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Archive for the ‘Sustainable Living’ Category

Another Difference Between Reading Weight Loss Entries Here Versus Other Blogs
July 19th, 2012 | Added to Health Ideas & Gym Stories, Sustainable Living | No Comments »

The other day I mentioned that one of the differences between reading a weight loss-related entry here versus other blogs is that I understand reality. In other words, some days you just can’t work out because you’re out of the house from 7am until 9pm and when you get home you’re truly exhausted so you fall down onto the couch or bed and go to sleep. I get it. That’s life sometimes. Well, after reading another well-known blogger who writes about how he lost over 140 pounds, I’ve realized another difference between and the rest of the blogs:

I don’t think you are a bad person.

Too often I read these weight loss blogs and the writers suggest that their former, fat selves are people that they don’t even remember. They refer to their fat selves as existing in a previous or past life. They do everything they can to distance who they’ve become from who they were for, sometimes, decades.

It’s disgusting.

How lonely and pathetic must a person’s life be for them to want to distance themselves from… themselves!? And how much internal self-hate must these people harbor for them to despise who they “used to be?” Talk about people who seriously need to see a psychiatrist! For these folks, it’s not about losing pounds – it’s about getting over their own self-loathing and self-hate masked in the rhetoric of weight loss.

Don’t be fooled, people.

Let me talk from experience. After I lost 125 pounds I distinctly remember looking at pictures of my 380+ pound self and thinking, “That’s a fat guy in that picture, but that’s a very, very good guy, too.” I also distinctly remember a feeling of sadness when I looked at those pictures because I remembered all of the times when that 380+ pound guy would get snide looks or overhear exaggerated sighs in the airport and movie theater or have to deal with people look at him from afar. In fact, I remember walking in the store one day and seeing a really big person and thinking, “That poor woman. I bet she’s a saint, but that people judge her without hearing the first word out of her mouth.”

After I lost all of that weight people would ask me about what it’s like to live a new life and shed away my past. I’d immediately think, “New life? What the hell are these people talking about?!” I wasn’t a different person after I lost all of that weight. Not at all! The difference was that the portion of society that wasn’t overweight tried to bring me in to their cabal of divisive comments and unspoken disgust of fat people. It was almost as though they wanted me to say, “Yeah – I couldn’t believe what a worthless piece of trash I used to be!”

That type of drivel will never come out of my mouth because I’m fully aware of my self-worth.

Aside from the religious reasons why I don’t believe that any life is a worthless piece of a trash (least of all my own!), I don’t believe that a person’s weight should determine how society acts towards them. And yet I read people writing on these weight loss blogs about how they’re excited to have a new body and how they hated life before they lost the weight.

That’s not a weight problem, that’s a psychological problem.

The point of this entry is to tell all of you who might be in the midst of battling the bulge that you’re fighting the good fight. And, more importantly, don’t believe the voices of the self-hating people out there who already lost a bunch of weight and are now condemning their former selves. These are people who have a mental issue and are trying to compensate for their long lasting, deep-rooted, self-hatred. Love yourself. God gave you the beautiful body that you have. Treat it as the temple it is expected to be.

Don’t hate yourself – today or tomorrow.

Yesterday’s Update Annoyed Me, So I Did a Little Something About It
July 15th, 2012 | Added to Health Ideas & Gym Stories, Sustainable Living | No Comments »

After I posted yesterday’s update which showed just how sedentary my lifestyle is mostly forced to be, I got a little annoyed. Well, I was actually annoyed while I wrote it and then a good friend of mine called and he and I bitched to each other about the various pains in the neck that we have to deal with every day. During our bitch session, I cited the fact that I have this ultra sedentary lifestyle and it creates a much less in shape and physically powerful “me” than should exist.

The combination of writing yesterday’s entry and bitching with my buddy pushed me to a point where I had to do something about the week’s worth of results that I posted yesterday. And I did. Here’s the graphic from FitBit showing the statistics that I achieved yesterday:

Yesterday’s results from my FitBit Ultra.

This is what happens when someone gets annoyed at being forced into the proverbial corner. And this proves that I have the physical ability to generate these types of statistics (which I don’t think was ever in question anyway).

I’d like to suggest that I’ll keep this high level of activity going throughout the week, but I’m more realistic and understand that making such claims will ultimately lead to failure. For example, looking at my schedule for Monday I already know that I’ll be spending 13.5 of my 16 waking hours that day either driving, sitting in meetings, or crunching numbers behind a desk. Could I squeeze in a walk or two around the block while I’m at the office? Of course. Could I take the stairs instead of the elevator? Well, I normally do that already. Could I reasonably get the type of statistics that you see in the image above with the planned schedule that I have to navigate on Monday?


And that’s the difference between reading weight loss and health-related stories on this blog versus reading them on other blogs. I’m realistic. If I was to buy-in to the bullshit that we sell elementary, high school, and college athletes, then I’d be panicking and going crazy right now. You know that line of bullshit that we sell those athletes. It takes different forms, but it mostly sounds like: “The only one stopping you is YOU!” or “If you WANT to do it, then you WILL do it.” or “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Alright, that last quote was from Yoda in Star Wars, but you get the picture.

Sometimes, there are legitimate reasons for you not to be able to get to the gym or walk the suggested 10,000 steps in a day. If you believe the bullshit hype (and, unfortunately, I think that most people do), then you’re going to drive yourself nuts trying to find out how you can fit in those 10,000 with almost no free time in your day and without compromising your professional efficiency.

It’s about balance, folks. It’s not about hysteria and it’s not about believing the motivational crud that we sell to people who don’t have any expansive, real world responsibilities. If you use your free time effectively – when you have it – then you might be able to get a day’s worth of work like what’s noted in the graphic above. Much more importantly, though, is realizing that you may not be able to achieve this goal on a daily basis because of other personal and professional commitments… and that’s okay.

What a Sedentary, Desk Jockey, Office-Based Lifestyle Looks Like
July 14th, 2012 | Added to Health Ideas & Gym Stories, Sustainable Living | No Comments »

My Mother recently bought me a FitBit Ultra tracker. The FitBit is part-pedometer, part-sleep meter, part-calorie counter, and part-everything else. You wear it similarly as you would wear a pedometer, except the rules for attaching it to your person aren’t as rigid as a pedometer. For example, a pedometer must be placed in a specific location on or near your waist in order for it to track your steps. The FitBit, on the other hand, can be thrown into your pants pocket or even a shirt pocket among other places.

I wanted a FitBit Ultra for two reasons: to track my sleep and to track my activity levels. For a while now I’ve not been sleeping well. I’d say that I began noticing this back towards the end of April 2012; I figured that the FitBit could at least provide some level of tracking to see what was going on with my sleep.

In addition, I’ve gone from being an athletically active guy in high school to an academically and socially active guy in college (i.e. not working out in the gym, but still up and about) to a graduate student with so much free time that he lost 125 pounds (most of which has been gained back) to a guy with a good job which, unfortunately, requires about two hours of driving every day and the majority of my time being spent sitting at a desk staring at a computer. That’s some roller coaster for a body to go through over a 7 – 10 year period!

However, just like I began feeling that something was wrong with my sleep back in April, for some time now I’ve felt extra-sedentary. It’s a weird type of feeling to describe, but the feeling of being extra-sedentary is somewhat unnatural. It’s an interesting feeling in that you have the desire to go out and workout and you understand all of the motivational bullshit that folks like coaches and personal trainers try to sell you. But at the same time, you’re swamped with commitments and requirements that force you to sit behind a desk, in a car, at a meeting, on the phone, etc. for extended periods of time.

And that’s the key to understanding this extra-sedentary mode that some people fall in. There is a tremendous mental weariness and physical drain that comes with being an office worker, a long-term commuter, an active volunteer who does great things for causes at the result of lost free time, etc. If you can understand that drain and creeping innate exhaustion, then you can understand the feeling that I’ve been feeling for some time now.

Combine that feeling with a lack of sleep and, well, you don’t feel right. So I wanted the FitBit to track some of these items and this is what I found out:

My averages from July 1, 2012 – July 7, 2012

Take a look at those statistics. They’re horrible! Those are my average outcomes for the week of July 1, 2012 – July 7, 2012. If you’re looking at that graphic and wondering what the 33,828 steps taken means, it means that I walk an average of 4,833 steps per day. That’s less than half of what you’re supposed to walk each day! That pie graph shows that 68.7% of my waking hours are spent in a sedentary mode with a scant 3.3% of my time spent in a “very active” mode. That’s terrible!

And then you have the sleep bar graphs. The first bar graph shows how long I slept each day that week. It may be hard to tell from the graph, but the average amount of sleep that I get each night is between 6 hours and 6 hours and 20 minutes. Wondering where that innate feeling of exhaustion comes from? There you go! The last bar graph shows that I wake up a lot when I sleep. I’d estimate that the average amount of times that I wake up is between 25 and 35 times each night. That’s terrible! FitBit provides a more exact tracking of your sleep on a daily basis showing exactly when you woke up and how long you were awake, but I don’t want to bog this post down with a ton of graphics. The point is that I don’t sleep well and these figures prove it.

There are other statistics that I can provide, but they aren’t the focus of this entry. For example, I always knew that I didn’t really eat that much (regardless of how much I weigh). By tracking my calorie intake through FitBit, I was able to confirm that I typically eat between 2,000 and 2,500 calories each day, which is right in line for what a guy of my size should be eating to maintain a decent level of health. I don’t need to track this through FitBit because I get quarterly blood tests and checkups at the doctor and I get it confirmed there, but I’ll track it anyway since it doesn’t take up much of my time.

This all begs the question – now what? Now that I have this information what is it that I plan to do with it? Well, I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I wanted to find some validation for what I thought to be true and I found that validation through the FitBit Ultra. What I need to do now is find a way to begin breaking the sedentary lifestyle. However, that’s a very tough task. For example, I look at my schedule for the coming week and I’m booked solid – in a forced sedentary mode – all day Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. On Saturday, I’m booked at two social events which will take up the bulk of my day. That leaves three days where I can potentially do something to get my activity levels up.

I suppose I could work out on those three days and I’m sure that I’ll do something active even if it’s just walking through the local mall or walking up and down the boardwalk by the beach. Yet, it all feels very disparate to me. In other words, it doesn’t seem like a long-term solution and, frankly, it doesn’t even seem like a short-term stop-gap measure.

In the end, I’m a data wonk (thanks, graduate school) and now I have a source of reasonably reliable data that confirms my prior suspicions. What this provides me is a better understanding of what I need to focus in on in order to improve my health. And those improvements center on two areas: higher activity levels and more restive sleep periods. If I can manage those two improvements, then they should combine with my already low caloric intake should put me in a much better physical condition.

Infographic: Nursing Your Lungs – Don’t Smoke
July 9th, 2012 | Added to Sustainable Living | No Comments »

The other day I received an e-mail with a link to the infographic below. Smoking sucks. Not only does it aggravate those of us who do not smoke, but it’s extremely bad for your health. And I’m not kidding about aggravating those of us who don’t smoke – there’s nothing worse than being downwind of a smoker and getting that toxic secondhand smoke blown in your face. I don’t know about you folks, but it gives me an immediate headache that doesn’t go away very quickly. Totally sucks.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this infographic – lots of interesting information to consume.


The Rug In My Townhouse Is Absolutely Filthy… Take A Look!
June 11th, 2012 | Added to Sustainable Living | No Comments »

Since 2001, I’ve lived with different roommates in different rental, living situations. For a few years I lived in my fraternity’s chapter house, for a few years I lived in a smaller setting with, essentially 5 – 6 roommates (across two apartments), and for a few years I’ve lived with 1 – 2 roommates. There are certain things about the rental life that I enjoy like the lower overall cost of living and there are certain aspects that I don’t like (any more). One of the things that irk me the most about rental living is the lack of ownership that my roommates and I have regarding our apartment.

When I write “lack of ownership” what I mean is that owners have a different approach to their living space than renters. Owners want to improve or stabilize their living space in an effort to increase the value of their homes. Renters, on the other hand, by and large don’t care about increasing the value of the property (in some respects, they are against the value of the property increasing because it forces a higher rent on them). What I’ve noticed, though, is that people living in rental situations actually accept a lower standard of living. Let me explain with a visual example.

The picture below is what my rug looks like in the living room of my apartment:

Some spots on the rug before OxiClean

No, that’s not some weird modern art pattern on the rug – that’s filthy dirt and stains. It’s disgusting. It looks like they purchased this rug from a battlefield hospital during the Civil War. It’s gross. Now most folks would look at this and think, “Just clean your rug, Joe. Stop being a pig.” And those people would be morons.

The rugs were like this when my roommates and I moved into this place a few years ago. After a few years of complaining, our landlord paid for the rugs to be professionally cleaned. Like most professional cleanings, the rugs looked amazing when the job was done… and then a few weeks later they attracted an incredible amount of dirt and filth like magnets.

But my roommates and I are trying to take the typical property owner mindset and fight back a little bit. Below is a picture of what the same spot on the rug looks like after we hit it with some OxiClean.

Rug after OxiClean

Not too bad, right? Sure, there are dozens of disgusting stains all over the rug, but hitting them with OxiClean and getting this result is a good use of our time because it improves the feel of the living room. Who knows? Maybe after two or three applications of this stuff the stains will actually be gone.

Note: The pictures above were taken over a month and a half ago and the stain is still gone. I’m beginning to think that OxiClean can actually clean the rug and keep it clean for good. That would be a nice change from the “professional cleaner” that the landlord spent several hundred bucks on last summer.

I Make a Pretty Delicious Oatmeal and Berry Breakfast
April 29th, 2012 | Added to Sustainable Living | No Comments »

Alright, look – even though I’m a bigger guy, I eat some pretty good food. Would you believe that it’s been about a decade since I’ve eaten fast food like McDonald’s and Burger King and just about a decade since I’ve even had a sip of soda? Pretty remarkable, huh? One of the reasons why I don’t bother eating this type of gross, fake food any more is because I discovered organic food. Yes, organic foods costs just a little bit more, but when you drink a glass of organic milk and really taste the milk again you’ll know that it was worth the few extra dollars.

Aside from discovering organic food, I try to make my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I have a chance. On that note, I make a pretty delicious oatmeal and berry breakfast. The pictures below detail my making an oatmeal and berry breakfast a few weeks ago. Incidentally, the oatmeal used here is Bob’s Red Mill organic rolled oats mixed with two tablespoons each of Bob’s Red Mill organic ground flaxseed meal and Bob’s Red Mill organic wheat germ. I like Bob’s Red Mill products. The berries are also organic from the produce section of the local Wegmans grocery store.

This isn’t a step-by-step guide to how to make my delicious oatmeal and berry breakfast, but I thought I would take some pictures and show everyone what I do every once in a while to make this delicious meal. The picture above shows the berries mixed together in a large bowl. I just leave them in the bowl until I’m ready to pour the cooked oatmeal on top. In addition to the blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries that you see above, sometimes throw in sliced strawberries, too.

I actually went out and bought this small sauce pot because I didn’t want to make my oatmeal in the small T-Fal pots that I have in my kitchen. I hate when that T-Fal stuff starts to chip and get mixed in with the food. Gross. So I went to Wegmans and purchased that little stainless steel pot that you see in the picture above. Inside that pot is one cup of water (filtered through the PUR filter on my sink faucet), a half a cup of Bob’s Red Mill organic rolled oats, two tablespoons of Bob’s Red Mill organic ground flaxseed meal, two tablespoons of Bob’s Red Mill organic wheat germ, a teaspoon of organic cinnamon (I’ve been using Simply Organic cinnamon and it has a very good taste), and a few twists of freshly crushed sea salt from the container (nothing more than a teaspoon). Once the water boils, I pour the rest of the ingredients in at one time and then bring the temperature down to mid or low.

After the oatmeal is done cooking, I dump it on top of the berries (picture down below), but I’m a huge stickler for keeping a clean kitchen! So once the oatmeal is poured and, on occasion, scraped out of the stainless steel pot, the pot goes right into the sink with hot water in it!

And you’re wasting your time if you don’t put some dish soap in with that hot water. As you eat your breakfast, the hot water and dish soap will eat into any bit of the oatmeal that is clinging to your stainless steel pot like its life depending on it (which, in some ways, I guess it does).

You’re supposed to clean everything! Can you tell how anal I am about keeping a clean kitchen (especially when you cook breakfast)? Here you see my measuring cup and the measuring spoons that I use to measure out my ingredients.

Ahhh… then you have the coup de grâce of the entire effort. This is what the delicious finished product looks like after the berries are mixed into the oatmeal. I’m telling you – if you like berries, oatmeal, and cinnamon, then this is what you want to eat in the morning. Trust me.

Oh, and I usually drink a nice glass of organic milk with my oatmeal and berries. I like Organic Valley’s fat free milk. Very tasty.

And there you have it! This is what I try to eat at least once per week or more often if I have the time to make it. It’s energizing, healthy, and most importantly – it’s delicious!

Guest Editorial: Is Your Sleep Debt Growing?
November 20th, 2011 | Added to Money, Jobs, & Finances, Sustainable Living | No Comments »

We talk a lot about financial debt here on, but today I’m glad to bring you a guest post from Nancy Ulrich of Nancy has prepared the article below (everything below this paragraph) which talks about the potential of a sleep debt growing in your life. It’s very interesting – I suggest giving this article a read. Enjoy!

Is Your Sleep Debt Growing?

Or is your debt growing because of your sleep?

Your sleep shouldn’t cause your debts to grow. But poor sleep habits and poor mattress choices can give you financial nightmares.

How Can Sleep Debt Be Expensive?

Asleep at work?

Most Americans get by on 7 hours of sleep a night. But studies have shown that the average optimum amount of sleep is closer to 8. You’re probably running a sleep deficit or ‘sleep debt’ right now. But it’s just an hour a night, what harm could it do?

The effects of sleep deprivation of just one hour can be seen the next day. Just look at what happens when we move the clocks forward by an hour in the springtime. In the days following the first Monday of the change to Daylight Saving Time there’s a spike in heart attacks, workplace injuries and fatalities.

Also, drivers whose nightly sleep averages 6 to 7 hours a night are almost twice as likely to be involved in car crashes as those who snooze for an extra hour. And you’ve surely heard about how lack of sleep is associated with many diseases from obesity to high blood pressure.

Even if you avoid sleep related bodily injury and the obvious financial penalties associated with them, you haven’t avoided financial mayhem.

Sleep debt is also associated with lower productivity, increased impatience and difficulty concentrating. None of these traits will help you pay off those student loans faster. And definitely save those important investment decisions for days when you’re well rested.

How can you tell if you’re running a sleep debt? It’s easy. If you’re sleepy in the day, particularly around 2:00 to 3:30pm, you need more or better sleep.

But Don’t Good Mattresses Cost A Lot?

So now it’s obvious to you that you need a great night’s sleep to boost your productivity and keep healthy. But one of the reasons that you don’t sleep very well is that you hate your bed. And every ad that you’ve seen lately screams that you need to ‘replace at eight’ and spend as much on a mattress as you would for a small used car.

The ads are wrong. Good sleep can be cheap. You don’t necessarily have to replace any mattress more than 8 years old. And you don’t have to take out another loan to be comfortable at night.

The proof is in the same October 2009 Consumer Reports mattress survey of 17,000 subscribers that catapulted the expensive Tempurpedic brand to a national obsession. They found that “any new mattress beats an old one.” And for those who said that they often had sleep problems, 78% said that any new bed improved their night’s rest.

The study also found that among problem sleepers, Tempurpedic (memory foam beds) and Select Comfort (adjustable air mattresses) provided the most relief. On the other hand, Spring Air and Sterns & Foster buyers (both are lower cost inner spring mattress brands) were in the 10% of the survey takers that said that their new mattresses made their situation worse.

But buying a Tempurpedic or Select Comfort bed is one way to increase your debt. They’re expensive! So…

How to Get Good Sleep Cheap?

Determine if you need a new bed or if a much less expensive mattress topper will work for you. There are two instances where you can get away with buying a topper. The first is if your bed’s not sagging more than a half an inch. The second is if your mattress is too firm.

In either case, go online and buy a topper that’s 2 to 3 inches thick. You should be able to find a queen size for under $200. Here’s some memory foam mattress topper reviews and quick advice on what to look for in a pad.

If you do need a new bed because your old one is worn, you will have to spend a bit more. Buying a used mattress is not recommended, particularly since bedbugs have made a big comeback in recent years.

So what are the best mattresses for your budget? We’ve already seen that the lower cost inner spring beds actually made some people’s sleep worse. And unfortunately with airbeds, you do get what you pay for. Inexpensive air mattresses leak and you could end up sleeping on the hard floor. That leaves memory foam mattresses as the best alternative for people looking for good cheap sleep.

The good news is that the ‘any new bed is better than the old one’ rule also applies here. Buyers of inexpensive memory foam beds are almost as happy as those who buy the pricey Tempurpedic brand. Better news is that good quality budget memory foam beds are very easy to find online. Just google “best mattresses under 500″ for reviews and recommendations.

Sleeping Smart Cuts Debt

Reduce both your sleep debt and financial debt by sleeping more and making better bed choices. And the side benefits are that you’ll also be more productive and have a better social life.

So what are you going to do today to shrink your sleep debt?

Bio: Nancy Ulrich writes for and is a local business consultant for web, mobile and social media marketing.

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