Yesterday, a friend of mine noticed that I’ve been losing weight and asked me what I’d been doing. I thought I’d expand on my answer to him here. Perhaps you, my reader, may also find some benefit. Maybe you’d like to join me in this endeavor? Or tell me I could be doing something better or different? I’m good with that, have at it. Or lastly, if you want, cheer me on. I dig validation. Obviously.
A Rose by Any Other Name…
I was nicknamed Sewage Hog in high school.
One day, during junior year, the school track Weight Team (shot put/discus) was in the cafeteria. We spent a lot of time there, of course. Food was life and vice versa.
As we were finishing up I went about my routine, scanning what my teammates had left on their trays, and proceeded to finish it. I was always taught to finish what’s on my plate.
By this time, I’d merely perfected it.
Herb Thomas, arguably the craziest adrenaline junkie in our school, said, “Stafford! You’re a _________ Sewage Hog!!” (I don’t actually recall if there was an expletive, but I’m pretty sure Herb said one).
Immediately, and shockingly, it stuck.
Most every time I led calisthenics for track that year and the next, a call would rise up from the team … in unison.
Yeah, I didn’t really like it at first. Then at times the attention made up for it. I was pretty shy. And, well, the girls would giggle.
So, I just laughed along with them, “Guys, I’m dying here, that’s hilarious! AHHHH Ha! Ha! Ha!”
I mean what are you gonna do when a group of the biggest, strongest, loose cannons in school now pronounce you Sewage Hog? Share something like, “Gee guys, you’re hurting my feeeeelings”?
No, I think not. Some of these guys could bench press your Hummer. And for some reason, I valued whatever slight rep I had with them.
As well as my life.
Ever since then I’ve had a love/hate relationship with food that’s had me skipping back and forth over the BMI obese line like it was a jump rope.
Fast forward a few decades….
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A Few Months Ago I Was in the Hospital
It was just a couple of days for observation and tests. Stress and a reaction to a med, amplified by panic, had me freaking about my heart. They checked me out and it turns out everything was cool.
Well, almost. There was this “small amount of heart disease.”
Yo, Doc … saywhat?
They estimated that there’s a partial blockage of the LAD (Left Anterior Descending) artery. Aka, the “Widow-maker.”
Sounds promising doesn’t it?
Thankfully, the blockage wasn’t “hemodynamically significant” enough (I never thought I’d write that in a post) to merit a roto-rooter or a stent. Mine’s at about 25% and they do those procedures when it’s like 75% plus, when the risk is worth it.
But still my doctor got close to me, looked me squarely in the eyes and she said, “You’re at a decision point. You need to get serious about this.”
A Prescription for What?
So now, to extend out or hopefully remove the need for one for those procedures, I should be tested regularly, conform to a cardiac diet, exercise more and take Crestor.
I’m firmly chained to the tail of the “Baby Boomer Beast” plodding toward the Kingdom of Old. Ugh.
Procedures? Stents? Feeling old? Feeling disabled, rotten and overweight? Being less a part of my kid’s lives (or worse)? No thanks.
I’ve got a 17-year-old and an 8-year-old. I want to be around a while.
So I’d prefer, no I want, to break these chains and do my best to enter the Kingdom of Old on far better terms, feeling lighter, healthier and more energetic than I have in the past.
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The Numbers Don’t Lie
(WARNING! It’s boasting time. If you tend to get nauseated at excessive self-aggrandizement go ahead and leave now. But do so quietly please, I’m already on my soapbox.)
By way of comparison, here are my numbers from March 1st while at the hospital:
Total Cholesterol: 229
Last week I saw my Cardiologist. Pointing to the computer screen, she said, “Come ‘ere, take a look at your numbers now!”
And this is what I saw:
Total Cholesterol: 116
Duuude. I mean dang, Doc, that Crestor really works!
She agreed that it does, but changes this dramatic show that I’m doing a lot of things right. Then she exclaimed, “You’re my model patient!”
Ah, golly, gee Doc. Flattery gets me every time.
So, here’s what I’ve been learning and doing.
My 5 Steps to a Sewage Hog Makeover
1) Internal Motivation is the Main Ingredient.
For most people who end up making a change, there’s a moment-in-time when desire overcomes fear. Fear of loss, change, failure, direction, expectation, hardship, or just plain not knowing.
You finally get sick of the “SOMETHING” that’s making you sick. I don’t care whether it’s a substance, lust, money, another person, or food.
For change to begin, reliance on that “something” needs to be both admitted and explored in order to unlock the reasons for it. Yet it’s true that it doesn’t always happen, that some don’t get there.
But my moment-in-time was hearing those words, “… heart disease.”
Now, as I’ve chosen to let go of unhealthy habits and make positive, incremental changes I’ve begun to see more clearly (like 55″ LED 1080p HDTV clearly) the path I’d been travelling. Unhealthy habits are spotlighted, in myself and others. And, instead of taking the narrow path, I see how I’ve been driving blind down the super-highway with the rest of them.
2) A Pinch of Accountability Makes it Taste Better
I’ve seen some people make dramatic changes. My kids’ mom and my new husband-in-law, for example, have worked at getting far healthier. She was in a rough spot a couple years ago and really turned it around. I’ve other friends who are watching their diet and going out for walks, hikes and bike rides.
If they can do it, why can’t I?
So, I’m now tracking my progress with some of them, as well as sharing here. When you share what you’re doing, what you want to achieve and why, it helps to motivate you and maintain direction.
Lasting inner change has more potential to stick.
Focus on results and you won’t change. Focus on change and you’ll get results. - Stu Mittleman, ultradistance running champion, fitness/running coach and author.
So focus on daily change. For example, my goal wasn’t to be lighter. I wanted to be healthier. The weight dropped nonetheless. Effortlessly.
3) No More Sewage for the Hog
For me, aside from sustenance, food has also acted as a comforter. It’s then short steps to cross over the line to habit, and even addiction.
Food I used to have, that was acceptable, the trash with which we reward ourselves, I now have more of an aversion to. It’s as if big warning labels just started to appear from an emotionally-driven reaction that, for me, is similar to my response to alcohol and drugs. Nope, just not going there.
So, I cut the fat, a lot of it, flat out. I cut way back on dairy. What I do have is low fat, 2% or less. My diet’s much more plant-based. I snack on vegetables, fruit and whole grain items. You know the drill.
I still have a small amount of chicken and, well, I do eat more fish. Yeah, fish. Totally. Sushi? Duh.
Dessert? Skinny Cow stuff kicks. I really think they should name it Skinny Hog. But I digress.
Yet my biggest change and surprise is that coffee let go of me. I came out of the hospital and the desire had left. Gone.
Only then did I have a realization that I denied for so many years: I’ve used 2 to 3 cups of coffee as a vehicle to consume 2 to 5 tablespoons of creamer (both oil-based and natural) every day. Holy crap, they add up. It’s easy to miss how such an acceptable and under-the-radar item can grow to be so very unhealthy.
4) Even Old Dogs, er … Hogs, Can Learn New Tricks
I didn’t know that the body, my body at least, could respond that quickly to positive changes. When I was 18 that was a no-brainer. You just started working out and doing sprints and, voilà, new body!
At middle-age I didn’t think such change could happen. I’d bought into the excuses, “I’m getting old” and “That’s just what happens.” Of course, some things do change as we age. (Like finding those little hairs on the outside of my ears as well as wondering where my testosterone went? Like … uh, to my ears? But really, why would it go there?)
So I was surprised–amazed even–that I lost 10 pounds in the first couple of weeks and immediately started to feel much better as my body released unhealthy stuff.
I’ve been riding my bike, swimming or working out between 30 and 45 minutes a day. I listen to my body and if I begin to feel really sore, I recuperate, which is usually 1 day off for each 2 to 4 days on.
I feel incredibly better. I don’t grunt like a hog to get up out of a chair, for example. It’s not a pain to move. I have much more energy.
5) Get Out of the Pen
Chris Brogan, bestselling author and Social Media expert says, ”Visualize the Path, Not the Reward. Become ‘the kind of person who.’ If you’re running a marathon, then you’re the kind of person who gets up at 4:30am to get in the miles. Visualize getting out there … and putting those feet down.”
It seems to me that we too often wait for the feelings to be just right and that we’ve got to “get psyched” first before we can get started. I’m guilty.
But often it’s the other way around.
When you practice something long enough, you become it. If you play enough golf, you become a golfer. If you run, a runner. And if you write, a writer. - Jeff Goins, Writer Extraordinaire
For example, the other day I was tired and I DIDN’T feel like going for a ride. But I got on my bike anyway. Because I now see myself as more a “sports cyclist.” This is now how I look. This is now what I do.
That dedication changed the internal struggle. Even though I felt weak mentally and emotionally, as I got going on my bike, my body felt strong.
Afterwards I felt great, mentally, emotionally and physically.
Sometimes it’s as simple as this.
What you’re doing wrong becomes obvious only once you begin to do that which is right. (Oh. I like that. May I suggest you read it again?)
And lastly, I’ll leave you with this: If an old, former Sewage Hog can do it, ANYONE can.
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Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (MSG)