You Will Either Get On Board, Or You Will Be Left Behind

I am frustrated. I had a civil and short conversation with someone yesterday about obesity and its causes. The person I was speaking to believes that childhood obesity rests solely on the lack of physical activity today. He based his claims on the fact that he drinks a lot of sodas and eats donuts and sweet every day and isn’t obese. In fact, he claims, he’s lost 40 lbs in the past year. Well, I doubt that (because I have eyes), but more importantly, just because you’re thin doesn’t mean your arteries aren’t clogged with cholesterol (see Thin Outside/Fat Inside aka TOFI). I’ve known people who were thin and yet died of high blood pressure and had plaque in their arteries.

I tried to tell this person about how sugar is easily processed, how the liver can create so much more fat from refined sugar vs natural sugar that has to be broken down because it typically contains some kind of fiber. I took a lot more time than I’m taking now in explaining the processes in the body that produce fat, and that our bodies actually need fat for our brains and arteries/veins. Despite all that, he fell back on, “Well, I drink a lot of sodas and eat sweets and I’m not fat, so I will believe what I believe.”

Fair enough; I stopped the discussion, and quite frankly, was taken aback. When faced with facts, irrefutable molecular processes, and physical science, he decided instead to go with, “Well, I’m not fat, so…” The problem and danger of this argument goes back to TOFI.

People who are TOFI are often of normal weight. However, they have low levels of lean muscle, but excess amounts of visceral fat. Excess levels of visceral fat is associated with Insulin Resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as many other related diseases.

Dr Chatterjee (https://drchatterjee.com/skinny-fat/)

People who cannot see past their own experiences are doomed to repeat their mistakes and when we are talking about health and fitness, can end up with dire results. I tried and tried, over and over, to lose weight and never could until I considered something I didn’t know anything about and was quite skeptical about. Whole30 and Paleo were foreign concepts to me, and I didn’t really believe they would work, yet they did. And they continue to work for me and millions of others. What doesn’t work? High carb diets.

Either you get to a point where you have to accept ideas that are not your own and perhaps even beyond your comfort zone, or you stay in your little cocoon of bad information and watch your health and mobility decline at a rapid rate. The choice is yours. Do the research and open your mind, and you just might surprise yourself with finding that gem of information that will transform your life for the better.

The Need to be Dedicated

It’s not enough to decide to do something. It’s the first really important step to take: commitment. But then, you have to persevere. You have to work through adversity. You have to keep going even when your face setbacks. That’s why you need to be dedicated to the change you want to see, the change you want to feel, and the change you want to realize.

Me on my last trip to Portland, ME.

I’ve allowed myself to slowly gain weight. It’s not all my fault: this Achilles heel injury has been a larger setback than I gave it credit for. I’m back to my pre-running weight, but holding steady. That has been really good for one important reason: it shows me that my initial weight loss plateau was no fluke and that the diet I eat is good to get me to 185 lbs. It also reaffirms to me that to get lower than 185 lbs, I need to run.

I’ve been lifting weights and getting very strong, but I haven’t lost a single pound of weight (although I also haven’t gained any while gaining muscle size). I know: muscle weighs more than fat, body reconfiguration is more important than weight, etc. I get it. BUT, my gut is bigger than I like. My pants are tighter than they were. I need to slim back down more, and running gets me there.

I’m starting a physical therapy plan for my Achilles heel that I’ll begin tomorrow, and I’m also going to start the stationary cycle on Wednesday since I’m doing my standard weightlifting and push-ups tomorrow.

I’m dedicated to doing what it takes to get back to where I want to be with my weight, strength, and cardio. It’s going to be a long and hard road, but I’m up to the task. This isn’t my first or even second time climbing this hill, and I know I can do it.

Stop Making Excuses for Breakfast

When people ask me about breakfast, I tell them what I’ve been eating 99% of the time since starting my first Whole30: I eat two eggs, sunny side up, and two slices of bacon. EVERY SINGLE PERSON has responded with, “It must be nice to have enough time in the mornings to make breakfast.”

My breakfast for success (delicious and quick!).

Sigh.

Today, I timed myself. It took less than 4 minutes to make breakfast.

Let that sink in. 4 minutes.

How? Well, it does require a little prep on Sundays (or whatever day you prefer to do some food prep). Sherry bakes the bacon in the oven until it’s about 80% done and then lets it cool before putting all the bacon into a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Then, we have bacon to use all week long for breakfast.

I take the 80% cooked bacon and put it on a plate which I microwave for 30 seconds (or a full minute if I want crunchy bacon, like I did this morning).

How I make it happen in 4 minutes

First, I turn on the burner (set to high) with my cast iron skillet oiled with a light coating of coconut oil.

Second, I take two slices of bacon out of the bag, put them on the plate, and put the plate into the microwave for thirty seconds.

Third, I crack two eggs and put them into the skillet.

Fourth, I walk over to the coffee maker and make a cup of coffee. Yes, I use a Keurig. It’s not a forever solution, but it’s what I use right now. It also allows for a quick cup of coffee.

About the time I push the button to make the coffee, the microwave signals me that the 30 seconds are up. I walk over to the microwave and take the plate out and set it next to the stove. I then wait for the eggs to cook, about another 2 1/2 minutes, and then put the eggs onto the plate with the bacon.

Seriously: that’s about 4 minutes of time. I remember it used to take me more time to make oatmeal (waiting for it to get goopy enough to enjoy).

There is no excuse to skip breakfast. On the days I can’t even spare the 4 minutes, I will grab a 200 calorie nut-based grain-free breakfast bar which does a surprisingly good job of keeping me sated until lunch time.

Now that the vacation is over…

It’s time to get back to our healthy lifestyle. Although all the non-Paleo foods and all the ciders were delicious, the fact of the matter is that I needed to get back on the wagon. It’s weird: Sherry and I actually look forward to getting back to eating right.

This is a photo we’ve taken at the end of every vacation since our first trip together back in 2003.

What you eat affects your body and your mind in many ways. If I eat a bunch of sugar or carb-heavy foods, I find myself more irritable, I feel physically hot, and mentally and physically sluggish; as if I were in a sort of quicksand. When I eat healthy foods, my mind is clearer, I don’t get hungry between meals, and I somehow just feel more energetic.

I watched the first game of the World Series last night, and I decided to have a few ciders and some popcorn. Neither of those are Paleo, but it was the World Series, I reasoned to myself. Well, I’m paying for it this morning. I had just gotten rid of the post-vacation bloating and mental fuzziness that I now have this morning. I have a work out scheduled for this evening after work that tends to help, but I also have Sherry’s amazing food prepped lunch ready to go and I’m sure dinner will be the same.

I never thought I’d be the guy who looks forward to eating healthy foods, but after four years, it’s amazing how much of an impact changing what I put into my body has made on not just my physical health, but my mental health. The same goes for running. I was just telling Sherry on Monday about how much I look forward to getting back to running. Not because I love running, but because I love how I feel when I’m running. Ok, not WHILE I’m physically out running, but how I feel when I am running 3-4 times a week. I just feel stronger and more fit. As much as I actually enjoy weightlifting and the benefits to my strength, it hasn’t done anything for my cardio, which I need to get back to as soon as I can.

I am going to try to start riding the stationary cycle on my non weightlifting days, but I’ve yet to actually do it. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight is for moving weight up and down.

Vacation was Great

A lighthouse as seen from my drone. I had FAA Clearance to fly here.

Vacations can be many things: fun, busy, relaxing, stressful, miserable, memorable, or an experience you would rather forget. In my case, this last vacation was relaxing, memorable, and full of new experiences and best of all, a lot of time with my wife. Unfortunately for her, she spent the last 2/3 of the vacation with a horrible cold, but she soldiered on and did her best to keep up despite my wanting us to relax and take some down-time. She said she wasn’t going to spend her vacation in a hotel or Air BnB sitting inside. Fair enough.

The USS Constitution in Boston.

In terms of places we visited, it was great. We went to Boston (visiting my cousin Andras and his wife Carol and spending some time in the city going to many historic sites), New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and up into Canada where we went to Montreal and Quebec City.

Downtown Montreal, Quebec.

I took my drone and got some great photos and videos that I’m still working on. I did not fly in Canada because I am not licensed in Canada, and flying there would have been illegal (and I don’t like doing illegal things unless it’s speeding).

In terms of food and drink, let’s say there was very little restraint. I didn’t say that we were unrestrained: we did try to make some healthy decisions to mitigate the impact, but I did imbibe a lot of ciders and sweet things I otherwise don’t allow myself. In terms of food, I ate as best as possible with some exceptions (how can you go to Canada and not eat poutine, or go to Legal Seafoods in Cambridge and not have clam chowder?!?!?!?!).

From a culinary standpoint, I had some amazing foods. Some healthier than others, but all delicious. I had some amazing (and some just ok) ciders. The breakfasts in Montreal were some of the best I’ve ever had outside of Scotland and Ireland.

Lobster Tots in Maine. What the?!?! Who the?!?!? These were AMAZING!!!

The biggest challenge for me was finding gyms to work out in. I did find a gym in Cambridge when we first went on vacation, but in Montreal, I never go to lift any weights and my Achilles heel was still too sore for me to run. Once we got back to the US, I didn’t find any gyms in Portland, ME that I could drop into, either, so my lifting took an 8 day break which I regretted, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that.

I’m back now, and I’m also back to eating right and exercising. I’ve already had two lifting sessions, and I’m dealing with some DOMS right now, but it’s not as bad today as it was on Sunday. My next weightlifting session is tomorrow, and I’m sure by the end of the week, my muscles will be right back into the swing of things. As for lost progress, I was pleased that I only lost about 15 lbs in the squat and 10 lbs on my bench and overhead press. I should be back to where I was prior to my vacation within the week.

On Vacation

Today is the first day of our two-week vacation to New England. The real challenges for us will be the following:

  • Eating healthy: temptation will be strong with lots of non-Paleo foods.
  • Exercise: I need a gym with free weights, and I’m going to have to find some to drop in at.
  • Alcohol consumption: it’s fall, which means it’s apple season, and we will be visiting many cideries.

On vacation, Sherry and I tend to relax our rules a bit on what we eat, so we’ve decided that when we go off the diet, we will be sharing portions to mitigate the damage and the calories. It’s a good plan; we’ll see how it works out.

As for exercise, normally I can run, but with the Achilles heel injury, I’m stuck doing weights. That’s been fine at home where I have my own gym, but now that I’m traveling, I will need to find a gym to workout in. In the cities it shouldn’t be too difficult. I might even be able to get form checks on my exercises which is a plus. I hope to get a t-shirt from every gym I visit.

Alcohol consumption will likely be the toughest to tackle. We enjoy cider, and we enjoy drinking while on vacation to relax and to experience different flavors in the different parts of the world. We’ll try to keep it reasonable, but sometimes, drinks taste too good to not imbibe.

We will be visiting relatives and then going off on our own to see the fall colors and explore Montreal and Quebec City in Canada and then Portland, ME and hopefully some lighthouses. I brought my drone with me to get some aerial photos and video (but not in Canada where it’s illegal for me to fly without a Canadian license).

I’ll be posting my experiences while on my vacation with diet and exercise and my ability to channel as much willpower as possible. It will be a trying time, but I refuse to partake in regional foods. If I gain a little weight, it’s okay; I can lose it later. But I do plan on being as smart as I can about it.

Hurdles

Resting between sets, thinking about the next hurdle.

My journey with better health and fitness hasn’t been a smooth road. It hasn’t been all up-hill, though, and at times, it really felt like I was on an easy down-hill jog while still losing weight and getting fitter. These days, however, with the Achilles heel injury lingering, I feel like I’m not able to make the progress I really want. I’ve been able to lift weights, and my progress is really great, but even there, I face one big hurdle: self doubt.

Even though I’ve exceeded my own expectations, every time I walk up to the bar for my first heavy squat of the day, my mind screams, “Don’t do this! It’s too heavy! You won’t be able to do it!” I have to stop, take a breath, and just go for it. Each time for the last four sessions, I’ve had to do this. Each time, I completed all five reps in all five sets. Is it getting harder? Certainly. But I’m still able to do it. The last set is the hardest, but I’m following Mehdi’s recommendations for 3 minutes of rest between sets, and I can definitely feel the difference between the 1:30 and 3:00 rest periods.

It seems to me that the biggest hurdle, regardless of any endeavor, is self doubt. It’s the first, and in my experience, the highest hurdle to get past. Once I can get past that nagging voice in my head that says, “You can’t do it,” the rest of the hurdles seem much easier to get over. Muscle soreness? Keep going. Out of breath? Slow down, but keep going. Typically, as I keep going, the hurdles actually get smaller and smaller. By the end, it’s just me and whatever exercise I’m doing, or in the case of being on a diet, my body gets used to it, my mind gets used to the new paradigm, and what were hurdles before are smooth asphalt beneath my feet.

Something I learned that’s fascinating to me is that self-doubt is a survival instinct. It’s natural, and it’s actually a good thing. It’s the mechanism that makes us search for easier ways to do things to conserve energy. Of course, the problem here is that the endeavor we are wanting to start is that of using energy to get stronger. So, that seems counter-productive, right? Well, on the surface, yes. But if we understand why that instinct is there, we can get past it easier. At least it works for me. The same holds true for eating. Our instinct is to eat as much as we can to store up energy in case lean times come and we have to go without food for days. That’s highly unlikely for us in the first world, and we know our next meal is only 4-6 hours away, so it makes it easier for us to push that plate away and say, “Enough.”

For me, the toughest hurdle in limiting the amount of food I eat is held up by two legs: the first is that I love delicious food, and I love eating. The second leg of the hurdle is that finishing my plate was ingrained in me by my father as a child. I was punished for not finishing my food, and I have a difficult time leaving any food on my plate. That’s why I prefer to get plates with less food on them. Once I’m finished, I feel like I did a good thing, even if it wasn’t quite enough.

We all face the hurdles. Some of them can be pretty tough to get past, but ultimately, we can get past them. I got past mine, and I continue to surprise myself all the time by getting past each new hurdle as I lift heavier and heavier weights.