Stuffing myself: what used to be normal is now painful

IMG_6986I used to eat until I could literally eat no more. I would stuff myself. I did this because it felt good, somehow. Sure, walking after a meal was tough and sometimes even painful. After certain dinners, I could hear the food sloshing around in my stomach. As I look back on it, it’s surreal. My stomach was really quite large and held a lot of food. Now? I can barely eat a regular serving at most restaurants without feeling too full.

Last night, I ate a meal at a restaurant, and I was surprised at just how full I felt afterward. Sherry and I noticed that this particular meal’s size had been reduced to about half of what it used to be (we used to share these plates), and still, I felt full after finishing it. The same has been happening the past few days with the lunches and dinners she’s been prepping for us.

The strange part is that now that I’m thinner, it hurts much worse when I eat to my stomach’s capacity. It’s a sharp pain, whereas in the past, eating until I was stuffed either just felt a little uncomfortable, or even felt good.

I don’t know what physiological changes have gone on in my gut to make feeling stuffed go from something I liked to something that is painful, but I’m okay with it. As much as I still  have the desire to eat a lot, knowing that doing so would cause me a lot of physical anguish keeps me from going overboard which, in turn, keeps me from gaining weight.

I’ll take it.

Fitting into small shirts and reaching my final weight goal (soon!)

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ANGLES!

I bought three shirts on Woot! about six months ago, and I purchased a size too small for me at the time. They are nice button-down shirts, and I was pretty bummed when I couldn’t wear them. Fast forward to this morning when I decided to try one of them on and… IT FIT PERFECTLY!

I’ve lost about 7 lbs in the past 6 months, so it makes sense. It’s crazy how much size I’ve lost since then, too. I forget that 7 lbs is a much larger percentage of my total weight now, and as a result, a change of 7 lbs is reflected much more than it was when I was over 300 (I wouldn’t even notice 7 lbs weight loss back then).

I’m less than 2 lbs from my final goal. It’s so close… I can’t wait.

I was asked what I was going to do when I reach my goal, and I thought about it and said, “Besides let out a cheer, and maybe post on my blog and Facebook? Nothing, I guess.” See, there’s no sense in any celebratory dinner, meal, snack, treat, or anything like that. The reward is hitting the number, not food. The last thing in the world I want to do is reintroduce the concept of rewarding myself with food. That’s part of what got me into this predicament: irresponsible eating and an unhealthy relationship with food.

It is at our most challenging moments we need to be the strongest

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Me with my son, Brendon.

My son and I were having a conversation yesterday about the difficulties in staying motivated when the scale is not being good to us. He was struggling with watching his weight go up despite his sticking to the Paleo diet and running regularly. This is very common in many people, and so is the typical response: he said he was ready to give up and eat all the things.

But he didn’t.

He said first of all, he didn’t want to let me down. That’s sweet of him. But then he said something that made me more proud: he didn’t want to let himself down. He said that he had a goal for being fit and healthy, and that giving up didn’t fit into that plan. That’s very impressive and it takes a lot of self discipline and motivation to stick with something that is showing us little in the way of tangible results.

I reminded him of where he started and where he is today. He weighed over 258 lbs, while today he weighs 234 lbs. He could only do 5 push ups; yesterday, he did 40. He was only able to run 1 mile at an 11:52/mile pace. Yesterday, he ran 2 miles at a 9:50/mile pace. He may not be seeing results as quickly as he would like, but in a month, losing over 20 lbs and making the fitness gains he’s made is very impressive and indicative of how serious he is about health and fitness and how hard he’s working.

I’ve done it. My wife did it. My son is doing it. You can do this. You just have to keep your eye on the prize: a healthy and fit you. Perseverance is the key.

Sugar more addictive than cocaine?

Why yes. Yes it is.

They say it’s 8 times more addictive than cocaine. It causes us to have cravings; we don’t get cravings when we are sugar free. We get sensations of hunger, but not the same as cravings at all. 

Sugar is killing us from the inside. The documentary Fed Up is a good place to start your education about the food we eat and how 80% of all the commercially available food in our grocery stores are all filled with sugar. Even our low-fat foods have sugar in them. Gatorade? Sugar. Splenda? Guess what it’s made of: sugar!

For your own health, please consider going clean off sugar. You won’t believe the difference it will make and how much better you will feel without it. I used to scoff at the idea of living without sugar, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now that I’ve lived a life being sugar-free, I could never go back. 

Finding your inner strength

IMG_6470This is more about changing yourself and your mind frame than pure health or fitness, I know. But I’m going to discuss it, because it goes to the core of what I believe led me to successfully lose 144 lbs and to get fit where others have failed.

I’ve discussed wanting to lose weight as much as a drowning person wants air. I’ve talked about being better today than you were yesterday. I’ve discussed perseverance, motivation, and dedication. Yet, I find people still telling me that they could never do what I did because it’s too hard.

I don’t judge people. Honestly, I don’t. But I do call out fallacies and excuses where I see them, and many people lean too heavily on the excuse of, “It’s too hard.”

No. It’s not.

To me, what was hard was climbing up a flight of stairs. To tie my own shoes without having to hold my breath. It was hard to fly on commercial aircraft comfortably. It was hard to sit in a booth in a restaurant (if not outright impossible). It was hard to experience tingling feet and nerve damage from Diabetes. It was hard to watch my blood sugar levels rising. It was hard watching life pass me by.

Getting healthy is not hard. It’s actually very simple, yet people are so tied to their lifestyles that they can’t imagine themselves without things like bread, pasta, beans, or ice cream. I can’t imagine going back to a lifestyle that made me so incredibly unhealthy and was killing me.

Perspective.

You need to really take a look at what is important to you. Do you have kids? Do you want to see them grow up? Do you want to meet and know your grandchildren? Do you like to travel? Do you want to experience new foods, places, things? Do  you have a bucket list that you want to have a decent chance of finishing? Are all these things worth a slice of cake every day? Does eating pasta outweigh the things in life that really matter? Does eating beans really mean more to you than living past 60?

We all have within us what it takes to make the necessary changes to be healthy, lose weight, and even get fit. You just have to make it a priority. I know it sounds easy, and I also realize that actually getting past the sugar addiction is very hard. I went through withdrawals and felt like I had the flu for three days when I cut sugar out of my diet. But afterward? I had a lot more energy and felt much better. It got much easier to avoid the sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and soy because I never wanted to go back to how I felt before I quit them. Add to that the fact that my food is delicious and filling and it became a no-brainer.

I’m not selling anything. I receive nothing for any products I have endorsed (which, to date, is only fish oil). All I am doing is giving people the information I have learned through my own journey in weight loss from 312 lbs to 166 lbs.

What is the secret to my success? I wanted to do it more than I wanted short-term gratification that food provides. I changed my perception of what food is: from entertainment to fuel. Do I enjoy tasty food? Of course I do, and I prefer it! But I no longer eat until I’m stuffed. I eat only until I am comfortable. Eighteen months later, my stomach size has reduced naturally, and I fill up much more quickly. It’s a great feeling, and I know you can get there, too. You just have to muster the same inner strength you used to acquire that degree, diploma, certification, or title.

Being Better Than I Was Yesterday

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I’ve come a long way within two years.

I came upon a realization recently that is probably as close to an epiphany as I’ve had in recent years. I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday; every day. I want to be healthier, run faster, put in more effort, be a better husband, be a better dad, be a better friend, a better member of my community. Life gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves, to live better, healthier, more fulfilling lives. It takes effort to be better than yesterday, but with baby steps, it’s doable. I know: I’m living proof.

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Me on the left and me on the right with a difference of two years.

Sure, I lost a lot of weight. That doesn’t make me a philosopher with all the answers to life’s questions. But I’ve done more. I went from living a sedentary lifestyle to one of fitness. I’m back in the military. I believe that I’m a more organized and harder working employee. I do everything I can to be a better husband, father, and friend. I continue trying to learn as much as I can about the people and the world around me. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge that grows every day.

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My daughter and I with the band The Naked and Famous.

I don’t want to live in the past. I don’t want to lead a life where I’m looking behind me, recounting the glory days. That’s why I wear new clothes, listen to new music, watch new movies, and try to experience new things. I’m making memories through these experiences, but now is not the time for me to look back. Now is the time for me to live! To make memories! To do as much as I can while I have the ability!

These things drive me to eat right, to get my exercise, to put my nose to the grindstone, and to be gracious to those who mean a lot to me.

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Sherry and I at the Habitat for Humanity Gala last weekend.

The Paleo Diet, Whole30, and running have led me to where I am today: a better version of myself. Every day, when I wake up, I wonder what I can improve on. At the end of the day, I reflect on my interactions, the things I read, the things I experienced, and I find opportunities to improve. It’s also a nice way to look back at how far I’ve come from that guy who weighed 312 lbs, sat in a chair all day, and had to hold his breath to tie his own shoes. The guy who barely went out because it was so much effort. I’ve come a long way, and yet, I still have a long way to go. It’s been a great journey; I’m looking forward to the rest, and being better than I am today.

Let’s flip things up a bit: what you can eat on Paleo

IMG_2666People always ask what you can’t eat when you’ve adopted the Paleo Diet, and I can see them get troubled when I mention grains, sugar, legumes, and dairy. However, let’s try this: instead of answering what you can’t have, lead off with what you can eat! It’s a much bigger list, frankly, and contains foods that nearly everyone already enjoys! Foods like:

  • Steak
  • Fajitas
  • Sausage*
  • Bacon*
  • Ribs*
  • Brisket
  • Chicken
  • Lobster
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Fruits

*With no sugar added

That’s a pretty awesome list and doesn’t go into the Paleo versions of food that you can have like:

  • Paleo bread
  • Paleo pancakes
  • Paleo pizza
  • Paleo tortillas
  • Paleo cake
  • Paleo torte
  • Paleo cookies
  • Paleo brownies
  • …and many more!

Sure, some of these alternatives may take a lot of extra preparation, but many of them taste either exactly like or very similar to their full-sugar and grain counterparts (and some of them, like chocolate chip cookies, are even better than the real thing!).

Focus on the positives and not the negatives. Focus on what you can eat and not on what you can’t. You will find yourself much happier, and adopting the Paleo lifestyle will become much easier.