Snack Bar Meals

They aren’t ideal, but sometimes, they are life savers. I actually lived on snack bars the entire time I was on my National Guard Annual Training (AT) last year, and it taught me that I can get enough calories from them and feel sufficiently full after eating them to be able to get the right nutrition.

While the snack bars can keep me from feeling hungry and provide me with the requisite amount of calories, they don’t make me feel full, and I find myself getting very hungry sooner than after a real meal. Then, there’s the fact that these bars are typically fruit-based or nut-based and have a lot of calories for their mass. Aside from that, the fruit bars have lots of sugars, albeit natural, and I try to stay away from that.

Snack bars are a great way to replace a meal when there are no healthy options available, but in my experience, they’re best used as a last resort and not a true meal replacement. If you can food prep, that’s the best option. Finding a good, real-food meal is better, and sometimes you can even find these at a decent restaurant, but when the group at the office is going to lunch at a pizza parlor or to a burger joint, you might be better off with a snack bar.

Pay Day

Yesterday, I weighed myself in the morning and I turned in the lowest recorded weight I’ve seen on the scale since I went to Scotland and Ireland earlier this year: 173 lbs. That’s a big deal, because I’ve hovered between 175 and 177 lbs for around 6 months. I never let myself give up or even get disheartened. Sure, there were times I was scratching my head trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, but I never quit the process. I trusted in it. The timeline for progress may not have been to my liking, but the results are.

What changed? Besides me getting more sleep and eating a little bit smaller lunches, nothing. My body just needed time to reconfigure and adjust to the new normal which means my body was able to drop a few more pounds. I’m hoping that this trend continues for another 8 lbs (hahaha). But seriously, I hope that this trend continues for 8 more pounds.

Yesterday felt like a payday. Today, I’m at Drill in the National Guard, and I’ll be having breakfast and lunch as usual, but dinner might be weird. I’m not yet sure what’s going to happen, but after dinner, there will likely be some alcohol. I’ll do my best to keep it to a minimum: I’m finally making progress again, and I hate throwing a monkey wrench into it! But, it was pay day. In the military, that’s a celebration day. So, in true military fashion, I have to celebrate it.

Targeted Weight Loss Ads

It’s interesting. On Facebook, I see ads that are clearly targeted to my demographic: “Weight loss in 30 days for men over 40.” Ok, I used to post a lot about my weight loss on Facebook (on my personal account), and yes, I’m a bit over 40, so I decided to follow the link and see what they had to say. Surprise: not much. You have to pay them to get their “Program.”

Here’s the thing: I have a program that works, and it’s especially awesome for anyone over 40 or who can’t do lots of physical activity. It’s called Lifestyle Change, and it requires you to either do Whole30, Paleo, Keto, Atkins, or any other low-carb diet. If you stick to it and watch your portion sizes, then you WILL lose weight. Add some light exercise to it, and you will even feel better while losing the weight.

The weight loss industry is one of the most sketchy industries out there because it feeds on insecurity, failure, and self-image that is often compromised. People are desperate to lose weight, and they will gravitate toward any new diet that promises amazing results like a moth to the light. Sadly, most fall short because they promise things they can’t deliver on: effortless weight loss without changing lifestyle.

The bottom line is this: You must change what you put into your mouth. You MUST cut down sugar, grains, alcohol, and it’s a good idea to limit dairy and legumes/soy. You don’t have to exercise to lose weight. You can lost weight faster by eating right than a person who doesn’t change their eating habits and goes to the gym every day. If you want to double-down on your weight loss, then yes, exercise COUPLED with a good eating program will get you amazing results.

Don’t buy into the trap of easy weight loss. It’s not easy. It’s simple, but never easy.

Nobody is perfect. Don’t try to be.

fycoPerseverance. Motivation. Dedication. Hard Work. These are all words or terms we hear when it comes to adjusting to a new lifestyle or a new diet, and yes, it’s true: all of those are necessary to be successful. But something most people leave out is forgiveness. You will make mistakes, you will either eat something that’s not on your diet or you will eat more than you should, and you’re going to feel guilty about it. That guilt often leads to people slipping into despair and doubt which then causes them to fall off the diet and out of the lifestyle. The end result is being right back where you started from, or worse.

I know this cycle all too well. I lived it for 20 years. I would try a diet, found it to be too restrictive, and I would fall off for a day. Then, feeling the guilt and weight of the oppressively strict diet, I would contemplate and then finally decide to give up the diet because, in my mind, no diet was worth that amount of suffering. I’d also end up gaining more weight than I originally lost, and this repeating cycle led to me ballooning up to over 312 lbs. At 5’7″, that’s dangerously obese.

Something I didn’t learn until three years ago, when I first began my new healthy lifestyle with a Whole30, was forgiveness. Forgiving myself for lapses in strength, judgment, and restraint. I didn’t give myself an easy out; that’s not what I’m talking about. This isn’t about justifying cheating or making it easy to fall off the wagon. This is about being able to forgive yourself for giving in to temptation so that you can dust yourself off, re-steel your resolve, and get right back on that diet. To get right back into the new lifestyle without the emotional baggage and depression that goes along with the guilt of not being perfect.

While I was on my journey to lose 150 lbs, I had a very strong resolve and I was able to resist nearly any temptation because I had, for the first time in my life, wanted something more than anything else in the world. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to hit a target weight to allow me to re-enter military service. I needed it like a drowning man needs air. The very few times I over-ate or ate something not on the Paleo Diet could have easily derailed me, my mindset, and my progress had I not learned to forgive myself and carry on.

It’s not all about the weight

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2011 vs 2018.

My site talks about losing weight quite often, but that’s mostly because right now, I’m working hard to drop some weight due to the height and weight standards of the military, to which I am required to adhere to. My weight is currently below the maximum allowable weight for my height, but it’s too close for comfort. I prefer to have a buffer, so I’m working on losing an additional 10 lbs which gives me the ability to yo-yo without stress. However, I don’t want people to get the idea that weight is my primary concern or goal with eating right and exercising. It’s not. Not even a little bit.

Eating right is all about being healthy and feeling healthy. I realized that I needed to change my life one morning when I bent down to tie my shoes and I could not only barely reach my shoes, but I had to hold my breath. My stomach had grown so large that it physically impeded me from bending over to tie my own shoes, and to push myself forward enough, I had to hold my breath. This was too much.

I knew I weighed too much. I also had begun to realize (after years of being told by nearly everyone around me who cared) that not only was I overweight, but extremely unhealthy, and continuing with doing nothing to improve my situation and health would only lead to weight-related disease and likely an early death. Of course, I was already dealing with things like Diabetes, nerve tingling in my legs, circulation issues in my toes, gum disease (related to Diabetes), and worsening vision (also related to Diabetes).

Three plus years later, I weigh 175 lbs and I can run sub-8 minute miles. I lost the weight and got into fitness not because I wanted to look better or fit into some norm that society expects or accepts. I didn’t do it because I wanted to see a lower number on the scale, or because I wanted to have a beach body. I did it because I wanted to feel healthy, to be able to go hiking or to take long walks on vacations, and because I didn’t want to die young.

People who never knew me at my heaviest often don’t believe I was ever 312+ lbs. Some have gone so far as to think I’m being disingenuous or pulling a hoax by using someone else’s “Before” photos. I wish. I felt horrible almost all the time. I was always tired, my knees were always sore, and short walks and a single flight of stairs would leave me winded. I never want to feel that way again.

Eating right, for me, is not about losing weight. It’s about living.

Checking all the boxes

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Sometimes, you find yourself seemingly doing everything right, yet nothing is happening on the scale. I’ve repeatedly discussed not using the scale as a single source of success or failure when it comes to a diet’s efficacy. However, when one measure of your physical fitness and readiness in the military is your weight, it becomes something one can’t ignore. I am in this situation.

My maximum allowable weight is 176 lbs for my height. For the past few weeks, my weight has been going over this number anywhere from 1-4 lbs. No matter what I was doing, I would get right down to 176 lbs and my weight would rebound and climb again. Regardless of how well I was eating, increasing my exercise, or getting enough sleep, the scale was punishing me. I was seemingly checking all the boxes to success, yet not reaping any of the rewards.

What I did notice is my clothing getting looser. I talked about this in the past as well, how my body seems to either lose weight or lose size, but never at the same time. It’s either one or the other. This past week, my trousers have been getting more comfortable, back to my pre-vacation ease of wear. As of this morning I finally saw movement again on the scale. It was only a pound, but it’s going in the right direction after stalling at 177 lbs for three days in a row (to the tenth!).

I’ve made sure to do everything to the letter. No snacks. No large portions. No going out for lunch or dinner. I’ve been getting enough sleep. I’ve been getting enough exercise (although, as I’m taking my APFT this evening, I didn’t do any exercise since Saturday morning to ensure my legs, arms, and core are ready and rested). Starting after today’s APFT, I’ll be back to increasing my distances and working on speed as well as adding biking to my exercise regimen.

Results will follow solid work. Sometimes, it just takes longer. And that’s okay.

Food Prep on a Budget

My wife is out of town on business this week, and she left before she normally does our (and in this week’s case, my) food prep, so it was up to me to get it done. I decided to do an experiment and see how much food I could make for $25. It turns out, you can eat for a week.

Now, the bad news is that it’s all chicken. That’s something I try to avoid; eating the same food all week. That leads to palate fatigue, and is one of the main reasons people fall off diets and stop eating healthy. They just get bored of eating the same food over and over again. There are some who have steel will and can eat the same food over and over for weeks, months, and even years on end. I’m not one of those people (except for breakfast; I love my bacon and eggs!). When it comes to lunch and dinner, I need a varied menu.

This week, I still had a few leftovers from last week’s food prep, so I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck eating just chicken all week. With that said, I smoked two whole chickens with nothing more than salt and pepper sprinkled onto the outside, and I put beer into the water container in the smoker instead of water. I smoked the chicken at 250 degrees for just under four hours, and it was incredibly juicy and tasty.

For some veggies, I did two things. First, I got some red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and an onion, and I sliced these all up and put them into a frying pan with some coconut oil and some seasonings. I under-sauteed them so that I could put the veggies into the lunch containers and I figured that the microwave will finish the cooking of the veggies. This will keep them from getting over-soft.

I also made a Hungarian cucumber salad. This is more for dinner use, as I like to have some sort of salad side with my dinners. It’s very easy to make: peel three cucumbers and then with a mandolin, slice them thin into a bowl. Add salt and garlic powder, and let sit in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. Remove the bowl and wring out the cucumber. This literally takes as much of the water out of the cucumber. After you’ve wrung out as much of the water as you can from the cucumber (discarding that water by placing the wrung out cucumber into a new, smaller bowl), add vinegar, a little water, and either some honey or monk fruit sweetener to taste. I used monk fruit this time, and it came out very well.

I packaged no fewer than 8 packages for lunches and dinners this week coupled with the leftovers from last week. Had I needed a second meat, I could have purchased a roast or some pork for another $10-15 dollars and perhaps 2 or 3 sweet potatoes for another $3. Instead of sweet potatoes, I could have bought some cauliflower or broccoli as well. That brings us to under $50 for a weeks’ worth of food for two people. It’s not exciting, but it’s all easy stuff that can be done in a smoker or a crock pot, which means very low effort food.

Eating right can be done on the cheap. You just have to plan ahead and using the least processed food, even when it comes to meat, helps reduce the cost a lot.