Walk Away

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You’re obese.

This wasn’t a phrase I ever imagined someone saying to me, but this past Friday when I went to the doctor for my annual physical, that is exactly what he told me.

I was a college athlete, have been active and athletic my entire life. I ran a marathon less than 2 years ago for God’s sake. How in the world could I be obese? Pretty easily, actually. Even though I’m 6 foot, 3 inches and have always had a big, broad frame (ask my mom how broad my shoulders were when I was born), I’m approaching 40 years old and lifestyle is catching up with me. The late night dinners on the road, the rich meals accompanied by richer alcohol with clients, the relaxing on the porch on a Saturday afternoon while the ribs slow cook and a six pack disappears, the seconds and thirds that I routinely take…it is all making me obese.

The doctor could obviously tell I was shocked when he said the words, so he quickly followed up by saying:

John, fixing this problem is easy, you need to walk away from food and drink sooner than you do now.

Still staring blankly back at him, I suppose he thought I needed a little more instruction:

I can tell you’re exercising and that is great – your blood pressure (112/80) and your resting heart rate (59) tell us that your heart is healthy and that is from the running. Here’s the thing, exercise doesn’t do much for weight control. Managing your weight is all about the amount of calories you consume each day, and what makes up those calories. This is where you have to make a change.”

Once the initial shock wore off, we had a serious conversation. Mostly about stuff I already knew, but needed a professional to tell me to sink in. My Body Mass Index (BMI) is 31 at 257 pounds and 6’3″ tall. A BMI of 25-30 is normal, under 25 is healthy, over 30 is obese. That, combined with a look at the belly fat around my mid-section, were all the doctor needed to see. His prescription was this…

…this will be simple, but not easy: reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day and you’ll lose a pound a week. Drop it by 1,000 a day and you’ll be at the 220 lbs you should be at by your 40th birthday.

Ouch. How in the world am I going to do that? Do I even want to do that? Well, I don’t WANT TO, but I know that I need to make this change. The doctor had been through this before (40% of Americans between the ages of 40-59 are obese), so he suggested that I start tracking my calories with the MyFitness Pal App. It is scary how much information about the food we eat is in there, and it does make you stop and think. It estimated that my diet last week was well over 3,000 calories per day. So my target is 2,000 calories per day and high quality calories as much as possible (protein, natural sugars from fruit, fiber, etc). When you start to track the food you eat, you start to have decisions to make if you’re trying to stay under 2,000 calories per day. The waffles with butter and syrup I had this morning were about 350 calories, and 2 chicken enchiladas at lunch would have been 1,000 calories, so I chose 1 instead. We had a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, spaghetti with marinara, and a side salad last night for dinner (750 calories with a piece of bread), but the Malbec was 125 calories per glass. Needless to say, it has been a wake up call. I love to eat and having some wine or beer while I cook is a part of the experience I enjoy. Eating is an experience for me and when I’m enjoying a good meal, I like it to last as long as possible. As I’ve started tracking, it is quickly obvious that portions are important and that hours of drinking before or after a meal are just worthless calories that have made me obese. Period. Like the doctor said – simple solution, not easy to do.

If you happen to read this, and you are my friend, you will ask me about how I’m doing. I’ve told my wife I want her to check on me and help keep me accountable. I’m going to send this to the 2-3 coworkers that I travel with the most. I hope my close friends and family will read it and ask if I’m staying with my 2,000 calorie per day limit. That is the only way I’m going to get there. I’ll continue to run (maybe an extra day each week to help the process along), and I’ll make sure that our family is outside and active as much as possible. But that can only have a limited effect. 2,000 calories a day will get me to 220 lbs by my 40th birthday on October 7, 2015. I haven’t weighed that since I was 22 years old, and it would be a great accomplishment for me personally. I’m going to remove myself from that 40% statistic because it is important to me, good for my family, and because I don’t want to be obese. All it takes is to walk away from the table a little sooner than I used to.

Lessons from Granny

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I don’t see my 88 year old Granny Searby nearly enough, but this past week we spent a few hours with her and I quickly realized that I still have a lot of lessons to learn from Granny. As 2013 comes to a close, here’s the reminders I picked up from her during our visit that I’ll keep close to memory for 2014:

– Slow down…Granny isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, she knows where she’s going and enjoys the getting there.

– Eat just a little each time, but eat several times throughout the day…Granny doesn’t eat a lot at meals, but she takes little snacks throughout the day. Maybe that is why she’s always be thin and fit.

– Exercise a little each time you can…Granny has decided to get a little exercise each time she walks back to her room by walking all the way to the end of the hall and then back to her door before going in – those extra 20-30 feet add up over the course of a week.

– Friends matter…Granny looks as good as I’ve seen her in 5 years and she attributes a lot of it to spending time with the new friends she’s made over the last 6 months at the assisted living center.

– Be thankful…Granny mentioned several times during our time together how thankful she was for the staff, the exercise room, the library, the weekly bingo, the good food. Seemed like she was able to find thanks in the simplest things and it showed on her face.

– Live simply…Granny lives in a small apartment with a living room, kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom. She doesn’t have a lot of ‘things,’ but she told me that she’s got everything she needs and is as satisfied as she can be.

– Live life to the fullest and cherish each breath…Granny has had a tough year, but she has made the most of it and seems happier than ever.

My hope and prayer for 2014 is that I’ll take these lessons and apply them to my own life. I think they are valuable lessons for us all.