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?

anger and weekly reflections: 6/9 – 6/15

Change in weight (6/9/20 –6/15/20):  -0.8 LBS

My Monday weigh-in this morning brought a smile to my face. I have failed to reign in my eating the way I would like, so seeing that I lost almost a pound this week made me happy that my commitment to the process, even if not perfect, is still paying off. But I am not going to talk about my weight loss in this post, I need to talk about a different form of health; mental health.

I have no experience in the field of mental health so am speaking only as an observer of myself. I have been angry lately. When I say angry, I mean angry. I’ve been bitter, irritable, pissy, cranky, frustrated, and any other word that can meet the definition. I am not only feeling it, but acting it. My wife and daughter have unfortunately had to witness this. I spend my whole day putting a facade on for work or other people, then I just give in and act like a turd to the ones who love and support me the most. Thank God they love me. Thank God I recognize how lucky I am.

I feel like i’m waking up with the fuze already cut in half. My tolerance for things is depleted by noon, sometimes earlier. I have been spending some time trying to figure out why, but usually am distracted and don’t actually get to the bottom of it. Writing the post is the most I have thought about it so far. What is contributing to such anger? Well there are a multitude of things, but why can I not deal with them as I normally would?

Starting with the selfish, I am frustrated with work. I don’t like it when I cannot see apparent solutions to problems. There is also an element of just feeling overwhelmed. Having the rest of life bleed into you work-life. Emotions are not respecting the line in the sand of work versus non-work. But I have historically been resilient to these types of things, why now is this pushing me over the edge? And on top of it all, my daughter is also acting like a toddler, which comes with its own set of stresses, but that’s parenthood and I can handle that. I am also sick of being home 24/7 and desperately miss loved ones and friends, but that is no excuse either.

Externally, the US is tearing at the seems. We seem to have a government and a populous that has decided to politicize a pandemic, rather than just try to take a pragmatic, smart, and scientific approach to it. We also have populations of POC who are begging us to address our Country’s systematic and historical oppression, and most won’t even take a minute to reflect and ask more. What happened to the humans with a heart who try to feel for others, and try to understand the root causes of issues? This reactionary environment is so damn toxic. I do feel that these are enough to warrant anger, but not enough for me to treat my family the way I have and let it influence my ability to be a good person.

So what am I doing and what should I do to address this? I have been feeling a need to act and to be an ally for POC and minorities. I ordered two books to start reading, to educate myself, and to help remove some of the ignorance I have. Beyond this, I have been listening and considering different ways that I can help. These steps, although most likely not nearly enough, can help me address some of the emotions around the civil unrest. I know it may not remove some anger, but it can help me find a path forward.

On a personal side, I need to take some time off from work. Plain and simple. I need to separate myself from those responsibilities and take a few days to solely focus on my family and the needs surrounding us. I need to get some rest, for my body and for my brain. I need to remember what is good in this world and count my blessings. I need to do some good for people, because giving and loving is medicine for the soul. One thing that has helped a little is working out. It is a set aside time to just sweat, work my butt off, and be alone.

I feel like I am more rambling than anything with this post, but I feel I am not the only one in this boat. I want to say it is okay to be overwhelmed but it is not okay to let it manifest with such negativity in me. I want to give myself a break but also feel that with the world where it is, why should I take a break if others cannot? I am hoping to work on the things above a bit this coming week and will check back in next week on how it is going.

Is anybody else just off? Angry, tired, overworked, feeling helpless? Do you feel you are taking it out on others? What are you doing to work on it? Does it help to talk through it or to be quiet and think on it?

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. 5 Cardio workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 Low Impact ride, 2 runs. Partially attained. 5 rides and 1 run
  2. 2 Strength Sessions (Tues/Sat) Not Attained
  3. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks. Partially Attained. Too much takeout
  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

Action Plan

  1. 5 Cardio workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 Low Impact ride, 2 runs.
  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
5/4+2.4 lbs
5/11-5.2 lbs
5/180 lbs
5/25-1.0 lbs
6/1-1.2 lbs
6/8-0.4 lbs
6/15-0.8 lbs

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

-Ben

rage baking and cooking therapy

It was about 2pm in the afternoon when I received the email that put me over the edge. The frustration of weeks of working from home, increased work load, contractors arguing about simple requests, and a lack of sleep came to a boiling point. At this point I had been getting testier and testier. My tolerance was on vacation and my fuse was awfully short. Before writing a response I would regret, I shut my laptop, uttered a few words (only the most respectful and PG about my feelings…), and walked away. I needed space. I needed space from work, from thinking, from responsibility, and from my own mind. I walked into the kitchen and saw the mixer and one of my cookbooks. I decided to rage bake.

When I say rage bake, I mean baking to let off steam. I am thinking about putting all of my anger into crafting some decadent, delicious morsel that can bring a glimmer of joy into my current overly dramatic, angry world (I have also since learned there is a cookbook called Rage Baking, and I am not referring to it with my rant in this post).

Give me muffins or give me death… or something like that.

I decided to make some strawberry muffins. I love strawberry muffins. I actually love all muffins and would be doing a disservice to other types by limiting my praise to the strawberry variety. If somebody could find a way to have muffins be to healthy eating the way kale is… take my money. These muffins turned out so well for my first time making them. The recipe was so simple and that made the end product all the better

I have found that baking and cooking are therapeutic ways to work through frustration. The precise measurements in baking can make it an easy way to shut off the thinking in your brain. I just do what the directions tell me and turn this flour into something delicious. I also love general cooking because the instant satisfaction can take you from a place of frustration to a place of joy, reveling in the fact that you just made something that tastes so good.

The flaky salt on top just put them over the edge.

My wife recently made these incredible Brown Butter and Toffee Chocolate chip cookies (Thanks for the inspiration Rick: https://www.bonappetit.com/video/watch/from-the-test-kitchen-rick-makes-toffee-cookies). Ours did not come out quite the way they do in the video, but ohhh boy did they taste incredible. We realized the importance of gifting some away when we ate through a quarter of the batch before we knew it. I would like to think of that as bettering the soul, more than your heart health…

We have this unfortunate situation where we have no yeast. Because of this I need to make a sourdough starter. Until I overcome my fear of sourdough and just do it, I have been finding recipes that do not require yeast. So recently I made Irish Soda Bread and garlic flatbread. Both of these came out really tasty and have been a great supplement to our meals, or just a straight snack. Also, in case you haven’t graduated to next level living, heat your Irish Soda bread up in a pan with some grass fed butter. That bite is living your best life, FYI.

I will keep you updated on the sourdough situation. I am basically a coward who hasn’t let the words of his friends sink in when they tell him “it is not that hard.” So, stay tuned on that.

In the cooking world, I made a killer pasta with Vodka Sauce the other night (Thank you Molly Baz: https://www.bonappetit.com/video/watch/molly-makes-rigatoni-with-vodka-sauce. What amazing flavor from such a simple recipe. You all should do it!

For Easter, seeing as nothing is conventional about Easter this year, I made pork carnitas (Rick Martinez again: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/double-pork-carnitas). These made my wife, who is not a pork person, say “Ben, these are soo good.” #Winning.

I cheated and used store bought tortillas and salsa verde. 😦

I have been doing a lot of the Bon Appetit recipes because their youtube channel has helped get me inspired about cooking again. I recognize that many of these recipes are not healthy, but that comes back to my goal of moderation and keeping a food diary. If I can eat good food that makes me happy and helps my spirit, while consuming it responsibly, and while taking care of my body, why not? Even with these meals, I am working to balance my macronutrients, get a balanced diet in, and maintain a calorie deficit.

These have helped me. Cooking and baking has become another calming outlet for me when not all traditional outlets are available. You should try some of these recipes and let me know how they go. Does cooking and baking help you? I would love you you to leave some suggestions of recipes, cookbooks, food blogs, or chefs that I should check out.

Ohhh, and what is next? Well, this week I will be going for this crispy roast chicken cooked over potatoes by Chris Morocco (https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/cast-iron-roast-chicken-with-crispy-potatoes). I will probably mix it up and make it my own in some ways, but the though of cooking the potatoes under the chicken, thus getting all that flavor, excites me. Anyway, stay safe out there and keep in touch.

-Ben

weekly reflections: 4/14-4/20

My change from last week –

Change in weight (4/14/20 –4/20/20):  -1.8 LBS

I chose the picture above because it makes me calm. It makes me think of fond memories and the feeling of a breeze on the ridge of a mountain.

The weight is moving back in the right direction. I had another morning where I did not think the scale would say I lost weight. The best thing about mornings where I think I have stayed the same or gained weight is being pleasantly surprised is the best kind of surprise.

This post is brought to you by inner reflections. My dear friend Sara texted me the other day about a Peloton ride she did with Ally Love (yes, we’ve established I drank the Peloton kool aide). I have mentioned these rides before, but they are ‘Sundays with Love’. They are meant to be a more spiritual ride. As the pandemic is making it harder to seek my faith spaces in ways I am accustomed, this ride helped my spirt. BUT…, Ally brought up this question, “What is the difference between faith and confidence?” It is one of those things where you know there is a difference, but how do you you explain it. Sara and I texted about this a little and I really spent some time thinking. I would also like you to as well. I don’t necessarily mean a faith in a higher power, but faith in something.

I am bringing this up because lately I have not been having confidence in my betterment journey. Not just the weight loss, but all facets. I have been angrier, I have been more stressed, I have felt like a worst dad and a worse employee. I also have felt that weight loss is becoming a lost cause. These feelings become the strongest the day before my Monday posts when I start reflecting. Then I get to Monday and realize these head games are not based in reality. I lost weight. My daughter and wife still love me. The odd thing is, I still have faith that I can do it, even when the confidence goes. I still have faith that if I remain committed, it can happen. I have faith in the process and faith in my support structure. I do not always have confidence in myself… Does that make sense or ring true?

My initial feelings about the distinction is I always consider confidence a brain/mind thing. It is something that we develop in our head with practice and repetition, but because it is our brain, it is still susceptible to the thoughts and doubts that can float around. On the other hand, faith is a heart/spirit thing. It almost touches at a deeper part of our being, or a deeper part of our soul. For me, digging in and having faith, and trusting in my faith is paramount to my success. For me, I feel my faith carries me when my confidence is weak. We can all get through when our confidence is riding high, but what about when it is not!? This is when you have to have hope in the things unseen. This is where I need to push through and have faith that the end will justify the means I am struggling with.

I needed that ride, that topic, and that conversation. Please let me know if you have anything to add to this, I think it can be good for all of us to think about.

Coming out from the deep, let’s look at my week. I did not quite get the activity I hoped for, but better discipline with my food/drink intake did help me go the right direction with my health. I, again, was tired this week. My body has been dragging. I have been treating it pretty well with food and exercise, but I am not giving it the proper rest and stretching it needs.

I tracked better than I have in previous weeks and did better at controlling mindless snacking. I also got a couple nice long walks in with my daughter. These helped clear my head. Looking at the list, I hit and missed some. I think that I have room to grow and to get back on track with some things, but overall I am pleased. I need to continue working on my mental state. I am adding a task for me to try and find some quiet time. If it is deep breathing, meditation, or just some alone time listening to the wind and the birds, I need to decompress.

Anyway, 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. 5 workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 full body strength, 1 low impact ride, and 1 other of my choice. Partially attained. I did 4 rides and no full body workout
  2. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks. Attained
  3. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc. Attained
  4. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body. Failed miserably. I did none and my muscles are tighter to shame me.
  5. 20-30 minute midday walk on work days. Not Attained. I blame the crappy rain
  6. Track every bite. Attained
  7. Drink 10 glasses of water per day. Attained

Action Plan

  1. 5 workouts. 1 45 min ride, 1 HIIT Ride, 1 full body strength, 1 low impact ride, and 1 other of my choice
  2. Plan out my meals, stick to them, and portion snacks
  3. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc
  4. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body
  5. 20-30 minute midday walk on work days
  6. Track every bite
  7. Drink 10 glasses of water per day
  8. 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
* I first weighed myself on a Sunday night and began the regular weigh-ins the following morning

-Ben

weekly reflections: 3/17-3/23

My change from last week –

Change in weight (3/17/20 –3/23/20):  -0.6 LBS

I should start this post off by saying that I feel great! Just in general. I woke up and my body felt good, my mind felt good, and my general spirit was lifted. Why is this, Ben? I don’t actually know. Though I can make some guesses. According to numerous studies, and this one (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/), exercise has a measured impact on mood and mental health. And this isn’t just some blogger telling you (intentional sarcasm), but these are peer reviewed studies that have come to these conclusions. So that is my hypothesis. I got a lot of activity in this week, and I think it is paying off. And I also lost a little weight. It wasn’t the amount I was hoping for to get me to 30 total pounds lost, but it was still a decrease. For that, I am excited and grateful.

I hit my 5 workout target this week and it felt great. There is one particular coach on my Peloton, named Robin Arzon, who I have grown quite fond of. Not only is she a total boss and kicks your butt, but she is super motivating and makes you feel like a champ while you are doing it. I know some people can find the motivation to push through on their own, but for me that coaching truly helps me hit levels I wouldn’t on my own. I did a few rides with her this week that pushed me beyond where I have been in a while. These felt amazing and one of my rides I hit a new personal record. I also burned a ton of calories on them.

In addition to the rides, I sought to get outside for some walks in the woods. This is helpful for me now as we are going through social distancing and this new, surreal, normal. I feel trapped pretty easily and now that I am working from home, home doesn’t feel like the escape from work it once was. So getting out is the avenue that helps me clear my head.

I found my first full week of working from home to be challenging. I was able to get a good amount of movement and activity in, but getting used to the easy access to food and the feelings of stir-craziness is hard. Monday and Tuesday were days I did well. I only ate when I was hungry, and was disciplined. Wednesday and Thursday were different. Have you ever had those days where nothing satisfies your hungry or desire for food? That was those days for me. I tried so hard, but my need for snacks and food was insatiable. I did not do as well those two days. I need to anticipate these. Maybe try to get out for a walk when I am having those moments. Not only will that move me away from the food, but also get my body moving.

I need to continue running with these good feelings. I need to take the motivation from my activity and help it transfer into my motivation for keeping strong and disciplined with my intake. Does anybody have tips they use to help them with this? I would love to hear some ideas. Anyway, I am at 28.8 total pounds lost and can hit -30 by next week. I feel good, I feel strong, and I am continuing to focus on those things I have control over when the world around us seems to be out of control.

My sister inspired me with some advice that works for her. She suggested getting more specific with the activities that I am striving for. Instead of saying “5 workouts”, say the exact workouts you want to do. So below I am starting to get a little more detailed with my plans. Eventually I would like to map out my calendar with the class, coach, time, and everything in and around my works schedule.

How did I do on last weeks action plan?:

  1. 5 workouts. These can include runs, rides, or strength – Attained. I did 5 Peloton rides this week
  2. 3 work walks – Attained
  3. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc. – Attained. I did 2 – 2.25 mile walks in the woods with my daughter in the backpack
  4. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. Must be at least 5+ minutes per session. – Not attained. Did 2 dedicated stretch sessions
  5. Track every bite. – Attained
  6. Drink 10 glasses of water per day. – Not attained. Did not drink as much as I would have liked

Action Plan

  1. 5 workouts. 2 HIIT Rides, 1 full body strength, 1 low impact ride, and 1 other of my choice
  2. Plan out my meals and stick to them
  3. 2 additional outdoor activities. This can include walks with my daughter, disc golfing, skiing, etc
  4. 3 dedicated stretch sessions. 2 10-min lower body and 1 10 min full body
  5. Track every bite
  6. Drink 10 glasses of water per day

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

-Ben

work/life balance

“When we put balance to work in each area of our lives, we truly experience greater balance, greater reward.” Jeff Kooz

So I googled “work life balance” and the page filled up with different lists. “Top five ways to achieve work life balance”, “6 ways to better work life balance”, “Signs your life is off balance | work life balance”… so on and so forth. It seems we have a crisis here. We do not know how to achieve work life balance.We are stuck in a place of working for the weekends, but it seems the amount of work it takes to get there increases, and now we need to be checking our email on the weekends.

I studied economics in school. If there is one thing that classic economics says, its that you have work and leisure. The two do not coexist. Once can extrapolate this to mean leisure=joy and work=not joy? But in all seriousness, for the most part we have been conditioned to understand that work is the labor to get us to a place where we want to be. It is a means to an end, a way to put food on the table, or a way to get out of the house and pay for daycare. I know people who also will say “why do anything that isn’t fun.” And are they wrong? Life should be full of joy and fun, shouldn’t it? Why should I spend the majority of my life toiling at something that does not bring me joy? Because I am the forever moderate, I do find the truth is somewhere in the middle because life is not black and white, choices are not always obvious, and our decision-making can be complex. An old professor of mine used to always say “It’s messy!” and her point was that not everything is a simple 2+2. I may not simply be able to forsake the life of work and live my desired ski bum life if I want to have a family and eat things that go beyond ramen.

So how do we achieve this magnificent balance… a middle ground between toil and fun? I don’t know (I know, that was kind of a let down). I say this because it is different for everybody. What I can tell you is my perspective on it. I used to work with youth and young professionals and this is the same advice I would share with them.

We need to start with goals. We do not need to know exactly what we want to do, but we need to have an idea of our general direction. Goals allow us to create plans and plans allow us to succeed. My goals and plans can help create the framework for me to figure out the milestones for success. I AM a firm believer that sometimes we need to suck it up and do something that is less enjoyable if it will advance us to our end goals. There is such a thing as paying our dues. There is also such a thing as being stuck, and understanding the difference between paying one’s dues for a better future and being stuck is very important.

As I make a big deal about the need to work and pay your dues, it sounds like I am saying you need to realize that you won’t have fun. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that everything in life is a tradeoff. Do you value the 10-15 years of joyful payoff that the next three years of grinding will bring more than the alternative? We need to understand what is worth it to us. Investment reaps reward… and I am really glad I just thought of the word investment. When we think of the grinding and the hard years as an investment, this reframing can change our outlook. If we are putting the pieces in place to gain an advantage, that sounds like a smart move to me.

Beyond the work, fun is still important. I cannot sit here and lecture people on setting up your future when I basically was a ski bum for the majority of my twenties. Experiences and fun are still worth it. I will say that as loud as I can. I will also say they are extra worth it if you can either make them work for you for a sustainable lifestyle, or you see an eventual transition to your goals. The fun can also give experiences. Working in the ski industry taught me how to talk to people, customer service, and management skills. It also taught me the benefit of living and not trapping yourself. I have very few regrets from that experience.

If you were to ask me what the dream is, I would day the dream is to break the classic rule of economics. Prove them wrong that work is work, joy is joy, and they do not intersect. Work doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to be play, but it can be enjoyable… right? How many of you are in a job that you enjoy? Do any of you like going into work on Monday? Or how many of you dread work? I think you have made it when you work to achieve your goals, you enjoy what you do, and you also have the opportunity to leave it behind for true leisure when you need to. What is the point of having vacation time if you cannot take it?

The last thing I want to mention is to remember what is most important to you. If money is most important to you, you go for it. If family is most important to you, don’t sacrifice that for your job. Your employer will never put your well-being over their own. Your family, friends, loved ones, and dogs will. Build what matters most to you into your goals, your milestones, and your every day. That is the key to work/life balance. If you can invest the correct amount in each, if you can prove the classic economist wrong, if you can live the dream and feel happy about it, you’ve made it.

-Ben

betterment requires balance

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
― John Muir

In striving to be a better Ben, this journey goes beyond weight loss and exercise. Our beings consist of more than our bodies. We have our minds and our spirits to contend with as well. And I have found that none of these exist exclusive of the other, but they all are codependent on each other. Each requires investment in the others to realize its true potential and neglect for one can cause decay in others.

I find peace in nature. The creation that surrounds us not only helps me to gain clarity, but speaks to me and reaffirms my faith. Life is full of noise and distractions. I live right outside of Boston, a major metropolitan area. I commute to work and I am sure many of you have heard about how cordial and kind Boston drivers are (for those who haven’t, I’m being VERY sarcastic). I work in a job that requires constant communication and interaction with demanding internal and external stakeholders. We often times are at odds and always have to reach consensus. I also have a toddler at home, am a millennial trying to figure out how to navigate student loans, and would eventually like to buy the house we want to raise our family in. So there is a lot of noise. With that noise comes neglect of self. I can narrow my vision to tasks and problems, getting hyper-focused on one thing at a time, and ignoring all else. This may be effective at ticking off tasks from a checklist, but it is horrible for recognizing everything else around me.

Noises distract us from our goals. They can fog our vision and push us to decisions we may not truly intend. One example of this is how I seek out comfort food when I am stressed. I am a stress eater. If I have a really bad day, I want cheap take-out, a beer, and to sit on the couch. If I am distracted from life being overwhelming I can make knee-jerk decisions that are based on emotion and not on my plan. I have purchased many things from amazon in times like these. “Screw it, I want this.” I can hear my internal monologue clear as day. Does this resonate with anybody? Am I the only one who finds my weakness come out when life is too noisy and distracting? It seems when the business and noise is too much, we seek the immediate gratification that certain things provide. Something to change the moment. These decisions do not look at the long run and often have no basis in logic, but here I am with a box of dumplings, a beer (or two), and a bruins game.

Getting outside and seeking refuge in nature is medicine to me. With every step I take into the woods or every wave I hear crash on the beach, a few of those noises and distractions leave and I can see and think clearer. It helps me to focus on the things that are most important to me. It helps me to care for my own mind and spirit so that I can best care for those I love. You cannot fill somebody else’s cup if yours is empty. When I spend time in nature, I can remember how beautiful and masterful the world is around me, gain more appreciation for how lucky I am, and reset my priorities with this readjusted perspective. For me, the key to getting better is to have this outlet. And even more importantly, I need to recognize the need to use that outlet.

Taking care of my mind and spirit is an investment into every facet of my life. I am definitely not an expert and I absolutely have no right to tell you all what to do, but we all need to think long in hard how we invest in our mind and spirit. What can you do to help clear the noise and find more clarity? Do we need to do it for ourselves? Do we need to do it for a partner, or a family? For our future?

I have realized that when I take the time to try and find more balance, when I actually try to give myself space, and when I try to allow myself to calm, Things get easier. I am a better partner, a better father, and a better person. I like to be somebody who others are drawn to and I want people to find comfort in me and my friendship. I cannot be that person when I don’t take care of myself. I can be that person when I do.

-Ben

weekend things

North River. Norwell, MA

My wife and I do the best we can to get out and about with our daughter on the weekends. My wife works every other weekend in the medical field so when we both are home together, we really try to make the best of it. This winter has been super warm in MA and as much as I hate that (I’m a skier), it is nice to be able to get out and do walks that would be harder if it was cold and snowy.

This weekend our goal was to get a walk in together Saturday and I might go disc golfing Sunday to get my dose of fresh air. These are in addition to my planned stretching or indoor workouts. Getting out does so much for my wellbeing. I feel better physically and a feel better mentally. The fresh air just helps me feel alive and content.

It was chilly and damp this morning but that made the walk no less enjoyable. Harper LOVES being in the backpack and walks like these are a sure way to get her to giggle and chatter the whole time. She took particular enjoyment when I would run along the path, bouncing with each step, and I could hear her saying “go go go” behind my ear every time I slowed down. We let her walk the first short segment and were entertained as she navigated her new Bogs boots. Side note… It is amazing how hard it has been to find boots the right size for her. Harper was an early walker and we had a such a hard time finding winter boots that would work for her movement and walking ability in a small enough size. Seems kind of silly to me.

Anyway, I find it fascinating to watch the mind of a child. You can see how they take in their surrounding and process all this information with every step. Each stone, leaf, branch, and puddle was an analysis. I find it a cool practice myself to try to shut out some of the distractions and try to see the world how my daughter might. What would I think the first time I heard a leaf crunch under my foot? Or how would I react feeling new and different surfaces under my feet? It really makes you realize how brave and incredible the mind of a child is. Also, what do you think goes through their head as they experience a true beauty for the first time? A cascading creek or a sunrise. I have found that spending time in nature with my daughter helps me to reconnect with the little things.

This particular walk was in Norwell, MA and the Norris Reserve. It borders part of the snaking North river, which is a tidal river. The greater Boston area is awesome when it comes to parks and reserves. There are many places that help you forget you are within 20 miles to a major city. This reserve is one of those places. For a boy who finds his heart in the mountains and wilderness, places like this give me the peace to simplify the thoughts in my mind, the avenue to introduce my daughter to the beauty that is around us, and the joy of sharing this experience with my small family.

Today was a day for the betterment of the soul. To remember and appreciate what we have around us. The walk was a great way to get some steps in and get the heart moving, but it was really a way to build and reinforce the joy of family. If you care to, leave a comment below and let me know how you work on yourself, not just in a fitness manner, but in a heart, mind, and soul manner. What re-centers you?

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