Fighting Off The Food Coma

Fighting Off The Food Coma

The time has come, the season has arrived: The Holidays are here. And along with the family gatherings, football games, and presents will come a whole lot of opportunities to do Bad Things to your diet and your physique.

How bad? Well, the average person will gain 3 to 7 pounds over the 40-day period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Do that ten years in a row, and congratulations: you’ve added around 50 pounds of body mass from holiday eating alone. Never mind aging, injury, or other dietary hiccups that might arise.

So, yeah – this presents a problem.

What are you going to do about it?

Watch Your Drinks

If you want to help yourself avoid the potential for damage, first give yourself the ability to succeed. The great majority of the caloric damage at these gatherings doesn’t come from stuffing or Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake.

No, the majority of the empty calories will come from what you drink.

Think about it: how many Cokes will you consume over the course of a holiday gathering? Because each and every one will set you back 140 calories. Worse yet, that 140 calories has ZERO nutritional value to you. No vitamins, no minerals, no protein. Nothing but processed sugar that will go straight to the “Store me as fat, please” list.

Beer isn’t much better. A can of the most popular “Light” beer, Bud Light, works out to 110 calories. Only a few less than a Coke. And the problem with beer is simple: the alcohol impairs your judgement. The more beers you have, the more you think it is OK to have. You could get yourself outside of a six-pack of beer (and the accompanying 660 calories) before you even meet the temptations around the dinner table.

Stick to water, if you can. If not, coffee or unsweetened tea are OK as well. But give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Because you haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet.

Rein In The Impulses

I know what you are thinking. “But Jeremy,” you say, “everything is soooo good during the holidays. How can I resist it all?”

Simple. You can’t.

The theoretical person exists that can surround themselves with holiday goodies and not indulge. In the same sense that theoretical alien life exists: it may be out there somewhere, but in the meantime just hand me another slice of that double-chocolate Pecan Pie.

So, if the cornucopia is too much to resist, don’t resist. Direct the flood that you can’t contain.

Instead, try everything in very small doses.

Do you really need a pound of everything on your plate? No, not really. Get a tablespoon-full, or a small slice, or a single item of whatever. Then, as you eat, focus on the folks around you. You probably only see them once or twice a year, right? Take a bite of your small serving of food “A”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person to your right and chat about whatever for a moment. Return to your plate. Take a bite of your small serving of food”B”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person on your left and chat for a moment.

Repeat this process until you’ve tried everything on your plate. Still hungry? Start around your plate a second time, this time focusing on the items you found particularly yummy.

By the time your stomach tells you “Stop! I’m full!”, you’ll have had a fraction of what everyone else around you did. And you’ll have had some valuable time catching up with friends and family members.

 

A Call To Action

No joke – this technique really works. The reason it works is because your stomach is slow to report to your brain about when it has reached capacity. If you start with a huge pile of food and rush through it, you will reach capacity and pass right through it and not know about it – until you are uncomfortably bloated and nodding off on the couch, wondering how you could have possibly eaten so much. Again. Just like last year.

So, just dodge that bullet. And give yourself some extra tools to use to fight the “Holiday Bloats.”

Another thing you can do to help out? Stay active.

Now, I am not inviting you and your family outside for some brisk snow-field volleyball. (Though if you live in Florida, or California – heck, why not?)  But, seriously, how much fun are you having sitting on the couch watching football? Listening to everyone’s digestive processes?

So, move around instead! Go grab some photo albums and look through them. Volunteer to wash the dishes. Play with the kids or the grand-kids. Even just wandering around the yard (if one is available), or throwing around a football (rather than watching one being thrown.)

Also, is this gathering taking place at Mom and Dad’s? Or Grandma and Grandpa’s? I will bet a significant amount that if this is taking place at the home of an older family member, there are some things lying around the place that could be done. Rake some leaves. Repair a squeaky door. Help organize a library, or a craft room, or a garage. Every minute you spend moving is a minute your body is using fuel, not adding it to long-term storage.

And if you can contribute to a family member at the same time, well: isn’t that what the holidays are all about, really?

Making The Holidays (Not) Count,

Jeremy

PS: I recently had the opportunity to create a guest blog post for the folks at Prairie Sage Wellness Center. Feel free to check it out here!

When The Cold Arrives

When The Cold Arrives

Right on schedule, Winter has shown up.

Oh, there are still leaves on some of the trees. Days here in Albuquerque are still getting up into the 60s. But the malaise that accompanies shorter days and lower temperatures is fully in effect.

The purists might say that it is still Autumn, Winter doesn’t start until December 21, etc. But we know it in our bones: Winter Isn’t Coming. Winter Is Here. November is no more Autumn than March is Winter.

Even our local homeless population are now all holding signs asking for money for bus tickets to Houston. Winter is no fun.

Winter: Obesity’s Secret Weapon

The big secret about Winter and physical fitness? They don’t go together.

Winter brings us our most celebrated gluttonous holidays, all within a 90-day span. Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Super Bowl are always used as excuses for over-eating. (And over-drinking, in the case of the SB.) At the same time, there is no useful offset to balance these binge-eating, diet-destroying occasions. Who eats two pounds of mashed potatoes and half a pecan pie then goes out and runs a few miles to work it off?

No one, that’s who.

Winter conspires against us, I tell you. Colder temperatures mean lower energy levels. Darker days mean a sense of malaise – energy-sucking black holes that park us on the couch huddled in a blanket binge-watching Stranger Things rather than doing anything active. And short days mean that we don’t have any time to go do anything anyway, even if we were so inclined.

So, we sit on the couch. We drink beer. Every once in a while we look out the window and shiver, then turn up the thermostat. And we shake our heads at those lycra-clad crazy people jogging or riding through our neighborhoods. Who the heck works out during this time of year?

Everyone who doesn’t want to arrive at March and burst into tears when nothing but sweats fit anymore, that’s who.

Turning The Volume Up (When The Thermometer Goes Down)

I will not go all Richard Simmons on you and proclaim that keeping fit during the winter is “fun.” It isn’t. You are fighting against your depressed metabolism, your body’s desire to conserve energy via fat storage (hibernation), and your own desire to stay warm.

So, when getting to the gym just seems like too much to bear, here are a few other things you can try.

YouTube: Did you know there are a TON of useful exercise resources on YouTube? There are weight-lifting routines. Body-weight resistance plans. Yoga and Aerobics and Tai-Chi galore. Many folks get worried about the expertise of those on YouTube, but the easiest way to locate something reputable is to dig into your favorite health/fitness magazine, find some articles that you like, then go looking for the author’s YouTube channel. That’s how I located B.J. Gaddour’s StreamFitTV, for example. If you can’t bear to leave the house, bring the gym to your living room.

AceFitness: Yes, I am an Ace Fitness Personal Trainer, and I am biased. But you can actually gain a ton of exercise advice (including demonstrations) for free from the Ace Fitness Exercise library. Need to learn how to do a plank? Check it out here. Need to tackle body-weight squats? Visit this page. Oh, have zero equipment in your house or apartment and want to use that as an excuse? Nope: ACE Fitness has 100+ exercises you can do without a single resistance band or dumbell.

The Step: Some of us are lucky enough to live in homes with stairs: multi-story homes, apartment buildings, etc. If you do, you can do a great aerobic routine just by doing stair interval training. However, if you don’t have a staircase handy, there is a secret weapon I will share with you: The simple aerobic step. Though pricing can go all the way up to well over $100, there are plenty available for less than the cost of a single month’s gym membership. (Here’s one for around $30, for example.) Park your step in front of your television. Step up and down for the duration of your favorite home remodeling show. Or travel show. Or reality show. You get the idea.

(Food Network not recommended.)

Dodging The Ice-Cold Missiles

Of course, lack of physical activity isn’t the only danger that accompanies wintertime. Illness and binge-eating tend to skyrocket over the turn of the year. What can we do to fight back?

Staying healthy during winter can be a major challenge. Every sniffle, cough, and sneeze brings instant paranoia about what malady might be invading. (Well, it makes ME paranoid at least.) During winter it is so important to take some common sense steps. Up your vitamin intake. Get a flu shot. Stay hydrated. Losing days or weeks of activity to illness will wreck your fitness just as surely as overdoing it at Grandma’s house on Thanksgiving. Do everything you can to fight off microbial invaders. Be especially diligent at work – your unhealthy co-workers will be more than happy to contaminate you with their illnesses. I am a big believer in mega-doses of hand sanitizer while in places that are being regularly contacted by less diligent human beings.

Avoiding binge eating can be a trial to any of us. All the best stuff gets trotted out over the holidays, and it seems impossible to not try everything! But, rather than looking around a kitchen in despair at all the stuff you shouldn’t eat, make sure that you have come prepared with something that is diet friendly. Bring your own lean protein, or vegetable platter, or salad. That way, if nothing else works, you have something to fall back on. Fill your plate with your healthy selection, then try a few small bites of the items you can’t resist.

For example, I am especially bad about “sampling” desserts. So, Lor started preparing protein-filled cupcakes she calls protein brownie bites that we now take everywhere where there are likely to be tempting sugar-bomb desserts.

And, wouldn’t you know it, they are so popular that they now get requested at every single get-together we attend. Who says healthy can’t taste good? (As an aside I highly recommend The Big Man’s World for recipes – I literally have yet to find a recipe there that I didn’t like.)

The Coldness of the Mind

Lastly, and most importantly, during the winter months, depression and suicide attempts drastically increase. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) can be a more serious problem than any amount of binge-eating or couch-planting. The disorder isn’t very well understood, but a few things can help to keep it at bay.

First, try to stay plugged in. Our natural tendency during winter is to “turtle” – to stay in our homes, huddled around ourselves. Instead, do your best to get plugged into some social circle – anything that will keep you in contact with other people. A bible study, a knitting circle, a weekly role-playing game: just about anything that keeps you interacting with humanity is a great way to keep these feelings of isolation at bay.

Secondly, stay physically active. We all know that exercise increases brain function and releases “feel-good” hormones into the bloodstream. If you can’t make it to the gym or Crossfit, at least try one of the ideas above.

Lastly, if you aren’t getting better – get help. Talk to a family member, a friend, a pastor, a counselor – let SOMEONE know what you are going through. The worst thing you can do is to assume that no one else understands how you feel. Trust me – I also struggle with depression and know first-hand how isolating it feels. But you have TONS of value, even if you can’t see it right now. Someone else can help remind you.

Turn Your Attention To 2018!

Let’s all help one another get through to next year! Do your best to stay true to yourself, keep the blood flowing, and know that, eventually, this too shall thaw.

Spring Is Coming,

Jeremy

I Am Officially Certifiable

Ace Personal Trainer Certificate

The rain was drizzling down not unlike Boston or Seattle when we pulled in the driveway last night. We had spent 12 of the last 36 hours in the car and were worn down to nearly nothing. I shuffled over to the front door, unlocked it, then listlessly flopped open the mailbox, only to discover a certificate sized-envelope from ACE Fitness.

I then spent the next ten minutes running around the house in glee, shouting “It’s here! It’s here!”, much to the consternation of the puppies and the exhausted amusement of Lor. Funny, that.

Recognition In An Envelope

I eventually calmed down enough to open the envelope, and was able to spend a few moments basking in the glow of my achievement. There, in my hands, suitable for framing, was my ACE Fitness Personal Trainer Certificate.

You might find my enthusiasm a little odd. I’ve just finished getting my first book published. I’ve spent the last 14 months losing nearly half my body weight. Why all the excitement about a professional certification?

Mainly because I wasn’t sure I could manage to earn the certification.

My novel is very exciting. Losing 130+ pounds has been life-changing. But the certification…it involved using my brain. Extensively. Including parts that don’t work so well anymore – mainly my memory. I can barely remember my own name half the time. And I was supposed to learn enough to get through a 150 question exam? On subjects that I knew almost nothing about?

Remember, I am the guy that flunked out of Biology twice in High School.

So, yeah. This is a really, really big deal for me.

Base Camp Achieved

Let’s take a look back in the rear-view mirror, shall we?

In September of 2015, I was morbidly obese. I weighed almost 300 pounds, and the majority of life was barred from me.

 

In September of last year, I was 2 months out from bariatric surgery. I was down to 224 pounds and was beginning to think that I had achieved my weight loss goals.

And as of last night, I am professionally certified to assist others with their own fitness journeys. How about that?

If the “weight-loss” journey is like climbing a mountain, I can safely say I’ve reached a major base camp before tackling the higher parts of the ascent.

I needed a publisher to get my novel written. I needed an awesome medical team to get me started losing weight. But I had to take that ACE Fitness exam all by myself. With a broken brain, no less.

This achievement was personal.

The Climb Goes Ever Upwards

So, I am a certified professional. Now I am going to start taking on clients and building a practice, right?

Well, no. Not exactly.

I began my CPT training largely due to Misdirected. I kept fielding questions. About diet. Or about exercise. Maybe pertaining to obesity and surgery and genetics and fat-shaming.

And I did my best to answer these questions, I really did. But, anytime someone would ask me what my qualifications were, I would have to say something like “Well, I used to weigh a lot more…”

I realized that I was going to have to expand my scope of knowledge, and in an organized way. Certified education seemed to make the most sense. Since I am mainly dealing with questions about day-to-day life, becoming a personal trainer just made the most sense.

When creating content for Misdirected, I now have the backing of an international organization with 65,000+ healthcare professionals to draw on. I can look through my manuals, check online training, or chat with fellow trainers. I feel much more secure now, creating content from the perspective of a trained professional.

Also, this isn’t the end of my education. My intention all along has been to specialize in working with obese patients, especially those who are looking into or who have just gone through bariatric surgery. There is additional training available for me to broaden my knowledge in those fields. And I will be pursuing it, as time goes by.

A Laser-Like Focus

Also, now that I’ve split my fiction news off to a whole new website at the Ash Falls Gazette, Misdirected can get back to what it does best. We will return to exclusively focusing on weight loss, exercise, diet, and the occasional “this is my life” post. Many of you have requested that change, and here it is.

I am very excited to have made it this far with all of you! I look forward to our continued growth as a weight-loss and lifestyle change resource for you.

We’ll see you here next week. To stay plugged in throughout the week, remember to follow us on Twitter @tjschofield or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tjeremyschofield.

Keep Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other,

Jeremy C. Schofield

ACE Certified Professional Trainer

 

One-Seventy-Nine

Regain. It is a word that strikes terror into the hearts of bariatric patients. An admission that things have not gone as planned, regain means that the changes after surgery have gone off the rails. Regain feels like a failure, and it carries the bitter taste of defeat.

Oh, How Dramatic

All this introduction to explain what flashed through my mind yesterday morning, when I stepped on my scale for my weekly weigh-in, and saw the numbers “179.4” flash up at me. Alarmed, I stepped off the scale. I moved the scale, made sure it was level. Gingerly, I tried again. “179.6.” Yikes! Maybe I wasn’t stepping on the scale exactly in the center. I tried a third time, carefully placing my feet this time. “179.3.”

Thank goodness I wasn’t using the logging feature built into the scale. It would have thought I had weighed in for 3 separate weeks in less than 60 seconds.

Then again…there was a reason I wasn’t using the logging feature, wasn’t there? All week long I had been feeling the malaise. I knew I didn’t feel right. All my shiny new clothes were just a bit too snug.  My suspicion was that I was moving backwards, and now here was proof, glaring at me from the bathroom floor.

Drama. I am making a mountain out of a molehill here, right? Compared to my all-time low a few weeks back of 174 pounds, 179 isn’t that bad, is it?

Yes…and no. The problem is that last week I was at 177, a gain of two pounds from the previous weigh-in. That number I wrote off as statistical variance – you can gain and lose a couple pounds over the course of a day easily. (And this is why it is important to do weekly weigh-ins at the same time every day. Preferably immediately after you wake up.)

But two weeks in a row, both edging upward by a couple pounds? This isn’t statistical variance. This, my friends, is the beginning of a trend.

The Cold Equations

By now, we all know the numbers, right? It all comes back to Resting Metabolic Rate, the number of calories your body burns while sitting around doing not much of anything. If you ingest less than the amount your body needs, you lose weight. If you take in more than your body needs, it gleefully stores the excess as fat.

Diet and exercise, then, are two sides of a balancing act: the weight loss teeter-totter if you will. We eat all day, every day, to provide our bodies with enough energy to keep the vital organs working, to stay upright and moving. But any extra whatsoever will be taken by our treacherous metabolism and stored as fat.

So, we try to go to the gym, to walk, to keep moving somehow to place our bodies into a caloric deficit so that more of that stubborn fat will come off. The body eventually gives up and adjusts, raising the metabolic rate to reflect all this activity.

But, what happens when you slack off at the gym for a couple of weeks because your schedule goes crazy? Without changing your diet to reflect the drop in physical activity?

One-seventy-nine. That’s what happens.

The Non-Alarmist Solution

I freely admit I am being paranoid about this. But I’ve worked pretty darn hard to get here. I’ve had 80% of one of my major organs lopped off, for goodness sake. From walking to running to jumping to lifting heavy objects and putting them down, I have pushed pretty darn hard to get from 302 to 174.

I am not interested in moving backwards.

Now, the last two weeks have been insane, I grant you. My PT certification exam. The publication of my first book. The weekend-long science fiction conference I just attended. I skipped maybe half my gym days. I took some shortcuts in my diet, especially during the Con.

So, now, I get to repair the damage.

This is the point where many of us panic. We freak out over our regain and hit the Big Red Button of diet and exercise changes. We switch to an all protein shake diet. Maybe we try a juice cleanse. We commit to stupid amounts of work at the gym, hoping to undo weeks or months worth of neglect in a few days.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. In my case the numbers here are pretty small: I’ve gained about 2.5 pounds a week for two weeks in a row. Happily, I can work on safely losing that amount every week. I can repair the damage in two weeks or so.

Not in a day via a marathon session at the gym. Not in a week by a juice fast. But by taking a safe, methodical approach.

I already know how to exercise every day – I just haven’t done it for two weeks or so. I already know the secret to a healthy diet: buy non-processed foods at a grocery store and prepare them at home. For the next two weeks, if it doesn’t come out of my fridge or my pantry, I don’t eat it. As simple as that.

Resuming The Journey

Success tends to be followed by a downturn of some kind. This is because success requires effort, and effort is tiring. There is nothing wrong with the fact that I have “rested” for a couple of weeks after one of the most stressful periods of my life.

However, I am reminded of a man I know who went through bariatric surgery, trained for a year or so, then ran his first marathon. Six months after the marathon he had regained 30 pounds.

Why? Simple. He took some time off after the marathon (which was fine) and then never started running again (which was NOT fine.)

All backsliding starts with a single step backwards.

Bad habits and lifestyle choices are always waiting for us, at every turn. This is just as true for those who have never had bariatric surgery as for those who have. What you choose to do every morning will determine your success for the weeks and months to come.

And I have another conference coming in only 3 weeks. I’ve got only that long to get my head back in the game. I need to re-develop my discipline, and make sure that the next time I am away from my normal routine for several days that I find ways to incorporate healthy choices.

After all, I don’t want to come back in a month and write an article titled “One-Eighty-Nine.”

I Shudder At The Thought,

Jeremy

The (Empty) Bucket List

The Empty Bucket List

My bucket list has a hole in it.

It must be leaking, because everything that was previously in it has dribbled out somewhere.

Let me explain…

Way Back In The Day

So, ever since I was a youngster, I had a plan. There were certain things I wanted to accomplish. My goals were set as early as Junior High. I was going to do some things with my life, and no one was going to get in my way. At some point, I was going to sing the national anthem at a public event. I was going to release an album. Heck, I was even going to collect songwriting royalties. As life went on, I managed to do all of the above.

And, as life went on, I managed to do all of the above.

(I even still have the royalties checks around here somewhere. One for $.06, another for $.03. Hey, a check is a check, right?)

Then, with the downturn in my health in 2004, my goals took on a more morbid tone. Kinda like “Oh, if I had only…” My goals somehow morphed into a “bucket list” – things I wanted to do before I died.

You have to understand, I had health care professionals left and right telling me that I could keel over at any second.  I was universally informed that I would not live to see 50. Between my weight, my high blood pressure, and my uncontrolled seizures, I was a rolling train wreck, just waiting to go off the tracks.  So, I did what any person in my position would do.

I started negotiating.

Suddenly, all of my “goals” were various incarnations of getting healthier.

The “Passive Self-Improvement” List

If I could only get a handle on my health, I figured, then I might actually have a shot at living long enough to do something else interesting.

Like: If I could just lose some weight, I would go back to the gym. (As it was I kept injuring myself every time I tried.)

In exchange for dropping my blood pressure, I would run a 5K.

I would buy a pair of button-fly 501s if I could ever return to a 38-inch waistline.

Heck, I would even finish my novel if I had enough time between seizures to complete a sentence or two.

Then came the twin surgical interventions of my VNS implant and bariatric surgery. Suddenly, the only thing left on my “bucket list” is to live to ’til I am 50.

I am not sure that even qualifies it as a bucket list anymore.

Into The Great Wide Open

So, not a bad problem to have, right?

I show every sign of getting past the half-century mark now. So, ummm…now what?

I am tentatively exploring the idea of planning. You know, having some concept of the next years of my life. Beyond “I would like to only go to the emergency room three times this year.”

So, what do normal people plan for?

Heck if I know. I haven’t been a normal person for quite a while.

But, in the meantime, I’ve got this big, empty bucket with nothing left inside it. Plenty of short-term goals, mind you. But nothing that us writers would call an “over-arching narrative.”

Peering into the future, I literally have no idea what I want to be when I turn 50 in 3 years.

I never thought the problem would come up, see?

I Don’t Want To Grow Up, I’m a Toys-R-Us Kid,

Jeremy