The Agent on Diets and Calorie Counting (or “A Case For Body Positivity”)

It’s not a good sign when you identify with the people in photos of a study on starvation.
Source: BBC News

I’ve made it no secret that I am deeply in favor of the notion body positivity. I believe that a person has the right to be happy in the flesh they’re in without feeling like they have to remold themselves to appease others. And if they DO remold themselves, it should be of their own volition – because they want to see themselves become their own ideal; not the ideal of others.

Unfortunately, there’s always been one aspect of body positivity that I’ve always failed at and struggled with – namely, applying it to myself.

You know the old saying by now; “You are your own worst critic.” And quite frankly, I’ve always been guilty of harshly judging myself; sometimes to the point of self-hate. I could talk at length about the various flaws I see in my personality, but this is about hating my body and I have plenty to talk about in that regard alone.

I hate how flat my butt looks in a mirror. I think that my pudgy, Scottish chin is disgusting. Seeing the thick, masculine carpet of hair on my arms and chest makes me feel unclean. I’ve always felt physically weak and pathetic compared to other people; especially when compared to my father – a former U.S. Army Sergeant and body building enthusiast with access to training and conditioning I could never hope to get and I doubt I could even live through.

So, last week, I lost that positivity and self-love. I caved in and started a strict calorie counting regiment.

I didn’t even make through Sunday before I remembered why I needed that positivity.

This diet was VERY tight. I was barely eating over 2,000 calories a day and burning more than TWICE that much through my day job and regular exercise which consists of a daily 3-mile (just under 5-kilometer) power walk through a heavily forested park. I knew that this was a stupid idea, but I stuck with it because I hated myself so much that I was going to see myself change or destroy myself in the process.

Combine this forced malnutrition with a sudden heat wave in the area, stress from work, a lack of a consistent sleep schedule and guilt at taking my frustrations at ALL OF THIS out on others, and it’s no surprise that my moment of realization at what I was doing to myself came to me in the form of a bout of sleep paralysis and vivid hallucinations involving nauseating fractal patterns, faces contorted in agony and (inexplicably) a leopard-faced man that I’m still trying to figure out whether he was supposed to be the demon Flauros or King from Tekken.

The most absurd thing about all of this though is that I should have known better. This is a similar scenario to what I went through back in middle school when I would skip lunch because of people taunting me. It left me pale, sickly, thinly drawn and so weak that I couldn’t even leave the house some days. I had forgotten that my self-hate had nearly killed me over 20 years ago and I almost let it try to do me in again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in terms of health improvement goals, you really need to pay attention to your body instead of the criticisms of yourself and others. The numbers that your Fitbit churns out might give you some insight as to the whys and hows, but they can’t tell you what you ACTUALLY need. Push your body to new levels, but not to the point of self-destruction. Know your limits and steadily condition yourself over time.

Remember, it’s YOU and no one else that needs to want the change and change requires time. Clarity, patience, and effort; those are the keys to self-improvement and self-love.

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Why I Simultaneously Love And Hate Fidget Spinners

So… This is a thing now, I guess…
Source: Learning Express Toys

Part of my duty as a social and cultural commentator is to follow trends and fads so that I may analyze their significance and greater meaning in society.

Of course, this often means that I find myself taking an unnecessarily fine lens to some of the seemingly smallest pieces of fluff. Case it point: fidget spinners.

Also known as hand spinners – my preferred nomenclature (more into that later), these little plastic doo-dads have become a runaway sensation lately. They’ve already spawned collectors, customizers, and – you guessed it – dedicated YouTube channels. So, why so much buzz of such a simple toy.

Well, that simplicity may be at its core. Fidget spinners are essentially just three or four small wheel bearings from a skateboard placed together in such a way as to make a tiny toy that can be spun in a number of different ways. It’s so simple, you can actually build one yourself from home. In fact, a light search reveals that almost everyone has a different method of constructing them that gives them a unique flair.

That uniqueness lends itself quite nicely to their collectability. When every single one has a different feel and look to it, you naturally want to try them all.

Then there’s the ‘fidget’ part of the name. In defiance of everything we were told by frustrated parents and teachers, fidgeting is actually good for you. Small, frequent movements help keep your blood flowing smoothly and often provide a release for stress and anxiety that improves focus.

Unfortunately, the fact that people are starting to realize that leads into my problems with them. Now that certain people are aware that this little trinket can have some mild benefit, their first instinct is to do anything they can to make a quick buck from it. They churn out these cheap, mass-produced bits of plastic and charge way too much for them. No joke, I’ve seen these things that can be built for free at home sold in gas stations for $10 a pop!

And how do they convince people to pay a ridiculous amount for something they used to get for free? By preying on their insecurities and making them feel bad for fidgeting. Little things like twitching, foot tapping and the like aren’t seen as socially acceptable. So, they push overpriced plastic on people to give them a way to do something that’s perfectly normal that they won’t be judged for… you know, sort of like how the Health & Beauty industry sells make-up and fad diets.

Of course, when you denormalize something like fidgeting, you end up making people self-conscious which only contributes to stress. This is why I prefer the name “hand spinner.” It takes the fidgeting element out of it and makes it normal for everyone to enjoy.

So, yeah – I don’t mind that people are getting into hand spinners. What I mind are the people trying to use them to make cash through predatory manipulation. So, if you must keep them spinning, learn to make them yourself and join the global community of artists (yes, I’m pretentious enough to call hand spinners an artform).

And to send us out on a happy note, an appropriate musical interlude. Play us out, Three 6 Mafia.

Why You Should Care About Journalism (And How To Not Get Bamboozled By Bad Stories)

It can all be a little overwhelming at times, can’t it.
Source: CaptureYourInfo.com

So, there’s been a lot of crappy news coming down the pipelines lately and 2017 looks set to go down in history books as, “The Age of Excrement: The Year Everything Went To S***.” It’s become so bad that I had to take last week off from writing to recover from sensory overload and was giving real consideration to giving up entirely.

That is to say, I was until I went to work that night and explained my plight to a co-worker. To wit, she responded with, “I don’t ever bother listening to news ever.”

It was then that I learned something about myself that I never knew about myself; I am legitimately disgusted when people say they don’t listen to the news.

I mean, REALLY? How do you function in society if you don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world? How do you contribute to improving your city, your state, your country, and your planet if you don’t know where and what the problems are?

Look, I get it; the constant stream of news media is overwhelming. You occasionally need to remove yourself from the chaos and politics so you can just be you and live your life. That’s LITERALLY the definition of a ‘Safe Space.’ But, if you actually want any of those problems to improve, you have to step out of the safe space and engage with news and politics to fight for a better world.

And if your issue is that, “so many media outlets lie, I can’t trust any of them,” then, sad to say, the problem isn’t just the media; it’s you.

The amount of information available to us in an Information Age society requires each of us to do a little legwork to filter out misinformation and fluff stories. And while I like to believe were getting better about it, the simple fact is that some of us could stand to be more critical of what we read, hear, and watch.

It’s actually surprisingly easy to fact check news stories; so much so that it’s kind of insulting when independent comedy news sources like Nash Bozard at Radio Dead Air are better at it than the big budget ones playing it straight. Here, I’ll speed through some of the easiest ways to smell bulls*** from a mile away.

Look at the URL: Most credible news sources have a .com or .org address to their names. Anyone else is likely not a professional news source and should be questioned. It’s also worth noting that us WordPress bloggers can be equally dubious. Hence why I make it clear that this is an Opinion/Editorial blog dedicated to my personal reflections on the world and not proper news.

Judge the Headline: How much do you learn from the headline alone? Is it more interested in trying to shock you than inform you? If so, best to overlook it. They just want your attention because it gives them money. Don’t even share it with your friends as that will just spread the plague.

Know your satire from your news: The Onion, Buzzfeed, Cracked and similar sources are good for laughs; that’s what they specialize in. But, They aren’t actual news. They can occasionally lead to better information, but should never be your primary source.

Follow their sources: News sites will often link to or cite other news sources for their information. If they trace back to a questionable source like shown above or all cite the exact same article, they may just be the victim of a viral meme that damages their credibility.

Compare and contrast multiple sources: Most sources have a political leaning that skews facts in their favor. By putting them up against each other, you can identify the ‘he said/she said’ garbage easier.

Do your own research: My parents freaked out then they saw a video of soda supposedly reacting to the same kind of hydrochloric acid found in our stomachs. That is until I pointed them in the right direction and explained that a reaction that generates enough heat to create smoke would kill you if the volatile nature of the acid didn’t off you from birth. It was obviously a classic Sulfuric Acid/Sugar reaction made goopy by the water in the Cola. The hell of it is that I found this out via a light Google search for ‘Cola Stomach Acid.’

Stop the spread of false information: In addition to not sharing bogus stories, some social media networks have the option to report fake claims trying to pass themselves off as legitimate news.

So I beseech you, don’t just switch off the news. Be more critical and call bulls*** on bad journalism while learning from the real reporters. That way, we can be properly informed enough to make this place a comfortable place to live.

Embracing Darkness and Why The Agent Hates to Self-Silence

“No, me; I will NOT shut up. This is some important s***.”
Source: Thinking Healthy

Just a quick stream-of-consciousness style rant today to discuss how I apparently have a ‘bad habit’ among my more private circle of friends.

I keep a private Facebook page exclusively for friends and family where I allow myself to get much darker in my speech and tackle weightier topics that I don’t discuss here simply because I treat this corner of my part of the internet like a business and I don’t want to drive people off.

But, if I’m being honest, that kind of pisses me off. I hate having to do that.

However, I got reminded of why I do that recently. You see, I share those dark stories and thoughts because it’s my way of letting others who may be struggling with depressing crap that I’m somebody that can relate, is listening, cares about what you have to say, and wants to see the world change for the better. I legitimately want people to turn to me for emotional support.

The problem is that when people see a long string of sad posts saying how I relate to people with depression, praising artists for speaking out against bullying, or sharing stories commending parents for being aware of the danger their kid may be involved in, they think that I’m about to go off my nut.

And while I may get annoyed with the ever-echoing mantra of, “are you okay,” don’t begrudge those people for wanting to check up on me. After all, they’re just as worried about me as I am about them. And I’d like to think ALL of us are worried about the state of the world. It’s only natural to want to be concerned with the each other.

But the fact of the matter is this; I talk about dark, depressing things because I feel that denying them is to deny serious look into the human condition. I want people to see just what’s happening in the world and understand how people are feeling until they have no choice but to do something about it as a collective whole.

Of course, I realize that part of the fault is my own. Nobody likes being told how much of a crap-sack the world is when there’s obviously plenty of good in it that keeps getting ignored (why do you think I post #GoodNewsFriday on Twitter every week?), but it seems just as easy these days to just ignore the horrible stuff and act like it never happens.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that we all have a duty to speak up and act when we see injustice and inequality in the world and remind those that are suffering that we want to help them. Go and enjoy the good things in life that keep you going; that’s your right and what we all need every day. But don’t forget to step into the shadows every once and a while so you can remind yourself and others when and where there’s a candle that needs lighting.

What I Learned When I Called Out Of Work For The First Time.

The difference is I wasn't faking it. Source: BroBible

The difference is I wasn’t faking it.
Source: BroBible

So, this may be a shock to some of you, but I had never called out of work at ANY job I’ve ever had until this week.

I can put up with some pretty terrible stuff while working; wrenched neck, nausea, flu. I’d like to think I’m a Juggernaut of dependability in the workplace. But, I was forced to make the decision to call out this week due to unavoidable circumstances and learned a lot about myself in the process; Things like…

It takes a lot to make me give up on a task

For those who don’t live in the New Hampshire area, the catalyst for this bailing out of my duties was the massive go-f***-yourself nor’easter we got between Sunday and Monday that crapped out at least a foot and a half of fluffy white s*** over my house.

The storm was so bad that my town couldn’t keep up with clean-up detail. The net result – and the thing that ultimately cemented my decision to call out – was me being woken up at 6:00 pm (remember, I work third-shift) by the sounds of a fire rescue vehicle spinning out on my street.

Bare in mind that my mode of transportation is a tiny sub-compact. So if a fire truck can’t survive those conditions, I’m practically a quadriplegic man trying to tame a dragon by comparison.

In short, if I know I have a job to do, the heavens have to LITERALLY open up and rain death upon humanity for me to back down.

I hate admitting defeat

I spent the rest of that night brooding and sulking around the house. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I didn’t want anyone to talk to me. I failed and I hated myself for it.

Of course, I’ve always known this about myself to an extent. I cuss out games when I lose and I get really competitive with friends. But this was different; this was pure, white-hot rage.

It wasn’t until my mother – the lovable, overly-caring alarmist she is – called to insist that I stay in that night that I understood my anger. Put simply, …

I worry about EVERYTHING… and my worry manifests as anger

I was legitimately afraid that I was going to lose my job because I couldn’t make it through the weather. And, emotional train wreck I am, I was taking that anger out on myself and people around me.

After a rational conversation with mom, though, I was able to think clearly. When Governer Chris Sununu tells everyone to stay off the roads, there’s a good chance you should listen. Plus, this wasn’t a ‘no-call/no-show’ situation. I left voice mail and texts to my boss letting him know what had happened and any action he took against me would be a fine reason to file a wrongful termination suit.

So, after milling about the house for hours, I was finally able to rest peacefully. And when I went to work the next night, I was surprised to see that…

My superiors are more reasonable than I gave them credit for

As a third-shift employee, I’m used to the idea of EVERYTHING being my fault on the grounds that I have to pick up the slack for everything the previous shifts may have missed. No surprise then that my image of my managers is less than sterling.

However, when I bumped into the assistant manager, I was surprised to see how calm he was. He totally understood my plight and told me that he had planned to sleep at work just to avoid driving in the storm had I not called out. The fact that he kept this cool even after covering for a friend of mine who had broken his hand recently made it all the more impressive.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that you can’t be expected to work full steam at all times and that you will encounter failure at some point. So, there’s no real point in fretting over it. A child-like moral perhaps, but one that’s surprisingly easy for me to forget. You don’t need to be perfect; you just need to be willing to be better than yesterday.

And now, I’m going to go get ready for night’s shift and remind myself why I’m still the best they have despite occasional failures.

Three Things I Hate About Dealing With Depression

It's time to start mending myself... Source: Everyday Health

It’s time to start mending myself…
Source: Everyday Health

Oh dear, I’m in one of my funks again.

Normally when my depression hits on posting day, I’ll make up an excuse for being too overwhelmed to work and take the week off. But I made a promise at the start of this year; this is the #YearOfTheIronWoobie and I owe it to myself and the people that look to me for wisdom, inspiration, and simple entertainment to press on.

So then, to help others understand that depression is a lot more than just unexplainable sadness (as an unfortunately large number of people tend to think), here are just a few of the struggles that I deal with that have suddenly been getting on my tits today.

Feelings of Inferiority

You know that feeling where it seems you can never make anyone happy with you despite your best efforts and it seems that you are just naturally built to suck at everything you do and you lose the drive to even try anymore?

Yeah, that’s usually the first sign that I’m having another episode.

This is probably the worst part of depression for me since it means that I lose interest in the passions that would be perfect for pulling me out of the stygian abyss of my crippling apathy because I don’t think I’m good enough to do them right. It creates a downward spiral that I feel I can’t break out of. And when I do break the cycle, I’ll never know what I did to get me out when it comes around the next time.

Self-Hatred

I’ve made it a point of advocating anger as a motivator (when used properly) and I make a clear difference between anger and hate. But you want to know what the worst kind of hate is? Self-hate.

Hating yourself accomplishes nothing. All it does is urge you to metaphorically rip yourself apart when you should be rebuilding your mind and body.

It’s okay to be angry with yourself. Sometimes we just do stupid stuff and can’t believe we would ever do something that terrible for us. But depression helps it to linger and become toxic – preventing us from taking steps to rectify our mistakes.

Misguided Frustration

Remember when I said that the feeling of inferiority was the worst thing about depression? Well, I hate to contradict myself in the same article but, no; THIS is the worst part.

It’s bad enough that I’m being compelled to destroy my own sense of self-worth by an irrational force I can’t comprehend, but having that anger and frustration get thrown on to people I care about because they don’t understand how I’m struggling with my own emotional state makes matters even worse as it drives away people that could have helped me.

Of course, if people aren’t bothering to take the time to understand you and stay with you despite your rough patches, they hardly count as good friends. But that lingering guilt stays with you and makes it harder to move forward.

Wow, I feel a lot better already. Thanks for hearing me out, folks. And I hope you’ll hear out your other friends who struggle with depression as well.

The Agent’s #YearOfTheIronWoobie: Three Badasses To Motivate and Inspire Us Through 2017

We all know it and we’ve all been talking about it; The year 2016 can go F*** itself.

Around the world, the story has been the same thing ad nauseam – racial and religious violence breaking out, politics becoming a joke, and many of the great thinkers and artists we’ve loved being taken from us en masse. We’ve all been emotionally battered by this year and we’ve had enough.

In storytelling, a character who seems to be made to suffer is often referred to as a Woobie. But what happens when a Woobie gets so utterly beaten down by the cosmos that they can no longer feel sorry for themselves and make it their duty to oppose fate through every step on their moral path? You get an Iron Woobie.

So, as an ultimate middle finger to 2016 and in an attempt to encourage people to be more proactive in setting this crap-sack world of ours straight, I’m using these final moments of the year to declare 2017 “The Year Of The Iron Woobie.” And to start, here are three great examples of people whose determination and conviction in the face of adversity we should strive to emulate.

Guts

A brief forwarning: this guy's S*** is about to get dark.

A brief forewarning: this guy’s S*** is about to get dark.
Source: Wikipedia

To me and many other anime fans, Berserk‘s anti-hero protagonist isn’t just an Iron Woobie – he’s THE Iron Woobie.

Guts has literally suffered so much that his entire life is essentially a prolonged trigger warning. He was born from the corpse of his executed mother, watched his adoptive mother die from the plague, and was beaten and pimped out by his foster father before killing him in self-defence. Even when he finally got a taste of comradery in a mercenary group, his commander betrayed them all, slaughtered all of his friends (save for his girlfriend whom he abused in from him), gouged out his eye, and forced him to cut off his own arm.

While Guts’ morals of vengeance and bloodshed may be questionable, he displays the greatest quality of the Iron Woobie, fearless determination. He wakes up every morning, gets the crap beaten out of him by something WAY out of his league, and always manages to find the one and only way to win so he can do it all over again tomorrow – even if that only way means having to put himself in harm’s way to get that critical advantage.

It’s a stark reminder that, on some days, you just have to look forward to the struggle knowing that it’s another chance to prove you’re better than others – or even you – give yourself credit for.

Marowak

“I’m-a beat a motherf***er with the bones of ANOTHER motherf***er!”
Source: Pokémon by Review

Some of you are a little shocked right now… The rest are just nodding and thinking, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

You see, underneath the cutesy exterior of Pokémon, the world is quite dark. Nowhere is that more obvious than with Cubone and it’s evolved form Marowak.

Cubone is famous among fans for being one of the saddest critters in the games. The skull mask it wears is actually the skull of its deceased mother that it’s in mourning for. However, the game’s Pokédex entries make it a point to show how the evolved Marowak has made itself stronger in response to its harsh life saying that it, “… has overcome its sadness at the loss of its mother and grown tough. This Pokémon’s tempered and hardened spirit is not easily broken.”

Marowak reminds us that all experiences – even the painful ones – can and should be used to make us better people; either to become wiser and kinder or more hardened to defend ourselves and others from a cruel world. At some point, you need to stop crying and start fighting again.

Audie Murphy

We salute you, solider. Source: Wikipedia

We salute you, soldier.
Source: Wikipedia

I bet you didn’t expect a REAL-LIFE Iron Woobie on this list.

Audie Leon Murphy, First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and Major in the Texas Army National Guard, was an actor, a songwriter, and the most decorated American soldier to serve in World War II. But those medals and the safety of nations came at a heavy price for him.

Murphy was a long time sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the war. But, rather than feel sorry for himself, he used his experience to become one of the most outspoken people on PTSD (then referred to as “Shell Shock”) in order to demand the help that soldiers coming back from the field needed.

Murphy used his pain as the impetus to drive him to save others from a similar fate and I feel we should hold ourselves to a similar standard. If you find yourself hurting, you owe it to yourself and the world to fight back so you can help the ones that hurt just like you.