Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Smoque to feed my Soul

Week Four at the new office, and I discovered to my absolute delight, Smoque has added a new location, just a few blocks away, at Chicago's Revival Food Hall.

From the Chicago Revival Food Hall's website -  "Operated by Chicago hospitality collective 16 On Center, Revival Food Hall is an all-local dining concept spotlighting the best of Chicago's acclaimed culinary scene under one roof. The massive, 24,000 square foot marketplace is located in the heart of Chicago's central business district, on the ground floor of The National – a restoration of a historic 1907 Daniel Burnham-designed 20-story building. This cornerstone of The Loop neighborhood opened in 2016, and boasts 15 fast-casual stalls featuring many of Chicago's favorite neighborhood restaurants in a grab-and-go setting, plus a handful of all-new concepts debuting from several acclaimed Chicago chefs."

Now, in my humble opinion, the Revival Food Hall is a really neat concept, but the reality is an absolutely miserable dining experience.  Tables are few & far between, as is any seating whatsoever.  People wait & argue over standing-space with tiny counters (much more narrow than the food trays), and Lord help you if you'd like napkins or silverware.  I wasn't expecting linen tablecloths & white-gloved wait staff, but your local high school cafeteria has a better ambiance.  At least they'd have seats.

...and for those "in the know", Smoque has, hands down, the best Q in the Chicagoland region.  Real Urban is "good", don't get me wrong, but it doesn't hold a candle to Smoque!  First featured on Food Network's 'Diner's, Drive-ins & Dives' a decade ago, Smoque has been doing it 'Low & Slow' since 2006, with no slack in quality.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Back at it

It pains me to write this, but it will explain my long absence:

I have gained back EVERY pound I lost in 2013-2015, and even gained a few extra.

I feel awful, and my "new" smaller clothes no longer fit. At 450lbs, my feet, ankles & back constantly hurt. My energy is terrible, and my sleep is light, fitful, and I wake up exhausted & aching.

I'm a real joy to be around...

It all came back shockingly quickly. I don't even know the last time I posted, nor do I know the last time I went to aqua fit or rode my bike.

I got laid off at the end of August, spent most of September terribly sick (walking pneumonia), and then October was miserable & rainy...and suddenly I found myself constantly short of breath & wearing stretchy pants.

Then, I had a series of job interviews, and last week I started a new job! This job is wonderful, checking 9/10 boxes I've long thought of as designating the ideal position for me.

...but my first day, I showed up out of breath & drenched in sweat. When I found my way to the lunchroom I was pleased to find it's run by the same company I got all my fantastic lunch salads back in 2013-2014.

Right then I decided to change.

Hell, I know what to do, right? I've run this playbook before, with GREAT success! The downtown walk is fabulous for me, the lunchroom salad bar is fantastic, and I'm an old pro at prepping my simple "grab & go" breakfasts ahead of time.

My complicating factors will be:

1. Having the willpower to weekly prep breakfasts & after school snacks (but I've done it before)

2. Having the willpower to make good choices at dinner (again, I've done this before)

3. Having the willpower to resist all the "kid food" in the house (don't kid yourself, The Struggle Is Real! This was my achilles heel 2016/2017)

4. Managing my sleep, the snoring, and the A-Fib it causes

5. Moving my fat butt

If I learned nothing last time, I learned that nothing succeeds like success. In the beginning I'll drop weight & need new pants, and everything will be fun & great. But eventually the losing gets thin, and it gets tough to see progress on a week to week basis. Honestly, I'm not sure how to power through that this time, I just know I can't go on like I am - so - dammit, I have to try. I may be on the cusp of 51, but I'm too damn young to feel the way I do!

Updates to follow - but in the meantime, the picture shows that I'm getting in the groove with my food.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Malaise, backsliding, and a few thoughts on turning 50

It's been more than 5 months since I've posted.  I've missed you, Internet, but I've not been in an awesome place.

I've backslid on my eating, drinking, and exercise habits, I've lost my sense of motivation, and generally I'm feeling  … blah …

Don't get me wrong - I'm not feeling "bad", I'm not in pain or feeling generally sick, or depressed, or anything like that.  I'm just not feeling excited, or motivated, or generally hopeful.   Turning 50 was a real bummer for me (First world problems, right?) Getting sucked back into the undertow of exhaustion & bad eating has been depressing.  The unending deluge of angry political mudslinging has been mentally exhausting.  Even my job has been incrementally stepping towards banality.  Thinking about cars & buying watches has been a fun distraction, but it doesn't create any real sense of purpose or drive.  I find myself feeling increasingly and irrationally angry at relatively inconsequential things.  I yell at traffic.  Almost every day I'll put off life's to-do list & unplug in front of the TV with comfort food & diet soda, and wake up the next day a little deeper in the hole I need to dig myself out of.  The beginning of Fight Club is starting to make way too much sense to me…

So, how do I break out of this malaise?  Recognizing it isn't too tough, but working up the intestinal fortitude & energy to actually do it seems nearly insurmountable.  Finding reasons that it'll fail, or be too hard is an all too easy habit to fall into, and it rapidly becomes our default mindset.  Friends & family will tell us to "just be happy", as if being fat with poor self-esteem & low energy is something one can just shrug off at will.  (Why is it always a skinny, happy person telling ME to be happy, like it's so self-evident that I must be brain damaged to need them to tell me something so obvious?)

Maybe it IS brain damage?

No, it's not like I hit my head, but in a way it might be worse.  After all, YEARS of telling yourself you can't do something is WAY more likely to hold you back than any actual physical shortcomings.  Creating & then reinforcing a mental pathway to malaise is incredibly easy to do – but once that mental pathway becomes HABIT … creating a new mental pathway is, quite literally, difficult & painful.  Reverting back to the comfortable mental route is like settling into one's favorite chair.

The thing is – I know exactly what to do.  There are just two problems.  It's hard, and it sucks!  The first, we all know:  This shit is seriously HARD.  A multi-billion dollar industry doesn't surround this because it's EASY.  Secondly?  We're fighting our DNA.  Don't tell me it's "just discipline", or I don't have the "willpower".  Every moment of every day we have to stand resolute against every fiber of our DNA, and it's damn exhausting.  (If it's easy for you, please thank your DNA & shut up)  The truth is, we are absolutely wired in our DNA to eat more & move less.  10,000 years ago, this drive caused us to survive.  In the 21st century though, it's killing us. 

Two years ago, I beat the odds.  I managed, for a short time (about 18 months) to shift my paradigm.  I started the Whole 30, and changed my entire damn life!  I started sleeping better, I lost weight effortlessly, I had enough energy that I WANTED to exercise, and I generally felt GREAT, with an awesome mental outlook on life.

So, what happened?

Well … "life" happened.  It was pretty easy when it was just me, on my own.  However, when my Fianc√© & I bought a house together, moved in & combined our lives (also adding her two kiddos into the mix), suddenly the algebra changed.  It was harder for me to find the time to shop & food prep, and I was constantly surrounded by kid food.   I still made generally good choices, but "carb creep" stalled my loss, and the plateau drained motivation & made the off-plan choices seem more reasonable somehow.  The constant to-do list of a freshly combined household made it tough to find time for activity.  I dropped my old gym, as it was now too far away, but the local gym just never resonated with me, and I lost my habit of Aqua Fit several times a week.   Little by little I gained back 90lbs over the course of a year.  Little by little my attitude lost altitude, and I created my own negative feedback loop.

So, how do I spin it back up?

It's too easy to just say "Just eat better & start going to the new gym".  Sure.  (And I'll also start saving for retirement & begin volunteering at the local soup kitchen in my spare time.)  Ugh.  Platitudes like "just eat less & move more" don't work – they never did (thus 30% of the population caught in this obesity epidemic), and they belittle the problem.

I know I'm in a negative head-space right now, and it's too easy for me to pick out all the reasons that make it hard, inconvenient, and likely to fail.  So, bear with me while I break it down:

·         I'm staring at a bag of Doritos on the kitchen counter every day.  No big deal, right?  (Just ignore it, fat-ass!)  However, we've learned in the last decade or so that the same mental pathways activate no matter what the addiction is – alcoholism, drug use – and yes, even food.  We'd be outraged if someone left booze on the kitchen counter of an alcoholic, and we need to use similar common sense with our food strategies.  So, our kitchen organization needs to be redone at every level:  the cabinets, the pantry, the fridge, and the freezers ALL need the chaos reigned in.  I could do it myself, but I can't irritate my wife like that, I need her buy-in & support.  I will broach the endeavor this weekend, but it's likely to be a tough conversation, as we have genetically dramatic different ideas of organization.

·         I have to exercise – not to burn calories, but to get the hormonal response.  The local gym just doesn't groove with me.  It'd be the easiest thing, but it just hasn't clicked.  Maybe I just need to force it for awhile?  Can you FORCE a habit?

·         Food sourcing / food prep – This was key to my success two years ago.  However, I'm not living alone anymore – I can't just figure out my dinner everyday & leave my wife out in the cold.  How to take care of myself, without forcing her into a lifestyle she didn't sign up for?  Maybe I'm overthinking it?  My weekday breakfast & lunches are independent, so our only overlap is dinner.  Dinner can easily be done together, mostly we just choose different sides.  Weekends are a-la-carte, anyway.

·         The daily schedule – I need to schedule an easily repeatable routine to get 10k steps & appropriate meals every day.  

o   I need to get up & walk the dogs every morning while my wife showers & gets ready for work.  This means I need to go to bed earlier, during the rare evening time when she & I get to actually hang out together.  This is tough.

o   Prepping my breakfast is easy, no real issues there, I just need to invest the pre-work.  Requires groceries (tougher), and Sunday prep-time.

o   Lunch is ok – most days at the office I can make a good salad bar choice, that was one of my keys to success two years ago.  Working from home is more of a challenge, perhaps I need to cut that down a bit?

o   My real challenge is afternoon / evening:  my wife doesn't get home until late, and she likes to eat even later (8:30-ish).  This causes two issues for me:  I'm hungry between 4pm & 6pm, so I'll eat something.  Then when my wife gets home, we eat again, so later when I go to sleep; I'm uncomfortable on an overly full belly.

§  So – how do I go from my 11am lunch to an 8:30pm dinner with no "4th meal" snack in the late afternoon?

§  I'll need a 3 point plan here:

·         Eat lunch later (1pm instead of 11:30)

·         4pm snack needs to be small in size, but include FAT, to be satiating

·         Dinner should be similar to 4pm meal

o   Evening dog walk – I'm bad about this, as I usually feel exhausted, but walking to dogs each night would be good for them / good for me.  Perhaps I should try walking them in the time between my after school snack & when my wife gets home – being "busy" will keep me from focusing on food.  (This might be a real win!)

·         Lastly, I need to be much more mindful of how I feed my soul.  My facebook feed has been an awful torrent of political sewage since November, and during Lent I discovered an improved personal outlook by not posting or re-posting things I found personally egregious.  But it's more than that, isn't it?  The constant deluge of gorgeous Instagram pictures will give anyone lifestyle insecurity, a dark FOMO, and likely cause you to feel your life doesn't measure up.  Everything we read, the books, the magazines, the blogs - it all adds up.  Add to that the music we listen to, the people (their attitudes, actually) we talk with, the nature (or lack) we see everyday - all of these things either feed our soul, or drain it.  All of this input can be incredibly positive, or it can lead to further discontent, darkness, & malaise.

So, let's re-cap.  I think I bitched my way into a recovery plan here!  Let's try it for the month of May (gives time to prep), and re-evaluate in a month.

1.       Before May 1st - Re-org the kitchen, hide trigger foods, create "on-plan zones"

2.       All of May - Force myself to attend the new gym, 3 times a week, for 30 days

3.       Weekly – get groceries, food-prep breakfasts & snacks

4.       Daily – Get up, walk dogs before shower

5.       Daily - Eat lunch later, at 1pm

6.       Daily - 4pm snack should be small but FAT

7.       Daily - Walk dogs between snack & dinner

8.       Daily - Go to bed earlier (10pm latest)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My '350 x 50' Challenge

Week Two of recommitment saw good, and much more realistic progress. 3 to 4 lbs per week weight loss is still a lot, but it's sustainable.

However, I have decided to throw-down the gauntlet and give myself a nice little challenge. I'm calling it "350 x 50", and it simply entails my fat butt hitting 350lbs by my 50th birthday, on Dec. 30th.

44 days to lose 33lbs. For the Mathematically challenged amongst us, that's 0.75lbs lost per day, or 5.25lbs per week.

That's a VERY aggressive goal.

To hit that, I'll need to step up my usual game, quite a bit! My usual "Eat Clean, 10k steps/day, 3 workouts/week" won't quite cut it. THAT plan only gets me 2 to 4 lbs lost each week.

So, the eating must change the most. I'll double-down, and go full-on low carb clean Paleo, AND eliminate one of my 4 daily meals. Next, let's add 1/3 to my daily steps for 13k. Finally, let's step up from 3 weekly workouts to 5 (that one may be toughest for me)

So, I still have a simple 3 point plan, I've only adjusted the fine points!

Additionally, I'm thinking it might be good to fully log my food intake & exercise output. Maybe even add a mid-week weigh-in? I'm not sure on those, as it ratchets up the PITA factor, but it may help keep me from going sideways.

Updates to follow...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 800

I started this journey Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014. It was the day after Labour Day, and I was trying this whole 'clean eating' thing in a desperate last-ditch attempt to turn my health around. 120 days later and I hit the New Year 60lbs down & feeling like a new man. A year ago I'd doubled my weight loss to 120lbs, and I felt better than I had at any point in the last two decades.

Then I had a year if plateau & gentle backsliding...

So, here we go! A week ago I had a one day pity-party & then I got back to work. Now, on day 800 of changing my life, I can say I'm back on-track. In the last week I lost NINE (9) pounds!

Now, I don't expect (or want) that level of loss to continue. A lot of that was just clearing out the crud & extra water. Next week will be tougher, BUT, this shows that I'm back on-track & moving in the right direction.

One step at a time, ten thousand steps a day...

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Day After

In 1976 my family was living in England while my father did an overseas assignment for Price Waterhouse, and generally speaking, it was great. We did an astounding amount of travel through Europe, usually in our overloaded Ford station wagon. We even got to take a VERY rare & hard to get one week trip to Russia (remember, this was the mid 70's, the height of the Cold War). Our parents wanted us to absorb as much of the culture as possible, so we visited every museum, castle, and scenic overlook in the UK. We even went to English Schools, and while my academic record suffered from that point forward, we were incredibly fortunate to have that opportunity. I'm convinced that it became the bedrock foundation of my having a wider view of the world. One of my earliest political memories is from November of that year, the first US election I was really aware of. The morning after, I was getting ready for school, and my Dad was watching the TV, wiping away tears. Jimmy Carter had just been elected.

I was 9 years old, and my father didn't really know what to say to me. I think it was a time of reckoning for Republicans. Watergate had left the entire Nation stunned, and while Gerald Ford pardoning Nixon had left a bad taste in the mouth, the Republicans still believed in their party. Their cause was worthy, Nixon had just been overzealous; and Ford was a loyal soldier. But when Jimmy Carter got elected, it was the entire Nation throwing it back in their face.

Today I watched the TV, and like many Americans I was dumfounded.


I honestly don't know what to say, and I have no idea how we got here. Sure, we can all say that the GOP isn't the party of Ronald Regan anymore (I always joke that I didn't leave the Republican Party, they left me); and the Heritage Foundation, once a true bastion of great thought & discourse is now just the Tea Party watchdog, funded by the Koch Brothers. The Tea Party poisoned the GOP, and in a TWO YEAR primary battle, the very best that this wild pack of retards could come up with was Donald Trump.

Shame on us.

Too many people today are saying how great it is that this will redefine the GOP and that NOW things will change. They are blithely accepting his racism, his misogyny, and his megalomania. He is an intellectual mediocrity, a xenophobe, and is (at best) morally ambiguous. He has no background, training, or preparation for this job we just handed him.

It's the hate that he spews that frightens me. More than that, it's the way his supporters embrace it. Middle aged white men came out in record numbers. They are calling it "White lash". Undereducated middleclass white men, afraid of women, minorities, foreigners, LBGT's, and the disabled. Fear & Loathing drove them to the polls, and Hatred won.

I have a very deep seated fear of this new groundswell, these people who like trump because "he says what everyone's thinking". No, not everyone is a fearful, racist misogynist. But now we know YOU ARE. Yes, those of you who voted for Trump, voted for Hate. Say all you want about changing things in DC – THAT IS BULLSHIT.

You just voted for hate.

Like my father before me, I don't know what to say to my kids. Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to my 8 year old step daughter's school for a Veteran's Day celebration where they ask us to stand up so they can thank us for serving. I served for many reasons, and while most of them were self-serving, we were taught that we were defending America & her Constitution. We were, in a way, defending the rights of those who disagree with us. We defend the rights of those who burn the flag. We defend the rights of those who disparage America & all she stands for. I was proud to serve, and I did it willingly.

…but today, I'm ashamed. We elected someone who has disrespected and insulted Veterans, POW's, and Gold Star Families. He espouses Hate.

"But Hillary is a liar and she's awful" they say. Disagree with me all you want. I'll fight to the death to defend your right to do so. Good & intelligent discourse is the forge upon which we hammer out our democracy.

…but you chose Hatred.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

A year ago, today

Some of you may have noticed I've not posted much lately. In fact, my last post was six months ago, and I've only posted a total of seven times this year. Four of those posts were "recommitting", and one was about heart trouble.

Not exactly a great year.

In fact - I've not been doing well. I'm stressed, I'm exhausted, and I've managed to kill each & every single good habit that I worked so damn hard to earn the last two years.

...and today, exactly one year from my historic low weight of the last 20 years, I stepped on the scale.

I have backtracked 79lbs. That's 6.5lbs a month, or EXACTLY the reverse progress of where I was two years ago.

I'm less than 60 days away from turning 50...and I'm just as fat and out of shape as I was when I turned 40. In fact, I'm just as fat & unhappy as when I turned 30! I'm still, twenty years later, so DAMN angry & frustrated that it makes me want to shake my fist at heaven & cry.

The worst part is that I have seen, felt, and tasted success. A year ago, I had the world by the tail, I had 14 months of STUNNING success behind me, and I felt like I'd solved the rubic's cube that had plagued me for two decades.

Ah, Hubris!

I'd "solved" nothing. I'd simply figured out how to get to the halfway point. I figured THAT out like a champ! The second half was a puzzle yet to be cracked, but it turned out to be the plateau that bit me in the ass.

You see, I'd figured out that nothing succeeded like success. Standing still sucked the motivation out if me, which caused a shockingly quick drop in motivation, which very quickly caused backsliding, which turned into a negative spiral in less time than it takes to find the next drive thru.

Add six months of life changing events, six months of sprinting through stress, six months of being too busy to 'really' pay attention, and I find myself the worst version of everything I hated about myself.

I no longer do Aqua Fit. I moved away from my old gym, where the great old instructor quit, anyway. The new gym is ... "new" ... an unknown quantity. No sense of comfort & familiarity there, and my old scheduled routine has been replaced with other bits of chaos that feel tougher to work around than they should.

I'm no longer riding my bike. My last two rides were July 6th & August 2nd. My finger got tired scrolling back further than that. I love riding my bike, but damn if the 'rush of life' hasn't drowned every last ounce of give-a-fuck.

I do still meet with the Trainer a few times a month, but with my base level of fitness dropping so precipitously, we're not lifting the weights I was so excited about, we're caught in the quagmire of basic core conditioning that I despise. Every week I'm a little worse, and every week I hate it more.

However, the real deal-breaker has been my damn diet. Nobody can out exercise a bad diet, and my old/fat ass certainly can't, either. The old sugar demons & rationalizations come roaring back, then the guilt & binge behavior rears it's head , and then we're back in an ugly place that nobody likes to talk about (but we all keep a Tide Pen, just in case)

I'm so sick of it. I mean, DAMN, I was sick of this shit 20 years ago. Back in 2009 I finally gave up, and while I wasn't "happy", at least I didn't hate myself. Even my Doctor told me "quit fighting it & beating yourself up. We'll just manage everything through medication".

Oh, wouldn't that be nice? Take a pill, and let all the ugly stuff in life just ... float away.

I went to lunch the other day with some co-workers, and they took me to a Chinese Buffet, now that I'm no longer a "salad nazi". The Buffet was ok-ish in my opinion, but everything was either fried, in sauce, or dessert-like. Afterwards, out in the parking lot, two of the guys were laughing about how that had been "totally worth it" while they injected themselves with insulin.

That moment freaked me out.

It was surreal. I can't go "there". I refuse. I won't give my gluttony free reign & simply shoot-up with insulin & take an assortment of pills everyday.

That's not "life", that's a death sentence.

So, I'm stuck. I'm in no-man's-land. I'm caught between not being able to maintain the difficult but good lifestyle, and not being willing to sell my soul to Big Pharma.

I've got to find a path, somehow...