Rough Week! Important Choices!

This week, I don’t have a weigh-in to share. As I shared before, I followed my doctor’s orders to drop off my original plan because of some issues with abdominal pain. We now know the pain was not from the program, but from the doctor—or at least from the strong antibiotics he had put me on for an ear infection. The antibiotics worked with some other stuff to inflame my liver. After some changes and the ending of the series of antibiotics the pain is gone.

After it cleared up, I decided to experiment and see how my weight loss would do without going back on program. For about a week and a half I did fine. However, this week, according to my scale I am two pounds heavier than last week. This convinced me to once again make a choice for my health and go back on the original program.

This brings me to two experiences this week I want to share that have to do with temptations and with managing food intake. Earlier in the week, my daughter came over for supper and I really felt like doing something special. I grilled steaks. For the three ladies (my wife, my mother and my daughter) I picked thin steaks—as they prefer. Of course, I like manly steaks—at least 1 inch thick and grilled as rare as possible. If a steak doesn’t leave red in the plate it was ruined.

Of course, a thick porterhouse is going to be much larger than I am supposed to have in one meal. After I grilled the steaks, my daughter reminded me that it was too much for me to have right now. She was right. I appreciated her telling me—though part of me wished she had just shut up. I begrudgingly cut the steak in half to save for later. I enjoyed one half that night. I could still enjoy the thickness, but just had to reduce the size to make up for it. Eating to lose weight does not mean eating garbage. I didn’t have to choke down a “shoe leather” steak. Sometimes it just takes a bit of effort to make good foods fit.

The second episode happened the day I decided to go back on program. That day I had some errands to run around town. I kept feeling stronger temptations to eat unhealthy foods—stronger temptations than I have had since starting. My mind kept saying, “Oh go on! You are off program. You’re going back on tomorrow. Just enjoy today and tomorrow you can restart.” At one point I was passing by a small chicken shop that I knew carried really good fried gizzards. At that moment I just wanted some gizzards—those glorious breaded, chewy, chunks of fried chicken flesh! I could taste them from a hundred yards. I had to have them, so I whipped the car into the store and ran in to order. I was, at that moment so tempted I ordered a double order (16 gizzards). It took about ten minutes for them to get my order done. I’m glad it took that long.

While I stood there waiting, I kept thinking about what I was about to do. Yes, I could go back on tomorrow. I didn’t feel any guilt because I was making a choice that I had a right to make—there was no moral failing. However, I thought about when I dropped off of another famous low-carb program, years ago. I was on that program for two months and lost 50 pounds. I dropped off, because it was so easy, I figured I’d drop off for the holidays and then just restart later. Unfortunately, I went into major carb binging and just stuffed myself. I gained all the weight back and an additional 25 pounds over the next few months.

As I stood there in the store I kept thinking about this and feared I was setting myself up for a bad failure. I didn’t want to start gorging on carbs and lose control. I didn’t want to risk being unable to finish my yearlong commitment to healthy choices. I also did not want to get back to that old fat, lazy, tired, dying self that I once was. I feel good. I enjoy being told how much better I look. I love knowing I have a future and hope for a healthy life. Did I really want to risk all that for a sack of greasy gizzards? Why yes, I did! But I wouldn’t. Instead, I took the sack and gave it to someone I knew would appreciate them. I didn’t eat a single one. Instead I went back home and ate a meal replacement. Did it taste as good as the gizzards? Don’t be silly. But it was chosen by me.


Self Image, True Image

IMG_20140808_075551This week was a full one. If I hadn’t lost weight, I wouldn’t have really been surprised. Still, I stepped on the scale this morning for my official weekly weigh-in time. I weighed 281 pounds. You’ll notice on this and past weigh-in reports that I ignore the decimal (.6 in this case). I do this because it is easier to simply round down to the nearest whole pound. Worrying about fractions of a pound would just be even more anal than I can already be (I have a maddening touch of OCD). I do use these however through the week. It can be helpful when weighing the same over several days. This would easily be a worry, but then looking at the decimal helps (for example), “Oh! I did lose weight. I lost 8/10ths of a pound.” It can be a great assurance that the program is still working and a reminder not to worry too much about the numbers on the scale.

I am finding something interesting about my mental state. I still see myself as being that fat guy I was at the beginning of this diet. (I know many will be offended by the use of the word “fat.” I wasn’t hefty! I wasn’t big-boned! I was fat and saying anything else is a hurtful lie, meant to make the one speaking it feel better. A lie helps no one but the liar!) People often ask me what I currently weigh and out of habit I keep accidentally adding an extra 100 lbs. to it. It is hard to think of myself as being under 300 because I was above that number for over a decade.

This is helpful though. For a long time I never could lose any weight. Actually, I didn’t try very hard. Mental self-image can be very powerful. Eating disorders are closely tied to self-image. We hear often of those suffering from anorexia, though little more than skin and bone, who still see themselves as fat. They may look at the same image we see and they will see that image very differently. If you don’t think self-image is fragile and yet very powerful just try telling a pregnant wife that she is getting heavy. Get ready for water-works, and then be prepared to spend the rest of that pregnancy apologizing and complimenting her. I was lucky because in my wife’s culture heaviness in a woman, especially when pregnant, was seen as a good thing. She was pregnant and I would tell her, “Look how fat you are getting,” and she would break out a huge beaming smile. It would just make her day, because her cultural self-image completely changed the way she felt about herself in this regard. Of course, Western media has changed that even in her homeland.

Self-image can have powerful effect. All the time I was so heavy, I only saw it when looking in the mirror. When I walked away from the mirror, my mental self-image was the young trooper I once was. I didn’t see myself as fat. It wasn’t until I finally developed a more realistic self-image that I was able to come to term with my need to lose weight. A false self-image can be quite destructive. If you see yourself as worse than you are then you are handicapped. If you see yourself as better than you are then you simply have a different handicap.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not espousing the modern self-image (“You’re OK; I’m OK; we’re all OK”) garbage. The self-image that is needed is not a false bad image or a false good image. What is needed is a truthful self-image—one that sees the self truthfully and without distortion. “The truth will set you free” includes the truth about yourself, good or bad.

A few years ago, my self-image finally changed to what I actually saw in the mirror. It was a crushing blow. I looked at myself one day and said, “What the hell did you do to yourself!” I was ashamed. Before you do what many others have done and say, “Oh, don’t be ashamed. Don’t be so hard on yourself,” understand that shame is a very powerful and necessary force in human interaction. There is a place for it. I am not one of those people who try to spare everyone from ever feeling bad. Some people should feel bad and doing so is the only way a change will happen. I am not saying that others should heap shame on another (thought there is a time for that), but am saying that it is important for an individual to be able to look at themselves and experience shame when appropriate. Imagine if a young man willfully hurt someone and felt no shame about his actions. Such a child would be monstrous. Shame is helpful and useful. To deny that is just another lie.

I had to get to where I was ashamed by what I saw in the mirror before I would change my eating habits. If you have a friend or family member who has an eating problem, I would never recommend you try to shame them into changing—that can be very cruel. However, if they are developing their own sense of shame over what they have done to themselves, do not be the nice guy who says, “It’s OK. You don’t look that bad. But you have such a nice personality.” Let them experience the shame and ask them, “OK, you feel this way about yourself. Now what are you going to do about it?”

I simply wallowed in my shame for a long time. I felt I couldn’t do anything about my weight or my health because it was just too far IMG_20140807_203728619gone. I had problem on problem and felt all I could do was live a miserable existence until God mercifully ended my life. To be honest I even wondered if it was better to end it myself. What I needed was to find a way to turn my shame into action. Wallowing in shame is no better than pretending it isn’t there. Encourage the person to turn their shame into a course of action. I had to find a program that would work and work quickly enough to give me hope. I thank God I found that. Interestingly I found it through a friend who was himself on it.

You can help your loved ones who struggle with weight, not by shaming them into it, or by pretending they don’t have a problem. You help them by being honest with them, and by offering solutions.

Small Plane, Smaller Me

airline-seatsIt’s always ‘interesting’ traveling on a diet. “I can’t have this, that or even the other thing,” can be a common lament. Many things make it hard. When trying to eat low-carb it seems everything is either high-carb, full of sugars, or breaded and fried. It can be even more difficult when you add the need to eat every 3 or so hours.

I have spent two days traveling and in meetings in Arlington, TX. On Tuesday I flew up from San Antonio. Today (Wednesday), as I write this, I am sitting on the runway waiting for my flight home to take off. Before I mention some of the difficulties of the trip, I want to share a great positive.

I have avoided flying for the last few years because of my size. When you are 425 lbs. as I was, it is embarrassing to fly for several reasons. For one, you need a belt extension. Asking for this never felt good. Then when boarding the plane, you could see the looks on the faces of your fellow passengers and knew they were each thinking, “Please God! Don’t let him sit with me.” You can hear them exhale in relief as you pass their seat. Then there is the worst part—the seats. Airline seats have never been designed for the large, and these days they seem to be finding new ways to torture passengers with less and less space. I expect, someday soon, an airline to come out with a way to load passengers in the overhead compartments to maximize seating. In the past I would squeeze myself into the seat and hope for enough blood flow to my legs to prevent the need for in-flight amputation. I also had to get an aisle seat on every flight. For one, it was just cruel to try to put me in a middle seat between two smaller people—cruel for them. But I couldn’t fit in a window seat either because my size made it quite difficult to fit in the curve of the cabin wall.

This trip from San Antonio to Arlington is one I make a few times a year as a member of a committee for my church district. I have looked forward to this trip for a couple months. I decided to fly primarily to see how things have changed on a plane now that my weight is down to 285 lbs.

Unless you have experienced it the other way, you have no idea how nice it is to walk down the aisle being ignored by your fellow passengers. It is also an amazing feeling not needing a seat belt extension and not being stuffed into a seat. I was able to take my place easily and to actually stretch out my legs—as must as a coach seat allows. I could lower the table to use (as I was doing as I wrote this).

If you aren’t sure it is worth the effort to change your life and lose weight—especially if you have a large amount of weight to lose—believe me, you will not regret it. Start today! Start now! Set a goal, make a plan and work it until you reach the goal.

In my next post I’ll deal with some of the difficulties of travelling while on a diet.

This week’s weigh-in and thoughts

IMG_20140718_133538This week’s official weight is 296 lbs. The last time I was less than 300 lbs. was in 2004. I am now 53% to my goal having lost 88 lbs. on my current program. From my lifetime highest I have lost 129 lbs. total. This number (approximately 130 pounds) has got me to thinking about one of the major problems that comes with being so overweight. I used to hear people often say that all one had to do to lose weight was to eat less and get up and exercise. This is easier said than done.

I was carrying an extra 130 pounds around in fat. Think about what else in this world weighs that much. My wife weighs around 120 lbs. or so. Imagine her carrying a 10 pound weight and me carrying her everywhere I go, every moment of every day. Bricks weigh somewhere around 4 lbs. each. That means I was carrying the equivalent of 32 bricks everywhere I went. Sit in a chair and place 32 bricks in your lap (the general area where most weight is carried) and try to stand up. This should make it obvious that telling a fat person, “Just get up and do something” is either insensitive or cruel. It shows a serious lack of understanding (or caring about) their situation. It is easy for the skinny person to say this, because he has much less to lift.

Now imagine this weight being placed on you whether you want to carry it or not. You can’t escape it. Dropping a brick each week, might look attractive when you only have four or five bricks to carry, but when carrying 35 this looks like it will take forever. It is like looking into a tunnel that is too deep to see the light at the other end. This makes the overweight person depressed. What do people want when depressed? They want comfort. What is the overweight person usually drawn to for comfort? He wants food. It is often the attempt to assuage emotional lack that got the person overweight to begin with.

While it is true that the only way to successfully lose weight and get healthy is to decrease intake of food and increase the burning of calories, telling this to a fat person is like dangling water in front of a parched man. A plan is needed. Support is needed. When those small steps seem to be taking too long, someone needs to help draw the attention to how far the person has come, not how much farther they have to go. Perhaps that person can’t get up right now—you might not be able to if you were carrying along a whole other human being in weight—but can start with decreasing intake. Perhaps instead of telling that person that all he needs is more discipline, or he just needs to do it, you can encourage him to not look to food for comfort. Perhaps you can be a comforter in the place of the food.

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.

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.

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.


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.