Food and Fitness

They want more than cake!!!

Fun times in the kitchen!

Fun times in the kitchen!

Kids want to cook. So let them! Teach them where their food comes from! Show them how to use a knife properly! Why? The reason became clear to me when I was requested not to serve bone in chicken in an elementary school because of the choking hazard. I’m not making light of the potential hazard of eating a bone, my point is, when did it become a hazard for kids to eat food with bones in it? I’ll tell you when. When the chicken nugget was introduced!

We all know that childhood obesity and health related issues are at alarming numbers. Why is this happening? I think one answer is we don’t  give our youth enough credit and attention when it comes to developing skills in the kitchen. The past few weeks I have learned that kids want to learn how to cook and want to try different foods, regardless of what you may think. How do you get them to try different foods? Let them help in the kitchen!

Some great puled pork at the cook out challenge

Some great puled pork at the cook out challenge

This became crystal clear to me on Saturday when I was participating as a chef judge at the Tri-county 4H Food Show. What I witnessed was a group of kids, from 1st grade up to high school, show how creative and thoughtful they are with food. There was a cornbread challenge, a cupcake challenge and a cook out meal challenge. They worked both in groups and as individuals and presented their dishes to a panel of chefs. I know how intimidating that can be, and was so proud of all the kids who participated. There were some that absolutely blew me away not just their food but with their knowledge of food. Their knowledge of different cooking techniques andscratch cook recipes.  These were all dishes they created by themselves.  There were ribs, pulled pork, various salads and several home made BBQ sauces! It was an awesome experience to be a part of.

I was talking to one of the young girls who was participating in the cupcake competition and she asked me “When are we going to cook again.” I was blown away. This is a young girl who participated in my first Family Cook Night at the local YMCA almost six months ago. She told me she remembered how much fun it was! It was a total coincidence that we were both at the 4H event, and knowing that she still remembers the class proves how much kids can enjoy cooking if you include them in your kitchen!

I also have done Family Cook nights at some of the elementary schools in the district I work in. One in particular really stands

out.  When we started the class, this young boy’s mother commented on how excited she was to cook with her son. She told me she

Family Cook Night...all hands preping!

Family Cook Night…all hands preping!

was concerned about how he will do because he is a picky eater. Well after 90 minutes of chopping, seasoning, and cooking, I looked at the boy’s mother and we both were laughing because this boy was going to town trying new vegetables like artichokes and cauliflower and even polished off the chicken dish he created. So what does this prove? Even the pickiest eater will try anything if they are involved in the process.

Those of you that follow me on Facebook might remember the story of the young boy who came up to me while I was visiting an elementary school and told me he wanted to be a chef also. He asked me to try the sandwich he made by himself for lunch and tell him what I thought. It was such a cool experience for both of us!

It’s stories like this that prove to me that our kids, the children that will lead our future, want to eat better. The problem is they just don’t know how to!!

Some of my fondest memories as a kid are in the kitchen with my family. So why aren’t we creating those memories with our kids? Why are we not teaching our kids how to eat better? Why are we not showing our kids where their food comes from?  You want healthier children? Then don’t just let them eat the food we prepare for them, let them help prepare it!! Show them the kitchen is like a big toy box  with all kinds of things to try.

Have you ever had your kids try the spices in your spice rack? I have and guess what, now my son can make his own dry rubs, and they’re good!!!

Jamie Oliver said in his TED talk in February 2010:

Home. The biggest problem with the home is that used to be the heart of passing on food, food culture, what made our society. That ain’t happening anymore. And you know, as we go to work and as life changes, and as life always evolves, we kind of have to look at it holistically — step back for a moment, and re-address the balance. It ain’t happening, hasn’t happened for 30 years, OK?

He feels and I agree that kids have lost touch with food and the food culture that makes our society. That’s due to the convenience of fast food and processed foods that we adults offer as meals. Well, don’t you think its time to stop feeding our kids food that not only damages the heart in their body, but takes them out of the heart in your home?

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Food and Fitness

Well hello my old friends…it’s been a while

Papou Avtges in the kitchen

Papou Avtges in the kitchen

Something very weird and interesting happened to me yesterday before Thanksgiving dinner. I had a few minutes to sit down and I started reading “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Childs.  Reading recipes where the first ingredient was, “4 ounce chunk of bacon”, not only got the saliva glands going, but I also had an overwhelming feeling of pleasure. I instantly associated that feeling with how good eating foods like those in the book, full of bacon, butter and every other fatty thing you can add to food, made me feel. What was weird about it, was as good as it felt, at the same time I recognized how much I get that feeling NOW eating the way I do.  My appreciation and commitment to what it means to cook and eat healthier grew.

This was on my mind pretty much all day. I started to think back to what got me started in the culinary industry and how far I have come from that point.  I remember growing up, there were pretty much three staple shows that I would watch, all on PBS. The French Chef with Julia Childs, The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith, and Nova. Still to this day I stop on Nova when I see it on the television.

Other than my mother, aunt and grandmother, Julia and Jeff were probably the two biggest influences in my culinary career. There

Working the grill at the White Lunch

Working the grill at the White Lunch

was always something about watching them take these mundane ingredients and make something artful with them. Obviously I couldn’t taste it, but it was highly intriguing  to me. It sparked my curiosity. When I decided that I wanted to go to culinary school, I remember my parents reaction.

They were shocked and I remember the comment “Your grandfathers always said that the reason they worked hard in their restaurants was so no one else in the family would ever have to.” Yup it was in my blood. I knew that both my grandfathers were in the restaurant business at one time, but it was never really a topic of conversation until that point. We discussed it, and regardless of what my parents said, I knew this is what I wanted to do. Funny thing is, when I did graduate, my parents gave me pictures of one of my grandfathers in his restaurant days. Still some of my favorite pictures. I also received the journal from my other grandfather’s restaurant. It’s funny to look back and see the cost of things back then compared to now.

So like every other young culinary grad at the time, I was going to conquer the culinary world and open my own restaurant. Though that hasn’t happened, yet, I can say that I don’t have many regrets about the way things went. Especially now.

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Culinary Graduation

From my earliest days as a dishwasher and line cook to executive chef , I always worked hard, trying to learn, trying to get better. I worked with some chefs that I still talk about to this day, not only because they were mean SOBs, but also because now I realize what they taught me over those years. Things changed a bit for me when I got into the management side of things, and over the years, as I drifted away from cooking full-time, I would laugh about being the guy in the shirt and tie that everyone hated. It was during that time, that my weight and health started on a 15 year decline resulting in me being in the shape I was in and lacking any self-esteem or self-confidence in anything that I did, including my cooking. I would constantly beat my self up because I never thought my food was good enough. Regardless of what everyone would say, I didn’t believe it.

Fast forward to four years ago when I started my current transformation. Over that time, my food philosophy has changed, but after reading the cookbook yesterday I realize that the core of that philosophy hasn’t changed that much. That core of making food that looks good, and taste good, to prepare food that makes people talk about it and appreciate it, that is what’s the heart of my philosophy then and still is now. The one of the big differences is the  techniques and preparation that I use now. The ones I am learning and continuing to explore. The ones that involve finding ways to create great flavors in a healthier way.

That difference is what brings me so much joy and happiness. The same type of pleasure that I received so many years ago when I first knew this is what I wanted to do. Losing the weight has brought me back full circle to where I was 25 years ago. It has rekindled the excitement and energy to “play” with food.

So thank you Mrs. Childs and Mr. Green for inspiring me then and laying the foundation for what I have built and continue to build.

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Food and Fitness, Uncategorized

Getting Started Part 2 – The E word

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The dreaded E word…….yup I’m talking about exercise. In part one, I discussed getting started on changing your food. Now lets talk about getting started with exercise.

Again, no secret here folks, EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOU! The general recommendation is 20 minutes per day or 150 minutes per week. That’s at a moderate level. So how are you going to achieve that?

The question I get asked the most is what did I do to get started. The first step was to come to the realization that I needed to do something about my weight. I know it sounds simple, but it’s not an easy realization to make when you are obese and very sedentary as I was and as some of you reading this may be. Those of you that are in the same situation I was in, I’m here for you. I ‘m going to be honest with you, the first time I got serious about my exercise and started my routine, I was extremely disappointed in myself. I was so disappointed that I would hide, most likely in the bathroom, and just cry. I would ask myself “How did I get to this point?” Well I can tell you, this was an extremely important part of  my journey . It was those points, where I told myself I needed to do this for me, and no one else. There are many external influences in our lives that either prevent us or inhibit us from achieving our goals. I can assure you, when you have this moment and you realize that what you are doing is a good thing, things will turn for you.

So, how should you get started. Well depending on your current physical state, that varies. I want to focus on those that are extremely out of shape like I was. My opinion is you shouldn’t go bananas on buying a DVD like insanity or something like that because, quite frankly, you won’t do it. It’s too much right out of the gate. Don’t get me wrong, you do need to push yourself, but let’s also be realistic about it. If you are like I was, it’s not going to work for you. Over the last few months, I have had conversations with people either live or through social media looking for advice. Most recently was with some one who has been struggling to not just lose weight, but keep it off. They commented that they are just walking right now. My response was “Don’t minimize what you are already doing”. The fact that you are making the effort to change is something that can be and should be built upon.

That’s how I got started, first walking in the neighborhood and then eventually joining a gym and spending time on the treadmill. My first walks were slow and laborious. Huffing and puffing the whole way and the walk would be a mile at best. Then I started to notice, afer a relatively short time, they were getting easier, faster and longer. I could feel things starting to change. What was the motivation? After every walk, I would log it into my Runkeeper app and see how many calories I would burn. Each walk after became a little competition with the pervious one. I would try to go faster and farther to shave a few more calories.

Now one of the problems people run into is they want instant results. Sorry folks, aint going to happen. It took me 18 months to get where I am and even two years after that point, I still am finding new ways to push myself. What I recommend is find some type of app that you can use to track your physical activity. Why? Like I said, we want instant result, and by tracking your activity, it will provide you measurable results that you can see. This is more important at the start of your journey than any physical changes you will see down the road. Remember, your body isn’t use to this type of activity. By tracking your activity levels, you will know when it is time to push a little more. It’s amazing the power information can have on you when trying to make a change. Focus on increasing your stamina and cardiovascular strength. You will need that foundation to build on. You don’t have to join a gym to do that. When I first started, my exercise was very simple, and I concentrated more on building up my endurance and cardio strength. This was done by spending a significant amount of time on the treadmill and walking though my neighborhood

After a few weeks, I would find something else to do to mix up the routine. I would start to add short bursts of running, and I MEAN short. Again though, each time they became longer and longer. Now you know you’re getting better, and feeling better. That’s what it takes and then it will be a few pounds for you to start noticing a difference. After a few weeks of doing this, I started to incorporate weights into my routine. I was not doing any of the lifting I do now by any stretch of the imagination. My lifting routine was mostly on weight machines, not free weights. For me and I’m sure for others, free weights were very intimidating. You need to put yourself in situations where you can have success, regardless of how small they are. Using the weight machines gave me that opportunity. Don’t worry at all about “bulking up” at this point. Your goal is still to increase your endurance and strength. Don’t be worried about what other people are doing, they don’t matter at this point because you’re in this for you not them. 

I vividly remember being at the gym the first few times and seeing guys my age in much better shape, and younger guys doing heavy lifting. I would sit there thinking to myself between sets “What do they think of me?” You know what…..Who cares what they think! When I finally got to that point, no one else mattered. My workout became focused on one thing, making me the best I can be. I’m telling you this to point out that you are not and will not be the only person going through this. Almost everybody in the gym is there to better themselves, not to judge. Guess what, they may have the same insecurities you have. These people are just like you and can have an impact on your world…..it’s pretty cool.( The People you will meet…. ) Once you get past this point, you will start to find your own inner drive. Who knows what it is, but this is a great time to set a small goal for your self. Maybe it’s double your running time (not distance) or increase your  weights to a certain point. One of the best days I ever had in the gym was the day I achieved one of my goals. I bench pressed the amount of weight I have lost (140 lbs). You want to talk about a moment where you feel you’ve achieved something….wow!

When adding weight, don’t over do it. Find your limit in a gradual safe way. Again this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself, but be true to yourself about it. Also think about working the muscles that are part of your everyday life. Your arms, shoulders and legs. Weight loss and muscle building  will start from the outside in. Meaning your core (aka beer gut) will be the last to change. That area will be addressed with your cardio. That’s where your going to burn off that fat. After time you can start to think about working your core. Focus on exercises that work those areas I mentioned. There’s a great app called iMuscle that can help you figure out some things to do. My earlier exercises included overhead press (either machine or dumbbells), front and lateral raises, and chest presses. These were all very functional for me, because they started to set a good foundation that will lead to more advanced exercises. My leg routine consisted of squats and leg presses. These two exercises really work your whole leg and small shifts in your feet can work different areas.

What you will see start happening is a routine being created. My routine turned into three days a week were weights and the other two (or three) were cardio. I would be there for many hours each week, and I know not everybody has the amount of time I had. I recognize that, but I challenge you to look at your day and I bet you can find a time to get something done.  You wouldn’t believe all the crazies that are outside the gym at 4:45 am to workout, me included. Now there are even 24/7 gyms opening up……so really, what’s your excuse for not having the time?

You obviously want to have a certain level of fun doing this because it makes it easier. Find a partner. I would go to the gym with my wife and  even though we wern’t doing the same workout, we were there to motivate each other. I’m sure you can find someone in your world who can be your support. They might not have to be at the gym or workout with you every time. Even if it’s once in awhile it makes huge difference. Remember, for this to happen you have made a choice to improve yourself. Share that with them. They need to know so they can help you, and who knows, you may become their motivation!

I guess finally…..make a playlist (aka a mixtape)! I know it sounds silly, but for me, it works. Make it whatever is going to help you stay motivated. Classical, opera, contemporary, whatever it may be. For me its 80s heavy metal and yes……the big hair bands have an influence on my exercise.

Studies show it takes 21 days to learn a new habit. 

Well imagine the things you can accomplish creating this habit AND what you will accomplish once it is created!

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Food and Fitness, Uncategorized

Getting started – Part 1 The F word

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There is no pill, drink, or food that is going to do it for you. The only thing that is going to work for you……..IS YOU!!!

Starting your own weight loss journey isn’t going to happen until you start it. All the excuses that you have used to not start. You created them. All the reasons you give for not changing your diet. You created them. I’ve used them all and have said them all. I’m not trying to be mean about it, but it is the truth. There usually has to be some type of trigger that really kicks it off for you. Mine was losing my job. Once I got over the initial woe is me factor, I figured that with all this down time, I can either make a change or continue to go down a path of continual health problems. When it comes down to it, YOU are the only thing standing in your way. My goal now is to use my story to be the kick in the pants that someone may need. I’ve been there, as I have said, I was the stereotypical obese American, but not anymore!

Face the facts. You’ve been thinking about it for a while now. You know you want to change, but where do you start. The goal your trying to reach, how do you get there?

Let’s start with what your eating. As I go through my day, people often ask me what diet I went on to lose weight. They are shocked when I tell them I didn’t. I didn’t diet at all. I changed the way I eat. My last blog pretty much sums up my old eating habits (My Secret Love Affair ).

In order to change your diet, you must first have solid, concrete evidence that your eating habits are not the best.  Your first step is to become aware of what you’re eating. You need to understand what you’re currently doing in order to change. That’s going to happen by creating a food diary. I’m not talking about a pen to paper diary (although that works also). I’m talking about using the piece of technology that you use to get your Candy Crush or Angry Birds fix. Your smart phone! I used to joke when I first got my iPhone saying “It makes you a better person”. Guess what? Son of a bitch I was right!!

There are multiple apps out there you can use. I chose to use LoseIt. It couldn’t have been any easier. Download the app, set up your account, put in your info and you’re off and running (pun intended). Now remember, you’re doing this for you, so you are alone for holding YOURSELF accountable. That can be pretty scary, but good thing is the app is set up to connect with others who are doing the same. Yup thats right, YOU ARE NOT ALONE when it comes to getting support! Social media and weight loss are a natural partner. Use the app to Connect with those that are working for similar goals as you. You’ll be amazed at how supportive complete strangers can be when sharing similar experences.

Once you get the app, I suggest you go buy the following three things. A digital food scale, liquid measure cups and solid measuring cups. These three things will be your friends over the next few months as you start to re-learn how to eat. Why? In order to log correctly  you need to know the weights and volumes of what you’re eating. You can’t afford to guess.

The first two weeks sucked, no denying that. You start to log what you’re eating. Every bite, every morsel, every drop of soda, beer, or what ever else your indulgence is. You have be diligient nad truthfull or you wont reap the long teem benfits and achive your goals. I suggest that you start to do this without the intent of changing what you are eating. Long term success will come from giving yourself a baseline of where you are now. I suggest doing this for no more than two weeks. At that point you will have a really good idea of where you can start to make some changes. You will now have the evidence that you need to show you what you already know. You will start to see what things, such as soda, ice cream, the snack you grab at the store, and other foods are feeding your body empty calories. That should be the focus, the calories. Yes there are many other things to worry about, but right now, you’re starting to make  a BIG change. Once you do this, I assure you, you will start to think a little bit more about what you put in your mouth. Now you’re starting to become conscious of how many calories you SHOULD be eating to lose weight.

When losing weight, you want to create a calorie deficit. There are really two ways to do that. One, starve yourself adn that is a very  BAD IDEA! Consider this. Show me one diet that claims quick weight loss AND sustainable eating habits with exercise to keep the weight off.  Good luck with that. The second way is to CHANGE your eating habits AND INCREASE your exercise habits. These are changes, not phases, fads, or the latest craze. We are talking wholesale sustainable changes to what you are doing. You see it on TV in all the weight loss shows, and I’ve lived it. It works!

So now you’re two weeks into your food change, what happens next? For me this is where it started to get tricky. Through my logging, I became aware at how much I was eating out. It might be the local sandwich shop, or getting pizza or grinders on the way home. I’m not saying you have to cut those out completely (although that would be a huge help) but you need to start becoming aware of not only what you are eating, but how much of it. All that take out and going out to eat meal you may be eating, well a good majority of the time are not normal size portions. They can be anywhere for 2 to 4 times what a normal portion should be. Think about that. Eating a days worth of calories in ONE MEAL!

This is where the grocery store becomes your new hang out! This is where your down time is dedicated to preparing some meals for the week and packing a lunch to work. This is when you start to become reacquainted with the room in your house called the kitchen. Now there are a TON of websites to get recipes from and I highly recommend finding a few recipes to get started with, because you will need them. Setting out your meals for the week and having healthier snacks around creates that atmosphere of success that you will need. A little work one night or on a weekend, will reap huge success for you down the road. This will also start to help you recognize truly what a portion of something looks like. You’re going to start reading labels to figure out what a portion is. Why? Because you’re going to have to enter your food into a log . This is not the place to start guessing, because if you put bad info in your log, you’re going to have bad results. You have to be up front with yourself in order for this to work.

What it comes down to is this. It was SO EASY to put the weight on……and it will be VERY HARD to take the weight off. What you need to know is there are so many tools out there that can  and will help you if YOU put in the effort. The effort will get easier and easier as YOU start to see the success YOU are having.

The end result…..YOU will be healthier and YOU will be happier!

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Food and Fitness, Uncategorized

Making it up the incline!

An incline we are all familiar with

An incline we are all familiar with

I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, I’m smart enough, and dog gone-it people like me.

Ok I know…..its a rip off from Stuart Smalley, but these words couldn’t be more appropriate for how I feel now. I say now, because when I was overweight, I wouldn’t believe those words. I still struggle with them, but each day I am believing them more and more. These are feelings that I get more and more each day as I continue to make the climb out of the valley that was my prior existence. The climb up an incline that can be steep at times and even make you fall back a bit.

The incline that I speak of is the continued growth and changes that I am going through physically and mentally. The incline that will, what I believe, lead to my calling. The calling that will potentially lead me to bigger and better things. The incline that will result in true happiness.

I belive this climb began for me about a year ago when I met Chef Philip Dell. He is one of the chefs, and ultimately the winner, of the episode of Chopped that I appeared in.

During the taping of the show, there was plenty of down time for us to just stand around and talk about our weight loss experience. When we were talking about how much weight we lost and how we did it, it came out that I was the “newest” at my new weight. Chef looked at me and told me “So you’re just re-learning yourself”. Those words couldn’t be any truer.

You see,when you’re obese, you get use to a certain way of living. You become accustomed to the challenges that you have to deal with. That’s just how it is. When you make the decision to lose the weight and finally start down that path, things start to happen in your world that you wouldn’t expect or plan on. For me, it was the opportunity to appear on Food Network’s “Chopped.” As hard as I worked to get ready for the show, I never would have thought that not winning could feel so good. Why? That’s because I was able to really start my climb up the incline and start to realize that I am all those things I mentioned above.

I’m good enough. Being obese, I can’t count the times that I would not believe that I was good enough. Always doubting my skills as a parent, husband, friend, and for me, most importantly a culinary artist.

I would constantly, and I mean constantly, doubt my skills in the kitchen. Even though friends and family would say positive things to me about my food, I didn’t believe in myself. I would say thank you, but inside, I was thinking it looked like crap, the flavors weren’t there, all that stuff  that goes through a chefs head when serving.  Then I would start to doubt is this was the right thing for me. Did I make the right decision? Did I not really belong in the kitchen?  The doubt and second guessing was self-perpetuating due to my lack of self-esteem because I was over weight. Of course you don’t realize it until you lose weight and reflect back on it.

Now, things are different. When I am in my happy place (in the kitchen listening to 80s big hair metal) I strut my stuff with a certain level of confidence. The foundation of the confidence is based in one sentence that Chef Marcus Samuelson said to me during the show. When the judges were telling me why I was chopped, he said “You can see the passion in your food.”  Yup still get goose bumps thinking about that. Having a Chef of that caliber say that to me, is one of the biggest complements I have ever received

I’m strong enough. I’m not necessarily talking about physical strength, although  I am much stronger. I’m talking about emotional and mental strength.

I have spent most of my life keeping things inside. Burying my feelings and emotions because I felt that they weren’t really that important. I would try to do things to distract myself from what I was feeling. If it was making a joke, or laughing it off, or just having a few too many drinks. It was just the way it was for me. I have said in prior blogs, there was a certain “image” that I wanted to portray of the happy-go-lucky guy. No cares, no worries.

I think about how that was portrayed in my food. Always dark and heavy. Usually buried in thick sauces or stuffed with something heavy. I wasn’t really celebrating the food for what it was. I would use the plate for the canvas that it was but the food I put on the canvas, now looking back, was pretty much how I was feeling. Dark and heavy.

I think about my food now. How I continue to learn new things, and try new techniques. Celebrating the flavors of what I am making. Recently a neighbor of mine  hooked me up with some wild pheasant. It’s been years since I prepared any wild game, and when I did, I always remember it being very saucy and rich. I wanted to change that. I reached out to Chef Dell and he gave me some pointers on smoking it. So I took his advice and as the bird was in the smoker, the creative juices started flowing. I recently got some acorn squash from our CSA. So in typical Chopped fashion, I just started to break it down to cook, not really knowing what the hell I was doing. Then like a 2×4 across the face, it all clicked. The end product was Cherry wood smoked pheasant over a roasted acorn squash polenta with a cherry maple reduction. The cool thing about it, there was no added cream, fat or butter to the dish. All things I would have added in the past. Although there are still a few things to work out flavor wise, I was pretty happy with the plate…….a feeling that is still some what new to me.

Smoked Pheasant with roasted acorn squash polenta

Smoked Pheasant with roasted acorn squash polenta

I can see myself expressing myself more in my food, and also more in my life. Although I still have some growing to do, I am more free to express myself and my feelings, especially the very emotional ones. The hard ones that bring a tear to my eye. This is again is still some what new to me.

I’m smart enough. Ok maybe not really. Are we ever really smart enough?

I continue my weight loss journey, and probably will for the rest of my life. When I say I’m smart enough, I mean that I realize that this is not a one and done type of thing. This is an ongoing adventure. One with twists and turns that is leading me up an incline to a new and better place.

This continuing growth and maturity, is helping me realize that I don’t have to accept things for the way they are. That I have the ability to change them. Just like I did with my weight. That wasn’t done by anyone else but me. I made the decision to change my situation.

I say all this with the complete understating that I am not done with any of this. This climb I am on will continue and I am determined to make sure of that. Although there are times, like now, where I am completely overwhelmed with my responsibilities to work, my family and my friends, I know I have to keep pushing. There are things happening all around me that I know I can have or do have an influence on. Things like, motivating my daughter as we run in a 5K together, the elementary student who came up to me wanting me to try his sandwich because he also wants to be a chef, or someone telling me how much I inspired them as they work to make themselves better. It’s all part of the climb. The climb up an incline that was created when I made the choice to lose the weight and make a change.

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Food and Fitness, Uncategorized

My secret love affair….

Family pie eating contest. Did I forget to mention I was 3 time pie eating champ when I was a kid.

Family pie eating contest. Did I forget to mention I was 3 time pie eating champ when I was a kid.

The feeling on my lips. The way it feels in my hand. The pleasure it brings as I put it in my mouth. Feeling it explode across my taste buds as I chew. My mouth filling more and more with a flavor experience as I continue to have more.

That’s right, I love food!!! Everything about it! Buying it, preping it, serving it, and of course eating it.

Now that affair has changed significantly over the past several years. My love now is much healthier than it was in the past.  When I was heavy, that affair was reckless and un-nurturing. Eating just for the sake of eating. There were times where it would be blatantly open. Like in high school going to the all you can eat wing night and putting down 110 wings, pitcher of coke and a slice of chocolate cake. The times where I would go out to dinner and had to get the appetizer, salad, entrée, extra side, and dessert of course. Then even just sitting at home having ice cream which would include 4-5 scoops, peanut butter, fluff, chocolate sauce and any other sweet crunchy thing I could put on it.  Those where the times when I was in the open about it. Then there were the secret eating moments.

Sitting home alone, watching television, and having an all out raid in the kitchen. Anything that I could eat. Making crazy combinations of food just to satisfy the cravings, fill the void, make me feel good. I would sometimes gorge to a point, where I would pass out on the couch in the proverbial food coma. I guess you could compare it to sex. Start off with a little nibble to eat, building up to a point of all out excitement and then reaching the climax and crashing (remember I was alone, so there was no need to snuggle).

Probably the one part of my secret eating that was the most over the top for me was breakfast foods. A majority of the last few years, I have had a commute to work of about 30 minutes or more. So that of course lent to plenty of time to hit the McDonald’s drive through and get 2 bacon egg and cheese biscuits (food crack for me) and an egg McMuffin with a large coke. I would pay in cash most of the time to keep it a secret that I was stopping there so often. This wasn’t the only breakfast place I would visit regularly. Cumberland Farms for my coffee and a couple of honey buns, or jumbo pastries, or the microwave breakfast sandwiches. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you about all the stops at Gerry’s Doughnuts.

I know I’m not the only one that has done this or continues to do this. When you’re obese like I was, it was just part of life. I knew that it was so unhealthy for me, but it felt good. When you struggle with low self-esteem, you do things that make you feel good.  The comfort that it would bring me was undeniable. I’m pretty confident that someone reading this right now is relating to what I’m talking about. Eating like this, as I said, fills a void. The thing I’m realizing now is the void I thought I was filling was not hunger, it was an emotional void. It was the void of feeling good about myself. I know, it’s really fucked up how something that made me feel good was my downfall. Living in the shadow of my old self, I reflect back and think about this quite a bit. I think how insane my eating habits were.

That has all changed for me. It can be done but it isn’t easy. There are still times where I struggle with it, but it has gotten easier to say no. Making that transition led to some very lonely emotional moments. As  I was losing the weight, I would slip back and have binge eating bouts. This time the ending was nowhere as pleasurable. I would be more aware of what I was doing. Why? Because I would actually log the food I was eating. That’s where logging was extremely effective for me. I would truly hold my self accountable for what I was eating. I now had concrete evidence of my poor eating habits. I had something I could look at and ask myself  “what was I thinking?” Once I had that accountability, things started to really change. I was holding myself responsible for my actions. Anytime I would get the urge to eat like that, I would remember the impact it had on my daily calories, and how it was completely counter productive to what I was trying to achieve. Making the choice to hold yourself accountable is one of the biggest things you can do to help yourself lose weight and control your eating habits. It’s a hard choice to make, but I can tell you, it is an amazing and empowering feeling when you see the results of your effort.

What makes them empowering is when you realize that the effort you are putting into your weight loss and exercise becomes priority. It’s no longer about stuffing your face to feel good. It now is about helping yourself feel better by doing things that are better for you! You see the scale going down, the clothes getting baggy, and blood work results getting better. You realize what eating like that will do to your body and mind. Even more important, what it will do to your self-esteem. All of a sudden, what use to bring you pleasure now has a negative effect on you. You realize it’s time to take charge of what you’re doing. It motivates you not to go back. It’s ending one affair and starting another.IMG_1450

My affair with food now is much more healthier. It’s a much more passionate affair. It’s about actually tasting the food, developing flavors, making things healthier, and making better food choices.  It’s about embracing whats around me and creating something fantastic. It’s about coming out from the shadow of what it was in the past.

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Food and Fitness, Uncategorized

The light at the end of the tunnel

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So there I am sitting in my car, driving to work, and thinking about the day I have ahead. Couple of meetings, hopefully visit a school, and of course paperwork, then it hit me. That moment when you realize that there are a significant amount of people who know me now, that didn’t know me when I was overweight. I remember a trainer telling me that this would happen, and it just did!!

When I started to really get into loosing my weight and exercise, somewhere in my head I thought I would hit my target weight then back off and go on with my life. That was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Well I can tell you I am pleasantly surprised that that is not the case. It’s true what they say, loosing weight is a lifestyle change!! Permanent weight loss is not a “10 day diet”, it’s not having a trainer yell at you and making you workout 8 hours a day, and it’s not buying special meals. What it is, is making the conscious decision that enough is enough and being patient enough to understand that it will happen over an extended period of time.

Now I can’t sit here and tell you that I am 100% there myself. I have some things from my extremely unhealthy life style that I still have to conquer, and every day I feel I am getting closer to that point where I’ll make that decision that enough is enough!

Making that decision, is quite possibly one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is bigger than anything Lebron James was worried about (sorry had to put that). Those that are struggling with your weight, I know what your thinking. “Sure Chris, easier said then done”. Yup you’re right, it is. You know what your choices are? You can choose to have the opportunity to improve yourself by changing your habits, or choose to be told you have to take these pills, or tell your kids you can’t do something with them? The decision is up to you!

It was quite frankly one of the hardest decisions I had to make. Oh yes, there were plenty of breakdowns prior to and after making that decision.There were countless times were the emotional weight was more overbearing then the physical weight. The constant low self-esteem and embarrassment. Always feeling that you’re not good enough because of the physical limitations of being overweight. It sucks!!! Then you make the choice to make the change. Things don’t get better right away, there are still breakdowns. The breakdowns in the shower after working out the first few weeks. Thinking to your self, “I can’t do this”. You second guess if making this choice was the right one. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Then you realize, oh crap, none of my clothes fit me FOR A GOOD REASON!! That’s what gets you through those breakdown moments. The fact that you KNOW you are doing the right thing. That you won’t have to take those pills anymore, that you CAN go on a hike with your kids and not have to stop. (The List)

It is a curious thing for me now, wondering what people think. I have a good idea of what my friends who knew me when I was big think of me (boy I hope I’m right). How about those that didn’t know me?

Over the last few days, I have had conversations with people, either live or online, that have kind of hit home for me. I would tell them or they would read about my weight loss, and tell me how inspiring it is. I’ve come to accept that, but I know I am flawed, so I wonder how much of an inspiration I truly am? I have talked about this before, but what I have not discussed, is what inspires me?

I came to the answer pretty quickly. The comments, conversations, and chats are what inspires me now. Part of that inspiration is this overwhelming feeling that I don’t want to disappoint any of those that I inspire, but that’s ok with me. That goes for family, friends, and acquaintances. This is a “side effect” of loosing weight that was never planned. So to those of you struggling with your weight, like me, I can assure you one thing that will happen when you make the decision. You will inspire others! That will have an amazing impact on your confidence and self-esteem! Then you will thirst for more and continue to push and continue to inspire!

Like I said in my last blog Oh the people you will meet…. , as I start to open up more and more, my experiences become better and better.

What I’m also finding out, is that as the pounds melted away, the light at the end of the tunnel was getting brighter. What’s even better than that was when I realized the light wasn’t the end of the tunnel, it was the light in me, lets say my Heartlight (to steal a phrase from Neil Diamond).

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