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    Saturday
    Jul212018

    The Power of Making a Decision

    It takes only a microsecond for the mind to make a decision. A flitting spark across a series of synapses changes everything about a person in less time than it takes a lightning bolt to strike the ground.

    When I woke up on April 8, 2018, that spark, for whatever reason, flashed across my brain, and I decided to change everything about myself related to health. I decided I wasn't going to have soda as my exclusive source of fluid intake every day. I decided I wasn't going to eat fast food at every meal every day. I decided I was going to purposely move my body with the intent of melting fat.

    That April morning, I weighed in at 219 lbs.

    I can't explain how that decision happened. I just made it.

    Perhaps it was the fact that I constantly had to look at myself in the mirror when training karate and seeing that giant belly bulge. Perhaps it was the ongoing gastrointestinal distress that I was experiencing. It may even have been the fact that a high school friend of mine - someone I hadn't spoken to face to face in nearly 30 years - hit me up on Facebook on March 22 and asked if I would run a marathon on the 25th (three days later), an offer I was forced to decline because, well, such an endeavor could have quite literally killed me.

    Whatever the motivation, the decision was made. Perhaps most miraculously, the decision has not been recanted at any point. I'm still going...

    Let me share with you a typical week prior to this decision to change:

     

    • Monday - Get 6 hours of sleep; go to work; stop at a fast food restaurant for breakfast; work until lunch, with a soda and a bag of chips at break; go to a fast food restaurant for lunch; finish work; go home; go out to dinner at a restaurant; go to karate (where there are lots of mirrors); go home; eat junk; surf the internet until after midnight; fall into bed.
    • Tuesday - Same as Monday, but no karate.
    • Wednesday - same as Monday.
    • Thursday - Same as Tuesday
    • Friday - same as Monday.

     

    Saturday and Sunday would see variations on a theme, but I would at least eat one or two meals at home.

    I had been working that same routine for years prior to April 8. Yeah, I wanted to change (as my previous entry on this blog indicates), but breaking a years-long habit is no easy feat. And then I woke up one Sunday morning and put an end to it all.

    Just in case you wonder what kind of result such a diet has on a body, here's a picture of me teaching a self-defense class in 2016:

    That's 40+" of visceral fat and bloat right there. I look like Buddha's kid brother.

    Lacking the requisite svelte that I believe should accompany someone of my bearing as a self defense instructor (and husband, father, teacher, and role model for our dojo students), some things needed to change. And they did.

    On the food intake side of things, I had to be accountable to myself. I downloaded a food tracking app on my phone and documented everything I ate. I cut out most fast food (finding acceptable items at restaurants I did visit). I stopped having soda entirely. I started taking a multivitamin, a probiotic, and (because of my age) an OTC free-testosterone booster. Breakfast became scrambled eggs and oatmeal with coffee. My snack became a healthy alternative to a candy bar. Lunch became a salad, a turkey and veggie sub, or some other lean option. We started eating a whole-foods dinner at home as a family. I allowed myself to splurge a little on Saturdays, but I still kept my intake at respectable levels (i.e. not eating 4000-5000 calories in a day).

    Yes, there were days when I royally screwed it up. I was, by no means, perfect in my pursuit of dietary cleanliness.

    The exercise piece I took slowly. At first, I just started walking at a faster-than-casual pace. Before my karate classes on MWF, I would do laps around the building in which our dojo is located. Each lap is half a mile. I would walk four laps before class. Eventually, I started walking longer and longer distances in my neighborhood. After about a month, I decided to mix running and walking. I would run three days a week and walk the other three. Saturdays I would keep to rest. I would take a long walk on Sunday morning before breakfast. At first, the walk was three miles. These days, I walk five miles before Sunday breakfast.

    The running was hard at first. I never wanted to be a runner, even when I ran track in my senior year in high school. Yet there I was at 48 years of age chugging along the streets of my neighborhood. At first, I could run about a quarter mile before having to walk. During each run, I would force myself to run just a little further than I did last time. Just a couple of days ago, I ran a bit more than two miles without stopping. I just try to increase the actual running time every time I go out.

    At the beginning of June, I started going to the gym three times a week to lift weights. I chose to coordinate those gym trips with my walking days.

    After 15 weeks of work, the results of all of this effort include:

     

    • I have shed 24 pounds of body weight, which includes probably 27-28 pounds of fat (with some muscle gains in there).
    • I have dropped four inches around my waist.
    • My cardiovascular and pulmonary health is much better, as indicated in the running endurance. The change is also quite evident in karate, where I can engage in strenuous grappling and sparring without becoming winded.
    • My gastrointestinal discomfort is minimal.
    • Flatulence is minimal, and stools are normal (sorry, TMI there, but it's true).
    • My resting heart rate is in the mid-70s (as opposed to the low-90s).
    • People notice the difference in my overall appearance.

     

    Today is my 49th birthday. My goal is to get to 50 looking as fit as a 30-year-old. I think I am well on my way:

    July 18, 2018

    I took that shot in the dojo locker room after finishing a 3-mile run. I am a work in progress.

    So I'll be back in a day or two with another post about exercise mindset and setting goals. I hope you'll come back for that update.

    Be well.

    Friday
    Jan012016

    Starting a Day-by-Day Chronicle

    I'm setting some goals, and to keep myself somewhat accountable to them, I'm going to post a day-by-day chronicle of what I'm doing to achieve those goals.

    I'll link the chronicle as soon as I get some stuff squared away with my hosting site.

    Friday
    Jan102014

    I want a Divorce

    *knock knock*  Is anyone out there?

    It's been a while.

    I'm not writing this post for anyone except myself.  If you're reading it, it's not because I led you here.  I'm just trying to give myself a swift kick in the ass.

    It's time to wake up.  It's time to stop screwing around with my life.  It's time to start behaving as if I want to live.

    Because right now, I'm dying.

    I'm not in immediate physical peril, but I am dying.  My biggest issue is that I'm accelerating the process with choices that are obviously detrimental to my well-being.  In the last couple of years - the time between writing my last post and this one - I've seen some pretty dramatic (and mostly negative) changes in my corpus mundi.

    First and most obvious is the fact that I am bloated and fat around the middle.  I'm squeezing my ass into 38" pants - a far cry from the 34" pants that I was wearing just a couple of years ago.  How much discomfort is required to break the pattern of destructive behaviors that will quite literally kill me much sooner than I am ready?  Reflect back to yesterday and the 36" adjustable waist pants that you were wearing that felt like they were crushing your junk every time you sat down.  Do you need to feel like you're trapping your nuts in a fabric vise every day before you say, "Screw this.  Let's fix it"?

    You haven't slept in a proper bed for years.  The couch is being ruined because your loud-ass snoring self is sleeping on it night after night.  The effects of this behavior are obvious - your wife sleeps alone in a separate room because your wall-shaking snoring keeps her awake; your relationship with her WILL suffer ill effects of such separation.  Do you even care?

    Your body is constantly racked with pain.  Your knees are being stretched beyond their normal limits.  Your shoulders are constantly in pain due to the way you fold them over each other at night.

    Your example to others in the dojo is not a good one.  You are yudansha.  Your body is one area of the self that you should control, and yet you treat your body with contempt.  Is that what you want for students who look to you for what it means to be yudansha?  Is that honor so insignificant that you blow off the responsibility of being a proper example?

    Let's not forget that nidan testing is coming, and in your condition the test might very well kill you.

    Yours is not healthy behavior.

    And what's with all of the shit you are eating?  Your online bank statement reads like a who's who of fast food joints in town.  Whatever happened to eating food... you know - REAL food.  Fruits, vegetables, whole meats - that stuff that is good for you - should be the norm, not the preservative-laden pseudo-food that you've been eating non-stop for the last few years.

    Let's list a few other symptoms that are besetting you right now:

    • heartburn
    • abdominal pain
    • ulcers
    • headaches
    • fatigue
    • sore feet
    • mood swings
    • digestive issues
    • crappy skin
    • chest pain/pressure
    • numbness/burning in your leg (compressed disc)

    Man.  Looks like life is great.  You appear to be doing everything right - if you're looking to park yourself in a 6' hole...

    Yep.  Time to fix this problem.  And not just for yourself.

    C'mon man!  Look at this website you've built here.  Look at the after pics from just a few years ago.  YOU LOOKED EFFING GOOD for a dude in his late 30's/early 40's.  GET THAT SHIT BACK while you're still alive to enjoy it!

    Last point, and maybe this will push you down that better road.  4 kids.  You've got 4 kids that are counting on you to see them graduate.  2 girls that want you around to walk them down the aisle.  2 boys that would probably want you to see the kind of man they grew up to be but still need to call when they have a question.  4 kids that want to have a father for years and years to come.  You're dicking around with THEIR futures, pal.  Not just your own.

    Now.  When you get home this afternoon, you greet your wife.  You tell her, "Honey.  I love you and the kids very much, and I'm sorry I've been treating my body like shit.  I'm changing things, starting right now."  Then get a bottle of water and drink it.  Grab some good food and eat it.  Then walk that beautiful woman you married down to work and get your ass home, into a change of clothes, and off to the gym.

    Sweat.

    Breathe.

    Struggle a bit.

    And live.

    And when you get home, take a long hard look in the mirror.  Tell that dying entity looking back at you that you're tired of being in pain.  You're tired of the struggle.  Tell him that you're done with him.  You're moving on.

    I want a divorce.  From my lazy, fast-food-eating, unhealthy 'other' side.  And that divorce is final as of today.

    44 years old is not too late to change your life.  In fact, it's just the beginning...

    Thursday
    Jun162011

    Treat the Cause, not the Symptom

    I don't spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the tube, but when I do watch TV it seems like about 2/3 of the commercials I see are for prescription medicines that I should ask my doctor about.  Whether it's sleeplessness, erectile dysfunction, depression, stress, hyperactivity, cardiac trouble, or diabetes, there's a pill out there that will make everyone feel better.

    Bullcookies.

    Try listening to the pharmaceutical commercials about 20 seconds in.  The list of potential side effects for most of the advertised drugs sounds far more frightening than the condition it's intended to treat.  Would I really want to risk engaging in suicidal behavior as I try to quit smoking with my pharmaceutical?  There's got to be a better way to give up smoking...

    From kids to the elderly, our country is being medicated to the gills, but all these pills do is treat the symptoms of a condition.  The cause goes untreated.  I'm gonna call names, which I'm sure is going to endear me to a number of pharmaceutical companies.  To that I say... big effing deal.

    "I Don't Like the Drugs, but the Drugs Like Me" ~M. Manson

    Smoking Cessation

    The Cause - People start smoking for a variety of reasons, among them the desire to fit in, rebellion against authority, and following in the footsteps of adult role models.

    The Drug - Chantix® Anti-smoking drug.  This particular drug has been linked to depression, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior, according to the legal firm of Davis & Crump.  The drug reduces the attachment of nicotine to acetylcholine receptors in the brain and may also inhibit the release of the pleasure hormone dopamine.  The presence of dopamine is what makes cigarette smoking addictive, and this pharmaceutical may have a direct negative effect on levels of pleasure chemicals in the brain.

    Treating the Root Cause - Parents can prevent their children from picking up the habit by not smoking themselves and by developing a relationship with their child that makes the child feel loved and valued. Most important is actually having a conversation with your younger child to address the topic of smoking and its potential impact on health.

    Smoking is a tough addiction to overcome, but it can be defeated.   For those smokers that want to quit, you can follow in the footsteps of both my in-laws and my own father: quit cold turkey and chew lots and lots of gum.  Exercise will help immeasurably as it helps cleanse the body and restore normal brain function - and it releases pleasure hormones.

    Headaches

    The Cause - stress, fatigue, poor vision, dehydration, illness.

    The Drug - Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Naproxen - These medicines simply mask the symptom by reducing swelling or muting the brain's pain receptors.  The cause of the problem is still there, but it is dulled to the point of being less of an annoyance.

    Treating the Root Cause - For the most part, drink more water and get some exercise.  Exercise reduces stress, increases immune response, and actually combats fatigue (as counterintuitive as that may seem).  For vision-related headaches, a trip to your local vision specialist may be in order.

    Erectile Dysfunction

    The Cause - causes of ED are numerous but are generally divided into psychological and physical causes.  Psychological causes include such issues as anxiety, stress, poor self-image, and depression.  Physical causes can include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, low hormone levels, and high cholesterol.

    The Drug - pick your poison.  Viagra.  Cialis.  Levitra.  Any of these guys are willing to take your money to help you fulfill your basic needs.

    Treating the Root Cause - Look at the list of causes.  They read like a list of basic problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.  While there are causes of ED that would require the use of pharmaceuticals, most people buying these medications would be well served with exercise and a modified diet.

    Sleeplessness/Insomnia

    The Cause - Stress, anxiety, depression, emotional trauma, and health problems among others.  Sound familiar?

    The Drug - Ambien, Lunesta, Silenor, Sonata, etc.  There are enough drugs on the market for insomnia to choke a small elephant.

    Treating the Root Cause - With the possible exception of emotional trauma, most of the causes of sleeplessness can be managed with regular exercise.

    Hopefully a trend is becoming obvious.

    Pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals understand this concept - that those that exercise are far less likely to need their products and services.  Do I believe there is a conspiracy afoot?  Not at all (well, at least not as far as doctors are concerned.  Big pharma is another story entirely).  I do believe, however, that doctors are telling their patients what they want to hear - that "there's a pill for that."

    Pharmaceuticals, by and large, exist to dull the symptoms of our poor lifestyles.  As a nation, we must get out of the collective mindset that drugs exist to help us.  They don't.  They merely mask the body's natural signals, giving the illusion that all is well.

    I cannot sit here and claim that exercise will eliminate the need for pharmaceuticals every time for everyone.  I can say with a degree of certainty that a nation engaging in a regular regimen of exercise will put a severe dent in the need for drugs.  In other words, we have to attack the root cause of the problem - sedentary, inactive lifestyles that are breeding grounds for conditions that big pharma is only too happy to help you treat.

     

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    Thursday
    Jun162011

    From the Heart...

    I haven't planned this blog entry.  I haven't written notes or anything.  I'm just coming from the heart on this one.  Shooting from the hip, as it were.

    I am a human being - prone to failures and fallings.  Recently, I've been mired in a bit of self-imposed guilt-ridden laziness that has prevented me from doing the things that are necessary to be effective as a mouthpiece on this website.  Alice and I were talking yesterday about how much easier writing for Wo40.com is when we're in the gym.  Until just a couple weeks ago, we weren't even members of a gym; we let our membership expire about a year ago.  After that membership expired, it was just a matter of attrition that stopped our writing about fitness related activities.

    Our diet soon followed our exercise patterns and subsequently went to hell.

    Now, that's not to say we've stopped exercising and given up totally on our health.  Not at all.  We still train in karate at least 3 days a week in addition to walking all over - to the store, to the post office, to the bank.  Physically we're not in a bad way.  We're just not training as hard as we could (or should).

    Now, before people write this entry off as a "poor poor pitiful me" post, let me clear up the intent of this post: We are normal people living in a normal world with normal issues.  When I read other fitness blogs, I'm sometimes led to believe that everyone else has got it all together - that they never stray from their diet and never miss a day in the gym.  The truth of the matter is likely that they (those other bloggers) are likely no different from us.  There are ups.  There are downs.  There are times when they wonder why in the hell they're going through the pain of exercising.  There are times when they eat like crap.  The difference is that they might not talk about it publicly.

    I'm here to tell you that Alice and I are not paragons of healthy virtue.  We eat junk.  We drink soda.  But those activities do not define us as voices in the fitness world.  Eating the way I do, I still come in at under 200 pounds because I work exceptionally hard in the dojo (my karate training hall).  Alice is still a lean mom of 4 that a good many women envy for the size 4 she wears.  She, too, works incredibly hard in the dojo, despite injury setbacks and a conflicting work schedule.

    So, we're fairly normal.  Our chief goal is to be better today than we were yesterday.

    If that's all you ever ask of yourself, then you're on a pretty good path.

    Be well!

     

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