“Walking to New Orleans?”

Chad and I had a pretty healthy 2013, and we both want to be sure that trend continues. In order to focus and set some goals, we looked ahead to races and events we wanted to accomplish, from our first obstacle course race to our “main event” the Susan Komen 3-day. (More on that later.) You may have seen my Chad’s posts this January about his goals for 2014, and many of them are mine, too.

But because we often do a variety of things, walking, biking, etc., for training, we were interested in finding a way to tie it all together as we work on all of our “smaller” tasks. Since we track our workouts on myfitnesspal and/or mapmyfitness, it just made sense to see what our total distance covered would be, and see how far those miles might take us. The data geek in me that likes any bit of motivation and reward I can find thought, “Cool, but how do we really get a concept of have far we have traveled with these miles?” That made me think of places I wanted to go that also might actually possible to “get to” during this little tracking project, and the answer popped into my head…New Orleans! Just for fun, I choose one of our favorite French Quarter bars, the Old Absinthe House. So this is the question: How long would it take to travel on foot the 961.5 miles from our house in Waterloo, Wisconsin to 240 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA?

Walking to NO main map

Map courtesy of mapmyfitness.com

Now for all the disclaimers and data.

  1. While we will be as accurate and consistent as possible on our end, this is a goofy project that is not at all precise and certified in any way, and Chad and I acknowledge this is all just a huge estimation. Basically, our margin of error is +/- 50%, but, it will be fun!
  2. Looking at different mapping tools, the distance can vary over 30 miles, due to route differences, measuring errors and even rounding differences, I suppose. So to make it a bit easier on ourselves, we are choosing mapmyfitness, since we are already set up with that website. (Also, word has it that they now sync with myfitnesspal, so when we start actually working out outside and covering actual distances, things will be that much easier to track.)
  3. We have another small glitch to overcome; unlike runners who run all their miles, how do we equate a bike ride with a run with a swim when it comes to miles covered? Again this is a huge “grain of salt” issue; depending on hills and intensity of the workout, actual mileage will vary, so we had to decide on some rules. After a bit of online “research” we have decided to follow these guidelines:
    1. Walking and running are counted as 1:1 straight-up miles.
    2. Biking to on-foot is 3.5:1
    3. Swimming to on-foot is 1:4
    4. The elliptical was a harder call, since it is lower impact, but I can vary the incline and resistance. Since my slow and easy miles are 12 minutes, I will count every 12 minutes as a mile.
    5. Extras: we went snowshoeing this January, where we just had to estimate the distance, and other activities will have to be judged as they come up, an others, like kayaking, may not even be added to the total.

I didn’t post this in January because I wanted to test things out a bit, and after the first month, here is my status:

walking Jan total

Looking at a map view, you can see that I’m on my way:

The blue-ish point is how far I've gone.

The blue-ish point is how far I’ve gone.

Looking forward to a healthy and happy 2014…Join us!

Week #72 Weigh-in…and time to get back on the horse!!!

Like the rest of the world, the start of a new year gives me pause to reflect on the past and to set goals for our future. So, what’s happened in the last year?

  • Family trip to for 12 to Walt Disney World
  • Met my 40 by 40 BMI goal
  • Completed two half-marathons
  • Completed a 60-mile walk
  • raised over $3,000 for cancer research and victim support
  • Finished my tenure at Rice Lake High School
  • Started my tenure at Sauk Prairie High School
  • Moved back into our house in Waterloo
  • Lost two more friends to cancer
  • Celebrated my 40th birthday
  • fell even more in love with my wife 🙂

That’s not a bad year. Like all of us, the day-to-day life that falls in between those milestones is where the living really happens. Since I haven’t blogged here since August, I haven’t shared as much of that day-to-day as in the second half of the year as I did in the first. My excuse is that the 47 mile commute I have is taking too much time, almost 2 hours a day. My excuse is that as a new principal 12 hour days are sort of the norm. My excuse is that I already met my 40by40 goals, so what was I going to write about. My excuse is that I’ve been using some of these excuses to avoid exercising and eating right too, so I didn’t have too much positive to write about. In fact, here’s a glimpse of my weight over the last three months:

3 Months Progress

Not so good, huh? 20 pound gain? It’s even worse than that going back another month. I hit a low of 296 early in September. So I’m actually up almost 30 pounds. And my BMI is 42.2, so while I hit my goal of a 40 BMI by my 40th birthday, I wasn’t able to maintain it. (See above for a few of the excuses I’ve been using for why.)

Now, that’s the negative. But if I take a longer view, I did start 40by40 with a BMI of 49.5 and a weight of 385. So I am still down almost 60 pounds. Here is a view of the entire year of weight:

IMG_20140101_162540_684

Still down about 15 pounds over the course of the year, which means that I just had two years, 2012 and 2013, where I weighed less at the end of it than I did at the beginning. And I am pretty sure that hasn’t happened since….ever? Honestly, I think it is possible that this is the first time I’ve ever had two consecutive years of weight-loss in my entire life! That’s a pretty big deal as I think about it, so maybe, instead of focusing on the last 3 months of failure, I need to focus on the last 24 months of success!! And instead of slipping into despair and giving up, as I have so many times before, I’m taking the long view here and making sure I rebound and make this happen.

To do that, I need to have some goals, and as the last year has made clear, I need to have them out in the public eye; because part of what motivates me is knowing that I’ve made a public commitment to making these positive changes. (And getting your encouragement and positive vibes!!) So here goes:

Goals for 2014

  1. Complete the 3-Day event in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, raising at least $3,000 for Susan G. Komen in the process
  2. Complete my first Sprint Triathlon
  3. Complete my first obstacle race, i.e. a Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, or Spartan Race
  4. Finish a half-marathon in under 2:45.00
  5. Cover at least 1300 miles in training
    1. 646 of that are the recommended training miles for a 3 Day.
    2. The rest of it will be in training for the other races.
    3. I will count all miles as walking/running miles, using the following conversion:
      1. 3.5 miles biking = 1 mile walk/running
      2. .25 miles swimming = 1 mile walk/running
  6. “33by41”  Lower my BMI to 33 by my 41st Birthday on August 17, 2014.
    1. To do this, I’d have to weigh just over 250 pounds.
    2. Losing 75-ish pounds in 32 weeks.
    3. That’s a bit aggressive, and since I haven’t consulted my dietician, I’ll give her veto over that. But we’ll start there.
  7. Post at least once a week to this blog, sharing my progress, lack there of, and general observations about the world.

That should about cover it. Hope you’ll enjoy following along. Love you all and have a Happy New Year!!

Weeks 42-52 Weigh ins….And Mea Culpas galore!!

So, this is my first post since June 2nd. My fault. Between finishing up in Rice Lake, starting up in Sauk Prairie, moving my entire life from Rice Lake to Waterloo, commuting 47 miles one way from Waterloo to Sauk Prairie, going to Canada, and training for and completing the 60-mile 3 Days for a Cure, I haven’t made this blog a priority. Mea Culpa. I hope you will accept my apology, and continue to read on.

On my last post, June 2nd, I weighed 303.2. Then Week #42 was 303.6; #43 = 308.6 (Week in Trego at cabin), #44 = 310 (no excuse), #45 = 302.4 (Worked my tail off), #46 = 303.4 (little setback), #47 = 301.6 (getting there!), #48 = 301.6 (static!), #49 = 311.3 (Canada!), #50 = 304.2 (Back to working my tail off), #51 = 300.5 (so damn close!!), #52 = 302.5 (3 Day walk, still a bit swollen and likely water weight, but I’m totally ok with that.)

Tomorrow is my 40th birthday, that means that “40 by 40” has come to an end. Lets review the successes and failures of the year, shall we? I started the year, last August 17th, at 381 pounds. I now weigh 302.5. I’ve lost 78.5 pounds, an average of 1.5 pounds per week!!! I think just about anyone would tell you that is an amazing year and a really healthy rate of loss. Measured in pounds, no doubt, 40 by 40 has been a success!!!

On August 17, 2012, my BMI was 49.38. (Normal is below 25 and obese is over 30.) (Right Michelle?) Today, my BMI is 39.21!! I’m not a mathematician, but that number, 39.2, looks to be below 40 to me. And since the title of this project was “40 by 40,” referencing my goal to have a BMI under 40 by the time I turned 40, and since I turn 40 tomorrow, measured by BMI, again the last year has been a smashing success!!!

My blood pressure, blood sugar, and joint pain were all out of control a year ago. Today, I have a normal blood pressure (though still controlled by medication), my A1C has dropped down to 5.4, well into the normal range, and other than the aches I have from walking 60 miles last weekend…wait a minute, let’s jsut say my joints are in good enough shape that I could walk 60 miles if I wanted to!! Health-wise, this last year has been a smashing success!!!

If there has been a failure, it is this. I hit my 40 BMI goal for the first time in April, after only 8 months! At that time, I reset and established a goal of 35. I did not make it. The last 4 months have been some of the most hectic of my life, and I was not able to focus the way I needed to keep up the pace of loss over the entire year that I had established in the fall and winter. That means I did not hit a goal I had set, and that is failure.

However, through all the stressors of the last 4 months, I never weighed more than 311 pounds, within 3 pounds of the 40 BMI mark, and I continued to trend down in terms of overall weight, even if the pace slowed considerably. The old me was a stress eater. The more I stressed, the more I ate. The new me doesn’t do that. I may occasionally put too much in my mouth, but that happens briefly, for very short periods of time, and then I work out like a madman to try to  counteract the effects. In the last year I’ve learned that exercise is a much more effective stress reliever than eating. Go figure?

I absolutely could not have done as well as I have, without the support of everyone who reads this blog. Making my journey a public things was super scary at first, but the rewards of this public accountability, combined with the unwavering support of so many of you, have made this one of the most rewarding years of my life. Thank so much for that wonderful gift!

My co-travelers on this trip; myfitnesspal.com friends; my mom and sister; (All of them are the same people by the way) have been the heavy lifters. Every week for the whole year, we held each other accountable to completing our food-logs, a critical step in weight-loss by the way, with encouraging words when things were going well, and not so well. I could not have done this with you, Mary Harnisch and Ellen Race. I love you both and am so proud of the changes you have made in your lives in the last year as well!

Lastly, we all know how lucky I am to have a live-in dietitian. We all know how lucky I am to have a life partner whose love for me is so strong I can sometimes feel it’s presence like it is a physical thing. We all know how lucky I am to have found so young, and held for so long, someone who is the perfect match for me and whom I am comfortable loving for all time. Michelle, baby, I love you so much! And your love, support, expertise, patience and partnership have been so inspiring, so transformative, so comfortable! I don’t know what took me so long to figure it out; but I am so grateful that you hung with me. Thank you for everything you have done for me and with me. I look forward to 40 years of trying to pay you back!!

I have more I want to say, a long post about the amazing experience of the 3 Day, and another about my next goal. But I will save it for another day. It’s time to go home, celebrate my successes, and get ready for the next challenge. Talk to you all soon.

Be careful out there!!

Dietitian Check-in: Living La Vida Loca

We all have times in our lives when things are just CRAZY busy. Think of the couple weeks before the holidays, the start of a new school year, final exam weeks, the start of a new job or a big move. At those times, we just keep our heads down and take things day by day. We limit distractions and put all non-essential projects on hold. But when you are working on a lifestyle change, that option is no longer there, since putting things like exercising and eating right on hold would conflict with the whole concept of a lifestyle change. [Click on any chart to enlarge it.]

Weight Over the Past YearAs Chad’s wife, RD and cook, I pay a lot of attention to what he does and what he eats, even when we are not together. For the past school year, I have packed lunches and snacks for him, and he has eaten (mostly) only food that I have cooked and/or packed for him. When he does prepare his own breakfasts and eats “on his own,” he records those things on myfitnesspal.com, which he shares with me. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have a lot of work to do on his end. He spends hours and hours working out, and has had to change his eating habits regarding portion sizes, drive-thrus and countless treats brought to the office. Chad met his weight loss goal early, but has reset his goal BMI for his birthday and has a 60 mile walk (over three days) coming up at the end of the summer.

But right now we are in one of those crazy times. As Chad has mentioned, he is always busy at the end of the school year, with a different party or banquet or cookout almost every night, which can make it difficult to not overeat on a daily basis. Even for lunches, he has eaten maybe 2 out of five days from our kitchen, having more lunch meetings, banquets or other unusual things on his schedule. To make matters more interesting, we are also getting ready to move across the state, prepare to put a house on the market and start new jobs.

Each one of these may have been enough for him to go running to a drive-thru for a “jumbo everything plus dessert,” but his weight had been consistent over the last month, telling me that he is working his plan pretty well! However, as I was writing this, we did have a setback; Chad’s weekly weigh-in showed a gain of 5#.

Last 30 days with TODAY’S Weigh-In

Looking at this graph of just the last 30 days makes this gain seem quite dramatic, but be sure to compare it to the first graph, which shows the past year.

It seems that the parties, busy schedule and reduction in exercise minutes finally did take its toll.

But here comes the “glass half-full.” It may be hard for him to see, but I have just enough perspective to remember his 5000+ calorie days, where his goal is now about 2000 calories per day.
cal burned and consumedAs you can see by the above graph, while there are days he is over his calorie limit, he NEVER has 3500+ calorie days anymore, and in addition to that he continues to burn thousands of calories through exercise. But the graph also shows that his daily workouts have suffered due to his busy weekday schedule.

As in any plan or project, its important that you take a realistic look at the project and assess and reassess as things change. We have done that a few times already this year, and this seems to be another good time for that. Chad has already adapted a bit to the new situation; even though his workout frequency has changed, he has been able to add variety by adding swimming, outdoor basketball, canoeing and biking to his repertoire. Also, because his weekends are busy, we try to fit in some brick workouts when the weather permits, such as biking and canoeing in the same afternoon. And when it comes to food, he will have a brat at the cookout instead of two, or even munch on veggies and go home to eat a healthy dinner if the potluck food doesn’t fit in his daily plan (i.e. no workout that day.)

So even though life is a bit wild right now, the lifestyle change has to continue to be part of that wild life. Chad is going a great job of keeping his lifestyle changes while adding lots of others to the mix!

“Its the hard that makes it great.”–Jimmy Dugan

As always, the wonderful graphs are courtesy of myfitnesspal.com.

Week #39, #40, & #41 Weigh-ins…and did I mention I’m a half-marathoner?!?!

Folks, I’m sorry about the gap between posts. I often get asked by well-meaning members of the public, almost every day in May and June in fact, “So, school year winding down?” I try to swallow my annoyance at the comment, and say something like, “Not too far now.” I realize that if you don’t work in schools, maybe even high schools specifically (having never worked in a different kind of school, I have no frame of reference) you have no idea that a school year is like the first rise on an roller-coaster. Things just keep going up, and then suddenly, the day after school lets out, you look up from a pile of rubble and ask, “Hey, where did everyone go?” In my job, then, I typically take the rest of June and the first two weeks of July to put a bow on the year just completed, take the last two weeks of July to recover, and starting August 1st, I get back on the roller-coaster for the next ride to graduation.

Not complaining. I like my job enough that I went out and found another one. Its just tough to get some people to understand what I do, when I do it, and that the end of a school year is definitely not a “winding down” kind of a thing. All of that was a long way to say I’m busy and blogging has taken a back seat.

Additionally, I’ve had a hard time being as motivated as I was in Aug.-April. Now that I’ve met that big 40×40 goal, it seems as if some of the weight-loss urgency has gone out of my sails, and it’s not nearly as much fun to write, “No significant loss this week,” as it was to write about losing 5-8# at a time.

I did weigh in at 304 in Week 39, at 304.6 in week 40, and at 303.2 on Thursday for Week 41. This means that I am, for the most part, maintaining my weight at that level and not gaining. However, that is disappointing because other goals are right there for the taking – dropping below 300#, hitting a 35 BMI, weighing 250#, being skinnier than Marcus 🙂 – these are all good goals and ones I haven’t made much progress on lately.

I have been keeping up the physical activity though, and I am confident that when things slow down a bit after graduation, I’ll be back on it.

Speaking of the exercise, if you read Michelle’s post earlier this week, you saw that I successfully completed my first half-marathon. This is not something that was on any goal list of mine; as you can imagine, offensive tackles don’t typically associate fun time activities with long-distance endurance events. However, Michelle wanted to run it, and it coincided with a long-walk training day in my 3-Day walk training plan…so I figured what the hell.

I set a goal of 3:30:00. That was based on the fact that I’d spent lots of time walking long distances, 7 miles or more, in the 16-17 min/mile range. I calculated that to walk 13.1 miles in 3:30, I’d need to average exactly 16:00 min/mile…and I thought this was doable. (Though I was secretly worried that I would not even finish before they closed the course at 4 hours and 15 minutes.)

The kink in my plan happened while in the starting que. I overheard a woman about my age talking with some of the other competitors that she was shooting for a sub-3 hour race. She said that she had done two other half-marathons and that her best time was 3:03. My strategy changed to “Stay within sight of that lady” immediately. Right or wrong, since I was already worried about finishing, I thought if I could stay with her as long as possible, I had a good chance of finishing sub-3:30.

I stayed right next to her, or a dozen steps behind, until we hit the bottom of Observatory Hill. We even struck up a conversation on the climb, one where I shared with her that she was my unknowing pacer. I learned that she was a dietitian; I shared my story with her, in between gasps of air. And she left me in her dust just after mile 2. I was a bit despondent, but I continued to try to struggle to keep her in sight. Even doing some light jogging when the gap started to get too much for me.

However, it seemed that, other than some real pain in my feet, I got stronger as the race went on. I think all of the strength work I did in the winter on the stationary bike, really seemed to help. As we got to mile 7, or 8, I passed her by, and for the only time in the race, I got a bit competitive. I had been running on the downhills as it seemed to save on my joints, if not in pounding, then in time it took to cover it. And as I passed her, we entered a long, sloping downhill. I ran it through, and ended up covering almost all of the next mile in a light jog; my most extended run of the day.

After we left the Arboretum, and then Vilas Park, I too struggled up the steep hill Michelle mentioned. I was alone at that point in the race though and didn’t have anyone to pass or to get passed by. It was a pretty solitary struggle, with a lone spectator at the top of the hill adding his shouted praise. It might actually have been my favorite part of the race.

At mile 11, I had 28 minutes to cover the remaining 2.1 miles to make it in under 3 hours. It was here that I both started to think it was possible, and began to worry that I was going to be just short. I alternated speed walking and really ugly shuffle jogging for most of that two miles. I did however, out of pride, refuse to run the last 1/2 mile, at all. Michelle had sort of intimated that she didn’t think I’d have the mental toughness not to run. I felt that anyone finishing in 3 hours, to run across the finish, who are they kidding, really?

So I walked across the mat in 2:58.xx. Pretty thrilling, really. I was exhausted, but also happy to have completed my first half-marathon. I was a little emotional, worried even that I might start to cry, but I kept it together. My emotions at a time like this are a little conflicted. One, I am amazed that I have come so far in such a short time. Two, I am proud of the effort I have put forward in the last 9 months. Three, I am ashamed that I let myself get so far out of shape. Four, I am embarrassed to celebrate completing something that, the only reason it’s an accomplishment, is because of the decades of no activity. Five,…well, you get the point. It’s not so clear cut for me. Maybe when I get to the point where I accomplish something I know I couldn’t have done at 20, then I’ll feel a more purely happy response.

As always, thanks for reading and…be careful out there!!!

Week #38 Weigh-in…and I’m a triple digit loser!!!

On August 21st, 2009, I was finishing my first year as a principal and my only year as a bachelor. I’d never lived alone before and I had never faced the kind of stress being responsible for 100 employees and 800 students can deliver. Without the support network my wife anchors to me, I didn’t make very healthy choices about almost any aspect of my life. As a result, on August 21st, 2009 I weighed in at my heaviest all-time weight: 404 pounds!!

After Michelle came home, I made some better choices and dropped down to about 375 before the end of 2009. For all of 2010 and 2011, I bounced around between 375 and 390. On August 17th, 2012, I started “40×40” at a robust 381. And as you all know, last month, I met my “40×40” goal with a weigh-in of 308 pounds.

I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t another goal, bouncing around in my head for most of the last 8 months: the idea of losing 100 pounds. I can measure that 100# from lots of starting places. I could start it at the start of “40×40,” which means I’d have to weight 281 pounds to accomplish it. I could also start it from August 21st, 2009, which means I’d have to weigh under 304#.

Since I weighed in this morning at 302.6 pounds…I’m comfortable saying that, since I weigh 101.4 pounds less than my all-time high…I’M A TRIPLE DIGIT LOSER BABY!!! I don’t know if I can express how great that feels to type. 101.4 pounds lost!!

Anyone wanna know what that feels like, go to the local hardware store and by a bag of cement mix. Typically, those weigh 96 pounds, if my childhood memories can be believed. Strap that around your midsection and then walk around all day. Keep it strapped to yourself for at least 4 hours and don’t do anything where you aren’t having to muscle that poundage around. Then, take it off, and go do all the things you were just trying to do when you weighed 100 pounds more.

Or try this. Don’t do anything. Just strap the 100 pounds to your chest. Then sit on the coach all day. At 9:00 pm, get up and go to bed with that 100 pounds sitting directly on your chest. When your alarm goes off in the morning, take the weight off and then spend the day exactly the same way. Sitting on the couch all day and then go to bed at 9:00 pm, this time without the weight. Can you imagine what the difference in those two days might be like? NO, YOU CAN’T! Not unless you’ve ever tried it! (It’s like the old joke about Vietnam and light bulbs.)

But I know all of you can empathize. That’s what you’ve been doing this whole time. Sharing in my journey because you care about me and my story and my health and you want me to live longer and healthier. Your support has made this possible!! I love you all!!

Some of us will be spending time together this weekend for Mother’s Day. I can’t wait. Good Times, Good Times!!

Week 38 = 302.6#, 39.2 BMI, 21% reduction since 8/17/12, 78.4# lost in 40×40, 101.4# total.

Be careful out there!!

Weeks #35, #36, & #37 Weigh-in…and the post goal accomplished let down!!!

On 4/11/13, I accomplished my goal to have a BMI under 40 by my 40th birthday with 4 months to spare. Not bad that; accomplishing a 12 month goal in 8 months. The downside is that it has been difficult to refocus. As Michelle announced in her last blog, I set a new goal, still tied to my 40th, to get down to a BMI of 35. However, the rush of hitting 40 made it difficult to focus on that new goal.

Also, as you may have heard, I did pursue a new position, High School Principal in Sauk Prairie, WI. And am to some extent now splitting my, if not my time, definitely my thoughts and emotional energy between to competing tasks: getting RLHS ready for my departure and eventual replacement and getting myself ready to begin the leadership journey again in a new school and district while also trying to get us moved. None of those jobs are very easy, and that hasn’t left a ton of time for me to focus on my health. (I know, WHaaaaaa!! Right?)

However, the good news is that the 3 Days for a Cure walk in August is weighing heavily on my mind. I know that if I fail to properly prepare for it, those 3 days could be hell…and i don’t want that. So I’ve gotten most of my walks in. Especially the big walks. 11 miles yesterday has me nearly convinced that everyone who has ever claimed to do a marathon might be lying. (They likely got picked up by a bus at mile 11 as that seems to me to be the physical limit of human endurance.)

Lastly, I’m feeling some guilt about leaving Rice Lake High School. I feel our staff and students have done some really great work here in the last 5 years, and for selfish reasons, I’d really like to be here to see them through. I guess I’ll have to figure out ways to do some great work in Sauk Prairie too. (I better or it might be a shorter stay there than Michelle and I are hoping for. 🙂 )

So all that being said, I’ve still done a really good job with my weight. Some fluctuation, but considering everything I listed above, it is really quite impressive the way the new me thinks about struggle, and stress, and stress management. The old Chad would easily have gained 10-15 pounds in the last 3 weeks.

The new Chad, who weighed 306.2 in Week #34, stepped on the scale in Week #35 at 304.4 (down 1.8 pounds), in Week #36 at 307.4 (up 3 pounds), and in Week #37 at 304.6 (down 2.8 pounds). Respectively my BMI went from 39.7 to 39.5 to 39.8 to 39.5. Both of those results are satisfying, since that basically means that without much effort and not enough attention paid to my diet or exercise, I maintained my weight over a three week stretch. That bodes well for when this project is over and I am on to living my life.

Hopefully this blog is the restart of my project. Shooting for a 35 BMI by the 17th of August. Shouldn’t be all that hard. What do you think?

Be careful out there.

Living the (Dietitian’s and Wife’s) Dream

Yesterday was a great day. It was weigh-in day. And while the term “weigh-in day” may strike dread in the hearts of many, yesterday was one of the best days of my life. For those of you following Chad and my “40 by 40” project, you know Chad had given himself a year to decrease his BMI from 49 to 40, which is a loss of just over 74#. He has attacked this project like I cannot believe. He was inspired, determined and focused. And yesterday, something I couldn’t have even imagined happened: Chad met his goal with 126 days (that’s over 4 months) to spare! The path we set out to follow included a loss of 6.2 pounds each month for a year. Chad was able to lose an average of 9.35# for each of the past eight months!

An RD’s Dream: One of the interesting things about 40 by 40 is that, as a dietitian, I am married to my client. Before we decided to do this as more than just the quiet, private, casual attempts at lifestyle changes that we have done in the past, we had to discuss what it would be like when/if we hit trouble spots. What type of dietitian did he want me to be? Tough and drill-sergeant-like? Nurturing and understanding? We ended up settling on what I feel was a personal assistant-type role. He was so focused on doing the work, I often only had to be the scheduler of menus and workout times and be the personal shopper and chef. This was all agreed upon ahead of time; I told him that I would do my part if he did his. Boy, did he ever do his part! [Now just wait until he gets my bill. :-)]

I sometimes get asked, usually by students I speak to about a career as a dietitian, “What are the good and bad parts about the job?” One of the struggles I have is wanting to help people who are not yet ready to change. (This is not exclusive to dietitians; I imagine social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers, and scores of other professions have this same issue.) We all have had people who need help, and they may even ask for it, but they are just not ready to do what it takes. (The smoker keeps smoking, the drinker keeps drinking, the overweight are not ready to eat less and exercise more.) As someone who wants to support and educate people to improve their lives and health, it is difficult to see many fall short. Often, if we can get someone to adopt one change, such as someone will drink a diet soda for every regular soda they drink, that is a success.

Watching and working with Chad these past 8 months has been the greatest experience I believe a dietitian could hope for.

  • Chad was prepared to change his life, and committed to making the changes that would require.
  • He was a willing student, allowing me to educate him when he had questions and incorporated that knowledge into his daily life.
  • He was open with me about his feelings, including happiness, anger and fear.
  • He was open to discuss his relationship to food, both good and bad; in this way, a dietitian has a lot in common with a therapist.
  • He stayed on task, religiously tracking his food intake, not just the calories but the types of foods he ate, as well as his exercise and weight. This allowed me to help him tweak the plan when needed.

Chad was the model patient, and it was so rewarding for me to help him accomplish all that he has. Having a patient, client or customer succeed is the greatest professional joy and fulfillment I can imagine, and I got to see that on a daily basis. Every professional should be lucky enough to have this experience.

A Wife’s Dream: I also happen to be in love with Chad, which adds a few extra layers of joy to this experience! It is a reality that being obese, especially morbidly obese, increases the risk for many chronic diseases, as well as an early death. Chad has had a glimpse into that world, but we are well on the way to a longer life together, and how can you possibly thank someone who has given that gift to you?

There are good weeks and bad weeks in life, and for me, this one was shaping up to be quite a downer. My father, who passed away far too early from cancer, and who I still miss constantly, had a birthday. We had to say goodbye to our last pet, Bailey, leaving Chad and I empty-nesters. We, like many, feel the pressure to get our sorry-looking taxes done, and to top things off, we are experiencing a spring snowstorm. [Although this last is affecting everyone’s mood, its rougher on me than Chad, as I my spring fever starts in February and is now at epic proportions. In addition, it is affecting both of our training schedules for an upcoming half-marathon, which hardly seems fair, since we are trying to do something healthy, right?]

8 month collage

I just can’t stop staring at this!

But then, it was weigh-in day. Seeing him accomplish his goal in such a resounding way,  knowing he is healthier, and seeing the changes in him, both physical and emotional, has made everything else fade into the background.

I’m so proud of you, honey, you did it!

(What’s next?)

Week #34 Weigh-in…and “40by40?”….√

8 month collage

On August 17th, 2012, I weighed 381 pounds. My BMI was 49.5. (I thought it was 48.4, but it turned out I was shorter than I thought, so the calculation went up after I changed the height. Damn, it’s tough to get old.) On that day, Michelle (my lovely, talented wife who quadruples as my dietitian, personal chef and co-author) and I conceived and started the “40by40” project, an effort to lower my BMI to 40 by my 40th birthday; which is August 17th, 2013.

This morning, 239 days after we set the goal, I stepped on the scale and weighed in at 306.2 pounds. My BMI is 39.7….and I have 126 days to spare!!! I have lost 74.8 pounds, reduced my body weight by 19.6%, lowered my BMI by 19.7%. I weigh the least I have weighed since I finished my collegiate football career in 1992.

On August 17th, the first day of my new life, I ate 3,836 calories and I didn’t exercise at all. Yesterday, I ate 3,407 calories, but I had 1231 calories of exercise. And yesterday wasn’t a standard day. (Today I’ve had 1,137 calories with dinner still to go and have banked 938 calories from exercise.)

Every one of the readers of this blog, every family member, every friend, every teacher and community member, ever current and former student…every last person who ever offered me a word of encouragement, I want to offer you my humblest gratitude. It’s not easy to lose 75 pounds. I had lots of moments where I didn’t think I would make it. And always, someone stepped forward, gave me the needed encouraging word, and helped me push through the challenge. I COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT YOU!!!

Also, I couldn’t have done this without TEAM HARNISCH. I’ve mentioned before that two of my family members have been walking, very closely, this journey with me. Both have had their own challenges and both have had life-long challenges with health in the same way that I have. Both have lifted me up when I have felt at my lowest; neither have the level of support at home that Michelle can provide to me, so I hope I have found a way to inspire them when they were struggling as well. TEAM HARNISCH lost 10.4 pounds this week and has lost 137.4 pounds since “40by40” began. (I know, right? That’s awesome.)

Lastly, I love my wife. Love her like a piece of my own soul. People who have weight problems sometimes struggle to see what it is about themselves that others can find to love. Sometimes that struggle can make it hard to believe that love is there, is equal to the love we feel for others, is something that can endure. These feelings are about our experiences and there isn’t much I could do to control them in myself.

Michelle has worked so hard to help me in this process. She has planned and shopped and cooked and counseled. She has encouraged and championed and comforted and cajoled. She has been the light and she has been the reward. This morning, as I stepped on the scale, she was with me. And her eyes teared up and her face showed such joy, I saw the physical embodiment of the love I feel for her, reflected back at me.

Combined with the herculean effort she has shown just to keep me around for a while longer, I’ll never be able to doubt her love for me again…and that may be the best result yet of this whole damn thing.

Be careful out there!!

“O Captain, My Captain!”–An Altered Perspective

I apologize to all of poetry for using this line of Walt Whitman’s in its pop-culture role:

We are VERY close to declaring victory for what has become phase 1 of 40 by 40. Close, because Chad is less than two pounds away from dropping his BMI from his max of 49 to 40, which will be a loss of over 65 pounds! I also say “phase 1” because Chad has already been considering what his next goal should be. He has already done this to a certain degree, by committing to the Koman 3-day walk in August of 2013 and making a long-term commitment to participating in a health-related fundraiser each year, to keep himself healthy, to raise awareness and money, and show people how you can change your lifestyle. I know he has been thinking of a new weight or BMI number to serve as a benchmark, so we’ll keep you posted.

Living with Chad these last 8 months, (and over 16 years before that) I think his last post really hit on a key issue. He discussed how, even though he had an atypical week, which resulted in travel, fewer workouts and more eating on the road, he was still able to achieve a weight loss. To show why this is so telling, and interesting to me as a dietitian, its important to look at how far he has come:

BEFORE:

  • He would often eat 4-5000 calories per day.
  • He skipped meals or would go over 6 hours between meals.
  • He would often resort to fast food, and have a 2000+ calorie meal.
  • He was getting little to no exercise, and so was burning no calories.
  • This resulted in extra calories, which were thousands above the very approximate 2500-ish calories which might be what would maintain him at a healthy weight.

TODAY:

  • He rarely misses a meal (I can count how many on one hand since 40 by 40 began.)
  • He also has snacks, and they are full of fiber, protein and/or healthy fats.
  • He works out like a madman; I would sometimes have to talk him into taking a rest day! Plus, with his large body, his workouts burn anywhere from 500-2000 calories. (For a bit of perspective, my 135# self needs to push hard just to get 500 calories burned during a workout.)
  • Because he’s counting his calories, his portion sizes have had to come down to pre-obesity-epidemic-era amounts.

These two Chads couldn’t be further apart! I believe that is why Chad could have what he considered an awful week and dread his weigh-in, even though in the end, it resulted in a net loss! What he saw as a failure to workout was actually a week where approximately 4650 calories were burned through exercise. He also felt he had eaten “poorly,” when he had only one day where his calories were significantly above his goal range. So, comparing the week he had to both “Before Chad” and “Today Chad,” he is still closer to his current self, even though he may have come short of reaching all his goals for the week. Plus, he did end up with that net loss!

Chad’s experience shows what most of us in the nutrition industry suspect; we have gotten so far removed from a lifestyle of regular physical activity and healthy diets (read: proper portion sizes, regular meals and healthy foods,) that our perspectives are skewed. Have you ever gone to a restaurant that serves proper portion sizes and heard people complain the portions are “skimpy?” Do you see fewer kids and adults out playing, riding bicycles or even walking around outside than years ago? His concern for his not-so-great weeks is admirable, because he doesn’t want to go back to 6 months ago, but Chad is looking at our food and exercise cultures with a new perspective and a new normal, and it will take some time for him to adjust. For me, its a pleasure to watch all of these changes, some obvious and some more subtle.

Please stay tuned…its getting exciting!