Valentine’s Day Outdoor Space Ideas

Romantic Gestures That Keep on Giving (Unlike Cut Flowers)

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
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Valentine’s Day is a perfect example of a holiday that inspires us to redesign spaces inside and outside our homes. Designing an outdoor space for a Valentine’s Day gift or parties and celebrations can be a lasting surprise for someone that you care about pleasing. Many gardeners remind us that Valentine’s Day is the time to trim our rose bushes so that choice makes perfect sense.

Any climate-appropriate plants are a great way to improve the look of your yard, flower bed, garden, or outdoor living space. Here are a few plant, seating, and lighting ideas that can help you design the space of your dreams at this time of year when nature is just busting out. Just think of it as the opportunity to tackle that list of new year’s DIY projects!

Choosing the Perfect Flower

Almost every woman that I’ve ever met loves to get flowers on Valentine’s Day, and some would far rather receive something living that will bloom on more than just that one day. After all, why limit yourself to a wilting bouquet when you can have cut flowers on a regular basis?



Many of us don’t mind caring for the flower or floral arrangement minimally, either, especially during the mild spring and fall months. Annuals, such as the coriopsis below, are very hardy and come back year after year once established. Our bird friends help to distribute the thistle seeds so keep those bird feeders full.

Coriopsis flowers in full bloom
Coriopsis flowers in full bloom

It goes without saying that the perfect flower species should be designed to suit your climate, sunlight requirements, and of course, soil conditions. If you are unsure of this type of information, talk to someone in a garden center, nursery, or plant retailer for more details. If your community is lucky enough to have a Master Gardener group, they are very knowledgeable about local plants and are generally very free with their information. Most even conduct indigenous plant and tree sales in the spring.

One useful tip is to find out her favorite color, and keep in mind how much time and energy will need to be devoted to caring for the plant. Design your outdoor Valentine’s Day surprise with this basic information in mind, so that you can be sure that your significant other will appreciate what you have created.

Find accents and accessories for the space in the favorite color if you cannot find in-season plants that are blooming for this special occasion, such as lighting, flags, decorations, water features (ponds, fountains), and similar items designed for outdoor use. These all are animal-friendly and count towards your nature-conservation efforts.

Choosing Outdoor Seating Arrangements

If the space is large enough, why not consider adding seating to your outdoor space to create the romantic environment this day is known for inspiring.

A great garden bench is a wonderful idea, so that two can sit comfortably, but be sure that any seating arrangement you choose is intended for use outdoors, including fabric choices. Marketing claims are not always what they seem. If you have a homeowners association, check to ensure that your project falls under their (often unreasonable) guidelines. A garden bench with storage such as the one shown below, doubles as a spot to keep your gardening tools.

High-quality and functional furniture will ensure that your gift lasts much longer, and the durable and beautiful addition will add monetary and aesthetic value to your home. We can’t say enough about home equity, can we?

Your seating needs to strike a balance; make it comfortable without presenting health risks. Select fabrics that are specifically designed and treated for outdoor use, so that the fabric does not mildew or mold after the first hint of condensation or dew.



Choosing Exterior Lighting

You may or may not be spending a significant amount of time in your space outdoors after the sun sets, but adding exterior lighting changes that parameter and gives you that opportunity should you desire to sit, entertain, and relax after the sun has gone down. A simple lantern, LED spotlight, or a couple of Tiki torches for the space is ideal for most arrangements.

The right combination and choice of illumination will add that perfect touch of light for a romantic rendezvous, this Valentine’s Day and into the foreseeable future. Certain lighting resembles candlelight, which is the most popular lighting for romance, so you can’t go wrong with a hint of light that doesn’t cost you an abundance of time, energy, or money to purchase or install.

Finally, if you really want to go big when you consider Valentine’s Day outdoor space ideas, think about a relaxing backyard deck. Springtime and income tax returns are coming; hint, hint.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

What Happens When You Quit Alcohol

Lower Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol, Boost Your Immune System

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
You are now entering the alcohol free zone
You are now entering the alcohol free zone
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This article was updated on 01/09/21.

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Were you one of the ones that woke up on the first morning of the new year and made a New Years resolution to quit drinking alcohol? You’re not alone. It is most likely the one day of the year that the greatest number of people pledge to embrace sobriety. Now you’re wondering what changes you will go through along your new lifestyle path. As with any habit or addiction, it varies from person to person but there are some concepts that are generally accepted.

How Sobriety Changes Your Body

WebMD.com says that if you are used to drinking anything more than one drink per day, “cutting back or quitting may lower your blood pressure, levels of fat called triglycerides, and chances of heart failure. Heavy drinking — at least 15 drinks for men and eight or more for women a week — can take a toll on the organ [liver] and lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, and other problems. The good news: your liver can repair itself and even regenerate.”1

Whether losing weight was part of your impetus or not, that’s another nice side effect for a variety of reasons. Ditching alcohol means ditching empty calories. Also, since alcohol ramps up your ravenous appetite, you can easier resist impulsive overeating. Liquor also makes you more impulsive, and makes you lose your inhibitions so you are less able to resist the extra fries.



Alcohol and Your Immune System

Any alcohol consumption affects your immune system negatively, and the more you drink, the worse it gets. The US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Search says, “Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. This issue of Alcohol Research: Current Reviews (ARCR) summarizes the evidence that alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury.”2 And as we now know, many COVID-19 deaths are related to or precipitated by pneumonia.

Alcohol also alters the numbers of microbes in your microbiome and the structure and integrity of your gut are altered with alcohol intake. This is comprised mainly of your prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics.

When you stop consuming alcohol, you start rebuilding your microbiome. There’s no way to know how much time is needed to rebuild your gut, of course, since each person’s microbiome is unique — but eating a diet that is high in fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains) along with probiotic foods (yogurt and kimchi) can help you on your path to getting your gut healthy again.

Changes to Your Brain

There are known physical consequences resulting from heavy alcohol use. Two examples are liver damage and high blood pressure. Alcohol use at any level, however, also has its down side for your brain. It causes mental fog, anxiety, loneliness, and mood changes. Once you wean yourself off the bottle, your brain can begin the healing process and restore your brain’s natural function.

Your brain’s frontal lobe is responsible for a number of critical functions including reasoning, behavior control, memory, and motor function. The lobe takes a heavy hit when you drink to excess. Renewal Lodge has some good news though. They say, “Rational decision making and impulse control are crucial in fighting addiction, and luckily these powerful functions of the brain will return as you begin to heal.”3

Another thing that indulgence in spirits does is to create a complex imbalance of dopamine in your brain. A release of dopamine happens when you are involved in activities that you find pleasurable, such as eating candy, drinking coffee, or playing sports, and it teaches your brain what actions to repeat, and eventually, to crave. Insidious, yes?

Alcohol use overwhelms your brain with dopamine but it also reduces your brain’s dopamine receptors at the same time. When at first you stop drinking, the absence of dopamine along with diminished receptors may lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. The good news is that over time your brain will begin to normalize the dopamine levels as well as your brain’s response to it without the presence of alcohol.

An Experiment of One

Doing the research for this article, it all sounded fascinating. The fact that we are all so different means that these effects of going sober should be highly individualized. I decided to throw my hat into the arena as a test subject. I will be reporting on a weekly basis.

A couple of things to mention here; whether they matter or not I do not know but I’ll throw them out there. I am taking Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor, and a diuretic, to control high blood pressure. Also, I have been doing intermittent fasting for about three months now

  • Week One. The first thing I noticed was having a hard time getting sleepy in the evenings. Even after a couple servings of camomile tea and a melatonin supplement, I didn’t feel ready to go to bed until midnight. Even at that, it took an hour or so to drift off. My dreams were very vivid and indulging in a bit of lucid dreaming way fun. In the mornings I was very groggy. Where’s my espresso?
  • Week Two. I’m still having a hard time getting to that sleepy state in the evenings. The good thing is that when I do lay down, I fall asleep very quickly, not so much “chattering monkey” in my head keeping me awake. I have more energy during the day.
  • Week Three. I’m getting sleepy earlier, going to bed earlier, and falling asleep faster. My Garmin GPS watch also monitors my sleep. I used to always register more “light sleep” than “deep sleep” but now that has reversed. Dreams are still fun. In addition to no alcohol, I’m using my blue-light blocking glasses at the computer consistently (Blue-light messes with your natural melatonin, and so, your sleep cycle).
Garmin GPS watch sleep analysis
Garmin GPS watch sleep analysis
  • Week Four. Sleep is now stabilized and I have more energy during the day. I’ve lost 5 pounds, a bit more than 1 per week! My energy level has been increasing steadily. I’m back to my stretching routine twice a day and I’m averaging 22,000 steps per day. 4 to 7 miles of that is walking my black-mouth cur, Frankie. That’s him in my author bio below. My average resting heart rate is 70. My VO2 Max has gone from 27 ml/kg/min to 28 ml/kg/min. This is the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during exercise. It’s commonly used to test aerobic endurance or cardiovascular fitness. So, an upward trend. That’s a good thing. All this is just more data I’m getting from my Garmin GPS watch. For anyone who likes to track and analyze dieting or fitness progress, an instrument like this is essential to gain an insight on what is working and what areas you need to work on.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens during week five after I quit drinking alcohol. Check back.

You Will Also be Interested In


References

  1. WebMD.com, What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/ss/slideshow-quit-alcohol-effects
  2. Dipak Sarkar, M. Katherine Jung, H. Joe Wang, Alcohol and the Immune System, The US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Search, Alcohol and the Immune System, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/
  3. Renewal Lodge, 5 Ways Quitting Drinking Affects Your Brain, https://www.renewallodge.com/5-ways-quitting-drinking-affects-your-brain/


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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

How to Stop Overeating

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Everyday Feasting to Excess

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

The results of chronic overeating
The results of chronic overeating
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This post was updated on 04/17/21.

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It may seem odd — many of us eat way too much at Thanksgiving dinner. And then again on December 25th as if it was a Christmas tradition. And then what? According to the site Wild Simple Joy, the number 1 New Years resolution is to practice intuitive eating. This means, “Make a resolution to sit down and focus on your eating instead of multitasking. Practice listening to your body when you are thirsty, ACTUALLY hungry, and full (or something else, like just tired!)”1 Basically, pay attention and stop overeating!

Strategies to Stop Overeating

  • Don’t wait until you are starving. Many of us are not very good at knowing when we’re hungry until it’s too late. This leads to overeating by over-filling the feed bag and then scarfing it down, going past our fullness level before we realize it.
  • Pose the question — am I hungry enough for an apple? Why? Most of us can always find room for more desert but a piece of fruit? Not so much.
  • Drink a glass of water, ice tea, or cold brew coffee. This will partially fill your gut and trigger the “full” signal sooner. It will also begin to kick in your digestion process.
  • Enjoy your first few bites of your meal. Really tune in to the first few mouthfuls. “Your taste buds desensitize to food within the first few minutes, which make food not taste as good after that last bite threshold,” explains Stephanie Grasso, RDN. “Chewing slowly during those first few bites will not only delay overeating, but also allow you to appreciate the flavor of food at its peak.”
  • Remember that your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Swedish researchers found that, “When blindfolded, subjects ate 22% less food (p < 0.05), had shorter meal durations (p < 0.05), and had less decelerated eating curves (p < 0.05). Despite a smaller amount of food consumed when blindfolded, the reported feeling of fullness was identical to that reported after the larger meal consumed without blindfold.”2 This is most likely because when blindfolded, eaters relied more on internal satiety signals.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off your TV, get away from your computer, put your cell phone on silent. It’s difficult to tune into your body’s quiet taste and satiety cues when digital distractions take our focus off of the task at hand: simply eating. It’s easy; just sit at your table with a chair and a plate. This will ground you in a good environment and mind-set for eating intuitively.



  • Balance your meal. The ideal meal includes a mix of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This is more likely to satiate you more rapidly and keep you feeling full longer. When meals are balanced, we get shorter-term energy from starchy veggies and grains and longer-term energy from healthy fat and protein. Furthermore, healthy fats (olive oil, avocados) and proteins slow your digestion process, giving your satiety hormones a chance to multiply, signaling that you are getting full. As far as carbohydrates go, shoot for a mixture of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Take your time already. As you eat your meal, take time to pause and put your fork down. This will give you an opportunity to pace yourself and determine how full you are. Engage in conversation if you’re dining with someone. Take deep breaths, and have a sip of water or wine. Repeat this process as you eat. Allow yourself visual reminders; after you’ve finished a quarter of your food, to set the fork down and so forth.
  • Manage your stress in other ways. Many of us eat as a reaction to stress as much as we do when we are hungry. The solution? Siphon off that stress at regular intervals. Take myself for example. Here I sit all day long producing hopefully interesting content for you, esteemed reader. My Garmin 235 watch sends me a “move” signal when I’ve had too much butt-time. So I go for a stroll and listen to Audible.com audio books on my iPhone. Sometimes a quarter mile, sometimes a mile and a half. When I get back, bingo! Stress gone, the well of creativity duly refreshed.


  • Avoid “The Last Supper Effect.” Whenever we put a particular food on the banned list, the desire for it goes up. That’s just human nature. If you forbid yourself from eating certain things, you are very likely to overindulge in them while you still can, a phenomenon also known as the “last supper effect.” This can also carry over after you stop eating a given food, during those furtive sneaking episodes.
  • Be aware of and manage trigger foods. We all have foods that trigger overeating and avoiding them can help minimize your chances of overeating. For example, if you know ice cream is likely to trigger a late-night binge or a ravenous episode of overeating, it’s not a good idea to keep it stocked in your freezer. The more difficult it is to get at something, the less likely you will be be to overeat that particular item.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you to stop overeating, during the holiday season and beyond. Get a head start on those New Years resolutions and get a handle on that weight management program you keep telling yourself about.

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References

  1. Dawn Perez, Wild Simple Joy, New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Your Best Life in 2021!, https://wildsimplejoy.com/new-years-resolution-ideas-for-personal-development/
  2. Dr. Yvonne Linné, Britta Barkeling, Stephan Rössner, Pål Rooth, Wiley Online Library, Vision and Eating Behavior, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2002.15

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

A Beginner’s Guide to Weight Loss, Cellular Cleansing, and Detox

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Empty plate symbolizes intermittent fasting for weight loss
Empty plate symbolizes intermittent fasting for weight loss
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This article was updated on 01/09/21.

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Fasting, or abstaining from eating for a period of time, has always had a place in human history. Sometimes it’s for religious reasons. Matthew 6:16-18 does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” So, just an expectation. But in a broader scope, most people today explore intermittent fasting for weight loss and a method of liver detox. As a bonus, there are other health benefits that we will go into. There’s inspiration on many levels.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

  • The 16/8 method. This is the most popular method primarily because it is the easiest to do. With most of us spending an inordinate amount of time at home and away from fast food distractions because of the COVID-19 pandemic anyway, it’s easy. This method entails eating your first meal of the day at noon (lunch), and the last one around 8 PM (dinner). Do this every day. Water, coffee, and unsweetened tea are fine during your fast.
  • The 5:2 method. Your week looks like this — you eat normally except on Tuesday and Friday where women eat just 500 calories and men just 600 calories. You might have heard it called called the Fast Diet; it was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley. Dietitians recommend these foods.
  • The eat, stop, eat method. This is just like the 5:2 except that you fast completely on Tuesday and Friday. For example begin fasting after dinner on Monday and go until dinner on Tuesday. You might find this one difficult to stick with this form of diet faithfully but if you resolve to make it a habit it will get easier.
  • The alternate day method. Eat normally one day, fast the next. Repeat. Over and over. In some interpretations, some few calories are allowed on fasting days.
  • The warrior diet. Every day you get to eat a large dinner but only small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day.
  • Spontaneous meal skipping. Here you get to eat normally but skip breakfast one day per week and dinner another day. When you do eat breakfast, try my homemade bread recipe. It’s loaded with good things.

Fasting Affects Your Hormones and Cells

Once you adopt one of these fasting methods and make it a habit, things start happening under the hood. If your main goal is to lose weight and shed pounds, there’s good news — your hormone levels change making stored body fat more available for fuel. Here are some other changes that improve your health.

  • Gene functionality. There are changes in the function of your genes that are related to longevity as well as protection against disease.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) increase. This leads to both fat loss and muscle gain.
  • Cells undergo repairs. As you fast, cells begin cellular repairs including autophagy, which is when your cells digest and eliminate older and dysfunctional proteins that have built up inside cells.
  • Insulin levels change. Your insulin sensitivity gets better and your levels of insulin drop off dramatically. This in turn makes your stored body fat more accessible for weight loss.

Intermittent Fasting Promotes Detox

Intermittent fasting supports your healthy immune function. As you might suspect, healthy immune function is at the center of body detox. First of all, it promotes stem cell function and their ability to renew and repair themselves. Lab studies have shown that fasting correlates with fewer unhealthy cells. One study determined that just 3 days of fasting can quite literally regenerate one’s entire immune system! It showed that as the body “eats up” old immune cells, stem cell activity is increased. Just logical when you think of it. The stem cells then begin to create new immune cells which leads to the anti-aging effects of fasting.

Secondly, intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the autoimmune response. It promotes cell repair during the cellular re-feeding phase. Third, fasting supports the production as well as the repair of white blood cells. White blood cells are especially important in the lymph system. They fight harmful invaders and work to keep the body healthy.

The take-away from all this is that if you are looking for a way to lose weight while generally improving your health, intermittent fasting is worth looking into. As with anything else, it is always a good idea to run it past your doctor. And when you do eat try to stick to organic food that has undergone minimal food processing if any at all.

References:

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Types of Blood Pressure Medications

And How They Work to Lower Hypertension

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Blood pressure medication and monitor
Blood pressure medication and monitor

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it exhibits no symptoms. Typically people first learn they have it when their doctor tells them during a routine visit. That’s how I found out. I was amazed. I’m an avid runner and walker, my weight is acceptable, and I eat well. But as the doc told me, “You’re doing the right things, but if it’s in your genes, it’s in your genes.” Oh crap.

So. Meds. Nobody likes them. Get over it. Blood pressure meds might be the worst; the one good thing is that even if you don’t have conventional insurance or Medicare Part D, generics are quite affordable. Here are the ones you need to be acquainted with if you are diagnosed with hypertension.

  • Diuretics. Also known as “water pills,” these meds cause your body to produce more urine which in turn causes you to eliminate more salt from your body (and most importantly, your bloodstream). Even if you don’t add salt to your food, most of your sodium intake comes from eating out and packaged foods. Salt’s effect is to act on your kidneys to make your body hold on to more water. Extra stored water raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart, and brain. If you are prescribed a diuretic, stay close to a bathroom.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These meds block the effects of a hormone, you guessed it, called ­angiotensin II. This hormone is a peptide hormone that causes vasoconstriction, and consequently, a rise in your blood pressure. It’s part of the renin-angiotensin system. This system regulates blood pressure. Angiotensin also stimulates the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex to promote sodium retention by the kidneys. There’s that salt raising it’s ugly head again.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE inhibitors are a type of meds used primarily for the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure. The way they work is by causing relaxation of your blood vessels as well as a decrease in blood volume, which leads to lower blood pressure and decreased oxygen demand from the heart. The brand I take is Lisinopril, which luckily, is a generic so it is inexpensive, especially with medical insurance. The main side effects are a persistent dry cough and a feeling of lethargy.
  • Beta-blockers. This type helps in reducing the heart rate thereby decreasing your blood pressure. Your doctor might call them beta-adrenergic blocking agents. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. There are some beta-blockers that mainly affect your heart, while others affect both your heart and your blood vessels.
  • Calcium channel blockers. This type reduces the amount of calcium that enters your heart muscles thereby reducing the heart rate and controlling blood pressure.
  • Alpha-blockers: The muscles of your arteries and veins are relaxed with this type thus reducing the blood pressure.

General Considerations for Hypertension Medications

There are some things to know when you are prescribed hypertension meds. The first is that they all have side effects so you may have to work with your doctor to find the one that works best for your lifestyle. When I tried a calcium channel blocker it caused too much ankle swelling. When I switched to lisinopril I found that it affected my running, particularly any long run over 10 miles made me feel wonky and my vision to get weird… after I stopped. My solution? I now take it in the evening rather than in the morning. Despite the side effects, medication drastically lowers the chance of a stroke.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Body Weight, Fat Percentage, and BMI

by Kelly R. Smith

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Weight loss before and after
Weight loss before and after

This article was updated on 10/29/20.

Here we are. Last January is in the rear view mirror; the new one is fast arriving. Was weight loss one of your New Year’s resolutions? How’s that working out? Weight loss is kind of a nebulous term. What most people really want is fat loss, not to be confused with lean muscle mass loss.

When a person goes on a diet and introduces weight training, the number on the scale starts to lose its meaning and those pounds reflected are not a good way to judge progress. Your “body weight” may not change much but your percentage of body fat does. Why? Because muscle weighs about 15-20% more than fat so the same “weight” of muscle occupies less real estate than fat. The way your clothes fit give a better indication of your progress than the scale does. Of course, if you do not introduce weight training the scale becomes more of a better indicator. This is also true if you take up running.

BMI is the Best Body Fat Guideline

To maintain optimal health it is important to reach and maintain a certain percentage of body fat. There are many components to your weight such as bone density, level of hydration (water), and organs. BMI or Body Mass Index is a method of estimating a person’s body fat percentage based on their weight and height measurement which it assigns a reference number to. It is easy to calculate. Try it below.

It is helpful to continue to weigh yourself on the scale but to get a real grasp on your “weight”, keep referring to the BMI calculator for an assessment of what you really want to know. The longer you are overweight the more chance you have of high blood pressure, stroke, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes. Don’t relapse into your old fat-inducing bad habits.

The relationship between body weight, fat percentage, and BMI is often misunderstood, partly due to commercial marketing and partly due to societal expectations and social media. But now that you know, go fight the good fight and get the results you desire.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

How to Get a Perfect Shave Every Time


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Shaving razor, brush, cup and soap - gear for manly grooming
Shaving razor, brush, cup and soap - gear for manly grooming

This article was updated on 08/08/20.

Make no mistake about it; manly grooming and shaving in particular is a huge business. And it's always something new! and improved! A veritable nest of blades on a handle. It pivots! It lubricates! And the cost of replacement blades will kill you. The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. You can get a perfect shave every time for a fraction of the cost.

Like anything else, having the right equipment is half of the game. This is what's on my shelf:

  • A safety razor. I use a stainless steel Merkur (German company) razor. This will set you back $30.00 or more but it is the last one you will ever have to buy. As a bonus, if you are of the green persuasion, just look at all the throw-away plastic you will not be heartlessly be disposing of. Yes, shaving can save the planet.
  • Merkur double edge razor blades. These are about $8.00 per package on Amazon. These are far superior to domestic blades and keep their edge longer.

  • A puck (cake) of shaving soap. Many different scents and formulations are out there so shop around. You are about to discover how much more comfortable and effective real soap is compared to those cans of foaming goo. And yeah, those empty cans pollute as well. And are more expensive.
  • A shaving soap mug. Shaving mugs can be had in many different styles; the important thing is the proper size to fit the soap puck. Heck, you can use a coffee cup if it is the correct size. Some pucks come in plastic containers that can serve as a cup.

  • A good quality shaving brush. Forget those cheepies found in the grocery store. They are too stiff and they don't hold the lather well. They are uncomfortable to use and will give you a poor shave. Avoid any brush that is made of "synthetic bristles." Instead go for one that uses pure badger bristles. Science has not been able to improve on nature when it comes to shaving brushes. And it will grow back on the badger so I suppose it's a renewable resource.
  • After shave. This is a personal preference. I generally use Old Spice Classic. It is invigorating and remarkably low priced. Maybe I like it since it's what my old Grandpa used and I'm a sentimental slob.
  • Professional barber hair cutting scissors. Using regular scissors to fine-tune your facial hair is like using a hacksaw to do surgery. Have the right tool for the job.



Steps for a Close, Clean Shave

  1. Step out of the shower or wash your face with soap and hot water. No need to rinse.
  2. Run the hot water in the sink, wet your shaving brush and whip up a lather in your cup with a circular motion. Add hot water as needed.
  3. Load your brush with soap; really swirl it around.
  4. Shave your face using downward strokes.
  5. Reapply lather.
  6. Shave your face using upward strokes.
  7. Wipe you face with a soft towel soaked with cold water.
  8. Slap on your preferred after shave.

If You Have Facial Hair

Approximately 30% of American men sport some kind of facial hair. Mustaches are the most popular while during recent times goatees have become very popular. Even full beards require trimming (hence the aforementioned barber's scissors) and a bit of shaving around the edges.

One accessory that every whiskered man should own is a mustache cup. This will keep your mustache from getting stained while you enjoy your favorite beverages, especially coffee.

Some Shaving Trivia

Because I'm sure you care.

  • A marketing executive working for the Wilkinson Sword Company who made razor blades for men conceived of a campaign to convince women of North America that underarm hair was unhygienic and it was not feminine. Within two years razor blades sales doubled as granny and great granny conformed to this socially constructed gender stereotype. As you might expect, pit-hair on a woman has evolved into a fetish.
  • Nearly 70% of American women prefer a clean-shaven man. The rest prefer lumberjacks.
  • Fidel Castro originally grew out his beard is because his supply of Gillette Blades was cut off.
  • Shaving cream didn’t always come in aerosol cans; the method wasn’t even introduced until 1950. And what a poor idea it was.
  • Peter the Great of Russia imposed a tax on beards, which was collected at every town gate. And I thought Obama was bad on taxes!

Enjoy your shave. If we have to do it let's make it comfortable and close. After all, who wants to look like a Hollywood hipster?


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


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