Progress so far–with pictures

IMG_20150123_063350Today I return to a previous practice. I will probably only do it for a couple weeks, and then return to weight lifting, but for now I’m posting weekly weight measurements. As my readers know I switched from my previous program (Medifast with Take Shape for Life) over to carb cycling. I did this not because the prior one didn’t work. Actually, it worked miraculously and I would have happily stayed on it until at my final goal weight. However, my medical situation is such (I have been taking testosterone for years) that I wanted to attack my BMI from the lean side for a while, in order to (1) increase my metabolism and (2) increase my own output of testosterone. This required weight training, so, as I’ve reported previously, I switched over to carb cycling. For the last couple months I’ve been on a purely weight training and higher carb cycle, and decided last Friday to switch over to low carb with cardio. I’ve been back on it for a week, and today’s weight was 260 lbs.

I had changed over around 264 lbs. and started lifting. My weight over the next couple months went up to 271 lbs. (my weight last Saturday). Now, before you think this was all fat increase, and was going backwards, understand that my clothes were all starting to fit looser, and everything was getting trimmed up—except for areas I was working to enlarge. This means I was gaining muscle. Body composition and form are far more important than numbers on a scale. The scale can only tell you “how much” is there, but has no idea “what” is there. Gaining fat is bad; gaining muscle is good. However, it is inevitable that one also puts on some fat while building muscle because of the need to consume higher carbs and even some simple sugars and starches to fuel the gains.

I decided it was time to change over for a bit to give some tendons and joints a chance to heal. I had been having problems on occasion with my right wrist, right elbow, right shoulder, left hip and right ankle (Good Lord! How did I get old?). I was able to work around these when it was just one at a time, however, at my last gym session all were making it very hard to work out. I decided to give them a break and concentrate, once again, on burning fat.

An old before and after picture from several months ago.

An old before and after picture from several months ago.

me at heaviest

An old before photo of me before starting this journey.

Now, some people are going to see the number 260 lbs. and think that is still extremely fat. Remember that each person carries fat in their own way. I am not a small guy. The last time I was small was sixth grade, when I had a huge growth spirt and became head and shoulders taller than the guys who had picked on me the year before—a nice turn of the tables. Keep in mind that I came from 425 lbs. lifetime highest, and was 385 lbs. just last Easter (nine months ago). I’ve lost 165 lbs. from my highest and, of that, 125 lbs. was lost in the aforementioned nine month period. I am going to post some pictures to show what I look like now in comparison to before. Understand that I have few pictures from before because I hated taking them. Also forgive me for some of the pictures. I have my shirt off in the latest. While I know in our culture it is acceptable for a man to go shirtless, there are three reasons I am very uncomfortable with it. My wife’s culture and that of many of my friends do not view this the same way. My wife will be very embarrassed by the photo because her family can see them and in her mind they are shameful. Also, I am a pastor, and many will see such displays by one in my position as out of place. I apologize—I assure you, God’s not shamed by this display. The third reason I am so uncomfortable, is that I am not a young man. I am almost fifty and when older men want to show themselves without a shirt on the internet the best answer is “Just say no,” (Geraldo Rivera, for example). The pictures are not meant to show off. They are meant only to show my current condition—to show progress. Wearing a shirt covers many details. Please excuse them. Think of them as medical images only. (I removed one).

So, I’ve dropped from 271 lbs. to 260 lbs. in a week. Keep in mind that only part of this is fat. A great deal will be from a loss of weight lifting inflammation and from reduction in muscle glycogen stores from being low carb.

Starting to see some abs.

Starting to see some abs.

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Pi$$ Poor Prior Planning

We’ve all heard the saying, “failure to plan is a plan to fail.” In the Army we referred to The Four P’s: Pi$$ Poor Prior Planning. Today at the gym I found myself thinking about the importance of having a plan in striving for health and fitness.

Since I’ve switched from weight loss to mass gain I am doing less cardio, more weight training and eating larger portions to fuel the gains which are my current goal. When I started out in the gym I found the easiest way was to go to a line of machines and do a full course from the first in that line through the end. This is easier since the machines are usually laid out to work one muscle group and then the next. It was easy because I knew where to start, where to go next—and very important—when I would be done. This latter point is paramount when just starting a workout routine and not being in the habit of hitting the gym.

Now, because I kind of reached the limits of where the machines would take me, I am moving more to free weights. The reason for this is core conditioning and practical strength issues. While the machines are great for concentrating on a specific muscle or muscle group, they work only those muscles and usually hold your body fairly stable. Free weights are very different. While working one muscle group you must also use others to support your body and maintain proper form. In this way you work on the muscles you target but you reap the benefit of strengthening the surrounding areas.

The problem with doing this though is a lack of a plan. The machines were laid out in order: start here, go here, finish over there, and go home. The free weights are a jumble of steel and benches often laid out haphazardly. There is no direction, no actual plan built into the area. This means I can either wing it, doing whatever I feel like at the moment, or I can lay out a plan ahead of time. If I don’t take the time to plan, it is too easy to get discouraged, bored, or side tracked. It is especially hard since, unlike the machines, the weights have no little picture telling you what to actually do. Without a plan the favorite things get worked on and everything else gets neglected. Before long, discouragement creeps in and you fall off the fitness bandwagon.

These thoughts came to mind today while talking to a friend about her health and weight and thinking about my own experience. One major help for success is having a plan. Too many approach their health and their weight with the mindset of “I’ll try this and see what happens; then, I add this; perhaps I’ll do that.” We trade the food buffet for the fad diet buffet. Someone tells us the answer is Apple Cider Vinegar so we add that. We are told “Juicing is the answer.” Others claim, “You will never lose weight without (fill in the blank).” One nice thing about a plan is that we can tell people “I’m on a program and will stay with it. Thanks for the advice but it doesn’t work with my program.”

I had people tell me, “You don’t need a diet! You just need to watch how much you eat.” To which I responded, “Isn’t that what a diet is?” You see a diet or a weight loss program is a plan for how to go from heavy to light, from fat to slim, from unhealthy to healthy. It is a roadmap. It is not a master. It is a guardrail keeping you from falling off into the abyss of another failure.

Can you lose weight without a plan? Yes, you can. You can also lose weight without even trying, but how many of us can rely on that fact to get healthy. A plan (a formal program, if you will) helps in the following ways:

  1. It allows you worry less about each step.
  2. It allows you to think long term without getting discouraged by what is right in front of you.
  3. It allows you to know the path to the goal—where you are going is useless information without knowing how to get there.
  4. It allows you to be more disciplined.

This last is very important. One of the things I did was set a reminder on my phone for every time I was supposed to eat. This way I always knew when to eat, but also knew when not to eat. If I just wanted something I could say, “Nope. The alarm hasn’t gone off yet.” I could also look to see just how long until my next meal. Resistance is easier when you know it’s only three hours between meals (part of the plan). It is also easier to be disciplined when you know what your next meal is going to be (the plan, again). When you have planned it ahead of time, and maybe even done the largest part of the cooking ahead of time, it is easier to not eat just out of convenience—“I need to eat something but have nothing prepared, so I’ll pick up a hamburger just this once.” One thing I did was to cook a whole roast and portion it out for meals so each day I could just grab a piece of roast and add some proper green veggies to have my meal if time was short. No temptations from convenience.

The first point about knowing the next step is also important. Do I need to eat 30 grams of carbs, and then some protein this meal? Did I have too many carbs in the last meal? Did I get enough protein today? All of these can be a problem without proper planning. A good program takes care of most of these things for you. Forget about the fads your skinny friends will all regale you with and find a clinically studied and prepared program that works for your health needs.

My program was Medifast meals on the Take Shape For Life Program. It worked for me. I recommend it highly to anyone. Does this mean I believe this is the only program? Of course not! There are others. I want to encourage you to make a plan, to chart a course to health. For many, like me, the best course is one that many before have taken.

Stumbling into Health–Not Likely!

latest before and afterIt’s been a while since I posted a before and after photo. I took a selfie this morning and edited it into an old photo that was taken right around the time I started my program. Over the last few weeks I’ve transitioned off of the weight loss regiment I was on, and am now concentrating on weights and increasing muscle mass. Once I get where I want to be there, I’ll go back to burning fat down to my desired weight.

The changes, both physical and psychological, are hard for me to take in. I compare today to back then and I can’t fathom how I ever got that way. Even though I am no longer in fat burn, I don’t have cravings like before. Yes, at times I just want something to eat. However, I don’t want sweets or crave carbs. When I was heavy, my Kryptonite was Ice Cream. The only ice cream I’ve had since Easter was about a month ago when I was experimenting with Bananas Foster and I had it twice, with no need to have it again. Personally, I don’t care if I ever have it. I used to love beer. I still love the taste of it. But it dawned on me that I no longer care if I ever have another.

I have to admit that at times I have to eat things I would not ordinarily eat on my current eating plan—or any healthy eating plan. For example, a few days ago I was at a meeting where the choice for lunch was sandwiches or sandwiches. So I figured I would have to order a sandwich. However, there was a problem. I shouldn’t have bread. I don’t want to go back to the carb cravings. About 10 years ago I lost a lot of weight on the Atkins diet and when I dropped off I went into major carb consumption mode, eating so much bread, pasta and sweets that I quickly gained the lost weight back with an additional 25 lbs. I see where I am now, and where I used to be and I do not want to go back. So, you might be saying “Then eat the filling and throw away the bread.” I have always had a hard time doing that. I can give you several reasons why I went ahead and ate the bread, but none of that really matters. I chose to eat the whole sandwich—I chose a 6” rather than a 12”, at least.

The nice thing is that I find at such times, when I allow myself to eat things that aren’t the best choice, I don’t enjoy them. I find myself thinking about what could happen. I find myself wondering what it might be doing to my hormone balances and what I may have to do to bring things back into proper state. Will I start craving bread? Will I need to go into Ketosis again to balance things back out?

I know many reading this will take exception to that. Most people don’t want to give such thoughts to their food and their health. We want to be healthy, but we want to be mindlessly healthy—no work, no thought, no learning; just “eat, drink and be healthy,” if you will. The problem is that with our lifestyles and the foods available to us, this is just not possible.

We live in the most blessed time ever in human history—especially if we live in the United States. If I wanted something to eat at 2 AM and had nothing in the house, I could get out in my car and drive to any of a hundred places in our city that will still be serving. We have 24 hour a day groceries and fast food. Food is everywhere. Neither are our foods today really tied to seasons. I’ve walked in the grocery store in February and found piles of watermelons for sale. When I was a kid this just wasn’t possible. You got certain foods when they were in season and you wouldn’t see them again until the next harvest.

I remember in 1989, when my wife was expecting our middle child, she wanted watermelon and asked me to go get her some. Problem is that we were in Korea, it was March, and it was the middle of the night. I got out and scoured the village market finally finding a small shop with some small (tiny) watermelons. The shop owner was not happy to be woken by a big American banging on his door wanting a watermelon—good thing I spoke enough Korean. That little bitty watermelon cost me hours of searching and $20 (in 1989!!!!). Not to mention the cost of the taxi because it was freezing outside. But my wife got her melon. We no longer have these problems. If I really want anything, it can probably be quickly and easily found.

Not too long ago, most communities only had a few ethnic selections. I grew up in Fort Worth and there was our food or Mexican food. If you wanted something really special there was also a German restaurant in town. Of course, there were likely others. But we just did not have the exposure to other foods like we do today. We can find the richest, most decadent, most enticing foods from all over the world and drive no more than a few minutes.

This ready access to abundant foods is not the only change. Few of us work as hard as our ancestors did. I spend most of my day working behind a desk. My father spent his days roofing. My maternal grandfather spent his days behind a plow. Yes, some still work hard. But even our hard jobs today are easier with the many labor saving devices we have created. I still remember watching a home improvement show with my wife years ago. She had never seen a nail gun before. She asked what it did. She thought maybe it made a hole for the nail. When I told her it actually shot a nail into the boards like a gun so there was no need to swing a hammer, she said, “Americans! Always finding an easier way to do everything!” Well, it’s true. We do find the easiest and most efficient way to do things. Even when we work hard, we don’t work as hard as our ancestors and don’t burn as many calories as they, so what makes us think we can eat like they did?

Back when food was limited to what was readily available and when work was hard and toilsome we could simply eat whatever was available and whatever amounts we felt like eating. Some foods had to be intentionally carb and fat heavy in order to get enough sustenance. This is no longer the case for us. We have to think differently about our foods. We have to think differently about what we put into our bodies.  We need to learn about our bodies, and our needs. We need to understand what each bite can do to us.

I am a detail guy. I overthink everything. I like to know ‘the nuts and bolts’ of things. I find articles in magazines and online. I read books on the subject. I am trying to lay down a foundation of knowledge that will help me to make quick healthy choices in the future. In time, these choices become second nature.

Don’t just let your health (or ‘un-health’) happen. Take control of your body and of your life by first taking control of what you eat. However, you cannot control what you eat unless you first understand what you eat. You have to know what is healthy and what it unhealthy and, if you are like me, it is helpful to also know why. Commit yourself to controlling your food and not being controlled by it. For most of us health is not going to just happen. It takes effort to attain, and effort to maintain.

Slaying the Scale Monster!

The scale can be a real monster sometimes. Using it to know where you are and if you are going in the right direction is helpful. However, it can also be a real kick in the shorts when you are sure everything is doing well, you step on the scale and it attacks—giving you a number far above what you expected. It is hard to not get worried. There are so many things that can cause a scale fluctuation—inflammation, dehydration, etc. But one can still get quite scared and even emotional when that scale doesn’t say what you want it to say.

To prevent this, you can weigh infrequently. Rather than weighing every day you could pick a day of the week to weigh. If that day, you happen to be in a small scale fluctuation it is likely to be after a week of weight change so even a number higher than it should be will be welcome. This is a good method when doing the same thing over a period of months and you are confident it works. When you are weighing like this, you aren’t trying to figure out if your plan is working. You are just checking to see where you are. This isn’t as helpful when transitioning or changing things up. During these times, it may be necessary to weigh every day—as I have been doing over the last few weeks.

Recently, I transitioned over from trying to lose the maximum amount of weight in the shortest possible time, to trying to build muscle. I reached one goal and now have set another different one. Because of this I transitioned over from MediFast on the Take Shape for Life program (which saved my life and set me on a good path), to using Carb Cycling with a combination of weight and cardio days. Unlike the earlier program, in which everything was so well laid out and easy to follow, the new program takes a lot of study, practice and learning to know what to do. This means there are more chances of screwing up. Since this program means eating more carbs, and I have a history of carb cravings, there is a great deal of apprehension when adding in new things, and watching the scale helps to tell if I am going the right direction, and weighing each day has become part of this.

To handle this I adopted a practice similar to a skill learned in the Army. In the Army I served as an Infantryman for eight years. One skill that you learn is calling in artillery on a target. Artillery is an area target, meaning that you aren’t trying to hit a target on the nose. You are trying to get a special projectile within a certain distance of a target (within the effective area). In the days before laser guided and smart munitions, you began by calling in initial coordinates; then, the gun bunnies fire a shell; the observer sees where it hits, calls in corrections and then another shell is fired. The observer tries to walk the shell impact onto the target with a technique known as bracketing. For example, the first shell lands 100 yards north of the target. Call in a correction and the next shell lands 100 yards south of the target. Correct the next shell back to the north for 50 yards and see if it hits.

When I use the scale I have an area that is acceptable: “If I weight between A and B, then everything is fine.” I also want this area to slowly move down. I notice over time that the lower number of my acceptable range slides down and the upper number is lower and lower. This way, scale fluctuations are built into the expectation. If I am supposed to weigh 260, then anything between 255 and 265 is acceptable. Slowly over time this becomes 250 to 260. For some it might be a ten pound spread. For others it might be five.

In my new program, big week to week changes in the scale just don’t happen—this really makes me miss being on the full TSFL program. Seeing that big drop of pounds each week was nice. However, my goal now is muscle building and changing my body fat percentage by both reducing fat and raising lean mass. One thing that helps to monitor now, is regular tape measuring. For example, my weight hasn’t changed much over the last three weeks. However, my clothes are loose. My muscles seem to be tightening. In my arms and legs I can start to see some new definition. Now I still weight regularly, but I find a tape measure a far more useful tool. Besides measuring various locations, I like to give myself regular tape tests. I use the military tape test because it is the easiest. I know it is not the most accurate, but it gives me a good picture of direction and change that the scale may not see. I found an app for my phone so I simply enter the measurements and it gives me my range.

Even though my scale hasn’t registered any big changes—just a very gradual movement—the tape shows a different story. According the tape I am now out of the obese range and into the acceptable range. This means I am not yet “fit” but would pass a military tape test. That is progress. If you are working and working but not seeing change where you expect then look somewhere else. Are the scales not moving? Well, are your clothes looser? Are your body dimensions changing? Have things disappeared? For example, one day it seemed I wasn’t making progress until it dawned on me that my “moobs” were gone. Yesterday, I realized my “love handles” were gone. One day I looked down and realized I could see the bones in my knees. The fat that usually surrounded them was just not there.

There are health targets to shoot for other than numbers on a scale.

One goal reached, on to the next!

Transitions can be rough

Recently, I changed my program. There were various reasons. (1) I had lost enough weight to adjust my goals and my focus. (2) Our personal funds are fairly limited, like for most families. My daughter takes after her dad, which means she has concerns about her weight. We wanted to pay for her to go on the program, which meant I had to find another direction for myself. The final reason: (3) I wanted to try other options to see how they work as I spend this year making healthy choices.

Goal and Focus Changes

I have been very happy (ecstatic) with my results using Medifast products through the Take Shape For Life program. In just over five months I went from 384 lbs. down to 268 lbs.  That is almost 120 pounds. I have stopped using my C-PAP machine. I have dropped my prediabetes medicine. I have stopped using one of my blood pressure medicines. My A1C is perfect. My cholesterol is right where it should be. My testosterone has risen and my weekly injection has been reduced. My energy levels are great. My personal outlook is positive.

After adjusting my goal for actual body fat measurements, I had to decide if I wanted to keep going on program to lose an additional 38 pounds and then start working out to tighten, tone and increase muscle mass. Another option was to start building muscle and toning right now. The only problem is that the TSFL program does not recommend a hard workout regimen while on program—for various reasons. It is well balanced to maintain health and to make it possible to lose a large amount of weight quickly without causing the health problems that can result from other extreme weight loss programs. But it is recommended that you not workout hard while on the program. Moderate exercise is suggested, but I wanted to start building lean muscle mass.

Options Considered

I’ve been around diet programs—either trying them, studying them, or being recommended them—for most of my adult life. When you have a tendency to weight gain, and fail to practice the proper discipline to maintain then you get heavy and everyone has their recommendation to ‘help.’

I did Atkins years ago. I stayed on the most restrictive level of the diet (30 grams of carbs per day). At first it was great being on a diet that allowed you to eat bacon, and a good amount of meat. However, that was long before the days when there were Atkins bars and supplements, so it took a bit of effort to stay properly fueled. The big problem was some of the strong cravings. When you find yourself hallucinating about pasta or fruit something is just not quite right.

When I dropped off that program, I didn’t do it properly. I was fooled by how easy it was, so I thought I had not need to transition—I’d just drop off for a few months, during the holidays, then ‘drop’ back on. Instead, I went into major carb craving and couldn’t stop sucking down carbs. I had lost 50 pounds in two months, but ended up gaining 75 pounds quickly. That put me into a psychological funk that helped me to slowly ratchet higher and higher. This is why I didn’t consider Atkins this time.

Friends and relatives had recommended the Paleo diet. I have to admit the idea of eating like a caveman was fascinating. This would be another diet that would allow me to eat lots of meat. However, I tend to be a bit anal about facts, and underlying premises. It became obvious pretty quick that this diet was not really designed to “eat the way we were evolved to eat,” as it claims. It was really just marketing shtick for another controlled carb diet. Don’t get me wrong! I know it works. I’ve seen it work with enough people to have lots of confidence in it. It is also one of those diets meant to be a lifestyle change, which is also good. However, I was not sure I could see myself spending the rest of my life eating this way—forbidding myself some things I truly enjoyed.

I won’t go into the fad, freak show diets—eat only spinach, eat only cabbage, eat only (fill in the blank). Eat enough spinach and you’ll lose weight. Of course, it will mostly be in the form of little rocks that you piss out from all the kidney stones. Eating enough cabbage will also help you lose weight. But who will care? No one will want to be around you from all the methane seeping out your backside—I already have this problem in spades!

After listening to my friends and seeing what was working with them (the same way I discovered Medifast and Take Shape for Life for my initial high weight loss) I settled on moving into a carb cycling regimen. Since I want to lose fat and also build muscle (I am at a point where the muscle is more important than focusing on the fat, because of my testosterone deficiency), I chose to go this way. Keep in mind; this is not an indictment of my earlier program. Take Shape for Life is highly recommended to anyone to lose weight—especially to lose it in a quick and healthy fashion. However, it is not designed to start working on muscle mass until after the goal weight is reached. I wanted muscle building to be a final part of reaching my goal. I also wanted to be able to use the money I was spending on that program to help my daughter start that program. We could only afford for one of us to be on it, so we chose her.

My New Program

With my new program, I go through the week with a rotation of carb levels and exercise routines. For now, I am introducing weight training in slowly and working up. Most of my exercise is cardio. I do two days of weights a week (upper body on Wednesday; lower body on Saturday). I do four days of cardio (one hour on treadmill, exercise bike, etc.). Each day in the gym I shoot for burning 500 to 700 calories. I take Sunday as a day off, because my duties with the church just make it too hard to get to the gym. Besides, muscle building requires rest for the muscles. Since I work legs on Saturday (the largest muscle groups) I take a break the next day. I don’t do this on Thursday, because the previous day I work upper body and most of my regular cardio involves legs—therefore, my arms get a rest anyways.

With carb cycling you rotate the amount of calories and carbs eaten according to whether a day is committed to fat burning or muscle building. Cardio days are fat burning, low carb days. Weight training days are muscle building days, requiring even higher protein, higher carbs, and even some refined carbs for rapid glycogen replenishment.

Rebound

Making this change has caused a bit of a weight rebound as my metabolism adjusts to the new calorie level. I last weighed 268 lbs. on the original program. Within a week I was weighing 275 lbs. Of course, I don’t think I gained that much weight. For one thing, on the older program there is so little food going in that the bowels get very empty. With the new one, this is not the case. No, I’m not saying I was full of seven pounds of (insert your favorite name for it here). But add that, along with some rapid fat gain that would happen when calories are first increased, but metabolism hasn’t quite adjusted. Then there may have been some inflammation from the quick changeover.

You will notice that I haven’t posted a new weigh for a while on my blog. This is because I have been in that rebound stage working to get my weight back down to where it was. There was a bit of discouragement along the way, wondering if the change was the right thing to do. However, I was able to take some comfort in seeing muscle areas tightening up and continuing to see the loose fatty areas shrink. Now, it appears I am back on track for weight loss. It took almost two weeks, with constant fluctuations up and down. However, this morning I weighed 266 pounds.

My New Goal

My new goal is to add enough lean muscle to my frame that with around 15% body fat, my weight should be around 250 lbs. I’ve already explained why I can’t work toward the BMI chart—I’d have to lose muscle and all body fat to get close. I’ll shoot to get to and stay between 250 and 255 lbs. This means I am about fifteen pounds from my weight goal—but far from my actual finished goal, because muscle needs to increase considerably (somewhere around 20 to 30 lbs. of muscle needs to be added). This is a large goal, for muscle building, but I’ll get there. It is already a huge change in attitude and in outlook.

Celebrating my Weight Independence Day!

IMG_20140704_072449Today is another weigh-in Friday. My official weight this morning is 303 lbs. This means I am 49% of the way to my goal weight, and have lost 81 lbs. on my program, and 122 lbs. from my highest weight. I’ve been on the program for 11 weeks, so I have averaged 7.36 lbs. lost per week. At this rate I can expect to be at goal weight in the next four months—though it will likely slow more as I get lower. After that, the rest of the time in my year-long journey will be spent transitioning and learning to maintain my weight, while building up my activities to once again enjoy many of the things I loved when younger.

Today is Independence Day, and I have new reasons to celebrate. I thought for this day, I would share some of the things I am celebrating this year as a result of losing so much weight.

While looking at the scale is fun and interesting—and occasionally stressful—I have to say this is not the best part of losing weight. The best part of losing weight is really hard to put my finger on. The benefits are such that it is hard to measure them to see which one is the single best. So many things about losing weight make me happy that I don’t think I can look at one and say that is the best part, with the possible exception of two things. One is my wife’s smile when she sees how much I’ve lost. She has been my greatest cheerleader in this. Whenever she hears a lower weight she cheers. When I make a choice to stay on program she commends me. When anyone else encourages me to do something that would break my program or knock me out of fat-burn she gets very protective. Second (though only in order reported but not in the level of joy given) is the hugs of my daughters. When my daughters hug me and comment on how far their arms go around me it lifts my spirits. One of my daughters has mentioned several times just how thin my arms are getting. Don’t hear that wrong. I didn’t say skinny. There has never been anything skinny about me. However, I have lost weight all over, especially my arms, legs and face. My abdomen is taking a bit longer, but this is normal.

There are other joys that I get to experience now. When I enter an office waiting room, I don’t have to consider the strength of the chairs. I have destroyed many chairs in my life. This last week I was at the local University. The University has a huge flight of stairs that I used to avoid. Now I take the stairs, easily. I no longer dread shopping for clothing—at least no more than the average guy. I look forward to seeing my new pants size, or shirt size. I love that I had to have my watch resized to fit my arm. It feels good to sit in my wife’s car and not have my belly almost touching the steering wheel. The car is a small Hyundai, and now I can sit in the seat and move my legs side to side. I like the fact that I can sit in a chair to read and actually cross my legs and rest the book on my legs rather than on my belly. I can do this with my computer too, making it a laptop computer rather than a belly-top computer.

Next month I have a meeting in Arlington, and rather than drive I chose to fly. I love flying, always have, but have hated planes being as heavy as I was. It had gotten to the point that I had to force my hips down into the seat and ask for a seat-belt extension. No more! I can’t wait for this flight. One other thing about flying: when at my heaviest, I had to make sure to use the bathroom before getting on the plane. If I had managed to get in the plane’s facilities, they would have needed a tub of butter to get me out.

Another benefit is only experienced when going out to dinner. For years when we went out I had to ask for a table, because I didn’t fit in booths. It’s hard to eat when the booth table is cutting you in half and the only thing that can bend is your neck. Well, booths are more private and encourage better and more intimate conversation. Now, when entering a restaurant we can sit in a booth and I have yet to find one that doesn’t fit. For those who have never had a weight problem you have no idea how great this one is. Imagine this scenario: a morbidly obese man enters a restaurant with his little tiny wife (as mine is). They sit at a table and order their food. It is natural for those around to judge that person the entire time he is eating. Yes, I’m sure most of you are mature enough not to do this; but one, it does happen; and two, that man is sure it is happening even if it is only in his imagination. This makes it very difficult to enjoy what should have been a nice night out with a loved one.

me at heaviest

Me prior to weightloss.

This brings up another benefit to celebrate this year. The psychological impact of being greatly overweight is immeasurable. You feel everyone is judging you. You feel every eye on you at times. You know when you sit in a chair it might break, making a scene. You have to sit where you fit, making it apparent how large you are. In a waiting room, you know it will take you extra effort to remove your bulk from the chair. You make a joke of it, to cover, but the eyes haunt you deep down inside. On a flight you have to request a belt extender while publicly squeezing yourself into a seat. You also audibly hear the release of breath in relief when people on the flight realize you are not going to be sitting next to them. It gets frustrating when looking for clothes and no store seems to have your size. When the only thing in a store that fits is socks, it does something to you inside. When you meet a new person, you notice their eyes scanning your belly and you know you have just been sized up—in more ways than one. When you go to a job interview, if you don’t get the job you can never be sure if it was your skills, your resume, or your bulk that prevented it. When you are shopping for certain things, you find yourself looking for something others never look at—the tag showing the weight limit, which more often than not means you can’t buy it. It can also be very depressing when you go to the office of the doctor who is supposed to help you lose weight and you discover none of his scales go high enough to weigh you.

There is one other thing that truly hurts when being as large as I was: when my wife would cut my toenails. If this had been due to a bad back or an injury it would have been different, but doing it because I couldn’t easily reach over my belly was shameful. She always did it with a smile, but I knew it was just not right and was a result of my own choices.

Now, many may see this post as being very depressing. Actually it is a celebration because by making healthier choices these no longer describe me. I am free from them. While I still have a ways to go—a long way to go—I am moving forward.

Celebrate your Independence Day to day. If you are struggling with your weight, it is time to declare your own Independence and do something about it.

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.