Treasure

For where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be also. – Luke 12:34

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, my Grade 5 class spent the day doing lessons and activities with a focus on the theme of ‘love’.   For their morning Bellwork, the students told me about one or two people (or pets) that they loved a lot and to list a few reasons why.  A couple of students had concerns that they couldn’t choose between the people they loved and I assured them that just because you pick one person, doesn’t mean you love another any less.  The responses and reasons varied, but the majority selected mom or dad (for spending time with them), pets (for cuddling), and one student selected David Beckham (because he is an amazing soccer player).  It was special for me to get to read their responses and a great way to start our day. Soul Pancake, the group responsible for the amazing Kid President videos, did an experiment where they measured a persons (self-indicated) level of happiness. They then asked the participants to write a letter to a person in their life that has left a lasting impression.  Once the letter was complete, the participants were asked to call the person they wrote to and read their letter.  Check out what happened:

 I asked my students to do the same and I am curious to hear their stories about what happened when I see them again.  I have been thinking a lot about ‘love’ lately and about the different people and things I love.  It all started a couple of days ago when I was challenged by my wife (don’t you just love when that happens?).  She had come home from work and mentioned that she had forgotten a magazine that was at work (our mail gets delivered there).  Immediately, I hoped that it was the latest edition of “The Hockey News”, a magazine I read cover-to-cover every month.  My wife told me, however, that it wasn’t “The Hockey News”, but instead “Compassion”, a magazine we receive as a result of having a sponsor child. I was immediately disappointed.  I didn’t want to read about children in third world countries.  I wanted to read about hockey.  Seeing my disappointment, my wife pointed out that it’s pretty sad that I care so much about hockey and so little about the third world.

And so, I began to think about love and about how I am spending the time I have in this world.  As Luke pointed out 2000 years ago, where you spend your time, the things you treasure, is also what you love.  The list of things I think I love the most would look something like this (and maybe not in this order):

God. Megan. Family. Community. Friends. Justice. Food. My dogs. Being outside. Learning. Reading. Writing.

I really do consider myself as someone who cares about the third world, who wants to build community where I live and where I work, who loves to read and learn about new things.  If I look at how I spend my time, however, I see a different picture of what I really love.  The things or people I spend the most time with are:

Work. Megan. The dogs. Hockey. Video Games. Browsing the Internet. Watching T.V.

I am hesitating as I write this, because I don’t really want to admit to myself or to the world the things I spend the most time doing.  Why do the things I think I love the most and what I actually spend the most time doing not add up? I wonder what would happen if I spent more time doing the things I love and less time on all the other stuff that comes into my life. Would I be happier? More fulfilled?  I think it’s time to find out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Upcycle Me

I read a blog post the other day (here) that blew my mind. In it, the blogger, Sophie, give a couple of examples of objects she has ‘upcycled’. Upcycling, according to Wikipedia, is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new products or products of better quality. I really like the thought of this, but ever since I read the blog I’ve wondered, how can I make this a reality in my life.

I asked my wife on our ride home from our jobs what she thought of upcycling.  She thought it would be something neat to try, but that we needed to be careful to only create things that had a use or that looked amazing.  We didn’t want to just have a house full of upcycled junk.  This would mostly defeat the purpose of upcycling in the first place.

She also reminded me of the barbeque that is at my parent’s cottage on Lake Manitoba.  My grandpa, the previous owner of the cottage, had joined the barbeque to an old lawnmower.  This gave it a base that also happened to have wheels making it easy to move.

Looks Cool + Functionality = Worthwhile Upcycling Project.

Another example I can think of is a set of garden lights that my sister-in-law made for us.  They are housed in old, glass jars and have a solar light in the middle.  I pretty sure she got the idea from Pinterest. The look great, serve a purpose and prevented one more glass jar from going to the dump or needing to be processed in a recycling plant.

When I was in elementary school, they pounded the ‘3 R’s’ into my brain on a regular basis.  They are:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Though there are three ‘R’s’, the majority of time was spend on recycling and very little was spent on reusing and reducing.  Maybe this was because our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never thought they would need to teach reusing.  Think about it.  How much old stuff  was repurposed for another use?  I think we have lost this in modern society.  We have been told that it is easier to throw our old stuff away and buy something new than to repair or repurpose it.   And it is.  I just wonder what happens to all the garbage I have thrown out that could have been reused. How much of it is in the landfill here in Regina, SK?  How much has polluted the streets of the city of live in?  How much has made its way into the streams and rivers of the natural environment I love?

So… what can I make? Where do I start? I’m not especially handy. I’m also not a craft-making type of person. Handiness and craftiness would make me an excellent upcycler, but since I don’t have either of those skills in any abundance, I will rely on my creativity and passion for making the world just a little bit better. I think my plan is to take a second glance at everything I throw out. Maybe that egg-carton could have been used to, oh I don’t know, grow some indoor plants. Wait a second… I think I just did something there. See? It’s not that hard.  If I happen to come across a worthwhile upcycling project, I’ll be sure to take some pictures and post what I have done.

Grocery List for Sustainable Healthy Living

Photo By: Polycart

So, you’ve made the decision that you want to make an earnest attempt at weightloss.  Good for you! I’m really excited for the journey that you’ve decided to embark on and wish you success.  You might now be thinking “I want to lose weight, but HOW do I actually do it?”  A lot of us know the basics (eat fewer calories than you burn in day), but what about the nuts and bolts of healthy living?   One of the biggest changes I had to make when I decided to live a more healthy lifestyle was my grocery list. For me, I find that if I have less-than-healthy food in the cupboard, I am going to eat it. Keep in mind that my philosophy of healthy living focuses primarily on sustainability and a big part of that is allowing yourself to eat foods that you love (pizza, burgers, whatever), but to do so in moderation and in appropriate portions.  If I do decide to eat something less-than-healthy, I typically purchase it on the same day that I’m going to eat it.  OK, let’s get on with it; my grocery list for sustainable healthy living…  (oh, and just keep in mind that this is MY grocery list for what works for ME.  YOU need to figure out what works for YOU… so feel free to make substitution where YOU think they are needed… own your own health.)

Dairy

Yogurt – I like to get yogurt from time to time.  Just check the labels to make sure you’re getting the healthiest possible option.  It can be tricky, but you’re looking for lowest calories AND lowest fat.  Sometimes products listed as ‘Fat-Free’ have substituted the fat with higher sugar content, so just keep your eyes open.   I also like to get yogurt tubes and freeze them quick, healthy snack.  Also, Greek yogurt is higher in protein, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Almond Milk – I switched from milk to almond milk a couple of months ago.  The main reason for this that it contains less sugar than skim milk (usually 7g compared to 12g per serving).  I realize that you may not get as much calcium or protein from almond milk, but more than enough both of these can be obtained through a balanced diet.

Parmesan Cheese – I get parmesan cheese to help flavour some of the dishes I make… and I love cheese.  Parmesan cheese allows the taste of cheese to come through, without having to pile on a lot of it.

Margarine – As with yogurt, I try to find the healthiest possible choice.  I haven’t really done enough research on the whole ‘butter v.s. margarine’ debate, but I buy maragine and it has worked for me.

Drinks

Coffee – For me, this one is a must.  I think one of the key’s to being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle is finding something that you allow yourself to indulge in that you can have as much as you want of without seriously affecting your weightloss.  For me, that something is coffee.  I drink my coffee black, but try to find flavoured beans to help improve the taste.

Diet Soda – I am fully aware of the ‘aspartame in diet soda will kill you’ debate, but I have decided that it is something I need to maintain my weight.  It helps soften that sweet tooth I have and gives me something to have while I watch T.V. or relax.   It also doesn’t hurt  that it contains ZERO calories per serving.

Fruits and Vegetables

Spaghetti Squash – This is one of my favourite vegetables.  Usually I substitute pasta for spaghetti squash and highly recommend that you try it.  When cooked, it has a texture similar to spaghetti, but without all the carbohydrates.

Onions –  Onions are the backbone of everything I cook.  I usually saute them in a bit of olive oil and then build the rest of my meal around them.  I usually buy yellow onions to cook with, red onions to put in wraps/sandwiches, green onions for soup or as a topping for stir-fry.

Garlic – I don’t know if I could maintain a healthy diet without garlic.  Garlic makes takes most food from good to great. I usually saute garlic with my onions.

Cucumber –  I’m not a huge fan of the actual taste of cucumbers, but they are a good substitute for crackers when eating dips.  They are also a good lunch combo for tuna, substituting for bread.

Lettuce/Spinach –  I’m more likely to buy lettuce, but can go for spinach from time to time.  Used for making salads… duh.

Tomatoes – I usually buy canned tomatoes for putting in chili or meat sauce, but will also buy fresh to put in wraps or on sandwich.

Mushrooms – Mushrooms go great with a lot of meals.  I usually saute them along with onions and garlic.

Peppers – Peppers (red, green, orange, or whatever) go great in wraps, on sandwiches or sauted with onions and garlic.  Another stable in the majority of food I cook.

Carrots –  Carrots are another good food to dip with, but are also great roasted and sauted.  They also go great in soups.

Celery – I really like putting celery in soup, especially its leaves. so tasty.  Also good in stirfry.

Cabbage -This one is another favourite as it is filling and really taste when cooked with some onions and garlic.

Berries – I love eating berries for snacks as they take care of my sweet tooth

Pineapple – Another great snack food

Apples –  Also great for snacks.  I will sometimes pair with cinnamon and Splenda for a little variation.

Banana’s –  Good snack again.  For a little twist, you can freeze banana’s, blend them up and add a little syrup to make a pretty delightful substitute for ice cream.

Frozen Mixed Fruit – I like to get frozen fruit to mix into smoothies.  Just make sure to check the label as some frozen fruits have added syrup and those extra calories can add up quickly.

Proteins

Chicken – I buy frozen chicken breasts.  Very versatile and can be used in A LOT of different meals.  I will also buy seasoned cooked chicken to add to salads or wraps.   I avoid chicken wings, as they are usually really high in fat.

Fish – I’m still getting used to eating a lot of fish, but because it is so healthy (high protein, low-fat) I do my best to eat fish at least once a week.   My favourite is tilapia as I find it has a really mild ‘fishy’ taste.

Shrimp – Similar to fish and very versatile like chicken.

Wild Game – I try to avoid eating beef in favour of meat that is lower in fat and less processed.  I actually get deer meat from my father-in-law and wife, who hunt, but if that is not an option, I would seek out a butcher near you who sells wild game.  Once it’s cooked, the differences are subtle and who knows… you might like the taste of wild meat more.

Carbohydrates

Wraps – I buy whole-wheat wraps and eat them maybe 2 times a week for lunch.  They are good because you can stuff so many veggies into them.

Bread – If I buy bread, which is pretty rare, it is white rye bread.  At only 70 calories a slice, it is the lowest calorie bread I have found.  For me, this is more of a treat to have around than something I buy on a regular shop.

Cereal –  I eat cereal every morning for breakfast.  I usually try to label compare to make sure I am getting the healthiest option.  What I look for is high fibre and low sugar.

Yams –  I really like yams, or sweet potatoes as they are sometimes called.  A good treat, but just make sure it is a treat and not a regular occurence as they can be really high in carbohydrates.

Quinoa – I like to have quinoa from time to time.  It is a grain that is as easy to cook as rice, but much higher in protein.

Spices and Other’s

The key to delicious food, in my opinion, is the type of spices you use when cooking.  You need to figure out what flavours you like, and use them to make the food you cook taste how you want it to.  The seasonings I most commonly use are salt, garlic powder, chili powder, lemon/dill flavour, steak spice, and ginger.  You need to find what works for you. Other things I buy at the grocery store are salsa, hot sauce, olive oil, and humus.

Phew. That’s quite the list.  Well… now you have all the food and ingredients to make some pretty tasty AND healthy food.  In the coming days/weeks I will post some of my favourite recipe’s.  Don’t be scared to try cooking these foods and if you have other foods that you love to eat that are healthy, please feel free to provide them in the comments.    Happy weightloss everyone!  Dan

Back Into the Swing of Things

It feels like it has been an eternity since I’ve sat down to write a post for this blog.  I could blame my lack of writing on the busy holiday season, or on the fact that I was having too much fun with my free time in between semesters, but the truth is I have felt completely uninspired to write anything. It is not that I haven’t pondered anything or had anything interesting happen to me over the last couple of weeks, but I’m just not sure how to start again, or where to take things.

Maybe I’ll start by just catch up to today. Holiday’s this year were AMAZING.  I was able to be home in Winnipeg for the first time in a number of years for Christmas and really enjoyed seeing my family. I think my favourite part was watching my little cousins be caught up in the wonder, mystery, and joy of the season, but I also enjoyed stuffing my face with all of the Christmas treats. I also was able to spend a couple of days with my wife’s family and had fun watching hockey, relaxing, and eating with them as well

The Holiday Season is now over, and its time to get back into the swing of things with work, school, and home life.  This semester I am taking 5 classes which end up including 3 different volunteer projects. I will be observing and assisting in a classroom,  working with an ESL student in another, and have the opportunity to choose one area of volunteer for the third.  I’m thinking I’m going to choose something that has to do with students who have special needs so if you know of any places in Regina  that need some help, please feel free to leave them in the comment section and I’ll take a look.  I am really looking forward to being able to get out of the classroom and actually interact with students and workers in the field. I also have a feeling they will give me some good experiences and some interesting stories.

My wife and I have also decided to do P90X (at this moment, I’m on Day 5 of 90).  P90x is a workout series that I’m hoping will be able to help restart my healthy eating and living habits.  I have written before about losing weight, and I’m hoping now that I can take things to the next level with this workout.  Maybe when I’m finished, I’ll post some before and after pics.

Well, I guess that’s everything for right now.  It feels good to step out of my writer’s drought  I hope you were able to spend some time with family and friends this Christmas and also to take sometime for yourself to reflect and refocus.  Enjoy the hot weather we’re having by taking a stroll with a friend, family member or pet. Peace.

How I Lost 100lbs: Part II

The first part of this post can be found here.

I ended the last post with a short note to those readers who are currently on, or wanting to start a weight loss journey.  What I am writing here is what has worked for me. Everyone is different and you will need to find those tricks that work for you.  I am lucky enough that the weight has come off and is staying off, but if you are having a difficult time, please goes see your physician to find out if there is something medical standing in your way. There is no shame in owning your own body and wanting the best for yourself.

OK. Now that we have most of the preamble out-of-the-way, we can get into the nuts and bolts of my weight loss journey. I’ve decided to break this into two sections that I think are equally important in terms of losing pounds, fitness and diet, and then we’ll wrap things up with some tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

Fitness

It’s been said that every journey begins with a first step and, in my case, that can be taken quite literally. My weight loss began with walking around Wascana Lake in Regina with my then girlfriend, Megan.  To be honest, at first I hated it.  It didn’t take much for me to work up a sweat then and I was really self-conscious of appearing as this big sweaty fat guy lumbering around what felt like hundreds of fit people.  That said, Megan loved to walk and I loved Megan, so I walked. This activity has been the one consistent factor in my entire journey.  I now walk (almost) every morning with my dog Sully.  I have found that I love walking. It gives me the chance to collect my thoughts and to reflect on my life.

I have gone through different periods of increased exercise which helped to kick my losing into high gear. This included going to the gym every morning, running on the treadmill every night and playing soccer again. While these are all good (and needed… I should be doing more of this), some of my attempts were simply not sustainable. I would be ‘good’ for a few months and then fall off the wagon and do nothing.  Something I have been able to maintain is my daily walks. It takes only about an hour a day and makes me feel hundreds of times better. I think it’s important to note that if you want the weight you have lost to stay off, you need to have an exercise routine that you can commit to… forever. And that’s it.  I have been lucky enough that my weight is able to be controlled with moderate exercise and diet. That said, I still have a way to go and actually plan on doing P90X… at a later date (famous last words).

Diet

The biggest changes I have made in my life are in regards to diet. As mentioned in the last post, my diet consisted of mostly unhealthy food.  This was because the only factor in my choice of what food to eat was whether or not it tasted good. In order to change my eating habits, I needed to become educated in what I was putting in my mouth and how it was being absorbed in my body.  Three key terms will need a brief explanation before we can go any further (keep in mind, I am not a nutrition expert and that these are just the definitions as I understand them. If you see something that is off, please point it out. We learn better when we learn together):

Carbs: or carbohydrates, are used by the body for energy.   They are found in a lot of different foods, most notably sugar. This means that candy, bread, milk, fruit, wraps, chips, potatoes, rice and more all contain a high number of carbs.

Fiber: some carbs are also fiber. Fiber is good because it helps get things moving in our digestive track.  Fiber usually comes from grains and vegetables.

Fat: the wiki article linked here pretty well explains this one. Basically, it’s another source of energy that can be stored by our bodies for later use.  Fat can be found in meat, nuts, and dairy.

Protein: can be used as energy for the body, but also help in the rebuilding of torn muscle tissue. Protein is usually found in meat, but is also abundant in some grains.

Most of the food had been eating was both high in carbs and high in fat. The first move I did was to cut out all the sugar I was getting from soda.  This meant no slurpee’s or pop (the former of which had been my main source of liquid). I think it started as a competition with Megan (my wife) about who could go longer without their vice (mine being slurpee’s and hers coffee).  I don’t remember who won, but the important thing is I ended my addiction to soda and have never looked back. Instead, I now drink diet soda, which contains no sugar (I’m not going to get into an argument over aspartame at this time… so don’t bother).  Making this simple (at the time it wasn’t simple, but now I couldn’t even imagine getting a regular soda or a slurpee) change combined with my walking helped me to lose 30lbs in about 4 months. Now 250lbs and starting to feel amazing.

Next, I decided to try the Atkins diet.  In short, Atkins is a diet that focuses on eliminating, at first, and eventually controlling the amount of carbs that a person consumes. In thought is that the body will always burn carbs for energy before burning fat.  In order to get rid of the fat in the body (i.e. have the body use it as energy) you need to starve your body of carbs. I actually believe (and who knows if this is true or not) that by not eating carbs, I was training my body to use the fat that I had stored for energy. I think that this ended up teaching my metabolism how to work correctly.  I don’t know all the technical jumbo on how this happened, but I do know that I have an easier time maintaining my weight. I also become very familiar with which foods contain high carbs and which do not.  On Atkins I lost another 30lbs, bringing me down to 220lbs.  I didn’t continue on this diet, however, because I found it completely unsustainable. While I was losing weight, I also found that I was “cheating” more often than I had before and that when I “cheated” I REALLY “cheated”  (I can remember one time eating half of an ice cream cake… tasted amazing at the time but I paid for it later).  I had decided that Atkins was not the diet for me, but the lessons I had learned about carbs stuck with me and have benefited the rest of my journey. 

The remainder of my weight was lost by following the diet that I have now. What do I eat, you ask? Everyone morning I have either a small bowl of cereal with very little milk (1%) or 2 eggs fried in a small amount of low-fat margarine. For lunch, I usually have soup that contains chicken pieces, chickpeas, lentils, or other high protein or high fiber grains or a salad containing chopped peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese (just a little bit), and a protein (usually chicken).  Supper’s usually consist of a protein with vegetables.  Staple proteins in our house include chicken, fish, deer meat, and occasionally steak (in the summer). Snacks usually include a small portion of nacho chips (usually no cheese) with salsa, veggies and dip, diet soda, and the occasional hot sauce and crackers. Sounds too simple right? Well… it is and that’s why it’s sustainable.

Tips and Tricks

Throughout this journey, I have found many tricks that I feel have allowed me to sustain my weight loss and I am more than happy to share them with fellow travelers.

1. Don’t go at it alone.  I think this is why programs like Weight Watchers are so effective; they encourage you to find a person or group of people who you can travel with.  This adds accountability and encouragement and you will more likely stick with it if you know someone else is depending on you.

2. Know what you can eat/drink as much as you want of.  I can’t even explain how important this is. I would have failed many times already if I had not learnt this. I know I can eat as much as I want of 5 things without ever compromising my weight loss.  I can eat/drink as much black coffee, diet soda, hot sauce, vegetables and garlic as I want.  When I feel like splurging on some potentially unhealthy snacks, I grab a sweet diet soda and feel the craving. Works wonders.

3. Learn how to cook. When cooked the right way, ANY food can be tasty. I usually start whatever I’m cooking with a base of 1tbsp of olive oil, an onion, a pinch of salt and a few cloves of garlic. I have taught myself to LOVE the taste of savory food, instead of relying on fat or sugar to make something delicious.

4. Try everything twice. This tip comes with a little story.  When I was younger, I went to Africa on a missions trips. What I saw there was extreme poverty and people eating whatever they could find that would fill their stomachs. We are SO picky here. After seeing these people who would eat anything, no matter how bland or flavourless it was me, I decided that I needed to try more foods (one’s that I had previously decided “weren’t for me”). Trying every food twice gives you a chance to really know if you like it or not (firsts can be weird at times).  I can’t imagine not being able to eat sushi, Indian food, onions, and salads.  I would be missing on so much.  If you are someone who “doesn’t like” healthy foods, I recommend giving them another chance. At the very least, just think of how these foods will benefit your body as a whole.

5. Buy some “goal” clothes. I have hanging in my closet right now a shirt that is still too tight for me to wear in public.  It the third “goal” shirt I have had since starting my journey. Periodical, I would try on my goal shirt to see if it would now fit. My first “goal” shirt was an XL, second an L, and third a tight M. There is something super encouraging and satisfactory about wearing clothes that you know you could not have fit before.

6. Treat yourself. Now this one needs to be done sparingly… otherwise it wouldn’t be a treat. For me, this is pizza. I LOVE pizza, but it’s not good for me.  Instead of swearing off of it for my entire life, I only allow it at certain occasions.

7. Don’t worry about failing. If you stop your exercise or go off start eating unhealthy food again, do not be despaired. Look at what has led you to this, learn from your experience and try again.

Bonus Tip: Where to ‘eat out’. There are times when you either can’t or don’t want to cook for yourself.  Many people cite this as a reason that they eat at fast food restaurant chains. Well, there are good options out there that offer quite the tasty little meal. My favourite are Pita Pit/Extreme Pita and Subway. Healthy choices at these establishments are easy to make. Subway offers salads that you can build yourself… I usually pick chicken with no cheese and add hot sauce and a little bit of BBQ sauce.  At pita places, the same thing goes; chicken, hot sauce, BBQ sauce.  I would try to avoid any sauces with too much sugar, or the high fat proteins they offer; you don’t really taste it anyways with all those veggies in there.

There you have it. I hope that you can feel encouraged through this and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask either on twitter (@ddubs08) or by commenting on this post. I really want to help you if I can.  It has been a long process and I still have more to learn.  All I know is that I feel better than I ever have before and know that my life is changed for good.  There are times when I am still tempted to just eat whatever I want (and there are times that I still do) but I don’t let these times set me back.

 Have a great day and happy trails!

 

Well That’s a Load Off: How I Lost 100lbs

The last three years have seen incredible change in my life.  I got married to the love of my life, I bought a house, I went back to University and I’ve lost 100lbs… well almost. I’ve actually technically lost 95lbs, but I hope by the end of this post series that I have reached my goal.  I have been thinking about writing a post on this for a number of weeks now, but I was waiting to reach that magic number of 180lbs.  I was tired of putting it off and decided to do this as a series of posts (its been quite a long journey) starting with how I gained the weight that I had and then sharing some of the strategies I have used to lose that same weight and ending with hopefully sharing that I have reached my goal weight.  I have not used any special ‘diet pills’ and have tried a number of ‘trend diets’ but have found the biggest factors in my success is not doing it alone, having the patience to do it the ‘right’ way and never giving up (I’m no stranger to failure, but have learnt that it’s not so bad). Ok here we go…

In 2007, I had just finished my second year of College (I had at one point be going to Bible College with the intention of becoming a Youth Pastor) and had already made up my mind about a number of things.  One of these was which foods I liked (sugar, fat, salt), and which I didn’t (vegetables and most condiments). I’m not sure where or when in my life I decided not to like certain foods, but was resigned to this ‘fact’ and was set in my ways. As such, when I started to purchase my own food, I chose mostly high fat, high sugar, high salt foods.  This diet helped me to quickly gain pounds. The Freshmen Fifteen quickly turned into the Sophomore Fifty and upwards. At my heaviest, I weighed 280 lbs, which for someone who is only 5 feet 8 inches tall, made me quite the pudgy man.

In my teen years, I was fairly athletic. I played both indoor and outdoor soccer and ran on my schools track team (100m, 200m, and relay’s. Side note: one hilarious attempt was made at a regional  track meet when we had an open spot for a long-jumper. I deserved the last place finish I got on that one). In my teen years, not matter how much I seemed to eat, I never felt full and never really seemed to put on any weight. This changed when I graduated  and no longer participated in any physical activity. Combined with my love of fat, sugar and salt, lead to a potentially deadly cocktail.

My added weight helped to develop some new character traits and defensive mechanisms that I used to justify my hefty state. I decided that I would be the classic ‘fat funnyman’ and that ‘I didn’t care how I looked.’  Pictures from this period are scarce (reasons obvious) and I resigned myself to the fact that I was fat, I was always going to be fat, and that I was OK with it.

I moved to Regina in 2008 (to be closer to my future wife) and was given an opprotunity to recreate who I was which I believe ended up saving my life.  (we’ll continue this story in the next post)

If you are struggling with your weight (and I know there is a tonne of us out there), I hope these posts can encourage you that change is possible and while the methods I have used to lose weight worked for me, they may not work for you (everyone is different).

More to come in the weeks to follow. Peace. Part II can be found here.

Book Review: Toolbox for Sustainable Urban Living

Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew’s guide, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, is an accessible, well-organized, and convincing read.  From the introduction, which clearly lays out the authors philosophical beliefs, to the conclusions, which ties the ideas presented within together, Kellogg and Pettigrew have done an admirable job of compiling different systems that could be used by the urban dweller to live sustainably. The reader will be prompted to constantly look at how they are living and look at possible changes they could make to their own life to help create a more sustainable world, thus increasing our planet’s longevity. The author’s propose the questions of ‘How can one live sustainably in an urban environment?”, “What practical changes are possible?”, and “If changes are made, will society be able to avoid a total collapse?” and make a valiant effort to convince the reader that change is possible, while at the same time giving practical ways in which one can obtain sustainability.

The majority of this guide is spent giving the reader clear systems that if put into place will help the reader achieve their own individual sustainability.  The author’s touch on water use and recycling, micro-livestock and growing one’s own food, and how to compost scrap food, to name a few. Given are instructions on how to create these systems of sustainability and encouragements that they can be implemented even in apartments, small lots, and other urban dwellings.

                Kellogg and Pettigrew, with the backing of their humanistic ideologies, argue that governments are not, and are not going to, make the types of changes that are required for sustainable urban living. Instead, “…change’s will take place at the grassroots level”, as governments are continually resistant and slow in their progress of towards this ideology (Kellogg et al., 2008).  There are many factors for this (economics, politics, etc.), but the author’s say that shift from a consumer or capitalist society towards an individual sustainability society is desperately needed.   The author’s subscribe to Malthusian ideologies and the “J-Curve Model”, believing that at some point, the world will reach its environmental limit, and that societal collapse will shortly follow.  In order to slow and potentially reverse this inevitability, the author’s urge readers to live in more sustainable ways.

                To support their thesis, the author’s often referred to the Rhizome Collective, a compound where the author’s, with the support of like-minded individuals and eventually the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), have put the systems of sustainable living on display. Though hard number statistics are not presented in their writing, the systems presented in this book appear to work successfully.  Evidence of their success can be seen in a $200,000.00 EPA grant and the establishment of a number of different organizations including Bikes Across Borders, The Inside Books Project, and the Austin Independent Media Center, to name a few.  To the authors’ credit, however, they do recognize their lack of results and explain the difficulty in collecting sufficient resources. They identify that they are merely taking the first step towards sustainable living.

                At first glance, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living appears to be more of a “Do it Yourself” step-by-step guide to creating a sustainable urban environment, and less like a book promoting an ideology. It appears that the only sort of ideological sentiments to be found are in the brief introduction and the even shorter conclusion. Whether it was the authors’ intentions or not, a thorough read through exposes thoughts and ideas that permeate out from the guided sustainable system creation.  By only referring to their ideologies in the briefest way, this book has the potential to be accessed by people who are not just interested in Geography, Environmentalism, or Sustainability, but also to gardeners, handymen and women and do-it-yourselfer’s. This allows exposure, but also allows the spread of ideas.  Books on sustainable living often refer more to ideological beliefs, understandings, and rhetoric, and less about how this is to be achieved.

                This is where Toolbox for Sustainable City Living really shines.  Displays of practical systems that can be undertaken by all city dwellers convince the reader that not only is sustainable living important, it is something can be achieved. It is likely that many more people will be able to lead more sustainable lives through reading and putting into practice this book, then will be convinced by a set of textbooks, theories and lectures.

                There are some areas in which this work would have benefited in some acknowledgement of various scenarios.  While the authors’ did well in identifying that some State laws may prevent the systems they are suggesting from being implemented, they completely ignored one other determining factor; the weather. In the northern states, parts of Canada, and other areas around the world, the authors’ fail to acknowledge that some systems will only work in the right environment. It may be possible to filter greywater into usable fresh water in an area of the world that receives positive temperatures (Celsius) year-round, but this same system become completely impractical in places receives snow for 50% or more of the year.

                The books also suffers from its lack of head evidence support the success they claim to achieve by implementing the systems described. Ideas are nice, but hard facts would really support the authors’ original thesis. It would be effective to see numbers in how much energy was used prior to and after starting to use the suggested systems of sustainable living.

                As a book arguing an ideology of sustainable living, Toolbox for Sustainable Living does exceptionally well. Kellogg and Pettigrew are convincing in their statements about the current environmental situation and the changes they feel can be made by urban dwellers. Its strength lies in the way that it subtly supports ideologies through the do-it-yourself projects described.  This book has the potential to create new believers to the ideology of sustainable living by showing how simple changes can lead to big changes and will encourage all who read to look at their own lives to see what they themselves can do to move towards creating a sustainable environment.