Five Months to Heal

It took five months for my Achilles Heel to heal. In that time, in gained a lot of weight, and while I was able to lift weights for a portion of that, I sustained a shoulder injury which relegated me to the couch for the past two months. Today, for the first time in five months, my heel doesn’t hurt.

That’s great news, as I have a run scheduled for after work. The last run I had two days ago went great, and while I still had a tiny bit of heel pain, I attribute that to tightness of the area due to my underuse. Since both of my heels hurt the same, I figured that it had more to do with needing to be stretched/exercised than the injury.

My shoulder still has pain. It’s not as bad, and I do feel that it’s healing, but it’s taking a long time. I’m hoping it wont’ the the five months the heel took, but whatever the recovery time is, I’m going to wait it out carefully.

For the first few months of being unable to run, I controlled my weight with being careful with my diet and weightlifting. When I was unable to lift weights, my weight started to climb, not due to the lack of exercise, but due to the extra eating I was doing. Depression had set in, and I was eating my way through it. It certainly wasn’t the best way to deal with it, but it was what it was. I am fortunate that I recognized it, and that I finally had enough of feeling bad physically. I feel much better today emotionally primarily due to the diet, and secondarily due to my being able to run again.

I’m slow. But that’s okay. I don’t need to win any races just yet. I just need to get back to running 7 minute miles. The last time I worked to sub-7’s, it took me three months of solid running. I know it takes time, and also concentration to make progress and to keep from being injured. I’m going to do the work and be careful. All I need to do is be patient and let the time go by as I do the work. The next thing I know, three months will have passed, and I’ll be much faster and in better shape. I just have to wait patiently.

Five months is a long time. Then again, here I am at the end of it, and it’s done. I can get back to running. In another three months, five months will have passed since I hurt my shoulder, and hopefully, I’ll be back to lifting weights. One of the most important realizations I had before I started my first Whole30 was thinking about my weight and how, if I’d started exercising and a diet back when a friend of mine did, I’d have been healthier and most likely weighed less by that point in time. Instead, I was just as heavy and out of shape as I’d been before. AllI needed to do was to start, and I didn’t. He had left me behind and made a lot of progress while I was still… well, just still.

Take the time to heal. Take the time to allow your body to rest between exercises. But eating well can be done any time. If you are depressed, talk to someone. Talking to Sherry, once I recognized what was going on, helped me through it and helped me back to eating and exercising. It’s tough to do alone. Reach out. There are lots of people out there willing to listen and help (me included).

When is it too late to start a healthy lifestyle?

When you’re dead.

Me in the field in 2019.

Seriously.

I’ve heard too many people (FAR too many) tell me that they’re too old to change their lifestyle now, and that the benefits are not enough for the amount of discomfort they would have to endure.

First of all, none of us knows the exact day our life status will expire (unless you’re on death row, and even then, you will likely make an appeal or two). Second, the benefits from a healthy lifestyle begin almost immediately. I begin feeling better very soon after starting a Whole30, and the effect is pronounced after being off the Paleo Lifestyle for a month. And it only gets better.

It’s too easy to find excuses to NOT do something, but using your age as one of them is silly. The irony is that this is one thing that can likely increase the time you are alive and put off your expiration date.

If you’re one of those people who thinks it’s too late for them, I’m your poster child. I lost over 150 lbs and even re-joined the military at 49. At this writing, I’m 52 years old and in the Army National Guard. If I can do this (and I’m quite the lazy person), literally anyone can.

What My Meals Look Like

One of the most common questions I receive is, “What does the food you eat look like?” I know they don’t necessarily mean, “I want to see a picture of your food,” but I’m going to do that anyway.

My breakfasts are pretty basic, and have been for over four years: two eggs sunny-side up and two slices of low sodium sugar-free bacon. I then drink a cup of black coffee in the car on my way into work. This week, however, Sherry had a surprise for me; a Whole30 compliant casserole made with eggs, pulled pork, and apples. It’s delicious and very convenient to be able to heat up a slice in the microwave.

Lunch is typically something that Sherry meal prepped for us on Sundays. My favorite lately is a Cuban-inspired meal called Picadillo. She says it’s fast and easy to make, and it reheats well and tastes amazing.

Dinners are a mix between our meal prepped meals and freshly made food. Last night, for example, we had skillet steak with baked sweet potato cubes and asparagus.

I don’t count macros, and I don’t get too technical with weighing my food. I follow the, “This looks like a good amount to sate my appetite” rule which has worked well for me in the past, and is working for me now. When doing a Whole30, it’s against the “Rules” to weigh yourself, but that’s the one rule I break every time. Unlike some people, I am motivated when I see fluctuations in both rate and actual weight. If my weight holds steady or even goes up, it fuels my desire to make more progress and forces me to more closely examine what I’m doing to make sure I’m following the process. When it goes down, I’m rewarded and it reinforces the good habits. So far, I’m already down 4 lbs, though admittedly, the vast majority of that is surely just water weight from cutting out the sugar.

The single most important factor in our health is the food we eat. We are today a result of decisions of the past. I am overweight today because of poor decisions over the past year culminating in a disastrous last quarter of last year, exacerbated by two debilitating sports injuries and a final month of abandon. I’ve turned all that around not because it’s a new year, but because timing worked out to coincide with the new year. My Achilles heel was finally healed enough to allow me to start running this week, and with my son going back up to North Dakota, my wife and I were able to focus on ourselves and our own diet.

I feel good today, and so far, I’ve not been experiencing the flu-like symptoms that come with a Whole30. In the past, I haven’t had strong symptoms, but in the past, I wasn’t consuming as much sugar as I had for the past month, so I’m expecting it any day. But when it comes, I’m ready for it. BRING IT ON!

Teamwork

One of the best things to happen to me has been meeting my wife. That I was able to convince her, after all the evidence to the contrary, that marrying me is a good idea, is nothing short of a miracle. Nearly 17 years later, I celebrate every day that I am married to my best friend and adventure buddy. She’s my favorite person, as I am fond of calling her. The reason I mention her is that because without her, it’s unlikely I’d be here. I mean, I’d be here, but I wouldn’t be the healthy person I am today.

When I decided to embark upon this journey to a healthier lifestyle, I knew very quickly that I was unable to do it without my wife. It’s not that I was unable to cook for myself; I am actually a pretty good cook. It’s not that I don’t have the discipline; I can be as stubborn as any person when it comes to reaching a goal and resisting temptation. It’s also not because I didn’t have enough desire to do it; I most certainly did. It had to do with the fact that being in a partnership, being half of a team, I wasn’t able to think of just myself. I couldn’t embark upon such a momentous journey without the buy-in, and of course, the help of my other half.

Doing something as huge as a Whole30 and then adopting the Paleo Diet was not something that I could undertake alone without affecting my wife. As my friends can attest, when you change your lifestyle so drastically, it effects everyone. My friends are amazing, and they go to great lengths to prepare foods that are Paleo-friendly (and even Whole30 compliant when we’re on a W30) for Sherry and I (because our friends are AMAZING people!!!). When you live with someone, they are affected more directly, and consistently with every meal. I couldn’t, in good conscience, do something as drastic as a Whole30 without her there with me.

Then, there’s the meal prep. Once I convinced my wife that we needed to be in this together, and she agreed, she began investigating the lifestyle in great depth and concluded that meal prep is key to success. The term “Meal prep” is short for meal preparation, and refers to preparing meals ahead of time and storing them for later use. In our case, meal prep primarily falls into lunches and dinners, but every now and then (and this week, thank fully), it extends into breakfasts. She spends hours in the kitchen on Sundays to make our lunches and dinners for the week which allow us to have Whole30 compliant meals that would otherwise take a long time after work to prepare, and would be impossible to find for lunches. Now, we have delicious and filling Whole30 compliant foods for lunch and dinner all week, and as I said earlier, this week, I even have a breakfast casserole (made with eggs, pulled pork, and apples).

I have heard from many couples about their desire to live a healthier lifestyle, and every now and then, I hear one half of a couple lament that their partner won’t join them on the journey. I encourage them to do the best they can with the situation. It’s not impossible to go it alone. I know people who have, and it’s worked for them. I have a friend whose husband is quite healthy, yet she had issues with weight gain. His diet was already pretty good, but hers always included sweets, snacks, and fast foods. She changed her lifestyle and became far stricter than he, and she was able to get healthy and lose weight without him having to change a thing. It’s possible to do. I just recognized that it wouldn’t be as easy for me, and that my changes would adversely affect my wife if she didn’t join me.

One aspect of our teamwork that I see as a key to our continued success is that we watch out for each other, and we are always trying to be our best selves while also being a good example to each other. When one of us is feeling weak or vulnerable to temptation, the other stands firm, and bolsters the other’s strength. When one of us is feeling down, or feeling like the process isn’t working, the other will offer words of encouragement, a shoulder, or a hug. We’ve been in this together now for over four years, and while most of the time we’re on the same sheet of music, so to speak, it’s in those moments of weakness where our teamwork swoops in and saves the day.

Can you do it alone? Yes. Is it easier to undertake a new lifestyle with your partner’s buy-in? I believe so. But remember: their support doesn’t always have to mean that they do the exact same thing as you. When I did keto for a while, my wife had to back out and she did Paleo. It worked for us; I was able to lose the weight I wanted to while ketoing while she continued on Paleo. She helped with my keto meals, and I helped when preparing meals to make hers Paleo. It was a logistical nightmare for us, and eventually I switched back to Paleo, but it was something we made work when we had to.

As with anything, in a relationship, communication is key. Talk to your partner and lay out the reasons you’re contemplating making a lifestyle change. Be sincere. Be honest. Your spouse, husband, wife, partner, and best friend will most likely support you. If not by eating the food you’re eating, at least through emotional support.

I No Longer Snore

This is something I don’t remember bringing up on my blog, but after losing over 100 lbs back in 2016, I no longer snore. This is a big deal, because I was a prolific noise machine in my sleep. I also had medically verified (via two horrible nights doing sleep studies) sleep apnea which was scary because I would stop breathing for long periods of time. It was bad enough that I was prescribed a CPAP which I used for a long time to help me get a full night’s sleep and rest.

When I began my health improvement journey, the last thing I expected to fix was my sleep apnea. I thought that once you got it, that’s just how it would stay: present and always needing a CPAP to sleep with. When my wife told me that I stopped snoring at night, it was amazing and coincided with my feeling better in the mornings. My mental clarity was likely due to more than the physical result of eating better, but also the result of getting more oxygen while I slept.

I no longer snore. This is a big deal for my health, and for my wife’s health. I no longer wake her up in the middle of the night with my snoring. I wear a Garmin 945, and it measures my O2 levels while I sleep, and I am consistently greater than 96% through the night, which is considered excellent/normal.

Then this morning, I see this story in CNN about how losing fat from your tongue is suspected as helping reduce the effects of and even eliminating sleep apnea. This is a case of science finally catching up to and verifying my own experience.

I mention sleep being important all the time, but quality sleep is super important. As you lose weight, and as your body sloughs off the fat, your sleep will improve, which in turn helps you sleep better, which in turn helps you lose weight easily, and the cycle continues.

If you snore and/or have sleep apnea and you’re overweight, there might be a cure. Just lose the weight.

An Honest Try?

This is an article where I will say things that I have never, would never, and will never say to someone to their face. It’s something I think to myself nearly anytime someone tells me that they tried Whole30, Paleo, or Keto and nothing happened. Before you go off on me, I am well aware of and know that all our bodies are different and that our genetic makeup plays a majority role in how efficacious a specific diet will be for us. However, there are a few key things I hone in on when they tell me about their forays into Whole30, Paleo, and Keto. These can be summed up as a lack of full commitment to the diet in both lifestyle change and diet.

These people say things to me like, “Well, I did Whole30 but it didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t get past not having my Diet Cokes, so I still did those, and I never lost any weight or got past the first week.” Or one of my favorites: “I just can’t live with a diet that is so restrictive.” Restrictive of processed foods, sugar, and (here, I’ll admit) grains and dairy. However, there are so many foods a person CAN eat, I don’t see the problem here. Besides, the “Food groups” myth has been debunked for a long time by many sources. Google it.

More things I hear (and yes, I know this post is beginning to sound like I’m a Negative Nancy and snarky, but I hear this stuff every day. Every. Single. Day.) I don’t solicit it, either. People who find out I lost a lot of weight are initially excited because they think I have some cheat code to losing weight. In many ways, I believe that I do, but when they find out that there’s work to be done in changing behaviors, habits, and food content, they immediately put up walls and don’t even want to consider it. For those who have tried, I wonder how hard they tried. How honest are they being not only to me, but to themselves? How closely did they actually follow the diet? Did they actually give the diet a chance to work? Did they get enough sleep? Were their portion sizes reasonable? How often did they cheat? Nothing happens in a day or three. Nothing happens when you sabotage yourself consistently by cheating here and there. It takes weeks or months to get solid progress. It takes discipline. It takes being honest with yourself with what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

If you want to get healthy and lose weight, do yourself and everyone around you a huge favor: do the work. Be honest with yourself first. Do what the plan says. Don’t change or modify the diet. Get enough sleep. Add in some movement/exercise. But whatever you do, don’t sabotage yourself or your progress with cheats, and don’t settle for anything other than 100% of your effort. Anything less does you a disservice and is just wasting your time.

Must Weight Loss Be Accompanied By Pain?

This is what discomfort looks like.

Discomfort? Yes. Pain? Definitely not.

“But you said that weight loss and fitness comes with discomfort and pain!” Yes. Weight loss AND fitness come with discomfort and pain. Weight loss alone doesn’t have to be painful. Will changing one’s lifestyle cause discomfort? Sure. But not pain. Getting fit, on the other hand, will most definitely involve pain. I’m experiencing that right now, as my legs burn from the last two runs I completed in the past three days. Today will be another rest day to give them more time to recover, but I’ll be back to running again tomorrow. But you know what’s crazy? They hurt far less today after last night’s run than they did yesterday. And I know from past experience that they will hurt less tomorrow, and on the morning after tomorrow night’s run, they will hurt even less as my body begins adapting to running.

Weight loss is accomplished primarily through diet. Yes, burning calories will create a caloric deficit which leads to weight loss, but that can be done through diet when you cut out high-calorie foods, or dense caloric foods like grains. Fitness, on the other hand, is only improved through exercise.

When I lost my first 130 lbs, I did it all through diet alone. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Sure, I experienced the Whole30 Flu in the first week of my first Whole30, but afterward? Nothing. No discomfort, no false hunger, no appetite beyond normal, “It’s time to eat a regular meal” hunger. I was losing steadily and consistently 10 lbs a month and I was doing it without going to the gym, without running, without yoga, or anything at all. Friends I knew who were into health and fitness couldn’t believe my results were from changing my diet alone. The thing is, I didn’t see it as changing my diet for a short-term weight loss. I saw it as changing my lifestyle. This was something that I was going to do for the rest of my life.

The fact that I slipped back and re-gained a good amount of weight is testament to the fact that humans love food, and that allowing ourselves to eat off-plan is a very slippery slope that can very quickly get out of hand and out of control. Like any drug, sugar is addicting, and if you let a little in, it will take hold of you and make you crave more. Even this morning, as I write this, I find myself wanting something sweet. It’s been four days now on this Whole30, and I still have the cravings. Yesterday after lunch, it was the same. I finished a chicken breast that Sherry made in the Instant Pot with apples and walnuts served with mushroom caulirice, and about 20 minutes later, I wanted a dessert or something sweet. I instead made a hot cup of tea with lemon which sated the appetite and got me through the worst of it.

If that’s the only discomfort I’ll have while losing weight, I’ll take it! But for me, there’s more to this. I have to run to get back into shape for the military. Today, more than ever, my fitness is extremely important, so it’s a responsibility I do not take lightly. I’ve been pushing slightly harder than I normally would, knowing that I have training coming up that will require me to exert myself physically, and with the world scene being what it is, my very life and the lives of others may depend on my fitness. So, I endure the pain of pushing myself not because I’m doing so to lose weight, but because I need to strengthen my body.

So, if you want to lose weight, you don’t need to suffer a gym. You don’t need to get out on the street and run. You don’t need to contort yourself with Yoga, or spend 5% of your annual income on a Peloton. All you need to do is make some good decisions on the food you are going to be eating by doing some meal prep and then using discipline and make more good decisions when eating. It doesn’t get simpler than that.