Physical Fit: Um… Can Someone Please show me the Plateau Exit?

Well, it was bound to happen. I’m no stranger to the weight loss/fitness battle, and plateaus are just part of every journey towards better health. Since I experienced my inaugural physical fit, I have experienced pretty consistent progress… until just in the past couple of weeks. Whether it is the autumnal allergies that seem to be depriving me of oxygen (with the elephant that has taken up residence on my chest) or the apparent lack of coordination resulting in a couple of embarrassing injuries (twisted ankle from falling off my shoe and a strained boob… yes, strained boob! Go ahead and laugh),  I found myself slowing down quite literally, with an inability to perform to the same levels as I had achieved, and I just plain hurt. And though weight loss was not the entire goal of my fitness journey, it was part of the original plan. That stopped as well; came to a screeching halt.  So, it seems that I find myself on this butte, hoping that I can find my way out of the sluggish lack of progress.

As usual, with this type of situation, there is no lack of helpful and and sometimes less than helpful advice available. Aside from the widely conflicting explanations available on the internet itself, there are friends and family members with a plethora of contributions to the mix. I have heard them all at this point.

You are eating too much.

You aren’t eating enough.

You need to do more strength training.

You need to do more cardio.

Drink lemon water.

Fast for a day.

Are you stressed?

You name it, I’ve read it or heard it. There are so many offered options for “LOSING WEIGHT FAST!!!” and “Meal Plans for Fat Burning,” the mind boggles. Often these little gems involve a price tag. The truth is that I have been desperately seeking any and all information that might provide an alternative to my own sinking suspicion that I am fighting a losing battle against an aging metabolism (not to mention reaping the benefits of fighting rollercoaster weight issues my whole life). Well-meaning friends have tried to be supportive and helpful, offering their variety of experiences and winning solutions that have worked for them. I am grateful. Truly, I am. However, my recent influx of contradictory advisement has created a maelstrom of info-overload that threatens to breach the boundaries of my cranium. The bad part is that the frustration was starting to work its evil magic upon my mind and whisper the sweet nothings that say “See, it didn’t work. You should just give up. Here, have some chocolate.”

That is where the true negativity of plateaus get us. We are human. We like to be rewarded for our efforts and see that our hard work has achieved what we intended. When that doesn’t happen, it is very tempting to give up. The common sense philosophy would be, just power through it, and you should get right back on track. BUT… how long do you power through? What happens if nothing seems to jump start the process again?

My research and introspection have turned up the most likely culprits in my own situation:

1. Age – Whether I like it or not, I have reached an age where metabolism is not my friend.

2. Gender – Along with the age demographic, I’m female. Hearing me roar is all well and good, but as women, our bodies like to hold on to adipose tissue and our male counterparts on average have less resistance to offloading pounds.

3. Eating habits – Yes, I watch my caloric intake, but for increasing metabolism, I need to eat small meals more frequently. Therein is my problem. My work schedule sometimes results in forgetting to eat until it is time to go home in the evening. Not good. I’m starving my body and putting it into “starvation mode.” Not to mention that I am just starving and hangry and end up eating more than I should.

4. Stress – There has been a lot said about stress hormones, like cortisol. It is true, cortisol is increased when we are stressed. Cortisol is really helpful in stressful situations, allowing the body to break down glucose and activate it for use (fight or flight, you know). The problem is that when we maintain high levels of stress (and high levels of cortisol) over time, the hormone works against us and can break down muscle tissue and result in fat deposits (especially in the mid-section). We also end up craving a lot of simple carbohydrates and sugars. Bottom line? I’m stressed… for a number of different reasons, and it isn’t helping my little plateau issue.

5. Sleep – This goes with the stress issue. A recent discussion with a friend reminded me of some of the important functions of proper sleep. It isn’t just a matter of rest vs. fatigue. Sleep, or rather the deeper levels of said sleep, allow our brains and bodies to dump the excess cortisol and “reset” in order to start all over again for the next waking cycle. Lack of sufficient sleep or unhealthy sleep habits that disrupt the normal sleep cycle prevents the cortisol dump and we start out the next day at a higher cortisol level. Sleep is not my greatest skill either. I generally do not get enough of it (per recommended standards) and wake up several times per night.

So, those are my big five: The most likely reasons that I’m hitting the plateau, but I also wanted input from someone I consider very knowledgeable about fitness, because my plateau has not been solely about the scales. It has also been something I’m experiencing in my performance with cardiovascular training and strength training. My friend had some incredibly helpful ideas to contribute. First, he confirmed that not all beings are created equal, and that what works for some do not work for all… Thus, I need to pay attention to my own body. However, he did indicate that habit and getting into a regular pattern with our workouts is the enemy. He talked primarily about “muscle confusion” as the weapon to use on this enemy.

Our bodies are incredible machines. They adapt and learn. The human body is going for the most efficient use of the resources available. Engaging the same activities over and over provides just the opportunity for our body to adjust to save calories. So, we need to confuse the muscles. How do we do this? Change up the work out and don’t get into a rut of the same routine day after day. Using different types of activities helps, but focusing on different muscle systems on different days will keep the body guessing and prevent it from shutting down the metabolic systems for efficiency or developing a muscle memory that will limit the benefits of resistance/strength training.

So… thanks to helpful friends, review of high school biology, and a perusal of YouTube workout videos; I have my new strategy and game plan. I am going to check in with the fitness trainer at my gym to work on updating my initial plan. I am going to focus on muscle confusion by focusing on different muscle systems. I will be more consistent about my meditation practice and have at least 20 minutes per day, and I will attempt to get more consistent sleep (that may be the most difficult task). We’ll see how well it works and how faithfully I follow the plan. If any of you are feeling the plateau blues or experiencing lack of motivation for starting (or restarting) healthier habits, realize that we are not alone, and we can find the exit to get us off the plateau and back on track!

Bless the “teachers” in Life



I have, for many years, labored under the delusion that the best teachers were those that got awards and children loved and talked about into their later years as remembering Mr. or Ms. So-and-so who inspired and believed and encouraged. I thought about those “Teacher of the Year” recipients as the ones who have imparted the greatest knowledge and wondered if I had been privileged enough to encounter more of them what my life would have been like. This was my delusion, as I stated previously, for so many years.

In my more recent times, I have come to realize that the teachers in our lives are not always pleasant, loveable, enjoyable, or painless. More often, sadly, it is the nature of human beings to learn as much from adverse stimulus as from pleasure (though, yes, I know that pleasure is more likely to create a stable pattern of behavior). The point being, I realized quite suddenly one day that some of the most unpleasant experiences of my life came with some remarkably powerful (if difficult) lessons.

What amazes me, consistently, is the way that people continue to replicate behaviors over and over expecting different results. Observing individuals run into the same brick wall over and over full tilt, even with people holding up signs, screaming, or trying to physically hold them back, has made me understand that gentle teachers cannot always make a difference until the subject is ready to learn. It is the definition of insanity, but they continue to do it. Over and over, they break themselves against an immovable obstacle… never noticing that they could walk around, or that there is a door in the middle.

But that wasn’t really where I was going with this. I wish that I was one of the people that seem to learn the lessons on the first try and enjoy the success. That doesn’t really seem to be how my brain works. Instead it seems that my brain only absorbs the lessons that life offers through the application of repeated beatings with sticks, figuratively.

What is worse is that I have had the opportunity to learn the lessons presented with less pain involved, but almost without exception, I find that the only way that the lessons truly take hold is with some dramatically unpleasant experience. I spent a lot of time resenting the “teachers” in my life, blaming them for my unhappiness and the memory of unpleasantness. I was angry, and I felt myself to be righteous in my anger towards those wielders of the educational stick (sometimes literally, for example the first grade teacher who broke the ping-pong paddle against my narrow back… yes, it happened. Corporal punishment was used in the stone age of my primary years). After a while (like maybe round about the end of my first abusive attempt at matrimony), I realized that the anger and resentment really wasn’t doing me any good and wasn’t making those who harmed me explode in large, impressive, Hollywood-style fireballs of glorious carnage (I guess I should have talked to Michael Bay about that?). Yes, you can tell I had some pent up rage going on. Point being? It was a waste of perfectly good emotional and cognitive energy. Sadly, even being able to let go of the negative emotions didn’t fix everything. It took one final stage before I truly got it.

For years, I had been told that I overestimate the emotional attachments of acquaintances. Not in a delusional, erotomanic way; more in the way of being open to new friendships and welcoming them into an almost familial acceptance. I think this goes back to my days of living in the military brat mentality. To survive, you either made friends intensely and fast, or you were antisocial and content to be alone. Obviously, these are the extremes, but I do believe that the experience of living overseas in a closed community and moving around about every three years changed how I viewed social acquaintances. It didn’t occur to me that my acceptance was one-sided. It was horribly naïve of me, I know. I’m a psychologist, after all. I have observed and counseled a variety of people over the years to remove themselves from damaging one-sided relationships where they were being used. Physician (or counselor), heal thyself!

One thing about the “teachers” is that if you are repeating the lesson, the learning aids get more and more obvious. Thanks to the many learning opportunities in my existence starting all the many years ago, I have finally learned a few things:

· Adults are fallible and sometimes cruel

· Human beings are indolent and typically will not go out of their way to inconvenience themselves only to benefit someone else

· Justice does not always mean a happy ending

· Being innocent does not always mean you escape punishment

· Being good doesn’t guarantee happiness or success or reward

· Loyalty is not always reciprocated

· Truth is not always believed

· People lie… a lot

· Pretty gets you more than smart (though smart lasts longer)

· The hardest worker will be rewarded with more work (if you have a task that needs to be done, look for a busy person)

· The good times are not when you find out who your friends are… It is when you are in need and at your darkest that you can see to weed out the users, fakers, and cheats. And more importantly? The truly hearty specimens of friendship are able to shine through the withering and choking vines.

· Being right sometimes sucks

· Generosity does not breed reciprocation, it merely renders the generous depleted (thanks, Shakespeare)

· Refusing help when you need it doesn’t make you strong

· People do not like change, especially when it means they can no longer predict outcomes or rely on someone to act the way they always have

· “Acting as if” works pretty darn well… (thanks, Aristotle)

Oh… and alcohol does not make people sing or dance better. That one is not as much a lesson I’ve been taught as an observation that I feel compelled to share whenever I have the opportunity.

This year has been especially enlightening due to several instances of having the curtain pulled back to reveal some rather devastating facts and severe disappointment in my own blindness: My horribly misplaced faith. This is all pretty dark, depressing, and cynical stuff. It isn’t all bad, though. I have been amazed and humbled by some of the truly beautiful, supportive, and decent people who were overshadowed by the more grandiose deceptions of others. Understated loyalty is a much stronger statement to me, now, than other more flamboyant displays, and resentment does absolutely nothing to assuage the pain of betrayal. These are just the lessons that I have been “taught.” I didn’t always want to learn these lessons. However, I will bless my “teachers” in hopes that if I have learned my lessons I will not have to repeat the grade.

Hyperbolic Crap and Other First World Problems

Have you ever noticed that lately everything seems to be way over the top? It is like someone took the expressed passion volume and turned it to eleven, but not necessarily in a good way. It makes me wonder if people really are this emotional about everything around them or if this is a reaction to something more problematic along the lines of a disconnection to genuine humanity and true affective response to each other.

It isn’t really that I think people should be unemotional or contained at all times. Obviously, having passions is what makes us human and involved with our world. But, seriously, let’s take a look at what people seem to get their knickers in a wad about… most of the time it isn’t even impacting them on any intimate, personal level.

Does that mean that I think people shouldn’t be concerned about the oppression prevalent in distant lands, or the outlandish contrivances of various governments to demolish our basic human rights, or even abuses in the systems we use that put those basic rights in danger from each other? No. I do not mean that at all. I just think that so much of what people get completely bent about are distractions from what may actually be very wrong right before their very eyes. It is a bit of that “not seeing the forest for the trees” stuff. I cannot decide if it is that people do not have enough to worry about in their own lives, or what is more likely, that to avoid taking a good, hard look at what is going on in their own lives, they choose to get in a towering fury about issues that in the grand scheme of things do not have a lasting impact on anyone (like whatever Paris Hilton is doing or how long the Kardashian’s are staying married).

It’s escapism, pure and not so simple, because, what are people escaping? Why are people so adamantly extravagant in their hyperbole about every blessed thing? It seems to be impossible for anyone to have an opinion unless it is extreme, and sadly, it is not possible for anyone to have a differing opinion without causing a schism the likes of which would cause apocalyptic rumblings at the Vatican. I’ve been pondering this for a while. I’m not claiming to have the complete compendium of knowledge or all the answers, but I have come up with a few theoretical constructs and categories, all of which could be erroneous but I’m going to run with them anyway.

Escape Artists

I called it escapism because so much of what people are diving into with all appendages has so little to do with their own physical realities. I can only suspect that their own physical realities are miserable or distasteful to them, and losing themselves in the lives of the rich and famous or fantasy of fiction provides a ready distraction from overwhelming responsibilities and otherwise unpleasant aspects of their own lives. There are also those folks who live in the glass houses, but love to throw stones. They find a good deal of vicarious pleasure in giving counsel to all around them while completely avoiding their own foibles and flaws. These types may legitimately have excellent objective observation skills, but their abilities to critique or provide solution for friends and acquaintances have left them myopic to their own concerns. Bless their hearts! I can understand, truly I can. How many times have I gotten sucked into the wiki-rabbit hole and social media quagmire, neglecting the responsibilities of financial stewardship or household cleanliness in order to argue a point on Facebook or play Farmville, Zombies, or whatever the brain-drainer of the day is? I cannot cast so much as a pebble at this one. Procrastination is my long-time companion, and distraction, the balm for my wounded ego.

Attention-seekers or Social Crusade Warriors

There is nothing wrong with getting a little attention now and then. Everyone deserves a bit of positive attention on occasion. However, some crave it, demand it, and can’t seem to live without it. This isn’t really all that healthy, people. So, perhaps, some of the hyperbole expressed publically (or in social media) isn’t so much about the issues but about getting the attention associated with those issues. It is related to the flawed logic of “If I do not say this loudly with some extreme adverbs or adjectives to define the strength of my passion, no one will notice,” but the notice isn’t so much about the issue but about wanting people to notice them. Yes, there are people who stand on soap boxes merely because they believe the angle makes their butts look better (so to speak… it’s a metaphor, for heaven’s sake!). My rebuttal, why do you need attention for your opinion? Does the issue require this much exposure? If the cause is sufficient, without the grandstanding proclamations to the world by the individual, will the issue languish and subside into the dark and lead to the downfall of society as we know it? There are issues that deserve to be brought into the light, but my question to the hyperbole addict is what are you hoping to accomplish with your expansive, extremes? Are you shedding light on the issue, or are you hoping to have the spotlight directed upon you?

White Knights, Defenders of the Internet and Social Media Realm

This is almost a subcategory of the previous group, but I felt it deserved its own, separate mention. Now, while the nomenclature may be indicative of the masculine, the white knights out there are just as likely to be female as male. These folks can exist on a spectrum of behavior that extends from the supportive to the downright creepy. The defenders of the realm may actually feel strongly about an issue, but what typically happens is that they get a huge boost to their passions about the issue if someone to whom they are attracted expresses their own passionate opinion of same. Sometimes, this can go to the extremes of even flipping the knight’s previous views, but generally, it is more a magnification property than a role reversal. For example, you may have an individual who likes animals well enough. Pets are fine. However, they are not protesting red carpet events about people wearing leather or fur… until… Enter fair damsel in hand-wringing distress. Our maiden in peril is absolutely rabid over the plight of euthanized animals at the animal shelters and the cruelty of carnivorous fare at eating establishments. While our knight has never given much thought to this (and generally enjoys a tasty steak), the charisma of her plea has lit a bonfire within his soul (or her soul… I do not want to be biased). Suddenly, the knight is playing Sarah McLachlan and sharing videos all over the internet of puppies with sad eyes and expounding upon the virtues of tofurkey (“Tastes just like chicken!”), all accompanied by a rousing verbal diatribe upon the special place in hell for unfeeling and complacent people who do not donate to the ASPCA until their wallets scream. That is obviously a little dip in to the hyperbolic on my part, but you get the idea. The knight in question had virtually no opinion or at most a moderate opinion of the issues until expressing otherwise might garner the attention of their lady (or gentleman) fair.


Everyone thinks they know what a troll is. They wait under bridges for unsuspecting billy goats to traipse across, providing dinner for the evening. Well… more or less. They cannot seem to resist poking the hyperbole gorilla with a stick. They frequently attempt to be a check in the system of internet opinion balance. In truth, they probably do not even have that strong an opinion about the issue in question, but they know that the individual proclaiming their passion is overinflated with their social indignation and cannot resist pricking them with the needle of opposing thought. Sadly, trolls often get trapped by their own trollery (yes, I just made that up) and soon find themselves unable to have even their most sincerest sentiments believed in the courts of public opinion. Such is the plight of the terminally cynical and perpetually snide. Even statements of true support become tarnished with the suspicion of sarcasm where none was intentionally placed. Oh well, they chose their path, and truly, they do not seem to mind when people remove them from friends lists. All in all, they are relatively harmless unless the over-inflation in question happens to be in the ego.

So, why do we get sucked into the perpetual drama of the terminal hyperbole? Is it that we haven’t enough real world problems of our own on which to expend our energy? Are we all so overwhelmed by our first world problems that bathing in the iniquity of perceived and manufactured wrongs are our only escape and solace? Has society as a whole been so polarized that no one is allowed to have a moderate opinion? Does it always have to result in “us” vs “them” or “If you are not passionately with me, you are against me and must be destroyed”? I can attest that John Gabriel’s “Internet F#$%wad Theory” (aka Internet Anonymity Theory, 2004) is a reality, and the internet has become a hotbed of mob mentality where people use the shield of anonymity in their mutual hostility about issues that overall… probably don’t matter nearly as much as the relationships that they just torched to prove their points. Unfortunately, we don’t have the face to face opportunity like Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) to call people out individually and remind them of their humanity to pull them out of the mob and shine the light of respect.

I don’t really expect answers to my rhetorical questions. I’ve pondered this for a good long while now with greater and greater despair, and I expect there is not an answer or solution to this until people can start embracing some moderation in their opinions and have tolerance and understanding that friendship and affection is not necessarily based upon holding the same exact thoughts upon all situations. And no, I will not say “we can agree to disagree” because that is just asinine. I will just say that a little respect for opposing perspectives can go a long way towards peace between friends and less heartburning all around… maybe fewer first world problems.

With great appreciation of Harper Lee for her brilliant understanding of human psyche and the dangers of social pressure.

Gabriel, J. (2004).

Attack Of The Vapers: Hey You! Get Out* of My Cloud!

It’s been a while, good readers, since I posted the last AOTV. Now that you are all up on your jargon and lingo in the world of vaping, and since the world at large has had other topics about which to foam at the mouth, and since vaping has taken serious hold with more people blowing clouds that ever… it is time to talk a little about a little something I like to call etiquette.

Manners, people! That is right. We have all been taught them at some point, whether we actually absorbed the lessons, actively attempt to use them, or let them flow over us and pass on to continue in our unseemly gaucheness. So, what in the world have manners and etiquette to do with vaping? Well, I will happily tell you.

As vaping has become more prevalent in the populace and gained popularity with smokers and former smokers alike, the various apparatuses and paraphernalia of vaping can be seen far and wide. For example, this past holiday weekend, I visited Atlanta for the annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy aficionados, Dragon Con ( It is always quite an interesting time to be had. People are so creative in their cosplay… but I mustn’t get distracted. I might talk about that another time. For the last couple of years, we have seen people with electronic cigarettes. In fact, last year, we saw a pipe rig that went with a Gandalf type costume. Very clever, and for the non-smoking indoor situations, it was just right. However, this year, it was a whole new ballgame (or quidditch match, or Parrises squares…). The vapers were everywhere. They even had a meeting on Thursday prior to the start of *Con. Everywhere we went, the vapers would find each other and compare rigs or discuss tanks or talk coils and dripping juices. It had become a new phenomenon of the *Con experience. Those that vape together, flock together… or something like that. It was actually quite pleasant to find oneself walking out of hotel lobbies and through crowds outside without reeking of smoke, but merely experiencing a bit of various vapor (and vaper) odors and added humidity. Not so bad, really.

Don’t get me wrong. There were still considerable amounts of traditional combustible tobacco in use (as well as other products, I’m sure, but I honestly tried to maintain plausible deniability on that score). All in all, though, the *Con seemed a good deal less smoky that last year. Perhaps, it was just my greater sensitivity to it. Point being, vapers were in greater number… as were their clouds. Great, rolling, fragrant clouds, marvelous to behold…

Not always so marvelous to walk through; which brings me to what started this whole particular train of thought. I am pro-vape. I’ve made no secret about it. Financially and health wise, I’ve done the research, and I still feel that it is the way to go for those that do not fancy pharmaceuticals or enjoy the ritual of smoking and have no active desire to quit but are not so fond of the hit in the wallet or the chronic cough. There are still the hysterics out there who are screaming that it is worse for you be vaping than smoking… Um, no. Read a medical journal, or have one read to you and translated, but that hyperbole it most definitely is NOT. There is currently no medical research that indicates that vaping is worse than smoking. Is it better than quitting all together? Probably not. In fact, I will say definitely not, if we talk in absolutes. Paying for the equipment and supplies of vaping is more expensive than not using anything (but still less than paying for cigarettes or patches and drugs). And, yes, it would be healthier all around to quit cold turkey. But conversely, in that case, no one should drink alcohol or eat bacon (Now, I’m gonna get hate mail, and yes I know “all things in moderation”). Truth is people enjoy their vices. People should be free to do so, within legal limits and without causing harm to others. And… I got off on a tangent again. Then again, not really… that is a pretty good segue back to my original point.

The fragrant clouds produced by vaping have been measured at considerably less carcinogen levels, less nicotinic particle levels (especially for people using zero nic juice), and less combustible toxicants than traditional combustible tobacco for both the vaper and the second-hand exposure. That doesn’t mean that it is ok to blow vapor straight into the face of the innocent bystander. There are still people who are very sensitive to the small amounts of residuals in the vapor, not to mention the liquid in which it the nicotine and flavors are suspended. It is not polite to indiscriminately puff away until the vapor is so thick you cannot see the person to whom you are speaking and said person can no longer breathe easily. Would you do that with a cigarette? No, or at least I hope not. That would be extremely rude, not to mention the disregard for your companion’s potential respiratory response (especially those sensitive to smells or allergic to smoke). The same can be said about vaping. While it may not be as noxious as smoke, non-vapers and non-smokers have the right to not be exposed unwillingly to something they have not chosen to do. In fact, many non-smokers choose activities and locations that are non-smoking to avoid breathing in air that may trigger anything from distaste to asthmatic arrest.

So, what am I getting at? If the vaping community does not want to be branded as a bunch of rude, entitled jerks who put public health at risk with their inconsiderate disregard for their fellow patrons and residents on the planet we call Earth, try to be a little more aware of the non-vapers around you. It is unnecessary to blow a huge cloud of vapor into the face of the person next to or in front of you (or heck, even behind you if you are walking). In crowded or unventilated areas, perhaps cloud chasing is not the best activity. You can show off your latest build and your dragon impressions when not in close quarters with non-vapers. Try an apology if you accidentally blow a cloud into someone’s face. Even in vape-friendly establishments (not including vapor bars or lounges specifically catering to vapers), be reasonable. Cloud chasing on a quad-coil until the room is blue and the servers are tripping over the spill mats behind the bar? Bad idea, and very poor etiquette likely to result in having vaping banned from the establishment in question. No one is trying to cramp your style, steal thunder, or rain on your parade if you are a vaper, but it is just good manners to be considerate of the non-vapers around you. A bit of polite consideration of others might prevent other organizations, institutions, and businesses from putting the kibosh on our choices to vape.

Thank you for your attention, and happy vaping y’all.

*My apologies to the Rolling Stones for the artistic license.