Exercise Your Brain

Everyone’s heard of the old saying, “use it or lose it”. It can refer to many things, but one of the more important references is to the brain. The brain is massive collection of brain cells, or neurons. These neurons are constantly communicating with each other. If a brain cell is no longer continually communicating with its neighbors, it will lose its function. This is the “cognitive reserve” theory. Meaning, a high-capacity brain – a brain with high cognitive reserve – has plenty of healthy brain cells and those brain cells maintain a lot of connections with other brain cells. A brain with low cognitive reserve has fewer connections and fewer healthy cells.

This is obviously important for many reasons, but one of the biggest is aging. You will experience cognitive decline as you get older. It happens to all of us. What’s important is to slow down or minimize the rate of decline for as long as possible. You do that by maintaining a high cognitive reserve going into old age, and then continually work to build new connections. Otherwise known as – NEVER STOP LEARNING!

When I was 50, I’d burned out badly in my first career (software engineering) and decided to make a change. I went back to school and got my RN/nursing license. I can 100% say that the rate at which I was able to absorb and memorize information was massively slower at 50 than it was when I was a young whippersnapper. That first six months of working on the hospital floor pushed my old brain to its limits. Rapid thinking, decision making, multitasking, and learning new skills daily left me mentally exhausted every night. But I also think it improved my ability to learn and think. Maybe not back at the level it was when I was 20, but certainly an improvement over when I started the process.

It’s never too late to start. Always be learning something. Read something other than Facebook posts. Take up a new hobby. Learn a new skill. Anything, all of it – just start exercising that brain. As a neuroscience RN, trust me – the various forms of dementia are one of the saddest ways you can finish out your life. It’s devastating for the patient and the family. While there’s many things that contribute to it, it is undisputed that starting out with the highest cognitive reserve possible will help stave off or at least significantly slow the progression of dementia.

My latest choice to keep exercising the brain (and the reason I’ve been absent here for a while), is learning video editing. It’s a high-end technical pursuit that has been super challenging. There are so many aspects to learn – editing/creative skills, color grading, audio mixing, and understanding how a video file is rendered and processed. The learning curve has been painfully slow, but is starting to ramp up. Each time I learn a new technique I feel like I’ve just left the gym. A little tired, but also a little bit stronger. Building those new neural connections daily.

You owe it to yourself and your family to exercise that brain. As Dean Wormer told Flounder, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life son”. Listen to the Dean. Go learn something new today.

If you’re bored, check out what I’ve been slowly working on. Maybe it’ll inspire you to take up motorcycling!

Dean Wormer

Why Is Diet So Confusing?

I will confess that I have been known to get sucked into drinking the Kool-Aid from time to time. Beliefs, approaches, or fads that I was convinced was the one true path. I talked ’em up and spoke with authority about them. I even had a bit of condescension towards people who didn’t know, understand, or believe in the new great thing. Fools who still bought into the old school set of beliefs. Here’s a few of the things that I’ve thought were the end-all-be-all in the past. I’m not suggesting any of them are bad – just that as thinking evolves, they’re not the magic bullets I once believed them to be at the time.

  • Barefoot shoes and running.
  • Crossfit.
  • Keto.
  • Intermittent fasting.
  • Primal/caveman
  • Body For Life
  • Zone diet
  • 5/6 small meals per day
  • Foam rolling
  • Apple cider vinegar (I have no idea why I thought this was a magical thing)

And on, and on, and on. Even though I think I’m being a rebel and cutting edge, I realize I’m just as much of a lemming as anyone else following the latest fitness and diet fad. Meanwhile, I was happily making fun of people eating the cabbage soup diet, doing juice cleanses, or the Whole 30 diet. Why is it so damn hard to know what you’re supposed to be doing to lose or maintain weight?

Meanwhile, my trainer wants me eating more calories because my BMR is too low, and I need a massive increase in the amount of protein I consume. Zone 2 is best for aerobic improvements, and carbohydrates are now good.

Sigh. I don’t know what to think anymore. My body fat percentage is getting worse, but my muscle mass is the best it’s been in a very long time. I feel stronger and better balanced now, but I can’t button the waistband on most of my pants. Why is this so hard? I just want someone to give me a weekly menu with exact portion sizes that’s easy to make/prepare. And yes, I’ve Googled that exact thing. A billion results come up, all with conflicting information, or promise to be the perfect diet plan… for $29.99 a month.

Why is diet so difficult? Why can’t I find a way of eating that gives me enough of a routine to keep calories in control, yet lets me eat out from time to time? I clearly don’t have the discipline to eat “strict” all the time or count calories daily. So, does that mean my only choice is to constantly keep up a crazy amount of workout/cardio activity to balance it? At my age, I don’t know that I have that in me anymore.

Our grandparents did not calculate out their daily macros, walk around all day with giant BPA free water flasks, or worry about zone 2 training. Yet on whole, their generation did not have the obesity problem we have today. Maybe that’s the book I should write – “The WWII Generations Guide to Diet and Exercise”. I’ll make a fortune!

But then again, my grandfather’s favorite exercise machine was a vibrating belt you’d put around your waist. I have no idea what its actual purpose was. To jiggle the fat away? To be fair, we have kinesio tape today. Maybe we haven’t evolved as far as we think?

It Was Time To Leave Healthcare

My last day was very surreal. With each task, I’d think “Oh, this is the last time I’ll ever do this”. I’ll never start an IV again. I’ll never pull out another Hemovac drain. This is the last time I’ll hang antibiotics. It’s the very last time I’ll dispense medications. It was an odd feeling.

It was time to leave healthcare for a lot of reasons. Healthcare has changed, and not for the better. Healthcare workers have been leaving the profession for a while, but Covid turned that exodus into a stampede. Hospitals are facing a crushing shortage of workers. That lack of staff is making working on the hospital floor unsafe. The patients are sicker, more demanding, ruder, and more violent. At the same time the near-daily onslaught of new rules, regulations, and charting/documenting requirements leave little time to actually connect with your patient. It’s sad, and I don’t see it getting better.

As an RN, I’ve been hit, kicked, spit on, yelled at, threatened, peed on, vomited on, and cleaned up more poop than you can possibly imagine. All while working a 14-hour day, sometimes without enough time to take a lunch break. We worked the Covid floors without enough supplies, being forced to wear the same dirty mask for two and three days because there was such a shortage. It’s been interesting times the last few years.

At the same time, it’s been an amazing experience. I saw and did things I never thought I’d be doing. I was able to connect with people at a level you can’t do at a cocktail party. I’ve held the hands of people as they drew their last breath. I spent time consoling people who just received devastating news about a tumor prognosis or were newly paralyzed. I sat quietly with people whose loved one was going to pass away soon. I also got to hear some fantastic stories from old folks about growing up in the depression, war experiences, and traveling across the country before there were interstate highways. I made some good calls that probably resulted in people living vs dying. I responded to codes and performed CPR on folks. I’ve had several people stop me in a store and tell me that, “you won’t remember me, but you took care of my father. He was so grateful for your care.” I have enough stories of crazy, wacky patients, gruesome injuries, and blood and gore to last a lifetime. In my pre-healthcare life, I never would have imagined that one day I’d be chasing a crazy, naked old lady with dementia as she ran down the stairs towards the parking lot. They definitely skipped over that part in nursing school.

I’m grateful I got to experience all of it. The good and the bad. (ok, maybe not the poop) It’s made me more appreciative of the blessings I have in my life. It’s also made me realize how important it is to try and be a good human. At the end of the day, that’s all you have. When you exit this world, how do you want people to remember you? Healthcare reminded me on a daily basis that you don’t know when your time is up. Slow down a bit and enjoy life. Make sure you take the time to see and do things. Because you never know what’s around the corner.

So, it’s time for the next chapter. I’m not entirely sure what that is yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Wins And Losses

It’s been an interesting week. One filled with highs and lows, ups and downs, good and bad. I’m going to steal the slogan from Lance Armstrong’s new group, WEDU and their podcast The Forward – “Always forward, never straight”. Life would be boring if it always went in a straight line. This week definitely had a few turns.

Fitness took a (mental) turn this week for sure in a couple of categories. I felt like I was making some progress and then my trainer introduced some new movements. I’m now so sore I can barely walk. That’s good in the sense that I’m clearly pushing hard. But it’s a bit discouraging because I thought I was past the crippling DOMS stage of working out. Clearly my improving strength isn’t as well-balanced as I thought.

And then there’s the issue of weight. I’ve been avoiding the scale because I know how I feel and what I look like. My diet’s been… well, not good and I know it. At the beginning of the week the trainer asked if I was finally going to be serious and track my intake. Ok, ok, ok, stop yelling at me. I was diligent and tracked everything all week. I bravely stepped on the scale this morning. And now I’m super confused.

Per the app, I’m way under on the number of calories I should be consuming. But per the scale, I’ve gained 2+ pounds. My muscle mass increased, but so did body fat and visceral fat percentages. Something’s not adding up. I know that my calorie intake has to be much higher than I’m tracking. Realistically the app doesn’t account for all the sauces, etc… because the physics doesn’t lie. You can’t be significantly under in calories and gain weight. Regardless, it was enough of a motivational spark to keep me tracking my intake and to start getting my diet in order. I don’t know what that diet will be yet, but I can’t go back to keto. I just can’t.

On the positive side of the ledger, a couple of good things happened. One of them was an unexpected surprise. I have a little YouTube channel that I post to from time to time. Almost no subscribers, and my silly little videos only get a handful of views. That’s ok because I enjoy making them and it’s mostly a learning experience at this point. But as I’ve mentioned before, there’s still a nagging feeling in the back of your head – why am I doing this if nobody watches? Well, out of the blue one of the older videos hit 10,000 views in just a few days. Very strange. That’s miniscule traffic in YouTube terms, massive for me. I’ll admit it’s nice to feel like someone is watching/reading what you create. It’s enough of a spark to motivate you to keep on being creative.

So that’s it. A real mixed bag of events for the week. The weather continues to be crap. I can’t get my sprinklers to work. Diet continues to be off the rails. But some exciting personal stuff happened and then I got a little creator spark/validation.

The path we take wobbles all around and certainly isn’t straight. But all that matters is that the path keeps moving forward.

P.S. In a fit of desperation, I’ve thrown away all food in the pantry and fridge. I’m now staring at empty shelves and unsure of what I should do now. Perhaps I was a bit hasty…

What’s Your EDC? (everyday carry)

EDC. Everyday carry. I’m a sucker for clicking on EDC YouTube channels (yes, there are channels dedicated to just this). There’s just something about all the little gadgets and doodads I find fascinating. Mini flashlights, pocket knives, cool key holders, all-in-one mini tools, wallets, I absolutely love this stuff. I click on almost every link and wonder if I could use that gadget or not.

But I never buy any of them. For all of my obsession over the idea of cool EDC stuff… I absolutely hate carrying stuff in my pockets. Here’s what I carry every day: Three keys; a mini pocket knife; a tiny minimalist wallet; a phone; a handkerchief. That’s it. I’m astounded at the amount of crap the dudes on these EDC channels purport to carry in their pockets. They must jingle, rattle and sound like a old suit of armor walking down the street.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse at all times, my problem is more anatomical. I was born without a butt. Zero. None. It doesn’t exist. My legs just go straight up and suddenly you’re at my lower back. I’ve heard you can fix this issue by doing squats with heavy weights. I tried it once and it didn’t take. Implants may be my next best choice. Anyway, the end result of my curve challenged backside is that it’s an everyday struggle to keep my pants up. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I cinch down my belt, gravity wins out before too long. All day long I’m constantly hitching up my pants.

It’s manageable in my day-to-day life because I don’t carry anything. Work, however, is a different story. As an RN I have to carry a bunch of crap because you never know what you’re going to encounter in a patient’s room. My work EDC is as follows:

  • Penlight
  • Trauma shears
  • Hemostat
  • Multicolored pen
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Sharpie
  • Handful of 10 ml saline flushes
  • Bunch of alcohol wipes
  • Work badge/ID
  • Emergency SOS tracker
  • Med room keys
  • Locker key
  • Watch
  • Stethoscope
  • Coban wrap
  • Breath mints
  • Handkerchief
  • Personal phone
  • Work phone
  • N-95 mask
  • Safety goggles

In addition to all that stuff, I have a mini clipboard with my daily brain (notes and plans for each patient), phone numbers for all the departments, some frequently used reference material, and a few extra pieces of paper to scribble random to-do reminders on.

I’m quite a sight to see sprinting after a crazy naked patient as they try to make a break for the stairwell (happens way more often than you’d think). I leave a trail of stuff all the way down the hall as everything in the above list comes flying out of my pockets.

Everything on that list gets used every single shift. It’s taken years to pare down to what I currently carry. Every item goes in a specific pocket. I’m very functional. I see RN’s roll into the nurse’s station with giant backpacks, coffee mugs, water bottles, and lunch coolers. I don’t understand. What could you possibly need for a single work shift that requires a massive backpack?

Where was I going with this? Oh yes – gravity, pants, and EDC. At work I wear scrubs which only fasten with a drawstring. Even though I pull the drawstring tight enough to cut off circulation, my pants are halfway down my rear most of the day with all the crap I have in my pockets. The aforementioned running down the hall scenario carries the very real risk of my pants suddenly ending up around my ankles and me doing a sliding faceplant in front of all my coworkers. I’ve lain awake at night worrying about this.

Because of this nagging nightmare scene that never leaves the back of my brain, in my civilian life at home I want as little as possible in my pockets. At this point if my butt gets any flatter (and belly gets any bigger), I’m going to be forced to go the suspenders route. And that my friends, unless you’re a carpenter or firefighter, is the end. Complete surrender of fashion. You cannot make suspenders look good. Period. And because I’m all about fashion, I’ll stick with the belt and minimal EDC. Maybe try the heavy squats again.

Of course, I could go the route of the fanny pack or purse – ahem, murse. Hmmm, maybe that’s the ticket. I’ll dig out my old school messenger bag/briefcase and just carry that everywhere. Just think of all the cool stuff I could carry every day!

What’s in your EDC?

Do This One Amazing Trick

Ever notice how many YouTube videos, blogs, and ads use some form of this clickbait title? “Use this one trick to gain 10,000 followers in a day!” “The IRS doesn’t want you to know about this one trick”. I fell for one of them yesterday while surfing YouTube. I don’t remember the title, but it was something like “Follow this one rule to improve your channel”. I don’t have much of an attention span, so one rule is right up my alley. Convinced I’ll soon be scooping up all that sweet YouTube cash, I clicked on the thumbnail.

It actually ended up being a reasonable video, and the author made a good point that I think translates well to making videos, writing a blog, or life in general. He asked a simple question. “Are you an entertainer or an educator?” You have to pick an approach for your content and stick to it. Whether you’re writing a blog, an article, or creating a video, people will consume your content for one reason. They either want to be entertained, or they want to learn something. They’ll keep coming back to your content if they continue to see that same type of (quality) content. What generally doesn’t work is to post a bunch of how-to stuff, then suddenly post content that tries to be funny.

It almost doesn’t seem to matter what your niche is. How to repair things with duct tape. Heckling pro golfers. The history of manhole covers. It makes no difference what the content is as long as you’re consistent. If I am a fan of duct tape, the last thing I want to see on your amazing duct tape channel is a travel vlog of your trip to Disneyland with the kids. I have a friend who has a YouTube channel dedicated to cowboy action shooting. It’s a bit of an obscure sport and you wouldn’t think there’d be a be demand for that sort of thing. He has 20 thousand subscribers and posts nothing but 30 second clips of shooting matches. It’s all about finding your lane and then staying in it.

And therein lies my problem. It dawned on me that whether it’s writing, YouTube, or life in general… I’m a bit of a lost soul who can’t decide what niche I want to be in. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is. This blog drifts back and forth between trying to be funny, some random political/opinion stuff, and general reporting on the minutia of my daily life. As a reader it’s probably hard to know what you’re going to get (I’m honestly surprised people continue to subscribe). The same goes for YouTube. My pitiful little channel can’t figure out what it wants to be. I had visions of a broader category but keep resorting to the creative path of least resistance (and effort).

The end result for both blogging and YouTube is something that I’m clearly not terribly passionate about. As an example, for some reason still baffles me, 90+ percent of the subscribers to this blog are fitness related. I find this amusing and slightly embarrassing. I am not a fitness person. I am not fit. I’m not making much progress on my fitness journey at the moment. Because of that, I’m not very motivated to write anything about fitness. But anytime I even mention the word fitness… the views go way up, and I gain another handful of subscribers. So, I realize that I could probably focus 100% on fitness and diet topics and rapidly acquire readers. But is that really me?

Similar with videos. I like motorcycles and it was easy to crank out a few videos about some trips I took. But I didn’t have any desire to be only a motorcycle travel vlogger. The motorcycle only occupies a small portion of my life. But as it turns out, those motorcycle trips are what people watch. Do I stick with what gets views, or try to figure out what will motivate me to make lots of content rather than just an occasional video when I go on motorcycle ride?

It’s sort of an interesting life question. Everyone knows the old adage about working – “pursue your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’m not sure that’s realistic advice. As a young man my passions were surfing and being angry at the world. I’m not sure how successful I would have been focusing solely on that. But who knows? Maybe I would have gone on to launch a surf clothing company that featured anti-establishment slogans that made me a gazillionaire.

The reality for most of us is that through luck and circumstance we stumble into something and end up doing it for long enough that you actually get good at it. Is it a “passion”? Maybe, maybe not. But it pays the bills and gives you an identity and a focus. Maybe these creative outlets should be the same? I stumbled on a couple of things that attracted a few folks willing to read/watch my nonsense. Perhaps I should just embrace it and focus on what works. Really dive in and enjoy the niche I accidently found. I never thought I’d be a software engineer or an RN either, but I got pretty good at both.

But the other adage about creativity is that you should create for you first. Who cares if anyone else likes it? If your creativity comes from passion and happiness, people will recognize it. There are followers for every sort of niche. If you put out good content, those followers will find you. At the end of the day, what’s the point of being creative if it’s not your passion?

Interesting questions. I’m not sure what I’d tell a young person going out into the world today. I’m not sure what to tell myself. That’s some deep stuff to ponder on a Tuesday morning. I think I’ll go get my workout done and think about it…

I Sense A Disturbance In The Force

I live a pretty idyllic life. For the most part I bumble along day to day without much of a care in the world. I’m rarely in a bad mood. I’m kind of a golden retriever, fat, dumb, and happy, ready to go play and do whatever anyone wants to do. Things tend to just work out and I never have to make any hard decisions about anything. I’m certainly blessed.

But this year has been different. Things are just a bit… off. There isn’t any one thing that’s wrong. It’s been a collection of small disturbances in the force that have put me off my game. If I described any one of my woes in detail, you’d look at me and laugh – “seriously dude, that’s the sum total of your issue? Do you not realize how fortunate you are?” And you’d be right. There’s nothing earth shattering going on. It just feels like a lot of little things, all adding up.

And the end result is that I’ve lost my flow. My mojo. I just can’t seem to get motivated. My routines from the last few years have been disrupted. And the creme de la creme, the icing on the cake, has been the weather. This spring has been awful. Cold. Wet. Rain. Snow. Mud. And the wind. Oh my god, the wind has been horrible. It feels like every day I had available to go outside and do something it was either raining or the wind was howling. The end result was that I’ve spent more days sitting in a chair reading a book, surfing the internet, and napping than I ever have in my life. And as they say in the physics world, momentum is the product of mass and velocity of a body. Once you get going, it takes very little to maintain momentum. Unfortunately, I have a large mass and zero velocity. It takes a pretty big impulse to get things moving.

Yesterday I decided to get things moving. It was windy, but at least it was sunny and not freezing. I spent the entire day doing yard work, cleanup, and a run to the dump. I felt pretty good about it. That evening we were to meet some folks for dinner. Mrs Troutdog tried to pick someplace slightly different; an outdoor venue to listen to a band. As soon as she said it, I should have said let’s do something else. I really didn’t feel like sitting out in the wind. But, I’m a golden retriever and didn’t want to be the party pooper. So I said “sure, whatever you want”.

We show up and it turns out to be a country band. And I hate country music. I can listen to most anything. Just not country music. And our table is literally ten feet from the speaker. So what did I do? I had a temper tantrum. A full-on, five year old throwing themselves down in the middle of the grocery aisle screaming temper tantrum. Not my finest moment.

I really don’t know why. Normally I’m pretty good at going with the flow in that sort of scenario. Maybe have an extra adult beverage and just make the best of it. Yesterday I just couldn’t. Very out of character for me.

Clearly the collection of small little things and the never-ending horrible weather accumulated in my brain more than I’d thought. It’s past due time to find the impulse to get the momentum moving. I had my little pity party. We’re through the worst of spring and summer is just around the corner. In fact, I officially declare today to be the first day of the summer season. Let’s get the party started! God knows, nobody likes seeing grown-ass men having temper tantrums in the grocery store aisle.

You know how there’s psychiatrists who will help you become desensitized to things like fear of flying or snakes? Maybe there’s one for country music? Twelve straight hours of Kenny Chesney and you’re cured! I may need that.

Out For A Ride

The bike is somehow bigger than I remember. Even though I’ve seen it almost every day in the garage, I haven’t really been looking at it. The motorcycle has been patiently waiting all winter for a nice day and the start of riding season. I pull on my helmet and fumble with the chinstrap. It’s been a while. Gloves on and jacket zipped.

I push the bike off the center stand. The weight briefly surprises me. I didn’t remember it being so heavy last summer. I roll the bike down the driveway and set it on the side stand. Pushing the start button, the engine roars to life. It’s such a powerful sound. Maybe appreciating the sound of engines is just a guy thing? Swinging my leg over, I try to get comfortable. Adjust the mirrors. Blip the throttle a few times ’cause it sounds cool. A tiny flash of nerves in the pit of my stomach. I put it in gear and go.

The first few turns are a bit awkward. I fumble to find the turn signal. Brake a little too hard and have a jerky stop at a stop sign. The tires are brand new, so I’m cautious around corners. The new tires are more aggressive than the previous, more street oriented set. I can feel the vibration through my hands. I don’t have a feel yet of how hard I can push them on the street.

As the miles roll by, the sense of flow slowly returns. I start seeing the corner apex again. Off the throttle, lean and push, then smoothly accelerate through the turn. On a long straightaway I open the throttle all the way and zoom through the gears. The acceleration pushes me back in my seat and the engine roars. I’m grinning inside my helmet.

It’s a little colder than I was expecting. I zip up the jacket all the way. Flip up the visor so I can feel the wind and smell the countryside. My eyes quickly start watering in the cold, so visor back down. I’m certainly not the only one out for a ride. Biker after biker goes by. Everyone gives a wave and a knowing nod. The biker community has been cooped up all winter. We’re all out shaking off the rust and dreaming of warm summer day rides.

I slowly work my way back through town. Now I feel like I have my traffic flow back. That sense of anticipating what cars are going to do. Quick lane changes to accelerate around vehicles slowing to turn into driveways. Pedestrians who launch themselves into crosswalks without looking. My stops and starts are smooth now. I’m in the zone.

I turn into my neighborhood. Glance at the clock. Is there time to ride a bit longer? No, sun is going down. I’m a little cold. We’ll call this a good first ride. It’s nice to be back on the bike. I’ve missed it.

The Struggle Is Real

Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night for the rest of your life until you die

Today, I stepped on the scale for the first time in a month. Why so long? Because I knew what the number would be. I’ve been going to the gym faithfully and am seeing significant gains. The range of motion in my chronically injured shoulder is hugely improved. Flexibility and proprioception are better than they’ve been in a very long time. Overall, I feel much better. But… I can tell that my waistline hasn’t changed, so I’ve intentionally ignored the scale. Oh, I look at it every morning. I tell myself that tomorrow I’ll step on it for sure. But I don’t really want to know the number because it’ll force me to accept reality. So I put it off for another day. And then another. And another.

I do see some positive physical changes with all the gym work. Shoulders seem a little more defined. I can tell the abs and trunk are stronger. The legs feel stronger from all the squats I’ve been doing. I tell myself that if the number on the scale went up, it’s probably because I’ve added muscle mass. I optimistically told myself that the bodyweight number won’t have changed, but muscle mass will go up and bodyfat will have gone down. So, I took a deep breath and stepped on the scale.

I gained a pound, muscle mass went down and bodyfat went up. Shit. How is that even possible?

I really am tired of thinking about food. The worst part is that my diet isn’t horrible. It’s not like I’m eating at McDonalds and Taco Bell every day. I’m not snacking on chips, doughnuts, or eating pizza every night. I don’t drink soda. I usually eat two meals a day. Mid-day I have a few pieces of cheese or some popcorn. Dinner is a protein and a vegetable. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a dessert. We eat out maybe once a week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know exactly why I don’t lose weight. The biggest culprit is the volume of food. I may only eat two meals a day, but they’re 50% bigger than they need to be. I don’t just put a little sauce, dressing, or butter on something, I put a LOT on. There are too many empty calories from alcohol consumed. The snacking, while not bad foods, happens more times during the day than I want to admit.

So, I know exactly how to fix the problem. The issue is that I’m sick of thinking about food. I’m tired of thinking about calories, eating something and then feeling guilty and mad at myself afterwards. I’m tired of having to plug every morsel into a food calculator to see where I am on calories. I hate the feeling of going out to eat and having the internal struggle with the menu. I should order a salad or plain fish, but a burger and fries are what I really want. I restrict and starve, then eat too big a portion, do a bunch of cardio and then have three beers that night. I resolve to eat something really healthy and then make a salad the size of my head and add a full cup of dressing, cheese and bacon. I eat dinner every night like clockwork, even though I ate three chicken pieces a few hours earlier and I’m not really hungry. I’m just tired of agonizing over food.

I wish I understood why food is such a struggle. I resent having to obsess over the almighty calorie. I’m pissed that I’ve basically written some version of this same post probably a dozen times over the last few years and yet, here I am again. I fear I’m starting to sound like a teenage girl with an eating disorder.

Sigh. Ok, end of rant. Back to figuring out some sort of sustainable meal plan. And cardio. Need more cardio. The struggle is real.

I Wasn’t Prepared

Waaaay back, in another life, I was on a search and rescue team. I’m pretty sure every rescue we went out on was for hikers who were completely unprepared. They didn’t tell anyone where they were going. They didn’t bring any gear or clothing appropriate to the situation. They didn’t have a map. 98% of the time these folks would have been just fine. But every once in a while, the stars lined up and the gods decided to mix things up. A sprained ankle. Ran out of water. Took the wrong trail. The weather took a nasty turn. Nightfall came faster than expected. Suddenly these hapless hikers would be facing a cold overnight stay and cell phones that were dead or out of range. Being better prepared doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay out of trouble. But when trouble comes knocking, you’ll have a better chance of a good outcome.

As you can imagine, I’d generally go a bit overboard with my survival prep back in those days. It would have been a tad embarrassing for a search and rescue guy to get lost and have to be rescued. The team had plenty of gear standards and constantly did pack inspections to ensure everyone was squared away. As the training officer, I had to lead by example so even a simple hour-long hike somewhere required taking a ridiculous amount of gear.

Now that I’m back in the real world and many years removed from those days, my survival prep is considerably scaled back. My approach is to think about the worst possible scenario and make sure I can survive that. I probably get a bit too casual about it at times, much to Mrs Troutdog’s consternation, but I generally believe I’m a pretty safe outdoorsman. (knock on wood)

Yesterday I pulled my smaller dual-sport motorcycle out of winter hibernation and got ready for its first ride of the season. I had to put the battery back in and decided it would be wise to use the tools I carry on the bike, just to be sure I could do it in the field if I had to. Look at how smart I am!

I pulled the tool roll out, unfolded it and… there was almost nothing in it. The wrenches I had were the wrong size for the bike. No Allen keys. The butt of a screwdriver but no bits. What the hell? I have no idea what happened. I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d had everything in there at one time and then cannibalized it for something else? Maybe I’d started putting a tool kit together and then forgot it wasn’t done? Perhaps the sock stealing gremlin snuck into the garage and stole my tools?

Regardless, I’ve been riding around without the ability to fix anything. Had something happened out on the trail I couldn’t have done anything other than hike out. I couldn’t even have changed a tube if I got a puncture. I got lucky.

So now I’m putting together a proper tool kit for that bike. Seeing that it’s spring, it’s a perfect time to go through all my gear and make sure everything is dialed in. Bikes, motorcycles, hiking gear, trail running, fishing stuff. I should probably also go through my vehicle survival bag and repair kit.

How crazy do you need to go with prepping? I think it depends on your skillset for that activity. But generally, I think the right attitude to adopt is: Assume no one is coming. Expect to self-rescue and prepare accordingly.

We all need a reminder from time to time that mechanical things can and do break down. Shit happens. Fortunately my reminder came while I was still in the garage.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost.

The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan
The Skipper too,
The millionaire and his wife,
The movie star
The Professor and Mary Ann,*
Here on Gilligan’s Isle.