You must go to Gatorland

Took the family to Gatorland in Orlando today, and here’s the thing about Gatorland – you need to go.

No, seriously, whatever it is that you have planned in the Orlando area the next time you come around, you need to just go ahead and shuffle that around and make a trip to Gatorland.  If you’re here for Disney, just take the half day or even full day and skip Disney and head over there.

We went in with low expectations.  Frankly, it seemed like it had an opportunity to be very cheesy.  And, in spots, it was.  But that was more than made up for by the just unbelievable wildlife – there are so many alligators that counting becomes pointless. And snakes and birds and crocodiles and you name it – this place is incredible.

We didn’t see the “famous” Jumperoo show, but we did go and take in the alligator wrestling.  Picture a sand pit in the middle of a little arena, bleachers on all sides.  The pit is surrounded by a moat, in which swim a dozen or so alligators and over which is a single bridge that has gates on both ends of it.  Some crazy-ass dude walks in there, asks a little kid to pick out which gator he’s going to “wrestle” – and the little kid OF COURSE picks the biggest one in the water.  Because, OF COURSE.  This thing is mean, and our man struggles to get it out of the water.  So he STEPS OFF INTO THE MOAT, WADES OVER AND GRABS IT BY THE TAIL AND DRAGS IT UP INTO THE SAND PIT.  This alligator snarling and bellowing and trying to bite him the whole time.  And then proceeds to do all kinds of tricks with it.

Are you kidding me?

Seriously, come do this.  And bring your camera.  There is some amazing stuff to see here.  I took all of the pictures included below except the one with the family – that one cost $18.99, but did come with a 1GB flash drive.

Enter at the famous Gator Mouth

Enter at the famous Gator Mouth

And be greeted immediately by a sight guaranteed to make you pause.

And be greeted immediately by a sight guaranteed to make you pause.

Obligatory

Obligatory “ride the fake alligator” shot

We didn't know about the little alligator when we said do it - there was a snake option, to which we said

We didn’t know about the little alligator when we said do it – there was a snake option, to which we said “no but hell no”

They have tropical birds. Happy with my lens on this.

They have tropical birds. Happy with my lens on this.

D'awwwww

D’awwwww

This guy was no shit certifiable. And this was his second go at the gator - he got away the first time. Just crazy.

This guy was no shit certifiable. And this was his second go at the gator – he got away the first time. Just crazy.

No seriously - just crazy.

No seriously – just crazy.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

He was not the biggest gator we saw, but he was huge and right underneath us.

He was not the biggest gator we saw, but he was huge and right underneath us.

Tried to make this confrontational-looking, but it wasn't. The bird was in zero danger.

Tried to make this confrontational-looking, but it wasn’t. The bird was in zero danger.

Great Egret. Looks like another freaking country.

Great Egret. Looks like another freaking country.

So.Many.Alligators

So.Many.Alligators

And welcome to Florida, where the humidity is wretched and it rains every day.

And welcome to Florida, where the humidity is wretched and it rains every day.

Weigh In – 8-28-2015

Interesting week this week – as discussed yesterday, I hit a week where the hunger, it is real and all consuming.

Current Weight:  313.0 lbs

Weekly Gain / (Loss):  (-0.4) lbs

Total Gain / (Loss):  (-10.0) lbs

Weekly Average:  (-1.4) lbs

Added the weekly average in there, because its important – and doubly so in weeks where I was successful but maybe not quite as successful as I would have liked.  0.5 – 1.0 pounds per week is the absolute best pace – people that lose weight at that pace are just as likely to lose as much weight as those that go faster, and are significantly more likely to maintain their weight loss.  This is just a good, healthy way to do it.

And so, on a week when I lose less than a pound because I can’t keep from putting anything (everything!) edible into my unhinged yap … it helps to know that my weekly average of losing about a pound and a half a week is right about, or even slightly above, where I need to be.  These things also don’t move on a straight line, and as long as I’m doing what I need to do to keep the calories down, and I’m exercising at the consistent rates I intend to – losing anything is a win.

So – another win!  Ten pounds down!  Onward!

I’m Starving – a Story in Gifs

So, a major premise here is that I am always hungry – I live my life in a constant state of hunger.

200

The goal is just to keep it under control – a low level hum in the background.  Well, lately, the hunger, it has been assertive.  I think about food.  I dream about food.  I obsess about food.

200 (7)

This, of course, makes it hard to focus – at work or at home.  I get irritable.  I get cranky.  Even I don’t like me.

200 (3)

And then I start making bad choices.  Like eating dangerous food …

200 (5)

Or just simply disregarding portion sizes.

200 (6)

I’ll walk into a restaurant or a grocery store – any place with food, really, and struggle to hold back.200 (2)

And lord help us all if you set something edible down in front of me.

200 (4)

I try to eat the things that are supposed to make this better – I have protein, I have fruits and vegetables to get fiber, I eat all of my WW points for the day, and yet I still can’t get it under control.

200 (8)

Maybe I just need to get busier – maybe it is boredom.

200 (1)

Regardless, I’ve got to figure it out, because, yikes, this is getting crazy.

200 (9)

Three miles this morning – maybe I just need to work harder to earn the few extra calories.

200 (10)

Any big ideas, let me know. I’m open to all suggestions for appetite suppression at this point.

The End

(all gifs courtesy of http://www.giphy.com)

The grind

Blog posts about blogging are not something I’ve ever been able to get behind … entirely too meta and self-aware.  And redundant. But…

I find it remarkable how much these things go in fits and starts.  I’ve been doing well with my Weight Watchers points, and I’ve been running regularly.  The problem is that between those things, a couple of sick kids, and a couple of big deliverables at work … I gots nothing to talk about unless I want these updates to be “Ran 3 miles this morning, and evaded a Zombie horde…” or “Man, I had the damnedest time keeping in my WW points today.”  After awhile, those get repetitive and boring.

Sometimes there is excitement nearly every day.  Sometimes, like now, life is a grind, and you grind through it so that you’re prepared to take advantage when the exciting stuff comes along.

And we’re grinding…

Life … happens

Two workouts planned this weekend – a 3 mile run yesterday (Saturday) and a swim this morning for as long as I could stand it.  I look forward to the weekend run in particular, because it feels so much less time restricted.  And I’ve done some research about swim technique and have been excited to get back in the pool to try some things.

And then, life happens.

My three-year old came down with a pretty intense fever on Friday.  He doesn’t handle being sick all that well (he’s like his mother in this sense … hi, darlin’!), so we had to split some parental duties to make sure we had coverage on both him and the baby for both Friday and Saturday nights.  My schedule is to get up at 5am to do all of this, and that has been completely blown out of the water.  Yesterday’s run didn’t happen, and I hoped to make it up this morning (and get my swim in, if everything went well), and that hasn’t happened.  My wife had a prior brunch commitment, so I’m on child duty this morning – and I find it very difficult to work in afternoon / evening runs, particularly in the Florida heat.

So, I may wind up getting a couple days of forced rest.  And though I’m pretty disappointed, that’s OK.  At some point, this kind of thing is absolutely going to happen – I’ve got two little kids, and they are extraordinarily effective at blowing plans right out of the water.

Weigh-in – 8/21/2015

Good morning!  Today is Friday, which deserves an exclamation point all by itself!  And that means a weigh-in!  So many exclamation points!

Today’s Weight:  313.4 pounds

Weekly Gain / (Loss):  (-2.4) pounds

Total Gain / (Loss):  (-9.6) pounds

If the first goal is to lose 10% of my body weight, I’ve reached 30% of that goal.  While I’d love to have seen that Total Loss number get over 10 pounds, I also know that a 2.4 pound loss in a week is a big number, and I shouldn’t go crazy with it.

I’m still in the early portion of this, which means that the weight comes off easier.  After awhile that is going to slow down, but for now every week brings real progress – which is very motivating.  This morning, when I expected Weight Watchers to dock me a point, they actually went the other way.  I was told that I don’t have a problem yet because of my weekly average, but losing more than 2 pounds a week is unhealthy and to knock it off.  I am not blind to the fact that I have an enormous daily allotment of points and that they are trying to get me to eat MORE to make sure I don’t lose weight too fast.

They are right, but still.  It is hard to not be excited about progress.

I’ve talked about Ben over at Ben Does Life before, and about how I’m a fan but that his methodology isn’t realistic for the vast majority of people out there.  He’s at it again, and recently talked about losing 73 pounds in the first 90 days. Which is ludicrous – that’s nearly a pound a day, and is completely unsustainable.  Don’t get me wrong, when you’re as big as he was you’re going to lose weight fast if you try hard.  But there has to be a point at which some semblance of a sustainable reality has to be confronted.

All of that to say – I’m thrilled, both at this week’s loss and the overall trajectory I’m on.

Onward!

On Sportsmanship and Raising Children

Maybe you saw this crazy story earlier this week about a team intentionally losing a game for the purpose of knocking out another team – and giving themselves a favorable draw the rest of the way out:

http://deadspin.com/little-league-world-series-scandal-softball-team-throw-1724733555

Now – used to, I would have just rolled my eyes a bit and moved on.  But now that I have children I find that these kinds of incidents force me to think about what I really believe should happen, and what would I do, as a parent, if my child were involved in this game.

And in this case, the answer to the latter came pretty clearly.  If a team my son is a part of begins to do what this team did – bunt the whole time, play below their abilities, lose on purpose – then my next step is to walk over and try and talk to the coach, after which, if the charade continues, I would collect my child and leave the park.  He would not be allowed to participate on that team, or any other team coached by that person, again. Even if that meant missing a trip to the Little League World Series.

In professional sports, where men and women make a living by winning games and where winning games is the objectively superior goal, I could see this kind of game theory being OK.  Still bad sportsmanship, but acceptable on some level.  For Little Leaguers, though, not a chance.  If and when my sons play Little League baseball, the purpose of being on that team will not be “winning”.  Don’t get me wrong – winning is nice.  But my kids will play Little League in order to learn how to become better people.  In order to understand what it takes to win – hard work, team chemistry, a little bit of luck – and what it is like to lose.  And how to win, and lose, with grace and maturity.  The winning or losing of the games is beside the point.  As I said very recently – its a journey, not a destination.

And furthermore, I would expect that my son’s coaches would understand this.  Would understand that the decisions that they make about winning and losing and how to play the game and respect the process impact these children and the approach they will take to any activity potentially for the rest of their lives.  Any coach that doesn’t understand this doesn’t get the opportunity to be a leader or mentor for my children.

If I were the coach of the other team, after one or two innings of this I’d collect my kids and leave – forfeit the game.  I’d teach my kids that they get to stand up for themselves, and they don’t have to take it when they are being disrespected like that.

The solution that the league came up with here is compelling but not harsh enough. This team should be summarily thrown out of the tournament.  And, even if the team is not thrown out, the coach should not be allowed to continue in that position.

In some ways, I’m very much looking forward to my children becoming involved with these kinds of activities.  But, and this story reminds me, in some ways I dread it.  We’ll see.

EDIT:  I saw this within minutes of making this post.  He says it better (though bluer) than I did here.

http://adequateman.deadspin.com/fuck-winning-1724810215?rev=1439992972189

On Weight Watchers and eating better…

When I started this whole journey back in 2012, one of the things I knew needed to happen was a support group or tool to help me get my eating under control.  Hunger is not a reliable gauge of how much I need to eat – I’m in a constant state of hunger, after all – so what I’ve got to be able to have is a way to keep it toned down enough that I can make smart decisions.  I’d tried a handful of other systems (NutriSystem’s food is awful, by the way), but my wife is a big fan of Weight Watchers so I decided to give it a shot.

Shout out to the Weight Watchers marketing department here, by the way, for advertising targeted toward men.  I’d always thought of Weight Watchers as primarily for women, and in some ways I still feel that stigma.  But hiring Charles Barkley as a spokesman was a stroke of genius.  Even his famous “Weight Watchers is a scam” gaffe did nothing but get the word out there that this program works, and men are not excluded.  Brilliant and well done.

The reason I love it is a commonly cited reason – nothing is off limits.  Weight Watchers assigns a certain number of points to everything you eat or drink, and they give you a limit on the number of points you can have in any given day, with a weekly “bonus” point budget that you can use for a cheat meal or any other reason.  The key here is that they don’t at all restrict how you use those points – if you want to use your points eating chocolate cake and donuts, then knock yourself out.

What you learn very, very quickly is that the trick is to use your points to manage hunger. The amount of chocolate cake I can fit into my points budget is relatively small, and the problem with using the entire budget on things like that is that you are absolutely starving three hours later.  Which is a problem, since you don’t have any points left to deal with that.  But over time you learn that empty calories don’t fill you up, and you only need relatively small quantities of the nutrient dense, high point items that also have a tendency to not fill you up (things like nuts, meat, even dairy).  You still need those, but in moderation.  The low points (even free points) items – fruits and vegetables, mostly – are really the key to managing hunger.

Today's tracker after breakfast

Today’s tracker after breakfast

Now, one of the things I didn’t realize when I first started with WW (though, in retrospect, it is obvious), is that when you start to lose weight the program takes points away from you each week.  This makes for a bittersweet weigh-in day – “Yay! I lost weight! Boo! I don’t get to eat as much next week…”  Last week, for instance, I went from a daily budget of 65 points down to 64 – which, by the way, is an enormous number for most people, because I’m so freaking big that I can eat an enormous amount of food and still lose weight.

Last time, I started with 65 points, and by the time I was done I was down to 54.  Now – lets do some math.  11 points a day times 7 days is 77 points per week.  On an original budget of 65 points, I was eating the equivalent of a whole day’s worth of food LESS than I was when I started.  It is as though I said “Lets just skip food on Wednesdays,” but done in a much more sustainable way.

Going from nothing to Weight Watchers removed a considerable number of calories from my diet.  Weight Watchers slowly but surely removed an awful lot more.  And I still had 50 pounds (at least) to lose.  And I was still living in a constant state of hunger.

No wonder I’m fat.

But, this is a process, not a goal.  A journey, as it were, not a destination.  And so, I’ll enjoy the 14 point breakfast you see up there and the 15-or-so point lunch that I’ve got planned for today, and I’ll lose this weight.

Its what we do.

Cross Training

Somehow I got it in my head that I want to try doing triathlons.  Not sure how this crazy idea got in there, but it is most definitely there.  Of course, if that is ever going to go anywhere I can’t just keep running and running – there are two other disciplines in there, you know?

So this morning, for the first time in my life, I went to the pool with the express intention of swimming laps.  I even bought goggles.  And I have two impressions:

  1.  That shit is hard.  Holy moly.
  2. I think I am going to like it.  Because of the pool’s hours I’ll be starting out only going one or two days a week – but I think I will like it.  I will definitely go back tomorrow.

Baby steps, you know?

Milestones

Two milestones crept up on me this week.  I wasn’t paying attention, I guess, and both came as a surprise.

On Monday morning, I crossed over the 1,000 mile threshold in total miles run.  That’s since I started in November of 2012, with the vast majority of those miles in 2013.  I got to about 960 miles by July of 2014, and that’s where it sat for a full year.  I’d had designs on trying to get 1,000 miles in 2014 alone, and a lot of reasons excuses happened – a horrible winter, an injury, laziness, etc.  I crossed that milestone in a little 3 mile run that, at the time, was the most mileage I’d done in a run in over a year.  Not how I drew it up, but we got there.  Here’s to many more.

Another interesting thing came and went – this post was my 100th post to this blog. Blogging, I’ve learned, is hard work.  I love to write, and I hope I have a bit of a talent for it, but I now understand the challenge that professional writers have about producing regularly.  If my paycheck depended on it, I’d struggle, and this blog has taught me that.  I’ve tried to do better, year long hiatus notwithstanding, and will try to do better still.

I’m making plans, and I’ve got a lot more milestones to go. There is a hell of a journey here, and I’m finding it fun to share it.  Thanks for coming along.