the no glamour key to improving health

…walking…

I have noticed that there is a consistent theme to my weeks. Those where I walk a lot are better than those where I don’t. This goes beyond my weight loss goals and also includes my mental health. Walking has many benefits but is often overlooked for the more ‘glamorous’ exercises. Nobody brags to their friends about this killer walk they did that day. No. We like to talk about our squat PR, our run split, or our workout on our trendy bike subscription (shots fired… at myself). I also never hear people say how at peace they feel from a walk. It is always a hike, meditation, or yoga. I feel people think of walking as the stereotype of our grandparents power-walking down the retirement neighborhood in their track jackets and wearing those sweet wrap around sunglasses (you get the picture). Well I am here to say walking is awesome… maybe someday I will also have a sweet track jacket and wrap around sunglasses.

Why is walking awesome? Let’s start with reputable sources as opposed to my anecdotal blabbing. The Mayo clinic talks about walking as an effective way to manage weight, improve mood, and combat common health conditions. Harvard Health also says it can improve immune function and tame your sweat tooth, among others. It just takes a quick google source to find all the information from people far smarter than me. So it seems the experts are aligned on it, and I agree with the experts. I am sure they have been waiting for my approval.

I often fall into this trap of thinking that the general movement has less impact than if I get a good workout in. I may think its okay if I don’t walk at all, as long as I get a ride in. I may be okay with this, but I am missing out on real opportunity. The biggest thing about walking is it is low impact. I don’t feel like I have truly strained myself and I am not sore after a walk. And the kicker is, if you make the walk active, faster than a stroll, it can give you real tangible benefits.

Let’s compare my most recent run and walk, as recorded on my apple watch. Before you judge, this is me. I am a slow runner who has been doing interval training to get myself to be able to run a 5k straight. Others do it faster and can have more calorie burn, but this is me and my journey.

The left image shows my evening walk last night and the right is my run this morning. The benefit of the walking route I take is that it starts off with an uphill, so if I initially start walking at a good pace then my heart rate can stay a bit more elevated throughout the duration of the walk.

I clearly burned more calories on my run, but I did not burn a crazy amount more. The walk, because I made it active and more than a stroll, had an awesome end result. There are clear and documented benefits to higher heart rates that higher intensity workouts can give you, but a walk with a lower heart rate, but still elevated, can still be a key. The biggest difference is how I felt. During my run this morning, I felt like crap. My whole body was achy and was just not feeling it. I also, because of my size, have had to scale back to 1-2 runs per week or else the impact starts taking a negative toll. I still do it because I like it, I have goals, and the feeling of accomplishment after you finish is amazing.

But walking. After that walk the most discomfort I had was sweat. No aches and pains. No angry hip or knees. Walking is a sneaky, silent health booster. I felt great. I took an evening walk, got to see the evening light, and it helped me decompress after my day. Think of the cumulative impact of a 20-30 min walk every day, that goes along with your more intense exercise routines! If I do it with enough movement, I can add 300+ calories burned to my day, every day, and not feel like I worked out. This translates to better attitude and crushing health goals.

This becomes all the more important having a sedentary job. The weeks where I get a morning walk in and an afternoon/evening workout are the ones where I achieve the most success and feel the best.

Do you have a sneaky activity that gives you these benefits? How do you fit subtle movement into your day?

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!

36 in 6: weekly reflections: 5/26 – 6/1

Sure this run was from this morning, but it felt good.

My change from last week –

Change in weight (5/26/20 –6/1/20):  -1.2 LBS

Today marks 6 months since I began this journey. I am still here and I am still motivated. There is some real pride that comes along with accomplishments like this and I have stuck with it and continue to try. I dropped another 1.2 pounds this week and that brought me to 36 total pounds lost since I began!

Stay tuned for my 6-month recap post to come soon. In that post I will also map out my changes and actually start to share some numbers. I feel I have come to a place where I am comfortable sharing my weight and some of my statistics. It will be good for me, but hopefully it can bring comfort or motivation to somebody else.

Much of this week was punctuated by my body informing me that I need to rest. For the past few weeks, I have kept up a very high pace of exercise and movement. I jumped back into running while trying to keep up my rides and I think that caught up with me. 6 days with 30-60 minutes of intense exercise can require some build up, especially if including the high impact sport of running (and with this body, it is high impact). With this understood, I listened to my body. I still did 2 runs and 2 rides, but I tried to focus a little more on getting my calorie deficit from my intake, less from my exercise. Even last night, I was going through this mental struggle about whether to ride or not and I finally just realized that I would do 30 minutes of stretching and give my body some love. I am thankful for that decision.

I feel that my exercises this week were nothing to write home about. They were good, I accomplished all the running intervals designed in the program and the same with the bike intervals. But no best splits or PRs, which is fine. I also helped my brother-in-law move on Saturday, which I guess could count as an exercise. I did take my tracker off so it wouldn’t get broken with all the heavy garage tools and such, so I guess if it didn’t track… it never happened (just kidding). There were also some good walks with my daughter in the mix. These good walks are the subtle secret to success. You burn more calories than you realize and it doesn’t hurt like running.

This week I am hoping to up my exercise again and continue doing my stretching. We are also trying out some healthy recipes to try and keep the daily meals new and interesting. All this staying at home is making cooking pretty boring. Anyway, thanks for checking in and stay tuned for my 6-month update coming later this week!

Do you have any good recipes you want to share? How are you doing with your current goals?

If you know anybody who you think might benefit from reading my blog, please share it with them. I would love to reach more people because the success I am currently experiencing comes after years of struggle and frustration that I know many others face. If I can help myself through this, wonderful. If I can help others, even better! I am here to cheer on your effort and work, to whatever goal you are aspiring towards.

Please leave a like or a comment!

How did I do on last weeks action plan?:

  1. 6 Cardio workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 Low Impact ride, 3 runs (Mon/Wed/Fri). Not attained. 2 rides and 2 runs
  2. 2 Strength Sessions (Tues/Sat). Not attained
  3. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks. Attained
  4. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc. Attained
  5. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body (Mon/Wed/Fri). Attained
  6. 20-30 minute midday walk on work days. Attained
  7. Track every bite. Attained
  8. Drink 10 glasses of water per day. Attained
  9. Find some quiet time to calm my thoughts and mind. 2 5-10 minute sessions. Attained

This week’s action plan:

  1. 6 Cardio workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 Low Impact ride, 3 runs (Mon/Wed/Fri).
  2. 2 Strength Sessions (Tues/Sat)
  3. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks
  4. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc
  5. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body (Mon/Wed/Fri)
  6. 20-30 minute midday walk on work days
  7. Track every bite
  8. Drink 10 glasses of water per day
  9. Find some quiet time to calm my thoughts and mind. 2 5-10 minute sessions

Please stay tuned for more updates. If you have been enjoying this, please become an email follower or a wordpress follower. Having this public audience has been a positive motivation for me to continue working towards my goals and so I really am thankful for all of you!

DateChange in Weight
12/1*
12/2*-5.4 lbs
12/9-5.4 lbs
12/16-3.4 lbs
12/23+2.8 lbs
12/29-1.2 lbs
1/6-1.4 lbs
1/13-1.6 lbs
1/20-1.4 lbs
1/27+0.4 lbs
2/3-1.2 lbs
2/10-4.6 lbs
2/17+0.4 lbs
2/24-1.6 lbs
3/2-3.2 lbs
3/9+1.8 lbs
3/16-3.2 lbs
3/23-0.6 lbs
3/30+0.4 lbs
4/6-1.6 lbs
4/13+0.8 lbs
4/20-1.8 lbs
4/270 lbs (no change)
5/4+2.4 lbs
5/11-5.2 lbs
5/180 lbs
5/25-1.0 lbs
6/1-1.2 lbs

* I first weighed myself on a Sunday night and began the regular weigh-ins the following morning

-Ben

weekly reflections: 5/18 – 5/25

Got to spend a little time on the water yesterday. That was good for the soul.

My change from last week –

Change in weight (5/18/20 –5/25/20):  -1.0 LBS

First of all, I received a tremendous response to my last post about how I have lost 30+ pounds so far. Thank you to everybody. That support helped carry me through the later part of my week, where I usually struggle the most. My drive in the early part of the week stems from the motivation and good feelings from my last weekly update and the end of the week is where work, life, and a lack of desire to cook usually derails me a bit.

I had a really good week with my workouts and fitness goals (outside of again missing my strength workouts). I did my interval run trainings and they felt great. My third of the week had the least ankle pain and the best splits. The weather for running was also perfect, 50s and 60s for most of the week. I also got my rides in and also did an extra ‘recovery’ ride. I have been doing a lot of exercise. This is contributing to both a very tired body and an increased appetite.

This increased appetite, combined with a lack of desire to cook, is what limited my weight loss this week. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I lost a pound, but I feel I could have lost more had I been more disciplined with my food consumption. There were a couple days of takeout, which included pizza and chinese. These two are where I have trouble limiting how much I eat. There was also some ice cream mixed in…

I am not mad at myself, as I know what I did and was okay with it at the time. I understood these decisions and what they would do to my week when I made them. I do wish I was better at limiting the amount I ate, but we can continue to work on this. I will also note that, unlike when I posted about rage baking and cooking therapy, I have lost my creative drive again and am sick of cooking. I need help finding it again because home cooking is almost always healthier than takeout.

We did have these killer flatbreads for lunch this week.

For the next week I am planning on keeping consistent with my exercise as I did this past week. I know that my body will continue to get stronger and I am very excited for that. My wife and I planned some good looking meals for this week so I hope to lower my caloric intake a bit.

What do you do to maintain your motivation through the whole week? Do you find work and the weekend to throw off your discipline? How do you keep yourself excited with cooking?

If you know anybody who you think might benefit from reading my blog, please share it with them. I would love to reach more people because the success I am currently experiencing comes after years of struggle and frustration that I know many others face. If I can help myself through this, wonderful. If I can help others, even better! I am here to cheer on your effort and work, to whatever goal you are aspiring towards.

Please leave a like or a comment!

Check out the lists below for the full breakdown and let me know if you have any suggestions, feedback, inspiration, or thoughts. Stay safe out there and stay home if you can! I am thankful for all of you.

How did I do on last weeks action plan?:

  1. 6 Cardio workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 Low Impact ride, 3 runs (Mon/Wed/Fri). Attained
  2. 2 Strength Sessions (Tues/Sat). Not attained
  3. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks. Partially attained
  4. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc. Attained
  5. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body (Mon/Wed/Fri). Attainged
  6. 20-30 minute midday walk on work days. Attained
  7. Track every bite. Attained
  8. Drink 10 glasses of water per day. Attained
  9. Find some quiet time to calm my thoughts and mind. 2 5-10 minute sessions. Attained

Action Plan

  1. 6 Cardio workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 Low Impact ride, 3 runs (Mon/Wed/Fri).
  2. 2 Strength Sessions (Tues/Sat)
  3. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks
  4. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc
  5. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body (Mon/Wed/Fri)
  6. 20-30 minute midday walk on work days
  7. Track every bite
  8. Drink 10 glasses of water per day
  9. Find some quiet time to calm my thoughts and mind. 2 5-10 minute sessions

Please stay tuned for more updates. If you have been enjoying this, please become an email follower or a wordpress follower. Having this public audience has been a positive motivation for me to continue working towards my goals and so I really am thankful for all of you!

DateChange in Weight
12/1*
12/2*-5.4 lbs
12/9-5.4 lbs
12/16-3.4 lbs
12/23+2.8 lbs
12/29-1.2 lbs
1/6-1.4 lbs
1/13-1.6 lbs
1/20-1.4 lbs
1/27+0.4 lbs
2/3-1.2 lbs
2/10-4.6 lbs
2/17+0.4 lbs
2/24-1.6 lbs
3/2-3.2 lbs
3/9+1.8 lbs
3/16-3.2 lbs
3/23-0.6 lbs
3/30+0.4 lbs
4/6-1.6 lbs
4/13+0.8 lbs
4/20-1.8 lbs
4/270 lbs (no change)
5/4+2.4 lbs
5/11-5.2 lbs
5/180 lbs
5/25-1.0 lbs

* I first weighed myself on a Sunday night and began the regular weigh-ins the following morning

-Ben

7 things that helped me lose my first 30 pounds

I see weight loss stories of people who lose 50, 100, 150+ pounds and it can make 30+ pounds seem relatively insignificant. We need to remember that it is all relative and depending on your goals, anything is an accomplishment.

When I started my weight loss and betterment journey on December 1st, I had a lot of hopes, fears, and emotions. I still do. My initial thought was to lose 30 pounds by June. I figured that was something I could accomplish in 6 months but to be honest, in the back of my head, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have gone through ups and downs with weight loss for my entire life. Whenever I get back to really wanting to change, I have that doubting voice in my head saying “you can try, but you won’t succeed.” Fast forward to May and I have done what that voice told me I could not do. I lost 30 pounds and am going for more.

I am trying to celebrate this success in the best ways I can. I deserve to give myself credit for this accomplishment and I deserve to be optimistic that I can continue on. As I have been reflecting on this, I wanted to document some of the key steps that helped me get to this point, and will drive me farther as I continue to work.

  1. Track everything you eat

This one step might have had the most significant impact for me, when I actually started to do it right. I have used MyFitnessPal for a long time to track, but I only began to see changes when I really disciplined myself to track every bite. That includes the random grapes, or the bite of food that my daughter didn’t eat. It also includes the ketchup or condiments I used to not log.

When you track every bite, mindless eating becomes mindful. It becomes part of how you think and how you plan. It also becomes a wakeup call when you track the three pieces of pizza you had and realize they are 800 calories… damn. That didn’t just happen tonight, or maybe it did. But I found this required more strength than I thought. I couldn’t stay in denial and trick myself. I knew if I wasn’t being honest with myself and isn’t it the truth that sometimes it is the hardest to be honest with ourselves? It can be so difficult to truly look in the mirror or at the tracker and admit that this, this is actually what I ate.

Once I got over the fear of being honest and tracking everything, it became my strength. Knowledge is power. I took the knowledge of my intake to power me to working those calorie deficits. I still am not perfect, but this has been a key step in my weight loss journey.

2. Increase activity of any kind

When I think about losing weight and being ‘active’, I can fall into the trap of thinking activity has to be big workouts with tons of sweat and sore legs. This is not the case. Sometimes, it just means moving more than you did before. This can be exercise, walks or at home workouts. I have found that the weeks where I struggled most keeping my weight loss goals, I not only had less working out or increased intake, but I had fewer steps and less movement. I was more sedentary. I make it a point to get my 10,000 steps just to make sure I am moving. Even if the walks are not strenuous, you burn more calories walking and moving than you do sitting!

I have tried to incorporate more movement and exercise in my daily routine. The 4-6 exercises a week I attempt works for me and my goals, but everybody should find what works for them. You can use baby steps with this as well. The amount of movement and exercise you can do on day 3 of your journey will not be the same as week 9. Be real with yourself and listen to your body.

3. Drink more water

There is endless data and studies that preach the benefits of drinking water (https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water#1). I have found that it has helped me tremendously. Not only does the proper hydration help your body in many ways and aids things like workout performance and metabolism, but I also have found it helps to decrease mindless calorie consumption. Instead of drinking a beer with dinner, or orange juice with breakfast, I drink water. I can still have those other beverages, but my water intake can displace potential other intake.

I have always been bad about hydration and get thirsty easily. Because of this I will drink almost any liquid as if it were water. Juice, tea, milk, beer, soda, you name it. If I feel thirsty, I will drink more. By drinking more water, I drink less calorie filled beverages. And plus, I would rather eat my calories than drink them.

4. Calories in / Calories out

There are many strategies and plans for weight loss out there. I myself have done many of them (I will discuss these experiences another time). I have found that focussing on the difference between my consumed calories and my burned calories is the method working the best for me. This point connects directly to my tracking and movement points. If I am burning more calories than I consume, I will lose weight. This method relies heavily on the honest tracking and measuring of our workouts and food intake.

I like this method because there is nothing weird or hard to understand. It also leaves very little else to blame. I ate too much. I guess that is my fault. It has truly helped me to view my intake as a budget, allowing me to eat what I would like, in moderation, and to balance it with my movement and other meals. This has allowed me to plan for a special event, a holiday, or to simply know why my body is reacting the way it is. I don’t have carbs to blame or a type of food, I have my commitment and discipline.

It was not easy to get in the rhythm. I found that I still struggled to properly track and to get a true handle on how many calories my body burned. For burned calories I use MyFitnessPal, which has a calculator for how many target calories you should burn in a day based off of some body metrics. This then has an exercise adjustment the is informed by my apple watch (but any fitness tracker can do this). I have designed it to have a slow weight-loss progression, as I really want this to be a forever change. Losing weight too quickly scares me.

5. Weekly weigh-ins

With tracking, exercising, and watching my calorie deficit, I realized I needed to check if I was actually accomplishing my goals. I realized I had to weigh myself. I hate the scale and I hate the effect it can have on people, but I understand the need to know where you stand and how you are doing. I have written about my methods for how not to let the scale rule you here.

The first step was to figure out how often to weigh myself. I know people who weigh in daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. I believe the answer to this question has more to do with you and your personality than anything else. I chose weekly. I did not choose daily because I know myself and I would start to become obsessive. The daily ups and downs would control my emotions. I also knew that monthly would not be enough feedback to keep me going. And 5 months in, the weekly weigh-ins have been perfect. It is enough of a gap to keep the daily ups and downs from controlling me and frequent enough for me to understand my body, what is happening, and to correct where needed.

That is really what the weigh-ins are all about. Get the feedback about your performance so you can make adjustments where necessary. Please remember, the scale does not reflect your effort!. It only gives you a snapshot of your weight in a singular place in time. It does not show your drive, your motivation, your effort, or reflect who you are. Only you can show that. I will forever cheer you on your effort regardless of what the inanimate object called a scale, says your weight is.

6. Long Term Perspective

If you want your weight loss to be a quick fix, this is not the post for you. If you are looking for lasting change, then you need a long term perspective. We didn’t get into our careers and jobs overnight (unless you did, then kudos to you!). Many of us had years of education and/or training and developed positions to get where we are. If we want to attain a goal, it sometimes takes time and effort if it is going to last. I am using that approach to weight loss.

I have lost weight quickly before, and every time I gain it back. When I began this new, and hopefully permanent journey, I recognized I didn’t want to rush anything, but wanted the process to be slow enough to make it a new norm. I have been averaging about 6.75 pounds lost per month since I started this journey. This has definitely fluctuated, but it is not a fast loss. I have found it to be a sustainable weight loss pace. I continue to shoot for 1-2 pounds per week, and know that I can still maintain a lifestyle that I enjoy while doing that.

I have lost 20-30 pounds before in 2 months. That is when I gained it back. Understanding I am in this for the long haul lets me recognize that 7 pounds a month, although it leads to slow changes, means 42 pounds in 6 months and possibly 84 pounds in a year. That is a lot of weight and something you can be incredibly proud of. But regardless of the weight, recognize how you are helping yourself for the long run. Weight loss or not, you are working to get your body healthier for you now, tomorrow, and in years to come.

7. Communicate Your Goals

I started this blog because I wanted to communicate my goals to others. I have incredible support in my wife and broader family, but when I am communicating to others, it almost fills my efforts with more responsibility. I owe it to those I am sharing with to continue on. I owe it to myself. By communicating with others, I am allowing myself to recognize that although I am, and you are, strong enough, there is no shame in accepting help and support from others. It can be a game changer.

It doesn’t have to be a blog and it doesn’t have to be public, but do you have people in your life who support you? It may be worth sharing your goals with them and asking them for that support. It can have such a positive impact. It may take some humility on our part, especially if we really want them to support us and give us feedback, but we have goals! As one of my favorite Peloton instructors, Robin Arzon, says, “Do you want it more than you fear it?”

I am here for myself, for my goals, and for my positive change. I am also here for you. I may know you or not know you, but I will support your effort and champion your goals. I will be a positive voice if you need it. Just tell me. To those who have supported me thus far, thank you. Your help has been incredible!

-Ben