Tweets of the Week: Recipes, Exercise, & Family

Week of May 31, 2015

twitter-bird-2Saturday 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.

Here are a couple of recipes from people we trust:

From Gourmet Girl – Happy National Donut Day! (Entirely lowcarb and glutenfree, of course.)

From Slim Palate – Blackberry Pie Bars


 Some great information related to health:

From Dr. Colin Champ – (This is a link to scientific article) Obese children have different bowel bacteria:

Another from Dr. Colin Champ – Seven Steps to a Perfect Night’s Sleep:

From Dr. David Perlmutter – Do you really want to leave your chance of dementia to the flip of a coin? Here’s how to beat the odds.

From The University of Texas – Six Tips for Staying Sharp

From Mark Sisson – The Myth of Perfect Conditions: 9 Common Excuses Used to Delay Exercise


 Seth Godin is always thought-provoking:

Seth’s Blog: The critic as an amateur hack


Family and Parenting / Grandparenting

Here is an article from Susan Adcox for Grandarents – Give Grandchildren the Gift of a Special Experience

From Amy Morin – Yes, you want to protect your child, but kids really need to experience these 7 uncomfortable emotions:

How I Lost 50 Pounds (Part One)

The Digestive System

file0001782435234 (1)I am not the only one who has experienced this. In my mind I was still an athletic 185 pound football player from my high school glory days, but the mirror mirror on the wall said I was a middle-aged man that was a full 60 pounds heavier. This increase in size brought with it the typical symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, inflammation, joint pain, alarming blood chemistry profiles, and regular lectures from my doctor at annual physical time. I was not happy being at that point and was a little mystified that I had allowed this to happen to me.

This topic is very controversial in our society right now, and I understand why. Many people (especially women) struggle with eating disorders borne of a preoccupation with the way they look. This preoccupation has been stoked by the “ideal” body image constantly portrayed in film, television, magazines, and all types of advertising. This image is one of extremely low body fat. Thin is in. If you are not thin, you can feel serious societal pressure that something is not right with you. A certain percentage of people become so fixated on trying to achieve this ideal image that they go to extreme measures (e.g.: anorexia, bulimia, excessive exercising). These disorders have devastating consequences up to, and including, death. This is serious business.

So, my objective here is not to contribute to negative body image at all. When I decided to make some changes it was not to achieve six-pack abs or to return to my exact 17 year-old body. I decided that I did not like the way I felt or the health condition I had created. Extrapolating forward, I was concerned about what my health would be like in ten or twenty years. I did not like my trajectory. My Forward Story with regard to my health needed a serious re-write.

My objective is simply to share what I have learned in the hope that it may provide help for anyone who may be at the same point I was. The objective is for all of us to achieve good health, not for us to all look like the cover of a fashion magazine. Before I get into my personal journey and the details of what I have done, let me just state that I have lost 50 pounds. I now weigh exactly what I weighed when I was married nearly 35 years ago. I still find that hard to believe. While weight loss is the most easily measured aspect of this, please understand that the 50 pounds I have shed are really just a symptom of the good health effects that I am now enjoying.

I am convinced that anyone can do what I did. While it may not be easy, it will be a lot easier than you think in some ways and will be difficult in ways that you probably do not expect. My purpose in writing this series is not to sell a diet or to offer a quick fix. I simply hope to share what has worked for me in the belief that it will offer lasting help to some who may need it.

Have you ever looked at photos of people from the 1930s to 1950s? I have seen photos of spectators in stadiums at sporting events from that era. The surprising thing is that there are not very many obese people in those photos. At that time Americans as a whole appeared to be very fit. A photo today at a sporting event reveals that we no longer look like our grandparents did. In large numbers we have gone from fit to obese in six decades. I went from fit to obese over a period of thirty-two years.

What Caused This?

I am not a doctor or a nutritionist so it was important for me to do a lot of reading and talking with those types of people to really understand why I had added all that weight and to figure out what to do about it. If you are a doctor or nutritionist, I hope you will bear with my rather elementary grasp on these concepts and terminology. I am going to explain this in my own way from my own understanding of the way the body works. Any inaccuracies are my own. I am also aware that there are many competing theories about the best way to accomplish weight loss and higher levels of fitness. All I can testify to is what I have learned and experienced so far.

I am going to start with nutrition. I definitely believe that exercise is important, but for someone who needs to lose significant weight, exercise is very difficult. We will get to exercise later, but let’s first start with our food.

We will break this series into six parts:

  1. The Digestive System (this post)
  2. How Does Food Get Absorbed?
  3. The Role of the Large Intestine
  4. Hormones, Metabolism, and Fat Storage
  5. Food Choices & Culture
  6. My Personal Weight Loss Path (How I did it)
  7. Exercise and Activity
  8. Recommended Reading

Alimentary Canal

Your digestive system is actually a long tube. It is referred to as the alimentary canal. What you put in your mouth eventually gets eliminated at the other end after a journey of around 12 hours. What happens in this tube remains a mystery to a lot of people. It must remain a mystery no more if we plan to shed our excess weight and get fit. It is what your body does in that nearly 30 foot-long tube with the food you give it that determines your weight. The word “alimentary” refers to the function of nutrition. So, the alimentary canal is your nutrition tube. If you want nutrition, it’s got to happen inside that tube.

How Does it Work?

Blausen 0316 DigestiveSystem staff. “Blausen gallery 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762. (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Mouth & Esophagus

What happens to that cheeseburger when you eat it? The first thing is that it gets broken down into little bits in your mouth as you chew it, and it is mixed with the first digestive juice in the process: saliva. Not to gross you out, but when your cheeseburger leaves your mouth as you swallow, it no longer looks like it did when you held it in your hand. It has been transformed into a form of slurry that is ready for the trip down the esophagus. Your swallow takes it into your esophagus where strong muscles in the walls move it into your stomach.


Your stomach is a muscular bag about the size of your fist. It expands to accommodate a higher volume of food when we stuff too much food in our mouths. The stomach’s purpose is to take that slurry delivered by the esophagus and really work it over. Remember, the purpose of this tube is alimentary: it is about nutrition. The stomach plays an important role in preparing the food to be able to provide nutrition. To that end, the stomach contains digestive acids and enzymes that further break the slurry down into smaller particles. Typically, food that you eat stays in the stomach about one hour. No nutritional absorption takes place in the stomach (well, apparently a few things can be absorbed here, but its mostly water, aspirin, amino acids, and some alcohol). The stomach simply prepares it for absorption at the next stop. The food then exits the stomach and is moved into the next part of the nutrition tube – the small intestine.

Small Intestine

The small intestine is the next stop for the digested food. It is a coiled tube approximately 11 feet long. Now that the mouth, esophagus, and stomach have done their jobs, it is in the small intestine that most of the nutrients available in the food is now absorbed. By absorbed, I mean those nutrients find their way outside the tube. How does this happen? The pancreas excretes fluid that neutralizes the stomach acid and the liver secretes bile to break down the fats. The inner lining of your small intestine is not smooth like Kansas, but mountainous like Colorado. All of these small microscopic peaks (called villi) greatly increase the surface area of the small intestine for nutrient absorption. Actually, these little peaks are more worm-like than mountain-like, but you get the idea. The system is amazing in that it allows the nutrients to pass through the walls of the intestine and into the bloodstream, but it does not allow harmful waste materials to be absorbed into the body. Those materials continue down the tube. The second part of this series will deal more with how these nutrients are absorbed and where they go once they are “in.”

Large Intestine (Colon)

Your food remains in the small intestine for about an hour and a half before it moves into the large intestine, also known as the colon. The large intestine is only about 5 feet long, so compared to the small intestine (11 feet) it is not “large” in length, but only in diameter. In the large intestine the liquids are extracted and the complex carbohydrates are broken down by the action of your microbiome, which is the microscopic “good bacteria” that lives in your colon. As strange as it seems, these trillions of bacteria are very important to your health. When you take a probiotic supplement, this is the colony that you are building. I am still learning the many ways that this gut microbiome contributes to health. As it turns out, your brain is wired into your gut and there is a relationship between your brain and your gut. When all of the liquids are removed, the waste forms into a stool which is then expelled from the body.

Now that we have taken a very brief look at the alimentary canal, in Part Two we explore how nutrients actually escape the Nutrition Tube and get used by the body as fuel.

Identify Your Gaps to Reach Your Goals

IMG_0567 (2)Let’s say you are twenty-five years old and have a goal to become a ukelele player.

Or, let’s say you are fifteen and want to become a doctor.

Perhaps you are fifty-three with a strong desire to be a beekeeper.

Or, let’s say you are seventy years old and want to help relieve hunger in the third world.

Whatever your goals are, you need to identify the gaps between where you are now and what it will take to achieve those goals. What stands in your way? Before you can actually achieve your goal to become a ukelele player, a doctor, a beekeeper, or an aid worker, you have to be honest about what it is going to take to make that happen. If you allow your gaps to go undefined, your goal is just a dream that will likely go unrealized.

What do we do when we encounter a gap or chasm that we need to cross? We build a bridge.

Since some gaps are small and some are huge, there are bridges of all sizes. Some chasms are so large that a bridge is not possible. Have you noticed that there is no bridge from the United States to Ireland? That gap is just too large. We navigate that space in different ways.

Step 1 – Identify the Gap

These are the things missing in your life right now that must be bridged before you can reach the other side. Again, honesty is vital here. You will do yourself no favors by minimizing the task ahead or by lying to yourself about what it is going to take. Be brutally honest in defining the gap. What do you need to learn? Who do you need to meet? What certification do you need to achieve? How much do you need to pay? How long will this take?

Step 2 – Design Your Bridge

Break the bridge down into smaller steps. No one builds a bridge, or a house, or a nation without a plan. Use what you know about the gap you defined in Step 1 to create your plan for bridging the gap. Design it well so that you have confidence it will get the job done.

Step 3 – Start Building

Your bridge will be built by actions. Just as no bridge ever designed itself, no bridge ever built itself, either. The best bridge design in the world will bridge no gap if it is not actually built. Actions taken in the proper sequence will lead you to build the proper bridge and reach your goal. Establishing and following great habits is a key to making these actions effective.

Step 4 – Glance Behind You and Take Heart

Once you have built your bridge and crossed the gap, you will have achieved your goal. Now is a good time to look back over your shoulder at the bridge. See that bridge for what it really is. It is a testimony of the power you possess to envision a Forward Story, to design the practices necessary to achieve it, and to follow through on that design to realize your goal. You should now realize that you can do that over and over again. None of us truly arrive at a point where we have no ambition left. The sense of accomplishment you get from crossing the bridge and achieving a goal provides a powerful shot of confidence that you can use on bridging your next gap.

My gaps are currently gaps in taking my business to the next level and in my health goals. In other words, I am currently working on bridging more than just one gap. I have a couple of bridge-building projects going on right now. As Step 4 explains, I have bridged enough gaps in the past to have confidence that these current bridges that are under construction will take me where I want to go.

What gaps are you trying to bridge at the moment? How is it going?

How to Nurture a Positive Habit

file1431243434522You and I both understand the power of habit. As humans we are wired to repeat behaviors over and over again. Sometimes those habits are “good” in that they lead to excellent outcomes. Other times those habits are “bad,” leading to poor or even deadly outcomes.

I am assuming you can do a quick survey of your life and pick a few bad habits you would like to kick and a few good habits you would like to establish.

Me, too.

Lately through reading, conversation, and experimentation I have learned some helpful things about nurturing positive habits. I will leave kicking bad habits for another day.

There are two methods I have proven (to myself) to work, and there is one that I am eager to try soon. Here they are:

1. Seinfeld’s Red-X

Some experts disagree on how long a behavior has to be repeated until it becomes a habit, but a good number to shoot for is two weeks. If I can do something for two weeks, I will usually incorporate it into my life. Jerry Seinfeld’s method has really worked for me. It is a simple idea. You print a calendar and draw a red X on each day in which you do the behavior. Then string them together with the goal of “Don’t break the chain.” Doing this small practice can lead to big things. It is how I finished writing my book. It can be the way you finally accomplish that thing you have been wanting to do.

2. Write a Journal

This one requires only that you keep some kind of notebook or journal where you date each day and make an entry related to your desired behavior. If the goal is to excercise thirty minutes each day, the entry for today as I write this might be:

April, 22, 2015

Exercise Journal

Today I walked 35 minutes at 6 a.m.

Keeping a log or journal like this helps keep me accountable. It also provides a record which I can review to draw inspiration from.

3. Clear’s Paper Clip Trick

James Clear writes often (and well) on habits and behavior. While I regularly practice the first two ideas above, I have not yet tried this one. However, I will be trying it soon. The idea is that you start with two jars. One contains paper clips (or push pins or pennies, etc.) and the other is empty. When you complete the desired behavior, you move a paper clip from the starting jar into the empty jar. There is some strategy to choosing how many clips to start with. In my case I will use it to help me stay on track with some of the more mundane aspects of my daily work. If I need to make fifteen phone calls, I will start with fifteen paper clips. For more on this strategy, please read Clear’s excellent article here.

How do you nurture good habits? What works for you?