Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The making of an action hero pt10

Entry #9 I’m tired and grumpy. There’s no particular reason, it just comes over me some times. I did well today; the challenge is overcoming the pointless annoyances and mood droppers to keep from making bad choices. My weight has been 304, 309, and 308.2 pounds since Monday. Intake today was a small bowl of fiber 1 and blueberries for breakfast, a turkey and pepper jack wrap along with mixed nuts and an apple at work, and a summer chicken salad over spinach and basal for dinner. The brunette made more oatmeal in the slow cooker while I was at work, so it’s back to steel cut oats for breakfast. I bought some blueberries, bananas, and raspberries while I was at the store. It was fun shopping for the makings of the salad…I’m just grumpy is all. A touch of blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette dressing added plenty of flavor without butter or other needless fat. Uggggg, more later when I can smile again. Need—that—light—box. Actually need to stop watching live coverage of the Zimmerman trial. That’s probably where my upside down frown is coming from. I hate stupid talking heads; I could do it so much better ;)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The making of an Action Hero pt 10

Entry #9 I have started down the path of pain. It dawned on me today that I was making excuses not to exercise. It’s true that I need some time to mentally adjust to the idea. It’s true that I need to adjust my sleep schedule to the process. It’s also true that if I don’t start taking steps forward, I’ll keep making excuses. Today I ordered a pair of 5 and 10 pound steel clubs. You hold one in each hand and swing them in intricate motions, developing strength, flexibility, and coordination. This process dates back to the Persian Empire where these little beauties and a steel mace were used to train wrestlers and soldiers. I couldn’t find a steel mace on line, so clubs it is. Turns out steel clubs were all the rage during the 19th and early 20th century. Early U.S. army fitness manuals taught this form of exercise both for the physical aspect but also because it promoted grace and coordination. So I will soon own 4 chunks of metal, big deal. I need two other components which I am in the process of acquiring. First, I need a good night’s sleep. I’m working on getting a “light box” to deal with my insomnia and SAD. Thirty to sixty minutes a day with one is supposed to work wonders with circadian rhythms. That will either let me go to bed at the same time and get more from less rest, or put my body on notice and at least let me go to bed earlier and make the loss of the extra half hour worth it. I’ll have to wait till next week’s pay check to buy this, but it’s on my list of stuff to get. Second, I need to get a program down with the clubs. I’m researching that now. I’m going to hunt down some DVDs and see what I can find. By the time sleep is fixed, I want the clubs in hand and a plan for using them. I could keep waiting; maybe even start some desultory calisthenics in a few weeks. That’s not what I need to do though. I need to train up. There is evil in the world and I will be ready to face it. Mock training with nurf guns is one thing. To get to where I need to be I need more than brightly colored plastic and neon foam. At some point I have to walk the walk and I am going to remove all the excuses I can up front. Today I had a small bowl of fiber one and blueberries for breakfast. Work was a turkey and pepper jack wrap, an apple, and a container of Greek yogurt over 8 hours. I’m beginning to understand one of the points all the diet experts keep harping on. They keep saying that you need to eat a hardy breakfast. The idea is that if you starve the body in the morning, it goes into conservation mode for the rest of the day. You’re sluggish and won’t be burning many stored fat reserves. I’m beginning to feel that. For dinner I came home and stuffed some of the brunette’s sandwiches with left over salad from Sunday. I grilled the result on the Panini maker and chowed down. Granted, it wasn’t a bad meal. There were tons of vegetables. Still, I didn’t need two sandwiches. I was just really hungry. Managing the hunger is as much a part of this process as managing the diet itself. I will spread out my mini-meals at work more and start with a bigger breakfast. I sliced up some apples today so that we can make some more oatmeal tomorrow. I just RSVPed to a friends wedding at the end of August. I will be in better form then than I am now. I will fit my suit better. I already expressed a preference for a vegetarian entree for the reception dinner. I am going to do this. I am sick of being my own worst enemy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The making of an action hero pt9

Entry #8 The last week has proven a great test for my heroic powers. When I started this ball rolling, the first thing I did was run down all the local eateries and determine my best option on their menu. Thursday we went to a Mexican place called Don Pablo’s. They are more tex than mex, but have good food and drink. While my companions had the delectable all-you-can-eat-enchiladas, I had a red river salad. I picked from the basket of tortilla chips and salsa with the group, but forwent ordering a second basket for the table. I had the brunette’s beans side order. I drank a ginger ail and several glasses of water. We ordered a plate of pastries soaked in brandy butter sauce for dessert. I had three of the thin confections, leaving 2 on the plate uneaten. It would have been easy to finish them off, but it wouldn’t have felt good afterwards. Friday my mother in law spent the afternoon with us. We ate at my favorite BBQ place. I ordered BBQ turkey instead of chicken and loaded it up with veggies. The brunette got a combo meal and we split the sides. I think going forward my order from there is going to be BBQ turkey with veggies and horse radish, no cheese and no bun. The brunette can have all the sides. That was a lot of food and the cheese was more habit than anything else. I did order their rarely found banana pudding. That was the next day’s breakfast, for which I paid the rest of the weekend with an upset stomach. I can’t tell if certain foods are making my stomach twist in knots because they aren’t healthy or just because they are heavy/greasy…etc. Saturday we had friends over for gaming. At the group’s request I cooked the evening meal. That was scrambled eggs, a tomato basal cucumber salad, and loaded slow cooker grits. I had some of everything, but only went back for seconds for the salad. No harm there, balsamic vinegar does magical things to summer veggies. I had one mixed drink and drank a lot of water. The next day my family came over for dinner. I made slow cooker lasagna with a side of the same tomato basal cucumber salad as the night before. Again, I had a little of everything except the rolls our friends brought and went in for seconds on the salad. My mother brought a low-fat fruit pie which we devoured. I had three glasses of our friend’s sangria (amazing.) Today I had half a container of pasta salad, or I served half a container but could only eat a few forkfuls for breakfast. It was the last of the heavy veggie mix I made last week. Lunch was a turkey and pepper jack wrap with an apple, and a bag of mixed nuts and crasons spread over 8 hours. I got home and had a few handfuls of pretzels from the leftover appetizer, and then had half the lasagna leftovers with a heaping helping of leftover salad. Looking at my record, I’m tempted to say I failed. The reality is that Thursday I stuck to a salad, didn’t drink any alcohol, and moderated my intake. Friday I over ordered, but learned a good lesson. Saturday I ate well but in moderation (again.) Sunday I drank a bit more than I should have, but still managed to stick to moderation. What I take from that is that I learned, I controlled, and I can do better. It’s getting easier to look at menu choices and say to myself “is that really worth $8.99 to you?” For some the answer will be yes, and that’s fine. I’m not going to stop living life just to get thinner. The object now is to figure out the stuff I’m adding on by reflex and cut that out. The Beast cave/weight loss HQ/command center is coming along bit-by-bit. Friday, we cleaned out a bunch of junk and began the reorganization process of the intended location. There’s furniture that has to be moved, posters and art to be framed and hung, a wall mount storage unit that requires installation, and a variety of brickerbrack that we need to sort through to see if it’s really worth keeping. I’ve decided that one way or another, when I have the command center in a usable format, I am going to start exercising. My preference is to do that with a steel mace or club, but I’ll substitute if I have to. I’ve already begun stocking the armory as it were. I grabbed a variety of nurf guns over the weekend (much to the joy of various kids and adult visitors.) The three year old who visited us on Sunday spent over an hour blasting a way with a triad EX while the two year old loved seeing the adults blast darts into random places before retrieving them. Man, toys have come a long way from when I was a kid. I now have a passable training selection to work with. It’s my intention to find a way to display each of these offerings once we finish the lair. Other enhancements under consideration include: • A CB/police scanner. • An electric recliner/loveseat. • A real work bench. • A full sized metal and wood desk. • A display case full of nurf products. • Possibly a ham radio set up if I decide it’s worth it. Life is good.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The making of an action hero pt8

Entry #7 How do you pick a style? Do you pick it or do certain elements of dress and accessory become emblematic as a byproduct of exposure? A good action hero has those things that are his, signature weapons, pieces of clothing, catch phrases…etc. Dirty Harry had his S&W model 29 .44 magnum revolver. Every pilot I’ve seen has a leather jacket and those mirrored aviator sunglasses. Jane Cobb had his orange hat. The terminator “will be back.” I suppose the real question is what kind of style am I looking for? When I was a kid it was Rugby shirts and slacks. In high school it was my letter jacket. I still have that jacket in my closet, though it’s a little small now. Harkening back to high school wrestling and chorus after almost 20 years seems a little silly. Likewise, the rugby shirts are a little too prep school. I want something uniquely me, something that diverges from group-think. Breaking it down, I have three areas I need to allow for—formal, casual, and work/country club casual. Formal isn’t that difficult. I have several suits, so all that remains is to obtain a tux, a cold weather jacket appropriate for up-scale occasions, and a few stylish accessories. The catch is, those items aren’t getting bought until I get back into something like ideal shape. Come to think of it, my current suits will probably have to go by the way side at that point. So for formal I need to work toward: • Several suits in gray, black, and blue. • A tux to include shirts, studs, cummerbund, tie, and monogrammed handkerchiefs. • Dress shoes in black and brown. • A selection of up-scale ties in black, gray, and other classic patterns. • A distinctive tie clip in silver. • A silver case for Cards. • A custom set of business cards. • A real leather briefcase. • A new belt. • A gentleman’s folding knife that is both stunningly executed and functional. • A wool overcoat for ruff weather. Most of these items require me to drop the pounds before I can begin shopping. There’s no point in looking for a tux if I’m going to drop four sizes between purchase and first use. So one of my upcoming projects will be to seek out the makings of the non-sized bits and set them on the reward tree. Work casual is an entirely different beast. Here I need something suitably restrained for work as well as stylish enough to pull off at serious informal gatherings. This is also where the question of style becomes more important. Formal is formal. My choices there run to grays and silvers in the European mode, but beyond that a suit is a suit. The difference here is that one has some variety of options to work with. Do I want business casual with polos and slacks? What about button downs in tasteful colors? Western string tie? Perhaps by the end of this I’ll be able to wear a cowboy hat without looking ridiculous. The end goal is to come up with a look, a few signature accessories, and an image that fits the new person I’m trying to become. I used to think clothes were clothes—no big deal. Anyone who’s been shunned for not wearing the right thing knows that’s not true. How you dress, your look, says something about you. Sometimes it’s something about who you are. Sometimes it says something about who you want to be. I want clothes that represent me as a person. I don’t want to pretend to something I’m not. Lately I’m trending toward a sort of geek sheik tactical look. Most of my jackets are scottevest wired apparel. My favorite footwear is a pair of Danner Acadia combat boots. My lunch bag is a maxpedition Fatboy versapack. Those are all comfortable and functional choices. They aren’t stylish though. Sometimes I feel like I’m trending towards an operator wana be. I hate that. Big, durable, functional…those aren’t bad words; heck in some circles they’re high praise. The issue being that I want more out of style than function…I want elegance and grace too. So I will lose the pounds, so I can remake my image. Not for everyone else, but for myself. Today’s intake: Breakfast=Small bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and a glass of cranberry juice. Work intake=A bag of mixed nuts and dried cranberries, a small container of my pasta salad, and an apple. Dinner=Chicken sausage and whole garlic cloves over pasta with an alfredo pesto sauce and a few glasses of water. I went to the store today to get some cash and a few groceries. While getting bacon for Saturday’s attempt at loaded grits, I got the hankering for sausage. I had to ask myself if it was worth it…turns out the answer was no. It’s weird going into a store relatively hungry and not buying a bunch of junk. So I substituted chicken sausage in and it came out very well. Plus, I used up one of our stashed alfredo sauces and a jar of pesto. For dinner I gave myself 2 small bowls rather than a single large one. Turns out my appetite is fine getting two smaller bowls, it’s the process of going back for seconds it cares about not the quantity of food involved. Weight this morning was 311 pounds. I don’t know how that compares, but it’s coming off. I just need to keep it trending down. Tomorrow we’re going out to lunch with friends. I’ve scoped the eatery out, picked my order (a red river salad) and am shooting for drinking water but may break down and have a glass of red wine. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The making of an action hero pt7

Entry #6 I have good days and bad days. Some times I am chock full of positive energy. Other days the world seems likely to end soon. Most of the time life falls between those extremes. That’s one of the cold hard facts that make eating well difficult. When I’m tired, depressed, not feeling well, food is a safety blanket. Eating in general is a comfort. So setbacks in other parts of my life tend to correspond to setbacks in my diet. Some may recall that Thursday marked the beginning of my daily weigh-ins. As it turns out, the anticipation was worse than the reality. After you know roughly how much you weigh and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, there aren’t many surprises out there. It’s the fear of that first time that is ruff. Friday started fine. Then that evening we hosted a small gathering. At the end of the night, everyone wanted to check their weight. At first I thought someone had broken the scale. Then, after repeated checks and checking Amazon reviews, I realized a teensy problem with my regimented plan. You see big people aren’t made for modern digital scales. We are poorly constructed to stand on a small platform and hold perfectly still for a minute or more. The result of that structural failing is that my weight varies by as much as 9 pounds depending on my stance. Holding perfectly still with my feet beside each other can’t be done. There’s inevitably some rocking and correcting. I can manage if I place my feet one ahead of the other, but the difference in stance leads to inconsistent results. If anyone has a better talking scale they can recommend I’d be grateful. Over the past few days I’ve eaten out, eaten with friends, and eaten at home. When the scale seemed to fail it felt like a major setback. I fought off the urge to quit, and have now redoubled my efforts. In the end, the scale weighs. I don’t care as much about the specific, only the average. So I’m somewhere between 305 and 312 pounds. That’s good enough for now. Yesterday night we shared an evening and leftovers at a friends’ home. It was good food, so good that I had a second smaller portion after the first. I had one beer with dinner and a scotch afterwards. There’s something freeing in viewing alcohol as an indulgence rather than as a commonplace accompaniment to a meal. I’ve always been a man of large appetites. That has applied as much to drink as food. What is it they say; absence makes the heart grow fonder? Perhaps that’s so. Even limiting consumption for two weeks, I’m trying to view alcohol as something to be consumed in one or two glasses rather than in terms of the amount remaining in the bottle. I’ve been reducing consumption in general for a while. Yesterday was the first time that felt like a benefit. Intake: Breakfast=A bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and bananas and a glass of cranberry juice. Work Meal=A container of pasta salad, turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple, and a flavored almond snack pack. Dinner=A glass of water and the leftovers of the light lasagna I made on Friday.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The making of an action hero pt6

Entry #5 313.00—that was the verdict Friday. I ate a bit more than I should have yesterday and came out .28th of a pound ahead. That works out to a pound a half a week, 6 pounds a month, and 72 pounds a year. Obviously I’d prefer something more drastic, but considering I haven’t even started exercising yet, that’ll do pig. There are a lot of assumptions in that prediction, chiefly that I can maintain this pace and that the scale is accurate. Two data points do not a trend make…even so this is good news. I’m not going to set myself any firm goals or rewards till I have at least a week of weigh-ins to work from. I’ve worked in a variety of team and individually incentivized departments. All of them had some sort of performance based reward system—do this and get shiny thing! I came across two frequent flaws in such bonus programs. The first came down to bonuses that weren’t worth the effort. Here’s this amazing thing! Erm, not so much. Work really hard and you’ll get next to nothing. That’s bad motivation. You see this in kickstarters all the time. They offer rewards that mean little to their intended audience. Conversely, one of the best examples I’ve seen of positive goal setting was a Holiday overtime contest in which representatives earned a $250 gift card for working 50 hours of overtime before Christmas. That was a great reward balanced by a lot of effort which benefitted the company. Those are the kinds of rewards I will set. Worse than the inequitable bonus is a reward that is unobtainable. Here’s that thing that you should want to get. All you have to do is accomplish the improbable. That’s not a good motivator either. Who is going to try and earn something they are convinced they can’t/won’t achieve? Stretch goals, benchmarks that require one to expend a bit more than usual effort are great. It’s when the bar gets placed so high that it might as well not be there that you have a problem. The idea is to motivate, generate greater than expected results, and stay goal oriented. I’ll have to talk to the brunette about this. Setting goals won’t be that difficult. Picking rewards…that might be a bit more challenging. The problem with living independently is that I tend to buy the things I want and do the things I enjoy as a matter of course. If I delay the purchase of something until I hit a goal, that’s not the same as giving me a reward for achieving something significant. At best that represents intentionally delayed gratification. I’d really appreciate suggestions on that one. Intake: Breakfast=A bowl of oatmeal, a glass of cranberry juice, and a banana. Work meal=A ham and Swiss wrap, an apple, and a snack bag of flavored almonds. Dinner=a plate of chicken and rice and pasta salad.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The making of an action hero pt5

Entry #4 How do you motivate yourself? Deciding to live well is easy. Ask me if I want to eat healthily, exercise, lose weight, and live better and the answer will be a resounding yes. Ask me if I want a bacon cheeseburger and the answer is often as not also yes. I love food. I love cooking, I love eating, and I love the full sensory sweet of a beautifully prepared meal complete with ambiance, presentation, and company. So yeh, deciding to eat better is easy. Eating better, not so much. It’s funny the things that stick with you. I remember a Flintstones episode where Fred was compelled to lose weight. He went to a support group to help fight his appetite. Their solution was to steal his food right from under his nose any time he was in public. At the end of the story, after Fred hits his goal, he goes out and orders a huge meal. The episode ends with Fred howling with rage as one of his supporters steals his victory dinner. Queue laugh track and fade to black. I don’t want to live that way. In this cartoon example, Fred has no strength of will. He relies on other people to enforce his diet. As the end of the story shows, the only way he can keep the weight off is by continuing to rely on others. Yesterday the Brunette and I finished rereading a young adult fantasy book called The Wretched of Muirwood. The magic of that world is based on surrendering to the power of the universal unconscious at one hand but also derives purpose and direction from the desires of strong willed individuals. Doubt and worry weaken a man while confidence and courage can literally change the course of history—causing the flows of magic to reshape events. I like that. One of the characters says at one point that “It begins with a thought.” He means that one’s future, the course events will take, is defined by a distinct act of mental resolution. That’s what I need to do. William Wallace dies well because he refuses to be broken, to give in, and to be less than entirely committed to his cause. I must do the same. I have to use language that supports that mindset. In fact, it should be “I will use language that supports that mindset.” There is no need, have to, must, should, try…etc. Those are conditional statements. I—will—be successful. Another book I read recently called the red circle, discusses how perspective snipers are taught to think out how their successful shots will be taken in advance. They mentally model every move, every reaction, and every contingency so that when the moment comes success is a foregone conclusion. I do this already for work and gaming. I’m going to find the specific training materials referenced in the book and formally implement them. If it starts with a thought, then I’m going to make sure it ends successfully with that thought as well. I’m not a fan of self-help books, feel-good literature, and self-worth programs. The ones I’ve seen essentially have the subject telling themselves “I’m a good person” over and over again. I suppose if you say it enough you’ll believe it…until something happens that challenges that belief. You can con/rationalize your mind into accepting anything short term. My experience has been that long term those comforting fictional barriers come crashing down—further damaging confidence and self-image in the process. You shouldn’t have to convince your mind that eating well, exercising, and making good choices are desirable. Unfortunately your appetite and activity levels are based on more than logic. Every day presents hundreds of chances for you to master yourself. It makes sense to me that by understanding why I make certain choices, mentally preparing to make better decisions, and orchestrating events in the most favorable manner possible that I’m setting myself up for success. That is self-help to me. Not deceiving your mind into believing something your heart and hunger oppose, but rebuilding your preferences and behaviors from the ground up. Having a strong support network helps a lot. I know my family and friends—especially now that I’ve told them I’m serious will work with me. At some point though it comes down to me. I’m going to have to walk into an eatery and decide what I “want.” I won’t always be in a good mood. I won’t always have the chance to strategize my order in advance. At that point having a friend ask me if I really want that burger isn’t going to help. I’m going to give myself the means now so that when the opportunity comes I will have the motive to make the best choice. This is good, hopped up on self-confidence. I’m going to need that. This morning I faced the talking demon for the first time. Michael Night gets a talking car with lasers and super speed. I get a talking scale with a measuring tape. I guess I’ll have to work my way up the audio-accessory ladder. The number was 313.28. That’s not bad. I think the last time I saw my doctor I hadn’t eaten in a day in a half and I came in at 309 or so. That probably means I’m losing weight already. We’ll know soon as I have to go back in July for my 2013 physical. There’s another benefit of going through this process, I don’t have to dread the doctor’s scales twice a year. I’ll know damn well what that number is and I can own it. I’ve started designing the lair. I’m going to need a full sized desk at some point. The room isn’t optimally set up right now. It used to be that the brunette and I shared the entire apartment. We’ve since come to claim certain territories. The idea is to set up the room so that it makes better use of the available space. I need a fully functioning hero-cave, a place where I can relax and tune out the world for a bit. Food was good quality today. Dinner was pasta with meatballs. Dessert was a fruit smoothie made of half fruit and half no fat frozen yogurt. I left yesterday’s crackers open over night, rendering them stale. I trashed them, mainly because if I left them there I was going to eat the rest of the bag stale or not. I will drink a glass of water before each meal and one after to fill the gap. My portions were fine today; I will simply be smarter about the frequency to moderate the urge to graze. Intake: Breakfast=A small bowl of crock-pot oatmeal with blueberries, a banana, and a glass of half water and half cranberry juice. Work meal=a ham and Swiss wrap, an apple, a snack sized portion of nuts and crasins, and a hand full of unsalted almonds. Dinner started with a banana to curb the urge to snack, 2 small bowls of pasta and meatballs, and a fruit smoothie for dessert. Today represented the last of our meatballs and a third of our frozen yogurt vanishing. I’ll have left over pasta salad for the next few days while others finish off less healthy leftovers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The making of an action hero pt4

Entry #3 I’ve always been a big guy. When I was younger it was due to over-developed muscles. Now I still have a lot of the strength plus a bit of extra padding. Weightlifting, strength training, whatever you want to call it was fun when I had inordinate amounts of free time. There are as many power building philosophies as there are diet plans—with just as many proponents. In the beginning I lumped them all together. They were designed to make you stronger. Some specialized in competitive events, some focused on overall power, but back then they all fell into the same category more or less. Now I know better. Each plan has a different purpose, a different style, a different target user, and different risks. People talk about the gym the same way they talk about the bar or the club. Sure, you go there to exercise. But it’s also a place to show off, to meet, and exchange phone numbers. It has become an iconic social networking location for the best and beautiful. I don’t want that. For one thing, just walking in the door would lower my self-esteem by a healthy margin. Stumbling through exercises I used to do as a warm up—much less using the showers with everyone watching would do more damage than good. The idea here is to make me feel better about myself, to improve, to build the mental and physical tools to live a better life. Guilt and self loathing do not figure into that plan. There’s also the question of time. Currently I get up at 5:30 in the morning so I can make it to work by 8am. I’m home by 5ish. I need to eat dinner, take care of various tasks, and get to bed at a decent hour. An hour long session at the gym plus an hour of travel time would mean that I wasn’t getting home till 7 at the earliest. It isn’t that I can’t do it. It isn’t that I can’t afford the time. It comes down to choosing between living my life and going to the gym. Four days a week would mean that I’d have to cut out time with the brunette, friends, family, and very necessary personal down time. I’ve tried similar strategies before—short term sacrifices for supposed future gain and they have always failed. Another factor is that I don’t want to build bulk per say. I was surrounded by football players, wrestlers, and other flavors of athlete in college. While their regimens were aimed at improving their performance, their individual focus in the weight room was all about “how much?” The goal for them was to move the most amount of weight possible. I fell into the same competitive mindset. I wanted to put bigger and bigger numbers up. Now I’m paying for those years of steel bars bending over my shoulders. My back and knees, while not permanently damaged, won’t ever have the youthful flexibility and resilience I took for granted back then. The lesson I took from those years is that there’s a difference between power and strength. Power is the ability to move really big weights. Strength is the ability to employ great power in the real world—functional muscle if you will. I want strength not power. At some point I’d like to get back into free weights, but for now it’s a lesser priority. I really would rather start with something simple I can do at home that works on usable fitness, not bulk muscle. So I came up with a list of requirements I need for an effective workout. Keep in mind that these are based on what will work for me mentally and physically. Others will likely have different needs. • I need to be able to complete the course of training in 30-60 minutes. • The exercises must focus on a standing position. • The program and equipment must be something I can handle in my living room without complex machines. • The program should focus on practical strength and movement. • The plan needs a twist, something that will keep me going at 5am. Enter the steel mace workout. I first heard of it while reading an article on the art of manliness at: It fits all my requirements. In particular, I can do it without having to crunch over (a difficult task with my gut as big as it is right now.) Supposedly you can do the same workout with a sledgehammer. I have a ten pound sledge so may try out the basics first before going all in on a mace. Today I had some wins and some losses. I ate well through the afternoon, got to the store and exercised restraint, got home and made some pasta salad. I also opened up a box of crackers by accident (thought it was a box of pasta) and snaked a few more handfuls than I should have.) The scale came in today so tomorrow we start the morning confessional. If today has taught me anything it is that victory will only come with conviction. I’ll write up something about motivations later but it’s time to get some sleep. Intake for today: Breakfast=a small bowl of fiber1 with raspberries, a glass of cranberry juice, and a banana. Work meal=a ham and Swiss wrap, a container of Greek yogurt, an apple, and some unsalted almonds spread over 8 hours. Dinner=a moderate bowl of pasta salad (mostly veggies), a glass of water, and snacking on crackers and the leavings from making turkey and cheese sandwiches for the brunette. I need to drink more liquids before and after meals to curb the need to snack.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The making of an action hero, pt3

Entry #2 Ow, Ow, Ow. One of the hardest parts of being over weight is that your body starts failing you at the most inconvenient moments. Fifteen years ago “failing” meant I got tired after running for five miles instead of ten. Now it means that a poorly placed step sprains a load baring joint. I am not going to be able to stage an epic hand-to-hand battle on a catwalk over a nuclear reactor if I have trouble walking the half mile to my bus stop. In a way, this pain is a great motivator. Every time I have to take a hobbling step I am physically reminded that I need to stick with the plan or things will get worse. Yesterday the brunette and one of our friends did the marketing. We got more good food and less bad food, which is good. The fridge is full of fresh produce and lean protein. The counter sports a bunch of low-fat trail mixes, unsalted nuts, and bananas. The challenge we face is that we still have a stock of the food that’s less than ideal. The immediate urge is to go on a gorging frenzy and consume all of it with no guilt. After all, it all has to go right? In keeping with the slow change philosophy I’ve adopted, I’ll keep using the items until they’re gone, we simply won’t buy any more. I could gorge my way through the pantry, but I won’t. There’s a scale coming in the mail soon. Every extra pound I put on now will be another one I have to report with my first public weight entry. Writing about these experiences helps me work through the mental process of adjusting my outlook. It’s great if other people have comments and input. I learn a lot from their tips. Writing forces me to order and prioritize. It forces me to validate and personally justify my decisions. I’m not one of those people who can do something just “because.” I have to come to peace with my choices. I have to vet them through a process of testing and questioning. That’s one of the reasons I used to give up on eating well. After a while I realized that most of the choices I was making couldn’t be justified. It became too much work to do the right thing, let alone think through it. So I fell back in to comfortable habits. I’ve been researching nutrition information for some of our local eateries. It seems that eating out is not such a good plan. I began the process with the high-minded goal of finding better options for the times we dine out. It’s impossible to get fries for under 400 calories, a burger worth the name for less than 600, or anything with bacon and cheese for under 500 calories. That’s not really surprising. What almost scared me out of my combat boots was how high standard menu options went. For example, the red robin blue ribbon burger, fries, shared appetizer, and drink ran to at least 1500 calories. Taking steamed broccoli over fries cut 320 calories off, but still, ouch. Many of the salads I looked at were 600, 800, or 1,000 calories. Calorie counting by itself is pointless. You can eat a low total calorie meal that’s terrible the same way you can eat a high count meal that’s full of great nutrition. That said, ouch. In most places the best options were grilled chicken sandwiches or veggie burgers of some variety. Any salad with bacon, cheese, creamy dressing, or any other meat than grilled chicken automatically started at 500 calories or more. One of my friends has a “thing” about how Americans must always have three things, giant portions, Bacon, and cheese. After today I believe it. I wrote about the guilt factor in my eating habits before. This is exactly the kind of situation I was referring to. If we go out for a meal and I walk through the doors I’m faced with two terrible choices. I can eat what I want and start the guilt cycle or I can restrain myself and be miserable. Both of those choices leave me eating more because guilty or unhappy are the same thing where emotional eating is concerned. So, not gonna do that. I’ll simply pick the least bad option I can live with and enjoy the chance to socialize. I’ll try not to be placed in that situation in the first place. But it’s going to happen eventually. Better to sort out the particulars now. Mutter…I guess that means steak and a martini (shaken not stirred) are off the table. Today I brought my normal ham and Swiss wrap, an apple, a container of unsalted almonds, and a 20oz water bottle of herbal tea to work. I don’t use the word “lunch” any more as I try not to have “lunch” in the traditional sense. It doesn’t fit my work schedule and it’s not very healthy. Traditional lunch is a mid-day meal that varies from a light snack to a gastro-fest of epic scope. It’s predicated on the idea that people eat three meals a day and spend the rest of their waking hours laboring in the fields. I sit at a desk all day typing on a computer. I don’t have even remotely similar caloric requirements to your average blue collar worker, much less a hard-laboring farmer. If I starve myself between breakfast and lunch, I’ll consume whatever I brought from home in an epic moment of gobbling that would make cookie monster proud. Then I’ll be tired and still hungry because six hours of consuming nothing but water will have convinced my body that it needs to top off all the reserves even though I haven’t done anything but sit in a desk chair. Instead, I have my first mini-meal around 9-9:30. I have a snack an hour or so later, and finish with a second mini-meal around 11-11:30. There are lots of components to eating well. Part of that has been learning to time quantity and frequency such that I’m never stuffed but a little hungry all day. I start off work with a 20 oz water bottle that has a bag of dandelion tea and two more bags of whatever random cold brew/herbal mix I grab from the discard pile. Yes, we have a discard tea bag collection. The brunette loves buying teas. People love buying teas for us. We don’t always heart the results. Everything that doesn’t get a thumbs up from one of us goes in the grab bag. Each morning I grab my dandelion tea, two other random bags, and fill the water bottle up to start the cold brew as I head to work. I leave the bags in the bottle and refill it every hour or two. Each day has a different flavor. By the end of work I’ve drunk 80-100 ounces of mixed tea and water. The water helps partially stave off the hunger, cleanses the system, and takes care of the urge to “drink something.” Things to do: 1. Research the steel mace workout, develop a plan to use it, and get the required equipment. 2. As soon as the scale gets here, work out a system of rewards based on meaningful milestones relative to the amount of weight I need to lose. 3. Start work on the “lair.” 4. Bag up the trail mix and almonds in smaller lunch sized portions so I can’t cheat and eat the entire thing. Today’s Intake: Breakfast=1 bowl of fiber 1, 1 glass of herbal tea, and one banana. Lunch=1 apple, 1 ham and Swiss wrap, and a few handfuls of unsalted almonds spread over 4 hours. Dinner=a few handfuls of crackers, a bowl of chicken and rice, and a couple slices of apples and strawberries.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The making of an action hero pt2

Entry #1 Ever since I foiled the plans of the dark lotus ninja clan I’ve been in hiding. That hot little brunette and I have been pretending to live in the mundane world somewhere, well secret. It’s been difficult, especially after that accident in the chemical plant took half my sight. We’ve made out OK so far. It’s kind of nice not to have to run into automatic weapons fire every other day. The problem is I can’t keep living like this. Dr. Methuselah just threatened to end the universe in four years on net flicks. The ninjas are still out there, I just know it. The government can’t even execute a search warrant in secret. So it’s up to me and the brunette to save the world…except that I’m way out of shape for the hero business. Somewhere between defusing that unobtanium bomb and today I put on 140 pounds. It’s all going to have to come off. I figure, without the Joe’s training center to work with, I’m going to have to do it the old fashioned way. So, I’ve taken a few steps in that direction. First I went through Amazon and ordered a talking scale. This whole not seeing thing is a real pain. It should arrive in a few days, at which point the real challenge begins. I’m honestly not looking forward to the “moment of truth” every morning. I hated the scale back when I wrestled. I doubt that’s going to change much until I start losing weight. Still, it has to be done. I went through a list of all the fast food and quick stop places we go for meals when we’re in a hurry. I reviewed the menus, nutrition, serving sizes, and came up with a priority list of locations and default orders. I hate fast food now. Intellectually I knew that what I was eating was bad. Finding out that your standard order from a certain drive through is over 1300 calories tends to put the word “bad” in a new light. It’s good that we don’t go cheap and fast nearly as much as we used to. Even so, there are going to be those times when it’s going to happen. I want to be able to make a suggestion when someone asks and have an order ready when we get there. This way I can’t wimp out by saying I didn’t know how bad the menu selection was. I’ve picked and ranked the following selections based on a variety of criteria. • They have to be under 500 calories. • They have to constitute a meal that I will actually want to eat. • They have to be somewhat portable. • They have to be somewhat healthy or at least less unhealthy than other potential selections. Location Choice Rank Cal Chick-Fil-A Market Salad 1 180 Chipotle Chipotle salad with barbacoa, black beans, and fresh tomato salsa 2 320 Subway 6-inch Veggie Delight All veggies, no cheese, light dressing 3 400 Wendy's Half Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, 4 340 McDonald's Mcwrap grilled sweet chili chicken and apple slices 5 375 Burger King BK VEGGIE Burger 6 450 Panera Pick 2, chicken seizer salad and garden veggie soup with apple side. 7 400 Taco Bell Fresco Burrito Supreme® – Chicken and 1 Fresco Chicken Soft Taco 8 490 Next, I’m going to go through all our local sit-down places and build default orders. To some this probably looks like preparing for failure. In reality, I’m shining the light of truth on my eating habits. After reading through eight fast food menus, I’m not really interested in choking down 60% of my recommended calorie total in one meal. Intake for 6/10/13: • Breakfast was a small bowl of Fiber 1 and a glass of herbal tea. • Lunch was an apple, ham Swiss and mustard wrap, and a piece of string cheese. • Dinner was home made Mexican chicken and rice leftovers. • Drank 90oz of tea/water. It’s a small start, but I feel like it’s a beginning. Tonight I’m going to cut up apples so we can make our own oatmeal in the crock-pot. More later.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The making of an action hero.

            I’ve always wanted to be an action hero—stylishly dressed, well armed, innovative, capable…etc.  One finds that delivering the clever line can be learned.  Enough research and the particulars of good food and drink may be acquired.  I’ve read enough books, seen enough movies, played in enough games, that figuring out what the bad guys are up too comes naturally.  I have a boring desk job which simply begs for adverse conditions to bring out my hitherto unseen heroic side.
            Only one obstacle stands between me and Bond-hood, about 140 pounds.  By now I’ve heard it all, diets, surgery, drugs, you name it.  There was a time in college where I was working out 4+ days per week.  I was doing sets of ten on the bench at 185 pounds.  I squatted super sets at 800 pounds.  I ran the gym’s treadmills till they quit, literally.  For the record, you don’t go from that level of fitness to my current plumpitude over night.  It is the death of a thousand value meals.  It is the product of a young person moving from an active round-the-clock lifestyle to one where less time and motivation are available for things like exercise and a good night’s sleep.  After a year I’d put on a few pounds.  After a few more years I had to buy new clothes, but I had to do that for work anyway so no big deal.  After 13 years I’m almost twice the man I used to be, and not in a good way.  I know how nutrition and fitness work.  I let things get out of hand and one day I was so far behind the eight ball it was easier to stay where I was than make the painful choices it would take to get back on top of the mountain.
            So what to do?  I want to go out into the world and do things.  I want to play with our son’s kid as he gets older.  I want to live an active lifestyle again.  Past experience has shown that while I can change in the short term, bad habits come back.  So some fad diet or miracle supplement isn’t going to do it.  I have had consistent success in weeding out bad behaviors in small steps.  We don’t order out at all anymore.  I rarely get lunch from the cafe.  I’ve cut my alcoholic intake significantly.  I’ve cut caffeine down to a manageable level.  My blood pressure is great and I’ve lost 20 pounds.  So I’m on the right track.  What I need to do is find fun and productive ways to expand on that start.
            When you’re five foot six and 300 pounds, a trip to the local gym isn’t as much of an option as you might think.  Workout clothes don’t stay where they should.  Any high impact activity is out because of the danger to your knees and ankles as well as the fact that most machines aren’t rated for your bulk.  So to beet that 140 pound monster I’m going to have to find a way to start working out at home.  I’m going to have to find a way to keep motivated.  Any consistent activity will do, but it has to be active and frequent.  If this were a movie, I’d be placed with a dojo, retired boxer, or an eccentric but brilliant Special Forces captain to train off the pounds.  Lacking that I’m going to have to find other ways to motivate myself.
            I need something fun.  I need something that will keep me interested after the novelty has worn off.  As the title of this post indicates, I’m going to try something different from south beach or Atkins.  The concept I’m working with is a combination of daily themed exercise, specialty projects, and reward levels based on achieving certain goals.  I’m going to view everything through the lens of a pulp action hero and make the exercise and diet part of a larger project.  Some of the ideas I’m working on are:
1.       Revising Chief wife’s and my diets to something a little more primal—cutting out some dairy, pasta, rice, and processed foods.  I’ll try and replace those items with fresh fair, things Bond might consume on his off days.  I’m under no illusion that we’re going to cut out all cheese, but going from 5 Greek yogurts a week to 2 seems doable.
2.       Reading through the health information for the menu items where we tend to eat out so I can pre-select healthier options.  I’ll start that off by intentionally looking at salads and wraps that don’t come in value meals.  We don’t order out as much as in the past, but it’s better to be prepared if and when.  Having just done this with Chick-fil-a, I can say that simply reading the calorie count on my normal selections is a great motivator in and of itself.
3.       Setting myself a firm bedtime that will allow me to get a good night’s sleep.  My bus comes at the same time every day.  If I get to bed earlier I’ll have less free time, but I’ll be better rested and more able to start my day off right.
4.       Find a themed exercise program that I can do in the morning for 30 minutes without the need for complex equipment.  I’m looking at the Indian steel mace workout.  It’s essentially isometrics using a heavy weighted mace for resistance.   Not perfect, but it’s fat-boy friendly and is enough like warrior training that it should keep me involved at 5 in the morning after the novelty wears off.
5.       I will get a scale to track progress.  To say I’m not looking forward to this is an understatement.  It has to be done though.  If John Conner can face down the terminators, I can face the talking demon in the morning.
6.       I will cut my alcoholic intake further.  Small social drinking is fine.  I will limit myself to drinking at special occasions, eating out, and group get-togethers.  I’m a social drinker anyway, this just means I’ll only be buying for specific events.
7.       I will ask friends and family to walk with me at home and elsewhere.  Patrolling and recon are important as is getting outside and doing things.  Establishing mentally that walking is fun will help later when I lose enough weight to use public exercise facilities.
8.       I will give regular progress updates.  I will hold myself accountable by ensuring that everyone knows what I am trying to do and why.  Knowing that everyone is watching will keep me involved even when I want to quit.
9.       I will set myself goals that are reasonable and actionable.  Rockie had to become a champ-een.  I will have to look at something a little more mundane.  For starters, I don’t have a montage to compress the time; so we’re probably looking at four years to hit the end result.
10.   I will think, write, and speak in terms that presuppose my success.  I will make good habits part of my daily routine.

That’s a nice list of generalities.  If I’m going to work up to Jack Bower’s level I need a concrete objective.  Losing 140 pounds sounds nice, except that it’s arbitrary.  Maybe in the end I’ll need to lose more weight than that.  Maybe I’ll build enough muscle that 180 pounds will leave me ready to chase the lost arc.  Let’s say rather that the goal is to get back into fighting condition.  Fighting condition is defined as:
1.       I can bench-press my own weight in sets of ten.
2.       I can run, bike, or engage in dedicated aerobic exercise for at least one hour at a meaningful rate.
3.       I can wear standard sized clothes again.
4.       I can put on a swim suit without being embarrassed.
5.       I’m proud of my physical condition.

Let’s start by explaining why previous attempts have failed.  Any given day I have a finite amount of cope and drive.  When they’re gone, they’re gone and the little things are going to slip.  Friends and family remember my high school and college days with fondness.  They remember a healthy athlete who prized fitness.  I was thinner, stronger, faster then.  What most of them don’t remember is that the reason I was in such good shape was a combination of mandatory exercise in high school and slacking off in college.  In high school I had weightlifting as a class every day.  I wrestled two thirds of the school year.  I went to wrestling camps in the summer.  In college exercise was one of the ways I slacked off from studying.  I had very poor physical discipline because life had been structured in such a way as to make fitness a default setting for me.  Yes, I was in shape, but it wasn’t because I was in control per say, it was because being fit was either something I was compelled to by circumstance or a way of avoiding less interesting priorities.
            After I graduated college I had other issues, other priorities, and other interests.  It wasn’t that fitness ceased to be important, it came down to the fact that learning how to live on my own, deal with corporate America, handle serious romance for the first time, and find out who I was ate up all the will and cope I had.  After a long day at work, it was just easier to order dinner than it was to make something for myself.  I was more interested in socializing and gaming than I was in blocking out major periods of time for working out.
            Physically I might have overcome those challenges.  However mentally I was all messed up.  I had coasted through high school.  College wasn’t much better.  I had a lot of potential.  Unfortunately K-12 had taught me that hard work was relative.  I un-learned a lot of those bad habits but not enough.  Worse for me was the expectation, set from an early age, that I was someone special, above the ordinary.  College constantly pushed the idea that freshly minted graduates had but to walk through the doors of their next employer and star power would be theirs for the taking.  I had a lot to offer the open market, but not nearly as much as I thought I did.  I didn’t know the first thing about networking, office politics, or self promotion.  I was told by my employer and wrongly believed that just doing my job well would get me promoted…because I was special and above the rest.  Five years later I was professionally experienced, paid well, and unhappy with my job.
            In my personal life I made new friends, started dating a wonderful woman, got a handle on my priorities, and learned how to live in the real world.  I was fatter, older, and not as naive.  I began rebuilding my career bit by slow painful bit.
            While all that was going on eating was a safety blanket.  Food and drink were controllable, happy-making, and readily available.  Call it emotional eating if you want.  Food and drink were the only constants that stuck with me from college through present day.  When I was eating and drinking I was with friends having a good time.  Family gatherings were based around meals.  Friends went out for food together.  We would order delivery and mix drinks before gaming.  I knew I was in a downward spiral, but I didn’t want to stop.  Food represented all the good associations I had with life.
            If you’ve never dealt with an addiction, it’s difficult to explain the part guilt plays in motivation.  You start the day with the best of intentions.  Little things begin eating away at your resolve.   By the end of the day you’ve lost it.  Guilt over your failings doesn’t help.  It should be negative reinforcement.  It should keep you from doing the bad thing.  In reality guilt makes it much more likely that you will give in to temptation.  Several years ago a family friend, seeing my greatly expanded girth, advised me in a carrying voice in front of other friends and family that all I had to do was stop swallowing.  She then proceeded to tell my wife that she should help me in that endeavor.  Believe me when I say that public humiliation, guilt over disappointing people you care about, and personal hatred for your own weakness are not good tools to encourage positive change.  Recently a family member told me in complete seriousness that some day they would get their boy back.  In the context of that conversation, they were saying that their boy, the thinner me, was how they remembered me.  They rejected the adult, the mature man who had built a life on his own, married, built a career, supported himself, and found love and friendship because he was fat.  That’s the kind of damage that well intentioned criticism can reap.  I love these people deeply.  Intellectually I know that they are trying to help.  But there’s a weak part of me that says that all the good I’ve done, all the happiness I’ve found, all the personal identity I’ve accepted is meaningless in the face of my ugly overweight body.  In the throws of guilt and self-hatred eating well becomes the lowest priority.
            I own that behavior.  Others may not have helped, but ultimately it’s my decision every time I go back for a second helping or super size a meal or go on a carb binge.  It’s a choice every time.  Deciding to lose weight once is easy.  Deciding it hundreds of times a day for four years is a huge challenge.  The difference between then and now is that I am truly a different person.  My lovely wife and I have mastered our finances.  My professional life is under control and heading in good directions.  I have great friends.  I have constructive hobbies that support a positive self image.  There are people in my life now who will help me and hold me accountable.  Most of all though, I want to do better.  I can make the choices, build the framework, and live the life that will lose the pounds.  I couldn’t before, but I can now.

            So what to do?  And what does all of this have to do with becoming an action hero?  Three things.  First, I’m going to make those hundreds of decisions easier by putting them in the context of a hero training up.  Yes, it’s fiction, it’s not real.  But it’s a narrative that will help me positively view the experience.  It will make them less onerous.  Diets don’t work for me.  I need to fundamentally change the way I live.  I need to make sustainable choices.  I need to start seeing myself as that guy.  As noted above, I’m going to put a humorous filter on the process.
            Second, I’m going to make the eating, exercise, and living better parts of a larger project.  I’m going to redecorate my office/work area as a personal lair.  I’ll build a toy armory for my friends’ kids…and me of course.  I’ll put up new posters and trophies on the wall.  I’ll write blog entries from the perspective of the hero training up.  I’ll get friends and family involved in the process.  Losing weight is boring.  Playing with kids/sidekicks is fun.  I’ll apply this logic to the entire process.
            Third, I will set my self reward levels for achieving and sustaining results.  Maybe that’s a new belt.  Maybe that’s a new holster.  Maybe it’s a new piece of style to fit the action hero persona.  What ever the case, I’ll publicly set myself goals and rewards.

            I know this isn’t going to be easy.  Even so, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have a chance.  So it’s time to get into character.  It’s time to assemble the components.  It’s time to buy the scale, build the plan, and take the first step.