DFAC Update

img_3986I was excited to get orders to go to school for fire direction control in the field artillery, but I wasn’t very excited about the prospects of having to eat at the Army Dining Facility (aka DFAC). I had memories of the food they used to serve us when I was on active duty in the Marines, and I had heard horror stories about the carb-heavy offerings.

To say I’ve been positively surprised would be an understatement. At every meal, without exception, I’ve been able to find options that would fit nicely into a Paleo profile, or even into a Keto one if I wanted to. The food has been delicious and plentiful.

Tonight, I had grilled chicken breast with Brussels sprouts and green beans along with a side salad and an apple for dessert. Most of my meals are similar, but with different meats like Italian sausage, fish, pork, beef, etc.

So, I’m doing well with the food here. I’m actually enjoying it, and not suffering (like I thought I would be).

What keeps someone going through a plateau?

We all get there. We all reach it at some point: the plateau. When our weight loss stalls, and we reach a point, typically 10-15 lbs shy of our final goal, where no matter what we do, our weight won’t go any lower. It’s annoying. It’s aggravating. And while it may be all of these, it’s something more important: feedback.

It’s our body telling us that what we’ve done to that point has been great to get us to where we are. But to get a little more, to lose a little more, we need to do more. We need to really think about that goal. Is it realistic? If we are at a healthy equilibrium, is it a good idea to reduce our food intake below a level we are currently comfortable at to reach an arbitrary number?

I had to face this realization recently. My goal weight is 165 lbs. I haven’t seen that since last year. My weight has hovered steadily between 168 and 172 lbs. In the past month and a half, it’s been upwards of 175 lbs. I know why: I’ve been eating larger portions, I’ve allowed myself to drink alcohol at social functions, and I haven’t been as strict with my diet as I used to be/should be. I’ve accepted all of those things, and I am slowly reigning myself in to get back down into my comfort zone of the 160’s.

When I was 160 lbs for a few days back in 2017, I was being VERY strict with my Paleo, not allowing myself to drink alcohol at all, never varying from my very strict diet, and honestly, I missed out on a few things. Was it worth it? At the time I thought it was, but in retrospect, not really. While I look back at the photos of myself from that time and think I was probably at a weight I’m most comfortable with, the level of deprivation was pretty high. Maybe too high.

Really think about what your target weight is, and why you set it to that. Think about how you feel at your plateau weight, and if it is something you still really want to get past, think about what you need to do to lose more weight. Typically, it will mean eating less, and being more careful with your macros. Every time I’ve hit a plateau, I’ve been able to break it by analyzing my food intake in not only amounts, but in makeup as well as fitness level and (this is my secret ingredient) sleep amount.

No, I didn’t lose weight because of the military

I have many interesting conversations with people about health, nutrition, and fitness when they find out I lost 150 lbs and went from morbidly obese to being within the military height and weight standards. Just today, someone quipped that it must have been helpful to be in the military to help me lose the weight. I smiled and asked them, “What do you mean?” They replied, “Oh you know, with all the PT we do and stuff, it probably made losing weight so much easier.” I explained to them that I had to lose all the weight before I was able to join the National Guard, and further, that I lost all the weight without a single drop of sweat or raising a finger for exercise.

I see friends and others join extreme fitness programs, purchase gym memberships, and go through all sort of fitness leaps to try to lose weight, yet they are all missing the most important ingredient: Diet = weight loss, exercise = fitness. I write about this often in an attempt to educate people about it, yet I keep seeing friends starting programs that are not going to help them lose weight. It will make them sore, it will make them tired, and when they don’t lose the weight they want to lose, they will get discouraged, quit, and they will mistakenly think that it’s impossible for them to lose weight. That somehow, for some reason, they’re not meant to ever be thin again. I know this, because that was me. Many times over.

Don’t get me wrong; fitness is GREAT for you! I just ran 3 miles today after two days off (normal rest interval for me), and while I took it easy and slow, it was still a good workout, and I felt great afterward. Heck, there were times when my legs were burning from running up the steep hills here in Pennsylvania, but it was exhilarating! But did it help me lose weight? Nope. Eating well is helping me maintain my weight. Exercise is keeping me fit, making my heart and legs strong, and keeping me in shape to pass my Army physical fitness tests.

I didn’t lose my weight due to the military; I did the military because I lost the weight. I didn’t start any exercise program to lose weight: I started exercising to get fit. I used diet and lifestyle change to lose weight and to keep it off for almost three years now. If you are one of those people who recently started or are thinking of starting some sort of boot camp, P90X, or fitness program, please also change your diet. Without it, you will not see the results you’re looking for, and you will become tired, demotivated, and quit because all you’ll be doing (without having changed your diet) is make yourself very hungry, tired, and worn out.

Listen to your body (it knows what’s good for you)

I was talking with a soldier today about water intake. She asked me how much water I drink, and I told her I drink when I’m thirsty. She was incredulous, and said that I was probably dehydrating myself because I wasn’t drinking a gallon of water a day. I told her that I do drink a lot of coffee, tea, and water throughout the day, and I always drink when I’m thirsty. She said her coach told her she needs to drink water all day long, to which I told her that it’s probably overkill.

The reality is that our bodies are good at communicating to us. We just have to listen. When we are thirsty, our body is telling us we need to hydrate. When we are hungry, our body is telling us we need to eat more. Maybe we didn’t eat enough at the previous meal, or we’ve been exerting ourselves and we used up more calories than we took in at our previous meal. Now, let’s not confuse huger with appetite which is a false signal from the brain after we eat foods high in carbs. That’s what leads to snacking, which leads to more eating, which leads to more snacking, etc.

The same holds true for injuries. When we experience pain, we need to recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain is muscle burn after a good workout or exercise session. Bad pain is when you feel a pulled ligament or muscle. Right now, I’m experiencing a bit of the bad pain deep in my right calf. I overdid it a little on Friday, so I took Saturday and Sunday off from running. Depending on how it feels today, I might have an easy run, or I might skip it entirely. I will listen to my body and let it tell me what the best course of action is. Ignoring bad pain can lead to serious and long-term damage that is counter to what I’m trying to accomplish: to remain fit, to gain distance, and to increase my speed.

Listen to your body’s signals. Our bodies have been talking to us since the beginning of time. It’s up to us to learn how to read those signals, and it’s up to us to listen to them to get the most out of our nutrition and exercise.

Something a little off-topic

img_3986I’m a former active duty Marine, but now I’m a soldier in the National Guard. I’ve been in the Guard for over a year and a half, but I haven’t had a MOS (military occupational specialty). While I was a military policeman (MP) in the Marines, I was awaiting training from the Army to become a Field Artillery Fire Direction Control specialist. Well, I’ve been training for over a week, and I just completed the first phase of my training to become a 13J (Fire Direction Control specialist). I will be finishing up my training in just under two weeks, but as of now, I’m a nominally trained Phase 1 complete 13J.

As a Staff Sergeant, I have to learn a lot more and become proficient so that I can ensure that my troops are properly trained and that their skills are maintained. Further, I have to ensure that when we are operating in a field artillery environment, that I am able to best lead my soldiers and watch them to ensure their jobs are performed properly and safely. This puts a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, but I’m up for the task.

It fees good now that I’ve completed the first phase of my training here. To give me the best chance to succeed, I’ve used diet and exercise to ensure my body and mind were up for the challenge, and I’ve been running every other day while eating very strict Paleo at the dining facility (DFAC) here. While I initially intended to go Keto, I settled on Paleo (which is my preferred diet, anyway). I’ve been feeling very strong, and mentally sharp. Getting a good amount of sleep has helped, too.

So, I’m doing well, achieving what I’ve set out to do, and soon, I’ll be back home and able to start training my soldiers and leading them to further success. It feels good.

There is no wonder product for weight loss

This is my annoyed face.

Let me be perfectly clear: there is no wonder product to help you lose weight and get fit. There are only TWO things in the world, known to be 100% effective, that will help you lose weight and get fit. I will list those two things here:

  • Diet
  • Exerise

What you eat: the quality of the food, the quantity of the food, and its wholesomeness is what will determine whether you will gain weight, lose weight, or maintain weight. What you it is also known as your diet.

Physical activity will determine your level of fitness. The more you exercise, the more fit you will become. This is good for your muscles, joints, and even your emotional and psychological health.

NOTHING else is effective. There are pills, powders, packaged products, and medical procedures that can help with artificial or quick weight loss, but none of these are known to be as effective as changing one’s diet. Plain and simple.

I keep seeing ads on Facebook for weight loss related products, and they really get me wound up. They are selling false promises and lies. I sincerely hope that people realize that weight loss is within their grasp as long as they use a little bit of perseverance.

What Is the Mindset of a Winner?

I am often told that the reason I was able to lose the weight I lost and get fit was because I have the mindset of a winner. This struck me as strange, because I never thought of myself as a winner. I’ve been in competitive sports as a kid, but my events were all individual, and while I did my best, I didn’t have a very motivated mindset. I just did what I had to, tried my best, and hoped that the results were worthy of the effort. I didn’t always win, and I used to wonder what it took. Later in life, I realized that when I didn’t win something, it was usually because I didn’t put in the requisite effort.

What is the mindset of a winner? I think what people are referring to is actually called perseverance. Winners are people who put in the work, but then put in a little more effort. When studying for a test, practicing a skill, or preparing themselves physically for some sort of match or competition, people who are winners go the extra mile. When it comes to losing weight, there’s not much extra studying, preparation, or extra miles that will help you lose the weight. What does it is a mindset of not allowing yourself to cheat.

If there’s any one piece of advice I would give to anyone who wants to be successful at losing weight and getting fit, it’s that you have to stick with the plan. Give it time to work. Give yourself the best chance of succeeding by not varying from the diet, by doing the exercise every day you have a planned workout, and don’t let anything get into your way.

It’s easy to come up with excuses for not doing something. I can justify just about any reason to not run, and sometimes, I allow myself to do just that. Of course, I feel guilty about it, my muscles actually ache for movement, and my run times (and distances) suffer for it. It’s because of those negative results that typically, I just put on the shoes and running clothes and hit the pavement.

To do anything less is letting myself down. I don’t want to fail myself, and I don’t want to put myself into a situation where I need to do a lot more work to catch back up to where I was. I’ve lost 150 lbs: I don’t want to have to lose it, or any large portion of that, ever again. Therefore, I eat right, I exercise, and when I go off the plan, I get back on as quickly as I can and work hard to keep on the path as best as I can.

So, do I have the mindset of a winner? I don’t know about that. But I do know that I don’t allow myself to fail, I prepare as much as I can and as much as I need to allow myself to succeed, and I don’t accept anything in my diet or behavior that is contrary to me being healthy. If that’s the mindset of a winner, then perhaps I do have it. I just call it wanting something more than the alternatives.

Spreading the Word

Sometimes, I feel like I’m a preacher. I feel like I’m on a mission to save people. Not their souls, but to perhaps try to get them to understand the role nutrition plays in their daily lives, and how much impact it has on their overall health and wellbeing.

Fortunately for me, I have this blog which allows me to speak out on topics that come to mind, or to discuss things I saw, heard, or otherwise came in contact with. It’s a place where I can clear my mind and get things off my chest, so to speak. Other times, I also post topics that people have asked me directly as I figure if someone asked me, perhaps others are thinking the same question.

I don’t offer my advice unsolicited. I used to do that when I first started losing weight because I felt a duty to say something. Now, however, unless the topic comes up naturally, I keep my mouth shut.

With all that said, however, when I am asked, I feel like I go into sermon mode. I have a certain script I go by, and I try to go through as much info in as non-threatening a way as possible and I try to cover as much information as I can in a way that is easy to understand and remember. It’s my anti-sugar sermon, and perhaps one day, I’ll write it down.

For now, I’ll just keep spreading the word here on the blog, or when people ask.

Keeping Motivation Going on a Business Trip

So, I’m on a business trip of sorts, undergoing training in the National guard. It’s not your typical business trip: instead of a hotel, I live in a barracks (which is a lot like college dorms, truth be told) and I eat at a dining facility, also known as a DFAC. This means that there is always something going on to do, someplace to go, and food choices that are rather limited.

I’ve been learning to work within the constraints of my current situation in regards to nutrition. My primary concern is to ensure that I eat right and fuel my body with the best quality food as possible. Unfortunately, DFAC food is likely not the healthiest, as there are always more carb-heavy choices available than meats and good vegetables. However, I’ve been able to mitigate any negative impact this high-carb environment might have on me.

It would be easy to just say, “The heck with it!” and eat anything they serve. I could even try to do so in moderation. But we all know how moderation diets work (hint: they don’t). Even with their healthier choices (like bacon), I’m pretty sure it’s cured with sugar. That leaves steamed veggies at lunch and dinner, or salads. As you might know from reading my blog, I am not a salad-only kind of guy, even if that’s the only clear healthy choice available.

So, I compromise. I eat the least-bad food (in this morning’s case, the bacon) and skip the hash browns and waffles. The eggs are the best option, but they only give one ice cream scoop-sized serving (they literally will not give a second scoop, even if they see that it is all you are eating) which makes me augment my bacon and eggs with a medium-small apple. It fills me up, and while I’m sure the sugar count is higher than I’d like, it’s actually a pretty healthy breakfast.

Lunches are easy to stick to healthy-ish options, as there’s typically always some sort of meat I can eat and at least one steamed veggie as well as the side salads. It’s dinners that have been challenging, but not because of what the DFAC serves. It’s because I’ve been going out for dinners with other soldiers.

In these cases, the dinners are where my willpower is tested the most. I’ve already posted about eating Ton Katsu (Japanese panko-breaded pork cutlet) and last night, I had chicken wings (healthy) with some ranch (Keto-healthy/Paleo no-no), and some waffle fries (Paleo-ok/Keto no-go). The net result? I should be just fine. But I need to start limiting my exposure to foods that are not as good for me.

Staying with the healthiest options is my first priority, and what motivates me. Trying to drop some more weight while I’m here motivates me. Being around all these young people motivates me. But, like anyone else, the pull of yummy foods that aren’t so healthy is strong, and it’s a fight I have to undertake daily.

Walking Everywhere

Something I thought about as I had to walk from the barracks to the DFAC to the classroom and then back to the barracks and back to the classroom again this morning was the fact that three years ago, even the mere thought of that much walking would have been daunting to me. Actually walking it would have worn me out. This morning, however, the only annoyance in the act itself was that it took up so much of my time. I would have preferred to run, but I didn’t want to be sweaty in class all day.

My life is radically different than it was three years ago. Not only am I healthier, weigh less, or more fit. I am also now a soldier in the National Guard, I live a much more active life, and I am able to undertake just about anything I can think of, or any adventure my wife cooks up for us. These are all things that were impossible for me to even consider three years ago.

What got me here? Eating right. No, I didn’t run every day, I didn’t starve myself, I didn’t take any pills, powders, patches, products, or have any medical procedures done to alter my body. I just ate healthy foods made from whole ingredients and avoided anything with added sugar, all grains, dairy, legumes, and soy.

People think it’s hard to give those things up. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but once I got my mind into it, it became easy. It became normal. What once may have sounded crazy or weird became normal and then something even stranger happened: I grew to not only accept my new lifestyle, but to actually enjoy it. I love the foods my wife makes for us, and I enjoy finding new foods all the time, whether they are foods she makes for us at home, or healthy foods we’re able to find out and about on our adventures.

Life is completely different now, but it’s healthier, fuller, and filled with more freedom and adventures. I did have to give up some things I loved like pizza, pasta, and bread (don’t even get me started on bread pudding!), but I gained so much more. I can now walk anywhere, for any distance, and not dread the mere thought of it.