My Weight Loss (and Gain) Storylines

I sort of realized as I’m typing this that there were so many factors in me gaining weight.  I decided to break this up into two parts.  Part I is like the foundation of my weight gain.  Part II will be the weight loss portion.  Sorry for the long read.

Part I, Weight Gain

When I was in high school I wasn’t involved in much.  I tried skateboarding, but I wasn’t into breaking bones as easily as my friends were. It was almost like a rite of passage, the skating kids wouldn’t include you if you didn’t break your arm attempting to pull off a fakie backside off their homemade box ramp.  I just found myself wanting to ride my bike or attempt skating and surfing. Needless to say, I wasn’t the star athlete of my hometown, I was just a regular teen just finding my place in life.

As a teen I never struggled with weight or body image, I was tall, lean, and always active. It wasn’t until I started dating my wife that we both discovered we had shared a love of many things, one most important: FOOD.

We never ate at home, all of our meals were either fast food, diner, or chain restaurants. We ate what we wanted whenever we wanted.  I went from being a lanky 168 lbs. to 200 lbs. in what seemed like overnight.  None of my clothes fit and I started to become very self-conscious and started building a negative body image.  I would try to hide behind bulky jackets and clothing during the cooler months and then squirm with self-doubt and discomfort in the warmer months.  I avoided my picture being taken and stayed away from anything that would draw attention to me.  Aside from my marriage and two wonderful children, nothing else seemed to ever go right.  I had no confidence, and no spine when it came to being bullied at work.  My co-workers and superiors had zero confidence in me and I was belittled and pushed into a corner.  I just assumed this was my place in life.

The only outlet I had I was being involved with the local volunteer fire company and would regularly attend weekly training exercises and drills.  I remember my skewed thought process when it came to physical fitness and wellness.  I thought one night of intense activity was my healthy gateway to justify eating garbage throughout the rest of the week.

“I thought one night of intense activity was my healthy gateway to justify eating garbage throughout the rest of the week.”

Then it happened, well two things happened: First, it was like I had something to prove, I obtained firefighting certification after firefighting certification and just never felt satisfied.  I was missing out on my young family’s early milestones and my wife and I hit a really rough patch in our relationship.  Second, I wasn’t feeling good, I was always sick, always out of breath and just tired all the time. One night during RIT (rapid intervention team) training I was the lucky firefighter that got the role of “victim” or “downed firefighter” and had to be rescued by my peers.  As I felt my fellow team members struggle to rescue me (my weight: 260 lbs plus the added weight of fire gear: 80+ lbs), I came to the scary realization that had this been a real scenario, we all would have been dead.

That’s when I knew, something had to change.  And here’s the thing about change; it can’t be comfortable or easy.  When you make a comfortable and easy change, you are setting yourself up for failure.  When you make a change, commit to the new process and don’t look back!

“… here’s the thing about change; it can’t be comfortable or easy.  When you make a comfortable and easy change, you are setting yourself up for failure.  When you make a change, commit to the new process and don’t look back!”

First, my work was a toxic environment, the management there was inadequate at best, and the atmosphere didn’t make it any better.  I was killing myself for mediocre pay and thought working overtime was the key to making a healthy living.  My boss would play mind-games with me and belittle my contributions.  I was reminded on a weekly basis how much I cost the company, and how it would be cheaper for them to outsource my work.  I was constantly in fear of losing my job.  Being in a constant state of worry led to stress eating and mentally just wore me out.  I was tired all the time and was starved for energy.  I would consume 2-3 energy drinks a day, eat fast food and candy (because it was convenient and easily obtained), and actually thought smoking would help curb cravings.  I even took caffeine pills on a few occasions to stay awake at work and dabbled in weight loss pills to help control my eating habits.

People, are you reading what I’m writing?! Looking back, I must have been mental!  There were so many warning signs that after 5 years of slogging it out, making the decision to quit was long overdue.  When I left that job, I weighed somewhere in the ballpark of 260+ lbs., I say ballpark because I refused to weigh myself because I knew the number would bring me down.

Part II, Weight Loss

Let’s take a look at a few things:  It wasn’t until I left my crappy, toxic career behind and decided to embark on a new journey, that I discovered a few life lessons.

Life Lessons Learned:
Lesson 1. Get rid of toxicity in your life!  Whether it be a nagging boss, negative influencers in your life, so-called “friends”, watching the news, social media, think about what brings you down and let it go.  Then take a moment and think about who you want to be.  Then surround yourself with like-minded people and take the first step in what I like to call a lifestyle cleanse.

Lesson 2. You can’t outwork a bad diet.  One night of intense physical activity is not enough to keep you in shape.  On the same token, smoking, or popping pills, or weight loss gimmicks are nothing but smoke and mirrors.  Ditch the gimmicks and commit to something more tangible and real.  Join a gym and meet with a trainer to develop a fitness program.  I stress, fitness program, and not weight loss program because you need to change your mindset and not view this as a once-and-done program.  This is a lifestyle change.

Lesson 3. Pardon my French, but EAT REAL FUCKING FOOD! Stop eating junk, stop eating what’s convenient and fast, and start eating shit you can pronounce! The simpler the ingredients the better.  Veggies are your friend, and friends help you out and lift you up.  Ditch the crap and start investing in your health with real food.

Lesson 4.  Love and encourage your partner.  So much of my success comes from the love and support of my wife.  Together we supported each other’s goals and together we’ve accomplished great things.  Take a moment and express gratitude for what/who makes you feel good and do what you can to reciprocate that positive energy.

Lesson 5. Do what you love.  Running can be a love/hate relationship and I find the more I run, the more I appreciate this lifelong friend.  We have our ups and downs, and we learn from one another – just like life. Live and learn and don’t give up what you love.

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iCare 5k

Every year a nearby food bank hosts a 5k almost in our backyard. Blessings of Hope has a huge yard sale, auction, food vendors, activities for kids, and of course a 5k race in beautiful Lancaster County. The company is predominantly Mennonite so it attracts the local Amish and Mennonite community at large. Turn out is always HUGE.

This year the 5k drew a much larger crowd as well. The course was the same as the previous year, a nice easy run on the back roads of Amish Country. There is a slight incline, at the very start, but for the most part it’s nothing too crazy and very runner friendly.

At the very beginning I noticed a lot of kids hanging around the starting line- in fact there were a lot of kids and I thought how fun it will be to blow past them at the half way mark. The announcer’s voice boomed over the handheld speaker as she yelled “GO!” and we were off. Truth be told: those Amish kids took off and I didn’t see a single one after that. Even though my first mile was complete in 7 minutes, and my second mile at 7:20, those kids were fast and long gone.

The course was beautiful as always, and the atmosphere and iCare event was a lovely experience. Even though I hit a few PRs, fastest mile (7:11), fastest 2 miles (14:31), I still finished 25th overall. I placed 3rd in my age group and received a fidget spinner medal- all-in-all, it was pretty fun.

Last year I ran a lot slower, with an average of 9:00 min/miles and placed 2nd in my age group. So this year I’d say the amount of competitors was a lot higher and the skill levels were just as high to match. This is a fast course and we saw some really fast times! Looking forward to next year!

Hard Cider Run – Race Recap

It’s that time of the year again! When the grass begins to grow,  the cider flows like water, and over a thousand people attempt the run the Hard Cider Run 5K in Gettysburg, PA.  This year we signed up for year 3 of running the Hard Cider Run at Hauser Estate Winery, home of Jack’s Hard Cider, in Biglerville, Pennsylvania (Gettysburg).  This is usually our favorite race, mostly because its in our favorite town, and also the course is just downright fun.  However, this year was a little different.

I will say, the PROs of running this race: Nice Shirts and Medals, the event hosted by Hauser Estate gets better every year with entertainment and food trucks, Race photos are typically posted within a few days, and the Jack’s Hard Cider is always welcome.  We’ve signed up every year for the last 3 years, so obviously we really enjoy this race, but I think after this year we’re going to take a break.

Side note: look at the first year we ran the race until now, Transformation Tuesday!

And here’s why:

First off, when you really enjoy something, it’s easy to over do it. And some times too much of a thing can be a bad thing, so in an effort to keep our love affair with the Hard Cider Run, we’re going to take a back seat for a year or two.  That is the main reason we are going to sit the next year out.  That being said, this year’s event didn’t seem as streamlined as previous events, and the overall experience was soured a little by that.

This year over 1,800 people signed up!  Like most races, this was broken up into corrals for different skill levels / running pace.  Since we treat this as a fun run, we sign up for the third wave, which is around the 10:30 min/mile pace (run/jog) corral.  In previous years, there was a 10 min break between corrals, which kept the field traffic to a minimum – this year, the break was about 3 minutes.  The course was changed from the previous years and rather than a gradual hill to start, the course immediately sent you into a bottleneck, and then an insanely steep hill.  There was a lot of heavy huffing and puffing as people attempted to chug up the hill.  Since the corrals were released so quickly, we did a lot of stopping this year due to traffic jams.  So needless to say, the race didn’t have a very graceful start, and it seemed like the traffic continued throughout the race.  By the way, speaking of people, race photos – this sums up my race experience (lost in the crowd), there were literally 2 pictures of me in the all race photos, and I’m buried in a sea of people. Haha.

Also, new runners, it’s great to see so many people participate in this event – that ensures it will be around for years to come – but there are some general house keeping rules they should have announced to each corral. If for some reason you are going to stop or walk, please step to the right side and let runners pass on the left.  Also, in tight areas (I know this hinders social time) but please don’t walk side-by-side.

Anyway, it’s not you Hard Cider Run, it’s us – we don’t ruin wanna a good thing.  In fact, after re-reading this I feel like I’m coming across as complaining and whining jerk.  Please know I love this race and we’ll be back – just not next year.

It’s all about the Food!

Running aside, my life’s passion is food.  Losing weight was the motivation I needed to start eating and fueling my body right.  After all, losing over 60+ lbs I wanted to maintain my weight loss and maintain my good health.  “Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates

Get yourself ready for these awesome eats!  Typically we are vegetarian, and only eat meat a handful of times throughout the month, so I thought I’d change it up, but going a little heavier on the meats.

First up, Paprika Chicken and Chickpeas!  This awesome meal was combined with roasted broccoli and cauliflower for an amazing and satisfying meal! Especially after my long morning Sunday trail runs, and a day full of activities.

Next we have a Cauliflower Bolognese! One of my favorite meals – the pasta, the bolognese, everything about it is pure awesome.  We paired ours with a homemade Caesar salad and it took everything to the next level!

Finally, we have a local farm that produces some of the best tasting grass-fed beef I’ve ever had!  These Baked Beef Samosas are so delicious, so flavorful, so awesome that I’m getting hungry just looking at them!  If you are vegetarian or vegan, feel free to use your favorite meat substitute, you won’t be disappointed!

Hot Chocolate 15k – Race Recap

Before we start, can I tell you how much I love this race? The Hot Chocolate 15k is just an awesome race all around.  The only complaint is finding a parking spot around the city, but hey, par for the course.  This year I hit another PR, beating my previous runtime by around 8 minutes.  I felt strong the entire race, and get this – NO MUSIC.  I decided to ditch the headphones and listen to myself breath, and it was an amazing experience.

Running without music really heightened my other senses and I felt like I was sincerely listening to my body.  It also afforded me a chance to really take in my surroundings and hear what was going on around me.  Life can be pretty crazy, and it’s almost sad to say this, but you never know what’s going to happen at an event like this.  There were over 5,000 participants in the 15K, plus spectators, staff, and volunteers – it was crazy busy!  So being alert and knowing my surroundings was extremely comforting.  Another comforting sight was seeing the sheer amount of awesome volunteers, police, fire, ems, and sanitation crews.  Major kudos to the men and women of the Philadelphia Law Enforcement, First Responder, and Public Works Departments.

The first half of the race takes you from the Philadelphia Museum of Art toward Center City and then loops you back around to cross over the Susquehanna into Fairmount Park.  You run up Martin Luther King Drive and catch the wonderful sights of Boathouse Row.  It’s an amazing sight and such a beautiful landscape.   The Philadephia Hot Chocolate Run is an Out-and-Back Course, so once you run the entire length of the Park, you turn around and come right back.

I didn’t carry much on me during this year’s race, last year I carried Sport Beans and two water bottles with Nuun in them, this year a single Stinger Gel Flask and one Orangic Honey Stinger Waffle was just enough.  Heck, I even forgot to eat the waffle until the very end!  The entire race was enjoyable, it wasn’t until mile 8 that I noticed some discomfort.  I’m not really sure what triggered it, but I decided to check my heart rate at mile 8 and noticed I was at my max threshold (red area for those Garmin users).  Maybe it was a lack of glucose in my bloodstream, but I just felt a little off.  I decided to walk for 1 min, and see if my heart rate would drop back to my Anaerobic zone (Orange) or if I could manage to calm myself my Aerobic zone (Green).  I chugged the rest of my gel flask and nabbed a Nuun water from the last aid station – I checked my watch and saw that I had managed to bring my heart rate into a comfortable zone, so I picked the pace back up.  I finished feeling pretty good with my average pace around 9:30 min/mile.  Could I have gone faster? Maybe, but let’s save that for next year!

Finish Time: 1:29:41

Episode 20 – Diet or Lifestyle

In this episode of the Beyond 24 Days podcast, we tackle the difference between Diet and Lifestyle… at least what that meant for us, and what that can mean for you too!  Listen in to hear Brooke sharing her insight about her experience in school food nutrition and sharing healthy eating with kids.

Oh yeah, and I babble on about Trail Running.

Trail Running Part II

 

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I might be slowly converting into a trail runner… crazy, right?  First, let me just say that meeting up and joining a local running club is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. As outgoing of a person that I am, I’m generally pretty shy and it takes a lot for me to “bite the bullet” and take the plunge.  I’ve been following a local running club for months now on Facebook, and after a push from a friend, I decided to join them on a weekly meetup about a month ago.  I’ve been running with them ever since and the experience has been nothing but rewarding.  So do yourself a favor and find a local running club and JOIN!

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