Sunday, March 31, 2013

The March 30th Weigh In

When I began this journey one month ago I created a set of fitness goals for myself. The first of which was to weigh in at 262 lbs by my sons second birthday, which was yesterday.  At the time that goal was set I weighed 278 lbs, which meant a weight loss of 16 lbs in approximately 4 weeks to avoid failure.

In those four weeks I made a number of changes to my life style and eating habits, some more obvious than others.  These changes include:

  1. No more soft drinks (diet included).  Unsweet tea, water, milk, and coffee only... with the occasional beer on cheat day.
  2. No fast food.  Nothing from a drive through and very rarely anything fried.
  3. Small meals every three hours.  If I had to go much more than that I started getting pretty hangry (anger induced by hunger).  I spend most of my Sunday mornings cooking several meals to last all week.
  4. Lots more fruit and veggies.  Salads, celery, kale, carrots, green beans, oranges, apples etc...
  5. No sweets.  Nope, none except for cheat days.
  6. Biweekly cheat days.  I actually prefer this plan to weekly cheat days.
  7. Hitting the gym.  Five days a week whenever possible.  I am up to 3 miles in about 35 minutes on the elliptical.
  8. No food after 8 pm.  With the exception of a piece of beef jerky on occasion.
  9. Portion Control. No more kiddie pool sized plates at dinner time.
  10. Less red meat.  I still eat it, but most of my protein comes from chicken and turkey.
  11. Wake up early.  My alarm is set for 7:30 every morning.  Maybe not early to you, but its WAY earlier than I used to wake up.

Despite all the changes I was still somewhat terrified to step on the scale.  I'm not one to lie about things like this, so the thought of having to write a blog post about my failure was quite unappealing.  Ignoring my nerves I woke up on Saturday, put on my glasses, walked straight to the scale, and what did I see...?
Success!  I am down approximately 17 lbs in just one month.  The bad part?  I'm still fat as hell.  The good parts?  Well, there are quite a few.

  1. I have a sense of accomplishment.  17 lbs in four weeks is no small task
  2. More energy.  With the exception of the occasional low calorie slow down, I have found myself more energetic and active.
  3. Old clothes fit!  I have already come across three shirts that previously did not fit, two of which still had tags on them, that now fit quite well.  I am proud to start wearing them.
  4. Making progress in the gym.  I have come a long way in a month.  I went from walking/jogging 1/2 mile in 15 minutes to jogging/ running three miles in 35 minutes.
  5. I am saving money.  Massive amounts of junk food get expensive.  That is an expense I no longer have to worry about.

So now I move on to the next goal, which is to weigh 250 lbs by Kentucky Derby Day (Saturday May 4th). This particular goal will require a weight loss of 11 lbs in approximately five weeks.  It may also present a new set of challenges including the first (dreaded) weight loss plateau.

I'm not sure how I will tackle these challenges, or how well I will overcome them, but I do know that I am determined to do so. So with that thought in my mind and approximately 2 dozen Reese's eggs in my digestive system from this weekends cheat day, I will head back to the gym tomorrow with a smile on my face.

Look out 250 lbs, here I come!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thoughts While Running

I have heard many people describe their time spent running as a time to think.  While their body is running, they allow their mind to run free.  Some use this mind meandering time to relax.  Others, however, use it as a time of discovery.  They think about life, their future, or their family.  I on the other hand, can't stop thinking about running.  My first thought when stepping on the treadmill (or elliptical depending on my preference for the day) is usually "God, I hope no one is watching."  

After coming to terms with the fact that people are going monitor the 300 pounder on their favorite piece of cardio equipment my thoughts usually wander towards what body part will be causing the most pain during this particular session.  Sometimes it is me knees.  Other times it could be my shins, feet, back, quads, ankles, shoulder, stomach, or even the particularly brutal combination of them all.  The most menacing thought, however, comes when I hear that dreaded tearing sound...  

"Was that my shorts or my ACL?"

Which brings me to my latest hurdle...  Why am I seemingly unable to zone out and let my mind wander during exercise? My mind insists on wandering when I am doing other important things, so why not during exercise?  Is it because I am so out of shape that my body just won't allow it?  Or is it perhaps because I have not yet been able to convince myself that I really enjoy exercising? Or am I yet to make exercise a routine that would allow my thoughts to travel elsewhere?

Running is not the difficult part...

There is a reason that I am want so desperately to be able to mentally disconnect while running. It seems that people who use their time exercising to relax their mind are more successful in achieving their fitness goals, and are more likely to stick to exercise routines... which actually makes sense.  

The actual physical activity part of the "fitness" thing is not all that terrible.  The difficult part is the mental anguish before and during. Dragging myself out of bed and fighting away the excuses to NOT go to the gym is tough. Nothing is more challenging, however,  than being at the gym and longing to go home and eat Cheetos rather that run another mile.  
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
Yes, I would give almost anything to become one of "those people" the lucky ones who don't focus progressively more on their current situation with every step.  But how exactly does one achieve that mental state?  I imagine that some people are just born that way(those bastards).  They innately enjoy running and therefor don't have to think about it constantly.  Obviously that is not me.  Perhaps for those who aren't born with that inherent trait, something just "clicks" one day, and they settle into a sort of cardio groove in which they are able to let their mind wander.

More likely, however, this treasured state of mind only comes with diligence like most other things in the fitness world.  It would appear that the only way that I am going to find my "groove" is by plodding away day in and day out until  I stumble into it.  So for now I will continue to log as many miles as possible in hopes of changing my way of thinking, all the while dreading the next step more than the last.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Cheat Day Conundrum

Anyone who has tried to improve their health in recent years has probably become accustomed to what is known as "Cheat Day." In case you are one of those fortunate people who never has to watch what they eat, "Cheat Day" refers to the one day in a predetermined amount of time (one or two weeks seems to be most common) in which a dieter can dismiss all their dietary confines and eat freely.

Initially the idea of "Cheat Day" may seem counterproductive.  After all, the word "Cheat" is right there, and as the old adage goes "Cheaters never prosper."
Except for this guy...
... and this guy...
...and this guy.
As it turns out, these fine gentleman may be on to something.  One need not look far to find a vast array of studies about the benefits of controlled dietary cheating. One of the primary facts in support of cheat days is that temporarily increasing your calorie intake will "shock" your body into burning more calories.  That's right, it has been scientifically proven that occasionally eating anything you want can actually aid in weight loss.  

Thank God, now I finally have an excuse to pig out.

That is exactly how I can misconstrue the facts about cheat day.  Every time I start a diet, this time included, I make a feeble attempt to exclude cheat days from the plan.  By the following Saturday I have undoubtedly failed in my attempt.

Perhaps this is because it is so simple to convince yourself that you NEED a cheat day.  The logic is all in order:
  1. Cheat days kick start your metabolism.
  2. If I don't have a cheat day, I might physically harm someone.
  3. It will be an exercise in self control, which is something you desperately need. 
  4. If I don't have a cheat day, I might physically harm someone.
Any of the above reasons could convince a trans fat deprived individual that the large order of french fries is actually beneficial... and therein lies the problem.

It is far too simple for me to convince myself that eating unhealthy food is acceptable so long as I only do so one day each week.  Then, as my diet progresses, so does cheat day.  I begin to eat larger quantities of prohibited foods on cheat day (which is generally Saturday).  Then the following week, I somehow justify stopping for fast food after work on Friday.  Its close enough to Saturday, right?  Shortly after the Friday habit takes full affect, cheat day will again be extended to Sunday because "I already messed up so bad on Friday and Saturday, its too late to save it now."  Before I know it my weight loss has slowed to a crawl, frustration sets in, and cheat day is extended one last time.  However, this time it is extended indefinitely.

A new goal is devised

Now that I recognize that my weekly cheat days have a habit of getting out of hand, I have set a new goal for myself:  Reasonable bi-weekly cheat days, effective immediately.  That's right, from here on out my cheat days will only occur every other Saturday, and when they do occur they will be limited to one or two meals.   
No more 24 hour smorgasbords for me. 
My theory is that by prolonging the time between each cheat day I will no longer be as reliant on them as my sole source of endorphins.  Hopefully on non-cheating Saturdays I can replace overeating with something more rewarding like physical activity or family time... or perhaps even physical activity with my family. When I do reward myself with a cheat day, I hope that the extended wait brings about a greater sense of accomplishment and an increase in weight loss.

Armed with my new philosophy it is time to set out on the next leg of my journey.  This particular leg promises to be a particularly long one, seeing as yesterday was a cheat day.  That means my next cheat day will not be until March 30th, which also happens to be the day of the weigh in for my initial goal of 262 lbs.  

March 30th is only 12 days from this very moment.  That's only 288 hours, and a lot of those will be spent sleeping. Besides, 288 hours is only 17,280 minutes. That's not completely terrifying... right?  I mean, 17,280 minutes means there are only 1,036,800 seconds remaining until my next cheat day... 1,036,799... 1,036,788... 1,036,077... but who is counting?  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Losing the Fattitude

Tomorrow is somewhat of a milestone on my journey.  As of the stroke of midnight I will have been two weeks without a single soft drink or any sort of fried food. I have remained on an incredibly clean eating plan in which I have only loosened my belt a little bit on Saturday nights so as not to go insane.    I can also say that I have been to the gym five days per week, for the last two weeks.  Even though it has only been two weeks, I feel better already and I am quite proud of what I have accomplished in this short time.

Despite what may seem like a full head of steam, these changes do not yet feel permanent.  I still feel as if I am dieting for a short time, rather than making a lasting lifestyle change. I find that when other people are eating a cheeseburger and french fries I am not yet to the point where my first thought is, "I used to be that guy."  Instead, my first thought is...
"That lucky bastard!"
I constantly question these feelings as they arise, which happens quite often.  "Why do I still feel that way, in spite of how good eating well and exercising makes me feel?"  "Why is the temptation still so strong?"  "Why can't I lose the "Fattitude?!"

It would appear that this "Fattitude" has been a way of life for some time and I am just now realizing it.  I have come to realize that I am not only quite lazy, but I am also obsessed with eating.  It is a daily struggle to motivate myself to go to the gym, and a constant struggle to eat right. Even now that I am only eating small healthy meals, I find myself watching the clock and counting down until I can eat again.

Why can't I be one of those people that eats when they are hungry and stops when they are full?  Why can't I be one of those people that enjoys eating healthy food because of the way it makes them feel? Why can't going for a jog sound more entertaining than sitting in my recliner and watching television? Why do I always feel that I am one small bump away from falling off of the wagon?

Still looks like an ideal evening.
Maybe these questions can all be answered with a quick Google search; Perhaps I have a chemical addiction to food, or maybe there is some sort of deep rooted psychological cause for my "fattitude."  Some would suggest that all the extra weight I am carrying around causes hormonal changes that slow metabolism to a crawl and cause decreased energy levels.  

While listing the possible contributing factors to my predicament may be as simple as typing a question into a search field, finding a long term solution is proving to be far more difficult.  It would appear as though there is no clear cut path to finding your motivation or to changing your attitude on life (Yes, I checked Google Maps). Apparently I am going to have to do this searching on my own, but where do I start?  

Obviously the answer is not within myself.  The motivation to better myself for the sake of myself simply isn't there. What about someone else?  Do I have the drive and determination to make lasting lifestyle changes for my wife and son who count on me to support them? Perhaps, but I seem to be able to support them and eat Swiss Cake Rolls at the same time, at least for now.  How about a heart attack?  That seems a little drastic, and I certainly hope that I won't require some sort of medical emergency to finally change my way of thinking.

So where will I find the answer to my quandary?  I suppose I could stumble upon it at the gym when I am finally able to run an entire two miles, or when I finally start to see a hint of muscle definition.  Or maybe I will find it in a few years when Jackson starts tee ball and I am able to run and play with him without being winded.  Perhaps, even, I will find my motivation one day when I am leaving for work and my wife says "You look nice today."  Or maybe the key to motivating myself lies within all these ideas.  Maybe, just maybe...  

The lifestyle is its own motivation.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Walk But Don't Stop: An Epiphany

No, I didn't make it to the gym on Wednesday.  I very seriously considered lying about that fact because, lets face it, "If you lie in the woods and no one is around to hear it, did you really lie?" But I decided to come clean.  I have done enough lying to myself about my personal health, and it is past time for that to come to an end. I did, however, spend most of the day buying and cooking healthy meals that would last the rest of the week, so the day was not a total loss.

I  was also able to use Wednesdays "failure" to dig up the motivation to wake up at 7:30 AM on Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday and put in at least an hour at the gym each of those three days.  That's right, THREE days in a row of running on the treadmill and weight training, and I didn't even cry one time! I did, however, rediscover my shin splints on the very first day and come to the realization that my body was fairly dehydrated.

After the first days tribulations I found myself not only sore, but also frustrated on Day #2.  As I walked across the parking lot to the gym that day a menagerie of questions rushed through my mind;  "Am I physically capable of doing enough in the gym to make a difference", "Should I really be coming back today", "Am I wasting my time?"  Then, a simple comment from a friend came to mind...

"You need to do more cardio."

This was my original, unspoken response. At that point, however, I had not fully processed the statement.  Of course it was obvious, that is how the comment was intended. But this particular comment seemed to swan dive into the deepest recesses of my brain that have apparently been inaccessible until recently (perhaps because they we filled with Diet Coke).

I kept repeating it over and over to myself, and it was soon about more than just a treadmill. "You need to do more cardio," it resonated one last time. Then something clicked as I closed my gym locker door and I caught myself audibly saying "You need to do more cardio," as if I had just heard it for the first time, and I decided right then that I would log two miles on the treadmill no matter what.

For some of you, two miles sounds minuscule.  For me, two miles might as well be two light years, as I would soon find out.  Not even 1/4th of a mile in to my brisk jog my calves began burning, my shins began aching, and I was seriously considering stopping for water.  Then, right as I was preparing to hit the "Stop" button, I realized that I wasn't cheating myself if I slowed down.

So that's exactly what I did, I slowed my pace to a walk for 30 seconds.  During those 30 most glorious seconds all the tightness in my legs subsided, and before I knew it I was ready to run again.  I repeated this pattern of running/ walking for the duration of the workout, and eventually exceeded my goal of two miles. Then, while wiping down the sweat soaked machine I came to the realization that I had, in fact, done more cardio.

As it would turn out, I had been doing myself a great disservice all along by trying to push through the pain and ultimately coming up short of my goals.  Thus, a new philosophy on life was born...

"You can walk, just don't stop."

It seems like such a simple concept, but it is one I had never considered an option for myself.  I have come to realize that, with most things in life, I wait until I am 100% ready to do something, and then it consumes my entire life until it ultimately fizzles and I return to my old ways. 

This seems especially true with dieting.  I sit around and eat junk food for a few years until one day I wake up and say "Holy shit! I weigh 308 lbs and I'm going to have a heart attack in my 30's if I don't do something."  Then I go on a super clean diet and exercise routine for a few months. During that time I always end up losing a substantial amount of weight, but it inevitably makes a comeback when then "holy shit" factor wears off.

I am now learning to fully embrace the "Walk But Don't Stop" philosophy in all aspects of my life, especially my personal health and my career. From now on, when life becomes overwhelming or discouraging, I am going to avoid the temptation to "hit the stop button" or "break into an all out sprint." Instead, I'm going to slow to a walk for just long enough to regain focus then take off running again without ever stopping.