Mar 24, 2011

The Journey is one year old!!

It's March 24th, which is my birthday & the one year anniversary of the beginning of the Journey. If you are just now joining us on the story of the Journey, you can start here and read forward.

As I stated when I started blogging the Journey, my immediate goal was to be back at the 331 pound mark for today. That'll mark 40 pounds lost and put me back where I was when I lost momentum 6 months ago. So, did I make it?

I don't know... I'm doing this blog post the night before. I could do it in the morning, but I don't function too well in the morning. And it's hard enough to get up to be at work on time at 7am. But, I will do a quick update to let you know if I made it or not.

Obviously one of two things will happen. Either I'll make or I won't. It's really out of my hands at this point. Well, it is as long as I don't eat a bunch of junk before I go to bed tonight. The question isn't what the scale is going to say tomorrow; the question is how am I going to react.

If I make the goal, I'm going to be pretty excited. Reaching a goal always feels good. Reaching a goal you've been working hard at feels even better. If I don't make the goal, life goes on. I'm not going to drop into a depression or anything. Life isn't about the failures, but how you respond to the failures.

Either way though, I'm not backing off of the Journey. In fact, hitting 331 might be more dangerous than not. Sometime when we see a short term success, we forget the long term goals and back off of our intensity. As great as hitting 331 would be, I have a goal to hit 325 by April 21st. And by Memorial Day I want to be at 310. Those are some big loses. I'm going to have to keep after it if I'm going to make it.

So, we'll see you in the morning with the update...

****Morning update: Here's what the scale said:

That's close enough for me.

Mar 22, 2011

What to do when the Journey isn't successful...

I'd love to sit here & tell you that the Journey is nothing but success & sunshine & butterflies & unicorns pooping Skittles. But that is just not the truth. The reality is sometimes you don't see the results that you are working so hard for.

Need an example? Take a look at how March went for me:

(click on picture to see it full size)

March 24th will be the one year anniversary of the launching of the Journey. My immediate goal was to be at 331 pounds by that point. And I was well on my way. On the 18th I was just a couple of pounds away. The orange diagonal line shows what my average weight lose rate would need to be to hit the goal.

On the 19th I went up a pound. I wasn't too worried, because you'll see that there was some up and down. But then on the 20th I was still at 333 pounds. And then on the 21st I went up another pound. Then today, the 22nd I went up another pound to 335. 

I'm still working out. I'm still not drinking soda or over indulging on junk food. There's not obvious reason for the loss of progress.

Why am I sharing this? Maybe you are on your own Journey... And maybe you've hit a wall. It's tempting to give up. It's very discouraging. It makes all your effort up to this point seem worthless. I know how you feel... I'm there right now.

But I (and you) really have two choices. Either we give up, or we go on. And I'm not giving up. And neither should you. Let's get about the business of going on.

Mar 18, 2011

The Journey requires a blog redesign

Today's post is going to be short...

In light of the new focus for the AKStafford blog, I've made some redesigns to the blog. I'm hoping it's a little easier to read. The one thing I'm trying to figure out how to do is to create an easy way for someone just discovering the Journey to start reading at the beginning and come forward.

Let me know what you think of the redesign. I'll probably be tweaking it a little more as time goes on.

Two more things for today's post... First, one of the books in the recommend reading list is Switch from Dan & Chip Heath. If you are endeavoring to launch your own Journey, give it a read. It's all about effecting effective change.

And an update. Today's weight was 332. I'm losing a pound about every three days. So I should be right on track to be at 331 by my birthday on the 24th, as long as I stay focused. I killed it on the elliptical last night, pushing it harder than I ever had on there. And I'm feeling it today...

Here's what my weight loss has looked like lately...

So it's a little up, a little more down and slowly losing. The orange line is there as a general guide for me to see how my progress matches my goal. And remember, a goal without a plan is just a dream...

Mar 17, 2011

Every Journey needs some help...

Journeys are not traveled in a bubble... Almost any Journey is going to involve others. God has placed people around you to encourage you and motivate you. I want to take this blog post to say thank you to some of the people God has placed in my Journey.

First & foremost is my incredible wife. Christy has been amazing through this whole process. She's been supportive and encouraging. Part of the reason I didn't tell her when I first stopped drinking soda was because I knew she'd hold me to that commitment. There would be no cheating allowed. And there was times when if it wasn't for her holding me accountable I would've caved.

Now that we are working out, she's continued encouraging me to push it hard even when I don't feel like it. And she's on her own Journey and working a lot harder at it than I am. We both are trying to get to the gym as much as possible, and we have very different schedules. So for right now, the Journey means we see a lot less of each other. And while that's been hard, Christy has been very understanding.

As I've blogged this Journey, there have been those who have commented here & on facebook. That helps. It's encouraging, and it makes me accountable to a wider community. So, feel free to leave a comment. Let me know about your Journey. There is also those who have offered to help with diet plans and work out tips. And even if I haven't taken you up on your offer, I still appreciate it.

I have to mention my sister in law Kerry & her husband Nathaniel. They are the ones that hooked us up with a week pass to the Alaska Club before we joined. And since then they have helped push & support us in the Journey.

I'm sure there are others that I haven't mentioned... My brain is starting to shut down for the evening... Yesterday I pushed it pretty good at the gym. I did some weights with my upper body, an hour of cardio on the elliptical and then 30 minutes of swimming laps. It wiped me out. Today I was doing the elliptical and when I went to push it for a sprint, my legs simply would not go any faster...

Just as an update: This morning (the 16th, there is a day delay on the posts...) I was at 333 pounds. By the 24th I want to be at the 331 mark. That'll be 40 pounds lost so far and have me back down where I was when I started losing ground 6 months ago. By April 24, I want to be at 325.

And, if you are just now joining us for the Journey, go back to the first post and read forward for the full story so far...

Mar 16, 2011

Where does The Journey go from here??

(I apologize... This post was suppose to go up this morning...)

At this point I stop to ask: Where do I go from here?

The Journey continues. That's not what I'm talking about... I'm talking about this blog series. I started this blog before facebook & Twitter became such a huge part of our online experience as a way to get my thoughts out there. I've talked some about Geocaching, some about Personal Finances, and I shared our house buying experience.

I've done a daily post for the last 18 or 19 days. It gives me great respect for bloggers like Jon Acuff or Seth Godin who put out incredible blog posts everyday. Doing a daily blog takes some effort. Doing a *good* daily blog takes a lot of effort and some talent.

So, should I continue to post daily? Some days would just be a short update of the Journey's progress for that day, including my weight & workout. I could also facebook as a tool to get that out there.

Why am I even sharing the Journey? One is for self-accountability. I've put it out there for the whole world that I'm trying to lose weight. If I don't do it I'm going to look like an idiot. I'm also hoping to inspire others to take their own Journey. Maybe it's losing weight, but it could really be anything. We've all got some growing we can do.

I want to thank those who have been reading. But I know it's just a few of you (hi mom!) and I wouldn't want to over do it. And, if you are just joining the story, go back and read about it from the beginning.

So, give me your thoughts. Should I do a daily posting? Or maybe just a few a week?

I want to close with a quote that I've always liked:

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity-like perfect charity-will not be attained by any merely human efforts.  You must ask for God’s help.  Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given.  Never mind.  After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again.  Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.  For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.  It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.  We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.  The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.
Taken from “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis

Mar 15, 2011

The cost of the Journey

We've joined the Alaska Club as part of the Journey. And it's not cheap. I want to take this post to talk a little bit about the cost of the Journey.

For a while I resisted joining the gym because of the cost. I teach a personal finance class and I've dealt with way too many people who are in debt up to their necks, living on credit cards & home equity loans; all while spending a fortune on entertainment, hobbies and things like gym memberships. I wasn't going to live my life like that. It's just ridiculous. Normal in America is being broke, and I refuse to be normal.

So we had to sit down and adjust the budget to make the gym work. But we were able to do that because we aren't making payments on a bunch of stuff. And think about this: A trip to Anchorage, a movie with popcorn, candy & soda, and dinner at Chili's will run you about $100. That's about what the Alaska Club cost for a month. So, one less night of entertainment & extra calories a month will pay for the gym membership. And there's cheaper options than the Alaska Club. Body Renew has plans that start at $14 a month.

Since we've made this commitment to losing weight, we are eating less fast food and saving money there. In the long term, being a healthy weight will mean less health care costs as we age. Fat people clothes aren't cheap either. Being able to shop at regular stores will save some money.

Yes, it cost money. But it's all about priorities. And right now, the Journey is the priority.

Mar 14, 2011

The Journey: Further details on the plan

In the last 14 or 15 posts, I've brought you along a years worth of the Journey. If you've been following along, you know the Journey started with cutting out soda (I was drinking about 1600 calories a day...) and has evolved into a membership at the gym.

In the first 6 months I lost 40 pounds, but then put about 13 back on. Now that I've been doing the gym for 3 weeks, I'm closing back in on the 40 pound mark. My goal is to lose at least 2 pounds a week. That may not sound like much, but in a year I could lose 100 pounds.

Now, if I hadn't lost momentum last fall, I could be an additional 40 pounds lighter, weighing about 290. But I'm not going to cry over spilled milk. It is what it is. I'm on track now.

Let me give you some more details on how the Journey looks. Yes, I cut out soda. But, at this stage, I'm not counting calories. I'm being more aware of my general calorie intake, though. Did you know that a Big Mac Value Meal at McDonald's has over 1000 calories? That's about half of what you should have for the whole day.

And I'm not changing my diet too much... I'm a super picky eater. I don't like salads or vegetables or fruits or oatmeal or pasta or cheese or rice or seasonings. Since my menu is so limited, there's not a lot of changes to be made.

What I'm trying to do is show that anyone can lose weight with just a few modifications to their life. Now, there are some good tools out there. There's special meal plans and food and shakes. And a lot of them work. I'm not trying to bash them at all.

But I'm trying to show that even without all that stuff, there's no excuse for not losing weight. Other than just not trying. Which is what I've done for a long time. I just wasn't even bothering to try.

And yes, we did join a gym. And it wasn't cheap... (I'll talk more about that in another post...). But taking a walk around the neighborhood is cheap. Grab the bottle of laundry soap and work the arms.  Stop doing laps around the parking lot looking for a spot right near the store. Park at the far end and walk in. Take the stairs.

I'm on my Journey. What about you?

Mar 13, 2011

The Journey's Plan

In January I got on the treadmill two days in a row, but that was it... Why? If you'll go back to my earlier posts you'll remember that when I quit drinking soda, I didn't tell Christy about it at first. I didn't want to make a big deal about. I hate being a center of attention or having people making a fuss.

My plan was to do the same thing with the treadmill. She normally works until about 7pm each evening, so my plan was to get home and get some time in on the treadmill before she got home. And that worked on Thursday night. But on Friday Christy was not feeling well and came home from work early, getting home before me. So, no work out. And then Saturday I slept in, didn't get time on Sunday, and I don't remember what happened the after that, but obviously I didn't make it back on the treadmill.

Not in January. I did in February. Twice. One time on a Saturday morning before Christy got up. And then that afternoon we went on a 1 1/2 mile hike on the Palmer Hay Flats, geocaching. There was about a foot of snow on the ground and if you've never walked through snow like that, it's quite the work out. By the time we got back to the truck I could hardly walk... Since I didn't want to look like a complete loser in front of my wife because I couldn't walk a simple 1 1/2 miles I told her I had been on the treadmill that morning. The cat was out of bag... So now there was no need to dance around her schedule.  Even still it was almost a week later before I got on the treadmill again.

For years Christy & I talked about joining a gym. A couple of things held us back. One is the that they are stinkin' EXPENSIVE!  Which is bad enough. But even worse is to join the gym, spend the money, and then never use the membership. Once Christy puts her mind to something, she's doing it. So if we joined a gym, she was going. I'm the one who lacks in commitment. But when she saw the effort I was putting into this, we started talking about joining a gym.

Her sister had joined the Alaska Club a few months earlier & had a one week guest pass that was about to expire. So we decided to try it for a week. I'm proud to say that I worked out 6 of the 7 days. By "working out" I mean an hour on the elliptical machine. Not exactly "Biggest Loser", but still... it's better than sittin' on the couch. After our free week was up, we bit the bullet and joined the gym. (...some of you have an episode of "Friends" running through your mind right now...)

So, that's the Journey's plan. If you are my friend on facebook, you may have noticed me checking in at the Alaska Club almost every day. Has it worked? Well, let's see the chart for February & March...

(click on image to see all of it...)

Mar 12, 2011

The Journey needed a plan...

I forgot where I first heard it from... Maybe Matthew Barnett of the LA Dream Center... Or Zig Ziglar... I'm sure it was somebody wise...

The saying is this: A goal without a plan is just a dream. We kick butt at setting goals. We set goals all the time. To lose weight... To drink less... To be a better husband/wife/parent... To get to work on time... To stop picking our nose in public...

But what we don't kick butt on achieving those goals. Why? Because we don't make a plan to get there. We are adrift in a sea of vague dreams with nary a chart or compass among us.

Or, if we do happen to make a plan, we fail to map out how we are going to make the Journey... In October of 1957 the Soviet Union leaped ahead in the space race by launching Sputnik, the first man made object to orbit the earth. In response, President Kennedy announced in 1961 that by the end of the decade, the U.S. would put a man on the moon and bring him safely back.

If the U.S. Space Program would've been conducted like most of us set goals, the closest we would've gotten to the moon is a good jump on the trampoline... But they had a plan. They started by getting a capsule into space, then capsules with animals in it, then capsules with people. Then we sent an empty spacecraft to circle the moon and come back, and then a spacecraft with people in it that circle the moon without landing and come back. Along the way were many little successes and some potentially devastating failures.

Finally on July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong sealed the deal. We had a plan with measurable goals. And we devoted a massive amount of resources and focus on achieving the big goal by fulfilling thousands of little goals along the way.

And that is how the Journey will be successful. The big goal is to get to a more healthy weight. The first little step of the Journey was to cut out soda. Then it was to start getting more exercise with hikes in the evenings & on weekends. I cut back on sweets and upped my fiber intake. I met some goals, and had some setbacks. When progress stalled I knew it was time to refocus, and it started with those two days on the treadmill. And it got serious from there...

Mar 11, 2011

The Journey Re-Launched!

First of all, I want to thank all of you who have read this blog and left comments. And, if you are recently joining us, you'll want to go back and read the 13 previous posts on the Journey...

From September to January I hadn't lost any additional weight. Even worse, I had piled back on 10 to 12 pounds. If I was going to give up my beloved soda, it had better be for a good reason. And to not lose any additional weight was not a good reason.

Yes, I was excited that I had lost some. But I was still 340 pounds. Unless you are 9' 6", that is NOT a healthy weight. There was still work to be done. Cutting soda out had got the Journey going, but now it was going to need an additional kick in the pants.

So, if you'll notice in the previous post, my weight chart for January had some notations...

It's a little hard to make out in the picture (and I just realized that when viewed in the blog, Blogger crops the picture. Click on picture for full view), but on the 26th I did 30 minutes on the treadmill. It was a Wednesday, and I was preaching that night for our Wednesday night service. I already had my message together and I ran home to get something to eat.

We have a treadmill sitting in the garage that I see every time I go in or out of the house. We've had if for several years... When we first got it, I used it pretty consistently for about a month. And then I had a huge transition in my life. The church could no longer afford to pay me full time as an associate pastor and I had to go back to driving school bus. My schedule was now very different, getting up at 4am each morning. I was driving school bus 8 hours a day, and still putting 4 or 5 hours a day at the church.

So the treadmill fell into disuse. Until that Wednesday. On the way to the house from the church I decided I was going to do 30 minutes on the treadmill. This wasn't like when I quit soda where I thought about it for almost a month before I went for it. This was very spontaneous. 

The next night after work, I did another 30 minutes. My plan was to do at least 30 minutes each day. But then Friday my schedule got knocked out of whack and it didn't happen. But I knew that if the Journey was going to be anymore than just a dream, I was going to have start getting regular, consistent exercise. And as I've said before, a goal without a plan is just a dream. It was time to get a plan in place...

Mar 10, 2011

The Journey begins to creep into reverse...

After 6 months and 40 pounds lost; October, November & December saw a stagnation of the Journey and even some lost ground. And January wasn't any better...

(click on image to see all of it...)

You can see that when I was weighing and monitoring my weight, I did a lot better. And that shows the power of accountability, even if it's just being accountable to yourself. The gap there from the 18th to the 24th has a reason behind it. 

Our bathroom grout wasn't done right and so we had to have it redone. Afterward we weren't suppose to walk on it for a few days. And the bathroom is where the scale is it. True, we could've moved it to the other bathroom, but I think a part of me didn't want to see what was going with the weight. And, once again some pounds creeped back on.

I still wasn't drinking soda. I wasn't counting calories, but I was generally avoiding candy, sweets & junk food. Well, I kinda was. Mostly....

By this point some clothes that were fitting better back in August & September were starting to get tight again. I could tell I was losing ground. And just like the Journey started with a big step back in March 2010 when I cut out soda; I knew it was time for another big step... But was I willing to do it?

Mar 9, 2011

The Journey stalls out...

After losing 40 pounds and hitting 331 pounds in September, and then backing off the journey in October and losing ground; you think I would've learned my lesson. But take a look at November:

(click on image to see all of it...)

Yep, I did the same mistake again. I stopped watching what was going on and got all the way back up to 344. That's 13 pounds up from the 331 mark I had been so thrilled to hit. You'll notice on the chart that as the weight dropped, I had to adjust the parameters of the graph. For November though, I had to add additional lines back on top the chart because my weight had gone back up.

You'll notice on all the previous charts there are orange and sometimes black diagonal lines. These lines represent that various rates or goals I was shooting for. For November though, I had no goals. And even if I had a goal, I had no plan. And a goal without a plan is just a dream. 

And December wasn't any better:

(click on image to see all of it...)

I needed to get a plan and step up my efforts. Giving up soda was good, but if I wasn't going to get aggressive, and get after it, I may have gone as far as I could.

Mar 8, 2011

The Journey in September

If you are just now joining our story, take a moment to start at the beginning and read forward.

So, here is what September looked like:

(click on image to see all of it...)

There's a couple of things going on here. Good & bad.

The good: I hit 331. Twice. That's the 40 pound mark. That was pretty exciting milestone for me. And I did in less than 6 months.

The bad: A few days later I ticked back up to 335. And then I dropped back down. And then I stopped keeping track. And for some reason I stopped keeping track for about a month. And I lost ground by not paying attention to what happen. Take a look at October:

(click on image to see all of it...)

Don't ask me what I was thinking... Looking back it was stupid to let it happen. I worked so hard for so long; and then because I slacked off I stopped making progress and even started losing ground. Yes, it was only a few pounds that I went back up, but the point was to lose weight, not gain.

I still wasn't drinking soda. But I wasn't getting as much exercise as was during the summer. Things at Christy's work got really busy and so we weren't getting out in the evenings. We've got a treadmill in the garage, but for whatever reason I wasn't using it. And as bad as things were looking, it can always get worse. And it does...

Mar 7, 2011

The Journey in August and beyond

If you are just now joining us, go back six or seven posts the read about the Journey from the beginning...

So by August we had done a lot of hiking, I hadn't had a soda since late March and I was closing in on the 40 pound mark on my weight loss. When I had started the Journey the goal was to lose weight by cutting out soda. I was feeling pretty good. My parents were coming up to visit in mid-August. I was wanting to hit 331 by then, and I almost made it. But after losing 38 pounds I wasn't too worried about just being 2 pounds shy.

Here's what August looked like:

(click on image to see all of it...)
Up to this point my focus was on getting to my parents visit. There was a couple of reasons for this. For one, I knew how hard it was going to be to give up soda. By setting a defined, short term goal it was easier to stay motivated. Also, on their visit we were going to be road tripping to Valdez and going to Alaska State Fair. I couldn't see doing a road trip with no soda and I really couldn't see going to the fair with no soda. The whole point of going to the fair is to overindulge yourself.

As hard as not drinking soda was (and is) by this point I felt I could keep on doing it. And while almost losing 40 pounds was nice, I still at least 110 pounds more that I needed to lose. I began to realize the Journey had only just begun...

Mar 6, 2011

The Journey in July

After thinking some about my last post, I remembered that although we did a majority of our hiking & walking on the Mat-Su Greenbelt trails; that's not where it all started.

It started out at Scout Ridge above Cottonwood Creek & the Palmer Hay Flats. There's a really cool overlook there and a one mile loop trail. The view from the overlook is pretty amazing.

There's a cache a short way down the mile loop trail that we decided to hit. We spent some time searching and came up empty. Once we got back on the trail, we decided instead of going back the way we came, we'd do the full loop. Doing a full mile was a little intimidating at the time and about halfway around we came to a steep little hill that was completely muddy.

This may sound silly, but being able to navigate around that and finish off the mile loop in decent time was a huge confidence boast for us. It was after that we begin to hit the trails hard, doing 1 to 3 miles at a time, 3 or 4 nights a week. One weekend we did a five mile excursion and seven miles another.

And it was paying off. I posted some good numbers for June & July:

(click on image to see all of it...)
 So by the end of July it's looking like I could hit 331 by the time my parents got up here in mid-August. That would be 40 pounds lost in 5 months. Again, it's not Biggest Loser numbers; but it's better than heading towards 400 pounds, guzzling down soda by the gallon.

My clothes were fitting better, I was sleeping better, I could get around better. I still craved the soda, but I was excited about the progress.

Mar 5, 2011

June was a good month for the Journey

If you are just now joining us in the story of the Journey, go back the first post and read forward from there...

So, as we saw in the last post, I made some progress initially, but then stalled out in May. And I was glad I was no longer gaining weight, but the goal was to get back down to a healthy weight... And if I was giving up the soda that I so dearly loved, it needed to count for something!

So here's what June looked like:

(click on image to see all of it...)
Finally... Some progress!! But it didn't just happen. There was more going into now than just not drinking soda...

The wife & I enjoy an activity called Geocaching. It's pretty much a high tech scavenger hunt using a GPS. It's a great activity that everyone can enjoy. Some of the caches are real easy to reach and others require some hiking & walking to get to. We've been doing it since... 2004 I think... And for the most part we'd go after ones that didn't require too much walking to get to. But in late May/early June we discovered a great network of trails between Palmer & Wasilla called the Mat-Su Greenbelt Trails. And so we begin to walk & hike these trails in the evenings and on the weekends to find geocaches. We did quite a bit of walking that month!

I also begin to watch my diet a little better and increased my fiber intake. Fiber helps to prevent the absorption of fat & sugars in the intestines. I still wasn't eating super healthy though...

And I'm still not. I'm a SUPER picky eater. I don't eat vegetables or fruit. I don't like cheese, or tomatoes or pasta or soups or fish. So yeah, all the stuff that I should be eating; I don't. Obviously that is going to work against me... But I still believe this is possible. It will happen!

Mar 4, 2011

What are the results of the Journey?

Well, in one sense, the results are incomplete... The Journey continues even this day with no end in sight.

But let me give you an idea of how the Journey has progressed thus far.

As I said, I haven't had a soda in almost a year. But the big goal is to lose some tonnage off of my rotund frame. I knew that I would need to track this carefully. It's been said that goals without a plan are just a dream.

I coordinate a personal finance class and we teach people that the first step of getting a handle on your finances is write out how much you owe, how much you make, and how much your monthly bills are. And then for each paycheck have a written game plan for each dollar. The principle is that if you don't track this stuff, dollars will seem to float away. It's like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall...

So, with my weight, I needed to track it. I started at 371 pounds. Pretty hefty, huh? That's about twice as much as I should weigh. But it is what it is. I didn't let it discourage me. If anything I let it motivate me a little bit. You can whine & moan about the mountain in front of you, or you can man up and climb it. So I started climbing...

Below is what the first month looked like:

(click on image to see all of it...)

So I started off good... And then I flat lined a little and even gained again. But in the first five weeks I lost 10 pounds. I know... On the Biggest Loser, they lose that in a week or less. But at this point  I wasn't really exercising at all. And I wasn't working too hard to watch my calories either.

So, then onto the second month:

(click on image to see all of it...)

So May was nothing to brag about... But, I should point out that at least I wasn't gaining weight anymore... But if I was going to start losing weight I was going to have step up my game...

Mar 3, 2011

The Journey... Was it possible?

Over the last four or five posts I've detailed my decision to do something about my extreme obesity, starting with cutting out the ridiculous amount of soda I was drinking.

So, was I able to do it? Yes. So far so good. The last time I had soda was almost a year ago on March 24th, 2010. Well, that's not totally true. About a month after I start a friend of mine brought me a Crush Creme Soda from Canada. It's pink and kinda has a strawberry taste to it. You can only get it in Canada and it is about the best thing EVER! I let it sit in the fridge for a few days and then made the decision to go ahead and drink it.

It didn't seem right to let it go to waste considering the effort it took to get it. And I viewed it as a little test. If I could drink just it and not go back to drinking soda regularly, that would show me that I was getting a handle on this thing. And I didn't even drink the whole bottle.

I've also have the occasional diet soda since Thanksgiving. I held off to Thanksgiving just so it wasn't like I was trading one addiction for another. Yes, diet soda has no calories, but it's still not good for you. And not just because of the chemicals and acidity.

The artificial sweetener in the soda causes your body to think that it's getting a ton of sugar and you body ramps up to deal with it. They've seen, in people dealing with diabetes, the body having negative reactions to the diet soda, just like if it was a dose of real sugar.

Also, because it's not real sugar, the brain is disappointed. It got the signal it was getting sugar, but it never gets it, so it craves it more. They've found that people who drink diet soda tend to binge on other sugary foods to get that fix the brain expects.

So now, if the corn syrup people don't get me, the diet soda makers might. I'm not scared though... Bring it on!!

Has it been easy? No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Heck no. It has completely sucked. People ask me how I feel now that I quit. I know they expect me to say that I feel great, but all I really feel is the desperate need for a soda. It's pure misery to be near someone drinking a soda. I can smell it from about 20 feet away. I swear there are times when I'm walking through the store that I can smell the soda through the bottles. Just talking about makes me want one.

So, what type of results did I see? Stay tuned to find out...

Mar 2, 2011

Was the Journey possible?

I ended my last post by asking: "Could I quit drinking soda?" It was obvious I was drinking wwwaaaayyy too much. If I could just cut out this one thing, would that be enough to have an effect on my ever expanding waistline?

It in was mid-February, 2010 when I was contemplating this. My parents were coming up in mid-August. My birthday was a month away in mid-March. I decided if I gave myself sometime to prepare, I could do it. So I picked my birthday, March 24th as the last day I would have soda. I was going to quit at least until my parents were here. That would be 5 months.

From that day until my birthday I reminded myself constantly that, on the 24th I was quitting. Every time I cracked up another sweet, wonderful can of sugary happiness I marked it as being one closer to being done with it. And to not be wasteful, I spent until midnight of the 24th drinking every bit of soda I had in the house.

Well, I tried getting rid of it all. I hadn’t yet told anyone of what I was going to attempt. That way when I failed as usual, there would less people to mock me. I didn’t even tell Christy. I wanted to see if she’d notice the difference.

So she, not knowing what I was attempting, did a very nice thing on my birthday. She got me the gift she knew I would love the most. A 12 pack of soda. I had it all planned out to drink up my hoard by midnight of the 24th. When she handed me that lovely box of goodness, I felt like Monty Brewster when his friends made him a bunch of money while he was trying to get it all spent. (It’s a great movie… you should go rent it tonight…)

And that gift highlighted a big concern. How was I going to avoid soda? It’s EVERYWHERE in our culture. Go to any social gathering. There’s usually soda available. Here at work there’s a fridge with sodas available to buy.  Try getting something other than soda at a fast food place. Or a restaurant. Or a convenience store when driving. Yes, there’s always water. And I drink a lot of water during the day. But sometimes you want something other than water. And yes, there’s fruit juices. But I don’t like ‘em. Never have. I don’t drink coffee or energy drinks.

So I knew I had to plan carefully to avoid soda. The first part of my plan was to not have any soda in the house.  That’s why I engaged in my binge on the 24th,; to clean the place out. I also knew I would be increasing my water intake & my milk intake. But for my main alternative, I switched to something I knew I liked and that’s Tropical Punch Kool-Aid.  I drink it ice cold, and for a little bit of sparkle, I use a couple of cans of seltzer water when making it. I call it my nicotine patch. It’s still has some sugar in it, but it’s not as much as soda, and it’s not high-fructose corn syrup.

I had read a study where they fed two groups of rats an equal amount of calories, but the one group got it in the form of sugar, while the other got it in the form of the high-fructose corn syrup. The rats that got the sugar gained less weight than the other group. And the group that got the calories from the high-fructose corn syrup gained all their weight around the middle, where it does the most damage. I’ll probably have to watch my back now to avoid getting whacked by the Corn Grower’s Association…

So, did it work? Was I able to quit? Did I wake up with a bloody ear of corn in bed from the Godfather of the corn growers? We shall see...

Mar 1, 2011

What inspired the Journey?

The decision to embark on the Journey had several inspirations.

Among them was every mirror I caught my rather rotund reflection in. And the pants that wouldn't button up. And the wheezing that accompanied every trip up a flight of stairs.

Now this is going to sound a little cheesy.... But, another big inspiration was the TV show "The Biggest Loser." I'll probably lose some man points for admitting that. But seeing the results the contestants got planted a glimmer of hope that it's possible to undo years of bad choices.

The final kick in the pants came about a year ago. I was listening to a message from Perry Noble of Newspring Community Church. One of his pet peeves is preachers who will condemn others for indulging in alcohol when they themselves haven't been able to touch their toes since the Carter administration.

He tells a story about an experience he had while in college. At the time, he was extremely overweight. One day in class they had a discussion about overweight preachers and how it seemed hypocritical that they would preach about self-control when it was obvious they had never said no to an extra piece of pie.

Later, as he and some classmates were driving around, they were discussing this, they all agreed they needed to do something about their own weight. They pulled in to get some gas, and Perry went into the convenience store and got a diet soda. Another friend went into the McDonald's next door and came out with the biggest milkshake they had. Perry was amazed that moments after every one of them had made a commitment to watching their health, one of them was showing that commitment with a jumbo size sugar bomb.

I was listening to the message and I asked myself: "Could I quit drinking soda?" Could I give up drinking that sweet nectar of life? The source of all happiness? How could I resist it's sugary Siren call? Would it be possible? There was only one way to find out...