One week from the first new reckoning — Shedding a big guy week 25

In one week comes my day of reckoning, the moment I will face the truth about where I am on this quest to lose 205 pounds.

Not much to report this week.

I am a week away from the reckoning, the telltale sign of whether what I’m doing is working. Actually, it won’t say much. It will be like a new starting point, though in the stats I won’t consider it that. Before I made the decision to chill out about strict dieting I’m sure I made it back into the 380s, if not even the 390s.

Since making the decision, though, I’ve been consistently more at peace than ever. And really, weight loss is a goal, but the ultimate goal is to be happy. I’m glad I’ve got that established before I lose all the weight. The roller coaster is ending.

I’m still nursing injuries as well. The one in my back and the other in my hip seem to have mellowed. Now the one that’s bugging me is the plantar fasciitis. For the most part I’ve done well being moderate about my diet, though on Saturday we had lots of people over and it was party time, which kind of spilled over into my regular stuff on Sunday.

No soda, though. Two weeks without it. I was kind of tempted on Saturday, but not severely.

Back at it now.

Next week I will weigh in again. As interesting as the number might be, I’m more interested in how seeing how I react to it.

Watch me — Shedding a big guy week 24

Yes, I am perfectly aware of the irony of cucumber slices placed on a Ronald McDonald plate.

About seven years ago I began seeing a therapist (Here you get another personal admission, the one thing people have thanked me the most for.) to address my obesity. My thought was by going to her we would address whatever psychological issue was sparking my compulsion about food, fix it, and then I would lose weight without thinking about it anymore.

It was not a bad idea at all, and was fed by a few visits I made a few years before to a different therapist. During that series of visits I had a moment in which I viewed myself surrounded by tables and tables of every kind of food. I could have whatever I wanted and it would be immediately replenished. Normally when I am hungry and I go get something, what I want is pizza, or a cheeseburger, or chocolate. I know many of you can relate.

When I conjured up this vision, though, I picked cucumbers. It was a kind of revelation to me, one that led me to believe that if I let go of the scarcity belief — “I’m ordering this Red Robin Pub Burger, even though the Apple Harvest Chicken Salad sounds better and will make me feel better, because I fear this is the last visit we will ever make to Red Robin.” — I could lower my weight without really thinking about it. I thought if I got that figured out, then I could do Weight Watchers without panicking.

The problem was, this therapist wasn’t about that. She told me to forget about Weight Watchers, or calorie counting or anything of the sort. She was about behavioral changes. Get regular sleep, and get enough of it. Stop the random channel surfing at night. Plan your food out. Eat enough to not be hungry and eat often so you’re not eating when you’re starving, because if you’re starving you’ll be stress eating, which normally means you’re going to choose the worst of several options. I tried it and it made sense. In fact, to some degree it worked, but I didn’t completely buy in. I still wanted a program that would have the weight falling off several pounds at a time.

We moved and I went to another therapist who tried all the visualizations from my childhood, having me talk to my younger self and all that. I think his methods would work for many people, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.

I’ve not let go of the idea that changing my brain and my emotional relationship with food is the key to all of this. That was, I have to come believe in retrospect, the point of involving all of you. Having your support, I believed, would help keep me motivated. That’s a brain thing, and it has helped me when I wanted to quit. I will continue to blog weekly updates here.

The program, though, is changing, and I am going back to what I believed in the first place the first time I went to a therapist to address my weight issues.

Only this time, I’m willing to forget the diets for long-term weight loss. If I’m generally content and not dominated by stress, I will eat less and I will eat better.

This, I know, is difficult for some of you to grasp. I know this, because Diana and I had one of our most challenging conversations about this. She found it difficult to agree with me. She argued that if the bottom line is you have to expend more calories than you take in, then you have to know how many calories you are taking in. That’s the premise behind Lose It, an app you can download that does a great job of telling you how many calories you should have in a day to lose 2 pounds a week. You enter every calorie you consume and exercise you do (You get to add calories if you exercise.) and the whole day you’re trying to stay under a certain amount. Some of you can employ a tool like that and not feel the stress I do. I envy you. But that’s not how I roll. In fact, it’s not how a lot of people roll.

A 2010 story in the online version of Science magazine provides evidence that confirms my thinking:

Bale (Tracy Bale, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania) and her co-authors hypothesized that dieting leaves people more susceptible to the chronic stresses of everyday life, making even the strongest dieter yearn for a pint of ice cream or a hot, cheesy pizza. Although one hot fudge sundae won’t cause significant weight gain, persistent stress could lead to a pattern of binge or comfort eating that undoes previous weight loss.

They tested their hypothesis and found it to be correct. Dieting makes some of us more susceptible to stress, and stress makes a thing like a DQ Blizzard much more attractive.

Adding more detail to bolster my argument was Dr. Daniel Amen in a HuffPost piece.

As we looked at the brains of our overweight patients, we discovered that again there was NOT ONE brain pattern associated with being overweight, there were at least five. We saw patterns associated with brains that tended to be compulsive … some were impulsive … others were sad … and still others anxious … in various combinations. This is exactly the reason why most diets don’t work. They take a one-size-fits-all approach, which from our brain imaging work makes absolutely no sense at all.

Aman found five brain patterns. Mine, I believe, is the fifth, the anxious overeater:

These are people who tend to be filled with anxiety and tension — they eat as a way to medicate their anxiety. Brain scans show that high activity in the basal ganglia, likely due to low levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, is the common finding in this type. Boosting GABA with relaxation exercises and a combination of vitamin B6, magnesium, and GABA can reduce feelings of anxiety.

My argument was, after hitting a plateau on Weight Watchers and a miserable three days using the Lose It app, that if I’m emotionally and psychologically balanced, I don’t need a number to know whether I’m eating healthy. That balance will influence me to make better choices. After being on this program for nearly half a year, seeing great progress at the beginning, then getting stuck for several weeks, I was ready to completely abandon all formal weight-loss regimes and accept the best method possible. Some of you can stick to a structured program like Weight Watchers, Lose It, Jenny Craig or any of a number of structured diets without it affecting your well being. I’m not wired that way. I had a hard time convincing Diana that shedding the calorie counter was going to work. I still haven’t convinced her.

Then someone posted that graphic that I shared on Facebook, the note that says, “There are so many people out there who will tell you that you can’t. What you’ve got to do is turn around and say, ‘Watch me.’”

Watch me.

To any of you who are doubters, watch me.

The last few days of this week I stopped counting calories or points. I’ve focused on moment-to-moment decisions that make the difference. I made choices that will help me lose weight and choices that won’t. I refrained from counterproductive food at times and at others I overindulged.

Overall, I don’t feel near the stress that I did.

I can’t say I’ve lost weight. I don’t know. I’m not going to weigh myself again maybe until the beginning of April. What is true is that I’m happier now than I’ve been since I started this thing. That’s great news, because a couple of weeks ago I was more discouraged about my efforts and my life generally than I had been in a long time.

There are other factors that have me content. I did give up soda and I know that has made me feel better physically. I did that on March 10 and only recently had a slight craving for it again. I also made significant progress on a book project, have worked on being a better dad and husband, some pain I had been experiencing is subsiding and I have been getting better sleep. The sleep thing could be related to the soda.

The bottom line for me is to manage my stress levels. I work on daily deadlines and can get pretty amped up. It’s not at all uncommon for me to finish a story, and then within an hour I get kind of sleepy. Before I finish a story, though, I want to eat all the time. This week, ridding myself of any diet program helped diminish some of that. The pizza, burger and chocolate consumption is way down.

It’s only a few days into this, so it’s way too early to declare victory. I am going to look into Aman’s conclusions about boosting GABA, which is an amino acid that reduces stress and regulates muscle tone. I might not be getting enough of it.

In the end, the two goals I had at the beginning of this journey remain. I will run a marathon and I will weigh 199 pounds and less. The marathon apparently continues to be the metaphor for this entire process.

One final sign, a good one. As I wrote this (Sunday evening) I became hungry. I went upstairs to grab a nibble. I was open to anything. Earlier in the day Diana had cut up a cucumber into slices. There was my snack. One moment of success! I’m planning to have lots of those.

Volver a Lota, Chile

For years I’ve been dreaming of a way to return to Chile, where I was serving as a missionary 30 years ago.

At this time in the experience I was in Lota, a coal mining town along the coast. It was the place I started in Chile, where I experienced a major case of culture shock. It took me about a month to be completely OK with where I was.

Thirty years ago today I was four months into my stay in Lota and had another two months to go before getting transferred. The bigger news, though, came in April 1982, when I would find out that my mission had been shortened from two years to 18 months, news I didn’t exactly dislike. I loved being in Chile, but the idea that I could come home sooner through no fault of my own appealed to me as well.

I am making plans to return. The details of how I will get there I will reveal within a few months. I have a project in the works, one that will take me not only to Lota, but to Talca, Talcahuano and Arauco, other cities I called home for a few months.

The following video is from Lota. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s somewhat sad to me that it doesn’t look that much different. That is pretty much why I’m going back.

No numbers for you (or me) in week 23

This is me in June. I might shave, though.

You and I will get no feedback about how the last week went, primarily because I don’t need or want to see the number. I don’t think it would help. I don’t expect it would be all that awful, but I’m changing course in my journey to 199 and for me that will be the focus, at least until next week.

It is important to me to reiterate that my decision to stop doing Weight Watchers online does not represent a failure of the program. It’s just that for whatever reason I hit a major plateau I couldn’t seem to exit, so it’s time to move on to another plan. As I think I stated before, when what I’m doing is not getting me where I want to go, it’s time to do something different.

One piece of advice I adopted was eliminating soda from my diet. I was big on Diet Dr. Pepper, Pepsi Max and Coke Zero. Every once in a while I’d sneak in a fully sugared version. I’d read all the stories about what artificial sweeteners do, but what I really noticed was the how they made me feel, even just drinking one 12-ounce can, which was seldom what I did. I’m off soda at least through the end of March, at which point I will likely commit to April, after which I hope to be off the stuff for good. Seems strange to do it that way, but I’m attached.

Secondly, I’m going to a calorie counting model focusing on eating healthy. I pay attention to how I feel. I plan my time and my food, and I focus on getting better sleep, two things that will help eliminate the stress eating.

As for exercise, running is still going to be part of it. I will, however, put the longer runs on hold temporarily. I love the half-hour runs I was doing on weekdays. I plan to work my way back to a 5k first. Then I will find the next distance to aim for.

Additionally, the YMCA is looking very attractive for swimming and other workouts that will improve my ability to function.

And finally, it seems worthwhile to set a goal for part of the journey. It’s kind of like if you’re in Seattle and driving to DC, setting a goal for when you will be in Chicago.

Because I gave myself the incentive that after passing 350, 300, 250 and 200 I could buy Dodger gear, that’s where I will start. The Dodgers will be here in June and I want to show my support when they are here. So, buy the end of May I will hit 349. When I do, I get to buy a new Dodger hat. (I don’t want to buy any shirts until I can fit into smaller sizes.)

So there you have it. Thanks everyone for offering ideas on my last weight-loss post.

Time for a new weight loss road map, perhaps

When I was a junior in high school with less than a year’s experience of driving I went on a double date to Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif. We made it there just fine.

The return trip was an ordeal.

Somewhere between Valencia and my house I got on the wrong freeway and, not being familiar enough with the entire Los Angeles area, didn’t know where I was. The attempt to get back and headed in the right direction was filled with several wrong turns. I ran my first stop sign, something everyone else in the car except me noticed. I got us into Los Angeles’ Chinatown, a place I’m not sure I could get to on purpose. Eventually I saw something I recognized or hoped would get us home and it did. I was supposed to be back at the house around 1-1:30 a.m. I got there around 3:30 a.m. My date’s father had called our house wondering where we were. Four sets of parents were worried.

During the last several weeks I have kind of felt like I have been continually lost in my journey to losing 205 pounds. Last week a host of other issues had me discouraged as well, which wasn’t a good combination. I’m not so discouraged now, but I’m also not certain I should continue the same path to get to the same goal. So I’m considering options, detours, or alternative routes.

Weight Watchers works. It has worked for me before. Perhaps this time around, though, I need something else to get me where I want to be forever. I’m in the process of looking at other plans and other ideas. If I could do it, I would not use a plan at all. I would just tell myself to let my body tell me what it needs and I would go on that. I’m not there yet, so I believe I need to find something else.

A lot of you gave me ideas before. If you’ve got any again, I’d love to hear them. I’m really feeling OK about all this. I’m just reassessing how I get to where I want to go. Part of the rethinking came in seeing my brother-in-law Don Fyffe doing it how he’s doing it. He’s biking and eating a pretty different diet in his goal of losing 155 pounds, which he plans to mark by biking from Tokyo to Mount Fuji, then climbing to the summit.

In doing some searching I found something called the DASH diet. It’s not really designed for weight loss as much as hypertension, but weight loss does happen and with me it would happen. And I’m taking pills to lower my blood pressure as it is. The diet is high on fruits and veggies, the dairy is low fat or non fat, it calls for whole grains and lean meats, nuts and I guess allows for some sweets. The biggest benefit is it would be healthy. I resist making huge changes, because they’re hard to sustain long term, but I could do with a lot less soda, sugar, pizza and burgers in my life.

Additionally, I’m considering joining the YMCA here and developing a workout plan I can do consistently. I did well there before. It’s best if I get up early in the morning and go, which would be a challenge.

That’s the thing about all of this is it’s not just my eating that has been the problem. It is so many parts of what constitutes my lifestyle. Weight Watchers at its core can be just a reduction in what I’m already doing. Maybe what I need to do is something completely different.

Happy Birthday to Apollo!

Apollo the protector

This little guy you see pictured here; this boy who can be so deathly afraid of ferns that people in the parks will call out and ask if we’re OK but will pick up any cat despite all their protestations and no matter how many times they end up scratching him; this boy who only recently got up the courage to watch Matilda, but is also the little guy who idolizes his older brother and adores his older sister and always wants his mom to tuck him in but wants his dad to take to him to parks because Dad will take him to 7-Eleven for a Slurpee: this imp who complains about taking too long when we visit Grandpa, but talks to him more than the other kids; who goes outside in bare feet in the cold to jump on the trampoline or to crawl into his dad’s car or mom’s van; this boy who doctors said was a toddler at birth because he weighed just a shade under 12 pounds, the kid who was immediately idolized by his cousin Teesha and who fell into a pool once when I wasn’t watching well enough; who joked about falling off the Hoover Dam and yelling “Tally Ho,” who decided for himself that he no longer wanted to wear diapers and later didn’t want any help with cleaning up the dirty business, who keeps his private parts private from view but openly discusses his and those of others, who likes to spend the whole day sometimes in nothing but his undies, who knows his way around all our iPods, whose train tracks constantly dominate our living room and who looks like an angel when he sleeps because he really is an angel who came to our family and blessed it and made us all better people just by being with us, has a really special day today.

He turns 5.

Yesterday he said he thinks he’s going to like being 5. I’m going to do all I can to make sure that’s true.

Happy Birthday, Apollo!

Seems anyone can go to France just by panhandling

The guys on the right (Literally, look to the right and you’ll see two guys dancing on a red carpet. This is not a blog post about the four remaining Republican candidates for president. I told you to look on the right, but I realize someday those guys may no longer be there. In that case, go to and look around and you’ll get the idea. Is this the longest parenthetical remark ever within a sentence? Will you even remember what this parenthesis interrupted when you get to the end of it? Lucky for you that you don’t have to retrace every step. You just have to go back to the beginning of the paragraph and then skip over this entire subsection of the overall sentence. I suppose I didn’t have to explain that to you.) achieved their goal of drumming up $5,000 so they can go to the Cannes Film Festival.

Let’s hear it for the small independent businesspersons of the world!

Seriously, this is pretty cool. In fact it’s a pretty cool age we live in. People working at home and not gainfully employed have many ways to make money these days. And in the old days (Like five years ago. This break is shorter.) Going to Cannes would have been a pipe dream even for movie critics employed by many newspapers. These guys just asked for backing and there they go.

It gives me an idea. You’ll hear about it in due time.

Don’t be cheap; Send these guys to France.

In this election year I’m supporting the BS ticket for a trip to the Cannes Film Festival. For a few bucks you can too. Because a political contribution would ruin my image of Olympian objectivity I can’t contribute to a political campaign. But you’ve got to admit, you’ll get more of a payoff from this than you would by sending money to Barack Obama or Mitt Romney anyway.

For several months I had the rare pleasure (It became even rarer when he got fired.) of working alongside movie critic, humor columnist, BYU grad and all-around jackass Eric Snider when I worked at the newspaper that for him shall not be named. I’ve followed his career ever since and have enjoyed his meteoric rise to the upper-middle rung of the Internet world.

Let’s not kid ourselves. He’s not as well known as Roger Ebert for his movie criticisms or Dave Barry for his humor, but who do you know who stands in his living room in his sweat pants (I hope he’s wearing pants this time.) making a living by writing on the Internet? I thought so. And if you need some idea of his credibility, he is a regular player on Rotten Tomatoes and was once banned by Paramount, or one of its promotional companies.

Eric works with a partner, Jeff Bayer (who I’ve never met and probably never will), on an ongoing podcast of movie critiques. I’ve never listened to it. But if they go to Cannes, I will.

My main reason for supporting this effort is my appreciation of Eric’s work, but also because I would love, love, love to hear him skewer the French as I believe he will. Ever since I first heard about the Cannes Film Fesitival it seemed to me to be the snootiest, most pretentious film festival that side of Sundance. Cannes deserves some Snider treatment.

Add to that the fact that I’d like to see a campaign like this work. I’m warning you that I might try one myself one day.

So spend a dollar or 20 backing the BS Cannes effort. I’ve left the link above and over the in the column on the right that will take you to the Kickstarter Campaign page. The minimum donation is $1. Do it by Thursday, or these guys remain stateside. And no one wants to see that.

Up a couple in week 22

Project this. It weighs 25.8 pounds.

Finding my weight went up 2 pounds was pretty discouraging. I have to stop running for a while because of a couple of conditions. I’m not sure they’re injuries so much as conditions. At any rate, not running should help alleviate the problem with one. Losing weight will help with one as well. I’m not sure with the other one. It feels like a pulled muscle in the back. If it sticks around long I’ll get it checked out. I hope resting will cure it.

This means I’m a no-go for the half-marathon on Aug. 4. I’ll get my sights set on another one at some point, but when I start running again I think first I’ll train for the lower runs and work my way up. As soon as I can comfortably do a 10k I think I can prepare for a half. Once I do a half, then the full one seems doable.

There is a lot going on that is contributing to the stress. I felt so great on vacation. However my faith has evolved over the years, I have faith that I will feel better. I wish I did now.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 378.2
Last week’s weight: 387.6
One week change: +2.0
Total weight lost: -25.8
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 6.4 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 12.6 percent
Plans for this week: Stop Stressing.