Sunday, April 3, 2011

Still Here!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still here and fighting!  In late July I sustained a back injury that would prove to be a thorn in my side.  It progressively got worse and was re-injured again and again.  I was dealing with pain, but it began to slow me down and eventually it put me on the sidelines.  I continued to workout weekly, but I could do very little activity outside of that 1-hour a week session.  I was having difficulty walking, standing, and sleeping.  This led to me getting treatment that did not work and I pressed for an MRI.  The MRI revealed that and I have a herniated (extruded) disk in my back.  This means that I will have surgery this month and hopefully get back to almost normal by the end of May or June.  Ironically, it was a back injury that provided the conditions where my weight shot through the roof during my first year of marriage.  Now it has proven to be a blessing,  as I have been tested regarding my devotion to making this change in my life and I have not lost my focus (although it has been very difficult).

I ask for your prayers for a successful surgery and a very speedy recovery, so I can continue to increase my activity and resume my quest for health and fitness.  Until then I am holding fast to the words of Jim Valvano, "don't give up.  Don't ever give up."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Taking a Punch!

I am taking a moment from the chronological side of events and talking about a topic that has been weighing on my mind for about a month now.  It is how I have fought through some weight set backs that have come during the month of July and first part of August.


Through my previous weight loss attempts, I believed that I had sticking points, brick walls that stopped my progress and caused me to revert back to old form.  It is this phenomenon that took place every time I would get to a barrier and I would see my behavior degrade into the same old, same old.  In the past these barriers were events/celebrations (the holidays come to mind), weight loss numbers, or times of year (the stress of beginning school).  The mental block that accompanied these barriers was often the finishing touch that would get me to quit and end promising starts to weight loss efforts.  This all ranged from self-sabotage, fear of missing out on perceived fun, or lack of planning to avoid these sticking points.

However, I am redefining these barriers as punches.  This goes along with my workout routines as I am learning to box from Doug (my trainer).  My belief is that there never was a barrier, but rather a punch that would stagger me.  In the past, I allowed these punches to get me to back down, become complacent, or even forget all the reasons why I was losing weight, and fool myself into believing that it didn't matter what I did.  In life, I always looked at adversity as an opportunity to show what I was made of, except in my weight loss experiences.  I can tell you that is a thing of the past. 

The reality is that everyone who strives to lose weight, takes a punch along the way.  Some of the punches are small, some are big, they vary in frequency, and they always come when we are at our weakest or believe that we are doing everything right.

I had small punches along the way until I took my family on vacation this summer.  When we left, I weighed in at 378.6 and had been fighting a yo-yo of losing and gaining for about three weeks straight.  While on vacation, I had my moments where I would eat too much or make poor choices, but these were always coupled with lots of daily activity.  In fact, I would argue that I was more active that week than I had been during any week over the past five years.  When I returned, I expected to see an increase of maybe a pound or two.  If I was lucky maybe it would even out.  After all, I was active and making decent decisions overall.

As I stepped on the scale, I was subjected to an upper cut from nowhere- 390.6 lbs!  WHAT THE HELL!?!?  Yes, I gained 12 lbs in one week.  Needless to say I was stunned, down in the dumps, and doubting all at once.  As in times past, I needed comfort and I began to eat.  Another day of damage took place as I figured, I will put myself back on track - TOMORROW.  What a dangerous word - tomorrow.  Every great "could've been" starts tomorrow.  However, by the grace of God, I caught myself.  As if I was a boxer who just got knocked to the canvas and realized that the referee was counting, I got my senses and got up to keep fighting.

The first thing I did was take stock.  Twelve pounds in one week, meant there had to be an element of water in all of this.  I started to figure that I could flush and sweat this out of my system.  The remaining weight, well I spent some time trying to figure out what went wrong.  I started to think directly about my meals and calorie intake from the previous week.  As I carefully thought, I realized that I was not making good choices during that week.  At this point, I ended my analysis of the previous week.  In fact, I ended any dwelling on the situation.  This turned out to be very important, as I was fighting the thoughts of how hopeless it all seemed and how much damage I had done.  This was not helping me, in fact it was tearing down my mental focus of staying positive and dwelling on the good that I was accomplishing.

I got back to basics.  Positive mindset, daily affirmations, tracking what I was eating, following through with my workouts, staying away from overly processed foods, and maintaining my spiritual connection for strength.  In doing this, I lost 10.4 lbs that next week.  The following week, I lost the rest of the vacation weight and an extra .2 lbs.  Then I got cocky, and I gained 9.2 lbs the following week.  I refocused again and rebounded with a 10 lb loss.  The reality is that I am sure I was dealing with a good amount of fluid, but this also was an opportunity to learn and believe in myself and the program that I have designed.

I realized that I have to stay focused and that every week will have its ups and downs.  We cannot judge weight loss or any self-improvement, for that matter, on the results of one week or the desperation of a moment.  The key is to take the punch and get up from the canvas.  Hey, anyone can be tough when they are throwing the punches, but it is when we get hit that we find out what we are made of.  As throughout all of time, I believe that people have proven, through God's grace, we are all tough as nails when it counts!  DON'T GIVE UP!  DON'T EVER GIVE UP!

Weekly Update: I am excited to say that I have met my next goal!  I weighed in at 373.4 lbs yesterday morning (the goal was to get to 375).  This is a 4.2 lb elimination from the week previous.  My next goal is a short one, as I strive to get to the 60 lbs lost marker (when I reach 372.2 lbs).

Overall, I am in good place, but I must admit losing 58.8 lbs and realizing that I am not even close to my overall goal is disheartening.  However, I am staying focused on going one day at a time and I remind myself that it took me 37 years to gain all this weight.  It is not going to come off overnight or even in one year.  I just have to keep plugging away.  :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Turning Point

Before I begin my next entry, I wanted to say thank you to so many people who have checked in with me or those close to me to make certain I was OK and still pressing forward.  If you are one of those people, THANK YOU!  I kept wanting to put a new post up, but I was allowing life to engulf me, thus I had to refocus my priority towards my accountability.  However, I have not lost focus on my goals and my program.  I am still pushing forward.  In the words of L.L. Cool J, "Don't call it a comeback.  I've been here for years."  :)

As I started to focus more on nutrition and what was in my food, I began to think about it as fuel for my body.  If I eat better foods, then it should translate into me feeling better, stronger, and having more energy.  I began to wonder what it would be like to truly begin to feel good physically.  I could remember my more athletic self, but I couldn't remember what it was like to feel good.  I couldn't remember what it was like to run and not want to fall down exhausted, or use my muscles and not feel like I was moving a house, go up the stairs without wondering if I would make it to the top.  As I began to steer clear of certain processed foods, I approached the opportunity to work with Doug Owens.  Doug, as I mentioned in the last blog entry, is a world class trainer who has helped people from all walks of life from professional athletes to cancer patients, from the extremely fit to the very obese.  He has the skill to tailor a program for anyone at any stage of fitness to help them build confidence and their body.  His knowledge of the human body, its functions, limits, and nutritional needs is absolutely amazing.  Yet he condenses this knowledge into common terms, integrates it and explains it during workouts.  He has become a great resource and an essential member of the "don't give up" team.

As stated before, I knew Doug personally for about a year before I took him up on the offer to train with him.  I had three hurdles to clear before I would take this plunge.  First, I was concerned about the cost; personal trainers are expensive, but he doesn't focus on bankrupting his clients.  He is more focused on how he can help people and makes himself affordable even though he has the credentials to be much more expensive.  The second hurdle was the reality that I needed to be certain that I would be committed to this endeavor.  This hurdle was cleared when I decided to make this overall change.  The final hurdle was simple fear.  Could I physically do this?  As I gained weight, I viewed myself to be a lot fitter than I was even though I had put on all this weight.  Now, I had to confront another reality of my condition:  I was severely unfit.

In order to give an accurate picture of what Doug had to work with when I started with him, I submit the following information:  Every day I would wake up drive to work, park my car and walk approximately twenty yards to the entry of our school.  I dreaded this walk because if I walked too fast I would get winded covering that distance.  Then I would get to my office, sit for a part of the day, go to meetings, visit classrooms (either sitting or walking in each), then return home and sit on the couch, absolutely drained of all energy with no ability to recuperate.  I literally could not lift another finger to do anything.  I was completely gassed at the end of a day.  The sadder part, it would be worse on days that I had to stay late for sports or evening events.  I recall the energy it took to get up from the couch and walk to the kitchen, my computer room, or my bedroom.  I had no energy and was being suffocated by my weight.  In the end, breathing was starting to become a difficult task.  This is what Doug had to work with, a man who had heart, but could barely function physically.

On top of all the physical difficulties and limitations, I hated to work out.  During the years that I coached football, I had tried a variety of programs and workouts to get fit, but none of the typical "go into the gym and walk on the treadmill or lift weights" programs even remotely interested me.  When it comes down to it, I believe that you have to enjoy the activity that you chose to undertake in order to stay or get fit.  I never liked those traditional scenarios.  I did some things on the non-traditional side of activity; Tae Bo workouts were ordered at one point and that didn't make me feel anything but ridiculous.  If those things work for you, more power to you; but standing in front of the TV, kicking and punching the air while praying that no one would see my Hong Kong Phoey routine wasn't doing it for me.  I tried to take up running or walking, but running absolutely wrecked me; walking was OK, but it didn't quite hit the spot.  What felt right to me was competition, physical action, and sport as a package deal.  This is right in Doug's wheel house.

I remember the uncertainty, anxiousness, excitement, and doubt as I drove to my first workout.  I was concerned about being able to do things well enough to matter.  I was anxious and worried that I would injure myself.  I was excited about a new beginning.  I was doubting whether or not I would actually do this long term and pull off this whole program I had designed.  After all, this is where the rubber meets the road and the real physical work begins.  As these and many other thoughts rolled through my head over and over, I turned to my iPod for inspiration.  After getting a little pumped from hearing The Notorious BIG's Hypnotize, I heard a song that has inspired me before - Lose Yourself, by Eminem.  The lyrics were perfect, the beat was energizing me, and I focused on a vision of what all of this will produce when I become healthy and fit.  I temporarily set aside my doubts and pulled into Doug Owen's Personal Fitness and Boxing.  A place that would soon become a safe haven for me.  A place that I would consistently use to refocus and stay positive in my fight to regain my life.  A place where Doug and I would have conversations and do the work to change my life.  It is a place where I would have to push myself and test my resolve to my mantra:  Don't give up.  Don't ever give up.

Weekly Update:  Well it has been too long since my last weekly update, however I have been on the roller coaster all summer with birthday parties, travel, vacation and a lack of routine that I thought would be a benefit.  However, I found it to be exceptionally difficult to stay focused and maintain my progress.  I am happy to report that I have weighed in at 379.8 lbs this week.  This is an overall loss of 52.4 lbs and I am closing in on my next goal of eclipsing the 375 lb mark.  I am so thankful for all the encouraging messages, texts, and phone calls.  Thanks and I'm back on the weekly blog schedule.

On a final note, I have received many comments about having trouble leaving comments because of the log in requirements of blogspot.  I have now removed that restriction from this blog.  Have a great week.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I Am What I Ate

As I was intrigued about my knowledge or lack thereof about nutrition, I started to focus on re-educating myself regarding the foods I have known so intimately throughout my life.  I began with research into a common ingredient - high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This food additive was first brought to my attention by my former counselor.  She challenged me to give up this ingredient early on in my process of regaining my life and I shrugged it off.  I figured at this point, why not give it a read and see what is so bad about it.  So like everything else, I googled "dangers of high fructose corn syrup".  What I found was controversial, debated, and disturbing; HFCS is being attributed to obesity, food addiction, liver damage, diabetes, mercury poisoning, and a host of other issues.  As I read site after site, I began to google more combinations to see what else I could learn. 

When I finished gorging on information three things stuck with me: 1) this additive was put in feed for livestock to make them fatter; 2) since it has been a part of the American diet, we have gained weight and have fought the weight gain with little success; and 3) its safety is the subject of hot debate.  Regarding number 3, someone made this comment to me, "why is it in other countries, nothing can be given to the public without knowing for certain that it is safe.  Yet we are allowing this substance to be widely used with such debate and uncertainty."  If you doubt the validity of this claim, I reference the use of asbestos, lead, mercury, tobacco, Fen-phen, and ephedra, just to name a few items that prove this statement.  I do not know if it is just a problem in this country though. 

As I continued my research into HFCS, I found that this is in the vast majority of products that we eat.  I began to become keenly aware of my food and its ingredients.  I began to take the time to read labels and know what I was putting into my body.  I am not going to claim to be a food or nutrition guru, people who go in those professions and have far more training and knowledge than I, but I solidly believe that HFCS is a major concern for our country and especially those who are overweight.  Anyone ever hear a story where someone eliminates regular soft drinks and they drop weight?  Yes, the big ingredient is high fructose corn syrup.  Some will say, well its about the empty calories.  I partially agree.  However, in lab studies animals were given sugar water and water with HFCS.  The end result, those with HFCS gained weight and became overweight, those with sugar water did not. 

This does not mean that we can eat sugar with reckless abandon, but it does implicate that HFCS changes us on a chemical level and may make us more susceptible to gain weight.  How many of us have talked about cutting calories, but we are frustrated that the weight will not come off?  I now I believe I know why.  I almost forgot to mention, fast food has HFCS as a major ingredient.  Could this be why it is addictive and linked to obesity?  I think I the information on HFCS answers these questions as well.

As I continued to learn and develop concepts of what foods I should choose to put in my mouth, I began to watch "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution."  This show really was focused on healthy eating and helping people rediscover proper nutrition in the schools, in their homes, and in their personal lives.  Jamie's main premise was to eliminate products that had ingredients people were unfamiliar with.  In regards to reading labels of foods people should buy, he would say, "if an ingredient sounds like it could be in a science experiment, stay away from it."  I began to follow this premise along with the idea that I needed to stay away from processed foods or ready made foods when possible.  He claims that we need to return to a more simplistic way of eating.  Jamie stressed that we need to stop poisoning ourselves with processed, unhealthy options, and that we can't afford to cut our lives short just because our current life is hectic, we are stressed, or we don't have time for healthy options.  As his show continued to unfold, my thoughts started to come together.  Maybe we, as a country, aren't getting fat because of larger portions, inactivity, or the types of food we are eating.  Maybe we are getting fat because the additives in our food are causing us to react and crave in a way that our bodies are not meant to tolerate?  If these additives are causing us to gain weight and making us want to eat when we are full, if they are causing us to feel less satiated, which in turn causes us eat more, gain weight, which results in us not wanting to be more active then we are dealing with more than just calories.  I decided to eliminate HFCS, trans-fats, and focus on a healthier lifestyle.

This brings me back my great friend, Kris.  I wrote in an earlier post about her support and how she would bring healthy foods into work so we can have healthy options instead of the regular processed food that was available.  Her support and knowledge became critical as I began to look at nutrition differently.  As I shared my thoughts, she validated it with her knowledge.  I began to ask why she ate organic foods and picked foods from a natural food store in the area.  We had a great conversation and she talked to me about the knowledge of another friend.  His name is Doug Owens. 

At this point, I had known Doug for over a year as he and Kris had been and are currently dating.  Doug is a very unassuming person.  He does not brag and is a very low key individual, but his knowledge regarding nutrition and fitness, in my opinion, is rivaled by no one else I have ever talked to in my life.  Doug is a world class trainer.  He owns Doug Owens Personal Fitness and Boxing ( and has trained Jody Shelly (NHL), Brady Quinn (NFL), James "Buster" Douglass (World Champion in Boxing), and many others from cancer patients to other world class athletes.  I decided that it was time for me to begin the exercise portion of my life.  After a few text messages, I had enlisted his help into my personal fitness.  A new part of my journey would begin as I scheduled time to work with him once a week on my health and wellness.  I was just about to turn the corner in my fight.  I had a new level of accountability and I knew that I had my unhealthiness on the run.  I said to myself, don't give up.  Don't ever give up.

Some links on HFCS

Weekly Update: I am excited to report that as of Saturday, June 19, I weighed in at 381.2.  This is a 2.8 lb elimination from last week and gets me to another personal goal of getting to the 50 lbs eliminated mark.  Overall, I have eliminated 51 lbs and I am no where near the end.  It is bittersweet as I have never lost this much weight before, but I realize that I still have so far to go.  The only thing that I can do is stay focused on the next step and stay committed.  My next goal is to get under the 370 lb marker.  Till next week, I wish you all the best.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Might As Well Face It Your Addicted to Food...

As you read the words of this title I hope you hear the 1980's mega hit from Robert Palmer, "Addicted to Love"..."might as well face it your addicted to food, huh!"

Please enjoy reading my parody lyrics to this once famous song:

Your lights are on, but you're not home
Your mind is not your own
Your body sweats, your stomach aches
Another burger is what it takes
You can't sleep, cuz you can eat
There's no doubt, you're in deep
Your throat is tight, you can't breathe
Another bite is all you need
Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff,
oh yeah
It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough, you
know you're
Gonna have to face it, you're addicted to food
You see the signs, and then you read
A couple bucks is all you need
Your mouth waters and then you spy
Another item and a large fry
You can't be saved
Oblivion is all you crave
If there's some left for you
Eat it tomorrow, is what I'll do
Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff,
oh yeah
It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough, you
know you're
Gonna have to face it, you're addicted to food

And now this week's entry:
As I watched the many reality shows on TV that deal with the addictions that people face, I couldn't help but see a commonality with what I was fighting in my own life.  The pain, stress, need, desire, and preoccupation that those people felt and battled were eerily similar to the emotions and desires of myself towards food.  Finally, the realization hit home as I was faced with my counselor telling me that I was dealing with an addiction to food.  My first reaction was one of relief, I can finally put a name on this problem and really start to deal with it.  My second reaction, which I verbalized, was loaded with sarcasm "Seriously?"  I then said, "Addiction is real, it is ugly, it can kill, and it is crippling.  Everyone is claiming addiction these days from sex to food to the use of the internet; how can this be an addiction."  I have to hand it to my counselor, who patiently pointed out that my misuse of food was doing everything that I had pointed out in that statement.  My problem was real, it was ugly, it was killing me and it was crippling me in the process.  I hate being wrong, but I was and my own words condemned me.  I broke mentally and spiritually at that moment.  The realization that I was trapped in an addiction became so monstrous that I literally broke.  I didn't cry, but I could feel my will change, my heart sink, and my self-confidence die.  I was in way over my head and didn't see any way out.  As I sat in the chair across from my counselor, my head hung low and I asked in a low soft voice, "What now?"

In reality, I wasn't just asking that question to my therapist.  I was asking it to God, myself, and my counselor.  Her response was measured, "I have a book for you."  The book was Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.  She said she wanted me to read it and tell her what I thought about it.  I remember leaving there with an internal fight taking place in my head.  It centered around the overuse of the term addiction to explain so many behaviors.  I could not come to terms with this being a disease or something I was genetically engineered to fight; something was not sitting right with me.  Then I realized, I needed to allow myself to believe that addiction had levels of severity.  Most of you just went, "DUH", I know you did, I heard it.  After watching so many shows about drug addiction it skewed my thinking that all addictions had to look the same in severity.  We all know and understand that addiction ranges from caffeine to drugs.  I needed to find a niche where my addiction fit within that range.

As I began to read the book, Addiction and Grace, my realization grew that the same common principles that foster addiction are present in my fight to gain independence from food.  I realized that just because you are dealing with an addiction, it does not provide you with a built in excuse or cop out if you fail.  In my opinion, addiction constitutes an unhealthy preoccupation, dependence, or obsession about something.  I am not a professional counselor and I am sure there are some holes in this definition, but I am explaining what it means to me.  In order to conquer my dependence on food, I thought I needed more visits to the doctor.  However, I was soon to learn that would not be the case. 

Through reading this book, I began to realize that hope was growing stronger within me.  As I read page 18, I realized that I would not and will not be a slave to my misuse of food any longer.  I would like to share one excerpt and a quote that focuses on the spiritual side of hope.  The context is centered on how the human spirit can break free and deal with the attachment to addiction:

"We are dependent upon grace for liberation from our addictions, but those very addictions impair our receptivity to grace.  The message may not sound like good news.  Yet God creates and cares for us in such a way that our addictions can never completely vanquish our freedom.  Addiction may oppress our desire, erode our wills, confound our motivations, and contaminate our judgment, but its bondage is never absolute.  Because of God's continuing love, the human spirit can never be completely obliterated.  No matter how oppressed we are, by other people and circumstances or by our own internal addictions, some small capacity for choice remains unvanquished."

The word "choice" caused my heart to race because I had, up until now, believed that once addiction grabs hold of you, you are powerless.  I couldn't and can't accept this.  I think that as people, we are better and stronger than we believe.  I have witnessed it frequently in my 37 years on this planet- the human spirit is strong.  Through God you are strong, I am strong, we are strong - its true!  "The bare edge of freedom is insured and preserved inside us by God, and no matter what forces oppress us from without or within, it is indestructible." (May, pg. 18)  This is where I connected to one of my quotes that I mentioned in a previous post.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippines 4:13)  The light bulb went on and the gears in my brain started working. (Insert ears smoking joke here.)

Addiction, in my opinion, is slavery.  Slavery to a substance, feeling, or whatever the case may be; I am not saying that I lock, stock and barrel believe in all the claims of addiction, but true addiction is slavery.  Time to break the bonds!  It was in this moment that I began to see a greater value in the 7 points or pillars that I had written on my marker board in December.  I started to think that maybe I didn't know as much as I thought about nutrition and exercise.  I began to research things I was hearing about, such as high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats.  My readings lead me to understand on a greater level, why I was craving food.  Why I was feeling trapped and addicted.  Nutrition holds a bigger stake in this fight than I had ever dreamed.  It was more than just calorie burn, it was more than just what companies said was healthy and beneficial for me.  It was a realization that holds tremendous power and a huge key to my success.  It lead me to reach out to a powerful friend, who would be a critical part in my success.  It made me realize that I was finding a key to the castle and that now was not the time to quit.  I latched on to those familiar words, don't give up.  Don't ever give up.

Weekly Update:  Sorry for the two week delay in posts, it has been exceptionally busy at work and I haven't had the time to sit down and blog.  Thank you to everyone who checked on me and made sure I was still fighting!  Your support and concern is very much appreciated.

As of last week, June 5, 2010, I weighed in at 385.6, this is a 4.6 lb elimination.  This week, I weighed in at 384.0 lbs.  This 1.6 lb elimination brings my over all number to 48.2 lbs eliminated and I feel amazing.  Thanks again for all the positive support.  Have a great week!

Congratulations to the Lindsey and Brent Wise on the birth of their daughter McKinley Marie Wise!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Little Help From My Friends

As I began to see benefits from my work regarding my mindset and realized that a positive outlook was not too far out of reach, I started on another point or pillar of my wellness program- creating an infrastructure of support.  As I took this step, I quickly realized that this was the hardest part of my process.  How can I tell people what I am doing, when I don't know if I will succeed?  Will I quit this process like all the other programs I've tried?  Will I let myself down again?  Will I let down those who support me?  One thing is certain; if I don't bring people in, then I cannot succeed.  But if I bring them in and fail, I fear that I will reach a new low; to fail myself is one thing, to fail them is another.  I know they won't judge me, but if I lose this time I will intensify the judgment on myself.

Another obstacle was the question of  "how do I want people to help?"  Surely, I can't expect anyone to approach this with the same intensity and I don't want them to watch over me.  I just need some support.  I thought about this dilemma for a long time.  It has been an issue that has created uncertainty amongst my friends and family.  How can they help me?

At first, I didn't think anyone could help.  I did not want to burden anyone with my problems.  In some ways, I am an extremely private person, and my weight struggle is smack in the center of that privacy.  At times I wondered, "Does anyone really care about this?"  We all have so much going on, I don't want to burden my friends and family.  However, they do care.  They care more than I could ever imagine.  Ultimately, I didn't know how their help should look, so I started slow, one step at a time.

First, I told Michele, my wonderful wife, that I was making this change.  I told her about the program and what I intended to do.  Needless to say, she was behind me and consistently has made sacrifices to make certain that I can get the help I need.  She is the backbone of this operation and she has encouraged, tolerated, and supported every effort I have made to regain my life and fitness.  Next, I told the two women who are cornerstones of my everyday life, Kris, who is one of my closest friends and a co-worker; and Mary who is my co-worker and guardian.  Kris and I spend an inordinate amount of time together and eat at least one meal a day together. Outside of my wife, she has proven to be my MVP in many many ways.  Mary is our building secretary and quite possibly a superhero.  She guarded my door from allowing temptation to enter and derail my focus on nutrition and fitness.  Mary and Kris would be pivotal in my early and continued success.

I asked Mary and Kris to help me by making sure no one brought tempting foods into my office to share.  It wasn't because I wanted to be anti-social, but early in my fight I did not know what could or would trigger me to eat poorly, so I had to ban it all.  Mary was especially effective at this, because she was at the point of attack, right outside of my office.  She would banish pizzas, donuts, and cookie trays to the guidance office; everyone else knew it was there, but I was unaware of  its presence due to her intervention.  This was a tremendous help.

Kris kept a vigilant eye as well, but as our assistant principal, she was often out of the office, in the halls, in meetings, or in classrooms.  In the midst of all of that, she was deeply invested in my cause.  It took me about a month from the beginning of my journey to enlist her help, but her help was nothing short of powerful.  Early in my fight, I sat in my office, engrossed in a parent meeting and I was missing a group lunch celebration, which was not unusual.  Normally when I would miss something like this, someone would stop by after and tell me where the leftovers were and I would proceed to eat alone and too much due to being extremely hungry.  However on this day, Kris was two steps ahead.  As the parent left my office, I heard someone shout, "I'll tell him." and Kris immediately reply with "No. I got it."  A minute or two later, she appeared with two plates of salad, fruit, and water.  I can't say that I was excited, realizing that there was real food down the hall, but "I asked for this," I thought to myself. 

First, let me say that the salad was very healthy and to my surprise it tasted amazing.  Second, I went back for seconds and had no desire to have anything else.  You may not be shocked, but I never had that feeling before about a salad.  Kris and I had a healthy lunch together, talked work as usual, and went about the rest of our day.  This moment was a catalyst for change.  In the following days and weeks, Kris would bring in healthy lunches to share over and over again.  This set me on a course to really look into my thoughts regarding nutrition and the foods I was eating.  The foods she brought tasted amazing and were very healthy.  She helped me get over some of the hardest temptations early on by showing me a different way to approach lunch.  I began to think, "Help is good."

The next steps were out of necessity.  Even though Kris and Mary were helping me and I had sworn them to secrecy, we needed to let others know that I was avoiding foods that were harmful.  I expanded my circle of trust to include others at work and some of my closest friends, but I could not push it further.  Let me rephrase this, I would not push it further.  I feared the uncertain.  If people knew about this would they feel guilty eating around me?  I hope not, but it has happened before.  If people knew about my efforts, would they still invite me to social events?  I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or have to think too much about my problem.  My biggest obstacle to letting more people in on the plan was the fear that if everyone knew what I was doing, then they would be watching.  Guess what - they were watching anyway; but before they were watching me self-destruct.  Everyone needd to know about my plan, so I could have a greater accountability in what I was doing.  I needed to be out of the proverbial dieting closet - exposed as someone who has made a commitment to getting healthy and fit.

In the coming weeks and months, I took one step after the other: telling my parents, telling more friends, telling several co-workers, and everyone who brought me sweets at work.  However, I still felt as though I was holding back.  This brings me to the magic of Facebook.  At the time, I had just joined Facebook and was really enjoying connecting with old friends and classmates from my hometown.  They knew me when I was rockin the speedo at the Poland Swim Club and when I fronted the one night only performance of Heavy B and the Leddicks.  It was almost as if I was remembering myself as I reconnected with old friends.  A flood of positive memories came back to me as I found more and more people who I had lost touch with over the years.  It was this social networking tool and the inspiration of one of the most courageous individuals I know that pushed me to do more and go further.

For two years, I have been mocking my friend Brent and his Wentworth Chronicles blog and Mike McD and his technology addiction.  On February 25, 2010, Brent posted a blog titled, "Courage" it was about Mike and his upcoming surgery to amputate his right leg below the knee.  I actually read it and was inspired by his words about Mike.  A little over a month later, Mike started his own blog about his life change and how excited he was about it.  I was again inspired.  If Mike could talk about this and face this with so much hope and courage, I could do it too.  It was my friends who made me realize the power of the internet for inspiration, support, and accountability.  A day after Mike posted his first blog, I posted the beginning of my story.  I linked it to Facebook and announced it to the world of almost all who know me.  It was uncomfortable to say the least.  I led off with a post that would prove to help others help me, it was titled, "How Can I Help."

I feared many things about posting my story.  I feared that I would be bothering people with my texts about the link or Facebook updates.  I didn't want to do it for attention and worried about that perception.  I just wanted to gain the accountability of knowing that everyone was aware of my struggle and my mission, but instead something incredible happened.  Many friends joined me in the fight.  The words of encouragement, support, and information has helped me gain strength and impacted me deeply.  I have considered it a blessing and have taken to heart each comment, knowing that you are behind me.  I thank you all very much.

Through all of this, one territory remained. Tthere was one last place to hide - work.  Yes, some people knew what I was doing at work, but not many.  When you are in a leadership position of any kind, being vulnerable is a difficult thing to do.  You often need to be tough, focused, and strong.  However, I needed to let everyone in on my struggle and my focus.  Finally, in the middle of April, I told our staff what I had been going through and that I vowed to make a change in my life.  It was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life.  In the end, they responded with understanding and support.  I am lucky to work with a great group of people. 

I had all the major players on board, there was no choice but to refuse to lose.  This support network has been a true inspiration and motivator.  I consistently say to myself, "Don't give up.  Don't ever give up."

 ***Weekly Update***  This Saturday, I weighed in at 390.2 lbs, which is an elimination of 2.2 lbs for the week and a total of 42 lbs overall.  I am happy to have passed the 40 lb marker, but I am focused on reaching my 10% reduction goal.  I have had to keep my focus on fitness and nutrition over numbers.  I continually stress to myself that it is not about the numbers, but about how I feel.  Thanks again for all of your  support.  Have a great week!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley

The realization of my negative state of mind, produced shocking and scary thoughts.  I firmly believe that if we believe we will fail - we will.  If we allow negativity to permeate our thinking the proverbial dark cloud will follow us and make it nearly impossible for us to overcome great obstacles.  I cannot succumb to the sense of "woe is me".  I must turn this thought process around.  If I can't turn this around internally, it's over before it begins.  So the question arises: How do I turn my self-defeating  mentality into quiet confidence and belief that I can do this, I can get healthy and fit?  I knew that this whole process would be tough, but suddenly I realized that I was fighting for more than just my health, but for myself.  The application of the anonymous quote, "anything worth having is worth fighting for" applies here.  It is my turn to answer the bell and fight for my mentality and all that I believed I was and wanted to be in life.  I thought that I had to get out of my comfort zone, my box, and listen to another perspective.  Without regard to how touchy feely, weird, or ridiculous I felt it was, I began to follow the advice of my counselor.

First, I began to attend Weight Watcher (WW) meetings every Saturday morning.  I never went to the actual meeting, but I had been back and forth to that same group so much over the past four years, they knew me by name, and I had developed a rapport with two of the ladies who took the weekly weigh-ins. I found myself getting personal attention and advice from them.  They cheered my successes and gave me encouragement when I fell.  They were always positive no matter what I had done that week.  If I had gained, they would often share tips and stories of when they had a hard time and how they kept with it.  If I had lost, no matter how little, they would celebrate with me.  To this day, I have not gone to a single WW meeting; I simply weigh-in and leave, but that interaction is all I need.

The second piece of advice that I took was to begin saying two daily affirmations.  Does anyone remember Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live?  Al Franken played a strangely positive, yet bizarre self-help guru on this segment who seemed addicted to his affirmations.  "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me." was his favorite saying and he did so in a way to mock the whole self-help culture.  This is a hilarious segment and something that I have done an impression of for years.  However, I couldn't get past that image.  Seriously, I'm going to look at myself and whisper sweet nothings into my own ear?  I must be seriously cracked!  Wait a minute.  We do this all the time.  I began to realize that this is just the act of making sure your self-talk isn't always negative.  How many times have you looked in the mirror and said, I look awful.  I am too fat.  Or thought to yourself, this is too much.  I can't do this.  I can't..., won't..., am ...  Our lives are filled with daily affirmations or destructive comments.  A daily affirmation is simply taking the time to say something positive to yourself.  It doesn't have to be hokey or even something you believe whole-heartedly, but it has to be something that you say that is positive to offset the destructive nature of your negative comments to yourself.

What if you don't believe it?  This was my question when told this was something I needed to do.  "It doesn't matter.  You will eventually," was the response.  This reminded me of something I heard years ago regarding politics and political viewpoints.  I often wondered why politicians said outrageously polarizing and fear mongering comments when dealing with issues, so I asked about it in one of my classes at Youngstown State University.  The response by my professor was that if you say it long enough and strong enough, people will believe it.  It made total sense and it does again now.  If you say it long enough and strong enough to yourself - you will believe it.  That is how I became negative, that is how I will began to think differently about myself, and that is how I will begin to climb out of this hole.  Now, I take a moment every day to look in the mirror and say two positive things to myself.  They are too personal to share via internet, but I can attest that I am benefiting from a more positive mindset.

The next step was to incorporate an aspect of spirituality into my fight.  As I drive to work everyday, I spend time in prayer.  In doing so, I always ask God to help me stay focused on my health and fitness.  I ask for the strength and focus to do what is right for my nutrition and family's health.  This is important for two reasons.  I say it as one of the first things I ask for because it helps me focus on these concepts and it allows me to realize that in order to take care of others, I must take care of myself.  The second, but significantly more important concept is that I am asking for the power of God to intervene and to help me win this fight.  "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

No successful mission to gain self-confidence and positive self-speak is without a moment of great grace or success.  My moment came in January on a rainy and cold night.  I was working at the school, which is 35 minutes from home, and I was obsessing about a craving.  This craving had haunted me all week long and was getting ready to erupt like a volcano.  I had resisted the temptation to stop at this particular fast food place on the way to work, but it was about 7 o'clock and I was now starving for dinner.  As I drove home, the battle raged within my head.  I not only lost the battle, but went way overboard.  I ordered way too much of this sandwich and did so without conscience.  I didn't care at the moment.  I just wanted to give in to this temptation.  No thought of long-term impact or consequences were in my mind, just sweet relief from the obsession.  As I was gorging in the parking lot on this food, I came to a realization.  I can't really taste this.  I was eating it so fast that the taste I was desiring was non-existent.  So I slowed down.  As I began to taste this food, I began to think, "this doesn't taste as good as I thought it would.  I can't believe I am craving this."  I heard myself say the words, "After this, I am done with fast food."  Just like that, I finished the last of the items, threw the trash away and drove out of that parking lot.  I have not eaten any fast food since.  I have had my cravings, but resisted based on those feelings and experience of that night.  I needed this in the worst way.  This one success gave me a platform to rebuild my confidence in myself.  Everyone needs a little success, I think that I found it and held on so dearly that it became a bigger impact than what it had been initially.

As I reported my success to my counselor and explained the events of that night, she asked me to read a book, "Addiction and Grace" by May.  This book began to open my eyes further to the fight I was facing.  She began to talk to me about my problem being an addiction, and as I read this book I observed some striking similarities.  I do not believe that I am dealing with anything that resembles the grim realities of drug addiction, but in viewing my struggle in this light, I started to understand how to facilitate my plan in a greater, more specific way.  I know more than ever that this was a struggle not just for me, but for all those who care about me.  I continued to say to myself, "don't give up.  Don't ever give up."

***Weekly Update***  As of yesterday morning, Saturday, May 21, 2010, I weighed in at 392.4 llbs.  This marks an 2.8 lb elimination from the previous week and a 39.8 lb elimination overall.  I am approximately 4 lbs away from meeting my 10% reduction in body weight.  I am feeling great and have a great group of people in my life to thank for it!  Have a great week!