Keeping a Food Journal…to the Nth Degree!

Since everyone is doing their end-of-year reporting and Best of 2012 lists, I thought I’d do a report of my own about Chad’s progress. This is only possible because Chad has been keeping his diet records on for 135 days in a row…ever since the 40 by 40 project began! (Actually, we had already been using the website for over a year on and off previously.) His consistency has been amazing, and it is useful and interesting to look back and see the progress, what the trouble spots have been and the choices we have made when it comes to food and drink.

Chad may be extreme in his compliance, but I believe that’s why he is having such extreme success! Further, he has been honest enough to track his off days, holidays, weekends, etc., even when he is over his limit. This is also an import factor to his success. He keeps up his routine of journaling, so he never has to start the habit over, and he can see the differences in his good and not-so-good days in black and white when he looks at the calorie totals at the end of the day.

To recap, we have an upper calorie limit set for him at 3300 calories per day, a sort of “weekend limit,” and his “hard limit” had been 2100 cal, but is now 2400. Taking a look at the 135 days of 40 by 40 so far:Net Calories per Day

As you can see, Chad had only a small percentage of days when he was over the upper limit, and those days have been mostly weekends and holidays–and there are many more of those days than 9, so he’s been good even on the weekends. The majority of his days, over 70%, are below his “everyday limit.” Also, it is important to remember these are net calories, meaning the calories for exercise have been subtracted from his calories. For example, if he ate 3500 calories and burned 1000 in exercise, his net total would be 2500. (The fact he can burn so many calories during exercise makes it much easier…this table would look MUCH different if it was just calories eaten!) We both feel very good about this data, and I was surprised how many days he actually netted less than 2100! Those days often had over a thousand calories burned in exercise, and was when he was losing the most. As you may know, one of my jobs has become keeping him from losing too fast, so I will have to make sure he doesn’t get too severe!

As is the case with most people, the holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Years, have a not-so-normal eating pattern. The same is the case with us, and you can read an example of that by reading Chad’s description of our Christmas Eve dinner. Once the year starts to settle in a bit, I’m sure Chad will see his journal starting to look more like it did before Thanksgiving, and he will be a bit more consistent with his weight loss than he has been the last month. The great news for him is that he has wonderful healthy habits of eating well, keeping a journal and exercising that he has carried through the toughest part of the year, so he’ll have an easier January than he has in the past. I’m excited to see what comes next!

[There have been many studies indicating that keeping a food and/or exercise journal increases weight loss and compliance to whatever program or lifestyle change you are working on. There are even studies that show that when people write down what they eat for a “pre-test” they often consciously or subconsciously change what they eat, presumably because they can’t stand writing down what they would have eaten if it wasn’t for the journal! Also, it doesn’t matter in what form a journal takes–an old notebook, a pre-made food diary form (you can find many online for free) or a digital or online program–just find what fits the best with your lifestyle and use it!]


Week 19 Weigh-in…and my favorite day of the year!!

In December 1992, following the death of my Grandma Cudney, we gathered for our first post-Evie Christmas Eve at my Uncle Chuck’s and Aunt Carolyn’s house in Chippewa Fall’s, Wisconsin. In attendance that evening were, Me, Micki, Ellen, Mary, Gene, Carolyn, Chuck, Brian and Scott. We ate grilled prime rib, king crab, jumbo shrimp cocktail, twice baked potatoes, drank wine and old fashioneds, at cookies and other deserts.

Prior to 1992, Christmas Eve was already my favorite holiday of the year. It was the time we all gathered at Grandma Evie’s house and shared the wonder of being a family. After 1992, when the two sister’s, Carolyn and Mary, committed to keeping as much of the tradition of their childhood Christmas Eve’s as possible in the wake of their mother’s passing, and to allowing others of us to add to the fun without changing the root of it, Christmas Eve built to an event unparalleled in the rest of the calendar. Really, all the other 354 days of the year are either recovery or anticipation for 12/24.

Over the years, some of the original cast members have been unable to attend and new family members have been added. The location has changed, but the menu has remained shockingly constant. This Monday, for the 21st consecutive year, I celebrated Christmas Eve in the only way I will ever care to do so, with my wife Michelle, my parents Mary and Gene, my grandmother Dorothy, my aunt Diane, my aunt Carolyn and uncle Chuck, my sister Micki, my sister Ellen and brother-in-law Ron, my nephews Ethan, Emerson, and Jonah, my nieces Raiah and Anna, my cousin Scott and his wife Amanda, and their children Evan and Nora. And before the clock struck mid-night, Micki’s boyfriend Dave joined the fun.

I had promised myself that I would have an unregulated night for Christmas Eve. I didn’t want to be that buzz kill at the party constantly checking for calorie totals while people where handing out plates of goodies. And because, it is my favorite night of the year; I wasn’t going to ruin it for myself either. However, for the purposes of this blog, I did write everything I put into my mouth down on paper, and added it into myfitnesspal the next day.


That doesn’t show the whole meal, as it didn’t fit onto one screen of my phone. Also, as you can tell, I started to get a bit tipsy be the end of the night, and it is pretty likely that I actually ate and drank more than the 4,907 calories it shows here. You can also see there that I dropped 2200 calories of exercise on Monday in preparation for the evening: Snowshoeing and wood splitting. Alas, it was insufficient.

Lastly, my weekend started with a wedding in Madison on Friday and also had Christmas day meals and drinks as well. So my calorie tracking over the weekend has been a bit off.

In any case, I stepped on the scale this morning at 338.8# a gain of 6.6 pounds. And guess what? I am not a bit concerned about that. 21 years of Christmas Eve is a tradition that needs to be maintained, even by skinny Chad. As my Uncle Chuck would say, “If I can’t put loads of butter on my sirloin steak, I might as well be dead.” (He never actually said that, but given the opportunity, I think we can all agree, he definitely would.)

Back on the horse the weekend. (Heading to the gym as soon as I am done writing this.) Look for another drop this weeks, and if things go as planned, and end to this yo-yo-ing.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!!!

Week 18 Weigh-in…Kicking fat’s ass!!

So I stepped on the scale today at 332.4, down 6# from a week ago. Yeah, that’s a crazy amount and not healthy in the long-term. But, remember I gained 3 pounds last week…so really I am just down 3 pounds over a two-week period…so that is just 1.5 pounds/week on average. Right where I am supposed to be.

If you recall, I was pretty down-hearted last week with that gain, my first of 40 by 40 in 17 weeks. But I also committed to losing that three pounds…and I am so excited that I did. This is sort of a milestone moment in this latest effort to remake my body and my life. In past attempts, I would have quit shortly after having a week like I did last week. Now my BMI is down to 43.1, and back on track for hitting my target early in the new year.

So, how did I do it? 798, 715, 2147, 0, 1930, 396, 1074, 1074. Those are my calories burned in exercise in each of the last 8 days. 845, 711, 988, -537, 227, 316, 298. Those are my calories surpluses from each of the last 7 days. In short, I worked my ass off!!!

Why is that important? Instead of getting depressed and quitting, I got pissed off and worked extra hard and it all paid off. And that feels great!!

Thanks for your support everyone. You definitely gave me some great motivation to make it though.

Up next, X-mas week. I will be taking off Christmas Eve, a culinary feast of unparalleled awesomeness. I am predicting a calorie total somewhere around 5000 for the night, but I don’t care. If you can’t live it up on special holidays, what’s the point right?

Happy holidays!!

Putting a Small Backslide Into Perspective

As you have probably read on one of Chad’s previous posts, he had his first weight gain of 40 X 40. Since he had previously gone four months without a gain, or even a week of no change, I was expecting some sort of backslide or plateau at some point, and would often prepare Chad for that on the mornings he went to weigh-in with some trepidation about what the scale would reveal. (This was usually after a particularly festive weekend, or a stressful week.) For most people working on weight loss, this kind of thing happens more than we would like it to, but with Chad’s focus and drive, he has avoided that desperate feeling of spending a week “being good,” without anything to show for it. (At least, nothing on the scale to show for it.)  This is often where one bad week grows into two, and each week that goes by, it gets harder to lock down that drive that got you this far; Chad would tell you he has had that experience too many times.

So when he told me he had a gain of 3#, I did not see it as a negative, but as an opportunity, and perhaps a bit of a reminder. As he previously wrote, I contacted him right away to see if he needed to talk about this, and I was prepared with the following:

  1. He HAS made it quite a while without any type of backslide, where others would have plateaued and needed to change their approach to keep losing.
  2. He has lost 42.6# in 17 weeks, which is a loss of 2.5# per week. This is above the goal we had set of two pounds per week loss. So even with this gain he is OVER-ACHIEVING! (See graphs below.)
  3. He has had the most non-routine week of 40 X 40 so far, with Thanksgiving, deer camp, and the first snow, which impacted his exercise schedule. This is NOT to excuse the loss, but to learn from it.

When I spoke to him, however, Chad did not need me; he already had all of these thoughts in his head, and had moved past the letdown and feelings of insecurity to determination and being a little pissed-off, which he intends to carry into this week’s weight-in.

The one conversation we did have was regarding his calories. He had previously been losing weight a little too fast for comfort. (Perhaps I was more concerned than he was.) To address this, we raised his calorie limit slightly. (And for those that remember he has a high upper limit and lower upper limit, we only raised the lower upper limit.) One thought Chad had was to lower his calorie limit back to what it had been. I thought that was a bit unwarranted at this time, and that was because he already had weeks at this new limit and still experienced weight loss. So in my opinion, it seemed to be all the other factors that tipped the scale (sorry about the pun) and not the calorie limit. I suggested we keep the calories the same, and focus on the other issues.

Also, thanks to myfitnesspal, we have some great tracking tools that are able to provide some needed perspective at times like these. Looking at his latest month, which has been his roughest time for weight loss/gain, you see what looks like a large spike in weight.

Slide1However, if you take the 17 weeks as a whole, you see this:Slide2Even after this recent gain, he is still under the 340# mark, and looking at the second graph, this 3# seems like a tiny blip. Seeing his determination, along with his new, additional goal of walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for a Cure, 60-mile walk, I would wager that a blip IS all it will be for him! And just imagine how this blip will look after he reaches his goal…

Global Reach of FishSticks to Sushi. Pretty Cool, huh?

Michelle and I get giddy every time we capture a view from a new country. It’s kind of silly, but, it’s one more kind of feedback. I can’t help but notice that no one in France is reading about fat people losing weight. Coincidence?

Country Views
United States FlagUnited States 3,220
Germany FlagGermany 10
Australia FlagAustralia 7
Italy FlagItaly 6
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 5
Canada FlagCanada 4
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation 3
Costa Rica FlagCosta Rica 3
Indonesia FlagIndonesia 3
Viet Nam FlagViet Nam 2
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand 2
Greece FlagGreece 1
Palestinian Territory, Occupied FlagPalestinian Territory, Occupied 1
Philippines FlagPhilippines 1
Japan FlagJapan 1
Taiwan, Province of China FlagTaiwan 1
Egypt FlagEgypt 1
Thailand FlagThailand 1
Saudi Arabia FlagSaudi Arabia 1
Hong Kong FlagHong Kong 1

My Favorite Things…the Stocking Stuffer Edition.

“Whiskers on kittens” are cute and all, but take me to a kitchen store, and its worse than a kid in a candy shop! That’s where all “My Favorite Things” are! I have bought all sorts of things for my kitchen; some have been disappointing, such as the egg rings, which don’t work very well, and picnic baskets, which no one really ever uses! (I don’t have too many over-the-top kitchen gadgets, but Chad found a $3000 set of knives that I would be OK with!)

When it comes to my favorite things in the kitchen, the usefulness is what really matters, and I have several things I couldn’t live without…at least not without becoming a much crankier cook!

  1. Aluminum Pans: These are a sleeper hit! They are less than $2 a piece (even less 2012-12-09 09.32.08at a dollar-store.) They work great for transporting things to potlucks, tailgates, etc., but I use them for home cooking as well. Here’s why: They are easy to clean–much easier than glass pans, and since I roast a LOT of vegetables, it saves me a lot of scrubbing time. Lest you think I’m wasteful, I am able to use one pan for several washes, and keep my other pans clean, for prettier things like desserts.
  2. Reusable Food Containers: Since I make a lunch for Chad almost everyday, they 2012-12-11 09.56.33are the “dishes” we use most often. I use them for leftovers, but also to store all my prepped veggies so the healthy stuff is easy to grab. Also, the tiny ones work great for salad dressing and hummus.
  3. Cutting Boards: I have many of these, enough to even have a favorite kind! While the wooden ones just “feel” better while you are cutting, cleaning them can be difficult, and they cannot go into the dishwasher. My favorite are the thin, flexible plastic ones; they are dishwasher-safe, and bending the edges can help you transfer all your chopped items into wherever you want them to go. Also, many types come in multiple packs and are color coded in some way, so you can keep a separate board for chicken fish, beef, etc. (A wonderful feature for those who take pride in their food safety!)
  4. Measuring Cups: This is one of my best dietitian tips. Use these instead of serving spoons and ladles to keep your portions in check. Since they can get dirty pretty quickly when you are using them regularly, check the dollar and discount stores to keep several sets on hand. I look for cups without the spoons as part of the set, since I don’t need those as much, as I am not much of a baker and generally estimate my spice amounts. These also come in handy when I am making a large amount of something–chili, soup, red beans and rice–and portioning them out…usually into the aforementioned food containers! Also, use your measuring cups to check the serving sizes of your ladles and large spoons and scoops, and then write the amount on the handle. [Using these to serve foods have helped many people lose weight, since you can’t hide from knowing how much you are serving yourself]2012-12-09 09.31.08
  5. Silicone-handled Spatula: We have several of these, and LOVE them! They tolerate high heat well and are easy to clean. Some of our older plastic cooking utensils have tell-tale melted areas, so these are ideal.
  6. Colander/Strainer: You might be surprised when you shop for these; they range hugely in size (from a few bucks to over $50,) material, price, quality and even bells and whistles, like being collapsible or having extendable arms that allow it to hang on the edge of the sink! I use these for many things; its pretty self-explanatory HOW they are used, but my most common targets are:
    • Washing fruits and vegetables.
    • Washing greens for salad. I try to do this a bit in advance of the meal so the green can drip-dry; I do have a salad spinner which works great, but I often make a large salad and need a bigger bowl.
    • Rinsing off frozen vegetables to use immediately (Such as corn, peas, and edamame for salad and other dishes.)
    • Canned beans, in order to remove some of the salt that canned foods are packaged in.2012-12-16 15.01.55
  7. Chip Clips: I use so many that I collect as many as I can. While my favorite type are the long, thin ones that latch, in a pinch, an office supply binder clip works!
  8. Food Scale: This last item is more of a gadget, and a bit more expensive than the 2012-12-09 11.13.28others (except for some of the fancy colanders,) but it worth it! I have had mine for almost 10 years, and its a no-frills version, but effective for my needs. Since I mentioned I don’t bake, I don’t use it to weigh out ingredients, though that is the recommended way to go. For me, its another way to work on portion control. For things like cheese and deli meat, this works great. Also, for some crunchy snacks like chips and trail mix that have bulky or add shapes, weighing the portion is more reliable than a measuring cup or counting out chips.

I feel that if you have these essentials, your kitchen, and portion size, is set up for success. The great thing about these is that, other than the scale, it doesn’t matter if you have duplicates! These items pay for themselves quickly, are generally inexpensive, and some can be great stocking stuffers! So go ahead and get a few of these for the food snob/foodie/cook/connoisseur on your holiday gift list!

Week 17 Weigh-in..and the first backslide of the year! (Damn!!)

Tipped the scales at 338.4# this morning. That’s a gain of 3.0#. So I am not supper happy this morning. And if you go back a little further. I weigh more than I did on Nov. 21st, so my weight-loss had been slowing and now has reversed. (That was a tough sentence to write.) Oh and my BMI is up to 43.9.

When I think about the last three weeks, I’ve had Thanksgiving, two weekends of deer camp, three holiday parties, a long road trip to Madison, and dinner at my all-time favorite restaurant, Mona Lisa’s. I also have had a flare-up of two of the discs in my lower back and a super-stressful, can’t-really-talk-about-it-incident at work. Oh, and the weather has been crappy and we have over a 1/2 foot of snow on the ground and all the roads I walk are snow-covered and slippery.

So, on the one hand, I can point to all of those obstacles and say, “Wow, you’ve had a lot going on. No wonder it’s been tough to stick to what you’ve been doing. You’re still below 340, and down over 40# since you started in August. It’s ok; you’ll do better this week.” On the other hand, saying shit like that is exactly what got me into this situation in the first place. So…NO EXCUSES!!

I’ve been back in the gym on the exercise bike each of the last two days. (Good thing too, or I’d have been on the scale over 340# today and they you’d have seen the fit hit shan.) Also, no obvious obstacles for me in the coming 7 days. I have no parties, no trips, no other obvious “things” in my schedule that will make me lose it. And, I commit to all of you, that I will not stress eat one single calorie for the next 7 days…no matter how stressful it gets. (And you better all call me on it too, if I do.)

The other good news is that I have an amazing support network. Michelle texted me right away this morning when she saw the new weight total to make sure I was doing OK and to see if she needed to talk me off the ledge. My mom noticed that I had not had a good couple of days on my food/exercise log and checked in on me to make sure I wasn’t off the wagon. I love both of you guys and thanks for the support!!

Time for a short-term goal with some real meat to it. How does this sound? “Under my low of 335.4 by next Wednesday…or I cut of the first joint of my pinky finger.” (Not severe enough? 🙂 )

Be careful out there!!

Weigh-in Week 16…And what’s Next!!

Stepped on the scale at 335.4 today. Down 2 pounds since last week and 45.6# since this started on August 17th. Nice job, huh? 😉 My BMI is 43.5; down from 49.4 and 63% of the way to my goal of 40 BMI with 36 weeks to go. If I keep up my rate from the last 16 weeks, I should hit a 40 BMI on Feb. 13th. (Happy Valentine’s Day!!) If it takes me twice as long, I’ll hit it the week of April 24th.

When I started this project on Aug. 17th, I had two major fears. First, that I would not be successful and that my healthy living change would crash and burn as spectacularly as my past ones had. (More so really, when you factor in the public aspect of this one.) Second, that I might accomplish my goal and then gain back every pound (and more) like I, and thousands of others, had on diets going back to perpetuity.

As I’ve said for a few weeks, I’ve pretty much put the first fear to bed. I will hit my BMI goal and I will keep dropping past that for some time. You read yesterday why, this time, that’s true. However, my second fear still is hanging on. Lots of people have seemingly defeated their food issues, only to slip and fall and wake up right back where they started. I’ve seen it play out in my own life, in the lives of family members, and in the lives of countless people I know many times. So, how am I going to avoid that?

Yesterday, I talked about fear and shame. My fear of an early death and my shame at what amounted to a daily surrender in the face of countless examples of people who fought so valiantly for every last minute. There is another emotion I have that I didn’t talk about yesterday, that I am going to leverage into my long-term maintenance plan: ANGER!

People die before their time every day; from cancer and lupus, from car accidents and falls from tree stands, from drug overdoses and suicides, from gunshot wounds and contaminated food, from lack of health care and inadequate access to food. And what can I do about that?

I’m not a researcher. I’m not an expert in food safety and I’m not in a position to change the nature of global economics to such a degree that African children have more food. But I am in a position to raise awareness, both as an educator and as a blogger (though I guarantee I have more influence in the former than the latter.) I am also a community leader by virtue of my position as high school principal; I have the opportunity to have lots of conversations with lots of people about lots of things. Is there some reason that a few of those conversations can’t be about raising awareness for at least one good cause per year?

Also, I am in a position to be a decent fund-raiser. I make a good salary. I know lots of people who make a good salary. I have lots of friends who feel as I do and donate lots of money to good causes all over the place. I can use my anger and leverage that “social capital.” Right?

Lastly, and this is where my healthy living change comes in, I can commit, right here, right now, to participating in a fitness-based, fund-raising endeavor, to raise money and awareness to combat some life-ending tragedy in our society. If I do that, once per summer, for the rest of my life, I’ll be setting an annual goal that will help the world, mitigate my ANGER, and keep me focused on my personal health. And I can do that for the living. For the stories I didn’t tell yesterday. For those people I know, who right now, this very minute, are in the fights of their lives to add one more day to their life-span. So, that’s what I am going to do!!!

Next plan – Every summer for the rest of my life, I will participate in a fitness-based fundraising and awareness-increasing activity that will challenge me at the edge of my physical and mental abilities and will make a substantive difference in the real world for real people.

In 2013, I have selected my activity. At the request of my sister, Ellen, who is also one of the people who has been struggling to make healthy choices and who has been doing a great job, we are going to do our 2013 activity together. One of Ellen’s dearest friends is fighting breast cancer as I type. I have known this young lady for 15 years and I am spectacularly confident that she will keep kicking cancer’s ass everyday!! Ellen wants to honor her friend’s fight and I want to honor that fight too, so…

Continue reading

“What’s your motivation?”

I’ve been trying for months to write this post…so here it is.

Lots of people have expressed amazement at what seems to them an immediate and sudden transformational change. And I suppose that I can understand why it may seem that way from the outside. But the comments and questions about “How?” I am doing this are legion and I have struggled to articulate it well to many and haven’t fully done so in this format yet either. So, after a dozen false starts, here’s the deal.

I am an English teacher by training, and as such, I believe in the power of storytelling. I have a dozen stories I could tell about what led to this change. I’m going to tell three. I think you’ll get the point.

On December 13th, 1996, at the all too young age of 46, Micheal “Spike” Swader died of squamous cell cancer. Spike was my father-in-law, the wife of a wonderfully quirky woman, and the father to two equally odd daughters. God help me, but I love every last one of them. (And since I am married to at least one of those three women, I guess that is a good thing. 🙂 )

I am not saying that a death that happened 16 years ago is a direct motivation for my change in lifestyle, but it is having an indirect impact. Spike’s early death haunts us still. Loving Michelle, I know that she has never fully healed from his loss in her life. On the three or four days a year where she feels his loss particularly acutely, I am reminded ever so poignantly about the impermanence of life and the pain untimely death can cause our loved ones and I cannot help but reflect on what my untimely death would do to Michelle and to my parents, sisters, cousins, and friends. For the last 16 years, the specter of early death has ridden my shoulder as I ballooned to 404# and when I saw that bloated face in the mirror and thought about where Michelle was going to find 10 pall-bearers, I also thought about Spike and the pain his too-soon passing caused those who loved him.

The other indirect impact of Spike’s death is that it is responsible, I think, for the amazing resource I have at my disposal. Michelle was hyper-motivated by her father’s early death to embrace a healthy life-style. His death prompted her to take up running, which led to biking, which led to triathlons, which led to healthy eating, healthy cooking, the study of nutrition, and eventually a career as a dietitian. That transition took over 12 years for Michelle, but I was there for every day, watching the changes in thinking and physicality and I saw the impact in how she felt about the world and her place in it as she took more control over the variables that added up to her health and started to try to impact others to make healthy choices. I don’t think she would have ended up where she is if her father hadn’t died so young; and in at least that measure, the world has been bettered.  And, she has been instrumental in helping me past the inevitable obstacles that arise in an endeavor like this.

On August 8th, 2012, David Landgraf, my high school track coach, died of injuries he sustained when hit by a car while bike riding. Coach Landgraf was one of only three people to ski every American Birkebeiner (a 50k+ cross-country ski race) since its founding in 1973. (Yes, he was a founder.) Dave was certainly in the top 1% of 62 year-old athletes in the world, and without question, his sudden death, while exercising, ranks among the most surprising deaths I have ever personally experienced. Everyone who know Dave likely thought he would out-live them. And as an elite, endurance athlete, Dave was exceptionally fit. When standing next to each other at a track-meet here in the school where I now work (my hometown track team regularly competes here), you could not identify two more diametrically contrasting bodies.

Dave was always kind to me, always eager to talk about what was going on in my life, and he never commented on how I was letting myself go. But Dave was one of the people who is partly responsible for getting my own father involved in cross-country skiing 30 years ago when Dad, too, was making a change to his lifestyle. I had run a 5K, partially organized by Dave when I was 12. He knew the me I used to be, when I was a 225# athlete and earlier versions too, and every time I saw Dave, he would look me up and down with a wry smile and a slight, nearly imperceptible shake to his head, and I would imagine him thinking, “God, I hope this kid figures it out, before it is too late.”

In the year between his death, and the start of “40 by 40,” I believe I reflected on the tragic nature of his untimely end well over 100 times. I began to feel some shame. Shame that wasn’t just sub-conscious, but that was right out in the open. A man who had dedicated his entire adult life (he was also a Physical Education teacher) to the living of a healthy life and encouraging others to live one too, had been struck down while engaging in the pursuit of that health. It was too much to fathom at times.

And Dave and my own father, because of their similar age and interests, if not ability :), are linked in my head. I had an impossible time thinking about Dave’s death without also thinking about my father’s death. And in thinking about all the time I didn’t want to lose with my father, as Dave’s children had so cruelly lost with him, I began to think about the fact that he (and Michelle, and my mom, and my sisters and everyone else), probably didn’t want to lose whatever time they could have with me either. And I thought about how much different my funeral would be from Dave’s. At his they celebrated a life lived pursuing excellence in athletics and health. At mine they would celebrate…what? Cheeseburgers? Bacon? Heart Disease? No, at my eventual funeral, after I had died from complications due to obesity, all my loved ones would be talking about was how much they wished I had taken better care of myself and that my death, while tragic, was predictable, in a way that Dave’s absolutely wasn’t.

On Wednesday, July 25th, 2012, Diane Ishmael, my cousin’s wife and my good friend, died after a long battle with cancer. On Monday, July 30th, I fulfilled Diane’s final request of me and served as the celebrant at her memorial service. As I sat on the stage in my finest suit in near 100° heat in a school gymnasium in Northeastern Iowa, while sweating profusely through my immense bulk, I listened to person after person share their stories of Diane’s never give up attitude in her battle with cancer. Diane had fought cancer since her teenage diagnosis of leukemia. She had fought cancer since she found out she had breast cancer mere months after I stood by on a beach in San Diego as she and Pat said their vows on 1/1/11. Diane had fought cancer since Christmas of 2011, when she learned that after nearly a year of treatment, the cancer had shown up in her lungs. Diane fought cancer so hard, that when a doctor mentioned April would be a better time than August for her to plan a trip to Ireland, she assumed that advice was based on April having nicer weather.

Diane was 41 the day she died, she would have been 42 the next day, and she fought for every last day she had. As I sat on the stage that day, at well over 380#, it occurred to me that I was cavalierly throwing away days and that Diane, and Dave, and Spike would have fought tooth and nail for until the very end. And I resolved that something had to change.

So I changed. And so far, the change has been easy, because every time I think about quitting, I remember the models Spike, Dave, and Diane, and unfortunately dozens of others, have provided for me. Fight for Every DayTake Nothing for Granted. Don’t Ever Quit. With that playing in my mind, it’s hard not to exercise. It’s hard to eat a cheeseburger.   Doing what I think they would do, is, actually, surprisingly easy. It’s just a question of proper motivation.

What’s your motivation?