Don’t Stop Believing: A Weight Loss Journey in Three Intervals

Over the last few months, I have been training to be a Spin Instructor.   The thought that I could be a spin instructor a few years back was unimaginable.  Cresting at 358 lbs., I could not ride a bike for more than a few minutes without one of two things happening.  Either I would throw out my back, or so much pressure would be applied to a certain area that it would become numb, worse yet.

Guy on Cycle
I am on the Edge of Glory

I only started to do spin after I had dropped some weight.  Then, I fell in love with spinning.  Part of it was the music, part of it was the exhilaration, but most of it was my instructor, Corey Ellis.  You can read more about this hero of health in this blog. Heroes of Health Series, Episode 2 – Corey the Cycling King

I knew I had to go that extra step after finishing 4 hours of spinning during Lifetime Fitness St. Jude’s Fund Raiser – Ride for a Reason.  I decided to get certified as a Spin Instructor.  The added benefit is I get to be trained to Corey.  See the picture of me, Corey, Kaisa, and another cyclist after the Race for the Cure.

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On October 20th, I will get the chance to teach part of a Spin Class for the first time and I am totally stoked.   I have come up with my Simple Set (a series of spinning intervals timed to a music) that speaks to both my weight loss journey and obstacles that we all need to overcome in life.

I have come up for a title and a subtitle for my Simple Set.  The main title is For Excellence We Strive.  The secondary title is called “Don’t Stop Believing, Even When You Are Living on A Prayer, Because You Could Be on The Edge of Glory” (a careful read will tell you the name of my songs!).  Here is the meaning of the two titles.

The main title is “For Excellence We Strive” for two reasons.  First, it is the motto for my class at West Point, the class of 85 (more later).  The second reason is during the training, the cyclist will have three opportunities to strive for excellence only to be beat it in the next interval.  Why?  Because the excellence of today is the mediocrity of tomorrow.  You must always strive for excellence, and when you achieve your goal, it is not time to revel and become complacent.  No, it’s time to strap on your cycling shoes, clip in, and race to beat your previous best!

I will not repeat the second title but instead tell you why I picked the three songs:

  • Don’t Stop Believing – Journey. This first song represents the start of my weight loss journey and simulates climbing up a hill that slowly ascends.  As you make the first few steps on the path to health, it is important not to stop believing you can do it.  Even though the climb is getting harder after the first few moments of success, you need to keep pushing.
  • Living on a Prayer – Bon Jovi. This second song is prefect for the mid part of any weight loss journey.  Three times in this song, you climb up as you pray that you overcome the next obstacle that is in your way.  And three times, you reach the exhilaration as you find success; only to meet the next hill.  I also picked this song because it has the lyric “Oh your half way there, oh Living on a Prayer”.   I remember my half way there moment on my weight loss journey.  It was at my 30th West Point Reunion when I had lost one half of my weight goal (see picture below)
Picture of Classmates
Half Way There – West Point Reunion

Also, many times as I got stuck, I was Living on A Prayer.  Praying that I would not give up.  Praying that I could do it.  Praying for a New Life!

  • On the Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga. I will not lie.  I picked this last song as a tribute to Lady Gaga after seeing her performance on a “Star is Born”.  But, then I realized how well it fit.  Ask any Lifetime member of Wellness that Works (the organization formerly known as Weight Watchers) and they will tell you the last few pounds to your goal are the hardest.  But it is essential not to stop when you are on the Edge of Glory.  The song is perfect for this last set because during the verses you climb large hills but then at the end you feel the exhilaration of the chorus as you spin out at 110 RPMs!

So, there you have it.  I am on the Edge of Glory and hopefully I will achieve it on October 20th.  If interested, message or text me when we solidify the exact time.  It will be at Lifetime Fitness Austin (still trying to figure if it is North or South).

Heroes of Health Series, Episode 2 – Corey the Cycling King

This is the second of my heroes of health series which recognizes people that helped me and others to be healthy and happy. You who follow my blog know that there have been two institutions that were critical in restoring and now maintaining my health: Weight Watchers and Life Time Fitness.  In my first of this episode, I wrote about my foremost hero at Weight Watchers – Julie Faircloth (read here Heroes in Health Episode 1: MOTHER of Weight Loss and a Freestyle Life).  In this one, I write about a guy who has not only encouraged me to take my health to another level but soon will be my instructor in doing so for others – Life Time’s Spin master Corey Ellis.

On a whim back in November 2017, I decided to try my hand (or better yet my bottom) at Spin Class.  Back in 2015, when I topped out at 358 lbs., riding a bike would have been unthinkable.  I could only sit on a bike seat for a matter of moments before my back (and other things) would become compressed. You can read more about those times, my first small steps at fitness with Water Aerobics, and the role Life Time played in getting fit enough to spin in this blog.  Forward to F.I.T – The Tale of Pam *2

Now with my health tenuous but restored, I decided to shake it up and try something different from the usual elliptical training and walking that I did.  I walked into the 11:15 Sunday Spin class, not knowing what to expect but eager to start my next fitness addiction.  Little did I know how hooked I would get.

I was staring at the bike not knowing how to size it or stick my feet in the cages and up walks a guy that looked like a linebacker from the Cowboys – Corey.  He offered to help me which I thought was a nice gesture from a fellow classmate.  He sized the bike and showed me how to strap in.  While he was doing it, I noticed a bunch of people coming up to talk to him and say hello.  I soon realized that he was not a fellow classmate, but the instructor.  Not only a Spin class teacher, but one of the most accomplished at Life Time, certified in all three types of Spin Class, EDG, Power, and AMP (essentially dancing on a bike).

Corey is a phenomenal motivator, teacher, and Spin instructor (as well as all around good guy).  I cannot explain the exhilaration that I and the rest of the packed class feels at the end or the fun we have during it.  But I am going to try to distill down into three points why I consider Corey to be a hero in health.

  1. The Ultimate Professional – Corey is the ultimate student of spin and he takes his craft very seriously.  He is always attending conferences and training sessions to bring best practices to work out more efficiently and bring the latest and greatest to the class.  Just today, he took us through a new technique that he learned while at a conference in Houston.  In addition, he demonstrates his professionalism through he pre-class preparation.  Each song is selected for its timing and the rhythm is matched to the needed RPM and Watts.  When he says the next interval will be 1 minute from the press of the stage button, it is!  In addition, he explains exactly the method to his madness, so you understand the reason for the workout.
  2. An Innovator – Corey also has a background as a music DJ and producer. He uses this background to bring innovation both to our exercise routine through precise timing and rhythm.  Also, the music itself is innovative.  He has a saying that Brittany Spears goes with anything and proves it.  He has made mixes with Brittany and other artists that you would never think would go together.  He also has made whole spin session sets aligned to a theme.  I loved his session during the Super bowl when he had competing music from Philly and Boston.
  3. Making Fitness Fun – The best part of the spinning with Corey is that it is fun. He always interjects humor while we are sweating away.  He is a Master of Music and will throw in several interesting points about each singer.   He also throws in some jokes about the theme of the day. Also, he knows almost every person by name and brings out interesting facts about your fellow classmates.  We also have interesting competitions like who can get to a mile first.  Lastly, he shares his life with us.  We all had the pleasure to meet his mother who is his biggest fan and who on occasion calls in or attends the class.

Because of Corey’s professionalism, innovation, and proclivity for fun, I have reached new goals.  See below the picture of me, Corey, Kaisa and another participant after the St. Jude Challenge.  This was a 4-hour spin class that Corey and others led, and I was pleased to finish!  Lastly, Corey has inspired me so much that I have signed up to take Spin Class certification.  Not sure if I can match my hero but I am going to try.

lifetime

Go Big to Get Small – The Art of Improbable Goals

For the followers of my blog, this is the short form of this blog.  The longer form is here. Long Form

My son Kyle turned me on to Tim Ferriss, the podcast king, a few years back.  What I love about Tim and the stories he tells is he always strives to do something new, something impossible.  Just to name two of the incredible things he has done is teach himself to swim a mile in one week and to become Jujitsu World Champ in a few months!  You can listen to more of Tim here! Tim Blog

Another one of my favorite podcasters is Father Mike Schmitz.  Recently he did a series on the definition and examples of courage.  According to Father Mike, “Fear is not taken away, courage is given!”  To paraphrase, you cannot be truly courageous without fear.  Courage is striking out even when you have that dry pit in your stomach.   Indeed, being fearless is a bit of a misnomer.  You must drive through your fears to become a better person, a better you.

To be like Mike and to take on Tim, I started the practice a few years back to declare improbable goals and then set out a plan to accomplish them.  I used these goals and the efforts to reach them to overcome fear, gain confidence, and lose weight.  The best example of this is finishing a Kennedy Walk – 50 miles in 20 hours or less.

When I started my weight loss journey in 2015, walking 50 yards was hard enough.  I was 358 lbs. with a distinct fear of throwing out my back even walking around the block.  I tell you all this to understand just how impossible this goal seemed at the time.   To me, it was just short of climbing Mt. Everest.

I needed something big to compel me forward, something with my back history was just a bit scary.  I wanted to walk a long distance.  I started to research on the internet what was equivalent to a marathon but for walkers.  And I found it –  the Kennedy Walk.  The Kennedy walk was established by John F. Kennedy to demonstrate the fitness of the Armed Forces.  It must be completed in 20 hours.  Bobby Kennedy famously completed the walk one winter’s day in his loafers walking along the Potomac.

One key element for establishing a large goal was done, I now had the target.  But I needed a second element – a reason.  The reason in this case was more important than the goal.  I wanted to honor a former colleague in the Army who was lost while serving this country in Afghanistan – Richard McEvoy and to raise money for returning vets.  Dick was KIA in Afghanistan on August 22nd, 2015 while training the Afghani police. He was a contractor after serving 28 years in the service. Col McEvoy (then Captain) and I served together in the 3-60 Infantry Battalion. He was the epitome of the USMA motto: Duty, Honor, and Country. In honor of Dick, the walk served as a fund raiser for the Merivis Foundation, a non-profit that trains returning veterans in Austin for the IT industry and the Young Marines, a service group in Austin.

With a worthy cause and a goal firmly established, I set out to complete a 50 mile walk in 20 hours or less.  But I could not do it all at once.  So, I broke it out in sizeable chunks.  I also picked a venue – the Lady Bird Lake trail in Austin – that could be walked 5 times to equal 50 miles.   So, in the spring of 2016, I started to train for the first Annual McEvoy Memorial Kennedy Walk.

Every Saturday, I took an increasingly longer walk.   Lady Bird Lake trail was the perfect venue.  It is shaded much of the way, had adequate rest rooms and water and the city was immediately reachable.   I started breaking up some of my longer walks by stopping at a restaurant or store to eat some healthy food/snacks (and ok a beer).  Slowly, I went from 3 to 5 to 10 to 30 miles!  I was ready.

I finished the 50 miles, McEvoy Memorial, Kennedy Walk on Nov. 5, 1986.  Here is a video of me introducing it.  Kennedy Walk

Here is me at the finish.

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I made it in approximately 16 and a half hours.  The drive to finish the walk gave me the impetus to reach the Lifetime distinction at Weight Watchers.  As I walked along the path, I thought about how striving for big goals helped me to serve a great cause and to become smaller in weight and more confident in my health.  I came up with these three major elements that commend the art of setting improbable goals.

  1. Compelling Purpose to Move Forward – Setting a major goal that seems improbable gives you added motivation to stick with the day to day difficulty of staying on track.  Once I set the goal, I could not let myself, the Veterans, and the memory of my colleague down.  Life is indeed 90% perspiration, but you need the 10% of inspiration to compel you forward to a better you.
  2. Decomposable into Smaller Chunks – You cannot achieve monumental goals in a day or a week (unless you are Tim Ferris who makes a living out of it).  For ordinary people such as myself, the only way to achieve something big is to plan to break it down into smaller chunks.  In this case, the selection of the Lady Bird Lake loop was the perfect venue.
  3. A Cause Worthy of the Effort – When you are selecting an improbable goal, it is important to back it with a worthy cause. In this case, the cause was worthier that the effort.  Our Veterans, both the fallen and the living, protect us and sacrifice for a greater purpose themselves – the freedom and liberty of the United States.  50 miles is not nearly enough to walk for sacrifices they have given.

On Memorial Day, I will do a five-part sequel to this blog with the words that I spoke at each 10-mile mark in 2016.  Never forget our soldiers and service people this Memorial Day.

Every Journey to Health Starts with the First Step!

Today I was starting my normal Saturday practice that I initiated about two years ago.  Each Saturday, I get up about 5 AM and go to Life Time Fitness in North Austin followed by a Weight Watchers meeting in Round Rock (read more about this practice here The Saturday Texas Two Step!).   Normally I half groggily climb the steps to the gym in a daze.  But today I noticed something different.  On each step there was one word which when put together made this sentence: Every Journey Starts with the First Step!

Those words brought back to mind my first tentative steps in beginning my weight loss journey.  3 years later, I am 170 lbs. lighter and a whole lot happier and healthier.  But when I first started out I felt a little like Bilbo at the start of The Lord of the Rings when he left the Shire and hummed:

“The Road goes ever on and on,

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way,

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.”  J.R.R Tolkien

Indeed, the first steps of any journey are exciting but a little scary.  Here are a few hints for you that are starting out on the Road to Health:

1. Get a good check-up before the Journey:  Most people before they take their car out on a long trip get the oil changed or a tune-up.  Before embarking on a weight loss journey, it is important to get a check up of your own.  For me this was my first step.  I, like most guys I know, hate to go to the Doctor.   And when they do, they do not follow up.  But in my case, I could not avoid it any longer.  My shoe size had increased from a size 11 to a 12 ½ in a little over three months.  I also was feeling tired.

What was shocking was when I first got my checkup, my blood work all came back great.  Hard to believe but at 350+ lbs.  my cholesterol and sugar levels were normal.  But I knew something was wrong and my Doctor provided me with referrals to specialists that correctly diagnosed what was wrong.  A few weeks, and a few appointments later, I had the medication and the CPAP machine that I needed.  These two items collectively helped to get my shoe size back down to an 11 and take off 20+ lbs. of water that was slogging around.   My advice to all new weight loss journeyers:  Before starting out, get a checkup and take action on recommendations.

2. Play “Body May I?”: When I was young kid, back before video games (or even videos), we used to play the game “Mother May I?”  For those unfamiliar with the game, one person (it could be Mom) stands facing away from a line of kids.  Each child the takes turns asking, “Mother may I take . . . steps?”  And the child who is mother replies yes or no. The game ends when the first person makes it to Mother.

Now it was up to the person that played Mother to allow the step or not.  And there were different strategies to win.  One strategy was to go big first and ask for “Two Giant Steps”.  Often this strategy would fail because the Mother did not want the game to end and even if they granted you two giant steps at first, would decline the next few requests.  Another strategy was to ask for some crazy, wacky step that the Mother wanting to see it, would grant.  My favorite was the double twisty, flip flop step, which would be two cross over of my legs, followed by forward roll (my version of a flip/flop).  This may win the first game on a good day, but usually Mother would disallow it or never allow it again.

No, the strategy that usually worked were a series of baby step requests, followed by a medium step or two to win the game.  Mother would allow it because you were not being greedy.  I would ask for it like this “Mother May I take one little, bitty baby step please”.

Now what the heck does this have to do with Weight Loss.  Here is the metaphor.  When you are starting out, instead of Mother May I, you need to ask Body May I.  If you ask for two Giant Steps out of the gate before you are ready, you are likely to not be able to take any other steps due to injury.  Likewise, if you go on a fad diet or exercise routine (the equivalent of the double twisty, flip flop step), you may lose weight for awhile but in the next part of the journey it all comes rushing back.  No, when playing Body May I, you need to start off with Baby Steps and then progress to Medium Steps.  That is what I did.  I could not walk far because of my joints so I did low impact water aerobics.  I then progressed to the medium step which for me was the elliptical trainer.  By the end of the journey, I was doing 4 hours of Spinning non-stop or walking 50 miles in one day.  Remember start out with baby steps and then progress.

3. Pack the Right Provisions: Before you embark on any journey, it is necessary to pack the right provisions.  This is doubly true when trekking to your weight loss goal.  The first thing that I did after learning about healthy foods from Weight Watchers is clean out my pantry of Peanut M&M’s and Cheeto’s and replaced it with fruit and other healthy snacks.  These nutritious, yet energy packed foods, helped me grow stronger along the way.

4.  Bring a Buddy: A trip is always better if you take it with others.  Continuing on with the Lord of the Rings theme from earlier, Frodo did not face the Black Riders by himself.  No he brought Sam, Merry and Pippin!  When I started out, I had several groups that traveled with me along the way.  These groups include Weight Watchers Saturday Morning group, my Sister in Law Sherri’s fitness group, and my company group Accenture Active.  

In closing, you can’t complete the journey until you take the first step.  So like another old 80’s Christmas Show, “Just Put One Foot In Front Of The Other, And Soon You’ll be Walking Out the Door!”

one foot 2

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor.
You put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door.

You never will get where you’re going
If ya never get up on your feet.
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowin’
A fast walking man is hard to beat.

If you want to change your direction,
If your time of life is at hand,
Well, don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand.   Rankin/Bass

Fat to Fit Again! The Power of Habit

My last blog told the story of how I went from a fit Army officer to a 358 lbs. behemoth sprawled faced down after tripping leaving work at 3 AM with broken glasses and bruised pride.  You can read it hear. Fit to Fat: Lessons Learned While Doubling My Weight

At basically the nadir of my 50+ years, I decided to turn my health and my life around somehow, someway.  I did not get all the way at once.  I still had the bout with my colleague when I was gasping for breath after climbing a set of two sets of stairs. Read it here.  But at least at that point I decided to do something, somehow.  This is the story of how I went from Fat to Fit Again by killing the 7 deadly habits that explained in my most recent previous blog.

Before I discuss that let me talk to you a bit about Habits. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg linked here  The Power of Habit is a must read for anyone that is seeking to change the habits that caused them to gain weight (or any other nefarious thing).  I listened to the audiobook half way through my 178 lbs. weight loss journey (wish I read it earlier).

If you are struggling with any bad behavior DROP EVERYTHING AND READ IT NOW!  The proposition from the book is we are creatures of habit.  The book can be summed up by this quote “There is nothing you cannot do if you get the habits right!”   On any given day, you do at least 40% of anything by habit.  For example, you get up, your breath is sour, and you smell so you brush your teeth and take a shower.   Depending on what is more important to you (I brush my teeth first), your habit is consistently the same.  Every habit is triggered by an event (halitosis from sleeping with your mouth closed), followed by the habit (brushing my teeth for 45.7 seconds followed by mouth wash) to gain a reward (the ability to hopefully kiss my wife without her turning away!).

First you must realize your trigger, then the habit to give your reward.  If you can realize the trigger (sometimes it is deceptive so use root cause analysis) and the resulting reward, you can change the intervening habit to get a similar award.  We are not Pavlov’s dog, but we are sure close.  The key things with humans is you can discern the trigger, change the habit, and earn the same or similar award.  So now I will tell you how I dealt with the 7 deadly habits that changed me from Fit to Fat again.  In all seven, I list the bad habits I had, the trigger that caused it, the habit that I changed and the reward that I still got even though the habit was changed.

  1. Bad Habit: Binge Eating of Peanut M&Ms. New Habit: Eating filling fruit.  I told in the last blog how I would drink cup full of Peanut M&M’s to sustain me from long nights of driving my team to create software.  I changed this habit in three ways.  First, I tracked the number of Weight Watcher points associated with a cup of peanut M&M’s (27 WW Smart Points per cup– more than 4/5 my daily allowance).  Then I figured out the trigger.  It was at approximately 3 hours after lunch when I felt tired and needed to get out of the chair.  The habit was to walk to the front desk and fill a coffee cup with Peanut M&Ms and the reward was a burst of energy from sugar.   What I did once I realized the trigger and the reward, I just changed the habit to get a similar award.  An Apple has natural sugar but is zero points.  So, I walked a similar distance to the break room and grabbed an apple.
  2. Bad Habit: Overworking New Habit: Delegating and mentoring. One of the main reasons that I gained weight is I tried to do everything myself and ended up working 16+ days.  The trigger was an overwhelming sense of responsibility to my job and the satisfaction of a successful project.  Beyond the ancillary consequence of gaining weight since I put my health secondary, I was not fully utilizing my team or giving them a sense of accomplishment on their own.  So chiefly for selfish reasons, I realized I could no longer be an iron man and started to delegate.  I adopted an approach of Mentoring and not Mangling with dictates and proclamations.  This not only gave me time to focus on my health, it also allowed us to accomplish the mission, thus fulfilling my sense of responsibility.
  3. Bad Habit: Not Sleeping New Habit:  Sleeping more (but still not enough!).  Delegating helped me to get more sleep.  But I also took other measures.  Instead of working or listening to books on one of the many plane trips that I took, I did a mindfulness exercise (in my case as a Catholic I said a Rosary), then calmed I went to sleep on the plane.  Also, exercise helped to induce me to get more sleep.  I also monitored my sleep habits with a Fitbit.  Despite all these efforts (and another effort I will mention later), I was only able to up my average sleep to 6.2 hours from a paltry 5.1.   But it is progress.  Sleep by the way is one of the most important factors to weight loss.  Almost every week I failed to lose weight on my weight loss journey it was due to a lack of sleep.
  4. Bad Habit: Stressing out New Habit: Working out.   Stress was one of the triggers to so many of my bad habits.  Depression and binge eating are too in particular.  There are two ways I countered the trigger of stress.  When I felt it coming on, I made sure I planned a Beer Walk after work.  That is where I would make a 2-3-mile trek to the Banger’s Bar that is just off trail in Austin Town lake.  I would have a beer and then walk back.  Here is a picture of me returning from my most recent beer walk and enjoying an Austin sunset!   IMG_3391The other thing I do is I sing Karaoke with an app called Sing Smule.  I don’t do it in the office (well at least not normally).  But singing a few tunes is a great way to get the stress and the fat invoking Cortisol down!
  5. Bad Habit: Not going to the doctors New Habit: Doing exactly what the doctor told me.  In my previous blog, I talked about how I skipped going to the doctors because of work and paid for it.  I paid for it in two ways.  I had Sleep Apnea and an undiagnosed condition that caused me to retain 25+ lbs. of fluid.  Once I finally went to the doctors, I kept going.  And I did what they told me.  That meant living with a CPAP for a year and taking it to all my favorite Midwest states for work (don’t try to get distilled water at midnight in Topeka).  I also took my meds.  These two simple things took off 25+ lbs. in water weight and reduced my shoes size by 21/2 sizes.
  6. Problem: Depression Antidote: Being Thankful and Grieving. I had a lot of things go wrong in 2012 most importantly losing my Mother – my last parent.  I drove on and tried to work myself out of the grief.  Bad idea.  After a year of trying that, I pulled myself out of my funk by taking time to grieve and being thankful for all the good things that were coming my way (Kid’s graduation, daughter’s wedding).  When you are sad, look for something for which to be thankful but more importantly take time to remember the person you lost!  Here is the blog I wrote about the thankfulness I felt on another sad moment. Life’s Game Changers – The Power of Thanksgiving
  7. Bad Habit: Not drinking water and drinking Coke. New Habit: Drinking flavored Sparkling Water.  This sounds weird, I do not like drinking water.  But I love carbonated drinks.  Once I realized I was drinking a lot of calories, I decided to try zero calorie, sparkling water.  To save money, I got a soda stream machine and I buy flavor pods available in the store.  Water along with sleep.

And there you have it.  I changed my habits and transformed my life.  178 lbs. gained and then lost and never, ever coming back again.  You can go from Fat to Fit like me with the Power of Habit.

Walk Yourself Into A New Body!

Walking is great exercise for weight loss!  There is no need to pull a Biggest Loser Last Chance Workout to shed the pounds.  Doing an intense workout too early can get you injured and lead to a setback.  Instead be like Forest Gump lite and say, “From that point everywhere I went I was walking!”  Here are eight reasons walking is the penultimate exercise for weight loss.

 

  1. You can get in touch with nature. Since I started my walking practice two years ago, I have been at all the great trails around Austin.  I have used the app AllTrails to find trails off the beaten path and to discover new haunts.  I have visited the seven lakes in and around Austin and also Lake Georgetown.  My favorite trail of all time is in Georgetown Texas followed closely by Lady Bird Lake and Brushy Creek trail which is next to my house. I have a backway path to access Brushy Creek Trail which I affectionately call “Secret Passage Way”
  2. Walking allows you to destress. You can listen to music, a good book or the sounds of nature all around.  It is calming and relaxing without overexerting yourself (unless you are walking in Hill Country in Texas in mid-August!)
  3. It can be done everywhere and it is easy to get 10,000 steps in or 5 miles. When on a work trip, walk from your hotel to the office and walk to dinner.  You can also take breaks at work and walking around the office to talk to your colleagues instead of Skyping them.
  4. It is usually low impact but there is a bit of caution here. It was definitely not low impact when I started or even after losing the first 50 or so lbs.  First, lugging around 300+ lbs. initially caused me often to throw my back out.  Then when I lost a good chunk of weight, my gait changed causing more back issues.  I eased into walking longer distances with comfort after first preparing myself on the Elliptical trainer.
  5. It is a good way to learn new things. I always listen to audiobooks and podcasts when not walking with someone.  I have listened to over 300+ books on my walks and have learned about Ulysses S. Grant, the Power of Habit, and the latest crime solutions from Alex Cross and James Patterson!  I use the app Overdrive and Podcast to get free books from the library and podcasts, respectively.
  6. You can catch up with loved ones both human and pets! I have had awesome conversations with my wife and family while taking a hike or walk.  I also make Boots our dog extremely happy especially when he can walk off leash at Turkey Creek.
  7. You get to see new things that you would have missed at the Gym. I have been on the Appalachian trail, walked through Central Park, strolled along the river at Columbus and got familiar with the hill country around Austin.
  8. Related to number 4, when you lose significant weight, your body structure changes. It takes time to adjust to your new body and higher impact exercises can really injure you, until you get to steady state.  Even changing your walking gait can be a challenge.  It took me a few weeks to adjust to each significant weight milestone.  Walking allows you to adjust to your new body.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Weight Loss

A weight loss journey is accompanied by good, bad, and ugly moments.  The good and the ugly moments are easy to discern.

Ugly – Trying to exercise for the first time in a long time in an extra, extra large swimsuit doing water aerobics.  You struggle to kick your feet or do simple strides in the pool.  Besides the apparent ugly moment (a person in a still too small swimsuit), there are those less apparent (the grimace on your face as you do the extra flutter kick).  These early ugly moments soon turn into good moments if you stick with it, but can not discount the early difficult first steps to health.

Good – Being able to complete a 50 mile walk one and a half years later in one day after earlier being able to walk only 50 yards without getting winded.  Or trying on your old suit jacket that now could set you aloft if you caught a good wind!

Man showing weight loss in oversized suit jacket
Don swimming in a jacket that used to be too snug

Surely the good outweighs the bad and the ugly after a successful weight loss journey.  But even after losing over 170 lbs, there are still some bad moments.  Momentarily losing restraint and eating an extra burger is an obvious one.  One that is not so obvious is the issues you have going through the body scanner at airports!  The first thing that you need to do after buying a new wardrobe (or regaining your old, see me in my 30 old flight jacket below) is TSA pre-check.  Prior to getting TSA pre, everytime I walked through the scanner, I had to be patted down because it looked like I had something hidden in my stomach area.  Indeed, on one occasion, the TSA agent actually exclaimed “You are lit up like a Christmas tree!”.   Then came the bad (or perhaps the ugly).  I said yes, I know.  I lost a 170 lbs and can’t help that you all cannot adjust your sensors.  Did not go over well but I submitted to the pat down and the TSA agent and I had a good laugh later.  And then I registered for TSA pre.  Even with precheck you still at random times have to go through the scanner.  That was what happened two weeks ago and again I lit the thing up!  But this time it was a Good memory of how far I come.

Full body airport scanner
Full body scanner picture copyright Time

The moral of the story, a weight loss journey is a series of good, bad and ugly moments.  Endure the bad and ugly and revel in the good!  And get TSA pre-check 🙂

Manage Your Energy – Change Your Life

To jump start my weight loss journey in 2015, my first task was not so much about managing my eating but more managing my energy.  What does that mean?  A book recommended by my company business unit was key to this –  The Power of Full Engagement  located here Power of Full Engagement

The Power of Full Engagement talks about ways to manage energy to be a more effective leader. Based on training for athletes, the premise of the book is that we need to have cycles of stress and relaxation in order to increase energy and performance. There are four quadrants of energy and the first is physical. Let’s just say that in this area before my successful weight loss journey, I had a bit too much relaxation and did not take a respite from the daily grind to schedule in physical activity.

In previous big pushes at work, I reveled in seeing how long I could stay at my desk and how much work I could produce in a day. My only respite was the Philly Cheese Steaks at Jersey Mike’s. Let’s just say I was not building physical energy or releasing stress (or enough of it – only that amount that is released in a cheese steak coma).  People who know me know I like to be the iron man of work.  But my interaction with my team was suffering and so was my health.  The nadir of this period was the day I tripped outside my Delivery Center at 3 am, and hit the ground!  It took more than a few minutes to get up.

After reading the book and not wanting to repeat a face plant on the lawn of the delivery center, I established a physical routine and healthy eating to bolster my physical energy.  Here is what I did.

  1. Get out of my chair at least once an hour.
  2. Switched from prodigious amounts of coffee to hot tea.
  3. Do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day which I put in my schedule.  Yes, I now do Yoga, water aerobics, and Zumba.
  4. Changed from Philly cheese steaks to smoothies, salads, and our healthy snack machine when pressed for time.
  5. Increased sleep from an average of 5 hours or less to at least 6.
  6. And went to prescribed doctor’s appointments instead of toughing it out.

The result was my energy increased, my disposition improved (ok I know I can still be a bit imposing on occasion), and I am getting more work done in shorter time. You can see the difference in managing energy.  The first picture is of me is me in 2015 just before I started this routine.  The one next to it is me yesterday is me as one of 2 people to finish 4 hours straight of spinning class in support of St. Jude’s in Life Time North’s “Ride for A Reason”.  There is still time to donate so if you want to here is the link to my donation site!  Help us drive to knock out childhood cancer.

Ride for A Reason FundRaiser

 

Two Essential Ingredients to Weight Loss – Family and Friends (Part Two)

Two key ingredients to sustained and maintained weight loss are family and friends.  They are just as important to your weight loss journey as healthy food, careful tracking, water, and exercise.  I wrote about the first of these ingredients – family – in Part One of this blog here Two Essential Ingredients to Weight Loss – Family and Friends (Part One).   On this one, I tackle Part Two – friends – in this blog.

There have been three categories of friends that have helped me as I lost 170 plus pounds and kept it off.    Here is how Work Friends, Facebook Friends, and Fitness Friends at Weight Watchers and Lifetime Fitness have helped me along the way.

1.       Work Friends – My friends and colleagues at Accenture have encouraged me on and challenged me over these last two years.  First, my company has a program called Accenture Active where I had the good fortune to be one of 30 selected Journeyers when we initiated the program.  As a Journeyer, we had bi-weekly meetings to touch base and learn from each other.  We also had access to special lectures to inspire.  One particular one was given by Diana Nyad who told us how she trained to be the first person to swim from Florida to Cuba.  She accomplished it at 64, after several previous tries.  Her story a long with the Accenture Active group inspired and made it easier to keep on plan.  If someone can swim to Cuba, I can lose a 100 lbs.  Here is a link to Diana’s wiki page if you want to learn more. 

Diana Nyad

Second, my office friends and colleagues formed a Fitbit group.  I cannot tell you how the many contests drove me to exercise more!  I actually walked the halls of the Columbus Sheraton to pull ahead of my colleagues.  My friends also helped me accomplish a long-term goal of walking 50 miles in one day.   My friends from our sales team that walked 10 miles with me with their kids, partly in the rain!  That is what I call support! Below is a the Fitbit badge to prove it. 

Image of FitBit 100,000 step sandal
50 miles in one day!

2.Facebook Friends – My friends on Facebook were also a great help in my Weight Loss.  First, they gave me Likes to my corny workout rhymes (Example:  Today I did the typical, 5 miles strong on the elliptical!).  They also gave me Likes and a few Loves as I hit my weight loss milestones.  Along, with individual friends on Facebook, I was helped immensely by some of the Facebook groups.  Four groups in particular, Weight Watchers Saturday Round Rock Group, Sheri’s FIT (my sister-in-laws great workout group), Spreading Positivity, and the West Point Class of 85 site.  Each site gave me helpful hints and encouragement.  For example, yesterday I learned that I could get Center Cut bacon which was only 2 Weight Watcher’s Smart Points for 3 pieces!.  That made my day and helped me get my bacon fix while reducing calories and keeping the pounds off. 

3.       Fitness Friends –  I already discussed my fellow Journeyers at Accenture Active.  There are two other fitness and weight loss friends I want to give a shout out to.  First is Weight Watchers in Round Rock Texas.  This group literally changed my life.  I love meeting with them every Saturday to trade tips, words of encouragement, and recognition.  I also found out for me as a guy it was a good fit, so do not let anyone discourage you guys out there.  I found that it had the accountability and recognition of the scale while it taught me to be more empathetic and listen more. Here is a link to the meeting if you decide to join us!

Weight Watchers Round Rock

The second group is my exercise groups at Lifetime Fitness.  As I got more fit, my fitness classes changed from Water Aerobics to the Spinning AMP course.  I even have done Zumba and Yoga!  In all the classes I loved the friendship, exhilaration and fun!  I want to give a special shout out to Corey’s Saturday EDG class at Life Time Austin North.  I now know as many hip-hop songs than some of my kids (although I will never beat my son!).  I also know I can get over 130 RPMs (wait till I get my cycling shoes this Tuesday).  Spinning is Winning!   Here is the link to Life Time North Austin location.

LifeTime North Austin

 

In closing, weight loss is not an individual sport.  It takes family and friends to help you to reach your milestones.  

 

 

Two Essential Ingredients to Weight Loss – Family and Friends (Part One)

Two key ingredients to sustained and maintained weight loss are family and friends.  They are just as important to your weight loss journey as healthy food, careful tracking, water, and exercise.  Family and friends inspire you to be healthy, console you when you go off plan, and applaud you as you meet milestones.  It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child.  I say it takes your family and friends to take off the pounds and keep them off.

This has certainly been the case as I lost 170 plus pounds and kept it off over the last two + years.  Here are just a few of the ways that my family have helped with my weight loss.  Part two will focus on friends.

1.       My wife has provided great support and companionship.  She has listened patiently as I droned on about how many more Weight Watcher points a chicken thigh had compared to a chicken breast!  She has kept the cabinets and fridge stocked with healthy food and has hidden away any indulgences that she likes so I can’t find them.  She has asked each week how I did with my battle with the scale.  Most important, she has gone on numerous hikes with me.  Last year when I did my first Kennedy Walk (50 miles in one day), she walked with me for the first 10 miles at O dark thirty and finished the last 10 miles with me at 10:30 PM.  Here is a picture of us before walking the Bix 7.

Running the Bix 7
Running the Bix7

2.       My kids encouraged me and listened to all my Dad anecdotes about my latest struggles as I turned away from my Peanut M&M addiction.  They showed their support by giving me Likes on my countless Facebook posts (especially my son-in-law). They also did not gripe when our family outings changed from pizza to Brussel sprouts.  Lastly, they turned me on to the latest self-help gurus like Tim Ferris that inspired me (thanks Kyle). 

3.       Family Pets – Boots the dog joined the weight loss journey with me.  I remember that initial walk when he and I were at peak weight as we trudged up a hill on what I called our last chance workout! We both made it thankfully for Colette since she did not have to carry us up the hill (although Boots stopped for 10 minutes mid-way through)!  As we lost weight together on the trails of Turkey Creek, he shared my victories and my steak.  You can read more about Boots and me in this blog.  The two cats have been helpful because they wake me up at 4:30 AM to let them out, thus making sure I get to the morning work out on time!

A little help from friends: Striding Subbu and Boots the Dog

4.       Extended Family – My siblings and my in-laws have been companions and inspired me on my weight loss journey.  My brother also took on the weight loss challenge and has lost over a 100 lbs.  We really should have gone on the biggest loser and won the cash (but our health is way more important).  My other brother and sister have also encouraged me with Facebook likes and encouragement.  As for my wife’s family, they have been key to establishing an exercise regimen.  One of my sisters in law established a monthly challenge group on Facebook.  Together our team walked across Texas and challenged ourselves in fitness.  One of my nieces made a group called Spreading Positivity which was a key to keeping me up when I was down!