My Journey

January 28 – Finding the right fit

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” – Carl Jung

I have often been asked “how did you do it?”. Just this week a co-worker was talking to another person near my desk. I was vaguely aware of the conversation, but immersed in my own work. I turned to get something off a shelf, when one of them said “Bob did it…”. I looked up and was drawn into a conversation about weight loss. The person who was visiting has been told by his doctors that he must lose weight for health reasons. I was asked about how much I lost. I told them the story of loss and gain, and re-dedication. Then the inevitable question arose…how?

When asked that question I have a somewhat pat answer. “I follow Weight Watchers, and I walk a lot.” That is short, and succinct. And,  the vagueness is intentional. I have learned that what Carl Jung says above about life in general is particularly true when it comes to weight loss and becoming more healthy. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one will not work for another. As I have said many times before…

Weight loss is simple, but it is not easy.

The formula for losing weight is deceptively simple. To lose, you burn more calories than you consume. There are two parts to the equation. Work them both, and have success. Simple, right? But the truth is that both parts are difficult to execute.

It is hard to be in constant control of calorie intake. If you have even a minimal social life,  eating out makes it hard. If you have a demanding job, spending the time on home cooked, healthy, sensible meals is a challenge. And, battling hunger is a problem all its own.

Increasing the burn rate is also harder than it sounds. Committing time to walk more, go to the gym, and so on are difficult to balance with having a career, being a parent, and so on. There are no easy answers there either.

Yesterday I talked about the commitment, and keeping weight loss on center stage.

The key to success is to find something that you are willing to do, every day, for the rest of your life. Anything short of that kind of lifestyle change is just a fad diet, and will universally fail. And, what works for me, what I am willing to make a lifelong commitment to, is not necessarily what will work for you.

If you are reading this blog for inspiration, let me say this to you… Don’t give up! If what you are trying to do isn’t working, and doesn’t feel like something you can commit to for the rest of your life, then try something new. Let me tell you an analogy from my life that might illustrate the point.

I go to meetings just about every work day. Some are short, some are long. Some are working sessions where actual decisions are made, others are informational. They share one thing in common, there is information in the meeting which I need to retain, which means, I need to take notes in some form or fashion.

Over the years I have used many ways to take and retain notes. I have tried all-encompassing notebooks that serve as a diary of my days. I have tried using a pad of paper, and tearing off the notes from each meeting to be stored in a folder related to that specific project or subject. I have tried taking notes in OneNote, and on and on. I have not yet found my ideal note taking strategy, but I have learned one thing about myself. I like trying out new ways from time to time. For me, changing up how I gather and sort my notes keeps my mind fresh. Just this past week I bought a new notebook.

I may never find the best way to take notes for me. But, by varying the approach, while keeping a few key points in mind, I can be effective. I think it is the same with weight loss. There are certain principles to keep in mind, like portion control, balance, and thinking about the calorie density of foods. How I arrange the food in my actual daily intake can change over time, and still be effective. The same is true for exercise. Right now I am all about interval training on the treadmill. In a few months I might be about neighborhood walks, or riding a stationary bike, or lifting weights. The important thing is to keep the principle of increasing my calorie burn in mind, and keeping it fresh.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Being successful at weight loss is about finding what works, sustainably, for you! Keep trying until you find that fit, then stick to it as though your life depended on it.

January 27 – Making health my primary focus

“We don’t get offered crises, the arrive.” – Elizabeth Janeway

Today is weigh-in day. I stepped on the scale and it registered 247.4 pounds. I didn’t weigh in last week, so over the last two weeks I have gained 1.0 pounds. For 2017 I am down 2.6 pounds, or about 1% for the year. I didn’t weigh in last week because I was fairly sure I had gained. This week I feel pretty good that I lost weight, although not all that I gained.

For the week I did well on workouts. I did a total of 3 sets of interval training on the treadmill of 58, 42 and 58 minutes. I ate sensibly, but didn’t track. That remains an issue. And, I didn’t do extra walking at work. On the whole, it was a good week, but not a great one. I can and will do better.

Handling crises is a big part of my job. I often am handed projects that are complex and filled with issues. It is my job to assemble the right teams to address the issues and get the project back on track. This year, as I have written in past posts, the crises have been of a budgetary nature. These have been the bane of my existence since the Holiday break. I am happy to say that there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Yesterday we had a breakthrough meeting and hopefully have addressed the problems with a set of plans that will be acceptable. There is still much work to be done, but now we have a plan, which is a quantum better than before.

Because I have a tendency to be an emotional, or stress eater, when there are crises it is particularly difficult for me to stay on plan. Not saying it is an excuse, but it is a contributory factor.

I have come to understand about myself that it is all about capacity. My mind, and my will has a certain capacity to handle things. When there is a crisis, much of that capacity is expended on solving the crisis. That is true whether it is a personal or professional situation. Whichever is the biggest crisis, or worry bead, in my life, gets the most attention. When I analyze why I was successful in 2014 and 2015, I believe it is because my health, and losing weight, was the biggest crisis I was trying to solve. In 2016, once I had my health under control, my projects at work took center stage, and diligence to my weight program was pushed back.

My guess is that it is similar for others. Something happens with our health to make it take the spotlight. It could be bad news at the doctor’s office, or something as simple as the turn of the calendar to a new age, or a new year. For a while, our health becomes the most important thing in our lives. And while our health is the focus, we eat well, lose weight, increase exercise, and so on. But, we humans are notorious for having a short attention span, so inevitably something else comes up, we are dazzled by the shiny bauble, and are off to something else. Soon, the progress we made in our health has ebbed, and we are right back where we started.

Part of my intent with writing this blog, and specifically for my 365 project this year, is to keep my health in my crosshairs. If you are a regular reader, you will note that I missed 3 posts in the last week or so. This week I plan to catch up on those missed posts, and stay on track for the new days.

So, here are my objectives for the week ahead:

  • Track my food every day, no excuses
  • Minimum 3 workouts, none less than 42 minutes, at least one of 58 minutes
  • 50 laps around the internal walking path at work (12/day X 4 days, plus a couple). That is about 8.6 miles

I would like very much to be at, or below 245 when I weigh in next Friday. That would restore me to 100 pounds lost in total.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Only when my health is at, or near the center of my focus can I have sustained success. Remembering what is important in my life is paramount.

January 20 – Navigating the office eating minefield

“For better or worse, the workplace has become the eatplace.” – Gabriella Stern

I am a big fan of Seinfeld. I still watch the reruns, and it still makes me laugh. In one episode, Elaine laments how often there is cake at her office, and the effect it is having on her waistline. This quote relates to that phenomenon.

As it turns out, my office isn’t too bad for this, at least not any more. There was a time when Friday donuts, regular birthday cakes, work anniversary cakes, and so on were contributors to the difficulty in maintaining a sound, healthy diet. There are still a few candy bowls around the building, and the occasional cake or donuts make their way in, but it is largely under control. I will say that since I work from home on Friday, I am likely missing some of the sweets that work their way in.

But, the fact that there is food at work means only that temptation exists. What I do about that temptation is up to me. I cannot use temptation as an excuse. I need to be honest, track my food, and stay true to myself. That isn’t to say that I don’t have occasional treats. It means that when I do, I need to account for them.

The good news is that over the past 3 years I have become largely immune to the temptations. The only time I will indulge is when we have a special event, or a member of my team has an anniversary or birthday, and then I keep it small. Office eating is not my problem these days.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…There are many minefields to success when it comes to eating sensibly. Taking accountability for my own choices keeps my head in the game.

January 19 – Recharging my batteries

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.” Pearl Buck

The somewhat clumsy syntax of that sentence aside, this quote from Pearl Buck does resonate with me. To those who know me well, that might be a surprise, so let me delve into it.

If you have ever been exposed to the Myers Briggs test, you know that the first of the 4 letters in your type indicator describes whether you are an Introvert or an Extrovert. I am an Extrovert to the extreme. What that means is that on a day to day basis, I draw energy from outside myself. I am the type of person who is energized by a group activity, like a party or departmental off site. Introverts would find those same activities to be exhausting. At the end of a work week, I am ready to get out and about and enjoy a nice dinner, maybe spiced by a cocktail; whereas an Introvert (like my wife), is ready to curl into the family room with a good book, or maybe a movie.

The little known fact about me is that, from time to time, my Introvert tendencies also come out. This week has been a mix of the two, and so this quote is timely.

My team at work participated in an all-day offsite on Wednesday. It was great. We had a long and illuminating discussion about one another’s strengths. We got to know each other better, had some fun, laughed a bit and found insights to how we can best work together. When that day ended I was on fire. I was full of energy and couldn’t wait to tell others about the experience. That day was the embodiment of my Extroversion.

Fast forward 1 day to Thursday. The 3rd Thursday of the month is a stressful one for me at work. On that day we culminate our Project Governance cycle with the top level meeting in the morning. In the afternoon we start the next month’s cycle of Governance back at the bottom of the pyramid. I am responsible for presenting with Senior Management in the morning, then working with the teams in the afternoon. When the end of the day comes, I am pretty tired.

I left the office with the faint hope of going to the gym, but my tired mind wanted only to come home and be alone. I beat my wife home by several hours, and spent the time alone, much of it napping, the rest of it in mindless rest. I was embracing my Introversion.

I do have a spring within me, and it does refresh my spirit. While I may not always dip down into it, I know it is there. Days like yesterday are essential for my long-term wellbeing. As Extroverted as I am, I recognize that there is a strong need in me to sometimes just be alone with myself. Yesterday it was about doing nothing. Sometimes it is about reading a book, or taking on a solitary project that gives me both peace and joy.

I am a day late with this post, as it should have been out yesterday morning. That happened because I overslept my alarm and was rushing to be on time for work. This morning I made the conscious decision to skip my Friday workout. I also forgot to weigh in before eating for the day, so this will be a no-weigh-in week. I had a discussion about this with my wife, and I asked her if she thought I was being lazy. She assured me that she does not think I am lazy, but rather that my life has been hectic and stressful the last couple of weeks, and my body needed the rest. I trust her opinion, and am not being hard on myself today. As I wrote the other day, the fact that I am struggling means that I have not given up. During the low times from June to the end of the year, I didn’t give my weight, my diet, or my health much thought. Those days I wasn’t struggling, and the scale tells the tale.

For the week ahead, my intent is the same as for the week just concluded. I will work to track my food, hit the gym 3 times, and walk daily. That is a recipe for success for me, I just need to follow it.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…When I am at my peak of Extroversion, I still have those days when I need to just be alone with me. Even my batteries sometimes need a charge.

January 18 – The struggle is real, and that is good news!

Today’s meditation in Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey talks about sabotage. It talks about the phenomenon where, as a person loses weight, those closest to them will sabotage their efforts – either consciously or sub-consciously. There are stories of wives baking sweets for their husbands, and husbands buying tours of French restaurants for their wives. I can say, unequivocally, that my wife has NEVER done that to me. She is the most supportive person on this journey with me. The meditation goes on to suggest that a key to success in long-term, weight loss is the buddy system. This is a notion that I wholeheartedly endorse.

As I said, my wife is an amazing and supportive partner in my quest for better health, and I couldn’t do it without her. But the truth is that she is with me every day, and sometimes the bad habits and less-than-healthy decisions have a way of sneaking in. Their insidious nature means that the person closest to me might not see them as they subtly sink my strategies.

When I was losing weight at a rapid pace, I had strong support from outside my house. I was a member of an online support group, I had walking buddies at work who also encouraged me to stick to my packed lunch, and the followers of my blog and Facebook posts gave encouragement and tips along the way as well.

Today most of those vectors of support still exist. I am not an active member of any weight loss groups on line, but my friends at work, and my followers here all still  give the love and support that I need to stay the course.

This week one of my mantras of weight loss keeps ringing in my ears…

“Weight loss is simple, but it is not easy”

I know the simple way to shed the pounds I’ve gained. I need to burn more than I eat. I need to decrease the amount of food I eat, while simultaneously increasing my activity level. I know that. It is simple. But it is not easy.

Every evening this week I have set out my workout gear for a pre-workday session. So far, the only day I’ve gotten up was Monday. This evening will be ridiculously busy, and I won’t get home from work and other things until past 9:00pm. So an evening workout won’t be in the offing. My gear will remain laid out and ready for tomorrow.

I  feel a bit scattered today, but I will end by saying this: the bad news is that I am struggling to stay on track. Getting on the sustained program I desire is not coming easily to me this time around. But, the good news is that I am struggling to stay on track. It is good news, as well as bad, because the fact that I continue to struggle means that I have not thrown in the towel.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Yes, the struggle is real. But, if I am struggling it means I am in the game and haven’t given up. As long as that is the case, I am not failing.

January 17 – Giving a full-ass effort

“Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes.” Henry J. Kaiser

I was cruising around on Facebook the other day and I saw an interesting meme. It was a photo of a picturesque cabin in the woods, and the caption was “I want to build a life from which I do not need a vacation.” Most memes I just scroll past without any regard or thought, but this one stuck with me.

We all dream of a carefree life. We dream of having the resources we need to be able to truly do the things we want to do, when we want to do them. The idea of being able to sleep in when it suits us, or to take the whimsical trip to pursue an interest seem romantic on cold, rainy mornings while preparing for work. Perhaps it was just an accident of the wording, but this particular meme suggested not that the person sought a life without work, but rather a life from which they didn’t need a vacation.

Like anyone else, I have my days when I absolutely hate my job. There are days when the stress is high, the problems are piling up, and the people around me seem less than cooperative. When I step back, take a breath, and honestly reflect, those days are few. And, most of the time it is my own head that needs to be checked rather than some outside issue.

When I think of making a life from which I do not need a vacation, my mind doesn’t automatically go to a place where there is no work.. My mind goes to a place where the work I am doing is meaningful, and enjoyable in the moment. I think of a place where I, and the people I work with are growing as individuals. A place where at the end of the day, I am exhausted, but fulfilled. To me, that is a good life.

At the end of last year I was having a hard time accepting myself. I was feeling like a failure for having gained back about 30 of the 130 pounds that I lost. Rather than wallowing in self-pity for my misstep, and accelerating my weight gain, I made a conscious effort to do something different. This 365 project is my attempt to right the ship.

I don’t say this to be boastful. To be clear, I have nothing to boast about. The struggle is real and keeps going. I say this, as much as anything, to remind myself that I cannot accept failure that is born of a dearth of effort. If I give my level best, and fail, then I can sleep well at night. But if I fail because I have given a half-ass effort, then I have no one to blame but myself.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day.. When it comes to losing a substantial portion of my ass, half-ass just won’t cut it. I must go full ass or nothing at all.

January 16 – Yet another good reason for keeping my to-do lists

“Every time I think I have touched bottom as far as boredom is concerned, new vistas of ennui open up.” – Margaret Halsey

The thoughts for the day today in Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey are set up to address the fact that it is the middle of January, and center around battling boredom when you find yourself snowed in. As it turns out, today we observe Martin Luther King day, so while many still have to work, I have the day off. Not snowed in, but still home.

The notion that boredom leads to over-eating isn’t limited to snow days, or holidays. I find that I can reach a state of boredom on any day of the week, any time of the day, and with little warning. I like to keep busy, so if there isn’t a ready list of things to do, boredom and its good buddy, random eating, can soon creep in.

For a variety of reasons, our Christmas decorations stayed up an extra week at my house. We started the De-Christmasing yesterday, and got about half done. Today, on my list of things to do is to take down the artificial trees and move them to storage. I also will be cleaning my model trains to prepare them for storage.

My to-do lists are the stuff of legend. I keep a mini-clipboard handy, and will jot down things I want to remember to accomplish. I find it helps both by keeping me organized, and by providing a means to see progress as I check things off the list. When I am on my game, my list is ever-present.

Frequently at this time of year I sit down with a clip board and legal pad and start to brainstorm all of the projects I would like to tackle in the new year. I haven’t done that yet (maybe I can start this afternoon), but I do have some ideas. I want to make a sofa table to go behind my downstairs sofa. It will be about 5” wide, and have outlets in it for both 110AC and plugging in to charge phones and such. That project will wait until the weather breaks, so I can do much of the work in my un-heated garage.

When brainstorming the list, I like to include mini-projects that can be knocked out in only an hour or two. I will confess, this isn’t about weight loss for me so much as just wanting to stay productively busy. I honestly, just love a good to-do list. The fact that it helps with my weight loss goals is a bonus.

This morning I slept in a bit for a week day. I rose at 5:30am and headed to the gym. I did a good, 42 minute work out, then came home and had a light breakfast. I feel good for the day ahead, and I think I have set myself up for a good week.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Boredom is one of many reasons I can be tempted to over eat. Keeping a list of things to do helps fight that boredom, and makes me more productive!

January 15- CORRECTION to my graph

This morning my post included a graph correlating my weight loss to the number of blog posts I have written. As I was looking at it this afternoon, I noticed something strange. According to the chart I had lost about 40 pounds in the first month (March 2014). That would have been truly remarkable. In fact, it didn’t happen. I went back to Excel to see what I did wrong and realized I made an error in generating the graph. Instead of picking a line graph, I picked a stacked line graph. Essentially I ensured exact correlation.

Here is how the graph should have looked:

correlation-2

The correlation still exists. There is still a relationship between how often I blog, and my success in weight loss. But it isn’t as exact as my previous graph would indicate.

The bottom line is that there is a relationship between my blog posts and weight loss. Blog posts don’t cause weight loss, that would be a causation relationship. The correlation exists because the number of blog posts and my success in weight loss have a common cause – my commitment and accountability to the process.

The nerd in me couldn’t let the graphical error exist.

 

January 15 – This blog is my accountability place

“We cannot swing up a rope that is attached only to our own belt.” – William Ernest Hocking

When I lost over 120 pounds in less than 2 years, people noticed. Nearly every day someone would stop and ask me about it. The most frequent question was “How are you doing it?” My answer was to tell them “Weight Watchers, and walking”. Those two things, aside from their alliterative appeal, also described what constituted most of the work associated with the weight loss. I measured, tracked and limited my food, and I increased my exercise.

Accurate as those two aspects of the weight loss are, they miss out on one of the other keys to my success. I built up a strong network of support. It started with, and was always centered around my wife. Without her I couldn’t have sustained success. She helped me make good food choices while out, and helped craft a healthy food plan in the house. Amazing as she was and is, she wasn’t the only place I found support.

I started this blog, I published my progress on Facebook and other social media, I joined online weight loss groups, and I gathered people in my life who were into my healthy habits. That network of support was essential to my success. When I lost weight, and hit my goals, they were there to celebrate with me. When I gained weight, or missed out on workouts, they were there to encourage me.

Honestly, though, all that cheerleading isn’t the full story, nor even the most important aspect. The most important aspect in all of it was accountability.

The other day I wrote about a work team I was on in the early 2000s. I wrote then about how, when I was feeling angry at work, we all went out to lunch. While on that same team, several of us decided we wanted to lose some weight. About 3 of us became diet buddies for a time. For a variety of reasons, it never really got anywhere, but one story sticks in my mind as, likely, the prime reason it failed for me.

We all sat near one another at work. One day I dutifully packed my lunch, and ate it at my desk in full view of the team. Not to be showy, it was just how it worked out that day. Later, in the early afternoon, I was hungry and probably emotional. The others were in meetings, so I went to my car and drove about a mile to Wendy’s. There I had quite a feast of a second lunch. Much later in the day I told one of my diet buddies about it and we had a laugh. Had that been the only time that happened, perhaps the attempt to lose weight would have been more successful. Truth is, it happened all the time, and only rarely did I tell anyone about it. The reason? While it was nice to have them along for the ride, I felt no accountability to them.

When I started this blog and joined online support groups, I did so because I knew that if I didn’t talk publicly about my progress, it would be easy to slip. When I am more accountable to a group of people I am more likely to stay on track. This morning, while writing the following graph

weight-post-correlation

What this graph shows is that there is a direct correlation between how often I write on this blog, and how many pounds I lose in a month. The more active I am at blogging, the more successful I am at staying on plan. The peaks and valleys line up perfectly. Now, blogging isn’t the cause of my success. Were it that easy, I’d just write for a few hours every day and watch the pounds melt away. Rather, the number of blog posts also correlates to my level of commitment. When I am more committed, I write more. When I am complacent, I write less. And the trend of my weight tells that story.

The correlation curve will probably not go on forever. At some point, hopefully, I will reach my goal weight and will be looking to maintain. I will likely still write, so the correlation of posts to weight loss will vanish. But for now, this graph tells me a story.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…The more accountable I hold myself to a public group, the more likely I am to stay on track. This blog is the best measure of that accountability.

January 14 – Remembering the importance of hunger

“Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed, the only animal that is never satisfied.” – Henry George

One of the hardest things for me to do when I stated Weight Watchers was to understand what it meant to be hungry, and how much to eat to satisfy the hunger, not just fill the void. Today’s entry in Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey talks about that concept.

I was walking and talking to a new hire at work the other day. The subject of “lunch time” came up. My company has something of an embedded culture of having 11:00am as lunch time. For me it started in my early days on the job when I had a 7:00am to 3:30pm daily scheduled. By 11:00am I was pretty darn hungry, so eating lunch then made sense. We have flex time now as the norm. As a result, some people start at 7:00am (or earlier), while others start their day at 9:00am. But still, the break area fills up at 11:00am, as do the restaurants in the area.

At home on the weekend I tend to follow a similar schedule. Although I might sleep in until 7:00 or 8:00am, and eat breakfast when I get up, come 11:00am I still have the urge to eat.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan has a routine about over eating. In it he says that he hasn’t felt actual hunger in 7 years. Only after I got serious about my weight loss did I come to understand how true that exaggerated, comedic statement is.

When I was deeply serious about my weight loss, and was clicking pounds off the scale on a regular basis, one thing I became proud of was being hungry shortly after eating, and going to bed a little hungry. I am not talking about the ravenous state of hunger that brings “Angry, Hungry Bob” out to play, but that slight twinge that tells me I didn’t over stuff myself, and I appropriately resisted late evening snacks.

When I see advertisements for WW, or read testimonials about how good the program is, I often hear people referring to “never being hungry” as a selling point to the program. Because we eat low-calorie-density foods (like fresh vegetables and fruits), and because we eat lean proteins, we tend to not always feel the hunger craving. I get that concept, and I know it works for many people. For me, when I am on my game, I feel slightly hungry much of the day.

Take right now for instance. My wife and I just came back from brunch at our favorite diner. I had an egg whites, gyro meat only omelet (9 points), two slices of rye toast (5 points), black coffee and ice water (I also had one slice of my wife’s bacon – 2 points). As I sit here and write, I feel satisfied, but also just slightly hungry. To me, that is success. For me to understand that the slight hunger doesn’t need to be filled is the key.

I didn’t start out with this knowledge. When I was new to this, I thought that this slight hunger was a problem. Along the way I adjusted my eating to minimize the feeling. But, more importantly, I learned what was an appropriate amount to eat, and how to live within that constraint.

Today I feel good! I think the positive results from yesterday’s weigh in are fueling my enthusiasm for the process. I have 25 points left today, and plan to spend them wisely.

I have updated my progress charts, you can see them here.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Learning what is an appropriate amount of hunger has been a key to my success in the past. Re-acquainting myself with that feeling will keep me successful in the future.