Tag Archives: fitness motivation

Friends Along the Path and Chocolate Birthday Cake

WHAT? It’s one of my closest friend’s birthdays. And though I don’t really want to break my sugar fast, I know I am about to. I’ve been drinking only water and eating rather purely, and here comes the chocolate mousse cake. Damn. Before I have a chance to object it’s in front of me with a handy spoon lovingly provided. People are either on the path with you or they are unaware of what you are working on in your life. It’s okay either way. But when the cake arrived, I could’ve made a stand, I could’ve refused and told the story of my new blog to this group of close friends, but… They’re already a bit overwhelmed by my social output, so I ate the cake. It was delicious. And the next morning I hopped back on my fast. Easy.

I want to acknowledge a few friends who are instrumental in my growth and progress. These folks lovingly push me to be better, eat better, live better. We need our friends on the path. That’s part of what this blog is about. Connecting each other on the journey to wellness and health. Here are my top champions and supporters.

My Friends Along the Path

+++ Andrew Long

A 15-year friend and brother. Andrew really pushed me over the line on several of the courses of action that led to this blog in the first place. He’s always challenging my eating habits, fitness, and general life plan. In fact, a conversation I had with Andrew actually kicked my ass into action, and this version of FitbyTech was launched within hours.

I was talking about a post I’d written on another blog, where I described myself as a car. Andrew was quick to ask, “What kind of car did you pick?”

“I’m my current car, a classic 10-year old BMW with a little body damage.”

And his gestalt came immediately. “John, I want to challenge you, once more to take charge of your body image. What would your life be like if you lost 50 lbs?”

“Um…” And I launched this site within a few hours. I had actually purchased the domain a year and a half earlier, again on the push from Andrew about eating healthy.

[Contact Andrew @ Ultralifecoach.com]

+++ Sharron Watts

Sometimes a partner can see things about you that you can’t see about yourself. Sharron showed me how it felt to be truly appreciated and cared for. She provides love, support, food, and encouragement. And she has been one of my staunchest reflectors. We’re both on this food-to-health path and Sharron is the person who turned me on to the Whole 30 concept. She’s also a blogger who digs into her feelings and shares the hard truths. And Sharron has always been able to call me out when I’m not being authentic. “Um, I’m not sure I’m following you on that statement. Can you say it again?”

+++ Nancy Eldridge

Sometimes in life, when things are really hard we need people to touch and heal us. Nancy and I have known each other for 20+ years and she has provided body work for me in all those years. As someone who really knows my body better than anyone else, Nancy has always been able to intuitively dig into both the muscle and sinew as well as the heart of what was going on for me. Her constant support has involved questions about yoga, nutrition, pure water consumption, and years of “touch” healing. Massage is one of the most amazing things you can do for your body. Nancy has always been able to pierce me and nurture me at the same time. To this day I still get massages and I think, “Wow, that was the best massage I’ve ever had.” That is amazing. [email Nancy]

Even though this blog is “byTech” it’s really about friends and countrymen. Without the social connection, I don’t think I would be as motivated. Of course the writing is the thing that will heal and change my life. As I grow and understand more about what makes my body tick, I’ll gain better discipline about how I train, feed, and heal myself.

There are always more friends on the path ahead.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney

image: morning train in nyc, a friend, creative commons usage

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

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

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

image: my 10th grade swim team photo