Category Archives: body image

Monsoons, Milestones, and Magic Powders on the Road to Wellness

It’s been raining here in Texas for a while now. The windfall of water has taken it’s toll on my workout schedule a bit, but mainly in keeping me off the tennis courts.

Have you tried any superfoods as part of your health and fitness quest? What about Maca powder? Or coconut oil? Or omega-3 fish oils? Are there some superfoods that work and others that are more hype than happy? I’m sure the answer is yes. My run at bulletproof coffee was a bit of a wash, though I do think the coconut oil has helped my internal digestive system a bit.

Oh, and I did to the weigh-in, as promised.

fitbytech-june-weighin

Maybe not as low as I had imagined, but easily the best I’ve looked and felt in years. Of course, *love* has a lot to do with that.

And on that note, I found a great summer beverage that I’m trying to perfect. I’m a sucker for the frappucino or frozen coffee drinks. However, those are *loaded* with sugar and fat. So I’ve come up with my own variety.

Silver Bullet Cold Coffee(tm)

  • 1 brew of coffee – decaf or reg depending on the time of day or need of energy

  • 1 tablespoon of raw local honey

  • 1 teaspoon of raw coconut oil

  • 1 pinch of cinnamon

  • 2 – 5 grains of organic sea salt for minerals and trace elements

  • and today – 1 teaspoon of Maca powder (no idea, but a fad for sure – I’ll report back after a bit of experimentation with this super/mysterious food.

  • ice

  • blender to make frozen smoothie

Top 10 ideas from my holistic fitness and health program.

  1. Weighing-in is optional, not necessary to keep my motivation high, nor to inspire me
  2. Superfoods are also caloric, so let’s use a bit of judgement and see what feels good (all in moderation)
  3. Coffee is a health drink and a superfood combined.
  4. Coconut oil continues to astound me. Not as a weight-loss supplement, but certainly as a healthy fat and as a lubricant for all things.
  5. Today’s news: losing weight is more about eating less, rather than exercising more.
  6. Exercising everyday is a must. You’re going to miss days, so make those actual misses, rather than scheduled days off. The more the merrier. Two and three-a-days are amazing, but also taxing to your overall system.
  7. Sleep is essential. 8 hours is minimal.
  8. Waking up early, alert and inspired by what the day brings is a good sign of health and happiness.
  9. Finding someone to train with is the biggest boost to fitness.
  10. Finding someone to love is the biggest boost to life and overall health and mental resilience.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

Superfoods: Do you believe in superfoods? Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Coconut Oil, Maca Powder, Asahi. What is and is not recommended? Here’s a bit of info on my latest experimental supplement.

7 Top Health Benefits of Maca Powder – Vegkitchen

related posts:

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Do you want to try any of these superfoods for yourself. Here are the two main ingredients in my new cold coffee brew.

fitbytech-coldcoffee

Never Stop, Never Give Up! Getting Fit with a Friend!

It’s no accident that I’ve been silent here on my “fitness” blog. (Last post, Jan 7, 2015) It’s been a busy and rough few months since January. I’ve got a lot to share. I’ll start with my two biggest WINS and catch up on the other stuff in future posts.

WIN NUMERO UNO!

A training partner will make all the difference in your life.

WIN NUMBERO DOS!

A love partner will make all the difference in your life.

Now the fact that I was able to combine these two amazing requirements into one partner, well… I’m blessed beyond belief. And maybe it was this blog that had something to do with it. See, she’s a fitness fanatic. Every night it’s the same question, “Are we going for our walk?” No matter how frickin hot it is here in Texas, she’s always asking. I’m always answering, “Of course. ¿Como no? Let’s go!”

That was the goal. Getting comfortable with my body, using smart workouts and smart eating as a tool to shed some unwanted baggage.

And she’s got an added bonus that is related to her fitness. She eats very little and what she does eat is pretty damn paleo. Very few carbs make their way into my diet courtesy of this amazing love interest. Sure, she’s taken my heart by storm, by exercise, by feeding me, and by… well, let’s keep some things private.

One of the first debunks she helped me with was this whole notion of Bulletproof Coffee. In general the idea is sound, in practice it’s a bit more like the Atkin’s diet. Sure you can do it. But bacon isn’t really the healthiest thing you can be eating.

I’ve recently returned to a modified super coffee by simply adding some coconut (oil, grated, paste) to my morning coffee. I am no longer adding butter. And I’m not really trying to skip a meal. But I am noticing that the blood sugar drop associated with high coffee consumption is gone. I can eat breakfast an hour later when I’m hungry, or skip it until lunch.

Right now I’m working in my living room, anticipating the kids summer wakeup time and eventual request for “breakfast.” And I’ve had my 2 cups with some coconut manna added, and I’m feeling not only energized, but calm and smoothe as well.

I’m not that interested in a “weigh in” as my GF calls it. Sure, I can be certain I’ve lost a good bit of weight since January, but it’s less about that and more about how I look and how I feel.

I’m noticing myself in the mirror a bit more. I’m not always grabbing for a shirt before walking around the house. I’m seeing myself in my Skype calls for business, looking quite svelt. And I’m enjoying the feedback and comments from my GF as well as casual friends who ask about how I’m looking so happy and so fit.

Again, that was the goal. Getting comfortable with my body, using smart workouts and smart eating as a tool to shed some unwanted baggage. I’ve not obsessed over any of it, but I have maintained a very steady approach to eating less fat, less sugar, and more lean protean. I’ve been cooking with my uber-GF and learning how to make healthier food that even my kids love.

Most of all, I’ve learned to love the progress, the process, and the slow and steady improvement in my fitness and stamina. I still can’t run up the 1.5 mile hill outside my front door, but I can run down it on the way back from my 4.3 mile loop. By August I’ll be running the whole thing, yes, even in the Texas Summer. I’ll just go at 6am.

Blessings and optimistic results for you.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

related posts:

fit-coffee-2015

Weight Loss vs Wellness: Measuring the Circumference of the Moon

I remember distinctly the moment I learned to suck in my stomach. I was in 7th grade and heading back into the locker room from a football workout. I had taken off my pads and was in the customary half-shirt. And as I saw a cheerleader coming my direction down the hallway, I remember sucking in my gut, thinking, “There’s Betty.” She noticed me. She missed the sucking in part. A week later we were “going steady” whatever that means in 7th grade. I’m sure we kissed a bit.

As an adult male I still have this reaction when I see an attractive woman. I’m trying to notice when I do it, and see who or what triggered the response. One big awareness I came to, after watching my own reflection in a store window at the mall:

You can’t suck in your love handles.

I’m walking away from the old unconscious eater, and becoming a stronger, healthier, and eventually thinner person.

Crap. That’s where my shape gets it’s shape. From the front you don’t really notice my stomach, though it could be a lot slimmer, you notice my handles. I’m sure this is a similar conundrum that has plagued ladies for a long time.

So, part of this quest is about understanding my own body, my impressions of self, and how I talk to myself about body image and fitness. And while weight loss seems to be a natural goal of this program/site whatever I am doing here, my real focus is fitness and wellness. Oh, and love handle reduction.

I was talking to my brother yesterday about health and fitness. (He had a heart attack two years ago, and I was curious about his wellness and fitness activities.) He wanted to know how my weight loss was coming. I had to think about it.

“I don’t even know, right now. That’s not exactly my focus.”

“Oh,” he said. “It this restaurant okay for your diet?”

“Yes,” I said. “I can make better choices where ever I go. That’s really what I’m writing about. How to step towards my goals, rather than away from them. And understanding what’s going on in my thinking when I’m craving something sweet or salty, and trying to keep going for the healthy meal.”

And I’m still thinking about this question 10 hours later. “What is my diet? Am I on a diet?”

Here’s what I think I’m “on.”

  • Learning about my own psychology of cravings, snacking impulses, and when/why I make poor choices.
  • Uncovering resistances to exercise and removing them.
  • Exercising more frequently and upping the intensity as my body is ready for it.
  • Choosing the apple over the Triscuit every time.
  • Watching portions and overall intake at all times. I would eat until I was full. Now I try to leave a little room. “Room to not grow on.”
  • Eliminate unconscious sugar. When I eat a sweet or dessert I want to enjoy it. But sugar in my tortilla chip, no way.
  • Awareness of my energy and daily cadence. Often I will break with the program when I’m extremely tired or overly hungry.
  • Listening to my negative self talk and gently modifying the phrases to be loving and supportive, rather than hurtful or shameful.
  • Accepting exactly where I am, every day, and starting from there. No matter what I ate yesterday, or how many times I worked out, I can begin again each day with a YES attitude.
  • Focus on the health and wellness benefits of my program rather than focusing on weight loss.
  • Loving my love handles into smaller and smaller versions of themselves.
  • Getting to a point in my fitness where I don’t have to suck in my stomach, ever.
  • Taking the next step towards fitness and wellness, always.
I am learning about myself and why I eat certain foods and how those foods affect my body and make me feel.

I’m not on a quick weight loss plan. I know there are plenty more things I could do right this second to radically improve my weight loss program, but I’m trying to build a lifestyle and enjoy the journey. I could meet with a fitness coach, I could start with a trainer or life coach, I could get more serious about what I’m doing, but I’m not that serious about it. Well, I am, but my “way” is going to be more organic, more about me and my thinking. And of course, my eating and exercise are a huge part of that. Along the way I may ask questions of my friends who are trainers, fitness buffs, coaches, nutritionists, but I think I’m happy with my progress so far, regardless of my love handle measurement.

I am learning about myself and why I eat certain foods and how those foods affect my body and make me feel. I am learning how to control my sugar intake and overall calorie intake: never over eat, always feel my way through a meal, and when I’m satisfied stop eating. I do not ever need to be a member of “the clean plate club” of my childhood. And dessert, while a staple in my family of origin, is more of a rare treat in my life. And every day I can make better choices.

I’m walking away from the old unconscious eater, and becoming a stronger, healthier, and eventually thinner person. My plan is working perfectly. And the measurement today, is inside.

I didn’t get my love handles overnight, and I won’t reduce them in an overnight fast either.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

Most annual weight gain is due to the holiday feasts.Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 8.32.39 AM

 

And sugar intake has become a big problem for all of us.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 8.31.58 AM

References and Inspirations:

fitbytech-lovehandles

Reviewing, Releasing, and Resetting My Goals – Month One

I declare my misery over.
I am in the process of creating a new song of myself.

Oh, I’ve been putting off my “weigh-in” a bit to see if I can get a few pounds lighter before I report in. That’s silly. I’m not really tied to that outcome, but I am still emotionally connected to it as some measure of success. I mean, if you’re here on this journey with me, you want to see success, right? I know I do. But I’ve got a different spin I’m trying on myself, let’s see if I can unpack my first month of self-awareness.

Some wins right away.

  • Zero Halloween candy. Not even a taste. And it’ wasn’t a challenge once I set my mind back on track.
  • Heading into November, my birth month, and thanksgiving, and I know I’m on track to have my best Holiday season ever, because I’m still attacking my sugar intake with a vengeance.
  • Only two bloated moments in the entire month – both times I ate pizza, too much pizza btw.
  • Both times I slipped into a sugar/dessert coma I make a conscious choice to do so, and to observe myself in the process and the hours afterwards.
  • My attitude is shifting away from my cravings and emotional hunger, towards a positive refactoring of what I eat and when I eat it.
  • My energy has been solid all week. I’m learning how to regulate my pre-workout food so that I don’t “need” a sugary sports drink. (Yes, even evaporated cane sugar, is sugar.)
  • I have not bashed myself or my body for where we are on the path towards a healthier me. NOT ONCE.

It’s the last observation that I think is the most important discovery. I learned early in my life, that my weight gave me power. As a 7-year-old Texas football player, I was also just under the weight limits for our tiny-player league. With that extra advantage I was a freight train when they handed me the ball. I experienced success as an athlete very early, and a lot of it had to do with my fantastic body. I was not concerned about my “fat” body, an neither was the coach who walked me around spitting and trying to pee before the weigh-ins. To him I was a winning season.

I am turning this new process of discovery in to a winning season for myself. I am where I am, and I am getting more loving and more fit at the same time. Get it? It’s very hard for any of us to truly love our bodies. Even the amazingly fit are struggling with body image issues as well. If we could release the body image hurt inside us, we’d probably be a lot happier. Like yoga, releasing and uncoiling all those years of damaging self talk, and societal “thin” pressure, has wreaked havoc on our own internal monologues.  We are awful to ourselves. I’m stopping that completely. Done!

So even in my attempts to become more fit, more healthy, I am also accepting the challenge to being more loving towards my love handles. More accepting of all of this process. I have wins, I have slips, I am human. But I am happy with my steps back towards my goals, and every time I return to this blog, I am reaffirming my love of myself. By taking better care of our bodies we are giving ourselves the message that we love ourself. (Powerful, yet a bit woo woo, right?)

Let me look at a few of the areas where I missed, if only for examination, and not chastisement.

  • I had pizza with my kids twice. I could’ve given them pizza and had something else.
  • I still had my usual medium popcorn at three movies. No butter and water to drink, but I have a little info on what’s in movie popcorn…
  • A few times I let my hunger (aka blood sugar drop) get too fierce and I’ve made poorer choices than I would’ve had I been more aware of myself.
  • I jumped on the scale, two weeks in, expecting, hoping, praying for some continuation of my first 5 days of weight loss. (I’m still hesitating on my weigh-in, right now.)
  • I’ve had some late-night snack runs, and even while I was eating only tamari-salted almonds and honeycrisp apples, I know I was giving in to some craving, rather than listening for hunger.
  • I let my laziness con me into eating a sugar filled “organic” cereal when I ran out of my uber-healthy cereal.
  • I’m happy with me, but I’m dreading weighing myself.

Today is the start of the second lap on my renewed fitness and wellness program. I’m happy and content with what I’ve learned and where I’m heading. Two big holidays are right ahead, and I feel empowered rather than restricted by my choices away from sugar and stuffing myself.

As I love myself a bit more, I’m able to see how caring for my fitness is part of that relationship. The relationship between body and mind may be the core that I am strengthening in this process. Sure, we need to do core exercises too, but for me, the emotional healing is harder to address than the physical. We can all eat better and exercise more, and we can all make ourselves miserable.

I declare my misery over. I am in the process of creating a new song of myself. I am singing my own praises and basking in the glow of every success. And even the missed opportunities have lessons, maybe lessons that are rooted in deep and unconscious memories.

Here’s to a happy start for November, my birth month, where I typically get a surge of energy and clearer focus for the next year to come. This is MY month, baby, I’m here to take it.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney
@fitbytech

fitbytech-murray-hendrix

Bill Murray is a hero of self-acceptance, and my most memorable “brush with greatness.” And Jimi Hendrix and I share Nov. as our birth month. Let’s be more musical and loving towards ourselves and others.
–bill murray promo photo, 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

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