A Fat Man's Journey (Working my way back…)

An Attempt to Journey from Fat to Fit in a Lifetime. Eat right, Eat less, Move more


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Climbing Hills and Other Points Along the Road


Living this way.

If you read this blog with regularity, you know the date. December 27, 2011. That was the day I began the Journey. I wanted to lose 75 pounds. I weighed 306 pounds and I figured losing 75 pounds would be a heck of a good thing. That would bring me down to 231-230.

I revised that quickly. A few weeks in to the Journey I decided that 210 was a better weight and that became my target. I wanted to lose 96 pounds.

I really didn’t know what I was doing. I started this blog so I could keep a diary of the trip and to keep me motivated.

On August 8, 2012 I reached 210 pounds. I have been below that weight for much of the journey since and I have learned to love the way I live.

I am so far from that person. The FAT person. The man in the pictures, hiding behind everyone else, trying to not look so large. I was “The Great Carnivore”. My diet was heavy on meat. Also heavy on Peanut Butter and Jelly. And White Bread.t

And I was fat.

Now? I have not had red meat since March of 2012. I rarely have poultry. I sometimes eat fish. I haven’t had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in more than two years. I will have a piece of whole wheat bread with a light spread of peanut butter about once every two months.

I was sedentary. Sitting on the sofa and watching TV was my evening, my weekend day, my activity of choice for times away from work.

I ride my bike now. I lead rides. I often do 40-mile rides. 60 miles? 75? Yes. I rode 3000 miles last year.

I eat right. I eat less. I ride my bike.

I am living this way. I am not afraid of regaining the weight. I know I have to watch it. I know I have to be careful. I can’t get careless but I know I have the plan, the knowledge and the habits developed to stay in my weight range.

This is how I live. It is not a fad, a DIET, a “program”. It is my life.

I understood right from the beginning that this had to become life. Diets are designed to end. They are designed to fail. “Programs” end. Programs Fail.

I had to make this the way I live. For the rest of my life.

Climbing Hills

It is a matter of perspective.

I love to ride. I am good on the flat roads, the rolling roads and the down hills (I LOVE DOWN HILLS) but I am not good on the hills.

Now BP, my boss at the bike shop, says I lack perspective. We are all bad at hills if we compare ourselves to others. And there is a good point there.

Here is my point: I am a weak hill climber. I climb them anyway. I am better than I was two years ago. I am better than I was last year. I may never be a really good hill climber but I am getting better. My point is that I am doing it. Despite how much I hate the hills, I am doing them. Despite how much I struggle, I am doing them. I am in the game. I am fighting my way up the hills.

Bad at running? Run anyway. Bad at hill climbs? Climb them anyway. Get in the game.

One the first shop ride I went on in early 2013 I had to walk a couple of hills. The group had to wait for me. I was the slow rider in the back.

I stayed in the game.

By July I was leading the ride.

I am not good on hills. I climb them anyway.

I am better at climbing hills than everyone who doesn’t try.

All a matter of perspective.

The Man in the Mirror.

I cried. I stood there and cried. I was seeing me, it seemed, for the first time. I cried.

Never again

Never again

I was in my late forties. 48, on the cusp of 49 I think. I was looking in the mirror and for some reason I realized just how big I was. I cannot tell you why. I think I have written about this before. I still have no answer.

I was around 320 pounds. Looking in the mirror that day I saw the roundness of my face, the second and third chin and the sheer size of ME.

And I cried. For a moment. I stood there and I cried.

It was the second time that I realized just how very large I was. The first was a picture taken at a family celebration a few years earlier.

This time… Looking in the mirror. Not able to blame the ten pounds a camera puts on.

I cried.

This weekend I looked in the mirror. I was getting ready for my Saturday morning ride (more on that later) and I saw a different me and I have to tell ya… I didn’t cry.

I saw the lean face. I saw the lean neck and shoulders. I saw a me that is very far from the person I was 5 years ago, 3 years ago, even two years ago.

Thought I would mention it.

The Saturday Ride

I have not been getting the miles I want on the bike.

The irony of working part-time in a bike shop is how little time I have to ride. I work my regular job Monday through Friday and I work the shop on weekends. This leaves precious little time to ride.

The nice weather helps on Saturdays and I lead the shop ride on Sundays.

Saturday is my solo time. It is the ride where I push myself and challenge my abilities. I ride as hard as I can for as long as I can within the 18 miles or so on the route to the shop.

This weekend I changed the routine. I changed my course.

I left earlier and I plotted out a course to take me about 29 miles with a little treat at the halfway mark.

At a little after 7:00 AM I mounted up and set out.

Now to really appreciate this ride I need you to remember what I said about climbing hills..

The first quarter of a mile of any ride from my home is downhill. If I turn right at the bottom of the hill I can stay on a generally downhill course with only a couple of climbs all the way to the shop over the course of about 18 miles. If I go straight I have a nearly two-mile climb. The first part is relatively steep. The rest is just long.

I went straight. I had my third best time climbing that hill. Proud of that.

Elevation Map from the ride on Saturday

Elevation Map from the ride on Saturday

Then I continued on past some beautiful farm fields, winding roads through wooded areas, a couple of nice climbs and then a ride through one of the underappreciated towns in New Jersey, Denville. A quick stop for a small coffee at Smart World and back to the ride.

Along the Route of the  Ride on Saturday

Along the Route of the Ride on Saturday

Some rolling hills and a couple of short climbs, a wrong turn or two and I saw a friend from the shop cycling in the other direction. I waved, he waved and I rode on. A few minutes later JS rode up to me, deciding that riding with a friend was worth diverting from his planned route. We rode the remaining eight miles together, a little chatting but mostly just two well matched riders enjoying a roll through the towns along the route. JS could easily ride away from me if he wanted to but we ride well together. It was fun.

At the end I had 29 miles in and a new route to follow on my way to the shop.

It was joy. Challenging myself, picking the harder, longer route. And to ride it so well.

Yes BP, you are right. It is a matter of perspective.

 

Peace


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Wednesday already?


Sometimes it just doesn’t work out

Weather is something I simply cannot control.

I had such plans for this weekend past.

None of them worked out….

Saturday I planned on a 30+ mile ride.  I got in 20.  I got started late as I was a little slow-moving that morning.  Then the weather grew threatening and I cut the ride a little short.

Sunday I got in the 18 miles to the shop and we STARTED the Sunday Morning Shop Ride but only two miles in the skies opened up and we retreated to the shop and ended up going for breakfast.  Twenty-two miles…

Monday, the day I had set aside for a long ride with the hope of getting 65-70 miles in was foggy all morning and then raining… Not a single mile on the bike on Monday.

My plans for a 150-mile weekend turned in to a 42-mile reality.

I have to accept it and make other plans for miles this week.

On Sunday, September 8, I am taking part in the NYC Century, One-Hundred miles through the streets of New York City.  I had hoped this weekend would serve as the base for that ride.  Understand that I know I am ready and it is not really a concern that the lack of riding the last three days will keep me from having the ability to ride the 100 next Sunday.  I simply wanted to continue to push my limits.  I have never ridden 150 miles in a three day stretch.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could and to have that bit of confidence going in to the century.

I hope it doesn’t rain next Sunday…

Overeating

It was not my best weekend for watching my intake.  Not sure why but I did overeat this weekend.  Part of it was the rain out on Sunday.  After the rain out we cleaned up and the shop owners and one other shop employee went to a favorite spot for breakfast.  Though I had already eaten my morning meal, I had a bagel with lox and cream cheese.  I called it lunch and it ALMOST fit in the plan but it was still more than I would have normally eaten and it stretched the calories.  I don’t know why I allowed myself to do that when I could have easily had a bowl of grits or oatmeal and saved myself 250 calories.

I have to watch that.  I allowed a social setting to dictate my eating and I know that this is a slippery slope for me.

My weight spiked this weekend at 208 pounds.  Not a good thing.  I know why.  I just don’t know why I allowed it.   Need to think about this but mostly I need to jump back on plan HARD.  Of course it was back down to 203.4 by last night.  Go figure….  Still up from where I want to be….

I can feel the weight on me.  Might be a psychological thing but I was feeling fat and sluggish yesterday.

Monday night’s dinner of smoked chicken with potato and Cole slaw was tasty and I stayed within the limits but it is not how my body is accustomed to eating and it contributed to the sluggish feeling yesterday.

I was back on plan yesterday: a light breakfast of cereal, grapes and milk.  I had a very light lunch and a nice dinner with plenty of vegetables followed by a light snack.  That kept me around 1800 calories for the day.  Get the body and mind pointed back in the right direction.

Evening Ride

I looked at the forecast and it looks like the weather may favor me with a window to get in an evening ride.  A quick 20 miles will help me feel like I have it all back together…

I am better to be around when I have gotten in my miles.  I feel better mentally and physically and that makes me a better father and husband and friend.  Today I feel just a bit grumpy and I think that has to do with not getting in the miles.  I think a quick ride tonight will do a world of good for all involved.

I will ride alone and I that will give me time to clear the mind.  By the time I get home from the ride I will have burned away the stresses of the day and be ready to enjoy the company of my family and ready to be with the human race again.

I am glad I returned to cycling.  It has helped me find my sanity.

A 5K

I have decided that I am going to run a 5K.  The legs may feel differently about it but I think I can do it.  I have the fitness for it.  The issue is that the legs have not done any running of note in ages and are used to pushing pedals not running down the street.

I picked out a local 5K run that is a fund-raiser for a local Fire Department.  It is a very flat route.  I want to do it just so I can say I did it.  It is one more step in the right direction from where I was.

I know I will not become a “runner” but it is something I can and want to check off the list of accomplishments.  Along with the 100 mile ride, it represents a distance traveled far beyond the geographic measurements.

As with the cycling, the walking, the hiking, running is one more thing I could not do.  Running a 5K will be one more thing I can now do that I could not.  It is another milestone, a landmark on the Journey.  It is a representation of the place I am now, so far from where I was then.

I hope KG can do the run with me.  I will need her telling me to SUCK IT UP to get through.

The best thing

I was asked what I think is “The Best Thing” thing about having lost the weight.  I don’t have an answer.  So many things come to mind.  There is the health thing of course.  How can one not be happy about the health improvements that came with the fitness gain and weight loss?  There is the looks thing.  It is nice to not stand out because of my size.  I love the “fit in to tight spots” thing as well.  The comfort thing is big with me.  Not being uncomfortable in chairs with arms.  Fitting in to airplane seats.

I love the buying clothes in the regular men’s department as well.  The 34 inch waist and the large size shirts.  My size in stock and on sale is wonderful.

I guess what I really like about the weight loss, I guess my favorite thing about it, is being “normal”.  Not being “fat”, not needing BIG sizes, being able to fit in booths, airplane seats, tight spaces.  Yeah, that’s it …

Nah, that is second best.

It is the health thing.  Improving the odds that I will see the younger one grow to adulthood….

Yeah, that is the best thing.

 

Peace


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Sunday


A look back at the week

It was a busy week for me. Work was hectic as could be, my brother visited, we drove to Maryland and back on Saturday and fit a 90th birthday party in there for good measure and today I led the 9:00 AM shop ride.

Oh, and I lost two pounds and now sit just a smidge over 200. This is normal for me. I have been sitting between 200 and 205 for months now. Once in a while I sneak below 200 for a day or two but edge back to 200. I am very happy with this. I have said I want to settle in between 200 and 205 and that is what I have done.

First the visit from the Brother.

It was fantastic. There was a time when MB and I could not spend more than an hour together without an argument breaking out. Not an issue now. We sit and chat, talk about this and that and meaningful things and we don’t get riled up. It is nice. His enthusiasm over my weight loss and fitness improvement was obvious and frequently commented on. Even Saturday, as we celebrated my Great-Aunt’s 90th birthday, MB recounted his shock on seeing me Thursday, the first he has seen me in person since I lost the weight. It made me feel wonderful that he saw the hard work and appreciated the effort that Missus and I have put in to turning around our health and fitness.

At the party on Saturday my two cousins, the Doctors, were both overjoyed at the changes they saw in Missus and Me. Again, it felt wonderful. There were relatives who simply didn’t recognize me. Two cousins asked if I had “the surgery”. Sigh.

The drive to Maryland and back, more than 500 miles round trip, was tiring but it was a wonderful opportunity for Missus and me to spend some quiet time, just the two of us. I will be forever grateful to MR for watching the boys for us. On the way home we found a nice little Japanese/Chinese restaurant. I had vegetable in a teriyaki sauce with brown rice. It was very good. The vegetable dumplings in a spinach dough wrap were delicious. Missus and I split an order.

When you ride 40 miles and spend the day working at a bike shop you will burn serious calories and really run up the fitbit numbers!

When you ride 40 miles and spend the day working at a bike shop you will burn serious calories and really run up the fitbit numbers!

a fun ride today, hilly, hot, and humid but much fun....

a fun ride today, hilly, hot, and humid but much fun….

Today I rode the 16 miles from my home to the bike shop and then I led the 9:00 AM ride. We did a hilly 25 mile course and really had a good time. The heat and humidity were tolerable at that hour and the tree lined streets over much of the ride helped keep the ride comfortable. I had a great time with a fun bunch on the ride.
After a nice dinner at our favorite Indian Restaurant….. I am now relaxing and thinking about the work week ahead…

About That Sigh

I typed a SIGH above as a reaction to being asked about “The Surgery”.

I want to explain because I don’t mean to or want to offend anyone.

I have had NO surgery. Not Gastric Bypass, not lap band. Nothing.

I went a different path. I went a path that worked for me, that fit my life and what I wanted and what I thought I could accomplish.

This does not mean that I am negative about the surgeries or that I think people who take that path are wrong to have done so or have some sort of weakness or failing.

If the surgery is the last best option or if you have diabetes then I applaud you for your courage.

My sigh is because I am saddened that this is how people think. The think that a big weight loss is not possible without the surgery. Losing 35% of your weight is a big weight loss. Make no mistake about that. I find it disheartening that some people tend to think that a big weight loss must have involved surgery.

It can. It often does. But it doesn’t have to.

That is why I sighed. I have been asked which surgery I have had at least two-dozen times. Not did I have surgery. WHICH surgery. The assumption being I must have had surgery. I didn’t. I didn’t need to. Other do need it. For reasons medical science has not fully figured out, the surgery seems to cure type-2 diabetes. For reasons medical science has not fully figured out, some people have exhausted all other options for losing weight and the threat to their health is so severe that the surgery is needed.

I wasn’t there and I was able to change my life enough that I lost the weight and I am keeping it off.

Most dieters don’t.

That is the sad and simple fact.

So far… I have…

Peace


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Sick at Home


Sick at Home

I have a head cold. Missus will tell you, with a great deal of truth, that I am a terrible patient. I hate being sick (doesn’t everyone) and I tend to get the worst of it when a cold or the flu goes through the family, as it is now.

It started with the Younger One and moved on to Missus and now I have it. Last night was hell. No sleep, pain in my throat, congestion. Sigh. I hate colds…

So I am catching up on some blog stuff.

It is almost two weeks since the Five Boro Bike tour and I am still enjoying the glow of a fun ride and time with good friends, new and old.

I hope to be well enough to ride on Saturday or Sunday. I didn’t ride last weekend, though I did hike, and I want to get on the bike…..

Yes you CAN

This is a steady theme on this blog. YOU can lose weight. Don’t dare tell me you can’t. You can get out and get exercise, get fit, lose weight. YOU CAN.

I did. I have lost the weight, I am keeping it off. I am getting more and more fit. I decided to do it. I put my mind, heart and soul in to doing it.

You can do it.

I am worn out by people telling me I did a great job, wish they could lose weight like that but they just CAN’T.

The body knows no secret to keeping weight on. Don’t feed it and you will lose weight. Under feed it and you will lose weight slower. YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT.

When I was a waiter at a Catskill Mountain resort in the late 1970’s, there was a masseuse at the hotel who was as wide as she was tall, let’s call her Sally. I worked the Children’s/Athletic Staff dining room and Sally ate her meals, three times a day, in my dining room. Lunch was always interesting. She would order the salad platter. A scoop of Tuna Salad, a scoop of Egg Salad, lettuce, tomato, some other vegetables. The platter was probably a reasonable 600 calories or so. Sally would then reward herself for eating the salad platter by having two pieces of cake.

Then she would complain about not losing weight.

She could. She wouldn’t.

I think that is the distinction. If you are overweight you can lose weight. The question is will you? Will you make the changes in what you eat, how much you eat and WHY you eat to make the weight loss happen?

Enough pulpit pounding for today.

Pictures from the Five Boro Bike Tour

It was a beautiful day for a ride. Very cold at the start, very windy as we waited on Church Street at 6:00 in the morning. I was wrapped in a plastic trash bag to keep the wind off me. In one of the pictures you can see it rolled up in my jersey pocket before I put it in the trash at the first rest area.

I think I stopped shivering somewhere on 6th Avenue just before we entered Central Park.

By the time we crossed back from The Bronx in to Manhattan I had warmed up as the temperatures rose on a sun-filled day with little wind and not a cloud to be seen. Once out of the Concrete Canyon that is 6th Avenue it was a wonderful ride.

SM, NI and Me.  6:60 AM, at the start line.  Trying hard to look cheerful and not frozen....

SM, NI and Me. 6:30 AM, at the start line. Trying hard to look cheerful and not frozen….

Crossing the Queensboro Bridge

Crossing the Queensboro Bridge

I think you can see on my face the pleasure I am taking from this ride.  I had crested the the bridge, I had clear road ahead of me and I was soaking in the sun.  All that I have worked for over the last 18 months is captured in this picture

I think you can see on my face the pleasure I am taking from this ride. I had crested the bridge, I had clear road ahead of me and I was soaking in the sun. Captured in this picture is all that I have worked for over the last 18 months

At the Brooklyn BRidge Rest Area with Lower Manhattan as a backdrop.  You can see the New World Trade Center Tower behind me.

At the Brooklyn Bridge Rest Area with Lower Manhattan as a backdrop. You can see the New World Trade Center Tower behind me.

Rolling down the FDR Drive....

Rolling down the FDR Drive….

And one Last Picture from the Tour(s)

On the left is the 2010 tour as I cross the Queensboro Bridge.  260 pound sand my weight is on the way up. On the right is the 2013 Tour as I cross the Queensboro Bridge.  201 pounds and holding steady.

On the left is the 2010 tour as I cross the Queensboro Bridge. 260 pounds and my weight is on the way up.
On the right is the 2013 Tour as I cross the Queensboro Bridge. 201 pounds and holding steady.


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It’s All Good


This is about me

This is about me, this blog, the tales of this Journey. I have never pretended to know much about nutrition or fitness or anything about this except as it relates to ME. I tell the story of my Journey, my trials, my tribulations. I talk about my failures and failings, my successes and my growth.

52 years old (minus one day).  I think this is the best picture ever taken of me.  Wish I had hair.....

52 years old (minus one day). I think this is the best picture ever taken of me. Wish I had hair…..

This is not about what is right or wrong because it is all good.

If you are doing something completely different from what I am doing and you are having success then it is good. If lifting weights for hours in the gym is your way and it works for you then it is good. If you made the difficult decision to have gastric bypass and it was your last best option and it is working for you then it is good.

I decided that the way for me was to significantly reduce my calories, from over 4000 a day to around 1500, to change the foods I ate, eliminating the trigger foods as well as red meats, peanut butter and jelly and pizza and changing to a nearly vegetarian diet and lastly, to significantly increase my physical activity with hiking and cycling. This is what has worked for me and it is good. For Me.

In the year plus that I have been on this Journey and writing this blog I have been told that I am doing everything wrong, that I will regain the weight, that my method is “stupid”… I have been told that I have to follow a special diet, get rid of carbs, eat only meats, eat only veggies, eat like the caveman, eat like the astronauts….

If that is what works for others, it is fine with me. My opinion really doesn’t matter when it comes to YOU. My opinion only matters when it comes to ME.

The only thing that matters is SUPPORT. Encouragement and support are the backbone of any successful plan.

Think about this: If you have a friend or family member who is significantly overweight and that person decides to get fit they are embarking on what SHOULD BE a life changing course. And it is hard. And it is frightening. And they need support. Not criticism.

When I say significantly overweight I am not talking about 10-15 pounds or even 20-30 pounds. I am talking 70 pounds, 80 pounds, 100 pounds or more. I am talking people who are carrying around an extra person, not a few extra pounds.

I am telling you that the weight loss and fitness Journey I started on December 27, 2011 has been at once the most rewarding and frightening thing I have ever done. Imagine this: 50+ years old and you change everything you possibly can about the way you eat, exercise, live. You go from eating indiscriminately to recording everything you eat. You change from sitting on the couch to walking 5 miles in the freezing rain because you have to get in your miles.

You give up some of your favorite foods, you push yourself to learn new ways to cook, new ways to shop, new ways to live.

And all the while you are diving deep in to your brain trying to understand why you have been slowly killing yourself with food. Why you have been “committing suicide by a thousand bites”.

Imagine that this is you. It isn’t easy is it?

The Journey is hard. It doesn’t matter how the Journey is made. It is hard. It is hard for everyone on it. I have lost 105 pounds since December 27, 2011, 120 pounds from my peak weight. It has been hard. It has been rewarding. It has been the best thing I have ever done for myself and it has been the scariest thing I have ever done to myself. I think that this holds true for anyone on the Journey.

So my Journey is my own. I can’t tell you and I won’t tell you how to do this. If you are going about it in a completely different way, that is fine. I am happy that you are on the Journey. It’s all good.

Whether or not you are on your own weight loss and fitness Journey, support your friends and family and even the strangers you meet who are on the Journey. We need the support. This is hard. A pat on the back helps to ease the Journey.

Mileposts on the Journey

outer-banks-milepost_000When I started this blog I would report on mileposts I passed along the way: 20 pounds down, 30… and so forth.

As they started flying by and it became “expected” I reported on them less often to the point that I have not really written about them at all in months.

I have passed a few recently and I wanted to write about them a little.

I passed my goal weight on August 8, 2012. I hit 209 pounds that day blasting right past the 210 pound goal. That was 228 days ago. For those 228 days my average weight is 202.5 pounds. Today I weighed 203 pounds when I stepped on the scale. Yesterday I was 202.6. I go up and down as much as a pound from one day top the next. So I am essentially right at my average weight since I hit my goal. And I am 7-8 pounds under my goal. 228 days at or below my goal weight.

The cold weather is interfering with my cycling plans but I am still getting out for hikes. The milepost here is the 7 straight weeks of achieving my fitness minutes. ….

More Hiking Today

I went for a short hike yesterday. I went close to home and climbed the trails around Turkey Mountain in Northern New Jersey. I think many people outside of the area might be surprised that New Jersey has wilderness areas and hiking trails but those of us who live here know. There are beautiful views, steep climbs, deep woods where the sound of traffic does not disrupt….

The hike was just under 4 and a half miles and was with good company. The air was crisply cold and the sky was mostly clear. There was snow cover on much of the trail but it was not a difficult hike and we made it safely.

A view across the valley.  You can see One World Trade Center in the distance.

A view across the valley. You can see One World Trade Center in the distance.

I hike most weekends now. I know it is frustrating Missus that I spend so much time away from the family on weekends but Missus also understands how important the fitness aspect of my Journey is to me.

I am hiking again today. I am driving to a park and I hope to get in 6-8 miles. This will give me 10-12 miles for the weekend and that will be good.

I am wishing for warmer weather but instead we are getting more snow tomorrow. This is getting old.

So I will keep hiking. I can hike in the cold. I find it very difficult to ride in the cold.

More hiking today.

Peace.


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Peanut Butter


Missing an Old Friend

I love Peanut Butter. I mean I really love it. It is one of those foods that I have no control around. I will make myself a PB&J and then have a spoonful or three of peanut butter after finishing the sandwich already laden with peanut butter. I don’t make sandwiches with the normal serving size. I make it THICK with peanut butter on both slices of bread and a wall around the outer edge to seal in the jelly.

My PB&J sandwiches are works of culinary art and in no possible way healthy. I use white bread. Not white whole wheat. WHITE bread. Butter-Top, Taste-Bread, Wonder Bread WHITE. No Organic, artisanal Peanut butter or jelly for me. JIF Creamy, Welch’s Concord Grape.

We are talking a sugar and high fructose corn syrup orgy between two slices of health destroying white commercially baked and preserved foam.

It is everything I no longer do to myself wrapped up in one neat little, washed down with milk, package.

And I miss it. I miss it very much.

It is the one and only food that I have given up that I consistently crave. Not every day but at least twice a week I find my mind wondering over to the pantry to look at the jar of Jif. It has been over a year. Not since sometime in December 2011 have I allowed myself to have a PB&J. Sigh.

I wonder if I will ever trust myself enough around food to have one again… I wonder if I will allow myself to eat something that unhealthy even just once in a great while.

When I took off the weight three plus years ago my reward to myself for losing 50 pounds was a PB&J. It was also the day that I started the slide back to uber-fat

I will not touch the stuff. Not yet. Not until I am certain beyond all question that I will not allow it to be a gateway back to obesity.

But I do miss that old friend…

Ain’t Hiking this weekend

I don’t know if you have heard but a major winter storm is heading this way. In my area the forecast is for close to a foot of the heavy white stuff. Further east and north they are facing a blizzard of potentially historic proportions. This will not be fun. For me the major effect will be a difficult commute home on Friday evening and time behind the snow blower. I will get in some exercise that way and I will try to get to the local trails on Saturday afternoon to do a little cross-country skiing.

The storm has killed any hope I had of hiking at the Preserve on Sunday though I may drive up there and cross-country ski if the roads and weather allows.

I am part of the Get-Fit program I have mentioned before and because I have spent so much time in cars this week, it has put at risk in only the second week my ability to meet the weekly fitness time…

Not pleased. I will find away even if it means cross-country skiing in my neighborhood.

But I can tell ya this, I ain’t hiking this weekend.

Cooking

Cooking comes easy to me. Always has. I have improved my skills over the years and I am better at seasonings and such now than years ago but I was always a good cook and it always came easy for me. Lately though I feel as though I am in a rut: sweet potato, winter squash, greens….

I have to stretch a little more and experiment more. Towards this end I have started to really dig in to my collection of 250 plus cookbooks (SS: this does not mean I have enough, feel free to keep sending me cookbooks). I am really digging in to the vegetable sections looking for inspiration. As we move closer to a vegetarian diet it is becoming more of a challenge to keep the menu varied and interesting. We are trying grains and rice that are new to us. We are trying all sorts of new greens and potatoes and squash and the like. Still this is proving a real challenge.

Ideas and suggestions are welcomed.

Tonight’s Dinner

Tilapia covered in Horseradish with a light sprinkle of Paprika, Mixed greens (string beans, collard greens and Swiss Chard) with garlic, baked sweet potato: Less than 500 calories for a filling and tasty dinner.

Peace


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The Journey at One Year


I have worked on organizing my thoughts with the anniversary of the start of my Journey upon me.

So many things to reflect upon, comment on, ponder some more.

I may as well start with a tale of the tape:

December 27, 2011:

Weight: 305.6 pounds

Then

Then

Waist: 46/48 inches

Jacket Size: 56

Neck: 18 inches

Shoe Size 11.5 EE

Blood Pressure (medicinally regulated): 125/85

At rest Heart Rate: 85 Beats Per Minute

Body Mass Index: 39.8 (morbidly obese is 40.0)

December 27, 2012

Weight: 201.2 pounds

Now

Now

Waist: 34 inches

Jacket Size: 44

Neck: 15 inches

Shoe Size 11.5 D

Blood Pressure (medicinally regulated): 116/65

At rest Heart Rate: 65 Beats Per Minute

Body Mass Index: 26.2

Those number don’t even begin to tell the story.

I knew from the first that I had to do much more than go on a diet to lose the weight. It is rare that one gets to more than 100 pounds overweight without having dieted a time or two (or three or four…). I knew from the first that for this to have a lasting result I would have to learn why I overate, why food was so central to my personality, why being overweight had become central to my identity.

Long before I started calling this “My Journey” I understood that I was embarking on a course of discovery. I also understood that I would likely not like what I would discover about myself.

How it all Began.

phil and markI was not always fat.

I tended towards HUSKY as a boy. That is what they called a boy who was a little wider than average back in the day. I wasn’t fat but I was big. Pictures of me from my childhood show a solidly built kid but no belly, no pudgy face. I was bigger in build than my two brothers, both of whom tended to thin. They were both more athletically gifted and inclined than I was. I was built more along the lines of the men on my Father’s side of the family. The oldest brother took after my maternal Grandmother’s side. The other brother took after the maternal Grandfather’s side.

16 years old

By my High School years I was actually thin. From 15 years old until 18 I was best described as skinny. Nearing my full adult height of six-foot, two-inches, I weighed between 160 and 175 most of the 4 years in high school and due to my very high activity level I was able to eat like any three people you might know.

The weight gain began towards the end of my senior year of High School though I can’t say why. I was working as a waiter in the Catskill mountains on weekends and that may have been a part of it. Access to food nearly 24-hours a day… Not much to do during down time but eat. I was 210 pounds and 36 waist when I had my pre-college physical in July of 1979.

About 22, about 220

About 22, about 220

I lost weight briefly at the end of that summer due to illness but I made up for it at the all you could eat breakfast and dinner service on campus and the nearly lethal “Roger-Burger” at the school snack bar. Three burgers, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato served on a sub-sandwich roll.

From college on my weight would not drop below 200 pounds again for 33 years. I would see my weight rise and fall between 225 and 250 for a number of years and then begin the nearly uninterrupted climb to 300.

The how is really very simple. I ate much. I moved little.

The why is much more complicated.

The Failed Efforts

I was about 310 pounds in 2003 or 2004 when I was told by my doctor that I was pre-diabetic and that if I wanted to avoid diabetes and stay off the medications I would have to lose weight and change my diet. He gave me a copy of “The Diabetic Diet” and I followed it religiously. I lost 60 pounds. It was almost effortless. At 250 I looked better, felt better, and the pre-diabetic condition had gone away, all my numbers were good. In less than a year all the weight was back and then some. I passed 300 pounds again less than a year later.

In 2009 I again went on “The Diabetic Diet” and I added cycling back to my life. I lost 50 plus pounds, did the 42 mile Five-Boro Bike Tour in 2010 (Meeting NI in the process) and did a couple of other rides. A muscle tear in my right calf was all the excuse I needed to stop exercising and start eating wrong again and the weight climbed back over 310 pounds by the summer of 2011.

I had lost, gained, lost and gained 100 plus pounds over the course of a few years.

I thought I knew how to lose the weight. I had no clue how to keep it off. I was right only on the later. I was wrong about knowing how to lose it.

The Moment of Painful Recognition

Our emotions lie to our brains.

I still have this suit.  I use it as a cover for my car.

I still have this suit. I use it as a cover for my car.

We don’t see our physical self the way others do. I never really understood the jokes about my size. I didn’t think I was really all that big. My body language, trained over years of acting, lied to others and to myself. My face hid the pain of the comments behind crinkle-eyed smiles and jovial laughter. Mostly I was hurt because I didn’t understand why the jokes were being made. I knew I was big. I didn’t think I was THAT big, the kind of big jokes are made about.

I didn’t fit in diner booths. I blamed the diner for having small booths. I was a tight fit in airplane seats. I blamed the airlines for being cheap.

I simply didn’t see myself with the clarity that other did.

I didn’t really see myself at all.

That all changed on December 24, 2011.

I saw my reflection and, before my mind could switch to denial mode, I recognized myself as the man a split-second before I had seen in my mind as HUGELY FAT. The denial phase had been trumped, bypassed, circumvented.

I was forced to admit that I was not merely big. I was fat. Hugely fat. Obese.

It was a stunning revelation to a stubbornly in denial man. I couldn’t hide from it. I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t blame it on the camera, the shape of the window, the angle of the sun, the amount I had to drink.

I spent the rest of the night in a funk, avoiding looking at the window again, eating all night long, trying to figure out how I got so fat.

I am slow on the up-take…..

The Start of the Journey

January 29, 2011. A long hike on a cold winter day.  The Beginning of the Journey

January 29, 2011. A long hike on a cold winter day. The Beginning of the Journey

So that was the start. Right there in that moment of shocking recognition. Three Spirits dragging me around Dickensian London could not have had as great an effect on me.

I decided to begin the weight loss right after the New Year. Not a “resolution” but resolved to eat right, exercise more.

I planned our usual New Years Eve with our friend MR and didn’t want to give up the special treats and dinner I prepare. So not a New Year’s Resolution at all. Just a practical delay to the start….

I cannot tell you why. I really do not know. I have thought about it and thought about it but I do not have an answer. I just don’t know. Even after a year of wondering, pondering, questioning, I cannot tell you what happened the morning of December 27. I can only tell you that as I sat on the edge of the bed, having just taken my blood pressure medications, I turned to Missus and I told her I was starting the weight loss effort that day and she mumbled OK.

I had a light breakfast, a light lunch, a moderate dinner and a light snack and I was on my way. The Journey had begun.

Creating the Plan

I understood two things when I started that day. One: I had to eat less. Two: I had to move more.

Beyond that, I had no clue what I was doing. I thought I understood how to lose weight. I had done it so many times before… I knew I had no idea how to keep it off because I had never done that before. I also had never followed a diet for as much as a year or lost more than 60 or so pounds.

I started by loosely following “The Diabetic Diet” given me so many years before by my doctor. It was a way to start but I knew that I could not follow it forever and I knew that I would drift away from it as I had the times before.

I searched on-line for ideas and came across so many contradictory concepts that I was frustrated to the point I decided I would have to go with my own plan, follow my own instincts and learn as I went along.

The first thing I did was recreate the spreadsheet I had made several years earlier for tracking my weight.

The second thing I did was toss out the idea that you should not weigh yourself every day. I weigh myself every day. I even travel with a scale so I can weigh myself when I am out on the road.

Next I found a website for recording my food and calculating my calories.

On January 5 I started this blog as a means of keeping my focus on the weight loss and perhaps get a little support if anyone ever decided to read it. I have to say that this part of the blog has worked our far better than I ever dreamed, the support of the readers has been wonderful, inspiring, affirming and energizing.

By the end of January 2012 I had the plan pretty well-formed. I was walking almost every day, eating a good yet light breakfast, a small lunch and a healthy and filling dinner. I had started to call this “the Journey” and was coming to understand that I needed to get a grasp on why I overate and what part of my life food occupied if I was going to be able to continue to lose the weight and then keep it off.

That part of the Journey would be the hardest and would reshape me much more than the weight loss.

Lessons Along the Way

pathways

It took me 50+ years but I finally began to understand that there was more to my overeating than bad habits and a love of food.

There are emotional issue at play and I had to understand them beyond the “mom will love me more if I eat” scenarios. Certainly that was a part of it, still is, but there had to be more even if the reasons spring from the same emotional roots.

I understood early on that this was not going to work if I didn’t define, confront and conquer those issues.

I am introspective by nature. I have spent a life time exploring my emotions and putting them to paper as blank verse. I have also spent a life time dealing with a certain emotional volatility that makes any trip in to my psyche an adventure. While I have explored much of my mind,I never went down the paths that would help me understand the food thing.

Here is what I learned:

My mother expressed her love for people by cooking for them. Expressing love to my mother was as easy as eating what she served.

I express my love for people in the same way. I cook for them. When I want someone to know they are my friend, I invite them to a meal at my home.  Acceptance of that invitation is acceptance of my friendship.

I am comforted by food: the consuming and the preparing.

When I have a home full of dinner guests I am really just channeling Sally Field. Inside I am saying “You Like me, You really like me”.

A great deal of who I self-identified as was wrapped up in being the big (fat) guy who loves to feed everyone.

This is a recipe for getting very fat….

It's bad when Santa thinks you are chubby.....

It’s bad when Santa thinks you are chubby…..

And I did.

I also learned that I channel my anger in to my focus on food, mostly cooking oddly enough. One would think that anger would be expressed as hunger but instead I am motivated to cook. Then eat.

I also learned that all the above became a social crutch. Insecure in the value of my friendship to others, I found my niche as the one who cooked or the one who suggested evenings out with the friends. Hiding behind the proverbial stove as well as the real one. As long as I was feeding people, the (il)logic went, I was a part of the crowd. A declined invitation was a crushing blow to my emotions.

I wrote several times about this particular dynamic. It is something I am still working through but at least I understand it a bit better now.

At social events, be they business lunches or dinners or parties at a friend’s, I could hide behind the plate of food. With food in hand and mouth I didn’t risk talking to much (a known trait of mine) or saying something that might sound ignorant to those more intelligent than me (most if not all of my friends). Again, food as a mask for unfounded insecurities.

Getting the body and mind moving

Hikes along the way

Hikes along the way

As soon as I started this Journey of mine I started working out. First it was walks at the high school track. I would drive the half mile so I could walk a mile…. I remember coming home from that first mile. I was exhausted. I was also embarrassed. When I walked two miles for the first time I thought it was a cause for celebration. I also started walking up the bleachers. I called them Bleacher-sets: 18 steps up, 18 down equaled one set. The first time I did it I did five and spent a full 10 minutes on the bottom step thinking I was having a heart attack.

I walked nearly every day and then I set out a course in the factory where I worked and started doing laps during lunch break at work. First a mile and then soon I was up to 4 miles, then 5. At the High School I was doing a mile and then ten bleacher-sets. Then another mile and another 10… Soon it was 5 miles and 50 bleacher-sets. Only the coldest weather or rain would keep me from my walks.

This is when the good things really began to happen.

I wasn’t exhausted going up stairs anymore.

I wasn’t too tired to walk the dogs, or goof around with my sons.

I wasn’t too tired to hike with friends.

I found it easier to address the demons. I found my energy level and my attitude improved. The more energy and positive attitude I had the easier it was for me to confront the issues.

Victories

My first little victory was that first 5 pounds.

Then came the bigger victories, the signs that I was moving forward.

The ten-mile bike ride in early March on my birthday. I was gasping for air when I was done but I had done it. The first five-mile walk and the first time I did 50 bleacher-sets.

The Ride in June to raise money for Autism research. 50+ miles (plus a few extra when I missed a turn).

Finding a way to keep it going after the knee injury, not losing focus, not giving up.

Me near the peak.  The picture can't show the fierce winds

Me near the peak. The picture can’t show the fierce winds

Climbing the nearly vertical section of the Hike in Harriman and not being winded, tired, worn down… The tears in my eyes were not from the wind.

Passing the original goal of 210 pounds

Passing the 100 pounds lost marker…

Reaching the one-year anniversary still on the Journey

Where am I now?

I am now hitting my stride. I may stumble a little but I am able to recognize it and take the steps needed to right myself.

I am dedicated to fitness. I walk and hike and make sure I stay active.

I am still planning, still focused on the goal, still traveling this Journey of discovery. I am discovering new bits about me daily.

I am most proud of the fitness. Losing the weight was one thing, getting myself fit was quite another. One required eating less. The other required hard physical work and a dedication to it that I expected to lack.

I am more comfortable in my skin but I still have fights to wage and to win. The mind still wants to lie to me and I still have to fight the lies.

The best way I can think to say this is I am right where I should be.

Some years ago I developed a saying:

Where you are is where you belong.

Everything that has passed in your life has brought you to this place at this time.

It is where you are going that you can change

It took me a very long time to listen to my own words.

Friends along the way

Encouragement from my friends, some of whom I have grown closer to because of this Journey, and some I know only through this blog or theirs, and some whom I have met on the Journey, has been of incalculable value.

I have been very out there and open about this trip I am on. I talk about emotions and fears and insecurities. In written words and in conversation I have opened up long closed doors and allowed anyone who knows about the blog to read about the bumps and brick walls, detours and blind alleys of my Journey.

Without the advice, the ideas, the pats on the back and the hand up I might well have come to a stop or retreated back to the beginning.

If you have ever posted on my blog with a word of advice, commiseration, or a firm GET OVER IT, I thank you deeply.

NI and I at the 50-mile rideAlways ready with a hand on the back and a push up the hill

NI and I at the 50-mile ride
Always ready with a hand on the back and a push up the hill

To the friends in my life who have offered me ever more challenging hikes, a boot in the butt to set my sights higher, put the hand on my back and help push me up a hill on a bike ride, waited patiently a the top of the hill as I slogged my way up or shooed the snake off the trail, or carefully calculated the calories of the homemade snack you brought along, I thank you.

Now What?

I keep going. I keep the focus, I keep the plan and the goal and the Journey going.

I have so much more to learn, to do, to plan and to dream. Many more mountains to climb, rides to make, miles to put under running shoe, mountain boot, bike tire…

I have much to learn about how to maintain the weight, improve the fitness, build lean muscle.

I have much still to learn about me. I am still peeling away the layers. Still so much I need to understand about the things that move me along in life.

I will continue to write. The blog will continue as long as I think I have something to say and there are people stopping by. Even if I am the only one that reads it I think I will continue to post in my blog.

It is impossible for me to quantify how much the blog has helped me. The place to open up about all I was experiencing. The encouragement. Knowing there were people reading it from as close as down the road and as far away as Australia and that they cared how I was doing on this Journey has been a tremendous inspiration for me.

And to Wrap This Up….

I know this posting is long and I know it travels over roads long ago explored.

I wanted to see the Journey over my shoulder, to look back with the perspective of a person that has come a long distance. How would the road traveled look to me after the fact? I hope you don’t mind terribly.

I see the victories more than the defeats. I see more of the good days than the bad. I remember the days of success and the feelings of exultation more than the difficult days and the feelings of despair.

Mostly I look back and see the work paying off more than I can see the work itself.

That is both the blessing and the curse of this. I must learn to enjoy the victories but I can never let myself forget just how hard I fought to win them.

Bridges along the way

Bridges along the way

Peace and Love.