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.

Where the real effort is

I’ve written before about the hardest part of getting healthy and fit; starting. While that’s the biggest hurdle for most people (and it was for me, too!), the next challenge is to keep going even when you don’t necessarily feel like you’re making progress. It’s even harder when you see the scale rise when you’re doing everything right, or after a lapse in your diet.

The journey is an uphill battle with doubts, temptations, fatigue, and others weighing you down and trying to pull you back from making progress. The true test of character is how you handle adversity, and sticking to the plan is no different.

For me, the solution was to make my goal not just something I was willing to work towards, but something I wasn’t willing to give up on or to trade anything else for. It’s one thing to want success; it’s another to refuse to accept defeat.

It’s not easy. Anything worth having takes effort and sometimes even some sacrifice. But in the end, when you succeed, you’ll not only realize the benefits of being healthier and fitter, but you’ll take pride in knowing you succeeded where you didn’t think you could, and you made it past the adversity and met and defeated the challenges.

The Secret to Weight Loss Nobody Wants You To Know

There is a big secret to losing weight that nobody wants you to know. The government, the nutrition industry, the health industry, gyms and fitness companies, and definitely not the diet supplements and diet industry. It’s a secret so devastating that they spend millions of dollars to ensure you are fed misinformation to ensure you never find out. What is the secret to weight loss?

A healthy diet.

That’s all it takes. Eat meat and vegetables. Avoid foods with added sugar. Avoid grains, legumes, and artificial ingredients. Get up and move a little here and there.

If you want to get strong or make your heart and muscles healthier, then get some exercise. But if you want to lose weight, you will have to change your diet. That’s right: you WILL have to change your diet. There’s no other way.

Think about it. The way you eat got you to where you are today. If you are obese, that’s a direct result of your diet. If you are at a healthy weight, it’s also because of your diet. When it comes to our weight, we literally are what we eat. Unhealthy foods often leads to unhealthy weight.

There is no silver bullet to obesity. Even pills, powders, patches, and surgical procedures have consequences, sometimes fatal. The only sure-fire way to lose weight is to change your diet which means changing your lifestyle. And not for just a little while, either. This has to be a permanent change to get permanent results. How can you expect to lose weight after changing your diet and then return to your previous diet without gaining it all back? This isn’t logical, yet it’s what many people do.

Look, I know this post isn’t all flowers and happiness because the title led you to believe that I had some secret information on losing weight. Well, I didn’t lie: the secret is that it takes time, discipline, and a change in diet/lifestyle. What many people read into the title was an easy or fast (or both) way to lose weight. Sadly, there is no fast or easy way to lose weight. Unless you consider eating tasty and healthy food easy. I did. I couldn’t believe I was losing as much weight as quickly as I was in my first year of my new lifestyle. I wasn’t hungry, I felt great, and the food was amazing (and all home made). I didn’t have to buy pre-made meals or pay some plan. All I had to do was make good food from whole ingredients.

If you are already eating healthy food made from whole ingredients that avoids grains, legumes, and anything with added sugar, congratulations! You’re on the right path! If you are wanting to make a change to lose weight or to get healthier, I recommend looking into Whole30 or The Paleo Diet. They both worked for me, and have been working for over four years. Results don’t lie.

Try it. You might surprise yourself.

This picture is a few weeks old, but I wear those pink shoes every day in the gym.

Yesterday, I went into my gym thinking that I wasn’t going to do well for the following reasons:

  • I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and I was tired
  • I took two days off from lifting due to life/blood donation
  • The last session was tough and I really pushed to finish my squats

I stuck to the plan and lifted anyway. To my surprise, things went exceedingly well. I finished all my sets and reps without issue, and while it was a challenge, I didn’t feel near my limit.

Somehow, I had gotten stronger.

Well, that’s the plan, at least: to get stronger. I’ve been trusting in the StrongLifts 5×5 plan for almost five weeks now, and I’m continuing to make solid progress. It’s progress that’s wildly beyond what I thought was possible, but it’s all there. I’m squatting almost triple my starting weight just over four weeks ago!

The reason I mention this is because I didn’t think I would be able to do this weightlifting thing. I didn’t think I could enjoy it, and I didn’t think I would be able to stick with it. I really didn’t think I would see the gains I’m seeing so quickly. I know many others who’ve spent years in the gym and haven’t progressed so quickly, yet here I am, a 52-year old lifting newbie making serious gains!

Don’t talk yourself out of trying something because you think you might fail. Talk yourself into trying something with the knowledge that if you do fail, it’s just another lesson learned in what not to do next time you try. Failure to accomplish a goal isn’t the end of the world; not even trying to reach the goal is the end before you even begin.

10,000 Steps a Day

Walking the dog is a fun way to get those steps in.

I read an article about where the 10,000 steps a day trend came from. It turns out that some company making fitness watches thought that it’d be a good, round number to set as a goal that is roughly two or three times the number of steps people normally get in a day. Is there any basis in 10,000 steps a day being good for you? Not really. It’s not bad, but it’s not going to help you lose weight.

Don’t get me wrong; getting steps is good for you. It’s better than sitting all day, but not for the reasons most people try to get steps. Here are some reasons it’s good to get those steps in (and to get up and off your butt!):

  • Getting up helps your hips and back by allowing you to stretch them. Staying in one position for long periods of time can lead to muscle pain and even back problems due to poor posture most of us have when sitting.
  • Moving helps your body digest. That’s why walking after a meal is actually very good for you!
  • Sitting for long periods of time has been linked to heart disease. Why? There are many reasons scientists think they are linked, but the fact remains that people who sit for long periods of time tend to have heart disease. Or is it people with heart disease tend to sit a lot? I’d rather get those steps in.
  • Diabetes. Believe it or not, insulin resistance is higher after sitting or laying down for long periods of time. People with higher body weight tend to have more problems with this.
  • Getting up and walking for a bit a few times a day helps relieve neck and shoulder strain from looking at your monitor all day. It also helps relieve eye strain.

What 10,000 steps a day will not do, however, is allow you to eat whatever you want and lose weight. 10,000 steps a day won’t even actually help you lose weight unless you change your diet (at which time it’s actually your diet that’s making you lose weight, not the steps). The 10,000 steps can help your heart if you make those steps brisk, but to get really true benefits from exercise, you have to either lift lots of weights or get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes.

So, get those steps in. They won’t hurt you, but don’t think that walking 10,000 steps a day will replace a solid fitness plan. It just won’t.

Finding Victories

There are days when you’re hoping or expecting to make progress in one measurable metric or another (like weighing yourself on the scale, or measuring your waist) and you don’t see the results you were looking for. This is disheartening, and makes you question yourself, your dedication, the effort, and even the program itself. This is natural, and you’re not alone in this thinking. It’s also where your will, determination, and perseverance are tested. This is the moment that separates you from everyone else who tried and failed.

I find that if I don’t reach a goal in one area, I look to other areas to find victories. So I didn’t lose any weight? Well, at least my clothes all feel good. I didn’t lose any inches off my waist? Well, I’m eating better and I feel more mental clarity. My BMI is still unacceptable? That’s okay: I’m doing all the right things, and this is just a plateau. Plateaus are natural, and soon, I’ll be off of it.

What separated me from all the other people who started down their health and fitness journey when I did and failed is that I stuck with it and kept putting in the work. Putting in the work might be as simple as just continuing to food prep, to eat the right foods, and to get the exercise in. It might mean reevaluating what I’ve been doing and adjusting as necessary. Either way, I never quit.

Did I question myself? The process? The Diet? Sure. But I only let it go so far as to question whether I was properly adhering to the process and diet. If there was anything not being done right, I was pretty certain it was me. And sure enough, I either wasn’t getting enough sleep or maybe not even eating enough (did you know that not eating enough can sometimes stall your weight loss? Crazy, right!?!?!).

Find the victories. Sometimes, when you can’t find one, the most basic one will always hold true: at least you’re doing something to improve your health, get fit, and lose some weight. At least you’re an active participant in your health, and you’re not surrendering. And that’s a lot.