Back from the field

I’m back.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on active duty orders with the Texas Army National Guard training in Ft. Hood. I had pre-written articles on my blog to post automatically while I was gone to keep the information flowing, to help keep people motivated, and to hopefully encourage or inspire people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Now, I’m back and ready to continue updating the blog and adding more information.

Before I go on, I’m sure some people are wondering what we were doing for two weeks. Well, we were doing our military jobs in the same way that we would if we were called upon by our Nation to go to war. We set up our camp, our command center, and our artillery pieces (I’m in an artillery unit). Our forward observers went out to their observation posts, and we commenced firing some big guns making big booms.

The biggest challenge for me was food. As someone who eats Paleo, the food that was served to us was typically very non-Paleo with a few exceptions. Breakfast was normally some sort of scrambled egg product (still not sure if it was real eggs or not) and sausage. I’m pretty certain the sausage had sugar in it, but I ate them anyway. Lunch was supposed to be an MRE (so unbelievably non-Paleo that I didn’t eat any) and dinner was overwhelmingly non-Paleo with a few exceptions like steak (well, over cooked meat) and potatoes and, well, yeah. That was the only exception (twice). The only other exception was fruit that we received at breakfast or dinner. Apples, oranges, pears, and bananas were always welcome. The rest of the time, I ate food I brought with me. A typical meal consisted of one RX Bar, two Epic bars, and 1/3 cup of almonds or cashews. The end result is that I was able to stay Paleo, I was able to sufficiently feed my body, and I didn’t have cravings between meals.

I was worried about gaining weight while I was in the field for two reasons: first, because I wasn’t going to be able to run three times a week as I normally like to, and second, because of the non-Paleo carb-filled food. In the end, my fears turned out to be for nothing. I lost a solid 5 lbs in the two weeks I was out there. My three consecutive weigh-ins after coming home were 162.9 lbs. I’m happy with that.

I am proud of being in the National Guard, and I’m honored to be serving with an exceptional group of fine young men and women. It was hard, it was tough, and at times, I was miserable, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I am looking forward to my next training weekend, and more time in the field. At least now I know I can survive on the food I take and my health won’t suffer for it.

Nothing like seeing the scale in the right place

For the past three weigh-ins, I’ve been under 165 lbs. As low as 163.8 lbs, and as high as 164.2 lbs. My body fat ratio is hovering just below or just at 10%. I had to sit down and let that sink in for a bit. It’s truly remarkable that I now have a healthy body. Just over 20 months ago, my weight was 290 lbs and my body fat ratio was an alarming 47.3%.

I didn’t do extreme workouts to lose the weight. No Crossfit, no 3-hour daily workouts, no video fitness programs. It was all done through changing what I eat from foods rich in sugar, grains, beans, soy, and dairy to eating foods with meat, vegetables, and no added sugar. It was literally that simple.

Of course, it wasn’t easy. The first week was hell; I’m not going to sugarcoat that. But after getting through that first week, it was quite easy. In fact, it got easier and easier as time went by. I remember after losing 50 lbs in four months that I was eating my breakfast of bacon and eggs and laughing at the fact that my weight was dropping without me having to do any physical activity. All I had to do was eat delicious, filling foods. How crazy was that?

Now, 20 months in, I can’t be any happier. My weight is where I want it to be. My fitness level is where I want it. My life is where I want it to be. The craziest part: it all started with a Whole30.

Even though I tell people all the time that the scale is not to be used as a primary source of gauging one’s progress on a diet, it is the easiest measure to use. Seeing friendly numbers makes me do a happy dance in the mornings. And yes, it feels good, man.

Be the best example

We are examples. We are leaders. Someone, somewhere looks up to us. As a parent, this is especially true of my kids. When I was a Marine leader, it was true of the troops I lead. We are always told to be a good example, but we typically think that it means only in deed and action. We assume that it means for us to be honest, kind, humble, and giving. What we don’t think about, however, are things like eating habits, physical fitness patterns, and activity levels.

I grew up eating all kinds of good foods. My mom, grandparents, and just about everyone in my family cooked foods that were made with natural ingredients: meat and vegetables. Sure, we had the occasional pasta dish, and bread was a part of every meal, but they were never the center of the meals. That was typically meat and vegetables with bread as a side. This gave me some pretty good examples for how to eat. I was encouraged to be physically active, and I spent the majority of my childhood on a bicycle, or in the swimming pool. These habits of eating good food and staying active kept me very fit and thin until I was around 27. Then, due to a surgery that kept me sidelined for over six months, my health and fitness declined rapidly, and it no longer was a priority.

For the following 20 years, I was morbidly obese and unable to get control of my eating. I ate everything, and I ate for fun. It was entertainment to me. I was not setting a good example for my kids, and as a result, my son became overweight as well. My daughter, fortunately, wasn’t affected as much, although her eating habits were not the healthiest.

My sister and my cousin were both someone I looked up to in terms of their physical fitness and health. They both took their health seriously and worked out regularly. It wasn’t until my cousin talked to me about Whole30 and Paleo did I consider even getting healthy. Then, one thing led to another, and after nearly two years of the Paleo Diet, I’m down 150 lbs from my max of 312 lbs and I run every other day and I do 120 push ups before each run.

My son, who learned his eating and health habits from me, struggles with his weight. He picked up horrible eating habits from years of watching me gorge, but fortunately, he has been inspired by my own journey to eat right and exercise. In three months, he’s already lost over 40 lbs and he continues to make progress weekly. I have numerous friends who all, once again based on my example, have taken to eating right and losing weight.

When I set out to lose weight, I was doing it for me, my wife, and my kids. I didn’t want to die young. Now, I realize that I’ve always been an example to others. Initially, I was an example of what happens when you eat without limits and don’t take fitness seriously. Now, I am the opposite example: one of health and fitness. It’s a responsibility I take seriously, and I endeavor to live up to the important role in my family and friends’ life that has been thrust upon me. I do this with enthusiasm and I’m happy to do it.

Be the best you can be, not only for yourself, but those little eyes that are watching you at the dinner table and on the weekends. Those little eyes will watch your every move, every morsel you put into your mouth, and every activity you partake. Make these examples the best you can for their sake.

Desserts on Run Days

On the days that I run, especially if it’s been a really tough or hard run, I allow myself to have a Paleo dessert. Today, after a really hot and tough run, I had a piece of blueberry and chocolate brownies that Sherry made. One part of me feels that twinge of guilt for eating something sweet and decadent while the other part of me says, “Dude. Chill out. It’s just a Paleo brownie, and you ran a lot of calories. Your body needs the carbs to help the muscles heal up anyway.” And so it is; I actually need the carbs after a run.

One of the things I struggle with as a Paleo athlete is the lack of carbs in my diet. Well, I shouldn’t say lack of carbs. It’s more like the lack of a lot of carbs in my diet. I do have carbs, but not in large amounts. That’s because I only run three times a week. If I were to up that to five times a week, I could likely get away with a lot more, but I don’t think my joints, tendons, and ligaments could put up with that kind of abuse. At least, not yet.

So, I enjoyed the heck out of that brownie. The blueberries were thick and flavorful, and the brownies moist and delicious. I’m glad I ran today; it gave me a reason to have a little treat after dinner without all the guilt (just a little bit, and I’m working on that).

Weight is up a lot after a weekend of unavoidable food

Ugh. I hate Monday mornings after weekends full of celebrations and non-Paleo food. My weight is up to 171 lbs. Wow. Back in the 170’s. Now, I know: it’s mostly water weight again. I also haven’t had a bowel movement since Friday, so there’s that. But still, psychologically, it’s tough to deal with. It’s literally a weight on my conscience that I can’t shake.

I know that after I run tonight, 2-3 lbs of it will go away. By the end of the week, the other 2-3 lbs should be gone, as I will be eating perfect portions and foods. Except Friday night, which is my son’s birthday. And then there’s my National Guard Annual Training the very next day which will last two weeks.

Our weight fluctuates. It will go up and down naturally. The trick is to keep it within a certain range. Right now, I’m out of what I consider to be a comfortable range, and my range has been creeping up since doing the Whole30. I know why this is: Sherry made sweets that I’ve been eating. I also eat a lot more sweet potato again. I need to cut these out; they always cause my weight to go up.

Don’t get disheartened when the scale goes up. Use it as a guide to remind you to keep at it, keep working, keep paying attention, and stay vigilant. I see it as a challenge, and CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Being Fat on a Plane

I read this article today, and I have mixed feelings about it. I was the fat person on the plane who used to get looked at, ridiculed, and made to feel embarrassed. I lived this for nearly 20 years. It was tough. But I did it to myself. I never felt anyone had any responsibility to accept my fatness and the inconvenience I would cause them when I had to sit next to them. I would apologize and I would do everything I could to make them comfortable to the point of making myself uncomfortable instead. It is, after all, what gentlemen do.

Then, at the end of that article, the author writes the following:

Society’s body standards and ways in which they body shame individuals needs to come to an end – everyone is different and every body is different. Discriminating someone based on their weight or looks is something that is both disgusting and uncalled for.

I do agree that we should not body shame anyone. We should not discriminate against anyone for their weight. But weight is something that is within the control of nearly everyone on the planet. To state to the contrary is disingenuous, uninformed, and contributing to the obesity epidemic. By being so accepting of obesity is to make it okay, which in turn leads to people not wanting to change to a healthier lifestyle. Failure to do so results in increased health care costs, decreased quality of life, and early mortality.

I accept everyone as they are, but I don't accept that they are stuck being fat. Nobody is. I further reject forcing people to accept being inconvenienced for anyone else's comfort. That is just not right. We do not have the right to do as we please if we inconvenience others. I don't have the right to free speech by placing a sign in my neighbor's yard just as I had no right for my fat to encroach on a fellow passenger's seat.

I know this is a sticky subject, and when you're fat, it's very personal. I was that fat person, but I never felt the world owed me anything. There wasn't any expectation that I was "Normal" because I wasn't. I was morbidly obese, and that's not a natural state for humans to be in.

I will never call anyone else out for their weight. I don't do it, and I won't do it. I will help anyone who needs it, though, to lose weight, get healthy, and get fit. Everyone can do it; I'm living proof. I lost 110 lbs in one year without exercise; I just changed my diet. There are no excuses. Just make it happen.

Body Fat Calculations and Scales

I’ve been using a Weight Gurus scale for about 6 years, and it’s been really helpful during my weight loss journey. It’s been accurate, reliable, and easy to use. This past week, there was a sale on Amazon for a Eufy scale that syncs via Bluetooth for a great price, so I figured why not upgrade from the Weight Gurus to the Eufy. It arrived yesterday and I eagerly setup the scale and the app, and when I weighed myself, I was shocked to find that it was measuring my body fat at 24.9%. That couldn’t be right, I figured, so I measured my neck and my waist and used the Army app on my iPhone to calculate my body fat (which is what my National Guard unit would do if they needed to know it). The result: 9.7%.

Here’s the kicker: when I stepped on my old Weight Gurus scale, it gave me 9.7% BF. Back on the Eufy? 25%. I guess I’m going to stick with the old Weight Gurus for a while unless I can figure out how to calibrate the Eufy. It’s too bad, because the new scale really is very nice, and I like not only how it looks, but the app is very nice as well.

My cousin Sara told me once that these scales can be very misleading in their body fat readings. She was concerned that it would read too low and give me a false sense of success or security. Oddly enough, it turned out that my old scale was pretty accurate while my new one, with newer technology, is reading so far off.

I’ve emailed the EufyHome company about this, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say about it. I’m hoping that it’s a calibration issue that I can resolve. If not, I may end up giving the scale to my son (since he’s not as concerned with body fat as I am) and I will continue to use old faithful Weight Gurus.