Revelations and Frustrations

Anyone else excited for warm weather?  These last few mornings have been absolutely beautiful and my insides are crying for the regularity of warmer weather and the life that comes with Spring.  For now, though, I am enjoying the sun as it rises earlier with each wp-1486571562543.jpgpassing morning and the beautiful songs of the birds in our neighborhood that continue to remind me that warmer weather is on the way.  The added activity of squirrels and bunnies also help to create the scenes that reassure my soul that the chilly days of Winter are limited.

Last week, I think I pushed it too far.  My beautiful wife was ill for a few days and I had to walk by myself.  As a result, I was left to my own devices to determine the days, speed, distance, etc., that I would be walking.  It was difficult to walk alone and, since I wanted to be lazy and stop, I reacted by pushing myself every single day.  What I didn’t plan for was my wife getting better and wanting to utilize the remaining days of the week to get moving!  I also didn’t know the weather was going to become extremely beautiful and I would find it IMPOSSIBLE not to be out in such amazing weather.  As a result, I ended up walking 7 days without taking a day to rest and I was left with a hugely sore ankle.

This experience left me with a few revelations that I would like to discuss today and I’m hoping y’all have some insight into these situations that will help me be more effective than I was last week!  Yes, I exceed all my goals for last week.  However, by being more effective, I mean I want to be fully confident and comfortable so that the changes and success continue!

  1. It is incredibly difficult to walk this journey alone.
    • Over the years, I have made numerous attempts to try losing weight.  Despite the various methods that I attempted to use to meet this goal, I always had someone that was engaged with my efforts on some level.  However, in each of those cases, the person that was engaged with me did not follow through and I dropped out of the efforts shortly thereafter.
    • One major difference this time was that my wife got involved in the changes and has been committed to them.  Having a partner in this pursuit has resulted in us always having someone pushing for healthy choices on those days when we don’t feel like it or are tempted to be lazy.
    • Yet, when you are walking the road with someone that is not participating or is not as committed, the temptations to quit or stop are EVERYWHERE.  On the road, your body cries out for you to stop and there’s nobody around to push you forward.  At meal time, it’s incredibly difficult to stick to healthy eating if someone around you is eating things you enjoy but are choosing not to have. Having had to cook most of our meals as two entirely different meals, I can also understand how freaking inconvenient it would be to cook one meal for yourself and another for your family.
  2. It is incredibly difficult to walk this journey with someone.
    • My wife is over 100 pounds lighter than me and is working at a different pace than I am.  So far, we have been able to walk together just fine.  However, as we progress, our goals are starting to take different turns and we have begun talking about whether our best bet would be to separate our exercise times or not.  This could be directly related to my ankle, but my wife has been having to set her pace off me.  So far, this has been fine, but what if I get to a place where my speed just isn’t enough to beneficial for her?
    • Each week, our scale comes calling and it’s time to weigh in.  While I have been losing weight and can see those results on the scale, my wife has been plateaued.  Her clothes continue to get smaller. Also, we have added walking and have clear proof that her calf muscles have developed AMAZINGLY, but the scale has become a point of contention.  For the last four weeks, despite doing everything right, she hasn’t lost a single pound.  She fluctuates between the same four pounds… just ounces away from her goal of losing her 50th pound.  It has been extremely hard for her to celebrate my losses on the scale when she continues to struggle to get below her next major weight goal which is so very close for her!
  3. I am in huge competition with myself.
    • The first five-mile walk that I did was the first time that I had to walk alone.  I didn’t think much about it because I had been challenged and I wanted to meet that challenge.  During this last past week, though, I learned that this was not an event… it is a condition.  Each day last week, while I was walking alone, I would set a mental distance goal before starting my walk.  However, I found that I went further each day and began seeking faster and faster times.  I also experienced a significant amount of frustration when I was unable to beat my previous times.
    • However, the voice inside that is constantly pushing me to work harder, go further, etc., is not the only internal voice that I struggle against.  While I was out there alone, I also struggled against other internal voices.  Voices that challenged me for pushing myself so hard or torturing myself.  Voices that tempted me to find faulty logic to abandon some of my goals and re-establish a more balanced way of life.  Voices that constantly begged me to stop… slow down… rest.  By the end of the internal conversation, I got confused and give up.  I mean, seriously, there is a time for everything.  The key to this everything has to center on BALANCE and finding balance in a world filled with such extreme changes can be SO difficult.
  4. I never knew how much the various aspects of a step could impact the execution of a comfortable walk. 
    • I have come to realize that I need a personal stepping coach.  When I first started walking, I didn’t even think about how I walk let alone analyze the way that I move my feet.  Lately, I have been noticing how important everything wp-1486571531159.jpginvolved in the process of a step actually is.  HOLY MOSES!  Learning to lose weight or how to exercise should come with its own Bachelor’s degree. Seriously!
    • I have a tendency to walk with my right foot, but only lift up and drop my left foot which causes a lot of pain if I am not conscious about how I am taking my stride.  Once I started paying attention to that, I found that I wasn’t following through the entire stride of my left foot which caused increased tension and soreness in my left foot.  Am I really a person that has pay THIS MUCH attention to something I have been doing my WHOLE LIFE?!
    • I also have to admit that I am a complete moron when it comes to knowing what makes a good walking shoe and what would make a good walking shoe for me and my wife.  I own these wonderful Sketchers with memory foam or whatevers, but I have NEVER paid attention to whether my shoe is actually good for walking five miles!

I don’t know how you feel after reading all of this, but I feel incredibly frustrated.  I have never put forth on this blog that I am an expert or that I even have a clue what I am doing when it comes to exercise and weight loss.  Honestly, though, I have always tried put out information that I know or that I am confident with.  Today, I feel like I am just verbally venting to anyone to anyone that may read this blog!  I don’t even know if that’s against the rules of blogging or not.  Haha!  Oh well, I guess I have made it clear that I am pursuing openness, vulnerability, and honesty.

Let me know in the comments below what struck your thoughts as you were reading my revelations.  Maybe you, dear reader, are holding an important key that I have been missing or have been overlooking.

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • To avoid an even more unhealthy relationship with the scale, I will only be doing weigh in information during my weekend blog post.  Thanks for understanding 🙂

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I Got Scammed by a Multi-Level Marketing Scheme

Greetings from the beautiful Ozarks where the birds have my body feeling like we are in the fourth week of March rather than the first week of February.  Each morning as I embark on my morning walk, I long for the first few minutes of sunlight as the world begins to wake up and my neighborhood begins to come alive with a flurry of workers preparing to head off to their jobs.  Just before they do, though, with just the first few rays of sunlight, the birds begin to sing their songs and Mother Nature begins to radiate with a joy and beauty that humanity has yet to even recreate effectively. It is my favorite part of the day!

Earlier this week, I talked about the mental journey that has accompanied this life change and the importance it played on me getting started and sticking to these changes that have been occurring.  I’ve also talked about the next phase of my journey before:  healthy, fresh foods!  However, I have yet to openly share about another aspect of my journey and it has been just as crucial to my pursuit of health as anything else.

I work as a mental health counselor.  My typical clients are teenage boys, but in my private practice, I occasionally get to see marital clients, adults, etc.  During my time as a counselor, I was introduced to one of the most interesting people I have ever met.  Let me introduce you to Jenni.  Jenni works in our office wearing a variety of different hats.  For most of the week, she works as a life coach, a kickass Zumba instructor, and a parent aide.  For a small part of the week, Jenni works around the counseling office as an office assistant (which is a professional way of saying she does everything)!

Back in August, Jenni began a new adventure in her life.  I heard about this adventure and I internally wrote off her choice off with criticism and concern.  However, I’m a GOOD friend and didn’t tell her my thoughts.  Rather than thinking I am somehow better at making her choices than she is, I chose to ask how I could help her get started.  A few weeks later, we were having a class.  Jenni and her friend, Amy (remember her from a previous post?), were sharing Jenni’s new adventure with us.

wp-1483903726304.jpgEssential oils have been something I have been toying with over the past year.  I’ve used mainly lavender and tea tree oils.  Despite having some minor success, I wasn’t experiencing anything to write home about.  So, as Jenni and Amy shared their information, I stayed planted on my phone… researching how to prove them wrong.  After they got done, I even looked at them and willingly asked their first question.  Per my recollection, my question was, “Y’all know this is bullshit, right?”  I’m relatively ashamed of my thoughts and opinions and my QUICKNESS to dismiss something before giving it a solid chance.  However, I’m completely ANTI-HIPSTER FAD/NONSENSE.  To me, that’s all this oils crap sounded like.

Because I hosted the party, I won an oil of my choosing (smart move, Jenni) and I selected an oil that I felt would help with something I was actively experiencing.  After the party, I tried the oil with much sarcasm and, honestly, condescension. Twenty minutes later, I was texting Jenni to say that I believed the oil was working.  The first time, my wife and I both wondered if the change I was experiencing was a somatic effect.  However, it kept working and then it worked for my mother and my sister.  My curiosity for exploration was peaked.

Being the logical guy that I am, I evaluated the costs of the products that I wanted to try and compared it to the price of their starter kit – which would make me a member.  For the three oils I wanted to try and the diffuser, the total cost was going to be about $170 dollars (I must mention that I wanted some very expensive oils.  Most oils tend to cost $20 – $30 dollars).  For the kit of 12 oils and the diffuser, the total cost is $160… which do you think became the better value?

Before I could make my final selection, though, I had to address my feelings about MLM schemes.  More than once, someone I love has been involved in these stupid things and it has never worked out well.  At best, my loved ones fell into a business that required money and promised money that never came.  At worst, my loved one purchased tons of product he could not sell and he ended up throwing away over $750 worth of stuff and struggled to pay his bills for several months afterward.

The idea of an MLM company terrified me and I didn’t want to end up in a system where I was ultimately being ripped off so the people that engaged me in the product could profit off me.  However, there was something different about Young Living – I already knew that one product does way more than the distributors are even permitted to tell me thanks to regulations.  Also, there was only one minimum to keep my membership and maintain the 24% wholesale cost:  $50 a year on product.  Was it really that easy?  A no-risk MLM that’s not designed to gain money off me?  No closets filled with useless products I won’t use?  Just buying the products that I want for the health goals of me and my family?

After asking tons of questions (thanks, Jenni and Amy), I embarked on my new journey.  I did buy the 12 oil and diffuser starter kit (thanks to a special promotional oil).  As I obtained my oils and experienced the desired improvements, essential oils did become something to write home about.  What I didn’t know before meeting Young Living is that the essential oils I had been buying may not have been 100% unadulterated oil.  You see, the only requirement for a bottle to be labeled 100% Pure, Therapeutic Essential Oil is that the bottle must only contain at least 5% of the pure essential oil on the label.  That is a DEVASTATINGLY LOW level of quality.  Young Living does everything from planting the seeds to processing the oils so there are not various companies trying to profit off a bottle of oils which results in dilution and oils that have been processed from plants grown using toxic methods.  Young Living doesn’t use these toxic methods and guarantees a 100% pure and NONTOXIC oil.

I wish I could tell you all the success stories that I am having since I added essential oils to wp-1486002107617.jpgmy family’s wellness and weight loss goals.  I have taken pictures and utilized Fitbit to track these changes for myself.  The success I am having is not somatic… it’s real.  I have no shame in the fact that I have joined Young Living.  The ONLY product I have ever spent money on is products that I have wanted to try and I have experienced significant success with EVERY SINGLE ONE.  The only storage that I have built is the products that I don’t want to run out of because they have become vital to my everyday life.

But wait… I thought the title of this post was that I got scammed.  Well, you see, I did.  I was the indirect victim of two MLM schemes that were designed to make their money off their distributors without concern about their distributors being able to make any money or not.  What I am finding with Young Living is that I got scammed into believing that MLM companies are all scams designed to steal your money by the two schemes that my loved ones got involved with.

Today, I see multi-level marketing happening all around me.  Whether I am buying a product at a brick-and-mortar store or online, the amount of money I spend for that product has been increased in cost to help pay for everything that got that product to me: the creator, manufacturer, truck driver, owner of the store, the manager of the store, the lower level employees at the store, etc.  With Young Living, I get products I want and the profits go to pay for Jenni’s house payment and Amy’s car payment, etc., rather than some CEO’s vacation home or monthly vacation.

I’m not going to use this blog to try and sell you any oils, but I will be mentioning them from time to time because they are a part of my life and they are a HUGE part of my journey towards wellness as I have used oils to aide in everything from my sleep to my digestion.  Have any of you used essential oils as a part of your pursuit of living above the wellness line?    Let me know in the comments below.

Sign up now! 

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • To avoid an even more unhealthy relationship with the scale, I will only be doing weigh in information during my weekend blog post.  Thanks for understanding 🙂

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Failure… My Mental Journey Of Weight Loss

Failure is a familiar concept for most of us!  How many times have we made a commitment to ourselves only to find ourselves falling short of that commitment and feeling like a failure?  Come on, now, be honest with yourself.  January 1 just passed and the largest majority of us have already failed at something we committed to just mere weeks ago.

I’m no stranger to the crushing guilt of failure and I’ve shared that with you all previously on this blog.  Unlike last time, though, this time the failure is my own.  I fell short of my goals this week.  Sitting in this chair last Sunday, I made a commitment to add a Wednesday morning blog post and I missed it on my very first week!

When I was contemplating the creation of this blog, the one thing I read over and over again was the importance of consistency.  Every successful blogger stressed the importance of consistent posting and following through on commitments.  I’ve butchered that this week.  I could outline all the excuses that I have for why I missed my commitments, but I feel that it would be a waste of time and energy.

While I’m on this topic, I felt like it would be a great time to share how failure has impacted me.  Several months ago, I was in a therapy session with a teenage boy when I realized my words, while amazing, were kicking me right between the eyes.  In that moment, it literally dawned on me that my weight was nothing more than an externalization of the internal feelings I had about myself.  I hated myself.  I felt like a horrible failure.  I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t strong enough.  I wasn’t man enough.  As a result, I had punished myself and literally buried myself under 250 pounds of excess fat.  I had become the very physical representation of the thoughts I had about myself every day because I viewed myself as a failure at life.

It wasn’t until I faced that very difficult reality that I was empowered to begin the process of change.  You see, losing weight has been so much more of a mental journey than a physical journey.  Before I could truly be successful at losing weight, I had to be honest with myself about the problem and face the reality of the situation I had put myself into.  I had to drop the inner defenses I had built to protect my ego from the crushing reality that I weighed 450 pounds.  It was only after I had this moment of self-awareness that I was able to fully grasp the problem and begin the process of planning and pursuing change.

How many times do we deal with our uncomfortable feelings through an unhealthy outlet?  For me, the weight problem was the culmination of multiple issues:  eating to improve my mood, using my weight to hide from others and attempt to hide from uncomfortable life experiences, and the externalization of nasty and hateful opinions I held about myself.  Despite having a life filled with success, I had a failure identity forged out of my failure to properly acknowledge my successes and an unhealthy commitment to cling to the life events where I had missed success.

Taking on the goal of losing 250 pounds of excess body fat takes a large degree of self-confidence and self-esteem.  Before I could be successful at that goal, I had to face down the issues that kept me mentally paralyzed and had created the issue in the first place.  With this round of weight loss, I originally committed to beginning the weight loss journey on January 1, 2016, but I didn’t actually start until September 11, 2016. Why?  Because it is impossible to find it in yourself to form and succeed at a goal like weight loss if you have no inner resolve or self-worth to enable such a journey.

It took that extra time for me to begin the journey of identifying and unpacking the life circumstances and thought patterns that had forged the failure identity that was keeping me buried.  This process took me from January to September to complete enough to be empowered to make this change, but I still have to fight this battle every single day.  Despite the fact that my wife and I are both mental health counselors, this change was not easy and it took a LONG TIME.  Unfortunately, this new way of thinking and living is NEW and UNCOMFORTABLE.  It fits like a glove that is too small and it doesn’t happen for me naturally.  I have to FORCE myself to live within my new life choices.

Therefore, despite my overwhelming failure with my goal on this blog, I experienced overwhelming success in the area that I put my attention and energy:  walking.  Last week, I was excited to announce that I had walked over 10 miles.  This week, my wife and I walked much further and even seen our best pace ever.  Thanks to another friend of mine, I had been challenged to work up to five miles in a single walk prior to February 1, 2017.  Yesterday, I met that goal when I walked five miles in a single walk and achieved my best pace to date:  19 mins, 43 seconds per mile.

So, as I sit here relaxing on this beautiful Sunday evening with Stress Away rolling out the top of my diffuser, I turn my eyes to another week without any unnecessary guilt or inner turmoil over the areas I fell short this week.  I call them unnecessary because they won’t fix the problem, but keeping those emotions around could definitely create a failure identity that keeps me trapped. Rather than allowing my human condition to create an atmosphere of failure and defeat, I am celebrating my successes and looking only to build upon them in the coming week.  I will reach my health goals and I will succeed at building a place here that inspires others to find their own path to wellness.

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 364.8 pounds
  • Total loss  85.2 pounds (31.9% of my total excess body weight)

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Discouragement

I stepped outside last night to walk a friend to his truck.  The evening had died down and he had to get back to his home town in order to pick up his daughter from work.  As we summarized the week and reminisced about the enjoyment of our evening, he lit a cigarette and puffed on it passively.  The smell of the burning cigarette ignited my temptation and my only thought was how much I would give for just one more cigarette.  The mere thought of giving in again caused my hands to begin trembling and my mouth to salivate.

Thanks to the bitterly cold wind and a clock that never stops ticking our time away, our goodbyes had to be cut short and my friend’s cigarette was tossed away only half-smoked.  As he moved to enter his truck, the temptation of the sudden availability of only half a cigarette, which luckily landed with the filter in the air, overwhelmed me.  I retrieved the cigarette and, without thinking, took a deep drag.  Damn! It felt good.  As the smoke entered my lungs, the tightness in my chest from months of cravings was released and the weight of the pressure of quitting rolled off my shoulders.  I felt truly relaxed for the first time since I quit on August 26, 2016.

It was as the pure satisfaction of complete relaxation hit every fiber of my being that I remembered something:  my friend isn’t a smoker.  The harsh contradiction forced my eyes open and the realities of my mental world faded like a wisp of smoke torn apart by a gust of wind.  I had been dreaming and none of it had ever happened.  Despite feeling so very, very real, everything that had just occurred for me was nothing more than a visualization in my mind… driven by emotion.

Emotions can be a tricky thing, can’t they?  Some days we feel on top of the world and nothing can bring us down from our high.  Other times, though, we feel insecure or defeated and it seems nothing can shake us out of it.  On Thursday morning, I did my daily wp-1484414623586.pngweigh in and discovered that I had officially lost my 75th pound.  However, I wasn’t overtaken with joy or pride.  I felt discouraged.  As I made my breakfast, I knew that what I was FEELING was out of sync with the realities of my weight loss situation.  Determined to get myself out of the funk, I opened my favorite music app and pressed play.  It resumed with the song I had been listening to on the way home the night before:  Last Hope by Paramore.

Paramore is one of my wife’s favorite bands and, over time, I have moved from tolerating them to respecting the talents of their young, female lead singer.  This particular song became somewhat of an anthem for me early last year as I began to confront the mental demons that had led to my unhappiness and, ultimately, my weight problem.  Yet, I realized that only one phrase from the song was getting stuck in my head and the end result was not encouragement, but discouragement.  Rather than feeling the “spark” that is just “…enough to keep me going,” I was being plagued by another lyric in the song.

Every night I try my best to dream tomorrow makes it better

And wake up to the cold reality that not a thing has changed

-Last Hope, Paramore

But why was this lyric plaguing me?  Why was the source of so much inspiration now creating the exact opposite feeling?  The answer took me most of the day to work through and a lot of conversations with a lot of people.  As I worked through this, I realized that I have been having a subconscious, but very real, thought as I look in the mirror:  I look the same.  This thought was so subtle, I barely noticed it slowly poisoning the image that I see when I look in the mirror and twisting my ability to see the realities of the changes that are happening. All I could see is a VERY fat me pretending to change my life and, even if I was making progress, I have more than TWO more 75-pound victories to celebrate before I reach my goal.  #notpossible

Faced with the overwhelming feeling of failure, I pulled out my last set of before and after photos.  The only time that I see a difference in myself is when I look at before and after photos.  The truth is undeniable when I see the pictures side-by-side.  However, I haven’t been doing as many of those because the changes haven’t been as dramatic.  With the reduced frequency of comparison photos and this poisonous thought occurring under the surface, the lyrics of the song struck me in a totally different way than normal and the end result was:  discouragement.

Thanks to my profession, I knew how to respond.  First, I  turned off the song and moved to more encouraging songs.  Secondly, I realized I had to live by what I KNOW to be true rather than what I FELT to be true in that moment.  I had to force myself to go through the motions despite having so many temptations to return to old habits and feel sorry for myself.  The feeling didn’t go away at all Thursday.  In fact, in some ways, it just felt like it was getting worse as I talked about what I was experiencing.

When I got home from work, I upped my game.  I turned on some worship music and I then began to clean my environment.  I don’t know about anyone else, here, but our house is struggling by Thursday if we have had a busy week.  I did the dishes and scrubbed the counters.  When my wife got home, she noticed what I was doing and straightened the living room.  She also encouraged me to diffuse some oils.  With my surroundings looking much better and a constant source of encouragement through worship, I felt better by the time we went to bed and I woke up refreshed on Friday and ready to face our ice storm… tee hee…

That’s when I realized I need to share my experience.  Never underestimate the power of wp-1484414615783.jpgyour FEELINGS.  If we are not in control of our emotions, our emotions will be in control of us.  This week, it would have been so easy to backslide and play the victim to the FEELINGS that I was having.  It is so crucial that we choose to live our lives based on what we KNOW rather than how we FEEL.  If our lives were like a car, our knowledge and choices need to be the front wheels of our car and our feelings and physiology (the way we feel inside our bodies) need to be the back wheels.  The back wheels, though crucial, have no turning power.  Despite their necessity for the functionality of the car, they are only guided by the front wheels to where they need to be.

I apologize for such a long post.  I always try to make my posts short and sweet.  However, I have always worked to be open and transparent here and, today, I felt this just needed to be said.

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 372.6 pounds
  • Total loss  77.4 pounds (28.9% of my total excess body weight)

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Pursuing Healthy Living

It happened this week… the magical Winter of Christmas came this week and my Christmas decorations missed it.  Oddly enough, most everyone’s Christmas decorations were already down by the time our snow hit. I shared with my wife as we drove through the nasty, white sludge the pain I felt of being robbed again as the “magic” was left as little more than an annoyance and an unpaid day off work.  I guess that’s just how life goes sometimes…

I’ve debated whether or not I wanted to use this forum to discuss another lifestyle change that we have made. Back in November, my wife and I added a perfect compliment to our new healthier eating patterns.  Until now, I have not shared that information here as it is not why this weight loss blog was originally created.  However, in the interest of transparency, I’ve decided it is necessary for me to discuss an upcoming decision I have made regarding my weight loss with you all.  To do so, I must talk with you about my decision to invest in essential oils for my family.

wp-1483903726304.jpgBack in November, I asked a group of friends if they would be willing to listen to a co-worker share her passion for essential oils.  My goal was simple:  be a supportive friend for someone I care for deeply.  Honestly, I sat through her sharing quite critically and spent the entire time looking online for information to debunk the things my co-worker was sharing with our group.  Sorry Jenni 😉

When she finished with her presentation, I made it quite clear I felt that the information she had shared was “bullshit,” but was grateful that she had take the time to share something she feels very strongly about with us.  As a result of my efforts in setting up the class, I won a sample… a sample of any oil I wanted.  Ever the open-minded researcher, there was one oil I wanted to try:  Panaway – an oil known for its soothing qualities on tired and sore muscles.

After the class, my wife and I went to Hobby Lobby and I decided to try my sample before we went in.  “Look honey, ” I said sarcastically, “I’m rubbing the magical oil on my ankle.” With that, we went into the store and began our shopping.  About 20 minutes later, I texted my co-worker from the store and said, “Oh my lord I think it really works.”  With that, I explained to her and my wife how, though I still felt the origin of the issue I used the oil for, I had experienced a warm, numbing effect that brought me significant relief.  My interest was peaked.  For the next week, I could hardly do anything but read about essential oils and listen testimonials online.  To make a long story short, my investigative process led me to find out that the oils I wanted to try were more expensive than the starting kit, so I just bought the kit.  wp-1483903777135.jpg

What has happened in the weeks since, has been nothing short of a miracle.  Both my wife and I have found natural relief from everyday struggles.  The major areas of improvement have been sleep quality, natural aides for managing headaches and sore muscles, and relief from allergy/cold symptoms without resorting to medicines.  However, my biggest testimony comes from the improvement of the skin on my right hand.  Since I was very young, I have had a special type of eczema that I could not control or eliminate despite using every lotion, soap, and even through use of steroid creams from my doctors.  With my essential oils kit, this condition has become a memory  (only six days after I received the products I used on it).

So, why am I telling you all this on my weight loss blog?  Well, I’ve made a decision.  Young Living is starting a two-part weight loss challenge tomorrow which will run in two 60 day phases.  I have decided to enter this competition.  Why?  Well, the prizes are amazing and it could result in me getting my hands on more oils and even some cash.

This will not altar anything else that I am or have been doing in my life.  However, I will be taking a product that they offer and, thanks to the last four months of my life, I will be able to tell if this makes any change to my current weight loss or not.  If anyone wants to know more about the product that I am taking, you can email me and I’ll tell you individually.  However, I’m not advertising, nor do I get any money from using this product.  My ONLY reason for using the product and entering the competition is the chance to get those prizes… PARTICULARLY the oils because they have made such a difference in my life.

I know this may sit badly with some of you that are reading my blog, but I hope you can respect my decision to make choices as I see fit for my life.  This blog will not become about the challenge, but it will include my experiences and my progress.  Otherwise, you can expect the same great (haha) content that you’ve always encountered here.

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 376 pounds
  • Total loss:  74 pounds (27.7% of my total excess body weight)

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Where Are You Christmas?

wp-1483407716012.jpgGreetings from a depressingly normal Southwest Missouri.  It didn’t feel much like Christmas this year as all my favorite Christmas traditions got thrown out the window and the weather only rarely dropped lower than 50 degrees.  I miss the snow. I miss the kids outside playing.  I miss the mental sleigh ride I take across the gloriously white countryside with my wife and a cup of hot cocoa.  I miss the magical WINTER of Christmas… but Christmas is over and I just feel robbed.

Speaking of being robbed, I was awoken this morning by the sound of chainsaws outside my window.  Might I highlight that this was just as disturbing to me as it sounds?!  Nobody called to tell me the landlord had paid people to come cut down some overgrowth and an unruly tree.  A very special thanks, though, to those wonderful tree trimmers again for their hasty job of taking down my beloved Christmas decorations.  My Christmas decorations were around the tree and, as such, had to be removed. Now, my desperate attempts to cling to my favorite season have been halted and the timeframe of socially acceptable Christmas decorations forced the decision to just pack them all away until next year.  The hope for the magic of Christmas is now packed away in too many storage totes patiently waiting until next Christmas when they will finally be reclaimed from those dark storage containers.  I feel robbed… again.

If I would have known then what I know now, I would be incredibly satisfied with the food choices that I made over the holidays.  Thanks to my loving wife, we preserved the major culinary traditions of our Christmas holiday and I enjoyed way too many Peanut Butter Balls and a couple helpings biscuits and gravy.  Before the parties started, my wife and I talked about how to deal with having so many celebrations over the course of so many weeks.  Together, we decided that calories would not be counted anytime we were at a holiday celebration.  Additionally, we didn’t track calories on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  These same rules applied to New Year’s Eve.  With Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and more than 6 holiday parties, we had over 15 calories-not-being-tracked meals in two weeks.

wp-1483407773113.jpgAlso, during the holidays, I didn’t do a lot of other things, either.  I didn’t blog and I didn’t weigh. Blogging has been a hobby for me.  This is a place where I share my journey and I wasn’t sure I wanted to stop the holiday train to spend the few hours it takes to type out a blog post.  This is starting to sound like we committed lifestyle change homicide, but we didn’t.  Thanks to the power of making informed choices even in settings where we weren’t tracking calories, both of us CONTINUED TO LOOSE WEIGHT.

Though somewhat slower than it has been, I lost my 70th pound and we are solidly back into the routine of our normal lifestyle choices as the remnants of Christmas have all gone away.  By applying the principals I shared in We Are Getting Rid of Cheat Meals Forever, my wife and I survived the holidays without unnecessary shame, guilt, gaining weight, or being the downers at parties that explain to everyone their inability to eat “that kinda stuff.”  Life is too short to get bogged down in the relentless pursuit of a goal in such a way that it steals away the simple joys of the holidays or a rare moment shared with several friends.

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 378.8 pounds
  • Total loss:  71.2 pounds (26.6% of my total excess body weight)

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Maintaining the Lifestyle

I’m not the biggest fan of Ole’ Man Winter!  The sun has gone into hiding and the beauty of the Ozarks has faded into death. The foliage that makes our landscape so beautiful has died and the bitter cold of Winter reminds us how fragile our bodies truly are.  My body struggles through the cold death of Winter.  The warmth and rejuvenating  power of the sun is such a powerful force in my life. When Winter comes, the sun retreats and bleak, gray days lead to the wintertime blues.  Thank God for the next couple weeks of Christmas lights.  These cheery bulbs of color always seem to delay the full impact of Winter from hitting until after they have been stored away for another year.  However, the dead trees and cloudy days serve as warning signs along the road as we head quickly towards January

It’s funny that this time of the year is concurrent with the 90 day mark in our weight loss journey.  The past 90 days have been filled with excitement as each pound disappeared and the onslaught of compliments made it exciting to go out in public. During the first month or so, I could post progress photos on Facebook and be met with an overwhelming response of support.  Now, it seems, that this support has changed or evolved in some way.  The annoucement of another 10 pounds lost or a picture of the latest clothing size change seems to have become the normal and the response, though positive, is less dramatic than it was in those first few days.  Yes, my world is changing everyday and the excitment of those changes is still very real and raw for me, but maybe others have other things that take their attention.  This is not to sound like I feel like I’ve been abandoned.  No, I know everyone is still out there.  However, the weight loss is no longer shocking and the new lifestyles is more of a normal or expected thing.

Have you seen the movie, Elf?  I know… Will Farrell… however, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to draw on that movie to represent how I feel.  The big point of conflict in the movie is that Santa becomes unable to fly his sleigh as the belief (support) of people lowered too far and there wasn’t enough Christmas Spirit to fly his sleigh. Likewise, for me, as the unexpected becomes the norm and we continue to hold true to our lifestyle change, the expressions of support have significantly decreased and the level of temptation has increased.

I didn’t start this journey for attention, but I’m finding this train moved fantastically well off the steam produced by the support I was getting, but now it seems that I am having to supplement that support with my own willpower and determination.  I’ve had several days this past two weeks in which broccoli didn’t sound appetizing and the temptation to pick up something on the way home was almost too strong to resist.  I think this is called:  The Maintenance Phase.

Maintenance is “the act of maintaining.”  Wait!  I thought we couldn’t use the root word to define a word?  Well, “maintain” is defined as preserving from failure or decline.*  Yep, that sounds about right!  My wife and I are officially in the maintenance phase of this race.  The overwhelming cheers of supporters may be behind us now, but the time has come for us to find our pace and ride this out if we want to be successful in this endeavor.  If we don’t, we’re not going to reach the finish line.

I’ve had a few of you request that I talk about avoiding temptation.  I still have temptation and I still give in.  However, my allowances are very planned and controlled.  Initially, this was done through the use of a cheat meal.  Throughout the week, my wife and I would talk about and plan what we would like to include in our cheat meal.  Now, we have learned a variety of methods that allow us to stay within our calorie expectations, but color outside the lines with moderation.  This makes the act of healthy eating a choice rather than a punishment or restriction.

Lastly, making this change has followed a line of thinking that got me to quit smoking.  One day, while enjoying a smoke, I wondered to myself if I would purchase 20 small vials of poison from gas station solely because they would temporarily make me feel emotional pleasure and taste good despite the fact that they would kill me.  The answer was simple.  Similarly, with food, would I pay $2.00 to a vendor at the market for something that looked like food and tasted like food or would I pay $3.00 to a vendor at the market for actual, real food?  Eating what I eat has become a pursuit of health by way of eating real foods that I know my body can use and process.  Nowadays, those unhealthy foods feel a lot like those vials of poison.  They may taste good, but too much of that stuff is gonna kill you.

For now, though, it’s back to taking my life back…

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 387.4 pounds
  • Total loss:  62.6 pounds (23.4% of my total excess body weight)

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*”Maintain.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.