Always Forward, Rarely Straight

25 09 2012

So I was living the dream, 70 pounds down, plant based diet, feeling healthier and full if energy – then vacation time came. After making the proclamation here that I would not allow vacation to derail me as it has done to so many others – it did. Day one of vacation started with pancakes, bacon and sausage and I never looked back. And a week spiraled into two months of eating a lot more of what I hadn’t been. The last time I looked at a scale I had gained back 12 pounds.

How does it happen? How do human beings that are so focused on a goal slip up like that and completely fall apart? For me, I was frustrated. I was tired of feeling like I was depriving myself and barely seeing the needle on the scale move. It was frustrating to go to my acupuncture appointments and pay hundreds of dollars and see that I lost .4 pounds that week when I knew how hard I was working to lose more. Some weeks, I was even slightly up. So despite the tremendous physical benefits I was feeling from acupuncture, I stopped going all together.

And same was the fate of this blog…checking in weekly to give the weight loss report – I’m just not wired that way. The self imposed “foot on the neck” approach does not yield lasting results for me. I need to have a more gentler setup.

In the past several weeks, I’ve felt a whole lot less full of vigor. I started to feel like how I felt a year ago right before I got sick. I’ve recently been eating an 80% raw diet of uncooked fruits,veggies and nuts in an effort to get back on track. I’ll be frank, I have no idea of what the future game plan is here. I’m just trying to figure out what works for me. Mostly plant based / mostly raw feels good but I’m just not sure if I have the strength or will to limit all food intake to that – at least for the moment.

I’m thankful to the many people who wrote me to see if all was okay or to ask what happened to the blog. It would have been interesting to blog during this two months “in the wilderness” but I just didn’t have it in me. I needed to hit the reset button and clear my mind. I feel like I’m in a better space now.

So for those still checking in, thanks so much. Here we go again…always forward, rarely straight….

The Day I’ve Waited All Year For

23 05 2012

I have looked forward to this day for nearly a year now. One of the happiest days of the year – free Slurpee day! One glorious day a year 7-Eleven gives back to their customers by offering a free 7.11oz Slurpee. The size is surely measly but for those of us who plan it out properly, there is a wondrous fruity bounty to collect.

And so it was with great joy that I began preparing for this day 10 months ago. I would hit every 7-11 in a nearly 75 mile range, consuming liters of the sugary goodness for FREE!!

Except I won’t be. At roughly 20 grams of sugar per small serving, it’s free sugar diabetes with a straw. Getting really sick back in September fully opened my eyes to to how unwise it is to go on these sugar consuming excursions. As it turns out staph infection loves sugar. It practically breeds in the stuff. So it was goodby to sugar and other artificial sweeteners. I’ll stick with foods naturally containing sugar and forgo the rest.

Instead of having my free Slurpees,I started my day with freshly made pineapple, apple, banana, kiwi, blueberry, kale juice. Not as easy as grabbing a Slurpee from the local “Sev” but super energizing and very tasty. Long after the sugar crash from a Slurpee would have taken it’s toll, I’m still plugging away.

It’s a new world and frankly, I don’t miss the old one.

Mike Watt on Life, Death and Art

16 05 2012
Mike Watt – The man in the van with a bass in his hand.  For quite awhile now, Watt has been a lighthouse in the midst of my creative ocean – not steering me to the safety of the shore, but steering me away from it to untapped regions of the unknown where beautiful things can be born if you are brave enough to plant and water the seeds.  I’ve spoken about him in other posts so I won’t beat the same old stories to death here.  Suffice to say, he’s one very creative individual who has a beautiful mind and I’ve considered myself extremely fortunate to be able to interact with him now and again.  The world would benefit from more Mike Watts…I’ll leave it at that and move on to this recent interview with him:
Pic I took from the most recent missingmen 3rd opera tour in Philly
JS: Back in September I came down with a serious infection that took me about 5 months to fight off.  It changed my outlook on a lot of things and really spurred  me to make some long overdue lifestyle changes.  You had your own experience with a seriousness illness back in 2000.  Can you talk a little about that and how that experience spurred change in you?
WATT:  yes, the experience twelve years ago with that illness provided both the inspiration for my second opera and helped make me even more earnest to make as much work as I can with the time I’ve got left.  it was very profound feelings of mortality that shook me to my core. I was only fortytwo and still had so much more I wanted to do.  it was intense for me, big time.
JS:  I’ve come to realize from being sick that I’ve been terrified of pain all of my life and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  What do you think pain teaches us?
WATT:  I was born with bad knees and had much much pain there, surgeries in my twenties.  I think it even helped make me feel more paranoid, waiting for the next “incident” hell and shit like that.  pain can mold us into trippy shapes if we let it dominate us.  it is a tough struggle but seems like a part of the journey.   damn.   probably being born without pain is a challenge also, believe or not.   life is not easy but can be interesting if you put your heart into it.   the physical hells are struggles though, that’s for sure.
JS: We all have our own insecurities and fears.  I often am afraid of opening myself up to strangers in such a public way (as I’ve been doing on this website).  When you have pushed through your own fears in the past what have you found waiting for you on the other side?
WATT:  I got into music to be with my buddy d. boon and he definitely was not so fearful.  this helped me much and I borrowed from him on this, he inspired me to try and be brave but not conceited – he was like that: a very humble man who would try his hardest with expression.  I find when I push some fears away, there’s others waiting so the “fear problem” is never “solved” but rather constantly wrestled.  that’s a trip.
JS:  One of my favorite lyrics from your third opera “hyphenated-man” comes from the song  pinned-to-the-table-man.  “Loss and liberation, forever the connection, forever the question”.  There is so much in that one little sentence.  Can you expand upon the relationship between loss and liberation?  What is the connection and what is the question as you see it?
WATT:  I wrote that in saint petersburg (russia) way after all the other stuff.  in fact I recorded the spiel at my pedro pad when I got back cuz everything had done been done at tony maimone’s studio g in brooklyn already.  the problem was I was “ending” (I say that cuz in theory it’s supposed to be circular and unending) with the “man-shitting-man” part and I realized that folks might take that as the bottom line or some kind of summation/summary of the whole piece.  so what I did was the move the middle (hub) song to the end and instead of having one instrumental as originally planned, I wrote that spiel you refer to and put that part in the middle.  the spiel itself refers to middle years and the idea of reconciliation.  of course not everything can be reconciled and I had to acknowledge that w/a part like that “man-shitting-man” one but in other places, that can happen – even it can be very painful and be a tough lesson to learn.  man treating fellow man inhumanely can’t ever be reconciled in my thinking though, it is huge problem.
angels gate lightouse – April 22, 2008
 Mike Watt 

JS: I’ve really enjoyed your photography over the years.  Some of my favorites like the angels gate lighthouse pics can be found in your new book: mike watt  on and off bass (published by Three Rooms Press).   Have you found any intrinsic similarities between snapping pictures and making music?
WATT:  snapping pictures means trying to capture something you can’t really set up, the way I do it at the crack of dawn on the bicycle or in the kayak.  with composition, you’re more in charge of preparing the situation. there’s more chance involved I think with the pictures and more personal effort with the song stuff.  there are similarities with the idea of refining an expression in a way though, I agree with you there.
JS:  There are also excerpts from your tour diaries as well as some of your poetry in the book.  You have been exploring many different forms of art.  Is there a common thread or underlying drive that spurs you into these seemingly different artistic directions?
WATT:  laurie steelink at track 16 gallery picked the first thirtyfive shots, the three rooms people kat and peter picked the diary entries and the rest of the included images so I think in a way the book is a collaboration.  as for diary writing, I do that on tour to help keep focus and never reread them, so embarrassing to me! that’s the practical side to it.  I guess it is some sort of extension of some of the same stuff in the picture taking and bass plucking too.  I guess the common thread is fucking watt.
JS:  It sometimes appears that for many of us the act of “creating” is encoded into our DNA.  I don’t necessarily mean this in a religious way, but it just seems that we are wired to want to create.  Why do you think human beings find the act of creating, especially art, so important?
Watt:  john coltrane said something about musicians being after a truth and I’m thinking that could apply to the other arts as well.  it’s a search…

JS:  If your vast body of artistic work could only accomplish one thing, what would you want it to be?
Watt: to make folks feel safe to take risks with arts and expression in each of our journeys to find our inside voice and not just flop around in the very shallow pan of marsh, finding ourselves bound up in puppet strings.


Pic of Watt and me.  I’m over 400 pounds in this pic.  I never posted it before because I have always been ashamed at how out of whack I let my weight get around this time.  Now that I’ve lost some of this weight, it feels a little bit safer.

Mike’s book (it’s awesome, buy yourself a copy) can be purchased here:

Mike’s music can be found at itunes, fine music purveyors everywhere and here at his new label:

Info on all things Mike can be found here:

Watt’s podcast of interesting music and ideas here:

(Thanks again Mike!)

Don’t Give Up!

16 05 2012

This one is for the people who are struggling with their weight. For the people who feel broken. For those that have given up. For those that feel they are too far gone now to make a change.

Don’t give up!

I know where you are at. I was over 400 pounds at one point not so long ago. I thought it was too late for me. My friends and family had spoken with me about their concerns regarding my weight. I would “yes” them and then go binge for days. Their criticisms seemed to validate the feelings I already had about myself – that I was not good enough. That there was something wrong with me. I stopped going to most family gatherings. I further isolated myself. My shame grew exponentially.

I had tried to lose weight in the past and always failed. I always gained it all back plus some. I felt hopeless and sometimes worthless. My future looked so bleak to me.

I got to the point where my thought process was that I would die this way. It would be easier to just eat myself to death rather than lose this weight. Until I got very sick and dying became a real possibility. It’s funny how something like that will change a person. It was a blessing that came disguised as a trauma. (Doesn’t this happen frequently in life?).

Getting sick was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to see what others had been trying to say to me. Of course I had known I was in very poor health but it was in getting sick that it really crystalized for me. I knew that I needed to make a change.

There is nothing special about me. My willpower is less than most people you know. I’ve failed constantly in the past. The only difference this time is that I’m willing to continue on for the long haul – one small step at a time. If it takes me 2 years or 5 to lose 200+ pounds, I’m going to do it.

I’m not telling you that you aren’t already perfect because you are. Zen Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The wave does not need to die to become the water”. We are already what we seek to become. It is already inside us, we just need to find it, tap into it and bring it out.

Before losing 65 pounds, I was unable to wear a seatbelt in some cars, I could not sit in a booth when dining out, plastic lawn furniture was my nemesis, amusement park rides were often not possible, flying required seatbelt extenders.  Even just finding the energy to play with my kids or take a walk with them was so difficult.  Life was harder and I was missing out on some of the best parts of it.

So I’m not telling you there is anything wrong with you. I’m just trying to appeal to your desire to live the life you were born to live. The life you envisioned when you were younger. The life that your weight might currently prevent you from living. Inherit the life you were born to live!

How to start? Each race won starts with a single step. So take your first step now. I started by cutting out sugar. I failed initially. Even once in a blue moon I still fail but starting is the important part. Starting and picking yourself up when you fall are the most important things. As you have successes, cut out other unhealthy things while increasing exercise.

Don’t give up!

Aim for a pound. Just one pound. Show your body and your mind that you can do it. When you reach a pound go for 2,  then 5, then 10.   Mini goals are very important.  Sometime the only way a mountain can be climbed is to climb it one step at a time.

Don’t wait for your situation to become increasingly dire like I did. If you aren’t happy, make a small change today.  Begin to come up with a plan.

I’m an email or a message away if I can help in any way. If you need to talk and are willing to put forth some effort, I’m willing to spend the time.  I know you can do this, because I am doing it too.  Millions of us are.  Come join us.  Reclaim your life.

I wish you luck. But with some determination you won’t really need it. Don’t give up!

All the best,

You Can Feel 18 Again

28 02 2012

For those that are new to this blog, up until last week I’d spent over 5 months on antibiotics for a nasty staph infection. Staph is something that many of us naturally carry on our body and in our noses. Most of the time we are immune to it, but on occasion it does find a way into our systems and it can be very stubborn to get rid of. I happen to live in an area with many, many hospitals. It’s the medical capital of the northeastern United States. Because staph originally comes from hospital settings and has now found its way out into communities, this part of the country has seen dramatic increases in people becoming infected. It is an exponentially growing problem and you are now more likely to get it at the gym or while pushing your shopping cart than you are at a hospital.

I’ve never been a big fan of meds, always preferring to let my body try to fight things off naturally if possible. I don’t even use pain relievers, unless I’m burning up from a fever. But when I became sick with staph, my body was in no condition to do any serious fighting. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise and a horrendous diet left a gaping hole in my body’s natural defenses. My immune system was left weakened and susceptible. With the severity of my staph infection, I was happy to be on antibiotics and to eventually find a medicine that would do a good job in fighting it off, as I had tried a number of different ones that really didn’t do the trick. What I never expected was to be on meds for so long. At my last doctor’s appointment just before Christmas, I fully expected to be given the green light to forgo the meds, but was instead told to continue on for two more months as a precaution. At times the dosages were so high that several times a day I was suffering from “medicine gut” a term I coined to describe the fire in my belly that would rise up my esophagus. The ironic thing about being on meds for so long though, is that I eventually started to somehow believe that I wouldn’t be well without them. I was literally scared to go off of them. I had become sort of psychologically dependent on them. Being off of them for a week now has definitely raised my confidence level that things are going to be alright. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous but am feeling better.

Before I got sick, I was so completely exhausted. My life was a vicious circle of poor choices leading to worse health leading to worse choices. At times I have been over 400 pounds. I don’t even no how much over 400 because even the scale in my doctor’s office wouldn’t go higher then that. It’s hard to carry that much weight around all day long. I’d get home and just want to get horizontal. I was eating poorly which also sapped my energy. Then I would turn to sugar to get an energy bump. When that rush wore off, I’d up the amounts of sugar. One day I actually totaled up my sugar intake and found out that often times I was consuming hundreds of grams of sugar daily. I was doing nothing to improve my situation and physically and emotionally I began sinking deeper and deeper.

When I did get sick with staph, I slept for days. I couldn’t even eat. I was nearly bedridden due to exhaustion. I lost 17 pounds in two weeks (some of which I would later gain back). It was a miserable time. And as overdramatic as it probably sounds, there were times that I wondered if I was going to even make it. I felt that bad.

Twenty two weeks on antibiotics gives a person a long time to mull over their situation. I researched ways to fight staph naturally and began using a variety of supplements. I began looking at my diet. Some blood-work confirmed that I would need to make some serious lifestyle changes if I was going to get well and get off meds. Shortly after switching to a plant based diet, I began to feel energized like I hadn’t been in so long. I never crashed. Some nights I had to tell myself it was time to go to sleep because I still had energy. I couldn’t imagine feeling much better. But after being antibiotic free for three days last week, I actually felt the best I have in 18 years. It’s not an exaggeration. I literally felt 18 years old again. The fog lifted and I felt so good – physically and emotionally. For two days I wanted to pinch myself. I felt like I had found the fountain of youth.

With a plant based diet that has been modified to also assist with my other health issues, there are a lot of things that I find myself missing. I do miss meat. I do really miss cheese. I miss bread. I miss Snyder’s hard pretzels (with sharp cheddar cheese). I miss fried foods. Sometimes I think of how nice it would be to have a coca cola on ice. Today, I broke down and bought three small peppers stuffed with prosciutto, hard provolone cheese and marinated in olive oil. Three no no’s. But I felt like a little bit of this stuff might actually do my system a favor as I’ve been eating nothing but fruits, veggies and beans lately. They were so good. It was the taste of my grandmother’s kitchen growing up. But afterwards, I felt rundown. And that’s what I don’t miss. And that’s why I will never go back to how I used to eat. Sure I’ll be less militant when I’m healthy and I know I will eat meat and cheese again, but I’ll never go back to having such an unbalanced diet. I feel too good to ever go back to that. It is worth the trade off. It is worth missing these things.

You really can put lightening back in a bottle. You really can feel 18 again. It’s not bullshit. If you want to feel young again put good gas in your tank. If you want to lose weight, cut out the things that the body has difficulty processing and eat more naturally. Go plant based for two weeks and tell me if you don’t feel absolutely incredible. I’m not telling you its gonna be easy. It’s gonna be very hard but everything that is worth something in life comes with a price.

Some people have asked how to make the switch to a plant based diet easier and I have said get really, really sick and see how easy it is. Because short of that, I doubt I would ever have found this path. In a few weeks, I hope to put together a daily menu for people who want to try a plant based diet out for a couple of weeks. If you are already on the path, consider leaving me some of your favorite plant based recipes below in the comment section or email them to me at Keep them easy. Remember what it was like when you first started. how overwhelming it can be.

If you aren’t yet on the path but suffer from fatigue, want to lose weight, etc. – consider going plant based just for a few weeks and see what a difference it can make. Even smaller steps like cutting out sugar, or processed foods could allow you to feel and see some real noticeable results. Learn from my mistakes, if you are unhealthy, don’t wait until you are so sick that you have no other options.

Goodbye Pills: Life Without a Net

22 02 2012

It’s been 24 hours without these:

Since September, I’ve been eating these things like candy for a staph infection that I was eventually diagnosed with.  It took a month just to find a med that really responded to it, hence all the different ones. The pink ones were for pain as a pimple on the back of my neck had swelled to something about the size of a deck of cards in less than 72 hours. Some of the white ones were to prevent the sepsis (blood poisoning)that was beginning to occur from really taking root. Then the dosage was increased but did little to stop the actual growth. So I was switched to a different and stronger med which still didn’t do the trick. Then I began getting antibiotic shots at my doctors office and again my med was changed (a third different white one). By the time I was finally diagnosed with the staph I had been on 6 different meds. The experience with my general practitioner was very difficult and I had to really fight to advocate for myself. If I hadn’t fought to get a culture done, I’m not sure what would have happened. Luckily I knew some knowledgeable people who were able to help steer me in the right direction.

The experience with my doctor was miserable and honestly I can’t even write about it in the detail that it deserves without feeling the anxiety that surrounded that time start to seep back in. So suffice to say, I found an infectious disease doctor that was quite fantastic and he put me on the blue guys for the last four months. Because the size of my infection was so large and was mostly under the skin in one of the deadliest spots you can get staph (the nape of the neck. The most deadly is on the forehead – all because of blood vessels and relatively easy access to the brain and spine), I had to take 8 of those suckers a day. That was 2400mg a day for three months. I can’t even begin to tell you what this does to a person’s stomach.  I remember my new doctor saying that I was on enough meds to sink a battleship. Gradually I was able to reduce down to half of that dose. Yesterday I stopped all together.

Over the last four months, I have felt decent but there have been times where I thought the staph was coming back. The meds kept everything in check and within hours, pimples that popped up would be gone again. But now, I’m going without that net. It feels really good to be off of meds and I hope that I will never need them again for this. But I am scared like crazy at the same time. Hopeful and scared. Once I get through a week with no problems, I will start feeling better.

As miserable an experience as this was (for a little while there, I truly thought I would be hospitalized and possibly worse) it gave me the push I so desperately needed to try to get my health and wellness in better order. The human body was created to heal itself. It is it’s own best medicine. Taking care of it allows it to better be able to do its job. I’m pretty much doing all that I can to take care of myself now. I really hope the worst is over. It’s an interesting story, but one that I’d rather not have to live through ever again.

Something to Chew On!

31 01 2012

So much of what can be bought in our supermarket is completely over processed, nutrient deficient and made to sit on a store shelf for a long, long time without going bad. Have you read any labels recently? We can’t pronounce half of this stuff, many of which are chemicals made in a lab. It’s downright scary. Flame retardants in your chicken mcnuggets, sodas and energy drinks?? Chips with Olestra – causing anal leakage! Yuck! Carcinogens like Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Hydroxytoluene, Saccharine, Aspartame, nitrates, Potassium Bromate, Blue #2 are found in every thing from rolls, hot dogs, bacon, kids cereal, candy, bubble gum, soy sauce, stuffing mix, sugar substitutes and the list goes on and on and on. It’s downright scary. And so I continually find myself asking the question, why don’t we eat closer to the source? What is more natural than fruits and vegetables – especially organic ones?

As recommended by a recent Men’s Health online article – here are a few natural foods that provide enormous health benefits:

BOK CHOY – This is a great one to try if you’ve never had it. I’ve blogged about it before. It’s full of vitamins, a bone builder and a cancer fighter!

BANANAS – Good for your brain and nervous system, With tryptophan it calms you while the potassium helps you recover quickly from strenuous workouts. It’s also a great immunity booster.

KIWIS – Also packed with potassium. Contains lutein which is fantastic for your heart. And if you’re going organic you can even eat the nutrient rich skin. Who knew?

BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER, KALE, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND CABBAGE – Loaded with calcium, minerals, vitamins and anti-cancer rich antioxidants.

SPINACH – In studies, it has actually killed cancer cells. It protects the liver, may ward off Alzheimer’s and is a fantastic way to help prevent osteoporosis. If you are experimenting with a plant based diet, Spinach is also a great way to get protein.

LEEKS – Great for your arteries, prevent against prostate cancer and supports healthy sexual functioning.

ARTICHOKES – Eating these daily can cut the risk of strokes. They contain more bone building material than any other vegetable. They are rich in fiber and help maintain the immune system.

CHILI PEPPERS – Anti-inflammatory, immunity booster, metabolism booster, anti-cancer properties, blood thinner and endorphin releaser. Wow!

GINGER – Immunity booster and powerful colon cancer suppressor.

BLUEBERRIES – The most antioxidant rich fruit known to man.

CINNAMON – Reduces blood sugar levels when taken regularly (cinnamon sticks in a glass of hot water is a good way to do this), prevents against blood clots and bacterial infections.

SWEET POTATO – Prevents against diabetes, enhances nutrient metabolism, boosts immunity and has anti cancer properties. Good for the heart and liver. Protects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.

TOMATOES – Filled with lycopene, a potential cancer fighter that is good for your heart and boosts immunity.

FIGS – Gives your body the proper PH to fight off pathogens (I should be eating these like crazy). Reduces blood sugars and boosts immunity.

MUSHROOMS – Are a great cancer fighter. Sautéing them in red wine reportedly magnifies their immunity boosting power.

POMEGRANATES – The juice from the seeds of this fruit are cancer fighters. A recent UCLA study found that this fruit can slow prostate cancer cell growth up to six times it’s normal rate.

APPLES – One a day really does keep the doctor away. They have the highest source of anti-inflammatory properties found in fruit. Good for your heart and fights against a variety of diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Join me in incorporating some of these regularly into a daily diet.

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