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Winning the Long Game

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I haven't written anything here for awhile, but I just wanted to check in and update a bit on my progress. For the past week I've been devoting myself to positive change. I'm getting up early in the morning, eating three healthy meals a day, cutting way back on sugar, and trying to stay focused on my goals. It's been a long road to where I am now, and not without its missteps and stumbles. But I've tried to learn from each mistake and go forward resolved to do a little better each time.

On top of the healthy eating habits, I've started a modest weight training program. I'm determined to start small at first, so I don't try to do too much and give up, as I tend to do too often. The last time I tried to push myself too hard, I gave myself a periumbilical hernia, which has cost me dearly in terms of comfort and peace of mind. So I'm taking life in manageable chunks.

To simplify my process a bit, I've been using Joe's Goals ( to track the stuff I want to do daily. I still use Spark a lot, but in general it's nice to have a fast tool that I don't have to spend a ton of time with. And there's a handy bar graph, so I can motivate myself to keep it from plummeting like BP stock.

The best part is, I think my depression's pretty much under control -- I'm still on medication, but out of therapy, and I haven't had a major episode in months. Now that that's handled, and my eating is also pretty much handled, I can concentrate on getting in shape and losing that weight, like I've wanted to for years now. That's going to be the last big step, but I think I'm finally ready.

I hope you are all doing well. Have an amazing day.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ALASKASKY 10/20/2010 5:41PM

    Keep up the good work. I know what you mean about spending a lot of time on here. I've been away for a while and have decided to take it down a bit. But i still exercise and track my food.

You sound like you're doing a good job.


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TXDREAMSPINNER 10/20/2010 4:46PM

    Sounds like you have a great plan. I think starting small is always a great way to go. Keep up the great work!

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One More Time

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hey everybody. Still alive and kicking -- hope you all are doing well.

For the past couple of months I've been working hard on getting a handle on my depression -- staying on the meds and going to therapy. I recently passed the eighteen-month mark without a single drink -- undoubtedly the longest I've gone without drinking since I was 21 (which was quite a while ago, I can tell you).

But, since I was focusing on other things, I once again kind of lost focus with Spark. Anyone who reads this blog over time can see that it's something of a pattern with me. I'll be really into it for a couple of weeks, then trail off. I got rather discouraged when I looked at my weight loss goals and realized that the goal I'd set for myself six months ago arrives next month, and I haven't really been working toward it at all.

But, feeling sorry for myself or complaining about it isn't going to solve a thing -- the only thing to do is to get back into it. So I'm tracking my food today, and I bit the bullet and called up my old workout buddy. We're going back to our walks / gym time later this week.

One more time!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CARRIEMT 6/28/2010 4:05PM

    Congrats on getting back into it. Seems like we're our best friend and our own worst enemy.
Hope you get to see more of your own best friend the weeks ahead.

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I Sparked?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Hello again, Sparkpeople people! I hope you're all doing well.

The past couple of months have been very up and down. The doc increased my meds to help a bit more with my depression, and I've been intermittently going to therapy. He assures me that I'm high-functioning and smart and far better off than most of his patients. In some ways, that's reassuring; in others, not so much -- because if I really don't have it that bad, am I just sort of crying over nothing?

But, whatever. I'm working on getting better, and that's what matters.

Eating is still going well. We're keeping lots of fresh veggies in the house, have vastly reduced the amount of sugar we have around, and we've been having the fruit smoothies daily for two months now. It's pretty awesome, and our grocery bills haven't even gone up by that much. (All the sugar money goes to the frozen fruit, you see.)

I haven't really been losing any weight, because I haven't been exercising, nor really tracking my food. My walking partner has asked me a couple of times to go out walking with him, but my laziness has overcome my desire to get slimmer. I plan to change that. Next week. Yeah, next week for sure, right?

The only real bummer is the periumbilical hernia I was diagnosed with a year ago. It's getting worse -- growing, making my stomach sore, and impacting my sleep and my quality of life at this point. It's contributed to one of the major factors in my depression; namely, that I feel like a broken-down old man and I'm only in my thirties. Years ago, i injured my back and leg pretty badly, and it never fully recovered -- I have nerve damage in that leg and if I ever had to run, I'd go down like a ton of bricks (literally, cause I'm overweight HA HA GET IT). Add the stupid hernia to this, and I'm hobbling around the house feeling twice my age.

I know this stuff is in my power to change, but I just get in the unmotivated spiral where changing it seems too hard, so I ignore the problems and numb myself with sedentary activities, which of course only makes it worse... and so on. You see how it goes. It's a poisonous way to live, but some days I feel like getting through the day is about all I can manage.

But I look back on where I was when I was doing Spark consistently, and I really liked what was happening. I saw real results. I felt better, looked better. Why wouldn't I continue to do that? And yet I look back on my blog entries over the past year or so and it involves a whole lot of starts and stops. Starting over can be so exhausting. And yet, I don't see what other choice I have. Give up? Doesn't sound too appealing. Ladies love Captain Give-Up! Check out these guns! Blammo! Oh wait I have no muscle mass because I gave up. Crap...

Anyway. The hernia thing has to be addressed; I was reading some testimonials from people urging others not to wait to get it fixed, and realized that it's been a year since I was diagnosed. I don't want it to get worse. I don't want to have surgery, but then again I don't want to have emergency surgery either, which is probably where I'm headed if I don't get this fixed. I mean, it might never get bad. But then again, it might. I've got enough problems without that kind of anxiety.

But to counteract all this mopey hullaballoo, I do want to mention something very positive that happened. I make my wife lunches every day so she can take them to work. Usually, I make her some rice and vegetables, or leftover soup or pasta, and sometimes some oatmeal. I don't mean bland old packaged oatmeal; I'm talking about slow-cooked steel-cut Irish oats with some dried berries, milk and a bit of peanut butter for savory awesomeness.

Her co-workers, who are admittedly jealous because her husband makes her awesome lunches (smug apple-polishing motion) kept asking her, "why oatmeal? Isn't that bland?" "Not the way he makes it," my wife tells them. Apparently one of her co-workers also brought her own breakfast, but she was eating the nasty pre-packaged oatmeal that comes in the little packets. After seeing what my wife was eating, she switched from the sugary crap to much tastier and healthier steel-cut oats. So, for one brief moment, I was a genuine Sparkperson. Or something. Well, I thought it was nice, anyway.

I hope all of you are doing well. I always appreciated your comments, and I've enjoyed reading all of your blogs. I hope things are going fantastically for you and that you're working toward your goals. I hope to see you around. Cheers.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PWAYLA 5/8/2010 11:33AM

    "I know this stuff is in my power to change, but I just get in the unmotivated spiral where changing it seems too hard, so I ignore the problems and numb myself with sedentary activities, which of course only makes it worse... and so on. You see how it goes. It's a poisonous way to live, but some days I feel like getting through the day is about all I can manage."

Wow....this is me right now....trying to juggle work, a new baby, and grieving the loss of my father. Isn't it strange how the mind knows what the body needs, yet the body rejects? At least that's my experience -- I'm a perennial 'starter-over' and it always seems to end up the same way.

Be kind to your self -- there is a way through it, and when you find it, let me know.. :-)

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BLESSED2BEME 5/7/2010 2:38PM

    Wow - that is so sweet that you make your wife's lunches. Would you mind suggesting that to my husband? I love really good, oatmeal with fruit but I also want to add the heavy cream and brown sugar...

Sounds like you know what it takes to make change. Remember that emoticon slow and steady wins the race. I have to make changes in baby steps and that has provided me much more success than my all or nothing mentality of the past!

Wishing you much success!

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Well, this is embarrassing...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

There's a part of me that doesn't even want to write this entry, because given yesterday's entry, it's pretty embarrassing. You know how yesterday I was saying that fast food was no problem to give up, and how I wouldn't miss it anyway, and so on and so forth? I hope I didn't come across as too smug, because I feel like I started yesterday at a full run only to sprawl flat on my face. Into a big pile of cream pies.

First, the preamble. I haven't been sleeping well. This is a bit bewildering to me, as when I start exercising, my sleep usually improves dramatically. Maybe it's too early for that to happen, but I would think I shouldn't be sleeping -worse- than usual, and yet I am. I was up two full hours before my normal wake-up time this morning, and that's probably not going to treat me kindly. When I get tired, I get much more prone to depressive fits and losing my temper. Which is where we start getting to the heart of today's little story.

So, yesterday was not terribly productive. I'm having some work frustrations -- nothing too out of the ordinary; let's just say that if you ever decide to freelance, be advised that a lot of companies feel no shame in taking their own sweet time to pay you. As a result, our bank balance has dipped quite low, significantly lower than is comfortable. Money is one of my biggest sources of stress: when we don't have enough, I get tense, irritable, I start to worry. My wife is really mellow about it. She knows we'll get paid again, and is generally of the opinion that things will be fine. Not me. I like to fret.

As a result, when I went to the doctor's office to get my medication upped (my doctor has been recommending this for awhile), I was already in a bad mood. I sat in the doctor's office for a good half-hour past my appointment time, reading in Time magazine about how we're all going to live to be a hundred, and that will destroy the planet because of the mountains of empty Geritol bottles we will produce, and also our lives will be so harrowing and miserable we'll all pray for death. (Well, that's not really what Time said, but things tend to take on a certain character when you're down...)

Anyway, got the medication handled. My wife asked if I wanted to take a walk. My first instinct was, of course, hell no I do not want to take a walk. What I want to do is go home and cram Hostess Cupcakes into my mouth with both fists until my cheeks puff out like Dizzy Gillespie. (I did not really want to do this, but it makes good copy.) But, my wife, being the gentle, insidious, crafty soul that she is, steered us past McCormick Park and asked again nicely. So we went for a walk. And it was perfectly pleasant, got my blood going, and improved my mood marginally. Plus, it kept me from writing the entire day off as a failure.

But now I'm officially stalling. Here's the not-so-great part. We have a bit of a bad habit when it comes to food; namely, we tend to associate bad food with comfort. This isn't really all that unusual, as I understand it, and so I won't pretend this makes us horrible people devoid of free will -- it's just that our choices for comforting food tend not to be the best. My wife saw that I was still depressed, even after the walk, and asked me what would help. I grumbled that nothing would (I am -so- constructive when depressed!) She asked if fast food would help. I didn't say yes, but of course I didn't say no either.

You know where this is going, of course. We hit the drive-through and had fast food for dinner. A mere day after I wrote in this very blog, "HAHA FAST FOOD WHO NEEDS IT ? SAYONARA BURGER TOWN!" In my own feeble defense, I did order the grilled chicken instead of the Double Heartstopper, and the diet soda. So, I stopped short of the worst possible choice, which I guess is something. Still, you should see that calorie tracker, it looks like the snowy peak of K2 right about now.

What's funny about all this is, I don't really feel that bad about it. It was a stumble, sure. A very -early- stumble. I mean, I barely had time to get going before I faceplanted right into the wall. But I'm really okay with that. I did it, I tracked it, I saw that it was pretty undesirable, and now I'm moving on. My wife and I have already decided to do much better the rest of the week, and I have every confidence that we will -- there's lots of salad and veggies in the fridge. We're sufficiently armed against further fast-food incursions. I am, at this very moment, drinking a homemade smoothie made with strawberries, blueberries, a banana, some pomegranate juice, and some soymilk. Things are looking up already.

Again, thank you for reading and the kind comments, and I hope you all have a fantastic day.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CIARANFURNESS 3/18/2010 2:31PM

    Congrats on recognising what happened and learning from it! That is awesome! Hope you both are having a much better day today :)

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CIARANFURNESS 3/18/2010 2:30PM

    Congrats on recognising what happened and learning from it! That is awesome! Hope you both are having a much better day today :)

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ZNJGRAM 3/18/2010 12:56AM

    So I am not the only one who falls short on good eating intentions and then feels remorseful. Tomorrow is another day. You mentioned not sleeping. I have had a terrible problem with that until I gave up all sugar--nearly all--what I mean is no desserts. After 3 days I wasn't tempted and it has been about 75 days now. The amazing thing happened. My mood got much better and I sleep soundly. It sound drastic but just get past the first few days and you'll be fine. Is it worth a try????

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BARBARAWEBSTER 3/17/2010 11:10PM

    Thanks for the blog. I really enjoy your sense of humor. My downfall is salt! always eating way too much of it. That and nuts. Once I've had a handful of cashews, I want another, and another, and you know. Have a great St. Patrick's day. I did!

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VGIMLET 3/17/2010 1:12PM

    Sometimes these things happen, and it's good that you tracked it. Stumbling is a great learning experience, and I think learning to not beat ourselves up and keep moving forward is the key to long term success.


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FSTORM 3/17/2010 11:53AM

    The fact that you owned up to it and that you're not just beating yourself up means that you are doing the right thing! We all fall off sometimes, as long as you get back up and on the horse you will make forward progress, sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to fail.

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MICHELLEJ653 3/17/2010 11:07AM

    I have done things like this before,

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PAMNANGEL 3/17/2010 10:46AM

    We've all stumbled and fallen a time or two, some of us more than that. It happens.

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You're On the List!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Here comes a long entry!

All right, so I'm going to start with a wee bit of bragging. Yesterday I:

1) Re-started my Sparkpeople plan.
2) Ate healthy all day (oatmeal for breakfast; sandwich, cucumbers and an apple for lunch; salmon steak with vegetables and salad for dinner).
3) Wrote 750 words on and signed up for the April contest. Getting back into my creative work is important to me.
4) Submitted five new designs to a client (he loved one of them -- whew!)
5) Did a little strength training (curls, pushups).
6) Went for a walk outside with my wife.
7) Met or came in under my eating goals for the day.

All in all, a pretty awesome day.

Dare I say, an ass-kicking day? I think I might.

Can I make today better? Possibly. Quite possibly.

But there's no room for resting on laurels right now. I want to take a bit of time to talk about one of my prime motivators for restarting this program: Alton Brown's Four Lists.

My wife and I were watching Food Network the other night (always dangerous, actually, because usually it's about someone building some huge delicious-looking cake or some sadistic maniac's latest recipe for butter medallions in an olive oil sauce with cranberry-whiskey-bacon dressing or whatever). Alton Brown, looking much thinner, stood in front of a 50-pound block of lard, proclaiming that he'd lost this much weight. Hey, I thought to myself... that's how much I want to lose. Immediately, my interest was piqued (and I couldn't stop looking at that giant-ass block of lard, thinking about how nice it would be to have that gone from my own frame).

Then he went on to talk about his four lists, which I'm going to write about right now. According to Alton, this is the system he used to lose his fifty pounds. While I'm not going to embrace it wholesale, I think it's a great foundation to start with.

Here's the first list:

Foods to Eat Daily
* Fruits
* Whole Grains
* Leafy Greens
* Nuts
* Carrots
* Green Teas

Okay, so this is all really reasonable stuff. Fortunately for me, the one thing I've never had a problem with is getting my five a day. I love salads, I love fruit, I don't mind eating it. There are relatively few vegetables I don't get along with in this world. A big spinach salad with some apples and cranberries added in and some nuts on top would take care of most of this.

In fact, yesterday I covered almost all of this, except for the carrots and green tea, which I simply forgot about. I usually have some tea in the evening, and could have easily added a carrot to lunch or dinner, but I didn't. So this is all doable.

Second List: Foods to Eat 3 Times per Week
* Oily Fish
* Yogurt
* Broccoli
* Sweet Potato
* Avocado

The fish, yogurt, and broccoli are no problem. The sweet potatoes and avocaco are. I loathe sweet potatoes with the white-hot fire of a thousand burning suns, and my wife can't stand avocado. I don't have a problem with it, but I'm meal-planning for two, so I have to think practically.

Eating fish three times a week might get slightly expensive on our food budget. Alton recommends sardines on crackers, which is appealing enough to me, but again, my wife won't go for that. Also, we have two cats, which is going to mean a cacophany of mewling every time I crack open a can of yummy sardines. Still, that's life. The broccoli and yogurt are no problem -- except for finding a yogurt that isn't loaded with corn syrup. But I'll complain at length about that another time.

Third List: Foods to Limit to Once per Week
* Red Meat
* Pasta
* Desserts
* Alcohol

Here's where we start having problems...

Fortunately, alcohol isn't one of them. I haven't had a drop of alcohol in a year, and I don't miss it. Okay, I sometimes miss it, but it's one of those things that I can deal with without too much trouble. So no biggie there.

Red meat once a week... well, it might have to be two times a week. I do love me some red meat, and while I'm okay with cutting back, I don't know if I want to cut back that far. Pasta once a week... I can live with that, too, if I have to.

Desserts once a week, well, that's a bit of an issue. That's one thing I just don't forsee myself, or my wife, sticking to. Now, maybe by "desserts" Brown means the kind of huge, gooey, rich dessert that he makes on his programs, and if that's so then it's not a big deal... we don't really indulge on that level very often anyway. But my wife does like a bit of chocolate almost daily, and my sweet tooth is not too far behind. So that might take some compromise and adjustment.

And now for the final list: Foods Totally Eliminated

* Fast Food
* Soda Pop
* Processed Meals
* Canned Soup
* Any type of "diet" foods

Canned soup and diet foods: Don't eat them anyway, so no big deal. Pack up your things, canned soup! Get out of my office, you're fired.

Processed meals: I'll cop to occasionally enjoying a bit of canned ravioli or a frozen dinner, usually when I'm feeling exceedingly lazy. I'm not very good at sticking to sweeping NEVERMORE SHALL ANY OF THIS PASS MY LIPS proclamations; they almost always fail within weeks, if not sooner.

Fast food: Over the past few months, fast food has slowly been creeping back into our diets. Prior to getting married, I'd almost never touched the stuff, but it became a weekend routine to go get some fast food and enjoy it in front of a movie or something. Honestly, at this point I have no trouble cutting it out. I know that the Saturday laziness will probably sneak up on us, though, so this will have to be watched for.

The soda pop is going to be hard. I've tried to quit soda so many times, and I've never quite gotten there. I drink almost exclusively diet soda (crap, that has "diet" in the title! I totally lied!) and not the full-sugar stuff, but I've never quite weaned myself totally off of it. I'm pretty sure I can do this, I just don't really want to.

Whew. Are you still with me after all that? If so, thanks for reading. Oh, and thanks to those of you who left kind words on my last entry -- you always make my day and bring a smile to my face!

I hope you kick some ass today!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CIARANFURNESS 3/17/2010 5:50AM

    Yay, great plan - good luck for it, I know you can do it! :)

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CIARANFURNESS 3/17/2010 5:50AM

    Yay, great plan - good luck for it, I know you can do it! :)

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    Love your blog! Alton Brown cracks me up. He's a tad bit on the eccentric side, but I really like him! :-) Way to go on starting anew. I hope You continue to kick ass today!! emoticon

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  I decided that it would be a good idea to give up all soda for two months out of the year (they don't have to be consecutive). This is the first month I chose. So 16 days without soda thus far (and I HATE drinking plain water) and I've turned to iced tea. Occasionally, you'll find me standing in the lunch room at work, staring at the soda machine. I'll do this for a while and then go back and sit down.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to give it up completely, but if I can make it through a month without it - so can you. It's as good as any place to start.

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DIY_DREAM 3/16/2010 2:11PM

    Awesome Transmo! I'm glad you're back on the wagon. I bet the sun is helping a bit. I have some suggestions for the yogurt and the sody-pop. I found the Mountain High tubs o' yogurt have less sugar than other yogurts. I tried the plain, but it was pretty intense, so I switched to the vanilla. You can find them at Safeway (I don't think Wal-mart has that, but I've found Safeway is cheaper on yogurt for some reason). Try to get off the diet pop. Fake sugar messes up your palate and makes you eat more sweet. Try switching to some unsweetened flavored water. We've been getting cases of Talking Rain at Costco. They have a little flavor and some fizz. Alton is suggesting a pretty clean diet, which is great!

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AMYJO713 3/16/2010 2:05PM

    "I'm pretty sure I can do this, I just don't really want to." - this makes me smile because its what I used to say about quitting smoking - exactly - until I realized that was the whole addiction... emoticon

Thank you for sharing - I hope I kick ass today too!


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ALICIA214 3/16/2010 1:23PM


Going to give it my best shot.!!! emoticon

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