Month: May 2015

reblogged: 21 Days Without Sugar Experiment

In this article, Joe English does better work explaining the difficulty of cutting out sugar than I can, and since I’ve been meaning to write a similar post for a while now (though I did a year-long experiment), I will take advantage of the opportunity to have someone write the post for me.
As someone who has had (and I would argue, continues to have, despite cutting sugar out) a sweet-tooth, I will say that it is very difficult for someone like me. I think sweet-tooth is a cover-up for “sugar addiction,” and trying to cut out something I’ve been chemically and psychologically dependent on is an ongoing process that can take years.
You may ask, “is it worth it?” Joe English didn’t get into this yet, but besides feeling satisfied for much longer, and having a feeling of reliable energy, other foods (like vegetables and nuts) have much more intense tastes, and one can sense the sweetness in anything including meats, nuts, and cheeses.
Another benefit has been that other stimulants (like coffee) are no longer as necessary to get me going or keep me going, but they help when a craving comes on. The danger of cutting out sugar is that it can be replaced by another addiction (like alcohol, tobacco), but having the will-power to cut out sugar (especially if you have a sweet-tooth like me) can assure you that you’ll be able to control any other addiction as well.
I don’t want to trivialize serious addictions that result in alcohol and drug abuse, but I also don’t want the addiction to sugar trivialized either. I think if people can be more aware of how pervasive it is as an additive, and how much control it has over what we consider “tastes good,” then one step towards combating obesity and its related diseases will be taken.

Running Advice and News

running-advice-bugThere seems to be tremendous interest right now in the health effects of sugar in our diets. Many people say that it is sugar, rather than fat, that is leading people to be overweight. Documentaries like “Fed Up” talk about both the addictive nature of sugar and how the idea of “eating better and exercising more” makes little sense when the environment makes it practically impossible to eliminate sugar additives from your diet in the first place. No matter how hard you try, the deck is simply stacked against you, so the thinking goes.

SugarSo 21 days ago I set out to see if it was possible: could I eliminate sugars from my diet and what would be the impact on my behavior and general sense of well-being? I didn’t go into this trying to fix some specific problem or to lose weight. Rather in the end I learned a…

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Go Gross-Flottbek!

I’ve mentioned my German soccer team a few times in this blog, but I figured they deserve a special post. After all, they’re important enough to have their own Facebook page: I specifically want to explain the significant impact joining the team had on my studying abroad here.

One of the most difficult things when studying abroad is the removal of the immediate support system. This makes it similar to other times when leaving home and going to see new people, new work, new city, but the exception with studying abroad is that it is also a removal in culture. The people one must learn to interact with have different standards, habits, and norms that one must  respect and try to adhere to.
It makes for a difficult first few weeks, where a new situation arises everyday and it can cause some degree of anxiety when one must constantly try to figure out what to do with the day, and how to shut off the mind a bit.
Thankfully, sports have the same rules, regardless of the country. They are truly transcultural practices played across borders and erasing borders on the field.
Someone suggested to me, before coming to Germany, that I should try to join a team. Within a few days of my arrival in Hamburg, I found myself on the internet actively looking up teams that played near where I live. I’m not sure if I could have joined any team, but it just so happened that the team I found within a 5 minute run from my front door was in the Kreisliga, meaning the lowest Liga. However, it was close by and the trainer actively welcomed me to a trial period. I came to a few games to watch and a few practices to participate in, and then I was on the team.
Being on a German soccer team showed me my limits as a US American, my “exoticism” factor, and a closer look at how young German women live in Hamburg, but it also gave me something I desperately needed: stability in my routine.
The last aspect became oppressively apparent when the season ended on May 10th, and I didn’t know what to do with myself on Monday and Wednesday when the slot around my usual practice time was open.

I still haven’t solved the problem of that extra time, though I find myself wandering out the door for a run or a bike ride anyway. But I miss the girls and the camaraderie. Members on the team ranged from students still in school to full-time job holders. A few were studying at the university and others completing apprenticeships to finish their training for work. Because of this range, I learned more about the Bildungsystem in Germany and how it is organized and opens/closes doors for people. That’s worth another post.

While the season is over, I’ve been invited to a few events and also was able to take part in the festivities, after all, Gross Flottbek Damen rose from being in the Kreisliga to the Bekirksliga after being champions of the Kreis. That had to be celebrated, as it was with a grilling party following the final game. I gave a short speech about how grateful I was to be so graciously made part of the team and to have met them… before I knew they had prepared a small gift for me. I now have a “Meisterschafts” shirt now as well as a photo of the team. It will come back home with me, and honored by a place on my wall (where I’m allowed to put nails in again…jk Papa, I won’t play whack-a-mole).

Thank you Rene and all the girls on the team! Wish you the best of luck in your Aufstieg (at least some soccer teams in Hamburg are doing that ;))

I could always become a bartender

I’ve done so many things this past week, that I will need several posts to catch up. It’s a good thing today is a holiday in Germany and I have the day off to write; though I do plan on going out on the town a bit too. Some near-future posts will therefore include what it means to join a sports team while studying abroad, the most recent VDAC seminar to Kassel, preparing a presentation or essay for German university courses, discovering sections of Hamburg anew, and transportation options in the city.

This post, however, I’m dedicating to a short blurb about the things I’ve done from my role as VDAC exchange student.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am here through the Federation of German-American Clubs, and the particular club that makes my stay in Hamburg possible is the German-American Women’s Club of Hamburg. They arranged my participation at the Uni Hamburg, my stay in a beautiful dorm not far from Uni campus, and various events for me to participate in, as well as a good amount of other things and all the details they pay attention to blows my mind.

Hamburg AlsterThe most recent event was a sort of charity/donation event for German-American Friendship Day at the U.S. Consulate in Hamburg, right on the Alster. If you don’t know Hamburg, let me explain that the Alster is a lake type thing that comes off the Elbe, and anyone knowing something about real estate can imagine what it means to be directly on this beautiful piece of water. Of course, the US Consulate had a spot there.

The exterior of the consulate is impressive, with a mixture of classical and more modern architecture that I’m sure engineer students could tell me a things or two about. The interior reminded me of the pictures I had seen of the White House: stately furniture, deep red and blue rugs with golden edging. It was really neat to be invited into the building, even if the security was a bit extreme. This picture does not show the five meters of no-man’s land and the two security buildings one has to pass to get to the front door.  photo IMGP0047.jpgStill, it was a treat just to go in.

Of course, nothing is for free 😉 My fellow US exchange student and I were asked to help serve drinks at the night’s event. At first, I had no idea about walking around with trays in my hand and I was nervous about offering people something. But then, I ended up behind the counter of the bar, and I was surprised at how fun it was to sere people drinks, receive the orders from the other students helping that night, chat a few times with the guests (a surprising amount of people liked the rhubarb/water Schorle), and generally have a quick moving, but non-stress pastime. I figure that if the academic career doesn’t pan out for me, I’ll just become a bartender.

What was even more neat was working behind the scenes of this building. I was able to go into the kitchen and allowed to use the industrial dishwashing machine. Three minutes! It only takes three minutes for 40 glasses to get cleaned with one of those boxes. Why can’t my family borrow one around Thanksgiving or Christmas back home?

Several speeches were given that got me thinking about contemporary German-American relations, and the event had been very well organized by the club ladies. It was nice to see a few of them again, some of whom I hadn’t seen since the Charity Bazaar in November. My time is winding down while here though. It sounds strange, but I will be sad to lose some of these opportunities to take part in these events.