Friday, December 24, 2010

Looking back on two years ago today - Try these nutrition lifestyle habits for yourself!

Maintaining this blog has been so encouraging for me - It's wonderful to look back and see goals I set for my diet and lifestyle and then compare them to how I'm doing today.

Here's what I wrote two years ago today, and these six things that I was "planning" to do in order to achieve my weight loss and fitness goals are exactly what I'm doing in my current regime. Here's what I said "I plan to" do:

1. Eat six times per day and in smaller portions to avoid crashes that lead to cravings

2. Prepare meals ahead of time to make sure I have healthy food ready when I get hungry

3. Incorporate "power foods" like almonds, yogurt, berries, oatmeal and whole grains that will help me maximize my calorie intake for energy and stamina

4. Eat more fiber-rich foods to make me full faster

5. Eat foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients, especially antioxidants

6. Reduce my salt and sugar intake, and eat more fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth while avoiding empty calories

Well, this has turned out to be a pretty good plan!!!! I didn't make all of these changes at once, but for the past year this has been the nutrition lifestyle I've been able to achieve.

I would recommend these six lifestyle habits to anyone attempting to make positive health changes in the new year. Good luck!!!

Fitness and nutrition regime on point

This week I've been off work so I've been hitting the gym harder than ever. Three days of double workouts and three days of the regular fare. I'm getting more rest and eating more to compensate, and I feel great!

Today I got the materials for my correspondence course on fitness and exercise. I'm doing the certified personal trainer program through ACE - American Council on Exercise. Just flipped through the books and am thinking, wow, I have a sh*tload to learn!

I'm sitting at Panera having a cup of chicken noodle soup and Greek salad with grilled chicken. I love this meal, although I don't have it as much as I used to now that Khizer and I are cooking more at home. Our nutrition is on point, and I feel fueled at every moment throughout the day.

We have our protein-packed breakfast of Ezekiel 4:9 Golden Flax cereal and 2% milk, with a fried egg over a slice of Arnold Double Fiber toast.

Then for the mid morning snacks we have assorted nuts, dried fruits and seeds and 2% Cabot Greek Yogurt with frozen organic mixed berries.

For lunch we have quinoa and peas with some other main dish, like soup or curry packed with an assortment of leafy green and root veggies, and a couple of side veggies raw, like celery, grape tomatoes, carrots or broccoli.

The afternoon snack is usually an apple and a banana, and maybe some more quinoa if there's an afternoon workout thrown in. And dinner is a lighter version of lunch, usually just the quinoa with a bit of curry or cup of soup.

This routine has us feeling strong and with tons of energy throughout the day. We wake up early and try to get to bed before midnight, but admittedly our one nutritional weakness at this point is getting enough rest. Rest is just as important to the body and mind as the food we eat, so it's definitely got to be one of our resolutions in the new year to be more mindful of this.

Well, that's it for now. I'm going to be studying the ACE materials pretty hard over the next week or so. I have a lot of work to do to prepare for the new semester, too. I'm teaching that Overcoming Obesity class and preparing my motivational talk. I also have a new class in the social sciences department at MDC starting - Seminar for Student Success. I'm psyched for the new year, and am so thankful that God has given me the strength to accomplish so many of my personal goals in 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not Michael Vick Naked

Playgirl apparently wants to publish photos of Michael Vick naked. They'll give the money they would pay him to PETA, I guess to make up for the horrible, cruel things he's done to animals. The whole thing just makes me sick, and it's got me thinking. Who would you rather see, me or Michael Vick naked? I mean, sure, he’s got a much better body than I do - he’s a professional athlete for pete’s sake! But would you really want to see Michael Vick naked, instead of me, knowing how he's treated animals?

Me on the other hand, I treat animals with kindness and respect. Doesn’t that make me the one you should want to see naked? I mean, seeing Michael Vick naked – ew. Seeing me naked, less ew. Right?

Either way, you’re not going to see Michael Vick naked here, or me naked for that matter. (For this, you can thank me now or later). No, I’m just writing this silly little article because I wanted to try to see if by stating Michael Vick naked I would “optimize” the chance my humble fitness blog is picked up on more Google searches.

Not that I have a specific interest in inviting folks who want to see Michael Vick naked to my blog. But I figure there might be a bunch of people who want to see Michael Vick naked. And people who want to see Michael Vick naked are people, too. So what’s the harm if people who want to see Michael Vick naked come to my blog. They just might be interested in my struggle to overcome obesity.

Then, people who want to see Michael Vick naked might actually have a chance to see a guy who’s physically hot like Michael Vick naked, but who’s not Michael Vick naked or just some random pic of a person who looks like Michael Vick naked on a dirty porn site online.

If anyone reading this has any tips on search engine optimization for me, please leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's wrong to resist resistance (training, that is)

I don't do cardio. Really. I've lost more than 145 pounds without doing more than 15 minutes total on a treadmill, stationary bike or eliptical machine. Now, I do sometimes ride my bike for pleasure. And a few times a month I rollerblade. But in the gym, it's all about resistance training for me.

I don't plan on ramping up the cardio anytime in the near future, either. The reasons for this are simple: 1) I hate cardio, 2) I've read a lot about how resistance helps build muscle which in turn burns fat, and 3) I have consistantly been losing weight without focusing on cardio, so why should I start now?

Well, to be honest, I'm open to cardio and will do it vigorously if and when I need to. I have changed up my routine constantly in order to keep my body guessing as to what physical challenge is coming next. And I know as I'm now nearing my goal there will most definitely be new challenges for me in the coming months.

But for now I'm going to continue to do my resistance training at the gym. I'll be sharing more about my workouts in the future. And certainly if I get any requests from my readers I'll get to this more quickly than I otherwise might. But for now, let me just say that for those of you who dread spending hours and hours each week doing cardio, let me free you and say that you will probably get much better results from your weight loss efforts if you switch your focus from cardio to resistance training with weights.

And don't worry if you don't really know what you're doing in the gym; it's not as complicated as it seems. This book can get you started: Men's Health, The Big Book of Exercises. It's full of illustrations and descriptions of all sorts of exercises for all parts of the body, and there's a version for men and one just for women. So check it out, and good luck!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dealing with destructive doubt

I'm an optimistic person by nature. And I'm a kind person. But I've often failed to be kind to myself. And when it comes to my weight, and self-image in general, I've often failed to extend to myself the same optimistic attitude I share so freely with others.

Sometimes, when I say something to others in an optimistic way, there are undercurrents of doubt just below the surface. These undercurrents remain just under the skin and are well hidden from casual observers. But if you come in close, and get a careful look, you can see them. They're not pretty. And they can be downright destructive, which is why I keep them hidden, especially from myself.

Reading back through my blog, which I started in December 2008, I can see those undercurrents in my writing. I can read between the lines of my own writing. And that's why I'm so amazed that I've made it this far in my effort to halve my weight in two years' time.

I was so optimistic in those early posts. But in short order the blog posts stopped, and the 30 initial pounds I'd lost came right back on. Then toward the end of 2009, optimism rebounded. And I finally was able to back my optimism with real strategies that would help me deal with those troublesome undercurrents that have time and time again bridled the otherwise wild, passionate man who longed to be victorious over lethargy, pessimism and addiction to comfort.

I'll be talking more about some of the strategies I've used to overcome destructive doubt. But for now, I'll leave you with a book title: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. This book was key in helping me change my inner dialog from one of pessimism to one of hope. And I think without it my current story would not be as hopeful as it is.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My first before and after

So here it is, my first before and after posting. I call this my first because I'm not yet to my goal of beating obesity once and for all, so it's definitely not my last.

The photo on the left was taken in December 2009, when I tipped the scales at more than 400 pounds. The one on the right was taken today, December 11, 2010. My dry weight this morning was 270 pounds.

My goal? 225 pounds. And yep, I've got just 45 pounds to go!

I've gotta be honest here, y'all - looking at this picture freaks me out. I can't believe that the old pic is me! I'd love to hear what you guys think. And thanks to those of you who've been following my progress this whole time. Your encouragement is key to my continued success. I couldn't do this without you!!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tracking my progress since July

I weigh myself every day, but I only log it every once in a while. I've found logging my weight has been useful to me so I can keep track of my progress over the long term and set realistic expectations for myself.

Looking at the last 30 pounds I've lost, it's taken me about five months. I lost the first 100 in just seven. The next 50 may take me until my birthday in August next year, but if I stay on track I know I'll achieve my goal.

Here are all of my official weigh-ins since early July:

12.08.2010 (14:17): 270.0 lbs CURRENT WEIGHT
11.08.2010 (16:43): 273.0 lbs
10.29.2010 (09:10): 276.0 lbs
10.23.2010 (09:54): 278.0 lbs
10.07.2010 (08:56): 280.0 lbs
09.11.2010 (12:39): 285.0 lbs
08.29.2010 (23:41): 290.0 lbs
08.18.2010 (07:41): 292.0 lbs
08.10.2010 (09:05): 293.0 lbs
07.07.2010 (05:52): 300.0 lbs

Monday, December 6, 2010

Discovering the protein power of quinoa

As I'm no longer living by myself, I've been discovering the joy of cooking together with my partner. We enjoy perusing local groceries and farmer's markets on the weekends for the best deals on healthy and organic (preferably locally grown) foods, then going home and making big batches of mostly invented dishes to pack for our lunches, snacks and dinners to sustain us through the work week.

For the past few weeks, we've been really getting into quinoa, the seed (sometimes referred to as a grain) that nourished the mighty Incans of Peru. We've experimented with the red and white varieties, so far, and really enjoy the nuttiness of the red. Next trip to Whole Foods we plan to pick up the black. As a protein staple, we make a batch of quinoa and mix in frozen peas, then divide these up into portions that can either be added to some other recipe in the future or eaten as a stand alone side dish or afternoon snack.

Unlike wheat, rice or oats, which each lack at least one essential amino acid, quinoa is a complete source of protein. Each 100g serving packs a 4g protein punch, and only has about 120 calories, 3g of fiber and 2g of fat (the good kind). We usually eat larger serving sizes, and even eat it later in the evening (as our schedules often have us eating after 8 or 9 p.m.).

Even though it's a carb, and it isn't recommended for those losing weight to eat carbs so late in the evening, because I'm doing weight training throughout the week it's perfect for me to eat quinoa this late because its proteins are slow absorbing, like that of the milk protein casein, which feeds my muscles overnight and leaves me feeling satiated and energized in the morning.

If you haven't tried quinoa yet, you should. I'll be posting some recipes in the future as we try some. I found few good ones today and plan on sharing them soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Goal achievement: Riding rollercoasters again!

For anyone who's been following my blog since it's inception (is there anyone?), you know one of the goals that I'd set for myself was to lose weight so I could ride roller coasters again. Well, this weekend that goal was finally achieved when I went to Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL.

I wasn't nervous at all as I waited in line for The Incredible Hulk - my fear of the ride was overshadowed by my excitement, and of course by the nervousness I still had about fitting into the seat.

But my fears quickly vanished as I stepped up to that last car and hopped into the saddle as if the form-fitted seat were made just for me. I couldn't believe it. There was no discomfort, no sucking in the gut or re-arranging the spoodging fat rolls as the coaster-jockey strapped me in. Ahhhh! Relief!

Now, I thought, let the fun times begin! And away we went!

Thanks Khiz! And Happy Birthday. I had an amazing time!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Motivating others to overcome obesity?

I've been asked to talk to a fairly large group of college students on my personal struggles with overcoming obesity. It's my first of what I hope will be many gigs as a motivational speaker.

Description: Why is weight loss such an elusive mystery? We all know the formula – diet and exercise are the key to achieving a healthy weight and maintaining a fit physique. But with so many options for weight loss available today – from fad diets, diet pills and fat-fighting injections to bariatric surgery and an array of so-called non-invasive outpatient procedures – it’s nearly impossible to know where to start.

Well, what if the answer to the question weren’t “out there”, but rather “in here”, inside your own heart and your own mind? Truth is, you may never lose weight unless you first decide that you’re going to do it, and then believe that it’s possible.

Are you obese, or just overweight? Perhaps you know someone who is. Then this workshop is for you. Come hear the story of one obese man who is currently in the midst of the fight of his life – to recover from obesity by losing nearly half of his body weight, about 200 pounds, simply to be classed as “overweight”. You’ll learn how achieving your weight-loss goals might just come down to one snap decision.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Branding my diet - Ten foods I can't live without

I'm not much of a cook. Still, I've found that preparing my own meals at home and packing lunch, and sometimes dinner, is the only way to stay on track with my diet. And because eating out is especially expensive when you're trying to eat healthy, it's also the only way to stay on budget.

Here are the brands that have made losing more than 100 pounds over the last 10 months possible:

1. Ezekial 4:9 Golden Flax Sprouted Grain Cereal - A little bit of this stuff goes a long way. One box is kind of expensive (about $5 or $6), but it lasts for a couple of weeks. And it's very filling, so I don't use more than a quarter or half a cup per serving. With a bit of milk and a banana, this is an amazing breakfast that always starts me off on the right foot.

2. Eggland's Best organic, cage-free, vegetarian-fed eggs - I can't live without eggs. Whether it's one scrambled with a tomato, some spinach or collard greens with a piece of toast for breakfast, a hard-boiled one packed for a snack on the go, or two in an omelette for dinner, eggs are a staple that gives me the proteien I need to build muscle as I'm losing fat.

3. Organic Girl Baby Spinach - I love this stuff raw between two slices of whole grain bread, with deli meat and a little mustard, or stirred into soup, or scrambled with my eggs. Maybe it's that I'm a Popeye fan, but I just feel this stuff fuels my body for whatever shenanigans Olive Oil or Bluto may bring my way.

4. Cabot Creamery's Greek-style Plain Lowfat Yogurt - I buy a big container of this stuff and break it out into to-go packs with some frozen fruit, and I'm ready for a nutritious mid-morning snack any day of the week.

5. Martin's Pennyslvania Dutch Whole Wheat Potoato Bread - I've only recently discoverd the whole grain version of my back-home favorite, potato bread. I like that I can treat myself to a healthy version of this great comfort food.

6. Organic Valley 1% Milk - Any organic milk would do, but I like that Organic Valley has a nice pour spout. It's also not the most expensive brand out there, even if it's not the cheapest either.

7. Boar's Head Salsalito Sliced Turkey - Any Boar's Head product is simply delicious, but I've found the high protein low calorie level of their turkey and chicken products is perfect to help me continue losing weight while I thoroughly enjoy my lunch!

8. Oh Yeah! Chocolate and Caramel Protein Bars (Grab n' Go size) - After a hard workout, or just as an afternoon snack, these bars satisfy like Snickers but also pack a much-needed protein punch.

9. Publix brand frozen fruits and vegetables - Frozen fruits and vegetables are versatile enough to be used in so many ways, and I've read that they're more nutritious than some fresh fruits and vegetables because they're flash frozen at their peak.

10. Baked Lays Barbecue Potato Crisps - Okay, so these aren't incredibly healthy, or maybe they're downright bad for me. But once a week I buy a small bag of these, sit at my desk, and just crunch away. Better than Calgon on a stressful afternoon, they don't mess with my glycemic levels the way some other convenience snacks do, and they certainly don't weigh me down like regular greasy chips do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Setting new goals as I reach 282 pounds

It's the beginning of October and time for another weigh-in. As of this morning, I'm weighing in at 282 pounds, which represents a total loss of 135 pounds since starting this whole thing back in the winter of 2009.

Obviously I'm pleased with my progress - lately I've been losing about 1.5 pounds per week, which by all accounts is quite a healthy pace. Still, I think it's time to set some new goals. So here goes...

It's about three months to New Year's, so that seems like a good marker for a short-term weight-loss goal. I think that 20 pounds in that time period is do-able (considering my current pace), so my goal is to reach 265 pounds by January 1, 2011.

In the mid range, I would like to achieve 250 pounds by Valentine's Day. And then 230 pounds by Memorial Day. At this rate, I would be on target to achieve my long-range goal of 217 pounds by my birthday, in August.

I know this is going to be a tough challenge to remain focused, but I'm not really going to focus solely on the weight loss. Instead, these are really just markers. My true goals include continuing to progressively increase my level of fitness through daily exercise.

Lately I've been riding my bike about 10 miles, once per week. My goal in the short term is to double this to 10 miles twice weekly. In the mid range I would like to begin doing two additional shorter rides - about five miles - two mornings each week before work.

Well, that's it for now. More goals to come.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Are you obese? Calculate your BMI

Obesity is all around us, but most of us don't really know what obesity is. We see people all the time who we know are overweight, but we're cautious to refer to them as obese. That word's just got too heavy of a connotation (excuse the pun).

Well, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, obesity refers to having a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30. Overweight is between 25 to 29.9 BMI. And Normal Weight is 18.5 to 24.9 BMI.

My current BMI is 37.6 - well into the obese range. But when I started this transformation, my BMI was somewhere around 56. So I feel good about my progress, but even as people are starting to call me "skinny" (yes, I know they're being nice), I still have a lot of work to do to simply become "overweight".

To calculate your BMI, you can use the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's BMI calculator here:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September weigh-in: 285 lbs.

It's been a while since I posted, so I wanted to put out this quick update. I'm down to 285 pounds, which means I've lost about 8 pounds in the past month. Not bad I think considering I'm focusing on building muscle while maintaining my healthy, balanced diet. There's more I could be doing in the diet department if I were more intent on dropping weight fast, but as I've said in previous postings, that's not my primary objective.

I've been hitting the gym regularly still (about 4 to 5 days a week). I go mostly in the evenings, and after a late workout I usually drink some Casein protein before bed. This ups my caloric intake for the day, but these are good calories, and my weight loss is still steady and at the rate I expect.

Well, more to come. Gotta get to work!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I'm trying to get on the Dr. Oz show

I've just submitted a request to be on the Dr. Oz show. I don't know if they'll even read the submission, but I hope they do. I'd love to share my story with people so they can see that real people can change their destiny without weight-loss surgery or crazy diet schemes.

Here's what I submitted:

When I hit 420 pounds I couldn't believe it. How had this happened to me? Well, that's a long story, but not so different from so many others who learn to cope with life's challenges by eating. I had an addiction - eating out, appetizers and full meals all day long, and then candy, sodas, pizza and Chinese-food delivery late at night. I wasn't exercising. And I was in a relationship with someone who liked me with my full figure. He would do anything for me. Pick things up off the floor because I couldn't reach. Outfit the bathroom with special tools so I could fit more comfortably. Help me out financially so I could afford the cost of gaining weight. In general, I was living my life without any self respect. And my weight was getting out of control. I felt my next step would've been becoming bed-ridden, or death.

I decided about a year ago to do something about it. Dr. Oz inspired me in many ways. In January, I decided to start one of those prepackaged diet programs to jump start my weight loss - I didn't know anything about portion control and had no idea how many calories I was eating or how many I should be eating. I was scared I wouldn't be able to manage my hunger. And I was too fat to exercise.

I watched Dr. Oz around the same week that I started the new diet regimen and I saw a show that had to do with truckers and their diet and how long it took food to process through their bodies. This helped me visualize food as a fuel and not as something to do just to pass the time. I began to see rapid results. I did the diet program for two months but soon transitioned to doing my own routine based on a variety of factors. I read lots of books. Started going to the gym. Found friends who supported my weight loss. This has been a struggle believe it or not because I had found myself rooted in the enabling chubby-chaser community over the past decade of my weight gain and I think many of these friends see my weight-loss as a slap in the face.

I have since lost 125 pounds and am still on track to lose 70 more. Currently I weigh in at 293 and people say I look 10 years younger. I certainly feel it! I'm proud of my success and would like to share my story with others. SURGERY IS NOT NECESSARY!!!!! I want to thank Dr. Oz, too, because he inspires me so much with his straightforward advice. I am an community education teacher and program coordinator in Miami and am creating a new class for intermediate English learners who work in health-related fields called Intermediate English for Health, Fitness and Nutrition. As part of the class I will have my students read Dr. Oz’s book You: An Owner's Manual. I want to inspire people who work in the field of nutrition and health.

Well, that's about it. If you want to see more of my story, check out my blog at Pictures are available there, too, but as a disclaimer I am not giving you rights to publish any content or photos on the blog, but I don’t mind my blog address being shared. I'm also working on writing a book, although I don't know what form it will take. I just want to help others know that they can do this and that it's all up to them. We all have the power to change our own destinies.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No longer being chased for a fat physique

Believe it or not, I never got more attention from guys than when I was super fat, topping 400 pounds. I got a lot of attention from guys who are part of the so-called "chub-chaser" community. Once I reached 300 pounds, I was considered a "chub", and I began to be chased after by lots of good looking fit guys - fittingly called chasers - who happen to have a fetish for the obese. Well, that's no longer the case.

I never understood this chubby chaser fetish, but I certainly benefited from it in some ways. I used to be able to go to the local chub-chaser night here in Fort Lauderdale and command stares from all corners of the bar. I had my pick of hot guys. On the other hand, the attention proved detrimental, too. I think because I felt so embraced and attractive as I put on weight I subconsciously gained. And as I gained, so did the quantity of attention and admiration I received from these guys.

I always felt strange about accepting the attention and often couldn't even be with a guy if I got the feeling he was only into me because of my belly. It's weird to be adored as a fetish. I think now I can understand how a huge-breasted woman must feel when everyone wants her for her figure rather than her brain.

These "chasers" never really wanted to get to know me, but they sure were interested in getting with me. Those who achieved their goal were happy with their conquest and moved on soon after they'd caught me, on to the next victim of their vacuous never-ending chase. So while their attention made me feel good in a way - who doesn't like to feel attractive to someone they find equally attractive - it often left me feeling empty inside because I knew it was just an illusion.

The problem is, now that I've lost so much weight, I'm still sort of part of this community by default and still circulate within it to some degree. Most of my friends are either chubs or chasers. But I'm really neither, I suppose, and I'm no longer getting the same attention from chasers that I used to. In fact, I've recently been told by more than one person who I once considered a friend or potential suitor that my weight loss has made me look "disgusting". And at least one friend who is considered a "super chub" because he's over 400 pounds like I was has told me he can no longer be around me because I'm so obsessed about my transformation.

It hurts when these things happen. And going from appealing to appalling in a few short months is truly upsetting, regardless of the circumstances. I suppose I just need to find myself a new crowd.

Right now I'm trying to just lay low until I get a little more in shape. I'm thinking that as I drop weight I might start to become attractive to people based on a blend of my looks (as they are) and my personality (such as it is).

In that case I better start to work on the personality part. I think I've sort of let that go since I was able to fall back on the allure of my fat physique for so long. Oh well! What's a boy to do?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The fattest boy in the world and I (weigh 293 lbs.)

I just Googled my current weight to find out what 293 pounds equates to in kilos and I found this disturbing fact: the fattest boy in the world shares my weight, but he's just eight years old. So sad.

You can check out a video of him at

Friday, July 30, 2010

I miss Nutrisystem; wish they'd go organic

I really miss being on Nutrisystem. It was so easy to stick to, and convenient given my busy lifestyle. Cooking things from scratch using mostly organic ingredients makes me feel better in general, but there's something so appealing about having everying pre-measured and prepared so I don't even have to think about it. I wonder if it's even in the realm of possibility that a company like Nutrisystem would make strides toward going organic? Either way, I'm going to go back on Nutrisystem the week after my birthday, mostly for the convenience factor; work is going to get extremely hectic as August comes to an end and we head into September. And then when classes begin, I'm really going to need a helping hand. I know I'll feel guilty, but I need something convenient so I can stick to my healthy eating and not be tempted to eat fast food again. The thought of that makes me sick to my stomach, but when push comes to shove if I haven't had time to prepare something to take with me I might become tempted and break my months-long boycott of all fast food (except Subway). Come on Nutrisystem! Help me out! Go organic!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Righting a wrong course taken

Things are getting a little weird now. A friend told me today he thinks I'm obsessing about my "transformation". He didn't do air quotes when he said that or anything, that's all me. He used that word only because that's how I've been referring to this period of my life. I'm always saying how my everyday decisions and actions over the past 8 or so months are all part of my "transformation".

But somehow I don't know that transformation is actually the correct term for what's happening. It all started as a way to not say the word "dieting". I mean, literally I am transforming physically, but it's not like I'm becoming something I never was. I'm just righting a wrong course taken. In fact, I was just thinking this afternoon how I'm starting to look like I used to look, back in 1999. The transformation period should really refer to the eight years ago I spent with my head up my ass, totally ignorant of myself, lacking self respect and just marking time through a life I was really unhappy to be living. It was then that I transformed into something new, something I didn't recognize, wouldn't even recognize now probably.

Goal for this coming week...stop taking myself so damn seriously all the time. Loosen up. Chill. Stop talking about my "transformation" and just begin existing in my newly transformed state. I'm not in a hurry to lose weight anymore. I'm not in a hurry to become a muscle man or anything. I'm not in a hurry to perfect myself in any way, because perfection is just an illusion anyway, right?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time for another progress pic

Okay, so this is a horrible posed picture, but it's all I've got at the moment to show my current state so I'm posting it anyway.

I like to post a new pic every so often so that I can keep track of my progress (and so my friends in far away places can keep track of me and be able to recognize me the next time I'm home for a visit).

This pic represents my weight as it is, hovering around 300. I don't know if you can notice, though, even though the weight's the same I've been beefing up around my shoulders and chest while my stomach fat shrinks. It's the net result of muscle weighing more than fat, I think.

Oh well, it's not really a big deal anyway. I feel great for all the exercise I'm getting. and even though I'm looser on my diet than before, I'm still eating all the right foods and in the right combinations, so I couldn't be happier with my overall progress.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It wasn't 9/11

It wasn’t 9/11, it was my grandfather’s death. In that Spring before the fall, before even the millennium party, he was carried out of the summer house on the rise of March’s first full moon. I stood in front of the third floor bathroom’s mirror and heard him calling me from his bedroom below. When I arrived, well, that vision shouldn’t be shared. But suffice it to say, it rattled me. Shook me to the core. But a few months later after leaving the shore to return to Miami Beach it was business as usual working some job I wanted but hated. Next stop, it was September shockwave after moving to Newark, and turning 30. Then Bush. And Miami Beach. And then mom's and dad's sickness. Philadelphia, clocking-in students. Then “Si se puede” in New Mexcio. Then Philly. Now home.

It wasn’t 9/11, it was seeing what diabetes could do, but not being able to take stock of what diabetes could do to "me" until I was sorely at risk of developing it myself. My grandfather was 80 years old, I was just 29, and I was doing okay, even though I'd gained back at least half of the 70 pounds I'd lost the first time I moved to Miami Beach back in the mid-90s. How could I picture myself, as an albeit hefty young man, struggling so much in the same way my father's father was struggling here? It would've been impossible to see the future, even had I wanted to. But somehow I shot directly toward that subconciouis goal, to age myself decades by burying myself in the layer of nearly a man-and-a-half's weight! Fortunately I didn't cross over to the "d" disease on my course.

I always told myself it was 9/11. But it wasn't. And it won't be 9/11 that will keep me on track as I "fit" myself back to health through a steady regime of diet, exercise, and a tight check on emotional decision-making. What will keep me on track? Everything that comes after this.

In case you're wondering, though, the thing that got me back on track after having been knocked off somewhere around either end of the big "M" was looking in my grandmother's eyes as she shared with me snippets from her life, and memories of the people she'd shared it with, as tears would well in her eyes (and surely she remembered much more than she shared of her many decades lived) during her final few months in 2009. Seeing through her eyes, and through her words, I came to realize that I was still alive, and connected to her, and to others who came before, and that no matter how dead I felt inside, I wasn't. Because it wasn't.

And I may have decades down, but God-willing, I have decades yet to live. Well, at least that's a possibility now. Before, back before I took steps to control what I can only describe as my emotion addiction to self gratification through destructive means, premature death would have been more of a probable end for me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This machine is my new drug

Not to say that I have an old drug, but if it were true that I did (have an old drug), I'd have to say that this calf machine is my new one.

Regardless of the exercise, every time I work out I get pumped up, and I leave the gym happier and more energetic than when I went in. But whenever I do my regular leg routine (quadriceps, hamstrings, whole leg, calves, hip and inner thight) I get such a high after the very first set on this calf machine (pictured above - I should've looked on the machine to see its name, but I have the picture, so you can get the idea).

For those of you out there who think that a leg workout can't bring you euphoria, you've got to try this. Someone told me (actually, I think it was Butch Monster now that I think of it) that the calf is the second most important muscle in the body. He said that the calf is responsible for pumping blood that's been circulating throughout the body back to the body's most important muscle - the heart.

Pretty cool. I guess that's why I feel like I'm in ecstasy after every set. Whew! I love it!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No defense, just my food

It's pouring out this afternoon, so I've just tucked myself into my half-lit office to take some time to fuel my blog.

Speaking of fuel - great segue I know - I went food shopping this morning and bought the week's staples. Here's a list (I'm no great cook, so just imagine the way these ingredients could be prepared and fill in the blanks.):

Publix Boneless Chicken Cutlets
Organic Valley Reduced Fat 2% Milk
Sunnyridge Blueberries
Flavor 1st Grape Tomatoes
Toufayan Hearth Baked Pita Bread, whole wheat
Leasa Snack Sprouts (sprouted lentil, and mung beans)
President Fat Free Crumbled Feta Cheese
Publix Large Grade A Eggs
Cedars Tabbouleh Salad
Cedars Israeli Couscous Salad
Publix Frozen Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, collard greens, and Japanese blend)
MetRx Protein Plus Protein Bars
Sunkist California Sliced Almonds

Back in January when my diet shift was taking place, with the help of Nutrisystem, I was in the process of reading Michael Pollan's amazing food manifesto, In Defense of Food. The green-Earth whole foods vibe that backed his back-to-roots mentality for the social and cultural implications of how food goes from living source to served-up meal left me feeling nervous, maybe a little bit guilty, that I had sort of forced myself into choosing a pre-packaged, heat-it-and-eat it delivery system. But since most of my caloric intake came from items I could by whole and eat whole without much preparation time gave me a lot of choices, and I made those choices based on many of Pollan's ideas.

At that time I was in desperate need of an immediate measurable success program - getting started without such an injection of optimism was literally like facing the task of turning an enormous tanker in the middle of a tight straight without a means of propulsion. But now that I'm on my own, it's interesting to look at the checkout belt and see that these represent my choices and the way I eat on a daily basis.

While I would love to be able to self-sustain on my own little plot of land, thereby ensuring that my food is as fresh, chemical-free, nutrient-packed and non-carcinogenic as naturally possible, this is just not possible for me right now. I live in the modern world where I have competing demands on my motives for making correct decisions for myself, my community and my planet. But with this whole slick in the Gulf incident I worry about the fact that so much of the packaging on the check-out belt is plastic (see pic), which if I'm not mistaken is a petroleum-based product.

Oh well, if anyone reading this would like to chime in to let me know how I might find a way to eat more local food on a regular basis while keeping within my healthy foods regimen, please feel free to leave a comment. And if you have a blog and you think your readers might get something from The Fitness400 Project, please feel free to link us up.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Soaring through inner space

by BDS

I soar through inner space on my own time-travel odyssey
This oddity that changes me, from what once was to what will be
Defends somehow the fragile bear in me

I make my own soap and wash me clean from in-between
The dirty scars you’ve never seen - they’re mine, they’re clean
But somehow dirtier I’ve never been

I fake my own scope and hope that nothing’s broke
The flirty boy on nature’s dope scores one last soaked toke
Tripping somehow will end this hoax’s choke

I pour through outer faces on my personal quest
The plotted 'he' is not the one he thought'd be the best
Still, flipping now's beyond someone's own request

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No longer in the 300 club!

Okay, so I'm not as excited as I thought I'd be - weight is just a number after all. But today's the first day the scale has read below 300 in as long as I can remember.

The official reading was 299, but it did flicker to 298 this time. A few weeks ago it flickered below 300, but snapped back quickly to 300. Then I jumped up to 305 and settled in at 301 for at least seven days.

This is why "they" always say you shouldn't weigh yourself every day. They recommend weighing in once a week. But I haven't missed my morning weigh-in since I started my new life back in January, and I'm glad I haven't.

This way I know exactly where I am so I don't lose too quickly or gain back what I've already lost. Also, I know the impact of certain foods and exercise regimes on my body. It's not just about fat loss at this point, either. It's also about building muscle.

So I'm starting the day off on a positive note. But I'm also guardedly optimistic. If I go back up tomorrow, which is very likely given the patterns I've noticed over these past seven months, I'll be okay with that. I know that at the end of the day it's the slow and steady progress that'll win this race.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Intensifying my workouts fuels my appetite as I gain muscle and cut the fat

My workouts have been getting more intense, and so has my appetite. Today for lunch I had a bowl of black bean soup, a whole wheat wrap filled with a one-egg spinach-and-sprouts omelet, a glass of milk and a handful of blueberries. I'm stuffed, and so satisfied. This afternoon I think I'll take a swim down at the ocean and maybe a nice bike ride along the broadwalk. Who would've thought that such an active lifestyle would be so relaxing?

I've been getting more rest lately. I'm not sure if I blogged about it, but there for a while I was only sleeping about 6 hours per night, 7 days a week. I'm up to about 7.5 hours a night now, thanks to the working out I think. I have tons of energy throughout the day, and Friday to Sunday I'm able to catch a little nap late in the afternoon. That helps bunches.

Well, I'm gonna head out now and enjoy the day. Just wanted to brag-blog about my amazing lunch. I may not be an amazing cook, but I can cook some amazing food from time to time (if I do say so myself!).

Today's weigh-in: 301. I've been fluctuating between 300 and 305 for a few weeks now, but I'm noticing losses in fat around my lower torso and waist as I increase muscle around my chest and arms. That's a good thing. :-)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Note to self: muscle weighs more than fat

Okay, truth be told, even Mr. Optimistic gets frustrated with this whole process from time to time. If I eat too much or the wrong combination of foods, I gain a bit. If I don't eat enough in a day, I can gain, too. It's so frustrating from day to day. But I know that if I don't let the numbers get to me that it will all average out in the long run and I'll lose the weight over time. Also, I've been really dedicated to the gym lately, and they say muscle weighs more than fat, so I know that I probably could be down to my next short-term goal of 290 more quickly if I were to focus more on diet than exercise. But I'm not going to do that. Weight loss isn't the primary objective anymore. Building muscle is. So I need to just be happy with the transformation of my body itself and not give so much weight to the scale (punny, huh?). Ugh! It's just so frustrating to sit on any plateau - and trust me, there have been many along the way - but the 300-pound plateau has got to be the most annoying. Like I've said before, it's a mental game. And that's never more evident than right now. But here I go, one day at a time. One day at a time. One day at a time. Because, as my boy Serrat once said, "Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar!"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bumps along the path will not keep me down

I'm not always forthcoming with my struggles here - I guess it's normal to want to scream "success!" from the rooftops and sweep struggles under the rug. But here goes...

On Saturday morning I weighed in at 300 pounds. I was psyched. I mean, this is really happening, I thought. It's been nearly 7 months, and even as I do this diet and exercise thing on my own without the crutch of Nutrisystem (which undoubtedly taught me everything I know during the few months I was on it in the beginning), I'm surviving without returning to my old binging ways!

Well, not so fast. Saturday night came, and I was home alone, rain was pouring outside, and I hadn't gone grocery shopping. So what do I do? I call up Domino's for the first time since I started this whole thing back in January and I order the special: two medium two-topping pizzas.

I don't know what I was thinking. Justifying it I thought, it's cheaper to buy two than to buy one, so I could just eat half of one tonight, the other half tomorrow, and give the extra pie to my neighbor, or the homeless for that matter!

Yeah right. I downed both of them within 20 minutes of them being delivered to my door. I did it with no regrets - I don't give myself guilt trips anymore. I just vowed that it was a one-time indulgence and moved on.

Sunday and Monday the scale was not so friendly, but I didn't let it bother me. Back up to 306 could've been enough to drag me back into take-out hell, but instead I went shopping in the morning and bought all the wonderful foods I've come to love, and rely on...foods I learned to eat on Nutrisystem but modified so I don't have to shell out $300 bucks every month for a massive delivery. And I got right back to it.

Today, I weighed in at 300 again. Sigh. I can breathe again knowing that I'm back on the right track. This is a mental game. That's all it is. My mind has the power to defeat me if I give in to the same negative and self-destructive thoughts that led to my decade-long weight gain in the first place. I choose to remain optimistic.

And I'm so thankful for those of you who understand this and are encouraging my progress. I couldn't do this without you! *hugs*

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The digits are no match for the way I feel

The digits blinked between 299.8 and 300.8 before resting at 300.2. Pounds, that is. That was this morning around, I dunno, 8 a.m.

So that’s news to me. I’ve been in the gym on a regular basis lately – not pushing, but going and working out pretty hard, if I do say so myself. But I figured I’d stay the same or even gain a few back when I went at this diet thing on my own. I’m following the basic principles, and I believe I’m eating a diverse range of healthy locally-grown things on a regular basis, so I’m happy with whatever the scale tells me.

I’m officially the weight, by the way, that those shipping-grade scales at Publix will measure. Yay! I’m not sure they’re very reliable, though, cuz I stepped on one about a week ago that told me I was 285. I was like, cool, but I knew that sh*t wasn’t real.

People sometimes tell me I should just shut up about my progress. They don’t wanna hear it. They have their reasons, and I don’t blame their reasons, however selfish they may be. We are all selfish. I’m selfish. Who am I to judge?

Well, I think the rain’s stopped outside, so I better take the pups out to enjoy this rare cool evening. July 4th is going to be special this year for them. They’ll see the fireworks down by the shore. I hope I don’t twist my ankle in the sand like I did on the 4th in Nobe half a decade ago.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

He Calls Me Butch Monster

A friend of mine, a gym buddy actually, has begun to call me Butch Monster.

The first time we stepped into the gym together this really hairy muscular guy was primping in the mirror nearby as I was going for a locker. The guy said to me, “You’re not going to use that one, are you?”

He had this sort of gruff look on his face, so I figured he was claiming it for himself. He was just messing with me, maybe. Or maybe he was flirting. Either way, he had caught off guard.

Despite his intimidating look, though, I sized up my surroundings. And deciding it was all good, I took the locker anyway.

Trying to cut the tension that still lingered despite his seemingly good intentions, I replied, with a smile and a chuckle, that he had come off just then as some kind of butch monster.

He laughed.

Later as my buddy and I we were doing biceps curls, and without discussing how or why we just started to use this term to refer people who had some sort of indescribable blend of perceived qualities that were hard in appearance and attitude at first but ultimately gave way to gentler qualities.

Over the subsequent weeks, we would apply the term to other characters we’d see prancing around the gym. And later, I don’t know how, this label became some new way for my friend to refer to me in the second person, as in, “Hey, Butch Monster, what time do you want to go to the gym tonight?” or “You’re sweating like a pig, Butch Monster”.

I still don’t know whether I like the term or not.

Oh well. So he calls me Butch Monster. What of it? I’m sure there’s a little butch monster in all of us, don’t you think?

NOTE: The photo attached to this blog entry is of a painting done from a personal self-portrait I'd was taken of myself when I weighed somewhere in the range of 340 to 380 pounds. When the picture was taken I had just moved to South Philly from the Gold Coast of South Florida, and apparently I was fattening up as I grudgingly returned to life in the cold Northeast. The painting's artist is not named here, not because I don't know his name but because the name I have for him may not be one that he wishes to use now, so I'm contacting him and will correct this post later. Anyway, the painting is called Celestial Blue.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spinach salads: simple weekend meals

A hardy Sunday supper: spinach, grape tomatoes, a couple tablespoons of leftover arroz con papas and Russian bean salad, and a few pimento-stuffed manzanillo olives.

This is the perfect meal to cap off a hot and humid midsummer day: Fresh organic spinach with grape tomatoes, crumbled feta and a squeeze of lemon, with Russian bean salad and a half-sour pickle on the side.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Out of the jungle and into the blog

I don’t remember what I expected to come of this blog when I started, although I did establish some sort of mission at the outset I suppose. As I continue to phase through my journey of self-conocimiento I can’t help but realize that I am transforming into something different than I'd never known or thought I could be, into a thing that has been tucked away, pent up in some jungle cell of juventud and immaturity for far too long. I’m coming out of the jungle, paso a paso, and I'm coming to understand others as I come to understand a mi mismo. So I hope if I did have a mission, this is part of that. Because it's creating an amazing sensation, and I sure as hell ain't going back to old sensations any time soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wasted worry about eating disorders?

I'm not sure what to make of this, but for the past week or so I've been having random thoughts, like "is the feeling of hunger supposed to bother me?", and "I wonder if I'm developing a new eating disorder?"

When I first changed my diet I would get hungry late at night, too, and to combat the feeling I would eat some sugar free jello or something. Actually I would binge in it, eating four or five cups of the stuff so I wouldn't feel my stomach growl.

Back then I was counting calories and watching everything I ate, both to make sure I stayed under my allotted 1800 calories a day and also to make sure I didn't dip below 1700 calories - because eating too few calories would actually trigger my metabolism to slow down. So if I'd reached my limit by 7 p.m. I knew the hunger pains were caused by a mental hunger rather than an actual physical one. So the Jello was enough to do the trick.

Now that I'm not on Nutrisystem anymore I'm not being so strict with counting calories. I sort of feel my way through food during the day. I stick to the basic concepts and find myself satisfied throughout the day. But in the evening I'm no longer snacking after 7 p.m. like I used to. I just drink some water and ignore the rumblings in my stomach. To be honest, I kind of get off on the feeling of hunger at night. I know I can survive without that extra snack. And I know my mental fortitude will pay off when I step on the scale in the morning. So why bother?

This worries me though, because it sort of feels to me that I'm getting off on the hunger feeling in much the same way I used to get off on binging on Reese's Cups, Twizzlers and Gatorade whenever I'd get the urge late at night before falling asleep. I suppose I'm just concerned that I might be trading one eating disorder (a food addiction or impulse disorder of some sort) for another one (some sort of food deprivation game that could be a gateway to anorexia).

The only thing that keeps me from starving myself now is that I conciously know that it's unhealthy for me. I see food as a fuel, which I think is a pretty healthy way of looking at it. I need those calories, and I need the wonderfully diverse and healthy fresh diet I've been following in order to fuel my muscle-building activities in the gym.

If anyone reading this has some insight for me, or some comment in general, please feel to leave post it for me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Subconsciously slipping into super obesity

As I lose weight and approach the 300 pound mark, I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve never been cognizant of the approach to 300 pounds (or 400 pounds for that matter) while gaining. I first topped 300 in my mid-20s. Things were tough for me as I struggled to define myself as an adult. I dropped out school the summer Jerry Garcia died on my birthday in 1995 - when I weighed somewhere in the high 200s - and by the time I bothered to weigh myself in January of 1996 I weighed 310 pounds.

By the coming summer I’d lost nearly 70 pounds. I'm glad that I caught myself before doing more damage than I did. But concerned that my weight gain was caused by the problems that were all around me, I packed my lingering discontent in the trunk of my 1989 Ford Taurus and hit the road.

I was on a mission to change my life. And when my car broke down in South Florida I decided there was no better place for me to make my change. It was in South Beach that I began exercising as part of my lifestyle, walking as a primary means of transportation and Rollerblading to and from work. I taught myself Spanish during my initial eight-month stint here, returned to school to finish my degree, and quickly as I could I returned to Miami to begin my career as a journalist.

As I advanced in my career, I shifted focus from fitness to finances, and pounds started to creep back on slowly. I never bothered to step on a scale as I ate my way through Latin America. And then by the time 9/11 stopped me in my tracks I was well on my way to ballooning past 300 once again.

In 2004, I finally weighed myself once again. 330. I almost died. For the second time in my life, I never saw that coming.

I began to work out for about a month, but when a budding relationship started to sour I once again sought food as my refuge and turned a blind eye to my exponentially expanding body. And so I lost track of time as well as pounds for another few years.

In 2008, though, I found myself curious about my weight once again after looking at a picture someone had taken of me at an unflattering angle. I tried to weigh myself on that friend’s scale, but, to my horror, I was too fat. So I went to the doctor for a checkup, and even his scale only went to 350, which I easily exceeded. So, one day, while on my way to visit my Dad to celebrate my 36th birthday, I slipped a quarter into the slot of one of those novelty scales you find in the bathroom of rest stops along the interstate. The scale read 417 pounds.

Oh my friggin’ god! You’ve got to be kidding! It’s one thing to not notice when I topped 300, I thought, but how could I not realize I’d surpassed 400 pounds? People are shocked to this day when I tell them with all honesty – I simply did not notice that 100-plus-pound weight gain. In my eyes, I looked the same at 417 as I did at 290.

I was on my way to meet family members to celebrate my birthday on the day of the 417-pound weigh-in, and we took a photo together, which will forever be my reminder of how bad things got. I look at that picture every day now to keep things in perspective. And as I’m going down, reaching that 300 mark once again, you better believe that I’m going to notice – my eyes are fixed on reality for the first time in more than a decade. And I pray they will stay this way.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today's snapshot: diet, exercise, goals

It's been a while since I last posted, so here's the latest:

Weigh-in: As of this morning I'm at 307 pounds. So far I've lost a total of 109 pounds from my high of 417.

Diet: I'm no longer doing Nutrisystem - as of about a month. Things got a bit tight moneywise recently, so I opted to try to do what I could to use Nutrisystem concepts while shopping on my own at the local grocery. However, I've also started to work a crazy schedule, commuting 45 minutes each way and working from 9 a.m. to after 10 p.m. four days a week, so I have had to find a simple solution. So I'm basically I'm preparing all of my own food on the weekends (with the exception of eating out with friends once in a while), and during the week I'm cooking my breakfasts and eating at Subway for lunch and dinner. I usually get a footlong turkey sub and ask for half the cheese and less meet, then load it up with veggies and top it with red wine vinegar. I also remove the top portion of the wheat roll so I don't overload on carbs during the day. At lunch I even have the Baked Lays a couple times a week. I'm still snacking on lowfat Greek yogurt and fruit in the mid-mornings and late afternoons.

Exercise: I'm working out five days a week at a gym in Fort Lauderdale. I have a regular workout partner and we keep each other motivated. I'm seeing some nice results with the routines we're doing. I'm not really doing cardio at this point, because I've only been going to the gym for a month now and I don't want to do something that's going to make me hate it. This coming month, though, I'm going to start adding about 10 minutes of cardio prior to our workouts. But I just really HATE treadmills and stationary bikes.

One option I'm considering is joining the YMCA. I'm already paying for a gym - I love where I work out now, and that's where my work out partner goes, so I can't cancel that. But the Y near my house has two lap pools and an extremely motivating morning swim program called Master Swim. It meets at 5:30 a.m. two mornings per week and at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays. The people involved in this program are highly motivated - a few are tri-athletes apparently - but the coach and group are supposed to be incredibly friendly and welcoming. At least that's what the staff trying to sell me on a membership tell me. I've requested that the Y waive the $100 start-up fee fir me (I had seen an ad hanging in Starbucks yesterday advertising a temporary waiver). But then membership is $43 per month, plus $25 for the Master Swimming class. Ugh! We'll see. I'm going back in to talk to the director tomorrow. Honestly, I hope this works out because I grew up in the Y: I was in Leader's Club, worked for the summer camp, was an assistant pre-school teacher, and basically co-ran the before- and after-school day care program for several months right out of high school. So I know how amazing it is to be part of a community like the Y.

The people I spoke to yesterday are incredibly nice, so, "finger's crossed".

Weight goal: My current short term goal is to reach 290 by the end of July (and maybe 280 by my birthday in August). I'm hoping to take a short trip home in July for my 20th class reunion. But I'm not sure that will happen. If not, I'm definitely going to take a weekend trip somewhere at the end of August. I can't wait to see the difference in how I fit in the airplane seats. The last time I flew it was to Acapulco in 2008, and I kept my seat belt extender as a souvenir. I remember how embarrassed I was and nervous that I'd offend someone or even be forced to buy two seats. That never happened, thank goodness, although I'm sure there were some snickers and stares that I chose to ignore.

Well, more later, but the gym awaits. *hugs*

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Feeling melancholic as I inch toward my goal

I haven't blogged for a while, mainly because things have been going well and I've been content with my progress. But today I'm struggling a bit. Tonight I ate a lot more than I should have, mostly because I've been feeling a bit sad. I've been focusing so much on my weight loss that I haven't been keeping up with my friendships. I've gone through a major lifestyle change in the past few months, and for the most part my friendships have been maintained over a restaurant table. This has been going on for the better part of a decade, and now I find myself eating alone most of the time.

Another possible cause of my meloncholy mood is that my weight loss has really been slowing down. Fortunately it hasn't stopped, but I'd become accustomed to at least a three or four pound weight loss every week and this week I only lost two. I'm down to 331, and even though I've come so far I still see the long road ahead and get bogged down in worry. Will I be able to do this? What's the permanent damage I've done to my body for having been so careless with my eating? These thoughts are so discouraging, and when I spend time alone they invade my thinking relentlessly.

I'm planning to go to Philadelphia in four weeks to get my cat Ciggy from a friend's house where he's been staying since I moved back to Miami at the end of last summer. I'm so excited to have my baby Cig back with me, and I think Remington and Diego will be glad to have another play buddy around the house now that I'm working out of the house again. My current short term goal is to reach 317 pounds by the date of my trip north. This would mark a full 100 pounds down from my max weight and 85 pounds on Nutrisystem. I want to wow my friends and family, and I'd really like to take advantage of the cheaper clothes prices while I'm in Pennsylvania (and also take advantage of the fact that there's no tax on clothes, either). It'll be fun to go shopping with my mom at the outlets in Lancaster, but I hope I can fit into regular XXL shirts by then. Right now I fit into Ralph Lauren XXL, but I want to be able to fit into Haggar shirts by then, since there's a great Haggar outlet there and I really need some new shirts for work.

Well, this has been a rambling blog I know, and I'm usually much more succinct with my blogging. But I had these things on my chest and just needed to get them out. I don't even know if anyone is reading this, but it doesn't matter. The process is cathartic and usefull in helping me inch toward the staggared goals on my path toward achieving a healthy and sustainable weight.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

337 pounds, 24 stone, 152 kilos

Today marks 65 pounds lost in just three months on Nutrisystem (and 80 pounds lost overall since 2009). As of today, I weigh 337 pounds (that's 24 stone from my Brit buddies and 152 kilos for the rest of the world). My ultimate goal is to lose 200 total pounds overall - I'm basically trying to halve my weight from the original 417 - so I've still got a long way to go. But this is huge (and now I'm less so!). Thanks, everyone, for providing me with the encouragement and support I need to keep going.

Despite what you may think, the toughest part of this journey isn't watching what I eat. On Nutrisystem that part is easy. The hard part is keeping up with a decent wardrobe. I can't wear anything I was wearing three months ago. Well, I suppose I could tie my pants around me with a rope and go to work looking like a clown, but I don't think that would be good for my psyche and would probably undermine my progress.

When I went from a 52 inch waist to a 46, I bought a new pair of jeans and dug out an old pair of cords - the only pair of pants I'd been saving for the day I would lose weight. And I also bought a couple of 3XL shirts when the 5XL shirts I'd been wearing started to baloon on me. Now I'm getting down to a 42 inch waist and a 2XL shirt. I'm not there yet, but at this rate I should be there in about two weeks, and shopping for new clothes is probably my number one motivation at this point.

These milestones are so motivating. If anyone's reading my blog and wishes they could do the same, I just have one question - what are you waiting for? All you need to do is decide to make the change...the support is out there, and all around you. Believe me. I never thought that would be the case, but now I know from experience!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Me (at 340) with Remy and Diego

3 months on Nutrisystem and more than 60 pounds down!

I've been on Nutrisystem for three months now, and I've lost a little over 60 pounds. When I started I was optimistic, but you know, it was an optimism tempered with doubt that always reared its ugly head by the third or fourth week of starting other health plans. Somehow, though, I knew this time things would be different. And with NS, they have been. Way different.

I haven't had any difficulty staying on the program, and in fact I find it's reduced stress in my life because I now have more control over what I put into my body and can predict what will happen if I continue to eat and live my life in a healthy way. I will lose weight!

I was on the regular men's plan for a while, but now am on the vegetarian plan, mostly because it's 30 bucks cheaper each month. I do eat out a few times a week, but I stick to my special places where I can get a simple meal that fits the NS guidelines to a tee.

My favorite place to eat out is Panera. First of all, they have a Greek salad that is amazing. I ask for half the regular serving of Feta, get no dressing at all, add on grilled chicken and substitute the regular baguette with the whole grain version. I've never counted the calories on this, but it comes with plenty of veggies, plus a few black olives for my fat serving and the Feta for the protein, plus the portion size seems pretty reasonable. (Besides, I find that if I count calories too much I don't focus on what's really important, which is fueling my body for the day.)

The other reason I love Panera is that they allow dogs on the outdoor patio. At 402 pounds this wouldn't have been such a great thing - I never used to fit in those tiny patio chairs. But now I fit fine, and my dogs eat half of my multigrain baguette for me, which wittles the bread portion down to a more suitable size.

To be honest, I haven't really exercised a whole lot during these first three months, although I did increase regular activity a bit, like choosing to park farther from the door while out shopping and (sometimes) taking the stairs. Now, though, I find that I'm exercising more just because I don't think of certain things as exercise anymore. Like I take my dogs on brisk mile-long walks now instead of just taking them to the dog park. Besides being a treat for them, it's a treat for me because I save on gas and the walk tuckers them out so they aren't bouncing off the walls all evening.

Well, I'm not sure when I'll post again; we'll see when the next milestone inspires me. Till then...gotta keep on keepin' on!

Friday, February 26, 2010

They fit! They fit! They fit!

When I stepped on the scale today - my official weekly weigh-in day is Friday - I knew my progress would show signs of slowing (after all, I unofficially weigh myself every morning!). So I wasn't surprised to find that I'd only lost three pounds since last week. I now weigh 358. But despite the fact that I have been losing at least five or six pounds a week since week two, I'm not disappointed in the least.

Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, even though my weight didn't drop much this week, my clothing sizes did (as I mentioned in my last post). After finally realizing that I had no more holes left on my smallest belt and that I was swimming in my smallest pair of jeans I went clothes shopping and was able to fit in jeans that were about 6 inches smaller than my previous size. So I bought a new pair of Levi's that was on sale at JC Penney. Then, when I got home I dug out a pair of Ralph Lauren corduroy pants that I had bought on sale about five years ago but was never able to wear (because I'd bought them a size too tight in a then-failed attempt to encourage myself to lose weight). To my surprise, they fit perfectly! I was shocked. As I buttoned them in front of the mirror I looked down at my legs, then up at my face, and I immediately smiled as I screamed (in my head, so as not to scare my puppies), "They fit! They fit! They fit!"

Second, it's because this week I decided to give myself some liberty in my evening meal. I met someone this week who invited me out to eat a couple of times, and while I didn't go over on calories too badly, my choices included more overall sugar and carbs later in the day than I'm used to. For example, on one night I had two poached eggs, toast and a fruit cup (oh, and a bite of my friend's coconut cream layered cake) at around 9 p.m. even though I'd already eaten a 220 calorie Nutrisystem entree around 5 (but by eliminating my snack I still only ate around 1800 calories for the day). And on another occasion I had a couple of hand fulls of German gummi bears, a few Swedish fish and a piece or two of white chocolate to indulge my sweet tooth (after nearly two months exerting strong willpower to overcome nightly cravings).

I'm glad I did enjoy myself this week, but it will probably be a long time before I do that again. On both occasions, actually, I got a stomach ache after treating myself, which is no treat at all!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I can shop at the mall again!

I've been on this new health regime for nearly two months now, so it's time to revisit some of my goals. This is what I wrote in the beginning of January:

I want to be able to ride rollercoasters again, feel more comfortable in airplane seats, be able to sit in those tiny chairs on the patios of cafes, not cause the tires in my tiny compact car to wear unevenly, start my 40s in a year and a half with the same healthful optimism with which I started my 20s, let my parents grow older without having to worry about my health, be able to shop for clothes at the mall again, rollerblade without pain again, and dance the night away again without having to sit the next one out!

Well, I've lost about 45 pounds since writing this, and already I've achieved two of these! I'm now able to fit in the chairs on the patio at Starbucks, Panera, and my favorite French cafe, Rendez-Vous. Also, just as of this week, I'm now able to shop for clothes at the mall again! Only a few stores in the mall carry clothes for bigger guys, but even these top out at 3XL. I was pushing 5XL, so I was relegated to shopping at specialty stores and online. This week I even found some stuff at Marshall's that fit me. Very cool.

It may sound funny that I care about these little details, but someone out there must relate. Anyway, I'm very pleased with reaching these milestones on my way to getting fit.

Here's a pic of me in my new mall-purchased Levi's at 359 pounds:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Well on my way to my goal

This morning I did a mid-week weigh-in and was pleased to discover that I've lost 5 pounds since last Friday. I'm now at 362 pounds. That means I've lost 40 pounds since starting Nutrisystem and 55 pounds from my highest weight (in 2008/2009) of 417.

I'm so excited to be in the 350s again. I haven't been this weight in four or five years. Of course, I won't be so excited that I stop there. No, I have another 70 pounds to go to reach my interim goal of 290. And then I want to keep going for another 70 to reach my ultimate goal of 217. That will make it a clean 200 pounds shed.

Here's a picture I took yesterday morning, after a 365 weigh-in:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I am returning; I am here

Today I went to the beach and while taking pictures of the beautiful scenery I decided to turn the camera on myself. I took a picture without my shirt on, and when I got home to view it on the computer I realized that my near 50-pound weight loss (from the original 417 pounds I started at last year) is becoming more and more evident. But I'm starting to sag where there once was filled-out fluff, so I decided to hit the gym this evening, where I did chest, shoulder and arm exercises before going 16 minutes on the inclined treadmill.

Afterward I was feeling great. I stopped at a convenience store nearby to get a bottle of water, and when I came out and got into the car a familiar song came on the radio. It was a female voice singing a song I'd known to be written and sung by the Spanish singer, Miguel Bosé, back when I first was living in Miami Beach in the mid-1990s. The song is called "Si tu no vuelves", which means "If you don't return". As I listened for a bit I realized the voice was Shakira's. And the words she sang proved to be just as impactful and moving to me now as they were when Bosé sang them nearly 15 years ago. But in a different way.

The song as I remember it was sung by just a single male voice the entire way through. It was a song about losing the one you love and longing for their return. The first words of the song are "If you don't return, all the seas will dry up, and I will wait without you, buried in the depths of some memory".

At the time, Humberto, my lover of just a few months, had gone home to Chile to visit family, and upon flying back a week later he was not allowed to re-enter the country due to outstanding immigration issues. This was the man who had taught me how to love, even though he, at the time, spoke no English, and I still spoke no Spanish. It was through loving that I was able to learn the language, and without him the words of the song, and the memory of him, resonated with me for many months and years to come.

But tonight, as I listened to Bosé's voice blend with Shakira's in an unexpected duet, it was like the song took a different meaning altogether. This time it became internal, as if one voice were the "me" of today, and the other, the part of the lost lover in the original song, was my broken-hearted younger self. Even more, I felt one voice was the obese, years-worn older me of a month ago and the other was my vibrant, youthful and energetic self that had somehow been broken over the years and become lost, or perhaps encapsulated within.

The me of today I feel is neither of those two. Instead, as I lose weight I am becoming the connector linking the two of them. Before now I was either the fit 220 pound man or the overweight 400 pounder. The person that gained 200 pounds over the course of a decade had been lost somewhere in the middle. But as I listened to this new but old song, as I sat there in a dark parking lot alone, I felt a release of pressure deep within my gut as I somehow realized that these individuals were one in the same, and the man in between had never been lost at all.

I wept tears of joy for having re-discovered myself. There I was singing this song to my long-lost self in hopes that he would return, but then I realized he was never gone, just hiding. And I suddenly knew that I was and will be that same man even as I shed every single pound on the path reaching my ultimate weight loss goal.

Unless you've ever put on 200 pounds without even realizing you were doing it, and then, without even looking for it, you finally found the key to taking that weight back off, this blog must sound like nothing more than schizophrenic ramblings. But to me this night feels like salvation.

Here's a YouTube video featuring the original song. A translation of the lyrics follows:

Si tu no vuelves (If you don't return)
Words and Music by Miguel Bosé
Translated by Brian Schwarz

If you don't return
all the seas will dry up
and I will wait without you
buried in the depths of some memory

If you don't return
My will will be diminished
I will remain here
alongside my dog fixated on horizons

If you don't return
only deserts will remain
and I will listen in case
some beat remains in this earth

It was so serene
when you loved me
I breathed a fresh perfume
it was so lovely, it was so big
it had no end

And each night a star would come
and keep me company
may it tell you how I am
and you may know what there is

Tell me my love, my love, my love
I'm here. Can't you see?
If you don't return life will end
I don't know what I will do

If you don't return
there will be no hope, there will be nothing
I will walk without you
with my sadness drinking rain

Thursday, February 4, 2010

So close, yet so far away

After noticing for the past week that all of my clothes were getting loose I decided yesterday to go try on clothes at Rochester Big & Tall. A year ago when I weighed 417 I was pushing 5XL, although I never bought anything at that size (I would just squeeze into the 4XL, popping a few buttons along the way). Also, my waist size was 52. But I'm glad to report that now I'm fitting comfortably into 3XL and was able to slide into Ralph Lauren jeans with a 46 waist. They were a bit snug, but it boosted my confidence as well as my committment to this weight-loss regime I'm on.

That said, when I think about my goal of reaching 220 pounds it still seems so far away. I've lost about 40, but how long will it take to lose another 150? Will I be able to do it? I'm taking it one day at a time, but I'm setting some short-term goals that I hope to achieve while making it toward the big one. If I can lose five pounds a week until I reach 310 and then three pounds a week after that, here's what I'm working toward achieving:

By March 1: 350
By April 1: 330
By May 1: 310
By June 1: 295
By July 1: 280
By August 1: 265
By September 1: 250
By October 1: 235
By November 1: 220

At this rate I'll reach my goal by Thanksgiving. This sounds impossible, and I promise not to beat myself emotionally if I don't achieve this. But I really do believe I can do it if I continue the path I'm on and steadily ramp up the exercise along the way. What do you think? Can I do it?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Before at 417 and now at 378

The picture above is me at my heaviest - 417 pounds in the summer of 2008. I first started to work on my weight in January of 2009 and lost 30 pounds, getting down to 387 pounds before gaining 15 back by the end of the year. The picture below represents me at my current weight, 378 (well, actually this pic shows me a few days ago at 380). I still have a long way to go, but as the picture shows, I'm well on my way!

Feeling good as I go into week 4

Today was my third weigh-in, and while I only lost four pounds in the past week I'm not discouraged because I'm losing the weight at a healthy pace. And there are other measures to this diet than just the weight. I'm noticing my clothes are fitting better (except for my jeans, which I can't seem to keep up!), and I'm feeling a lot better, less winded when doing regular daily tasks.

In fact, this morning in the shower I noticed how much easier it was to twist to wash my back and bend (without having to hold on to the wall) to wash my feet. And while I used to take breaks between vacuuming and washing dishes or cleaning the bathroom and doing laundry, now I just go from one task to the next and get things done in half the time.

This week my goal is to increase my exercise. I plan from this point forward is to get at least 20 minutes of exercise four times per week. And by exercise, I don't mean walking the dogs...I mean biking or working out at the gym. Plus, I plan on adding more lifestyle exercise into the mix.

I've taken a part time job waiting tables, which is something that made me sweat in my 20s. So I expect this to really heighten the effects of my healthier diet. I just hope I can manage to organize the regular eating times required by the Nutrisystem diet around my new working schedule. And of course serving all of that tempting food is going to be a bit of a challenge.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What I hate about me

I'm sitting here on a lazy Sunday afternoon, enjoying my afternoon snack (Nutrisystem almond biscotti and a cup of coffee), while watching What I Hate About Me on the Style Network. The show has an interesting concept. They ask a woman to list 10 things she hates about herself and then they enlist 10 different experts to help her address each one. While I can't afford the expert advice, and even though I kind of feel that listing things you hate about yourself is a bit of a negative exercise, I thought I'd jot down my own "10 things" list here to serve as a jumping off point to begin thinking about ways I can change them.

1. I hate that I gained more than 150 pounds without caring enough about myself to notice.
2. I hate that even though I'm losing weight I've most likely caused permanent damage to my skin as a result of having gained so much weight.
3. I hate the deep crease in the middle of my forehead.
4. I hate that I've been progressively losing my hair since my mid 20s.
5. I hate that my head is too big to fit off-the-rack sunglasses and hats.
6. I hate the fact that I've never held a single job for more than about a year and a half.
7. I hate that I can't seem to meld all of my career interests into one long-term steady way to support myself.
8. I hate the fact that realizing the dream I've held the longest - that of living and studying in Paris - eludes me.
9. I hate that I've never really felt close to my own family.
10. I hate that I'm so afraid that to be diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor (or something worse) that I put off going to the doctor for regular checkups.

Okay, that wasn't so painful. But I guess that's because I don't think anyone will ever be reading this. It's nice to put these things out there, though, and now I can start to work on some of them as I continue on with my weight loss journey.

Friday, January 22, 2010

20 pounds and counting

Today marks the end of my second week on Nutrisystem. I didn't lose as much as my first week, but I'm happy to report that I've lost a full 20 pounds!

To be honest, I'm shocked at how easy it has been to stay on this diet. It's pretty simple to follow, just eat one of their pre-packaged items and then eat tons of vegetables and a few fruits throughout the day. I think what makes it easy for me is that they also provide three snack options a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

The morning snack is a dairy/protein, like yogurt, cottage cheese or an egg. And the afternoon and evening snacks are pre-packaged and are either sweet or salty. Sweet options include stuff like a fudge brownie, chocolate cake or a cookie, and salty options are things like pretzels, herb flavored snack mix or soy crisps. This makes me happy!

BUT, and yes, there's a but, I'm a bit annoyed that during week one I lost almost double what I lost week two. Friends and fellow dieters are telling me I should shock my system with a cheat day, but that seems counterproductive to me. The Nutrisystem people say I just need to stick to it, and that slower weight loss is healthier weight loss. Tell that to the contestants on the Biggest Loser!

Okay, that wasn't a fair shot, because honestly I'm not putting in the effort to exercise the way those people do. Maybe that's what I should focus on this week, not giving in to a cheat day but kicking it up a notch and focusing on fitness. This is the dilemma I'm weighing right now, at 4 p.m. on a Friday. The cheating is tempting...wonder what I'll do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Week 1 Weigh In - lost 13.4 pounds

I'm feeling pretty good today. I've lost nearly 14 pounds during my first week (weighed in at 388.6 pounds), but I know that kind of loss won't continue unless I start to pick up the amount of exercise I do. I've slowly increased my duration and level of exercise to about a half hour of low-key to moderate of activity.

This week my goal is to get on my bike more and really ride it for at least a half hour. I live three miles from the Hollywood beachfront, so ultimately I'd like to regularly do the 6 miles round trip and maybe even do a mile or two extra along the broadwalk once I get there.

My weight loss motivation

I want to be able to ride rollercoasters again, feel more comfortable in airplane seats, be able to sit in those tiny chairs on the patios of cafes, not cause the tires in my tiny compact car to wear unevenly, start my 40s in a year and a half with the same healthful optimism with which I started my 20s, let my parents grow older without having to worry about my health, be able to shop for clothes at the mall again, rollerblade without pain again, and dance the night away again without having to sit the next one out!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Feeling full after first day on NS food

Yesterday was my first day on NutriSystem and I have to say it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating. I consumed 2,000 calories and didn't feel hungry all day. In fact, I felt pretty full. The pre-packaged food was tasty enough, and preparing the fruits and veggies to go with it was pretty easy, too. The main problem I'm having so far is that I don't usually eat so early in the morning, and on this plan you have to eat nearly a third of the day's calories at breakfast. I also find that my stomach is not used to processing all of this healthy stuff. I've had a slight stomach ache off an on since I started. I'm hoping this will eventually pass as my body becomes accustomed to all the roughage.

The thing I love best about NS is the website. I love logging my exercise, food consumption and weight (first weigh in is next Friday!). It is so helpful being able to track my calorie, fiber, fat, carb, and protein intake with just a few mouse clicks. Chatting with other people going through the same process is also pretty cool. And it's nice to know that there is 24/7 counseling available by phone

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The food's arrived - I start in the morning

Well, the food has come, and now I'm off to the market to get the extra fruit and veggies and such that will give life to this boring box of pre-packaged foods (I hope). I'm so anxious about starting this new regime, but I've got to do it, and stick to it, if I'm ever going to have any hope of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Here goes!

Back on the wagon - this time with NutriSystem

It's been a year since I've written anything for this blog. After losing about 30 pounds last year I gave up my fantastic new diet and went back to living life in the fast food fast lane. I didn't mean to. It's not like the food is what lured me back. It's the convenience. I live alone, and cooking every day just seemed like a waste of time. Not to mention, it was a waste of food! I never got the hang of buying just the right amount of salads and fixin's so that I could eat it all before it spoiled in my fridge. And where was the flexibility? Sometimes I'd hit the road for a few days, and what then? I'd try making healthy choices while eating out, but it just seemed so unsatisfying, and before I knew it I was back to my old tricks again. "I'll take a number 10 with a large orange drink and a double cheeseburger, please".

Ultimately, I decided to quit my diet, and I figured I'd just abandon this blog forever. So why didn't I just delete all the previous entries? Good question. I guess it's because I didn't want the dream to end. "I'm not just going to flounder here at 400 pounds until disease and heart problems begin start to set in", I thought. "I'm not just going to die alone, choking on a ham sandwich, am I?"

Well, I can't predict the future, but I can certainly say that for the moment it is not my plan to give up like that. My methods were well thought out and based on some really good ideas, but executing said methods and ideas was just, well, not easy enough for me to follow through.

Now, nearly a year since my last entry, I'm ready to move on from my past. I'm not trying to delete it, but rather learn from it. I need something easier. And since I can't afford a person chef, I've chosen the next best thing. I've ordered my first month's supply of pre-packaged foods from NutriSystem. Marie Osmond did can I! LOL. Seriously, though, I did a lot of research into all the different diet plans out there and believe that this one is the right one for me. Here's why:


1. PRICE. It's nearly half of what Jenny Craig would have cost me, and while I understood where I'd be starting with that program, it seemed so vague as to where I'd end up...and how much it would cost me along the way. NutriSystem is costing me $329 per month for their food (and I still have to figure out the additional cost of fruits, veggies, eggs, etc.). For the first two months I get five weeks of food for the price of four. And after two months the price goes down by five percent.

2. NUTRITION. The person I trust most for issues like this - my friend Angela, who's a nurse practitioner here in South Florida - says that if she were to go on any of these pre-packaged plans it would be NutriSystem. The diet is based on the glycemic index, and while I'm not totally sure what that means I do know that it's geared to keep me from having hunger spikes thoughout the day so I can avoid feelings of hunger and the urge to binge.

3. EASE OF USE. Pre-packaged food is sent to you in the beginning of the month and all you have to do is pop the stuff into the microwave and prepare small portions of fresh fruits and vegetables you've bought at the market to go along with the hot meal. You don't even have to freeze the foods. They're all prepared in some sort of way that you can just stick them in your pantry or whatever. (I'll have more on this later, once I've checked out the foods for myself.)

4. SUPPORT. NutriSystem has an awesome website where you can keep a journal of foods you eat, feelings you're having about the diet, your daily exercise, etc. It's not for the public but for you. You can log all the pertinent information about your body as you lose the weight and track your progress. They also have chat rooms and discussion boards so you can talk with other people going through the process. I've already chatted with some amazing people who are so encouraging and also give you tips on choosing what food is good and what food is, well, not worth trying. And you can select your food, changing your order each month if you want to, right on the web.

5. MARIE OSMOND. How can you say no to this woman? I mean, Valerie Bertinelli is cool and all, but Marie is a little bit country and I'm a little bit rock n' roll! Okay, that's lame, but seriously, when I saw her on the commercial the other night I just got the feeling that if she could do it then I could too. And secretly, I've had a crush on her since I was a kid. Who knows, maybe I'll get to meet her one day after I've lost 150 pounds or something and NutriSystem decides to put me in one of their ads or have me go on Regis and Kelly for a weight loss fashion show or something. Hmmm. A boy can dream, can't he? (By the way, does anyone have Wynona Judd's number? I'd love to start this weight loss journey with her!)