Mediterranean Magic: 5 Ways to Maintain Weight on Vacation

Recently I and my wife went on a ten-day Pilgrimage to religious sites in Israel, Palestine and Italy. While I looked forward to the trip, I was worried about gaining weight. We went on a tour in which each moment of the day was planned to include where and when to eat. Hearing stories of how people gained 10 or more pounds on a tour had me worried. I was used to controlling my eating habits by eating primarily at home and tracking my food intake and timing consistently through the WW application. Having lost over 150 pounds on this regimen and keeping most of it off for 4 years, I was facing the unknown. I did not know what food would be offered nor did I know if I could even spell it to find in the application! Also, I knew the all breakfasts and dinners would be offered buffet style. I had avoided buffets since losing the weight because they always have been my nemesis. I had images of Golden Corral with numerous desserts and heavy American food and I was worried I could not control my eating habits.

Well, I should have rested easier, especially in Israel and Palestine (although Italy still posed problems due to its Pastas).  The buffets at the Israeli hotels in Tel-Aviv, Nazareth and Jerusalem were a lot different than their US counterparts or those on cruise ships.  There were five main distinguishing factors that made the buffets healthier than their US counterparts on the trip:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!  At each hotel there was an abundance of vegetables.  They were fresh and varied.   They also were front and center taking the place of the heavier entrees that are in US buffets.  Another change were vegetables were available for breakfast along with fruit.  For a devoted WW, it was a zero-point heaven and I loaded down with new and varied tastes. I loved the Israeli peppers and pickles that tasted different than those used in the US.

2.  The best Hummus anywhere.  Sorry Greece.  Israeli Hummus is incredible and varied.  In the morning there was about 5 types and the evening 7.  In the US, I can tolerate Hummus, but it is not my favorite.  In Israel, it is a different story!  It tastes so fresh and tasty.  Sorry American Greek restaurants, Israeli hummus it is where it is at!

3.  Kosher food and whole foods.  All the food in the Israeli buffet is Kosher and is prepared to exacting standards.  It is not processed like its US counterparts and you can taste the difference.  In addition, whole foods are bountiful.  Nothing processed.  Indeed, for the first time, I enjoyed a fish cooked whole from the Sea of Galilee (see below).  I was a little nervous but was able to figure out how to eat correctly from a YouTube video!  It was delicious.

St. Peter’s fish from Sea of Galilee

4.  Portion control.  I was really worried about the dessert table, but I should not have been.  Although I enjoyed a desert each meal, I did not have to worry about overindulging.  No large ladles dipped in Apple cobbler or big slices of cake.  The deserts were smaller so you could have a dessert and not be tempted by overindulging.  The only problem on portion control was the coffee.  We had to get up early each day and the coffee cups were small.  Also, for some reason, Israeli’s love instant coffee and seldom could I find brewed coffee.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.

5.  Fish, fish, fish.  I usually do not like fish but here it was varied, plentiful and the main offering.  I even ate fish for breakfast!  Had my first taste of salmon and pickled herring in the morning and it was surprisingly good!

At the end of my ten-day vacation, I had only gained .2 lbs. while still eating dessert each day.  I think I would have lost wait if the entire trip was in Israel, but we also traveled to Italy for 3 days.  I cannot resist Gelato and pasta.  Also, an Italian cappuccino blows is cheaper than the US and is about 10 times better.  Still, gaining only .2 lbs. while indulging in the Gelato’s for three days is quite a coup!

March Back to Fitness!

Back in my Army and West Point days, I never thought of marching and carrying a ruck in fitness terms.  It was a necessity.  What you carried on your back is what you brought into combat.   The more you put in, the more you were weighed down.  The less you put in, the more you ran the risk of being ill-prepared.  

Recently, however, I realized the fitness benefits of rucking for civilians.  I started carrying a weighted ruck in preparation for the Shadow West Point March back that happened last week.  The March Back coincides with the annual 13-mile march back of the United States Military Academy’s Plebe Class at the conclusion of summer Cadet Basic Training.  I and about 15  fellow members of the West Point Society of Central Texas finished the march last week. The March included loaded Rucksacks and the Texas Heat!   See the picture below.  The Weather Channel even filmed a piece about us! I will let you know when it comes out. 

Vets  Marching for Fitness

Rucking has many benefits and is my latest fitness obsession.  There is even a community of Veterans that go on rucking events.  It is called GoRuck and raises money for Veterans dealing with PTSD.  I am currently training for the next major event near Austin.

Here are the five major benefits of Rucking:

  1.  Low Impact.  Unlike running that puts stress on your joints, rucking is low impact especially if you pack your ruck correctly.
  2. Burns Calories.  It burns 3 times the calories that walking does (even more in Texas heat).
  3. Carry your Hydration.  A ruck provides a convenient compartment to store water and remain hydrate.  I fill up the bladder from my Camelback in my ruck.  It adds weight and prevents me from passing out int the Texas heat!
  4. Low Cost.  I bought my rucksack for less than 40 dollars on Amazon.  There is no need to get a specialized rucksack unless you want to.  To weight it down, I just evenly distributed 5 lbs. weights that I already had in pouches. 
  5. Fun and social.  I loved marching with fellow members of the Long Grey Line and being out in nature. 

Marching with a ruck is not just for the military.  Pick up your ruck, lace up your shoes and march back to health!

Coffee Cups Are Not Just for Coffee, Anymore!

I have a secret weight loss weapon when traveling on the road – coffee cups.  This wonderful tool is ubiquitous at hotels.  Here are three simple weight loss hacks related to coffee cups:

  1.  The first is the obvious one – use it for coffee.  Nothing gets the constitution working better than coffee.  I drink one cup and you are ready for the rest room.  But stop at one or two or you will have the opposite result since coffee is a diuretic.  Also, if you are older like me and walking to the office you may not make it to the office a second time!
  2. The perfect hard-boiled egg container.  Almost as ubiquitous as coffee cups at the hotel breakfast counter are hard boiled eggs.  They are a perfect source of protein and a great way to satisfy mid-morning snack or for lunch.  A standard coffee cup can hold 3 large hard-boiled eggs.  Place a lid on it and label it and now you have a ready-made free lunch to stick in the office refrigerator!  See picture below of my friend  adopting this new craze. Coffee cups can also serve as containers for the fresh fruit that is often set up on the breakfast buffet (don’t forget bananas and apples in your backpack).  You could also use coffee cups for oatmeal.  All three serve as wholesome snacks and lunch on the run.  You also can save money if not on an expense account (or save your expense account to splurge on dinner!)
  3. Larger cups for infused water.  I love that a lot of hotels are now providing fruit infused water at the hotel.  But I do not love the little dinky plastic cups with no lids.  Answer – use coffee cups with lids and get 16 ounces of delicious water (to wipe away the effects of the second coffee).

There you have it.  Coffee cups are not just for coffee anymore.  Instead, they are a secret weight loss weapon for people on the go!

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!

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.

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.

2. 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. 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!

3. 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!

Baby It’s Cold Outside, But Exercise Anyway!

Recently there has been a lot of controversy on the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.  Now, I am not going to get into the controversy.  No. Instead, I decided to use the melody, which I love so much, and make new lyrics that are appropriate for those losing weight! 

Here is the song with the lyrics directly below:

I really should go play,

But it’s cold outside,

I got to get away,

But it’s cold outside,

I need to exercise,

So, I don’t get fat,

What do you think of that?

I have to go, go, go,

But my body says no, no, no,

I really should go and do my exercise,

But I despise,

The cold, the cold, the cold, THE COLD!

Most of us hate to exercise when it is cold outside.  But it is a necessity if we are going to keep on our weight loss journey.   So, how do you get your exercise in, when you don’t want to go out?  Here are five tricks of the trade.

  1.  Bundle up and play!  A key to good health is getting sun.  So, the first thing is to layer up and get outdoors.   Winter is a good time for high calorie burning especially if you are in Minnesota which I will be in a few weeks.  So, layer up and have some fun with winter sports such as cross-country skiing, and sledding (as long as you are climbing up the hill after sledding down!)  Take advantage of these great sports that are only available in the winter (or early spring and late autumn when you are in the frozen tundra up north). 
  2. Romp around in your romper!  Those Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Jack LaLanne fans out there know the power of the romper. The founding father of exercise, Jack, and Abe Weisman, Tony Shaloub’s character on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel show us how it is done old school with simple calisthenics.  Whether you are in the warmth you are home or in the Catskills as Abe, old school calisthenics can get your heart pumping.  If you have YouTube,you might even want to one of Jack’s old TV routines shown here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4A3mdG5zbQ
  3. Spin to win! Biking outside is not always available or inviting when the roads are slick.  But you can always do inside cycling and learn from the best!  Read my recent blog on the King of Cycling! https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/06/10/heroes-of-health-series-episode-2-corey-the-cycling-king/   
  4. Take your Dog for a walk!  Some dogs are conditioned to walk in the cold.  Boots, our Bernese Mountain Dog, gets way more active when its get’s colder.  As you can see from his thick coat and bear like appearance, Boots loves the cold and can walk a lot further when it is 30 degrees than 100 degrees in Austin.  So, take care of your body and take your dog on a walk to escape that pesky cat. 
  5. Dance fever. This last one comes from my daughter Kate the Great.  When she gets done from a tough day teaching high school, she goes home, turns on the X-Box and “Just Dance”s.  Whether with an X-box game or to some Venmo videos of Taylor Swift (I personally love “Shake it Off”, dancing is an excellent way to shake off the pounds!
Boots and that Pesky Cat!

These are just five ideas to keep in shape during the winter months.  There are many more like chopping wood for your own fire or hot yoga, but these will suffice for now.  Bottom line:  Don’t get old, just because it is cold.  Exercise and have fun!

Boy It is Cold Outside

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.

lifetime

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).