The Case of the Curious Cucumber – another rant from Italy by Marco

As some of you may know, Susan and I have been shopping at our local “zero kilometre” market on Saturday mornings during our summer in Italy. “Zero Kilometre” means that any item sold in the market is from this particular region of Italy and is picked within 24 hours of being offered for sale. For more on this, check out a previous blog post HERE  Today, being Saturday, was no exception, off we went.

I will mention again that GMO’s are not permitted in Italy.

About the size of an English cucumber, 8-10 inches.

About the size of an English cucumber, 8-10 inches.

Today, we needed cucumbers. How can I get irritated looking at a cucumber, so innocent, fresh, crispy and full of nutrients? Well, that largely depends what country you are standing in when you are looking at it.

See that picture there? That is the cucumber we bought this morning. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

That is a GMO free, organic cucumber, If I show you a picture of the same type of cucumber from Canada, it would look much the same. But, what would the differences be? Aside from the fact that rarely will you find a locally grown cucumber in a supermarket in the likes of Toronto, add to that, organic, the biggest difference is the one you cannot see – about $4.00. Yes indeed. A comparable cucumber at a store like Whole Foods will run you about $3.99. Here, that cucumber is about 20 cents. That Whole Foods cucumber will also probably come from California.

I SAID TWENTY CENTS! WE ARE BEING GAUGED in North America when it comes to food. Not only that, I am becoming increasingly put off by the fact that when we buy our food in Canada, it is usually already dead. Overcharge me for something that is good for me, and I am already ticked. Overcharge me for something that has flown 5000 km to make it to my supermarket shelf, now I am an idiot for paying you for straight up caloric consumption. If I wanted that, I would get a soft drink!

To be fair, Susan and I venture to an organic farm outside of Toronto that has pristine organic produce and great pricing – HERE, BUT… the thing is, that price of about 20 cents at the market here in Italy, jumps up to only about 35 cents at a local supermarket.

Getting gauged just to be able to eat healthy food is unnecessary. We need more local support for our farmers in Canada.

Ugh! Here endeth the rant!

 

The Challenge with our Perception of Fitness in North America

People in Italy are noticeably slimmer than the USA and Canada.

Why?

The USA and Canada have a wealth of resources, take a drive, or better yet, a walk or bike ride, and gyms can be found every few blocks, there are so many doctors that some are unemployed and an overabundance of food, so much of it in fact, that 30%-40% of food in the USA is thrown away, and that number is even higher among fruits and vegetables.

Many people in Italy bike like their lives depend on it. Yes, the USA and Canada have bike riders galore as well, but is it possible that the grades on the mountains here pose a much different challenge than the

Typical sight on an Italian mountain, about half a km elevation. See the background to get the perspective!

Typical sight on an Italian mountain, about half a km elevation. See the background to get the perspective!

straightaways and and largely flat paths we have in Canada?  I think so.  Is it also possible that viewing bike riding as “training/working out/sport” is an error from the get go?  People here bike to work, to their friends, to the market. They don’t do it to “train,” it is just a way of life, a way to get around and, of course as a result, they are more active and are healthier. There are people here, like our neighbour across the street, who is well into his 60’s, who has, as of August this year, racked up over 5000 km on his bike. That number here is not uncommon.

Conclusion – people here are just not as sedentary as North Americans and the lifestyle here is different, which is nothing to say of the food!

But the most important reason can be found in my last few paragraphs ahead.

What Exactly is “Working Out/Fitness?”

I tell you what is becoming clearer to me with each passing day here; the picture we have of fitness in Canada/USA is usually defined by a weight loss goal, or someone joining a gym, getting a trainer and lifting weights. Though these are all beneficial things, to look at those as the whole of fitness messes with the very foundation and essence of what well-rounded and well-being mean. Somehow, if you cannot bench X, or you are not ripped and jacked, you are not fit.

Of course, having trained and consulted scads of people, I will be the first to say that gym fitness, in its “today” sense, is a lot different than functional fitness is. However, at 50, I can also say this; it is functional fitness in the long run that serves you in everyday life. Yesterday, Susan and I walked along one of the shores of Lake Garda. Once we came off that path, we ventured into the nearby town. The whole trek was at an incline and elevation that constantly increased. We maintained a good clip and by the end of our excursion had travelled over 8 km. Felt great, but didn’t feel like we were in “training mode,” we were just out being active.

Take an everyday, average 20 -50 year old USA/Canadian male, and by “average,” I mean someone who does not train 5 days a week for an hour at a gym and put him beside the same in Italy, and believe me, you will see a world of difference. Better yet, take 25 average people from the USA and Canada and 25 from Italy and the evidence will be staring you in the face and it is undeniable. The same comparison would hold true if you replaced the Italian in my example, with someone from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland etc…

Conclusion – the default definitions and levels of “general well being and being active” are completely different here because of one powerful common denominator – lifestyle.
These types of inclines are typical. Bikers in their 50's and higher routinely burn their quads and fight their way up to tops of mountains, such as this one - San Marino.

These types of inclines are typical. Bikers in their 50’s and higher routinely burn their quads and fight their way up to tops of mountains, such as this one – San Marino.

People here are less lazy, and more active – period. Drive up a mountain and you will without fail see people in their 40-60’s walking or climbing uphill on significant grades. Of course, “real food” that is local makes all the difference in the world in weight maintenance and steering clear of disease, and we are all quite aware these days of the overall health benefits of nutrient dense foods. All of these are factors in our overall well-being profile.

In the case of bike riding, it is not viewed as “training” unless you are a professional cyclist, it is viewed as “lifestyle.”

I believe that if we acted more along the terms of lifestyle than “workout,”  an immense amount of pressure would come off us and as a result, a lot more people would be “working out” without actually thinking about “training.”

Thanks for reading. Ciao!

What’s in the Food In Italy?

I was born in this land. I have childhood memories that have never left me. Now, at 50, here I am with my wife, Susan, on our honeymoon and much has changed in Italy, but much has remained the same.
The food has remained the same.

Susan and I are up earlier on Saturday mornings to catch the “zero kilometre” market, about 20 minutes from where we are staying. “Zero kilometre” designation, means that all the vendors, about a dozen or so, IMG_9111only sell goods from that immediate region that were picked the morning of, or within 24 hours. In other words, even if something is available from another nearby region in Italy, you will not find it at this market. Here, local means local which also translates to ultra fresh! We wondered how such beautiful strawberries were available, given that it wasn’t quite prime season. The vendor explained that they’re able to produce them because in the mountains, they were already growing! The flavour unsurpassed by any other strawberries we’ve tasted, as is the case with all the foods here!

The fruits and vegetables have a different texture here. They’re not as waxy and ‘perfect’ looking. By comparison, they are plastic-like when you buy them at your supermarkets in North America. We also believe GMOs play a large part in the flavourless tasting food and body’s ability to assimilate nutrients.

Yesterday, we enjoyed another world class meal in Peschiera di Garda and I had an insightful conversation with the waiter, a svelte, Italian young man. He grew up in the mountains and has worked in the city, seeing both sides of how animals are raised and food is produced. That’s another story, but suffice to say, his gorgeous, seemingly year round tan went white as a sheet when I told him about what happens to animals and food in Canada.

Go to an organic supermarket in North America and 9 times out of 10 the kale we are getting from California was pulled 1 week before it should have been and is then placed on a truck or plane, travels thousands of kilometres, and lands on our shelf existing mostly as calories in what can only be classified as “dying” to dead food, existing of calories, and not as nutrition.

 

Why I Lose Weight Here without Really Trying
 
I am eating the same as I do in Canada, perhaps more carbs and prosciutto, salami etc… all locally IMG_9098produced. I am definitely enjoying more wines, again, all local.
I am active to a degree, but need to be much more so.

In other words, my life is pretty much the same as far as eating. One might say it’s because I am away on my honeymoon, and that there is less stress in my life. Yes, Susan and I are having a blast, but the situations that exist at home that are potential stressors are well present in my life, so that shoots the cortisol factor dead.

The only thing I can think of is that my body is absorbing more nutrients. As a result, it is releasing things it would rather not let go of when my nutrition absorption is lower. I can’t prove that to you, but is is something worthy of serious consideration, The food you buy at the market here dies within 2 days or so. That is a normal thing. The “food” that flies into North America is already dead, it is just put on life-support and embalmed. They have no concept here of what it is to put something in the fridge and still have it there, looking the same after 5-6 days. It is a totally foreign thing to them.

GMO’s are not allowed in Italy.

 
To me, the fact that GMO’s are not permitted here is making all the difference in the world in how I feel and my weight profile. Those of you who know Susan and I personally, or have followed us via getfitfaster.ca, will know that we are extremely diligent in reading labels and eating clean. We go out of our way to buy local organic, driving one hour outside of Toronto to buy lettuce etc…
BUT….This raises the question of cross-pollination. GMO’s are everywhere in North America. In the air, in the wind, blowing to and fro, and in the fabric of the land. I know there are many studies on both sides of the equation, my personal decision is to avoid GMO’s as much as is possible. There is is also a marked difference in the levels of salt used here as well as sugar, both of which are far less than what is used in North America. Prosciutto here is nowhere near as salty or fatty as it is in Canada. In fact, by the time it lands there and we land there when we return, I doubt it will be very easy at all for me to eat any of the sodium bomb versions of these otherwise completely palatable foods, at home.I think it is really more of a question of what is not in the food here.

In any event, it is somewhat of a marvel how I have not changed much of what I do, but I am down some 8 Lb. since we got there on July 15. That is not a lot of weight, but it is fascinating to me that it just kind of “happened,” by being here.

Thanks for reading and ciao!

P.S. please check out Susan’s new site with more from Italy and innovative exercise moves, as she trains in the back yard. Visit www.susanarruda.com

Donald Trump Is Not The Problem

This morning, Hillary Clinton said “there is no place for violence in our politics.”

Mrs. Clinton, wake up. The violence is not IN your politics, it is in the collective  conscience of your country right now, widespread. It is the manifestation how people are feeling. This is striking at the core of people’s esteems and fears, and politics does not stand a chance against a revolution, right or wrong. You need to address PEOPLE and ask them to calm down, not stand up for the protocols of the politics machine.

Both Democrats and GOP candidates commenting on last night’s violence at the Trump rally are saying “this is not what America is about.”

The problem with that statement is that it is people who live in America who are doing it. Is it possible that this IS how many people are feeling? Yes, it is. Actually, it is clearly a fact. And THAT is what is scary. Many people are in denial. They are living in the bubble of what we see in film and TV. We are fed a lot of ideals on social media and by conventional media. We are told what to accept, who to accept, who to let in, who to boot out, who’s hot, who’s not, which religious believes to calm down about, and which we should cater to.

If many people are feeling this way and they act out in that type of rage, it is akin to someone letting a captive, repeatedly beaten animal out of a cage. The animal does not know any better, it has been its’ reality.  The trainer did the beating, the animal catches a glimpse of who has caused his pain, and sniffs a chance at something different. The animal wakes up and thinks  “enough,” and wants to kill the trainer. 

Trump, right or wrong, has opened the cage and he has struck a VITAL and very sensitive nerve. However, Trump did not invent the nerve. The nerve has been there since the dawn of time. It is up to the PEOPLE how they act. It is their country. This is the ironic beauty of democracy. Sometimes, you need to aggravate or stimulate a nerve, painful as it is, in order to effect broader change or a cure.

You tell me how Trump could have done the “right thing” last night?

He cancels the rally, and people freak.

Or, he holds the rally, and he is “wrong” any way, because the same thing would have happened.

No matter how you slice it, the pundits and media will position it the way they want.

It is the people who blew it and there is blame on both sides of the fence, but it lies in the hands of the people who participated. Those who have no self- control, again, on both sides. The idiot cowboy should not have punched the man walking up the stairs. The man walking up the stairs, figured he could perhaps wander into a minefield stepping wherever he wanted because it is his “right to” do so,  or something to that effect, so he would be fine. He was wrong. They both were.

Tensions are seething because of what people have been force fed for years.

If some Trump supporters, or haters,  are free- loaders, or are just angry at everyone, they hate their lives, the government… maybe they had difficult lives or have failed circumstances, it always comes down to the individual to fix things. Those types of people will be angry at anyone from Mother Teresa to Hellen Keller and they will project this on anyone they can blame, as long as it is not themselves.

Trump reminds people of what they both love and hate. They love the Hollywood America in “American Sniper” and “Independence Day,” but that is not reality. People who are fed up is the reality.

Donald Trump is not your problem.

Faith Has An Appetite for the Impossible – My Autistic Son

Over 15 years ago, a group of highly qualified experts sat me in a
room and gave me the news that my son, Anthony, was autistic. However, that was just the beginning of the labels, soon to be followed by PDD, SPD, Asperger’s and on and on. In fact, it sounded like enough letters following a name, to put on a certificate of PhD in the area of study called  “your life will be difficult.” You are not like the “normal people”; thank God, he is not, but that is a whole other blog post. I wonder what “normal” is anyway!

When that news unceremoniously kicked my idea of “healthy, bouncing baby boy” to the curb, I had a choice to make, a few actually.

Do I start speaking “autistic” to him, as if it were a language of some sort? Do I believe what the experts said? Do I receive the images in the “Rain Man” movie as a portent of what will play on the screen of his life? I am not here to judge, nor to tell you that the choices I made are the right ones for you, each diagnosis, each person is different.

I can, however, tell you this with the utmost confidence, faith is universal and bilateral. Faith is an equal opportunity employer or destroyer. It does not discriminate, no matter what your challenges are, special needs, career, etc… Once you engage it with your constant words, beliefs, and daily patterns, it will go to work to bring those things to pass. But, it is a double-edged sword. Feed it a steady diet of: “this is not fair, why me God, we will never make it, you are different, you are not like ‘those’ kids, what did I do to deserve this, this is too hard, you don’t understand what I am going through,” and your faith will produce results in line with what you feed it, because you are putting action to it.

Faith is not a magic wand, it is a decision to either go through; or cave in. It is a decision followed by action to stand your ground when you are climbing uphill with societal “special needs” dogma raining artillery on you and your son, or loved one. Even positive faith does not make everything “ok,” but it does change you and the way people around you perceive you. If you act desperate, you will attract people who will treat YOU as the special needs person. They will do something that can be very damaging which I call “caterism,” when what you need are stimulators, those who can help propel you uphill. I’d like to remind you here, that this faith discussion is not limited to dealing with a special needs person, this is a whole-life principle. Wounded or broken limbs do need to be cared for and catered to for a while, but then they need to move and be challenged in order to strengthen, heal and become useful again.

What has already happened, no matter how much you decry or deny it, cannot change. However, you do have a significant say in the message you send your special needs person and how you mold them going forward.

Am I being idealistic? Check the long list of the idealists who changed our world. If that is the worst thing I will ever be called, I’ll take it!

I will close with this and you can draw the conclusion that is right for you. I hope at the very least it inspires you and sparks a glimmer of hope, or even better; a redirection away from negative faith.

When a boy of 6 cannot hold a pencil properly and cannot print his name, it is “impossible” that he will become an artist.

When he cannot “think” as others do, it is “impossible” for him to create dozens of characters, all with personalities, different genealogies, weaknesses, emotions, loyalties and strengths. “Impossible” for him to develop plot lines and communicate detailed scripts.

When he cannot speak properly and stammers, searching for words, and they are all like jumbled up Scrabble dice dancing inside his mind, waiting for the right dice, the right letter to drop into his language process; like a ball dropping for a lottery number in order to get the right words out – it is “IMPOSSIBLE” that person will ever communicate effectively at all, much less, well enough to inspire people..

until they do.

I fed all of those “impossibles” to my faith, as a master might feed a servant in earlier days, and it went to work. Faith is the assassin of doubt.

It is my son, the kid who could not hold a pencil who has won awards for his creation; The Artistic Guardian.

It is my son, the one with the “laboured thought process who will have a hard time,” who created all of the personalities in a storyline that embodies inclusion and acceptance for all races and abilities.

And finally, perhaps most poignantly; it is my son and his father, who will be speaking to hundreds of educators at a major upcoming conference in a few weeks.

Faith is starving, waiting to spring into action for you! Feed it the impossible and watch it go to work. It thrives on impossible, like a bodybuilder needs protein.

Please visit my son’s site at TheArtisticGuardian.com to see some of what faith devoured and produced. There you will also find some brief videos of Anthony aka “Antonio” speaking to a small group of supporters last year.

We are continuing his Dream Fundraising here: gofundme.com/artisticguardian

I welcome your emails and thank you for reading.

Marco
marco@theartisticguardian.com

My son, Antonio, the one they said: "never would."

My son, Antonio, the one they said: “never would.”

 

 

Why Is This A Fascinating Life?

Why is this life so “fascinating?”

It has been the roads travelled to get here, sometimes so bizarre, that I was convinced I had lost my way. Which, I probably had. What a marvellous way to discover life.

I was born in Italy. My father was the General Manager of the Italian auto company Alfa-Romeo. He died when I was 17. My sister died when I was 10. In my teens, I wanted to play tennis full time. I had some 10615585_10152738135125498_4308651861054979812_n (1)chops, dropped out of school, and sustained an injury that sounded the death knell as far as any career hopes went, so I turned to my other love; music. I actually made a living doing that as a studio musician, but mostly as a music arranger. I worked in Nashville, New York, Toronto and some of what we produced shipped to Europe and as far as India. Some of the stuff wound up on records that won Juno awards.

While all of that happened, I lost my athletic physique and gained a horrendous amount of weight at an alarming rate.

Later, I got married, had a son who was diagnosed autistic, PDD, ADD and a bunch of other things. Got divorced, but kept the son, full time as a single dad. I became addicted to caffeine and smoked like I was paid to do it. I quit smoking after some 20 years and lost over 100 Lb., but kept the coffee addiction. You gotta live baby!

After the weight loss, I wrote a book called; “Starving to Be Fat,” now being produced as an audiobook. I certified as a personal trainer and in very little time topped the sales rankings as a fitness consultant for a large fitness/gym company, then got transferred to another huge company and set a record there, after which, I was fired, which was one of the best things that could have happened to me. My partner in life and business, Susan Arruda is a 5-time figure champion. Yes, the former fat guy gets the fitness chick, as well as the fitness sales records. I told you; fascinating. Susan and I started GetFitFaster.ca together, which is about to go to a whole other level, thanks to some new friends, and some old ones.

I tried my hand, err, or throat rather, at voice acting. Met an agent who decided I should be an actor. I said: “this is a face for radio.” A few weeks later I had headshots taken, got called to a casting, and I actually had no idea what that word even meant in the industry. Went in cold with no acting lessons and booked my first, second and third jobs all on fairly well-known shows, mostly docu-dramas. I had a flurry of auditions at a frenetic pace and decided to see if there was actually something to this. So I registered for a group class at a top acting studio here in Toronto, Casting Central aka Lewis Baumander Acting Studio and was amazed and intrigued. That evening, one of the coaches walked into the room and with a brush of her hand on the threshold of a doorway and some very poignant words, scared the crap out of me, and the ever evolving actor into me. Or perhaps I have that backwards! That journey continues to this day.

Along the way, I have consulted business leaders, translated at trade shows, accompanied delegates from Europe in their endeavours to bring their business to Canada, written white papers for companies, prepared documents and pitches for large American corporations, shot and edited videos, music directed at several churches, spoken to audiences from middle shool assemblies, to corporate audiences nearing 30,000. I have coached and consulted many people on a number of personal matters. I have another book on the way and have even functioned as a choreographer on 2 of Susan’s title wins. Believe it or not, I am forgetting stuff here!

If variety is indeed the spice of life, then I am a bulk barn.

Now, something inside me just says, no, actually it screams; “write.” I am nearing 50. This son of mine has taught me so much, that if I ever grow up someday, I want to be like him. I have a relationship heading into its’ 10th year with Susan that is the stuff of dreams. I have learned a thing or two, about a thing or two.

I look back at this life, of which there is so much more than what is contained in this introduction, as I raise an eyebrow a la Spock and whisper a bemused; “fascinating.”

I hope you will check in from time to time, as I continue to lose my way.

Marco