Monday, December 29, 2014

Rates and Production Info

FYI this info sheet has five sections.
  1. Payment
  2. Dog
  3. What Material I Teach
  4. Housing
  5. What To Do Next

I have no established set of rates and I have no minimum requirement to visit and teach in your community.  Here’s how I find it works best for everyone:

I appoint a Producer in each town I plan to visit. If you are reading this, you are probably being asked to be my Producer in your town. The Producer and I decide together what materials I’ll present while I’m there and we’ll settle on a date and time.

The Producer will secure the space and promote the event to the local community. The Producer will also set the price for the event, collect fees from the students and use those fees to pay the rental in the space, if applicable. The profit after expenses is split 30% / 70% between the Producer and myself, respectively.

I am also open to other suggested ways of arranging this.

There are some cases where the best location to invite me to is a place that strictly offers a single payment for the class. In the past, we have had great success with asking the students to consider making a voluntary donation to the "JAG & River Road Trip Love Fund". In other words, when the students are paid members and would otherwise get the class for no cost, we have put out a donation bowl and have found that the students are happy to contribute what they can to supplement the standard payment from the facility for a special Nia event.

It is important to note that I do travel with my dog, River. He is always at my side. He comes into the studio with me on his leash, I set up his crate in the corner of the room and he sleeps in the crate while we do class. Afterward, I put him back on his leash to lead him out and back to my car. Over the years, I have had a number of facilities balk at allowing a dog on the premises, which I totally understand, but I've also had dozens of facilities allow River to accompany me. He is very well-behaved and has probably been in more different gyms and movement studios across the country than most people have.

visit this page to see a full description of what I've put together for 2016

Many producers have asked about helping me with housing while I am in town. And my short answer is, "Don't worry about it."

It is usually my experience that staying at the local Motel 6 offers such ease, simplicity, predictability and privacy that I actually prefer it to being housed locally.
When I have stayed in private homes, I am constantly keeping an eye on my dog rather than being able to relax and socialize. At check out time, I find the austerity of a motel room makes it much easier to keep track of my personal possessions. Rarely, have I left items behind when I’m checking out of a room because I simply leave the room completely empty (except for the towels and the remote control). But I have often left personal items behind in a home environment. As I scan the furnished room looking at each item and determining what’s mine and what stays, it’s very easy to overlook something.

I do appreciate the gesture enormously! And I do still stay at private homes and love it. But I say this so that no one feels obligated to house us.

If the community wants to step up the hospitality, the best way to help me would be to feed me. Getting decent food is my biggest challenge on the road. I would be amenable to prearranging for some students to pay their class fees with fresh, wholesome, food or homemade meals that travel well.

Another possible way to assist me is for someone to offer me the use of their kitchen for cooking up some of my own meals for stocking my travel cooler, but that requires a bit of preparation and planning. 

And it’s always nice to be taken out to a restaurant or visit a home for a meal, as long as River can join us. I make it a practice not to leave him alone in strange environments.

And again, I want to say that none of these things are requested by me. These are things that have come up on prior trips often enough to warrant my mentioning them here.

The first step is to decide on a date and time for my presentations.  I have probably already contacted you with a proposed date for your town, and I don't have a lot of wiggle room but things can be shifted around a little bit as long as it's still early in the process, and as long as we don't stray too far from the course.

Example of flier from 2015
Once we’ve secured a date and location I will enter your pertinent information into my flier template and send you a copy for distribution. You are also totally welcome to make your own promotional materials. If you need or want more info or pictures from me, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I am excited to be working with you on putting together the most epic yet of all of my road trips. Please let me know if you'd like to move forward. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Frankie Say Nia" Possible Tour Dates

 I will post updates to this schedule as they're made.  Days marked * have been confirmed. Visit this blog for exact times and locations.

*Seattle  (JAG's Birthday Bash "Frankie Say Nia" Playshop)  - June 13
*Leavenworth - June 15 - confirmed w/Gayle

*Hayden - June 16 -confirmed w/Jamie
*Sandpoint - June 17 -confirmed w/Blissa

*Helena - June 18 -confirmed w/ Kathryn
*Billings - June 19 -confirmed w/Sue
*Red Lodge -June 20 -confirmed w/Sue

*Minneapolis - June *23, *24, 25 -Dawn

*Hubertus- June 27 am -confirmed w/Jill

*Iowa City - June 28 -confirmed w/Beth

*Chicago - June 29 -confirmed w/Kendra

*Columbus - July 1, 2 - confirmed w/Jill

*Averill Park - July 5 - Richele,

*Newfane - July 6

*West Concord - July 8 - confirmed w/Maria, Julianne

*Milford - July 10 - confirmed w/Nancy

*Pittsfield - July 12 - confirmed w/Diane

*Cornwall - July 13 -confirmed w/Lynn

*Portland - July 14 -confirmed w/Erin

*Manhattan - July 18 - NiaNY teacher jam

*Colts Neck - July 21 -confirmed w/Ines

 *Bethesda, MD July 22 - confirmed w/ Suzannah, Cami

*Baltimore - July 23 -confirmed w/Lola & Heather

*Richmond - July 25 - confirmed w/Marybeth
Newport News / Virginia Beach - July 26, 27 -Patrizia

*Durham - July 28 - confirmed w/ triangle Nia

*Fort Mill - July 29 -confirmed w/Demi

*Charlotte - July 30 -confirmed w/Sherrie

Decatur - July 30 -Sandy

*Gainesville - July 31 - confirmed w/ Sarit
*Sarasota - Aug 1-4 -confirmed w/Rebecca

*Cullman - Aug 6 - Ann

*Edwardsville - Aug 7 -confirmed w/Sally

Kansas City - Aug 8 -Marcelle, Robbie, Sherry

*Lincoln - Aug 9 - Holly

Fort Collins - Aug 10

Salt Lake City - Aug 11

Reno - Aug 12

*Yosemite National Park - Aug 13, 14, 15 - confirmed @Tenaya Lodge
Walnut Creek - Aug 16 - Janet
Campbell - Aug 17 -Terre
Pismo Beach - Aug 18
Santa Monica - Aug 19, 20- Cheryl
*Santa Barbara  - Aug 21 - confirmed w/ Ken
Eureka - Aug 24 - Rose
*Manzanita Lake California State Park - Aug 25 -confirmed

*William M Tugman State Park - Aug 26 -confirmed
*Eugene - Aug 27 - confirmed w/Amy, Janet, Sarah

*Centralia - Aug 28 - confirmed w/ Christina
Olympia - Aug 29 -Julia
Seattle "HOME!!"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

JAG Menu 2015

Here are the ideas I have for things I am preparing to bring with me on my travels around the country.

1--  FRANKIE SAY NIA (routine)

I’ve created a routine using all 80’s Alternative “New Wave” music. With songs such as Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Burning Down the House, We Got the Beat and many other quirky tunes from bands such as the B-52s, Culture Club and Frankie Goes to Hollywood who gives us the inspiration for the name of the routine. Frankie Say Nia is a play off one of the slogans that the band used to promote itself. "Frankie Say Relax" and "Choose Life" appeared all over the place on white T-shirts in big black block letters.

It is a standard, one hour classic format Nia class allowing five minutes to set the focus and 55 minutes of fun, familiar 80s music.

If your class is into ‘dressing up’ for special event classes, the New Wave fashions offer lots of fun ideas. Themes were lots of bright colors and faux animal prints. (For example, purple leopard spot tights) It was a kitchy throwback to the 50’s. The emphasis was on bold individualism. 

Musically, New Wave was playful, irreverent and quirky. The songs are fast and short with a strong emphasis on the synthesizer keyboard rather than the guitars of Rock. Also unlike Rock and Roll, new Wave never took itself very seriously. 

The focus of Frankie Say Nia is on the Creative Hand and Arm Expressions with the intention to Relax into Personal Power.
Here is a movie I put together from footage of me developing Frankie Say Nia in my living room.

CNS = Community Network Synergy (choreography playshop / jam)

My goal is to create a Nia routine with the help of several Nia communities across the country. I already have Kansas City and Houston on board. And of course, Seattle. I'm inspired by my travels to all of the burgeoning and flourishing Nia 'tribes' and am constantly blown away by the level of passion and creativity I encounter across the USA. So I want to synergistically tie it all together into a Nia routine. 

I want to find 13 communities interested in contributing to the routine. I already have Kansas City and Houston on board. And of course, Seattle. Ideally, before my arrival in town, each community will have decided amongst itself which few songs it wants to provide for consideration to the routine. Then when I arrive in town, we will all meet for a choreography jam session and bring those songs to life. In order to create a nice, cohesive vertical routine, I will maintain final say in which songs end up in the final routine, but it will all come from the playshops and jams with the communities across the country, networking together to create through synergy. 
Community networking synergy or CNS for short. 

CNS also stands for Central Nervous System.

So what I’d need now is for the communities interested in participating in this to schedule the choreography jam with me for when I’m going to be in your town in 2015. And then at some point before my arrival find a creative way to work as a community to come up with the three songs that will contend for the honor of representing your town in the final routine. And when I do arrive, we’ll all get together and work out what the choreography will be for the songs you’ve chosen.

This routine will not be an official Nia release, so the good news is we don’t have to worry about music rights; anything goes, music-wise. When I conferred with Debbie Rosas she informed me that she is busy creating a similar routine, only she will be including the songs in upcoming official routines, so those will require music rights. My routine, CNS is not official and will not ever be for sale; it is a community bonding experience. The way we can get away with this is by never electronically recording it. It is only reserved for live, in person experience. The old school way!

In 2016, when I make my rounds again, I will bring the finished routine back so everyone can share the synergy we created as a nationwide network. 

I'm so excited about this idea.
So… who’s in?

3-- FREE DANCE (playshop)

As part of the Community Network Synergy project, or on its own, I teach a wonderful Free Dance playshop that is student friendly. It is aimed at teaching a student how to create their own, vital and self-motivated FreeDance experience during class, regardless of what the teacher is providing. At the same time it serves as a wonderful tool for teachers in how to effortlessly guide very rich and exciting FreeDance segments that never leave the student wondering what to do. 

The day starts with a brief chat about FreeDance, including what it is, what people believe it is and why it is valuable. The bulk of the playshop experience is devoted to my toolkit. I will share my tools with you, one by one and give you the opportunity to practice them. I have taught this playshop many times and I’m always amazed by how much each person’s FreeDance is revitalized with just a couple of tools, and totally transformed after a couple of hours. Once someone is exposed to this work they will never again fear, dread or avoid those unguided moments in class, and will instead anticipate and relish them with spirited, creative gusto.

This playshop can also conclude with a super fun Nia routine I put together of all guided FreeDance songs.
This is a video I made last year, when I first had the idea to put together a New Wave music playlist. I just put together a bunch of my favorite songs from the 80's and started freedancing.

4--  THE ART OF JOY (playshop)

Taught in a Tight But Loose format, this playshop is meant to stimulate happiness and encourage it to grow. It is based on some of the Happiness work from First Degree Black Belt as well as Joy of Movement, Life As Art and the personal experiences of JAG and everyone present in the room.

The playshop is experienced in three segments, we will begin with a pow wow and discuss happiness; what it is, why it's important and how to achieve and maintain it. And we’ll talk about JAG’s 13 Principles of Happiness. 

In the middle section, we’ll do 13 guided FreeDances, each exploring a different aspect of happiness as related to Nia’s 13 Principles. The focus of this section is on The Self and the intention is to illuminate happiness. 

In the final segment of this playshop, we will go back to our puppy pile and share discoveries and ask any questions that came up. We could also use this time to discuss other topics of health, related to happiness, including eating, exercising, meditating, self-healing, self-massage, sleeping, playing and avoiding toxins. And of course, Nia!

I can make this playshop work in just about any time frame, but I think it would ideal at about three or four hours. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Last Blog Entry You Ever Need to Read About Nutrition

Want a sure-fire way to keep spinning your wheels in a quagmire of confusion while remaining conflicted about what to eat? Keep on reading blog entries about what "latest studies show". With new studies coming out daily (most of them not even peer reviewed or repeatable) you should be quite fuzzy on the whole thing in no time. 

Keep on buying the latest Best Selling nutrition book and fully buy into whatever slant of the month is being touted by the populous. Search especially long and hard for those articles that support your current way of thinking, they’re out there. No matter what you believe, it’s out there, somewhere. The Internet is an amazingly vast place with such an array of input of all types. You don't have to look very far or hard before you'll come across an article about a 'study' that proves what you 'believe' (or what you don’t want to believe) about nutrition. 

But then keep looking and you’ll soon find one that claims just the opposite is true, or that that original belief has been debunked and this is what we believe now.

In truth, studies don’t prove anything. A study is an experiment based on an assumption. That assumption is played out and the results are gathered and evaluated and conclusions are drawn. The evaluation and conclusion of results is a highly subjective practice. Anyone with a bias could easily create and publish a study showing their desired slant to be true. It happens all the time. Nothing from one study is conclusive, scientifically. The only scientifically significant results are those that occur in different studies initiated from different assumptions made by different parties at different times, yet yielding the same results. (that’s called being ‘repeatable’).

Anytime you read “latest study shows…” be alerted that someone is trying to fool you into thinking that a study in and of itself is conclusive. In fact, a single study that stands out and refutes a long-supported and agreed-upon result found in numerous other studies is probably not going to be considered statistically significant when you look at the whole picture. Not unless this new piece of information is tested over and over again. But that won’t stop bloggers and sensationalizing nutrition writers to prey upon our naiveté and confusion.

That's why, like a broken record, I keep repeating the same things over and over again. The same things my hero Jack LaLanne used to say sixty years ago. The trendy beliefs about what’s “good for you” and what’s “bad for you” have changed many times in those past sixty years, but Jack has been giving the same message the whole time. And I, too, am trying to impress upon a frantic community that it would be in their best interest to stop trying to ‘hack’ their body with the latest gimmick, diet, superfood, cleanse or whatever latest discovery of ‘what is good that used to be bad’ or ‘what’s now bad that they used to say was good’. 

But if you are tired of being confused. It’s actually pretty easy and simple. Step away from the "nutrition" part of the Internet. It is mostly bullshit. Written by ... well frankly written by anyone who has a computer and sees a possibility to make money or get some attention by feeding into what I see as a frenzy of confusion.  And the same with buying diet and nutrition books. There’s nothing new or valuable in there. 

The more time you spend reading about the latest findings, the less you will know.

When you’re ready to stop fooling yourself and you want to get real, then look for the foods that we’ve eaten  and thrived on as a species since the dawn of recorded time, and leave the rest of the garbage sitting on the shelves.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Looking Forward to 2015

Today marks the beginning of the 100 day countdown until I begin the Frankie Say Nia tour.

Which kind of freaks me out at this point, because it is not much more than a vague idea in my head.

But I gave myself until January 1 before I said I had to start writing anything down and contacting people. Until then, I am allowed to keep it all as a fantastic jumbled notion in my head. But I kind of want to start organizing it, so here it is. I'm going to spell it out for the first time.

It will begin on the first day of spring when I'll have a send-off event in Seattle and then make my way down the west coast (WA, OR, NV, CA) and across the desert (AZ, NM) turning around in Houston (TX) and heading back up through the mountains (CO, UT, WY, ID) and then back to Seattle for a little break in time for the summer solstice.

If I get my act together I might be able to put together a class or a series of classes in Seattle before I head back out again, which I plan to do after July 4.

Then I'm headed across the north (MT, ND/SD) to the lakes (MN, WI, IL, MI, IN, OH, PA, NY) and the northeast (VT, NH) and then down the east coast (ME, MA, CT, NJ, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL) finishing with the trip from south Florida through the mid-west. (AL, MO, IO, NE) The final leg, through the Mountain zone all the way back home, could go many different ways depending on how the first part of the route ends up.

I definitely want to be out of the southeast before hurricane season. I'm hoping I can make it back to Seattle by the fall equinox.

And then, for the rest of the year, I am leaving it open for now, but could possibly head down the west coast one more time before hanging up my driving gloves for the winter once more.

Things will very likely shift and change as it comes to life, but it felt good to get that idea out of my head and into print. I'm looking forward to it. Can you tell?

Finding the Light

I was watching a documentary about cults earlier this week and as I watched one of the cult leaders give her vitriolic hate speeches, I was trying to find her love. I was searching for my empathy, believing that we're all doing our best given our circumstances, and knowing that there was a light shining somewhere deep inside of her. Hearing her talk about how much violence "God" wanted her to perpetrate onto the world, it was quite a challenge for me. But I didn't give up on her.

After the documentary was over, I still hadn't found her inner goodness, but I also hadn't given up my search. I knew it had to be there, I just wasn't seeing it yet.

I recognized something very important. And this is that my first instinct was to label her and her actions as 'wrong'. But since I know that reality is always right, I dug deeper. I wasn't going to be satisfied to hide from this problem under a veil of judgmental condemnation.

This morning, two days later, this thought was given to me, "Those that need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways."

And then it became clear to me. Of course she was asking for love in the only way she knew how. She was terrified and desperate and maybe she was raised in a violent atmosphere and not given a whole lot of love. She was acting out as the frightened child, asking for love and acceptance the only way she knew how. Unfortunately, she was now presenting such a frightful version of herself that she is perpetuating a love-free environment for herself.

What she needs is a shift from fear to love. If she could let down her guard and truly ask for love, she'd be free of those demons. She hasn't been taught that. She's doing the best she can do in her circumstances. She needs someone to hold her hand, give her a hug, tell her she's OK and sit with her.

It would have been so easy to disregard her as 'evil' or 'bad', but I don't believe that is being honest. It would be more accurate to see her as 'broken' or 'lacking in tools/skills'. Seeing her this way makes me want to help her rather than condemn her.

And in fact, the only true 'evil' in this scenario would be my deciding to label her as such, when she's just a frightened, naive child inside.

And then I realized that whatever I saw in her was a reflection of myself. I am working toward uncovering the light inside of me from my material and emotional attachment and ego and denial. The degree to which I am able to live as light, is the exact same degree to which I am able to see hers.  And yours.  If I can't see it, it's because I'm hiding mine.

If my light were completely uncovered, I would have seen hers right away. But the struggle I went through to truly see her spirit, is indicative of the degree to which I'm still struggling with the freedom of my own.
I'm now truly excited for this discovery. I realize now that every person I find myself having these kinds of thoughts against, is actually an opportunity for me to examine, measure and improve my own ability to be unattached and honest about the nature of reality.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Diet/Nutrition Book

People have often told me that I should write a book about nutrition. And I have considered it, and have even sat down to get it started a number of times. But I always run into the same problem. I have too much integrity. I am too conscientious to write a book about nutrition.

I don’t know how authors of diet books can live with themselves after publishing. The only way to remain focused and get out a cohesive book is to hone in on one, narrow-minded aspect of nutrition, and to focus in on one particular set of beliefs.

My problem is that the more research I do, the more I find compelling evidence to support many conflicting ideas. I’m not just talking about minute details but large, compelling and important issues like whether or not human beings thrive on eating meat, for example. I have seen extensive and compelling arguments for either side of that debate; and that’s just one example of a very large and important topic. Just one of scores of controversies on the topic of human nutrition.

My conscience gets triggered by realizing that people are going to be reading my book, and possibly making very important decisions based on it. These decisions will affect their lifelong health and vitality. What if the camp that I decided to join and support through my writing turns out not to be the right one? Then am I indirectly responsible for that person’s ill health?

I have read numerous books about nutrition, and they all have their own slant. Each time I embrace a new author’s philosophy, I find myself having to adjust my beliefs and change my habits. You’d think that eventually, there would be a common thread of truth that I could find among all of the different viewpoints, but such is not the case. This is an indication that something is very wrong.

The authors of each of these books had to ignore a significant body of evidence. Because no matter what their stance and beliefs are, there is evidence to the contrary. So whom do I ignore? How can I possibly write a book based on ignorance of research evaluation? I can’t. Not with the amount of integrity I have. If I write a book, I would want it to be correct.

Perhaps all the books are full of crap. Maybe there is no right answer. Maybe there is an answer out there, but as of yet undiscovered. I don’t know. So in that case, the only responsible thing to do is to remain silent.

Writing and selling diet and nutrition books, programs, cleanses, detoxes and all of the products and supplements is a huge, profit-making business. It is not a force I want to align with. It feels deceptive to me. Every time I sat down to write my nutrition book, my intention was to cover it all. But that is an unrealistically monumental task, and always ends up leading me back to the belief that it is different for everyone.

I’m both inspired and then stopped by my desire to only speak truth and to be helpful. If we’re all just supposed to figure it out on our own, then it is out of line for me to make suggestions, or even worse, to tout my information as if I had discovered the truth. My conclusion is that people must take the reigns into their own hands, do some research and some experimentation and stay open-minded to all possibilities.

What I suspect is that each individual has slightly different needs and will respond to food in slightly different ways. I believe that nature has supplied us with our food and it is meant to be eaten. This includes plants and animals. Yes, it includes grains, and yes it includes meat. And no, it doesn’t include pills and supplements.

One thing I will say with certainty is that most food that has been mass-produced is not healthy. Our nutrition needs to come from living matter. Living matter quickly degrades and rots. So in order to mass-produce and market food, (or even worse, to put it into pill form) it must be stripped of its life. Eating lifeless food is not going to nourish us, but it will instead make us sick and fat. In a nutshell, eating lifeless food will cause your body to retain fluids in order to remove what it sees as an invader. This inflammation is the cause of all modern diseases and obesity.

Unfortunately, people want a quick fix and they want it spelled out for them, step by step. If they have to investigate or think on their own, they are bombarded by controversy and gimmicks and can lose interest pretty quickly out of frustration.  So, this sets the stage for another new diet book to come out month after month after month and to hit the Best Seller list because people are so confused and desperate. If I did write that book, I’m sure it would sell. But is that what I want?

I was talking to a friend yesterday about this and I said, “Any real book about proper nutrition would only have to be about a page long. It could be extremely simple, but no one would believe it.”

So here it is:

               this is FOOD

An actually helpful "nutrition" book would be one that showed the reader how to properly prepare and cook all of these things at home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thoughts on the Holiday Season

Well, here we go again. The holiday season is one of my least favorite times of the year for many reasons. Let me get a few of them off my chest.

First of all it is the beginning of the winter season, which is dark and cold. The days are short and might be filled with rain, snow or other inclement weather. I love to be outside, in the sun, with very little clothing on. I much prefer summer and spring; even fall, although the weather may be on the colder side, at least has pretty colors to look at.

Secondly it is a season of traditions. The whole concept of traditions rubs me the wrong way as a thinking, sensual, aware person. I abhor herd mentality. I encourage everyone to think and act as if they had free will and were actually living in the present moment. Traditions are the opposite of that; they are “doing something without giving it thought, just because we did it last year.” I can think of no less valid reason for doing something than ‘we always do it’.

And it’s not only that they follow traditions, but they are sometimes offensive traditions. People put up the same, tacky decorations every year. Brightly colored lights and shiny things dominate the outside of people’s homes, yards and living rooms near windows to be seen from the outside. It seems that even otherwise sensible people lose their aesthetic eye and opt for the same garish and outlandish crap they put out every year.

The music is mostly horrible. Obviously most of the seasonal tunes were written for children, but that doesn’t stop many adults from reveling in them. I love a good song! And I love emotions and drama, but I am not a fan of over-sentimentality or cutsie-poo. In the holiday oeuvre, there are very few good ones. Compounding this is the fact that as soon as we put down our napkins on Thanksgiving, these brain-dead songs start up and play relentlessly through the end of the year.

But by far, the biggest thorn in my side is the culturally accepted and encouraged rampant materialism. I am morally offended by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Grey Thursday, Shop Small Day, Christmas sales and Holiday Gift-Giving ideas. Stop telling me to buy things! If I want to give a gift to my loved one, I’ll do it when I think of it, not when the calendar says it’s time.

I don’t know why more people don’t see it this way. To me it seems perfectly obvious that if giving a gift is required, (which it is, by tradition) then there is no true sentiment behind it. It is robotically fulfilling an obligation. It is often said, “It’s the thought that counts!”  The only time a gift has any real meaning is when it comes spontaneously from the heart. But looking at the calendar and seeing that it’s almost December 25 so ‘I better start thinking of what I can buy for everyone I know’ is not spontaneous nor is it coming from the heart, it is imposed by society from the outside.

And I can already hear people saying, “but I love to give gifts, my heart is full, and I think it’s a beautiful time to express my love and appreciation for my friends and family and those less fortunate.” To that I say, if you want to celebrate your love for friends and family, you can do that without buying them something. Give them a hug, have dinner with them, sing together. And do it in March, or in August. Do it whenever you think of it, not because it’s the season. Just because you enjoy the taste of swallowing the bait, doesn’t mean you aren’t on the hook being reeled in. I applaud those attempts at ‘feeling’ the season, but I see it as coming around to meet the requirements of societal pressure and not truly heart-inspired.

A good example of the effect believing in the hype of the season has on us is illustrated here in a question a friend of mine recently asked. “In the past, it was customary to tip service providers -- hair stylists, massage therapists, child care providers, housekeepers, etc. -- at the holiday season. I feel it still appropriate to do something special for postal workers, waste removal employees, etc., who do not receive payment directly from me for their services to me during the year. However, I have been feeling like in exchange for providing an 'extra' tip at the end of the year to other service providers, it would also be appropriate and appreciated for service providers to say 'thank you' at the holiday season for the people who have been loyal to them and paid for their services throughout the year.”

Here you can see a perfect example of how there is way too much importance put on 'giving' and 'receiving'. This person is totally of the mindset that because it is Christmas, she is expected to give tips to service people that she might not otherwise tip. She is also suggesting that because it is Christmas, her hair stylist should give her a gift “IN EXCHANGE FOR” the (ahem) thoughtful ‘gift’ she gave to them.

MAKE IT STOP!! Are we truly blind to what this is? Is it “in the spirit” to coerce gifts and tips from each other? What spirit is this in?

There are no 'rules' for tipping or for saying 'thank you' for that matter, even in the holiday season. That's why it is meaningful when it does happen. Putting extra expectations on your behavior or the behavior of others because it is “the holiday’ is unrealistic, unfair and dilutes the meaning of gift-giving. Expecting a gift seems greedy and selfish in any context, but here, since it’s Christmas, it is OK. It is the norm. Blech.

Think about this: If you demanded that someone say, “I love you” to you, would it mean much to you when they said it? Or do you think it would mean more coming from someone who you didn’t apply any pressure to? Similarly, demanding or even expecting a 'thank you' from someone changes the whole meaning of the gesture. Instead of them expressing a true heartfelt sentiment, they are fulfilling a contractual obligation. It all becomes simply ego-driven, materialistic and superficial.  The same applies to gifts, giving and receiving. In the context of all of this required gifting, there is an explicit lack of essence.

I suggest everyone stop giving any sort of tips or gifts to people until you can do so without any expectation of anything in return. Until then, you are coercing payment or gratitude out of someone. And it is meaningless in that case.

It is no secret that the suicide rate climbs during the holiday season. And likely for all of the reasons I have touched on. The darkness and cold can really be hard for some people. The songs alone can drive someone to the grave. There is a commonly held belief that one should spend time with their loved ones around the holiday. For some people, for many reasons, that is simply not possible, but it is such a strong belief that it can cause feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or loneliness. And then there is this whole expectation to give, which can really stress some people out, emotionally and financially.

And one final thing I need to mention about this holiday season. And that is the Christian element. It is obvious to anyone using logic that the stories from the bible are fables. They aren’t even original stories. The virgin birth and the martyr rising from the dead have shown up in several spiritual writings before Christianity was even invented. The Christmas holiday was a pagan celebration of the winter solstice long before it was co-opted to celebrate the ‘birth of Christ’. I’m fine with people having whatever religious beliefs they want, but I would appreciate if they could also understand that they are beliefs, not truths. They are not shared by everyone, and they are certainly not the “true meaning of Christmas.”

Technically the true and original meaning of the holiday is the Winter Solstice; a celebration that the days are going to start getting longer again and soon we can be shirtless and playing in the sunshine. 

So go ahead and enjoy your holiday however you like. If you’re into materialism, go for it. If you believe in celebrating your religion, go for it. If you like bright lights and awful songs, enjoy them. Most of what goes on in the name of Christmas is not my idea of something worthwhile but I don’t want to stop anyone’s fun. Even if you want to invite me to a holiday party, I would probably go, unless it involved a gift exchange. Despite what impressions you might be getting from these confessions, I'm a happy, fun, party guy. I will happily engage in merriment at any time.

I’m not asking for much, but I do humbly request that we all take some time out to stop and think about the implications of what and how we are celebrating this time of year. And verify that the beliefs, values and traditions we are espousing and teaching to our children are what we really intend.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cleansing is Craziness

It breaks my heart when I hear of my friends going on a “cleanse” or on a “detox”.

First of all, it’s important to realize that a cleanse or a detox is simply a ‘diet' given a less offensive name. Since it has been pretty common knowledge for a few decades now that diets are bad for your body and mind, the industry cleverly came up with a couple of exciting new terms to market diets anew to desperate and unsuspecting consumers. 

90% of recently polled American high school girls were on some kind of ‘diet’.  Some were using laxatives, some were taking pills and some were vomiting after every meal. Many girls, still pubescent and developing, were limiting themselves to less than 1200 calories a day, which is what the World Health Organization cites as the lowest possible daily healthy human intake. Below that, they classify it as starvation. The healthy RDA of calories for young adult women is 2000 and for men is 2500. Harvard Health Publications suggests women eat at least 1,200 calories daily and men get a minimum of 1,500 per day.

In a nutshell, a diet (aka a ‘cleanse’ or a ‘detox’) is deprivation. They either ‘help you lose weight’ mostly because you are under feeding and under-nourishing yourself, or they claim to 'rid your kidneys or liver of accumulated toxins'. Of course you’re going to lose weight for as long as you only eat grapefruit, or avoid all forms of fruit or whatever trendy, faddy cleanse is popular this month. And your body will be constantly cleansing itself, whether you're starving or not. The safe and intelligent way to clean your liver is to stop eating toxic things. Period. That doesn't mean to stop eating altogether, or to severely limit your food intake. That's not only overkill but it's creating other problems, as well.

While the cleanse is a tempting proposition, the problems are many.

First, as I’ve already mentioned, this is undernourishment. It is not properly feeding your body a balance of nutrients nor is it supplying sufficient calories to sustain life. There is nothing magical about the weight loss people experience from such diets as these. You could see similar results from just about any heavily restricted dietary intake, including eating nothing.  But your body needs a full array of nutrients and a minimum amount of calories to thrive and be healthy. These cleanses often fall short in both of those measures.

Secondly, is the mental damage it does. While on a cleanse, since we are depriving ourselves of important and necessary nutrition, even temporarily, it will trigger our body’s natural desire to be properly fed. This will manifest as cravings. Any deprivation of something necessary for your body will eventually lead to cravings. Usually cravings for the very thing one has eliminated, or a close proximity. This is not a coincidence but the intelligence of your body doing it’s best to get what it needs.

An example I saw recently is a woman who, as part of her cleanse, had a grapefruit and beet juice for breakfast. Two hours later, she found herself helpless against the temptation of a brownie. To me it is clear that her body was asking for fat. And since she was putting herself into deprivation mode, she wasn’t making decisions from a place of centered intelligence, but making a desperate attempt to quell the loud demanding voice of her body. Had she allowed herself some butter with breakfast, (or somehow supplied herself with fat, carbs and protein instead of just pure liquid carbs) she would not have been tempted by the brownie. Her body would have been fully satisfied until lunchtime.

For decades, experts have been telling us the dangers of dieting. One of them is the yo-yo phenomenon that saying dieting basically lowers our metabolism while we’re in the deprivation mode. And once we (inevitably) succumb to the cravings created by the diet, we bombard our lowered metabolism with all the craved food. This makes for a great deal of weight gain. The typical person will then go back into diet mode and do the whole thing over again, losing the same five or ten pounds and gaining it back, plus more, each time.

Psychologically, this is guaranteed failure. Since there is no way to remain in diet mode for very long, it comes down to our external ego-driven will versus our innate body-wisdom. And eventually our body will win out, simply to protect itself. Survival instinct is very strong.

Another drawback of cleanse mentality is the idea that we just need three days of ‘being good’ and it can clean out all the damage we’ve done with a lifetime of improper eating.  The truth is that our organs are constantly cleaning our bodies. It doesn’t require any kind of rest or reset to cleanse. What it requires is plenty of water and a sensible, but satisfying diet.

We would be much better off taking one daily habit and changing it for the better until it becomes a new, more healthy habit. For example, eliminating soda pop with lunch, drinking water in the afternoon instead of coffee, or choosing a fruit-based dessert over a flour-based one. These are just simple examples of something to do that is much more effective and sustainable. Once the garbage is eliminated from the daily intake menu, the organs will eliminate the built up garbage.

Another downside of detox mindset is that it doesn’t get you any closer to understanding your body’s real needs. It is obvious that grapefruit and celery aren’t a proper diet, not even for three days. But if you do stick to only grapefruit and celery for three days, you will probably lose weight. (you’ll also lose health, but it won’t be as visible in the mirror). Many people report ‘feeling lighter’ when on highly restrictive diets, but it is important to remember that people who are starving to death, also will report feeling very light as they waste away.

On the other hand, if you eschew the harmful idea that you should cleanse, then instead you are left to grapple with the question of ‘what do I eat on a daily basis?”  Finding the answer to this question will bring you a lifetime of food enjoyment at  your ideal body weight. You’ll be radiant with health and energy and you’ll never feel hungry or have food cravings. You’ll find extreme pleasure and enjoyment from eating rather than being fearful and depriving yourself.

Also consider the possibility that many of these products contain ingredients that are not known to be healthy or safe to consume. They may contain addictive medications or other additives that are harmful to your health.

Finally, I will say that ‘dieting’ is akin to suicide in many ways. I’ve already mention how it slowly and insidiously robs you of health, Not only is it slowly killing you, but it is ‘the easy way out’. It is much easier to restrict yourself to only a few chosen foods, or to eliminate an entire food group from your life, or to purchase a ‘diet/cleanse/detox’ product or program than it is to experiment, research and discover what works for you in the long run.

Taking the smart route may require you to team up with an expert. And that may even cost you some money, but it is not wasted money, like the money you spend on packaged diets, powders, pills, drinks and supplements. This money is a wise investment in your health now and well into the future.

As with most things, if you take the quick and easy route, you’ll get meager results that don’t last. But if you do the work, you’ll enjoy a nice, long, healthy life, filled with joyous meals and you’ll never feel deprived. 

Which way do you want to be?

Over the years, we have gone on many fad diets. All of them just ridiculous. Many of them probably only being given any consideration at all because a celebrity was doing them. The erroneous thinking being that if a celebrity is doing it, it must be good.

As you read this list, please keep in mind that all of the diets I have listed have eventually been discovered to be entirely or partially dangerously misguided.

In 1820, Lord Byron popularized a diet called the Vinegar and Water diet. Yes, it was only water and apple cider vinegar.

In 1903, President Taft got stuck in his bathtub and went a very public (and unsuccessful) low carb diet. He gained it all back and then some.

In 1925, Lucky Strike cigarettes introduced the diet known as “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet” touting nicotine's appetite suppression.

In the 1930s it became trendy to go on a diet which entailed having grapefruit with or instead of each of your three daily meals. This was called the Hollywood Diet.

In the 50’s a diet known as the Cabbage Soup diet was all the rage. Cabbage soup with or instead of every meal. which was also severely limited.

Maria Callas allegedly dropped over 50 pounds in the mid 1950’s by swallowing a tapeworm and kicking off a new shockingly stupid craze called The TapeWorm Diet.

In 1963 Weight Watchers was born. Effectively turning off all avenues to self-awareness and learning by supplying dieters with a pre-planned nutrition lifestyle. The diet itself isn’t bad, and it does work, but there is little room for growth or education as the food 'choices' are largely prescribed and predetermined.

Elvis Presley made the Sleeping Beauty Diet popular. This involved sedating oneself with drugs rather than eating.

In the 1970’s a Hollywood doctor created the Cookie Diet, which was built upon specially made cookies with added amino acids.

In 1977, SlimFast was introduced onto the poor, confused population, who were eager to believe that it was safe and effective to drink a pre-made, processed food shake instead of eating meals.

In 1978, we were accosted with the Scarsdale Diet, which is a severely limited and strictly prescribed eating plan. Again, keeping any involvement of the eater and the eater’s body signals to an absolute minimum.

In 1979, we were given Dexatrim, which started a whole avalanche of stimulants and appetite suppressants. In 2000, the formula was proven to be harmful, so the recipe was changed, but still one can buy Dexatrim if they think that taking speed to lower the desire to eat is a smart thing to do.

In the early 80’s there was the Ayds Diet Plan. Basically it was the same speed as Dexatrim, but hidden in a chocolate brownie like thing. The product suffered a fatal blow when the killer viral disease of the same name broke in the mid 80’s.

In 1982, Jane Fonda changed the direction of diets and was the catalyst for an ‘Exercise Revolution” as people scrambled to lose weight through hour-long sessions of low to moderate intensity exercise. Jazzercise followed a year later.

In 1985, The concept of food combining  (not having protein and carbs in the same meal) was popularized in a book called Fit For Life by Harvey and Marylyn Diamond. They also touted the evils of eating any sort of animal products.

in 1987, Elizabeth Taylor wrote a book called “Elizabeth Takes Off” in which she advises people to eat veggies and dip every day at 3pm

In 1988, Oprah Winfrey went on a very public all liquid diet and lost about 65 pounds.

In the early 90’s Dr. Dean Ornish wrote a series of books claiming that eating less than 10% of our calories from fat would make us thin and keep our hearts healthy. (McDonald’s experimented with a McLean burger)

In 1992, Dr Atkins taught us all that we should eat high protein and low carbs.

In 1995, the newest trend was The Zone Diet, which said that we should balance our macronutrients in a strict ratio of 40% carbs, 30% fats and 30% protein.

In 1999, following the lead of Victoria Beckham, new mothers started to believe that it was necessary (and safe) to lose their body fat immediately after having a child.

In 2000, Gwynyth Paltrow’s dietary experimentation put the macrobiotic diet craze on the map, which led people to believe that eating raw vegetables and grains is healthy.

In 2003, Dr Agatston cashed in on the old Atkins theory and repackaged it as the South Beach Diet.

By 2004, there had been so many death and heart attacks from people self medicating with diet amphetamines that the FDA had to ban the sale of Ma-Huang and anything containing ephedra.

The Biggest Loser premiered in 2004. A sad program that glorifies extreme, unsafe weight loss, shames overweight people and perpetuates many dieting and exercising myths. 

In 2006, Beyonce used something called The Master Cleanse to lose 20 pounds. It consists of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

In 2007, a new drug called Alli was introduced. This disgusting medication actually works to prevent your body from absorbing the food you eat.

In 2011, a highly specious new diet is introduced. It’s called the HCG diet and it combines a fertility drug with an extremely limited diet. Less than 800 calories/day. (just for reference, a small framed, inactive woman requires almost 50% more than that daily just to stay alive.)

So, there’s no sign of this slowing down or becoming any more sane or intelligent. Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen for any of these ploys. Clearly you’re not alone. But I hope this list offers a perspective that helps alert you to the reality of what’s going on. There will always be a new diet, cleanse, detox, or whatever new term they come up with once “cleanse’ and ‘detox’ start to enjoy the same negative associations as the word ‘diet’. 

The answer is to eat real food. Don’t be afraid of eating what our ancestors ate. 

My rule of thumb is if it is something that your great grandmother could have eaten, then go for it. Of course, this rules out things like Pringles, Hot Pockets and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, but it also precludes us from being lured into the trap of harmful things like “soy milk,’ “gluten free wheat bread” and “diet soda”

My battle cry these days is “TAKE BACK THE KITCHEN!”  Until we go back to choosing food and leaving behind our terrifying legacy of food phobia and dieting insanity, we will just get sicker and fatter. Instead, let’s find our health and our happy bodies by returning to buying things from local farmers and preparing them in our own kitchens. 

And let’s agree to consider ‘cleansing’ and ‘detoxing’ as bad a concept as ‘dieting’.