Danger week

This was week 131 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.

Danger week

This is Christmas week and it is the most wonderful time of the year. Friends and family. Giving. Traditions. Music. Church. So many things that make this time of the year amazing.

While there are many reasons to love this time of year there are also some dangers hiding deep inside the traditions. These dangers are risks to your fitness successes.

I don’t know about your holiday traditions but a lot of mine have always involved calories. Big family dinners on Christmas day and high calorie / high sodium snacking on Christmas Eve. Big trays of Christmas cookies. Glasses of egg nog (which is crazy high-calorie) including boozy egg nog which makes it even higher in calories. Plus the gym is closed and the weather is usually too cold for outdoor workouts.

All of these high calorie consumption and low calorie burn traditions can translate to disaster for your fitness goals. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American’s weight increases by 0.4% over Christmas. Whether you are considering starting, are in the middle of or have recently completed a weight loss journey this is enough to cause a fair amount of anxiety.

When faced with holiday fitness risks you have two choices: acceptance or avoidance.

One school of thought says that you should just accept the fact that you are going to consume way more calories. It is just once a year and your focus should be the holiday and not your fitness. Just enjoy the season and correct any weight gain afterwards. That is a perfectly acceptable approach and I salute anybody who embraces this strategy.

The acceptance strategy is not for me and I am planning the other choice, avoidance.

The avoidance strategy doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the traditions. I will certainly have some boozy egg nog and some Christmas cookies. I will enjoy the Christmas dinner including some wine and maybe some bourbon. I am not going to deprive myself of these things. But I am not going to do it mindlessly. I will continue to log everything and will know exactly how many calories I have consumed. And I will probably nearly double my normal daily calorie target – hopefully a lot less.

The entire week of Christmas I plan to really step up my exercise. I will either run or head to the gym every day. On Christmas morning I will start my day with a long run – fortunately Christmas is forecasted to by 50 degrees so outdoor running will be possible. My goal is to burn way more than my average week of calories to accommodate the increased calorie intake from partaking in the Christmas festivities. I also plan to make smart choices for all of the other meals through the week to make sure that Christmas isn’t a negative impact.

I have a plan to make the holidays both magical and healthy. It worked for me last year and I am confident that it will work for me again this year. Are you ready to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year while maintaining your fitness success?

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!

Not the year I expected

This was week 130 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.

2019 was not the year I expected…

We are coming up on the end of 2019 so I am starting to see and hear people posting their year in review and even their 2010s decade in review. So I started reflecting on my 2019 and all of the events that transpired through this year. It really was a packed year.

As I reflect on this year I think about a quote that I seem to hear some version of every day lately. “When you have high expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.” Some version of this quote, and there are countless versions said by everyone from Buddha to Steven Hawking, seems to be everywhere.

Disappointments…

Unfortunately this was a year full of disappointments in my journey driven by impossibly high expectations I had for myself. Two examples of my biggest areas of disappointment from this year include:

  • Maintenance mode failure. On new years day I switched from weight loss to maintaining my weight. But I still expected to lose a few more pounds and wanted to get from my low point of 194 to 189 because that I where my BMI technically becomes “normal” instead of “overweight”. I had this expectation despite my doctor saying that it wasn’t realistic and despite switching my plan to a weight loss rate of nearly zero. Instead of losing weight I increased both my weight (went up to 210 before I reversed my course) and my body fat percentage (went from 12% to 13.8%). I also experienced increased instability in my weight and can have big, 3-5 pound swings each day depending on my eating and drinking habits. All indications are that I will be ending this year with a weight around 205 pounds instead of 189 pounds.
  • Book sales very slow. I expected that I would sell tons of copies of my book this year. I thought it would be a phenomenal success. Weight is an issue that tons of people struggle with and I figured out a new approach that worked better that I ever expected and I thought this would be appealing to thousands of people who would buy my book. I thought I would be speaking to big audiences and telling my story. My current projection is that I will end this year with fewer than 100 books sold and a couple of interviews.

Perspectives…

The other notable item that sticks out when I review 2019 is all about perspective. It has become very clear to me that there are multiple perspectives that I can adopt when looking at the same set of facts. One of these perspectives is to allow the facts to become disappointment but the other perspective is not missing the forest for the trees.

You see, while I can look that the examples above as big disappointments, I would be missing the big picture. I would not be giving myself the credit that I deserve for the actual wins hidden in those disappointments.

The other way of looking at the “maintenance mode failure” I mentioned above is a lot more meaningful.

  • I gained lots of strength and muscle this year which came with some weight.
  • I have held myself around my low manageable weight as evidenced by my sensitivity to what I eat and drink and the repeated fluctuations.
  • I am still maintaining a body fat percentage under 14% which, depending on the chart, puts me into the “athlete” category.
  • I have maintained at least 125 pound weight loss for nearly 18 months when the average person who has a significant weight loss gains it back within two years. Plus I continue to maintain my weight loss without depriving myself of things or spending every waking hour in the gym. I am living it happily.
  • Adding to these alternate perspectives on my maintenance mode “failure” is the realization that my weight isn’t the only way to judge the success or failure of my 2019 fitness.
  • I am still living an incredibly fit life and still prioritizing fitness after 40 years of it being an afterthought.
  • I continue to improve my physical capabilities and performance and achieved my goal of being able to bench press over 100 pounds and have got up to 130 pounds as my max so far.
  • I ran 13 organized races which more than achieved my goal of running one race per month.
  • I ran 2 half marathons and was happy with my performance in both – no disappointments here.
  • I continued to see my time improve across all running and I consistently in the sub-9-minute pace time for a 5k run and achieved a 10:30 pace for my half marathon and could have gone faster if I really tried.

Turning my sights to my second big disappointment, my book sales, there is definitely another way of drawing a conclusion from these facts.

  • Let’s start with the fact that I wrote and published a book! I decided to be vulnerable and tell my story in a way to help other people. I wrote the book and my amazing wife edited it for me. I taught myself how to self-publish and did so in both eBook and print book format. And I launched a damn book!
  • I sold nearly 100 copies of my book with nearly no marketing outside of social media. Plus I can’t really do paid social posts because my title implies that I am selling a miracle weight loss program which violates the advertising standards on most popular social media platforms. The irony of this is that the content is exactly the opposite of this!
  • My book sales haven’t been limited just to friends and family and there are many people who I don’t know that have bought copies.
  • I have been asked to autograph books, I have been recognized by people as the author (in rural Ohio of all places) and I have appeared on a few podcasts to tell my story.
  • Most importantly I have heard success stories. I know of at least one person who is experiencing her own big weight loss who was inspired by reading my book. Her quote just this past week was “wait, I am a project manager and I have a plan for everything. Why didn’t I think about applying this to my weight that I am struggled with for years?!” I may not have sold as many copies of my book as I had hoped but the ones I have sold are making an impact, could I really have asked for better?

I guess 2019, my first full year living as a fit person, went really well. If I could just stay out of my own way I would be incredibly proud of my accomplishments and would be excited about what 2020 holds. Maybe I should stop creating impossible expectations for myself and start focusing on just being happy living my life. A life that, by all objective evaluations, is totally amazing and I am blessed beyond belief!

How was your 2019? Follow me on social media at @OperationMelt and let me know what your biggest successes were for this year.

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!

I can’t believe it’s over…

This was week 129 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.

I can’t believe it’s over…

Endings are sad sometimes. This is especially true when you get to the end of something you never expected to like but ended up loving. But that is what happened this week.

On Saturday I ran the Columbus Jingle Bell Run. This is a Christmas themed 5k run in downtown Columbus to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. The weather was chilly but perfect for a holiday run. I ran the race in a Santa sweater. And I finished the race with a pace time of 8:34 per mile compared to last year when my pace was 9:00 per mile – my personal record at the time.

At the finish line for the Jingle Bell Run is free pizza and a free Jim Beam cocktail. So it isn’t the best run for burning calories but I knew that and made sure to balance it all properly.

The race was a good time but I have to admit I was a little sad when it was over. The sadness was because this was my last race of 2019. Race season is over.

My goal for the year was to run once race per month and this weekend was the 13th organized race of the year so I exceeded my goal. So I exceeded my goal. Plus my time got better and better and I set and broke multiple personal records.

Recapping my race year, which was over 65 total miles, here are my best times:

  • 5k: The Great Pumpkin Run (11/2), 26:01 time, 8:23 pace
  • 10k: Scioto Miles (4/7), 1:02:49 time, 10:07 pace
  • Half Marathon: Columbus Marathon (10/20), 2:17:38 time, 10:30 pace

Every one of those times are big improvements from where I started the year and I feel very comfortable with my performance. Plus I had a great time in my 13 races. It was a great year of racing. That is why I am a little sad that it is over.

Can’t I just run for free?

One question I get asked a lot is why I would pay to run in races when I can run any day I want for free. It just isn’t the same.

The energy of a crowd of athletes getting ready to perform is amazing. These races are so motivational and I feel like I can do anything. As a result my performance is way better during races than when I run on my own.

Picture this… almost twenty thousand people getting ready to start the Columbus Marathon. Most of these runners are athletes who have trained for this moment for months. The sun is just coming up over downtown Columbus. The national anthem is over, the fireworks have been set off. AC/DC’s Thunderstruck is being played to pump up the crowd and you feel the bass rattle your chest as you prepare to run 13 miles through the streets of Columbus.

You spend 2 hours running through multiple neighborhoods. There are thousands of random people lining the streets cheering you on and holding up signs to entertain and motivate you. And you are just a stranger that they are wishing well.

Then you cross the finish line and realize that you have just accomplished something big and that you exceeded your own expectations about how fast you could run. Then you spend time in a place called Celebration Village and watching other people celebrate accomplishing the same thing. Then you hear a runner on the phone, through tears of joy, saying “mom, I just qualified for Boston!” It is a little overwhelming and enough to bring you to tears yourself.

That experience is something that you can’t get when running alone. That experience is worth $150 or whatever the half marathon costs.

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!

My mental struggles – part 2

This was week 128 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.

Continuing sharing the struggles…

Last week I began sharing some details about how my journey has been so much more than physical – read part 1 here. Based on the number of readers of last week’s post it appears that this is a topic that resonates with people.

This week I am sharing part 2 of this post including 2 more mental struggles I dealt or am dealing with through my journey.

Struggle #3: food cravings…

This may be very familiar to many of you…. There are foods that I will eat just because they are there regardless of whether or not I am hungry. Plus I find myself feeling hungry when all facts say that I should not be. This is a good reminder that food is emotional as much as it is fuel for our bodies.

Part of this is because of the changes in my daily calorie needs. When I started this journey my daily calorie target was well over 3000 calories per day. Today it is just over 1700 calories per day. That is a big change! My body simply doesn’t require the same number of calories as it did when I was over 300 pounds.

One of the tough realities of such a dramatic and quick transformation is that my brain has not kept up with my body. My brain doesn’t necessarily understand the reality of the new me on an emotional level yet.

One reason that numbers are so important to me is because they take the emotion out of the decision making, to a point, and give me a way to challenge the cravings with facts. The cravings are still there but I have a way to reengage my thinking brain in the process.

Struggle #4: still in hiding…

This last struggle is the one that is the most emotional for me. Sharing it requires a lot of introspection, self-awareness and vulnerability. Even as I write this I am actively second-guessing whether I really want to share it.

Further complicating my decision to share this is the fact that it is something that only became clear to me within the past month. That means I have spent less time reflecting on how to explain the situation so it is still pretty raw. Please forgive me if this doesn’t make complete sense.

Let me start by sharing what it was like to grow up as an overweight kid, particularly as a boy. You get picked on. You get insulted. You get bullied. Other kids look for an opportunity to make fun of you because it makes them more popular. Any way that you are different or any way that you stand out was another way of opening the door to getting belittled.

As you get older the bullying still happens but in much more subtle ways. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago it is mostly kept quiet but you know it is there. No matter what you become a target when you are overweight – very similar to any other way than you don’t conform to people’s opinions of what it means to be “normal.”

Each of us builds our own defense mechanisms to combat this and I am no different. Interestingly enough one of my biggest defense mechanisms may have been completely invisible to most people. I learned to hide in plain sight.

I learned not to draw attention to myself. I kept quiet and faded to the background. I learned to do this until I knew that I had a friendly audience. Once I knew that I was welcome I would open up and be the outgoing person that most people know me as. But, if I wasn’t sure that the audience would welcome me, I would be quiet and reserved and more of an observer than a participant.

I spent 40 years using this proactive defense mechanism. It usually worked well for me but had an undesired consequence. If I overused this tactic in professional settings I would sometimes get feedback that I need to be more confident. I would also sometimes over-rely on an advocate or on someone else to break the ice for me.

One example of how this defense mechanism presented itself is in something as simple as introductions. I would often hesitate to put out my hand and say “hi, I’m Tony.” I would wait for somebody else to make the introductions happen. Pretty silly, huh?

Unfortunately, just like how I mentioned that my brain has been slow to adjust to the new me above, I sometimes still default to hiding. My brain doesn’t always realize that I am not still that target for bullies. I am both physically and mentally more fit than I was back then. I have nothing to be worried about.

But here I am still not confidently speaking up or even introducing myself sometimes. Old habits, particularly in how I think, are hard to break. I am working hard to break those habits but it takes work. Just like breaking the habit of mindlessly eating and not exercising I have to be diligent about not defaulting to my comfort zone.

So what?…

You may be asking why I am opening up so much and talking about how I have struggled mentally through this journey. I have a couple of hopes for this.

First I am hoping that other people who start a journey like this will do so with their eyes wide open. I don’t want people to start a transformational journey and not anticipate that it is a fully physical struggle. I actually think failure to anticipate and manage the mental aspects of a weight loss goal (or any big personal goal) are why so many fail. This is exactly the same concept as failing to manage organizational change in a big business project!

Second I am hoping to help make it ok to talk about mental struggles. I know that the struggles I have discussed over the past 2 weeks are relatively minor compared to what some people face every day. But if we can make it ok to talk about these smaller things maybe we can make it ok to talk about the bigger things.

If we can be a little introspective and listen to our brains (just like we listen to our bodies in athletic pursuits) we can be more aware of how we are thinking. By becoming aware of what is going on in our brains we can proactively manage through these thoughts and struggles. We can challenge ourselves to get out of our own way. If we do that we can all improve our success rates with our big goals. This could truly help build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

My mental struggles – part 1

This was week 127 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.

Not just physical…

My personal transformation was certainly a physical journey. I can tell you in great detail how many parts of my body have changed through this journey. For example, waist size from 52 to 36, shirt size from 3XL to large, shoe size changes, wedding ring needed resized and many more. My body is very different in many positive and some not-so-positive ways.

This journey required me to actively manage my calorie consumption versus burn. I really ramped up the exercise and got to the point where I could run and kept increasing the amount and intensity of my workouts. This ultimately led to my first half marathon.

There were struggles along the way with injuries, weight plateaus and unexpected weight gains and many others

But a transformation that includes a loss of 40% of your bodyweight over 14 months after 40 years of obesity is more than physical. I have mentioned before that this was as much, or more, a mental journey as it was a physical journey. My mind had to evolve in many different ways throughout my transformation and that wasn’t easy.

For the next two weeks I am taking you inside my brain and sharing four mental struggles that I have faced, and continue to face, throughout my transformation. I say “continue to face” because these struggles are not something that just happened and I pushed past as I transformed. These are things that impact me daily and I continue to work to manage today.

Struggle #1: I am my journey…

At least two people along the way said something very impactful to me: “your weight loss is kind of your brand.” This visible transformation was something that everybody who knew me saw happening and everybody wanted to talk to me about it; which I completely supported. But it became a near constant topic of conversation and became what I was known for in many circles.

My transformation didn’t just become my brand it also became my focus. You may even say it has become an obsession but I wouldn’t necessarily go that far.

  • I spend every day diligently logging all of my food and drinks consumed.
  • I monitor my activity through my wearable fitness tracker.
  • I weigh myself every day.
  • I carefully choose my foods based on calorie and sodium content.
  • I talk constantly about my journey with my wife and I know that gets tedious for her.
  • I post daily, usually more than once, on social media about my transformation and blog about it weekly.

Continuing to move forward in my journey and maintaining the successes that I have achieved is something that is constantly present in my mind. I sometimes struggle to focus on other things and often have at least a split focus. Sometimes my journey and its maintenance feel like a full time job.

All too often I let my journey define me. I am my journey my journey is me. This means that I can often live and die by the numbers.

I am at my low body weight which means that my weight fluctuates a lot based on sodium, alcohol and other daily activity. When I step on the scale and my weight is up my mood is negatively impacted, even if just in my mind.

If I haven’t achieved my exercise goals for the day (both step count and calorie burn) I end up feeling a little stir crazy in the afternoon. I want to get outside and get moving.

If I am edging too close to my calorie target for the day I will not let myself enjoy meals because I am worried about the nutritional implications. I often experience both anxiety and regret about my nutrition choices and have to remind myself to forgive my bad choices. As I wrote in my November 26, 2017 blog Thanksgiving is often a source of food choice anxiety.

These are things that I continue to manage every day and some days are harder than others. I am definitely getting better with managing and balancing these things as I get more practice. After all this is a relatively new thing for me and I am learning.

Struggle #2: body image…

As I was progressing through my journey people were noticing the changes in my weight. They were saying things like “you are just melting away” – which was the source of the Operation Melt branding. People were super supportive because they were seeing my physical changes as I was shrinking.

But I wasn’t seeing the changes in my body.

Because I see myself every day it was slow for me to actually see the changes that others were seeing so clearly. It took a long time before I saw the change. And, when I finally started seeing the changes, it was a huge shock. I would catch my reflection and not recognize myself. That is a difficult moment for somebody.

Even today, when I look at myself in a mirror, I don’t immediately see myself as being all that different from where I started. I know I look different. I know I have transformed myself. I know I am much more fit. But that is all intellectual. But we see things with our eyes and process what we see through emotional filters. My emotional filters still keep me from seeing the facts that others see clearly.

This is one reason I like pictures so much because they give me a side-by-side comparison to help me see the change. It is hard to argue with a clear picture that is in front of you.

An additional body image struggle also happens when I am looking at myself in the mirror. My eyes go right to those places that I still don’t like. The extra skin from my weight loss. The muscles that haven’t grown to where I want them. The list goes on. I am very critical of the places where I am not where I want to be and sometimes let that cloud my happiness for the progress I have made.

Make sure to check back next week for the other two mental struggles associated with my transformation. Next week’s struggles go even a little deeper into the things that have challenged me along the way.

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!