Top Books I read in 2021

I spent much of 2021 working on me. It is the first time I made myself a priority. I engaged in learning and goal setting. I tried to move forward every day. I took time every day to learn. I took time to reflect on a regular basis. I’m not the same person I was one year ago.

Here are the best books I read this year (in no particular order)

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – This book is a candid open look at his life. McConaughey kept a journal for most of his life. He incorporates the journals to ponder the first 50 years of life. The audio version is narrated by McConaughey and is excellent.

Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is an easy read. Clear supports his book with solid examples. Long story short, he reminds us that Rome was not built in a day and improvement is a series of small constant change.

Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta. This book was a little depressing. Gupta argues much of our aging is dictated by our genetics. Yet, Gupta provides solid examples and ideas one can implement to keep sharp for as long as possible.

Chatter by Ethan Kross – I didn’t like this book while I read it. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. We all have voices in our head. Kross argues this is normal. He further argues that one can harness the voices and use them to make your life better – or worse.

What were your favorite books of 2021? What did you learn? How did they impact you?

Top Achievements of 2021

What are my top achievements for 2021? This is a long list but mine it bore you with all the details. Here are my two –

One – I transformed my body and health. AND I maintained it. I AM 45 pounds lighter than this time last year. My weight has been fairly steady for the last 8 months.

Two – I navigated the transition to an empty nester. This was more challenging than anticipated. It impacted all aspects of life. It impacted home because things we quiet. The energy of youth is gone. It impacted professional. Though I love my current career, it’s less fulfilling because of the empty nest syndrome. It impacted my marriage. My wife and I spend more time together – just the two of us. This hasn’t happened since our dating days.

In closing, I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas.

Personal Lessons of 2021

I continue to reflect on the year that is 2021. I learned and relearned important lessons. Here a just a few things I learned this year:

  1. There is more commality among humans than diversity. Focus on what we have in common.
  2. Do not assume the worst in people. Most people are trying to their best.
  3. Making small changes each day will lead to big changes over time. Example: In Week 1, run (or walk) one mile. In week 2, add 300 feet (approximately the length of a football field). Add 300 more feet each week. After a year, you will run nearly four miles.
  4. Discover, understand, and live your values. This is the hardest of the four listed. It takes time to discover what you value, what that value means to you, and why you value it. It is a greater challenge to live your values.
  5. Read for fun.

Take some time to ponder your own personal lessons of 2021. Consider what you learned and how the lessons impacted your life.

Favorite People of 2021

In reflecting upon the year that was 2021, I think about the people who impacted my life. Why are these people my favorites? What did I learn about them this year? The list is long and perhaps too long for a blog post. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this blog post is 1000 words long because of these people. My favorites in a picture.

There are others that make my favorite list. Rather than list them here, I will write notes to them over the next few days. Perhaps you can do the same.

Favorite Moments and Memories of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, I plan to spend some time reflecting upon the year that was and the year that will be. Likewise, I plan to share some of my thoughts here. I also hope that you take the time to reflect.

  1. When I think of 2021, I will always think of what I started in 2020 – My health journey. I lost approximately 40 pounds (in addition to the prior 25 pounds in 2020). I walked at least 10,000 every day. NOTE: Current streak is 659 days with 10,000 steps or more. 10,000 steps is approximately 5 miles. My average daily steps is just under 16,000 step or approximately 7 miles per day. My eating has improved. I feel much better now than I did at the begining of 2021. Though I remain 10-12 pounds away from my revised goal and haven’t fully incorporated a fitness routine beyond walking, I still consider 2021 to be a success.
  2. 2021 is the year my youngest child graduated from high school and all that entails. I enjoyed a spring of “final” events. It culminated in his graduation in late May. I enjoyed his final high school tennis season. I enjoyed his graduation ceremony. I enjoyed his graduation party. I enjoyed going to the graduation parties of his friends. Though it was series of final events, it was also a begining of new stage of life for all of us.
  3. 2021 was the year my wife and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. We celebrated the entire year. It seems foolish to celebrate only one day year! We celebrated by returning to Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. We spent our honeymoon there and have been back many times. Yet, it was the first time we had been back to the island in five years. Without a doubt, this was a highlight of our year.
  4. In July, a visit from my mother was fun. I had not seen her since the start of the pandemic. Near as I can tell, a good time was had by all.
  5. Mini-Trips. This year, my wife and I took a series of mini-trips to Minneapolis and Omaha. These trips allowed us to visit our children, visit old friends and make new friends.

This list is not exhaustive. It includes many of my favorite moments from 2021. My initial list was very short. But as I thought about the past year, I recognized all the great moments that happened this past year. What are your greatest moments of 2021?

Forgiveness

“Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future.” Paul Lewis Boese

I’ve written about the importance of focus and facts. The why and the how are essential to creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In future posts, I will write more on each.

Today, I want to briefly touch on the topic that brings it all together. Forgiveness is essential if you are going to succeed. There are too many distractions, temptations, stressors, and other factors which cause us to lose focus. You will stumble and make mistakes in this journey. You must be able to move on when this happens.

According to one dictionary, forgiveness is “to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)” Christian tradition talks about the importance of forgiving others who commit sins. The forgiveness allows you to move past the incident in which you were wronged. Forgiving others is essential to a healthy life.

But this post is not about forgiving others. Others didn’t force you to make unhealthy choices. You make the unhealthy choices. You make mistakes. You must learn to forgive yourself when you make the mistakes. Learn from your mistakes but don’t dwell. Learning to forgive yourself slows you to grow your future and move on.

This time of year is challenging. Between the temptation of Christmas parties and Christmas cookies, weight loss is hard. I remember this time last year. I had made good progress in my weight loss journey. Then came Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I deviated from my meal plan. I ate mostly foods that are not healthy. They tasted good but they weren’t healthy.

After Christmas, I stepped on the scale and was devastated. I had gained 8 pounds in a matter of a couple of days. At that moment, I could have given up and said it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I forgave myself for over indulging. I reminded myself that spending time with people that I love eating good food is a good thing. Further, Christmas only comes once a year (except on the Hallmark channel). Fix the problem and move on.

I recommitted to my journey and began anew. I focused on eating healthy again. I explored why such a significant weight gain occurred in such a short period of time. Most of the weight was retained water. I’ve learned that some foods, particularly prepackaged and restaurant foods, contain a lot of sodium. When I eat this kind of food, I quickly gain a large amount of weight. Also, cheese. Really good cheese.

I continued to drink my daily water, eat natural foods, and control my portions. The result was instant. Within a few days, the weight I had gained over Christmas was gone. And I was back on the path to a healthy life. It set me back a week but that’s okay. What is a week compared to a lifetime.

I had a similar experience a couple weekends ago. My wife and I went out of town to visit our son at college. We ate out, drank beer, and had a wonderful time. Yet, upon my return home I was discouraged when I stepped on the scale. But again, I forgave myself and committed to eating healthy again. Things were back to normal within a couple of days.

As you wind through the Christmas season, take moments to enjoy friends and family. Go ahead and eat that cookie. Just don’t eat three cookies. And, if you do eat three cookies, forgive yourself and move on. Your goal should be excellence not perfection.

The Tool

Over the past couple of months I have blogged about the mindset I needed to achieve my healthier life. In my opinion, mindset is the most important factor. If your mind is not in the game, you will never win.

I have been asked hundreds of times, “How did you do it?” My short answer is eat less. My body burns calories to keep itself going. I consume calories for my body to burn. If I can consume fewer calories than I burn on a consistent basis, I will lose weight. Unless there is some metabolic issue, it really is that simple.

However, there are challenges in finding the right mix of calories. You need calories that sustain you, satisfy you, and are good for you. You need to balance your physical cravings against your emotional cravings. This is not easy.

When I started this journey, I knew I needed help. I needed a tool. As I indicated in previous posts, I have read mini “diet” books. Those books provided short term but not long-term success. I considered Sanford Profile because it has a local presence. I know several people have had success with Profile. Many seem to have short term not long-term success. One person told me “Profile has worked every time I have used it.” After checking into it, I determined Sanford Profile is a solid program. It is backed by science and supported by health professionals. I did not go with Profile because I felt the upfront and ongoing costs were too high. Further, I did not like the calorie restriction that was recommended as I thought it was too restrictive. Finally, I am not a fan of shake based diets. With the above being said, I would encourage people to look at Profile as it may be a good fit for you.

The program I chose was Noom. I had seen multiple advertisements for it. I researched it by reading several articles and reviews. All of the reviews seemed to check the boxes that I was looking for. First, Noom appears safe and backed by proven scientific methods. Second, Noom provides good results. Third, Noom is a fully supported and integrated app. Fourth, Noom doesn’t require subscription to special supplements or shakes. Fifth, Noom is affordable AND there was a 14 day trial period.

If you are interested in using Noom, you can use this link to sign up. This link will give you 20% off and you get a free trial. If you use this link and become a subscriber, I do receive a benefit. I will use the value of any initial proceeds to pay for this subscription to host this blog. All further proceeds will be donated to Dakotabilities where my brother lives.

Over the next few entries, I will write more about Noom. It is not a “perfect” system. However, it is a very good system and it worked for me. Recently, I resubscribed to Noom to help me lose the last 15 pounds of my new goal.

A couple of things about Noom. First, it is based on psychology and science. There is time spent setting goals and discussing the battles inside your mind. Second, it requires a commitment of 10-20 minutes per day. In addition to daily short readings, you must track your food, water and exercise. For many this can be daunting. Third, the app is very good. Having tried to track in the past, Noom is the easiest app I have used to track food. Most of the food at my local grocery stores are in the Noom database. Finally, a favorite feature of the app is the green, yellow, red food categories. Long story short, you want to eat more green than yellow or red. Further, there are no “prohibited” foods.