I don’t hate my former self

2014vs2016edgefaceMy son gets sad when he sees me talking about my former self as, “Fat.” He says that he never saw me that way, and that he always just saw his dad. I appreciate that, and my son has a huge heart. However, when I see old pictures of myself when I was fat, I get sad.

I didn’t see myself as fat when I was at my largest. I knew I was overweight, but I would take photos of myself and look at them and think, “See? That’s not so bad!” Looking at them now, I’m horrified. I was huge and unhealthy. I’m lucky I escaped my largest phase without any serious health issues. What scares me the most, however, is how easy it was for me to see myself as normal when I was anything but.

It’s easy for us to make peace with our overweight selves. It’s easy for us to say, “People need to accept me for who I am regardless of my weight” and that’s all well and good. I don’t think we should shame anyone for being overweight. That’s not right. Placing judgment or shame on anyone for their health, weight, or any other reason is wrong. But gently trying to advise people to get healthy is a tricky and delicate subject. Especially to those who don’t see the need.

I am sad when I see people posting on Facebook about how people “Just need to accept me for who I am.” They are right, but I wonder: do they think they are healthy at their heavy weight? The myth of the healthy fat person has been debunked. There is no such thing as a fit fat person. Yes, I’ve seen the videos of the overweight people doing yoga, running, etc. The fact of the matter is that they are not yet healthy, but they are on their way. Our bodies are not meant to operate for long with excess fat.

I eat right now. My body has found its natural equilibrium in regards to calories in/calories out. That’s why I run now: I want to spend more calories to push that equilibrium point down further to a lighter end weight for myself. I didn’t have to do crazy amounts of exercise (or any at all for the first 100 lbs!). I just had to eat right.

Does that make me hate my former self? Not at all. It makes me sad for my former self. Sad that I thought I was okay. Sad that I didn’t take my health seriously. Sad that I sat on a couch or in a chair for so many years and didn’t have the energy to be the person I wished I could have been for my kids and my wife. I did the best I could with what I had, but I could have been better.

You can do better. You have all the discipline inside you that I have. It’s in you. You just have to listen to yourself. Trust in yourself. Don’t give in to temptation. You know that voice that says, “Oh wow, I really shouldn’t eat that…” THAT’S your DISCIPLINE talking to you. Let its voice be heard. Let that voice grow into a roar. You can do it!

Halloween (Mostly) Paleo Party

Our annual Halloween party was this past weekend. Here is how we prepared the food.

Our Daily Bacon

As I’ve mentioned before, E.J. and I do a lot of entertaining.  We have 3 major parties every year (New Years, Summer Birthdays, and Halloween) and many minor ones scattered in between (St. Patrick’s Day, July 4, Memorial Day, etc.) and then there are the big family holidays like Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.  All in all, we do a lot of big meals and big party spreads on a fairly regular basis, which is particularly challenging when it comes to a major shift in your diet like our transition to Paleo.

More and more of our close friends have made the transition, or are at least trying to eat more like E.J. and I do, so that takes the pressure off a bit, but in the end the goal is to make a tasty spread without a ton of leftovers we can’t eat.

Here is what the menu looked like for the Halloween…

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So many changes in my life: who am I?

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Me after a run with my amazing Phaiser Bluetooth headphones. Seriously great.

This is something I never thought I’d be doing: browsing Amazon and Woot! for running gear. Fortunately, I have shorts I like, and enough shirts to last me for a week. I have a belt that holds my iPhone when I run, and a really amazing Phaiser Bluetooth wireless headset that has been all kinds of amazing. The Brooks running shoes feel like they weigh nothing at all and fit perfect (thanks to Fleet Feet). Next up: some running pants. It’s getting cooler out, and anything under 50 degrees is downright cold to me. I want something covering my legs when I run in weather that cool.

I haven’t shopped for exercise equipment or PT gear in a very long time. With the exception of the kettle bells Sherry and I bought a few months back, Academy was a place I went to for ammunition, not exercise clothing. Now, when I go there, I find myself looking at shirts, shorts, sock, shoes, etc. It’s not that I need anything, but I want to have ideas and numbers in my head for when I do.

There are many indicators to myself of how much life has changed. I have so much more energy in the mornings partly due to the better sleep I get now. My appetite has normalized to allow me to eat three times a day without snacking. Better yet, I don’t have snack cravings, and foods don’t tempt me anymore! I feel normal in my clothing: nothing binds, feels weird, or falls off me due to having an odd body shape (when my stomach was huge, it was always a battle to keep pants up even with a belt; I refused to wear suspenders). I can run up a flight or two of stairs without getting winded and I find myself not getting colds or feeling run-down anymore.

I realized this morning that I have a life I always wished I could have: A beautiful wife, great kids, a beautiful home, amazing and loving friends, a good job, a nice car, and a dog who drives me nuts sometimes but ultimately is a sweet and loyal buddy. I have no needs, only wants. It’s a good place to be. I want to enjoy this as long as I can. If eating right and exercising helps me do that, then I’ll gladly do it. It’s no imposition.

A final thought. There are many who have fought harder battles and who are unable to exercise like I can today due to physical limitations thrust upon them. I run for myself, but this morning, I decided to also run for them. I actually thought of all the veterans that can’t be out on a morning run like I was today. I picked up my pace to honor them. I plan on picking a week in the upcoming weeks where I’ll run 25 miles over the course of 7 days. It’s not much, but it’s more than I’ve run in a week since being on active duty in the Marines. It’ll be tough for me as a new runner, but I’m up for the challenge.

Progress Update

It’s been almost 14 months since my wife and I did our first Whole30 and then went Paleo. In that time, I’ve lost a total of 112.1 lbs with a grand total of 130.7 lbs. My body fat went from over 50% to around 15%, and my BMI went from 47 to 27.9. My resting heart rate went from 72 to 52.

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I am now able to run 4+ miles daily, and I can pass an Army physical fitness test (PFT) which is important for me as I’m in the process of entering the National Guard. As a former Marine, running always played a large role in my life, and it’s nice to have it be a part of it again. It’s also helping to keep me strong and fit.

In terms of clothing sizes, I went from wearing trousers with a 48″ waist to wearing 32″. Shirts have gone from XXXL (that’s a 3XL!) to M. Shoes even went from 9’s to 8’s.

I made the vast majority of my progress through diet alone. I ate meat, vegetables, and some fruit. I didn’t allow myself to eat fast food or anything with added sugar. I only started running six weeks ago, but my body was ready for it, and I’ve been making great progress. My pace is up, distances greater, and I feel great while running. I actually look forward to the runs now; something I’ve never been able to do.

I feel like a new person. I never knew I could feel so vital, so young again. I can’t imagine ever going back to how I used to feel: slow, sluggish, and old. I put on a happy face, but inside, I was always sad about my weight and health. My outlook now is greatly improved, and I feel able to do so much more, so much more easily.

As of this morning, I weigh 177.7 lbs. That’s just 2.7 lbs from my penultimate goal, and 12.7 lbs from my final goal. It’s taking longer to reach this goal than I thought, but I’m okay with it. I wear smaller clothes that I can actually buy off the rack, and I feel great. All of this would not have been possible without my amazing wife Sherry at my side and helping me at every step of the way.

What Motivates You?

We all have our own reasons for wanting to lose weight, get fit, or just eat healthy. That reason is what determines how far you will go to accomplish your goals, or how hard you will work to reach those goals. For me, it was about a few things.

Health

My health was deteriorating. It wasn’t bad yet, but the signs were all there, and they were clear: if I kept up being heavy and eating anything and everything, it would all catch up with me and make my life miserable and short. I didn’t want that. If there was anything I could do to stop it, I would do it.

Mobility

I wasn’t able to do the things I used to enjoy doing: biking, walking, hiking, or exploring in new places. I like having adventures with my wife, and a big part of that is walking, hiking, or being able to meet weight requirements for things like hang gliding, zip lining, etc.

Military

Not many people are aware of this because I haven’t posted much about it, but I’m currently in the process of re-entering the military. As a former Marine with 11 years of active duty service, I will be returning to the military; this time, into the National Guard. Yes, they still take crusty ol’ warriors like me as long as I can complete 20 years of service prior to my 60th birthday (which I will be able to do). My goal is to make the other soldiers wonder why they are having a hard time keeping up with such an old man!

Wife and Children

I love my wife, and I love my kids. I want to be with them as long as I can. I hope to meet my future grandchildren some day (not yet, though!). I want to be able to annoy and molest my wife for a long time and to spoil my grandchildren and send them home with loud and messy toys. None of this looked like a possibility just a year ago.

Those four things mean more to me than the short-term gratification of eating a pizza, some spaghetti, or drinking a rum and Coke. Those other things are delicious, but nothing is as delicious to me as knowing that my health is no longer being negatively impacted by the food I eat. I’m also getting a  lot more exercise now, which is helping me with my general health and fitness.

Find your motivators and cling to them. Use them to your advantage. When you are presented with tempting food or in a situation where you feel weak, think of your motivators. If they are as important to you as you think they are, they will make it easier for you to say no to the temptation or to make the right decisions when eating. They may even get you up off the couch and onto the sidewalk.

Take your time

file_000-22All of us who reach the point where we want to make a change in our lives to get healthy and/or fit want those changes to happen immediately. I know; I wanted this to happen, too. However, it’s neither realistic nor safe to do it too quickly.

When Sherry and I started our first Whole30, we decided that we weren’t after huge or incredible rates of weight loss. We wanted slow and steady. We wanted to be safe, and we wanted our weight loss to be sustainable long-term. We also wanted to avoid some of the side effects and risks people face when losing weight too quickly. It turned out to be the right decision, because neither Sherry nor I suffered from any of the ill effects some people suffer when losing weight too fast.

Ironically, there were people who admonished me about losing weight too quickly. They saw me losing weight on Facebook or here on the blog, and they didn’t realize how long ago I started the process. To them, it looked like I had lost weight overnight. I can confirm that my weight loss was definitely not overnight.

I lost 20 lbs in the first month, but I was nearly 300 lbs. Losing that 20 lbs was not noticeable to anyone; not even to me! I had lost 50 lbs before anyone noticed, and 80 lbs before I could really tell. At 100 lbs lost, I felt like I looked really different, and now at 110 lbs lost, I’m a different person. However, I didn’t get here overnight. I didn’t even get here over the period of a few months; it took over a year.

We don’t always see the progress we make. It’s hard when you see yourself day after day in the mirror. Those changes become invisible to you. That’s why status photos are so important. I took them every few weeks, and only then was I really able to tell how much I had lost.

My fitness has been taking the same route. I started running over five weeks ago, and I’m just now starting to get to a point where running is effortless. On my run this morning, I ran the entire three miles without pain, and without feeling like I was exerting a whole lot of energy. I wasn’t taking it easy; I had set a pretty good pace for myself (a record pace for the first half mile, even!) yet my body was rewarding me with all the work I’d put in over the past five weeks by making this run easy.

It didn’t happen overnight either. It took weeks of running slowly, of building up the distance and the pace to get to where I am today. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, and that’s what I will work on over the coming weeks and months, but I am very happy to be where I am today. I’m a runner, I’m no longer overweight, and my health is good (just had a physical last week!).

Take your time. You’ll get there. Concentrate on being good and eating the right foods now and taking exercise when you feel that you can do so without hurting yourself. Even then, take it slow. You’re not in a race. The good changes will happen, and the results you’re after will come. It just takes patience, discipline, and determination.

Easy-mode Paleo Prep Day

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Smoked pulled pork; one of our favorite easy-mode prep foods.

Every now and then, our schedule becomes hectic, and taking an entire Sunday to prep meals for the week becomes a luxury we cannot afford. On these days, we opt for what we have come to call our “Easy-mode Paleo Prep Days.” This allows us to still get our meal prep done but in the most effort-free way possible.

Our Easy-mode Paleo Prep Day consists of the following:

Smoker

This is a fire and forget method of cooking. We take either brisket, ribs, chicken, fish, or pork shoulder and add a rub (typically salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders) and use pecan wood and leave in the smoker for the appropriate amount of time at the appropriate temperature. This is very easy to do, and there is a lot of leeway in the times, so if you’re going to be out of the house for a long time, you can opt for a slow-smoke for very delicious food. (Some Paleo guides, websites, and adherents don’t think smoking is Paleo due to the carcinogens in smoke. My wife and I have weighed the risk and we accept smoking into our diet)

Slow Cooker

Another great all-day no-touch cooking method, prepare a soup, stew, or chili and let it cook all day. When you get back home, you’ll find your food ready to be put into containers for the week (and sneak some for dinner, too!).

Instant Pot

This one is very useful if done first. While cooking in the Instant Pot, you can prep the meat to be smoked and the slow cooker. Then, before you wrap up in the kitchen, you can package whatever was in the Instant Pot. Then, you can use the Instant Pot as a slow cooker and put something else in it to cook all day. Double duty!

Using easy-mode doesn’t eliminate the time to prep food for the week; it only reduces it greatly. I would say that a couple of hours at most in the morning would be necessary and then an hour in the evening to package everything up. Teaming up and having someone cut up ingredients while the other puts everything together decreases prep time considerably as well.