Super Bowl Sunday

This used to be a weekend of drinking, gorging, and watching advertisements with some sports thrown in between. Now, it’s about hanging out with friends, watching the game, and the ads. I no longer drink, and most of the snacking is limited. Well, as much as I can.

The Paleo treats at one of our previous parties.

I know I’ll eat more than I should on Sunday. I’ll eat a light breakfast and a small lunch in anticipation of the grazing I’ll be doing on Sunday. My friends are very thoughtful, and there will be Whole30 compliant foods available as snacks, but one thing will remain: the volume.

Even if the food is healthy, they still contain calories, and I know that I’ll be consuming more than normal. Sunday is also the next scheduled day for me to run, so I might run an extra 10 minutes to add a bigger calorie sink into the mix, but ultimately, I have to prepare myself to be a bit heavier on Monday. Well, at least a little bit.

And you know what? That’s okay. Life is about shared experiences, and Sunday will be one of them. The food will be delicious, the laughs will be hearty, and the experience will be memorable. I will soon forget what I ate, but I will always remember that shared experience of watching the game with friends.

Don’t stop living your life when you’re on a Whole30 or following Paleo strictly. Just make good choices and mitigate as much as you can. I won’t be sabotaging my progress with any cheat items. I’m actually not tempted anymore by non-compliant foods. But when there are a bunch of Whole30 snacks sitting there available and waiting for me to eat them? Well, that’s where my limit is reached.

Have fun this weekend, and I’ll be back on Monday with a new post!

Every Day is the First Day to a New You

Howdy!

I’ve said it a few times on the blog before: every day is a new opportunity for you to change your life. Each day is a clean slate that you get to decide what to write on it. Every change starts with a moment when thought becomes action.

Starting ANYTHING takes more effort than slacking. I have to run this afternoon, and even though I am looking forward to it, there’s always a moment where I think, “Are we really doing this?” “Do we need to do this?” “Is there any good reason I can use to not run today?” Even though I know I need to run, and even if I want to run, there’s that small voice in the back of my mind trying to find a way out.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is that?” It’s because we are programmed to find the path of least resistance. It’s also why we are impatient. We want to do the least amount of work for the most amount of effort. It’s what has allowed humans to thrive since the beginning of time. We work hard, but we do the best to minimize our energy output to be as efficient as possible based on resource scarcity. The problem in 2020 is that resources are not scarce in the first world and we are obese. The inverse problem is that we are also programmed to eat, eat, and eat to store energy for the lean times when resources aren’t readily available. The problem with that is that we don’t go through lean times, and we can get cheap and carb-rich food anytime.

I have put in a lot of work to be where I am today, both in my health and fitness. Yet every day is the first day of the rest of my journey. Every day, I make a decision to keep going. To keep eating right. To keep exercising. Every day, I can make a different decision and derail myself, but I choose not to. I choose not to because I feel so much better doing the work. I am healthier, both in body and in mind. It’s worth the effort.

My unit photo from when I was a Corporal stationed in the Philippines.

When I was a Sergeant in the Marines, I remember some of my Lance Corporals complaining that they couldn’t wait to be civilians again so that they would be able to have choices again. I told them that they had choices every day as a Marine. They were adamant that they had no choice but to follow orders, to be at work on time, to follow procedures and policies, etc. One the the Lance Corporals said, “If I feel like staying in bed today, I can’t just call in and say I don’t feel like working. I’m sick. See you tomorrow.” I laughed. “That’s where you’re wrong,” I said. “You do have a choice. You can call in and say you don’t feel like working and that you’ll see me tomorrow. The only difference as a Marine from a civilian is that you have consequences for that action. The consequence would likely be a charge sheet (offense report to the command of a violation of the UCMJ), but you do have a choice. You just choose not to violate orders, rules, and regulations.”

You could almost see the light bulbs going off in their heads. I told them they always have a choice, but they have always chosen to do the right thing. It made them feel better about themselves and their service in the Marines.

Being on a health and fitness journey is the same. We have choices to make all day, every day, day after day. Those choices will impact us thereafter. I choose to make decisions that will benefit me, lift me up, and make me a healthier and more fit person. Today is the first day of the rest of my journey, and I won’t do anything to sabotage that.

Patience

This is something we all struggle with, especially in 2020. They say the attention span of the average YouTube viewer is measured in seconds if the video isn’t stimulating or interesting enough to keep one’s attention. Everyone scrambles toward the next best thing to lose weight quickly. We want it all, and we want it now. Health and fitness is one area that everyone is always looking for the best way to reach a goal quickly, but when it comes to health and fitness, slow and steady progress is typically best long-term.

I’ve seen people lose lots of weight very quickly through very questionable or dangerous processes I won’t get into here (I don’t want to encourage anyone looking for such shortcuts). I’ve known people personally who died from such procedures seeking the quickest route to weight loss. No-one’s life is worth a few pounds lost.

Anything of value and worth takes time. Think about relationships, degrees in education, certifications toward meaningful careers, etc. They all take time. The more valuable, the longer it takes. The same holds true for weight loss and physical fitness. I lost 150 lbs. Did that happen quickly? It took two years for me to reach my final goal the first time, and now, four years later, I’m working towards another goal, this time to lose 25 more (after re-gaining 30). This time, however, I’m armed with a tool that I thought I’d lost: patience.

I am patient with the process. I’m patient with my progress. I’m patient with my own limitations when I run. I’m patient with my healing shoulder, waiting for it to heal before I start weightlifting to ensure I can continue to do so long-term. I’m patient with my health and fitness.

Patience isn’t easy. It goes contrary to the burning desire within to reach goals. It goes against every instinct to complete every workout, and to make as much progress as quickly as possible. For me, it’s especially difficult. When I set my mind to accomplishing, completing, or getting something, I accomplish, finish, or get that thing as quickly as possible. I don’t like to wait. Ask my wife how many times she’s received birthday presents early.

*sigh*

But when it comes to this Whole30, with re-starting my fitness plan with running and eventually adding back weightlifting, I’m being patient. I have to be. I know that by rushing things, I can get injured or worse; I can damage my long-term health.

Be patient. Change cannot and will not happen overnight. You have to give it time. Did you gain all the weight you want to lose in a month? Did you get unfit overnight? The answer to both of those is most likely a, “No.” Getting back to where you were (or better) takes time, effort, and patience. Give it time.

Week 3 Recap

Week three ended for me yesterday, and it was a week full of… well, not much, really. Food-wise, I ate only Whole30 compliant food without exception. I never once went off-plan. In terms of exercise, I ran three times. So, I got some exercise, and I ate well, yet one thing was completely lacking: any weight loss progress. THIS is why Whole30 wants you to avoid weighing yourself while ON the Whole30; there will be days or even weeks where you aren’t making any progress on the scale as your body adapts to the good food and weans itself off the high-carb diet. This past week was that week for me.

Feeling great after three weeks on Whole30. Now, just being patient is the tough part.

I’ve been here before. This is my fifth Whole30, so I knew to expect this week, so when it happened, it didn’t upset me or deter me. I was mildly annoyed, but that’s about it. What I also know, however, is that great things are happening in my body, and in my gut. I’m also going to be seeing a big drop again soon in my weight; it always follows a plateau.

If you are like me and like to weigh yourself on a Whole30, then you have to know that there will be plateaus. You need to plant the seeds of excitement in your brain during these times, because the drop WILL come. For me, it always does. Typically, the longer the plateau, the better the weight loss feels when it arrives. Since I’m doing all the right things (food, exercise, sleep), I know that the weight loss is inevitable. Maybe tonight? Maybe tomorrow? In two days? Who knows! All I know is that it’s coming.

So, week 3 was a success. No cheating, no going off-plan, and continuing to lay the foundation for success in getting healthier, getting fitter, and losing some weight.

One Little Cheat Ruins All the Progress

I have a friend who told me he was eating healthy, yet I noticed he posts pictures of himself having donuts for breakfast, rolls with lunch and dinner, and beer after work. I told him that those aren’t very good, healthy choices, and he said, “Well, it’s in small amounts.”

Any of those foods, even in small amounts, wipes out a lot of the benefits of eating healthy. The point in eating healthy is to avoid the unhealthy foods. If weight is a priority, then it’s double-important. Those rolls (with grains) cause inflammation and are full of net calories. The body breaks down bread very easily and most of the calories in the food goes right into storage as fat.

Alcohol: I’ve said it many, many times. A drink or two a week probably won’t be too bad for you, but every day? Again, not good. When I drink even one cider or other alcoholic beverage, I gain about 2.5 lbs for 2-3 days.

You can’t out-run or out-exercise a bad diet. You can’t maximize your progress towards getting healthy if you don’t cut out high-carb foods and anything with added sugar. There’s no two ways around it. Those skinny people who eat donuts and high-carb foods and wash it all down with alcohol? There’s a good chance they suffer from TOFI (Thin Outside/Fat Inside) and have high cholesterol that will catch up with them. It’s actually more dangerous for them because they don’t realize they have a problem, typically until it’s too late.

Commit to your health. Persevere. Discipline can be tough, and temptations can be strong, but the easiest way is to just say no all the time. Don’t give in, not even once. If you do, it’s a slippery slope that will lead you back into bad habits and stop or even reverse your progress to becoming a healthier you.

There’s no shame in being overweight

This is something I’ve thought about a lot. People are offended by anything that is inconvenient or (let’s face it), painfully true. This is especially the case with people who are overweight. I remember this very much. When I was overweight, the last thing I wanted to hear from ANYONE was that I needed to lose weight, that I was overweight, that my weight was unhealthy, or that they had a sure-fire way for me to lose weight. All of that went in one ear and out the other. All of it was offensive to me. I was screaming inside my head, “What? You think I don’t know this already? You think I can’t see myself in the mirror? That I don’t see the numbers on the scale? Do you really think I’m that dumb?”

From big guy to not-so-big guy.

And that’s when it hit me (as I thought about it): people offering the advice don’t consider that you already know what they’re telling you. What’s worse is that when you’re overweight, you’re somewhat ashamed of it. You see people who appear thin and healthy enjoy their lives, doing all kinds of things you’d love to be doing but can’t because of your weight or lack of physical ability or fitness. You wonder if there’s something wrong with you. “Why can’t I lose weight? Am I genetically predisposed to be heavy? Am I just too undisciplined?” I’m sure others think similar or maybe slightly different things, but in my head, those were mostly the top three. On top of it all was shame.

I was ashamed to be so large that people looked at me uncomfortably when I was boarding an aircraft looking for my seat. They were fearful that the “Big guy” would sit next to them and cramp them on their trip. I was ashamed when I would go to a restaurant and have to eat so much food just to sate my appetite. I was too ashamed to order the amount of food necessary to sate my appetite when eating with co-workers or my boss, and would often sneak away after lunch for a second lunch. I was ashamed around friends when we were in my pool as they were able to see my large stomach in full-effect. I was ashamed of myself.

The problem here is that I shouldn’t have been. I should have been happy with who I was. I was married to (still am!) an amazing, incredible, and loving wife. I was the father to two great kids. I had close friends on whom I could rely on for anything. I had a good job, and I had a decent income. These were all things to be proud of, yet were overshadowed by my heaviness.

Why did I feel ashamed? The root of it, as I consider my own shame when I was heavy, was that I was taught to be considerate of others. I felt that my weight and associated habits made others uncomfortable, which in turn made me more uncomfortable. Other people may have a different experience or source for their shame, but this is the root of where mine came from.

Before I embarked on the journey to become healthy, I had to make peace with myself. I had to acknowledge that even though my wife and I were undertaking a huge leap when changing our lifestyle by jumping into a Whole30 that it might not work. I could possibly stay heavy forever. And I had to be okay with that. I had to accept who I was, and love myself.

It’s that love of myself that helped motivate me. It helped keep me disciplined, and persevere. My wife’s love had a huge role in my success, as did her food prep, encouraging words, and all the times she picked me up when I was feeling down, but ultimately, the love of myself and the desire to improve my health drove me hard. I wanted to make sure I was here for my wife and kids as long as I could be. There are never guarantees, but chances were greatly improved that I would have a longer life if I undertook a healthy lifestyle.

There is no shame in being overweight and/or unfit. I do not judge nor look down on anyone who is overweight or unfit. I offer my hand to help anyone trying to improve their health. I will give you encouragement, advice, and celebrate your successes with you. And yes, I’ll be here when things don’t go quite so well, either. I’m in this with you for the long haul.

Be happy with who you are. That person has the power to change everything and to live healthier.

Do Mantras Work?

What’s a mantra?

man·tra/ˈmantrə
noun

  1. (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
  2. a statement or slogan repeated frequently.

I think of it as my mental cheat, or mind-hack, to get me motivated into doing something that could be framed as a negative. That negative, for me, is running.

I’ve never been a fan of running. I get bored. That, and doing something repeatedly that keeps me sweating, makes my legs moderately sore, and takes up time that I would rather be spending in other ways doesn’t seem natural to me. Often, I find myself thinking about “Run Day,” and my mind will say, “Ugh. Today is a run day.”

Something I discovered three years ago when I started running was that by framing the run as a gift instead of something compulsory, it not only improved my performance, but how satisfied I felt when I finished the run. Reading the book, “Red Platoon” by Clinton Romesha had a huge impact on my frame of mind as well. I read that book and my heart wrenched at the ordeal that his platoon endured during one of the most intense battles the US Army has experienced in the past 20 years or more. Certain individuals stuck out to me, and one day on my way home, I reflected as I was dreading a run that any of those fallen Soldiers would likely relish the opportunity to run again. That thought snow-balled into thinking of all the Marines and Soldiers I knew who had fallen, and how they would likely rather be running than lying in a grave. The thought moved even further to those who have lost limbs and the ability to run. I started seeing that I was very fortunate, especially at my older age, to be able to go out and run three miles. The next day, I told myself, “I get to run today!” and while it felt a bit artificial, the effect was immediate. I smiled without thinking about it. As the day went on, I’d keep saying it to myself, and each time, the excitement built. Even though it was fake in the beginning, I began actually getting psyched up for the run.

This morning, my mind went down the old familiar route: “Ugh. It’s run day.” But this time, I remembered my mind-hack. I changed it very quickly to, “Screw that. I get to run today!” You know what happened? Sure enough, a smile. I have been repeating it all day every time my mind wanders to the thought of my run later today. Each time, I say, “I get to run today.” Now, as I write this, it’s after lunch, and in about 4 hours, I’ll be running, and I’m actually looking forward to it.

The hardest part for me about running is getting started. It’s a bump I have to get past every time I run. Most days, I get past that bump by mindlessly changing into my running clothing, going into my gym, and just running. Some days, however, I try to talk myself out of it, and very rarely, it works. However, when I used to tell myself, “I get to run,” I never talked myself out of it. I didn’t want to miss out on the experience.

On a deeper level, when I remind myself that I get to run, I am honoring those who are currently unable to run: all the vets, injured and fallen, who have paid a high price with limbs and lives. When I feel tired, like I want to stop early, I remind myself that I get to run. When I feel like doing anything other than running, I tell myself, “I get to run.” It’s powerful. It hits me hard every time. I may be weak, but I will not let them down. I cannot.

As a leader of Soldiers, it’s my job to be in shape. Not just barely, but in good physical fitness. For them, I work hard. For them, I strive to improve every time I hit the treadmill, the sidewalk, or the road. For them, I endure soreness in my legs as I get stronger and faster. For them, I keep running. Because I get to run.

Do mantras work? I think so, and I think they are far more powerful than people give them credit for. It’s a powerful tool in your arsenal of motivation.

Numbers aren’t all created equally

I have a favorite Liutenant in the Guard who has a catch phrase I adore: “Words mean things.” Being eloquent is of no use if the word you’re using isn’t the right one. When it comes to numbers, people think 10 is 10. They wouldn’t be wrong (another thing the LT says: “You’re not wrong,” meaning you’re also not right). However, when considering weight loss as a measure of success in regaining a healthy lifestyle, percentage of weight is a much better way to look at it.

Me, walking the dog after a run on the treadmill.

Consider this: when I did my first Whole30, I had lost 20 lbs in one month. People hear that and say, “Wow! That’s an incredible amount of weight to lose in one month.” And you know what? They’re not wrong. That was 6.41% of my total body weight at the start, and that’s a serious start to a trend that continued uninterrupted for a solid year culminating in 110 lbs lost. I won’t go into all the NSV’s (Non-Scale Victories) I also achieved; there are many posts on my blog about that. This post is about numbers.

On this fifth Whole30 (I counted; it’s only my fifth and not my sixth as I previously thought), in two weeks, I’ve lost 11 lbs. Again, that sounds pretty good, and puts me on-pace for the same kind of weight loss as I experienced on my first Whole30. Or does it? So far, I’ve already lost 5.37% of my starting weight. How is that possible considering I was allegedly much healthier this time around?

I don’t really understand. I was pretty certain that the percentages would align, and that I would have lost around 5 lbs less at this point, yet here I am. I know a good 3-5 lbs of it in the beginning was water weight that I lost, yet the same thing happened when I weighed 312 lbs. The only difference this time around is that I’ve added exercise to the mix.

Do I think that I will lose another 10 lbs in the next two weeks? Hardly. I figure I’ll be lucky if I can sustain a 2.5 lbs/week rate for the next two and a half weeks. A little optimistic part of my brain hopes for more, but the analytical side of my brain (which is the bigger side) says, “Nope. Not gonna happen.” 20 lbs would be 9.76%, and that’s highly unlikely and I believe, unsustainable.

Sherry has lost more weight than me already. This is backwards from our first Whole30 where I quickly overtook her rate of loss and ended up losing more weight. However, when looking at percentages, she actually lost around the same percentage from total body weight. They say men lose weight more easily than women, yet we lost the same percentage. Why? The difference: she was exercising and I was not.

This time, I’m running. I still can’t get back to my weightlifting due to my shoulder (which seems to be healing, but ever so slowly!), but I’m running at least 3 times a week. My goal is to run 4-5 times a week, but I’m not quite there yet.

Numbers mean things, and they’re not all created equally. Don’t get caught up on numbers of pounds lost. I’ve said time and time again that the scale is not the best measure of your health, but if you must use it as a data point, keep in mind the percentages. That’s where it’s really going to give you meaningful data when comparing to others.

Whole30 Week Two Recap

This post discusses some things that some people may consider disgusting: body functions. If you don’t want to read about that, you may want to skip this post.

Week two of my Whole30 is over, and I am doing as well or better than I’d hoped for.

The one thing I do that’s against the rules is I weigh myself. Not every day like I used to, but every other or third day. I did weigh myself yesterday, however, and found that I’ve lost 11 lbs in two weeks. That’s fantastic progress, and it puts me on-track to the results I’m looking to get.

As for fitness, my running is getting easier, and although my speed isn’t really getting better, my endurance definitely is. I figure I will work on speed in another week or two. For now, it’s all about getting back to being able to run for 30+ minutes without it wrecking me afterwards. I’m close.

The one difficulty I’ve had is poop. Once again, being more protein-heavy than usual, my stool got really hard and made it difficult to pass. Thankfully, I took some Swiss Criss, and holy smokes, that cleared me out! I took two of the pills, and I think it was only about 30 minutes before I had to go. And then go again. And again. For two days. I think I’m finally past the power-pooping, but holy smokes was that a relief! There’s nothing worse than running when you’re full up and can’t go.

Hunger hasn’t been an issue, and I’ve found that the amount of food I eat is getting smaller, and less volume fills me up quicker than before. This is one of the main things I was looking to get out of this Whole30: A reset in the amount of food I eat.

I haven’t had the Whole30 flu this time, and neither has Sherry. We discussed it, and we think it’s because our bodies have adapted to Paleo so well that going off-plan was the anomaly and not going on a Whole30. That’s why we felt so cruddy before we started this Whole30 and we felt so much better almost immediately after starting.

So, week two is down, and we’re half-way to our 30 days. I’m happy with the progress so far, and I’m definitely thinking I will be able to reach my personal goal by April.

You Don’t “Burn” Fat

You exhale it.

What? Am I serious?

Yes.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that of 10kg (22 lbs) of fat lost, 8.4 kg (18.5 lbs) was exhaled as carbon dioxide while 1.6 kg (3.5 lbs) is lost as water, either through water vapor in breath, sweat, or urine.

Think of it this way: when your body metabolizes fat, it’s the same as your car burning fuel in its cylinders. The exhaust is filled with carbon monoxide and other molecules. As our bodies metabolize the fat to use as energy, the resulting waste is carbon dioxide and water.

What is the burning process in the body? It’s actually an exothermic oxidation reaction to lipolysis, or the breaking down of fat to be used as energy by the body when it is not getting enough through glycolysis.

When I hear people talking about, “Burning fat” through exercise, they’re kind of right, but mostly wrong. Your body doesn’t burn fat. The more you sweat doesn’t equate to more weight lost. You can sweat a lot without losing weight. Also, just because you sweat a lot doesn’t mean you’re losing more weight.

Guaranteed way to lose weight: consume fewer calories than you use during the day. Method of consuming fewer calories: cut out the grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol. Foods like meats and vegetables have fewer net calories and will fill you up better and faster with more nutrients per calorie which will allow you to have a calorie deficit without feeling hungry or wanting to over-eat.

Fat burning is a myth. Don’t fall for tricks or gimmicks. There’s only one way to lose weight, ever, and that’s a caloric deficit. You can never out-exercise a bad diet where you exceed your caloric intake.