Day 9 – Gratitude Challenge

Yesterday, after work I was talking with my spouse. She indicated she sent an encouraging note to a dear friend that was going through a challenge. I thanked her for reading my blog posts and taking action. She said “What do you mean?” After forcing her to read my Day 8 post, she exclaimed “This is exactly what a I did.” Long story short, I know few read my posts. This is okay. I am grateful for those that do. Better to help one than none.

Today the challenge is to focus on nature. Think about what is beautiful. Is it the sunrise? Sunset? Beach? Mountain? Trees? Find the beauty and think about it, smile, and be grateful. T

he picture at the top of this post is from a hike this summer. It was an amazing day. I will spend some time thinking about that today.

Day 6 Gratitude Challenge

Today is a pay it forward day. I was hoping that I would win the PowerBall last night and buy coffee for everyone today. Unfortunately, I did not win. However I plan to pay it forward at least once today. So buy someone’s coffee or meal. Enjoy the feeling it gives you and them, Hopefully, others will pay it forward today too.

Small Changes

“Think about the massive positive change that could occur in the world if we each did even the tiniest thing to make a difference every single day.” – Jen Sincero

Twenty-three months ago, I made a decision to change. I made a commitment to be healthier and happier. Most of the physical change occurred in the first four months. Since then, despite repeated efforts to change even more, I have mostly stayed within a 10 pound range. While I have maintained, I haven’t made significant movement towards my ultimate goal. This has been frustrating.

A recent instagram post by Adam Grant may have led to a breakthrough for me. He said, “When you’re committed to a goal, it’s motivating to lookahead at how far you have to go. Staring at the summit fuels grit. When doubt creeps in, you’re better off looking back at how far you’ve already come. Seeing your progress builds confidence and commitment.”

While these quotes can be inspriational, they do little good if you don’t put them into practice. Reading Grant’s words reminded me that early in this process, I was committed to a very specific goal. I started each day with a singular focus. Specifically, I spent the begining moments (about 15 minutes) of each day thinking about what needed to happen that day to move me towards my goal. I thought about what was going to happen that day, where I might be challenged, and how I might deal with the challenges. As I moved through the day, I adapted as necessary and tried to stick to the plan. Obviously, it worked.

Stated another way, speding about 1% of each day to focus on my goal correlated to a tremendous change. Likewise, when I stopped consistently spending 1% in focus, I did not make significant progress towards my goal. Today, I changed my schedule. I started the day with 15 minutes of focus on my goal. Stay tuned!

Progress

As readers know, I have been on this lifestyle journey for nearly two years. While my life has improved immensely, there is work to be done. After a recent trip to the UK, my weight had crept up a bit. Time to back things up again. So, I resolved to lose the weight gained on the trip plus a few more pounds. I announced it here. I created a plan and implemented it. Here is the latest progress report.

Things are going okay but not as well as I hoped. When I started in November 2020, I had a strong why and a good plan. I and amazing early and consistent success. I had nearly total control of my schedule and meal planning. I also had a major event in the beginning which provided more motivation.

This time it is different. With a new job, I have less control over my schedule and meal planning. While I have a good plan, I have been inconsistent in execution. My successes have been followed by setbacks.

While I have a good why, it isn’t a great “why.” My weight loss goals feel more like a should than a must. It’s frustrating because last time, it seemed so easy. I should be more than halfway to my goal but I am not.

This week, I got frustrated which was good. Frustration can lead to failure of you let it. I chose to let the frustration provide motivation resolve. I recalibrated my plan. I recalibrated my why. I committed to excellent execution. The result is significant momentum towards my goal.

So here is the report, since my trip, my weight is down 7 pounds. While I still have several pounds to go, I achieved nearly 30% of my goal. Even if I only added 1% each day, I would reach my goal by Christmas. So this is good news which MUST be celebrated.

But I have to be honest, it is exhausting. Staying focused on this all day along with everything else is often overwhelming. I start running out of gas about 2:00 pm each day. By the time I get home after 5, there is little left to “fight the battle.” My will power is shot. My motivation is shot. I just want to sit, read, pet the dog, and/or watch mindless television.

Because I know the flesh is weak, I make sure there are NO unhealthy options available in my house. Every dinner is planned before the day begins. When I get home, I know what is for dinner and I make it (if it isn’t already made). For snacks, I have simplified it. I have at least one fruit and one vegetable available. My go to vegetable is carrots. For fruits it is either banana or grapes. I eat only this (and limit fruit and binge if needed on vegetable. There are no other snacks available. No chips. No ice cream. No crackers. This makes a huge difference.

So long story short, plan…plan…plan…plan and stick to the plan. Your plan must include options for disruptions. Also, don’t go for perfection but do go for excellence. Execute the plan as best you can.

Momento Mori

Today is a day of reflection for me. Two years ago, I went to bed unaware my life was about to change. My oldest brother Jeff had tested positive for Covid-19 ten days prior. He was holding his own and showing mild symptoms. Many, myself included, thought he was going to survive. Yet, at around 2am, a police officer notified us that my brother had passed.

My brother was the 200th person in my state to die with Covid. As of this writing, the number of deaths is over 3,000. I don’t wish to argue about the pandemic. Rather, I want to talk about one of the things the pandemic taught me.

The pandemic taught me life is precious. It can be taken in a moment. The pandemic also reminded me that we are all mortal. We will all die. Towards that end, each day is important. It is important to embrace what life gives you each day.

So I close by asking a favor, before you go to bed tonight (and every night), tell those you love how much they mean to you. For if something should happen before you wake, let the final words be ones of love and gratitude.

Listen to your body

I spent the last 10+ days focusing on my health goals. I have made a greater effort to listen to my body. Our body sends us all sort of signals. I often ignored the signals. The pain in my knee? I must have slept wrong. Irritability? It must have been something some one did to me. Sore throat? I must be taking a lot. Since I often eat when I am bored, I spend more time listening to the signals my body is providing. Below are three things I have observed.

First, my body does an excellent job telling me when it is hungry. Over the last 10 days, I often woke up feeling genuine hunger. When I snacked after dinner, I didn’t wake up hungry. Eating a proper breakfast of fruit, yogurt, or eggs, the hunger feeling goes away.

Second, my body gets irritated if I eat processed food with sodium. How does my body respond to this? I have a lot more inflammation in my hands and joints and hence some minor pain and discomfort. I retain water and feel bloated. My skin looks and feels terrible. I look older. Depending on the food, I get a stomach ache. These are some of the small things that I notice when I don’t treat my body right.

Third, when I make good food choice, I feel much better. Good food choices included eating plenty of fresh vegtables. A couple of servings of fruit to appease my sweet tooth. And finally, drinking at least 90 ounces of water every day. I sleep better and have more energy. My skin looks and feels better. I have less pain.

As I write this, I admit I am struggling to achieve my present weight loss. I have fluctuated in a four pound window but am down one pound since I started. So today, I am going to plan and prepare for my weekend. Build in flexibility and focus. Make sure the right foods are in the house. Resist boredom eating and drink enough water.

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Success & Setbacks

Full disclosure- I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. I have endured four Super Bowl and six straight NFC Championship game losses. I turned the tv off with three minutes left during the Minneapolis Miracle game. I couldn’t watch the Vikings lose again. I often turn the game off when I get “the feeling” it won’t go well. If you are a true Vikings fan, you understand “the feeling.”

So why do I write about the Vikings? Because there have been several times when I have stopped watching the game and the final score was not what I expected.

Much like a football game has ups and downs, so do weight loss and health. Life is not static. This week, I had some victories but also setbacks. It is easy to get discouraged by setbacks. This is why it is important to track what you do. When you track what you do, you begin to see patterns. The patterns often show why the set the back occurred. Did you give into temptation and eat the whole bag of Oreos? Did you get bored and just start snacking on what was available? Did you super size? Does the same thing happen at the same time every day?

I have two MAJOR challenge areas. First, after 6:30pm, I eat out of boredom. I’m not hungry yet I eat. This week I made a conscious effort to ask if am I hungry after 6:30pm. If I am, I eat some carrots (my go-to healthy choice) or drink a glass of water. Over the past couple of months, I didn’t make the good choice. I would eat the whole box of NutThins. This often made my spouse unhappy because they were purchased for her…and then I eat them all. I declare today, that I will not eat them anymore.

My second challenge area is the weekend. On the weekend, patterns and schedules break down. So does meal planning and tracking. This often offsets the positive progress of Monday-Friday. Amazingly, just two days of poor choices can cancel five days of good choices.

So, like a football game, I am adjusting my game plan. This weekend, I will track my food intake and plan my meals. I will make my health a priority. I’ll report back next week on how it went.

The Battle is Rejoined

It all started with a picture. A picture of me I didn’t like. A picture that motivated a significant lifestyle change. The picture was taken 20 months ago.

Since the picture, I lost a lot of weight. Most of the weight came off in the first three months. Over the last 17 months, there has been a slight downward trend.

All of this is good. I am still 60+ pounds off my high. I have mostly maintained the weight loss (give or take 5 pounds). I am still walking every day (at least 10,000 steps per day for 899 days). Occasionally I jog. I eat healthier than before. I am still amazed by my progress and celebrate the progress I have made so far.

Yet, I want more. I have a new number and fitness level in mind. My new goal is 20 pounds lower (don’t worry – if I lose 20 more pounds, I will still be “overweight” according to CDC BMI guidelines). My new number is a good number. It will put me down 80 or two softener salt bags. My new number will also incorporate some more weight training to obtain a higher fitness level.

So I will blog about it in real-time this time. So I begin with my why:

First, I believe 20 pounds down will be a healthier and happier weight for me. Second, I want to lower my health risks. For further information, search “health risks of being overweight.” Third, I want to break the pattern. Both my fathers died in their mid-60s. (Note: Both ate poorly, smoked, drank, and got little exercise). Fifth, I want to see my children grow older. Finally, I promised my wife a trip in 2044. I need to be around for this.

So the battle is rejoined. 20 pounds or bust – or 20 pounds is a must. Let the fun begin!

Scotland

Please accept my apologies, I started this post over a month ago. A lot has happened since then. Mostly, I started a new job and have been adjusting to a new work schedule. I do however digress to a discussion of my travel which ended almost two months ago. I also commit to regular posting (once or twice a week going forward). When we left off, I was leaving rural England for a new adventure – Scotland.

Scotland is kindness, respect and generosity. Scotland is determination, creativity and curiosity. We are castles, lochs and mountains. We are students, explorers, innovators. We are Scotland and good things live here.” Scotland was a new adventure. My spouse had never been to Scotland and the last time I was in Scotland, Gerald Ford was President. This was a new adventure.

While we did some research prior to going, this portion of the trip lacked our usual planning. We have admired Scotland from afar. We were attracted by Scotland’s history, culture, topography, and climate. Only during our trip did we learn of Outlander – which apparently is a big deal. Long story short, Scotland did not disappoint.

Prior to arriving, we asked several friends about Edinburgh. “Are you staying in Old Town or New Town?” I looked at a map and couldn’t really tell. Old Town dates back to medieval times and includes Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile and basically everything “up the hill.” New Town dates back to Georgian times (1714-1830s). To an American, both are old. Each parts are charming. Upon arrival, I learned we were based out of New Town at the Caledonian Hotel. The hotel is located at the base of Edinburgh Castle.

For a number of reasons, we decided to fly to Edinburgh rather than drive or take a train. Upon arrival, the airport was easy to navigate. While we planned to take a taxi to the hotel, we took the tram. For our next visit, we will most likely take a train from London or fly directly to Edinburgh.

We spent most of the first day acclimating to the city. We walked around New Town and eventually found our way to Old Town. Once in Old Town, we walked the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

This is the official residence of the Queen in Edinburgh. The palace dates back to 1128. It was a wonderful palace to introduce us to Edinburgh. If you go, I highly recommend visiting.

Our second day in Scotland was the one I anticipated the most. It involved a bus tour from Edinburgh to St. Andrews and the opportunity to walk on the famous Old Course. We booked a tour with Rabbies Tours. It was a nicely done tour with stops in Anstruther, St. Andrews, and Faulkland. Each stop was unique.

Anstruther was a quaint coastal village with a small market along the street. The views of the Firth of Fourth were stunning.

St. Andrews was everything I thought it would be. I loved walking around the Old Course and crossing the Swilcon Bridge. We also walked around the main streets and the University of St. Andrews.

Faulkland has a lot of history and a very nice palace but we didn’t have enough time to enjoy the palace. Overall, a very good tour which was reasonably priced. The guide was friendly, funny, and knowledgeable. I thought this was going to be the highlight of our time in Scotland. It was an amazing day but it finished second.

Day 3 saw us taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the west side of the Pentland Hills Regional Park at the car park near the Threipmuir Reservoir. We had no idea what we were doing, where were going, or how we would get back to Edinburgh. It was the best day of our travels. Arguably, this was the best day of the trip. We walked around the Threipmuir Reservoir, up and around Black Hill, and through the Green Cleugh (missing Bavlev Castle).

This took us to the Howe, by Howlett’s house, and along Loganeia Reservoir while looking at the east side of Black Hill and the west side of Carnethy Hill. We continued along the Logan Burn by the Glencorse Reservoir eventually making our way to the Floterstone Inn where I had a couple of pints.

Conveniently there was a bus stop at the Floterstone Inn and we took the bus back to Edinburgh. There are few words to use to describe this 3 – 4 hour hike. It was amazing. If you get to Edinburgh and you like to walk in nature, go to Pentland Hills Regional Park.

On the fourth day, we spent some time shopping in the morning. We walked from our hotel along Princes Street towards the Waverley Train station. We stopped in several stores before arriving at St. James Quarter. If you get to Edinburgh, I recommend you check this place out. If you can’t find what you want here, it probably isn’t available in Scotland. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we didn’t have much time to shop as we had an afternoon admission time at Edinburgh Castle.

As we approached the castle, you feel the energy. There were many people on the Royal Mile and even more as we approached the castle entrance. If you come to Edinburgh, you must visit the castle. It is the heart of the city. It sits atop a hill overlooking the town. Parts of the castle are nearly 1000 years old. I would advise booking the first time available for entrance to minimize the impact of the crowds. I loved the history and the views on our tour. St. Margret’s Chapel is small but amazing.

The Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny a must-see for history buffs. Yet, there were parts I did not like. I did not like the crowds. There were too many people. Further, the castle, like many of the historical sites in the United Kingdom (and elsewhere), has been Disnified. Further, they are not allowing guided tours so you are left to your map or your audio guides (perhaps someday I will write how audio guides are destroying historical places and ruining the experience). Yet, overall, this is a must-see. Read about it before you go and go early.

Our final full day in Edinburgh was a long wandering day, we left our hotel, walked down up to the Royal Mile, and eventually to the trailhead of Arthur’s Seat. The climb up Arthur’s Seat was challenging but doable (be sure to bring good footwear, water, and a walking stick). It takes 45-60 minutes to get to the top. Be sure to stop by the St. Anthony’s Chapel Ruins on the way up (or down). If you go early, there are fewer people. We saw more people going down than on the way up.

On the way down, we diverted away from people towards the Dunsapie Loch and along Queen’s Drive. Upon arriving at St. Margaret’s Loch, we diverted heading towards the Firth of Fourth and stopped at BabaRista for some refreshments and rest. We continued towards the water and walked around Portobello Beach. At this point, we decided we were tired. Against our better judgment, we decided to walk the 4+ miles back to our hotel.

On the way back, we needed rest again and stumbled upon the Scottish Parliament. An eclectically modern building, it had the cleanest bathrooms of the trip.

It was fun to learn about the government and walk through the building. While they were debating the issues of the day, we elected for a quick bite to eat and walked back to the hotel. My app tells me we walked 18.4 miles that day.

For most of our stay in Scotland, the weather was amazing. Clear to partly cloudy with temperatures in the upper fifties to mid-sixties. This all ended on the day we left. While the temperature remained about the same, the skies opened up and it rained. Perhaps Scotland was crying because we were leaving. We traveled from the hotel to the airport and flew to London Heathrow where our next adventure would begin.

To wrap up our trip, we took covid tests at Heathrow and ventured to our hotel which was located at the airport. We had a nice meal in the restaurant, watch the sunset from the rooftop bar, and went to bed.

Outside London

I apologize for the break between posts. I unsuccessfully attempted to dedicate writing time while traveling. Instead, I took a much-needed break from everything. I spent time in the present with my spouse and friends. But as promised, the next couple of posts will be about my travel adventures. Travel is good for the soul.

When last we met, we were leaving London. I noted some differences between pre-pandemic London and post-pandemic London. We traveled from London to Maidenhead via train (as I write this post, it could be more challenging to do this with rail strikes occurring). For a visitor, travel by train in the UK is very easy and very affordable if you buy in advance and travel off peak. I recommend everyone utilize the public transportation options in the UK and Europe.

Upon arrival in Maidenhead, we were reunited with a long-time (40+ years) and very dear friend. We have not seen her or her family since January 2020. It was wonderful to reconnect.

Our friends live in the English countryside near Henley-on-Thames. Henley has an amazing history. George Orwell spent his formative years in Henly and Russell Brand reportedly calls Henley home. However, Henley is most known for its annual rowing regatta which I hope to attend someday. If you are looking for the quintessential English experience, go to Henley. Walk along the Thames, visit the rowing museum, and visit the shops.

This visit to Henley was about visiting friends. They graciously invite us into their home for a few days and show us around the area. What I most enjoy are the walks in the countryside. There are many dedicated public paths and options available. In less than an hour, you can walk along the Thames, through a forest, through a deer park, and to a pub. Since walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, we spent much of our time walking around the countryside.

When not walking around the countryside, we were walking through gardens. People take their gardens very seriously in this part of the world. The climate is very suitable to have a great garden. It doesn’t have the extremes you see in South Dakota. While we were there, the days warmed to around 70 degrees and cooled to the mid-fifties at night. There were few pesky bugs and the air quality was very good. As I wandered through the gardens, I wondered whether one could achieve similar results where I live. So many beautiful flowers and grasses in the gardens. Perhaps that will be a summer project for me.

But the best part of the visit to this area involved time spent with friends conversing about life, food, wine, politics, and business. The discussion were interesting, intellectual, and informative. I am reminded the pandemic reduced the opportunities for these kinds of discussions. It was wonderful to share them again.

After three full days, it was time to move on to new adventures. Next stop – Edinburgh.

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