my 6 month health recap

June 1st marked six months since I began this journey. I have said from the start that my journey is not a weight loss journey, but a betterment journey. I still believe that and want to emphasize that, but the majority of my content thus far has been on my health and weight loss progress. Because of this, I want to recap what I have seen over the past 6 months.

On December 1, 2019, I had a moment. My shirts were not fitting well, I hated pictures of myself (confession, still do), playing with my daughter on the floor was uncomfortable, and getting off the floor was more difficult than I should admit. In addition, this lifelong skier put his winter jacket on only to discover how snug it was. On top to the physical, I did not feel good about myself. I was more self-conscious than ever, struggling with anxiety, and I lacked drive. I then stepped on the scale for the first time in years.

Let me preface my weight by noting that everybody should take pride in who they are, however they are. You are beautiful people with attributes that impact yourself and those around you than you may ever comprehend. Your potential in this world has little to do with your physical and almost everything to do with your mental. I encourage you to seek to be who and what you want to be and the best you can be, regardless of me, my numbers, or how I express the emotions that I feel and have felt.

I stepped on the scale and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. 343.2 pounds. I still am having trouble typing this right now. I still worry far too much about what others think, despite my preface above. I have always been big. I have been +300 since high school with some brief stints below depending on the fad diet or outlier circumstances. But this number seemed beyond real. I was expecting in the 320s, still much higher than I want to be, but not in the 340s. “But I have a lot of muscle.” True, but not 343.2 pounds of it. This put me in a rotten mood and was incredibly mad at myself. I was mad at myself because the Ben I want to be does not let himself eat his emotions to a weight so dangerous for his health. What I want to be is a person, husband, dad, friend who will be around for a long time and can get the most out of life. That life I want include sports, exercise, skiing, outdoors, activity, and longevity. So as I mentioned in my first post, I made a promise to myself to crack down and get better. I told myself I need to get better in my body and mind, and I need to do it in a long lasting and forever way.

So here we are 6 months later and I weighed 307.2 pounds on Monday morning. That is a 36 pound decrease, averaging 6 pounds a month and I feel so proud of myself. I still weigh much more than I want, but damn does it feel good to find that consistency that I have never had. It has not been easy every step of the way. The first few months I made far faster progress and these past few months have been much slower. The key is I am still trying every week to get better.

I laid out the 7 steps I have used to lose the weight i’ve lost in a previous post. Just because they are easy to list, doesn’t mean the process has been easy. I still struggle to track and control my eating. I at times just want to devour everything in sight and working from home due to COVID-19 makes that even harder. But with those difficulties come opportunities that I am trying to take advantage of. The same working from home which makes eating harder, allows me to do workouts at lunch or when I would normally be commuting. I also don’t have a cafeteria full of food to try and ignore.

The key to this all is I recognize that I need to treat myself with the respect it deserves. In every day life we expect people to treat us with kindness and respect, why can’t I treat myself that way? Why do I insist on investing in a shorter and harder life with the health choices I was making?

Does anybody else feel they need to respect themselves more? What do you do to show yourself you are great and deserving of the world?

This journey has seen exercise, cooking, eating, tracking, and everything in between. I have not denied myself cravings, but have fit them in to my broader calorie budget. I have found communities of people in the blogosphere, through my Peloton, and through my own friends network that have shown me support I could never anticipate or dream of. I have found frustration and elation. I have found sweat and soreness. I may have even found a couple yoga classes… who knew????? The best thing that I have found is a faith in myself that I can do it and continue doing it. By December 1, 2020, I hope to lose another 36 pounds. That will bring me 271.2 pounds.

Check out some of my photos along the way and leave a like or a comment! I am taking everybody on this journey with me and hopefully it continues to be one full of smiles and high fives!

slow and steady

the beginning of my intake changes

I want this change to be long lasting. I want to be a healthier Ben at 40 than I was at 30. I want my 30’s to be the best years of my life, to be better than my 20’s, and better than my teen’s. Because of this, I told myself I would not subscribe to a ‘quick fix’, a super popular diet, or anything that would force me to give up foods that I am not prepared to give up forever. I love cheese. I love to bake bread. As I racked my brain about how to be healthier and better, I realized that I take true joy in sharing a meal with friends including amazing Vermont cheeses and local bread. I like having an amazing beer or a glass of single malt. So this led me back to that damn saying that my father would always tell me, “Everything in Moderation.”

I will start a weight loss tracker in the near future but I have to be honest, I do not yet feel comfortable to admit my weight to the world via the internet. As it is something I have struggled with for 30 years, this is an emotional issue that will not go away with 2 blog posts. So please be patient with me as I work up to that. Despite that fear, I can tell you that slow and steady has been a working mantra since December 1. As of this writing I have lost 17 pounds and am averaging around 1.5 lost pounds per week. This is not fast and it makes less of a “WOW” when I step on the scale, but it has been doable and kind of enjoyable.

As I said in my first post, I started tracking my intake. I am using MyFitnessPal (no, I am not advertising for them, just happy consumer of their product). I used to find the app frustrating because I did not think it was working. The truth is, I wasn’t using it correctly. For me, the devil does not lie in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For me, the devil is in the mid-morning latte, the post lunch snacks, and the grazing while I cook dinner. Oh, let’s not forget the delicious imperial stout in the 16 oz can. When I got religious, consistent, and dedicated to tracking it all, it blew my mind. So many calories sneak in from so many places. That latte was 300 calories. That soft taco shell during cooking was 150. I started to view food and my day differently. I wanted to maximize the use of my calories and get the most enjoyment out of them. Sugary drinks have all but disappeared. I want to eat my calories!

utility versus pleasure

Food can be many things to many people. I know many individuals who have adopted food as a utility; a tool to get them where they want to be. I know other people who view food as a cultural and social binder; a glue that brings history, family, joy, and love together. I would subscribe more to the second. As I have said before, I love food. I mean, it would be hard to get to my size if you hated food. In my attempts to get healthier and lose weight, I know that food will forever be a social binder, a joy, and something I look forward to. Understanding this is super important. If I can recognize this reality, try to adapt, and create a lifestyle that respects my love for food and the situations where food is celebrated, all while getting healthier… my God, that would be amazing! And so that is my goal.

I said above that I started to view food differently when I began tracking, but I began to view it globally, or how it interacts with my whole world. During the Christmas season, all these coworkers are bringing in the most delicious snacks. I want to partake! So how do I make partaking work? Well I had breakfast and I consumed so many calories so can I adjust my day to allow for this delightful cookie? Yes I can. I have begun to understand that I do not have to ignore things, but I must realistically account for them. I know that Christmas day is coming up and I will most likely exceed my target calorie intake for the day. So that week I tried to work out more, eat a little more disciplined, and maintain a calorie deficit that would help balance the indulgence of Christmas day. And even with that, I tried to still be responsible with my intake on Christmas.

some details –

BMR. What is my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)? For the longest time I did not know this. But your BMR is basically the number of calories your body requires to perform its most basic functions like breathing, keeping your blood moving, etc. This does not include the amount of calories you require to do things like walking, running, working out, or negotiating with your toddler. The smart health people say that figuring out your BMR is a great place to start when trying to track your calories because it allows you to create targets. I used my app to find it and based off of my activity level, my app gives me my target intake for the day. I also have it connected to my activity monitor (which measures my heart rate), so it will adjust it depending on if I had a super active day or a sedentary day.

My target intake is 2310 calories per day. If I get my walk in and a workout, this could adjust up anywhere from 500-1500 calories depending on what I did. So this number helps me plan and it is adjusted to include a small calorie deficit to help me meet my weight loss goals, slow and steady. I can now get a better sense about how I am doing. The other day a coworker brought in home-baked bread, for which I am a sucker. Because I am a work in progress and a mere mortal, I ate 3 pieces before I regained control of my sensibilities. After breakfast and lunch, and my planned snacks, I only had around 500 calories left for dinner. That is a small dinner and my wife and I already had a plan, which would exceed that number for me. After lunch I made a point to go for 20 minute walk at work. I did that and made sure that I worked out that night. Because of this awareness, I still met and exceeded my target deficit for the day.

This is the nutshell version of my start to controlling my intake. Am I a doctor? No. Am I a nutritionist? No. I am somebody who spends a lot of time doing research and who is doing their best with the information at hand. I cannot say that everything I do will or could work for others, but the effort I am putting in and the awareness I am trying to improve can be understood by all. And I think if everybody worked to improve that, it would not hurt.

-Ben

consistently inconsistent

at least I am consistent at something?

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”

— Dwayne Johnson.

When I read the quote above, I realize why I do not look like Dwayne Johnson… Though part of me would like to blame some of that on genetics.

This is post number 1. Hurray. This is the beginning of my attempt to be more consistent and accountable. I hope you find some interest in what I have to say and stay tuned for anything I share in the future.

Over the years I have been consistent with some things in my life, but much of the important stuff has been inconsistent. When wise adults or super successful blog writers explain what one should do in their 20’s, consistency seems to pop up a lot. “Be consistent with saving. Be consistent with work. Try to gain a routine.” Well I just threw a lot of that out the window. I can say that I was consistent with fun, consistent with learning, and consistent with being inconsistent for most other things. Jobs were all over the place, my relationships struggled at times, and I was lost when taking care of my health. For the sake of this post, we can stick with my health.

The freshman 15 hit me hard… like freshman 25-30. It was brutal. After eating my emotions and struggling to recognize the fact that I was not ready for college, my body had gotten away from me and I looked like a hot mess. Soon after this I took time off from school, ended up doing development work in Jamaica for 4 months, and lived the island life. It must have been the water and jerk chicken, because I lost 40-50 pounds over that time frame. I felt amazing and it only took me about a year to gain most of it back. Sad.

In my early 20’s I went back to school, spent my winter weekends ski instructing and my summers working outside. These years at least kept me stable. This might have been the most consistent period of time I had in my twenties. I was still way too big, but at least I wasn’t getting bigger. Even after graduation I worked full time managing the children’s programs at a ski resort. I shed a little but maintained the status of xxl.

Since then I have had a personal trainer, I have gotten into weight training, I have done the ‘whole 30’, and tried some other silly “diets” that just annoyed me more than anything. Some of this worked amazingly well (see whole 30 combined with personal trainer and weight training) but I could not maintain the success and keep off the weight. You could say that I was frustrated.

A couple years ago my wife and I learned that we were expecting our first child. This was such an exciting family development. We both had always wanted to be parents and now was our chance. Despite the joy, this did a mental number on me. I thought about my physical ability to play with our kiddo and that I didn’t want to cut my life short because I can’t get my act together. So I signed up for a 4-mile race in the fall and gave myself the spring and summer to train. I had never ran more than 3/4 of a mile before, but I was motivated. I can tell you that running on a big body is not enjoyed by the feet, ankles, and knees. Despite the pain and struggles, I trained and ran a little over 2 straight miles in the race, and intervalled the last segment. This was the longest I have ever ran. I was and am super proud of that accomplishment. Despite this effort, I didn’t really lose any weight.

I guess what I am trying to show is that I was consistent with trying, but I was not consistent with how I tried to get healthy. I would try this and try that. I would see success, and backpedal. And the thing that dawned on me on December 1 was that I kept looking at activity. Truthfully, I am good at working out. I love the feeling. I like competing and sweating. I thrive off the feeling of my heart pounding. But on the flip side… I suck at watching what I eat. My true inconsistency is eating. I consistently suck at taking care of my intake. So there I was staring at the scale thinking “God, Ben… you need to start trying harder.” So I decided it was time to track everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. From my meals to snacks and from the Hershey’s kiss to the holiday cookies. I logged into MyFitnessPal and started at it.

Throughout this blog I will be posting about how this weight loss and health journey is going. I plan on doing weekly updates when I weigh in. I plan on talking about my meals and my workouts. I also plan on tackling other ways I try to be a better Ben. This could encompass anything from being a dad, spirituality, finances, and self care. Thanks for reading.

-Ben