Category Archives: Makes You Think

Change is Hard

In class last week Brooklyn, my new dietitian, talked about the stages of change.  Although I’ve been through the 16 UAMS classes several times each, I saw this week’s lesson through different eyes.  We discussed the stages of change.

Stages of Change Model by Prochaska & DiClemente

Stages of Change Model by Prochaska & DiClemente

In pre-contemplation, you’re either unaware that there is a problem or you’re in denial about it.  For me, this was the first couple decades of my life.

Next comes contemplation.  You’re aware of the problem, and you’re weighing your options.  “I really need to exercise.  Oh!  Look!  House of Cards!”

I contemplated for a while before joining the UAMS weight loss program in 2011.  I looked at diet pills, fad diets, weight loss surgery, and other options, including “doing nothing.”  I ultimately decided to try UAMS.  This point of decision-making is the determination phase.

In the action phase, you do the things necessary to achieve the change you want.  For me, it was eating a low calorie diet and exercising, which established a calorie deficit and effected weight loss.  In 2011, 2012, and early 2013, I “action’ed” my butt off.  Literally.

I reached my goal in 2013, and transitioned to maintenance.  In this stage, you take the actions necessary to maintain the change.  For me, it was making informed food choices, continuing exercise, and monitoring my weight.  I maintained for about a year.

Relapse.  That’s the killer.  It’s when you slip into your old ways.  We’ll just call that one School Year 2014-2015.  As viewed through the lens of my Discover Card statement, here’s what relapse looks like for me

CC Statement Relapse

The beauty of change, I am told, is that you can jump back into it at any time.  Today, I feel that I’m in the action stage.  I’m reliably eating within my calorie budget, I’m exercising regularly, and I’m determined to reach a weight where I’ll be healthy and happy.

Which stage are you in?

Choosing My Own Adventure

When I was a kid, I really wasn’t very interested in reading.  It took more effort than watching a movie or listening to a story.  As well, it required that I concentrate for longer than my hyper-active attention span could muster.  The one exception to that was “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.  In those, you’d read a page or two and then make a decision.  Do you explore the dark cave or go back the way you came to investigate the noise you just heard?


Since starting at my new school, I’ve been faced with an avalanche of decisions.  

  • Do I go home and grade the open-response items I put on the Chapter 1 test so the kids will have feedback before they move on to the next big thing, or do I go to the gym and spend some quality time with the elliptical machine?
  • Do I stay up an extra hour preparing healthy meals for the coming days, or do I go to bed at a reasonable hour so I’ll have the energy and patience needed to make it through a full day of problem-based learning facilitation with 60 9th graders and 60 10th-12th graders?  
  • Do I take the much-needed 3-day weekend retreat that has become a tradition, or do I stay within the confines of civilization where there’s access to the Internet so I can grade online writing assignments (360 of them)?
  • Do I take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime, week-long professional development opportunity out of state requiring me to prepare an entire week of lesson plans and substitute-friendly learning activities, or do I stay here and do things myself?

Most of these decisions are interwoven.  If I go to the gym, I’ll have a higher energy level and a better attitude for the problem-based learning activity.  If I go on the weekend retreat, I’ll be relaxed, but I’ll probably also make poor food choices.  If I prep my meals, it means I’ll have more time to do work at school during my 30 minute lunch break, so I can at least print off the seating charts for the substitute folder for that week I’ll be out.

“Make Good Choices.”

Kristen, the registered dietitian who has been my source of knowledge, inspiration, and, when needed, consolation, has always told me to make good choices.  When I tell her that I’ve taken an action or made a choice that turned out not to be in my favor, she always asks, “what would have been a better choice?”

The difference between “then” and “now” is not that I didn’t want to make good choices “then.”  It’s not that I lacked the analytical capacity to make good choices “then.”  It’s simply that I was nutritionally-illiterate then.  I wasn’t equipped to make good choices about what to eat, what not to eat, and what the role of physical activity (and inactivity) played in weight control.

You haven’t heard much from me in the last month because I’ve been covered up with work and life.  I haven’t been to the gym since September 5th.  I had to log into my gym account to look that up!  My work obligations, for better or worse, often take precedence over my life obligations.  As a professional educator, I cannot bring myself to let the intellectual well-being of 180 young people fall to the wayside because I haven’t done “leg day” this week.

So how am I doing?  Surprisingly well.

My last weigh-in was 193.0 pounds.  The last time I updated you on my progress I weighed 191.8 pounds.  I lost my weight by making good choices.  I’ve kept it off by continuing to make the best choices I can.  In the real world, we have to deal the hand we’re dealt.  Sometimes the best choice is the least-worst choice.  When those days come, I learn from them, taking steps to not get myself in those types of situations going forward.

If you’re trying to control your own weight, make good choices.  Learn how food works.  Learn how to balance your caloric intake with your caloric expenditures.  When I can’t get to the gym, I eat less.  When I’m eating less, I I make sure that the foods I do eat are whole grains, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and the “good fats.”  When I do have time to get to the gym, that gives me a bit more flexibility in my food choices and my “discretionary calories” (Fun-size Twix, I’m talking to you).

A good friend recently told me that he and his wife had decided that they were going to focus on losing weight.  As badly as I know they both want and need to lose weight, success all comes down to how well you play “Choose Your Own Adventure.”  In my previous life, I wanted to lose weight.  In my previous life I needed to lose weight.  The difference between then and now is that I have equipped myself with the knowledge and nutrition literacy resources necessary to make good decisions.  I know how to look things up.  I know who to ask if I can’t make sense of what I find.  I use my brain to decide what I put in my mouth.

What do you need to help you make better choices?


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You know how Oprah has a tendency to invite people onto her show, get them all loosened up, and then hit them with a question they didn’t see coming that sort of rips their heart out?  That happened to me a little bit in a recent interview for a project that may or may not see the light of day, so I can’t give you too many details on it.  It did kick off a chain of memories, emotions, and thoughts that I’d like to share.

Photo by kittivanilli

Photo by kittivanilli

If you’ve been on my journey for very long, you know that I’ve been the poster boy for childhood obesity since practically birth.  I was 165 pounds in the third grade.  I was 209 pounds in the fourth grade.  One does not simply sail through childhood as a big kid without attracting the attention of bullies, mean kids, and, well, everyone.  While bullying has been a buzzword in education for a while, it was something that we just lived with when I was a kid.

“Mom, the kids pick on me.  They call me names.”  Nowadays, this would prompt a phone call to the school, a committee meeting, and some “norming.”  What was the response in my day?  “Yeah.  They used to pick on me, too.  ‘Sticks and stones,’ Danny.  ‘Sticks and stones.'”

In the fifth grade, I moved to a new home in a new school district.  This meant learning a whole new set of bullies.  One particularly nasty kid, we’ll call him Rodney, nagged, harassed, and verbally exhausted me relentlessly.  One day at the tether ball pole, he said something that incensed me.  Without thought, my fist was making contact with his nose.  What was happening?

Creative Commons License alexisnyal via Compfight

I am not a violent person!  I never have been, and I never hope to be.  That day on the playground, though, something “came unglued,” and Rodney took a direct hit to the face.  Minutes later, we were both sitting in the principal’s office with our heads hung low.  Rodney had a tissue collecting the blood dripping from his nose.  He was the first to go into the principal’s office.

I heard some quiet conversation through the door, some very loud paddling, some exclamations from Rodney, and then silence.  Rodney left the principal’s office with tears running down his face, reconstituting the caked blood.  If this was what they did to the “victims” of violence in this school district, I was going to be mutilated.

Very timidly, I entered when called into the principal’s office.  “Tell me what happened.”  I told the principal about the history with Rodney and how something just snapped.  The principal told me about his childhood.  He shared with me that he had once the victim of relentless teasing.  He understood.  He then stood up with his paddle.  “The handbook says the remedy for hitting someone is that I have to paddle you.  The handbook doesn’t say how hard.”

He swatted me gently and sent me back to class.  Elementary bullying was solved that day when the kids saw what happened to Rodney.  As an older student, though, bullying was much more subtle, and corporal punishment wasn’t viable in middle school and junior high.  Cliques, exclusion, and pranks replaced name calling.  I’d rather have been punched in the face than punched in the heart when told that I couldn’t sit at a particular table or join a particular study group.

I looked at popular kids who weren’t skinny.  I analyzed them.  I noticed that each and every one was humorous, happy, and full of laughs.  At that time, I did not comprehend correlation or causation.  It didn’t really dawn on me that because they were popular they were happy and full of laughs.  I deduced that because they were boisterous, they were popular.  So, I set out to reinvent myself as the clown.

I was quite good at beating bullies to the punchline of many put-downs.  I “owned” being big, and made it a part of my personality — my brand.  I leveraged my size whenever possible in humorous ways.  For the most part, that worked for me.  Even as a teacher, I referred to my last name as a unit of size.  “That door is less than one Moix wide.”  It hurt less when the person doing the name calling was me.

Speaking of being a teacher, name calling and bullying are actions that I’m particularly in tune to.  When I see it, I stop it.  When I hear it, I intervene.  Whether it’s about size, fashion, perceived sexuality, or anything else, I stop it.  Ayn Rand is quoted as saying, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”  In retrospect, it’s the bullies asking, “Who’s going to stop me?” and those being bullied asking, “Who’s going to let me?”  It’s unclear to me exactly when I switched from asking to telling, but I’m there, and in full swing.

Do you have any stories of being bullied?  How do you help your children cope with being bullied?


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15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy

I saw a post by a friend on Facebook with a list of 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy.  I’ve been giving up things regularly since beginning this journey, and I’ve never been happier.  There was a time that I thought you’d pry my satellite television remote from my cold, dead hands.  You would have had a better chance separating me from my morning Diet Coke than pulling a crooked stamp off an important letter.  These things mean nothing to me now.  When I read over the list my friend posted, it resonated with me on a number of levels.

  1. The need to always be right.  This one is deeply seated in me.  As an analytical person, I find myself seeking an absolutely correct answer to a lot of problems.  I so often seek “right” and “wrong,” and I get rubbed the “wrong” way when people don’t do things “right.”  It has been so freeing for me to realize that things which are right for me might be wrong for others, and vice versa.  Now if only the Westboro Baptist Church could have this revelation, right?
  2. Give up your need for control.  Margaret, one of my dietitians, once gave me some wise words.  She said (more or less), “Relax.  You don’t have to be in control.  You just need to be in charge.”  I can’t “control” my body, but I can be in charge of the decisions I make which influence how my body reacts.  I can do my best, and that’s the best I can do.  At work, I am finding that releasing the need to be in control is also freeing.  It frees up time and lowers my stress levels.  Surprisingly, things still get done.
  3. Give up on blame.  As a younger man, I was very much guilty of assigning blame when things went awry.  I was always glad to take credit for when they went right, however.  As I mature, I find that we’re all in this together, and everyone deserves a fair share of the costs and the benefits.  If I gain weight, it’s convenient to say, “Well, I had salt.  I didn’t exercise.  That food was mis-labeled.”  It’s much more freeing to say, “I gained weight this week.  Okay.  Next week is a new week.”
  4. Give up on your self-defeating talk.  Bazinga!  This one is huge for me.  I so often talk myself out of things before I even start them.  The vast majority of things I’ve achieved have been despite my inner voices, rather than because of them.  Just tell them to, “hide and watch.”
  5. Give up on your limiting beliefs.  I find myself closing more and more emails, post, and text messages with, “What’s stopping you?”  It’s even on my Needless Pounds business cards.  So often, you are the only thing stopping you.  Stop stopping you 😉
  6. Give up complaining.  I love how much better my quality of life is now that I see things more positively.  I’m not certain how that change happened, but I’m so thankful that it has.  I even keep a list of things that I’m thankful for each day.  In my last job, I had wonderful opportunities, great colleagues, and amazing students.  I left because there were one or two things I found complaint-worthy.  In my current role, I have wonderful opportunities, great colleagues, and amazing students.  There are still one or two things that I could complain about, but I find my job so much more rewarding when I see the “wins” before the “losses.”  In terms of weight loss and body image, I know there are things about my body that I don’t like.  There are many, many more things about my body which are wonderful and amazing than which need fixing.
  7. Give up the luxury of criticism.  See number 1.  See number 6.  See the good in things.  See?
  8. Give up your need to impress others.  As a big kid, I received sooo much criticism from my peers.  “Kids can be so cruel” doesn’t begin to describe my childhood as an obese kid.  I grew up feeling the need to overcome my physical appearance by being better, stronger, faster, smarter, what-have-you than others.  I was walking down the hall just yesterday, and I saw my reflection in a large glass window.  I picked out a flaw (see numbers 4 and 6), and I said, “Eh.  Who am I trying to impress?”  It’s so freeing!
  9. Give up on your resistance to change.  Change is scary.  Change requires effort.  Sitting still is comfortable, but so is eating a bag of miniature Reese’s Cups.  Sitting still will get you nowhere.  If you stand still on an escalator, you will find yourself back on the ground floor.  As a young educator, I’ve found myself swimming against a sea of complacency when trying to implement new approaches and technology.
  10. Give up labels.  Here’s an excellent example of this:  You’re “Obese.”  Most people are.  To be not obese requires a body mass index under 30.  My body mass index still claims I’m overweight.  BMI is just a label, and it’s crazy how skinny I’d have to be to be labeled “normal.”  I can achieve the things I want to achieve today.  I can be better tomorrow, and I’m working toward that, but there’s nothing “wrong” with me right now.
  11. Give up on your fears.  Isn’t this just a special case of numbers 3, 4, and 5?  Fear is often associated with uncertainty and the unknown.  I was afraid of going to the gym because I didn’t know how to use the equipment, and I was uncertain if I would be able to figure it out.  Fortunately, I had a friend take me by the hand and guide me.  He helped me through my fears.  What are your fears?  Who can help you past them?
  12. Give up your excuses.  I’m a successful weight loss patient.  It only took me 30 years to get over myself and do the work required to achieve the results.  So many people come to me and say, “Can you help me do this, too?”  After giving them advice and specific direction, they say, “Oh.  I can’t do that because.” or “That wouldn’t work for me.”  What I hear when people say things like that is, “I really don’t want to change.”  Obstacles can be overcome.  Excuses are not obstacles — they’re you holding yourself back.
  13. Give up on the past.  You can’t change the past.  You need to learn from it and look forward.  You have total control of your present and future actions.  Set goals, establish strategies for reaching those goals, and get busy accomplishing these goals!
  14. Give up attachment.  I’ve lived a life attached to things, ideas, and causes for a long time.  Food was one of those attachments.  I’ve already discussed giving up my grips on satellite television.  I’ve written about my experience with debt which was associated with an attachment to “things.”  It’s very freeing to let go of attachment.
  15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations.  My life is mine to live.  I set my goals, I make my own decisions, and I reap the rewards or pay the penalties for my actions.  When I was living a life that was based on stuff, I racked up a ton of credit card debt.  That sucked.  When I was living a life of dietary excess, I racked up a ton of body fat.  That sucked.  When I made my career decisions on what I thought would make other people happy, I ended up in a lonely cubicle.  That sucked.  I now make my purchasing decisions for me.  The fact that most of my clothes are second-hand doesn’t bother me one bit.  I make most of my food decisions for me.  The fact that I eat a lot of foods that many people find boring is frankly none of their business.  I like carrots.  I sincerely like carrots.  I teach at a community college which pays me far less than I feel I’m worth.  I’m not in it for the money — that’s not my expectation.  Giving up on what other people want for you is so freeing!

That was a lot of words.  If you’ve skipped down here for the insight, I don’t blame you.  For me, the take-away is that less is more, and when you’re living on/with less, it’s important that you make wise decisions about what you do have/keep/choose.  Choose nutritious foods.  Do work you enjoy.  Surround yourself with people who lift you up rather than bring you down.  If it hurts, stop doing it.  If it’s not making you better, it’s probably making you worse.

An Hour with Dorothy

I spent an hour on a plane with Dorothy, a self-described “senior,” who has lost 25 pounds.  She and I have one thing in common — we struggle with our midsections.

Dorothy and I started talking when I saw her cup of yogurt.  I asked her if she had ever tried making her own yogurt at home. She had not.  I walked her through the process I use, and she said she’d try it.  She was curious why I knew how to make yogurt, so I explained that it was part of my lifestyle change.  We discussed diet, exercise, and our midsections.

My midsection solution, surgery, is generally only necessary for folks who have lost a dramatic amount of weight in a relatively short period of time.  Dorothy has lost her weight more slowly.  Her solution involves, in her words, “a ton of ab workouts.”

In addition to exercise and recipes, Dorothy listened intently as I shared the basic high points of my story.  I told her about being obese in elementary school, losing weight in college, gaining weight after my mother’s death, and ignoring warning sign after warning sign until that day a couple of summers ago when I was too large to fit behind the steering wheel of a full size van.  Dorothy said, “You should write a book.  People need to hear your story for inspiration.”  I gave Dorothy the address of my blog.  If you’re out there reading Dorothy, let me know if you’ve tried that yogurt recipe.  I hope your mother’s condition has improved.

My visit with Dorothy was so pleasant that we were putting our seat backs and tray tables up and preparing for landing before I even took out my iPod and untangled my headphones.  It was so comforting to find a person on a parallel path and spend time with them.

Who have you met on your journey?

Mailbag Monday: Michelle’s Question

Michelle commented on a progress photo that I posted on Facebook not long ago with a question whose answer warrants more than a simple “yes” or “no.”  Michelle said, “Look at you!!!! Bravo! I’ve been wanting to ask you this, but I keep forgetting. I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned this in your blogs or not but… Do you feel like people treat you differently since you’ve lost weight? Do you think people discriminate towards overweight people? Just wanted to know your thoughts on the matter.

To respond to Michelle’s first question, “Do you feel like people treat you differently since you’ve lost weight?” the answer is, “Yes and no”  Some people who have always known and loved me continue to know and love me regardless of my size.  I can’t think of a single friend I’ve lost because of weight loss, but I can say with certainty that meeting new people is different.

Facebook Question

I find myself with a lot more “friends” and “interested parties” as “thin Daniel,” and that makes me inherently cautions and suspicious of peoples’ motives.  I certainly get more attention.  My answer to Michelle’s second question may shock you.  Not only do I think people discriminate against overweight people, I find myself doing it!  Let me explain…

Continue reading

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“dont know what to do for lunch”

One of my Facebook friends posted this on his wall, asking input from his community of friends for input on what to eat for lunch. I know that he has been interested in, but unsuccessful at, losing weight. I also know that I had written a blog post about how to plan a lunch for weight loss. When I looked back at my post of nearly 700 words, I realized that sending him a link to the post wouldn’t provide the hands-on advice that he would need.  Frustrated with starting and restarting this blog post many times, I just put it down in a video.

It’s hard to give someone simple advice to get on track with healthy meal planning and preparation.  Maybe we should come up with a simple set of meal plans based on a small starter pantry of healthy items.  Has this been done?  Would it be reinventing the wheel?

What’s the simplest healthy meal you can think of for a true beginner to pull off?

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How Many Factors Apply to You?

My Health News Daily recently released a post listing, “11 Surprising Things That Can Make Us Gain Weight.” Poor diet and lack of exercise weren’t listed in their list of 11 things, though they were mentioned in the introduction. I was surprised to find out how many of the factors identified actually apply to me.

To lose ten pounds
chrisphoto via Compfight

Turning On The AC
As a larger person, my motto was, “Keep Refrigerated.” I wasn’t comfortable in the summer unless the thermostat was in the 60’s. In a vehicle, I always had to have the vents blowing on me. I’m now easily chilled and prefer driving with the sunroof open and the vent turned off. The article draws a link, but does air conditioning “make us gain weight?”

Having a Working Mom
From the time I was born, my mom was working. She ran a “beauty shop” in the back room of our house. When I was older, she worked as a school cafeteria manager. This line from the post almost made me laugh out loud, “researchers caution, they didn’t examine diet or physical activity, which are likely to partially account for the results.”

Not Getting Enough Sleep
I’ve always been a 6.5 hour per night kind of guy. Even in college, I was known in the dorm for being the guy who never slept much. In recent months, I’ve been staying up as late as ever, but my body is waking me up earlier and earlier. “Getting old sucks.”

Getting Your Tonsils Out
I had my tonsils out in the first grade. I weighed 165 pounds in the third grade. Coincidence? You can’t make this stuff up.

Having an Older Mom
My mother was 31 when I was born. My dad was in his 40’s. The article states that children of older mothers carried 2.6 – 2.8% more body fat than those born to younger mothers.

Being Exposed to Environmental Contaminants
As I mentioned, I grew up in a home where cosmetology chemicals were stored and used. The reason my mother eventually stopped “doing hair” was because of a negative reaction she had to the chemicals.

Your Genes
My mother had gastric bypass in the 1970’s. My maternal aunt has always been obese. I come by it naturally.

There are a lot of links in the article that apply to me, but I’m not sure if these are all valid causal relationships. Correlation is one thing, but causation is another thing entirely. When two things go hand-in-hand, there is correlation.

One famous example of how this works is a study linking shoe size to reading ability. The study found that people with smaller shoe sizes tended to have inferior reading abilities to those with larger shoe sizes. When looking closer at the data, it was clear that the poorer readers were children. While there is a correlation between shoe size and reading ability, having larger shoes does not, itself, make you a better reader.

How many factors from this piece apply to you?

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