The choice is yours

The choice is yours

The beginning and the problem

That’s me, the little dude on the right wearing the leg brace. My sister is sitting next to me on the left and we’re both on my father’s lap. My father was so proud of his little boy even with the minor physical glitches that he came with. My father never told me there would be things that I couldn’t do. The doctors did sometimes, but because my parents supported me, I really didn’t listen anyways. My parents told me I could be anything. My parents were right.

I was born with a pretty severe case of club foot. My left and right legs needed a lot of work when I was a child. I still have limited rotation in my ankle, and my left kneecap is malformed which creates all kinds of interesting flexibility problems.

The only way you’d know this today is by the slight limp in my every step while I run the 5k right next to you.

I never gave up and I never settled, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t rough spots along the way.

A larger version of me

A different version of me

This was me a few years ago. I had stopped caring what I looked like for a bunch of reasons, ate what I wanted, and gained a lot of weight. I was right around 230 lbs at 5’10” and not healthy at all.

I lost my father to heart disease and the problem got worse. I began experiencing heart rhythm issues that stole my ability to think about anything but what I thought was my impending death. When I finally was able to overcome my fear and the arrhythmia became less frequent, I thought again about my father. I thought about how he died so young in modern terms, at only 60 years old. I decided that I wanted to live longer than this. I’ve always felt like I have a lot to do here and that to accomplish my dreams and to pass them on, I need all the time that I can get.

Me now

A shot of me now while visiting a friend in Seattle

Long workout routines at home, eating right, and then finally joining a gym and I was able to get the weight off. I feel a whole lot better than I did, and I learned a few tricks along the way that helped to get and keep me where I am. All total so far over the past few years, I’ve lost 55 lbs. I now weigh 175 lbs and am hovering just above 10% body fat.

If you’re struggling with your weight, you are not alone. It is a tough road to travel, it is not easy to change your eating habits, it is not easy to want to work out, and the results mostly do NOT come fast. Anyone telling you they do is trying to sell you something. But if the little boy up there with the braces on his legs can do it, you can too.

Never thought I'd see myself like this

Never thought I’d see myself like this

It’s your time. Do it and mean it.

If you’ve been thinking about leading a healthier lifestyle, there is no better time to start than right now. You will feel better, you’ll have more energy, you will get sick less often, and over the long term you will have less health issues. The work you put in every day will pay off in more ways that I can even bother to try to convince you of. Based on my experience, I promise you the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

I want to share you with a few things I learned over these last few years. These things have helped me to keep up with my exercise routines even when I am beyond exhaustion, and have helped me to eat right even when I’d rather be grabbing a hamburger sandwiched between two donuts.

Set goals for yourself, but make them realistic

You need to know WHY you are working out in the first place. Look online for information about weight loss and set realistic monthly goals for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit them, but use that as a motivation to work harder.

Make exercise a habit

Push yourself to stay on a routine for a long enough time that you feel emotionally bad when you can’t go. This takes a few months in my experience. Once you have that, the need for extra motivation isn’t as great. You will want to go and will get frustrated when you can’t. This makes it less likely you’ll skip for stupid reasons.

Distract yourself and push past into your second wind

When all your muscles are burning, and your chest is on fire, you may literally feel like you’re “going to die”. The biggest gains come when you push past that. Distract yourself. Think about something else. Be somewhere else to push past it. The worst thing you can do when your legs are burning while doing a 2 minute wall sit is think about your legs burning.

Find people that will help, not hinder your progress

If you’re going to work out with a friend or friends, do not choose people who will be prone to try and talk you out of going to the gym or exercising for various reasons on the day of. I see this all the time with groups that decide to do something like go have coffee instead of working out due to the smallest, silliest things. For example, one person is tired and convinces everyone else to quit. Avoid these people, or if you’re the kind of person that can motivate them instead, do it. Either way, if they don’t want to work out, you have to force yourself to do it without them. Don’t get sucked into the lazy trap. Find people that will challenge you and create positive group think.

Change up your workout

Your mind will bore of the same routine day in and day out, and your body will get used to it to the point where it provides no benefit. Change it up. Do different exercises. Add more weight. Run faster. Increase the incline on your treadmill. Pull up the resistance on your exercise bike. CHANGE IT UP!

If you can, go to the gym or somewhere outside of your house to exercise

I used to work out at home, and though I made huge progress on my own in the beginning, eventually I fell off. If you find yourself in this predicament, your best bet is to go to a gym. You change your surroundings, you have less opportunity to get distracted, and there is far more equipment there to use. You are also in a social environment and may meet friends to help you along your way.

If you can afford a trainer even for only 4 sessions, do it

Personal trainers can be expensive, but the best thing they provide in my opinion is customized routines. If you can afford to get a trainer for a month once a week, do it. Have the trainer build you multiple exercise routines that you can use even after the sessions have expired, and pay attention to the exercises they make you do.

Eating right

One of the things I talked to healthy people about is diets. It takes a combination of diet and exercise to achieve extreme results. I’ve chosen a modified paleo style diet, but one thing that all the modern meal plans seem to have in common is eating far less carbohydrates and refined sugars. Skip the breads, the tortillas, the pasta. I’ve personally found my mind to be much clearer and my energy levels much higher without them. Don’t be afraid of fats (especially unsaturated), there is a lot of evidence out there right now indicating they are not the evil creatures they have been made out to be. Eat a lot of protein, you’ll need it to recover.

Stop eating massive amounts of sugar. This means kicking the soda habit. Where you need something sweetened, look to natural sweeteners like stevia, or naturally occurring sugar alcohols like xylitol, and erythritol. These can even be used in almond and coconut flour to make modified baked goods!

I hope what I’ve written can help some of you who are on the fence about this stuff and help you to stick with a routine once you’ve started. I also hope that once our InShape project is up and running in the next few weeks you’ll join me there on virtual runs in the mornings. I’d love to have more friends while I’m staying fit!

Good luck. You can do it!

Homemade sugar free cranberry soda

Homemade sugar free cranberry soda

We had a taste for something to drink besides plain and sparkling water. Being totally adverse to just about anything with added sugar nowadays, I wanted to see if there was a way to sweeten up cranberry juice without drinking up a ton of carbs.

I didn’t think stevia would work because it has a naturally bitter aftertaste just like cranberries, but to my shock and surprise my first experiment was a success! A bit of tweaking the formula and I came up with a decent cranberry soda which I share here with you!

Sugar free cranberry soda

  • 1/4 cup 100% pure unsweetened cranberry juice (preferably not from concentrate)
  • 1/4 tsp pure stevia extract
  • (optional) A pinch of another sweetener like xylitol or erythritol
  • Sparkling water/soda water (a sodastream works great for this)

Pour the 1/4 cup cranberry juice into a 16 oz glass. Add the stevia and optional pinch of other sweetener to the juice in the glass and stir until completely dissolved. Slowly add the soda water.

That’s it! This recipe yields a nice solid soda flavor and in my opinion there isn’t even a hint of bitterness from the stevia.