The Journey from Apathy to Healthy

“You can have results or excuses. Not both.” -The Arnold

Long time no see everyone. I apologize for not being more active on my blog. Life has been super crazy.

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw the latest news in my personal life. In the last 4 months, I’ve lost a serious amount of weight and built up some muscle mass and now, for the first time since college, I’m back to being physically fit and healthy!

Progress Pic.jpg

I’m deservedly very proud of myself for this! I’ve always been active and athletic. I love sports, I love running and I love the outdoors, but since college, I’ve gotten less and less physically fit. I slowly (but surely) added on the pounds. I never got to a dangerously unhealthy level, but technically I was overweight. At my worst, I was about 194 pounds. At 5’9″ tall, that’s definitely overweight.

I always tried fixing it. I’d try to eat healthier, I’d try working out more, but nothing stuck. My motivation would never last longer than 2 weeks. About year ago, things started to shift for the better. At the time, all I did was drastically increase my water consumption and almost completely eliminate liquid calories (no soda, no juice infrequent alcohol, etc). I didn’t change anything else besides that. But it’s something I stuck with and didn’t quit. And I honestly believe it was the catalyst for a greater change I made earlier this year.

This past May, my motivation went from 0 to 60 in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure how but I’m not complaining. I made the decision to get fit. I consciously decided that I was sick of my current lifestyle. This time I was determined to lose some weight. I didn’t set a weight loss goal though. My goal was simple: I want to look in a mirror with my shirt off and be happy with what I see. That’s it. I think my mindset at the time was that I would set a numeric goal for myself and be disappointed.

There is one simple rule for fat loss: Calories In/Calories Out. Every tip and trick you read, every fad diet you check out, every workout program you try, they are overcomplicating the very basic, scientifically-proven way to lose weight. Calories in and calories out. I don’t care what method you use to lose weight and get in shape, but as long as your calories you take in exceed the calories you burn, you won’t lose a single pound. You need to eat less than you burn. Plus, until you get serious about counting your calories, you will never know for sure if you’re burning more calories than eating. You need to count your calories.

Time to get to work. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. I figured out my BMR (how many calories my body burns in a day without any extra activity) and TDEE (BMR plus calories burnt through activity. Click here to find out your BMR and TDEE: BMR Calculator. I researched expert advice on how many calories less than your BMR a male should consume to lose weight. My BMR in May was roughly 1850. Experts say you should eat 500 – 700 less calories a day than your BMR to lose at least 1 pound a week. So I made my limit 1200 calories a day. In order to eat 1200 calories and still get enough food to feel somewhat full everyday, I cut out most sweets and fats. I lowered carbs. I focused on a macro diet of 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fats. Basically I ate chicken, rice, and veggies all day, every day. The cool thing is that there a million ways to cook chicken and rice so I never got bored. Also cool is that when I ate smart for my meals, it allowed me to have a treat several times a week like a small bowl of ice cream or a big cheeseburger on a Friday night. My meal plan was awesome in that I was eating right and yet I enjoyed it. I never got tired of it. I still don’t tire of it.

For exercise, I chose a low weight, high cardio workout plan to start. I didn’t want to try building heavy muscle until I lost weight. But I didn’t want to lose strength so I still did some weight training. Research shows that having muscle and strength will assist in weight loss. Don’t completely ignore weight lifting! I started running 3 – 5 times a week and lifted weights on the opposite days. I’ve always loved to run and it was wonderful to see how much easier running got as I got healthier. I hit a sub-7 minute mile just a few weeks ago. For longer distance running (5+ miles), my average split is 8:30 minutes. My new goal is to run 5+ miles under 8:00/mile.

Every body is different. Every person will have different results at a different rate. With my approach, I expected to lose 1 pound a week. Instead, I lost closer to 3 pounds a week. I’m very lucky for that! That won’t be everyone’s results. But if you remain focused and consistent, you will see a change. It’s guaranteed.

So here I am, roughly 4 months after I got serious and now 40 pounds lighter. My love handles are gone, and my stomach is very close to being completely flat (not quite there yet). Everyone has noticed that I lost weight and the encouragement I get from my friends and family is wonderful! I went down 6 pant sizes. Shirts no longer bulge out around the midsection anymore. It’s amazing. Although I now have the frustrating task of replacing pretty much everything in my closet. I begrudgingly admit that it’s a good problem to have!

I’m still eating at a calorie deficit, but not as severe. I’m eating roughly 200 calories less than my BMR. I won’t go back up to maintenance (eating the same amount of calories as my BMR) until my stomach is completely flat. I went from high cardio workout to a heavier weight lifting workout. My workout plan is called “5×5”. It’s a very simple, very effective workout plan. Learn more about it here: Stronglift 5×5 Workout. All the extra calories I added to my diet is in the form of protein because it is a necessary nutrient for muscle building.

Making this change in my life has been incredibly beneficial on so many levels. The most obvious change is that I’m a lot healthier now. I turned 30 this year and I had to realize that as I get older, it’ll only get more difficult to stay in shape and healthy. The later I start, the harder it’ll get. I’ve now put myself in a position to live a longer, healthier life. There have been other benefits that I didn’t expect, mostly psychological and emotional. My outlook on life has improved. I’ve learned so much more about discipline, focus, and responsibility. I’ve found exercising to be therapeutic. Lastly, if I were being completely honest, I’ve found myself to be more attractive to the opposite sex (not a bad thing!).

So why did I share all this? Several reasons. First, I just wanted to share this great experience with you all. Your encouragement and support is something I’m immensely grateful for! Second, I wanted to share how I did this for those of you looking to do something similar. I wanted you to see that it’s not that complicated. It sure was hard at times, but it’s absolutely possible. Third, I’m constantly craving feedback. For any of you that have ideas or tips to improve on what I’m doing (or to correct what I’m doing wrong), I’d love to know! During this whole experience, I never wanted to do anything that was unsafe or unhealthy. I believe I achieved that, but I don’t want that to change. Lastly, I want to help any of you that need it. Whether it be encouragement or advice, don’t hesitate to talk to me about your own journey. I love talking about this stuff. I am no expert when it comes to physical fitness and nutrition, but I have learned a lot through my experiences and want to help in any way I can.

Thanks for reading, guys. I appreciate comments so feel free to leave some below!

 

-GH

 

 

 

Advertisements

Cooking For One: Man Vs. Food

Cooking for one is HARD. It’s astonishingly difficult. It’s as difficult as, say, juggling flaming chainsaws, or playing the banjo, or avoiding carbs. To clarify, cooking in general is not hard. I love to cook. I’m the male version of Julia Child (this of course, is not true. Guy Fieri is the male version of Julie Child). I just can’t cook for one. It’s impossible. I have yet to successfully cook for one person.

Guy Fieri is my spirit animal.

Guy Fieri is my spirit animal.

Issue #1: No motivation
If you’re cooking for yourself along with others (your SO, your kids, your freeloading best friend), you’re motivated to cook. So you do it. Whether you’re heating up salisbury steak for your kids on a school night (shout out to Karen, the greatest mother in the world!), making duck l’orange for a romantic evening with your Sig-O, or reheating some 4 day old mac-n-cheese for your mooching friend (because he doesn’t deserve anything better), it’s always easier to cook for others.

But when you’re all by yourself, there is hardly any motivation. Just think of all the pots and pans you have to wash after making a meal for just one person. And when you’re by yourself, you have to do the cooking and the cleaning. What’s up with that??? The world is not fair. And all that work for one lousy meal. But of course, it’s not going to be just one meal…

Issue #2: Cooking way too much
This is the bigger problem. I love to cook, so I’m often ok with all the cleaning I have to do. But I can’t figure out portions. Like at all. Sure, making a little extra so you have a lunch tomorrow is fine. But I’m talking about having breakfast, lunch, and dinner taken care of for the next week. “What’s for lunch tomorrow, Greg?” “Chicken and pasta!” “How about dinner?” “Chicken and pasta!” “And for breakfast the next day?” “Eggs! …and chicken and pasta!”. I don’t want to waste food (because I’m not Richie Rich), so I’m determined to eat everything I cook. And because my freezer is only so big, I have to eat all my leftovers right away. It’s distressing. A month ago, I made enough soup to feed an entire orphanage. Sorry kids, I ate it all myself. But it took a month.

Cooking too much pasta

I’m trying really hard to figure out portions. But I’m not good at the maths. A recipe says “serves 4” so I think, “ok, just divide everything by 4”. What the heck is 2/3 cup divided by 4??? I HAVE NO IDEA. And frankly, I don’t think anyone knows. Or I think, “I really love chicken and cheese enchiladas so I’ll make the entire batch.” WRONG. No one likes enchiladas when it’s your eighth day in a row eating them. And then you don’t want to eat them again for months and by then, you forget the mistake you made last time and you do it all over again.

Issue #3: The cost
Being a single guy, I have only my income to pay for my eating habits. You might think, “this may be true, Greg, but you only have to feed yourself.” Yes, you are correct. But as you will see, I’m weird. This cost issue is exclusively held by me. I have no one to blame but myself. Because in theory, cooking for one should be relatively inexpensive. Especially if you’re doing the cooking.

It’s universally agreed upon that cooking at home is almost always cheaper than eating out. I grew up in a house that rarely ate out and I am insanely grateful for that. I wasn’t raised with this expectation that we get to hit up Olive Garden every Tuesday. As an independent adult, this benefits me in two ways:

  • I don’t feel the need to eat out constantly. Because I never got used to it, the idea of eating out rarely crosses my mind. The temptation is hardly there.
  • I don’t ever go to Olive Garden. Let’s face it, Olive Garden sucks. I’m 99% convinced that the only “cooking” those guys do is buy a whole bunch of Stoeffer’s frozen lasagna from Wegmans, scrape them off those cheap plastic trays, nuke them for the required time, scrape them onto a plate, and then ask you if you want grated cheese on that. If Olive Garden is fine dining, then my crappy 10 year old Honda Civic is a luxury SUV.

Anyway, where were we? Oh right. So we all agree that it’s cheaper to eat at home. But for me, that’s not always the case. Partly due to issue #2 outlined above – I make a ton of food that I struggle to finish. It’s also due to me being a total food snob. But not the cool kind of food snob. I’m the obnoxious kind.

I’m the kind of food snob that thinks table salt is a sin and I refuse to use anything other than coarse Kosher salt or Mediterranean sea salt. I have three different types of paprika. I have 10 different types of oil. That’s right, TEN. I judge anyone that doesn’t cook on cast iron. I don’t buy chicken pieces. I buy the whole chicken and separate it myself. I know when to cook with sweet onion vs white onion. And I must have that dry-aged USDA Prime 1.5 inch-thick cut of rib-eye steak with beautiful marbling, rather than a perfectly acceptable USDA Choice sirloin steak.

Anton Ego is my spirit animal.

Anton Ego is my personal food hero.

I’m just not satisfied eating ramen, Wegmans spiral mac-n-cheese, and frozen ravioli (although I like all three of those). I like to apply effort, style, and skill into my cooking (unlike these people). I’d like to think that my palate is somewhat refined.

Some people spend all their money on clothes. For others, it’s the latest technology, or cars, or perhaps travel. For me, it’s food.  But for this third issue, I’m not looking for sympathy. This is my cross to bear. If I was hurting financially, there are a hundred ways I could save money in my food budget. I just choose the more expensive route of food shopping.

The Benefits
It isn’t all bad, though! There are some good things about cooking just for myself.
1) I get to eat whatever I want, when I want. I pick the menu and I pick the time I eat.
2) I get to eat as much as I want. I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
3) I get to experiment with some new recipes and ingredients and when I royally screw up, no one knows.

Overall, if cooking for one is the most stressful part of my life right now, I guess things are pretty good. I should probably calm down.

Are you also cooking for one? What issues do you encounter? Are those issues making you a little sad? Don’t worry, here’s a link to a recipe for a single chocolate chip cookie!

Facebook and Greg: A Story of Love and Loss

As I mentioned in my previous post, I left Facebook. I deactivated my account. I’m certainly not the first, and I won’t be the last. A wise man once said, “Getting rid of Facebook is like running away from home as a kid. You’re only doing it for attention and we all know you’ll be back.” Truer words were never spoken.

I left Facebook for the complete opposite reason of wanting attention – I wanted to avoid attention. I realized that my Facebook account was pretty much a shrine to my relationship with Christine. Hundreds of pictures, occasions, memories, experiences all shared with a woman who just left me. And I was surrounded by Facebook friends who liked, commented, and shared in these experiences with me. I could either get rid of all traces of that failed relationship, or just quit it altogether.

There are three reasons why it was just easier to walk away from Facebook.

1) The thought of having to methodically go through my Facebook use for the last three years to purge memories I didn’t want to see anymore terrified me. Such a daunting task! A task I was not prepared for.

2) If I maintained my presence on Facebook, it would inevitably become the place where people found out what was going on with me. Half of those people deserved a better way for that to be communicated to them, and the other half didn’t deserve to know about my problems at all. If Facebook wasn’t even an option, these people would find out about my situation via a source that would no doubt be preferable to a social media platform.

3) I wanted to get rid of any temptation to use Facebook as a soapbox. Although I consider myself a mature adult, the allure of using social networks to vent about one’s life can be quite strong. I didn’t want to be one of those whiny, obnoxious people who use Facebook to constantly complain about their life’s problems.

So I just deactivated my account. Problem solved. But I was real with myself. I made myself acknowledge that I would most likely be back. But I would do it when I was good and ready.

It’s been almost three months. And to be honest, it’s been great! I miss Facebook once in a while. I enjoyed making my friends laugh with funny posts, sharing thought-provoking news articles, blowing up people’s timelines with pics of my dog, etc. And I’ll be doing that all again soon enough. But I also realized that a lot of my Facebook use was more out of habit rather than pure desire. I would check Facebook multiple times a day because that’s what I always did. When I get back on Facebook, it’ll be because I want to. But for now, I’m enjoying the time away.

Plus, I always have Twitter and Instagram. You should follow me!

‘Til next time, friends.

-GH-

Divorce Sucks

Hey sports fans, it’s been awhile.

My readership will be down quite a bit with this post considering I left Facebook two months ago. I’ll post my thoughts on my Facebook fast in another post, but I’ll say one thing about it now – you should do it.

These last few months have been…well…rough. I won’t regale you with stories of how life sucks or how unfair it is or whatever, but you all deserve to know what’s going on.

I last posted about getting engaged to a beautiful girl named Christine. We ended up getting married last August. In December, she decided she did not want to be married anymore. It was devastating, to say the least.

glass case of emotion

Since that bomb was dropped, my world has been a roller coaster of emotions, from feelings of inadequacy and failure, to anger, resentment, bitterness, and everything in between. For those of you who are/were married, you understand just how much of your life is hinged on your marriage and your spouse. So when that spouse walks out of your life forever, life becomes unhinged. For a while, I truly felt like life had ended. It was brutal.

But life didn’t end.

I was able to climb out of the abyss of despair and depression (too dramatic?) because I realized that my life wasn’t over because Christine left me. Yes, my marriage was an extremely important part of my life, but I had other parts too.

I had (have) my faith, my family, my friends, my job, and of course, my dog. These are all amazing things in my life. Things that I knew if I could hold on to, they would pull me out of any bout of depression. And that’s what happened. They pulled me out. They made me realize that I am a blessed man, a lucky man. My marriage ending knocked me down. And knocked me down hard.  But not permanently. No way.

My dog, Sam, at the lake!

My dog, Sam, has been a great companion through all this.

It still hurts, there’s no denying it. But it has gotten easier. And I know it will continue to get easier. And so, for all of you dealing with anything like what I have dealt with, believe me, your life is not over. Focus on the good in your life. It will do a remarkable job of belying the bad.

Thanks for listening.

-GH-

 

The Things I’ve Learned Since Getting Engaged.

Christine and I rock the whole engagement thing.

Christine and I rock the whole engagement thing.

There are innumerable articles and books on what men (and women) have learned/noticed/loved/hated/whatever since getting married. But for some reason, no one writes about what it’s like when you get engaged. I’m sort of surprised, actually. Where’s the love for engagements? Why is it that no one appreciates them?

Here’s why the place for engagement love is a black abyss of emptiness: Engagements are usually defined as being mere “waiting” periods for the next stage (i.e. marriage). Well, I say “hogwash!”. Engagements are great all on their own! Yes, they’re cool for being precursors to something better. But my engagement has been incredible for a lot more than just that. I may be in the minority, but being engaged has been unequivocally life-changing for me. And I don’t want to hear the response, “Just wait until you’re married! It’ll be even more life-changing!” Duh, I know. Thanks Captain Obvious. I think it goes without saying that marriage is life-changing. This post is not about marriage. Marriage is like the youngest child of the family – it gets all the attention. Engagements are like the middle child – always forgotten.

Talking with other people, I most often hear how  the anxiety and impatience they felt were the only things they took away from their engagement. If there was one positive thing they could possibly take away from that time, it would be the feeling of anticipation for the upcoming nuptials. And of course I have that same feeling of anticipation. I can’t wait for my wedding either! But Christine and I are experiencing our engagement in a way that isn’t one dimensional at all. For us, it’s been fun, exciting, and above all, educational! Simply put, it’s been straight up awesome.

My life has been completely upended (in a totally good way) since asking Christine to marry me back in February. I’ve been a complete idiot in my past relationships. I have been at some crazy low points where I deserved nothing good and no one special (shocking, I know). I’ve had to climb out of some seriously deep holes that I dug all on my own. So when that moment came, the moment where I got down on one knee, looked into the eyes of the most incredible woman of my entire life, asked her to be my wife, and she said yes, this indescribable feeling of joy swept over me. What redemption! Here is a woman who loves me as much as I love her, an insanely beautiful, talented, special woman who actually wants to spend the rest of her life with me! Whoa! I am so blessed!

This is the exact reason why my engagement is as significant as any other season I will ever experience in my life. This is why I will never see my engagement as “just a waiting period”. Maybe for you engagements aren’t that big of a deal, but they certainly are for me.

OK, enough mushy stuff. Ew. Time to be funny! Here’s what I have learned since getting engaged.

1) Sex is something we can now talk about.
This is something that apparently can’t be talked about with single guys because no one has ever said anything on the subject other than “No premarital sex!” to me before. Now that I’m engaged, it’s like I joined a secret society where sex is freely talked about. But I’m being treated like my dad treated me when I was 10 when he gave me the birds and the bees talk. People, I’m 28. I got this.

Married couples are hilarious too. Hearing them drop hints about how great the sex will be when we’re married always makes me laugh. They clearly have one rule, though – you can’t use the word “sex”. That word is clearly taboo because it’s being replaced with phrases such as, “in the bedroom” or “relations of the intimate nature.” Has anyone else noticed this?

2) Wedding planning can actually be fun and stress-free
I am disappointed in all you married people who complained to me about how stressful your wedding planning was, or warned me that it would be hectic and overwhelming. You’re all wusses. Christine and I are having a blast. We’re doing our best to not procrastinate and stay under budget, and are being rewarded for our efforts. We’re enjoying every aspect of the planning. And it’s so cool seeing how creative and talented Christine is. Pretty much the entire wedding is planned and designed by her.

3) Referring to someone as your fiancée sounds incredibly pretentious
Why is it that it sounds perfectly fine to say, “My girlfriend and I…” or “My wife and I…”, but when I utter the words, “My fiancée and I…”, I sound like a snooty braggart who’s trying to make you feel bad for not having anyone in your life.  I really enjoy referring to Christine as my fiancée so I’m sorry for my obnoxiousness. Wait a minute…no I’m not.

4) No one knows how to spell fiancé or fiancée.
I know, I know. I’m crazy about correct spelling. But it’s time we get this right. If you’re a dude and you’re engaged, you are referred to as a fiancé. If you’re a lady and you’re engaged, you’re referred to as a fiancée. Let’s get it together, people. The word is French in origin and the “ay” sound at the end is indicated by an accent aigu (é). The masculine of the word ends with a single “é”, but the feminine variation adds another “e” (ée). Be smarter, kids! On a similar note, it’s “resumé”, not “resume”.

5) Getting engagement/bridal shower presents is awesome.
I don’t think anything more needs to be said than that, but I will say that Christine and I feel insanely blessed with the generosity of our friends and family. We feel so much love and support, and so we thank all of you! Also, no one got the power drill off the registry. Can someone get on that, please? We have enough towels and plates. Where’s the fun stuff?

presents-presents-everywhere

OK, let’s wrap this up. My advice to all you current and future engaged couples out there is to enjoy your engagement! Cherish it! Take advantage of that time to learn about your future spouse, and for him or her to learn about you. It’s a temporary moment in our lives and that makes it unique. Years from now, when I look back at my engagement, I won’t remember it as a whirlwind of stress and anxiety, but instead as a time of excitement and fun!

My Top Podcast Picks

My personal favorite

My personal favorite podcast.

I am a huge fan of podcasts. I listen to them constantly – at work, at the gym, driving, wherever I can. I used to listen to talk radio because it helped me stay current and somewhat educated. But I didn’t enjoy it that much. First of all, I despise callers. Callers can be incredibly ignorant and annoying. Secondly, radio ads are the worst. They seem to be as long, if not longer, than the segments they interrupt. Podcasts solve all of that. There are fewer ads (they’re shorter too) and no callers! Yay! Plus, I can download individual podcast episodes to my phone to listen to them whenever, wherever.

If you’re not already on the podcast bandwagon, I highly encourage you to do so. I guarantee you’ll find at least one you’ll like. As of 2014, there are more than 150,000 English-speaking podcasts out there. And every single genre or topic you can think of has a podcast home (usually multiple homes). Whether you’re looking to educate yourself on a certain topic, stay up to date with current events, or just simply be entertained, there’s something out there for you. It’s awesome. I wish I could listen to so many more podcasts, but it’s impossible. There are too many. So I have streamlined my podcast listening to a select group of favorites. Need a place to start? Try one of mine!

Overall favorite:
The Nerdist Podcast
This is a comedy-based podcast where the hosts interview the best guests ever. They’ve had everyone on including Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Buzz Aldrin, Tom Hanks, and Morgan Freeman. They’re funny, insightful, and as the name implies, total nerds. Disclaimer: there’s some foul language.

Pop culture favorite: 
Doug Loves Movies
Comedian Doug Benson hosts this live podcast where he has well-known comedians, actors, and musicians on to talk about everything movie related. They play a bunch of movie trivia games so if you’re a movie buff like me, it’s super fun to play along. Disclaimer: Doug is often stoned during these episodes.

History favorite: 
Stuff You Missed in History Class
I am a total nerd about history. Each episode talks about a specific, obscure moment in history, in detail. It’s fun for when you want to bore your friends later!

Space favorite: 
StarTalk Radio Show with Neil DeGrasse Tyson
I’m also a total nerd about space. I love learning about stars, black holes, etc. And Neil DeGrasse Tyson is super cool. He doesn’t agree with Creationism, but he isn’t a jerk about it.

Bill Nye makes frequent appearances on StarTalk. How cool is that?!?!

Bill Nye makes frequent appearances on StarTalk. How cool is that?!?!

Food favorite: 
The Alton BrownCast
Alton Brown is the best chef of all time. He is seriously the coolest. So why wouldn’t his podcast about food be the best one out there?

Runner-ups:
Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
Stuff You Should Know Podcast
All Things Considered Podcast
The Smartest Man in the World Proopcast
Mohr Stories

As for the best podcast player, there are a whole host of free options out there to play your podcasts, but if you’re willing to fork over a couple of bucks, the one I’ve been using is called PocketCast. It’s totally worth the money if you listen to podcasts regularly. It’s available to download for iOS and Android.

Do you listen to podcasts? Have a favorite podcast I don’t know about? Agree or disagree with me on any of these choices? Feel free to comment below!