Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Too good to be true

In my second post, I mentioned that I had pretty much stayed around 235 lbs for the last seven years or so. I also mentioned that I was going to run with the magic starting number of 235 since I wasn't about to risk waking my girls up to go dig our scale out of the linen closet which happens to be in their room. Well, tonight I finally got around to digging out the scale and I weighed myself.
I wasn't sure at first if the scale was broken or my first ten days of this health challenge had been extremely productive. I say that because the scale said 217 lbs. I know there is no way I lost anywhere near 18 pounds in ten days. Then I remembered I had a physical last month. Thanks to the online medical chart, I was able to see what I weighed in at in the medical clinic. (It was 219 lbs.) So, back in the real world, I've only lost 2 pounds in the last month. To me, that means absolutely nothing since I would imagine my weight fluctuates a few pounds back and forth anyway.

Even starting with a faulty number, I am still encouraged by this finding. For starters, it will be a lot easier to meet my initial goal of getting under 200 lbs. I also now have the added mental boost of realizing that I'm not as far away from my target goal as I originally thought. I am going to use this little boost to fuel my desire to stay on track to meet my goals. I am fully aware that I didn't really do anything to get to this point, but it does help with the overall mental game when the finish line gets moved so much closer. Until next time....

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Something to chew on

My goal for week two on my path to healthier living is the one I think will be the most difficult for me. I have been using chewing tobacco off and on (more on than off) for the past 20 years. I have "quit" a number of times in the past, but it never stuck....obviously. I have done a lot of thinking about how I want to go about quitting for the last time and I am optimistic about my success this time.

My biggest concern is obviously outright failure, but a close second is figuring out what will take its place. I've heard from a number of sources that giving up one addiction often gets replaced with another. For me, it has always been food. Considering a major part of my health improvement is cutting back on the amount of food I eat, this is a major concern for me. The part that keeps me optimistic is that my reduced portions this past week hasn't been a big deal so far. The other advantage I have this time around is that I am already making a conscious effort to control what I eat. That was not the case in the past. I replaced tobacco with food, but didn't really notice or care because I wasn't focusing on my weight at the time.

One method that has worked for me in the past is nicotine gum. The gum provided me with enough nicotine to get me past the withdrawal issues related to the addiction. It also helped with the habit of having a chew tucked in my lip. The downside is that I would start gnawing on that piece of gum and get a sore jaw. You can laugh at that lame excuse....I know I have. But in all honesty, I didn't care enough about quitting in the past to push through it. I DO care enough this time around.

I keep getting this nagging feeling that the "small steps at a time" method I am using to improve my health feels like I'm not going all in. Since it has been working so far, I am going to stick with it. I only mention this because Phase One of my tobacco quitting goal is actually to change the type of tobacco I'm chewing. It may not mean anything to those of you not dumb enough to chew tobacco in the first place, but I am trying to set myself up for success.

My goal this week is to stop using the regular Kodiak chew that I have used for 20 years and switch to their pouches. (This transition starts tonight because I have used the last of the regular Kodiak.) The pouches are like miniature tea bags filled with tobacco. The reason I'm using this as a transition is because each pouch is less than half the amount of tobacco I would otherwise be putting in my lip with the regular loose tobacco. It will help me step down my use, ease the transition and help break the addiction.

Unlike my other goals, I am setting an actual timeline on this one. My goal is to be completely tobacco free by the end of this week. Once this step is complete, I will switch to the nicotine gum if it's necessary at that point. Since I can't see myself sticking with the gum for all that long, I intend to be done with all tobacco and nicotine in under two weeks. We'll just have to see how well I manage to keep my "withdrawal attitude" in check this week. Until next time....

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Earth Day - by Ziva

I have mentioned a number of times that much of the content for my blog posts come from something one of my daughters said or did. This post is written (almost entirely) by Ziva, my six year old daughter. I realize her spelling is about as good as mine, but I will still add a little translation to each of her slides. (She is more of a write-on-paper kind of gal so I had her write her blog and then scanned each page for posting.) Well, without further delay, here is the Earth Day submission by my guest blogger, Ziva:

TRANSLATION: We can help by keeping our community clean.

TRANSLATION: We can make a day when everybody gets together and picks up trash.

TRANSLATION: ...and by picking up sticks and by raking.

TRANSLATION: And this is how we will keep our community clean.

TRANSLATION: Until next time....

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cheerios are my friend

I am nearing the end of the first week of my health improvement adventure and everything is going as planned so far. Since I am easing my way into this change, I didn't really expect week one to be all that terrible. The only real change I made this week so far was food related which involved adding breakfast (something I have not eaten regularly in ages) and reducing my portions at my other meals. I still have a little work to do on the portion control. My only real surprise this week was my regained, childhood love of Cheerios.

Cheerios have proven their value on a great many occasions throughout my life. I'm fairly certain it was one of the first solid foods I ever ate. I know it was the first for my own girls. I also recall Cheerios being tossed in the toilet for target practice when I was first learning to control my aim as a toddler. They were the most popular breakfast cereal when I was a kid, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was because they were cheaper than the "fun" cereals.

Now that I'm a big boy (in more ways than one), Cheerios have made a comeback in the form of my new go-to snack. Not only are they better than the usual junk I would snack on, they're also beneficial for my goal of lowering my cholesterol. It's also kind of fun sitting on the living room floor with my girls watching tv and each of us eating dry cereal out of our own little bowls. Of course, now I can't go directly to blaming them when I find Cheerios under the couch cushions.

I'm taking note of the little things that help me out on my path to a healthier life. I never would have guessed that the little thing that I would be so excited about this week was as small as a Cheerio. I can't wait to see what it will be next week. Until next time....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blade fascination

Ever since I was a kid, I have had a fascination with blades of all kinds. I'm pretty sure it's a normal fascination that most boys have and carry into adulthood. At least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself. I am ashamed to say I have been without a knife the last two times I could have used one. It's not like I was getting jumped in a back alley or anything...just your typical "I need to get this thing opened" kind of situation. Ironically, when I make it a point to have a knife on me for weeks on end, I never seem to need it. I guess it's a lot like a gun though - it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Great, now I want to get another gun....

I remember my first knife like it was yesterday. My second cousin gave it to me when I was about eight or nine years old. I was old enough that my parents let me accept the gift, but young enough that they kept possession of it when I didn't need it. That first day, I pleaded with my mom to let me play with my knife. She said it was ok, but "BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT YOURSELF." Really mom? Who do you think I am? ......five minutes later, I was bleeding. It was awesome!

The different types of blades I've had over the years have varied greatly. I've had all kinds of folders, boot knives, survival knives and machetes. I've had a lot of fun with throwing knives and even throwing stars. I've spent plenty of time behind the old fashioned scythe that my dad had around the house. The Marine Corps even gave me the opportunity to get plenty of time with a K-bar and bayonet. In all my years though, I have never owned a sword. If I had a little more money growing on the tree out back, I would go buy a sword merely for the sake of owning one.

I think my desire for a sword started with Star Wars. I, just like every single one of my friends, dreamed of being a lightsaber-wielding Jedi Knight. I think we are all more than a little disappointed that the real-deal lightsaber STILL doesn't exist. What's going on with that? It's been more than 30 years and nobody has developed a real lightsaber yet?!?!

When I was in college, I got hooked on the tv show Highlander. (Laugh if you must.) It started out as my best tv viewing option when I went home for lunch between classes. Next thing you know, I'm watching every episode and wondering how I could justify learning to wield a sword. Over the years, I have continued to be fascinated by shows and movies like Shogun, The Last Samurai, and countless shows with medieval knights who never seem to run short on adversaries to battle.

I can still dream about having my very own sword, but I don't see it happening any time soon. In all reality, a fully functional lightsaber will probably be available by the time I figure out how to justify buying a sword. For now, I guess I will just have to continue to peruse Netflix for more sword-fighting heroes whether they be the good, old fashioned steel or glowing energy blades. Until next time....

Support from everyone

Support from others is vital to successfully reaching your goals. Technically, I guess that's not true of EVERY goal, but it is true more often than not. Attempting to achieve your goals without any help from others can quickly go from being a valiant effort on your part to a tragic failure that only you are responsible for. I am not surprised by the amount of support I have received while setting my personal health goals. My friends and family have always been very supportive.

I don't mean to jump the gun on thanking everyone for helping me since I am just getting started, but I wanted to say something. Think of this as me showing appreciation for the people who have already given me words of encouragement and suggestions to help me succeed and a proactive thanks to those who will. I want to highlight three examples of support I have received in the last 24 hours alone. These are by no means in order of importance and are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the support I have received.

The practical support
My sister was the first one to offer me a suggestion, along with words of encouragement, to help me get started. I mentioned that I have never really enjoyed running, and being the runner she is, she gave me a simple, yet useful, suggestion. Walk until you can run. (I paraphrased a little, but I think she'll be ok with that. - I like to read more into things than what is always there.) My main reason for not starting out running right now (besides not liking it) is that my knees aren't the greatest and with my extra weight right now, I know my knees would hate me for it.

Walking is very low impact on the joints (that's nearly a word-for-word quote from my sister) and it is still very good for the cardio side of my health concerns. The "walk before you run" part had added meaning to me because I am taking this in small steps. I know myself and that for me to stay engaged with this process, I need to start simple and work my way up. The nice weather is upon us and I like the idea of being able to get some outside exercise. Walking is a no stress, no pain way to ease into it.

The unintentional support
This example will include a "little" example of my horrible portion control with food that I mentioned in an earlier post. Fajitas and burritos are a popular meal in our household. The question I always get asked while Sarah is preparing these meals is, "two shells or three?" I have always been a three shell guy. I almost always decide (after I've eaten three fajitas or burritos) that two would have been fine. Too late. Well, tonight I said "two shells." After my wife regained consciousness, we gathered around the table to enjoy our meal.

It was then (fortunately for my will power - too late to change my mind) that I realized the shells were a lot smaller than our usual shells. So, not only did I have two burritos rather than three, they were also smaller than the usual burritos. I know it probably doesn't seem like much, but it's a step in the right direction. The part I liked is that I was still full after "only" two burritos. My wife's decision to buy tortilla shells from a different store unintentionally helped me cut back a little more than I was aiming....and that's a good thing.

Support from my youngest
This example also occurred tonight at supper - less than a minute after my decision to go with two burritos rather than three. As we were gathering around the dinner table, I overheard my youngest daughter saying, "Daddy has a huge belly." I thought it was funny that she would make a statement like that at the same time I'm actually starting to make an effort at correcting the "huge belly" issue.

She proceeded to say that my belly was "so big - even bigger than hers." Well, that's probably a good thing since my four year old daughter is pretty tiny. I realized that she wasn't trying to be mean, but rather making an innocent observation and statement of comparative analysis. (I bet you didn't know a four year old could do that.) So, once I realized she wasn't actually insulting me, I wiped the tears from my eyes and moved on. Ok, so I wasn't really crying and my feelings weren't really hurt. In fact, it's pretty hard to hurt my feelings. (My wife is also a little disappointed that she's only seen me cry once during our marriage.) My daughter's observation served as encouragement that I'm taking the right action - even if it is a bit later than I should have started.

I will end this by saying thank you for the support thus far and I am looking forward to seeing what ideas, comments and suggestions come as I continue my journey. Until next time....

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ready. Set. Go!

Let's get this thing started! In my little introductory blog post, I mentioned that I would be laying out my plan, setting some goals, getting some starting measurements, so on and so forth... Well, here's my current state of wellness and a brief overview (for now) of how I plan to change it.
Weight is probably the easiest standard of measurement I can look at, but also the most useless in my opinion. I have never really concerned myself with weight in the past because between my USMC activities and the decade I spent working in the tree care industry, I have carried a lot of muscle mass making overall weight misleading as a general guideline. High muscle mass is not really a "problem" I have these days.

I remembered the Marine Corps height and weight chart used to have me, at 73" tall, having a max weight guideline of 203 lbs. A quick Google search tells me that the max number is now 208 lbs. for my height. Either my memory is failing me or the Marine Corps allows for more muscle these days. Since I am far from being at my peak for muscle mass, my intention is to get below 200 lbs. I have somehow managed to stay within five pounds of 235 for most of the last year. My goal, remembering that weight only means so much to me, is to shed 40 lbs. for starters.

Waist/belly measurement is what I am going to pay more attention to. The measurements I took today tell me I am 40" at my belt level and 44" at my belly button level. Don't ask me how my size 38 waist jeans are loose?!? I recently read an article that said a good rule of thumb for people striving to fight heart disease and diabetes should keep their waist measurement less than half their height in inches. Using that guideline, I should be less than 36.5" at my waist. Considering my gut instinct (pun completely intended) was to shoot for 34" waist, I am going to stick with that. Ten inches off my belly sounds challenging but doable - two qualities I like in a goal.

Diet has always been the hard one for me. I love food! The hard part is that I love lots of food....and I want it now! I am completely aware of where this part of my challenge originated. My mom was an amazing cook and she always cooked for a dozen people. The problem is that we only had five people at the dinner table. Add my love for eating with the "eat it now - taste it later" mentality I learned in the Marine Corps and you have a weight gaining formula that can't fail. In the end though, it's completely my own fault that I have horrible portion control. I can't remember the last time I said "my eyes were bigger than my stomach." ....mostly because my stomach has grown so much. My inhalation of food hasn't helped any since I have already stuffed myself way past what I should have eaten before my stomach has a chance to tell my brain that I'm full (or even content).

Exercise has never been one of my favorite ways to spend my time. I got away with it in the past because I have had a number of jobs that involved physical labor that provided plenty of natural exercise. Climb trees for ten hours a day in the middle of a Texas summer and you'll know what I'm talking about. As I've gotten older and changed careers, my physical activity has also dropped considerably. Yard work only does so much and it's not like I can mow the lawn or shovel snow every other day. I will get more natural activity as my daughters are more mobile with their bikes now, but I don't think that will be enough to make real progress. This part of my goal will be a work in progress as I develop a plan that I will actually stick to.

It Works products are a big part of the reason I am kicking this into gear. My wife has been selling their health products for over a year now and I think some of her ramblings are starting to rub off on me. I have been drinking their Greens (almost) every morning for the past couple of months and I have enjoyed being able to get eight servings of vegetables in a quick drink in the morning. I don't currently get the boost of energy that she gets from Greens, but I currently consume more caffeine in a day than she does. (Another change I intend to make.) I'm hoping that if I play my cards right, she might cut me a deal on some It Works Wraps to kick start my detox and waist line reduction. (I did a couple of wraps when she first started and was amazed to drop two inches on my waistline literally overnight.) The problem is that I went right back to eating like a sow and put them right back.

In summary, I intend to lose 40 pounds and drop 10 inches off my belly. I am going to take it a step at a time, starting with what I eat (healthier  choices) and how much I eat (portion control). I have also started eating breakfast again for the first time in....forever. Apparently, breakfast is the most important meal of the day?!? I am starting out with oatmeal and grapefruit because of their benefits for lowering cholesterol (a challenge I mentioned in my first post). My intention on the exercise front is to buy a bike. Not only will it make bike riding more enjoyable with my daughters, it is also an exercise that I can enjoy on my own. Enjoying the exercise is something I desperately need if I have a chance of sticking to it. (I never enjoyed case you're wondering why I'm skipping the obvious.)

I have a handful of other things that I intend to change along the way, but I don't want to bore you too much in one post. I will continue to add "mini-goals" along the way. I'm excited to see how this plays out. Notice I have not given myself a timeline. I'm not sure if that's good or bad?? I really have no idea how fast or slow this process is going to be and I wanted to focus on sticking to my plans rather than feeling like I'm trying to beat a clock. Stay tuned for my updates and feel free to post any comments or suggestions you may have along the way. Until next time....

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Does my face make me look fat?

This year just keeps pointing out things to remind me that I am truly getting older. I didn't think all that much about the fact that I turned 40 this year. I couldn't care less that I keep sprouting more and more grey hairs every year. I wasn't even all that concerned about not having six-pack abs. The things that are getting my attention are my high blood pressure and, more recently, borderline cholesterol levels. It's starting to look like my wife has been right these past eight plus years when she kindly reminded me that I should take better care of my health.
I have decided that I am going to actually make a real effort to improve my health so that I can shed a few pounds and hopefully lower my blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I know my wife would kill me if I had a heart attack while running along with my daughter while she's riding her bike. It would kind of be like being shot and then hanged, but either way, I know she wouldn't be happy with me.

Making a change to my health habits has actually been on my radar for a while now. Something about having a wife and a couple of kids will tend to do that to you. I would have started a few months ago, but I really hate being one of those people who makes a New Year's resolution just to forget about it a few weeks later. (I don't really like New Year's resolutions at all.) Well, since we are now half way through April, I shouldn't have to worry about this new drive for improved health failing because of that.

I have learned with other things in my life that my rate of success improves dramatically when I hold myself accountable for results. I don't mean personally holding myself accountable - because that's only so good. I'm talking about setting the goal and then telling others what I have planned. Making my goals public (I've never made them as public as a blog before) means that anyone and everyone is likely to ask me about my progress.

Well, I took it a step further this time. I started another standalone blog to track myself. In reality, I was just chomping at the bit to find another outlet for writing and if it helps me achieve my goal - so be it. If you don't feel like you're getting to read enough of my ramblings, check out my other blog, Hubby Health. You can use the link in the previous sentence or click on the link located on the sidebar at my Average Jester page. (Just in case you decide to check it out later.)

I won't ramble on here any longer...since you now know where to go if you want to read more about my progress towards meeting my health goals. Until next time....

Hubby, not Tubby

I have decided it's time to start taking back control of my health. As the title to this post states, I would rather be referred to as Hubby than remembered as Tubby. The photo on the top-left is from our wedding day in 2006. Looking back, it still amazes me that I didn't notice I had put on that much weight or that my face had gotten that round. Moving forward to about 2013, you will see in the photo top-right that my face has thinned out a bit, but I still have the round belly. That little bit of positive progression was completely because of my wife's assistance and reminders that she wanted me to be healthy and, in all reality, live long enough to enjoy our marriage.

For those of you who don't know me, I spent six years in the Marine Corps in my younger days. That obviously included quite a bit of exercise and a better discipline in regards to fitness and healthy living. Although I never had "six-pack abs", I was surprised how quickly I escalated to having a "keg" where my abs should be. It hadn't really bothered me all that much over the years, but my thoughts on the matter slowly started changing as I turned 40 last year.

Hitting the big 4-0 didn't really phase me so much in terms of the years as much as the things that have changed in the last decade. Ten years ago, I was a single man living on a beautiful piece of land in East Texas. Fishing in my pond while grilling something for supper and drinking a few beers was my only real concern. Now though, I have a wife who wants to keep me around and two little girls who (usually) feel the same. Add to that the fact that I have been medicated for high blood pressure for the better part of the last decade and have recently tested to have an "above normal" cholesterol reading. (I'm a few points past the max normal range. Nothing horrendous, but a sign it's time for a change.)

Another big factor to my recent decision to make a more dedicated effort at improving my health is that my girls are just plain too fast these days. My older daughter has done away with training wheels on her bike and until I go out and buy a bike for myself, I will be running. Considering the little run I had with her the other day wiped me out, I need a change. (For the record - the run was a shade under 3/4 of a mile. I found that sad even though I haven't run in over 15 years.)

In an effort to hold myself accountable for my own results, I am going to use this blog to track my progress. My next post will outline my plan of attack including my starting "measurements" and the goals I set. For now, I will start making a list and see what input my wife has to add. She is FAR more up to speed on these things than I am anymore. Plus, as an Independent Distributor of It Works health products, she may have a trick or two up her sleeve. Until next time....

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Do Not Copy Me

One of these days I am going to count how many times I hear the phrase "don't copy me" spoken from one of my daughters to the other. It can be anything from the "outrage" of wanting to play with the same toy to a full blown game of repeating everything the other says. It's a timeless battle between siblings that I myself am guilty of having with my sisters as well.

It has been fun watching the subtle changes in how my girls interact with each other. Each of them seems to have aged about 3 years during this school year so far. Although their copy games continue, I have begun to notice a shift in how Ziva views being copied by her little sister. I don't know if it's the first year of kindergarten opening her eyes to the teaching-learning process or just the fact that she's growing up.

She has started pointing things out to me that Siri does to copy her, but in more of a "look what she learned from me" way. It is true. Her little sister wants to do everything that she sees her big sister doing. I've been trying to use that to my advantage with mixed results. The up side to this is that I had Siri attempting to ride her bike without training wheels today...a full two years ahead of schedule for when Ziva learned. Her urge to do whatever Ziva does may be part of the reason that Siri is more adventurous and daring that Ziva. Of course, that also means she'll probably be the first one of them to break a bone while being adventurous. Time will tell.

The down side to this is that Siri is also learning all the sneaky, troublesome, back-talking activities much faster than Ziva did. Fortunately for my wife and I, Ziva acts like the teacher in terms of correcting Siri for her wrongdoings as well. (Ziva would comment on the sarcasm here.) There is a little silver lining to this though. Telling Ziva that she needs to set a good example for her sister actually works from time to time now. Being able to see for herself that her actions are mimicked by her little sister has helped her grow up and watch her own actions....a little bit.

Then again, Ziva does have some strong leadership qualities in her. They may lean a little to the side of her just wanting to do what she wants to do and then finding a way to convince (or coerce) someone else to agree. The down side for my wife and I is that Ziva is getting pretty good a leading the kid rebellion in our house as well. I will give her credit though (if she's not within earshot), she knows how to get her sister riled up and working in tandem with her when she wants to throw a fit.

Well, nobody's perfect. For now, I am just going to enjoy (while strangely being a little sad) that my little girls are growing up into their own little personalities. Although those personalities may not always seem very little, they are a never-ending source of pride (and fear) for me. Since I can rarely predict what's coming next, I'm just gonna "keep on keeping on." Until next time....

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sarcasm and the 6 year old

This past week has been a lot of fun. (There might be a little sarcasm in there.) My youngest daughter started it out with a double ear infection and all the coughing, hacking and drooling goodness that comes with it. The tired, crabby attitude was just a bonus. My six year old started getting sick Friday night and now officially has pneumonia. My bonus out of this is that I am now getting sick. I'm hoping it's pneumonia because I'm used to that and it's always a lot of fun. Since I knew we were going to have a really pleasant week or two as we passed various illnesses around the house, I thought I'd have some fun with it.

I decided to teach my six year old daughter the finer points of sarcasm. (I knew that I'd be throwing a lot of it around this week.) After a week of working on it, she has become very good at identifying sarcasm. You would think that would be easy considering more than half the things I say around the house are sarcastic, so she has plenty of examples to learn from. There are a couple of problems that popped up during this week of "education."

Apparently, sarcasm isn't as simple and straight forward to a kindergartner as it is to an adult. Who would have guessed?? I quickly learned that helping her identify sarcastic statements was the place to start. She can now see a sarcastic comment coming from a mile away. That in itself brings problem number one into play. My wife and I can no longer use sarcasm to hide our dislike of certain activities around the house. I guess that just means she's going to get a little lesson on brutal honesty while we're at it. I do have to be careful right now while she's sick though. Telling her that "this is going to be a really fun night" while she's throwing up doesn't really go over so well now that she understands sarcasm.

Although she has become very good at identifying sarcasm, her ability to make sarcastic comments is still a little lacking. Her first attempts at sarcasm started out as a "fun way to tell a lie." Making lie telling fun was certainly not my intent, so I made sure to tweak that right away. She has now progressed to telling half truths - which is a step in the right direction, but still not quite right. She has the sense of humor of someone much older than her, so I am excited to see what happens as she grows into her sarcastic abilities.

For now though, I am going to hit the sack. Like I said before, I am really looking forward to finding out that I have pneumonia and I want to be well rested when I do find out. Until next time....