Wednesday, October 30, 2013

There is no Magic Bullet

The other day, as I was walking through the corridors of the church building, I stopped and tightened my belt.  I have now officially graduated to the last notch, and before too long, a new belt might be in order.

This is not the first time I have come close to reaching such a milestone.  Several years ago, I came close to this, but I gained it all back.  My motivations were different back then, and once the motivation was gone, so was my drive to do things differently.

This time, I think things are different.

This time, I think I have the drive, desire, and motivation to keep things going.  At least I hope so.

You see, I share a lot in common with my dad.  He and I are cut from the same mold.  We have a very similar personality and thought process.  We have a very similar warped sense of humor.  We have a very similar, deep faith in God.  Physically, I am maybe an inch taller, but we share a very similar build.  We shared a love of playing sports in our youth, and we share a similar injury history as well.

Dad sustained a knee injury while playing football--luckily, it didn't require surgery.  I sustained injuries to both knees while playing football--neither needing surgery.

Dad's injury has come back to bite him in a big way.  It's been tough to watch.  For much of my youth, my dad seemed invincible.  His strength and endurance seemed unparalleled.  I didn't want to jack with him because of this.  He could out work me any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Nothing seemed to slow him down.

But age is finally doing that.  It is the great equalizer over time, and age has gotten my dad's knee in a painful way.  He simply can't do the things he used to do.  The last time we were down, he had to skip an outing with the family because he would never be able to walk the distance required.  My kids sorely missed him.  I did too.  I love watching my dad interact with my kids.  They adore him.  It's fun to see.

But I am cognitively aware of many things.  Not the least of these is the affect that carrying extra weight can have on one's joints over time, and while I certainly didn't look massively overweight, I was carrying at least 30 pounds too much.  With all the similarities I share with my father, I didn't want to share this one.  I didn't want to succumb to painful knees which limited my ability to work and play with my kids and hopefully grandkids.  And I also know that starting now is better than starting later.

Sometimes, the stars align just right, and we are given the tools we need without even asking for them.  Back in May, there was one day when highlighted a free app of the day.  It was Sparkpeople a "diet" and exercise app.  I downloaded it.

Looking it over, I studied it's capability.  There were several things which caught my attention: if you inputted your current weight and then inputted your goal weight and the time with which you wanted to achieve that weight, it would give you a calorie range per day to stay within.  It also allowed you to type in foods and figure out how many calories you were consuming.  It further allowed you to input your exercise routine and figure out how many calories you were burning.  The word which came to me was: accountability.

As I began using this app, I truly became accountable for how much I was eating and the amount of calories I was putting into my body.  Frankly, I was a bit shocked at how much I was taking in without even realizing it.  Personally, I did not change the things I ate, but the amounts that I actually ate.  Portion sizes became key.  Limiting the amount I ate at a particular time became key.  Spacing out the times where I ate and snacked became key.

I started exercising much more regularly as well.  I began with walking.  Just walking.

The weight started coming off.  I was pleased.

But, as with most things, a plateau was reached, and I stayed at it for quite some time.  I knew something had to give, and I gave up drinking sodas.  This was difficult since I love the taste of Dr. Pepper made with imperial cane sugar.  I budgeted 150 calories per day to have one of those puppy dogs.  I still miss them.

But I don't miss the weight.  It began coming off again.

Walking turned into intervals of walking and speed walking.  Soon, I added squats and push ups to the circuit.  Then I added jogging a couple of times.  Now, I'm doing intervals of walk, speed walk, and jog on a consistent basis with jumping jacks, squats, and push ups mixed in.

I'm only two pounds away from my goal.  As far as things are going, I might push a little more to see if I can get five more pounds below that.  If I am successful, I will have taken off 35 pounds.

And there was no magic bullet.  There was no magic formula.  There was and is pain.  There was and is hunger.  A church member asked me whether or not I was able to do this without being hungry.

"Not a chance," I said.

For me, the question comes down to whether or not one allows one's brain or one's impulses to be in charge.  One's impulses are strong.  They want to eat, to consume, to sit and rest and relax, to seek comfort and pleasure.  There is a part of society which tells us to give in to these impulses because then we will be really happy.  Maybe for the short term, such an assessment is correct.

But I see my dad limping.  I see that I could do the same in 20 years if I do not take steps now.

There's no magic bullet that will prevent this, but there is watching how much I eat.  There is making sure I exercise and stay active.  There is telling my stomach "no" when it wants me to indulge.  "How many calories is in this, and how many do I have to spend?" is my constant question.  Enduring a few hunger pangs and sore muscles is the price I must pay, and hopefully my knees will not cause me grief.  Hopefully, I will be able to have plenty of movement to have fewer limitations when dealing with my children and grandchildren.  And hopefully, I will need a new belt.

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