taste craving and be done. And yes, I can up the activity intensity a bit. I know I’m capable of more than I actually do.

I know what the answer is. I know how this week happened. I know what to do. I just needed to vent a bit. To have a bit of a pity party. Now I need to pick myself up off the floor, dust myself off, and get back after it. I will keep the XXL velour track suit with the elastic waistband and the “all you can eat” buffet at bay.

Headed Off To Bootcamp

How’z those New Year resolutions going? I’m pretty sure in the fitness industry they’re now reaching peak “new year, new me!” frenzy. Somewhere in the next few weeks the new gym membership attendance begins to wane. By late February the committed gym rats have their empty weight rooms again and gym owners can rejoice – all those oversold introductory one-year memberships are now free money. Diets are being broken, and people are realizing they’re stuck with three more months of Jenny Craig meals they won’t eat. That Peloton bike investment and pre-paid 1 year subscription is looking shaky, although it does make a handy spot to dry sweaters.

In Troutdog land, we’re still on the path. Been about 80% good with diet and mostly in ketosis. Zero alcohol for the month. I was really good until I got taken out by the virus which we shall not name. I got hit with the full dump truck of symptoms. Everything except loss of taste and smell. Apparently for me, full fevers and body aches is a license to eat everything I can find in the pantry. I put back a couple of the pounds I’d lost. I’ve now re-lost those pounds, but my end of January weight goal is 1.5 pounds away with three days to go. I’ll probably get close, but no cigar. I blame China.

Workouts have been spotty, but I’m doing it. Again, the damn virus put a damper on things. When you’re newly lifting weights, it’s hard to tell if that head-to-toe body ache is because of DOMS, or Covid fever? The biggest accomplishment is that I started running again. And by running, I mean a lumbering walk-jog with occasional bouts of wild flailing around in an attempt to not slip on the ice. People my age break hips falling on the ice, so I’m extra careful.

All of this, combined with days and days of contemplating my navel while waiting to pass quarantine, prompted me to make a rash decision. I committed to something I’ve never done before. I hired a personal trainer. Gasp! It was either that or join the military so I can go through bootcamp. With tensions mounting in the Ukraine and South China Sea, I figured a local fitness expert was a safer choice.

I’m not sure what to expect. I don’t see him until next week. I told him I was looking for help putting together a program that incorporates strength training with improving aerobic endurance. I started putting together an extensive resume of past fitness and sport achievements, a list of gear and equipment in my home gym, daily nutrition data, and then a proposed schedule of workout times that correspond with my circadian rhythms. I then realized that he’ll probably throw that in the trash and say, “Uh, can you lift that weight? No? Ok how about that one? Still no? Can you lift that pink one? Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t the best fit…”

I’m starting to realize that what I really need is someone to simply hold me accountable. To yell at me to stop complaining and just get it done. To ask me what the hell I’ve been eating that my weight went back up three pounds in a day. To slap that 2,000 calorie Starbucks Frappuccino out of my pudgy little fingers. In short, I need to go to bootcamp.

Maybe there’s a military branch for middle aged dudes with poor eyesight and more computer skills than physical attributes. Weekends only would be a bonus. I’m thinking that I’m a walking recruiting poster boy for… The UNITED STATES SPACEFORCE!

So, if you don’t hear from me for a while I’m either binge watching Bill Murry in Stripes or I got called up to report for duty. I wonder if they’ll make me get a haircut?

Breaking News: I’m A Houseplant

Have you ever been out for a walk in a forest and see a tree with a weird bend and crazy lean angle? Most of the time that’s a tree desperately trying to reach the sun. Your houseplants will turn and orient themselves towards the light. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this… but I am basically a houseplant.

Much to my dermatologist’s dismay, I like the sun. If I didn’t like the mountains and skiing so much, I could see moving to a tropical environment. Shorts, flip-flops, and sitting with the warm sun in your face is just energizing. What I didn’t fully realize is that not only do I enjoy the sun, but I actually require it.

The start of this winter was a bit rough. Late fall turned gray and rainy. The trails turned to muck and there was a constant cloud cover. As fall turned over to winter, nothing changed except it got cold. Just as despair set in, we finally got snow. And then more snow. And some more. Oh, happy days, we were out of the mud season and ready to start winter fun!

I’m too lazy to go back and research the actual weather, but I suspect I’d find that virtually all of December saw no sun. Just gray clouds and snow. As we drifted to the first week of January, there was more snow. Wind and snow for days that prevented even going out and skiing. So, I was left sitting around twiddling my thumbs with limited outside opportunities. As each day wore on, I felt my motivation to do anything disappear. My mood turned south. Not exactly grumpy, but close. By the end of that week I had zero energy. I was literally out of breath climbing the stairs. Mrs Troutdog wondered if I’d caught the ‘omicron. I think I slept much of the day on Thursday. I can honestly say it was the worst feeling of malaise I’ve ever had. I didn’t understand why I felt so completely drained.

Friday morning dawned without a cloud in the sky. There was sun! Just seeing that out the windows put a little pep in my step. I grabbed the hound and went out for a long cross-country ski. At one point I think I stopped in a forest clearing, motionless, with my face turned up to the sun for at least ten minutes. I could feel my mood elevating every minute I was out there. By the time I got home I was happy and blasting ‘tunes at a ludicrous volume.

So there it is. While I always knew I got a little “down” when it’s gray out for an extended period, I’d never experienced it to this extent. I clearly suffer from some degree of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It caught me a bit by surprise. I’m not sure if my need for sun is more pronounced now that I’m older, or this was simply the longest period of no sun I’ve seen?

Regardless, I am officially a houseplant. I crave the sun. I need it. Deprive me of it and I’ll wither and die. Mrs Troutdog helpfully suggested I get one of those U.V. lamps to sit under. That reminds me of those polar bear exhibits at the zoo with the white painted concrete. I’m pretty sure the bears know that isn’t really snow. I am not going to let myself turn into a sad zoo exhibit sitting under a U.V. box. No dammit, I need real sun. Outside.

Next year will be different, unless the global warming prophecies suddenly kick in and we experience the end of winter. Next year there will be several planned desert golf outings or tropical beach trips scheduled around the early winter period. Just enough to keep the batteries topped off and make to the late winter and bluebird ski days.

Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting – Hi, my name is Troutdog and I am a houseplant. I denied it for years, but I have a problem handling the overcast days. I need the sun to survive.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!

John Muir

What Kind Of Eater Are You?

As we inch towards the new year, approximately two thirds of the United States is planning a new diet come Jan 1. (cough cough, myself included) In the US the portion sizes are 3x what they should be, we snack constantly, eat convenient processed food, and rarely exercise. The result is a steady 2-5 pounds a year of weight gain until you reach the “oh shit” stage whereupon you realize your scheduled beach vacation is three months away and you look like a bloated Steven Seagal with an all-you-can-eat card for the local Krispy Kreme. You don’t dare wear that fancy speedo you bought for fear of being mistaken for a beached whale. (yes, this is a true story minus the speedo part. Unless you’re an Olympic swimmer, under no circumstances should men rock the banana hammock. Sorry, those are just the rules)

Given this, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share some insights into my PhD research. I’m planning on a doctorate in applied bio-electrical nutrition and chemical manipulation of the ribosome. It’s an at-home study course. Given the costs of education these days, this one seemed pretty reasonable. Only 10 payments of $899 and you can call me Dr Troutdog! Anyway, as part of my thesis work, I’ve identified the five primary eating genotypes in the United States. They are as follows:

  • The Apathetic Eater – These people are freaks and should be shunned. They generally don’t care about food. They eat only because they have to. They pick at salads and eat half a bowl of cereal in the morning. That’s it. They’ve been thin their entire lives and don’t understand how people get fat. A large percentage of them are vegetarian or some weird fruitarian thing. They don’t exercise and often get blown over in storms. Usually, they’re cat people because they lack the strength to hold on to a dog leash without getting pulled down the street like an out-of-control dog sled.

  • The Disciplined Eater – Also freaks of nature. These eaters count calories, macronutrients, and usually meal plan and prep a week at a time. Very often they’re athletes. Or at the very least, crossfitters (don’t worry, they’ll tell you). They follow very strict diets – Keto, Paleo, IIFYM, etc… These freaks have goals for each week, quarter, and year. They track everything in journals. Be careful with conversations with these folks because they’ll overwhelm you with acronyms about total energy expenditures, insulin and glycemic to fat burning ratios. Their idea of a cheat meal is indulging in a light beer and an extra portion of sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. When around these people you’ll generally feel bad about yourself for not wanting to wake up at 04:30 to work out or join them in the polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day.

  • The Guilty Eater – This is probably the average eater in the US. They’ve put on weight, know it, and desperately want to “get healthy”. They join, or re-join, a gym every year and go for about a month. Once a quarter they start a new diet they heard about from Dr Oz (senator?) and Oprah. The cabbage soup and raw lemon-rind snack diet works for a week or so and then fails due to consumption of three-quarters of a meat lovers pizza in a fit of near-cannibalistic hunger. These folks don’t eat breakfast, order a salad with no dressing when out to lunch with co-workers, and then binge three doughnuts in the breakroom at work. There’s a secret stash of candy and chips in the car and on the back shelf of the pantry. Dieting is just so hard when you have to make a ginormous lasagna, bread, and desert to feed the three kids. These poor souls know they need to lose weight and hate themselves every time they sneak some Taco Bell on the way home.

  • The Gluttonous Eater – Often found in the south, these folks either truly don’t understand the concept of a calorie, or just don’t care. They eat with abandon. Anything and everything. If it’s not deep fried, what’s the point? They tend to see themselves as just “big boned”. Usually they’re very happy folks, hard workers, and often great cooks. They’re plagued with health issues and are puzzled at how they “caught the diabetes”. Their grandparents and parents ate this way, and so do they. They don’t see the need to “diet” other than switch to diet Coke occasionally. The other side of the coin in this category are the folks who have some mental health issues and eat as some sort of coping mechanism. Probably the saddest group of all. The morbidly obese who’ve simply given up.

  • The Balanced Eater – The unicorn (at least in the United States). The eater who exercises regularly, but not compulsively. They enjoy food, but somehow manage to keep their calories in check. They’ll enjoy a good meal but have figured out the whole moderation thing. They’re happy and balanced. They are a rare find. They are subjects of a great deal of research. We all strive to find that magic pill or diet that gives us what they have – a healthy outlook on food, exercise and the willpower to maintain those habits without guilt, obsession, or overthinking it. They are hated by most of the population.

So, what kind of eater are you? If you’ve been reading any of my previous ramblings, you’ll recognize I’m clearly in the Guilty Eater category. I had a few brief flirtations with the Disciplined Eater, but it flamed out fairly quickly. I go through weird food compulsions (croutons, rice, pretzels, Pirates Booty (it’s gluten free!) chips, cheese, etc…) Why is it so hard to just eat normally and get some exercise? We really are a ridiculous population in this country. Laziness and sloth have taken root and I fear are here to stay. Like the Roman Empire, we became fat and complacent, living for our entertainment and pleasures. And when the zombie apocalypse comes, very few of us will have the cardio to survive*.

I wish you luck with your diet plans in the New Year. I have three months to drop approximately thirty pounds before I can stroll down the beach in my leopard print banana hammock. I have full confidence I will achieve my goals. Starting tomorrow. Wait, you can’t start on a weekend. Starting on Monday. For sure.

* Rule #1 of the 32 rules of Zombieland

Say No To The Sequel

Honest question – has there ever been a movie sequel that was better than the original? I’ve been wracking my limited brain cells and can’t think of a single one. There’s certainly a few that at least equaled the original, but you wouldn’t say they were “better”… Godfather part II, Mad Max part II, Kill Bill Volume II, The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Aliens. There’s something about those original films that made them unique. Different film styles or special effects we hadn’t seen before. A screenplay with plot twists nobody had thought of before. Something that made you walk out of the theater and say, wow!

Naturally every movie studio and actor on the planet wants to cash in on the success of a blockbuster film, so they immediately begin planning the sequel. But at that point it’s no longer new. While it may be a great continuation of the story and characters, sequels just don’t have the wow factor the original had. Quite often it feels like the approach is, “well we made a truckload of money on the first one. if we just quadruple the special effects budget for the next one, we’ll really wow ’em!” Those films tend to feel like they filmed a bunch of cool special effects first and then tried to write a story to match the effects.

Which brings me to Christmas Eve. We’d planned on going out to an actual movie, but that fell apart for various reasons. No problem, we implemented plan B. Binge watching the Matrix trilogy, capped off by seeing the new Matrix release (Resurrections). With new movie releases being streamed immediately at home, will we ever go to a theater again? Anyway, on with the hours of Matrix immersion.

The first Matrix is one of those mind blowing films that had me walking out of the theater saying “wow”. How did someone come up with concept? Truely unique. The second one was pretty good, but started drifting towards the “hey, look at our effects budget!” problem. The third, while entertaining felt a bit like, “how are we going to wrap this up?”

I knew nothing about the fourth one, other than I’d seen a few comments on social media that it wasn’t very impressive. Oh well, we were hours invested in this movie binge. Too late to pull out now. We refreshed our drinks, snacks, and settled (back) into the couch and pressed play.

Within the first ten minutes, both Mrs Troutdog and I were looking at each other and asking, what is this? We made it through about 30ish minutes and turned it off. It was an incomprehensible mess. Dialog you couldn’t follow. Redos of story lines from the first Matrix that made no sense. Maybe they tied it all together towards the end, but the first 30 minutes was so bad I’ll never justify spending the time to find out. Had it been in a theater I probably would have walked out (which I’ve never done before). A truly awful film.

The lesson of Matrix 4 should be applied to life as we drift towards the last days of 2021. Recreating the magic of an original experience in a sequel is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do and more often than not ends in disappointment. The experiences of the past should remain in the past.

Do not attempt to re-create, fix, analyze, or otherwise dwell on the past. It’s the past. Any attempts to replicate or repair something from the past will fail. Don’t be that sad guy or gal trying to re-live high school or college glory. Mistakes made or relationships that dwindled… let ’em go. It’s the past.

Like a classic movie, it’s ok to look back fondly at it and remember how you felt when you first saw it. Just remember they’re in the rear-view mirror. Glance at the past from time to time to have a sense of where you came from, but you need to spend your time looking forward. Sequels are never as good as the original. Make yourself a new, original movie.