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)

Find me on social media:

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

 

Why We Are Getting Rid of “Cheat Meals” Forever

On September 11, 2016, my wife and I started a journey.  We didn’t know at the time that this journey was going to turn our entire world upside down.  At first, we had no idea what we were doing. We had set a date to start with the expectation to make a plan before it arrived, but I put off planning until it was grocery day.  We took a few minutes to look up some recipes, got a few ideas for stuff to buy ,and then we headed to the grocery store.

Part of our plan quickly became the inclusion of a cheat meal.  The rules for the cheat meal 2016-11-19-10.56.26.jpg.jpgwere simple:  calories don’t matter with the expectation that we don’t go completely crazy.  As we reached our first cheat meal, though, we felt guilty and stayed within our calorie limit for the day.  It wasn’t until several weeks into our change that we finally let loose and had a funnel cake when we went to a local haunted corn maze with friends.

The longer we are doing this, though, the more that the idea of a “cheat meal” bothers me.  With each passing week, this change becomes more and more integrated into our lives as a lifestyle choice rather than a diet or weight loss strategy.   Not just in theory, but in reality.  This is what makes the idea of a “cheat meal” or “cheat day” so unacceptable to us.  We’re not cheating on anything.  We’re just living our lives.

Think about it for a second.  To maintain the idea of a “cheat meal,” it means that we are cheating on something.  If we are implementing a lifestyle where healthy foods are the priority, why is it cheating when we exercise our ability to have something other than our typical food choices?  Rather than cheating, wouldn’t it be best to think of it as using our ability to make good, healthy choices?

Cheat meals aren’t all bad, though.  By only allowing ourselves one per week, we have been training our bodies that less healthy foods, though great tasting, are terrible choices if eating frequently.  Cheat meals have helped us to learn the art of eating less healthy foods in moderation. This process has been great for helping us to solidify our changes, learn how to establish boundaries, and maintain those boundaries.  However, that seems to be where the effectiveness of cheat meals starts to fade.

This past weekend, I fully enjoyed a wonderful cheat meal with my wife as we elected to have sushi.  With our best guestimates, we are both relatively sure that we took full advantage of our cheat meal.  Yet, on Saturday night, I elected to give myself another treat:  alcohol.  Yep, even though I had sushi on Friday night, I was extremely proud of 2016-11-13-18.02.58.jpg.jpgmyself for all of our accomplishments and I decided to have another treat.  So, I went to the local liquor store, bought a 2 oz bottle of Knob Creek, and a 20 oz diet coke.

Now wait…  Didn’t I promote that I gave up smoking, soda, alcohol, and bad foods in order to regain my health? When I started this journey, soda and sweet tea were the only fluids I ingested.  In regards to alcohol, while nowhere near being an alcoholic, I regularly enjoyed several glasses of whiskey over the course of a weekend.  Does having this treat make me a failure on these goals?  Do I have to start my count over?  Heck no!  I’m still doing fantastic!  For me, having this treat did not tempt me to go back to old patterns.  I simply exercised my choice to have these things in moderation in accordance with the standards of my new life:  less healthy foods only being eaten in light moderation.

I’m certainly not wanting to use this blog to tell anyone how to live his or her life .  If you enjoy the practice of a “cheat day,” I’m all for it.  As for my wife and I, though, we’re done feeling like we are cheating on a diet.  We are just living our life.  Does our lifestyle still have boundaries?  Does our lifestyle still have caloric expectations?  You betcha!  But we’re not cheating when we have our weekly date night meal together or springing for that special adult drink.  We’re just living our life.

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

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 401.4 pounds
  • Total loss:  48.6 pounds (18.2% of my total excess body weight)

Find me on social media:

 

The True Undoing to Change

It was bound to happen and it finally did.  After doing so well over the past several weeks, one of us finally cracked and splurged on the chocolate.  I was standing at work talking to our wonderful support staff when my wife texted me with a confession:  “I messed up… I had candy… sorry for slipping.”  My first feeling was my heart cracking as I realized my wife must be hating herself for breaking such a wonderful track record.  I quickly responded, “I love you so much.”  Then I added, “You don’t need to confess, but I’m glad you are holding yourself accountable.”  Turns out, she had been comparing our weigh ins and was feeling extremely disappointed and vulnerable.  Then, later in the day, our good buddy Chocolate started whispering out his usual promises of comfort.  Who wouldn’t be tempted to say, “Screw it,” and give in?

If you’re one of the lucky ones that have never struggled with your weight, you may not understand.  The rest of us know, however, that the process of making life changes is so difficult that the changes are often abandoned quickly enough that the phrase, “It’s not a diet. It’s a life change,” has almost become a tired cliché… even to us!  Ever heard someone make that statement and you silently groan and wonder how long it will last this time?   Yet, that is what this entire process has been:  a life change (more like EXTREME LIFE MAKEOVER).  It has been 11 weeks since I quit smoking, 9 weeks since have had soda (or any liquid calorie other than milk), 9 weeks since I had a taste of whiskey (I know – liquid calories, but I’m proud), and 9 weeks of eating fresh foods at home.  In those 9 weeks, I’m proud to announce that we have lost a combined total of 73.4 pounds!!!

But why  has the idea of a life change become such an irritating phrase to hear?  After years of diets and exercises that only worked temporarily, I can tell you that CHANGE is hard… VERY HARD.  More than once already I have been tempted to take a quick drive thru on the way home as both of us were getting home late from work and the idea of cooking/cleaning left a sour taste in my mouth.  It’s no wonder that over 95% of people that attempt this journey have failed!

Moments of weakness can become patterns of behavior if we allow ourselves to give in and, FAR WORSE, allow guilt to keep up trapped in a negative cycle.  When my wife texted me, I sensed that she was teattach20043_20161107_202351-2.pngrribly disappointed in herself.  When I shared I was writing this today, she expressed her irritation as the guilt of that moment still seems to be plaguing her.  Yet, when we got home that night, my wife’s moment of weakness was two fun size pieces of candy and she was still WITHIN her calorie limit for the day!  (Yes, she has reviewed the completed post and has given her blessing.)

As I think back to all the times I have tried to change my life or lose weight, I recall so many times that guilt and disappointment led to the unraveling of my progress.  Stress, anxiety, disappointment, anger, guilt, hunger., etc., all present so many attractive doorways to temptation and it is SO hard not to take one when you feel like all your efforts are literally doing no good. Then, we are left feeling worthless and guilty as we revert from a victim of our circumstances to a failure for giving in.  The cycle is paralyzing and can easily send anyone back to the patterns they are trying to leave behind.

Let me tell you something, it is virtually impossible to wreck your entire process of change in one day.  Unless you allow your emotions to keep you stuck and your incident of failure becomes a pattern of failure, one terrible day will cause nothing more than a lightly felt bump in the road.  The best thing you can do when you give in is to accept it and move forward.  False guilt, shame, feelings of failure, etc., will only exacerbate the problem and set you back.  That’s the beauty of having a partner that is taking this journey with me.  Together, we were able to accept her “failure” and move on.  In our case, there was no damage, but there could have been if guilt and shame were allowed to take root and begin the unraveling of such a beautiful journey.

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

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today: 404.6 pounds
  • Total loss:  45.4 pounds (17% of my total excess body weight)

Find me on social media:

 

Healthy Eating on a Budget

20161023_105616.jpgWhen you think of healthier eating habits, what’s the next thought you have?  Do you think about losing weight?  Do you think about vegetables?  Do you think about starving yourself to death?  Our society has equated healthy eating habits with several of those things.  However, my first thought while I was in the contemplative stage of change was the cost.   Prior to starting this journey, my wife and I were already spending way too much on food.  The mere idea of increasing that bill was a very unwelcome idea.  Sound familiar?

Take a second and type “healthy eating cost” into a search engine.  No really, I’ll wait.  What were your results?  Did you find articles that would discourage change?  I did.  Once I set out to the grocery store to embark on my new journey to health, I was IMMEDIATELY questioning whether this would be something we could maintain after we got that first $300 bill.   That question got worse after we ended up needing to go grocery shopping only a week later.  I don’t consider myself to be poor, but I definitely can’t afford a $300/week grocery bill.

Today , I would love to share some tips I have learned to cut our bill down by over 71% from that first week – a cost even LOWER than our original unhealthy grocery bill!!!

  • Do some research.
    • Spend some time online collecting every recipe idea that you can find within your desired food or calorie limits. You may never make ANY of these recipes (we haven’t), but these will get you started in training your brain what foods to be looking for and how they cooperate with other foods.  From these recipes, you can also begin to build a list of basic, repeating foods that you can buy and use in multiple healthy food creations (ahem,… chicken… cough, cough).  This will help you to prioritize where to put your money for the most impact on your diet.
  • Visit alternative food stores.
    • Let’s face it!  We are creatures of habit.  My wife and I fell into the same ritual when it came to buying food.  New stores had moved in and old stores had renovated since we developed our routine.  Though we always planned to visit/compare, we never actually did that.  While we were going through our routine, a local Aldi store went through MAJOR renovations and had begun taking plastic forms of payment (a huge plus for us) and focusing on the healthy food market.  Who knew?  Probably millions, but the important thing was we didn’t.  Take the time to visit other places to obtain your food supply.  We have visited several grocers and even local farmer’s markets in an attempt to find the cheapest places to buy our food.
  • Think outside the box (well, my box…).
    • I have a very dear friend that saves about $30 a week on groceries by utilizing cheaper forms of protein than meat.  Meat tastes great and that is my preferred method of eating protein; however, there are many other sources of protein that you can build a meal around that are much cheaper.  Try using beans in your recipes or adding walnuts to a salad to get those healthy fats and proteins into your meals.  I am no longer buying fresh fruit to add to my plain, greek yogurt.  These days, I buy a package of freeze dried fruit that I can crush into a powder and use at my own pace rather than having a small window of freshness to consume them.
  • Buy in bulk/online.
    • As I was walking through Wal-Mart this weekend, I noticed that they are now carrying a brand of coconut oil that I purchased online.  The big difference?  I purchased a container that was at LEAST five times bigger for a few dollars more than the small container they were selling.  Sometimes those bulk prices can be scary, but making the initial sacrifice can lead to HUGE savings in the future.
  • Buy local.
    • Foods that are packaged, frozen, and transported long distances are often more pricey than foods that are grown, caught, and sold locally.  Spending time to find places that you can buy local berries, meat, and fish leads to foods that cost less and are frequently more fresh than the stuff you may find at the grocery store.  There are local farms around here that sell all kinds of produce at great prices while their crops are in season.  Take the time to stop and buy those great foods and freeze them to get you through those long and pricey seasons that these foods aren’t in season.
  • FORGET ORGANIC!
    • While there is a legitimate market out there that is trying to make food available that is grown in as natural methods as possible, there is also a market out there that is designed to take your money!  Educate yourself on what it means when a food is labeled organic and the potential dangers of “organic” processes before you make the decision to spend your money on a label.  My wife and I don’t make this an issue in our grocery shopping, but our decision may not be right for you.

When we started our journey, our first grocery bill was $300!  It was insane.  However, by learning these lessons, we have been able to drop our grocery bill to about $85 each week on average.  Our grocery bill is even cheaper than it was before we started this journey!   It is my hope that you can take our experiences and avoid those first few weeks of terrible grocery bills.  Remember, this is not a forced process.  Slow down, take a deep breath, and then invest the time to shop smartly (this will take time), but it gets easier.

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

  • September 11, 2016: 450+pounds
  • Today:  411 pounds
  • Total loss:  39 pounds (14.6% of my total excess body weight)

Find me on social media: