Enlightened Conflict

fall winter and finding meaning in death

December 1st, 2016




“What I fear I avoid.

What I fear I pretend does not exist.

What I fear is quietly killing me.


Would there were a festival for my fears, a ritual burning of what is coward in me, what is lost in me.


Let the light in before it is too late. “



 Jeanette Winterson from “The Green Man”



“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”




(via ginger-and-preppy)





Well <part 1>.


I just read a an article in one of those local papers you can pick up at Healthy Grocery stores which attempted to discuss how this time of the year <October/November/December> is the season of ‘decay and death’ … and how it was a potent time to connect with the dead <and highlighted several celebrations around the world which do just that>.

This thought was combined with the thought we human folk balk at connecting with death because it … well … seems morbid to do so.



and summer regrets

               getting rid

       of winter wishes


summer and i




Well <part 2>.


I balk at the whole concept of ‘decay & death’ as well as the ‘morbid‘ thought.


Simplistically, seasons remind of us the cycle of Life <not death> and that death, in and of itself a sad event, contains at its very core the very simple concept that without Death, there is no Life.


This was immortalized in pop culture by Blood Sweat & Tears in their absolutely fabulous song “and when I die”:



And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’s peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying, when dying time is here,
just bundle up my coffin cause it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.



While each Life is a stepping stone for every future generation each death represents a stepping stone for … well … the future.

dialogue with pain


I don’t need any Eastern religion wisdom to remind me of this … I think we all know this.

Now … I will admit that connecting with this thought is much much easier for us when we remove any personalized death and accept it as simply a turning of generations. Therefore … one of the reasons we do not celebrate death is because it can get too personal. And if that is a reason … it sure as hell is a good one.


But death itself?


While death is something we dislike, facing seasons remain something we must face year in and year out. It is a constant affirmation of the turning of time and that some things we may have gained will most likely be inevitably lost in the natural turn of time.


And, yes, as today is December 1st I am reminded that Winter is the time of Life’s strategic retreat and conservation of what gives it all life.


It is not death. And it is not decay.


It is Life’s thoughtful way to insure its existence and survival.


It is the time of incubation and rest and restoration for all things to come in the following year.


I could also suggest that winter is a time of reflection and … well … comfort. In winter’s dark nights the stars are at their clearest and we have the opportunity to see them as the sparks of potential and wishes and dreams and … well … Life. Uhm. And dreaming is never a bad thing … particularly during the ‘ebb tide of seasonal Life.’


I will not argue that as Life recedes in autumn and rests in winter we do, at least emotionally, get closer to connecting with death … but I do balk at thinking of autumn & winter as ‘things associated with death.’


.... a time to Reflect ......

…. a time to Reflect ……

I would argue it actually does a nice job of reminding us we need to let go of things. and, sure, maybe we connect with ‘the dead’ better at this time because … well … it reminds us to celebrate what we had and embrace letting go.


And that is the thing about winter … it demands to not only be felt but also that you meet it on its terms. Even better … Winter demands us to let go of things we most typically hold onto with ragged claws.


You cannot refuse its existence and you cannot ignore what was because what is … is … well … is starkly different. Where Life was once obvious it is now starkly absent.


I would note that all Eastern mysticism and ‘being in touch with the universe’ and the ‘natural ebb of the earth’ and all that stuff, at its core, just suggests that we pay attention. Pay attention to whatever energy seasons give us … and more often than not that energy it gives us is … uhm … just good ole fashioned thinking. It gives us the energy to think about our lives, lives lost and lives yet to be lived.


Acknowledgement of all of that increases your overall connection not just with ‘the universe’ but rather to the eternal pattern of life and invests a sense of energy into pretty much everything <yourself and Life>.


And just as Death breaks things down to the bare essence, winter does the same.

And maybe that is the connection.


When things are at their barest, when we are drawn closer to endings rather than beginnings, we inevitably ponder the ‘great perhaps.’


Back in September I wrote this on the first day of Fall:




I think we all seek a great perhaps of “what I know can be”. I think we all know what a better world really looks like. I think we all want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.


And maybe it is within Fall and the falling leaves we begin to better grasp that failed plans and failed dreams can beget new plans and new dreams. And maybe it is within Winter where , in ts barest of bare essences, we are forced to begin envisioning what could be in plans and dreams because it is left to us standing in the bare environment around us.




What I do know about all seasons is that they are markers of Time … and poetically speaking … Time is always hungry for many of the things we dearly want to endure and do.


This makes Time both beautiful and doomed. Yeah. Time is beautiful and doomed. And that is where I really believe the whole ‘morbid time of the year’ goes astray.



for it seems all of Fall’s stars

                       have fallen

and often summer and i

run through the last warm days

through the cool grass

       gathering stars caught in people’s dreams

with the intent

           to toss them to Winter

through windows of dawn.


Summer & i




We, especially in the West, hunger for time.

Conversely, time itself <to us Western folk> has a hunger and its hunger is for ‘things.’

It is a nasty emptiness waiting to be filled.




If there is one thing humans are fucking great at … it is filling time and stuffing whatever we can into any emptiness we can find.


Death and dying makes us reflect. It forces us to do so. Just as the bare often starkness of Winter does.

And it makes us reflect on what ‘stuff’ we have crammed into whatever Time we have had.


Oh. Maybe what it really forces us to do is reflect upon time. and that is where death truly makes us feel uncomfortable … not any morbid feeling but rather it’s just being dead livingthat we have been indoctrinated to focus on living … living life to its fullest, not wasting any time, to do lists that never get completed and just doing shit <just do it>.


Nowhere in that list of shit I just shared does death have a place. In fact. Death represents the exact opposite of everything society & our culture almost demands we think about 24/7.


And when forced to face death, or feel a need to connect, we are much less likely to celebrate but rather assess … assess our doing mantra versus ‘stop.’




Most of us don’t purposefully ignore connecting with death and those who have passed away because of sadness <because if it were we would be more likely to actually do it because the opposite of sadness is reflecting upon the inevitable happiness> but rather because death and past lives force us to reflect upon our ‘doing accomplishment’ <as well as it forces us to stop … which compounds the feeling of ‘shit, I haven’t done enough and I am not doing anything now>.



If you can get beyond the ‘doing’ aspect inherently death is more about sadness <loss of something or someone or time> more so than morbidity. Conquer the sadness and you have conquered death.


And all of this is just not that difficult <if you are willing to actually think about it>.


winter-fall-snow-season-change-lifeSeveral cultures do celebrate the autumnal solstice as the time life & death is closest. I would argue it is less a celebration but rather recognition of that which came before, and that which is dying, so that what will be will come forth.

Generations beget generations just as falls beget springs.


Death begets life.


This doesn’t mean we should celebrate impending death but rather recognize, even in sadness, life & beauty resides in the future.


Fall is of beautiful dying.

Winter is of starkness of death.

Spring is of rebirth from death.


This doesn’t mean you can find beautiful things to enjoy throughout any season.  Seasons simply remind us of the fact time does not stand still and no matter how hard we try and fill up the emptiness time offers us day in and day out … leaves fall, winter comes and spring arises.


I believe it is the Celtic wheel of the year describes this time of the year as Samhain … “the veil between the worlds is thin.” Just as several other cultures they use his time to reflect upon “that which was.” In my pea like brain … it is a celebration of navel gazing. It is an intentional event to purposefully explore the valuable relationship not only between Life and Death but the past and the future.


Listen to the cry of falling leaves,

            but winter breaks the silence

and warms us with words

of how to change it all

      before the Fall completely ends.

So, So



reflect brain things


I don’t believe we do not celebrate death and dying because we think it is morbid. I tend to believe we do not traditionally do so because we, as in Western civilization versus Eastern, don’t celebrate reflection.

We treat reflection more as  a personal thing and not a larger more public event and celebration.


Should we celebrate reflection? Shit. I don’t know. But understanding that seasons can offer us enlightening thoughts about how we actually think about death & Life & holding on & letting go is surely not a bad thing.


As for Fall and Winter? I do not think of death and decay. I actually think of flowers. Huh?


I credit Mark Strand for making me think Winter is the time to bring flowers into your Life as he describes Winter in his poem called Blizzard of One:


“A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that …”

Mark Strand <Blizzard of One>

Every funeral deserves flowers. Every Winter deserves thoughts of Life.

how beautiful it is to let things go

September 22nd, 2016



“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”




(via ginger-and-preppy)





“You can’t be who you’re going to be and who you used to be at the same time …”



TD Jakes





Today is the first day of Fall.


first day of fall 2016 google

……………………………. first day of fall 2016 google ……………….



It is kind of a reminder to everyone that everything is temporary.


On another note.

I do also sometimes find it slightly strange that death and dying can contain so much beauty.





I kind of find it nice that Life, in the form of seasons, forces us to let go of things. And while we even go kicking and screaming with regard to seasons Life ignores us … moves on … lets go of the last season … offers us a new season … and once we get over it … we are once again shown how beautiful it can be to let shit go.


I kind of find it nice that Life, in the form of seasons, forces us to distinguish what often looks the same from one day to the next. as we keep our heads down to the Life grindstone and each day dawns without any major incident, other than  the same aggravating everyday incidents which inevitably occur, Life ignores our obliviousness … moves on … let’s go of another season … offers a new season … and we get over the fact we actually have to lift our heads up and pay attention for a little but … we are once again shown how beautiful it is to let some shit go.



“Between the end of that strange summer and the approach of winter, my life went on without change. Each day would dawn without incident and end as it had begun. It rained a lot in September. October had several warm, sweaty days. Aside from the weather, there was hardly anything to distinguish one day from the next.”

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle



I kind of find it nice that Life, in the form of seasons, forces us to think a little bit about who we want to be … who we are … and provides some real life aspects to show us how difficult it is to be who you used to be and who you are going to be at the exact same time.




letters to myself note to future selfI am not a huge Fall person. I am more of a spring person. Heck. I have even suggested we move New Year’s Day to the 1st day of spring  because I think it would make new year’s less depressing and more hopeful.


But I admit that Fall, even more so than Spring, forces us to face our feelings, thoughts, doubts, dreams and fears with a fairly discerning eye. An eye that views ‘what could be’ with a little more sense of urgency.




Falling leaves can do that to you.


Better seems a little bit harder.


Better seems to have more of a deadline.


I think we all seek a great perhaps of “what I know can be”.

I think we all know what a better world really looks like.

I think we all want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.


And maybe it is within Fall and the falling leaves we better grasp that failed plans and failed dreams can beget new plans and new dreams.


Maybe it is within Fall that we are able to see that new realities can lead to needed life changes.


Maybe it is Fall that reminds us even in times of ‘things slipping away’ you can still find abundance.


Maybe it is Fall that reminds us that Life is a healthy mix of duality … life & death and the ebb & flow of growth and regress.


Maybe Fall reminds those who have a view that a happy and fulfilling life should consist only of highs <or maybe better said … a significantly higher % of highs than lows> and that a positive life should consist only of certainty <shelving fear and doubt to be successful> that happiness & fulfillment also embraces the ebbs in seasons as well as the flows of seasons. autumn-second-spring


Maybe Fall reminds us that no matter how you plan your day, year, or life, it will have times of … the best, the worst, wisdom, foolishness, belief, incredulity, light, darkness, hope, despair, everything and nothing.


Maybe Fall simply reminds us that time goes on, things come & go and we always have an opportunity to begin again … arise anew after the Fall as it were.


Maybe Fall exists just to remind us to think a little.

a great perhaps

March 21st, 2016


==spring great perhaps


“Before I got here, I thought that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it didn’t exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in the back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home.

But that only led to a lonely life accompanied by the last words of the already dead, so I came here looking for a Great Perhaps, for real friends and a more-than-minor life.”



John Green, Looking for Alaska





I seek a great perhaps.”



When I saw this image I knew I had my ‘welcome to spring’ thought.



Spring is always about new beginnings. I call it the harbinger of the narrative of hope.


But it is also about new ‘perhaps.’



spring grow ungrow things to be




And while I do like positive thinking I love it with a good dose of pragmatism. I do so because Life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of “dreams” and “milestones” and “my plans.”


Perhaps’ sounds so … well … underwhelming … certainly not conclusively positive. And not really that inspiring.


And, yet, it is a reality. It is representative of the search, the beginnings … and the inexactness Life offers in terms of destinations, outcomes and successes.


Francois Rabelais was a poet whose last words were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” I believe the ‘Great Perhaps’ is a Life truth wherein life is about living “maybes” and seeking the ‘great perhaps’ that exist in everyone’s life. The ‘perhaps’ of attaining a more-than-minor Life in some way.


Spring sometimes permits us to face our feelings, thoughts, doubts, dreams and fears with a fresh eye. An eye that views ‘perhaps’ a little more positively.


perhaps perhaps three

Perhaps we will find something better.


Perhaps we will be better.


Perhaps we will do better.


Better looks fresher and … well … perhaps a little more doable.

Better is perhaps doable.

Better things like:



I want to go to seek a great perhaps of what I know can be, and is, better.


I want to know what a better world really looks like.


I want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.


I want to be amazed by the ‘perhaps & maybes’ in the world.


This all may sound silly in a world in which everyone sounds disappointed in maybes, certainly in seeking maybes, because they want ‘for sures’ and ‘actualization of things they chose to seek.’


I must be different because I find ‘perhaps’ optimistic & hopeful.

I find ‘maybes’ the foundation of possibilities.




choices decisions yes maybe no

I can sum up my life in Frost’s “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” but I believe I can sum up my attitude in ‘the great perhaps.’


It is hopeful and, yet, colored with the rich & royal hues of ‘maybes.’





Spring is upon us.


Spring IS the great perhaps.


Perhaps it will bring the fresh perspective that dreams & hopes are built upon. Spring is the end of something and the beginning of something else. And in its waking moments Perhaps awakens and yawns and slips from between the sheets into the new day.


Life is not finite in its choices, paths and destinations and it certainly doesn’t always sort itself out.


It is full of triumphs & tragedies.


It is a labyrinth of perhaps.

perhaps headerLife is one big ‘perhaps.’


In other words … Spring reaches out and reminds us each year of the ‘great perhaps’ available to any & all who choose to embrace the ‘maybes’ in Life.


And by embracing the maybes … well … maybe you stumble across a more-than-minor Life.

stars and shrinking

July 1st, 2014

stars and shrinking human


“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they’d live a lot differently. When you look into infinity, you realize there are more important things than what people do all day.”

Calvin and Hobbes



We seem to focus so much on what we do every day … the ‘doing’ in Life.

And while Life doesn’t force us to do so it certainly encourages us to do so.


Life does this by throwing obstacles and things to do and responsibility in front of us seemingly as we take each step into the day.

Because Life does this … it is seemingly impossible to do anything BUT think what we do all day as the most important thing.
And I am not here to suggest what we do each day isn’t important.





Maybe I am just thinking about it.

Thinking about it in a way to make sure we aren’t doing so because we are … well … shrinking.


Shrinking before the immensity of Life.immesnity of life norman-mailer




Immensity of life.


Let’s face it … it is easy to shrink before it.


Day to day, surprisingly, is actually easier for us to face. Not suggesting it is less difficult … just easier. It is represented in … well … things.


Things to do.


Things to say.


Things to check off on a list.


Things to put on a list.


There is never a shortage of ‘things.’

Life is … well … immense.


Immense in its intangible and vagueness.


I imagine I am suggesting we don’t <or at least make the attempt> shrink from purpose in Life simply using ‘what we do in daily life’ as an excuse.

shrinking focus on

But it is hard <really hard>.


Because ‘purpose’ is vague.


It is ‘doing good’.



But … does that mean doing good for whomever is in front of you at the expense of someone else? … or doing a greater good for the planet at the expense of someone in front of you?


Yikes <again> … yes … those choices are real.


Simplistically we try to believe it is simply ‘doing the right thing.’


But sometimes the right thing for you, or from your perspective, is the wrong thing from someone else.


It is ‘having a good heart’ <meaning well>.


But does that absolve you from meaning well but still causing harm because meaning well sometimes means not making the hard decision.

Or sometimes it does.



Purpose, to be meaningful, is a combination of intangible higher order type stuff … with some tangible daily <or weekly> decisions and choices.


And it is not easy.


And it is not easy on top of what you do in your daily lives.


I do believe most of us realize there are an infinite amount of ‘bigger things’ to be done.


I do believe most of us realize there are more important things than what people do all day.


And I do believe most of us shrink before the immensity of Life.



And I do not mean that as a criticism … just as something that is normal human behavior <or reaction to what is in Life>.
I don’t have answers here.
Just questions.


As in questioning whether I pay enough attention to things beyond what people, and I, do all day.



“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”
E.E. Cummings

——–stars and thinking boy


I imagine I believe that while I do not have the answer today if I keep asking the questions maybe I will get closer to an answer tomorrow … or in some day after that.



I kind of think that is what looking at the stars reminds us of.


Betty Crocker, obesity and education

May 21st, 2014

cooking guy apron

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

Julia Child




I offer this post following my nostalgia thought< http://brucemctague.com/nostalgia-plus-ca-change-plus-ca-meme-chose> as I share some more thoughts on obesity. I did it this way because it links both the dangers of nostalgia and possible solutions <aspects of one> to the world weight issues.


Recently there was a semi-absurd, if not crazy, newspaper article written by a Home Economics teacher <maybe slightly biased I would imagine> suggesting Betty Crocker and the lack of home economics classes in schools were the reason unhealthy eating <and obesity> is plaguing today’s society.



Discussing what was so great about the past … and what is missing in today’s world … is a common discussion among old folk who yearn for the days past.


And seek solutions in the past.

And seek blame in changes from the past.


And it is nuts.

Absolutely nuts.

<ok … maybe just absurd>



It is nostalgia at its worst.




I do believe that some home skills … many of which seem to have been dismissed as fairly worthless for the past few decades … really do matter.


And I do believe that as schools began to focus more and more on ‘meeting test standards’ and ‘technical skills development’ as the path offered in secondary schools <to everyone … including those who didn’t really want to focus on a college path> we began shedding some of the, what I would call, Life living education.


Schooling and curriculum which is maybe ancillary to academics but pretty essential to living.



The young certainly need academics but they also need to know how to buy and prepare healthy food, do laundry, make a budget, balance a checkbook, change a tire, etc. … you get it … just stuff you actually have to do.


And while we so often  bitch & moan about how parents have abdicated portions of their parenting roles to schools … and keep shouting as loud as we can that parents should be teaching this practical stuff to their kids at home … I would like to remind those ‘oh so nostalgic people’ that in the good ole days … home economics and woodworking and typing were not taught in the home .. but in their schools.


cooking home economicsSo.


While I don’t blame Betty Crocker or school curriculum as a cause of obesity … maybe it is time to bring back home economic classes.


Maybe it is time to rethink the value of teaching some basic Life survival skills in schools.



I think it is funny <in a painful way> that we so often bitch about ‘teaching pragmatic skills’ in today’s schools.



What is more pragmatic that making sure you know how to cover the basics in life?


And this seems to become even more important as more and more things exist in a black box that none of us <ok … a very very small group of highly skilled people> will ever understand.


I also think that the decline in home economics curriculum since the mid-20th century has certainly contributed to producing a generation of Americans who can’t set a family budget or boil an egg.


While I may think of “home ec” <as it was called> as old school and dated … I do believe traditional home economics did help prepare students to grow into adulthood as individuals, families, workers and citizens incorporating some Life detail which helped prepare for day-to-day home, social and economic challenges.


While I don’t go as far as this guy Michael Moss … I do believe we have stepped too far away from the basics.

Michael Moss <author of “Sugar, Salt, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us”>:


“Kids in school used to be taught how to shop, how to cook from scratch, how to be in control of their diets. Doesn’t happen anymore … what did happen is we got Betty Crocker, a figment of the imagination of a marketing official at a food company.”



Tipping my hat to Betty Crocker marketing … good ole Betty C. was marketing at its best.




betty crocker cookbookGood ole Betty evokes emotions of the past when the kitchen was revered as a place for family meal development … or for the nostalgia folk … better days gone by.



And at the same time Betty was contemporary:



“… she actually began pushing processed foods, convenience foods, as an alternative to scratch cooking. She … became emblematic of the food industry’s usurpation … of the home economist.

Michael Moss



Betty marketing empowered the microwave to claim the title of kitchen cook.


Unfortunately … at the same time … we became disconnected from the realities of eating and preparing healthy foods … well … actually … healthy and unhealthy.


My point is that ingredients became conceptual intangible things rather than real tangible things.


What was worse was that the intangible life of cooking and components bleeds into our behavior:



–          We are advised to eat more fruits and vegetables, but we eat less than half the recommended amounts on average.



–          We are advised to eat less salt, sugar and fat, but we consume nearly a third of our calories from restaurants <where we eat larger portions which destroys our intentions to eat less of specific ingredients>.



And in the end … we spend less than half the time in food preparation as we did in 1965, but eat significantly more than we did in 1965.



I imagine I am suggesting there is a correlation between an increased reliance on convenience foods instead of home-cooked meals <or a lost understanding of cooking> and an unintended consequence of unhealthier eating.



Is it because of the loss of home economics?

Surely not.

But it is certainly a component in the overall issue.





Our schools have a responsibility to teach kids the essential life skills they need to succeed and survive in a world filled with unhealthy food environments and persuasive food marketing and even adults who suck at making food & eating choices <remember: we want our kids to be better than us>.



I, personally, believe we should not focus solely on reading, writing and math in silos disregarding the overlap with life outside of the school building.


It is not a huge leap to understand that recipes can be used to teach math, food chemical reactions can help students investigate science, and social studies can be an exploration of food cultures from across the world.

Used properly this type of curriculum can prepare kids to function effectively in the world by teaching higher-order skills like critical thinking, problem solving and effective communication <as well as unhealthy versus healthy eating skills>.


And I do agree in order to help us all deal with the obesity issue long term we have to give young people the knowledge and skills they need to live a healthier life.


But, no, it wasn’t Betty Crocker.

Betty wasn’t one of the women took off their aprons and donned business suits over the past decades.cooking quick meals


Two earner households were able to afford bigger houses, more cars, more ‘convenience gadgets’ and all the other things that are associated with ‘success’ <and invariably get intertwined in people’s heads as ‘enablers to success’ because they free up time>.



At the same time more kids were coming home and heading off to fast food <or anything faster than a sit down meal development> for dinner … because parents were just too damn tired from working all day to actually cook.


To be clear.

I have nothing against Betty Crocker … or Aunt Jemima … or Uncle Ben … or even the Quaker Oats quaker.


Safe, shelf stable foods permit rational preplanning of meals and budgets.


And each product you buy in the store has not absolved themselves from cooking responsibility … because anybody that can halfway follow directions can make a palatable meal with the help of the instructions that are always found in the packaging <albeit they really do it to sell more product and ancillary profitable products>.


cook can i

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” Laurie Colwin




As for ‘those evil marketers trying to persuade me to eat bad shit’ or what we may call ‘rampant consumerism’ and what some people complain as ‘insufficiently regulated products’ … well … all those are just crazy.


Ingredients must be disclosed by law on the label.

Calories and vitamin/nutrient information follow a consistent easily understood format right next to the ingredients.

A ‘best by’ date is not legally required yet appears on just about every package of food sold these days. And any health claims <diagnose, treat or cure any disease> are strictly forbidden.




And quantity?



No government regulation or packaging guideline can make you put down the Ritz crackers or Chips-Ahoy and go outside and exercise.


And while we Americans <and many European countries> bitch about ‘packaging dishonesty’ or confusion … if you have ever traveled to some of the poorer parts of the world you truly appreciate the value of knowing what is in whatever it is you are trying to decide to consume rather than guessing and hoping.


I say all that because this suggests the tools to build a healthy eating structure exist … but that maybe we just do not know how to use the tools properly.


We are healthy enlightened but cooking poor.




On the healthy enlightened thing  … oddly … the most misleading labeling and believe yours theirs truthpackaging of foods is found on ‘organic.’


Somehow they have got us to believe that ‘organic’ foods are always somehow better <which they are most typically not> and convince you to actually pay more for them.

<but that is a rant for another day>



In the end.


I imagine all I am thinking and suggesting is ‘well rounded’ or ‘balanced’ <and obesity is not Betty Crocker’s fault>.


Schools build citizens … not test scores.

School builds thoughtfulness not intelligence.


And while it may seem wacky to those who simply want their kids to be Rhodes scholars … life skills curriculum develops perspective.


There will always be some kids who will sit back and say ‘WTF … I will never have to do this.

There will always be some <many> kids for which it will become basic survival skills.



But <and here is the bigger thought about home economics and classes like this>.



In that moment.

In those moments.


A tenuous link between those who ‘will not do’ and those who ‘will have to do’ is created.

If but for a moment they have seen the other side.


Does that create empathy in later life?


I will not go that far.



But it certainly provides perspective.

It provides a platform for some understanding and some hope for a societal compass.empty shoes



And maybe that is why something like home economics is important. The journey and not the result. For if we all walk in the same shoes if even for a little while you appreciate the shoes you wear later in Life.

weight of the world

May 4th, 2014

weight of the world panda

“….the United States has the highest biomass of any other nation. In fact … The world’s biomass would increase 20% globally <about the equivalent of 1 billion ‘right sized people’> if other country’s population was as large <weight wise> as America’s population.”

the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine



While many people still debate whether obesity is a health crisis, in the New York Times, one-time food critic Frank Bruni – after reviewing recent obesity research in evolutionary science, medicine, public health, and beyond – concluded that it will require a “society-level change if we are to stem a near inevitable tide.”


I don’t know Frank … heck … I don’t even know who he is … but I agree. It may not be a crisis <I dislike that word as it is often simply hyperbole> but I do believe addressing weight issues will require society level change.




Discussing weight is tricky.

Especially if you dare to use the word ‘obesity.’


Not only do we discuss what is ‘too much’ and how do you truly discern what is too much weight … but you also end up discussing how to manage weight.

I also believe in discussing weight we often confuse:


–           ‘self-appearance feelings of health’:

I look in the mirror and what I see makes me feel healthy or not healthy – and give me energy thru positive feelings … or lose energy because of negative feelings, and


–           ‘healthy feelings of health’:

Because I have been eating healthier I am actually healthier and have real energy


eating is my hobbyYes.

We all look in the mirror and want to change something. And the advent of the worldwide web feeds whatever sliver of self dissatisfaction you have … and offers so many solutions <often absurd> you are positive you have a problem.

And most people don’t have a real problem. They just need to have a healthier body <whatever shape that healthier body may come in>.

But I have decided to address this tricky topic one more time because … well … let’s say it began with a story of ‘me and 5 lb weights.’




The other day when I went to the field where I chug my happy ass around for as long as I can as a form of exercise … someone had left a pair of 5 pound hand weights.

For some crazy reason I picked them up and thought about jogging with them in hand as I circled the field.

And I did.




A couple laps and I thought I was dying.


An extra 10 pounds and it changed everything. My heart rate was up … I was sweating like a stuck pig and my legs felt like rubber <which typically doesn’t happen for a longer period of time>.


Never have I had a more clear understanding that weight matters.


It wasn’t in the mirror … and it wasn’t a slow realization over time <where my body was able to acclimate so it was less noticeable> … it was an immediate dose of reality.





It also made me think that it has become very easy for the normal everyday schlock toting around an extra 10 to 20 pounds to not only ignore all the noise about weight being discussed … but also to ignore the weight itself.

And I don’t care if you are qualified as ‘obese’ or not … carrying around extra weight on your body isn’t good for your body. It puts stress on everything … joints, organs, heart … everything.


So … yes … I do think weight <called obesity in popular media> is an issue. Although I actually believe eating, and what we eat and intake, is the core issue.


To be clear on that … research clearly shows that a combination of healthy eating and exercise is the best regimen people can incorporate into their lives to have a healthy body <whatever size body you have>.

But.weight of the world by country

Research also clearly shows that of the two … what you put into your body is more important than exercise or activity. Food is fuel. Fuel for energy and fuel for the brain and fuel for all the components n the body.




I am sorely disappointed in how we are addressing weight in today’s society & world.


In today’s world it seems like there is no middle ground … we are either supersized or superskinny.


And on either end of the spectrum we plunge into random diets and absurd eating and exercise plans including fasting, eating anything you want, grapefruits, lemonade comprised of lemons/maple syrup/cayenne pepper <that sounds horrible>, no carbohydrates, all carbohydrates … pick something … or don’t … because it seems like it is an all or nothing alternative life planning.


Everything, in other words, is nothing if not extreme.

Everything, in other words, is confusing.

Everything, in other words, makes self-improvement difficult to improve theyself.


It is commonly understood that many diets fail for this very reason …they have impossible regimens designed for long term behavior … they set unrealistic goals that are impossible to maintain if not consistently reach <albeit the first is always attainable so that you continue on their regimen>.


weight of the world kids friesI know I’m not the first to highlight moderation but as the dieting industry bombards us with absurd propaganda I would like to note that extreme self-improvement measures are frequently destined to fail.



We need to do something.


US people size alone would increase the weight of the world by 20% if everyone everywhere weighed the same.



Due To U.S. Obesity … the global population is about 17 million tons overweight.


And while I truly wish we would call this ‘the state of unhealthy eating globally’ I recognize it doesn’t have the same sense of urgency as Obesity does. Is obesity truly the measure … the yard stick?weight of the world north america

Not sure it should be <but> it is a place to start the discussion.


And if you do use it as the yard stick … United States is kicking everyone’s ass. By yards.


We all must have an ass the size of US.


Although the United States represents just 5 percent of the global population, it contributes to almost one-third of the world’s global obese weight says a study from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


The study calculated the weight of the global population at 316 million tons, and estimated that about 17 million tons of that figure is due to the growing numbers of people who are overweight. Increasing levels of fatness around the world will threaten future food security, since current levels of obesity could have the same impact on global resources as an additional half billion people.


Researchers concluded that although the average global body weight is 137 pounds, there are huge differences across regions. The average is 178 pounds in North America and 127 pounds in Asia, for example.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States has the highest biomass of any other nation.


Despite what some reports try to convince us of … rates of obesity in the United States show no signs of abating.


In fact, some estimates predict that 75 percent of Americans will be overweight by 2020.


Approximately two-thirds of the United States’ adult population is overweight now.

This is because, on average, adults in the United States are eating upwards of 3,500 calories each day, when 2,000 calories a day is plenty for an active adult.


A couple of things have really impacted our intake of food:


weight of the world need want–              Definitions of cooking have changed <the shorter the time the better … and a decrease in sit down meals>.


–              The rise of the ready meal <this includes fast food>.


In the last 10 years the number of meals eaten away from home has increased dramatically particularly for young adults who seem to live in coffee shops, sushi cafes and fast food places …none of which really existed a generation ago.


Generationally we are evolving from where the bulk of the people <pun intended> were home cooking and doing a great deal more of walking daily … to driving, living a much more sedentary life and western style <fast> food.

In addition … portion size is probably more responsible than quality of food <as portions are really too big in the US> for weight increase <we suck at managing our volume of intake as a population>.


I say that because I began with society level changes to address weight issues.

And while I do believe weight is a personal responsibility … society <in which personals who are responsible exist> has shifted.

And the shift has nothing to do with marketing or marketers … products and services are developed to meet societal ‘codes’ <such as ‘food is fuel’ in America: Clotaire Rappaille Culture Code>.  Cooking changed and ready meals evolved successfully because they simply permitted us to ‘do more.’


If someone wants to address the weight issue they need to make sure that it doesn’t cut into the American desire ‘to do.’ by the way … that’s why the whole messaging strategy of ‘make time for sit down meals’ and ‘make time to exercise’ is slightly absurd. It is contrary to what our societal code is.




I have worked on a number of obesity-related campaigns and initiatives.


I have a strong point of view on how I would address it <s noted in my very long multi-post series on Obesity written in 2010:


–          http://brucemctague.com/about-unhealthy-eating-1-2-3


–          http://brucemctague.com/unhealthy-eating-part-1-obesity-aint-the-issue

–          http://brucemctague.com/unhealthy-eating-part-3-the-campaign-idea


–          http://brucemctague.com/unhealthy-eating-part-3-5-response-to-smart-comments



–          http://brucemctague.com/unhealthy-eating-part-4-implementation


People will argue with me but I believe we should treat habitual unhealthy eating as an addiction … or reflective of an addictive personality.

Anything less simply leaves open a window of opportunity for exceptions and debate on ‘what to do.’



In some ways I understand the challenge <firsthand> and in some ways I don’t.


I love addictive things … but I just do not have an addictive personality.unhealthy regret fun



–          I smoked for a week to see what it was all about. I frickin’ loved it. I could definitely see why people smoke. I never picked up a pack again after that week.


–          I can eat an entire bag of m&m’s in one sitting. And I can immediately crave more <because I love M&Ms>. I can see how people cannot stop eating. But I can NOT pick up another bag of m&m’s for weeks if not months.


–          I can drink until I am … well … healthily buzzed. I love the feeling. I love that time. I can see why people become alcoholics <if you can maintain that feeling>. But I cannot drink for weeks if not months.


–          I have tried a variety of drugs. And I loved them. Loved the feeling. But I cannot remember the last time I took a drug.


Do I crave these things once I knew how much I loved them? Sure. Absolutely.


I enjoy the moment but don’t have an addictive personality which demands that I have more moments. I choose if and when I actually want another moment.


I shared all that to suggest that I understand the craving … but I also admit that I don’t understand addictive behavior. And, yes, I maintain unhealthy eating is an addiction like behavior.


In the end.

This issue is not as complicated to understand as the web and media and many discussions make it out to be:


–          Eat healthy <as often as possible>

–          Be active <as possible>

–          Eat a little less <just because there is a portion available doesn’t mean you have to eat it all>


weight of the world global_obesity_menAnd while I make a point to suggest the issue is simpler than everyone makes it out to be … the solution always takes work … and diligence.


For ideas visit ‘weight of the world’ <WOW>.

Weight of the World (WoW) is an educational program that promotes physical activity and healthy eating among children and youth and helps young people kick-start daily life changes in their schools, families, communities and the world.:


About WOW: http://www.weightoftheworld.ca/weightoftheworld/e/about/



addressing Unhealthy Eating (obesity) Issue Part 2

May 4th, 2014


 food food food

“I moan with pleasure.

“Did you just have a foodgasm?” he asks, wiping ricotta from his lips.

“Where have you been all my life?” I ask the beautiful panini.”

Stephanie Perkins



“But if you’re gonna dine with them cannibals

Sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten . . .”

Nick Cave



<note: I originally wrote this in May 2010. At the time my point of view was certainly outside of the norm. As of today the concept – of unhealthy eating as a form of addiction – is now being discussed among experts. I still believe this is a viable path and have updated this slightly>


As stated in part 1 <http://brucemctague.com/unhealthy-eating-part-1-obesity-aint-the-issue > the issue we are discussing globally, and in the United State in particular, isn’t obesity … it is Unhealthy Eating <or unhealthy intake>. As of today … approximately 10% of the American population exhibits, in their words, a “loss of control over eating behaviors.” Unhealthy eating creates unhealthy bodies <regardless of size> and therefore creating health issues.

And the longer your body is unhealthy the higher likelihood of health issues.

That’s it.




Word haggling aside … how can we actually successfully address the issue?

Some of the things I am going to suggest are not going to be “politically correct.”



I want to solve this problem.

But to solve the problem you have to clearly identify it and define it:



I believe we need to treat unhealthy eating as if it is an addiction




Why do I feel so strongly about this?


Many people suffer from a preoccupation with weight and eating.

This preoccupation is almost as bad as being overweight or obese. It has a negative impact on the quality of life, can lead to health care bills, negative social aptitude, <which leads to additional Maslow like issues> and some absurd physical activity … or lack of activity. And it is not only binge eaters and the overweight population that are struggling with these issues.

Many people of ‘normal weight’ also suffer from preoccupation with weight and food.



Unhealthy eating is a behavior.

unhealthy Can-food-Be-Addictive-While this is simplistic example people don’t want one cookie they want a bunch of cookies when they grab one.

<gosh. That sounds like an alcoholic’s issue doesn’t it?>


Do I really believe we can actually become addicted to food? Clinical research suggests it is possible but at this point all I am truly suggesting is that we treat it like an addiction.


And if you buy that addiction premise than accept the fact a diet won’t resolve the issue. Diets are typically short term “show results” programs destined for long term failure. No program is gonna work until we accept the fact that if someone is addicted to unhealthy eating they will always been an addict therefore you are fighting a long term battle against desire <and this is a behavior model>.


The smartest thing I have seen from the government actually came from Michelle Obama:


“We don’t need to wait for some new invention or discovery to make this happen. This doesn’t require fancy tools or technologies. We have everything we need right now — we have the information, we have the ideas, and we have the desire to start solving America’s obesity problem.

“The only question is whether we have the will.”


Let me answer that last question Michelle Obama stated.



As in “no, we do not have the will.”

Because it is an addictive lifestyle <why the heck is it that hard to actually change eating behavior ? … gosh .. maybe you are addicted to the behavior you currently have>.



She is correct.


Any program that addresses unhealthy eating has to dig hard into an individual’s will to do something. And I will get back to the ‘dig hard’ phrase I just elected to use when I write Part 3.


Anyway.unhealthy eating just eat healthy


Having worked on a variety of anti unhealthy eating initiatives I am going to use that experience to outline how unhealthy eating is an addiction and we should use learnings to attack the issue as such.


Please note.

In this next section I am going to use an anti-smoking campaign and research findings to make a point and show an example. I did not do Unhealthy Eating research. I simply used existing anti smoking focus group research excerpts and have replaced the words “anti smoking” and “quitting smoking/tobacco” with “Unhealthy Eating/eaters” and “Obesity” where appropriate.

I did so because I believe you will see how aligned addressing the tobacco addiction is to the idea of unhealthy eating as an addiction.

This is simply meant as a rough example.

(just caveating my ass here)



Unhealthy Eating as Addiction Example:


Poor Eating (often leading to obesity but also leading to unhealthy bodies) is ingrained in the culture of America, especially among adults but becoming a “way of life” for youth.  I recently read in an article (I apologize for not sourcing) that most adult Americans respect an individual’s decision to a Poor Eating (obesity) lifestyle, and they believe the individuals – not Poor Eating (obesity) contributing companies – are to blame for negative health consequences.  This perspective provides a nurturing culture for Poor Eating (obesity) users and cuts across cultural, socioeconomic and generational lines (although I also believe I have read that obesity skew toward lower income, lower educated households as does unhealthy eating).

I believe the scary part of this issue is that America unhealthy eaters are in a state of denial about Poor Eating (obesity) addiction and have little awareness or understanding of “quit” alternatives beyond superficial programs (which appeal more to vanity).  Without specific research, but being knowledgeable on Tobacco Addiction research, let me suggest a theoretical model outlining the kind of issues I believe we are facing with regard to Unhealthy Eating:



Unhealthy Eaters by Stage in a Theoretical Model



  Pre-Contemplation Contemplation Preparation
What they think I don’t have a Poor Eating (obesity) addiction problem (denial). I know I should quit unhealthy eating, but I don’t think I can (skepticism). I need to quit (again), but I’m not sure I can do it successfully (fear).
What they say Poor Eating (obesity) usage is a personal choice/my right. I’m not ready to quit. I’m going to try to quit (again).
What they do Defensive about their behavior. Rationalize their behavior. Repeat behavior from previous quit attempts.
Emotional levers Health impact of Poor Eating (obesity). Benefits of “quitting”. Empathy, reassurance of success.


Note: Above are stages preceding action.





As a whole, the adults in America see Poor Eating (obesity) use as a personal choice that doesn’t necessarily affect others.  They recognize that Poor Eating food stamps wtf(obesity) is bad for them, but stand by their conviction that “we all make decisions that are bad for us sometimes and everyone is entitled to do so.”  There is a great deal of denial that they have an addiction.  In short, two quotes summarize adult Americans’ mindset: “people are going to do what they want to do” and “no one wants to be told his choice is a bad one.”


  • They believe there are Unhealthy Eaters and non-Unhealthy Eaters, and that’s “just the way it is.”

Each should be granted his or her rights.  They accept one another’s decisions, although some may secretly have very strong opinions for or against Poor Eating (obesity) usage.


  • Unhealthy Eaters, in particular, are quite defensive about their eating as well as suspicious of anti-Poor Eating (obesity) ad campaigns.

Their reactions are borderline aggressive at times in response to anti-Poor Eating (obesity) messages.  They do not want to feel guilty about their addiction/personal choice and don’t appreciate advertising that suggests they should be.  In short, they don’t want anyone to tell them (preach to them) they should quit Unhealthy Eating.



They do not have a lot of hope for the future with regard to Poor Eating unfixable(obesity) prevention and cessation. They are quite entrenched in the status quo and believe that young people and adults will continue to make their own personal choices regardless of intervention efforts.






Adults in the contemplation stage acknowledge that they should stop unhealthy eating someday, but don’t have the desire to quit now.  They know the health reasons to quit, but rationalize those reasons away (one focus group respondent with <insert disease> told us that “we really don’t know if unhealthy eating can kill you and besides you could also die in a car accident.”)   Furthermore, most Unhealthy Eaters are not sure they can successfully quit if they wanted to.  This doubt that they will be able to quit creates some very complex defense mechanisms.  Focus group respondents talked about the problems of quitting, stress, weight gain, loss of control.  During the focus group we conducted, respondents were asked to create with words and images how they perceived the process of quitting.  There is an overarching feeling of being trapped, of wanting to quit, but not believing that they could quit.  While Unhealthy Eaters in the contemplation stage are responsive to the benefits of quitting, they tend to focus on the perceived struggles of quitting.  The struggles they go through to quit are immense – even overwhelming.  The habit of unhealthy eating is so ingrained in every aspect of life, that a lifestyle change would seem the only option for a successful quit attempt.


However, when asked to visualize what it would be like if they successfully quit, respondents created imagery of being healthier, more attractive, more confident.


Research participants gushed about the benefits of a Poor Eating (obesity)-free life, especially the overwhelming psychological boost they would receive knowing that they beat the Poor Eating (obesity) addiction. In fact, this audience appears to be especially responsive to the communication regarding the immediate benefits of quitting.





Many Americans do not know how to quit unhealthy eating.  In focus groups we conducted with Unhealthy Eaters who have had at least one quit attempt, it was clear that there is low recognition that unhealthy eating is an addiction rather than a habit.  Thus, quit attempts were made with the same level of preparation one would use to kick a habit.  Key elements in preparation cited in the groups were, “getting your mind right,” “reducing your eating consumption” and “praying.”  The majority of our focus group respondents believe that quitting is something you do by yourself and “cold turkey” was the unhealthy choices disorderonly way to quit.



Among participants, there was the sentiment that quitting was about superior personal discipline.  This mindset leads to a tremendous amount of self-criticism when quit attempts are not successful.  In fact, most Poor Eating (obesity) people have made a previous quit attempt.  The fact that they relapsed created a skepticism that they ever could successfully quit.  This leads to a circle of failure in their minds – they want to quit, it was not successful in the past, they will try to quit the same way, it will probably lead to the same result: a temporary quit.






I hope you see what I saw.


A surprising amount of words and thoughts that I would associate with Unhealthy Eating and the personal issues involved with the preoccupation of weight … even though they were talking about smoking/tobacco.


I particularly felt the linkage in reading “preparation.’


…. clear that there is low recognition that unhealthy eating is an addiction rather than a habit.  Thus, quit attempts were made with the same level of preparation one would use to kick a habit.  Key elements in preparation cited in the groups were, “getting your mind right,” “reducing your eating consumption” and “praying.”





Is this flawed logic <using smoking addiction issue words to discuss unhealthy eating>? Possibly.

Is it worth pursuing? Yes.


If you accept the addiction premise … the objective of a program to address this addiction is complex and has to have several objectives:


  • Educate Americans on the dire consequences of Unhealthy Eating.



  • Increase awareness among all Americans that they can successfully quit their unhealthy eating addiction.



  • Address the lack of understanding among Americans of how to quit and the circle of failure identified by people who have made previous quit attempts.



  • Educate Americans on the immediate benefits of quitting Unhealthy Eating.



  • Among those users in the contemplation phase in the Stages of Change Model, provides reasons to move into preparation.



  • Address those users in the pre-contemplation phase in the Stages of Change Model.



These objectives also form a nice basis for evaluation.



Success will be dependent in my eyes on three things <this program will not be for the faint of heart>:



  • Credibility, Consistency and Continuity: Guiding Unhealthy Eaters to a successful quit experience.unhealthy eating mindul eating



    • Credibility – Deliver compelling messages to health care professionals, community leaders and special population groups that communicate the efficacy of any Quit program (which I am not qualified to design)


The addiction concept will only work if the healthcare community is aligned. They need not be vocal just aligned.



    • Consistency – Utilize (paid, matching and earned) media that will provide a consistent flow of “quitters”. (Develop communications that engage thought leaders and health care professionals and providers to create a growing group Quit advocates and referrals.)



Proof. At some point individuals need to understand and believe they are not a minority (a small group of people who are ashamed they have this problem) but rather a majority that is willing to have the “will” to tackle the issue.



    • Continuity – Provide support for each phase of the Stages of Change model.



This has to be a complex campaign with several objectives targeted to a variety of groups. I do believe there is a “flagship” idea that can create an umbrella idea and I will outline that in Part 3.


success pathI do believe we can beat Unhealthy Eating if we treat it like an addiction.






In the interest of sharing information I include this link. I do not agree with the total direction of the article itself <assessing blame on others> but there is some nice information and a thoughtful ‘here is what I would do’ plan of action:





Hope you found it interesting.

Part 3 will outline an idea of how I would jumpstart the Unhealthy Eating campaign.



Sources for research and factoids:

USA Today

                                State of Health Study: North Carolina

                                Several anti-unhealthy eating/quitline RFPs I co-authored

Enlightened Conflict