Week 28: Goodbye 2017!

I can’t believe it is already New Years Eve and this is my last blog post for 2017! This has been an amazing year in many ways and kind of a crappy year in other ways. But, rather than dwelling on the parts that sucked, I am just going to focus on what went well.

This was the year that I decided to change my life and turn around a string of 40 years of bad decisions related to my health. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be successful in my journey, but it turns out that I was. I lost 25% of my body weight in just over 6 months. I transformed from being excessively overweight to being more fit than I have been since at least high school if not further. It was the year that I improved my self-confidence by proving to myself that I can accomplish big things if I set my mind to them. It was the year that I gave myself goals for the first time since I was 29. All of that led to 2017 becoming the year that I combine my success with my love of writing in hopes to help other people with their own fitness journeys, so I launched OperationMelt.com just a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I have had about 500 visitors to the site.

So, though there were several areas of my life where I was significantly less successful, my victory in my fitness journey to-date over-shadow those other areas and resulted in 2017 being a great year for me!

So, this last week of 2017 brought a couple of interesting new occurrences in my Operation Melt journey. Some positive, some less positive.

First off, as of Friday (12/29), I was right at a 78-pound loss for the year. So, that means that ending the year at an 80 pound loss is in reach. But, I am not overly optimistic that I will actually reach that point. [So, I clearly write some of the weekly blog post throughout the week…] I have learned that weekends are times where my weight naturally fluctuates upward temporarily. This is often related to having a couple of drinks, eating slightly less healthy food that takes longer for my body to process and being slightly less active through the days though my morning workouts tend to be more vigorous. So, given that I have 2 more days of the year and both are weekends including New Year’s Eve, I am expecting my weight to fluctuate up a bit. So, I will likely just miss the 80 pound mark.

Because I am at the 78 pound mark for the year, my daily calorie target adjusted down twice this week. I am currently at a daily target of 2,026 calories which really is not a lot and is a definite challenge. One reason that this target is so challenging is that my body has adjusted its need for calorie intake way faster than my brain has. My brain is still conditioned the same way it was 6 months ago where 3,000+ calories were just fine for me. So, my body can be fulfilled for the day but my brain is still thinking about food and snacking. So, this is where the willpower is so important throughout the day. Every calorie matters because they add up fast. This is especially applicable to drinking alcohol since one pint of craft beer can be 250-300 calories and this is a very material portion of my total daily calorie target.

One way that I continue to offset the decreasing daily calorie target is through exercise of increasing intensity. At my workout on Friday, I burned over 850 calories between running/walking on the treadmill and a pretty vigorous weight training session. That is an extra 40% of my daily calorie target that I could consume but tried very hard not to give myself permission to do so.

While I am definitely seeing results from my work at the gym in both weight loss and muscle gains (my arms are really starting to show more muscles), I am also seeing a not so positive change. I am starting to see the same sets of activities with the same degree of intensity having a lower calorie burn as my body gets more and more fit. So, this means I am going to have to ramp up the calorie burn in the new year. This likely means starting to join classes instead of going it alone.

One thing that has interfered with working out a bit this week was that I ended up getting sick. I am pretty sure it was just a cold, but I was feverish and achy on Wednesday afternoon and evening. Between 4p on Wednesday and 8a on Friday, I slept more than 19 hours. By Friday morning, I felt much better. Unfortunately, on Wednesday morning, I did try to work out as the sickness was starting to take hold of me. This was one of the worst feeling workouts I have had to-date. I was slow, I was sore and I really wanted to be anywhere else but at the gym. So, clearly, attempting to exercise through the illness is not necessarily a recipe for success.

One final thing worth noting this week is that winter has hit Columbus, Ohio with a vengeance. We have been experiencing lows in the single digits and one day the high was only like 12 degrees. The picture above is from the dashboard of my car right before I walked into the gym on Wednesday morning. First off, it was very early for me because I woke up at 4 plus it was really cold. Maybe these both contributed to me getting sick on Wednesday afternoon!

An unexpected side effect of losing 78 pounds right before winter is that I lost a significant amount of highly-efficient insulation from my body. I am feeling the cold way more than I ever have before and that sucks! I really underestimated how impactful this would be, but I really feel it.

There you have it, my end-of-year post. Thank you so much for being interested enough in my journey to follow me on OperationMelt.com and/or Twitter (@OperationMelt). I look forward to sharing my continued successes and setbacks in 2018!

Last week’s stats:
Distance walked/run: 27.5 miles
Total calories burnt: 26,317
Total calories consumed: 12,101
Weight change: 0.2 pounds lost

Happy hour playbook

I have decided to post a one-off blog post today about something that is a frequent concern around the holidays. Something that can hijack your fitness routine and give you a big setback if you let it. Happy hour!

It is the moment you dread (or maybe not). You have been working out pretty regularly and eating well. You are seeing the weight melt away and you are proud of your commitment and your success. That’s when it happens, somebody says “lets have a happy hour because [insert your reason here]!” You don’t want to be rude and skip the happy hour (sometimes that isn’t really even an option). You also don’t want to go and have no fun or be the wet blanket. Most of all, you don’t want a big fitness setback! So, you are going to need a strategy.

Let’s talk for a minute about why happy hours are so dangerous to your fitness goals. Let’s start with the drinking. Depending on your drink of choice, drinking just 2 craft beers per hour at a 3-hour event could result in more than 2000 calories. But, the drinks are just part of the story. Often, the drinks are accompanied by snacks like nachos, wings and other junk food. A couple of buffalo wings plus sharing an order of loaded nachos could add up to another 500-800 calories or more. So, in just 3 hours, you can mindlessly consume more than you average daily calorie target. The next excess calories are just the tip of the iceberg: there is also the fat, cholesterol, the slowing of your metabolism and other unhealthy gifts.

Let’s not let this happen! Let’s be more mindful and take some common sense steps to avoid the mindless calorie bomb. Here are a few strategies from my happy hour playbook that I use to try not to blow up my fitness goals when grabbing drinks with friends.

Strategy 1: if you want to win, you have to keep score!

The biggest enemy of fitness is mindlessly putting things into your mouth. Happy hours make this trap even easier to fall into. You are talking with friends, people around you are mindlessly ordering, there are tons of choices and your mind is elsewhere.

The trick is to pause and think and keep track. The easiest way to do this is to plan to log all of your food and drink selections in an app or other tracking tool. I recommend an app because it is possible to make choices based on nutrition facts. Just pausing to make a note of what you are consuming (or, even better, planning to order) is enough to put your brain in the moment and to help you make better choices.

Strategy 2: choose wisely!

It sounds obvious enough, but different drinks have different calorie contents. For example, the bigger name light beers total just over 100 calories for a 12-ounce bottle whereas a craft beer triple IPA may be double or triple that (tip: higher ABV usually equals higher calories). A slow-sipping glass of red wine is about 125 calories which is just about the same as that gone-in-an-instant shot of cinnamon whiskey (really, it isn’t a frat party!).

My approach is to start with one higher calorie drink and then move to lower calorie drinks. Also, I will gravitate towards drinks that I know I will consume more slowly. I am a bourbon fan, so a bourbon neat will be something that I absolutely will not drink quickly and is only about 100 calories. A rate of 100 calories per hour is very respectable for a happy hour.

Strategy 3: size matters!

Just because that light beer is lower calorie doesn’t mean you should order the 32 ounce bucket of it as your drink. Like anything else, portion sizes of drinks can quickly get out of control and lead to over-consumption of calories. Don’t let this happen to you!

Try to always default to the smallest size available for drinks. This may mean choosing the 12-ounce beer versus the 20-ounce big beer. This helps focus your brain on how much you are really drinking and makes over-consumption more difficult. In fact, at a bar where I am a regular, I will often order half beers instead of their standard pint. It sounds strange, but it works.

Strategy 4: a tall drink of water!

Like all other parts of your fitness routine, water is an important addition to any happy hour. Water helps hydrate you, it is a filler that helps control cravings and it is just healthy for you. So, hydrating yourself with lots of water while you are drinking is a critical part of your happy hour strategy.

When I am at a happy hour, I try to drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink that I consume. By doing this, you slow your consumption of the high calorie drinks and keep yourself feeling full which will naturally limit your intake.

Strategy 5: snack smart!

Usually, drinking alcohol means snacking at the same time. You know how it goes, the tray of drinks arrives at your table and the group wants to order some appetizers for the table. These snacks often include things that are deep-fried, carb-heavy, covered in melted cheese and dipped in various high-calorie sauces. Everything about that sounds very dangerous to fitness goals. Consuming some kind of food while drinking really is a good idea, but it requires smart decisions like everything else in your fitness routine.

My rule (or guideline really because I tend to fail on this one) is to skip all happy hour foods that are fried, accompanied by chips or otherwise seem excessively unhealthy. Instead, look for vegetables or vegetarian friendly appetizers like fruit, salad or even steamed potstickers. If there you are looking for meat, look for something grilled like chicken satay or other skewers. Sometimes a half order of an entrée may be the best option

Happy hours are not inherently evil and can be lots of fun. They are a great opportunity for team building with your coworkers and enjoyment with friends. But, if not approached correctly, happy hours can result in mindlessly consuming a full day worth of calories in just a few hours. By applying a few common-sense strategies, happy hours can be both fun and fitness-safe.

Week 27: It’s the most caloried time of the year!

Merry Christmas Eve!!!

Christmas is a time filled with traditions: the lights, the family events, the songs, the movies and the food and drinks. Unfortunately, some of my favorite Christmas traditions are big threats to Operation Melt.

  • I love egg nog (150+ calories) particularly spiked with bourbon or spiced rum (100 calories).
  • I enjoy Christmas cookies (70-100+ calories) and candy like buckeyes (75+ calories).
  • On Christmas Eve, we do a by-invitation only lunch at one of our favorite restaurants that includes delicious cony dogs (250-350 calories) and fried clam strips (300 calories) – amazingly fun event with friends!
  • Christmas beers are a fun accompaniment to holiday meals but their higher ABV and spiced flavorings put them in the 250 calorie range for a pint.
  • Then, there is all of the savory meals on chilly nights featuring meat, potatoes, wine and such.
  • There are the work and friend happy hours.
  • There is hot chocolate while looking at the Christmas lights.
  • There are the night caps of sipping a drink (100-300 calories) by the fire.

All of these calorie-filled traditions add up very quickly when my daily calorie target is 2,036. Combine this Christmas calorie bomb with the gym being closed and it being too cold to workout outdoors and you could easily have a recipe for disaster. This Christmas I really need the gift of willpower most of all.

In fact, somebody told me this week “you shouldn’t worry about how much you eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just worry about your habits between Christmas and Thanksgiving”. I completely disagree with this point of view. Health and fitness matters every day and one month of ignoring it can become a huge setback in a journey like this. It reminds me of a quote that I saw “I didn’t come this far just to come this far.”

As a result of all of the snacking and drinks and such, my daily weight fluctuations are more frequent and that is slightly discouraging. Plus, I had a cold this week and that made my workouts more difficult and I just felt sluggish when running. Plus, my stress level this week was very high related to lots of events at work and that led to a bit of stress eating.

Overall, it was a fairly discouraging week from a results perspective.  But, there were some things that made it better.  First, I got lots of positive feedback from people based on the website, blog and my overall appearance.  This time of the year is particularly great because I see people that I don’t see very often at all and they haven’t watched my gradual transition and they get the shock of the change and react accordingly.  The feedback and positive reinforcement really helps and is a great motivator to keep going.  Also, I had some other notable accomplishments in my journey this week.

  • I have officially reset all of my apps to a new interim goal weight past the 75-pound mark. I have set my next goal as 235 pounds which will be 90 total pounds lost in the journey. I am hoping to be there by the end of February. It will leave me just 10 pounds short of my overall goal.
  • My pants that I bought in September to mark my 50-pound loss achievement are now too big on me. This means that I am about to buy new pants that are the same size as when I was a junior in high school!!
  • I am starting to see real improvements in muscle tone in my biceps just like in my legs and thighs. Before you know it, I am going to be a model of fitness!
  • I also am seeing some additional improvements in my cardio fitness. My heart rate during my workouts is starting to decrease. The down-side of this is that it takes more effort to get the same calorie burn from my workouts. So, I am going to need to take my workouts to a new level soon and I am not quite sure what that means yet. I will probably want to start joining some classes or consider alternative workouts.

So, all-in, I guess this was an overall ok week for my Operation Melt journey and there is just one more week left for this year.

Next step… new years resolutions!

Last week’s stats:
Distance walked/run: 31.4 miles
Total calories burnt: 27,306
Total calories consumed: 12,752
Weight change: 1.2 pounds lost

Week 26: A very big week!

This week was one of my biggest weeks yet in my Operation Melt journey. I celebrated 3 big milestones throughout this week.

First, Friday was the 6 month point in my journey. I made my decision to get healthy after I walked out of my doctor appointment on June 15th. I spent the next few days figuring out what to do and then I committed and moved forward with my plan, now called Operation Melt. This hasn’t been a daily success because of natural ups and downs, but it has been a success overall and it has been life-changing!

One important note about the 6-month mark speaks to a quote that I read once “motivation gets you started, habit keeps you going.” I saw a Ted Talk once that said 6 months of doing anything is enough to make it a habit. So, if both of these sources are right, I should have reach the sustainability point this week, right? I really think I got there long ago.

The second milestone this week was that, on the eve of the 6-month mark, I hit the 75 pounds lost mark. 75 pounds is 75% of the original goal I set out of losing over 100 in under a year. I lost 50 in 3 months and the other 25 in the next 3, so it definitely gets harder as you lose more weight.

Interestingly, the 75 pound mark is when people are really noticing the change, particularly those who don’t see me everyday. Any time we go to a restaurant or bar where people know us, somebody wants to talk about my transformation and how I am doing it. This is great because it is not only positive reinforcement, but also gives me and opportunity to help others through my journey. I give them inspiration, motivation or just solid tactical advice on how to work through their own journey. I love it!

The third milestone this week is related to my desire to help other people, I launched OperationMelt.com. This website recaps my journey to-date and will continue to track it as it continues. I also shared an article I wrote to accompany the site on LinkedIn to help funnel people to the site. The article was viewed over 1100 times and there have been 275 visitors to the site so far. So, pretty exciting stuff and I hope it helps somebody.

A concern that I started developing this week was that I am now very public about my journey. What happens if I fail? Based on the holiday happy hours and lunches and such, my daily fluctuations of weight went up 2 pounds after I announced the 75 pound mark and I was really disappointed. I know this is just temporary weight (water retention and unprocessed food) and not a true gain but it still feels like a big setback. I know in my mind that by Tuesday morning I will drop like 3-4 pounds, but that doesn’t quiet that voice in the back of my head that is saying “pssst…. You screwed up!” I know it is not, but that doesn’t stop the voice. I just have to remember that my job is to prove that voice wrong and say “go to hell self-doubt, I am fierce and a winner” and then I will probably use some other insulting words too! I am going to win, I am going to be successful and I am going to continue to love the new me!

I guess I left out a 4th big accomplishment this week that I almost forgot about. I ran my first mile without walking on Monday! It kind of happened by accident and I built up to it, but it was a big deal for me. Hitting the on mile mark is a first step for me and it is hopefully the gateway to the 5k where I can meet up with others and enjoy a run as a group. Just 4 months ago, I thought a 25-foot run was a stretch and now I am running a mile – multiple miles if you look across the full 30+ minutes on treadmill!

Last week’s stats:
Distance walked/run: 31.9 miles
Total calories burnt: 26,806
Total calories consumed: 9,064
Weight change: 4.3 pounds lost

A New Chapter Begins

Tomorrow officially marks 6 months since I made the decision to change my life.

Since 6/15/2017, my priority has been my health & fitness.  Since this day, things have been way different for me and I feel like I am succeeding at something every day.  To be clear, I am not succeeding at everything and I do have ups and downs in my fitness journey, but the vast majority of my days are ups and how many other people can say that?!

Along the way in my journey, lots of people have asked me how I am doing this and have asked me for advice.  I learned that my story and my approach can be inspirational and energizing for people.  In short, I learned that I have a story to tell.

So, I have decided to launch this website, OperationMelt.com, as a tool to share my story and help others achieve their own successes.  Throughout the first 6 months of my journey, I have kept pretty solid records through my daily journaling.  Plus, just by the approach I took to achieving my goals, there is a natural trail of data that follows.  My goal is to be fully transparent and share it all on this site.  I want to inspire, motivate, energize and help others by letting them know that their goals are in reach.

Please take a look through my site and read my story.  Check back often because I am going to continue posting here as I progress through my journey.  My goal is to post weekly and whenever there are important milestones.