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!

A bit of a rant…

This was week 126 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.

Rant ahead…

This week’s post is pretty short because I am running a race today – The Hot Chocolate Run. But I still want to stay true to my weekly posting routine.

This week’s post is also a little unusual for me in a different way. Though I generally try to stay positive this week isn’t my normal level of positivity. This is a little bit of a rant about something that happened almost a month ago. This situation bothered me so much that I have struggled to let it go.

I also caution you that there is some harsh language ahead.

T’was the night before marathon…

The night before I ran the Columbus Marathon half marathon I was out at a social event. It isn’t important what the event was (I want to protect identities) but it was the type of event that has assigned seating. We were sat at a table with people who we didn’t know but they all knew each other.

Importantly these people were unaware of my personal transformation. They had no idea that I was 325 pounds just 28 months earlier. And why would they…

We were making conversation and the topic of David Goggins came up.

For those who don’t know, Goggins’  inspirational story was that he also transformed his life through fitness. After growing up in terrible conditions and growing to over 300 pounds he decided to change his life. He became the first person to graduate Navy SEAL school, Army Ranger school and the USAF tactical school. He is a veteran of 3 different branches of special forces. He is an ultra marathoner, a triathlete, holds the world pull-up record and is a total badass. An inspirational badass.

He came up in conversation because he recently released a book. As part of the book promo he has been featured on many different podcasts. Several of this heard his story on different podcasts.

One of the other people at the table started telling his story and that is where the rant starts.

Umm… what did you just say?!

As the person telling the story was describing Goggins he said the thing that still bothers me almost a month later.

“He was over 300 pounds… a total piece of shit!”

Are you kidding me?!

You say that about someone just because they are overweight? You say that about somebody whose incredibly difficult life that you just described.

Because somebody is over 300 pounds you are going to completely discount them as a “piece of shit”… how dare you?

Am I in the club now?

What really bugged me is that I had a similar story to an extent though I started in a better place and ended in a far less badass state. Was I a “piece of shit” just two years ago?

This is the kind of thing that I always feared was being said about me behind my back. But, since high school, nobody had ever said to my face.

I guess, because I am not as visibly overweight, I have been invited into a special club. Now I get to hear insulting, hurtful and ignorant things openly said about others. I know that the vast majority of people don’t think and speak this way about others, just this exclusive club.

To be honest I was happier not hearing it said at  all and just assuming people were disrespecting me based on my appearance.

Smaller, not better…

At my core I am the same person I was before I lost 40% of my body weight. I just have less fat weighing me and my self-confidence down.

I am not better than anybody else because I am thinner. I do consider myself better than the old me simply because I re-proved to myself that I have great power to accomplish my big goals.

I am better than I used to be because I have grown, not just because I shrank!

I can also assure you that I never called anybody a “piece of shit” because they are overweight – and probably not any other reason.

In this case I believe that critique was misdirected!

Be more kind, people are fragile…

In a world plagued with body image issues, mental health struggles and skyrocketing rates of suicide these beliefs are very dangerous.

Calling somebody who is overweight a “piece of shit” is a good way to further amplify deeply held insecurities. You know what, they may already believe this deep in their mind. They don’t need to find out that somebody else believes this.

Maybe take a minute and consider what they are already going through in a world that tells them that they are smaller because they are bigger.

Maybe get to know the human being that is in front of you.

Maybe look for the strength inside the person who is dealing with some of the worst treatment that society has to offer.

Maybe show some empathy, kindness or love.

Or maybe just remember what you learned when you were a kid: if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. 

In case you wondered I still had a great time at the event!

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!

Taking Steps Towards the Future

This was week 125 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 points. 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.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year.

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 blogs are about continuing to help 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.

Running, It’s What I Do!

Throughout my Operation Melt journey I turned into a runner.

I have completed 3 half marathons in about a year each with improved times. I have completed one 10k (6.2 mile) race and countless 5k (3.1 mile) races. I average one race per month throughout the year and even more in November and December where I have a race about ever other week.

I have an unbelievable collection of medals and of shirts from each of the races.

Beyond the races I also run at least once or twice per week on my own. Sometimes I run every day for a while if my schedule and the weather cooperate. Another important caveat is that I also run when my body cooperates. My continued quest for increased speed and lots of long runs also means that my body needs time to rest to avoid injury and maintain solid performance

I love to run because of the amazing workout and calorie burn that it gives me. But I also love running because it is such a great way to compete with myself. There is always room for improvement and always a next race to train for. It is a good way to set small goals and see myself make progress.

Born to Run? Not Me!

I just talked about how much I love running and how great of an experience it is. But I have not been running for very long. I didn’t start running until far into my Operation Melt journey because I just wasn’t at a point in my fitness journey where I could comfortably and safely run.

From the start of my fitness journey through today there is another form of exercise that is most important to me: walking.

When I first started my quest to lose over 100 pounds in under a year I knew that I needed to increase my exercise. I was getting almost no exercise and that had to change. But I was 325 pounds and jumping into some high intensity workout would have not only frustrated me but might have been an unsafe choice. My body was not in a shape to start vigorous workouts.

That’s when I thought about the famous saying (perhaps a Chinese proverb) “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

I started walking. Each morning I would go for a short walk before going to work. Each afternoon I would also try to do some walking after work. I wasn’t doing a ton of distance. I wasn’t speed walking. I was just moving.

Then I started ramping up my distance slightly. I told my boss that I was going to stop coming into the office at 7 each morning and was going to start getting there by 8:30 just like the other “normal” people were doing. Side note: this also helped with my goal of reducing work hours and stress. Instead of going straight to work in the morning I would walk about 2 miles around the part in my neighborhood.

My goal was to get exercise and it was working! Between the exercise and other smart choices I saw the weight just melt off of me. People would tell me “Tony you are just melting away!” And that was what was happening. That’s where the name Operation Melt came from.

Walking, just taking one step after another, was how I got started with my weight loss.

Walk, Don’t Run

Still today walking is the most important form of exercise for me.

In just the past 7 days I have run just 3 times. I had a race last Saturday, I did some treadmill interval training to help work on speed improvements on Wednesday and I ran 4 cold miles yesterday. That is a total of 9 miles that I ran in the past week.

By comparison I went for about 10 dedicated walks for exercise which totaled 27.41 total miles. I say dedicated walks because those are the ones that I tracked with my wearable fitness tracker. I have walked about 48 total miles in that past 7 days (plus 9 miles of running) so I have travelled over 56 total miles in 7 days. And this was a light week.

Walking is absolutely the most important form of exercise to me. It is easy to do. It is great entertainment as I get to explore my city, use my people-watching skills and listen to fabulous podcasts and audiobooks. Plus you just can’t beat the scenery sometimes.

Walking is a great way to, literally, take steps towards your fitness goals and toward the new you.

But Wait, There’s More

Before wrapping up I want to talk about one more way that walking helps us. Walking is a metaphor for all forms of transformation and all projects in our lives.

How does walking work? You take a step. Then another. Then another.

You don’t need to know the full path you are going to follow when you start walking. Just take a step. As you make progress you can decide which twists and turns to take to get to your ultimate destination. But you have to keep moving. Just keep taking those steps forward.

As I look back through the important transformations in my life they all happened by taking one step at a time. Escaping poverty and graduating college not knowing if I could do it. Building a solid career doing things I am good at in a world being disrupted by technology. Turning my most important friendship into a successful, happy marriage for 18 years. Deciding to transform myself from 325 pounds to a fit athlete.

Each of these transformations, and countless others, all started with taking that first step. Putting one foot in front of the other and moving. Then doing it over and over again until I achieved my goal.

Why is walking important to me? It is how life is lived. It is how goals are achieved. It is how we transform ourselves. And it is how we build the lives of our dreams.

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!