Category Archives: Overcoming Obstacles

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?

The Struggle Is Real, Y’all

That was my best Paula Dean voice.

I’ve been back on the program since May 6th, and the closest I’ve come to straying from the plan has been eating more than my daily half-cup ration of salsa and eating sugar-free Jell-o as a food rather than an additive.  I’d say I’m doing pretty well.  It hasn’t been without temptation.

Cake Rose

There was an end of year luncheon at work yesterday. BBQ for 250 and two of the biggest cakes I’ve ever seen.  I have a thing for icing. The thick kind where the sugar and fat dissolve in your mouth.  You can read about my last icing incident here.  I didn’t eat any cake or BBQ.  I ate a meal replacement. 

Today the leftovers are in the teachers lounge. I have abstained, but SweetMotherOfGod would you look at that icing flower the size of my face?  I just want to lay down in it.  If I were alone with this thing, it would be history.  Since it’s in a public place, I have the support I need to let it go.

As I was walking into the lounge for another reason, I passed another teacher walking out who was literally muttering, “Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Be good.  Be good.”

The struggle is REAL, y’all!


It’s Always Something

Christmas.  New Year’s.  Birthday.  Wedding.  Valentine’s.  Easter.  There’s always a reason to eat something with empty calories in it.  For me, the gauntlet was Teacher Appreciation Week.  My weakness is icing https://australianpharm../.

Cake Corner

When I walked into the teachers’ lounge, this was staring me in the face saying, “I waited just for you!”  I don’t know about you, but for me, cake is all about the frosting.  I’ve seen some folks scrape off the good stuff and eat just the cake.  I’m the other way around.  Give me just the sweet stuff, and I’ll be happy.

I didn’t eat any cake last week.  I didn’t eat any cookies, donuts, muffins, snicker doodles, or even fortune cookies.


I did crack one open, but I didn’t care for the fortune it gave me.  I’m plotting my own destiny, here.  Why do I need to take instructions from a cookie?

The point is, there will always be something in your path shouting, “Eat me!”  There will forever be holidays, girl scouts with cookies, and even the random corner piece of cake staring you in the face.  Decide today how you plan to deal with that monster when it rears its ugly head.

While I’m in the weight loss stage of things, when calories call, I’m letting them go to voice mail.

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?

The Knowing-Doing Gap

Let’s just rip this BandAid off.  I haven’t posted in over a year because I’ve been struggling with weight maintenance.  There.  That’s better.  What I love about the UAMS program that helped me lose over 250 pounds is when I walked in the clinic door last week having gained about a hundred pounds back, they didn’t do any of the negative things I worried they might.  They just said, “Daniel! We’re glad to see you!”

May, 2015

May, 2015

That was me this weekend waiting to start a Color Dash 5K to benefit KUAR, our local public radio station.  It had been a while since I walked that distance, but I made it through the whole course at my own pace.  I remember walking about 3 miles with a coworker each day on our lunch hour at my previous school.  I miss those walks.

How does this happen?  More calories in than out.  I’m confident that if I went to the gym and swiped my card tomorrow, confetti and balloons would fall from the ceiling.  We don’t want that.  I honestly don’t know the last time I went to the gym, and I’m too ashamed to look it up.

I do know that Wendy’s has kids meals on sale after 4PM for $1.99 each.  I also know where you can still find Cadbury Creme Eggs for 27 cents.  I know too well where $1.59 will buy you a cinnamon roll the size of your face with more than a quarter inch of cake frosting on the top.

I know that one pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories.  I know that weight gain occurs when an individual consumes more calories than he expends.  I know how to plan a healthy meal.  I know how to cook foods low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in flavor.  I know.  I know.

It’s not about what we know.  It’s about what we do.

What I’m doing is re-enrolling in the UAMS weight loss program and joining a Foundations I class.  I’m walking the walk with a room full of new patients who are simultaneously excited and frightened as they begin their own journeys.

We all had the same question at some point, “What if this doesn’t work?”  What if it does?  It did for me, and it will again.  I walk into this classroom knowing what the end-game looks like, and this time I’m going to make the most of every session, picking up the knowledge, skills, and abilities that I missed the first time so I can be sure I’ll never have to retrace these steps again.

The lyrics to a show tune keep coming to mind at this moment.  “I know where I’m going, and I know where I’ve been.”

Summer 2011

Summer 2011


The Foodtritionist, whom I recommend you follow on Facebook for the humor as much as the sound nutrition and recipe advice, recently posted a cartoon that resonated with me.  “You have many weight-loss options:  gastric bypass, donut shop bypass, pizza parlor bypass, buffet bypass…”

Bypass Cartoon

For me, it’s gas station bypass.  Keeping foods that I would have difficulty consuming in healthy portions and at reasonable frequencies out of my pantry has long been a key to encouraging myself to make sound food choices.  Have you been inside a gas station lately?

I commute about an hour each way to and from work, so I get gas once every two or three days.  I am signed up for the rewards program that my gas station offers so I save between 5 and 10 cents per gallon.  When you burn fuel as rapidly as I do, every little bit counts.  With that rewards program came free treats.  A free fountain drink.  A free coffee.  A free Cadbury Cream Egg.

These freebies are designed to lure us inside.  Once there, they want to keep us inside.  Buy 6 fountain drinks and get the 7th for free.  Scan this QR Code and we’ll send you a coupon for something each Thursday.  Free donut.  Free hot dog.  Free coffee.  Free calories.

It wasn’t long before I was stopping into the gas station when I didn’t even need to get gas.  The people were very friendly.  The bathrooms were always sparkling.  The employees were so helpful — “You know, if you get another one of those it’ll only be 49 cents more.  They’re on sale this week.”  How can you turn away an offer like that?

Food addiction was never something I really thought was a thing.  Sure, people make bad decisions, but addiction?  When I drive past a gas station and my mouth begins watering, what do you call that?

I’m going to have a radical gas station bypass performed.  I don’t need the fountain drinks.  I don’t need the freebies.  I can pay at the pump.  When the receipt tells me that there are free things inside, I’m going to tear it up and drive away.  When the rewards system sends me a text message encouraging me to come inside to try a new product, I’m going to delete it.  When the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup calls my name, I’m going to let that call go to voicemail.

I can bypass the unhealthy options in the grocery store, but I seem to have difficulty bypassing them in convenience stores.  The answer is to bypass convenience stores.

What are you going to bypass?

70,000 Calories

I’ve gained just less than 20 pounds since my last official weigh-in.  Since there are 3,500 Calories in a pound of fat, that means that I’ve consumed just shy of 70,000 needless Calories in the past few months.  As one would do when getting a household budget in line, I sat down with a spreadsheet to think about where some of these needless Calories were spent.

Until my gas station bribed me into trying one with a free t-shirt, I had never tasted a “Whoopie Pie.”  It’s essentially two sweet, sticky muffin tops that sandwich a creamy filling that’s somewhere between butter cream icing and marshmallow goo.  You can get miniatures 5 for $1.99 or larger ones 3 for $2.49.  I wear the tshirt to the gym.  I wear the extra weight I gained everywhere I go.

Whoopie Pie Shirt

For the purposes of our budget, let’s say I had 17 of the miniatures.  That’s 3,400 Calories — just shy of a pound.

I have also developed a habit of eating Reese’s Cups.  I’m not talking about the cute miniature ones or even the two-pack classic cups.  These (plural) are the thick super-sized “Big Cup” variety.  They’re delicious, and do very little for me from a satiety perspective.  Why, then, did I find myself in possession of a case of them from Sam’s Club one weekend?  Because they’re cheaper in bulk.

Let’s add a case of those dudes into the calculation.  That’s 6,400 Calories.

I also discovered a product that didn’t exist when I began my weight loss journey — Snickers PB Squared.  It apparently won some awards last year.  It has the nutty-creamy quality of Snickers, and it also has the je ne sais quoi of peanut butter that makes it super double addictive.  The regular pack comes with two squares, but you can also get it with 4 squares  I bought a bag of miniatures at the grocery store.  Again, cheaper that way.

I honestly have no idea how many there were in that bag.  Let’s go with 28.  If there weren’t that many in the bag, I know I’ve eaten at least that many at gas station stops alone.  7,000 Calories.

While we’re on the topic of peanut butter, I have been known to sit down with a jar of it and scoop it out on saltine crackers.  A similar motion also works if you’re holding a jar of Nutella and gripping graham crackers.  My rational brain knows that peanut butter is a very Calorie-dense food — one that must be consumed in careful portions in order to prevent consuming it in excess.  Those Calories don’t count if you’re wearing your Whoopie Pie shirt, right?

A cup of peanut butter contains 1,518 Calories.  Over several months, I know I’ve cleaned out more than one jar.  For our budget, let’s put 16 cups.  That’s a gallon — 24,288 Calories.  I know I haven’t eaten that much excess peanut butter, but I’m still shy some Calories to meet my 70,000.

If I were to fill in the remaining missing calories in terms of large pepperoni pizzas, it would take a dozen of them to tally up the remaining 28,000 Calories.

A taste here, a nibble there, a cheat on occasion, and endless promises to do better tomorrow.  That’s how weight is gained.  Establishing a Calorie deficit — consuming fewer Calories than are expended — is how weight is lost.

The momentary pleasure of eating that Reese’s Cup quickly fades.  The impact registered on the scale does not.  These are poor choices, and I know better!  Why, then, did I make them?

This fascinating podcast from Radiolab, which has long been one of my favorite shows to listen to on my commute, discusses the way scientists believe our brain makes decisions.  They describe it as bundles of neurons voting, as if on a committee.  I can clearly feel the struggle in my own mind.  “We want a candybar!” shout the pleasure-seeking neutrons.  “Those are empty calories,” scold the bookkeepers.  It’s not that any one set of neurons is me, rather they’re all me.  I just have to wrangle the electorate and make sure the votes fall the way I want them to — I’m like the Minority Whip.

Minority Whip.  Cool Whip.  Never mind.



So I’m Obese Again.

Thanks to the wonder that is the Body Mass Index, I’m now clinically obese.  My BMI, which is a very rough estimate of body fat based only on height and weight, is 30.4.  Anything 30 and above for adults is considered obese.  When I began this journey, my BMI was closer to 60.  My immediate goal is to get it below 30.  My eventual goal is to get it to 25.

I’ve related this fact to several friends, most of whom say, “If you’re obese, I’m dead, kid.”  Although I don’t feel obese, and most people would never guess I’m obese, the numbers don’t lie.

Now, to fix this…

One pound at a time.


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