Week 34: Inching Closer to my Goal

My first week of transition time has been a big one in my Operation Melt journey. I have spent lots of time meeting with contacts and networking as well as concentrating on my goal. I am at a very low stress point right now, which has been a goal though I maybe hadn’t planned it this way. Plus, I don’t have a good routine, so I am kind of just figuring it out day by day.

90 Pound Milestone

As I posted on Wednesday, I successfully reached a new milestone this week. I crossed the 90-pounds lost mark after getting close to it and then suffering from a big upward weight fluctuation – 5 pounds up in 3 days! Suddenly, I had a big drop and hit 91 pounds.

The 90 pound milestone is big for a couple of reasons.

  1. Success! First, it is a lot of weight and has happened in less than 8 months and it is a proud accomplishment for sure! I set a goal, I worked my ass off to get there and I have been very successful. There haven’t been many areas of my life where I can say this same level of deliberate, committed success has happened.
  2. Competition. I know several people in my professional life who have lost 80 pounds and talk about it occasionally at work. This is impressive and deserves nothing but respect for their accomplishments. But, I am a high competition person and it is a big motivator that I am now at the 90 pounds plus mark. I know it is strange, but it is just how my brain works.
  3. Visible. I am really starting to see visible results of my weight loss on my body. Not just that I am smaller, everybody can see that. But, I am seeing more specific results in the tone and hardness of muscle groups. For example, my thighs are super muscular particularly when walking down stairs. My ass is pretty solid when walking upstairs. I have growing biceps. Plus, my problem areas for fat are starting to get really small.
  4. Next. Finally, the 90 pound milestone is big because it is the last interim milestone in my journey. Along the way, I have been setting interim goals of 10 or 20 pound increments to focus on, but that stops now. My next goal is my 100 pound goal and I am less than 10 pounds away from that! My current projection is to hit that goal by St Patty’s day.

Impact of Sodium

As my weight decreases, my susceptibility to fluctuations has apparently increased. I have noticed that I am more sensitive to certain things and that the cause my weight to change quickly.

In previous posts, I have talked about how alcohol has a fairly quick impact on my weight and that caused my to reduce my beer intake and replace with bourbon because I drink less and drink it slower. The alcohol effect seems to have leveled out pretty well, but now I have a new culprit.


Something you may not know about sodium is that it is EVERYWHERE! The average American consumes about 3400 milligrams of sodium each day. The FDA recommends that you consume no more than 2400 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association takes it a step further and recommends under 1500 milligrams.

Staying within the 1500mg guideline is really hard to do because of how prevalent sodium is in everything we tend to consume in the US. Pretty much any packaged foods are going to deliver a sodium bomb. The way we prepare our foods infuses more sodium into them. Plus, sodium is a naturally occurring mineral in many of our foods.

The biggest solve to the sodium intake issue we all face daily is fresh, uncooked vegetables. Salads can be particularly good ways to mitigate sodium depending on what you add besides vegetables. The meats, the toppings, the dressings all come with a gift with purchase of sodium.

What I have found to be particularly troubling about sodium over the past few weeks is its impact on my daily weight. Sodium causes your cells to retain water and this leads to increased weight from that water. So, the day after I celebrated a 91-pound weight loss milestone, I was up a pound, then another 2 pounds. This is all related to my sodium intake which was very high over those few days.

On Saturday, I actively tried to manage my sodium intake and got down to 2200mg, which is still high. But, it was a Saturday and I wanted pizza with a beer while watching basketball! I also drank lots of water (50 ounces above my daily goal) to help offset. By doing this, I was down a pound this morning. I should be down tomorrow too.

When you look at my weight loss chart, you will see lots of ups and downs during my journey. Beer, sodium, fiber and a variety of other factors will influence your weight every day. This is one of the things you have to expect and make peace with if you are going to track your weight daily. It is not uncommon to go up in weight as much as 5 pounds in one day. But, you have to remember that this is NOT a real weight gain – that would be biologically impossible. It is just your body doing what your body needs to do!

Great Workouts

With having a little extra flexibility in my schedule, my gym time has been pretty solid over the past week. I am having long workouts and bested several of my personal records this week.

On Thursday, I set my new personal record for running. I ran at a 6 mph pace (10-minute mile) for 2 minutes and continued at a 5.5 mph pace (10:54 mile) for another 18 minutes. This equates to almost 2 full miles ran without slowing down to walk and that almost doubles my prior record. That wasn’t the end of that session either, I continued for a full 30 minutes including more running.

I have increased the weight for many of my weight training exercises too. My ab crunches are up to 80 pounds, my seated rows vary between 70 and 90 pounds and my arm curls are at 60. Each of these weight levels are higher than when I started in the gym in October and higher than they were last month.

My goal each week is to get a workout in at least 5 days, but I prefer 6 or 7. Even when I don’t have a set workout, I still try to achieve my exercise goals for that day (steps, stairs, calorie burn, etc.) through normal activities.

Operation Melt – The Book

As I start closing in on my goal, I have started considering what comes next. Based on the feedback I have received from people along the way about my journey and the blog, I am thinking about another vehicle to help tell my story. I have started looking into the idea of writing a book. So far, I have an outline and at least 1 chapter written.

I want to help other people with their weight loss and fitness journeys. If everybody can have the results that I have had, or even half of that, I think people will feel more successful. When people feel successful, they have the motivation to continue and achieve their goals. If this happens with more people, the obesity epidemic can be helped and people will enjoy their lives more.

Really, I believe this is my goal in life: to help myself and others live happier, more successful and more fulfilling lives.

Check back next week for more!

Last week’s stats (1/29 – 2/4):
Distance walked/run: 35.4 miles
Total calories burnt: 27,102
Total calories consumed: 11,659
Weight change: 3.3 pounds GAINED! (all in last 2 days!)

Milestone Update: 90 Pounds Down

Today was another milestone for my Operation Melt journey. I finally broke through a temporary upward weight fluctuation from this weekend – I had gained 5 pounds in 2 days! The result has that I finally hit the 90 pounds lost mark.

During my morning weigh-in today, I was exactly 91 pounds down since the start of my journey!

This is a particularly significant milestone because it is my last incremental milestone before the big goal. Right now, my projection is that I will cross the 100-pound mark by St. Patty’s day. I can’t believe how close that is!

Week 33: Changes Come

This was an interesting week for sure. I had some life changes and my commitment to my journey was tested and I passed with flying colors.

Life changes and I have a choice

So, something very impactful happened this week. I debated how much I wanted to say about some of the events from this week and have decided to share a bit. In part, I made the decision to talk about this based on some advice I was given about how much of a test this could be and how easy it would be to fall back into old patterns. But, I haven’t!

“We have made the decision to eliminate your position”.

That’s right, this week I heard the phrase that none of us wants to hear. After 10 years with my company, I was done just like that. To be clear, I am not mad at the company and the changes that were made were good ones. Unfortunately, I was negatively impacted and that kind of sucks. But, they treated me fairly and I am on to next.

So, I had a choice to make. Do I let this setback make me depressed and put my fitness goals on hold? Or, do I look at this as an opportunity for greatness and to recommit to my fitness journey? I can tell you, this was an easier choice for me at this stage of my life than ever before.

The successes I have experienced with my fitness journey have let me prove to myself that I can be successful at anything that I commit to and that is important to me. I have proven to myself that I am more that my job. So, I didn’t take my foot off of the gas for Operation Melt even for one second.

Becoming a fixture in the gym

On my first day of my break between jobs, I woke up with a stress-free feeling like I haven’t experienced in a very long time; I felt great! I started off at the gym early in the morning just like normal – though I did set my alarm to 6:15 instead of 5:15 for now. I did more than 35 minutes of cardio on the treadmill and burnt almost 700 calories. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and had to stop there so I could head out to a breakfast. Then, because I had time on my hands, I went back to the gym in the afternoon for a pretty fierce lifting session.

The second day of my break, I did my longest run and cardio workout I have ever done. I spent an hour on the treadmill and burnt nearly 1000 calories in one session. The day after, I spent nearly an hour and a half in the gym. On Saturday, I took a rest day, but I was back at it today with another 90-minute workout.

With this unexpected change in my daily routine, I am really planning to step up the workouts as much as possible. I want to get into gym 5 or 6 times per week and make sure that I am getting myself covered in sweat. I want to make sure that I am meeting or exceeding all of my exercise goals every single day.

This is an opportunity to step it up and I am not going to let myself squander that! My fitness is my job right now!

Need new routine

This week has included a big change in my daily routine. So, I need to spend some time figuring out a solid routine during my transitional time.

The biggest need for a routine comes in my meal plans. With the increase in workouts, I also have an increase in hunger and need for some extra calories. At the same time, I am going out for lunches with friends, colleagues and contacts instead of my old go-to lunch at the salad bar. So, I need to be careful not to inadvertently take a step back in nutrition. I have done ok so far, but need to continue being deliberate.

Big results, then not so much

So, will all of these changes and the extra exercise, you would expect to see big results, right? Well, that is how the week started.

Coming off of a big week last week with a 6.9 pound loss, I continued building on that progress. I was losing at a rate of .2 pounds per day and got to the 89.9 pounds lost mark. I was excited to celebrate my 90 pounds lost milestone on Friday. Alas, that was not to be.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, my weight increased daily and I ended the weekend 4 pounds up from where I was on Thursday. I know that this is a temporary fluctuation related to sodium, alcohol, carbs and other things that cause water retention.

These temporary fluctuations have happened before and I got through them. Unfortunately, it is more frustrating this week than ever before. I was really hoping to end the week with a big win since it started with such a big setback. Oh well, there is always next week.

Check back next week for more!

Last week’s stats (1/22 – 1/28):
Distance walked/run: 34.4 miles
Total calories burnt: 26,419
Total calories consumed: 11,139
Weight change: 6.9 pounds lost

Week 32: I am killing it!

I was listening to one of my favorite Pandora workout stations on the treadmill the other day and Power by Kanye West came on. There is one line in the song that really resonates with me and it really is the theme for this week in my journey

At the end of the day goddamn it I’m killin’ this shit

Sometimes the daily ups and downs and all of the other noise in life makes me lose sight of the bigger picture in my journey. It is easy to encounter a minor setback and let it be discouraging. But, just when that happens, there are new wins that make me step back and say “wow!”.

This is one of those weeks that started a little discouraging and then something just clicked. The second half of this week was amazing, it was successful and it reminded me of how far I am come.

Crushed the 85 pounds lost mark

Over the past week plus, I was flirting with hitting the 85 pounds lost mark, but suddenly had a big upward weight fluctuation and missed hitting that milestone. That happens and, while frustrating, is a part of the journey to which I have become accustomed.

Next thing you know, pretty much overnight, I not only got to the 85-pound loss mark, but I blew right past it to 86, then 87 and then 88 in the span of 4 days. It was amazing! It is like something clicked in my metabolism and I am a weight burning machine! Even today, after drinking a few beers yesterday which usually cause a temporary weight gain, I was down another .2 pounds – I expected to be up.

If my current trend continues, I should achieve the 90-pound mark early this week. I am very excited about that!

Numbers just tell part of the story

As you have concluded by reading this blog, I am a numbers-driven guy in this journey. I like measuring things, predicting where I will be, comparing my forecast to actuals to identify variances, and so forth. The numbers are something that I can measure and can easily see progress. Visually seeing your own progress, when you see yourself every day, is a lot hard than the numbers.

Through this journey so far, it has been hard to really tell a difference in my appearance. I know I look different, people say I look different, but it isn’t a stunning difference to me. That all changed this week as Liz and I have tried recreating some old pictures to show a before and after.

The following pictures, while not exact recreations, are directionally the same pose in the same place. Both sets of picture are at two of our favorite local restaurants: Barcelona (which remodeled) and CBC. After looking at these pictures, yes I see a difference! And, there are more pictures to come when we get back to Indian Lake in a couple of months.

Inconsistent gym visits, but they are happening

I am still very inconsistent in my visits to the gym. I want to go every day or at least every 2 days, but I am still finding it too easy and comfortable to hit the snooze button instead. It is particularly hard to go back to the gym a day after a good workout where I am sore. But, pain is part of growth and I just need to be aware of what I am doing so I don’t injure myself by over-working one area.

That said, I did get to the gym a few times this week and I even got to go outside for a run to enjoy an unexpected 60-degree day in January. As has become a bit of a trend, my Saturday workout this week was a rock-solid one and I killed it. I burnt over 1000 calories in the workout and was able to target lots of different areas of my body.

I have noticed myself getting stronger too. On many of the machines I have been using for months, I have moved the weight up 1 or 2 plates. Plus, I started doing arm curls with a 30 pound barbell, then had moved up to a 40 pound and today I moved up to 50 pounds. The 50 pound barbell is important because I feel like that is a respectable amount of weight to be using when other people (other guys really) see you working out. That is probably just in my head really.

Another sign of progress is my treadmill approach over the past week. I have started a routine where I warm up for 2 minutes of increasing speed walking just to stretch. Then, I set the speed to 5.5 mph which is a 10:54 mile and I run a mile! It isn’t comfortable, I often want to stop and walk part way through, but I do it. Just 3 or 4 months ago, I couldn’t even imagine running a mile and now it is part of my standard routine.

Something I learned this week is that I am not good at controlling my pace when I am not on a treadmill. On Friday, I went out for a run outdoors for the first time in a long time. I set out with the goal of running at a pace of 11 or 12 minutes per mile. This is a good, semi-comfortable pace and I thought it would let me complete my first full running lap around Schiller Park – a goal I have had.

Turns out, including my .25 mile warm up walk to the park and a brief slow down during my lap, my pace was 11:26. This means that I must have been running at a 10-minute mile and that is a little too fast for me right now. No wonder my heart rate stayed in the “Peak” zone almost the whole time! Oops.

Clothes are a struggle… a good problem

All of the new pants I bought a while back when I did my first round of wardrobe replacement are now unwearable for me. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a couple of pairs of new jeans that were 10 inches smaller than when I started. So, this week, I decided I needed to buy some more and went shopping.

My first stop was Target where they didn’t have my size at all. They had bigger, which isn’t helpful. They also had smaller, which I tried on and they are just a little bit too small. So, with a bit of anxiety, I decided to take a trip to Old Navy.

Old Navy pants shopping gives me anxiety because I tried to buy pants at Old Navy a while back. In August, when I first started needing new clothes, I tried Old Navy and it was a very discouraging moment because they had nothing big enough to fit me. I wrote about this in my 8/26/2017 post.

What a difference a few months can make! I grabbed a few pairs of jeans in my size (yes, they had it) and headed to the fitting rooms. I tried them on and had to abandon them all. They were WAY too big on me and I couldn’t wear them. I ended up going down one more size (which is 12 inches less than when I started) and those were even a bit big on me, but comfortable. Plus, they were on sale for $25 a pair, so score!

Unfortunately, I have reached a point where pretty much my entire closet has to be purged. This leaves me with like 10 shirts and 5 pairs of jeans that fit me and nothing else. So, I am going to have to keep buying clothes that I am just going to get rid of in a couple of months. This part of the journey is annoying and expensive. However, it is also pretty rewarding!

My goal is in sight… then what?

My final thought (who am I, Jerry Springer?!) in this long post is about my goal. When I started this journey on 6/15/2017, I set a goal of losing over 100 pounds in under a year. I thought it was an aggressive goal and I would likely not achieve it in that timeframe.

The reality is, I am on-pace to hit 90 pounds by the end of January. So, I think my 100-pound mark will be here before St Patty’s day. While it is exciting that my goal is really in sight now, it also leaves me with a question that I am struggling to answer.

Then what?

I am going to need to make some choices about what I want to do after I hit my goal. Option 1 is to switch into “maintain” mode and just hold at that weight. That doesn’t sound exciting to me. Option 2 is to just keep going and figure out a new goal. That sounds like a recipe for aimlessness.

So, I think I am going to just keep going until I hit the 1 year mark in June and see where I am then. It would be awesome to be under the 200 pound mark – I cannot believe that is even a possibility! But, I am also going to start focusing on bodybuilding, targeting certain areas of my body that I want to continue to refine. Plus, I will start focusing on other related goals like running a 5K.

But, I cannot take my eyes off the prize. I need to get to the 100 pound mark first before I can figure out what to do next.

Check back next week for more!

Last week’s stats (1/15 – 1/21):
Distance walked/run: 25.4 miles
Total calories burnt: 24,571
Total calories consumed: 10,970
Weight change: 0.7 pounds lost

My Morning Routine

I am completely fascinated by reading about the morning routines of famous leaders current and historical as well as others who are willing to share. Over the past couple of days I have read a couple of good articles about the things that high performers or strong leaders do in the morning. Here are links to a couple of them:

Given that my morning routine is where I made one of my biggest changes to support my Operation Melt journey, I thought I would write a one-off post to share my routine.

Prime Time

One thing I will say before going much further is that the morning is my prime time. I think the best in the mornings. I am most focused in the mornings. I have the most control over my time in the mornings – with the exception of having to go to work. So, when I looked for where to prioritize “me” time and chase personal pursuits, the morning was the clear answer. So, that is why this morning routine has come to be over the past 7 months.

Wake Up… Eventually

On weekdays, my alarm is set for 5:15 each morning. I have set it as early as 5 or as late as 6 depending on my needs. But, 5:15 is really my sweet spot. In case you are wondering, my normal bed time is 11 or 11:30.

When my alarm goes off, I immediately hit the snooze button. Usually, this only lasts until 5:25-5:30 or even just for a few minutes. However, there are mornings that this will persist until 6:30 – those are usually bad mornings where I don’t get to “me” time and I feel excessively rushed.

Bathroom Time

So, I am going to possibly over-share here, but we are all adults and we all use the bathroom.

My first step after getting out of bed is to go to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I have an iPad and I use it to check email, check Facebook and sometimes read news on the web. But, I always spend a bit of time writing in the morning on the iPad.

Since November of 2016, I have been journaling every morning. It is a good way to document my life and keep a record. But, it is also a good way to explore thoughts and ideas. Also, it is just relaxing. I do my journaling in OneNote and my normal daily journal entry follows a structure, but I will deviate from time to time.

  • How am I feeling now and anything immediately on my mind
  • Recapping the events of the prior day
  • Reviewing my plans and goals for today
  • Checking in on my health – status from prior day, current day weight, any issues, any progress

I know that a lot of the morning best practices say that this is the time to disconnect from devices. I don’t do that and think it would be unproductive and uncomfortable.

Then, I brush my teeth, complete my daily weigh-in (usually multiple attempts until I get a consistent reading) and get dressed to head to the gym.

Syncing My Apps

Once I am downstairs, I grab a big glass of cold water and I spend a few minutes syncing up all of my apps. I make sure my weight has synced to Apple Health and then I log my BMI and my resting heart rate. Then, I go into my food tracker app and flag the prior day as complete and log today’s weight. Once I finish this, I know that my key metrics are all set and I can start my day.

Working Out

The workout information below is “happy path” and assumes that I haven’t skipped my workout – this happens sometimes. Plus, it assumes that I am working out in the gym instead of outdoors.

After syncing up all of my fitness apps, my next step is to put on my gym shoes and head out the door. I try to get to the gym before 6:30 and spend a solid 30 minutes working out. On weekdays, my workout primarily focuses on the treadmill for some cardio. If I finish my cardio before 7, I will toss in some weight training too, but only if I have time. My weight training is primarily on the weekends or days off work.

After I finish my workout, I dash out to the car and head back home.

Closing Out My Workout & Breakfast

When I get home (usually just after 7), I grab another glass of water and probably some food. I say probably because I sometimes skip eating and grab something healthy on the way to work or at work. My normal breakfast consists of oatmeal (warm or cold overnight oats) or fruit with a hardboiled egg or an artisan toast or a smoothie or a Dannon Lite & Fit yogurt.

While I am eating and drinking, I log the results of my workout in my food tracker app. This is where I get a full picture of what my calorie budget will be for the day. Plus, I may use this time to get caught up on my Operation Melt Twitter account.

Work Prep and Hitting the Road

My next step is to get ready for work. I take my shower (often for too long!), shave, do my hair and get dressed. My goal is to get into the bathroom to start prep before 7:30 and to leave the bathroom before 8.

I head downstairs pack up anything for work and then head out the door for work. My goal is to get there in enough time to get organized before my standing 8:30 meeting.

My Commute

I try to get in the car just after 8 and hit the road. I usually start with a stop at a local coffee place: Winan’s, Stauf’s or Starbucks. Then, I hit the road for my commute which is normally less than 15 minutes.

While I am in the car, I usually listen to XM radio and catch up on the news of the day. I usually listen to CNN or MSNBC for my trip. Alternatively, I may decide to listen to comedy stations and get a good chuckle in while commuting. If I am in the middle of an audio book or podcast, I may continue listening to that in the car.

Starting My Day

I get to work around 8:20 or so. Then I startup my computer, check email one more time and then head off to my 8:30 project standup meeting. Once I am there, I virtually cease to be in control of my schedule through the day because my calendar stays pretty full with meetings. I try to piece in the real work in the free times between meetings or at lunch or at the end of the day.

Just to put some closure on the day, I usually exit the office around 6 each night.

There you have it, my morning routine. I really am not 100% content with it, but it is way better than this time last year. At that time, my routine consistent of waking up, getting showered and getting the hell out the door so I could be at work between 7 and 7:30. My current routine is much healthier!