Busy Drill Weekend

My wife and I with “Lady Luck,” an M119A3 105mm Howitzer.

This weekend was very busy as it not only involved a lot of training for my Soldiers, but it was also the weekend when we hold our annual St. Barbara’s Ball. St. Barbara is the patron saint of the Field Artillery, and we have a ball annually to honor and celebrate members of the Field Artillery, past and present. If you know anything about military balls, then you also know it involves a lot of drinking.

The holiday season is tough enough without drinking, but like I’ve said many times before, certain life events are too important and too memorable to skip. While I could easily have gone to the ball and not drank any alcohol, many of the traditions include toasts and drinking of the “Grog,” which is an alcoholic beverage. I was not going to miss out on tradition, so I partook.

Fortunately,  I didn’t drink too much, and while I did have a headache the next morning, I felt fine within a few hours of waking up. Hydration is a necessity when drinking, and I let myself down in that regard.

Today is Monday, and I’m back on my strict eating plan: strict Paleo, and no alcohol. I have a 5k run coming up on Saturday, and there is a good chance I’ll be attending a military career development course in January, so I need to not only kick up my running and exercise to 3-4 times a week, but I also need to lose some weight. While I’m not very much over my max, I am by a few pounds. I’d rather not have to resort to measuring my body fat.

This holiday season, enjoy your time with your family and friends. I’m not condoning throwing all common sense out the window, but employing some moderation and making smart choices to mitigate the damage goes a long way toward holding your ground when it comes to your health and your weight.

No Hack Poetry Today

Apologies for the hack poetry yesterday. I don’t know why I felt the need to post the way I did, yet it felt like the thing to do. I’ll try not to let that happen again. With that said, I almost feel like writing more poetry, or at least some lyrics to a song today, because the weight has finally started coming back off after a weekend of indulgence. Like I knew it would, the IF + Paleo Diet are yielding the results I’m after: I dropped 3 lbs since Sunday morning.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right; that’s not true weight. It’s water weight. And yes, I know that. However, it was weight I was carrying, and weight that made me feel bloated and made my trousers feel tighter than normal (and according to my friend Steve, they’re already tight enough). With every pound I lose, a portion of that is solid, no-kidding fat.

The weight I’m at right now looks fine, but it’s deceiving. I may look fine, but my weight is actually over the maximum allowed by the DoD for members of the military at my height. The reason I look okay but weigh too much comes down to two things: muscle weight and skin weight. You see, I still have a lot of extra skin on me, and it all weighs about 12 lbs.

While my skin doesn’t hang over or flop on me anywhere, it is visible when I’m doing push-ups or planks. It hangs off my body in a very unnatural way that makes it look like I’m wearing a body suit made of skin that’s just a little too big for me. It even hangs off my thighs and my shins! People have asked me if I’m going to get the skin removed, not because it looks weird when I’m standing up, but because I have mentioned how strange it is at times. I always say the same thing: no. It doesn’t bother me enough nor am I vain enough to get it cut off. I can deal with it. Besides, over time, it’s shrinking a little bit at a time. It’s not nearly as bad today as it was a year ago.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) has been working great for me. I’ve been doing some reading and research on it, and it turns out that it’s a great and healthy way for people to lose weight when coupled with a good, healthy eating program (which is called a diet, btw). Since I’m a pretty strict Paleo adherent (well, the vast majority of the time, anyway), it allows me to continue to make progress toward my ultimate goal despite me getting lax here and there. For example, this weekend is my unit’s St. Barbara’s Ball. I will be eating non-Paleo foods and drinking alcoholic beverages. But it won’t matter; I’ll be able to sustain the evening with some minor bloating and temporary weight gain thanks to IF.

This post is admittedly less about the overall process and more about my own progress. I apologize for that. At least I didn’t offend your brain with my bad poetry. Again, I promise to keep that to a minimum around here.

Oh, the toll is high… but I will lose the weight.

I ate too much.

I drank too much.

I now weigh too much.

But that’s okay. I will lose the weight.

I know how to do it.

I know how to get past this.

I know what it takes.

I will get through. I will lose the weight.

My mind is clear.

My determination is solid.

My motivation is set.

I will succeed. I will lose the weight.

It won’t happen in a day.

It won’t happen in a week.

It might happen in a month.

But it will happen. I will lose the weight.

Get Fit

This site is called PaleoMarine because that’s me! The word Paleo in my name comes from the diet I adhere to; the lifestyle I’ve adopted to lose weight and to remain healthy. The Marine in my name comes from my being a U.S. Marine. While I’m currently a Soldier in the Army National Guard, as the saying goes, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Although I wear a different uniform and belong to a different organization, to the core, I am and always will be a Marine. Besides, I thought it would be silly to change the name of the website to PaleoSoldier.

I’ve discussed in the past my fitness, from my running to the necessity of my being physically fit for military service. I’ve also discussed exercise for fitness, but again, mostly as a counter-point to those who desire to lose weight through exercise without changing their diet or lifestyle. However, I’ve not gone into getting fit for the sake of being fit.

It sounds kind of silly, I know: get fit to be fit. But really, what reasons do people have to get fit? For me, initially, it was about feeling better. I was walking to get out of the house, to stretch the ol’ legs, and eventually, to try to get the heart pumping a bit more as I was living a very sedentary life. Sure, I lost over 100 lbs without lifting a finger, but I was also still weak and while I weighed a lot less, I didn’t really look that good in my new (very loose) skin. Getting fit solved a lot of those problems.

Increased physical strength. Getting fit will benefit you in your growing muscles and making them stronger. Your stamina will also increase. When I found myself getting winded using an electric drill while putting up shelves, I decided right then and there that I was going to start doing push-ups. I wasn’t expecting to get arms like Ahhnold (and quite frankly, I don’t really want to go down the rabbit hole that is body sculpting, although I respect those who do; that’s a level of commitment I’m just not willing to do), but I wanted to be able to do basic household work without feeling wiped out afterward.

Work. Some jobs require physical strength or agility. The military is one of those jobs with the added bonus of also requiring its members to adhere to height and weight regulations. While fitness isn’t the sole factor in controlling your weight, along with a good diet, it will help keep your speed up, your strength up, and your muscles will be better defined which help you look good in uniform and will keep your body fat ratio lower.

Finally, what most people are after when they exercise: look better and/or muscle definition. I admit that a small part of me was after this, too. After losing 130 lbs, I found myself with a lot of extra skin and not a lot of definition in my muscles. Worse, I still kind of looked a bit pudgy in the face. Once I began running and doing push-ups, that changed. At first, it was very quick and dramatic. I was actually able to notice a difference within about two weeks of running. Since then, there hasn’t been much change in my face, but my body continues to make changes as it becomes more muscular and as the skin (slowly) shrinks. Also, the muscles under the loose skin are getting bigger and leaner, and my legs are now very strong. Because of the loose skin, I will never look as great as I could have if I wouldn’t have become morbidly obese, but I’m also not shy about being shirtless. Sure, the very lower part of my gut looks a bit deflated, but the rest of me? I’m okay with, and that feels good.

So, while I spend the lion’s share of my typing here on eating right and on the psychological tools I use to succeed in weight loss and healthy living, I strongly advocate for getting fit. Even if you just walk for 30 minutes every other day. Start with that. Or you can start how I started: doing push-ups. My first day of push-ups was humbling: I did 5 (or 7… I forget, but it was definitely less than 10). It took me a while to get up to 10, and then 20 and then 25, and so on. I only did as many as I could comfortably do and I never “Pushed it.” This is the 80% fitness rule, and many military and special forces people do this to allow themselves to still be physically competent after a workout. You can see why this makes sense for them, but I found it made a lot of sense for me, too. You see, I hate muscle pain, and if I workout until my muscles burn, I will ache for up to 5 days afterward, and that leaves me never wanting to exercise again. So, doing the push-ups until you feel like you can no longer do another one comfortably made sense. And the crazy part? It worked! Within three months, I was up to 120 push-ups in two minutes! The best part? No pain along the way!!! Now, currently I do between 60-80 push-ups mostly because I’ve been slacking in my workouts a bit, but I know that if I need to, I can ramp it back up and work up to more.

So, there are lots of good reasons to get fit. Find one that suits you and hold onto that and get out there and do it. Stop procrastinating. It’s super-easy! Just walk. Or jog. Or run. Or do push-ups. Or buy some kettlebells and throw them around for a bit every other day. But whatever you do, make sure you do some reading to make sure you’re doing it safe, and don’t over-do it! But most importantly, just do it.

The Holidays and Eating Right

This is the official start of the Holiday Season! Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and many of us will be eating with friends, family, and loved ones. Most of us will eat far more than we normally do, and for those of us who do our best to stay away from grains, legumes, foods with added sugar, and alcohol, it’s a day filled with indulgence that can lead to temptation, stress, and discomfort. What I aim to do with this article is to introduce some coping mechanisms I use to get past the holidays.

Temptation: you want to eat all this delicious food. It is tempting from the most basic level: it’s delicious food! But on an emotional level, you are around loved ones celebrating a time of year that brings us together. There are many traditions involved, both cultural and familial. To miss out on these seems wrong. So what are you to do? This leads to stress.

Stress: you want to continue to eat your healthy food, and you want to be true to your new healthy lifestyle, but dang it, look at all this delicious food! What about that apple pie Mom made just for me?!?! Aunt Rose makes the most amazing cranberry sauce; how could I possibly look her in the face and decline a serving or two? I’ve been feeling so incredible these past days/weeks/months on my new diet; eating this food will surely lead to discomfort.

Discomfort: both social and physical. Turning down Aunt Rose’s cranberry sauce or Mom’s apple pie will be socially awkward, and may likely hurt some feelings. Okay, let’s be real, here: you will MOST DEFINITELY hurt some feelings. Mom and Aunt Rose will both say that there is no such thing as a diet on a holiday, and you know what? I have come to believe that they’re right! As for the physical discomfort? That’s nothing that won’t go away in a day or two. You may end up with a slight tummy grumble, the runs, or some bloating for a day or two, but do you know what the great news is? It’ll pass. All of it. Within two to three days, you’ll be right back to where you were before the holiday; feeling great, eating great, and living your best life.

A new coping method I’ve found is intermittent fasting, or IF as I call it. Since beginning IF, I’ve been able to be a little more careless with my diet, eating larger portions or introducing sides that contain ingredients I normally shy away from or avoid outright. The result has been maintaining my weight (at worst), and losing weight easily when I do eat right (at best). This is also the method my wife Sherry has been using for years to mitigate the impact of the holiday meals on her physical and emotional well-being. I’ve decided to adopt it this year as well, and I will report back on how it goes.

With all that said, I truly and honestly wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope that you find yourself among loved ones, friends, and/or family. If you cannot, please don’t despair. Reach out to someone; anyone. If that’s not possible, or you’re not willing, that’s okay too. Remember that just because you’re alone does not mean you’re unwanted. I’ve spent many holidays alone, whether deployed or just on my own. I found myself alone on more holidays than I care to remember, and while they can be lonely, they can be times of reflection, marathon gaming, or binge watching that tv show you’ve heard about but haven’t had the time to check out yet. Make the most of it! Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Delicious Food is Delicious

Amazing Paleo food at my desk at work.

Sounds stupid, right? Delicious food is delicious. But it’s an important point to make because I, like many other people, mistakenly believed that in order to eat healthy, I had to get used to bland foods. That was not only my greatest fear, but honestly, led to most of my failures in the past when I tried to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Mostly, it was due to my own lack of knowledge; healthy foods don’t have to be bland, yet most Western diets that focused on weight loss tended to be very bland which led to palate fatigue and failure to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

The popularity of the Mediterranean Diet helped change some people’s minds about what a healthy diet could be: delicious and healthy at the same time. I never fully adopted it as my daily lifestyle, but I did eat a lot of Mediterranean food, and yes, it’s delicious, filling, and best of all, healthy. It’s this exposure to healthy food that enabled me to consider a healthier diet, and to convince my wife that she should give it a try with me.

It’s interesting to me that we can’t eat the same thing, day in and day out, without getting tired of it. My dad told me a story about when he first came to the United States, and his aunt asked him what he wanted to eat. My dad told her, “Chicken! I love chicken! I could eat it every day!” He said that because he hadn’t had many opportunities to eat chicken as a refugee in Austria after fleeing the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. You can guess what my great-aunt made for my dad: chicken. The problem was that she not only made it for him that night, but for every lunch and dinner for the following six months. He got so tired of chicken that for the rest of his life, unless it was every great once in a while, he avoided chicken like the plague.

My current diet is the Paleo Diet, but I have been incredibly successful with Whole30 and Keto diets. Right now, I’ve introduced intermittent fasting, but that’s more to combat my holiday eating than anything else. What I love about Paleo is that the foods are varied, delicious, and healthy. As long as I eat regular portions, I will either maintain my weight or even lose weight. The only problem I have is that so much Paleo food is amazing that it’s easy to over-eat.

One thing that doesn’t happen anymore, however, is being tempted by foods like breads, pizza, pasta, or other grains. It took a while for those foods to lose their luster for me, but while I did have some pizza last month with my soldiers, and yes, it was delicious, it doesn’t hold a candle to my wife’s Paleo Ropa Vieja, or even her Chorizo and Beef Meatloaf. It became easy to get away from the bad foods and to embrace the good ones when they taste so darned good.

Don’t get stuck in the baked chicken breast rut. Take a look at Whole30 and Paleo. Look at Keto. Look at Atkins. There are lots of options out there that fit your taste and lifestyle, and they will be much more effective at you being successful in the long-term.

Combating Negativity

Sometimes, you find that people who are close to you don’t seem to share your enthusiasm when you start a new healthy lifestyle. They ridicule, make snide comments, or otherwise put down what you are doing, trying to scare you with anecdotes they claim they heard from others or on the news about the difficulty or danger in your new diet. I have had this happen to me, and still, over three years after my wife and I began our healthy journey, I still hear from people that Paleo, Whole30, Keto, IF, etc are dangerous and won’t last long. Well, I don’t know where they are getting their info from, because Whole30 and Paleo have saved my life, I’ve been maintaining for over two years, and IF is working really well for me right now!

The reasons why people do this varies. Many times, people like to put others down when they feel their own shortcomings are being brought to the fore of their consciousness when they see you succeeding at something. They would rather drag you down than to admit that you’re doing something amazing that they can’t bring themselves to do.

Another reason this happens is because people don’t like change. They have put you into a certain slot within their world, and when you start changing your own lifestyle, they feel pressured to change where you put you in their social circle. They also begin to have doubts about being able to adapt to the changes you’re making.

Something else I’ve noticed is that often, it is the people we feel are the closest to us, or that we’ve invested a lot of emotional capital into who are the most vehement in their disapproval. In my personal experience, these people liked having the fat, jolly guy around to poke fun at. Now that I’m thinner than they are, they aren’t able to make fun of me for being overweight. It forces them to point the finger at themselves.

You need to learn to shut those people out. Often, these people are family members, and I’m not advocating cutting them out of your life, but you have to let what they say go in one ear and go out the other. I’ve had to do that, and it’s served me well.

A small anecdote about my own experience. I was telling a close family member that I was proud of hitting the 50lbs lost milestone early on, and I was expecting a congratulations or for them to at least be happy for me, but what I got was apathy and a snide remark. “Well, you still have a lot to go, so it’s not that big of a deal.” Oddly, it’s possible that in their mind they were being supportive or helpful, but if that’s what they thought they were doing, I’d have rather they didn’t even try. I didn’t let that conversation get to me. I remember it, but I didn’t let it demotivate me. If anything, I decided that I was going to show them, and that I was going to succeed despite their negativity.

Rely on your own motivation, dedication, and persevere regardless of what the Negative Nancys or the Pessimistic Pauls have to say. You are worth the effort, and worth the hard work. Do it despite the naysayers. It feels so good when you reach your goals.