Thursday, April 9, 2020

Observations on Covid-19 in the U.S.A.

Life in a pandemic!  What interesting times.   Here are some random observations now that we're more than a month into it.  Consider them the rantings of a mad man.

Most people in the Western World have no clue.  About anything.  Least of all how dangerous of a world we actually live in.  It should be clear to any intelligent person by now just how blind virtually everyone is to what's happening in the world around them.  But it's still not clear to most.  So many people are pretending this isn't happening, or latching on to a wild conspiracy theory to explain it.


Almost nobody took precautions to prepare for this ahead of time.  I'm hearing many angry people over that fact.  They're mad at their government.  They're mad at their politicians.  They're mad at their employers.  They're mad at everyone but themselves.

What did YOU do to prepare for a pandemic ahead of time?  That's a fair question.  People like Bill Gates have been "preaching" the word for years.  We collectively mock "doomsday preppers" who spend much of their life energy preparing for such things.  But most people are just as unprepared for this as their governments.  The governments they elected.

So stop trying to blame everyone and let's focus on the task at hand.  Getting through this with the least death and damage.

First and foremost you need to know that this isn't going away in a couple weeks.  Or a couple months.  Now that we've been hit with a pandemic, if we're not forever preparing for the next one, then we deserve what that inaction brings us.

And preparing the world to live in that reality will require a change of mindset and lifestyle that is beyond most people's ability to grasp.  So we won't really discuss that part of the equation except to see how it relates to all the conspiracy theories flying around about this.

The Psychology Of Conspiracy Theories.

These are my thoughts.  I have no academic or professional credentials in psychology.  But I've been a student of human behavior for 45 years.

First off, we all live in a "collective delusion".  And on some level everyone who lives in delusion knows it.  Usually on a subconscious level.  But there is a "hint" of a bigger picture they're not seeing while conscious.   This opens the door for the conscious mind to try to make sense of this "bigger picture" and it is very easy for people to grasp on to anything and everything.  The more they suspect that the world they live in is delusion, the bigger and grander the conspiracy theories they may be prone to buy into.

In some ways people prone to conspiracy theories are ahead of the game.  That is, they KNOW on some conscious level they're living in a world of delusion.  Is this not preferred to people who are completely clueless?   In some ways it is.  But it is very easy to move from the state of "entertaining possibilities" to full-blown acceptance of conspiracy theories that aren't any more reality than the slumber of the "sheeple" these people despise.

Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories

There are too many to list!  Some say China intentionally unleashed this in a plot to take over the world.  Some say the U.S. unleashed it in China.  Some say it's all a power grab by the Illuminati to steer us to One World Government.  Some say it's all a hoax to distract us from the roll out of 5g which is going to kill us all.  Some say there is no virus, that it's 5g that is killing people.  Did I miss any?  Yup.  Dozens.  Did I miss your favorite?  Sorry.  I'm not even going mention the religiously toned theories...    sheesh, people...  if you really BELIEVE that book you talk about, content yourself with this...  I've read that book!  If you don't understand it, skip to the end.  God wins.  The End.  Nothing to worry about if you REALLY believe that book.

Please set aside the conspiracy theories.  They won't help you get through this.  They'll only make it worse.  Besides, if any of them are true you can't do anything about it anyway.  But you can do things to get through this pandemic.  Yes, our reality has been shattered.  Yes, we all see big changes coming in the world.  Yes they're scary.  Be brave and do your part.

You need to start thinking about the long-term.  No, do not go out and buy all the toilet paper.  Save some for others.  But in the coming months you do need to start slowly stocking up on things because even if this virus calms down over the summer, it is quite possible we'll get a repeat in the fall.  Do your part to prepare for yourself and reduce the burden on the system when and if that comes.

We're not going back to our care-free lifestyle.  The economic fallout from this is HUGE.  Do you REALLY think that Donald Trump is willing to completely trash the U.S. economy in an election year over a trivial virus no worse than the seasonal flu?  No.  Me neither.  We're headed straight for the biggest economic depression of most of our lives, if not a flat out global depression.  I'm not trying to scare you, I'm trying to instill in you the reality that you CAN and SHOULD start preparing yourself and your family for the coming months/years.  Anything you do now will put you ahead of the game.

Brace For Impact

Many think that we're in the worst of it.  The virus is peaking.  Donald Trump seems to say so.  I think the truth is more that New York is peaking, but the rest of the United States is most definitely not peaking.

Let's look at some numbers:

(This chart has been updated past the posting date of this article)

U.S. Covid-19 Death Rate

DateConfirmed CasesConfirmed DeathsDeath Rate

This data is taken from and is mostly accurate.  They have added some here and there to back date late coming numbers.  But the numbers are accurate enough for our purpose.

In these 4 columns are the date, starting at February 29th, when the U.S. had it's first death, up until yesterday.  Next column is Confirmed Cases, then Confirmed Deaths, and finally, the percent of deaths from all known cases.  That is, if we divide the number of deaths into the number of cases, we get a percentage of people who die from this virus.

Now, there are clear problems with that "death rate" number.  First, it's simply not accurate.  It's not accurate because the REAL death rate would be the number of deaths divided by the ACTUAL number of Covid-19 cases, which is a number we do not know.

What we DO know is that if we tested EVERYBODY then we'd know the true number and would have a much more accurate "death rate".  We still have a LONG way to go to do that.  But logic and common sense says that as time goes on and you test more and more people you'll get a more accurate reflection of the true death rate.

And the chart bears that out...  to a point.  The first three days there simply isn't  enough data to see a "trend" but by day 4, March 3rd, we see the start of an interesting trend.  On March 3rd the "death rate" was 7.25%.  That is very high, and thankfully, not accurate.  And as we test more and more people we can expect that number to come down, which it does.  Every single day as more and more people are tested, that percentage dropped.  Every day.  Without exception.  It went down just a bit.  Until March 22nd when it hit the lowest point at 1.23%  And then the trend reversed.  From that point on up until today, every day the death rate climbed up just a little bit.  Every day, without exception.  From 1.23% up to the current 3.4%.

Why Did The Death Rate Start Going Up?

What does this mean?   Did we stop testing people?  No.  In fact, we're testing more and more people every day.  We have faster tests and more of them.  So why isn't the death rate continuing to decline, or at least hold steady?

It's because the virus is spreading faster than we can collect data on it.  That is the most logical and most likely answer.  In other words, this virus is very much out of control.

A study done by disease modelers at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that we may only be testing and reporting only 1 in 10 actual cases.

On one hand, this is good news.  It means that the actual death rate from this virus is even lower than anyone is currently guessing.  Perhaps as low as the seasonal flu which has a 0.1% death rate.

But on the other hand, this is very bad news.  It means that this virus is far more contagious and travels far more widely and easily than anyone currently knows.  And that's a scary thought.

My conclusion from those numbers?   New York may be peaking, and some areas may be "holding their own" due to social distancing, but this virus is very much on the rise and "out of control".

What's more, any success we have as a result of social distancing will be lost as soon as we start easing up on those measures.  This means that more people will be out of work for much longer than they realize and the economic impact of this virus is going to be much more severe than most people can fathom.

Be safe.  Stay at home.   Don't live in fear, but for goodness sake, don't live in denial.  These are interesting and scary times.  Be responsible.

So ends the rantings of a mad man.  For today.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

I'm Back!!! (sort of)

Greetings! I just spent the last hour reading and then rereading the last few years of my blog posts. Not that there were a lot of them. They were few and far between.

I think I hinted sufficiently where I was and what I was doing. I have been off dealing with mental health issues.

It amazed me after losing 300 lb how much everybody wanted to talk about my weight loss, but nobody had any interest in the emotional issues that took me to 500 lb in the first place.

And as much as I wanted to talk about them, and tried, I was in no position to. Not only did I not have the words, but I didn't even understand what the issues were.

So where am I today?

 Well, I believe I have sufficiently broke through the mental health issues that contributed to my lifelong weight problem, and contributed to my life struggles in recent years.  Since having this recent breakthrough it appears as though all the stars are once again aligning themselves in my life. I am motivated to exercise and I'm enjoying it for the first time in years. My food has been excellent and I once again enjoy the patterns of eating that brought me my initial weight loss success.

Both of these are important because I have struggled with my physical health during this time.  I have gained a significant amount of weight back. How much I don't know because I refuse to get on a scale. I am nowhere near the 500 lb I once was. But I am fairly certain I've regained over a hundred pounds of what I lost.

I have not talked much with anybody about my weight gain during my mental health struggles. It seems that nobody understood or cared. All most people ever noticed was the physical. All they ever wanted to talk about was the physical.  This is as it was during my amazing weight loss journey. Everybody was excited about the physical transformation. Nobody wanted to talk about the emotional trauma that caused the weight in the first place. The fact that I struggled and regained weight seemed to many to be a huge disappointment.  Once again my emotional state didn't matter, but the outward physical change did.

Shame on everyone who has this mindset. 

Here's a dirty little secret for you all. Food addicts eat when they're under emotional stress. Period. There is no secret to this. There's also no shame to this. I knew that I was gaining weight. I knew it wasn't physically healthy. I knew it was my coping mechanism for emotional stress.

And I also knew that if I kept at it, I would work through my emotional issues. I knew I could. I believed I could. And I persevered.

You gain an amazing confidence in yourself when you lose 300 pounds. you realize that you can accomplish just about anything you set your mind to.

So I set my sites on the biggest challenge of my life. I set my mind on overcoming my mental health issues.

That journey turned out to be many times longer and many times harder then losing 300 lb. In fact, losing 300 pounds was a walk in the park compared to what I've been through these past few years.

Another thing I knew was that if I ever got to the other side of the darkness, I would come out of it stronger than I had ever been. And that would mean the resumption of my weight loss journey.

There has not been a doubt in my mind these past years that resolving my mental health conflicts would resolve my physical health struggles as well. 

So where do I go from here?

I don't know. On a personal level I will continue to work on my mental health. I will continue to work on my physical health. I fully expect both to improve. But I make no promises. It seems I've had such enthusiasm before, as expressed in blog posts of recent years. I do, however see a fundamental difference. A few years ago I was hoping I was done working through my mental health issues, but the hard work was really just beginning.

I once fancied myself becoming a weight loss guru. I see now that my life journey is far bigger than that. It doesn't mean that I can't resume my efforts to help people with weight loss, but honestly, I see bigger fish to fry.

I may seek to help others with similar mental health challenges as mine. 

Or I may choose to ride off into the sunset. I no longer desire a public spotlight. I no longer desire to be somebody important. 

Perhaps, because I already am.

I do plan on future blog posts. But I've learned not to promise them.

Peace and Grace to all!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Family Dysfunction, Life Trauma, and Where In The World Has Ray Been?

Recently I saw a post on Facebook about a woman's obituary.  Her children had used it as a "hit piece" against her. You can read it in the photo below:

Kathleen Dehmlow's Obituary
This story piqued my interest because the pain her children felt in order to write this obituary is the kind of pain I understand.  I did some more digging and found more on this story, including the following:
Despite some criticism it was too harsh, 58-year-old Jay Dehmalo and 60-year-old sister Gina have stood by their words, saying people will never understand the pain they endured as children. 
“You can’t believe the dysfunction of the family,” Mr Dehmalo, who has since changed his last name to distance himself from his past [said]. 
“They’ll never know what we went through but it helped us [to write this]. We wanted to finally get the last word.” 
The 58-year-old said for years he and his sister had no idea that after their mother abandoned them and moved to California, she had given birth to two other sons with her husband’s brother. 
“We didn’t have so much as a card from her. I remember she came home twice and on one occasion she was showing pictures of her and her kids playing cards, drinking beers,” Mr Dehmalo added. 
“Gina and I were standing in the room, just standing there and she didn’t even acknowledge us. It’s like we didn’t exist … How can you do that to your own children?” 
Both Jay and Gina said given the chance again, they would publish the same obituary.

some, I have no harsh criticism of Jay and Gina.  I understand dysfunction.  I understand life trauma.  I understand the process of dealing with it and overcoming it. I know that many people never do rise above it and carry their pain to their grave.  So I don't see their act of voicing it, even all these years later, as a bad thing.
 Nor do I criticize the manner in which they're lashing out.  Anger is a valid emotion. Learning to express it positively is a process.  Lashing out as they did can be an important part of that process.  It can be a healthy stepping stone on their journey, but it cannot be a healthy place to dwell too long.
 I think that now that they've voiced it they may be surprised, if they're open to the realization, that they're not alone.  Many have suffered their own childhood trauma.  Countless others have had it far worse.  Realizing we're not alone is an important step in growing past life trauma, and I hope they find this realization.  I wish both Jay and Gina well.  I hope they choose to use this opportunity to grow further.  I also hope others will use this as a mirror on their own life, and perhaps this incident can be of help to many.

Why is this story of such interest to me?  It is because Jay and Gina have managed to do something that has eluded me for a very long time: They're talking about their childhood trauma in a very public way.  It is something I've been trying to find a way to do for years now.

It's no secret that I once was very vocal and had a much bigger presence online than I do now.  I have a wonderful life story to share...  losing 300 pounds on a whole-foods diet is a wonderful thing to share with the world, isn't it?  So where have I been the past 4 years?  Why have I "fallen off the face of the earth?"

After my phenomenal weight loss I was determined to "save the world".  As many other have done, I set out to make a motivational video about my story.   I did some research on making such videos and one thing I learned was that no matter how big my story was, I needed to keep such an introductory video to under 5 minutes.  I had a lot to say and so planned my video out carefully.  I decided to break it up into 5 chunks of no more than 60 seconds each, with at least one chunk coming in under a minute to bring the video to less than 5 minutes.  I decided on the 5 parts of the video to be: 

  • A big attention getting opening highlighting my weight loss journey.
  • A brief summary of my childhood and formative years.
  • A brief summary of my adult years and the pain of living life at such a heavy weight.
  • A more detailed description of my weight loss journey. 
  • And finally, where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do in the future.

I started planning and scripting out what I wanted in the video.  Through production of the first segment I mapped out other sections, but the segment on my childhood baffled me, so I decided to worry about it after completing the first section.   Here is the first section of the video I created.  It is exactly 60 seconds long.

I worked full steam ahead on this project and remember the day I finished this first segment.  I was pleased and ready to start work on the next segment but figured I'd put it off until the next day.  The next day turned into the next week and then a month passed and one day I'm sitting there with a notepad in front of me determined to describe my childhood in terms that made sense to the video I was wanting to put out...   and it dawned on me...

I had no idea what to say about my childhood. What was worse, I had an ominous feeling of dread at the prospect of trying.

 I realized that I had never, not one time in my adult life, spent time exploring my childhood in an honest and productive manner.  I had sometimes mentioned to others that I remember very little from my childhood, but I had always felt that I just had a poor memory.  It hadn't occurred to me that I had subconsciously blocked out entire segments of my childhood.  This didn't concern me in any way throughout my adult life.  I had suffered severe and repeated life traumas in my adult life, and I'd attributed all of my life struggles to PTSD related to those.  It never occurred to me that my struggles were rooted in something even bigger.  It never occurred to me that my childhood and upbringing was a factor in my life, and in my life struggles. And not just a factor, but the defining factor.

So there I was. 2014.  49 years old.  I'd just lost 300 pounds and was a hero to many.  I'd been featured in more than one local newspaper.  I'd been on television.  I had my weight loss story plastered all over social media multiple times.  People wanted my help.  People listened to what I had to say.  People paid me money...  in some cases, good money, for my knowledge and wisdom.   I had nowhere to go but up, right?  Others with lesser stories than mine were making good money selling their story and pushing products and/or lifestyle changes.  Why not me?  

But my childhood.  Why was talking about it such a struggle?

Whatever lurked before me by exploring my childhood, I knew it would bring pain and misery.  I am not a lightweight when it comes to pain and suffering.  In my adult life I have experienced trauma that will bring anyone to tears.  What kind of trauma?  Murder and mayhem to start with.  I have known 7 murderers in my lifetime.  4 of them I knew very well.  One of them killed my sister and her children.  I cleaned up their murder scene.  I've known other people who have been murdered.  I witnessed a murder.  I helped put one man on death row with my eyewitness testimony of the murder he committed.  
 But murder and mayhem are just the start of the heartache I've faced in my adult life.  To be perfectly clear, it required working through much of the emotional trauma in my life THAT I KNEW ABOUT before I was ready and able to be healthy enough to start my 300 pound weight loss journey.  Parts of me understood this.  I knew that my story wasn't just about losing insane numbers of pounds...  but the life struggles that took me up to 500 pounds in the first place.  I knew that was where the bigger story was.  So when I sat there one day with notepad in hand and realized there was something very big and dark looming before me if I chose to explore my childhood, I understood the significance of this.  It was something bigger, darker, and scarier than anything I'd faced in adult life.  

Everyone wanted to talk about my weight loss.  But I needed to explore the things that took me up to 500 pounds in the first place.  I had no idea how long of a journey, or how difficult of one it would be.  Four years later I have no idea how to put into words what I've struggled with since embarking on this journey of self discovery.  I'm not sure I ever will.  I'm not sure I have the desire or energy to do so, even if I did find the words.

One of the reasons I was so vocal and public about my weight loss journey was because I felt it was the logical culmination of my life journey.  Above all other things I wanted to make sense of my life.  I felt that if I could use my life experience to help others, that somehow, that'd make everything okay, make sense of my life, give meaning to it.  That reasoning was just a diversion to keep me from exploring the bigger questions in my life.

These days I'm inclined to help others, as I can.  But I come first.  I have to come first.  And this journey of self exploration has taken so much out of me that I don't have much left for helping others.  That's just the way it is.  Will it always be that way?  I dunno.  I'm not sure just how far I've come in the past four years.  But I've come far enough to start talking about it.

Grace and Peace to you.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

I was 28 years old when I met Joel.  I remember our first meeting well.  I was walking home from the bus stop early one morning, after working a graveyard shift.  

 On top of living in a difficult period of my life, graveyard shift did not suit me. Not only was I physically tired, but I was weary with life. It is sad that a young man such as I was could be so weary. As I neared the house where I rented a room, Joel approached me.  He was a tired and obviously homeless man. I could see in his eyes that he knew hardship. He smelled.  Bad.  Life had not been kind to Joel. It is a look you recognize when you've been there yourself.  Yet there was a gentleness about him, and a friendliness that sparked something within me.
 He held out his hand and in it was some coins.  He counted them out for me. Then he put his other hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye with all the seriousness any man ever possessed, and said: "If I had another 38 cents I could walk over to yonder store (he gestured) and buy me a bottle of wine." I was in no position to be giving money away.  I was counting my own spare change just to get by.  But here stood in front of me a good man who had been through hell.  This much I already knew about him, just by looking in his eyes.  Without saying a word I reached in my pocket where I had two quarters and I gave them to him, and then without speaking I started to walk on my way.  "Wait...", he said.  I had given him more than he needed and he wanted to give me the difference.  I didn't want further interaction so I told him to keep the change and walked on.
 I didn't think anything more of it until I saw him again a couple weeks later as I was once again walking home from the bus stop after a graveyard shift.  He approached me with a smile and greeted me as if we had been lifelong friends.  He reached into his pocket, counted out 12 cents, then handed it to me.  It was the difference between what he needed and what I gave him the last time we met.  He seemed so proud to be able to repay me!  I don't know if I was already in a better mood this time, or if his joy spread to me, but this time I smiled back and talked with him.  He told me his name.  He told me he lived in so-and-so's shed behind their house several blocks over, but don't tell anyone cuz if the neighbors found out he'd have to find somewhere else.  His cheerfulness uplifted me, but when I ran out of things to say I started back on my way home. 
 "Wait...", he said.  He reached in his pocket, counted out how much he had, put his other hand on my shoulder, and told me how much more he needed to be able to walk over to yonder store and buy him a bottle of wine.  And that's when I realized... Even though Joel was a homeless alcoholic, paying me what he felt he owed me came first to him.  Before asking for anything of me he needed to pay his debt to me.  This time I reached into my pocket and stuck around while Joel counted out the exact change that was due me.  Joel and I became friends that day, and a better friend I have never had.
 Over the following weeks and months I ran into Joel many more times. I would sometimes seek him out.  I would not only give him what he needed to buy a bottle of wine at "yonder store" but I'd walk down to the park by the lake and hang out with him.  And we'd talk.  We talked a lot. I was too young, too numb, to talk about the horrors in my life.  So Joel told me about his. He pretty much told me everything about his life. 
 and a rough life it had been.  His upbringing wasn't great, yet he managed to keep life together enough to have a job, get married, and have children.
 And then came Vietnam. He was drafted, and off he went to do his duty.  But like many, war was hell for Joel.  And like many, the horrors of war were too much for Joel.  He came back a broken man.  A shell of a human being.  And like many coming home from Vietnam, there was no sympathy.  No understanding.  No compassion.  No support, and precious few resources.  Joel was never able to integrate back into "life at home".  He eventually lost his wife.  Lost his family.  Lost... everything.  Ended up on the streets, where he remained until his death.  
 Joel's shell lived on many years after the war.  But as sure as I'm typing this... Joel died in that war.  
 On this day, Memorial Day, when we remember those who were killed in war, I'm reminded that in many cases, those were the lucky ones.  For many, like Joel, death took years, and sometimes decades, to finally claim their victim.
 War is Hell.  I long for the day when we honor those who have fallen by putting an end to it.  There is no glory in war.  There is no honor to be found in it.  There is no patriotic hooplah to be found in it.  There is only hell, and hell abundant.
 People sometimes joke with me over my use of the word "yonder".  I will reference things as "over yonder bridge" or "yonder store" or whatnot...   It is my tribute to Joel.  Goodbye Joel.  You were the best friend that 38 cents ever bought.

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