My Hopeless Struggle

This is the preface to a work-in-progress guide I am writing on weight loss for the morbidly obese. It is entitled “my hopeless struggle” which is a play on the working title of the guide, “A Guide for The Hopeless: Weight Loss and Rebirth for the 300+ Pounders

Before we dive into the guide proper you might be interested in my path to lose weight. It’s pretty simple: I was born fat, have always been fat and if my weight were mapped throughout my life it would be an ever increasing plot. My mother is obese and obesity or at least pudginess runs in the family (it’s how our ancestors survived famines and the Black Death in old Europe I guess).


A Response to Sam Harris and the Moral Landscape

This post is in some regards a continuation of my prior Atheists and Religion, in which I examine the culture of contemporary, popular atheism and justify the existence of religion as a social and civilizing convention. I feel like I should expand upon this premise as an easy misreading might suggest I am somehow in full support of traditional religion as a convention while this is not the case.

In Sam Harris’ recent The Moral Landscape the author argues that there exists an empirical science of well being in it’s infancy that will one day replace the “provincial” moralities of religion. Harris draws by force of metaphor the image of a landscape with various peaks and valleys conveying the heights and lows of potential human wisdom regarding well being, suggesting that some cultures like those imposed by the Taliban are rife in misunderstanding what benefits a people while others are more aware of the case. For those interested in this topic there is an excellent talk on YouTube which was given by Harris at Oxford in May of last year. It must be noted that I am primarily reproaching Sam Harris the activist/philosopher/speaker rather than Sam Harris the scientist as I am ignorant in his field of study.

While Harris’ premise may very well be true, and I tend to agree with it, it has two notable faults.


Advice for The New Archivist: Veterans In The Field Explain How To Survive

Jump me to the good part, where I can see veteran Archivists giving good advice!

Recently I have become concerned about my economic survival.

At age 24, and having finished grad school in the end of December, I took two months off before seriously starting a job search. In this time off I cleared my head from the intense schedule I had gamed in the two  years before. Not only had I taken a full time courseload (something I actually regret now, not due to the difficulty but because it meant less time to get practicum experience) but I also was involved in a number of internships, and it was time for a break. I also wanted to try to establish a revenue stream by other means, namely by starting a new business.

I applied to a few jobs here and there during that time, but mostly just relaxed and tried to reflect on my vocation to be. A bit over two months ago I began a focused search and began to apply to dozens of jobs, mostly informed by the immensely invaluable  I Need a Library Job. The result of the search thus far has been fruitless. Not only did I recently realize that the dozens of federal jobs I had been applying to were being rejected because I was not following an unrequested Federal Resume Format, but I also encountered a complete wall of silence from other private and academic listings I applied to. What came to mind after over a month of this perpetual failure was: I am obviously going up against hundreds of over-qualified applicants per job and I am probably doing something horribly wrong. Perhaps, just as I had made a major misstep in using the wrong resume format for Federal jobs, I was also failing in some other unknown capacity in my application process to other types of listings.

This quest takes a lot out of you and is extremely stressful. The worst part is writing the actual cover letters. If you write a good one, it takes at least a half hour, and many listings have redundant, proprietary application forms which take at least as long to fill out. I applied to all sorts of jobs: librarian positions, archivists, technicians, assistants, analysts, researchers, museum techs, museum curators, directors, writers, copy-editors etc etc while keeping in mind I would really prefer to work with special collections or history. Not hearing back from any of these people, I began to look into teaching English overseas. For those who might be interested, I recommend it: there is an insane abundance of jobs and you will have a job within a week. It’s still my backup plan if my business or library career doesn’t take off.

With my failure in mind, my first student loan payments coming due, seeing my savings dwindle, the threat of being kicked out of my house looming overhead – and in a state of desperation/despondency I decided to email the Society of American Archivists “Archives” listserv for guidance. What follows is that correspondence.


How I Lost and Continue to Lose Weight

People often ask me how I lost and continue to lose weight so effectively. I decided to compile my methods into a guide I am developing slowly but consistently – it’s also intended as a general resource for obese people who want to lose weight and have been unable to in the past.

In a prior post on this blog I linked an early version of this work, but it’s come a long way since then. While the first version was written mainly on a whim after I had a sudden burst of inspiration while taking a shower, and was little over ten pages, the new guide is approaching 40 pages, as I approach nearly 160 lbs lost in less than a year.

You should read it if:

  • You are curious how I am losing weight
  • You are obese yourself, feel hopeless and want to lose weight

If you do read it and are one of those who is looking to lose weight, please provide feedback. I have privately distributed to a few individuals on forums I am part of, they followed my plan and all lost weight significantly, but I am still eager for wider feedback. I hope to continue to develop it to well over 100 pages, as fate allows.

Here is the download link:


Dispatches from the Bubble: Major Mistakes in Nutrition and Health

Bill Maher does a bit called “Dispatches from the Bubble” in which he criticizes the republicans for fostering an insulated, delusional mental culture based around willful ignorance and groupthink. I recently went on a vacation and ran into my own bubble of sorts, amongst those who are oblivious to basic concepts of health and nutrition and are unaware of the simple fact that they are killing themselves.

I thought I would write on my experiences in the form of perceived major missteps in nutrition and the development of well being. I come from a somewhat privileged perspective: I became unhealthy and obese due to a metabolic sensitivity to carbohydrate and not gluttony, ignorance to science or basic tenets of health. When I discovered I was sensitive to carbohydrate I changed my diet (For good) and have been rapidly losing weight since. The mistakes I have encountered in my travels and lodging with family are not of this sort, that is to say: they are not medical in a clinical sense. Rather these mistakes represent a lack of wisdom, reason and knowledge regarding the most basic principles of health.


Atheists and Religion

Awhile ago I made a post about the virtues of religious friends and my experience with mainstream atheists. Today I have an urge to talk about the role that religion plays, and must play, in the social order. What is true is that truth and self-awareness are not factors here. Clearly the Christians do not live in way authentic to canon; they apologize and make invention upon aspects of their law book which are in agreement with right reason and ignore other commandments which are clearly horrific artifacts from a racist, warmongering and paranoid Bronze Age tribe. No Christian would in his right mind sell his daughter into sexual slavery to settle a debt, or condone the smashing of babies against rocks, the summary execution of a man who stayed in the company of an ovulating woman, or the genocide of a sovereign people, to name a few crimes of thousands condoned in the textual sources. So let us make no pretensions about the fact that the religious, and by religious I refer primarily to those who practice Abrahamic religion, are aware of any moral truths by their own religious practice. If a religious man is truly virtuous it is by accident or by reason, not an actualization of his canonical creed.

That being said religion is not merely an interpretation of the textual sources; it is not a self-contained philosophy. Religion is accompanied by a world of tradition, custom and ritual which instructs a stable social bedrock. The church in bygone times served as the nucleus of wholesome, structured, ordered social activity of a non-religious but nevertheless essential sort. Holidays instruct days in which we are led to pause and consider certain virtues, history and past events. The world of ritual and tradition rightfully sacralizes the relationship between man and the cosmos, and creates a sort of narrative that the society at large can share in. These accompaniments of religion are essential to a healthy, flourishing society, a society without such a bedrock is aimless, depraved and lost.


New Sources in Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

Authors@Google: Gary Taubes

Gary Taubes spoke to Googlers in Mountain View on May 2, 2011 about his book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.

About the book:

An eye-opening, myth-shattering examination of what makes us fat, from acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes.

Building upon this critical work in Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes revisits the urgent question of what’s making us fat and how we can change in this exciting new book. Persuasive, straightforward, and practical, Why We Get Fat makes Taubess crucial argument newly accessible to a wider audience.

Taubes reveals the bad nutritional science of the last century, none more damaging or misguided than the calories-in, calories-out model of why we get fat, and the good science that has been ignored, especially regarding insulins regulation of our fat tissue. He also answers the most persistent questions: Why are some people thin and others fat? What roles do exercise and genetics play in our weight? What foods should we eat, and what foods should we avoid?

Packed with essential information and concluding with an easy-to-follow diet, Why We Get Fat is an invaluable key in our understanding of an international epidemic and a guide to what each of us can do about it.

Science and Low Carb / Paleo |
14 clinical studies suggesting that carbs contribute to adiposity and that a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrate diet is harmless.

The Cause of Obesity – YouTube
Robert Lustig, MD – I have been in correspondence with him and he notified me that he is publishing a book on the very topics in this thread sometime in the near future. This video is a short overview of the scientific discoveries he recently made which are changing the way hormones are considered for weight management. Dr. Lustig is considered one of the leading authorities and experts on both adiposity and contemporary endocrinology in the literature.

The Food Revolution – AHS 2011 – YouTube
Andreas Eenfeldt, MD – a popularizer and pioneer of low carb high fat diet in Sweden discusses the basics of the science and how a reinvestment in low carb high fat in Sweden is decreasing obesity rates.

Low Carb Explained – YouTube
Dr Mary Vernon, MD – an advocate for ketogenic diet, talks about the clinical implications of carb consumption and metabolic syndrome. She is a leading expert on obesity and diabetes and was a prior president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians

Science for smart people |
Here’s a talk by Tom Naughton summarizing the fallacies of the low fat, high carb government/corporate marriage.


What is unique to the good man?

Body. Soul. Mind.

Sensations: the body.

Desires: the soul.

Reasoning: the mind.

To experience sensations: even grazing beasts do that. To let your desires control you: even wild animals do that – and rutting humans, and tyrants (from Phalaris to Nero…).

To make your mind your guide to what seems best: even people who deny the gods do that. Even people who betray their country. Even people who do [that] behind closed doors.

If all the rest is common coin, then what is unique to the good man?

To welcome with affection what is sent by fate. Not to stain or disturb the spirit within him with a mess of false beliefs. Instead, to preserve it faithfully, by calmly obeying God – saying nothing untrue, doing nothing unjust. And if others don’t acknowledge it – this life lived with simplicity, humility, cheerfulness – he doesn’t resent them for it, and isn’t deterred from following the road where it leads: to the end of life. An end to be approached in purity, in serenity, in acceptance, in peaceful unity with what must be.

– from Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. 3.16, Hays trans.


On Effective Communication and the Importance of Classical Rhetoric

…Yet while technology has greatly enhanced group and collaborative work – the bare essential people skills, the art of oral communication should not be overlooked. Librarians are educators. We must be capable of painting a portrait of the complex systems we curate,  to prepare professional presentations, to bring new personnel onto a project, to assertively participate in a group environment and be  productive and faithful teammates. This is true now more than ever, as group collaboration has shifted from mere good practice to a professional necessity given the breadth of our services and allied professions. How to communicate well orally is another matter.

I fall back upon old forms while considering the new. Many undergraduate liberal arts degrees require a study in communications. This style of instruction, to which I have been a part of, is often business centered. Issues center on group theory, dynamics, group manipulation, and coherent/effective transfer of information, contrasting against the various factors of noise, distance, time and medium. All well and good, but such instruction is fixated on professional rather than holistic ends; the goal is to do one’s professional job in a uniform and often stifling manner which is as expected in western capitalist culture. Personally I find it important to consider such studies as to ground oneself, but to look further back for a normative foundation in communication. While the modern study of communications may often reveal insights into human communication (a particular thing I learned to become wary of from my communication classes is “groupthink”) it is prone to missing the heart of it. The greatest communicators were not businessmen but poets, warriors and philosophers. Aristotle immediately comes to mind as a model of a proper and well versed rhetorician or communicator. In his treatise On Rhetoric Aristotle argues that good rhetoric is based upon three persuasive appeals or “Pillars”:


Adventures with low-carb and ketogenic nutrition

As detailed in my previous posts (“The New Pugilist”) several months ago I began a regiment of good nutrition and exercise in order to better master my body. In defiance of this initiative my weight remained static. After poking around on some weight lifting and combat sport forums I started reading up on low-carb and ketogenic diets. In ketogenic diet the customary body energy, glycogen which is converted from carbs, is shifted to ketone bodies, which convert from fat. It is a nutritional plan which calls for adequate protein, high fat and typically less than 50 grams of carbs a day.

I read amazing success stories and weight lifters and athletes who advocated for very low carb nutritional plans. I found myself in a curious situation: while I was boxing and eating right ,I was still quite fat. With nothing to lose, and seemingly no progress being made with my “textbook” nutritional plan, I switched to a ketogenic diet. While ketogenic diet is used in medicine to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy – it also is purported to be effective for weight loss in individuals which are particularly sensitive to carbohydrates, although there is apparently some controversy surrounding the benefits and potential side effects.