The secret to my success

I was recently asked if I had any tips or tricks to help out a new member of MFP (myfitnesspal.com). Below is what I wrote to them, it applies to all of us so I decided to share it with everyone. I hope you enjoy it.

There really is no magic to my success. I eat less than I burn, I eat better foods, and I exercise a lot.

Food:
I buy better foods, I mean that, I have switched to more organic, and less processed foods. I eat more “whole” foods, less canned foods. For example I buy a whole chicken, instead of just breast meat (for the most part), because it is less processed. I eat less pasta, bread, and processed sugars. I use all natural sweeteners when I use them (agave nectar, raw sugar, etc)

When I buy veggies, I buy fresh or frozen. I buy organic and local meats (when possible). I eat a lot of fruit and I drink a ton of water. If you look at yesterday’s log for food, I drank 19 glasses of water.

Exercise:
I exercise 4 days a week for at least 60 minutes each session. I run, I lift weights, I run some more, I ride my bike, I ride the stationary bikes. When I run, I run at least 4 miles at a time, always with an incline (when on a treadmill). The incline is the key to burning big calories. If you are just starting off and you can’t run, walk, but goes as fast as you can on an incline when possible. Most treadmills will incline to at least some degree. If you are walking outside, walk like those people you see in the mall, all serious and determined, walk with speed, with determination, with purpose.

Mentality:
Be positive, you’d be surprised how many people neglect this aspect. A positive frame of mind will help you achieve more than you ever imagined. I can’t wait to get to the gym on the days that I go. Do I love lifting weights, and running and sweating like a wildebeest in the Savannah? Absolutely not. Do I love the feeling of accomplishment, and the results working out brings?Absolutely. The positive frame of mind will carry over into other parts of your life as well, causing everything to seem better overall, which in turns, makes you feel better about yourself, which then leads to better outcomes.

Goals:
Set a goal. No matter how big, or small always have a goal. I’m not talking about your end goal. I’m talking about intermediate and small goals. Like: Today I will walk an extra 500 steps, or I will lose 3 pounds in the next week, or I will not eat a candy bar for 7 days. Small steps, near term goals, little victories. They all add up to long term success.

Dieting:
Remember that you cannot expect a diet to work. Diets are short term plans of action, that are not correlated with long term goals. To be successful, you have to change your lifestyle, change your eating habits, and change you way of looking at food and exercise.

Support:
Find a mentor, a role model, a friend, a workout buddy. Whether that person is live and in person or only accessible via the the ephemeral confines of the Internet, you need a mentor and a role model; someone whom has had success and is willing to share their plans, their routines and their insights with you.

Surround yourself with friends, I’m not talking your go to a bar or movie friends, I’m talking about like minded individuals that can relate and share in your struggle. By joining MFP you have taken the first steps in that part. No one can understand what you are going though, or what you will achieve better than someone who has been there, is there, and is struggling with the same (or similar) issues as you are. We all need support, and while our IRL (in real life) friends and family may be empathetic, unless they are on the same journey as you, they cannot truly understand.

Find an IRL workout buddy, someone who can help push you along, pick you up when you falter, be there when you fail (and you will fail along the way). Find someone that will not let you stop when you hit that wall, won’t let your failures be the death of your ultimate success, someone that will support your effort, or kick you in the ass to get you moving again. You need someone that won’t accept “I Can’t” as an answer.

Acceptance:
Push yourself, If you are capable of running 1 mile, don’t settle for that, push yourself to go 1.25, or 1.5 miles instead. Never accept your comfort zone as your top end. Push yourself to achieve and you will achieve. if you can lift 25 pounds try 30. Do not strive for good enough, strive for better than you have ever done. You are a piece of evolutionary genius. I’m not talking science vs religion here, I’m talking human adaptability. You are built to excel, made for success. You are not a static being, you are ever changing and your goals should follow suit. Set your dreams just beyond your grasp and then reach for them.

Recovery:
Sleep, rest, recharge. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, 8 if you can get it. Take a day off between workouts to rest. If you are pushing yourself, you will need the time off. Your muscles, while marvelous, need to rebuild after hard work. Take a break from workouts. I routinely take a week off where I do not do any structured workouts. That’s not to say I am not exercising, I’m just doing things like hiking in the woods, trekking up a mountain, chopping wood, swimming in a lake, rowing a boat. This is how I recharge, getting away from society and getting back to the pioneer spirit.

That’s it, you now have been given access to my toolset. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

The Trail – a poem

The trail

I love the trail
It doesn’t judge or care how you look or feel
It doesn’t care if its your first run or your millionth
the trail doesn’t see you as an adversary or a friend
it doesn’t even know you are there but it rises to meet you every time
The trail is quiet and listens to your cadence and rhythm
it offers no commentary or advice
It just gives you want you seek
A challenge, a reason to run, a goal to meet
the trail is the one thing you can always count on to give you nothing and everything whenever you need it

At My Core

Hey Look It’s Me

Since turning 40, I have taken some time and reflected on my interaction with the world around me. Some might say that this is my midlife crisis, some might say this is me coming to terms with the eventuality of my own mortality. Call it what you will.

NPR used to have a segment that was called “This I Believe” where people would write down what was at their core, belief wise. It was a cool segment and there were essays written by celebrities, as well as ordinary joes like you and me. It was one of my favorite segments, I haven’t listened to NPR in a while, and I’m not sure if they ever play those anymore, but if they do, you should take a little time and listen. The essays are insightful, well written and some were downright brilliant.

Mine will not be. What your are about to read will be raw, unpolished, unrefined and most likely offensive to the sensibilities of a lot of people I know.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how wrong or generally misguided it may be, myself included. While you may not agree with everything or anything that I am about say; I ask that you read it all, as it will give you some insight into who I am. If you are an old friend this will by no means shock you, however if you are a newly acquired friend or acquaintance you may find yourself a bit dismayed by some of what is to follow, so please be warned.

I grew up poor, welfare poor, with a mother who could be best described as a grifter. If you don’t know that word I suggest you get a good dictionary (think Oxford English). Growing up with a person like this at the helm of your childhood can lead you to think differently about the world around you. I learned at an early age that there was really no one who you could rely on other than yourself; as everyone out there was either predator or prey. People were things to used and discarded when no longer deemed useful. While this sounds horrible (and I assure you upon reflection, it truly was) it did foster a sound sense of self reliance, and believe it or not self assurance.

Growing up with a grifter as your main parental unit also means that you move around a lot. Take a second to absorb and take that in, because you probably don’t grasp what I mean unless you grew up the child of a military person. When I say we moved a lot, I mean a whole lot. By the time I was 12 I think I had lived in at least as many states and probably two to three times that in terms of actual places where I would lay my head at night. This meant that I never had really good friends, because I wouldn’t be anywhere for more than a few months at a time. Why bother getting to really know people if you were just a transient being in their lives. Living this way actually fed into the whole people as a commodity mentality. While I didn’t know it at the time the nomadic lifestyle we were living was actually doing me a service. It taught me to not be shy, I was that kid who would arrive somewhere and instantly find people to hang out with and be “friends” with. It also led me to be loud, gregarious, and brash. I was that loud kid whom everyone liked immediately. Unfortunately I was also that kid that every parent felt a deep sense of pity for when they learned about my mother. Needless to say I tried to not let people meet my mother for as long as possible.

Growing up the way I did didn’t foster a great sense of morality. When you have a parent whose main objective in life is to see how much they can get from people, you are starting life aiming low. As a child I never knew that this was not the way things were supposed to be. I thought everyone was just like good ole mom; only looking out for themselves. To this day, I honestly believe that my mother did not have my best interests at heart growing up. I, like everyone else she encountered, was just a tool, a commodity to be used. I was another instrument in her plans for the confidence game she called life. I happened to be a rather useful tool, as my dad paid a monthly amount of money that was supposed to be helping pay for the things I needed.

I can remember when I was about 8 meeting a kid whose parents were together and had always been, and thinking that his family was weird. They had lived in the same place for longer than he had been alive. Both of his parents worked actual jobs. That’s not to say my mother didn’t work, she just never really worked. She would have a part time job so as to look like a semi-respectable member of the community. I mean she didn’t want to be seen as the gold digger that she really was.

I think that given the circumstances of how I was raised I have turned out pretty OK. Sure I’ve had my moments where my moral compass has been off, and I still have a duck and cover kind of response to some things, but all in all, I think I have become a well rounded and decent person. I don’t generally shy away from a challenge and I tend to take most things in stride. I would like to believe that as a whole I turned out alright, and have had a positive impact on the world around me. I try to be fair, I try not to take more than my share, I try to help out people when I can.

I honestly feel that how I was raised has a lot to do with my views on religion. I lived in a lot of places where kids shouldn’t live, I had more “dads” than any kid should ever have. I saw a lot of the dark and seedy things that young, impressionable children should never be exposed to.

I saw people who gave 10% or more of their earnings to their church, when I was living right next door and could have benefitted from that money far more than the institution that they were giving it to. I can’t count the number of nights that I went to bed hungry, or cold, or lonely or scared. On more than one occasion I can remember thinking that if there was a god, why was he making me live like this. All those times I went to bed with a sense of fear or hopelessness seemed to strengthen my belief that there was no real purpose for life, there was no great and benevolent creator looking out for us; because if he was out there and he let me go to bed with too little food, or not enough money to have heat, or whatever, then he was a cruel and heartless creator ans I had no need of him. If this was the truth I would rather believe that there was no great power looking down on us, rather than one who, like a kid with a magnifying glass aimed at an ant hill, would sit back and watch us suffer. Don’t get me wrong, I looked into several “flavors of religion” as a young person, and always came to the same conclusion.

I became a militant atheist at the ripe old age of 18. I had seen enough, and heard more than enough of the religious rhetoric to form my opinion and I was damn sure going to let everyone know. I knew plenty of “bible thumpers” growing up and I became the antithesis; I was a “science thumper”. I would try to systematically teardown everything people believed about religion and force them to see my point of view. I can remember looking at a bible, no studying it really, to find all the paradoxes and hypocrisies. I would debate, or more aptly berate, any religious person who dared to spar with me. I remember on more than one occasion bringing other kids to tears because I would make the fight personal. This phase lasted well into my 20’s; I remember I had a neighbor once who walked up to me and asked with sincerity “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior” I bluntly said “No”. I asked him if he thought his religion was the one true and correct one. When he said yes, I then proceeded to lecture him on why his brand of religion wasn’t the correct one. I was a complete ass; I realize this now that I am older and have seen more in my life. Needless to say I have mellowed as I have gotten older. I am no longer a militant atheist, nor have I found religion. I’ve come to realize that I don’t care. I personally don’t think that there is a god out there, I’m more apt to believe that we are some weird science experiment for aliens or a completely random coincidence than to think that there is one all knowing, all seeing creator. That’s my opinion and you’re welcome to agree, disagree, and/or not care about it, as I have decided to not care what your belief may or may not be. I do not say that preceding statement with any intended malice, I truly do not care what your beliefs are. If you are a decent person than we can be friends, regardless of how misaligned our beliefs may be.

I will not push my beliefs and values on you, and I ask that you do the same. I have come to the realization that what you believe shouldn’t predicate whether or not we can be friends. I have a very close friend who is a devoted Christian (he and his family are what I consider the best example of how Christians should be.), I have another who is a non practicing Christian. We have decided to agree to disagree about that one aspect of our lives and move on. Life is too short to get hung up the small stuff and yes to me that is a small item.

Below is the cliff’s notes version of my beliefs. Many of which have equal bearing whether or not your are a religious person. Please take them for what they are. A means to gain a little bit of insight about me, nothing more nothing less. As I stated This was not meant to offend anyone, but if it has, I understand. I hope you can see past it. If not, again, I understand.

Things I believe:

An intelligent persons does not need the promise of a heaven to do what is right.

Character is doing the right thing even if you would benefit from doing the not so right thing.

Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do.

Ones beliefs are like ones genitalia, it’s great that you have it, but no-one needs to see it.

There are good Christians, there are good Muslims, there are good atheists just as there are bad Christians, bad Muslims, and bad atheists.

People are people, judge them on what they do, not what they believe, not what country they come form, not how they look, nor by the color of their skin.

Children are born scientists, uncoupled from belief. Their minds are wide open to all possibilities, we indoctrinate them into a closed minded belief set when we saddle them with our beliefs. We should let them explore, and decide on their own what they want to believe or disblieve, and love them in spite of any choice they make, not chastize them for it.

All people are created equal, it is our beliefs that determine their worth and ultimately burden them with inequality. If we cast away the baggage we were given by our predecessors and see people for what they are or could be, we see that we are all, at the core, the same. We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, not what we believe.

In the end I hope to be remembered for all I did to help others and to make this world a better place, not for what I believed or did not believe in.

We should all strive to know more about the world then we knew yesterday and to try to lessen the suffering of others. (this was paraphrased from a quote be Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it is part of what I believe he just said it better.)

________________________________________

I look forward to any comments that you may have.

Rob

Fruit and Nut Cookies – A recipe

Right so here is a recipe I concocted when I wanted cookies, since I had no chocolate chips I improvised.

The stuff you need:

2.5 cups flour ( I used AP but knock yourself out and use what you like, coconut flour works well)

3/4 Brown sugar (packed as tight as you can)

3/4 cup sugar (I used plain white sugar this time, but demerara or sugar in the raw work too)

1 tablespoon Agave nectar

2 tablespoons honey

3 eggs

1 stick of unsalted butter softened

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract

1/2 cup of chopped nuts of your choice

1 package of dried mixed fruits (5-7.5 oz)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (177 C)

Mix Flour, Salt, Baking Powder together in a bowl then set it aside

Combine the sugars and the butter in a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed and slightly creamed.

Add the agave nectar, honey, vanilla and eggs, continue mixing until all ingredients are completely mixed.

Add the Flour mixture in four parts making sure that the previous addition is completely absorbed before adding the next.

When all the flour has been added and the dough is of the proper consistency fold in the nuts and fruit.

Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes

Drop in heaping tablespoons onto a non greased pan and bake for 11-15 minutes

Let stand for 1 minute before removing to a cooling rack

Try not to eat them all in one sitting

Makes about 18 big cookies.

Weight Loss, Food, Clothing and a Financial crisis

So in my last post I had pics of me from last years holiday party. In those pictures I wore a size 54 jacket and size 48 pants. I went to Men’s Wearhouse on Sunday and bought a new suit. I had to, they basically laughed at me when I went in to see if I could get my old suit altered to fit me. You see this year I wear a size 44 coat and size 36 pants. That’s a big difference; so big that they told I had to get a new one, because they couldn’t alter any suit that much. While that in it self is great it’s also not.

Sure losing 114 pounds has done wonders for me; for my health and well being, my exercise and eating changes have been wonderful; not so much so for my wallet. In the past year I have spent more on clothing than I have ever had to. While I feel great and have surely added years to my life, my finances are feeling strained because of it.

Now, admittedly, I could have bought a cheaper suit than I did. I tried on a few at the mall and none garnered the approval of my wife, so it was off to Mens Wearhouse, where i had $50 in gift cards anyway. My intention was to buy a suit I saw on their website for $249 and since they were having a sale I could get a second one for $100. Great $349 – $50 is $299 not bad for 2 suits. Well they didn’t have the suits from the website in store (big shock) so I looked at what they did have. I ended up with a suit for $299; still not too bad. Add the second one in for $100 and we’re just under $400. Then they get you for tailoring, taxes, toll money, their kids college tuition and such, which I understand, but dang it if I didn’t end up spending over $500 after my gift cards were used up. So once again, I had been hornswoggled. I intended on spending about $250 and ended up doubling it. My wallet took another hit for the team. I feel sorry for it, I really do.

I’m liking the fact that I can shop in the “Mens” section not the “Big and Tall” section, which by the way is really just the “Big” section in my opinion. They believe that anyone with a waist larger than 42 is never going to have more than a 30″ inseam; but on the off chance you do it will most assuredly be because you are a gargantuan and have a 36″+ inseam. so all of the moderately tall fat guys get screwed. We either have to buy “highwater” pants or dress like we are Steve Urkel.

Sorry I got off track there, where was I? Oh yes my poor, poor wallet. In addition to having to bear the burden of my new wardrobe, my wallet has had to shoulder the weight of higher grocery costs. It’s amazing how much more it costs to eat healthy than to not. For example, I have been trying to move to more and more organic, and where possible locally sourced food stuffs. Here is a comparison with what I believe are fairly accurate numbers for one item.

Chicken. One of the most abundantly available meats products know to the US consumer. I never really gave much thought to the chicken, except maybe what to marinate it in on what to slather on it, until I changed my eating habits. Now I consider many factors when looking at this ubiquitous culinary item. Let’s say you want to make some chicken, so you meander on down to your local mega (or not so mega) mart; you are presented with a myriad of poultry choices.  Standard fare Chicken, Organic Chicken, All Natural Chicken, Free Range Chicken, Pastured Chicken among the bevy of others. each one with it’s own pricing structure and variance depending on a whole other list of factors.

For my comparison Let’s consider ordinary standard chicken, organic chicken and locally source pastured chicken. For my standard we will use a run of the mill mega mart chicken, an Organic Chicken, and a Local chicken procured from a local store (in this case Bushel and Peck in Beloit Wisconsin)

Standard Young Chicken 3-4 pounds: About $6, fed who knows what, kept in a tiny cage, gets crapped on by the bird above it, has it’s beak removed, treated inhumanely

Certified Organic chicken 4-5 pounds: About $8, fed grain, no antibiotics, kept in a pen with a bazillion other birds, crowded but not entirely inhumane treatment, doesn’t get sunlight or weather.

Locally sourced Pastured Organic Chicken 4-5 pounds: About $10, fed all natural grain, no antibiotics, allowed to roam and peck around in a field with a bunch of other birds, basically living the good life until he get’s culled for my consumption.

So you can see the hit a wallet takes. I want to buy the locally sourced bird. It helps a local farmer, my local economy, is good for me to eat, and I can rest easier knowing that the animal that gave it’s life for my dinner was treated with respect and dignity; but at nearly 2x the cost of the standard chicken I cannot afford to do so all the time. I will usually opt for the certified organic chicken to split the difference but I truly would prefer to get the local bird.

This same type of dilemma occurs for everything you buy when you change your eating, The food that is good for you costs more than the food that is not. I understand the economics of it. It costs more to raise the animals/vegetables/unicorns with out antibiotics and growth hormones because there are less overall successes in the end than there are in the factory farmed varieties that are made bigger, and faster with the help of science, chemical voodoo and Brawndo. I just don’t like it, nor do I have to. I do however have to tolerate it.

So now my food costs 2x as much, my clothes have all had to be replaced , and I had to buy a new suit. My wallet is sore, it has been taken to the woodshed and beaten within inches of it’s life. What’s a guy to do.

What’s your opinion? Tell me your thoughts.

Rob

On Losing Weight, Dieting, and My General Lunacy.

Hey Look It’s Me

Early in September 2010 I made a decision; I decided that I was getting too old to be fat. I could be fat, or I could be 40, not both. Since I haven’t figured out how to stop the march of time, I was left with only one path. I was about to turn 39 and weighed in at about 325 pounds. I had been half-heartedly been dieting whittling my weight down from an all-time high of 390 pounds. In 2008 I had dropped from 390 to 340 in a few months and kind of stalled out. I would lose a pound or two here and there but it took me another year to get to 325.  So that fateful September, I decided that I needed to stop dieting. Yes I said stop dieting. Dieting had done nothing but put me on a rollercoaster ride of losing and gaining weight, what I needed was a lifestyle change. Anyone who has dieted before knows how hard it is to stay on it, well it’s just as hard (if not harder) to alter the way you think about life and food.

I had already joined a gym and was going on a regular basis; doing all the same old routines I had done in high school and seeing little in the way of results (they didn’t work that well back then either). So I decided that I needed to find some tools to help supplement my quest for a healthier me. I wandered about the various exercise websites, and looked at all of the “weight loss by buying specialized food” sites and wasn’t getting much in the way of inspiration. I decided to see what was available in the Android Market on my phone. I typed in exercise and found a few apps that looked like they may hold promise. I searched on weight loss and found a few more apps that looked like they may be a decent resource. I installed a few different apps and saw nothing that I hadn’t seen in countless other places, that is until I loaded up MyFitnessPal. This application had a hook, it was tied to a website (http://www.myfitnesspal.com) that had a social aspect to it. You could find like-minded individuals who were willing to offer encouragement and were able to relate with your struggles.

(Me in December of 2010)

(A simple Comparison Picture)

I joined MyFitnessPal.com on September 13th 2010 weighing 325 pounds. I was determined to make a go of it and try for a big number. I wanted to lose 100 pounds by the time I turned 40. That gave me just over a year to get my butt whipped into shape and hit my target. Was it a foolish goal? Probably. Would it take determination, will power and a complete change of mindset to make it? Definitely. So I proceeded to use the website to set my goal weight. I chose 220 pounds and it asked me a few questions about my lifestyle. Based on my goal and my lifestyle (sedentary) it set my calorie intake and expenditure goals for me. OK now I had a plan and goal just like many other times before, but this time I had a weapon to help me.  By tracking the food I ate with the application on my phone, I soon learned I ate a lot more than I thought I did. A WHOLE LOT MORE. The first week of being on MFP,  I didn’t not make my calorie intake goal once. I did learn that I ate on average about 3500 calories a day and only expended about 2200 a day (not counting workouts). That meant 1300 calories in excess each day, well no wonder I didn’t succeed all those times before. This was a game changer. I knew what I needed to do straight away. The second week I made my goal every day, coming in below it by a few calories a few times. Progress at last; small steps to be sure, but progress none the less. For the first couple of months I relied on the machines I was using for cardio and the built in numbers on the MFP web site to tell me the calories I was burning (both of which, while helpful, are not accurate). I was losing weight, I averaged about 2 pounds a week; not too shabby. I was well on my way; If I could maintain 2 pounds per week I would make my goal with time to spare. I bought a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and started using that to chart my calorie burns. I would take what the machine said I burned add what the HRM said and average them out. Then I would subtract my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to get the approximate total burn for each workout. Yet another reason to use a smartphone, I needed to do math at the gym. In the old school days I would carry a little notebook and chart what workouts I did. These days my notebook is a phone and it charts the exercise, they calories burned, my calories exerted,  and keeps me in touch with a community of people all struggling with the same problem I am (a definite trade out from the old spiral).

I have a routine now too, just like the old days; only it’s a bit different. I work out 4 days a week. I start each day with the same breakfast (pretty much without fail). I find that the consistency helps me. What do I eat for breakfast you ask?
1 pure protein bar (usually Chocolate Deluxe)
1 Multivitamin
24 ounces of water

Yep that’s it; that is breakfast. I have snacks throughout the day the first one at about 9 am every day. Anyway back to the workout routine. As I said, 4 days a week. I workout onTuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday I start out with chin-ups and Dips 30 of each then it’s cardio time I run. I used to walk, then I jogged, now I run. I average about 7.3 mph for 30 minutes. I use a machine called an Incline Trainer made by Freemotion. It allows me to run a course that varies from 3 degrees to 30 degrees of incline. That’s right I run on 30 degree incline for part of my workout. Typically the course keeps you at a level for 1 minute then changes. The constant change in incline keeps your body from being too adjusted and it has to constantly recalibrate itself. This leads to big burns for me ion the calorie department.  After the Incline trainer I move on to another machine (crazy I know) made by Precor it’s a 546i Crossramp. It’s like an elliptical but without moving arms, and the ramp goes between 1 degree and 20 degrees of inclination. Yep you guessed it. I run a course that varies on this one too. 30 minutes at about 6.5 mph. I don’t burn as many calories on it but it works all the muscles of your legs throughout the workout.

On Saturdays I add weights. 30 minutes of weight training, plus an additional 30 minutes on the Incline Trainer. So that’s about 10 miles of running on ever changing courses plus weights. Saturday is my big day I tend to burn about 2000 calories at the gym.

Sunday is strictly cardio. No chin-ups, No dips. Just running on the two machines.

I track everything I eat using MFP. I track all my exercise using MFP. MFP has kept me on my course (unlike this rambling story). MFP was the tool I used to make myself more accountable for the way I treated my body. It is that accountability that has made my dramatic weight loss possible. I know you’re wondering: “Did he lose the weight? Did he make his goal?”   Yes and Yes. I hit my goal on September 4th 2011, a full month before my target date. As of today I weigh 218 pounds. I am still working out like mad training for the Toughmudder 2012 (http://toughmudder.com ).   It’s a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by former special forces members. I have inspired my cousin too. He is going to participate in the mudder with me.

I guess what I really wanted to convey here was that it is possible. I lost over 100 pounds in under a year. The tools to help you are out there, and many like MFP are free, the only cost is your own motivation.  For better or worse I have changed my life, and my lifestyle. I eat better (for the most part), I exercise routinely, and I am maintaining my weight loss.  My next challenge; besides the Toughmudder? Getting this loose skin tightened up so I feel less like a shar-pei. That may take a while though.

Rob

Update: 6/22/2012 Just figured I would add a new picture

Me as of today

As of today I weigh 215 pounds. I currently wear a 34″ waist and a large shirt. I work out 4 days a week and limit the total amount of calories I eat per day to around 2200.

My Breakfast is still 24 oz water, a protein bar and a vitamin, but I have added glucosamine as a supplement as well.

I still log into MFP everyday, but I don’t always log my meals.  If you get on there feel free to request me as a friend. my userid is robrowald.

Descent into Madness – A poem

Attempt number two at getting back in touch with my creative side. I hope you enjoy it.

Descent into Madness

This is my descent into madness
It starts with grey
The thoughts
The day
The madness not rising but
The sanity draining away
Clarity receding
Giving way to the murkyness
Allowing the demons to show
Repeating the same actions
Expecting new results
Tunnel vision and lack of forethought
Dragging me down
Not willingly but not resisting either
This is how it begins…

On the subject of getting older or Rob grows up a little bit

As some of you know I have another birthday coming up soon. I will have survived 40 complete revolutions around a ball of gas bigger than myself on October 9th. In regards to this, I have been asked by several people if I intend to have a big shindig to celebrate this milestone.

My answer is always the same; I flatly say “No”. Why is that, you may be asking… Let me cast some illumination on the subject at hand for you. Growing up the way I did, holidays like Christmas were less than stellar events, with people fighting and walking and eggshells trying to avoid each other at all costs and birthdays were even worse. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a buzzkill, but to me personally birthdays are not that big of a thing.

I survived another 365 days living, what can be arguably called an easy 1st world life. Really, is it so much of an accomplishment to have survived this long in a place where food, shelter, medicine, and modern conveniences are readily available? Not really, now had I cured some disease, or developed some radical new way to solve a problem that plagues the world, I would have cause to celebrate, but merely surviving, that is no real reason for a big celebration.

I will however mark the occasion with quiet dignity, and perhaps spend time with a few chosen friends. I feel no need for gifts, as I can pretty much buy whatever I want for myself at this point in my life. If someone decides that they want to get me a gift, I will not refuse it, but there is no need to go out of your way to do such a thing. I’m just as happy to have your company as I am your tributes.

I know there are plenty of people who will not understand my stance on the subject, but I’m sure there are just as many who will just get it. My hope these days is that if someone wants to get my a gift make it a donation to a worthy cause in my name, or better yet, go out into our community and find a person who could use a hand up and help them out; no strings attached. A random act of kindness to a stranger in need would be just as good, if not better, as donating money to a cause in my opinion.

A few years back there was a movie called “Pay it forward”, while the movie itself was just OK, the subject matter was excellent. Now anyone that knows me can tell you that,  I don’t believe in many things that are intangible, but in the past few years I have really seen that our actions have consequences and what we do know will be reflected back at us in due time. Whether you want to call it karma, fate, serendipity, destiny, certainty of circumstance or kismet; the simple truth is what goes around comes around.

OK, I know it seems as I have veered off the tracks of the subject matter, but stay with me and you will see that we are indeed still on course. If I could have just one wish fulfilled on my or for my birthday it would be this:

For one day follow the advice of two fictional characters, Bill and Ted. As Abraham Lincoln said in the movie “These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which is as true today as it was in my time. Be excellent to each other.” I’m not going to attempt to dictate what that is to anyone. Everyone must decide, on their own,  what it means. For some it may be a simple act of kindness, for others it may mean going out of your way to help someone out. For some of the people out there simply saying thank you to someone for a change would qualify.

So there it is. I have laid it down. Will you pick it up? I don’t and most likely will never know, but I can say this: If just one person takes the initiative and decides to “Be Excellent” to someone else, it will come back to you. It may not be immediate, but be assured that making life, even the tiniest bit, more shiny for someone who is in a dark place is good for you. Try it some time, often, or even just once. The world will thank you in its own way.

Rob

A tech guy who is talking less and less about tech or How I’m trying to get back to things I did in college

Hey Look It’s Me

Yeah you read that right, As of late I have found myself thinking less and less about tech items. Now don’t get me wrong, I still like electronic toys. I have multiple DishNetwork receivers, 2 Logitech Revues, a Meraki cloud controlled wireless access point, a Xoom tablet, and Android phone and a bevy of other items that I use on a regular basis. I like my toys, and I like computers and networking but I  like not using them as much these days too. Unless I am playing a game or having to VPN into work to fix things, I rarely pick up my laptop anymore. If I need to surf the web I tend to use my tablet or my Google TV unit and that’s just peachy.  I have a smartphone because work pays for it, if they didn’t I would probably go back to a dumbphone.

Where the biggest fundamental shift has been is in the tech prognostication arena. I used to keep abreast of everything that was being discussed, thought about, tested, manufactured, and what have you. I used to be the go to guy for what the next big trend in IT was going to be for many people, but in the last few years I have noticed that I have, by and large, become less interested in the “what’s next”. I’m not sure if I’m burned out, jaded, tired, or just genuinely disinterested but the “tech future” area of my brain is getting smaller and smaller. It may be because I have made a few changes in my life, including more physical activity, and eating better.

I find that instead of  thinking about technology as much I am instead thinking about outdoor adventures; things like hiking, camping and as of late The Tough Mudder 2012 that I am going to attempt. I find that I think about places I could go for these activities instead of thinking about things that would keep me inside. Mind you my wife wouldn’t believe any of this, because of all the tech related items that float around our house, due to me being a beta tester for a few different companies, but I swear its true.

For years I would go to bed and have blissfully dreamless sleep. close my eyes and fade to black. I would awake refreshed but it would literally be as if I just closed my eyes. Time was instantly passed with no sense of time gone. In the last 6 months or so I have noticed that I remember dreaming. I rarely retain what I was dreaming about for more than few seconds but it’s a start. When I was a kid I would have very vivid and often times lucid dreaming sessions. I am hoping that those days return. I cannot say with certainty what is causing the shift in my neural activity but I honestly think it has more to do with my physical activity levels these days.

So it appears, from my perspective, that the increase in physical activity/fitness has made my brain stop thinking/caring as much about tech and in turn made me think more about more physical activity and creative things again. Sure the change has been slight in the grand scale of things but a change is a change none the less. I have recently began to think about writing poetry and short stories again. I have even toyed with the notion of trying to get back into doing art again. I could be completely off base here, it may have absolutely nothing to do with the lifestyle change. It may be caused by changes that come with getting older. Who knows, certainly not me, but I’m going to ride this out and see where it takes me.  So if you happen to follow me on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter you may notice less and less tech talk then again you may not. Only time will tell.

Rob

SOciopath – a poem

I used to do art work, not paintings, or sculpture. but odd prints made with turpentine and photocopies transferred to canvas or paper. I used to write poetry, quite a bit. Then I stopped doing all things creative and I’m not entirely sure why. I have a couple of hundred poems in various degrees of completeness in many notebooks, on scraps of paper, and rattling around in the chaos that is my mind. A couple of years back, my wife took a lot of time to transcribe all my scribblings into a compiled word document, which I’m sure took her quite a long time because of the voluminous amounts of verbiage, compounded by my horrible handwriting.

I was sitting at my desk today during lunch (thanks to crummy weather) and decided to try and write a poem. it’s similar in vein to many of my older works, but is heavily influenced by the fact that The Hollywood Undead were playing on Slacker, and I watched two episodes of Dexter last night. It is by no means complete, but it is what it is; me dipping my toe back into the creative waters.

Without further adieu, I present SOciopath (yep the o is supposed to be capitalized)

When you look do you see me
The real me
the one with the empty eyes, barren soul
the one who is callus and apathetic
the one I protect not
The me I project
the one with all the answers
the one with the confidence
the one who cares about the trivial little things in your life
The razor barbed nerves frayed and frazzled or
the charming gent who has you dazzled
SO
When you look do you see me
or who you want me to be

I am a modern day caveman

Hey Look It's Me

So I have been hitting the gym pretty hard as of late and I stopped today and looked at my feet after working out. I mean I really looked at them. Feet are pretty ugly to begin with; I mean I know they serve a very specific purpose and all, but seriously my feet are more akin to what you would imagine Neanderthal man to have not a modern 21st century hominid. Anyway back to the issue at hand. I was looking at these ugly appendages at the end of my legs and you know what; my second & third toes on each foot are bruised under the toenail (yeah pretty gross I know).
I think this is due to the fact that I run more on my toes/ball of my foot than on my heel. This is ironic because I walk just the opposite. All my shoes that are just daily wear types have the heels worn down, my gym shoes have the fronts worn down. What the heck is up with that. First off Who expects a 270# guy to run on the balls of his feet, second of all why is it that I appear to be the only person at the gym that does this? Is it weird that I run this way? Is this also a throwback like my over sized suborbital ridge (again very Neanderthalesque). Come to think of it I’m a bit more like a caveman and less like a modern human in a few ways…
1.)  I have what I call gorilla arms; my arms are long. No really they are long, bordering on freakishly long. I’m 6’3″ tall and I have arms that are 39.5″ long. I have trouble finding shirts with long sleeves because my arms are so long.
2.) Hair: Not only do i have very rough/course hair on my face and head (think bristle brush), I’m covered in hair, granted I’m not as hairy as some other people out there, but I have been shaving since about age 12. Oh sure it’s all cool to be the first of your friends to shave, but not when you have to shave 2x a day. Granted since I have gotten older the rate at which the hair grows has slowed down and I have gotten more lax about the frequency at which I shave but I bet I could still shave 2x a day.
3.) The afore mentioned suborbital ridge: That’s right ladies, I know you’re probably thinking to yourselves “He’s quite the looker.” on top of the last two wonderful items, I have a hard bony ridge in the place where normal people have eye brows. Now this is not to say that it sticks out freakishly or anything; it’s just a bit more pronounced than what most people I know have. I have a thick skull in both the literal and figurative senses. I could do some serious damage If i headbutted someone.
4.) Feet: Yep we’re right back where we started. If you were to look down at my feet you’d swear I walked around barefoot in a gravel pit all day. My feet are wide, flat and rough. I’m the kind of guy who can walk across gravel and not really notice that pointy piece that always seems to poke you in the arch. I went and used that Dr. Scholl’s foot analyzer thing and it said I needed the CF440. For those of you not in the know; Dr. Scholl’s has placed these foot analyzer devices in various stores to help you determine what kind of shoe insert you required to help keep your feet from aching at the end of the day.  Mine is the CF440: for flat feet, with a low arch, that hit the heel and ball of the foot. this brings us full circle to my original issue: my poor toes
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can do to help my toes out? obviously I’m not going to stop running but maybe someone has some tricks/tips to lessen the damage I’m doing to my toes. I’m all ears.

A philosophy I can get behind (for the most part)

As most of you know, I am not a religious man at all. I have my own belief system that is based on what I have learned about the world and the people in it over the course of my life so far. When I was younger and far less intelligent I was a militant ass; much more intolerant and therefore far less tolerable to be around. You could say I was a complete shit, and I would not have cause to correct you, as it is unfortunately true.

I have since grown older, wiser*, softer, and some would say more apathetic towards most everything in general. This has made me realize a few things; one being everybody needs a philosphy that they can subscribe to (even if very loosely), so if you are in between belief systems or even if you are not, I encourage your to read the following short list and see if you can use it until you find something better/more fitting to your life style. This is by no means me trying trying push anything on anyone. On the contrary, I found this and thought I would share it with you: my captive audience of relatives, acquaintences, friends, Romans, and countrymen.

I cannot take credit for what your are about to read but I think (for the most part) it is a good set of ideals. Feel free to substitute any of the diety specific references for your own higher power icon. There is a link at the bottom to the originating website if you are so inclined, if not, that’s just peachy as well.

The church of the Flying Spaghetti Monsters Eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts”

1. I’d really rather you didn’t act like a sanctimonious holier-than-thou ass when describing my noodly goodness. If some people don’t believe in me, that’s okay. Really, I’m not that vain. Besides, this isn’t about them so don’t change the subject.

2. I’d really rather you didn’t use my existence as a means to oppress, subjugate, punish, eviscerate, and/or, you know, be mean to others. I don’t require sacrifices, and purity is for drinking water, not people.

3. I’d really rather you didn’t judge people for the way they look, or how they dress, or the way they talk, or, well, just play nice, okay? Oh, and get this into your thick heads: woman = person. man = person. Samey = Samey. One is not better than the other, unless we’re talking about fashion and I’m sorry, but I gave that to women and some guys who know the difference between teal and fuchsia.

4. I’d really rather you didn’t indulge in conduct that offends yourself, or your willing, consenting partner of legal age AND mental maturity. As for anyone who might object, I think the expression is “go f*** yourself,” unless they find that offensive in which case they can turn off the TV for once and go for a walk for a change.

5. I’d really rather you didn’t challenge the bigoted, misogynistic, hateful ideas of others on an empty stomach. Eat, then go after the bastard.

6. I’d really rather you didn’t build multi million-dollar synagogues / churches / temples / mosques / shrines to my noodly goodness when the money could be better spent (take your pick):

Ending poverty

Curing diseases

Living in peace, loving with passion, and lowering the cost of cable

I might be a complex-carbohydrate omniscient being, but I enjoy the simple things in life. I ought to know. I AM the creator.

7. I’d really rather you didn’t go around telling people I talk to you. You’re not that interesting. Get over yourself. And I told you to love your fellow man, can’t you take a hint?

8. I’d really rather you didn’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you are into, um, stuff that uses a lot of leather/lubricant/vaseline. If the other person is into it, however (pursuant to #4), then have at it, take pictures, and for the love of Mike, wear a CONDOM! Honestly, it’s a piece of rubber. If I didn’t want it to feel good when you did it I would have added spikes, or something.

http://www.venganza.org/

*this is a matter of opinion, and surely up for debate

My tribute to John Hughes Via “Dogma” and Kevin Smith

Bethany: McHenry is pretty far from Jersey, might I ask what brings you guys to Illinois?
Jay: Some fuck named John Hughes.
Bethany: “16 Candles” John Hughes?
Jay: You know him too? That fucking guy. Made this flick “16 Candles” right? Not bad it’s got tits in it, but no bush. Of course Ebert over here don’t give a shit about that stuff cause he’s all in love with this John Hughes guy and rents every one of his movies. Fucking “Breakfast Club” all these stupid kids actually show up to detention, fucking “Weird Science” where this one chick wants to take off her gear and get down, but aw, no she don’t cause it’s a PG movie, and then there’s “Pretty In Pink” which I can’t watch with this tubby muthafucker any more, because everytime we get to the part where the red head hooks up with her dream guy, he starts sobbin’ like a little eight-year-old with a skinned knee and shit. And nothing is worse then watching a fat man weep.  See, all these movies take place in a small town called Shermer, in Illinois, where all the honies are top-shelf, but all the dudes are whiny pussies – except for Judd Nelson, he was fuckin’ harsh – but best of all, there was no one dealin’, man; then, it hits me: we could live like phat rats if we were the blunt connection in Shermer, Illinois. So we collected some money we were owed, and we caught a bus. You know what the fuck we found out when we got there? There is no Shermer in Illinois. Movies are fuckin’ bullshit.


One of my favorite poems…

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

The Beginning

Another bright IdeaIn the beginning, the was nothing and nothing was good.
Then came something, it wasn’t much of anything but it was something, and suddenly nothing wasn’t good enough anymore because everyone knows that when you get something from nothing it only leads to more things.
Then like clock work something else came from the something that so abruptly appeared in the nothing.
So we had nothing, then something, then something else, what was next?
Well everything of course, if you have nothing and then something, and then something else again, the only logical step is everything
We had nothing and nothing was good
When we had something and suddenly nothing wasn’t good because something supplanted it and something was good
Then we had something else which in turn took over the spot that something (and nothing before it) had occupied
Then we got everything, and everything that was anything prior to everything’s arrival was rendered worth nothing (remember when nothing was all we had and nothing was good).
Suddenly Everything was good and Nothing was bad, and Something, well something just wasn’t good enough.
We should have been happy with nothing, but no we had to have something, then we had to have something else, which only led us astray with the temptation of having everything, and look where that got us.