Operation: Winter Warrior

When I started this journey almost five months ago, my goal was to lose 30 pounds before the new year.  As of this morning, my weight loss goal was achieved.  Thirty pounds in five months.  I honestly can’t believe how far I’ve come in that amount of time.  When I started, I struggled to run more than one or two miles at a decent pace, my weightlifting regimen wasn’t happening, and my diet was admittedly poor.

Yesterday, I began to converse with a gentleman at the gym; about the same age, a bit taller than me, similar build. He mentioned how he was trying to lose about 25 pounds and was just starting to diet.  As we kept talking, I subconsciously began keeping track of his workouts.  He began to run on the treadmill – 5.5 mph for 12 minutes before running out of breath; similar to where I was when I started; and his weights were very similar to where I was 5 months ago, too.

Once he left, the realization set in.  That was me; my past; who I was 5 months ago.  At some point, I made a decision at the proverbial fork in the road.  Continue to go down the same path, or start being the kind of person that I wanted to be.  When you push yourself, and I mean REALLY push yourself both mentally and physically, you start to realize that you can achieve a lot more than you may have originally thought you could.

Now alone in the gym, my workout stopped as I slowly approached the mirror, looking straight at the floor.  I closed my eyes and saw a picture of myself only five months ago.  Stressed.  Fatigued.  Drained.  Lacking confidence.   I raised my head and opened my eyes, looking at the present picture of myself.  Strong.  Energetic.  Secure.  Confident.

Whether it be at the gym, at school, at work, on the field, or elsewhere, the battle that we face is against ourselves.  Have you progressed since last year?  Last month?  Could the “you of today” conquer the “you of yesterday”?  When I started, the answer to those questions was a resounding “no”, and that was not okay with me.

Enter my new challenge, Operation: Winter Warrior.  You will be competing against one other person reading this post in a challenge to improve your mental and physical health.  You will win the challenge only if you improve more than your opponent.  If it’s a tie, THEY win.  Here’s the catch – your opponent was sitting where you were sitting 5 seconds ago.  That’s right, your opposition is you.  Remember where you are today, both physically and mentally.  In three weeks, ask yourself if the “you of today” could EASILY conquer the “you of yesterday”.  If the answer is yes, you have succeeded.

Many people make New Years Resolutions, but here we are, three weeks away from the new year.  Why wait?  There’s no better time than now to start achieving everything that you want from life.

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To Forgive; Divine

Most of my posts are often inspired by someone in my life or something that happens throughout the course of my day.  I was touched to receive a message on my CC community asking me to write about a specific topic that could hopefully motivate and encourage people.  Thank you for the message Susan (joyful)!

Think back to a week ago; a month ago; a year ago.  Many different people have said many different things to me.  I find it interesting that I remember a lot of the negative things that people have said to me or about me, but can’t remember any compliments that I have received in the recent past.  Negativity directed towards you, specifically from friends or family, can be haunting and put a major strain on even the best of relationships.  There are many people out there who have estranged family members, which could be due to a variety of different reasons.

A tense relationship with a friend or a loved one is stressful.  I’ve been there, as everyone has to varying degrees of severity.  It’s not fun, and as the stress builds up, the adverse effects of the stress will rear its ugly head.  Some people turn to alcohol abuse.  Others turn to other forms of abuse.  For others such as myself, we will rapidly gain or lose weight, often times to unhealthy levels.

If the mind is willing, the body will follow.  If the mind is unwilling, the body will still follow, just down the wrong path.  Can stress lead to eating disorders?  Of course!  How many times have you had a bad day and just wanted to come home and eat a tub of ice cream or a bag of chips in front of the TV?  To find the solution to this particular stress, you need only look at the causes.  Anger.  Fear of getting hurt again.  Resentment towards the negativity directed at you.

This is where forgiveness comes into play; the act of letting go of your resentment and your grudges and working to rebuild your relationship.  This is not to say that whatever wrongs have been committed are justifiable, but rather it’s a conscious decision to let go of your anger and try to rebuild a healthy and meaningful relationship.  What is the point of holding a grudge?  What are you gaining from not speaking to a close friend or family member?  The animosity and resentment is building inside you and building inside them, which doesn’t help anyone.

December is a month where many families gather for the holidays, and as such, here is my challenge to those that read this blog.  If you have a relationship with a family member that includes a large amount of hostility, I challenge you to improve that relationship, rise above the disharmony, and do your best to bury the hatchet.  While you may not see immediate results, don’t stop trying.  Keep at it.  Moving towards a more positive interaction can lift a huge burden off of you and your loved ones.

Let go of your resentment and your feuds and focus on building positive and enjoyable relationships.  Life is way too short to be holding on to grudges.

Operation: Autumn Aggression

The winter puts a lot of people into a funk, and many people can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is basically a fancy term for the winter blues.  I have to admit, my motivation level has been extremely low over the last few days as it’s starting to get colder and darker every day.

When I was younger, my friend and I started running in November when the soccer season ended to prepare for the next season.  We ran 1.4 miles every day before school.  Sometimes, motivation can be found when you have someone who is battling the same fight that you are every morning in sub-freezing weather.

So it’s time to issue a challenge – a week-long “operation” – to myself and to others in the world who are impassioned enough to join me.  I plan to issue a different operation every Sunday to challenge and motivate all my friends, family, and readers out there.

Katniss knows a thing or two about overcoming challenges

Operation Autumn Aggression:
There is no “can’t” this week.  For those that are working to eat well and stay in shape… do you remember why you started?  Remember it now.  You wanted to better yourself, because you’re worth it.  So do it!  This week ends one month and starts another, and so we’re going to leave October with a bang and come out firing in November!

Primary objective: Workout harder than you did last week.  If you’re like me and struggled last week, get back on track and push yourself!  If you killed it last week, kill it even more this week!

Secondary objective: Hit your calorie targets this week with healthy foods.  Halloween candy may tempt you, but don’t let it consume you.  You don’t have to completely shut it down, but make moderation a priority.

Feel free to join me in Operation Autumn Aggression.  Monday through Saturday – LET’S DO THIS!  If you leave a comment for me, I WILL respond back, and will absolutely follow and support you as closely as I can during the entire week.

 

Good luck everybody!

-SharkStopper

Appreciate But Don’t Deviate

Those of you going through any type of weight loss program can certainly understand me when I say that stepping on that scale is a terrifying thing.  A million different thoughts race through my head when I pull out the scale… did I do enough?  Even if I did, will my weight go up? (it has before!) How long will it take me to get to my goal weight?  How will I react if this number is terrible?  I’ve seen a lot of people on the Calorie Count community wonder why they may not be seeing the results on the scale that they want, especially those who really have the dedication and the drive to work on it.

 

The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes when you step on the scale.

Outcome 1: The disappointing result isn’t nearly what you thought it was, due to unexplainable weight gain or a small plateau.

Outcome 2: The result is a realistic product of the work that you’ve put in for the week, but not necessarily as much as you would like (because let’s be honest, we’d all like 5+ pounds per week).

Outcome 3: The result is surprisingly better than you expected.

 

In the last few months, I’ve hit each outcome a bundle of times, but I think I’ve finally realized the secret to handling all three.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Go back and read each outcome above, then read your corresponding advice below.

Advice 1: The body works in strange and mysterious ways, and there have been many times where I’ve done an hour of workouts per day and eaten extremely well only to see my weekly weigh-in go in the wrong direction.  You know how well you’ve been doing and you know how much work that you’ve put into this journey.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Long-term goals are much more important than short term victories.  Keep doing what you’re doing!  Hard work and effort on a consistent basis will pay off.

Advice 2: Try not to minimize your accomplishments.  You have completed a solid short-term goal and are setting yourself up very well to achieve your long-term goals.  A positive step is a step in the right direction.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Keep up the good work and keep charging forward.  Continued dedication will bring the desired results.

Advice 3: This is a huge win for you, and congratulations on your accomplishment.  It’s now time for you to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.  After a big win against a tough team, there’s a term in sports that’s called the “emotional letdown”, which usually refers to a post-“big game” struggle.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Your commitment to this big win needs to be sustained over the long haul.  You did it before, and there’s no reason to think that you can’t do it again!

 

Regardless of whether you haven’t started, you’re just starting, or you’re right in the middle, I wish you the best of luck in your journey.  Don’t forget that even small victories are victories, so remember to appreciate them.

Motivation and Control

“Motivation and control…are fragile experiences that need to be worked carefully and attentively.” -Hazel

I hope you don’t mind that I took this quote from CC, Hazel, but I’ve been pondering the true nature of this quote since you posted it last week.

Everyone reading this blog can likely relate to this quote.  Sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling pumped, driven, and ready to tackle the day.  Other times… well… not so much.  What motivates us to act in a certain way?  What drives us to complete certain goals?  I honestly don’t believe that motivation just comes naturally.  It’s something that you have to crave and desire.  For me, there are multiple levels of motivation that are all inter-related.  I desire to have better self-esteem and a better self-image.  This motivates me to shed some pounds and be in the physical condition that I know I’m capable of, which drives me to eat healthier and stay active.  I’m not a runner, and trust me, I wouldn’t have run 5k’s on Saturday and Sunday if there wasn’t that driving motivation behind it.

If the motivation is high, control will follow suit.  I have certain weight loss goals that I want to achieve, and a defined time with which I want to achieve it.  Perhaps it’s the upcoming milestone birthday coming up, but I’ve never been as motivated to reach my goals as I am now.  As such, I have a level of control (around food, bad habits, etc.) that I have never had before.  That doesn’t mean I avoid all bad foods, but moderation and good eating decisions have become paramount to controlling my diet and exercise to ultimately hit my targets.

That being said, how do you keep motivation high?  I’m going to preface my answers to this question by saying that I am not an expert in the topic, but that I have read a lot into it and have tried a few methods that seem to work for me.  Also, I’ll be using weight loss examples, but many of these methods can work in other aspects of life as well.

1) Define realistic goals – My past weight loss goals sound like this: “My goal is to lose weight.”  The sentiment was good, but the goal was generic and unattainable with no defined end.  This is likely the reason that my past weight loss efforts have taken a nose dive after the first few weeks.  My goal now is: “Achieve my target weight of 185 pounds by December 31st.”  Once this has been achieved, the next goal may be “Maintain 185 every month for the next 6 months.”

2) Maintain flexibility – Unexpected things in life can sometimes interfere with doing what we want to do.  If your goal is to save money to buy a new car by the end of the year, and then something unexpected happens where you have to delve into some of that money, don’t think that you failed your goal.  Simply update it.  Granted, this should only be used for events that are out of your control.

3) Know the external and internal reasons for your goals – On many occasions with weight loss/maintenance, I have often asked myself why I bother.  There are a dozen perfectly good brownies out there with my name on it.  What stops me is the knowledge of these external and internal drivers.  Internally, I’m doing this to boost my self esteem and my self image.  Externally, I want to look good for my wife, my family, and the people around me, and I want to be looked at as a role model and a mentor.  These reasons are much more important and long-lasting than a dozen brownies.

4) Find creative ways to increase your motivation – Earlier in life, I had a spreadsheet of good things to do, whether it be eating healthy, running errands, being active, and the list goes on.  I gave every item a point value and would do things to earn points.  For awhile, it worked, but it lacked the accountability, and eventually, I gave up on it.  I replaced that with Calorie Count because I was held publicly accountable for my actions and, in addition, it provided a moral support-group type atmosphere with other people going through the same challenges.

5) Make it fun – They say that “nothing good comes easy”, and I guess there is some truth to that.  Cutting out a lot of sweets and eating healthier foods isn’t always easy or fun, but making your good habits into a lifestyle will make it easier.  Keeping a positive outlook on things will also make it easier.  This journey certainly is a lot of work, but the day I started seeing solid results was the day the diet started getting a bit easier for me, and I think a lot of people feel that way as well.

 

Motivation is fragile, and may not always be 100%.  When it’s not, remember what drives you and know that what you are doing is worth it.  Keep at it, and don’t take no for an answer.  The climb up may be difficult, but the mountain-top will be oh so sweet!

Hungry on a Diet? Try this

Most of my readers at the moment are from the CC community, mainly because that’s one of the only places where I’ve advertised my content so far.  However, this post will hopefully hit home to anyone who has been on a diet before.

 

It isn’t the first time I’ve been hungry on a diet, and unfortunately, it likely will not be the last.  Perhaps it was the lack of a solid breakfast that made me ridiculously hungry today, but being in a state of constant hunger will usually cause most people to lose sight of their weight-loss goals.  I’ve been there.  At many points in the past year, I’ve lost 7 or 8 pounds over the course of a few weeks only to quickly put it back on because I couldn’t fight the appetite.  It sucks.  I’m finished with that crap, and I don’t want it to happen to you.

 

I’ve read a few articles on “How to Decrease Your Appetite” and “Curbing the Appetite”.  I admit, some (with emphasis on the word ‘some’) are good tactics that are tried and certainly true for me.  So, from someone who is currently in the process of trying to curb my appetite, here are some of the tactics that have worked for me, along with some tactics that seem like complete myths.

 

1) Drink water – Survey Says: WORKS.  Without a doubt, this is one of the best ways to curb the appetite.  It’s a zero calorie stomach filler, and if you add in some Crystal Light packets, makes a really excellent substitute for higher calorie drinks like soda.  Personally, I have found that during a meal, if I take a drink of water per every couple of bites of food, that I get full a lot faster and don’t necessarily require any excess caloric intake.

 

2) Use mouthwash – Survey Says: MYTH.  I honestly don’t know where I heard this one, but since I use mouthwash on a daily basis, I can say that for me, this is complete fiction.  My morning routine consists of brushing my teeth, using mouthwash, showering, and getting ready for work.  After my shower, I’m ready to eat, so 10 minutes of appetite suppression doesn’t cut it.

 

3) Chew gum – Survey Says: MIXED.  I love this and do it all the time, but it comes with caveats.  First, you need to find long-lasting gum (which in my experience, has been Trident or IceBreakers).  Second, you need to have a deep stock of gum, because once that gum loses its flavor after 20-30 minutes, the hunger comes back.  Assuming you meet those two criteria, chewing gum should be a decent suppressant.

 

4) Exercise – Survey Says: WORKS.  This surprises me because it seems logical that your body would need extra calories to compensate for what you just burned off, and thus, you should feel more hungry.  Some studies have shown that this may not be the case, and after doing it, I agree with those studies.  Granted, while I work out, I usually have about 32 ounces of water, so I may be cheating a bit.

 

5) Stay busy – Survey Says: WORKS.  Speaking from an appetite perspective, busy days at work are so much easier than days where I have more time on my hands.  I prefer hectic days where I’m running from room to room over days where I am more stagnant.  At home, I need to be doing something or I will default to food.  Playing games, fixing up the house, and writing this blog are a few things that help me stay busy.

 

Hopefully, this has given you a few helpful ways to curb your appetite.  Some may not work for everyone (specifically, I’ve heard mixed reviews over chewing gum), but I hope that you find success with whatever ways you choose.  The hunger bug will always be lurking; just stay strong and stay positive and you’ll do fine!  Stay active, my friends.

Bringing Good Habits to Life

This is a call to everyone who has their heart set on getting something done.  Maybe it’s something that you’ve never done before.  Maybe it’s something that you’ve been trying to do for a long time and just haven’t had the motivation to complete.  Whether it’s a small job or a large undertaking, there’s absolutely nothing you can’t accomplish.

 

For the CC followers, I promised an update about the weight loss after a strong week of training.  The long and short of it is, I finished the week 3 pounds lighter.  My goal weight is still a ways out, but this puts me on track to achieve it by the end of the year, which I’ve said for awhile was the ultimate goal.  18 pounds to go, and by my count, 19 weeks until 2014.  Difficult, but doable.

 

Improving myself has always been a weakness of mine.  It’s so easy to say “I’ll get to it tomorrow” and then put that quote on repeat for days/months/years.  If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried a few times to lose some pounds, but eventually you get to the point where it gets difficult and you give up.  Don’t worry.  You’re not alone.  I’ve been there, and I know that there are millions of people like us who have been there before.  Now I’m no expert on self-improvement, so instead of pretending like I am, I’ll share with you what has worked for me so far.  I’d love to hear the thoughts and opinions of others, too, so feel free to write them in the comments section.

 

What’s worked for me:

A) Setting one goal that’s moderately difficult, but achievable.  In the past, I’ve overwhelmed myself with all these things I have to get done by a certain time.  It stresses me out to the point where the motivation declines, and once that happens, it’s game over.  One goal, however, is much less stressful for me.  I stopped flooding myself with “lift 4 times a week, run 3 times a week, lose 30 pounds, eat better” and turned it into “lose 30 pounds… doesn’t matter how, and it doesn’t always have to be the same way… just do it!”

B) Keep track of foods to the point of obsession.  This may not work for everyone, but I’ll be honest, I try to the best of my ability to log every food item on the menu.  It makes me feel like I have much more control over obtaining my goal.

C) Writing about it and receiving support.  The CC community has been a fantastic support group.  Being able to hear inspiring stories has been an incredible motivation boost.  I want to succeed and want others to be successful, too.  The general promotion of that team spirit goes a really long way.

D) Getting back to working out.  It used to be fun, then it started becoming a chore.  I’m trying to make it fun again.

E) And this is the important one.  Do whatever is necessary to keep you motivated.  A song, a punching bag, a movie quote… there are many different sources of inspirational motivation.  Find the one that you like and keep it on hand when the going gets tough.

 

Besides the weight loss, this blog has been another recent accomplishment.  Even as an introvert, I love to entertain and to be entertained.  A few years back, I did a bit of side work as a talk radio DJ, and dabbled into it again earlier this year on blogtalkradio.com.  While that medium has always appealed to me, I wanted a place to express more creativity with the freedom to get into a wider variety of topics.  For some reason, starting this blog was difficult for me.  What do I call it?  Are people going to visit?  Will this really be entertaining?  But I guess something finally clicked inside me to put all of the doubts aside and just go for it.

 

And that’s where the good habits can be brought to life.  Make a choice, right now, to overcome your doubts and start doing what you want to do.  Start living the life that you want to live.  Set a goal and make it happen.  Get excited about your goal, and get excited about what the future has to offer once you reach it.