Things have gone horribly wrong…
I kid, I kid.
Ok, I took another hiccup. Not just a blogging hiccup, but an overall hiccup. I’ve been eating poorly (or really well, if you’re talking about the quality of the food I’ve been eating), I’ve been exercising sparingly, I’ve been doubting often, I’ve lost my streak on Myfitnesspal.com, and I even had to raid my incentive fund due to unexpected financial problems (read: too much fun, not enough money). BUT, all is not lost. I’m still down from my starting weight, I’m still paying dues at Qi, and I haven’t completely cleaned out the incentive fund – and I am on pace to have all of the money in there when it needs to be.
Rather than a typical update with my stats and rundown of what I’ve been up to, I’m going to use this post to talk about the struggles and difficulties I’ve had so far. I’m 2.5 months into this 5 month challenge – the key to success is making the last half as good as the first half. Let’s dive right in…
Regular readers of phillipholland.com are already familiar with my recent shoulder injury. Regular friends of Phillip Holland also know that I have a bum knee, tore the cartilage in my chest last year snowboarding, have a family history of arthritis, and that I get shin splints often. None of these injuries are life threatening, none are even fitness threatening, but they all affect my exercise in one way or another. In sports, there is a fine line between a game-delaying and a game-ending injury. Often times you’ll get the wind knocked out of you, or twist an ankle, or tweak your shoulder – all injuries that might require a stoppage of physical activity. The question most athletes ask is “When can I go back in Doc?”, and rightfully so. The doctor, of course, is stuck between a rock and a hard place – you can tell how much the athlete wants to play the game, but you don’t want him to risk further injury by playing injured. The right answer, in all circumstances, is to err on the side of caution – better to play the next 10 years of your life, than to risk it all for today’s game. For the solo weight-loss adventurer, the decision is the same, but it is clouded by your own (often wrong) judgement of your injuries.
For example, both my chest injury and my knee injury came from snowboarding. I love to snowboard. I live in Colorado – possibly the easiest and cheapest place to snowboard on the entire planet. But still, even with the relatively cheap season passes and nearby resorts, you never want to end your day of snowboarding early. In both cases, I fought against my better judgement and trudged on. With my knee, I twisted it landing a jump, but felt like it wasn’t bad enough to worry about. It was near the end of the day, and I used the common mountain line: “Nothin’ a beer and some time in the hot tub can’t fix.” A few days later, the pain was lingering, but fading. I never went to the doctor. Years later, this pain still bothers me. It’s nothing life-altering, but every so often things don’t feel great in my right knee. Again, with my chest injury, I tried to shake it off. While the knee injury came late in the day, my chest injury happened on the first run of what was supposed to be a great day. This time I used an even lamer line: “I’m fine, I just need a minute to catch my breath.” Protip – if anybody ever says that to you, they are more than likely in significant pain, and almost certainly around people that they don’t like to see them in pain. I struggled to make it down the mountain, and by the time I drove by to the condo, I was in so much pain I was getting sick. After collapsing on the floor for a few minutes and downing some Advil, I managed to drive back home. I had 2 sleepless nights of constant pain and intermittent crying, so I decided that it was time to see a doctor. For those of you that have had chest injuries, you know the news I got: “Yep, you screwed up your chest, but there isn’t anything we can do about it. Take some Advil and be a man, the pain will go away in 4-6 weeks.” GREAT. I did as the doctor said, and sure enough, the pain eventually went away and I feel fine now.
Take those three major injuries in my recent history – shoulder, knee, and chest – and things don’t look so rosy. You use your knees for everything lower-body, you use your shoulders or chest for everything upper body. A more complacent man than me would simply give up – my body is broke, it’s time to settle into a sedentary life. And sure, those thoughts and feelings wash over me from time to time. When I’m doing the shoulder press, and I’m maxing out at 30 lbs, I sometimes feel like my shoulders are just destined to be weak. When I try to do lunges and fall to the ground because my knee shrieks out in pain, I start to feel like maybe I need to limit my lower body workouts. When I get hit in the chest playing basketball, or fall snowboarding, a part of me thinks that it’s time to leave the sports behind. But, in all of these cases, a little voice in my head reminds me: YOU’RE ONLY 29 YEARS OLD.
At 29, you don’t quit. At 29, you don’t give in to pain. At 29, you’re smart enough to cut back on exercise when injury necessitates it, but strong enough to hit the weights again when your body is ready. At 29, you don’t start putting limits on yourself. Sure, if you have a genuine reason to abstain from some sort of physical activity, then exercise restraint. But at 29, it’s gonna have to be damn near amputation for me to stop. At 29, I can and should be in the best shape of my life. Maybe, when I get around to being 80 or so, I can think about quitting. At 29, you don’t quit.
With my shoulder injury, I feel like I made the right moves: Iced the affected area right away, saw a doctor right asap (got lucky that it popped back in), followed all of my doctor’s rehabilitation exercises, and eased my way back into things. I’m now lifting just below the weight I was at when I hurt it. It is likely that over the course of the rest of this challenge, I may get injured again. No worries – I’ll just take my doctor’s advice, and follow it as prescribed. At 29, the only thing that should stop me is death – if you could keep your fingers crossed all the time for me, hopefully I’ll be able to avoid that for awhile.
Oh, the common excuse. “Everybody was ordering hamburgers, so I got one too.” “I was hanging with the guys, so what if I had a few too many?” “It was her birthday, I HAD to have a piece of cake.” Or my favorite, “I just didn’t have time to eat a healthy meal.”
Notice, these are not good reasons, they are common excuses. Absolutely none of them are non-negotiable. Friends ordering burgers? Order a veggie wrap and a salad. Everyone pounding beers? Alternate some water with your beers, you’ll drink dramatically less. Everyone eating cake? Take a tiny slice, or be strong and just say “No thanks.” (trust me, everyone else will be so entranced by their piece of sugar and air that they won’t really care) Running out of time? Even McDonalds has healthy options these days, and there is a grocery store nearby.
My point is that when we stumble due to “outside influences”, it really has nothing to do with those influences. It has to do with ourselves. Sure, your buddies might rib you a little bit when you order a salad instead of wings and a burger – are you really so concerned about how your friends feel about you that you’ll let them have dominion over your food choices? Maybe it’s harder than that – say you’re at a family dinner, and everyone is filling their plates to the brim. Must you do the same? Of course not! As a general rule, I do not turn down food that is offered to me, as I see it as a generous gift. But that doesn’t mean you must stuff yourself just to make your hosts happy. In most cases, they invited you because they enjoy your company – not because they needed an entrée vacuum. It is both polite and reasonable to request a small portion, especially if doing so allows you to finish your plate and compliment the chef. Indeed, having a smaller plate at a social function can be doubly beneficial: you’ll eat less, and probably eat slower so you don’t have to sit around with an empty plate.
Peer pressure is simply that: pressure. It might make you momentarily uncomfortable, but it is not insurmountable. I’ve certainly fallen victim to it of late: Big steak dinner (I gave in, had the steak, and well, it was delicious), Nuggets games with my brother (“You get this round, I’ll get the next 20), stopping for fast food (Sure, we can get you an egg Mcmuffin, eh, I might as well have one too, no time to get breakfast), etc. These things will happen. The important part is to not let them happen over and over. We all slip up, and unless all of your friends and family are trying to lose weight as well, the pressure to slip up is often more than the pressure to toe the line. As they say, just saddle up, and go at it again.
I contemplated calling this section Motivation, or Commitment, or Staying-the-course. It’s kind of all of those and more. This challenge was not put upon me. It is not something I have to do. In fact, while most friends were supportive, some were even against the idea. This is a self-chosen path, and the only person it impresses is me (and maybe, hopefully, cross-your-fingers…it also impresses all the single ladies of Denver). I won’t lose anything beyond the $1000 if I fail, and no one even has to know. So no outside motivation is provided. This is all on my shoulders, as it should be. Your health is your business, and it is up to you to make something of it. All of that being said, sometimes it is hard to stay motivated for yourself.
I’m not a total wreck – I didn’t start this challenge at 820 pounds. I’m not trying to get down to 110 pounds. I’m trying to go from a slightly overweight 203.4 to a fairly healthy 180. In fact, the modesty of this goal makes it hard to maintain momentum at times. No one shouts at me on the street, no one makes fun of me when I’m eating, no one would likely notice if my weight fluctuates by 10 pounds in either direction. The struggle is making sure YOU know that you’re making progress, and that you’re awesome for doing so.
I recently had a bout of the “give-ups”. I thought about how many RSS subscribers I have (5 not including myself), and whether I could get away with not telling them if I gave up. I thought about my facebook friends – they probably don’t even remember that I’m doing this. I thought about the google cache of my site – can I get rid of that? I thought about my body – is 203.4 really that bad of a weight? But I came back from this brink, and am refocusing for the final 2.5 months of this challenge.
What brought me back? Me, and only me. I didn’t ask advice, I didn’t seek knowledge, I didn’t list the pros and cons on a sheet of paper. All I did was review my blog posts. Remember the enthusiasm I had in the beginning? Remember how I’d go shopping, so I’d have a whole week of good, healthy food available to me? Yes, of course I do. Remember the joy I had when the scale was under 200? Recently, I had an unofficial weigh-in of 189.4. For some reason, it didn’t feel as good as 199. I think it was because I wasn’t trying. Sure, I might have lost a couple of extra pounds by just being lazy and not eating too much, but I wasn’t making progress in my mind. Reading my old posts brought back that feeling – the reason why I’m doing this. The money is an incentive. The reasons are very real. It’s my goal, and I intend to achieve it.
Captain Cynicism says, “Sure, you “refocus” on your “goals” huh? What are you actually going to do?” The good news is, all I have to do is what I’ve already been doing. I fell off in the last few weeks in three areas: diet, exercise, and writing about it. The answer is simple: resume counting calories and hitting my goals, get back to the gym 3X week or more, and maintain my posting schedule. No really, it’s that easy. So tomorrow I’ll have a healthy breakfast, take a salad into work for lunch, have a mild dinner, after I get back from the gym. Sunday, I’ll weigh in and figure out how I feel about it. Seriously, simple. See ya then.