The Hard Part

I get up at 5am, pretty much every day.

I do Crossfit, which looks insane if you’ve never done it before.

I’m also running – did 15 miles this week on top of the Crossfit.

People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them all of that.  Especially when I say “5am”.  I might as well say 2am; most folks seem to think they are equivalent.

But here’s the thing – that stuff is actually not so hard.  Yes, it is hard work, and it hurts sometimes, and sometimes I don’t want to go.  But runner’s high is a real thing, and you can get it after non-running workouts, too.  Exercising becomes addictive, and you go because you like to go, and you get up early because that’s the time you’re ready to go.

No – exercising and getting up early is not the hard part.  This is the hard part:

Meal Prep

About 14 meals here, including breakfasts.  10% – 20% of your progress will come in the gym.  The other 80% – 90% comes in the kitchen.  Prepping all of this is a pain in the ass, but it is done, and I’ll eat right this week.

Lets go get it…

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)

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.

So.Much.Wasted.Food.

In case you missed it, you should take the next 17 minutes or so and watch John Oliver talk about food waste.

Two quick takes on this:

I’ve spent a good portion of my life in the food industry – in a grocery store through high school, in restaurants through college, and manufacturing as part of my career.  And I personally have thrown away a shocking amount of food.  I worked produce in the grocery store, and we really did cull anything that wasn’t pristine in appearance.  Edible, but not pretty.  In the restaurant we did a better job of managing the raw food, but the amount of food people don’t eat is … material.  And in the manufacturing world we work hard to eliminate waste, but it just isn’t possible.  We give spoilage allowances to our customers (the retailers), and lets just say that millions and millions of dollars worth of food is lost in the supply chain every single year.

A shocking amount of food.

product_large_362

The other thing to talk about is how this relates to my personal food consumption … and particularly how I handle meat and seafood.  I am not a vegetarian, and likely won’t ever be, for a variety of reasons.  I do, however, have an awful lot of respect for what meat represents – something died in order for me to have that food.  A quick side story:

My grandfather was an avid outdoorsman – he hunted and he fished, and he, more than anybody else, introduced me to the world we live in.  We fished out of the same boat for hours and hours and hours, and the relationship I had with him is very special to me.  After we’d spend a day fishing, the next step was to take the fish back to the cleaning station and filet them.  Catfish, when you take them out of the water, do more than just flop around – they make a grunting sound that is very much like a rooting pig.  Like they want this to not be happening.  And my grandfather, the farmer and hunter and tough man that I knew, would talk to them.  He’d tell them he was sorry, and that he would do his best to get it over with quickly – he didn’t know any other way, and so if they’d just help he would do his best.

That really struck a nerve with me, and has helped inform my approach to animals … and food … ever since.

1999-05-22 15.33.00
That’s a white bass. And this is proof I wasn’t always fat

How does this relate to the topic?  I’ve become more and more squeamish over time about the idea of throwing anything away that had caused an animal to die.  This relates to meat, of course – there is very little that bothers me more than letting a piece of meat go rancid, and I’ll do most anything to keep from throwing away leftover meat – but it goes beyond just the meat.  I’ve begun to believe that I need to minimize all of the other waste, as well. Chicken carcasses need to be boiled to make stock.  The giblets should be saved for the same reason (or to make pate out of the liver).  If I get a pork shoulder with the skin on it, I make pork rinds out of the skin.  I save almost any bone from anything, mostly for stock. Shells from shrimp, crab, and lobster also needs to be saved and made into stock.

Something died so I could eat it.  The least I can do is actually eat it.

We all have to get our own consumption and waste under control, that’s true.  But this is an awfully large issue for, frankly, the whole world.  We need to figure it out.

A Fragile Pattern

I think the detox worked, in a fashion.

The running, it is back on.  I switched back to a new pair of Beasts to completely rule out shoes as the cause of my injury, and so far there is no pain.  I’m not even as far off of my cardiovascular peak as I expected to be – two runs in, and I’m not gasping, not even during the hills.

And Weight Watchers feels right again.  I’ve got to do a better job of remembering to log things as they are eaten (as opposed to before the next meal), but otherwise the habit of logging food is coming back naturally.

As expected, I did not run in the Superhero Half Marathon last weekend.  I was am bummed about that, but it is time to move forward.  After much deliberation, I decided I can’t let the streak end … so I’m signed up for a 5K on Monday, Memorial Day.

Two days.  Two days is all it has been.  But these two days feel like the last time things got good.

Detox, Day 6 – In Defense of Food

The following is discussion of Day 6 of my 10-day 6 day detox.  To begin with Day 1, click here.

The detox ended at 1pm on Saturday, which was day 6.  The detox is dead.

Long live the detox.

One underlying principle of my approach to food is that things must be reasonable.  This goes two ways.  You can’t eat as much as you want of anything that you want at any time that you want – that’s not reasonable.  And you can’t starve yourself or just drink juice or maple syrup or lettuce or whatever all the time – that’s not reasonable.  Part of the problem, though, is that that those two are the obvious ends of a spectrum and there is no clear line in the middle where reasonable changes over to unreasonable.  Reasonability is something like pornography in that you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.

And about halfway through my day 6, I saw it.

The day started well enough – Saturday, with a home project on tap, so an early start.  After a run to acquire some materials, I came back to the house.  I sat down for breakfast with one of my shakes and a bowl of applesauce.  My wife and 2-year old had scrambled eggs, toast, and a little fruit.

And it was here that things began to crumble.  Egg, toast, and fruit.  With a cup of coffee for my wife and a little milk for the boy.  This is a reasonable breakfast.  Or, if you enjoy double negatives like I do, this is not unreasonable.  Nothing – NOTHING – wrong with that breakfast.  And I badly wanted an egg.  Just an egg.  But I powered through, and I ate my applesauce.

Then on with the day.  Did you ever have one of those days that went almost precisely NOT like how you wanted it to go?  This was one of those days.  Just nothing went right, and it became clear very quickly that I was going to get a third or less of my list done.  Just bad.  And then a plan changed – my wife and son were supposed to go over for a visit with her parents in the afternoon, and instead they wound up coming over to our house for dinner.  With a challenge to impress them with our choice of restaurant.

So you can see the problem here, right?  I’m limited to eating basically lettuce and having a gross shake and there is no polite way to bow out of dinner (not even counting that I didn’t want to – I enjoy visiting with my in-laws).  So the question became – what was I going to do?  Three options – bow out of dinner, polite or no; go to dinner and either not eat anything or be one of those restaurant patrons that orders way off menu; or just go to dinner and eat.  I was not going to not be at dinner, so we’re down to two options.

My wife’s suggestion was to come to dinner, order a salad with basically nothing on it, and make it work.  And that would have been the course recommended by anybody that really believed in the detox part of this regimen – in other words, those that viewed this as something other than a jump start for me.  The problem was that everything inside of me screamed that I wasn’t going to do that.  I wasn’t going to go and sit in one of my favorite restaurants and watch people eat my favorite food and not eat some of my favorite food and pretend that was OK because I was on some silly diet thing and needed to do it for the sake of the thing.

That is unreasonable.

What I couldn’t do was articulate WHY it was unreasonable, not initially.  I knew that it was, but when my wife asked me to defend the choice to just go eat I struggled to do it.  This made me cranky – on top of hungry – in the middle of a shitty day.  It really turned a bad day into a worse day.  But I’d made the choice.  Lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and dinner was our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I had a burrito and a beer.

They were delicious.

I was emotional that night, for whatever reason.  My son didn’t take a nap, which is fine during nap time but generally winds up being not-fine the closer you get to bedtime.  And near the end he fell on the driveway and did a total face-plant into the asphalt.  Which made the whole bedtime thing go not-smoothly which always sucks.  I felt bad for him – he’s 2, and he’s exhausted, and none of the way he feels is his fault – and yet as the grown-up you’ve got to get him washed and get his teeth brushed and get his story read and get him to sleep.  When I put him to bed I told him that I hoped we both had better days tomorrow, and I gave him a hug.  And when I told my wife that story later, I cried, and I didn’t know why.  I’m not ashamed to cry, but I sure do like to understand WHY I am crying.

And I am not one to take things I don’t understand about how I feel and choices I made and let them go, so I’ve stewed on it for a while and decided that I was right – this was unreasonable.  The primary emotion that I felt when I thought about going to that dinner and basically not eating was, it turned out, embarrassment.  I was embarrassed by the thought of placing that order.  I was embarrassed by the thought of having that discussion with my in-laws, even though this particular set of parentals would have been the absolute most understanding of all.  I think I was embarrassed by having spent the money that I did on a stupid set of shakes and supplements and vitamins that I don’t believe are necessary.  I was just overall embarrassed by my overall actions.  And I was worried less about how I would feel about stopping this than about how other people would see me, what they would think of me.

To hell with that.

This time last year I was in the middle of a period of weight loss where I lost 50 pounds.  I shed a fat four-year-old.  And I didn’t have to watch my family eat reasonable meals and pine for the meal I wanted.  And I didn’t have to be starving.  Or, for that matter, headache-y.  Or super gassy.  Or worry about gastrointestinal integrity.

And I sure as hell did not have to be embarrassed by what I was doing.  There were no mixed feelings about the path I was on – it was unequivocally a good thing.  Unequivocally.

You know – no equivocation.

I believe in food.  Real, honest to god, chew it up and swallow it, food.  I believe that eating good food in reasonable portions is the best way to live a healthy life with a good balance between physical condition and everything else that is a part of living life.  I believe that meals of bland-ish chicken breast, a green vegetable, and rice are healthy and should be a heavy part of my meal rotation.  I also believe that a burrito and a beer every now and then is also a very good thing.  And I believe I know how to do this and, for whatever reason, my will has been weak.  I am resolved to un-weaken it, and now.

I am not sorry that I did this, other than the money and the kind-of-embarrassment thing.  I learned some things – the biggest of which is that meals don’t need meat in them to be delicious.  That is a key takeaway that I want to start incorporating into reality.  I also learned some things about my priorities – also a key piece of knowledge.  I can now begin to build a pattern of behavior that will help me reach my goals and achieve balance in my life, balance between my priorities.

Writing about this was not a no-brainer for me, because I feared this exact post.  But I’m glad I did.  This post has been cathartic to write.  I have signed back up for Weight Watchers, effective today.  Tomorrow morning I’ve got religion.  And I’m planning to go for a run tomorrow morning, my first in 3 weeks.  I know how to do this, and I plan to do it.

The detox is dead, but I’m still buckled up.

Detox, Day 5

The following is discussion of Day 5 of my 10-day detox.  To begin with Day 1, click here.

I’ve been characterizing each day of the detox so far with short little summaries – Day 1 was about caffeine headaches, Day 2 was about worrying about caffeine headaches, etc. Day 5 was hard to characterize, though if I had to then I think “worrying about being hungry” is the optimal choice.  That is distinct from actually being hungry, though there was some of that.  Mostly I spent the day anxiously awaiting the next bite of food because I was so anxious to stave off the starvation that I am anticipating will come.

As we’ve discussed before, Day 5 began the three-day stretch that is the heart of this detox. At this point, articulating what foods are ON the approved list is actually significantly easier than listing the excluded foods.  Basically I’m allowed to have leafy greens, the group of plants that includes broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and fruit limited to apple, pear, and unsweetened apple sauce.  Plus some condiments.

Look at that list again.

Yeah.  You can now understand my concern about the hunger.

All of that, of course, is supplemented by four (count ’em!) full shakes – the 2-scoop variety.  So breakfast was a shake, a bowl of applesauce, and the multivitamins.  Snack was a pear.  Lunch was whatever I could get on the company salad bar (wound up running out of time to go over to Whole Foods) – a pathetic little salad – and a shake.  Snack was an apple and a shake.  Dinner was a shake, the multivitamins, and a plate full of roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in a pretty good basic salad dressing. That’s it – no hidden cheeseburgers or anything.  There was a stretch in the late afternoon / early evening where I could best be described as “very hungry”, but overall this wasn’t as bad as I would have expected.  Dinner, especially, was more filling than I feared it would be.

We’re now at the portion of this show where I have legitimate philosophical doubts about what is happening.  Because I’m unconvinced that “detoxing” on a regimen like this really means anything, I don’t value the exclusion of all of the other perfectly good foods from this list.  Seriously – carrots?  Walnuts?  Rice?  Blueberries and bananas?  These are healthy foods.  Even optimal foods.  I don’t understand the point of excluding them, and since that point is almost certainly that there is a detoxification function associated with not eating them then I’m pretty certain I think it is BS.

I am, however, nothing if not stubborn when it comes to sticking with something that I’ve committed to like this.  So I’m going to do my best to stick with the protocol as written and stick this out.  If I get to the point on Sunday afternoon where I just can’t handle it then I’ll eat a bowl of the minestrone I made last week – and if having a little rice, green bean, and tomato means that this thing failed … then we’re going to have to say it was meant to be.

Incidentally, I weighed myself at the beginning of Day 2 – I was all the way up to 285 pounds.  I’ve been weighing myself daily, out of sheer curiosity, and that number has been steadily declining.  This morning I’m calling it an official weigh-in – 280.6 pounds, a loss of 4.4 pounds in less than a week.  While it is debatable whether that is real weight loss, that is progress.  My plan is working, and I’m headed back under 280 pounds.

Momentum, it is a good thing.  Until tomorrow…

Day 6 is available to read here.

Detox, Day 4

The following is discussion of Day 4 of my 10-day detox.  To begin with Day 1, click here.

Finally we get to a day that doesn’t really suck.  If Days 1 and 2 were all about caffeine withdrawal, and Day 3 was all about gastrointestinal integrity, then Day 4 was all about settling in.

Probably the most pressing thing about Day 4 was that the food list constricted, and to the point where it starts to be a bit challenging to rustle up lunch or dinner.  Removed this time were any grains, nuts, and seeds.  So here is the list of things that are off-limits for Day 4: meat, dairy, alcohol, refined sugar, wheat, gluten, all grains (rice, barley, quinoa, oats, etc.), and all nuts and seeds.  If you think about it, that doesn’t leave a whole lot.  Most whole vegetables are fine, and fruits in general, as well as legumes / beans.  After that … well, good luck.

So breakfast was an apple.  Snack #1 was one of shakes (full 2 scoops this time) and another apple.  For lunch I went over to Whole Foods and basically filled a salad bar container with whatever was OK to eat.  Snack #2 was another shake and some carrot sticks with an incredible aji amarillo sauce that a friend at work made and brought to me.  Dinner was leftover vegetable chili over potatoes.  And that was that.  I did have one little cheat and ate a handful of sunflower seeds.  Why?  Because they were there.

This is a problem with me.

Not going to get worked up over those, though.  Based on what I’m doing, a handful of sunflower seeds is not going to hurt anything.  I will say, though, that the hardest part of this was the no grains part.  Oatmeal is such a no-brainer for breakfast when you’re trying to be good, and think about how much you use rice when you’re eating like I’ve been eating this week.  Eating without those is legitimately tough.

No headaches on Day 4.  And my belly is still rumbling, and there is still plenty of gas, the gastrointestinal system has basically settled.  This is a good thing.  I also finished the day not starving, so that’s good, too.  Overall, this has not been so bad and I feel pretty good.

Day 5, though, begins the hardest part of this process – the part my guy warned me about. Days 5, 6, and 7 remove the vast majority of the list of available foods and replace “food” with “medical food” in general.  I expect to be prepared to eat my arm by the time it is over. Or yours.

If you see me Friday – Sunday, protect your arms and run.

Seriously.

Day 5 is now available to read here