Category Archives: Health

Nutrition, supplements, and all the things that help one get healthy.

SpecterFit 41: Cardio

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If you’re paying attention, SpecterFit 41 has skipped a week and now I’m setting a precedent of only having three columns per month… or perhaps, one column short of the full month. Time will tell, but I say all that to say it’s time to talk about the next step of getting fit and moving forward: cardio.

The myth about cardio is that you have to run. Bullshit. Running, while a cardiovascular activity, is not the only method of cardio. In fact, as long as you’re doing something that gets your heart rate up for over 20 minutes counts as cardio. If that is dancing, running, walking, karate, parkour, or whatever, as long as the heart rate is up for at least 20 minutes, you’ve attained cardio goodness.

End of column.

Okay, just kidding.

Nothing you do with your health, short of the eating portion, will be highly effective without cardio. None of your workouts should be considered complete without cardio. Hell, you should both start and end your workout sessions with cardio, something I used to do a lot and now almost never do. Yes, do as I say and not as I do because I’m about to start doing these things again to make my point.

Oh, and I’m 306 as I write this. You’re hopefully starting to notice the downward trend in the number, even though that number isn’t rocketing to the bottom of the scale as fast as everyone would like to see. Why don’t I show you something?HealthBar

This is a screenshot of my actual Health Kit from my iPhone today. I weigh myself every day, which doesn’t mean you should also do this, but because I do I get to observe trends in how I lose weight over long periods of time. Note: there is almost no cardio at all in this trend here, I posted this to show you a little something to talk about before returning to cardio.

My weight does this when I’m losing weight. I’ll have a few “peaks and valleys,” then I’ll have a stiff dip before a slight rise and the peaks and valleys will return. All of this happens on the downward trend.

I can tell you which days I didn’t eat like I should have been eating. You’d think all of those would be the peaks but they aren’t. The body needs a random, unhealthy meal now and again to jump start things. The last unhealthy meal I had on this chart is the third to last dot. Before that, the last peak before the big valley was a cheat meal day. I concentrated on walking a higher number of steps each of the days afterwards and despite my best efforts, the weight will rebound every time before a new trend begins.

Let me get off on a slight tangent.

The experts in fitness say you shouldn’t weight yourself every day. I ignore those experts because I realize that no matter how hard I try, unless I stop eating entirely, I’m going to have peaks and valleys. I weigh myself every day in order to establish these patterns and trends so I can use them to my advantage. When is the next time I should have a cheat meal to keep moving in the right direction? If you look at my chart, you’ll see when I start coming out of that big valley because it will help reestablish the next trend. After today’s dot, I should see another downward slide for a few days before a rebound will occur and I should consider another cheat meal.

I am not discouraged by weight gain because I know that what you see above will happen all the time. If you can understand that about yourself, then you should weigh yourself daily, too. I weigh myself before I eat, drink, shower… I want to get out of bed, hop on the scale, and get my number. If you get into that habit, watch the trends, and you can start moving in the right direction, too.

Thus endeth my tangent.

My knees aren’t in the best shape in the world. I use walking as my primary source of cardio because at my current weight, running just isn’t plausible. I don’t really do a lot of dancing, I don’t want to do aerobics in my living room, and that leaves walking. When I walk, I try to walk to get my heart rate up (and I usually succeed). If you’re bigger, walking is your key to jump start your cardio.

Way back when I started my initial weight loss, I was 328 pounds and I used FitBit to track my steps, weight loss, and caloric intake. Now that I know how to eat, I don’t need to watch my calories so much. I use Argus as my step counter now, and FitBit doesn’t work with Apple’s Health Kit, so I don’t use FitBit nearly as much as I used to… and my goal for steps each day is a minimum of 7,000. Ideally, I’d get at least 10,000 but I’m satisfied with 7,000 per day. The last three days I’ve gotten 8,000+, though I can tell you I’ll have less than that today (unless I go for a walk). I’m wanting to walk because I want the trend to return and cardio helps that.

Cardio gets the blood pumping and gets your body burning calories because your metabolism is heightened. If you want to lose weight, diet is import (diet, not A diet, but your lifestyle of eating), but cardio is second in line. Get moving. Walk a few steps every day. Set yourself a goal and beat that goal. Get more steps. Set a new goal. Beat that goal. Keep moving. You’ll melt off the weight without killing any part of your body. If you sit around on the couch all the time, you aren’t getting cardio done. Cardio is an important key.

I’ll talk more about fitness (and cardio) next time. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to get up and walk. Start with 5,000 step goals and move upward from that. Don’t try to go from 5,000 to 10,000, but at least start with 5,000 and beat that consistently before moving up 1,000-1,500 steps. You’ll love the results.

Get fit.

SpecterFit 40: A Look At Calories

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Welcome back to SpecterFit, the 40th Edition. This is the first edition where I’m going to state that the “weekly” part of this column may not always mean that there will be a column every week. Having said that, though, I’ll be putting together as many of these without a break as I can because I’d like to have a weekly column rather than a sporadic one.

This will also be the first column I don’t drone on about SpecterFit 1.

There is a lot of people who will look at a food, or even go so far as to look at the nutritional information, and think that what they’re eating isn’t that many calories. Well, more often than not, those people are wrong and more often than not, those people are overeating in a big way.

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The image above is what 200 calories looks like, depending on the food in question. If you click on the image, you’ll get a fuller sized image to look at but why I wanted to include this was to give you an idea what 200 calories, JUST 200 calories, looks like. You can see the tiny burger, the Hersey’s Kisses, the M&Ms, and french fries… compare that to what I’m actively choosing as snacks for myself (the broccoli, for example). If you haven’t eaten three eggs, that’s a lot of eggs. What about the overflowing plate full of celery.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have a healthy thousand island I dip my broccoli into, and that means I don’t gob the stuff on the broccoli, either. I lightly dip the broccoli, just enough to make it “wet.” I’d do the same if I ate celery on a regular basis. I’m a person with a healthy bent on what I eat (most of the time), so I need help with the portion control. A picture like this helps.

Am I still talking about food?

If you look back at my columns, I give a percentage of kitchen to working out… that percentage is where weight loss comes from, and I’ve probably even used different percentages for that illustration. The point is, you’re going to be far more effective at losing weight using your kitchen than you are lifting weights, running, or whatever. Don’t get me wrong, those things will definitely help, but if you’re running five miles a day but eating terribly, you’ll only lose as long as you’re still running. Change your eating habits, you’ll continue to lose weight as long as you don’t stray from your habits.

This is a shorter column, one that will probably be the last talking about food for a while. I wanted to stay on the subject before moving on but you should never forget that the kitchen is the place where weight loss occurs most, not the gym. Be active, but eat better.

Get fit.

SpecterFit 39: Drinking the Calories

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There is a deep meaning to the title of this one as I want to address several things that most people do not pay attention to, so I wanted to concentrate on food once again as we enter into the 39th Edition of SpecterFit Weekly.

The title is the concentration here: drinking the calories. When you read that, what immediately comes to mind? Alcohol? Sugary drinks? Sodas? Orange juice? Lemonade? Some combination of them?

I am actually referring to all of that. Unless you are a highly active individual (working out six to seven times a week, once or twice a day, etc), then drinking calories is a stupid, stupid thing to do. A can of Coke is about 140 calories per can, to say nothing of the sugar that the soda is made out of being a terrible choice. That is 140 calories less that you shouldn’t be eating if you’re trying to lose weight.

Juices that are from concentrate are also terrible to be drinking, from a “get healthy” standpoint. If you think that Kool-Aid, Hawaiian Punch, Gatorade, or anything like that are better, you’re probably reading this blog at the right time. While Gatorade is better than the rest of what I mentioned, water is the beverage you should be partaking in the most. If you’re drinking sugary drinks, then you’re drinking calories that you need to eliminate from what you are eating.

Have an app or a website that tells you how many calories you need to stay under in order to lose weight? Well, if you look at what the calorie count is (let’s just use 2000 per day as a good, even number) then if you drink three cans of Coke a day, that’s 420 calories already off the top of your 2000, leaving you only 1580 calories left for your day. Eat a Big Mac with one of those Cokes and you’re looking at only about 1000 calories left to eat for a day… that’s JUST the Coke (can) and a Big Mac. If you eat the french fries, or alter the size of your Coke (to be a large fountain version), then you’re looking at far less calories for the rest of the day.

Stop making terrible choices.

We also don’t need to calorie count, if you’re eating smart. But there is another bane to weight loss, getting fit, that no one pays attention to that contains boat loads of calories (and empty calories, at that): alcohol.

A can of beer (I’ve chosen Bud Light) contains 110 calories. If you can drink just one, that isn’t so bad, but I don’t personally know anyone that doesn’t have at least four, putting them at 440 calories. At a bar, the glass is bigger than a can, so that means you’re drinking more than 110 calories. There isn’t anything beneficial in those calories, either. They’re wasted, intoxicate you so you don’t really want to be active, and generally cause you to want to drink more (so, you can literally drink your entire caloric intake in our example above in a single drinking event).

That’s insane. Why drink your calories?

Water is what you should focus on when you’re drinking liquids. Sure, the occasional drink isn’t harmful, but in places where the weather makes working out and being fit prohibitive, drinking tends to be the extracurricular event of choice. This is a reason I chose to move somewhere the weather is nice 90% of the time.

Drinking calories is never a smart choice, but if you’re going to drink them, at least make them nutritional. Drop the soda. If you point back to my last column and say “but you drink sodas,” you missed my point in that column. I drink them occasionally, and then only the diet variety. I’m conscious of how many calories I’ve drank and monitor myself to keep the calories for the day at a somewhat reasonable level. I don’t drink my calories. If you can’t also do this, then you shouldn’t be trying to justify your bad behavior.

There’s another thing I’d like to tangent on for just a brief moment. If you point to someone else’s bad behavior as justification for your own, you aren’t making a solid case… you’re making excuses. This blog is about getting fit and getting rid of excuses. One person’s terrible choices are not a justification for you to make terrible choices. Let that other person lounge in their squalor and rise above it. Thus endeth the sermon.

Fruit juices, especially the kind you squeeze yourself from that actual fruit, are the best non-water options you have. In fact, if you’re eating right, the sweetness of (for instance) a strawberry should actually be a little too sweet. I once found strawberries a little on the sweet side, meaning that my sugar intake was exactly where it should have been… and I was happy about that. I’m working back towards that. Water is still better, though.

The whole reason for what I wrote here was to get you thinking about the crap you’re putting into your body. If your body is a temple and you shovel chips, beer, and sugar in by the handful, then your temple is definitely in a state of disrepair. Why be broken down when all it takes is a little self control?

SpecterFit 1 will have badges, as I’ve mentioned last week. In the next month or two, I’ll reveal what those badges will look like but I wanted to mention them again because EmeraldSpecter.com is the place that will hold which badges you’ve “officially” won. I’d like to personally see some participation and that’s why I’m choosing to keep the official records here. I’m doing this in the hopes I can feature someone in future SpecterFit events.

Speaking of future SpecterFit events, I’d like to hint that the February event will be another SpecterFit title event… yes, SpecterFit 2 will be February 2017 and there will be a chance to earn another event specific badge, possibly even two. There may also be a “title” to the event, like something catchy to reference (i.e. SpecterFit 1: Genesis). Time will tell and look to this column to hear the announcements.

Get fit.

SpecterFit Weekly 38: The Beginning

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Welcome to the new and improved “Fitness Specter,” now known as SpecterFit. The numbering remains, but the the focus is now on solid and consistent improvement. SpecterFit Weekly is going to be about motivation, tips, tricks, and ideas to help get yourself fit. Welcome to the 38th Edition.

As stated in Fitness Specter 37, there is a SpecterFit event on the horizon. SpecterFit 1 is slated for January 2017 (the whole month) for you to accomplish a fitness goal that you, yourself set. In addition to this fitness goal (which will earn you a medal if you complete the challenge), you can participate in the SpecterFit 1 event medal: StepMaster. This is a medal that will be specialized and will be unique to this event. So, if you’re keeping score, you can earn two medals in January 2017. Medal designs will be revealed later this year, but prior to the event itself.

Now, on to the column…

I’ve written about this before but I need to reiterate the point because of just how important the point is: 75% of your weight goals can be achieved by doing nothing more than eating correctly. If you eat right, you’ll lose weight. Fitness isn’t just about losing weight but for those of us (myself included) who are looking to lose weight while getting fit, this is an important factor. Thus, diet is important.

Not a diet. Diet. The act of eating correctly. The act of changing your lifestyle. Sustainable weight loss is only achievable through lifestyle change.

Have you tried jumping on fad diets and seeing success, only to regain all that weight once you’re off the diet? Cutting out certain foods to lose weight means you can’t go back to those foods (at least not in a regular basis situation). Atkins, for instance, puts the body into ketosis by eliminating most carbohydrates from your meals… which works, no doubt about it. However, if you want to keep that weight off, you can’t just jump back into the carbs when you’re at your target weight. You have to avoid those carbs forever.

Lose 50 pounds by avoiding McDonalds for a year? Awesome. If you go right back to eating McDonalds on a regular basis again you’ll just gain the weight back. Juice diet to lose 15 pounds? Once you return to solids you’ll gain the weight back.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Most people out there are kidding themselves into believing that this or that diet will work and keep them lighter. They’re insane. Stop thinking that you only have to fast, juice, or cleanse for a little while to get those pounds off… its a bandaid for the bigger problem that is your food choices (and portions).

There’s another point I’d like to touch on: cleansing. So many diets talk about “cleansing” and about getting rid of the ick in the body in preparation for an actual diet. Most of these are paid programs you have to sink cash into in order to even know what to do to cleanse in the first place. Cleansing does nothing for you (long term) unless you always “cleanse.” It’s ridiculous to believe that drinking a special juice for a couple of weeks will rid your body of the bad you’ve been inflicting upon it for years.

Bodybuilders are the smartest nutrition and diet specialists on the planet, yet most of the world makes fun of them for being stupid because they have muscles. Think about what they do, every day, every week, and every year to obtain all those muscles. There is food preparation that happens, portion control, they closely monitor what they eat, they work out specific muscles in specific groups to grow them in specific sizes. The foods they eat contain no unnatural substances, they are low in the wrong kinds of fats, there is very little “sugar” in them, and they avoid condiments that will add calories because of the very same things they are avoiding in actual foods. How many bodybuilders eat high fructose corn syrup on a daily basis? I’d say that the answer would be “none.” Bodybuilders know you need a “cheat” meal now and then, but they are disciplined, very meticulous, and they are smart about what they eat.

Now who’s the meathead? The bodybuilder competing at the highest level of “human sculpting” or your fat ass?

Nutrition starts in the kitchen. Stop eating steak six days a week. Stop eating processed ketchup with your “potato side.” Stop eating the “potato side” more than once a week. Stop eating junk food. Stop binging on the couch with that bag of chips. Stop eating dessert as if it were a separate meal. Stop drinking soda (regular OR diet).

Start eating vegetables… lots of vegetables. Start eating fruits (fresh, not the canned stuff). Start eating super foods like almonds, fish, and chicken. Start drinking water, regularly, and with the intent of making sure you stay hydrated. Start snacking with portion control in mind and with foods that are healthier than what you’ve been eating.

I’d like to finish this column off with a little anecdote about me, personally.

In 2013, my wife and I started to completely change our diet and start moving because I woke up one day and literally told myself I’m tired of being fat. I started at 328 pounds (the morning I made that statement) and lost a total of 91 pounds by walking, eating better, and lifting weights. I got all the way down to 237 pounds. Then life hit me with some hard challenges and things started to slide.

First, I stopped going to the gym on a regular basis (from six days a week to once or twice). Next, food stopped being as accessible (we were prepping for a move, so meals became a lot more about convenience and less about nutrition). The weather hit and so that took out my primary source of exercise: walking. Once we moved in 2015, we were in a place where food (although tons healthier) is in abundance, so I ate myself back up to 322.

As of the morning I write this column I am 309, which is a steady decline for the past two months of not snacking uncontrollably, allowing my wife to prepare the meals we know are healthier for us, and making sure I’m walking as often as I can as far as I can.

That’s where SpecterFit comes in. When WAFFLE was in full swing, I was working out and losing weight like a madman. I had goals to shoot for, I could “train” to conquer my challenges and advance. Without that, I’m just sort of gliding through this weight loss journey without a clear goal of anything other than losing weight.

My progress starts in the kitchen, though. The very beginning is the kitchen.

I don’t have HFCS in our kitchen at all. I don’t drink sodas more than a couple times a week, and only then with the diet variety to eliminate the HFCS in the regular ones. If there is a soda made with real sugar instead, I’d definitely choose that over the HFCS variety. I eat chicken nearly every meal, and as a result, my wife and I have found plenty of recipes that allow us to mix things up with the tastes so we don’t enter a meal going “dear lord, chicken again?”

Where can you find most of the recipes? My wife’s site: food.madebytricia.com. If we eat it, it’s up there. We don’t post stuff we don’t like and everything we make eliminates a bunch processed and “bad for you” ingredients.

Shop smarter, cook smarter, lose weight, get healthy.

I started ramping up my walking in the last couple of months and the weight is slowly coming off. I am plotting a 4 to 5 mile walk daily soon, to a course near where I live and back. When my weight gets down to a better and more healthy level, I’ll start poking around for gyms in my area. The home workouts will begin well before that but my size makes working out (at the moment) difficult. That won’t be a problem soon.

Check back for more information on SpecterFit 1, the next SpecterFit Weekly, and motivation and support for attaining your own healthy goals.

Get fit.

Fitness Specter 37: The Dawn of the New Age

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This is a different Fitness Specter, this is a new age. I’m here to let you know a little history, that changes are on the horizon, and that this is the move towards the future.

In 2014, I founded an organization called WAFFLE. The “pun” acronym stands for World Association of Fitness Fanatics Love Exercise and it was designed to be the “UFC of self improvement.” The logo was this:

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The idea was that you signed up for a fitness goal (conquer a certain number of steps, run a mile in a certain time, walk up a certain number of flights of stairs, etc) and you’d get a “win.” There were weight classes, championships were on the horizon, and everyone was on an even playing field… leading to eventual “person vs person” competitions, all promoting the health of everyone involved.

Due to popular request, I was busy creating “term events” that would last longer (a month, a week, etc) and would reflect an “iron man” style event… becoming WAFFLE Iron… yes, another pun. There were 4 events (all WAFFLE events) with a 5th on the horizon… and the beginnings of a WAFFLE Iron event…

What happened? Well, that’s the funny thing. There were two regulars competing with WAFFLE events: myself and my wife. We added two friends to the mix, and they both competed exactly once before there formed a rift. One of them moved. The other said something that can only be called stupid, and then there was work that started to get unruly. The WAFFLE events were going to be continued but as with my own personal fitness, things started to slide because of moving across the country and work stress.

The biggest problems with WAFFLE, at least from the perspective of recruiting, were multiple. No one wanted their weight out there in the open (the weight classes had a range, they weren’t exact… but there was a roof and using that roof you could guess about how heavy someone was). The idea of “competing” against a goal in a single, specific day became difficult for some to participate in (and thus making competing at all something they couldn’t do on those specific days). The joke title seemed to create animosity for the endeavor, thus making participating in WAFFLE something to be avoided. Those were the major reasons, and those were the reasons that I let WAFFLE lapse… intending to restart the organization again but then I started to think about other things.

That leads me into the writing of Fitness Specter, of which you are reading the 37th edition, that has been my “here’s what I’ve done, here’s ideas for you” style column. I will not be dropping the writing of the column, but the column will be changing slightly. Let me not let the cat out of the bag, just yet.

It’s no secret that I’ve gotten into the UFC. I’m a long time (former) professional wrestling fan and since that form of entertainment has been leaving me behind (as each generation gets left behind by the “new shiny” version that follows it) I started looking to “real sports” as an outlet. I followed boxing for a long time, too, but because the fights started getting less interesting while the “belt” of the trunks kept rising (I believe it is currently just under the nipple), I needed something else. From a personal tragedy, I started watching the UFC and started enjoying it…

The UFC has the storylines like the WWE, but they’re less manufactured. The WWE held pay per views to “end the storyline” in my day, and because the UFC doesn’t have that many rematches, that is essentially what happens when a UFC event ends. The parallels are there and I, as a wrestling fan only, didn’t see the close connection. As a UFC fan, no longer a WWE fan, I absolutely see the parallels and also see that the UFC is doing a better job of what the WWE has been doing for decades. I like the UFC and the presentation. I wanted to do something that had that style of showmanship.

Thus I created WAFFLE. WAFFLE is dead, though, but I still want to pair fitness with an event like atmosphere. Since I’m already writing a fitness column, I’d like to roll everything into one…

I’m now officially announcing SpecterFit. Instead of a pun acronym and joke aura, I’m creating the same vibe without the tight restrictions but still promoting fitness in a semi-competitive manner. As an extension of the column, which will also take the name SpecterFit (numbering to continue from this point on), the events will be entire months in length and be goals for personal improvement rather than ┬ápromoting a competitive atmosphere.

Starting with the next column, you will be reading SpecterFit 38. I’m intending to write a weekly column again, but I won’t rope myself into stating the exact date that will start. I will rope myself into announcing the first event of the SpecterFit series: January 2017.

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To participate in SpecterFit 1, all you need to do is email a personal goal to emeraldspecter (dot) com (at) gmail (dot) com. The goal can be a step count in a day, week, or month. The goal can be running a distance in a day, week, or month. The goal can be lifting a certain amount of weight, biking, climbing flights of stairs, in a day, week, or month. What will accomplishing this goal get you? Badges. Instead of championships, instead of weight classes, you’ll earn badges. The most important part of what you’ll get is healthy. Lose weight, get fit, join others.

SpecterFit is a revolution. SpecterFit seeks to glamorize fitness, health, and nutrition, and the column will reinforce the lessons I’ve learned that I can pass along to everyone else out there. SpecterFit the event will help you accomplish and set goals, along with others who will achieve their own milestones. Interested in learning more? Email me, I’ll tell you about it

Win.

Fitness Specter 36: Dance With the Girl That Brought You

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Dance with the girl that brought you… it means you should always do what you were supposed to do to achieve your goal by doing the things that helped you get where you were at in the first place. In the case of my own personal fitness, that means I need to go back to doing the thing that got me thinner before: walking.

I know how to lose weight. I know how to keep that weight off. Yet, here I sit writing this with the belly that is nearly the full size it was when I started my journey over a year ago… almost two years, now. I’m eight pounds shy of being where I was at when I said aloud that I was tired of being fat. I’m writing it here: I’m tired of being fat.

My diet is healthy and I just need to keep up with what I’m doing on that front in order to get things moving. I need to really jump back on the street and start walking again.

When I got here, I was diligent in getting between 10,000 and 15,000 steps a day. That slowly waned and slowly got lower until I’m not overjoyed when I get 5,000 steps in a day… I haven’t had to work at going over 5,000 steps in a day since I started this moons ago.

I live in a place without a true winter… it’s a “rainy season.” During the rainy season, I’ve not done a lot of walking… most of my walking gets done at work. When its raining, I won’t walk the parking lot. Well, that isn’t true, I *haven’t* walked the parking lot… but I’m going to start doing that again because I want to see 10,000 steps a day, then eventually start working towards 15,000 steps a day.

This should help me lose the weight to the point where my clothes start fitting better or start getting too big. This should help me get the energy to start working out again and since we’re in a place with many, many more options for “gyms,” I’m guessing I can find one really close to home. Then I start working on the weightlifting again… but small steps.

Everything I’m doing is a small step forward. First I need to start with the 10,000 steps a day… and then I can start thinking about the future, when I get back to the point I want to be at…

Who’d like to see the return of WAFFLE? I would… it’s a fitness goal competition (with yourself) to attain realistic, yet challenging, fitness goals. I’ll explain more when we get there… and maybe I’ll rename it and maybe I won’t.

Let’s get healthy again… let’s get to stepping. Today, I’m going to walk as much as I can and get closer to 10,000 than I have been in the past few weeks. One doesn’t go from zero to 10,000 without some small advances… or, small steps. See what I did there? Heh…

Let’s get healthy again… see you next time.

Fitness Specter 35: Life Specter

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I sit here, at 7 AM on a Sunday, wide awake since 4 AM this morning thinking: what should I do to pass the time while I wait for everyone else to wake up so I can do something more productive than sitting here in front of my computer typing? Well, that’s what I can do.

It also occurs to me that this column should also be called “Life Specter,” because I don’t even know how much of this contains information from my actual day to day…

The reason I named the column Life Specter is because that sometimes life gets in the way. You have a job that suddenly wants you to work more hours, complain about the hours that you work, and then say you’re a piece of garbage for working so many hours because you shouldn’t have done it in the first place… when they asked you to. Sometimes you can’t just sit at home and not think about work, or that asshole that cut you off in traffic, so you’re distracted and your focus is all over the place. What I’m saying is that mental health is as much a part of physical health as the proper diet is to effective exercise.

Damn… that sounds philosophical.

Sleep is one of the biggest components to healthy living. Ideally, for those of us wishing to lose some weight, sleep is the best time to do that because guess what you aren’t doing while you’re sleeping: eating calories. You can’t sleep too much, otherwise the body goes into some weird “hibernation mode” and then it starts storing fat because you’re not eating. It’s a delicate balance.

As you can imagine, sleep is foremost on my mind at the moment. Hint: it’s because on the sole day that I have to sleep in, I’m wide awake and typing up a column before the NFL playoff game I am interested in seeing starts. Talking about sleep, now that I’m not getting it, makes me realize that I am going to be suffering from other issues today, hindering any progress I was planning to make.

Let’s talk about what I was expecting to do today.

First, I was going to have the NFL game on in the background and be cleaning up the kitchen from the wonderful meal my wife made the night before… I was also going to tidy up the living room because that’s where I planned on doing some weight training while the game was on. While I still have a niggling little back issue, I was planning on doing weight movements that didn’t require a lot of my lower back (or would help strengthen it without sending me back to bed with a strained muscle). I was highly motivated to start getting that done and then the mental issues started, which lead to me being up at a stupid hour, which leads me to being tired (fatigued), which will probably lead to me not doing as much (or as correctly, if I still do these things… which I’m still planning to do) as I was going to do.

In short: my mental state is not where it should be and that is why I’m writing.

You have to be honest with yourself. I tend to dwell on things, I just can’t help myself, and that leads me to end up getting angry about possible (or past) events that I have zero control over. Let’s say I have a confrontation at work with someone, for however long I’m bothered by that incident I’ll mentally dwell on what happened and what could have happened until I’m so exhausted that I can’t even think anymore… that isn’t healthy. Distraction becomes an important part of getting through these things and believe me I’m trying to distract that crap outta myself but it isn’t working. That’s why I started writing.

I need an outlet for my mental state and since the normal distractions aren’t working, I’m going to try doing something different today than I have in the past: I’m going to use the workout AS the distraction. I’ll let you know how that goes.

As an update, since the last column I wrote, I am down 4 pounds. I was 316 this morning and it’s time to start locking into the eating pattern that got me down so many pounds before… which means that I’m going to be eating a lot of home cooking and that also means that my wife has motivation to start coming up with new and interesting combinations of food that will keep things on track. Her idea, not mine… though I’ll take it.

We have not eaten out since Tuesday (today is Sunday, as I said), and there is no plan to eat out before this coming Tuesday. I have cravings now and then and when we eat out, I normally need to fill that craving instead of making the smart choice (like having a salad like I should). I’m working on that but first I need to get back into the swing of working out again… that starts today.

I leave you now letting you know I am about to eat my first food of the day. I have a Peanut Toffee Buzz Cliff bar and a banana. I’d just eat the Cliff bar but the bananas are sitting there calling out to me, so I figured they’re healthy enough to be listened to… and I’m probably going to be a lot happier for the choice, too. I am also taking some supplements from GNC, supplements that helped me lose all the weight before. Since taking them, I’ve been consistently lower in weight (the fluctuations don’t go as high, either) than I was before I was taking them. My current goal is to be under 300 before the end of February. I’d like to say January but I want to set some realistic goals, and ones that don’t require a lot of stress to achieve. I have enough stress at work.

Until next time…

Fitness Specter 34: Diet

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I have a friend on Facebook (shocking, right?) that is attempting to lose weight, he and his wife, and that they have success with certain things but not others. Their goal is simply to lose weight and both of them, if I’m correct, don’t eat/like to eat certain types of foods. Most of my advice in this area is usually to switch to, or away from, certain foods… then I stopped for a moment, held my fingers from hitting “post” on a comment, and really thought about what got me to where I am right now.

I suppose that I should first explain where I am right now.

My work sucks. The hours and the stress are terrible and I would really like to do something different in life. Since I currently can’t, the stress and hours have held my weight steady at over 300 lbs. Yes, I’ve still got most of what I gained back by coming to this utopia of eating (yes, Portland is really a utopia of food options). I eat lots of veggies (beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes) and fruits (pineapple, strawberries, bananas), I don’t eat anything (mostly) with high fructose corn syrup in it, I eat out far less than I used to, and I’d say that aside from my portions I couldn’t get any healthier on the eating (unless I cut out the eating out). This was not always the case.

I’ll say that around 2010 or 2011, I acquired an allergy to dairy. I say it that way because it really just started happening and I’d get violently ill whenever I had something with dairy in it. No cheese, no bread (most breads have dairy), no “white” sauces, etc. I was living with a terrible affliction that really hurt whenever I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating.

During that horrible phase of my life, my wife and I found many alternatives to foods that ended up being super healthy options. Want some cheese flavoring? Nutritional yeast. Need some filler for a meal that you aren’t getting from a cheesy or dairy product? Start eating vegetables. Want pizza? Have them leave the cheese off and just give you meats, veggies, sauce, fruit, etc on it.

In fact, my entire palate changed. I was enjoying broccoli when I hadn’t previously. I was eating fruits on a regular basis that weren’t just bananas. There were all kinds of things we were doing differently.

Then the allergy stopped. I don’t know exactly when it stopped but all of a sudden I could eat dairy again. For 3 or 4 years, I was completely dairy free and all of a sudden I could eat the dairy again. Pizza never tasted so good. I went, almost completely, back to the way I was eating before.

Now we get to the part where I am right now.

One morning, literally (used correctly, I literally did this), I sat up in bed and said, aloud: “I’m tired of being fat.” I am still tired of being fat now, too, but we won’t talk about that quite yet. I made a declaration and all of a sudden I was pushing to lose weight in the biggest way.

The research began. When people use the word “diet” they’re usually talking about a temporary change in the way they eat in order to lose weight or make a change. In every single case, if you stop doing something to lose weight and return to doing that thing after you’ve achieved your goal, you’ll gain the weight back. Why? Because you eliminated something and returned to doing it.

When I use the word “diet,” as with many medical professionals, I mean what you eat… period. Weight loss is a lifestyle change, not a fad, not a quick fix, not something that can be temporary. If you want sustainable weight loss, you need to do something and do that something forever. How can temporarily changing something result in a permanent solution? It can’t and there isn’t a dietician, doctor, or fitness expert that wouldn’t agree with me.

The first thing I did, before making any other change, was I eliminated all high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). None. My wife and I read so many labels (and still do) that our eyes were falling out. I won’t get to eat a lot of my favorite things anymore because they contain HFCS. No soda, no ketchup, no bread, no cereal, no sauces, no Cloverdale meats (they’re a North Dakota meat packing company that puts HFCS in their meats), and if it had any derivative of HFCS it was also out (high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, etc, etc, etc). I didn’t eat anything for a long, long time with HFCS in it. I only do so in “treats” now, and then only minimally.

I’d guess I lost 25 pounds just eliminating HFCS alone.

With my changed palate, my wife and I started eating things we hadn’t eaten a lot of before. I was not a “sweet potato” lover by any stretch of the imagination and now we eat the shit out of them. Most of the meals we eat contain a large vegetable side dish (made easier by the steamer bags that they come in so we don’t occupy another burner on the stove cooking them). We use only real butter (margarine and some other butter alternatives are terrible for the human body). We were eating so differently that my wife started her own food blog with everything we eat on a regular basis. You can find that here. The new one is here.

Along with this, both of us started walking. Every day. Every single day. We set realistic goals for steps, we used FitBits and now use the Apple trackers in the phones and watches. Getting to 5,000 was killer at first and now I can have that done most of the time before noon. Once I’d gotten my weight down to 275-ish, I started going to the gym to work out. Pounds fell off there, too. In total, I’d lost 91 pounds (from 328 when I started to 237). Life was looking up.

I realize that after thinking about what I was thinking about way back up at the top of this column that I’d really had help getting to where I am at. Well, I’m 320 as I write this and the only thing that is really different is that I don’t get the exercise in that I used to… and my portions are out of control again. At least the portions are made up of healthier foods.

Anyway, what got me to where I’m at was a food allergy and a wife that loved making food we both love to eat to achieve a mutual goal. As I write this, I’m going to start the walking part of this again to make sure I get over 10,000 steps a day again… that’s when the experts say weight loss really starts (if you change nothing else).

I’m not going to write directly to the friend I referred to earlier. I’m not going to tell them this whole story… instead, I’ll link this column from my personal Facebook account and maybe he’ll read it. If he does (or she, his wife is also my friend), then I’ll give some advice that will hopefully work out for the better.

The advice is: simulate a food allergy.

Maybe you don’t want to do dairy, that’s fine. That was hard on me but I survived and it helped change my palate, as well as forcing me to look at other food alternatives. Maybe you want to try simulating celiacs, how about an allergy to red meat? Honestly, vegans are the healthiest eaters I know and they don’t have weight problems (at least the ones I know don’t).

I’m not saying “do this for the rest of your life.” I’m saying to give it a good 12 to 24 months of not eating a specific food type… and make sure that food type is a large enough group to force you to rethink your food choices entirely. Dairy is in a LOT of stuff, that’s the one I recommend. Skirting the dairy thing will guarantee your palate changes. Once you’ve done this avoidance for 12 to 24 months, introduce it back into your diet as part of the meals you’ve already switched to eating. There will be a change, a noticeable change, in what you “like” and don’t “like.”

One last thing: cheat meals are important. A single meal, once a week, that you can eat anything you want is important to success. One meal and one meal only. Eat whatever you want, but eat it with portion control in mind. Will you lose weight that day? Almost never, but at least you’ll not set yourself back so far that you need to start completely over.

I’m going to be jumping back into this column with both feet. I’m going to lose my weight and start working out again. I’m going to walk 10,000 steps a day because I need to get my fat ass off the couch, out of the chair, and out moving around again. It’s time I re-applied my changes to achieve my goals and I’m tired of being fat. I’m so tired of being fat.

Will you join me?

Fitness Specter 34: Recovering From Injury

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It’s high time I write a column about fitness again. It’s also high time I explain why I haven’t written in so long, and talk about something on the forefront of what’s been going on lately. It’s high time to stop saying high time. Go.

First and foremost, I’ve been busy as hell lately. I’ve been working so many hours at work that I’m unhealthy and starting to have problems with all kinds of other things… like sleep. Anyone who is reading this should know by now that sleep is an important part of the entire fitness regimen. Well, I’m working on getting more sleep and that leads me to what’s been happening with me (or the topic in the title).

One cannot properly work out if one is injured. Some things can be worked around but there is one injury that really kills all of the abilities to work out: lower back injury. Guess what I got recently? Yep.

So, almost two full weeks ago (as I write this), I was lifting something to help get something done at work and “pop,” there went my back. I could barely stand and for the time since I’m having trouble moving without pain. I’m back to the point now, at least, that I can sit without needing to be rigidly sitting upright with something behind my back for proper posture. That excites me, and I’ll explain why later.

For the first few days, I had to have help putting on socks because I couldn’t bend over. I had to get out of bed in a very specific way, otherwise I couldn’t get out of bed. At work, driving to work, at home, driving to home, etc… I had to be sitting straight, with something behind my lower back giving me “proper posture.” I couldn’t sleep in my favorite position all night (I’m a stomach sleeper), and I would also have issues in staying asleep because I’d be shifting and thrashing all night long.

Just about the time I hurt myself I was ready to jump back on the wagon of lifting and exercising… then I had to wait.

The problem with injury is that when you’re recovering, there is little you can do with a lower back injury to recover quickly. I think I’m really close to the clearing of the injury, which means I can put my money where my mouth is… and that leads me to why I’d be excited.

Since I can actually lift weights again (i’m 95% sure), I am going to be able to start back down the track of losing weight in the vein I was losing weight before: leaps and bounds. My cardio will be the focus at first but once I’m back down under 275, the weight lifting will be the focus and I’ll be building the mass that is good mass instead of holding on to the mass that I’m interested in getting rid of… it’s time.

It’s time to get off the couch and start doing something again and it’s time to start being smarter with how I do things in general life. I won’t want to hurt myself again soon and I’m looking forward to actually succeeding with my efforts.

Lift with me, bro.

Fitness Specter 33: Progress Has Come

So, I complain once about absolutely nothing happening despite the amount of exercise I’m getting and I lose weight the very next day. I’m still down and I finally get a “rest day” at work, though I’m still AT work, but I’m hoping that things will work in my favor and I don’t need to do massive amounts of exercise… because I’m going to get a lot of that done tomorrow when I hit up my first, though a small, comic con!

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The Mr. Olympia competition is happening right now and I didn’t do a big build up this year. I wanted to make that a theme every year and of course things got derailed. There are a lot of little details that popped up in the last couple weeks that made me wonder what the hell was going on in the Olympia but we’ll see how that all falls when the competition ends tonight (as I write this, there is 11 hours until the finals start).

I use the Olympia as inspiration to get off my ass and start lifting weights again. There is a plan, just not a quick one.

When I started lifting weights last year, I was waiting until I dropped to a certain weight so that I wasn’t toting around all kinds of extra pounds that would hinder my ability to move freely. Well, I’m well over the weight that I was when I was lifting and I had the mindset that I need to wait again until I get under a certain weight to start lifting again. Muscles being built burn calories, especially the bigger muscle groups, so I am going to be getting back on the wagon starting tomorrow.

“Tomorrow never comes.”

Well, this tomorrow does. I am going to be lifting weights starting tomorrow. I want to start burning calories at a much higher rate than I currently am and I’ll be trying to get back into the running again once the “walk fest” at work ends. I’m putting on 10 or more miles a day following around the people I’m supposed to be following and that has worn me down quite a bit.

I don’t want to write so much I get off topic, so this one is going to much shorter than normal. I wanted to check in and say what’s been happening and let you know I got a little break from the non-stop work walking and hopefully that benefits me rather than hinders me (since my steps will be less than half of the last few days individual totals). We shall see.

What should you expect for the future of the Fitness Specter? My individualized workout plans. Milestones to be set and goals to be achieved. I’m going to go through with what I mentioned I was going to do a long time ago: I’m going to game-ify working out. Why not? What’s more likely to drive you forward? Working out to hit a certain look or number on a scale or a series of badges that will also show you progress and can be displayed online? Small steps.

Let’s get this party started.