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.

It takes Grit to Lose Weight and to be Born to Run!

I have just finished two books that reflect some lessons that I learned on my Weight loss journey.  Both are about that sometimes-elusive quality called Grit (not Grits which would be, especially the buttered type, counter to Weight loss).

The first book tied to Grit is obvious.  It is called Grit by Angela Duckworth.  It is a study on what constitutes Grit and why Grit is so important to success of all type.  Grit in her definition is the combination of passion, perseverance and persistence (the three P’s).  Her book opens with why one third of the cadets at West Point even after passing the rigorous entrance exams, drop out after the first 6 weeks period known as Beast Barracks.  There departure was not related to their ability as demonstrated by their recruiting scores, academic prowess or military bearing.  Indeed, some that scored the highest in the entrance criteria were the first to fall out when the going got tough.

What Professor Duckworth determined that the quality of Grit had the closest correlation of any factor in determining who would make it through those first few brutal weeks.  Those with the passion for an Academy diploma, combined with the ability to bounce back after failure were the ones that made it.  Some of the people that scored high on entry had other options so simply did not have the passion.  Others who had the passion, did not have the faith – the crux of persistence and perseverance – to make it through the four years.  The rest of the book goes through a scientific and psychological study of what constitutes Grit and why it is so important to success of all kinds.

The second book is a case study on Grit.   It is Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run.  The Boss was not blessed with a great singing voice, natural guitar playing ability, or writing skills.  What he was born with was an overwhelming passion for playing Rock and Roll after falling in love with the playing of Elvis, the Beatles and other early pioneers.  He simply loves what he does with a passion that is consuming and will not be distracted from writing music from his soul.

He also has perseverance.  He played in 3 bands from 16 to 25 before he made it big with the Born to Run album.  He honed his sound playing both in NJ, Virginia and California.  You can hear his progression of music when hearing the rudimentary sounds of the Castilles, the heavier rock of Steel Mill, the Dylanesque ramblings of the Bruce Springsteen Band until if finally congealed into Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  He was driven to pursue the Music he loved and would not get sidetracked by the drugs, loneliness or carousing that has claimed so many talented stars before they fully reached their potential.  I commend the book Born to Run to everyone and think it is one of the five best books I have ever read.

So, what does this have to do with Weight Loss.  Grit is the only way I know to lose weight and more importantly to keep it off.  When I began my weight loss mission at 358 pounds, I had an overall passion to become the image of an inspiring leader that I had seen in so many of my West Point classmates that had made it to General and the higher ranks.  Even though I had been out of the military for a good 25 years, I built in my mind an image of a fit, 50+ leader that others would be inspired by and follow whether on the battlefield or in my case, the next IT project.  Next, I had to have perseverance and persistence.  It was a long way from the days when I could put on my ruck and run 13 miles as I did back in the day.  But I vowed that despite the obstacles and setbacks, I would pick myself back up and continue.  At one point, I was stuck at the same weight or slightly higher for over a month.  But I kept at it and tried different things until I hit on the correct tweak that would bring my passion to realization. Champs like Us Maybe we were Born to Run! So keep at it and show some Grit!

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

 

It Takes Courage in this World

One of the most inspiring people in my life is Father Mike Schmitz.  For you that may not heard of him, he is a Catholic Priest and speaker who leads the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.  He is prevalent on social media and speaks often at youth conferences and for Ascension Press.  His two podcasts (one for UMD and one for Ascension Press) have often inspired me and believe it or not have been critical to my weight loss!   During my exercise routines, I often listen to a Father Mike playlist.   His podcasts for UMD range from 20 to 25 minutes and those for Ascension Press shorter.  You can read some more on my Fr. Mike exercise practice (item 9)  and other weight loss essentials  in this blog. What’s AP? A Digital Guide to Weight Loss

If I have a good day at the gym, I report to my wife that I did 3 Father Mike’s (the UMD variety) on the treadmill.  I think people in the gym may think that I am a little crazy during Fr. Mike’s talks.  I have listened to some when he speaks about being Minnesotan and laughed so loud the guy on the treadmill nearly fell off!  Equally, I often listened with tears streaming down my face moved by his words of faith, inspiration, and love.

This latter reaction is what happened yesterday at 5 AM during my Saturday exercise routine.  I listened to Fr. Mike’s podcast “It takes Courage” and was immediately overwhelmed with his simple message that so much of life just takes courage.  He gives some simple everyday examples that at first may not leap out at you but later resonate deeply.  Parents going to work on a Monday after a hectic weekend to take care of their family.  Children in their first swim meet when they climb up in the blocks.   Parents who are getting on in life and are willing to let go and prepare to meet their next chapter. The infertile couple who desire a kid so badly but are not sure if they will ever conceive.  And those couples that do ultimately conceive.   In Fr.  Mike’s words, “It takes courage to bring a life in this world and say I am going to lay down my life for whoever this child is.”  You can hear the full podcast from Father Mike here.   Life Demands Courage – Fr. Mike Schmitz

This message –   It takes courage to face a world full of everyday unknowns – moved and inspired me to develop my next blog series which will unfold over the next few weeks.  Ideas kept popping into my head – not of the famous – but of my friends and family that everyday wake up to face the world with courage when so much of their future is unknown.  A cousin as he faces a world that he sometimes does not understand to bring God’s smile into the world.  An uncle that walks up the daunting stairs of Eisenhower Hall on two wooden legs.   A friend with the courage to be himself and not whom other thought that he should be.  These friends and family inspire me with their faith, love and courage to face everyday challenges and to bring their light and that of God into the world.

Quote - It

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!

Why Not? I’m Singing in the Woods!

sunday morning comingIn my last Weight Loss blog, I spoke about the two essential questions to answer when losing weight Why? and Why Not?.  Here is a link to that one if you want to take a look.  Why and Why Not? – Two Key Questions for Weight Loss   In that blog, I described your Why Not? in the following terms:   “Your Why Not is to do something that you would never have thought to do.  It needs to be big to push you forward. ”  I forgot to add one other element.  Your Why Not?  does not necessarily need to be big to drive you forward.  It also can be crazy to keep you going!  That is especially the case with one of my Why Not’s that I call Singing in the Woods (and sometimes rain or at least mist!).

I love Karaoke and singing in general.  It reduces tension, relaxes me and therefore can defuse stress eating and lower cortisol.  Now when I want to belt something I belt out a tune!  I do this with one of my favorite applications Sing by Smule.  This app allows you to Karaoke with other people in real time and record it.  I have sang songs with people all over the world from France to the Philippines (I am particularly a hit in the Philippines where one of my duets trended for several weeks).

Now the only thing a little bit crazier than singing with other people you do not know is to do it on the Brushy Creek Trail on Sunday Morning just before the sun is breaking.  But that is exactly what I did one Sunday after an especially difficult work week and a hectic Saturday filled with work and family obligations.

I could not sleep that well so as day was breaking, I took my headphones, Iphone and Sing by Smule and went to the woods of Brushy Creek to commiserate with some friends and uplift with others.  I first while walking by the lake sang a song with a lady from Kentucky that was particularly fitting Sunday Morning Sidewalk, sang by Johnny Cash.  It starts off with “Well I woke up Sunday Morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt …  You get the picture.  The chorus goes “On a Sunday Morning Sidewalk, I am wishing Lord that I was stoned (in my case, I wanted a Krispy Cream).

After that song and getting it off my chest, I decided it was time to sing something uplifting.  So I took to the Meditation Labyrinth in the woods (I checked to make sure no one was around), and found some of my Christian friends in the Philippines.  I sang “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe and “Above All”.  There with the son breaking in the sky on a glorious Sunday morning under God’s watchful eye all was right with the world.

So the next time you are feeling blue and want to give up, instead get crazy and ask Why Not?

 

Why and Why Not? – Two Key Questions for Weight Loss

When losing weight, you must answer a series of questions and make choices on a daily basis.  Examples:

Should I eat that cheeseburger? No

Should I track the cheeseburger that I was not supposed to eat?  Yes so I can keep my habit and know where I stand.

Should I get up and go to the gym at 5 AM?  Of course, etc. etc.

These are the type of granular questions that you must answer each day as you proceed on your weight loss journey.  Besides these day to day questions however, there are more fundamental questions that will drive you as you change your habits and get healthy.  Chiefly these – Why and Why Not?

My Weight Watcher’s lead has a saying:  “You must keep your why nearby!”.  What this means is you should have a compelling reason that drives you as you make the daily difficult choices to get better.   Indeed, you need motivation when you begin waking up at 5 am for a walk or turning away from your daily cheeseburger,

My “whys” have changed over time.  When I first started out, I had two Whys:

  1. Treat and improve my health condition brought on by my weight gain.
  2. Lose sufficient weight prior to my 30th West Point reunion so I did not look totally out of place.

To keep my Why Nearby, I made the following Vision Board with reminders of my motivation to move forward.  It was on my phone so I could look at it instead of a Quarter Pounder.

vision board

 

The pictures all relate to my two Whys.  At the top is my Class Motto, then clockwise are the following:

  1. A picture of my parents who supported me through West Point and also both had a health problem which I inherited
  2. A picture of me and a West Point classmate when I was peak weight
  3. Closer to the reunion with the new workout  clothes my youngest gave me.
  4. My family which I wanted to get healthy so I could stay around
  5. My Firstie picture
  6. My company mates from C-1.

I looked at this each day and made it to my first goal!  But I still had a way to go to get to my suggested weight for my height.  That is when I moved to my next critical question “Why Not?”.

Your Why Not is to do something that you would never have thought to do.  It needs to be big to push you forward.  My Why Not was to perform a Kennedy Walk.

A Kennedy Walk  was implemented by President Kennedy to inspire fitness in the military.  The requirement is to walk 50 miles in 20 or less hours.  Since I had begun to be able to walk 3 miles comfortably, so as Bobby Kennedy said Some say WHY, I said WHY NOT! (As aside, Bobby Kennedy was the first one to do a Kennedy Walk in his suit and loafers no less!)  With this Why Not, I began walking daily and 10 to 20 miles every weekend (with a beer or two thrown in).  Then in November 2016, I completed the walk in 17 hours.  Here is the picture of me finishing.

cropped-don-finish-e1514210274247.jpg

One last thing before I close.  A Why Not can also be a Why.  That was indeed my case here.  The impetus for this walk was to honor and raise money for vets and in particular a colleague that was killed in Afghanistan.  I thought of him and all that support our country.

So there you have it Know your Why and Say Why Not!