The Best “Breakup Strategy” You’ll Ever Use: The Push and Pull Principle! | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 5

Why is Breaking Up with Food so Hard to Do? (Part One)

I confess. I love the series, The Office. In the past, Rommie (my wife) and I would start watching it on December 21, the first day of winter and try to stretch it out throughout the winter until March 21. We hated the dark winter and I’m sure experience, SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. The office was the Sun that we needed to survive the dark evenings.

Jim and Pam. That’s the series in a nutshell. But before there was Jim and Pam, there was Pam and Roy. For the first three seasons, Pam and Roy were on again, off again. Pam and Jim finally kissed in season 2 episode 22. I’m sure that the whole country was cheering on February 9, 2005 when they kissed, but it takes another complete season for Pam to break up with Roy.

The Push and Pull Principle

I want to introduce you to a concept that I learned 40+ years ago from a wizened professor at the college I attended, which is now Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. I was having a difficult time leaving a church that I was attending. I was a pastoral student and the church I was attending just wasn’t nurturing me. My Professor’s advice: seek out new opportunities to serve throughout the city. He said you’ve experienced a push, but you don’t have a pull. I sought out new opportunities and found a church that was more suited to my spiritual needs.

Push and Pull with Pam and Roy. 

What were the things that pushed and pulled Pam into finally breaking up with Roy:

The Push: Roy’s mockery of her desire to go to art school. His failure to encourage her to have other relationships. And ultimately his aggression.
The Pulls: Living her dream, being independent, and being free to pursue healthy relationships.

Breaking up with people, places, and things is difficult because it takes time, energy, self-awareness, and experience to recognize the pushes in the pulls, the dysfunction versus the well-being.

I want to focus on the push of breaking up with food in this blog. Why is it so difficult to break up and change your relationships with food? It’s because our relationship with food is at times, dysfunctional and difficult to change and sometimes it’s difficult to see that dysfunction.

When we have a clear picture of the push, then we are able to respond to the pulls of a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some of my thoughts about why it’s so difficult to break up with food and recognize that dysfunction.

1. Food is everywhere. It’s everywhere and it’s abundant. For most people reading this, food is on the feast side of the feast/famine, continuum. And it’s cheap. Especially food that is full of sugar because sugar is cheap to raise.

Food is at most social functions. We are having a 10th anniversary of our company, Sage Support Services, and guess what? There will be food at the reception. Food is at weddings, birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, family, reunions, company trainings, wakes, baptisms, baby showers, and I can go on and on. It’s like you break up with your partner and see them everywhere you go, every day. That’s why it’s so hard to break up with food.

2. It’s hard to break up with food because food is engineered to taste so damn good. Sugar, salt, fat. If you add one or all of these three ingredients to food, it is irresistible. The food industry knows this. Maybe you’re one of those people that doesn’t like fast food. I don’t eat it because I know it’s a trap. I love eating out but limit how often I eat out because I would weigh a ton after six months. I love restaurant food. I love Panera breakfast sandwiches. I love McDonald’s sausage biscuit with egg. I love microwave popcorn. I love chocolate candy bars. Which one? All of them! The reason that food is hard to break up with is because it taste so damn good. Maybe there was that boyfriend or girlfriend that you had a really big crush on when you were young. Being with them was an adrenaline rush . But you broke up and you were tempted to call them and get back together 1000 times. Food is that person.

3. Why is it so hard to break up with food? Partly because it requires willpower and believe it or not, you have a limited supply willpower. I wrote about it in a blog in October 2019, entitled, Seduced by Sugar. Read it here.

I share a couple of books on willpower in that blog, and here are my takeaways.

Willpower is more affective if you’re not tempted by the presence of sugar. This is the Out of sight Out of mind principle.

Willpower is less effective when working on more than one task. Willpower over food is weakened because you have a life. Duh!

There is a reservoir of willpower, but it usually it’s exhausted by the end of the day when you need it the most.

Dieting can affect your blood sugar levels which lower your willpower. How ironic. Trying to display willpower over food will make it more difficult to break up with food.

4. It’s hard to break up with food because of our emotional connections with food. Food is a mood stabilizer. Food comforts us. That’s why we call some food, comfort food. Food makes us happy. We eat when we are bored, when we are anxious, when we are lonely. And it makes us feel better. It’s hard to break up with food because food is like our BFF. No one breaks up easily with their BFF.

5. The fifth reason why it’s difficult to break up with food is because of the delayed negative results of being in a toxic relationship with the thing we eat. In other words, just like with cigarettes, there is no immediate punishment for our over consumption of food. It takes months and years to develop a weight issue. My son and I were out hiking in the Jefferson Memorial Forest this past week and we both think we could put on 10 pounds in a week if we weren’t careful. I’m going to have a separate blog on this topic based on the book, “Nature Wants Us to be Fat.”

But that’s still a week delay in the consequence of overeating. If you consume 500 extra calories during on a given day, guess what? No punishment. Nada. Nothing. We probably won’t even feel guilty, which would be a form of punishment. 

I’m guessing that if you felt pretty bad, I mean “Covid Bad” or death-of-a-pet-bad every time you over consumed food, or ate sugar, you would, or might cut back, or eliminate sugar all together.

 Because the negative consequences are delayed, 2 to 3 pounds a turns into 20 or 30 in a decade, and because the positive consequences are immediate, as in it taste so damn good, it makes breaking up with the food very difficult.

So what’s one to do? Being overweight is very prevalent in our North American culture, but not everyone is overweight, in fact, many people have escaped their dysfunctional or toxic relationship with food and maintained a healthy weight.

I’ll be sharing eight or 10 strategies in an upcoming blog.

But first, there is a part two to this blog entitled: Keep it Simple Stupid

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Image of tattoos showing a map; a theme in the Healthy Aging Series by Mark Neese

How to Climb Mount Grow-The-Eff-Up | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 4

“The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America,” by Tommy Tomlinson

 I have tattoos. Don’t ask me why. I started getting them in my early 50s. Maybe I am a bit of a rebel. My son gave me my first two tattoos. He was learning to be a tattoo artist. He thinks one looks like a prison tat. I love them both. I have one that’s a quote from Larry McMurtry’s book, “Lonesome Dove.” It’s the Latin quote that Gus McCray put on the livery-stable sign, “Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit.” People ask me what it means, and I answer, “It doesn’t mean anything.” That’s why I love.

The tattoo that I get asked most about is on my left forearm. It’s the solar system. The earth is blue. People ask, “What is it?”  I answer, “It’s a map for when you get lost. Just look for the blue planet.” They smile.

I love maps. I have close to a hundred. My office has them hanging from several walls. I have never felt more helpless than being lost without a map. I tried hiking a trail a few years ago in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. The trail was the Mitch McConnell Trail (no kidding). It had been decommissioned in lieu of a new horse-friendly trail. I had no map. I got lost.

Maps help me find order. Maps comfort me. They help me plan my hike and not only tell me where I’m going but tell me where I’ve been.

The Elephant in the Room

Tommy Tomlinson’s memoir, “The Elephant in the Room“ was a kind of map for me. The map might have been in titled, “How do you Find a New Thinner You?” Maybe not thinner, but at least healthier. Tomlinson weighed 460 pounds on December 31, 2014. He ends with his “Destination Weight” on Thanksgiving of 2017 at 375 pounds.

Food is an important topic of his book. I underlined every mention of and I’m guessing I underlined food in over 200 of the 243 pages. He writes a lot about food.

But his memoir is not a map for weight loss. It’s a map for self-discovery.

That’s what makes this such a good map. Tomlinson was lost in the obesity wilderness for 50+ years. He had a destination marked on the map: Mt. Weight Loss. He started out on that trail to the summit. He lost weight, but he ended up at a place that was unexpected. In the process of writing his story of obesity, his “fat story“ (his words), Thomason finds healing.

This is the second obesity memoir I’ve read for this season. I have three or four more to read. Thus far they are stories of healing from past trauma, and they are stories of personal growth that eventually lead to weight loss. What Tomlinson discovered was that he had  difficulty adjusting to the idea of being an adult.

“This in the end,“ he writes, “is what it’s all about for me. To control my weight, to get in shape, to become the person I am supposed to be, I have to shake the habits that I had clung to me since I was a kid.”

Tomlinson points out what Thomas Wolfe called a “loose life“ meaning, a life with shaky morals, bad habits, and ready-made excuses or a life that is lived without any concern for consequences.

For Tomlinson, the loose life, meant that all he wanted was with food, because food had given him more pleasure than anything else. “I knew how much it would cost me later,” he writes, “but I craved that moment of joy now.”

On top of that mountain with the thin air and 50 mph winds, with the unencumbered, 360° vista, he discovered, “That’s the way a child thinks.”

The name of this mountain: Mount Grow-the-Eff-up.

“I have lived to realize,“ he writes, “that Adulting is the only way I can beat my addiction to food.“

All of this is on pages 222 to 223. Brilliant insight. It took a year of wandering, or maybe 50 years of wandering. For Tomlinson, it felt like a year of hiking through those mucky sloughs and struggling through all those wicked switchbacks and backtracking to re-acquire the trail, and finally summiting the mountain that only those with courage attempt.

This past week I hiked Mount Sherman, which is 14,043 feet in elevation.

Afterwards, while changing clothes in the parking lot at the trailhead (people have no modesty at trailheads), I spoke with a couple about my age about the hike. We all agreed: 14ers, suck especially the last half mile. But afterwards, when you’ve finished, when you’re back at the trailhead, high fiving each other, you feel such a sense of pride in yourself, and may stronger. And then you start planning for another!

I’m not going to summarize Tomlinson’s memoir. He’s a professional writer. It’s good stuff. Lots of insight. Lots of pain. Lots of shame and embarrassment.

I am not obese, but I do struggle with weight management. I also struggle with personal growth. I struggle with not acting like a child sometimes. I’m 67 but act like six or seven at times. I’m at the mercy of the moment. Most of our problems, most of our addictions, most of our pain and turmoil our produced by self-manufactured misery, rooted in our childish appetites, and expectations or maybe what Wolfe calls, loose living.

Maybe it’s time to take out your map.

Mark a trail that leads to a place of growth. A mountain maybe.

Maybe a mountain called Mt. Grow-the-Eff-up!

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Dysfunctional Relationship With Food Characteristics

Is your Relationship with Food Dysfunctional? | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 3

It’s not easy to determine when a relationship with food or even with people is dysfunctional.

Why is that?

First, there are different kinds of relationships. You have friendships, and family relationships, 

and romantic partnerships, as well as business partnerships. If you use the amount of intimacy to determine whether they are dysfunctional, many of these would likely be dysfunctional.

Second, there are no assessments to determine what is dysfunctional, especially when it comes to food. We will look at some criteria that will help with this.

Third, there’s a continuum of dysfunctional when it comes to relationships. In other words, your relationship with others, and with food could be mildly dysfunctional or severely dysfunctional.

Of course, there are extreme examples of dysfunctional, which would include abuse, an out-of-balance power differential, conflict, disloyalty, and chronic resentment.

That’s not an exhaustive list, but I hope you get the point.

The Intuition Test

There is an intuitive way of determining whether you’re in a dysfunctional relationship with others or with food, and that is simply to ask, “Are you happy with that relationship?

If you’re not happy with your relationship, then it’s likely dysfunctional.

Many years ago, one of my mentors shared why their first marriage failed. They had been part of a book club, and we’re reading. “As I Day dying,“ by William Faulkner. Not an easy read. “We separated, because I just didn’t agree with his interpretation of the book.“ I’m guessing that there were many other issues and it’s likely that this was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

What does a dysfunctional relationship with food look like? I think the place to start is, are you happy with that relationship.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I frustrated by constant overeating and weight gain?
  • Am I frustrated that I eat the types of food that I know aren’t good for me?
  • Do I feel guilty regularly because I impulse eat?
  • Am I dissatisfied with my body? Note: most of us would say yes, but it’s still an important question to ask. 
  • Do I feel helpless avoiding sweets regularly?
  • How do I feel about food?

The answers to these questions provide data points that are more intuitive and would provide insight into the type of relationship that you have with food.

Bio Metrics Tests

What about other more concrete data points? Are there biometrics/biomarkers that indicate that your relationship with food is dysfunctional?

BMI

First, the most obvious biometric would be your BMI. I know, BMI seems to be geared toward insurance companies and their desire to keep people thin, lowering their risk factors for early death, but still, it’s not a bad biometric.

My BMI is over 25. If you look at the weight charts, a BMI over 25 put you in the overweight category. Most people would look at me and laugh if I told them that I was overweight. Yes, I am carrying around some extra fat around my waist, but I also think as you age, you should carry a little bit more fat. In fact, having a lower BMI  can create a situation that put you at risk for some neurological disorders. I’ll share more about that later when I share some other neurological disorders. 

Having said that, if you have a BMI of over 30, you are likely overweight. Some charts would even put you at obese.  So, one biometric that would indicate a dysfunctional relationship with food would be your BMI.

Type 2 Diabetes

Second, Type 2 Diabetes, or an elevated A1C. Typically, Type 2 Diabetes is an insulin-resistance metabolic disorder, and it is most likely the result of a dysfunctional relationship with food. I know there are exceptions, but, if you have a high A1C, or have been diagnosed with either pre-Type 2 Diabetes, or Type 2 Diabetes, you need to seriously consider changing your relationship with food. We all have a love affair with sugar. But that love affair is killing you.

Blood Work

Third, blood work. I see my doctor twice a year and she orders bloodwork once a year. Sometimes twice depending on the results from the previous bloodwork. I don’t want to get into the details here because I’m not a medical professional, but your bloodwork is likely to indicate whether your relationship with food is dysfunctional. This would include things like your blood glucose levels, triglycerides, and HDL\LDL cholesterol results.

Your blood work will not lie about whether you have a dysfunctional relationship with food. Just ask it. And then listen.

I know there’s a lot of controversy around a lot of these types of measurements and biometrics, but they reflect what you eat. My close friend, Sam, is constantly reminding me of Barry Sears’ book, “The Zone,” and likes to point out that Barry Sears sees food as medicine.  I like that comparison. But I also like looking at the relationship I have with food. Dysfunctional relationships with people often display physical markers, unfortunately. And your dysfunctional relationship with food will show up in your blood work .

Vascular Screening

Fourth, vascular screening. About three years ago my doctor recommended a vascular screening because my cholesterol was indicating that I was at a high risk for a cardiac event within the next 10 years. There’s a lot of controversy about cholesterol and longevity, and the need for statins, but I want to respect her advice, so I agreed to the vascular screening. The vascular screening is rated from 0 to 400. My vascular screening was below 100, probably in the 30 range so it put me at mild risk for cardiac event. Therefore, she said that she would simply recommend a Staten but would not push it.  Vascular screenings are another biometric that indicate the relationship that you have with food. It looks at blood flow through your carotid arteries and how much calcium or plaque is built up in and around your heart. If you want to know if your relationship with food is dysfunctional, a vascular screening might help.

Your Fitness Level

Fifth, although your level of fitness is not directly tied to your relationship with food, your relationship with food can influence your total level of fitness. So, it might be a good biometric to test yourself physically to see where you are. Here is a link for an online fitness test from the Mayo Clinic:   https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20046433

My Fitness Biomarkers

I have a couple of fitness exams that I give myself. One is in the Smoky Mountains. I  hike Mount LeConte each summer and then ask myself, “How did I do?” The other test I put myself through is a hike in Colorado near my son’s home called The Manitou Incline. It’s a 1-mile hike which has an elevation gain of 2000 feet. I generally can do it in 75 minutes.  I might add the Grand Canyon as well. I do a general assessment of myself after hiking out of the Grand Canyon to determine my level of fitness. These “test“ indicate how well am I taking care of my body. There isn’t much difference in having a dysfunctional relationship with food.  A dysfunctional relationship with food generally would indicate that you’re not taking care of your body.

Sugar, Salt, Saturated Fat

Six, your choice of foods. Fat. Salt. Sugar. I’ve read a lot about all three of these macro and micronutrients. Sometimes, hanging out with people can be dysfunctional, even though we enjoy their company at times. I think the same thing holds true for food. Salt, sugar, and fat make us feel good. They make everything taste better. Unfortunately, they aren’t good friends. Sugar for sure. Saturated fats as well. And excessive amount of salt is unhealthy. If you regularly choose to “hang out“ with these foods, it’s likely that you have a dysfunctional relationship with food.

OK, that’s a good starting point. Is your relationship with food dysfunctional???

The next question that I want to ask, which I’ll answer in Episode 5, is: Why is it so difficult to break up with food?

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Our Country’s Greatest Scourge – Reflections on “It was Me all Along: A Memoir,” by Andie Mitchell | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 2

I am a cyclist. I don’t ride as much as I used to ride because my primary sport is backpacking and I’m usually preparing for backpacking trips to places like the Red River Gorge, the Smokies, the Grand Canyon, Colorado, or Utah.

When I was 55, I rode my bicycle across the state of Indiana in one day. They call it the RAIN Ride. It was on my birthday, and it started in Terre Haute, my birthplace. Pretty cool.

A year later, I flew to DC, took my bike, and rode the Vernon trail from Mount Vernon to DC, about 20 miles. I rode through the District Columbia and hooked up with a couple of local cyclists that guided me to the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, and finally to the Tryst Coffee Chop next to the Madam’s Organ Bar. Also, a cool trip.

It was a memorable trip, because of the conversation that I had with a musician I met near downtown Alexandria, just off the Vernon trail. I had stopped to take a bathroom break and struck up a conversation with a gentleman setting up his glass harp. He shared information about his life. He had immigrated as a young child from Eastern Europe. He told the story about how his father had a problem with alcohol. That they lost the family home and everything they owned because of his drinking problem. “Alcohol is the scourge of this country,” he declared.

My heart broke for him. It’s not the first time I’d heard a story like this. My son’s great-great grandfather lost his ranch to alcoholism.

But I beg to differ with him. 

The Real Scourge in this Country

There’s no doubt that alcoholism is a devastating social problem in our country and in the world, but I have come to believe that there is a more devastating scourge in this country, and that is childhood obesity.

According to the Center for Disease Control, for children 2 to 19 years old, from 2017 to 2020, 1 in 5 are obese or about 14.7 million. We are not talking about being overweight but being obese or having a BMI of over 30. Compare that to the obesity rate of 1 in 20, in 1974, the year I graduated from High School. Some of the reasons for this increase are easy access to high-calorie junk food, few opportunities for physical activity, a lack of parks and playgrounds, and at least one parent who is obese.

Here’s a kicker: obese children and adolescents are five times more likely to be obese adults then those who are not obese as children or adolescents. And obesity can leave emotional as well as physical scars.

I recently read, “It was Me all Along,“ by Andie Mitchell, a story about growing up obese and overcoming it in her early 20s.

One take away that I gleaned from this memoir, and it confirmed my beliefs, was that childhood obesity is a scourge in this country. There is an increased risk mortality in early adulthood for individuals who were obese as children. Obesity in adolescence is significantly associated with increased cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders, such as Type 2 Diabetes in adulthood. There have been recent studies that show a higher BMI during adolescence increases the risk for several malignancies, such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, colorectal, cancer, and breast cancer in adulthood. These are some of the physical scars.

Andie Mitchell’s story has a difficult trajectory, but she struggled through years of trauma and shame as a child and adolescent suffering from obesity. 

I want to separate this blog into two episodes. Part one will look at childhood obesity through the eyes of Andie Mitchell. I think it’s helpful not just to look at the data but look at the damage caused by childhood obesity.

Part two will look at Andie’s break up with food. First, what motivated her to break up. I think her break up reinforces everything I write about in this season, and second, how did she maintain her breakup.

Andie Mitchell’s Childhood
Childhood obesity left an impression on Andie Mitchell that has continued throughout her life, even though she’s no longer obese. Obesity changes you and it is difficult to escape the physical and emotional scars.

Andie, in her 20s, had surgery to remove the excess skin that resulted from years of accommodating her obesity. Those scars are with her today at 32. But the emotional scars that obesity left, I’m certain, are deeper and at times painful reminders of her shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. She suffered at a time when social inclusion and acceptance by her peers was so important.

“The boys in my class called me fat,” she writes, “while the girls looked on, smiling.” 

Here’s what she learned as a child and teenager.

“I learned that if I made fun of myself for being fat, then the other kids couldn’t do it first. I learned that being funny, especially with the boys, made it much less likely they’d call me things like “wide load” or “lard butt.”

Recalling those moments, she writes, “The sadness I felt then and even sometimes now blares within me. It’s an all-encompassing, piercing sound – a fire alarm. It shrieks so loudly, I cower. I seek refuge by covering my ears. I think briefly about ducking beneath the stairwell, hoping its shrillness will be muffled if I hide from it. But it finds me always. It finds me when I am in the shower or walking on a treadmill; it wakes me suddenly in the night. It forces me to uncover my ears. And I hear it while trying not to listen to what it means. The pain, the sound – it’s deafening.”

“Eating,” she later rights, “made me forget.”

Through these years, Andie developed a relationship with food. She depended on it, not as fuel, but for companionship, someone to be comforted by and feel connected with. “Food came to exist as the only thing in my life that was mine, and mine alone.“

Andie’s most heartbreaking story happened as a freshman at the University of Massachusetts. I’ll share the story in her words.

“We decided to take a different route back to the dorm and in doing so, passed by a row of off-campus houses, hosting rowdy parties of their own. Inside the house, just ahead of on our right, people could be seen in every window and rap music thundered out of the front door. A group of guys stood out front. Feeling friendly Nicole called out,“Heey!“ As we slowed our stride, the guys turned around, and the tallest one stepped forward, immediately returning Nicole‘s enthusiasm. What are you girls up to? We stopped here on the sidewalk while Nicole explained in her friendly way that we just left  SigEp and that we were on our way back to our dorms. It was a gift of hers to create conversation with anyone, and it seemed her charm had found us a new party to Rock. That is, until one of the guys on the lawn shouted to us. “Hey you!” His eyes were on me. I smiled and started to toss a hello back his way. “No Fatties allowed!!“ It was a swift kick to my stomach.“

There are many, many things that affect us as children. Crooked or discolored teeth, facial scars, or birthmarks, a cleft palate, not to mention skin color, a gender assignment that mismatches with one’s identification, a first or last name, and I could go on and on. 

People can be Thoughtless, Mean, and Cruel

Children, high school peers, and adults can be thoughtless, mean, and cruel. Their actions dehumanize us. They make us into that one thing that is different about us. 

With childhood obesity, children begin seeing themselves as a body, not as a person with feelings, hopes, needs, intellectual gifts, whit, and other amazing interests. Consequently, everything is seen through that lens. They see themselves as powerless to change and learn to hate themselves. They begin to equate beauty with thin and become obsessed with the idea that they will never be beautiful. They begin to hate food. 

Complexes

The inner scars from childhood obesity can run deep. Dr. Carl Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology describes this as a complex, an unconscious, organized set of memories, associations, fantasies, expectations, and behavioral patterns or tendencies around a core theme, which is accompanied by strong emotion. 

Childhood obesity develops a complex within a child’s unconscious that possesses and controls them throughout their life, which can lead to neuroses, depression, and self-loathing, if not treated . 

Getting Help with Obesity

Andie Mitchell got help from a therapist and a nutritionist. They didn’t heal her because individuation, the process of becoming your true self, is a lifelong process. She lost weight, changed her relationship with food, changed the way she looked at food and is now helping people through her website, “Can You Stay for Dinner.“

Part two will come later in the season and look at how Andie broke up with food and maintained that breakup for years.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Breaking Up (with Food) is Hard to Do – The Mark Neese Version | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 1

[Verse 1]
Don’t take my food away from me!
Don’t you leave my stomach in misery?
If it goes then I’ll be blue!
‘Cuz breaking up (with food) is hard to do.

[Verse 2]
Remembering how it taste so good.
I even dream of full plates of food.
Think of all that we’ve been through.
And breaking up with food is hard to do!

[Chorus]
They say that breaking up with food is hard to do,
Now, I know, I know that it’s true!
I lost some weight, but now it’s back!
Instead of breaking up, I think I’ll have another stack (of cookies)!

[Verse 3]
I beg of you, don’t say goodbye!
Why can’t I have another piece of pie?
Come on, donuts, let’s start a new!
‘Cuz breaking up (with food) is hard to do!

[Chorus]

They say that breaking up with food is hard to do
Now, I know, I know that it’s true!
Why can’t I keep off all those pounds!
Instead of breaking up, I think I’ll have another Mounds (Bar)

[Verse 4]
I beg of you, don’t say goodbye!
Can’t I have another order of fries?
Come on, sugar, let’s start anew!
‘Cuz breaking up with food is hard to do

The original “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” is a song recorded by Neil Sedaka, co-written by Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Sedaka recorded this song twice, in 1962 and 1975, in two significantly different arrangements, and it is considered to be his signature song. -Wikipedia

Why is it so hard to lose weight AND keep it off? 

You know the drill. Over the course of 3 or 4 years, you put on an extra 20 lbs. You get tired of seeing yourself in the mirror. You muster up the motivation to start a weight reduction diet, something healthy like the Whole 30 Diet. There are several healthy diets, but the Whole 30 has worked for me.

You set a goal to lose 20 lbs. and give yourself 8 to 12 weeks to lose those pounds.

You struggle. You experience diet fatigue. You add an exercise regimen to the weight loss plan. And slowly, you lose the weight. As each week goes by, you’re amazed that your clothes are fitting better and you’re able to wear clothes that you never thought you’d wear again. You feel great. You’ve been able to show discipline over your appetites and control over food.

Now comes the depressing part. 

A year later you gained all the weight back. All of it. In fact, you settle in at the same weight that you were when you started the diet.

And this isn’t the first time you’ve done this. You’ve lost weight before. Six months or a year later you’re back at the same weight. It feels like a yo-yo.

There are some that refer to this weight that you always come back to as your Set Weight Point (SWP).

There was a recent Ted Talk that attempted to explain the SWP. The speaker explained that the SWP is mostly genetic and is “hard-wired” into our bodies. 

“The set point theory says that the body will settle at a specific weight where it likes to be,” says MD Anderson Senior Exercise Physiologist Carol Harrison. “And it will defend itself so that it stays at this specific weight.”

“The set point is established over a long period of time,” says Harrison. “It’s a very complex thing, but it appears that it is your body’s attempt to regulate itself, and that attempt results in a certain weight.”

I want to propose a different way of looking at SWP. Your SWP reflects the kind relationship that you have with food.

Your SWP reflects the patterns and routines that you develop with food over the course of your life. These patterns include what you eat, how much you eat, where you eat, how often you eat, who you eat with.

Food comforts us. It brings us pleasure. Much of our social life revolves around food. We think about it even when we’re not hungry. We eat when we are angry, or sad, or happy. We have an emotional attachment to food.

At times, we have a toxic or dysfunctional relationship with food! And it’s a difficult relationship to change. 

If you want to change the how, what, when, where, and why about food, then you must change your relationship with food.

Maybe we need to have a “break up” with food and by break up I mean changing how we live our lives with food.

Think about being in a toxic friendship. You can’t simply keep seeing the person, talking to them, and spending time with them and then expect that it’s going improve without addressing the things about that friendship that make it toxic.

Maybe your relationship with food isn’t toxic but, at a minimum, it’s dysfunctional.

This season was originally intended to be one episode in Season 9 but as I read and wrote, the episodes grew and there will be at least 12 episodes. 

I’ve included several episodes from “obesity memoirs,” from people who struggled with obesity, had a breakup with food and maintained that breakup.

There are two books that I devoured (sorry for the pun) during my reading this season. One helps you change the way you think about food and yourself, “The Beck Diet.” And the other is “Dopamine Nation,” which will help you understand that you can be addicted to food.

In Episode 3, I explain what it means to have a dysfunctional relationship with food.

In Episode 5, I explain why is so difficult to break up with food.

Starting with Episode 7, I give several cognitive-behavioral strategies that will help you in the breakup process.

In Episode 2, my next episode I share an “obesity memoir” entitled, “It was Me all Along,” by Andie Mitchell. A wonderful story about a woman’s breakup with food.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series: Season 9 Preview…and It’s My Birthday!

Healthy Aging Series: Season 9 Preview…and It’s My Birthday!

It’s my birthday! I turn 67 today. And I’ve got lots to talk about. I want to talk about myself, of course, and about my upcoming season in my Healthy Aging blog, Season Nine. First about me. 

This past weekend I did my annual hike to the top of Mount LeConte in the Smoky Mountains. I did 11.6 miles in five hours. That’s about 27 minute/ miles. I did 3000 feet of elevation with an average heart rate of 126 bpm. I took the next day off and recovered well. I feel good. I’m back in my weekly routine of 8 to 10 hours of activity per week. Walking 30+ miles. Resistance training 2 to 3 times weekly. 

I had lab work done this past week. My PSA was good. Check. Kidney functioning good. Checked. Cholesterol was all within the good range. Check. But… no not everything is good. I woke up in the middle of the night on July 4 with an excruciating pain in my big toe, and maybe you’re one of the few who wouldn’t have guessed it but yes, I have gout. My doctor said that my uric acid was in the high normal range, but I needed to go on a low purine diet. I’m writing a blog in titled, “My Big Toe Saved My Life,” because I am learning about uric acid and its effects on longevity. I’m going to be fine.

It’s good to take a snapshot of your life on your birthday. I’m pleased with where I’m at.

Season nine will be a mini season with five episodes related to Healthy Aging. There’s no question that a major part of healthy aging is weight management. Being overweight, or obese are contributing factors for many ailments that plague us as we age, including Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, strokes, sleep apnea, body, pain, and difficulty with physical functioning like walking. Weight management is crucial for a high quality of life as we age. I’ve written a miniseries in titled “how to have a breakup with food.”

In Episode 1 I’ll share my understanding of Set Weight Point. Your set wait point is the weight you always return to months after you’ve taken off weight. I’ll provide a different approach to set weight point that is determined more by your relationship with food and less by genetics. Thus, the reason why I am suggesting a “break up” with food.

Episode 2 explains why it’s very difficult to break up with food. As an example, one reason that it’s so hard to break up with food is because it’s everywhere and abundant. No more hunting and gathering. I’m sitting at McDonald’s on Bardstown Road as I write this blog. Not only is food, convenient, easily accessed, and cheap, you don’t even have to leave home to access a sausage biscuit with egg because Door Dash will bring it to you.

Episode 3 and 4, will share strategies to ensure that you break up and maintain your breakup with food for years to come. One strategy is thinking differently about food. I’ll share strategies from Judith Becks book, “The Beck Diet solution: Train your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person.”

Episode 5 will explain the Self-Binding process of weight management. I’ve taken this procedure from Dr. Anna Lembke’s book, “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.”

An example of self-binding would be limiting your eating window to, let’s say, eight hours. That would mean fasting for 16 hours. Typically, people skip the morning meal which we called breakfast. Breakfast is the meal that breaks our fast, so you’re not skipping breakfast, but delaying it until 11 AM or 12 noon.

That’s season 9. It’s a shorter season and one that I think will make a difference in your life and in my life as we age.

During my break between seasons, I started reading the classic, “The Road less Traveled,” by Scott Peck. The first line of the book is “Life is difficult.” He might as well have said “Aging is difficult.“ I wonder if maybe we’ve forgotten that. 

I’ll write a blog about this book in season 10 or 11. Life is difficult. Peck writes that most of our mental health issues come from our unwillingness to come to terms with that. 

Life is difficult. Aging is difficult.

Peck offer strategies for coping with that reality. I am offering some strategies that will help you as you come to terms with the fact that aging is difficult.

I hope you join me during this season. 

Start taking snapshots of your life. What do they look like?

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

How to Find Your Own Mr. Miyagi | Healthy Aging Series: S8, E10

This blog references “Triumphs of Experience”: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study,”  Written by George E. Vaillan

“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance, bad, better pack up, go home. Understood?” Mr. Miyagi

“First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Danielson, not mine.” Mr. Miyagi

“Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life must have a balance. Everything be better.” Mr. Miyagi

“Never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance.” Mr. Miyagi

Mr. Miyagi represents the mature, aging man or woman. The quotes above, to Daniel, are from his many  years of experience, learning from good and bad decisions, learning from being out of balance, learning from the mistakes of trying to fly without, first, knowing how to stand, and from learning to follow leaders, who did not know how to dance. There was a maturity about Mr. Miyagi‘s words to Daniel-San.

Mr. Miyagi represents the image of a focused, giving, and wise, aging adult.
Do you know any Mr. Miyagi‘s? I can name a few. But, maybe a more important question is: How do you find a Mr. Miyagi? What does a real Mr. Miyagi look like?

The Harvard Grant Study

We’ve been looking at the Harvard Grant Study. George Vaillant, in his book, Triumph of Experience,” gives us a snapshot of maturing, aging men. This is my last blog on the Harvard Grant Study. The details of this study document the lives of 268 men, starting in 1937 and following them through to 2010. In the last blog of this season I want to focus on what it means to be a maturing, aging adult. I want to share two life task that indicate that an adult is maturing or getting wise.

What did Vaillant discover from examining the lives of 268 men as they aged? Vaillant writes that, “In a sense it was their ability to transcend decay and maintain human dignity, despite the ravages of mortality.“ What Vaillant discovered was that those men, who had completed certain life tasks, aged well.

Life Task One

The first task he calls generativity or what I would I call, “giving back.” Vaillant defines generativity as a capacity to foster and guide the next generation to independence. It means giving back or paying forward, for the guidance and mentoring that others gave to you.
I can name a few that gave back by giving to me. Bill K. Ken N. Clifford V. Allen N. And I can recall many, many others that I chose to keep unnamed. Men and women that shepherded me and shared their lives with me. They were my Mr. Miyagi.

Life Task Two

Valent list a second task which he calls Integrity, and I call “letting go.”
“How do we maintain hope,” he asks, “when the inevitability of death is staring us in the face?”

The answer is letting go.

In some sense, it means divesting yourself of the things that you have fought so hard to keep, like your home, your health, or your things.

Betty Neese was my Mr. Miyagi

In this sense, my mother was my “Mr. Miyagi.“ More than anyone else, she has helped me come to terms with the process of dying. She did not appear to have a shred of fear of dying. When I asked her what she thought about being 60, 70, or 80, she responded “I love the age I am right now. I would never want to be younger.“ What words of wisdom! She taught me to let go. She was my Mr. Miyagi.

Finding You Mr. Miyagi

How do you find your Mr. Miyagi? Maybe they are already in your circle of friends, family, or acquaintances.

First, look for someone who is a giver.
Has an older person invited you to coffee or to walk in the park? Is there an older person that inspires you to be a better person?

Second, look for someone that is letting go.

Look for someone who has started loosening their a hold on the reins of this world. Look for someone who values the inner world, and not just things. Find a Stoic.

Stoicism is a philosophy of life that teaches us to stop wanting more things, and start learning to value the things and people we already have.

I think, as we age, and as we mature, we begin divesting ourselves from things, and we begin looking for ways of giving back. We begin looking for ways of letting go of the things that have given us so much meaning in our lives, and investing in others.

Many of the men from the Harvard Grant Study accomplished these two tasks: giving back and letting go.

Maybe the unasked question is: Are you becoming a Mr. Miyagi for a “Daniel“ in your life? If not, begin learning balance. Begin learning how to stand, and then learning to fly.

And then, begin learning how to dance.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Live Life While You’re Alive, No One Will Survive | Healthy Aging Series: S8, E9

This blog features “It’s All About Me,” by Mel Brooks

My father hated the fall. “Everything is dying,” he would tell me. He wasn’t a pessimistic person. He didn’t complain a lot about getting older, at least not to me. He was proud of his nine children. He loved his 25+ grandchildren. But fall, I’m guessing, reminded him that, as Mel Brooks wrote in his recent autobiography, “No one will survive.”

I’m reminded of this often. News headlines. Car crashes and shootings. Family members facing terminal illnesses. The loss of a close friend or loved pet. You look at the mirror and you see your father’s or your mother’s face. The trend lines on your blood work slowly point downward. And you realize that you’re slowly dying. Sorry for the negativity.

OK, what do you do with that epiphany? Mel Brooks‘ advice is live life while you’re alive! I heard him give this quote while being interviewed for his new book, “It’s all About Me!“ Which he wrote, when he was 95 years old. I decided to read the book. Here are my takeaways from his book:

1. Mel Brooks followed his bliss. I borrowed this phrase from Joseph Campbell when he was interviewed by Bill Moyers and was asked what advice he would give to young people today and his answer was: follow your bliss. Mel Brooks found his happiness and success by following his bliss. His bliss was making movies. “Movies,“ he writes, “rescued my soul.“ I think that some people misunderstand what it means to follow your bliss. It’s not like a stroll in the park. It’s not the 10% rule, which says that you only need to “show up.”  Following your bliss means hard work, persistently paying the price, and never giving up. Look has something to do with it. Brooks writes that “you never know when and how a stroke of luck is going to come and cross your path.“ Following his bliss put Brooks into situations that made it seem like luck, but luck resulted from all the effort that it took to follow his bliss.

“I worked hard,“ he writes, “and I conquered my fear of the empty page.“ He never took no for an answer. He would never have found his bliss if he had never followed it. 

I followed my bliss, my passion, and I started working, in the helping profession 40 years ago. That was my dream as a young man. At the time I completed several internships. After graduating, I worked as a therapist for almost nothing, barely making $10 an hour. But I did it because I loved what I was doing. Forty years later, I love what I do I have found my bliss because I followed my bliss. Live while you’re alive.

2. Brooks learned one of life‘s most important lessons: he learned to stand on his own two feet. Credit his time in the army during World War II for helping him grow up. The military can do that. He did it to me. I spent a year in Texas, a year in Ohio, and two years in Korea. A long way from home. No hovering parents. OK, maybe a hovering drill sergeant. I tell the parents that I’m working with that soon, very soon, the school of hard knocks is going to kick in with their teenager. And then, that’s when real growth happens. The “learning to stand on our own two feet,“ comes, not necessarily books, or from time in a classroom. Most of our learning experiences come from outside the classroom, in the trenches, and because of the challenges that life presents to us. Brooks learned from every experience and everybody! From Neal Simon, he learned “that every second counts in comedy.” Even at 95 he continued to learn!

3. There would be no Mel Brooks without his friends. Specifically, he writes at if there had never been a Sid Caesar, there would never have been a Mel brooks.
He describes Carl Reiner as the best friend anyone could ever have. Brooks recalls the long walks he took with Woody Allen and the refreshing chatter that they had on those walks after work. His 40-year marriage with Anne Bancroft was a constant source of creativity and support. If you’re going to live while you’re alive, friendships matter, and if you let them, your friends will help craft you into someone that otherwise would not have been. We live in a culture of rugged individualism, where we are taught to be self-sufficient and need no one. But we need to remember the somewhat corny song by Barbra Streisand that says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world,“ and the pronouncement that “No man is an island entirely of itself.”

I think living life while you’re alive, means seeking out new friendships and nurturing the friendships that you have.

I loved this book, and Mel Brooks has become my new hero. When asked “What is the secret to living a long life?” He responded, “Don’t die!” 

I love it.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Alcohol and Aging Bodies

Alcohol is Poison: At Least That’s What Some Experts Are Saying | Healthy Aging Series: S8, E8

Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi was an alcoholic, and his alcoholism contributed to the loss of his health, the loss of a career, and eventually contributed to a shortened life. 

We looked at his life in a previous blog. I want to expand this topic of alcohol and aging and see what light the Harvard Grant Study sheds on it. Later this year, I will expand the topic of alcohol and aging by looking at the effects of alcohol on the brain, on sleep, and on our aging body. 

What did the researchers from this study discover about the effects of alcohol on aging when they looked at the men of the Harvard Grant Study? Let me first state that the study did not find significant issues with social drinkers. In fact, 72% of the social drinkers lived to be 80 years old, but there were two lessons that we learned from the effects of alcohol abuse.

Two Lessons on Alcoholism and Aging

Lesson One: Alcohol prematurely ages the body.

Of the 54 identified alcoholics in the study 19 or 35% were dead at 70 and only three lived or were alive at 80. “Their average lifespan,” Vaillant writes, “had been 17 years shorter than those of their social, drinking study peers.” 

I listen frequently to a podcast called “The Huberman Lab.” In a recent episode, Dr. Huberman, a neurologist, I asked the question: What does alcohol do to your body, Brain, and Heart. I did not enjoy this episode because throughout the episode, he referred several times to alcohol as a poison. But as I’ve reflected on the podcast, and as I’ve investigated the research, and I’ve concluded that he is right. Alcohol is a poison. There I said it. And again. Alcohol is a poison. Here’s what researchers say:

First, if you only consume one or two drinks daily, you will lose white and gray matter in your brain as you age. 

Second, consuming alcohol interferes with the brain-gut axis. We are only beginning to understand the role of the gut microbiome, but more and more evidence suggests that the relationship between the brain and gut is very important for our overall well-being. How does alcohol affect the gut? Alcohol consumption alters various chemical processes in our bodies, and creates a disharmony between our internal systems, including our brain  as well as our nervous system, and digestive track.

Third, alcohol affects our sleep architecture. I’ll speak more about this in upcoming blogs.

Forth, consuming alcohol increases our sleeping heart rate. I have been meticulous about following my heart rate over the past few months. I’ve been on an alcohol sabbatical and have noticed a dramatic decrease in my resting heart rate. Even one drink affects my sleeping heart rate.

Lesson Two: Alcoholism and Aging Marriages.

It’s difficult to determine a single cause for divorce. Marriages and long-term relationships are complicated and the reasons they fail are numerous. Add to that, the issues of aging, religion, and economics. They are complicated. The Harvard Grant Study looked at the effects of alcohol abuse on marriages. Of the 59 divorces that occurred throughout the study, 33 marriages or 57% occurred when at least one spouse was abusing alcohol. Vaillant writes, “It looks very much as though alcoholism within marriages often caused not only the divorce, but also caused failed relationships, poor coping styles, and evidence of a shaky mental health.“

Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book

If you want to understand the effects that alcoholism has on relationships and on people’s lives, I suggest reading Alcoholics Anonymous or what has been called the Big book. I reread it again this week. It gives you a glimpse into the life and death struggles that alcoholics have with alcohol. 

Vaillant writes, “Prospective study has consistently shown alcoholism to be the cause, not the result, of many personal and social problem. Alcoholism is the cause, not the result, of unhappy marriages. Alcoholism is the cause of many deaths, too, and not only through liver cirrhosis and moto vehicle accidents -suicides, homicides, cancer, heart disease, and depressed immune system can all be chalked up to this serial killer.”

Whole 30 Diet and Alcohol

I started the whole 30 diet the week before Christmas. If you’re not familiar with this diet, it involves not drinking alcohol during that 30-day period. As I write this blog, I’ve completed five weeks and I’ve lost 15 pounds. There are other factors that helped to include: one hour a day of exercise. No sugar added to any food. No grains. No dairy. And time restricted eating which is also called. Intermittent fasting. I’ve lost weight and feel better. Is it because of abstain from alcohol? Maybe. I’m not sure how to interpret the data, but my hypothesis is, most likely.  I recently listened to a podcast that discussed the topic of dopamine and how chronic alcohol use can affect our dopamine levels, which, of course affects our mood. Therefore, I’m going to extend my whole 30 lifestyle through the rest of this year at least the abstaining from alcohol part. I’ll consider this a one-year sabbatical from alcohol. I’ll share my progress and results in upcoming blogs.

To see more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

Image of men standing in the woods

How to Channel Your Parents (When They’re Gone) | Healthy Aging Series: S8, E7

“Kevin!” I’ve seen the movie (Home Alone) a 100 times and I can conjure up the scene where Kevin’s parents realize that he’s not on the plane while it’s on its way to Paris. It’s a cute movie. Kevin is “Home Alone.” No parents, no family members, and no Buzz. And let’s not forget the two completely incompetent burglars. There is, of course, a cartoonish feel to it. Somewhat “roadrunneresques.” Lots of laughs.

Life isn’t so cute and funny when, during your life, you lose one or both of your aging parents. Then, you and your adult siblings are left alone without the anchors that your parents provided all those decades in the past.

Every family is different.

Some of you lost your parent or parents when you were we were young. Some lose a parent that was not the wished-for anchor that you needed or those parents that struggled with mental illness, addictions, and their own abandonment. Some of you had to be your own anchor and had to parent yourself. And some of you have no siblings.

My Family

I’m writing this blog primarily for people who have siblings and have lost their aging parents. I have eight siblings. Our ages range from 61 to 75. My father died in 15 years ago and my mother died in 2015. Both were anchors for us. And now we are “home alone“ without those anchors.

Step up and be the sibling that channels your parents

Are there any rules for older siblings when their parents are gone? Or maybe just simple suggestions to keep from drifting “out to sea” so to speak. I think so. Think of this as a way of channeling your parents. What would your parents want? How did they hold things together. That’s what I mean by channeling. Start with this:

First, be the brother or sister that reaches out and becomes a new and different anchor for the family.

We can reach out and pull the family together in a text thread, keeping everyone informed about what’s happening with each of the brothers and sisters. One of my siblings had a medical crisis this past year and we were able to stay informed and  we were excited when they made a full recovery. That brought us all together and we saw all the love and concern expressed in the text.

Some examples of Anchors

We can reach out and pull the family together in various ways. Start with a Google photos file that the siblings can share with each other. We have one called Neese Fam. This month seven of us got together and shared pictures. The two siblings that live out of state were able to view the pictures. Facebook can also be a way of sharing. Some of my siblings do not use Facebook and some people prefer to keep family issues and photos private. We can reach out and pull the family together by having lunch, making a phone call, or having a camp out at the local campground. I hear people complain that they never hear from family members. I often remind them that they have a phone and maybe they should consider making the phone call.

The second suggestion involves agreeing to leave politics and religion at home.

There are nine of us and we have a lot of different views of religion, and a lot of different views of politics. Our country is polarized, and families must be militant to keep that polarization out of their get togethers. Make it a rule: no politics and religion. There is plenty to talk about! At our last get together, we talked about health issues. When senior adults get together, those get togethers usually turns into an “organ recital.” You know what I mean: talking about body organs, like the prostate, the ears, the heart, and so on. We gossip when we get together. Gossip can be good when done right. It’s a way of sharing what you know about family members that others may not know. Of course, avoid being judgmental, but it can pull family members together.

The third suggestion is to learn to compromise and find a consensus.

I’m so proud of my family. Both of my parents wanted to be cremated. As my father’s next of kin, my mother had to sign the agreement to have him cremated. When my mother died, she had nine next of kin, and some of my siblings did not like the idea of having her cremated.  The document was passed around at the local restaurant where we met, and everyone signed it.

The fourth suggestion is to forgive and forget.

This means the sins of omission and commission. Nothing pulls members apart like hurt feelings. I was able to do the eulogy at my mother’s memorial service. If there was any person that was justified in holding a grudge and holding resentments, it was my mother. I’m not listing details but take my word for it. Here’s what I told the gathering at her memorial service.  “Our mother,” I preached, “didn’t let stupid shit rob her of her peace and serenity.” She didn’t let it push her family members and friends away. Most family members get upset, get their feelings, hurt, and become estranged because of stupid shit. It’s usually about religion or money, or sex and almost always forgivable. Everyone thinks, the offense against them is unforgivable, but put yourself in the offender shoes. If you want forgiveness from others, then forgive others of the stupid shit they do to you.

Channeling Your Parents

Most of us have parents that were strong and important influences in the lives of their children. They were anchors.
What I’ve been talking about is providing the same affect in our families that our parents provided for us when they were with us. These suggestions are in some ways channeling your parents because that is most likely what they did for the family when they were living.

Channeling a parent, be it your mother or father is what you do when you take on the role as a surrogate anchor, or leader, for your family. It doesn’t matter who does it. Anybody can channel their parents. You channel your parents by being the kind of person that would promote the things that they promoted when they were living. Nothing would make them prouder!

Post Script: I channeled my parents this past weekend. It was Easter Weekend. I orchestrated a one-night backpacking trip into the Hoosier forest with three of my brothers. It was a wonderful weekend.

We talked about our parents. We talked about our children. We told stories about growing up together.

We laughed as we struggled to cross a stream. We shared our freeze-dried meals (Coconut Curry Chicken.) We sat and stood around the warm campfire and gossiped!

No Politics. No religion. Just Love. Just what Mom and Dad would have wanted!

To see more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.