Isagenix, A New Year, A New Me, Maybe a New You?

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I have a good friend who is visiting the United States from abroad right now – she messaged me the other day “Oh my god! I can’t believe how big the portions are, how greasy the food is, and that there is caramel and whipped cream on top of the coffees!” Yeah, this is the USA. We should maybe change it to the Obese States of America or at least the Chunky States of America or maybe the United States of Fattynes. I’m no stranger to her observations, as you no doubt read in my last post. Yesterday I completed a 10 day cleansing fast where I lost a total of 21 lbs and 2 inches from my waist – almost certainly some of that will come back now that I’m no longer fasting – but I still find myself 15-20 lbs above my ideal weight for my height. So I’m moving forward with the gym and Isagneix.

My birthday is pretty soon and my combination Christmas/Birthday present to myself is a gym membership which I intend to use. The truth is, I sometimes find myself wondering what to do when I’m not sitting behind the counter at Reedsport Antiques and the gym provides me an option in this little town that doesn’t have much going on – it feels like the right decision at the right time. I’ve tried working out at home, but let’s face it – there are some nearly insurmountable challenges there – and workouts shouldn’t be interrupted every ten minutes with jars that can’t be opened, requests for My Little Pony, or other enjoyable but distracting household events.

I’m not stopping there though – since getting back to the USA my body has felt – in a word – old. I’ve had aches and pains and creaks and I’ve been tired – frankly I think it has been from processing too much food and carrying all the resulting weight around – 30-35 pounds in a year and a half – so lately I’ve been walking around with a 35 pound pack on my belly shoulders neck back cheeks and other parts – I believe that can wear you the f… out. So, I’m changing my diet too. I like to eat and my own portions have gotten larger and larger as we’ve been here – let’s face it – a 25 year old can get away with eating half a pizza (4-5 slices) but in reality 2 slices is more than enough for a normal person. I don’t need a 6-inch sandwich, a bag of chips, and a cookie plus a drink. Half of that without the cookie or without the drink is PLENTY of calories. In fact, those kind of meals aren’t even what I want to eat in the first place most of the time. My body craves salads and roasted or barbecued meats. Okay, as I think about it lots of other things sound good too – but that’s where control comes in. Like not eating for the 10-day fast control allows you to savor the things you really want, to enjoy the things you have.

At the conclusion of my fast, I knew that I needed to keep going – so I signed up for the gym membership and am waiting for the approval today. I also signed up for a 30 day weight loss program called Isagenix so I can shed the additional 15-20 lbs I want to get rid of and change my eating habits to adopt a more healthy lifestyle so I don’t regain all that 35-40 lbs and lose all of my hard work. Isagenix is more than just a weight loss program – it’s a program dedicated to a healthy lifestyle and changing the way that we live – and it’s potentially a way to make money in a place where it seems everyone I see is dealing with the issue of obesity. I was introduced to Isagenix by my sister who lost 15 lbs and has completely rebooted her metabolism and energy levels – in a period of two months she literally looks ten years younger without any sort of plastic surgery or artificial treatments. People who have known her for years stop her and ask “What in the world have you been doing? You look great.” I asked her the same thing and she told me. Then, at the end of my fast, I asked her how I could do the same thing.

I”m excited about it. All of the research I’ve done makes me even more excited. These are healthy products that get results. I’ll keep you updated about my results.

Obesity and Master Cleansing

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Here’s something interesting – since coming to the USA I’ve gained nearly 30 pounds. That’s in 1 year and 7 months – I went to the doctor the other day and she informed me that I was officially obese. It wasn’t really a surprise – I’d felt the change in the way my clothes felt, my body felt, and my face and belly looked in the mirror. I’d mentioned it to my wife several times “I think I’m getting fat” and like a good husband she would insist “Ridiculous, so and so is fat and you aren’t anywhere near that guy – you’re not fat” It felt nice, but I knew the truth deep down under my new layer of blubber – I was fat. I was obese.

Lots of things contributed to my new found obesity. American food for one – in Morocco and Turkey we were eating fresh vegetables, a fair amount of chicken, and sometimes some lamb or beef. The vegetables in the USA just don’t have the same satisfaction as those in Europe, Asia, Africa or even Hawaii- I’ve noticed that we eat more and don’t feel satisfied. I suspect that’s because of genetic modifications and chemical additives in processed foods – mind you, we don’t eat a lot of processed food. Our USA diet consists of vegetables, a lot of chicken, and sometimes beef or lamb – but also we will sometimes have Macaroni and Cheese or frozen pizza – we are far from fast food junkies but we do sometimes grab a burger and fries or hit taco bell if we are out of town (there’s not one here in Reedsport)…I really think that the additives in those portions of processed food have been affecting us on a cellular level. Then there are portion sizes – food in the USA is just bigger – all the way around it’s bigger. And then there is dessert – in Morocco – ice cream was a treat, cookies were for special occaisions and there just wasn’t all that much candy around – I’ve got a sweet tooth, I always have. In Morocco I would sometimes buy a bag of candy and gobble it all down in a sitting – I’ve done that here too, but there has really been something different about it.

Then there is movement – we didn’t have a car in the other places we lived…here, in the USA, you have to have a car unless you live in an urban area which we don’t. We no longer walk – not even the walks to the Souk – part of it is that there really isn’t very much interesting to see here – I have to admit, we moved to a boring little town and everytime I take a walk I run into the town scumbags. We have bikes but the same thing applies – last time I took a bike ride I made it about two blocks before having a confrontation with annoying little shitheads in the park – you may remember that story. And – we have opened a business which requires me to sit around most of the time – I earn our living either working on the computer or selling things from our shop. It was funny – in this past year when I would start an excercise routine or a change of diet – something would come along and siderail it – I suppose that’s normal when you have a wife and young child – but it wasn’t just that – I was on a nice running regimen and injured my ankle – that healed and I began a morning run on the beach (which I had to drive to) where the sand was mellower on my ankles and knees and then our car died (and we didn’t have the cashola to fix it). I started waking up early to do yoga but the earlier I woke up the earlier my daughter woke up and she wouldn’t let me do the downward dog (or anythng else). I know excuses – the currency of fat people, the lament of the obese.

So there it is – I became fat because I became undisciplined in my portions, diet, and excercise. Time for a reset. My reset is a 10-day master cleanse lemonade detox diet.

I’m on Day 6 right now. I’ve done the master cleanse several times before – the first time it was perhaps the hardest thing I’d ever done. For those who don’t know here is the skinny on this –

Over the course of 10 days you eat no food. You can drink as much water as you want and have approx 6 cups of lemonade made with 2 tbsp fresh organic lemon juice, 2 tbsp organic grade B maples syrup, 1/10th tsp of cayenne pepper, and pure water. So, I haven’t eaten in six days.

The second time I did the master cleanse I was in University working on a heavy course load and I have to admit – when I’m fasting I have a much higher level of clarity than when I am not. That fast was difficult but not as hard as the first time. I lived alone and was single and emptied my cupboards and fridge before I did the fast. That was back in 2008.

I’ve tried a couple of master cleanse fasts since then – but living abroad I had a hard time finding maple syrup of the right quality – shortly after moving to the USA I attempted a master cleanse and failed – it just wasn’t going to happen – my wife and I were both going through our own versions of culture shock and my head just couldn’t stick with it.

This time though – the house is full of food, my wife and daughter are eating their meals, and here’s the thing – I haven’t eaten in six days but for some reason this is easy. I wonder if my body is just feeding on my blubber and that’s why I don’t feel sharp hunger pains, psychologically it’s easy too – maybe because of that visit to the doctor, that moment of realizing I had just crossed the line into the land of my countrymen, the nation of the obese. I don’t know.

I do know that this is my reset button. At the end of this fast I will no longer be obese (actually, even as I write this I’ve gone back to not obese – I’ve lost over ten pounds in six days) but as with all crash diets – that weight will easily come back if I don’t change the way I do things. So, I’m going to change a few things…

After this master cleanse I am going to regulate my portions more closely, I will avoid sweets and processed foods (most of the time), and most importantly I am going to make excercise an essential on a daily basis. I want to feel good and to live an enjoyable life – that’s hard enough to do without being obese. Don’t you think?

Shantaram – A Book I was Meant to Read

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I want to tell you a story –

A little more than a decade ago, I was a tanned beach boy living in Hawaii. I met a tourist girl and she was looking for an island romance so she invited me to dinner. I wanted to sleep with her – I thought – so I accepted her invitation. In those days I was desperate for intimacy but I was under the mistaken impression that meaningless uncommittal sex and intimacy could be the same thing. I was finding a good bit of the former and very little of the latter – to some extent because often when I would find the latter – I would push the former onto it and likewise I missed a good bit of the former by burdening it with the latter.

What I truly sought was spiritual, emotional, and intellectual intimacy but I kept messing it up with sexual intimacy. This isn’t a story of that – it’s just the oppossite. This particular girl was on vacation and she wanted a no strings attached sexual romp but I screwed that up – over dinner I dove into deeper and heavier subjects- loosened with a few drinks I waxed philosophical/spiritual – she had a deeper nature which she didn’t want to share – I dug and pushed and finally exasperated she suggested a moonlit walk down a deserted beach – the perfect last night in Hawaii for her and now I realize she wanted nothing more than to make love on the beach before getting on a plane and going back to her real life. She had opened up to me too much though and I found myself more excited to learn from her spiritual and philosophical insights than to kiss her delicioius lips.

I think she gave up and we sat under a coconut tree in the moonlight talking until it was time to go. I invited her to my apartment but by this point, I had gone too far in finding out who she really was for her to let me see her being someone she really wasn’t. And the next day we left – and we never met again. I don’t remember her name and she most likely doesn’t remember mine. I don’t even remember all that we talked about – but I remember her saying she had started to read a book in Hawaii and was so captivated by the opening paragraph that she had committed it to memory.

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized somehow, through the screaming in my mind that even in that shackled bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.”

It impacted me as well, but to be honest, I didn’t remember the quote or the name of the book, but only the spirit of the quote – so – later, when she was gone with no contact information and I was looking for the book that had so affected her – I was unable to find it. Instead, more than a decade later – the book found me. My aunt, the one who has given me so much thought and spirit provoking literature through the years handed me the book with several others and without comment. It was a large book – nearly a thousand pages and with a 2-year old and the struggle to make ends meet in our new home country – the USA (my old home country, by the way) – I didn’t touch it for more than a year – finally, looking for something to read I picked it up and flicked to the first page and there it was – those words – those powerful, important words.

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized somehow, through the screaming in my mind that even in that shackled bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.”

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a roller coaster of a book filled with hard won wisdom and insight from a man who has led a life that most people only think happens in movies – not heart warming movies, but powerful movies. This is a novel but there is more truth to it than most novels can claim. Like the protaganist, Roberts escaped prison in Australia and fled to India where he worked with the Bombay mafia and eventually was caught and returned to prison where he served out his sentence and wrote Shantaram.

I am grateful to that girl for priming my brain with his words, grateful to my aunt for delivering the book, and grateful to the universe for finding the right time to deliver it. There was so much in this book that spoke to me – not just the opening line and the theme of forgiveness but also the theme of redemption and the idea that sometimes we can do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong thing for the right reason. I could go on – but I won’t. I only recommend that you read it.

Here is a link to get Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

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Note: I intentionally wrote the above without having read any reviews or looked at the author’s website or even to have read more about the author than his dust jacket bio – now I’ve done a bit of digging. It’s astounding how many people HATE this book – but they have some valid points – none the less – the book is too long, the characters are mostly one dimensional, and there are some serioius prose problems. The biggest reason why most of them seem to hate it though is because of Roberts himself and how he wrote this work of fiction as a way of aggrandizing himself with an alternate fictional history – I make no beef with the valid points – but I only want to add – this is a work of fiction, not a biography. As such, I think it paints those themes of redemption and forgiveness beautifully. I would not want to live the life of Roberts nor the life of his character Lin. I still think the book is a worthy read.

Life in the USA after 1 year 7 months

For those who don’t know – I returned to the USA in April of 2013 after 4.5 years of living abroad. I was pretty much gone for the first term of Obama and a part of his second term. I came back with a wife who had never been here and a 1 1/2 year old daughter who was born in my wife’s native Morocco and conceived in Turkey where we had both lived and taught school, worked with hotels, etc.

We arrived in the USA without very much. Two suitcases each and about $6k. I thought I had a plan, but it quickly went awry. My plan had been for us to stay in San Francisco but I quickly discovered that no one wanted to pay me enough money that we could stay there any longer than we had. I’d thought that running my own small international business and becoming a self trained expert in social media and online travel would have opened doors, but I found instead that I was ‘overqualified’ for the positions I was considered for. A 40-something guy with a family and no fortune 500 experience. So, running out of money and options I scoured the pacific coast for a town where I could support my family on the small income I was still earning from online work.

We arrived in Reedsport in August of 2013 with enough money to last for a couple of months at best and as I have written before, my online work drying up. The thing I had noticed since arriving in the USA was the huge glut of stuff here and the amount of valuable items that were sold at garage sales, thrift shops, and estate sales for far less than resale value. I was buying as much as I could and selling it online and at garage sales – but our new town had a limit on the number of g-sales you could have per year – just three.

Ebay by itself wasn’t sustainable. I found an ad online for a job selling life insurance and bit – after an expenseive course of study and a couple of months which burned through our savings – I became a licensed life insurance agent – and quickly realized that the business I had jumped into was a bad match for me – particularly with the scammy heavy handed sales practices my new company required me to use. Uh oh.

I had more valuables accumulated than I could sell on Ebay – not enough for a shop – but a good bit. So we signed on with an antique mall in Florence and rented a space. I learned a lot from the experience – in particular that the only people who earn a living from antique malls are the owners. We survived by a couple of garage sales, selling online, and making a modest amount from the antique mall. But here was the catch with that – we paid $200 per month rent for our space plus a 15% commission – so if we sold $1000 worth of goods – the owner of the mall got $350 and we got $650. A fair amount of our antiques were a consignment from friends who had lost their parents and grandparents and found themselves with an overwhelming amount of stuff – that was a 50/50 split – mind you – that was before the antique mall owner took his cut – so that meant they got $500, the mall owner got $350, and we got $150 out of $1000 (which, by the way, was a number we never reached in the mall). Of course, if we sold our own product the amount we got was more – but you get the point, I think. It wasn’t a sustainable way to do business.

So, I scraped together as much as I could and in June of 2014 – we opened our own shop Reedsport Antiques. There were bigger spaces available but I found a space that had a very modest rent of $300 per month – with utilities and insurance we pay about $500 per month total. Since that time, I’ve been supporting my little family with the combination of Ebay, a little bit of online work, and mostly – our little antique shop. The good news is – it’s working. Even now as winter slows the tourist traffic to nothing and we are left with only the very poor residents of this place and some bit of driveby traffic on Hwy 101, it is supporting us. The bad news is that it is only just barely doing so – and only because I’ve managed to once again defer my student loan payments of $500 per month for another year…

Here is the summary of our life in the USA – we made it here, we found a place we could afford to live, and we’ve started a little business that is sustaining us. The town is dying and devoid of cultural activities – but it is cheap. We are not sinking in quicksand of debt but mainly because we don’t have any credit and I’ve managed to defer my student debt.

Most importantly, we are making it. It’s a constant battle, but worth it to see my family happy and healthy. Is the USA a land of opportunity? Yes it is – but – the truth is – I found far more opportunity in Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia, and Europe – because I’m American. Here in the USA, I’m just another 40-something guy with a useless B.A. – at least when it comes to employers. In other countries, being an American meant something and gave me value.

I’m not sure that we will stay in the USA for the long term – but while we are here – I will keep busting my balls and building this and other business. I don’t know if I will be a model of American success – I don’t know how likely it is that we will become even middle class – let alone upper middle class or wealthy. I have my own defintions. Middle class folks have a car less than five years old, own (or are making payments on a house), and have enough savings to survive several months with no income and take a two week vacation each year. We are not close to that yet – my car is nearly 20 years old, we rent, and if I stop working for even a week – it becomes questionable if we can pay our bills the next month. There is virtually no safety net. I don’t want to say we are lower class or poor – but maybe it’s safe to say that we are in the worrying class. This life is filled with worries and there is almost no time to relax and breathe. Not yet, anyway.

I think we will start to do our Jefferson’s move on up in 2015. That is my plan. And that is the state of our world.

**I should also note that without the generosity of our friends this move to the USA would have been much much more difficult. We had friends that hosted us for months when we arrived and friends who trusted us with their family treasures. We had friends who welcomed us and offered advice and emotional support. Without friends, this would have been a much harder year and seven months.

Black is the new Christmas

Of course the biggest problem with the American holiday season which has spread out worldwide was pointed out by my wife last night. For those folks who don’t have the money to go out and buy a gazillion lights, a ton of brand new expensive gifts, and to have big holiday parties with family and friends – the non stop advertising serves one purpose – it points out how miserable a life they are living and how much everyone else has.

It’s all rather disgusting and while we are fortunate to be able to have gifts and a tree and nice food and even some decorations if we want to – the non-stop commercialization of Christmas isn’t pleasant. We could just change the name of the holiday to ‘Black Season’ – or start saying ‘Black is the new Christmas’ instead of saying Merry Christmas we could all say “Mary Black” and somewhere, that lady I met one time named Mary Black would feel her ears tingling constantly for four months.

I saw the first Christmas commercial this year about a week before Halloween.

Let’s pause for a moment. I don’t give a shit about the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas. Jesus was cool and all but I’m not a Christian. Besides, his birthday wasn’t even in December anyway – that was a smooth move pulled by Justinian who wanted to have the Romans celebrate his new religion on their old holiday – the winter solstice – usually around December 21-23 – Justinian sat in old Byzantium’s Constantinople (which later became Istanbul) and do you really think there is a coincidence that St. Nicholas was Turkish (because he was) – I don’t. So when people start spouting the true meaning of Christmas as some Christian worship thing, I bite my tongue. It’s never been about Christ.

But here, in the United States – since the early 1800s – it has been about family and love and home and keeping warm when it’s fucking cold outside. A lump of coal was a nice present indeed if you were freezing your ass off or had no way to make your morning coffee. Go read the Little House on the Prarie books – trust me.

So, back to the black holidays – like the black arts, they are all about greed, selfishness, envy, and nasty business. Black Friday – it gets more press than Thanksgiving – which, let’s face it, has a pretty horrible PR campaign going right now – i.e. Europeans come to the America’s, almost starve, but are saved by the indigenous people who they reward by stealing their land and massacring them…again – a holiday about family and having food to eat at the harvest time..but now about trampling strangers to save $5 at a sale so you don’t go fucking broke buying black holiday presents for spoiled selfish and greedy shits who don’t deserve any better than the indigenous people who were wiped out (and probably worse).

We save one Turkey by Presidential decree and then we stuff our fat asses with beer, turkey, and tacos. What do you think Bill Cosby will be doing this year? Probably having a better time than most people with those damn spanish flies.

Oh man, I’m on a roll. I just realized I dissed Halloween not long ago…yeah – fuck all the holidays. I’m celebrating them but not like the PR firms want me to -and by the way – my shop will be open on Black Friday and I’ll be having a big sale – come buy a bunch of shit, will ya?

The Death of Vago Damitio VagoDamitio dot com

For the past couple of years, I’ve been running several blogs – which has been profitable, but sometimes confusing – for me and for others. Here’s the deal – in 2009 I sold this site for a reasonable profit – I wanted a domain with my name though – so I made VagoDamitio.com my go to blog since Vago is the nickname I have often used online and in writing. It made sense. I built the VagoDamitio site because my main domain Vagobond.com was dedicated to travel and it didn’t make sense to have all this other stuff on it –

Then in 2012, I bought this site (chrisdamitio.com) back from the guy I had sold it to. Hooray! I owned my name again! But actually, now it became confused further because I had chrisdamitio.com, vagodamitio.com, vagobond.com for travel – plus about 50 other sites for travel writing and selling ads and promotional campaigns on – so I bought VagobondTravelMedia.com and tried to tie everything together. All of this worked for about a year – but I wish I would have done it all in 2009 when there was still big easy money to be made from blogging and links. C’est la vie.

Now, because I was trying to do good SEO so I could have better pagerank and search rankings, I had five different hosting accounts on five different IP addresses and I had all those sites I was juggling and earning from (and the earning was really good up until mid 2012 when Google killed an entire independent industry by cahnging their algorhythms and effectively killing pagerank as an indicator of page strength. What this means is my earnings fell by the wayside and I had to figure out a different way to support my family – but I still had (and have) all of those sites and held on in the hope that they would become earners again – plus I had effectively split my personality into chrisdamitio.com and vagodamitio.com with each having social media accounts and different topics etc. As you can tell, it was confusing as hell. But I held on –

Until three weeks ago when the hosting account I had vagodamitio.com and ten other sites on – hostpapa – found a bad line of code in a comment on one small site called travelblogging101.com and rather than telling me to delete the comment – they deleted my entire hosting account with no notice or chance for me to fix things – I had a wordpress backup which I’ve imported here of vagodamitio.com but I lost vagobonding.com, travelblogging101.com, and all the rest – which is sad because there was a lot of work in those sites but which ulitmately doesn’t matter because they had earned about all they could – I’m still trying to recover them, but I’ve decided to let VagoDamitio.com merge with this site – which, strangely is a rather hard decision.

I think though – it is close to becoming time to let Vago Damitio die – if you call me Vago, you still can, if you call me Chris you still can, but when I introduce myself these days, I introduce myself as Christopher, which after all is really my name.

So, here I am – Christopher Damitio aka Vago – an antiques dealer in a small Oregon town. My wife is Moroccan and we’ve been to a few places. We have chickens and a 3-year-old. I like art – I mean I really really like art. I paint, I buy, I appreciate. As far as writing – I don’t think I’ve done my best work yet – but perhaps, sometime in the not too distant future – I will find the time and peace to write something that really sings.