Saturday, April 16, 2016

get over it

Listen, I'm not going to relate this story to be unkind, okay? Here goes - at the last triathlon I did, I was doing some people watching while waiting around the pool deck for the event to start. For the most part, it was a few hundred people that looked like my neighbors - bankers, full time moms, accountants, corporate hacks, etc. There were a few there who looked ready to dominate, to be sure - nil body fat, skin suits that looked permanently bonded to their bodies, total eye of the tiger game face, etc. Since this was a typical cross section of society, there were some people there that had various degrees of a weight issue. One gentleman in particular (and again, not saying this to be unkind) had to be well over 300 pounds, and was wearing a lycra tri-suit that hovered nauseatingly between pink and purple. You know what though? He pretty much blended in. After all, 95% (no, that number was not scientifically derived) of the crowd was in lycra, and most of us didn't have bodies that anyone would put on the cover of a magazine - well, not a glamour magazine anyway; there were some nerdy folk that would have been great on the cover of any tech magazine, some others that probably had a net worth that could put them on Forbes, and personally I think I could grace the cover of Rookie Mistake Weekly (not an actual publication).

If I look at myself honestly, I see a guy that looks just fine. I'm not a youth, so my upper eye lids are a bit droopy, my beard is going grey, and since I used to be fat I'm kinda baggy around the middle. But, I'm healthy and clean and have all my body parts so I can blend in just fine. In fact, at a glance you might not notice anything particular at all about how I look - know why? We all pay SO MUCH attention to what we look like, and often have insecurities about it, that we really don't notice each other's appearance that much at all.

All that said, please do not let body image issues get in the way of exercising outdoors or at the gym. YES, you will encounter a handful of people that look like they just dropped down from Olympus. The vast majority of others out exercising will look pretty much like you. If there are clothes you can wear that would enhance your performance, and be appropriate for the exercise you are doing - wear them! My fave sport is cycling, and I have ALL the gear (see above pic). Yes, it's kinda ridiculous looking. I you see those compression leggings, matched with striped socks, tight bike shorts with the big pad between the legs, it's silly. BUT, it's the most comfortable thing for cycling, and the long sleeve jersey was perfect for that day's weather, and the compression gear is great for my varicose vein issues.

Will you look awkward and klutzy your first few times at yoga, pilates, barre, etc? Oh, hell yes you will. So was everyone else in there at first, and I've never met an instructor that won't home in on the newbies and help them out.

So that's it  - get out there and get fit, regardless of how you think you look. If you are overweight, what better clothes to wear than workout clothes? It means you're ready to work on it! Later, when you have become more fit, you can look at yourself again and enjoy the change. Oh, and last word - when you do get more fit, people will notice and compliment you, but then after awhile that will stop because 'fit' is your new normal. You'll need to keep at it anyway :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

your dog wants to go for a walk

If you know just enough of my story to know that I used to be a fat, unhealthy guy, and now I'm a fit guy that does triathlons, runs 4 or 5 miles at a stretch routinely, and rides long distances on my bike, you are absolutely missing part of the story. I want to tell you about that missing part, just in case you're thinking 'oh geez, I guess the diet and exercise worked out well for HIM, but I could never do a triathlon, 10k or above, or any of that crazy stuff!'

You see, I didn't just wake up one day and say "well I haven't gone running in nearly 20 years, but  I've decided I'm a runner now so I'll go run 5 miles this morning." Well, actually I did do just that, and therein lies my point - that was a really STUPID idea. My body was nowhere near ready for that; true, I had taken my fat little dog for walks while I was losing weight, but just losing the weight did not prepare my body for that much running that quickly. Yes, after that first run I felt great. For a couple of weeks I was running daily, up to six miles at a time, and then one of my knees just seized up completely and I could barely walk. It turns out there's this thing in  your legs called an IT band? Anyway, it's a ligament that runs down the outside of your leg from hip to knee. The sudden increase in exercise severely over stressed my particular little IT band, and the spot where it attached to my knee was terribly inflamed and painful. My running career ground to a complete halt for several months. When it finally felt better, I resumed running, and started gearing up for the Dallas Marathon. Guess what happened? Well, that IT band apparently doesn't like freezing temps and running uphill, so part way through a 10 mile training run one dark 30 degree morning, my knee locked up and I fell on my face going up a hill. Only then did I go see a chiropractor and found out about the IT band - yes, it took having the same injury twice for me to go find out what was happening. As the weeks to the marathon slipped away, I tried to keep up with my conditioning by cycling (didn't stress the IT band that way) and stretching more often, but that was hampered because at this same time I was having a series of operations on my legs to address my varicose veins. With the marathon coming in December, I was barely able to do the one mile Turkey Trot fun run with my family on Thanksgiving. Ultimately, I had to skip the marathon, and got nothing out of the deal besides a cool work out shirt. Oh and then also my right foot/big toe was really hurting at the same time - so yeah, turned out I had some major bone spurs after all the running, plus all the marching in the Army with a heavy pack when I was younger, plus carrying the extra fat for so many years. A couple months after the marathon that I didn't run, I had foot surgery. Weeeee.

But wait, there's more! Just this past fall I joined a soccer team, after not playing since middle school. It was super fun, and my cardio conditioning absolutely paid off since I was able to keep up with the running up and down the field. Want to know what didn't work out? Playing too reckless and running into other players at full speed. TWICE I did that and seperated muscle/bones and such in my chest. Being nearly 50 and having chest pain on a soccer field sucks. I mean, I knew it wasn't a heart attack - I had just slammed my body into someone else HARD so clearly that was the cause of the pain, but still, it conjures up some scary scenarios. Anyway, it was ghastly painful and prevented a number of exercises for awhile. Last note on this topic before I move on to my point, I swear - a month or so ago I decided to try the rowing machine at the gym for some alternate cardio. Great machine. I asked a trainer to show me the proper form, then my second time doing it I promptly increased my time on the machine to 30 minutes, having done just 10 the first time, and all at an increased resistance. Well yes, yes indeed I did hurt my lower back and had to stop running and cycling for a bit in order to rehabilitate it.

You could come away from reading this thinking, "note to self - don't exercise! Don't leave the house! It'll hurt!" HOWEVER, I'd rather you come away thinking, "I should really think through what my exercise goals are, and plan accordingly/work up slowly." If you are wanting to start exercising, or are wanting to start exercising more consistently, don't get caught up in all the marathon/triathlon hype, at least not right away! Start small and go slow, it's okay! If there is a sport or activity you want to try - by all means check it out but do some thinking and research to see what that activity requires of your body and then honestly asses where you're at! A nagging injury that keeps you from exercising at all, or at least makes it more difficult, can absolutely derail you.

When I did my first half marathon, I fell apart in spectacular fashion at the ten mile mark because I hadn't properly fueled up. For the last 3.1 miles I did the wobbly leg baby giraffe walk and got totally beat by some guy that was over 70. The lesson that I'm still learning from that is that really I have another 20 to 30 years to do this sports stuff, so I don't have to conquer all the hills today. Neither do you. If you are just now starting your fitness regime, or if you're feeling discouraged because you miss gym days more often than you make them, your dog absolutely wants to go for a walk. Wouldn't it be nice for both of you? True, the runners, cross fit freaks, and barbell busters won't be impressed, but you'll have gotten pure vitamin D from the sun exposure, fresh oxygen will fill your lungs, your heart muscle will get some exercise, and you'll boost your metabolism for the whole day! Don't have a dog? Walk with your kid, walk with your spouse, walk with a coworker at lunch time - just do it! Is Jesus a friend of yours? Shoot, he'd love to chit chat with you as you walk along.

So, to review - exercise smart, plan your workouts so that you work up slowly and avoid injury, and let simple things like walks be your exercise if that's where you're at. That little picture of me and my dog Mandy is recent by the way - I'm still learning about taking the smart way, so some days I just take her for a walk, even though I do have to carry her up the hills.

I'd love to answer any questions that I can, or point you to some websites with good training info, so feel free to comment below!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

still fat

Hi friends! It's been awhile hasn't it? If you're reading this blog for the first time, welcome! If you are rejoining me, thanks so much!

To review; about four years ago I was really fat (bounded around between 225 and 240), and my doctor wanted to put me on meds for cholesterol (total was 246) and he cautioned me that my blood sugar was nearly diabetic. He didn't suggest dietary changes, nor did he say suggest exercise. Heaven forbid! I mean, there's good money in managing illness, and very little in getting people healthy...but I digress. Any-hoo, I gave up my BBQ hobby, ditched all meat and dairy, and got down to 165 lbs and a total cholesterol of about 140. Oh and I exercised seven days a week, like a maniac! Couldn't keep me out of the gym! Wow what a stud! Or not. Actually my exercise level during the majority of that weight loss time was pretty minimal - I went to the gym a little, took my fat little dog for walks...some days I counted walking from room to room in my house as exercise. Seriously, weight loss is SO all about diet.

After I lost weight, I got into endurance sports - running, cycling, and (begrudgingly) swimming. When I was in the weight loss phase, I didn't run at all. I figured I had run enough in my 20's while in the Army and had no inclination to ever do it again. Now, I've completed a couple half-marathon's (two weeks apart - funny story there for another time), done triathlons, and can comfortably ride my bike 40 miles. Swimming still feels like to me like a mad scramble to not die, but running and cycling is way fun.

So four years later I have this whole diet and exercise thing down pat, right? Oh. No. Not at all. Yesterday I had an epiphany - I'm still a total lard ass, between the ears. For as much as I love my endurance sports, I do not have a great attitude about working out, my motivation level is poor, over and over again I make training mistakes that result in injuries, and I have a heck of a time staying away from the sweet treats at times (didn't I mention I work at Starbucks now? Easy peasy convenient treat heaven. Oh my.)

Here's the thing - when I changed my diet four years ago, I worked from home where my fab and fit wife did all the cooking, and I could change up my schedule anyway I saw fit in order to work out. Same for when I got into the sports - totally easy to fit it in. Then, for several months, I didn't work at all, so long runs and bike rides were all kinds of easy. Now, however, I work, so it isn't always easy to fit in the fitness. Yesterday for example, I just didn't want to take the time to go to the gym. Running was out because I had a painful cut on the bottom of my heel (it's much better now, thanks to some essential oils - much more on that kind of topic going forward in this blog), and I declined to ride my bike because the wretched winds in my town were gusting over 40 mph - not real safe when you're guarded only by a lycra covering that's a couple millimeters thick, and 19 pounds of aluminum bike.

Here was the real kicker though, and hence my epiphany - I knew I could get in a workout right at home, but I decided not too out of sheer procrastination and laziness. I have not risen to the occasion of making a fitness a lifestyle in the midst of working, raising five kids that we homeschool, going along with my oh so motivated wife's many good plans, etc. I am FAT between the ears. Going forward, I'll blog along as I seek to improve in this area - hopefully it will be an encouragement to someone...or entertainment at least?

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 10, 2012

the ugly kid in class

Imagine you grew up being kinda on the homely side. Not hideous, where people would stand outside your house with pitchforks and torches, just definitely less than attractive, worse than mere 'plain' even. Had you been a homely kid, you probably would have been made fun of by the mean kids, and your homeliness would have been tolerated, or at least not pointed out, by nice kids. More than likely, as a homely kid you would have had at least one family member that teased you about your looks, because sometimes family members suck that way. As you grew older, homely, you would have been hearing less about your looks from others, but you'd have been hearing plenty from the voices inside that you had internalized from your mean classmates or mean family. Yep, those voices would still be loud and clear. Really, if you were homely, it would shape everything about  how you interacted with the world, every encounter with new people would be colored by their view of you, real or imagined by you, as homely.

Then imagine that one day you woke up and instead of being homely, you were rather nice looking. Not nice looking like people would want to put a poster of you up on their wall or cast you in their next movie or anything. Just nice looking enough that when you put on some decent clothes people would compliment you on your looks. That would really change how you interacted with the world around you, wouldn't it? No longer would you automatically feel like you stood out somehow in a negative way, you might start to feel like you could blend in to a crowd in a nice way. If you woke up nice looking like that, and stayed that way, when a stranger caught your eye for a moment, that might elicit a sincere smile instead of a quick look the other way.

You know where I'm going with this. I grew up being kinda on the big side. At certain stages growing up I was lean enough, but most of the time there was just this 'bigness' about me. That was reinforced for me by one family member that teased me about it, and also by other people that would just remark on how big I was. Not that it was always said in a mean way, just an observation, but, those voices stick. As I became an adult, I certainly didn't get any smaller. In the Army I was a healthy weight for the most part, but even then my image was that of a big guy. On long marches, who got to carry the big, crew fired machine gun AND all it's ammo AND all the gear that went with it? Me, the big guy. After the Army, I put some weight on and kept it on, though over the years my weight would veer sharply anywhere from around 210 to 245. It was common for strangers and store keepers to look alarmed when they saw me. More than once I was stopped by police and questioned about what I was doing, just while walking down the street. Yes, I know the tattoos and (at one time) long hair, and then later the shaved head, added to the imposing look, but still, the bigness was the main part of my image. Need something heavy lifted? Ask me, the big guy. Need someone for crowd control at an event of some kind? Yep, I gotcha covered. The fact that I'm a very pleasant and kind person, yet looked to many people like a big imposing threat, has been a long running joke among my family and friends for years.

At 181 pounds (plant based diet; results are typical) I'm just really not a big guy at all. When people say I look really thin now, it's not just them being nice, and their not just saying I'm thin in comparison to when I was around 230. I don't get the same nervous looks anymore, even with the shaved head and tattoos. In some ways I think I look a little older this way, because maybe my skin sags a little more now that it isn't plumped out with fat. Looking older I think takes away from the imposing look. Yes, it really changes how I interact with the world. I think I'll keep rockin' the veggies folks, this is good. This baby that my wife and I are going to welcome in a couple of weeks will be the first of our kids that won't ever know a big daddy.

When I went to Google to find a picture for this post, I was thinking, 'what's a good picture for transformation?' Well, I had my first big transformation when I was four years old, thanks to a kind family member (that 'thanks' is to you Paul), so of course the first thing that came to mind to represent transformation was the cross. Jesus loved me as the big kid, the fat man, the big scary guy, etc. He also loves the homely, the lame, the simple, and of course the beautiful and brightest as well. Even if I lost my mind and scarfed down cheeseburgers and BBQ until I was 400 pounds, I would have that transformation, from Jesus on the cross. Now THAT is some spectacular transformation; sinner to saint, poisoned to blessed - Jesus Christ; results are typical.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pastry and Ice Cream and Cookies, OH MY!

Hi Friends!

My family and I just got back from 10 days of vacation in California. Mostly we visited family and friends. Also, we ate, and that's what I'll talk about here since this is mostly a food blog. Some folks were super weirded out and nervous to have us over for dinner because of the way we eat (or maybe it was also cuz there are six of us, and our children eat like locusts - come to think of it, they might get that from me...). Other people just took it in stride - one sweet family we  visited with had made chocolate dipped strawberries and banana slices using non-dairy chocolate, and had also picked up a bag of Trader Joe's Vegan Chocolate Chip cookies - they said "we didn't want you to feel like you had to compromise." AWESOME! What a way to feel welcomed, right? That was a great evening on many counts, and happily the food matters were a secondary (maybe tertiary) thing so we could just relax and have a great visit. Other than that visit, I was fully in vacation mode when it came to desserts - Marie Calendar's pie (twice), Auntie Nona's chocolate cookies (YUM), chocolate chip twist at a wonderful bakery in Laguna, etc. I'm pretty sure I ate my weight in avocados - plenty of those here in Texas, but in CA they are just so much more prevalent. When I got on the scale yesterday morning, our first full day home, I was up four pounds, but today I'm back down two from that. I'm guessing that within another couple of days back home I should be back to 187. (EDIT - as of today, the third morning back, I'm back to 187).

Lately I've been considering taking up some kind of endurance sport, because it seems like that would be a good way to get REALLY lean. Any suggestions? Running probably wouldn't suit me - bad knee and flat feet; biking is cool but my old mountain bike is in a sad state of disrepair - besides, a road bike would make way more sense in the flatness of Texas and the notable lack of any riding surface other than pavement around here; swimming? hmm, too cold most of the year. Well, something will come up, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

227 and 40 - 188 and 34

Just taking an opportunity to make a quick post here - my 'office' downstairs is being cleaned so I'm upstairs committing chronocide.

When I started this journey in March, I weighed 227 pounds and my pants were a size 38 waist. That does not mean that my waist measured 38 inches, it just means that I wasn't willing to admit that I had gotten fatter by buying bigger pants. Instead, I did what many middle age guys do - started wearing my pants lower. In the dress pants that I used to wear for work, my belt was creeping ever lower down the front of growing belly, and with shorts I just gave up and wore them around my hips. I'm estimating that my actual waist size was 40 inches, but it could have been bigger. I won't name names here, but a number of guys I know have said 'oh my pants are a size 36' or 'I've been wearing a size 34' since high school.' DeNIAL. Yes, I am sure their pants ARE that size, but they have stomachs that hang over their belts, which are located perilously close to the top of their butt crack instead of many inches higher where their waist actually is.

As of Tuesday, I weigh 188 pounds, and bought some new pants that are a size 34 because I can actually wear those where they are supposed to be worn. Of the three pair I bought, they all fit a bit differently because they are from different makers. In all honestly, one pair is a wee bit tight when worn at my waist, BUT, I am not done slimming down. Not yet. None of the three are anywhere near close fitting enough to make me look like a grape smuggler.

I don't have a firm idea of a goal weight or size, but I do know that when I started this, 177 (a 50 pound loss) seemed daunting. At 188, it seems downright feasible, like maybe even in the next 4 to 6 weeks. Could I be a size 32 eventually? Do I have what it takes to keep going to the gym and working hard five days a week? What if I got to 170? In any case, it's a fun project so I will keep going. Well, fun, and I also feel way  better and I'm plenty more healthy and energetic.

It's comforting to know that I'm not headed for a big ol' backslide (or a big ol' back side) when my diet changes, because I don't intend to change it. Why would I? I still LOVE eating, and there is nothing I miss enough to go back to the fat. Besides, I still choose to eat food sometimes that is not exactly fantastic for my body, but is fantastic for my mental and emotional well being. For instance, last week I lost three pounds, and that was despite having a mini cupcake with my daughter on her date day, and splitting a big basket of fries with my six year old while watching the Rangers game at our local sports bar/restaurant. I'm free to eat whatever I want! Happily, I don't actually want meat and cheese after not having it this long. French fries I will ALWAYS want, so I will have them once in awhile. And cupcakes...those are too lovely to swear off forever. So there you have it - my diet can be described as plant based, no meat, no dairy, VERY limited oil, plus french fries and cupcakes. Shoot, what doctor would say that was bad, right?

This journey is worth it. Beyond worth it. Care to join me?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Happy Herbivore and the Crampy Carnivore

I mentioned awhile ago that my wife and I were getting a bit bored with our plant based eating. To rectify that situation, we went recipe book shopping (on our anniversary!) and bought a fantastic book called "The Every Day Happy Herbivore." Did I call it fantastic? It's ultra-fantastic! So far we've tried the pesto sauce, quick black bean burgers (pictured at left on Ezekial 4:9 toast), Tortuga Rum Cake, and some desserty thing that included yummy cinnamon and apple bits. I won't risk turning the Happy Herbivore into the Angry Carnivore by posting her recipes for free here online, but lemme just say that her quick black bean burgers are QUICK and have very few ingredients. Off the top of my head I could easily recite the whole recipe! Super tasty of course! Oh, and the pesto sauce (ludicrously simple, and totally lovely) is great on pasta of course, but also great as a salad dressing. There is no meat or dairy in her recipes, and if there is any oil it's just the spray kind I think. She offers the suggestion of using parchment paper to keep things from sticking during baking, instead of spray - of course! Great idea. Oh, my link section here includes a link to the Happy Herbivore's blog - check her out and say hello for me! Or just check her out and don't say hello for me because we're not close. As in we've never met - she's an actual chef with a real blog, vs whatever this is that I do here.

LAST week my family and I were in Buena Vista, CO for a family camp that we were blessed with for FREE because one of our kids had melanoma, and the one we're expecting has some of her organs developing on the outside of her body - silly baby. For more on those stories, you can check out Zion's Caringbridge site and Selah Jane's Caringbridge site (Zion is not in the picture there on the left just because he was having some altitude sickness, not some horrible melanoma manifestation, and my wife wisely declined that particular hike, what with being 6 and a half months pregnant).

Along with this vacation time came some food choice challenges. On the way there, we stopped at a Denny's, and were pleased to find a veggie burger among all the bacon wrapped and cheese stuffed mystery meat items. I enjoyed the veggie burger very much, but my wife felt it had too heavy of a soy taste. At a hotel breakfast I tried a breakfast burrito, sans meat and cheese, but did include Egg Beaters - will NOT be going any further down the Egg Beater Road. Along with being an animal product (albeit with no cholesterol), it turns out they have zero taste and a bunch of bullsh ingredients.

Once at the camp, we did inquire at some meals about alternate offerings if everything being served was heavy on the animal products, but this being a totally free ride we declined to be picky. For the most part we were able to stay plant-strong with our eating, but I did make one exception on purpose. Breakfast one day was cooked outdoors over an open fire, at a gorgeous mountain site reached by horseback -the offerings were French toast (served by being flung from the chef to the recipient about 10 feet away, a game as well as a meal! ) with plenty of dairy, eggs with bacon and cheese and such, and quesadillas with eggs and cheese. I happily ate some of that, and the next day the breakfast was sandwiches with eggs, cheese, and bacon and I ate that because it was what was offered. Later that day, I was in some abdominal PAIN. That did not encourage me to embark on a return to the land of meat and dairy. At all.

Back now at home and in our happy plant heavy kitchen, I'm way more happy with my eating, and still dropping weight - 192 yesterday, whoo HOO!! I used to always grill up a huge steak on Father's Day, but this Sunday we'll be cooking up some fantastic vegan Thai. Can't wait!