About Fogdog's Weight Loss

Don't Focus on the Goal...

If you've followed this blog you know that I've struggled for many years with improving my health. I've finally reached a point where I've managed to maintain a small amount of success. Now it's time to take the next step, but I believe it requires a new way of thinking.

Instead of trying to get healthy, why not shift focus toward learning how to build healthy habits instead. Follow me as I try to teach myself how to Engineer healthy habits that will allow me to take my health to the next level. Let's see where this experiment goes!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Journal Update - 1/31/10

Typically I have been only making journal entries once a week on Fridays (just before my Saturday weigh-in), but I've noticed that my journal entries are starting to get longer and longer.  So I'm going to try to get out 2 journal updates a week, one after the weekend and one at the end of the week. 

All in all it was a pretty good weekend for me.  If anyone read my last journal entry they know that last week was a tough week for me.  On Saturday I weighed in and actually gained 0.6 pounds.  I also woke to 8" of snow on the ground. 

After weighing in, I decided to go downstairs and get a good workout in.  In my workout plan I told myself that I would not miss workouts, but if I did I would make them up on the weekend.  Last week I skipped both of my elliptical workouts and Friday's strength training workout.  I started with making up my strength training workout, and when I was done with that I decided to continue on and make up one of my elliptical workouts. 

After breakfast I went outside to shovel.  We got 8" here in VA (a lot for this area) and I had to shovel my entire driveway by hand (about 100 feet long).  By the time I was done I was feeling pretty beat but happy with the amount of exercise I got for the day.  At lunch my wfe made these healthy little pizzas.  They were really good; I'm going to share the recipe on this blog sometime this coming week.

Sunday came and I needed to get another workout in.  For some reason I really needed to make up for all my slack last week.  I got my elliptical workout in before breakfast and the I felt great.  I think it was the sense of accomplishment for making up all the missed workouts that really got me going.  Anyway, after breakfast I had to go out and shovel again (only 1 inch this time and then I had to clean up where the plow came through) so I got another 30 minutes of exercise in.  Then we took the kids to a winter carnival.  I behaved myself; no junk food and I brought water and apple slices to hold me over.  After that we went out for lunch for our weekly cheat meal.  Again I did well; we went to a buffet and I ate 1 plate of salad, 1 plate of entrees, and 1 small dessert.  I also drank water.

I am really happy at the moment and I feel like I'm getting my mind back on track.  By the way I also haven't smoked all weekend so I'm definitely getting a boost from that accomplishment as well.  I also think the blog and the blog community are helping me out.  By having to write it down I'm definitely thinking things through, and the support from others as well as reading other people's blogs helps to remind me that I'm not alone with these problems.  In fact, Esther wrote a neat little article talking about "thinking" all the time.  I was as if it was speaking to me when I read it.  Go check it out right here.

I've also picked up a few more followers recently:

Not of This World has just started a weight loss blog called "Chubarella"

TJ Has a blog called "The Fat Chick's Dating Manifesto".  Even if you are not a single female looking for dating advice, she's got a cool writing style and makes for interesting reading.

Eat to Live has a fairly new blog called "Eat to live in 2010".  Lately ETL has started to see how powerful and supportive the blog community can be.

Brad has a blog called "Adaptive Biggest Loser 2010".  If you are into competitions like the biggest loser, this might be blog you want to check out.

Anyway, thanks to each of you for following my blog.  Good luck on each of your journeys.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weigh-in #12 - 1/30/10

About what I expected with the week I had

Starting Weight: 297 lbs

Last Weigh-in: 285.3 lbs

Current Weight: 285.9 lbs

Weekly Loss (Gain): (+0.6) lbs

Total Weight Loss: 11.1 lbs

It could have been much worse.  This morning I made up BOTH my Thursday and Friday workouts that I missed so I'm starting the week off right.  Now I'm off to shovel the snow off my 100 foot driveway.  That'll burn some calories!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Journal Update - 1/29/10

When I started this blog, I told myself that throughout the process I was going to keep the tone positive and not generate a negative attitude. That’s going to be tough with the week I’ve had. First let me offer a primer; everything that went wrong with this week is all in my head! I had no major events that triggered my behavior and I just simply am having a hard time right now. It’s all mental which has always been the issue with me. I share all this information about being healthy because I know how to live a healthy life. Where I seem to struggle is having a healthy mind to go along with it.

The week started with another good weigh-in. For 3 weeks I’ve posted losses and was feeling pretty good about it. We needed a new printer for a while now and the kids had some Christmas money to spend so we decided to go into town and do some shopping. We also decided that we would go out for lunch as our cheat meal. We started at Walmart because I had a gift card I wanted to use up. We got a few things and then my wife took the kids to the bathroom. While she was gone I went back into the store, proceeded to the checkout, and bought a pack of cigarettes. Now before I go further, let me demonstrate the significance of that decision with a little background.

5 Years ago I was a pack-a-day smoker and weighed 320 pounds. My very first act toward living a healthier life was to quit smoking. It was the second toughest thing I’ve ever gone through (I’m still going through the first), but I did it and it was a great help. I was sleeping better, and had a sense that I had accomplished something important. I did gain some weight and topped out at 349 before I started focusing on my weight. Fast forward to last year; and the world was in a recession. My mom and sister both lost their jobs and the potential that I was going to lose mine was very high. Throw in the fact that we had just moved from NY to VA and I was pretty stressed out. On the day they announced a major layoff at my facility I smoked a cigarette. It tasted like crap, but that one cigarette triggered 6 months of slowly moving my way back to ½ a pack a day. At the end of the year I realized that I had to stop soon or I would be suffering as bad as I did 5 years ago, so I quit (again) on New Year’s Eve. I managed to go 3 weeks without smoking before heading into Walmart over this last weekend.

What’s strange is that I really didn’t feel a craving to smoke. In fact, the whole process of buying the pack and smoking that first one was more like being on autopilot; I just did it without even giving it anything thought at all. After that cigarette, however, my mind came back and the fireworks began. My brain starting playing out all sorts of discussions while we drove to the next store.  I beat myself up, then I forgave myself… I blamed the diet, then I told myself to stop making excuses... I told myself to just throw them out, then I convinced myself that it was wasting money. It’s amazing how many thoughts went racing through my mind in just a very short period of time!  After a few more stores, we ended up at a restaurant where I proceeded to eat much more than I planned to.  Of course that only added to my sense of failure. 

I spent most of Sunday as a slug on the couch.  I didn't do bad eating but I was still working on that pack of cigarettes.  Hanging around all day doing nothing just brought on more thinking only by the thoughts had spread from just failing at smoking to everything that's wrong with my life.  this is what happens to me, I have a setback, and then I have to analyze everything that's wrong in my life (most of which is really unfounded).

By Sunday evening I was back to convincing myself to get on track so I threw out the last few cigarettes I had and renewed my commitment to living a healthy life. 

Monday turned out to be a good day; I worked out in the morning and went all day without smoking.  I felt like I was getting back on track. 

Tuesday turned into another train wreck.  I had to go into work at 4:00AM so I woke up tired and of course did not have time to work out.  I got to work and found myself bumming cigarettes again.  Once again the battles in my mind started back up. 

I'm not going to run through the rest of my week day by day, but suffice it to say, it was very much a repeat of the beginning of the week.  I didn't eat all that bad, and I did get some water in, but my head just wasn't into it.  This is something that has derailed me before.  I have a steback and my mind turns it into a major atrocity for which I should be flogged publicly at the town square.  Next my mind holds me hostage preventing me from getting back on the wagon by filling me with doubts and reminders of all past failures.  For those of you who can relate to what I'm saying, you know how defeating and frustrating it can be.

So I said I would try to remain positive so that's what I'm going to finish off with.  Not everything is as bad as I make it out to myself:

  • For starters, I did not eat all that bad this week and I did get my strength training workouts in.  I am not expecting to lose weight, but I think I will come out somewhere around 0.  It could've been much worse; I've had bad weeks before where I put on 5+ pounds. 
  • I'm also feeling a bit better today and I'm out of cigarettes.  The urge to smoke at home is much less than the urge at work, so it gives me an opportunity to try again over the weekend.   
  • I'm also still here.  I still have my job and both my mom and sister eventually found new employment.  I still have all my limbs and I have a great family to provide me with motivation to continue on. 
  • Lastly, and this is important, I'm starting to recognize these patterns that lead to the destructive behavior.  During the week I had some time to reflect on the situation and the more I thought through it, the easier it was to see the pattern.  Now I laid it all out nicely in this entry for others to follow, but at the time these things were happening to me my mind was a big jumble of thoughts and emotions.  Looking back at the week and analyzing where I could have made some small changes is a small step towards slaying my demons for good.  I have to be ready because there will be more slips down the road.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FogDog's Healthy Meals

I spend quite a bit of time at other weight loss blogger sites, and I'm always amazed at the number of people eating uninspired meals when they try to eat healthy.  It's hard to stay focused on a diet when the thought of your next meal is less appealing than the thought up cleaning up baby vomit.  Bad food at home is a sure-fire way to find yourself at the local drive-thru regularly.  One thing I can say about myself is that I just absolutely have to eat food that is more than just nutritious; it also has to be delicious.  Fortunately I've done a lot of trial and error on many healthy meals and recipes so I have a pretty good arsenal to draw from.  I've decided to share some of my favorites as part of my blog (note the new list on my sidebar).  Some will be full meals and others may just be healthy snacks.  I'll try to get a new one out each week as time permits.  I also found a great blog from written by Weezel that is all about recipes.  What I like about it is that this blogger is actually a food service director and she takes requests from her audience.  Not everything on her site is healthy, but many times she does offer healthy alternatives.  Feel free to check it out it's called "What's Cooking? ". 

Not all my recipes are designed from scratch.  Many of them have been modified or adapted from books, magazines and on the internet.  I've picked up quite a few ideas from my Men's Health Magazine  in their Abs Diet Recipes, they have some really good meals.  When appropriate I will reference the source of the inspiration or adaptation along with a link to the reference (when available).  These recipes are designed to have 3 key components to them:
  1. They must be healthy (low in fat, calories, not swimming in salt, etc) 
  2. They must be filling (what's the sense in eating a healthy meal if you are starving 2 hours later)
  3. They must taste good (no rice cakes smeared with low fat cottage cheese)
Now please understand that many of these recipes will be high in protein.  I strive for balance in my meals, but I do tend to skew a little towards the high protein side.  That's because my workout consists of a lot of strength training so I eat a lot of protein to support muscle repair.  You may need to modify these recipes to suit your own needs or tastes.  If you do find an alteration that works well, please feel free to share in the comments section as I am always looking for new ideas. 

Also note that I almost never use anything "light", "fat free", "reduced fat", "diet", "low sodium", or any other label that represents an unnatural form of something that tastes good.  You can't be afraid of fat, sugar, and salt.  When used in moderation they add flavor and make the meal more enjoyable.  Besides, all of those so-called "healthier" versions of these ingredients replace the good stuff with artificial ingredients and I'm not a big fan of artificial sweeteners, flavors, and fillers.  Trust me when I say you can eat a healthy diet with all natural ingredients.  Good food is about taste as much as about being healthy.  In my house our philosophy is to spend a little more and get high quality, great tasting food because if our meals taste like cardboard we'll just end up going out to eat all the time.  That's no good for your weight or your wallet!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Motivation to Lose Weight

Last week I wrote an article called Finding Motivation to Lose Weight, so I though this week I might share some of my motivations. For me, the motivational force that drives me the most is probably “Challenge/Competition”. I love to be challenged; something about it just gets me going. I hate to lose in anything I do. I would be dominating on The Biggest Loser.  It probably comes from my childhood since I played a lot of sports. After that, I would say that 2 other smaller motivational forces for me are “Greed” and “Fear”.

So how do I leverage those motivational forces? Below is a list of some of the things I do to stay motivated:

The Bet - The first and biggest motivation for me is the bet I have with a very good friend. It started last year at the start of the year. At the time I weighed 314 pounds and he weighed 300 so we were pretty close in weight. The bet is very simple; the first person to 250 pounds wins! The prize is $2 for every pound difference in weight at the end of the competition. So if I win (and I will) and my friend weighs in at 280 when I reach the goal, then he pays me (280 – 250) x $2 = $60. He offered to give me a handicap because I weighed more, but I refused as it only made the challenge even greater! The money adds a little “greed” motivation, but I really don't care about the money.  The need to win the bet is what really keeps me going. By the way, for the record, I am currently winning the bet handily (If you are reading this DJ you better get your ass moving).

The Blog – I started writing this blog because 1) I wanted to add accountability, 2) I wanted to share what I know with others who want to lose weight, and 3) Because I’ve never done it before.  As I said I enjoy a good challenge. A few years ago, I started to consider writing about losing weight and being healthy. I kept telling myself that I would do after I lost the weight. Then at the end of last year I started to realize that the process of writing about it would actually help me to complete it and what better way to prove it can be done than by doing it yourself. What adds to the challenge is the fact that I know this doesn’t work if I don’t produce results. Who is going to follow a blog about losing weight written by someone who hasn’t lost any weight? I hate to fail at anything I do so I am motivated to keep at it and make this endeavor a success.

The Trip – This summer I am traveling to the northeast for vacation with family and friends. This one has a lot of “Vanity” but there is also a bit of a competition here. Most of my family members are also overweight to some degree or other. In my mind there is some satisfaction in being able to say to myself “I lost it all first” and since I can’t really say that directly to my family I need to show it in person. I know it seems silly to some people out there, but those people obviously aren’t highly motivated by competition.

The Summer Tradition – Last year we started a tradition that I hope to continue on this year. At the very end of the summer, I take a day off from work and we drive to King’s Dominion (an amusement park here in Virginia). Last year I was extremely nervous that I would not fit on the rides. Luckily, my oldest daughter (the daredevil) did not quite make the height requirements to go on most of the roller coasters and other big rides that usually have tight seats in order to keep you strapped in. However, she did qualify for a couple smaller roller coasters and of course needed to try them out. My wife hates roller coasters, so I am the default parent for thrill rides like that (she’s the default parent for spinning rides). Anyway, the lines were long as they always are at amusement parks, and I was forced to stand there for 20 minutes and wonder if I would be able to fit in the seat. When we finally got close my fear grew immensely. I was so worried about how disappointed my daughter would be if we couldn’t go on because of my weight. Then I saw an overweight person that could not fit on the ride. I felt horrible for her as she walked away with her child towing behind her. I spent the next 5 minutes trying to decide if I was bigger than her or smaller than her; it was really close. Luckily I fit (barely) and I didn’t have to take that long walk with my kid towing behind. I said before, fear is one of the strongest motivators out there. This year my daughter will be tall enough for the big thrill rides and some of them even have posted weight limits. Occasionally I remind myself of how I felt waiting in that line and I know that I never want to have to worry like that again.

100 Ways To Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever

So these are some of the things I do to try to stay motivated. Some change from time to time and others take their place, but I do try to keep a list of motivators because sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated and you need to look for something different once in a while. Finding the right motivation is key to success and is unique for everyone who takes the journey. What motivates you to lose weight?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weigh-in #11 - 1/23/10

I met my weekly goal!

Starting Weight: 297 lbs

Last Weigh-in: 286.8 lbs

Current Weight: 285.3 lbs

Weekly Loss (Gain): 1.5 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 11.7 lbs

This makes 3 straight weeks of losses!  I'm getting close to reaching my 270 milestone and the timing is perfect.  I promised myself a mountain bike when I hit that target and spring is just around the corner.

How To Choose a Mountain Bike: Finding the Ride That's Right for You

Friday, January 22, 2010

Journal Update - 1/22/10

Another week is coming to a close and I'll face the scale yet again tomorrow.  No worries though, I think I did pretty well this week.  I managed to do all my strength training workouts and I only missed my Thursday elliptical workout (with good reason).  I'll be making up the elliptical workout on Saturday per my exercise plan.

As far as eating goes, I'm still doing good (not great, just good).  Last Saturday I went to a friend's house to watch some football.  I had a few beers and some chips, but definitely did not eat like a pig like I usually do.  One of my friends and I started a conversation about running a marathon.  In the end we decided it would be cool to run a 5K together.  He said he was going to look into it for me and find a run we can do, I'll see if he actually follows up on it.  This would be another great motivator for me to have to train to run a race.  I'm so out of shape, I'm not even sure if I could walk 3.2miles let alone run. 

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Half-Marathon Training: Get Ready to Run or Walk a 5K, 8K, 10K or Half-Marathon Race

On Sunday I took the family out to eat and I enjoyed my 1 weekly cheat meal (part of my plan).  What's nice is that I've stopped looking at the menu in restaurants trying to figure out what item will provide me with the largest quantity and instead looked for something with some really good flavor.  I ended up with a burger that was loaded with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and some Cajun sauce that made the whole thing out of this world!  I really enjoyed that burger, all the flavors just really came together.  It's nice to have a cheat meal and really enjoy it.

The week started a little rough for me.  I ate right Monday during the day, but the wife and I became enablers to each other on Monday night and we talked ourselves into getting a chocolate cake.  I had a slice on Monday night and then again on Tuesday night.  It certainly didn't help my cause, but I guess it could have been worse.

Other than the cake, the rest of my week has been good.  I've been eating normal portions and drinking lots of water.  Typically I eat around 2500 calories and get about 80-100 ounces in each day.  I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables; I'm really starting to enjoy them a lot! 

I'm definitely feeling a lot better these days.  Last week I was hungry all the time and I think it was just my body getting used to the new exercise routine.  This week the hunger was not as bad and I hope it shows on the scale.  I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but my mind just feels a little sharper as well.  I was more productive at work this week and I think it has to do with the exercise.  I work out in the morning and it gives me a boost to starting my day.  I've been in this situation before and I like it a lot.  I look back and wonder why I ever stopped working out in my past failed attempts to lose weight.

Lastly, I've also started seeking out other bloggers to follow and some have started following my blog as well.  I have to admit with 3 very young kids and an extremely busy job, I have a hard time even finding time to write, let alone follow others.  However, I am amazed at all the support out there.  Every blog I've been to is full of supportive comments; it's really cool to see everyone helping each other out that way.  I've always had the knowledge on how to physically lose weight, but it's been the mental side of it that has always kept me down.  I'm hoping that by being part of this community it will help to give me that mental edge to see this journey through to the end.  I also feel this sense of accountability when I have to post my weight each week, it's definitely helping me to stay motivated.  Thanks to Esther, Phil, Chubby Chick, and Weezel who have all recently started following my blog, I look forward to contributing to this community as we all battle this demon.

Tomorrow I'll post the results of my weigh-in; I'm expecting another loss, but you never really know until you step on.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finding Motivation to Lose Weight

You can try to lose all the weight you want, but you won’t get anywhere if you are not properly motivated. Motivation is one of those concepts that are unique for every individual. What motivates me might not motivate you at all. The key then, is to find things that will motivate you specifically to lose the weight. Below are some motivational forces that you might want to consider:

  • Health – You would think this would be everyone’s motivational force for losing weight, but even some people that have underlying health issues still are not motivated to lose weight (even if it meant getting rid of those issues)! The problem with health as a motivator is that it is not guaranteed (people that are not overweight have health issues too). Also, it’s not a quantifiable trait either. You can’t lose 50 pounds and then say those 50 pounds have caused you to have 2 less health issues. Health is a great reason to lose weight, but it’s not much of a motivator. At best, you can tell yourself that if you lose weight, you will have less health issues than you did if you hadn’t lost the weight. That statement is as close to a certainty as you can get here.
  • Vanity – This can be a powerful motivator for some. The idea of looking attractive to others can definitely motivate us to drop the unwanted pounds. Many goals and rewards can be derived from this motivational force. Being able to fit into a certain size outfit is often a strong motivator for some.  For someone who has always been overweight, this can be a very powerful motivational force. 
  • Competition/Challenge – Competition or simply the challenge of accomplishing a certain task is a very strong motivator. Most people love a good challenge. Find some way to compete in something that requires you to be more active and you will have a good chance at staying motivated to drop the pounds. The big watch-out here is to look for competitions or challenges that are not just in your head. If you challenge yourself and you keep it to yourself, it becomes too easy to pretend it never happened. One suggestion would be to find someone else who needs to lose weight and challenge them to see who can lose the most weight in a certain period of time.
  • Greed – What if I told you I would give you $10,000 if you could lose 50 pounds this year? Would that motivate you to do it? Greed is one of the strongest motivators out there. What’s interesting is that most people don’t even realize how much more money they would have if they weighed less. There are studies out there that show overweight people actually make less money than normal weight people. Think about the costs of weight related medical problems or simply the cost of all the extra food you consume. Over the course of your life you would save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars by losing the weight. Not enough of a motivator for you? Then look for ways to capitalize on your weight loss. Combine greed with competition and make a wager on that competition to lose weight.
  • Fear – Fear is probably the strongest motivator out there. Have you ever watched “The Biggest Loser”? I’ve seen almost every season and in all that time, I’ve only seen 1 person show up at the finale without losing a ton of weight. Even those who are voted off in the first weeks manage to lose huge amounts of weight on their own at home when they could never do it before. What changed? They didn’t learn some magic spell while on the show, they just simply became motivated by both fear and greed. If you knew in 6 months you had to get on a scale on national TV, you would be motivated as well. You would be so afraid of failing in front of the world, you would do just about anything to succeed. Add to that a chance to win a bunch of money (greed) and your motivation goes through the roof! 
A Bite at a Time: From the Heart to the Mind, Inspiration and Motivation for Weight Loss

So what can you do about your motivation?
  1. Recognize what motivates you most in life. Do you have to be the best in your job? If so, competition is probably a strong motivator for you. Want to get rid of those Type II Diabetes more than anything?  Health is probably yoour biggest motivational force.  Identify with what motivational force will move you the most so you can identify motivators for your journey.
  2. Identify those key motivators. Come up with some motivators that are in line with your biggest motivational forces. Want some fear? Make a doctor’s appointment 6 months from now and see if that doesn’t motivate you to do a little more. Greed? Make a bet with someone on how much weight you can lose. Competition? Sign up for a 5K run.
  3. Use your motivators often by thinking about them all the time. When you are thinking about eating that dessert, remind yourself that the buddy you’re competing against is behaving himself. When you don’t want to work out, ask yourself how your kids will feel when their father or mother dies of heart disease. The more you keep your motivators in your mind, the more you will be able to resist temptations.
Here are a few ideas on motivators that might help get you started:
  1. Got an underlying health problem? Think about what you life would be like without it (Health). Figure out how much money you would save if you didn’t need the extra medications and doctor visits (Greed). Think about what your life will be like if your condition gets worse (Fear)
  2. Find a picture of someone who you want to look like and post it where you can see it every day (Vanity)
  3. Buy yourself an outfit you really want in a size that you want to get to (Vanity)
  4. Challenge a friend or family member to a weight loss competition (Competition)
  5. Add a wager to the competition (Greed)
  6. Sign up for an event that requires physical activity (Competition, Fear)
  7. If you haven’t been to a doctor in a while, make an appointment 6 months from now (Fear)
  8. Offer yourself a huge goal for meeting a huge target (Competition, Greed)
Be creative when coming up with motivators and as I said before, think of them often. Motivation is a big key to success in losing weight. With proper motivation you can accomplish anything you set out to do. Without it, you will surely have a tough time.

What’s your motivation?

Inside/Outside: Motivational Weight Loss Program

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weigh-in #10 - 1/16/10

Back on track!

Starting Weight: 297 lbs

Last Weigh-in: 287.5 lbs

Current Weight: 286.8 lbs

Weekly Loss (Gain): 0.7 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 10.2 lbs

Not exactly a home run, but I'll take it.  This puts me back to my lowest weight since I started and I've now crossed over 10 pounds lost.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Journal Update - 1/15/10

As the week draws to a close, I can’t help but feel happy that in terms of both diet and exercise, this has probably been the best week I’ve had since I started. The wife and I decided to stay home last weekend instead of going out (something we usually do at least once a weekend). We had some good meals including some delicious homemade spaghetti. Also over the weekend I managed to get my workout plan complete and finalized.

Monday started with hitting the home gym first thing in the morning. Since then I’ve been pretty sore most of the week as my body adapts to lifting weights again. I did all my workouts, including the cardio workouts on Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve also been feeling hungrier all week. Again, I think my body is adjusting to more activity and I have tried to eat a little more but do it smartly.

On Wednesday I got an email from an old friend in Vermont. He’s always been a healthy sort of person so he was glad to hear that I’m taking the steps to become a healthier person. He suggested training for a road race as something that might help keep me motivated. I have to admit, I’d love to be able to do something like that but at the same time It seems a bit overwhelming to me. I am giving it some serious thought though it might have to be something I look forward to next year.

His email also got me thinking a lot about my past and how I’ve overcome other problems in my life. When I was in college I actually had 2 distinct college careers. In the first career my days and nights were spent drinking, partying, and essentially wasting my time at school. At one point I was nearly kicked out of college. My second college career involved working hard, studying, and finishing college with some really good grades and job offers from everyone I interviewed with. People often assume that my wife was the catalyst from college career 1 to college career 2, but the reality is she just happened to show up about that time. The real reason why I changed is that I realized I had to change my mindset. It wasn’t as easy as saying “I’m going to do better”, I had to take a long hard look at all my habits and address them. Part of the problem was that I didn’t know how to be a good student. I had to learn this by hanging out with other good students (such as my good friend from VT). This meant less time for my drinking buddies which led to my other problem I had to work through. I had to recognize that I couldn’t change my friends as well. Because of that I actually had to give up most of them. To this day the only person who I keep in touch with from college career 1 is my old roommate.

I look at this new journey I’m on and I can see a lot of parallels to my college days. I’m beginning to see that I really don’t know what it means to live a healthy life and the people I hang out with are generally like me. I’m not suggesting I need to give up all my friends for healthy friends, but I definitely need to expand my horizons a little and start looking at people who find enjoyment out of being healthy. My good friend in VT is one of those people, but I also need to focus more on getting involved in more healthy activities where I live (like road races, volunteering to coach sports, etc) so I can meet and learn from healthy people. When that happens I may get some resistance from my current circle of friends, but I also need to recognize that I can’t change them and that some of them may not remain good friends after a while. When you decide to make a change like this it definitely is not just a small change, it impacts every aspect of your life.

Anyway, this journal entry definitely went off on a pretty big tangent, but I think it’s important to get this stuff out when I realize it. Someday I may want to go back and read these entries to remind myself and reinforce the change.

I’m hoping for a great weigh-in tomorrow, but at the same time I am being optimistically cautious. Knowing that my body has been out of balance all week adjusting to working out, I would not be surprised if I don’t lose as much as I think I should. I have seen similar results in the past; we’ll see tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Toughest Addiction Out There

When most people think of addictions, thoughts come to mind of alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and gambling. Most people don't even consider food, but food can also be a powerful addiction to many people. In fact, I would argue that food is the absolute toughest addiction to break and I'll tell you why I think that a little later in this article.

Addiction is defined as "the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma." I think food follows that definition for some people. Those of us overweight feel a sense of being enslaved by food and trying to stop can cause trauma both mentally and physically.

Addictions, no matter what kind, are hard to break. In order to overcome an addiction, you must be able to face both the mental and the physical symptoms during the withdrawal (cessation) from the addiction.

For food, the physical manifestations come in the form of hunger. If you body is used to eating a certain amount of food and then you begin to eat less and deny the body all that food, it is going to let you know by making you hungry. Hunger can be hard to deal with especially if it’s nagging at you all day long. There are also other physical symptoms you can face when dealing with food addiction. Some people get headaches or feel rundown when reducing sugar or caffeine intake. Others may see digestive issues like gas, bloating, etc.

The mental side of food addiction can also be just as difficult. Any time you are lonely, sad, depressed, angry, or any other emotion that your brain associates with over-eating, you will feel that need to indulge to make you feel better. The cravings will come in the form of the flavor that suits the mood and your mind will beg you for just 1 slice of pie or 1 bag of chips.

Now earlier I made the statement that food is absolutely the toughest addiction to break and here’s why I think that:

There’s one trait about a food addiction that makes it unique from all other addictions out there. Food is the only addiction that cannot be quit entirely! Think about it, you have to eat to live and you have to carefully manage how much you eat in order to maintain proper health. Imagine if you told a smoker that when they quit smoking, they still had to smoke 3 times a day but absolutely no more. Or what if you told a gambler that they had to gamble sometimes but not too much? Food is the only vice that can’t be given up completely. With all other addictions, the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms lessen over time. No matter how well you do, you will always have the physical symptom of hunger, it will never go away.

Now don’t get me wrong, smoking, alcohol, and many of the other addictions out there can be extremely tough to break and can have physical and mental stress for years after quitting, but all would be that much tougher to quit if they were an essential component for survival.

When it comes to being addicted to food, you must learn to control the problem rather than eliminate it. This makes maintaining a proper diet a huge mental game that must be played each and every day. Some days will be better than others, but if you keep at it over time it will get easier. Like any other addiction, the first step is recognizing you have a problem. Are you addicted to food ?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Exercise Plan

I’ve put it off for long enough, finally I’ve created my exercise plan. I’ll start on Monday; here’s the plan:

Time of Day – Mornings (6:00AM – 6:45AM)

Amount of exercise each week – approximately 160 minutes each week spread over 5 days

Type of exercise – Strength Training (M-W-F), Cardio Training (T-TH)

Strength Training Specifics – I’ve made 3 distinct strength training workouts for each of the days during the week. Each workout is a complete body workout, but each day adds focus to a specific area of the body. Monday has extra focus on the upper body, Wednesday has extra focus on the abs and back, and Friday has extra focus on the legs. Each workout is made up of 8 exercises; at 5 minutes per exercise it should take about 40 minutes to complete a workout. For each exercise, I plan to do 3 sets with a minute rest in between. The number of reps will vary from 10-20 depending on the weight used. As a certain weight gets easier I will increase the reps until I get to 20, then I will add more weight and drop the reps back down.

Cardio Training Specifics – The cardio training is going to be a little less formal. It will be 20 minute elliptical sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I work out on the elliptical, I tend to favor a type of workout known as interval training. Simply put, interval training is when you go hard for short bursts and then give yourself a small amount of time to recover. I Usually warm-up for about 3 minutes and then I do 15 minutes of intervals where I go hard (60 rpms) for about 60 seconds followed by moderate work (45 rpms) for 60 seconds. The workout is followed by 2 minutes of cool-down.

Duration – I plan to do this exercise program for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks I will take a 1 week rest and then start a new program which may or may not be similar to this plan. I’ve learned that you need to keep things fresh and after 6 weeks I tend to get bored with my routine so I’ll definitely need to change it up somehow.

What if I miss a workout? - I do not plan on missing any workouts over these 6 weeks, but inevitably something will come up that could cause me to miss a workout. My first line of defense if a workout is missed is to make it up later in the day (after work). That is one of the benefits to working out in the morning. If I miss the day entirely, then my new schedule depends on the day missed. If it is a cardio workout day, then I will just skip it, move on to the next day of strength training, and then make up the cardio workout on the weekend. If it is a strength day, then the whole schedule will shift by one day. For example, if I miss Wednesday, then I will do the remaining strength training workouts on Thursday and Saturday and I will do the cardio on Friday. This might seem strange at first, but the reason for making the scheduled make-ups this way is to avoid ever having to lift weights on consecutive days. When you lift weights, you need to give your body time to recover; most experts recommend taking 1 day off in between workouts.

SMART Goal – I’m always harping about setting SMART goals, so I need to set one for this plan. My goal is to complete the entire 6 week plan without missing a workout. Note that for this goal, “missing a workout” means that I do not get my 5 days of working out in during the week. It’s OK to miss a day two for legitimate reasons as long as they get made up over the weekend. The reward for this goal is not completely defined, but it will have something to do with improving my music capabilities in my home gym. Currently I have a beat up old boom box with a coat hanger for an antenna. I’d like to start listening to my MP3s down so my goal will be to buy something to provide the capability.

In addition to my SMART goal, I’m also going to track my progress on all my exercises. I have no specific targets on how much improvement I want to see on each exercise, but at least I’ll be able to look back at the end of 6 weeks and see how far I got.

Diet Modifications – Since I will be lifting weights, I may need to add a little more protein to my diet. Most likely I will add a scoop of vanilla protein powder to my morning oatmeal, and if needed (depending on how tired my muscles feel) I may increase my lunch protein from 4 ounces to 6 ounces.

As you can see, my main focus is more on strength training (120 minutes/week) than it is on cardio (40 minutes/week). This is not simply because I am male and like lifting weights, new research is coming out all the time showing that strength training is far more effective at losing weight than cardio training. I tend to believe this and I have always had more success when I use weights in my exercise plan.

So this is my plan and I’m really excited to get going. I’m following my own advice from my article on starting an exercise plan and I will start this first week at very low weights so I don’t end up sore or injured. If anyone is interested in my specific exercises, please feel free to email me and I can send you the spreadsheet.

Daily Planner Workout Journal                       

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Weigh-in #9 - 1/9/10

Back on track!

Starting Weight: 297 lbs

Last Weigh-in: 292.5 lbs

Current Weight: 287.5 lbs

Weekly Loss (Gain): 5 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 9.5 lbs

I'm really excited because I'm back where I started before Christmas.  More importantly though, is that I'm back below that 290 mark that has haunted me for so long.  Never again will I go back over that value!  Now I'm back on track and looking forward to finishing this month strong.  Good luck to all of us!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Journal Update - 1/7/10

It’s been a while since I wrote anything meaningful on this blog. Other than reporting my weight I haven’t really put any time into writing articles or even journal entries. To be honest, the last few weeks have not been good to me. The last 3 weeks have been extremely stressful. Some of the stress is just life but I also bring a lot on myself.

Three weeks ago I was just starting to get back into exercising. The big problem, even though I was getting some workouts in here and there, I hadn’t created a firm plan. To date I still do not have a firm exercise plan. The week before Christmas brought the usual holiday stress. Gifts, traffic, weather… You name it and it was stressing me out. One thing I know about myself is that I am much more successful when I can maintain my normal daily routine. I only had to work Monday and Tuesday that week, so my routine was thrown way off. You would think the extra time would have been perfect for setting up a workout plan, but it never seemed to happen. I did manage to work out on Wednesday, but it was only a 20 minute jaunt on the elliptical trainer.

On the day after Christmas we took off for vacation. Believe it or not, but this was not a vacation I was looking forward to. I’ve got so many things I would have rather done at home than go on vacation, but it was essentially free as my wife’s parents offered to let us stay at their timeshare. I brought my laptop thinking I might have some time to write a little, but the opportunity never materialized. The vacation was fun and my kids had a great time but as I said I couldn’t help think there were so many things I needed to do at home. During the vacation I ate pretty well and drank a lot of water. The unit we stayed in had a kitchen so we ate in every night but one and even then I didn’t overdo it. I also got quite a bit of exercise in during the trip as we took our kids to several museums and science centers so I got to do a lot of walking. The complex we were at also had a state-of-the-art fitness center so I got a couple workouts in as well. Unfortunately I definitely over-did it one day. I’m used to lifting free weights at home, but this place had all the machines that target specific muscle groups. It was so easy to move from machine to machine without having to set things up that I ended up doing a whole lot more in an hour than I usually do. I paid the price the following days with a lot of sore muscles!

We got back from vacation on New Year’s Eve. No rest for the wicked as we had friends coming over for the evening. They arrived just as we finished unpacking. It was a fun party and I definitely ate more junk than I should have, but you have to let your hair down once in a while.

New Year’s Day brought more stress with my main resolution. 5 years ago I quit smoking. For some really stupid reason, I actually started smoking again about 6 months ago. Granted I’m not smoking a pack a day like I used to but it’s been slowly creeping back into my life. So my main resolution this year is to get back off the smokes again. I knew the first couple days would be tough to eat right and not smoke so I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about my eating for the first 3 days. I also told myself that I would try to keep myself busy during the last 3 days of my vacation so I wouldn’t have time to think about smoking or eating. I have a million things to do around the house anyway.

Unfortunately my plans were all for not as I developed a bad case of the flu! I’m sure being stressed and constantly on the go helped wear me down and of course now I’m even more stressed as I’ve been laying in bed sick for the last 4 days! I suppose there has been an upside to being sick; I haven’t eaten much in the last few days and quitting smoking is a breeze when you are sleeping all day long.

That brings me back to the here and now. I’m still recovering from the flu but I’m well enough to go back to work. I still have a ton of stuff to do around the house, and it will wait until I get to it. I’m eating OK though I’ve been really hungry the past couple days (probably due to not eating while sick). Right now I’m just trying to survive until the weekend. Hopefully at that time I can manage to get myself caught back up and I really want to get my exercise plan going. Although it’s been a rough few weeks, I’m not giving up. I knew there would be tough times and I plan to fight through them and pick myself up. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Weigh-in #8 - 1/2/10

I hope everyone had a great New Year!

Starting Weight: 297 lbs
Last Weigh-in: 287.5 lbs
Current Weight: 292.5 lbs
Weekly Loss (Gain): (5)lbs
Total Weight Loss: 4.5 lbs

This one is a couple days late as I've been experiencing PC issues.  Not a good week at all though I suspect much of the gain is not real.  I've been on vacation for the last week and I tend to retain water when I'm not on my normal routine.  We'll find out next week.  Again I am back into the 290's, this is extremely frustrating for me.  Although I started this blog only recently, I've actually been losing weight all year.  I started 2009 at 320.  You would think that breaking under 300 would be a significant hurdle, but not for me.  In the first 5 months I dropped 30 pounds and got to 290.  The next 7 months have been spent working to get below 290 only to bounce back up above 290.  Over the remainder of the year I have gotten into the 280's nine times only to return above 290 shortly after.  It's really starting to annoy me!

Anyway, this week starts a brand new year.  I'm excited to get going and drop the weight.  Last year I lost 30 pounds so this year I want to do the same.  Good luck to everyone else out there who's trying to drop some weight.