Celebrating Obesity

I am not about body shaming, fat shaming, or making anyone feel any less special because of their weight or how they look. That's just plain stupid, and anything done to make anyone feel less than awesome is not something I want to do. However, saying that obesity is not a problem, or celebrating obesity as normal is not something I see as healthy for our society and its people.

I understand models being plus sized. So many people in the US are plus-sized, that to market effectively to them, plus-sized models need to display plus-sized clothing and wares. I think that since so many people in the US are obese, products and goods marketed to this often ignored and overlooked segment of our population should be represented accordingly. That doesn't mean I condone obesity.

To the contrary, I have declared all-out war on obesity. I am doing everything I can to educate, inform, and help people who are obese and no longer want to be that way. I write these blog posts daily in an effort to put information out there on my diet, motivation, and to let people gain a glimpse into what it took for me to lose 150 lbs and to go from being obese to being thin and fit.

Celebrating obesity is something I believe is far more harmful than beneficial. Like I said when I started this article: fat shaming is bad. But celebrating obesity as something that's normal and to be accepted is another thing entirely. Obesity is not a natural state for humans to be in, and obesity is responsible for an increase of 40% to 80% in risk of dying from cancer among both men and women. If we normalize obesity, it will cause more people to believe that it's okay to not concern themselves with living a healthier lifestyle and losing the weight which will lead to an earlier death.

I've mentioned in an earlier blog post about how our own government is behind the times and still recommending a low-fat diet and espousing the fallacy of whole wheat grains being heart healthy. The media doesn't do people any favors when they create click-bait headlines like "Coconut Oil Is Unhealthy According To The American Heart Association." The fact that most nutritionists consider coconut oil unhealthy as compared to the average American speaks more to the fact that the diet and nutrition industry in the US is still very far behind the times in regards to the latest research in nutrition science than to any alleged ignorance on the part of average Americans. While average Americans may be mislead and misinformed on the harmful effects of low-fat diets, grains, and sugar, at least they understand that coconut oil is healthier than vegetable oil.

Obesity isn't something to be ashamed of. I was obese, and I felt embarrassed and ashamed, and I felt that way because of the glares I would receive when out in public. I felt ashamed of what I had allowed myself to become, and that led to me even more harmful habits like not going outdoors as much, and not wanting to get exercise by walking. Instead, we need to help obese people by treating them as people with a health problem that can be tackled through diet. I know there is a small segment of the population that has issues that make them obese, but that number is very, very small. The rest of the obese people earned their obesity honestly: through a carb/sugar rich diet. Through some good information, guidance, and support, we can help obese people get healthy again, lose weight, and to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Paleo Treats for a Sunday Evening

My wife, the amazing cook that she is, made some treats for us to eat while watching a season premiere recently, and it caused me to eat A LOT more than normal. Even though it was all Paleo, I ate a ton. I ate so much, my stomach hurt. That led to some emotional distress that faded the next day.

What kinds of yummies did she make for us? She made a Paleo brownie with blueberries in it and they turned out to be delicious, moist, and so good that I had to have seconds. I also had some Paleo chocolate ice cream with it topped with blueberries, strawberries, coconut, and some Paleo chocolate sauce.

She also made some lactose-free cream cheese and jalapeno stuffed shrimp wrapped in sugar-free bacon. I ate a bunch of these as well. I can't say enough good things about these little shrimps.

Coupled with the Hungarian Potato Soup I made (with potatoes which are not really Paleo, but with galuska/nokedli aka noodles that were) that I also had two servings of, my stomach was very sore afterward. Heck, the next morning, I still felt full, and only ate breakfast because I need the energy.

Now that my weight has stabilized and I run regularly, I'm able to eat a little more or a little off-Paleo every now and then when a special occasion hits. This summer, it feels like those occasions have been spaced closely together, but fortunately, the next few months seem like they should be relatively special event-free.

Annual Training in the National Guard

Starting today, I will be attending my first Annual Training as a National Guard soldier. I am a little nervous but also excited. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been in the field with the military, and there’s a certain rustic element to it that I enjoy. I don’t know if it’s the hardship or the environment (likely both), but there’s something about it that I am drawn to. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be serving at my age, and I work hard to earn that opportunity and to bring value to the unit, the state, and the Army.

The one area I am concerned about is nutrition. Military food tends to be very calorie and carb rich, and for good reason: most field work is very physically demanding, and sometimes meals only happen once a day. That means those meals need to be able to sustain soldiers for an entire day’s worth of calories. I will be working had to ensure I don’t eat too many carbs, but I don’t know how successful I will be able to be. I am taking RX Bars, some Epic bars, and other Paleo-friendly treats with me to help me on those days when the meals are unacceptably carb-rich.

I won’t be able to run every other day, either. Well, to be more clear, I won’t be able to run at all. We are not going to the field to perform unit PT; we are going there to practice our jobs. I was hoping to be able to run a little each day, but I was told that we will not have access to daily showers.

I don’t know if I will have Internet access. I’ve been told that we will have cellular service, so it’s a possibility, but it’s also spotty. Therefore, all my posts for the next two weeks are pre-written and will not be reflecting my experiences on Annual Training. I will try to write while I’m out there, but they will be saved to a laptop I will have with me and the articles will all be uploaded once I get back. They will then be released on the same schedule my current articles are posted: one daily at 8 am.

I will miss my wife, my warm bed, and ready access to showers. I will miss AC, home-cooked food, and the Internet. But I will be gaining experience in the event I ever have to deploy, and that is very important to me and my job in the National Guard. I’ll be okay, and I look forward to writing my articles back at home in the AC on my iPad.

Daily Motivation

I’ve lost 150 lbs. When I weighed in at 161.8 lbs, that officially put me at having lost 150+ lbs. Now, my actual weight is fluctuating between 163 lbs and 167 lbs depending on what I eat, bowel movements, and water retention, and sometimes after a run I can weigh as much as -5 lbs from what I weighed in the morning. I set a final goal for me to weigh 165 lbs, and I hit it (and then some). Staying in the vicinity of 165 lbs makes me feel good, and every now and then when my weight dips below it, I smile a little bigger.

What motivates me each and every day is getting out of bed without struggle. I can pull my body up, rotate on my butt, and firmly plant my feet on the ground. I catch a glimpse of my leg muscles: they look amazing. I can’t believe these are my legs.

Stepping into the bathroom, I catch another glimpse of myself in the mirror and see my torso. It’s trim. I can see my oblique muscles, and my abs are trying to poke out from behind the extra skin I’m still dealing with. My legs are muscular and amazing. 

Then, I step on the scale, and while sometimes the numbers get bigger, sometimes they also get smaller. As long as the gain isn’t too big, I know what the reasons are for the weight the scale is showing me, and if it makes sense, I don’t get upset. It’s just verification of certain facts I’m already aware of. 

Then there is how my clothing fits me. When I pick it up off the hanger, it looks small to me. Impossibly small, even. I think to myself, “This must be a mistake. This shirt is too small to fit on me.” Then I put it on, and it fits perfectly with even some room to spare.

I walk over to the kitchen where Sherry has typically put out breakfast for me. It’s a serving of either two eggs sunny-side up with three slices of bacon or a slice of egg casserole. Again, I see this and think to myself, “That’s not enough food,” yet when I finish it, I am full. Comfortably and pleasantly full.

Sitting in my car, being able to look down and not see my stomach, having room between me and the steering wheel, and being able to get in and out of the car without struggling.

All of these things motivate me before I even get to 8 am. I can’t say I’m tempted or challenged anymore on a daily basis, but for those rare moments when someone offers something I would otherwise enjoy eating, it’s a nice reservoir of motivation to pull from when I decline and say, “No, thanks.”

Perseverance on Paleo

Fortunately, it hasn’t been difficult for me to maintain this Paleo Diet. To the contrary, it’s been actually very easy and comforting. It’s good to know that the food I eat is good for me, and when I make decisions based on my health, it reminds me to put myself first when it comes to what I want to eat. Far too often, there are temptations and options that are likely very tasty, but are very bad for my body. Would I love to eat a Napoleon or a cream puff? Sure! But they are not good for me, and the after effects are just not worth the short-term gratification.

I keep a focus on my health at all times. I don’t drink anything with artificial or added sweeteners. Ever. I don’t eat snacks or foods outside of my regular meal times. Ever. I don’t eat foods that are not Paleo unless there is literally no other choice in a situation I cannot escape, and even then, I make the best effort I can to stay Paleo. Case in point: holiday dinner with co-workers. If I can’t have a Paleo meal, I will choose something that has the least amount of harmful impact on my diet and health.

Living Paleo means putting myself first and temptations last. I’ve learned that walking past an ice cream or candy shop is really easy if you make those places and what are sold in them off-limits always. Even on my birthday weekend, when visiting Galveston Island with my cousin and my wife, we walked right past ice cream and candy stores, and not once was I tempted. I will admit to having bread pudding as a dessert on my birthday, but it was my birthday, and dang it, I was going to have my bread pudding and eat it, too! They even put a candle in it for me!

I’ve said before that I don’t dislike sweets and carb-rich food. The problem is exactly the opposite; like anyone else, I love that stuff. Therein lies the problem; it is difficult to let go of or avoid things you enjoy. When that thing you enjoy is killing you, however, you really need to evaluate your priorities and decide which is more important: short-term gratification, or a long view on life filled with good health and longevity. I chose good health and longevity.

Low-Fat Lies (and how they keep messing people up)

I can’t count how many times people have come up to me and told me a variation of the following: “I took your advice and I’m eating better! I had oatmeal for breakfast, a turkey bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on whole wheat, and I’m having skinless chicken breast with quinoa for dinner!” Oh… so much wrong here.

First of all, grains are not good for us. They are dense sources anti-nutrients. What is an anti-nutrient, you may be asking? Antinutrients are natural or synthetic compounds found in a variety of foods — especially grains, beans, legumes and nuts — that interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They can even get in the way of the digestive enzymes, which are key for proper absorption.

Second, grains are full of carbs. Carbs is short for carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. What makes vegetables and fruits better than grains when they both have carbs? Well, it comes down to a few factors. Grains are dense in carbs, and are easily digested. This means that as you are digesting the grains, large amounts of carbs are dumped into the bloodstream that need to be converted to energy. If the amount of energy being converted by the liver and pancreas to be used used by the body exceeds the amount of energy being used, the rest is stored. This is where fat comes from (NOT from eating fat). Coupled with the anti-nutrients, this makes grains especially bad. Fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, are typically high in fiber and forces the body to use more energy to break it down which results in fewer net calories and the lack of anti-nutrients means that everything you’re getting from fruit and vegetables is good for your body.

Third, our bodies do not get fat in the bloodstream from eating fat. What happens if you eat too much fat? You poop a lot. That’s because it goes right through you. Sure, some of it will get digested, but it doesn’t go from your intestines into your bloodstream and then straight to your waist. The process of digestion and metabolizing food is far more complex and to think that eating fat makes your blood cholesterol go up is laughably ignorant of biological processes.

Sadly, there are many in the health industry that includes doctors, nurses, and nutritionists who still aren’t up-to-date on the latest in nutritional science. Another problem is that accepting the fallacy of the low-fat/high-grain diet as a failure has been troublesome for many who have not known any other advice for diets. The American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and many others have been espousing the low-fat diet for years. It has only been in recent years that the World Health Organization has recognized the true culprit in the obesity epidemic (surprise; it’s sugar!) all while still recommending low-fat.

There are studies that suggest that high cholesterol markers in blood tests may be indicative of damaged vascular systems which means that the high cholesterol is there because the body is trying to repair vascular damage versus the high cholesterol causing vascular damage. A low-fat diet would firstly be of little impact on cutting cholesterol, and second, even if a high-fat diet meant more cholesterol in the blood, then it would actually be preferable to give the body more cholesterol to fix the vascular damage. What are our arteries and veins made of? Collagen, muscle, and other material that receive nutrients from the blood which includes cholesterol.

Why do people persist with the low-fat diet? Mostly, because they don’t know any better. Our media has done us no favors when they post things like, “Bacon is bad for you,” and “The dangerous new Paleo Diet…” Combined with the bad advice from the government and the aforementioned health associations as well as a lingering popular culture based around the diet industry and you get the environment we have today: full of lies, falsehoods, and a multi-billion dollar diet industry that doesn’t want to see their revenue sources dry up. It’s in their best interest to keep people trying to lose weight instead of actually losing weight.

I’ve lost 150 lbs and I’ve kept it off for nearly two years. I am a diet company’s worst nightmare: I lost all the weight by eating clean, whole, natural foods and without the aid or purchase of any diet pills, powders, patches, shakes, diet program memberships, or anything that would otherwise cause me to spend money. All I did was eat right and avoid sugar, beans, grains, and most dairy. It’s simple and effective which is why the diet industry doesn’t want anyone to know about it. But now you do. What will you do with this new-found knowledge?

I ate too much. Again.

This is an interesting look into what my mind does to me when I eat too much, and when reality hits the morning after.

Written at 10 pm: I hate when I do this. I ate too much today. I ate too much yesterday, too. It was all Paleo, but still; volume is volume. Oh, and it was full of sugar. Maybe natural/good sugars, but sugar nonetheless.

I told myself that it is what it is, and that I’ll live with it, but the guilt is killing me. I’m so afraid of what the scale is going to say in the morning. This morning, it was 167 lbs. I’m afraid tomorrow might be closer to 170 lbs. I’m going in the wrong direction. Starting tomorrow, I’m back on a mini-Whole30. I won’t go 30 days, but I’m eating Whole30-only foods starting tomorrow until I’m back down to 165 lbs.

Was the food good? Yes. It was absolutely amazing. But I hate the guilt that goes with it. I hate feeling bloated like I do. I hate how my stomach is wondering why it got stretched so much. I hate losing definition in my stomach due to the water being retained in my skin.

I just need to stop worrying about it, and get back to normal portions tomorrow, and the weight will come back off. I know it will. I just hate these temporary spikes. Ugh.

Written at 8:00 am the next morning: Well, the scale had me up less than a pound. I was expecting three. Turns out, I worry too much. Considering the amount of food I ate and the lack of a bowel movement, it makes sense. So, today I will continue to eat right (as I always do) and I will run tonight as I do on Mondays. Then, I will watch my weight go back down to its normal level.

I don’t know why I stress so much about my weight going up. I guess it’s a fear I have of returning to the unfit and unhealthy person I used to be. I am so deathly afraid of my health spiraling out of control that I feel the need to be in strict control of all of it. Then, when I do something that is out of the norm, I stress even more.

I know it’s not healthy to stress about eating a little more than normal. I know that my weight will not spiral out of control with one day of eating more Paleo food than normal. I will continue to work on the emotional aspect of this journey. I know how to lose the weight. I know how to get fit. I know how to stay healthy and fit now. I know how to keep the weight off. Now, I just need to learn how to keep my emotions in check in regards to my weight.