I ignored the weight gain for years. I mean, I knew it was happening, I just did nothing. My clothes stopped fitting. I missed wearing my favorite shirts. But I wasn’t motivated to make a change.
It was embarrassing, too. A healthy lifestyle is important to me. So important I included a chapter about health and nutrition in my book. But years of travel were taking their toll on my body, my health, and my spirit.
Then, this past December, my son hugged me goodnight and commented “Papa, your heart is beating fast”. Yeah, sometimes my heart was beating a bit faster than usual. I had noticed but didn’t think much about the palpitations until he said something. At that point I started thinking about friends and colleagues that have died suddenly due to heart failure.
So, it was time to make some changes.
Setting a Goal
I set a goal to run a local road race. It was a simple enough race, a 10k, something I have run many times before. I dusted off my account with Nike Run Club and picked out a training plan. The race was mid-March, giving me about 10 weeks of training.
The first two weeks I was up early and at the gym. I would walk on a treadmill for about 10 minutes, then jog for about ten (when I wasn’t winded) and then play basketball (again, when I was able to breathe).
I was two weeks into the training and decided to have a health screen. Well, I didn’t decide to have the health screen, I was bribed. My HMO offers a discount on monthly premiums if you consent to the screen. So, I give them my blood, they give me $50 a month reduction in premiums. For $600 on the year, I decided I would make the appointment.
When I got there, I told the physician that I didn’t want them to reveal my weight to me. They complied. I will assume they get that request a lot. When they took my blood pressure it was high enough to cause concern. We did it a second time, the reading was a tad lower, and they decided I didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital right away.
Less than a week later my results showed up in an email. I didn’t look, fearing I would see my weight. A few days later an envelope showed up. Inside were my results. I put them aside, not wanting to see my weight.
A week later, curious to know about my cholesterol levels, I decided to look at the results. I knew it was possible to avoid seeing the weight and focus on the other metrics.
The results were poor. Alerts for total cholesterol and for glucose. The glucose results labeled me as “pre-diabetes”. My body was slowly refusing to break down insulin created naturally. I was on track to have Type-II diabetes.
I was now more determined than ever to make a change in my life.
Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog
Christmas 2016 I was given the book Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog, written by Grant Petersen. I opened it up and didn’t put it down until done.
Everyone should read this book. I wouldn’t tell you to follow all the advice, but there is bound to be something in there that you can take away. For me, it was reinforcing a few key concepts:
- The amount of carbs in my diet had me on track for Type2 diabetes.
- I would remove unnecessary carbs from my diet by cutting back on beer, wine, popcorn, chips, etc.
- I would eat more proteins during the day and get necessary carbs from leafy greens and some fruit.
Grant is a huge fan of keto. I’m not as big a fan, I don’t want my body to start consuming itself through ketogenesis.
OK, Maybe Jog a Little Bit
In addition to diet advice, Grant also talks about exercising. He is a big advocate for upping the intensity of a workout, instead of longer workouts. So, instead of jogging for 11 miles, you jog for 3 but pick up the pace. This is a training technique I did previously for road races, and worked well for me. Grant reminded me about the Tabata, a routine that encourages brief outputs of intensity. I started incorporating Tabatas as well.
And that’s been my life for 2018. I haven’t traveled as much this year, but when I do I bring my workout clothes and sneakers. In mid-July I was down a full 50 pounds. I still have more to go. My heart doesn’t race as much. I’m not as short of breath. I can jog again, and run up and down a basketball court without the need for an oxygen tank.
I don’t have a “before” photo to share, but here is the photo taken in the studio last month:
And here is a photo that helps to show how large my pants were, and I can see my feet again:
Here’s my list of tips and tricks for you. A quick warning: I am not a doctor. The things I did worked for me, they may not work for you. Like, not at all. Every person is different. This list is the result of decades of understanding what works best for my body and lifestyle. Take the parts that make sense for you and give them a try. You might find success as well.
Use a Meal Tracker
I use MyFitnessPal to track meals and exercise. This was a great way to understand all the different ways carbs were creeping into my diet. For me, it helps to write down what I eat during the day. If nothing else, it’s a great way to remind me how much I have eaten, which helps to avoid overeating. If you have an account, connect with me, I’d love to help you reach your goals.
I tried to keep carbs low at first, less than 30g a day for a week or so. But I believe that your body needs a mixture of foods, like fiber, that have carbs. That’s why I call this “smart-carb”. I didn’t shun all of them, just the unnecessary ones. One of the worst things? That carb-tray that Delta passes around the first-class cabin. There’s nothing worth eating, so I pack my own Epic bars. I’ve cut back on beer and wine, too. I try to eat food higher in protein, low in carbs.
Build a food routine
For breakfast, a boiled egg, a slice of bacon, and a coffee is all I need. I do this most every day of the week. Even when I’m on the road I can find a boiled egg as part of the hotel continental breakfast. This lets me have a routine, and routine is good. For lunch I go with some leafy greens (OK, it’s a salad), with some protein (tune, chicken, steak). I find I don’t need to snack as much or as often. Then for dinner, whatever I want but avoid the unnecessary carbs from things like bread, pasta, and potatoes. Conference and event food can be difficult, but it get’s easier when you realize you can just eat the top of the pizza, and not the dough.
Exercise is something that works for me, but not for everyone. That’s something to consider. If you aren’t the person that enjoys a sweat, then you will need to make a lifestyle change to the foods you eat in order to lose weight. If you combine diet with exercise you can see faster results. Of course, if you let your body go into ketosis, then you’ll see even faster results. But I don’t believe ketosis is the right answer, just as I wouldn’t believe jogging 20 miles a day is the right answer.
Up the Intensity
You don’t need to work out for hours on end, if you up the intensity of your cardio workouts. A Tabata is a great way to improve your overall fitness and promote weight loss in a minimal amount of time. Fat cells don’t ever leave your body, they can only shrink. And they only shrink by releasing water or carbon dioxide. You know, like when you breathe heavy and/or sweat from working out.
Pack your sneakers
Every trip I have taken this year I have included my workout clothes and made time to get a sweat in during my regular workout day. My goal is to be active 3x a week. That means I need to work out when I’m on the road.
Track your progress
I knew I was overweight and refused to weigh myself. But if I had stepped on a scale, I may have started down a healthier path a long time ago. I can’t stress this enough: you need to measure your weight on a regular basis. If you don’t, then you don’t have any idea if your lifestyle may be slowly killing you. [NARRATOR VOICE: It most certainly is killing you.] I weigh myself a few times a week, and I don’t get mad when I gain a pound or two. Your weight will fluctuate. Focus on the long-term trend, not the short. (It’s like the difference between climate and weather.)
Don’t wait to get started on making better choices for what you eat, and being active. I put it aside for far too long. I’m hopeful that my next visit to the doctor’s office will show that my actions are making me healthier. If you are looking for some support as you try to get started, just let me know. Drop me an email and I’d be happy to help, or connect you with a professional nutritionist (spoiler alert, it’s my sister). I’ve seen a lot of folks in IT with health issues, and I’d like to help reverse that trend.