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.

3… 2… 1… end of a decade

This was week 132 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. As you probably know I achieved that goal (in just 9 months) and then a whole lot more. I went from 325 pounds to completing my first half marathon in just 14 months with a total weight loss of over 130 pounds.

I accomplished this by applying concepts of project management and managing my transformation as a project just like I have helped businesses do for two decades.

After achieving my initial goal, and countless others, my journey of personal transformation has grown into a quest to turn myself and others into goal-crushing machines. My vision for Operation Melt is to build a world where goals don’t die of loneliness.

My weekly Operation Melt 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.

3… 2… 1… end of a decade

This is my last post of this year and my last post of the decade. By the time I write and post my next update we will be a couple of days into 2020.

I don’t know about you but the 2010s were a decade of serious change for me. I had lots of jobs across 3 companies. I had a layoff. I lost a parent. I moved to a new house and sold our first house. I both gained and lost friends. Liz and I both turned 40. And the list goes on.

Perhaps my biggest change in the 2010s came 925 days ago when I decided I was going to lost over 100 pounds in under a year. I decided to conquer one of my biggest areas of failure in my life and one of my biggest frustrations and embarrassments.

With all of this reflecting on the decade I was struggling to figure out how to wrap up this year in today’s post and move onto the next. Like many other facets of my life, when I don’t know how to get moving, I have decided to turn to project management. I am going to share my 2019 Operation Melt retrospective.

In project management a retrospective is an exercise that a project team engages in to reflect on what is working and what isn’t. It usually happens at the conclusion of a phase or stage of a project and at the conclusion of the project itself; though it can happen at any time. They take many forms but the way I usually lead mine is that I ask the team to brainstorm their feedback about the project to-date around 4 dimensions:

  • Smiles: what went well that we would like to continue or do again in the future?
  • Frowns: what hasn’t gone well that we would like to change in the future?
  • Lightbulbs: what ideas do we have for the future that might improve our process or results?
  • Flowers: who do we want to pause and appreciate?

Once the brainstorming is complete we group feedback into themes and prioritize our top 3-5 items in each category to report out. These 3-5 items become the basis for how we approach the next phase, stage or project.

I have applied this process to reflecting on my past year of my Operation Melt journey and want to share my results with you.

Smiles

1. Commitment: my commitment to my journey was unwavering in 2019. I continued to track my data, logged everything I ate/drank, recorded all exercise, analyzed performance and made adjustments when needed. 

2. Weight: I essentially maintained my weight loss. While I didn’t lose more weight (as planned) I also didn’t gain much weight either (see the associated frown). I am approaching 2 years since I lost my first 100 pounds and have past 1 year since I hit my low weight. I am particularly happy with being able to maintain the results after I learned the stat that most people who have experienced significant weight loss gain it all back within 2 years. Not me, boom!

3. Performance: I continue to improve my performance as an athlete. I ran 13 organized races in 2019 including 2 half marathons and improved my time significantly. I am very proud of the improvements in my running performance and I am kind of a beast. Plus my performance in the gym has increased too. After starting the year at a 70-pound maximum bench press strength I was able to increase to easily doing 110 to 120 pounds at the end of the year.

4. Body Image: my body continues to improve shape and tone and I continue to become increasingly comfortable with it. I don’t cringe when I see myself naked in the mirror though I do see the areas that still need work. I am happy to see my muscles grow and get firm and enjoy that I have stabilized in clothes sizing.

5. Operation Melt: I launched my book this year and sold a modest number of copies including to people who aren’t just friends and family. I continue to tell my story through my blog and through social media. And I know I am having a positive impact on people. I am showing them that they can achieve their goals if they just try and that the journey doesn’t have to suck.

6. New Job: so I tried to limit to 3-5 items but I needed a 6th. I took on a new job this year as a consulting project manager and my first client is OhioHealth. This means I get to use my project management skills to help improve the health of those that OhioHealth serves. This literally lets me combine my passions and make an impact. Plus I really like my consulting firm, TOP Consulting!

Frowns

1. Too much? Sometimes I feel like I am too focused on my journey, my sharing, logging everything, photographing my life, talking about my weight loss, getting anxiety if I haven’t exercised, fretting about going over my calories and so on. It is still a little all-encompassing and I feel like I am a little annoying and monotonous to those around me. Plus I am letting my mood and view of myself get dictated too much by the numbers.

2. Weight Struggles: I kicked off 2019 by switching to “maintenance mode” from a calorie and weight loss perspective. Then I gained weight. I learned that I am under-estimating my portion sizes and the calories and I need to keep myself in “weight loss” mode to account for the under-estimation. I was able to reverse the issue and maintained strong in the 199-204 range for most of the year. Yes that is up from my 194 low weight but I have also seen significant muscle growth that comes with weight. I know I am at my low manageable weight too because I see HUGE swings from day to day based on sodium, carb and alcohol consumption. In fact I went from 203 pounds at the start of Christmas week to 207 at the end of the week despite having a net calorie deficit every day. This is just how my body reacts. It isn’t “real” weight it is just water retention but it is “real” frustrating.

3. Pain: I learned this year that pain accompanies increasing athletic performance. I often find little aches and pains that pop up after runs or workouts. I have persistent issues that come and go too with one of my toes and hip pain. A lot of this is related to not properly recovering, warming up, resting and stretching to accompany my performance.

4. Reach & Impact: while I know that people are reading my blog, following me on social media and are buying my book I don’t know that I am having the full reach and impact that I want to have. I need to find ways to maximize the value I am providing to my readers.

Lightbulbs

1. Sustainability: I want to use 2020 to explore a more sustainable approach to my fitness journey versus allowing it to be all encompassing. I am not sure what form this will take but it will certainly include NOT weighing myself everyday but moving to 2-3 times per week. I need to look for other ways to strike that balance.

2. Deliberate: also in 2020 I want to start working to be more deliberate about how I perform in areas of my life. This will include actually defining a training plan for myself for running to strategically improve performance. This will include defining a true recovery plan after runs and workouts. Plus I will work to apply this outside of my fitness life and work to be more deliberate and planful in other areas of my life including at work.

3. Experiment: I want to experiment more in 2020 with how I approach my blog and social media presence in hopes to make them more impactful and easier to manage. I’d like to see my social followers increase and become more interactive. I’d like to work on trying to conduct a couple of meetups / events to help people with their goals. I would also like to convert one of my many book ideas into reality even if that just means launching another eBook.

4. What’s Next? I also want to start thinking about what my next big goal is that I want to achieve in my life. The others have been pretty rewarding and I have defeated poverty, obesity and mediocrity so far and am ready for the next.

Flowers

I have so many areas of appreciation that it is hard to limit, but here goes.

1. My wife Liz. Liz has always been my biggest supporter in life and that continues with my fitness journey. She is the one who gets to hear me talk about it every day and has got to be tired of it but continues to listen. She is my editor in many ways including editing my book but also listening to my half-brained ideas and helps make them better. I love her and don’t know what I would do without her.

2. My team of experts. I continue to be super appreciative of the experts who help me with my journey. Starting with my trainer, and now friend, Teresa who helps me achieve new levels of performance while being a huge supporter and advocate for me. Then there is my doctor Charlie who helps me be safe and is a good reality check for me when needed. Plus my team of experts includes all of those people who give advice, tips, tricks and insight on how to improve my running and lifting performance and such. Finally my experts include the countless servers and bartenders who help me tailor my restaurant choices to fit my fitness needs “how big is the portion size”, “how is that prepared”, “what other options do you have for sides”, “can you leave the xyz off that”, “can I do a half portion” and the countless other special requests that have been honored for me are appreciated beyond belief!

3. My supporters. I really appreciate all of those people who say kind words of support to me and those who stay interested and curious about my journey. I can’t tell you how much it continues to motivate me to have people say things like “I am so proud of you” and “wow, you are looking great” and “how was your race this weekend” and other such things even when I know they are sometimes just being nice. One friend and coworker, Deanna, has been particularly supportive and I can’t thank her enough.

4. My readers, followers and those I have helped. I appreciate all of the people who read my writing (my book, blogs, etc.) and follow me on social media particularly those who interact to let me know that what I am producing matters to you. I am especially appreciative of those of you who I have inspired to start your own journey or that I have helped achieve your goals along the way. I am honored that something I have said, done or shared has been beneficial to you.

There you have it! This is my 2019 year-in-review retrospective. As I look toward 2020 I am excited for another year of wins, struggles, learning and transformation. Just think where we will all be at the end of the next decade!

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!