As if I needed any reminder that sugar is the enemy

Two days = three pounds dropped. I know that it’s all water weight, which means my body was puffy/holding onto water, but what is interesting to me is the reason for it: alcohol and sugar. Now, I didn’t have anything with added sugar in it, but I did have some foods that were much higher in carbs than I usually eat, and coupled with my increased alcohol intake over the later part of last week, my body was holding onto water. Now that I’m “Clean” off the sugars, my body is responding in kind: dropping/shedding that water weight.

Over the next few days and weeks, I expect that the rate of loss will flatten out A LOT, but I’m going to be doing everything I can to aid the process of losing weight.

First and foremost, I’ll be sticking to my Paleo diet. I lost 150 lbs through Whole30 and Paleo, and I know it works. I can eat well, never be hungry between meals, and everything is delicious.

Second, I’m going to stick to my exercise plan of running every other day. This is not to lose weight, but to make me feel better psychologically, and to help me get better sleep which DOES help a lot with weight loss.

Third, I will be avoiding anything with added sugar, grains, legumes, soy, and alcohol. It’ll be tough to avoid the alcohol sometimes in social situations, but for the next few months, at least, it’s exactly what I will do.

Sugar is the enemy. Sugar causes false appetite (known as cravings), weight gain through water retention and energy storage (and us humans store energy in the form of fat), and acts on the brain in the same way many dangerous drugs do in terms of addiction. Breaking free of the sugar dragon is tough, but if you are able to do it, you are rewarded with better health, more mental clarity, freedom from cravings, and an improved ability to taste natural sweetness in foods and drinks you never knew had natural sweetness to them. Strawberries taste AMAZING to me again (like they did in my childhood), and so many other foods are more flavorful now that I no longer eat sugar.

Getting Back to Whole30-ish Discipline

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The past three weeks were filled with long days and some not-so-long days where I was able to go out on liberty and have some non-Paleo food and drinks, and the result of all that eating was that I came home weighing the same as I did when I left: that is, a little over my max allowable weight (to be fair, I’m well below the body fat limit, but I like to remain below the max weight). So, with Sherry’s help, I will be eating very strict Paleo starting today. So strict, in fact, that it’s almost Whole30.

I am not starting a new Whole30, though, because I want to have a little bit of wiggle room with some SWYPO foods here and there like the occasional chocolate chip cookie that Sherry made this weekend. No, I won’t have them daily, but I will likely have one every now and then as a treat.

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I’m also resuming my running this morning. I had to take a week off from running due to the hectic schedule of the last week of school coupled with horrible weather in Pennsylvania as well as the two days it took me to get home from Pennsylvania due to a travel snag in Charlotte. I am actually looking forward to resuming my running; my legs actually feel achy when I don’t run. Weird, but true.

I have about 15 lbs to lose to get me back into my happy zone. 20 lbs would be even better, and it’s my long-term goal. So, here’s to me kicking off another strict period of my journey, and as always, I’ll be posting about it and how it goes.

Healthy living is something you have to live all the time. Even when I was eating off my normal plan, I was always mindful to mitigate the impact of my choices and tried to limit the off-plan eating to a single meal, or to a max of two meals per day followed by many days of eating well. This weekend was a bit of a “Off Plan” weekend due to attending a funeral of a fellow National Guard Soldier and a celebration in his honor later that night.

What a weekend

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My first full day back home was yesterday, and it started with attending the funeral of a fellow National Guard Soldier who passed away last week. He was, sadly, one of the 22 service members who die at their own hands each day in the United States. He was a great soldier, mentor, and leader, and his loss will be felt for a long time. For some, it will be a loss that will never be fully reconciled. As a result, after the service, many of us who knew him well got together and celebrated his life and memory the way we do in the military: loudly, and with copious amounts of alcohol.

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It was also my son’s birthday, so I made buffalo wings (Paleo compliant, too!), and after eating the wings, a group of Soldiers came over, and we indulged in drinking. A lot. The net result is that I had a lot of extra carbs in the form of alcohol, and I now have a little more to “Work off” in the coming weeks. I know that most of the extra weight I’m carrying right now is water weight and that it will go away rather easily this week, but the past three weeks also added some more permanent weight I will have to work off. I will start on that tomorrow (and tomorrow’s post will detail the plan I have to get back to my target weight).

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For now, I will continue to enjoy the fleeting moments of this weekend off, and I look forward to getting back to brass tacks tomorrow morning.

51 Year-old Soldier

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How many soldiers do you know who are 51 years old with 12 years of service? Not many, I’m sure. Most people my age who are in the military are either very close to retiring, or are very senior. I am neither.

I got out of the Marine Corps when I was 31 years old. I left for many reasons; first and foremost because I wanted my kids to be home and close to their grandparents. After I was discharged from the Marines, I worked an office job and I gained a lot of weight. I literally doubled my weight within 10 years. At age 48, I decided that I had to change something drastically or I would not live very much longer. A year after that, I had a crazy idea: maybe they’d let me rejoin the military to complete my 20 years of service. Fast forward two years, and here I am, a Staff Sergeant in the National Guard Field Artillery.

I have to say, I love it. It’s really a lot of fun, very rewarding, and fulfilling in a way I didn’t appreciate when I was younger. What’s even better is I’m a living example of what discipline and perseverance can do for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are: if you set your mind to getting healthy and fit, you can do it. I had diabetes, nerve damage, circulation issues, and horrible dental health related to the diabetes, yet I reversed ALL of them (and I am no longer diabetic!) through diet. Notice I didn’t say diet and exercise because I did no exercise to lose the initial 130 lbs. I only started exercising once I decided to join the National Guard.

I enjoy being a motivator. I enjoy helping others achieve their dreams and goals. I take my role very seriously, and I realize that while it’s a role I bring on myself, it’s one that is very important. It motivates me, and it keeps me honest. When I screw up, I post it. When I don’t live up to my own standards or expectations, I beat myself up and write about it as a way of keeping myself accountable.

If you’re over 40 and you think that something is out of your grasp or impossible, think of the 51 year old Staff Sergeant and the journey he took to get to where he is today. If he can do it, you definitely can.

Redleg

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That’s what artillerymen are called. That’s what I am able to call myself now: Redleg. After three weeks of non-stop, seven days a week training, I’ve graduated from Field Artillery Fire Direction Control military occupational specialty training school (phew! That’s a mouthful!).

While I was at “The Gap,” as Fort Indiantown Gap is known by the soldiers who are stationed here or who visit here, I ate as well as I could, I ran every other day, and I did my very best to be mindful of my food, fitness, and overall health. I will find out Friday morning whether I gained any weight (or more likely, how much I gained) because the food at the DFAC (dining facility) was not quite as Paleo as I’d like, although I made the most mindful choices I could. The other issue is that I likely ate too much; the portion control was just not that good, and when it’s on my plate, I eat it.

I had a great time here, although at times it was very tiring or stressful (or both). The days were sometimes long, and sometimes filled with a lot of mind-numbing attention to detail, but in the end, I’m glad to be through it, and I look forward to applying my new knowledge and skills to my job in the National Guard.

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It was also a good experiment on how to deal with diet and fitness while on active duty in the military, as I was on active duty for the past three weeks. I now know what to expect when/if I have to deploy, and based on what my weight comes in at on Friday morning, I’ll know how to adjust next time.

Heat, hammering, and honing

Nothing is easy about making something valuable. Take a sword. To make one that is not only tough and durable, but also attractive takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of heat, hammering, and honing to get the steel to become a blade. The process is time consuming, difficult, and requires discipline to do correctly. The result, depending on the time spent and the effort taken, is a beautiful and useful tool.

Your body is the same. If you are overweight, out of shape, and you want to lose weight and get fit, you will have to go through a lot of work to get there. Like the sword, you will have to use discipline to eat right, and if you want to get fit, you will have to do a lot of physical work (which will make you sweat as you feel hot). It is a process that takes time; it cannot be done overnight. However, like anything valuable, the results are worth the time and effort.

Don’t look for the quick fix. There is no effortless way to get fit, and losing weight takes great discipline and perseverance. Anything worthwhile in life takes time to achieve, and good health and fitness, after years of not taking care of it properly, will take time. Be patient; it’s not a race.

Diet and fitness through adversity

Life is a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs. Recently, I suffered the loss of a fellow soldier that I worked closely with, and while I’m not done processing it all yet, I feel that I’ve gotten through at least the initial shock of receiving the news. I couldn’t keep from thinking about him even though I needed to concentrate on my school work and on my diet and exercise. I decided to make a few decisions about how I was going to handle my grief over this loss.

First, I was going to honor his memory by sticking to my fitness plan and running. Heck, while on my runs, as I thought of him, I ran harder and harder. He was very physically fit, and he and I had many discussions and conversations about fitness. He was always motivating and pushing me to do more, and I figured that’s what he’d want me to do if he were here with me.

Second, I was going to stick to my diet as closely as possible. The temptation for many dealing with grief is to turn to comfort foods, but for someone like me who is a recovering food addict who had a very bad relationship with food, eating a bunch of bad foods to comfort my grief would be the worst possible thing I could do. Emotionally, since I typically feel a lot of guilt over not eating right if I go off-plan, the possibility of bringing on depression is great. I decided it’s best to not even give myself the option of going off-plan. I didn’t give myself permission to eat anything.

It will take a long time to get over the loss, if there is such a thing as getting over the loss of a friend. While we weren’t very close, we were colleagues who were friendly to each other, and I enjoyed talking with him, working with him, and learning from him. He was very highly regarded among our soldiers, and this loss will hurt all of us for a long time to come. To give into the grief and to stop exercising and eating right would be contrary to some of the very things he was so strong in. To honor him, I will continue to be strong and remember his smile, his words of advice, and his motivation.