Sunday, October 28, 2012

Variety and balance are key to sustainable weight loss

Weight loss success is not formulaic. Or is it? I have successfully shed a bunch of weight three times in my life. Each time, it was a bit different, but when I look at the methods they all include a balance of an exercise lifestyle and a nutritious diet free from excess sugar and junk food. Looking back at my successes (and failures) I believe I finally understand that, in the end, variety and balance are key to sustainable weight loss.

This me and that me are one and the
same. Difference is, one undersands
the importance variety and balance.

The first time was during high school. I lost about 35 pounds when I moved to the D.C. suburbs and was living a primarily pedestrian existence. My step-mother cooked extremely healthy food, which I ate at home or packed most days instead of eating out. Plus, I played soccer and was forced to run at practice about 15 miles per week.

The second time was during a drop-out phase from college. The stress of balancing my studies, full-time work, coming out of the closet and dealing with the drama of my first romantic relationship led me to gain more than 100 pounds. I was able to drop 70 pounds in part by becoming vegetarian and using Barley Green as a daily supplement. I also got around on foot, mountain bike or, after moving to South Beach, by Rollerblading.

This most recent time I have also relied on a nutrient-rich balanced diet. And while I haven't been getting around as a lifestyle pedestrian so much these days, have infused hiking into my lifestyle. I have also been swimming, using the medicine ball and going to the gym in order to get the additional exercise I used to get without really trying. Tonight, I even broke out the Rollerblades once again.

In short, I suppose weight loss is a bit formulaic, but the elements that you plug into the formula can have great variety. Personally, I think variety is the spice of losing weight as an adult. And I know being conscious of the need to infuse variety into my routine will be key in helping me keep the weight off this time. Hiking is great, but what happens if life decides to play a cruel joke on me and move me back to flat land? Well, I that's where biking, rollerblading and commuting on foot will come into play. It's all about variety and balance after all! 

Looking for healthy options in the chain restaurant minefield

Being on the road there is just no way to stick to routine. Eating out becomes the norm, and even with all the choices of where to eat, there are surprisingly few healthy options. Sure, you can make do at any old place. But wouldn't it be nice if there were more restaurants that had more healthy options than unhealthy ones for a change?

Why can't fast food look more like this?
I've tried all the chains, and the only one where I can consistently eat what I would like to eat if I were making it myself is Panera Bread Company. The caveat with Panera is that as a side you get a choice of bread, chips or an apple. I would normally choose the apple, but the ones they have are usually gross looking - and besides, when I choose apples I always go organic since it's on that dirty dozen list. So I opt either for whole wheat bread at lunchtime, or nothing. (Choosing nothing is counter-intuitive for me, so it's a tough option, but do-able when I realize I don't need the extra calories from the bread.)

Panera's sister company, Paradise, is another decent option menu-wise. But the default side at Paradise is a cookie - a very delicious cookie I find it hard to say no to. As a result, I avoid Paradise these days.

Here in the Palm Springs area where I live I have found a few local, organic and vegetarian places I like, but I'm looking for chains to step up so eating out isn't like treading through a minefield of unhealthy options every time I'm on the road. If you have had success with chain restaurants serving up healthy options, please let me know! Leave a comment below or contact me through my splash page.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Confessions from my fit life: Ode to my fat skin ring

Ode to my fat skin ring
by Brian Schwarz

Like a constant unwanted companion
Echoing everything I don’t want to be
And am not
And never was
But somehow appeared to be
And acted like
That even after moving on
Stays with me to torture me
(or teach me?)
Reminding me
And making me wonder
Will you ever leave me alone?


NOTE: Sometimes I share things in this blog that I really wish I hadn't. As I prepare to hit the "publish" button now I have a feeling that this is one of those times. Still, this is part of my process, and this blog is about transparency, for my edification and (I hope) for the edification of others. I don't want to ever forget what I'm feeling tonight, as I sit here at my desk working on odds and ends and watching some Hulu TV. My entire body feels fit - chest up and waist down - but still I have this stubborn residue of a past life sitting as a ring at my mid-section. I can hide it when I stand, with good posture and clothes properly placed. But seated, it takes a gelatinous form that makes me feel as bad about my body today as I did when I weighed 420 pounds. I'm working hard to shrink it, and as I do I'm working even harder to stay positive and to learn to love my body as it is. It is a body that works. It's a body that works hard. And tomorrow it's a body that will take me on an amazing hike with a nearly 2,000-foot elevation gain, a hike that even folks without this mid-section yoke would be hard-pressed to accomplish. So I'm not ashamed to share this. In fact, I'm proud. And god-willing, this will be but a chapter of struggle in an otherwise whole book of triumph!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fit Magazine features MyFitLife2Day: "Journey to Fitness"

The Albuquerque Journal is featuring my blog, MyFitLife2Day, and telling a bit of my fit-life story in its October issue of its Fit Magazine supplement - on newsstands today!

Many of you may know that besides being a an educator, life coach and motivational speaker, I worked for many years at the start of my career as a journalist. In July, I decided to get back into professional writing (I figured why not make some income on all this research I've been doing as I continue to work on my book about overcoming super obesity). After I contacted the Albuquerque Journal to discuss doing some articles on weight loss, fitness and overcoming obesity (as well as hiking, of course), a Journal reporter apparently checked out my blog and became interested in doing an article with me as the subject. I said, "sure!"

The article is called "Journey to Fitness: Personal Life Coach Blogs About Weight Loss, Better Food Choices". Check it out!

Brian Schwarz is an award-winning journalist whose career was derailed by super obesity. He fought his way back to health - losing 165 pounds in the process of his "fit-life journey". A professional communicator by trade and activator by nature, Brian's personal mission is to inspire others live their fullest lives. Follow Brian on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Overcoming food addiction is my ongoing battle

Last week, I gave a motivation talk at the Desert Sunrise Speakers Toastmasters Club in Palm Desert, CA. In the speech, I come clean about experiencing hopelessness over a terrible addiction to sugary and fatty foods. I have learned to control this addiction through positive psychology, but every now and then, I must admit, the addiction rears its ugly head. I have decided today that I want to share a bit more of my story of addiction and ongoing recovery here on my blog, because I know that if I keep this very intimate struggle a secret and continue to play the role of the infinitely strong, optimistic and powerful one who rides life's ups while being unphased by life's downs, I am doing a disservice not only to myself but ultimately to my readers.

This summer, the addiction hit me full force as I was contemplating my recent career move to Southern California, which I realized then would ultimately have me leaving my partner behind for a time in Albuquerque as he completes his nutrition degree there. I've been doing great since the move, having lost 17 pounds in just one month through mindful eating and engaging in regular aerobic exercise and strength training. But tonight, it happened again, and I just ate more than 700 calories after dinner as my emotions caught up with me.

I have been feeling emotionally week for the past couple of days, as I am coping with news that my mother has just begun battling lung cancer all while I'm experiencing the ongoing difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationship and seeking more fulfilling and financially stable employment. So tonight, even after eating a home-cooked dinner of hardy and delicious squash and eggplant stew over quinoa, I felt my emotional hunger kick in. I scavenged the house for sweets and took two heaping scoops of leftover cake frosting my housemate had left in the fridge. Then I set out for some frozen yogurt. And after that I ate two Reese's cups and some Starburst candies.

It is absolutely horrifying for me to be telling you this. But I am coming clean. This is something I do. I do it when I am feeling weak. And I do it out of view of anyone who knows me. In fact, I do it in stages so even strangers only see me enjoying a small sweet treat. No one sees the binge that takes place over the course of an hour or so and at several different stops along the way.

Okay, so there it is. I'm absolutely sweating as I sit here in my room, alone, in front of my computer about to hit the "publish" button on this post. But here goes nothing! And just so you know...I'm okay. This actually feels good to be putting it out there. I will follow up tomorrow with another post on my progress, and I will talk more about dealing with my addiction to sugary and fatty foods over the course of the coming months as I continue to battle obesity.

Well, I'm heading out to swim some laps right now. It's been about an hour since eating and I think my stomach is settled enough for me to get some exercise in the pool. I know it won't take away what I just did, but it will certainly make me sleep better. And it will re-set my mind so I can wake up tomorrow morning refreshed, not feeling guilty about the binge but ready to start anew as I continue on with my fit life journey.

As always, thanks for reading! If you don't already, follow me on Twitter @myfitlife2day. Also, check out my YouTube videos, starting with this one of my recent speech to local Toastmasters called "Hike Your Way to Health!"

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dream big but decide bigger!

Here's the funny thing I've noticed about goals since beginning my fitlife journey nearly four years ago: Only before you decide to pursue goals do they feel insurmountable.

It's like when I decided to start hiking and set a goal to climb Sandia - a mountain rising more than 5,000 feet above the City of Albuquerque, nestled the Rio Grande Valley. It may sound dismissive of the accomplishment, but to be honest, by simply making the decision to climb that mountain, the mountain became smaller in my mind.

It is the same with weight loss. Three years ago before I decided to lose weight, I figured losing even 100 pounds without medical intervention would be out of the question - and at more than twice my normal body weight I needed to lose 200. Absurd! Ridiculous! No Way!

But there I was, in the silence of my heart, filtering out all critics, including my own ever-present internal critic, making a decision to go for it. Almost immediately, once the decision had been made, there was no doubt in my mind. I was going to overcome obesity and more than halve my body weight come hell or high water!

When I met my partner Khizer two years ago, he spoke of running a marathon one day. By keeping his dreams in the "one day" category he was safely on this side of setting a goal. Running a marathon for someone who has only once in his memory run something like ten miles might seem impossible. It is this feeling of being made a fool by countering the impossibility and failing that prevents many from making decisions that could change their lives forever. But earlier this year Khizer made the decision to run in Albuquerque's Duke City Marathon, and suddenly the finish line to him seemed much closer to him than it had before. He's now training and has completed several long runs. He ran 20 miles on Saturday and told me of his training, "This really isn't as hard as I thought it would be." I'll be there as he accomplishes this seemingly insurmountable goal October 20. His dream, because of his decision to run, is about to become reality.

The moral of this story is this: Once you make a decision, your choices will fuel that decision. As inspirational speaker Tony Robbins says, "It is your decisions, and not the conditions of your life, that determine your destiny." It's so true! No matter your conditions or how far off your heart's desire may seem from where you are right now, you must believe that you are as close as your ability to make that decision to go for it allows you to be.

In other words, dream big. But when you're ready to make your move, decide bigger!