Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hey, I ran a Mile!

I changed up my training a bit today. Up until now, I had limited my work outs to the treadmill or a local park. I had really avoided the neighborhood. Just something about exposing myself to our neighbors. One of those self-confidence things, no doubt.

I really wanted to start running more outside, in prep for the Annapolis 10 miler in August so I mapped out a 3.2 and 4 mile route on

Today's training run was for 4 miles, so I got out and ran the 4 mile course.

Since I began last year, I've only been able to sustain about half a mile maximum continuous running without breaking into fast walking. I was watching some people running in the neighborhood a few days ago and noticed how slowly they were "running". I thought "Hey, I can do that!" So, today I did. For the first time in forever, well, probably my whole life, so that is forever, I ran more than a mile! I made it about 1.1 or 1.2 before walking. The mile took about 11 minutes, a minute or so slower than I normally tread at "running" pace.

I've definitely found a major clue in getting to the sustained 5 mph pace I'll need for Annapolis.

Overall, I finished the 4 miles in 52:12 minutes. I needed to slow for the longer and more severe sustained inclines over the last 1/3 of the course, but it felt good to get out there and see the neighbors!


Friday, June 29, 2007

I have one of these!

Over the past few weeks, I have begun to notice parts of my body that I don't ever recall feeling before.

Most obvious to me is my collar bone, or clavicle, outlined in red on my friend to the left. Whenever my hand strays to that part of my body, I have to give it an extra feel. It just feels strange to me. Whenever I've lost weight before, I don't ever recall feeling these bones. It's kinda neat, but kinda creepy, too, just like this guy (but he sure looks friendly!)

There have been other changes, too.

I noticed today how slim my lower legs have gotten. I suspect that has a great deal to do with running regime. Looks more like a chicken leg rather than a turkey leg now.

It's really fascinating watching and feeling all of the changes that my body has been going through. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Jaycees

The Jaycees are community service and leadership training organization that has been around for almost 90 years. Presently, you may belong up to age 41.

I was born into the Jaycees as my dad belonged from as early as I can remember. I have fond memories of projects that helped the community such as delivering Christmas baskets to needy families. They ran a carnival each year to benefit the local hospital. My dad also ran the state Junior Miss Pagent. (I was about 9 when all of Maryland's finalists camped out in my basement. A night I'll never forget!) My dad received the highest award given -- a Senatorship.

On my 18th birthday, I joined my local chapter. One of the Senators that still hung around was Bill. I knew Bill as I had gone to jr. high and high school with his daughter Terry. Bill was a mountain of a man with a platinum heart. I learned much from Bill on how to run projects, how to lead meetings -- from the podium and the floor -- and how to take care of your community. I spent countless hours during several summers visiting with Bill and his family in his living room enjoying his stories, his company and, when I was lucky, his crab soup. Bill passed away a few years ago, but his memory will live on forever.

Throughout college, I participated when I could and served as local chapter President in 1999-2000. From there, I went on to the state level where I served in various positions. I most enjoyed my time working on the national political level, where I got to know many people across the country. I also specialized in parliamentary procedure and learned how to manage meetings, even from the floor of the meeting, by knowing the rules, particularly when most others didn't.

I learned the Jaycee political scene from my friend Phyllis. She had been a State President and got involved in politics. I took to the stories and the travel and learned by watching. During the early and mid-90's we traveled together and spoke on the phone constantly monitoring the news of the day. It was an exciting time and I will always value those lessons.

I learned a tremendous amount over my active years in the organization, but the best result was meeting Deb, which changed my life forever. When I lived in NJ, Deb would call me from our MD chapter to invite me to events. What was she smoking? Well, one thing led to another and here we are, 12 years later.

In 2000, I received a Senatorship award. It was a very proud moment, one that I hardly feel worthy of. It was presented by my very good friend Calvin, who was serving as Maryland's Senate President at the time. My parents and kids came up to surprise me that night. It was truly magical and I'll never forget it.

Since then, Calvin went on to serve on the US Jaycees in various roles, culminating with President. Today is Calvin's last day as President of the US Jaycee Senate. I am proud to call him a friend and proud of all of his accomplishments.

I have many friends that I've made through Jaycees. I'm really not involved today, but I do get the occasional call. The friends I have made, though, they will last forever.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Starting Off Wrong, Finishing Strong

I had a bad start to the day yesterday, mentally, that is. I got on the scale and, after Monday's vacation 2 lb. increase, the scale went up 2 more lbs. I got on the treadmill and could only wind out 2 miles. Definitely bumming. I've been so goal oriented throughout this last year, I was just 3 lbs from my June goal before vacation and 6 lbs from 150 on my 1 year anniversary on July 12, I felt like those goals might be suddenly out of reach. What frustrated me was that I really worked hard on vacation to watch my eating and to exercise, so this was not what I had planned.

I went back and looked at some of the comments here and support on the bulletin boards that I read and it really turned my day around. I desperately did not want to fall backwards any further and started to pound water and keep eating right.

I know I've said it before, but I've been amazed by some of the support I've received from the virtual world. I've posted on a few web bulletin boards and assume that many people have been following my blog through links I've left there. With all that help, I'd like to share some of my favorite web sites:

Runner's World has a bulletin board that includes a weight loss forum. Among other things, each week people post their weight loss successes or stories. The forum is like one huge group hug every week. It is entirely positive and a real morale booster.

I've mentioned Hal Higdon before. He is a writer for Runner's World and hosts his own bulletin board. This is a great place for specific questions about running and training. The posters here seem to have a great deal of experience on these topics and Hal posts replies daily.

I found a South Beach Diet support bulletin board. This was actually recommend to me by a poster on the Runner's World site. Lots of support here and people giving personal advice from their own experiences.

There seem to be endless numbers of blogs being written about diet and weight loss. I wish I had time to check out more, but I'd never get anything else done. A few that I regularly check out are the similarly middle-aged blogs below:

Pat's Self Propelled Running blog is a regular read. He is a frequent commenter here and has good advice. He runs in the Arizona heat and has a passion for baseball, so there's more positives for Pat! He's lost more than 30 lbs. I don't even like to think about running in the 100 degree heat (but it's a dry heat!)

Big Mike writes Mike's Journal . Mike has lost a ton of weight and is unrecognizable from the before pics from his web site. He writes in amazing detail about his training and activities. Mike lives in Wisconsin.

Kim from Spokane, Washington pens Kim's Journey to Fitness. She is a triathelete and has lost more than 50 lbs. in a year and a half.

I finished the day yesterday with a 1 mile fun run in the Baltimore heat -- 88 degrees, 90% humidity and was rewarded this morning down all 4 lbs. BACK ON TRACK! (Props to Deb, who accurately predicted this quick turn around!)

To those I've mentioned here, and and to everyone else that's posted, written or called, thank you for keeping me on track and inspired!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Awesome Seattle

Seattle is an amazing city. There isn't much we didn't do.

After a long drive back from Vancouver, including an hour wait to get back into the US, we arrived in Seattle on Tuesday afternoon and headed down to Pike Market. One word describes this place -- WOW! We saw the guys that throw fish, we tasted cherries and peaches. Fantastic. Deb was drooling looking at all the varieties of everything. What a place.

On Wednesday, we started our touring. We began with the Seattle Duck Tour. They took us places I don't think we'd have found otherwise. For the boat part of the tour, the captain pointed out several boats that fish for Alaskan king crab. This wouldn't normally have been a big deal, but we are fans of Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, so it meant something to us to see those vessels. The tour was a lot of fun and the kids had a blast.

From there, we hit the Space Needle. Just an fantastic view from the top. Then we did the Experience Music Project. This may be one of the best, most interactive museum type attractions I've ever seen. You can play instruments, record music, see the Jimi Hendrix history, and on, and on. Anyone going to Seattle, don't miss this one.

When we were planning this trip, it worked out that the Orioles had an inter league series scheduled in San Diego. Since this was one of the new parks that I had not visited, we decided on a day trip down the coast. On Thursday, we took a 6:45 flight out of Seattle into San Diego. From the airport, we taxied to a local breakfast place, then off to the 12:30 O's vs. Padre's game. The stadium is beautiful, though it would be better served looking toward water rather than to the city. They have a wiffle ball field just beyond left-center and the kids got to get a couple of hits before the game. This was a really neat feature of the park and one of the most distinguishing parts of the stadium. The O's took the game 6-3 as Bedard threw 6 quality innings. Then we were off to the airport. We were able to pick up a 4:50 flight and were back in downtown Seattle by just after 8. Not a bad days work!

Friday morning, I hit the treadmill early and got in 4 miles. We then all headed down to Pike Market for breakfast at Lowell's. After eating, the boys and I went off to Safeco Field for a stadium tour, while Deb spent a few hours in and around Pike Market -- alone.

There was quite a bit of excitement with Ken Griffey, Jr's return to Seattle for the first time since his he left for Cincy. When we arrived at the Mariners store, they were selling a limited edition Griffey autographed ball to benefit a local charity. Apparently, there was a line when the store opened, however the line was now gone. Couldn't help but to pick up a ball for myself.

This was my first stadium tour since before Camden yards opened. It was fascinating to get to see all of the ins and outs of the stadium. The tour included a visit to the owners box, the press q&a area (where Griffey would appear later that afternoon), the press box and the field (but don't touch the grass!) We learned about the roof, the artwork and construction. For the $8 adult price tag, it was well worth the visit.

We met back up with Deb for lunch. Not surprising me in the least, she showed up with hand fulls of bags. She'd been very busy.

I had my eyes on Pike Place Chowder since I saw their place on our first trip through the market. I have always loved clam chowder, but it doesn't really fit into any diet. I figured I'd splurge. They have about 12 different varieties and one of their menu choices is a four cup tasting selection. Deb and I each picked 4 choices. The regular clam was really good, but the salmon chowder was outrageous. I had an explosion of flavor and was very smooth. I really wanted more, but held off. It was a great choice for a splurge.

After lunch, I headed back with my youngest and we went for a swim, followed by a well deserved nap.

Other than dinner, we didn't do much else on Friday as the heavy activity was finally catching up to us.

Saturday was a quiet morning as well. We all swam, then I hit the treadmill for 2 1/2 miles. On my way back to the room, there was a security guard outside of the elevator. I kiddingly said to him "is the President in town?" He responded with "No, not yet." Huh? "Well, not the President, but the ex-President", he added. "Really, here? Which one?" "Clinton, and his wife!" No Way! I didn't even get an invite! Who knew!

A bit later, we were off to the market again for lunch. On our way out, there was a crew of people in Reds outfits. Turns out the Reds were staying at our hotel, too!

How lucky can the Reds and the Clintons get -- to be in the same hotel as us!

Saturday's highlight was the Mariner's vs. Reds game at Safeco Field. I had a totally different appreciation for the place having gone on the tour. We got to see the roof open just before the game to unveil the view of the city. The response for Griffey, in his second game back, was very warm. A few boos here and there, but mostly cheers and a standing ovation at his first at bat. A really fine park experience.

From there, it was back to the hotel to do our final packing and get ready for an early wakeup to fly home on Sunday.

Still to come. . . final vacation notes and pictures!


Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Stats and Training Update

After doing pretty well on vacation, or so I thought, I feel like I blew it in the last day and a half.

I had really eaten very well over the vacation. Lots of fish, veggies, some fruit. Not a lot of bad stuff to kill the diet.

Then there was the exercise. 9 miles on hotel treadmills, hours of swimming with the kids and lots and lots of walking. (I had no idea Seattle was such a hilly city!)

Our last hotel had a scale, which seemed to indicate a one pound loss as of Saturday morning.

Saturday night, we headed to Safeco Park and there was that smell. Mmmm, what is that -- freshly popped kettle corn. Now, this is not something that would normally drive me crazy, but the smell was just amazing. I bought a family sized bag -- actually, the bag could have fed the Osmonds. We got to our seats and ripped that baby open. Deb and I took turns passing the bag back and forth "for the last time". Oh, and the kids had some too! It was really good. I can only imagine how many calories I took in that night.

I got on the scale this morning and read a two pound increase. A bit of a disappointment, but not a disaster. Time to get back to business. Looking forward to my Weis salad for lunch! Back on the treadmill tomorrow.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Buffet

I have always struggled with portions. Even since I began this round of South Beach, I've always justified quantity eating with quality foods -- eat all the veggies I wanted, for example. I failed at the nut experiment but the remedy was essentially abstinence.

In February, Deb and I tempted fate in Las Vegas at the Bellagio and Wynn buffets. I would say we still ate more than we otherwise would have, but the quality of what we ate was much better -- very low in carbs, lots of fish and other proteins.

On Monday, our meals were delayed with the mid-day raft trip. We ate lunch at 3pm and did some snacking en route back to Vancouver. We wound up at the mall across from the hotel at 8. By 9, most of us were ready for dinner. About all that was still open was the Japanese Sushi restaurant. (This was NOT the same place I noted in my post from a couple of days ago.) The restaurant offered an after hours all you can eat option. My kids' eyes lit up. Mine did not. I just wasn't hungry. So, I did something rare for me -- I didn't eat! I ordered up a bowl of miso soup and that was it. I even struggled to finish that -- not the best I'd ever had.

It really felt good to be able to walk away from that table having not feasted on the all-you-can-eat. I look forward to doing that again!

More vacation to come. . . tomorrow, the post-vacation weigh in!


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Changing Thinking

I'm still strugging with seeing myself as the world sees me. I try to think of myself as the guy that I want to be, not the guy I have always been. Physically, that is.

Yesterday morning, I headed off to the gym at the hotel. Afterwards, on my way back to the room, I got on the elevator and there was another guy on the elevator also in work out gear. On the next floor, a guy gets on and says "man, look at you healthy guys!" It was really nothing more than a passing comment. Just small talk for the three or four floors we shared the elevator.

It really got me thinking, though, that some stranger looked at me and thought that I was one of those healthy kinda guys. Well, I've never thought of me as one of those kind of guys. I want to be a guy like that, and I trust that my personal friends and family circles see me more and more like that guy, but this random interaction was as validating as much of the kudos that I've received from friends and relatives. The fat guy trying to lose weight is gone. The healthy guy getting healthier is here!

I like it!

More to come from vacation. . .


Friday, June 22, 2007

Heading West. . . BC

So I let everyone know I was taking a day off and I still got four comments -- thanks all for giving me the hall pass! As for pictures, for the most part, they'll have to wait until we get home and download the digitals.

As we counted down the days to vacation, our living room was lined up with suit cases. For a trip longer than a week, we'd need a lot of clothes. Complicating things is the unpredictable nature of the Pacific NW weather -- we need to pack short, jeans, swimwear, etc. Not like going to the beach. I quickly noticed the difference in space requirements with smaller clothes. I swear that my XL boxer briefs (there, now, I've just answered a burning question I'm sure many of you have had) take up 1/3 the space that the old 5x pairs did! By the time we were ready to go, we had 7 bags to check and 6 carry ons. I just love being the bag schlepper!

Flights were uneventful -- late, but uneventful. By the way, if you have a chance to fly on Delta with seat back TVs, do it -- it was fantastic -- and great to keep the kids occupied for our 6 hr trip from NY to SEA. We finally go to the hotel at 12:30 am and SEA and all off to dream land.

On Saturday morning, we headed north. Our first stop was the Fremont Fair in one of Seattle's neighborhoods. Turns out, this is not for the feint of heart. Imagine taking a trip back to Haight-Ashbury around 1965. As we were looking for parking, I passed about 150 bikers wearing, well, paint. Um, yeah, that's all they were wearing, just paint. I mean, really, paint, and nothing else. My kids got quite a show. We all got quite a show! Just one snippet of what we saw there. Most certainly the most obvious demonstration of freedom of speech I've ever seen!
From there, it was off to Vancouver. I didn't expect an hour wait to cross north, but what are you going to do? By the time we got to our hotel, we really only had time to unpack and find dinner.

Sunday was Father's day and my one request was to run the 5k course I'd tracked through the park near our hotel in Burnaby, BC. When we woke, the weather kinda sucked, so I just chilled. We had a blast at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival. Very cool. Those folks know how to throw a festival! Lots of free stuff and things for the kids to do. For dinner, the folks at the Hilton recommended a local sushi place -- Sushi Garden. I do enjoy sushi, but have had very little in the past year since I don't do rice. I ordered the 17 piece sashimi plate. Now, normally, a piece of sashimi is about 2" x 1" x 1/4". I have never seen anything like what this plate was. The slices were more like 3x2x1/2" and the fish was amazing. Salmon, octopus, tuna, yellow tail, and one or two other items. I normally don't care for octopus since it's usually so chewy. This was almost tender. It was amazing. We all went to town and, even better, the four of us ate for $50 CAD!
Monday was a big day -- our long awaited rafting trip. After 2 1/2 miles on the treadmill, we were on our way north to Squamish. We stopped en route to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge just north of Vancouver. They were closed when we went through. The thought of crossing this bridge was daunting -- I'm not a big fan of heights. I'm cool with tall buildings with really thick glass, but getting to the edge of a deep canyon (like the Grand one) or an outdoor observation deck (like the Empire State Building) makes me pretty queasy. With that said, this is a fear I'd like to conquer someday.

We continued north up to Squamish and arrived at the base right on time. We met our guide -- Enriquez (nickname E-Z) -- and he fitted us for out our wet suits. Deb and I took the suits he gave us and went to the changing room and put those suckers on. Now, I know that they're not meant to fit loosely, so we pulled and tugged and pulled and tugged on each other's suits and we got those bad boys on. At least for me, I'd describe the fit as something close to the way paint fits on a wall. There wasn't a millimeter left for breathing. All I could do was be thankful that I had lost those extra pounds from the time I reserved the trip.

So now that we fit, it was on to the river. The trip was a blast. Not too rough a ride, as we had planned. It was icy cold -- E-Z said that the water had been a glacier 10 minutes before we were riding on it. Probably 35-37 degrees. Those wet suits just didn't do enough.

We hit one rough patch where E-Z's oar came loose. I turned around and he was standing up yelling at Deb and I to paddle as we approached some downed trees. I yelled at Deb to duck as a tree limb was approaching her way too quickly. It was the most excitement of the trip.

(Photo credits to Jeff the rafting assistant and photographer.)

Other than the water temp and air in the mid 50's, we all had a blast. My youngest wanted to go again the next day.

On our way back, the server at lunch recommended a free suspension bridge, near Capilano. This was at Lynn Canyon and at $60 less, worth checking out.

We hit Vancouver about 5pm and I was sure that the public park would be closed. No doubt, I was hoping it would be! We found the park and it was, in fact open.

Before you get to the suspension bridge, there are chain link fences near by with lots of warnings of death. They give very specific examples of how some were lost falling into the canyon or being washed away, never to be seen again. This served as quite the encouragement for me to get right on that bridge!

As we approached the bridge, my youngest began to balk at crossing. Good news for me, I'd have company on the eastern edge. In the mean time, my oldest went right on, into the middle and started jumping up and down. More positive encouragement for daddy! Deb was in the middle now taking pictures as my youngest started to head over. Oh no, all alone! After a few minutes, I began to move onto the bridge. I made it 1/4 of the way over and froze, then backed off. Deb and my kids were now running back and forth at will. Next up, a high school trip visit. 30 or so high school kids crossing at will. Oy!

After they all cleared, I decided I could do it. I asked Deb to guide me over. She came back over and walked just in front of me. I passed her and then continued slowly the rest of the way. Whew! Now all I had to do is get back. After I caught my breath, I briskly moved back across and it was done.

I've got to say, it didn't feel invigorating. It wasn't a relief. It was just done. I was glad to have done it, but I didn't feel like I had conquered any of my demons. I feel like if I were to go back tomorrow, I'd have the same feelings, but I really don't know for sure.

From there, we headed back to our hotel and to get some dinner.

An amazing day. A day of renewal, really. A tremendous amount of fun and time to look forward to the next adventure. More vacation to come. . .


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day Off

Sorry, all, no entry for today. Too much vacation going on. Check back on Friday!


Vacation Planning

I have always looked forward to vacations. As a kid, we didn't vacation as a family a whole lot. There were a half dozen years where we spent weeks at the beach. I recall a teenage trip to Disney and a few trips out to visit my grandparents, once they retired to Phoenix.

As I got old enough to pay my own way, I started traveling with friends. My first "adult" vacation was with a college friend for a long weekend in Vegas. Then there were a number of trips to see different baseball stadiums. (This week, I will be visiting my 43rd and 44th major league parks!) Many of these trips were with close friends and I often traveled and stayed at a friend's house.

It wasn't really until Deb and I got married that we became real tourists. Our honeymoon was in California, our first anniversary to London (across the pond, that is.) As a tourist, I've pretty much done as I pleased, although, as I think now about it, our itineraries were not very adventurous. We've done sight seeing. We've done Disney, but not much beyond that. Most of all, though, we've had heavy concentration on eating.

As we've put together our itinerary for this vacation, the focus was markedly different.

Deb had been saying for years that she'd love to go to Seattle. I spent exactly 3 hours in Seattle on a diversion from a meeting I attended in Portland. Drove up with some friends to see a ball game in that gawd aweful place they called a stadium -- the Kingdome. May she rest in peace!

So, the kids are old enough to appreciate the trip and we planned 9 days in Seattle and Vancouver. On the food front, I knew that we'll get all the fresh fish we can eat -- and all four of us love it. I know we'll get plenty of sushi (sashimi for me) -- and all four of us love that too. So to start with, eating healthy won't be a problem.

Next up is activities. The first part of our trip was scheduled to be Vancouver. We were originally looking at Whister, but there just wasn't enough time to get there. As we researched, the focus became outdoor activites. Ultimately, we settled on a rafting trip in Squamish, BC.

My dad took my brother and I and a family friend rafting when I was about 15 or 16. We had a blast, but I couldn't fathom a trip even at my former lows, in the low to mid 300's. Now is the time to get back out on the water.

When I spoke to the woman who ran the rafting company, she said that they supply wet suits. Okay, I thought, can I fit? I asked how big they got. Well, she said that they'd handle about 260-265 lbs. GLUP. At that point, I was at about 290 with 10 weeks or so to go. It would be tight. Obviously, I didn't plan to plunk down $300 if I wasn't going to be able to fit in the suit! We told the kids about the trip and they were psyched, but I knew I had work to do.

Anyway, that was the plan.

We didn't pre plan any other activities other than touristy stuff, but I did map out a running route in Vancouver and Seattle. Now, that's new!

Deb and I knew there'd be lots of walking and that would be no big deal.

Just couldn't wait to go!

To be continued. . .


Monday, June 18, 2007

To Shirt or Not to Shirt, That is the Question

I have always looked forward to summer trips to the beach. When I was a kid, we often spent a week at Ocean City, MD and those visits bring back great memories. Summer time was also meant for camp, with twice a day swimming, my favorite part of the day.

As an adult, swimming is still an activity to look forward to, though much more rare. When we travel as a family, I will always search for a hotel with a pool. There is little better to get the kids ready for bed than a night time swim. Sleep doesn't come much easier. . . for mom and dad either.

As a kid, even as a big kid, I never thought about wearing a shirt to swim. You just didn't do that. I didn't care. I don't even remember kids in camp caring very much. As the years went on, though, I definitely got more self conscious about my body. I probably started wearing a t-shirt to swim in public sometime in my late teens.

Over time, it just became part of my swimming routine. Even packing for a trip, I would always be sure to have a few "swim shirts" in the suitcase. I've never felt comfortable as an adult not wearing a shirt, even with prior big losses.

Things are different now. I've lost so much more than ever before. When I look at my dressed profile in the mirror, I see a reasonably regular sized guy, but when I take my shirt off, I still don't like what I see. Though the belly is still there, I am now seeing excess skin. I'm also not fond of the man boobs that I hope to rid myself of through weight work.

I know that I really shouldn't care what anyone else thinks. Believe me, I know that. Unfortunately, the long term memory part of my brain is really having a tough time forgetting the old guy with the gross frame. I really need to deal with that part of my brain before our August trip to the beach. That will be the real test on whether to shirt or not to shirt.


Monday Stats and Training Update

Training Update

A bit of a slow week, this week. Just over 6 miles running as we left for vaca later in the week. That doesn't include 4-5 miles we walked on vaca over the weekend. It strikes me that the Annapolis 10 miler is just about 9 weeks away and the Philly Distance Run just a few weeks after that. Time to get the training plan together.

Weigh in was Friday with our vacation departure. Pretty happy down 2 this week. Nervous about being a way, though. Have plans to run, but we'll see if vacation winds up taking over best laid plans.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to my dad! I don't have a family photo to upload presently, but I will do that down the road. I love you, dad! Thanks for all of your support.

The picture below is of me and the boys in March, 2005. We were celebrating our trio of holes-in-one in Williamsburg, VA.
This was taken just a few weeks ago. My eldest and I getting set to go for a long bike ride.

To all the dad's out there -- have a great day!

One Size Doesn't Fit All, Part II

I just want the name of the person that designed the modern day coach airline seat. I want to see this guy (yes, I'm assuming it's a guy, but it certainly could be a woman -- no sexism intended!) in person. I'll bet a week's pay that this guy stands about 5'4" and weighs no more than 140 -- wet! I truly believe that the modern airline seat is built for a person no bigger than 180 and 6' tall.

Over the past 5 years, I've traveled more than 150,000 air miles. Probably closer to 200,000. Every mile of it domestically. Every airline, save Southwest, has a pretty straightforward policy -- you buy a seat, you get a seat.

I have spent countless hours ensuring that I had an aisle seat. In the good old days, before about 2004 I'd check my seat assignments daily and move all over the plane to do the best I could to ensure an empty seat next to me. Since about 04, when the airlines finally realized that they couldn't just throw away a few billion dollars a year, they cut their schedules and the planes filled up. No more empty seats, anywhere! A middle empty seat was pure manna, and very rare. I would make sure, one way or another, that I had an aisle, maybe a window, but definitely not a middle seat. I would contort my schedule any which way to avoid that middle seat!

I started to fly Southwest around 1997. I remember vividly their 25th anniversary promotion -- fly anywhere in their system non-stop for $25 each way, $50 if there was a connection. Deb and I booked flights to see baseball games in Houston and Kansas City for $300 total for the two of us. What a deal.

Southwest continued to build a presence at BWI, so I flew them more and more. I always diligently got to the airport to get an A boarding pass so that I'd be ensured of an aisle seat. I still envision the horror on an oversold flight when the last middle seat on the plane is next to the fat guy in seat 6C.

Round about 2001 or 2002, SW made a big deal out of required "COS" -- their politically correct term for "customers of size" -- to purchase a second seat. They say that this was not a new policy, but I had never been asked to buy one. The deal was, if the flight wasn't full, you'd get your money back on the second seat.

For about a year, I boycotted SW, until I couldn't take the BWI to Providence connections through Philly on US Air any longer -- a 4 hr event rather than 50 minutes. I started buying the second seat.

At first, I was embarrassed by the purchase, but as time went on, I diligently bought the second seat. As I thought about the policy, it made perfect sense to me. First of all, since I couldn't contain my width in between the two armrests, even a child would be inconvenienced, nevertheless a full grown adult. Second, as long as my seat didn't cost them revenue by taking away a seat from someone else willing to pay for it, why not just guarantee that the middle seat went next to me. Also, a COS gets to pre-board the flight, so boarding group doesn't matter.

I decided not to tell my company about the extra seat purchase. If and when I didn't get the refund, I'd deal with the expense side, but not before. Amazing, since that first purchase, I have received refunds 100% of the time. This is not to say that there has not been any embarrassment. On a few occasions, the flights have been very full, and I've had to tell other customers that the middle seat was "taken". Oh, the looks I've gotten. Then there was the time that I boarded late and the flight attendant had to relocate a passenger for my extra seat. Not at all fun.

Whenever I've been over about 350 or so, another airline problem would manifest itself. The seat belt. I learned long ago that these things are not of infinite length. It's also worth noting that there isn't even a standard among the airlines. American consistently has longer belts that Delta or Southwest. So, upon boarding, as discreetly as possible, I ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extension. In case you're wonder what that looks like, well, you know the seat belt that they use for the safety demo? Well, that is an extension. Some flight attendants are great. They'll roll up the extension and hand it to me discreetly. Curse the ones that feel the need to hold the belt at one end, dangling from their outstretched arm for the entire airplane to see. Why not just get on the speaker and say "Hey, everyone, check out the fat guy in 23F!"

So 11 months ago, I required two seats and two belts.

Somewhere around November, I remember boarding a Southwest flight and think I didn't need the extra belt. I got on the plane and WaaLaa, just one belt! Now we're talking! It was a big deal to me, and it felt really good.

I last flew Southwest about 3 weeks ago and I dutifully bought the second seat. It is quite apparent by the looks that I'm getting from the gate agents and other customers that they think that I don't need the extra seat. In fact, the arm rest now goes down somewhat comfortably. Well, as comfortably as it can. So, I'm now done with that second seat. That's a big deal, because it's still a bit of a crutch. I still like the extra room, but I don't think I need it. So I'll just have to be like every other "normal" person that boards their planes. One seat belt, one seat. It'll feel weird, but a good kinda weird! Better make sure I get that A group again.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Letter to the Editor

Deb wrote this letter to the editor of our local paper this week. Much to our surprise, it showed up in print yesterday.

Local runners helping everyone to be healthier

This past weekend my husband and I walked/jogged in the Matzohball 5K at Centennial Park. This letter is to thank the many runners and walkers of [our] county for their support and enthusiasm. Last July my husband and I decided to "turn over a new leaf" and pursue a healthier lifestyle, to include participating in local charitable walks and runs. Rather than the "Get out of the way" and "What do you think you're doing?" reactions we were expecting, our fellow runners have been amazingly supportive and encouraging.

This weekend, while mostly walking the 5K, it was obvious that this wasn't my usual gig. A woman passed by me twice on the trail and enthusiastically gave me words of encouragement, maintaining "the pep in my step" and a smile on my face. Runners of [our] county, you're not only making a difference in the health of your own bodies but in health of others as well and I thank you!

To those of you who are still at home contemplating whether or not to get off the couch, there's a whole community out there who will encourage and help you reach your goals.

Well put, my love. I couldn't have said it better myself! (And thanks for writing my blog post for today, too!)


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taking A Risk

Throughout my life, I have not been what I would consider a risk taker. Just about every stock I purchased has gone down, so I don't buy individual stocks any longer. I've been at the same company for 17 years. Because of my body size, I had always shied away from physical risk in the things that I've done. For example, when planning a summer vacation, hiking, boating and that sort of thing were never in the plans.

This morning I registered for the Annapolis Ten Mile Run . This in and of itself is not a risk. I completed the Delaware 10 mile race in May. I'm not concerned about the distance. I've been thinking about this as a training run for the Philly Distance Run in September. So why the hedge? This one is different.

This paragraph is what scares me:

  • RULES: All participants must maintain at least a 12 minute per mile pace. Participants unable to do so by the 8 mile mark will be advised they are no longer official participants and will be required to either board transportation or move to the sidewalk and obey all pedestrian traffic rules. Those individuals that continue will cease being official participants and will not receive an official finisher’s time or finisher’s premium. This rule will be STRICTLY ENFORCED.

This is a risk.

I have consistently broken 12 minutes on the treadmill, but not outside of my basement. This will require a reduction of 22 minutes, 2:12 per mile, off of my Delaware pace. That's a huge bridge to gap.

This doesn't even take into account the hilly nature of the course, which looks more akin to the teeth inside a sharks mouth than a nice, flat road to run. Here, there is risk.

Add to this hilly course, the weather factor. 8 am temperature in late August could easily be 80+. Let's not forget humidity, which often exceeds 80%. Here, too, there is risk.

If I don't meet the deadline, what happens then? Nothing really. I don't get a medal. I don't get the shirt. More of a concern is a moral defeat. Not finishing something that I've started. Forget the fact that 2 hours is an arbitrary number, not finishing scares the hell out of me!

So, I will train. I will run. I will be there on time and I'll do the best that I can. I will learn from the experience. That is all that I can do. That is all anyoune could do.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

L'Chaim! לחיים!

A few people have asked me the meaning of לחיים! -- L'Chaim! I promised Pat from Arizona an answer today.

L'Chiam is Hebrew and it translates in English to "to life".

The phrase was popularized in the film and Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof.

To me, L'Chaim represents this journey that I have taken on. Each step has been to further life. It has very deep and personal meaning.

Every step of this journey has added to my life through better health. I realize that my life impacts so many others -- my two wonderful boys, my amazing wife, my parents, brother, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, in-laws, cousins, friends, co-workers, and so on. I realized that I need do whatever I can to make sure that I am on this earth every day possible. I need them and they need me.

In the short couple of weeks that I have been blogging, I have been overwhelmed by the people that have written me and commented that these writings were inspiring them. If I can share L'Chaim with them or with you reading now and if this helps anyone reach their goals, whatever they are, it is a mitzvah.

Now, no doubt, you're curious about mitzvah. מצווה or mitzvah is also a Hebrew word for good deed. It represents any act of human kindness, such as donating to charity, caring for a sick friend, giving food to the poor, or even helping others be more healthy.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back of the Commode

I can't say with absolute certainty, but I think reading on the commode is predominantly a guy thing. My dad has a stack of Sports Illustrated's and various other magazines next to the toilet. My grandfather had a big stack of vintage Playboy's next to his. I don't ever remember seeing mom's Better Homes and Gardens in the loo.

My wife doesn't understand the concept. If I'm hanging out there too long, I'll be accused of the mortal sin of READING! Then, I'll have to defend my "business." She MUST inform me how quickly she's in and out. It's just one of those things I've come to expect and ignore.

Wow, I have really digressed from my post topic for today.

Over time, I had winnowed my reading list down to just a few magazines. If you visited my commode, you would see a Business Week, probably a Money Magazine, and maybe Consumer Reports. Not too sexy a list, but incredibly practical and mildly entertaining.

My weight loss and interest in fitness has expanded commode selection. Below is a list of health and fitness magazines that I now read on a regular basis and why I like them:

Men's Health -- I find Men's Health to have the best all around advice for general nutrition and fitness. There are always articles or small sections on different exercises, stretches, etc. Some can be advanced, but I'll be doing them some day! I look forward to seeing the monthly Belly Off Club feature, where they profile someone that has lost significant weight. (I'm penciling in myself for sometime in 2008!) The magazine also has at least one monthly article on good foods. I go back and reference April's "The Ultimate Salad" article from time to time. It's always the next thing that I read when it shows up in my mailbox.

Runner's World -- Picked up my first issue of this a month ago and couldn't put it down. Everything a runner needs to know from 5k's to marathons, although the focus is certainly on the longer races. Running health and fitness, stretching, eating, carb loading, drinking, you name it, it's there. Should get my first mailbox issue in July!

Men's Journal -- This magazine concentrates more on the outdoors, rather than health and exercise. There are some articles on those topics, but that is not it's primary focus. I subscribe to this magazine, but I probably wouldn't renew as Men's Health and Runners World cover the topics that I'm more interested in.

I've picked up a few others, like Men's Fitness, but they really didn't add anything that the other don't already cover.

So, that's about it from the back of the commode.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Stats and Training Update

Week 47 results:


Yesterday was the Matzohball Run 5k in my town. I had been looking forward to this, since I had not run the course since December when I sizzled at 51:22. I finished this event at 37:23, HOWEVER, I suspect that the course distance was not correct. After the race, I tracked the course on Google Earth and came up with 2.83 miles. If I'm right, that would translate to about 41 minutes, which was also much closer to my training run at that park on Memorial Day. Although I would have been disappointed with that time at the finish, I'm certainly more disappointed now, thinking I blew it out and now suspecting that I was a minute off of my 39:59 goal.

I don't know how this error might have happened. I suppose I might have missed a turn on my Google track, but I don't think I'm off by much. I emailed the people that ran the event -- I'll let you know what they say. This is a bummer!

Otherwise, this was a good week for exercise. Total foot mileage of 12.15 (counting the 5k as 5k) with two days of weights and a couple of half hour bike rides.

Included in the running were two PR's, now at an 11:20 pace for 5k plus distances.

All in all, a good week -- down 3 lbs.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Super-Amazing Weight Loss Diet Drink Elixer

A number of people have asked me if I had any suggestions for helping them lose weight. I didn't really think about it at the time, but there is ONE thing that I think has made a HUGE difference for me.

It is a clear.


It is odorless.


It is colorless.

Of course, it is water.

I am able to predict with near absolute precision if the scale will be down or not based on my previous day's water consumption. Drinking water has a huge impact on my personal weight loss, almost as much as anything else I have done regarding diet or exercise.

On an average day where I exercise hard in the morning for 40 minutes or so, I consume between 1 and 1.5 liters of water between a few minutes before exercise and an hour or so after. Throughout the remainder of the day, I drink another 1.5 to 2 liters. (Deb and I scour the weekly grocery store ads for the $4 cases of 1/2 liter bottles, then stock up when the hit the shelves.)

Any time that I have been striving to hit a short term weight loss goal, I have kicked up the water consumtion and have made the weight. At year end when I was down 6 lbs from the 100 target with a few days to go, I drank 4-5 liters of water per day. (Warning -- if you do this, don't go far from a bathroom or tree!)

Historically, when I have replaced some of the water with Diet Coke or some other low or no calorie beverage, the result is not the same. If I feel the need for one of these drinks, I try to drink it in addition to my regular water volume, rather than in place of. Generally, I don't have more than one of these other beverages in a given day.

The tell tale sign of sufficient water consumption is the color of my pee. The clearer the better. I can always tell when I need to pound a glass or two of H2O.

I can't say if this will help anyone else with similar weight loss goals, but it certainly can't hurt to drink up!


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Only A Parent Could Love

It's hard to know where love begins and ends. I accept the fact that parents love their children unconditionally. When a child suffers from feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, he may question every positive interaction from outsiders. It can be difficult to work through the gray between true feelings and lip service. Who do you trust as genuine and who do you not? Do they really like me or do they want something from me?

I have grown up being suspicious of most positive reaches into my life. I never questioned my family. As my weight has teeter-tottered over the years, I have allowed more people in, though I maintain close friendships with only a few. Had I not been on a down teeter when I met Deb, I don't know that I would have had the courage to ask her out.

It's hard not to notice the difference in how strangers treat big versus not as big. When walking down the street, you can see people look at you through their sunglasses and then avert their eyes at the last possible moment, so as not to be caught staring. I think it's very much like an accident on the highway. Would anyone ever admit that they slow down to look? No, not many would, but the truth is, they do anyway. If no one looked at the accident on the shoulder of the road, traffic would continue to move at a normal speed.

Having moved into a more "normal" weight class, I do not sense that same aversion. People seem to be more outwardly friendly and helpful. Is it me? I don't know. Maybe I'm just less suspicious. I'm no longer an accident on the side of the road. Have I been so programmed to look for these things? It is difficult to overcome.

I know that it will take years to reprogram myself to not be so suspicious of others that offer their friendship. I am learning through this blog that there are many who offer their support and that has been truly amazing. I accept these offers as genuine. Total strangers, eyes straight ahead.

It is unfortunate that our world places values on people based on outward appearances. Although I look forward to many years in the unaffected class, I will always remember where I came from, what I've been through and the journey out. I pray that you will too!


Apologies to Mark Twain

It was pointed out to me (thanks, brother Neil) that my post from a couple of days ago grossly misquoted Mark Twain. I called the post "A River in Africa." Mark Twain said "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." I have updated the post.

Please excuse my most egregious error. I'll try not to let it happen again!


Friday, June 8, 2007

Sitting Shiva

Yesterday's post took a lot out of me. Often as I'm writing, I have a kernel of an idea, but no clue where it will go from there. Yesterday was very much in that mold. My fingers seemed to take over and dug deep into my heart and soul and pulled that story out. That was a story that had never been told. It is completely true and left me feeling washed out and almost depressed.

I called my "shrink", aka, Dr. Deb (not a real Dr, but she plays one on TV :) ) She quickly diagnosed the problem: I was eulogizing the old me. In Judaism, after a person dies, שבעה (shiva) is the period of mourning after burial for a period of seven days. In a sense, I was sitting shiva for the old Jeff. I don't miss the old Jeff, but I do love him. It is the only point of reference I have for essentially the entirety of my life. Although the mirror shows the new guy, pictures show the old.

Fortunately, what really matters is what's inside, and that hasn't changed. Maybe a little smarter, maybe a little more experienced in understanding how my body works, but the rest of the inside is still the same.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

A River in Egypt

When I was in college, I remember sitting at the local pizza joint waiting for my pie looking out the window. It was dark out and there was a reflection in the mirror of some huge guy. I have no idea who he was but he was really big. Looked as big around as a California Redwood, with a round puffy face, flabby arms and a gentle smile on his face. To this day, I don't know who that was. It wasn't me. . . It couldn't have been me. . . that guy was humongous. If it wasn't me, who was it?

I got up, paid for my pizza, drove the 1/4 mile back to my dorm in my Chevette, took it back to my room and promptly inhaled it. Alone.

I'm sure. . . certain, in fact, that if I knew that guy I would have made sure he didn't eat that pizza. I would have talked to him about changing his ways. Could he possibly not know how he carried himself? That the world was watching, and staring and that kids were gawking? I felt bad for that guy, because he didn't know what he didn't know. He would know how he was killing himself and life as a fat man might be tough and unpleasant and most certainly unfair.

I've carried memories of that fat man and of that brief moment in my life with me all of these years. That moment is embedded in my brain, to remain there until I die. Why did I not do anything that day to stop this man from doing further harm?

Was it really any different than watching friends drink too much, night after night, or smoke too much or do other things to their bodies and choosing to do nothing? After all, we're in college and at least the beer was legal, but so too was the food. Does the alcoholic not know how to stop drinking? No, he needs help. We look down upon the celebrities that go into rehab for the second, third and fourth time. But who will help the fat man?

Every family member that tries to help is rebuffed for it's not the right time or it's not the right place. Friends hold their words until the right time, but still, if the fat man isn't ready, he can not change.

The fat man cries himself to sleep over a bowl of m & m's and cookie dough ice cream, feeling helpless in a world made for skinny people and not knowing how to stop.
To the fat man, the mirror is the enemy. He can not hide from the mirror. The mirror is the only one that can tell the truth.

As I cried myself to sleep that night, I tried to put the fat man out of my mind, for I could have done something, but chose not to. I awoke the next day, not a thought in the world of the fat man, not a mirror in sight.

22 years later, I found that fat man, and did what I should have done so long ago. Denial was no longer an option. . . just a river in Egypt.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

One Size Doesn't Fit All, Part I

When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters.

On my first visit to Disney World in 9th grade, my brother and I rode Space Mountain like 12 times in a single day. I have fond memories teenage trips to Hershey Park, Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens, riding all the rides and most of the coasters. Even the Wild Mouse on the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD was an occasion to look forward to.

What I found out as I continued to grow horizontally is that they don't make those coaster seats quite big enough for big guys.

My love of the roller coaster and amusement park rides in general seemed to wane in direct reverse relationship with my bodily width.

This never bothered me until kids came along and then started to grow. About 4 years ago, we took a trip to Dorney Park, north of Philly. We went primarily for the water park, but as we walked by the adult rides en route to the kiddie rides, I noted that some of the ride signs had warnings on them. Something to the effect of:

No Pregnant Women, No Heart Conditions, and

Well, that might be just a slight exaggeration, but the warning was to me to be heeded, and so I did. That warning sure did save me from the added humiliation of trying to get into a seat and failing the test.

On this trip, not being able to ride rides was not an issue. The kids weren't quite ready for coasters, but I knew that the time was near.

In December 2004, we made our first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Thankfully, I was at a point where my weight was down due to one of the company weight loss contests. I was able to ride Space Mountain and the Wild Mouse a few times. It felt really good to get on those rides. The rides were tight, but I knew how to suck in my gut far enough for the close to latch.

Unfortunately, my part of the trip was cut short by a kidney stone, which relegated me to bed for three days on some really good pain meds.

In order to make up for lost time, we planned to return in November, 2005. By then, my weight had also returned.

Although we did do a few park days, there would be no riding for this big guy.

Cut to 2007 . . . Deb and I went out to Vegas for our anniversary. Although we had been before, our goals were different this time. For one, we wanted to enjoy our food, not just eat mass quantities of it. (More on that trip in a later post.) Anyway, our hotel (MGM) sat right across the street from NY, NY. Right outside is their roller coaster, winding it's way along the facade of the hotel.

On our last full day, I finally told Deb that I'd like to ride it. She was fine with that and encouraged me to go. . . alone. There was shopping to be done, after all! So I did. I got in line and, in my head, got out of line about 6 times. Would I fit? If not, how would that affect my mind with so much positive going on.

Well, I didn't get out of line. After about a half hour wait and a $12 charge, I got into the seat and I fit! Just a slight breath in and the bar was locked. Now what? I guess I'm stuck now. And away we go. . .

Two and a half minutes of screaming through a loop-d-loop and a corkscrew along The Strip. It was AWESOME.

A week or two later, Deb had received an e-mail from one of the parents at school offering discount tickets to Hershey Park. I don't think Deb got the words out before I told her to put our order in. In April, we were off to Hershey for an awesome day of rides and fun. I rode every coaster in the park except one. (I was not quite petite enough to fit in the Storm Runner seat.) Well, maybe next time! What was even better, was that my oldest rode all but one of the ones that I rode and Deb and my youngest rode as well. It was a glorious day of fun in the sun.
Picture -- upside down on the Super Dooper Looper, my son and I are in the second position, I'm on the right. (Picture credits to Deb! Nice!)

For his birthday, my brother and I are taking Dad to Kings Dominion for a guys day of riding coasters. BRING IT ON!

I've read in some other places things like this described as NSV's -- non-scale victories. There have been many of them and this is just one more in the path to normality.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Drop Your Shorts, Bend Over and Cough

I have never had good professional relationships with doctors.

When I was a kid, that annual checkup was a month-long feared event. I wasn't afraid of needles or being poked and prodded -- it was that aweful SCALE! That would be the one day of the year that my mom would know my weight. One year I even pretened to be sick so I wouldn't have to go. (That was pretty smart, huh?) Inevitably, it would result in the annual "you need to lose weight" discussion that never failed to end in tears.

As an adult, once I could control my doctor visits, I just didn't go. Once I got married, my wife encouraged me to find a doctor and go for a physical. I found Dr. G in a nearby town and visited for a physical. It was really a joke -- 10 minutes: scale, blood work, bp, some other prodding and poking, no big deal. I think he said "you really outta lose some weight." I said "I know" and that was that. Dr. G was not exactly "involved" in my care. For 10 years, he was really just diagnosing simple illensses and collecting his fee. His office was almost like a clinic, they churned so many patients. I never looked around, though. It was really all I cared for at that point.

In the mean time, Deb had found a doctor that a friend recommend earlier in 2006. She LOVED Dr. H. She spent time with her on her visits and didn't rush her out the door. Deb had encouraged me to get to a doctor for a check up as I was beginning my new lifestyle endeavor. She didn't want me keeling over from exercise rigors. She suggested that I try Dr. H, provided I didn't have any problem seeing a woman doctor. As long as she didn't have a problem seeing me, in all my glory, what the heck.

I first visited Dr. H in late August, 2006 for a full check up. I was already down 29 lbs. and feeling pretty good about the way things were going. Of course, the first stop was the dreaded scale. Dr. H has one of those "old" style balance-type scales. Right there in front of me read: Max. Weight 350. Uh oh! Having weighed in at home that morning, I then provided the nurse my weight of 388.

Dr. H talked to me about my history, my weight loss, my goals, my exercise, my drugs, my BP. Pretty much a full physical, the way it ought to be. (Oh yeah, since I was now over 40, she also did the dreaded "drop your shorts, bend over and cough" exam. If she was still willing to see me as a patient after that, she had to be a keeper. ) She spent probably 20 plus minutes with me. She seemed to really care. She was genuine.

She ordered some blood work and referred me to a cardiologist for a heart checkup.

After a couple of days, she called with the blood work results. All of my numbers were in the normal range execpt HDL (Good) Cholesterol. That was 26, where it should be over 39. Keep on exercising and dieting and it will move in the right direction.

In December, I saw a cardiologist for the first time. Dr. M. At that point I was down about 90 lbs. The treadmill test went well and he reduced my bp meds by 1 level.

Dr. H had asked me to follow up after the cardo visit. I finally got around to that in April. She had also ordered up some new blood work to compare to August.

The results were pretty amazing. Down about 120 lbs total at that point, every measurement was positive. Though HDL was still a bit low, it was close to the target. BP was 119/79 so I asked her about my bp meds -- she reduced the dose by half and said we could review again in a month or two to see about eliminatating. WOO HOO!

Dr H. has been a contributing force to my ongoing success. She has been a positive influence in acheiving my goals through her easy manner and kind, caring attitude. She is what a doctor is SUPPOSED to be. (I know so many people who wouldn't recommend their doctors. Where have all the good ones gone?) Before I left that day, she told me she's been telling everyone about me. She said "I know I'm not supposed to do this, but can I give you a hug?" Yes, Dr. H, any time!

My advice to all: go out there and find a GREAT doctor. They're diamonds in the rough, but well worth the hunt!


Monday, June 4, 2007

Monday Stats and Training Update

Week 46 results:


This was a particularly good week for running. I was able to run at a local park on Monday and tread Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday. Total of 15.1 miles for the week. Tuesday was also a weight day. Hadn't done weights in many months and boy did I hurt for the next few days.

Sunday's run was a PR (personal record) of 3.6 miles at an average of 11:47/minute, beating my old PR of 12:08. I had been struggling to break through under 12 minutes for many months, so this was an exciting feat. I was also able to maintain a running pace for a half mile, beating my old long of 1/3 mile.

Monday's run at the park was on the same course as the Matzo Ball Run 5k that I'll be participating in this coming weekend. In December, I completed that course in more than 50 minutes. Monday's training was at 40:50. My goal is to break 40:00. Based on the Sunday breakout, I'm hoping that 39:59 will be a breeze!


A Word of Thanks

I have been truly overwhelmed by the comments, e-mails, web postings and calls from so many people.

Your support simply goes to further my goals.

I can not possibly convey what it means to have friends, family and perfect strangers support this lifelong endeavor.

Thank You!


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, Peanuts, Popcorn, Hershey Bars, That's What It's all About!

"Me and My Boys" -- April or May, 2006

Something a little different today.

My family has always been full of sports fans. I have memories as a young child going to Orioles and Baltimore Bullets games with my dad and grandfather. (Brief history lesson for any readers under 30: once upon a time, there was an NBA team in Baltimore named the Bullets. In 1972, they moved to Washington and became the Washington Bullets before "bullet" became non-politically correct and they became the Wizards.) I used to go with my dad to Baltimore Colts games. (Brief history lesson #2: once upon a time, before the Ravens came to Baltimore there was an NFL team in Baltimore named the Colts {Browns fans, I know your pain!}. In 1983, Robert Irsay moved the team from Baltimore to Indianapolis and they became the Indianapolis Colts.) Deb and I even went to three MLB games on our California honeymoon!

To give you an example of my family craze, below is the text of a note that my cousins sent with the baby gift for my first born:

We are so happy to have you join the family. You have already made your family proud. . .and you JUST got here!

The world is ready for you and your parents will be there to give you every opportunity to be successful. You are part of a great family: a family of tradition.

If you want to be a concert pianist, you can be. If you choose to be a great painter or a marine biologist, they will support you. However, there is one thing YOU must be. . . you WILL be.

That is a baseball fan. You will be an Orioles fan and you will go to games with your Dad; just like he went with his Dad and his Dad went with HIS Dad. Tradition; what keeps families together; what spurs their memories.

. . . in our family, it is baseball. Go O's

Love, Your cousins Steve, Kathy, Erik, Dustin and Matt

My first born isn't so little any more. He'll be 9 in a couple of weeks and is a huge Orioles and Ravens Fan. That's my boy!

We now spend many nights and weekends at the local Little League park. Looking like a third baseman to me.

The kids love nothing more when I come home from work to go out in the back yard for a catch. We do it every chance we get.

For me, my losses have been our gains. Playing outside with the kids is much more enjoyable now that I can run, too! Last weekend, my oldest and I went for a 90 minute bike ride. It was awesome!

My youngest loves to catch. At 7, he's really becoming a solid ball player. His arm is getting stronger and he can catch balls not thrown with exact parental precision right to his glove!

During an average summer, we'll also take in 4-5 games at Camden Yards plus a couple more in other parks. Last year we hit Washington, Pittsburgh and New York (Shea.) This summer we're headed west to Seattle and San Diego.

So, that's what it's all about. Gotta be healthy to hang out with my boys. Playing in the back yard has taken on new meaning to all of us. I'm just sorry that it took so long.

Go O's!


What's for Lunch?

Profitable Weight Loss

Over the last 8-9 years, dieting has been very profitable for me. Every year or two over the past 10 years, some of the Sr. execs at my corporate office get together and have a weight loss contest. The first year, it was mostly confined to corporate based staff, which I am not. I knew of the contest, but was not invited to join.

The contest works like this: each participant puts up $200. At the end of the contest, the pot is split 60/30/10 for first, second and third place based on total loss as a percentage of original weight. Also, at the conclusion, there is a dinner. They would select a high end restaurant, usually a steak place -- the first year was Morton's -- and go to town. The top 1/3 of the losers would eat, drink, smoke cigars for free. The bottom third split the dinner bill, and the middle third split the bar and cigar tab. From what I understand, in the first year, the bill for the middle 1/3 approached $1000 per person! Normally, there are 18-25 participants.

The second time around, in 98-99, I was invited into the "club". After 6 months on Atkins, I had lost about 19% of my weight at that time, achieving third place and about a $400+ pay back. Unfortunately, I was away on business, so I was unable to partake in the dinner festivities, much to my disappointment.

The third installment was around 01-02. I did participate, didn't place, but did finish in the top third. Again, I was unable to come to the dinner for business reasons. Again I did Atkins, but couldn't quite match my losses the prior contest.

For the fourth version in 04-05, I did South Beach for the first time. I was very successful and placed in second, bringing home about $1100. I really liked the program, particularly the emphasis on lower fat proteins and many of the veggies that I missed on Atkins. For the first time, I was able to attend the dinner at The Capital Grille. I remember it vividly, though as the seven Stoli Dolies ran through my blood stream, things got a little foggy. I do remember the 12 oz fillet and 2 lb lobster that I polished off, not to mention just about whatever else was on the table. It was a fantastic meal, but, alas, the beginning of the regain of the weight.

After each of these great losses came equally great gains. Atkins was the worst, with gains back to starting weight in much less time that the losses came. South Beach was much better. Although I did gain, the gain was slower, however, ultimately resulting in all weight being returned to my frame.

The folks at Corporate had all had enough of their bodies last summer again. I was again invited towards the end of last August. In this case, however, my response was much less sure. Since I was already down about 30 lbs, I felt like I was already at a disadvantage, losing out on the initial weight loss start up. More than that, however, was the pressure that comes with avoiding the bottom two-thirds. The previous three times, I was powered in large part by the financial penalty that would come with not losing. Deb and I discussed at great length and ultimately the decision was to skip this year, much as the competitive side of me wanted in.

Ultimately, I was invited to the dinner since I had missed several before. Turns out the decision, though still the right one, cost my about two grand. The winner lost about 15% of his body weight. Based on my early September weight, I would have blown away the competition at almost 23%.

As I mentioned below, I've tried many of the more popular diets to come out in the last 20 years or so for many reasons.

The Atkins Diet

Atkins was great, but I seemed to have a low tolerance to any carbs, making ketosis a very difficult process. During each of my three times through in the last 10 years, I lost between 60 and 80 lbs in a very short period of time. Problem was, I'd eat some of the greens that I really missed and that would throw me out of ketosis and therefore stop my losses. After a couple of weeks of stagnation, I'd be back on the upswing. Gains came faster than losses. Though I understand and don't take issue with the basic concept, it's a painful start up process and the lack of all but negligible amounts of carbs was a plan killer for me.

Ornish: Eat More Weigh Less

I did really well on this plan and have fond memories of it. Basically, all carb, no fat. The concept of eating all you want of the right foods was right up my alley, since portion size was always an issue. I read the book and started the plan in 1994. I recall Ornish pointing out the difference in calories and fat between a baked potato and french fries. I went vegetarian for eight months or so and lost about 83 lbs over that eight month. At the time I was living alone in NJ and my typical dinner was a bowl of Uncle Ben's White Rice with a couple of table spoons of salsa mixed in. It worked well at home, but was very difficult out at restaurants. Eventually, I hit a wall that was insurmountable. After a month or six weeks, I slowly reverted back to meat and other protein, then back to sugar. Took me about a year to gain a substantial amount of my losses back.


I'm not sure if this is still around, but I did this diet about 20 years ago when I was in my early 20's. It was a pure liquid diet that lasted for 12 weeks. I did lost a lot of weight, but it came back fast and furious. I remember doing battle with Goobers (as in Goobers and Rasinettes) and Goobers won!


Deal-A-Meal was a simple program where everything you ate was worth a number of points. (I think Weight Watches works like this today.) I don't remember how much I lost on this , but it was somewhat short lived. Ping pong going up!

South Beach Diet

I'm now on South Beach for the second time. The first time through was for the weight loss contest I chronicled above. This is by far my most successful foray into any diet plan.

I find that it combines the best aspects of both Ornish and Atkins -- lots of good carbs and lots of lean meats and fish.

So, finally, to the title of this post, what's for lunch? A normal day's plan for me:

Usually one of the following:

  • A South Beach Breakfast Bar (cinnamon or ; or
  • one or two eggs, scrambled or hard boiled and a piece or tow of Laughing Cow lite cheese;
  • water and sometimes coffee with Splenda and skim milk.


As often as possible: salad bar from Weis Market (the best grocery store salad bar ANYWHERE). My salad will include:

  • romaine and/or spring mix lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • onions
  • raw cauliflower
  • chick peas
  • mushrooms
  • red, yellow and orange peppers
  • side of marinated mushrooms
  • side of roasted red peppers
  • dry tuna or some other type of protein on top

Dressing can kill the health out of any salad. My two favorites are Maple Grove Sugar Free Balsamic Vinaigrette or Walden Farms No Calorie Thousand Island. While their not exact replicas of the real thing, they're sweet and go well with the salad fixins for my money.

If I can't get to Weis, I'll have some kind of store or restaurant salad concoction.


Dinner is pretty simple -- some kind of protein -- white meat chicken, steak, hamburger, fish, etc. along with veggies -- broccoli or cauliflower steamed is preferred -- and sometimes a baked sweet potato.

If I'm lucky, Deb will make her roasted sweet potatoes.

Recipe for Deb's Almost Famous Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
-- Cut up two large raw sweet potatoes into approx. 1/2" cubes
-- Lay potatoes flat in a glass baking dish
-- lightly coat potatoes with extra virgin olive oil
-- sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper
-- add rosemary (optional)
-- bake at 400 for 40 minutes
-- enjoy

Serves 3-4

Deserts and Snacks

Since I'm now avoiding nuts, although not completely, I've recently taken to dry roasted lightly salted edamame. I wasn't sure I'd like it since I don't like steamed edamame, but I do like these. You can find this at Trader Joe's for 99 cents for a 5 serving bag or any health food store (usually for a lot more!)

For a late night treat, Deb makes cook and serve Jell-O Chocolate Pudding sugar free-fat free with Splenda. This is as close as you'll come to the real thing. 70 calories per serving. We top it off with some lite Cool Whip. I over do it with my definition of a "serving", but it's a nice cap to the day. As an alternative, Jell-O makes prepared pudding, which isn't quite as good, but it does in a pinch. As soon as the kids are out, pudding is on it's way.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Off The Rack

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of shopping options for big people to take advantage of. For men, Casual Male is the most ubiquitous of stores. They sell basic needs. There are some upscale shops, like Rochester (owned by same parent as Casual Male), every big city probably also has one or two local places, but they are few and far between. Wal-Mart and JC Penny go up to 3X shirts and low 50's pants, but if you're beyond that, the options are very limited. One byproduct of this short demand is limited discounting. You're pretty much stuck with paying no lower than 80% of retail, as the sales rarely go much below this. Casual Male and their ilk don't have to discount and it just kills me to walk through the mall and see 50% off all over the place or Wal-Mart type prices.

Buying clothes since my loss has been an enjoyable, but a constant and expensive endeavor. Deb regularly reminds me that my jeans are too lose and droopy, even though I'm always trying to get an extra wear or two out of them.

I've lost an inch off of my waist about every 10 lbs. Over the course of the last 10+ months, I've owned pants in sizes 58, 54, 52, 50, 48, 46, 44 and some 42's that don't quite fit yet. Goodwill and the Salvation Army have been the beneficiaries of my losses as well! Some of these donated clothes have been almost brand new, having only worn some things just two or three times.

Back in November, Deb encouraged me to buy some dress clothes. We went to the local Men's Wearhouse and bought a hot sport coat, dress slacks, a couple of shirts and ties and shoes. I was psyched to dress up for a couple of functions, but alas, all but the ties and shoes are now ready for charity.

Buying clothes "off the rack" has always meant to me walking into a mall department store and buying shirts or pants with all of the "regular" size people. This has always been more of a dream than an objective, one that I had personally conceded would likely never happen. This would represent a significant milestone, but oh so far away.

In early January, just after reaching my 100 lb loss milestone, I was walking through the local Macy's and decided to look at dress shirts. The last shirts I had bought in November were 20" neck, down from 22". I bought a sporty blue pinstripe oxford, 18.5" shirt. I couldn't wait to give it a try.

I got home, ripped open the package and tried it on. Still snug in the belly and not close enough to get away with it. I hung up the shirt in the closet. About once a month since January as I've culled out the newly now-too-big clothes from the closet, I'd try on that shirt.

Today, I tried it on again. It buttoned nicely. I had plenty of room. The real litmus test: would the buttons pull when I sat. Today, they did not. TODAY, IT FIT! Just one more milestone on the path to my goal, but it sure felt good! Officially, now and forever, an I'm an "Off The Rack" guy.