Answers to Pop Quiz

Eugene Levy – 13 years, 8 films

Hugh Jackman – 13 years (will be 14 next year when the new First Class movie comes out) 6 Films (will be 7)

Anderson/Duchovney – 15 years, 2 films and 1 TV series

Roger Moore – 12 years, 7 films

Sean Connery – 21 years (although he gave up the title role from 71-83, so you could say he’s disqualified because he only played the role for 6 consecutive years, then took a 4 year break, and then an 11 year break), 7 films

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The Specific Things I Did To Get Healthy

I still maintain that what I have done, while significant for me, is minor compared to what what others have done.  The only difference is that I’m willing/eager to share the thoughts and feelings behind my experience.  I maintain that this is a selfish act to keep me honest.  In a recent discussion with a buddy who works in the heath field and hadn’t seen me in several months, I mentioned the blog, and how it has kept me on track.  “What’s that they say, ‘if you want to accomplish something, tell someone?'”  Well, I tell 500 people (or really the 30-50 who read this).  But either way, I have to stay on track or people will know that I let myself down.

That said, I’ve been asked by many friends and family, some of whom are battling with weight themselves or have a spouse or close family member who is (that’s right, if you are one of the people I referred to and you’re reading this, not only are you not alone, you’re not the only one who confided in me so use that knowledge as strength).

This blog entry will highlight all of the specific strategies and tactics I used throughout my journey (that word still sounds cheesy but it’s accurate) from 275lb to 215lb and falling.  If you are reading this looking for advice, understand that no single one of these actions caused me to loose weight, but they all played a part in each other.

  1. Make a grand proclamation and tell as many people as possible, and start being honest with yourself.  See above, and see my very first post on the subject form late March.  When everyone on Facebook knows what your goals are, it’s harder to let them down.
  2. Know your math.  Ricky Gervais once defended himself for making fun of fat people by saying “I don’t ‘have a go’ at fat people.  I simply make the scientific observation that if happen to be heavier than you want to be it’s because you consume more calories than you burn.”  The way he said it was much funnier (and I’m sure I’m probably paraphrasing), but it’s 100% true.  1 lb of fat takes 3500 calories to burn.  Therefor if you burn 3500 calories more per week than you consume, you will lose 1lb a week.  This is not a gimmick or trick, this is a hard scientific fact.  And since there are 7 days in a week, and 3500/7=500 is also another scientific fact, if you burn 500 calories more than you consume EVERY DAY, you will lose 1lb a week.  Or, 1000 calories a day for 2lbs a week.  This will literally work, without fail, every time you try it.  The only variables are how you get to the deficit (more exercise, less food or a combination of both), and how ACCURATE and HONEST you are with yourself about both measurements.  If you track yourself at a 500 daily deficit but disregard your daily doughnut because the company pays for it and really it’s only a bit of a doughnut several times a day when you walk by them, you’ll find yourself wondering why the system doesn’t work.  Otherwise, the weight WILL come off at that rate over time.  I have been averaging 1.5lbs a week for 3 months with a 750 average deficit.  It’s also important to remember that if you weigh yourself once a week, you may not see the week over week change.  But rest assured if run a 1000 calorie deficit for 5 weeks you will lose between 8 and 12lbs depending on water weight.  Every time.
  3. Hemp Hearts.  When you start your day with one of the 7 healthiest foods in the world, you are giving your self the energy and nutrients you need to be more active, and the protein to keep you from getting hungry and snacking on bad food.  I eat 3 tablespoons every morning and if a skip a few days I notice immediately.  You can eat them with yogurt or (like I do) just shovel them in to your mouth, but either way, it’s a simple change you can make to your diet to start every day on the right track.
  4. Cut out all carbonated beverages and replaced them with water or juice, specifically Odwalla Original Superfood and Safeway Valencia Orange Juice (it’s ingredients are juice and water).  What I’m about to say might sound like a lot of empty calories, but that’s not what caused me to loose the weight.  At different times I was keeping track of my calories or drinking lots of diet soda instead of regular, so the calorie balance wasn’t the major issue.  The chemicals and fake sugar were causing me to feel lethargic, which lowered my motivation to change my lifestyle.  I was drinking a 20oz regular or diet soda every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was how I got my caffeine in the morning.  It was a habit.  If I went for a long car drive I would get one for the heck of it.  When I tried to quit cold turkey I had withdrawals that were worse than quitting smoking.  I finally stepped it down, first going down to once a day, then once every other day, then gradually increasing the number of days in between consumption.  It’s gotten to the point that if I have one (usually once a week now) I can feel the difference in my body the next day.  I believe that if you are unhappy with your health and consuming these types of beverages (not to mention alcohol), cutting them out of your diet is one of the single most important step you can take to getting healthy, assuming you’re not a smoker.
  5. Quit Smoking.  I’m not going in to detail on this, as we’re all smart enough to understand the importance.  I used Chantix several times and it worked every time.  I know that sounds funny but the quitting always worked, it was the staying quit that I had trouble with.
  6. Find one physical activity that you can add to your weekly routine that you will both enjoy and remember to do.  This was different things for me at different times.  in 2006 when I was at my heaviest this meant finding a softball team to play with once a week.  In 2007 (still north of 250) it meant walking for an hour on my lunch break 3 times a week.  3 months ago it meant taking up yoga and the elliptical, which eventually evolved in to jogging, which has evolved in to distance running.  I’ve also used walking the dogs, yard work, racquetball and weight lifting.  It doesn’t matter what it is, it will make a difference in your health if you do it regularly.
  7. Take your vitamins and supplements and make sure you do your research first.  I don’t believe in pumping your body full of man made supplements, but a multi-vitamin and fish oil are 2 that I stand firmly behind.  I haven’t taken ibuprofen in months and I recover quickly from workouts.  However, there are different kinds of fish oil, and if you pay a little extra for the DHA/EPA omega 3’s it’s something like 5 times as efficient.
  8. Buy clothes that are too small for you and hang them in your bedroom.  Something about the visual reminder every day and every night of a shirt or pants that you want to be able to wear
  9. Get Technology.  Body Media makes, IMO, the most accurate and least invasive calorie counter on the market.  It costs around $100-$120 and is worth every penny.  No more guessing at how many calories you burned, you actually track it.  If you are committed to running a deficit, you can only do so if you know what you’re burning, and most estimators are wrong.  This tool is so accurate that if I wear it to bed I can tell when I woke up in the middle of the night.  Other great apps you can use are myfitnesspal.com which has a complete database of just about every food item known to man and tracks your nutrition by the meal, and mapmyrun.com which will be helpful if you are adding any kind of distance related activity to your workouts.
  10. Find somebody else who is doing what you are doing and talk about what you are going through.  I have a buddy who recently lost over 100lbs, but has struggled to maintain the weight loss for an extended period of time.  He hasn’t gone back to his old ways and is still doing great, but we lean on each other.  People who haven’t put in the work to change their body and mind will be happy for you, even emotional, but they will never know exactly what you are dealing with.  Having someone who is either fighting the battle currently or has already gone through it will provide strength, both in your success and failure.  When I email my friend and say “I ate garbage this weekend so I added half a mile to my run today, but I still feel like crap,” he understands not only how hard that extra half mile was, but how scary it is to see yourself slip back in to the old you, and how important of a win it was to fight back and get on track so quickly.
  11. Find a physical game or sport that you enjoy and get determined to get good at it.  For me it was slowpitch softball.  Some would argue that I’m still not very good (and they’d be right) but I’m light years better than I was 6 years ago.  For others it might be golf, tennis, soccer, basketball, cycling or even crossfit.  There are literally dozens of recreational sports that will allow anyone to participate, so pick one and get really good at it.  The important thing is that you commit to yourself that you will improve in a measurable way, and then create a plan to put the work in to get better.  As bad as this sounds, sometimes the idea of excelling at something you love is more motivational than improving your health.
  12. Yoga.  I’ve never met someone who tried yoga for more than a month and didn’t love it.  The key is to find a class where the instructor allows you to go at your own pace (which they technically all should but some are more forceful than others with their instructions).  Don’t ever push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and be self aware enough to know when to say “I can’t do this pose right now, but if I keep coming back I will be able to some day.”  The #1 complaint I’ve heard from people who tried yoga and didn’t love it was that they felt they were pushed too hard.  Know your own body and your own limits and you’ll be fine.  When you’re paying someone to lead you through an exercise, it’s ok to tell them “no.”

These are 12 things that I feel were essential to getting as far as I have.  As I mentioned, many of them intertwine, like the Hemp Hearts and vitamins with the physical activities.  All are relatively minor changes to make, with the exception of quitting smoking.  I hope that this answers the questions I’ve been asked recently, and I hope that some people are able to use these ideas to enjoy the success that I’ve had.  

Self perception

This weekend’s post is intended to give some insight in to the psyche of a person who is trying to transform themselves.

Current weight, 214.  Most recent short term goal, 215, next short term goal, 199.

A few posts ago I wrote about a TV show I saw where slightly over weight women were asked to draw an outline of their body, and also asked to pick out another outline that they thought looked like them.  Every time, they drew a larger profile than they actually fit, and picked a profile 2-6 sizes larger than their actual size.

I talked about how over weight men have the opposite problem… we think we’re actually smaller than we are.

Well, today, I had a different epiphany…

For the last few months I’ve been wearing jeans that I felt were a little too big for me.  Avoiding buying new ones because knowing how committed I was to my goal, I wanted to wait until the last possible minute so that I didn’t have to turn around in a few months and buy new ones.  When I walked in to the Lucky Brand store up in Marysville, I had thought I’d need to explain my situation the the salesperson.  She looked at me, asked me for a size, walked over to the wall of jeans, pulled off 2 pair told me to try them on.  She assured me adamantly that I’d be MUCH happier.

I walked in to the changing room, tried on the new pair and looked at myself.  Actually looked  pretty good, but felt a little more snug than I was used to.  But, they were size 34, I’d been wearing 38’s or 40’s for the past decade+.  But just to be sure, I tried my old pair back on, and that’s when I saw it… they looked like parachute pants in comparison.  “Sagging gang banger” was the term the sales person used when describing (after the sale) what she thought of my jeans when I walked in.  Now, I do take this with a grain of salt since 1)She spends her entire day staring at people trying on jeans so she’s probably hyper sensitive to this sort of thing and 2) She was, for at least part of the time, attempting to sell me jeans, so obviously it behooved her to convince me that I was in need of replacements.

Still, in a flash, I realized that my self perception was still warped, just in the other direction this time.  Because I’d gotten used to hiding my frame with baggy clothes, I thought this was the normal way to dress.  When I tried on clothes that actually fit me, I saw a completely different person.  I liked it.

It was at this point that I realized I’m no longer fighting an uphill battle.  I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning.  I don’t know what the end is, but it very well could be 199.  Or it might be 189… who knows.  But when I started, I was north of 275, so no matter how you cut it, I’ve passed the half way point.

I share this not only to share my success with you, but to demonstrate how totally consuming the power of self image and perception can be.  I think we often brush off the notion that we literally might not see ourselves as others do.  I read an article recently that says hallucinogenic mushrooms cause you to see the entire spectrum of your self image all at once.  So if you are capable as thinking of your current self as obese, and with a six pack, you will see both.  Well, I’ve never shroomed, and I don’t even know how to imagine what that looks like, but after today, I finally understand the concept of actually envisioning yourself differently without changing shape or size.

Hopefully someone will read this and realize that they are NOT in fact fat, that they are active and healthy, and can be happy with who they are.  And hopefully someone else will realize that they ARE, in fact, unhealthily overweight, and have the power to change their circumstance.  But how we look, even to ourselves, will never be as important as how we feel, and how internally healthy we are.  And as I get closer and closer to “home,” I understand this more and more.  So here’s hoping the last 15 goes quicker than the first 15!

Caught myself

Once again trying to keep myself honest.

I’ve often wondered how people who had achieved so much more than I have with regards to weight loss have managed to slip all the way back?

I’ve found one potential cause of relapse… over correction. In both directions.

First, you get so gung-ho about improving your health that you cut out literally everything even moderately bad and work out constantly.  You realize you are running a huge deficit and start relaxing on a few things.  But before you know it you are headed down the same road you worked so hard to get off of.

Fortunately, I didn’t get that far down the road before I realized what was going on.  It wasn’t a huge thing… 1 soda on a weekend turned in to 1 on a Friday and one on a Saturday or Sunday.  That turned in to one every day of the weekend, except Friday which I was allowed one at lunch and one at dinner.  Shortly after that I added 1 at the movies.  And last Saturday on the way to a softball tournament I found myself drinking a mountain due at 10:00am.  And that wasn’t my last one of the day.

So the next morning I took a giant bottle of Odwalla with me to the tournament and drank every time I craved soda.  Lots of calories but none of it from soda.  3 days later, so far, so good.

I’ve continued to maintain a calorie deficit 6 days a week so it’s not like it was a huge deal yet, but I could see a pattern.  I also saw a corresponding drop in my interest in working out.  I was still doing it, but I didn’t look forward to it as much and wasn’t really enjoying it.

It’s a fortunate reminder that those temptations that brought me to where I was still existed, I just hadn’t been paying attention to or indulging in them.  Back to ignoring it for a while.  I’m sure I will eventually settle on a middle ground, but until that happens, all I can do is continue to try to be honest with myself.

Thanks for reading!

The god damn stupid head doody face stinky mcstink-bottom Plateau

For the past several weeks I’ve been stuck at a plateau.  I’m told this is common, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.  When you work hard and eat right and run the calorie deficit you need to in order to achieve the 2lbs a week you’re looking for, quite frankly, it sucks.  I don’t know any other adjective that accurately describes it.

I’ve been sitting in the 222-225 range for quite some time now.  Even as I’ve introduced new and harder exercises in to my repertoire.  Body fat percentage hasn’t gone down, measurements haven’t gone down (actually they are up a little) and I have no idea why.

I’ve tried shocking my body with a high calorie day, adjusting the percentage of protein/carbs/fat that I take in, eating more whole foods than I even was before, nothing seems to work right now.

I’ve been assured that if I keep with what I’m doing I’ll eventually break through, but this is one of those times where it’s easy to get discouraged and just go completely off the wagon.  But that’s not what I’m going to do.

I’m sharing this for the same 2 reason I’ve always shared this… to hold myself publicly accountable and to share with others who might be going through the same frustration as me.  This is the single easiest time to lose focus, since you feel like nothing you are doing is working.  But I have to remind myself that 2-3 weeks is a relatively short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, and I can keep pushing forward.

If anyone out there has any advice for breaking through the plateau, I’m all ears. 🙂

There’s nothing to eat

I’m going to try to post more frequently, but with smaller topics to save time.  I’ve found that not posting for the past 2 weeks has allowed me to get closer to that “unhealthy” line than I’d like to be, so I’m going to keep doing this as part of my ongoing process.  So if you’re tired of reading my blog, sorry, it’s going to keep going for a while. 🙂

Status update (will try to limit these to once every 2 weeks or so):  Down to 223 from 275.  Can now run a 5k.  Recently tried spin class for the first time and every excited to go back!

I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a friend who basically did everything I have been doing, only a decade earlier.  What’s interesting is I’ve noticed that some of the things I hadn’t experienced are starting to happen.  Like “re-learning how to eat.”

Now, this is different than learning about nutrition, or learning about portion sizes.  Those are easy, and literally anybody can do it with minimal effort.

Learning how to eat, I’ve found, has been much more difficult.

Here’s what I mean.  I can walk in to the kitchen, looking for a snack to tide me over until dinner, and because there isn’t a bag of chips or some similar salty, fatty snack, I will determine that there’s nothing to eat in our house.

Never mind the apples, bananas, whole grain crackers with light cream cheese, nuts, carrots and hummus, yogurt, or any of the other healthy options I’ve stocked the house with… I literally don’t even see them, despite the fact that I did the shopping for all of it.

Same thing at lunch during the week.  I work across the street from a Trader Joe’s and down the road from Safeway, so literally anything I want is at my finger tips.  Yet the only thing I can ever think of for lunch is some version of turkey sandwich with no mayo or 2 crisp chicken tacos (360 total calories and low fat) from Taco Time.  So while it’s good that I don’t revert to my fast food ways, I feel like I’m one “day of boredom” away from talking myself in to Jack In The Box is fine as long as I have a light dinner (I’ve already got my emergency cheat meal, a 600 calorie cheeseburger/fries meal from burger king, although I haven’t partaken in 3 weeks).

There is no solution for this.

Now, that statement might sound ominous, but it’s true.  There are ways to deal with it, like continuing to make sure that I have healthy choices available to me, and branching out my picky eating, but there is no way to “fix” the part of my brain that tells me that only processed snack foods will quell my hunger.  I’m sure that as I re-learn how to eat, that voice will become quieter and quieter, but for now, it’s extremely difficult.  If you’re like me and are used to eating poorly, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

All I can say is that I take comfort in knowing that there are other people out there who, like me, don’t automatically gravitate to the food that is best for their body.  Or, more accurately, I take comfort in knowing that there are people in that category who, like me, are struggling to change.  There are MILLIONS of people who regularly eat the way my Keri keep telling me “in America, ‘normal’ doesn’t mean healthy.”  That’s a topic I’ll cover later, but for now, I’ll just say that I understand why doing what’s best doesn’t always mean doing what’s easy, even when it seems like it should be.

Thank you to anyone who is reading these

I wanted to extend and honest and heartfelt thank you to everyone who is reading these.  Especially those of you who have come up to me and mentioned that you read it.  You kept me going today.

I stated from the beginning that I did this to keep myself accountable… failure is not an option when you’ve proclaimed to the world that you’ve made a change.

Today, for the first time in 2 weeks I really did not want to go to the gym at lunch.  I started to rationalize… “It’s ok, I played softball all weekend.”  “I’m doing Yoga tonight, that can be my workout.”  “Listen to your body, your legs are tired.”

While listening to your body is always good, my legs were tired, not injured or hurt.  Yoga doesn’t burn the kind of calories that I need to achieve my goals, and I played softball Saturday (albeit for 7 hours spread over a 15 hour day), and this is Monday.

When I got on the machine, I wanted to quit after 5 minutes.  My legs were tired, my energy levels were down, my music wasn’t doing it for me.

And then I told myself “I promised publicly that I wasn’t going to quit.”  So I finished.  It was hard, it sucked, but I knew I had it in me and I did.  I didn’t do it with the intensity I wanted, or with the excitement I wanted, but I finished my 45 minutes and burned 600 calories.

Thanks again to everyone who has shown support.  Whether you realize it or not, every single word resonates and motivates me.