Listen to Learn and Lose!

Photo by jonas mohamadi from Pexels

Listen to Lose
Photo by jonas mohamadi from Pexels
Listen to Lose!

When people start on a weight-loss journey,  they talk too much.  They talk about the latest diet they are trying or the latest fitness craze that they are meaning to get to tomorrow.  But talk is cheap.  You need to listen to lose! Listen to your heart, listen to your body, and  listen to others.

  1. Listen to your heart. The you that you are meant to be is one heart beat away.  So, listen what your heart is telling you to do.  Do not turn to things that stress you out.  The latest fitness craze does nothing if your heart is not in it.  It just stresses you out and will cause you to stop when you are discouraged.  Instead, do what you love.  Also, be thankful for what you have.  A thankful heart is a stress free, restful heart.  Stress is often the reason for losing sleep and gaining weight.  Lastly, strive for a goal that inspires you.  Your heart needs to be in it to win it!
  2. Listen to Your Body.  Your body knows what it wants.  That is the reason too many hamburgers and fries give you indigestion.    Feed your body with the good stuff.  Choose vegetables and fruit over candy and sugar.  Remember, just like listening to someone, you must listen to your body closely to understand what it is saying.  You may think is  saying I need sleep when in  reality your body is saying I need to exercise and get energy, or I am dehydrated, and I need water. 
  3. Listen to Others. Some people are struggling as you are and may have caught on to something new that you have yet to discover.  Others may have won their battle with weight and have inspiring stories and important teachings to tell.  Also, when you have met your target, listen to others to pass on your lessons and to provide you with a reason to stay on track. 

Like all things, you learn more through listening than talking.  So close your mouth, open your ears to Listen, Learn and Lose!

The Fab Four of Fitness and Football

This is the third in my blog series Heroes in Health.  The first two in this series (linked below) examined two recent heroes who have helped me and others on our path to health. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/06/10/heroes-of-health-series-episode-2-corey-the-cycling-king/ https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/05/13/heroes-in-health-episode-1-mother-of-weight-loss-and-a-freestyle-life/

On this one I reach back almost 40 years to examine the lessons learned from four men who were then as they are now on the cutting edge of fitness and health: the four football coaches of Northern Burlington Regional High School in the late seventies – Coaches Charlie Pirrello, Hank Kearns, Carmen Pastore, and Gary Smith.  Beyond football, these four men taught me more than fitness.  They taught me and others how to be men, to put team before self, and to judge on merit not title, race, or creed.

Coach Charlie Pirrello, the head coach of the fab four is a legend in NJ High School Football.  The 2018 inductee to the NJ Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame he has led 7 teams to the State Championship in his 50 years of coaching.  The first of these was led by my 1981 class that won on the last play of the game.  Unfortunately, I had moved to Texas after my Junior season and missed it.  But I still felt part of the team and loved seeing my quarterback (I was a Center), Chris Warrington throwing the winning pass! 

Hank the Tank Kearns, the Defensive Coordinator and JV Coach, was equally a big influence in my life.  His nickname Tank was an understatement; he was more like the Hulk.  I still remember when the linebackers were not deploying correct tackling form, he jumped in there without pads and flattened the running back!  Hank is still a fitness inspiration to me.  I follow he, Coach Pirrello and Pastore on Facebook and Hank is either biking or doing some other fitness activity. 

Carmen Pastore was the Offensive Coordinator. A former college football quarterback Coach Pastore helped orchestrate our vaunted Veer Option Offense that first came into vogue in 1975.  It was cutting edge then as it is now. 

Last was Coach Smith who taught the backs.  My brother’s coach, I remember him for his humor.  One day I went up to look at the depth chart.  Instead of seeing Donnie and Gary Grier the names on the list where Abnormal and Normal Grier.  He gave me the nickname Abnormal because of my intensity, the fact that I was on the line, and the way I yelled at the top of my lungs “Huddle” when gathering the team.  I wore that name like a badge of honor since I was a gruff lineman and linebacker while my brother was a defensive and offensive back.

The Fab Four are great coaches and leaders of men for these four and many other reasons:

  1. Constantly striving for excellence through learning and adapting.   The coaches of NBC were constantly looking for new ways and techniques to get better.  I looked forward to each summer training sessions when the coaches would return with the latest fitness techniques.  Two I remember distinctly are the Total Fatigue Weightlifting Circuit and interval running with proper technique.  Total Fatigue included completing a circuit of weightlifting that went from largest muscles (legs) to smallest muscles (triceps).  I still do the regime today since it has become one of the key approaches to gain muscle mass and endurance.  Back then it was new.  They also emphasized negative training (2 seconds up and at least 4 seconds down).  Next was interval training where we first practiced our running form (I still attempt to run like Hank the Tank taught me to this day) before completing sprint intervals.  One last thing that sticks in my mind is there willingness to adapt when something did not work. One year our football camp included three a days and we really worked hard – overly hard.  The coaches realized that we worked out too much resulting in a few injuries.  The next year they adapted when they added a rest period in Coach Pastore’s pool which resulted in a better record. 
  2.  Inspiration is as important as perspiration.  Each year the coaches made a playbook that we needed to memorize from cover to cover and guard with our lives.  The secret sauce of the playbook was not just the cutting-edge plays from the Veer Option, it also contained fitness and nutrition tips and life lessons.  I wish I still had that playbook because the quotes were so inspiring.  But you can get a good feel for them by reading Coach Pirrello’s Twitter feed.  Here is one recent one.  “I am your coach. When you get discouraged, I will encourage you. When you come up short, I want to help you come up big next time. And I will never give up on you even if you give up on yourself.” Charlie Pirrello.  He never gave up on us and today I still draw inspiration from these four great men. 
  3. Judge each man by his merit.  The late Seventies and early Eighties was a difficult time to coach.  The drug culture was in vogue.  In addition, there was sometimes difficulties in race relations.  NBC had one of the most diverse teams in the state having McGuire Air Force base in our school.  Also because of McGuire Air Force Base, we had new people coming into team each year.  I remember distinctly the day Willie Drewery joined my class in my Sophomore year.  Unknown to the program at the time, he was welcomed in with open arms and became a linchpin. He later went on to a Professional Career.   The coaches never differentiated on race, creed or color. All that matter was your football ability and the content of your character.  One way they enforced this is making the team hold hands in the huddle and by teaming up weight training partners from different races and cultures.  Lastly, our pre-game ritual included listening to equal doses of Bruce Springsteen and Chic that had a big hit at that time.  In this way, we avoided the fighting that went on in some of our rival schools.
  4. Care for Each Player.  The coaches spent time with each player if they gave a 100% and strove to be a team player.  My brother was a football talent, playing Varsity his sophomore year.  I was less of a talent playing second team Varsity and first team JV.  Even so the coaches never neglected me and worked with me to make me the best player I could be.  ,They also were always there for you.  I still have the note from Coach Pirrello to my new football coach when I had to leave for Texas for my Senior Year.   I still choke up reading it and the care Coach P gave.  I was never going to break Franco Harris’s Freshman Rushing record like my brother, but he and his coaching staff still treated me with the same respect and care.  To this day, one of my greatest awards is winning MVP for the Junior Varsity team my Junior Year.  To me, winning that award for NBC was the highlight of my high school athletic career and one of the highlights of my life. 

One last thing to say.  Charlie was not only my coach.  He was more importantly my World History teacher and one of the best teachers I ever had.  He was just as inspirational and engaging in class as he was on the field. 

40 years is a long time and a blink of the eye.  Whatever the years, the fab four still shape the man I am today!

Fitness: A Corporate and Personal Responsibility

Accenture fitness walk to raise money for Vets
Memorial Walk for Veterans

I had the good fortune in my early adult life to be in the Army.  One of the perks in the Army is that you are paid to work-out every day.  It was part of your role description and responsibility.  An unfit soldier will put himself and his platoon at risk.   I therefore had the pleasure and pain both at West Point and later active duty to exercise on a regular basis.  Sometimes, it was exhilarating like singing cadence at the top of your lungs while on a battalion run.  Other times brutal, such as the yearly Obstacle Course administered by the Department with a Heart at West Point. All of it good, necessary and part of your job description!

This all seemed to change when I left the Army and joined the consulting world.  Early morning calls replaced morning PT.  Long hours on planes and in front of a desk slinging code took a toll on my health.  It seemed in my mind at the time that fitness and taking care of myself was no longer part of my job description or even opposed to it.  I and companies at that time did not yet see the impact of wellness on work.   The drive for more billable hours and seemingly higher productivity dominated.   This corporate culture (or my take on it) resulted in weight gain, lost health, and a decline in productivity over time.

Luckily the corporate culture and my thought processes have recently changed.  Corporate wellness programs, such as Accenture’s Truly Human Campaign are now focused on fitness and the human aspects of work.  To read about this campaign, look at my prior blog here: https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/09/04/five-accenture-wellness-programs-that-saved-my-life/

Like the Army, corporations have now come to realize that being fit is a necessary part of the job.  Indeed, wellness is almost as important to the survival and strength of the company as it is to an Army platoon.  Here are three reasons why:

  1.  Improves Decision Making.  The enemy of all good decisions is stress.  Exercise and fitness help relieve stress and keep away fatigue. A simple 20-minute walk will provide a few minutes to clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the problem on hand.  Better yet, get up and walk around the office when taking a phone call meeting when things get heated. The simple step of standing up will shake off the cobwebs that tend to collect during back to back calls. 
  2. Builds Comradery.   The best thing about the Army was the comradery.  One way it was built was through morning PT.  While I am not advocating each company go on a company run each morning, I am recommending a common fitness program like Accenture Active.  This program has really helped me to know my colleagues better through fitness events (MS 150, Annual Veterans Walk, etc.) and programs (active rewards programs, Fitbit competition).  One example was a random competition that I and some colleagues engaged in on one Saturday.  One of my friends started a Fitbit weekend competition and although we were all in different states, we kept apprised with the others’ progress.   We all engaged in friendly and sometimes hilarious banter through the Fitbit app as we each surpassed 10 miles.
  3. Cuts Down on Sick Days.  Staying fit helps to keep you out of the doctor’s office and in yours during working hours.  Research conducted at Brigham Young University, the Center for Health Research at Healthways and the Health Enhancement Research Organization, suggests unhealthy eating is linked with a 66% increased risk of loss of productivity while lack of exercise is associated with a 50% increase risk of low productivity. My experience bears this out.  Before returning to fitness, I was habitually hit with bronchitis and, at least twice a year, pneumonia.  Both resulted in sick days and loss of productivity when I worked through it.  Since returning to my target weight in Nov. 2015, I have had neither bronchitis or pneumonia.  Not sure how many days have been saved but approximate it as at least a week a year.  And, an increase of productivity on those days that I should have been recovering and drove through and worked despite my illness.

These are just the top three reasons why you should consider staying fit as part of your role description as a consultant.  Increased productivity, esprit de corps and better decisions are just three reasons exercise is an imperative in the working world.  Let me close with a cadence I wrote for my team as we run from one project to another:

Everywhere we go,

people want to know,

who we are,

where we come from,

so, we tell them,

we are Accenture,

Pivot Wise Accenture,

Future forward Accenture,

focus on the human Accenture.

Hooah!

Pivot to the Future You!

I recently read Pivot to the Future, a new book by Accenture’s Omar Abbosh, Paul Nunes and Larry Downes. I highly recommend it for all IT professionals and, less expected, for individuals seeking weight loss. The concepts in the book can help those striving for a happier, healthier life!

Pivot to the Future highlights the key elements of Accenture and its client’s recent success.  The key point of the book is to show how Accenture and other top tier companies are releasing trapped value by continuously conducting a Wise Pivot.  A Wise Pivot is leveraging the lessons of the old and applying them with the tools of new in releasing trapped value.   

As I thought about it, I applied this concept in my weight loss journey to build a better, more fit and engaged me!    The new tools that I applied were the research and technology provided by WW and others to drive into new habits, new thoughts, and new ideas while leveraging the old!

1. A New Take on Habits – In every bad habit, there is the seed of a good habit.  Charles Duhigg explains this in his phenomenal book, The Power of Habit.  Each habit consists of a trigger, a method to get a reward, and a reward.  The key concept is it is sometimes hard to change the trigger or reward, but you can achieve it in a different way.  All you need to do is pivot to a new method of achieving the reward and its manifestation.

One example of how I did this was my addiction to Diet Coke.  Even though it is called Diet Coke, it is not good for diets (although somewhat better then leaded coke).   I used to drink 4 – 6, 16 ounces of Diet Coke’s a day, which was not good for my heart condition and weight at the time (358 lbs.).   After studying this habit, I realized the reward I was getting from drinking Diet Coke was an energy boost to momentarily take away fatigue and satisfying my craving for carbonation.  I soon realized my fatigue was attributable to a lack of hydration.  I therefore switched out Diet Coke with sparkling water that better reduced my fatigue and hydrated me! Now instead of consuming double or triple my daily allowance of sodium and caffeine, I am satisfying my fatigue and carbonation fix while hydrating!  I Pivoted to the New through my examination of the old (read more on this here https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/04/13/fat-to-fit-again-the-power-of-habit/).

2. A New Way of Thinking – Another key element where you can seize on the old to achieve the new is thoughts.   We often focus on negative memories when we are dealing with a problem.  But likely there is an equally compelling positive experience to counter the negative one.  The key is finding the positive and discarding the negative. Two ways to emphasize the positive and disregard the negative is mindfulness and keeping a gratitude journal.  These two new practices have often helped me to find a positive example to counter the negative ones racing though my head.  Also, it is important to remember that each failure is a lesson to propel you forward!  Here is added insights on how to change your thoughts and change your life. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/07/01/stop-the-negative-talk-and-take-a-walk/

3.  New Ideas from the Old Each old idea holds the root of the new!  This is as true in wellness as it is in business.  Here is an example of an old idea turned new idea in health. 

Calorie counting has been an element of weight loss ever since people have sought to lose weight. However, we have subsequently learned that not all calories are created equal. A calorie of protein satisfies more than a calorie of saturated fat. Likewise, it once was thought that a good dose of fiber could counter the ill effects of sugar (not true).

The way I blend the old idea of calorie counting with the newest research on wellness is to use WW’s Smart Points. Since I began, 4 years ago, WW has changed their point system three times; each time incorporating the new research of weight loss with the old discipline of watching what you eat. Each change built on the former one and research to build a better path to wellness. Instead of chasing fads, I believe mixing the new with the proven tenets of the past to build a better future!

You too can change the old you into the future healthier you.  Use these three concepts to create a healthier you and a better world.

5 Melodies to Melt the Pounds

Counting calories, exercising, and mindfulness are all common tools for weight loss.  But one critical tool that people sometimes fail to consider is music.  The right song at the right time can drive through that last mile.  It can take your mind away from the stress and away from late night refrigerator raids.  Lastly, a timely tune can inspire you through the hardship, the self-loathing and to a new you.

I can testify to the power of music in curbing the calories and the negative thoughts.  I could name 100’s of songs that kept me going in my 170 lbs. weight loss journey.  More importantly, music has been instrumental in keeping the weight off. 

Each person is different.  My songs may not be your songs but here are my Top 5. 

  1. Theme from Rocky – This one is my favorite song for two scenarios.  First, it is hard to stop going no matter how tired you are when you here the first note of the Rocky theme.  Many times, I was on my last leg only to go another mile after hearing Rocky.  Second, I have a food strategy based on the Rocky theme.  The equivalent of an Apollo Creed, first round punch is my weekend eating habits.   In my case, I tend to eat too many Smart Points (unhealthy calories for you not in WW) on Saturday after a long week and my Saturday weigh-in.  I usually end up with very few weekly Smart Points by Sunday.  That is when the first chime of the Rocky song comes into my head.  The rest of the week I eat healthy, exercise and gain back some of the weekly Smart Points.  The whole time that I am doing the Rocky strategy the tune is running in the back of my mind.  If you want to use this strategy, here is a link to the Rocky Theme. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=liPSTWdYiKs
  2. Don’t Stop Believing, Journey – There were many reasons for me to give up when I first started losing weight.  Tipping the scale at over 350 lbs. with sleep apnea and a heart condition to boot, it was hard to believe I would ever turn it around.  Roadblocks and obstacles stood around every corner.  But,  that is when I would crank up Journey and run through the stirring chorus “Don’t stop believin’, Hold on to that feelin” .  The feeling and dream that I held on to was I could again be healthy.   NEVER stop believing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcjzHMhBtf0
  3. One Thing Remains, Jesus Culture – This may be the least traditional weight loss song, but to me this is the most important.  Self-hatred and fear were two things I had to overcome both in getting healthy and life in general.  When you don’t know were to turn, you should seek love.  To me,  Jesus is love.  And as the song goes “His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me”.  This has become my favorite song when facing the negative thoughts and fears running through my mind.  I am forever grateful for our Life Teen Minister for introducing it to me.  Another benefit of this song is I sing it so loud when it comes on that I am sure to drop a pound or two.  For you have not had an opportunity to hear it, here is a link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KXsMCJgBQ
  4. Shake it Off, Taylor Swift  – My cycling instructor Corey often mashes up songs with those of Taylor Swift to inspire us.  He says that Taylor Swift goes with everything and he is right, especially when it comes to weight loss.  Besides the song being so danceable that you must move, its lyrics are compelling.  To paraphrase, if you have a bad day, instead of eating a bag of M&M’s just shake if off!  I included a link just in case you were heading to the refrigerator now to drown your day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM
  5. YMCA, Village People –  This is a no brainer.  First, it talks about going to the gym!  So,  if you are thinking about staying on the couch, just turn this oldie up.  Second, it is even more danceable than Shake It Off and it comes with its own choreographed dance moves!   Last some of the lyrics resonate including the initial ones “Young man, there’s no need to feel down. I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground. I said, young man, ’cause you’re in a new town. There’s no need to be unhappy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeADaAg0f_w

Get happy and lift yourself off the ground!  Find your own songs or use these to melt the pounds and become healthy!

The Essentialist’s Playbook for Weight Loss

Most people try anything and everything to lose weight when first starting.  They will try the latest supplements, liquid diets, eating only select foods (cabbage soup anyone), the hottest fitness craze, eating at only certain times – you get the picture.  Let’s do A through Z and sticks to the wall and un-sticks my diet.

I was a proponent of the more is more approach for years and it didn’t work.  Over the years as my weight climbed and my hope failed, I tried everything, many simultaneously, from being a vegetarian (failed because M&M’s are not meat!), popping Green Tea pills, cleansing in various ways, the latest exercise craze, and on and on… Then I discovered two things.  Weight Watchers (WW) and the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18077875-essentialism .  Both teach the same thing – Do less, but better.   The key to weight loss and a better, more successful life is by correctly assessing the few important priorities, focusing on these priorities exclusively, and dumping the rest.  Mr. McKeown provides how to do this in his book and WW in its classed for a Essentialist’s Playbook for Weight Loss.

 You can lose 170+ pounds like me by not doing everything but these three things:

  1. Track everything you eat or drink.  The best way to know how to lose weight is to track what you eat.  By consciously tracking your food intake, you will better understand portion control and the trigger foods you need to avoid.  You use this along with weekly weight tracking to find out what works and what foods to avoid.  That way you focus on what works, rather than trying everything that doesn’t!
  2. Be kind for yourself.  You can’t focus on what is important if you are unhealthy in body or your soul.  It is therefore important to focus on your health both mentally and physically.  Take time to journal positive thoughts, rest, and relax.  A few minutes a day of being kind to yourself will not only help you lose the stress that sabotages most people’s health.
  3. Take time to exercise.  Study upon study have shown that sitting is the equivalent or worse to smoking for health.  It does not take much to get the exercise your body needs and craves.  Get up for 10 minutes every hour and take a walk.  Also, block out 30 minutes in the morning to recharge and energize. 

Bottom line:  You do not need to do A through Z to lose weight and be a better you!  All you need is the essential 1-2-3!  Go out and practice Essentialism to gain a new body and soul.

In Just Spring

In Just-

Spring   when the lame

middle-aged man

runs   far and    wee!

And the ground-beneath

is puddle-painful

From too-much running  too-soon,

As the hobbled, middle-aged man

limps slow—ly   far and wee!

The above is my take on e.e. cummings’ classic  “In Just Spring” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47247/in-just after my first run in Spring. Everyone wants to get out and lose those 10 pounds of insulation gained during the Winter months.  But before you go out and become the little lame woman or man, here are three rules to follow In Just Spring.

Take it Slow – It is always tempting to walk that extra mile or two when the weather gets warm and the bluebonnets are out.  That is exactly what I, my wife, and our dog Boots attempted to do on the trails on Brushy Creek.  Even with a stop at a sandwich shop for a quick bite, we ended up struggling to make it back to our car.  We ended up dragging our 70 lbs., huffing Bernese Mountain dog the last few yards.  We are still recovering!

The lesson learned is simple.  Do not overdue it with the first flowers of spring.  In the winter it is a struggle to get out and about (read how so in this blog https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/12/09/baby-its-cold-outside-but-exercise-anyway/ ).  Now that the weather is more conducive to exercise don’t try to catch up all in one day.  Take your time to slowly build up your miles, so you too don’t become the little lame woman or man (or dog!).

Do the essential – A corollary to the first rule is to focus on the essential.  In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg Mckeown says that the key to success to health and life in general is to do “less but better”.  When waking up after our winter fog, it is tempting to try everything at once to get fit.  It is understandable, we are excited to get swimsuit ready for the summer.  So we take up the latest diet, try a myriad of fitness fads, and buy the newest exercise equipment from Amazon.  But it is better to focus of the essentials.  Track the food you eat diligently, get plenty of sleep, and focus on the now.  Don’t do everything! Do the essential well to enjoy the Spring and the new you.

Be in the Moment – The flowers are in bloom and the sun is out.  It is time to focus on the now and enjoy the new life of Spring.  One way to take it slow is to take in nature.  Sit on a bench.  Take a picture.  Lie in the bluebonnets like Boots the dog!  Clear your mind of anxiety and enjoy the blooming beauty all around you.

Dog in Bluebonnets

Follow these rules to avoid becoming the little lame, middle-aged woman or man.  Spring into the season and a new you!

Back in the Saddle for St. Jude’s

This Friday marked a major milestone on my road to recovery from a major heart procedure.  A little worse for the wear but not so bad if I do say so myself.  Luckily our instructor did not end her usual unleash song, Tina Turner’s Rolling Down the River.  I would have ended up breaking Rule 2 below and looking more worn.  I simply can’t resist going 120 RPM’s on the chorus of that song. 

For those of you follow my blog regularly, you know how much I love spin class.  I fell in love with the music, movement, and madness that is spin about a year ago.  It is indeed one of my favorite ways to relieve stress.  But before getting back in the saddle, I first had to follow these three rules:

1. Rest, recover, relax.  This first rule was the hardest for me.  Having lost a ton of weight a few years ago, I was nervous that taking time off to rest and recover would throw me back off track.   So, I did a very stupid thing and broke this rule.  I went for a long 5 mile walk the day after returning from the hospital.  Initially, I felt great as you can read in this blog. https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/02/13/a-heart-filled-with-gratitude-and-love/ But, it was not to last.  During that whole week, I was recovering from the walk.

If I was going to get healthy,I needed to go back to the basics and follow this first rule.  So, I took the entire next weekend completely off and rested and relaxed.  It did a world of good and sped up the healing process.  It is very important to take time for yourself and relax after surgery before diving into your normal regimen. 

2. Ease back into exercise.  The second step after taking time to rest is to ease back into exercise.  As much as I wanted to, I did not get on the bike until three weeks later.  Instead, I went back to basics and walked at a much slower pace and for shorter distances than that first Sunday.  This less strenuous regimen provided two major advantages.  First it allowed the bruise around the insertion point to heal.  Second, it gave me a benchmark on my heart rate and gave me confidence the procedure had worked.  I now was ready to take the plunge (or in this case the seat!

3. Unleash without fear.  The last step is perhaps the most important one.  Once you have taken the time to recover, you cannot be afraid to test the limits.  It is the same lesson we all learned as kids.  Get back on the bike when you have fallen off!  I did watch my Fitbit carefully the first few songs but then gave into the vibe!  You must trust in the professionalism of your Doctor’s and your own preparation.  Get back in the saddle and ride!

And that is what I did and will continue doing.  This coming Saturday, I will again be participating in Lifetime’s Ride for A Reason to fund the good work of St. Jude’s Children Hospital.  Last year I rode all four hours and will hopefully do so again if the three rules allow.  Please consider supporting the good work of St. Jude’s through a donation at the link below.  The last picture is of me after last year’s event. https://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=4996114&pg=personal&fr_id=103544

A Heart Filled with Gratitude and Love

Last Sunday I walked Brushy Creek trail like so many Sundays before.  But something was different.  It wasn’t the light rain that was falling or the new audiobook on my iPhone.  No, this day was different because of the overwhelming gratitude that I felt as the rain touched my face.

The morning before I was discharged from the hospital after a six-hour heart procedure.  Sounds like something that might not elicit gratitude.  But in me it did.  You see a scant 4 years ago making it through or even to the procedure would not have been likely.  Weighing in at a hefty, 358 lbs. breathless and bloated, I was stressed out and strident   To read more how about how I came to this unfortunate state, read here. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/04/09/fit-to-fat-lessons-learned-while-doubling-my-weight/

I needed a change to get healthy and I needed help to make the change.  Luckily, God set people in my life that helped me to get fit.  He also guided the hands of the gifted doctors and the kind deeds of caring nurses to bring me through on the other side.  I began that Friday with a heart that was broken and left with a heart filled with gratitude and love!

As I slowly walked, amazed that I could do so after the procedure, I looked back on five things for which I was grateful. 

  1. First is God.  Throughout my journey to better health, God put people in my path, thoughts in my head, and love in my heart.  One such person is Father Mike Schmitz whose podcasts taught me to love myself, love others and to love God.  Another person is the ICU chaplain who is responsible for producing weekly Christian Meditations.  These meditations have helped me to become calmer and look to God for answers.  Less everyone think that God only works through podcasts, time and time again, events occurred at of nowhere to lead on me on the right path.  One example is the company email that I got for a discount to Wellness that Works on the day I was about to give up (more on this organization in number 3). More recently, I have found passion and purpose as a Core member with my church’s Lifeteen group. 
  2. Next are the doctors and nurses of Austin Heart.  This gifted group correctly diagnosed my condition five years ago and set me on the pathway to health.  With medication and skill, they helped me to get my initial problem under control, so I could lose the water and weight.  With a stronger heart, I was able to exercise and get fit.  More recently, they were able to diagnose a second serious problem and address it with my recent procedure.  These doctor and nurses listed to my concerns and thoughtfully guide my decisions. 
  3. Third is WW, the organization formerly know as Weight Watchers and now Wellness that Works.  This organization and its Round Rock lead Julie Faircloth provided lessons, tools and nurturing support that have brought both fitness and comradery.  There are no better friends than my Saturday group.  To read more about this amazing group, read this blog https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/04/22/the-whys-of-weight-watchers/
  4. Fourth is my company.  The culture of Accenture is inclusive and empowering, its program to support employees Truly Human gave me the tools and time to take time for me and to ultimately become more productive. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/09/04/five-accenture-wellness-programs-that-saved-my-life/
  5. Lastly and most importantly is my family and friends.  My wife has helped me through and loved me, through my weight gain and my journey to health.  She has been a rock and helped me through the recent procedure staying with me every step of the way.  She is kind but firm, leading me on the right path.  She is my hero and my heart!

And then the walk was done.  The rain had stopped, and the sun now shown as gratitude flowed in my repaired heart!

Change Your Environment, Change Your Life!

The key to improving your health and losing weight is your environment.  We in the 21st century live in a toxic environment.  Artificial food, false friends, and feelings of discontent lead to stress, weight gain and self-medication.  To embark on a journey toward health, we need to put away the fast food, vitriol and anxiety of everyday living to embrace real food, real experiences, mindfulness and thankfulness.

Man in field of bluebonnets
55 Bday Picture

I know I lived in that environment up until a few years back and experienced its negative consequences.   With ready access to Quarter Pounders, Diet Cokes, and M&Ms, I doubled my size and diminished my disposition.  These unhealthy eating practices were exacerbated by too much face time at work and Facebook for leisure.   The result was an unhealthy, grumpy middle-aged man who could not walk around the block.  Something had to change!  Only when I started to change my environment did I change my life!

There were three aspects to my environment that I decided to change in January 2015.  Weighing more than all but three of the heaviest players in the NFL with a goods deal less muscle tone and height, I had to take the following actions to change my environment and restore my hearth:

  1. Changed my food environment.  The first aspect that I set out to change was my pantry.  There were several nemeses that I had to swap out.  The first was Ice Cream.  I was an absolute ice cream fanatic.  So much so that I created an acronym for my Ice Cream addiction – ICR.  This is how it is used.  Once my kids could drive, I would call out – “Hey, Kyle can you go on an ICR.  Get me a large M&M blizzard and get something for everyone else.”   ICR if you have not figured out yet is Ice Cream Run and it supplemented the ice cream I already had in the freezer.  In addition to Ice Cream, I kept a pantry well stocked of chips, peanut M&Ms, and a big 1-gallon plastic container of mixed nuts.  All available for ready access whenever I became stressed.  This had to change so I sought out alternatives. 

I initially replaced my DQ Blizzard with Skinny Cow Ice Cream sandwiches and eventually Non-Fat Greek yogurt with Banana’s (I still stay away from Ice Cream totally since it is a trigger food).  I replaced peanut M&M’s overtime with WW Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie flavored bars that are individually wrapped, the same calories of a two peanut M&M’s and less likely to gouge on by the cupful!  I replaced chips with a crunchy, healthy alternative that absorbs Salsa just as well – Broccoli.  I dealt with my Mixed Nut affliction in a similar way that I did Peanut M&Ms.  I swapped out the tub full of Mixed Nuts from Costco with individual packets of smaller size that are less likely to gouge on in fits of stress eating.  These and other food changes got me one third of the way to a better environment.

  • Changed my social and work environment.  The next thing I needed to do was change up how I spent my time.  During the day and into the early evening I was spending time locked to a desk in conference calls or directing my team.  At night, I read the latest political debates late into the night on Facebook and Twitted.  Both resulted in too much work time and not enough downtime.  Additionally, the constant diatribe of uncivility on social media was stressing me out.  I could feel the cortisol racing through my veins as I dealt with the next work issue or latest political debate.

I decided to take two measures to change my social and work environment.  First, I vowed to get up and move for 10 minutes each hour and to block out 1 hour for working out in the morning.   Additionally, I vowed to leave no later than 7 PM unless the world was ending.  At first, I thought these actions would detract from my work effort, but I was wrong.  Instead, it fostered communication between my team and I and provided me with the respite to come up with better actions.

The second thing I did was make a determined effort to spend less time on social media and to spend that time on positive feeds.  I accomplished this in two ways.  I monitored and reduced my time reading social media.  When I could not reduce it as much as I hoped, I decided to change my feeds and to listen to mindful podcasts.  I actively sought out positive Facebook groups such as Spreading Positivity and liked their content.  Over time, my Facebook feeds have changed because of this determined effort from politics to positive messages.  Many of these serve as inspirations to my blogs!  I have switched my environment from Trump to Tranquility!

  •  Changed my internal environment.  The most important environment to change to get healthy is the internal dialogue running through your head.  The change in the social and work environment helped a lot in this endeavor, but I was still having negative thoughts.  To counter them, I took up meditation and mindfulness.  I have used the Headspace application as well as the Christian Meditation blog to get mind off the problems running in my head to the progress I am making in my heart!

Changing your environment is the first step to changing to the new you!  I did it and so can you!