Category Archives: Weight Loss

Nothing Tastes As Good As This Feels

I’m wearing an absurd surgical cap. But I’m also optimistic in the picture, which is worth a lot of words.

She wrote, “And nothing tastes as good as this feels!!!” She sent me a picture of how far she’d come. I found it hard to imagine I was looking at the same person I used to know. She was part of the reason that I imagined I could achieve a lot of success this time. If she could do it with so many obstacles, how hard should it be for me to stop the rationalizations and just do it?

I re-read it. And again.

It struck me as resonantly as “Choose your hard” had many weeks before. Why that one stuck in my head when so much for so many years hadn’t is another mystery.

For her, she meant that all the bad food choices couldn’t compare to the elation and satisfaction of being who she’s supposed to be.

While her comment was focused on her war with eating properly, it also extends to other areas in life. The payoff at the end of the race, the peace of making a long series of decisions that result in a triumph of consequences…

Once you’ve done the work and reached your goal, it really is hard to let yourself fall into the trap again.

At least at first.

The pain of ‘who’ we were before getting to our own pinnacle is still fresh enough to serve as a reminder.

Life intercedes. Time evaporates. Fatigue weakens our resolve. Loneliness and self-esteem issues propel us backward.

It’s why I constantly remind myself that yo-yoing dramatically in weight must be approached in a manner similar to how we deal with addiction.

It is okay to fall off the wagon. Just don’t let it run you over.

In my case, there is more to it. But it certainly isn’t willpower.

Love, X

160: I’m Fading Away

I’m fading away.

A week ago, I admitted my goal shifted to reaching 168 lbs. I’m chunking that again. My new goal is 160. That is what success does: it stains other areas with the desire for more.

In the last week, I went to 175, a weight I always imagined as something wildly desirable but impossibly difficult. I haven’t weighed less than 175 since after high school.

Losing weight is supposed to be more challenging with age.

I guess it is. I just wouldn’t know.

In 3 months, I dropped over 50 lbs. It’s not the best way, but fighting from the middle ground would have been another failure for me. Lucky for me, this time followed an episode of realization. Absent that realization, and this wouldn’t have happened. I still don’t expect people to ‘get it.’ After explaining it a few dozen times, it’s this: I saw myself as thin and also pictured that it was ‘the’ me I should have been my entire adult life. I couldn’t see myself making poor decisions that led me away from the vision of that life. So far, it has been entirely sufficient. That ‘me’ in the indefinite future continues to free me from the pangs of willpower.

It was also in that moment that I realized that despite biting my nails for 50+ years, I didn’t do that anymore, either. It’s a shame I didn’t visualize being a millionaire in that moment.

I still can’t figure out how to write a book and make millions.

“Have an LSD trip without the LSD and just do it” would undoubtedly result in a lawsuit. “Don’t put stuff in your mouth” is another possible book title. (You have to appease the vulgar-minded, too.)

Today, I watched a naysayer’s eyes as he realized that I don’t possess superpowers or anything he doesn’t. Previously, he preferred to snark at me. Now, he is considering finding himself at my age and being overweight. “It’s all choices,” I told him. “For most of us,” I added, being reminded of what a friend reminded me of a couple of weeks ago. “So what if you fail. Each day that slides past is another day that you won’t know the answer.” And I offered to help him figure out a way to do it. “Choose your hard,” I challenged him. I don’t expect my system to work for everyone. But a modified version of it will work for a hell of a lot of people.

I might not have mentioned that the one thing I’ve tried all year is to ensure that I consume enough fiber, both in food and through supplements. Though you might not believe it, I get my RDA through eating. I take fiber supplements to ensure I do. While I can’t know with certainty, the fiber seems to have worked wonders for me. I mix both psyllium and gummy fibers. Find a mix and diet of high-fiber foods that work for you.

And because I mention this in every post, every bit of my huge weight loss came through diet. No gym visits, no costly supplements, no specialty drinks, and nothing outside of my usual scope of living. While my job is very physical, I would still have realized a significant weight loss if it weren’t. I’ve stuck to the idea that it is unwise to start a habit you can’t continue for as long as you live. If not, as soon as the practice stops, the benefits stop, too.

I like to imagine surviving the last few months at almost 230. I can’t. I’d be on statins, blood pressure medication, and almost certainly facing some calamity with my feet or knees. Taking 50+ lbs off of them rescued me. I don’t want to think about my cardiovascular system, especially against the backdrop of this pandemic. Stress? Forget about it?

I’m almost at my statistical weight. Soon, I will have to turn to my next goal: don’t be a jackass. That one’s going to take a lot of work.

It’s all lemons.

Choose your hard.

Whoever you are, if you want to do something like this under your control, please do. Start today, in the smallest way. Your life is sweeping past you. You are not trapped in the prison of your previous decisions. Those choices and those years cannot be recaptured. It’s gone. Stand up. Embrace. Try. And try again if you fail.

168

Note: writing these types of posts inevitably comes across as selfish. For that, I’m sorry. Anyone who can lose weight in this crazy world gets a little slack.

I started this healthy eating journey somewhere in the upper 220s less than 3 months ago. I should never be so overweight. It’s part of the reason that I look at my yo-yo eating in the same way someone else might look at heroin. I don’t deserve credit for trying to control something that should have never started.

In other words, this current success is also an accusation of my previous failures. “Look! I stopped doing this stupid thing I’ve been doing.”

A few years ago, in 2017, 2 of my co-workers joined me in an epic weight loss challenge. It contained several layered bets, some monetary, some hilarious. I started at 250, which is ridiculously large. I lost 30 lbs in less than 3 months to finish the challenge over 3 months early. It was a reminder that I’ve always believed that losing weight isn’t hard. It’s keeping it off that’s the terror. Over time, I’ve convinced myself that almost no diets work because people have to return to a sustainable way of eating. Otherwise, it’s a temporary cycle that will plague you for your entire adult life.

Since then, in 2017, I managed to mostly stay inside a range. Still fat. Just not as exaggerated.

In February of 2020, the pandemic gave me the motivation to try again to drop. For all the reasons you’d expect, I got derailed spectacularly. I was lucky! In October, I stopped toying with the idea. Though I’ve written about it before, this occasion was marked by something breaking inside of me. I just knew I was going to drop a lot of weight – and certainly below 200. It wasn’t willpower. It was a certainty. Seeing other people do it, regardless of ‘how,’ demonstrated that I would become one of the success stories.

As for entropy of the potential for eventual failure, it always lurks ahead. We are all complicated, and opposing forces muddy our lives. It doesn’t help that food is incredibly delicious.

I chose my hard. The truth is that it wasn’t hard to begin to eat like a healthy person. And that’s what I did. I had the idea in my head that I wasn’t fat anymore. Everything aligned with it. I melted away. For anyone who has struggled to do something similar, you know what I’m describing. Waking up and realizing I had a sternum, for example. Feeling a space between my thighs. Seeing my face and suddenly realizing part of it was gone. When the comments begin, you intimately understand that people notice that you’re different.

Now, I’m hovering around 180. I weigh 45-50 lbs less than 3 months ago. Yes, I lost weight too fast. Science tells me that losing weight more slowly tends to encourage the body to maintain long-term loss. I initially joked that I was trying the stomach staple diet without the surgery or mimicking a prison camp diet. It’s not inaccurate.

All along, people asked me what my goals were. “Eat healthily and effectively” sounds trite. “Be the person I know myself to be” sounds like a self-help guru has hypnotized me.

Well, here’s the next goal: 168 lbs. While I don’t subscribe to the BMI charts, 168 is the upper region of a healthy weight. (Not giving myself credit for my age.) 168 will put me at losing 1/4 of my total body weight. Can I do it? Yes. Will I? I’m not sure. The absurdity of being unable to make this goal after doing so much would be tragically stupid.

I owe it to myself to get to the weight even if I can’t hold at that weight or drop further. The BMI charts support the idea that my healthy weight range is an absurd 125 to slightly over 168. I don’t know how 125 would be possible. I’d be skeletal. And I don’t plan on running marathons.

I don’t know how long it will take to reach 168. I can calculate the number of calories. But I also recognize that my body is fighting back and resisting at this point, which makes it more interesting, given that I am almost a witness to myself at this point.

For anyone keeping track, I’ve added no exercise. My job is physically very demanding, with a huge range of motion, walking, and lifting. It was that way before, though, and I still got fatter. The only changes I’ve made have been diet, which is the single most significant factor to control for weight management. My insistence on saying so continues to draw criticism. Exercise is essential for a lot of reasons. But you get a bigger bang for the buck by focusing on learning new eating habits without succumbing to changes or diets you can’t maintain.

I’ll see you at 168.

Hell or high water, choose your hard, folks.

It’s all lemons.

Love, X

Choose Your Hard

One piece of obvious advice I would give to anyone wanting to diet, eat healthier, or change a habit: you have to lean into being uncomfortable or behaving differently than you previously did. You might have to request special menu items or (horror!) bringing your food with you at times.

If you aren’t ready to look odd, feel odd, or do things that draw attention to yourself, you’re not quite prepared. That’s okay. For a lot of people, attention is the last thing they want. It’s hard to get anything worthwhile done without drawing scrutiny. Even if you have the best intentions, people will ascribe motives to your actions. You have to practice tuning that out.

While you’re at it, just as you don’t listen to financial advice coming from people who’ve failed to follow it, don’t give naysayers who don’t live and eat healthy your time or attention. If they have a system that requires a membership, a pill, or investment, look elsewhere. The tools we need to eat healthier and be healthier are mostly available, no matter where we are. (Again, it’s important to note that this isn’t universally true.)

Another piece of advice, one most overlooked, is that being healthier isn’t complicated for most people. As always, I will throw out the disclaimer that many people DO have medical or other issues that might impede them; I’m writing for the middle crowd, not the fringes. Most of us in this vast middle owe our bad habits to our choices. Most of the time, it is no secret to us what those bad choices are. We KNOW. But we don’t act.

Everything hinges on choice. Will you choose to reduce how much you consume? Will those options be better choices?

Weight management expressed for an average person: do you consume less fuel than you use over the long-term? You can get weighed down in all manner of complicated diets that require tracking a ridiculous assortment of things. The truth, though: if you significantly reduce the amount you eat and continue to do so long-term, your weight will decrease proportionally.

It’s essential that whatever choices you make, you make the choices for the rest of your life. Not for six months or a year. Forever. That’s the part we tend to stumble with. It is not the dirty secret of eating healthier. Instead, it is the essential truth that explains why almost all dieting fails. Changes must be for the rest of your life. Anything that fails to address healthy eating at its core will not succeed long-term.

Every incremental change you make will cause consequences. There are no exceptions. Maintaining the changes will transform you over a long enough time frame. If you stack enough changes into your life, your goal will be easier to reach.

If you’re looking for massive and quick changes, you’re probably still not ready. But if you’re prepared to change small things to pursue a larger goal, you’re on the right track. Most of us spent decades doing it wrong. To expect a transformative change as the result of a pill, powder, or fad is going to get you into trouble. It might work for you for a while; you’ll have to continue doing whatever you chose forever, though. Otherwise, you’ll yo-yo and fight an endless battle that fails to address lifetime behaviors.

It might be hard for you to do it. A friend of mine beat the phrase “Choose your hard” into my head. Yes, it is hard changing your habits. But so, too, are the consequences of failing to do so. It’s easy to keep doing things wrong. Food is delicious.

I found an old quote of mine: “Old habits don’t die. You must murder them.”

If you have a goal that’s important to you, a little bit of insistence goes a long way. Being fanatical has its benefits. If your tendency to overeat were a heroin addiction, you wouldn’t easily allow someone to convince you to try just a little bit of heroin. So much of our behavior is based on equilibrium. The slightest thing can turn us upside down. Until it is the new normal, it is going to be weird and awkward for you.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you will get the biggest bang for your effort by focusing on your diet. Exercise is essential for many reasons; for weight maintenance, you will be better off learning to eat correctly. If not, you will succumb to the inherent drawbacks of intense exercise. Everyone tends to misquote this. I in no way deny the benefits of exercise. My entire point hinges on weight maintenance and learning new eating habits.

Additionally, unless you will continue your new exercise regimen for the rest of your life, I would advise learning the fundamentals of eating correctly. As for exercise, I recommend avoiding the gym. The best kinds of activity don’t require a location and certainly not an artificial one for the average person. For some, the gym may give you the focus to change long-term. For most of us, though? Probably not. It’s artificial. Most of us can skip the gym and use the travel time to and from to engage in practical activity and exercise.

I know I am oversimplifying, especially since I’m writing for the average person.

I could sell you a book or dress up my arguments.

Learn to eat healthily and track what you eat. You will be shocked.

No matter what you want to do, find a way to do it today, from where you are.

Love, x

mmXXi

Exhausted as I was, I was awake again at midnight last night. I didn’t initially fall to sleep at first. I died a little death, one that immersed me into blackness. I certainly wasn’t quietly whispering a prayer for 2020. This was the first year in many that my eyes were open at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The power went out long enough to cause everything to flicker and beckon to be reset. The cat screamed and demanded attention. Because I live in east Springdale, the locals insisted on going out into the cold and rain and using their finest and largest artillery to announce the New Year. Several of the guns were truly cacophonous. I felt the vibrations in my ribs, like a discordant xylophone. It was amusing to note that I ended the year forty-five pounds lighter than I’d started it, with my sanity along for a wild ride.

For all those who made promises to go to the gym, I can save you a lot of time and money, if you’ll listen. Just ask me. I’m wrong about a lot of things, but not this. Even though we tell ourselves that there must be some external and elegant solution to most of our problems and habits, the truth is that simplicity and focus will get you there more quickly. Get those first. Your best resolution might be to take a long moment, even a month, to consider your life.

Running in place won’t get you where you want to be.

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” – William E. Vaughn

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates

“The calendar reminds us when we are. We’d be better served if it told us who we are.” – X

“The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to.” — P. J. O’Rourke

“If you’re making a resolution, I’d remind you that the New Year is just a way to make the same old mistakes again. Don’t make a promise to change. Be the person you are supposed to be and the rest will follow, hell or high water.” – X

“Why would I need a resolution to remind myself that I am perfect just the way I am?” – Unknown

“The most negative word of 2020 was the word ‘positive.'” – Unknown

Weight Loss That Works

Everyone knows I’m not an expert regarding nutrition and fitness.

The yearly promise to work out is just about on us. If you want to build strength, that’s great. If you’re going to lose weight, I would ask you to read this first. Then, decide to focus on your food choices, where you will save yourself time, trouble, and money. Skip the gym if you want to lose weight. You can walk anywhere.

As an adult, I have yo-yoed a few times. The lesson I learned makes people skeptical: if you want to lose weight, stop stressing so much about exercise. Just keep food out of your mouth as much as possible. And when you eat, eat foods that fall in the Venn diagram of what you like and what is healthier. Over time, that change alone will work miracles for you.

It’s equally valid that most of us suffer from a misunderstanding regarding the role exercise plays in the realm of weight loss. Our metabolic rate is set already. Most of the energy we expend isn’t variable. Activity is, of course, a portion, but not as significant as most of us believe. Most of our culture is immersed in the ‘exercise more’ mantra. Science demonstrates that weight loss occurs more efficiently through healthier diet choices – even if you don’t increase your activity level. We should focus much more on our public and private food policies.

Note: exercise yields impressive benefits to us physically and psychologically. Stop reading into my point. Exercise isn’t as important as diet, though, in weight maintenance. It is one of the biggest fundamental flaws that plague us. (I imagine Rob reading this and already arguing.)

People of the same body composition, sex, and other factors have markedly different metabolisms, which results in the one using a lot more calories than the other. Despite what some will preach, no one definitively knows why this is the case. Those same two people can engage in the same diet and physical activity – and one of them will weigh less than the other.

https://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html

If you want to increase your basic metabolic rate, the science is settled: greater muscle mass requires much more energy to sustain. I’ll leave it to you to read the literature. Running will burn calories while building muscle mass will burn more calories even while you are resting. A word of caution, though: as you increase your muscle mass, your body will trick you into consuming more fuel to sustain it.

If you’ve tried diets, especially gimmicky ones, it’s not you who failed. They don’t address the science of human physiology and weight. Don’t start any program that you can’t do for the rest of your life! If you can’t imagine yourself making better food choices for the rest of your life, you will not succeed. All long-term weight management plans that work start and end with healthy food choices. It is that simple. Simple observation will remind you that it is EASY to lose weight. It is damn near impossible to keep it off.

We can all agree that our energy intake is based on the food we put into our mouths. If everything is equal, reducing how much you put into your mouth will inevitably cause you to lose. If you go on a starvation diet, you can expect your body to fight back by lowering your metabolic rate. You’ll need to adjust your plan of weight loss accordingly. Not that most people can do it, but the best way to lose weight is to do it on a very long, consistent schedule. I can’t say I didn’t fall victim to the all-or-nothing approach. It gives results. They don’t last, though. That is true for almost everyone who diets to lose weight.

You have to eat to lose weight.

This sounds ridiculously simple.

For a variety of reasons, people tend to eat more after intense exercise. They also tend to overestimate how many calories they’ve burned while exercising. Other behaviors undermine our exercise routines, as well. Regardless of how much you exercise, it takes a vastly disproportionate amount of activity to overcome overeating caloric intake.

I’m in no way saying that we shouldn’t exercise more. Exercise is vital for good health but not as crucial for weight loss and maintenance.

You can read the last paragraph as many times as you’d like.

Poor diet has a more significant impact on obesity and weight than exercise. Science says it. Not me.

I don’t remember where I read it, but someone said, “You can’t outrun a bad diet, no matter how much you run.”

I’ll remind you one more time that I am not saying exercise doesn’t offer benefits; they don’t compare to healthy eating where weight is involved.

This isn’t a justification for laziness. However, it is a bold statement to tell you that if you need to lose weight, whether for weight loss or better health, you will see a significantly greater result if you focus first on diet.

If you do it incrementally, you’ll have a greater chance to maintain the weight you achieve. Fighting your body’s set point comes with significant risk. Very few people can adapt to a new diet and regulate how they do it sufficiently to give their body time to adjust. The longer you were overweight, the greater this tendency will be. Our bodies don’t resist gaining weight nearly as much as they resist losing it, even to go to a normal weight naturally.

Less than 10% of people who commit to losing weight tend to keep it off long term. If you can think of obesity as a disease, you’ll likely adopt lifestyle changes that stick. Even though it isn’t rocket science, some of the changes include avoiding high-fat foods, avoiding needless sugar, some form of exercise, avoiding unnecessary snacking, regularly weighing, eating less for each meal, choosing more filling and healthy alternatives, and maintaining a record or awareness of what you’re eating.

Though it borders on stupidly obvious, most people do best when their activity is based on walking, free and always available. Everything that complicates your ability to exercise and eat healthily will be an impediment if you want to maintain your weight. For this reason, gyms, specialty exercises, and expensive supplements aren’t sustainable long-term for most people.

Please keep it simple.

Find healthy food. Eat it instead of the foods to which you are accustomed – as much as possible. Reduce snacking. If you can do that for six weeks, you will see a loss in weight. Find literature that is based on science, using some of the things I’ve mentioned here.

Here it is, for most people, boiled down to its essence: if you are overweight, you are overeating.

Nothing can change that.

Likewise, though, there is a way out if you are truly willing to look at what you eat and admit it’s a problem.

Tuna Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Note: no one in their right mind should take nutrition advice from me. However, I do know what really works well for some people. Sometimes.

If you’re going to eat tuna, I recommend that you ditch the mayo entirely. Lite sour cream, if such a thing is needed, works admirably in place of mayo. Two tablespoons of lite sour cream equal 40 calories, whereas light mayo is about twice that. Regular mayo is 100 calories per tablespoon. If you are craving the lovely sheen of fat when you eat, this won’t help you. You might as well take a bite of Crisco and get it over with. Growing up, several of my family members did just that.

Ditching the creamy additives saves you time, calories, money, and fridge space. It also lessens the amount of dairy you consume.

While I don’t count calories, I’m unavoidably aware of the benchmarks for many foods. When you’re trying to eat healthy, unless you are treating yourself, it is weird for me to justify eating something that is so much higher in calories. For that reason, I stopped using anything creamy in my tuna. Unlike most people, I much prefer to eat my tuna as dry as I can get it. If I add anything, it might be the miracle of lemon juice.

As for tuna, one of the best fillers you can use is dill relish. It’s one of the few things that is inexpensive yet adds bulk and texture. Dill relish is zero calories, too. Combined with shredded lettuce and the spice(s) of your choice, tuna can be made to be filling and savory. It’s hard to beat lemon pepper on tuna – although I enjoy at least a dozen different seasonings and spices on mine in varying degrees.

For the record, green olives are, in fact, delicious in tuna. They are only about eight calories each. My problem is that I need at least forty to be satisfied, especially compared to dill relish or something similar. A lot of people think the idea of green olives with tuna isn’t appealing. Most of those people have never tried it.

Another sore spot for me is the delicious taste of a well-made olive tapenade! If you want to fight, I’ll argue that green olives are indescribably delicious as a pizza topping – and more so than the dreaded counterpart of black olives.

If you are in tune with your body at all, it is easy to hold yourself to 1,000 calories a day if you need to. I know that isn’t sustainable, so don’t preach at me.

But if you eat two cans of tuna, add half a jar of dill pickle relish, a mound of shredded lettuce (mixed with lemon pepper), and two flavored bags of Pop Chips instead of crackers or bread, you’ve only eaten around 400-500 calories. It’s hard to complain about being hungry by that quantity of food.

P.S. If you are a Sriracha fan, you’re going to think I’m crazy. But. Sugar-free whipped cream drizzled with Sriracha is a surprising treat for the taste buds, much in the way jellied jalapeños are on vanilla ice cream. I’m not a huge fan of overly hot foods. But Sriracha came out of the left field for me a couple of years ago and took a place in my heart for flavor.

Find Your Aim

At the end of my 9th-grade year, I started running. I’ve written about it before. Despite all the obstacles and ridiculousness of it, I stepped out on the road and just did it. No one believed it or saw it coming. I lost a lot of weight and transformed myself. During the first few months, I started brushing my teeth a couple of times a day more than usual. Though we were poor, I had Aim Cinnamon toothpaste. At the time, that was like candy to me.

In the movie “No Country For Old Men,” Deputy Wendell said,
“This is turnin’ into a hell of a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff?” Sheriff Ed Tom Bell:
“If it isn’t, it’ll do until the mess gets here.”

Though the modern version of Aim is a pale imitation, it’ll do.

If I were at my cousin Jimmy’s, I did the same thing. Brushing my teeth, especially with that flavor, killed my appetite. I can’t explain why. The why of it used to perplex me.

A few weeks ago, without conscious thought, I found myself searching for Aim Cinnamon toothpaste. I bought a tube at Dollar General. A week later, while buying groceries at Walmart, I picked another. Over the next few weeks, I brushed my teeth when I came home from work or after supper. It didn’t occur to me that I was brushing my teeth more often. Truthfully, because of my horrid mask breath at work, I probably associated it with that.

The day I dropped below 200 lbs, I realized that I had recreated another groove in my life, one that began when I was finishing junior high and losing all the weight the first time.

Somehow, Aim cinnamon toothpaste echoed hard enough in my memories to give me another means to achieve my goal.

I wanted to write this post to try to explain that brushing my teeth works as a trick into suppressing my appetite. I don’t know why it works.

But I also wanted to tell the backstory as another means to explain it is also why I know that I’m going to beat the weight thing this time around. Not because I’ve done well so far. But because something primordial in me reached back almost 40 years to draw a behavior that helped save me then.

All those years ago, had I not started running, I fear I might not have made it through. I’ve said that before. That achievement is also what allowed me to trick myself into making All-State band in my first year of high school.

Then, as now, I’m excited to know what things I might unlock in myself. It’s a selfish crusade – such things must be.

It’s All Lemons

I went outside to walk. The rain battered me, and I went back inside.

Today would be the day, then. I had promised myself I would benchmark myself on the treadmill – no matter the consequences, no matter my foot, my shoulder, my back. No matter. Enough with the excuses.

A couple of days ago, I hit 200 lbs. I tell everyone it took six weeks, but that’s not true. Whatever control mechanism rules me broke open several weeks ago. It wasn’t a choice. I lost 25 lbs by the sheer force of the certainty I was able to glimpse. Doing this sort of thing requires a selfish focus. In my case, the overlap of my ambition lies within the hearts and minds of others.

Foolish as I am for being optimistic, I’m looking to the horizon without worrying about who I’ll be. I can’t take credit for something that was handed to me. If I squander this opportunity to be who I should have been all along, I won’t recover.

For the first time in my adult life, I went a month without biting my nails. I’ve never made it a week until now. I didn’t think about the fact that I hadn’t really eaten sugar in weeks.

I walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then put the incline to the maximum. I felt my heart rate escalate. I ignored it. At minute 39, I broke through the clouds and felt weightless. My heart still beat like a hummingbird’s. I walked 10 more minutes until I felt the weight return, which is a warning sign for me. When I was a runner, I was lucky enough to experience runner’s high.

Today, I saw that 175 lbs is not only an option for me but an unavoidable consequence of the change in my heart. It’s selfish – I know. It’s not that I’m reaching a goal but reaching the life I should have had.

There’s hope for me yet. Not because I took a risk on the treadmill, but because the foolishness that led me to it reeks of optimism. After these decades on Earth, there is hope for me. In me. I don’t need a day of thanks to feel like I’ve been seen and given a gift.

Lemon Moments

This post isn’t a thread post. Please forgive me for just writing. Though I rarely do so, I compared this using the plagiarism tool. I was astonished at the variety of disparate sources that appeared.

One of the phrases I once employed often at work was, “Ma’am, are you a Christian?” I only used it when someone simply wouldn’t listen to reason – AND also lashed out in a way that made the person being spoken to feel lesser. Often, it made the person angrier, mostly if they recognized their brutality. This phrase was one of the quickest ways to penetrate someone’s attention. I’ve started saying it again. We endured a horrible election and still struggle against the worst modern pandemic. We have no business treating people as lesser. Those who found someone they call Savior should always take nine steps back before using their job as a reason to demean someone else. We are all going to fail at this – and that’s okay. But we have to shut up and realize we’re doing it if someone calls us out. If we can’t fail and still do that, none of us are worthy.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has roared back to unavoidable significance. Working around it, I see the people’s faces as it impacts them without regard to how they’ve lived their lives. Good? Bad? The virus deflects and arbitrarily inflicts its harm. All of them had hopes, dreams, plans and found themselves confronted with a dagger that didn’t exist a year ago. I will not forgive the world if the virus that has surrounded me all this year kills me. I’ve got plans.

I’ve decided to start referring to many of my moments as “Lemon Moments.” I find myself able to help someone who didn’t request it or push someone back into their human form by triggering something sublime in them. Without peering too closely at my selfish reasons for doing random and not-so-random acts of kindness, I’ve found that these moments do more to reflect who I would like to be than much of the bulk of my life. So much of our lives is spent moving the bits of our lives from point A to B. In reality, they pass unnoticed. The Lemon Moments? They echo and create a pull to do more of them. The more I do them, the more I want to share them.

I love diet tonic water. I also love sugar-free sweet ‘n sour mix. Duh. I just figured out I love the lemony backwater taste of the two of them combined. Genius, right? If I were the type to frequent bars, I think I’d laugh if I walked up to the bartender and said, “Give me a diet tonic water and sugar-free sweet ‘n sour shot.” I imagine him or her responding, “I could just pee in your mouth, sir. Get out of here!”

This morning, I had a hell of a time reconciling myself to something. But my physical reaction to a realization told me that dissonance had infected me. I’m not sure my body would have sent a perceptible signal of this a few weeks ago. Painful though it was, I learned from it. I have written before how I don’t think I knew my own mind well until my late 40s. Today was another such surprise for me. Did I mention how uncomfortable the realization was? It is a sharp toe to the face to know that my certainty isn’t that of another person, no matter how furiously I rub the magic lamp and work to make it so. I don’t know ultimately what the takeaway lesson of it was, but I do know it shook me. As we do, I will be thinking about this for a long time to come. I hope grace finds me as I search for it.

I also created the hashtag #hunkcloset to force myself to accept that there will always be more interesting, attractive, and available people in the world. It’s best to just jump into the bitter truth of it and wallow in it for as long as necessary. And when you get up, do the dishes – because this sort of thinking is self-destructive. It’s impossible to guess what people will find worth cherishing. Some people hide their scars. Some love them on others. Others? No matter how you insist that you find something endearing or beautiful? They won’t believe you, and sometimes that is because they can’t see it.

When I started trying to eat healthily, I threw out all the expectations of counting calories. Instead, I opted for a letter grade. I had As, Bs, and Cs until October 17th. October 17th was “Ham Day,” as I’ll always remember it. My two favorite people in the world came through Springdale to visit. Every day since, I’ve earned an A – and not by fudging. I stopped even recording the grade manually. Instead, I decided to note only the rare days I might do worse than expected. Over 30 days later, it hasn’t happened. I can’t say I’ve managed that in 15 years.

Also, I’ve hit the level where I am starting to feel significantly lighter. It’s only about the equivalent of 3 gallons of milk (8lbs each, more or less), but when I’m laying down, I feel bones that I haven’t for a long time. The bones at the base of my sternum feel alien. I catch myself running my fingers there as if I expected there to be no bones underneath the weight. I did it about 15 times while driving home today from work. When I stand and look down toward my feet, I still can’t understand where my belly went. I still have a stomach, to be sure, but it is fleeing the scene of the crime with speed I dared hoped it would. I sit down and don’t feel cramped. I am appalled I didn’t heed my body as it warned me over the years. I can’t fix my past stupidity. I can only use it to remind me. Being able to move toward a normal body is a gift that I don’t see myself squander.

It’s amusing. My foot is substantially less painful, too, even on workdays when I walk a lot of miles. I can only hope that continues.

I picture myself at 185 and can’t imagine how I lost the love of being lighter. 185 is still heavy. I probably should weigh 160-165 to be in the normal range. That is 60 lbs lighter than when I started this. I’ve made it past the 1/3rd mark. Even if I stop at 185, I’m more than halfway there. While I don’t weigh myself that often, the number 200 has been on my horizon and on my mind. It’s an artificial milestone, but I already know it will give me a boost. Maybe it wasn’t healthy to lose 25 lbs in 6 weeks, but it certainly hasn’t hurt me any. It might be the only thing that has allowed me to work as I have.

Yo-yo weight also causes a bit of a problem with clothes. Because I wear black slacks as work pants, I’ve had to cyclically buy a range of sizes to match my runaway appetite. Over the last few days, I sorted through my needlessly non-minimalist array of pants. The pile to go away kept increasing. “You could put them away until you’re sure.” No. I’m sure. I am never going to be that weight again. It’s not a boastful claim. I’m not going back. I am as sure of this as anything I’ve ever known in my life. That part of me broke a few weeks ago. I give you permission to mock me mercilessly if I fail. Last weekend, I bought a pair of benchmark pants. The waist is a size that seems impossible to me a month ago. My permanent maximum size will still be 2-4″ inches smaller than that. Because my inseam is 29″ or 30″, it will be hard to find pants that ‘just fit’ at that size. But that is a first-world problem that I welcome – laughingly so. All the work shirts that are now too big were returned to my supervisor. “Oh, bragging, are you?” he teased me. “No. I’m not going back.” I smiled. He’s a believer this time around.

I don’t want congratulations for doing this. I remind you that I’m only benchmarking myself against where I should have been all along for any praise I might get.

Meanwhile, I am dedicated to paying forward as many Lemon Moments as I can squeeze into my life for the pounds that evaporate. It’s the only appropriate way to repay the spirit of lightness of being I’ve been given.

You’ll be seeing less of me. Also, more me in the reflection of the invisible part of me that I find more pride in.

It is astonishing how opening a dormant or neglected part of yourself makes you seethe and hunger for a buffet of it.

And if you see me rubbing the bottom of my sternum with a look of wonder on my face, mind your business. That s#$t is crazy!

Love, X