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Monthly Archives: March 2010

A while ago, I was chatting with a friend about nutrition and he was telling me about some of the facts about weight loss. His point was about making good choices. At one point, he referred to me as an anomaly. I am sure he wasn’t trying to be insulting, but I didn’t think he was using the correct term. It sounded like it meant I was abnormal. I looked up the definition of anomaly on the web, and according to wordnetweb.princenton.edu, it is “a person who is unusual”. I guess that fits. It seems a fairly small population of people have lost the kind of weight I have lost. That would make me an anomaly.

My biggest regret about starting this new ending was waiting so long. Did I wait too long? I feel like I am just starting to peak. I had a friend of mine that explained that great scientists usually make their biggest discoveries before they are 30 years old. I watched the world series of poker this year and most of the guys playing are in their early 20s (which also begs the question, what kind of 21 year old has $10K to spend on entering a poker tournament? What am I doing wrong?). But, I digress.

I think most of the guys I went to school with are on a reverse course from me. When I occasionally run into them, they seem to be swelling up and slowing down. They are getting fat and tired. What poetic irony. They can now look back on their lives like Al Bundy and think about their glory years in high school. How sad would it be to have the high point of your life be high school athletics?

I didn’t go to my 20th high school reunion because to be honest, I hated most of my high school experience. I had a few friends, but overall, it was a pretty miserable time. I want to go back to the guys that tormented me in high school and laugh at them. Walk up to them, look them in the eye and ask them, wait for them to get that spark of recognition and ask, “Who’s the fat boy now? How do you like me now, tubby?” I would like to think I am better than that. Maybe I am not the kind of guy who would get satisfaction out of telling them how do you like me now…but who am I kidding? That would be AWESOME.

I always heard that your high school years were the best years of your life. If that was the case, we should have all just committed suicide at graduation. I am so glad that is total B.S. because for me, it’s gotten better and better.

I am not sure why I always seem to be swimming upstream. The truth is, I like it and I am gaining speed. My life has gotten better and better, and at this rate, I will take up extreme snowboarding when I am 50. I have great friends that care about me, and didn’t care if I was fat Paul of fit Paul. They have been behind me through all the changes and I can’t begin to tell them how much that means.

Is it better to burn out or fade away? I am choosing burn out. Hopefully, it will be in a blaze of glory when I am much, much older!

Paul

I was watching a sitcom this morning at the gym while I was doing my cardio workout. It’s a show called Modern Family, and I was turned on to it by a friend of mine. I think the show is very funny and at the end of each episode, they have a bit of a summary of the featured topic. I find that the summary can be pretty poignant.

This morning’s show was called “15%”. It revolved around a gay character’s lifestyle being accepted by his old school dad. At the end of the show, the story was wrapped up with the gay character expounding about how people don’t really change except for 15% of themselves. He said he didn’t know if people can change, and that people “are who they are” give or take 15%. That 15% was how much they can change if they really want to.

People tell me that I have made a HUGE change. I don’t think so. I am not sure about the percentage being huge, but I think the concept is right. I think I only made a small change. I don’t know how many people can make huge changes that are ingrained in their personalities. I would argue that I didn’t really change who I was, just how I viewed things. I think I had the determination in me all along. I would also argue that everyone has that same potential.

It’s not the losing weight that’s hard. The human body is pretty amazing. Losing weight is just machine mechanics. If you short your body calories, you will lose weight. The body will respond and make adjustments to use reserves. It’s the determination and focus it takes to diet that’s hard and it’s letting yourself be miserable.

I heard one time that you really learn most of everything you know in the first 5 years of life. You learn to speak, read, social customs, and you develop your personality. Your education and creative thinking happen before you are 30. If that’s the case, I was lucky to learn something over the last few years. And that was a lesson about life. You could call it karma, fate, or whatever you want, but the lesson was this. There are certain things in this world that suck. Some things are not going to change and you can’t fix them. The best thing to say about these kinds of things is, “Yep, that sucked” and then move on. You acknowledge it and get past it. Thinking about it, talking about it, and grieving over it is just wasted.

That’s the best way to describe a diet. They suck. Who wouldn’t want to not worry about what they eat? I would love to live on corn dogs and Ho-hos. But I can’t, and that sucks. It’s best not to think about it all the time, and just move on. That has been a philosophy that has worked for me. I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about it. Thinking about the misery is just going to prolong it. Best to get it done, and move on.

In the past, I would obsess about the bad things in life. I think that’s what made dieting so much harder. It was having to think about how bad it was. I learned this lesson about 5 years ago, and it worked for me. Maybe that was my 15% change. I am about to move past the bad and look for the good. With direction and determination, all things seem possible. Keeping the positive thought doesn’t hurt either.

Paul

“Tipping Point” has many meanings to many people. Marketing professionals use the term as well. Even in that field, I have seen it used in many ways, with many meanings. A few in the marketing world use it to mean what it takes to put a customer into a favorable decision. In the banking world, there have been studies to find out how much you would have to offer someone to change where they maintain their checking account. If you notice, many banks now offer $100 to change banks. They have determined that the “tipping point” to get someone to go through the hassle of setting up a new direct deposit, ordering new checks and starting a new account was a hundred bucks.

There have been studies measuring the amount of time someone will listen to the radio before they change it because they don’t hear a familiar song (18 minutes), how many times kids need to see a cereal commercial before they ask mom and dad so they can go “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”, etc.

I started to think about all the people that talk to me about how they started a new diet, started out losing weight and then lost focus and gained the weight back. It seems that most of them say they lost about 10 pounds and then fell off the diet.

I believe the tipping point to keeping with a diet must be around 20 pounds. I lost 10 pounds in the first week. I also see many diets that advertise a “quick start”. This seems to be a bit of misdirection. I am not sure on the stats, but I think that first 10 pounds is just getting rid of the undigested food in the human body and the water it takes to process it. I have gone on vacation and gained 8-10 pounds in the first 3 days. I have also been able to lose it rapidly when I get back home. I don’t think these pounds are a real gain to my body. I am sure I pick up some of those calories, but I also drop them quickly.

My theory is that once people have lost 20 pounds, they are past the tipping point and are really losing weight. Once they get past that spot, the habit begins to form. That was the tipping point for me. When I started to lose weight, I heard from countless people that I would stop losing weight at some point. This morning, I weighed in at 239.8 pounds. I don’t think there is a level when I won’t be able to lose weight if I want to keep it going. I have passed the tipping point, and it’s just a matter of deciding where I want to end up. The number I am shooting for is now sitting at 225, but who knows? Once I get there, I will decide.

Last Sunday morning, I headed to the gym for my standard weight lifting workout. When I finished, I went to the locker room, changed, and headed to the pool to swim laps rather than head to the cardio area to work on a machine. This is something I have wanted to start as a secondary workout. I have been told that swimming is one of the best ways to exercise with low impact, but I have been putting it off because I am comfortable with my current routine.

I have been thinking lately about being comfortable. I was listing to my local talk radio station the other day, and Dr. Laura was playing. Normally I don’t listen to her because I think she is a bit of a hypocrite. But, the call caught my attention. She had a woman on who was complaining about not being able to lose weight, saying she didn’t know how to do it. Dr. Laura was right in her response. She told the woman that she did know how to lose weight, but wasn’t doing what she needed to do. She went on to explain that being on a diet was uncomfortable and that as humans, we avoid that feeling. We are very good at keeping ourselves in the comfort zone.

She was right about how being hungry is uncomfortable. I have learned to make it part of my life, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Swimming laps at the pool is a bit uncomfortable because my gym’s pool only has three lanes. This means I need to break into a lane and share one with someone that is already swimming. People have been very nice about it, but it’s a bit of a hassle. Last summer when I tried to start swimming, I was sharing the end lane and was hugging the wall. When I kicked, I hit the top of my foot on the coping. That gave me the reason to retreat to my comfort zone.

After I finished my workout and headed home, I got to thinking about other times I had to break out of my comfort zone. I have been lifting weights for about the last 4 months. I had to break into the routine and get into that section of the gym. The guys who are established in the weight room are not what you would call friendly. I got lots of stares and even today, no one has said a word to me. That transition into the weight room was made easier because I went in with a friend of mine who has spent many hours in gyms all over the country. He was right at home, and that made it much easier for me to be there.

That same day, I was in downtown Portland with my daughter and we happened to be at the base of the new Portland Aerial Tram. I don’t like heights any more than she does, and at first I asked her if she wanted to ride it just to see her reaction. If she had said no, we would have walked away. Instead, she said enthusiastically, “YES.” We talked about it, and when she found out I was serious, she started to change her mind. I then felt like I needed to push her to do it because I don’t want her to be afraid of things like that. So, we did it. It was a sunny clear day (yes, we do get a few of them a year), and the view and ride were fun.

It turns out I don’t have any problem with pushing my 11 year old daughter out of her comfort zone, but I am reluctant to move out of it myself. (And I said Dr. Laura was a hypocrite.) Kids are always being pushed out of their comfort zones. They try out for new sports, join new clubs, make new friends and are always being told to just try it once. Somewhere along the way, most of us quit that and start to establish borders for ourselves. I know many people that hate their jobs but don’t want to try and find a new one because they are comfortable. It’s amazing what we can learn to live with. I see people that I think are very successful, and they never seem to be put off by new experiences or challenges. They are open to new things.

As I thought more about this, I started to relate it back to food. According to http://wordnet.princeton.edu, comfort food is defined as food that is simply prepared and gives a sense of wellbeing; typically food with a high sugar or carbohydrate content that is associated with childhood or with home cooking. Wow, talk about needing to move out of that comfort zone.

Maybe that’s the secret to sticking with a diet. You need to move out of your comfort zone and change the way you eat and live. For me, I know I did find comfort in fast food and sitting and playing video games. There’s nothing better than playing Halo and eating chicken nuggets and fries. That was fun, familiar and comfortable. I don’t know anyone that likes to be uncomfortable. I have even been known to go purchase a new shirt on my lunch hour because the tag on the old one was too scratchy.

I had to get out of my comfort food zone to make the change. I learned portion control. I learned to try new foods. The good news is, once you move out of that zone, it’s only a matter of a few weeks to become comfortable in the new one. It’s getting past the first few weeks and letting yourself make the adjustment. That might not only be the secret to dieting, but also to growing and changing for the better.

Paul

About 10 years ago, I was managing a Mortgage Bank. This job not only included the day to day operations but also business development with clients. During this time, I learned that sales meetings revolve around eating. I think this was where I really went overboard in my weight gain from all the heavy restaurant meals.

At one point, I ended up spending a few days in Seattle. I was staying at one of the downtown hotels and from my room, I could see a sign for a restaurant that I wanted to try. The restaurant was at the top of a shopping mall. The building was about 5 stories high and was obviously re-purposed as a shopping mall. It appeared to have been created from some type of former office building and warehouse space.

I went down, squeezed into my compact rental car, and made the drive towards the building. I found access to the mall from the street, into an underground parking garage. The garage went down 3 levels and was pretty dark and (being in Seattle) seemed damp. I found a parking space, climbed out, and went to the elevator.

I pushed the button for the top level of the mall. The elevator moved up to the second underground parking level, stopped, and the door opened. I was face to face with two women dressed in professional clothing who were both around 40 years old. They both looked a bit shocked to see someone on the elevator. I stepped back to allow room for them to get on. One of the women started to move forward, but the other grabbed her arm and said they would wait for the next elevator. I asked, “Are you sure?” and was told that yes, they would wait.

The door shut and, since it was an older elevator, took a few seconds to start moving. I could hear a bit of their discussion. “Did you see that guy? He was scary and I wasn’t going to get on the elevator with him.” It didn’t hurt my feelings because I understand that women in a dark parking garage need to be aware of the situation. They would have no way of knowing what my intentions were. I also understand that as women they needed to follow the instinct and come down on the cautious side. I don’t think I come off like a maniac with a machete but after all, I was 6’3” and somewhere around 500 lbs. Given my size and throw in my dark features, I am sure I have a menacing presence.

I didn’t give much more thought to it. I went to the restaurant and had my dinner. After I finished eating, I went and wandered around the mall. I did a bit of shopping and happened upon an ice cream parlor. I figured I would get myself an ice cream cone and then head back to the hotel for a rousing night of Matlock on TV. I got my ice cream, found the same elevator I rode up on, and pushed the bottom level for the basement parking.

The elevator moved down one floor, and the doors opened up. Once again, I was face to face with the same pair of women. This time they both just moved onto the elevator and hit the button for their parking level. They didn’t appear to have any concerns about me because they both turned their backs and kept on with their discussion. The moved off the elevator and I went to my car.

I started to wonder why they didn’t get the same alarm about me on the way out that they got on the way in. Apparently, you can’t look like Norman Bates welding a knife if you are standing there holding a sugar cone with a double scoop of rainbow sherbet.

Paul