29 Sep 2010

Manage your body weight - the green way

Health in all its aspects has always been a topic quite close to my heart, and lately I've been thinking a lot about the basics of weight gain (and loss) and how that ties in with our lives and our environment.

The first question I had to tackle was: when does a person (or animal) gain weight? And the answer, reduced to its foundations, isn't that complicated (even though the circumstances usually are): we gain weight when we eat more calories than we burn. Meaning: when we consume more energy than we physically need.

And this is an interesting point to take a closer look at.
First of all, we need to be aware that all food we eat, is energy that was part of another living being, be it an animal or a plant. That life form - and, in case of animals, whatever was needed to feed it - has died (or lost a few parts) to keep us alive a little longer. I'm not saying we need to live our lives feeling guilty about it - we are part of nature and that's how it works - but I believe it's vital to acknowledge our food's true origin in order to recover a more natural and healthy relationship with nutrition.

Now, looking at it in this way, we have several ways to manage our weight. Let's look at a few options for weight loss:
  1. We consume more energy than we need (or the exact amount), but burn off the extras with exercise, and then some.
  2. We do our normal daily activities, but we eat fewer calories than we need, thus burning off our reserves.
  3. A mix of both.
From an ecological and sustainable point of view: which of these makes the most sense?

I would say the second: take in fewer calories, and as a result we'll burn some of the extra energy our bodies have stored as fat. It's the perfect way to restore the balance between the energy total we consume during our lifetime, and how much we actually need to stay alive and healthy.

Don't get me wrong: I'm NOT pleading against exercise. When we lead sedentary lives, our bodies need us to move around more, to get our hearts pumping and our muscles working.
But I am pleading for a more conscious approach to the food we take in, and to what we spend that energy on. Somehow it feels absurd in these times of impending resource and food crises, overfertilisation and animal cruelty, to overeat and then step on the treadmill to burn it off.

At the same time the reality of weight loss is a very complicated issue, tied in with lots of physical, cognitive and emotional factors. And often there's guilt, resistance, social disapproval and stigmatisation to tackle on top of everything else.

But to me, those are just more reasons why it we need to go back to the basics, and look at which of our behaviours and understandings aren't helping us to go where we want to go, wherever that might be.

Fat in itself isn't evil, it's not a safety blanket nor is it a cosmic (or genetic) conspiracy. It's just energy we're storing. Energy we can still use, whether we still believe that or not. Energy that we've acquired through cannibalizing other life forms, something we all do, every day. There's no point in feeling bad about it, but let us acknowledge the fact and use that awareness to fuel our resolve and - if necessary - to change our outlook on our personal energy balance.

Let us not take our food for granted, and use our stored energy well.

Therefore, apart from being conscious about our food intake, can we come up with forms of exercise that benefit other living beings? Our immediate environment, our pets, families, communities or - if we get really ambitious - society as a whole?

Continued in: Manage your body weight - the green way: part two: eating.
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26 Sep 2010

So Your Partner's a Rational Creature ... - Part Two


Welcome to part two of my attempt to explore the rational mind, in which I want to discuss fundamental differences in how ratio-driven and emotion-driven people approach everyday life.

(Continued from part one.)


Fundamental difference #1:

Rational people are problem-focused rather than people-focused.

When confronted with a difficult situation, they will either avoid it or tackle it, but they'll be concentrating on the issue, not on the people or potential emotions involved.

Example:

(I've stuck with the male-female clichés for stereotypical clarity. Please substitute names and genders as fits.)

Angela's had a horrible day at work and comes home feeling frustrated and sad. She starts telling her partner Bob about all the things that happened that day. Halfway through her 3rd sentence (this Bob is an extravert) he interrupts her and starts giving her advice. Angela gets even more frustrated, lashes out at Bob because "he never listens and doesn't even try to understand what's going on inside her", and stomps off, leaving Bob puzzled on the couch.

What just happened?

Angela:

First of all, Angela wasn't talking about her problems so much as sharing how she felt. She wasn't looking for a solution. Not yet. That might/would come later, after the initial emotions had been processed.

Actions that would have helped her: just listening, nodding, asking a few supportive questions to show he was paying attention and did care. How? Well, plenty of options: cuddles, getting her something to drink, opening a box of (carefully hidden) emergency chocolates, or taking her out to dinner. Or all of the above. (Feel free to share below what would work for you!)

Bob:

Bob on the other hand didn't want Angela to feel bad, was listening for facts about the problem and looked for solutions. His main intent: to prevent this from happening again. Ever. Like I said: problem-focused. He contributed with what he does best: analysing the situation, considering possible solutions and picking the most appropriate one. Angela's response comes out of the blue and seems completely irrational and unnecessary. It leaves him confused and frustrated. When this happens a few times, he's likely to conclude that it's a woman thing and that they're fickle creatures who are impossible to please.

Now, there are things Angela could have done to help him, like telling him that what she really needed was comfort and emotional support, and that even though she appreciated his help in trying to fix it, she couldn't focus on solutions until much later, once she'd got over the initial emotional reaction.

Reality check:

I know this sounds much easier than it is, but don't despair: it's okay to get it wrong a number of times. We are amazing learners with flexible and versatile brains. As long as we keep analysing afterwards, and put in the effort to look beyond feeling wronged, hurt or misunderstood, we will soon discover that after the temporary unpleasantness has died down, our rational partners are very willing to look at what went wrong and even more to find ways to prevent this from happening again.

Continued in Rational creature - part 3

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Image: 'Close Up of The Thinker' by Todd Martin, available under a creative commons license. © 2005, Todd Martin.
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So Your Partner's a Rational Creature ...


Throughout our lives, many of us have close relationships with rational people.
(I deliberately use gender-neutral words here, because it's by no means so that all rational people are male, or that all men are rational.)

Interaction with people who are vastly different in their decision-making process isn't easy, especially in romantic settings, and this often results in big misunderstandings that accumulate and sometimes lead to the end of the relationship. However ...

It's great to be different.

Being different is great for a relationship ánd for our personal growth, especially when we have at least a few  important characteristics and interests in common. Those help us overcome the inevitable misunderstandings.

Good communication requires a basic understanding of why our partners do what they do. So, what lies beneath a rational person's seemingly cold, uncaring or confrontational behaviour?

It's taken me a few years, lots of observations and possibly thousands of conversations with my wonderful (rational) partner and many of my / his / our friends, to understand them better. In the interest of world peace, I'll gladly share my unscientific and premature conclusions with you.

First of all ...

All rational people are different.

That sounds like bad news, but it isn't, really. It makes our lives and our quest for understanding of life, the universe and everything much more interesting - at least when we care enough about that person to put in the extra effort. But bear with me, I'll try to make it worth your while.

It's good to know that, on an abstract level, rational people have a few characteristics in common, the most obvious one being ...

Logic.

In my next few posts I'm going to try and dissect our rational partners' minds and look at the practical implications. I will focus on the bits that drive us nuts until we apply our own wonderful and talented brains to them and really try to understand.

Most of all, however tempting it can be to discard the rational creatures in our lives as detached cold fish, they're quite complex, fascinating and worthy of our love. They make amazing partners and can add tremendous value to so many aspects of our lives.

Continued in: Rational creature - part 2

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Image: 'Close Up of The Thinker' by Todd Martin, available under a creative commons license. © 2005, Todd Martin.
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23 Sep 2010

Have we become romance-intolerant?

A few days ago I watched an episode of Sex and the City. (I know.)

It was the one where Carrie's new boyfriend (the Russian artist) showers her with old school romance: reciting poetry, writing her a song and playing it on the piano, taking her to the opera, inviting her to dance with him under the moonlight, you name it.
She couldn't stand it. It was too much for her "as a modern New Yorker" (her words).

It made me think about our current definition(s) of romance.
Somehow the first images that come to mind still are: roses, hearts, candlelight dinners and long walks on the beach. Try the keyword "romance" in Google images and count the number of sunsets, or the German word "Romantik" and it's even worse.
Now, I happen to love roses, candles and beaches, but when they're being applied as an infallible strategy, they make me queasy.

Does this mean romance is dead?

I don't think so. But we might have lost sight of its essence: spending time, energy and most of all attention on the person / people you love. Consciously looking for something that will surprise them, which you can only do if you've put in the effort to really get to know them.

That's what romance comes down to for me: get to know the ones you love, and not just in the things they have in common with you.
The opportunities for romance might be hiding right there where you're different.
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22 Sep 2010

In the beginning there was ... Eve.

It had been a while since I'd been touched to the core of my heart and soul.

I'm lying. I recently got married and that was pretty intense. And we had a wonderful honeymoon. But even throughout events as special and unique and magical as those, my inner cynic still reared its ice-cold head. I'm sure that's healthy, and it was okay – it didn't ruin anything.

But that's not what I want to write about right now. Maybe later.

I was referring to a video I found a few weeks ago. It was one of the TED talks. (http://www.ted.com/) If you're not familiar with them, they're really worth checking out. The TED website is one of the most inspiring places on the Web, and it's easy to get lost there for days.

This talk was by Eve Ensler, the woman who created the Vagina Monologues. Her entire presentation was very inspirational, but I could watch most of it with the touched-but-still-semi-detached interest that seems to come naturally when I'm just browsing and run into something that stands out. Until about 16 minutes into the presentation, where she stood up and started reading a part from her newest book, called "I am an emotional creature."

The initial vicarious embarassment at seeing a woman I have a lot of respect for throw open the doors to her heart, lasted but a few seconds. What she said, and how she said it, hit home. It takes a remarkable woman to do what she does, with such power and conviction.

Later that night, I had one of my best friends over and showed her the video. We both cried, again. However, it was the kind of crying that we probably don't get to do often enough. The kind that makes you feel stronger, the kind that feeds and inspires.

It was the kick in the butt I needed to get this blog started. It all started with Eve. Quod erat demonstrandum.

If you have 20 minutes to spare, here's Eve's talk:


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Awards

On April 12, 2011, I got my first award from Deirdra Eden-Coppel at A Storybook World, the Creative Blog Award. Much appreciated!

(Did you know she does all her own artwork?)


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On April 30, 2011, author and illustrator Elizabeth Mueller gave an award to everybody who survived the A to Z blogging challenge, a mad month of daily blogging according to the letters of the alphabet.
Crazy Z-zebra indeed! Thanks for the award! ;-)



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And here's an A to Z badge from the A to Z team.

(Thanks Arlee, Alex, Candace, Jeffrey, Jen, Karen, Stephen & Talli!)



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On April 5th 2011, the ever-fabulous Karen Walker at Following the Whispers passed on the Stylish Blogger Award to me. She's an amazing woman, and I'm honoured she thought of me!


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On May 6, 2011, cyberpunk / paranormal romance / urban fantasy writer Sarah Mäkelä passed on the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks a lot!



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On August 10, 2011, the witty and wonderful Margo Lerwill passed me the 'Liebster Blog' award. Thank you! <3



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On August 29th, one of my favourite bloggers L.G. Smith of the legendary Bards & Prophets slipped me the 7x7 link award, which gave me the perfect opportunity to highlight 7 of my older posts. I loved reading her older posts and I hope you'll enjoy mine.



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October 7th, 2011, I received the Friendly Blogger Award from Scottish writer and all-round supportive wonder woman Rosemary Gemmell. Thanks and: right back at you! :-)


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21 Sep 2010

About me

My name is K.C. Woolf and I lead many lives.

In one of them, I write contemporary fantasy; in another one, I teach budding game developers about learning and game design; in a third, I am married to an incredibly smart man, who happens to mix the most scrumptious caipirinhas.

My passions are books, ideas, people and places. (Or herbs, health, chocolate and wine, ... depending on whom you ask - or the day, week, season or year.)

I was twelve when I wrote my first attempt at a novel. Afterwards I focused on poems, essays and stories until I went to university and stopped writing altogether. In the face of my great literary examples, the fear of not measuring up hit me like a steamroller and flattened my courage along the way.

In between the many distractions of adolescent life, I got an MA in English and German Literature and an additional degree in Educational Sciences, and I didn't write fiction for a full fifteen years. (Unless you'd count emails, project proposals, application files and reports.)

It took me a long time to find out how vital writing fiction is to me. Once I did, I began to research, dream up characters and build a world. Then I wrote my first full-length novel, a contemporary (rural) fantasy, set in the gorgeous English Cotswolds. I expect to be editing it forever after.

In between reading, writing and travelling, I explore the perimeters of a healthy and a Burgundian lifestyle. I can easily get lyrical about good, authentic food and great wines.

'The Woman Condition' tackles a wide range of topics, reflecting several of these lives. It also gives clues to what my novel is about - and helps to keep me sane.

I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I love writing it.

K.C.

Site: http://www.kcwoolf.com/

Email: KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com
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