Sunday, July 11, 2021

Thirtysomething (Down)

It feels like a fluke, a mirage, but I've just blown past losing 30 pounds! As of this morning I'm down nearly 35 lbs since starting this whole Noom thing. That is over 11 percent of my initial bodyweight in two and a half months. Okay, maybe not my initial bodyweight (7lbs, 6oz if I recall), but my initial weight since starting on the app.

To put that in perspective I have removed roughly the equivalent of eight - 2 liters of soda/pop/Coke from my person. Part of me wonders where a lot of it all came off of me from. I'm getting the impression that it's little bits from here and there: a little thinner in the face, definitely got some good leg tone going :), and just slimming gradually everywhere in between. More than just the weight, I'm now fitting comfortably into some of the clothes I had put away for "when I thin down again". Shirts don't ride up my tummy or feel quite so short at my waist. I'm even thinking of mothballing some of my larger pairs of pants as they have just gotten too baggy and fall from my waist without cinching up a belt. 



Along with the trim-ness, I'm finding more energy for running, exercise and general day-to-day living. I've started opening up the distance while quickening the pace. I'll never be a marathoner or even a half marathoner, largely out of just not having the desire and my dislike of leg and uh "other" chaffing, but I'm happy to keep improving my 2 mile, 5K and maybe even 10K capabilities.  (Note: I just took a brief pause to look up upcoming 5K races...). 

All the fitness talk aside, it's important to bear in mind that the real nucleus of the success to date has been the change in eating. Really I've just been paying more attention to what I'm putting into my body. Believe me, I'm far from perfect at only eating good stuff and I am still rather bad at planning meals away from work and when I don't have my kids. BUT my house is filled with better foods to pick from, namely a lot of cut up fruits and veggies, frozen veggies for steaming (I do indulge in some yummy sauces on these).



The ultimate goal is to turn the closely self-monitored (with the help of the app) food choices into true habits. The keystone habit I really need to develop is planning. Weekly planning of meals for the work week is the place to chip-away at first on account of the predictability of these times. In fact, foods during the work day is fairly well established; it's just a matter of enough repetition to "lock-in" the behavior. 

Dinner for those days needs a better solution/more planning. I'm still finding myself aimlessly grazing after work, although it's currently on healthier things. As with having options ready to go at work, it seems ready to go at home is also the way to do it. Perhaps cooking up a bit of food and containering or just doing the same thing I do at work: frozen Healthy Choice power bowls? The answer is more likely somewhere in between. I'm pretty good with straightforward meals when my kids are with me. I may just have to expand upon those options.



The next step is likely to work on the "normal" weekends. The ones where I'm at home for the most part. These could follow the work day pattern. The first part of the day isn't too different: coffee, small breakfast, lunch. One differentiating factor is my weekends are often busy with "out and about" activities from softball tournaments to dinner plans, etc. Here is where one of the tougher habits can be worked on, i.e. being more deliberate with meal/drink choices when out and things are more spontaneous. Ultimately, that doesn't sound very fun and it will really be striking a balance between occasional indulgence and being able to make reasonable choices. The real thing to ask myself is "how can I make progress?". 

The same is true with family gatherings as there's usually a lot of tasty food available. This is even mildly complicated with my folks having recently bought a cabin so family gatherings can constitute an entire weekend, or even a week. I am making an effort to bring healthy, low calorie (density) stuff as my food contribution. Another part may be just not being near the food. Being out on the lake is a good start at that. There are also plenty of little projects that can distract. There's a bit more thought that needs to go into these last habits and as with most things, there's plenty of time to work.

As for right now. I'm enjoying the progress I've made. While the pace of weight loss has slowed a little. I'm hoping I'll be writing on that next milestone here soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Hitting Reset, Part I (Softball)

Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

The reset, Ctrl+Alt+Delete for those Windows and Linux users out there, Open Apple+Ctrl+Reset for the Apple Macintosh afficionados (well what it used to be, I haven't used a Mac in well over a decade). The circle-y arrow inside a circle for most everything else. It's what you do when your system becomes frozen or experiences some other form of discombobulation. Often it fixes whatever problem the device was having, although it's not really an ideal solution if you have to do it multiple times a day; or a week for that matter.

I spent some time this weekend thinking about hitting reset in a different context: human behavior and response. My pondering came about while watching my daughter's team play fastpitch softball. Sports tend to have a preponderance of "reset" activities. In the case of fastpitch you have the at-bat, the pitch, the play, the base running, the call, the start of the game, the start of the inning. That's a lot of things being reproduced, a lot of miniature "resets", for each player. This gets multiplied by on a tournament weekend by at least a factor of four depending on the number of games being played. 

A lot of sports development is learning how to reset in a manner that helps the team and the players give their best effort. Most people who have watched and coached younger players remember teaching the basic "ready" position in the field. "Ready positions!" is a mantra often yelled by coaches during practices and games. It can be frustrating when little ones find it more interesting to draw circles in the dirt of pick weeds, but hey, when you're little everything is fascinating and standing in a "ready position" pitch after pitch is akin to low grade torture. Young kids just don't operate like that. Still, calling them back to the ready is likely, albeit subconsciously, programming an important "reset" needed to play the game.

As players advance, they learn the actual ready position is more like ready "prowling". Spring loading the legs and inching up on the balls of their feet, prepared to pounce at any ball heading their way. The player is no longer just looking to stop the ball with their glove, but dynamically receive it and dispense it with the utmost speed to get an out. Resetting has become more instinctive.



Another area is hitting. Everything from digging your foot rut just right, the practice swing or ninja-like bat twirling, the stance in the box, the initial bat position right up to setting and stepping becomes a near-ritualistic reset. Interestingly, my daughter's approach isn't too unlike mine: a little dirt clearing/rut making, a reach to make sure you encompass home plate with the bat and a couple slow half-swings to ensure comfort. She appears to add in a little stare-down of the pitcher for good measure. This reset is played out between every pitch. Then there's the more important reset, the set into the stance where the swing will actually occur. 

I remember my high school coaches pointing out that every player has a different stance right up until ready to swing, then most all players settle into a nearly identical position. An athletic position where they can step, rotate their hips, extend/swing/slice the bat through the ball and hopefully make contact. Again it's repetition that makes this last crucial part instinctive. There's not much room for variation as that would compromise ability to contact and ability to generate power.

Probably the most interesting to watch, and most stressful reset to do lies with the pitcher. Even high level college and professional pitchers have bad outings. Bad pitches, walks and hit batters can linger in the psyche, causing fatigue, frustration and even a few tears. The reset here needs to be physical, mental and emotional. A little bit of stoicism, something kids are great at (the author says with a glint of sarcasm), goes a long way. The reset here again becomes a dynamic process. A micro analysis of what to change if the pitch was bad is necessary as well as not overthinking what was done when they painted the corner of the strike zone just perfectly and the batter will need chiropractic work from the pretzel they contorted themselves into trying to hit such nastiness. Excitement at such a delivery can also mess with the reset. The pitcher needs to stay relaxed, but not too relaxed.



It's most fun to watch pitchers when they're "just missing". When they are in that gray area in the edge of the umpire's strike zone. Seeing that focus of what little adjustments to make. Perhaps just sliding a little left or right on the rubber? Perhaps adjusting the stride length just a little? Perhaps remembering to breathe before starting the windup? It's clear to see that pitchers have at times the most difficult, and perhaps ritualistic, reset on the field; needing to be able to reliably repeat their delivery 50, 60 or 70 times.

Another integral part to the pitcher's success is the catcher. Catchers are one part field marshal, one part backstop and one part therapist to the pitcher. A good catcher will pick up on where the pitches are missing and at least try to adjust the ball with their own glove placement. They are part of the pitching ritual and are the only player on the field who will throw the ball at least as much as the pitcher. They are also the only player who has the batter's (and umpire's) perspective, allowing them to see the runners and the overall situation. Being a good catcher is a lot of work.

While I've focused on the resets in softball/baseball here, my original intent was to extend the concept into daily life. This blog has gotten a little long though so I guess I'll just hit my own writing reset button and cover that in another part.



Friday, June 11, 2021

Quarter Century Mark

That's a lot to carry around constantly.


That's right! I've lost 25 lbs since the start of this Noom thing. All I can think is, "It hasn't even been two months" and "I'm not even changing that much stuff" and maybe a little "WTF?"

These last five pounds have been a bit more of a challenge. Life has started to normalize with meal planning, etc. Still, it can be hard to find the time to do "all the things". The mix of work busy-ness, home projects and kids evening sports have resulted in some breaks in getting the daily 10k steps.




This past week has also been a challenge due to some very hot weather. It's been in the mid to upper 90s °F (>35°C) here in Minnesota. Fortunately, the humidity hasn't been too bad, but the heat is still very discouraging.

Here are some things that are working well:
  • Workday food prep: fruits, hard boiled eggs and frozen power bowls, oh my!
  • Water intake: I'm regularly getting >8 cups a day.
  • Sleep: Usually out by 11/11:30 and up by 7
  • Exercise: Steps are getting over 10k a day and I'm starting to work in some weightlifting, etc.
Here's a couple "areas of improvement":
  • Dinner and non-work food: these need more planning, especially when it's just me. Granted I have plenty of healthy snacks now, but I need more of a dinner meal "ritual" instead of just opening the cabinets and grabbing stuff
  • Stress: There's a lot going on and a lot of places I need to be. I need to find time to mindfully destress/meditate/etc.
  • Keeping pace: Laundry, garden and housecleaning, oh my!? :/
It's important to realize that this is a journey and things like weather and schedules will fluctuate along the way. Meals and exercise plans won't be perfectly held. Keeping the effort conscious is the main key to success. With deliberate action will come the healthy habits. Not so much as, "I've been doing this a long time, so I can just turn my brain off on doing them", but "this is just what I do and it's gotten easy and instinctive to do with time". The former thought will just result into drifting back into the habits and mode of operation that I've almost always had; my default state. The latter may always require a little effort, more and less at times, but is worth it in the end.



Saturday, May 29, 2021

Enter, The Plateau

Image by M W from Pixabay

 I've been Nooming along, minding my own business and then it hit me this week like the realization that I may never win the lottery; a weight loss plateau. How dare it show up and stall my progress! While I'm happy and am feeling great with the 22 pounds (10 kg) lost, I was hoping things would keep going merrily along until I hit my end goal. As usual, things aren't going to be so straightforward.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, this wasn't the best week as far as "the plan" goes. The week started off a little rough with some extra stress and neglect in the planning due to what I'll just call "career related activities" (i.e. an exciting opportunity that I'll write about later if things come to fruition). This had me putting in time on some Power Point slides and such during my usual mean planning and gathering time on Sunday. Additionally, there were a couple more restaurant-based meals this week; including a Taco Bell splurge on Monday that was caloric overkill. On a positive note, I was able to pre-emptively box up most of my dinner yesterday to take home before devouring it all at once.

Despite that challenge, I was able to pull things together by Tuesday/Wednesday and start getting caught up in the diet area. However, due to other scheduling issues and some crap-tastic weather my step counts were also less consistent this week. 

Perhaps this is less of a plateau and more of an off week? Regardless, the week is now largely behind me and I have a chance to get back on track. Still, there are some things to glean from the week:

  • I still suck at things like dining out. Especially when I'm stressed or already hangry (hungry-angry). I tend to over-indulge when engaging socially with food present. It is important to develop better planning and strategies for those times. I'm good with ordering salads, but one I got this week was a cobb salad that must have had 1,000 calories worth of stuff on it! Perhaps the side salad and a soup option is the better way to go.
  • It might be time to start heading back to the gym, especially to get my steps/cardio when the weather sucks. Also, I maybe shouldn't rule out taking one from the older folks handbook and go get those steps at a shopping mall. After-all, I am only 10 minutes from the Mall of America. I'd like to think I can "buck-up" and be okay with foot-slog-slog-slog-sloggin' over Minnesota, but it just doesn't appeal at this point.
  • Meal planning is a must. However, some adjustments may be needed. I'm finding myself quicker to feeling hungry than I was through the first month. One thing to note was that I was taking a multivitamin up until the middle of last week when I ran out. Perhaps this also helped with satiety?
  • Lastly, it's more critical than ever to keep things in perspective and do my best to stay positive. I'm 40%-ish on the way to my ultimate goal. That's a lot in a fairly short time. I need to work hard at making the next steps count and not get stuck dwelling and downtrodden when life throws a little adversity. It's just another metaphorical hill to climb. Once at the summit I'm sure the view will be worth it!


Friday, May 21, 2021

Chicken Fajita Salad...so good

I tried out my cooking skills recently with these ad hoc chicken fajitas. It's so easy a guy like me can do it. The result was super delicious, so much so I made it twice. Once as the salad below and once using the romaine leaves as a wrap/taco shell. 



 

  • 1 Chicken Breast, thawed
  • 1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
  • 3 Baby Bell Peppers, seeded and sliced into circles
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded to preference and sliced
  • 1/2 White Onion, sliced to comparable chunks
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 splashes of oil
  • salt & pepper
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Pico de gallo (I just went store-bought)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tbsp. sour cream (optional)
Place chicken in a bowl, add a splash (1 to 2 tbsp) of oil, minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of salt and lemon juice. Mix to coat chicken and let sit. Heat second splash of oil in sautee pan and heat on medium. Once hot, add chicken (save the bowl for a moment) and brown for a couple minutes on each side. Remove chicken and cut length-wise into strips and recoat in bowl of seasoning. Place chicken into pan and cook rest of the way. Remove chicken into a bowl. Place peppers and onions into sautee pan and cook to slight brown (about 3 minutes with frequent stirring). Add chicken back in and mix with veggies. Remove from heat and serve on bed of sliced up romaine with avocado, pico and sour cream on top OR use whole romaine leaves like taco shells, wrap and enjoy.