iamom: (pink)
There's this fat guy named Steve Vaught who is walking across the country right now in an effort to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle. He's chronicling his adventures on his blog at FatManWalking.com, and a recent entry of his contained a large portion size of wisdom. I can't link to it directly because his blog is kind of messed up technically, but the entry I'm writing about today is about motivation on 03 22 06 on this page.

From browsing his site, I've learned that after completing two-thirds of his trip (several thousand miles!) he still hadn't reached his target weight. It was bothering him and he didn't understand why he wasn't succeeding. He ended up deciding that he was still eating too badly to lose weight, and that made him take a break from his walk and re-evaluate what he was doing. Some of his insights line up pretty closely with the ones I've been developing lately about this. Things like leaving aside the guilt, stop beating yourself up over bad food or exercise choices from one day to the next, etc.
There is no elusive motivation that once possessed will whisk you into a supermodel body, there is only you and your desire to be happy. The fact that you want something to fix you is the best indication that what needs fixing is you.  Logically you know what the answer is, eat less, eat better and move around once in a while. (Or walk across the country.--ed.)
Vaught says that we all have different justifications and motivations for our bad lifestyle choices, and that we all have our own ways of convincing ourselves that we are "powerless against this 'disease'." He gives us a reality check: You are the problem! You overindulge and have done so for quite some time. Now you need to work to reverse that bad behavior which by now is probably habit. You need to get over yourself and simply go and do something.Vaught:
Once you stop setting yourself up for failure you will release yourself from the cycle of guilt, self-loathing and desire for comfort, then you will start to see that you have to take the good with the bad. In releasing the cycle of weightloss/weightgain and accept the successes with the failure as the big picture you will find that you have all the power and do not need to find motivation, it comes naturally. You are not trying to get happy by losing weight; you are trying to get healthy by losing weight. Happiness should be an element in your life regardless. Once you take the power away from the weight you will feel a burden lifted from you shoulders, start to feel happy and stop punishing yourself and ultimately losing weight will become natural. Cure the mind and the ass will follow.
He discusses a "one day at a time" approach that works for me. I think of this as a sort of continuum of eating and exercise, wherein sometimes good choices are made and sometimes bad choices are made, but ultimately, over time, more good than bad choices get made and you become tangibly healthier. Vaught:
Try your best everyday, make little reminders in your routine to point you in the right direction, It is not the weight that holds you captive or even the food, instead it is the inner conflict about failing to control oneself that keeps you from being successful.
Later on, he came up with a list of specific behaviours he is finding useful. I don't disagree with them. They are (with my paraphrasing):

1. Portion control. To lose weight, you must consume less than you burn in physical activity. To maintain a healthy weight, you must consume the same amount that you burn. It's common sense, and it's true.

2. Variety. Our bodies need a mixture of sugar, salt, fat, protein, everything. But overweight people need it in smaller amounts. Expanding your habits to include multiple food choices is beneficial. Overindulging in any one food is bad, but so is avoiding any one food.

3. Nutrition. Vaught: Once you eat less and learn to feel real hunger and then you have mixed it up and are not in food ruts, then you are ready to start choosing good food over bad. If it is modified, sugar or caffeine or whatever-free dump it. Now you want to eat natural whole foods over processed. If the food does not have a naturally occurring color – then pass.

4. Exercise. After finding that healthier eating habits are starting to take root, you'll find that you naturally want to become more active. It almost happens of its own accord. And even if it's something as simple as walking, that's enough. You can lose weight just by walking!

5. Your mind. Vaught: This effort will fail miserably if you start to beat yourself up over transgressions. You will have good days and bad days. Individually they do not matter. Success is a lifetime thing not a daily. If you are not accepting your weakness then you are not accepting that you are human and that is why you are struggling in the first place.
iamom: (lookingup)
The Body-For-Life (BFL) 12-Week Fitness Challenge is a comprehensive healthy eating and exercise plan developed by the American bodybuilder and entrepreneur Bill Phillips.

This article and interview by Outside magazine on Bill Phillips provides some interesting background about the man. Per the article, Phillips first cut his writing chops in the mid 80s while he was in his early 20s with a self-published monthly newsletter called The Anabolic Update. Phillips makes no bones about the steroid use he practiced during his professional bodybuilding career, and went on to publish a more technical manual for hardcore lifters in 1991 called Anabolic Reference Guide. In 1992 he transformed his monthly newsletter into a full-colour glossy called Muscle Media 2000. It was this publication which served as the springboard for Phillips' first Body-for-Life 12-Week Fitness Challenge in 1997 (here is the winners list for that inaugural 1997 BFL Challenge; list of other years can be found here -- lots of incredible before-and-after shots on those pages).

Phillips has produced a full-length documentary film about this first country-wide call for transformative amateur bodybuilders. Called Body of Work, it's available for no cost through his website provided that you make a donation to the Children's Wish Foundation. It also features a series of Survivor-style cinematography and interviewing styles, and in point of fact, Survivor 9 (Vanuatu) star Ami Cusack was an employee of Phillips' company at that time. Cusack, who's a gorgeous pearl of a woman in the Phillips documentary, was featured in several interview spots throughout the video and also happened to be dating Bill Phillips around the same time of shooting. I wonder if Phillips followed Survivor 9 avidly. I would have, were I him. (This Google search on Ami Cusack also yields some interesting results.)

Eating plan. This aspect of Body-for-Life is based on a back-to-basics diet commonly used by bodybuilders while preparing for a competition or photo shoot. It's comprised of six small, nutritious, evenly-spaced meals each day, where each meal is comprised of a single serving of protein and a single serving of carbs, and at least two meals have a serving of fruits and/or vegetables. There is an approved eating list that essentially rules out foods high in sugar, fat and calories, leaving behind nutritious foods like white chicken and turkey meat, lean beef and pork, legumes, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and whole-grain breads, pasta and rice. Particular attention is paid to portion sizes, wherein a portion of any food except vegetables cannot be larger than the palm of your own hand or the volume of your own clenched fist. This usually results in meat serving sizes of 3-6 ounces and carb serving sizes of 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup.

Exercise plan. It's pretty simple: you work out six days a week, alternating between cardio, upper body, cardio, and lower body. The end result is that you get 2-3 cardio workouts each week (20 min each) and 2-3 weightlifting workouts each week (40-50 min each). All the workouts are based on an interval training model, wherein you perform repeated sets (usually 5-6) of cardio or weightlifting exercises with increasing intensity for each set. Exercise goals are to go to failure on the final set, with the intent of working to total exhaustion for each muscle group in every workout. This results in a sliding scale depending on the fitness level of each person, and as one progresses through the 12-week challenge, one cannot fail to notice improvements to one's own capacity and performance (some examples include: regular increases to the amount of weight one can lift each week; improvement to one's cardiovascular strength and endurance; and/or a decrease in bodyfat percentage and overall body weight).

Mental preparation. An essential pre-requisite to the plan involves mental preparation exercises -- what Phillips calls mindset exercises. He recommends that you keep a written journal of your progress and that you plan each of your meals and workouts ahead of time. Before starting the challenge, you're also asked to think about what your wildest dreams are regarding your ideal body (i.e. your Body For Life); you're asked to identify the reasons why you want to do this challenge, and you're asked to set five specific, measureable goals that you will attain by the end of the 12-week challenge. By reviewing your goals, dreams and reasons for undertaking the challenge each day, you reinforce your resolve to stay on track with the program.

Absolutely anybody, regardless of age or physical condition or starting weight can complete this program and achieve positive results. The most inspiring stories for me are those with people who have completed 3-4 consecutive challenges and dropped over 100 pounds of fat in the process. Ultimate success in the program comes from mastery of the physical exercises AND the eating plan in full concert with one another. For many obese people, following the BFL eating plan will be the most difficult part. But for anyone trying to start or follow the program, there is a wealth of online resources for additional BFL information and support. In fact, I don't find BFL, and the community of hardcore practitioners of the BFL lifestyle, to be dissimilar to a 12-Step Program. It's just one that provides for people who are addicted to eating and slow behaviour patterns.
iamom: (horn)
Well it was exciting if nothing else. We arrived at the Halifax Metro Centre at 8:30, with my 10K run slated to start at 8:45 and B's half-marathon scheduled for 9. But the high winds had closed the bridge, which necessitated a course change for the 10K and the full marathon. So they postponed the start time until 10 AM, moved the start line inside the Metro Centre, and everything went otherwise as planned.

I totally enjoyed myself -- 10 km was definitely the farthest I could have run comfortably yesterday, but I still had enough juice left at the end to sprint out the last 200 metres or so until the finish line. The rain was heavy, the wind was insane, and the new 10K race route included an enormous kilometre-long hill that wasn't on the route before, but even with all that stuff I finished in 1:18. Not nearly fast enough to be considered a serious runner, but well under my goal time of 1:30, so I was pretty happy. I couldn't have done it without my MP3 player, though. Rage Against The Machine got me started and I crossed the finish line to some funky grooves from Herbie. I think I enjoyed the music I was listening to as much as the race itself.

My knees are a little sore today and my legs are fairly stiff (I probably should have stretched a half-hour longer than I did), but apart from that I feel basically fine. B's half-marathon was brutal by her account, but running with her friend and training partner made the time pass more quickly and she still got in a great time of 1:55. Conditions definitely affected peoples' times though, because the full marathon winner only completed in 2:58, which is unheard of in a competitive race like this one. (Of course, the 10K winner completed in 38 minutes, which kinda blows my mind a little. That's just under twice as fast as me!)
iamom: (flying)
...and loving it. Went out to see Halifax-based hip-hop group Universal Soul tonight at The Marquee and got a big eyeful of all the beautiful people from the province-wide basketball tournament post-game party (can you say goofy-looking white dude surrounded by 25 lanky black dawgs 6'6" and higher, all being purred and fawned over by twice as many tricked-out women in filmy too-short dresses and dripping with sweat?). I just got back at 1:30 AM (I left when things were just starting to get hot), and at 8:45 AM this morning (in just over 7 hours -- that's not too bad) I'm running in a 10K road race across the bridge from Halifax to Dartmouth.

Now please allow me to disabuse you pre-emptively of the notion that this will be a great achievement. Granted, it should be notable if for no other reason than this 100-mm heavy rainfall warning with wind gusts from 60-80 kph by late morning (luckily for me I have a low centre of gravity and don't stand much chance of being blown off the bridge); however, my dear wife, she of the jackrabbit running stance and lean, muscular runner's bod, will be running the half-marathon (21 km / 13 mi) and is trying, as so many are wont to do, to beat her previous personal best time. (Jerry's step-daughter is also running the half tomorrow.)

I have the modest goal of finishing my portion in 90 minutes or less. I'll try to take some pictures, and will also try to snap Jo crossing the finish line (something I've yet to do properly in either of her past two races).
iamom: (zoe light)
The moon's the same old moon,
The flowers exactly as they were,
Yet I've become the thingness
Of all the things I see!

--Bunan, from the Zen Quotations web site
Just had a nice run followed by stretching and meditation at the lakeside. There's a perfectly-placed flat stump there at a perfect height for sitting; it's really a beautiful place to meditate. Perfectly quiet except for the sounds of nature around me.
iamom: (steady)
It's no secret to those who know me that I've always struggled with my weight. It's true that I'm not an inherently good exerciser, but I think that the real source of my weight problems can be found in my unhealthy relationship with food. Since my early teen years I've used food as anything but a normal source of physical nourishment: it has been an emotional comfort to me, a distraction from boredom, or a savoury overindulgence for its own gustatory pleasure.

There are probably countless reasons why I'm like this. My wife once pointed out (probably correctly) that I substituted food for emotional support and comfort at an early age when I felt neglected and unsupported in an abusive family situation. But admittedly, I also just genuinely love food (you with me, [livejournal.com profile] wickenden?): I love preparing it, I love its smells, its textures, and its tastes. I don't think I'm obsessed with it per se, but I certainly think about it a lot and I often find myself reflecting on what my next meal will be.

Despite many successful attempts at losing weight by various means, I still haven't developed the right attitude toward food that has allowed me to reach and maintain a healthy body weight for the long term. I actually spend a fair bit of time thinking about why this is so, and I often come up with various reasons or strategies that I think will work "the next time." But it seems that no matter how good my intentions are at the outset of a new commitment to lose weight, I falter over time and start giving in to my cravings and lack of restraint. I've been particularly bad with that in the past six months, for whatever reason.

Having said that, I've been noticing some honest changes in myself recently. They seem to coincide with my having started a regular meditation practice, and I think that this practice has helped me to develop a more genuine mindfulness about my state of mind regarding food and my physical health. I've been making better choices about my food and my exercise lately, but for vastly different reasons than before: instead of not overeating because I'm scared of gaining weight, I'm not overeating because I'm paying attention to whether or not I'm actually hungry. Instead of exercising because I'm trying to lose weight, I'm becoming more active because it makes me feel stronger and more flexible. That kind of thing.

A good book I'm reading right now called The Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznick (I can't believe that book title hadn't been taken already) is underlining many aspects of this change in me. Here's a relevant quote from page 100:
...when the purpose of restraint relates only to weight loss, you're motivated by tanha, a confused desire that has no relationship to changing or improving your life in a larger context. The control of food for your own sake is ultimately less satisfying and a less powerful motive than the control of food that links you to sources of meaning in life.
Bingo. Stop dieting because you feel you have to; start eating healthfully and mindfully because it's the most natural way to be. I can dig it. And it totally removes the sense of guilt you get when you're trying to be good all the time and then you screw up sometimes. If you're working on an overall healthier lifestyle instead of trying to adhere to a strict diet, then you're not putting nearly as much pressure on yourself and you don't feel the need to beat yourself up if you mess up sometimes. A far friendlier approach to yourself, and I suspect a more effective one over the long term.

So, talk to me in a year to see how I'm doing. That's about how long I figure it'll take to get within spitting distance of that mysterious "target weight" I'm looking for.

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iamom: (Default)
Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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