30 Days of Gratitude – Day #15, The Skin I Am In

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Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for my body, with all of its flaws.

Day #15 – Accept Your Body is Part of Learning to Love Yourself

I will address my weight loss later in this series, but as many articles have noted (here, here and here just for a few) – losing a ton of weight is unlikely to end up with you looking like … well, frankly like the person you imagined was underneath all of that fat and skin. And frankly the skin is part of the problem. A while ago I shared a picture of me crossing the bridge in Corning about a half-mile before the marathon finish. Everyone loves the pic – but all *I* see is the loose skin on my thighs.

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This week at HuffPo there was a post about a guy who lost 160 pounds, and how he is feeling and dealing with all of the loose skin. It is a pretty amazing video because it shows him at his largest and also just how much loose and stretchy skin he has all over. Check out the post and the video at the bottom.

My ‘skin situation’ isn’t nearly as extreme as his, but it is something I deal with. I will never have the same body that I would have, had I never had to lose 200lbs in 1989 … and also lose 110lbs in 2012. Having that skin that will never quite fit right constantly has you asking yourself if you are getting fat again or if it is just the skin.

This time around, I have ‘gone the distance’ in terms of my fitness and health. I can look confidently and know I am in the best shape of my life, and that my body is really in great shape, and it ‘is what it is’. Starting from there, I had to accept that THIS is how I am and how I will be. And slowly I have accepted that, and learned to be happy with just how I am.

How do you work to be happy with ‘the skin you’re in’?

Here is the video:

Six Things Saturday – Reasons to Go See a Doctor (even if you’re healthy)

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http://misszippy1.com/2014/10/runnings-role-healer.html

Hi again friends! Thanks for all of the great comments and kind remarks on my last posts!

My last post a few Sundays ago was pretty random and reaffirmed a few things for me:
– Almost no one watches the videos … or at least no one comments
– There are only so many random topics people can absorb in one post
– Titles really don’t matter.

Why do I mention that? Because:
– there were no comments about either video (ok, mamaSalt came in late to mention the Panda 🙂 )
– Most of the comments were about one or maybe two items
– My title was only marginally related to the post I actually published!

ANYWAY, here is one subject I meant to talk about but never got there – going to the doctor as a critical thing to do every year.

My annual physical was originally scheduled for late August, then they had to reschedule, then I forgot to do my blood work so I had to reschedule, and it finally happened in early October. Because of my hypothyroidism I make it a point to get to the doctor … and also because of my age, family history and so on.

Also, I included these pictures with this post for two reasons: because it is Halloween (duh) and because these are the people I want to be with for a long time. The picture below is a #TBT to Halloween 2004, a time when the boys were 8 and 6.5 and Lisa and I were just in our late 30s.

The top picture is from the National Honor Society induction this week, where our younger son was inducted and older son reaffirmed for membership. It was a great proud moment, and a reminder I want to be around for a long time to experience many more.

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1. Make Sure Everything is OK / Prevention

I mean, this seems obvious – but it is also the reason many people avoid going! I have heard many people say ‘I don’t want to go to the doctor – I am fine and every time I go they find something!’ By going to a doctor regularly you can get a better idea of how your health is at the moment, and by checking in you gain more perspective on how you feel when things are good (or not).

Also, do not underestimate the human ability to adapt – we get used to just about anything, and it is not until we feel better that we realize how bad we felt!

2. Learn Your Numbers

Our bodies are unique systems, so it isn’t surprising that we will have some tests where we run high and others where we are low. Some of these numbers mean something important by themself, others only in conjunction with different tests. More than ever it is critical to be informed and in control of our own health, and the first part of this is knowing how we function when ‘normal’.

3. Establish a Relationship with Your Doctor

When I walked into my doctor’s office … well, really, when she came in, she already knew my lab results, had seen me running pretty much everywhere in the last year, knew what to be looking for on my results and the things we needed to discuss for now and for the next year.

Why is that important? Because rather than trying to start from ground zero, we already have solid basis of understanding of my health, her approach, and how to interact. That way when we have to address an issue she will know how I normally handle things and can factor that into her approach.

4. Establish a Tracking History

Two years ago when I was still losing weight my potassium was on the low end of normal, but still in range. I can now admit that I was still restricting my intake (while running 50+ weeks … moron), but had I seen a new doctor or not had a history it wouldn’t have flagged anything – because it was still in the normal range. It was only through looking at my history that she noticed it was low – and since I love bananas and sweet potatoes and other sources of potassium, and had lost a ton of weight … she just gently told me a banana every morning would be a great thing.

The same is true for everything else – we spent a lot of time this year going through my numbers and how they showed the impact of my healthy eating on everything going on in my body. Between my thyroid issues and getting me into the cardiologist last year due to family history, she has carte blanche to order loads of bloodwork for me … and does.

5. Put Your Running/Eating in Context

It was a bit of a joke when I went to the cardiologist last year and they put me on the incline treadmill to get my heart rate up for the stress test – because my resting heart rate was around 50 and they couldn’t seem to get it much over 100. They laughed because I was the longest test either of them had ever seen because it took so long – which was directly attributable to my endurance running.

Same with my blood work and eating – by looking at all of my numbers in terms of cholesterol and other criteria, the doctor could tell that I was eating good stuff – and also getting enough of it, even if she still wanted to make sure I didn’t lose any more weight.

But by the same token if you were not eating well or overtraining or otherwise not taking proper care, and had convinced yourself that everything was fine … maybe a visit to the doctor could help you realize otherwise. I have said it before, but I believe that two of the big reasons for injuries with many run-bloggers are over-training and improper fueling.

6. More Thoughts on ‘Your Numbers’

I can’t reiterate enough the importance of knowing your numbers – it is easy to think that the pants don’t fit because they shrank, or that because your blood pressure and cholesterol were fine 10 years ago that you don’t need to stress over what you eat and so on … but it isn’t true. There are many things that happen over the course of our lives that change the biochemical systems inside our body – women have even more stuff going on with natural hormonal changes throughout their lives!

Our bodies evolve over time, often slowly enough that we can’t tell the difference easily – which makes it even more important to establish a relationship with a doctor and their office, get yourself checked out regularly, and know how your habits impact your health.

What are your thoughts on doctor visits and knowing your health numbers?

Oh, and because next Tuesday is mid-term elections, here is a tool WordPress provides to help with voting info:

Things People in the ‘100lb Club’ Wished You Knew

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This month marks two years since I joined the ‘100lb club’ … again. A couple of weeks ago a coworker posted that she has also joined the club. Well, that isn’t what she said, but it was basically the same thing.

Note: my focus on the 100lb club is not intended to diminish what people experience who have lost 10 or 25 or 50 lbs or struggled to gain weight … it is more focused on the physical reality that rather than an ‘adjustment’, a 100lb weight differential represents a true body-morphing.

And further, when Lisa lost about 50 lbs a decade ago many things I talk about below happened to her – it was amazing watching some of the preschool moms change in how they looked at and treated her … all of the ‘catty’ stereotypes were in full force.

What is the 100lb club?

The 100lb ‘Club’ isn’t a club at all, but is quite simply about people who have lost more than 100 lbs. I had read about it as a term used on several forums and fitness groups to identify as a milestone for extreme weight loss. Bottom line – if you have lost 100 lbs or more … you started out significantly obese.

As I said, this month is two years of re-joining the 100lb club. Actually, I am in the ‘110lb club’ – I am approximately 110lbs lighter now than I was in March of 2012. But as I have noted – I was much heavier when I graduated college – in fact, as of my wedding in 1992 I would put myself very close to the 200lb club! The reality is I won’t step on the scale until I feel I am making positive steps, for fear of being so dejected I would quit. So when I weighed myself over 375lbs, I know I started higher. And before my wedding I was down to about 185lbs, which is 190lbs weighed difference.

My colleague posted about her weight loss as part of a Facebook ‘gratitude challenge’. What she said was touching and poignant, so I am stealing it:

I am grateful for my willpower and motivation. It has carried me through this journey to a healthier me. I am also thankful that I have found inspiration through others – their stories, their accomplishments, their pictures (thank you [redacted, but included me]). 112 baby!

She has lost 112 pounds – and it shows in every way. She looks great, feels great – and has the confidence to KNOW she looks great and be happy with that. Honestly it is great seeing that in someone else.

But something happens when you lose that much weight – the world shifts. Sure YOU change as well, but you also become aware of things that perhaps you didn’t notice before. Or maybe people feel more comfortable saying things around you that they wouldn’t have before. Either way, I thought it would be interesting to share some things I have found through the years personally, and have shared with others who have lost large amounts of weight.

We Will ALWAYS Be That Fat Person Inside

It is really weird – I have spent nearly all of the last 25 years within 20lbs of my ‘target’ (I am actually ‘below target’ now), and yet I cannot look in a mirror and see myself for the thin person that I am.

Part of that is self-image. Being so large as a child, my formative years were filled with self-identification (aided by the joys of other kids) as a fat kid. So I will always be that fat kid in my mind.

The other part is physical – losing so much weight changes your body, and unfortunately not everything falls neatly into place. The most recent public example was the case involving Shape magazine I’ve discussed in the past. The reality of ‘loose skin’ is perhaps the biggest disappointment of extreme weight loss – because all of the shows and magazines make you think you will suddenly look like one of the models they show off … or quite frankly, like a normal thin person. But you don’t.

No, Fat Jokes and Making Fun of Fat People are NOT Suddenly Funny

This one honestly shocked me when I first lost weight – because it started with people who knew I had been fat for 23 years and thin for less than a year – and yet I was suddenly supposed to take pleasure in ridiculing people who were heavy or who got out of breath easy?

For people who don’t know me, I had it explained that no one would ever look at me and think I was morbidly obese – I mean, I have a large enough frame that at 6’1″ I was on the offensive and defensive lines in high school football and was a force to reckon with … and now I have a ‘runner’s body’ and that is how people see me.

But that assumption has led people to feel it is ok to berate fat people with me standing there – someone said something last year, and another person in the group said ‘you know Mike was even bigger than that guy just a couple of years ago’. You could have heard a pin drop.

So what that did for me was to show me that that I was NOT imagining the eye-rolls, and looks and snickers and so on … because once I was no longer fat, I heard them used on other people.

We Can Never ‘Take it Easy’

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You see that tiny bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms? It has sat unopened in my work backpack for a couple of weeks now since I got handed a sample in the store.

I will never eat it. Never.

Sure you can tell me it is only 100 calories or so and not a big deal. You can compare it to other things I eat such as the peanut butter chocolate cake recipe I shared.

But it isn’t about the nutritional content – it is an ’emotional trigger’ food. In 2011 and into 2012 I would very often have a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms in my drawer at work, and one of the ‘WTF moments for me was eating an entire ‘large’ bag across two days. I felt disgusting in many different ways, and haven’t had any Peanut Butter M&Ms since I started back with running.

And for me processed and packaged ‘junk foods’ tend to fall off when I am running, but this time is different in many ways – I simply don’t want to eat them, and I am more careful than ever about what I put into my body.

And I hear about it – regularly.

‘Aw c’mon … you can just run another mile’.
‘You could use some extra calories, you’re too skinny’
‘You can just eat whatever you want’

And so on. Point is – once you have lost this type of weight, you don’t want to gain it back … ever. You want to maintain that great healthy feeling, so you avoid foods that make you feel lousy, and more important you avoid foods that you associate with being fat – and most of all you avoid ‘downfall’ foods. Quite often you no longer want them …

… but sometimes with food for someone who has gone through extreme weight loss, it is like waving a drink in front of an alcoholic.

Our Clothes are About US, Not You

Honestly this is true for pretty much anyone – so I am sure many people can identify with this: that moment when you go from wearing clothes that are 1 – 2 sizes too large to hide your body, to wearing fitted items that show off your body! Last Friday I wore my skinny jeans to work and realized the biggest problem with my new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the whole issue of pockets and fitted clothes and huge phones …

I have incredible memories shopping at the Jordan Marsh back in ’89 & ’90, totally transforming my wardrobe, showing off my new looks. I never really cared before … but now suddenly I did.

You Treat Us Differently … and We Notice

When I first lost weight, I was also getting my first job, and my life was changing in many ways. But I also maintained friendships with many people from high school and college and the retail store I worked all during those 8 years … and once we got past the issue of my weight and body transformation.

It is like you are suddenly part of the ‘in crowd’ … and it feels really good, until you pass someone who is NOT … and you realize THAT person was YOU a few months before.

Some of the ways I was treated differently:
– Before Lisa and I were dating, I had a flight delay on a connection, and had a girl sit down next to me, and she ended up inviting me to come to Shakespeare in the Park with her and her family.
– I no longer feel judged based on what I eat.
– Even at 48 I have women (some uncomfortably close to my kids age) who flirt with me.
– People seek me out, remember me, and go out of their way to include me.
– I realized that for more than a couple of people my weight loss suddenly made me ‘an option’ … which seemed flattering until I realized how incredibly insulting it was.

But the biggest one is the most ironic … when I was at my heaviest, when I could literally fill a door way – I was invisible. Now I am noticed.

We Are Not Experts, Spokespeople, or Advocates

It is incredibly awesome to have people come to me looking for ‘my secret’ … sadly many people leave disappointed when I say ‘eat less, eat better, and get some exercise’ as my secret.

I have talked about it before, but I feel that just as my body seems to conspire to gain weight when I do not exercise and watch what I eat – I get into a spiral of unhealthy habits, excessive portions, and lethargy … so too does it conspire to help me when I run. When I run I want healthy foods, I tend to eat less (it has been an effort to properly fuel my running), and so on.

I am a person with a story, who has successfully lost weight – I am not a nutritionist, a fitness coach or personal trainer, or someone who can ‘help your friend/spouse/child lose weight’. Yes I have been asked to talk to someone ‘as a former heavy person’ more than once.

But at the same time, I LOVE being a sounding board, I LOVE sharing my story, what I have been through, and how much running and eating well has transformed my life. But it is hard because I become a magnet for people trying to lose weight … who then avoid me like the plague if they fail.

What This All Means to Me

To repurpose the end of this article“But deep inside, I still am and always will be a fat boy, with a fat boy’s awareness that the world is not nearly as nice as it sometimes seems right now. “

But at the same time I notice something else that I saw elsewhere and copied into a draft months ago “Turns out I was the meanest person to me while at my fattest. There was nothing anyone could’ve said that would have been worse than the constant track running through me head of “You’re a fat piece of shit and deserve nothing”.

That One Person Who Is There For You

I have heard the line countless times on TV and in movies, and I saw it again just the other night “would you love me if I was fat?” Bottom line – someone whose love is conditional upon a pant size or number on a scale doesn’t really love you.

I have talked about my love for Lisa many times, and the great fortune I feel at the life and marriage we share and work to maintain … but beyond anything else she has known me not just at my best and worst, but also my thinnest and fattest. And she loves me regardless … because beyond thin or fat there is ME. And while her weight has also fluctuated through the years, my love for her has never been in question, and neither has hers.

I have always been lucky to have the greatest supporter and teammate in the world.

One More Pet Peeve – Fat Shaming and Thin Privilege

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I had another pet peeve, something I saw in Boston (and New York, and regularly here in the Corning area), but wanted to separate it out. I have another post I am working on related to my own observations from being both very fat and very thin as well as ‘normal’ – but I decided not to clog that up with this issue. So instead you get a quickie*** on something that I have thought about for nearly 40 years since I first heard judgments passed against me based on my size and shape: Fat Shaming and Thin Privilege.

One thing that came out of the comments in the pet peeve post was something Harold said about “the general lack of people being courteous to other people”. That is very true, but I am talking here about one of the last ‘acceptable’ forms of discrimination – Fat Shaming.

But first …

Yes I know there is ‘body shaming’ for being too thin.

Suz wrote about some harsh comments she received in which she was told that the person KNEW she had an eating disorder, I know Lauren has also heard theses things, and anyone who is thin and eats very light in public has either gotten ‘looks’ or had something said to (or about) them. That sucks, and being judged and having your feelings hurt really sucks.

But as noted in this article, personal emotional impacts simply are not the same as oppression.

Most People Reading This Have No Idea What it is Like to Be Obese

I know many folks have dealt with weight loss, and some started running and healthy eating to help control weight. But I had it put in perspective for me by someone I worked with for 10 years, during which time I got back to 220lbs once and 240lbs another time. She said after reading one of my posts that “I had no idea you struggled with weight.”

Because gaining and losing 20 – 40lbs on a body that has a healthy weight of ~190lbs or so is really not a big deal. I might look at pictures and think I was fat, but it never impacted things the way it did when I was >275 a couple of years ago, and especially when I was over 375 lbs and pushing out of a 48 waist pant size (for reference I now wear a 30).

The reason I note that most people I know who are runners have never been obese, is that they generally benefit from ‘thin privilege’, and having never ‘seen the other side’, chances are they don’t know.

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What IS Thin Privilege

To say that the treatment from strangers is different when you are 375+lbs compared to 185lbs … is an incredible understatement.

If you look at my food posts – my huge ice creams are celebrated on Instagram, and also in real life. I got one at a recognition lunch that was way too large for its description and everyone was enjoying checking it out and there was nothing uncomfortable or judgmental. And at our department boat trip I wanted to have dessert and share it, and when there was some left one person noted that the calories ‘were like rounding error’ for the amount I burn on my runs (remember- these are all math geeks like me!).

At this point I am lean, apparently look like a runner, and people treat me differently than I ever have been in my life. I am reaping the full benefits of ‘Thin Privilege’.

Here are some examples of Thin Privilege from this article:

– You’re not assumed to be unhealthy just because of your size.
– Your size is probably not the first thing people notice about you (unless you’re being thin-shamed – the opposite of fat-shamed).
– When you’re at the grocery store, people don’t comment on the food selection in your cart in the name of “trying to be helpful.”
– Your health insurance rates are not higher than everyone else’s.
– You can expect to pay reasonable prices for your clothing.
– You can expect to find your clothing size sold locally.
– You can expect to find clothing in the latest styles and colors instead of colorless, shapeless and outdated styles meant to hide your body.
– You don’t receive suggestions from your friends and family to join Weight Watchers or any other weight-loss program.
– When you go to the doctor, they don’t suspect diabetes (or high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other “weight-related” diagnoses) as the first/most likely diagnosis.
– You don’t get told, “You have such a pretty/handsome face” (implying: if only you’d lose weight you could be even more attractive).
– People do not assume that you are lazy, based solely on your size.
– You’re not the brunt of jokes for countless numbers of comedians.
– Airlines won’t charge you extra to fly.
– You are not perceived as looking sloppy or unprofessional based on your size.
– You can eat what you want, when you want in public and not have others judge you for it or make assumptions about your eating habits.
– You can walk out of a gas station with a box of doughnuts and not have people yell at you to “Lay off them doughnuts, fatty!” (This actually happened to one of my friends.)
– People don’t ask your partners what it’s like to have sex with you because of your size.
– Your body type isn’t sexually fetishized.
– You’re more likely to get a raise or promotion at work than someone who is fat.
– Friends don’t describe you to others using a qualifier (e.g. “He’s kind of heavy, but REALLY nice, though”).
– The media doesn’t describe your body shape as part of an “epidemic”.
– You can choose to not be preoccupied with your size and shape because you have other priorities without being judged.

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How Fat Shaming Becomes Oppression

Fat Shaming is a well-enough known term that I don’t have to elaborate, but it is quite simply ‘active discrimination’ based on your weight or body shape (which also applies to thin shaming) … it is only one type of shaming, and people will get judged for pretty much everything. But Fat Shaming is a ‘special case’, because not only is it common (see ‘Fat Shaming Week’), it is held as acceptable to society. In fact, and as shown through many advertising campaigns, it is often seen as more than acceptable – it is seen as a GOOD THING, because some believe that fat shaming will lead fat people to stop being so fat. And if not, then they DESERVE what they get … at which point it crosses into oppression.

Oppression is a very strong word, but look at the definition:

Oppression involves “the systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group of people who have access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other, and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.”

Another Everyday Feminism post looks at the oppressive aspects of Fat Shaming:

1. It is pervasive.

It is EVERYWHERE in our social and societal institutions, to the point of becoming something of a shared consciousness. An example of this is fat jokes – everyone gets them immediately. Heck, there are TV shows based almost entirely on fat jokes.

2. It is restricting.

In the same way gender discrimination limits the paths of women, and racial discrimination limits opportunities for minorities, so too does fat discrimination limit opportunities for larger people .. just look at the ‘thin privilege’ list for a few.

3. It is hierarchical.

In much the way that the old discrimation joke said ‘I always pick the best person for the job … it isn’t my fault that the best person is always white, male, Christian and Republican’ … so too do we see areas where someone who isn’t thin has an inherent disadvantage.

I mean, it has come up before, but ask yourself – would you hire a fitness coach or nutritionist who is 50lbs overweight? Is their knowledge and expertise somehow lesser because they are fat? No – but because they are not fat we are allowed to pass judgment that they are unskilled (otherwise they would be thin, right?)

4. The dominant group has the power to define and name reality.

The terms “normal,” “real,” or “correct” are defined by the dominant powers. They define what is average, and what is ‘preferable’ or ‘desirable’. The problem is that the inverse – what is abnormal and undesirable – becomes obvious, and is accepted for scorn, pity and discrimination.

The article closes by noting how Fat Shaming as oppression differentiates from being made fun of for having scrawny legs, as one example that was used:

When you have hurt feelings – legitimate as they are – it isn’t the result of subjugation.

The negative attitudes toward you as a privileged person aren’t pervasive, restricting, or hierarchal.

You aren’t losing out on anything just because someone’s words, actions, or beliefs had an emotional impact on you.

Fat Shaming is EASY

We all know that body shaming – or shaming anyone for ANY reason – is wrong … but in many cases it is easy.

Take grocery stores – as noted at XOJane, “because I am fat, the contents of my shopping cart — and anything I put into my mouth, at that — are open to public scrutiny.”

I am very sensitive to fat shaming and public ridicule, and am generally very good about not judging others as an overall rule. Several of us have talked about how elements in our childhood play into things we like, dislike and are sensitive to as adults. This is one for me.

Yet I am not perfect … I have noted that my running, losing ~110lbs, and so on have been ‘inspirational’ to people at work and I had several people come up to me in 2012 as they were on their own journey, and also last year in Kentucky. The problem is when you have someone ask for advice, talk to you about their issues … and then you see them engaging in self-sabotage. It is hard to NOT judge, and I hate myself for it.

*** OK, reading through I see I planned this as a ‘quickie’ … um, totally failed. Oh well, you guys know me better than that by now! 🙂

What are YOUR Thoughts Fat (and Thin) Shaming, Oppression and Anything Else?

From the Archives: A Reminder About Fad Diets From ‘The Ghost of Weight Loss Past’

As a reminder, I am on vacation this week and planning to be ‘mostly offline’ – so I scheduled a few post ‘reruns’ from the very early days of the blog (when I had very few readers)! This one was originally posted here.

Rice Cakes

I like to call fad diets ‘fail diets’, because unless you look at one and think ‘wow, that is pretty much how I eat anyway’, you are probably being asked to totally cut out some food group you actually love … and for me that is a sign of ‘rebound failure’. You will feel like you are denying your self and depriving yourself … and then end up on a binge spiral. The degree to which people can totally cut out things they love to eat … well, it is shown pretty solidly through obesity statistics.

I think the mindset needs to be ‘modification’, and NOT ‘massive alteration’. Of course, when I first lost weight there was some of both.

I was reminded of this as someone on Facebook posted about their weight and health issues and how their habits were in dire need of a change … and so they decided to go vegan. Not regulate their intake, not reduce portions and control the balance of processed and fried food, not even go vegetarian … but full-on vegan.

That is a radical change – I am NOT calling becoming vegan a ‘fad diet’, but when people jump to it as a magical cure for weight and health issues, it might as well be. I am again reminded of Bloom County:

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Back when I started losing weight a year out of college in 1989, things like yogurt, rice cakes and fat-free salad dressings were all the rage. And because I love salads, love yogurt and fruit, I was easily able to switch over to having grapefruit and plain toast for breatfast, simple salad with fat free dressing for lunch, yogurt & rice cakes for a snack, then a simple dinner.

As I have noted, I lost about 175 pounds when all was said and done in 1989 through a combination of diet and exercise. There is little doubt that I used deprivation and the feelings of hunger to motivate myself. But there was also no way I was giving up steak or ice cream completely. But what is interesting is how one of the staples of my weight loss – rice cakes – is such a terrible food.

Rice cakes: Considered as one of the ultimate ‘diet-food’ in the late 1980s and 1990s, don’t let yourself get fooled by this dish. Rice cakes have a glycemic index of 91 and can make your blood sugar go sky-high. They are bad for weight loss and your overall health.

Fat free salad dressings are another one – full-up with HFCS, they mess with your system. One that I used last year when I started losing weight again was grits. I thought they were like oatmeal – fill you up, good for you. Well, only half of that was true! Grits are absolute crap, as it turns out! Once I found that out over a year ago I quit it immediately.

My point is that for many of us weight control is a lifelong struggle. And there are MANY multi-billion dollar industries that have sprung up around it. But think … what would happen if everyone learned how to lose weight and just lost it and kept it off using nothing but products from their grocery store without needing special pills, chemicals or books? That would be terrible for the industry – and so you have to remember that this industru doesn’t succeed when too many people succeed.

So beware of fad diets and miracle products – because it is not in their best interest for you to succeed.

From the Archives: What Is A Runner’s Body?

As a reminder, I am on vacation this week and planning to be ‘mostly offline’ – so I scheduled a few post ‘reruns’ from the very early days of the blog (when I had very few readers)! This one was originally posted here.

The other day in her otherwise great post, Laura said “I don’t even “look” like a runner”. My first thought was ‘SURE YOU DO!’ … but my second thought was ‘I know EXACTLY how you feel!’ In fact, just before I started this blog I did a guest post on the subject for Ann’s Running Commentary. Here it is:

Here’s a quick mental exercise: close your eyes and think of a large group of people. Maybe folks you work with, go to school with, ran your last race with, or whatever. Have them in your head? Great – now separate them into two categories: those WITH runner’s bodies, and those who do NOT have runner’s bodies. OK, now place yourself in a group.

First off, I am going to assume that most of you put yourself in the non-runner’s body group. If not, you probably don’t need to read this … at least not for yourself!

Next, I am going to further assume that the division you made was very easy for some body types and difficult for others. Morbidly obese = non-runner; looks like Ryan Hall = runner. But what about someone who looks like Kara Goucher but is 50 pounds overweight? Or someone who has short legs, awkward joints, but is thin and muscular? And when you got to the ‘toughest’ group, what divided them?

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Right around college graduation

Now to break it down further, select 5 people from each side. Five runners, five non-runners. Choose gender as you wish to break down the differences. At this point you should have a pretty distinct idea about who does and does not have a runner’s body – and what it is about YOU that puts you in the ‘NOT’ category.

But what if I said that ALL TEN of these people had just completed a marathon? Suddenly you would start reassessing your decisions. And if I further said that of these ten, four had ‘Boston Qualified’ … but only TWO from the ‘runner’s body’ side? Again your decision-making would be thrown into turmoil.

So … What is the Deal with the ‘Runner’s Body’?

For many of us who came to running not as a high school or college sport but as a purely optional activity later on in life, weight loss was at least part of the motivation. Perhaps overall fitness, but even in that case it generally starts with dissatisfaction over how we look.

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At a convention the summer before college senior year

As I mentioned before, I graduated high school at 275 pounds and college at 375 pounds … so it is a fairly safe assumption that I was very unhappy with how I looked and felt. As I also mentioned, for me running was all about weight loss and maintenance – and after that the ability to eat more or less whatever I wanted with few consequences. Well, other than the consequence of never really hitting my ‘ideal’ weight, and that when I stopped exercising the weight would gradually come back.

But for the last year or so my goals have been about speed, distance, and seeking constant improvement in my running as well as my diet and overall health and fitness. It might seem like the same thing, but in reality my outlook, priorities and goal system is very different than ever before. I concerned myself with running shoes (instead of whatever fit and felt decent and was less than $50 on sale at Foot Locker), running clothes, form, pace, and general tracking.

I also learned about looking at food as fuel. Again, it is something I have always known and my eating habits tend to be naturally pretty good, but I learned about losing weight by myself with the advice of others in the 80s and again when my wife was in Weight Watchers a decade later. And frankly, aside from ‘eat real food and avoid processed crap’, most of that stuff was wrong. So now I am properly fueling and eating more ‘superfoods’ and learning great (and not so great) new recipes every week.

To go along with it, I started caring more about my appearance. Whereas before I was happy running ~12 – 15 miles a week and being ‘thin’, now I am asking more of myself. Not just more mileage, but also more speed, variety, and overall fitness.

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Early in the 2012 weight loss process … still close to 250lbs

I lay this all out for a reason: for the first time in my life people are quick to assume I’m a runner – I have been told that I ‘look like a runner’ in some form many times this year. Before I would get a ‘oh, you’re a runner’ reaction that was not dismissive but also did not do much for my already crappy self-image. Now I will get comments like ‘you can save on car rentals by running to the plant’ from people I have never directly mentioned my running.

It is weird – because I certainly do not see a ‘runner’s body’ in the mirror. What is it that holds me back? It is pretty simple: I do not see myself as either small or thin. Let’s take those one at a time.

I do not see myself as small: look, I played on the high school football team for a year until a faulty set of pads combined with a well placed hit gave me a hairline fracture on my sternum. More importantly? I played on the line. I played intramural football throughout high school and college – always on the line, where I was a force to deal with. My waist is a 32, and I am not likely to ever be smaller than that. That is small – but not something likely to put me on target for a ~0.5 height to weight ratio typical of elite marathoners. So … I will always see myself as ‘big’.

I do not see myself as thin: part of weighing 375 pounds when I was 23 before I started losing weight is that there are remnants that will never fully go away. By remnants I mean ‘loose skin’. Yuk, I know. Also, having regained 50 pounds a couple of times and the 100 pounds I lost in 2012 means more ‘skin stretching time’. Basically at the top of my stomach I have a ‘six pack’, but by the bottom I have a small ‘spare tire’ that will never fully disappear. While I KNOW it is loose skin in my head, the ‘u r fat’ voices in there always manage to drown out that knowledge when I feel vulnerable.

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2013 Finish of PA Grand Canyon Marathon

So … I have a ‘Runner’s Body’, but I don’t.

And that is where the problem begins and ends – inside of my head. Because since I started running in 1989 I have been a runner – and I’ve had a runner’s body. And so do you. It might not be your ultimate goal weight or fitness level, and you might not have the arms or legs or butt or abs you would like. But you have a runner’s body.

Because you know what defines a runner’s body? The body that carries you through the miles of running.

2014 Half-Year Running Summary & Review

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Can you believe that we are already half way through 2014? Neither can I … but we are! We are already to the point where our days are getting shorter (but still hotter), which is just weird … but there it is.

Last year at this time I was doing loads of doubles because I was traveling every week to Kentucky, so I would alternate between work, Facetime home, and running morning and night. Overdoing it? Probably – but I came through it stronger and never got injured, which is good. This year I am home and really enjoying maximizing family time – which is easier when I am only working 5 miles from home again!

I wanted to talk about the second quarter (April – June), as well as a full half-year summary. Here are my thoughts on the last three months:

Running

Every now and then as a runner there is a ‘moment’ … and I had one as I was running the waterway in Houston, and on the last morning there were a lot of people out running – at least two dozen I saw over my 9 mile run. And you know what – I was running what I considered a fairly ‘easy’ pace … but I was the fastest one out running. Now don’t get me wrong – I am slower than most of the people reading this – and much slower than some!

But that moment put the ‘where I have come in two years’ thing into perspective for me. I am running a solid volume and at a pace that feels pretty good to me. Yay!

Racing

No races – I had hoped for one 5k and one 8k (5 mile) race, but neither worked out schedule-wise … and really? No stress! I look at it this way – Lisa’s work schedule this year has been brutal, so in the choice between some 5k and time with her? There is no choice.

My biggest issue is I had to skip one Ultra due to our vacation, and the OTHER one I was wait-listed for said we should hear by the 24th of June … yeah, nothing yet.

Weight

Last fall I had two doctors (primary and cardiologist) tell me that I am ‘not underweight … but don’t lose any more’. That was at 185 lbs. When I last looked I was at 180 … and I am pretty sure I have been hovering between 175-180. Oops. I am continuing to work on maintaining, but the reality is that I am running more, sweating more and my ‘daily activity’ level has increased – we go for walks, I look forward to mowing the lawn, and so on. As always … a work in progress.

Food & Eating

This past two years have been amazing, and I have continued to learn so much about food. This year in particular I have really made progress, and I am so appreciative to Laura and Michelle and Megan for all of their help and ideas and wisdom.

I have said that my cooking and eating tends to wander between Vegan and Paleo (with the occasional moster ice cream as shown yesterday, and of course plenty of wine) on a regular basis, and that works very well for the whole family.

I am really happy with my fueling and hydration … but I know I need to eat more to sustain my weight with my activity level.

Everything Else

I have been much happier with blogging than I was at the end of the first quarter, when I was clearly in a funk. I really love so many of you guys, and you inspire me in a million different ways. There are people from their early 20s up through their mid-50s I interact with, from pretty much every demographic I can imagine. It is just awesome.

My work life is continuing to go very well, with occasional annoyances but generally a rich and satisfying set of projects and great people to interact with every day.

And of course my family … they are my everything, as I so often say. The boys are really men at this point, and I was laughing with Lisa that I have no worries about the future because they are great kids and I love spending time with her.

Second Quarter Running Summary

Once again I decided to take my weekly summaries and chart them up. Here they are:

Miles Q2 2014

Overall I am very pleased with my second quarter. By the numbers:
– Total miles – 812 miles (713 miles Q1)
– Average weekly miles (55 Q1)
– Half-year total 1525 miles (on track to break 3000 miles)
– Longest run 23.5 miles
– Shortest run – 6.75 miles

I have kept up with ‘runs with purpose’ throughout the period, which were mostly brutal hills, but also some speed work. I have still not hit the track … but I will at some point this summer.

Again, considering my goals for the year included staying injury-free, breaking 2000 miles, and running a couple of races … I am doing well on the key items.

Third Quarter Goals

From now through the end of September, here is what I would like to do:
– Keep my weekly volume between 50-60 miles (I honestly think 65-75 is too much and don’t want to do something stupid)
– Hit the track for some speed drills at least once or twice
– Sign up for at least one race this year … regardless of distance.

How was your second quarter of running? How has the heat impacted your workouts? What plans do you have for the next few months?