Celebrating a Healthier Me: Here’s How I Did It

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Over the past year, my family, friends, and coworkers have encouraged me as I transformed from a portly, comfortable 30-something single guy at 235 pounds, to an increasingly fit, adventurous 31-something single guy at 185 pounds.

A work in progress

I was able to lose weight with as little as 5 hours of exercise a week and common sense dieting. That’s it. No crazy nutritional changes, no extreme endurance events, and no agreeing to anything that would set me up for failure before I even started.

As I’m celebrating being 50 pounds lighter at the time of publishing, I’ve had some time to explain what I’ve come to call my three personal rules of living healthier.

Exercise: Be adventurous, but within reason

Every day, I see awesome posts from friends in the military (hi, Reese!) who take a common-sense approach to fitness. Stay active, push yourself, but do it within your own limits without getting yourself into trouble. I also see people riding at length to and from work on their bike every day, or jogging during lunch during the work day, or getting a quick run in after work before they go to the bar to meet up with friends.

Common sense, right? Be active, do what you can, push yourself, but do it within reason. CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, and the other fashionable workout trends are just that. They’ll still get you there, but getting over the mental hurdle, costly memberships, and feeling like you can’t keep up might stop you in your tracks before you get very far.

I knew I could still improve my fitness without feeling uncomfortable all day long. I could still feel like I got a good workout without feeling guilty that I didn’t puke all over the sidewalk after a rough workout. That saying about pain and gain? Nobody needs pain. Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid in the first place?

At work, a few of us joined an outdoor organic fitness group called Team Adrenaline. We meet twice a week, at work, after work, and exercise for 45 minutes. It uses cardio, plyometrics, aerobics, agility training, and mental conditioning, by using nothing more than the weight and resistance of our bodies, and perhaps a few orange cones to jump over. We’ll exercise near the river, by a large set of stairs, or if it’s raining or too hot out, in a parking deck where it’s cooler.

On the off-days, I will either swim at an Olympic-size pool complex here in Richmond, re-create my own Team Adrenaline-style routines in my apartment building’s parking deck, or take a jog along the canal or on the treadmill when weather doesn’t cooperate.

All it takes is a minimum of 5 hours a week, to around 7 a week if I’m feeling aggressive. ~5-7% of my waking hours feels like a good investment to feel better, and it doesn’t feel like I’m making sacrifices to do it. It’s just one less episode of TV a night. Don’t worry, I still have time for four hour-long episodes before bed.

Nutrition: Never give up something I love

With the craze of diets, the number one thing I hear and see and read is people giving up foods they love for anything but an allergy or medically-important reason. “Wheat is poison!” “Carbs are evil!” “Sugar is the devil!” Don’t even get me started on the mass-hysteria over GMOs.

If we paid attention to every claim and study, we’d rule out most foods over fears of dying by the time we’re 35. I’m not going to give up bread, rice, pasta, and ice cream. Sure, I have a lot less of it, but I didn’t give it up completely.

My diet is 100% common sense-based, with fresh ingredients and moderation being two of the most important aspects. My diet works for me, but it may not work for you.

My diet consists of six guidelines:

  1. Drop the chems: Avoid preservatives and artificial ingredients whenever possible. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, chances are it’s not real or is there to preserve something longer than it needs preserving. (It also preserves fat, too. That doesn’t need preserving…)  Doing this alone will be enough to feel a difference already.
  2. Lean up vs. fattening up: Eating more lean fish and meat than heavy, fattening protein. Yes, I still enjoy a hamburger or steak or ribs, but the key is moderation.
  3. Cut the carb-loading: Carb-heavy foods like pastas and bread still have their place in my diet, but instead of a main entrée, they’re a side. A side that doesn’t mean seconds, and certainly not thirds. If it’s a delicious plate of mac ‘n cheese, I keep that to twice a month at the most. Trust me, I’m not giving up my homemade lobster sriracha mac ‘n cheese because I want to lose weight.
  4. Fresh means flavor: Fresh produce is an absolute must, and grilling it is even better. A dash of soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos adds flavor if you insist on some liquid additives, but a pinch of finishing salt is just as delicious. Just avoid the plain iodized table salt, because that stuff is lame.
  5. Spray instead of pour: When possible, use olive oil in a spray mister instead of pouring it in the pan. It’s enough to add flavor and keep things from sticking, but keeps tablespoons of the stuff out of your body.
  6. Put down the fork, and pass on seconds: This is easy when you think it’s easy. There’s no reason to have seconds. I used to do it all the time, until I learned that I didn’t have to. Taking a sip of water between bites also helps me slow down while I’m eating and give my stomach time to send that signal to my brain that I’m good. One plate is all I need, and I keep the portions small. Honestly, a 12oz steak is still just as great as a 16oz steak.

Again, it works for me, but it may not work for you. I’m not a dietician, and I’m not going to try to make you miserable by telling you what you shouldn’t be eating.

Life: Challenge myself to do better

Staying comfortable is what got me to a lofty, personal weight record. Staying uncomfortable by the fad exercise programs and diets is what caused me to give up countless times.

Throughout my common sense dieting, exercising on my own terms, and understanding my own limits, I conditioned myself to know I could do better without regretting my commitment. I knew I’d wake up in the morning with a little soreness that would go away once I started moving, but wouldn’t have to worry that I’d need to pop pain relievers and muscle relaxants all day to deal with cramps and sore joints. That’s cray cray.

This also goes for my career, hobbies, friendships, relationships, and relaxing. No matter what I do, I know I can do better if I work for it.

I may have reached my initial weight goal of losing 50 pounds, but I’m nowhere near my final goal: to be physically and mentally fit, and able to do more than I’ve ever done before. It’ll take some work to get there, but I know with my three rules, I can do this.

Now that my weight loss goal is almost met, I’ll be focusing on toning up and strength, but without the bulk.

It’s been a long journey, but I’m just getting started.

Check out some of the pictures I’ve collected along my journey below, and say hi in the comments with any questions you might have.

Protecting the Freedom of Information for All

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Like many of you, I’m strongly against the PIPA and SOPA bills in consideration (and at one point were seemingly rammed through and all-but-approved in a late night session) with the US Government.

I encourage all of you to join the fight and call, email, write and talk to your representatives to express your disappointment of the way this has been handled and the freedoms they’re toying with. Continue reading

A Brutal Misinformation

I’m cautiously cynical by nature, so I find it hard to believe much of what I see online and on TV at face value. As cynical as I am, I also prefer to do some research to legitimize my cynicism or prove it wrong, too.

A video has been burning up online today after a strange delayed viral effect. The video is of an event in May 2011, but given the latest sharing activity and comments you may have read, you’d be led to believe this just happened and is just another event in a string of highly-publicized events from the Occupy camps and their press machines since September 2011. Continue reading

A Homeless Man Walked Up to Me Last Night

Homeless man with shopping cart filled with his belongings.

Normally when one approaches my window, I immediately slink in my seat, and if my window is opened, I’ll instinctively shut it. Nowadays you can never be too careful with people approaching your car without a clear intention.

This time, however, I happened to be at a Burger King. After I made my order at the menu board, I saw him trying to catch me before I drove to the pickup window. I zoomed past him in an attempt to avoid an all-too-typical question for spare change. Continue reading

Check Your Sources, and Check Theirs Too

As we approach Election Day, I encourage you as I have in the past to check your candidate’s sources when their campaigns run ads or discuss topics in public.

Nobody can truly expect a candidate to be 100% accurate when they’re talking as they’re only humans, whom are prone to mistakes. However, with politics as it is, no candidate is honest all the time either, and they know it.

If you haven’t heard of Annenberg’s Political FactCheck, they’re a non-profit, independent resource to check campaign ads, speeches and other topics, exposing the truth behind them as best they can.

On their site, you’ll find detailed analysis of even the lengthiest of speeches as well as rebuttals of campaign ads you see on the TV.

Some of the recent topics they’ve discussed are:

As a reminder, please check your candidate’s facts as they tell them before using them in your everyday discussion, as you may find out, they’re either inaccurate, taken out of context or purely fictional.

Election Day, here we come…