Are You Stuck in the Doldrums?

4 Steps to Get Unstuck

The word “doldrums” is an interesting one. I have heard the expression “stuck in the doldrums” from the time I was a child, but until now I never bothered to look up what it means.

What are doldrums?

It turns out that this is a nautical term. The doldrums is a region of ocean near the equator that receives very little wind, and thus is difficult to navigate. Both north and south of the doldrums the trade winds blow. These winds allow skilled sailors to coordinate sail and rudder to travel where they wish.

Put yourself back a few hundred years on a wooden sailing ship with no engine. All you have are sails. You are stuck in the doldrums. There is not enough wind to work with, and your ship is too large to row. All you can do is sit and wait.

Sit and wait.

Sit and wait.

You make no progress. You have no trajectory.

It is not hard to see why we have turned the name for this region of the ocean into a metaphor. Our modern usage of the term means that if you are stuck in the doldrums you are making no progress. For this reason you are sad or depressed.

How do you get out of the doldrums?

  1. Recognize where you are. Step back from the details of your life at the moment and acknowledge: “I am stuck in the doldrums! This environment is not conducive to my going anywhere positive. I am getting nowhere fast.”
  2. Get clear about where you want to go. You are going to get unstuck, so you ought to know where you want to go when the winds blow and you can set your jib. Prepare for what happens when you start moving. Create a vision. Write a Forward Story.
  3. Change your environment. Remember, the trade winds are just above and just below where you are stuck. The fact that you are not moving anywhere does not mean that there are not places you can be where the wind does blow. You likely need to change your current environment to get to those trade winds. Then you can travel toward your desired destination. Unlike the physical doldrums, most of us can greatly control the environment in which we live, learn, and work.
  4. Apply energy (or generate some wind). Once engines were invented and built into ships, the doldrums could be navigated. You may need the equivalent of an engine in your life to get unstuck. What could the engine be? It could be education, meeting people, becoming an apprentice, taking a second job, or any number of other practices that may help you move in a positive direction.

How do you get out of the doldrums when you are stuck there?

Tweets of the Week: Food, Recipes, Health, Family, & Wisdom

Week ending July 18, 2015

twitter-bird-4Saturday is a good day to recap the activity from our Twitter feed from the past week. Not sure what Twitter is all about? That’s OK. Neither are we (or at least it remains somewhat mysterious to us). There is no denying, however, that there is some very valuable information shared on Twitter. That is what this weekly feature is all about. Click the links below to check out the good stuff. Here are my Top Tweets from this past week, great for retweeting (whatever that is). If you missed these, follow Forward Story on Twitter.

By the way, if you are wondering what the @ and # signs are all about, these are Twitter’s way to identify the Twitter handle (@) for the person who tweeted (for example, ours is @forward_story) and to allow for an indexing or categorization of the tweet by using one or more hashtags (#). Feel free to ignore these and just follow the link for the content we are sharing with you.

Here are a few recipes from people we trust:

Maria Emmerich ‏@MariaEmmerich Jul 13
Peanut Flour Cake #LCHF #keto #lowcarb

Danielle Walker ‏@againstallgrain Jul 12
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter “Granola” Bars #paleo #againstallgrain #glutenfree

Russ Crandall ‏@thedomesticman Jul 16
Seared Scallops with Sautéed Kale


Cooking & Kitchen

 Colin Champ, M.D. ‏@CavemanDoctor Jul 13
Home Cooked Meals Make You Smarter, Healthier and Thinner … via @myhealthwire

Experience Life ‏@ExperienceLife Jul 14
Want to get healthy? Start in your kitchen! says @markhymanmd @mindbodygreen #learntocook #MyRevAct #healthyliving


Health & Fitness:

William Davis, MD ‏@WilliamDavisMD
Novak Djokovic is “gluten-free” but also limits his carbs–I know because I wrote the foreword for his book….


Money & Finances

Rachel Cruze ‏@RachelCruze Jul 14
The Financial Mistake One-Third of Parents Make


Parents and Grandparents

Susan Adcox ‏@grandparent Jul 11
Grandparents, don’t be unwitting drug suppliers: @aboutdotcom

Susan Adcox ‏@grandparent Jul 12
1 in 28 American children has an incarcerated parent. Often grandparents pick up the slack:

Susan Adcox ‏@grandparent Jul 14
Taking the grandchildren on an outing? 3 easy steps for managing their behavior: @aboutdotcom


Wisdom from Seth

Seth Godin ‏@ThisIsSethsBlog Jul 13
Bounce forward

Seth Godin ‏@ThisIsSethsBlog Jul 16
Seth’s Blog: In search of metaphor

Seth Godin ‏@ThisIsSethsBlog Jul 18
Seth’s Blog: “Because it has always been this way”


For Entrepreneurs

Abel James ‏@fatburnman Jul 16
14 Entrepreneurs Share Best Advice From Their Fathers via @creativelive

I’m Having Trouble Seeing My Goals Through All This Clutter


I have always been a goal-driven guy. To me it is exciting to set a goal and then work to achieve it. I have never regretted setting and accomplishing a goal. Looking backward I have sometimes regretted that there were goals I did not set, and therefore never achieved. For the most part, though, I have had no shortage of goals. I still do not.

My goals are usually well structured to include all of the necessary ingredients to conform to the SMART acronym:






Sometimes, though, I allow the busy-ness of life to obscure my goals. The urgent often distracts me from my goals. At moments like this (in fact, this is now a moment like that) I try to simplify.

  • What is really important?

  • Why am I spending so much energy and time on the urgent instead of the important?

  • How can I clear the clutter, re-focus on the goal, and then zero in on the short-term objectives and next actions to make the goal possible?

  • What is the worst thing that will happen if I ignore the urgent?

These are not just questions I am asking myself. I invite you to share what works for you as well. I want to know how you deal with this. Please use the comments on this post to share your experience with me and our readers.

Like you, I have important goals to accomplish and only a limited amount of time to achieve them. It’s time to get with the program.

Soon I will be posting the next article in the series “How I Lost 50 Pounds.” Don’t miss a post in that series. Subscribe to the Forward Story newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted. In addition, you will receive my free eBook 15 Questions to Change Your Life.



How I Lost 50 Pounds (Part Three)

The Role of the Large Intestine



In Part Two of this series we examined the structure of the small intestine and how nutrients are absorbed from the food slurry that moves through. The muscular process that keeps the slurry moving through the length of the small intestine is called the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). This same process continues to move the slurry out of the small intestine and into the large intestine. Before we move on to what happens to the absorbed nutrients, we need to do a brief overview of the large intestine. The large intestine is also known as the colon. It is “large” in that it is larger in diameter than the small intestine. It is much shorter, though, as the colon is a little less than 5 feet in length. Under normal circumstances the process in the colon from entry to exit takes between fifteen and twenty hours.

Creative Commons Deed CC0

Creative Commons Deed CC0

There are two primary functions of the colon that I want to mention.

  1. Microbiome digestion. Your gut is populated by organisms that are not actually part of you in the way that your organs and cells are part of you. These are actually separate organisms that are the “good bacteria” that help with certain nutrients that could not be broken down higher in the tube. The reality of this colony still surprises and amazes me.  When you see advertising for probiotics, it is this colony of bacteria in your gut that they are claiming their product will help you build and nourish. The common terms used for this colony of good bacteria are gut microbiome or gut flora. Certain foods we eat can help nourish and build the microbiome. This includes cultured foods like yogurt, drinks like kombucha and kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. This microbiome breaks down certain nutrients and allows for the production of vitamin K and other vitamins. So, how many of these good bugs live in your colon? Believe it or not, they number in the trillions with a “t.” It is important to note that while most of the good bacteria is found in the colon, there are also beneficial bacteria that live in the small intestine. Many health issues occur when the good bacteria in the gut do not thrive and when bad bacteria do thrive. Here is an outstanding article on bacteria and the small intestine. I hope to write a separate article later with more detail on the microbiome of the nutrition tube.
  2. Removal of liquids and formation of solid waste. While we did not mention it earlier, water has been absorbed already throughout the small intestine. Now as the process continues, the remaining water is absorbed into the body and solid waste is left in the colon to ultimately be eliminated from the body. The removed water ultimately ends up passing through the kidneys, into the bladder, and out as liquid waste.

There are obviously serious disorders and diseases of each component of the nutrition tube that require the expertise of medical professionals to diagnose and treat. The explanation I have provided in this series is my understanding of how a non-diseased gastrointestinal tract should work. Some of the disorders of the digestive system can be treated with a nutritional approach, but some require more aggressive intervention.


With that much too brief treatment of the colon, we have finished tracking the slurry through the complete nutrition tube from top to bottom. In the next article we will go back to the small intestine where we said that most of the nutrients from the slurry make it through the inner walls and are absorbed into the blood stream. Ponder the thought that these nutrients escape the nutrition tube and enter into your blood. Now they become part of you.

My next questions are:

  1. What happens to these nutrients when they enter the blood stream?
  2. How does the body make use of them, and how does that decision you made several hours earlier to eat 1,000 calories of doughnuts or broccoli impact the body’s chemistry and how those nutrients are used?

As with every question we have asked so far, these are actually very complicated questions. We will explore them in Part Four.

Don’t miss a post in this series. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted. In addition, you will receive my free eBook 15 Questions to Change Your Life.

How I Lost 50 Pounds (Part Two)

How Does Food Get Absorbed?

In Part One of this series I laid out my understanding of the alimentary canal, or as I call it, the Nutrition Tube. Understanding the basics of how it works was my first step in losing 50 pounds and reaching a better level of health.

As a reminder (and a sort of disclaimer), I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. That is both bad and good. It is bad because I have only a layman’s understanding of the fine details. You should not turn to me to learn the scientific intricacies of your body’s anatomy or biology. There are plenty of qualified people you can turn to for that. It is good because health and nutrition should belong to you and me regardless of whether we are scientists or not. This is my life and my body. I need to understand how it works and what it needs to function optimally. So, this series is not a scientific paper or an argument. It is really just a sharing of what I have learned so far and how that has led me to a much better place health-wise. I am always learning, so I expect that I will learn some additional things by writing this series. The comments section at the bottom is a good place for us to have a conversation if you agree or disagree with something you find here. We can learn together. I am not a fanatic about this. I am a student.

With that out of the way, let’s get started with a couple of analogies.

Your Engine

DSC06930-BIf your car or truck has a gasoline engine, what would happen if you filled it with water? Everyone knows it would not run at all. Your engine was designed to burn a precise mixture of gasoline and air. That precise combustible mix explodes when the spark plugs fire. These explosions over and over again in sequence drive the pistons inside the cylinders which turn the crankshaft and propel your vehicle down the road. If the mixture of fuel is not gas and air, but rather water and air, you will get no explosions. In fact, even if you were to fill your tank half with gasoline and half with water, your engine may sputter and try to run a bit, but it will still not run as designed.

Think of your Nutrition Tube as you do your gas tank. Let’s assume for a moment that your body has been designed to run optimally on a precise mix of fuel — whatever that precise mix is. If you fill your Nutrition Tube with something other than that precise mix, your body is not going to function optimally. It may sputter and try to run, but ultimately you may end up sick and overweight.

Your Chemistry Lab

As we explore the way the food we eat nourishes us, I want you to pay special attention to the chemical processes at work. I ran across a quote in my reading or listening that really makes this point. I wish I could remember who wrote or said it so I could give them credit. This idea forms the second analogy:

Your body is more like a chemistry lab than a bank account.

We have already observed that when we first put food in our mouths saliva is introduced into the mix to help break it down. Our stomachs add acids and other digestive juices to continue the process. Those are chemicals your body produces to make this whole system work.

Most of us think of nutrition, weight gain, and weight loss like we do a bank account. If you eat more calories and/or burn less energy, your fat cells are going to get bigger. If you eat fewer calories and/or burn more energy, your fat cells are going to get smaller. This views weight gain and loss as a mathematical calculation. This is why so many of us count calories. In fact, the calories in/calories out theory is the dominant theory today. People who even question it are thought to be anti-scientific. Well, I am in that group because I do believe the body is more like a chemistry lab than a bank account. The chemical processes at work throughout the system are extremely important, and they determine how the food we eat is ultimately used by the body.

So, think of your body as an engine designed to burn a specific mix of fuel, and think of it as a chemistry lab designed to break down and process the food we eat and the liquids we drink.

If the calories in / calories out theory is true, then 1,000 calories is 1,000 calories regardless of the food. Let’s compare 1,000 calories of two different foods – doughnuts and broccoli.










To believe that eating 1,000 calories of these two different foods would yield the same result in the body is to ignore the chemical processes that take place to make these foods usable to the body.

Let’s compare these two foods to see what they’re made of.

The first thing to notice is that it takes a lot more broccoli by weight to get to 1,000 calories than doughnuts — 2,940 grams vs. 260 grams.

1,000 Calories Doughnuts 260 grams Broccoli 2,940 grams
Total Fat  60.00 g  10.88 g
Saturated Fat  15.00 g  1.15 g
Trans Fat  0 g  0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat  0 g  1.12 g
Monounsaturated Fat  0 g  0.32 g
Calories from Fat  540.0  97.94
Cholesterol  25.0 mg  0 mg
Sodium  475.0 mg  970.6 0 mg
Carbohydrates, Total   110.0 g  195.30 g
Fiber, total dietary 2.5 g 76.47 g
Sugars, total  50.0 g 50.0 g
Protein  10.0 g  82.94 g
Vitamin A  0 IU  18,323.68 IU
Vitamin C  6.0 mg  2,623.55 mg
Calcium  300.0 mg  1,382.36 mg
Iron  3.6 mg  21.47 mg

Without getting into the details of all of these numbers, just notice some of the differences. Fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber all differ considerably from one another. A quick glance at the last 4 categories also shows how different these two foods are in vitamins and minerals.  Also, while I included in the table all 16 categories I found for the doughnuts, I would need an additional 47 rows to list all of the nutrients in the broccoli.

So, 1,000 calories of these two foods provide the same number of calories, but that is where the similarity stops. What I find fascinating is what happens once you have chewed and swallowed either of these foods. In Part One we said that when the food leaves your mouth it enters the esophagus and is then moved into the stomach. When it leaves the stomach it is a very thin slurry (actually called chyme ) that enters the small intestine where much of the absorption will occur. Also included in the slurry is liquid and the digestive juices from the mouth and stomach. Your small intestine can only absorb what exists in that slurry. The doughnut slurry differs considerably from the broccoli slurry as illustrated in the table above.

The chart below provides a more visual comparison of the two slurries with regard to the main nutrients and how different these two foods really are.









Once you have made the decision to eat 1,000 calories of doughnuts, there is nothing you can do to change the nutritional profile of the slurry that your intestines will have to work with. Since the Nutrition Tube is literally a long tube, what enters the top exits at the bottom except for what is allowed into the body and bloodstream through an amazing process. For your body to benefit from this slurry, the nutrients have to “escape” the tube and enter into your bloodstream. Escape is the wrong word. Your digestive system actively escorts the nutrients into the bloodstream. This is the process called absorption. As we enter into a discussion of this absorption process, let me say that you can go as deep as you want to go on how this process actually works. The anatomy of the human body is remarkable and complex. I am not qualified to speak in detail about this, so I will stick to my working knowledge of how it functions. I can know as much as I need to know to understand how it impacts my health. That is my only goal. If you want to go much deeper, here is a wonderfully detailed treatment of the digestive process.


In Part One we mentioned that the walls of the small intestine are lined with villi, which are tiny peaks, or fingers, that protrude inward from the walls. I don’t think we really have the picture yet of this amazing part of the Nutrition Tube. Since the nutrients are going to be absorbed in the small intestine, just how much surface area are we talking about? I remember as a kid hearing that if Colorado’s mountains could be mashed flat with the state’s borders expanding out to accommodate all of that surface area, Colorado would be the largest state in the country. In other words, Colorado is the largest state in the USA in surface area. I have not been able to verify that, and I doubt it would be bigger than Alaska with its huge land area and large mountains. Regardless, the point is that if you count all of the surface area that exists on those mountains and hills, the state is much larger than the simple area of its length x width.

Think of your small intestine the same way. The small intestine is ranges in length from 15 feet up to 32 feet, but averages right at 23 feet. It is around 1 inch in diameter. It is coiled up in a weird and wonderful way in order for it all to fit in your abdomen. The inner lining is a layer of mucosa with the villi rising from it. There are approximately 20,000 villi for every square inch of mucosa in your small intestine. This means you have millions of villi. These villi are between 0.5 mm and 1.6 mm in length. Since they are peaks, this means there is a lot of surface area available to come in contact with your food slurry. These villi also have really tiny microvilli (depicted at the far right of the diagram below as the small fingers at the top of the absorptive cell) extending from them. If you could stretch out the small intestine, cut open the tube in a straight line lengthwise to make it a flat 23 (or so) feet long rectangle and then mash flat all villi and microvilli (while allowing the edges of the flat intestine to expand outward as you went), the total surface area would be something close to an area larger than a tennis court but smaller than a football field. Wow! That is a lot of surface area.


By Boumphreyfr (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

As your food slurry (chyme) enters the small intestine it makes contact with these villi and the absorption process begins. Muscular contractions keep the mixture moving at a relatively slow rate through the length of the small intestine where more and more nutrients are absorbed all along they way.

Villi is the plural word for one or more. The singular word is villus. So, how does a villus absorb nutrients? The chart above shows the structure of the villus and its interconnection with the rest of the body. Let me point out a few interesting things about the diagram of the villus.

  • Artery – The red line ultimately connects to an artery
  • Vein – The blue line ultimately connects to a vein
  • Lymph duct – the yellow line is a connection to the lymphatic system

The absorptive cells use a complex chemical process to allow the nutrients pass through them and into the blood stream. Some nutrients go into the lymphatic system and get processed differently. Remember, I am claiming that your body is more like a chemistry lab than a bank account. We will see see this theme continued


In this article we have explored how the food we eat escapes the Nutrition Tube and gets into our blood stream for use by the body. It does it via absorption that takes place primarily in the small intestine.

In Part Three we take a brief look at the large intestine.

Once I have completed exploring the body’s biology, I will lay out exactly how I overcame years of health frustration to finally reach a better level of health and shed 50 pounds. Don’t forget the comments section below if you want to start a conversation.

Don’t miss a post in this series. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted. In addition, you will receive my free eBook 15 Questions to Change Your Life.