All posts by jmacofearth

Always One Step Towards or Away from my Goal

[Warning: I’m going to talk about poop in this post.]

The plan is the plan and the execution is where the sneakers hit the trail, so to speak. I’ve got a loose plan:

  • eat whole foods and veggies (take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement)
  • kill all conscious sugar consumption
  • avoid packaged foods (even my favorite snack the Triscuit)
  • exercise regularly
  • don’t freak out or drop out
  • keep going

And a lot of my experience with this tactic is fall off. I get going, I have some good results and then I get less focused. I slack off, go on a few dates as a fitter me, and then I’m back to my old habits again. Triscuits and cheese at night are NEVER a good idea. They sounds perfect, but I think that juicy Honeycrisp is a better plan.

Sometimes you have to punt and give yourself props for recommitting to the program, again and again.

So how do I continue to rejoin the plan, even after a setback, or a wild weekend of tex-mex and beer? Um, it’s simple. You just start again. Pickup where you left off. And most importantly, don’t hammer yourself for your indulgence, rather give yourself kudos for rejoining and recommitting to the plan above.

Something(s) in my past has *always* set me off the program. I’m not sure what my history shows, but I know that last night I hit a few bumps that I’d like to explore for a minute.

Bump 1: What’s for dinner? I was working on a different writing project and very focused on what I was doing. I had gone past hungry to famished and I knew I was at risk as I entered the kitchen in search of sustenance. What I didn’t have in my cupboard were any of my healthy nuts that would give me an immediate salt hit and a positive signal to my brain and now-dropping blood sugar, that resources were coming. I needed my nuts.

In the refrigerator I found the pizza from Friday night. Not too unhealthy in general, but not really “whole” either. I passed over this and kept looking. I had eggs, maybe a couple fried eggs for dinner. Except that’s what I’d eaten for breakfast, so I was a bit bored. And… That was about it. My ideas were limited by things on hand and things that were easy, quick, and sure to quell my grumbling tummy.

I picked two slices of the everything cold pizza. DAMN. Not to plan. But I was not stocked up. I’d already had my super apple a few hours before, when I was first getting a bit hungry, but still writing hard on my project. So I had nothing. And since I had waited I didn’t really want to travel down to Whole Foods to get something raw. I punted. The pizza was delicious, btw.

Bump #2: After eating the pizza and drinking some water I was certain I was bloated. I felt a bit disappointed, but I leapt right over that idea and moved on into my next activity. Except I wasn’t very engaged. I was still hungry. Hmm.

And in my malaise, and bloated moment, I stepped on the scale. Woops! What I knew but didn’t quite register accurately was that I was constipated. I hadn’t had a great bm that morning. AND I missed my walk due to the inspiring writing project and the heat of the afternoon. And when I stepped on the scale I confirmed my fears, I was bloated and had regained a good portion of “my week one loss.” But I was missing the point. And the read was inaccurate because of my constipation.  But there it was, a failure. I ate pizza, I felt awful, and SURE ENOUGH, the scales confirmed my misery.

And even though I was conscious of my extra internal baggage, I let the message sink in a bit too far. I had dropped off the program AGAIN.

When you wait too long for dinner your body is in a critical state and you make poorer choices.

Return: This morning, in my normal routine, I had an early bm, larger than usual, to clear a bit of my constipation. And 15 minutes later a second bm that  had more of the back up. I laughed at myself. “Of course you were constipated. That’s what that bloated feeling in your solar plexus often is. Not fat, but constipation. Old stuff.”

And sure enough, as I stepped on the scale this morning to confirm my previous mistake, I was back to within a pound of my “loss” weight.

Reset: Okay, so what do I take away from this?

  1. Have good things to eat in the house and ready
  2. When you wait too long for dinner your body is in a critical state and you make poorer choices
  3. Bloating can be pizza (wheat, cheese, etc) but it can also be constipation
  4. The scale is a friend and should be used at regular times, to mark progress, not as a temporary check-in
  5. I gave myself permission to fail without much self-flagellation
  6. I returned to the program this morning and got some confirming feedback from my body and my scale

Back to the day at hand. I’ve had a small bowl of unsweetened low-fat granola and I’m planning on playing tennis at the noon workout. I need to eat more now, so I am ready to go in an hour and not pressed to find fuel.

Sometimes a little planning ahead can provide much better options. And sometimes you have to punt and give yourself props for recommitting to the program, again and again.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: this morning, myself again, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

First Milestone and a Remarkable Result

It’s about not beating myself up or starving myself. I am not in this to lose weight, I’m in this to change my lifestyle towards a sustainable and healthy diet.

I knew I was winning the early war, when I started and my weight was 149.6. That was HIGH. I’m not sure how I got there, but I figured the first week would show some pretty quick readjustments back down. But I had no idea that I would drop 7 pounds. Wow.

My easy start was too easy. I wish there were some way to maintain this rate of loss, but I’m pretty sure I will plateau pretty soon after 235, my previous average fat weight.

Still, I am pretty happy with the resilience of my body. I didn’t do anything extreme. Here’s what I did.

  • I avoided all desserts
  • I dropped all sugar and sodas
  • I had apples, bananas, and low-salt mixed nuts for snacks
  • I drank primarily water
  • Primary food intake to meat and vegetables
  • Zero processed or pre-packaged foods
  • I exercised all but one day

That’s all pretty simple. It’s my plan, I know what I need to do, and now I just have to find ways to keep doing it. When I fall off the path, like I did on Saturday, I just wake up and get back to my program. Easy. Nothing extreme. No major life upsets, just some gentle life adjustments.

Mostly however, it’s about not beating myself up or starving myself. I am not in this to lose weight, I’m in this to change my lifestyle towards a sustainable and healthy diet. Sure, I’m going to have queso and tex-mex from time to time. But as a routine, I’m going to pull back to meat, vegetables, and fresh food. Period.

And then I’m going to keep going. I don’t have a goal in mind. I have a lifestyle in mind. I have a way of feeling in mind. And this kickstart has really given me some positive reinforcement. I AM on the right path, I just have to keep walking.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: my fuelband report for last week

Losing My Voice, Losing the Path for a Minute

On Friday night, one of my front teeth veneers came off. If I were to show you a picture today, of my smile, you’d think I was sporting a hilarious bum costume. And when my son noticed it later in the evening, we laughed heartily. It is a funny look. Sad, but funny.

I knew what I was doing. I was giving myself a moment of relief by eating something sweet.

Of course the experience is not funny at all. I had this same tooth glued back on a few weeks ago for about $350 bucks. And at that time I was informed that this was a temporary fix until I had the money to go after the next restorative solution. Yuk.

And here we are. I’m still struggling to find new work, and I’ve now got a pirate’s smile that’s actually a bit painful. The sharp edges in my mouth are irritating when I talk. I tried the temporary fixative from the CVS, no go. And of course my real dentist doesn’t open until Monday. And that means pain and money. Always at the dentist, like a mantra, pain and money. Oh joy.

But there’s perhaps a deeper message in my accidental dismemberment. The facade and beauty thing is all wrapped up together. I’ve never been very proud of my smile. I work at it a bit, but I’m more comfortable with the sly, toothless, grin, rather than a full toothy smile. But it’s hard to speak without showing your teeth. And if there’s one indicator of economic status, the damaged or missing tooth would have to rank up there at the top of shameful displays.

So what am I to learn from this experience?

I cancelled my hopeful Match.com date for Saturday night. But as I was reviewing her profile it was a bit obvious that she was a stretch. I wanted a relationship, but I shouldn’t really compromise my standards. I was working a bit too hard to imagine her as a potential “match.”

Okay, so I’m taking the message to be a bit more introspective. Slow down a bit in the dating department and feel the feelings associated with being alone. This is part of the inspiration for this blog. Bring the focus back to me and my process. The relationship and dating will follow as I reset myself and my body on a new path.

So I’m not really able to smile at this point. And talking is sort of painful. What does that tell me? STFU.

Getting back to the basics of writing, self-reflection, and personal growth. If there was a message from the loss of my facade it is to tune in deeper to the messages of my body.

I was sad yesterday about my sorry condition. Sure, it was related to the tooth and how I had to alter my plans for recording some singing (missing teeth make strange sounds) and then drop my prospective date that I’d been working towards for a several weeks.

And I noticed my emotional dip and as I was putting a check in the bank I went into the frozen yoghurt shop next door. I knew what I was doing. I was giving myself a moment of relief by eating something sweet.

By paying attention to my experience, savoring the smaller portion, and giving myself a break, I was not breaking my program. My goal is awareness and honest appraisal.

It was the first conscious sugar I had consumed since Monday when I started this blog. And I made a note of my behavior. I knew what I was doing. I was medicating the sadness and frustration with some sugar. I gave myself permission to ease up on the program for a minute. AND I had about a 1/3 of a normal serving. I gave myself a dessert and made sure that I drastically restricted the portion. And just a few peanuts sprinkled on-top of the non-fat vanilla.

And I listened to myself. “It is okay. This is a journey not a contest. And occasionally I need to comfort myself. Today a little yoghurt isn’t going to make a huge difference in my program.”

It was a loss. I was determined a few hours earlier to go the month of October without any conscious sugar consumption. Oh well. This is a reset.

The point is to make changes in lifestyle and consciously becoming aware of the way I use food. By paying attention to my experience, savoring the smaller portion, and giving myself a break, I was not breaking my program. My goal is awareness and honest appraisal.

And this morning, I can reflect and get back on the horse.

“The rest of October without any conscious sugar consumption.”

Stay aware of what’s going on. Be gentle. Don’t beat yourself up. And get back on the horse the next day.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: happy pirate, lenoid mamchenkov, creative commons usage

Is There a Me Inside of Here That Is Dying to Get Out?

I made the mistake this morning of starting some Twitter growth strategy for the FitbyTech account. And by searching for #fitness I hit the very crowded and slightly misguided hashtag #fitness. I suppose it’s the right hashtag (think of hashtags like a focus term or search term to find tweets) for my content, but it’s littered with this kind of “motivational porn.”

fitness-pornAnd I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it, seeing this uber-fit young women as a way to imagine and motivate ourselves to go to the gym, but that’s not really the kind of inner-motivation I need. Personally I find these type of images a bit demotivational. And, while I respect the amazing amount of work that goes into creating a body like this, I am not all that attracted to the rock-hard abs. Not to mention these are women who are well out of my age range, and therefore not personally motivating to me. Of course, I don’t look at men’s muscle magazines or pictures to get myself up for a workout either.

I didn’t decide one day to be overweight. And I didn’t decide on another day to start a fitness program to loose weight. I’ve been struggling with my fitness for my entire lifetime.

This approach to fitness doesn’t (or hasn’t in my 51 years) provide much inspiration for me. In the same way that checking into The Chive or some other cheesecake site, doesn’t inspire me to go out and look for a relationship. It’s off the mark for me. Where is the heart or soul of the six-pack abs model? I’m sure the young woman in the bottom image has a strong sense of self and amazing motivational skills, but I’m not into the objectification of her body. Where’s the woman?

In our modern culture we are hyper-focused on fitness. And the young and uber-fit are the models that are held up for our approval, inspiration, and motivation. But they are often motivating us for some advertising purpose. And as we focus too intensely on the woman’s abs, we lose the picture of the whole person. It’s no less objectifying than a picture of her impressive chest. That’s not what I see first, that’s not what I focus on, and that’s not where I “see” her. But in the tweet above, theoretically to “motivate” me or others (men or women) to get off the couch and hit the gym, I find myself less motivated. It’s like showing me a Vanilla milkshake. Sure it looks good, but I’m not heading in that direction either.

So what is motivation for me? It’s something more internal and interpersonal. I didn’t decide one day to be overweight. And I didn’t decide on another day to start a fitness program to loose weight. I’ve been struggling with my fitness for my entire lifetime. And I would guess the balance of the US population is in the same boat. We are not ever going to achieve washboard abs, and seeing them on a twenty-something hottie does little to engage my hope and energy.

The only thing that engages MY hope and energy is something much deeper. Pictures of body builders don’t represent my goal or my inspirational imagination.

Hmm. Maybe I need a motivational inspiration that does work for me.

I can embrace all of these “me” forms. I had been a three-sport athlete in high school and then I dropped off the charts into an emotional depression and sadness that may still have some tendrils inside me.

I have had a “story” in my head that says something like, “I was born with love handles, and I’ll die with love handles. I can make them larger or smaller, but I have very little chance of eliminating them all together.” I have great pictures of my chubby little self that I can point to in my baby book. I can identify with that kid.

And as I was growing up I had varying degrees of love and hate for my large-framed body. On the football field I was a force to be reckoned with. I was strong and more powerful than most of the kids on the field. In my Pop Warner team the coach used to joke about calling the plays “McElhenney Left” or “McElhenney Right.” And we won a lot of football games even as I was frequently challenged to get under the weight limits for an 8-year-old player. I loved the way I could blast through others on the field. The idea of “fat” wasn’t in my vocabulary yet.

So, I might need to scroll back in my memories and photos and find the moment when I got “fat.” Or when the idea of being fat entered my consciousness. I do remember a moment in 7th grade, when one of the cheerleaders said something about how she hadn’t known I “was so fit” while passing in the gym. It was at that moment that I got really good at sucking in my belly. She became my girlfriend for a few weeks, whatever that meant in 7th grade. But I learned if I sucked it in a bit, and tried to look more fit, that I could attract prettier women.

And I’ve often recalled, in my biographical narrative that my peak fitness happened as a Sophomore in high school. About three weeks ago I found the swim team picture from that time.

jmac-swimmerAside from the fact that I was struggling with one of the most unhappy periods of my life, I was at this moment uber-fit. What was fascinating to me: I didn’t have any love handles.

Okay, so this image began to recalculate  my own self image. I knew I had qualified for the state championships in the 100-meter freestyle, but I didn’t really have an image in my mind.

For a day or so I had this photo as the lock-screen on my phone, until my son said it looked like I had an A&F model on my phone. But the motivation was there, for me. Not to return to this body, but to recognize this young man inside me. The effort to get that body required twice-a-day workouts, very healthy lunchroom meals, and the youth and testosterone of a 16-year old.

What I don’t want to show you is my senior year graduation photo, where I was grossly overweight. But I can embrace all of these “me” forms. I had been a three-sport athlete in high school and then I dropped off the charts into an emotional depression and sadness that may still have some tendrils inside me now. Certainly the idea of being fat vs. uber-fit conjures up some feelings. But it’s more of compassion for this young man in the picture above, who was about to have his world ripped apart by sadness, death, and poor choices.

But that athlete is still inside of me. And I have never forgotten my own healthy love for sports and competition. Today my motivation is much more about how I feel in my body. I’m not aspiring to a six-pack stomach or my 16-yo 32-inch waist. My goals are less specific and more health and “feeling” oriented. I wonder if that’s an issue that I’ll need to address?

Perhaps I need to set specific goals and targets. I think I’ll wait until I need them, during a plateau perhaps. Today I don’t need sexy male or female bodies to inspire me. I am inspired. Tomorrow or next year, who knows what I’ll need. I’ll take it from here.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: my 10th grade swim team photo

Baby Steps and Clear Intentions

shadowontrailFitness is not a get rich quick scheme. In my opinion all the fast-diets are fads and often not healthy. Sure you might drop some weight in a cleanse, but you’re destined to put it back on unless the change is sustainable by your lifestyle changes.

An early reader responded on Twitter, “You can’t out exercise a poor diet.”

I know fitness is a lifetime journey, not a quick adjustment or a magic pill. It’s also not a “diet” diet, but a choice to move towards healthy real foods and away from processed foods. Of course it’s about dropping sugar from the menu as often as possible. And then when you do indulge, making note of how your body reacts to the blast of calories and empty energy.

I have been walking and playing tennis 3 – 5 times a week for two years. And today, I’m as heavy as I’ve ever been. I was hoping that just by upping my exercise and being consistent I would encourage my body to sluff off some of the extra weight. Um, no, not happening. I can only imagine, if I hadn’t been exercising.

I am my own test case. Through my experience I hope to share what’s happening emotionally as well as physically as I work to make changes in my life.

Of course at 51 (52 in November of this year) everything is changing. I can’t just drop sugary sodas and count on the 5 pound drop that I used to. I can’t just skip desserts and hope for the best. Nope, this is going to require a major overhaul. And it’s a process I walk into with some trepidation and some fear. I don’t really want to give up Ben and Jerry’s.

However, I know when my body is more finely tuned I will be more happy in my body. I will sleep better. I will require less coffee during the day to keep my energy up. I will be more attractive to women who today would see me as “fat.” Ouch. I really hate the shame that comes with the bad body image messages that I tell myself.

I was writing a post the other day and as I was describing myself, in my current physical condition, I was likening myself to a nice classic BMW with some body damage. That was a simple metaphor for me to get in touch with the fact that I don’t want the body damage any more. I want to be a classic ’52 with no body damage, and eventually a bit of spit and polish and new tires.

I’m striking out, in an unplanned and unpremeditated way to change my life.

I have struggled with depression and other emotional issues from time to time in my life. But what’s astounding to me at the moment, is I am not unhappy. I am not stressed out. I claim to be happy. So why am I so overweight? Can our optimism and positive attitudes create a false sense of self? Or am I making too much of this fitness aspect?

And then I watch how I look at and measure women as I’m walking down the running trail. From a long distance away I can get a sense if they are in my range, or out of my range, of desirability and fitness. This is about body and proportions, way before I can see if they have a pretty face or a nice smile. I know I do this. And I know I must be doing this with myself. So is the denial, the positivism about my life and well-being, blinding me to my own weight.

I’d have to say, today, I believe my answer is yes. And I’m striking out, in an unplanned and unpremeditated way to change my life. I’ve wanted to do this before, but I’ve always felt like I needed a sponsor, or a business that would “do” me.

Today I AM THE PROJECT. I am my own test case. And through my experience I hope to share what’s happening for me emotionally as well as physically as I work and plan to make changes in my life.

On Monday, I stared a food diary as I started this blog. And I’m consciously eliminating as much sugar as possible from my diet. In cataloging and weighing in from time to time I hope to see the relationship between what I eat, when I eat it, and how I progress towards my goal of getting leaner and more fit.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

image: shadows on the trail, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Starting with the Body I Have Now

It’s easy for me to see the last area of mastery in my life is diet and fitness. The two are inextricably tied together. I have had various levels of fitness in my life. From my ultrafit moment as a teenage swimmer in high school. To my obese periods, usually marked by a hard depression.

I am fat. Most of the time I don’t feel fat. But a picture or a step on the scale tends to sober my happiness and positive body image up a bit.

Today I’ve got most of the emotional issues under management, but it’s the diet, eating right, part of the equation that I’m setting off to learn more about and to use as the final frontier between me and unlocking the me I know I can be. I’m not aiming for my swimming body, but I’m clear that I am carrying 30 or so pounds (50?) of unnecessary weight. And while I’m “comfortable with myself” at this moment, I am aware that I’m not at a level of fitness that would make me very attractive to myself. If I was a woman, I wouldn’t date me. ACK. That’s kind of a bummer. And I’m thinking most of the relationships I’d like to have are with women who are quite a bit more fit than I am.

And I don’t think fitness and diet can be attacked separately. I have been upping my activity and my workouts methodically over the last two years. And while I’m pretty regular at 5-days a week, I’m also at one of the heaviest periods of my adult life. What? What gives?

Let’s see. I’m exercising but I’m still eating poorly. I’m still going for the gut-killing late night snacks. And my choices, at this point, are awful. So how can I clean up my snacks, address my imbalances metabolically, and even up the quality and quantity of my exercise to reach a fitness level that I know I’m capable of. If I could coordinate my efforts, and combine some of the technologies and software programs available for free, maybe I could unlock the last chapter in my lifelong struggle to maintain a healthy fitness level.

Often what we feel is not the reality of the situation. I feel happy and fulfilled and attractive.

I am out of balance right now in one main area of my life. Fitness. I am fat. Most of the time I don’t feel fat. But a picture or a step on the scale tends to sober my happiness and positive body image up a bit. I’m heavy. I occasionally feel bloated. A few of my pants, that I wore comfortably a few years ago are too tight to button up. DAMN. I guess the hunt is on.

For the most part I am emotionally happy. I’d like to be in a relationship, but that’s partially unfulfilled due to my lack of attention and perhaps, I’d hate to admit it, due to my fatness and not my fitness. I don’t think I’m fat. Isn’t that funny? I don’t feel unhealthy. In fact, emotionally I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been in my life. BUT, that’s not the point.

Often what we feel is not the reality of the situation. I feel happy and fulfilled and attractive. And there are plenty of women who would find me attractive right at this very moment. But given a preference, I’d prefer a woman of a certain fitness. Not uber-fit, but active. And while I’d say I’m very active, I’m also not within that range of fitness that I would find within my levels of attractiveness.

Let’s change that.

John McElhenney
@fitbytech