Monday, September 1, 2014

The Best Gift Ever....

Well, time has been slipping away from me again. What was intended to be a 4th of July post is finally complete almost 2 months late. The last 2 times I have posted to this blog I have been sharing about my friend Ashley who through diet changes and exercise has had remarkable results.  

Ashley’s journey over the past 4 years, a very brief time, has had some ups and downs, but it has also changed her life. When I look back over my journey of the past nearly 35 years, I remember how as an obese young man I somehow realized that at 260 +/- pounds I needed to learn a new way to eat that didn’t result in excess weight.  Please be sure, I have also had many ups and downs over the years and the learning continues to this day.

I have recently been thinking about what my life might have been like had I not put forth the effort to change compared to how it has been over all these years. I guess what I was really doing was trying to determine if it had been worth it to struggle off and on for over 30 years to maintain a healthy weight, sometimes with more success than others.

I concluded that it is simply beyond comprehension how profound the difference would be between 30 years of life as a morbidly obese adult and the same 30 years of life as a healthy weight adult. Virtually no area of life would be unaffected. Family, relationships, work, play, health, friends and attitude, I could go on endlessly.

One of the questions I asked Ashley was if the effort to change has been worth it. I really think that of all her comments her response to this question is when she became most passionate. She said that now she experiences life by the many things she can do, literally anything she wants to do, including riding a zipline over a rainforest in Honduras, as opposed to sitting on the couch with the television on and watching life pass her by.

For Ashley, all the searching for answers, digging through those cookbooks, meal planning, hours at the gym, the scheduling of all her time and of course the hundreds of miles of running was never a sacrifice. While the result has been more than she ever dreamed possible, the change in her life is the best gift she could have ever given to herself, her family and those who care about her. At some point during the past four years, this journey she is on stopped being about a number on a scale but instead about healthy living and being the woman she wants to be.  

I continue to see Ashley almost weekly and even though she has returned to school she continues with the work that brought her better health. In the short time I have known Ashley she has inspired me with her incredible determination. I am sure she has been and will continue to be an inspiration to countless others as she continues on this journey of self-discovery and change.

While I could continue to write about Ashley for at least a couple more months I want to change the subject with the next post and write a little about a food plan that is designed to help us thrive. So, until I weigh in again at Fear No Scale I wish all, happiness and health eating.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A new life…..

Well, it happened again. I blinked once or twice and seem to have lost an entire month. At the beginning of May I shared that I had met Ashley at a group run. We found out that we shared the common experience of losing nearly a hundred pounds in our late 20’s with the unusual aspect of the time being separated by 3 decades.

It is apparent in talking with Ashley that she loves her new self. I think the reason she is so open about her weight loss is that she would like to share her success with others so they can feel as good as she does.  Today, her only regret is that she waited so long to feel this good.

I know from experience that losing a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise is hard work. Ashley has done many things over the past 4 years that have led to her success. In reading about the changes she has made and the actions she has taken there is one thing that seems to be a common but unspoken theme. She is determined to have success.

Over these 4 years she has tried several things, one might call them tools, to create this change. Some of the tools worked for her and others did not. The tools that worked for her she used and the others she put back in the tool box for possible use at another time. 

In reading Ashley’s comments it became clear that she is a very organized person. I shared last month that one of the things that had worked for her was advance planning. In other words, she did all her menu planning, food shopping and meal preparation on the weekend so healthy meals were ready for the entire week. 

It’s no surprise that she came back to this tool a second time and refined it by using a calendar/planner to schedule her work, school, family and exercise time. One of the pluses of this tool was it helped to keep her accountable. Others likely knew what she was supposed to be doing at certain times but most importantly, she knew.

Another thing that I found really touching is her use of post it notes on her bathroom mirror. Every morning as she starts her day she is encountered with motivating words of encouragement. One of the quotes she sees every morning is If you can dream it, you can do It” and another that I borrowed on an early morning run recently is “There will be a day when I cannot do this, but Today is not that day”. 

Another thing that Ashley does, I have been doing for years. Actually many runners use this strategy. In the summer of 2011 she realized that having a physical goal really helped her stay on track and motivated. So for her August birthday she asked her mother for registration in the January 2012 Disney Marathon. Her birthday present that year was 4.5 months of marathon training. January came and she felt well trained while running the marathon and wonderful afterward.

Apparently she felt so wonderful after the Disney Marathon that she decided to up the ante the next year when she did the Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. In case you are not familiar with this event, it is a half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles in two days. Actually, it sounds kind of fun in a goofy sort of way. In barely 4 years Ashley has gone from morbidly obese non-athlete to completing 2 marathons and 12 half marathons.

Sadly, Ashley also has a photo of her father on the day he passed away. He was in his early 50’s; he smoked, was overweight and did not have a healthy diet. When looking at this photo she thinks about all the things her father missed and realizes that if she makes unhealthy lifestyle choices she could be approximately 20 years from the end of her life.Certainly a strong catalyst for change.

After losing weight many years ago I destroyed every “fat” photo I could find of myself. Ashley is much braver than I in that she has a “fat” photo album that chronicles her journey. She can look at the album and see how far she has come. There was a time when she did not have a chin in photos and now she can see her chin and neck bones. Of course she can also see a difference in her smile. Her description of this album, and how it follows her from sitting down and slumped over to becoming active and doing things like visiting a tourist attraction or finishing a race, is that flipping through the pictures is like seeing her getting up and living life.

When I look back on the marathons that I ran as a young man I believe the experience left me with a feeling that I could accomplish anything. I don’t know if completing marathons, or in Ashley’s case a Goofy marathon and a half in two days, had any effect on her decision but she recently left a position as a manager for a national restaurant chain and returned to the accounting work that she studied while in college. She is studying now to sit for the CPA exam. Not only did she dream it, she is now doing it. 

Almost as a postscript, my recent weight history is in the right sidebar. Not much change there.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Meet my new friend Ashley..................

A while back I mentioned that I hoped to be able to share something a little more interesting in the near future. My intention was to change things up a bit. Since I get a little weary writing about what I eat or don’t eat every month and how it affects my body weight, I am pretty sure a reader might feel the same way. I thought that this month I might tell you about a remarkable young woman that I met at a group run recently. 

As I was nearing the end of a 12 mile training run my path connected with the path that Ashley was running on. I had seen Ashley at the start of the group run on several occasions; however, didn’t really know her and doubt if we had said more than 5 words to each other.  As we ran along on the same path, I introduced myself and we talked a bit about running, kind of the usual small talk, why we run, how long we have been running, you get the idea. It was during this small talk that she informed me she had lost a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise after a warning from her doctor.

Now she had my interest. It turns out that Ashley was told by two doctors in the same week during June 2010 that she was morbidly obese. In the world we live in today it would have been very easy for Ashley to look around, find several people the same size as her or larger and rationalize her excess weight as being normal.  Well she didn’t do that. She listened to that little voice inside, a little voice we all have, and she decided she had to take action.

We got about this far into the story and it was time for Ashley to make the turn and head back to Jacksonville Running Company where the run had started. I had started my run at home so I let Ashley know I would like to continue the conversation in the future and then kept heading west on Gate Parkway.

Over the course of the next several weeks I would often get a chance to chat with Ashley for a little while during the Sunday group run. As I learned more about Ashley’s journey and compared it to mine, I realized there were many similarities. The most prominent being that we both lost a significant amount of body weight, around 100 pounds, in our late 20’s and left a sedentary lifestyle behind to become a runner and athlete. I also recognized two main differences.  Ashley of course is a female and her late 20’s came 3 decades after mine.

I finally told her about this blog and that I had been thinking I might write a little about her journey some time. After giving her some time to look the blog over she seemed willing so I sent her a list of questions. She replied with very thoughtful answers. Her answers were quite personal and very revealing of the kind of determination it takes to have success at losing a significant amount of body weight.

In my questions to Ashley, of course I asked what she had done to lose weight even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer. I assumed she had done as I, restricting and counting calories as much as possible and staying as active as possible to burn calories. Boy was I wrong.

For those that don’t know me well, I am not a TV person. I don’t watch it except for a very few times of the year, all of which involve some sporting event. I’ve even been known to watch football games with the volume off because I don’t want to hear the nonsense the commentators are blathering about. I am also quite sure the worst thing to ever happen to TV programing is the proliferation of what is known these days as Reality TV. When I read that Ashley was a big fan of the show Biggest Loser and had bought their cookbooks I had to change my opinion. If someone can follow a show such as the Biggest Loser, buy their cookbooks and use this information to create positive change in their life, hand me the remote. (Which button controls the volume again?)

The second or third time I ran with Ashley I asked what she felt was the most important thing she did that helped her lose this weight. Again, I thought I knew the answer, again I was wrong. For me, I’ve always felt writing down everything I eat to be the most important thing I can do when trying to lose weight. The rational being that I won’t eat something if I know I have to write it down. For Ashley, it was advance planning. On Sunday, she would plan all the meals for the week, do the shopping and then come home and do all the cooking. So after a long day, when she got off work, dinner was ready and waiting.

I want to wrap up this month’s post with a couple tips from Ashley’s comments. When asked about what an indulgence might be these days I found out that she likes sweets. Well no surprise there. Who doesn’t? The thing is she will have a Weight Watchers single portion sundae and eat it slowly with a CHILDS spoon. Thus, the sundae lasts longer and is usually satisfying.

I also asked what snack or treat is satisfying and does not cause regret. Her response, Apples, is one of my favorites. The combination of crunchy and sweetness is what does the trick. She suggests a good firm apple of any variety. She said that an apple will satisfy even if she is bored hungry. Now bored hungry is a term I haven’t heard before but I can sure relate to eating as a result of boredom. I even caught myself doing it the other day after first seeing the term in Ashley’s response.

I think that is about all I can fit in to this month’s post. I think next month I will share some of the tips and tricks that Ashley has used to keep herself on track and motivated. There is some good information there; in fact I have already borrowed some on a recent run of mine.  

Ashley and I at Jacksonville Running Company on 4/27/2014

My recent weight history from April is in the right sidebar. So I am wishing all a healthy and happy month of May until I again weigh in at Fear No Scale around the first of June.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

If it sounds too good to be true……..

I was at the YMCA for my early morning workout recently and noticed a young man on a treadmill that I had not seen previously. He appeared to be college age; maybe a little older and also appeared to be someone like me who had struggled with weight issues, maybe for most of his life.  I was glad to see him taking action and figured I’d give him a little encouragement if the opportunity ever presented itself.

A little later as I was shaving this same young man went by me and it sounded like he was saying something about being too fat.  I poked my head around the corner as he was heading back toward the shower room just past where I was shaving. I said Hi, ah….. excuse me but it sounded like you said something about being fat.

He was holding one of the YMCA towels in his hand and said he was too fat for the towels. I told him I had seen him on the treadmill and that he was doing the right thing. I very quickly shared that I was 263 lbs. when I was 25 and tried to encourage him to keep doing what he was doing. I think he realized I was being sincere and he thanked me for the comment.  

After not seeing him for a few days, I did see him again near the end of last week so he is back at it.

I mention this incident because not long before this, I had heard a story about another young man, a very bright fellow who had graduated from UNF (the University of North Florida) and had gone to work for the family business. This young man, named Marty, had struggled with his weight; he smoked and had high blood pressure.

I assume that this young man, Marty, had tried to lose the excess weight. Maybe he had even used the same treadmill in the same YMCA. I understand that he had tried to stop smoking which might have caused him to eat more and aggravate the excess weight issue.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy all the rich decadent food that we wanted? We could even use food as a comforter on stressful days. When the inevitable weight gain turned into 50 or 75 or even 100 extra pounds we could just book a visit to the local liposuction clinic and have the excess pounds sucked away. We could then recover and continue to enjoy all the food we wanted knowing that another trip to the liposuction clinic was always an option to cure the effects of excess consumption.   

For some unknown reason, when Marty was 31 years old, he concluded that liposuction was the way to remove the excess body weight. He signed up to have all areas of his body done at the same time. A father to two young children, at 31 years old he passed away within hours of the surgery.

When I heard this story, I realized that it could have applied to me, or maybe even the young man I saw on the treadmill at the YMCA recently. Certainly; eating all the rich decadent food that one wants and just having the resulting fat sucked away and washed down a drain with no ill effects would be too good to be true for many people.

I understand this. Maintaining a healthy body weight is hard work. I know many people try and give up. But it can be done, the old fashion way, through diet and exercise. Hard work that will produce real results.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Eragrostis tef

Here it is the 10th of March. I am finally getting around to updating my weight information in the right sidebar and general comments in the form of a blog post. As you can see from my weight history, since returning from a cruise in January that resulted in a bump up in weight I have for the most part been able to push my weight in the right direction. The drop in weight has just been excruciatingly slow.

I suppose you are wondering about the funny title of this post. Well, Eragrostis tef is a whole grain that is also known by the name Teff. I was reading about this whole grain recently because it is naturally gluten free which is a good fit for our primarily gluten free home.

Teff is an annual grass native to the Ethiopian Highlands of the Horn of Africa. The whole grain has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in fiber and Iron while also providing protein and Calcium. It is said to be similar to Millet and Quinoa in cooking; however, the similarity to quinoa, which I have cooked, was lost on me. The whole grain Teff seed is very small. (think poppy seed)

I also read that Teff is high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood sugar management, weight control, and colon health. It’s estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in teff are resistant starches.

So, after finding out that Teff is available as a whole grain or flour in either a brown or ivory color I came across information about its use. Turns out that Teff flour is used by Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners to make injera, a traditional flat bread which is said to be a staple of their diet. Hummmm……

Teff is now being produced in the USA, primarily in Idaho, and I was able to locate a package of brown whole grain Teff at my local health food store. I’ve been experimenting with mixing it in my oatmeal for the past month or so. The ratio I seem to like the best is 3 parts Teff to 1 part oatmeal. I also throw in some chopped walnuts and diced dried apricots.

So, while Teff is an interesting little grain, I have to report that I am still running more like an elderly Hoosier than a Kenyan or Ethiopian.   

Hopefully, I will be able to share some more interesting information at the start of next month.