If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My current program

I've decided to re-publish my weight loss chart, although my relapse into obesity is a personal embarrassment to me and a terrible frustration.  Perhaps someone can benefit from my constant struggle.  The chart starts on October 24, 2005, at a weight of 255 lbs.  I didn't know it then, but for my height, that put me in the super obese category.  That's bad.  Really bad.  I hit my low of 145 lbs on February 6, 2008.  That's 2 years and 3 1/2 months to lose 110 lbs. and to do it in a very consistent, downward fashion.  Losing the weight wasn't that much of a struggle -- I had a couple of different methods that I switched between and I was able to get some good physical activity consistently.  I had a mind-set that whatever my situation, I adapted.

Then I lost that mindset.  I know from my journals that the first crack in the mindset occurred when I pulled some all-nighters in order to meet a pressing deadline for a website project I was working on.  Then I took an out of town trip and thought it wouldn't matter how lousy I ate during that trip because I could get right back to eating right.  That is my downfall -- I can overeat today because I can eat less tomorrow and make up the difference.  Addiction doesn't give vacations.  It's ever present, just waiting for a chance to get you back into its clutches.  That's a hard lesson to learn.

I didn't just give up and throw in the towel, though -- well, not for very long at least.  I made some valiant efforts to get my eating under control again.  This last effort started on December 28, 2010, with reduced calorie intake by simply just eliminating junk food and soda.  My primary motivation was extreme concern about my health.  I had been on a very long period of severe insomnia, going days on end only getting 2-3 hours a sleep at night.  I was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.  I felt that my weight was at least a contributing factor, and felt like if I didn't reverse the upward trend, I would soon be attending my own funeral.

On January 1, 2011, I added steps, starting off with 300.  Steps is such an easy thing to do at home.  I love going to a gym, but I can't afford a gym membership and I don't like all the extra time it takes just to get there and back, in addition to the workout time.  The step only costs about $30 and takes up very little space.  I don't do any "routine" -- I simply do steps.  Doing 300 steps was a challenge, not only because I was physically out of shape, but because I was still exhausted from the insomnia, which had eased quite a bit, but still a problem.  I do my steps at night while listening to my scriptures off the computer.  It's a wonderful way to combine spiritual and physical fitness.  Then it's a hot bath and off to bed.  That helped to continue to break the back of the insomnia.

On January 9, my weight loss, which had started out so good, had stalled, so I decided I needed to go on a calorie budget.  I realistically set my goal weight at 150, as at that level I felt very good and even though overweight, I was satisfied with how I looked.  I calculated my calorie intake for that weight at a moderate level of activity, which equals 1903 calories.  So I set that as my calorie budget to start the next day.  I knew I needed some motivation to follow that budget, so I imposed both a reward and a penalty.  For my reward, I earn a penny for every calorie I am under budget which when I've saved enough, can be spent for something very frivolous, indulgent, and unnecessary.  For my penalty, I have to do an extra step for every pound I am over.

That may not seem like much of a penalty, but on the very first day, I was over budget by 380 calories.  I was up to 440 steps by that time, so I had to add 380 steps to 440 for a grand total of 820 steps.  That indeed was a penalty.  But I did them, and the memory of how hard it was is still very much with me.  The most calories I have gone over budget since then is 3.

January 12, I added some weights to my steps -- a single 5 lb weight held straight out in front of me, chest high, for 5 out of every 20 steps.  I was up to my goal of 500 steps by then.  Each night, I increased one more step until I reached 13 steps out of every 20 with the weight.  I found holding the weights in front to be very good for strengthening my core muscles.

January 22 I incorporated some upper body exercises into the steps, using 2 5-lb weights and still doing 500 steps.  I wanted to increase my upper body strength as well as continue to strengthen core muscles.

January 24 I upgraded to 8-lb weights, still doing 500 steps, starting out at 5 out of 20, and adding one more step each night with the weights.  On January 31 I reached 10 out of 20, and felt inspired to start alternating days:  "A" days would be just steps holding a 5-lb weight in each hand, and "B" days would be steps with weights + upper body exercises.  I still continued to add 1 step out of each 20 with weights on the B days till I reached 12 out of 20.

February 4 - I lowered my calorie budget to 1850 calories; February 7 - I increased my weights to 8 lbs., following the same pattern of starting at 5 out of 20 and adding one more each time; February 14 - dropped my calorie budget to 1800 calories.  February 16 - I increased the number of steps to 600 for both "A" and "B" days. On "B" days, I did 120 steps for each of the 5 upper body exercises that I did.

February 28 - I upgraded to 10 lb weights, changed the number of steps to 700 for both "A" days and "B" days, added 2 more upper body exercises for the "B" days and did 100 for each, and replaced ankle weights and wrist weights for holding a 10 lb weight in each hand for the "A" days, as I felt that 10 lbs in each hand would put too much stress on my wrists and elbows.   That wasn't as much combined weight, only 10 lbs total compared to 20 lbs total, but my intent was to have the "A" days be less intensity than the "B" days.

Shortly after, I saw a The Biggest Loser segment wherein the 2 trainers were going to have their contestants work out with body weights strapped on equal to the amount of weight they'd lost, so they wouldn't forget what it was like carrying all that extra weight.  I thought that was a good idea, and decided I would use the "A" days to carry my "lost" weight doing steps.  So on March 14, I invested in an adjustable weight vest that would go from 1-20 lbs using 1 lb weights.  I so far had a 19 lb loss, so I added enough weights to the vest that combined with the ankle weights and wrist weights equaled 19 lbs.

March 15 - After reaching 10 out of 20 for my "B" days, I didn't want to go any higher for either repetitions or for weights, so I decided to add some intensity to those workouts by holding a 10 lb weight in each hand some of the last 10 steps of each set of 20.

March 22 - I upgraded the "B" days to holding the weights in each hand for the balance of the 10 steps out of 20 for the entire 700 steps.

March 23 - I upgraded the weight vest for a total combined weight of 20 lbs to match my current weight loss.

I am currently at a 21 lb loss, so I will be adding one more lb to my weight vest tomorrow night.

I've considered dropping my calorie budget to 1750, but have felt inspired to put that off.

So that's my progress so far on this most recent effort to control my eating and improve my physical fitness.  I have an upcoming vacation April 12-15, so it remains to be seen whether that will throw me back into the other mindset.  That's what happened last October -- and that did me in for the whole rest of the year.

When you look at the weight chart -- it appears that my weight losses were very rapid -- so be sure to read the dates along the bottom line.  The blue dots represent actual weights, and the purple line is the trend line.  You can click on the chart to enlarge it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Audience? -- Who were the Gospel writers trying to persuade?

I believe the Gospels are intended to be universal -- that is, they can benefit anyone of any persuasion during any time period.  However, I also believe they had intended audiences, a select group of people they particularly wanted to persuade.

While attending BYU and taking the Bible as Literature classes, I learned that many scholars believe that Matthew was written to and for the Jews, Luke to and for the Gentiles, and John to and for the converted disciples.  No one really seems to know who Mark's intended audience was.

I've read the Bible a number of times, and I don't agree with the intended audiences, especially for Matthew and Luke.  I think they have it backwards. Luke's intended audience pretty much is based on his Greek name and that he is writing his Gospel to Theophilus, assumed to be Greek.  But one of the classes I took on Jerusalem through the ages introduced me to the fact that during the Maccabean period, many Jews took Greek names, either simply to make it easier to do business, or in other ways to better assimilate with the Greeks.  In addition, we know the New Testament was written in Greek, that Jesus is the Greek name for Christ, that Paul is the Greek name for Saul, that Matthew is the Greek name for Levi.  Why are we surprised then that Luke is merely the Greek version of his name?  The same may be true for Theophilus.  Furthermore, in Chapter 3, vs. 19 (JST), Luke while specifically mentions that Theophilus is well-acquainted with "the manner of the Jews," and "the custom of their law."  So these two names being Greek is not a good enough reason, in my opinion, to assume that Luke's Gospel was intended specifically for the Gentiles.

Besides audience, the underlying thesis is very important.

  • Matthew's thesis is that Christ is the fulfillment of the Prophets, and is written to those unfamiliar with the Old Testament (Gentiles).
  • Luke's thesis is that Christ fulfills the Mosaic Law, and is written to the learned Jews. 
  • Mark's thesis is that Jesus spoke and acted with Authority and I don't have a clue, so far, who his audience was.
  • John's thesis is that Christ is the Son of God, and his audience also seems to be the learned Jews.
Matthew's lineage for Christ traces back to David and then to Abraham.  This is important because it points to the person unfamiliar with the Old Testament the importance of the Abrahamic covenant and that Christ would come through the lineage of David.  Thus, to the Gentiles he's saying, the Gospel comes to you through the Jews.  He's also giving the lineage that entitles Christ to be King of the Jews, so the Gentiles know that Christ truly is a King.  It's Matthew,not Luke, that includes the visit of the Magi (Gentiles), thus letting the Gentiles know that they have been given a witness of this divine birth.  It's Matthew, not Luke, that provides the account of the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and the subsequent return, prefiguring the passing of the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles.

Luke's lineage for Christ traces back to David, to let the learned Jews know that He is of the proper descent, but then all the way back to Adam.  I believe this is a strong message to the learned Jews that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, is universal.  No longer will Jews be able to claim an exclusive relationship with the God of the Old Testament.  

Matthew repeatedly says that events in Christ's life are the fulfillment of the Prophets, and he says which Prophet, often quoting that prophet.  This would not be necessary if he were specifically addressing the Jews, but quite essential when speaking to the Gentiles, who have no familiarity with the Old Testament.

Luke's approach is little different.  He does occasionally identify a prophetic fulfillment, but he shows that Christ fulfilled every dot and tittle of the Mosaic Law without doing the same.  He simply states what was done without adding, This in fulfillment of the Law of Moses, or something similar.  That to me is the strongest evidence that he was addressing an audience whom he knew to be so familiar with and obsessed with the Law of Moses, that he need not give any references.  In a future article, I'll list all of the elements of the Law of Moses that he shows Christ fulfilling.

More on this subject later . . . 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Politics . . .

Bradley Manning
In case anyone is not familiar with the name, here's a brief history from Wikipedia:
Manning had been assigned in October 2009 to a support battalion with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq. There he had access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), used by the United States government to transmit classified information. He was arrested after Adrian Lamo, an American computer hacker, reported to the FBI that Manning had told him during online chats in May 2010 that he had downloaded material from SIPRNet and passed it to WikiLeaks, which had begun publishing it in February.
Some are lamenting the treatment Manning is getting -- solitary confinement for 24/7 and suicide watch, which pretty much requires Manning to be naked -- arguing that it is "torture" intended to break Manning down to admit a direct connection to WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

Two points I'd like to make -- where are all those who think waterboarding selective foreign terrorists involved in 9/11 is torture, but aren't condemning this kind of treatment of an American citizen?  The hypocrisy stinks to high heaven.  But of course, this is done on Obama's watch, which proves the outcry from the left during the Bush years was indeed very partisan.

Second, how does a soldier with Manning's rank get access to classified documents?  I don't believe the cover-story.  And I don't believe the ill-treatment is intended to make Manning confess to a direct connection with Assange -- I think it's because they know that someone else very high up gave Manning the codes he needed to access that classified data.  They want that connection, that name.

Is Manning a hero or a villain of the worst color?  I don't know, as I don't have enough information to argue one way or the other.  In my opinion, heroism and villainism depend as much on motives as on the actions, perhaps even more so.  I don't know why Manning did what he did.  I do know that the American people have a right to know what our Government is doing behind our backs.  I believe that sunshine is the only way to prevent and detect corruption, and I suspect there has been an awful lot of corruption in our Government for a very long time.

I have no objections to Gitmo -- those terrorist prisoners have to be kept somewhere, and I prefer that it's not anywhere in the contingent USA.  I am quite perturbed, however, that the Executive Order that keeps Gitmo open also allows us to detain terrorist suspects even AFTER they have been acquitted in a trial.  That's outrageous.  No one should be detained after being acquitted.  I understand that part of the system must assume these detainees are guilty of terrorism against the US when they first arrive and through the trial.  That's the only way a case can be made against them.  The Prosecutors are under no Constitutional obligation to presume innocence -- that's the role of the Judges, the Juries, and the public.  However, once an acquittal comes through a trial -- people can think what they want of the justice of the verdict, but the person must be set free.  If they are given military tribunals, as allowed by laws Congress has passed, then I think we can rest assured that the jury will not be unduly sympathetic to the suspect.  Thus an acquittal should have more credibility than what we might have if the terrorist suspect was tried before civil jurors.  This really disturbs me.

Unions, especially Teacher's Unions
I'm all for busting the power the Unions have over our school districts, cities, and states.  As far as I can see, Walker and the Republican legislature are doing what they said they would do, which promises gave them an impressive mandate from the voters.  The question is, do the people of Wisconsin understand what they voted for?  Do they really understand the issues, or were they swayed by 30-second sound bites without really looking into the intended consequences of those promises.

I believe a lot of people voted for Obama without knowing what he stood for -- they put their own interpretation on what he said, and ignored anyone who said he meant something entirely different.  Now they realize he didn't mean what they thought, and they don't like what he meant.  Is that going to happen in Wisconsin?  Will the people realize they didn't really want what Walker and the Republicans promised?

So now it's up to the people -- Will they stand firm with Walker and the Republican legislature, or turn their backs on them and boot them out with recalls?

This will be an indicator of whether the American people really do want a balanced budget, really do want to stop the reckless spending -- or do they only want it so long as it doesn't affect their pocketbooks or disturb their peace and tranquility?

Early Presidential Favorite
At this point, I know more about who I don't want to win the Republican nomination than who I do want to win.  I don't want:  Gingrich (he's had his chance and blew it), Huckabee (don't get me started), Romney (not conservative enough for my tastes), Palin (too much baggage), Paul (proven he doesn't have the public support).  Some Governors look like they'd be good candidates, but I'd like to see a little more of what they can do.

Donald Trump is considering a run for the nomination.  I went to the website advocating his run to see what he is all about.  Trump is pro-life, and is opposed to legalizing gay marriage -- those are two very big pluses for me.

One of the international issues that caught my attention is his intent, if President, to demand a seat at the OPEC table and to negotiate with OPEC for our oil prices.  Also, he would cease the "free" military protection we give wealthy countries like South Korea -- either they pay for the protection, or we close up shop and come home.

As far as baggage, I'm sure that by his age he's said enough things to give his opponents something to use against him, but I look at the whole picture, not isolated incidents.  And if things were said in the distant past, what have recent actions indicated?  People do change their minds.

So right now, I'm looking seriously at Trump.

I do think all of candidates must give us a lot more detail about their positions and their solutions.  They can't do that in 30-second soundbites, and not enough media cover entire talks.  Nor do the debates give that much opportunity to really delve into the issues.  Websites seem to be the best solution -- the best way to give the detail that serious voters want.

I recall having a High School teacher that required us to follow the Johnson-Goldwater Presidential race. We had to collectively come up with the 12 most important issues, then collectively determine the position of each on those issues.  This took us several class discussions and lots of homework to complete.  Then we voted on each issue - which one we favored, and why.  Then we voted for each candidate and had to give the reasons why.  It would be great if all voters would devote the same attention to selecting a President.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Changes to my blog

I changed the style just to have something different -- change is refreshing.  I chose the background because it reminds me of shooting for the stars.  The 3 quotes I put under the title reflect reality -- we are humans with weaknesses, and my particular weakness is my battle with obesity.  I've managed quite well at times, but sooner or later I give in and gain the weight back, oftentimes plus more.  So what is the solution?  It's to admit this is going to be a lifelong battle that can only be ultimately won through faith in Jesus Christ.  As with Paul in the New Testament, Christ has chosen not to remove this thorn from my side, so I must learn to deal with it.

These are some things I've learned through years of experience dealing with this issue:
  • It's my issue, and I'll deal with it in my own way.
  • There are many ways to skin this cat -- and what works at one time, doesn't work at another time.
  • Not all food eaten must be nutritious, or in its most nutritious form.  That's why the 3rd quote is included, to remind me that food is for enjoyment as well as nutrition.
  • The Lord knows what's best for me, thus the need to keep in tune with the Spirit when planning diets and exercise programs.
  • I prefer to be private about this, but the Lord inspires me to be public so others may benefit from my successes and failures.
  • There's no such thing as a "recovered" food addict -- we are always in a state of "recovering."  
  • All things in moderation is the guiding principle, but if certain foods induce binging they should be totally eliminated for a period of a few weeks, and then try again to see if you can control the amount consumed.  
  • Everyone has a calorie budget -- we can tweak it a bit through good diet and adequate exercise, but for the most part, we're stuck with it.  Exceptions, of course, are thyroid or hormonal problems that cause disturbance in the metabolic rate.  Most of us don't have thyroid or hormonal problems -- we just overeat, eat too much of the wrong kinds of food, and don't get enough physical activity. 
  • We should exercise to be fit -- not just so we can eat more food.
I'll write another post in a few days to catch everyone up on how I've been doing the last year or so.  I hate to publicly admit it, but if it helps someone else, then it's worth it.