Life’s Twists and Turns

I’ve been gone for a week due to a death in the family. While it was not unexpected due to a terminal illness, it occurred sooner than we expected. What ended up happening was for a week, I didn’t get any exercise and I ate foods I never eat. At one meal, for instance, we had bread pudding. Not as the dessert, mind you. It was the meal. And you know what? I was 100% okay with that. It felt right. It was delicious.

This morning, I once again stepped on the scale and to my horror, the scale read a number I haven’t seen in a while. Well, since returning from Ireland and Scotland, to be precise. The good news for me, once again, is that all I really need to do is stick to my good eating and the weight will come off. So, that’s what I’m doing.

You can’t always dictate what happens in life. There will be times when life has bigger plans for you, and it’ll throw your own plans out the window in a flaming ball of best intentions. There’s nothing you can do but roll with it, keep your chin up, and wait for life to give you a chance to take a breath and to regain control. That’s what I’ve done.

So, I ran last night, and while it wasn’t my best run, it was pretty darned good. I did push myself a bit, and while my legs are a little sore for it, my mind feels wonderful. There’s nothing like a good run to clear the mind. I also ate one of the prepped meals Sherry made for us for both lunch and dinner yesterday which, I’m certain, helped. I wasn’t able to fall asleep quickly last night, so I didn’t get as much sleep as I’d have liked, but I hope to rectify that tonight.

Rules. Stick to them. They work. Trust the process. Be strong in body and in mind. Resist the temptation to eat large portions. These are all things I’m telling myself as I get back to weight-loss mode.

Reminded that Weight/Size Loss is Like a Pendulum

I was lamenting the lack of progress on the scale to Sherry when she reminded me that losing weight and losing size is like a pendulum; it’s one or the other. When you lose weight on the scale, you rarely lose it at the waist at the same time. Then, when you’re losing size, you’re often stalled on the scale. She then asked me if I felt my clothing getting looser. Sure enough, my pants have been fitting better this week.

It’s easy to forget all the things involved with eating right and how to lose weight/get smaller. I’m a guy who lives health and fitness, yet from time to time, even I forget some of the basics. I’m glad to have Sherry to remind me of the things I sometimes have to remind her about. It’s a team effort, getting healthy and eating right, and I’m proud to have Sherry as my teammate.

As luck would have it, I didn’t run Friday night due to social things getting in the way, and Saturday morning, I hurt my back pretty badly. It’s sore enough today that I took some muscle relaxers and I’m sitting on the couch today, but I hope to be back to running as soon as tomorrow or Tuesday and resuming my push ups soon thereafter.

So, the takeaway from today’s post is that sometimes, your weight loss will stall. That’s okay. It’s a natural process. Pay attention to the other non-scale victories. Are you feeling better? Are you sleeping well? Do you feel more focused? Is your stomach less troubled? Do you have fewer cravings? Are temptations getting easier to get past? Then who cares about the number. It’ll eventually come down. Just keep doing the right thing and celebrate the little victories and keep doing what you do.

With a little help from my friends

Pardon the kind of insane look on my face. I know, it’s kind of creepy, and me not having a shirt on only makes it creepier, but I had a good excuse: I had just gotten done with a run that turned out to be far faster than I thought I was capable of this soon after getting back into running, and I was also in a hurry to get showered and changed to go out to dinner with my wife, Sherry.

I had taken nearly a month off from running in December. I hadn’t realized that the break was that long until I wanted to look at my run times and to see how far back I’d slipped during the holidays and I found my last run was December 8th. Wow. That’s crazy stupid of me to have taken a break that long, but there were reasons (that, in retrospect, sounded good at the time, and while they may have been valid, sound like excuses to me now). I was sick for a few of those days, I had injuries for a few of those days, a good number of those days were very cold and raining, and then there was the trip to Toronto. Of course, normally, these sorts of things aren’t all back-to-back, but they were in December. The cumulative effect was that I didn’t run for four straight weeks.

When I ran for the first time after that four-week hiatus, I did okay. My mile times were acceptable, though admittedly, slow. I was over a minute slower per mile than my previous runs, and I felt it. My legs ached, and I felt like I was running through wet sand. The following two days, my legs burned. I ran again on Monday, and my legs were sore, but I pushed through and completed three miles. By the end of the run, my legs were still sore, but oddly, not nearly as much. My times were horrible; a 10:36/mile average over the three miles which is a solid two minutes slower per mile than my average. I figured that it would take me some time to get back down into the low 9’s, let alone the 8’s again.

I had two friends from the National Guard over to my house on Tuesday night, and while we were talking, I told them that I was going to be running again on Wednesday after work. They both asked if they could join me, and I figured, “Sure; why not!” I know that exercise with other people is better than doing it alone because of the motivation most people get from being in a group environment. I’m not immune to it, either.

When I got home on Wednesday, I changed out of my work clothes and with both of the guys there, I hit my push-ups and got 60 done. We then had a quick talk about our track: laps around the lake in front of my house. Each lap is just under a quarter of a mile, so my plan was to do 13 laps for 3 miles. I told them my pace would be under 10 minutes/mile, but I wouldn’t be going fast. They all said that sounded good, and we took off.

Boy did we take off.

The first quarter mile pace was something around 6:40/mile (WHAT?!?). We settled down into an 7:40/mile pace for the second quarter of a mile, and I stuck at an 8:15/mile pace for the rest of the first mile. I slowed a bit to an 8:36/mile pace for the second mile, and then pulled it back in for an 8:18/mile average pace for the third and final mile.

WHAT THE HELL.

I am certain I would have sandbagged it if I had ran alone. I thought I was still too far out of shape to be able to run that fast, let alone to do it comfortably. I wasn’t racing the guys, and I wasn’t trying to prove anything. What’s more interesting to me is that I wasn’t struggling. Sure, I was working, and it was a conscious effort to keep the pace going, but my breathing was steady and full, and I felt really good through the run. My lungs were giving me the air I needed, and my legs actually felt good.

I learned that I need to run with others more often, and that I need to push myself a little harder on my runs. There are some days when I’ve got longer runs planned, and those runs are supposed to be run at 80% effort, which for me will be in the 9’s. But when I’m doing my shorter runs, I need to put more effort into it. When I do my sprints, I should be in the 6’s for those quarter miles.

Why did I go into so much detail about running on a healthy lifestyle/diet blog? Because there are a lot of parallels to eating right. When I started my healthy lifestyle, I did so with the help and support of my wife. When I say I couldn’t have done it without her, it’s not a cliche, and I’m not saying it to be nice. It’s a fact. She was the rock I needed at times to get past some emotional hurdles (and admittedly, I provided the same service for her at key moments throughout our journey). As recently as two days ago, Sherry was the one motivating me when I was feeling like I wasn’t making progress fast enough.

Sherry also took on the lion’s share of food prep. I try to help her as much as I can, but the fact remains that she is the one who comes up with the recipes, makes the shopping lists, and does most of the prep. I go to the grocery with her as often as I can (way more often than not), and I try to do food prep with her as her sous chef. I leave the finesse with the recipes to her (thankfully; she’s an amazing cook!).

Even with our own exercise, although we run separately, we try to do as much as we can together: hiking, bike riding, and other physical activities. We are competitive, and when we do workouts together, we end up really pushing ourselves to the limit. I’ve come back from all of our bike rides worn out!

Teamwork will get you through. Whether it’s a run, a bike ride, or a diet; working together will make you more successful.

New Year: New You?

Are you one of the millions of people who made a New Year’s Resolution to either lose weight, get healthy, or get fit? How is that going for you so far? If you feel yourself dragging a bit or not able to stick with it, here’s some advice that I’ve used in the past to get me past the first few weeks.

  1. You’re going to feel bad. This is normal. It’s a part of taking on a new lifestyle, especially if you’re cutting out sugar. Sugar is far more addictive than people care to admit, and it’s one of the hardest addictions to kick. Once you get past feeling like crap, it gets MUCH easier. You just have to stick it out. There’s nothing anyone can do for you. There are no magic pills, shakes, or powders to get you past this stage. It’s all on you.
  2. You’re going to get cravings. It’s normal, and the difference between your success and failure (or lack of progress) will be based on your ability to persevere and discipline yourself past these temptations. I still get tempted, but I do my best to remain strong and just say, “No thanks.”
  3. You may fall off the wagon. This is something people who have lost a lot of weight don’t want to point out, because it is a failure of sorts, but to be completely honest, I can remember a few times over the years where I’ve said, “Forget this, I’m going to have a slice of bread before dinner.” Do I immediately regret it? Sure I do! But something else crazy happens: I survive. I don’t pack on 10 lbs the next day, and I don’t find myself going down the path to cakes and endless spaghetti. The key here is to recognize that you’ve fallen off the wagon and to get right back on as soon as possible. So what if you ate something you shouldn’t have eaten at lunch? Get right back to the plan at dinner. Don’t give up an entire day because you had an english muffin at breakfast. Salvage what’s left of the day by mitigating the impact of that bad food by eating right the rest of the day. The only way to fail is to give up completely.
  4. There are no shortcuts. None. There’s no magic trick or silver bullet to losing weight. There’s no wonder pill, powder, patch, or product to get you to lose weight without effort. There is only ONE way to lose weight: reduce the number of calories that go into your body to create a caloric deficit. In other words, fewer calories in than what your body uses. Of course, the quality of the calories counts for a lot more than people think, and that’s why I advocate a low-carb diet like Whole30 to get started and Paleo for the long-term. You have to do the work, as my cousin told me in the beginning of my own journey. You have to eat right, trust the process, and let it happen, but it won’t happen overnight. You have to give it time and persevere.
  5. It’s not easy, but you’re worth it. Remember this. Nobody can do this for you. Many will try to talk you out of eating right and getting fit. People will mask their own insecurities and jealousy by trying to pull you off the wagon so they won’t feel bad when they see the success you’re enjoying. Don’t let them! Stick with it and when you see that delicious jelly roll or donut, remind yourself of WHY you are eating right and WHY you are going to resist that temptation. We all have our reasons: remind yourself of what those reasons are when you are at your most vulnerable to find your strength.

Sherry and I started our first Whole30 over three years ago. We did our second Whole30 in January 2017, and we did another one last January. This year, we didn’t do another Whole30, but we did rededicate ourselves to eating correct-sized portions, sticking to Paleo-only foods, and cutting out alcohol. It’s not easy, even knowing that the process works and that it just takes time, but I take comfort in knowing that by the end of this month (or next month), I’ll weigh less and be in better shape. I also need to get more sleep, and I’m fixing that, too. It’s all a process, and as long as I’m doing the work, the results will come. Maybe not immediately, and maybe even not next week, but they will eventually arrive. And when they do, I will smile big.

Self Doubt

2015 vs 2016. There was only one year of difference in these photos.

Every now and then, I start to think I’m slipping back to being the way I was before Sherry and I did our first Whole30: morbidly obese, unhappy with my health, and feeling physically worn out and horrible. The stranger part is that, while I’m a little bit heavier now than I was at my lowest weight, I’m still 135 lbs lighter than I was at my heaviest. I’m also still very healthy, I’m fit, and nowhere near as unhealthy as my mind tries to trick me into thinking I am. So why does this happen?

I’m no doctor, psychiatrist, or any other sort of trained person to sleuth this out, but I have my ideas. First, I think it has to do with fear of going back to my old lifestyle which led me to being incredibly unhealthy and morbidly obese. I still crave pizza, garlic bread, pasta, and hamburgers from time to time, and it’s those cravings that bring me fear that I’ll just surrender one day and get right back into the old bad habits.

Second, it likely has something to do with the memories of how hard it was to do simple things like tying my shoes or going up a flight of stairs. It scares the hell out of me to think that my life was filled with so much self-inflicted misery and difficulty.

Third, I think it’s part of the drive to be better, to stay the course, and to continue on the right path. I know this one seems like it’s contrary, but hear me out. I think that fear is a healthy part of motivation. Think about it. There are days when people show up on time to work not because they want to be there, but because if they don’t, they will jeopardize their work performance or get in trouble with their boss. For me, fear of failure or back-slipping helps fuel my desire to keep going.

Fourth and finally, I think it’s possible that since I abhor losing, the fear of losing to cravings, temptation, or lack of effort is completely untenable to me. The self doubt is a reminder that I need to keep kicking myself into gear and to keep moving forward despite the smaller distractions.

Self doubt manifests itself in many ways, and while it stinks and feels like a hurdle, once I wrap my head around it, I turn it into fuel to drive me further, farther, push myself to work harder.

Not Fast, but Getting It Done

Eating: going as planned. I still think my portions are a bit on the bigger side, especially considering I’ve added salad and an apple to my dinners to get more fiber, but aside from that, with IF coupled with my Paleo foods, I think I’m getting a grip on my eating. I could use an extra 1-2 hours of sleep, though, and I will fix that tonight. I will go to sleep earlier. I’ve just been having too much fun playing The Sims 4 over the past few days.

As for running, I got out there again last night after work, and while it wasn’t even close to a good pace and was quite painful due to soreness from Friday still sticking around, I got through the entire three miles. I did have a moment after the first mile where my right knee was hurting. Not just sore, but there was some actual pain. I had to make a decision as to whether it was an injury or just a phantom pain that my body was throwing at me to get me to stop running, and I decided to try to get past it. Sure enough, the pain went away, and I was able to complete my run. The best part; there was NO pain after the run, and I was fine the rest of the night.

As for my time, I was deliberately slow. I could have ran much faster and harder, but I’ve learned that I’ve been training wrong for the past three years. I need to concentrate on distance, not speed. For speed, I need to incorporate sprints, which I’ve avoided. After another two or three weeks of slower distance runs, I’ll start to incorporate sprints. But not yet. I need to get past reconditioning and getting my legs used to running again.

A thought occurred to me last night as I ran. Taking two weeks off from running really took me out of shape. It’s as if I was in a hole on the beach, and with each day of not running, I was scooping in some sand with me in the hole. After two and a half weeks, I was buried pretty well, and working my way out will take a lot more effort and pain than it would have had I kept running. To be fair, the weather was conspiring against me with lots of rain and very cold weather. Add to that a trip to Canada and the holidays and the funeral detail I was on for a week, and it made for very little opportunities for running over the past month. Now I’m paying for it.

The bottom line is this: I can come up with hundreds of reasons every day to not run. That part is easy. The hard part is coming up with the one reason that I can’t ignore to get going. Sometimes it’s as little as, “It’s time.” Yesterday, it literally just came down to that. Time was up: I HAD to run. So, I got it done. Not my pace. Not the distance. Not anything at all. Just getting it done was the biggest victory of all.

I ran

I ran so far away! Ok, that was silly. Sorry. I’ve seen A Flock of Seagulls live twice, and they put on a good show. But why am I talking about an old 80’s band that still tours and puts on great shows? Because I finally got my run in on Friday, and I’m back to it. Of course, I ran too far and too fast on Friday and made myself sore for pretty much the entire weekend, but that’s okay. The important part was that I got started and I didn’t injure myself (being sore is not being injured; it’s a sign of a hard workout).

I took Saturday and Sunday off from running because I needed the recovery, but I will be back at it again this evening unless it’s raining. I don’t start runs in the rain (but I don’t mind finishing them if it starts raining while I’m on a run. Weird).

Texas A&M Bonfire Memorial in College Station, TX.

I did spend a lot of time walking on Saturday, however. Sherry and I ran a bunch of errands in the morning after which we drove to College Station to see the Museum of the GI and the Texas A&M Bonfire Memorial. The museum was a lot of fun, while the memorial was somber but very nicely done. We read the plaques of each of the 12 students who died in that tragedy, and while Sherry didn’t know any of them personally, she knew many who did. She was a student at the school at the time it happened and she remembers it all too well.

Helmet of soldier from 36th Infantry Division in WWI.

My weight is up a bit due to this weekend’s eating. I have to admit that Friday, I ate a very large (albeit Paleo) dinner and even had a dessert (when friends offer, you don’t refuse; that’s just bad manners). I also at a bit more than I’d have liked on Sunday, and I ate breakfast both days. I’m back to my normal IF routine again this morning and even though I forgot to bring the lunch Sherry made for me, I have some Larabars and RXBars that I will choose from at lunch to keep my stomach from digesting itself.

I joked last night with Sherry that I want the weight to go away immediately, and she laughed and said that I sounded like her. She then started telling me the things I always tell her when she gets frustrated: It takes time, trust the process, and perseverance will win. I smiled and told her that, of course, she’s right, and I just need to be patient. So, I’m being patient, but I’m also back to running which helps ease my mind a bit. I know it’s not going to make me lose weight, but it helps relieve stress and will get me back into shape for my APFT this year.