Recognizing me in old photos

Me and a Marine friend of mine back in 1996 at MCAS Tustin, CA.

For many years, my wife would tell me that she didn’t recognize the person she saw in old photos of me. She said that the person in the photos was not the man she married, and it seemed like that person (in the photos) was long gone. I felt that way, too. When I would look at old photos of myself, I looked at them with a sadness, thinking I would never again be so healthy and fit. Little did I know that at age 48, I would turn things around and get to be in better shape at 50 than I was at 30!

Trying to look like a tough guy during Annual Training this past August, 2017 at Fort Hood, TX.

Now, she says she sees me in the old photos. The person in the pictures, who for many years didn’t seem like a real representation of who I was, now seems more familiar. She says that it’s taken a few years, but now she is used to the normal sized me. I’m finally used to it now, too, although I have to admit that from time to time, I still marvel at the fact that I’m back to a normal size. When I pull shirts out of the closet, I often think to myself, “This shirt is too small. There’s no way it’ll fit!” and then when I put it on and it fits perfectly, I’m reminded that I’m no longer 312 lbs.

What keeps me going on Paleo

My primary motivation: to stick around for the lady in the pictures here.

I was recently asked by a friend I reconnected with recently how I was able to stick to Paleo as closely as I have. Without much thought, I was able to give him a few reasons. What surprised me about this is that I knew immediately how and why I kept going on Paleo.

  • I don’t ever want to be fat again. Not because of the social stigma or because I have anything against overweight people, but because of how I felt. I feel so much better now: more energetic, limber, and active. I don’t want to lose that.
  • I have worked too hard to get where I am today. I will not surrender that under any circumstance.
  • It feels normal and regular to me now. There’s nothing weird about the food; it is what it is: delicious, filling, and good for me.
  • I am an example to others. This one isn’t a reason I mentioned, but it’s something that means a lot to me. I’m an NCO in the Army National Guard, and among people who want to lose weight and get healthy, they look to me as an example. My troops in the National Guard deserve a leader who is healthy, fit, and continues to exemplify a healthy lifestyle by leading by example. My readers deserve a person who walks the walk, not just talks the talk. I’m tired of seeing physically unfit people tell me how to get fit, or overweight people trying to sell me their diet plans. I could never be one of those people.
  • Finally, this is actually my primary reason: I want to live as long as I can to molest and annoy my wife for as long as possible. This is a joke we have, but it’s one of the reasons I gave her for wanting to do a Whole30 and then transition to Paleo. I felt that I wouldn’t live long without the change in our lifestyle.

We all have our reasons, and these are mine. Think about what caused you to look up Whole30 or Paleo, or what led you to this blog post. Keep that in your heart as you move forward in your journey. Remember that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Make that journey the best possible by staying healthy and fit.

Focusing on Habits Instead of Rules

This is an interesting concept I saw on Reddit this morning. I was reading the post of a gentleman who lost about 35 lbs recently, and he said he did it by focusing on habits instead of rules. It made me think about my own success, and I think it has a lot to do with how I did it.

I focused on creating new habits and on changing my eating habits not for the short-term, but for life. I knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I’d been doing for years, and that a real, permanent change was necessary. I had to change my habits. I had to get away from not caring about what I eat, eating until I was stuffed, and eating anything I wanted to. I needed to adopt habits that were conducive to me being healthy. Anything to the contrary had to go.

Following rules is simple, but falls apart when you fail to create the habits necessary to allow the rules to become the laws by which you live, thereby undoing the rules themselves. By creating the good habits, rules become the new normal, and they seem less restrictive.

Today, I have fully adopted the Paleo Diet, and for me, it is the law of the land. I don’t consider eating it if it’s not Paleo, and my health is better for it. It also feels effortless. I’m not suffering, sacrificing, or missing out. I have created the habits that enabled me to succeed.

Part Time Paleo

As someone who is more or less in maintenance mode with my weight, I’m able to go a little off-plan every now and then without ruining any progress. My weight goes up and down within 3 lbs usually, and by watching it closely, I’m able to make adjustments in my diet to bring my weight back into a range I’m comfortable with. I have earned that ability be reaching my goal and staying there.

There are people I see online who complain about not being able to make good progress while on Paleo despite their adhering to it strictly. Well, their definition of strict and mine differ wildly. These very same people allow alcohol into their diet a few times a week, and some have gone so far as to justify cheat meals or cheat days because they “Eat well the rest of the time.” I will agree that it’s better to eat Paleo most of the time if you can’t do it all the time, but then to hear people complain about a lack of progress toward a weight loss goal when they aren’t doing the work to get there? It is tiresome.

I try time and time again to show people that when it comes to losing weight, you have to be strict and you have to really follow the plan without exception. It’s a long-term proposition, and a change in lifestyle you need to adopt for life, not something you can change short-term and then go back to the way you ate before. I was able to lose weight steadily and consistently because I didn’t allow myself cheats or sabotages. I didn’t even consider it. Now? I actually consider allowing non-Paleo foods every now and then depending on the situation, but I’m in maintenance mode. While I was losing weight toward my goals? Never!

The only way to truly succeed and to be able to enjoy a relatively normal life in regards to eating and diet, you have to do the work and be full-time Paleo. You need to commit to it and not succumb to temptation. You need to stick to it until you reach your goal. Then, and ONLY then, should you even consider non-Paleo foods.

Look: I know it’s not a race, and I know that there’s no real reason to lose all the weight at once. You can spend the rest of your life working toward a weight goal, and it’s really not my business. But I honestly believe that being in maintenance mode is so much easier than weight loss mode, not just physically, but psychologically and emotionally. I know it is for me. While I’m as losing weight, my attention to the foods I ate was almost to the point of obsession. Now? I can be relaxed regardless of what I eat as long as I know it’s Paleo. I just eat until I’m full and then I can go on with my day without any emotional baggage. I couldn’t do that while I was in weight-loss mode. I know I’m not alone in this.

Live without the guilt. Commit full-time to the Paleo Diet and see the results you’ve been wanting. Once your each your goal, life gets even better. Paleo food is good to begin with, but the freedom you attain once you reach your goal and get into maintenance mode? It’s awesome. I want you to get there.

The results I wanted: the formula works

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been unable to run due to a knee injury. During those few weeks, I also ate a bit more than normal, and as a result, my weight crept up about 5 lbs. It’s not much, but it’s enough that I noticed it in the way my pants and shirts fit. After starting back up with my running coupled with eating correctly sized portions of strict Paleo food, my weight is already down 3 lbs with just 2 more to go until I’m back in my happy zone.

The thing I love about being so closely aware of my health is knowing the impact diet and exercise has on my health and my weight. When my weight crept up, I knew exactly what to do to get it back down, and just like clockwork, the weight came back off. This is not the first time I’ve done this; after nearly very vacation my wife and I have taken over the past two years, I’ve gained some weight (between 7-10 lbs), and each time, I was able to get ALL of the weight off within a week of returning (and without suffering, too!).

The formula is easy: strict Paleo Diet and some exercise.

What do I mean by strict? Well, first, I eat foods that consist of Paleo ingredients without any cheats or without cutting corners. Second, portion sizes are as recommended; I don’t gorge at meals. Third, I don’t eat desserts. Well, aside from the ONE Paleo cookie I allow myself after dinner, but I calculate that into my portion sizes and I cut those a bit smaller to allow for a cookie. It’s more psychological than anything, but it’s a great cap to a day of healthy eating. It makes me happy to get that tiny bit of chocolate.

The best part? It works. It’s been working every single time.

2 more lbs and I’m back to the ~165 lbs club, and that’s where I feel the healthiest and look the healthiest. I can’t wait to be there again.

Misconceptions of Paleo

Every time I think I’ve heard it all, I hear something new.

“You can’t really be enjoying all that Paleo stuff without bread, rice, and beans!”

Ugh. Yes, I can.

The food I eat is not only better for me and my body, but oftentimes is more flavorful and filling than their non-Paleo counterparts. The misconceptions people have about Paleo stems from bad information, misinformation, and a fear of change coupled with the inability to separate themselves mentally from certain foods while embracing new ones in their place. I’ve stated many times before my love for pasta, bread, pizza, and all things grain-based. Don’t even get me started on a good chocolate cake! But I recognized that these foods are not good for me, and I either eat Paleo-friendly analogues to these foods, or I don’t eat them at all. One thing I definitely miss: croissants. There is no Paleo alternative to a good, flaky, tender croissant.

Other than the croissant, I’ve found that nearly everything I’ve eaten that is a Paleo alternative has been not only as-good, but oftentimes better. Some of the Paleo foods are very easy to make, while admittedly others are very time consuming. But I justify it by reasoning that my health is worth the extra effort. Fortunately, Sherry agrees.

Changing my relationship with food was key to accepting the Paleo Diet. Not only did I eat too much, I ate for fun. I ate the wrong foods, and in large amounts. I needed to distance myself from these bad foods. I also had to refocus my taste to things I could eat instead of fixating on the things I could no longer eat. Case in point: bread. I still love bread, but I put it out of my mind and instead allowed myself to think about the foods I can still have that I’ve always loved: steak, brisket, sausage, pulled pork, lobster, crab, fish, shrimp, BBQ chicken, chicken wings, etc. The list of foods that I can still eat on the Paleo Diet is pretty darned huge. So big, in fact, that I no longer miss the “Bad foods.”

I can eat at nearly any restaurant unless is a Panera or a boulangerie. I have been on the Paleo Diet for over two years, and I’ve lost over 150 lbs. I haven’t had any difficulty with adhering to the Paleo Diet, and as diets go, it’s pretty darned simple. Do the work and find out what Paleo is about before you dismiss it out of hand.

Back on the Wagon

Over the past two weeks when I wasn’t able to run, I compounded effects of a lack of activity by over eating. I didn’t eat much non-Paleo food, but I did eat a lot of food in volume. The net result was a gain of about 5 lbs that I need to get rid of now. Fortunately, I’ve been doing two things to that end: I resumed my running on Monday, and I’ve been sticking very strictly to my Paleo Diet and not eating second servings or extra helpings.

The irony of this diet is that the food is so delicious, I want to keep eating. People are afraid of the Paleo Diet because they think the food is bland or somehow not filling. This is not true! The food I’ve had since going Paleo has been among the most flavorful and satisfying foods I’ve ever eaten. The issue lies in my own behavior and actually enjoying eating. It’s this behavioral issue I constantly fight against now that I’ve tackled the poor diet. It’s a life-long issue, and I’m certain I’ll struggle with it for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I will never give up fighting it, and I will win against over-eating.

This week, I’m back. I’m eating according to plan, and I’m back out on the road burning some calories, but more importantly, rebuilding my stamina and leg muscles for speed. It’s good to be back.