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February 13 – Facing things

“Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through it. Face it.” – Joseph Conrad

This morning’s quote, to me, is about much more in life than just dealing with my health and weight. It is sound advice for any part of life. I find in my own life that the things I tend to procrastinate are those that, when dealt with in a more timely manner, are easier to deal with. When I sit and think about why I procrastinate, it is because there is some aspect of the task which I don’t really want to face.

I have said before that handling the Financial aspects of the projects I manage is something I don’t particularly like to do. But, it is essential to successful delivery. In the past I tended to procrastinate Financial tasks that needed to be complete. The beginning of the year is usually a time of tumult as the needs of the projects must be aligned to the realities of the budget. Much negotiation between and within the projects must be done before final plans are set. Some of us at work liken this to making sausage in that many people like the outcome, but few could stomach witnessing the process.

The month of January was quite stressful, and the first half of February hasn’t been much better. Recently I hung this index card in my cube:

cooperate.jpg

It is there to remind me that, while the present situation, and the constant levels of “help” coming from senior management might suck, they are, in fact, part of the reality of my situation. It is a fool’s folly to try to change my present circumstance. So, the sentence on the card reminds me of the simple truth that I must accept what is, while trying to make it better.

How does this relate to today’s quote? It is simple. My current, inspirational quote in my cube is nothing more than a reminder to do what Joseph Conrad is suggesting. It is my reminder to face things, and then to deal with them.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…The necessary first step to improving anything is to understand and accept the present facts, to face them, and then to bullishly work to make them better.

February 9 – Constant temptation

“Page one is a diet, page two is a chocolate cake,” – Kim Williams

The quote today, from Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey, is a reference to how many Women’s magazines are laid out. The meditation talks about how often a magazine will, in the same issue, tout the benefits of a new diet, while also running up the score on tasty desserts. This book was written in the 1990s, and quotes statistics about that era. I have no idea whether the phenomenon still exists in magazines, but the constant barrage of food advertising, both overt and subtle, still exists.

It seems like TV advertising is dominated by restaurants and other food choices. At my house we also end up watching a lot of food-based TV programming. The Food Network shows people making and eating food 24 hours a day. Sure, some of the dishes are diet friendly, but there are also plenty of cupcake wars, and shows like Chopped always include a dessert round, as though cramming a dessert after eating the rest of the goodies they have made should be a daily (half-hourly), thing. And, let’s not forget that Taco Bell came up with the idea of “4th meal” in their advertising. Perhaps that is just paying homage to those already curing their munchies with the garbage of that joint, I don’t know.

The fact is that here in the US we seem to live in a culture that is obsessed with food. So, if you are a person, like me, that tends to over eat when you don’t have a laser focus, you are under constant pressure. And, if you are trying to keep things under control, the temptations are everywhere.

At work I have a walking path inside my building. It is about 0.17 miles, and takes me past many people’s desks, as well as the café area. On that path, there are at least 8 bowls of candy that are put out by well-intentioned coworkers. Additionally, at least 3 days a week there is free food in the café, leftovers from one departmental activity or another. One coworker is known throughout the building for always having snacks at his desk. While he does keep bananas on display, they are surrounded by cookies and crackers. On Friday he walks the building with a giant box from the bakery, tempting people with his delicious treats. I am not kidding, he (and others who bring in donuts and bagels) is at least part of the reason that I choose to work from home on Friday!

To be clear, I don’t make excuses. The fact that the temptations exist is not the reason why I gained weight, and struggle to lose. I alone make the choice to eat. What I am saying is that when the temptations are constant and plentiful, staying the course becomes a battle of wills, which I do not always win.

On another note, today is Thursday, and I am writing this at about 5:30am. I should be in the shower right now, just home from a workout. But, I slept in. My sleepy head at 3:50am convinced me that I need to be sharp for the afternoon workshop I am facilitating today, and that a vigorous workout might make me tired. As I am sitting here actually awake, I know that is hogwash. I would have been fine. That workshop, and the work I need to do at work and home after, will mean that a trip to the gym won’t be happening. I have one good workout in so far this week. I will get one tomorrow before I weigh in, but that will leave me one behind my goal for the week.

Last week was a rock star week for weight loss. I am honestly nervous about what this week will bring. I will be happy to be even, after the Super Bowl and birthday party. We shall see.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…temptation is everywhere to indulge on food. It is up to me to find ways maintain my focus to reach my goals.

February 8 – I will never unconditionally love myself

“I truly believe that there are as many ways of loving as there are people in the world and as there are days in the life of those people.” – Mary S. Calderone

I am not sure which comes first – me starting to lose weight, or me starting to love myself. I do know that the two combined for a virtuous cycle in my life. The more that my health got under control, the more I liked who I was, and that fed my desire to lose more weight.

It’s funny to think about, because it makes me a rather superficial judge of myself. At some level, I do judge myself by my appearance, and I do that in a way that if anyone did it to me, I’d probably be hurt. And in a way that if I did it to someone else, I’d be ashamed of myself. When I look at myself in the mirror, especially when I am sitting on the bed putting on my socks, I don’t like what I see. I can count every bulge and roll of fat, and it upsets me. Not because I desire to have ripped abs, and no body fat, but because what I see today is more than what I saw last summer. As much as anything, that image is driving me right now.

When I was a kid, one of my mother’s quips was “self-praise stinks”. She said that to make sure that I stayed humble, that I didn’t brag on my own accomplishments and set myself up to be cocky or arrogant. The idea she had for me was to just perform and do my best, and let others recognize the accomplishment. That is solid advice, and a good way to keep oneself in proper perspective. The problem for me is that I also interpreted it to mean “self-love stinks”, and that isn’t nearly as healthy of an attitude. There are probably 1,000 ways that my mind has been screwed by how I have let the opinions of others into my garden, but this one was a hard one to shake.

I will not ever be perfect, or even perfectly healthy – mentally or physically. I will always be a gloriously imperfect work in progress. Every day that I am diligent and intentional about my health is a day that my health gets better. Every day that I lose that focus is one where my health slips.

Today’s quote made me think about how much I really do love myself. At 55 years old, the words from my mother that I misunderstood still haunt me. I will probably never be one to be completely in love with myself just as I am. That ongoing discomfort will  either drive me to do better, or allow me to spiral downward. The choice is mine.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…I am not, and never will be perfect, nor will I ever be completely satisfied with who I am. Knowing those two things helps me to focus myself in the right direction.

February 6 -The Power of Sleep

“[Sleep is] the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Decker

This past week I read about a study done on High School students. The conclusion of the study was that when Districts start the day later for students in grades 9-12, their performance increases dramatically. By starting the day later, teens were more likely to get the amount of sleep they needed to maintain growth, and school performance. I had read about a similar study done about 20 years ago. Around that time I was teaching a class on Time Management for Busy Teens, and one of my themes was that they needed to sleep more to improve their performance, and be better able to manage the demands on their time. It was counter-intuitive to them because they thought that they needed to get by on less sleep in order to complete all that was on their plate.

In the early 2000s I worked for a director who took over a failing IT program. The program had a consistent record of missed deadlines, budget overruns, and unusually high error rates. Among the many changes he implemented was to cut back overtime. Not because he wanted people to work for free, but because he wanted them to work a reasonable day, then go home. He actually wanted them to work less hours. His theory was that the longer they worked, the less effective they became. He wasn’t dreaming this up on his own, there is actually a body of research to support that notion. Within months, thanks to all the measures he put in place, the program began performing well and meeting its objectives.

I have become good at listening to my body. When my body truly needs sleep, I get my sleep. It might mean that I miss a morning workout in favor of extra sleep, but I know in the long run it is worth it. What gets me frustrated is when I know that I have has sufficient sleep, but I still resist the workout. Those mornings I feel unaccomplished.

What I do know is that my body needs 6.5 to 7.5 hours of high-quality sleep on a consistent basis in order to maintain a high level of function. When I short-change that, I see the difference in all aspects of my life.

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. I also attended a birthday party. I elected not to obsess about my food, or worry about counting food. I made smart choices along the way, but basically I relaxed and enjoyed the day. For the rest of this week I plan to stay within my daily points, and make sure I don’t dip into any of my weekly allotment. This morning (listening to my body), I slept in. My gym bag will be packed and in my car for a post-work workout.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…When I sleep well, I perform well. Last night I enjoyed restorative sleep that will fuel my day.

February 1 – Exercising my mind and body.

“Exercise alone provides psychological and physical benefits. However, if you also adopt a strategy that engages your mind while you exercise, you can get a whole host of psychological benefits fairly quickly.” – James Rippe M.D.

I always have something playing in my ear when I am at the gym. When my workouts were less intense than they are now, I would watch TV on my phone. I watched entire series of shows over the course of time including Dexter and 24. I found that the shows helped keep my mind occupied and kept me from focusing on the clock.

When I stepped up to more intense workouts, I substituted music for TV. Same effect, but I don’t have to concentrate quite so much.

I used to see people bring books or magazines to the gym while they were on the elliptical, treadmill or stationary bike. I was never one for reading because the constant bouncing made it hard for me to focus on the page.

My point in all this is that I have always been one to include other, mental activities when I work out. I am not here to say that watching TV, or listening to music has any inate specific psychological benefit, but maybe when it is done while exercising the combination helps relax the mind.

This morning I did 42 minutes of interval training. When I got home I did another 20 minutes of snow shoveling in my driveway. While I was at the gym I listened to music. It didn’t occur to me to do that while I was clearing and salting…maybe next time.

Now that the Holidays are over, and we are in the doldrums of winter, I have been getting back to daily reading. At any given time I am reading 2 or 3 books. I find that the 30 minutes I spend in my chair after work, and before dinner, unwinds my mind and allows me to reset.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Keeping my mind and body occupied at the same time helps me have more effective workouts, and makes the time go by a little more enjoyably.

Catching up!

The three entries below are for days this past week when I didn’t write a blog post. My goal for the year was to write my thoughts every day. This is my attempt to do some catching up…

January 22 – “The undertaking of a new action brings new strength.” Evenius

Some years ago I was an instructor for the Dale Carnegie Course. In that class, one of the objectives was to help the class members increase their self-confidence. That was done by aggressively taking them outside their comfort zone so they could try new things, and build new patterns of success. The lessons I learned, and later taught in that class resonate with me today, and are reflected in this quote.

The greatest limit to our strength, and our capability is that we believe our strength and our capability are limited. Over time, we tend to wrap ourselves into a cocoon of comfort. That cocoon feels safe and warm. Safety and warmth are nice, to be sure, but they are also limiting. It is only when we endeavor to do something new that we find new skills and new strength.

A child that is swaddled in a warm blanket has all that it needs. Food, warmth, someone to change the occasional diaper. But, for that child to develop and grow it has to get out and explore. It has to progress to rolling over, crawling, standing, and eventually walking. The child cannot stay swaddled forever.

When it comes to getting control of my health, the same is true. There was a time when I thought I could never be one to track my food, to go through the hassle of weighing. I didn’t think there was much benefit to packing a lunch, when there are so many choices near work.

I thought the gym was a place where lunkheads hung out to preen in front of mirrors. No need for me to darken those doorways.

Not until I decided to muster up my courage and try something new did I realize that there was a strength inside me waiting to emerge.

This quote was in the book for my birthday. I took that day to be with family, and I honestly don’t know what my thought of that day would have been. Today, as I sit playing catch up on posts, with a delightfully slight hunger in my belly, my thought is that being self-aware is a skill and a strength I never knew I could have. And it is one about which I feel quite proud.

January 23 – “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.” Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I have really mixed feelings about this quote. On the one hand, I understand the dazzling delight of trying something new and discovering that you like it. My worry is that most of the “new” dishes I see (not just new to me), are some kind of abomination of salt, fat, and sugar. I worry that the momentary happiness, or delight, is far outweighed by the long term issues of over indulgence.

Just today I learned that Taco Bell has come out with something called the Naked Chicken Chalupa. It basically is a processed, fried chicken patty, which has been folded (taco shell style), and filled with the toppings of a taco. I am not sure where the “naked” comes in, as the chicken patty is very obviously breaded and fried. I will admit that I have not tried one, and I will boldly tell you that I have no intention of putting this turd in my mouth anytime soon. Here is the nutrition information from Taco Bell’s website:

chalupa

For you fans keeping score at home, that works out to 13 Weight Watchers points. Approximately 1/3 of my total point allocation as a 247 pound man. A nightmare.

I have no doubt that it probably tastes great. And in a former time I might have ordered 1 (or two), of them along with a bean burrito for lunch. But today, it makes me a little ill just thinking of it!

So, I guess what I am saying is that “new” doesn’t mean that it is good for you. In fact, it almost never does.

 

January 26 – “[Clothes are] always the reflection of one’s self-respect.”

“Dress for the body you have, not the body you wish you had” – Unknown, but shamelessly quoted by your’s truly

In November and December, one of the biggest signs that I was gaining significant weight (because I wasn’t going anywhere near the scale), was that my clothes weren’t fitting right. I am not what anyone would call a “clothes horse”, but I do take pride in wearing clothes that appropriately represent a look I want to portray. Although my company has a 5-day casual rule, that allows jeans and more relaxed shirts to be worn, I still opt for dress pants and a button down shirt, even donning the occasional tie. It isn’t to be showy, it is just a professional look that I want to portray.

I don’t have a lot to say on this one today, but I will say this. No matter who you are, what size you are, what gender you are, what profession or job you have…dress in a way that will make you proud of yourself. We all want to be smaller, and skinny jeans might be fun to wear (honestly, I don’t see how, but I will grant that some would think so), but if you don’t have the body for it, don’t do it. There is no shame in wearing clothes that are appropriate to your present size.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day… Catching up on blog posts is not nearly as fun as writing them every day. J

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.