Dig Down Deep

OK. Time to be honest, not just me being honest with you, but you being honest with yourself. You want to do things the easy way. You want to get results with the least amount of work and effort. You want to erase years or decades of bad decisions with as little pain as possible.

Dont’ lie to me, or to yourself. You know that’s what you want.

I know it’s what you want, because I wanted it, too.

What I had to do to finally make progress and succeed at getting healthy and losing weight was to dig down deep and find the strength inside me to see something through to the end. I finally hit a point where I decided that failure was not an option. It’s easy to say, but I actually had to get to a place where I honestly believed in that phrase, “Failure is not an option.”

Every time I was offered something that wasn’t on my diet, I had to tell myself that failure is not an option. It helped me decline.

Every time I wanted to take the easy way out of meal prep and just go get some food from a fast-food place, I had to remind myself that failure is not an option. It helped me find my inner strength.

Every time I wanted to come home and sit on the couch instead of going out for my three mile run, I told myself that failure was not an option.

Something else that helped: positive thinking. While failure was no longer an option, positive thinking became my new mindset. In the beginning, I had to fake being positive about eating right. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that thinking positive can make the difference between success and failure, so I decided to go into my new lifestyle with a positive mindset. Fast forward a year and I had lost 130 lbs.

When it became time for me to start running, I decided to use the same trick. I started pumping myself up every day before my run, telling myself how lucky I was to be able to run, to be physically able to make myself stronger and faster. I told myself I was going to enjoy not only the run, but how I would feel afterward. Then, something crazy happened: I actually began to enjoy it. Honestly, deep-down, I began to enjoy exercising. When I didn’t or couldn’t, I felt badly and yearned for my next time on the road.

Digging deep down isn’t just about finding your strength or motivation. It’s about finding yourself. It’s about finding who you are, what you want in life, and making it happen regardless of the effort. I had to find mine, and you need to find yours. To do that, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and make a commitment to yourself. It’ll be the most important thing you can ever do for yourself and everyone you love.

Success from Failure

I used to be a really trim and fit guy. I weighed just 148 lbs at 5’7″ and I was in great shape. I was an active duty U.S. Marine for eleven years, and until my last year on active duty, I kept my weight under control very well.

Then, I left active duty and let my health go. I ate as much, and often more than I used to when I exercised everyday. I lost control and allowed my appetite to soar out of control. I ate for entertainment. While eating, I would be thinking about what I could eat at the next meal or snack. I gave no thought at all to exercise or fitness, thinking I would never do anything physically active ever again.

I had failed at staying healthy and fit. I was quickly on my way to an early grave with Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver Disease, circulation issues in my lower extremities, and failing eye sight. Worst of all, I was not going to be around long for my wife and kids. I had to do something to reverse my downward spiral into the grave.

My wife and I found Whole30 and The Paleo Diet. It saved our lives. Coupled with exercise, we are now healthy and fit. I am back to serving our country in the Army National Guard. My wife exercises 6 days a week; I run three times a week and lift weights three times a week. We are very active on our trips and vacations, doing things like parasailing, zip lining, hiking, running, and doing lots of exploring on foot.

We had both failed many times in the past in trying to lose weight. We did many fad diets, none of which were sustainable. Nothing ever worked for us until we did our first Whole30 followed by transitioning into Paleo. It’s been an easy transition, and four years later, we are still healthy and fit, eating delicious food and staying satisfied between meals.

It doesn’t matter how often you’ve failed at trying to lose weight. It doesn’t matter if you used to be thin and fit and are now neither of those things. You control your destiny and your life. You can make the changes necessary to reverse the trend. All it takes is perseverance, some discipline, and the desire to see the change through. Read up on Whole30 and The Paleo Diet. Or find something else that works for you that doesn’t require you to take pills, powders, patches, have medical procedures, or pay for any programs. I’m not trying to make money off anyone; I’m just offering free advice and my experiences as well as pointing people to Whole30 and Paleo which are both free (sure, you can buy books about them and recipes for them, but you an also find all of that online for free).

Don’t let your last failure define you. Keep trying. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed in the past if you finally succeed. Every failure is just another lesson in what not do to next time.

You’re Not Too Old

I’m 52 years old. I run three times a week and I lift weights three times a week. I’m in the National Guard Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) as a Fire Control Staff Sergeant. I am very physically active, and my wife and I like to go on hikes, long walks, and exploring together. I can do this now that I’ve taken control of my eating and my health by doing a Whole30 and adopting The Paleo Diet.

I was 48 years old and morbidly obese. I am only 5’7″ tall and yet I weighed 320 lbs. Climbing up one flight of stairs left me winded. I was a Type 2 diabetic, taking Metformin to control my blood sugar. I had Fatty Liver Disease. I was beginning to experience circulation and nerve issues in my lower extremities. My vision was deteriorating due to the diabetes. I was too young to have all these issues, and my cousin Sarah, a Physician Assistant, talked to me about it. She told me that I didn’t have long to live if I didn’t change something quick, but I told her that I’d tried diets and I tried exercise, and nothing worked. She asked me, “What would you do if I told you that you can lose weight and get healthy without exercise?” I told her that I didn’t really believe that it was possible, but she persisted and told me that she lost a bunch of weight doing Whole30 and Paleo. I was intrigued. I trusted her, and if she said it would work, I would give it a try. I talked to my wife, and after a few weeks of discussion and planning, we went into a Whole30 with everything we had. Less than a year later, I was no longer diabetic, no longer had fatty liver disease, my vision improved, and the circulation issues I’d been experiencing with my lower extremities had ceased to be a problem. Within a year, I was talking to recruiters about re-entering military service (I had already served 11 years on active duty in the Marines).

At age 49, I enlisted into the Army National Guard. I passed the height and weight standards, and I scored a 273 out of 300 on the Army Physical Fitness Test. I was scoring better than men 30 years younger than me. I was able to do this not because I paid anyone or for any product to help me lose weight. I was able to do this because I changed my lifestyle and adopted a healthy diet while eventually adding exercise (after losing 130 lbs first).

Not once did I ever think that I was too old to do this. Even now, as I’m doing 6-mile ruck marches with 45+ lbs in my pack, running APFT’s in uniform, or going through challenging obstacle courses am I thinking about my age. When it gets hard, I’m reminded of it, but I don’t let it stop me. I use it as fuel to propel me past the obstacles. I aim to persevere, and I don’t allow anything to get in the way of my goals. The LAST thing I will allow is anyone younger than me to think that I don’t have the ability to be where I am. I’m not the fastest or the strongest, but I’m not the slowest or the weakest either. I don’t come in last.

Age is just a number. Your body will put up with a lot more than you think it will. It will deteriorate if you let it, and it will try to trick you into thinking that you can’t do any physical activity because being stationary is definitely easier than getting up and doing some exercise. Start slowly, allow recovery/rest time, and you can do anything! Eat right and you will lose weight. Exercise and you will not only get fit, but you will also find doing things around the house will get easier.

I’m 52 and doing things I couldn’t do when I was 30. I’m in better shape now than I was 22 years ago, and I even weigh less. I am more flexible, I’m stronger, and my mind is clearer from all the exercise and good food. I’m not a gym rat, and I’m not missing out on life because of fitness; to the contrary, I’m living my best life because of it and eating well. I know you can do this, too. You just have to want to do it and get age out of your mind. It’s just a number.

The Cheat Code to Weight Loss

Sherry and I at a friend’s home just before we were married.

Four years ago this month, I was optimistic and hopeful yet not expecting much out of doing my first Whole30. I’d finally convinced my wife to do it with me, and with her help and support, we began a lifestyle that has completely changed our lives. To this day, we continue to eat well and avoid anything with added sugars, grains, soy, dairy, and legumes. Because of that, we have kept the weight off for four years, and we continue to get fitter, stronger, and enjoy adventures.

Sherry and I at my birthday dinner this year.

I remember after the first month feeling as if I’d found the cheat code to a video game that had allowed me to make progress without effort. Sure, I had to give up anything with added sugar, high-carb foods I loved, and I had to stop snacking, but something crazy happened: I did it without feeling hungry between meals. On top of it all, I felt satisfied after meals which kept me from snacking. I never got tired of the food I was eating, and each week, I was losing an average of 2-3 lbs. That continued for an entire year without exercise. Truly I felt like I was cheating at life.

Effortless? Yes and no. I didn’t have to spend hours in the gym every day. I didn’t have to run every day or every other day. I didn’t even take long walks! If there was effort, it was in the food prep, in buying groceries that were whole foods (meat and vegetables), and in cooking. There was a little effort in resisting temptation when co-workers would bring donuts or kolaches to work for everyone, but that was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. Same for nacho chips at Mexican restaurants, or bread and rolls at other restaurants. The most effort I had to expend was self-control.

People are always looking for the easiest way to lose weight. They will spend thousands of dollars to buy pills, patches, powders, have medical procedures, or pay to partake in programs that all promise weight loss, yet more than 70% of those people will fail and give up. What made my method different is that it cost me nothing more than the food I ate and some self-control. All I had to do is eat the way my grandparents and their ancestors before them ate: protein and natural single-ingredient carbs (vegetables). Sure, I’d have some fruit every now and then, but once you get out of the mindset of eating snacks and desserts, the fruits fall out of your diet naturally and effortlessly.

Here I sit, writing this article, four years after my wife and I made the decision to eat well and to take on this new lifestyle; not for a little while, but for the rest of our lives. Aside from making the decision to get married, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made and I don’t regret it for a moment. Ever. Not even when I see fast food I used to love, or amazing and delicious looking pasta dishes. Not even when I watch people eating pizza. I prefer being healthy, being able to tie my shoes without holding my breath, being able to climb stairs without losing my breath, and being able to serve my state and my country in the National Guard as a Fire Control Staff Sergeant in the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB).

The cheat code is perseverance. Follow the rules, trust in the process, and keep sticking to the diet. That’s all it takes. It’s super-easy. If I can do it, I know anyone can. I’m not the strongest-willed person I know. Far from it. But I realized that if I didn’t change my life, I wouldn’t have much longer to live. Being 5’6″ tall and weighing 320 lbs is not conducive to longevity. Something had to change, and it had to change permanently.

Whole30 and The Paleo Diet got me and my wife where we are today. All you need to do is believe in yourself, use the inner-strength you have (I know you have it, because I know you’ve all accomplished some great things out there that took perseverance), and get it done. Really want it. If you have questions, need motivation, or just want to talk, leave a comment, send me a message, or email me. I promise: I’m here to help.

Getting Ready for Oral Surgery

I have some issues that need to be worked on next week, so on Monday, I’ll be having a very unpleasant appointment at the dentist’s office to have surgery on my jaw and upper mouth. It will leave me at home for a few days of recovery (which I’m not looking forward to), and worse, will make it impossible for me to exercise and difficult for me to eat properly.

The timing is bad; I really want to get started on my new weight lifting regimen and continue to make progress on my running, but that will have to wait at least another week or so. My achille’s tendon is okay with that; it’s still sore. I also have some soreness in both my hip joints due to the way I sit at work (not healthy) and slight shin pain in my right leg, but these should be gone by next weekend. Hopefully by then, I can begin again.

As for food, I will continue with my Paleo diet. I have, however, introduced a portion of fruit with every lunch and dinner, and it seems to have helped my digestion out a lot. I haven’t weighed myself this week (uncharacteristic, I know!), but my clothes all feel better, so I know there’s progress in that area. Perhaps I’ve been eating too little in the way of calories? It’s happened to me a few times in the past where my portions got too small and I needed to increase them to lose weight. Who knows.

Anyway, I will do my best to get back into the swing of exercise after this upcoming surgery, and I will continue to eat well. I have a lot of progress to make, and I’m looking forward to getting started on it.

Good Pain vs Bad Pain

This morning, I am struggling with the battle between good pain and bad pain. Good pain is the pain you feel after an intense workout or perhaps a grueling physical challenge. Bad pain is felt after an injury. I am experiencing both right now; the good pain all over my body and the bad pain in my left Achille’s tendon.

I am extremely motivated to get started with my strengthening and conditioning. I want to get back to my running, and I’m actually excited to start a new ruck regimen of one long ruck and a shorter ruck each week (two total). I’m excited about adding more fruit into my diet to give me some carbs to burn while on those longer jaunts. I’m even looking forward to pushing through the muscle pain to get the work done. But, there’s one big problem; that Achille’s heel.

It hurts, and not just a little. Sure, I can walk on it, but I do have a limp. When I let it rest, I almost forget it’s hurt, but then when I stand up, the moment I put any weight on it, it’s painful. And not in a good way.

The only way back from a tendon injury is time, and that’s something I don’t feel like I have. I will likely start working some arms, chest, back, and core over the next week or two while I let my heel heal (ha!). I will also definitely be working on pull ups and starting my kettlebell routine.

It’s important to recognize the difference between good pain and bad and to know when to push it and when to let your body rest and heal. I’m doing my best to listen, but also doing my damnedest to push past the good pain and get the work done.

Worn Out But Accomplished

Me right after completing a 6-mile ruck march with a 47 lbs pack.

This weekend, I attended the SFAB (Security Force Assistance Brigade) assessment and selection process. It was difficult, grueling, and I’d been working toward completing this physically for a month. Some of the activities included performing an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) wearing the Army Combat Uniform (ACU’s). This is difficult because normally, these are done wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt. We had to do it in the Texas heat wearing long sleeves and long pants. Afterward, we had to do a strength and teamwork exercise wearing our rucks (mine weighed in at 47 lbs without the water hydration bladder attached which, once attached, added another 3-5 lbs). Once we completed it, we went to the Air Assault obstacle course where I got beat up physically by the obstacles while I went through them.

Some of the bruises I got from the Air Assault obstacle course on Camp Swift.

Once we completed the obstacle course, we had another strength/endurance/teamwork exercise before finishing up for the day.

The following morning we did our 6 mile ruck march with the same rucks as the day before: mine was around 51 lbs with the water. I was holding a good pace until mile 4 when I started getting some cramping in my thighs and calves, but I kept at it and finished. I was just a hair outside of what the goal was, but I wasn’t the last guy in, I never stopped, and I never quit.

I look pretty rough here, but I promise I was saying something here and smiled right after this photo was taken.

I attended a board where I answered questions, took some written tests, and at the end of it all, I was invited to join the SFAB, which I accepted. This is only the beginning, as I will need to continue to work hard at improving my strength and endurance. I now have to push myself to new heights of physical readiness, and it’s not going to be easy, but I will do what it takes to get it done.

I am 52 years old and I just got through what is likely the most grueling and difficult physical test a person my age can do, and I got through it. It was hard, and sure, at times I considered throwing in the towel and saying that I’m too old for this, but I decided against it for a few reasons.

First, I’m not too old for this. My body is aging, and yes, its losing some of its resilience and strength, but I can compensate for that with willpower and attitude.

Second, I was asked to be a member of the SFAB primarily for my technical expertise and maturity. They want me there to help lead the younger guys into situations they may not be comfortable in when we work with allied nations. I have a lot of experience with this.

I am honored to be a member of the SFAB. I am in the only National Guard SFAB, and the only battery of field artillery within the SFAB. It’s a very elite club, and I will do what it takes to stay here and be a useful member of the team.