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:


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!!

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!!

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!!

Week #32 & #33 Weigh-in…and I think this is starting to take :)!!

Sorry I missed writing last week folks. I took a day off from work last Friday and headed up to the cabin to help my dad and his maple syrup operation. No WiFi up ‘der, so no updates. By the time I got back to the world on Sunday night, the week already seemed to be spinning off of the rails and I ran from one thing to another…so no time to blog. I’m trying folks. So, here is the deal…

In week #32, predicted to be the second week in my two week up/down cycle, I lost. Stepped on the scale at 314.4, losing exactly 1 pound and dropping my BMI to 40.88. Not bad, but certainly not the kind of 4-5# drop I had been experiencing in my down weeks lately.

So I was a little worried heading into the week this week. I didn’t drop like I usually do. I then went to the cabin for two days, and while hauling sap is brutal work, I also spent some time in the cabin talking stupid. Then I went to Easter dinner, were I felt I ate pretty well, but I am never as good on the road as I would like to be. Then I had an unexpected trip to Madison. Went by myself, without Michelle and ate on the road for 4 meals, and missed two work outs.

When I stepped on the scale this morning, I was saying…actually saying out loud, by the way…please be under 320, please be under 320. I was positive that with the week I had after only losing the 1 pound the week before I was in for a disappointing performance.

Well…I was wrong. I weighed in at 310.2 this morning. That puts my BMI at 40.2!! My theory is that a couple of things happened. First, I weighed in on Friday because I was on the road Thursday. This is one more low calorie day, one more day to lose, one more day to slough off pounds. I think that is part of it. Second, I think I have adapted to my new lifestyle so well at this point; that it has become so much a part of who I am, that when I “feel” like I had a bad week, I am still infinitesimally better, more healthy and aware of what I am eating  and how I am moving, that everything is still relatively good. Certainly that is true when compared to my past self. Last, I do believe I’ve had a change in my metabolism…(if that is possible, and I think Michelle has written about this in the past and said no…but I am the patient and like all patients, I hear what I want to hear.)

So am 1.6 pounds away from my “40by40” goal and I have 19 weeks to lose it. Feels like I might make it. I have lost 70.8 pounds since August 17th and am down 93.8# from my high of 404. I played full court basketball this morning, 2-on-2, and ran for almost every trip down the floor. I am headed back to the cabin tonight for another weekend of hauling sap and making syrup. I am loving my life. Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement, I couldn’t have done this without you. I am hoping that sometime soon, I’ll be writing the “40by40” goal accomplished blog, either next week or the week after. Each one of you will have to own a little piece of that accomplishment.

Be careful out there!!

Week 28 Weigh-in…and Chad gets SERIOUS!!!

I’m really starting to love the new me. 🙂 I had a tough week last week. All who read about it know how I responded to a little weight gain. But you also know that my slip lasted about 4 hours. Since then, I spent 556 minutes working out and burned an additional 9,004 calories as a result. I also, without consulting my dietitian (bad), lowered my rate of weekly weight-loss from the 1.5#/week I had been on to a 2#/week pace. That dropped my calorie intake from almost 2400 a day to 2070 a day.

What was the result? …Doesn’t matter. The point is that when faced with a challenging day, week or month, the new me doesn’t quit. The new me sees the challenge, formulates a plan to address the challenge, and then works the damn plan. In some ways, the new me is a lot like the me that was able to play college football. Hard work wasn’t something I was afraid of then. I’m starting to wonder if I going to have to break down my life into a series of scores. (You know, as in “four score and seven years ago…)

My first score was dominated by the last 5 years of it, and my drive to be a great football player. I fell a little short, but for most of the time was relatively healthy and active. The next score, by slothfulness and over-indulgence. And now, the third score of my life, by a drive to add a fifth score. 🙂 We’ll see how I do.

Ok…enough screwing around. I weighed in yesterday at 318.6!!! First time in the teens since my wedding in 1996, for sure. Also, I am now exactly 10 pounds from the 40 by 40 goal of 308.6. (It’s not a weight-based goal, but I can do the math and know that if I weighed 308.6, I’d have a 40 BMI.) Boo-yah!!!

So from last week, I lost 5.2 pounds and a total loss from August of 62.4.  Not a bad week and definitely makes up for the weight I put on the week before. It looks like maybe I should just have a two-week weigh in cycle. Since for almost two months, I’ve gone up 2 steps and then down 5 on an almost perfect 14 day cycle.

My BMI is now 41.3. (Interestingly, if I hadn’t been measured in October and found out that I was 3/4” shorter than I thought, my BMI would be 40.5) Pretty darn close to that goal, either way.

I got a call from a parent today who saw me at the Basketball game last night, who just wanted to let me know that he was amazed at how good I looked and wanted to know what I was doing. I told him what I tell everyone…I’m listening to my wife. 🙂

Oh, and Team Harnisch has cracked the 120 pound barrier with a combined total loss between the three at 122.2 pounds. That is even more amazing. I couldn’t do it without you!!

Be careful out there!!

Weeks 25 & 26 Weigh in…and the winter grind starts!!

When I first became a school administrator, my wife’s co-workers would ask, “So what exactly does a principal do all day long anyway?” To which she would often smile, shake her head, and reply, “It’s hard to explain.”

One day, a co-worker asked, “Describe a typical day for your husband at work.” So Michelle said, “Yesterday, was a typical day. Yesterday my husband came home wearing not a single piece of clothing he had even owned when he left the house that morning. New shirt, new pants, new underwear, new socks, and new shoes. That is typical.”

After getting the story about why I was without clothes I had owned just 16 hours earlier (It involves frozen heat exchangers, broken pipes, a furnace on overdrive, and rain and fog in the band room), the coworker wanted to know how that was typical. Michelle said, “Because every day is like that. No matter what he might plan to do, no matter what he needs to do. It seems like every day, the universe conspires against him to cause chaos around him.”

Now that I’ve worked in administration for almost 7 years, I realize a couple of things about that statement. 1) It doesn’t sound like I was a very good principal that first year. Being reactive to chaos is a sign of poor leadership. Proactively planning for minimizing chaos is good leadership. 2) The chaos still exists, but now that I have two assistant principals, most of the student-generated chaos is filtered out. 3) I haven’t had to buy new clothes while at work in over 6 years. 🙂

But the last few weeks, I’ve begun the budgeting and staffing process. And neither of those things are particular strengths of mine, so I have to work doubly hard to make sure that I get it right. Also, as many of you may have heard, Wisconsin education funding and the rules governing staffing have really been unpredictable these last few years. I never seem to be able to predict who will retire, who will leave for another district, or what the end revenue from the state will be. So, right now I’ve been spending the last two weeks trying to fit the constantly moving pieces of a $6.5 million budget with 120 employees together into a cohesive puzzle that every day is a different shape from what I thought it was when I started the day.

I can honestly tell you that it is the one time of the year, budget and staffing, that I worry the job of principal may get the best of me. So far, in 4 years, I’ve trimmed almost $900,000 off of that in staffing and materials, and have only had to  issue two-part time lay-offs. We’ll see if I can continue to be so lucky.

(So I’ve been writing the above paragraphs, off and on, since Thursday morning at 7:15 am. And I just re-read them and even I can’t tell if I am bragging or whining. 🙂 Fairly pathetic blog-post so far, really. I believe the point that I was trying to make was that from the end of January until the first of April, I’ll be really surprised if I am able to blog as regularly as I like and that is why I missed blogging last week. Hope you can deal with that. I’m hopeful that Michelle will keep up her regular writing.)

Week #25 Numbers: I weighed in last week at 323.4, down 5.2 pounds from week #24. That put my BMI at 41.9 and my total loss to date at 57.6#.

Week #26 Numbers: I stepped on the scale on Thursday morning (Thursday’s now instead of Wednesday for a few weeks as I’ve joined a team of colleagues in a community wide healthy living challenge and they weigh in on Thursday) at 321#. Again, I found that number to be disappointing. (Crazy!!) Because I really wanted to see a 31x option. I just think that “three hundred ‘something’ teen” sounds immeasurable better than “three hundred twenty-one.” And I wanted the teens this week. I wanted ’em bad. Is that so wrong?

To focus on the positive, I weighed 381 pounds on August 17th. That means this week I crossed into the 60 pounds down category!!! Now that feels good to type. Also, my BMI is 41.6. Only 1.6 more to go on the BMI and only 13 more pounds to realize my 40 by 40 goal. And I have 26 weeks to accomplish that!?!?! That’s right! I am 82% of the way to my first yearly goal, and I’m only 50% of the way through the year!! I rock!!!!!! (Ok, that last part was definitely bragging. 🙂 )

Also, this week, we did a spontaneous fundraiser online to show support for a friend of mine who recently learned her cancer had returned. In 24 hours, we raised over $600 for our 3-Days for the Cure team, all going to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Our team total is over $2,200, which is totally awesome, but we also need to get to over $10,000 to meet our goal. (I promised on Facebook I wouldn’t post a plea for donations for the rest of February if we got over the $2,000 mark this week, but if I put a link to the team here, for people who might have extra money lying around, that’s not cheating is it? No, I didn’t think so.)

If you care to look into our team, and maybe feel a longing to support breast cancer research or victim support financially, feel free to click on this link: http://www.the3day.org/site/TR/2013/ChicagoEvent2013?team_id=217416&pg=team&fr_id=1830

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the continued support. I literally cannot count the number of people who have given me positive support this week. Teachers texting me during staff meetings to say that I look good. Parents grabbing me at sporting events and in the grocery store. Board members emailing to tell me they have noticed the change and are happy for me. Students tweeting about their awesomely handsome new principal. (‘Kay, that last one hasn’t actually happened, but that might be a moment.:) )

“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 Day. Take 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?

Weeks 14 & 15 Weigh-ins…Hot Damn, I love you people!!!

Since my last post, 14 days ago…

First let’s address that. 14 days is my largest gap in posting since this started. Those of you who are not from Wisconsin, and maybe even not from Northern Wisconsin, might see that gap and think, “Well, this blog idea was good while it lasted, but we all knew he was gonna run out of steam eventually.” And honestly, I cannot blame you for thinking that. Do you blame a puppy for peeing on the floor? Do you blame a kindergartener for not completing their calculus homework? Do you blame your wife for maxing out your credit card on Black Friday? (I don’t have this issue, because I am blessed in my match. My cousin, Brian, doesn’t have this problem either, but I understand his wife does have to worry about her husband.) Do you blame Al Gore for taking credit for inventing the internet? (Nod of respect to my father.) The answer to all those questions is a resounding “NO.” And why is it a “no?” Because they don’t know any better. (All my feminist friends, especially Ann and Claudia, and Rachel and Michelle and Ellen and…well all my friends with breasts…and Marcus. Relax! The Black Friday thing was a joke for cripes sakes. I just got out of the hunting camp. What’d you expect?)

So those of you who are thinking I’m off the blogging thing because of my 14-day gap in posting, are those same people, like my friend, Justin, (actually, I guess I need to tell Justin to calm down about that Black Friday credit card thing, too) who didn’t believe that people would drive on frozen waterways in the winter to cut down their commute times in the winter. (Tell them Justin.) You just don’t understand the culture of Northern Wisconsin. One of my favorite college professors at UW-Stevens Point once said, “It wasn’t until I moved to Wisconsin, that I met someone who could both hunt and read.”

To sum up, the last 14 days coincided with the 9-day gun deer hunting season here in Wisconsin. I am 39 years old and this was my 30th year deer hunting. Since I couldn’t legally carry a gun till I was 12…you can start to get a glimpse into the cultural significance of deer hunting in Northern Wisconsin. I’m certainly not going to violate that by writing a blog post about healthy living and weight-loss in the middle of it. Feels like the ghosts of dead-deer-hunters-past would come and push me out of my tree stand if I did. (I wasn’t sure how to punctuate “dead deer hunters past,” so I used the hyphen/dash in a nod to my English department, who engaged in a lively debate on the hyphen/dash duality just prior to leaving for hunting camp. 🙂 )

So why do I love everyone? Because everywhere I went for the last two weeks, I received non-stop positive feedback from everyone. Here is a list of places I got positive comments for my new body:

  • pharmacy
  • hunting cabin
  • neighbors hunting cabin
  • near a stand in the middle of the woods by a corn pile
  • doctor’s office
  • post office
  • movie theatre
  • local supper club
  • local Kiwanis meeting
  • hallway outside my office
  • in my office
  • in the teachers’ lounge
  • in the hallway outside my office again
  • at my parents house for Thanksgiving
  • at the Physical Therapy place I lived at between 2008-2010
  • at a meeting in the Board of Education office
  • In the hallway outside my office again
  • in an email
  • in a Building leadership team meeting
  • all over this blog
  • at my home, every time my dietitian, wife, partner or lover looks at me.

That is a lot of positive attention. And since just about anyone who knows me really well will tell you, at the end of the day, I suffer from massively low self-esteem. (people who know me kind of well think I have massively high self-esteem, but they haven’t been able to see that is just a defense mechanism) (so know you know how well you know me, depending on whether you think I have low or high self-esteem) (though I think I can accurately predict at least two people whose initials are ER and MH, who actually are thinking as they read this that they know me even better than I know myself and that the low self-esteem thing is the real front for what is, in reality, a massively inflated ego. Alas, who’s to say who’s right?) Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter if I have low self-esteem or high self-esteem. Because, either way, I am super motivated by attention and positive praise from others!! Always have been; probably always will.

So when each of you, whether you read this or not, take time out of your day to comment on my appearance in a positive way…I go through the roof. I love it. I makes me feel great! And it makes me want to keep doing it so that I keep getting that positive praise.

I’m sure some education expert out there will read this and comment on the need to find intrinsic motivation for my healthy choice, to which I will say, “Pszszswwwwako;hsdljfahs!!” (Is that how you type a raspberry?) Seriously, if I didn’t have intrinsic motivation for doing this, I wouldn’t have started it in the first place. The whole point is that the extrinsic feedback from others is doing a massively powerful job of reinforcing the intrinsic reasons I already have. And I can’t THANK YOU enough. That’s why “I love you people!!”

So I did step on the scale twice in the last 14 days. Last Wednesday, I weighed 338.2 and today I weighed 337.4. Down 1.6# and 0.8# respectively and a total of 2.4# over the fortnight. Since that time period includes 9-days of deer hunting, where I ate, just to name one thing, fried pork sausage or bacon for every breakfast, and Thanksgiving, I am more than satisfied that I just kept going down.

My BMI is now 43.7, so I’m officially 60% of the way to my goal of a 40 BMI in just 15 weeks. I have 37 weeks to go to accomplish the remaining 40% 🙂 We all know at this point that I am going to make it. So, what’s next?

Stay tuned for the next post to see the new goals…