It’s just too much

This was week 136 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. I launched the Operation Melt blog as a way to share my journey to both keep myself accountable and to help you as you work to crush your own goals. My hope is that something that I am doing will inspire you to try, will motivate you to keep going and will equip you to succeed in your own journey.

It’s just too much

Just over 950 days ago I started my fitness journey. I made the decision to lose over 100 pounds in under a year while not giving up things that I like. I decided to turn to data, project management and improve the balance in my life. It was a simple concept but it wasn’t easy and requires a lot of work.

The human body is very complex and achieving balance requires you to manage a bunch of things. These things add up.

Starting with the basics: calories in, calories out. Tracking and logging all of the food I consume and drinks I put in my body requires effort. Estimating or measuring portion sizes, learning about preparations and how much that impacts the calories and nutrients is complicated.

Tracking my calorie output is also a fair amount of work. Yes my personal fitness tracker that I wear every minute when not in the shower makes it easier to track activity. But I need to ensure that I am planning for when to exercise and making sure that I am properly offsetting high calorie consumption days with high calorie burn days.

That is just the highest level of what I try to track and balance every day. But calories in and calories out is just scratching the surface. The nutrition aspect of the calories I am consuming really matters to me now. I want to maximize protein and make sure I am getting enough fiber. I want to continue to minimize sodium and try to limit myself to 1500mg per day (which ain’t a lot!). Then there are the carbohydrates. I haven’t been very focused on carbs at all during my journey but they make a difference when I am training or prepping for a long race and are something I like to watch but not manage at other times.

Then there is hydration. I want to make sure that I am consuming plenty of water, 140 ounces or more, each day to make sure that I am counteracting what I sweat out. I also try to make sure that I am moderating my alcohol consumption as it isn’t healthy at all but I don’t want to give it up completely, just manage the intake. Plus there is the caffeine which is a struggle for me because I love coffee.

On the calorie expenditure side of the house is the exercise. I want to make sure to exercise 7 days per week and achieve 10k to 15K steps per day on average. I run and track all of my runs and am working to build my speed. At the same time I need to monitor my heart rate while running to make sure that I am not overdoing it – that was a new ah ha as I have watched my average heart rate increase on runs when I am really pushing myself. Plus I track race-over-race performance to see if I am getting better.

Beyond the calorie burn aspects of exercise there is the body building aspects. I am tracking my workouts and weight lifting. I have goals about what I want to be able to lift on bench press and other exercises and I want to be able to do pull-ups. But I can’t just jump right into those things and need to ensure adequate warm-up and that I am balancing the areas of my body that I am working on. To do this I track my body fat percentage about every 6 months as I do with bicep measurements.

But all of this fitness effort takes place with a human body that has other things going on.

Starting with, arguably, the most important, my heart. There is my heart rate, both resting and active, that I track. I try to correlate day-to-day changes my resting heart rate with the factors that might have impacted it. One factor is sleep, which also gets tracked, the quality of which can drive my heart rate up or down. I also keep an eye on my pulse through the day to try to spot those activities that relax me and slow my heart rate vs. where I see increases.

The heart pumps blood but that blood goes through veins that is where the blood pressure comes in. I don’t want my blood pressure to be too high and out of control which goes back and forth of whether I self-regulate or use medication. But I also don’t want it to go too low or else that can have bad side-effects. There is also a natural blood pressure increase during exercise and the speed with which it recovers is an interesting sign of overall heart healthiness.

Those are just a few of the things I track about the physical side of my journey. I could go on and on about other aspects such as website traffic, social interactions, book sales and more. Not to mention equipment, race fees, shoes, etc.

All of this data can quickly become an obsession. I could spend all day, every day tracking, charting, correlating, analyzing and managing it all. I could set little experiments to try things and see if I can influence things positively. Then I could try to normalize the data based on the impact of the added stress that I introduce from measuring it all.

There is just so much that I cannot always balance it all. I can’t spend the time to make it what I want. I can’t keep boring people by talking through every little insight I have. I just have to do my best and continue improving every day.

The concept of progress not perfection has become increasingly important to me. Living a life where I perfectly balance all of the aspects of fitness is just too much. I have tried. The best I can hope for is that I am moving the right direction and not driving myself crazy.

Plus I have to remind myself of my 2020 vision: start loving where I am and the progress I have made, stop trying to fix myself but continue improving every day. This means I need to control my data obsession.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope that my experiences and my tips can help you achieve your own big goals. If we work together we can build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Shoulding all over my happiness

This was week 135 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. I launched the Operation Melt blog as a way to share my journey to both keep myself accountable and to help you as you work to crush your own goals. My hope is that something that I am doing will inspire you to try, will motivate you to keep going and will equip you to succeed in your own journey.

Shoulding all over my happiness

This was a big week in my journey. This was the week to check in on some big measurements: my body fat percentage and my bicep circumference. I started taking these measurements in August 2018 and have tried to remeasure them every 3-6 months ever since. But it has been about 7 months since my last measurement. So I was pretty anxious to see where I was.

The result: 13.5% body fat and 13+ inches bicep (though we have to redo that next week because that doesn’t seem right as it is smaller than last time). Just for record-keeping purposes my first body fat measurement just 17 months ago was 17% and bicep was 12 inches though likely impacted by some fat in the area that is now gone.

My trainer and I discussed my body fat percentage and agree that I probably won’t see much more decrease past this point. That is, of course, unless I tried to become a competitive body builder and I will not be doing that.

My 13.5% places me firmly in the “athlete” category and is called “lean” (significantly below “ideal” which is positive) on other charts for my age. It is a staggeringly great place to be and I am proud of it. My body fat percentage puts me in the top 6% of American men in my age group and the top 10% amongst those half my age. The average American man has a 28% body fat.

This is a great representation of all of the hard work I have done over the past 135 weeks and should be a reason to celebrate, right? For most people it would be a reason to celebrate but I made a big mistake. As I was looking for information about what 13.5% body fat means I decided to click on a suggested search.

“What does 13.5% body fat look like on men”

Seems innocent enough so why not. That is when I started seeing pictures of men with 13.5% body fat. They look like athletes. Well-sculpted abs. Clearly super fit. Very muscular bodies that any man would be happy to have.

Then I looked in the mirror… the man I saw looking back at me looked nothing like those photos of other people at my same body fat percentage. I don’t look how I should look.

Suddenly I wasn’t happy or proud of my accomplishment. I let one of the biggest happiness killing words in the English language bring me down. Should.

The world “should” is a way of undermining your accomplishments, achievements, status and happiness. It is a way of comparing yourself to others that suggests that you are broken or have failed if you aren’t meeting some expectation. It applies to all aspects of our lives including health, wealth, career, your car, your friend, your marriage and any other area where we are being told we aren’t good enough. It is a really dangerous word and one that we each need to keep in check.

In my case, despite 135 weeks of amazing effort resulting in an unbelievable transformation, I was suddenly disappointed because I was shoulding on my own happiness.

I also wasn’t being fair to myself when I took a big should on my accomplishment. You know why? I bet you that none of those other guys I was comparing myself to were obese for their whole life. I bet none of them got to their 13.5% body fat just 135 weeks after being 325 pounds. I bet none of them lost over 40% of their body weight in 14 months. So I am also guess that they don’t have to deal with the extra skin that comes with that rapid transformation.

Yes, I look just like those guys, but you can’t see it because I am carrying around a reminder of where I came from. Kind of a strange trophy that commemorates my accomplishments. Will that ever go away? Probably not without surgery and I don’t think I am willing to do that.

Even without the extra skin situation why do I care? Why do I need to look like somebody else? My journey is different. My accomplishments are different. My goal needs to be my own happiness and not Joe Fitness Model’s abs.

I need to start sporting more of a take no should attitude, even from myself.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope that my experiences and my tips can help you achieve your own big goals. If we work together we can build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Quick note: I didn’t invent this concept of “shoulding on yourself” but I am super thankful for whoever did. I love the wordplay.

Why maintenance is tough for me

This was week 134 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. These weekly blog posts are about continuing to hold myself accountable while sharing my journey with you. My hope is that something that I am doing will inspire you to try to crush your own goal, will motivate you to keep going and will equip you with some additional tools that have helped me manage my journey.

Why maintenance is tough for me

I had a friend who was in a job where she was a little frustrated. It seemed like there were tons of unrelated projects going on without a solid strategy behind them. She talked to a mentor to both of us and he asked a question that has resonated with me for years. “Are you building something or just doing stuff?”

This friend likes when her efforts are focused on creating something important versus just spinning her wheels on day-to-day activities. That is why she was feeling frustration with her job at the time.

I am essentially wired the same way. I like to know what comes next and that I am focusing on step one that leads to step two and ultimately that I keep progressing. I have been this way since college and have always been focused on the next step. You can call it goal-oriented, you can call it competitive or you can call it whatever you like. But I like moving to the next step and the next step after that and have historically been very impatient about doing so.

In last week’s blog post I announced that the theme of my 2020 Operation Melt journey would be to start focusing on being more content with where I am, stop worrying about fixing what’s broken but continue trying to improve myself daily. I have been thinking about this theme this week and considering some other realities.

I lost no weight in 2019 and am starting 2020 slightly heavier, with substantially more muscle, than I started 2019. I have pretty significant daily weight fluctuations, though I have stopped weighing myself daily starting in 2020. All of these facts tell me that I am likely at my lowest sustainable weight and my weight loss days are officially done.

This makes my 2020 theme even more important and even more challenging. Maintenance is a bit of a mental struggle for me.

Each week I am pushing myself to exercise harder and harder. I am diligently logging and tracking my food. I am reviewing all of my data daily to see what insights I can glean. All of this takes commitment and it takes time. Some people may even say that I am obsessed with it – though I wouldn’t go that far. It is just important to me.

During my weight loss journey all of this daily commitment was building towards my big goal: lose over 100 pounds in under a year. Once I hit the 100 pounds it was building to the goal of seeing if I could get consistently under 200 pounds by the end of the year.

Last year, when I first switched to maintenance mode, I gained a little weight so all of the effort was focused on getting back down to where I had been. Though I never got back to my original low weight point for mostly positive reasons associated with developing my muscle mass. But I was still focused on moving towards a goal.

Now that 2020 is here, and I know I am at my lowest healthy weight, my daily commitment feels more like I am just “doing stuff” instead of “building something” and that’s my struggle with maintenance.

Maintaining is not as sexy as losing. You don’t see the highly motivational daily progress. You don’t get the compliments and support from people around you for not letting yourself gain weight. It also gets even harder when you are diligently tracking your food and somebody asks “oh, are you trying to lose weight?” No, I am not trying to lose weight, but I am trying not to lose ground on my hard-fought achievements. But that isn’t something that everybody understands.

I think there is a clear solution for this but not an easy one. I have to continue giving myself goals to achieve so I am still “building something” but they can’t be weight focused. It is going to be a challenge to rewire my brain to enjoy maintenance but I am up for that challenge. I already rewired my brain to like kale so I know anything is possible!

I just need to stay focused on my 2020 theme: start enjoying, stop fixing, continue growing.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope that my experiences and my tips can help you achieve your own big goals. If we work together we can build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

New Year, New Goals

This was week 133 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. These weekly blog posts are about continuing to hold myself accountable while sharing my journey with you. My hope is that something that I am doing will inspire you to try to crush your own goal, will motivate you to keep going and will equip you with some additional tools that have helped me manage my journey.

New Year, New Goals

First post of 2020 so you know what that means… time to revise my annual goals.

After the past two years of aggressive personal goals and lots of transformation it is kind of tough to decide how to approach this year. Yes I have a ton of things I would like to accomplish but I don’t really look at those as goals big enough to set for the year. I am thinking that I want to do something a little different.

This year, instead of creating a laundry list of goals that I am chasing, I am going to create a theme for the year. The theme for the year is kind of a goal (though not a SMART goal) but it is bigger than that. My 2020 theme is a lens through which other goals, behaviors and decisions can be made.

I am still working to perfect it but, for now, my 2020 theme will be: start focusing on being more content with where I am, stop worrying about fixing what’s broken but continue trying to improve myself daily.

I know it is a mouthful but it is something meaningful to me. I want to spend 2020 working on enjoying what I have accomplished over the past couple of years of transformation. This is contrary to always being focused on fixing some problem with myself that exists only in my mind. But I also have things I want to accomplish and don’t want to be complacent so I want to continue working to improve myself. This improvement is less corrective and more of a “good to great” approach of getting to the next level.

My 2020 theme is also a great reflection of the balance that I want to always strive to maintain in my new healthy life.

Some initial examples of how I want to translate this theme into behaviors include:

  • I am going to stop weighing myself daily and switch to 2-3 times per week.
  • I am going to continue running races and working to improve my running but will not set a specific goal about how many races I want to run or specifically how much I want to improve my time.
  • I am going to focus on being more deliberate about my posture.
  • I am going to work to be more deliberate about recovery time.
  • I am still going to track my food but won’t get upset if I go a little over my calorie target within a single day, it is the week that matters to me.
  • I will work on updating the design of my website and my social media posts.
  • I will complete a first draft of my second book while continuing to get the work out about my first book.
  • Through all of this I am going to continue looking for opportunities to add value to others.

The list goes on but all of the behaviors or intentions for 2020 all connect back to my theme. By focusing my 2020 energy on this theme I can make this the greatest year ever!

Just to be clear… don’t call it a resolution!

Thanks so much for reading. I hope that my experiences and my tips can help you achieve your own big goals. If we work together we can build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Link: Write Down Your Goals

T’is the season to set new goals. One way to help make those goals successful is to get them out of your head and onto paper. Just writing down your goals increases their rate of success by more than 40%. Wow!

Just imagine what happens if you make them SMART goals, write them down, tell somebody else and manage them as a project… you would be unstoppable!

Read more in this article from Inc. Magazine.