My Thunderous Rumbling Stomach

It seems like just yesterday, I had a stomach made of steel. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I had a pretty fast metabolism and could eat anything and everything, any day, any time.

Where I used to be able to pack away large quantities of food and still remain technically underweight, today, a handful of potato chips is enough to have me retaining water like a sponge.

But the tide can turn from time to time. For me, all it takes is the return to a regular exercise regimen, like the one I have successfully incorporated into my routine last year.

When that happens, not only does my metabolic rate go up, but it’s like revisiting my teens and 20s all over again as I seem to be hungry… ALL THE TIME!

While logically, it should just be a case of finding an extra snack or two to tide me over until the next meal, it’s a little more complicated than that.

As much as you would think I could take advantage of the situation to indulge myself in the goodies I only consume in moderation (since I’m not technically underweight anymore), in reality, I don’t crave them when I work out regularly. The empty calories leave me hungry and wanting something else soon thereafter.

I tend to crave healthier snacks that sustain me better. If I don’t, I get so hungry that my arrival home is like a scene from “Animal Planet”, as I demolish leftover roast chicken like a lion devouring its prey.

The trick for me is to try to stay ahead of the hunger with convenient and nutrient-rich options.

I am lucky that because of my wheat intolerance, batch cooking has been part of my routine for almost 15 years. It just takes a little time and planning to prepare large quantities of food, store them in the fridge or freezer in individual reusable containers, and to take them out as needed throughout the week.

And for snacks, I maintain a selection of options on rotation like hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, and cheese with gluten-free crackers. Plus, I always have my favourite protein bars and protein powder on standby.

And yet, there are still days when there doesn’t seem to be enough food to fill the bottomless pit of my hungry stomach.

When that happens, the rumbling sound starts… that embarrassing, thunderous rumbling that is loud enough to set off motion detectors.

Fortunately, it’s not like a passing gas kind of sound, but the notes range from “haunted house moans” to “Swiss Alps avalanche”.

The most embarrassing occurrence was about 25 years ago, in the middle of a face-to-face meeting with a client… on their premises. My stomach was rumbling so loudly, I had to apologize and ask for a glass of water to literally drown the noise. It actually took three glasses of water to quiet things down. It was so loud I couldn’t help but make jokes about how something may soon pop out of my tummy like a scene out of the movie “Alien”.

In that case, I think I was actually suffering from dehydration, after a long drive, on a hot summer day, in a car with no air conditioning. But that was the first time that my rumbling tummy caused a disturbance. I was very lucky that my clients were good sports about it and took it in stride.

In the early 2000’s, when I was working out regularly, I went through a phase where every afternoon I was getting a rumbling stomach right around 2 o’clock, to the point that I dreaded late afternoon meetings. If it was in a large boardroom involving many people it wasn’t too much of an issue, but if it was a meeting with a captive audience in a small boardroom with bouncy acoustics, I knew to approach the meeting on a full stomach.

If I had back-to-back meetings through the afternoon, I had to excuse myself at 1:50 from the first meeting and grab a bite to eat before my 2:00 meeting to prevent my stomach from sounding like a volcanic eruption waiting to happen around 2:10.

There’s nothing worse than trying to deliver a compelling, professional viewpoint on a serious business matter, with the sound effects from an “Avengers” movie playing out in your stomach. If the sound effects are properly timed, the argument can be pretty effective, but sadly, it really is out of my control.

With my most recent regimen of fitness activities, my rumbling stomach seems to be an almost daily occurrence. The problem now is that the time isn’t as predictable as it used to be, so grazing throughout the day and making sure I have portable food and a large cup of water or tea is essential.

This works most of the time, but my colleagues and I have learned to laugh about it when despite my exhaustive precautions, the stomach still roars.

On the bright side, I absolutely love conference calls because I can attend meetings and keep my finger on the mute button to edit out my rumbling stomach when I don’t need to speak.

The irony is that when life gets in the way and I am not able to work out regularly, I can get by on three meals and the occasional light snack and I never hear a peep out of my stomach. But when good habits prevail, working out regularly, eating right and ensuring proper hydration, my stomach can’t help but share in its joy of a life well-lived.

All I can do is chalk the situation up to being human and life’s weird moments. I can try my very best to prevent the rumbling, accept it when it happens anyway, excuse myself when the tummy noise is really distracting, and to laugh about it when it does.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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The Bad Back and the Broken Movie Seat

I have found it quite fascinating how movie theatre chains have been stepping up their game to try to enhance the movie experience.

Not only do we have VIP experiences where we can enjoy a yummy meal during a movie, but in certain theatres, even the non-VIPs can watch a movie from comfy recliner seating.

I also appreciate the option of buying tickets ahead of time, and to not have to worry about last-minute availability, back-up plans or getting booted out of my seat by some self-entitled Mr. Bossy Pants who arrives ten minutes after the movie started and insists on disrupting an entire row of people to be seated with his friends.

But for me, the comfy recliner seating alone has been the incentive to return to the theatre more often, to the point of nudging me to get a cozy recliner at home to level the playing field.

That was until a few weeks ago when these wonderful enhancements to the movie theatre experience backfired on me.

On the day in question, the moment I sat in the movie theatre recliner, my sensitive back could feel it right away. The recliner was broken. The seat was leaning to the left.

Anybody who has ever experienced back issues can tell you that sitting in a chair that is leaning just a few degrees the wrong way is a recipe for disaster. Continue reading

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What the 2010s Meant To Me

New Year's festivitiesIn recent weeks, not only have we been bombarded with retrospectives from the last year, but as with any year ending with a “9”, we’ve seen our lives flashing before our eyes with scenes from the last decade as well.

One evening, as I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic (again!), just for fun, I asked myself what were my own favourite moments of the last decade.

It was a fun activity that completely took me out of the drudgery of traffic. My spirits were lifted as I rattled off a list of great memories. When I got home, I took out the iPad and started noting them, one-by-one. In the days that followed, more ideas kept coming to mind and the list continued to grow.

Just like everybody else, I experienced personal and professional highs and lows. But it was because these experiences that I will remember this decade fondly as the one where I experienced the greatest and most significant personal growth.

Despite what I thought was a pretty good tool kit for handling stress, this past decade offered a pressure cooker of situations that tested my tool kit to its limits when anxiety took over. With the help of a psychotherapist, I was able to establish better boundaries which not only contributed to enhancing that tool kit, but also helped to prevent some situations from festering into anxiety in the first place. Continue reading

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Pre-Christmas Crowd Avoidance

It is a little silly the lengths to which I will go to avoid getting stuck in a pre-Christmas crowd.

The reality is that I don’t fear crowds. I just don’t happen to like what happens to certain people trapped in their hot parkas for too long, among dozens of other people trapped in their hot parkas for too long. It creates a bit of a pressure cooker effect that raises blood pressures and potentially spills over into an eruption of strong negative emotions.

When you add to the mix the ticking clock of Christmas approaching and stock flying off the shelf, it’s that wild card of not knowing when you might get caught in the crossfire of people whose attitude would get them a permanent placement (with glittering gold stars) on Santa’s naughty list, and a free gift card for anger management training.

Despite buying my first presents in August, making about a hundred lists and checking them twice, and stocking up on anything and everything that doesn’t go bad to reduce my number of store visits in December, there are still things that need to be bought at the last minute for the sake of freshness. I accept that.

But to minimize my exposure to people whose tempers need tempering requires strategy, problem-solving skills and a strong Internet connection. Not only does it demand shopping at off-peak times, but around here it also means dodging snowstorms, freezing rain and Ottawa Senators game night traffic.

To calculate the logistics of this early morning weekend run, it starts with a chart of the last minute items, the location of where I expect to find them, and Google searches to verify at what time each store opens.

I’ll then rearrange the order chronologically to try to be at each stop shortly after they open, to zip in and out before the crowds begin, and before the parking lots turn into inescapable mazes of vehicles parked in improvised spots. Continue reading

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Holiday Music Overload

I admit that I am a sucker for some good Christmas tunes.

When it comes to picking favourites, I am pretty easy going. It doesn’t really matter whether I listen to the classics by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald or Burl Ives, or modern ones like Wham’s “Last Christmas” or Linda Eder’s “The Bells of St Paul”, I am a fan.

In my own traditions, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid is usually the first one I play to kick off my holiday preparations, much like it did when it first hit the airwaves in 1984.

I can’t think of a better time to have the holiday tunes playing than when I am decking the halls, trimming the tree, wrapping gifts or enjoying some holiday baking. To me, the music can be the icing on the cake, turning my holiday activities into more idyllic Norman Rockwell-Hallmark movie moments.

Over the years, I have collected a couple of new CDs each year just to hear different jazz or pop interpretations, to switch things up and to keep the holiday tunes fresh.

Ten years ago, when I was learning Swedish, I accumulated some CDs from Sweden’s top pop singers that not only added fresh new voices to the mix, but also introduced me to traditional Swedish songs. Today, I couldn’t imagine my holidays without them.

Overall, I will admit to having a pretty big appetite for holiday tunes… but not all the time. Continue reading

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Our “Axe-llent” Holiday Party

In recent years, to put a fun spin on our team’s holiday parties, we have added an after-dinner activity. A few years ago we went to a karaoke bar. Last year we attended a stand-up comedy show. This year we thought, what could be more natural for a holiday party than throwing axes with your work colleagues?

I admit that I was a little nervous when the idea was first proposed. I am not a champion by any stretch of the imagination in any game that involves aiming a projectile at a target. Frankly I was less nervous about myself and more nervous for everyone else around me.

But my curiosity did indeed reign supreme in terms of what was involved in throwing axes for the sport of it. What drove me to say yes was the thought that at a minimum, it could be a very bloggable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After our lovely team dinner, it was time to head over to the venue. Along the way, I noticed that the butterflies in my stomach felt more like a fleet of commuter jets, not really knowing what was lay ahead for us.

The moment we walked in, my senses went into overdrive, but in a good way. Between participants cheering at the top of their lungs, the sound of axes hitting (or missing) their targets with a loud thud, and the strong but pleasant aroma of the wooden targets that filled the air, I knew that I had stepped way out of my comfort zone.

For a brief moment, the “what was I thinking when I said yes?” thoughts flew by, but just the same, I remained committed. Continue reading

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The Moment I Became Picky About Pens

Like most of the people I know, through most of my adult life I bought pens by the dozen and never gave it much thought. I confess that I did develop a short list of favourites and bought some brands over and over, but I never really gave it much thought.

And truly, the only real criteria that ever dropped a certain one from my short list was if the pen repeatedly skipped, leaked, smeared, spit gobs of ink, or scraped the paper. But beyond that, I never really gave it much thought.

When my aspirations as a writer started surfacing, surprisingly, my position on pens never really changed even though I started going through them like tissues. As long as they were well-behaved and got the job done, why should I give it more thought?

True enough, much of my writing is done with a computer these days anyway, but there are times when I still enjoy the tactile experience of feeling like the writing instrument is an extension of the human body. And some of my notes still get entered in journals so writing tools are still an essential.

I forget what I was randomly Googling one day, but one of the suggested links provided was “ballpoint pen reviews.”

“That’s a thing?” I asked myself. So ever curious about tools for my craft I clicked on one of the links and started reading. This let me to another link… and another… Continue reading

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