Category Archives: Motivation

Moving Sidewalk

I started back on the UAMS program in May.  Cinco de Mayo, actually.  I’ve been as successful this time as I was last time; I’ve lost nearly 60 pounds since May, people have mentioned how much better I’m looking, and one even said, “You were doing well, and then I got worried that you were going to put it all back on.”  The state of the union, so to speak, is optimistic progress.

Photo Credit: riffsyphon1024 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: riffsyphon1024 via Compfight cc

I spend a lot of time reflecting on where I’m going and where I’ve been.  I think about the choices I made that led me back to weight gain.  Having reached my goal and then lost it again, I have a clearer view of the process than I did last time, including the end-game where I have to actively maintain my weight loss.

Losing weight on the UAMS program is a little bit like this moving sidewalk.  It’s an easy way to speed your progress toward your goal.  Are you the kind of person who gets on the moving sidewalk and stands or are you the type who gets on there and walks?

I’m a walker.  In addition to eating my meal replacements and drinking my water, I exercise.  I minimize my sodium intake not because I need to, but because I want to.  I minimize use of additives in my meal replacements because they’re unnecessary calories.  I don’t drink alcohol.  As a result, I’m quickly approaching the end of my moving sidewalk.

Whether walking or running, the transition from sidewalk to floor can be a tricky one.  If you’re standing around talking or checking your smart phone while riding one of these it can lead to an abrupt encounter with the floor.  You have to pay attention and have a little coordination to do it gracefully.  And we’re all carrying baggage.

I’m about 30 pounds away from the end of my moving sidewalk, and I’ll still have about a 15 pound “walk” to my “gate.”  I’m paying attention, I’ve done it before, and I’m confident this transition, while maybe not graceful, will be successful.

What steps can you take today to ensure your next steps will land on solid ground?

Feeling The Benefits

There are so many benefits to losing weight.  You’re less likely to suffer diseases like cancer and diabetes, your joints feel better, you look better, and you have more energy.  When gaining weight slowly, I didn’t seem to notice the negative effects as they piled up.  When losing weight quickly, though, the benefits are soon evident.

I lost about 20 pounds my first month back on the UAMS weight loss program, and the way I feel has completely transformed.  I seek out opportunities to walk.  I take the stairs.  I’m actually tan from being outside so much.  I’ve been looking on CraigsList for a used weight bench  I got my FitBit out and charged it up for the first time in a year.

When you feel too tired to go out and walk, you might be too tired not to.

Like Riding a Bicycle

Twenty days into my return to weight loss, and things are going GREAT.  I am eating meal replacements, I’m exercising, and I’ve lost 14 pounds so far.  I’m picking up nuances in our weekly classes that I missed the first time, and I couldn’t be happier.  This weight loss stuff is like riding a bicycle.

Have you seen this video of the guy with the backward bicycle?

The people trying to ride this bicycle know exactly what they need to do in order to stay balanced, but their bodies just aren’t cooperating.  When I saw this, I immediately made the connection to weight loss.  I know nutrition.  I know portion control.  I know exercise.  For the last year, though, there has been something inside me that has been preventing me from acting based on my knowledge.

Whatever that switch is inside me that needed to flip, it has flipped.  A close friend congratulated me on my success, and asked, “[Have you figured out] why you gained it back?”  What a complicated question.

In looking back at the timeline, I stopped exercising regularly during recovery from a surgery.  I was able to maintain within 20 pounds of where I wanted to be for quite a while after that, and I was exercising 1-2 times per week by walking or jogging.  I was not going to the gym.

After changing jobs and moving, I completely abandoned exercise, ate as much fast food as I wanted, and the rest is history.  I knew with every bite that what I was eating was a poor nutrition choice that would lead to weight gain.  I knew that avoiding exercise would cause my metabolism to slow and make resuming exercise that much harder.  What was stopping me?  I even posted on Facebook, “I wish 2012 Daniel would visit 2015 Daniel and give him some motivation.”

Like the man on the bicycle, it just flipped for me one day.  I got back on the bicycle and resumed my journey.  If you are in that place where I was, unhappy with your choices but unable to find the switch, believe me.  I know.  I know.

Everyone’s switch is in a different place, and once you find it, it moves.  The struggle is real, but know that you can get right back on that bicycle at any time.


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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The Light & The Tunnel

A few weeks back, we were talking in weight maintenance class about how our perspectives on weight loss have changed since starting the program.  In the early days, many of us were looking for quick fixes.  The fact that the UAMS program is advertised as being just 16 weeks was a selling point to many.  Coming to the end of a 16 week weight loss class or a 12 week maintenance class, one might say “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”  As it turns out, there’s not really an “end of the tunnel” in terms of healthy living and weight maintenance.

The light / La luz
. SantiMB . via Compfight

We went around the room, spontaneously talking about how we felt coming to the end of  class.  Not really prompted by the teacher, we just felt our way through the group conversation.  When it was my turn to speak, I said something like, “For me, the light isn’t at the end of the tunnel, but it’s within the tunnel, walking beside me.  The light is Kristen, my dietitian.”  Kristen is there with me helping me see things I couldn’t otherwise see, learn things I wouldn’t otherwise know, and always doing so with a positivity that is unmatched.  I’m so fortunate to have Kristen along on my journey.

In recovery from my abdominoplasty, the surgeon instructed me to eat more protein.  I already eat a diet very high in protein — Greek yogurt morning and night, a lot of lean fish and chicken, and peanut butter several times a day as not only a source of “good fat,” but also additional protein.  I emailed Kristen asking for guidance.  She gave me some wonderful advice:

How do you feel about non-fat cottage cheese? One cup is around 125 calories and has about 25 g. of protein. And maybe for a few suggestions to “shake things up” you might try some Edamame, quinoa, flax seeds, or someprotein powder. Just a few suggestions for when you get bored.

I hope all goes well at your checkup today! I’m ready to see you in person.

Kristen is the light along the way as I traverse this tunnel.  If I get frustrated, she’s always open to discussing the situation.  If I am excited about something, she always takes time to listen and congratulate me.  She’s so much more than just a person full of nutrition facts.  She’s like my nutrition therapist.

Everyone who’s a part of the UAMS program has access to the services of a registered dietitian like Kristen.  For those of you who aren’t part of the UAMS program, who do you have helping you make decisions and decode the ingredient lists of tricky foods?  If I’m in Wal-Mart, I’ll snap a shot of label and email Kristen.  Sometimes, she even gets back to me before I leave the store!

Who’s your light?



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.

Push-Up Goal (an Ongoing Struggle)

I’m not sure how many of you noticed, but I set a personal goal of being able to do 100 push-ups.  You know how much I like arbitrary, numeric goals.  I had no idea at the time what a chore I was committing to, but I stand by my word.  I could take the easy way out and say, “I did 100 push-ups…  this year.  Two each week.”  That would be disingenuous, though.

Poolee Pushups
Creative Commons License Nick Royer via Compfight

This post isn’t about how amazing I am at doing push-ups.  It’s not about some fancy tool I bought (or want to buy) to help me do push-ups, and it isn’t about the amazing health benefits of doing push-ups (are there any?).  This post is a confession of sorts that this goal is one that I’m struggling with.

I write a lot about setting goals, taking baby steps toward those goals, and taking time each day to reflect on your work toward those goals.  I know how do to this stuff very well.  I’ve shown through weight loss, balancing my books, and in my education that I am more than capable of setting and reaching goals.  Why, then, am I failing at this one?

Play with food
Marco Bernardini via Compfight

Could it be because I have no “carrot” on the end of my “stick”?  No “game” to “win” or “lose”?  I know that by working on push-ups I’ll have stronger triceps, development of a variety of muscles in my chest, and I’ll be able to “drop and give twenty” at a moment’s notice.  I know that this is an exercise that has lasting benefits in working off my “bat wings,” too.  As an added bonus, the more lean muscle I have in my arms, the more calories I burn at rest.  I know these facts.  There are plenty of “carrots.”

Could it be because there are few consequences for not taking action?  I know that if I don’t do my regular gym workouts that I’ll burn fewer calories and have poorer performance at the weight loss clinic on weigh-in days.  I know that if I don’t stick to my meal plans, I’ll not eat the right proportions of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and calories, and I’ll also have poorer performance on weigh-in days.  If I don’t do my push-ups, what’s my disincentive?  Batwings?  I’m already there.

Could it be because I don’t have the resources to learn how to do push-ups?  I have the Internet.  Could it be because I don’t have the resources necessary to do push-ups?  I have arms and a floor.  Could it be because I don’t have a suitable workout plan?  There are plenty of push-up training schedules available online, and I’ve even purchased an iPhone app that can be used to track progress.  The resources are in place.

What’s missing here?  Time?  One of the websites I consulted recommended doing as many push-ups as possible, resting two minutes, and repeating this five times.  That’s an investment of at most 15 minutes.

What’s missing here?  Why can’t (or won’t) I follow-up by taking action on this goal?  I’ve set reminders for myself by moving my dumbbells into the hallway to remind me of my goal.  I step over them at least twice a day, usually much more than that.

I know what I have to do to reach my goal.  I have the resources necessary to reach my goal.  I am the only thing stopping me from reaching my goal.

What’s wrong with me?

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