I’m just trying to help

I used to hate it when people would tell me about their fitness routines or their diet because the last thing I wanted to do was give up delicious foods that I loved or make puddles of sweat. I used to think that those people were pretentious and full of themselves and pushing their lifestyle on me. The sad part was that I needed the pushing. I was horribly and frighteningly obese.

When I took this selfie, I thought to myself, “I don’t look fat at all!” It’s funny how we see what we want to see even when reality presents a different picture.

When my cousin Sarah told me about Whole30 and Paleo, I was intrigued mostly because she told me that she was able to get healthy (and she was already very athletic!) and even lose weight just by changing the types of foods she ate. When I presented this information to Sherry, she told me I was crazy and there was no way she was going to stop drinking milk, eating cheese, and ice cream. I told her, “That’s fine, but if we don’t do this together, I can’t do it alone, and if I don’t do this, I’m going to die way too soon.” Sure, I laid the passive-aggressive guilt on her, but I wasn’t being dramatic. I had reached a point with my health that things were starting to go wrong, and unless I made a dramatic change, my health would pass the point of no return and I would die.

Sherry finally agreed to do a Whole30 with me, but with the caveat that she had to have her milk in the mornings. I told her that would be fine. She began reading everything I forwarded to her about Whole30, and then she began reading about it on her own, doing her own research. We started our Whole30 the day after her birthday, and within three days, she told me she was going to try cutting milk out of her diet as well. Then a crazy thing happened: She found that she had a food allergy to milk.

That made her a believer in the program more than the weight loss or any other health benefit. That her blood work was the best she’d had in years was icing on the cake. The strangest part is she never knew she had the allergy. She was no longer bloated all the time with inflammation.

I began losing the weight quickly, and in my mind, effortlessly. I won’t discount the amount of mental discipline required to do a Whole30 and then to stick with a Paleo diet in the face of social events, going out to dinners, parties, etc, but compared with running, lifting weights, and Zumba classes, I prefer the mental discipline. Sherry, on the other hand, is doing a combination of diet and exercise and it’s working for her. She enjoys the running, and that’s great! I wish I could enjoy running, but I just can’t. I do enjoy riding my bike, but I get bored very easily and it, more than anything, is what derails my exercise efforts. But I digress.

I lost 20 lbs in the first 30 days as we transitioned to the Paleo diet. I know that not everyone loses 20 lbs in their first month of a new diet, but you have to remember that I was a VERY heavy guy. After almost seven months, I’m only now at the weight many people start a diet at when they say they need to lose 40 lbs.

I felt great. I felt amazing. I felt like I actually had a chance at meeting my first goal of losing 50 lbs by Christmas. The best part: I never felt like I was suffering, starving, or being cheated out of delicious foods. Sherry did a great job of finding foods we could eat that tasted great. So much so, in fact, that for the first time in a long time, I would eat a meal and be completely sated. I no longer had cravings to snack or to eat between meals. I know a lot of that has to do with cutting the processed sugar out of our diets, but it was all new sensations that I was very happy to experience.

Over the next two months as we approached the holidays, we were full of trepidation: How were we going to navigate the parties and hosting our own holiday meals? How would we get through meals where nearly everything on the table is “Off plan” for us? Fortunately, with some planning and research, we were able to find out which of the foods were okay for us, and if none of those were available, which were the least evil. We ate food at every party we went to, and some of it was even food we shouldn’t eat (birthday cake, for example), but for the first time in my life, I was very mindful of everything I ate, and I made sure that if it was bad food, I ate only a very little. It worked. My weight loss continued, and I never tanked my weight loss.

Christmas came and the scales rewarded me with 50 lbs lost. I was elated! Looking back at pictures, I remember feeling so much slimmer when in fact, I was still by modern standards, still a very large guy (but I wasn’t THAT large anymore!).

This photo was taken in November, 2015 when my weight loss was around the 35 lb mark. For the record, Sherry is not a fan of this picture.

January brought renewed hope for reaching my next goal: weighing 175 by my birthday. January went well (over 12 lbs lost that month alone) but February was the bane of my existence. I went for nearly three weeks without losing a single pound. However, the strange part was that while I didn’t lose weight, I was losing inches off my waist. I went from 40’s at Christmas to wearing 36’s by March. To put that into perspective, I was wearing 34’s the entire time I was in the Marines. I tried on jackets I had in the Marines, and they all fit me now. While I’m heavier than when I was a Marine, I’m almost the same size.

As I approach my second major goal, I still believe I can do it. I am on-track to make 175 lbs by July 5th, and my resolve is just as strong, if not stronger, than it has ever been. Now that I’ve lost over 84 lbs since September 1, I not only feel different, but I really look different now. It’s so drastic that I pause in front of mirrors as I pass them because it is so strange to see the person looking back at me from the other side. It’s a face I remember from long ago, only a little older and grayer on the sides, but a face I’ve missed for a long time. It is seeing that face that makes me want to talk to people about what I’m doing and about my journey. I want everyone who is overweight like me to feel the way I feel when I see my old face looking back at me.

It’s not about vanity or about wearing fashionable clothing (although the latter is pretty darned cool!). It’s about being healthy and liking who you are. I know we all tell ourselves that we love ourselves regardless and that we have to be good on the inside and the outside doesn’t matter. Well, we’re sausages. Even though we don’t see what’s on the inside, the outside is a direct reflection of what’s inside. I know from experience that I was unhappy with myself because of how I looked; it’s not how I felt I should look. On top of that, I felt horrible because of weak knees that were always sore, not being able to clip my toe nails or tie my shoes without holding my breath, and not even being able to sit on the floor because my stomach was so big. This is not how people should live. Our bodies were not designed for this; they were designed to be thinner.

Now that I’m in the last third of my total weight loss journey, I find myself being asked A LOT about how I did it. Did I use pills? Did I have a lap band inserted? Gastric bypass? How often do I work out? Am I doing Atkins? When I answer, “None of the above,” people are incredulous. When I tell them that all I had to do was adjust my diet slightly to avoid all processed sugar, processed foods, and most high-carb foods, they are incredulous. It goes against all the marketing and education we’ve been fed (hah! A pun!) our whole lives, and it’s almost too simple to be believable. I give them the url’s to Whole30 and Paleo. I give them the urls to my blog and toe Sherry’s blog. I tell them to not believe me alone: do the research like I did. Read, read, and read some more. The more you read about Whole30 and Paleo, the more you find that they are rooted in pretty solid science, and that the results speak for themselves. The best part? I feel like I’m alive for the first time in twenty years.

This is a picture of me taken yesterday, March 29th at 205.9 lbs. Still a ways to go, but streets ahead.

Most people’s perception of radically altering their diet is filled with negative preconceived notions. Diet food has to taste bad. You have to get rid of the best foods, or comfort foods. Diet food is restrictive and isn’t satisfying. Diet food has tiny portions. Well, some of that is true, but only if you’re doing some program or fad diet. Eating good, whole foods that are prepared from scratch with ingredients that are unprocessed and not full of carbs yields delicious and filling foods that make you forget that you’re eating food that is actually good for you. You find yourself eating less because it fills  you up faster, and you find yourself not being hungry soon after eating because your body is working hard to digest the good stuff and it’s using the energy more efficiently.

Once people do a Whole30 and go Paleo afterwards, they find that it’s not nearly as hard as they thought it was going to be. Sure, preparing healthy foods takes more time and effort than eating pre-processed foods, but the health benefits are so huge that I can’t imagine eating pre-processed foods anymore. My long-term health is worth a lot more to me than any short-term gain in efficiency or gratification. Besides, I’m finding that I really like cooking, and that I’m getting really good at some basic skills everyone used to have in a time before canned or frozen foods. Even my own cured bacon is getting better every time I make it!

So, when I talk about what I eat, how I’m losing weight, and how everyone who is overweight should do this, I’m not doing it because I’m rubbing it in or bragging. I’m doing it because I was there; I was the fat guy hearing about losing weight and not believing it. I was the fat guy who thought there was no hope; there was no getting healthy. I began to accept the fact I was going to die soon. Nobody should have to do that, especially when there is a healthy way out for everyone who just puts in the work!

Do you have questions? Need some motivation? PM me, email me, or make a comment here!

Current weight status: 205.9 lbs
Total lost since September 1: 84 lbs
Total lost since August 2013: 102.5 lbs
BMI: 32.2% (Starting BMI: 45.4%)
BF: 25.1% (Starting BF 47.4%)

Business Lunch

Today, my business partner and I went to lunch with a prospective client at a Chinese restaurant. I love Chinese food, but it is full of carbs and foods that I’m no longer willing to incorporate into my diet, so this presented a challenge. Rather than calling attention to my dietary needs in the face of a prospective client who moments before told us that he loved Chinese food, I rolled with it.

I decided to have the Mongolian Beef as it had beef, onions, shallots, green onion, and a “brown sauce.” The brown sauce likely had sugar and starch in it, but I figured it was the least bad food there for me. I didn’t touch the rice or the fortune cookie (THAT WAS HARD!) so I wasn’t as bad as I could have been, but the point is this: sometimes you can’t avoid having to eat foods that are not 100% compliant with your eating plan. Sometimes,  you just have to eat what is put in front of you. If at all possible, you can minimize the impact by either eating less of it or selecting parts of the meal that are compliant or close to being compliant, but all of these can be done on the sly and without calling attention to your dietary needs.

At one point, the prospective client asked why I didn’t order the lunch plate which included rice, egg roll, soup, and the main course to which I replied that I only wanted the main course. That satisfied his curiosity without going into why I’m eating what I eat. I have found that most people really don’t care about my dietary needs or don’t want to hear about my weight loss, etc. It’s easier to just say,  “I prefer this over that.”

It’s easy to be scared of social situations at which food is the center of attention, but by sticking to some simple answers, navigating these events can be far less stressful than we build them up to be with the bonus of not destroying your progress or your willpower to stick with it.

Do you want it bad enough?

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Even if you don’t know how Dave Grohl is, he’s absolutely right about this. Set your mind to it and focus and you will accomplish anything you want. It’s that way about eating right and losing weight, too.

When I set out to get healthy just over six months ago, I never dreamed that I would actually be where I am today. I hoped, and I had the right mindset, but still, it seemed out of my grasp. Why did I think that way? Because I’ve tried in the past and failed every time. I did make an effort to avoid sodas, and that was helping me with about a 2 lb per month weight loss, but at that rate, I’d be 90 before I got to my target weight, so I had to do something more drastic. Enter Whole30 and Paleo. They changed my life.

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The overall weight loss is since 2013 when my wife and I got the scale, and this is the app that works with the scale. Since September 1, I’ve lost 83 lbs. Since my heaviest, I’ve lost 106 lbs.

What is different between all the times I’ve tried to lose weight in the past and this time? If I had to pick the top factor, it would be that I get to eat foods that are delicious, that fill me up, and that I enjoy. It also helps that the food I eat now make me feel healthier, more energetic, and are actually improving my health.

In the past, I’ve been on diet after diet that was restrictive in one way or another. Almost without exception, the diets were forcing me to eat foods that were just not that delicious. On top of that, they contained a lot of carbs and were missing the mark in terms of hitting the root of the issue of my weight gain: sugars. Since I’ve cut out sugars, I’ve changed my mental attitude, lost the cravings, and I’m able to go from meal to meal without starving or needing a snack.

I know people who think that Paleo cuts out a food group, and they feel that it is unhealthy. Well, carbs are not a food group. I guess if there are two food “groups” that we avoid, they are legumes and grains, but otherwise, I can (and do) eat fruits, meats, and vegetables.

Paleo is popular right now, but it’s no fad. It’s not a diet to make you lose weight that you can then get off of. It’s a lifestyle that is easy to adapt to once you learn some basics and accept the fact that you have to work a little harder to eat healthy. Like Dave said, if you’re driven and focused, you can do pretty much anything you want to do. Do you want to be healthy? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to feel more energetic? Then do it. Nobody can do it for you.

…and now back to losing weight


The cycle is holding: After losing two inches off my waist, I’ve now lost almost three pounds this week in the past two days. I’m now down to 209.9, and that makes it an official 80 lbs lost since September 1. Overall, since I was my heaviest, that’s 102 lbs lost. I can’t believe how far I’ve come, and how little I have left to go. However, I know the hardest part is the last part.

The initial phase of my weight loss was hard only because I had to re-train my brain to get off sugar and I had to learn to listen to my stomach and eat only when I was really hungry. I had to learn to ignore cravings before they went away completely.

The intermediate phase of my weight loss was relatively easy in comparison, and I think of the three phases, will be remembered as the easiest. No cravings, delicious foods, and steady and effortless weight loss (Effortless in the sense that I didn’t have to do any exercise; just use discipline and motivation to not do anything stupid food-wise). All I had to do was eat my regular-person portions and I would lose weight and size. Then came the last third.

I have now entered into the final phase of my weight loss: the last 1/3 of the weight I need to lose. I’ve lost 80 and have 35 more to go to reach my second goal (my first was to lose 50 lbs by Christmas, which I did!) which is to be 175 lbs by my birthday. I have three months to go, and I don’t know that I’ll make it, so I’ve decided that I’m okay with not getting to 175 by my birthday as long as I do it this summer. I will, however, still be trying to get there by my birthday; it just means I have to actually put some elbow grease into it.

First, I’ve started by trying to get 5,000 steps in a day. I know that’s half of what most people do and what the government recommends, but my knees are bad, and for now, as a (still) heavy guy, I need to not overdo it. Second, I’ve added bike riding into my schedule a few times a week. I’d like to get it up to three to four times a week, but I’m not there yet. Third, I try to run a little bit with the dog when we go to pick up the mail in the evenings. It’s amazing what that little bit of getting my heart rate up has done for my stamina, walking up stairs, etc.

When I looked at the scale and then in the mirror, I was happy. I’m looking like I did when I was 30 (except I have a beard, now). My waist size is almost back to what it was when I left the Marines; 34 (I’m currently at 36). When I get to my final goal of 165, I should be back into 32’s which is what I was for the vast majority of my young adult life.

I’m very fortunate that my wife is in this with me. There’s no way I would be as successful at this if she weren’t there to cheer me when I’m down or push me when I need it. Her love of cooking and finding new and delicious foods for us to eat that are healthy for us is a definite help as well. She’s a hawk at finding sugar in foods, and without her on this journey with me, I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I was today.

You should check out her blog if you haven’t done so already. It’s full of great info, thoughts, and recipes for foods that can help you get back to being healthy!

Still at 212 but losing size

It’s been an annoying few weeks sitting at the same weight, but I’ve lost two inches off my waist and size large shirts are feeling looser now. Not quite enough size lost for me to be in mediums yet, but larges look good now.

So, from 38 to a comfortable 36 in the waist. That’s no small feat. I haven’t been in a 36 in a very long time. Once I get to 34, I’ll be back in the same pants size I was when I got out of the Marines. Admittedly, I was on the large size of what was allowed when I got out of the Corps, but at least I’ll be back in the same size clothing as I was in back in 1997. That’s exciting!

I am continuing to try to get some exercise in every day. The past few days were through walking and doing work around the house, or bumming around with Sherry. Before that, it was raining here so I didn’t get a chance to do any walking or bike riding.

So… I’m still seeing progress, although it’s not on the scale. I expect that to happen soon, though. After losing a big bunch of “size” is when I typically start seeing weight loss on the scales again.

Perseverance is the key, here. Sticking with the plan and not even thinking about eating or drinking anything bad is what’s getting me through. Oddly enough, I seem to get a little depressed when I’m not seeing progress on the scale, but getting into the smaller pants comfortably was quite a morale boost.

Busy weekend

As Sherry posted on her awesome blog, this weekend was quite busy for us. Friday night, we went out to a Hungarian Happy Hour here in Houston where I got to hear and speak my first language with some new acquaintances. It was nice. Afterward, we went to Corner Table to eat some amazing Paleo food. Saturday saw me doing some chores outdoors while Sunday was visiting with friends. On both days, I ate what is what I would call our new normal, and felt great. On the negative side, I didn’t lose any weight, but I did lose another inch from my waist and I could tell my arms got a little smaller yet again.

I didn’t get to ride my bike since last week due to a very busy schedule, but I plan on getting back on the bike tomorrow morning if the weather is willing. We are supposed to be getting some very bad storms here tomorrow through Friday, so I might be stuck with indoor exercise. I don’t know what that will entail just yet, but I’m looking at basic exercises (push ups, sit-ups, etc).

Keep up the good work out there! I know it’s tough in the beginning, but you can do this.

Some more questions and answers

I received this message on Facebook from a friend that contained a lot of great questions.  I was going to answer him in Messenger, but I felt that these questions were really good, and that perhaps it might be a good idea to post them on the blog as well.

(1) how soon did you notice weight loss?

Well, I noticed in the first month that I lost about 15 lbs, but I didn’t really feel like I lost weight until I hit 30 lbs gone. Even then, I was still a big guy. I think when I hit 70 lbs gone, that’s when I looked in the mirror and actually saw a different face than what I was used to. It felt like an overnight change (after five months!).

(2) I’ve seen/heard of people that lose a lot have baggy/excess skin. Has this happened to you (or were you not heavy enough to have this problem)?

I was heavy enough, and I am experiencing some of this, but it’s not as bad as some people I’ve seen. I have a bit of a roll under where my stomach was, but I’m using St. Ives Collagen and Elastin cream and it seems to be helping the skin to shrink as I lose weight.

(3) Suppose you go and donate blood and need to load up on juice/cookies after. What then? Those items sound like a no-no.

That’s correct; no-go for me. In that case, I would prepare a water bottle and perhaps some “Fasirozot,” or Hungarian meat balls to take with me. I could also take a few cooked pieces of bacon in a bag. Fruit isn’t bad, but I try to avoid sugar as much as possible, even in fruit.

(4) Since you are looking for a “real job”, what would you do if part of the job interview process included having lunch somewhere. Would you be “trapped”?.

Fortunately, eating Paleo leaves me with plenty of options almost regardless of where I wat. For the main course, I can have steak, pork, chicken, brisket, ribs, fish, shrimp, chicken wings, etc. For sides, I can have butternut squash, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, sweet potato, spinach, salad, etc. Most restaurants have some sort of basic meat dish (mostly steaks) with some grilled vegetables (mostly zucchini, onions, and red/green peppers). I always skip appetizers and desserts.

(5) While briefly looking at Whole30, it said no processed meats. But then on an “acceptable” food list it showed ‘deli meats’. So, is it okay or not okay? I’m confused!

I can see how this would be confusing. The main thing is to look for deli meats that have no added sugar. It’s surprising how many deli meats will have added sugar of some sort.

I think my biggest hang-up about weight loss (and perhaps other challenges in my life) is the fact that I expect too much too soon. I think part of the problem is also that most stories are success stories w/o hearing a lot about the struggle and so when I struggle I feel like “why can others do this and not me? what’s wrong with me”?

I am, like most people, like you in that we want to see results quickly. For me, I began seeing weight loss on the scale within a day or two of starting my Whole30. Now, Whole30 daily weigh-ins on a Whole30 is technically against the rules, but I weighed myself daily, so I was able to keep a good log. It helped keep me going since I started seeing results so quickly. With that said, you’re right; there is a lot written about how easy something was or how great the results are, but not so much about the struggles. My wife has been doing a great job of writing about that aspect of it on her blog, and I recommend you take a look at it. As for me, I posted a while back about some of the emotions I’ve felt throughout this journey of mine, and not all of it is rose colored.

February was the hardest for me in terms of losing weight. I’ve been averaging almost 12 lbs lost a month until February where that number dropped to 7 lbs. For three weeks, my weight was hovering at 217 lbs, and it was aggravating. Psychologically, it was hard doing everything right and not seeing results. Of course, I did lose about an inch off my waist in that time, and the lack of weight loss is what eventually pushed me into riding my bike to help me kick-start my metabolism. It worked; I’m back to losing weight almost daily again and my 30 day average is up to almost 9 lbs.

Thanks for the questions.

Current weight status: 212.5 lbs
Total lost since September 1: 77.4 lbs
Total lost since August 2013: 96.1 lbs
BMI: 33.3% (Starting BMI: 45.4%)
BF: 26.4% (Starting BF 47.4%)