Monthly Archives: October 2014

About the Halloween leftovers


If you lead a Chris to candy, you don’t have to make him eat.

And if you’re like me, you’ll have a crapload of leftover candy tomorrow. And that crapload is the start of the fall and winter salute to sugar. Think of it–first you have the leftover Halloween candy. Then, boom, it’s Thanksgiving, which means pie. Then it’s Christmas party after Christmas party, followed by Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Then there’s football parties, Girl Scout cookies, and St. Patrick’s Day, and finally Easter.

It’ll be May again before the glacier of bad food (well, good-tasting bad food) melts away.

What’s a guy or gal to do?

Here are some strategies for coping:

  • Get rid of the leftovers. If you have individually wrapped candy, take them to work, or church, or to an assisted-living facility. Find someone you know with discipline, who won’t blow through them in the next 15 minutes. Or throw them out, even.
  • Find an article of clothing you want to get into and magnet it to the fridge. Granted, there are drawbacks here. I’m a tall guy so those pants? They’ll look stupid hanging from the fridge. And sometimes the clothing is something that would show off your new, toned body in ways that aren’t appropriate for that particular room. So maybe post a picture of you in the skinny jeans. Or a picture of them from a website or catalog.
  • Stock healthy alternatives. This might work for you, but I struggle with it. I have healthy alternatives, but if there’s cake on the counter and broccoli in the fridge–well, you know what wins. Maybe you will do better than me. I challenge you.
  • Find someone to keep you honest. In Alcoholic Anonymous, you have a sponsor, someone you can turn to when the pressure gets too much. Find someone to fill that role, someone who can help you get past those moments of weakness.
  • Plan your moments of weakness. If you allow yourself, say, Thanksgiving Day to have whatever you want, it might help you get past the urge to go nuts the rest of the time. You can enjoy the food with everyone else, then get right back on board the next day.
  • Eat before you leave. If you’re going to a party where you know there will be good-tasting food that you’ll lose your discipline over, eat before you leave. That can help you regulate the amount you eat when you get there.
  • Be kind to yourself, but firm. If you stumble, if you fall off the wagon, it’s not the end of the world. Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. A day, or even a few days of cheating doesn’t undo a longer period of time of not cheating. But find a way to get back on the wagon and follow through. Use your accountability partner to help.

If you’ve successfully run this gauntlet before, what’s worked for you?

It’s not about weight

I don’t like The Biggest Loser. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a month or however long it is to do nothing but work out under the supervision of a successful personal trainer and eat right. I’d even be okay with Jillian yelling at me because it would kind of motivate me. (She’s not on any more, though.)

Yeah, bring it, Jillian.

But that show isn’t for me; it’s for people who are terrified to work out and who carry a ton of problems in addition to bad nutrition and a sedentary life style.

There’s a lot of problems with the program. Many of the contestants, without the structure of the ranch on which the compete or a fitness-industry job, gain a lot of the weight back. (In fairness, it looks like a lot of the winners have done okay, but not all.)

Which brings me to the topic of the post: It’s not about the weight.

A couple years ago, I did something called the Beachbody Ultimate Reset–three weeks of extreme clean eating. I learned a ton about eating well. And when I got done, I’d dropped 17 pounds to 219, the least I’d weighed since college. Since then, my weight has gradually crept up until I topped 250 this spring. It wasn’t the exercise that caused the weight gain. It was the food choices. For me, I knew I had to do better.

So I focused on the food. And for about 90 days, I was incredibly good. I’ve backslid a little since then, but by focusing on the choices I’ve made, rather than the weight, I’ve been able to fit back into the clothes I was wearing right after the reset. (Note: I did finally weigh myself and I weigh a little more than I did then, but I’ve also added muscle.)

When I had my physical this year, the doctor was on me about my weight. I contentedly told him that I was focusing on exercise and making better food choices, and that the weight would come. (He wasn’t impressed; I didn’t care.)

The trick isn’t to lose massive amounts of weight. It took a long time for you to get where you are–let it take time to get back. More important than the scale is your ability to create a plan that works for you and covers the ups and downs of daily life. It’s not how much weight you drop; it’s how you react to the holidays or to that stressful project that work (the one that had you single-handedly adding to the chocolate shortage). It’s how you handle a drive from work to an after-work activity when there are eleven trillion fast food options on the way. It’s about finding a way to work in an exercise program that works for you.

The weight is a symptom of your choices. It helps you keep score about your progress. But it’s not your success or your failure. It naturally follows what you choose to do.


You might *not* be okay, but you are powerful and that’s enough

There’s a loosely defined movement afoot, evident in Facebook memes and occasional content from places like Upworthy that says you, no matter what, are okay. You are no less of a woman (or man, for that matter) because of <insert choice or characteristic here>.

And I get it. In a world where girls start thinking about body image when they should be thinking about kittens and bunnies, something’s profoundly broken.

Disclaimer: Before you read on, this is not a post that harps on laziness or moral inferiority. I promise not to make you, your friends, or anyone else feel bad about who you are and how you are. Quite the opposite. You are powerful and that’s better than being okay.

I might have pushed 300 at my highest weight. I was profoundly unhappy, umimaginably unhappy. I can’t imagine being as unhappy as I was. No one could stand that, and I was no exception. I self-medicated with spiced gum drops, anything else with sugar, and enough beer to fill Lake Superior. I stayed away from people–including my family–because no one wants to be around anyone that unhappy.

I couldn’t walk up stairs because the weight hurt my knees. I couldn’t get on the floor. And given my family medical history, I was building a wonderful platform for and early death.

And I didn’t care.

The worst possible thing anyone could have said to me was you are dandy just the way you are.

I wasn’t. I had chosen to be an overweight, massively unhappy guy.

Hey, dude, way to victim shame. And thanks for making me feel so crappy about my supposed problems.

That’s not victim shaming. That’s an acknowledgement of my power. I chose to be that person. There were a plethora of extenuating circumstances, some of which are decades old and some of which I’m still working through. But I chose to be that guy.

And that meant I could make different choices and become a different guy.

You have no idea what you’re talking about. If it was as simple as making a better choice, no one would be in that position. Just stop.

I didn’t say it was easy. I had to look at ugly pieces of myself and accept them if I wanted to change them. I had to stop blame other people–in fact, put away blame altogether. I had to access where I was and where I wanted to be. I had to look hard at myself and my relationships. It was, and is, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

There’s nothing easy about making a better choice.

Okay, you’ve convinced me a little. But where do you come off saying other people are unhappy? 

If you’re happy, this isn’t for you. But Gumdropfest 2009 wasn’t a celebration of the wonder of Chris. I think a lot of people are unhappy and looking for external things to change that. The good news is, the changes required can come from within.

You are worth far more than living a hollow life of unhappiness. You deserve more than simple existence until you die. You aren’t of use to anyone (including yourself) if you think you’re useless. If you’re so inclined, you’re basically telling God his creation–at least a tiny piece of it–is hopelessly flawed and that you’re a better judge of shitty than he is.

Awesome, now I feel like crap again. Thanks for harping on how useless I am. Way to motivate, genius.

So you’re unhappy. What of it? It’s a simple fact–like it’s raining outside or the sky is blue. You can use that as another reason to pile more dirt on your grave, to bury yourself alive. Or, you can accept it, decide you want more, and decide to go after it.

How do I do that?

For me, on the weekend before Memorial Day 2010, I chose to walk five miles. That was the first step. I’ve also had some uncomfortable conversations with people, including a licensed professional. I’ve worked my ass off to choose a different me.


I’ve been kicked in the balls (figuratively) by people who didn’t see that I wasn’t that miserable guy any more (yet). I’ve been manipulated by people who were better served by my believing in my uselessness and stupidity. I’ve screwed it up and doubted my ability to do anything right, let alone something hard and worthwhile like changing myself. I’ve thought change was impossible, and sometimes that made it worse.

Wow. Way to make your case. At least now, I’m unhappy and I accept that. I can’t manage worse.

I didn’t finish. I’m not where I want to be, but so far it’s been worth all the toil and all the self-doubt.

I have wonderful relationships now with people who had no use for me then. I contribute and I add value and I can fit in pants I would have worn in high school. (Sorry ladies, I’m married.)

By acknowledging that I’m responsible for who and what I am, I also acknowledge that I can change all that. I’m not okay. I’m not even good enough. It’s not that I suck–I don’t (hint: neither do you, though you may not see that right now). I don’t want okay or good enough, anyway. I only go around once, so I want more than that.

Working toward being that person is a powerful and life-changing thing. It’s better than being okay just the way you are now–if you want more than that.

Fitness, nutrition, and…what else?

As I write this, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week. Not a day, mind you. A week. On top of a few weeks that have been less terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad–but the trendline’s been moving upward.

I kind of lost it this week.

Fortunately, I was able to get a reset. I went to a church group and listened way more than I spoke. But eventually I asked questions and one of the questions I asked was to be included in the prayer at the end.

And then I spent some time thinking about the circumstance and how I got there and decided part of the problem was me and that I needed to change my approach to things.

But I have more work to do.

I want to be happy. I’m happy about my fitness. I’m increasingly happy about the eating choices I make. But I want to be happy. Not just for a little while during a run, or if I’m working on a wonderful craft brew at the local brewpub (a wonderful thing about living here, now). I want happiness to be my base state.

That’s the third leg of the stool. Fitness, nutrition, and happiness. Or, if you prefer, fitness, nutrition, and spirit.

You can eat the right things and run your butt off. But there are amazingly unhappy people who do that. And chances are the fitness and nutrition won’t last if you aren’t happy. And for my money, if you’re happy, but you eat everything in sight and watch an average amount of TV or more, your happiness might eventually give way to health problems.

When I started this journey, it was about fitness. In the past several months, it’s been about fitness and nutrition. But to have the life I deserve, there’s more to it than that.

Insert mandatory Pharrell Williams video here.

A rotten day topped off by half a ton of m&ms

I ate them ALL.

There’s a lyric from an old eighties song that says She had a rotten day, so she hopes the deejay’s gonna play her favorite song.

We’ve all been there. Except at the end of the rotten day, you turn on your favorite station and find that the format changed and it’s now playing Korean love ballads. The song’s not available on Spotify and when you try to play it on YouTube, that little dot thing just spins like your dryer.

What do you do?

Personally, I’ve been known to inhale the entire candy aisle at Publix, but that’s just me. Or, if I’m looking to spend a little less, they serve you free chips and salsa at the bar at Chili’s. And unlike the candy aisle, you can get a vat of beer there, too.

Whatever it is, I do it. You do it. Everyone does it.

They’re called comfort foods for a reason and they typically aren’t leafy greens (though frozen blueberries can work in a pinch).

There’s a problem with comfort foods and trying to change your body and accomplish things. Whatever things made your day stinky are now multiplied that you ate a bunch of stuff you swore you weren’t going to eat. This time…this time…you were going to do better.

And you couldn’t even manage that.

So what? Go to bed and know that there’s another day tomorrow. And if you screw that up, there’s another day after that.

If you’ve started to eat better, eventually, you’ll get back to that. And while you’re mowing through the m&ms, maybe get a book that helps you work through stress using better coping mechanisms.

Or try the frozen blueberries.

Change in weather? Change your workout!

The weather is changing.

Here in the Humidity State, that means we won’t have to immediately do laundry on returning home from running (lest the bedroom smell like the inside of your sneaker). Up north, it means the sweaters start to make their way to the front of the closet and you check to make sure you know where the snow shovel and rock salt are.

Maybe it’s also time to change your workout routines.

Personally, I’ve done P90X3 all the way through and I’ve been working T25 and a little Insanity in my workout. They’re DVD programs–just pop them in and do what they do and you’re done. But I have to be honest–you can only listen to Tony Horton’s jokes so long before wishing to work out yourself to death.

Now that it’s cooler, it’s time to move the workout outside. Down here, the cooler weather is a slice of heaven, at least for me. If nothing else, the runs and the other outside work are different–and different is good.

If you’re up north, maybe it’s time to find a gym and use some of their machines or classes. Or maybe it’s time to get some DVDs or other programs you can do inside. (Though personally, I love running when it’s really cold out. I feel like I could go forever.)

The point is, if you’re working out, changing things up when the weather changes can help you beat boredom and train different parts of yourself. It’s a great opportunity.


You have to make time for games

A few weeks ago after a work event, we went to a local beverage-serving business (wink, wink) and played Jenga. It wasn’t Jenga the way you know it. It was Jenga where the game pieces were made of 2x4s. Giant Jenga. Big-as-my-butt Jenga.

With regular Jenga, the stakes aren’t very high. You pick the wrong one and the worst thing that happens is you have to help rebuild the tower. With big-as-my-butt Jenga, when you lose a game, the resulting collapse can wake the dead and register on the Richter scale. Put another way, you don’t stand next to the tower when it wasn’t your turn.

The best thing about big-as-my-butt Jenga was that it was fun.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to lose–which I did twice. But I didn’t mind that much. I played with two other people and we all thoroughly enjoyed stacking the blocks two-thirds of the way to the ceiling.

Even losing was fun.

Today with email and projections and objectives and deadlines and goals, sometimes fun is a treated as a luxury. It’s something you can do when you’re far enough ahead that it won’t look bad. It’s something for off hours, maybe something you do when the kids are asleep and the dishes are washed and the bills are paid–which should give you maybe 56 seconds before it’s bed time, so you can get up and do it again.

In the past few weeks, a Facebook friend–someone I didn’t know–died of cancer. The husband of someone I worked with for an organization I’m in also died of cancer. Jeremiah Healy killed himself. And a woman I work for is still battling brain cancer.

It’s given me pause to think about priorities.

Sure, work’s important. In my belief system, the master invited his servant to enter into his joy after the work was done. But that doesn’t mean the work can’t be fun.

Life is the longest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s still pretty short. The seconds are numbered and your allotment could be used up at any time. Existence is a precious and finite thing.

Even more, look at the people who excel, the ones you look up to. Tell me they don’t have fun at their work. Tell me there isn’t joy.

It’s not going to be there every second. It might be a rare and precious thing for you. But at the end of your life, you won’t wish you’d treated more things like grave matters of earth-shattering importance.

Have some fun. It makes everything else easier.

To those starting out, I salute you!

A recent Facebook post started with “To the fatty running on the Westview track this afternoon…” There’s an image of the post below (language warning).

I get excited every time I get to There’s something you should know. It’s awesome. And exciting.

I see people like that a lot. Usually they’re out in the afternoon, when it’s hot.  When the fit people are done for the day. They’re often on sidewalks, rather than tracks or bike paths. They move at a slow pace and are completely soaked with sweat.

Fitness is a habit for me–a life style. It takes no more courage for me to do that than to take a shower. It’s just something I do.

But what you’re doing takes courage. It’s scary and full of risk. What if people think I’m a big fat fatty who ought to just sit on the couch and eat something? What if I look stupid, like a big beached whale? Holy crap, I’m going slow and it’s so hot out here…

Anyone who thinks you’re a big fat fatty who shouldn’t bother is an idiot. You’r going after it. You’re doing something hard to change your life.

You’re doing something I did in the spring of 2010.

I walked, couldn’t even consider running. My thighs looked like overstuffed sausages. I did that then, so I could do a hardcore work out this morning.

I admire the hell out of 2010 me. I admire you, too.

Nice. Freaking. Work.

Please don’t stop. Keep at it, I guarantee you’ll see awesome things you thought were impossible.

You have value and are worth the effort

One of the things that has inspired me through my fitness journey–and now my nutrition journey–is the Bible verse that says that my body is a temple of the Lord. Actually, it’s two verses, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

So not only are you going all Jesus on me, you’re using a verse that says God owns me and I suck if I don’t take care of my body. Nice work.

Well, stick with me here, because it all works out–and the point applies even if you don’t believe in God or Jesus.

The verse doesn’t say you were bought at a price, and you suck if you eat french fries. It simply says you were bought at a price. In the context of Christianity, it’s a high price (the death of Jesus). No translation follows that up by saying that God got shafted. The overall point is that you are valuable.

I’m not a fan of the reworking of the Catholic Mass that includes the words “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” The Biblical scholars behind the NCV (New Chris Version) have translated that to, “I suck, I suck, I really, really suck.”

In the history of creation, no one ever improved by concentrating on how much they suck.

So if your body is valuable, if you are valuable, you aren’t something to be thrown away. You are worth trouble and working for. There is something you bring to the table that no one else possibly can.

Through my journey, fitness and nutrition have helped me to understand that.

You don’t suck. You are valuable. And whether the effort is fitness, nutrition, or something else, you are worth it.

…and I was grateful

There’s an old Bill Cosby routine where he talks about his grandparents. One of the quotes is, “My father walked to school 4 o’clock every morning with no shoes on, uphill, both ways, in 5 feet of snow and he was thankful.”

When Little House on the Prairie came on, my father watched it and, just before Christmas, told us how the Ingalls children got a stick and a rock and a piece of candy, or some such for Christmas. And the pretty one was blind. And they were all thankful.

I hated it.

The reason the Cosby joke is funny is because no one likes to be told about something bad and then told the person going through it was thankful. (You think you got it bad? I became a Cubs fan in 1907 and every year since, 107 baseball seasons, they’ve failed to win anything. But I was thankful. Yeah, right.)

Except there’s something to it. I’ve noticed on Facebook that people are taking a gratitude challenge. I’ve been doing something like that myself, inspired by the writer Pari Noskin Taichert, who’s been through some crap, and has still managed to post almost 500 things she’s grateful for.

Gratitude isn’t about making it fun and happy that you had to walk through snow to school. It’s not about your team losing every year since Teddy Roosevelt was president. It’s not making happy noises about job loss or cancer or your life crumbling around you.

It’s about rolling with all that stuff, acknowledging it, but not letting it define the rest of your life.

There’s something good in every bad day. This album probably isn’t it.

Find something about your life that’s good and acknowledge it. Maybe it’s your workout or something new you tried to eat and liked. Maybe it’s that you have a loving spouse or that your health is pretty good. Maybe you can fit into those jeans in the back of the closet without your thighs looking like overstuffed sausages. Maybe it’s the way your child or grandchild’s hand feels when it wraps around your pinky.

Finding that one thing, even in a blizzard of crap, gives you something to hang onto. And that’s important, especially in a blizzard of crap.

And it makes all the rest of it easier.