My body, My Choice

My body – My choice

Most diet books and/or programs discuss the importance of knowing what is going in your body. It is my opinion you will not be successful in weight loss if you do not determine what is going into your body. How much? What kind? When? How many calories? This information is key.

Unlike 20 years ago, it is easy track your food. There are several phone apps that now make this virtually seamless. In previous weight loss adventures, I have used Lose It! – Calorie Counter.  I have read good things about MyFitnessPal but have never used it. One can always just write it down on pen and paper. In a later post, I will discuss what app I used, why I used it, what I liked about it and what I didn’t like.

I chose to track what I ate on my phone. I am never far away from my phone. Additionally, most apps will allow you to scan the barcode and the relevant information will pop up immediately. For me, this was a game changer. In the beginning when I tracked precisely and daily, I always knew the score. I remember counting the number of grapes for my afternoon snack. I knew if I had calories left or was over budget. If I was not having the success I wanted, I looked at the data and found my answer.

Now with the above said, I do not think religiously tracking everything you eat, the amount, and the calories is a healthy long-term approach. Today, I mostly track the calories in my head or enter most of the calories into my app. It is more important to learn to listen to your body. Spoiler Alert: If you learn to listen to your body, it will tell you when you are hungry and/or thirsty.

By tracking my food, I learned

  1. I was taking in too many calories – aka eating too much on most days.
  2. I learned what foods were calorie budget busters.
  3. I learned what foods were calorie budget winners.
  4. I learned to listen to my body

Through tracking and the lessons that tracking taught me, it was easier to put together a food plan that was healthy, filling and allowed me to lose weight. While I will talk about specific food plans and eating in future posts, it is essential to understand that I was not forced to “give up” any foods. I have eliminated some foods from my diet. I have increased foods in my diet. Mostly, I have limited foods in my diet. Long story short, I spend more time in the produce section of the grocery store than anywhere else.

For those wanting specifics, I have reduced my dairy and meat intake. I am also very conscious of my alcohol intake. When your daily caloric intake budgeted is 1500-1750 calories for the day, you think twice before having that filet mignon (500 calories) and baked potato (150 calories) with a couple glasses of wine (240 calories) (Total of 890 calories). Doesn’t mean you can’t do it; just means you have to plan throughout the day.  It was my choice to not eat the steak regularly.

But remember all this matter because of my why. Why was I doing this. Every morning my why provided my focus. With the end goal solid, the how is easier. Next time I will write about one strategy that I implemented which for me made all the difference.

Persist, Pivot or Concede

“Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.”
― Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

I started reading Matthew McConaughey’s book this week. The above quote jumped out at me. When faced obstacles and challenges, we have three choices. Last week, for the first time since George W Bush was President, the woman’s soccer team at my alma mater defeated a longtime conference foe ending an 18 game losing streak. I was fortunate to be there to capture this picture of the woman who scored the winning goal.

The picture, the winning goal, and my weight loss are all the result of persistent and steady pursuit of a goal. I could have given up of weight loss many times. The soccer team could have conceded. Neither of us did. We persisted and pivoted until we found something that worked. Both of us are celebrating our success.

Take time this weekend to examine The obstacles and challenges in your life. What is the best strategy. Persist? Pivot? Concede? To me, it seems obvious that two of these strategies will lead to more success than the other.

Moving from focus to facts

I apologize for not posting sooner.  Life has been hectic.  My goal is to have one or two posts per week.  Today, I want to spotlight my second pillar of weight loss success – FACTS. 

Facts don’t lie.  Nearly every day since November 2020, I have stepped on my scale.   I did so again this morning.  The scale gives me a number. The scale doesn’t care about my feelings.  The scale doesn’t care if I had a busy weekend.  The scale simply gives me a fact.  While I recognize there a numerous ways to measure one’s health, I have used the scale to measure my journey.  And, according to my scale, I am 70 pounds lighter than my all time high and 64 pounds lighter than November 2020.   So before, I write anything more, I am celebrating this.   

Like many, I have struggled with weight for most of my life.  If I am being honest, I was active and healthy until my family moved to a new house shortly before the start of 2nd grade. A new house in a new neighborhood with a new school was a lot for my 7-year-old mind to process.  I had to start over.  It wasn’t easy.  I most likely used food to feel better.  Further, the new neighborhood had fewer kids my age, so I wasn’t as active.  I developed poor habits at a young age.  Knowing this helped in my journey.  I knew I needed to break some habits and create new ones. 

A major challenge to weight loss is cutting through the crap.  To be successful in weight loss, I knew had find a program that worked for me.  Go to a book store and look at the number of books dedicated to weight loss.  There are hundreds.  I estimate that I have read over a dozen weight loss books over the years.  I’ve tried many of them and had some short term success. Ultimately, each diet failed, and I regained the weight (and often a bit more). 

For me, the reasons for the failure were the same.  First, I never had focus.  Second, each of the diets was missing essential nutrients.  Third, the diets were based on junk science.  Fourth, there was no support. 

I found some common ground with all the diets.  I have concluded there is a unifying theme with all the diets.  At its core, weight loss is simple.  Eat fewer calories than your body burns, and you will lose weight.  There are all sorts of formulas and/ calculators on the internet to figure out how many calories you burn each day.  Most will say you burn between 2500-3000 per day depending on you activity level.   Eat less than 2500-3000 calories and you will lose weight. 

Yet, with the simplicity of caloric intake formula, there is the complexity on the outside.  This includes what kind of food should I eat? How should I cook the food?  Can I have sugar?  Can I eat meat? Vegetables? Fruits?  As will discuss in a future post, the answer is it depends on you. I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and not very much meat.  It worked for me.  It might not work for you.  We are all made differently.  

In my next post, I will discuss the importance of tracking what you eat.  It is essential to your success.  It is also eye opening.  Have a great day!

One Year Ago Part II

But mostly, today, I am sad. I miss him. I miss his smile. I miss his hugs.

This blog is mostly about my health journey. It is about how, in less than a year, I was able to transform my health and maintain it. The story of my transformation began one year ago today.

From the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, I have been worried about my brothers. They both have significant health issues due to Trisomy 9. They are very vulnerable to viruses. What I had read COVID19 indicated this was a bad virus.

I was hoping this virus would fizzle out like the Swine flu in 1976 and 2009. But as numbers began to grow in South Dakota in late August 2020, so did my concern. Though the staff at his home took many precautions, on September 4, 2020, I received word that my oldest brother, Jefferson, was confirmed COVID19 positive. He was quarantined in his home and monitored. Staff checked on him regularly and took his vitals. Because of the nature of the virus, nobody was allowed to visit. I received frequent status reports on his progress. For the most part, things were looking good.  After 11 days with no major symptoms, I hoped the worst was behind us.

Around 4:30 pm on September 14, 2020, I received a text update regarding Jefferson. It said “Oxygen 92% . . .Temp 99.9 Eating well. Was little agitated this afternoon so Tylenol was given.”    This was the last update I would receive.

At approximately 2am on September 15, 2020, I was sound asleep when I was awakened by my dog barking. As I stumbled out of bed to discuss the inappropriateness of barking at 2am, I heard an electric buzz. It sounded odd. I didn’t know what it was. When I got to the main floor of my home, there was the dog still barking. Somebody was on our porch with a flashlight. It was just a bit freaky. Quickly I found the source of the light when I saw a uniformed police officer through the window. I immediately knew why he was at my house. I opened the door and he asked if I was Jason. I said yes. He asked if I had a brother name Jefferson. I said yes. He then informed me that he had passed away in his sleep. Dead at 59 from Covid19. SIDENOTE:  I never got the name of the police officer. But I do want to thank him. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to tell someone you don’t know about the death of a loved one.   Also, the buzzing was due to the doorbell breaking and needing to be replaced.

Statistically, my brother was COVID19 death number 200 in South Dakota. We now have nearly 2,000. His death unleashed a torrent of emotions that are still flowing through me. I am sad because he is gone. I am angry because I couldn’t stop his death. I am mad that we can’t seem slow this virus down and many more will die. I am pissed that the virus has become a political game to many. I am happy he isn’t in pain. I grateful for the perspective all of this has provided me but frustrated that I have even less patience for BS.

But mostly, today, I am sad. I miss him. I miss his smile. I miss his hugs. I miss talking with him. I miss the perspective he gave me. I didn’t visit him enough, but each visit made a difference for me (and I think for him). He will never know that I am the person I am today because of him. It is not coincidence that it was only a couple of days after what would have been his 60th birthday that I began this journey.

So today, I ask my readers, take a moment to reach out to those that you love. Tell them you love them. Give them a hug because you don’t know when you won’t be able to anymore.

Weekend Why

Earlier this week, I wrote about the importance of why. A clear and powerful why propels you towards your goal. It is also very important to revisit your why. Often life changes. This weekend, I will spend time reflecting on my why. Is it still applicable? Do I need to modify it? Is it working? Spend time everyday with your why. It will move you towards your goal.

The Power of Why

Where I work, one of our teams has the motto #KnowYourWhy.  This is brilliant, if you can follow it.  To succeed, you need to know why you want to succeed.  Some say that to get to your true why, you need to answer “why” you want to do something seven times. I didn’t need to do this here but because I discovered my why.

Over the weekend, Naomi Osaki lost in the third round of the US Open Tennis tournament.  She is a player with an incredible amount of talent.  She won the US Open last year and the Australian Open this year.  Yet after her loss, she made the following statement – ““I feel like for me recently, when I win I don’t feel happy, I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose I feel very sad. And I don’t think that’s normal.”  To me, this is an example of someone who is searching for her why. If you don’t know your why, your likelihood of success is low. 

To be effective, your why is something you must have.  It cannot be a should.  The difference between “I must lose weight” and “I should lose weight” is the difference between success and failure.  I long thought I SHOULD lose weight.  But when I looked at that picture, my should became a must. 

Yet, my why is more complicated than a picture.  I have long known that obesity is significant risk factor for many health issues. Yet, I have been fortunate that most of “health statistics” were within normal range.  I also know a lot of your health is dictated by your genetics.  Because I was adopted, I knew very little about my genetics until recently.  Add to all of this, in November 2020, my state was one the leaders in the county for COVID19.  Everything I was reading about COVID19 pointed towards obesity being a significant comorbidity.  My oldest brother had just died from COVID19.  Though I didn’t know it when I made the decision to take action, my other brother soon would contract Covid19. 

In the end, all these factors motivated me to not be a statistic.  I was scared that my years of not caring for my body would finally catch up to me.  I wanted to take control of the things I could control.  I resolved that I must lose weight.  In addition to better health, I didn’t want my sons to bury me when they were young like I had to do with my father.  I didn’t want my wife to be young widow. I wanted to see my youngest son graduate from high school.  I even worried about who would take care of my dog if I died.  I knew I didn’t look well.  What I finally admitted was that I didn’t feel well either.  I was depressed (perhaps not clinically but still down).  My why is that I wanted to lose weight and become healthier for me but mostly to make sure that I am around for my family.  Every day of my journey, I remind myself that this about a better health so I can enjoy life with those that I love.  They are my why.   

So, to sum up the last couple of posts, to get where you are going, you need your map.  Your map includes your why and your what.  In a perfect world, you would write them down.  Though I didn’t initially write them down, every morning I said to myself my goal weight.  I looked at the picture and I thought about why I was doing this.  Knowing my why, made the challenging days easier.  Once I had these two steps set, I was ready to tackle the next phase which is how.  This is where I started gathering facts but more about that later.  Have a great week!

One Year

One year ago today, I received word that my oldest brother Jeff had tested positive for COVID. He would pass away in his sleep 11 days later. This picture is the last one I ever took of him.

The death of my brother is the most painful experience in my life. It took me to a dark place. Today, I am going to celebrate. I am going to celebrate his life and the lessons he taught me. I am going celebrate by focusing on what I have and not what I have lost. I am going to celebrate, in part, by watching my students play football, cheer and march for the first time in nearly two years.

The last year has reinforced that I can’t control much. I can’t control what happened to my brother. I can’t control the virus. I can only control my focus and my response. Today I chose celebration.

Listen to yourself

This week I wrote about the importance of focus. The likelihood of achieving a goal is much greater if you know what you want and why you want it. In this busy, hectic and overstimulated world it is difficult to find focus and direction.

Take time this weekend to get away. Turn off your phone and listen. Listen to the birds. Listen to the wind in the trees. Just listen. The answers to your questions are within you but you have to listen. When you listen, it will become clear what direction your life needs to take. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Know where you are going

Recently, I took a trip to my hometown.  Because I had been there many times before, I knew exactly how to get there and didn’t need a map.  It’s easy to navigate in familiar places.  However, when we are in unfamiliar places, we often need some help.  When I don’t know exactly where I am going or how to get there, I use a map or ask for directions.  If I don’t do this, I may not get where I want to go.  The same approach applies to weight loss (or frankly any major life change).  To succeed, you must know where you are going and what you want.  You must get focus.  This is the first of a couple of posts about what I mean by focus and how it helped me. 

What do I mean by focus?  I mean getting crystal clear in what you want AND why you want it.  After I looked at the picture, I knew what I needed.  I needed to change.  Rather than saying I needed to lose weight, I got picked a specific number by a specific date.  My what was to weigh 200 pounds by the time my youngest son graduated from high school.  This gave me roughly six months to lose the weight.  It meant I needed to lose about 8 pounds a month.  Every morning, I reminded myself of the specific goal.  I still do this, EVERY DAY.  It helps get me in the right state to face the day.   

It is my opinion that this specific goal, revisited every morning was key to getting the focus I needed to lose weight.  This was the first time I had set a specific goal.  My previous weight loss attempts were nonspecific.  I was hoping to lose a few pounds.  I would lose weight until it felt right, or life got in the way.  I’ll be honest, in November 2020, I thought I was crazy for picking a goal to lose nearly 50 pounds.  I started the process alone and didn’t tell anybody, not even my wife.

Looking back, I know that I set a SMART goal. SMART is a common acronym which stands for:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.   There is a lot of information on the internet about SMART Goals.  My goal was SMART because it was specific.  I wanted to weight 200 pounds.  It was measurable because I had a scale and could check my progress (I’ll write more about weighing in on another post).  It was achievable because people can lose 50 pounds.  It was realistic.  It was time related because I wanted to achieve the goal before my son’s high school graduation in May.  

A SMART goal alone isn’t enough.  You need to have your why.  In my next post, I talk about my why.  Have a great day!