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Healthy Weight Management

© Original content written by James R. Carlson

My mother was a Weight Watchers counselor for 33 years and I learned some valuable lessons from her. I have not only learned from her how to cook but to understand what healthy eating habits are. Sadly, she passed away last year and I gained 20 pounds; but now I’m back down by 15 pounds with only 5 more pounds to go. She taught many people how to lose weight and to maintain it. For me, weight maintenance is the most important thing. My life has been touched by her wisdom and I’d like to share some of that with you today.

Key in weight management is to live a healthy lifestyle. My mom would tell me that the word ‘diet’ has the word ‘die’ in it and diets usually kill people (figuratively speaking). If you are going to maintain a healthy weight you need to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life-style. How you eat should be a part of your life so that you can be healthy and life to the fullest.

The first thing to keep in mind about your eating habits is to eat a balanced meal every time you eat. Never, never, never eat a fad diet. No carbs only diets, no protein only diets, no veggie only diets; you cannot have a healthy life with an unhealthy diet. Be sure to include all the major food groups in your eating lifestyle. Nutrition is nothing to play with or to skimp on. This was my mom’s first rule.

I would like to add that you should also feel full when you eat. You can add water or a salad to your meal. And a reasonable (small) desert is not out of the question. Your brain should be telling you that you are full and that the meal gave you pleasure. If not, you’re probably not going to stay with your diet.

My mother’s favorite saying was, “It’s not what you eat that matters but how much of it you eat; and how often you eat that much.” You see, you can eat anything you want and maintain your weight. But if you eat 5 pounds of spaghetti a day, you’ll gain weight. But if you eat a few ounces once a week, you’ll maintain your weight. It’s all about portion control.

I like to say that it is all about volume control. How much you put into your mouth is very important. Eat small people portions on your first helping and then eat half on your second helping if you’re still hungry. Skinny people eat skinny portions and fat people eat fat portions. If you want to be skinny, do what skinny people do – eat small. And if you are not full still, add a salad or water or even a small desert to your meal. But lower your overall food intake to just enough so that you can hear your stomach say, “I’m full,” and then stop eating. You cannot get fat if you don’t over eat. And if you are fat (be honest) don’t worry about losing it right away; maintain your weight first.

Everyone knows, and my mom also taught, that if you lose weight fast you’ll gain it back fast and be heavier than before. I’m not an advocate of weight loss but of weight maintenance.

People think that they are supposed to be ‘body buff’ just like actors in Hollywood movies. These movies in fact advertise a certain body style that some people think they have to lose weight to achieve. Just look at the billions of dollars spent on Hollywood style makeup (MaxFactor) to achieve the glamour girl face. Having a Hollywood body should not be your goal. The goal should be a healthy life where one maintains their weight and eats healthy.

Keep this in mind. If you practice weight loss only to realize a weight gain in the end, you are practicing ‘dis-equilibrium.’ But, if you practice ‘equilibrium’ you can maintain your weight, which is what you want to do if you lose weight and arrive at your target goal. Sadly, people who practice dis-equilibrium when losing weight to achieve their target weight only gain back the weight they lost (and more) because they never bothered to practice equilibrium and maintain their weight. The first goal for a person with a weight problem is to maintain their weight.

Often, people eat to feed their emotions. Losing my mother is one example. I’ve learned from her the lessons of life to maintain my weight and the problems with losing weight. I have also learned to add a spiritual component to my lifestyle. Praying more and presenting my ‘issues’ to God in prayer helps fill a void in my heart that sometimes I try to fill in my stomach with food. Feeding our emotions is only human but like exercise, prayer is a part of a healthy lifestyle. Try praying more often.

Again, I’m not an advocate of weight loss as it is enough for me in my life to maintain my weight and eat healthy balanced meals. My body size and appearance is not the most important thing in my life. I put God first in my life not my body but even God tells us that exercise has value. However, the best value in life is to live a healthy moral life.

If you must lose weight and you haven’t abused yourself to the point of being hundreds of pounds overweight, try limiting the amount of weight you lose to 5 or 10 pounds a year. Be honest, are you in it for the long haul or for someone’s approval of how you look? Are they that shallow; are you? Looks do not translate into health. In fact, skinny people can overeat and get fat while fat people can eat healthy and slowly lose weight. Keep it simple, make small changes in your diet, your exercise, and your prayer life. Life is for living, not losing weight. Maintain your weight and be healthy.

I thank God for my mother. She was a nursing student in the mid-1940s and wanted to be a dietician. She married before finishing her nursing degree. But after raising her family, she finished her career with Weight Watchers with 33 years of counseling. She truly loved her job helping people. Her wisdom lives on with me and I trust you will learn something from it too.

Tax and Spend Conservatism (Update) – Bank Overdraft Fees

Many of you have asked for an update to the original article called Tax and Spend Conservatism. I will be updating this from time to time on Saturdays.

© Original content written by James R. Carlson

Pickpocket stealing a mans wallet

Nation-wide, we are experiencing penalties and fees that take more money out of our pockets than should be allowed. The people who gain from this type of pickpocketing usually wear suits, have very nice houses, drive expensive cars, and look down their noses at the rest of us common folk. Middle class Americans like you and me are at risk of being taken by these tax and spend conservatives and the metrics bear this out.

Looking at the data available from the Statistic Brain Research Institute, we can see that on average, banks charge Americans $33.5 billion a year for overdraft fees.

Year Total Paid in Overdraft Fees ($Billion) Average Overdraft Fee ($)
2014 35.25 30
2013 33.80 29
2012 32.00 28
2011 31.60 27
2010 35.30 30
2009 37.10 28
2008 35.40 26
2007 34.10 25
2006 31.50 23
2005 29.70 20

Graphing this data we can easily see that as the overdraft charges increase so too does the amount of fees gained by the banks. Although this makes intuitive sense, we should understand that reducing these fees also relieves the financial burden that we all share.

The following table provides many more statistics about overdraft charges. Among the rest is the 78% of American who prefer a transaction be declined instead of becoming an overdraft. Aren’t banks there to serve us? Not themselves? But these statistics do not tell the whole story.

Overdraft Statistics Data
Percent of Americans who have over-drafted their account within the past year 18%
Percent of over-drafters who would prefer their transaction be declined 78%
Percent of over-drafters who make less than $30,000 per year 64%
Percent of people enrolled in a overdraft protection plan 24%
Average checking account fees per account holder enrolled in overdraft protection $119
Average checking account fees per account holder not enrolled in overdraft protection $28

Although states may regulate the amount a bank can charge for an overdraft fee, there is no national limit for bank overdraft fees. Some people pay overdraft charges for a fraction of a dollar over the amount available in the bank account. The percentage of overdraft charges of $35 for a $1 overdraft is 3500%. I personally paid an overdraft fee that amounted to nearly 300% of the actual overdraft amount.

Some people are fighting back with law suits for the apparent fraud being practiced by banks. And article about Excessive Bank Overdraft Fees explains this further.

Authorization Holds

Another practice that banks are alleged to have used to push customers into overdraft is authorization holds. Authorization holds occur between the time a bank card purchase is made and the time the merchant settles the transaction. Prior to the merchant settling the transaction, the amount of the purchase is held, but it has not actually been withdrawn from the buyer’s account yet. Once the merchant settles the account, which can occur a few days after the purchase is made, the funds are transferred to the merchant and the customer no longer has the money in his account. For example, a customer with a $100 in his account makes a purchase of $40. That $40 is held immediately for the merchant, but is not actually taken out of the account because the money has not yet been transferred to the merchant. The customer cannot access this money, but it is still, technically, in his account. When the merchant submits her batch of transactions, the money is then taken from the account and transferred to the merchant. This is all completely legitimate. However, some customers have complained that their banks back-date transactions to the date they occurred, not the date they were settled. They say this pushes their account into overdraft because they may not have had the funds necessary on the date the transaction occurred but did have the funds necessary by the day the transaction was settled.

[Excessive Bank Overdraft Fees]

Another tactic used by banks to make more money out of your pocket in the form of overdraft fees is to reorder the transactions that occur in one day. By putting the largest transaction first, smaller transactions trip the boundary between sufficient and insufficient funds and the banks make more money in overdraft fees. If the reverse were done, so too would be the amount you pay in overdraft fees.

Banks also have the ability to deposit checks sooner than required by law. The lack of posting a deposit can lead to an overdraft. Although the practice is currently condoned by law, the ability to save you money or make money on overdraft charges represents the core of the problem with banks. That’s why I say they are getting drunk on the excesses of overdraft charges and are not interested in who suffers for it.

Many banks provide overdraft protection, and have been required to since 2010, but that costs money too. An FDIC study shows that overdraft protection amounts to a short term loan that eventually cost consumers billions of dollars in interest. There is little help coming from the government to regulate this kind of excessive activity that ultimately abuses consumers.

As mentioned above, people are fighting back. Many law suits have been filed that have earned millions of dollars from banks for their less than honest or downright fraudulent activities.

Banks that could potentially face lawsuits regarding their overdraft procedures include:

  • Ally Financial
  • Bank of Hawaii
  • Bank of the West
  • Bank of Oklahoma
  • Capital One Financial Corp.
  • Commerce Bank
  • Fifth Third
  • HSBC
  • Valley National Bank (NJ)
  • New York Community Bank (NY)
  • Community Bank, N.A. (NY)
  • NBT Bank, N.A. (NY)
  • First Niagara Bank, N.A. (NY)
  • Umpqua (OR and CA)
  • Citizens Bank (MI and OH)
  • Bank Midwest (MO)
  • Stillwater (OK)
  • Vectra (CO)
  • Santa Barbara Bank and Trust (CA)
  • City National (CA)
  • Sandy Spring (MD)
  • Bank of the Ozarks (AR)
  • EverBank (FL)
  • Tri Counties Bank (CA)
  • NBT Bank (NY and PA)
  • Banco Popular

[Excessive Bank Overdraft Fees]

These law suits are fine for those who bring them to the banks and win but what about the rest of us? Who’s looking out for the common person?

Federal regulation should limit the amount a bank can charge for an overdraft fee to either 50% of the overdraft or $35, whichever is less. The $30+ billion that consumers pay nation-wide for these fees slows economic growth and hurts everyday people who are just trying to make it through a work a day world from paycheck to paycheck.

Tax and spend conservatism is a practice among the cocktail conservatives who are getting drunk off the excessive riches they gain from consumers. We need to recognize that the public recapture of private funds, traditionally called a tax for government activity, is a tax on the private sector; this can lead to excessive with tax and spend liberalism. However, a private recapture of private funds is another kind of tax on Americans that can lead to tax and spend conservatism. This tax is very regressive as it hits middle class Americans who are simply trying to make ends meet. Like tax and spend liberalism, tax and spend conservatism is a job killer, a sink to our economy, and bad economic policy. It’s time we pass laws that restrict the drunken revelry that tax and spend conservatives practice. Let’s keep the free markets free and protect consumers from unfair practices of tax and spend liberalism and tax and spend conservatism.

Open Doors – Iran

© Original content written by James R. Carlson

We are told that there are new and open doors with Iran following the release of 10+ American hostages and the delivery of 1+ billion dollars to the nation of Iran. While I’m flattered that Americans are worth so much, I’m cautious to see just how long the doors stay open with Iran.

Will the religious dictatorship that rules the country of Iran permit the freedom of religion in Iran? The word, ‘Islam’ means ‘to submit.’ An Islamic nation like Iran requires the submission of all religious thought to the Islamic state. Are there new open doors for religious freedom in Iran?

God requires religious freedom for His people. God sent Moses before Pharaoh to say, “Let my People Go.” Pharaoh hardened his heart and stiffened his neck. As Pharaoh attacked God’s people, God broke him. God will not permit religious oppression to continue forever. It may take 400+ years but the patience God has is limited.

Religious freedom is the beginning of democracy. Any nation that wants a democratic republic like we have in the United States must secure their freedoms with religious freedom. The freedom to have differing views from the State is key to providing freedom to the People. Are the open doors in Iran for the People?

God provides political and governmental power to the State from the People. The Declaration of Independence says that the legitimate powers on the earth derive their power from the People. Dictators take this power away from the People and establish it for themselves. This is not what God desires.

We are also told that there are new open doors within Iran for financial investments. While this may support the people of Iran, it will also support the religious dictatorship of Iran. I know that the lifting of international sanctions will provide new opportunities for the Iranian economy but will it not also provide new opportunities for Hezbollah and Islamic terrorism around the world?

I met 3 Iranians while a student at the University of Texas at Austin. All 3 were very fine people. They were intelligent, had religious views different from my own and each other, and were genuinely nice people to know. I never felt threatened by them and enjoyed every conversation we had together even though we disagreed on some topics. I only wish the American people had the same opportunity with the Iranian people to share in a conversation together. Is this an open door we have with Iran today?

My prayer to God is for religious freedom. The freedom to disagree without going to jail. The religious terrorism that exists outside the State of Iran must first exist within the State of Iran. One cannot export what has not been domesticated. I can only hope that the People of Iran find these new and open doors to be a blessing for themselves and not just for the State.

Winning the Race – Donovan Bailey

© Original content written by James R. Carlson

This year the Olympics will be in Brazil. Athleticism is a powerful thing. We witness the best of the human race compete against one another showing us what the limits of our humanity is. Who is the fastest, the strongest, and who can jump higher and farther? We share in the challenge vicariously as members of the human race. One individual in particular showed us how he won the race.

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20 years ago I met Donovan Bailey. I did not know who he was but I was interested in talking with him and knowing more about him. The conversation started casually at first and then got deep. I asked him what business he was in and he said he designed tennis shoes for Adidas. I was surprised and asked how he got that great job. He said he was in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. He in fact won the gold medal for the 100 meter dash and 400 meter relay. He is the real deal!

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As the topic of race and racism is important to me, I asked him what he thought about the issue of racism that was discussed during the Olympics in Atlanta. He said that he grew up in Canada and that people in Canada are always ethnically different from one another; that was the norm. He said it would be unusual to find 2 people who were ethnically the same. Mr. Bailey said he understood what Civil Rights means in America but that it was unusual that so many people were concerned with how ethnically different we are from one another in the U.S..

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I thought it was terrific to meet someone so open and candid about the difficult issue of race. It was also pleasant to talk with him as race was not an obstacle to our conversation. And I also thought how ironic it was that the person least encumbered about the issue of race, actually won the race in the Atlanta Olympics. At one point in time, he was the fastest man alive in the human race. Following his example, we too can win the race.

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Click here for a free poster.