Why Workout? We’re All Gonna Die.

I hear this one all the time. I see it in memes, I hear it from people who question why I workout all the time, and if I’m being honest, I used to say it, too. While it’s true that we’re all gonna die, there’s no reason for us to give up and live a life of discomfort and poor health. Then, there’s also the fact that when you’re in good shape, you can do amazing things without hurting yourself. Case in point: I had to do a 4-mile foot march with a 55 lbs rucksack on my back within 17 minutes/mile. I completed it with a pace of 14:22/mile.

In less than two weeks, I have to do another of these foot marches for 6.2 miles. It’s hard, it’s somewhat painful, but do you know what? I know I can do it. I’m confident that I can meet the time hack required to complete this requirement. How do I know this? Because I prepare through lots of training.

Not all of us are in the military, but there’s a lot out there to enjoy: biking, hiking, kayaking, walking long distances, zip-lining, camping, to name a few (all things I’ve been able to do since losing weight and getting fit). Heck, just normal day-to-day living is easier when you’re fit. Going upstairs no longer wind me. Working on projects in the house no longer leave me sore for days. Lifting a 25 lbs bag of pellets for my smoker is no longer difficult.

Do I miss eating without a care in the world for my health? In a weird way, there was a definite feeling of freedom when I was able to eat as much of anything I wanted to. Since I loved not only the taste of food, but eating large quantities of it, I was not unhappy while eating. But the problem was when I wasn’t eating; everything else was difficult. EVERYTHING. When it got to the point that I could no longer tie my own shoes without holding my breath, I knew something had to change.

We are all going to die, but I’m not going to spend my life waiting around for that day in discomfort. I am going to do everything I can to make sure I stay as fit and as healthy as I possibly can. I have far too many adventures left to exerience, and I want to ensure that the time I have left on this Earth with my wife are as fun and fulfilling as possible.

Get the Right Amount of Sleep!

Yesterday, I woke up tired. I went to bed too late (to be fair, I was up late supporting my daughter’s Twitch channel) and as a result, I woke up with only about 6 hours of sleep. For some people, that’s the norm, but I try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The sweet spot for me at my age seems to be about 7.5 hours; if I can get that, I feel rested and can operate at my full potential the following day. More than 8.5 hours? I actually feel sluggish. Less than 7? I feel tired all day.

A frame from a video captured during my bike ride yesterday.

Yesterday happened to be my mid-week workout day which means StrongLifts 5×5 normally followed by a 4-mile run. However, since I have a 4 mile ruck with 48 lbs pack on Friday, I decided to do the normal weightlifting followed by a 30 minute mountain bike ride. It was either the bike ride or a slow 3 mile run, but I opted for the bike ride since it’s less impact and works slightly different muscles (but mostly the same leg muscles, just in different ways). What I noticed immediately when I got into my home gym was my lack of motivation and lack of energy.

Thanks to a TAC Officer at WOCS, I learned about eating half a banana before a workout to help with energy during training and then eating the other half afterward to help with recovery. The impact that little tip has made has been great. However, since I didn’t get enough sleep, my body was already tired and not fully up for the tasks at hand. Case in point: my pull-ups. I always start my gym sessions with pull-ups, and I’ve worked myself up to between 5 and 7 from 0 just four months ago. My goal is 20 dead hangs, and I have a LONG way to go, but that’s my goal. Yesterday, I could only muster 4 with an ugly not-quite-there 5th. I fell from the bar disgusted but I realized very quickly that it was not only my fault, but that the workout was going to be difficult. I’d have to dig deeper than normal just to get through.

The squats were okay. I only raise my weights by 5 lbs every third workout, so it was my second workout at 185 lbs, and I was okay with them. The bench press, on the other hand, is another story. For those, I’m at 155 lbs, and that recently went up by 5 lbs and the difference that 5 lbs made was surprising. On top of that, the lack of energy from being tired really made the last two sets difficult. The final 2 reps of the last set were probably the hardest I’ve had since I’ve started weightlifting. The final exercise was the barbell row at 110 lbs. Normally, I can do these with nice form and without too much difficulty, but yesterday, they felt sloppy, difficult, and those 110 lbs felt more like 125 lbs. It was super difficult.

I also do bare-bar curls at the end of each session to help with my biceps. I’m not looking to make them super-strong or anything, but I want them to have some definition. I’m up to 20 reps on those with a goal of reaching 100. Again, I’m not trying to get arms like Arnold; I just want them to look leaner with a little bit of a gaster. The curls went okay until the last three where I felt completely out of gas.

The only time I ever used gloves during lifting was here. I won’t do it again; I prefer the bare bar.

I then took a little break between the lifting and the biking. Okay, not really a break, but it took some time to get on my biking shorts, riding shoes, gloves, helmet, and to get the equipment on the bike set. Once I got outside, I set out for a 30 minute bike ride through some trails and then on the road. My goal pace was 15 mph, but between the strong headwinds and the lack of energy, my average turned out to be closer to 13 mph. After the workout, I felt completely spent, but my legs were happy, and I didn’t incur any injuries.

That last point is the most important, because looking back on past injuries, there was always one thing in common on the days I became injured; I didn’t have enough sleep the night before. When you’re tired and lack energy, you look to cheats to complete lifts you can otherwise complete when fully rested. During one warm-up rep, I realized I had cheated during a squat by leaning forward as I came up. This is a BIG no-no in squats because you can pull a lower back muscle or get muscle spasms. I felt the different muscles being used and immediately made sure to correct my form. I then made sure through every rep of every set that my form was, first and foremost, proper. I would be okay with not being able to complete a set; I would not be okay with getting injured trying to complete a set.

Yesterday, I dodged a bullet and didn’t get hurt, but the amount of energy it took out of me was huge. I plopped down on the couch yesterday after dinner and wasn’t able to help my wife clean up after dinner. I was just too wiped out. I also went to bed very early to catch up on my sleep. This morning, I do feel much better; I wish I’d have felt this way yesterday!

I’ve mentioned in the past how important sleep is for weight loss. Without proper rest, you are much more likely to reach a plateau and stay there until you can get enough sleep, as your body drops most of its weight while you sleep. While I’m not particularly worried about losing weight right now, I am interested in continuing to make progress with my strength and cardio, and without enough sleep, I risk making any progress there, as well. So, I’m making an effort to ensure I get at least 7.5-8 hours of sleep a night.

Get that rest. I know many people say they just don’t have time for it, but trust me; you do. YOU own your schedule, and YOU need to make sleep a priority. It makes not only exercise and weight loss easier, but it makes functioning during the day easier, helps emotionally, and your productivity will rise. You can do more in less time with more sleep which then negates the need to skimp on the sack time (for those who aren’t aware, “The Sack” is what we call a bed in the Marines). Hit the sack every night for at least 7 hours. Try for 8 or more if that makes you feel more rested. Some will need more; some will need less. Find out what the right number is for you, and strive to hit that every night. The quality of life you get from a good night’s rest is not to be underestimated.

Resilience

We all fall down. Whether it’s literally falling down on a run or figuratively by falling off a diet or falling behind on a workout plan. Everyone falls. I fall all the time. But what I would rather be defined by is not how often I fall, but how I keep getting back up. It’s all about resilience.

Resting between sets. Sometimes, it’s tempting to just stop, but I never do.

In the Army, we have resilience training every year. Why? Because the Army feels that it’s important for us to receive continuous training on how to deal mentally and emotionally with the challenges of not only our garrison work, but of combat. How a person frames their ability to get past obstacles defines the result. An example of this is how you think you will do on a strength test. If you think you can’t do it going in, it’s likely you won’t be able to. On the other hand, pumping yourself up, psyching yourself up for a big lift makes it much more likely you can succeed.

I tried losing weight many times in my life before I was finally met with success through Whole30 and the Paleo Diet. Each time prior, I was always doubtful of either the program’s efficacy or my ability to follow through. As a result, I wasn’t as disciplined and I failed over and over again. Somehow, I tried one last time, but the difference this time was that I went into it with determination and a better mindset. I possessed pure determination to succeed. I told myself I would not fail, and I didn’t. I told myself I could not have cheat meals, cheat days, or succomb to temptation (or what I call sabotage), and I didn’t. I decided what my reality would be, and it came true.

This is a really powerful mindhack. Heck, it’s a lifehack. You can create your own reality by telling yourself that you will accept nothing else but your goal, and that you will do whatever it takes to get there. You’ll take however much time it takes to get there, but you will get there. Nobody can do the work for you; it’s all on your shoulders. There will be people who try to derail you or talk you out of the hard work; Don’t let them. You can create the best version of yourself you can, and you do that by believing in yourself, in your ability to get the work done, and your ability to dust yourself off and to get back up when you do fall.

You get to decide your future. Is it sedentary or active? Adventurous or safe? Are you going to sit on the couch and eat chips or are you going to take the time to make healthy food that your body will use as fuel to live your best life? It’s all about choices, and they’re all in your power to make. Sure, it requires resilience to reach a goal, but you can do this. We’ve all fallen down before. Just remember to keep getting back up.

Trying Out the New Mountain Bike

Sherry and me after our ride yesterday. Some light rain showed up at the end.

After I lost 110 lbs and got back into fitness, the first thing I did was push-ups and walking. Eventually, that walking turned into jogging which turned into running, but I never really had fun with it. I wanted to do something physical that was both good for my health and fun. That’s when I remembered I had a mountain bike in the garage.

I used to love riding bicycles as a kid, and something I tried (unsuccessfully) in the past to lose weight and get fit was to ride a bike. At my heaviest (328 lbs), I would get on the bike and ride around the neighborhood. With my poor health and lack of fitness, I was only able to ride for 10-15 minutes at a time each day, but I tried. I worked hard and got my stamina up to about 20 minutes, but after each ride, I felt wiped out. Eventually, I quit riding because I never saw any weight loss and had nothing but soreness and defeat to show for it.

After I lost 150 lbs, I began thinking about mountain biking again. I used to love it so much as a kid that I figured I’d enjoy it again. I was right; I loved it! Also, my experience at 175 lbs was MUCH different than at 328 lbs. I was able to pedal with ease, I could make tight turns and slow ascents with ease, and since I was already running, my legs were in better shape and I had the stamina to go for an hour or longer.

I had used the same old Raleigh mountain bike for over a decade, and the old bike has served me well, but the deraileurs were showing their age and often jamming. The chain was getting close to needing a replacement, and I had lost a cover from my forks which allowed contaminants to enter the chamber. While it’s technically ridable, it’s a failure waiting to happen on a trail. So, I decided to get a new bike.

Right now, due to COVID-19, there are few bikes to be found in bike stores. I had initially wanted to get a TREK bicycle, but I couldn’t find any with a medium frame anywhere local. Heck, I couldn’t find the one I wanted anywhere online, either. So, I went to a local bike shop (where we bought the last 7 bikes we’ve owned from) and while they didn’t have the bike I was looking for, they did have one that would fit the bill. It was a little beyond what I wanted to spend on a bike, but in the end, I decided that since I tend to keep them for a long time, I would splurge.

My bike, the Gunship, and me after my ride yesterday.

I ended up getting the 2021 Scott Scale 940. It’s a carbon framed bike with lots of nice features, and I really like how it rides. There are two things I am going to change on it; I will be changing out the pedals later today (I dislike the metal pedals the shop put on them for free) and I will get a retractable seat post so I can lower the seat when doing aggressive biking and then release it back to the “Up” position for seated biking.

What I’m really planning to do with the new bike is to go out on my non-running days to build up more cardio and for a more relaxed leg workout between my standard StrongLifts/running days that has less impact on my joints. I need to build my stamina up for my two-week training coming up in April for Warrant Officer Candidate School where we will exercise every day.

I’m fortunate that Sherry is being a good sport and rolling along with me. She’s not been a huge fan of riding bikes, but as she learns more, she tells me that it’s getting more comfortable for her. I hope she can learn to enjoy it like I do some day. I really enjoy taking our bikes with us on our Overlanding trips and having another activity available to us that not only gets us some exercise, but allows us to get out and about without having to pack up the entire vehicle.

Now that I’m fit, I enjoy breaking up my runs and weightlifting with bike riding. I love kayaking, but that’s harder to do easily from home, so bike riding it is. Try to find something you enjoy that is physical to help you get and stay fit. Losing weight starts in the kitchen, but keeping fit happens in the gym and on the road. Whether it’s bike riding, kayaking, hiking, rollerblading, or rucking, find something you can enjoy to keep you active and it won’t feel like exercise. You’ll just be having fun with benefits.

The Obstacle Is The Way

This is the way.

I saw this quote this morning, and it really hit home for me.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Marcus Aurelius

I wanted to be healthy, but to me, there were obstacles I thought I could never get past. These were:

  • Healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Healthy lifestyle

I reached a point where I had to either tackle the obstacles, one by one, or I would not live much longer. I had tried, in the past, to get healthy, to eat right, and to exercise, but each time, the attempts crashed and failed. I was working with bad information, or misinformation, and no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up worse off than if I’d never tried. I had almost given up until a perfect storm of advice and life events brought me to making the decision to change my life.

2016 vs 2021.

Tackling diet and exercise at the same time, for me, was unthinkable. I decided that the best thing to do was to first change my diet. The first obstacle we tackled was our unhealthy diet. Sherry and I did our first Whole30 and went all-in on healthy eating. We transitioned into Paleo and never looked back. Within the first month (on Whole30), I lost 20 lbs, and for the following 11 months on Paleo, I lost an additional 110 lbs. What was more striking to me was that the entire time I was on Paleo and losing weight, I was never hungry, I didn’t starve, and I didn’t crave sweets or snacks. This “New” way of eating for me became the norm, and I actually enjoyed and preferred it. Not only because of how I felt, or because I was losing weight (and getting much healthier!), but because I even preferred the way the food tasted. This was our first example of the obstacle becoming the way. Over five years later, we are still Paleo, still doing the occasional Whole30, and now, it’s just the way we eat.

Hiking up a small mountain for ziplining.

That brings me to the next obstacle: exercise. When I did my first Whole30, and admittedly, throughout my entire first year of Paleo, I was vehemently and militantly against exercise. I didn’t want anything to do with fitness or exercise, and I thought I could go on forever without it. But something funny happened. I realized that being lighter wasn’t enough; that I needed exercise to complete my healthy lifestyle. I also decided that I wanted to try to get back into the military, and fitness is a big part of that. I dove head-first into fitness and found, once again, that the obstacle became the way. I began doing push-ups, then walking which turned into jogging which turned into running. I even started weightlifting. Now, I feel anxious when I can’t get my exercise, and my legs feel like they’re fully charged and ready for action unless I can run at least every other day (as I write this, I’m looking forward to my weightlifting and running later today!).

Today, in 2021, I find myself living a healthy lifestyle, something I could have never imagined 6 years ago. Looking back, there’s very little I miss from my life back then: health problems, decreased self esteem, moodiness, and a lack of mobility. Today, I get to mountain bike, kayak, hike, zip-line, go camping, and I get to do cool stuff in the National Guard.

I have a road march (with a 48 lbs pack) coming up very soon, and every time I do one of these “Ruck” marches, at some point, I always smile when I realize that I’m still doing this crazy stuff at my age. I smile because six years ago, being on a trail with a heavy ruck on my back, walking for 4 or 6 miles, was something unthinkable. It was such a surmountable obstacle that I couldn’t even fathom a walk that long, let alone within a 16:30 minute/mile pace with a heavy ruck on my back. And yet, here I am: the obstacle has become the way.

I am very fortunate to be able to do cool stuff like this at my age.

What seems impossible today can become the norm for you, but it’s not an easy path to follow. It will take hard work, persistence, and sacrifice. It takes time. Sometimes, a lot of time. But it’s a journey without a destination; it just becomes The Way.

How Can Someone Who Hates Exercise Lose Weight?

This was my main concern and my first question to my cousin Sarah, a physician assistant, over five years ago when she approached me about the need to lose weight. In her professional opinion, I was at the beginning of a decline that would lead to my early demise if I didn’t do anything to stop the trend. All the data was right before my eyes, yet I ignored or disbelieved all of it to continue to live in a world of denial. However, the walls were crashing in around me as symptom after symptom began to appear, shattering the myth of, “Everything’s okay being obese.”

Me after losing about 15 lbs over a two-year period just before I began Whole30. I weighed around 312 lbs here.

Fatty liver disease. Tingling in the lower extremities. Bleeding gums. Rapidly decreasing eyesight. Type-2 Diabetes. Cholesterol levels rising. Circulation problems in my big toes. Inability to tie my own shoes without holding my breath. That last one is the one that finally got me to consider losing weight. Why? I don’t know why that’s the one that made me realize I needed to make changes, but if I pinpoint a single moment, that was it. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

So when my cousin asked me if I wanted to lose weight, I told her I didn’t think it was a realistic possibility for me because not only was I unable physically to do any meaningful exercise, but I hated it. I disliked discomfort, especially the discomfort of an obese man trying to exercise. She then followed up my question with another question: “What if I told you that you can lose weight and get healthy without exercise?” I answered, “Then I would think you’re lying or that it’s not possible. But I’m interested; go on.” And go on, she did. She told me about Whole30 and Paleo and how they had been so successful for her and many people she knew. That she was friends with the people who started the Whole30 program was an interesting aside, but not necessarily important to me. Well, okay; it was a little important knowing that it was developed by people in the medical community. But while I’d actually read about Paleo, I hadn’t heard about Whole30. As she explained it to me, it made sense, and sounded like both something I needed, and something I could actually do. The seed was planted, and I began doing my own research.

A week’s worth of voracious reading led me to talk to my wife Sherry. After some back and forth, we decided to start a Whole30. I’ve talked about this part extensively before in this blog, so I won’t go into it again, but while it took a bit of convincing to get her on-board, she’s been the biggest ingredient to my success. We went through the process of getting rid of non-compliant foods, stocked the refrigerator and pantry with whole foods, and never looked back.

After about six months of Paleo, people began to notice my weight loss. Then they began asking me: “How much do you run?” “How much time in the gym do you need to spend to do what you’ve done?” “Wow, you must be so disciplined to spend all that time in the gym to lose that much weight? I could never do that!” Imagine their surprise when my answer was always, “I’ve spent no time in the gym and haven’t set a foot on a road or track to run. This was all accomplished with diet alone!” Most simply didn’t believe me, thinking I was trying to be modest or humble. Others assumed I had gone to a doctor for surgery to lose the weight so rapidly without exercise. Both of these groups of people were wrong. My weight loss was entirely and solely due to Whole30 and the Paleo Diet, which is to say, solely based on changing my diet.

I had lost around 110 lbs here, but I hadn’t started any exercise plan. Yet.

What makes Whole30 and Paleo so different? They cuts out unneccessary foods that are high in carbohydrates and anti-nutrients, or nutrients that work against our bodies and promote inflammation and work against proper digestion. They also get rid of pre-processed foods and anything with added refined sugar. That last bit is, in my opinion, the most important one: cutting out added sugar, because our appetite is driven so much by our sugar intake. The more you have, the more your body wants, which drives more sugar intake, and the cycle continues.

So, when someone tells me that they’d love to lose weight but they hate exercise, I tell them, “I understand; I did, too!” They then jump to the assumption that I hated it until I bit the bullet and started exercising to lose weight, but that’s where they’re wrong. I started exercising because while I had lost a bunch of weight, I was weak. Since I had lost enough weight to get back into the military’s height and weight standards, I thought I might try to get back in the reserve or National Guard, so I began an exercise program to allow me to meet and exceed the minimum physical training standards. I can’t say I’ve ever grown to really love exercise, but I have come to enjoy it from time to time, and the more I’ve gotten into it, the less I find it annoying or boring. There are those days when I’d rather do anything else, but there are also days when I can’t imagine feeling any better, and that’s due in large part to my exercise regimen.

I wasn’t very fast, but I put in the work to get fit and exceed Army standards.

I have a saying I use often on this blog: You lose weight in the kitchen; you get fit in the gym. It’s why I hate seeing people, friends, or family concentrate so heavily on exercise to lose weight while ignoring their diet. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. A proper and reasonable diet is absolutely essential to losing weight and getting healthy. That’s not to say someone can’t have a slice of pizza here or there if they want. I only eat Paleo foods 99% of the time, but every now and then, when at a work function or social gathering and no Paleo options exist (my military training is a prime example), then I will eat what’s available. I just eat in moderation and try to mitigate the damage by making the best choices possible. But no matter how many calories I exert after those meals, the effects become apparent on me very quickly through bloating and water weight gain.

So, I’ve lost 150 lbs from my heaviest. I lost the first 130 lbs without any exercise at all, and lost (and gained) the last 20 lbs with exercise. I say I also gained it back because I replaced a lot of fatty tissue on my body with bulkier, heavier muscles. While my waist size has decreased, my weight has increased from its lowest point and has held steady for three years. As I continue to get stronger and faster, my waist size keeps getting smaller, my shoulders and arms keep getting bigger, and my weight is staying the same. I went from a person who despised exercise (an opinion I earned the hard way while on active duty in the Marines for 11 years) to someone who faithfully adheres to a strict exercise regimen. I won’t lie and say I love it; I don’t. I’d much rather be able to be fit and strong without it, but that’s not reality. To achieve the strength and fitness I want to have takes work, and at this point in my life, I’m willing to do the work to sustain this level of fitness I’ve reached. Heck, I’m still striving for more strength and speed. But I do it out of necessity, not because I love exercising.

I was fortunate to build a home gym before the pandemic. I use this at least three times a week before my runs.

If you have studied for a test when you didn’t want to but got it done anyway, it’s much the same thing, in my opinion. We do many things, not because we like them, but because we have to. We weigh the benefits with the efforts to determine whether it’s worth doing something. In this case, the efforts are well worth the benefits to me. My wife and I have not only lost weight and gotten healthier, but we have become much more active people; hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, kayaking, and I even flew a WWII biplane trainer; all things we could never imagine doing before Whole30, Paleo, and in many cases, exercise. My ability to serve this great nation as a Soldier in the National Guard is also something that would not be possible without a strict and vigorous exercise regimen. The new Army Combat Fitness Test is not easy, and requires a lot of pre-work to be able to pass even with a minimal score let alone to do well on it.

Pre-Paleo Lifstyle vs me, five years later.

In closing, I know many people do not like seeing, “If I can do it, you can too!” but that’s what articles like this are really about, aren’t they? That’s what reading blogs are for versus reading mainstream articles. Blogs are personal, and are based on our perspectives and experiences. When I read a blog, it’s because I want to gain insight from someone who has been there or done that. In this case, I went from a person who flat-out rejected the idea of exercise to being a person who weightlifts and runs at least three times a week. I told you how I did it, and I told you why I did it. Now, it’s up to you to find your “Why” and then for you to “Do.” If you need any help with that, let me know, or reach out to someone at your local gym or running track/park. Even those of us who are not “Exercise people” can find a happy balance between the benefits and the effort. But there has to be effort. That part can’t be skipped if you want to be fit.

For the podcast version of this post, visit my Patreon page for more information.

Five Years Paleo

It has now been over five years since Sherry and I transitioned from Whole30 to the Paleo Diet for the first time. We’ve done a number of Whole30’s from time to time (and we are currently in the process of doing one), but we owe our success and longevity in staying healthy to the Paleo Diet.

Me in 2015, 2016, and 2019.

When we first started with Paleo, there were many who told us it was too restrictive or that it wouldn’t be sustainable long-term. There were those who told us we would grow tired of the lack of variety in the food we eat, and those who said that we would find ourselves malnourished because we didn’t have a “Balanced diet.” Even my primary care physician was doubtful and cautioned me against any dangerous “Restriction diets.”

For all the naysayers, there were few who believed in our long-term success. My close friends were supportive and hopeful, but realistic (just like Sherry and I; we hoped for the best but were a little skeptical that we would succeed as well as we did) while I had family members who flat-out doubted what we were doing would have any success, and when we did start losing weight, wondered if the weight loss wasn’t due to illness or some other source.

Throughout the process, I had many physicals, blood tests, stress tests, and other medical examinations that unanimously came to the same conclusion: my health was greatly improved since adopting the Paleo lifestyle. In the very first blood test while still on my first Whole30, my blood sugar went back into the normal range which was the greatest improvement early-on as I was diagnosed as a Type-2 Diabetic and was taking Metformin (which I had stopped taking when I started my Whole30). My cholesterol levels also were normal, and one of the first obesity-related issues I had, fatty liver disease, was considered to be no longer detectable within 6 months of adopting the Paleo Lifestyle. What were some of the other health improvements?

  • Improved vision (which had been affected by the Diabetes)
  • Improved gums (also affected adversely by Diabetes)
  • Improved circulation in lower extremities (Caused by Diabetes)
  • Reduction in nerve “tingling” in extremities (Diabetes related)

A funny aside is that during my first annual physical upon re-entering the military, while reviewing my blood test results, I commented to the physician that it was amazing that my blood sugar was so low considering I was diabetic when I was morbidly obese. He actually got mad at me and said, “Nobody stops being diabetic! You were never diabetic. It’s impossible!” I said a lot of, “Yes, Sir’s” and left his office smiling.

Me in 2020.

After two years, my primary care physician, the same doctor who cautioned me against restrictive diets, after my stress test, admitted to me that I was the impetus for his reevaluating Whole30 and the Paleo Diet. He said he had begun recommending them to patients, and that my results were not as unexpected or rare as he first thought. That made me happy; I was helping change people’s perspectives about the Paleo Diet.

Throughout my health and fitness journey, I’ve had the pleasure to meet a lot of people whose lives have been changed by Whole30 and Paleo. From friends, family, and others who have all learned from our experience to the many people online who have emailed me, messaged me, or even caught up with me in-person, it’s become clear to me that the Paleo Lifestyle is not only sustainable, but when followed with sensible portion sizes and some exercise, is an excellent diet that has allowed not only Sherry and me, but countless others regain control of their health.

Five years. That’s a long time, but on the Paleo Diet, it doesn’t feel like it. For us, it feels normal. In the past five years, the popularity of Paleo has grown immensely, and it’s easy to find Paleo alternatives to many food items in nearly any mainstream food store which makes it easy for us to enjoy a wide variety of foods which keeps our diet varied and exciting (not to mention delicious!). I never feel like I’m missing out on anything, and more often than not, the fresh and whole ingredients of our meals has actually improved the flavors and we often comment on the restaurant quality meals we have (even when camping!).

If you’re thinking about making a change in your diet, I urge you to do the research. Whole30 and Paleo have worked for my wife and me (and millions of others), but everyone is different. My diabetes has disappeared, but that might not be the case for everyone. I wasn’t Type-2 Diabetic for long, and there’s a good chance that since it was so new, my body was able to recover and heal more quickly than someone who’s been Diabetic for years. But even if you don’t reverse your diabetes, one thing I am certain of is that your health will improve in many ways. I have yet to meet someone whose health hadn’t improved in some way on Paleo.

“But what about what you had to give up?” This is always the first and most common question I reveive after telling people about Whole30 and Paleo. It seems people get hung up the most on having to sacrifice certain foods. I get it. Foods are one of the foundations upon which human culture rests. When discussing a culture, one of the first images we have is of the foods that culture eats. When you have to give up certain foods to adopt the Paleo lifestyle, many people balk or outright refuse to consider it because of these strong bonds, ties, and memories or emotions that are tied to certain foods. I had the very same ties, memories, and emotions tied to certain foods, and while that will never change, I have been able to successfully transition with giving up very little of the foods I love. The only exception so far has been croissants. There is no way to make a Paleo croissant. But literally every other food, from spaghetti to pizza to fish and chips are all possible on Paleo.

I’ve written at length about the different mind hacks, tips, and yes, even tricks I’ve used to succeed in my new healthy lifestyle. This blog, over the past five years, has been not only a sounding board for my journey, but I’ve tried to give as much insight into my thought processes, my motivations, and what kept me going. If you are just seeing this blog for the first time, I suggest using the search feature to find answers to specific questions or topics. Some people have read in chronological order, starting back in 2015, to follow along as I progressed from over 312 lbs to 170 lbs (and back up to a much stronger 185 lbs through running and weightlifting). I have talked about not only my successes, but also the difficulties and even failures along the way. Through it all, I’ve kept my head up, trusted in the process and the plan, and so far, I’ve persevered.

Weightlifting in January, 2021.

What does the future hold for me? Hopefully, more of the same. I intend to continue in the Paleo lifestyle, I will continue to exercise through weightlifting and running for as long as my body allows, and I will continue to advocate for, help with, and guide people on their own healthy journeys. I thank you all, whether this is your first PaleoMarine article, or those who have been along for the ride for the past five+ years. I look forward to many more years of posting here, and of helping people who want to get healthy, stay healthy, and live longer.

For the podcast version of this post, visit my Patreon page for more information.

Skin Reduction: The Time Has Come

So, I’ve made a pretty big decision regarding my body, and it’s a reversal of something I’ve thought for five years. The thought had crossed my mind a few times after losing all the weight, and people have asked me about it all the time, but I always said, “Nah, that’s not for me,” or, “I’m not that vain,” but it turns out that maybe I am. Maybe the Michelin tire of spare skin around my waist really does bother me, and maybe I do need to have it removed.

I wear a lot of sweaters, vests, and jackets to hide the skin roll.

There are a few additional reasons I’ve decided that I will likely go this route. First and foremost, no matter how fit I get, that roll of skin around my waist makes me not only look sloppy, but hurts me in the Army height/weight calculations. Since I started lifting weights, I’ve not only gotten much stronger, but my muscles have grown and make me weigh more than the max allowed for my height. The Army uses measurements at the neck and waist to calculate body fat, and that roll of skin throws off the calculations; not enough to make me fail, but it’s close. The muscles in my lower body are completely hidden by the huge roll of skin that won’t go away. Also, I can’t wear a nice shirt or t-shirt without looking dumpy. I know it shouldn’t matter, and for a long time, it didn’t, but now it annoys me. Deeply.

Second, I’m in the National Guard, and when I have to wear my service uniform, I look like a sack of potatoes regardless of how fit I am. I work out, I lift weights, and I run, yet in uniform, I still look unfit. That’s not a good look for a leader, and it’s not the image I want to portray to my subordinates. That’s unacceptable to me.

Third, the skin literally hurts when I run. It moves around a lot, regardless of how much I try to wear clothes that mobilize it. I think I might understand just a little bit how women feel running. No matter what you do to hold the extra tissue close to the body, it still moves up and down a lot and is extremely uncomfortable, especially over long distances.

Finally, I want to really like what I see in the mirror. This is the most selfish of reasons, but it does matter to me now. I’m not getting any younger, and I want to be able to like what I see in the mirror for as long as I can. As I turn more gray and more wrinkles appear around my eyes and in my face, I can accept those changes as natural. But the tire around my waist? It makes me angry every time I see it. Accepting it at first was easy because I no longer had a huge gut. But now? After all that work, effort, and time? I want it gone.

So, I’ve made an appointment with a plastic surgeon for a consultation to discuss the skin removal. It won’t be cheap, and it is an invasive procedure that will require anesthesia as well as a lengthy recovery, but I have the time coming up after I graduate WOCS in May, so the perfect time is coming. I’ll have the ability to take time off from my civilian job and the military to recover, and when I go back to my military duties in October, I will go back with a much more professional look. I will also have time to get fit after my recovery which will be important.

So, at some point, I will have more information and first-hand experience with this aspect of extreme weight loss. It’s not something I particularly look forward to, although the benefits will definitely be many. Like the initial process of adopting a new, healthy lifestyle followed by adding fitness to my life, this procedure will also give me many benefits. It will, like the fitness plan that got me here, be painful and will require following pre-op and post-op instructions carefully, but I think it will be well-worth it in the end.

No Cardio or Weightlifting for a Shredded Body?

This is one of my pet peeves in the health and fitness industry, especially aimed towards men over 50: a photo of an older, gray-haired gentleman with a killer body promising you can look like him with “No cardio or time in the gym.” Of course, you won’t find out how to do this unless you sign up for his program after watching a video about an hour in length. Then, when you get the program, guess what? It’s cardio and lifting weights.

Surprise.

Disclaimer: I did not buy the program or watch the entire video, but I did read many reviews of the program by people who have.

Then, after reading some of the reviews of the program, I kept seeing this phrase: “…for staying fit past 50.” Hmmm. Staying fit. So, the idea is that for people who were already fit before 50, this program will allow them to stay fit past 50. Aside from the fact that it’s not possible to get big, ripped muscles without lifting weights, what about the majority of us who were not fit? What about the vast number of people who are finally doing something about their health and fitness and don’t already have amazing gym bodies? What are they to do?

I’m pretty sure that this fitness plan, aimed at older men, promises the same results to unfit men as it does for those who are already fit, but that’s disingenuous. First of all, there’s only one way to get big muscles and be ripped: lots of high-rep weights and a lot of protein. Second, it dismisses the very real problem of excess skin, something I suffer with. Finally, and most importantly, it dismisses the fact that later in life, it’s harder to build muscle and get toned without a lot of time and effort. In fact, it takes longer, because as we get older, we need more recovery time.

Are there those out there who have gotten incredibly ripped and huge after age 50? Sure. But they’re anomalies. They’re not the “Everyman” that the older gentleman is appealing to. That’s what makes me sad. There is no shortcut to better health and increased fitness. There are no tricks. There is only one way to get muscular, ripped, and fit: do the work.

DO. THE. WORK.

If a fitness plan says you can forego cardio, weights, or that their plan “Burns fat,” they are easy indications that the plans are B.S. There is no such thing as “Burning fat.” Sweating is not an indication of fat going away, and the more you sweat is no more indicative of fat loss than is going to the bathroom. Fat takes a long time to go away and regardless of the amount of exercise you do, fat cells slough off when your body feels like it. Some people lose faster than others, but there is a lot of interesting reading available on how fat cells are deflated and eventually are sloughed off that dispels the fat burning myth.

Admittedly, I do not want to be ripped. I do want to be strong and I want to be able to run miles in the 8 minute/mile range, but that’s about it. I want to be healthy and fit. At my age, that’s more important to me than having an amazing beach body. While I want to do something about the excess skin around my waist (what I disaffectionately call my Michelin Man tire), I do not want to look like Conan the Barbarian or some superhero. So, I stick with eating healthy, Paleo foods, and I stick with my weightlifting and running. I have nothing against people who body build. Heck, I admire their determination and hard work. It’s not easy to build huge muscles, and takes a lot more discipline than I have and a lot more work than I’m willing to do. If you want to go that route, DO IT! But don’t think you can get there using shortcuts or without doing the work. That’s just not realistic.

I’ve said it many times: getting fit happens in the gym/on the road, losing weight/getting healthy happens in the kitchen. What you eat has more bearing on your health than anything, and exercising only makes your body stronger, faster, leaner, and better able to handle stress (sickness, physical challenges, etc). You have everything to gain by eating right and exercising and only some discomfort to pay for it. In my opinion, it’s well worth it.

Paleo is Unsustainable?

I just read a blog post by a fellow health/fitness blogger where he asserts that the Paleo Diet is not a lifestyle and is not sustainable because it’s restrictive. This is the most common criticism I hear when someone pushes back on the Paleo Diet. The root of this criticism lies in the “Balanced Diet” fallacy. This is the idea that to be healthy, we need to eat foods from all the “Food groups,” and that cutting out any group means you are not getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to survive. The problem is that the idea of a balanced diet comes from a food industry-funded government campaign in the early 1970’s to get Americans to buy more subsidized dairy and grain. Neither dairy nor grain need to be a part of the human diet.

Another reason people criticize Paleo is because they don’t have the discipline to stop eating grains, dairy, or legumes: plain and simple. I’ve literally had people excited about the weight loss results and health and fitness gains I’ve made over the years and when I tell them about Paleo, they immediately respond with, “Oh no; I could never get rid of grains, dairy, or legumes.” When I explain to them that it’s not nearly as restrictive as it seems on the surface, it falls on deaf ears. Once a person’s mind is made up that a diet is restrictive, no amount of evidence to the contrary or to the efficaciousness of the diet will ever suffice.

It’s fashionable to criticize successful lifestyles. I could criticize Calorie Counting, but I don’t. Even though I disagree with it and it didn’t work for me (at least on the 10 or so times I tried to lose weight counting calories), I know that it works for some people, and that’s more important to me than tearing down anyone else’s lifestyle. I always make a point to mention that while Paleo and Whole30 have worked for me and my wife (and many other friends and family members), it may not work for everyone. We all need to find what works for us, and when we identify that, stick to it! That’s the most important piece of advice I can give, and that I try to give on a regular basis. My plan is best for me and may not be best for you. That’s why I try to post so much about motivation, dedication, accountability, perseverance, etc. Those are diet or lifestyle agnostic.

So, why do health and fitness bloggers criticize other plans, diets, and lifestyles? Well, it’s click bait and brings like-minded people to their blog. In my case, I was intrigued enough by the assertion that Paleo was an unsustainable lifestyle that I read the article. I posted that I disagreed with that assertion and carried on with the knowledge that he is wrong and that this lifestyle not only works for me, but I actually enjoy it, and I foresee myself sticking with it for the rest of my life. I feel THAT much better on Paleo than any other diet. But these bloggers like to tear down other diets and lifestyles to create content that pulls in readers, or maybe (and this is a big maybe) it makes them feel better.

Have I talked smack about other diets in the past? Well, I do talk smack about the diet INDUSTRY that sells pills, powders, patches, smoothies, and pushes medical procedures to help people lose weight. This diet industry puts a huge emphasis on weight loss instead of on healthy lifestyles. On the other end of the spectrum is the group that believes being obese is a natural and healthy body type, and I’ve attacked that idea as well. However, in so doing, I tried to be careful with not judging the individuals. I know that they are victims of an industry and the advertising/marketing.

So, is Paleo sustainable? Yes. Is it possible to partake in another lifestyle or diet and for it to be sustainable even if it isn’t or wasn’t for me? Of course. Find what works for you, and stick to it. Work hard at it. Persevere! But don’t build yourself up by tearing something positive down for others. That’s just not productive, and it’s not honest.