Everything - Ev. Er. Y. Thing. - Happens for a Reason

Two weeks ago, I was having lunch with my two oldest kids. We talked about normal things, including what they have coming up in the athletics department.

I asked them about goals and their plans. Then they asked me, "Do you have a goal in running that you want to do?" Yes, kids, I do. Many.

I launched into an explanation of a long-standing goal - run a sub-30 minute 5K. I've wanted to do this for many years and haven't come close because I don't train to do it. Taking on the half-marathon seemed more important. It's longer, so it's better, right?

The funny thing is that this conversation both inspired and scared me. At my age and weight, that 5K time seems like a real longshot. And I wasn't doing well with my running. Why did I even talk about it?

The next day I put on my FitBit, blogged about it being the ultimate lie detector, and went running. The day after that, I had huge doubts and blogged about facing hard truths. But there was something in between.

On my Monday run, I listened to a Runner's World podcast that included an interview with a guy named Ted Spiker. Ted's a writer and has a blog on the Runner's World website called, "The Big Guy Blog." Big guy. Now that I can relate to.

The interview was great and Ted was genuine. Ted's inspiration came in a form of modesty and just-get-it-doneness that captured a lot of what I aspire to be. 

Then the moment came where he talked about a blog he wrote a back in 2012 about wanting to run a sub-30 5K. He told his audience he was making a club and anyone could join. Ted hoped a few people would and was surprised when many more than that did. The club grew and now has over 5,000 members. 

Yet even with talking to my kids on Sunday and hearing this podcast that I could directly connect to on Monday, I was in a terrible place by Tuesday. On Wednesday, I bit the bullet and "joined" the Sub-30 Club. It's "joined" because all you do is click the link from the blog and request to join the Facebook group. I did it, but honestly, I didn't hold out much hope it would help me. How wrong I was.

I made my first post and BOOM! Greeted warmly is an understatement. People were encouraging right away. I posted my "Facing Hard Truths" blog and people actually read it, commiserated, and turned it all positive. Some read a lot more of the blog and let me know how it touched them and how many of the posts were exactly the battle they faced.

I don't know any of these people, but I know them all as a group. The inspiration I've gained in a short time is immeasurable. I've always run solo, but now I don't feel alone as I pound the pavement. When the run is hard, I know there is a group of runners that would encourage me to just keep going, finish this run. I no longer run alone.

Sub-30 Club members meet up at races and I cannot wait to see one in person. I just hope I don't break down. The amount of courage gained in just 11 days is a little disconcerting. I mean, they don't really know me and I could be making way too much of what's happening. It could be a kind of "runner's high" that will fade. But, given the posts I see coming fast and furious, and the unbelievable response, I don't think so.

I've always wanted to be a part of the running community and not just a runner. That's been tough because I'm big, slow and prone to think I don't belong. (Please, that's not a cry for help and it doesn't bother me really, I am just being authentic. Damn commitments.)

I am a member of the Sub-30 Club. A new member who doesn't really know anyone yet, sure, but a member nonetheless. I belong here. Will I run sub-30 someday? Who cares? Not me. Striving to do so with a great group of people is much, much more important. Good thing I actually listened and took action for once because it has made my life better already.

Facing Hard Truths

I can't sleep tonight. This isn't all that unusual, I've never been a great sleeper. This is likely due to my mind working all the time which I see as a blessing and a curse.

Tonight I'm scared and angry. And feel so alone. This is awful because I know I'm not, but I can't shake the feeling.

The reality of my situation is becoming clearer in a more profound way. I turned 46 last month and the older I get, the harder this is. My health sucks and it is my own fault. Tough truth.

Case in point - my resting heart rate. When I was training last fall, I got my average resting heart rate down to 65bpm. Now it is 77. 77! Seriously, I'm a heart attack waiting to happen if I don't get my ample rear in gear.

Running this time after taking time off is a HUGE struggle. I'm just not getting my wind at all, from the moment I start to move. One mile is a struggle. This discourages me and then I just don't do it. Why bother?

These are hard truths to face. So, what am I going to do about it?

First, I am not alone. I know I have family and friends that are there for me. But that really wasn't what I meant anyway.

I feel alone in the battle. I feel like I'm the only one that has these issues right now. That cannot be true. Actually, I know it isn't true because I've heard from people that have read this blog about their struggle. (And don't think for a moment that the fact that anyone reads this blog doesn't shock me. It's humbling in a way I've never experienced.)

Maybe I need to talk to people more openly and more often about the struggle. The battle cannot be won alone. I'm responsible for my own actions, but I don't have to be a loner.

Maybe I need to make more drastic changes. Am I too lenient? Or am I just weak? My gut (pun intended) says some combination of those things.

Whatever I need to do, I need to figure it out. I'm not depressed or worried that there is NO way to figure it out. Yet. If I don't do something to get on track soon, I'm aware that these types of more serious issues can manifest in even unhealthier ways.

Every good choice matters. Every step matters. Every moment I spend working to improve really matters. The goal is to string together more of these components to break the terrible habits I've spent years developing.

I'm not alone. I just need to find a way to work within myself and with others to live a healthy, productive life.

Fitbit: The Ultimate Lie Detector

As I thought about what to do to break out of this really long funk, I kept coming back to the fact that I've been lying to myself. Self-honesty is on an extended holiday. This has to stop.

I walked by the counter and noticed my Fitbit sitting there. I have barely used it for months. Why?

Mostly avoidance. If it isn't on, I can fool myself into thinking I'm way more active than I actually am. Without Fitbit, sitting and walking morph into one huge blob on the fat side of my brain.

Using Fitbit is the ultimate lie detector. If I am not active, I know it. Actually, so does everyone else if they are Fitbit friends. And I accept every friend request. More is better in this case.

Now, I have publicly announced the Fitbit is back on. If I don't move, I can be held accountable not only by myself but by my friends and family. Fitbit knows if you've been walking, running, exercising or sitting. The step counter and heart rate monitor know the truth. Lying isn't possible and I need that right now.

In the past, I've loved doing Fitbit challenges. Look for me to come up with one soon and invite everyone. Or, if you have one, let me know. My favorite so far was 500K May where I walked half a million steps in May which is over 16,000 steps per day. Maybe that would be a good to do again.

No matter what, I'm going to move more with this ultimate lie detector hooked up to my wrist.

The Excuse/Weight Gain Correlation

Understanding how things connect help me as I continue on this journey. And I think I've hit on a big one. One I've likely always known, but could not come to grips with.

There is a direct correlation to making excuses and weight gain. The more excuses I make, the more weight I gain. This seems to be exponential. As excuses go up, weight is gained faster and faster.

Excuses and rationalization are part of life. I need to learn to eliminate them as much as possible. To only try to mitigate the impact of the excuse is not a solution. 

I'll go ahead and eat five million calories because I know I'm going to be on the right path tomorrow. If I commit to running the next two days, I can skip today. It's only one pizza. I needed the sleep, that's why I didn't get up to work out. The list of excuses goes on and on and on and...

Part of being authentic in 2017 is to share failure and not be overly positive in public while struggling in private. Well, this excuse thing is in overdrive and I have no idea how to fix it.

Is this just who I am? Am I fooling myself into thinking I can actually live a healthy active life?

Deep down I believe I'm ready to do more. I have the support I need from friends and family. So, it is really up to me. Now that I know the correlation, will I do anything about it? Since I don't know how to fix it, I'll have to take some action and see what happens.  

Food is NOT a Reward

When I lose 20 pounds, I'll get that Malnati's pizza. If I run 20 miles this week, I'll get that ice cream. If you clean up your toys, you can have the cookies.

How many times have I made food a reward for myself or my kids? Answer: Too many!

I've made food so central to my life that overindulging is a reward for discipline. This is common in our society and it needs to stop.

Food is fuel. Food is part of some traditions and celebrations. Food is NOT a way to reward discipline or desired behavior.

When food is a reward, the power it holds becomes magnified. The pizza becomes a revered mythical creature worthy of chasing by any means necessary. Ice cream ends up holding an inordinately large role in our lives. 

In other words, our intentions and goals change to pursue the reward, food. The desired goals are shifted from weight loss and health to pizza and ice cream. The short-term pleasure provided by our favorites foods dominate and the long-term goals are overshadowed.

The way to change this is simple - food cannot be a reward for desired behavior. Instead, the actual goal must remain the focus.

Rewards for reaching goals need to be redefined. Maybe it is a personal day off or a quick weekend trip with the family. Maybe it is new clothes or that latest tech gadget you've been eyeing. Or maybe, just maybe, reaching the goal becomes the greatest reward of all.

 

No Focus = Weighty Consequences

When I weighed myself on December 5th, 2016, I was 214.6 pounds, only three pounds heavier than when I ran my half-marathon six weeks earlier. I was happy with that. Maybe a little too happy.

I gave myself permission to relax my standards for my anniversary weekend. We had a couple of big dinners planned and I didn't want to punish myself. To me, one weekend of the old me was no big deal.

I still believe that but that isn't what happened. My goal to be intentional went away. Focus went out the window and eating became my hobby once again. 

When I weighed in again 26 days later, the consequences showed on the scale - a full 13 pounds. That means I found a way to gain a half-pound per day for nearly a month.

At 227.6 pounds, I had choices to make. I worked hard to get the weight off and it comes back so easily in just a few weeks of unfocused debauchery. I could blame the holidays or work but the fact is I own this mess.

With everything else going on in life, I had some decisions to make. I chose to fix it, long-term.

Since then, I have gone back to living with intention. When I decide to eat something, it is with full consciousness versus blind consumption. The results speak for themselves. 

I'm down nine pounds and food isn't running my life. I eat my three meals and grab a snack if needed. And I'm back to being a little hungry most of the time. This is a key to success for me to lose and, eventually, maintain the right weight.

The loss of control scared me. It doesn't take much to gain weight and feel awful. I have too many reasons to fix this, too many goals, to lose focus.

It isn't different this time like I've told myself dozens of times over the years. It is exactly the same and recognizing that will help me succeed. Lying to myself that it is somehow different, easier, can only lead to failure.

I'm going to do everything I can to stay focused and intentional. The fight is hard but well worth it. I see a long life filled with success and a few weeks of weakness will not define my future.

"Adversity Does Not Build Character, It Reveals It"

When my mom started her first chemo treatments for breast cancer this week, her strength brought out the absolute best in our family. I could not help but think of one of my favorite sayings - "Adversity does not build character, it reveals it." My mom is the living embodiment of this truth.

As she stared down the long road of kicking cancer's rear end, I know there were times of fear and doubt. Yet those moments were fleeting. The strength and positivity boomed from her, giving us permission to find the best within ourselves. Collectively, we have never been stronger. 

I feel closer to my parents now than ever. The shock of mortality cancer forces us to confront is gone. Now, I am ready to use my mom's cancer as fuel to do more in life - as a father, husband, son, friend. To do more in life - thrive, not just survive. To do more in life - to give more and take less. To do more in life - to love more and hate less. To do more in life - to LIVE more and complain less.

For each time I've failed in this mission already, I think about what else I want to more of in life - forgive more. Period. That includes forgiving myself.

My struggle with weight took on a whole new meaning because of my mom's battle. You see, obesity means I have more of a risk for cancer. That simply cannot happen when I have the power to fix it. My continuous war with weight is but a drop of water versus the monsoon that is what my mom will endure. And my mom is facing this storm with head held high, leading our family through to shelter. That example can only inspire.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my dad here. He's been incredible for my mom, and for us as he keeps us informed. The relationship between my parents has never been better. This adversity is merely letting the character they have always possessed take center stage as we are blessed to watch. 

I would prefer that cancer never had a chance to impact my mom or anyone for that matter. But, since it did, I am so proud to be a part of such an inspirational response. 

I am confident that my mom WILL BEAT cancer. The lasting impact of her strength and example will endure forever. Cancer, you suck. Mom, you rock. We will be there for you and we will all do better because of you. That's your character. That's your legacy.

So Much Doubt

Doubt is crippling. Any little bit of this journey to health that doesn't go perfectly puts another bit of uncertainty in my mind. As much as I try to concentrate on the positive, the black hole of doubt envelopes my consciousness all too often.

This journey reminds me of running on a treadmill. Every step is a struggle and you stop exactly where you started. Yet, there is progress, even if you don't see it. That time on the treadmill does burn calories and put you closer to your goal. 

Even if I take a step or two back in my progress, I've taken many more steps forward. It may seem like I'm in the same place, but I'm not.

How do I possibly keep that in focus? My family is supportive in every way. And some of them have the same struggles, so we can talk about everything openly knowing the others can empathize. 

Through it all, doubt remains. Maybe it will never go away. Maybe I need to find a way to accept the doubt and integrate into the plan. 

There is no way to figure this out alone. Hopefully, others with the same sort of doubts are willing to talk and we can find some answers.

How 2017 is Inspired by Two Gomers

There's this podcast I listen to called Two Gomers Run for Their Lives. It is made by "two regular guys trying to live healthier, and bringing a Nation along for the run." That quote says so much about the hosts of the podcast but it does not fully capture why my 2017 is inspired by them.

Pocasts are a niche entertainment medium that's only been around for a decade or so. The Two Gomers podcasts, in all the iterations/seasons, has been around for 8 years. That makes them pioneers in the genre yet their audience is only a small niche of the niche. The thing about that is we are a dedicated fan base and it gives us a chance to interact in small ways with the guys.

The Gomers are Anthony (Gomer1) and Steven (Gomer2). They are long-time friends from Wisconsin that were a year apart in school and are about 8 or 9 years my junior. They started the podcast as a way to hold themselves accountable for becoming healthier. Of course, they set out to be entertaining because people were listening. My guess is they set out to be somewhat inspirational too. I'm sure they did not expect to impact so many in such a profound way.

The thing is these really are regular guys. The podcast is an unintended chronicle of their lives. (I encourage you to check them out on iTunes or www.twogomers.com. Unpaid plug!)

You get to know Anthony, who lives in Florida, and Steven, who lives "all the way out in Flagstaff, Arizona," in a meaningful way. Now, you cannot know them completely through a podcast and I'm sure they don't tell us everything, but they share a lot. The way they put themselves out there is brave in a way that is difficult to explain. I think it is because they are authentic, genuine, in a way that is so endearing that you are drawn into their world and the hours of listening go by in a flash.

If you are tuning into their podcast to listen to two guys go from the couch to hardcore runners, you will be disappointed. If you want to be thoroughly entertained by two guys figuring out running while telling you about their evolving families, and some quirky segments that have zero to do with running and really make the podcast great, then tune in and listen!

I'm not going to recap everything about the Gomers show because this is not a podcast review. Instead, I'm going to share with you why these two men I do not know have influenced me to be better in 2017.

My word for 2017, inspired by the Gomers, is authentic. That's the best word I can use to describe them and it captures what I want to be. 

Anthony and Steven are genuine and transparent. When they didn't run, they really never gave excuses. They told us why and owned it. When life got in the way, they told us about it. When one slacked off, the other was right there to encourage and support while never becoming preachy (pun intended Steven, if you ever read this). 

It is clear that family and faith come first to both of them. Fitness is used as a tool to make those aspects of life better. Humor and self-deprecation are used as tools to work through their struggles. The humility comes through and is clearly authentic. 

This is all apparent to those of us in the Gomer Nation. Anthony and Steven set out to get themselves healthy and brought us on the journey. They have inspired a Nation as evidenced by the emails/posts/tweets they have read "LIVE on the air." From the incredible woman who listened to their podcasts while receiving chemo-therapy to the writer who put in a Gomer reference on How I Met Your Mother. Whether personally serious or pop culture tribute, it is abundantly clear they have impacted so many people.

I've written to the Gomers and they've graciously mentioned me on the podcast a few times. They really loved it when my brother did his McRunner stuff and they talked about it quite a bit. By no means do they know me, but these small bits of kindness meant a lot.

Can you tell I'm a fan yet? Hopefully it isn't too much because I don't need any restraining orders!

I realize I know them only in a cursory way through the podcast. Yet the part they let us see is so inspiring, so authentic, that I want to strive to be more like them in 2017. Here's why.

Through the years, the Gomers were everything I said above. Then they got to a point where they had to decide whether or not to continue. They let us in on this process. It was raw and emotional. It was a side of them we had glimpsed but now were privy to in a whole new way.

This transparency is what got me. If you had never listened before and picked up this episode, you may have thought the guys over-dramatic and contrived. As a member of the Nation, we knew that this was reality and they were really struggling with what to do.

Most people would want a stamp on the end and a real decision made. Instead, Anthony and Steven did something real, something so... Gomer. They decided the podcast was ending. Then they decided it was ending in its current form. Then they decided they would still do "specials" and would later come back to do a new podcast, maybe in a year or two. The reason they would come back is because they wanted to conquer a sub-5:00 marathon.

This process and "conclusion" was much more in line with how most of us would really come to a decision. Having an audience, so many of us would put an artificial end to the podcast or promise to continue halfheartedly. Not the Gomers and we've had several episodes since the end of the last season already. This just enhances their authenticity because it is like hearing occasionally from people you were close to in the past and nothing has really changed.

This transparency and authenticity is what I've been missing in my life. I have put up too many fronts, excuses and walls to be successful in the ways I want to. Well, in the ways I really need to. So, what will be different?

As much as I would love to follow in the Gomers footsteps and do a podcast, I am not sure if I can do it. It may happen, but I am self-aware enough to know this is a huge undertaking that I need to consider more before launching.

That leaves the blog. I will blog more often and more openly. I've been somewhat honest so far, but not enough to really make the long-term impact I need.

I am going to weigh myself daily. I think this slap in the face is what I need to help keep me on track. I started today and the reality is that I gained a ton of weight and am back to 227.6 pounds. The struggle is real and the scale don't lie.

The rest is obvious - eat less, move more. I will have to track food. I can't stand this aspect of the journey but there is no choice for me. 

Running is great and I'll continue to do it. I need to add in strength and more HIIT to the routine. My engine needs a tuneup to get running more efficiently. It is going to be a lot of work. And I have to be honest and open while sharing what I am doing and, more importantly, NOT doing. If I only share the good, I fail.

In 2017, I vow to be authentic. I will be positive, but not pollyannaish. Failures are important in life and I need to embrace them. The Gomers have given me a roadmap of how to share openly and remain positive. Time to embrace my inner Gomer and find my voice to make 2017 the best year ever.

Anthony and Steven will continue the podcast, or not. If they do follow through on the sub-5:00 season, I will be at that race to run and encourage them. My guess is they will go for it, struggle, and have the best race of their lives, regardless of the time. That just seems to be who these guys are some 8 years after the podcast started. Thank you guys for inspiring me and showing me a great path.

The Holidays - The Battle Begins!

Let's face it, the holiday season brings a mountain of tempting treats, bad choices and some version of, "I'll start after the new year." For a fat guy like me, the holidays are full of celebration coupled with a bit of dread.

I end up regretting eating so much. Every year. Every. Single. Year. So, will this one be different?

The answer is yes. In the past, I made excuses and did not own my choices. This year, regardless of how much or how little I eat, I will make conscious choices. Everything I do will be intentional.

The run I'm about to take will help mitigate some of the damage. The 10 pounds (yes, 10!) of mashed potatoes I'll make for the family will quickly cause a choice because I love this stuff. 

The recipe for this year will be a cup of balance, a tablespoon of intention and a pound of self-honesty. I want the holidays to represent friends, family and a bright future. Live well now to live better later. 

Don't lie to yourself over the next six weeks. Don't say you'll start eating better or exercising more come the new year. Start today. Go ahead and celebrate, just do so intentionally. Find balance and ask for help when needed. We have it in us to be better - today.

#intentional #FatManRising

Three Big Lessons From the 2016 Chicago Cubs

I'm a White Sox fan but I really enjoyed watching the 2016 Chicago Cubs win it all. My wife is a Cubs fan so this was the pinnacle after a lifetime of disappointment. 

As I watched this team and thought about the big picture, there were three big lessons I took away.

1. Sometimes you have to tear things all the way down to build them up.

Theo Epstein, the Ricketts family and the organization made a choice - spend money on the future at the expense of the present. This team lost 91, 101 and 96 games in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The reason is that Theo and the front office tore down the organization to its very foundation.

Fans understood and supported this move, especially at the beginning. Then it got tough because losing... well, it sucks. 

But the Cubs never wavered. They believed in the overall strategy, the big picture. To be great, they had to change everything about the culture. They had to be self-honest.

And it worked. The Cubs overcame 108 years of "wait 'til next year" and showed why this was the best strategy.

I started this blog to do the something similar, although not nearly as dramatic or impactful. To understand how to be my best self, to win my own championship, I have to tear down my psyche to its very core. This is the only way to fully heal and create positive growth.

The Cubs understood what it would take to win - the pain, suffering and reflection. Do we?

2. Hard work and fun are not mutually exclusive.

I've never seen a team more relaxed than the Cubs in games 5 through 7, with little exception. Anthony Rizzo looked like a kid in little league watching the game versus playing it on the biggest stage at the highest level. These guys had fun!

Even the stoic Kyle Hendricks and the perpetually cranky John Lackey looked like they were relaxed, even if not having Rizzo-like fun. The point is these guys were working really hard and having fun, even when losing. I'm sure they were down at some point. As I said, losing sucks. But they found a way to relax, have fun and that's when the magic returned.

The biggest rain delay in World Series history highlights the point. After giving up the tying runs with 4 outs to go, the team could have tensed up, thought about a stupid goat and gone out and lost. And most teams would.

Instead, the 2016 Cubs had a players-only meeting, relaxed and went out to win. They were having fun while working hard. Once again, the look on the face of Rizzo standing on third and shouting at Ben Zobrist told the whole story. And they won.

All I can think of is how many years I spent dreading hard work when it came to personal growth. Hard work at work, sure. Hard work at home, ugh!

If I embrace the hard work as fun, as I did with running, then there is no doubt success will come more often and taste sweeter. I'm still working on figuring out how to translate this to my other problem areas. But knowing is at least half the battle.

3. Support is better than finger pointing every single time.

And speaking of that players-only meeting, holy freakin' moly was that amazing. That meeting was called by Jason Heyward who, by any measure, had a pretty awful postseason. Many were questioning the big dollars spent to bring him to roam right field for the Cubs. But I think he earned every dime with that speech.

The players stuck together. No blame laid. No fingers pointed. No hostilities. No ego. Just one team.

Your support system matters. The Cubs are the embodiment of how an entire organization works best. From the lowest level scout to the likely league MVP, the Cubs support each other. 

Like a family or good friends, there had to be moments where this broke down. But it was the exception and not the rule.

This may be the biggest lesson of all. We all need to surround ourselves with people who will build us up and never tear us down. People who will carry us when we can't walk. People who will smile in the face of our pity. People who will reach out to just see how we are doing, at that perfect moment, even though there is no way they could have known.

If you are like me and struggle with eating, these are the people that make you happy about eating a salad versus a pizza. These are the ones that won't judge you for eating that pizza but only help find ways to enjoy other choices. If you struggle with alcohol, these are the people that hang out with you when you're sober as well as pick you up when you lose control. They don't enable, they heal. They don't judge, they love. They don't walk away, they hug.

Your support system matters. Don't be afraid to walk away from the big free agent to find the dependable role player that wants to be on your team forever. Understanding that I'm worth enough to be around has taken a lot of reflection. I forget too often. I'm lucky enough to have a support system that wants to help. I'll fail again soon and they'll be there. Your support system matters. Maybe I've said that already?

The 2016 Chicago Cubs taught me a lot. Failure is fleeting. Effort is forever. Never give up!

On Becoming a Runner

I've tried to become a runner before. I convinced myself at one point that I was a runner for life. That lasted about three weeks. 

The race was always the most important part of running to me. Everything I did was solely about the race. No wonder I never kept it up.

This time is different. The race is simply a data point, a mile marker in my journey. The race is important because it will be my longest run yet, a full 13.1 miles. That's one heck of an accomplishment.

This time is different. I'm looking forward to a few days after the race so I can get back out there and keep running. 

This time is different. I'm running more than ever. I did 20 runs in the two months leading up to my 2014 half-marathon. I'll do 30 runs this time. 

This time is different. Running is mental. The older I get, the more I love it. The physical aches and pains are temporary. The thrill of conquering the distance is forever. 

This time is different. Before I wanted to get the miles done. Now, I want the miles to linger. The freedom I feel and the respect I have for the distance makes the act of running a true part of me.

The weight loss isn't happening. I'm not surprised. I'm really rungry. I have little motivation to change my eating habits right now. And that's ok because now that running is part of my life, I can concentrate on the next phase of overall health.

I'm tired of beating myself up for failing. I'm learning from each experience and I will adapt to find enduring change. For now, I'll celebrate becoming a runner. I'm going to enjoy every run, including that race next Sunday.

This time is different. 

The Art of Avoidance

I started this blog to hold myself accountable. My goal was to share successes and failures in a public forum because I felt it would help me overcome some of my major weaknesses. That worked for awhile. Lately, I've reverted to an old habit - the art of avoidance.

When I had some stresses and injury issues, I stopped blogging. Easier to avoid all the issues than tackle them. 

I've gone through the gamut of emotions during this time. Now I'm angry. Angry with myself and only myself. This is my issue and only I can make the decision every single day to improve. The support I've received has been overwhelming. When the spotlight is off, this is about me executing my plan.

I have my running back on track. I'll head out on this gorgeous Sunday morning shortly for a long run. I'm proud of this and am determined to make running a part of my life.

The real problem is my ability to be honest with myself about my terrible eating habits. I stopped logging food and told myself I was ready for it. That's a lie. 

If I want to become healthy, I need to watch what I eat. That means I have to log my food every day. I have to make better choices when I eat out. Sugar is my biggest weakness and cutting it out is critical to my long-term health. 

I feel better when I eat better. Here's the catch... I've been overly stressed (my own doing) and food is comfort. I feel better overall when I eat well. I feel better in the moment when I gorge on carbs and sugar. 

My decision is whether to embrace a series of moments to provide temporary relief or welcome the pain to live a longer, healthier life. Temporary or forever. The choice is clear choice is the hard one. The clear choice makes me nervous because I think I'll fail over and over. The key is to fail less and celebrate the wins not by eating but by sharing. 

I know I can do what needs to be done. Habits are so very difficult to break. Time to take a step and celebrate.

Lost: My Identity (If found, please do not return.)

I haven't written a post for nearly three weeks. The reason - I feel like I've lost something.

I've been struggling for sure. Logging food has become a tiresome grind. My will to care about my long-term health is severely compromised. There is a void inside me.

Work has been tough. I use that as an excuse. How can I care if I don't have the time? How can I log food if I'm so stressed? The easy way out - excuses.

The part that really scares me is the void. I've been through this before. I fill that void with food and laziness. That's the pattern.

This time is a bit different. I'm filling the void with food and... running. Is that better?

But the excuses. Maybe the excuses and the void are related. Maybe they are two sides of the same coin. And I figured it out this time and stopped the weight gain, so maybe I'm ok. Maybe this is normal.

I know normal for me is different. When people see me and they say something about my weight loss, I am uncomfortable. And when this happens, the void grows.

After a lot of reflection and looking as deep as I can within, I think I finally discovered the truth. I'm losing a huge part of my identity. To hold onto it, I look for excuses and self-sabotage.

A huge part of my identity for nearly 30 years has been as a fat guy. I see myself this way and most others have too. If others start to see me differently than I see myself, a part of my identity is lost. What am I if I'm not the fat man?

It is much easier to go back. I can regain this identity so easily by eating a little more, regardless of how much I run. I can't run away from the problem. I want to run to a solution.

If you find my identity, keep it. I do want to change and I'll have to leave that part of me behind. Maybe I'm not quite ready but I'll get there.

#intentional #FatManRising 

These Questions Go To Eleven

I've received some questions that really made me think. I wanted to take some time to answer them. In an ode to Spinal Tap, these questions go to eleven. 

1.  What diet are you on?

A:  The simple answer is, I'm not on a diet. I do log my food. I was using LoseIt but went back to MyFitnessPal. The MFP app has more users and functionality. It feels more like a community which really helps. I use the app to approximate the number of calories I have for the day. That's my budget. If I want more calories, I have to exercise to earn them. At about over 80 days into this method, it is pretty much habit.

2.  How much weight have you lost?

A:  Not enough. Since I started the blog, I've lost 14 pounds. Which often leads to...

3.  Do you want to lose weight faster?

A:  In this Biggest Loser/reality show era, we are trained to think we can lose 5 to 10 pounds (or more) per week. I am not in a reality show, I'm in reality. I'm not playing for $100,000, I'm fighting for a better life. I've dropped massive amounts of weight quickly before and it did not work. This time, it is not about the weight, it is about the overall lifestyle I need to lead to live a long, healthy life.

4.  So, how much do you want to lose?

A:  I have put a goal weight of 175 in. I started June 1 at 226. On January 2, 2011, I was 246.6. In December 2011, I was 206. That was the lowest point for me in the last 5 years. The numbers will come. Whether the weight I maintain is 185, 160 or 175, I am working toward stability.

5.  Why didn't you confront that Young, Fit Couple?

A:  Those that know me best were shocked I didn't turn on those kids and give them an earful. The reason I didn't was a mystery to me at first. It was so far outside my nature and my instincts, I didn't really get it. Then when I received dozens of messages of encouragement full of humbling words, I knew why. I needed to write a blog post about the event and share it because so many people confront that type of ignorance (and worse!) daily. We need to be a community of support. Be human, be kind.

6.  Are you enjoying training?

A:  Yes. For the first time in my life, I am loving the journey. Running is now a part of my life.

7.  Do you really like running or just trying to convince yourself you like running?

A:  This is a more than fair question. I lied in the past to myself and anyone who would listen because I hated every step. Now, I don't like it, I love it. I consider myself a runner. Slow and steady, but always forward!

8.  Do you get a lot of support from your wife and family?

A:  Hard not to tear up answering this one. I get more support than I deserve. Gretchen, the kids, my parents, friends, everyone is beyond supportive. I'm blessed and I cannot thank them enough.

9.  What are your other goals?

A:  I'm going to do this half-marathon in October then consider what is next. I want to do a full marathon for sure. My biggest goal is to live healthier and injury free. I have some bigger things in mind too.

10.  Your dad said something in his post about a podcast. What's a podcast and are you really going to do one?

A:  A podcast is a digital audio file you download and listen to when you can. If you haven't gotten into podcasts, you are missing out. There is something for everyone. And yes, I am considering a podcast. I want to do one and need to fully prepare for the commitment. And find a good co-host. I don't think anyone wants to listen to me solo.

11.  What food do you miss most?

A:  I don't miss any food because I still eat everything in moderation. Yes, everything. If I want a scoop of ice cream, I have it. I just don't have a three scoop banana split anymore. Pizza, pasta, everything. Moderation is how I've decided to do this. See question one - no diet, lifestyle!

Thank you for the questions. And thank you all for your support!

#intentional #HOPE #FatManRising

An Open Letter to the Young, Fit Couple From My Morning Run

Dear Young, Fit Couple From My Morning Run:

First, let me congratulate you on being in phenomenal shape. As I was running from way back as you walked after your morning workout, I could not help but notice that your combined body fat must be somewhere south of ten percent. That is amazing and must take a lot of work and dedication.

Second, I'm fat, not deaf. Since what you said is now seared in my memory, I thought I'd help you understand how your words and attitude can impact people. Let's take this from the beginning.

As I passed, I heard the mid-twenties fit guy say, "Oh geez, look at this." Followed by the mid-twenties fit woman's snort of derision while saying, "You can't miss him, especially as loud as he's breathing."

You are right, it is hard to miss me. I'm a 5'8", 214-pound (and shrinking!) male at the very end of a 35-minute run. The last part of the run was uphill, by my choice as I'm trying to push myself in a controlled manner as I train for the Naperville half-marathon this fall.

I was lucky enough to be done with my run at this point and started my cool down walk, so I was lucky enough to hear the rest of what you had to say. The earbuds were in, but my podcast was over, so your not-so-soft voices were loud and clear.

The young, fit gentleman then said, "I just don't get it. How do you let yourself get that fat and out of shape?" To which his female companion replied, "Tell me about it. That's one reason I hate going to the gym. I really don't want to watch all that blubber bounce." You both snickered at this line.

There are many reasons for us to let ourselves go. The reasons are important for sure because you can only reverse the unhealthy course once you understand what put you in this position. For some of us, food is comfort and escape. Sometimes we are lazy but sometimes we aren't. I think you were implying we must be stupid and lazy to get fat. While laziness can be a factor, it was for me at times, let me assure you that fat does not equal stupid.

We do notice when we are getting bigger. And let me tell you, it hurts. It hurts in so many ways. It can be embarrassing at times and frustrating at others. Sometimes it is just easier to stay overweight and put time and energy into other aspects of life. 

One really big point both of you need to understand is this - about two-thirds of the U.S. adult population is overweight, so we are the majority. In other words, you will encounter us in all aspects of life, not just on the trail or at the gym. We are business owners, managers, moms, dads, janitors, teachers, doctors, lawyers, friends, aunts, uncles, etc. Most of all, we are human beings with feelings and dreams, just like you in the fit minority.

Our lives are not made easier by encountering the two of you while we try to lose weight by exercising in the heat of a beautiful summer Sunday morning. Believe me, it would have been much easier for me to sit down with a giant plate of French toast and bacon this morning versus getting out the door for my training run. 

As I was about to cross the street to get home, I was lucky enough to hear your final comments. Young, fit male said, "That sweat pouring off him is enough to make me sick. Glad I haven't eaten yet." To which the laughing young, fit woman said, as I turned, "Oh thank God, he's crossing the street." After a pause, she strangely added, "Hope he doesn't have kids. What a crappy example to set." More snickering followed and then I was, thankfully, out of earshot.

I will admit, I came near tears because of the kid comment. I'll get back to that because I'm still hurt and angered by this particularly venomous bit of hate.

Yes, I was sweating buckets. I'm very proud of that effort today. And, just so you know, heavy sweaters occupy every body type. It just so happened that I was listening to a podcast with Olympian Shalane Flanagan earlier in my run. Shalane qualified for Rio after bonking at the trials where the weather was downright scorching. She went to get tested to figure out the best hydration strategy for Rio and found out she is a heavy sweater. Shalane found out she sweats three times as much as her training partner, and fellow Olympian, Amy Cragg. Shalane and Amy kicked some butt today in Rio finishing 6th and 9th (with American Desi Linden in 7th). Was the 6th place female Olympian enough to make you sick with how much she sweat today? I saw it when I got home and she was sweating buckets. People sweat, so you two may want to get used to that too. 

Now back to the shot at my parenting skills because I'm fat. I've been relatively nice to you two so far but his is too far. That statement is idiotic. 

My three children mean the world to me. I've worked hard to be a better parent. I don't need some kids twenty years my junior questioning the example I'm setting. Since you did, let me help you figure it out.

Here are a couple of my favorite examples. Mistakes are not important. How you recover from a mistake is very important, though. And my favorite saying has to do with choices. The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second best time is today. 

You see, I am not ashamed of being fat. I am disappointed that I am not healthy. I should have taken care of this 25 years ago. Since I didn't, I am making the choice to fix it today. 

Another lesson I'm teaching my kids is to NEVER, EVER talk about people to their face or behind their back the way you two did about me today. That type of judgment does not help anyone. Let me assure you that your speech is not motivating. It does make you look bad, though, despite your perfect bodies.

My final bit of advice to you two is to channel your disgust for fat people into a more positive direction. The one thing you had right is that we have to set good examples for the children. If we can start to reverse the trend of childhood obesity, then it should carry through to the adult population. Use your love of fitness to teach kids to live happy, active lives. Volunteer in the community and help put the next generation on track.

 I know you were glad to see me go today and, truthfully, I was more thankful to get away from you two before I opened my mouth. You need to understand that mocking a person is not acceptable. Today this is called bullying, fat-shaming, body-shaming. I just call it ignorance.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe you don't realize that fat people are human beings with feelings and hopes and dreams. Maybe you didn't realize that perfection is a great goal, but no one hits it, even you two. Maybe you didn't realize that my hearing is not impacted by the extra weight I carry. Maybe you didn't realize that my two oldest kids are incredible athletes and that my excess weight has not changed that fact. Maybe you didn't realize that I'm in the majority and that my fellow overweight brethren fight a battle every single day that, I pray, you never have to understand. Maybe you two really are amazing people and you just were having an off day.

I hope you learned something today. I know I sure did. And, in case this will impact your schedule, I plan to be out there sweating my butt off and putting in huge efforts to be better on and near the path from this morning. If I see you again, I will only smile and wave. If  you are lucky, I might stop to ask if you got this letter. I really think it could be good for you.

Kind regards,

FatMan

#intentional #HOPE #choosemypath #FatManRising

Friday Craving - One Donut Won't Hurt, Right?

When I worked at Hub Group, they generously brought in pastries and bagels on Friday for the employees at corporate HQ. That Friday fix was awesome. 

The craving has gone away for the most part. But there is one particular piece of perfection that still haunts the deep recesses of my internal fat guy. The chocolate donut. 

This is no ordinary chocolate donut. This donut is perfectly balanced with just enough chocolate covering the succulent pastry. Every bite is bliss. And they were rare, which only added to the legendary status in my mind. 

People waited to race to the break rooms to grab one before they could be snatched up by another. We would grab two if we could to help out a friend in need. The disappointment of missing out for a week or two only added to the delight. 

Why the company didn't order more is a mystery. Where the donut came from is also a great unknown. We know the bagels and most of the pastry came from Panera. Yet Panera does not sell donuts like these, at least to the general public. 

I thought about trying to track down the donut. Now I've reconsidered. The memory is enough and I don't want to ruin the taste that lingers in my mind. The calories in my memory equal exactly zero. If only the actual donut did too.

#intentional #HOPE #FatManRising

Too Much is Always Too Much

I was talking to a fellow fat person the other day and they were bragging about being able to, "Eat a ton of this stuff and it was only about 200 calories total!" I asked what constituted a ton and they said it was the equivalent of four full servings. The item was a snack food and it meant eating the entire large package.

I asked what else they were doing about health. The subject didn't change from food as they explained how they would eat four to five sugarless jellos to satisfy their sweet tooth. I asked about exercise and they said, "Nah. I'm not ready for that."

This was tough to hear for me because it was like looking in a mirror where I could see myself in the recent past. I now believe this approach is not only wrong but also dangerous. This approach is not conducive to a long-term strategy to maintain weight loss and health.

If you eat too much, it does not matter if it is potato chips or kale chips. It does not matter if it is chocolate cake or sugar-free lime jello. It does not matter if it is grilled chicken or a perfectly marbled rib eye. The fact is this - too much is always too much!

Today, you may be able to eat those kale chips in volume and the calories are reasonable. If you think that you won't slowly revert back to potato chips or Cheetos, you are likely not being honest. There is a very small percentage of us in the overweight category that will be able to eat kale chips the vast majority of the time for the rest of our lives. That is the exception, not the rule. 

Most of us will slowly drift back to eating cake, cheese puffs and rib eyes in the same quantity we were eating the "healthy" foods. We need to change our habit of overindulging in anything if we want to capture the ever elusive realm of long-term success.

Learning about moderation is not easy. That is why I now track every single meal, 51 days and counting. That doesn't mean I never overeat. I'm not perfect, but logging the overeating keeps me honest about it. I no longer seek out volume foods to stuff myself in order to capture that euphoria so many of us overweight people chase. In order to not overeat the "bad" foods, I cannot overindulge on the "good" stuff. 

The volume habit is a tough one to break. I am still learning how to be hungry. When I talk to friends that are thinner, they tell me they are often hungry and have learned to deal with it. Not starving mind you, but a low-grade bit of hunger that lingers. I am starting to understand this and how to deal with it. It's ok to be a bit hungry. It may even be healthy.

On the other end of the spectrum, too little exercise is just as bad. Activity is critical. Just upping my activity on a daily basis by a moderate amount has paid dividends in how I feel throughout the day. I expect it may pay off on the scale in the long run too but that's the lagging indicator.

Too much volume of food with too little movement is a recipe for disaster. You may be able to lose weight with this formula because that is simply based on calories in versus calories out. However, I am highly skeptical of any type of long-term success with this approach. The rate of recitivism from this approach has to be high. I know I've failed with it at least five times. You know what they say about people who do the same things over and over again expecting different results...

#intentional #choosemypath #FatManRising

A Vacation Epiphany: Live a Life of H.O.P.E.

Our family vacation was a road trip to Nashville. The drive was nice and it gave me plenty of time for personal reflection. 

I thought a lot about how much effort I've put forth so far to lose some weight and get healthier. In general, I see these efforts as a success. Some specific areas are frustrating, especially the number on the scale.

The drive did help me have an epiphany. I have been struggling with how to simply live my life. Writing that down sounds like a huge problem. It really isn't. It is more of my take on a philosophy of life. How can I take my experiences and goals and synthesize them into a way of life?

Then H.O.P.E. hit me. The acronym stands for - Humility, Opportunity, Passion and Effort. These guiding principles should make for living a pretty darn good life!

Humility is something I have struggled with forever. My tendency to always be right is one of my worst attributes. Practicing humility will allow me to be wrong without care and right without having to point it out. Humility is one of the most attractive qualities I see in other people I admire. Given all of that, it is definitely something I need to strive for.

Life is full of opportunities. Every moment presents a new one! The issue is seeing the opportunity through all the junk surrounding it. Finding just one more opportunity to act on each day will improve life immeasurably. Today the opportunity was writing this post to get it all started. A small opportunity to seize but they all count.

Passion does not have to burn white hot. Too many times I use this term incorrectly. Having a passion for something means suffering a nearly uncontrollable urge to act upon it. It should hurt to not exercise or to not spend meaningful time with my family. There is no need to define passion because it will be obvious. What I have to do is act with urgency to fulfill that which I am passionate about. 

This all leads to effort. This is where I have fallen down all too many times. Often I tell myself I am passionate about something (maybe running or blogging) but my effort does not match. My effort to eat amazing food and drink great wine has never been a problem. I've never had an issue finding time to put forth the effort to sit on the couch and watch television. Now what if I turned my efforts toward tasks that will make a much more positive impact on my life? What are my limits if I choose to put forth more effort every day toward these core values? I guess we will find out.

I believe there is so much more lurking inside me. I don't mean there is some 165 pound Adonis with six-pack abs. That ship sailed a long time ago and is superficial. What I mean is that there is a happy, healthy, productive, impactful person inside that I have to slowly coax out. I cannot let the mental fat win. Mental fat guy says my capabilities are limited. I hear the voice warning, "You are older. Know your limits." My answer now to that mental fat guy is a firm - Screw you!

H.O.P.E. will make my life better. I believe it and now it is time to put it into motion.

#intentional #choosemypath #FatManRising 

Digging for Truth: Examining Indecision, Willpower, Motivation and Priorities

Indecision is exhausting. I don't think I'm alone here. The time and effort it takes to fret over, well, anything is so darn taxing. 

I think I use other words for indecision sometimes. The two that come to mind are willpower and motivation. Having the willpower to not eat that entire pizza is really a decision between doing it (the easy choice) and not doing it. When I question whether or not I have the motivation to exercise is really a form of indecision. Given how often I have these internal battles, no one I'm so tired every single day!

Now I'm thinking that indecision, willpower and motivation are all dishonest personal assessments. What I'm really saying with all of this is health and fitness are not a priority. 

Priorities are the key here. I may not want to go to work every day, but it is a priority so I do it without (much) question. My kids don't go hungry or neglected because they are a priority. I guess that means that watching TV on my butt is a priority because I do it without thought or question. When I really think about it, if something is a priority, it just gets done. It becomes part of life. 

That means health and fitness have not been a priority. They still aren't because I continue to have internal battles over what I should do. I can say that eating better and exercising are priorities, but my actions do not prove that out.

Self-honesty is at the heart of this journey. This is not easy because there are raw emotions and unfortunate truths that come pouring out. When I tell someone that I wish I had their willpower or motivation, I'm really saying I wish I had their priorities.

Understanding how I really view my priorities is an extremely difficult realization. It hurts to know that my actions and my intentions are not in sync. If I want to really achieve my goals, a giant shift in priorities has to happen.

Time to quit using the wrong words for what is really happening. This is not about indecision, willpower or motivation. This is clearly about my priorities. Only my actions will tell me when I've figured it out.

#intentional #choosemypath #FatManRising