My Backup Plan for Food

I’m currently at drill with my National Guard unit, and we were told we were having lunch at a local establishment. It was a fixed lunch, and basically, we will be getting served whatever they serve us. They made it sound like we won’t have the ability to pick and choose what we eat which will likely mean a very carb and grain-heavy lunch.

To prepare for meals like this, I always pack a bunch of food with me. I’ve done three annual training exercises (known as AT’s) this way as well as just about every drill weekend for the past three years. Here’s what I put in my food bag

RXBars. These are a staple. I eat them very slowly, and they are filling. They come in at around 210 calories, and for breakfast, I’ll typically eat one RXBar with some nuts or a fruit. At lunch or dinner, the RXBar will be augmented with another bar.

Grain Free Granola Bars. In this case, I’m using Autumn’s Gold, and these come in at 210 calories also. They taste good and are pretty filling in the morning coupled with a few small beef sticks.

Country Archer Beef Sticks. Each one of these little sticks has 50 calories, so I typically eat two of these with a breakfast if I don’t have nuts or fruit to eat with a bar.

Cave Man Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut bar. They are 220 calories of chocolate goodness that I put into meals when I need to sate a chocolate craving. I’ll use this as a finishing bar when I’m eating a dinner meal.

Nuts. I like almonds, but any real nuts will do. I’ll typically eat a handful (small handful), and I eat these very slowly. Nuts are dense in calories, but also very healthy, so I eat these sparingly.

Fruit. I am very careful when it comes to eating fruit because although fruit is naturally high in fiber and good for you, it’s still a lot of sugar, and I try to reduce the amount of carbs I eat. I enjoy an apple or orange with a nut bar from time to time as fruit is available.

Today, I’ll have an RXBar, a granola free bar, and a beef stick with me in my pocket just in case. I typically have two to three weeks’ worth of food with me at any time in one of my ruck sacks, and it gives me a safe way to refill the fuel tank with good, healthy foods and not be forced to eat high-carbs and non-Paleo foods.

Starting the Week with Knee Pain?

Me after my run on Friday afternoon.

My first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The last thing I need right now is knee pain. I’ve been making great progress on my runs, and I’m finally at a point where I can run and not feel pain after a run; just a nice, even “good” burn. You know, the way your muscles are supposed to feel after exercise.

But this morning, I have a bit of pain in my right knee. It started actually on my last run in the last tenth of a mile. I was lucky that it was the end of my run, so I didn’t give it much thought. I figured it was just me being tired at the end of a run, and the pain went away completely until just before bed last night when I stepped wrong or did something (I honestly don’t remember) and the pain shot back. I took a Motrin and went to sleep, hoping it was an anomaly.

Nope. Still hurts.

I’m being careful on it, and against what some would call better judgment, I will try to run on it later today. I will take a very slow pace (much, much slower than usual) to just try to move for 30 minutes. I have drill this week and I will have to run a few times for sure, so I can’t just stop running.

Pain comes in three varieties for me. They are exercise pain or what I call phantom pain, bad pain (injury), and good pain (“The burn”).

Phantom Pains are those that pop up just after I start a run. These manifest as a pain in my shins, my knees, ankles, heel, or other areas of my legs that mimic injuries, but aren’t. They’re my body’s way of being sneaky and saying, “Dude. We don’t need to do this. Running isn’t something we should be doing right now. Let’s chill.” Fortunately, I know what my legs are up to, and I don’t trust them, so I keep running. Sure enough, the pain goes away, and I’m able to run normally.

Bad pain is an actual injury. If something starts to hurt, but not really badly, I know it’s a phantom pain. If the pain is very sharp, hot, and shooting, then I know it’s an injury, and I stop immediately. These indicate a serious problem, and sometimes medical attention. The bad pain is what I try to avoid at all times and is why I’m especially careful with my progress to keep from pushing too hard.

Good pain is what people call, “The Burn.” This is the good feeling you get after a good workout. This is what people chase when they start getting addicted to working out. It’s actually a very satisfying feeling, and I get it. There’s also the good pain you get while running: exerting your muscles beyond normal daily usage can bring about a soreness while you do it, but again, it’s a good pain.

The pain I’m feeling this morning is more like phantom pain, but I won’t know until I start running. Once I run, if it’s an injury, it’ll shoot through my knee like a bolt of electricity, and I’ll stop immediately. Otherwise, I’ll run through it, and once it goes away (hopefully), I’ll increase my pace and run out the rest of my scheduled run.

Today looks like the weather will be nice, so I may actually run outdoors today. I could have run outside all week last week, actually, but I’ll have to be honest that I preferred running on the treadmill in our gym because it has a TV in front of it, and I was watching a series on Overlanding which is very interesting to me right now. It also felt a bit safer in the event I needed to stop running for some reason; I’d just have to jump off the treadmill and I’m already home.

Health and fitness go hand in hand. Even though I lost 110 lbs without any exercise, I felt much better once I did start running. My body composition improved greatly, and it transformed the way I looked from “Soft” to a more fit me. There was even a distinct change in my face about two or three months after I began running even though my weight didn’t change much.

Use those muscles. Do something. Anything. I’m not asking you to become a marathon runner or a weightlifter. But I am asking that you do something active. You will learn to enjoy it, and you’ll definitely appreciate it. Best of all, your heart will be better for it, and it’ll even help you psychologically.

Abandon the Blame Game

Making excuses is easy. Blaming others is easy.

Back when my shoulder wasn’t hurt and I was weightlifting 4x a week.

“I gained weight because I had a kid.”

“I gained weight because I got out of the service and stopped running.”

“I got out of shape because I hurt my foot and never got back into it.”

“I am genetically predisposed to being overweight.”

“I am overweight because I can’t exercise, and I have very limited mobility.”

Blaming anything or anyone at all is easier than taking responsibility for your own health and fitness. The truth is that you don’t need to exercise to be at a healthier weight (and healthier weight means not obese). I know that there’s a huge movement afoot to accept all body types, and I agree that not everyone can have the thin and slender look, but there’s a difference between a healthy weight and an unhealthy weight despite looks. But getting to a healthy weight can be accomplished through a few simple (and I didn’t say easy) steps:

  • Cut grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and anything with added sugars (aka Whole30 or Paleo Diet).
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night (may vary +/- 1.5 hours for some people).
  • If you can, do some exercise. You don’t need to be a gym rat or become a heavy-duty runner. Just something active for 30 minutes, three times a week.
  • Persevere. Do what it takes to resist temptation and stick with the plan.
  • NO SABOTAGE. That means no cheat meals, cheat days, etc.

Don’t be a victim. Don’t play the victim. Take responsibility for yourself and your health and do what it takes to get it done. You can be healthier by eating right. The list of people who have turned their health, weight, and fitness around is growing in my personal circle of friends. I was not an anomaly. My wife is not an anomaly. We are the average people putting in average work and getting normal results. You can get the exact same results by being honest and doing the requisite work.

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.