Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipsicle Thoughts

There has been a lot of hype building up to this week's eclipse.  Some of it is understandable, given the rarity of the occasion, but I think this whole eclipse thing is blown way out of proportion.  Here are some of my random thoughts.

When I failed to show sufficient enthusiasm about the upcoming eclipse a friend of mine gave me a link to a Ted Talk about why everyone should view a total eclipse at least once in their life.  The man in the Ted Talk described his experience the first time he saw a total eclipse.  He described what could only be a spiritual experience, a connection with The Universe that he'd never felt before, as this unique occurrence of nature was shared with others.  He said he wasn't a spiritual person, but that this experience touched him so much he was sharing with everyone he could that they should experience it too.
This Ted Talk did not have the affect my friend hoped it would!  It did clarify for me what bothered me about all the hype regarding the eclipse.  The eclipse this man experienced was indeed an awesome thing, but it was the connection he felt with The Universe that was what he was talking about.  He felt that connection during an eclipse, and so felt that there is some magic in an eclipse.  But can't a person feel that same connection with The Universe watching an ordinary sunset?  Or sitting on an ocean beach?  Or watching hummingbirds dance in the sky?
My spiritual path has been to find this connection with The Universe every day, not just during the exceptional parts of life, but while doing the mundane things of life.  I want that connection all of the time.   With that path before me I've spent a lot of time this summer sitting in my front yard, bare feet on the Earth, listening, watching, reading, being.

Ray's Pondering Chair

And so the day of the eclipse came upon us and I found myself outside sitting in my chair, a cup of coffee within reach, and my dog close by. My chair is facing away from the morning sun and I chose not to move it.  While everyone seemed to think the big show of the eclipse was happening by staring at the sun, I learned long ago not to do such foolish things.  Special glasses or not...   looking into the sun isn't smart.  Besides, I felt the bigger show was to observe the rest of the world around me.  I knew I'd see pictures after the fact of the sun and moon in much greater detail than I could ever hope to see with my own eyes, but who would take pictures of the rest of my world during those moments? Nobody!  So that is where I focused my attention.

Where I live in Western Washington we didn't get a total eclipse, but we did get, I think, 93% or 94% of the sun blocked out.  During the hour before the maximum eclipse I observed it getting dimmer and dimmer.  We have a lot of dark days here in Western Washington, but this was unlike anything we experience in normal life.   It was dark, yet the sun was still shining down from above, everything still cast a shadow.  In contrast, during "ordinary" dark days where the sky is filled with cloud cover, there is no sun in the sky and there are no shadows.  Just darkness.   It wasn't anything that resembled evening, either.  As evening approaches and it gets darker and darker the sun casts long shadows until everything is swallowed up by the shadow of the Earth as the sun passes over the horizon.

This wasn't that.  It was dark, yet the sun was still high in the sky.  It was dark, yet the sun still cast shadows.  My friend Bruce described it best in his blog post in The Mountain News when he said: "the darkness had a brightness to it that was incongruous".

My dog didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.  Nor did the cat.  But the birds noticed.  I'm used to hearing the background music of birds flying around and singing.   As the peak eclipse approached they all went quiet, with the exception of the chickens someone has on the next block over.  they were raising quite the fuss.  But the chickens quieted down after a while, when it started getting brighter again, and then the other birds started resuming their usual mid-morning activities.  
I did not observe the bees or other insects during my two hours outside, but I'm told by people who have bees that as the eclipse darkened the skies the bees returned to their hives. 

Isn't it interesting how the insects and animals in nature who had no advance knowledge of the eclipse reacted to it just the same?  I feel this is because their day to day survival requires them to be aware of their surroundings.  The bees returned to their hives just as they would prior to evening or a rainstorm.   The birds also reacted.   Yet my dog and cat didn't even notice.  But then again, my dog and cat are fed and have a warm place to sleep regardless of what goes on outdoors.  As such, perhaps they've lost more of their connection with nature than we realize.

And people...  how far removed from nature are we?  We're so stupid we have to be told not to look into the sun.  I saw facebook posts of people asking if they should keep their pets indoors during the eclipse so they wouldn't be blinded by looking into the sun.  Really?  Are there actually people THAT stupid to think that their pets are dumb enough to stare directly into the sun?  Yes, there are!

And while everyone else was busy staring into the sun to find some connection with The Universe...  I was siting in my chair watching the rest of the show.   It was an interesting show.  It was a weird show.  I'd love to do it again where I can experience a total eclipse.   I enjoyed myself.  I felt Mother Earth through my bare toes.  I spent two hours breathing outside air and enjoying the company of my dog.  I'm not sure that I felt any more connection to The Universe than I usually do during my morning time outdoors.  But I certainly felt less connection with the insanity of the people around me.  I'm not sure if that puts me ahead of most people...  or behind most people...  or just on a different path.

Hey...  it's been a long time since I've posted on my blog or updated my website.  There are reasons for all of that but I think I'll be posting more soon.  No promises though.  :)

-Raymond Cool

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Why Wheat Haters Have It Wrong

Delicious Spelt Pizza!

I talk to many people who are convinced that wheat is unhealthy, and many claim to be allergic to gluten, or have an intolerance to it.

I believe most of them are mistaken. 

First off, let me clarify:  Gluten allergies/sensitivities are a real thing.  Some people have a broader sensitivity to wheat.  Combined these conditions affect 1-3% of the human population.   Those people who have a true issue with gluten should avoid it, just as anyone allergic to any other particular food needs to avoid it. 

(If you believe you have an issue with gluten you NEED to be tested for celiac disease.  It isn't something to be taken for granted, and you need to know.  Celiac is a serious condition which demands a rigorous change in lifestyle.  On the other hand, there is no reason to go through all that if you don't actually have it.  Get the test.)

Why then does it seem that a much larger percentage of the population has an issue with wheat/gluten?  Certainly, in my talking to people, a much higher percentage CLAIM to have an issue with it.

Here's why, in a nutshell.

While only 1-3% of people have an actual issue with wheat or gluten, nearly 100% of humans have an issue with highly processed and refined foods. Let's face it: nearly 100% of the wheat that most people eat in modern times is highly processed, over refined, nutritionally dead, and can hardly be called food.   The closest thing most people get to "whole grains" is the occasional slice of wheat bread.

We should be pointing the finger and blaming ourselves for what we've turned an otherwise healthy food into.  Instead we blame the wheat itself.

One of the most common arguments I hear is that modern wheat isn't natural.  That it has been hybridized into frankenfood that is not only unnatural and unhealthy, but downright poison to us.  These arguments are espoused in some books and many blogs, and I admit, they even sound like legitimate and rationale arguments.  But I've never seen them followed by the next logical step, which is that if modern grains aren't healthy, we need to go back to eating the ancient grains.  This >IS< where that argument should end up, right?  But I've never seen it go there.  

Instead, without exception, the "modern wheat is evil" arguments are always followed with "all wheat, all grains, all carbohydrates are evil and unhealthy."  Imagine that.   They make an argument against modern wheat and conclude that all grains, even the ancient ones, and non grains like potatoes are unhealthy.  How do they make THAT jump? 

Dr. McDougall is well known for pointing out that throughout all of verifiable human history, all large, healthy populations of humans have gotten the bulk of their calories from whole-food starches.  These are the foods of health, the foods that brought us civilization in the first place.

Yes, the form most people eat wheat in is unhealthy and poisonous.  The logical response is to eat those grains in their whole, natural form, with as little processing as possible.  

Need some evidence?   Here is a picture of me the day I got my grain mill:

Raymond Cool showing off his new Grain Mill.  (2011)

This was early in 2011.  I weighed about 500 pounds.  I made the decision to add whole grains into my diet with the hope of becoming a bit healthier.  I had no real expectation of losing significant weight.  I didn't believe I could lose significant weight.  But I believed I could be a bit healthier, so I started eating whole grains.  I bought this grain mill and started baking my own wholesome nutritious breads.  I made my own breakfast cereals.

And I lost weight.  A LOT of weight.  About 300 pounds of excess weight!

Here is what I look like these days:

Raymond Cool 

I still eat plenty of whole grains, including delicious, wholesome breads.  This is a picture of my dinner tonight:

Spelt Pizza - June 12th, 2016 (It was DELICIOUS!)

It is a pizza made from wholesome, delicious spelt flour, which I milled by hand with love.   It was absolutely delicious!  Spelt is an ancient grain, and is one of many ancient grains that one could use instead of modern wheat, if you were convinced modern wheat isn't suitable for food.  I eat a variety of wheat grains, including spelt, durum, kamut, and also modern wheat.   I look forward to eating and cooking with more as time goes on.  

The idea that you can eat food like this, lose weight, and become healthier in the process are ideas that many find too good to be true.  So they cling to their "grains are bad" mantra, suffer with their low-carb diets, and find marginal success, if any at all.

One reason people cling to such thinking is this:  They've heard the arguments, they've tried giving up wheat, and they felt better for it!  How do I explain this?  Easy!  Since nearly 100% of wheat people eat in modern times is highly processed poison, it is logical to conclude that ANYONE would feel better not eating it.  Again, the finger should be pointed at the highly processed poison...  not the wholesome whole grains from whence it came.  Their argument isn't against wheat, it's against highly refined wheat, and they miss out on some really good things by believing as they do.   What's worse, since wheat is a natural human food, most people eventually "cheat" and sneak some.  But when they do, it's not the whole-grains I eat, it's processed junk they used to eat, and of course, it makes them feel bad, and their convictions become even firmer.  

Eat your grains.  Eat them in their whole, natural state whenever possible.   When making breads/pizzas, make them out of wholemeal flour.  Better yet, buy a grain mill and grind your own!  It is fun, it is healthy, it is the most delicious bread/pizza you'll ever eat! 

Don't hate me!   Join me instead! Better health comes with many delicious foods.  Whole grains are our friends!

Happy Eating!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Looking Back: May 5th, 2013

I first shared this photo almost 3 years ago:

It was a day of excitement and wonderment!  For the first time since Junior High School I weighed less than 200 pounds!

I think most can appreciate that this must have been quite an accomplishment for me.  Some know just how big of one!   

At the time I was looking only at the future and what lay ahead.  I had it all mapped out and it would be smooth sailing!  I would finish my journey to lose 300 pounds, I would write a book about it, I would become a weight-loss guru and help countless others do the same.   Life would be the proverbial "happily ever after"!

That was three years ago and life sure did take some unexpected turns!  There was no smooth sailing.  In fact, these past three years have been the most difficult of my entire journey.  How was I to know that the path forward meant going backwards?  Way backwards!

The short story:  Food is powerful medicine.  Food can heal, food can help us lose weight.  Look what food has done for me!  But food is physical and it can only heal our physical bodies.  The truth is that I have a lifetime of emotional baggage.  I thought that the end of my physical weight-loss journey put an end to any emotional baggage associated with having been so morbidly obese all those years.

Not so.  Turns out that all the life issues that got me up to 500 pounds were still there, and that pushing forward meant dealing with those life issues.  Denying them and refusing to deal with them took me where I was...  and could do so again.

This came as quite the blow to me, and took me a good bit of time to sort out.  During that time I lost a grip on my eating.  Is this any real surprise?  Life was supposed to be perfect, I was supposed to be cured, and then one emotional train wreck popped up after another.  I started putting weight back on.   I think we have all seen or heard of people, who, like me, have lost large amounts of weight, and know that in most cases they end up putting it all back on.   I now understand why that is.  Once we fix the physical, and everyone expects us to be "cured", the real Pandora's Box of our past starts demanding to be dealt with, and that is very hard to bear.

Fortunately for me, I was so steeped in the food...   I knew WHAT to eat. I loved the foods that I ate, and although the amount of food I ate was out of control, it was, for the most part, healthy food. Although it resulted in weight gain, it didn't result in putting back on large amounts of weight.  The food bought me time.  Sufficient time to start dealing with my emotional baggage, my life issues.  It has taken me over 2 years since then to work through the process far enough to actually talk about it publicly.   Had I not been so firmly grounded in the food I would have easily put on enough weight to have caused me to given up completely.  That is how the story usually goes.

In addition to being so firmly grounded in the food, I am, and have always been firmly grounded in my life journey.  This life journey is one much bigger than my weight loss journey, and I'll share more of it in time.

So where am I?   Physically I am where I was about 3 years ago.  I am just under 200 pounds, inching towards my goal of losing 300, and just as determined to get there as ever.  Mentally, though, I'm in a much better place than 3 years ago.  I have been through the dark valley, I have dealt with enough of my demons to allow me to start moving forward again, and am continuing to work on the rest.

Don't count me out, and don't bet against me!   

-Raymond Cool

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Where In The World Is Raymond Cool?

Have you seen this man?

 Missing In Action

 Two years ago Raymond Cool arrived on the scene with aplomb.  News of his phenomenal 300 pound weight loss journey had spread far and wide.  Newspapers were writing articles about him.  His face was plastered on TV and all over social media.  He was poised to become the next weight-loss guru.

And then...

Well, that's the big question.  What then?  Where is Raymond Cool?  His blog is abandoned.  His website is in disarray.  Has he fallen off the wagon?  Did he come this far just to fade into the woodwork? 


Stay tuned to find out...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What Finally Motivated Me To Change?

One of the most common questions people ask me is "What finally motivated you to change?" I've always had an awkward time answering this question and after having a couple years to ponder on it I've come up with a more complete answer.

The truth is, I've always been motivated to change. As a pudgy child I tried to lose weight. I remember being put on a diet that turned quickly into torture. It didn't last long. As a teenager I would ride my bike trying to lose weight. I even got up early in the morning and jogged, per the advice of a well meaning P.E. teacher.

As an adult I tried numerous times to lose weight, with varying degrees of success. My fallback plan was the tried and true Eat Less And Exercise More that has come to be the standard formula for weight loss in the Western World. As a man who's lost and kept off more than 250 pounds, I can tell you that the trusted "formula" is severely lacking. Watch my video The Lies We Believe About Diet And Weight Loss if you're not convinced by the end of this article.

The reason I've struggled with this question is because it makes an assumption that isn't true: It assumes that I finally succeeded because I finally found sufficient motivation.

This Simply Is Not True.

I did not find some hidden spring of motivation. I did not find some Super-Human willpower that was lacking before. In fact, I have no more willpower than I have ever had. 

So what made the difference? Why have I failed to lose weight my entire life but this time I've had quite a bit of success? 

Knowledge and Perspective.

I finally learned how to eat foods that satisfied my appetite while letting me lose weight.  It's that simple.  There is no magic.  There is no mystery.  I became willing to look at diet, health, & weight loss in different ways and from a different perspective than before. 

I did not have to change how much I ate, I only needed to change WHAT I ate. 

When I learned this I was filled with joy...  no more starving myself!  I was willing to put a bit of effort into learning.  I was willing to put an effort into changing how I looked at food.  The promise that doing so meant I could lose weight without starving myself was all the motivation I needed.  And while I had to eat less of some foods I loved, I got to eat more of other foods I loved.  Yes!  I got to eat real food that satisfied my appetite!

5 years into this I LOVE the food I eat.  I do not go to bed hungry.  If I'm hungry, I eat, it doesn't matter if it's midnight.  I never wake up dreading another day of impossible "dieting".  I am one happy camper who's 250+ pounds lighter for the "trouble" of learning some simple dietary concepts.

But people don't believe they can lose weight without starving.  People are wrong.  I'm living proof of that.  I work with people every day who are living proof of this.

And people are willing to starve themselves repeatedly and without lasting results, but they're not willing to learn new things.   Isn't that crazy?

Are you willing to look at food differently than you have in the past?

Are you willing to look at weight loss differently than you have in the past? 

Are you willing to make small changes in what you eat?  

Would you, if it meant you could lose weight without starving?

- Raymond Cool