Friday Weigh Day! More Good News!

2014-05-30 06.29.27This week has seen more non-scale victories, more lessons learned, and more weight lost. I’ll give the weigh-in results first and then the others. This morning I weighed 331 pounds. That is 53 total pounds lost on this program (in 6 weeks). I have reached 32% of my goal. If you look back over the past few weeks this one’s numbers are far less dramatic. I lost four pounds from last week. While this may not be nearly as impressive as the ten plus pounds lost in the earlier weeks, it is a far healthier and normal amount to lose on this program. I’ve learned that it is normal to start out with quite impressive losses and then balance down into a healthier rate of loss.

One thing I did this week was create a tool on Excel to help me record each step and predict possible outcomes. There is a table where I enter each week’s numbers and it compiles total pounds lost and calculates the percentage of goal. I can also query how many weeks to expect to reach goal if a certain weekly loss is maintained. For example, it tells me that from where I am now, if I average this week’s four pounds per week then it will take me just over 27 weeks, or 6 ½ months to reach my goal weight. I wanted to have this so that a few weeks from now, if I have some unreal expectations I can look back and see that I am actually right on track—it will also help me to see a problem early enough to fix it.

This brings up a lesson learned this week. Like most people, I have a problem with unrealistic expectations. One such expectation is the amount of weight to be lost each week. Recently I fell into the habit of looking to the scale each day—sometimes multiple times per day. The problem is that our weight can fluctuate all through the day and from day to day. I would look at the scale and see either the same weight as days before, or even a couple times it would look like I might have gained weight. However, I’ve learned to look at other things than the scale. While it is nice to see those numbers progress lower and lower, there are other benefits to losing weight that don’t involve a scale.

One way to overcome this ‘tyranny of the scale’ is to look for non-scale victories and not let the numbers dictate your mood. Also understand that, while it is nice to lose huge amounts (10 lbs. or more per week), such loss over an extended period is not healthy and can cause great problems. If you are like me, it took years to get overweight and unhealthy and such problems will not go away in a few weeks or even months. It can take a lifetime of good choices to correct a lifetime of bad choices. Go slow, have real expectations and look for good results that don’t just involve numbers on a scale.

I’ve had several good non-scale victories. Some I have shared before, like being taken off of meds for prediabetes. This week I found out I no longer need my C-PAP machine to sleep. I had discovered I could sleep without it, but the doctor insisted I use it until I had another sleep test. The latest sleep test shows I still have apnea, but it is mild enough to be treated with sleeping position and continued weight loss. Yesterday I had another such victory. Just a couple weeks ago I fit into old pants that had been too clothing racktight. I also cheered when I was able to go buy shorts off the shelf at a department store—instead of spending an arm and a leg at a Big & Tall specialty store. Then I was able to buy shirts there as well. Now, I have lost even more weight and had to go shopping for new pants. I was able to buy jeans off the shelf at the same department store. Let me explain why this is such a victory. Right now I am wearing several items of clothing including undergarments, a button down shirt, denim jeans and a leather belt—aren’t you glad to know I don’t write these in my birthday suit? All of these items were purchased off the shelf at a local department store. The reason this is exciting is that the combined cost of all of them was significantly less than a single pair of shorts at the specialty store I had to buy clothes from just over a month ago. I will always cheer loudly about stretching my budget and getting more for my money.


What are your triggers?

triggersIt is interesting to see how many things we do, not because we want to do them, but because something else has triggered a desire within us. Anyone who does counseling learns to help people identify the triggers which tempt them to negative behavior.

Among men the problems caused by pornography addiction can be quite destructive—damaging relationships, and hurting the women who love these men. I have seen more than my share of marriages in trouble because of a husband’s inability to control this. Just like all addictions there are triggers which can lead a man, even one determined not to stray, to seek comfort in glossy photos and downloaded images. For some men it is arguments with their wife, trouble with their boss or their finances, and even a simple sense of being out of control that can trigger these behaviors.

Smoking is another addiction that has triggers. I used to smoke five packs a day and for me almost everything was a trigger. Some triggers for cigarettes can be arguments, stressful relationships, food, sex, exertion, worry, drinking. Many who have smoked for a long time may find the initial quitting easy, but finding themselves assailed by temptations caused by a trigger event—like an argument with a spouse. Once when my wife and I both tried to quit smoking, we started arguing and about three hours into quitting I said, “I’m going to go buy a pack of cigarettes before we kill each other!” Did the cigarette stop the fight or fix the problem? No. The most it did was relieve some of the agitation making us sensitive and ready to fight. The fighting was a trigger—and like most triggers, offered an easy excuse.

Unhealthy foods, as a source of comfort, can also have triggers. Have you ever noticed that these comfort foods never seem to be fruit, vegetables or other healthy options? It is the unhealthy foods we turn to when triggered. Some of this can be blamed on childhood memories. For many of us food was offered to comfort. Perhaps we were given ice cream when sad. We may have been given candy when we scraped our knee. Most of our memories about holidays and childhood happiness involve large meals of fatty, high carb, very sweet foods—the fattest cuts of meat, the gravy, the sweet tea, the multiple deserts, etc. When we think of childhood pleasure and happy times, these are often central.

But is there anything wrong with such foods, for special events? Of course not! This becomes a problem when I seek to replicate the fond memories and good feelings through the foods of that time rather than through the atmosphere. It is also a problem when such actions endanger my life rather than enriching it. When I am heavy and unhealthy and get into a stressful situation I can handle the stress in a healthy way or in an unhealthy way. Perhaps I could choose to go ride my bike, or go for a walk. Perhaps some time meditating, praying, listening to music or doing something creative could relieve the stress. I could also choose to medicate the stress and bad feelings with food, fooling my body into thinking it is feeling better for a brief time and fooling my mind into recalling happier times eating those comfort foods. However, after such a meal, the old stress comes back and is likely compounded with feelings of guilt for making an unhealthy choice and feelings of ill health as blood sugar spikes and falls, with various systems of my body trying to make up for my bad choice.

The trigger happens, but we must still choose. When we sense such triggers we have three options. We can ignore the trigger and try to knuckle through. This can be hard with the most ingrained and deepest seated of triggers. Some triggers have been experienced for so long and the response has been so steady that one has developed almost a muscle memory habit. You see this when a trigger occurs and the next thing you know you find yourself eating (or doing other behavior) and never really thought about doing it—you were almost on automatic pilot. However, in time
and with practice, some triggers can be overcome (for more on the role of habit in addiction see Kent Dunnington’s Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the models of disease and choice.). Our other options are to respond to the trigger. One can choose to respond in a healthy fashion or an unhealthy.

Earlier I mentioned that many men struggle with pornography. A negative response to the triggers in this would be to turn to porn and risk hurting a beloved and faithful spouse. What positive options are there for such a husband when facing this choice? One option I have recommended to such men is to carry a picture of their wife. I have my computer set, so that when I log on, the first thing I see is a picture of my wife smiling at me. I also recommend that such men, when fantasies creep in, turn their thoughts and fantasize about their wife. Believe me guys, no woman minds learning that her husband of ten, fifteen or more years still fantasizes about her. Remember the thoughts about her that filled your mind when you were dating—if you are male you had these thoughts; she had them too but is less likely to admit it. I don’t care if you have been married for thirty years—you should still have fantasized about your wife. And men, you will find that such a practice in directing your thoughts will quickly change your feelings about your wife.

I share this because it is related to the choices faced by one whose triggers lead to a desire to eat. The person can choose to eat the unhealthy foods and suffer the consequences. The person can also choose a healthy option, or may even choose to eat nothing for a time to try to knuckle through the trigger and overcome it.  One thing I have resolved to do while on my program is to set a timer for every three hours telling me to eat something. I make it a practice to not eat anything between these times. When I desire something strongly in between I do a self-check. Is it hunger or has something triggered a desire for comfort manifesting as a desire for food? I find that when I argue with my wife, worry about finances or stress over my job, there is a strong desire to eat something. However, knowing this is a trigger I know the desire is not real. It has no true power over me, beyond my own power to choose to surrender or resist. In such cases it is not that I truly want food, it is comfort that I want. I then try to find out how to get that comfort in a healthier way. One thing I want to do over this next year on program is to reprogram myself to not seek comfort from food but find it in more constructive and healthy places.

Why is it, many of us knowing the bad we will reap from giving in to temptations still do so? Why are we willing to accept a tomorrow with poor health as the cost of a today filled with momentary pleasures and comfort? One cause of this can be assumptions having little to do with the food itself. When the trigger is something another person does, we can feel like, “I’ll show her!” This is why many men struggling with porn will turn to it when fighting with their wife. When the trigger is a feeling of being out of control, we can seek control in the bad behavior—“I have no choice in that, but this makes me feel in control.” Another problem can be feelings of hopelessness, “Why am I trying to lose weight, if nothing is going to change?”

We need to come to grips with these and realize that when we seek control through eating unhealthy foods we are actually losing more and more actual control as our body succumbs to ill health. We also should not be losing weight or getting healthy because we expect it to change others. It will not! We must do it because of the impact it has on our own lives, on our own experiences, on our own body. My losing weight it not going to make my wife’s personality or my bosses personality change. My losing weight is not going to make the world a rosier place where everyone is happy. However, my losing weight will make me better at my job (which may improve the relationship with a boss), more emotionally stable for dealing with others (which could improve the relationship with a spouse) and healthier so that I can finally make choices from a position of health rather than being forced into courses of action by illness (which gives a sense of true control).

Scale Addiction!

scale-cryToday is the day I share my weekly weight. I have to say I’m pleased, because earlier in the week I gave in to the temptation to watch the scale. Though my Ketostix showed I was in fat burn, the fluctuations of the scale made me apprehensive. I thought I might have gone into a plateau—or even gained a pound or two. Fortunately, my coach was a quick text message away and we talked about it. My frustrations had also been escalated by a gout flare up. Here I was looking at the scales and seeing what looked like no progress and also experiencing one of the conditions caused by my weight. This along with some problems with one of my meds combined into a perfect storm in my head.

I have to admit the question came up, “What the heck am I doing this for?” This was short lived. I spoke to my coach. I also reminded myself that even with what I am seeing right now, I have still vastly improved over just a month ago. I also had to remind myself that part of my reason for blogging about this and sharing with others is to help others who might be struggling in the same way. Like most of my experiences in life, plateaus simply give me another experience to help me serve and encourage others who are struggling.

Now for those who think it odd that I would admit going to my coach for help in getting through this time, let me explain that this is sort of similar to the person who goes to their pastor for counsel, or to someone in a Twelve Step program calling on their sponsor to help them through a rough patch. It is refusing to call out for help that is a weakness—the weakness of pride. The strong person recognizes their own difficulties and chooses to seek help where and when needed. I think the best part of this program has been having a coach to go to for guidance and help. Is a doctor somehow less of a doctor when he consults with a specialist? Is a mechanic somehow less of a mechanic when he consults a manual? What about someone who calls their doctor for a quick bit of assurance about a newly noticed symptom? These people are not weak for seeking help. Neither is it weak to have and seek the assurance of a coach when making a complete change to one’s life. There is no need to knuckle through alone! Doing so does not show one to be strong. Refusing to get help just increases the likelihood of failure. Which is a better sign of strength: success with assistance or failure alone? Yes, some will say, “But I want to prove that I am strong enough to do this!” Go for it! However, let me ask one question:

If a person were strong enough to completely change his or her life and go from obesity to health with no help, why didn’t that strength keep that person from becoming unhealthy to begin with?

You see, being strong does not mean going it alone. Being strong means having the strength and courage to assess one’s self honestly, making a true evaluation, and call for help if needed. I am now convinced that even more important than the right program is the right support structure and coach.

You may notice I have placed my weight report here, after the “sermon.” Guilty! I considered waiting until Monday to report because I am waiting on some more good news from my doctor—at least I hope it will be good news. I already have some other medical news to report. I’ll post the other later.

This morning I weighed 335 lbs. Remember what I said before about being discouraged a few days ago and frustrated. Well, it turns IMG_20140523_095307out that I lost seven pounds this week. I’ve also lost a total of 49 pounds in five weeks. It looks like the frustration was for naught. On top of that I also got some great news from my  doctor. Shortly after starting this program, I stopped taking one medicine. It was a daily injection of Victoza. I met with my endocrinologist yesterday and after only five weeks on program he reports my A1C is down to normal, he agreed with stopping the Victoza, and he said I am no longer prediabetic (he did hedge this statement, being cautious to see further improvement).

I’ve noticed, besides these apparent changes, some not so apparent. I am happier—except for brief times of scale apprehension—and more encouraging of others ( a good thing for a pastor). Before I started losing weight I was sad much of the time and depressed. I was just waiting to die—not really a fun person to be around.

IMG_20140523_101546The best thing I’ve done for myself is to go on this program to make a complete change of my life. To tell you how radical of a change I’ve made—today I decided to have my Lean & Green meal for breakfast. I made myself a veggie omelet with Egg Beaters. First of all, had you told me a month ago that I would ever be eating (much less cooking) a veggie omelet, I would have told you, “Go home! You’re drunk!” For me, the words veggie and eat were never used in the same sentence. However, I have to say I enjoyed it. I was shocked at just how large it was—I followed the plan limits exactly. I was barely able to finish it. Here is a picture of it. Keep in mind I am a meat smoker and a BBQ cook, but not very good at cooking eggs.

Tempting Fate or Stretching my Resolve

Empty PlateSometimes our resolve bangs against the realities of life. At such times, how do we stay on plan? One example lately has been my resolve on eating out. When first choosing to take control of my health, I set a one year schedule of losing weight, and setting new healthy habits. My wife and I both assumed our lives over the next year would not include the inside of a restaurant. However, my occupation includes duties that sometimes require me to meet in a restaurant.

Over the last few weeks, I started thinking about how a person could eat out while staying on program. While my program has a method used once weight has been brought down to goal, I was wondering about how to do this while still in weight loss. This last Saturday I asked my wife to join me for an experiment. We went to one of our favorite local restaurants—Huhot’s Mongolian Grill. For those unfamiliar this means you select from an assortment of fresh raw meats, vegetables and noodles, and add various sauces. This is all cooked on a round steel griddle. I wanted to see if I could have a nice meal out, limited to allowed items. To do this, I went in with a plan.

I would limit myself to one plate. As an all-you-can-eat place my usual practice has been to have two and, at times, three plates of food. I did this in the past, not because I was still hungry after the first plate, but simply because it was “All you can eat” and I was going to get my full money’s worth and have “all I could eat.” This practice springs from two mistaken thoughts. One mistaken thought: if the food is there and available, I should eat it. But such bad thinking is what this year is meant to reverse. I’m choosing health which includes eating because I choose to eat, and not because the food is there. The second mistaken thought is the idea that getting my money’s worth means eating massive amounts. The amount of food is not the only measure of a nice meal out. Yes, I got filled up, but there was much more to the meal than the amount of food that went down my gullet. For one, I got to treat my wife to a nice time out. I got to sit across the table from my beautiful wife and enjoy her company while sharing a nice healthy meal. I left feeling satisfied instead of stuffed like a tick. I enjoyed each bite of the food instead of shoveling it in and down. Put together the food, the atmosphere, my wife, the time spent together and the good feeling of making a healthy choice and I got more than my money’s worth.

The next part of my plan was to monitor what went on the plate. At this restaurant you fill bowls with raw foods which you take to the cooks. I used two bowls—one for meats and the other for veggies. I would allow myself no noodles, no beans, no water chestnuts (one of my favorites), no baby corn, etc. I limited my vegetables to broccoli, celery, bean sprouts and white mushrooms limited to no more than 1.5 cups (three half cup servings) in the veggie bowl. For meats I planned to favor the lower fat meats. My primary meat was chicken, augmented with Mahi Mahi, crab (probably Krab), with a small addition of beef for added flavor. I have to admit I had a bit of leeway in this because I have been instructed by Nutrition Support to bump up my daily protein by adding three extra ounces per day. To these I added the sauces, avoiding the sugar or salt bombs, of course.

The nicest thing was realizing that eating healthy, even out on the town, is possible. I can choose what to eat, and still enjoy the pleasure of a meal out with my wife. Staying on program is easy when everything falls into a schedule and nothing happens to throw that off, but real ownership comes when learning to remain in control when the world does not follow your program or your schedule.

This experiment was a success. It actually helped me the next day, Sunday. An official from my denomination was in town for our services and took me and my wife out to lunch at a local eatery. After a careful look at the menu, I found a nice little steak meal that fit my plan, satisfied my hunger and gave me plenty of opportunity to share about the changes I have made. It was funny, because the meal was a bit of a reversal; I ordered the small healthy meal; my wife ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries and fried curly onions. The burger was almost as big as her head! In the past I would have had the huge burger and then would have ‘helped’ her finish her plate. I saw the bacon, the beef and the potatoes (three of my former food groups) and wasn’t even slightly tempted. My satisfaction came from my resolve to stay on program.

Saturday night—between lunch on Saturday and lunch on Sunday—was another chance to experiment with my resolve and with the program. I went to another town to ordain a friend at his church. While there, I had no temptation for any of the snacks, but settled for a decaf coffee. However, the night went longer than I expected and I had failed to bring another meal replacement with me (I usually carry a bar for just such an occurrence). It was going to be an hour to an hour and a half later to get home. I stopped at a gas station to find something to snack on—permissible only! After a few minutes looking I found a small bag of raw almonds, which I purchased. In the car, I handed the bag to my wife, who counted out a proper snack portion and put the rest away. I had this snack and upon getting home went ahead and had my meal replacement bar before bed—as my coach told me to do. It would have been easy to say, “Well there is just no way to stay on program. I’ll just have this one bag of chips for the ride home—it’s a small bag.” The problem is that I know me. If I allow myself one lapse, then temptations to lapse will become legion and my entire resolve will have to be rebuilt. Just this once, turns quickly into just this hundredth once.

It’s nice to be able to choose health. I plan to be healthy and enjoy the next forty plus years with my lovely wife. I plan to grow old old peopleand gray, sit in a rocking chair with her and bounce grandkids on my knee. I also plan to be healthy enough to chase her around the nursing home and gross out all the visitors.

Up and Moving, Lump No More

couchpotatoThis last Friday, after posting my weekly weight, I decided to ride my bike to get a bit of exercise. In the past I would have been pretty tired after a ride, but this time I rode farther than ever and felt less tired.

Later, while sitting down to my office work I decided to take a few minutes to complete a little honey-do project my wife wanted done. I work out of my house so it is easy to take a few minutes off from my day, here and there, to get things done around home. From that choice the rest of the day got weird—at least weird for me. The weirdness came from the amount of energy I had. I much more energy than I’ve had in years. I’ll try to describe what it was like. The next bit of this post may seem a bit frenzied and hard to follow but that is intentional.

“Bye honey! Have a nice day at work!

“Before I get to work I better hook that TV up in the other room for my wife; I have to clean up that space for it; that belongs in this drawer; this drawer is a mess, I’d better straighten it out; no, I better rearrange all of these drawers to get them straight; why are those in here they should be in the closet? The closet has all these things we will never use; I better clear them out; I’ll make a pile of things for the Salvation Army and a pile of sentimental things to box up; now that everything is cleared out I should put these boxes up into the attic; hey, the attic is a mess! I’d better straighten it up. Now I should run those boxes over to donate; while I’m out I should run to the store for batteries for that old flashlight I found. I really should stop by Lowes to pick up a new doorbell to fix ours and take my wife’s watch to the jeweler for a new battery; I also need to head to the office store to order new cards; nope, I don’t like their selections so I’ll order some online; I should install the new door bell, etc.

“Oh, hi honey! You’re home! Guess what I did all day.”

I’m enjoying the new me. I enjoy wanting to get up and move. My wife is happier and often brags to people about the changes. Oh, and for any husbands considering losing weight, with all this energy, when I chase my wife, she’s easier to catch!

Are you hungry? Do you know what that means?

2014-05-16 07.13.36Today is my weekly “weigh and report” post. This morning I weighed in at 342 lbs. That is eight pounds below last week and 42 pounds below my start weight. It is also approximately 83 lbs. below my lifetime highest weight. I feel great. I am motivated to keep going and, to be honest, have had no difficulty staying on program. The other day my wife and I found a new Korean restaurant (our favorite cuisine) while out on a ministry errand. We walked in to see it, and I asked if she wanted to have something. She asked if I was going to have anything. I responded, “No. I already had my Lean & Green meal today in case this errand ran late. I can sit with you while you eat.” She declined and as we got in the car I opened a meal replacement bar and drove home. To enter a Korean restaurant and not fill up on the many foods that I love would have been impossible if the goals I have set for myself were not far more satisfying. Once I attain my goals and am maintaining my weight, that restaurant will be there.

Earlier this week in a discussion, my doctor’s assistant asked how much weight I had lost and when I told her how much and how quickly she responded, “Are you sure you aren’t on the Anorexia Diet?” I responded, “Actually, I’m getting plenty to eat and am never hungry.” Over the years, as I observed my bad eating habits and those of others, hunger has been an interesting concept.

All parents have had their children ask for a food item they are not allowed at that moment—usually some form of sweet treat. OneRed_forman time my son was being particularly melodramatic in his attempts to wrench a cookie from mom’s resolve. He decided to pull out the old, “But I’m so hungry!” I stepped in and asked, “Describe how that feels.” He acted confused so I asked, “What do you mean when you say you are hungry?” He explained that this meant he wanted something to eat, which is what I expected and which gave me the foundation for a nice little life lesson (also known as a boring parental speech) on the fact that he had never experienced true hunger in his life. Every parent out there can summon such speeches (things like the meaning of various words as “need,” “want,” “curfew,” and “work”). I still remember the first time I watched That 70’s Show with my teenagers. They shouted, “Dad! You’re Red Forman.” It was a proud moment for a proud papa.

Too often we equate the desire to eat with actual hunger. But looking at the two terms, you see a significant difference. “I want to eat something,” and “I feel hungry” (or “I am hungry”). One is a desire, a want. The other is either a feeling or state of being. I feel a need to eat, or I am in a state of being hungry because my body needs sustenance. I would venture to say most Americans, with the exception of the poorest among us, have seldom if ever experienced true hunger. My brother and I were raised by a single mom. Mom worked hard to put food on the table. There was always enough but never much more. To make ends meet she had to stretch the food budget to feed two growing boys who would have eaten the furniture if nothing else had been available. In such situations quantity and taste are most important. We were never truly hungry, at least not for long. Supper often involved a large pot of red beans and ham hock (more hock than actual ham), with a large helping of fried potatoes (this is still the most comforting meal I can imagine and talking about it brings back memories of my childhood). Throw in some skillet corn bread and no King ate better. The most important description of our childhood meals was “cheap and plentiful.” Years later I realized just how well mom had kept the wolf from the door. I had never experienced true hunger.

mreThe first time I remember experiencing true hunger was in the Army. They say an Army travels on its stomach—meaning it must be sustained with food to carry on. However, nothing stops just because you are hungry. No matter what is happening in your stomach, your legs, arms and brain must push on even if the next meal is hours or days away.

This experience gave me a different view of hunger. I realized hunger is something far deeper than a simple desire to eat. Before that, I made the common mistake of confusing every little desire to consume something as “hunger.” When I wanted a snack I would say, “I’m hungry.” That made it acceptable for me to eat whatever and whenever, because hunger is a bad thing, right? In time, I found special meaning in the word “hungry.” I knew what it felt like to have my stomach turning inside out wanting anything to fill it. I also came to understand blood sugar so low you would have gladly killed your best friend over the slightest affront. I knew what it felt like to feel faint and weak, but have no choice but to keep moving, to keep working.

Hunger is a physiological need for sustenance. Hunger is our body telling our mind, “Hey! Send down some food before I shut this whole thing down!” Hunger growls in your belly—but is deeper still. It echoes through your mind; it screams for attention. Hunger does inspire a desire to eat, but as the American diet demonstrates, one can desire to eat for far more reasons than actual hunger. We eat for emotional comfort. We eat to cover past trauma. We eat out of boredom. We eat for no other reason than food being so plentiful. This last one is quite common in the American home. When walking into the kitchen to get a glass of water, I may see a bag of chips and suddenly want to eat them, hunger didn’t cause this. However, there is a strong desire to eat the chips.

This is why I can say I have not really been hungry on this program. Have I wanted to eat? Absolutely! Have I wanted forbidden foods? Believe it! However, there are two things which helped. First, when I want to eat something I do a self-check to see if I am actually hungry. More often than not, I find it is a temptation and not actual hunger. Second, I eat every three hours! I may eat a Lean & Green meal or a meal replacement, then an hour or so later get the desire to eat something. Well my next meal is in less than two hours. If I am truly hungry and unable to make it to my next meal I can choose a small snack. My wife keeps a sack of almonds on the counter and a package of sugar free Jell-O cups in the fridge for easy access. I limit myself in these to the allowed amount. Yes, I do experience the feeling of hunger. But that is actually a good thing—especially if I am going to eat because my body needs sustenance rather than because I am bored.

This morning, I had a small bowl of cereal (more like a cup) with almond milk. I have since gone through my morning routine including 15 minutes on my bike. It is now 2 hours and 45 minutes since that small bowl of cereal and I just felt the first slight pang of hunger—and I’m not sure if that was not triggered by talking about the beans and potatoes or chips. It doesn’t matter though. My next meal replacement is in 15 minutes. I can do that standing on my head. I can do that standing in a room full of beef jerky and bacon (Superman has Kryptonite; I have bacon and jerky).

When you feel the need to eat something; when you want to have an unhealthy snack, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Eating for emotional needs never satisfies.

What do you have to live for?

2014-05-14 11.21.49-1Earlier this week my coach asked how I was doing and if my program has had any impact on my work life. I got to share with her some of my thoughts and now want to share them here.

I’ve noticed these few weeks on the program have improved my mental acuity and mood. When I was at my heaviest, I was convinced I was waiting to die. I am 47 years old, and this is about the age many in my family have their first (and on occasion final) heart attack. To be honest, at times I found myself wishing I could just get it over with. My beliefs help me not to fear death. What I feared was a long unhealthy miserable existence. I also feared being a burden to my family.

It took a long time to finally take to heart something that I had told many troubled couples over the years:

“You may think it is easier to just give up and move on, but your problems show a great deal of personal work is needed for you to have a healthy relationship. You can either do the work in this marriage or do it in the next one. Either way, the work will have to be done, so how many other lives will you wreck before you do the work?”

It finally clicked one day that this same advice applied to what was going on in my health. I was on the verge of altering the lives of my wife and kids with my bad choices. In enjoying the momentary pleasures of my bad choices I would be leaving them with major problems—my wife a widow and my children fatherless. I see death as nothing to be feared or even shunned. As far as I am concerned death is just going home. However, the same God who gave me this assurance also gave me a responsibility to be the best and do the best for my wife, family and church.

This latter is also important. Over the years I have gotten to where I no longer enjoyed being a pastor. I had no energy to go beyond the barest requirements of my job—and great effort was needed to even do those. I had little desire to do much of anything but sit in my office chair or on the couch. My weight and health had left me unfit for the service to which I was so committed. It left me only a shell of the servant I have been called to be. My prayer could have been, “I’d love to follow you Lord, but you will have to go slowly and only on the easiest road since I am so heavy and unhealthy.”

I have now been on program about a month. I have lost almost 40 pounds and my mind and body have undergone considerable changes from this time last month. I was shocked how much has changed with such a small difference in weight.

I am fitting into clothes that have been too tight for years. I will attach to this a picture of me wearing jeans that are baggy. Just about a month ago, I could barely close those jeans and the legs were as snug as spandex. A few years ago, I wore suits every day in a sales job. These suits have all been too small for about five years. I now find myself with a fairly nice wardrobe that I have “backed into.” Over the last few years I have taken to wearing shorts and sandals because tight pants are uncomfortable, and replacements at my size are expensive (Walmart does not carry 54W with a 32 inseam). It was cheaper to stock up on shorts, and blame my wardrobe on the heat of South Texas. Now I am back to wearing jeans and boots—now this is comfortable!

My mind has also changed. Since I am losing weight, I can see myself with a future and realize new opportunities are around the corner. I have energy to get out and work, to plan and to carry out. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t want to meet anyone new. Anyone who knows my personality knows this is out of character. I have always been that guy who got to know everyone, and if you acted as if you didn’t want to get to know me, I would find a way to make you. I find now that I have become more gregarious. Part of it—and we all have to admit we think this way—I think I look pretty good for a 47 year old fat redneck!

Finally, there is one more thing that excites me. I always loved preaching. I would jump at any opportunity to preach and was quite animated and passionate in the pulpit. Over the last few years the luster wore off and I found myself rambling and having a hard time concentrating. I have always preached without notes (or very minimal notes), so mental sharpness was essential. For a long time my mind has been cloudy and I would get out of breath. All of these impacted my preaching. Lately, I notice the old Ken (or at least a pretty close facsimile) in the pulpit. I am more animated. I find new illustrations, quotations and applications coming quicker. I find myself looking forward to stepping into the pulpit each week.

If you have given up and feel it is just easier to die—as I had—you are absolutely right. Death is the easy way. But how often is the easy way the right way? Is there anyone in your life for whom your death will be hard? Are there others who are going to suffer and be impacted either by your death or by extended health problems? Do others count on you but have to do without because you are not healthy enough to meet their needs? If you won’t change for yourself, change for them.