We All Struggle

Notice the old guy (fourth from the left) is not looking as smiley as everyone else. That’s because the assessment I was taking part of was grueling, and it was a struggle to complete. But I did it.

I hate seeing ads promising painless and simple weight loss or five minute abs. It’s natural for humans to look for the easiest way to accomplish a task; it’s who we are as a species. But certain people take advantage of this fact and make promises that just aren’t fulfillable or realistic.

Was my first Whole30 easy? No. I didn’t suffer, but I did struggle at times. My wife had a much more difficult time with it, and yes, she definitely struggled. But I was there for her when she was at her lowest, and she was there for me in my times of need.

Throughout the past four years, I’ve had times where the struggle was very real. Where I wondered if I could continue with the diet, with the fitness, or with keeping my weight in check. There are still days I struggle with it, and honestly, I think I always will. We never achieve a state of perfect or complete. It’s a journey, not a destination. Journeys are both up-hill and down-hill, filled with ease and also with struggle. Some face more up-hill than others, but know this: we all struggle. None of us have a simple time of it.

I know that in the past, I’ve written many times how it seemed easy for me at times while I was losing weight. This is true. But it’s also true that I had moments of temptation that made me really consider my decision to limit my diet to eating Paleo. There were times when I was sore from running that I wondered why I was putting myself through it. That struggle, the internal struggle, is the worst.

Your struggle is not unique. I can guarantee you that there are many other out there facing the same difficulties and challenges that you are. Reach out and talk to someone about it. Get the support you need. Talk to your partner, wife, husband, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, etc. Get help to find the strength inside you that you need to get past the hurdles. It is much easier with a helping hand. It’s also much easier knowing you’re not alone.

Pizza and me

It’s a funny cartoon, but it reminded me of how I used to eat pizza before I changed my eating habits and lifestyle and adopted the Paleo Diet. I literally would order a large pizza for myself and another large for the rest of the family. I would eat that entire pizza as if my life depended on it, not entirely because I was hungry, but because I enjoyed it. I literally loved pizza.

Of all the foods I no longer eat, pizza is probably at the top of the list of foods I miss. Every now and then, we make a Paleo pizza, and it’s good, but I limit myself with the quantity. I’ve had one pizza in Salado at a food truck there that was gluten-free, and it was probably the best pizza I’ve had in the past four years. It was simply sublime.

As much as I miss pizza, whenever I start feeling sad about no longer eating real pizza or when I get hungry for a pizza, I remember how If let when I was morbidly obese and out of shape. I remember how hard it was to climb even one flight of stairs, to tie my shoes (I had to hold my breath), or to do even the most simple physical tasks like putting up a shelf (it would leave me in sweat). I think about how I can find clothes anywhere, about how I can fit into any seat, how I even have room in economy class on airplanes, and how much betterI feel being fit and in shape. As tasty as pizza is, it doesn’t compare to how I feel the rest of the time.

Eating is temporary satisfaction. Being fit and healthy is long-term. Do I miss pizza? Sure. But I will never go back to eating it with abandon. I won’t return to the obese life. I refuse.

It’s been Four Years. Has it gotten any easier?

I have been asked this a few times recently when people become aware of my lifestyle changes, fitness, and health journey. I have given it some thought, and the honest answer is yes; it has gotten easier.

It’s easier to eat good food when you know it’s tasty, good for you, and will fill you up. It’s easier to avoid snacking when the foods you eat at meals don’t leave you hungry or with an appetite a few hours later. It’s easier to exercise knowing the benefits of not only your heart, but how much better you feel afterwards and how much more capable you are in performing day-to-day tasks. It’s easier making decisions affecting my health and fitness having first-hand experience with how a bad decision will affect my body in the short-term and possibly long-term.

Is it hard to change your lifestyle to get rid of added sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and soy? Sort of. I guess it’s different for everyone. It wasn’t so bad for me, while it was far more difficult for my wife. Is it hard to change your lifestyle from sedentary to one of being physically active? Not really, as long as you take it slow and have a plan and don’t try to join some fitness boot camp and attempt to keep up on day 1.

Motivation is where it’s at. You need to find a reason to achieve your goals. This is true not just for health and fitness, but for anything important. You have to make yourself, your diet, and your health a priority. You have to make getting in shape and losing weight your mission. You have to want it as bad as a person under water wants air. Until you can taste the desire to change, it’ll be an up-hill battle. Once you’ve embraced the desire and motivation to make the change, it’s all down hill from there and it gets much easier.

Weightlifting and Strength (Making Progress)

It’s working

I was hopeful, much like when Sherry and I started our first Whole30, that it would work, but at the same time, I was not holding out too much hope. I did weightlifting in the past, and it always left me sore and unmotivated to continue. StrongLifts 5×5 changed that, and three weeks in, I’m seeing the results.

Do I have huge arms? Of course not; it’s only been just over three weeks. But I did notice yesterday that my arms do get “Swole” after a workout. I also noticed that my squats, which are now at 100 lbs, are even easier now than when I started at 45 lbs. I add 5 lbs to every workout which has left me with 15 lbs gain every week. My bench is not huge, but my deadlift is quickly approaching my body weight, and I’m able to do it without straining or being hurt or sore afterward. That’s huge!

I’ve also noticed that I am able to carry “things” around with ease now. My own backpack for work is loaded down with an extra laptop now, and honestly, it feels just fine. I weighed it: 22 lbs. That’s not HUGE, but it is quite heavy for a normal work backpack load, yet for me, it feels perfectly fine.

If I’m doing this well after just over three weeks, I can’t wait to see where I’m at after three months, and then six months, and so-on.

The Rewards of Training

Me and a fellow Combat Advisor firing the M2 .50 cal (12.7mm) machine gun.

A lot of the training I do in the National Guard benefits me as a civilian; as a person. Although I was doing training on thermal optics on crew served weapons (large machine gun’s that require more than one person to operate), we also did physical training. On top of the PT, we also had to carry and handle these heavy weapons. The M2 I’m firing in the photo above weighs 84 lbs, and the tripod it’s on weighs 45 lbs. The boxes carrying the M2’s held two M2’s per box.

We lifted, carried, and otherwise dragged those boxes around for three days, and while I was a little sore afterward, I was not nearly as wiped out as I would have otherwise been had I not been weightlifting for the past three weeks. Aside from that, moving the weight around felt good, and being strong enough to do so without straining or extra effort was a wonderful feeling.

For the PT, I couldn’t participate in the 4-mile run on the first day due to my Achille’s heel injury, but on the second day, we did a circuit training that included kettlebell swings, farmer’s carry, release push-ups, burpees, and squats with a medicine ball. I was able to do all those, and I did them not only well, but at least as good as, if not better than a lot of the other soldiers. I don’t know if it was my conditioning or my willpower, but either way, I was not the weakest by a long shot.

Motivation for weight loss and motivation for fitness may be different for you as it is for me. My motivation to lose weight was to improve my health, while my motivation for fitness is to be able to perform better as a Combat Advisor in the National Guard. It’s rewarding to experience the benefits of all that work during a training evolution, and it further motivates me to keep going, keep pushing, keep getting stronger.

Third Week of Weightlifting

Yesterday was the beginning of week 3 of my weightlifting on the StrongLifts 5×5 program. So far, it’s been a really fun trip. I’m still learning and perfecting my form (I found out yesterday that my bench form and barbell row forms were not great), but at least the newbie pain is gone. Now, I get a good muscle burn when I’m done, but not nearly as bad as that first week.

I find myself actually looking forward to working out in a way I never have before, even when I was doing my most intense and best running. I never thought I’d enjoy weightlifting, but here I am. I actually wish I could do it 6 days a week, but that’s not good for you and can actually be counter-productive. So, I do light exercise on the rest days and go all-in on my workout days.

As for progress, I’m doing well. I’m making micro-increases (5 lbs/session) so I’ve done the following:

Starting: 45lbs
Current: 75lbs

Bench Press
Starting 45 lbs
Current: 60 lbs

Starting: 95 lbs
Current: 115 lbs

Overhead Press
Starting: 45 lbs
Current: 55 lbs

Barbell Row
Starting: 65 lbs
Current: 80 lbs

So, I’m no Arnold, but it’s just been two weeks. I can already feel minor changes in my arms and back, but I’ve made big progress in my strength. Lifting things has become easier already, and climbing stairs is easier now than it was when I was at the height of my running.

The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary

Me during a rare down-time moment at this year’s Annual Training.

People tell me all the time that what I’ve accomplished in the past four years is extraordinary. That made me think. What is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary? It’s the “Extra.”

Think about it. Most people get ordinary physical activity. They walk a bit here and there, and maybe even strive to hit the 10,000 step goal they have on their Garmin or Fitbit. But are they getting anything out of it? Do you see these 10k steppers getting fit? Lean? Losing weight?

Extraordinary effort is typically necessary when it comes to getting fit. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is “Extra.” To get fit, you need to do the extra work: run, jog, lift weights, ride a bike, hike, do cardio videos, etc. You can’t just do the ordinary and not take the extra effort.

The same holds true to your diet. Eating ordinary food (fast food, pre-prepared foods, foods high in carbs, etc) won’t help you lose weight and be healthy. You need to put in the extra effort and actually make your food from whole ingredients, and maybe even do some food prep.

You have it in you to be extraordinary. Your story can be extraordinary. Your journey to health and fitness can be extraordinary. You just have to do the “Extra.”