men’s health

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 24 -Conquering issues

“Providence has hidden a charm in difficult undertakings which is appreciated only by those who dare to grapple with them.” – Anne-Sophie Swetchine

First let me just acknowledge that I missed a couple of days. We had a family gatherings on Sunday, and yesterday I had a particularly long day at work. I will eventually write for those two days, perhaps starting tonight, just so I can complete the idea of 365 posts in the year.

Sometimes when I am writing on a project like this, the exact right quote comes at the exact time I need it. I feel like today is one of those days. As I mentioned above, yesterday was a particularly long day at work. I came home tired and frustrated.

There is no secret that financial management of projects is something I loathe doing. I know it is necessary, and I actually have skill for it, but it frustrates me to no end. A few years back I asked for a reassignment largely because I was completely at my wits end after dealing with constant financial issues over a period of years. I could go into more depth, but that would only raise my blood pressure, and as you’ll read shortly, my day is off to a good start and I don’t want to ruin it.

Last night I sat with my wife in the living room and vented my spleen about my frustrations. I even hinted that perhaps it is time for me to move on from my current assignment. I told her that doing so would allow me to sleep better, eat better, be less stressed and angry, and actually like my job again. She listened, offered her thoughts, and then I settled in for some light reading.

This morning when the alarm went off at 3:50am, I was eager to get out of bed and get to the gym. At the time I thought it odd because I have struggles to mightily in recent weeks, but it was not a time to question success, so off I went. When I got to the gym I opted for the 58 minute workout rather than the 42 minute work out. At no time during the workout did I even consider stopping, I was eager to be successful.

After my shower this morning I read this quote and it hit me. I have this challenge in front of me, and I need to rise up to it. In fact, I have two challenges:

  1. To get my weight back where I want it to be.
  2. To wrestle long-term control of the finances of my programs from those who are unable to handle them, and make them right.

If I shy away from the challenges above, my thirst for peace may be slaked for a short time. But I know that if I persevere through, and get to success, the sweetness will be far greater, and the peace more lasting.

This morning I feel energized. Having a 4:00am workout is good medicine indeed. I am off to go tackle the problems at work, and my healthy lunch is packed to fuel my day.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…My destiny lies not in the avoidance of problems, but in the diligent conquest of them.

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 11- EXCUSES!

“Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is strong in me.” – Annie Morrow Lindbergh

Yesterday I wrote about being in a funk. Today’s quote is from a woman exploring her ursine tendencies. Maybe I am not the only one who struggles at this time of year.

In my job, the first month of the year is quite hectic and stressful. It is during January, and the early part of February, that project budgets for the New Year, which were set in the previous Fall, crystallize into monthly forecasts. These forecasts become a key measure for the health of projects.

Over the years I have developed some proficiency when it comes to financial management of projects. This is necessary to be successful as a program manager. But, I hate it. I truly do not like doing financial management, and I like even less dealing with people in the Finance department. It quite literally keeps me awake at night, and turns my stomach in knots. This year I have 3 major projects that each have their own complexities when it comes to finances. This week there is a review of those projects’ finances with senior management. The run up to that review, for me, is exhausting.

So far, on Monday and Tuesday, I have come home and crashed hard. My job isn’t physically demanding, but it is mentally grueling at times, and leaves me like a limp rag. It has been all I can do to get the basics done at home before vegging out in front of the TV for the evening. Today will be the worst so far, as I have meetings from 7:00am until 4:00pm. One of the meetings is a lunch meeting, so making a healthy choice there will be a key to whatever health success I have today.

As I write all this, you know what it sounds like to me? EXCUSES! I have come to learn in life that there are reasons things happen, and there are excuses for not getting things done.

Reasons are objective. One can look at the events and circumstances and see the sequence that leads to the present situation.

Excuses happen when we apply those objective events in our lives, and use them to explain why we don’t perform. “Being in meetings all day mentally exhausts me”, is an objective reason for being tired at the end of the day. “I didn’t work out because I am too tired from meetings”, is making an excuse for not getting to the gym. Saying that the stress kept me awake at night is the reason I didn’t get up in the morning for the gym is just as much an excuse.

Right now I am making excuses in my life.

  • It is cold outside so I can’t walk at lunch
  • I couldn’t sleep last night, so I am resetting my alarm for an hour later
  • There are still a few goodies from Christmas around the house, so I guess I have to snack
  • My wife isn’t home, so rather than the healthy alternative she left me for dinner, I will take the fast way out and ear a peanut butter sandwich (not that peanut butter isn’t healthy, but I could have chosen better)
  • And on and on.

This has to stop for me to reach the goals I have for myself. I have to get my mind out of the excuse game. Today is the 11th of January. So far I have exactly ZERO days where I have done everything I said I need to do to move myself toward success. I want to sit here and say “today is the day!” But, I am afraid. I am afraid that today will devolve right back into the same patterns as yesterday.

I have to stop writing and get to work, all those meetings and all that stress is looming in front of me. From where I sit I can see the gym bag I packed, but didn’t use yesterday. I will put it back in my car today, with the intent of using it when the work day is done. Tomorrow you will find out whether I succeeded, or made excuses.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Only when I stop making excuses will I be able to build momentum toward my goals

January 7 – Is TV America’s WAISTland?

“[Television is] the triumph of machine over people.” – Fred Allen

As I mentioned yesterday, I am a creature of habits and routines. One of those habits is how I end my day. Generally speaking, during the day I don’t watch much television. On week days I am at work, and on weekends I keep fairly busy with other activities. There are two exceptions: when I first get home from work, and after dinner.

The reflection for today in Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey, mentions the idea that when watching television, your body’s metabolism slows down, and your brain starts emitting alpha waves, the way it does when you sleep. They don’t cite any sources (simply quoting nameless “researchers”) , so my naturally-skeptical mind wonders whether that phenomenon is unique to watching TV, or might also occur with other forms of screen time, or maybe even while sitting to read a book. To my mind, the “science”, or “pseudo science” isn’t important. What I do know is that when I am sitting to watch TV, I am shutting down, and usually it is very intentional

In the case of the time just after work, it is frequently because I am just exhausted. By the time I get home I have been on the go for 10 to 12 hours (or more), depending on whether I worked out, and whether my day ran long. When I hit the door I need down time. Many days I put on TV, look for a rerun of Law & Order, and make the conscious decision to shut my eyes for a few minutes. Most days that is less than a half hour, some days longer.

After dinner my wife and I like to spend time together in the family room. There are a routine of shows we like to watch together. Usually she is on her iPad, and I am on my phone, and the TV is a backdrop. That time is also usually peppered with conversation about our day, upcoming events and so on.

During this TV time is when I am most likely to snack. My go to snack is Skinny Pop popcorn with some Frank’s Red Hot Sauce sprinkled on it. A couple of cups of the popcorn is only 2 to 3 points, and it is a fun snack. Other than that, when I am on track a piece of fruit will do the trick for me.

But lately, my evening snacking has been nuts, and by that I don’t mean crazy, I mean actual nuts. I love nuts. My wife gets two large jars of nuts at Costco – one un-salted, the other lightly salted – and we mix them together. We usually do this only around holiday time. But, when they are in the house I eat them. Nuts in small quantities are a great way to snack, my problem is usually controlling myself around them. I also quite like pistachios, although I am usually better about limiting myself.

Today is Saturday, and the NFL playoffs are on later. I do plan to watch some of the game. The book suggests including other activities while watching TV, such as treadmill or stationary bike. Neither of those are in my family room. So, instead I will commit to myself to only eat zero-point snacks tonight. I am going to give some consideration to altering my TV time, especially right after work. During the winter, once the holidays subside, I love to sit in the living room with a good book. As I said above, I have no idea if that is, in and of itself, any better than TV, but I do know that it is enjoyable and expands my mind.

Bobby-c’s thought for the day…I am going to work on consuming less points during TV time, so that TV does not become Americas WAISTland for me!

January 5 – “Things are seldom what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream.” – Sir William Schwenck Gilbert

OK. Well, this quote from Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey, really is just about milk. I read the daily thought that was included, and it was all about the benefits of milk, and making sure it is included in your daily diet. When I first read the quote I thought there was some metaphor within it. But no, just milk.

This morning, the quote I needed would have somehow explained how life almost never goes as planned. It would have been about the need to have resolve, and learning to stay the course, even when circumstances around you are spinning out.

It used to be a bigger thing than it is today, but I am sure you have seen plate spinners. They are performers who have dinner plates on long, flexible sticks, that spin. Last summer I saw a street performer doing a spinning plate act in a park at an art show. It was actually, surprisingly entertaining. Seeing this middle-aged man scurrying about, picking up plates that fell, and setting up new ones, all while maintaining a well-rehearsed, and somewhat humorous monologue, was both entertaining and insightful. I was taking photos for the art fair, so I saw his show a few times. His show lasted about 45 minutes, and included many other things besides the plates. At the end, when he did is final trick, he was both exhilarated and exhausted.

Today I am thinking about those plates. At any time in my life I have dozens of plates spinning on sticks. Most of the time I am scurrying around like that street performer, trying to maintain some sticks, while adding others. Some of the plates spin on their own for what seems like a long time. For others the sticks wobble and the plates fall. Some never seem to really get going and require a lot of attention. This week I added the Weight Watchers plate and stick to the routine. At first it was spinning smoothly, and was getting a lot of my attention. But as the week has worn on, other plates have wobbled and distracted me. I know that today, the WW plate is probably going to get ignored. Hopefully it just wobbles and doesn’t fall to the ground.

It is one of the oldest, most tired clichés in existence to say that we all live busy and complicated lives. We even tend to romanticize times past and imagine that they were somehow less complicated than the present. Spoiler alert – they weren’t. They were different, but not simpler.

Yesterday I was dealing with some curve balls at work and at home. The details of those curve balls are important to my life, but not in the context of this blog. For this morning, for this 15 minutes, I am focused on this plate. My hope is that when the day is done, all my plates are spinning smoothly, including the somewhat smaller one that represents my approach to my health.

Bobby-C’s thought of the day… Life seldom goes as planned. Most days we are that street performer, tending to the plates in the air. Knowing how much attention to pay to each is the most critical factor to our overall success.

January 4 – “Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.” – Marilyn Ferguson

The simplest answer to this for me is that I am afraid of dying. The mortality numbers associated with obesity, and all of the diseases and conditions that come with it, are terrifying. I am in my mid 50s, and want to be around well into my late 80s. I am painfully aware of the fact that I have long-since crossed over the midpoint of my life.I want to be healthy because I want to be around as long as possible. Digging deeper, not only do I want to be around, I want my existence, and my life to have quality. I don’t want to find myself unable to do the things I love to do. Those fears drive why I want to lose weight, and be fit.

As I sit here, on a windy January morning, there is something else. Right now I fear that I cannot sustain a healthy lifestyle. Since June I have seen myself slip into the bad habits that got me to 345 pounds. I see myself taking the extra sleep instead of going to the gym, skipping the walks at lunch, having seconds, indulging in unhealthy snacks, and so on. I am afraid right now that my love of food, and the comfort it can offer, is greater than my love of being healthy.

Years ago I was a Confirmation Director for a Catholic parish. One of the things we discussed with the 8th graders who were preparing for the Sacrament was the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. Among those gifts is Courage. When we had those discussions, the constant theme was that courage is not the absence of fear. Instead, courage is the ability to take action in spite of  fear. I need to find my courage again. I need to channel what scares me into productive, headstrong, action

Today, and in the coming days, I need to be more reflective on what scares me, and how I can face those fears with a plan of action

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Fears are usually irrational. When I allow fears to keep me from acting, I ignore all of the rational reasons to succeed.

7 Days in – Update on the 1,500 minute challenge

This month’s challenge is to exercise for a minimum of 1,500 minutes. I am working to accomplish that with trips to the gym, and walking in the neighborhood or at work. Here is my progress through the first 7 days.

1500 chalengeI am on a pace to exercise a total of 1,831 minutes for the month.

At the beginning of the month I decided to try something new. My gym has wifi, so I thought I would watch TV on my phone while I worked out. I initially chose Breaking Bad, with the idea that I would watch all 62 episodes while working out. But, my wife is a chemist, and after one episode I knew she’d like it too, so it is now our show to watch when we want to unwind. Today I decided to take the advice of several friends and family members, and I watched the pilot for Dexter. And, I am hooked. So, that is now my workout TV show for the winter.

How are you doing on your challenge? And what do you do to pass the time when you are on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or whatever you like to use in the gym?

October 3 – Week 31 weigh-in, update on the 1,500 minute challenge

Good morning, and a happy, Friday Funday to you all.

This morning I weighed-in at 259.0 pounds. That is down 1.2 pounds from last week. My total weight loss to date is 86 pounds, or 24.9% of my original body weight.

This past week I did a good job of limiting my eating, but I wasn’t as diligent with tracking my Weight Watches points. Today I am correcting that and getting back to my detailed tracking. This week I also started the October challenge to exercise for 1,500 minutes in the month. Here is my progress so far:

1500 chalenge

On Thursday morning I walked my neighborhood before work. It was very foggy and eerie walking between 4:15 am and 5:25am. But it also felt great. I do have a couple of hot spots on my feet, so I am taking today a little easier on the walking. I will still get in my minimum of 48 minutes, just not all of it will be walking like yesterday.

I also created a new chart for my data called “Weight loss by month”.

weight loss by month

I will update this on the first weigh in of every month, and will now be including it on my progress chart page. I find it interesting. That first month is a true outlier as I started the process. Since then I have been close to 10 pounds per month. In September there was a fall off, which I attribute to two things

  1. As I lose weight, it gets harder to lose weight
  2. I didn’t hit the gym or the sidewalk as well as I should have

I can’t do anything about #1, that’s just a happy fact of weight loss. For #2 I have stepped up with a new exercise challenge, and intend to increase my burn accordingly. This month I expect to lose the same, or slightly more than I did in September.

How did you do this week?

Weekend indulgence

Readers of this blog know that I don’t like the term “Cheat Days”. I don’t view my journey toward better health as something where I can cheat my way to success. I don’t think in terms of staying on a diet, or cheating it, because ultimately the only person I would be cheating is myself. My belief is that when I make choices about food – good or bad – that I have to own those choices and move on to a new day, or a new meal, or a new urge.

This weekend my wife and I went on our last camping trip of the summer. We were out with 3 other families, and 3 other friends that came along individually. Altogether there were 17 people occupying 4 campsites. As often happens in these kinds of gatherings, each family that was assigned a meal did their best to put out a great spread. The result was quite a lot of really yummy food. Some of it was quite friendly to the notion of losing weight, and some was not. And, with a gathering of folks around a campfire, there were also a few beers to be consumed.

I decided when I arrived on Friday night that this was going to be a weekend of indulgence. At my Friday weigh in I was down 84 pounds since the start of this journey. That isn’t my end goal by any means, but it is nothing to sneeze at. All too soon the leaves will change and the opportunities to be in the outdoors with this group will be overtaken by winter winds. With that in mind, I made some choices this weekend

  • I decided that tasting the fantastic Apple Cobbler on Friday night was a very good thing.
  • I decided that one tablespoon of ice cream with that cobbler wasn’t going to be the end of the world
  • I decided that a few beers at the campfire Friday, and a few more while we played indoor games on a rainy Saturday was going to be fun
  • I decided that home made chex mix was delicious and I was going to enjoy a reasonable portion of them on Saturday night
  • I decided that the farmer’s breakfast I made in the dutch oven, and my wife’s pineapple upside down breakfast were too good to miss
  • I decided that a bratwurst and some bean salad would be fine at lunch on Saturday
  • And I decided that corned beef, potatoes and cabbage were a fantastic way to have dinner with these amazing people.

If I’d not been camping some of those meals would have gone differently. But, while I was on this trip I let go of my constant counting, and just enjoyed my friends and family. I came back home yesterday with the full knowledge that when I do step back on the scale I might not like what I see. When and if that happens, I will think back to the weekend and smile. I will remember the laughter, the love, the friendship, and the camaraderie. And, yes, I will remember the food.

There is this catchy little phrase that says that nothing tastes as good as thin feels. I guess it is true if the thing you are tasting is something you have every day. Being thin feels better than the taste of daily over indulgence. But for one, sweet, wonderful weekend, nothing will feel better to me than that camping trip. If it means I am up this week for my weight, then so be it.

I didn’t start this journey to deny myself of pleasure for the rest of my life.