Saturday, September 13, 2014

A New Journey

In October 2012, a month after my fiftieth birthday, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror one morning and absolutely hated what I was seeing.  My belly spilling liberally over my belt line,  Belly fat spreading from my diaphragm, around to my "love handles" which then spread around further to my lower back.  A fold of skin where my kidneys are.  Man-boobs. Chubbiness under my jaw line and jowls forming at my cheeks.  Muscle tone nearly nonexistent.  At fifty years old, combined with my now nearly all-gray hair, I looked like a fat old fart.  The worst part was, I could actually see the body I wanted to have underneath all that flab and girth.  It was right there!  All I had to do was do enough exercise and eat right, and that body was possible!  I fought back tears as I firmly decided that enough was enough.  I was not going to have this body anymore.

I had seen infomercials on TV for Shaun T's mega-exercise series, Insanity.  Men my age, giving 110% to the workout and nutrition and fitness program, shedding twenty, thirty, or more pounds, gaining muscle definition, tone, and a better outlook on life.  Of course, I knew these were extraordinary cases, most of them taking longer to get those bodies than the 63 days that the program promised.  I had a friend in the neighborhood who had done the program and had lost about 30 pounds.  But even if I could lose fifteen pounds, a couple of inches around my waist, and gain a better handled on my eating (which had gotten out of control), it was worth the $150 investment.  I ordered it online and then convinced Lisa to join me in the program.  We took before pictures (mine after the jump), which looked horrible!  What a great incentive, NOT to look like this!

I began on November 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I lost twelve pounds and lost two inches around my waist, started seeing my abs, leg muscles, and shoulders.  My face and neck slimmed down.  A friend told me about six weeks in that I looked "svelte."  Felt great.  The nutrition program was difficult, and I had actually to cut back on the recommended calories (because I had a much more sedentary lifestyle/work life than the average guy), but the weight and fatness disappeared.

But I wasn't satisfied.  I wanted more.
Me before...

In February 2013, I decided to do the program again.  I got about halfway through it, ready to go from phase 1 to phase 2, when I injured my ankle.  Two weeks later, I got an infection that put my on strong antibiotics and sapped all my energy for the next six weeks.  Then I injured my back, just turning my body at the waist to pick something up.  Another three weeks off.  Then I got bronchitis, which killed me for another month.  By this time, it was nearly September, and I hadn't worked out in about six months.  I'd also gained back half the weight I'd lost.

About that time, I changed jobs and was under a lot of stress.  I was simply not inspired to work out, potentially injuring myself.  And I started gaining weight again.

As I write this, I can say that I haven't worked out two dozen times in the last year.  My sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits have taken over again.  I'm four pounds heavier now than when I started Insanity.  Here's me this morning:

I look about the same, but I feel worse.  If I could express how I felt about the way I look today, the best phrase I could come up with would be FUCKING DONE.

So two weeks ago I signed up for the Whole Life Challenge, which began today.  It is an eight-week fitness and nutrition journey/game that isn't just an intense, kill-yourself program of hardcore exercise and no-fun foods.  It is meant to gradually, measurably, and permanently alter my lifestyle from one of complete disregard for what I do to and what goes into my body, to one of awareness and respect for myself.  I began today with the benchmark workout, which measured my ability to complete various exercises within 11 minutes.  I get a certain number of points, the maximum being 460.  No one would ever get that many points.  Today, my score was 106, and every two weeks, I will repeat this workout and measure my results.

I have given up bread, cheese, added sugar, and french fries/chips.  I will drink 1/3 of my body weight in ounces of water per day.  I will do at least 10 minutes of intense exercise every day (actually I'll do a lot more than that, but that's the program minimum).  I will stretch at least 10 minutes per day.  I will take a dietary supplement every day.  I will engage in a daily lifestyle practice, like yoga or meditation or getting more sleep (these are announced by the WLC program administrators each week.  And I'll reflect on my progress every day.  Each one of these activities will earn me a total of 13 points each day.  If I don't engage in some of these activities, or eat "prohibited" foods, I lose points.  Since my birthday is next week, I plan to lose a couple of points eating a piece of cake and drinking more than one glass of wine.  The best thing is, I'm allowed to do that; it's about changing my lifestyle, not about beating myself up and punishing myself.  At the end of 56 days, my point total will be compared to others in the program. There are hundreds of people around the world doing this program right now, and I belong to a team of about 50 people led my a friend of mine, Chris Plourde, who's a fitness coach and personal trainer. We will be meeting online every couple of weeks to cheer each other on and discuss our progress.

Today, I got up out of bed and enthusiastically set myself up to have a successful preliminary workout. I weighed myself, measured my body fat percentage, and measured my waist and hips.  I filled up a water bottle, wrote down the exercises I needed to do, and got my son Elijah to write down my results as I got them done.  My face is covered with a big smile right now, I ate a good breakfast of lean turkey chili and one egg, and will eat an apple in about two hours.  I'm headed to a friend's house with the family and will be swimming in the pool to get some more exercise.

Tomorrow I shop for the week and expect to spend a couple of hours at the grocery store, reading labels for bread content, sugar content, and additives (allowed at this stage, but not allowed at more advanced levels of this game).

I'm nearly 52 years old, and I have less time on this planet than I have already had.  I'm not going to watch that time turn into weekly/daily doctor visits and dozens of pills popped to combat this or that lifestyle illness.  I have hope today that the Whole Life Challenge will challenge my whole life.  I feel scared, but very optimistic.  I will be successful at this, and I can't wait to show you my "after" pictures in six months (my goal to lose the weight I want to lose).

More to come...

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