Friday, September 24, 2021

Noom Report Card for my Trip

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I'm now sitting in the airport in San Jose, ready to return to the chilly weather in Minnesota. I have a little time to kill, so I thought I'd do some reflecting on how the trip went in terms of Nooming and such. 

The program is big into logging your food, water, weight, exercise, etc. One aspect I think it could place a little emphasis on though is the reflection. What went well? What could have went better? Where do I really need to up my game? Along with this might be coming up with a couple things to be grateful for that happened through out the day. Ultimately, the scale and weight graph and "end your day" food logs speak for the progress, but it is in the reflection that we learn and grow.

If things go bad, it's important to keep shame and doubt off of the table. This can be hard to do. However, the goal is to get better moving forward so an objective and constructive analysis is what is required. This self-coaching can require a little motivational "firing-up". Acknowledge any mess-ups and use them as self-teaching moments to get better and progress. 

So here I'll keep it on a simple 1-4 scale. 1 = awesomeness, 2 = mostly good, 3 = needs a little more work and 4 = see me after class (whatever that means). I'll grade daily and overall for this trip and write a few notes covering the Noom logging points and a couple of other potential travel pitfalls. So without further delay (Note: I used to generate the table, also Friday is in progress, but is a coffee-laden travel day so far):

Item Tue Wed Thu Fri Avg
Water Intake 3 2 2 3 2.5
Food Logging 3 3 2 3 2.75
Weigh-in 1 1 1 2 1.25
Calorie Budget 3 2 2 2 2.25
Alcohol 2 3 3 1 2.25
Sleep 1 2 3 NA 2
Exercise/steps 1 2 1 3 2

As you can see, I did okay. I was really good at the kinetic things: Weighing myself, getting sleep and getting my steps in. Downtown San Jose is nice as it's close to the San Jose State University campus, which made for good walking and running. I was also on my feet most of the day at my trade show.
Food logging lagged a little. I have to admit, there's still some convenient "forgetfulness" when I'm not eating the best, but I tried. There was also the mix of restaurant food and alcohol that permeates work travel that makes things tough.
One good note is that I got my wits about me on Thursday and bought some groceries. This made for more inexpensive/healthier options through out the day. I still bought a restaurant dinner on Thursday, but it was a side salad and a single slice of pizza. I did drink enough beer to offset some of that advantage, but I know have a tool in my pocket (DoorDash DashMart groceries) for next time.

So the trip was just OK. I hope that I can leverage such gradings to help prepare for future outings.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

A Few Keys to Success on Travel: San Jose

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Many people often talk about "keys to success". Sports announcers often bring these things up before the start of a game/match. Coaches, I'm thinking football in particular, make these "keys" the theme for the week. What are the things that need to be emphasized and done well, the sine qua non (I'll let you look that one up), for success.
The keys to success on Noom have centered around one concept: consistency. Most of the time the already existing routine helps to foster consistency. During most weeks I get out of the same bed at roughly the same time, use the same toilet, weigh myself on the same scale, grab the same two fruits and two proteins for breakfast and snacks, get the same cup of coffee, take the same mile-ish lunch walk, heat up the same-ish lunch, head home at the same-ish time, coach/work out/run at the same-ish time, unwind at similar times in similar ways, hit the proverbial hay around the same time and repeat.

As droll as that routine might sound, there's plenty room for variation in what I eat, how I exercise and what I do. The routine is the key though, the template for success. It's where the habits are formed and where they will be most effective.

However, there are times when this "baseline" routine gets interrupted. For example, I am currently on travel for work. My schedule has just taken a detour from the routine that has been key to success. The main danger here is I just want to let my guard down and eat 32 oz steaks for lunch and dinner and drink old fashioneds and beer from 10am until closing time. 

Okay, maybe that's a little bit of hyperbole, but I do want to explore the area and slack off a little bit on the things I've been doing day-to-day. I think some manner of leniency is okay and expected, especially since this is my first trip in a year-and-a-half. As I'm starting to look at my schedule though there are more trips and potential disruptions to my baseline are emerging. After all, it's nearly October, nearly the holiday season! Thus, there will be lots of opportunities to stumble and get off track.

With all those thoughts, I now feel like I'm staring up a mountain to keep progressing along this journey. All from a silly three-day trip!

So, what can I do? There is a part of me that wants to just get a case of the "F--k its" and buy a wholesale case of KFC and blame Chuck Norris (I leave it as an exercise to Google "F--king Chuck Norris" if you don't get the reference). 

The better part of me though wants to work on the problem at hand. Now is the time to figure something out as travel and the holidays are as much a part of my life as "ordinary time" (thank you Catholic dogma).

What then are my keys to success for travel, for long weekends, for the holidays? I like to "keep it simple" so here are some "simple" keys:

Commit to this being a 24/7 mindful lifestyle. It's easier to stay on track and, more importantly, get back on track if the healthy living journey is something you're committed to. I'm not saying 24/7 perfection, that's impossible, but mindfulness and progress go a long way.
Do a little preparation. My baseline program relies on some preparation and planning. Largely this amounts to Sunday grocery shopping and looking at the week ahead. There's no reason I can't do the same on travel. At a minimum I brought some exercise clothes and was able to go for a 3-ish mile jog yesterday around the SJSU campus. There's no reason I can't bring some healthy snacks as well. I did tuck away a couple protein bars, but some of my staples, e.g. mandarin oranges, would have traveled well too.

I can also plan out where and what I might eat for meals out on the town as well. Again, this can be more automatic during the day, creating some calorie budget for the evenings.

Use the resources I have. I have the Noom app, this is the basic guide. On it are weighing in, water intake logging, meal/food logging, activity tracking and the group/support forums. How can I keep on doing these things when I'm out and about? 

Water intake, particularly at least a glass to start my day, is one of my "smart goals" so hopefully I can get my 8+ glasses.

Also, I've already found the fitness center, complete with a scale. Note that all scales read a little different, +/- a couple pounds, so taking the number with a "grain of salt" and just performing the action to keep routine is helpful. I can also use the fitness center for, uh, fitness :).

I can still log my foods. This will help monitor calories. I'll likely budget to eat less during the day so I can have a little more leeway in the evenings.

Think about the next level. This is the "aim high" philosophy. While on the trip I'm thinking about what might help me stay on track more. One thing for sure is making a grocery run. Conference centers and downtown areas are often "food deserts" where you are stuck buying overpriced meals that are more about taste and less about nutritional value. The little convenience shop, at least at my hotel, don't have any fresh fruit. Finding a grocery store that's a little walk (gettin' steps) or taxicab ride and picking up some of those go-to items would really help. I definitely wouldn't have had to eat my mediocre $12 sandwich from a vendor yesterday, or have to wait for the Starbucks to open at 7am (two hour time change, I'm wide awake before 5)

Be kind to myself. I'm not perfect, I admit to having a beer or so too many last night. Knowing I can get back on track at any time, even by saying "no" to an extra beer or not finishing the one you got is an important part. Sometimes things get away from me though. It's important to know that this is part of the journey, even if it's a little detour. 

Having some objectivity and using it as a self-teachable moment goes a lot further than letting my negative thoughts get the best of me. 

As for this trip I would say I'm doing 75% well. Oversized dinners and evening drinks are a bit of a sticking point as well as finding fresh food for during the day. I have some extra time this morning so I think I'll go track down some fruit and maybe even a couple hard boiled eggs :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The 45 Pound Plate

Image by Laura Lauer from Pixabay

The 45. The typical heavy weightlifting plate in most gyms. That is how much weight I have lost so far with the help of using the Noom app. I have been working with the app for just over twenty-one weeks, so the steady, persistent progress has me dropping a little over two pounds a week on average. This includes the initial weight drop. If I look at just the more recent data, I have been losing roughly 1.24 pounds per week. 

Multiplying that 1.24 pounds per month by four (for loss per month) and that's very close to the five pounds per month rule of thumb for healthy weight loss. While I would love to still be on that initial plunge, I'm working to lose in a healthy/sustainable manner. It's important to remind myself that what I'm going for is lifelong change. That's not always the easiest "pill to swallow", especially when passing all the baked and fried goodies in stores and restaurants, but it has gotten easier. 

That's not to say that I don't indulge, or over-indulge for that matter. I also have my sticking points and situation that I know are just going to take a lot of work to get better at handling. However, I'm getting better at pushing the "reset" button that gets me back on the path.

Many of the physical things that are working for me are covered in previous posts. Another important aspect is the attitude that, for me, needs to be present for this Noom thing to work. My attitude needs to be one of mostly optimism and gratitude along with a belief that as long as I work the program good things will come about; even if the change on the scale has slowed. I have more energy. I get to be active with my kids, taking them to the batting cages. I'm able to run around with the eighth graders I coach for football (I'm really just a big kid at heart). I think I'm sleeping better. My clothes are fitting better. I also get to look forward to listening to music and audiobooks on my walks and runs.

All of these amazing things create a sense of confidence and keep me hungry to challenge myself. While the weight is the core metric here, it creates a sense of wanting to do more and to go further. To take on some adventures and ultimately just be the best "me" I can be. 

I still get downtrodden on occasion. Along with the physical program aspects, this is about accepting those feelings at the moment and taking enough of a long-view to be able to hit the "reset" button and get back to a better place. The "it works if you work it" credo works here as well. Stresses pass and life ebbs and flows. 

In the end all I can control is my (borrowing from numerous coaches) attitude and effort. My little caveat to this is that the attitude is what drives the effort. It's the mental nudge needed to make good happen.

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Back on the Field

This Year's squad: "The Blizzard"

I missed it more than I thought. After a year away, I'm back out on the field coaching youth football. Two years ago, when my son finished his season as an eighth grader, I figured that would be the end of my coaching at least until he was done with high school. I had squared with that reality, but I also left that experience feeling as though I had maybe missed a calling. Perhaps if I was coaching full-time I wouldn't feel that way. Perhaps I was getting just enough of a good thing to keep it awesome for me. Perhaps I just liked coaching my kid. I was content to leave coaching behind for a time with the satisfaction of knowing I had success with the kids I coached and that it came with much enjoyment and personal satisfaction.

As fate may have it, however, an opportunity came around for me to help with a new batch of eighth graders. One of the parents also has a son my son's age and remembered the good time and success that team had. Thus, he recruited my previous co-coaches and I to take on this team. We all gladly accepted and are realizing how much we missed being away from the game.

Each season brings something a little different. Call it lucky, call it blessed, but the previous team (my son's team) had an abundance of physicality and skill. They also had a large number of kids (~50) split between two squads, so there was also depth.  That group has added to the depth on the high school level, with a large number of new players joining the squad as sophomores. 

As eighth graders the two teams went for a combined 17 wins and 2 losses. One of the losses was a first game of the season 7-6 fluke of a loss and the other was when the two Bloomington squads played each other and things went into overtime. It was impressive and maybe set a disproportionate expectation for future squads I help coach.

Enter this group. This crew is a bit more "green". There are a number of first time players. Also, a lot of experience was missed from last year's cancellation due to the pandemic.

A lot of development happens in the middle school years. There's the awkwardness of puberty and everyone growing and maturing at different rates. There's having to deal with physical and emotional clumsiness along with an increase in responsibility and self-reliance. 

As far as football goes, the game changes from bodies bumping into each other to serious physical contact. Plays and defensive schemes get more complex and there's a lot of learning going on. These kids missed a whole season of refining skills, not to mention the extended time away eroding what had been developed. 

That is, to say, there's a lot of work to do. Everything from basic stances, splits (the separation between players in a formation...not like gymnastics), run and pass blocking technique,  to being quick on the count/snap of the ball. There's also a toughness aspect that needs to develop. 

Football is a game of managing discomfort. Helmets often start off with a miserable fit, pads and pants are tight. You're running around, sweating and losing breath. The contact results in bumps and bruises, fingers get jammed and pinched in pads, toes get stepped on. My right big toenail never recovered from being stomped on repeatedly during field goals and extra points in college. I don't think the guy to my right's toes fared much better from my stomping. The players learn to manage and that there's a difference between being hurt and injured. 

Another level of discomfort to manage is that of being a part of the team. Not everyone gets to play the position they want. They learn the significance doing best what helps the team as a whole to succeed. This doesn't mean they can't have desires or goals for positions and playing time, but they need to be committed to working hard to get there. 

These are as much life lessons as football ones. Promotions aren't often just given for putting time in on the job, nor are significant pay increases. Initiative is often required, sometimes a willingness to take on new and potentially uncomfortable roles. Sometimes life is just downright painful beyond a stomped toe or muscle soreness. You learn to persevere. 

I take a lot of these types of lessons with me from my playing days.  Particularly the reality that my personal expectations didn't line up with my reality. The example that plays through my head the most was from my sophomore year in high school. A number of the guys were getting the call up to varsity at that point and I was expecting the same. I was getting some time on the field during the varsity games, but it was generally when it was of minimal consequence. It hurt a little and took a lot of time to realize that I maybe wasn't quite to the level yet. The reality was I was getting A LOT of playing time running with both the junior varsity and sophomore squads. That playing time helped develop me into a much better, and eventually college-level player. It was a more natural path of development that allowed me to still pursue playing the game whereas many of the guys who got the early nod were burned out by senior year.

From the coaching side it is also tough to keep expectations and reality matched up. As much as we want to win, the more important thing is to develop the players, toughness, skills and all in a way that they want to keep coming back and playing. It's also important to realize that success is largely defined by the personnel, the team you have. You can do everything right as a coach and the players can work their butts off, but if they're not quite "to the level" it will likely make for a tough year. 

There's one recent glaring example of this at the professional level: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. While Belichick certainly made the right personnel move with playing Brady for Bledsoe all those years ago, it was Brady who was the difference maker. This hypothesis was proved out with Brady's move to Tampa and subsequent Super Bowl win.

All of this is on my mind while I enter this season. Particularly since our first outing didn't go so well. We lost on the tone of a high number of turnovers. The tally was five lost fumbles, plus three additional dropped balls. It was hard to get anything going with that, let alone make adjustments. Still, most of the kids played hard. There were some good surprises as some of the kids flew around and made some great plays.

With the reality now in check, practice can be used to make adjustments and work on the things that obviously needed work. This is what makes coaching fun and interesting for me. It's a big engineering challenge of sorts. How do we optimize the system that is the team? What do we have that works and what do we need to maybe MacGyver a little? How do we keep it fun in the midst of adversity/losing? How do we teach and what examples and expectations can we set?

I love coaching and it's not for the opportunity to be a superstar of feel like I'm playing a live version of a Madden video game. It's because of the people, my players, their parents (even if they can be the subject of another post at times) and my co-coaches. It's the collaboration and the common goals. It's the gratitude I have from my playing experience and wishing to pass some of that on.

It's good to be back!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

This is forty!

Not that forty. I turned that a little over three years ago. It's the forty pounds I've lost over the last few months! This is much more exciting than turning forty. Turning forty dawns the realization that you're truly an "adult" adult. By my estimation, this decade of life is the current peak of having to be responsible for stuff. For a lot of us, you need to finish up getting your kids out the door and on with their own lives. You also start turning an eye to your folks. The career is in full swing and you're starting to give the 401K and getting the mortgage paid off some more serious looks. You start knowing more people in your age group who are battling illness, or having life catch up with them in other ways. At times everything hurts and you just want to take a sabbatical from it all, but the majority of us can't.

As harshly real as life looks, it's really made this getting in shape journey more important and maybe even feel like a little more of an accomplishment. Life since early July has been a whirlwind, largely filled with kids-related activities, but also the lull in the Covid pandemic has allowed a little bit of normalcy. The busy-ness of work has ramped up. 

While July was busy, August has been nuts. After a year hiatus, I'm back on the field coaching football. This last week in particular has been emotionally draining seeing my daughter go through her first set of fastpitch "club" tryouts. School-year readiness is starting to happen. Admittedly, I'm starting to crave some of the routine that school brings. 

So really, getting healthy has meant I have more energy, and even optimism, to keep hustling. I'm noticing things that are nagging when I'm "big Joe", e.g. back pain, low energy, etc. aren't there. Even in coaching I'm finding myself actually running around amongst the 8th graders as I try to show them how to partake in this eleven on eleven chess match. My stress levels are lower (save for the softball moments in the previous paragraph) and my resting heartrate has been super low (in the upper 50s). 

Still, I'm far from perfection in working the Noom app, but working it daily and being conscientious about what I'm eating and how much activity I'm getting keeps me heading in the right direction. Things I'm continuing to do well with are:

  • Daily weigh-ins
  • Work week meal planning. I've even found a solution for those pesky dinners alone at home
  • Getting my 10k steps. This is a breeze with the coaching. Particularly with being able to walk/jog to the park.
  • Getting to the gym. Although coaching has made this a little tricky this week, but it's not like I'm trading the gym time for Oreos....mmmm Oreos *drool.

Continuing areas for improvement:

  • Weekends. Although I've been finding myself more conscious, there's just less structure.
  • Social/family events or hanging places where there's food sitting out. #grazer
  • Finding moments to get centered, clear my head, meditate, etc.
  • Caffeine and alcohol intake. The former is morning ritual, the latter ties to the social bullet above.
Lastly, I need to work to stay positive about the progress I've made. Some of this is just keeping my expectations in line with reality. Namely, my first thirty pounds came off fast, this last ten, or more so the last five have been quite a bit slower. This may partially be some kind of plateau, but there's also an element of staying focused on the journey while life has been keeping a near-frantic pace. In all, I'm committed to keep going and another stride and potentially more pounds dropped will not be far off.

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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!