A Problem I Never Considered

Mens-Lightweight-Boxer-Brief-GreyYesterday I felt weird. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel healthy. It was just that whenever I got up and walked around something just didn’t feel right. I don’t want to go into details, because I don’t want anyone commenting back “TMI”. However, something just wasn’t right and I knew it. After a while it struck me and I knew what was wrong.

I’m a guy (for anyone who hasn’t figured that out yet). This means several stereotypes about me are likely true. One of those relates to the male relationship to our underwear. Most of us, like me, only replace underwear when bits of material are falling out of our pants leg—and even then only when strangers start noticing and ask us about it. For the most part, so long as I can tell which holes are for my legs they’re good! Other than that I don’t worry about or think about underwear.

This was true until yesterday. I suddenly found myself thinking about them a lot! The weird feeling I had was from my underwear—a place I don’t remember ever having a problem. You see, I’ve bought new clothes a couple times since going on my program and losing so much weight. I’ve gone down in pants size from a 54 to a 44 waist. My shirts have gone from 5X to where 3X is now getting baggy. I have lost lots of weight from all over my body. Yet, in all this time I never once thought about needing new underwear.  Of course, I never thought of it! I bought new underwear last year and the elastic on them still works, so they must be good, right? Wrong!

Yesterday, my wife saw me standing there kind of…um…moving…with a weird look on my face. She asked what I was doing. I told her, “I just realized my underwear is way too large and it feels kind of freaky and free all at the same time! I think this is what wearing a skirt must feel like.” Guys, do you ever get that look from your wife? You know that look which says you aren’t quite right. I get that look often, and got it again yesterday.

So, guess what I’ll be buying this week. For the first time in years I’ll be shopping for smaller underwear.

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Down to 309, and thoughts on Temptations

IMG_20140627_071455This morning the scale reported my weight as 309 lbs. This is 75 lbs. lost on my program (45% of my goal) since Easter. It is also 116 lbs. lost from my highest about a year ago. I still have another 86 lbs. to lose and am plugging away at it.

I have to admit, it gets hard some days to resist the temptations in my house. My wife buys plenty of snacks when she shops, and though she has reduced the amount it can be hard to eat a bar or drink a shake from my program with a bag of potato chips sitting on the counter taunting me. It can be even harder when I turn around from the stove while cooking my Lean & Green to see my daughter standing behind me dipping those same potato chips into French Onion dip–&^#@$&#(!*&#!

Actually, there have only been a few times when I’ve had to remind myself what I was trying to accomplish and the benefits of choosing right in the face of temptation. More often than not, the frequency of my meals (every 3 hours) has made temptations either very mild, or nonexistent. Of course, when I open the fridge and see a pack of flour tortillas sitting under the bag holding the meat portion of my next Lean & Green, nothing stops that temptation! It would be so easy to wrap that meat in a tortilla, since a flour tortilla makes EVERYTHING better!

In such times, it helps to remind myself of the things I want to do once I am back down to a healthy weight. This helps, because when tempted the potential of momentary satisfaction and pleasure comes to the fore. You can see the junk food; taste it; remember the aroma; know the pleasure it would give. Of course, these sensations can come on so strongly it takes intentional effort to overcome. It helps to remind oneself of the better feeling of completing the goal. I have gone from a lifetime of bad unhealthy eating choices to committing myself to building better habits over the next year (9 ½ half more months to go). To complete a yearlong journey is an accomplishment and will bring more satisfaction than diving head first into a can of Pringles.

Another help is remembering how far I’ve come. It helps to remind myself as I feel so much better, and look so much slimmer that I once felt horrible as I slowly ate myself into an early grave. It also feels good that my daughters and wife can hug me with their arms completely around me with some room left over. There was a time when my wife couldn’t get her arms around me. It also feels good when people tell me how much younger I look or how much healthier.

Another help to resisting temptation is self-understanding. While some might be able to give in for a weekend or a short time and just come back and pick it back up afterwards, I know this is not possible for me. If I simply give in, even once, I will have to go through some major psychological work to refocus and get back to the program. Like an alcoholic who must not allow himself even the slightest backsliding, I can’t allow myself to backslide into unhealthy habits again. This doesn’t mean an anal attention to the slightest detail. It means making sure that what I do at each step is because I have chosen that step out of the possible alternatives. If I am going to eat something that is not best for my program, how will I make up for it and make sure it doesn’t cause any damage? If I am going to break the program for a day, what is the reason, the goal, and the justification for doing so? I have to be careful that anything done is carefully thought out and is the best choice for the circumstances. Allow me to give an example of what I mean. If I were visiting a friend who offered me something not permitted on my program, I might choose to accept or decline. If I will offend that person by declining, and feel it is important to accept, then I have made a choice to do this for the benefit of my friend. I would then find it easy to return to the program as soon as I am out of that situation—even if it means going out of fat burn and suffering while getting back in. However, that is very different from walking into the kitchen, seeing something and, on the spur of the moment, surrendering to temptation. In such a case, no choice was actually made. My action would simply be a reflex of “see food, grab food, eat food, repeat.” Though some can do this and pick up the program the next day, I know such surrender would be disastrous for me. Returning to my “food sobriety” would be hard fought. So why risk it? The pleasures of chips and dip, etc. are nothing compared to the pleasure I get out of my move to health.

A final thing that helps is knowledge such restrictions are not a life sentence. While I must “deprive” myself now (that term is not really appropriate because I do not feel deprived but others have expressed it that way), in the future I will be able to make wider choices. I will still have to make healthy choices, but with a healthy weight, balanced blood sugar and an active life, there will be many more options I can choose—including the occasional chips and dip. So in effect I am putting off the enjoyment of having them for another five years or so, until a heart attack, diabetes or a stroke takes me; to enable myself to enjoy such foods wisely for the next several decades. The first step is getting my weight down. But it is still just a first step. There are many more to follow.

Magic Pills? None exist!

magic-pillsToday, I saw a story on the news about some new weight loss pills. You take four or five before a meal and drink 16 oz. of water with them. The pills swell in your stomach and make you feel full so you eat less.

This reminded me of a talk I had a talk with my doctor over the last year before going on my program. The doctor recommended some diet meds to reduce appetite. I declined. My problem was not eating because I was hungry. Like most people my size, with my problems was eating more than I needed and at times when I really didn’t need to eat. We don’t only eat for hunger. Actually, if we only ate when hungry and stopped when satisfied far fewer of us would have weight related health issues. This sort of treatment really seems to approach the issue backwards—at least from my experience.

While we do eat for hunger, we also eat for an assortment of other reasons. We eat because of boredom. One book I read a while back gave some good advice. If you find yourself watching TV and suddenly want to eat something even though you aren’t hungry, most likely you are bored. Get up and do something else or change the channel to something more interesting. Another reason we eat is because the foods we shouldn’t have, but love to have, are so readily available. Warehouse stores sell snacks and fatty foods in great big giant bags. You’ve heard the old ad pitch about potato chips, “You can’t have just one.” For me you could add one more word to that, “You can’t have just one bag.” If massive quantities were available then massive quantities were consumed. “Besides it would just go bad if I didn’t eat it and that would be wasteful, right?” Another reason for improper eating was seeking something from the food missing in other areas of my life. When food is a comfort item meant to mollify other emotional needs it gets abused. Since it can’t truly meet those needs more is eaten and before long we feel worse because of all the overeating, the emotions get worse, and we go into a spiral of eating, feeling down, eating, feeling down, etc.

When the doctor recommended the meds I asked what it did. He told me that it would reduce my appetite. Fortunately, I had spent enough time observing myself that I was able to say my problem wasn’t hunger or appetite, but eating when I wasn’t hungry and I doubted such meds would help me. The doctor agreed and pointed out that my only real hope was working through the other issues I was trying to fix with food.

This latest miracle pill is going to be no different. It is simply going to give people an excuse to make poor choices. Even if it helps get the weight off, it can do nothing about the issues causing the weight problem. Also, the stomach can stretch. What happens if you take these pills to fill your gullet, then, because of other issues, continue to stuff yourself to bursting? In time the stomach increases volume and the problem gets worse.

There is no magic pill to weight loss. The only option is to work through the issues causing the problem, learn to make healthier choices, support those choices with a plan, then reinforce the plan with support, and accountability.

A Great Meal

IMG_20140622_092121This past week I tried something new that I wanted to share. I’m not much of a cook—other than what I can pull out of a smoker or off of a grill—but really enjoyed this very simple Lean & Green meal. That is the keyword for anything I cook: simple. The more complex it is, the less it interests me. This applies to both cooking the food and eating it. I prefer things as close to their natural form as possible. I don’t want a lot of things between me and my food. This caused some interesting conversations with my wife when we first got married. She is Korean, and their cultural cuisine includes powerful marinades for all kinds of meat. One day she asked if I wanted a steak for dinner. Of course I wanted steak. Is there any other food if steak is available? Being a new bride she gladly fixed and brought me my steak. It was OK. She had covered the steak with an assortment of Korean oils and spices. I love those spices and Korean flavors…on Korean food. However, they just weren’t right on this Texas boy’s steak. I told her she did a great job and was a wonderful cook, but that I liked to taste the actual meat. She looked at me like I had two heads. She just couldn’t understand that.

This meal is simple, though it has some great flavor. I put together something another person told me about with a new marinade purchased from Walden Farms—their Asian sauce. These sauces and marinades are great. They are zero sugar, zero carbs, zero fat etc. I know you are thinking, “And zero flavor.” As I’ve said before they are quite good—but not exactly like the full fat, sugar and carb versions. However, I get good flavor and my program counts them as condiments they can go with anything.

I started by thinly slicing three servings of assorted peppers: red, yellow and orange (one serving of each). These I grilled. I topped this with a grilled chicken breast (seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and powdered garlic). Finally a small addition of the Walden Farms Asian Sauce and toss everything together. It was quite tasty. It stayed within the limits of my plan. It gives me another way to enjoy a healthy meal.

Choosing and Planning to Succeed

birthdayYesterday was a very special day: my wife’s birthday. Every husband knows what that means. In husband-speak this is the number two “Thou shalt not screw up” day of the year—number one is wedding anniversary. Fail to do something special for your wife’s birthday and you will wish you were dead. Forget your anniversary and you might as well be dead. This means last night had to be a special time. I took my wife, one of our daughters and my mother out to dinner. My wife has two favorite cuisines: Korean and Mexican. Since the daughter had already taken her out for Korean the night before, this meant I was going to be taking them to Mexican food last night.

One major obstacle with this is my program. You have to understand that this Texas boy loves Mexican food. I’m not talking about the stuff you’d get in a small restaurant on the other side of the Rio Grande. I mean that I love what we call Tex-Mex: enchiladas, fajitas, flour tortillas, chips and salsa, and my favorite (…wait for it…) barracho beans! Now if you look at the list you’ll see that most of these items are verboten until I lose the weight and go on maintenance (which I am far from). How was I going to handle this? The only possibility was to take some time and make a plan.

I had to choose if I was going to break my program, eat non-discriminately, drop out of fat burn and then just return to the program the next day, or if I was going to make choices in line with my program and goals. Either choice is fine, so long as it is freely chosen. Feeling guilty for choosing one or the other is silly and a waste of emotional energy. Face your choice; make your choice; live with your choice; prepare for the next choice and move on. If you look at the name of my blog you will see that I stress health being a choice. I can choose to act in a way that maintains or improves my health or I can choose to act in a way that is less healthy or even choose to be blatantly unhealthy. The problem is when the cravings start making the choices for me. It is hard to be sure the choice is your own when craving carbs and sugars as your body responds to fluctuating insulin and sugar levels. This means choices have to be made when these things are not happening.

I approached the night and dinner out this way. I faced the choice: I was going to take my wife out to dinner in a Mexican restaurant and I was going to do it in a way that would keep me in fat burn. This meant that my meal, possibly not qualifying as a perfect Lean & Green meal, would be one that came very close from the choices available. This meant several smaller choices were necessary. First choice, there would be no chips and salsa. Second choice, the meal would be mostly salad of lower carb vegetables. Third choice, the meat would be either low fat to moderate fat, limited to a reasonable volume. Fortunately, I had eaten in this place before and knew there was a possibility on their menu.

With my plan formulated, I started by checking my urine with a Ketostix (I did this at home, not at the restaurant). My ketosis was 15 mg/dL, so I knew I was in reasonable fat burn. I would check after and wanted to be reasonably close to this level. We went to dinner and had a good time. I do have to admit that making my choice beforehand and working to stick to it was helpful. Had I just gone and made the choice when looking at the menu, the choice might have gone very differently. It was a bit difficult sitting there while everyone else had chips and salsa. I had to remind myself of my choices a couple times. Then came the food. I ordered a beef fajita salad. My wife and daughter both had beef fajitas and my mother had beef enchiladas (yes, we are beef people). My salad was almost perfect. I forgot to ask them to drop the cranberries—my wife took them. I had to pick through and remove these. My plate also included half an avocado. I can have part of this, but not in combination with the beef. I gave the avocado to my daughter. I also forgot about the cheese, but I am supposed to have extra protein so I just enjoyed it—it was mostly mozzarella so low enough fat to not be a problem.

I think the hardest part was reminding myself why I couldn’t have chips and salsa, tortillas or barracho beans during the meal. Especially since my dinner partners were obviously enjoying these. This would have been easier if they had also avoided the things I wasn’t permitted, but this is my program, not theirs. Besides, I will be spending the rest of my life making choices for my own health even when others make very different choices.

So how did I do on fat burn? A couple hours later, once we got back home, I checked again with another Ketostix. I was still unchanged at 15 mg/dL.

Staying on program can be done. First it takes a choice. Next it takes a plan to put that choice into action. Then follow the plan. This may take reminding oneself of the choice or the reason for the choice, but it is easier if starting with a plan.

What choices are you making? Do you have a plan? Remember the old saying, “A failure to plan is plan for failure.”

Where are you starting from?

IMG_20140620_085922This morning was another weigh-in Friday. As anticipated, I weighed 314 pounds. I wrote earlier in the week about the feelings that can happen when losing less than one wants. It was a good exercise working through that before the scale results, so I was prepared. Because of this, while I would have loved to weigh 309, I am happy with the results. It is still four pounds no longer on my body.

This week, I’ve had some other non-scale victories to share. My doctor has approved cutting one of my blood pressure med dosages in half. We will see how this affects me. Another happened yesterday while sitting on the back porch using my computer. It dawned on me that I had set the computer on my lap to work. This was a victory because before I started losing weight, I didn’t have enough lap to do this and would set the computer on my belly.

Everyone says there is a lot less of me than before, and I enjoy hearing it. The best thing is the feeling of positive changes. Seeing the scale steadily march higher and higher and clothes get tighter and tighter was depressing. It reduced self-confidence and gave a feeling of having no future. Now as the numbers on the scale slowly decrease and I find clothes I recently purchased now being too large, it is encouraging.

If you are stuck in the cycle of ever increasing weight and girth, there is something you can do. You can choose to keep doing what you have done (You know what they say about doing the same thing expecting different results); you can hope for the magic pill that doesn’t really exist (this only allows you to blame your problem on the elusive magic pill instead of blaming your choices); you can make good choices and get yourself out of the situation.

Some may say, “Well you just don’t understand, I have a medical condition.” Yes. I do understand. I have a medical condition too. I still am doing testosterone treatments and before I started losing weight I was prediabetic (I had to take a daily injection for it) and had to sleep with a C-PAP machine (these last two are no longer the case).  I still deal with gout flare-ups that make it hard to exercise at times. The choices that have to be made must include those conditions. For example, being a diabetic means you should choose less sugar. It would be silly to say, “I’m a diabetic, so I can’t do anything about my blood sugar problems.” If your medical condition makes it impossible for you to exercise, then you must choose to adjust your diet for a sedentary lifestyle. It is silly to eat like a marathon runner when you can’t get off the couch. If your medical condition makes it hard for your body to metabolize certain foods, then other choices and changes have to be made to make up for this condition. It is still a choice that you can make.

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Picture of Grandpa with his mules.

This is similar to the problems caused by the traditional American diet. I love the foods of my family tradition. I love biscuits and gravy (the more gravy the better). I love sausages and large thick juicy steaks. I’d kill for some pot roast with potatoes. I’d just about sell a kidney to get a large pot of red beans and ham hock with a large pile of fried potatoes. Those foods were developed by our people at a time when large quantities of easily digested calories were essential. I’m not going to be spending the days driving mules to plow the back forty (like grandpa did). I won’t be skidding in a load of logs. I’m not going to be spending the day tossing around bales of hay. My life is a twenty-first century American life. It is silly for me to live in the twenty-first century and then claim tradition as a justification for eating like the nineteenth century. I have to adjust my diet to my situation.

This is no different than adjusting one’s diet for a health condition. It also works for another excuse. Many will claim, “You don’t
understand. It’s my genes. I inherited this.” Genetics play a huge part in it. I know exactly. Small is not something I have inherited. A few months ago, I was at a new doctor’s office and she suddenly grabbed my wrist and said, “Wow! You really are large boned.” I inherited that. I also know I inherited a metabolism that made it easier to get this way. However, that just means I have to adjust my diet and activity level to make up for genetics. It means my needs may differ from you. It does not give me an excuse to just eat myself to death. I have those friends whose genetics allow them to eat tons of anything and still look skinny. Yes, I too want to beat them with a stick (but I resist the urge). But I can’t copy them because my genetic makeup means I gain weight just walking past the candy aisle (of course it is probably all the candy that got sucked in while walking past that actually did it).

We all have a place from which we make choices—our starting place varies. The situations may be different. The tools available may differ. The special needs may differ greatly. However, this just means we each have to choose wisely, with our eyes open, and with a true understanding of where we are. I have to take into account my modern lifestyle, my genetics, and my health conditions, and then tailor my approach from there. I’m not going to jump into an exercise routine meant to prepare for the Iron Man Triathlon. That would be a great way to end up with dirt shoveled in my face. Neither am I going to eat like my grandparents and hope tradition keeps me healthy. That would do nothing but put me in the ground next to them quicker. Neither can I give up and say my health is too bad to do anything. Today I have to do a bit better than yesterday—wherever yesterday was.

Make a choice today for health. Look at your situation. Look around you and see what isn’t working. Dispose of what isn’t working and adopt practices for your own special needs and your own special place.

Anticipating Scale Sticker Shock!

I used to work in a retail flooring store. We would calculate prices and then always round down. The reason for this is the psychological difference between a price of $4.00 and a price of $3.99. While the difference is only a penny, the lower dollar amount is more attractive to a buyer. The same is true of selling your home. When people search for homes on a database, far more will stop to look at a $149,000 home than one that is $150,000.

This same phenomenon works with weight-loss. If I step on the sale one week weighing 319 pounds and then the next week weigh 313 pounds, it does not feel as impressive as going from 320 pounds to 315, even though the first pair is a greater weight-loss. Because of this fact, I’m preparing myself in advance for my next weigh-in even though it is still days away. I weighed 318 at last week’s weigh-in and am expecting to weigh around 314 or so this week. I know ahead of time to expect a bit of let down because it will be another week at least to go under 310.

It is interesting how our expectations can have more impact on our feelings than reality. If we simply looked at such weight-loss realistically we would be happy to losing any weight—one pound is an achievement in itself. However, we too easily fall into the trap of, “If only it would have been a little more.”